“During this crisis we are offering our services FREE. Just type in your information and begin your free trial as we weather this storm together”.
These are words that many customers have heard over the last several days as the nation, and the world at large, grapple with COVID-19. To many this is a refreshing change of pace. Companies rushing to ease the financial burden of us, the poor victims of Corona. While I don’t mean to ruin anyone’s parade, and while I am sure some people are doing this for altruistic reasons, there lies a greater danger here for consumers; Vampire Debt.
Vampire Debt is a term coined here at Next Step Marketing back in 2017. It refers to all of the expenses that someone accrues overtime by not keeping track of their digital subscriptions and various auto-payments our modern world has set up “for your convenience”. Today we wanted to remind readers of this issue they face, and how to help curb it in these uncertain times.
Where then to begin? Well, if you are fortunate enough to work a job that is allowing you to work from home there is good news; you have plenty of time to begin the process. First, we need to identify the depth of our spending and diagnose the damage. Begin with these four essential questions:
Now that the services and fees have been accounted for they can be categorized. What services do I need? What have I not accessed in months? Though I don’t access it regularly, is its service more cost effective to keep long-term? If it is something critical to daily operations of your business or personal life, label it as “Keep”, but if it a non-essential (that also provides no personal benefit) then label it as “Cancel”.
Lastly comes consolidation. Once everything has been placed into the “Keep” or “Cancel” columns, it is time to stop the financial suck and cancel those services. Then, take the remaining services still in use and redistribute how they are paid for. Try and keep all subscriptions and recurring fees onto as few payment methods as possible.
How, then, does this apply to COVID-19? Simple.
As more and more service providers open their packages, some may be requesting card information, or may even have little disclaimers of when these services will no longer be free. As consumers that are being mindful of spending, keep track of these new additions. If a service needs a card, put it on the card already being used for these sorts of fees. Write down on your chart of services when their free version will expire, so you can later cancel the subscription before a fee occurs. And of course, ask the same 4 questions after a month of isolation to make sure you are still needing and using these services.
In these times it is important that we make sure we are as prepared and careful as we can be. This should include our finances and making sure we have a firm grip on how and where we are spending.
Stay safe, and thank you.
We’re all used to wearing different hats for different jobs. We go to the office and have our business hat on. We come home and have our spouse or parent hat. We work on our side hustle and have our entrepreneurial hat on. But what happens when you have to wear all of those hats at the same time?
Unfortunately, for many of us that’s the new normal. We’re working from home as we teach the kids, take care of our pets, and try to keep our side business afloat. With so much going on at once, it’s not hard to find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and burned out.
But things don’t have to be! If you’re finding yourself at your wit’s end, try the following.
1. Be honest about what you can and can’t do
While in the past you could drop the kids at school and head to work, you may suddenly find yourself at home with three kids and a whole slew of classwork to help manage. No matter how hard you try, you’re probably not going to be able to give everything you’re tasked with the entirety of your focus and energy.
And that’s okay!
In times like these, it’s important to be honest about what you’re able to achieve on any given day. If you need to take an hour lunch break to help your kids – be transparent with your coworkers or boss. Tell them to possibly expect your toddler to stumble into your zoom call or interrupt your conference call. More than likely they’re going through the same things you are.
If you’re upfront and honest about these kinds of interruptions, everyone in your life is more than likely going to understand and sympathize. And that way, you can create more realistic expectations of how things will get done and when. Because your productivity will probably not be at normal levels. By acknowledging that fact, you can be more forthright about the fact that your excel spreadsheet may take a little bit longer to get done – because you’ve got common core math to help teach!
2. Set some boundaries
It’s also going to be important to set some boundaries – both for work and home.
This applies in both a physical and mental sense. Suddenly being crammed in together can be a little much. Make sure to set up a space for yourself that’s entirely your own. That means it’s time to create:
1. A workstation – someplace you can go to do whatever work you need to accomplish for the day.
2. A relaxation hub – someplace you can go to kick up your heels interruption free.
Having a place to still head to in the morning is important for our mental health and productivity – even if the commute is just a trip down the hall. Don’t spend time in your bedroom or common areas. Instead, try and set up a tiny spot that you can get your work done with as few distractions as possible.
