The 5 Skills that Set Top-Performing Salespeople Apart, According to New Data

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Top-performing sales teams have significantly higher win rates, revenue growth, and sales goal attainment than the rest. They’re also more likely to set challenging targets. They shoot higher and still achieve.

To discover which skills and strategies set the highest achievers apart, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research conducted a study of 472 sales executives and sellers.

The results, revealed in the infographic below, represent the biggest skill gaps between organizations that meet challenging sales goals and those that don’t. We pulled data from three major research initiatives over the last four years to demonstrate that these skills aren’t a fluke: They repeatedly come up in our results for sellers, account managers, and teams.

Internalize them, start building strategies around them, and you’ll see your efforts pay off.

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Source: The 5 Skills that Set Top-Performing Salespeople Apart, According to New Data
blog.hubspot.com/sales

How to Leverage User-Generated Content in Your Marketing Strategy

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These days, the phrase “content is king” still holds true (to an extent). But the rules surrounding content production as well as our understanding of it as marketers has changed. No longer is it about having content in spades, it’s all about quality.

Having one great piece of content is always going to be better than 10 second-rate pieces that don’t add any value for readers. However, if you can consistently produce great content on a regular basis, that’s enough to dominate the online marketing realm.

Unfortunately, about 70% of marketers still lack an integrated or consistent content strategy, based on research from Altimeter. Creating great content is hard, and many marketers still don’t have sufficient knowledge or adequate resources to produce high-quality content on a regular basis. Some produce generic content, which is akin to replicating a cola brand. You’re not innovating and it’ll never be as good as Coke, in which case no one’s going to buy/drink it.

Let’s face it, most brands don’t have the resources or expertise to compete with larger, more established companies with bigger marketing budgets. So how can they create high quality content at scale?

Well, one great way is to crowdsource. No one knows your readers better than they know themselves, and you simply can’t compete with the collective knowledge of an entire audience.

In this article, we’ll focus on why brands should let their users help create value in content.

How to Leverage User-Generated Content

Owned Media vs. Earned Media

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Different types of media can be utilized to improve your organization’s value creation initiatives. One type is “owned media.” This refers to the content that your organization has 100% control over, including your company’s official website, company blogs, and your official social media pages.

Owned media may also come in the form of case studies, whitepapers, and ebooks. These types of media are not only controlled in terms of production, they’re also controlled in terms of distribution, because much of it is “gated”. The primary goal of owned media is to provide value to provide value through content marketing to generate and nurture leads.

Though there are many advantages to having complete control over your content, it doesn’t always work well to build trust with your audience because it isn’t “peer reviewed”. In some cases, owned media can also end up being over-technical, product-centric, and self-serving, hence the lack of appreciation from users. There’s only so much a brand can achieve if all their conversations and interactions are one-way.

The media type at the opposite end of the scale is “earned media.” Simply put, this refers to the media exposure earned by your brand through word-of-mouth. This exposure could stem from your own SEO efforts, high-quality content you publish that goes viral, great customer experience delivered, or pretty much anything else your brand does that compels individual users to create content with your brand’s name on it.

As the title suggests, “earned media” is the type of media or exposure your brand has earned by doing something positive or negative. These also come in various forms, including reviews and feedback, recommendations, press coverage, and articles, amongst others. The reason earned media works so well to build relationships is because it places users into your media channel, turning attention away from your brand and onto your audience.

In terms of building awareness and trust, earned media can be a gold mine. It helps build your community through social proof, and provides you with user-created value that leads to more opportunities for engagement. Not only does it facilitate improved ways to learn about your prospects/customers, it opens up a dialogue for two-way conversations so users can interact with your brand.

Oh yeah, it’s also free.

Benefits of User Generated Content

Why wait for people to start talking about your brand when you can create a channel for them to make themselves heard and facilitate User-Generated Content (UGC)? Every piece of content a user produces on your website or site’s outpost becomes branded UGC. Brands can provide a means for their users to collaborate with them via their website, forums, and social media platforms to power up these channels with activity.

For the users, they create UGC to express themselves and gain recognition. It’s a win-win situation, as brands greatly benefit from the buzz. Here are just some of the advantages for brands:

  • UGC helps brands understand their target audience better.
  • UGC improves site engagement and time spent on the website.
  • UGC increases customer satisfaction through conversations.
  • UGC provides means for other users to connect, which then, builds a stronger community.
  • UGC improves the brand’s search engine ranking and online visibility.
  • UGC is inherently peer-reviewed, making it more trustworthy.

More importantly, UGC creates a competitive advantage for brands that is inherently difficult to replicate because communities can’t just be copied.

Think about the power of sites like Wikipedia, whose moderators are crowdsourced users that help make the site better because they care about being part of an active community. Imagine how difficult/expensive this would have been to accomplish with owned or paid media. Now you see the power of user-created value.

Another great example would be the Inbound.org community, which has over 170k professional marketers who are happy to share their knowledge with other members. Everyone has their own opinions and experiences so this creates an unrivaled source of marketing expertise that makes the community extremely attractive for anyone looking to learn about sales/marketing.

Potential Challenges of Building a Community

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You can’t build an empire in a day. In today’s highly connected world, there are plenty of challenges brands face when trying to build an online community.

While UGC is definitely a cost-effective approach, one bad apple can ruin the bunch. The first problem with UGC is that since it comes directly from users, it can’t be controlled by the brand. This opens up areas for concern with trolling, negative comments and various legal compliance issues, just to mention a few.

As the name suggests, it’s the user that generates the content. Thus, it is their content and they can essentially create whatever they want, whether it’s good for your brand or not.

Which leads us to another challenge, how to maintain and moderate UGC. This is where the community manager comes in. He or she must be able to keep users engaged and set the tone for what themes, subjects and topics users should contribute towards. An experienced community manager should also know how to create content, handle PR issues and provide support to users.

Another challenge is the amount of time need to build a community. It’s not a one-time, big-time deal. Like in-house efforts, UGC requires resources, continued effort and time for it to work.

Some brands launch online communities that offer many features, which can lead to high development costs. For instance, some have extensive communications, search and analytics functions. These features can require huge amounts of resources to develop, all of which could potentially go to waste if the feature doesn’t get used or is fundamentally flawed.

Apart from the above, other potential issues include developing an authentic brand voice, respecting boundaries, keeping your community engaged, and policing content. Though this might seem a little daunting, I can assure you that the benefits of having an active community far outweigh the development and maintenance costs.

How to Encourage Users to Create Value

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At this point you’re probably asking “how do I get users to create value in the first place?”

First, you need to give them a reason to become part of your community. You need to make them WANT to be part of the “squad.” You can tap into their innate desire to belong to a community and help others or you can focus on the opportunity to learn from industry experts.

When a brand engages with their audience online, it sets an example and encourages other users to participate and join the conversation. This is highly evident on social media, especially on Facebook and Twitter where users can communicate with brands directly.

It’s important to know who your audience is at this point, so you can develop themes to ignite their interest. Much like producing owned media, you should first listen to your audience to find out what they’re interested in and what they’re concerned about. Then use this information about your audience to develop themes, topics and subjects that focus on their needs, wants and desires. The more user-centric your system is, the better it’ll work.

To help you along the way, here are the basic principles to creating an online community:

  • Encourage participation through incentivizing.
  • Set a standard for members to follow.
  • Think in terms of the collective.
  • Be honest and transparent with members.
  • Promote your community to attract new members.
  • Be persistent and contribute regularly to develop a voice.
  • Allow members to be independent.

The Power of Communities

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In its simplest form, members of a community help each other grow. Communities offer people support, encouragement and expert knowledge along with providing a sense of belongingness.

For brands, communities can be just as powerful. The stronger your community, the more likely it is that it will help you sustain your business. When it comes to establishing your brand as an industry leader and thought innovator, there’s not much that’s more compelling than having your own strong community.

Not convinced? Here’s the proof:

  • 86% of Fortune 500 companies report communities provide insights into customer needs (Sector Intelligence)
  • 71% of companies use customer collaborations for market research (Aberdeen)
  • 64% of companies state the brand community has improved their decision-making (Innsbruck University)
  • 53% of Americans who follow brands on social are more loyal to those brands (Convince & Convert)
  • 80% of brands say that their community building efforts have resulted in increased traffic (HubSpot)

Think about companies like Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, and Alibaba. The nature of their business models depend entirely on their communities. The larger they are, the more value they provide to individual members. But, keep in mind that these are extreme cases whereby the products are essentially the communities themselves.

