The #1 Must-Have Skill For All Marketers & Salespeople

Now that everyone has jumped on the content marketing bandwagon, it’s become harder than ever for companies to get their messages heard. But it can be done! Read on below for insight from Sam Brenner, VP of Marketing at BoxCast, for his take on the most important skill that marketing and sales teams need when looking to earn consumer attention.

“Content is king.”

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    That was the hot phrase at every marketing conference, workshop, and seminar between 2010 and 2015. Everywhere you went all anyone wanted to talk about was content, specifically the creation of a truckload full of it. Write a lot of blog posts. Create a newsletter. Share everything about your business on Facebook. Get a Twitter account and start engaging. Start a podcast. Get a camera and film a bunch of videos. The content game was all about volume.

    Businesses got the message. Volume has been achieved and now we have more content online than any of us know what to do with. We’re up to our eyes in content.

    And therein lies a big challenge for marketers and salespeople today: Our prospective customers are being asked to consume content from every brand in every channel at all hours of the day. And when you combine the high volume of content being produced with attention spans that have shrunk to less than 10 seconds by some accounts, it’s not a good combination for getting your brand to stand out from all the others.

    That’s why I believe focusing your marketing and sales efforts on the art and science behind earning consumer attention and creating contextual conversations is so important for any business today.

    It can be done and it can have significantly positive impact on your business.

    My obsession with consumer attention and how to best communicate with consumers drives everything my team does at BoxCast. During my upcoming Business Growth Boot Camp session on August 29th, Attention & Context—the Two Most Important Words in Marketing, I’ll dig into this thesis and share some of the tactics we’ve used to capture consumer attention and how we’ve used content to create context for our audiences.

    Ahead of the Boot Camp on the 29th, I think it’s important to lay the groundwork. There is one skill that I believe every marketer and salesperson should practice on a daily basis in order to be successful...

    Walk A Mile In Your Customers’ Shoes
    I recently hired someone who now runs our channel marketing efforts. Early on in the interview, she asked me a good question: “What’s the best way for me to be successful in this new role?”

    My answer was quick and simple…

    Empathy.

    With all the challenges I mentioned earlier—tons of content, many different channels, and shorter attention spans—it’s easy for us marketers to forget about our audience and view our activities from their perspective. And that’s the biggest mistake companies are making with their content creation and distribution today. They lack empathy for their end user. Our customers are getting dozens of marketing emails every day and seeing dozens of posts in their feeds. They aren’t always ready to buy and they aren’t always thinking about our products and services. A person is in a different mindset while searching on YouTube than they are while searching on Google than they are searching on Quora; They are looking for different content in LinkedIn than they are when they open their Instagram app. When they’re on Pinterest and then go on Facebook, they have different experiences with different expectations. When they come to our websites, they are looking to educate themselves, not be sold to immediately. Keep all of this in mind with every piece of content you create and ask yourself: “Who is this for and why do they care?”

    The ability to intimately understand and share the feelings of your consumers is crucial in earning their attention, building context, and eventually gaining their trust and business. If you allow empathy to drive your content creation and distribution strategy, your business will shift from trying to constantly get something out of your consumer to bringing unique value to your consumer.

    Boot Camp Takeaways
    I’ll go into much greater detail during my Boot Camp session on August 29th on how to create and distribute content that’s valuable and how to set your content marketing program up for success as we move into 2019.

    If you’re going to attend the Boot Camp, I encourage you to bring your questions. In my opinion, the most valuable section of any talk or workshop like this is the Q&A time. I’ll leave plenty of room for it at the end of my talk. It’s a great opportunity to learn from each other and for all of us to share our successes, challenges, and best practices. I’m looking forward to seeing you on August 29th!

    Part 1 of the Boot Camp will also set the stage for Part 2 on September 26th—How to Build a Marketing Machine from Scratch—where I’ll explain in detail how BoxCast built a marketing and sales machine that took our business from less than $500,000 in annual recurring revenue to the fast-growing, multi-million-dollar company it is today.

