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If you’re not in the fortunate situation where promotion is easy, then the odds are that it’s really difficult.

If you’re in the latter category, this chapter will introduce you to the magnitude of the promotional challenge ahead and explain why (fortunately) moderate success is probably more than sufficient in the early stages of your transition to the new model. It’ll also walk you through the process of creating your first set of promotional campaigns.

Now, if it sounds like I’m trying to recalibrate your expectations at the start of this important chapter, then you’re absolutely right: I am!

In my experience, most managers underappreciate the magnitude of the promotional challenge and, consequently, fail to make a sufficient commitment to it. Campaigns are launched with unrealistic expectations and then initial successes are overlooked. The end result is that promotion is regarded as a black art and management places occasional bets on whatever happens to be the promotional flavor of the month, motivated more by a sense of obligation than by any real expectation of results.

This, of course, is a vicious cycle. If we’re to break the cycle we need to replace the sequence above with this one:

  1. Engineer a sales function that can operate quite comfortably with little more than your existing organic opportunity flow
  2. Run small promotional experiments and evaluate all outcomes objectively
  3. Iterate rapidly, but be prepared for the development of an effective promotional function to take many months (if not years)
  4. Steel yourself for the journey by reminding yourself, regularly, that a sales function without a scalable source of opportunities is not much of a sales function (just as a business without a scalable source of sales is not much of a business)

Why promotion is either easy or really, really difficult

It’s instructive to examine those rare businesses that find promotion easy. I think it’s fair to say that these organizations tend to find themselves in this enviable position for one of two reasons:

  1. They have invented a breakthrough product (the proverbial better mousetrap) and the world genuinely is beating a path to their door
  2. They have invented a space in the mind of the market and, within that space, they are regarded as the thought leader

It’s easy to see that promotion will be easy if you are a product or thought leader (think of Apple after the launch of their game-changing iPad or HubSpot and their Inbound Marketing method).

However, if you’re not in one of these categories, it’s also easy to see why promotion is difficult. Absent a breakthrough product or a position of thought-leadership, you lack either a compelling message or an attentive audience, or both.

That’s not to say that you can’t emulate the promotional activities of Apple and HubSpot. You can: you just can’t expect those activities to yield the same results.

The thing is, if you have established a leadership position in your market, then your promotional activities need only communicate that good news. However, if you lack this leadership, then your promotional activities are the news. Consequently, they will be less effective and more likely suffer from rapidly-diminishing returns.

A bitter pill

In case you’re wondering, there’s a reason why management tends to underappreciate the magnitude of the promotional challenge. Under the standard model, the responsibility for the origination of sales opportunities rests with salespeople. Management may recognize some responsibility for tilling the soil via marketing activities but the general assumption is that prospecting (as promotion is typically called) is just part of selling.

In the new model, this responsibility is transferred inside – leaving management no choice but to confront the challenge head-on.

Now, here’s a bitter pill. If you find yourself in the position where promotion is really difficult, it’s likely that you will need to look outside your marketing department for a solution to this problem (in the long run). Without a leadership position (product- or thought-), your promotional activities are severely handicapped – meaning that you will struggle to find campaigns that generate better than marginal returns.

What I’m suggesting then – lest there be any confusion – is that, in the long run, if you are not currently either a product or a thought leader, it’s easier to become one than it is to attempt to compensate with acts of promotional gallantry.

Of course the development of either product or thought leadership is outside the mandate of this book. Both require innovation – and this innovation must be driven from the very top of the organization. And both require initiatives that cross many divisional boundaries – involving engineering, sales, production and finance.

Why moderate success is more than sufficient

Fortunately, there is good news!

If your organization is typical, it will be possible for you to make the transition to the new model – and to generate a meaningful increase in sales performance with only minimal promotional effort.

This is because the standard model is so terribly inefficient! Specifically, the standard model tends to result in both accounts and opportunities being seriously under-exploited.

Accounts are under-exploited because salespeople are too busy with customer service (including the processing of repeat transactions) to dedicate much attention to business development. And opportunities are under-exploited because salespeople insist on only engaging with qualified opportunities.

For this reason, it’s likely that you will be able to generate all the opportunities you need to at least double your current volume of sales activities (field appointments and business-development calls), simply by:

  1. Pitching new service lines to existing accounts (rather than simply processing repeat transactions) and engaging with all existing accounts more frequently – particularlythose that are not already heavy users of your services
  2. Eliminating qualification – and engaging with everyone who is a genuine prospect (capacity permitting)

It’s important that you remember that your initial objective is only to double your current volume of business-development activity. And, as we discussed in Chapter 7, it’s critical that you ensure that your sales team is no larger than is required to service this volume of opportunities.

