Does Cold Calling Still Work?

In this day and age, many unsolicited sales calls go unanswered. Modern sales and marketing professionals are up against savvy buyers who have easy access to detailed product information on the Web and through Social Networks.

Everyone is connected to the latest information. Buyers today are pretty good at blocking your calls and emails, through Caller ID, email spam filters and they can easily send your email to its grave with a simple click on the delete button. But since so many sales people continue to follow this old school approach, it makes me wonder if in their minds they are saying to themselves…”I just know that I can get through all these defense mechanisms and land that one magical deal.”

Can they? Based on what clients are telling me, I believe the answer is no.

This question was the subject of online consultancy Software Advice’s latest Google+ Debate, “Does Cold Calling Still Work?” The panel, moderated by Derek Singleton, brought together inbound marketing and inside sales experts to debate three questions:

  • Given how the Web has empowered B2B buyers, is cold calling still relevant in the Internet Age — and are companies still generating a return on investment (ROI) on it?
  • With other lead generation activities on the rise, like paid search and content marketing, can cold calling help marketers stand out from the noise?
  • Can inbound marketing and analytics help us better decide who to cold call and when?

Here are the takeaways from the discussion, and I’m pleased to say that they jive with what I have been evangelizing for several years now.

Cold Calling is Shifting to Warm Calling

Understandably, every panelist agreed that cold calling (in its original form) is decreasing significantly in effectiveness. Furthermore, there is no excuse for business calls to be random and unsolicited anymore. In the words of Anneke Seley, Founder and CEO of Reality Works Group, “in this day and age, there’s no excuse for a call to be cold anymore.” Anneke – you are right on!

I recently read a Selling Power poll in which 47.76% of sales reps said that they were never prepared for the initial conversation with a prospect and 2.81% said that they were rarely well prepared. That, my friends means that 50% of the sales reps out there either can’t or won’t take the time to do a little homework before engaging with their prospect. And that should be enough motivation for companies to expect their salespeople to approach prospects differently. When you can turn to LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, and it is SO very easy to find out information about your prospect before you pick up a phone, why aren’t more sales reps doing it? Your prospects, by the way, are using similar channels to learn about you before committing to a call.

The group described the process of doing your homework in advance of calling prospects “warm calling.”

Only Call the People that Come to You

But Mike Volpe, CMO of HubSpot, thinks that marketers can take it one step further and not even waste time reaching out in this manner. Volpe believes that the world is shifting away from any type of outbound marketing – I respectfully disagree Mike - and that your inside sales team should only reply to inbound inquiries because you already know that they have an interest in your product or service.

Meanwhile, Volpe explains that inbound marketing tactics like SEO and PPC that are significantly cheaper than doing things like employing a great sales rep to make outbound calls. And he says it’s also a much less invasive approach to contacting buyers.

Sounds good but are all inbound inquiries created equal? I’m probably not the only one who likes to benefit from all the free informational content out there. I may have downloaded a white paper on your website, which many marketers would term an “inquiry” but that does not mean that I’m a qualified buyer. In defense of Hubspot, they are pretty savvy in terms of knowing when salespeople should engage with someone who proactively entered their world, but I would say that a lot of companies still are not at Hubspot’s level of sophistication.

Find a Happy Medium by Employing Both Tactics

Of course, there’s usually room for middle ground. And that’s where Ken Krogue, President of, sided on the debate. According to Krogue, relies very heavily on inbound marketing tactics but the leads they generate by purely inbound means just aren’t high enough value. So he turns to very targeted outbound calling after warming up contacts. To quote Krogue:

“If we [at] just rely on the Internet to bring us leads, it’s like a fish sitting in a pond waiting for the river to bring whatever it brings them. What we’ve found is that if you look at a typical bell curve, 70 percent of all the leads that come in are small. For example, we’re moving up to enterprise class companies and we have to forget about the Web bringing us those leads and have to reach out to initialize the conversation (usually through calling), then we move to a Web-based type of nurturing.”

