5 secrets to a great telemarketing campaign

We’ve been working with some smart telemarketing folks over the last few months and it has been an eye opener.

A good telemarketing operation is the fastest way to grow your business.

There’s no question about it.

Talking to people on an hourly, a daily basis is the way to build a solid pipeline and start to book business.

So why is it that it is such a universally despised profession, and most people would rather starve than be seen as a cold caller?

Like most professions, you have ethical and less than ethical people working in there. Some products sell themselves and others need to be sold.

Actually, the whole debate around this is not new – and has been going on for hundreds of years.

Critics say that we are selling people what they don’t need and encouraging wasteful consumption.

Supporters say that there would be no economy, wages or prosperity without someone first selling something and creating a market for products and services.

Economics, basically, is people responding to incentives. If you show people a way to make money, they will have an option whether to go ahead with it or not.

Their choice may be influenced by how ethical or not the way is that you show them… the problem is that there are so many ways to make money and not all of them are good.

The good thing is that it is actually quite hard to be the kind of person that can sell bad stuff day in and day out. The vast majority of businesses are ethical, hardworking and are trying to help their customers.

There are a small number of scammers and they aren’t going to go away anytime soon.

I got a letter this morning. It’s on poor quality paper, is worded in slightly legalese jargon and basically tries to get you to pay money to be put on a useless register that duplicates the official website where they scraped the data from.

Now, it’s simply rubbish. But if they send it to a million companies and get a 1% response rate and get $200 a time, then they could be bringing in $2 million.

So, would you compromise your principles for that kind of money?

So… anyway after that little rant, let’s get back to the purpose of this post and here are 5 secrets to a great campaign.

1. You need a telemarketing CRM system

How do you set up a good telemarketing campaign?

The first thing to put in place is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that is designed for telemarketing.

If you are a small business, you could even start with Microsoft Excel. It gets hard pretty quickly when you are managing a database of a few thousand calls, but if you are trying out a calling process it’s a good place to start.

Email info@contentmachines.com if you want a free Excel application that we have put together for a start-up business.

Moving on, you could use one of the plugins for Gmail like Streak and manage everything from your inbox.

Alternatively, up and coming options include Zoho, which is web based and quite popular.

And then on the cost front you have options like Salesforce.com which will set you back a fair amount per user or Act!, which is used by a number of teams.

Another option you may not have considered is low cost but fully featured is an open source CRM like SugarCRM. You have the option of hosted options with lots of features.

My personal favourite is the Sugar CRM community edition which you can host on your own servers. This option gives you the features you need but keeps you in control of your systems and data.

Email info@contentmachines.com if you want any help with selecting or setting up one of these systems – including having a trial of SugarCRM on one our servers free of charge.

2. You need to get the right mindset yourself or hire people who know what they are doing

This is really important.

Lots of sales people will tell you they are good telemarketers. That shouldn’t surprise you, because it’s their job to sell you on them.

But it’s a job that grinds you down. Hour after hour of rejection, rudeness and having the phone slammed down on you.

You need people who won’t let that get them down.

They need to have a thick skin, say to themselves that the next one on the phone will be better, the problem is with the customer and not with themselves and get on with the job.

They need to be the kind of people that will keep going till they hit their targets and not give up.

Now you, if you own your business or are managing this, are already the kind of person that will do this – you have to for your business to survive.

But you need to hire the right kind of person to do this job for you when you aren’t hovering over their shoulder.

So – recruit carefully. Recruit for attitude and behaviour – you can train for product knowledge later.

3. Talk to the right people – segment your audience

The last thing you should do is assume that your target market includes everyone and start by calling the phonebook starting with the As.

You need to segment.

Segmentation simply means working out who is most likely to need and want what you are selling.

There are lots of buzzwords like Personas and Customer Journeys, but if you go back to Marketing 101, segmentation is the word that tells you that before you start reaching out to people, try and have a think about who the best people are to reach out to.

In a Business to Business (B2B) product sale, figure out what type of business is likely to need what you want. Rent or buy a list that is already filtered by business type and has useful information like turnover and location.

You may want to go after a number of businesses that have something in common. For example, it makes more sense to tell a gatekeeper on the phone at a plastics manufacturing company that you are speaking to all the plastics companies in the area about an opportunity because they don’t want to miss out on something their competitors know.

But they probably wouldn’t be interested in something a paper distributor does.

So… start with a list that has been filtered for relevance.

4. Shoot for the SUN – create a campaign that will get prospects interested

The next thing is that when you call someone about what you are doing, you should have only one objective in mind – and that is not the sale.

Your objective is to have a conversation and advertise your product.

Advertising in its simplest sense means ‘drawing attention to something’ or ‘informing somebody of something’.

The outcome of your conversation is an action. It may be to send more information, or to set up a meeting, or to talk to someone else.

What you are trying to do is to get moving from standing start – you don’t know this person or company yet and you want to figure out if there is a match and some interest.

So, you have to figure out what to talk about, and this is where Shooting for the SUN comes in.

SUN stands for:

  • S is for Simple: The first thing is that benefit (especially financial) of your product needs to be simple and easy to explain. You need to work out how to do it in one simple sentence that can be said over the phone and understood. Keep revising your description until you make it as simple to understand as possible.
  • U is for Urgent: Figure out why your listener needs to do something now. Why is it important that they think about this and commit some time to understanding what it means for them?
  • N is for Novel: Not new – but novel – different from what they have heard already. People love to be the first to know about something different, it intrigues them and sparks curiosity. Don’t bore them, figure out what it is about your product that is novel.

If you can’t meet these three tests, then what you are selling is a commodity with a hard sell. That is hard and you will get some business just because of the law of averages.

But, if you Shoot for the SUN you and your telemarketers will start to enjoy the process of picking up the phone and talking to prospects.

5. Create and follow scripts that are proven and tested

Finally, use scripts.

Write out a script for each person you will speak to – gatekeepers, managers, directors.

Try different approaches. Be polite. Be personable.

Jordan Belfort, the “Wolf of Wall Street” say that when someone hears you on the phone you should come across as:

  • Sharp as a tack
  • An expert in your field
  • Enthusiastic as hell

You need to have a script that doesn’t sound like a tired, bored student doing some part time phone hacking work.

