Why Blogging Works: Influence and Reciprocity

January 8, 2016

Once more, with feeling.  Blogging is just about the best way to influence buyers and build loyalty.  Here’s why.

Why blogging works - highfive for reciprocityIn re-reading the book “Webs of Influence” by Nathalie Nahai lately, just to refresh on some principles of User Experience, I am once again appreciating the depth to which she lays out the basic human principles behind online influence. Side note: I really like that Ms. Nahai highlights a “Make This Work for You” segment in each book section (multiples in each chapter) where she outlines a real world use case, bringing her writings beyond the realm of theory and science and into the world of practical use for you and me.

Triggering Social Obligations

In her book, Ms. Nahai quotes social psychologist Robert Cialdini’s statement “There is an obligation to give, an obligation to receive, and an obligation to repay” in human society,  explaining that the easiest way to initiate reciprocity is to begin by offering a gift.  At any dance party, are you waiting for someone else to make that first move?   Be that first mover.  Your gift can of course be a blog article, where you offer free advice to your audience.  Importantly, Ms. Nahai mentions that the gift you offer must actually be something of value. Upshot: skip the listicle theme and the pleas to “like” your content, and just offer authoritative, helpful content.

Gift Ideas that Build Reciprocity

If you’re not yet an active blogger, other gift ideas might include a free Skype session or Webinar, a free eBook or PDF, a special Subscriber benefit such as access to exclusive premium-value content, or a concession or compromise such as a discount on published prices in exchange for deeper insight or other value.

Online Presence Establishes Credibility

By now you probably know that diligent people check out your online presence (LinkedIn, website, social media accounts) before they decide to offer you the gig. By offering a free Resources page on this blog, as well as making blog articles searchable by topic, we establish credibility and facilitate the reference check process, building confidence in the client that s/he has made a wise selection in selecting us.

All of this may sound obvious, but bear in mind that closing the loop of reciprocity begins and ends with you.  It begins with acknowledging when a prospect or customer has visited your blog, downloaded free content or some such action.  It continues when you thank them personally (not just auto-reply) and continue the dialogue toward helping them solve their challenge, whether or not they buy.  If they buy, good; if they don’t, they still may become a referral source, a colleague, and perhaps even a friend.

Case in Point: Closing the Sale

We recently were hired by a financial services firm to help with a combined website content refresh, social channel buildout, and CRM transformation project. Closing the sale was easier because they acknowledged they had received substantial value just from our blog articles and from a handful of conversations where we discussed the practical application of our knowledge to their set of challenges. In essence, the Discovery phase of the engagement, for which we typically charge a fee, had already been substantially accomplished through that preliminary dialogue and resource exchange.  When we pointed out this concession, the Prospect agreed about the value they had already received, as well as their comfort with the progress of that dialogue and their assurance that we present a wise choice. Reference check done. Confidence assured. Deal done. Bam.

Accelerating Sales through Reciprocity

In preparing for the coming year, our team reviewed our own CRM reports, looking at the Sources of client revenue, analyzing the specific events that helped advance dealflow to successful sales.  We found a high correspondence between deal closure and the Reciprocity loop that involved prospects accessing our online content, combined with our follow-through in highlighting value already delivered before asking for the sale.  In situations where the reciprocity relationship was rather more tenuous, the client interactions seemed marked by more tentative, hard negotiations.  In deals where the Reciprocity was high, we also saw a greater incidence of multi-year client relationships.  This is the year we build on making Reciprocity a standard, repeatable process.

Over to You

As fellow humans, how can we build better reciprocity into relationships to help one another discover and solve challenges?  Can we improve on the habit of acknowledging others’ contributions to our relationships?  As sales professionals, can you use your online presence to establish credibility, begin the Reciprocity loop, and close it with your own follow-through? Love to hear your comments and stories.

Cheers, ~Ed


How our Email Marketing Beats “Best in Class”

January 30, 2013

at sign dollar sign

“I loved your email!”

“Great email, thanks! ”

 – Quotes from our audience. What do yours say? 

Higher email conversion rates are “found money”, so why should you accept mediocre results from your email marketing?  At a time when email inboxes, while still hugely relevant, are increasingly locked down by users to ward off irrelevant content, the ability to get improved email results is a complex and coveted skillset – part brand journalism, part technology, part consigliere.  Our ability to repeatedly outperform marketplace benchmarks for our clients – and our own audience – underscores our expertise at leveraging that skillset.

Crushed It Again This Year; You Can, Too

In reviewing our portfolio of client sales and marketing campaigns related to events, new products, brand building, sales expansion, environmental and business development, we repeatedly find our results to be at or above “best in class” benchmarks as reported by Eloqua, a category-leading CRM software solution provider.

The free, downloadable presentation below offers a simple cheat sheet to help you monetize your email marketing, meet or beat “Best in Class” benchmarks, and turn your organization into a Fan Foundry.

Why your open rate may seem low

Like most email marketers, you are probably haunted by the question: what about the 3/4 of our list members who did not appear to “open” our emails?  Bear in mind, the vast majority of people preview email.  This doesn’t create a “hit” in the “Opens” bucket, but they still consume the first visible screen of your email.

