Category Archives: viral marketing
When you get right down to brass tacks making money means selling something PROFITABLY. I capitalize the word “profitably” because far too many become enamored of acquiring new customers or up-selling existing ones, but they don’t keep the eye on whether they really are making money or if the cost of goods sold (COGS) means a loss of money.
The only time you should ever lose money on a sale is when you do so consciously. It may well be that to garner a “marquee” name customer who can be referenced to encourage others in a given industry to buy from you sell something at a loss. When and if you do lose money on a sale you should do so with eyes wide open aware that it is a sales tool itself to gain more profitable sales.
We’re all here to make money, and if you do not know the cost of making a sale odds are you are losing money.
Tools to keep you informed are many: from financial software to manage your “books” which include ERP (enterprise resource plannng) and CRM (customer relationship management). We’ve discussed a few of these tools in this blog — tools aimed at start-ups, mid-size companies all the way to the Fortune 100 — tools which can help you make money profitably if used appropriately.
Which brings me (finally) to the topic of this blog: software that helps you optimize your CRM sales funnel.
A sales funnel is the concept that to make one sale you must have X number of sales “leads” (potential customers) who become “suspects” (research shows they could use your offer) lined up that you can target and then winnow them down to “prospects.” Prospects are qualified businesses who could benefit from your offers — whether they know it or not. They have budget, they have a need and you can help them meet their own goals. The key in funnel management is to turn those prospects into customers — and in each step of the sales process of many “suspects” you will find only a few “prospects” and even fewer of them will turn into customers.
Even in the age of social media you still have to identify potential customers and somehow you need to make them aware that you have a service or a product they will find valuable. . . the methods for reaching them may be changing, but the fundamentals remain the same.
There is a very old saying in the computer industry — about as old as the industry itself. Surely you have heard the term GIGO (garbage in / garbage out). You must fill your sales funnel, but if you fill it with lots of names that do not have the potential to be a customer your “funnel management” is poor and your sales profitability will also be low.
To acquire profitable customers (new ones) or even identify what you can up-sell or cross-sell to existing customers you must have a way of identifying qualified leads from the very beginning. Cisco (the leading communications vendor) credits a company named eTrigue with increasing their SMB (small / medium business) sales appointments by 25% through just such pinpoint targeting of potential customers.
Linda Fassig-Knauer, (a Cisco marketing programs manager) is the one making the claim about eTrigue and 3Marketeers (advertising, marketing, and demand generation/lead generation) for better lead generation:
“eTrigue Intelligent lead scoring helps us determine which technology or offer the prospect is most interested in discussing with our sales teams and enables us to funnel those leads in a timely manner to our call center, who ultimately sends to our channel partners,” says Fassig-Knauer, “The information in eTrigue lead scoring gives us three times the information so our call center agents are much more prepared before a call. It also greatly increases the number of prospects we can identify as being interested in a solution because the system does not require the customer/prospect to register.”
Salesforce.com CRM users can view active prospects in eTrigue’s demand generation application within Salesforce — making it easy to use for sales reps. eTrigue won an award from DemandGen for its work with Cisco.
Given the fact that the economy is still slow you need to find a way to do more with less. Your sales reps need to be more efficient than ever. Tools like the cloud based SaaS (software as a service) Salesforce.com teamed with a demand generation tool like eTrigue can fill your funnel with a higher number of better-qualified leads faster, less expensively and with fewer resources.
You need to identify suspects and then you need to pinpoint target valuable information to them (using CRM with integrated email campaign tools and social media tools as well as the good old fashioned telephone!). Doing more with less in these times means working smart with inexpensive but highly valuable tools. Take a cue from Cisco and from Codice Software, who saw a 225% increase in qualified leads, and a 50% increase in actionable sales leads when it used eTrigue. Response rates went up by 160% versus the same period the prior year.
Another customer, Silver Peak, generated 30% more programs without additional staff. The cost is much lower than hiring more people — although if you get enough good leads you may need to put more feet on the street!
If you are using Salesforce.com I highly recommend that you take a look at eTrigue and see if automating your sales funnel demand generation makes sense.
I’ve been feverishly working away on designing a new personal website (well, sort of personal — I’m branching out and providing social media consulting along with the CRM / data warehouse consulting I normally provide). I’ve experimented with various inexpensive ways to go “live.” I found that I could register my domain for a year at GoDaddy for one penny — a special promotion. This saved about $9. (I’m notoriously cheap).
