Stop Trying to Close and Do This Instead

If the first sentence of this article saw me immediately trying to sell my app/product/service, the vast majority of readers would close this page, and rightfully leave with a bad taste in their mouths. Yet every day, entrepreneurs around the world try to sell, pitch and promote their business right out the gate, all in the name of “hustle.” – They want to be the person that hustles 24/7. But, does anyone really like ‘that guy’? Would you introduce him to your friend? In general, no. Which begs the question – why do so many entrepreneurs behave this way in business?

Before exploring this in more detail, take two minutes to watch this video by legendary business person Gary Vaynerchuck — this is what it looks like in real life. If you can identify this action in your behavior towards customers, prospects, journalists or investors, take a step back and ask yourself why this is your tactic for success. Those who believe they don’t behave this way and yet still have an auto-DM set up on Twitter should consider that though the tools are different, behaving differently online from offline still leads companies and individuals to act like the guy in the video. Don’t be “that guy.”

Israel’s top tech and marketing guru Hillel Fuld puts this beautifully in his blog:

“1. Would I respond to this message if I was on the receiving end?

2. Would I behave this way offline?

If the answer to either one of those questions is ‘No’, then do what you gotta do to make the answer yes.”

Good sales and marketing practice comes from one single underlying root — deploying empathy wherever possible. Though this emotion is very difficult to quantify with data points, it is fundamental for people working in sales and marketing to understand and internalize before every interaction. To start off by thinking, “How can I add value to this person?” rather than “How can I sell to this person?” is a shift in mindset, but one that will always pay off. This value may not (and probably isn’t) an instant sale of your product, and may even be the recommendation of a competitor — but the individual will remember the value for decades to come, long after the product or service is rendered obsolete. It is this shift in thinking to macro-marketing and away from target-driven objective marketing that has created some of the biggest companies in the world today.

Before starting to work at an Apple Store, employees are trained to make sure that they only sell to a customer that will get what they want from the product. If you were to go in and ask for a phone that absolutely must be red, they won’t try to sell you a rose gold iPhone 7, because that isn’t what you want. The thought process is as relevant to small businesses as it is for billion-dollar companies. Offer what the customer in front of you wants — regardless of demographic slicing, platform or situation — and the long-term benefit will pay out in spades.

This adjustment in mindset may be extreme for some, but when we consider the awesome power consumers now have via the reach of social media, and the swing of attention away from conventional advertising and towards influencers and peer let decision making, the customer is satisfaction sacrosanct before, during and after every interaction. Play the long game, be patient and succeed.

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This article was originally published on Entrepreneur.com on 10th March 2017.

The Missed Opportunity in Content Marketing

In 1996, Bill Gates famously said ‘Content is King’. In 1996; Google first launched, 16mb of RAM was impressive, Palm Pilots were the hottest new ‘thing’, the internet was still dial-up and still wasn’t global. Creating content in 1996 was exciting because it was not yet widespread – it was not available to the masses and the consumer-at-large wasn’t being bombarded by corporate messaging around the clock. Whereas once, creating and disseminating content took great skill, tools such as social media, automation and the advent of click-bait has opened the floodgates to bad content. This pollution has corrupted Gates’ once brilliant soundbite – unfortunately, Content is no longer King.

To take this to the extreme and say that ‘Content is Dead’ would be inappropriate, but it is true to say that the landscape has become far more nuanced. The champion is no longer the content itself, rather creating the connection that good content can build is what should be striven for. This connection must be a two-way street between the company and the customers – a channel for conversation and comment, outreach and deep listening – for it to be successful. To do this, the foundations must be in place for inbound traffic and feedback; rather than scatter-gunning content at a wall and seeing what sticks, effort needs to be made to pay attention to public comment, fine tune future content based on learnings gleaned, and repeat. Simply put, I believe that classic content creation must evolve to be responsive and become a conversation as opposed to a one-way street of broadcast advertising.

