All Posts by Ereguof Ydnar-M

Six Ways To Improve Your Work-From-Home Videos

Six Ways To Improve Your Work-From-Home Videos 1

Working from home has become much more acceptable in the age of digital communication, and has become a necessity for many as we are in a period of social distancing. But if you are somebody whose job typically involves putting in face time with clients, customers, or employees, working from home can feel extremely restrictive. Creating videos can be a great way to provide important messaging and strategy updates while still offering the familiar face-to-face feel youare used to. 

Here are a few tips to ensure your videos will communicate your message clearly and effectively with a level of quality that will inspire confidence during these uncertain times.

1. Framing

Framing is a vital aspect of making any video. Fortunately, whether using your cellphone or a DSLR camera, most recording devices today already have a grid feature to help you get started.

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First, if you plan on recording with a mobile device, you'll need to decide if you want to shoot in portrait or landscape mode. Portrait mode is great for videos that will be watched exclusively on mobile devices, but landscape is ideal for TV and desktop monitors. DSLR cameras work a little differently since the default mode is landscape for shooting video. Consider which platform your audience is most likely to use, and then be consistent in each subsequent video you produce from home.

Next, you will want to think about your background. It should be distraction-free and not overly busy, so your audience stays focused on you and your message. A simple, unadorned wall, empty room, or a bookshelf behind you will do the trick!

Finally, make sure you are  centered on the screen, which is where the grid feature comes in handy. Activating the grid setting on your recording device divides your screen into six boxes. All you need to do is position yourself in the centre grid. If your camera doesn't have this feature, try to position yourself in the centre of the frame with the camera at or slightly below eye-level, and align your eyes one-third of the way down from the top of the frame.

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Make sure you don't have too much (left) or too little (middle) headroom when framing your video. The image on the right has the perfect amount of headroom.

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The Rule of Thirds can help you frame your video if your camera offers a grid setting.

2. Stability

Shaky handheld videos are the biggest giveaway of an amateur production. Whether filming with a mobile phone, tablet, webcam, or DSLR camera, try to ensure that your camera is steady.

To steady your camera, you can invest in a small tripod designed for your recording device. These are inexpensive, but if you are pressed for time - you can also place your device on a solid location such as a table, countertop, or windowsill. When using a phone to record, you can even use a piece of furniture, or lean it against a coffee mug if need be. Just about anything is better than having a shaky video when trying to make a good impression.

To help with consistency for future videos you might film, a good tip is to mark the spot where you placed your recording device or tripod.

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Six Ways To Improve Your Work-From-Home Videos 6

3. Lighting

Lighting is everything! Your lighting can make or break your video, which is why you need to be conscious of your background and lighting conditions before you begin filming.

Placing your camera in front of a window is a great way to leverage the beautiful, natural, and 100% free light source we all have available called the sun. If you don’t have access to natural light in your home or in the room where you are filming, placing a table lamp or reading lamp behind your camera can also do the trick.

In a pinch, you can also use your computer monitor as a light source by simply opening a blank white page and turning your brightness up. While you don't want your background to be too dark, make sure that the brightest source of light in the room is in front of you, so you don’t get lost in a blinding glow.

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Don't get lost in a blinding glow! Avoid having your background too bright.

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The brightest source of light in the room should always be in front of you.

4. Audio

Having good audio is just as important as capturing good video. If you are going the extra mile and recording using an external microphone - always test your sound before you record! The last thing you want is to have recorded an entire video you love, only to find out your audio wasn’t working or was too low.

Before you start recording, you need to be conscious of any background noise that may obscure your spoken sound, such as whining fans, humming refrigerators, pets, nearby traffic, construction, etc. Take whatever steps you can to remove or reduce these sources of ambient noise.

Try to position your recording device or microphone no more than 3-4 feet away, and be sure to speak loudly and clearly, projecting your voice towards your recording device. By following these steps, you’ll be sure to sound just as good as you look!

5. Post-Production & Filters

While it can be tempting to use your camera’s built-in or app-based filters to soften up your features or add some creativity to your video, it's easy to go overboard. Remember, the goal is to make this look professional, so the best approach is to avoid filters, keeping the bells and whistles to a minimum, and focusing more on crafting a concise and effective message. 

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Avoid filters if you are going for a professional look.

That said, a simple “auto adjustment” filter within your phone’s photo setting is probably adequate to balance out the colours and brightness. If you’re using a DSLR camera, you can set your focus, ISO, and white balance to “auto,” which should provide the same effect. If you are comfortable using iMovie or other external editing software, adding a lower-third title or additional text to emphasize specific points in the video can be a nice touch.

Also, consider adding subtitles to your video. These are a great idea if you are worried about your audio, and especially beneficial if you are planning to post your video on social media sites where viewers tend to scroll past if they can’t understand the message without sound. Adding subtitles can sometimes be a time-consuming task, but there are a few convenient online tools such as Rev.com, Camtasia, Filmora, and others that can do a good chunk of the work for you!

6. Makeup

Spending even a few minutes in front of a camera causes major stress for most people and may cause you to sweat. That, coupled with naturally occurring skin oils and possibly a light source (such as a lamp) pointing at you, will make your face appear shiny on camera. This makes things uncomfortable for the person making the video and can be distracting for those watching it.

