The Top 5 things I learned in 2013.
1) Why bother selling ice to Eskimos?
I’ve been in BNI chapters for years at this point, and when I joined a chapter just outside my new home of Charlotte, I seemed to have some real trouble breaking in and getting quality (or even quantity of referrals). Heck, our Bite Sized Business Development program came out of the desire to provide better quality to a larger quantity of small businesses.
What I realized is that once someone has a solution, even if yours is better, is that they will stick with the momentum.
This is why incumbents usually win elections too.
In my chapter, there were already key, pre-existing relationships with a marketing consultant who had to leave the chapter, and was already well connected with most of the members of the group. And he continued to get the referrals and connections.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago - I met a SBA officer who didn’t have a connection to a business consultant who could put together a coherent business plan.
There was an unfilled need- and with that one introduction, I recieved several high quality referrals in the last week.
Is this a new lesson? Not at all, but rather a reinforcement that a key component of any strategy is to focus your efforts where there is a need, and to shy away from opportunities where there is no need.
Even if you can sell ice to Eskimos, why bother? Selling ice to folks in the desert is always a far better use of your time.
2) Strategy first isn’t optional.
We had a particularly frustrating client this year who wanted us to execute a strategy on their behalf. And we were looking to keep our newly established execution wing of Leading Results busy. So we executed an interesting sounding strategy on their behalf.
And got really terrible results.
We ended up wasting our time and their money (ouch) executing a marketing campaign, website and search engine volume strategy for a market segment that barely existed.
We realized this mistake about 4 weeks into the program when we did a call with one of their ‘ideal clients’ who didn’t feel that they were in the target niche at all!
- Strategy work takes work
- Strategy work is an analytical process
- Strategy work can be a scientific process
- Strategy work must be testable
- Strategy work must be tested on a small scale.
- Strategy work isn’t optional.
- Strategy work is a profession in its own right .
If you don’t do strategy first with a qualified professional (and it takes years of training to get good at strategy), don’t be surprised if your marketing/advertising/PR/SEO campaign doesn’t or barely works.
3) Traditional SEO stopped working, and is more valuable than ever.
Traditional SEO techniques and methods have been hurt tremendously with Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird. And those changes have altered how traditional SEO works to begin with.
Google is favoring longer, more in depth, more interesting and more relevant content. Content farms aren’t as useful as they were two years ago. (Though they still have a place for a writer to take a starting draft from)
Link building in an automated and or systematic way has been crippled.
So is it any wonder that traditional SEO companies are very rarely able to get the job done? Their entire world has changed. Now to get rankings for their clients, they need writers, designers and the ability to make meaningful content.
This also opens up an opportunity for companies that have writers, designers and storytellers to gain ground on their competition by being better at creating and sharing intelligently meaningful content. (At Leading Results, we’re filling that particular gap for our clients)
The map for SEO success with Hummingbird isn't set yet - we have an agile process that we use to continually test what is and isn't working well. So if you are talking to someone who has an exact map for the new environment, be wary. I’ve talked to the best in the industry that, at best, have pieces of the new roadmap.
4) Modern Marketing is education,
“We love to buy, but we hate to be sold”
- Jeffery Gitomer (but I think he sold us on that it’s his original line)
Modern sales and marketing is an extension of education.
- Education of how a product and/or service really transforms a company.
- Education of what a company is really loosing by not employing you
- Education of how well integrated your company is with theirs on many levels
- Education of why they shouldn’t keep going without you.
- Education of how some of their core beliefs aren’t what they think they were, because you have expertise that they lack.
Some of the above comes from The Challenger Sale, and other aspects from core principles of Inbound/content marketing.
If we don’t educate someone on why they should spend a minute researching us, why would they?
If we can’t educate someone in that minute on why they should invest 10-15 minutes researching us, why would they?
And if in those 10-15 minutes, we can’t educate somebody on why they should invest the mental time and effort of entering into a sales process with us, why would we expect them to at all?
Effective sales has changed dramatically: Are you educating or ‘closing’ your customers?
My sales training was always about closing my prospects. What I’m watching now is that we need to always be educating, and always be questioning. If that’s done right, the client closes themselves most often.
5) Conversions without conversations likely aren’t.
Conversions - when someone clicks and downloads a piece of information, watches a video or similar - are irrelevant unless you know the context in which they are seeking that information. Buyer Personas (Ideal Clients, etc) matter. A lot.
We want content, experiences, partnerships that are just for us. Without knowing what buyer persona is visiting your site, or talking with a salesperson, we are likely to flub the relationship. I’m becoming convinced that early segmentation is a key component in this process, and the sooner you are addressing exact concerns, the faster your sales process will go.
Traditionally, very little thought goes into channeling the overall marketing funnel into smaller, functional “straws” of buyer personas that may be related, but have very different needs, wants, desires, goals and priorities.
Humans also generally make decisions with between 3 and 5 key factors. So addressing every one of the key factors as a laundry list is nice, but irrelevant.
With a bit of research, you can be very accurate to the exact features and benefits that benefit your prospects the most. When we focus on those fewer benefits, we benefit from shorter, more meaningful sales cycles. You will too.
If you'd like to learn more about we learned last year, drop us an email to email@example.com and we'll let you in on the webcast we did for our clients on all the lessons the entire team learned.