Then I checked around for shared hosting. I know I can host it myself, and given my technical background probably should — but I just don’t want the hassles right now. I did a lot of research and decided that Hostgator sounded both inexpensive and fairly good as far as up-time, response time and so forth. I found a one month trial deal, also for a penny. That is expiring soon, so I don’t know if I’ll stay there. I can get a one year deal for around $5 a month which isn’t bad — and Hostgator has been really great support wise. . . so I need to decide soon.
Lots of people on the internet “pitch” Hostgator because they get PAID if you sign up through them. I’m not one of them. This is not a paid advertisement. My opinion of them is that they are fine and I’ve had no trouble with them, but this is just my opinion.
I actually used their online chat a few times and they responded right away to fix a few things that were broken (like my domain transfer from GoDaddy not showing up). Very easy to do business with.
So if they’ve been so nice why not stay there?
I found a cool little shared host with a proprietary platform that offers a free web hosting service if you use their domain. The company is Wix and they have beautiful templates that are very (and I mean VERY) easy to modify. You can even add videos with a click of a button — no coding. I can host there with my own domain for about the same cost as Hostgator. So I am debating it.
My Hostgator site does not look that great. I am not a designer (OK, I’m very talented, but not when it comes to design!). You can see it if you want, but be forewarned that I am not proud of it. Check out my site, “It-SME.”
The Wix site looks nicer, although I’d appreciate feedback as to whether you like it or not. Maybe it is too “cutesy”? Here is a link to my Wix site.
Any way, not a lot of substance in this post, just a lot of “The interior defense dines under the sabotage.” which doesn’t make real sense. Just wanted to let you know I am busy — and when it comes to making money with technology, saving money is making money, too. If you are interested in setting up a website and want to know what coupons and deals are “out there” you should check out Retailmenot which lists coupons and such. I don’t see a current penny deal at GoDaddy, but here is the link for the current coupon codes for GoDaddy, found at Retailmenot.
I’ve noticed that Wix, Hostgator and other web hosts always have “deals,” so if you are looking for a host do check out the deals.
We make money or save money by providing value to others in a cost effective manner. Pretty simple, really. Technology can streamline the process and make us more efficient at a lower price point — but just as easily technology can be a massive time waster that actually costs us money.
Think of all those apps on Android and the iPhone that are games like Zombie Farm. Loads of fun, but not exactly productivity enhancers!
Which brings me to a recent blog on the Harvard site. The article discusses a study by Harvard which shows that employees are using social media including mobile technologies and video to improve how they do their jobs. These employees are solving your customer and business problems without permission from the information technology (IT) departments:
“In a survey of more than 4,000 U.S. information workers, we found that 37% are using do-it-yourself technologies without IT’s permission. LinkedIn, Google Docs, Smartsheet.com, Facebook, iPads, YouTube, Dropbox, Flipboard — the list is long and growing.”
Forrester Research even gives this trend a name: Technology Populism.
In a sense all this end user “power” is a good thing — people are not waiting for IT to solve problems. Technology like Facebook and other social media proves that if companies don’t take advantage of new technologies then customers WILL and this is not always good for companies. Many a corporation has been blind sided by consumers angry at faulty equipment or mishandled customer “service.”
Yet picture a large company with employees each “doing their own thing” technologically speaking. Fairly soon will we not have misinformation from our own employees with videos on YouTube giving out erroneous “facts”? Will we have “stuff everywhere” and a common corporate value proposition (aka the corporate position) totally destroyed and misinterpreted by people who only see part of the picture?
I am reminded of the story of the blind men and the elephant. In this parable by Sufi Jalaluddin Rumi we are told that a group of blind men touch an elephant and then must describe the elephant. Each man feels a different part, but only one part and the result that no one describes the elephant as a whole, but each describes the animal differently based on one piece. One describes an elephant as long and thick like a boa constrictor — he feels the trunk. Another describes the elephant as long and skinny — he is describing the tail. Another says the elephant is flat like a stingray — he describes the ear, and so forth.
If our employees are using social media and other technologies to help “describe” our companies and our products / services are they knowledgeable enough of the whole — the goals and true strengths — to be helping the corporation, or is there wholesale chaos as each is so focused on one small part that they miss the elephant for the tail?
True enough there is no way to put the genie back in the bottle. Technology, particularly “Web 2.0” with smart phones and social media is here and will be part of our future if we deal with it or ignore it. Should we allow our employees to go off willy nilly and be empowered to “do their own thing” or should we try to build some rules around this wild west of technology? My contention is that in the end we will all meet somewhere in the middle. We cannot truly control all of our employees any more than we can control our customers (or our children). Yet, we must put some structure into place or we will face wholesale anarchy. Welcome to the new, brave new, world of technology.
