Is There a Fine Line Between Follow-Up and Being a Pain in the Ass?

You’re in a meeting or on the phone. You’ve made your pitch and the other party sounds interested. Then, they say: “We’ll be in touch.” They’ll call you (or email or text or DM).

Now, what?

Do you push and not leave the room or hang up the phone until they have signed on the dotted line or paid you the money? I certainly don’t believe in waiting for people to get back to you if you really want the account. But how much time should one give the prospect to decide? In my experience, most people who contact you aren’t actually ‘ready to buy’ just yet.

Is there a fine line between follow-up and being a nuisance?

I find it interesting that I often get so many contradictory responses to this question. Some will say that you’re not doing your job of following up until you’re told how annoying you are. At the other extreme, some are timid and caution against coming off as “desperate.”

I believe in being relentless, but I also believe it can be done tactfully without turning someone off. Do you agree? Disagree?

What are your thoughts?

Advertisements

Why I Love Being an Entrepreneur

There are a lot of things I love about being an entrepreneur launching a burgeoning business. Are there drawbacks? Sure. Every job has those. But on the whole, very happy and feel super blessed to be able to do what I’m doing and have the freedom even when things can be uncertain.

One thing I enjoy is the rush of closing a new deal. Sitting on the crowded NY subway this morning, I’m filled with excitement. Excitement at the possibility I may leave this meaning with some money in my hand. A lot? No, not so much. But, while money is necessary and important, I’m thrilled more by the chase. The pursuit. The idea of getting my foot in the door and being able to show a new client what we’re made of.

The fad of entrepreneurship with its focus on big exits and raising capital is so not my scene. I love those entrepreneurs with that hungry hustler spirit who think practically and bide their time, working tirelessly but taking pride in the little accomplishments and small steps along the way to success.

Sell to the Sold: Who am I selling to?

Over the weekend, I had a lively chat with a friend and businessman who is a distributor of snacks, tea, and coffee.

His products are tasty and low-cost and while his sales are decent, he has not done much in the way of branding. Many people consume his goods without being familiar with the name and would purchase similar commodities at a lower price when presented the opportunity.

As he lamented the fact that his brand is basically invisible and he lacks a loyal customer base despite the extensive distribution of his goods, I mentioned that social media and Facebook ads, in particular, could help him grow.

“Ah, remind me of what you do for a living?” he asked sarcastically with a smirk. “Listen, you sell to nerds, but, my customers aren’t on social media.”

While it’s true that his largely Orthodox Jewish customer base is less engaged with social media relative to the wider population and many of the more stringent members of his target audience eschew smartphones, he definitely doesn’t have his finger on the pulse. Living in Brooklyn, I can assure you that a wide swath (the vast majority) of his kosher customer base does use smartphones and social media, particularly Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram and they do so with the same gusto as the rest of the population. Not to mention, there are other markets who also enjoy his products, which he could be doing a better job of reaching.

He wasn’t done beating me up. “You understand the virtual business world. In the real business world, people aren’t using this stuff.”

I nodded. “Sure, many businesses get by with minimal social media presence,” I accepted. “But businesses who aren’t building a brand on these platforms will be totally irrelevant in 5-10 years from now and are becoming increasingly irrelevant today.”

“Your sales pitch is terrible,” he mocked.

Ouch. He obviously isn’t able to see the writing on the wall and he doesn’t want to hear the truth.

It’s kind of funny when a business owner acts as if there is a major world of difference between the online business world and the physical one. As if digital marketing is only effective with, as he puts it: “nerds.”

I’ll admit I was surprised to hear this talk from someone under 40 years old. While that line of thinking was understandable in the late 90’s and early 00’s at the dawn of ecommerce or ten years ago when social media was just getting started, it couldn’t be more out of touch with the current times.

Nerds and teens are not the only ones spending an inordinate amount of time using mobile technology. In March of 2017, it was reported that the average US consumer is spending over 5 hours a day on mobile devices.