You need to be quick and knowledgeable with a passion for helping your customer.

Having a script helps you communicate this to your prospect.

Do you think all those actors in films are really as quick and clever as they come across?

Or have they practiced every word and intonation until their delivery is just right?

This isn’t manipulation – it’s simply good preparation.

You wouldn’t do a pitch to investors or a talk to a thousand people without preparation.

The same goes to a call to one person as a telemarketer.

A script helps you get the message right and get your points across quickly, with the fewest words and deliver the most information.

And that is that the whole purpose of telemarketing is for your business.

It’s one very effective way to inform people about what you do and why they should do business with you.

Summary

So, follow these five suggestions and you will be well on your way to building a target busting telemarketing operation.

Get a system in place, and once in place use it for everything to do with your campaigns.

Recruit wisely – pay more for the right people and give them good incentives.

Don’t talk to everyone – filter your lists for the right people.

Shoot for the SUN – make your message Simple, Urgent and Novel.

Work from a script – they work for actors and Presidents. You will do better with them.

A personal branding case study

Image credit © Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar, via Wikimedia Commons

A client of mine has a challenge.

He has recently taken on a new sales role, but has no budget, no staff and no marketing support.

He is expected to find his own leads and create a pipeline of opportunities for his company.

We talked about this and decided that a focused, 3-month programme would be the best way to Test and Learn how to do this.

How can we build a sales pipeline from a standing start over the next 3 months?

That is what this case study will document over the next three months.

We will keep the details anonymous, but you will see the way we think about the problem, the metrics we use and the tactics and strategies that we apply.

You’ll see it as it happens – this is not a cleaned-up case study written with the benefit of hindsight.

How could we fail at this objective?

Instead of starting with all the things that we could do, what happens if we turn the question around and look at all the ways in which we could fail to meet the goal.

The science of motivation says that there are only three reasons why we don’t get what we want:

  1. We get mixed up between many goals.
  2. We run out of resources like time, energy or money.
  3. We don’t track how we are doing, and so run out of motivation to keep going.

We might not want to reach our goal badly enough

If my client really wants to build a sales pipeline, then he has to do some work first.

There are many reasons why he might not want to do the work:

  • He works hard. When he gets home he wants to rest.
  • He wants to spend time with his family.
  • There are friends and social events to attend.
  • He needs to keep up with news and sports.
  • And many more.

If any of these goals are more important than his need to build a pipeline, then he might be distracted. And, over time, he will find that his goal is no nearer than when he started.

We don’t put the time, energy and resources that are needed

Simply wanting a goal is not enough.

We need to do something to move towards our goal.

This means spending time on work that will help.

This means having the energy to do the work – there is no point in planning to work on this last thing at night when all you want to do is sleep.

This means having access to the information, people and tools that you need to be effective.

We don’t measure how we are progressing towards our goal

You don’t achieve a goal immediately.

Instead, you move towards it slowly, making progress day by day.

Without some way of seeing how you are doing day by day, it’s very easy to decide things aren’t working and give up.

Or, even worse, you might give up on a method that would have worked if you had just kept it going for a short while and instead move onto a new approach that takes you longer.

We need to write down our goals and work on them every day

As motivational speaker Brian Tracy puts it, if he had a single piece of advice it would be “Write down your goals, make plans to achieve them and work on your plans every single day”.

So, that is what we need to do next.

What do you want to be famous for?

I am one of those people that hates being pinned down to a specific job.

It’s much more interesting being involved in lots of things, flitting from project to project. You see more, feel like you have more influence and simply get more done.

But – when someone asks you point blank what you do, it’s hard to come up with an answer.

A company faces the same problem – only the scale of the problem is different.

To get ahead, you need to specialize

“I, Pencil”, Leonard E. Reed’s famous essay, talks about how when free people work on things they can do well a miracle happens.

Somehow, a pencil gets made from a lot of people doing their own jobs all over the world.

So – the first thing to consider is whether you ARE famous at something, or whether you CHOOSE to be famous at something.

If you choose to do something you are good at, then you are useful to other people. If you choose to do everything, it’s hard to find other people who will work with you.

In economic terms, even if you can do everything better than everyone else, it makes sense to only work on the things you are best at. When you do that, everyone is better off.

Here’s some math to show how that works.

Let’s say you have two people: Bob and Jane.

Jane and Bob can do two things. They can make boxes and grow potatoes.

Jane can make 10 boxes a day or grow 10 potatoes. If she makes 5 boxes, she can also grow 5 potatoes.

Boxes are worth 2 credits and potatoes are worth 1 credit.

Bob can make 7 boxes a day or grow 5 potatoes.

Should Bob just sit back and let Jane do all the work?

Well, in one day, Jane could make 10 boxes, making 20 credits or grow 10 potatoes, making 10 credits. If she did 5 of each, she would end up with 5 boxes worth 10 credits and 5 potatoes worth 1 credit each, making a total of 15 credits.

Bob isn’t working – so he makes Zero.

The total output of this little economic world is between 10 and 20 credits, depending on how Jane spends her time. It can never be more than that.

Now, let’s say Jane says to Bob that she will do 5 potatoes and 5 boxes, and he should just grow potatoes.

Jane makes 15 credits as before. Bob grows 5 potatoes and gets 5 credits.

The total output is 20 credits – the same as Jane working on just boxes – the same as the maximum she could make working alone.

Now, let’s say Jane works only on boxes – and lets Bob grow potatoes. Now, she will make 20 credits and he will make 5.

The total output is 25.

So, although Jane is better than Bob at everything, by focusing on what she is good at and letting Bob work on lower value work, the overall amount of production and value has increased.

So – the answer is that it is good to specialize and be famous for something specific.

And this takes us back to the title of this article – what do you want to be famous for?

Build your business around that and you will be successful.

There are only three types of headlines

Just reading a piece by David Sloly where he talks about there being only three types of headlines:

  1. The promise headline
  2. The intrigue headline
  3. The news headline

The promise headline gives you a clear indication of what you will get.

The intrigue headline draws you in with a suggestion you can’t resist.

