The Name Badge Does Not Sell Your Business

Blank name tagAt the close of a large entrepreneur event, a small business owner came up to the registration desk and offered a suggestion. He felt like his name badge should have more than a name. He wanted a badge filled with all his information: name, company, title, website, email and phone. Then, he would talk to more people and more people would talk to him.

In an effort to help himself, he went ahead and scribbled all his identifying details in fine print below his name. Unfortunately, his details were written so small it required someone to lift his badge up close to read it.

In his view, his networking experience was hindered by only having a name to identify himself and others. The name-only tag “forced” him to have a conversation, instead of oddly reading someone’s detailed badge to self-select whether he should engage them.

My empathetic response, “I understand how you might feel more information on the badges could help you. I appreciate your suggestion. I do feel that you can open more doors, when you directly talk to people. Perhaps we have a different view of the value of these type of events and networking.”

My non-empathetic response, “Your name doesn’t open doors. It won’t sell you or your business. Your story, your enthusiasm and your passion are what engages others. It’s awkward to read someone’s name and then turn away. Then again, maybe we have a different view on what sells you and your business.”

What was not revealed to him was that it was intentional to only have a name on each badge. Why? To provide an everyone the opportunity to connect, share and learn. A convenience for each attendee to have an open door to sell themselves, their solutions and their business. Written words never sell. Written words affirm. It is the verbal story, the questions, the conversation that closes the deal. It is the interaction that really matters. It is looking someone in the eye and asking, “What do you do?” The name on your badge only facilitates an easier way to start the conversation.

No matter how many words you use to invite someone into to your lair, the offer is only as good as what you have identified through an engaging dialogue. A conversation. A two-way exchange. It answers, what can you do for me and what can I do for you? Value is created by the time you invest to ask, listen and qualify. It is the ongoing assessment that takes place during the conversation that defines opportunity. The number of conversations you have helps you measure the success or failure of your valuable time spent at an event or networking.

Business owners sometimes feel if they are equipped with mountains of content, leave behinds and written justification, the buyer will sell themselves.  In fact, written content is just an invitation. Invite to learn more. Invite to perk interest. Collateral and content does not sell a product or service. Collateral documents and illustrates. People are best for selling goods and services.

Networking and events give you a formalized occasion to have a dialogue. To learn and share. Those that will not talk to you because of your name-only tag are short sighted and often losing the opportunity to learn the real value of you, your offerings and your ideas. Conversation requires a back-and-forth tailoring of information that can be customized to your address your precise needs.  We only buy what we need. The listener is always waiting for you to make it about them. In their mind, they are waiting for you to tell them how you help them or solve their problems.

Less information on a name badge gives you the polite excuse to inquire, “Tell me what you do.” A badge or name tag should never give you reason why not to engage. Ask. Inquire. Question. That is how you benefit from any event. Do not hide behind a 3 x 4 card hanging around your neck. Use it as a chance to address the person by their name. “Jim, what is your reason for attending the event today?”  “Mary, are you an entrepreneur?”  This provides you the best opportunity to qualify, inquire, learn and discern if the person has something to offer you and you have something to offer them.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. – William Shakespeare

By Jamie Glass, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers, follow: @jglass8 @artfulthinkers

The event noted in this post was the Innovation Arizona Summit 2013.  Read more about the event here.

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Investing in Co-Selling Partnerships to Grow

iStock_000022899520_ExtraSmallSmall businesses and entrepreneurs can greatly benefit by selecting co-selling partners to drive revenues. Utilizing another company’s sales and marketing resources may be a great channel to aggressively extend reach and acquire new customers.

Co-selling partnerships with businesses selling complimentary products and services to your target customer can be smart business. These partnerships can cut existing sales costs and even accelerate growth in market share. The best sales partners create a synergy between respective offerings. There should be a “natural fit” of how the products and services add value for the customer. The buyer should inherently understand why you would partner, not question as to why you did or if there is any benefit in buying from a single vendor.

