How good are you at voicemails during the sales process?

Most of your customers or leads will have a voice mail system in place to be used in case when they are away from their desk.

Voice mails are hard to do

Typically when speaking into a voice mail system, people:
- Constructing the strangest sentences
- Telling the wrong things or things that not really matter
- Missing to tell the real point
- Being very brief missing essential parts of the reasons for your call
- Speaking too long (over 2 minutes)
- Using the wrong wordings
- Speaking with the wrong intonation
These problems are probably due to the fact that there is no human response from the receiving party at it is a recorder.
Of course you can always use the delete option and re-record until you get bored or more nervous.

The receiver will listen to a voice mail differently than during a normal telephone conversation. This adds on to the difficulty of a voice mail. Also the receiver can replay your (weird sounding) message several times allowing analyzing your strange behavior on the voice mail system. This will not add on to your credibility.

The end result is that the important message that needed to be communicated can:
- Leave the wrong impression
- Be misinterpreted
Both having with the result of creating the wrong response or action.
Still you can use an email as back-up referring to your voice mail just to be sure that the message is communicated.

A voice mail gone wrong in the British comedy TV show “Coupling“:

Voice mails in the sales process

During a sales process, if you need to bring an important message or information to your customer or lead, will you then leave a voicemail? Or try to call back later?

What harms the most?
- Using the voice mail in order to leave the message: that can be misinterpreted or not listened.
- Disconnecting and try to call back a little later?

Calling back later will require more time from you and you can fail to speak your prospect or customer again.

There is a trade off:
- Using the voice mail system: a wrong interpretation will be hard to repair.
- Not bringing the message on time has a certain cost too as a decision can depend on it.
But which one is the costliest?

There are the additional problems of:
- The many voice mails are never returned which stops your conversation.
- The facts changing or events happening after leaving the voice mail.
The best is of course if you could speak the person personally.
An alternative is to send an email, but maybe that’s not suitable for your all-important message.

How effective are you in leaving voice mails?
Did leaving a voice mail ever helped the sales process?

 

How a market leader fails big time: Google versus Amazon in cloud computing

Google is B2B

Google (GOOG) is and has always been in the business of selling services into the business market by providing an online platform for advertising for businesses based upon their search engine system. The operations of Google use a distributed massive computing platform throughout the world. Thus thanks to the B2B business Google has:Google versus Amazon
- Company names
- Contact details
- Online ad spending indication by company
- Experience in web services.

Amazon is B2C

Amazon (AMZN) started out as an online bookshop and expanded the business by offering more consumer goods.
Due to the consumer business (B2C) Amazon has:Google Streetview car
- Contact details of individuals – thus no relation to companies
- Experience for web services mainly as web shop.

Google gets lost in Streetview

The almighty Google
- Is and was the leading computing platform.
- Was well positioned to offer other services for businesses.
Especially compared to a B2C company like Amazon.
Still Google decided to ignore their business customers and started to focus on services related to consumers. The advertising business model of Google made them decide to start initiatives like Google Maps, Google Streetview. The latter requiring huge amounts of storage space. Many of them services with doubtful, yet-to-be-proven or non-existent business model.

At the same time Amazon started their S3 (Simple Service Storage) right into the business market and challenging the computing technology of Google.
As this wasn’t enough, Amazon launched also their EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) virtualization platform to complete the offering.

Overnight Amazon defined and conquered the market with affordable pay-as-you-go pricing system. Exactly where one would have expected Google.

As Google had busy with other initiatives like Android (mobile operating system), Streetview, … they responded rather late with their Google App Engine offering. The App Engine offering is much more limited than the Amzon offerings: not only by the languages supported but also for porting existing systems and more flexible.
For further comparison:
- Markus Clems – Cloudy Times
- ZDNet Dion Hinchcliffe – Platform-as-a-Service
- GridGain – Open Cloud Platform

Amazon the bookstore conquers the computing cloud market

The start-up companies were the first to embrace the offering of Amazon Web Services, soon followed by larger enterprises.
Even IBM embraced Amazon Web Services for:
- Delivering IBM’s market leading software to clients and developers.
- Running IBM software (already-purchased by IBM clients) on Amazon EC2.

