Value is Perishable

2018-03-13_0832.png
J. Money’s Work History from BudgetsAreSexy.com

I keep up with a lot of blogs in my reader and I came across this article from a fun, candid article at Budgets Are Sexy. I like reading articles from bloggers that put the raw truth of their journey out there. It’s bold and courageous of them. This article was a reflection and a great reminder that value is perishable.

We are not working in an economy where we will be doing the same thing in five years. Here’s a guy that lists 36 jobs in his journey and how he rounded back to his core, but he was always exploring new options and opportunities.

It’s a strange thing when we run across friends 10 or 20 years later. They are usually doing something totally different.

And often, we have been doing something far from the path we were once on as well.

What you consider value today does tend to have a half-life. Automation, competition and efficiencies change the value equation all the time. You might have charged a premium before, but then the world gets smarter and everyone can do what you are doing. That’s when you have to change course or reinvent yourself.

I think there’s sectors where you can hide out for sure. It’s one strategy to combat innovation. I’m not sure it’s that safe or secure. It’s simply defense and fear.

If you simply operate with the security that today is a snapshot of what you may be doing or offering, you can stay relevant, fresh and engaged. You can keep observing and pushing into new areas where your value can be recognized and compensated for.

I don’t think there’s this job out there that will make you feel secure. Nor is there a product that will be a hit for the next 10 years guaranteed.

I do think you are a living, breathing person that can be continually valuable. You are only perishable if you bank on some kind of false staying power rather than increasing your abilities over time. Keep moving and embrace that journey of doing many other things yet to come.

Is Automation Sinking You?

sinkingship.jpg
Are you underwater already because of automation?

There’s an article on LinkedIn Pulse, Recruitment industry will die in 2018 which has been quite the conversation piece and stirred the passions.

It’s foreboding news for recruiters that have a vested interest in perpetuating their jobs. The author compares what is happening in talent recruitment to the role of travel agents before the internet. Automation has changed the requirement for human beings to do a job that machines can do with much higher efficiency and better results.

On the one hand, we can feel a bit of anguish at the thought of people losing jobs. Of course, those jobs existed to meet a market need, albeit an inefficient one when compared to what is possible with automation today.

Many innovations are ready to go but are delayed by public sentiment. We see the rollout of fast food kiosks in the face of minimum wage hikes. The technology has been there for quite some time and the timing is becoming more digestible in the face of economic pressures.

We went through this revolution already in the factory setting with robots and high speed manufacturing. Perhaps we were less alarmed because those jobs made sense to automate.

When it comes to information management, repetitive workflows and clerical functions, human beings, with their inconsistencies and contrasting slowness, bottleneck the production process.

So, if automation is knocking at the door in your industry and about to sink you, how about looking at where the higher level requirements exist? Think about what is not repetitive and takes creative thought.

Machines are excellent at working with rules and repetition. And we use technology today to create efficiencies and compete as we should.

But sitting around hoping that automation will not overtake you is desperation. The economy is moving at blazing pace the the drumbeat of progress. The time to reinvent yourself and ensure you are positioned to leverage automation, rather than simply be overtaken by it, is now. There’s a much higher probability that what you are doing today will completely change in a short time.

How can you get ahead of automation and increase your value now?

The Goal is Not to Be a Professional Employer

Being a professional employer has a weird deal to it. You take the risk, responsibility and social burden of growing a business.

However, this onus of responsibility is increasingly getting questioned where efficiency is proliferating, thus we find the middle class diminishing at a rapid rate. And the largest reason for this squeeze is that those middle class jobs were inefficient in the first place. They were information bottlenecks that a cubicle factory produced and called value.

However, automation is changing the scene in a rapid way. Cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine language, predictive analysis and infinite computing are right there for any entrepreneur to implement. The overhead of office space, server racks, sales organizations, and yes, white collar labor, is not a requirement to get started.

When you get squeezed by market forces or a crisis, the luxury of labor becomes a scrutinized cost. Business owners and managers have to streamline and get more efficient. And the reality is that they can change things up at any time. But they may have overpaid in business operations until a crisis becomes a scapegoat. They then have the business decision to embracing the reality that jobs can be accomplished more efficiently with technology.

And when the business cycle does come back and turn, is there good reason to add more labor when automation has taken root and filled the gap?

The goal of an entrepreneur is to bring immense value to customers. One tool to make this happen is to add labor towards this end. But when entrepreneurs discover that they can do much more with less because platforms and automation are ubiquitous and cheap, then why would someone want to be inefficient when they have found dramatic low-cost efficiency.

