There comes a time in many business’ life where they will need to hire outside service providers. Whether it be computer programming, or designing a new website, business consulting, logo designs or even legal, sometimes you just need an affordable resource for your business development requirements. It can be quite difficult for new entrepreneurs to accomplish these tasks with so many expenses and when funds are tight. Not only can some service providers charge very high prices, but also equally challenging can be finding good quality people to do the job. At My Lead Agency, we put an extra emphasis on affordability for that very reason. However, sometimes you can’t even afford a nimble agency like our own.
When a customer came to us recently with a modest budget and seeking our services, our creativity was called upon. In a nutshell, their budget was too modest, if you know what I mean. We decided to work with them, free of charge, to see if we could help them achieve their goals within their constraints. That's just how we roll.
Initially, they had tried placing an ad on a few local classified websites, to merely receive horrible results. The skill level that was needed was just not there. So it came as a shining beacon of light to them when we recommended expanding the search beyond the local realm. We suggested a few different freelance websites. We started to look into them, each having their own unique ways of functioning, all with their own advantages and disadvantages.
There seemed to be two distinct types of freelance websites. The first type, like crowdspring.com or designcontest.com, let’s you list your project details and how much you are willing to pay for the work. You then send this money to the website who holds on to it. The artists will then submit their work to you. The vendors advise that you should expect to get 30 or more submissions. Obviously the more you pay, the more likely people will want to work on it. You then pick the design you like, and only then does the winning artist get paid. If it so happens that none of the work is what you want, there is no cost to you. You get all your money back.
The second type of freelance website, such as guru.com, allows you to list your project just like the others sites; however you do not put a set price, although you may give a price range you are willing to pay. You then wait for artists to respond to your project with their price tag. It is up to you to then choose which artist you would like to do your project, and only then do they start working on the project.
Based on our customer’s requirements, the guru.com website seemed more fitting. Within the first day of posting the project they received about five responses. The next day it was up to about ten responses. Not only were prices very affordable, but also our customer was also able to view many different portfolios and personal websites. The quality of these artists was outstanding; some of them even worked for major corporations like Disney, or ran their own studios. The hardest part for our customer was choosing which artist they actually liked best. When they finally decided upon one, we helped them write up a project agreement for five different pieces (including some revisions) and they started to work.
The quality was great but the process was not without issues. Minor conflict arose when things needed to be changed and the artist liked them the way they were. All of this may have been avoided if our customer and the artist had been able to talk face-to-face and get these details figured out. Eventually, our client determined the artist had become too difficult to deal with them, so the project was cut short. It was a little bit frustrating for our customer as they felt like they were back to square one again. However, all was not lost, as they were able to go back to one of the artists they had debated using, and successfully finished the project with them.
Freelance websites are excellent tools for the budget conscious person; you can easily use them for small, one-off projects. Nevertheless there are strings attached. The lack of direct communication can be a unique strain to getting a simple project accomplished. These service providers can work for simple tasks but they lack the abilities to coordinate an integrated guerrilla marketing campaign. Said another way, I wouldn’t advise using them to augment your demand generation strategies, or any inbound marketing or marketing automation projects, but I would suggest they could be an effective resource for small, budget-friendly engagements.
Let's change up today's blog post and stand back a bit. Often, in these posts, we talk about the issues and tactics involved in demand generation. Closely involved in that process is the technology. However, today, I'd like to stand back much further and ask the question "When does the sales process really begin?"
I'm going to set it up, initially, and declare it begins two-fold: once involves getting found, and the other involves getting respect.
Let's start with getting found, as this is somewhat of an obvious insight based on the hot topics and trends around inbound marketing and marketing automation. If an individual has a pain, they will inevitably turn to Google to find ways of dealing with that pain. They may also turn to forums, communities, or web sites dedicated to specific issues or industries, but that is always secondary. Google is the go-to place for most people to start their journey. So what does that mean? That means you need to be found by the search engines. How does one get found? One develops and publishes an ongoing collection of marketing content (videos, podcasts, whitepapers, case studies, blogs, etc.) about the subject, or topics, related to the issue the prospect is researching. You pick out your keywords, and your key phrases, and you ensure they are continually and liberally part of each piece of content you develop. The search engines will reward your ongoing new content, they'll recognize your continued reference to these keywords, they'll discern that you're being published and referenced across the various online mediums, and they'll rank you higher in the search results. This means you're more likely to come up higher on the search results when the individual is beginning to research how to fix their issue. Ideally, that will result on them clicking on the referenced link provided by the search engine which should directly, or indirectly, send them to you and your website. That's Part 1 of the process. You'll rarely get to Part 2 if you don't do Part 1. No excuses. You gotta do it.
