Three Keys to an Effective Social Selling Strategy

Three Keys to an Effective Social Selling Strategy

The average person will spend five years of their life on social media. The simple truth is: social networking technology has changed the way we communicate. With expansive networks across multiple platforms, many of us do most of our communicating online. So shouldn’t sales and marketing initiatives follow suit?

What is social selling?
Social selling is the process of developing relationships as part of the sales process. In the past, this involved networking, cold calling and face-to-face sales meetings. Today, it more commonly takes place via social media networks. Social selling capitalizes on the fundamental shift in the way people communicate and learn today, both in our business and personal lives. In fact, 84 percent of C-suite executives and 70 percent of B2B decision makers rely on social media for purchase decisions.

Today’s B2B buyers are better connected, more informed and heavily influenced by peers when in comes to purchasing products and services. When implemented strategically, social selling can support and enhance the B2B sales and marketing process. Social selling isn’t simply the use of social media. Rather, it is a systematic approach to uncovering opportunities, building relationships and converting prospects into paying customers.

Three Keys
While strategies for tapping into each vary slightly from platform to platform, a number of key factors remain the same. Below are three vital elements of a top-notch social selling strategy:

1. Hone your profile. Regardless of the platform, your company profile needs to be the pillar of your social selling strategy. It represents the first impression a prospect has of your company. Or it may be where they head for research after reading a recent article or insightful comment you posted. Keep information concise and results-driven. Focus on benefits, not features. Ask yourself “Would my target buyer care about this?” If not, get rid of it. Ensure messaging and style stay true to your brand, link back to your website and use engaging visuals. If sales representatives are using social selling individually, their profiles should mirror corporate messaging.
2. Connect and follow. This is where you put the “social” in “social selling.” When it comes to platforms like Twitter or Instagram, connections are based on following fellow members. Follow often and reach out to qualified prospects whenever possible to encourage reciprocation. On platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, connections are automatically reciprocated and require slightly more nurturing. While connecting often is a good idea, many are hesitant to accept requests from those they don’t know. Customize the message in your connection request and provide a concise introduction to ensure prospects know who you are and why you’re reaching out. Discover new prospects via groups, shared content, comments sections, and other customers’ or prospects’ shared connections.
3. Engage. Once you have your profile honed and your connections built, now what? It’s time to get active. Social media thrives off shared content. Sharing content via social media should already be a part of your marketing distribution strategy. It’s a great way to spread thought leadership and link interested parties back to your website. Reach out to anyone who likes, comments or shares your content. Even a quick “thank you” is a great way to foster a new connection. Likewise, it’s important to engage, comment and share the thought leadership of others. This step helps build rapport and, at the same time, gives vital information about the company’s expertise, needs and successes. Encourage customers to review your products and connect you with other companies. If customers express complaints or frustrations online, be sure to respond quickly and resolve the problem effectively. Feedback—both positive and negative—is essential to improving social selling and organizational strategy. Participation in relevant groups and digital events are other great ways to engage and discover.

Nurture relationships
Social selling comes down to the bread and butter of sales and marketing: relationships. Your social media strategy, despite not involving any face-to-face interaction, should be no different than trying to build a relationship anywhere else. An accepted connection request isn’t enough. Identify and target prospects carefully. Nurture relationships based on sincere interest and curiosity. People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care. As you earn the trust and respect of others, your digital influence will expand, the sales cycle will shorten, and your business will grow.

    Gerri-Knilans | President of Trade Press Services

    Gerri Knilans
    President of Trade Press Services
    Gerri Knilans is president of Trade Press Services. As marketing communications strategists, serving organizations of all sizes and types since 1995, the company provides writing, media outreach and general marketing support to help clients accelerate growth and generate more visibility, credibility and name recognition in their marketplaces. For additional information,

    please visit or send an email to



    We recently hosted a webinar featuring Forrester Principal Analyst Brandon Purcell and Julie Schmidt, SVP of Analytics and Insights at Allant Group, on the topic “Customer Lifetime Value for Intelligent Marketing Decisions.” In this informational session, Brandon and Julie talked about the importance of CLV as a key customer metric that has several applications across the customer lifecycle. Watch a recording of the webinar here.

    On the webinar, Brandon talked about how companies are using customer lifetime value to win, serve, and retain customers. He also presented best practices for overcoming the data and organizational challenges typically associated with lifetime value. Finally, he revealed on how to get started with lifetime value.

    Julie positions CLV as the Gold Standard among customer metrics. Brands (clients) should not let perfect get in the way of the good when it comes to getting a metric in place that is actionable. She outlined a process for creating a CLV metric starting with data, calculating the current value and forecasting the future value, and lastly driving towards operationalizing the metrics to make it actionable.

    Following our webinar presentation, we sat down with Brandon to discuss further the importance of CLV and its role in meeting the demands of today’s marketers. Brandon recommended to aim for progress not perfection (CLV may be precise but it is approximate) and to use CLV to guide customer journeys.

    Below, we share some more of Brandon’s insights from our interview:

    Allant: What do you think are people’s biggest challenges when it comes to calculating CLTV?

    BP: The challenges most organizations encounter with customer lifetime value stem from an expectation of perfection. As a metric, CLV is precise in that the output is a number in hard currency. Unfortunately, people tend to mistake precision for accuracy, but it is impossible to develop a CLV calculation that is 100% accurate for every customer over the tenure of their relationship with your brand. As a probabilistic prediction, this just isn’t possible.