As I pointed out to him in our brief exchange, people aren’t turning to page 8 to see his ad in a magazine or looking up at billboards or paying attention to TV and radio commercials. Their eyes and ears are glued to one thing — the little smartphone in the palm of their hands. In any other context, say if we weren’t talking about business or marketing, but the state of American youth, he would readily agree.

What kind of world do you think we’re living in? We already live in a virtual world. Thanks to smartphones, the lines between the virtual and the physical are becoming more and more blurry. And, this will only continue as AR, VR, iOT, and audio technology picks up steam. Anyone who is not paying attention to where their customers are increasingly devoting their attention is leaving money on the table and risks getting left behind.

People have options now, which leads to a more divided attention span across multiple devices (laptop, smartphone, tablet, Amazon echo dot, Google Home) and platforms (email, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Alexa, Instagram, review sites, and podcasts) and they can fast-forward or do something else during commercials. The old days of a captive audience willing to hear a pitch from a brand name they do not yet know or trust are gone.

But, I didn’t belabor the point. I was not trying to sell him, because I would never waste my time. I don’t try to sell to people who do not understand or appreciate the value of the service I offer. If the deliverable isn’t something they believe in, and sadly most of corporate America, as well as many small businesses, are still slow to get the memo about the importance of social media marketing, then I don’t waste my breath.

One of the most important rules of sales: Sell to the sold.

Tweet: I don’t sell people on what I do. I sell them on why they should hire me to do it.

It’s counterproductive for me to sell someone on what it is I do. If they are not sold on the service itself, then I can talk until I’m blue in the face, but they will not likely change their mind or, if they do, they won’t stick around for long. However, if they are in the market for social media marketing or content marketing and need the direction of a professional who can help them strategize and execute, now we’re speaking the same language and we can have a conversation. And, it will be a conversation based on mutual respect and understanding, even if it doesn’t lead to a transaction in the short-term. I’ll all for educating the prospect, but I don’t believe in trying to force them to see the value of my industry.

Identify those who would be receptive to the message before you start pitching and don’t waste time on those who don’t even respect what you do for a living. Don’t bother trying to convince them that they need your product or service. First, find out if they have a need or a pain point that you can solve and then respond with your solution. An important part of marketing and communicating with people in general is paying attention to the other party’s needs and responding accordingly.

What are they paying attention to? What do they care about? What are their problems, concerns, or desires?

Listen before you speak.

I think this is one of the most important rules of prospecting and selling.

Marketing is Like Dating. Romance Your Prospects and Make them Fall in Love with You.

As a single and a marketer, I’m noticing some interesting parallels between marketing and dating. 

Nobody wants to transact on the first date. 

Asking for the sale right away makes you look creepy and lame. Offer to help first.

You’ve got to romance your prospect a little bit. Compliment them. Talk about what they’re interested in. Keep it focused ON THEM. Not you.

Give them value. Make them want you. 

And, timing is everything. You’ve got to be able to feel it out and read the situation carefully. 

When the time is right, you go in for the ask. 

And if they say yes, you’ve got yourself a date. If you play your cards right, one date will lead to more and eventually blossom into a fruitful, long-term business relationship. 

Overcoming Fear of the Ask: Approaching Prospects for the Sale

Like some of you who read this blog, I’m a marketer.

More specifically, I’m an inbound marketer. This means I don’t interrupt people from what they’re doing to hoch my products and services. Rather, I throw out some tasty treats that I know my audience will love and then I lie in wait like a tiger for them to arrive.

It’s “pull” marketing (pulling the audience in) as opposed to outbound “push” marketing (pushing messages out in front of people’s faces).

And within inbound marketing, I am involved in the softest, most subtle yet effective type of marketing of them all — branded content creation and social media marketing.

And yet, I faced a dilemma. Do I persist solely with content marketing or do I try other approaches to grow my business as well?