While Google was shooting pictures of the streets of the world, Amazon took market leadership in the cloud market for SaaS applications and web services.

The company management of Google failed to recognize and to catch a market where they should have become market leader as they had:
- The technology platform
- The technology experience
- The operational experience of running large computer centres
- The B2B market relations
- The B2B marketing experience
- The market esteem for innovation
Still Amazon, without any of the above qualities or recognition, snatched up the market that was not even related to their core business.
These businesses are further apart than if IKEA would sell call services to businesses.

Big marketing and product marketing mistakes can happen in any company: even market leaders do fail big time as they are even more blurred by their own success and their self-satisfaction.

What are your product management mistakes?

 

Getting copied is a proof of innovation, vision and success

A few weeks ago we found out the market leader in Marketing Automation, Demand Generation and Lead Management has copied our Activity charts concept.

We have noticed several website visits by the company during the year 2008 and a few at the beginning of this year as our web service LEADSExplorer registers all companies visiting our website.
They have adopted the idea and concept and added some features.

Activity charts

These Activity charts represent the activity of the visitors of a company combined with the communications with the different people in this company on a time axis.

Activity chart by visiting companyThe visit activity is represented by the intensity of the color (more pages viewed) and the height (duration of a visit).

The communications include: emails, telephone calls, white paper downloads, completed forms: each represented by a different color.

The purpose is to analyze:
- The increase or decrease of the interest in the solutions you offer.
- The effectiveness of the nurturing for both leads and customers.
- The efforts for customer retention.

Proof of having a vision and being successful

We can only be proud that we had the vision of the concept of these Activity charts long before the market leader.
Getting copied is a proof of innovation, vision and success.
In many markets, market leaders have copied the smaller companies as they challenge them.

We are not worried as there are still several functions, features and concepts within the LEADSExplorer solution that sets us apart and we are not direct competitors.

However we have the challenge to keep one step ahead of the competitors by providing new, useful and convenient solutions beneficial to our clients: the drive to innovate.

Have you ever been copied?
Or do you copy others?

 

Will social networking websites drive business card evolution?

Business cards are outdated

In this video Joel Bauer declares your business card is crap.

In the video he shows the business card that took him 25 years to design, costing $4 and not fitting in a Rolodex. Seems a waste of 25 years.
Moreover a Rolodex is a relic of the past (over 25 years), but so is his newly developed card.

Business cards not adapted for social networking websites

Still he is probably right that your business card is crap for many other good reasons:
The business card is a thing of the past, not adapted anymore to the online world and online life people live, even in business.
Eventhough your mobile phone number, your email address and your company website have been added in print, the card will always miss your online presence that goes beyond your email address: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, and many more …
- All people have many presences on the Internet
- Not enough space on the card for all the links
- Online changes happen faster than the printing of a new stack of cards: you can’t keep up.
- Entering data from a business card into any computer system is a waste of time (so 70′s).

The Poken as business card

At the same time in some countries in Europe a new craze has started: the Poken.
It connects the online social networking into the real world.

Actually it is a USB memory key with an RFID antenna.
You know the RFID technology from the card people use to open a door of a building: physical access.
The RFID is used to exchange data.

The idea is you store your online credentials on the Poken using the USB connection on your PC.
Online credentials like your LinkedIn page, your Facebook page, your Twitter page, your MySpace page or your personal website.

When you meet with somebody new you exchange your online credentials by nearing your Pokens. If the data has been transferred the Poken hand will glow green. If faulty the hand will glow red.

Up to 64 contacts can be stored on the Poken. If you don’t upload the data to the website on the Internet, the oldest contact will be erased from the memory when adding on a next contact.
Price is about €15 or $20 and to be purchased online of course.
The company Poken SA is from Lausanne in Switzerland and has a presence on Facebook.