Though many businesses won’t have the need or ability to create a community-centered website, they can always have a presence on social media and via blog comments, which can be just as beneficial. Online communities can help further showcase your brand’s products or services and attract new members to come aboard. Bottom line, you need to bring your community into your marketing.

Think of it as a channel for free marketing and PR. Now, who wouldn’t want that?

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Source: How to Leverage User-Generated Content in Your Marketing Strategy
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

Marketers, This Is the Best Way to Truly Serve a Nonprofit

We all want to do good in the world. Agencies have a strong tradition of taking on pro bono work for nonprofits — this sometimes means designing a logo or creating a brochure; other times it’s sponsoring an event, or even just simply offering advice.

Those things serve an immediate need, but they don’t necessarily make a lasting impact.

If you want to make a substantial difference, dive deeper: Adopt a nonprofit for one year, and treat it like a paying client. It’s a mutually beneficial strategy: The nonprofit gets high-quality attention and resources, and the agency gets an infusion of positive exposure.

How Agencies Can Serve Non-Profits

Finding a Great Match

There are thousands of amazing organizations out there — choosing just one is difficult. To select a nonprofit that will benefit from your services, send out an application that asks organizations to explain their mission and goals.

One requirement of your adoption should be that your agency will make a quarterly presentation to the nonprofit’s board, updating them on progress and next steps. Why does this matter? Because community and business leaders tend to be active in the nonprofit scene, so the potential connections could prove invaluable.

When making your selection, consider each nonprofit’s board membership. Does the board include individuals who would be beneficial for your agency to get in front of? Any potential business prospects? The nonprofit itself probably won’t be able to hire your agency after the yearlong adoption, but if you can score just one client from its board, that’s a great return on investment.

Partnering with a nonprofit benefits your agency beyond the bottom line. According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, nearly two-thirds of CEOs are increasing their corporate social responsibility efforts, in part in pursuit of intangible benefits such as bolstered consumer trust. Studies have shown that workplace philanthropy initiatives improve employee morale, increase motivation, and boost the company’s reputation among employees. It will also improve your agency’s reputation and broaden its exposure.

Begin the relationship like you would with any other client. Take the nonprofit through your discovery process to learn everything you can about what it’s trying to accomplish, the resources it has available, what’s worked for the organization in the past, and what’s been challenging.

An All-Around Win

When you adopt a nonprofit for a year, you change its trajectory. My agency has been doing this for more than a decade, and we’ve never had a nonprofit say we didn’t make a difference.

Just taking nonprofits through our discovery process points them in a better direction. We help them articulate their message. We force them to get clear about who they are, what they do, who they help, and what they need from the community to deliver those services. 

How can you make the biggest impact? Help nonprofits create events or improve upon them. For instance, one nonprofit we adopted held an annual event that brought in $25,000. We revamped the soiree, and it now nets more than $300,000 each year. Talk about a sustainable, lasting difference.

Adopting a nonprofit is, of course, about leveraging your resources to do good, but there’s no reason why you can’t get some traction out of the initiative, too. Once you make your selection, send out a news release. Throughout the year, report on your progress and what your partnership has accomplished.

5 Steps for Making a Big Difference

Any work you do for a nonprofit helps it carry out its mission. But to maximize the good your agency does, take these five steps.

1) Create your adoption plan.

Drum up a PR plan for how to get the word out to nonprofits about your adoption initiative. Press releases work well — it’s a feel-good story, so the local media will usually be more than happy to spread the information. Consider calling up your local United Way and asking it to notify the nonprofits it serves.

2) Select the nonprofit.

Use specific criteria to select the perfect nonprofit for your agency. The organization should align with your company culture and champion a cause you and your team care about. Also, consider what difference you’ll be able to make in both the short and long term — even if your team is passionate about a cause, it won’t be a good partnership if there’s not much of an impact to be made.

3) Align with the proper vendors.

In some cases, the nonprofit may have needs that go beyond your agency’s skill set. If that’s the case, it helps to have a network of vendors you can call on to join the cause. These vendors can include audio companies, videographers, web developers, photographers, or others.

4) Treat the nonprofit like it’s a paying client.

The discovery process is essential for figuring out what the nonprofit needs. Learn what resources it has available and what its team can take care of. Think through what you can do for the nonprofit, as well as any skills or strategies you can add to its toolbox so it can sustain the marketing strategy year after year.

5) Keep the process going.

If you’re doing things right, word will get out about your nonprofit work. Be sure to maintain a spot on your website to outline your initiative, share news, and provide the application for other organizations to apply next year. Make sure the application deadline remains the same year after year so nonprofits always know when to apply.

If you want to truly make a difference, adopt a nonprofit for a year. The organization and the community it serves will benefit, your agency will get great exposure, and, if you do it right, you’ll net some new clients along the way. It’s good for business, and it’ll make you feel good, too.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/marketing

17 Email Subject Lines Sales Reps Swear By & Why They Work So Well

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While many people agonize over their email copy and then slap a hastily written subject line on two seconds before hitting “send,” sales reps know that the situation should actually be reversed.

After all, there’s no point in crafting a beautiful message if buyers don’t even open it. And what prompts the all-important open? The subject line.

Find out your industry's email open rate benchmark and start being better than  average. Now.

But with only a tiny bit of real estate to work with, there’s no room for mistakes. With this in mind, we took to Reddit’s Sales channel to round up sales email subject lines vouched for by real sales reps. Instead of reinventing the wheel with your messages, use these subject lines knowing that they’ve been tried, tested, and verified to work by reps around the world.

Interested to learn why these subject lines do the trick? We’ve also included the logic behind each for your knowledge.

1) “I hope all is well”

The Reddit user who suggested this subject line says that “it gets a lot of reads from decision makers who are tired of people trying to serve their own self interests.” Demonstrating genuine concern for the email recipient is refreshing.

Why it works: In a study, Ferrazi Greenlight found that reps who focused primarily on building relationships rather than generating transactions were more successful in the long run. Prioritizing the relationship from the very beginning will separate your message from the scores of other hard sales pitches.

2) [Personal tidbit about the buyer]

The more you can personalize your email subject line to the person at the other end of the “send” button, the better. According to Ali Powell, principle account executive at HubSpot, the secret to writing a phenomenal sales email subject line is to make it something about them — that couldn’t apply to anyone else. 

Why it works: People prefer personal over pretty. Consider the fact that plain text emails soundly beat beautifully designed HTML emails in a series of A/B tests. Why? They look like one-to-one messages. So even though the subject line “love that you’re in a band” doesn’t look as sophisticated as “Technology For the Future,” it’s a lot more appealing to your buyer who moonlights as a drummer and controls the tech budget purse strings for her company by day.   

3) “Your annual goal”

The essential nugget in this subject line is “your.” Pair “your” with any goal or problem the prospect might be experiencing, and you’ve got a hyper-relevant email subject line. And if you can’t nail down an issue unfolding at the buyer’s company? As the redditor who vouched for this subject lines points out, “then you’re just spamming an advertisement.”

Why it works: It’s a well-known anecdotal fact that most people prefer talking about themselves than listening to others, but we now have the science to back this up. Research from Harvard shows that when people talk about themselves, areas of the brain pertaining to motivation and reward spring into action. 

4) “Quick question”

Curiosity didn’t just kill the cat, it also made the buyer click. This subject line is a favorite among redditors.

Why it works: According to curiosity-drive theory, people find uncertainty unsettling. Conversely, clearing up areas of uncertainty is mentally satisfying. Teasing the email recipient with a “quick question” without telling them what it is prompts prospects to open your message and alleviate the ambiguity.

5) “One more thing”

What could it be? The prospect will have to open your email to find out.

Why it works: Similar to “quick question,” this subject line plays on the buyer’s curiosity. They must either read your email … or live with the unease of not knowing what you’re offering.

6) “[Name] referred me to you”

Smart reps know that referrals are as good as gold in sales. According to NoMoreColdCalling.com, referred prospects have a whopping 50% close rate. If you’ve been introduced to a prospect by someone they trust, make it clear in the subject line that it’s referral.

Why it works: Referral sales expert Bill Cates notes that salespeople who get referred to new prospects “borrow trust” from the referral source. This means that instead of coming in cold, the relationship between the rep and the prospect automatically becomes warmer thanks to the relationship between the referred prospect and the referral source. 

7) “Contacting you at [Referral]’s suggestion”

Different phrasing, same idea. 

Why it works: Think of a referral as social proof on steroids. The closer the prospect is to the referrer, the better.

8) “You are not alone”

Generally, prospects only have visibility into their own organization while salespeople enjoy a broader vantage point that spans countless buyers and customers. One Reddit user pointed out that this subject line provides a good opening to an email containing a case study or testimonial from an organization similar to the prospects’.