Zev pondering

For all of you marketing nerds out there, most of what I do corresponds to the “top-of-funnel” brand awareness, which can be nurtured into leads and sales. It also engenders loyalty among current customers. Building brand takes time and effort, but brand equity is the magic that gets people to buy your product or service without you having to deliver a sales pitch or lower the price tag. You buy a brand almost without thinking. You don’t need to be sold because you’ve already bought.

I don’t sell anything I don’t believe in. I would never expect someone else to buy if the provider doesn’t believe in or use their own product.

That’s why I’m careful to make sure that my own content marketing efforts are strong. I blog regularly, contribute to the Huffington Post, and post every day on various social media platforms. Creating content, sharing it on platforms that have consumer attention, and engaging with people on social media is a fantastic way to attract people to your business. This is the service I provide to clients and because I am such a big believer in my own “product” so to speak, I put my money where my mouth is and test it on my own business.

Thankfully, my content marketing efforts have paid off and my online presence has helped me attract many leads and clients. In fact, the vast majority of my clients come from inbound.

Eschewing interruptive and outdated forms of outbound marketing that annoy customers rather than provide them with value, such as cold-calling, the only outbound marketing I was doing to grow my business was attending networking events, mainly in New York City. Although I am digital marketer, I still believe in the power of face-to-face interactions. Nonetheless, as an introvert, I much preferred to share content online and pull people in rather than to go out and pitch myself.

The great thing about content marketing and branding is that when you do it right, you tend to attract more qualified, targeted leads than you do by reaching out to people at random or pushing a sales pitch on somebody who might not want it as per direct marketing tactics. Most of the inquiries I received were on target, which helped me have a high close rate of over 50 percent. It also helps that I’m quick to write up and send proposals and contracts. This netted me approximately one new client a month.

However, there was one major problem preventing me from growth: My lead pipeline was not even close to big enough! I still had too much time on my hands after doing my client work and creating my own content and sharing it to my own networks.

I began to ask myself the same question my clients ask me:

How do I get more leads and clients?

I was in a predicament. I wondered if by resorting to any outbound tactics I would be betraying my “religion” and tacitly admitting that content marketing doesn’t work or that I’m no good at it. Perhaps, even by seeking any outside help for marketing whatsoever, I would be undermining my own abilities. Would I be a hypocrite? A phony? I was suffering from a major case of “impostor syndrome.”

I’m adamantly against cold-calling and spam. I wanted to reach out to people in a way that would still provide value and be empathetic to the time and needs of others. But how would I get more leads in the pipeline? Do I focus more on branding and content or sales?

I learned that the answer is both.

Building a brand and sharing content on social media is a highly effective form of marketing (so long as your content is good). However, building a brand either for a company or a personal brand takes a lot of time and work. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time to gain an online presence with an engaged following large enough to matter and sustain your business. Your efforts to build lasting relationships will pay off in the long-term by getting you more leads and sales than other types of marketing or advertising ever could, but in the meantime, you need to generate consistent cash flow.  The sales you make act as fuel to keep your business afloat and some of the cash you earn should be allocated toward branding and improving your content marketing so that you can attract more business.

I realized that it is not at all hypocritical to do both long-term branding and relationship-building as well as direct, outbound lead generation and sales. Nor is it a sign of weakness for a marketer to delegate some of that responsibility to others or use certain tools to help.

Two Outbound Tactics I’ve Adopted:

1. LinkedIn DM (direct message)

LinkedIn DM

Over the past two weeks, I’ve grown my LinkedIn connections from 1200 + to 1808 and counting. My profile views are up 20% from last week at 493 profile views.

I’ve been sending connection requests to all kinds of people on the platform. While some may object to this practice, I don’t think many people on LinkedIn mind accepting requests from people they haven’t met. After all, it builds their own network as well. It’s become common practice at professional networking events, such as the ones I attend in Manhattan, to simply add people on LinkedIn who you only spoke to for a few minutes — sometimes in place of exchanging a business card!

