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How to Clean Up Your Data Wasteland

thumbnail 9.2We live in a data-driven world. Even our most basic activities—like exercising and sleeping—have become subjects for tracking and analysis. With constant access to apps and technology that gather detailed information about our lives, it’s easy to become inundated with information that we don’t know how to allocate.

The same is true when it comes to gathering data about our digital marketing campaigns. We have a wealth of tools at our fingertips to discover some pretty great insights about current and potential customers. But if we aren’t intentional about the way we gather and organize that data, we’ll end up in a dreaded data wasteland with scattered information that can’t be put to good use.

So how can you best collect and manage your data to inform your marketing efforts? Here are a couple places to start:

Create an automated data machine

Your top priority should be to ensure all your marketing tools are working together seamlessly. Doing just a bit of legwork before launching a campaign can help you automate your data capture and organization.

Here are three steps to turn your data wasteland into a data wonderland:

#1. Set up lead attribution.

Attributing your traffic sources through UTM parameters can help you gather important data about where your leads are coming from. Adding unique tags to your URLs lets Google automatically track your precise traffic sources (i.e., organic search, paid search, social, etc.).

In the end, this gives you great insights about which traffic sources are driving your best leads, and it allows you to better allocate your marketing dollars.

#2. Set up tools that provide deeper insights on leads.

Syncing tools like Google Analytics and Google AdWords to the marketing tools you’re already using can help you systematically capture useful information about your lead generation campaigns. If you integrate with these powerful tools, priceless information can be sent to your accounts automatically when someone converts.

Google Analytics can help you monitor various aspects of your marketing campaigns—from form conversion rates to traffic sources. And Google AdWords can help you determine which keywords are driving your highest and best conversions.

#3. Set up tools that automate lead data transfer.

Taking advantage of data transfer automation can save your team a lot of time. Integrating with customer relationship management (CRM) and email marketing tools that automatically accept your lead data and campaign analytics can help you keep your data organized and actionable.

Integrating with CRMs like Salesforce and HubSpot allows you to keep your sales lead information updated in a central location. And integrating with email marketing software like Emma and MailChimp allows you to keep your email lists relevant with little effort.

Make your data actionable

Once you’ve done the back-end work to automate your data collection process, the next step is to use your data to take action. Making data-informed decisions about where to put your marketing efforts can help you better nurture prospects and leads and convert them into customers.

Here are three steps to make good use of your collected data:

#1. Segment your audience.

Examine your data for ways to segment your collected leads into groups. This will allow you to craft more customized engagement and upselling strategies based on your audience segments.

Consider grouping more engaged leads together and sending them a monthly newsletter. And for those who’ve had minimal interaction with your brand, consider creating a group for a drip email marketing campaign.

#2. Create personas.

Use data you’ve collected about customer behavior to create your ideal buyer personas. Defining your personas can help you tailor your content, landing pages, offers, and other marketing collateral for maximized customer acquisition and retention.

When building your personas, make sure to include information about demographics, background, top pain points, and solutions you can provide.

#3. Pinpoint ideal customers for testimonials.

Pay attention to any data that points to a successful customer or highlights positive customer feedback. This data can be used to identify customers for testimonials or case studies.

Testimonials and case studies can boost marketing and sales efforts because people love to hear true stories about how you helped someone else succeed or solved a similar problem for another business.

headshot 9.2Chris Lucas is the Vice President of marketing for Formstack. He is passionate about setting the vision for Formstack’s marketing department, as well as discovering new ways to drive web traffic and leads. Follow Chris on Twitter at @chris_c_lucas.

 

2 The 5 Steps to Influencer Marketing in 2015

5StepsToInfluenceInfluencer marketing is a topic that has been discussed widely for years but as the web has developed and the influence of individuals has changed dramatically, so has the way approach them.

Essentially Influencer Marketing can be defined as the concept of creating relationships which are mutually beneficial to brand and influencer. The influencer receives something in return for the brand borrowing the social capital they possess. And social capital converts, in fact, AdWeek reports 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from other people, even strangers, over branded content.

