Central New England Sales Summit
- looks very interesting. Depending on who they lineup for speakers, I will probably attend.
John Battelle calls it well: MSN's new deal to pay the users of its search engine is less about paying it's users. It's more about having tighter relationships with vertical sellers. By making the ad network cost per action (cpa), as opposed to Google's cost per click (CPC), they're creating a system that every retailer should participate in. There's no risk and little complexity. You offer to pay what you can afford in order to outbid your competitor.
I agree with Greg Yardley, that the simple act of paying users presents as much potential risk of losing the perception of impartiality and trust - as it does potential rewards of gaining loyalty for the search engine.
However, there's a whole other demographic that LOVES cash back, coupons
and all other "discounting" methods that make them think they're
getting a deal. As long as the cash back program sticks to "tangible
products" and not services that require trust, I think MSN is in safe
But, this move is less about gaining short term market share. It's more about getting rich data about profit margins from retailers, and at some point: lead generation companies.
Then, Microsoft will pick off vertical after vertical, creating vertical search engines for products, services, etc. Said well here:
Microsoft is in a tough spot. They've gone on record to say they want to compete against Google. They're not really going to get there with horizontal search so they've got a strategy to go vertical search. So they're assembling the Microsoft Office of vertical search. You'll see them buy a real estate site, a job site, a travel site, and weave that together into a search volume competitor to Google.
This closes the window for companies sucking off of Google's SEO and ppc tit to establish vertical service businesses as middle men between businesses needing clients and online media companies selling eyeballs and clicks. At some point, Google, Yahoo and MSN will make it simple and obvious enough for every business to do what they want: just pay a % of their margins for new business - directly to one of the big 3.
In the meanwhile, there's a lot of money to be made as middle men. But, it's a fragile balance. The reason that it is possible is because Google insists on the separation of ads from content in order to maintain impartiality and therefore, trust with users. Will MSN challenge that? Will they maintain (err establish) trust with it's users? It might if it serves a better search result.
I'm gradually switching from Bloglines to Google Reader. (I'm not the only one.)
For my blog newbie readers, the reason I am using a feedreader like Google Reader is to accomplish the following: Once I started reading more than 10 blogs, it became a hassle to go to 10 different websites. A feedreader allows me to subscribe to all of these blogs and read them inside my feeder, so I only have to go to one site to read 10+++ blogs. The feedreader also knows when there's a new article on a blog automatically. So, when I log in, I only have to skim the new stuff. SO MUCH MORE EFFICENT!
Watch this video if you're still confused.
For all of my readers, I'm switching to Google reader because it allows me to share posts with other people who also use Google Reader. It also allows other people I'm connected with on Google Reader to share stuff with me very easily. So, please connect with me if you're using Google Reader too.
I'm also taking this opportunity to clean house. Reading "tech industry" blogs is less and less important to me. Helping my clients generate leads online is more and more important to me. So, it's more important that I use my blog as a networking and teaching tool. So, I'll be reading a lot more of my clients' blogs and some of the blogs of their peers - in order to assist clients in their online networking and blog readership building process.
In short, if I read you and you read me and you want to stay connected, connect with me on Twitter, Linkedin and/or Google Reader.
Here's the slides I'll be using at my seminar today.
I was planning on writing a more thoughtful post about the different types of "inquiries" a business can generate. Incoming Leads are good. Introductions are better. Referrals are the best.
Why? Because if a client refers you to a prospective client, your client infers that you are trustworthy and an expert at what you do. Clients have first hand experience with how you help them. So, they are in a better position to communicate that to someone. They also are most likely to recognize when your service would be useful for someone because they've experienced similar challenges that your prospective clients face. By referring you, they also are saying that what you do - works for them. They are establishing quality, service and your committment to your clients' success. All the things that prospects usually doubt until you've established those things yourself.
Assuming that the prospective client knows and trusts the opinion of your client, much of the hard work of overcoming skepticism, overcoming suspicion and identifying [some of] the needs of your prospective client is done.
Dave has a great post about what it takes to get referrals from clients.
In my experience, it's simply a case of showing how much you care, going the extra mile, under promising and over delivering, and setting proper expectations. I think it's important for your salespeople to let their clients and customers know early on, that one of your goals is to help them so much that they feel compelled to deliver three new clients just like them. This forces your salespeople to be more aware of that goal moving forward, providing them with a better opportunity to actually get those introductions.
Do you get referrals from clients? Why? How? What do you do to get them? How do you go the extra mile? When do you ask?
Who'd a thunk it?
Law School Student Resume of the Future:
Blogging for 5 years.