Social media (the latest “techno-buzz term”) simply refers to people having conversations online. In the far away land known as “Web 1.0” the internet was one-way. You threw a website online or sent out emails and things were pretty simple. Customers would check out your website for information, and might call your contact center or send you an email. Ah, the good old days!
Social media (Facebook, Twitter. . .even YouTube) makes this seem quaint and old fashioned. In the world of Facebook a short comment is followed by other comments and pretty soon you have a town meeting going on. The vendor does not control the conversation — in fact no one controls it, not even the person who begins it! With 500 million users now on Facebook it is larger than the United States of America — and perhaps just as powerful in its own way.
This new phenomena of social media can be a power for good or for evil. It can help your business, or it can destroy you. Businesses today must learn to deal with it one way or the other — and to try to find a way to use it as a way to make money.
The first thing to realize is that if you take a used car sales approach to Facebook or its ilk you will fail miserably. Social media is all about the conversation and nothing turns people off faster than a sales pitch in the middle of a party. To get fans who “like” you and read what you post you must provide valuable information, hopefully in an interesting way! Doing this must be consistent — you may well have to hire an employee to manage your social media presence. My company provides training, consulting and even provides the social media “presence” for companies — but be forewarned that if you outsource to someone like me they still need to learn a lot about your company and stay in close contact with you. Why?
Because it is all about the conversation — and if there is no meat, no “there” there, you will quickly turn off anyone interested in you — and far from making money, you will soon start losing it to your competitors.
Content is king. To make money on Facebook, Twitter and the rest you must have content of value and you must provide this in a succinct fashion. You must post often (2-3 times a day on Twitter, at least daily on Facebook and 3-4 times a week on your corporate blog). Since this is a conversation, you must encourage “fans” (find them via your email databases and by posting in places your customers visit online). Respond to comments, good and bad — and do not be defensive.
Remember it is a CONVERSATION.
Some of the keys to success in Social Media are:
- Build a large and legitimate following by being informative and interesting;
- Respond to comments quickly and with substance
- Blog, Tweet and post frequently — but again it must be USEFUL information
- Monitor your social media communities — know what is working and what is not working
There are some great tools to help you manage multiple social media efforts, and to analyze how successful they are. You will most likely not see “over night” results, but over time your base and your sales will increase.
As social media grows (and the largest growth is in women 55-65!), the traditional marketing bases of newspapers, radio and television are losing customers and advertisers. Social media is a revolution. There are ways to thrive in the revolution, but it is not by playing the game the way you might have historically with press releases, TV ads and the like. The new world is all about loss of control and “the conversation.”
Have you ever noticed that the world just seems to be changing faster and faster all the time?
I’m a big fan of the British television show, “Doctor Who.” The premise of the show is that a time lord travels throughout time and space — from ancient times to tens of thousands of years into the future. “The Doctor” is a mysterious time traveler whose life is often lived “backwards” as he appears in places where people may know him, but he hasn’t met them in “his” life yet. It must be very confusing.
Sometimes I can relate to the Doctor.
The way our world is moving so quickly it is hard to “keep up” with the technology and how it changes us. Technology changes the way we work, how we interact with our own families and how we shop.
The idea behind CRM (customer relationship management) is that vendors, to be successful, must know who their customers are and why they buy what they buy. In the “old days” a small town might have had one butcher, one baker and one candlestick maker. A customer was known by name and the vendor (say the candlestick maker) knew what kind and color of candle Mr. Jones bought or Mrs. Smith acquired. CRM was just a part of the small customer base and the small proprieter.
Today we live in a world of Wal-Mart and Best Buy, not to mention Amazon.com and Buy.com . We customers are anonymous, and if we are anonymous we may only shop one time and never return. To gain our loyalty these large retailers must understand “who we are” by our buying habits, our demographics and our past buying habits.
Have you ever noticed when you visit Amazon’s website that (if you’ve shopped there before) the website recommends new purchases to you based on what you’ve bought before? Smart marketing, and a good application of CRM.
The days of shopping online via our PC alone has already changed and CRM must change along with it.
Gartner Group, a research company specializing in high technology, is predicting that mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common way to access the Internet by 2013. This has both a huge impact on what vendors will require from CRM, as well as a huge opportunity to sell us more, while also making us happier by meeting our needs in “real time.” Customer loyalty and customer retention benefits from CRM tied to smart phones is an enormous potential — and the holy grail of CRM.