Already popular in schools, not yet in use for business: but that can change soon.
If teenagers can use it, their parents will be able too: they just need to ask their kids.

Will you next business card be a fancy paper card or will you have a Poken?

 

The world has become a village thanks to Twitter – News power change

Towers for news

TowerCenturies ago in Europe merchants build towers to lookout for ships to arrive on the river to the harbor. Upon this knowledge they could prepare and act.
The number of people informed was limited.
The communication model was 1 tot 1.

Newspapers

Two centuries ago newspapers could spread the news with a delay of a day.
The number of people informed was relatively large: those who could read and afford a newspaper.
The communication model was from a limited number of sources to a large audience: thus very controllable and censurable.

Telex

A century ago the telex could bring you news instantly to your office.
Having this knowledge they could speculate or arrange before others could.
As telex was expensive, the number of informed people was small, but they had the advantage of immediate information delivery over long distances.
Again the communication model was 1 to 1 as there was a high price to pay for the high speed, which has an economic value.

Telephone

Then telephone could bring the news even quicker as there was no need for coding and decoding the message, decreasing the cost of news delivery and no knowledge to operate (make a call).
The communication model was 1 to 1. Due to the popularity the operating cost decreased significantly.

Broadcasting

News
First there was radio and later TV, both broadcasting to millions of people instantly.
Thus the competitive advantage of other information carriers was lost: newspapers needed to rethink their business.
Still the number of sources was limited and the distribution of information was still expensive, but was affordable by the large audience and was sponsored by advertising.
The number of sources was rather limited, but audience was massive (millions).

The Internet

The Internet allowed access to a wide range of sources of information and news almost without boundaries.
At first the established news agencies started to distribute their content over the Internet.
A few years into the Internet age as both the cost of access and the cost of publishing on the internet decreased, individual bloggers started to distribute news, information and their views too.
This changed the information from a limited number of sources into multiple sources distributing information to different smaller audiences.
The established news agencies couldn’t compete or control anymore.

Mobile phones

Nowadays everyone in business has a mobile telephone allowing staying updated everywhere.
Thus people can stay up-to-date anywhere in the world with news from anywhere.
Again this is a 1 to 1 communication model with the advantage that both parties don’t need to be in a fixed location.
A smart phone is even better as it can receive the news from a range of selected sources thus not limited to a 1 to 1 communication model.

Mobile Micro Blogging

Micro bloggingMobile micro blogging has changed the distribution of information: anyone can send out a message by texting (sms) or from the Internet to a central aggregator (like Twitter, Plurk or Jaiku), which can be followed by many from anywhere.
This has become a system of multiple sources aggregated and distributed to multiple sources. Operating at a fairly low and affordable price or even free!

That is why this Mobile Micro Blogging is so unique and very disruptive.
Example: the Twitter messages about the terrorist attack in Mumbai

The world has become a village

As around 80% of the world population is covered by mobile networks and about 4 billion mobile phones are in use, the majority of people have access to mobile phones.
Most of these mobile phones (75%) can send an SMS (texting) allowing sending a message to an aggregator.
Hence the world has become a village where anyone can distribute information to the masses at a low cost: the cost of sending a sms (texting).

This fast mobile one-person-to-many broadcast communication has become a problem for companies, leaders and governments as there are no more barriers.

Let’s hope the connection between all people and cultures brings peace and will keep peace in the world as it will be very difficult to keep anything secret or not being broadcasted.

Everybody can own and know the news and it is no longer a priviledge for a selective group of people.
The power of news has changed definitely.
Will you be able to use it for your business?

 

CRM needs change: from data entry system to data aggregator

The CRM as it has been

There are so many vendors, so many solutions, so many different marketing packages, but all the CRM solutions come down to the same:
A CRM a relational data base having:
- Input forms: leads, customers, projects, salesmen, products
- Search screens: on all the above and many of their combinations
- Reports using the same data

Standard relational data base systemsRelational data base tables
All the CRM solutions are based on the standard Structured Query Language (SQL) statements for inserting, appending and retrieving information in or from the relational data base.

