My Dogs Make Picture Frames

Look how entrepreneurial my puppies are! Lucy+Shelly have a new shop on Etsy.  Ok, Amy helped a lot too. She’s using her talents and creativity and selling hand-painted (or hand ribboned) picture frames on etsy!

Check them out: http://lucyandshelly.etsy.com/

Lucy and Shelly lovingly make each frame, under the careful supervision of their mommy. And every picture comes with a picture of one of them (or both sometimes!). You can take those all the way to the bank once this little video goes viral:

If you’re not up for buying a frame, do her a solid and add a link to her site from your blog or website. It would help her out a lot!

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Funnel Your Soup: Navigating Lead-Gen Marketing & B2B Sales

Most of you know that I’m a recovering sales rep turned marketer, but the more I learn about good marketing, the more I find myself thinking: I wish I knew this stuff when I was selling. Since I wish I knew more about marketing when I was selling, and I think marketers can learn a lot from sales reps, I wanted to share an idea with you here.  If you’re in a business-to-business (B2B) or other lead-gen based sales and/or marketing role, this bud post is for you.

B2B Sales - Lead Soup

Too many small and medium sized businesses share a common word to describe their business growth strategy: random. Their leads are random, their quotes are random, and—big surprise—their sales are random. I spent a little over 3 years in B2B sales, and most of the time I felt like I was swimming through a random sea of leads, and I couldn’t really predict when a big sale was going to come to help me hit my goals each month. I was swimming in lead soup.

In the image above, the different colored dots represent people who are in very different places in the sales cycle. Yet we seem to approach them all in the same way: close the sale. In looking at all those dots, it’s no wonder that my sales felt random. The engaged person is ready to hear that sales pitch, but it’s important for sales rep’s to learn to ask questions to figure out what the person on the other end needs to hear.

The “sale” pitch is not what the grey, red, or orange leads need to hear, and trying to close them will be a frustrating waste of your time. These people will likely appreciate useful information about your industry, tips and tools on how to make their life easier/better/more efficient, etc. They may want to know background information about your company (but don’t flatter yourself – be brief), or as they become more interested they may want to know about your pricing so they can set budgets for next year. Either way – if you bring the same pitch to all of these different people you’re going to have a tough time navigating through lead soup.

So how do you ditch the random lead soup strategy? It’s much easier said than done…the answer is the funnel. Marketing nerds talk about it all the time, and a jerk like me can spout off and put up a great visual (or in my case, piss-poor “3D” PowerPoint art), and make it seem easy. But it’s not easy. If it was, you wouldn’t be swimming in lead soup. Here are a few very (very) basic steps you can take to meet the needs of these people, and give them the right message at the right time.

Awareness:

Crawl before you walk. Your future customers need to hear your brand name before they’re going to buy from you. This is probably the easiest problem to solve, as long as there is sufficient budget to “get your name out there.” An awareness campaign might include:

  • TV/Radio Ads (B2C)
  • Print Ads in relevant publications or trade magazines
  • Outdoor Advertising (billboards) (B2C)
  • Display (Banner) Ads Online
  • Text Ads on Search engines on relevant industry terms
  • Contests & Prize Giveaways using Social Media

I’m partial to the bottom three because they are digital, and with some web analytics in place you will be able to measure effectiveness and quickly make changes to make your campaigns work harder. The first three can also be very effective, but you may not really feel the effects of your efforts until weeks or months later, and you won’t be able to make changes at that point.

Interest:

Ok, they’ve heard of you. Congratulations – but don’t try to get in their pants just yet. People who are at the beginning of the purchase cycle are in research mode. They need to know what they need to know – and if you can help them learn how to be a smart shopper, you will gain their trust and respect. You can help these people with things like:

  • “Intro to [Your Industry)” or “[Your Industry] 101” whitepapers & articles
  • Useful tools to help identify their needs
  • Glossary of industry terms & jargon
  • A blog or newsletter (email or snail mail) covering industry news & trends

Sales reps can help marketers understand what’s useful by sharing what common questions are asked of them when talking to new prospects. Hint: Setup goals in your web analytics system and measure how many people are downloading your whitepapers, or spending time using these tools. You can learn a lot by comparing these numbers, to the numbers of the more obvious actions like leads from web, sales, etc (because you are measuring these already…right?).