In any Case, Marketing is Becoming Permission-Based

One point each panelist could agree on was that lead generation is shifting toward a permission-based model of marketing. This means marketing will need to evolve into being about showing buyers the value to them in doing business together, and ultimately getting them to come to you. If you aren’t demonstrating your value in a tangible way, then buyers will increasingly overlook your company; ignore your marketing efforts and move onto the competition.

It was a great discussion from thought leaders that I admire and follow. I’m curious. What are your thoughts on the evolution of outbound and inbound selling and marketing? Share your thoughts and comment below.

If you’d like to read the full article, visit the B2B Marketing Mentor

Stop Doing That: An Entrepreneur Mastery Interview with Essie Escobedo

In January, I wrote a blog post about a little book called Stop Doing That! 21 Activities Critical to Business Success that YOU Shouldn’t Do written by my colleague Essie Escobedo of Office Angels. The message is powerful. If you want to succeed as a business owner, you have to transform your thinking and stop trying to do everything yourself. The book prompted me to start a new podcast series called Entrepreneur Mastery. Naturally, I wanted Essie as my first guest.

Let me tell you about Essie…

A veteran small business owner with more than 20 years’ experience starting and running two success businesses, Essie knew what she needed when she was in the corner office - stellar accountants, administrators and project managers who were flexible enough to fit in where they were needed and move on to the next challenge. She also realizes that the employee-like performance she wanted had to come at a nonemployee-like price. Essie launched Office Angelsto bring the skills and talents of a world class support staff to even the smallest business owner.

Here are a few of the things you’ll learn about when you listen to my conversation with Essie:

1. Why she wrote the book in the first place.

2. Why it is difficult for business owners to let go and feel they have to do it all themselves.

3. The #1 thing that Essie believes business owner MUST understand about their business to be successful.

4. What you lose when you insist on doing everyone alone.

5. How the concept of Office Angels came together.

6. The difference between Office Angels and a traditional staffing agency.

Thanks for listening! Oh, and go buy the book!

Making Marketing Work: A Sales Mastery Interview with Keith Finger

I recently wrapped another great interview with Marketing Master, Keith Finger. You might be asking yourself why I’m interviewing a marketing guy on my Sales Mastery Series, and it is because of my firm belief that Sales and Marketing must stop taking about how critical it is that they align their business strategies and actually do it.

As Keith told me, it’s not your father’s marketing anymore.  Salespeople often complain about marketing, but the fact is that effective marketing plays an important role in a company’s success.  But companies must understand today’s marketing and the balance of power in the prospect/vendor relationship. During our interview, Keith and I talked how marketing has changed, what that means for salespeople, and things companies should do to improve their marketing function.

Let me tell you about Keith…

He is the founder of TransformCMO, which helps B2B companies that are in a revenue rut unstick what’s stuck and get on the road to revenue generation success.  The firm takes a holistic approach to marketing, looking at all factors within a company and in the marketplace that can affect revenue generation and retention. His work has brought him to around the world, to more than 20 countries in Europe and Asia.

When you listen to the interview, you’ll learn:

  • How Keith defines today’s marketing, because it means lots of different things depending on who you ask.
  • How marketing has changed and why marketers need to adapt like never before.
  • Sales and marketing alignment and bridging the gap that has long existed in many companies.
  • About agile marketing and what that means for your business.
  • What companies can do to improve their marketing to better meet the needs of a changed customer and buying process.

And more…

Enjoy the interview!

What will it take to make social media a serious business tool?

Today, on, I took a moment to weigh in on the question that is the title of this blog post. It’s a good question but the question, I believe, was answered long ago. Social media is being taken seriously by plenty of professionals. However, it isn’t so much that social media doesn’t serve business well, the problem is in how people are approaching how they use social platforms. This is what I had to say in response to the question. I’d love to hear what you think!

“Great question, Bill.

I think Michael started off the conversation right by reminding us of the biggest problem that I see with regard to how business views social media. They are looking for the “magic wand”, the quick fix and it just doesn’t exist. Technology merely enables a well thought out process. Every single failure that I’ve seen all leads back to this point. People jump onto the technology, they have no idea what they are doing or what they want to accomplish, they haven’t targeted their message, they don’t know how to leverage the tool and then when it flops, they proclaim social media a failure.

What will it take to see some real success?

