Friday, December 25, 2015

5 tips for becoming more successful at selling

By David Ronald

Selling is a tough business and every sales person needs a plethora of skills. But abandon any strategies that involve force-feeding prospects a product they don’t want and don’t need. As Dale Carnegie famously said, people don't want to be sold to—they want to feel as if they're buying.

Instead, as your prospect moves through the funnel, provide resources and guidance as they attempt to solve a complicated business problem. Always be helping.

(Click here to read our white paper on sales enablement:

Here are five things to keep in mind when you are selling:

1. Remember you're in the people business

Lots of sales people get caught up in what they are selling and forget that they're in the people business. Your customer wants to be treated personally. Getting attention and maintaining your prospects' interest is a huge problem today. But walk into any big-box outlet, restaurant or professional office and you might not even be acknowledged.

Before visiting clients it’s best to remind yourself that "This is a unique individual who deserves distinct treatment."

 2. Don't avoid things that are uncomfortable

The best sales people I have known are willing to throw themselves into harm’s way. So convinced of their offer, they are willing to get in front of the tough customers, ask the hard questions and go for the close. Doing the uncomfortable thing is where the top performers live.

Identify your toughest clients and call them first—and keep calling on them long after everyone else has given up. Once a month, make a list of your company's most difficult target customers and create an attack plan on how to get those accounts. As someone once told me, “You can't bring the big deals home without getting into the deep waters where the big fish swim.”

3. Focus on the results, not the effort

The sales game is not one of organizing, planning or meetings—it's about getting results. Sales people often spend time kidding themselves about doing busy work and don't get in front of customers who can buy their products.

Your success in selling is about getting results and that means getting your products into the hands of more customers. A great sales person knows how to get the customer's attention and present their product or service in a way that causes the customer to buy. Don’t confuse results with efforts. You don't try to get an appointment—you either get it or you don't.

4. Wow your prospects

Good sales people look for ways to inspire a prospect's emotional involvement and create the urgency to take ownership. When you wow a buyer you make a difference and cause them to want to hold onto that experience. You can take any product—even a boring one—and make an exciting pitch.

For example, someone selling glass doors in a hurricane zone could slap on both sides of the glass to demonstrate their construction quality doing so will get the customer's full attention and set you apart from the competition. Average doesn't pay in sales. Wow prospects with your knowledge and belief in the product.

5. Ask for the sale

This may seem very simple, but many sales people fail to ask for the sale. Ever. This is hard to believe, but it’s true. Regardless of your product, price or how professional you are, if you don't ask, you will only sell to those who are going to buy regardless.

Think about keeping a tally of every time you ask a prospect customer for their business. Use this to identify what approaches worked best.

Thanks for reading.

Leave us a comment if you found this information useful.

Friday, December 18, 2015

9 tips for building a successful startup culture

By Sharon Lee

The probability of a startup succeeding over the long-term is low if the founders cannot build a culture of passion and commitment.

What does it take to build an effective startup culture? Although there’s no simple answer, and the needs of every company are different, transparency and communication are likely to be a part of the answer.

 Here are some recommendations that should help every founder team put this into practice.

1. Don’t hesitate to verbalize your dream to team members daily
Written mission statements and a passionate quarterly pitch to the team is not enough. Team members have to hear from you daily and see your enthusiasm during individual discussions, to the point that they are repeating your story to others. That’s how a culture is solidified.

2. Demonstrate a consistent set of personal values and priorities
People believe what they see more than what you say, and they tend to imitate what you do. Thus investors look for consistency between you and your team on values and priorities. If there is no consistency, there is no culture.

3. Customize your organizational structure based on individuals' strengths
There is no rule that marketing needs to report to the founder or that every startup needs a chief operating officer. Some of the best startup cultures have no hierarchical reporting, yet everyone knows who drives each of the initiatives. Culture is not defined by job titles.

4. Focus on hiring the right people and deal quickly with mismatches
Skills and experience are necessary in hiring but finding a match in values and culture is equally important. Mentoring and training programs need to be put in place early. Entrepreneurs who are too busy for people never get the culture they envision.