Smart phones use both push and pull technology. Pull technology is when a phone user goes online via the phone and searches for an address or driving directions. They have proactively “searched” (or pulled) data from the internet. Perhaps they are looking for a nearby drug store. Perhaps they are searching for a certain product (perhaps a Wii game for their child). As the person runs the search CRM is at work.
Now “push” technology comes into play. An add for a Wii game sale is sent to the phone via GameStop or Wal-Mart. The user checks local prices and sees how close each vendor is to them (pull technology. GameStop is say 1/2 a mile away and Wal-Mart is 3 miles away). A 15% off coupon is sent to the phone by GameStop (push technology).
And so it goes. The future is the past, and soon the mega-stores may know you as well as the local candlemaker ever did.
The potential value of combining CRM, smartphones, GPS and unified communications to empower the customer while ensuring even higher customer loyalty is staggering. The opportunity is there, if CRM is properly utilized. The winners will do it. The losers will be gone.
Since CRM (customer relationship management) is supposed to mean any one or any system that interacts with customers one would logically think that email marketing would be an integral part of any CRM solution.
But it isn’t.
Email marketing has been around as long as email itself has. Yet most companies who do email marketing for customer retention (up selling and cross selling) or acquisition (acquiring new customers) do so blindly using third party lists or hobbled together lists. Some may use Templates found on Microsoft’s template section of their website. Others use a variety of software or internet based solutions — and there same to be a plethora of them out there.
Most companies seem to use the axiom: throw enough mud on the wall and some of it is bound to stick when sending out corporate marketing emails.
No tracking of the ROI (return on investment). No knowing if you are “ticking off” your best customers. No knowing how many hit the SPAM filter. No knowing how many people get multiple emails from you (annoying them). Bad email marketing hurts every other aspect of CRM, and does more damage than good.
This is mass emailing. My friend, Sundeep Kapur (other wise known as the Email Yogi) has been an email marketing guru since around 1999 and he has outlined “Seven Stages of eMarketing” in a Whitepaper – available, with just a simple request. The first is exactly what I outlined above: mass marketing with the hope someone, somewhere will read it.
I don’t want to “give away” everything in Sundeep’s excellent paper, but suffice it to say that email CRM isn’t any different than CRM in general — know thy customer. You must target your existing customers and potential customers by market segment (customer segmentation), by demographics, by buying history, etc. None of this is rocket science, but it is all hard work — that results in qualified leads that generate new customers.
The more you can customize the email to the prospect the better. And if you can make it FUN even better still!
Customer segmentation allows you to target your email messaging.
Once you’ve created an email offer, newsletter, etc. it is a good idea to set up two separate tests with similar, but not identical, offers. The test audiences must be the same segmentation for this to work. Try to make an offer that requires a response (buy in) before the scroll down point (above 400 pixels in height) and if this is the first email one of those should be an opt in to get more emails from you.
Design the email using HTML and a plain text file. If you start getting fancy with CSS or flash — even Java — many email programs won’t read it properly.
Sundeep works for my old boss, NCR — a leader in retail and hospitality solutions. Software solutions vary based on your own corporate needs (and budget). RWD uses Constant Contact. The design of emails is pretty easy, but it isn’t your standard Windows “look and feel” so there is a learning curve and difficulty if you want to copy or paste from it into another program. They do offer a free 60 day trial, so if you are new to email marketing take a look at them and try them out.
More mid-range companies might look at Gold Lasso. The UI is also not the easiest to use, but they do have some analytics thrown into the mix. Also good in the mid-range and even enterprise (big) company range is Responsys. JupiterResearch awarded Responsys the highest combined score in “market suitability” and “overall business value” among all enterprise-oriented email service providers. It also ranked high with Forrester and Gartner (in a niche category). The Enterprise level also includes the market leader, Cheetahmail (now part of Experian).
Cheetahmail is the most entrenched, and it is very feature rich. The UI (user interface) suffers from some of the same issues as Constant Contact and Gold Lasso.
In a future blog I’d like to delve into how well email marketing soltuions tie into legacy systems (the back end CRM, ERP and industry specific apps which hold the wealth of customer data) — both from a push and pull perspective.
This blog spends a lot of pixels on the topic of CRM (Customer Relationship Management). How can companies manage their customers. How can we keep current customers loyal and retain them? How can we find new customers who will be profitable and love us and stay with us?
You don’t really manage customers anymore — if you ever did. Perhaps the idea was always unreasonable.
Customers are people. Newsflash.
People are unpredictable. People are not, by nature, loyal. If they were the divorce rate wouldn’t be at 50%.
People only care about what they care about NOW. Today. If you are selling Christmas trees to Jews they won’t care. They don’t use them (well, some do but not many).