Branding and digital strategy expert, Minter Dial calls this concept of social capital, WIIFM (What’s in it for me). Influencer Marketing shouldn’t be about using others to your advantage it should be about creating common value between individuals and brand. By demonstrating value to your influencers, they will give support and affiliation in return.

There are five key areas to a successful influencer marketing campaign:

1. Identification: Where do you find your audiences and influencers?

First you need to lay out your strategy and set your objectives. This should give you an idea of the audience you want to reach. The next step is to identify where these communities exist and understand who is influencing them.

So start by thinking about who you want to reach. Regardless of if it’s car lovers or fast food enthusiasts the concept stays the same. With careful research, you will start to identify the influencers in these communities. These are the people who have the reach to amplify a message to the rest of the community.

2. Interaction: How do these influencers communicate? What content do they share?

Now you’ve identified these influencers you have to start thinking about what will engage them.

Whatever material you take to your influencers should be informed by how they are already communicating with each other. Are they sharing graph, infographics, images or articles? Where do they take this content from? Social? Newswires? Magazines? Forums? Once you have pulled out some common trends then you need to define the mix of channel and content best suited to your objectives.

3. Introductions: How can brands join these conversations in an authentic manner?

Obviously creating a relationship with someone doesn’t happen overnight. Imagine if you leaned in to kiss someone you had just met. It’s all a bit too much, a bit too soon. Remember integrity, honesty, and patience are the keys to building a relationship whether it is a personal one or a professional one.

Kick things off by explaining who you are to these influencers. Remember clarity is key. Make sure you explain why what you’re sharing will bring them benefits. Don’t ask for anything from them, make sure you are giving them something that will actually help them with their job. Every relationship must be mutually beneficial.

Innovation: What tools should you be using to carry out your campaign?

Obviously you wouldn’t chop down a tree with a steak knife or chop toast with a chainsaw. So why would you try to do everything we’ve explained without the right tools for the job?

Use technology to make thing easy, there’s a range of tools out there to automate admin, improve understanding and even identify influencers themselves. Interested in hearing more? Check out our 2015 guide to media relation tools.

4. Interpretation: How can you measure the impact on your business?

Every campaign can be measured differently and every outcome can be something else. The important thing to understand though is the impact can take time to come through.

So keep your eye on the prize and make sure everything you do is working towards the same objectives. This article from Rich Leigh explains more about how to set goals and measure results using Google Analytics.

Sound simple?

With the right strategy, tools and know-how, it should be. We’re social animals, it should almost come naturally but remember, start building relationships now and you will reap the rewards in the long term.

At Prezly, we’ve spent the last month speaking to some of the leading lights in marketing and communications to uncover what influencer marketing means to them. See what they had to say in the Slideshare below and don’t forget to check out our complete guide to influencer marketing.

20 influencer marketing quotes from Prezly


VincxFrederik Vincx is the co-founder of Prezly, a CRM for PR Pros. He spent the past 5 years building software that helps teams improve their relationship with the media, bloggers and stakeholders.
You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

1 Re-engage With Leads and Increase Sales – Easy, Effective Ways to Bring Back Visitors Who Intend to Buy

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photo credit: Flickr

 We’ve all found those pennies behind the couch pillow, and that occasional quarter in the crevice can eventually pack a punch—a cup of coffee here, a trip to the movies there. But how much does that analogy reflect on those lost leads that slip through the cracks in our customer buying funnel?

Below are some easy and effective ways to re-engage with visitors who have visited your website but may have forgotten to get back to their project, or worse, may already be engaging with your competitors.  In any case, you’ll want to creatively remind them to re-visit your site and finish the purchase.

Use Re-marketing Ads & Target Specific Visitors

Re-marketing ads are ads that display to people who have previously visited your website, or leads from whom you collected an email address.  They’re offered by many publishers and serving platforms.  While some of the larger advertisers use products like Adroll or Criteo, other large and small advertisers still see a lot of advantages re-marketing directly in the publishers.  Some of the most popular publishers are Google Adwords, Facebook, Twitter Ads, and even Instagram as of late. However, many would agree that Google and Facebook are probably the top two options for the most impact of performance.