And what about the lot of the employee? Well, they have to figure out how to bring value to others as well. There’s no free ride. There are less places where they can be told what to do and what to think by someone else taking the risk.

Instead, they can find customers and automate as well. It may be scary, but by necessity, this is happening repeatedly by people making that mindset shift. And the fact that it is being done so regularly and en masse takes away the argument of employment as a limited option.

Employment is a means, not an end.

Bringing value and doing it efficiently for a marketplace is why a business exists in the first place.

It’s hard enough driving that value. But getting mixed signals in your head and doing second things first can make the job much harder.

Focus on bringing immense value with efficiency. If it happens to involve employing others, so be it. But your burden is on your customer first as an entrepreneur.

 

Why Websites Fail To Convert Leads

Let’s start with this premise – people don’t want to be converted. It’s not why they visit your site. It is what you may have in mind, but noone wants to be sold or converted.

This is the conundrum. Most websites, while they may be well-designed, are focused on the Buy Now customer. It is the person with urgency and pain today. It is a rather small subset of potential buyers.

The greater majority are in the Buy Later, Learn Now category. Buying is a process. It happens when someone starts to focus on solving a problem. They get online and start researching and learning for themselves the very questions they should even be asking. If you are in a complex industry, the cycle is long as your potential buyers get comfortable and orient themselves to information they are alien to in their daily lives and work.

Typical websites fail to convert leads and here are some things you can focus on to avoid the pitfalls of missing your buyer:

  • Brochure design. Marketers got in the business of website design and it shows. They present the company, the products and the content in a brochure format. It’s static and hyped. Compare this with sites that engage you and lead you down a process of learning. We ignore the hype and are trying to learn something.
  • Vanity. Talking about yourself and how you great you are does little to build trust. Telling your story and helping people understand how you work and do business goes much further in building trust. Talk about the customers’ problems specifically and concretely. That builds your credibility and shows you care.
  • No growth. Your content in the form of knowledge sharing and resources should be continually and regularly growing. If it is not, then you become irrelevant. It’s a one and done visit, especially as someone is just learning. You have the opportunity to be an authority on your industry, product or marketplace. Be that hub and the connection increases. Your brand is no longer a stranger.
  • No follow-up. When someone is searching, they forget where they have been. If they were interested in your content and information, then what keeps them engaged or connected? Your site has to have marketing automation to nurture the relationship based on their preferences and behaviors. Otherwise, it is just a forgotten experience.

There is no shortage of badly designed or managed sites. Hopefully, your own systems can improve as you incorporate just these few strategies for your web presence. It is the art of turning a stranger into a friend by continually positioning and providing value in a one-to-one fashion.

How can you improve? Feel free to comment below.

Inbound Marketing And The Compound Interest Effect

Inbound marketing at its core is a process. It is a system which continually produces leads. In the old days, we used to sit on our laurels with a site that was optimized. That is short-lived today. Content and value are being measured and presented by search engines to present people seeking to solve their specific problem with real answers.

When you have a system set up and tuned that revolves around your value, then the efforts of your outbound marketing whether via field sales, advertising or direct mail, become enhanced and effective. There is a process which caters to the buyer after you have grabbed their attention.

We speak to audiences and tell our clients all the time about how inbound marketing systems become assets to your business. Your investment has a compound interest effect that can be seen over time as you grow and leverage your assets. Here is how:

  • Content. Your content persists online. If your systems are set up well, then you will be getting found easily and frequently. Content lives and it serves anyone searching for what you have to offer say.
  • Automation. A process that a buyer can follow and be served with timely information works while you sleep, are away from the office or completely busy. It is more dependable than anyone on your team. It is the concierge for helping buyers get what they need at the right time.
  • Social outposts. Your reputation, relevance and followers that have been built up in the right social media venues has to be tied in tightly with your inbound marketing systems. These become permission avenues. You can announce new offers or get opinions quickly. It is a direct access asset for your business. It is also the avenue for driving referrals.

Getting found, providing value aesthetically and automatically and getting referrals becomes a system that produces on its own. As time goes by and the system continues to get tuned, the output is even more efficient. There are many businesses that have experienced such compound interest. They worked hard to tune their systems.

Where do you feel your inbound marketing systems are at?

Marketing Automation Strategy Is The Linchpin

Trying to make marketing automation work in  your sales process starts with the IT work. However, it is only the start of what really matters. Configuring a system and ensuring data flows in and out out of your CRM is a basic element of starting the work to help you see what is happening with your leads.