First, let’s start by separating the discussion, because how companies use social media for marketing versus how they need to use it drive sales opportunities is different! The referenced GM article is a good example of the marketing side of it.

Two, you can’t slap traditional marketing or sales approaches onto social media platforms and expect it to work differently. In other words, don’t use social media to “cold call” or mass broadcast spam. That’s no better than spam email (which I hate by the way). And, don’t think of social media return in the same way you think about print advertising return. To succeed - you have to THINK differently! This world is about giving value first. Most companies on both the sales and marketing sides of the house have it backwards.

Three, people need to reset their expectations, which gets back to Michael’s point. I saw this with CRM systems. They were to be the panacea and generate all kinds of “revenue”. Really? My account doesn’t close business for me, I do. The system is designed to help you capture information that you utilize as part of your sales process, but it doesn’t do the work for you. Likewise, people complain that LinkedIn doesn’t work in terms of generating new business opportunities. Not true at all, but if you thought you just needed to set up a profile and the money would come pouring in, well, you are mistaken.

Four, from a sales perspective, salespeople and their management need to get real. Buyer behavior has changed, so sales approaches and process need to adapt also. This is largely not happening. Gartner says that about 80% of the buying process happens before a prospect ever interacts with sales. So why are so many reps still using the outdated “dog and pony feature benefit” pitches over email or cold calling or worse when they get the meeting? Understanding what’s important to the prospect counts and you can find the information online. Not doing your research is inexcusable. Visible and compelling online presence counts. Offering up value in advance of sales opportunities counts. Recommendations count. The reality is that if you don’t leverage social media to your advantage, your competitor who is will kick your butt.

Five, needs to be buy-in and support from upper management and upper management needs to be visibly engaged in social themselves. Social business success requires a shift in mindset…it is a process and not an event.

Six, understand the technology. Not everyone needs Twitter. If you sell B2B, you should be rocking LinkedIn with referral building, lead generation, sales research, etc., but you may not need anything else. Just because someone says it’s cool (think Pinterest) that doesn’t mean it is the right tool for what you want to accomplish.

Seven, invest in training for your employees. If you don’t give your people the proper training on the tools, what they are designed to do and how to use them, how do you expect them to get any sort of successful result? After all this time, I am still surprised at the number of salespeople who don’t do anything more with LinkedIn than invite people to connect. My gosh, there is so much more to it. But, unfortunately, people just don’t know what they don’t know.

Eight, and my biggest pet peeve, by the way…have a plan! It all starts with a plan, you then clearly define your target (applies to sales and marketing), choose the RIGHT tools, implement consistently and then measure and track.

Social media isn’t broken but how most people and companies are approaching the use of the platforms…is!”

Social Media Marketing is Not Selling

On a conference call recently, I was reminded of how often people confuse social media marketing with how to use social media over on the sales side of the business. I can understand why this happens. Just yesterday, I received an email from a company who is selling social media training and their blurb says that they can help you to increase revenue. But when you look more closely, the program focuses on helping you put a social media marketing plan together. That kind of messaging has confused people. Make no mistake about it, marketing and sales are different disciplines and how you apply social media to each of those disciplines is also different! Before you assume that you’ve got social media covered because someone in your company is responsible for social media management, be sure to look carefully at what they are doing. I’ll make a big bet that the focus is on marketing and not selling.

The American Marketing Association defines marketing in this way…

“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

Wikipedia defines sales in this way…

“A sale is the act of selling a product or service in return for money or other compensation.”

While sales and marketing should have the same goal of generating sales, revenue and profit, the two departments are approaching the goal in very different ways. As a salesperson, I’m the one who meets with prospects, crafts an actual solution to their business problem and negotiates and closes deals. Marketing is doing none of that. Their efforts are largely campaign driven and while their role is vitally important to the process of generating revenue, they are not actually selling anything.

Social media can be applied to the sales process on the front-end of the sales cycle. Using tools like LinkedIn and InsideView, the focus is on network and referral building, prospecting for new opportunities, conducting research that leads to identifying key business initiatives (or drivers) that may be the trigger for why your prospect should by from you, better pre-sales call research and more. In other words, using social media to drive sales opportunities is not marketing to build broad awareness, it is being used specifically to get to the right person with the right message at the right time, thus shrinking the sales cycle and moving more quickly to close.

