The Digital Revolution

Sometimes companies think ‘going digital’ means posting comments on Facebook. That may be part of it, but there is so much more! Posting on Facebook and other social media sites can be the first step of a good promotional campaign, but companies also need to create, build, engage, monitor, and react to their communities. (It’s a lot more than just posting!). Companies can also ‘go digital’ by promoting their businesses through banner ads, online ad words or directory listings, but when they do this, they also need to monitor their website traffic and ensure that their efforts result in high conversion rates of click-throughs to revenue-generating business. Another popular digital marketing tactic is writing and sharing content on special sales promotions, but companies that do this should also provide more neutral industry-related information that shows prospects how they understand the industry beyond just trying to sell something.

Essentially, being digital means readily responding to real-time activity. Gone are the days when you invested in a ‘flat’ website and held onto the content for three to five years. Instead, smart businesses are building websites which are easily updated and readily adjusted to convert visitors to business prospects. Here’s how it works: If no one comes to your website, then you need campaigns to drive people there. If people come to your website and don’t want to learn more, then you need to make your search words or campaign themes more congruous with your website content. If you are generating leads, but not closing deals, then you need better lead nurturing programs. These are the stages in a sales pipeline, and good businesses know how well they are doing in each stage and where they could use improvement.

Ideally, it would be nice for the data in the sales pipeline to be collected and analyzed, and then for your websites, campaigns, and programs to be automatically adjusted according to buyer behaviors. And believe it or not, this is now possible. That is why I have decided to better support our clients by joining forces with Mark Cummings and Tom Murzenski. Mark is a designer who understands behavior-influencing design, and Tom is a developer who understands how the user-experience influences interactivity. The three of us will work together under a new constantly-evolving business entity called Impel Digital, which is available to help strategically grow your business. I encourage you to check out the interactive (and traditional) services we are offering, and whenever you are ready, we would love to talk to you about how we can support your current business needs.

Also, moving forward, you’ll be hearing from me at aruna@impel.digital, so please update your contacts to include my new email address!

Always wishing you the best,

Aruna
Director of Content Development, Impel Digital

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Sell Your Strength

In all areas of our lives, we have to choose whether we want to be a generalist or a specialist. From our studies to our careers to our hobbies, we have to choose between breadth and depth. This is also true when we choose how to craft a sales pitch.

It may be tempting to full your pitch with everything about your company and your product, touching on each and every feature, service and option. But that can be overwhelming, and not really give potential customers a good understanding of anything, just a surface-level look at what you do.

Instead, your pitch should be focused on the very best things about your business, and your product’s strengths. What do you do better than your competitors? What do your customers love about doing business with you? How has your product outperformed industry standards?

People want to feel like they’re making the best possible purchasing decision, so your job is to focus on what makes you the best.

If your company is known for amazing customer service, your pitch should include testimonials, and focus on the ease of the buying experience, the continued support, and the corporate culture they’re buying into.

If your products are famous for being well-made, your pitch should focus on the importance of craftsmanship, as well as pointing out the long-term savings that come from not having to repair or replace so often.

If your business is known for innovation, your pitch should incorporate the company’s history of development, leading up naturally to what you’re selling today, and with an eye to the future that your customers will be part of.

Of course, you should weave other information into the pitch, the other nitty-gritty facts that the customer needs to know — pricing, specs, options — but don’t make that the focus. When you’re selling your strength, you’re also selling your story. A good story doesn’t have a lot of info-dumps, but weaves the information into the narrative. Tell a story of how your product excels!

-AJ

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How to Avoid the Gimmick

How often have you heard something dismissed as “just a marketing gimmick”? Anything that seems too quirky, too good to be true, or too annoying is lumped together as a gimmick, and summarily ignored by today’s cynical consumer.

If you’re looking for unique marketing ideas, you have a fine line to walk between cool and gimmicky. Here’s a few questions to ask yourself:

Are you (jokingly) promising something you can’t deliver? Marketing history is full of rewards programs offering joke prizes for millions of points. What may have netted a chuckle in the 80s and 90s will earn eye rolls in the 21st century.

Instead… Suggest ridiculous alternate uses for the prizes you’re actually offering.

Could your idea be described as a publicity stunt? Does anybody even pull publicity stunts anymore, or are they too easily picked apart on social media? This is another idea whose times has passed.

Instead… Create a viral video or hashtag campaign to get people talking about your product…. and it’s easier than organizing a skydiving flashmob who will form your logo in midair.

Does your idea involve mailing something to your customers? Who was the marketer who came up with the idea of sending out keys that you’re supposed to bring to the dealer to see if you won a car? What am I supposed to do with this key? Nobody wants extra junk mail, especially when they can’t recycle it.

Instead… Meet your customers where they are. Engage with them on social media, and run contests that involve interacting with you. It will boost your social media ranking, and nothing ends up in the landfill when you’re done.

Does your idea involve a cute animal? If so, can you tell me more about it?

Instead… No, there’s no instead here. Cute animals are the one gimmick that overcomes most peoples’ inherent cynicism. Does anyone care that KLM doesn’t actually return Lost & Found items with the help of an adorable beagle? No we do not.

Of course, not all of us have access to a well-trained and charismatic dog, but KLM’s video serves as an example of how to take the old gimmick trick and make it work. Although you know if you leave your phone on your flight from NY to Amsterdam, it probably won’t be returned to your hands by an enthusiastic beagle, after watching that video you still feel pretty confident that your lost items are in good hands, and that you’re going to get good customer service. And that’s the difference between a cheesy gimmick and a good viral marketing idea – it leaves your potential customers with warm fuzzy feelings and a lingering good impression, not the sense that you’re trying to pull one over on them.