Whether or not you are using Google for paid search or contextual ads, consider an Adwords remarketing ad campaign.  Adwords provides great tools for tracking performance and easily creating image ads, even for those of us with no creative capabilities—making ads is as easy as uploading your logo or image and drafting some text in the tool.

Facebook Ads is another great channel for re-marketing.  One and a half billion people hangout on its social platform providing an extensive reach, and many agree that the advertising costs are still quite low compared to other channels.

 

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Upload a List of Emails in Facebook for Targeting

Like the target settings that segment audiences by page visits and actions on the website, Facebook, Twitter Ads, and others allow email list uploading.  You can then easily create ads to show to your most valuable emails, which is great if you are scoring leads from a CRM and want to focus efforts based on lead quality or positions of a conversion process.

Reach Only the Visitors Who Show Interest in Your Product or Service

Since re-marketing ads are not free, many advertisers roll up their sleeves and take steps to increase their ROAS (Return On Advertising Spend).  Both Google and Facebook allow advertisers to create rules that will allow spend to only show ads to people who have taken specific actions on a website or in a conversion path.  Try setting up uniquely targeted campaigns to people who have visited your shopping cart in the last seven days, but who have not made a purchase. Or, run an ad exclusively to people who have filled out a form to learn more about your business.

By targeting only users who have shown certain levels of intent to purchase your product, marketers often save money by eliminated wasted ad spend on traffic that bears no fruit.

Measure Your Results and Refine Your Strategy

Implementing re-marketing ads to help bring users back into the conversion funnel should be common sense. But don’t forget to use good data when making decisions about your investment.  These tools all offer robust tracking to enable insights into what’s working and what might be cut out.

Read some good resources about tactics that work for other businesses and apply to refine your efforts.  Whatever you do, don’t leave those open leads to your competitors.

Engage with those lost gems and drive results to your top and bottom line.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Paid Search.

 

9.30 cDavid Johns is the Digital Marketing Director for RushOrderTees, a national screen printing company that specializes in custom printed apparel for every occasion. He is a senior PPC, SEO, and SMO marketing specialist with skills and experience optimizing ROI through advanced data-driven strategies. He hails from San Francisco, but currently resides in Philadelphia.

 

 

4 Email Marketing Best Practices for Lead Generation

Leads, leads, leads. Everybody wants them and once you have a few, you will want more. When you do get more, you will want better quality ones. It’s all part of doing business.

When we surveyed small business owners  earlier this year, 45% of them said their biggest challenge is growing revenue; the very thing lead generation is for.

While everybody wants more leads, getting them is another matter. Lead generation is an entire specialty unto itself. There are plenty of ways to go about it. Some are more successful than others and some are definitely more expensive.

Most experienced salesmen like the proven ways. The lead generation tactics that don’t cost an arm and a leg don’t require a degree and don’t need a staff of ten. Like humble, boring, effective old email.

Email usually makes the short list of tactics for lead generation, but Ascend2 recently reminded all of us how essential it really is. Email came in as the #1 most effective online tactics for lead generation in Ascend2’s just-published report, Lead Generation Strategy Trends.

If you want to try out the #1 technique for lead gen, or if you just want some new ideas for how to do your email lead gen better, keep reading. These are some of the best tactics around:

1) Offer an email newsletter with high-value, relevant content.

If you want to do any kind of lead generation with email, you need peoples’ email addresses first. Many businesses don’t collect email addresses anywhere on their site.

2) Set up triggered emails

Triggered emails (sometimes called “autoresponders” or “drip campaigns”) are automatically activated when someone takes a specific action. That could be downloading a whitepaper, filling out a contact form, or placing an order.

When the trigger of events happens, your email marketing system automatically sends out a series of emails. The emails have content tailored to the sort of person who would take that particular action. This basically lets you automate your follow-ups. It’s lead nurturing on autopilot.

3) Segment emails according to subscriber behaviors.

Segmenting makes your emails more relevant to your readers. Relevant email messages, emails that have content subscribers are actually interested in; get more opens, clicks, and sales.