But the same should be done for your off hours. Creating mental and physical space between where you work and play is important, now more than ever. When we blur those lines, we start to lose our ability to simply enjoy a hangout space with our friends and family. Moreover, sometimes there can be too much together time. So, it’s important to create a time or space just for yourself. Take a long bubble bath, go for a walk, or work in your garden. Create a gym space where you can workout first thing in the morning.
Whatever works best for you.
3. Be specific about when you’re working and when you’re playing
It can be easy to spend an extra hour just finishing that report or responding to emails, especially when you are already stir crazy and need something to do.
But the reality is, we still need time every day to decompress. If you were working that 9 to 5 – keep working it. While you may need to be a little more flexible with your hours depending on what your circumstances are, it’s still important to have a firm timeframe for when you are “at work” and when you are “at home.”
Be clear with coworkers or clients about what your schedule is, and do the same for friends and family. While it may be hard to enforce – who can stop a ten year old from barging in to ask a question? – it’s still important to try. Maintaining regular work hours helps increase feelings of normalcy, and manage expectations around when you are or aren’t available to work.
Most importantly, remember to be gentle with yourself. Work-life balance can be hard to achieve in the best of circumstances. And these are hardly the best. So, no matter what happens over the next few weeks, make sure to give yourself a break.
We all have plans, but sometimes even the best laid plans end up going by the wayside. In light of sudden changes, no matter what scale, it can be hard to stay on track when things beyond our control take a drastic turn.
The same holds true for business. Right now, we find ourselves in an unprecedented scenario, the likes of which many of us were unprepared for. But, just because things have changed, it doesn’t mean we have to give up on our goals, aims, or strategies. If you’re lucky enough to still be able to work, albeit remotely, you don’t have to forgo everything you’ve been working for or planning.
You just need to make some adjustments. Here are three great steps you can take to maintain an edge and stay on track during this downturn.
1. Get Lean
When times are good, a few dollars spent on a marketing campaign here or a group subscription to a platform there might not seem like such a big deal. But in the midst of larger economic changes, those tiny costs can add up – fast.
We’ve talked about it before, the creeping, lurking horror of vampire debt. If you need to cut some costs in order to make a budget work, now is the time to go through expenses with a fine-tooth comb. What things are absolutely necessary for your job and what you’re trying to accomplish?
Sit down and hold each and every expense accountable. Ask yourself (and, if you work with a team, those around you): Why do we have this cost? What value does it add to the business? Are there other, less expensive options?
If you can’t find a way to justify what you’re spending your money on, or realize there are other, cheaper options you hadn’t explore – cut that cost. Every penny saved right now counts.
2. Get Training
DuoLingo is a great platform for learning a number of languages. Or, if you’re in the United States, right now Babbel is offering its courses for students through their app for free. Brush up or learn a new language and add it to your resume.
Or, try and learn something to give yourself an edge online through Free Code Camp. Started in 2014, Free Code Camp offers a bevy of classes, skills training, and online certification programs that can help you take your skills to the next level. (And right now, it’s handy to be able to wear as many hats as possible.) Because your website is still a great place to get leads! So, take this time to make sure your site is as up to date as possible.
Are you a woman in business? Check out the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women course taught through Coursera. The course is part of a larger initiative that seeks to help educate, inspire, and allow women to grow their business. The two-part series goes over twelve weeks, and helps you network, create a business plan, and grow.
No matter what you choose to do, view this time as a chance to grow yourself both personally and professionally – and largely for a diminished or non-existent cost!
3. Be Honest
The most important thing you can do as a business owner or entrepreneur (and human being) is to just be honest. Honest with yourself about where you’re at, honest with the people you work with, honest with your clients.
Being transparent right now is a smart call. For one thing, by being honest with yourself and those around you, you create a way to hold yourself accountable. Not going to be as profitable? Be upfront and honest. Set new standards and goals around what you want to accomplish this year if you can’t meet those goals. Worried you won’t be able to make those deliverables in the next week now that you’re also a part-time teacher? Be honest with your clients!
Right now, we’re all in this together. By being honest, straightforward, and truthful with ourselves and those around us, we’ll be able to more accurately stay on track.