Conventional content can lead to wonderful things. In August, this piece went viral on LinkedIn and while generating over 210,000 views, it seemed to resonate with people and led to over 570 comments – discussions on the subject matter with fellow entrepreneurs and industry experts alike. It also led me to meet remarkable people, leaders in their field and even led to wonderful work opportunities with some amazing companies. Conventional content can drive attention, while good conversation can drive results.

I’ve found that for startups, or personal branding, regularly creating new content surrounding your product, service, or industry is both time-consuming and problematic as it requires constantly having new things to say to your audience. This is a primary reason that many content creators have started to repeatedly regurgitate old content to fill the quota, and remain at the top of their audiences’ social media feeds. There is however, another way.

Startups are missing a key opportunity to share their most valuable content – many will read the next paragraph and feel uncomfortable, or even vulnerable at the suggestion, but I believe that implementing this strategy will result in a real and intimate connection with your audience, and lead to great results.

Document and disseminate the process of creation. Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg had kept a blog each week as he built Facebook, or we had a video record of every lecture Dale Carnegie gave starting from his famous debut in 1912 where he encouraged students to speak about something that ‘made them angry’. A glimpse into the process of building an idea, company, and brand can be as valuable (if not more so) as seeing the shiny finished product to an audience. The decision-making process sheds light on the very core behaviors – it is rough, intimate, and personal, but I believe it is invaluable to those interested in your field.

This concept is not my own – I came across this idea from legendary marketeer Gary Vaynerchuk a couple of months ago, and it resonated with me but took until now to process what it means. I wish I’d had the foresight to document my last year – it’s been a wild ride. I left working at Israel’s top PR agency Headline Media to start freelance marketing, started and closed my own startup in the journalism space, went back to freelancing and am now starting to build another company (watch this space). The people I’ve met have blown my mind and taught me things that with hindsight, I’d have loved to share with fellow marketeers and entrepreneurs.

4 Steps to Getting the Most Out of Consultants

There are many benefits to hiring an external consultant across almost any vertical — be it salesmarketing, programming or business strategy, bringing in specialists can be an important step in overcoming obstacles and achieving new heights. By hiring externally, companies can instantly gain specific skills for certain projects, get an outsider’s perspective without emotional investment to the business and augment their team to give them more resources for time-dependent tasks.

Firstly, it is important to understand what consultants are, what they do and how they do it. Think of them as an expert in their field, usually focusing on a narrow set of specialties that they excel in deploying across a wide variety of verticals. A (great) marketing consultant will be able to apply their skills to implement their solutions, regardless of the industry or challenges faced by their client, whereas a (great) sales consultant will be able to look at a target market and the product in question, and map a successful sales plan.

The challenge for business owners is ensuring that they are utilizing this resource to the fullest and not doing anything that will impede their success. There are four key factors to consider before investing in an external consultant.

1. Share the skeletons in the closet.

For consultants to fully understand the lay of the land, they must have full visibility of the entire company — the good and bad, financial issues, internal grievances and everything in between. It is too common for businesses to try to hide these negative aspects from all external partners, but this knowledge will help your consultants understand the landscape in which they are operating in fully — something critical for them to be successful.

2. Establish KPIs.

Both parties should know what results are being evaluated — nothing should be taken for granted. This discussion should be had before a plan of action is created and in advance of any contracts being signed. Without a joint understanding of the metric used to measure success, one party may be under the impression that a project is going well, while the other is woefully disappointed.

3. Organize the breakup.

It is a good idea to discuss the parting of ways at the beginning. This process can be brought forwards, or delayed whenever needed, however, both the consultant and the company should be aware of what is expected of them when they part ways, from what information is confidential to the amount of information or collateral shared afterwards. By having this agreement at the beginning of the relationship, bad breakups can be avoided.

4. Explore challenges rather than setting objectives.

Possibly the most important factor of the four. Consultants are specialists who by nature will seek the best solution to the challenge laid out in front of them. By outlining the challenges faced by the company, the consultant can explore the causes and the best solutions — thereby setting objectives alongside the stakeholders. In the field of marketing, this could be a business hiring a consultant to boost SEO, rather than exploring the challenge of driving more traffic to the website or taking a step back further to attract more leads. By giving consultants the ability to fully deploy their skills against a challenge, instead of assuming a solution and finding someone to deploy it, creative solutions can be found and companies can get a new viewpoint on the obstacles they are facing.