    Register for Parts 1 and 2 of this Boot Camp Series to save $10 on your registration. Email Margaret Bajic at mbajic@gcpartnership.com to learn more.

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    Next up: The 10 Worst Networking Practices and How to Avoid Them

    The 10 Worst Networking Practices and How to Avoid Them

    Make your next networking event as effective as possible by avoiding these 10 mistakes.

    I hate networking. I really hate it. Yes, it’s a rather strange comment coming from the self-proclaimed Godfather of Networking in COSE Land. But let me explain.

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    I’ve been networking to support my business for a long time. My strategies and tactics have changed dramatically over the years as I learned how to network with focus, finesse and flexibility. And I get increasingly annoyed with people who don’t.   

    Too many people still network ineffectively today. It makes me crazy and it probably makes you crazy, too. Here’s a summary of the10 worst networking practices and why I hate them. And so will you.

    Worst Networking Practice No. 1: Networking without a strategic focus

    Some people don’t go to a networking event with a specific goal or purpose in mind; they just go to network. They often waste their time, and the time of the people they talk to. It’s much easier to evaluate results afterward with specific defined objectives up front. Plan your networking, then network your plan.

    Worst Networking Practice No. 2: Networking without practical alternatives 

    People don’t consider optional sources first but rather randomly seek information from strangers at an event. They ask them, ‘Do you know any accountants who specialize in small services businesses?’ Instead, consider who you know who might refer someone who meets your basic requirements. Review LinkedIn or other networks for possible sources and message them individually for referrals. This approach is far more time-efficient.

    Worst Networking Practice No. 3: Networking without reality 

    This includes seeking new relationships or referrals, naively thinking meeting a stranger can automatically lead to developing a new mutually beneficial relationship or a referral to a potential new customer. An initial conversation can lead to additional conversations or meet ups which can, over time, lead to a casual business relationship. But asking that person for a referral will be awkward without first-hand knowledge of your skills and abilities. Better to ask existing customers for those referrals, since they know you and your work

    Worst Networking Practice No. 4: Networking without class on LinkedIn

    People will use the generic system-generated ‘Ralph, please add me to your professional network’ without personalizing the message or connecting the other person to you. This is lazy and lame. It’s far better to take the extra time with ‘Bob, we met at the COSE meeting last week. I thought we could discuss some potential collaborations. Would you add me to your LinkedIn network so we can begin to dialogue?’ It may take more time, but it sends a much different—and better—message about you and your style and values.

    Worst Networking Practice No. 5: Networking without an effective and engaging elevator speech

    I hate when people use an elevator pitch with too much feature information and not enough benefit information; pitches that are too long, too rambling and sales-like. No one likes to be sold, especially from someone who leads with a title. The pros share information about benefits and value instead. Meet one and you might hear, ‘I’m with Marketing Starswhere we help small service businesses define their marketing messages and deliver them with style and impact.’

    Worst Networking Practice No. 6: Networking without really good questions

    Asking strangers ‘How about those (name of local sports team)?’ is harmless, but not everyone cares about sports and it implies lack of business focus. ‘What keeps you up at night?’ is interesting, but a bit invasive and can be off-putting. ‘Tell me your story,’ is great, but can lead to a very long monologue. Initial conversations should be short and interesting for both people. The pros start simple and focused with something like, ‘Tell me about (name of business)’ or ‘What’s new at (name)’ or What’s the story behind the name Three Guys Marketing?’ And the totally old school ‘What do you do?’ still works. Make it an engaging and short conversation.

    Worst Networking Practice No. 7: Networking without business card finesse

    How often does a stranger hand you a card at the beginning of the conversation? That behavior often looks pushy, rude and lacking in class. It’s a great way to make a bad first impression very quickly. Sometimes I can’t resist the temptation to say ‘I don’t recall asking for your card.’ The alternative is simple: wait until the end of that conversation, determine if you want to share contact information at all and simply ask for the other person’s card for a follow up. If they don’t ask for yours, just say ‘And may I give you my card?’ No one ever says no to that courteous question.