On the sales side, I’m not giving away an iPad to generate “likes” on the company Fan Page. That’s marketing. As a salesperson, I’m using social tools to:

-Create a targeted list of potential prospects to pursue

-Dig into my prospects LinkedIn and InsideView profiles to learn more about them. I’m looking for the best point of connection. Who do I know that they know? What have learned about their company or their industry that might lead to securing that first meeting?

-Participate in groups where my prospect is likely to be and then contributing to discussions to create visibility for myself and demonstrate my expertise in my field.

-Do detailed homework before the first meeting. I’m learning as much about their company as I can, which will demonstrate to my prospect that I understand their business.

As you think about how to put social media to work for your company, remember that you need to focus attention on both the sales and marketing side of the business. And always keep in mind that the goals and practical applications of social media for sales versus marketing should compliment each other, but the “how” you use the tools will be different and serve vastly different purposes.


Selling is Social in a 2.0 World

Recently, I attended the Sales 2.0 conference. As a first-timer at the conference, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect, but I have to say that it was one of the best run, most  informative conferences that I’ve attended in some time.

The overall theme of the conference was sales and marketing alignment, in addition to social selling. What I find curious is all the time spent talking about the need for sales and marketing alignment (it has been a topic of conversation for years), but somehow the problem has yet to be resolved in most organizations. Now that social media has entered the scene, I believe that alignment between these two departments is even more critical.

Social marketing campaigns must be tied to current sales processes and CRM systems but I don’t see that happening in most instances. Case in point. I met a Marketing Manager recently from a sizable organization who became defensive when I asked if her company had a social media strategy. “Yes, of course, she huffily replied. I handle all of that.” I said, “Cool. How are you tying your marketing campaigns and social lead generation activities to your sales teams CRM system and sales process?” She didn’t even know what a CRM system was much less understand how social sales leads should be tied it. Folks, social media marketing success is more than putting up a Facebook fan page and it certainly requires more than hiring the young 20 or 30-something who knows how to tweet, but I digress.

Personally, I don’t think the sales and marketing alignment problem is that tough to solve. Am I just naive? Why doesn’t the CEO put both sales and marketing on the same revenue goals and bonus them on the same objectives; i.e. hitting quota. Don’t bonus marketing on cheap leads, bonus them on the right leads! On the flip side, tie a piece of every reps sales commission to following up on the “right leads” provided by marketing. To be fair, we all know that salespeople often ignore the leads handed off to them by their marketing team and that’s generally because the leads are not adequately qualified. Salespeople want to talk to qualified, motivated buyers. Give them the right leads and they will follow up! By the way, signing up for a free whitepaper – often called “raising your hand” – doesn’t mean that the lead is qualified or that the potential buyer even cares about what you sell. Maybe they just thought that the whitepaper sounded interesting.

Here are a few of my other thoughts as a result of attending the conference:

