We’re told we live in an age where content is king. People read more articles online than they do newspapers or books. Meanwhile, engagement with online advertising – banners, pop-ups and such like – is on the decline. The best in the business know that it is the subtleties of good content, rather than blatant advertising, that will generate a loyal customer following and therefore long-term sales growth. But many marketers still lag behind in terms of delivering that content. They simply lack in-house resources and are too busy with the tactical elements of their job, to take a more strategic approach. Generating outstanding content that will convert to sales leads is something that can be cost-effectively and efficiently outsourced. A good copywriter should be able to help both with the strategy and the content.
The building blocks of a high-performing content strategy
Clear, measurable objectives
Unlike direct advertising campaigns, creating content that delivers results requires longer term planning. A content strategy isn’t something that will deliver results overnight, but it should yield stronger conversions over time. With any long-term plan, setting clear objectives is vital. Understanding the goals will make evaluating the strategy simple. It allows for easier decisions concerning changes to the plan if objectives and milestones aren’t met.
Know your customer and put them first
What do they want to read, hear, see and ultimately buy? And more importantly - WHY? What need are you fulfilling? In some cases that need may not be obvious, even to the potential customer, so will take in-depth research. It should be the very first thing you learn and weave into every piece of content you produce. Knowing your customer will also shape the strategy in terms of the media you select. Where does your audience hang out and what does it engage with? Some of this will be learnt through trial and error, but establishing it early on will significantly reduce costly wasted effort.
Evaluate your website
For most businesses, their website is still their primary channel for generating leads and sales. But often, they neglect to review its content regularly and well enough. Ensure that it not only presents your company and products, but also places the customer need at the forefront. Before looking at external pieces of copy, blogs or mailers, review and optimise the content of your website, giving it the strongest possible chance to convert.
Calls to Action
How, what and (most importantly) why should a customer buy? A visitor to your website should be able navigate easily and should be given a clear message to engage with your business. The same is true of any material you produce. Content that doesn’t clearly call your potential customer to engage with you simply isn’t worth publishing.
Generate an Emotional Response
Psychologists have found that our buying decisions are made first at an emotional level and that we later seek logic to back up that decision. Whilst the features and benefits of your product will provide the logical reasons for a purchase, a truly engaging story is what will trigger the emotional response that needs to come first. Including elements such as brand values and objectives, case studies and customer testimonials will all deliver that story behind your product. And it is this story that will capture the hearts of new customers.
Not only will the story behind your brand resonate, trust in your brand will also give a better success rate. We’re far more likely to buy a product from a brand we trust and admire, than from one that is lesser known. The trust we have in a business is usually developed over time, but can be greatly accelerated through content. Publish thought leading articles about your industry, for example. You may even want to consider an insightful webinar. These can be more engaging and instantly convert to sales leads when your audience registers.
An eBook is a great way to educate your potential customer. Although it will take longer to develop, an eBook gives your brand the opportunity to really showcase knowledge. Content that delivers insight and can educate is valued more highly than generic articles and should elevate your brand recognition. Much as with the webinar option, you can capture leads at the point they download the book.
Piecing all or even some of these elements together requires time and know-how. Even with a highly efficient and effective marketing team in place, you should consider outsourcing your content strategy.
Elect Copywriting will work with you to build a winning content strategy and deliver that lead converting copy. Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation. We’d love to hear from you!
It’s the first day of spring and despite the still wintery weather, the promise of warmer, longer days is in the air. With that comes renewed optimism and energy, making it the perfect time to set new goals and challenges. A far better time in fact, than the changing of the years, when all around are struggling with resolutions, born from the guilt of excessive Christmas and New Year celebrations.
I’ve always marvelled at the power of the seasons. We witness it’s impact on the wildlife around us and for many humans the effect can be equally strong. Our modern world may not be ruled by the flow of the year in the same way as nature, but still the seasons impact our energy and mood.
Why DOES the coming of spring fill us with so much optimism?