Why it works: Who likes to be alone? The mere fact that other people have done or are doing something is often enough to sway opinions and drive action, thanks to the bandwagon effect.

9) “Good morning, [Name]”

According to Laurie Puhn, 94% of couples who greet each other with “Good morning!” each day report they have an “excellent” relationship. Granted, you probably don’t want to date your prospect, but you do want to forge a strong bond with them. A simple salutation might be just what the doctor ordered.

Why it works: In a world where fewer and fewer people greet each other when they get into the office, a simple “good morning” is a humanizing differentiator for your email. 

10) “[Name], we can help you [goal]”

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? To be honest, I really don’t care as long as you use my name in conversation. Inserting a prospect’s name into your email’s subject line emphasizes that the message is just for them.

Why it works: Not only has research shown that people respond positively to hearing their names, the phenomenon of implicit egotism holds that our name-based preferences extend to the cities we choose to live in, and what occupations we pursue. 

11) [Referral name]

This is another one from Powell’s arsenal“Just put the full name of the person in the subject line and nothing else. I promise this works!” she writes. For example: “Jane Smith” or “John Doe.” It really doesn’t get any easier than that.

Why it works: We’ve already talked about the power of referrals, which is one reason this subject line is so potent. But there’s another reason — in a sea of emails labeled with verbs and adjectives, a person’s name (and one the recipient knows well at that) stands in stark contrast.

12) “Possible meeting [date] at [time]”

The user who added sales trainer’s Kate Kingston’s subject line to r/sales gave one additional tip as to how to use it: “Setting an appointment on the :45 is much less pressure than setting it on the :00 or even :30 because it appears that you will only take up 15 minutes of your decision maker’s time.”

Why it works: According to Copyblogger, “A specific headline conveys more valuable information to a potential reader, which acts to draw them magnetically into the content.” Although a subject line isn’t exactly a blog post title, the principles of specificity still apply, and can help boost your open rates.

13) “[Situation] at [Company]”

For example, “Sales Training at Business Inc.” or “HR Services at Organization Y.” Whatever it is that you sell, connect it with the company you’re prospecting into for a subject line one-two punch.

Why it works: Just like the prospect’s own name, buyers are also partial to the name of their company. When in doubt, personalize.

14) “Who is in charge of X at [Company]?”

Seeking an introduction to the right contact at the buyer’s organization? There’s nothing like getting right to your point in the subject line of the message.

Why it works: According to sales trainer Jeff Hoffman, approaching prospects like a curious student instead of a knowledgeable expert boosts engagement. Posing a question in your subject line asking for the prospect’s help paves the way for a conversation — the point of a prospecting email.

15) [blank]

Can’t think of a great subject line? One Reddit rep endorsed using a blank subject line every once in a while.

Why it works: Research from HubSpot Sales revealed that no subject line is the most powerful subject line of all. An analysis of 6.4 million emails showed that messages with a blank subject line were opened 8% more often than those with subject lines.

16) “Can I help?”

The age of Always Be Closing is dead — to be successful, salespeople must practice Always Be Helping. Use this subject line to tell the buyer you’re eager to add value.

Why it works: As soon as your prospect sees this in her inbox, she’ll wonder, Help with what? To find out, she will read your email. The well-written, personalized contents will prompt her to respond.

17) “This is a sales email”

 Another commenter on the Reddit thread said messages with this title are opened at a “very high” rate.

Why it works: Rather than trying to disguise the reason you’re reaching out, be honest –prospects appreciate when you don’t beat around the bush. You’ll earn instant trust, not to mention differentiate yourself from less straightforward sales reps.

What’s the subject line that you swear by? Share in the comments.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and freshness.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales

The Sales Message That Generated $27,000 in 30 Days

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If you believe LinkedIn InMails “just don’t work” for connecting with prospects, you’re experiencing user error — not medium error. The user error is simple: Your messaging sucks!

As we launched a new social selling training product for the SMB market, I wanted to test an assumption on messaging effectiveness using LinkedIn InMails.

I have an empirical bias towards highly contextualized, humanized, “blended” messages that incorporate both video-based insights and short-text with a direct call-to-action. My empirical bias comes from training more than 75,000 sales professionals, but I thought I would publish the results of our recent social selling campaign to convince you.

I used four different types of InMails. Each of the four test message groups received 300 InMails to the same buyer persona, industry, and geography. 

InMail Type #1: The Text-Based Hard Sell

My message style was simple and direct:

  1. Question to push the buyer off their status quo.
  2. Statement with empirical data to solve perceived challenge.
  3. Landing page link.
  4. CTA to schedule a call.

Results: 5.5% response rate, $0 sales in 30 days from campaign

I didn’t have a lot of faith in this type of LinkedIn message, and the data was pretty clear. Most of the 5.5% responses were a hard no, as I didn’t build any value. Some respondents were actually pissed off at me for being a product pusher!

InMail Type #2: The Text-Based Open-Ended Conversation Starter

This open discussion was meant to gauge two things:

  1. Has social selling been a key priority in your personal learning?
  2. If yes, is Sales for Life’s content one of your core resources?

Results: 11.5% response rate, $12,000 sales in 30 days from campaign

The follow-up discussions had two paths, each based on the buyer’s interest in social selling and personal learning. Think of the message as a filtration process. The messaging style clearly showed me that LinkedIn InMails can be used similar to Facebook, Google, or Twitter chats. Remember most buyers read and respond via mobile, where the InMail conversation thread is very chat-like.

Those that moved further into the sales process (and purchased) needed to have immediate, definitive interest in social selling, as this campaign was for only 30 days. That doesn’t mean others that I had discussions with won’t become buyers in the future … they will!

InMail Type #3: The Text-Based Highly Personalized Discussion + Hard Sell

These text-based messages were written specifically to each buyer. I leveraged one of the three sales principles of social selling: Triggers, insights, or referrals that were very, very specific to the buyer or their business.

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  1. Major internal (such as a job change) or external (such as Merger & Acquisition activity) triggers to contextualize the urgency to speak.
  2. Relationship “Sphere of Influence” connection to our customer base.
  3. Insights from their competitors showing a shift in the market, and the risk versus opportunity.

Results: 17.5% response rate, $12,000 sales in 30 days from campaign

Context really helped here. Buyers can clearly tell when I’m writing to them specifically, and you can see the impact on my response rate and revenue.

InMail Type #4: The Video-Based One-to-One Direct Message With a Hard Sell

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Results: 37.3% response rate, $27,000 sales in 30 days from campaign

I’m going to let the data speak for itself! I make highly humanized, highly contextualized videos in a one-to-one relationship with the buyer. It’s like I’m in the office sitting next to them.

Vidyard ViewedIt is a magical tool in sales professionals’ hands that can drive social selling activities.

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This approach may not work for every salesperson. Response and buy rates vary heavily on buyer awareness of your solution, your influence power, how well the message resonates with them, and more. But these results are still valuable if you want to break out of the mold and try something different in your sales approach. Happy selling!

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Sales for Life and has been republished here with permission. 

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Source: The Sales Message That Generated ,000 in 30 Days
blog.hubspot.com/sales

9 Inbound Marketing Stats You Need to Know [New Data]

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The inbound movement has always been about one thing: being relevant and truly helpful to your audience.

This approach shouldn’t change, but as technology and internal company relationships change, marketers and salespeople must learn how to adapt to better serve their customers.

To better understand how our relationships with consumers and coworkers are changing, we collected data from more than 6,300 marketers and salespeople from around the globe, which we’ve compiled in the 2017 State of Inbound report. It examines the relationship between company leadership and employees, details on collaboration between marketing and sales teams, and a look at what the industry’s foremost marketers are adding to their strategy in the coming year.

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Check out the full report here, or view some of the most interesting highlights below.

9 Stats You Need to Know From the 2017 State of Inbound Report

1) 68% of inbound marketers believe their organization’s marketing strategy is effective. [Tweet this]

Last year, we started to examine marketers’ thoughts on their organizations’ marketing strategy and found that inbound marketers are much more likely to be satisfied with their organization’s approach.

We’re happy to report that this trend continued. 68% of inbound marketers believe their organization’s marketing strategy is effective. However, the majority of outbound marketers (52%) do not think their strategy is effective.

2) 1/3 of marketers think outbound marketing tactics are overrated. [Tweet this]

It’s not simply the effectiveness of the inbound philosophy that encourages us, but the success of inbound when compared to alternative methods. Each year, marketers tell us that outbound practices are overrated.