So, if you have sized your sales team correctly and if you fully exploit both existing accounts and your existing opportunity flow you should have no need for additional promotion (over and above what you are doing now) – on paper at least!

In reality, however, it’s likely that you will still be tempted to engage in some additional promotional activities; perhaps to compensate for quieter periods or to raise your quality of opportunities. And that’s okay. Because, in these scenarios, your requirement for opportunities is low, you should be able to make do with short-term, tactical campaigns – deferring the requirement to tackle some of the bigger promotional challenges.

Getting prepared

Two definitions

As you may have noticed, I’m using the word promotion to refer to the origination of sales opportunities.

So, in my book (and this is my book!) promotion is anything we do to generate (or originate) a sales opportunity – and that’s all it is.

The term (sales) opportunity refers to a prospect with which salespeople are engaged. It’s important to note that the term does not infer any kind of value judgment. If a salesperson is engaged with a prospect, that prospect is an opportunity – irrespective of the likelihood of a sale.

We can expand the definition of promotion now: promotion is anything we do to generate an engagement between a prospect and a salesperson.

These two definitions are important because they provide us with an objective framework for the management of the promotional function.

It should be clear that promotion is a procedure that takes prospects and converts them into engagements (with salespeople). Prospects – the input to this procedure – can either be existing accounts or they can be members of the general marketplace.

TheMachine_Ch9_1

Promotion refers to the conversion of prospects
into engagements with salespeople

Campaign ingredients

Promotional initiatives are called campaigns and all campaigns have three fundamental ingredients:

  1. Offer (the basic proposition the campaign presents)
  2. Audience (the set of individuals to which the campaign is targeted)
  3. Communication (how the offer communicated – the creative execution)

These ingredients are listed in order of significance. Item one has roughly an order of magnitude more impact on the effectiveness of the campaign than item two and, item two, an order of magnitude more than item three.

To illustrate the relative significance of these ingredients, let’s consider a simple scenario. We’ll assume that you have a nice car – a late-model, BMW M3, perhaps – and that you are determined to dispose of this car in a hurry.

Assume that you park your car on a busy street and paint the following in white paint on the rear window: FOR SALE $15,000.

There should be no question that this campaign will quickly draw a crowd. At best, you’ll sell your car quickly. At worst, you’ll cause a traffic jam and get arrested for causing a public nuisance!

The value of this scenario is that it makes the relative importance of the promotional ingredients obvious. It’s clear that the size of the traffic jam you create will primarily be a function of the desirability of the car, in conjunction with the price you paint on the rear window. The offer, in other words.

Audience is important, but not nearly as important as the offer. If you really are selling your late-model M3 for $15,000, you can park your car on a quiet street in the middle of the night and word will still get out! And it’s clear that this campaign is not super-sensitive to creative execution. You can communicate your message effectively with two words and one critical number. In fact, I suspect the market will even forgive you a spelling mistake or two!

A failure to appreciate the relative importance of the offer is at the heart of many promotional problems. It’s certainly convenient for managers to assume that their product is inherently desirable and focus, instead, on the fun stuff – pretty pictures, snappy prose and clever videos.

A more prudent approach is to consider creative execution only after you have developed a truly compelling offer. And an offer can be considered compelling only after it has demonstrated its ability to pull a crowd in real-world tests.

Until such an offer has been developed, it is safer to ignore the other promotional ingredients altogether. More correctly, you should confirm that (a) your offer is clearly communicated and, (b) your campaign is being exposed to individuals who match the profile of existing clients. If you can tick both these boxes, then you are free to focus exclusively on the offer.

Campaign structure

A novice could be excused for presuming that a promotional campaign is a single event. This, however, is often not the case.

Campaigns are similar to opportunities in that they often consist of series of activities, or steps.

If we imagine that we are attempting to generate opportunities for the sale of enterprise software, a single campaign might consist of the following steps:

  1. A pay-per-click advertisement, encouraging viewers to view a video detailing enterprise-software horror stories, directing viewers to …
  2. A landing- (or squeeze-) page, containing the video as well as a pitch for visitors to request a software buyers’ guide, the dispatch of which will be followed by …
  3. An email campaign directed to readers of the buyers’ guide, inviting them to attend a webinar, then, finally …
  4. The webinar itself, designed to up-sell to a business-process-modeling workshop (we’ll assume that those who register for the workshop are classified as opportunities and handed-off to the sales coordinator)

Campaigns have multiple steps for the same reason opportunities do. Namely, it is often unrealistic (or uneconomic) to pitch the ultimate objective at the first point of contact with the market.