5. Foster innovation in process as well as products
Technology can be used to facilitate customer support and sales as well as enhance your product. Investors look for innovation in all areas of the business and all levels of the organization, from top to bottom. Winning cultures incentivize and reward innovation as well as business results.

6. Visibly link your standards to industry best practices
Teams tend to look inside an organization and tend to compare their performances to their own previous records or other internal groups. Comparisons should always be with competitors and customer expectations of excellence. A culture that excels measures itself against industry leaders.

7. Create opportunities for continuous learning
A winning culture is filled with people who love to learn. They need opportunities to do new work and try out new roles, as well as have access to training updates in their current positions. Successful leaders are good coaches and mentors, as well as being on the lookout for personal learning opportunities.

8. Sponsor internal events to build team synergy
Events need to be inspirational as well as directional. These will build the culture you need, but also give you an opportunity to observe where you need more focus. Make sure each one highlights your values, recognizes the right team members and involves customers and outside experts.

9. Make your startup a winning place to work
Promote your culture and innovations through social media and the press to make the team proud of their jobs. This pride will be sensed by customers and vendors, since everyone wants to buy into a winner. Winning in business is all about building momentum, and capitalizing on that progress.

The right culture doesn’t happen overnight and it’s especially hard to change once it is set. It’s especially important, therefore, to start early. Your business's growth and success depends on it.

Culture matters. A lot!

Good luck building yours.

Friday, December 11, 2015

3 ingredients of a successful content marketing strategy

By David Ronald

Content marketing increases demand for what you are selling and should be a key component of your business strategy.

What is content marketing? Content marketing alters the way you sell—it shifts the focus from hyping your products to adding value to prospects’ decision making. Content marketing is about creating relevant, informative and unbiased content that attracts buyers and converts them to loyal customers.

(Click here to read our white paper on content marketing:

Do you want to make content marketing work for you? If so, here are the three ingredients of a successful content marketing strategy.

1. Help don’t sell, talk don’t yell 

It’s a harsh truth that nobody is interested in you and your business—they are interested in themselves and their own problems. The starting point for your content, therefore, should be “how can we help our customers?” not “how can we sell to our customers?”

Share your expertise freely and be generous with what you know. A good starting point for creating helpful content is to begin with the questions your customers ask you. Answer those questions with your content. Blog about it, make videos about it. The format isn’t the most important thing; it’s the intention that matters more. Use what you know to create exactly the kind of content you know your customers crave.

You can’t separate content marketing from social media, they’re inextricably linked. Social media is one way you share your content – your blogs, your guides, your videos, but your social media updates are content in their own right too. Make them helpful, human and tone done the hype. Share other people’s content, if you know it will help your customers. Share it even if you think it’s too good, and you wish you’d created it yourself. Share it even if it’s so fantastic it hurts.

The biggest thing content marketing can do for you is to build trust in you and your business. Having your customers’ best interests at heart at every stage of the content process—from the subject you choose to write about, to the way you behave online—is the way to build trust, so keep this secret mantra in mind.

2. Know your content sweet spot

In my experience the number one place where people go wrong with content marketing is by failing to map their content sweet spot—which lies at the intersection between content which helps your customers and the content which will help you grow your business.

There will be an infinite number of things your customers are looking for online. On the one hand you could share videos of cats doing funny stuff and gain hundreds of social media followers, but it won’t win you any business. On the other hand you could talk exclusively about your business and its sales messages and probably nobody will listen. The content sweet spot is somewhere in the middle. Not cats, not self-interested sales promotion.

The best type of content marketing increases demand for what you are selling. So, focus on talking about applications of your product, instead of focusing on how it works. Wistia, a video hosting services company, is a good example of a B2B vendor doing great content marketing—the company has created a series of educational videos that teach viewers how to be better video marketers—each short lesson is a microcosm of some concept within video storytelling, including bulleted lists for easier retention of the subject matter. You can find these videos here:

By producing videos like these, Wistia has shifted from pitching its products to delivering content that makes its prospects more informed before they buy. And like all good content marketing, these videos are helping Wistia to increase its addressable market—someone not necessarily thinking about creating corporate videos may be excited by this content and embark on a journey that ends up with her signing up for a subscription.