At times, I add people at random who are suggested to me from my LinkedIn network, but I also search for people by job title e.g. CMO, marketing director, marketing coordinator, CEO etc. and send requests to people with those positions. Some of the people I message are decision makers and others are people who are close to decision makers and tasked with hiring outside marketing firms.

After linking in with someone, I send them a personal message. Yes, it’s often taken from a list of about five prewritten responses, but I address each person by name and send a message that matches the person’s job title or area of specialty. Occasionally, I tailor it to be more specific to the individual.

I’m not a fan of automating human interaction, but I try to scale while still remaining human. Every day, I spend time going through all my new connections and send them these messages one-by-one, sometimes to over a hundred people in one sitting. If they reply and express interest, I send a follow-up message that is personal and crafted specifically for them.

Since I started doing this a couple weeks ago, I’ve received a number of inquiries, one solid lead for whom I’m writing up a proposal, and about a dozen meetings with people who I can potentially collaborate with or hire.

LinkedIn direct message is an extremely smart tactic for any B2B business or sales professional (Instagram DM and Facebook messaging is great for B2C). As long as you demonstrate awareness of who the person is and what they do and don’t open the conversation with a sales pitch, LinkedIn messager is a great way to network and gain access to people who can help you grow. It’s a direct form of communication tat doesn’t interrupt someone from what they’re doing.

LinkedIn has introduced a cleaner UI and various features, such as video, to become a “stickier” platform enticing users to increase the amount of time they spend there. LinkedIn is quickly becoming an engaging and interactive content-rich platform that’s very similar to Facebook. If you’re not already using LinkedIn DM and the social network as a whole to build your brand and grow your business, then I highly recommend you start becoming more active there.

If you’re scared to slide up in the DM, I urge you to get over it. Sure, you’ll get a lot of no’s and responses saying something like: “Thank you, we’re not interested at this time,” but every now and then, you will get a yes or a warm lead and potentially a new client, customer, or valuable relationship.

2. Outsourcing a lead generation service

This tactic costs a little money depending on how you go about it. As a marketer, you may feel funny about the idea of outsourcing some of your own marketing, but if you want to grow and remain focused on your own clients, don’t be afraid to receive assistance that complements your current marketing efforts.

While the idea of using a lead gen service or utilizing any form of outbound marketing kind of turned my stomach at first, I’m excited to see where it will go. I commissioned a friend who used to work for Salesforce and now does this sort of work on a freelane basis. He was nice enough to give me a huge discount and introduce me to an app that uses analytics and certain metrics to score the online presence of different businesses and helps me find ones that the app determines are lacking in their social media marketing. Until I see results, I will refrain from recommending it, but if it’s any good, I will let you know!

If you’re starting a new business, don’t be afraid to try a wide variety of marketing strategies and tactics that will help you get in front of your target audience and attract new clients or customers. Obviously, do your research so that you don’t waste money or time on things that have little chance of succeeding, but don’t hold back.

Exhaust every avenue. Try things. Deploy a mix of branding and marketing. Create content and also pursue direct sales. Don’t discount something without first learning about it or testing it. Your business depends on it!

 

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Attention

“Isn’t there a way to narrowly target only the people who will buy from me without our content being seen by anybody else?”

This is a question I’ve received several times in my role as a social media marketer.

The answer is no, but it’s interesting to analyze what lies behind the question. Often, the asker simply doesn’t understand how social media works or doesn’t fully appreciate the interconnectedness of the Internet as a whole. More importantly, this question reflects a lack of appreciation for the value of attention. It also reveals a misunderstanding of how marketing and sales work together to drive prospects from brand awareness to purchase.

Now, it’s true that smart marketers aim to target their efforts toward a specific and well-defined audience. This helps them determine their strategy, tone, style, and which channels and tactics to use. Marketing for “everybody” is marketing for nobody.

However, while an overly broad approach is counterproductive, so is an approach that is overly narrow.