    The biggest manifestation of this precision vs accuracy tension comes up with the issue of costs: “How do we incorporate costs in our CLV calculation?” The answer is that many organizations don’t, at least in their first iteration of a CLV model. That’s good enough for a first model because you’re basically assuming uniform costs across customers. Over time, as you socialize the metric and prove its value across the organization you can start to improve it by incorporating costs. But if you wait until you have the perfect cost data from Finance and the best way to account for it, you’ll probably never start.

    Allant: What are some guiding (organizational) principles of socializing LTV as an actionable metric to measure the health of the customer file?

    BP:  From a practical perspective, the Finance team is typically one of the biggest opponents of CLV because they are used to dealing with precise and accurate metrics. They also have access to some of data you’ll need, so it’s important to engage them early and get their buy in. Explain to them how the metric will be used. It will not replace revenue, cost of goods sold, or other GAAP standard metrics. Instead, it will be used to segment customers and identify opportunities for acquisition, retention, and customer experience improvement.

    View your CLV initiative is an opportunity to align the customer insights function within your organization. According to last year’s Forrester-Burtch Works State of Customer Analytics survey, 37% of companies have decentralized analytics and measurement teams embedded in a channel or business unit. These teams are typically invaluable within their areas of focus, but they lead to inconsistent and often redundant analytics practices across the organization. CLV presents an opportunity for alignment and collaboration between distributed insights teams toward a shared goal.

    Allant: Once you have all the customer data in place, how do you decide which techniques to use?

    BP: The best CLV model is the one your business stakeholders accept, understand, and use. Period. Customer insights professionals will typically build multiple CLV models and back test them against historical data to determine accuracy. Since you’ll need to socialize the model, it’s important to retain a degree of transparency into how it works. Business stakeholders don’t adopt models they don’t trust or understand.

    From an analytical perspective, the way you calculate CLV depends on 1) whether the relationship your customers have with you is contractual or non-contractual and 2) whether their transactions are continuous (any amount) or discrete (prescribed amount). Contractual businesses such as insurance or subscription-based service providers typically calculate CLV using a customer retention model to predict the number of periods before a customer churns. Non-contractual businesses like retailers have it more difficult and must deploy probabilistic models to predict the likelihood of each future purchase. Similarly, companies with discrete transactions of known amounts need only predict retention, while companies with continuous transactions must take a probabilistic approach to predicting each future transaction’s value.

    Allant: Other than allocating marketing spend, what are the most typical use cases for CLV?

    BP: Many brands use CLV across the customer lifecycle. At the beginning of the life cycle, companies use CLV to target prospects who look like current high value customers. Later, companies use it to identify cross-sell and upsell opportunities. At the end of the customer life cycle, CLV can be a key factor in determining which customers to target with retention incentives.

    CLV can also help inform strategic decisions, such as whether to enter a new market or acquire another business. Instead of employing a one-size-fits-all approach to customer value, some organizations are starting to determine the effect these decisions would have on customer composition and therefore their long-term financial impact. One music subscription service has started to use CLV to determine which artists’ work to license and how much to pay for it with the goal of increasing the total CLV of its listener.

      Gerri-Knilans | President of Trade Press Services

      Tim Finnigan
      CMO Allant Group
      Tim Finnigan is an accomplished marketing executive with nearly 25 years of experience building brands. Tim received a marketing degree in Business Administration from the University of Dayton and a MBA in Marketing from Loyola University Chicago. Tim is also an Adjunct Professor, teaching Digital marketing at Loyola University Chicago and Marketing Strategy at University of Dayton Online MBA.

      please visit

      How to Create Stellar Call-to-Actions

      How to Create Stellar Call-to-Actions

      How to Create Stellar Call-to-Actions

      The “call to action” (CTA) is an essential component of any marketing initiative. It’s the answer to “what now?” after any article, video, advertisement, blog or other promotional offer. The call to action represents a compelling message that is intended to get your prospects to do what you want them to do. It’s a vital step to lead generation (which 63% of marketers state it is their biggest challenge) and also guides prospects through the buying journey. Without a call to action, content on a web page or marketing channel can become a dead end for prospects that otherwise could turn into qualified leads.

      Tips for Better Call-to-Actions

      1. Every marketing communication needs a CTA. That means marketers need to have a goal of what they want website visitors or other prospects and customers to do as a result of reading a blog, email, article or other form of communication. In other words, it is the built-in next step. A CTA may be to read the next blog, visit your company’s “about us” page, schedule an appointment, sign up for a free trial, download a white paper or make a purchase. This is the way CTAs support lead generation and engagement and also improve the SEO and crawlability of your website.
      2. Get graphic. Create CTA buttons that stand out without killing the design elements of the website or marketing piece. Consider using slightly different and less muted colors than your usual design with bold and clickable graphics. Test and find the right one that works for your audiences and brand. For example, button-shaped CTAs created a 45% boost in clicks for CreateDebate, while SAP found that orange CTAs boosted their conversion rate more than 32.5%. Keep CTAs visible or anchored, and ensure optimization for all devices.
      3. Evoke trust, urgency and value through messaging. While many variables and possibilities exist when choosing a CTA, there are three aspects that stand out above all else: trust, urgency and value. Depending on your brand, product and service, you can promote trust, urgency and value in many different ways. Some considerations are:
        • Evoke emotion, excitement or enthusiasm.
        • Stay concise, relevant and meaningful.
        • Get creative with brand voice.
        • Don’t “over-promise” and keep messaging results-driven.
        • Use numbers or statistics when possible.
        • Use strong command verbs or first-person language.
        • Be exclusive with membership benefits or limited-time offers.