The news headline will be about something new and interesting.

Is this true?

Looking at the BBC website, here are a selection of headlines with a stab at categorising them.

  • Model guilty of killing millionaire ex-boyfriend [Intrigue]/[News]
  • England v Sri Lanka: Second Test, day one [News]
  • Is this the most racist advert ever made? [Intrigue]
  • Obama: Hiroshima memory must not fade [News]
  • EU campaign’s ‘misleading voters’ [Intrigue]
  • Tarot reader tells of murder confession [Intrigue]
  • Injured Nadal pulls out of French Open [News]
  • How good is this? China’s solution for traffic jams [Intrigue]
  • Seven awkward music falls at major sporting events [Promise]
  • 14 amazing gifts Guyana has given the world [Promise]

The last two are a little harder to push into a category. The promise is of a list – falls at sporting events, amazing gifts. These two are not news, and they are not intriguing – or in any case less intriguing than some other examples.

You could use the mnemonic PIN to remember these three ways of writing headlines: Promise, Intrigue and News.

How to create a marketing asset plan

The purpose of this post is to describe how to create marketing content that is aligned with a specific customer buying journey and focuses on business to business marketing. The 4-step customer journey above was created by Neil Rackham, author of Spin Selling and Rethinking the Sales Force.

There are broadly four kinds of markets that you could approach:

  • Consumer products and services
  • Business-to-business products and services
  • Not-for-profit marketing
  • Idea, place and people marketing

Consumers buy products and services to use personally

A personal purchase is one that you want to use at home or for your family.

You buy this because it has some value for you. For example, it makes your life easier, safer or gives you some kind of status.

A small number of people are involved in the decision-making process – perhaps just you and your immediate family or trusted friends.

Businesses buy products and services that are used in their operations

People in a business decide to buy a product or service because it helps them in their business.

For example, it may help them produce more goods, reduce the costs of services or increase their profits.

A large number of people are typically involved in the decision-making process and you may need to go through a number of steps to justify your reasons for making the purchase and get approval from a committee.

Not-for profit marketing is about promoting a social goal

Not-for-profit organizations such as museums, charities and churches use marketing to help them achieve their aims.

In this case, it might be getting more people involved, raising funds and running campaigns to increase awareness.

Idea, place and people marketing is about influencing behaviour and promoting individuals or locations

Governments run campaigns to make people aware of the consequences of smoking or drunk driving.

Countries try and get people to visit.

Politicians, actors and athletes all have an image to maintain.

This kind of marketing wants people to know about and get interested in the concept they are promoting.

What kind of assets should you create to support the customer journey?

You need to think about creating different kinds of assets for each stage in the customer journey.

According to Rackham, your customer is asking different kinds of questions at each stage.

Customers ask “Is there a problem” at the Recognize needs stage

At this stage, according to Rackham, customers ask questions like:

  • Do we have a problem?
  • How serious is it?
  • What benefits would we get from solving it?

The kinds of issues that they are concerned with depend on the level at which they operate.

The top three concerns for CEO’s are:

  • How to get and keep the best people.
  • How to operate globally.
  • How to cope with regulation and legislation.

Customers need tools to help them analyse the problem at the Recognize needs stage

Rackham suggests that marketers should create tools that help customers analyse the problem at the first stage.

These might include:

  • Diagnostic tools
  • Business cases
  • Analysis
  • Presentations
  • Focused articles

Let’s take an example – assume you are the market for choosing a new CRM system. If you type in “choosing a CRM” into google, you get the following results (in Dec 2016)

Many customers start their buying journey with a search like this into Google or another search engine.

It should not come as a surprise then that all the results are assets that help you understand whether you have a problem and the kinds of things to think about.

If you analyse the headlines of the results using the PIN formula, these headlines either promise something (10 things you need to know) or try and intrigue you into reading further (the secret to choosing the best CRM).

A good tool or asset helps you open a conversation with the customer

How do people think about a problem?

One model from the world of cognitive behavioural science suggests that there are five types of thinking that people do all the time:

  1. They have certain basic beliefs or assumptions.
  2. They have standards of how they think their business should operate.
  3. They focus on data that justifies their beliefs.
  4. They have reasons for why things are the way they are right now.
  5. They make predictions about how others will act, or how things will turn out.

How can this help you create assets?

Reading trade journals or better still, articles that people in your target segment have written will give you an idea of their basic beliefs and what they consider important. Once you know this, you can create headlines that target these beliefs and assumptions.

Knowing how they think their business should operate will help you create material that resonates with them.

Understanding and using data carefully to support correct views, or nudge people towards alternative views is better than bluntly saying they are wrong.

Knowing why they think things are the way they are right now, and how people will respond to alternative options can make the difference between opening a conversation that leads to an eventual sale, or being shown the door.

In the next post, we’ll talk about the kinds of assets that help people evaluate options as they move to the next stage of the buying journey.

How can you make more sales?

Image showing customer at the centre with marketing tactics around them
Fashions change. People don’t

Which one of these is going to work best?

  1. Make a website and wait for people to call?
  2. Go to lots of networking meetings and hope someone you meet will lead you to some business?
  3. Make lots of cold calls, suffer rejection and make some sales if you go long enough?Peter Drucker says that the purpose of business is to create a customer. This means that a business has only two functions – marketing and innovation. Everything else is a cost.Brian Tracy says that sales come from people. Only a person has the ability to give you money. If you can get to the right person and turn that person into a customer then you are doing something right.Here is the problem. The inbound marketing people tell you that it is all about content. Create content and stick it in a platform and you will be flooded with more customers than you can manage.

    No, say the networking guys. Business is all about relationships. Get out there and meet people. That is the best way to build your network, and your network is your net worth.

    Rubbish say the sales guys. Sales is a numbers game. The more you hear no, the closer you are to a yes. So pound the phones. Call everyone and someone will buy from you.

    So what should you do? Here are a few tips.

    1. Fashions change. People don’t.

    If you have something that will save people time, money or effort then they will listen to you – as long as they aren’t tired, busy, hungry or ill.

    If you invent a good way to get to them, like cold calling, in a few years everyone will do it and it will be less effective.