In order to imagine what is a relational data base: a spreadsheet where the different worksheets are the tables with data:
- The rows of each worksheet are the records: a record for every customer
- The columns are the fields: customer name, customer address,…
Several worksheets make up the complete information about the customers: contact details, contact history, projects,…
SQL allows to querying and inserting data into the different tables.
More on CRM and relational data base here.

In order to solve more complex problems of data located in different tables, the different relational data base tables are being joined.
All these features and methods are standard for relational data base systems.

All this relational data base technology was commercially available on a large scale since the mid-eighties from several vendors: like Oracle and several others. Thus there is nothing technically new since long ago.

Variations on the same CRM theme
Many flavors and other approaches have been created addressing different segments of the market: CRM for call centers, CRM for after sales, CRM small businesses, CRM for project companies, …
All of them are variations on the same pattern: a relational data base with entry forms and reports.

Web service as innovation?

Since 2000 the new technology feature is offering a CRM as a web service (Saas Software as a service), eliminating the setup, running costs and no IT expertise required.
However this is no innovation as the functions and features remained the same.

Mobile CRM

At the same time several attempts have been made to use the CRM on mobile phones.
The high cost of mobile data communication has limited the adoption of mobile CRM.
Thanks to the availability of Wifi, the cost of mobile CRM has become affordable.
As the quality of the displays of mobile phones is increasing CRM on your mobile will become a standard feature.

Disruptive changes in business

Since the nineties email, Internet and mobile communications have been introduced and have changed radically the way people do business.
As businesses have undergone disruptive changes in their methods of work it is time to change the CRM too.

Disruptive changes in CRM

Multiple information resourcesNew innovative CRM solutions are required in order to cope with the changes:
A solution which helps the sales and marketing people by collecting all the electronic available data from multiple sources:
- The email communications
- The Internet: company website data, news feeds, social website data
- The website where your leads and customers visit: visit data
- The intranet for data from within the company

Instead of a data entry and reporting system, the CRM needs to change into an aggregator of data from different sources.

All data that already exists in electronic format needs to be used by the CRM, without being re-entered, for lead generation, customer nurturing and selling.

The evolution of CRM:
1. The first new solutions have aggregated the email communications by customer.

2. Then solutions have integrated information available on the Internet.

3. A next step is to integrate the visit data from your website by company (leads and customers).

4. Finally the information locked up within disparate systems within the company will need to be integrated. This is the most difficult as there is no standard or uniform data storage use and no uniform data retrieval available.

The benefits of CRM changes:
This change is very disruptive from the fairly simple data entry and reporting systems to complex data aggregator systems that will serve sales and marketing in order to:
- Better lead generation
- Improve nurturing customers
- Increase sales
- Decrease significantly the amount of administrative work and time wasted
Thus increasing profits.

Note: LEADSExplorer provides email, Internet and website visit data aggregation as a web service.

 

The problems with podcasting as marketing tool

PodcastingPodcasts are multiple audio or even a video recordings (or series) distributed over the Internet to a computer or portable media.
The difference with other streaming media is the syndication, the subscription for receiving the updates whenever new content is added.

Podcasts were originally intended to distribute radio-type of shows; many different uses have been found including marketing.

Currently podcasts are used for different marketing purposes on a one time basis, instead of a series of audio or video messages: new product announcement, educating potential customers, use of solutions, customer success stories.

Advantages

People are lazy, thus listening to a podcast is easier as it requires less effort than reading.
- Audio can have a better impact than text.
- Video can have an even bigger impact.

Podcasts can be played on moments the audience doesn’t want to read: like when commuting.

A short video will tell more than a thick manual as people are visual.