      Review + Revise = Results
      CTAs are no different than other aspects of marketing in that companies need to track and measure performance. It’s hard to know what your audience will respond to until you start experimenting. Continue to review and adjust the placement, design and wording of your CTAs based on observations and the data you collect from your target audiences. Just like the mantra in real estate is “location, location, location,” the mantra in marketing is “test, test, test.” Attention to continual refinement and improvement is the process that will generate the best results and ensure your CTAs are producing the results you seek.

        Gerri-Knilans | President of Trade Press Services

        Gerri Knilans
        President of Trade Press Services
        Gerri Knilans is president of Trade Press Services. As marketing communications strategists, serving organizations of all sizes and types since 1995, the company provides writing, media outreach and general marketing support to help clients accelerate growth and generate more visibility, credibility and name recognition in their marketplaces. For additional information,

        please visit or send an email to

        How to Establish an Effective Marketing Analytics Process

        How to Establish an Effective Marketing Analytics Process

        Data-driven marketing analysis is pivotal to the success of any marketing effort. Without the insights and direction analytics provide, companies are behind the curve ball when it comes to establishing and maintaining a competitive advantage. Based on the information collection and analysis of data, marketers can learn how customers interact with a company’s marketing content. For example, analytics show specifics such as how many pages a visitor clicked through before leaving a website or which ads are most effective. That’s the good news. The bad news comes from the fact that the abundance of information can sometimes make it difficult to know what’s important and what isn’t.

        Evolving technologies make it easier for companies to access data about their customers and prospects. Whether using automated technology, Google Analytics, surveys, focus groups or input from salespeople and others, data exists just about anywhere. If your goal is to embark on or improve upon a data-driven analysis strategy to evaluate your marketing and outreach efforts, here’s a step-by-step guide:

        1. Define your goal. Start with the aim of answering key questions. For example: What problem needs to be solved? How can we increase website traffic? What blog topics will engage our target audiences? How can we generate interest from new prospects? How can we shorten the sales cycle? Always start with a clear and defined objective that’s supported by a current baseline.
        1. Develop a plan. With any marketing initiative, there’s a need for a plan, and data analysis is no different. Once you’ve defined your goal, identify potential sources of data. You may require access to your website, social media and email software to determine response, engagement, click-through and unsubscribe rates. Narrow the scope of your plan to target information most suited to your objective. Define metrics, technologies, and strategies you are going to use. Ensure roles are defined for those involved, along with deadlines and open communication about progress.
        1. Collect data. When collecting data, focus on pulling data from multiple sources. Vary and diversify your data pool. Even if your objective is to discover specifics about a particular target market or about use on a certain social media platform, information from many resources helps marketers better understand the whole picture. For example, if you identify trends, habits and concerns of current clients, you’re better positioned to recognize hot prospects with challenges you can solve. Cast a wide net to ensure you collect feedback from many sources, and, as a result, you might discover information you didn’t know would be useful.
        1. Organize data. Before you dive deep into your analysis, take a quick surface look at your data, and make sure it can be accessed in an organized fashion. Your organizational structure is determined by the objective identified in Step 1. Whether you use spreadsheets, a data collection software package, or simple pen to paper, prioritizing data that’s most relevant to solving your problem will free up time and resources to what matters most.
        1. Analyze further. Once you have your data arranged and prioritized, conduct the analysis. Make sure you understand current industry trends and have the expertise necessary to draw sensible and accurate conclusions. Bring in fellow experts and get points of view from multiple departments for a wider perspective. Build tables or graphs and segment results by groups that make sense (demographics, industry, etc.). It is much easier to discover major trends if your data is organized effectively.
        1. Present your findings. Once trends have been identified, arrange and present findings to colleagues, partners, investors and even clients or prospects. Get input and incorporate what’s relevant. Then consider developing a white paper, blog or press release based on your findings. Whatever outreach channel you use, data-supported content is a powerful way to share and distribute your expertise.
        1. Utilize results to make decisions. Now that you’ve organized your results, sought feedback and shared input with outside sources, determine if you answered your original question. Act upon your objective with the data-driven results you amassed, and continue to review and revise as necessary to keep marketing initiatives top-notch.

        Marketers rely on data to evaluate their current initiatives and analyze their value, impact, and significance. The careful analysis of this data helps marketers to zero in on what marketing efforts are making the biggest difference. Then, use that data and analysis to tweak current strategies and tactics, do away with poor performing programs, and create new ones to better engage your audiences. When data turns into insightful and responsive actions, you develop and maintain the competitive edge you seek.

          Gerri-Knilans | President of Trade Press Services

          Gerri Knilans
          President of Trade Press Services
          Gerri Knilans is president of Trade Press Services. As marketing communications strategists, serving organizations of all sizes and types since 1995, the company provides writing, media outreach and general marketing support to help clients accelerate growth and generate more visibility, credibility and name recognition in their marketplaces. For additional information,

          please visit or send an email to

          Build Authority Through Content Marketing

          Build Authority Through Content Marketing

          “Authority” and “Expert” are two terms that you’ve no doubt heard quite often in the realm of Internet Marketing. They both refer to people or businesses that are considered trusted resources or influencers in their field or industry. It’s a good place to be and everyone wants to get there.

          Content Marketing can help you reach those goals.

          What is Content Marketing?

          Content Marketing is all about creating and sharing interesting, useful content. It’s not about making the sale right then and there, it’s more about building relationships with your audience. The expectation is that, over time, your audience will come to associate you as a trusted resource (aka an authority) for a certain product or service because you’ve been so diligent about putting out information and resources without the hard sell; once you’ve become an authority, sales will naturally follow.

