A recent survey by the CMO Council came back with a resounding yes when they found that 87% of B2B customers were either heavily (27%) or moderately (60%) influenced by online content in their buying decisions and furthermore 35% believe that online content highlights the vendors that best understand their needs.

This being said it begs the question if B2B buyers are influenced so heavily by online content what characteristics of the content influences them the most? The CMO survey asked this question and according to the report, the characteristics most valued in B2B content are:

  • Breadth and depth of information (47%);
  • Ease of access, understanding and readability (44%);
  • Originality of thinking and ideas (39%).

The report also asked what B2B customers liked least in online content and found that brands should avoid the following characteristics:

  • Too many requirements for download (50%);
  • Blatantly promotional and self-serving (43%);

The CMO survey went on to ask the type of content that influences B2B buyers the most:

  • Professional association research reports/whitepapers (67%);
  • Industry group research reports/whitepapers (50%);
  • Customer case studies (48%);
  • Analyst reports and whitepapers (44%); and
  • Independent product reviews (40%).

So it can overwhelmingly be seen that B2B buyers are most impressed and will make the best buying decisions when the content provided by a company is not just an online brochure about how good the company is. What inspires a B2B customer to buy is when a company engages with current research from its own professional associations and industries, enables current customers to be seen and heard online and can provide product reviews that are verifiably independent.

This information is gold to B2B vendors and could easily form the basis for a content marketing strategy that will produce real results because it is based on sound data of what B2B customers believe in and want to see online.

Marketers everywhere are trying to limit the risk of being blacklisted by the major e-mail providers as well as the e-mail users, because they know it is much harder to fix a bad reputation than it is to watch out and behave.
As a result, the internet is full of advice on how to prevent getting blacklisted. The more obvious ones are: avoid using certain risky words (free, buy, win, etc.); balance the amount of text and pictures; send e-mails from a reputable e-mail provider; send only to people who gave you their permission; include the Unsubscribe link; ask them to white-list you etc. Of course, we expect that you’re a legitimate business that just wants to get to their customers rather than a dodgy trickster who’s not afraid to use more cheeky tactics.
For tricksters, there is a whole different range of advice available out there, but because we’re a legitimate business too, we’ll stay away from that.
So let’s get to the less superficial advice now. This advice is not as commonsensical and tends to be technology-based.

  1. Targeted campaign
  2. Use marketing technology that helps you segment your customers precisely and target them with content they’re likely to utilise. Segmentation criteria based on which you can divide your customers can be everything from their stage of readiness, interest in a particular topic, size of an organisation, budget, recent purchases etc. – or any combination of these factors. The more specifically you target, the more chance you have of getting through!

  3. Spam checks
  4. There is technology on the market that scores your e-mails for spam on a scale of 1 to 10. By spending a bit more time adjusting the content, you can optimise your message so it passes the spam filters and still evokes positive reaction. Who knows, maybe you can stuff in way more than you are doing now!

  5. Track campaign deliverability
  6. Finally, after segmenting your leads and checking for spam, use campaign monitoring technology to see which e-mails get opened by whom, how many times and whether the links in your e-mails were followed by every individual lead. This way you can test multiple campaigns at once, see which tactic harvests more success and optimise the rest of the campaign accordingly.

Some say e-mail is dying and the main reason that it’s too impersonal – hence spamming. Others will argue that if you keep making it personal, it’s here to stay. What do you say?

ITtoolbox found that 70% of IT professionals rely on whitepapers to make purchasing decisions and there is a great deal of evidence that whitepapers are relied on by most companies when beginning the purchasing process.
Whitepapers are informative and as such, they are sought after by prospects early in the sales cycle and can generate quality leads. This is supported by a recent KnowledgeStorm and SiriusDecisions study that concluded whitepapers were more valued by those at an early stage in the sales cycle—more so than free trials, analyst reports and webinars.
Peter Spande, director, TechRepublic.com recently said “Successful whitepaper marketing hinges almost exclusively on the quality of the whitepaper itself. Still many vendors expect great things from their whitepaper marketing efforts but give very little thought to the actual development and creation of the whitepapers used for these efforts”.
However, it is important to note that the quality of the whitepaper is vitally important. If the reader perceives the whitepaper is a thinly veiled sales brochure, they quickly become switched off and stop reading. Nonetheless, if the whitepaper contains quality research and information and avoids any reference to your company or sales for at least the first half of the paper, then trust is built and lead generation from the whitepaper increases greatly.
The type of content that works best is definitely educational and well researched. For example, talking about how overnight air transit can speed business transactions is much better than discussing the benefits of FedEx next-day services. Other educational content could include key market drivers, how the market has evolved over the last few years and what to look for in an ideal solution.
It is also important to stress that the whitepaper cannot be an isolated sales strategy but needs to be coupled with e-mail collection and follow-up, initially by automated e-mail but then by a phone call. If it is isolated and not part of an overall sales strategy, then it will not reach its full potential as a lead generator. Whitepapers can definitely help your sales, if properly constructed and used as part of a sales strategy.