As days grow longer and the nights shorter, we feel as though we have more time and energy to invest in ourselves. The natural inclination to do more when the weather is brighter - to get out and make the most of the great outdoors, go on a run rather than snuggling down on the sofa – is proven to derive from the positive impact natural light has on our energy and productivity. Studies of office workers have shown, that those working in buildings benefiting from large levels of natural light are more productive and recorded higher levels of energy than those sat in artificially lit offices.
So not only do we feel like we have more time during these longer days, we also have more energy to get things done.
We benefit from improved sleep quality when days are longer. The increased exposure to natural light has proven to help you get longer, more restful sleep. Artificial light on the other hand, interferes with our natural sleep cycle, potentially resulting in bouts of insomnia.
And there’s more…scientists and psychiatrists have shown, that increased exposure to natural light positively affects our mood. Levels of the “happy” hormone, serotonin, are elevated as the days become longer. Serotonin is the reason we feel energised and happier after exercise. So getting outside for that brisk walk on a spring day has to be the best cure for the foulest of moods.
Lastly, the reason I find spring such a great motivator, is that for most of the challenges set, the deadline is suddenly much closer than at the start of the year and a looming deadline really focuses the attention. The urgency to shape up and be beach ready becomes more acute the nearer we are to summer. That holiday you wanted to book now doesn’t seem so far away and the financial goals you had set for the year now need to be achieved in a realistic 9 months, rather than a leisurely 12.
A Happy New Spring to you all. Embrace the new energy and dust off the resolutions broken at the beginning of the year. You’ll be much better equipped to succeed thanks to those longer spring days ahead.
With more people than ever working from home, it is inevitable, that you’ll see a great number of posts and blogs on the subject. These centre, for the most part, around productivity and advice on how to avoid domestic distraction. Very few consider the opposite perspective. The issue of doing too much. I began working from home around 2 years ago and this is exactly the challenge I first faced. After 20-years of city based working, when my daily commute would be the natural start and end to my day, I now lacked the structure that an office based working life can bring. Whilst I was now happily free to live far away from the London slog, I remained tethered to my work.
We are in an age when working from home is more prevalent than ever before. A staggering 4.2 million in the UK were classed as home-based workers, according to the 2014 survey by the Office of National Statistics. That was equivalent then to almost 14% of the national workforce. With improved technology and globalisation, this figure continues to rise.
The benefits for both the worker and employer are clear. Businesses can dramatically reduce their overheads, with less employees to house in offices, whilst at the same time expanding their potential talent pool, geography no longer being a barrier to employment. For remote workers, the opportunity to lead a more balanced life and eliminate the stressful (and costly) commute is a massive draw.
When I made the shift to work from home I was more than ready for the change. I’d become tired of the commute and was increasingly frustrated by the wasted hours spent in meeting rooms. It’s amazing how much time you can waste having a quick catch up here and a quick catch up there. I remained with the same organisation, but managed to change my role and even took the step of moving my family to the West Country - far enough away to no longer be within commuting distance of the office.
There’s no doubting that this was a fantastic move, but I quickly noticed that it does take quite some discipline and determination to make working from home a success. The challenge isn’t limited to only being able to focus on your work. It’s also about knowing how to reap the benefits and ensuring you tap into the great work/life balance that working remotely can give you.
Most of the articles I’ve read warn of distractions and making sure that you don’t end up scrubbing loos whilst you’re actually meant to be working. In fact, the very day I chose to write on this subject, a Harvard Business Review Article by Elizabeth Grace Saunders, warned of exactly that. She urges the remote worker to ask the question: If I was in the office, would I do this task during the day? If the answer is no, then don’t do it. So no loo scrubbing or throwing the washing in the machine!
I’d argue that I had the opposite problem and I’m sure I’m not alone! In the first few months of being home-based, I fell into the trap of working more hours rather than less. I was even anxious at leaving my desk for just 5 minutes to make a cup of tea, worrying that this could be perceived as me slacking off. I made sure I was online before anyone else in the office and would make myself available for late night meetings, whenever colleagues in the US requested my time.
Very soon I was working until 11pm at night on an almost daily basis and saw less and less of my family, who were only in the room next door! So why was I doing this?
