Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category
Thursday, January 17th, 2013
By Dave Mastovich
It seems like an organization exists for just about everything. My company belongs to the Society for Healthcare Strategy and the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. I’m part of the National Speakers Association. You can probably rattle off a few that are specific to your industry or area of expertise as well.
So I guess it makes sense there’s an International Listening Association. Their mission is to advance the practice, teaching and research of listening throughout the world.
I hear that.
But I just enjoy their statistics, gleaned from years of studying the good, the bad and the ugly of listening.
Here are a few nuggets:
- 85% of what we know we have learned by listening.
- 75% of the time we are distracted, preoccupied or forgetful.
- We only recall about 50% of what was said immediately after we listen to someone talk.
- In total, just 20% of what we hear will be remembered.
- Less than 2% of us have had formal education about listening.
- People listen through one of four primary styles: people, time, action or content oriented. Females are more likely to be people-oriented and males are more likely to be time or action oriented.
I’m thinking it means listening is vital to leading, managing, marketing and selling. Your personal productivity and your company’s success will be enhanced via better listening. With that in mind, here are…drum roll please…
10 Ways to Improve Your Listening
- Let the speaker finish their thoughts, don’t interrupt
- Keep an open mind, don’t judge
- Listen without planning what you are going to say next
- Give feedback
- Pay attention to the speakers posture and body
- Stay focused
- Show respect
- Take notes
- Make eye contact to keep the speaker at ease
- Put as much effort into listening as the speaker puts into talking
Better listening leads to better results. And you don’t even need to join an organization to improve…
David M. Mastovich, MBA is President of MASSolutions, an integrated marketing firm focused on improving the bottom line for clients through creative selling, messaging and PR solutions. He’s also author of “Get Where You Want To Go: How to Achieve Personal and Professional Growth Through Marketing, Selling and Story Telling.” For more information, go to www.massolutions.biz.
Editors note: You could learn a lot about how to provide a thought-leader message from the way Dave Mastovich writes and structures his business advice columns. Note the focus, the statistics that make it meaningful, and the quick, short tips.
Friday, November 16th, 2012
In our first five articles in the How Anyone Can Get More Results From a Business Website series, we discussed how to create, optimize, promote new content , measure results, and choose the right keywords for your website in order to attract more visitors. In this last article of the series, we’ll show you how to turn more of your online visitors into leads and customers by making a few simple changes to your website.
In this article we’ll be talking about marketing conversions and how to get more of them from your website. A conversion on a website is any action or goal that you are hoping to have a visitor accomplish. A few examples include filling out an online form (to become a sales lead), buying something from an ecommerce store (to become a customer), or providing contact information to download a coupon.
Almost anything can be defined as a conversion point on your website, depending on your goals. But for the sake of this exercise pick a single goal that is most important to your business. Before we go any further be sure you take a second to answer the following question:
What do I really want a visitor to do on my website?
Got an answer? Great! Now lets look at how you can make sure as many of your website visitors as possible actually reach this goal.
Place Calls-To-Action on Every Entry Page
Visitors to your site are going to arrive via a variety of sources such as search engines, referring sites, or your social media pages. And they are going to arrive at different pages on your site.
So the first thing to understand is all possible entry points, which are often referred to as entry pages. Some common entry pages include the Homepage, Product or Service Pages, and Blog articles. Common website analytics tools like Google Analytics will show you these pages in a report that is usually just called Entry Pages.
Once you know your most entry landing pages you need to make sure that each one contains a strong Call-To-Action (also called a CTA) on it. A CTA is a linked button, piece of text, or image that pushes visitors toward your primary website goal.
For example, your CTA might be a button that allows a visitor to add an item to her shopping cart, or it might be a link to a Request a Proposal and Quote online form.
Create a strong CTA for each of your entry pages. Read our article, Your “Call-To-Action” – Getting visitors to meet a website objective to learn a few tips and tricks on creating CTAs that your visitors will notice and click on.
Create Distinct Landing Pages
Once you get a visitor to click on your Call-To-Action they’ll be directed to a page that is optimized for one purpose, conversion. This is called a landing page. A good landing page contains only the vital information your visitor needs to make a decision. Provide the necessary information about what they will get if they take the action.
For example, in the case of an email newsletter subscription form, you would want to clearly state what type of content each newsletter will contain and how often they should expect to receive them. For a coupon download form, be sure to state the full details of the discount provided and how the coupon can be used after it is downloaded.
Remember, your landing page is all about one thing, turning your visitor into a lead or customer. Keep your message clear and avoid the urge to make other distracting offers on the same page. If you have other offers to make, create new landing pages and build new CTAs that link directly to them. Here are some additional tips on building landing pages and a great small business landing page.
Make an Offer That Matters
The offer is the item or service (or discount) that you are enticing your visitors with. It’s mentioned in your Call-to-Action and it’s described on your landing page. In all that you do, don’t forget that success comes from having the right offer. The offer is often the most neglected part of the website conversion process.
A good offer is clear and specific. If its free consultation, how long is the consultation? If it’s a gift basket, be sure to describe the contents and when you’ll ship it. It’s easy to assume that your visitors already understand why your offer is so great. They don’t.
Be sure to ask yourself, “if I was a visitor on this website, would I be willing to provide my personal information, or spend money, in order to receive this offer”? If the answer is maybe or no, update your offer to make it absolutely and completely irresistible.
Wrapping It All Up
The basic conversion optimization process that we’ve described above will help you begin pushing more of your website visitors through to the goals you have set for them. Create your plan by building your offers first, then create landing pages that describe each offer, then writing short statements that describe the benefits of each offer (that you will use as the Calls-to-Action on your entry pages).
After you have implemented these basics, you can also begin experimenting with dynamic CTA and offer testing. This is often referred to as A/B testing. A/B testing is a good way to let your visitors tell you which CTAs and offers they prefer, so you don’t have to guess on your own. Be sure to follow our small business web marketing blog to stay updated on these tips and more for getting the best business results from your website.