A testing-based framework

Smart marketers know their limitations.

It’s simply not possible to design a successful campaign: you need to evolve one through a framework of trial and error. And, at the heart of this process, we have the AB test.

In an AB test you simply test two (or more) variations of the one campaign to determine which performs better. The real magic is not the test itself but, rather, the iterative framework that encapsulates the test:

  1. Assume your current campaign (the control) is sub-optimal (always!)
  2. Create a variation of the controlcampaign
  3. Test the variation against the control (ensuring the test is statistically valid)
  4. Establish the winning variant as the new control and repeat from Step 1

A marketing genius is someone who accepts that they will never truly understand what the market wants (and how it thinks) but who is committed to an ongoing process of testing and refinement.

The first question is, what to test?

And we know the answer to that question already. Because, the offer has disproportionate influence on the performance of a campaign, we should test the offer first – and most frequently. The next thing to test is the audience. (In practice, this means running your campaign in different mediums.) The third thing to test is creative execution (communication).

The second question is, how to test?

The theory is simple. To test, you run two versions of the one campaign in parallel and determine which produces the better return on promotional spend. As well as testing discrete campaign elements, you can (and should) test different campaign structures.

If you are running an online campaign, testing is likely to be easy. Most providers of online advertising allow you to create multiple versions of a campaign and then serve these versions randomly to site visitors. Additionally, there are services that enable you run AB tests on your landing pages and on various components of your website.

With the exception of email and direct mail campaigns, testing can require much greater effort offline. The problem is that traditional media (TV, newspapers, magazines, etc) do not allow you to present two campaigns to the one audience at single point in time. To compensate for this, you need to run multiple tests to compile meaningful data. For example, to test a newspaper advertisement, you will need to run two versions of the advertisement in different papers on day one and then repeat the exercise (switching ad versions) on day two. This will allow you to control for the two different audiences and the two different days.

As mentioned, it makes a lot of sense to develop a testing-based framework for your entire promotional function. The value of testing, however, is not confined to promotion. In recent years, an iterative approach to software development (Agile) has spread to the development of entire businesses, spearheaded by the publication of a book called The Lean Startup. While The Lean Startup deals primarily with technology companies, many of the ideas within it can – and should – be applied to traditional businesses as well.

Your first campaigns

Okay. Time to take all that theory and figure out how to apply it in practice!

Rather than talking about campaigns in the abstract, let’s discuss actual campaigns you might run as you transition from the standard to the new model.

Here’s a list of likely campaigns (in the order you might run them):

Campaign nameObjectiveOfferAudienceSteps
Time for a coffeePre-approach email: schedule catch-up meetings between accounts and salespeopleMeeting (and coffee)Existing accounts (primary contact)2
Reconsider? An irresistible propositionPre-approach email: compel lost opportunities to re-engage (book meeting)Irresistible deal – with conditions Late-stage opportunities that were recently lost2
Webinar: A DIY guideGenerate opportunities from house listBest-practice briefing (meeting)Entire house list4
eBook: Top-10 reasons …Use PPC and SEO to build house listeBook with registration (first name and email)Finance officers in mid-sized companies2

Time for a coffee

Your first campaign should be a very simple one. Your initial objective should simply be to get the entire sales machine moving. After all, with even the simplest campaign imaginable, there are still quite a few moving parts that must be coordinated:

  1. Of course, you need an offer, a target audience and creative (the email, in this case)
  2. You need to build a list and broadcast the email to that list
  3. You need to generate one opportunity for each campaign recipient (ideally in a single batch)
  4. You need to transfer those opportunities to a sales coordinator (or direct to an inside-sales team)

In this case, we intend only to have our sales coordinators schedule visits between salespeople and existing accounts. We have no real offer because we can probably assume that your existing accounts are happy to meet with a salesperson.

Now, you’ll probably hear the argument that no email is required to preempt such a simple call. That’s true, but you should send one anyway. After all, you’re putting your entire sales machine through its paces and promotions is an essential part of this machine.

Additionally, there are two more reasons why it makes sense to institute a policy that all outbound opportunities originate with a pre-approach campaign. (An outbound opportunity is one that you initiate, rather than one resulting from an inbound inquiry.)