If this is where your interest lies, then you can simply connect a real-time analytics program. Marketing automation may be overkill.

The real work starts with strategy. The strategy for connecting with a buyer and wooing them gently through a sequence of

steps that provide high value and build trust is what makes marketing automation valuable. The strategy is the linchpin for success. Here are some of the strategic parts of a successful marketing automation system to perfect:

  • Landing page content. Your content has to serve people with inattention. They land on a specific page seeking information. They are not going to buy now. They are browsing. Ensure your content provokes thought and educates them. Invite them to go deeper. Your tone has to connect with your audience.
  • Call to action content. Again, there needs to be a compelling call to action that invites a next step. At the core, your strategy should be to provide a high level of value for helping your buyer understand how your market works, the questions to be asking and stories of past problems and successes. Package this in white papers, ebooks, webinars and multimedia.
  • Lead nurturing. The sequencing and timing of email communications, direct mail and sales calls needs to be coordinatedand triggered in a logical and personal sequence. Your touch points should seek to build a relationship and provide a high level of value and stay away from selling.
  • Sales engagement. The timing and the conversation your sales team will be in needs to be coordinated with your content. Avoid awkward connections and ensure your personal sales engagements continue to bring value. There should be a direct call to action such as a sales meeting. Sales should be a continuum to the marketing automation process.

The strategy is critical for success. How you set up various campaigns based on buyer profiles needs to be thoroughly designed and implemented.

Your metrics will provide the feedback for continually iterating on the content and programming of your system to deliver relevant leads.

Where are you finding challenges in marketing automation?

Marketing With The Back Story

Melvin The Magical Mixed Media Machine from HEYHEYHEY on Vimeo.

There is a video which has an immense following. It is not about a person. It is about a machine, a Rube Goldberg machine, which promotes itself via Twitter, Facebook, video and a website.

Some passionate artists and technicians did the work of creating a show which told a story. The video above is astounding and speaks for itself to the creativity, hard work and genius of the project. The story draws you in even further. It is marketing at work behind the product.

Ironically, the automation developed in the machinery is one part of the project. The marketing which works to self-promote the machine is another process in itself. The story behind what we see draws us in further to discover the background.

Show And Tell

Seeing your product or service in action is an immense part of communicating your value to the world. New customers want to get their minds around how you work, what they are getting and how you deliver. You don’t necessarily have to build a Rube Goldberg machine, but there needs to be a show which helps them see what happens when they do business with you. It is part of the show which makes the tell easier.

The tell is the part which helps to bring color, description and intrigue to your value proposition. It is the back story which answers the questions:

  • How do you do what you do?
  • Why do you do what you do?

Telling your story is what makes you unique in the mind of the buyer. It is your own and noone else’s. We relate to story. It fills in the missing pieces for motivation, desire, and inspiration.

Melvin The Machine is a remarkable piece of machinery designed with patience, care and attention to detail. See how you get pulled into the back story and think about what your product or service would benefit from with a better tell.

How can your show and tell improve?

Lead Scoring For Sales Prioritization

When the Major Home Oil Dealer Ran Out of Fuel a Special Board Was Activated for Emergency Deliveries. More Than 250 Homes Were without Oil. Cards on the Wall List Priorities 10/1973

In our marketing consulting, we are typically faced with one of two problems:

  1. There are not enough inbound leads
  2. There are too many inbound leads

Each of these requires a different marketing system.  For organizations which are inundated with many leads, there is a problem focused around the sales process.  Salespeople are not like marketing automation systems.  They have these constraints:

  • They can only work sequentially one call/email at a time.
  • They can only connect with a finite amount of people a day.
  • They are limited in how they can organize their call lists.
  • Their talent is finely tuned for closing the sale.

A marketing automation system can do the opposite:

  • It can deliver custom communications simultaneously to thousands of people.
  • It is limitless in the number of people that can be contacted.
  • It can be programmed to filter lists.
  • Its talent is tuned for nurturing the lead to a sale.

The differences are much like a factory worker and a factory robot; speed and predictability are greatly increased with the latter. However, in sales, human touch is highly relevant and important. Thus, working with automation does not mean exclusiveness.  It is complementary. One of the areas that can greatly augment a salesperson’s tasks is lead scoring. Lead scoring is the underlying automation rules which applies quantitative scores for the behaviors of a buyer online.