Okay, so let's discuss Part 2 of the process, because I think this is the most forgotten aspect. I also consider this equal to, and sometimes more important than, Part 1. What is it? It's the first impression you make! That's when the sales cycle truly begins. If you don't make a good first impression then you're never going to hit your sales revenue targets. Let me share an analogy I use with customers.
Have you ever shopped online for something? Of course the answer is almost always yes. Great. Now lets assume you find 3 websites that provide the exact same product at the exact same price at the exact same shipping fees. Which site to you buy from? The answer is simple as you think about it. You buy from the site that appears most aesthetically pleasing, that appears to offer great supporting content such as product reviews, or video demonstrations, or user forums, etc. Do you agree? You should, because studies have proven it over and over again to be true. So why do we do that?
We are conditioned from a very early age to eliminate risk. Therefore, the site that looks the most slick, the most complete, the most travelled by other shoppers, the most insightful, and offers the most service MUST BE the best vendor. Right?! Of course, we both know that's not always the case however that's what we think. It's psychological.
It's about eliminating risk by establishing credibility and trust with the prospect.
So let me ask you this question. What level of risk would I perceive if I went to your website right now? One more thing - if you're suddenly feeling exposed, check out this recent webinar on how to make great content for your website. It's a great way to fix the credibliity problem you may not have even known you have.
If you're reading this blog, there is a good chance that you have a vested interest in generating more sales leads for your business. Perhaps you're tasked with it, or measured by the leads you create, or are being constantly pressured to fill the pipe to overcome the challenges of an ineffective sales team. There are many reasons why we need sales leads, beyond keeping the lights on, but typically we're challenged by resources and budgets in our execution. Therefore, the promise of automated lead generation facilitated by marketing automation is very attractive. Could it be as simple as "set it and forget it" as I watch the leads come in? Certainly that is what is promised by many vendors. I can assure you it's more involved than that. The reality is that many businesses not only lack resources, but they also lack budget. Without budget, marketing automation can never be implemented simply because you can't afford it. With budget, you may still not be able to implement it because you lack resources to maintain and develop it. It's a classic chicken-and-egg scenario. Give me more people and more money and I'll make you more leads. Unfortunatley, management often responds by saying you'll get more money and more resources when you bring in more leads to pay for them. What's a marketer to do?
The answer is simple - take it one step at a time. Then, repeat if necessary. Let me explain.
Auto Responders and Email Marketing
For many of our clients in this situation, we simply suggest you start with tools like Campaign Monitor or Constant Contact. These tools rock for their ability to create online forms which can be embedded in your web site. Once a form is completed (because you had a kick-butt Call To Action), a series of emails can be sent to the opt-in subscriber on a periodic basis. It's the simplest form of lead nurturing. There truly is minimal, to no, intelligence such as lead scoring, or complex branching logic, or persona segmentations to dynamically adjust and nurture the new prospect. That said, it does do a great job of engaging them softly over a period of days or weeks or months such that you can ultimately follow up with a phone call and anticipate a somewhat warm reception. As a Marketer, you can control the messaging and monitor the reports to see how they're engaging with you. It's a nice start, and it's very cheap to implement.
Once you've gotten some ROI from the auto-responders, you can move onto Inbound Marketing. Vendors like HubSpot have pioneered this space. It's definitely more expensive than the auto-responders, and it's essentially on-par, cost-wise, with some of the very low-end marketing automation providers, however it gives you so much. The essence of Inbound Marketing is that it does what the auto-responders do, plus gives you some basic lead scoring, plus gives you incredible insight into the leads that complete your forms. Beyond that, the secret sauce behind Inbound Marketing is that it will help you get found by your target audience using tools such as social media, search engine optimization, landing pages, etc. It's a great tool for non-technical marketers who need to quickly and efficiently drive traffic to their site without the expense of telemarketing, or direct marketing, and in a way that is credible and develops a firm's thought leadership. We have a quick little video you can watch at this page to learn more.