  1. A pre-approach email will reduce the amount of time your sales coordinators need to spend on the telephone (the call becomes essentially a scheduling call)
  2. Pre-approach campaigns force the integration of your promotional coordinator and the rest of sales and, consequently, result in more forethought and greater management visibility

Your very first promotional campaign (an email) is likely to look something like the following):

Subject:Time for a coffee
Body:Bob

Susan asked me to reach out to you and organize a time for you and her to have a coffee in the next week or so.

Susan would like to share some case studies from your industry and also to seek your input on a couple of concepts our engineering team has under development.

I’ll give you a call shortly to see if we can get this coffee scheduled.

Jennifer Scott
(Assistant to Susan Fisher)

You’ll probably notice a few interesting things about this email:

  1. Even though it is the first interaction between Bob and Susan’s new sales coordinator, it doesn’t highlight Jennifer’s addition to the team (in our experience, this is simply not necessary)
  2. Even though this meeting has no formal objective (which is not normally the case) the email does set an agenda and hint at a client benefit
  3. The email does not look like a promotional email (it contains no advertising-speak, no pretty pictures and no unsubscribe link)
Logistics

Because this is the first promotional campaign you’ve run under this new regime, it’s worth detailing the steps required to execute the campaign and transfer opportunities to sales coordinators:

  1. Your promotional coordinator should create and save a filter (or view) in your CRM that contains a list of all contacts that are eligible for this campaign (in this case, all primary contacts associated with active accounts)
  2. They should then select a small subset of this list (enough to represent a few days’ worth of work for a single sales coordinator) and associate this smaller list with a new campaign
  3. They should then broadcast the email to that list and, immediately the broadcast is done, generate a sales opportunity for each email sent (the opportunity should be associated with the account to which the contact belongs – and not directly with the contact – and the opportunity ownershould be the sales coordinator)
  4. Your promotional coordinator should then monitor the size of the sales coordinator’s queue of open opportunities and only trigger the next broadcast when the queue falls below a pre-agreed threshold (this concept is discussed in detail in the next chapter)

Reconsider? An irresistible proposition

Now that you’ve got your machine working and accustomed your salespeople (and your accounts) to the idea of working with a sales coordinator, you’re ready to progress to a campaign that incorporates some salesmanship.

In this case we’ll reach out to those opportunities that said no to you recently and see if we can get them to reconsider. This campaign is interesting because it provides us an excuse to grapple with the concept of discounting.

First, however, it’s worth noting that a simple campaign like this can be extremely effective. You’ll likely discover that a small percentage of lost opportunities can be reactivated – and subsequently sold – if you are prepared to make a small concession (a better price or some other benefit with purchase). And this incremental sales lift can have an out-sized impact on your profitability over time.

When discounting makes sense

Now, discounting is a sensitive subject because we’ve all been brainwashed by business authors into believing that discounting is always a destructive activity. Here are the dangers we’ve been warned about:

  1. Discounting reduces your profitability (and the revenue increase required to recover that lost profitability is the inverse of the discount)
  2. Discounting trains clients to alter their behavior so that they can consistently purchase at lower prices
  3. Discounting triggers a price war – leading to a race to the bottom

These are all valid concerns however they don’t tell the whole story.

For example, if the campaign I’m proposing causes you to win a sale that you would otherwise have lost and if that transaction does not place an additional load on your current system constraint, then it causes no reduction in profitability (in fact, the opposite is the case).

Additionally, if this offer is only made for genuine sales opportunities (as opposed to transactions) then it’s unlikely to have a meaningful impact on customer behavior. (Remember, we’re using the word sale to refer to new accounts or new lines for existing accounts).

As far as price wars are concerned, your discount (or benefit with purchase) should always have strings attached. In other words, I’m suggesting that you should never offer a discount without imposing a condition or two. If you ensure that your discounts always have strings attached, then you should be able to prevent your competitors (and your customers) from converting a one-off offer into a general price reduction.

Here are some examples of the kind of conditions you should attach to discounts (or benefits with purchase):

  1. Valid only for first-time purchases of particular service lines
  2. Valid only if delivery is between July 15 and July 22 (to take advantage of a temporary hole in your production schedule)
  3. Valid only if you will allow us 6 weeks to deliver

And here’s an example of a possible pre-approach campaign.

Subject:Reconsider? An irresistible proposition.
Body:Linda

We were all disappointed when you elected not proceed with our proposed Solution Design Workshop.