The best way to control this is by using makeup - particularly, translucent powder. Translucent powder is a colorless, sheer facial powder that is usually used to set makeup. However, even if you do not wear makeup, applying a bit of translucent powder on your face can go a long way in helping you control shine, reduce glare and give your complexion a matte finish. Aparichi TV and Pull My Focus have uploaded some very helpful tutorials of how you can incorporate makeup in your video-making process.

Conclusion

Videos are playing an increasingly important role in helping us weather the storms of social distancing and stay-at-home work in our business lives. Hopefully, these tips will help you hone your DIY video production skills and provide more professional, engaging, and persuasive results . For more tips and recommendations, like and follow Think2Grow on any of our social media platforms. 

Please share any ideas or thoughts you may have on this topic and contact us if we can assist in any way. To get notified when new articles are published, please hit the button! Until then, stay safe and happy video making!

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Travis Pulchinski, Creative Director, Think2Grow Marketing
A lifelong love of film and video has drawn Travis towards the production of digital multimedia, where he can engage with both the practical and theoretical aspects that contribute to the creation of unique and engaging audiovisual content.

Market Segmentation: A Critical Ingredient of B2B Marketing

Market Segmentation
Market Segmentation

When it comes to factors that accelerate growth in a B2B business, one of the most powerful is having well-defined market segmentation.

Big consumer brands have known this for decades and have the process down to a science. They know their target audiences inside and out, and how to position their products for optimal success in any given market. By combining precise geographic, demographic, behavioral, and psychographic data, they understand who will buy their products, where, how, and why. With some focus and energy, you can too!

Many B2B companies don’t pay enough attention to this critical aspect of marketing. Some rely on intuition or "gut feel," which leads to missed opportunities and inefficiency.

Everything in sales and marketing revolves around increasing the probability of closing more deals in less time. Accurate segmentation has a dramatic impact because the more relevant you are to prospects – the better your chances of engaging with them.

What is Market Segmentation?

Investopia defines market segmentation as “the aggregating of prospective buyers into groups (segments) that have common needs and will respond similarly to a marketing action. Market segmentation enables companies to target different categories of prospects who perceive the value of your products and services differently from one another.

Generally, three criteria can be used to identify different market segments: 1) Homogeneity – common needs within a segment; 2) Distinction – unique from other groups; and 3) Reaction – similar responses to your marketing.”

It’s all about clearly defining your target audiences and then communicating in ways that will persuade them to consider your products or services.

Why is Market Segmentation Critical?

You may have heard the adage that people like to buy, but they hate being sold to. This is slightly paraphrased, but the idea is one we can all relate to. We become bitterly annoyed with marketing when what’s being pushed is not relevant.

Market segmentation is crucial because it helps make sure the people you contact can actually benefit from what you’re selling. Put another way – market segmentation ensures you are talking to the right people about the right things.

The Basic Building Blocks

When doing the research to build your segmentation strategy, the following essential ingredients should be included in your framework. Answering as many of these questions as possible will get you off to a great start.

  • The “Sandbox”
    What markets do you want to serve geographically? This can be local only, specific cities, provinces/states, regions, or countries. You need to make sure that if you plan to expand rapidly, you can provide the levels of sales coverage, delivery, and support required.
  • Addressable Market
    Often one of the toughest questions to answer is, "what is your overall market size by segment?" Fortunately, online government data and other industry research (free or paid) are often available online. Ultimately, you want to know if there is enough potential business accessible to support your sales goals.
  • Account Characteristics
    What industries are they in, and what clients do they serve? What type of organization aligns best with your offering – SMB, Enterprise, Government, Not-For-Profit?  What do these companies look like in terms of annual revenues, employee counts, etc.? How do they operate? 
  • Market Adjacencies
    Are there sub-segments within your target markets? How do you define them? Are there closely related industries in their ecosystems worth pursuing? Are there partners you work with that have access to customers you want to pursue?
  • Buyer Profiles
    Who are the buyers and influencers in the companies you are trying to sell to? What are their roles and titles? What problems could you solve for them? Where do they connect with peers? Where do they get sources of information related to your offerings? More sophisticated marketers will build “personas” as a way of describing the people in target audiences. Always remember - you may be trying to break into new accounts, but you are still selling to human beings!
  • Buying Behaviours
    What processes do they typically use to buy – formal procurement, informal? When do they buy – is it seasonal, based on specific events, or random? This will not be the same for every company you approach, but often there are discernable patterns in specific industries. Government procurement is an excellent example because it's typically rigid and based on a Request-for-Proposal (RFP) purchasing process.

Precise marketing segmentation helps build the foundation needed to develop your market positioning, messaging, and most everything else that follows. It’s also important to think about market segmentation in the context of your product capabilities and the competitive landscape.

Conclusion

Virtually everything in B2B marketing revolves around precisely defining your target audience and their sub-segments. Taking a shotgun approach to the market simply won’t work in the long-run. Investing in market segmentation upfront is guaranteed to improve results, save time, and reduce costs! Like most things, how you define your target market will evolve over time. It's a good idea to review and refresh your segmentation definitions during your strategic marketing planning cycles.

Please share any ideas or thoughts you may have on this topic and contact us if we can assist in any way. To get notified when new articles are published, please hit the button!

Market Segmentation: A Critical Ingredient of B2B Marketing 11

Randy Fougere, President, Think2Grow Marketing
With a passion for building brand awareness and lead generation, I started Think2Grow for B2B clients looking to accelerate growth through better marketing strategy and execution - something I have been doing for more than 30 years now.