While we admit we might be a bit biased, when we cut the data, marketers agreed. According to this year’s data, 32% of marketers rank outbound marketing practices such as paid advertising as the top waste of time and resources.

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3) C-level executives and individual contributors disagree about the effectiveness of their organizations’ marketing strategy. [Tweet this]

Over the years, we’ve continued to examine the relationship between marketers and salespeople. This year, we discovered an interesting trend in the data: Company leadership and individual contributor employees are struggling under a growing corporate chasm.

This means that leadership and employees often view their company, its performance, and its future very differently. For example, while 69% of C-level executives believe their organizations’ marketing strategies are effective, only 55% of individual contributors agree. Leaders who want their business to grow must learn how to effectively communicate the organization’s vision and goals with their employees.

4) Marketers struggle most with metrics-driven challenges. [Tweet this]

Marketers find tracking and making sense of their metrics a challenge. This year, 63% of marketers admit that their top challenge is generating enough traffic and leads. This is followed by 40% who struggle proving the ROI of marketing activities and 28% who are trying to secure enough budget.

All three of these top challenges are metrics-driven. Without the proper tools to track concrete campaign results, these areas will continue to be a struggle.

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5) Organizations with an SLA are more than 3X as likely to be effective. [Tweet this]

When we began publishing this report nine years ago, much of our data revolved around the adoption of inbound marketing. As the message spread, we began to see why it’s crucial for both marketing and sales teams to adopt the inbound methodology together. One of the main ways this is done is through a service-level agreement (SLA).

Despite the fact that only 22% of organizations say they have a tightly-aligned SLA, the benefits of having one are clear: 81% of marketers with as SLA think their marketing strategy is effective. In fact, there is no combination of factors more strongly correlated with marketing success than being both inbound and having an SLA.

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6) 38% of salespeople say getting a response from prospects is getting harder. [Tweet this]

While marketers struggle with tracking the metrics of their campaigns, salespeople admit that getting a response from prospects is a growing challenge. However, as you dive deeper into the data, you see the problem starts long before salespeople begin contacting prospects.

38% of salespeople say that they struggle most with prospecting. While there is an abundance of new technology and platforms to help salespeople connect and develop relationships with prospects, many are finding it difficult to incorporate this technology into their daily routine. In fact, 19% of salespeople say they’re struggling to incorporate social media in their sales process, and 13% say using sales technologies is now harder than it used to be.

7) Marketers think video and messaging apps have the potential to disrupt. [Tweet this]

As marketers prepare for the future, many plan to use a variety of content publishing platforms. In the past, content marketers poured their efforts into their email, website, and blog strategies. But with the rising trend of content decentralization, marketers are now seeing the benefit of publishing on a variety of channels.

In our study, marketers are paying more attention to video’s global appeal, with 48% planning on investing in YouTube and 39% looking to add Facebook video to their strategy. In addition, many marketers are experimenting with messaging apps, while others continue to focus on more visual platforms such as Instagram.

But don’t think the age of the blog is over. 53% of respondents say blog content creation is one of their top inbound marketing priorities.

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8) 45% of salespeople say they spend over an hour performing manual data entry. [Tweet this]

Getting a response from prospects is not the only challenge salespeople are facing. According to our 2017 data, 45% of salespeople say they spend over an hour performing manual data entry. Another 23% of salespeople say their biggest challenge using their CRM is manual data entry.

The more time salespeople spend on data entry, the less time they have to do what they are skilled at: closing deals. Not only is manual data entry time consuming, it can also be detrimental to the business. Storing contacts in an unorganized way or not properly using a CRM can lead to a disjointed sales strategy. Businesses should look to sales tools that include automation, integrate with their other platforms, and provide insight into the full customer journey.

9) Marketers and salespeople don’t see eye to eye on the quality of marketing-sourced leads. [Tweet this]

We know there’s a disconnect between marketing and sales teams around the definition of a quality lead, but this year’s report shows a drastic gap.

59% of marketers say they provide salespeople with very high-quality leads, but only 25% of salespeople agree. In fact, the majority of salespeople — from the C-suite to individual contributors — rank marketing leads last, behind referrals and sales-sourced leads. This data continues to highlight the importance of SLAs.

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Want more data-backed insights? This is just a preview of the State of Inbound report. Download the report for free to discover how inbound marketing and sales is evolving.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

soi17-download

Source: 9 Inbound Marketing Stats You Need to Know in 2017 [New Data]
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

10 Time Management Hacks for Sales Reps

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We’ve all heard the saying “time is money.” This is especially true for salespeople. Allotting time to one prospect over another could be the difference between closing a million dollar deal and having the door closed on you. Spending a certain amount of time on one group of activities could set a rep up for record week, while concentrating on something else might launch you down the path to a slump.Time management is one of the most challenging disciplines for salespeople to master. Reps always have several important tasks competing for their attention at once. How do they prioritize and maximize their time?

Short of adding more hours to the day, a few solid time management hacks can help reps boost their productivity. Here are 10 of my favorites.

1) Eliminate administrative tasks.

To maximize your selling time, look for administrative tasks you can automate. Saving a few minutes here and there will quickly add up — and as an added benefit, you can direct more energy toward activities that are actually challenging, like giving demos or answering tough questions.

Here are a few examples:

  • PandaDoc, which integrates with HubSpot, is a good tool for reps who send sales collateral and quotes. It automatically pulls in data from your CRM so you don’t have to tediously copy and paste key details. You can send an error-free, personalized, professional-looking proposal in a few clicks.
  • Route planning software can help you figure out the most efficient way to travel to your prospects’ offices, meaning you’ll never have to manually plan your route again.
  • HubSpot Meetings lets buyer book open slots on your calendar instantly. Say goodbye to long email chains of “What about X time?” “Sorry, I’m busy …. What about Y?”
  • Todoist, a to-do list app, uses AI to learn your personal productivity habits and schedule your overdue tasks accordingly. In other words, the app will figure out the optimal time for you to get everything done.

The best tools will depend on your industry, daily tasks, and specific role, so this is by no means a comprehensive list. The gist is: Automate as much of your non-selling activities as possible.

2) Be prepared to pivot.

When I was in outside sales, I would organize my leads by location and always have the date of my last contact for each lead noted. If I got stood up for an appointment, I could quickly regroup and connect with other nearby prospects to secure a new meeting rather than drive back to the office or cool my heels in a coffee shop until the next appointment.

This tactic also applies to inside sales. Prospects cancel all the time, so salespeople should always be prepared to pivot into other profitable activities. The trick is to not shift gears on those activities. Say you’re prepared to have an exploratory call scheduled to run an hour and the prospects flakes on you. Since you’re already in the mindset of the exploratory call, spend that reclaimed hour prepping for other exploratory calls you have booked that week. Your mind is already focused on the exploratory process. Keep it there.

I’m sure some of you are saying to yourselves, that’s foolish advice — you should use that time to prospect or make follow-up calls. But here’s the thing. Unless you have your leads at the ready and you’re fully prepped to prospect, the odds are you’ll waste time getting ready to make those calls.

From my point of view, prospecting is an activity that tends to be more effective when it is deliberate, planned, and scheduled. This brings us to the next point.

3) Stick with the task you’re on.

Multitasking is a myth. Studies have clearly shown that people cannot actually do two things at once; they’re really just quickly switching between tasks. And that switching dilutes focus and slows people down because their brains have to adjust to each task. Here are two great books about the subject if you’re interested: “Your Brain at Work” by David Rock and “Focus” by Daniel Goleman.

From a sales perspective, different tasks engage different mental muscles. For instance, giving demos requires a much different mindset and focus than pre-call prep or pipeline management. Sales reps can gain efficiency by grouping similar activities.

Take prospecting, for instance. Let’s say your organization advocates using voicemail and email as critical components to prospecting, and you’ve got two hours planned to make prospecting calls. One approach is to dial the phone, get the prospect’s voicemail, leave a message, write a follow-up email, send the email, document the activity in the CRM, set a new activity to try and reach the prospect again, and then move on to the next prospect on your call list and keep repeating this cycle for two hours.

This approach can chew up a ton of time because of all the activity switching. There are a lot of ways to streamline it. One way is to group activities:

  • Figure out how many prospects you can reasonably call in the two hours if all you did was dial the phone and leave voicemail messages. Research that many prospects before your planned and scheduled prospecting time.
  • When it’s time for your two hours of prospecting, pull up the list of researched prospects you want to call.
  • Call each prospect and leave personalized voicemails based on your pre-call research.
  • Log just the call activity in the CRM and quickly move onto the next prospect on the list. Repeat.
  • Later in the day during scheduled administrative time, revisit the set of prospects you called to send out the follow-up emails and set the times you want to reach out again in the CRM.