And remember. The more things change…
…The More They Stay the Same
This is a stressful time, but it is going to eventually pass. The smartest thing you can do is try to use this time to get smarter, get leaner, and adjust your goals. By putting yourself in a good position now, you’ll not only help your business in the interim, you’ll put yourself on track for making good habits that will carry into a better time.
When it comes to sales and marketing, there are two key ingredients every campaign should strive for: mindshare and market share. These two, while they may sound similar, are actually fairly distinct. But if you want to succeed, you’ll need to make sure you capture both.
Market share is fairly straight forward. It’s “the portion of a market controlled by a particular company or product.” For instance, despite Apple’s ubiquity in the smartphone game, Samsung held most of the market share for smart phones in 2018 and 2019. That is to say, they held the vast majority of the percentage of the smart phone market.
Whenever you’re releasing a new product or exploring a new area of business, it’s always important to consider market share: who the key players in your market are, what their market share is, and what you can offer to give yourself and edge and gain the most market share.
Measuring your market share is simple, you simply look at your sales individually, and calculate what percentage of sales within that industry your business accounts for. For example, if you sell 25 hats a year and 100 hats are sold in the hat making industry for 2019, you have 25% market share.
You have the sniffles, so you ask for a Kleenex. Someone asks you to draw a can of soup, and the first thing that comes to mind is that legendary red and white can.
These are both examples of mindshare. In simplest terms, mindshare is “relative public awareness of a phenomenon.” Memes, gifs, viral videos – these are all examples of mindshare (albeit of the relatively fleeting form). Asking for a Kleenex – a particular brand name – instead of a tissue is a form of mindshare. iPhones, Campbell soup, and even Coca Cola (anyone grow up asking for “a coke” in place of any type of soda?) are all great examples of mindshare. Brands that have done such a good job of capturing consumer’s attention that they’ve become an ingrained part of culture, thought, and opinion.
And capturing mindshare is an increasingly important part of sales and marketing. Because mindshare is what helps promote a product. It’s the word of mouth, top of mind cultural cache that helps you get more market share. And, conversely, the more market share you have – the more mindshare you can get in return.
But, where market share is more about the sheer numbers, mindshare is more about the larger connections you make with consumers. While market share is great, the mindshare you create around your company, your brand, and the community you grow is key to making sure you endure beyond the latest fad or craze. It’s what takes you from a generic tissue or soup can and makes you an icon and cultural touch stone.
Want to start creating plans for harnessing the power of market share and mindshare? Contact us today and we can help you create a custom game plan.
In the 1950s, President Dwight D. Eisenhower visited Northwestern University to deliver an address to the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches. During his speech to the assembly, he quoted the university’s then president J. Roscoe Miller, saying, “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
When it comes to understanding what we need to get done in order to make the most out of our businesses, it can often become easy to confuse the urgent and the important. We end up spending our time and energy on issues that, at the time, seem to be more important because of their urgency, putting aside other things that give our time more value.
For instance, responding to a colleague’s work email immediately, interrupting what you’ve been working on presently, in order to respond.
Sure, that work email seemed like something that needed to be responded to in that moment. But… was it more important than what you had been working on? Or did it simply feel that way because of the urgency associated with responding to a coworker?
If you find yourself struggling to figure out what actually is the most important and when it needs to get done, take a leaf out of Eisenhower’s book and use The Eisenhower Matrix.
The Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix is a tool created to help you cut through the noise and home in on what is most important to work on right now. The matrix is broken up into four quadrants: 1. Do, 2. Schedule, 3. Delegate, 4. Eliminate.
If you’re going to put your immediate time and energy towards something, it should fall within the first two quadrants, Do and Schedule.
Let’s go back to that email. Was responding to that email necessary? If it was, but it wasn’t urgent – as in responding right this moment wasn’t really needed, than it should fall into category 2: Schedule a time later in the day to respond to the email.
But let’s say that email was important. Maybe it pertained to an upcoming event or product launch you’re in charge of and, by not responding immediately, things could’ve gone sideways. Obviously, that deserves to be put into quadrant 1 and you did the right thing by taking care of it as quickly as you did.