However, I’m happy to report that we’ve been able to identify an opportunity for you to purchase this engagement at a considerable discount if you are prepared to schedule it for February 20 and 21.

This date range is significant because it spans President’s Day and, for this reason, that period is proving difficult for us to schedule.

The good news is that we will provide you a $2,000 discount on the proposed Solution Design Workshop if you are able to schedule it for (only) these dates. The bad news is that we’ve made this offer simultaneously to two other organizations.

I’ll give you a call shortly to see if you’d like to take advantage of this opportunity.

David Grant
(Assistant to Sarah Jones)

Webinar: a DIY guide

This next campaign is more ambitious still.

It consists of four steps:

1. Send (email) invitation to webinar

2. Call sub-set of prospects to encourage them to register

3. Conduct webinar and up-sell to best-practice briefing (sales meeting)

4. Call to schedule meetings

Invitation

The creation of the invitation is where 90% of the decisions for the campaign as a whole get made.

In fact, it makes a lot of sense to create the invitation and then design the webinar content based on the invitation (rather than the other way around). This maximizes the likelihood that you will end up with a compelling event!

Your webinar should be a do-it-yourself guide to solving a problem you’re convinced is afflicting a significant percentage of your target clients. It should not be a sales presentation.

For example, if you are attempting to sell project-management services to local government, your webinar invitation might look something like this.

Subject:Webinar: meticulous planning – the enemy of public works projects
Body:
Why meticulous planning is guaranteeing that your
public works projects will run behind schedule

Free webinar shows how Northern Rivers was able to
deliver 94% of works projects on time last year

Brenda

Conventional wisdom is wrong.

Beyond a critical level of detail, more granular planning will
guarantee that your projects run late. What’s more, your contractors
know this and are conspiring to use your meticulous plans against you!

This webinar will introduce you to a radically different approach to
project management and share the recent journey (and impressive
results) of Northern Rivers county.

Plan big: execute small

In 45 action-packed minutes, you’ll learn …

Registration calls

Once you have the invitation, you can go ahead and broadcast it to your list. Actually, what you should do is create a couple of variations on the invitation, send each to small sub-sets of your list and then broadcast the best-performing one to the balance of the list.

It’s now worth selecting another sub-set of your list and performing follow-up calls to see if you can secure registrations. This activity can be either performed by your inside-sales team (if you have one) or temporary labor.

If you have a small list, these calls may be necessary to populate your webinar. Either way, it’s worth running the test so that you can calculate the impact of follow-up calls.

Webinar

As soon as you have sent the invitations, you need to create the webinar itself.

Specifically, you need to create an auto-responder sequence (a series of reminders) for registrants and a slide-deck for the presenter.

The starting point for the latter is the offer. At this particular step in the campaign, you’re up-selling to a Best-practice Briefing (a meeting). First, create the slide for this briefing, be sure to spell-out a detailed agenda for the briefing to make it clear that this is not a thinly-veiled sales presentation.

TheMachine_Ch9_3

If you don’t spell-out the value delivered in your post-webinar meeting,
attendees will assume it’s nothing but a sales pitch

The briefing slide should be inserted in the middle (and at the end) of the presentation. The primary pitch for the briefing should be in the middle of the event, not at the end. This is because people will start checking-out of your webinar the instant they sense that the primary content is drawing to a close.

What you leave out of your webinar is probably more important than what you put in. Be sure not to include:

  1. An introduction to your organization and the presenter (these can be included in the pre-event materials and, anyway, people are more than capable of inferring your professionalism from the quality of the event)
  2. Instructions on how to use the webinar facility (you can include a link to these in your auto-responder sequence)
  3. Small talk and meaningless verbiage (e.g. in this fast-paced business environment …)

Your webinar should start with a promise (how the attendee will benefit) and proceed directly to the meat and potatoes.

The key to making the content compelling is to ensure that you are teaching attendees something that they genuinely do not know – and that you are presenting this knowledge in plain-English, so that they can (at least in theory) take it and apply it that very day.

Remember, you gain nothing by holding back knowledge. Your methods and practices are more valuable when you give them away than they are when you try and sell them. By giving them away, you demonstrate your mastery of the subject matter and convince prospects that they are better served leaving the execution to an expert.

As mentioned you should pitch your offer (in this case, a best-practice briefing) in the middle of the event (right before some particularly juicy content). After mentioning the exciting content that follows, you should click to a slide that describes the briefing in detail (i.e. presents the agenda for the meeting). You should then ask attendees to express interest, either by responding to a poll or by entering the word briefing in the chat window.