There are dozens of behaviors to segment by. Like these:

  • When subscribers signed up
  • Which links subscribers clicked in an email
  • If someone clicked through on an email but didn’t convert on the landing page
  • No behavior… then resend an email to people who didn’t open it the first time (just change the subject line).

4) Gate your content.

This is the oldest lead generation technique. It goes all the way back to before the Internet when magazines published ads urging readers to write for a free report or to request a product sample. That was lead gen via postal mail.

Now a common setup for gated content is to drive traffic to a landing page (aka a “squeeze page”) and have people enter their information in exchange for a free report. Or you can offer valuable content on your website and require the email address there.

There are pros and cons to gating content. Check out Hubspot’s flowchart, “Should I Gate This Content?” for some ideas when and when not to gate.

5) Make your emails shareable.

People still forward emails to their friends, family, and colleagues, especially if you make it easy for them.

There are several ways to do this:

  • Just ask them to forward the email in your copy.
  • Add a button that automatically formats an email for them.
  • Embed pre-formatted tweets in your email for sharing.
  • Add a signup link so people who get the forwarded emails can sign up easily.
  • Add social sharing buttons so people can share your email on their social media accounts.

What’s your favorite way to generate leads with email marketing? Tell us about it in the comments.

If you liked this post, check out our Guide to Customer Relationship Management and our Small Business Guide to Email Marketing.

Brian Sutter serves as Wasp Barcode Technologies’ director of marketing, where he sets the strategic direction and oversees the tactical execution of the company’s marketing program.

Building Relationships with your Leads

You’ve invested time and energy in social media, content marketing, you’ve created a call to action that’s been generating leads, and your email list of contacts is growing. Now how do you generate sales from your current leads and expand your reach to attract new leads?

Let’s take a look at two effective techniques –influencer marketing and customer emails – and how they can help you build relationships with your leads.

Influencer marketing

Using key influencers to promote your brand to a wider market, should be an important part of your overall marketing strategy. Today’s key influencers are often bloggers, and building relationships with bloggers, within your niche, can be more valuable than money spent on traditional advertising channels. According to a recent survey, 81% of consumers say they trust advice from their favourite bloggers while only 33% trust ads.

Word-of-mouth marketing is very relevant and when word gets spread by industry influencers, there’s more potential for capturing the attention of new users and increasing your reputation.

Build a strategy around influencers

Most brands today understand the importance of content marketing, and 77% of marketers use blogging to increase brand influence. Once you’ve invested time and effort into your own blog, how do you spread your reach by connecting with other bloggers?

Software such as GroupHigh can help you identify focus areas for your target audience and find bloggers and social media influencers who will be relevant to your message. Once you’ve identified them, determine how to collaborate to the best effect. Building a successful campaign involves:

  • Identifying your goals and understanding what you want to accomplish can help you decide on whom you want to work with and what approach you’ll take.
  • Get creative. Everyone likes a good product review, but more than their attention, you want to get them involved. Sponsor giveaways for ‘best comments’ or solicit user-generated content and feature the ‘best of’ on your site.
  • Provide high-quality images and suggest creative visuals that bloggers can use for their Instagram stream.
  • Create share-worthy messages. Target a devoted niche and focus on content quality rather than traffic analytics.
  • Research your competitors. Take the time to really analyse their successes.  What does a successful campaign look like?  Don’t be afraid to borrow ideas from outside of your industry either.

Realistic Expectations

It’s important to understand that blogging is a business too. Cooperation from bloggers isn’t always free, especially the high-level influencers. When you weigh the benefits, though, blogger influence often justifies the costs. Spending on influencer marketing might be an eventuality- as part of your overall social media marketing costs.

Connect with local bloggers (i.e. newspaper sites and community leaders.) This is valuable publicity, for free! Request backlinks to your site to drive traffic and boost SEO ratings. If you don’t earn a link, that’s OK, you still gained recognition and a boost to your reputation.

Craft Smart Correspondence

The other tactic for building relationships is connecting with customers through email marketing. Email lets you communicate your brand message in personalized format while providing leads the opportunity to click through and purchase.