A Strategic Marketing Plan Needs 6 Essential Inputs

Strategic Marketing Plan
Strategic Marketing Plan

Creating a marketing plan is not easy. But, building an effective strategic marketing plan is even harder. It’s common for many marketers to think of their quarterly or yearly plan as a mere collection of activities, most of which carry over from previous periods. Many fail to consider the important context needed and only focus on tactics - this is not a strategic approach and seldom leads to great results.

In a recent post called "Marketing Plans – 5 Steps to Better Planning and Execution," we suggested a strategic planning framework to help organize your thoughts. Here we will focus on mapping out some key essential inputs to use when developing a strategic marketing plan. Ideally, this background information forms the underlying guideposts that shape your strategy and directly link to selecting an optimal mix of activities and messaging.

What are Essential Inputs?

At a high level, the essential inputs are a collection of your historical marketing results, what you do, what makes you different, your market segmentation, the competition, and how you are positioned in the marketplace. Regardless of industry, these inputs are quite universal and will be broken down in more detail below. This is not an all-inclusive list, but covers the most important elements.

If you have been in business a while, you likely have most of the essential inputs figured out. However, it’s surprising how many companies don’t have them documented, readily available, and current. If creating a marketing plan for the first time, you really can’t begin without them. It’s a good idea to create a “Marketing Playbook” document, so the information is all in one place. Also, be sure to review and validate them before starting any plan in the future.

#1 Historical Results

  • This first essential input is actually more of a process, and a critical one that is often ignored. Take time to analyze your previous marketing results and metrics to understand what they mean and how you can improve.
  • The help point out gaps in your marketing program, weak messaging, or ineffective call-to-actions. The data may suggest you stop doing things that aren’t working and start doing more of the activities that are having an impact.
  • Having a good handle on where you have been, should also help you think more creatively about marketing ideas you haven't tried that might work well.

#2 Product Definitions

  • To build a strategic marketing plan, you should start with a fresh look at what you sell, which of course is why you’re in business in the first place. Revisit the products and services you want to focus on – are they clearly defined? Have they changed, or improved since your last plan?
  • Make sure the product documents, collateral, and digital content you will use in your campaigns and selling efforts are up-to-date and clearly articulated.
  • Ensure that anything describing your offering promotes positive outcomes and value – not just features. Keep it customer-focused.

#3 Value Proposition

  • ​If you don’t have a formal Value Proposition or Unique Selling Proposition (USP) for your company, create one! If you have one already, pull it out and make sure it’s still relevant.
  • A Value Proposition is basically a definition of what your company does, for whom, and how it’s different - preferably better than alternatives available in your respective markets.
  • Your Value Proposition should always be on your mind when building the key themes and messaging you will use to communicate with your prospects and customers.

#4 Market Segmentation

  • One of the most crucial and fundamental elements of any strategic marketing plan is having a clear understanding of your market as a whole and the well-defined sub-segments within it.
  • Segmentation will vary depending on your industry but for most B2B companies, it makes sense to group target accounts by attributes such as industry, geographic location, company size, key buyers, the buying process, and the problems you help them solve. See our article "Market Segmentation: Starting Point of Effective B2B Marketing."
  • With B2C and Direct-to-Consumer marketing, segmentation is more personal and typically based on geographic, demographic (i.e. age, gender, occupation) psychographic (i.e lifestyle, values, personality) and behavioral factors.
  • When you tightly define your segments, the messages you create will be more relevant, which greatly increases your chances of getting noticed and generating leads.

#5 Competitive Landscape

  • Besides macro factors such as the economy, regulatory constraints, or market saturation, the strongest external force working against you is the competition.
  • You need to know who they are at all times within your segments. You also need to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and how to position against them to win.
  • Make a point of regularly conducting win-loss analyses to learn how you can compete more effectively.

#6 Themes and Messaging

  • With the information gathered and analyzed during the first four inputs, you are now ready to build the distinct themes and messages for the segments you want to pursue.
  • Take time to be creative and get outside help if you need it. Your messaging needs to break through the clutter and be compelling enough to create interest and opportunities.
  • If your company has core values that form important points of your differentiation, be sure to weave those in as well.
  • Use your messaging clearly and consistently throughout your marketing communications.

A Strategic Marketing Plan is Worth the Effort!

If you think this exercise is a lot of work – you are absolutely right. But building a strategic marketing plan and executing it takes, time and energy and comes at a price. When you do your “homework” upfront and have a strong foundation to draw upon, you significantly improve your probability of success!

Please share any ideas or thoughts you may have on this topic and contact us if we can assist in any way. To get notified when new articles are published, please hit the button!

A Strategic Marketing Plan Needs 6 Essential Inputs 12

Randy Fougere, President, Think2Grow Marketing
With a passion for building brand awareness and lead generation, I started Think2Grow for B2B clients looking to accelerate growth through better marketing strategy and execution - something I have been doing for more than 30 years now.

Marketing Plans – 5 Steps to Better Planning and Execution

Marketing Plans Thumb
Marketing Plans

In the famous words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Most people understand that proper planning is a crucial ingredient of success, but creating and executing successful marketing plans is a real challenge for most companies. This principle also impacts sales, human resources, operations, and all other major business functions. Although few would argue against the merits of preparation, many companies don't step back and carve out the time needed to do it properly.