Blog RSS Subscribers: 432
Average Comments/Blog Post: 3
Blog Cited in Cases: 10
HubSpot just got techcrunched. If you're a client, go leave a comment about your experiences with HubSpot, please.
TechCrunch has several million readers, btw. It's the most popular internet/tech blog on the web.
Oh yeah. We raised a few new dollars too.
And here's a more accurate description from Julie Power, about what we do.
And here's why we still need journalists. Here too. And here.
And most importantly, here's how a blog lets you communicate directly with your market.
I take all that back. Blogs can do solid reporting.
I just got off the phone with Wayne Booth. He specializes in designing websites for dog trainers and websites for realtors.
Then, there's Findlaw and DocShops, lawyer and cosmetic surgery website designers respectively.
Both Findlaw and DocShops also own directories which drive traffic to their clients' websites. Sorta what I'm doing here. Their just focussed on one vertical and more successful at it.
Wayne is simply well connected to his market because he is a dog trainer and his wife is a realtor. As a result, he understands the needs of the customers in these niches.
I am biased, of course, but none of these service providers have the ability to help clients (who are willing to invest the time) excel at their internet marketing lead generation as well as HubSpot does.
Courtney Tuttle wrote a solid post the other day about different ways to make money online. He talks about starting a service based business after you know how to generate leads for that type of business.
Those who become good at generating leads will often transition into creating their own service businesses.
HubSpot is really good at helping companies generate leads, whether they have internet marketing chops already - or not.
But, we're horizontally focussed. And will continue to be. It's the right decision for a business that wants to be large.
However, that doesn't mean that other companies couldn't create vertically focussed internet marketing businesses that leverage the HubSpot tools and Internet Marketing training.
When I joined HubSpot, I told Brian Halligan, HubSpot's CEO, that I was going to start a website that would create a community out of my clients and I'd guide them with their blogging, link building and social media activities. Certain clients have stepped up. (All are invited.)
Brian's response was, "That'd work well if you were focussed on a vertical".
The reason I do this is two fold:
- To make sure my clients succeed. I believe in Karma and believe that I should only sell things to people who will benefit from them. As a salesguy, I believe it's my job to figure out whether someone is a good fit for us and if we are a good fit for them.
- To aid my own lead generation through my blogging and social media activity.
- To get direct referrals from happy clients.
My sales development clients, Al, Trish, Rick and Dave are all stepping up. They do the following:
- Leave comments on each others blogs.
- Link to each other.
- Recommend each other on LinkedIn
I keep them focussed on doing the right things so that all of this supports their SEO and lead generation efforts. I could charge for this. I could do more for them; There's always more opportunity for my clients that I can see. But, it's not my job to do that.
Nonetheless, they all benefit from the network that I'm building. All of them have referred me prospective clients. That's payment enough for me.
The system works.
But, there's a next level to this...
I also have quite a few web design/development/internet marketing firms who are clients and are almost as competent as me.
My intention is to build a critical mass of clients in similar or complimentary businesses. Then, I should be able to take one of my 'web design/development/internet marketing firms' and help them build a vertically focussed internet marketing services business.
However, that's taking more time than I had hoped.
So, if there's anyone out there interested in accelerating this process and building a nicely scalable vertically focussed internet marketing services business, I'm all ears...
Eric from BrainGain Marketing requested a HubSpot demo recently. I usually check people's websites out and learn a bit about them, before I call them.
I loved how he introduces his business:
Afterall, we believe effective marketing happens by talking with people, not at them. In the world of new media and all-things 2.0, your customers are already leading the conversation and they're at least 12 steps ahead of you and your crusty old marketing plan.
Strong use of the word "crusty".
In the last few weeks, I talked to a handful of consultants. There's two memorable ones. One for good reasons. One for bad reasons.
Names have been changed.
Joe Braggert: Joe thinks he knows everything there is to know. Joe's first words to me were, "Why do I need to talk to a sales person before I can sign up?" I had a total of 5 calls with Joe, which was 5 too many. We also exchanged a few emails. I did my best to help Joe.
Joe wanted to buy based on following the company from "the beginning". He thought he knew how we worked better than I do. Joe had no interest in discussing how he was going to use our tools with me. Joe asked only one question. He asked it approximately 20 times. I gave him the same answer each time and it wasn't to his likeing. The last 15 times he asked it, I suggested that we weren't a good fit for his needs. Each time I suggested that, he suggested we were making a very fatal mistake in our business strategy. He lectured me. I told him that I understood his point of view, but the strategic decision was made for a variety of reasons and that the Company is signing on many customers each month that are ok with this decision.