Co-selling partnerships can reduce sales costs. There is a required investment in sales and marketing to grow a business. The costs of a sales team can be crippling for a new venture or small business.The overhead expenses that enable a sales person to be trained, productive, and armed with the right marketing tools, technology and product support can be onerous in the earlier stages of an organization.  Lack of initial investment often produces lack luster results and can actually cost the business even more with unexpected turnover or lengthy sales cycles. Businesses need a specific budget and defined cost of sales to properly staff, train and equip a sales organization to get results.

Time-to-market and time-to-close can be reduced through co-selling partnerships. A new sales hire ramp-up time can be 3-12 months, depending on price of goods to be sold and anticipated sales cycles. Ramp-up requires an “blind faith” investment of time and resources. A business has to invest in sales with nothing more than the anticipation and belief that something is going to be sold. It is a huge price to pay and has great risk. Utilizing a trained and experienced sales team through a co-selling partnership can help you bring revenues in while you invest in building your own sales team.

Co-selling is not free. There are costs of co-selling partnerships. A strong partnership requires investment in training and account management resources to keep top-of-mind awareness with your co-oped sales team. You also need to provide sales and marketing tools to properly equip the team to sell your goods and services. You need to be available when they have questions and to support them throughout the entire sales process.

You also need to create an incentive as to why a sales person in another organization should throw your offering into the mix. Higher commissions, faster time-to-close and value-add to the customer, are all good reasons; however, remember — sales people need to be sold too. If you extend the deal time or complicate the sales process, it will never work. Make it easy and valuable for the sales team through your co-selling partnership.

Incentives matter in co-selling. If the paired companies benefit but not the people selling, the partnership will fail. You need to set up a partner agreement for commissions and shared revenues.  A typical commission in a co-selling relationship starts at 10% of net revenue on the deal for a qualified lead pass. This type of agreement puts the burden back on you to close the deal. You are basically paying for marketing and an introduction. If the partner does all the work, including closing the deal, you may provide an incentive of 20% or more just to get that customer on your books. The structure of the agreement and commission rates should be based on your financial projections and cost of goods and associated expenses in managing the customer post-sale. 

What doesn’t work? Relying on commission-only sales teams and partnerships that are by name only. There are business owners that believe they can get a motivated, committed sales person to work for free. The odds of making this type of relationship work are close to nil. The relationship between a company and it’s sales team, whether a direct hire or partner, is measured by the commitment from both sides. Small businesses may have to tier commission levels based on the ramp-up of sales or find ways to create early non-cash incentives; however, no one should be expected to go out and sell without a financial commitment. The words “you get what you pay for” should ring loudly if you are thinking about commission-only or finding people to sell for you because they like you.  Sales people that are really good at closing deals are expensive because they have a huge ROI.

Attributes of great co-selling partners to consider are the size of the partner’s sales team, market reach, relationships with your customer and available support the sales team receives in training for new products. The partner must have the means, connections and existing relationships to introduce your products to market. Co-selling means they will take an active role in selling. Again, partners by name only often produce little value.

If you choose to use co-selling partnerships, embrace the model and build support for the partnership. Show your loyalty through your commitment to make the partnership last and benefit everyone including the customer, the sales person and the partners. Create value by talking about the partnership and promoting the relationship. The results you get from this co-selling will be directly tied to the amount of time and resources invested in the partnership. You have to give to make it work and really pay off.

In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.” – Anthony Robbins

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Related to a series of posts on partnering.  Also read: Sales Referral Partners Lead to New Customers

Good Business Leaders Use Intuition to Make Decisions

ImageDecision making is constant in business. Advancing products, engaging employees, responding to customers all while keeping a careful eye on the bottom line. It is the basic function of a leader to be continuously selecting priorities and taking action. Multitasking and constant awareness come with the territory of being in charge. The only stop to the ongoing process is shut-eye. Not resting, deep sleep.

Every person, whether in a leadership role or not, confronts hundreds, thousands even tens of thousands instinctual decisions throughout a given day. Some are instantaneous, or as we classify “automatic”, while others require in-depth analysis. We all have an internal analytic engine, taking everything we know, we collect and can reference based on experience to churn out a decision. We are the greatest sources of our own big data!