    Worst Networking Practice No. 8: Networking without uncommon courtesy

    I can’t stand encountering networkers who stopped caring about courtesy—or never did. They don’t respect your time, your needs or your style. They talk too much and say too little. They sell. They bore. They rant. The solution is simple. Find your personal blend of interacting with other people based on the Golden Rule—treating them the way you want them to treat you—and the Platinum Rule—treating them the way they want you to treat them. Talk less, listen more. Tell less, ask more. Be interested first, then try to be interesting. Value their time and don’t bore them. Ever.

    Worst Networking Practice No. 9: Networking without timely follow up 

    Follow up is everything, especially when it’s timely. Has this ever happened to you: You get an email indicating, ‘We met several months ago at that chamber networking function. I wanted to get together and learn more about your business.’ Not real compelling, is it? Better to not follow up at all than to do it so late. If your networking goal is information, thank the people immediately who shared some sources or contacts. If any of those prove fruitful, thank them again. Emails are fine—fast and easy. Better is a hand-written note. Even better is a quick call the next day, even if you get voicemail.

    Worst Networking Practice No. 10: Networking without returned courtesy

    There are two kinds of networkers—the Takers and the Givers. How many Takers do you know? They ask for help or input or someone to listen to them rant. They rarely say thank you or offer to return the courtesy. Their usual response is to ask you for help again. They’re the “black holes” of networking, sucking your time and energy into a one-way worm hole to a parallel universe. Givers are willing to share their time and expertise without expecting anything in return. They believe that givers gain and what goes around truly does come around. And when people help them, they look for ways to be sincerely helpful in return. Which type sounds more like you?

    So, now what you do? Short answer: Turn all the above worst practices into best practices by doing the opposite. It’s simple to understand and relatively easy to do. Just make the commitment to quit the amateur ranks and network like a pro. And no one will hate how you network, especially me.

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. He is also a popular trainer and executive coach on writing, styles and sales presentations.

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    Next up: The 4 Biggest Marketing Mistakes You're Making as a Business Owner

    The 4 Biggest Marketing Mistakes You're Making as a Business Owner

    From cherry-picking customers to working only on your time, here are the four biggest mistakes your business needs to avoid.

    As business owners, sometimes you find yourself in a pickle, but it's always important to try to not get yourself in that pickle in the first place!  From mindsets to actions, these are four common marketing mistakes business owners make which impact their business and customer experience.

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    Mistake No. 1: The customer is on my time. Unless you've set clear guidelines from the start or have your timeline listed on your website, don't get angry if customers don't get back to you promptly. When customers are in the planning stage, they’re the driver of time.  You can't get upset if they don't get back to you as soon as you'd like.

    Mistake No. 2: I only want to work with low key customers. Customers who don't pay are customers you don't want to work with. Customers who yell or are disrespectful might not make the cut. But, a customer who is indecisive or disorganized or takes little extra management is not someone to write off. The toughest customers will teach you the most!

    Mistake No. 3: I'm not going to invest in marketing. My customers come from word of mouth. When funds are right, the marketing budget always seems to get cut. But Every business should have a marketing budget at all times. Word of mouth will only go so far and if you're not investing now, you'll be left behind in the long run.

    Mistake No. 4: It's my way or the highway. You get to decide how you want to run your business and it's important you pick a path that makes sense for you and your team, but being flexible is the key to great customer service. Maybe you always do deliveries on Thursday, but a customer has a last-minute request—make the delivery on Wednesday! Give in sometimes and don't leave a customer hanging just because their small request doesn't match up with your process.