3. Content marketing only works for good guys

People rarely write letters of complaint these days; instead, they leap onto Twitter and expect you to sort it out. So content marketing isn’t something you can leave to the marketing department, the whole team has to be in on the act. These days, it’s as much a part of customer service as it is a front end marketing issue. You need to be a good business—one that acts in the best interests of its customers—through and through.

If you’re doing content marketing well, you’ll be creating content and sharing it on social media platforms. Being a successful content marketer doesn’t mean creating the shiniest glossiest most amazing content and pouring it into the world and waiting for the results. It means using that content to help customers, and start the conversations that develop into long-term relationships. A big part of content marketing success is down to what you do with the content once you’ve created it—how you build content creation, distribution and relationship building into your business model.

Thanks for reading.

Let us a comment if you found this information helpful.

Friday, December 4, 2015

9 ways that social media marketing will help your business

By David Ronald

People sometimes ask me about the benefits of social media marketing.

In some instances a small business owner may already have spent time on social media in the hope that new prospects will appear in droves. After a few weeks, however, they scaled back on their social media activities, or abandoned them altogether, after becoming frustrated by an apparent lack of results.

I’ve highlighted the impact of social media marketing on SEO rankings in prior blog posts (for example and In this post I’m going to describe other benefits of being active on social media. The key thing to note, however, is that it takes time to build momentum with social media and the benefits aren’t always as obvious as you may like—successful social media marketing requires consistency and patience.

Nonetheless, if you’re feeling a little bit skeptical about the benefits of social media marketing, here are some reasons why it may be working better than you realize.

1. Brand recognition—one of the most powerful ways to use social media is as a brand-building tool. With social media, you get to decide how you want to position your company and what you want people to know about what you do. With consistent effort and great content, you can build a reputation for your brand around your company’s values, benefits, and advantages.

2. Repeat exposure—there is an old marketing adage that says it takes six to eight exposures to a product before a customer decides to buy. A clear benefit of social media is repeat exposure with your network. You have the opportunity to remind them over and over again about what you have to offer, which can shorten your sales cycles dramatically.

3. Authority—for coaches, consultants, authors, speakers, and other service-based businesses, social media can be very powerful in helping you establish authority in your field, making you the go-to resource for your target audience to seek out for help. Share great content, answer questions, and serve your audience, and you will inevitably build loyal fans.

4. Influence—as your following increases, your influence grows. Having a substantial social media audience creates a snowball effect that can attract new customers, media interviews, joint venture partnerships, and all kinds of other opportunities. It’s a bit like when you see a crowd hovered around something. You can’t help but want to see what all the fuss is about, so a large audience will only attract more interest.

5. Community—there is nothing like social media when it comes to cultivating a community. When your followers become part of your community, you gain instant access to them. That means you can find out what challenges they are facing and what they like and don’t like about your offerings. You can engage in ongoing dialog that can be more valuable than any kind of paid market research.

6. Ahead of the curve—whether you realize it or not, your prospects and clients are checking to see if you are engaging in social media. I always find it a bit odd when I’m investigating a potential service provider online and I can’t locate a social media presence or worse, I find Facebook pages that haven’t been updated in months, empty Twitter feeds, and a clear lack of interest in engaging. Social media isn’t a fad and it’s not going away. Even if it’s not your top priority, if you stay current with activity, your prospects will notice.

7. Mindshare with lurkers—although there will be days when you wonder if anyone is paying attention to your social media networks, you can be confident that more people are paying attention that you realize. Give it time and you’ll start to understand what’s happening behind the anonymity of the internet. You even hear from people who say, “I’ve been following you on Twitter for ages. I love your posts!”

8. Competitive advantage—the reality is that most of your competitors aren’t likely doing a very good job with social media (most companies aren’t), which gives you the chance to stand out. Also consider the flip side. If you avoid social media, you leave a big opening that allows your competitors to capture your audience.