We hope you have enjoyed this six-part series on Do-It-Yourself Web Marketing and we wish you the best success growing the number of sales leads and customers you get from your website.
Remember, your website isn’t going to optimize itself. Put a 15 minute weekly-recurring appointment on your calendar, work on the methods described in these articles, and in a few months you’ll have a $100,000 web marketing program for the cost of just a few hours of your time. –By Daniel Smith
Daniel Smith is co-founder and CMO at BoostSuite. Daniel is a car enthusiast, world traveler and wanna-be wine snob. When he’s not at BoostSuite helping small businesses succeed you can find him skiing, wake-boarding and driving fast cars.
BoostSuite is a web marketing optimization product for small business owners. Unlike current products that bewilder and discourage small business owners, BoostSuite allows novice web marketers to build more website traffic and convert more online visitors into customers and leads for their businesses. BoostSuite is free and takes only one minute to set up, is easy to learn, and can be used by anyone.
Monday, October 22nd, 2012
By Ryan Kettler, Boostsuite
Running a business takes a lot of time. In fact, most small-to-medium sized business owners spend most of their waking hours running their businesses. It’s not just a regular 9 to 5 job.
You often wear many hats, from sales and marketing, to accounting, HR, and customer support. And if you want to grow your business, you also need to wear the hat of website marketer. We can make this one easy on you.
Boostsuite, which makes a web optimization product, recently analyzed over 1,000 small business websites and found that most sites contain major mistakes that are holding them back.
In our research we found that websites that correct these mistakes improve their traffic by 375% on average. So how do you fix your site and take advantage of all this additional traffic that you deserve?
Do you hire an Internet marketing agency and spend thousands of dollars and wait weeks or months for work to be completed? Or do you attempt to do it on the cheap with the help of a family member or intern who’s expertise is limited to watching The Social Network 10+?
There is a better way. You can do this on your own.
Spend Your Time on the Online Marketing Tasks that Matter Most – Content Creation
The first thing you can do to boost your website traffic is to create new pages of content on your website. Here’s how.
Tips for Easy Content Creation
One of the easiest ways to get more results from your website is to add new pages of content to your website on a weekly, if not daily, basis. So what do you write about?
Here are some article topics you’re already an expert on that will attract exactly the right people to your website.
- Answers to frequently asked questions from your customers.
- Any competitive advantages your company has over others in your industry.
- Industry trends and your take on how they will directly affect your business.
- How-to articles explaining how to properly use your product(s).
- News from within your company and teaser articles about what’s to come like new features, new staff, and existing product enhancements.
The key here is to provide valuable information that is unique to your business and industry. This value will attract new online visitors and will help turn them into leads/customers.
You need to do whatever it takes to get these articles written. You don’t need to do it all at once though. Writing 1-2 articles each week is a decent pace although more is pretty much always better.
Just Get Started
You should write your first new article today. Pick a topic. Write the article. Save it as a new page on your website, or send it to your webmaster, once it’s ready to go.
New articles do not have to be extremely long (700 words on average is recommend). Just remember the more pages you have on your site, the more opportunities other websites have to link to your pages. These links help boost your search engine ranking for your most important keywords which means you’ll get more traffic to your website.
Focus on creating new articles first. Then stay tuned for the next articles in this series, as we’ll share some valuable insight on how to properly optimize your articles for the search engines and how to promote your articles to gain maximum exposure.
Ryan Kettler is Director of Communications for BoostSuite. Ryan is a sports fanatic, beer connoisseur, Internet marketing zealot and live music enthusiast. When he’s not helping BoostSuite customers he can be found sampling the latest IPAs and cheering on his North Carolina State Wolfpack.
BoostSuite has a passion for helping small business owners reach their full web marketing potential. During the new few weeks, we will be publishing a series of articles from Boostsuite designed to educate you on how easy effective web marketing can be. This is the first in the series.
Read each article and you’ll become the web marketing guru your business needs to grow to the next level.
BoostSuite is a web marketing optimization product for small business owners. Unlike current products that bewilder and discourage small business owners, BoostSuite allows novice web marketers to build more website traffic and convert more online visitors into customers and leads for their businesses. BoostSuite is free and takes only one minute to set up, is easy to learn, and can be used by anyone.
Monday, May 21st, 2012
By Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE
Everybody loves a good story. No matter what our culture, we grow up knowing that hearing a story is somehow a reward. Stories are how we learn values and our family’s legacy. When we go to school we discover that stories are a way to make history come alive. In business we realize stories help us explain the complex and the best way to train our associates.
Wise leaders, managers, and sales professionals are well served to develop an arsenal of great stories and good examples. Good stories help differentiate us from our competition.
Steve Ball of Microsoft was in charge of finding the right music to be the boot-up sound for theVista operating system. He brought in three professionals from worlds of music and Hollywood – for 6 seconds of sound! Steve explained the importance, saying, “Part of the sound was also used in our email program. That translated into this sound being heard more than any other music ever heard, including the Beatles.”
The professional that was chosen was Robert Fripp, guitarist and founder of King Crimson. Steve explains how he came to the decision, “All the artists created a sound that would have worked. However, Robert told the best story of how his music best represented Vista.”
Sometimes, the most unlikely people tell great stories. Often a coworker in the break room will have you in stitches as she regales you with tales of what happened taking the bus to work. Then the head of Finance walks inand halfway through his story everyone says, “It’s time to get back to work!
Why is it so few have the skill? How often have you heard someone tell a rambling story that seemed to go nowhere, or you are left wondering “What was the point?” These three techniques will help you turn simple stories into examples that will be remembered and frequently repeated.
As kids most of our stories started with “Once upon a time….” Take that advice. When did your story happen? Where is your story set? From whose eyes is the audience going to see the story?