          Becoming an Authority With Content Marketing

          Becoming an authority through content marketing isn’t as simple as throwing up some blog posts every once in a while. It takes strategy, dedication, and understanding your audience. Here’s how you can use content marketing to become an authority yourself:

          1. Identify a Niche. Every successful authority has a very narrow and defined niche in which they dominate. Whole industries are just too broad and unwieldy to be manageable, so niches are a necessity. For example, I love Instagram. I think it’s an underutilized form of Social Media Content Marketing so I’ve been spending more time building up my Instagram content. Your niche may be a specific platform like this or it may be a specific skill, service, or product depending on your industry.
          2. Be Different. Your content has got to stand out if you want to be noticed. Skip over the generic stuff and dig deeper to answer audience questions or address a problem or concern. One of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is through a simple Google search. Take a look at what’s ranking on search engines for your desired niche and build on it. If the results are text-heavy, maybe you want to put out videos, slideshows, podcasts, or infographics (other types of content).
          3. Promote It. “If you build it, they will come” sounds great, but that doesn’t really You’ve got to promote your content for it to get noticed. The more places you can promote it, the better: social media, guest blogs, videos, participating in expert roundtables or events – and do it consistently. The idea is to get the content as much exposure and reach as possible.

          Know Your Audience

          One thing I can’t stress enough is the need to know your audience and cater to their use patterns. Posting videos on YouTube does you no good if your audience doesn’t watch videos or if they aren’t interested in the content you’re providing. Tracking your website analytics and social media activity can show you where your audience is spending their time and which content is generating the most engagement. This gives you solid direction on where to focus your content marketing efforts, further defining your niche and maximizing your reach.

          Google Analytics can help you evaluate the most effective, engaging content on your website. Using this tool, you can see how long visitors spend on your site, which pages or posts get the most views and/or comments, and whether or not any posts or pages have led to conversions via form completion.

          Social media sites make it easy to evaluate engagement. Simply look at the number of Shares, Likes, or Comments a post receives and whether or not any of those posts resulted in a clickthrough to your website. You can also take a look at a piece of content’s reach if you use the social site’s analytics tools.

          Content marketing is an excellent way to establish trust, build authority, and boost your reputation as an expert in your field. It takes time and it takes work, but the payoff is worth it.

            ABOUT THE AUTHOR
            Tracy Gibb | The Founder of the Marketing Shop


            Tracy Gibb
            The Founder of the Marketing Shop
            Tracy is the Founder of the Marketing Shop.Tracy is an Experienced Marketing and Brand Strategist with a demonstrated history of working in the professionaltraining & coaching industry. Strong marketing professional skilled in Public Relations, ContentMarketing, Social Media Marketing, Public Speaking, Fundraising, and Leadership.

            You never get a second chance to make a great first impression

            You never get a second chance to make a great first impression.

            While it may be a cliché, it’s true. The first interaction of the brand is critical in setting the tone for the entire customer experience. And as companies turn to digital and seek ways to build human connections with their customers, the welcome email stands out as one of the best opportunities for relationship building.
            In fact welcome emails have the highest open rates, up to 60% and are sought after by customers as well. It makes them feel valued and turn to your service more often. In a survey it was found that 74.4% customers expect a welcome email when they sign up for a new service.

            Welcome emails are important. No two ways about it. Read on to learn some tips on how to craft the perfect welcome email.
            1. Go creative or go home!!
            Your welcome email is an entrée at the dinner party. Serving it top notch is a must, for it’s the star of the show! You may choose to keep it with or without fuss and flash, but the perfect entrée should be satisfying. If the entrée impresses you, you are most likely to enjoy your dining experience. If it’s not to your taste, you are most likely to judge the party on that bad start.

            It’s something worth getting too worked up over. I would say fuss over it, include great design, big bold fonts, and graphics that gets your customer’s focus right to your products. Instead of writing big boring monotonous emails, why not try using postcard like formats which are interactive as well as informative.

            Here, Netflix welcomes their customers with a simple introduction, providing a link to their website and giving a basic information about the customer subscription but making you feel welcome at the same time by getting the message “Thanks for joining Netflix”

            2. One size doesn’t fit all. Customize your content.
            When people subscribe to your email list, give them something customized to their interests. Try including an offer or useful tips or a whitepaper along with the welcome message. Let’s say you own an ecommerce store and the user came browsing for baby products. When she signs up, add an e-coupon inside your welcome email. Or if you are a SaaS company, why not offer an e-book on the information they were looking for? Customizing according to your subscribers’ interests makes them feel you pay attention and hits the right chord at the first instance.

            3. Give what they expect
            You ensure a simple checkout process on your website. Why? Because customers expect the checkout process to be convenient and fast. The simpler it is, more likely it is that the customer will buy the service/product. Customer likes a product, clicks on a couple of buttons and the product is well on its way to him.

            Your goal from an email should be no different. Your goal from your welcome email is to introduce customer to your brand and improve the onboarding process. Your new subscriber may want to know more about your product and services and how you will add value to their lives. Give what they seek.

            Take a look at this welcome email from GoodReads, a company that helps people find and share books. In their welcome email, they educate the subscriber on how to make most of GoodReads.

            4. Keep it short and simple
            The welcome email should be able to get the point across, be brief and shouldn’t contain information overload that’s confusing and unnecessary. Decide what you want to achieve from the email and just focus on that. Some examples are:

            • Shop now
            • View Demo
            • Follow Social Accounts
            • Here’s what you can expect from our emails
            • Update preferences

            Take a look at this short and no fuss email by Trello. Gets users to what they want in a jiffy and sure must be getting the best click through rates for this one.