For one, I suspected that my peers imagined me “working from home” as actually: sitting in the garden, sipping Pimms, glancing occasionally at emails and putting in the bare minimum to still warrant a pay cheque. A harsh assessment, but one common of the 70s born generation, who had for many years only known office-based working. Secondly, I felt that I had to put in more than anyone else, for the privilege of being allowed to work from home in the first place. This afterall a perk right?
Well, I was wrong on both counts and quickly became frustrated and frankly tired. I was working harder than ever before and not seeing any of the benefits of being at home. So I too asked myself a very similar question, to the one in Saunders’ article: If I was in the office, would I be doing this? Answering that one question, helped me realise that I had absolutely no obligation to be online into the night or take conference calls after hours. I could of course be more flexible with my hours, but I shouldn’t feel obligated to be. Nor should I work longer hours just to prove that I was in fact working. As long as I continued to deliver value, I was doing a good job and shouldn’t need to prove my worth by working longer hours.
So I began to re-prioritise. Putting the important things first and finding the balance I needed to make myself and my family happier. Here’s how:
I now know when to stop. I even have an alarm to tell me when my working day is done. That’s not to say I immediately switch off from work. That’s something I still need to master. It’s a work in progress and I’ll let you know how I get on another time!
If you’re struggling to get your sales organisation fully engaged and fluent with your CRM, be it Salesforce or otherwise, you are not alone!
One of the biggest challenges faced by any sales leader is exactly that - getting their reps to use the tools provided effectively. There’s good reason for this of course. You don’t hire a sales rep because they’re great at admin and always remember to dot the “i”s. They are where they are because of their talent for closing business - at least that’s why they SHOULD be there. Nonetheless, having a sales team that’s engaged with your CRM is business critical. Without proper tracking of customer touch points, your business loses vital visibility over its client base. More importantly, you miss out on some key information that will help you drive the business forward.
Think - conversion rates, sales cycle length, marketing campaign traction…
Understanding these allow you to make crucial resource decisions. Without that insight, you’re steering the ship blindly. And of course, there’s likely to be wider pressure from those in the organisation holding the purse strings. The subscription to and maintenance of your CRM will come at a massive cost, so there will be a justified expectation that it delivers value.
How then can we teach our sales reps to use this all important tool effectively and, more importantly, demonstrate engagement?
It’s all about the pipeline. Ultimately, by far the most valuable piece of data, and from which most other sales metrics will derive or be associated with, is the pipeline. This is not to be confused with the forecast! Many reps struggle with the distinction, failing then to either pipeline or forecast effectively. A sales forecast should only be a statement of the value of total business that’s expected to close in a given month. That differs from the pipeline, which should represent your entire sales process. In other words, your pipeline is a representation of all the business opportunities you currently have open. In Salesforce terms, this should be all open Opportunities. It’s logical then, that your pipeline will be far greater, in value and volume, than your forecast.
Only once this distinction is clear can you begin asking reps to pipeline effectively in your CRM. Looking again at Salesforce as our example, your sales reps should be focused on how they manage their Opportunities. By doing so, they will become more efficient, have better insight into their book of business and allow access to that all important business data that would otherwise be lost.
3 Steps to achieving strong Opportunity management:
2. Know your Sales Stages
Determine your sales stages and how you wish them to be tracked. This will vary according to the type of business and sale, so it’s hard to offer a clear formula. But with most sales cycles you’ll spend some time identifying the customer need, offering a solution and closing a contract. If the expectations relating to each sales stage are clearly laid out, your sales team will have a far greater chance of building a sales funnel that is accurate and can lead to some prediction data.
3. Use the Data!
Reps will only engage with strong opportunity management if they realise it’s not only expected, but also tracked - right up the chain of command to the top of the business. Once you begin tracking pipeline growth, sales cycle velocity, average deal sizes and conversion rates, you’ll begin to identify the indicators that separate a strong performing sales rep from the under-achievers. The business will be able to understand the pipeline required to achieve it’s goals. Forecasting will become more accurate and you’ll spend less time maintaining additional spreadsheets. Everything you need is in the system!
Some words of caution….
Do not rely on data in isolation. Make sure that you challenge the numbers, engaging the sales reps in dialogue about their pipeline and forecasting.