Finally you've had success with the above two tactics, and you now have the budget to really invest in a deluxe implementation of marketing automation. Congratulations. Of course, now your decision is whether to go low-end, middle of the road, or high-end with your vendor selection. Tools from Act-On, to LeadLife, to Pardot, to Genius, to Marketo, to Eloqua will span the spectrum of both budget and capabilties. The only immediate advice I'd offer here is to balance your wants with your needs with your budget. Always remember - it's not a linear equation. When you double your monthly spend on a marketing automation vendor, you're not doubling your feature list or your ROI. Also recall that the more complex a tool is, the more maintenance and oversight is required on your end. Accordingly, the costs are not contained just to the service subscription but also to the associated staffing to maintain and leverage your investment.
Aim for the moon, start with a single orbit
Okay, it may be a corny analogy but the space race was not won with the first project. They built on their successes and ultimately achieved their goal, using the lessons learned from each incremental step and effort. This is a great strategy and one you should seriously consider.
Recently, I stumbled across a fantastic discussion on LinkedIn, in the group “Inbound Marketers – For Marketing Professionals” that asked this very simple question “What is the number one rule of content marketing?”. The discussion was started by Rey Tamayo of www.awiserstart.com, and it has over 200 posts at the time of this blog writing. That tells you that Rey has hit a nerve with this question. That also prompts me to ask “Why?”
For context, let me summarize the most prominent answers that appeared in the posts:
- It must be compelling
- Remarkable content
- Address the needs of the reader; it's not about you
- Utilize keywords and key phrases
- Fresh content
- Use understandable language; shoot for high school readability
- Solve a problem
Now these are just a summary of the more common responses, however the largest response expressed, over and over again, was “Relevancy”. I love it. Of course, you know they’re right. Need a simple example? How many times are you reading a social media discussion, only to see somebody post something that is completely off topic and self-promoting? It happens a lot. If you’re like me, you probably completely ignore such posts? Why? They’re not relevant to the discussion. They don’t add value. Further, whoever made the post has lost any credibility with you in terms of future conversations.
Perhaps this answers my earlier question of "Why". The implication is that too many people must feel that too much content in existence today is simply not relevant. Would you agree?
I fully agree the relevancy is critical, however I do not believe it is the number one rule of content creation. In fact, I think it’s merely an attribute. It’s something you strive for when you generate your content, as are the other attributes like being compelling or authentic or fresh. While all of these attributes may help your content to be consumed, they do not necessarily help you achieve your goals, which is why you’re creating content in the first place.
Think about it. What are your goals? Are they to...
- Generate awareness?
- Establish thought leadership?
- Increase your search rankings?
- Feed your social media engine?
- Contribute to your lead nurturing programs?
- Engage your target audience?
Upon reflection, I think you will all agree that these goals are, in fact, designed to ultimately generate more leads for your sales teams, or to help in the conversion of leads into paying customers, such that you hit your revenue targets. In other words, it's all about demand generation.
Therefore, I submit that the number one rule of content marketing is to generate content that will help you fill your pipeline and close more deals. That’s it. Easy. Simple. End of story.
How would you do that? Well – I posted about that on the discussion group and summarized it accordingly:
“Content needs to start with your Sales Funnel. Analyze your sales funnel. What is the leakage and the lag from sales stage to stage? What are the common objections you get at each separate stage? What are the frequently asked questions your sales teams get asked? Once that's done, you can map your current content inventory against how each piece supports the sales funnel stages. Do they address the sales objections? Do they address the FAQs? Will they help you reduce the leakage or the lag? Is the content serving the top of the funnel or the middle of the funnel? How can your content help your Sales team be more successful? How can your content increase your conversion rates? To answer your question directly, the number one rule of content marketing is to help Sales close more deals. Everything else - relevance, thinking like the content consumer, personality, etc. - are aspects to what content should be produced and how it should be created. If you don't know the content you need, if it doesn't help achieve your end-goal of sales (I'm assuming it's sales but you may have another end goal), then your content will not be effective. Hence, always start with your sales funnel and figure out what you need to make, how your audience wants to consume it (which channels - video, podcasts, white papers, etc.) and how it addresses the challenges of the sales cycle.”
Those who read my blog posts know I often have pretty strong opinions, but perhaps my opinion is wrong on this. What do you think? Better yet – what would your sales team think?