Social media marketing is only as good as the content created to support it. Jumping into Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest is all very well, but you need a coherent strategy for the meat that will make your presence a compelling attraction to clients and potential customers.
Here’s a short guide to creating a social media content strategy.

  1. Find your platform
  2. Who are you trying to reach and where are they? You need to know this to produce the right sort of content for each social media channel. Lots of links won’t work on a smartphone-accessed platform.

  3. Tailor your content
  4. Content can be broadly the same across all platforms, but you need to use the right language and format for each one.
    And remember how short attention spans are online. A steady stream of positive company news will soon get people turning off. Mix it up.

  5. Plan ahead
  6. Social media is a long term project that will fail if it launches in an explosion of enthusiasm that turns to a slow dribble.
    Plan ahead to keep your content coming.
    A monthly calendar will help you time your posts and you can buy automating software like Hootsuite to get ahead with your content creation while the posting is left to the machine.

  7. Don’t step back
  8. If you do automate then be double sure to keep on top of posts. Check for broken links – nothing looks worse – and follow up comments and likes. Keep a note of interactions to measure the success of your posts and repeat what works.

  9. React
  10. Social media is a new way to interact. Interaction is the key. Post and forget and no-one will take you seriously. Answer questions, respond to complaints. And, be timely, particularly with negative comments. Even if you can’t provide the full answer, acknowledge complaints as quickly as you can.

  11. Don’t ignore the results
  12. Take advantage of all the free metrics tools you can find and note all comments.
    Keep an eye on your audience as it grows or changes. You need to know what they enjoy and when they’re available for messages and to be ready to react accordingly.

Newsjacking is a buzzword in inbound marketing right now. The web is a fast-moving environment and if people are searching, sharing, hash tagging and linking to a story you could get your page or blog into the mix with quality, current content.
However, a word of caution, newsjacking can backfire. Horror stories of companies which appear to be trying to cash in on tragedies fly around the web. Never let newsjacking hijack your sense of what’s right and tasteful.
Here are four ways to get it right.

  1. Fast reaction
  2. Speed and accuracy are paramount as news breaks. You can see an example here – just the bare bones, but remember that you can update and expand at a later date.
    It’s tough for a small team to break news, you need to be really on top of things in your industry. But if you’re first, yours could be the page everyone links to.

  3. Added value
  4. Once the first wave of attention has passed, the facts are no longer enough. This is the time – and we’re talking hours – to bring your personal expertise to bear. What can your readers learn from a story? If you can add real value or insight to something that’s happening in your industry you could reap links galore for your page.

  5. A quick analysis
  6. Opinion follows news as surely as night follows day and if you can come up with a striking and considered view on a big story people will want to hear it.
    Be timely and don’t be afraid to be controversial if you’re prepared to stand by your opinions and they’re honestly held.
    This blog from internet marketing experts Hubspot on Tumblr’s sale to Yahoo got the writer BBC airtime as an ‘expert’ with priceless coverage for his company.

  7. Bringing up the rear
  8. As the news machine moves on to pastures new you can consider the long-term impacts of a big story. You’ll need to be able to work out what will last and is worthy of this sort of deeper analysis. Don’t take a false position simply for the sake of controversy, but do try to be creative and think laterally.

Newsjacking can send your traffic figures spiking if you do it well, but remember that to keep visitors coming back you need to give them something with lasting value too.

Wherever there’s a new area of business thought soon – as surely as Monday follows Sunday – there will be consultants offering to provide you with all the answers. But are CRM (customer relationship management) consultants worth considering for your business and what can they bring to the table?

There are probably as many definitions of what CRM consultancy is as there are CRM consultants, some will help you implement CRM software, others offer a more holistic approach. There are many ways you can start looking for the ideal partner, in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM world your safest bet would be Microsoft Pinpoint.