Stories work best when told in the order it actually happened; it is easier for you and the audience to remember it. While you develop your example, add as many details as you can remember. After you have your outline, take the advice of Alfred Hitchcock: “A movie is like life with all the dull parts left out.” Meaning cut anything that is irrelevant or boring.
Classic movie formulas that can help you are: “A day in the life,” “Something happened…” “And the result of that is…” “And the result of that is…”
Shorter sentences or phrases
Ron Arden the speech coach and stage director told me “The written word for the eye, the spoken word is for the rhythm.” When we read it is easy to look back and read over a paragraph again. When we speak we need to keep the audience with us. Present information in shorter segments than you would write.
Consider each sentence a “scene”
Speakers need to present information in the way the audience “sees” the message. When putting together a story, consider each sentence a “scene” as it would be in a screen play. Try writing your notes down the page, line-by-line, rather than in paragraphs; it will be much easier for you to internalize. The audience will be transported to a different time and place and be able to emotionally connect that much more.
Putting it together
A recent example of a sales professional who impressed his managers and peers as he incorporated these three ideas is Mark, a District Sales Manager from a biotech company. He was preparing to moderate a panel at the Las Vegas National Sales Meeting and was nervous with his new role in front of a 100-person audience.
He had been moving fast to understand new products, clients, and products, and his mission in the speech was to encourage the audience to embrace new jobs in different areas and to appreciate they would have to “move fast” to get up to speed. He had even included a quote about “moving fast” in his email signature line. But, even with his fast moving, Mark did not have any idea how to set the tone for the meeting.
He remembered a story from last years’ sales meeting, how his wife came in for the weekend; they went to see David Copperfield, and he made her disappear.” Using the three principle advice, it was easy for Mark to create a short, meaningful story that set the right tone for the panel and earned rave reviews:
“After last years’ sales meeting, (Gives the timeframe)
my wife, Tammy, came to Las Vegas for the weekend.
We went to see David Copperfield’s magic show.(Something happened…)
Three quarters of the way through his performance, Copperfield threw two dozen balls into the audience.(Creating the visual scene)
Tammy caught one.(Using shorter sentences)
David said, ‘If you touched a ball, please come on the stage.’
He sat 24 people on bleachers and covered them with a tarp.
Whoosh! Five seconds later, they were gone!
Suddenly, they appeared at the back of the room.
On the way out, I asked Tammy, ‘How did he do it?’
She said, ‘We are sworn to secrecy. However, we did have to move really fast!’”
Mark reported, “The panel was a wild success, and everyone raved about my opening story!”
Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE, is a Hall of Fame speaker, executive speech coach, sales presentation skills trainer, and keynote speaker on sales, memorable presentation skills, and executive communication skills. She works with organizations and individuals who want to put their best foot forward by gaining powerful, persuasive, presentation skills. She builds leaders, transforms sales teams, and delights audiences. She is Past-President of the National Speakers Association.
Thursday, May 17th, 2012
By Allan Maurer
Facebook users don’t much care for its Timeline feature, which it touted much the way Steve Jobs did the first iPad.
A new study from Attensity, a provider of social analytics and engagement applications, says the results of its analysis of public reaction in social media to the new Facebook Timeline format for profile pages, shows an overwhelmingly negative reaction to the Timeline feature.
Using Attensity Analyze, the company’s social analytics application, it processed 138,572 public comments posted on Facebook, Twitter and blogs over a six-week period. The results, revealed that 93 percent of comments contain negative sentiment toward Timeline
Shocked by the degree of frustration
“We were rather shocked at the degree of frustration expressed by Facebook users toward the new Timeline format,” said Rebecca MacDonald, vice president of marketing at Attensity. “We knew from anecdotal evidence that many users —both individuals and businesses— were unhappy with it, but the results generated by Attensity Analyze show a degree of negative sentiment we hadn’t anticipated, given that Facebook is still in the process of rolling out Timeline to individual users.”
I heard the lamentations of some of my Facebook friends, who heartily disliked Timeline from the start, but like many of us seem to be just ignoring it now.
Facebook has a history of forcing changes on its users, who conveniently provide all of its content and all those people marketers want to target.
But your opinion apparently does not matter to Facebook. You can’t choose not to use it’s Timeline.
We know what’s best, like it or not
The attitude of many free online services and social networks seems to be, “We’ll give you what we think is right for you regardless of what you want.”
Facebook is not alone in this. Google is forcing its misquided ultra stark brilliant white glare model of internet design on your eyes across all its properties. Whether you want it or not, you’re going to enjoy Larry Page’s idea of how the web should look.
Google apparently believes it can do no wrong and this ugly, glaring, eye-pain of a design just suits everyone whether they care for it or not. Google+ – which I like personally – gets almost daily complaints from photographers about the black bars it inserts like the TV letterbox format next to photos that don’t fill the frame. It’s another ugly solution.
But you and I don’t get a say that matters. You may complain, but the new web business method seems to be:
SHOVE IT DOWN THEIR THROAT!
The millions and billions of people using our services will just quietly accept whatever we tell them to.
You shouldn’t have any say in the look and feel and design and usefulness of the services we provide, just because we’re all making billions of dollars from your content, searches, game playing and daily interactions, that doesn’t mean we think you actually should decide anything.
You’re a dollar sign to us.
We decide what’s best for you.
Welcome to Big Brother. He’s waiting to take you in his big welcoming arms. He’ll decide everything for you. Just sit back and relax.
Mark Zukerberg and Larry Page and lots of other technorati know what’s best for you.
Sit back, take what they tell you to.
Privacy? That’s an outdated concept. Share everything with everyone.
That makes it so much easier for us to market to you. We can’t make money selling your information to anyone who pays if you hold it back. Share! We’ll protect your privacy. Except when it’s to our financial advantage not to.
When you set up social sign-in, make it so that the app we sign into can post on Facebook as us, access any of our data or friends, send us unlimited marketing email, and otherwise abuse trust we don’t actually have in unknown third parties.