This simple move to grouping activities will yield a much higher volume of calls, which improves the odds of actually talking to someone on the phone about what you’re selling. And that’s what it’s all about, right?

4) Swallow the frog.

Every rep has at least one task in particular that they simply can’t stand. Prospecting, logging activity, writing follow-up emails, etc. I’ve got mine. I’m sure you’ve got yours.

The funny thing is we can all find plenty of ways to appear productive and avoid those important tasks we dread the most. But by overinvesting in one area to avoid doing work in another, time gets away from you. And behavior like that always catches up to you in the end.

The bottom line: Just do the thing you’re uncomfortable with and get it over with. In fact, do it first if you can.

5) Keep going.

When a rep experiences success or reaches an activity goal, they often take a break to pat themselves on the back. While I’m not against a quick coffee run, the best time to make a call or book an appointment is … right after you had a great call or booked an important appointment. So if you’ve allotted a certain amount of time to an activity — say, two hours for prospecting — don’t stop before the time is up even if you have some success right out of the gate.

Momentum is a powerful thing. Once you’ve got it, don’t squander it. You’ll have even more to pat yourself on the back for if you just keep going.

6) Structure your day around your buyer.

According to experts, the best time to connect with prospects is in the afternoon, the very early morning, the evening, the late-mid early morning, or on weekends. I think that about covers it.

As you probably know, there is no perfect time to connect with your target buyers. It really depends on that particular buyer’s behavior and the way they allocate time to get their jobs done. If a salesperson is selling to contractors, calling at 10:00 a.m. isn’t going to work because they’re already busy on the job site. Calling on a restaurant with a thriving lunch and dinner business any time after noon is probably not going to yield a favorable conversation. Strive to structure your day around your target buyer’s schedule to avoid wasted time and unanswered calls.

7) Streamline repeatable tasks.

I’m not a fan of sales scripts, but the fact remains that if your company targets a certain type of buyer, many of your prospects will be similar to each other. So instead of formulating a brand new list of questions each time you talk to a prospect, develop a core set you can work from and customize.

Developing a framework you use to research prospects is another smart idea. Look at previous deals you won and look for details that came in handy again and again. For instance, maybe you incorporated the knowledge you found on Crunchbase in seven of the last 10 deals you closed. Once you know which data sources are the most valuable, you can immediately go to those sources when researching new opportunities.

8) Have a concise value proposition.

Another area where salespeople can waste time is during introductory conversations. At some point in every sales engagement, your prospect will ask some form of the question, “So what do you do, anyway?” If you have crisp, concise answers to the common questions you get asked every day, you’ll have more time to discuss the things that really matter to your prospects and to gain an understanding of how you can help them. Having a clear, well-articulated value proposition at the ready lessens the possibility that you stumble through the explanation. And the more articulate you are with the buyer, the faster your sale will progress.

9) Create email templates.

It’s vastly inefficient to write a brand-new email every time you contact a prospect. While you should tailor each message to the individual and their situation, you’ll save a huge amount of time if you start with a template rather than a blank slate.

Look through your “Sent” folder to find the emails you send repeatedly. That doesn’t just include outreach emails — you should also make templates for following up, scheduling meetings, recapping calls, and so forth.

10) Reduce distractions.

It can be hard to stay focused when your favorite time-wasting site is just a click away. To ensure you stay focused, ruthlessly get rid of every distraction. If you don’t use a website for your job, block it using the Chrome extension Blocksite or by following these instructions for restricting sites on Safari.

Reps should also stow their cell phones out of sight. It’s all too tempting to check social media or your texts if you can see or hear notifications come up.

These are just a few tricks I have found help sales reps gain more control over their time and their results. What clever hacks have you come up with to save time and be more productive on the sales floor and out in the field? Share your ideas in the comments.

This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.

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Source: 10 Time Management Hacks for Sales Reps
blog.hubspot.com/sales

Clips 101: How to Use Apple’s New Camera App

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Marketers and readers agree — videos and social media make up the next great frontier of content marketing and distribution.

The harder question to answer: How do we quickly and easily make those shareable videos our audiences want to see on social media?

Check out our interactive guide to creating high-quality videos for social  media here.

There are a lot of ways to create video content directly within social media apps. Think: Facebook Live, Periscope, and Snapchat Stories. But these videos are live, spontaneous, and unpolished. They’re authentic — but sometimes, you might want to create something more technical and creative.

Here’s where Clips comes in — Apple’s solution to easy social media visual content creation. Read on to learn all about the app, what you can do with it, and how to use it.

What is Clips?

Clips is a mobile photo and video editing app that helps users quickly and easily create shareable visual content for social media and its Messages app.

Its simple interface features a record/capture button, filters, emojis and geotags, and cards. If these features sound familiar, it’s because Clips borrows some of the most popular and engaging features from apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook.

But Apple isn’t trying to create another photo and video sharing app that would inevitably compete with these other platforms. Instead, it’s created one to easily film, edit, and upload visual content to apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook.

Apple takes Clips a couple steps further with two other cool features: automatic subtitling and a widget to add music from Apple Music. Let’s dive into how to use all of these neat video editing tools to make a highly shareable social media video.

How to Use Clips

Download Clips free of charge in the iOS App Store. As the name of the parent company might suggest, Clips is currently only available on iOS devices.

How to Record

When you open up Clips, you’ll see a big, red recording button. You can toggle between photo and video recording, or you can select a photo or video already recorded on your device. Tap the red button to capture a photo, or hold down the red button to record a video.

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You can record Clips up to 30 minutes in length at a time.

How to Add Automatic Subtitles

Tap the bubble text icon on the top of your Clips camera view, and choose the font style the way you’d like your subtitles to appear.

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Then, when you start recording, Clips will automatically subtitle the words you’re speaking. I had to record this video several times to get it right — you have to speak very clearly and slower than usual into your device’s microphone. Here’s what a short Clip with automatic subtitles looks like:

How to Add a Filter

Tap the triple Venn-diagram at the top of your Clips camera view and different filtering options will appear. Tap the one you like, then record your photo or video as normal.

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How to Add Emojis & Geotags

Tap the star icon at the top of your Clips camera view and choose a sticker to add to your photo or video. Here’s what one looks like in action:

How to Add a Card

Clips has a few options for static or moving images you can customize with your narration or music (more on that next). Tap the letter T at the top of your Clips camera view and select a card you want to use for your photo or video. Here’s an example I chose to wish someone a happy birthday:

How to Add Music

Clips gives you the ability to add music from your own library, or its library of stock soundtracks, by tapping the music note in the upper right-hand corner of the Clips camera view. Tap a track to download and select it for your Clip

How to Share Clips

Tap the downward-pointing arrow in the upper-left hand corner of your Clips camera view to look at your work. From there, you can create a new video or share the Clips you’ve already created.

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When you record several Clips in one sitting, they’ll be woven together into one large recording when you go to share. To avoid this, tap the arrow after each recording to create a new video project altogether.

Next, tap the sharing icon in the lower right-hand corner to pull up the screen below:

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From here, you can easily share your Clips via Messages, email, or you can save your Clips to your device.

Where to Share Clips

In addition to the channels above, you can easily share Clips where they were designed to be shared — on social media. If you tap the “More” ellipses, you can add other social networks to your sharing options, as shown below:

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Clips is a fun, easy-to-use app that allows you to create highly shareable images and videos. By adding a few embellishments like subtitles, filters, and emojis, content is easier to consume and share on a variety of platforms — without having to film and edit a video with professional equipment and software.

Have you tried creating video content using Clips yet? Share with us in the comments below.

social media marketing assessment

Source: Clips 101: How to Use Apple’s New Camera App
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

9 Reasons Your Marketing Agency's Retainers Aren't Bigger

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I’ve seen the inside of hundreds of marketing agencies over more than a decade, including my own.   

Most marketing agencies struggle to generate recurring revenue. Many suffer through the ups and downs of the cash-flow roller-coaster because they never make the switch to recurring-revenue engagements.

Some inch their way to consistency by securing one, two, and three thousand dollar per month engagements. But, those low fees aren’t usually enough to justify much work, and after failing to make a big impact on their client’s business, they get fired after 6 months or a year.

On the flip side, I’ve also had the opportunity to see many agencies prosper as they’ve secured bigger and bigger clients that stick with them for years. When I met Stream Creative (now a Platinum HubSpot Partner) in 2010 at HubSpot’s INBOUND event, they told me they had no recurring revenue. Every year I’d ask them, “How much revenue is from recurring contracts now?” Every year, their percentage would go up. Last year, their response was, “All of our clients start as retainers, and now we add projects on top of that.”