    •  The right conferences are still an incredible way to expand your network. Yes, I love the power of social media, but let’s face it, people do not buy from companies, people buy from people. I went to learn, speak, to meet people and to make connections, but I didn’t go to “sell”. Take note sales folks…the best sales come from the investment in building relationships that lead to opportunity over time.
    • Your online conversations can move offline. I had such fun meeting people like Joanne Black and Anneke Seley that I’ve been talking to or following online for quite some time. Joanne and I have connected again since the conference and have decided that we are twin sisters of different mothers. We both agree that there are lots of opportunities for us to support each other with referral business. And sometimes, you have to travel 2200 miles to meet a local colleague from your own community. That was the case with Judy Yi of Silverpop who works about 10 miles away from my office and wouldn’t you know…we are also members of the Atlanta Women in Social Facebook group. Small world! Online conversation is great, but taking it offline can be even better!
    • Don’t forget the social in social selling. There were a handful of conference vendors who just couldn’t resist tweets full of selling. The me, me, me got a bit old. If you’ve been sharing valuable information with conference attendees and then mix in a pitch here and there..ok, but tweets simply focused on you and what you sell are a big turn off.
    • Keep presentations focused on delivering value to your audience. This is a nice way of saying…don’t sell from the podium. One vendor in particular spent their entire presentation time selling, selling and more…well…selling. Not only nauseating, but they were the subject of numerous conversations throughout the conference and the comments were not positive. Honestly, is that really how you want your company to be remembered? Just sayin.
    • Bold moves sometimes backfire. During one of the presentations, I applauded the move to do a “live demo” of the sales approach being sold. At the same time, I felt like I was witnessing a car wreck in slow motion. The approach was slightly better than cold calling and the techniques used to get things like email nomenclature from the receptionist were a bit lame. Not to mention the rep went back to her several times asking the same questions she had just answered. Listening skills were lacking. As for the voicemail message being left for the targeted prospect…what a waste. It was focused only on what the vendor wanted – an appointment. Nothing in it for the exec at all!  If I was the exec on the receiving end of that message I would have hit the delete button in 2 seconds flat. Lesson… do  your homework before picking up the phone, so that when you need to leave your voicemail message, you’ll be able to leave one that is compelling enough for your prospect to want to call you back.

I’ll close by saying that aside from a few presentation missteps; I was inspired and energized by the sheer number of smart people with great ideas and approaches to their business. I engaged in many great conversations and appreciated the willingness of so many pros to share best practices.  It can be easy to coast along comfortably in our day-to-day lives without remembering the importance of investing in our professional development. I say thank you to all the people that I talked with who so generously shared their perspectives.

Hats off to the entire Sales 2.0 conference team for creating and delivering a conference experience that raised the bar and puts other conference organizers on notice! Seriously, Selling Power, you rock!

p.s. I’m attending the Sales Strategies in a Social and Mobile World. Why don’t you join me for a meet-up?

The Power of a Brand. Yours!

Most of us recognize the influence that corporate brands such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Zappos, Google, Microsoft, Nike or Starbucks have on our buying decisions. But how much focus do most of us put on the most important brand of all – our own?

Wikipedia defines personal branding “as the process whereby people and their careers are marked as brands. It has been noted that while previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging.”

Just a few short years ago, personal branding wasn’t really such a big topic of discussion. These days, however, it has everything to do with succeeding, especially in the social selling space. According to William Arruda, a personal branding guru, personal branding is a revolution in the way we manage our careers or businesses. It’s a way of clarifying and communicating what makes you different and using those qualities to separate yourself from your competitors.

You are the CEO of Brand U

Some years ago, in a Fast Company article, business guru Tom Peters advises individuals to follow the lead of the corporate world and do what they have been doing for years: create your own personal brand. Peters says that no matter what your career title, you are really the CEO of your own personal service company: Me, Incorporated. He says each of us is “a free agent in an economy of free agents” and that we all must establish our own “micro equivalent of the Nike swoosh.”

How does this fit social media?

Your personal brand is the firm impression or image that comes to mind when people think about you. It’s a mental picture someone forms about you when your name is mentioned. Whether we like it or not, prospective buyers Google our name, check out our website and look us up on LinkedIn, TwitterFacebook and YouTube. In addition to our actions, words, clothes and behavior making a statement about who we are and what we offer, our online presence does the same thing. When you have seconds to create a lasting impression, one that contributes to achieving your revenue goals, it is important to honestly evaluate how your personal brand stacks up. Once you do, you can develop strategies to minimize those things that are detracting from the message you mean to convey.

Consistent branding based on authenticity can help you improve partnering and cultivate loyalty. -David Cohen, Creative Start-Up Veteran and Brand Strategist at Equation Arts.

Starting today – YOU are a brand!

Social media provides everyone the chance to stand out. Everyone has a chance to be a brand worthy of something remarkable and memorable. Take the time to ask yourself the same question that brand managers at top companies ask themselves: What is it that my product or service does that makes it different? Challenge yourself to shrink it down to 15-words-or-less. Write down your answer. Then take the time to read it - several times. Think about…

  • The qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your competitors or your peers.
  • How you have made yourself stand out today, this week or this month.
  • What others would say is your greatest and clearest strength?