Or, let’s say the email was urgent, but you weren’t the one who needed to take care of it. If a client needed to reschedule a meeting later that day, for example, you could put this problem in quadrant 3: Delegate. Forward the email to your assistant or a coworker who could help the client reschedule. That way it gets taken care of quickly, but it doesn’t interrupt the proposal you’ve been working on all morning.
Most importantly, sometimes things just, well, don’t really matter. In the span of our day, we’re inundated with countless sound bits, requests, and emails that honestly don’t really make a lick of difference to our overall productivity. They’re the time suck, rabbit hole distractions that pull us from the work we need to focus on the most. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to put it into quadrant 4: Eliminate. If it was a silly request for something that was unimportant – delete that email. Ignore it. Don’t respond.
While that may seem harsh or rude, the reality is if it’s that important – they’ll follow up. They’ll call or email you again. The important thing to do is not assume that everyone who contacts you is doing so over something that is worth your time. If it is, they’ll likely let you know or you’ll be able to know intuitively. Otherwise, let those distractions go!
Like chips and cereal, sometimes our ideas for engaging with our clients can get a little, well, stale. If you find yourself struggling to figure out a way to shake things up, here are some great February reads to help you rethink your latest strategy.
Do/Open: How a simple email newsletter can transform your business (and it can) by David Hieatt
Published in 2017 as part of The Do Book Company’s pocket guides for entrepreneurs, Do/Open covers the journey of David Hieatt, Hiut Denim, and the transformative power of a newsletter. (Yes, a newsletter.) In 2012, Hieatt and his wife launched their luxury denim brand Hiut Denim. In the months prior the launch, Hieatt and his team did an incredible job of promoting their fledgling company. So much so that, when they opened their doors, they found themselves overwhelmed by too many orders. In a bid to try and catch up, they did the unthinkable: they shut down their website. By the time they had caught up on orders and relaunched their website, they had a problem – no one was thinking about them any longer.
After trying and failing with usual marketing techniques to regrow their client base, they got creative. They decided they were going to try something new. A newsletter.
Do/Open does a wonderful job of walking readers through the power of learning to reengage with clients in unexpected, interesting ways. Both visually arresting and chalk full of fun tidbits, the book (and Hieatt) do a wonderful job of pitching the idea of giving people the best thing you as a company have to offer: sincerity. At 128 pages, it’s a quick read that benefits even the most seasoned marketer.
Pre-suasion by Robert Cialidini
Professor and writer Robert Cialdini has spent the better part of three decades positioning himself as a top thinker on the art of persuasion. Pre-suasion, backed by his knowledge in marketing and psychology, is no exception. Full of riveting case studies, interesting anecdotes, and Cialdini’s engaging style, the book is a gripping must read that answers everything from effective communicators to wartime propaganda. All with an eye towards giving the reader useful advice and information they can apply to their own lives and businesses.
The book was both a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, and was named a “Best Business Books of 2016” by the Financial Times. And there’s a reason why. If you’re looking for a way to upgrade your sales or marketing pitch, this is a must read.
Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future by Jonah Sachs
While Winning the Story Wars was written all the way back in 2012 (which is, shockingly, nearly a decade ago), the book still stands as a wonderful love letter to the heart of marketing: the power of telling a story. Sachs, founder and CEO of Free Range Studios, seamlessly weaves the old with the new, teasing out the deeper meaning in myths and legends and showing us the value of using those timeless messages in today's marketing.
Instead of focusing on the latest trends, Sachs encourages businesses to dig into the larger, universal truths that tie humanity together to help create brand stories that last. Thoughtful, provocative, and comprehensive, Winning the Story Wars is a great book for anyone to sink their teeth into.
Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
Like we said, it can be easy to find your thoughts on client engagement stuck in a rut. Which is why Adam Grant’s Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World is such a breath of fresh air. A gifted writer, Grant uses the book to show us the potential and power in treading paths unknown to find success. Championing novel ideas, new techniques, and the unexpected over well-worn traditions. With a myriad of studies and an array of stories that range from politics to television, Grant encourages us to think outside the box, form alliances, elevate other voices, and find alternative ideas.