9. Website traffic—social media can be a leading traffic generator and when you share blog posts, videos and other content from your website, you give your audience a reason to click through and visit your site. Once there, you have the opportunity to inspire those visitors to take action by inviting them to sign up for your mailing list, make a purchase, or call to schedule a free consultation. Install traffic monitoring service, such as Google Analytics, and if you are committed to your social media efforts, you will clearly see that social media brings traffic. Also, make sure that your visitors receive a clear call to action when they visit your site so that you can convert that extra traffic into business opportunities.

While many businesses large and small are trying to justify the cost and time investment for managing social media marketing, an important benefit often gets overlooked: Big Wins. For example, if a major media outlet finds you on Twitter and interviews you for a national article, then that is also a big win, one that you can’t measure based on directly-generated revenues.

Although big wins don’t happen often, when they do, they make it all worthwhile. It’s easy to forget results like these six months down the road you’re trying to assess whether your social media efforts are paying off. But that one contract you landed could cover your social media marketing costs for years. And that major media interview could lead to subsequent interviews and a line item on your resume that impresses a corporate sponsor three years from now. Never forget to factor in big wins in social media.

Thanks for reading.

Let us know if you found this information useful.

Friday, November 27, 2015

7 SEO tips that can help your startup increase revenues

By David Ronald

Search engine optimization can have a dramatic effect on the success of any business regardless of its size. SEO best-practices are always changing, however, because Google frequently modifies its algorithms—so much so, in fact, that approaches which were effective in obtaining a page one ranking just a couple of years ago may even be counter-productive today.

The evolving nature of search requires a fresh strategy when it comes to keep your business prominent in search engine listings.

In this post I’m going to highlight seven tips for successful SEO:

1. Develop your strategy—a carefully-crafted marketing strategy is vital in identifying your target market segments, how best to communicate with them, what types of messages and content you want to evangelize, metrics that can help determine and how problems when content doesn’t perform as expected and so on. It’s an ever-evolving plan, but an initial strategy needs to be formulated before it can grow into itself.

2. Identify target keywords—all SEO projects begin with research into target keywords. Your goal here is to determine the keywords that have the most return with the least competition, and this is based on your target segments and an in-depth analysis of current and recent search trends. Build compelling content around these keywords—Google is adept at determining how relevant and informative content is to specific keywords.

3. Keep content pithy—if you’re focusing on a particular topic in your segment(s), then strive to write about everything relevant to that topic. Creating pithy content is how you attract new users and make sure that your site doesn’t stagnate. These also feed into the idea of generating good backlinks to go with good content. Together these things are very helpful for a site’s final page rank.

4. Build relevant links—modern day link building requires proper understanding of how anchor tags work and how you can best utilize them to increase your search engine rank. Link relevancy is key in figuring out which sites are best linked to. Tools such as Mozbar allow you to quickly ascertain if a link is good by glancing at the DA score. This is important because these links affect how relevant a site you are to your niche.

5. Determine social channels—there are hundreds of millions of users across dozens of social networking channels and as a startup, and your time dedicated to social media is already at a premium. Understanding that you can’t cover all the possible avenues is the first thing to come to grips with. Some background research can then direct you to the social media network where the majority of your target demographic dwells, allowing you to focus on that one.

6. Be mobile-friendly—it isn’t necessary to completely re-build a website in order to make it mobile-friendly. There are plenty of resources online that can convert a website to mobile-friendly standards, without a great deal to time or money. Even if budget is your concern, you have far more to lose from a site that isn’t mobile compatible than you save from not making it mobile compatible.

7. Befriend analytics—the numbers don’t lie and the relevant numbers to you are the ones that tell of your page’s successes and failures. While successes are important to celebrate, failures allow you to improve your site. Analytics gives you goals to aim for and are a pretty good guide as to how effective your marketing strategy has been thus far and what could be improved in the future.

These seven tips should get you started on the journey to a position on page one of a search engine listing. SEO is a huge and complex topic, so strive to increase your knowledge as much as possible—subscribe to relevant blogs (there are some very good ones) and consider taking an evening class at a local college if time allows. Spending time in acquiring more and more knowledge will be a worthwhile investment for your business.