Attention is a very precious commodity. With so much competing for our attention spans, it’s more precious than it ever was before. Attention is also extremely valuable. If you don’t have it, you stand little chance of becoming known or found by your target audience. However, if you do have people’s attention, then you can leverage it for greater opportunities.

Many people question the ROI of social media marketing. How does building a following or getting likes, comments, and shares boost my bottom line? And yet, most of those same people completely see the value of appearing on a popular talk show, running a television advertisement during prime time, or appearing in a prestigious or widely read magazine. Social media doesn’t deserve to be judged with an unfair double-standard, especially when it has a unique ability to target effectively and provide data analytics reporting in real time — things traditional channels cannot do.

Getting the exposure, the eyeballs, the attention is the first step. Even the most targeted digital marketing campaign can’t and shouldn’t avoid attention from those who may not buy anything — right now.

sales funnel hubspot
HupSpot

Marketing is like a funnel, which can be sifted and segmented from the widest to the most narrow. Awareness sits at the top of the funnel. A small subset of those at the top will become leads and a small subsection of those leads will be nurtured into sales or “conversions.” Depending on the particular campaign, a conversion might mean a monetary sales transaction or it might mean a sign-up or a subscription. Either way, getting attention and establishing a relationship with prospects is the key to garnering more sales as well as loyalty that keeps your clients or customers coming back for more. Attention can also lead to other good things, like a job offer, a book deal, a speaking engagement, and more.

The way you get attention is by providing value. This could be accomplished by sharing content that educates, entertains, or empowers your audience. By providing value through your content, you earn your audience’s attention and give them a reason to care. Too many people undervalue or underestimate positive attention because it’s part of long-term branding rather than short-term sales. Therefore, it’s super important to be able to maintain perspective and put every part of your marketing strategy in its appropriate place. Knowing where everything belongs will also help you contextualize and personalize your content for your audience throughout each stage of the sales funnel or buyer’s journey.

Before you can get your audience to buy anything, you need to have their attention. Word of mouth — friends telling friends — is often the best way. Most people tend to value the recommendations of trusted experts, friends, or family than they do an advertisement from a company. Social media marketing allows you to further amplify and leverage word of mouth to get the attention you need like never before. Take advantage and utilize this technology to the fullest.

Being Cheap Will Cost You

When I was younger, I used to pride myself on spending the least amount of money as possible on things that I wanted. One area where I was particularly cheap was sneakers. Initially proud of my purchase, it took me a while to figure out that I wasn’t getting a good deal at all. When the laces are frayed and the sneakers are worn and falling apart beyond repair after only a few months you’re only screwing yourself into having to buy yet another pair much sooner than you would have if you had spent a little more and invested in better quality.

One thing you learn as you get older and more experienced is that being cheap rarely pays off. If anything it costs you more money, time, and headaches later down the line.

We all have areas of our lives where we don’t care enough to spend and that’s fine if we’re OK with the consequences. But, when it comes to the things that matter, like our health or our business, we really should think twice before we go with the cheaper option. The damage that could be done by hiring an amateur could end up being far more costly than paying an expert. Skimping on added features, options, or services in the short-run may end up costing you far more in the long-run.

Let’s say you’re choosing a marketing firm to do your social media marketing. They present you with several options. Thinking only about price, you go with the cheapest one. Later you realize that you can’t get the results you hoped for without the additional services offered in the higher priced option. Now, you’ll either spend more money on hiring freelancers to fulfill the need or you’ll end up upgrading your package with the marketing firm. Either way, you just spent the past month or more spending money and receiving little in return. If you had only done it right the first time, you would have accomplished more and sooner. And, if you depleted your budget, then it might already be too late.

So, don’t be a cheapskate. Think about the long-term or the lifetime value. Your business is something you’d like to comfortably own for a long time. Don’t treat your business like a cheap pair of sneakers. Spring for the better option and you’ll wear it well for years to come.