    No method will work forever, so just accept that and work with the ones that suit you best.

    2. Try and talk to better prospects, not just more prospects

    Focus is everything in business. If you can get in front of someone who needs what you do right now, then they won’t wait for you to finish talking before placing an order. Get better at identifying and talking to the right prospect.

    3. Build a moat around your business

    According to Bruce Greenwald, you can radically simplify your strategy by focusing on areas where there are barriers to entry for new competitors.

    If it’s easy to do what you do, then you have an unlimited number of competitors and your profits will drop quickly. Drop everything where that can happen and focus all your efforts on products and services where you have a natural advantage over others.

    Ask the question, what do you do better than anyone else?

    4. Listen to your customer

    If you are too caught up in your business, then all you want to do in front of a prospect is talk about your product. But that means you may miss important insights you can get from the conversation.

    One rule is to never ask an ice cream question. The ice cream question is “Do you want ice cream?”. No one says no to ice cream?

    For example: Do you want to increase sales?. Yes. Do you want to cut costs? Yes. These are ice cream questions. No one will answer in the negative.

    But if you ask, what have you done in the last two years to increase sales? Then you will get an insight into what they have done, what they have tried or not tried, and that will tell you whether they are a fit for your product or service or not.

    5. Test and learn instead of plan and do

    A lot of people believe in the plan and do method of working. Make a sales plan. Decide on an approach (like inbound). Put together a budget. Get it going. Hope it works.

    Test and learn is more fluid and experimental. Do you think having more content will help your sales. Put some content together and try it out. See if  you can create it once and use it a few times.

    Coming back to the three methods of getting in touch with customers – why not try them all out with mini experiments. See what works for you and then double down on that method.

    For example, can you commit to producing content every week for your blog? Or would you rather make 50 calls a day?

    Before you buy a a dialling system or an inbound marketing system decide which method is likely to work best for you and your business and then focus on using that method for at least 3 months.

    We have been experimenting with dialling systems recently – get in touch if you want information on free/very low cost options.

How to write content quickly

Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook’s F8 conference

The purpose of this post is to set out a few thoughts that help us create content quickly for ourselves and our clients and that may help you do the same.

A blank page is hard to overcome

Writers have a difficult job. They have to start with an empty page and fill it with content that someone else will enjoy. Is there a way to make this easier?

In the classic book On Writing Well, Willian Zinsser says that there is no “right” way to write. Some people write and re-write, polishing their work until every sentence looks perfect. Others simply spill out what is in their hearts and minds. Some plan a structure, outline and then write. Others write and find a structure emerges from the words they put down on screen.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

The terms plotter and pantser are used by writers to describe the two main approaches they take.

A plotter works out what they are going to do, and then does it. A plotter plans and outlines a story and uses techniques that help them fill in the details.

A good example is Monica Leonelle’s approach to getting out large amounts of content quickly. She first outlines the story. Then she creates beats, which expand on the ideas in the outline. She then chooses words to “show” rather than “tell”, creating the skeleton of the actual story. Then she creates the draft which is a first version of the entire story.

Pantsers work it out as they go along. They may have an idea, or many ideas – but it is the action of writing itself that starts to bring those ideas. Rather than imposing a structure on their thoughts, pantsers let their thoughts out and a structure emerges from the words they write.

Annie Lamott in Bird by Bird says that very few writers know what they are doing until they have done it. Quite often you really understand what you want to say after you have tried to express it once. And then, you can go back and try again. After you have done this a few times, you might end up with something quite readable. She says you should give yourself permission to write “shitty first drafts”.

Writing faster is not the same as typing faster

Both plotters and pantsers write and then revise. The process of revising a draft can take more time than you realize.

For example, if you write in longhand, it is almost impossible to revise much as you go along. The most you can do is strikethrough and write again.

On screen, the delete key lets you go back again and again, changing sentences and fixing typos all the time.

I still have two typewriters in the garage. When you write with a typewriter, the words you create are permanent. You have to keep writing, and leave the editing and polishing for later.

But, I wouldn’t use a typewriter for serious amounts of work because it’s less efficient in other ways. And they are pretty noisy as well.

Oddly, a good way to get create content is to write under constraints. If you have all day to write 500 words, then you will quite possibly take all day. If you have twenty minutes between getting up and being interrupted by kids, the chances are good that you will bang out 400 words in 20 minutes and be 80% there.

Read the Pomodoro Technique to see how you can work with time rather than against it.

An obsession with quality is a curse

Every writer has a fear that what they write is not good enough. Businesses can struggle with the problem of getting material approved by the right people.

You could argue that not publishing at all is more limiting than publishing something that is not perfect. Content is being created by more people in greater quantities. At the same time readers are getting better at telling the difference between good and bad content.

Of course you wouldn’t send a book or a blog post into the world riddled with errors. The kind of quality I am talking about is whether the work itself has been polished so that it is a finished article rather than work in progress.

In the past only finished articles were released because it was expensive to print and distribute content. Today blogs and podcasts allow us to create and distribute work in progress – thoughts that are still being formed and ideas that are still being crystallized.

Move fast and break things

Facebook is now all grown up. But in the past its motto was move fast and break things. Now it’s more careful about getting its infrastructure working and making sure everything doesn’t crash but its first priority was getting things working.

The same idea works for fast content creation. Your first task as a creator or a publisher is to get content created. Platforms like blogs and podcasts help you get material created and published quickly. This content is persistent – it stays on your website but not all of it is of equal value. Some posts will be read by many people while others may not get a single view.

Some authors create books that are the distilled essence of their blogs. They do this because they have built up an audience with their blog or have content that could benefit from being packaged into a compact reading experience.

A business that has created a number of posts can create a book authored by its CEO. Can you imagine meeting with a new prospect and talking about your business, and leaving a book as your calling card? That should help them remember you when they need services like yours.

Get the right balance between quality and output

So, the first step in creating content fast is to realize that there is a trade-off between quality and output. If you are too restrictive in what you consider good quality, you or your business will stop content being created in the first place.

This may seem simple but it is too easy to impose roadblocks on your own process. There will always be people out there who say it is too risky, what you are doing has not been sufficiently checked and you need a committee to get started.