Thanks for reading.

Leaves us a comment if you found this post to be useful.

Friday, November 20, 2015

How to achieve good PR when you're a startup

By David Ronald

Public relations is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. In an era when anyone can broadcast their opinions about your startup to the world, good PR remains as vital to the success of a business as it always has been. Indeed, it’s arguably more important than ever.

Even so, good PR requires a new level of engagement on the part of entrepreneurs and companies and in this blog post I’m going to examine what that involves.

  • Less what, more why—although innovators are right to be proud of their latest development, it’s important to avoid falling into the trap of focusing on the “what” it is and “how” it works. Focus, instead, on the “why” it is going to have an impact and enrich people’s lives.
  • Search for a “hook”—endeavour to pitch your product or service by relating it to current hot button issues as much as you can, as this increases the probability of successfully “hooking” your audience.
  • Tone down jargon—yes, it’s true that our lives are full of technical buzzwords but don’t automatically expect that everyone understands all of the ones you use. Describe your innovation in everyday language as much as possible.
  • Map your messages—it’s generally true that the technical press is the best place to seek coverage if you have an exciting product announcement and the business press is more suitable if you have company news.
  • Avoid irrelevant news—the quickest way to excite an editor’s “delete button reflex” is to get your company associated with non-news. Overcome your natural urge to be “in the news” regularly and, instead, put out press releases only when you something truly interesting to announce.
  • Connect on social media—journalists, even at mainstream publications, use social media as a key way of staying abreast of breaking news. Posting your news on properties such as Twitter and Reddit can help you gain coverage.
  • Seek bloggers' coverage—the blogosphere is the perfect link between social media and PR as bloggers are active on social media and many of them are closely monitored by journalists.
  • Identify your keywords—determine the keywords that will give you an edge over your competitors and use them your press releases, social media posts, and so on. Spyfu (, for example, is a good tool for helping determine which keywords to use.
  • Publish social media-friendly content—since your goal is to prompt engagement, and potential sharing, post content on social media that elicit an emotional response. Case studies, for example, are an ideal way ay to get your message across.
  • Leverage Google Analytics—you can determine which online publications are helping drive traffic to your website using Google Analytics. Put more of your advertising dollars there.
  • Focus on media where you advertise—the walls between advertising and editorial are sometimes rock solid and sometimes non-existent. A good rule of thumb, however, is that you’ll get the best coverage in the publications where you’re spending the majority of your ad dollars, and vice versa.
Do you agree with this list?
Leave us a comment if you feel we've left something off it. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

3 types of online advertising for small businesses

By David Ronald

The goal of advertising is to attract new customers—after all, no matter how awesome your company’s product or service is, if you don’t advertise, nobody will know about it.

It’s not surprise that ever more businesses are choosing to advertise online - digital advertising spend was $49.5 billion in the United States, in 2014, according to Internet Ad Bureau, digital now commands nearly one in five ad dollars.

The first thing to know when you are considering using the internet to advertise your product is what types of online advertising are at your disposal. And that will depend on what your business needs are. In this blog post, I describe the three key online advertising methods.

1. Search Engine Advertising

Of all the types of online advertising, search engine marketing has to be one of the most dynamic and challenging to harness. Basically, popular search engines like Google use complex algorithms to deliver searched-for content in their results pages. It obviously pays to be one of the first few results on a popular search engine. However, because these algorithms are constantly changing, staying on top of the search engine optimization (SEO) methods can be a little challenging.
The key benefits of this type of advertising are:

Origination—many prospects will hit search engines first when they are looking for a new product or service, or attempting to locate one that they haven’t had luck finding. By making yourself visible from the point of origination, you are more likely to get those customers.

2. Display Advertising

This category of advertising includes all of the visual ways to get your message across: videos, graphics, banners, sidebars, logos, photos…you get the idea. The display delivery system has come a long way from the early days of internet advertising, and it isn’t uncommon to see ads that are more experiential than passive, like interactive video ads.
The key benefits of this type of advertising are:

Visibility—of all the types of online advertising, display has the best chance of making a visual impression; a buyer can see your logo, your service, your contact information, or really whatever information you choose to include, which can make a lasting impression.