I have hundreds of stories like this. This kind of success continues to fuel me in my mission to help agencies grow their recurring revenue. It’s why I started HubSpot’s agency partner program in 2008, and why I’ve launched an agency partner program at my new company, Databox.

Below, I’ve compiled a list of some common dumb moves that prevent agencies from winning new retainers, landing bigger ones, or losing those precious few ongoing contracts — and what to do instead.

9 Reasons Your Retainers Aren’t Bigger

1) Your Own Marketing Sucks

You wouldn’t hire a dentist with rotten teeth or hire an account who has filed bankruptcy 6 times over.

So why the hell would a company hire an agency that doesn’t prioritize their own marketing?

I’m not going to lecture you on how to do this. If you don’t know how to market your own business, you have bigger problems.

But if you want to start winning more, get more at bats by doing inbound, internet marketing.

If you need some inspiration, follow the lead of Impact Branding, a HubSpot Diamond Partner who now gets more than a quarter million visitors to their site every month. “We’ve grown from two to thirty-two people and the majority of our clients have found us through our online marketing,” said Bob Ruffolo, Owner of IMPACT. “The smartest decision I made as a startup agency was to dedicate time to it and when we were bigger, to dedicate a full time person to it.”

2) Your Clients Are More Tech-Savvy Than You

Marketing technology is a given these days. Clients expect you to have expertise in the software products they’ve chosen.

When I ran my own little agency, marketing software was pretty new. Google Analytics, Moz, and Constant Contact were really the only well-known tools. There was such a lack of tools, we often edited websites with Notepad and configured our own email server for sending email campaigns.

 When I joined HubSpot in 2007, web content management systems were still pretty new and HubSpot was really just a blogging platform with some keyword research tools and a form builder built into it. Today, HubSpot is a full marketing and sales growth stack that makes it possible to execute a multi-channel marketing campaign. And at Databox, our average paying customer visualizes key performance indicators from more than five different tools.

You need to be a tech-step ahead of your prospects.

3) You Aren’t Aligned with Marketing Technology Vendors

Marketing technology isn’t just a fact of life you must adapt to. It’s a massive business development opportunity for agencies.

Here’s why: marketing technology is booming. Investors have been putting billions of dollars behind marketing technology companies (known as martech) and it’s cousin, salestech, for more than a decade now. There are a bunch of marketing technology companies generating hundreds of millions of dollars — and a few generating more than a billion dollars in annual revenue. In fact, marketers are expected to spend more than $120 Billion over the next 10 years.

Where do you think they’re investing all that money? They are putting much of it into marketing and sales, or what they like to call it: customer acquisition. In fact, they’re putting more into sales and marketing than they make in many cases, as investors continue to put money behind them and their unprecedented growth curves.

When I started HubSpot’s agency program, partnerships between martech companies and agencies was a pretty new idea. But, today, most of these companies have agency partner programs. And the benefits of partnering are great for agencies.

In addition to earning commission when you resell their products, you can also do co-marketing to generate leads, buddy up with their sales teams to get referrals, and market and sell your expertise directly to their install base. In other words, you can leverage their customer acquisitions machines to generate new clients for you.

If you pursue these partnerships to help you win new clients, you can’t fake your way through it, though. First assign someone from within your agency to identify, learn and drive adoption of new software programs.

“Clients hire us because of our experience identifying and using technology to improve their marketing and sales results. They’ve come to depend on us for evaluating new technology and presenting new opportunities to them. Even though HubSpot is a broad “all-in-one” marketing and sales platform, our average client uses more than 5 pieces of software integrated with it,” said Elyse Meyer, owner of Prism Global Marketing Solutions. Her firm won HubSpot’s Integrations Innovations Award for leveraging HubSpot and other software that is integrated with HubSpot to drive client results.  

Maybe you’re just not that into technology, though, and this doesn’t feel natural. If for no other reason, do it for the leads. “Not only do our clients get better results, but we get more opportunities with larger companies that are looking for a tech-savvy agency that can focus on their business holistically,” Meyer added.

And if you’re clinging to your “We’re technology agnostic” line, stop it. Like any other personal or business relationship, the benefits of picking a mate are greater than going it alone. Plus, I usually find that technology-agnostic agencies are actually just technology-ignorant. I bet your prospects will make the same conclusion.

4) You Look and Sound Like Everyone Else

If you work at an agency and you haven’t read Blair Enns, “Win Without Pitching Manifesto“, you are doing yourself a disservice. He says it as concisely as possible:

The world does not need another generalist design firm. There are enough full service advertising agencies and marketing communication firms. The world is drowning in undifferentiated creative businesses. What the world needs, what the better clients are willing to pay for, and what our people want to develop and deliver, is deep expertise. Expertise is the only valid basis for differentiating ourselves from the competition. Not personality. Not process. Not price. It is expertise and expertise alone that will set us apart in a meaningful way and allow us to deal with our clients and prospects from a position of power.

As I was building HubSpot’s agency program, Enns and fellow agency luminaries David Baker and Tim Williams started warning me that the sheer volume of HubSpot partners marketing themselves with the same message and the same tactics will soon make them all look like a commodity.

And even though demand for inbound-certified practitioners still outweighs supply, inbound agencies do tell me they are being shopped around more and more and under-cut by new entrants all the time.

But this doesn’t mean your agency shouldn’t do inbound marketing. Inbound is an unstoppable movement driven by buyer’s interest in self-educating, self-serving, and ultimately, being served better.

What it does mean is that you must differentiate yourself by establishing an expertise no one else can match in another way. A great example of this is TREW Marketing, an inbound marketing agency and HubSpot partner that helps companies market to engineers. But they don’t market to all kinds of engineers. They’ve specialized even further than that. They focus on working with specific types of manufacturing companies like control and automation companies, embedded semiconductor solutions, and just two other specialties that I (nor you, probably) will understand even if I name them.

Here’s an excerpt from their website: “TREW helps design and embedded companies generate demand for their wireless chips, reconfigurable FPGAs, UI development software, and electronic control solutions (to name a few!) in this rapidly changing space.” Find another agency with that on their website. Go ahead, I dare you. They even wrote the book on inbound marketing to engineers.

“By focusing on these niche markets, we bring our collective knowledge of what works to each client, making it a win-win for both agency and client,” explains Rebecca Geier of TREW Marketing. “Not only can we serve them better than anyone else because we understand their products, markets and technical buyer, we can do it faster and more effectively than any other agency. Based on our knowledge and relevant experience with similar industries, we can help them create a differentiated position, develop content engineers are seeking, and drive conversions to fuel demand and business growth.”

5) You’re Trying to Be All Things to All People

Most agencies are small. According to Digiday, “Two thirds of advertising agencies in the U.S. employ fewer than five people.”

There is no way you can be an expert at everything. Instead, partner with firms who are truly experts at things and focus your own resources on developing one or two core competencies.

“Thousands of HubSpot customers use our website templates. We’ve worked with hundreds of them one-on-one to lower their Cost per Customer Acquisition with Conversion Rate Optimization.” said Joe Jerome, owner of Brand Builder Solutions. “Not only does our efficiency allow us to beat the competition on price, but we’re continuously investing in our processes and systems around this type of work.”

I personally know several other agencies who outsource their work to Jerome’s team because his quality is high and because he stays in his lane. He doesn’t offer the kind of services his agency partners do. Therefore, agencies trust him not to steal their clients. And Jerome is often in a position to refer agencies work too.

Find partners who are experts at one or two things, and be more like them too by building your own deep expertise in one or two things.

6) You’re Not Using Data To Justify Investments

Marketing results are more predictable today than they’ve ever been. It’s not an exact science, but over time, more and more things have become measurable.

Just a few years ago, it was possible only to measure CTR of paid ads and not ultimate conversion rates. Now that’s easy. As technology continues to advance, marketing and sales activities will become even more measurable and improvable based on data.

And if you’ve been doing digital marketing correctly, you know the longer you work with a client, the more data you can collect, and the better you can predict the outcome of future marketing activities.

When you’re starting out a relationship, it’s hard to predict how much value or ROI you can deliver. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, though.

According to a survey we ran at Databox, most agencies use data in their sales process sometimes, but only 30% require their clients to give them access to data every time. In addition to putting forth a more relevant and customized proposal to the client, there must be a reason these agencies always request access. Maybe they close deals more often because they do?