Call to schedule meeting

In most cases it makes sense to generate opportunities for your sales coordinators in two batches. Those attendees who expressed interest in a briefing (these can be scheduled right away) and everyone else (these can be called and offered one anyway!)

eBook: top-10 reasons …

I hope you’ve noticed that all the campaigns, thus far, have been directed at your existing house list (accounts and prospects). It’s critical that you exploit the value in your existing list before you invest money in the acquisition of new prospects in the cold market.

However, at some point you’ll be keen to take the next step and tackle the wider marketplace.

My suggestion is that you initially decouple your cold promotional activities from sales. In other words, focus on campaigns to build your house list – rather than to directly generate opportunities. I recommend this because your first experiments with cold campaigns are likely to yield highly-variable results. The last thing you should be doing right now is injecting this uncertainty into the front-end of your sales process.

Of course, as you build your house list, new prospects can be converted into opportunities either via simple two-step (email then phone) campaigns or, better still, via webinars (or traditional events).

Now, you build your house list by compelling prospects to provide you with their contact information. You should attempt only to gather that information that you intend to use right now. In other words, if you intend to communicate with new prospects by email, you should ask them only for their first name and email address. An attempt to gather any more information will significantly reduce your return on promotional expenditure.

In order to get prospects to provide us their contact information, you must first attract their attention and, then, provide them some kind incentive (an offer) to take a risk on you (prospects are well aware that the cost of divulging their contact information is an increase in their volume of inbound email).

The best way to do this is to give away something of significant value, absolutely free of charge!

Offers that fit this bill include product samples and packaged information (books, videos, etc). The advantage of the latter is that they can be fulfilled electronically – meaning there is zero fulfillment cost.

In this campaign we are planning to give away an eBook, which belongs in the second category. It’s important, however, not to underestimate the potential of the first category.

Claude Hopkins is regarded by many to be the father of modern advertising. He also popularized the practice of sampling.

In his classic 1923 book (still as relevant today as it was 90 years ago) he waxed lyrical about the benefits of samples. Two of the benefits he noted back then are that offer of a sample can significantly increase the readership of your advertisement and that prospects, when requesting a (physical) sample, will provide you their physical addresses and (in almost every case) their phone numbers!

One of our silent revolutionaries (a manufacturer of flexible heaters) offers its prospects a coffee warmer in kit form. Prospects assemble it and, more often than not, give it pride of place on their office desks!

eBook content

Your eBook can be a whitepaper, a report or an extract from a traditional book; and it can be delivered in PDF, Kindle or any one of a number of other digital formats.

The one thing it can’t be is a document that resembles the sort of brochureware that’s typically churned-out by marketing departments and PR firms all over the world! If it isn’t the kind of document that you’d be prepared to pay for, don’t even think about using it as the offer for this campaign.

One way to discipline yourself to write interesting copy is to start with the least complimentary (working) title you can possibly imagine. For example, if you are selling accounting software you might commence with the following: The top-10 reasons why the best accounting package is the one you already own.

You’ll almost certainly find that 15 pages of copy, begging readers not to waste money on unnecessary software will do a better job of selling your application than 100 pages of marketing prose (assuming, of course, that your product solves a legitimate problem)!

Advertising

Now you have your eBook, the next step is to give it away. This requires two creative elements: an advertisement (to grab people’s attention) and a landing page (to capture visitors’ contact details)

There are numerous places you can run advertisements: everywhere from your local cinema (which is not a great idea) to the New York Times (which can be a great idea, once you know for sure you have a winning campaign on your hands).

If you trust me (and I’m sure you do by now) you’ll avoid cinemas, national newspapers, billboards and skywriting and go direct to online advertising – or, more specifically, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

There’s a bunch of reasons why it makes sense to start here:

  1. Online is where your potential customers are
  2. You can start with a very small budget (realistically, as little as $500)
  3. AB testing is easy and you can collect meaningful results within hours
  4. It’s easier online, than it is in any other medium, to identify the source of sales opportunities

For all the reasons above, PPC is the very best environment to fine-tune your offer. Even if it ultimately makes sense to advertise in local papers or on television (which it may well), you should still keep returning to the Internet to test alternate approaches.

As I write this, Google is the best-known source of PPC advertising – but not necessarily the most economic. My favored source of PPC advertising for business customers is LinkedIn (followed by Facebook). However, because things change fast online, you should not rely on this book for placement advice.