Then there is the new rising star, Pinterest. Have you read its policy about the images you post? If they get sued, you pay. From the start, you cover their legal fees and any judgments. Makes me warying of posting much of anything there, personally.
Listen, Facebook and Twitter sign-in apps: if you want to be me, you have to contribute to my monthly mortgage payment. Pay your part of my taxes. Give me a piece of the action.
Do I sound disturbed? I already know how all this works and my privacy is probably shot. But I suspect payback may be coming down the information highway like big rig out of control. That may manifest as legal action by Congress, surprising changes in the fortunes of big players, or gradual shifts to less autocratic services that do not dictate how we use them.
I see startups in the social media space going that route, and while non have gained Facebook like traction yet, they may.
Not a safe place for social media companies
I don’t think the Internet is a safe place for any company just yet. A My Space gets displaced in a year or two. AOL goes from dominant player to struggling survivor. Yahoo! is more and more a once-was. The Internet loves sea-change, overpowering waves of what’s new and exciting.
One recent study suggests that social consumers “Don’t seem all that loyal in Social. They seem to be increasingly active, trying many services and loyal only to the extent that a solution delivers what they want.”
Forcing your own preconceived ideas on people is not going to work in the long run. Facebook got away with a lot of it so far. So has Google, I suppose.
I suspect Google will be fine, although I personally intend to keep telling them forcing eye-strain on me is not good business. Facebook, I think, may actually see a serious decline in use at some point.
If you don’t give people what they really want, someone else will. There are other cautionary business tales that suggest folks do not necessarily just roll over for corporate decisions any more: Bank of America and other financial institutions learned that when they tried to add fees to debit cards.
Netflix had disasterous results when it split its streaming and DVD services, effectively doubling its prices for people who want both and ditched plans to make streaming a separate business, forcing people to recreate separate accounts.
IPO or no, Facebook is going to lose ground if it does not pay attention to what its users want, not just what Facebook wants. Besides, Mark Zuckerberg is not old enough to be my Big Brother.
What do you think?
Friday, April 20th, 2012
By Blake Patton
Entrepreneurs put a lot of time and effort into crafting a great pitch for their startup. Unfortunately, startups often fail to put the same effort into creating their financial plan. That is a big mistake.
Like your pitch, your financial model tells a story. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your business model and highlight the more complicated details of the venture. And like a pitch, you should get plenty of help and go through several revisions before you share it with potential investors.
Prepare a “bottoms up” plan
Investors in early-stage companies know the only certainty in a financial model is that it is wrong. They use this model to estimate the scope of the opportunity, evaluate key drivers and assumptions and determine the cash needs of the business over the next three to five years.
Rather than starting with what you think they want to see and working backwards, you should prepare a ‘bottoms up’ plan. Start with base assumptions broken down to basic economic units and build from there.
To do this, create tabs in an Excel workbook that you can later link to your financials, making it easier to revise down the road. Tabs might include:
Pre-Revenue – the phase before you have paying customers, such as the R&D or prototype phase. The financial model for this stage is essentially a budget that includes people, rent, office supplies, equipment, servers, etc.
Revenue models – based on assumptions of how to get customers. If you are a SaaS B2B business, you might start with how many customers a sales rep can generate and how many users a typical customer will have and model it based on your sales hiring plan. If you are an eCommerce business, you might highlight online marketing efforts and build revenue assumptions based on realistic conversion metrics.
Cost of Goods Sold – the costs that directly go into creating the products or delivering the services that you sell. For a manufacturing company, this would include materials and assembly labor, while a SaaS company might spend on application hosting and monitoring, labor for implementing customers and customer support.
Expenses - all other functions required to run your business such as research and development, sales and marketing, and general and administrative costs.
Now you are ready to translate your model into financials. If you are comfortable with financials and know Excel well, you can obtain a template and modify it to fit your business. More than likely, you will need help doing this.
Make sure you get that assistance, even if you have to pay. There are CPA firms and ‘rent a CFO’ services that can help.
The financial plan should include:
- A profit & loss statement (often called an income statement) tells you what you need to do to turn your hobby into a business. If you build your model with the right detail, you’ll be able to link to the appropriate revenue and cost items in the financial statements.
- A cash flow statement shows where cash is going and where it’s coming from. It essentially reveals how much money you’ll need to run the business. It can be broken down to three buckets: operations (payroll, payments, receivables), investing (capital expenditures), and financing activities (debt, equity financing).
- A balance sheet shows the company’s assets, liabilities and the owner’s equity. Unlike the P&L and cash flow statements that reflect periods of time, the balance sheet shows a particular point in time such as the end of a month or year. The assets always equal liabilities plus owner’s equity. The balance sheet is the most difficult to put together, so if you aren’t knowledgeable about integrated financials, you will probably need professional help.
Playing basketball without a scoreboard
Don’t underestimate the power of a solid financial model. After all, it’s not just for raising money – it’s a critical tool for managing and tracking your business.
To ignore it would be like playing basketball without a scoreboard. If you want to build a successful business, put the time and effort into creating a solid financial model.
An Entrepreneur in Residence at the Advanced Technology Development Center in Atlanta, Blake Patton has 20 years of leadership experience in startup, venture-backed, and publicly-traded internet, software, payments and financial services technology companies.
Friday, April 6th, 2012
By Kevin Joyce, VP of Marketing Services, The Pedowitz Group
Most CRM systems originated from SFA systems, and that heritage is still very evident in how they are configured. They are configured largely based on the requirements of the Sales organization, with a smattering of Support and Marketing tweaks to the system.
Even if you haven’t integrated a marketing automation system to your CRM, there are several changes you can make to your CRM to serve Marketing better without taking anything away from the Sales team!