Podcast problems

Production costs:
For every level of higher impact you can obtain, the number of free variables becomes smaller:
- Audio: the voice, the pronunciation and the intonation need to be perfect
- Video: the body language and the expressions on the face need to match the content.
These will increase the production costs.

Writing:
Writing a text is straightforward and many people have writing experience.
Writing a podcast (especially a video podcast) is more like writing a script for a radio play or a TV show and less people are experienced.

Presenting:
Many people can write only few can present in front of a microphone. Even less are capable of not looking stupid before a video camera.

The distribution costs:
If the podcast is not popular, the distribution costs are easy to afford.
In case the podcast becomes popular (accidentally), the costs involved will shoot through the roof and go beyond your budget.

The audience:
Not every company has a high speed Internet connection or the employees have to share one fast access. This makes the podcast unbearable.

The fast forward:
- In case of a written text the reader knows more or less if you are skipping things.
- A fast forward on podcast doesn’t indicate what the listener or viewer has missed.
The audience has to sit through the entire podcast, whereas readers can scan a text fast

No copy/paste:
If your audience needs to make a summary for his CEO, they need to write it all down themselves. This is much more work.
One solution to this is providing a transcript of the podcast.

Languages:
Whereas a text can be translated into another language at a relatively low cost, a podcast needs to be reproduced for every other language requiring:
- To find the suited people
- To translate
- To produce the podcast

Findability:
The search engines are made for indexing text, thus with podcasts they are limited to the short summary of the podcast not revealing the entire content.

Social acceptance in the office:
Reading a text on the Internet in the office is considered as allowed as you gather information.
Listening to an audio podcast is already less allowed and is disturbing other employees if your audience doesn’t have an personal office: even in a cubicle
Watching a video during office hours is considered as entertainment, not as work.

Using podcasting as a marketing tool is not evident and might not reach your audience it was intended for.

Do you use podcasting for marketing purposes?

 

Marketing software tools scale well – sales tools not

Marketing tools scale well

There is abundance of tools and solutions for Marketing.
This is probably because information technologies is very efficient when a process:
- Can be automated
- Replicated over an over again
- Large numbers are available making automation profitable
- Large numbers enable to generate statistical data

The large numbers and the replicative feature comply with the one to many communications character of Marketing.

Marketing has a whole range of applications and web services available for:Swiss knife tools
- Email campaigns
- Direct mail
- Website analytic
- Inquiry forms
- SEO analysis
- Webinar
- Presentation software
- Lead management software
- Competitor analysis systems

All these tools scale very well as a relatively small effort can generate a huge amount of communication messages send out.

Sales tools don’t scale well

The salesman is into one to one communications: there for he has a range of personal communication media at his disposal:
- Landline telephone
- Mobile phone
- Email
- Instant Messaging

Besides these communication tools, there are several sales supporting or useful information technologies available:Screwdriver
- Contact managers
- Appointment / agenda solutions
- Contract manager
- Proposal managers
- Collaboration solutions
- CRM

The problem with all or most of these solutions is that they all require data entry.
Thus they do not scale well for the users as for every use it requires time, dedication and quality persistency (obstinacy?) of the user.

Information generation instead of data entry

In most cases there is not any data generated or captured from other sources in these solutions.
Thus these are time demanding solutions for the salesman.

However useful and time saving information could be collected and aggregated within the CRM or sales tools:
- Email collecting by customer: several CRM solution already provide this
- Internet information: many sources can provide information about the customer: company and people
- Website visit data collection by company: only a few solutions exist, but hardly any has a seamless integration without the need of data upload.
Thus instead of data entry, solutions for the sales rep could capture, aggregate and generate useful and interesting information that would make the applications much more interesting.

This automatic data collection and aggregation would help the sales tools scale better as they would save time.

Computer assisted selling

The future of sales supporting or sales assisting applications and solutions, should be assisting the salesman in his nurturing and selling.
Moreover the salesman should obtain direct results, have useful features and reap the benefits of such a Computer Assisting System, bringing effortless together all the information on the lead and customer. Not having the salesman to enter all the data himself as this is less beneficial for him.

