Friday, August 28, 2015

Empower your sales team with training, tools and insights

By David Ronald

Always Be Closing was the mantra repeated menacingly by Alex Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross. And, although real life sales environments require much more sophistication, every company needs its reps to be closing deals.

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

The success of your business maps directly to the proficiency of your sales team. In this blog post I will explain how sales enablement can increase the performance of your reps by providing them with the training, tools and metrics they need to win.
  • First, training. Many companies fail to invest the time, energy and expertise needed to acclimate new hires adequately, resulting in missed quotas and high turnover. Don’t fall into this trap. A formal on boarding plan minimizes the time before a new hire begins contributing to the bottom line and enhances the long-term productivity of sales reps. It can also increase the probability of sales staff staying longer with your company.
  • Next, marketing tools. Since large companies may have a dozen people or more involved in a buying decision, create content that will resonate with your audience. Avoid the mistake, for example, of talking “speeds and feeds” to someone in finance, or profit and loss to someone in engineering. Identify your key buying personas, understand their business issues and create content relevant to each one.
  • Last, but not least, insights. Data help you understand what’s working, and what’s not working. Ask your sales and marketing teams a series of questions and use this information to make adjustments. Repeat these questions at least twice a year, and act on insights they yield.
Every selling opportunity counts, especially for a new business, and, although it is incumbent on your sales team to be “tip of the spear”, everyone in your organization should be able to articulate your value proposition. After all, potentially anyone could find themselves in the seat on an aircraft next to the gatekeeper at your biggest target account. Open up your new hire product training (described above) to everyone in your company, and encourage all your staff to participate in it.

Selling is a challenging role and requires a special type of personality, one who thrives in competitive situations. One of the marketing’s responsibilities is to empower reps with the training, tool and metrics they need to win. I have witnessed first-hand the power of sales and marketing teams working together synergistically and, in those circumstances, the closers were fully entitled to their coffee!

Thanks for reading.

Let us know what you think of this post.

Friday, August 21, 2015

What is the most misunderstood topic in business?

By David Ronald

It’s become increasingly clear to me that, for some entrepreneurs, marketing simply equals promotion.

For some people marketing is a website; marketing is a YouTube video; marketing is a press release.

Marketing is how you are going to evangelize the awesomeness of your product and why people would be foolish not to buy it.

To some people, marketing is simply selling at internet-scale.

The reality, however, is that marketing is much, much more than this. The concept of the marketing mix (sometimes referred to as the 4Ps of marketing) was introduced by Neil Borden in the 1950s and remains an insightful way to understand the role of marketing.

Most people are familiar with the marketing mix but here it is for those who are not:

  • Product—includes considerations about functionality, quality, appearance, packaging, brand, service, support and warranty
  • Price— encompasses list pricing, discounts, financing, leasing options and allowances 
  • Place—spans ecommerce, distribution, retail locations, geographies, channel partners and logistics 
  • Promotion—includes messaging, content, social media, websites, public relations, analyst relations, and tradeshows.

As this illustrates, marketing isn’t just a few, disaggregated, outbound activities. It is, instead, a comprehensive and strategic function that should be the kernel of your business.

Marketing is important and it needs to be done right—a study by CB Insights, a venture capital database, found that ineffective marketing was the eighth (of 20) most common reason given by startup founders when explaining why their businesses had failed. (Reasons that were rated less important included an inability to attract investors, poor responsiveness to customers and employee burnout!)

So, why is marketing often implemented poorly by small business owners? Ironically, marketing isn’t difficult—and I believe the reason it’s done badly is simply because many entrepreneurs are too busy addressing topics that are deemed to be higher priority…until it’s too late.

Yes, marketing is a website; marketing is a YouTube video; marketing is a press release. But marketing is much more than these. Successful marketing requires adoption of a holistic vision of what to make, how much to sell it for, where to sell it and how to educate buyers about how it benefits them.