    Always put your feet in your customers' shoes, and your business will learn how to operate with empathy and business knowledge for proven success. Mistakes can be fixed, but avoiding them in the first place is important! 

    Annie Pryatel is the owner of AMP Brand Studios. Learn more about how AMP is helping small businesses succeed by clicking here.


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    Next up: The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users

    The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users

    Many small businesses today are finding success promoting their brand on social media. But for every success story there are dozens more about the ineffective usage of social media. One of the main reasons social media can be a valuable marketing tool is that it gives businesses the ability to interact and engage with a wider audience. Big or small, everyone today is looking for strategies that work to gain visibility in this new marketing age.

    Many small businesses today are finding success promoting their brand on social media. But for every success story there are dozens more about the ineffective usage of social media. One of the main reasons social media can be a valuable marketing tool is that it gives businesses the ability to interact and engage with a wider audience. Big or small, everyone today is looking for strategies that work to gain visibility in this new marketing age.

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    The Art of Social Media, published in December 2014, was written by Guy Kawasaki, the legendary former chief evangelist for Apple and a pioneer of business blogging and social media use for business, and Peg Fitzpatrick, a successful social media strategist.

    This book offers sound practical advice on ways to be effective in the digital market today and has quickly become the go-to resource for small business owners looking to up their social media game. “I am a passionate marketer and have seen the amazing importance of winning in the digital marketing space over the last 10 years,” says Mike Foti, president of Innovate Building Solutions. “This book is practicable and actionable and written in bite-sized chunks so you can learn some things, put them into practice, and then pick it back up at a later date for more input/advice.”

    “Small business owners all have the same challenge – time – and the reality that social media is free is a myth. It takes time to do it right,” says Foti. “This book provides resources and methods to save time on social media and offers helpful advice and important lessons that any small business owner can use to improve their social media footprint.” 

    This article originally appeared in the July 6, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.


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    Next up: The Best Decision I Ever Made

    The Best Decision I Ever Made

    The best decision I made in my business was to incorporate the theory of mise en place [mi zɑ̃ ˈplas] in everything that I do. Mise en place is a French phrase meaning to ‘put in place.’ It is used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging ingredients.  I learned the term in my first year of restaurant management and it stuck.

    “The best decision I made in my business was to incorporate the theory of mise en place [mi zɑ̃ ˈplas] in everything that I do. Mise en place is a French phrase meaning to ‘put in place.’ It is used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging ingredients.  I learned the term in my first year of restaurant management and it stuck.

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    Putting everything in place to me means having every aspect of my business or work day arranged so my team and I can execute it in the most effective and impactful way. If you have everything laid out and are prepared for the unexpected, it is easier to handle the inevitable daily chaos. 

    As a business owner, it is extremely important to ‘set the table’ and get everyone focused and on board with both strategic goals and daily tasks. The catering business offers exciting daily challenges and every one of our teammates at Food For Thought is set up for success by having the best ingredients at their fingertips to create a consistent wow-factor for our customers. If you are able to always put the right ingredients, including talent and resources, in place at the beginning, you will be able to exceed expectations. I believe our focus on mise en place is our secret ingredient.  

    If this kitchen analogy doesn’t resonate, think of the soft high lob on the tennis court, the set-then-spike in volleyball, or teeing it up on the golf course. Whatever vision works, create the set up and have confidence in your deliverables.”

     

    BONNIE MATTHEW, President/Owner, Food for Thought

    This article originally appeared in the August 3, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.


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    Next up: Video: The Biggest Challenge Facing My Business Is...

    Video: The Biggest Challenge Facing My Business Is...

    During COSE’s recent Annual Meeting, we asked attendees what the biggest problem is that is currently facing their business. And, more importantly, what steps they’re taking to overcome those challenges.

    During COSE’s recent Annual Meeting, we asked attendees what the biggest problem is that is currently facing their business. And, more importantly, what steps they’re taking to overcome those challenges.

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    Watch the video below to find out what they had to say.

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