As technologists find ways to host, gather and exploit bytes by the billions and trillions of data from others, our own brain functions as the largest processor of data. Enabling us to act quickly or deliberately, at the speed of which best suits the need for a decision. Not everyone utilizes their “big data” engine in the best way, whether from a lack experience or knowledge, impairment or perhaps ignorance to what the data shows. The result, bad decisions.

In business, some can be plagued by the constant role as Decider-in-Chief. This often results in procrastination or delayed decisions. The common impact is action taken “too late”. The organization depends on a leader to make impromptu decisions, while also taking deliberate actions to lead to the “best” decision given a certain set of facts. Organizations need deciders to execute plans, activate programs and assign activities that drive results.

Good leaders often have a good sense of intuition. They use gut check analysis and set plans into action, without the noticeable analysis that others might use in trying to determine the path forward.  Where did they acquire such skill?  Repetitive decision making. Leaders know they have to make decisions, they are accustomed to their role and have the experience of accepting fault and risk with taking action. This training builds confidence and a strong basis for intuition. Making decisions over and over again in practice builds an intuitive leader.

Some researchers claim that intuition results in a physical experience, a shiver, an image or the often unexplained deja vu.  Others may use the intuitive nature of a dream to set a plan into action. The remembrance seems to create a comfort in the decision, having the sense of knowing the outcome. Beyond the intangible means from which confidence results, the facts are that when decisions are needed, strong leaders will act. Knowing inaction often results in increased pressure, stress and potential problems, making a decision, right or wrong, seems to give a sense of relief.  Decisions invoke power and progress.

There is no magic in intuition, it’s brain power. It is knowledge. Intuition is using information, filtering and making a judgment based on experience. The continuous practice of using intuition creates a platform to control quality of decisions and use of perception or quick insight, without compromising confidence.

Intuition is not “inherent”, it is learned.  The origin of the word dates back to the 1400’s as a reference to contemplation. There are many times that intuition will lead to proven conclusions; however, a leader will not always use it quickly and without process. There is often a misnomer that intuition means instant, without regard for facts or experience. It does not. It means using your better judgement and trusting your thoughts, your ideas and your role as a decision maker. It is using your intuition to move forward.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steve Jobs

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

What is the Real Value in Free

freeFree is zero, nada, zilch, nothing. In the mind of the consumer, free means whatever you give away for free has no cost to you. The same applies to your time. If you are giving away your time for free, how do others adjust to understanding your “real” value? Do they realize your true worth?

Most people are very leery of free offers. Based on experience, we are trained to look for the fine print, the exceptions and qualifications.  Our better judgement tells us that there is usually a “catch” to getting something for free.  A free day at the spa comes with the catch of attending a vacation rental sales pitch. A free juicer included with a top priced refrigerator comes with the catch of spending more on a product just to get a small appliance you may never use. A free soft drink when you buy the big meal comes with the catch you have to super-size your entire meal. If we are always suspect to the catch, how does that reflect on the perception of you giving away your time for free? Maybe there is a catch.

We are all very susceptible to the attraction of a free offer. Free works. We often all like to take advantage of free! Significant purchases are emotional. Free sparks our interest, it draws attraction to possibilities. Free also plays on the strong emotion of fear. The fear of losing out on the free.  Will someone else get our free?

What is not often measured is the “buyer” remorse of a free offer.  Why?  Well, you didn’t pay for your free, how can you be remorseful. You got what you paid for – zero, nada, nothing. You can’t return “nothing”. Your stuck with your free.  The cycle continues, giving and getting for free and then we are left wondering was it worth our time as the giver or receiver. It might be easier to leave the emotions behind and get to the real offer of people paying for your services. Paying for your valuable time without an emotional gimmick.

Free feels like it should have value. We perceive that whatever we get will be of greater value than what we have to give to get it.  It is very difficult in business as a service provider and solopreneur to not give away your time. We often justify this as a “marketing and sales” expense.  Unfortunately, the expense is not something you can list on your expense records as a tax deduction. You can not expense your hourly rate as a cost of sales. It’s lost time or to put in a more feel good term, an investment.