For businesses in particular, committees are places where good ideas go to die.

In general, create an iterative process. Create, edit, publish. Revise.

Publish to an appropriate platform. Publish early drafts to a blog, where you can explore ideas and change posts if you find something is wrong. When you get to publishing a book, you need to take a lot more care in making sure the content is tight, the concepts flow and the words are well chosen.

Get your support systems working well

As a professional content creator and manager you need content creation systems. A basic content creation system has a number of moving parts. The better you can get all the parts to work together, the more time you can spend on writing rather than on your systems.

Time

It takes time to create content. Someone, somewhere has to sit down and create the words. You may write, type or dictate. But you have to spend the time to get the words out of your brain and into your system.

People

You need a number of roles to create content.

  • A researcher will get facts, commentary and supporting information.
  • A writer will create the draft
  • Editors will check the drafts, polishing it for clarity and accuracy.

Software

You can use a variety of tools to create content.

  • Microsoft Word – perhaps the tool that most people are familiar with. Best on windows.
  • Scrivener – a favourite of authors and bloggers on mac.
  • Emacs
    An all-purpose super tool on linux.

Servers

There are a number of choices for server technology. You can set up your own server, rent a small virtual private server or go for a dedicated server. The important question about technology is whether you have the capability to manage it in-house, or whether you need to get in some support.

Your server and control of what you do on it can be critical for your business. Make sure you have enough control and a backup option if things go wrong with one of your providers, especially in the early days of your website or blog.

Distribution

How do you get your material out into the world? Is it a blog post? Do you promote it through influencers or social media? Does what you write need to have general appeal or target a specific subset of people?

Select a genre to write in

It may be easier to create content quickly if you have a clear idea of the types of content that will help your readers. The fiction writer’s idea of genre can be very helpful here. As Shawn Coyne explains, genre tells the reader what to expect – you manage audience expectations.

Adapting the ideas that Shawn Coyne dissects to non-fiction / business / blog writing, your audience has a number of expectations:

  1. We expect the headline of each blog article or chapter to give us an idea of the content.
  2. We expect to be able to scan the content and get the main points quickly.
  3. We expect to know whether the content can be relied upon – is it factual or is it made up?
  4. We expect a style or a particular experience from the content.
  5. We expect to know how long the content is going to be.

Select a headline with a promise

David Sloly says that he was once told there were only three types of headline that all newspapers magazines and bloggers follow and gives the following examples.

  • The Promise Headline: Cure for baldness found
  • The Intrigue Headline: Man bites dog
  • The News headline: First humans land on mars

Create a structure that can be scanned quickly

If your content is longer than a few hundred words, then break it up to make it easy to read. Use subheadings that can be scanned and give the reader your main points. Use lists to create whitespace and make it easier to understand your points.

Talking about lists – use bulleted lists when you are simply listing a number of thoughts but when you use numbered lists, order the points from most important to least important.

Make it clear whether your content can be relied on

If you are simply making things up, then it’s probably important to make that clear so no one actually follows your advice. In most cases, it’s probably less clear – and you have to rely on a mix of facts, informed opinion and speculation to construct your point.

The reader also has a responsibility to look critically at what you have written and make up their own mind about whether it is something that that they should rely on or not. But you can make this easier by choosing to write in a way that make this clear.

For example:

  • If you are explaining a concept, make your point and support it with facts and references.
  • If you are reporting news, make your words objective and put across all relevant points of view.
  • If you are writing a history or biography, write connected ideas that follow a timeline.
  • If you are discussing an idea, make it clear that you are having a debate or thinking out loud.
  • If you are showing how to do something set out your instructions step by step for someone to follow.
  • If you are trying to persuade someone choose points that support your case and handle objections.

Select a style that works for you

Are you writing to build a personal or business brand? A personal brand is all about you – your thoughts, feelings and interests. A business brand is more about what you are selling and why someone should be interested.

Many people now have businesses based on personal brands. They create products and services that sell because they have an audience that will buy what they create. Seth Godin and Tim Ferriss are good examples of people with personal brands.

A CEO of a small business may be so intimately associated with the business that it makes sense to build the business brand around the person.

Product brands like Apple uncompromisingly build their content around their products – and you buy the product because it is good and the marketing is great.

The choice of style matters most when you want to do something with your content. For example, if you want to make money from your blog, get more sales through it or sell your business then you will need to be very clear how the content supports your objectives. A little thinking early in the creation process may help you avoid creating a personal brand that can’t be separated from you when what you really want to do is build up a business and sell it in five years.

Decide how long your content is going to be

The length of your content depends on what you think your readers are interested in. But, to get in front of your readers, you also need to think about what the search engines are interested in.

In a previous post, we looked at how long a post should be and posts that rank higher have 2,000 to 2,500 words.

If you are writing news, then a large number of 500 words posts may be fine. But if your content is going to be evergreen, in that it doesn’t change too much and could be useful for a long time, then long form posts are the way to go.

Summary and conclusion

In summary, you will need to develop your own way of writing fast. But it will make things a lot easier if you think about yourself and your team and what you are trying to achieve, and remove the blockers that will make it hard to create and publish content.

Think about the following:

  1. Decide if you are a plotter or a pantser: do you like planning and then writing, or do you want to write and let a structure emerge?
  2. Don’t get worried or blocked by thoughts of quality. Create content quickly, preferably under time pressure in short bursts. First create it and then worry about revising or polishing it.
  3. Get your systems working well. Select your tools and then use them, reducing the amount of time you spend with tools and instead focusing on creating content.
  4. Make it easier for you and your readers by making it clear what they should expect from your content.

What is a content machine? Your online salesperson.

Managing content is more than just writing. It is about having a system that can help your business grow. A content machine is the human and technical system you put together to create and publish your content.

As a business owner your main concern is how to sell more product and grow your business.

Maybe you started your business and grew it steadily with your own contacts and network. You may have a few salespeople already that have been steadily working with prospects in your market.

But it’s a hard economy out there. Are you still growing at the rate you wanted? Should you hire another salesperson?

There are many reasons why that isn’t the best idea. In most companies, 20% of salespeople generate 80% of the sales. These are the stars.