            5. Include relevant links
            Add quick links in the email to simplify and speedup the purchasing process for your subscriber. If your company has an app then adding links to that app and highlighting benefits or features of the app makes it more likely to be downloaded. Looking at their interests and adding links to those products increases the chances of a customer using or buying them by 50%.

            Also, links to other companies or services associated with your company or service can be mentioned. But, avoid focusing too much on them.

            6. Don’t ignore design and your mobile readers
            The perfect design for your welcome email is not just the one with attractive and eye-catching images but also one that is responsive so it represents your product or service in a positive way. Ugly design is one of the fastest ways to drive away your customers and gain bad publicity. Imagine an ecommerce website using poorly shot pictures of its products with insufficient lighting or unappealing backdrops/ surroundings. It is an instant turn off.

            So is the case with non-responsive email. This email was not optimized for mobile readers and worst thing is, none of the icons/ text are clickable.

            What to avoid:

            • Emails with large photos that take ages to load show up as big blank email when opened
            • Call to action buttons that are small and click-unfriendly
            • Cramped up content that’s hard to read – use one or maximum 2 columns in your mobile email layout

            7. Focus on the subject line
            The customer is most likely to open the email if it has a catching subject line and begins on an interesting note. The beginning gives an impression of what will follow and a customer is most likely to read till the end if the beginning of the email catches their interest.

            8. Avoid time lags or delays.
            Being fashionably late to make a grand appearance is traditionally accepted in a party, but don’t ever try that with your welcome emails. There can be absolutely no excuse for not delivering these all too important emails well on time. This is where choosing the right email delivery service that can deliver your emails speedily and to the inbox plays a crucial role. You’ll find this article on how to choose the right ESP helpful.

            This report by Experian shows the importance of timing in welcome emails.

            9. Do not reply – a strict no
            A do-not-reply email doesn’t just sound outright unfriendly, it can also affect your email deliverability. A no-reply email conveys that conversation is not welcome. And as logical as it seems not to use a no-reply, there are many organizations that continue committing this mistake. Don’t believe me? Do a quick scan of your inbox and you’ll be surprised to find dozens of such emails. Here’s why you must stop using no-reply email address right away.

            10. Follow email laws
            There are laws about sending emails and as an email sender you ought to be aware so you don’t flout the rules and attract penalties. For instance, in many countries, sending mails with no-reply address is not allowed. And as per the latest GDPR law, it’s required that your customer gives an active consent to receive emails from you and is not tricked into receiving emails through pre-ticked boxes. Few more rules for email include –

            • Making it easy to opt-out of your emails
            • A recognizable sender name
            • No misleading subject lines
            • Adding your postal address in email to build trust

            Know more about laws that govern emails such as CAN-SPAM Act and GDPR and steps to get compliant.

            I hope you find these tips useful and are successful in creating the perfect welcome email

              ABOUT THE AUTHOR
              Sakshie Pathak | President of Trade Press Services


              Sakshie Pathak
              Marketing Executive At Pepipost
              Sakshie is a computer engineering graduate and a big time MarTech enthusiast currently working as a marketer at Pepipost. Her areas of interest include growth hacking, social media marketing and storytelling. She is an avid blogger for her own company’s blog and also likes to share her views and ideas through guest blogging.

              please visit

              What Every Marketer Needs to Know about Content Development

              What Every Marketer Needs to Know about Content Development

              Content creation, syndication and consumption platforms are like every other aspect of business. They are constantly changing. To ensure your content represents the quality you seek and achieves the results you want, here is a checklist of B2B considerations:

              Interactive visual content

              The demand for interactive content online continues to grow exponentially. Platforms such as YouTube for video content, WordPress for blogs, or Instagram for photos are in widespread usage. More and more marketers are using infographics for data visualizations, presentation platforms for expertise distribution, and webinars for education and networking. While some of these platforms, infographics, for example, have been around in concept for decades, their popularity and use began to rise in the early 2000s. Now, they are a mainstay of business development teams who aim to compile, analyze and share important company or industry statistics. Certain platforms such as Slideshare for expert presentation content or Google Hangouts for webinar content and relationship building are developing each day.

              Virtual reality (VR)

              VR has been headlining research and development for many years but only now has it become a reality for consumers and businesses. The question isn’t if VR can become a part of the marketing plan, but how. This is the stage of quantity vs. quality. As consumers jump on the VR bandwagon, many users and companies will unload poor quality content in hopes of simply putting their name on the new platforms. Stay ahead of the competition and begin developing a VR marketing plan now to maximize content quality and reinforce your brand.

              Networking platforms

              We all know the big three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. They are a part of mainstream society, and it’s hard to think they’re going anywhere. However, business trends and interests change on a day-to-day basis, constantly making room for new social networking platforms. Facebook Business, for example, was invented in response to the many businesses trying to gain exposure through a platform originally designed as an “online yearbook.” Other large social platforms have followed suit, with Instagram Business or Google My Business. However, new platforms are finding users as trends and interests change, for example:

              • org: A rapidly growing platform designed specifically for producing expert marketing content and organizing a personal newsfeed of blog and email subscriptions. Platforms like this may overtake more traditional distribution methods such as email or Facebook for blog, article, white paper and newsletter consumption.
              • com: Another content sharing website, Medium allows users to explore submitted content based on industry. Curated by business professionals, Medium concentrates on quality of content, insights and original ideas.
              • com: Centered around the idea of answering user-posed questions, Quora allows brand advocates and industry specialists to share their expertise. Like-minded individuals can locate industry-specific content and knowledge through a question-and-answer format, and continue the conversation in a forum-like style. Users have the ability to contact industry experts directly if they’re interested in learning more.