Your results may vary from ours also based on what you measure.  The “Best in Class” numbers pictured in the presentation above represent a combination of all email list activity across many campaigns; naturally, “raving fan” lists far outperform other general interest lists and content.  Our Fan lists generally see an open rate north of 60%.

Note, too, that this article isolates email marketing from all other digital marketing we do (mobile, websites, etc.), which we measure separately.  For a sampling of some of the CRM, email marketing, Sales and marketing automation solutions we support for our clients, see this site’s right sidebar.

Dollars and Cents, Illustrated

Using the “Email click rate” data in the table on slide #2 above, you might reasonably assume that if you are among those “best in class” companies and attaining a 5% Click rate, and your annual click-through sales are $5M, then just by being our client last year you might instead have enjoyed our benchmark-beating 7.37% click-through (average) results, thereby attaining $7.37M in revenue.  Who couldn’t use that additional $2.7M?  In fairness, there are many success factors involved and your own results may vary. Here’s how.

This is How We Do It  – Year after Year (not a fluke!)

That answer to this headline is multi-faceted, but the key factors we found (see slide #4 above) were:

  • Benefits-oriented messaging (more on this below)
  • Data / list quality
  • Thoroughly leveraging marketing technology
  • Compelling content
  • Mobile-first formatting – fully half of all email opens are on mobile devices
  • Simple, “3-clicks to convert” navigation
  • Continuous refinement in all of the above areas

Benefits-oriented Messaging

Put simply, you give get.  Lead with a relevant offer, and follow up by exceeding expectations.  In practice, we found it even more effective to give, give, and – oh yes – give again, without expecting anything in return.  As one example, our success in producing the sales, marketing and digital media event series “North by North Shore” illustrates how treating even unknown remote prospects to a “friends and family” plan resulted in a tripling of the audience size and a corresponding lift in attendance.   To read more about that case, click here.

Obligatory Disclaimer

We report only aggregated results.  While our total activity reflects messaging in the hundreds of thousands, and the Eloqua study covers millions of messaging units, nonetheless we are encouraged by both the consistency of our year-over-year results and our painstaking methodology in capturing, measuring, reporting and verifying those results for our clients so that we can confidently report them here – and, incidentally, win some repeat business.

Learn More about the “How”

Subsequent blog posts (and some previous ones – see Related Articles below) will cover the other  “How We Did It” success factors in greater detail.   Use the “Keep in Touch” button (above, right) to get those updates.  Meanwhile, if you have a question, or would like to have us present our case to your organization, or to explore ways we might help you succeed, feel free to contact us.

Cheers,

Ed

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The Sales and Marketing Alignment Conversation

October 27, 2011

The path to sustained sales and marketing alignment can be a simple one – simple to do, simple to repeat, simple to remember.  All you need is a map.  In that spirit, I attempt here to boil down some alignment opportunities for Sales and Marketing leaders.

The chart below shows the three main focus areas each for Sales and Marketing which, if approached collaboratively, can improve business results and transform the relationship.  Below the chart is a set of definitions, followed by a few examples of how to apply it to your own situation.

Sales and Marketing Alignment topics chart

Sales and Marketing Alignment topics

3 Sales goals – Value, Volume, Velocity

Value.  Since it is almost as costly to close a small sale as it is to close a large sale, Sales professionals would be wise to focus on increasing the potential Value of each sale.  In larger organizations, differently skilled teams manage different sized deals.

Volume.  The more deal flow you can create, the better your chances of growing the customer base and improving the company’s financial ability to innovate and fulfill their evolving needs.

Velocity.  Increasing the speed of deal flow through the pipeline also increases your capacity to sell, grow the customer community, and learn from them to help you innovate and improve.

3 Marketing goals – Content, Community, Conversion

Content.  The more compelling and relevant your content, the more you will attract the audience most likely to benefit from your offerings.

Community.  The more your content resonates within and among audiences, the greater your capacity to build a community and engage in dialogue to improve sales, products, services, and support.

Conversion.  The more effectively you convert sales, the more you can learn from experience about how to improve the conversion process.

Conversations Worth Starting

Using the 3×3 chart above, look at the 9 intersecting boxes and ask the questions implied by the two nouns whose paths cross in each box.

Example 1:  Value + Content.  In the upper left intersecting box, where Value and Content intersect, Marketing might ask: How can we improve our Content to increase the Value of each sale?  Sales might ask:  How can the improved Value of each sale guide us in improving Content?  It’s the same question, asked from different perspectives, that aligns your response.

Example 2:  Conversion + Velocity.  In the bottom right box, where Conversion and Velocity intersect, Marketing might be asking: How can we improve the Conversion process to accelerate the Velocity of Sales?  Sales might ask: What sales accelerators can we use as input for improving the Conversion process?

See how it works?  You may come up with better questions to suit your organization’s culture and challenges.  Now, formulate your own questions using the relevant nouns for each intersecting box, turn those questions loose in your organization, and watch what happens.

Measuring results with analytics, sales CRM and marketing automation solutions can help you measure and manage your improvement.  If you need assistance here, contact us.

How’s it working for you?  What questions would you ask your colleagues to help you get better aligned?  Drop us a comment here; we’d love to hear your feedback!  Visit our Resources page for more free strategy tool downloads.




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