But if you hire one of the star 20%, there is no guarantee that the success they had in the old company will magic its way over to you.

The problem is that the traditional sales funnel doesn’t work anymore.

Customers are busy, shy and don’t like being put under pressure. Talking to a sales person is increasingly the last thing they do, rather than the first.

Increasingly they find you, rather than you finding them.

But that doesn’t mean that selling doesn’t work. It’s just that it’s really hard work. And it gets harder if all a salesperson has is a list of numbers and a phone.

Salespeople are human. Eventually they get tired of rejection and if they feel like they can’t make their numbers they move on to a different business.

While you’re waiting for that to happen, you have an expensive salesperson on your books who has to start producing. If your sales cycle is 18 – 24 months, that is a long time to wait to see returns.

And, if your salesperson leaves before the sales come in, then you lose your investment and possible the sales opportunity if the salesperson takes that to the company they move to next.

So what is the answer if it’s not hiring more people?

Charles Handy in The Empty Raincoat: Making Sense of the Future tells the story of one approach from a large pharma company.

The chairman’s strategy was to have half as many people working in his business in five years, paid twice as much and producing three times as much.

That was his secret to productivity and profit.

So, instead of adding to your existing pool of salespeople, should you be helping the stars you already have to produce more?

But how can you do that?

Let’s start by asking your best salespeople to tell you why they are valuable. They might say that:

  • They listen to prospects to understand their business
  • They talk with prospects about the problems they face
  • They work with prospects to discover what impact the problems have on the business
  • They show prospects that they can solve their problems and make them money

Unless your product can be sold during the very first meeting, your salespeople know that a pushy, hard-sell approach will not work. You won’t sell another item to the same person. And you probably won’t get invited back.

You may need to convince a lot of people in the prospect company. The person you speak to won’t remember everything you say and will struggle to tell someone else. You might need to go in again to explain it all.

Your salesperson needs to show the value of what you do to enough people in the company so that they agree that working with you is a good idea.

In particular, for expensive items, the prospect more often than not buys from one company rather than another because of the relationship built up with the salesperson.

This takes time. A good salesperson will want to spend as much time as possible with the customer. That investment of time is what gives the customer the confidence that the salesperson cares and genuinely wants to help.

You want your salesperson to be investing that time in prospects where you have a realistic chance of getting new business.

So, the first thing you could do is take the job of prospecting away from them. Get someone cheaper to hammer the phones and set up appointments.

That might help. Although your salesperson is now going into a meeting where the prospect has been qualified by someone else. They know they have an appointment, but they don’t know much else.

In an ideal world, your salesperson will go into a meeting where the prospect already has an idea of who you are, what you do, why you are different, where you are and how you work. Their job is to talk to the prospect, discover what you can do for them, and negotiate a deal.

If you boil down all the words used by professionals – marketing, advertising, integrated marketing communications – they all come down to one thing.

You want to have a conversation with people.

But it takes far too long to have an individual conversation with everyone.

One strategy is to create and share information that your prospective customers will find useful, interesting and informative.

Today, this is called content marketing. In 1895 when John Deere used it, it was probably just seen as a form of advertising.

What it’s called doesn’t matter. The important thing is that by using content effectively in your sales process you can help your salespeople sell more.

You can do this because you can filter prospects by looking at how they engage with your content and direct the ones that are more likely to be interested in working with you to your salespeople.

The content you use is simply another salesperson with a very definite job. This salesperson’s job is to answer the questions the prospect has until the prospect has either had enough or wants to talk to a real person.

Your content can be your hardest working salesperson. Available day and night all through the year and taking no holidays or sick day. Your content is a machine; it doesn’t get tired or hungry. It’s simply there, waiting to help a prospect whenever needed.

If you have a content machine supporting your sales team, you have a force multiplier. You can take your team of stars and give them the support they need to go out and grow your business.

But you have to remember that a machine is simply a collection of parts that work together to do something.

A lever might be the simplest machine there is. Archimedes said that if he had a place to stand on, he could move the earth with a lever.

He could, but only with the right kind of lever. Why do you use a lever made of metal rather than one made of cardboard? Because the metal lever is the right machine for the job.

A machine that has parts that don’t work together may be less use than not having one at all. The wrong kind of machine might lose you business, rather than helping you grow.

Efficiency tells you how much useful work the machine does. What you really want is have an efficient content machine. One that works for you and helps your business to grow.

How can we engineer an efficient content machine?

Most people think that content means sitting down and writing a lot.

That is a big part of it, but an even bigger part for you as a business owner is thinking like a publisher

The difference between a writer and a publisher is like the difference between a cook and a chef. A cook is someone who can make food. A chef is someone who can manage a kitchen.

A writer can write an article or blog post that is riveting and keeps you hooked till the end. A publisher needs to plan and serve up content regularly to readers that they find useful, interesting and informative.

As a business owner, you need a machine that will create, edit and publish content on a schedule over time. You need the tools to manage it over time, and the processes to allow you to add content from different people as you scale up.

You will need to create publishing processes for different types of content, from written material to images and video.

Your content can be on a simple blog, where you publish one article a week all the way to a media hub, where your team pushes multi-media content daily.

Your content machine, on the other hand, is all the moving parts that are needed to create and publish your content. This includes how you come up with ideas, how you work with writers and editors, the publishing platform you use and the publishing schedule you follow.

Three quarters of companies plan to produce more content in 2016. Is it time for you to get your content machine checked so it’s ready to start working for you?

How to set a budget for content marketing

This post explains how business to business (B2B) marketers can set an effective budget for content marketing and understand what they get for their money.

How can you set a budget for content marketing that won’t break the bank? And how can you create enough content for that budget to create a measurable increase in sales?

Making a link between what you spend and what you get for content marketing isn’t easy. In this article, we’ll explore a content marketing model and work out how you can create a right-sized budget for what you want to achieve.

You need to think of all the roles and resources you need

This is a content marketing model that will apply to many businesses. What are the main cost headings that come out of this?