Segment your email list. If you’re tracking analytics, you already know where you leads are coming from. Did they sign up through your latest Facebook ad, download your eBook, or were they referred by an existing customer? You can tailor your emails based on the specific marketing approach each customer responded to.

Other ways to segment include demographics and survey responses. The list goes on, depending on the product or service that you are selling. The point is that by breaking down your large list into smaller segments, you can send out targeted correspondence which translates to a higher likelihood of generating a response.

Personalize each email. Include details about past purchases and target items to customer interests based on those purchases. The more you demonstrate an understanding of your customers, the more likely they are to return and become loyal buyers.

Building relationships with your leads is the key to conversion. Building trust with influencers and maintaining communication through email marketing are effective methods of establishing these important relationships. And these are the relationships that create results!  

If you liked this post, check out our Guide to Customer Relationship Management.

courtney.capellan.headshotCourtney Capellan is a Digital Analyst for hotelmarketingWorks. When she’s not writing about marketing trends she enjoys writing fiction, practicing yoga and treasure hunting. Follow her on Twitter @courtcapellan

Building Relationships Through the Customer Loop

Today’s Guest Post is by Sam Balter – Enjoy!

The customer journey is a simplified expression of the complex thought process of a customer looking to purchase something. A quick Google search for ‘customer journey’ brings up a myriad of complex diagrams full of hundreds of metrics. The truth is that every company has a unique customer journey; each marketing channel has a unique customer journey, and every product has a unique customer journey. All customers go through a different journey and engage with a brand in a unique way.

The customer journey model relies on seeing a buying decision as linear and a one-off interaction. Brands that will succeed in cross-channel marketing are building a relationship with their customer in every stage of the journey. When thinking about mobile, specifically mobile messaging, it’s all about creating a frictionless and compelling experience for the customer.

Let’s take the basic model of the customer journey: Awareness -> Consideration -> Purchase -> Retention -> Advocacy. The most successful businesses will foster a relationship each step of the customer journey, and along the way, delight their customer.

waterfall, the customer journeyAwareness:
Using physical signage or online advertising is a great way to create awareness of your brand. Visual advertisements capture customers’ attention and use the present moment to start building a relationship via mobile. Here’s an example of a simple text Call-To-Action (CTA) on a billboard:

Get 20% off your next purchase
Text KRUSTY to 55155

Using a text call-to-action on outdoor signage helps get more from marketing dollars because the billboard creates an impression, and the mobile messaging gives you a way to speak directly to your customer. Mobile messaging adds a CRM component to an awareness campaign.

To take this a step further, a brand might want to ask their customer for their zip code so that location-specific offers can be delivered. If you want to see some great CTAs, check out our site where we’ve compiled examples of successful CTAs, Art of the CTA.

Consideration:
To optimize the efficacy of mobile as a channel, it’s imperative to send the right message at the right time. If Krusty Burger wants to increase lunch traffic, it makes no sense to send a message at 4:15pm. Instead, achieve optimal results by sending a message one to two hours before a customer is encouraged to take action. That way, when their stomach starts to growl, they know they’ve got a Krusty Burger coupon in their pocket.

To take it to another level, consider using a share-with-friend function that will allow more people to get in on the savings while capturing more phone numbers in the process.

Purchase:
This is an incredibly powerful step of the customer journey. I am very cheap, so sometimes purchasing things can make me feel a little guilty. It is important to offset these feelings of guilt with heart warming offers. For example, offer customers the ability to receive a receipt via Multimedia Message, thereby saving paper, or the chance to enter a sweepstakes, to win a prize. If you have connected unique coupon codes with your point of sale system, you can even deliver the customer a coupon just moments after their purchase.

Retention:
An excellent part of mobile messaging campaigns is that in the awareness stage, a customer can opt-in to a loyalty program, and from there, consistently receive coupons and deals. For mobile messaging loyalty programs, we suggest the offers vary; mix SMS and MMS, and collect different pieces of information every few messages. Ask questions like: What is your favorite meal? When is your birthday? What is your email address, etc.? Encourage customers to provide information with incentives, and only ask for information if you will use it to delight your customers.