Targeting—huge steps have been made in targeting prospects, mainly through the use of behavioral targeting, which uses cookies and search data to deliver ads to people who are more inclined to want what you’re offering. Geographical targeting, on the other hand, will target buyers who are close to your location, which is especially useful for small brick and mortar shops.

3. Social Media Advertising

Social media is currently the sweetheart of all of the different types of online advertising choices that you have available to you. Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Vine and other social media properties are having a profound effect on the way information is shared online. And virality, or the exponential rate at which information is shared is what makes social media marketing so desirable—though it can be a little tougher to determine which things actually will spread like wildfire.
The key benefits of social media advertising are:

Cost—with a few caveats, most social media accounts are free to open and operate, making this one of the cheaper types of online advertising.

Visibility—many people enable push notifications, which update their mobile devices and computers immediately with alerts from social media sites. The popularity of these sites, and potential consumers’ constant interaction with them means that you’ll have a larger chance of being seen by more people.

So what are the next steps? Well, that’s entirely up to you! The first thing you should do is take a thorough stock of your advertising needs and see how these and other types of online advertising can meet those needs. Educating yourself and your employees in social media marketing will give you a definite leg up and understanding how to build the type of websites that people want to purchase things from will keep you on top.

Thanks for reading.

Leave us a comment if you found this information useful.

Friday, November 6, 2015

7 types of video that will improve your social media marketing

By Scott Mason

Video is my favorite way of learning about a topic. Yes, I like to read, but nothing has the emotional impact of a video.

Telling stories with video increases engagement and gives people a reason to talk about you—approximately 72% of marketers plan to use more video in their social channels, according to the 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report. What types of videos will get the attention of your audience? Creating videos that tell stories is a powerful way to connect with your audience on an emotional level and increase engagement with your content.

In this post I will describe how best to combine video, storytelling and social media.

1. Share your customers' stories

We’re big believers in customer advocacy here at Alphabet—it’s a great way to evangelize how your product is helping to enrich your buyers’ personal or work lives.

On Airbnb‘s Facebook page, the company posts video stories about places around the world, as told by Airbnb hosts. This is a great way to produce engaging and interesting content, and create an emotional connection between your prospects and your business.

2. Tell personal stories

Gary Vaynerchuk is a great example of how to do this successfully—he is known for stories and video from his Wine Library TV days and he’s constantly innovating. He regularly posts videos on his YouTube channel that include personal stories as a way to connect with potential customers.

3. Interview interesting people

An interview or video podcast is a great way to draw out stories from industry thought leaders, customers or partners. Video interviews don’t require a big budget. Just make sure you have good questions and an engaging guest.

Someone who does this well is Michael Hyatt—he posts portions of his video podcast interviews on his Facebook page as teasers.

4. Teach viewers how to do something

The Home Depot does a great job of telling project-related stories from the customer’s point of view. In this YouTube video the company shows viewers how to install a tile backsplash.

Seeing people accomplishing their goals will inspire many of your viewers. Your videos can teach them how to do a project and highlight the tools they’ll need to gather to do the job.

5: Shoot a documentary-style video 

Another way to tell stories with video is to shoot in a documentary style. Corning, for example, created a documentary-style video that explored applications for the company’s glass in a wide range of innovative products. It has been viewed by over 25 million people on YouTube so far.

6. Create animated stories

Another option for social videos is to develop an animated story, similar to what Chipotle has been doing with its video series Back to the Start on its YouTube channel.

You could hire a video production company that specializes in animation, but there are also a number of tools you can use to create animated videos such as GoAnimate, Powtoon and MakeWebVideo.

7. Take viewers “behind the scenes” 

People love to see “how the sausage is made”.

Constant Contact often provides a look at the people behind the company. In the following example, they posted a simple video on Facebook of their Day of Service Who doesn’t want to know more about a company whose employees have fun together—and one that contributes to charity?

Okay, enough from me...

Now it’s your time to get out there and be creative with video in ways that help your business grow revenues.