Shelve your biased thinking that a personal brand doesn’t matter when it comes to being successful selling your products or services. In today’s world, it is everything! If you want to achieve your goals, developing your brand is a must not a luxury.

Remember, even if you choose not to proactively define your personal brand, others are certain to do it for you. Will you like what they say?

A Framework for Measuring Social ROI

Today, I spent lunchtime listening to a very informative webinar hosted by the folks at Marketing Profs. I signed up because I was intrigued by the title: How to Be a Social Media Strategist, Not the Social Help Desk. It was 90-minutes well spent. Jeremiah Owyang was the guest presenter, and I learned quite a lot from his session, as I always do.

Frankly, there was enough great information in today’s session to keep me busy blogging for several days, and what really caught my attention was when Jeremiah talked about a framework for social media measurement. I have often said that you can get started with tracking by setting specific and measureable objectives – upfront - as a component of your social media strategy. Truth be told, this works as a starting point, but the larger the organization the more important it is to have a measurement framework in place. In other words, companies need something more formal with which to evaluate their social media success.  In fact, Altimeter’s report on the Career Path of the Corporate Social Strategist, notes that 48% of corporations said that their top priority is in creating a solid measurement process for evaluating social ROI.

Cool…how do you do it?

“The novice provide executives with engagement data -causing themselves to be stuck in the churn of obtaining more followers and fans -without a clear business goal.” –Jeremiah Owyang

While Altimeter’s research underscores the importance of measurement, the question businesses executives need to be asking is are you measuring the right things? Too much emphasis these days is placed on number of followers and fans and Altimeter’s own research discovered that some 65% of companies are measuring “engagement” with only 22% using “product revenue” as a metric. Hum. From a sales perspective it seems to me that you want to be tracking product and services sales and not just “engagement”.  Ironically, the focus on engagement means that it’s darn hard to tie the effects of “awareness” to physical sales, so it’s probably time to think about how to move beyond strictly looking at followers and fans and what nice (or not so nice) things they have to say about your brand.

The Social ROI Pyramid

“The seasoned professional provides executives with business metrics first. They know fans and followers aren’t a business goal, but what you do with them is.” –Jeremiah Owyang

5 Elements were referenced in Jeremiah’s presentation with respect to “standardizing” an approach for measuring social success across the organization. They are:

  1. Start with a business goal in mind. No argument here, because it is something that I whole heartedly believe in and preach.
  2. Provide the right data to the right people. Not everyone in your org needs the same information. Take the time to break it down and make it applicable to the respective roles within the company.
  3. Vary the frequency and quantity of the data that you provide. As an example, top execs don’t need to be subjected to nauseating levels of detail that some social strategist’s feel compelled to provide. Similar to public speaking – know your audience and provide the information to them accordingly.
  4. Customize your formulas. Industry standards don’t exist at this point and they might not for some time. You don’t need to wait though. Create the analytics that best support your business goals now and plan to adapt and refine them as you move forward.
  5. Benchmark over time. According to Jeremiah, specific numbers are not as important as watching for the trend lines over time. In order to determine those monthly, quarterly and annual trends, you must start measuring now in order to gain the insight that you and your social media teams will need going forward.

The message that came through loud and clear today is that anyone responsible for social media strategy must have an organized process and measurement approach nailed down before they dive head first into that next glitzy Facebook campaign! To do otherwise means you’ll probably bomb out.

The Price of Sales Admission to the C-Suite

It’s common in the world of sales to talk about “calling high” in the organization. The idea being that getting to the higher levels means access to bigger budgets, as the execs at the top have the view from the top so to speak. At lower levels of the organization, budgets are smaller and competition can be tight for those dollars. But at the executive level, budgets can be moved around and combined for the right types of opportunities.