              As with other business initiatives and realities, content creation, syndication and consumption will always evolve. By keeping informed and willing to invest in new opportunities, marketers can stay ahead of marketplace trends and demands through ongoing learning, testing and application of the best technology has to offer. Companies that are willing to reach out, embrace the new and work through the kinks that come with change will reap the benefits.

                ABOUT THE AUTHOR
                Gerri-Knilans | President of Trade Press Services

                Gerri Knilans
                President of Trade Press Services
                Gerri Knilans is president of Trade Press Services. As marketing communications strategists, serving organizations of all sizes and types since 1995, the company provides writing, media outreach and general marketing support to help clients accelerate growth and generate more visibility, credibility and name recognition in their marketplaces. For additional information.

                please visit or send an email to

                The Challenge of Lead Routing is that You’re Always Behind

                The Challenge of Lead Routing is that You’re Always Behind

                At the speed that most sales organizations move these days, Sales Operations and Marketing Operations are constantly being asked to update their lead routing rules. Sales reps are rightfully very possessive of their accounts and leads, and when a lead is mis-routed it’s serious business.

                The challenge for Operations is to get the leads routed accurately as quickly as possible. Often this requires enrichment prior to assignment. If leads are assigned based on company for key accounts, geography for specific regions, and revenue for those not already designated, it’s already a lot of data to collect before that lead goes anywhere, as seen below.

                Routing Requirement Data Needed
                Key Account Lead to account matching and fuzzy matching for the company name
                Geography Country, State, Postal Code, Metro Area, or any combination of those for each lead
                Revenue Matching the lead to the company and the revenue
                Industry Matching the lead to the company and its industry
                Partner Account Lead to partner matching and fuzzy matching for the company name
                Round Robin Each sales rep’s workload or assignment history
                Alphabetical Child-parent relationship, Business Unit to Headquarters relationship

                Because Sales is constantly in motion, as Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) get promoted to account managers and new SDRs join, territories are re-assessed, and new regions are targeted, operations must have a reliable way to update assignments. They must do this while ensuring that no leads are mis-routed and that none are orphaned by being assigned to owners who are no longer active or will not follow up on them.

                Many organizations keep complex spreadsheets to track lead assignments, then need to translate that into the platform managing routing. This can be hugely time consuming, as re-programming CRMs or MAPs takes time and the systems are in use 24/7, especially at global businesses.

                The cumulative time to enrich incoming leads, whether from online forms, loaded lists, or other sources, and then route them accurately can sometimes be days instead of the minutes that fast-paced businesses demand. In addition, budgets are tight, so enrichment strategies need to be affordable, comprehensive, and efficient. And that means automation.

                No single data provider delivers all the necessary data points for every prospect. In fact, companies that used four or more data providers were happiest with all of their providers overall. In addition, the same vendors won’t provide the best data for every company, because each specializes in a different set of firmographic, demographic, and individual data. With most vendors providing 30-40% match rates, clearly more is needed in order to get the right information to accurately route them.

                At this point, most companies with only one or two data vendors resort to manual assignments, sacrificing rapid routing and requiring tedious manual work from their teams. This is where the time to lead assignment can stretch to days or even weeks. It’s not unusual for a lead to bounce from rep to rep a few times before it is finally with its rightful owner. Leads can also get stuck in a “black hole” or an unassigned queue where no one is looking.

                For engagement, time is of the essence. Sales wants to contact interested, qualified leads immediately, following up while those leads are interested and while the company is still top of mind. Waiting a few days, or a few weeks, means that interest and engagement potential have waned and the project the lead was considering has moved from, “Yes, I was just trying to figure out a solution for that!” to “Oh, I’ll get to that eventually…”

                There are a few necessary components to turn lead routing into a smoothly operating, fully automated, near-real-time machine:

                • Real-time enrichment with high match rates: Start with the least expensive resource and move to the more expensive ones only when needed to save on budget while using as many resources and vendors as possible to complete the highest percentage of lead and account records you can. Automate the steps to move from vendor to vendor so you’re not reliant on a person clicking an “enrich data” button when one source doesn’t pan out.
                • Automated lead to account matching: Even if the lead arrives with a company of “Amex” instead of “American Express,” you’re going to want to ensure it’s properly enriched and routed to the right rep. That means fuzzy matching for company names to ensure that your lead is associated with the right account, which should already have been enriched with full account data.
                • Immediate, easy-to-update assignment rules: If it takes hours to update your assignment rules in your CRM or MAP (and probably on a weekend while things are slower), that’s way too long. Also a waste of your weekend. If you can’t test your rules before you activate them, you’ll end up with a bunch of people complaining about mis-routed leads, which is a headache you don’t need. Being able to quickly change assignments and test the paths before you deploy is essential to a well-oiled lead routing machine.
                • Eliminated or minimized manual work: It happens all the time. New junior employees are hired, all excited about their opportunities, and the first thing they’re assigned is a bunch of manual drudgery. While there’s a point to working your way up, replacing a robot isn’t in most people’s list of job aspirations. Instead of assigning team members to double check lists, verify spreadsheets, or manually look up leads so they can be assigned, automate all that and assign them something they’ll be engaged in and can grow with. It will also save you the trouble of hiring again when they (quickly) get bored.

                Because lead routing is critical to the success of your business, it’s worth the research to find the best way to keep it up-to-date, effective, and easy to manage. While it’s possible to employ individual tools to accomplish all of the above processes, the better option is a data orchestration platform. Where point tools can fail to integrate with each other and overwrite data using different formats, a data orchestration platform delivers all of these processes in a streamlined, normalized, automated fashion and can distribute the data to all the relevant systems of record. Ideally, your lead routing becomes part of a regular process that adapts to your growing sales team, enables rapid responses to active leads, and helps drive pipeline and revenue growth.