- Lead Status field. Do not use this for call dispositions! This field can be used by both Marketing and a telequalification team in much the same way as the opportunity stage is used. It describes the early part of the funnel. It should have a pick list of less than 10 values, with everything from “Raw” – meaning got this lead from a purchased list and they have not yet interacted with us, to “open,” “disqualified” or “Marketing Qualified Lead.” The important point here is that Marketing can also use this field, and it can be a qualitative measure of the early pipeline. As an aside, don’t ever delete “Disqualified” leads…the disqualification is useful information.
- Lead Type field. Regardless of where a new lead comes from, it should always have an associated “lead type” value, i.e. make it a mandatory field. It will have pick list values such as: prospect, employee, competitor, analyst, investor, partner, vendor, other. The default should be “prospect.” This field is tremendously valuable to Marketing in determining segmentation and targeting for campaigns. Additionally, if a lead converts to a contact/account, map this field over to the account, and set up a workflow to automatically change it to “customer” when the first closed won opportunity happens! Imagine that, Marketing will be able to market to customers differently than prospects!
- Make the Lead Source field mandatory, even for reps entering leads by hand. Make sure it has a pick list of less than 20 values. If you have more than this the field becomes useless for analyzing the best sources of leads. To get more detail, add a second field called “Lead Source Details” that permits free form text, and adds more specificity to the lead source. The pick list values for lead source should cover all the major marketing/sales categories of lead sources. Examples: Online advertising, events, incoming email/call/chat, Sales prospecting, account penetration, Referral, Website, List Import etc. Sales will really only need to use 4 or 5 of these values. If you want Marketing to know the source of the best leads, so they can get more, this is a great start!
- Contact Status Field. Deleting contacts and leads is usually not a good thing. It is OK to merge duplicates of course. But let’s say a contact leaves one firm and joins another. Do you edit the contact and attach it to the new account? My preference is to clone the contact. Change the Contact Status on the original contact to “No Longer there.” Other possible pick list values for the contact status include Active (default), Invalid Data, Inactive, and Duplicate (waiting to be merged). Use of this field saves Marketing from emailing defunct contacts, getting a black eye with SPAM servers, and it preserves valuable data about individuals involved with accounts in the past.
- Job Role Field. Another very important field for helping Marketing segment the market. With a cleverly crafted pick list of less than 20 values, you can weave someone’s level (VP vs manager) and their department (Sales vs Purchasing) into one value, one choice, use it in forms, and make it mandatory for Sales when they enter new leads. When you go to import 1000 new names, this value will have to be mapped out before you upload, but the benefits are huge. This does not replace a free form title field.
With these few additions your CRM will better serve Marketing segmentation needs, resulting in higher quality leads.
Kevin Joyce, Vice President Marketing Services, The Pedowitz Group www.pedowitzgroup.com
Kevin brings 28 years of experience working with a variety of high tech companies to The Pedowitz Group, an award-winning Revenue Marketing agency. He specializes in helping clients create effective demand generation strategies that focus on delivering both marketing efficiencies and revenue results.
Thursday, March 15th, 2012
By Joe Procopio
Not every startup gets the lottery ticket launch. For every accelerator or grant program with a five-figure pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, there are hundreds of hungry startups vying for that same prize. Many of them will be better positioned and more savvy than you, and let’s face it, at least a few of them are more deserving.
You can’t win, but there are alternatives to fighting.
Last night, I attended three local events that allowed startups to make noise, get seen, and get introduced to people who can help them. Actually I attended two. They were all on the same night and even though I have thinking robots at my disposal, none of them are good conversationalists and, frankly, they’re all kind of lazy.
But if you have time and intestinal fortitude, here are three ways to get noticed.
1. The Public Introduction
Startup Madness was a day-long competition in Durham featuring students from all the schools in the ACC, from Boston College to Miami. Timed to kick off March Madness, the event culminated in a public pitch with one $5,000 check to the winner of the overall and another to the winner among the North Carolina schools.
Said overall winner was Miami’s Cohealo, with 2nd place going to Clemson’s Mushroom Mountain , 3rd place handed out to Mekong Greentech from Georgia Tech, and 4th going to TeeGee from Virginia .
Locally, Duke’s Neurospire edged UNC’s Gift Boogle. But that’s not the end of the story. I had seen Gift Boogle when I judged the Carolina Challenge last month, and I liked the team quite a bit. I introduced them to Scott Kelly and his Startup Madness program, which they applied for and obviously got into. During the Madness, I introduced them to a couple more people who might be able to open a couple more doors.
My point is, a loss isn’t always a loss (the Carolina Challenge is ongoing, by the way). Sometimes, even a loss is a win. These types of public introductions are becoming more and more popular and, even though the public pitch isn’t my favorite means of startup expression, it can’t hurt a fledgling company in their quest for connections.
2. The Private Introduction
When the madness had ended, a whole bunch of people joined a whole bunch of other people a few miles away at Fullsteam Brewery to partake in Startup Happy Hour, hosted by Zach Mansfield from Square Roots, the startup-focused program at Square 1 Bank.
I have some bias here, of course, but this is the best way to interface with the startup community and these types of socials aren’t hard to get into and aren’t hard to attend. If you’re willing to spend a couple hours with a beer in your hand and have the guts to walk up to a stranger or group of strangers, you have the opportunity to pitch without pitching.
You’re not going to land any seed money doing this. You’re probably not even going to land a meeting, but you will make connections, and there’s a time and a place to activate those connections.
Pro tip: That time and place is not at the social. It’s later.
3. The Online Introduction
The one I missed was the Innovate Raleigh meetup to introduce the TriangleWiki. This is another step in the waking up of the Raleigh area to entrepreneurial energy, and while it’s still very early, there are already pages dedicated to entrepreneurial efforts.
Again, bias here as I run ExitEvent, an online resource dedicated to startups, but this is a must for getting your startup into the public consciousness. This type of program is growing too. TechCrunch has had CrunchBase forever, and yesterday (another example of the West Coast following our lead), competitor PandoDaily announced a partnership with AngelList to create another database of startups.