Engagement:

Once a person knows a little more about what they need (or need to know), they will want to hear all the goodies about your specific product or service:

  • Price Guidelines or Rate Card
  • Competitive Specs (why is your product better than your competitors?)
  • Technical Specs (our Whiz-Gadge-Mo’s run at 256,000 Kilo-Blams per second)

This is the stuff that sales rep’s love to talk about (and they should), and it will be well received by the right audience. This audience.

Ready to Buy:

You sales reps who have a big deal on the line should have a much easier go at landing it if they’re right up next to the boat (switching to a fishing analogy now) than if they’re way out across the pond. More than likely if you’re working with an engaged consumer, they will come to you and ask you for the quote. You may need to clear up some final questions, or eliminate some small obstacles, but if they’ve been worked through a good funnel you and your customer will probably go home happy.

Thanks to a few friends who let me bounce these ideas off of you before posting. I’ll post a followup soon(ish) sharing some ideas on putting the funnel into practice.

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No But Seriously, What is SEO?

Ok…yesterday was ridiculous.

Derek stirred the pot, and more people seemed to give him high-fives, than question what he was saying.

Photo: SEO87 on Flickr

Photo: SEO87 on Flickr

This means (not that it’s a huge surprise) that there are a lot of people out there with a really bad taste in their about SEO. Why? What happened? What did you experience? I know that there are sleaze ballz out there. But I also know what I do, and I wouldn’t call it even close to sleazy, spammy, etc (neither would you, if I helped you understand best practices for your site & business).

Do me a solid? Answer this question honestly:

To me, SEO is _________

Use as many or as few words as you need to. While I’m happy to hear from my colleagues, I’d love to hear from the rest of the world (i.e. you don’t work in SEO) on this one.

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Derek Powazek – I’ll Leave my “SEO is Evil” Comments Here

Derek Powazek Hates SEO :)

Hi Derek,

Nice to “meet” you. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

You wrote quite an attention grabber yesterday about the Evils of SEO. You called people who work in this business “brainless” and “soulless,” and proposed that in stead of doing “SEO,” we should all just “Make something great.”

Hundreds of comments later, you wrote a follow-up post explaining yourself a little further. I thought that was a classy move, and I was excited to have a little more discussion about why you would have a problem with someone specializing in “front end web dev” disciplines like ajax, javascript, flash, CSS, and yes…SEO.

But you weren’t having it.  You deleted my comment, because you were “not going to allow my comments to become ad space for SEO providers.” I linked back to this site (my personal blog – where there are no ads, there is no “hire me” sign, and from which I have never conducted any business, or tried to), and that got me busted. So let’s just chat here, shall we?

You want me to “Make something great.” And believe me – I do to! But can we talk for a minute about SEO?

Maybe we can see how it applies to you? Take your jobs for instance, all three of them. They look really neat. Next time I’m in need of a “Mag Cloud” I’ll be sure to hit you up. What does Mag Cloud do? Hmm…why don’t I google them and find out:

Mag Cloud's Google Search Results

Oh good! They have an “about” page listed on their Google search results! I’ll click on that…

mag-cloud2

Uh-oh…it took me to 404ville. Man that’s really a bummer. If only there was someone the knew how to change that “about” link in the search engine results. Someone that could…I dunno, “make the site better.” I think that should solve it.  It would also probably make the site show up if someone was looking for information about magazine printing.

Right? Just make the site a little bit better…that should make MagCloud show up there.