Advocacy:
It seems like only a few years ago, the only way for people to advocate for a brand or product they believed in was through word of mouth. Now, every customer has access to a digital bullhorn. Capitalize on customers’ social media connects with mobile messaging by embedding ‘click to tweet or post’ within your message copy. At Waterfall, we are big fans of viral sharing campaigns. Dropbox built an enormous user base through a viral sharing campaign in which every referral you signed up added additional storage to your account. This is a great way to provide value to your most helpful customers by leveraging the power of social amplification.

Customer Loop – The future of the customer journey
The customer journey has long reigned as a keystone of modern marketing. As we move into a cross-channel world, where brands are advertising to, providing content for, and engaging in conversations with customers, the journey will be replaced by a loop in which each interaction strengthens the bond between brand and brand advocate.

If you liked this post, check out our Guide to Customer Relationship Management.

Sam Balter WaterfallSam Balter is a Marketing Manager at Waterfall, a mobile messaging and CRM provider that helps companies engage their customers on their phones. Sam writes about mobile strategy, industry trends, and how to create successful cross-channel marketing campaigns.

What If Your Customers Could Talk to Your CRM

I spend a lot of time talking to and about the stuff that we do to make it work now. So sometimes it’s a real treat to get to talk to someone that’s so far out ahead of most of us in their thinking that you pretty much just listen with your mouth open when they talk. (I would put my conversation with Kevin Kelly in this class)

Recently I had a chance to visit for a bit with one of those folks – Doc Searls. Doc is senior editor for Linux Journal, alumnus fellow with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and co-author of the seminal work – The Cluetrain Manifesto with Rick Levine, Christopher Locke and David Weinberger. (Look for our conversation in a coming episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.)

In 2000, Searls and company painted the road map for what was coming only to have it high jacked to some degree by marketers that misinterpreted the manifesto as a foreshadowing of social media. When Cluetrain told the world that markets are conversations, they meant, I fear, that we as marketers should have an actual conversation and not simply listen and react in ways that tailored our marketing conversations to the research we are now able to obtain via social sharing. (Click on this search for “markets are conversations” and you’ll get an even grimmer sense of this.)

In Searls’ latest work, The Intention Economy, he returns to the notion of conversations but puts the onus and control firmly in the hands of the consumer and not the organization. A great deal of the work that Searls was engaged in at Berkman surrounding the notion of something that’s become known as Vendor Relationship Management or VRM.

The idea of VRM is drawn from the traditional customer relationship language, but shifts the management aspect to the customer instead of the organization. In a VRM environment, the customer controls a great deal of the data and experience and is the determining party in how much or how little is tailored to their wants.

One doesn’t have too look to far out into future space to imagine a technology that enables customer to interact with CRM platforms in a way that allows them to decide what to share, what to update and what to request.

Can you imagine how powerful this type of true conversation could be?

The real hurdle is data trust, or lack of, but I believe we are sitting on a privacy bubble.

So, at what point do we rebel against being used as part of Facebook’s product? At what point do we start to demand the ability to control our own health records? At what point do we tell CVS to shove the little stupid rewards card and start to spend only with those that accept markets are conversations and that relationships are not data.

Enable true intentions in your customer relationships and open your organization to a world of commerce that does not currently exist.

If you liked this post, check out our Guide to Customer Relationship Management.

21 The Incredibly Logical Way to Manage Customer Relationships

In a perfect world, every customer relationship would be steeped in a complete understanding of the customer’s current wants, needs and desires. The trick of course is that getting anything that looks like that at all requires three things – incredible planning, thoughtful technology and consistent execution.

The entire category of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology inherently offers the promise of this kind of relationship management while often providing little more than a historical account of a series of contacts, emails, phone calls and purchases.

This is not to say that the technology itself is lacking. Most technology solutions are only as good as the planning that goes into the front end installation and consistency involved in the back end operation and execution.

In many ways the CRM system is simply a tool that expresses the logical manner in which a company views its prospects and customers. In order to get a great deal more from the technology, you must get a great deal more strategic about how a lead moves through the various stages of becoming a customer and how a customer advances to the ultimate state or referral relationship.