Customers buy what they WANT to buy and the key today is not in trying to manage your customers but in understanding who they are, what they want (or need) and making it easy for them to be in the right place at the right time with the right story. Story is key here — because customers need to be able to find what they need when they need it.
And it needs to be simple. Simple for customers to understand what your widget is. Easy for them to understand why it matters to THEM (not you, they could care less about you) and then make it easy for them to get to the end result of what they want. Intuitive (like a iPod, like a GUI (graphical user interface) versus a c: prompt).
The customer is now in charge of the world. Realize it. Embrace it. So now more than ever is “know thy customer” and realize that while you need them, they don’t need you. Unless you give them a reason to need you.
This is the first entry in awhile. After my last blog the folks at IT Toolbox asked me to begin a blog for them on the topic of CRM. “Making Cents and Sense of CRM” is focused on how CRM has gone from being the next great invention to improve corporate ROI since the invention of ERP (enterprise resource planning) into a mess of all kinds of applications that have nothing to do with one another (from sales force automation (SFA), to customer service, to business intelligence, to contact center. . .). You name a solution and no doubt someone has called it “CRM.”
This mis-use of the term has caused the market to falter. Why would people buy something when they either don’t know what it is supposed to do, or when it over promises and under delivers?
I think this is where the expression “duh” aptly fits.
So as I sit in Central Florida in 100 plus degree heat (farenheit) pondering how soon I can get back to the beach or at least the pool I’ve been focusing on the question of whether we need to “re-label” real CRM or whether we can save it with a hail Mary pass?
That “hail Mary” may be tying CRM with Unified Communications. We’ve discussed this a little bit before — how the ability to provide accessibility to people where ever they are from a “virtual” office phone or email address makes the ability to improve customer service. . .but let’s take a look at some “real world” examples.
Toshiba just announced their Unified Communications Suite, Strata® CIX™. ShorTel (a VoiP vendor) recently linked their UC to their call center quality assurance processes. Why are vendors big and small suddenly jumping on the “CRM / UC” bandwagon?
Well, a survey by Computerworld Hong Kong showed that users are worn out from accessing multiple communications points (email, voicemail, cell phone, office phone, etc.) only to be bombarded by people that keep them from getting their work done, while getting to important things and people “too late.” The survey found that 55% were using IM (instant messaging), 42% were using video conferencing, and 29% were using person to person tools that were created original for home use (like Yahoo! and Microsoft Messenger).
While hte survey shows that people need UC (and may even WANT UC) they still don’t understand what it is!
Forrester Research also conducted a survey and their’s showed that most small and large companies still are uncertain about the benefits of UC! Forrester surveyed 2,187 North American companies and 55% (55%!) were confused about what it was, let alone its value to them!
Wow, here we are contemplating how to get CRM out of the mess of “what is it and why do I care?” when it has enormous potential to improve the bottom line, when unified communications perhaps has a faster ROI (probably less overall over time, but a huge, quick payback for UC) but no one knows exactly why!
Granted the economy is confused right now and some companies are in panic mode — but this makes both UC and CRM even more compelling given the ROI — especially with a shrinking workforce. Yet 55% are confused about the VALUE of Unified Communications?
Wow, we are sure lousy communicators!
Ellen Daley, (the Forrester Research analyst who authored the report) said: “There’s been a 21% increase in UC pilots since 2007 but no increase in firms buying UC. A lot of people are talking about UC, a lot more are tipping their toe in; but at the same time they’re all saying they’re not sure about the value.”
Folks, we can’t throw technology at a problem and hope that fixes things! UC and CRM both hold enormous potential for companies but ONLY if correctly applied to a specific business NEED. Pilots alone are worthless if the pilot isn’t part of a business problem and specific success criteria applied to the pilot.
Far too many IT vendors sell to the TCM (telecommunications manager), or the CIO (Chief Information Officer) or some other technical manager. Definitely we need to be talking to these folks, but the REAL buyers of UC and CRM are in Marketing and Sales. These areas are outside of the comfort zone of man typical IT sales person.
UC and CRM vendors need to move up the totem pole and start cross selling into sales and marketing (and perhaps even the CFO and CEO). If you don’t know how to get there and have a compelling story when you do — prepare to fail. Sit by the beach or pool in these lazy, hazy days of summer and prepare to sit there during the blizzards of February (or in my case, Disney’s Blizzard Beach).
If you lack the ability to get outside of IT you’d better partner with someone who can.
Or we’ll attend the funeral of your awesome CRM or UC product — along (perhaps) with the whole field. See you at the beach!