Numerous studies show a massive disconnect between their strategic marketing and business plans and the intended results. The statistics range from a dismal 3% to a paltry 33% success rate. Although there are many other specific factors, the following are key reasons why things usually go wrong from the planning perspective:

  • Lack of planning experience or a solid planning process.
  • Not enough research and data used in the decision-making.
  • Not enough detail put into the plan.
  • Unrealistic goals relative to the available resources.
  • Lack of buy-in from those who will execute the plan.
  • A weak or non-existent governance process.

5-Step Marketing Management Framework

To help make your planning more structured and effective – you might benefit from the following framework. The basic premise is that you start at the most strategic level of thinking. Then you continually break things down into more tactical activities. Everything should align closely with your key inputs and business goals. 

Marketing Plans

Building better marketing plans requires some Essential Inputs that form the foundation when selecting your activities and mapping out how you will achieve them. If you don't have these inputs or haven't revisited them lately, some homework should be done first.

Arguably, this is a one-time event, but things often change over a year and sometimes during a quarter. At the very least, it’s wise to re-validate your data and assumptions before the real planning begins

Basic Guidelines for Marketing Plans

#1 Business Goals

These are the goals you are planning to reach during an upcoming period. Marketing examples could include things like the number of leads created, website and social media engagement targets, or brand building metrics. There can also be important large-scale strategic goals, such as deploying a marketing automation tool or hiring for several key roles during a quarter.

During this phase, you also need to estimate the time, cost, and energy it will take to achieve your plan. Make sure the budget and resources are abundant enough to get the work done. Being unrealistic about your goals is a recipe for failure.


#2 Focus Areas

This step defines the major Focus Areas that need attention during the execution period. What are the most important “big buckets” of your plan, and how do they align with your Business Goals? If you look at the examples in the framework, you would be right in assuming that these stay relatively consistent. However, there will be varying degrees of effort put into these Focus Areas at any given time since you can’t do everything at once. Usually, there are 4-6 of these in total.


#3 Major Initiatives

Major Initiatives feed into and support your Focus Areas. For example, if you need to create more brand awareness this year, your Major Initiatives may include things such as SEO and content marketing, social media, digital advertising, public relations, or events.

These can also be more programmatic. Let’s say client retention is an issue for your company and a Focus Area this quarter. In this example, Major Initiatives might include creating programs to improve communications with your customers, such as a newsletter, or a rewards program to help increase loyalty.


#4 Project Plans

Specific project planning is the area where many fall short. There is often a good high-level plan with the right mix of Major Initiatives, but a lack of detailed thinking at the activity and resource levels. By not working through this concisely, it’s easy to underestimate the work needed to execute effectively and on schedule.

When you hear “it took longer than we thought,” – it typically means a lack of detail in the planning phase. Whether it’s MS-Excel, MS-Project, or an online tool such as Teamwork (a personal favorite), the marketing team needs to map out the many moving parts of each Major Initiative to clearly understand who will do what, and when. Contingencies also need to be considered since priorities can change over time.


#5 Execution

To keep your Project Plans on track and running smoothly, you need a good project management process and strong governance. As mentioned earlier, you should employ a tracking tool to measure progress.

You also need regularly scheduled checkpoint meetings. Weekly usually works best while executing a quarterly plan, plus a monthly touchpoint and a longer 1 to 2-day yearly session. I can hear the groaning, but investing in this process is where the rubber meets the road. A steady cadence helps you identify and resolve issues before they side-swipe your projects and allows for mid-stream adjustments.

The final and critical aspect of execution involves measuring results and outcomes, analyzing the data, and making improvements for the upcoming period. This step may also lead you to "stop, do more, or try something different" decisions.

Conclusion

When you use a disciplined approach to create and execute achievable marketing plans that align with your goals, you will get better results! Putting in the time and effort upfront reduces frustration and provides better clarity, resource management, predictability, and desired outcomes. 

Please share any ideas or thoughts you may have on this topic and contact us if we can assist in any way. To get notified when new articles are published, please hit the button!

Marketing Plans – 5 Steps to Better Planning and Execution 13

Randy Fougere, President, Think2Grow Marketing
With a passion for building brand awareness and lead generation, I started Think2Grow for B2B clients looking to accelerate growth through better marketing strategy and execution - something I have been doing for more than 30 years now.

Time Management: 8 Proven Tips to Help Take Control of the Clock!

Time Management
Time Management

Does time management seem to be a constant battle? Do you oscillate between feeling organized one day, but in a state of total disarray the next? If you are like many – including yours truly – I suspect most of the time, the answer to both questions is “yes.”

I found the quest for effective time management even more daunting after starting my own business. I was suddenly managing every aspect of a company while trying to build sales and deliver at the same time. For the first few years, life was a chaotic juggling act until I ironed out some process and started bringing people on board.

Time Management Reality

For years, I searched for the perfect solution to plan and manage my time better and was always on the hunt for new ways to improve productivity. I’ve read dozens of books by leading experts, and they all offered great advice that seems simple and obvious. But knowing something and doing it are two different things. Just look at how many gym memberships gather dust a month or two after New Year's day!

The simple conclusion I’ve reached is that there is no “silver bullet” when it comes to time management.  It takes different thinking, behaviors, and tools, all working together to achieve and sustain results. What works for me is a melting pot of smart ideas from others and lots of experimenting. Although it's always a work-in-progress, the tips below have significantly helped me improve.