The second call ended with "I'll discuss this with your management." A threat which he had no ability to execute. So, I summarized our call and forwarded it to our management and cc'd Joe. They reiterated the same message that I did.
In response, Joe provided a large amount of unsolicited advice and insisted we were making poor decisions about our business that would ultimately stunt the company growth.
All the while, there was a relatively simple way around his issue. I had suggested it and he ignored me the first few times and continued to lecture me. He also insulted me several times. The solution involved him investing another few thousand dollars in his business. The third time I suggested it, he told me that did not have the money to invest. In his mind, this was our fault.
John Partner: John and I discussed several of his current clients and prospective clients. We discussed, in detail, how we could help one of his prospective clients. Most of his current clients weren't a great fit or already had most of what we did covered. Unfortunately, the deal with the prospective client fell through. During the process of figuring out whether this company was a fit, I realized that John was a sharp guy. He not only knew internet marketing, he had done it successfully for his clients. He also understood his client's businesses and business in general.
After his deal fell through, I suggested that he and I should talk about his business and whether I could help him in any way. We scheduled a call. During the call, I suggested that occasionally we have clients who need extra hands-on assistance or someone to do the work for them. He asked me a string of questions about how we were structured internally. Through a series of questions, without asking it straight, he discovered that we are mostly interested in building a software as a service business, as opposed to a "consulting" or "services" business, as SaaS scales much quicker and more profitably. In the beginning of the call, he didn't think we'd be interested in working with people like him because we do provide consulting. By the end of the call, through a series of smart questions, he understood our business model and the opportunity for him to get involved with us.
John and I will talk again. I am sure we will do business.
Joe doesn't have a website for his own business yet. He probably blames a long list of other people for this, mostly me.
The Lesson: Do you ask questions in order to identify what's important to people? Or do you just make statements based on what you think is important? Do you take responsibility for situations and make decisions based on what's available to you? Do you wait around for the situation to be perfectly aligned to your vision? And blame others and external factors for your failures?
Do you seek out opportunities to collaborate that fill holes where you're not strong? Or do you pretend to be an expert at everything?
Do you do what you do because you love it OR because you're trying to prove how smart you are?
Oh. And if you're a consultant, remember that your first job is sales or selling yourself. The stories above should demonstrate that you're always selling, even when you're buying, whether you're good at it like John or really bad at it like Joe. Coincidentally, Dave recently published a post called the "Tale of Two Salespeople" which you should also read.
Although I don't mind receiving the $1500 check, I think the government could do better things with this refund money.
Quizzes by Quibblo.com
As an aside, Quibblo's
embeddable polls are genius. SlideShare.net, which enables you to share slideshows and track where they are embedded is very cool. They just raised $3M yesterday.
Quibblo's polls offers the same kind of viral marketing tracking capabilities, but it's for viral polls, which is a lot smarter. We're talking Viral squared, I think is the right math. I've expected great things from my friends at Quibblo
. Now, I'm super impressed. Take the quiz above. If you're an internet marketing techie, I think you'll be impressed too.
I called a person who downloaded our internet marketing kit today.
Here's an excerpt of the call.
Him: I understand you can't really tell me how your service can help me unless I tell you what I'm doing now and what I need. But, unless I know how your service is different from what I'm doing now, I don't really want to spend that time telling you what I'm doing now.
Me: Would you like me to call at another time?
Him: Can you send me an email with what it is you do differently?
Me: Are you interested? I don't want to go through that effort unless you have a need.
Him: Yes. We're interested in traffic. We're ultimately interested in new customers.
Me: I will send you a few links to things you can read. You'll learn how we are different and how we have helped other clients.
Him: Sounds great.
In between there, I told him that it was the best "blow off" ever. Most people will just lie or get belligerent. He was actually "busy" and I believed him.
I'm going to send him to read our internet marketing case studies, about our internet marketing software and training. And then, I think he should read this article I wrote about how to use a blog to improve your sales process and this one about time being the most important part of anyone's internet marketing strategy.
Actually, I'll just send him to this post.
I find that clients who are most successful allow me to be the expert and help them solve their problems. Some people want to figure it on their own through reading. I'm not sure that works as effectively as talking to someone who has years of experience helping hundreds of clients. But, who am I to challenge it?
Great post from Frank Belzer:
I had a chance to meet with an executive last week and we discussed some ways that we could help him get better results out of his sales people. After the meeting I was reflecting on why the meeting had went so well, why we had made such progress in such a short time, why we had got along so well and the answer to all of these questions has to do with this executive having the oh so rare quality of Humility!
his gentleman was very savy, very smart and obvioulsy had some excellent leadership skills. His business had grown very progressively over the years and yet rather than getting overly confident or even pompus about his success, he still had an "I don't have all the answers" demeanor. Oddly enough those who follow this mantra usually find themselves having all the answers.