CRM systems can be complex and if you’ve seen our previous blogs on the subject you’ll have read that it’s possible to pay for more power than you need and that the way the software is used is key – take up and buy in from your staff can make all the difference between success and expensive failure, and plenty of CRM systems (more than 30% according to Gartner) end up gathering dust rather than gathering leads. With this in mind, you may wish to engage CRM consultants to guide you through the whole process, from choosing the system that is right for you to ensuring that you get the very best out of your system.

However, some CRM consultants – the best, many would say – will see CRM as more than just technology. It can be a whole-business philosophy and a way of thinking that permeates the whole organisation, simply putting the customer first.

Taking this approach may well involve installing a CRM system, but it may not, particularly if you are a small business and the cost will be prohibitive. Looking at the organisation first is also more likely to result in choosing a system that is designed around your needs and practices rather than squeezing your behaviour into what the computer says you should do.

There is a great deal of research you can do yourself, but sometimes the experts are needed to make sense of what can be a complicated and daunting area to approach. It needn’t be, CRM is at heart a very simple set of processes and a good CRM consultant will make that clear to you.

CRM consultants may seem expensive, but if they do their job correctly they will save you money in the long run, whether it’s by making sure you don’t waste money on the wrong system or by ensuring that the system you do choose is properly used to make a difference to your bottom line.

If you are like most of marketers, you spread yourself thinly: you work on your campaigns, take care of leads, monitor your progress and plan into the future. Today we’ll talk about staying on top of your game with keeping in touch with your leads: in real time.

We don’t need to mention it’s important or desirable to engage with potential customers as soon as they look you up – after all, that’s when they’re thinking about you and are likely to be positively surprised that you contacted them.

If you’re already managing to allocate some time of your week to reacting to your customer’s behaviour, that’s great. Let’s see if you’re doing everything possible to keep them updated and how technology can help you achieve this objective:

Smart trigger marketing comes in many forms. Without a smart system that recognises various triggers (for example, your lead opens a new account, downloads a white paper or it’s their birthday), you better work fast. Alternatively, use a system that is highly scalable so you can specify and optimise plenty of triggers to make sure your messages are always highly personalised. Smart tip: look for systems that allow you to plan your campaign ahead, set the trigger criteria and pre-set the timescales between multiple individual messages. You’ll keep your customers posted!

But you don’t only need to send online content to stay in touch. To really up your game, you can use systems that offer real-time alerts, so you get an e-mail every time your customer performs an important action (registers for a webinar, visits your website, etc.). Some systems are very smart indeed: they tell you who the lead is and what they’re looking for (and their entire previous journey). So you can pick up your phone, know you’re calling them when they have you in mind, call them by their name and already know what to talk about to delight them!

If you are not actively participating in LinkedIn, you are definitely leaving B2B Sales on the table. Did you know that LinkedIn adds 2 new members per second? These are all businesses who may want to do business with your business and if you are not participating, you are not getting your share of leads.

So what is a good strategy to begin to get these potential leads and then close them to a sale? Well the old adage of ‘People buy from people they trust’ holds equally well on LinkedIn as any other medium. You cannot expect to turn up on LinkedIn, totally unknown and expect businesses to buy from you.

The following strategy will help you and your business

  • Build brand awareness.
  • Establish company representatives as industry experts.
  • Connect with prospects, customers, vendor partners and peers.
  • Drive leads and sales.

Getting Started

  1. Firstly, you need to benchmark your current activity on LinkedIn and determine what it is doing for you and how many, if any, leads and sales your business is receiving per month.Check the following:
    1. Are you, your employees and your company’s profile completely filled out and up to date? When did you last update it?
    2. How many groups are you and your employees a member of currently?
    3. How often do you participate in these groups per week?
    4. How many connections, recommendations and endorsements do you and your employees have?

  3. Secondly, identify where your potential buyers are, assuming you know the profile of your typical buyer.

    Look for:

    1. Which groups are they members of?
    2. If they are members of a group, are they active in that group by regularly posting?
    3. Is the group active? Does it have regular posts in the group every day?

    It is helpful to create an Excel document that lists potential groups with descriptions, number of members, links and notes to reference later and then use it to decide the best groups to join.

    Taking Action

  5. Join 3-5 groups maximum per person where your buyers are – more than this causes you or your employees to spreads themselves too thinly in participation. If you are members of many, many businesses currently look at pruning that back to something more manageable unless they have a specific reason for being in so many groups.