Moreover, do not try to bring about sweeping change without consultation. One for the first rules of change management is to involve those impacted from the outset. Get input from your sales teams - understand their challenges and endeavour to accommodate system changes where necessary. But don’t try to reinvent the wheel and DO insist on them using the tools to hand.
Get it right and you’ll have a happier, more efficient sales and management team - and more importantly, a greater chance at success.
With the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) looming, you may well be one of the many now frantically assessing business processes and systems to ensure you don’t fall foul of the new regulations come implementation in May 2018. Even if you’ve been spared working on a direct compliance project, any new initiative within your business is likely to include an element of GDPR conformity. And as the deadline moves ever closer, companies will be seeking to train their employees on the basics of the new regulation, especially those that have access to data.
The basics of GDPR
So what’s all the fuss about and how is the new law so different to the data protection directive that it replaces?
The first key distinction is one of scope. GDPR goes beyond safeguarding against the misuse of personal data such as email addresses and telephone numbers. The regulations apply to any form of data that could identify an EU citizen, including user names and IP addresses. Furthermore, there is no distinction between information held on an individual in a business or personal capacity - it’s all classified as data identifying an individual and is therefore covered by the new regulation.
Secondly, GDPR does away with the convenience of the “opt-out” currently enjoyed by companies. Instead, applying the strictest of interpretations, using personal data of an EU citizen, without their express consent will be prohibited.
It’s this scope, coupled with the strict interpretation that has had marketing and business leaders alike in such a fluster. And rightly so. Not only will the business need to be compliant with the new laws, it may, if challenged, be required to demonstrate this compliance. To make things even more difficult, the law will apply not just to newly acquired data post May 2018, but also to that already held. So if you have a database of contacts, to whom you have freely marketed in the past, without their express consent, even giving the individual an option to opt-out, whether now or previously, won’t cover it.
Consent needs to be gathered for the actions you intend to take. Getting consent just to USE the data, in any form won’t be sufficient. Any list of contacts you have or intend to buy from a third party vendor could therefore become obsolete. Without the consent from the individuals listed for your business to use their data for the action you had intended, you won’t be able to make use of the data.
But it’s not all as bad as it seems. At first glance, GDPR looks like it could choke business, especially online media. But that’s really not the intention. From a B2C perspective, there could be quite a mountain to climb, as in most cases, businesses will be reliant on gathering consent. However, there are two other mechanisms by which use of the data can be legal, which in some cases will support B2C actions, and will almost certainly cover most areas of B2B activity.
“Contractual necessity” will remain a lawful basis for processing personal data under GDPR. This means that if it’s required that the individual’s data is used to fulfil a contractual obligation with them or take steps at their request to enter into a contractual agreement, no further consent will be required. In layman’s terms then, using a person’s contact details to generate a contract and fulfil it is permissible.
Greater flexibility still is offered under the “legitimate interests" mechanism, which remains a lawful basis for processing personal data. The exception is where the interests of those using the data are overridden by the interests of the affected data subject. Despite this limitation, it’s reasonable to assume, that cold calling and emailing legitimate business prospects, identified through their job title and employer, will still be possible under GDPR.
3 Steps to Compliance…..
Know your data! Despite the flexibility afforded by these mechanisms, especially in the context of B2B communications, it’s worth mapping out how personal data is held and accessed within your business. This process will help you uncover any compliance gaps and take steps to make necessary adjustments to your processes.
Similarly, you will be looking to understand where consent is required and whether any of the personal data you currently hold already has consent for the actions you intend to take. If not, how will you go about obtaining it?
Appoint a Data Protection Officer. This is a requirement under the new legislation, if you intend to process personal data on a regular basis. The DPO will be the central person advising the company on compliance with GDPR and will also act as the primary contact for Supervisory Authorities.
Train your Team! Giving those with access to data adequate training on the context and implications of GDPR should help avoid a potential breach, so don’t skip this point. Data protection may be a rather dull and dry topic, but taking just a small amount of time to ensure employees are informed will be time well spent.
Finally - don’t panic! GDPR has not been put in place to stifle commerce. Instead, you as a consumer should enjoy greater protection when it comes to your personal data and hopefully, less spam!