TheMachine_Ch9_4

A mock-up of what your PPC advertisement might look like
(this ad is superimposed on a Google search-results page for context)

Your PPC advertisement should point to a landing (or squeeze) page. The landing page will be a long and detailed advertisement for the book. Ideally it will contain extracts from the book, testimonials from past readers and even a video encouraging the visitor to provide their details now (so that they can receive your eBook in their inbox within seconds, of course!). Importantly, the landing page will also contain the form that visitors will use to request the eBook.

Slow and steady

In describing your first promotional steps, I’ve deliberately targeted campaigns that are relevant to a range of organizations and that are relatively simple.

None the less, it should be clear that even these four simple campaigns involve quite a bit of work – particularly for organizations that have left the generation of sales opportunities up to their salespeople.

As I’ve stressed, a slow-and-steady approach to promotion is prudent. The process of trial and error required to arrive at effective offers and overall campaigns is time consuming but, when you factor-in that truly effective promotions will likely require changes to the fabric of the larger organization, then an over-zealous approach can do enormous damage to your sales-improvement initiative.

Cold calling is dead

On the subject of damaging your sales-improvement initiative, it would be remiss of me to end this chapter without discussing cold calling as a means of originating sales opportunities.

There is a small number of (quite vocal) salespeople (and sales managers) who continue to champion the cause of cold calling. Additionally, there are telemarketing bureaus who add voices to the choir.

The harsh reality, however, is that cold calling is dead. And it’s been dead for years!

If you examine those salespeople who trumpet the effectiveness of cold-calling you’ll discover that they spend an enormous volume of time on the phone to generate very few opportunities. You’ll also discover that their prospecting work is so unpleasant that few (if any) of their colleagues are prepared to replicate it.

If you talk to those salespeople who receive sales opportunities that have been originated by cold calling, they’ll tell you that these are their lowest-quality opportunities. On many occasions prospects are hostile because they feel that they have been pestered and strong-armed into accepting appointments.

If you examine the books of (outbound) telemarketing bureaus, you’ll find that their average customer tenure is shocking low (as low, in fact, as their internal staff turnover is high!).

The problem with cold calling is that it simply doesn’t make sense for your customers. You can take-in a number of advertisements along with your primary search results on Google (for example) with negligible incremental effort. Imagine, however, that rather than placing those ads with your search provider, all those vendors were to ring you at work – one after another?

Of course, this used to happen. For this reason, most organizations have hidden their executives behind executive assistants and phone systems that force callers to announce themselves by recording a short message.

It may be true that good-old Bob can cold call to generate all his sales opportunities. But if you can’t recruit other Bobs – and if no one else on the salesforce is capable of, or willing to, replicate Bob’s practices, then you must face reality. Cold calling is dead.

* * * *

You now know how to generate and manage sales opportunities – the lifeblood of your reengineered sales function.

Like the circulatory system, opportunity-flow is necessary, but not sufficient. There are other processes required to keep the organism alive and healthy. The last two chapters tackle two of them: technology and management.

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Home Forums The Machine > Part 2 > Chapter 9: How to generate sales opportunities

This topic contains 10 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Justin Roff-Marsh 1 year ago.

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  • #1862 Reply

    girifox
    Participant

    This is a brilliant chapter. I love how you open it up with framing like this. I honestly applaud how clearly you have outlined the traditional disconnection between corporate strategy and sales, where many middle managers attribute the business’ success (or otherwise) to sales rather than to where it’s actually decided; the corporation’s business model itself.

    Perhaps to make that point even more obvious, add a paragraph which also says something about how corporate strategy, or business model innovation, or a compelling value proposition, is what is required and it’s not a sales’s persons job to reverse engineer it.

    What I’m suggesting then – lest there be any confusion – is that, in the long run, if you are not currently either a product or a thought leader, it’s easier to become one than it is to attempt to compensate with acts of promotional gallantry.

    Of course the development of either product or thought leadership is outside the mandate of this book. Both require innovation – and this innovation must be driven from the very top of the organization. And both require initiatives that cross many divisional boundaries – involving engineering, sales, production and finance.

    Again later on you nail it:

    A failure to appreciate the relative importance of the offer is at the heart of many promotional problems. It’s certainly convenient for managers to assume that their product is inherently desirable and focus, instead, on the fun stuff – pretty pictures, snappy prose and clever videos.