#1 - Find or Create a Process

Develop a planning process or framework that helps structure the way you think and work. This could be simple daily to-do lists, or something more advanced. The goal is finding a method that helps you organize your short and long-term activities most efficiently. There are hundreds of time management systems readily available on the web, but it might help to think about what has worked well for you in the past. Trying to conform to a system that makes you grit your teeth every time you use it just won’t work. 

#2 - Use a Tool to Manage the Process

Once you have a process that “feels” right, you need a management tool for the day-to-day execution. Whether it’s sticky notes on a wall, calendars, MS Project, or an online offering like Teamwork (my personal choice), find a tool that works best for you in prioritizing, scheduling, and managing your activities. Having visuals, everything in one place, and automated reminders are important features to consider.

#3 - Prioritize and Break Down Activities

An essential building block of any time management system is identifying the critical activities that: 1) need to be done first, and 2) are most relevant and impactful. I still like Stephen Covey's “First Things First” way of thinking about this. Another resource that may help is my simple 5-Step Planning Model.

#4 - Be Realistic About Time

Learn from your past and get precise about how long your activities take to complete. The more accurate you are, the better the process becomes. Don’t forget to include time allocations for personal time, family, learning, travel, exercise, and other activities that will impact your work schedule. These are essential parts of life, and they don't simply go away because you have a lot going on at the office.

#5 - Expect the Unexpected

When planning my day, I like to include a 30% “buffer” for the unexpected. This unscheduled time is useful for new tasks that take longer than anticipated. It also accounts for interruptions that happen during an average day (urgent emails or calls that need a response, for example.) Let’s face it; the world doesn’t operate around your calendar. Cutting your planning too thin each day will end up being discouraging since you will seldom achieve your daily goals.

#6 - Offload, Delegate, and Outsource

After breaking down your activities in Tip #3 – look at all the “non-core” activities that are repetitive. Determine what parts of these tasks can be done by someone else – either on your team or within your organization. If you don’t have the staff, assess what tasks can realistically and cost-effectively be outsourced and do it! When analyzing your workload, always ask the question, “who can do this instead of me?”

#7 – Be Disciplined and Persistent

Whatever methods and tools you end up using, you need to focus on time management every day. It must become an automatic behavior at some point. As soon as you let it go, even for a short period, you will quickly become disorganized again. When overwhelmed, try to keep doing something - even if it’s a lower priority. Once you have some momentum back, it’s easier to shift into high gear again. The alternative is to sit immobilized in front of your monitor, helplessly wasting time. 

Another aspect of staying disciplined is keeping a positive outlook. To help with this, focus on your accomplishments. “I didn’t get everything done today” is better framed as “I tackled the three most important things I needed to get done today.” This subtle change in thinking helps you feel good about your progress. If you find yourself constantly falling short of your daily goals, you should revisit some of the previous six tips.

#8 – Continually Learn and Improve

Getting better at time management has been a long journey for me, and it continues to be a learning process. I believe it’s one of the most important and actionable ways to improve your life. It's also one of those things that few people ever perfect, so it's best to keep learning new ways to improve. Read, research, and ask successful friends what works for them.

Conclusion

I am certainly not a time management expert, but I hope some of these ideas can help you regain more control over your clock. Although the tips above need to be continually worked at, I find they help me produce more, in less time, and with less stress. If you have best-practices that help keep you organized and productive, please share. To get notified when new articles are published, please hit the button!

Time Management: 8 Proven Tips to Help Take Control of the Clock! 14

Randy Fougere, President, Think2Grow Marketing
With a passion for building brand awareness and lead generation, I started Think2Grow for B2B clients looking to accelerate growth through better marketing strategy and execution - something I have been doing for more than 30 years now.

Email Checklist – Save Your Sanity and Send with Confidence!

Email Checklist

Email Checklist

Everyone has done it. You send an important email, and something just doesn’t feel right. Now long gone, you instinctively open it to discover a silly typoo inthe subject line. Doh! And that’s just one of dozens of things that cango wrong.

When it comes to mass emailing, both your personal and brandreputations are on the line with every click of the send key. That’s whywe’ve put together this sanity-saving email checklist. Don’t let anembarrassing or potentially damaging email ruin your day!We’llassume you have already gone through the process of thinking throughyour email. That you know your target audience, the objective, and thekey points you want to get across. There are great articles out thereoutlining best practices for writing an effective email. Here, weaddress the mechanics of setting up and confidently delivering yourmessage.

Email Checklist Summary

We have designed our process for marketing automation systems, but much of it applies to any email that is important and will be widely distributed, regardless of where it originates. We divided our email checklist into sections that seem to flow well with our standard process, and they should be fairly universal. Also, there may be steps that don’t apply depending on what system you use, but most should.

Planning

  • Decide what your end goal is and be sure to usethe appropriate metrics to track its success.
  • Carefullyselect your targeted audience based on your desired outcomes. Keep inmind there can be multiple segments based on your desiredresults.
  • Define the type of email you want to use. Isit a single-use or part of a campaign? If the latter, sketch out yourcampaign and workflows first.
  • What layout will youselect? Engage your audience with an appropriate eye-catching layout,one that will entice click-through. Are your readerscompelled?