  1. Your costs: You can’t just put the process on autopilot with an agency and expect business to roll in. You will need to spend some time to think about the strategy and direct your resources. Budget for the opportunity cost of your time to work out what prospects want and consider the range of content needed.
  2. Costs to create content: You will need someone to carry out research, someone to write and someone to edit. Depending on how you get your people, you could spend $3.30 per hour to $200 per hour.
  3. Costs to distribute content: You can spend a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands on marketing automation. You will also need technical support to operate your software.
  4. Costs to monitor how prospects engage with your content: You need an analyst looking at the marketing data coming out of your systems who helps you interpret and act on that data.
  5. Costs to engage with leads: At this point, your budget may overlap with sales, where you pass leads onto the sales team, or you might have a person who helps engage with questions and opinions on social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

As you can see, the majority of your costs have to do with heads – people that are carrying out the activity. There are several good reasons to consider outsourcing these cost – the most significant being that you can invest a little money with an agency and then ramp up your investment as you see results, rather than putting in a few hundred grand up front with no guarantee of seeing a return. If you are interested in things like being P&L positive at the end of the year, a big part of these costs should be outsourced.

Take a step back and think about what your prospects want

A business to business sales process follows a four step model:

  1. The customer recognises that they have a need and asks questions like, “Do we have a problem?”
  2. They evaluate options asking questions like, “Who is cheapest, or has the best service?”
  3. They resolve concerns asking questions like, “Can we trust them?”
  4. Then they negotiate terms and actually become a customer.

How much content do you need?

The short answer is, as much content as is needed to answer all the questions your customers have, given the budget you have.

A customer will understand what you do by asking questions. Your content needs to answer the questions customers have in their minds. It needs to answer questions they have asked, and also bring up and answer questions that they have not yet thought about.

Your content will be used across many channels and platforms

You will use content with prospects and customers at every stage of the selling process.

When negotiating terms

  • Proposals: This is what we will offer and what we will charge

When resolving concerns

  • Testimonials: This is someone we did this for before
  • Case studies: This is who we did it for.

When evaluating their options

  • White papers: This is a problem your industry faces

When recognizing need

  • Blog articles: Come up in search requests
  • Industry articles: Become aware when reading trade magazines
  • Direct mail: Contact via email or direct mail

70% of companies don’t think they use content marketing effectively but over three quarters of all companies still intend to produce more content in 2016 ranging from presentations and webinars to blogs, case studies and more output on social media platforms.

How to select an approach that works for your business

There is no one approach that is guaranteed to produce results. You need to select one that matches the way your company works. Use the list below to think about how your company works now and select an approach that works.

Make decisions as you go along.

If you are fairly new to content marketing, and don’t know what you want, or how much you want to spend, the best thing to do is just get started.

Write a blog post. Create a landing page. See if you can get an article accepted by a trade journal. Do something, anything to get started. If you have a go and create 5 – 7 pieces of content, you will learn more about how you or your staff write than through all the discussions of what you would write if you did do content marketing.

You can keep a tight rein on costs by deferring decisions, and focusing on simple, low cost actions to start with.

Spend what you can.

If you know how much content marketing can do for you, either from previous experience, or because you see others in your field using it to generate leads and business, then the question is how much can you afford to spend?

If you are on a constrained budget and want to make every penny count, it’s important to focus. Don’t spread yourself across every platform. Don’t create long form and short form content plus images plus tweetable material. Instead, spend your budget on content creation, and a minimal distribution system that gets your material in front of prospects.

Don’t spend all your money on creating lots of material, with nothing left over to pay for distribution or following up with analytics and lead management.

Spend what you spent last year.

If you already have a track record of spending, then protect your existing budget and plan how you can use it effectively.

There is a shift in budget allocation from advertising to digital marketing. Marketing budgets are forecast to increase, with digital marketing taking up 75% of budgets by 2020. Keep this in mind when planning the total budget and how you strategically allocate it.

Match the spending of a competitor.

In all industries, there is usually one company that seems to invest more in marketing and reaching customers than everyone else.

Research by Neil Rackham showed that companies that succeed focus their efforts. They reduce the number of opportunities they work on, but increase the amount of resource they devote. This means that they might go after a smaller set of customers, and use fewer channels to get to them, but they put more effort and content into the process.

If you go up against such a competitor but are spread more thinly, you might spend half as much as they do, but only win 20% of the time. They, on the other hand, spend twice as much as you, but win 70% of the time.

Researching and understanding how a competitor spends their marketing budget is a good way to benchmark your spending and see if you are doing the right things.

Use a formula like percentage of sales.

Many companies spend 7 – 10% of sales on marketing. The CMO survey updated in February 2016 shows that marketing budgets are now over 10% of a firm’s overall budget for the year and run at around 7 – 10% of sales. This kind of formulaic approach is the easiest way to benchmark how much you are spending relative to other companies.

Marketing costs include:

  • Direct expenses of marketing
  • Social media
  • Marketing analytics
  • Marketing research
  • Marketing employees
  • Marketing training
  • Sales employees
  • Other overheads

Advertising spend is falling, while digital marketing is seeing an increase in spending.

In 2005, Colgate-Palmolive spent 2.5% of their advertising budget on digital. They increased it to 13% in 2014 and it is heading to 25% quickly.

88% of business to business marketers use content marketing to engage with customers. On average, companies spend 32% of their marketing budget (excluding staff) on content marketing.

If you are spending a lot less than this, then you may need to consider whether you are committing enough to strategic marketing to protect your competitive position in the market.

Test and learn with experiments.

A test and learn model accepts that there is formula for success and you need to be willing to experiment. This starts with asking questions and having a view on what could happen.

For example, are your target customers more interested in videos or in reading descriptions. If your selling point is design, then a video might make the prospect more interested, while if you have a complex product you may need to use more written content. If you are not sure, however, then you can try both and see how customers respond.

The key here is to start with a hypothesis – a belief that if you do something, customers will respond in a certain way. Then, you validate this with customers, either asking them through careful questioning, or creating a prototype and testing how they respond to it. Testing and learning needs you to be comfortable working closely with customers to validate your thinking, and if you do this well your customers will end up telling you what they will pay for, and help you create your marketing system and tuning your business.

Create a marketing model and simulate scenarios.