The best lesson to take away from this is that a big reason that this CEO is probably successful is because he is very willing to admit that he doesn't have all of the answers. He doesn't know everything. He knows that he doesn't know what he doesn't know.
I speak to a few people every week that want to try to battle me like it's the internet marketing knowledge showdown. First of all, who gives a crap? There are plenty of people who know more than me about internet marketing. And there are many more people with more and better experience too. I'll admit it. But, I've never had an open conversation about internet marketing with someone where I wasn't able to find something I could help them with. I advised a leading social networking site the other day with a strategy that will probably triple their traffic from search engines. I have clients that are generating 4-6x leads now than they were just a few months ago.
But, guess what, if you don't want to admit there's something you could do better and the possibility that I could help, than you'll never know. Why are you even talking to me? (Actually, why am I even talking to you?)
These people are usually just trying to make themselves feel good about the job they're doing. And most of them are probably doing fine. The problem is that they're making themselves feel good about themselves to the detriment of finding out how they could actually do their job even better.
They should take a lesson from the CEO above.
This whole Microsoft going after Yahoo for market share really
pisses me off. I've drafted a few blog posts that will most likely
remain unpublished as they used a lot of explitives.
Microsoft has tried to dominate the internet before. They've obviously failed. Not because of Google. But, because the internet is quite difficult to dominate. People figured out that they could go to other websites after they opened Internet Explorer, even though the browser set their page to MSN.
That doesn't mean we can sit back and pretend like the internet can't be dominated. Or that short term consolidation isn't bad for the internet. It could be dominated if we let it.
A handful of big companies are trying their damndest to keep eyeballs coming back to them. And competition and serving people's information and entertainment appetite is cool. But, having one less of these companies competing is not cool. Having one less place to efficiently advertise online is not cool either. Which is what MS hopes to accomplish by merging their online advertising inventory and systems with Yahoo's.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, I had a few beers on Thursday night and felt compelled to weigh in over at the Silicon Valley Insider. Here's my comment:
You guys are all a bunch of aholes. Microsoft buying Yahoo would be a huge blow to innovation and competitiveness in the internet industry.
There's a really simple solution. It's called a FAPI. That's Freaking Application Programming Interface.
Let your damn ppc interfaces bid on each other's platforms, Yahoo and Microsoft. It accomplishes the same damn thing: building critical mass of advertisers and inventory to compete with google adwords for domination of the internet ppc advertising business.
Mergers and acquisitions are so old school. If Ballmer new his ass from web 2.0, he'd have figured this out.
Yet, you money grubbing internet-clueless investors are going to fubar the whole internet if this acquisition occurs.
Now that might be a little dramatic. But, it's certainly not too far off. If MS combined with Yahoo, we'd have only two places to buy pay per click ads, the most efficient advertising vehicle on the planet, until we figure out how to arrange stars into clickable logos.
Fortunately, for us, Yahoo understands this. From an article this morning:
As envisioned, the system would employ a real-time auction that would draw ads from Yahoo, Google, and potentially other companies including Microsoft. The ads would be selected on the basis of maximum revenue, which would be shared between Yahoo and the other search partner, the Journal said.
It's called coopetition. And it'd be best for Yahoo's Google's and Microsoft's share price. It'd also be good for upstarts that found a way to differentiate their ad systems or sell them more effectively than the majors. Think Clickable, Quiqo, Adbrite, Tacoda, etc. It'd also, and probably most importantly, be good for advertisers looking for the most efficient vehicles to advertise their products and consumers trying to find the best products and services.
Unfortunately for us, Yahoo isn't exactly in control over its own destiny right now. It's the mouse. Microsoft is the cat chasing it. We need to step in with a broom and swat the cat. It's up to the investors in both companies, current and potentially future board members installed through Microsoft's potential hostile takeover bid - to thwart this thing from happening.
But, it's also to a certain degree, in our hands. I can't imagine that investors really think Microsoft's and Yahoo's cultures and initiatives will really mesh well together and outproduce google. But, it seems like they're a bit too focused on making a few bucks in the short term.
Maybe they need a bit of education about the internets and what's possible through an API and a bit of coopetition.
If you agree and you'd like to make a difference, please spread the word, so that investors see how bad a deal this is for the longer term prospects of the internet and these respective businesses.
This could be a turning point in the internet, where closed networks supercede one giant open equal opportunity system.