Friday, October 30, 2015

5 secrets that website designers don’t tell you

By Sharon Lee

You want a website that captures interest, holds it and brings you sales.

It’s easy to say, but not necessarily simple to do. Creating a website that becomes a major revenue driver can be fun. Or it can be a nightmare.

Have you ever had a run-in with a website developer who promised you a brilliant design but all you got was a big mess? No, you’re not an expert, but you know what’s good and what’s not. You also know when you’re being taken advantage of. All you wanted was a website that would help you succeed online, and what you got instead wasn’t worth the pixels it was painted on.

In this post I will share some secrets that can help ensure you end up with the best website possible. 

1. You don’t need to spend a fortune
People say you get what you pay for, and sometimes, that’s true. But it’s not true that you need to spend your life savings on a good website. There are too many designers out there preying on your ignorance, charging exorbitant rates for their own profit. They blind you with jargon and fancy coding terms. Don’t put up with it.

Decide your budget and find graphic designers who can work within it. Look for designers that fit the style of site you’d like for your business. Visit other sites you like and see who designed them. Ask for quotes, take your time and shop around.

It’ll save you thousands of dollars.

2. Design is about psychology
A graphic designer needs to know color psychology and the associations people make with specific shades and tones. She needs to know what imagery will appeal to people, the type of people it’ll appeal to, and why it appeals to them. She needs to know what’s going on in people’s minds when they land on sites and as they navigate through yours.

Are smooth curves better than concentric circles? Is IBM blue the best color or is deep red a better choice? What will draw people to the right or the left? What emotional state should the site create? Should the design be modern and simple or colourful and bold or soft and comforting? Where do a person’s eyes travel, and what will make them stop?

Good designers know all this and much more. They understand that their goal is to influence a visitor’s psychological state of mind and perception of your business. The more designers know about how people behave, what makes them take action and ways they react to different elements, the better they can implement persuasive strategies into your site.

3. You don’t need to be totally unique.
It’s true that you need to stand out these days and look different from all the rest. The problem is that some designers take it a little too far, and they design you a site that’s so unique it breaks all the rules – and not in a good way. Your stunning site ends up being a confusing experience for visitors.

Designers need to create sites that follow web conventions and usability rules, because these are the ultimate guides to navigating your site quickly and easily. If you break them, you’ll confuse your visitors.

Shun conventions and you’ll create a visitor experience that’s similar to walking into an alien world.

4. Branding is a special skill, and not all designers do it well.
Most designers aren’t skilled in developing brand identities. They’re good at developing graphic design that reflects your brand identity, but if you haven’t supplied them with that crucial information, they’re just assuming.

They’re assuming your target market, and what appeals to those ideal customers. They’re assuming the values of your business and its marketing message. They’re assuming its personality and the type of experience your customers will have when they work with you or buy from you. You know what they say about assuming, right?

It’s far better to work with a specialist to build your brand identity before you hire your web developer. Otherwise you’ll just attract the wrong kind of people, and the entire website will be a waste of money.

5. Maintaining a website isn’t expensive.
Since graphic design and website development is usually a one-time expense, unethical providers try to loop you in as a customer they can bill every month for recurring charges.

When someone offers you an upsell maintenance package, ask what they’ll do for that money. Then go to Google and find out just how easy it is to do what they’ve offered you.

Not interested in maintaining your site? By all means, hire someone to do it for you. Just be sure you’re not being overcharged for quick and easy jobs.

Designing a website involves many factors and, when done right, produces results. There are pitfalls, however, and I’m hoping this post will help you avoid them.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The most neglected concept in marketing

By David Ronald

One of the most overlooked and rarely implemented concepts in marketing is that of the company persona.

No, I’m not talking about buyer personas, which are vital and a key contributor to the efficacy of the outbound marketing of any company—spending time and creativity in the creation of accurate buyer personas is an investment that will yield results (more on this later). Instead, I’m recommending that you craft a vendor persona that describes your company.

Think of it as the foundation of your brand.