In a larger organisation, you may not be able to create small experiments without some level of buy in. You will be asked about the business case for what you are trying to do, and what the expected returns are.

In this situation, you need a marketing model. This is like a financial model that lists out resources and expected outcomes. If you can make it a dynamic model that lets you see what happens if you increase or decrease resources and model a number of outcomes, then you can create marketing model that people understand. If they understand what you are planning to do, it is more likely that they will support you in your work.

Set an objective and a funded project with a plan and resources.

Organisations that believe in managing by targets will set an objective and expect you to hit it. Financial services companies, in particular, are fond of targets. Having a clear objective or target is an amazing way to focus a team on outcomes.

Objective based management is much less useful if target setting is used as a stick, rather than as a prized outcome. A team that fears that they will be sacked if they don’t meet target will be much less effective than a team that believes it will be rewarded if it hits its targets.

You also need to make sure that money and people are available if you want to make meaningful progress, along with regular review and monitoring.

Conclusion:

Content marketing sounds simple – make great content that attract prospects and converts them to customers. But that doesn’t mean it is easy to do.

Use the content marketing model in this post as a way to think about how you can set a budget that will result in generating effective content that you can use to promote your business and grow sales.

You can do content marketing on almost any size budget. If you don’t have the money, you can put in the time.

But, if you don’t do content marketing at all, expect to lose business to competitors that understand the value of content marketing to get in front of customers before you do.

Get started using one of the approaches described in this post. Whether you just jump in and have a go, or create a funded plan with targets and objectives, the important thing is to make sure that you are building your content marketing capability year on year.

How to use a test and learn strategy to invest your marketing dollars in what works

It’s not easy to know what is working and what is not.

John Wanamaker said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; I just don’t know which half.”

This is true of many companies. In our experience, many companies don’t really understand why they are carrying out marketing and whether what they are doing is effective. They rely on experts to tell them what they should do, and try to interpret trends from analytics and make sense from statistical noise.

They try and copy others who look like they are doing well. But marketing does not follow natural laws like physics. It is very hard to show to show that following what someone has done before will produce the results when done by someone else.

As a result, it’s difficult to see how one formula or approach can be guaranteed to deliver increased sales. This doesn’t mean, however, that there is no point in planning and having a strategy. It just means starting with an understanding of the limitations of strategy and being open to creating an evolving strategy that changes as you understand more about your situation.

Should you invest a lot of money in software and people?

You should not buy any tools before you have a first go at trying to deliver what you trying to do with the resources you already have.

What does that mean? Well, you could start today so that auto marketing plan, and put aside 50,000 dollars as your budget.

You could invest in a marketing automation platform like Hubspot or Marketo. This costs between $2,000 to $14,000 for a starter package for one year.

But you also need a person with experience to drive it for you. Say you can hire someone for $40,000.

Now, your first year costs are nearly $55k, and you have nothing to show for it during this financial year other than the potential pipeline you could create if you used the system the way it should be used.

If you are new to using marketing automation and you are in an industry where it hasn’t been used much in the past, then be prepared for some negative reactions.

If it’s hard to make your numbers right now, and you need to bring in 10 customers to pay for the $50k you are just spending, then you are going to get a lot of questions about why you doing this and whether it makes any sense to put all your money into this kind of activity.

You will have to succeed and quickly before you can convince people who think this is a bad idea that they should either suffer in silence, or agree with you. Nothing succeeds like success.

Use a test and learn strategy to start a conversation with customers

One approach is to try out a test and learn strategy, which is a process of planned experimentation. You try and set out to prove or disprove something and in doing so you get a better understanding of what you are trying to achieve, and you use this learning to try again and refine your approach.

The main objective of marketing is to start a conversation with potential customers. The first thing you need to do is figure out how you are going to get customers to talk to you. Are you going to do this by going to them, or having them come to you?

If you want them to come to you, you have to be able to show them something that is useful and interesting. This usually means that you are helping them understand an issue, solve a problem or make a decision.

Most businesses already know why their customers need their product. You will already have sales material, presentations, proposals and other documents that explain this. If you are in a fairly well-developed industry, there will be trade publications and journals that talk about the issues faced by your customers.

Research what existing publishers are talking about to find out what is considered important and interesting

Understanding what is out there is your starting point, and then you align yourself with the ideas in your industry. There are a number of publishers looking for content, so why not try and build a relationship with them and their audiences? Start by creating content that a publisher will accept as useful and interesting, and you are on your way to getting in front of potential customers.

All you to get started is a computer, access the Internet and Microsoft Word, Google Docs or OpenOffice. But you need to get started because the important thing is starting to understand your audience and start creating content.

Create a system to produce your content that creates relevant and useful material

You need a system to help you create focused and good quality content. No one gets up first thing and pushes out 2,000 words of perfect copy without thinking.

Start the day with some free writing, just a stream of consciousness set of words to clear out your brain and get it prepared for the day. Then you can get into flow and create something good.

What you do that you need to do is focus on writing content that is being created because you want it published. If you think of everything you write as due for publication and commissioned by someone else, your thought process will have a customer at the centre of your work from the start.

This publisher is a person who wants your material for a reason and is willing to promote it for you. This means that you are going to operate like a professional writer and have a commissioned list of topics. Each topic should have a proposed title, a purpose statement that explains why you are working on it and a synopsis of what the article is going to be about.

From the synopsis you can then create an outline of your argument with topic sentences, and fill in the details with copy, proof points and images.

Keep in mind that you want to use your content across a number of channels. You might be able to use all material you create on a web page or blog post but it could also make its way to into a document, presentation, brochure or sales letter.

Simply working like this is going to help you create more focused and targeted content that works for your customer.

If you haven’t got enough content already, then you should try and set a target number of content pieces to create using existing systems at no additional cost before starting to spend any money. For example, a reasonable target might be 50 blog posts on your site of at least 1,000 words each to get started.

Only then invest in productivity systems and software to expand your reach through better distribution

Once you have a system creating useful and relevant content then you can try and reach as many people as possible.

This is when you can start thinking of systems that help you automate your work, or streamline your workflow.

At this point, you know that by spending some money, you will save time and there is a clear business case for the investment you are about to make, which will help you grow sales and your business.