                  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
                  Emily W. Salus | Head of Professional Services at Openprise


                  Emily W. Salus  
                  Head of Professional Services, Openprise
                  Emily has over 20 years of experience in marketing and professional services roles. She led the Marketo services team at the Pedowitz Group, winning the Marketo Partner of the Year award three years in a row. She has also led demand generation, content marketing, and marketing operations at several companies including CNET Channel, CollabNet, and Sleepycat Software.

                  The Importance of Trust Between Email Senders and Subscribers

                  The Importance of Trust Between Email Senders and Subscribers

                  Performance metrics are critical to assess the success of email marketing. Much time and attention is spent analyzing open rates, click-throughs, and conversion rates; yet there is an underlying metric which has a significant impact on all performance: subscriber trust.

                  When email marketing is built around trust, subscribers are more likely to opt in and not only engage with messages, but also convert and remain loyal to a brand. But what does it take to create subscriber trust in an era of data breaches and increasing email privacy legislation?

                  The following recommendations are steps toward building and sustaining subscriber trust.

                  Make a good first impression. Make the opt-in process simple, and make sure permissioning is easy to understand. A pre-checked box or ambiguous opt-in language may increase your list size, but is more likely to result in subscribers who ignore or complain about your messages. Moreover, if you have subscribers within EU jurisdiction, GDPR requires granular, unbundled consent for email, social networks, SMS, and profiling. Also, be clear about the benefits of signing up for email so subscribers have compelling reasons to receive your messages. Finally, let subscribers know what to expect. Setting expectations about message content and frequency will prime subscribers for engagement and conversion.

                  Make the subscriber relationship a top priority. It can be easy to take subscribers for granted and neglect the subscriber experience. Don’t think of subscribers only as a list; remember you are emailing actual people. Use the data you have available, including demographic, behavior, and preferences to make subscriber messages helpful and relevant. Marketers who aren’t currently able to target subscribers at a one-to-one level can still develop personas to help define who you’re communicating with. Understanding who your subscriber is and applying relevant data to your contact strategy allows you to more effectively meet subscriber needs and exceed their expectations.

                  Be consistent. Consistency is important when it comes to branding, message tone, and even cadence. Not only does this build trust with subscribers, it also establishes trust with mailbox providers. Abrupt changes in sending domain, IP address, or sudden spikes or drops in volume can be considered “spammy” behavior and may prevent messages from reaching the inbox.

                  Be authentic. Before any subscriber opens an email, they check to see who it’s from. Using a clear “From” name and sending address provides a clear indication of your identity, putting the subscriber’s mind at ease. Avoid using a “no reply” email address, as subscribers may infer that you don’t want to hear from them. In addition, email replies can actually help improve deliverability, as mailbox providers consider this a positive measure of engagement. It’s also important to authenticate messages by ensuring at minimum that SPF and DKIM are in place, while also considering DMARC.

                  Mean what you say. If a subscriber feels misled by your subject lines, messaging, or promises made during signup, they are more likely to disengage—or worse yet, complain about your messages.

                  Give your subscriber space. Pay attention to cues across the subscriber lifecycle. If subscriber engagement begins to wane, discontinue promotional messages and try to win them back with a re-engagement series, reminding them of subscription benefits.

                  Get personal. Is your contact strategy focused solely on your business goals, or does it also take into account what’s important to your subscriber? While it may be easy to send everyone on your list the same email content at the same frequency, a lack of relevancy or personalization can frustrate subscribers. Develop a customer-centric strategy by considering what subscribers actually want, rather than just what benefits your business.

                  Keep open communication. The best way to find out what a subscriber wants and needs from you is by regularly asking for feedback. With the help of surveys, preference data, browse and purchase data, and even complaints, you can understand what’s working and what’s not with regard to meeting subscriber expectations. Let subscribers how their feedback and preferences will be used to improve their subscriber experience, and then follow through by crafting more relevant future emails based on the data provided.

                  Be honest when things go wrong. Everyone—and every brand—makes mistakes. When brands fail to live up to subscriber expectations or breach their trust, it is critical to communicate with subscribers. Start by acknowledging the mistake and be transparent about any impact to the subscriber. Then clearly communicate what you will do to restore subscriber trust and make sure you follow through.

                  Know when to let go. If a subscriber wants to unsubscribe from your program, make the process easy and straightforward. This will reduce spam complaints and overall deliverability, and give the exiting subscriber a positive impression of your brand. The fact is, even if marketers don’t provide an easy method of unsubscribing, mailbox providers will. In April, Gmail launched their new smart unsubscribe feature which actively asks users whether they’d like to unsubscribe from certain promotional emails they haven’t opened in 30+ days. Last year Yahoo rolled out a similar feature prompting users to unsubscribe after they have deleted emails multiple times from a given sender.

                  Just like any successful relationship, trust isn’t created by a single action, but through a continuous pattern of behavior over time. Treating subscribers like you want to be treated will have significant impact in the success of your email program. Trust me.

                    ABOUT THE AUTHOR
                    Laura Christensen | Email Strategist at Return Path

                    Laura Christensen
                    Email Strategist at Return Path
                    Laura is an Email Strategist for Return Path, the worldwide leader in email intelligence. As a true Maximizer, she leverages email program data and insight to identify what’s good and make it excellent, somewhat obsessively at times. After spending more than 15 years in the email industry, she’s passionate about helping her clients create better subscriber experiences for increased engagement, retention, and overall email program performance. Prior to joining Return Path, Laura managed the email marketing program for a Berkshire Hathaway Company. Laura increased revenue up to 30% year-over-year at this multi-million dollar company. She continues to work with clients across multiple industries to identify email program vulnerabilities and opportunities, refining strategies to achieve success.