If you’re not actively pursuing these kinds of introductions, then you can’t complain about a lack of attention. Yes, it would be hyper-awesome-wonderful to win a $50K grant or land in a $50K accelerator program, but the odds are long, and even then there is no guarantee of success.
I’m not saying it’s about the money, but it’s about the money. Just keep in mind it doesn’t happen overnight, but it will never happen if nobody knows who you are or what you do.
Joe Procopio heads up product engineering for automated content startup Automated Insights. He also founded and runs startup network ExitEvent, consulting marketplace Intrepid Company, and the Intrepid Media writers network. You can read him at http://joeprocopio.com and follow him at http://twitter.com/jproco.
Friday, March 2nd, 2012
It’s undeniable that small business is the growth engine of the economy. The Small Business Administration reports that there are 22.9 million small businesses in the United States.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that 90 percent of all net job creation from 1996-2007 came from small businesses. There is little question that if the US is to recover from this recession and if unemployment is to be driven down, small business will lead the way. Yet, not all small business owners choose to grow.
By Doug and Poly White
Harvard Business School teaches that the primary objective of a business in our capitalist system is to create shareholder value. To oversimplify only a little, businesses increase shareholder value by growing the bottom line.
To be sure, if a business has financial investors, there is a fiduciary obligation to grow the bottom line. You might think that this is a no-brainer. Certainly all business owners would want to grow their enterprise. What we found might surprise you.
During the course of conducting research for our new book, Let Go to Grow; why some businesses thrive and others fail to reach their potential, we interviewed the owners of more than 100 small and midsize businesses.
More than a few had made a conscious decision not to expand their companies any further. Growing their businesses is simply not something they wish to do or feel they can do. We found three primary reasons that small business owners decided not to grow.
1. To avoid risk and maintain their lifestyle – We spoke with a concrete contractor who has revenue of about $2 million per annum. The owner pulls enough cash out of the company each year to make a very nice life for himself and his family. He has time for a wonderful personal life and is able to pursue some hobbies that he loves.
As a businessman, he is highly respected in his industry. Because he is honest, trustworthy, reliable, and good at what he does, there is usually more work than he can accept. Even when times are tough, he keeps his crews busy.
There is little doubt that he could grow the business significantly if he decided to do so. Growing the business would mean buying more equipment, hiring more people, probably working longer hours, and definitely delegating significant decision-making authority to new managers. The owner has decided not to take that path, at least not right now.
All things considered, it’s a completely reasonable decision. We spoke with numerous business owners who, like this concrete contractor, had made the decision not to grow their businesses to avoid further risk and to maintain their comfortable lifestyle.
2. To avoid regulation – A local bank was very successful. Through hard work and excellent customer service, it had grown its assets exponentially. In the process, it had created wonderful jobs and hired many people. It was a great example of small business fueling the growth of the American economy.
As the number of employees grew the diligent head of human resources approached the president and said, “You know, when we hit 50 employees; we’ll be subject to FMLA” (the Family Medical Leave Act). After gaining a thorough understanding of the complexity of complying with the Act, the President made a conscious decision to stop the growth of his bank. Job creation came to a screeching halt.
The president wasn’t opposed to extending the benefits of FMLA to his employees. Rather, he made an informed decision to avoid the considerable cost associated with the complexity of maintaining records and making judgments about what qualified for FMLA and what did not―so much for small businesses fueling the growth of the economy.
Large Fortune 500 companies may be able to afford the cost of regulation because they can amortize it over tens of thousands of employees and over billions of dollars of revenue. Unfortunately, small businesses don’t have that luxury. Further, a company doesn’t have to reach the 50 employee mark to be subject to significant regulatory requirements.
In fact, in the Commonwealth of Virginia (a relatively business friendly state), we count dozens of different state and federal regulations with which a business must comply when it hires its first employee. They include acronyms such as CCPA, FLSA, USERRA, OSHA, FICA, FUTA, HIPAA, ERISA, and the list goes on and on. It’s enough to make an entrepreneurs head explode.
We spoke with a small general contractor who, after trying to grow, made the conscious decision to eliminate all of his employees to avoid the burden of these regulations. He remains in business as a “solopreneur.” We were quite surprised to find that a government, which claims to be focused on reducing unemployment, is actually crushing job creation with over regulation and yet, there it was.
3. To avoid having to delegate responsibilities – Through hard work, perseverance and sacrifice, George Carson had grown his cabinet business, Riverside Manufacturing, to a company with 40 employees. The employees operated the equipment. They built and installed the cabinets. They made sales calls and resolved customer service issues.
They scheduled production, shipped product, sent invoices and paid bills. Overhead was still very low. There were no supervisors or managers. To the extent that there was any formal organizational structure, everyone reported to George.
George was unwilling to let go of decision-making responsibility and he wouldn’t delegate the hiring or management of any of the workers. Once his capacity to perform these tasks was exhausted, growth stopped. Although he struggled to explain why, George just wasn’t comfortable delegating decision-making authority.
He was probably right, because Riverside lacked the infrastructure necessary for successful delegation. It didn’t have the right managers in place. It didn’t have well documented processes to communicate to employees how George wanted things to be done. Finally, it didn’t have a robust set of metrics to let George know what was going on in his business if he weren’t personally present.
Without these three things, delegation is risky at best. George chose to continue making all of the decisions himself. When George’s capacity was exhausted, Riverside’s growth stalled because he decided not to delegate decision-making responsibility and he wouldn’t delegate because he didn’t have the right infrastructure. Although he didn’t realize George was the constraint to growth in his own business.
Whether it’s satisfaction with the status quo, a desire to avoid the burden of regulation or not understanding how to delegate, many small business owners have implicitly or explicitly made a decision not to grow their businesses. Some pundits subscribe to a mantra that in business you have to grow or die. We found example after example of entrepreneurs who debunk this myth every day.