While the book focuses more on organizations as a whole, the same ideas and principles can be applied to how we think about ourselves, our clients, and our strategies.
This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See by Seth Godin
Seth Godin is, well, Seth Godin. From Purple Cow to Tribes, he’s been inspiring entrepreneurs and changing lives for decades. And the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, This is Marketing, is no exception. From the fine art of positioning to permission-based marketing, Godin covers a sweeping range of topics with insight, clarity, and purpose. But, at its core, This is Marketing relies on a powerful premise: that marketing is about honest, genuine engagement and telling thoughtful, sincere stories. Moreover, he proposes that we can use the power of marketing to make the world a better place, championing empathy and understanding in the way we approach our businesses and our clients.
Have any book suggestions? Let us know in the comments!
So, over the past few weeks we’ve told you what a lead is and broken down and how to assign leads once you’ve gotten them. But what comes next? For those of use new to lead generation, once the thrill of finding a new client wears off, it can be overwhelming trying to decide what information we need to gather. Obviously, different types of businesses will need different types of leads, but there are a couple general things to that everyone should look for.
No matter what, make sure to gather and organize information about each and every lead. Some information is basic and should always be required, while other information is simply recommended to gather in order to help you create more specific plans for each client, or to strengthen relationships.
Required information is the kind of details you should get every time you get a lead. It’s the sort of basics that allow you to know exactly who the client is, what they want, and where you fit into the picture.
The following information is required for each Lead.
Once you’ve gotten the basics out of the way, you can move on to more nuanced information. This is where you can really dive deep, get a sense of what the client needs, the overall market, and create a more bespoke sales or marketing plan.
The following information is recommended for each Lead.
Document all customer contact (phone call, email, conference call, face-to-face) in the CRM.
This may seem like a lot of information to gather, but the reality is the more you gather the better. Think of yourself like a Sherlock Holmes style detective. You wouldn’t just gather one or two clues if you wanted to actually solve the case. You’d take your time, conduct interviews, and leave no stone unturned. Working with a client can be a bit like solving a case – the case of the perfect strategy. And in order to do that, you need to have a full understanding of the client, the scope of the project, and what the overall market looks like.
Now that you know what a lead is, how to divvy them up, and what information to get – it’s time to start gathering up those leads and make some clients happy!
In part one of our series, we introduced the idea of what a lead is and why they matter. But what do we do with leads once we get them? While it might seem like the hardest hurdle is getting leads, the reality is that’s just the tip of the iceberg. From there, it’s our job to make sure each lead is connected with, managed, and executed.
If you’re an entrepreneur working by yourself, moving the ball forward with a lead will rest solely on you. It will be your job to connect with your client, figure out solutions, negotiate services, and set prices. You’ll run the entire process yourself from start to finish.
But if you’re working with a larger team, things work a little differently.
For people with larger teams, decided who is in charge of which leads will become a crucial part of any process. Most leads will generally be evaluated for ownership by sales/marketing management. As a rule, they’re assigned by territory, state, and salesperson.
Depending on the scale and scope of your business, that will all either be handled interpersonally or digitally. Once the lead has been assigned to a salesperson, they will be loaded into a marketing automation tool (like IBM Watson) and then a customer relationship management system, or a CRM.
Whether your CRM is automated software or a system of your own design, you should follow the following basic action steps.
Actions Step for New Leads
Gathering information is one of the most important steps when it comes to gathering and working with leads. The more information on a client and their concerns we can collect, the more effectively we’ll be able to provide them with quality service.
Tune in later this week to learn more about what information to gather and how to create more opportunities for future leads.
As far as words go, “salesman” is a relatively new one. Before the word “salesman” entered our lexicon, European immigrants brought the term ‘drummer’ to North American shores. As villagers and townsfolk went about their daily lives, they would often hear a loud drumbeat kick up in the distance. From every corner of town, people would come in search of the source of the noise until, finally, they’d stumble upon someone with a cart full of goods.
It’s where marketers get the phrase “drumming up sales” from.
And whether we think of ourselves as salespeople or not – we are. From applying to a new job to drumming up new business in a region, sales are the lifeblood of what most of us do. And the best way to keep that blood flowing is through one thing: lead generation.