When you give away your time, what you do and who you are is represented as free.  It may appear to be a good idea. If you give your time away regularly others will soon see that your time has no value and what you perceive to be a great gift often goes unused or disregarded. Are you creating the perception that you are “free” for the taking?

The best advice for giving away time for free is to set a specific free time budget.  How many hours can you afford to give away each week?  Also, keep your “power of negotiation” at your central point of where you do business.  Meeting at coffee shops and for lunch may seem like a convenient way to give away your free services; however, you are no longer in a business setting, which demonstrates that your business is the priority. 

We all desire to help others, pay it forward and do good. The best good you can do is to make sure that you get value for what you do. Free is a teaser, a sample. Maybe it is required to build a relationship and establish an opportunity for a transaction.  Then again, maybe if what you give away for free is so valuable people will actually pay you for it. Limiting your exposure and risk, means you have limited availability to always give away your time and services for free. Use your time wisely.

If you were to offer a thirsty man all wisdom, you would not please him more than if you gave him a drink.” — Sophocles

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

2013 Marketing Forecast Report Summary by Software Advice

Guest Post by Software Advice, Ashley Verrill

Traditional forms of marketing, such as direct mail, print and television advertising, continue to fall out of favor with business-to-business marketers, according to our recently-released Software Advice report.

We received responses from 155 primarily executive-level marketers in a poll we called the B2B Demand Generation Benchmark Survey. They were asked about spending plans for the New Year; as well as which channels, content and offers they find most powerful for producing quality and quantity of leads.

The sample included primarily smaller businesses, with marketing budgets of $250,000 or less, although there was some representation in the tiers up to $100 million in marketing spend. The sample was also primarily from technology companies with less than 100 people.

01-channel-popularityOne of the first things we discovered were the most popularly-used channels. Email marketing to a house list came in as the most-used channel, followed by search engine optimization, social media (not ads) and trade shows.

These results reflect an increased focus on what’s popularly called “inbound marketing,” or driving traffic to your site from customers already searching for your product. Many times these channels are also lower cost. You’ll notice a correlation between the cost per lead of each channel and their popularity in the chart below. Trade shows was one exception to this trend.

04-cost-per-channelOne thing marketers need to be careful about, however, is the quality of leads from these channels. Even if the cost is low, it’s important that your return on investment translates over into the kinds of leads your getting from each channel. Lead scoring is one good way to measure this quality. This usually includes gauging factors such as the decision-making power of the contact, their purchase timeline, budget, industry, or what kinds of content they’ve interacted with or downloaded.

“If you just look at a program on the surface from a solely cost perspective you might never realize it’s just not bringing back the right people. You could end up with a whole database full of contacts of people that will probably never buy from you,” said Elle Woulfe, marketing programs director for Eloqua.

In this regard, the sample agreed that in-house email marketing and SEO provide the most high-quality leads because they are prospects that have proactively sought out your company or product. They’ve clicked on a link, and want to consume something that you are offering. While social media is popular, it has yet to produce such quality leads, at least as consistently as other channels.

Also interesting, 3rd-party lead originators and search engine advertising received the largest percentage of votes for being high quantity channels, yet they didn’t score high on the popularity scale. This is likely due to cost, but again these are often really high quality leads. Marketers should look at the total cost-to-spend ratio.

Despite marketers admitting social media doesn’t produce quality or quantities of leads on a consistent basis, the channel received among the highest percentage of votes for elevated spending in 2013. This more likely to do with the buzz than anything else.

10-future-spend-channelEven if you are a director of marketing and see how all of these programs perform, likely a CMO ahead of you is saying, “You need invest in these programs because that’s what everyone is doing.”

For questions about content, marketers didn’t mirror the trend as far as prioritizing high quality or quantity of leads. Videos, for example, was listed as the second most popular, yet didn’t score well on our scale for quality or quantity.