Until then, marketing will remain a topic that everyone thinks she/he understands but that few genuinely do.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Good content marketing will boost your revenues

By David Ronald

By some estimates each of us is exposed to 5,000 ads each day. It’s not surprising, therefore, that your buyers are becoming increasing immune to traditional marketing techniques. In this post I will explain why content marketing should be a key component of your promotional strategy.

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

Consider this: 57% of B2B purchase decisions, and 72% of B2C ones, are made before a buyer contacts a vendor, according to McKinsey & Company.

Content marketing alters the way you sell—it shifts your 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.

The objective of content marketing is a “lightbulb moment” when a buyer understands how you can help them, and reaches out to you for more information about your product or service.

Although typically associated with B2C selling, content marketing is ready to have an impact in B2B environments.

Your long-term goal should be to create a sustainable content marketing engine that helps build your business. In order to accomplish this, consider mapping content to the different stages in the buying process of your prospects. The key stages in the typical buying journey are shown in the following diagram:

You could, for example, target the awareness stage of the buying process by creating a brief video that describes the most popular applications of your product. You could, for instance, target the comparison stage of the funnel by commissioning a third-party research agency to write about you and the competitors in your market space.

By assigning content to the most appropriate buying stage, you ensure that your content will resonate with your prospects. You will discover gaps that need to be filled, and make the best use of existing content.

Keep in mind that if you fail to embrace the content marketing paradigm you are creating a gap that your competitors will be happy to fill.

I hope you found this information to be helpful.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Starting right with good brand design

By Sharon Lee

Welcome to the very first blog post by Alphabet, a collaborative dedicated to helping small businesses build and sustain momentum. Hello, I’m Sharon and my role is to communicate your brand promise.

What does that involve? Well, it means discussing your marketing goals and determining a strategy that leads to a brand identity that is unique and strong.

Some people asked me, "Sharon, why do I need branding?" The answer is simple: you will increase your company’s success with a powerful brand. A strong brand builds awareness, evangelizes your company’s story, pulls in customers and, ultimately, increases return on investment. A strong brand gives you an edge over your competitors.

A brand is much more than a name or a logo—your brand is the sum of all the creative touch points of your company. What I mean by touch points is the visual, auditory, physical, and even psychological aspects of how your customers experience your product or service.

In this post I’ll talk about how we’re developing the Alphabet brand and will keep you updated about our progress in future posts.

Many factors influence the design of the Alphabet brand. And individual items, such as the logo, website, brochures, email templates and white papers, must serve specific functions yet tie into the branding cohesively and consistently in terms of colors, typography, imagery, tone of voice and company theme.
  • First, the logo. Our challenge here was to develop a logo that had both a corporate feel and a playful element—our primary target audience is small businesses and we know you guys work hard but also like to have fun once in a while. I think we’ve achieved this by designing a formal typography as the foundation of the logo, combined with the three-color, angled ABC (which also serves as our corporate mark).
  • Next, our website. We had several constraints to work around here, not least of which was the need to make our website stand out in a space crowded with competitors. That’s why we are using bold colors (our red “pops” very effectively) instead of more traditional “corporate” colors. And, because we didn’t have a ton of money to spend, we wanted to avoid stock photography, yet build an appealing website—the letters, in assorted shapes and sizes achieve that goal (while subliminally conveying the variety of personalities and skills involved in our collaborative).
  • Last, but not least, our corporate brochure. We decided early on to print this brochure and, having made the decision to incur that expense, wanted to ensure people would read it. That’s why we selected an atypical gatefold construct (our target audience includes engineers and we know you guys cannot resist figuring out how stuff works :-). And it’s also the reason why we designed a bold front cover and a different, but equally attention-getting, back cover.
The most challenging, and rewarding, part of any design is coming up with an original idea that hits home with its target audience. Plus, a successful brand identity needs to be flexible and able to move through different applications over periods of time, while sustaining its voice and vigor.

Defining a brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. And our journey here at Alphabet continues…