Finding the perfect person to gel with your needs is not easy, but the right consultant can bring incalculable value to your business, provided they are utilized to the fullest. These four fundamentals will help you ensure you get the very best from any specialist you hire.

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I’d love to hear anyone else’s tips on getting the most out of consultants – let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Originally published on Entrepreneur.com on 27th February 2017

Revealing the ROI of Content

Content marketing is the new ‘in’ thing to do, to grow followers, grab attention, improve SEO and ultimately drive sales and brand loyalty. And it does them all very well, right? All the metrics point to improvements across the board – the better the content, the better the result, right? So why therefore do marketeers find it so hard to give an accurate ROI estimate for content?

Entrepreneur and businessman Gary Vaynerchuk was famously grilled by a particularly conservative CMO on ‘What is the ROI of social media?’, after a tense back and forth, he countered ‘What’s the ROI of your mother.’ What he said was intense, extreme, but relevant. He was communicating that creating a pipeline of investing a certain amount of money, to publishing a specific amount of posts, leading to X many likes, leading to Y purchases and Z repeat purchases is flawed. The steps may have worked with conventional marketing distribution networks, but to do so with social media, content, and new media… it’s just wrong. Measuring ROI can be a fool’s errand, and unless adequately defined parameters are established, is about as useful as an inflatable dartboard.

So, how do we reveal the ROI of Content? Firstly, we need to take a step back and audit ourselves in two main areas;

1.      What are the objectives for the campaign and for the company?

Figure out what you are doing. If SMART objectives are not set for each and every one of your campaigns, you will lose before writing the first word and before posting the first tweet. Without an idea of what you are trying to achieve both in every campaign, as well as tied into your wider business goals, any progress and benefit gained will not be ‘enough’. As human beings, we are programmed to want more, to achieve more, to do better and to be unsatisfied with what we have attained. Unless a tangible goal is set and understood, it can never be reached.

2.      What is the lay of the land internally?

Most importantly and least thought upon – does the company have the infrastructure to support the reaction of those consuming the content? A great piece of content may drive hundreds of thousands of clicks, but if it drives them to a slow, badly constructed and archaic website, the funnel falls apart. This is why it is critical to work out the aim of the content created and to understand the behavior that you are trying to elicit. Perfect planning prevents pathetic performance – try to conceive every reaction to your content and prepare accordingly to maximize throughput to your objective.

So now the SMART objectives have been set, and the internal groundwork prepared, the overarching ROI can be explored – overarching, not specific. To put detailed quantitative numbers to content is to disregard the fact that the content is being read by real people, rather than automatons. People have emotions, people’s moods change, interactions with people grow cumulatively and above all, people are often unpredictable, human thought and behavior are complex to the level that, to give metrics, inherently ignores the majority of the interaction itself. Imagine if off the back of an email campaign, your analytics show a high open and forwarding rate, you would be over the moon, patting your team on the back for a job well done. Open and forwarding rates show no more and no less than the email being opened, and forwarded, it does not show satisfaction or success. For all you know, you could have a catastrophic typo that people can’t help but share with the world, thus damaging your overall brand.

Rather than measure with metrics and treat your audience like a faceless commodity, reimagine them as a group of individuals that you are sitting down for coffee with. Your holistic approach to the way in which you interact with them will lead to a return on your investment, not the way in which you reach for the sugar, or the amount of milk you add to your coffee.

As distribution methods shift from billboards to newspapers to new media It is important that we reconsider our approach to evaluating the relative success or failure of each campaign. Measuring the accomplishments of tasks is critical, but ensuring that the measurement gives an accurate representation will always trump analytics for analytics sake. We as marketeers must stop ROI as an algorithm or numbers on a page, and begin viewing it as a living, breathing relationship.