Regardless of what business you’re in, leads generally is important. But now, instead of trying to draw attention with a catchy drumbeat, we bring in business through sales and marketing. So, what exactly is a lead and how do we go about getting good ones?
The Basics of Sales Leads
A sales lead is a set of contact information (Name, Address, Phone, Email, etc.) from a person or business, which could facilitate a future sale. Traditionally a lead is a single person who represents a business that is looking to purchase your companies’ goods and/or services. Leads can be influencers or decision makers. The one attribute all leads have is that they’re related to a potential sale.
From there, leads can be broken down into two subcategories: qualified and disqualified.
Qualified leads are leads that produce immediate business. Instead of showing a passing interest or making comments about the potential to work together, they have a defined idea of what they want done and how. In most cases, qualified leads have the following in common:
When you’re trying to decide which type of lead to sink the vast majority of your time and resources into, it should always be qualified leads. They net you the most income and opportunity for your effort.
However, not every person who claims to be interested in doing business with us actually will or can. That’s where we get into category two: disqualified leads. This is the type of lead you don’t want to invest as much of your time and energy into. Maybe they’re interested in your service, but aren’t able to afford what you do or are uncertain how the two of you could work together at this time. Typically, you can tell someone is a disqualified lead if they do one of the following:
Knowing someone is interested in your business, but unable to take you up on a present offer may seem frustrating – but it’s a good thing! A disqualified lead, while the churn rate may be high, still retains the possibility to convert into a qualified lead. Moreover, disqualified leads can be great for something else: referrals. While you don’t need to spend an excessive amount of time on these types of leads, it’s always important to use these opportunities to network. When we build relationships with others and they’re impressed with our work, that can lead to organic referrals and future qualified leads.
Next post, we’ll review how to take these two types of leads and create concrete actions plans around them.
In the world of digital marketing, it can be easy to imagine that the most valuable type of impact you can make is a paid one. However, according to studies conducted by Impact BND, organic search leads to a 14.6% close rate, whereas outbound marketing leads only have a 1.7% close rate. In fact, some statistics point to 61% of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority.
So what is SEO, and how does a person go about growing their reach organically?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): A Primer
In layman’s terms, search engine optimization, or SEO, is a means of increasing your website’s traffic – and therefore it’s visibility. Most of this work is done through what we call “organic” or “non-paid” foot traffic on search engines, like Google. A search engine’s job is to piece through and rank all of the information found on the internet pertaining to a certain topic. Depending on how well your site is set up to present that information is what gives you a certain “ranking”, or order on a searching site.
Your goal, then, is to make sure your website and the content you produce is designed to give you the best possible ranking. For instance, my company is called NextStep. If someone who was interested in marketing and my company typed “nextstep marketing” into the Google search bar, my rank in the list of answers shows I have a high SEO score.
The objective is to increase your SEO score by creating custom, unique content that is powerful in its messages, provides your customers with valuable information, and shows you’re an expert in a topic or field. Because the more unique, valuable and highly rated the content, the less you’ll be competing with others.
And the less you compete with other’s for digital space, the higher your ranking will be.
The Power of SEO
When you take the time to invest in optimizing your website and its content, you’re ranking will increase. In other words, your website will be easier to search and find. This, in turn, increases the traffic on your site – aka “organic” SEO. So why does this matter? Does organic SEO really make that much of a difference compared to paid search ads?
Well, according to New Media Campaigns organic SEO is “about 5.66 times better than paid search ads.” Why? Simply put, people want honest, thoughtful information. While paid advertisement can be useful, the value of SEO is that it is generally created when people put thought into the content they’re creating and how they’re connecting with their audience.
While a largely impersonal, data mine approach may work for companies like Amazon, when the average consumer is looking for a business, they look local. In fact, nearly 86% of people who look for a particular type of business simply use Google Maps to see what’s in the area.
So, if you’re wanting to make sure you’re one of the first results that pops up the next time someone needs to book a massage or find a new doctor – your best bet for gaining some of their mindshare is by creating and maintaining organic SEO.
Tips and Tricks
For more information about creating a plan that will increase your SEO, contact us here.