Here’s how they do it …

Without even asking for anything from your prospect, you can use tools like HubSpot’s website grader to evaluate issues with a prospect’s website or competitor grader to evaluate how they compare against their competition. You can use a tool like SEMRush to evaluate ways to increase organic search traffic.

Don’t stop there. If the prospect has Google Analytics setup, ask for access so you can evaluate issues and find improvement opportunities. If they’re already using tools like HubSpot or Databox, ask for access to those, so you can look for opportunities deeper in the funnel.

If you want to make this process systematic, consider developing standardized report templates for your agency that allow you to quickly view the data the way you want to view it, like HubSpot Platinum partner, FullFunnel did, “We’ve created templates for our core funnel metric reports that make it even easier and quicker to roll out new reports to new clients and prospects.”

By doing this in your sales process, you’ll demonstrate your approach to data-driven marketing and set the stage for using data to justify future investments too.

7) Despite Your Claims, You’re Not Actually Data-Driven

All digital agencies say they’re data-driven. But, do you really use data to adapt your marketing plans? Did you do it once a long time ago for one client or do you make data-driven decisions every day for every client? Do you adapt your marketing mix for each client each month based on the performance of the campaigns you ran? Do you tweak your campaigns or content calendar to ensure you hit client goals each week? Do you tweak ad campaigns and social promotion daily as you gather data in real-time?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, you’re a rarity.

Most agencies I’ve interviewed cut and paste some data into a KPI scorecard, send it off to the client and call it a month. Or worse, they cut and paste some screen grabs from a few different tools into a powerpoint presentations, add a few sentences of interpretation and email it off to the client each quarter.

These agencies are treating “reporting” as a thing they have to do to cover their ass.

What makes this pro-active really shameful, this is not how most data-driven agencies sell themselves. Many of these same agencies set numeric marketing goals with prospects during the sales process, but don’t hold themselves accountable to achieving them. They might revisit the goals at their quarterly review, but most don’t ever re-visit them.

Don’t get me wrong. Most agencies do produce results and are able to show a lot of “up and to the right” graphs to clients. But, they could be doing much better if they adapted client marketing plans more frequently.  

There are a few agencies that do this right. Some agencies have established consolidated near-real-time views of marketing data from different sources and made these views accessible via all devices to clients and all agency employees. By making it easy to monitor data against the goals set, monthly reporting almost becomes unnecessary and marketing results can be incrementally improved.

I know a few agencies who even use mobile, slack and email alerts to let software monitor when issues arise or when goals are unlikely to be achieved. Like a software company monitors when their software or servers are down, these marketers are receiving alerts when specific metrics aren’t where they need to be. Then, they’re adapting their activities to ensure achievement of the goal.

That is what it means to be a data-driven, agile marketing agency.  

Need a system for this? Read HubSpot Diamond Partner, Kuno Creative’s process for visualizing and monitoring sales and marketing data.

8) You Are Too Focused on Top of the Marketing Funnel Services

There are not enough agencies that know how to grow sales for their clients.

I’m not suggesting you should stop building or re-designing websites, ignore search engine optimization, or social media marketing, but at a minimum, you need to be able to connect those efforts to sales.

To do that in a B2B or high-ticket B2C client, you need to serve the sales leader as much as you serve marketing. Marketing is essentially a support function for sales, so it’s ludicrous that an agency wouldn’t.

In the early days of HubSpot, we taught agencies how to generate leads for clients, which certainly helped turn top of the funnel results into client revenue. Then, as marketing automation became popular, generating qualified sales leads became the norm.

Today, generating qualified leads is no longer good enough. Agencies need to help drive CRM usage, align sales and marketing goals and messaging and enable sales teams with training and content for use during the sales process.

Many agencies have told me they’ve doubled their retainer sizes by offering sales enablement services. Other than the fact they have no reason to lie to me, I believe them. Why? Enabling a sales team is a time-consuming activity when done right. And it is a very quick return on investment when done right too. In one case, an agency reported they created a “a more stable pipeline and consistent flow of opportunities” just be getting the sales team to send out a sequence of pre-written templated emails to one additional prospect per day.

9) You Aren’t Introducing New Ideas to Clients

Typically, companies hire agencies because (a) they don’t think they can execute on certain concepts in-house or (b) because the same old stuff isn’t working as well as it once did.

It’s an enviable position to be in where clients are expecting you to pitch them new things. Most companies are expected to just do what they’re hired to do.

If your agency isn’t introducing new ideas to clients, you’re not only failing to deliver on expectations, you’re squandering an opportunity to retain and grow your client accounts.

Don’t have ideas of your own? Leverage technology to find opportunities for improvement. LeadG2, a HubSpot Platinum Partner leveraged SeventhSense, a send-time personalization solution, to do just that. Email marketing is an extremely important marketing channel for many of their clients, and they were at a loss on how to improve deliverability, opens, and click-through rates. By using SeventhSense to send emails to individual recipients based on the recipient’s activity profile, they achieved “a 26% Increase in open rate, 141.38% increase in read rate, and a reduction in hard bounces to almost zero.”

There are plenty of technology companies with clever ways to help your clients grow traffic, leads, and sales. Don’t feel like you have to figure it out all on your own.

Do These Things to Land Bigger Retainers

Most agencies really struggle to grow. The most common blocker I’ve seen is they take on project after unprofitable project.

While conventional ‘marketing agency’ wisdom says you need to go upstream to get bigger retainers, my work with HubSpot partners proves you can get bigger retainers from small and mid-sized businesses too. Sure, it helps to go upstream and you can gradually move upstream if you want. But, don’t fool yourself into thinking you need to go out and miraculously land big clients to get there.

Instead, stop making the mistakes above. Alternatively, start doing the things below.

  • Commit to consistently doing great marketing for yourself
  • Get tech-savvy
  • Partner with marketing technology companies
  • Differentiate yourself from all other agencies
  • Become an expert at one or two things
  • Use data to convince prospects to hire you and clients to pay you more.
  • Use real-time data to improve the results you deliver and ensure you hit goals that are meaningful to your clients.
  • Offer down-funnel services like CRM setup and sales enablement in order to deliver and prove ROI more easily and more convincingly.
  • Always be introducing new ideas to existing clients

Start doing all of these things and I guarantee you’ll never have cash flow problems again. Instead, you’ll start growing revenue and profit consistently. Oh yeah — and you’ll have bigger retainers too.   

scope-creep

Source: 9 Reasons Your Marketing Agency's Retainers Aren't Bigger
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

22 Writing GIFs All Content Marketers Will Understand

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Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury once said, “I’ve never worked a day in my life. The joy of writing has propelled me from day to day and year to year.”

While content creation can be a true source of joy for marketers, there are unique challenges that crop up along the way that few others would understand. Whether it’s a creative block, a harsh critique, or an impending deadline, some days can feel like an uphill battle.

Download our free guide here for tips to become a better writer. 

Luckily, the highs of writing can more than make up for the lows.

Below are 22 GIFs that accurately sum up the trials and tribulations of content creation. I’ve also included helpful tips and tools for writing success if you do hit those tough moments.

22 Writing GIFs All Content Marketers Will Understand

1) When you realize you need to write an ebook in two days

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Source: Giphy

In the daily content writing grind, it can be hard to get out of the weeds long enough to look ahead at what’s coming up in your queue. You walk in one morning, open your task list, and there it is: a huge project due in less than 48 hours.

To prevent this from happening again, create tasks for yourself to brainstorm and outline content projects a few weeks ahead of the actual due date. You may be capable of writing an ebook in two days (cue applause), but when you build more time into the process, you allow for greater creativity.

2) When the perfect title dawns on you after you’ve already published the post

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Source: OhNoTheyDidnt

You’d think that after writing a 1,000-word blog post, you could come up with one perfect title to lead the way. But sometimes the title can feel like the hardest part of the process.

In order to produce a stellar, attention-grabbing title, make a list of multiple possibilities. They don’t even have to differ greatly — you could swap out the verbs, make it a question, or try different keywords. Then, get some help. Ask for an outside opinion or two to find the title option that resonates the most.

You can even gauge which headline would be most successful with a Simple poll on Slack or a tool like Title Tester. These tools allow you to test title options against your target demographic and quickly make a decision for your blog post.

3) When you’ve been staring at your computer screen for 30 minutes and you’ve only written 12 words

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Source: Giphy

Writing is hard work. And anyone who ever said it was like being struck by lightning wasn’t capturing the whole story.

The reality is, writing is not just hard work — it’s a lot of hard work. There are many moments when you’re going to feel stuck, and at those times, one of the best things you can do is keep your computer safely on its desk and continue to write. Write utter garbage if you have to. That’s still a start. As Nora Roberts puts it, “I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank one.”