This is likely due large part to the marketers need to produce content in a way that customers want to consume it. Videos are popular because people don’t have as much time to read.

Content success has a lot to do with where you are targeting customers in the sales funnel. A video testimonial from a customer, for example, could convert really well for high-scoring leads that are near the end of the sales funnel.

Alternatively, a lot of content is used pre-funnel and not meant to be highly-converting. It’s more about getting the customer educated and developing preference over time. For this reason, a one-size fits all approach to content can backfire. You need to measure success against varying goals.

Guest Post by Ashley Verrill
Ashley Verrill is a market analyst with Software Advice. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising. She is a University of Texas graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

Sales Referral Partners Lead to New Customers

Coins and plant, isolated on white backgroundUsing partnerships to grow your business is smart business. Partnering drives market awareness, aligns your brand with other credible brands, opens doors to new customers and can even provide value-added products and services to increase your average sale.

There are different types of partners, which are defined by the level of engagement and the agreements each party enters into to manage the relationship. Sales Referral Partners are the entry level of business development partnerships. This type of partnership has little accountability and responsibility for performance. The value of this strategy is often used to grow market credibility or to align with a partner that has strong relationships with your prospective customers.

Entering into a partnership for referrals is a first step to test the waters in a relationship. It allows both entities to measure the commitment, willingness and effort required in working together to develop business. A sales referral partnership gives you the ability to determine if this is simply a PR initiative or will actually grow revenues. You can also monitor the organizational support in sales and marketing required to get deals closed.

The relationship can be a one-way lead pass or a two-way referral agreement. Both parties need to determine the best opportunity to refer business by passing on leads, receiving referrals or both.

Sales Referral Partners can be “handshake” in nature if you do not plan to hold anyone accountable for the outcome. It is commonplace for business service professionals who network together to develop non-binding relationships to help open doors and extend value by making credible introductions to other service providers or their respective clients.

If you plan to use compensation as an incentive to drive referrals you need a legal agreement, signed and executed between both entities. Compensation is a way to show appreciation for the referral and is an incentive to work together. If your partner offers to pay you for referrals, you also want to make sure it is in writing.

There are two ways you can determine the referral compensation.  Referrals can be compensated at the same rate as your sales commission.  For example, you can offer a set figure between 5-10% of the net proceeds of any closed deal.  You can also set the commission rate at the percentage of your average marketing spend to acquire a new customer. No matter the rate chosen, it should be perceived by your partner as rewarding and drive the expected behavior. Make it worthwhile for someone to act as your front-line sales person and help find you new customers. If the rate is not worthy of the effort, you can expect to pay few or no commissions, as you will likely not drive the behaviors needed to get a referral.

If you do choose to enter into a binding agreement that includes compensation for referrals, you need to set rules just as you do for your own employees. Specifically outline in your agreement how payments will be made and when the partner will be paid. For example, will you pay when the sale is made or when you are paid by the new customer? Be sure you state in your referral agreements if the referral fee will be paid over the lifetime of the relationship or for only the first sale.

It is critical that you track all your sales referrals, whether you enter into a formal agreement or simply take an email of a lead pass from a trusted business partner in your network. Enter the lead into your CRM with the proper tag to identify who gave you the lead. Enter when you receive the lead and monitor the progress of the lead as it moves through your sales pipeline. Measure all your partners quarterly to see how they are helping you grow revenues. It will provide you intelligence in how to manage the relationship for maximum profitability.

If you do enter into a sales partnership where the other entity is representing you on the front-line, you need to equip your partner with the same tools and resources you provide to your own sales team. You need to give them the ability to introduce you, what you do, the problems you solve and the value proposition of your products and services. Spend time providing regular updates about your business and services to keep your partners informed and engaged.

Top of mind awareness in this type of partnership is essential to getting value from your relationship. When you provide value, you will get value in return.  A partnership requires efforts by the giver and the receiver. Be persistent in developing good partnerships, measure activities and reward the efforts of those that help grow your business.