One of my former companies, a startup that introduced several game-changing technologies to the cable television industry, selected the persona of a visionary magician. It was a perfect way of encapsulating the innovative spirit of the company. All of the content created by the marketing team from that point onwards adopted a tone-of-voice that reflected the visionary magician persona.

Not only did this approach improve the consistency of our outbound marketing, it also informed the way the sales team pitched the product; and also how we spoke about the company to analysts and media. And a serendipitous side-effect was it hinted about exciting future product developments without requiring the company to commit to roadmap specifics—which is ideal for a business in the early-stages of its life.

Life is hectic and anything that simplifies it is good, and that is where the power of a company persona comes from—it enables both company outsiders and insiders to “get” what you are about faster and more easily.

This is why I recommend that you consider coming up with a personality for your business.
And, while we’re on the topic of personas, let’s consider buyer personas, which are the other side of the same coin. Don’t hesitate to invest in crafting 3-5 buyer personas as this will increase the success of your outbound marketing.

Why do buyer personas matter?

Here’s an example of what can happen if they’re overlooked: when I started working at the cable television infrastructure vendor described earlier in this post, the company used the same messaging foundation across all its content (data sheets, white papers, presentations, press releases and so on). The sales cycle for its process lasted 12-18 months and required approval from multiple teams within a cable television company.

The key influencers involved in buying its product included technical, financial and user personas. Some personas were attracted to the company’s products because they were game-changing but others were intimidated—resulting in meetings being delayed endlessly.

Specifically, adjectives such as “game-changing” and “revolutionary” that resonated with the technically-oriented employees were disconcerting to people in operations and support inherently wary of new and untested technologies.

Consequently, we segmented our messaging according to persona—a new segment for the operations persona focused on ease-of-use and the availability of 24/7 technical support. These attributes were evangelized on the website, in solution briefs and blogs, in the trade press and at tradeshows. And, consequently, half a dozen opportunities that had been stalled were successfully closed.

The creation of buyer personas isn’t onerous and, indeed, can be fun. Start by identifying the 3-5 key issues that your target personas focus on. Next, determine how your solution mitigates these issues (and be creative if you have to). Add credibility to these benefits by mapping specific features of your solution to each benefit.

Ask your most experienced sales person to review this messaging architecture and incorporate changes. You’ll be ready to go once you’ve done that.

Thanks for reading.

Leave us a comment if you found this information useful.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Beware of so-called experts

By David Ronald

Sometimes it feels that there are types of people—those claiming to be experts and those willing to believe everything that a so-called expert tells them.

And I confess that I am occasionally guilty of falling into that second category.

We are surrounded by so-called experts—people with opinions, but very little actual expertise. Often I am willing to defer to the opinions of someone speaking about a topic with confidence. Sadly, however, confidence seldom equates to actual expertise. 
 According to one dictionary definition an expert is someone possessing special skill or knowledge and trained by practice.

The key part of that definition is “trained by practice”.

So here are some thoughts on how to get the most the relationships with any consultant who you invite into your business:
  • Be a student, don’t be a follower. Consider all valid viewpoints and embrace opposing views. Seek the conflicting counsel of several experts—don’t just drink the Kool-Aid because the “expert” said to. Be a learner; a researcher, not a disciple.
  • Only take advice from those who have done what they are advising you to do successfully and often. Find practitioners, not just teachers, even if you’re eager to learn the topic. Vet your experts / consultants by results, not pontification.
  • Ensure that your decision is the product of your own conclusions. Ultimately, you know best. You were designed with a built-in intuition to sort, vet and determine what’s real from what’s counterfeit. Trust yourself.
There are good, even great, business consultants, and using them can be very helpful (if I didn’t think that we provided real value to our clients, my business partners and I would close our collaborative tomorrow). But when you use an expert, don’t automatically assume that he is smarter than you, or that they know more about your business strategy than you do, or even that their advice is necessarily true. As you work with any consultant, continue to apply your own common sense, reflect on your own experience and weigh the benefits of their recommendations.

Be like the one little kid in the story of the emperors’ new clothes; the only person in the kingdom who was willing to call out, “But mommy, he isn’t wearing any clothes.”

Leave a comment if you found this information useful.