The awkward thing is that now HP got dragged into this. They’re behind MagCloud. They’re tied with Derek Powazek. It says so right on his site.

Derek: Congrats on your post. It clearly resonated with a lot of people – and the polarizing hyperbole has thrust you into the spotlight. You made me realize that when a person talks about that which they do not know, they run a high risk of sounding really ignorant and really “ass” like. I really did need that as a reminder, so for that I say thanks.

As a side note – I will allow comments from assholes in the space below, even though this is a blog-post which is generally anti-asshole (figurative, not anatomical).

Update: As I cooled off, I realized that I too was being an ass. Feel free to read the comment thread for the full version, but here is what I am really trying to say to Derek:

There is great value in educating people (marketers, web developers, designers, whomever) about how search engines read and understand websites. Your claims that people should have “better content” or “better web development” but that we should not call that “SEO” may just be semantics, but I believe it’s more likely that they are quite short-sighted, and do not place any value on researching which keywords to use (because you say it’s “obvious”), or which competitors are already in that space.

About a billion people have chimed in today about the “black hats,” and those who I would call “spammers.” And because they’ve given SEO a bad name, we all have to live with that. But if you’re implying that there is no value in understanding search engines, I’d call you foolish. If you’re implying that we shouldn’t call it  SEO – I’ll still disagree, but I would say this has been a very silly exercise in semantics.

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Being Great at Something…

You know those jobs where you think to yourself I could do that? After all DJs on the radio just talk. Copywriters just “write words.” And photographers just “take pictures.”

My friends Alan and Naomi are wedding photographers, and last week I had the privilege of being an usher in a wedding that they photographed. I’ve known Alan, and Kyle (the groom) since I was in elementary school – so this wedding really meant something to me. When Naomi posted some of the pics on their blog yesterday, I was floored. The pictures were really meaningful to me because I was there – I watched all of it happen, and they are of people who are important to me.

Twin Cities Wedding Photographers

Seeing the pictures inspired me about the importance of striving for greatness. These two have sacrificed a lot so that this can become their full time profession, they’ve trained with other wedding photographers in the twin cities, and have taken on side-jobs to be able to buy the right equipment to do this right. Whatever your profession, hobby, or hobby which you hope to become a profession, strive for greatness at it. Sacrifice so that you can get better, and continue reaching higher all the time.

Go check out the rest of the pictures. I’m going to go try to figure out how to be great at something 🙂

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Lifestyle Keywords Vs. Product & Brand Keywords

Click image to read Which Keywords Make Your Business Money?

Click image to read "Which Keywords Make Your Business Money?"

No, I’m not starting a shoe business. I was lucky enough to get the chance to share my thoughts on the MN AMA blog this week. Give the article a read (click on the image) and let me know what you think!

Posted in smartie pants | Tagged | 1 Comment

What advice would I give to a brand new e-commerce small business?

My friend sent me a message today through facebook, announcing that her new site was up and running. To be honest – often times when a “check out my new website” message comes out (not that I would ever do that) I’m unimpressed with what’s on the other side of the link.

But much to my surprise, behind the link for Green4YourSoul.com I found a well built, very robost e-commerce site, with a deep catalogue of “trusted green products” from skin care, to candles, to *ehem* “dog de-funkifier spray.” While my friend didn’t ask for any advice – I got so excited about the site that I vomited up all kinds of advice about starting a web based small business (especially e-commerce). After ranting on for a bit, I realized this would be better suited in a blog-post, so here here are my two (ok four) cents on where to start:

1. Build links back to your site from as many sites as you can.

Search engines see links as “votes” for credibility – the more votes, the higher you’ll rank (links from within sites which are password protected like facebook won’t help. sorry). See if you can write guest posts on people’s blogs, find websites with similar ideals who are not direct competitors and ask if they would link to your site, or write an article about your site.