“Try not to become a person of success, but rather to become a person of value.”
– Albert Einstein

Other types of partnerships that will be discussed in future posts include Co-Selling Partners, Channel Partners, Strategic Partners and Investment Partners.

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Don’t Confuse Confidence with Enthusiasm

Enthusiastic blonde woman wearing big glasses.Business leaders, entrepreneurs, sales people and marketers utilize enthusiasm to draw people to their ideas. They passionately motivate us to follow and take action.  Enthusiasm creates an emotional attachment.

Beyond the emotion, we soon find ourselves wanting more.  We want to trust that we should follow, not follow blindly. We need proof that the words are supported by facts. We need evidence. We are convinced by confidence.

Enthusiasm opens the door, confidence is the closer. We are attracted by enthusiasm. We believe in confidence.  Enthusiasm is selling, marketing and promoting.  Confidence is demonstrating, providing proof and creating trust to solve problems and fulfill needs.  Knowing the difference is very important.  Knowing how to balance the two requires expertise.

A person that lacks confidence will often exude excessive enthusiasm to mask insecurities or lack of evidence.  Have you ever found yourself so engaged by a sales person that you forget you are being sold? Enthusiasm wins. The result may be buyer remorse or worse, deception. Perhaps a new hire enthusiastically convinces you that they can “do the job” and soon the facts do not support reality. A very expensive mistake for a small business – costing the company time and money.

On the flip side, a confident person can be so overtly confident they fail to listen to others or fail to create a following.  Confidence is not arrogance. Confidence can easily delude rational thinking.  The love of power convinces the most confident they can not fail, thus losing all sense of humility and gratitude. When you look around you and no one is cheering you along, your confidence has removed your ability to attract others. There is no emotional appeal. You are now the leader of no one.

Confidence is defined as full trust; belief in powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing, belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance.

Enthusiasm is defined as absorbing or controlling possession of the mind by any interest or pursuit; lively interest.

How do you create balance and avoid the extremes? The perfect blend of confidence and enthusiasm is pitchman Ron “Ronco” Popeil.  He used demonstration to prove his inventions were viable and trustworthy. He used hype and selling to capture our mind share and imagination.  Who can forget his famous, “But wait, there’s more!”  Son of an inventor, Popeil is one of the most famous marketing pitchmen.  He showed you how you could dice onions, so you won’t shed a tear.  How you could depend on his electronic dehydrator to feed your children healthy fruit snacks instead of candy.  The lessons in all the infomercials where about solving a problem. Confidently.

What is the financial impact when you expertly blend confidence and enthusiasm?  Many of the Popeil inventions, most designed by Ron’s father, sold over 2 million. Ron Popeil is not rich solely from his fishing poles and spray on hair inventions. He is rich because he used enthusiasm to get our attention followed by confidently demonstrating how he solved our problems. He sold it. We bought it. We bought his confidence.

Whether you are pitching for investor dollars or motivating your sales team, you must build trust.  Demonstrate reliability and accountability.  Show the why.  Why you, why your company, why your ideas, why now.  Then use your persuasive personality to make sure the message is received, understood and people are left wanting more.

Enthusiasm without evidence is hype.  Hype doesn’t convince anyone, only gives us reason to be suspect.  Don’t oversell, don’t undersell. Confidence alone is mundane. Lead with enthusiastic confidence. A moderation of the two, equal but not separate, wins.

“Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” Norman Vincent Peale

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

How May I Help You?

ImageIf you provide service as part of your value, the first opportunity you have to learn about your customer’s needs is to ask one very simple question, “How May I Help You?”.  These five words will enable you to define the pain and opportunity. Carefully listening to the response opens the door for how you can provide the greatest value, how you might actually help!

Asking someone how you can help them may be viewed as a conversation opener. It does provide a moment to engage.  Engagement is critical in moving a target to a potential buyer or consumer of your goods and services.  What better way to get the dialogue started by asking how you might fulfill a request or need.

Asking someone how you can help them is different than using professional etiquette to ask, “How are you today?”.  Though this is a nice sentiment, it doesn’t require you to stop and listen. In fact, most people use this as a long form hello or welcome.  Many will respond with a trite and unemotional “good”, when in fact it may not be how they are at all. It limits your engagement.