The Marketing Hourglass

Special Note: If this idea resonates with you go grab an entire workbook, video and lesson on how to apply it to your business free of charge. Get it here.

 

Developing the stages

I believe that most every business can benefit by viewing their customer relationships through the lens of something I call The Marketing Hourglass.® The Marketing Hourglass is a series of stages that make up the customer life cycle starting from the point at which a prospect comes to know your business through the place where they become a loyal referral champion.

The hourglass is far more effective in terms of customer relationship management than the marketing funnel approach because there is so much emphasis on the customer experience before and after the sale.

The seven stages of the hourglass are: Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat and Refer. In an effective customer relationship view each of these stages would have intentional tools, processes, actions, products, services and campaigns all designed to move someone in one stage on to the next.

So, your ads (Know) would not try to sell, they would be designed to offer an opportunity to get to know more (Like) and potentially move the prospect to take an action based on trust, such as exchange an email address or sign-up for a demo.

Most CRM makers and consultants will argue that this is precisely how CRM tools are meant to function, but experience tells me that few businesses are using them in this manner because the focus is on the tool and how to operate it rather on the business and customer objectives.

The Marketing Hourglass approach simplifies how to think about the overall relationship before you start to employ the tool to track and measure it.

Visualizing your stages

Once you’ve designed how you plan to move prospects and customers through your business you can attach the Marketing Hourglass labels to every contact in your CRM system as a way to keep tabs on the work you have left to do in your relationship building system.

Once you define and label the logical path you’re using to deepen your customer relationships you can start to use your CRM tool to visualize where every lead and customer is in your hourglass and this gives you the ability to easily view where you’re system is breaking down, where there are jams, and where it needs your attention.

One way to further think about this intentional staged approach is to view every person in one stage as a lead for the next stage. For example, a customer in the (Buy) stage should be looked at as a new lead for the (Repeat) stage. This allows you to build better processes, such as results reviews and additional educational touchpoints, aimed at moving them to that next stage.

Once a customer moves to the (Repeat) stage they are now a hot prospect for your (Refer) campaign, but only then.

As you can see all of this staged activity takes planning to get set-up and a great deal of execution to produce results, but the Marketing Hourglass breaks the entire relationship management practice into logical parts and allows you to think in terms of a logical global path. At this point your chosen CRM tool can become the most powerful tool in drawer.

If you liked this post, check out our Guide to Customer Relationship Management.

29 Using Gmail as a Simple CRM Tool

CRM systems are great and powerful marketing workhorses capable of funneling leads into campaigns, automating nurturing routines, tracking conversion metrics and interfacing with ordering and accounting systems to create a complete sales machine, but sometimes you just need to keep track of who you contacted and when.

Using Google’s free suite of tools you can create a nice lightweight CRM system with just a few tweak along the way. Since email has become one of the primary forms of contact, and particularly if you’re already using Gmail, exploring options that allow you expand on the tool you use the most might be the fastest route to creating a usable CRM like option.

Contacts

Gmail comes with a contact database that will automatically store information on anyone you add or correspond with. You can add lots of information beyond email and name and upload contact information from other systems and files.

This isn’t the prettiest interface, but it has just enough functionality to work. Once you add a contact your email exchanges will be searchable and you can add them to a task or appointment in Google Calendar to create even more searchable data for the record.

Groups

One of the keys to using the Gmail contact database as a mini CRM tool is to use the contact groups function. By creating groups in your contacts page for things like customers, prospects, journalists, vendors and strategic partners you can effectively sort your contact list by function and even create mail campaigns to these groups.

Nested Folders

Another way to keep track of key information in Gmail is to use email folders for your key contact groups and add the nested folders function found in labs to create subfolders. So, if you have a client folder, then you can create a folder specifically for each key client underneath the client folder.

Then when you have email come in from a client you can use the move to function to store the email in the appropriate folder so you can access it more easily. You can also pull up any contact record and see recent emails to and from the contact.

Rapportive

Free 3rd party add-ons can also help beef up your new CRM system. Browser plugin Rapportive is a tool that adds social media data to your contact records. With this plugin added you automatically see LinkedIn or Facebook information on you contacts or anyone that sends you an email in the right sidebar of the Gmail screen.