2. If you’re up for the time commitment, start blogging on a regular basis.

Don’t make it about selling product – make it about what matters to your target audience (in her case: the commitment to being a green, organic, cruelty free consumer). This will take a lot of time, and for a few months you will see little to no return…but in the long run, it can be a great way to get found in search engines, and attract links from other sites.

3. Pay attention to google analytics each month.

How are people getting to your site? Which keywords did they search? Which keywords or traffic sources are leading to sales? This free analytics tool from our friends at the Goog’ is so powerful – and it can literally show a savvy e-commerce entrepreneur how much revenue is made from a single traffic source, or keyword on average (and if you can’t get that info – get some help – it is absolutely necessary information for running any web based business!)

4. google adwords can be a great way to get targeted traffic going right away.

google.com/adwords lets you pay-per-click on targeted keywords. Adwords Hint: Bid on specific keywords and send people to specific product pages.

Good: bid on the keyword “tea tree oil acne cream” and send traffic to this page: http://www.green4yoursoul.com/products/corrective-skincare-tea-tree-acne-gel.html

Bad: Bid on the keyword “green” and send them to your homepage…hoping and praying that they buy something 🙂

Anyway, in the spirit of sharing unsolicited advice with people who weren’t asking for it…I thought I’d throw these thoughts up here.

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Do you own your name’s search results?

Note: I first posted this over at Social Media Breakfast – Twin Cities. You can see that post for further discussion.

Hey friends, in light of Mykl’s “Supercharged Personal Branding” post, and the awesome presentation that Greg and Christopher gave on Reputation Management, I’ve been thinking about one little narcissistic thing lately: do you rank for your name? And if so…how many times?

Craig Key Search Results

Craig Key Search Results

I’ve been trying to grab more search real estate on my name craig key (did I mention I’m a narcissist?), but I’m having a hard time because there happens to be an island in the Florida Keys which is bold enough to go by that same moniker (and a judge in Oklahoma that wrote a book called “A Deadly Game of Tug o War”).

But I wanted to throw out a challenge: Own your name in the search results – so that others can’t.

For me, I rank for my facebook, twitter, blog and linkedin profiles. 4 out of 10. Not bad…but I’d rather have all 10. Ok, maybe I won’t take down Wikipedia (stupid island), but I could at least aim for 9 out of 10.

I have some thoughts on the subject (or tips, I guess), but I would rather hear from you first.

How many of the top 10 search results on your name do you control?
How do you think you can boost the rank of some profiles?

All of this is a fun test for your own name…but brands should be asking themselves the same questions, don’t you think?

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Now Announcing…E-Z-Quote!

Hey web friends…this is what I did all weekend:

http://www.e-z-quote.com/

e-z-quoteThe site is for a good friend of mine who has had an idea for some time about offering home remodeling (windows, sidng, roofing, etc) services without pushy sales reps.

After once spending 3 hours with a CRI sales rep in my house who wouldn’t take no for an answer. I told Justin I thought he was onto something!

Go check out the site – I’d love to know what you think (and since it’s BRAND new…I would appreciate if you tell me about any bugs).

You can actually go to the roofing, siding, or gutters page and fill out info from your house, and you’ll get a quote right then and there!

But seriously let me know what you think…and if you find anything that needs fixing 🙂

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The Feeds are Coming…the Feeds Are Coming!!!

Hey Friends,

I switched servers this weekend and the kind folks at Google reposted the last 25 or so blogposts into my feedburner feed.

I know you probably appreciated having your inbox all full with stuff you’ve already read – or skimmed – or skipped…but for those of you who didn’t appreciate, I’m sorry.

Also, I changed my about me page. Cool huh? I know right?

-kthxbai.

Oh PS – I’ve been writing more for rockworms lately.  First I reviewed Peter Bjorn & John’s new album (Living Thing), then I made fun of Bow Wow’s new album cover.  Good times. Maybe we’ll crack the $10 mark and become the most successful music bloggers ever this year!

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