In the end it is the salesman, who close the deal and makes the company operate, thus the sales tools should serve the salesmen.

How much do the software sales tools help you or do they require more time than they bring?

 

The Computer says NO – The Internet says NO

In Great Britain there is the TV-comedy show “Little Britain“.
One of the most famous characters is Carol Beer working in a bank branch office, where she is indifferent and unpleasant towards her customers.


Well-know as “The computer says NO”

Now there is also “The Internet says NO(Google search page).

PS: When using Internet banking, a bank clerk isn’t required anymore. More adoption of online banking will bring cost savings to the financial institutions.

 

TechCrunch after CreditCrunch? Doom or innovation drive?

Money will be scarce as large investment banks and the main investment insurer have gotten into financial problems.
Crunched cars

Start ups

Typically VC’s have a score rate of 1 good exit on 10 investments.
As money resources have become limited, the Venture Capitalist company needs to select its investments even more carefully.
This usually leads to risk adverse investments, probably less innovative, thus less innovation and implying less change.

Business plans will need to show revenue during the first year and a break-even operating income on the profit & loss within 2 years. This will require selling the products or services during the first year and getting lead generation almost from the start.

In any case for the second time in 7 years, burning money companies are doomed.

Grown ups

Grown ups are companies that have their start-up phase behind them, will address investment banks or bankers for additional money such as loans, bridge loans or even convertible loans. Just for the same reasons and the problems of the credit insuring institutions, less risk will be taken.
Companies that have a proven track record of sales and customers (preferably recurrent revenue) will be in favor of getting additional money.

Innovating businesses or businesses that aren’t break-even yet will be avoided by investors as much as possible.
This makes these companies the perfect prey for larger well funded companies as an acquisition target and will lead to consolidation of the market.

As a company, getting into break-even is a must be. Thus they need to cut costs or increase their sales over a very short time.
- Cutting costs seems the easiest, but this can jeopardize the future of the company as new developments are scrapped.
- Increase sales will be hard to do too: business models can be changed, prices can be lowered or new markets can be addressed by repackaging or marketing differently the current solution. This requires creativity and marketing initiatives that are not just spending on advertising.

Large or established corporations

Many opportunities will exist to acquire new technology at a fraction of the research and development costs, if these technologies would have been developed internally.

Moreover the proposition for acquisition could go as far as offering the founders a future n the company and the investment bankers a less than initial invested capital return. This could be for both parties better than getting into a bankruptcy, where no-one gets anything.

Technology innovation as the disrupter of doom

All the above is true, only if no technology change or advances are brought to the market.Technology inovation as disupter

This is probably not applicable for all industries, as in very mature markets little technology advances are possible.
However even if in just a few industries new technology advantages become available on the market, the beneficiary effects can spill over into the mature markets, by decreasing operating costs.

Technology progress spills over
One possible example are the new services of Amazon: EC2 and S3.
These new services allow software companies to dispose over significant lower cost solutions for supplying web services.

In return these companies can offer web services at a lower cost:
- New companies can start up as they see a feasible opportunity
- Grown-up companies can address new segments in the market and thus obtain new market share.

This innovation will act as a domino effect upon their customers. 
The web services companies will be having lower operating costs themselves, allowing them to take market share and grow their business on their turn.

In other markets the technology disrupter can be in place since a long time, but not being applied completely.
- In retail banking the banks will increase their online banking services in order not to have any transaction in their branch offices (as the continental European banks have done since long) and having solely advice (sales) functions in the branch offices.
- Airlines will stimulate online bookings and self registration at the airports.
- Companies will rationalize their lead generation and sales processes, what will probably lead to Internet lead generation and online interactive sales.

Thus technology advancements and innovation will drive new business and growth again. Doom will be doomed.

What will be the technology disrupter of doom in your market?

 

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