A quick online search for content writing prompts yields a number of ideas if you’re unsure where to start. You can also look to your favorite publications for inspiration. Consider how you might use what these sites have written as fodder for your own content.

4) When you strike gold in a brainstorm session

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Source: Imgur

Is there anything quite like a productive brainstorm? Ideas fly left and right, and then you have it — the moment all writers remember forever — a breakthrough. The golden nugget that straightens out whatever you were working on.

To have more breakthroughs more often, consider what works well for you in a productive brainstorm session. Is it group dialogue? Is it talking through things out loud? Is it having a safe space to feel like anything goes? Whatever works well — identify it, rinse, and repeat.

5) When a misspelled keyword is more popular than the correct version

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Source: Giphy

The people want what the people want. But when a quirk like this interferes with your blog’s editorial style, it’s best to just take the high road. Keep to your standard, and you’ll appear more consistent and reap more rewards than you would have from following the crowd.

6) When you first open your editor’s feedback

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Source: YouTube

When you first receive them, edits can seem utterly terrifying. They’re everywhere. Your document is a different color altogether. Did anything survive?

Take a deep breath. If you’re lucky, your editor not only provides inline edits, but they also leave comments to explain their thinking. Rather than click through everything and blindly accept their suggestions, take a moment to absorb the reasoning behind the changes so you know what you can work on the next time around.

Luckily, there are several free editing tools available so writers can catch more mistakes. Try running your drafts through Grammarly or Hemingway App to make sure your writing is clear, concise, and grammatically correct.

7) When all of the best data is several years old

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Source: Giphy

It’s an amazing, perfect, wonderful statistic that completely validates your blog post’s thesis. But, it’s four years old. In today’s day and age, four years can seem like a century ago. Things move so quickly that what was useful data a couple of years ago is now likely obsolete.

If there’s truly nothing else out there, use the statistic but call out the date in your writing, suggest further research be done to validate the claim today, and let readers know why you think it’s still useful to note.

8) When you have coffee for lunch

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Source: Giphy

If you’re like most writers, a solid portion of your belongings is coffee-stained. But that’s okay. It’s a simple testament to the obsession that fuels your creative genius.

While coffee can feel like the answer, it shouldn’t be the only answer to your lunch dilemma. Remember, you’ll perform best when you take care of yourself. Make sure you’re eating healthy foods, drinking water, and getting plenty of sleep, too.

9) When structural edits force you to reorder your footnotes

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Source: TV Land

If you’re not careful, sorting through footnotes can get messy, and fast. Moving around entire paragraphs or chapters can quickly get overwhelming as you try to keep everything in order.

To keep it all straight, wait to write your footnotes until your final draft. Include hyperlinks in the text to indicate the information has to be cited, but don’t actually give it a number until the very end. This way, if you move things around, you won’t have to completely start over.

10) When someone in another department underestimates how long research takes

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Source: ABC Network

“Can you have that article on the history of payment processors to me by the end of the day, or will it take a bit longer?”

Not everyone will always understand what it takes to put together something that’s not only well-written, but well-researched, too. When you come up against this, insist on quality and give a realistic estimate. Let your colleague know that the extra time will ensure the piece is as good as it can be.

11) When Microsoft Word freezes and you lose 2 hours of work

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Source: Reddit

For those who need extra help avoiding lost work, try writing in Google Docs or Dropbox Paper. There, your piece is automatically saved when you’re working online. You can also update your settings and have your documents sync to your computer, giving you the option to edit when your computer is offline as well.

12) When your post blows up and gets all of the page views

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Source: Reddit

While some posts can feel like a swing and a miss, the home runs provide a big refuel for our writing energy.

To better understand why one post goes viral and another doesn’t, build time into your process for regular analysis. This way, you can learn from the ups and downs and apply it moving forward. Tools like BuzzSumo can help you figure out where you’re succeeding and how to replicate it.

13) When you spend half the day hunting for the right stock photo

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Source: Reddit

When you’re trying to find something that represents your topic well, is eye-catching, and is something you haven’t used before, it can feel like a pretty tall order.

If you have the resources and time, try enlisting the help of your design team whenever possible. Is your piece an opportunity for a custom image? Is there something specific they could help you look for to save time? If not, check out sites like Pexels or StockSnap.io for regularly updated, free image banks.

14) When you don’t want anyone to talk to you until your post is finished

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Source: Giphy

Between instant messaging, social media, email, your phone, and your deskmates, it can feel impossible to have a few hours of uninterrupted time to dedicate to a task.

When you really need to focus, zip your phone up into your bag and let your coworkers know you’ll be offline for a period of time. If anything mission critical happens, they can feel free to grab you. Otherwise, you’re not to be disturbed.

Worried you might still get sidetracked? Check out productivity tools like FocalFilter and StayFocusd to block certain distracting websites for set periods of time.

15) When something you loved writing doesn’t perform well

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Source: Reddit

“It’s fine.”

Actually, it’s probably not. Writing is personal. Whether you’re crafting a personal blog entry or a data-driven report, you put your personal energy and ideas into your work.

When you pour your heart and soul into something and it doesn’t perform well, consider what led to the results. Is there a more appropriate platform where you could publish the piece? Did your promotion methods fall flat? Does it need another round of edits? If you believe the piece adds value and has the potential for more, optimize it rather than scrapping it altogether.

16) When you write 1,000 words in an hour

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Source: Giphy

Whether you have a burst of creativity or are simply motivated by an approaching deadline, sometimes you just dial in and go. While fast writing can be a little sloppy, it can produce some of your best work, too.

For prime productivity, quiet your inner editor and give yourself the freedom to write less-than-perfect content. When you grant yourself this flexibility, you can write uninterrupted, knowing you’ll come back for clean-up later.

Some writing software, like Scrivener, have a “full screen” mode that allows you to block off everything else on your desktop. To make your writing sessions feel urgent, try setting a timer on your phone and writing in sprints. Challenge yourself to write 100 words in 10 minutes, and see where it takes you.

17) When your editor asks you to rewrite a post

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Source: Imgur

While many writers struggle to scrap their work, starting from scratch can be a healthy exercise if you’re struggling with a piece.

Consider the fact that everything you’ve already written lives in your head. Although you’re taking a step back and setting your first attempt aside, your second stab at it isn’t the same as “starting over.” You’ve already learned a great deal from your first draft that will power you through the second.

18) When your pitch gets accepted by another publication

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Source: Giphy

The pitch process can be lengthy and disheartening. As corny as it sounds, the key is not to give up. Set reminders for yourself to follow up on submissions. When you’re denied, ask for feedback. Not everyone will take the time to give it to you, but the few who reply may provide valuable insight.

19) When you receive an angry comment on your post

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Source: waywaw

Haters gonna hate, but don’t let it get you down. One of the beautiful things about writing is you’re often taking a stance. You identify a claim and support it with thoughtful points and evidence. When someone refutes your claim respectfully, it’s an opportunity for dialogue.

However, not all comments are respectful. Choose to take the high road and keep a level head when replying, if you acknowledge the comment at all.

20) When a major influencer tweets your blog post

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Source: Giphy

Through the power of Twitter, any one of your posts has the chance to get picked up and shared by a major influencer.

To improve your chances, take a few moments to develop a promotional strategy for each of your pieces. One tactic could include tweeting your content out to influencers and letting them know why you thought to send it to them. You could also use ClickToTweet to create tweetable links of memorable quotes readers can easily share.

21) When it takes forever to hear back about your guest blog pitch

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Source: Giphy

Sometimes it takes a while to hear back. A long while.

If you don’t hear back — even for months — it doesn’t mean it’s over.

Regularly check in to confirm your submission was received, and to inquire if there is any additional information you can provide.

22) When your family posts your work on social media

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Source: Reddit

At times, you may feel like your work is unappreciated. When you’re grinding away at your daily tasks and producing quality work, you may find yourself becoming a bit numb to the process and what you’re writing.

To keep a pep in your step about your work, take the time to share it with others outside of your field. It might sound self-involved, but sometimes a little pat on the back can be all it takes to re-inspire you.

Whenever you face a challenge in your writing process, be sure to take stock and figure out the root of it. An issue is often a sign that something needs to change in order for you to move forward. For example, if you’re not feeling creative, that might be a sign that you need to take more time to feel inspired. Take a walk, read for fun, or ask someone to share what they’re working on to re-ignite your creative flame.

Whatever your struggle, as a writer, you can rest assured you’re not alone. What are the easiest and hardest parts of your writing process? Share with us in the comments below.

free internet writing style guide


Source: blog.hubspot.com/marketing