    I recently wrote a blog on a related topic. It is in turn based on some great work by McKinsey and others. Perhaps you’d find some useful insight in either my summary-post or the source material, as it’s largely consistent with your views. It’s dealing with my sales initiatives fail, and mostly that answer is poor execution, which in turn is a result of inadequately planning for execution at the beginning.

    I’m super impressed you mention the Lean Startup and AB testing. I hadn’t thought of AB testing for offline promotions, that’s quite clever.

    Under the Your first campaigns section, I got a bit confused because the first line is ‘time for a coffee’ so I thought maybe your example was dealing with coffee roasters, or something. So I’d suggest framing it better, is the following text a boilerplate or is it based on an example scenario?

    The webinar session is good. You could take it to the next level by talking about some of the co-creation ideas from Clay Collin’s Interactive Offer firm. What he does is like a spiral of increasing relationship with a candidate, which includes co-creating an offer that the candidate would buy because the offer was designed by them working with you. It’s very clever and simple. It’s an elaboration of lean startup principles. In fact I came across him thanks to your referral to Mixergy.com

    Man, this was a great chapter though. Well done.

    #1863 Reply

    Giri

    Thank you for that feedback. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    At last, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

    BTW, is there a utility you used to write your comment? I’m assuming you didn’t hand-code the html?

    Justin

    #1864 Reply

    girifox
    Participant

    Hi mate, you’re welcome. Yeah I hand-coded. I can write basic HTML.

    #1865 Reply

    I can too. But I try not to!! I thought you might have some browser plug-in or something I didn’t know about.

    #1896 Reply

    Greg

    Hi Justin, greetings from Sandy, Utah. The information you included in Chapter 9 caught me completely off guard. I was surprised at how much of your deal flow comes from Linkedin PPC. Your presentation of the data is an excellent study on scientific advertising. In my opinion it also addresses and fills the one big gap that was left open in your first book, how to consistently generate the lead flow required to keep sales people busy with 20 prescheduled appointments per week. Excellent work.

    #1897 Reply

    Thank you Greg!

    Looks like you’ve already seen it, but, in case you haven’t, I share our actual numbers here:

    http://www.salesprocessengineering.net/2012/06/03/experiences-lead-gen-usa-a-self-liquidating-promotional-machine/

    Justin

    #1900 Reply

    John McDougle

    Thanks for another thrilling installment from your book. I look forward to reading them with great anticipation as your ideas make such sense.

    There is one part of this chapter that I disagree with, however.

    It seems to me that the first priority is always the audience, not the offer. To use your car analogy, if you parked a bright pink Rolls Royce convertible in a very respectable, middle class suburban street, you would have few takers, apart from those who see an opportunity to make a fast profit selling it to someone more \\\”flash\\\”.

    The primary focus must be on crafting offers to satisfy the desires, goals and wants of your intended audience members, otherwise they can sink like a stone.

    If the offer matches the audience, then, as you say, the creative is less important.

    #1901 Reply

    John

    Well, you kinda skewed things in your favor by painting the Roller pink!

    Obviously, audience and offer are interrelated but, generally speaking, when you fix one and vary the other, you see a greater variation in outcomes when the audience is fixed and the offer varied.

    I know this because we’ve been running these tests for ourselves and clients for many years. All variables can be tested, of course, it’s just that you can home in on the optimal mix faster when you test offer, then audience, then creative execution.

    Thanks for reading along.

    #26670 Reply

    Jeff Simmons

    Well done Justin… I’m really enjoying the chapters of your book and want to say “thank you” for making them available.

    I would also reverse the order of Offer vs. Audience.

    I was taught that the “List” of people you are marketing to is more important than the offer.

    For example, if you have a great deal on snow tires, but promote it to a list of people who live in Miami…

    Or if you try to promote enterprise software to start-ups…

    A mediocre offer to the right list will beat a great offer to the wrong list.

    Anyway, thanks again for all the wisdom and keep up the great work (;

    Jeff simmons

    #26671 Reply

    Thank you, Jeff

    Yes, I thought about that. I’m a direct marketer by trade, so I’ve always assumed the same.

    The problem is that the offer and the market segment are tightly integrated. It’s hard to consider one without the other.

    But, in my thought experiment — the BMW S3 for $15, I realized that if you varied the offer across the full range of possibilities you would have to see more variation in output than if you varied the segment across the full range of possibilities.

    Do you know that the book is in the bookshops now (and on Amazon) and there are a bunch of enhancements. (And a free video short course).

    Justin

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