This is the new world of social sales where it should be much easier to get to the right decision makers at the right time. So I find it curious that most sales reps still tend to start their sales activities at the lower levels of the company versus getting to the relevant senior executive. I wondered why and decided to ask members of my favorite LinkedIn group - Sales Playbook - this question, “What are the top reasons that most sales people can’t seem to get a foot in the door to the C-Suite?” Reasons like fear, feeling “less than” and inexperience showed up. I happen to like how fellow Sales Playbook member @JerryVoltero summed it up. He said…

1. Lack of preparation to know who the true decision maker is that they should be talking to.

2. They do a lousy job of building rapport with the gatekeeper and don’t give them a strong enough argument for them to be the one who gets to come in and utilize some of that exec’s valuable time. Remember the gatekeeper’s job is to not waste the exec’s time.

3. If you are using a bottom up approach to get there, you have to get your champion to advocate with both the exec and the gatekeeper to get that proverbial foot in the door.

4. And once you get there, you better know what to ask them to figure out whether or not what you are selling will solve the business problem he/she has. Preparation is the key for sure.

And to Jerry’s point #4, preparation is not only key, it is critical! You may have a great product, perhaps even the best in your field, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore preparation. You may have the best product or service, but if you enter the sales process at the wrong time OR you don’t have the buy-in from the relevant senior executive, you have a big problem.

In today’s world of instantaneous access to information there is no excuse for lack of planning. Authors Nicholas Read and Stephen Bistritz remind us that…

“If you don’ take the time to stay current on your customers and prospects, the information won’t pop into your head by itself.” -Selling to the C-Suite.

I think that about sums it up!

13 Ways to Gather Great Blog Content

You’ve decided to launch a blog. That’s terrific, congratulations. With roughly 200 million blogs out there, it is hard to ignore the power of blogging’s potential and power. In what remains one of my favorite social media videos, Erik Qualman’s Social Revolution 2, tells us that 35% of bloggers post “opinions” about products and brands. There are certainly huge benefits to using the power of a blog to create community with your clients and future buyers. If they are posting their opinions for others to read, don’t you want them talking favorably about you? That one’s easy…of course you do.

Right now, I’m making the assumption that you’ve…

  • Determined your purpose? Check.
  • Have your plan defined? You bet.
  • Metrics for success established? Absolutely.
  • Technology chosen? Yup, have that conquered.

So far, so good. You are moving in the right direction. Right about now it is probably tempting to assume that the tough work is behind you, right? Not so fast. What about that content?

Becoming an inbound marketer is critical to your social sales success these days say the folks over at Hubspot. They’re right by the way! Your job is to provide really great content that compels people to come back to your site again and again while encouraging them to bring their networks along with them. But as you may have considered – or maybe you haven’t but you need too - it’s not so easy deciding what to communicate moment to moment, day in and day out, much less putting it into execution, is it? Recognizing how important it is to create engaging, valuable content that people will benefit from that is consistently fresh, relevant and interesting is a tall order. So, your first order of business is to establish your Social Media Posting Schedule.

What’s a social media posting schedule?
Think of it as a tactical plan that keeps you focused on what you want to communicate (post/blog about) to each of the social channels that you engage in. Think blogs, social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook pages and more. You want to think about your messaging themes, topics, who will contribute the content, what date you’ll post your message, etc. Since we’re talking about blogs today, what you need to remember is that once you know WHEN you need to post information and WHAT you’ll be communicating, it makes the process of creating your blog posts less daunting. But to make the schedule work of course, you need gather content.

Since you might be asking…what do I say on my blog each day anyway? To help get you jumpstarted…here are 13 (my lucky number!) ideas for gathering great content:

1. Carry a notebook for blog post ideas…and for those moments of brilliance that pop up at inopportune times. You might have an experience at the local market that leads you to think…hum, that’s something I should talk about. I’m suggesting that you keep a separate notebook for your blog post ideas. That way they are all in one place. When you sit down to consider what you want to write, you want all your ideas front and center in one place.

2. Follow top bloggers in your field. Find the real influencers not just the people with a lot of follower numbers. Regularly contribute to their community by commenting. For your own blog, build on the theme of their posts and the comments in the community. Quote these blogging influencers and link back to their blogs. And, and don’t forget to pay attention to who they talk about or recommend. More potential content for your posts.

3. Repurpose content. What have you previously written about that could be updated for current relevance? Not everything must be created from scratch, but the key is to be relevant. Don’t just “reprint” any outdated piece of work. Add a new spin based on learning’s since you first wrote the piece. I recently posted a post entitled Social Sales One Year Later. I started with a quote from what I had written one year earlier and then talked about what had happened since I first penned the words.