The Key Factor Missing from Your Marketing Strategy

Brands are increasingly putting their marketing efforts under a microscope – scrutinizing them for predictable ROI and concrete business result.  This focus and detail oriented approach is something to be praised, it ensures high quality campaigns and instills an onus of accountability within the marketing department or agency.  It does however, leave the door open for one major factor to be missed when new campaigns are created.

The underlying factor in good marketing is empathy.  The dividing factor between good and great campaigns is the ability for a marketer to put themselves in the shoes of their audience and think ‘What would interest me?’, ‘How could this provide value to my life?’ and ‘Why is this relevant to me?’.  It is relevant across the board, from automotive to financial, healthcare to SaaS, advertising to PR and beyond.  Tony Zambito puts this beautifully ‘We cannot communicate well if we do not know who our customers and buyers are, what things are important to them, and why what they hope to accomplish is important to them.’  Unfortunately, this factor seems to be an element being given less and less credence in an increasingly data-driven world.

Not to downplay the importance of data, but I am often reminded of the quote by Andrew Lang ‘He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts – for support rather than for illumination.’  It is crucial that data informs rather than justifies decisions.

Empathy is an aspect that, in its very nature, is unquantifiable.  It has no data points, and has no unit of measurement – it just is.  To be empathetic, a brand must use human innate judgement based off research, experience, and a deep understanding of the target market.  It requires a level of trust that comes from a recognition that marketing itself is not a set of skills, but a philosophy – one which stems from an understanding of people, rather than tools.  This tends to be easier for small companies and startups than larger more developed businesses – this is because as a company grows, their departments become increasingly specialized and siloed, with more partners and a heavier reliance on pure data to prove their effectiveness.  This specialization can be very useful for productivity, but run the risk of creating an ‘Us and Them’ mentality, which can create isolation and rifts.

If you are reading this and realize that this is something missing from your external marketing, understanding why it is missing in the first place can reveal a huge amount about the current Modus Operandi of an organization.  A great example is Zappos.com – a company that built its entire business model on the idea of empathizing with its customers.  Their answer to buyer hesitancy was to offer a no questions asked returns policy that directly addressed the needs of their customers – every piece of marketing underlines this, and every action is anchored to the need for understanding how customers react.

Empathy should filter throughout all departments and all communications, from TV adverts to internal communications, website copy to journalist interactions, down to the hiring process and office layout.  Empathy should be a standard factor used in all aspects of company growth and marketing, but unfortunately, until it is measurable, many companies will continue to downplay and ignore this hugely valuable parameter.

For those not currently doing so, choosing to actively champion empathy as a core element to the construction of marketing campaigns may seem like a gamble at first – not relying solely on data, or behaving like a company in the classical sense.  Kevin McKeon from the agency Olson puts it beautifully – Think like people, not marketers.

How to Generate Over 200,000 Views on a LinkedIn Article

Last year I published ‘The Single Most Poisonous Factor in the Workplace Today‘, an article that to date has generated 212,000+ views, 10,000+ likes, and 3,400+ shared. Here is how I did it.

The goal is to get featured by the LinkedIn Editors – this will flag your content to thousands of active members, which will drive a huge amount of attention to your article. The first thing is to create good content worth sharing, no matter what steps you follow afterward, without good content, it will drive very few views. By good content, I mean a well referenced, well written, compelling, interesting and relevant article, with a great headline (avoid being too clickbaity, but a little is encouraged unfortunately…)

Secondly, the initial few minutes and hours are crucial, if you write an article that gets tens or hundreds of views, shares, comments, and likes in a short period of time after publishing, you are more likely to get featured. This can be done by having a good social network reach, and if you are part of a company, get as many people internally to read (not just open), like and share (with comments) as possible.

Thirdly, share your article in relevant groups on LinkedIn, this will increase your reach also.

Finally, go on Twitter and share your article including the phrase ‘Tip @LinkdedInEditors’, this will flag your article for human review, if they like what you have written, it will get featured.

I hope this is helpful for as many people as possible! If anyone has any questions, please get in touch – always happy to help!

If you have any other tips for people – please add them in the comments section.