Content Preparation

  • Create the subject line. Arguably the mostimportant element of your email and it should be thoughtfullywritten.
  • Create strong preview messages, ones that willcompel the reader to open your email.Compose email copy thatconsists of clear and short sentences that are jargon-free. Make yourcontent easily digestible.
  • Compose your email in a wordprocessor first. Editing in MS-Word is far easier than in most emailsystems.
  • Finalize the layout by making sure all linksare clearly identifiable as links, your message is focused, and nounnecessary choices are presented. Lastly is your brand easilyrecognizable by the from name and email address?
  • Read! Read and re-read your email.  Proof your email content for any errors, such as spelling and grammar, and inaccurate information. As a rule of thumb, proofing your email from the bottom-up, at least once, will help you pinpoint any mistakes that might have been missed. Tools like Grammarly and Hemingway to improve the quality and readability.
  • When proofing your email, make surethe message relates to the target audience, is easy to read and clear,and will engage or persuade.
  • If you want to run acampaign that includes multiple emails, write the variations at the sametime.

Email Setup

  • When running a campaign with multiple pieces ofcontent, set that up first.
  • If you are driving readersto a landing page or form, create a unique form for trackingpurposes.
  • Set up the appropriate automated workflowsand notifications in your system.
  • Create preview text which is a subheading to your subject line that many email clients display.
  • Personalize your email with therecipient’s first name, if possible.
  • Select the “fromname” field which can be a company or personal name.
  • Enter the “from” and “reply-to” email addresses.
  • Type the content of your message into the email systemtemplate, or copy and paste (text only) from elsewhere.
  • Add images, links, landing page and call-to-action buttons asrequired.
  • Using the built-in tools and augmenting with HTML where needed, format your email as desired.

EmailEnhancements

  • Make it easy for yourreader to interact with your email by adding a call-to-action buttongoing to a form, download, or landing page.
  • Addimages/graphics that will help support your written content and mainemail message.
  • Take into consideration subscribers withimages turned off – will they be able to make sense of the email and acton it?
  • Compare your email content and selected imagesso that they both work together to encourage the reader to act. Alwaysask yourself, do your images support the main message?
  • Use links as needed making sure they are clearly identifiableas links.
  • If applicable, make social sharing andconnecting easy by providing the relevant icons.

System Setup

  • At this point, you are now ready to create youremail campaign. You can now add your email to a specific campaign (ifsupported by the platform you will use.)
  • Give youremail a name that will help you find it later should you want to resendor clone it.
  • Is your email authentication in place? Besure this is done prior to launching your email. Automate workflows ifapplicable.
  • Review each template field and personalizeit wherever you can (with fallback for missing fields).
  • Ensure you have a recognizable “from” field. This will addvalidity to the recipient and reduce the risk of your email being seenas junk mail or even spam.
  • Ensure your “reply-to” fieldhas an email address – again, this will increase the validity of youremail.
  • Remember to remember your “text only” emailversion.  This too must be checked and verified for any errors.
  • You are ready to select your recipient list(s). Make listsbased on how contacts have interacted with your organization.  Do youhave donors? Volunteers? Employees? Separate lists can keep yourmessages to them on point.
  • This is also the perfecttime to exclude recipients, if applicable, from a particular email list.Remember your message must be applicable to therecipient!

Optimization

  • Most email systems provide options for SEO. If youare using a landing page, optimize your URL name, keywords, tags, andimages.
  • Ensure your email is optimized for mobiledevices, such as smartphones and tablets.
  • Use yoursystem’s render testing feature to see how your email will appear onvarious email clients.
  • Test your forms, automatedworkflows, and notifications to make sure they work.

FinalReview

  • Prior to launching youremail it’s a great idea to send a test email to major email clients.This will allow for the opportunity to make any last-minutecorrections.
  • Never assume that your email will beviewed on one device – test your email on multiple devices ensuring therecipient will receive the desired layout.
  • Check onelast time for any possible errors such as spelling, grammar or any otherglaring mistakes. Thoroughly proof email one last time, this includesany links within your email.A second set of eyes can only assistwith this process.  Have someone else proof your email.
  • Are your images working? Test image loads and make sure youhave included “alt tags.”If applicable, test automation.
  • Check one last time that your email is purpose-driven, kind andthoughtful.
  • Exhale and hit “send!”

Deliverability

  • Are you familiar with privacy laws? Now is a goodtime to familiarize yourself if you are not. Respect CASL and otheremail legislation.
  • Overuse of anything can easilyderail your campaign – be careful with the use of sales buzzwords,unnecessary caps, bolding and exclamation points.
  • Ensure your email system inserts your corporate information,along with unsubscribe and opt-in options. Or, do it manually.
  • Ensure your email system has DKIM and SP records to increase deliverability, which should only be needed one time.
  • Make sure your email is not coming across as spam to junk filters or readers.
  • Set up a text version of your message and an HTML option as well to increase coverage.
  • Build your recipients list from individual contacts or otherlists. Take care with this and triple-check yourchoices.

Finally, the laststep!It’s time to double-check the checklist, hit send, andrelax!There are few things worse for a marketer, or anyone forthat matter, than sending a mass email you wish you could take back.Unfortunately, once you hit the enter key, the damage is done. We’vestarted using this email checklist ourselves and always find many thingsto fix or refine during the process. Like anything else, the more you doit, the more habitual it becomes. Hopefully, this can help you send moreimpactful emails and reduce some anxiety.

Keep on Qualifying – A Secret Weapon in Longer Sales Cycles!