You can also follow and connect with contacts on Twitter or LinkedIn directly from the Gmail interface. This is a great way to get a bigger picture of what your contacts are doing and have instant information on people that send you emails.

Boomerang

Another 3rd party plugin you might consider adding is Boomerang. This handy plugin gives your emails some smarts. When you send an email, for example, you set it remind you if you don’t hear back from the recipient in a set number of days. Or you set an email in your inbox to go away and put itself back in on a certain day.

Many of the functions in Boomerang allow you to set-up and operate your own little tickler file system based entirely on emails sent and received.

App Marketplace

Of course there are lots of additional apps that integrate with Gmail and the entire suite Google Apps found in the App Marketplace. For example, the Mavenlink app turns the system described here into a full collaboration and project and task management suite.

Full-featured tools are great, but sometimes a simple solution you can master and use in the way you’re already working is just the ticket.

11 The Selling System Technology Toolkit

selling toolbox

Image credit: chuckoutrearseats via Flickr

In response to yesterday’s post Installing a Selling System, a reader asked me what tools I favored for each of the steps in the system I described.

There’s no question that the act of selling, building trust, and educating prospects has been dramatically impacted by the onslaught of online tools available today, but I think the perfect blend lies in fusing the online with the offline. Selling is still about building relationships and few things compare to hugs and handshakes in the relationship arena.

Smart marketers and salespeople are using technology to help provide additional points of contact, training, and research in ways that enhance, rather than replace, the overall process of moving people to making a purchasing decision.

With that in mind, here are my tech toolbox suggestions for amplifying the selling system. This is not meant to be the complete list of every option, but more of a starter list of tools I like to help get you thinking about fusion. (Details on each step)

Discovery – Move a lead to the next planned step

  • Wufoo – a brilliant form building tool that can be used to present a series of qualifying questions that feed your CRM pipeline
  • Flowtown – a tool that appends an email lead with a full suite of social media and online activity giving you a much richer picture of a prospect. (Integrates with Wufoo and email service providers)

Presentation – the planned act of presenting your unique approach, case statement and story

  • iPad – the small, yet brilliant display of the iPad running Keynote or even a PDF viewer makes the perfect intimate presentation tool. Don’t create the 50 slide info dump, but use a handful of slides to create impact and reinforce your primary point of view and story.
  • SlideRocket – an online slide presentation tool that can be used live or as an on demand show. The power of this tool is the ability to create presentations that contain multimedia and forms tied to your CRM system

Nurturing – Keeping a prospect interested and engaged as they move through their buying cycle

  • Office AutoPilot – a little known tool that has the power to run your entire marketing automation process. The full suite includes form based email marketing, direct mail integration, lead scoring and tracking, and pURL technology, but best of all, it’s built with the small business in mind.
  • InfusionSoft – another small business oriented tool that includes CRM features, autoresponders, branching and personalized follow-up based on click tracking
  • Constant Contact, Vertical Response, MailChimp, AWeber – all great, reputable email marketing services that allow you to create multifaceted email follow-up campaigns

Transaction – a process that focuses on delivering a remarkable experience once a prospect decides to buy

  • MavenLink – one of the many online project management suites, but focused on simplicity for the service provider. Using a tool like this allows you to create an online portal for every client and give them access to orientation materials as well as an online collaboration space for project work.
  • Central Desktop – another project management tool, but with a nice wiki feature for building lots of easily searchable content for your customers.
  • Jott – this tool does a lot of things, but primarily it’s a way to speak a message and have it sent via email. Try this right after you meet with a new client and send the action steps from your just completed meeting via email as you drive back to the office.

Review – one of the most overlooked points in selling is measuring results, both your’s and the client’s

  • MyNextCustomer – a simple way to measure phone calls, web leads and sales from social media, seo, paid search and offline marketing campaigns to determine where your highest conversion payoff is.
  • GetSatisfaction – a very nice tool that facilitates the act of bringing customers and companies together to create a better shared experience.
  • SurveyGizmo – my favorite online survey, poll and questionnaire tool