                    Marketing Technology: Today and in the Future

                    Marketing Technology: Today and in the Future

                    When it comes to technology, almost nothing is built to last. Next year there will be a new app or an enhanced version of a current one. That’s because by nature, tech developers, programmers and marketers always learn from previous releases and marketplace changes. As technology advances, we’re only limited by our own vision of what’s possible. Yet, when all is said and done, there are a handful of technologies that have become mainstays in our business and personal lives.

                    Marketing Mainstays

                    Here are some marketing technologies that have withstood the test of time. As you develop your marketing plan for next year, make sure to use these applications to enhance efficiency, effectiveness and results.

                    • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software. It’s virtually impossible to operate without a practical, organized database of clients and prospects. Database and CRM software have been around for many years, which means they’ve evolved and added functionality based on marketplace demands. Database and CRM software, such as Zoho, amoCRM, Microsoft Access, Oracle, Salesforce or Hubspot, creates a system of records that can be used to coordinate customer data from multiple sources and take appropriate next steps. What’s best is there are products available for corporations of any size, industry and technical capability, and many can be customized to suit the users.
                    • Data Analytics. Creating a database of customers and prospects is an important first step for marketers and sales teams. Next comes accessing data from the CRM system and using the information to make sound business decisions. Data analytics help companies identify trends, see similarities and buying patterns, understand buyers’ needs and generate more qualified leads. Step two is using data to analyze the success of marketing initiatives. What messages are working and which aren’t? What channels are the most popular? How do your outreach initiatives compare with your competitors? Data analytics help marketers evaluate the past, analyze the present and predict the future. By incorporating analysis into a marketing plan, marketers gain valuable insights that help them create an unparalleled competitive edge.
                    • With roughly 57% of internet traffic coming from cell phones and tablets, optimizing for mobile is no longer an option, but a necessity. Google and other search engines have become increasingly mobile-first to reflect the widespread use of phones and tablets over desktop computers. Continually optimize your content to ensure marketing messaging and branding comes across on all devices.
                    • Email Marketing. Despite being a pillar of our communication today, email tech is changing constantly. In fact, 54% of marketers say increasing email engagement is their top marketing priority. Automation software such as Constant Contact and Mailchimp make campaigns, newsletters and email blasts more manageable. Additionally, incorporating graphics such as photography, graphs, charts and video can keep your emails fresh and appealing.

                    Transformative Technologies

                    Before any technology becomes an integral component of our business lives, it first goes through many stages. “Tried and tested” is a vital aspect to selecting and adopting technologies. Below are the trending technologies that are up-and-coming, and many marketers agree they will transform how we conduct work in the future.

                    • Artificial intelligence and machine learning. These technologies have come to the forefront in recent years and are growing in interest, acceptance and use. Machine learning is a field of computer science that uses statistical techniques to give computer systems the ability to “learn” from data, without being explicitly programmed. When used in conjunction with the technology we already have, personalization becomes highly achievable. Machine learning gives our programs intel about our prospects, their buying habits and their challenges so we (and our AI) know what they’re looking for. The field is expected to grow exponentially with 73% of marketing executives seeing AI or a technology dependent on AI as critical to the future of marketing.
                    • Already in use for many B2C marketers, bots can take the place of FAQs, paying bills, making a reservation or customer service support lines. An approachable and accessible chatbot can answer more questions while maintaining 24-hour service for a cost far less than an employee. Even with some hesitation from customers who would prefer human interaction, a huge 48% of consumers would rather connect with a company via live chat than any other means of contact.
                    • Geolocation tech. This technology has already changed the way SEO works and continues to make personalization the way of the future. By identifying a user’s exact location via IP address, geolocation technology has had significant impact on B2C marketing when finding a storefront in necessary. Its effects are also seen in B2B marketing in terms of demographics, locality and interests.
                    • Voice-first computing. Widespread use of voice recognition software such as Siri, Alexa and Cortana has also changed SEO. Change for this technology has been exponential, and many marketers see it as “the next big wave.” In fact, 20% believe voice-first technologies and smart assistants will have the most significant impact on marketing in the coming year.
                    • Blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Not just affecting marketing, blockchain and cryptocurrencies have the power to change business transactions across the board. Many believe traditional banking solutions are on their way out, and the widespread use of blockchain transaction data and cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Litecoin, may take its place. The opportunities for global markets, reliable privacy and ease-of-access are big, but a lot of progress is yet to be made. Only 8.4% of marketers believe these technologies will change marketing by next year, but many are looking further down the line.

                    There is no doubt that some new technologies will continue to grow. Others will fizzle or fade away as time goes on. With an eye on the future and a commitment to continuous improvement, we grow as individuals, as a marketplace and as a society. When you incorporate forward-thinking and innovation into your marketing plan, it helps you develop and maintain a competitive edge, capitalize on emerging trends, leverage data and create success for the future.

                      ABOUT THE AUTHOR
                      Gerri-Knilans | President of Trade Press Services

                      Gerri Knilans
                      President of Trade Press Services
                      Gerri Knilans is president of Trade Press Services. As marketing communications strategists, serving organizations of all sizes and types since 1995, the company provides writing, media outreach and general marketing support to help clients accelerate growth and generate more visibility, credibility and name recognition in their marketplaces. For additional information,

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