B2B marketing services
Always be Qualifying

Anyone who has carried a sales bag likely knows the expression “Always be Closing,” or ABC for short. Alec Baldwin made this term famous in the classic 1992 movie, Glengarry Glen Ross. (a must-see for salespeople). Good advice generally speaking, but if you sell something with a relatively long, complex sales cycle, you should add “Keep on Qualifying” to your list of mantras, and best-practices. 

The risk in a longer sales cycle is that things often change, and this can result in a slowdown or stall of the buying process. Sometimes your prospect has a legitimate higher priority. However, but it often signifies that something else is disrupting the decision, and you didn’t see it coming. 

Don’t feel bad since this happens to virtually every salesperson at least once. The good news is that it’s a mistake that can be avoided if you keep on qualifying from start to finish. 

Common Sales Cycle Breakdowns

There are many reasons salespeople get side-swiped during sales cycles that last months or longer. Some typical factors are:

  • Information Quality:  Vital pieces of information were not collected or fully understood early on. Often these are specifics around: compelling reasons to buy; decision-making processes; identifying key stakeholders and influencers; decision criteria; options and competitors; and timing.
  • Unreliable Information:  Your “coach” (hopefully you have one) doesn’t have all the information you need, or has inadvertently misled you based on their view of the situation.
  • Failure to Reconfirm:  Things seemed clear early on, but as time went by, the information initially collected is now out-of-date or has been forgotten. If you don't keep on qualifying, it can lead to unexpected scrambling at the 11th hour or even worse outcomes.
  • Overconfidence:  With some opportunities, everything seems to click, and eventually, you start telling your boss, “it’s in the bag”. Salespeople tend to be confident and assertive. But, until there is “ink on the paper,” any number of factors can quickly turn delusion into a disaster. 
  • Losing Steam:  This is common as things drag on, and there are new shiny objects to chase. Most salespeople, like the thrill of the hunt and if there is an easier, more exciting road available, they often take it. Patience is a virtue when it comes to larger, more complex deals, but hang in there if the payoff justifies the persistence.

"Keep on Qualifying" Essentials

How can getting derailed be avoided? As with most things in business, it all comes down to reliable processes and clear insight. So to make sure you don’t let promising deals slip away before you realize it’s too late, try the following:

  • Stay Engaged:  Stay top-of-mind during the entire opportunity. Sometimes in long cycles, it's easy for weeks to fly by without a prospect interaction. Try creating a documented deal strategy and regularly schedule update calls that continually drive towards the next steps or actions. Find every excuse you can to talk with your contacts and share something of value.
  • Re-Validate Data:  it’s easy to think of your initial data-gathering exercise as a one-time event. But, until you have closed the deal, examine everything you think you know and keep confirming your information. Don’t assume what you learned in the qualification stage will be valid months later. 
  • Seek Perspective:  Don’t rely on a single source of information in the account. A sizable, long sale usually has multiple stakeholders on both teams. Ensure you get perspective from other influences in the account, your sales manager, and others involved on your team. By forming this data into a clear picture of where things are, you create an “early warning system” to better anticipate change.
  • Eliminate Emotion:  Let knowledge be your guide. Facts are more reliable than “feelings,” and your emotion is usually a by-product of events that have already taken place. If you are getting a “bad vibe” about your opportunity, ask questions, find out why things are not moving as discussed, and quickly adapt. Delays are often used as an excuse by prospects because the competition is firmly in the driver's seat, and they are keeping you at arm's length while performing their due diligence.

Conclusion

No one knows when changes will occur, but if you keep on qualifying through the entire sales cycle, preferably with some face-to-face meetings, chances are you will stay ahead of the curve. If you have been adding value along the way, you have earned the right to ask questions, even if you start repeating yourself.

The answers may force you to regroup and step back, and you may need to repeat some work you have already done, but that’s better than losing a deal because the rules changed and you didn’t get your copy of the new game plan.

Please share any ideas or thoughts you may have on this topic and contact us if we can assist in any way. To get notified when new articles are published, please hit the button!

Keep on Qualifying – A Secret Weapon in Longer Sales Cycles! 15

Randy Fougere, President, Think2Grow Marketing
With a passion for building brand awareness and lead generation, I started Think2Grow for B2B clients looking to accelerate growth through better marketing strategy and execution - something I have been doing for more than 30 years now.

Face-to-Face Meetings – 6 Great Reasons to Have Them

meetings
meetings

Don’t get me wrong, I love social media and fully embrace all forms of electronic communications. They are woven into the very fabrics of our business and personal lives, and it’s an exciting ride.

But, these days of hyper-digital interactions and an utter reliance on technology, come at a price. it’s easy to forget the impact that good old-fashioned, in-person meetings can have in growing a business.

For most of us, and especially those in direct sales, face-to-face meetings are still by far the most powerful form of engagement. This fact seems intuitive, yet many salespeople continue to ignore them. They often use email or a social channel in situations that would be better served by “pressing the flesh.”

Every dialogue requires us to select the most appropriate vehicle. Sometimes email is best. In other situations, a phone call or web-conferencing makes sense. That said, there are times when sitting across the table from a prospect, client or partner, is the absolute best choice.

My rule of thumb when deciding what to do is to think about the purpose, complexity, impact, and sensitivity of any given situation. Sounds like a lot of decision-making here, but the process becomes fairly automatic if you make it a habit of considering your options.

We all strive to save precious time, so meeting in person has to be for a valid reason with a planned agenda and outcome. If you go prepared, it will be time well spent.