4. Record your brilliance. Most phones (unless your phone is from the dark ages) have software that lets your record your conversations. When that inspiration hits, record immediately. Trying to recall it later will be fruitless. Plus, if you are driving in your car, I don’t recommend digging for the notebook just then. Not in Atlanta anyway.

5. Ask questions, record the responses. Surveys, polls, starting group discussion…by virtue of the answers you receive, great blog posts can come. For example, you might ask your network what they think the traits of a superstar sales person are. Those responses are valuable far beyond having content for your blog posts. Its valuable research information that just may lead to the creation of a new product or maybe it will validate something that you already knew. Either way, it’s all good.

6. Use video. Have you read a book published in your field that inspired you? Create a 2-minute video book review. That becomes your blog post for the day. Or, search out topical videos on YouTube that you can share via blog posts. You simply add a few of your comments of your own to kick off the post, embed the video and let the video do the talking.

7. Webinars. Make it a point to sit in on a few webinars a month specific to your field. You may want to simply report on the webinar in a blog post. Tell people what you learned and why you thought the time you spent was valuable. Include a link back to the archived webinar if available. Or, you may take an idea or two from the session and expand upon it in a slightly different way. If your company hosted the webinar or you were speakers then similar to video, add a few comments about the webinar and include the link to let people listen from there. A word of caution…if the webinar is simply a “sales pitch” versus something topical and informational then ignore what I just said about promoting it. That will look self-serving.

8. Interview people. Thinking back to your social media posting schedule, let’s say that your theme for the week is social media ROI. You can develop a short list of people you’d like to interview. Once you’ve conducted the interview, you have material for your post and that of your guest. You can conduct your interview using the phone or posing your questions over email, but be sure to ask if the person you plan to interview has a preference. The interview gives you both great marketing content and should include links back to each other’s website.

9. Podcasts. Pretty much like the webinars. Listen, learn and leverage. Oh, and the great thing about podcasts is that you can take them on the go. Go to the park, listen to a podcast and either create your blog post on the spot or get the draft of it written by hand. The point is to be strategic; leverage your down time throughout the day.

10. Social media status updates. Scan what others are posting across the web. Is there anything interesting there that you can use for your blog post? Before you start complaining about the time this will take, I want you to sit yourself down – right now - and sign up for Netvibes. Netvibes lets you establish “dashboards” on topics, people, companies and more. Once you create the “search string” if you will, all you need to do is check your dashboards. Everything from Twittertweets to video posts to content all over the web, Netvibes grabs the content across the web and brings it to you. All you need to do is choose what to write about or respond to.

11. Invite guest bloggers. There are plenty of people out there looking for the opportunity to contribute content to the blogs of others. Who do you know in your industry? What about current colleagues? How about customers? You want to make sure that the message of your guests is in alignment with what you want to accomplish with your blog, but I think you get the idea. Don’t think you have to do the work all by yourself. Mix it up now and then. Makes it easier on you and readers like it.

12. Subscribe to news publications (online and print) that apply to your industry. Make a commitment to scan them immediately to look for writing ideas based on the current theme of the month. As an example, the November/December edition of Selling Power Magazine has provided me with content ideas for a number of blog posts for the next few weeks. Don’t forget that you might read about an individual or company that you would like to interview.

13. Join research communities that support your industry. The investment will pay off in the long run. As a premier member of Marketing Profs, I have access to current information, training, webinars, podcasts and a vast array of information to real time content that benefits me as a business owner. One client paid for my membership, so I consider the investment MORE than worth it. BTW, I’m not a partner nor do I receive any compensation from Marketing Profs. I thinkAnn Handley is great, and I highly recommend that you follow her on Twitter. I love the company’s work!

Delivering on the promise of a great blog is hard work, but the rewards are infinitely worth it. Aside from the 13 suggestions I’ve offered for gathering information, I hope you’ll embrace blogging as an opportunity to engage people like never before. Not to mention that you are creating great content for your next Amazonbest seller.