  7. Begin to actively participate in those groups on a daily basis – there are tools that will help you do this by automatically scheduling your social media activity (Hootsuite, for example). Always be on the lookout for people asking questions that are in your area of expertise as this will increase your standing as a trusted subject expert. Also, do ask questions to instigate discussion. Remember, every time you comment or start a discussion this will go to every member of the group either by email (if they choose this) or by notification – this gets your name out there. Do not be afraid to offer white papers, blog posts etc. that might interest the group, even if it is from a competitor’s web site. This will increase your standing.

  9. As you connect to people, start to use Inmail (LinkedIn’s internal mail system) to connect further with people and at this stage offer them something for free (it might be a free White paper, a web site audit, an audit of their sales process etc. etc.) – whatever you can do that will allow you to collect their e-mail address or phone number and get them into your sales funnel.

In summary, this might look like a great deal of work, however you need to work out what a hot sales lead is worth to you. Instead of cold-calling, your company has built a reputation and you and your employees have become trusted sources of information. This will continue to produce more and more sales for you as you continue to engage. Good luck!

Many businesses involved in the capture of key data needed to fulfil orders or send invoices are highly dependent on their sales team for these activities. So it makes sense to get them on board early on with any new CRM solution that will make them manage their time more effectively.

The adoption of CRM by sales staff is often a task that managers find difficult to accomplish. Management spends thousands of pounds on a CRM solution only to find that the sales team is not fully utilising it for sales best practice. There are ways to get round this of course and help them with the initial and ongoing adoption of CRM.

Here are several ways that CRM can help improve your sales best practice:

Productivity Tool

Your CRM should be much more than a reporting tool. It should be a tool that helps your sales team sell more goods and services to other businesses so they can bring in more business and earn larger commissions.

Your CRM will include many features like automation, inventory management, reports and productivity tools that will make your staff more effective and productive.

Correct data

It should go without saying that your data should be correct because CRM only works if it’s correct. Your CRM will help you in ensuring that your data is consistent, clean and maintained by including drop down fields where necessary to ensure data integrity. Sales staff using the CRM should take personal ownership to ensure the integrity of the data.

Staff Training

CRM training for sales staff is essential to help them fully benefit from the system and ensure it is regularly used. Training provided should reinforce the sales process and it should be customised to meet the needs of your organisation.

This should lead to higher bookings and commissions from using the CRM system and the best practices will help the sales team realise the CRM as a tool that can increase client loyalty.

Knowledge of your customers and prospects is vital to build relationships with them and to sell to them. The extensive knowledge that you gain will enable you to develop a marketing strategy that can be laser-targeted at your prospects and customers.

A prime example of this, that is simply done but is extremely effective, is Amazon. Even when you are only viewing a product, Amazon are serving up other suggestions with their “Customers who bought this also bought these other products”, and when you buy something they serve up individualised e-mails suggesting products you might like based on what you have bought previously. This is extremely effective and is a large part of what has made them Amazon a powerful internet shop.

Where to start?

A customer relationship management system (CRM) can be a powerful tool in your marketing armoury. By recording your customer’s product likes and dislikes, their spending patterns and even their location, age and gender, a CRM enables you to build up a detailed picture of their tastes, needs and buying habits.

This in turn allows you to ‘slice and dice’ the information to segment your customers and prospects to allow you to market to them in a personalised way. By funnelling all your company information through a CRM system, you can get an accurate picture of what your customers and prospects want and serve this up to them effectively. If the message – and its timing – is right, you can improve your sales conversion rates considerably.

A good CRM, used properly and effectively, can give the salesperson and management a dashboard of actual progress of where in the sales process a particular prospect or customer is. It can effectively segment your customers and prospects (but only based on the information input into the system) and this structure, if used correctly, can help to increase sales in your business greatly. There are several excellent systems on the market now both based in the cloud (online) and offline (installed locally) that vary in price from a small amount per month for basic functionality for the small business to extremely complex systems designed for enterprise-sized companies.

At Redspire, we think Microsoft Dynamics CRM is the best system to help you grow your sales. Watch us demonstrate why!

Using CRM to Promote Sales Growth

Watch this webinar recording now to find how to use Microsoft Dynamics CRM to grow your sales.

[button size=”small” type=”rounded” color=”red” href=”https://redspire.co.uk/resources/crm-videos/using-crm-to-promote-sales-growth/” ]Yes please![/button]