The better way to open up a dialogue with a potential customer is to ask how to help them.  It requires you to pay attention.  It means you have to participate in a conversation that will have to use your perception skills, your listening skills and your problem solving skills.  A much higher demand upon your brain than a rehearsed canned response of “good”.

A person skilled in the art of providing outstanding service will anticipate the potential requests that will ensue from the question of how you can help.  The proposition of providing outstanding service also demands that the response demonstrates how you plan to deliver the help or better qualify the type of help that will best serve the customer’s needs.

Expectations of your engagement will be defined when you ask how you can help someone.  It is up to you then to determine how you can deliver that help or point them in the right direction.  The first impression is set by your willingness to open the door, invite someone in and learn of their requirements.

Here are some easy ways to remember how to create the greatest value of HELP:

H = HOW the person defines their need when you ask how you can help them. It is your opportunity to determine how you can be the best in serving them when you ask the question.

E = EXPECTATIONS are set when a person is asked how you can help them.  Knowing exactly what is expected gives you the opportunity to WOW them with your determination to provide outstanding service.

L = LISTEN carefully when you ask someone how you can help them, as they will assume you will hear and understand their needs.  Your first response will be their first impression of how good you will be in helping them resolve their problem or attain their goal.

P = PREPARE to deliver when you ask how to help.  Every request may be unique; however, you have standard services that will fit the needs with or without some customization.  Know your responses and the value that you will provide in helping them.

Most important, when asking someone how you can help them, is to respond with honesty.  If you cannot help, tell the person you are not able to help.  It is a measure of your integrity.  If you can extend yourself by giving them a referral to others that can help or pointing them to another resource, you will be a better service provider.  Your value to help does not require you to actually provide the help, only yield to a pathway that gets the person to where they can get the help they need.  Then you are truly a great service provider.

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.  ~Mohammed Ali

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Best Gift to Any Business is a Referral

iStock_000022240123_ExtraSmallAre you looking for the perfect gift to give your customers or clients this holiday season?  There is one gift that has far greater lasting value beyond a spoken word of thanks, a sparkly holiday card or overflowing basket of nuts and baked goods.  It is the ultimate gift — the gift of a referral.

When you tell a client or company that you believe in what they offer, so much so you are willing to tell others, you are bestowing a very special tribute. Beyond the confirmation, providing an unsolicited referral requires thought and work. It is a bit like the effort of making a homemade holiday gift versus buying all your gifts online. You have to think carefully about the need and fit between the referral and referee. You are attaching the value of your name as an endorsement to the product or service.  You will forever be the link between the buyer and seller. Your gift will often be appreciated more because of the effort you put into the “making” of the gift.

Another reason for giving a referral as your holiday gift this year is the financial value. Customer referrals are instrumental for business growth.  In fact, the value of a referral can even be more than a single purchase, especially if the client offerings are complex or dependent on developing long-term relationships with valuable prospects. Your gift can shave months off of the sales cycle.  A referral can reduce the cost of sales and customer acquisition costs. You could be gifting a customer and potentially a profitable customer with significant real lifetime customer value (LCV).

Your word matters and your actions speak louder than your words.  Everyone is grateful for a ringing testimonial.  It serves great purpose to have your endorsement out into the marketplace to attract buyers for your clients and show your support.  The actual gift of a referral is going beyond championing your like and approval.  It is an affirmation that you believe both sides of the transaction will benefit. You are providing a seal of approval for an engagement between the buyer and the seller.

Yes, we all want customer recommendations on LinkedIn, Yelp and on our Facebook and Google+ pages. It is good business practice to endorse your customers and clients when they buy your services.  This will encourage them to do the same for your business.  Word of mouth and online reviews are proven to work.  Market studies show buying decisions are impacted by referrals, as noted in HubSpot’s example of the impact of social media referrals: 71% More Likely to Purchase Based on Social Media Referrals [Infographic]. These endorsements are reviews of our work. They are critical to marketing today.