Face-time is of particular importance in B2B sales with high-ticket items or long cycles. In these situations, building credibility and trust is critical.

Key Benefits of Face-to-Face Meetings

#1 – Higher Impact:

Let’s say you just got handed a pre-qualified lead for a significant opportunity. Wouldn’t pushing for a meeting with the prospect be a better first step than a long phone conversation or multiple emails? You should assume the prospect has done their online and other research because chances are they have.

#2 – Leverage Non-Verbal Queues:

You can’t read body language over the phone or from behind a keyboard. Experts say that roughly 93% of communication in meetings comes from body language and tonal queues. Getting to know people, and helping them get to know you, is much easier when you have the whole picture.

#3 – Build Better Relationships:

It’s a fact that people buy more often from those they know, like and trust. I’ll concede that relationships can get built to a surprising extent in the virtual world, but you can’t beat the personal touch! Often you gain an advantage just because your competitors won’t bother to make the effort. And if you’re first in, that’s usually a definite plus.

#5 – Gain Valuable Insight:

Being in the lobby, on a plant floor, in a boardroom, or a prospect’s office can provide valuable insight if you look, listen and learn. The attitude of the employees, signs on walls, pictures on desks, and other clues can tell you a great deal about the company, culture, and its people. These nuances can provide essential inputs for your sales strategy and how you should engage moving forward.

#6 – Personal Fulfillment:

Forget closing deals for a moment – OK that’s long enough! If you like people, and you should if you’re in a job dealing with them all day, a meeting can be a very satisfying experience. If your interpersonal skills are reasonably well-honed, you can turn your face-time into real personal connections that can be rewarding and energizing for all.

Digital technology has enabled us to communicate faster and more efficiently than ever imagined even a few decades ago. But the next time you have a significant opportunity, or need to take care of a delicate issue, I urge you to stop and ask yourself a simple question, “would this situation be handled better with a face-to-face meeting?”

5 Steps to Better Business Communications

Better Business Communications
Better Business Communications

In a previous post entitled “6 Great Reasons for Face-to-Face Meetings” I wrote about the importance of connecting in-person when the situation warrants it and how sales people and others often miss great opportunities by opting not to have them.

That started me thinking about communications in a broader sense and how little we think about it in our day-to-day work. Every time we communicate, it’s a unique situation that happens only once. Most of the time we decide how to deliver the message almost unconsciously and I suspect that comes from years of practice and pattern recognition. Although this is undeniably efficient, there is also risk.

There are many factors that need to be considered when communicating. To keep it simple, I think along the lines of complexity and importance. Where “complexity” is about the nature of the information itself and “importance” is why it matters and how much impact it has. At one end of the spectrum are short “near-binary” snippets of fact – the “simple and usually unimportant.” At the other end, is when we need to express complex ideas and thoughts, or emotion – the “complex and usually important.” If a communication is more on the impactful end, I would suggest the following approach:

#1. Define Your Goals

Before pressing a button, picking up the phone, or grabbing your jacket – take a moment to think first about the purpose and objectives of your communication. Also, define what success will look like afterwards. Be clear about your intention. Are you trying to educate, persuade, smooth over an issue, share, or simply nurture a relationship? Don’t just go through the motions – have a goal in mind.

#2. Know Your Audience

Always the cornerstone of any effective communication, think about who you are reaching out to before you do. If you don’t know them, do whatever research you can ahead of time. If you have some history together, reflect on what they respond well to and what their preferred style of communication seems to be. You will be more effective if you can align with what works for them.

The age group of your audience may also play a role. In an interesting article by Ayaz Nanji called B2B Buying: Millennials vs. Gen X and Baby Boomers, he cites some IBM research that shows the changing communication style preferences between generations. The results illustrate how business people of different ages prefer different modes of communicating. It’s worth a read and you might be surprised by some of the findings.

#3. Choose Your Vehicle

Next comes the mode of communication. Whether you use a text, social media, phone, teleconference, web meeting, or an in-person meeting, decide on the vehicle that’s most appropriate. Make sure whatever you choose will deliver your message in a way that helps achieve your goals. Here are a few helpful hints:

  • Never use email for topics that are emotionally charged – ever!
  • If an email takes 1/2 hour to write or has 30 revisions, pick up the phone
  • Use proper email etiquette – estimates are that we spend 1/4 of our time sifting through them
  • If you’re writing, remember your personal brand is at stake – sloppiness doesn’t reflect well on anyone
  • If using teleconferencing or a web meeting – have the technology figured out before the call, not during the first 15 minutes of it – can you relate?

#4. Get Prepared

If your communication is important, prepare some form of “call planning guide” first and with the right amount of detail. If it’s a crucial conversation of some sort, consider rehearsing out loud before you engage. It may sound silly, but it works. If you have ever done this before giving a presentation (if not, you really should), you will understand the benefits. Also, try to visualize how the flow of the communication might go and if you anticipate any possible objections, prepare your responses in advance.

#5. Execute Well

If you have gone through the first 4 steps, you should be feeling confident and well-prepared – now it’s time to deliver. This should be the easy part if you’re ready and relaxed, and you just be yourself.

I realize some of this may seem a bit obvious and certainly for the large majority of our daily touch-points, we don’t require this much structure. However, if you get in the habit of thinking this way about your communications, they will improve and you will be more effective. Every time you connect with a prospect, client, or anyone else who impacts your business, you have an opportunity to drive an outcome – make it count!