If your salesperson is limited in their time and finite in their personal engagements, why not prioritize their list for them using lead scoring.  Here are some areas where marketing automation can surface the highest priority leads for your sales force:

  • Strategic Landing Pages.  A landing page which is visited and reviewed can appoint a high lead score to signify interest and targeted prospecting for who to talk with.
  • Decision Maker roles.  If a lead form with a role or title field is filled out for an executive position, you are likely dealing with a decision maker.  This should be a prioritized score to raise the priority of this lead.
  • Content Downloads.  If you have people that read your content and consume value offering pieces, they are engaged.  Create different layers of content and for those visitors that seek higher levels of content in your buying process, score them high.  They are sales ready.

There are several other ways to use lead scoring to help your sales team in addition to these ideas.  As they are working through their call lists, the lists can prioritize based on such key criteria that surface the hottest leads.

In your world, how could lead scoring help your sales process be more effective?

4 Salesforce Process Creation Tips

 

Your business is nothing more than a process.  After all, that is what a business is.  It is a sequence of repeatable, and sometimes custom steps which create a predictable result, either a product or service. Process is what we all use, but often times, it is difficult to capture and create the systems that make our processes work with ease.

The beauty of Salesforce.com is the ability to support how your business runs.  The steps involved for making a sale, creating attention, delivering value or supporting your customers can be created in a highly customized fashion.  No two Salesforce.com systems are alike out of the thousands of users because of the ability to customize around your specific way of doing business.

As you are working on creating process within Salesforce.com, here are four tips to help you make Salesforce.com work:

  1. Segment your business.  Break down your processes into discrete areas.  It can be daunting trying to tackle your entire process.  The smaller you can break down your internal processes, the more manageable it will be.  Ensure the process you focus on is complete in it steps and fulfillment to deliver a result.
  2. Think Tasks And Communications.  There are two outcomes for each step of a process – a task and a communication to a partner, customer or team member.  Ensure your steps capture both aspects and that you can set up Salesforce.com to support the desired outcome.
  3. Identify Automation Opportunities.  Certain steps can become repetitive and tedious.  Think how automation via triggers or custom programming might be able to accelerate the mundane processing your users would encounter.  Automation may mean an automatic task, contingent data fields populated or a triggered custom email.
  4. Develop Key Metrics.  To see if a process is working, you need to be able to monitor it in real-time.  Use custom dashboards and reports that will give you this feed-back to see the effectiveness and also allow for refinement of the process steps.  It is critical for achieving perfection in the process through iteration.

Salesforce.com does not run your business perfectly.  It is merely a tool which requires intelligent and deliberate customization to support the business processes you discover are successful.  Be sure to think like a designer and perfect like a refiner.  Use these tips to drive your organization or get some help setting up your business process.

What are some processes you would like to automate?

Marketing Automation Is Not For The Faint Of Heart

Marketing has many new rules, and marketing automation is one of several major movements which has gained fanfare mixed with frustration.  The popularity has come from the possibilities of capitalizing on leads generated from inbound marketing efforts.  The frustration is from a lack of implementation and execution.

At the end of the day, marketing automation is a system.  The system is, in turn, a project with specific requirements for a specific buyer.  Thus, there is a lot of work, thinking and strategy behind a marketing automation initiative.  A badly managed process can result in the frustration side of the equation.  A sound strategy and execution can provide systematic management of inbound leads.

Everyone Has A Lead Generation Problem

Businesses want more leads.  These come from how compelling your interaction and substance of your offering is.  A lead is someone that raises their hand.  We all want more.  It’s difficult to get attention when everyone is clicking around on Google and thumbing through their mobile devices.

Content which makes a true meaningful connection and is targeted for a person trying to solve a problem not only gets attention, but engages your buyer.  After this, it is about building trust and fanning the flame of their interest.  It is not for the faint of heart.  It is about commitment and continual refinement in the following ways:

  • Analysis of buyer behaviors.  You have a lot of data which tracks every movement of a website visitor.  The data needs to make sense and be analyzed for where the opportunities and drop-off points are.  It is an ongoing process.
  • Building content assets.  Your content lives.  It needs to continue to grow and build an online asset for getting found and nurturing the next wave of leads.  Past content needs to be integrated together to drive further exploration by leads.
  • Integrating Sales Feedback.  Lead scoring serves your sales process and sales people.  Their feedback on how the algorithms are working needs to drive further refinement of your scoring schema.

There is not a magic ball to peer into and figure out the perfect marketing automation mix.  You arrive at perfection by continually working hard at the system and processing  new lead experiences.  It is a game of improvement made possible by transparency into what buyers are doing.

Are there areas of lead generation and lead nurturing you find hard to upkeep?  What are they?