It’s completely reasonable for business owners to make an explicit decision not to grow because they are satisfied with the current size of their enterprise. That’s their choice. It’s shameful that our government incents small businesses not to hire and crushes job growth with unnecessarily burdensome regulation. It’s unfortunate that some entrepreneurs unwittingly become the constraint to growth in their own businesses because they don’ know how to delegate properly.
Doug and Polly White are Principals at Whitestone Partners; a management-consulting firm that helps small businesses build the infrastructure they need to grow profitably. They are also coauthors of the groundbreaking new book, Let Go to GROW; why some businesses thrive and others fail to reach their potential (Palari Publishing 2011). The book, which was named a Best Business Book of 2011 by the NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business) explains how entrepreneurs can avoid the most common pitfalls as their businesses grow and is available at www.WhitestonePartnersInc.com
Thursday, March 1st, 2012
By Joe Procopio
Last night at dinner, Windsor Circle’s Matt Williamson was a busy man. In between bites and drinks, he filled pages in a notebook with research on a number of investors who introduced themselves after his pitch. The beautiful thing was there was a veritable cornucopia of information to be had among the six of us at dinner, and by the time it was over, he was armed.
Williamson says, “It’s been an incredible experience being in such a tight concentration of venture capitalists. The overwhelming response is that we’re a compelling story for such a short amount of time that Windsor Circle has been around. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how helpful the VCs are.”
He said a lot more than that, but I blacked out. It was late.
He’s not alone. Several startups are making that upward swing from the pitches into meetings, and if yesterday was an explosion of activity, then this morning and afternoon should be buzzing with follow up.
Not Just Digital
PodPonics is an Atlanta based high tech agriculture startup, converting shipping containers into high tech controlled growing environments producing fresher, urban, weather-safe produce — in other words better and faster with incredible yield. These containers can be stacked 10 high to produce 150x yield per acre.
That’s a game changer.
CEO Matt Liotta will present this afternoon. But they’ve been networking and meeting people in preparation. They say it’s a good setup, allowing mass concentration of conversation is short periods of time and they’ve been able to generate interest before they even take the stage.
Not Just Deals
It isn’t just the dealmaking though. This year, I’ve met more entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs who are here just to get the lay of the land and figure out how to take the next steps with their idea or fledgling company.
The panels have also been refreshingly honest. The first sentence I heard in the Venture Capital Outlook session was that “the wheels fell off on August 15th.” Having been out in the field raising money at that point, I absolutely agree with that. It’s like the mirage vanished.
Overall, there seems to be a lot of activity in the $1 billion plus range, and a lot in the under $100 million range, with a big black hole in the sweet spot. This is troubling for those early-stage graduates, but with such an emphasis on customers and revenue over the last four years, it’s certainly not a shocker.
There is a lot of visceral reaction to crowd-funding, and you’re going to see a lot more in this space in the near future, and it will probably be volatile and filled with argument.
It’s tricky, to say the least. There was a lot of talk about how it can and should be done, not only from a legal perspective but also making sure that you can get follow on money and that there are no surprises going into your next round.
However it can’t be ignored. Kickstarter, though not technically crowd-funding but more beta-product pre-purchase (or free T-shirt), has done three $1 million plus deals already this year.
So while Groupon, Facebook, and Zynga dominate the exit talk, crowd funding made up a large portion of the entry talk.
But it wasn’t the only talk. Angels are making more noise these days, and a common theme, the lack of organization in the Angel community that makes it hard to get started, is still an issue, even post AngelList. One of the questions was “where do I find Angels” and the first answer was “LinkedIn.”
Coincidentally, TechCrunch did a post last night on AngelList potentially creating a common pitch-deck template. And while I don’t agree that that’s the right next step, it should be about more robust ways to build relationships between the entrepreneurs and the angels, it’s at least a step.
Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
By Joe Procopio
Sometime in May, you’re going to be walking down Main street in Downtown Durham and pass by a glass-encased habitat at the front of a well-known coffee shop where a single entrepreneur or team of entrepreneurs will be feverishly working for your enjoyment.
You may stop in for a delicious coffee, you may just watch for a few minutes while lines of code are slung at some business problem that needs fixing. But when you walk away and go about the rest of your day, you’ll be thinking, “I should have thought of that.”
You’ll be peering through the glass at The Smoffice, a so-crazy-it-has-to-work partnership between the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Durham Inc., Beyu Caffe, and a host of other local sponsors.
The idea is to give a single startup six months of free space in “the worlds smallest office” in downtown Durham, driving home the point that a startup doesn’t necessarily need big or fancy or cash or backing, but simply a great idea fostered in a stimulating and supportive environment.
It’s a rather artful statement on Durham as an up-and-coming startup ecosystem.
Of course, there are other bells and whistles, but these are grass roots bells and whistles, most importantly a nearby condo for potential out-of-town candidates, and also free custom office furniture, a tablet, assistance from experts in legal, accounting, and marketing, and finally connections to over 70 of the startups in downtown Durham.
The application process starts Wednesday, 2/29 (Leap Day, just to drive the quirkiness home), and more info can be found on http://www.thesmoffice.com
I’ll wait while you turn your world back rightside up.
So Who Did Think of That?
When people ask me how Durham has come from seemingly nowhere to emerge overnight as the most hypeworthy startup hub of the east coast, I give a varying array of reasons: The establishment of the American Tobacco Complex downtown, the low cost of space, the growing number of privately run support organizations, elves, etc. But usually I include one specific thing.
Or rather dude. Adam Klein at the Durham Chamber.
Klein is one of those guys you see at all the startup-related events in the area, from the smaller, street-level meetups to the big fancy conferences. Because he’s so much better looking than me, I tend to stay away from him, but I have gotten to know him, and I’m floored by the things he’s done, and the things he didn’t do, to contribute to the growth of Durham’s startup scene.