Knowing the value of a review and recommendation, the referral puts financial value to your words.  As you put together your shopping list this holiday season, think about the best gift for your customers.  A gift that only you can provide by making a meaningful connection.  A word of gratitude followed by an invitation to do well.  A contact that can lead to revenue. Give the ultimate gift to those that pay you. Give back by giving them a customer!

The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Return on Marketing Requires an Investment

One of the most important decisions a business owner or CEO will make is establishing a budget for marketing. Like talent, product and infrastructure, marketing must be viewed as a necessity in business.  Marketing expenditures are essential investments for growth.

An average SMB (small-to-medium size business) will typically set a marketing budget at 4% to 6% of sales revenues.  There are several factors that can impact this budget.  As an example, a well-funded startup may invest 20% of revenues for aggressive consumer acquisition programs and advertising.  Notice, the “well-funded” qualifier.  Likewise, there is always difficulty in setting a budget for a pre-revenue company. Entrepreneurs will often spend most of their investments in product and then struggle to bring in sales. Startup costs must include marketing.  For every dollar invested in product, people and infrastructure, an equal dollar should be set aside for investment in sales and marketing.

Here are three simplified phases for marketing investment planning:

1.  Brand Awareness:  Your marketing investment should start with focus in reach and awareness including brand identity, a website, company advertising and direct and social marketing.

2.  Engagement: The second phase invests in additional marketing programs that support your sales efforts including lead generation, publicity, web marketing (SEO and SEM), market validation, events, advertising, presentations and customer case studies.

3.  Nurture:  Finally, maximize your marketing investments with customer communications, CRM services, loyalty initiatives and nurturing programs to maintain the valuable potential and existing customer relationships.  Once you have them engaged, use your marketing spend wisely to develop and grow your relationship.

After your marketing budget is defined, you will want to establish how you will measure the success of your investment.  ROMI is the acronym for Return on Marketing Investment.  The calculation is total revenue divided by marketing spend.  ROMI = Revenue ($) / Marketing Spend ($).

Some marketing activities such as branding, advertising, PR and social media are harder to track impact and influence. As a rule of thumb, the simple ROMI equation gives you a thumbnail sketch of your return on your marketing investment.  ROMI is a good KPI (key performance indicator) for leaders to use in the business dashboard.

If you are a startup or pre-revenue, the marketing spend will be set as your budget for purposes of forecasting. Some may argue that there should be other factors added or subtracted, such as attributable revenues; however, most businesses have a difficult time tracking every dollar spent on activities such as advertising. Start with the broadest “buckets” and as you increase your marketing reporting and tracking sophistication, you can scrutinize spending with finer analysis.

Marketing is an investment.  Success in ROMI requires budgeting, reporting and analysis in order to fully actualize the benefits.

In lean times, business owners have a tendency to cut marketing spend. Lost time and lack of investment, even during challenging periods, impacts long-term growth. The result may not be felt right away. It is an illusion. Prolonged periods of reduced marketing spend can dramatically reduce sales opportunities. The fewer dollars you put into a marketing budget the greater the exponential impact on future revenues.

Similar to an investment savings account, the more you put into your “growth” marketing account, the higher potential return on your investment. The more dollars spent on high risk marketing activities, the greater risk to returns. Any sound investment advisor, marketing or financial, will counsel a business owner and CEO to invest based on the organization’s risk tolerance.  Marketing investments should be treated like any financial investment.  Know your risk tolerance, invest accordingly.  If the business has low tolerance for risk, eliminate marketing spend in expensive tactics that are difficult to measure. Always diversify your investment to mitigate risk.

In order to qualify for a return, it requires an investment.  Failing to set aside funds to market is failing to invest in business sustainability.  Expectations of sales without an adequate marketing budget is a business built on luck. Though we would all like to be lucky, if you plan to sell something, invest in marketing to create the sale.

I have a problem with too much money. I can’t reinvest it fast enough, and because I reinvest it, more money comes in. Yes, the rich do get richer.” -Robert Kiyosaki

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.