When people think of the Durham Chamber, which admittedly isn’t very often because of the fact that 90% of what they do is support behind the curtain, they think of things like Startup Stampede, a program that put a handful of budding startups into a downtown Durham space with infrastructure and mentoring – like an accelerator, but without the cash and investment components, although said investment was in Durham itself.
How to Start a Startup Stampede: Step 1 = Don’t Start a Startup Stampede
Klein now advises other chambers and government organizations from locals to regionals to the National Chamber on how to build a localized startup culture into a Stampede. His primary advice: Don’t do it, or rather, don’t start with the event, there’s a lot of prep work to do first.
For all the out-of-the-box thinking and risk taking that produced the Stampede, it was the months behind the scenes he and others spent talking to the local startup community and the greater business community.
This meant countless meetings with individual entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs, selling the benefits of Durham and listening, intently, to their needs and desires. This is not easy to do, since most of those lists of needs and desires usually start, ill-advisedly so, with “a boatload of working capital,” which of course the Durham Chamber does not have or have access to.
It also meant countless meetings with Durham companies, from giant corporations like HTC to establishments you wouldn’t expect to be a part of the ecosystem at all, like downtown’s Beyu Caffe. In these sessions, he’d sell the benefits of a sprouting startup community back to them, an equally difficult proposition when you’re talking about propping up a tax/customer base known for being broke and desperately seeking “a boatload of working capital.”
And finally, it meant getting out of the way — knowing what to provide, what to support, making it happen, and then letting it grow on its own, grass-roots, live or die.
I’m Looking at You, Every Other Startup Support Group
It took ages for all that to pay off in the form of Startup Stampede, and that, along with multiple other initiatives from both the public and private sectors, a metric ton of hard work from the startups themselves, a parsec of good press, and a half-dozen elves, is how the Durham startup ecosystem sprang up from “nowhere.”
With a couple of successful Startup Stampedes under their belt, Klein and frequent collaborator Matthew Coppedge from Downtown Durham Inc. knew that they had to evolve. They realized that in order to keep up with and properly serve Durham’s fledgling startup environment, they needed something new, something unique, and something bigger.
And because the Raleigh-Durham area has a reputation for being so vanilla that you can literally flavor your coffee with a few blades of grass taken from the finely manicured lawns of Cary, they knew it should push the boundaries a bit.
So they went small.
A Tiny Window Into Durham
Klein and Coppedge know that there isn’t nearly enough attention on Durham as a startup hub, certainly within the area and definitely outside of it. So they hope that there are several marketing aspects that can be ramped up through the lifecycle of The Smoffice.
It will start with the application process, which will be worldwide and centered around the uniqueness of the space. This is not only meant to attract outside entrepreneurs to the program, but also serve as an introduction to the location and the culture, a huge and very important task in keeping the Durham startup ecosystem growing.
The marketing will continue with the live nature of The Smoffice itself, offering locals and non-locals alike a peek into how entrepreneurs can succeed in Durham, with or without a Smoffice and all the sponsors and connections, but because of a culture that promotes risk, acceptance, help, sharing, and support. At one point there was talk of a documentary, but I don’t know where that went. It’s a great idea though
Wish I’d thought of it.
Joe’s last column offered “Five Reasons why you need to be at SEVC”
Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
By Samantha McCollough, iDatix
A successful company strives to keep employees productive, and a knowledgeable business knows that happy people are more productive. Happiness at work can increase productivity by as much as 12% in fact, according to a study at University of Warwick.1
A story in CMS Wire quotes Paul Murphy, national sales director of Spire Investment Partners, who said technology such as an electronic document management system can make work easier and people happier.
“If employees are more efficient, they’re happier. If they’re happier, they’re more productive. If they’re more productive, you’re more profitable,” Murphy said.
Enterprise content management systems can make life easier for employees by cutting down on time needed to search through file cabinets, improve communication and collaboration with co-workers and automate repetitive tasks.
CMS Wire said that internal customers, or employees, matter the most in the quality and quantity of work output. According to the source, a satisfied employee is more creative, productive and dependable, which generates work that can make customers happy and encourage them to stay loyal to a brand or company.
Even though in the long run it can make people happy, Ed Yonker, CIO of Franklin County, Pennsylvania, warned that people get agitated when new changes come down at a company. It is important to reduce the level of frustration and dissatisfaction in the early stages to cultivate happiness with the new system.
Gaston County, North Carolina helped quell the impatience of the integration with education and training, CMS Wire said.
“Although the resistance to change has been far less than for ECM than other applications or new business processes, there are always people who want to continue doing things the way they’ve always been done,” says Brandon Jackson, CIO of Gaston County.
“However, the more we publicized the success of the departments that were our early ECM adopters, the more people began to realize how tedious working with paper actually is.”
Rochelle Waldoch, compliance and records manager of Ramsey County, Minnesota, told CMS Wire that they started watching training videos that featured characters from The Flintstones. She said just because something is technical doesn’t mean employees can’t have fun with it.
CMS also stated that the most effective change to a content management system brings a sense of togetherness for something everyone has in common, which in this case is becoming educated on a new form of technology.
On Inside Counsel, a website designed for law department leaders, Dennis Kiker, a partner at LeClairRyan in Richmond, Virginia, said that understanding and acceptance of a new program should come through training on the document management program. He said this also lets workers know that the new program is a priority for the company.
“Employees should be trained when they are hired, whenever the program is significantly updated and on a periodic basis thereafter,” Kiker said. “If possible, the training should be interactive and include a testing component to increase the likelihood that information will be retained.”
The direct benefits of a content management system, such as reduced paper costs and increased efficiency, are often clear improvements in obtaining a new system. Yet the indirect cause of employee happiness, and the increased productivity as a result of it, is another measurable impact that such a solution can have on an organization. With proper training and a simple transition, the company and employees stand to gain considerable advantages.
Samantha McCollough is PR director at iDatix, a Clearwater based small business and a leader in the development of ECM software.