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Which kind of leader are you?

We are all leaders of some kind, and it is amazing how our leadership behavior influences others.  These days I am especially curious about organizational leaders — those that are change-agents.  From what I can tell, the most effective ones can effectively manage the confluence of three things:  their work styles, their organizations’ cultures, and their organizations’ readiness.

It seems that the best leaders follow a few golden rules, which they emulate and share with others.  It helps them and the people they influence make similar decisions which are consistent with the overarching business objectives — customers or employees, revenues or profits, company reputation or consistent processes? Decisions on these choices are not mutually exclusive, but they do drive different types of business environments.

Organizations also have specific cultures which respond differently to various types of leaders.  Some organizations like emails and document trails; others like open spaces with earbuds; some like offices and hierarchies.  If leaders are ‘slipping into’ roles, then it’s important for them to understand the culture and assimilate.  If they are trying to change a culture, then they’ll probably want to adopt slightly different styles, but they will have to experiment with how much it should contrast from the existing culture.

Finally, the last factor is timing. An effective leader knows how to navigate an organization to be in the right place at the right time.  This type of leader understands the existing company climate; what the last leader did and why it worked or failed; if/ how the culture needs to change; the agility of the organization; and if the existing culture will be supportive of a different agenda.  To help assess the organization’s readiness for a new strategy, effective leaders need some strong internal allies, who have insights to various company cliques — functional departments, early-adopters, virtual employees, etc.  Good leaders use these key colleagues as sounding boards to understand what adjustments need to be made to the organization and to provide feedback on the effectiveness of change.  This is how they ensure that they have the right employees, who will work together to help the organization do great things.

‘Change management’ is a big topic, and a few paragraphs do not do it justice.  But in short summary, the implementation of change takes a lot of brainpower, energy, and influence.  It is an important aspect of all businesses, as change is inevitable.  The key to success is to stay focused on your vision and to be consistent when making decisions.

Always wishing you the best,
Aruna

 

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Heading to a Conference? What’s Your Strategy?

The other day, I was on the phone with Aruna, the owner here at AMS, and she mentioned a conference she was about to leave for, and some of what she hoped to accomplish there. She had expectations, and a plan on how to meet them.

It’s important to have a solid strategy in place before leaving for a conference, because the days fly by in a blur and it’s easy to get sidetracked and miss out on important opportunities for networking and business growth.

Your strategy will depend a lot on your role at the conference. Are you a headlining speaker, giving a presentation, or simply there as an attendee? This will have an influence on your goals, and the amount of freedom you have to pursue those goals.

As a headlining speaker or other guest of honor, you may not have a lot of flexibility. The event’s organizers may have already scheduled you to give multiple talks and be part of panels or participate in meetings with other important guests. Your goal here is going to primarily be to further your reputation as a thought leader, network with other industry influencers, and possibly do a couple of press interviews or take advantage of other opportunities for publicity.

If you’re giving a presentation or serving as a panelist on one or more talks, you still have limited flexibility, but probably more room in your schedule to pursue your own agenda. In addition to sharing your thoughts and promoting your business through your talks, your goals may be to listen to other panelists to get a feel for the current pulse of the industry. You have more room for dialog, both with your peers and potentially with customers and industry analysts.

You have the most freedom when simply attending an event without any official capacity. You can set your own agenda. Are you there to network? Seek inspiration by attending talks? Look for potential new talent? Plan accordingly. Make opportunities for what you’re seeking.

No matter what your strategy is, you’ll do best if you plan ahead. Know what your commitments are, what panels you want to attend, and what meetings you want to keep.

It’s important to make exact plans whenever possible. Conferences are a great opportunity to see former classmates and colleagues, talk with respected peers, or meet with potential new hires. But it’s too easy to say “We should do lunch or coffee sometime” and then spend the entire event playing phone tag without ever seeing each other! If you really want the chance to talk with someone, reach out to them ahead of time and set a date. Try to leave a little wiggle room in your plan, so that if either one of you gets stuck in a talk that runs late, you can still make it work.

Having a strategy can also help you decide between two conflicting opportunities. Is it more important for you to attend a talk on emerging technology, or reconnect with a former colleague who you’re hoping to bring on board? That all depends on what your goals are for this conference!

What’s your strategy for conference success?

-AJ

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Make Your Product a Part of Your Pitch

All of the hype over E3 has me thinking about how important it is to be able to demo your product as part of your sales pitch. An audience is far less excited to hear “Our game has cutting-edge graphics” than they are to actually see those fully rendered graphics on a big screen. It calls to mind the old fiction writer’s adage “Show, don’t tell.”

Your product should be woven into your technology sales pitch. Whether it’s a demo of an app, a video of rendered graphics, or letting the customer play with the device, your products deserve the opportunity to sell themselves.

Tech consumers are wary of vaporware, or hardware that seems too good to be true. Especially in the age of crowdfunding, many have been burned by games and apps that never launched, devices that didn’t work as promised, and companies that have folded, taking backers’ money with them. When you make your product part of your pitch, you prove that there is substance behind your words.

Of course, it’s important to make sure that your product is ready to be demonstrated. No one wants star in their own remake of this disastrous iPhone 4 demo…

You should also be wary of utilizing early beta editions in your pitch, lest the product be vastly different when it goes to launch. Work closely with your dev team to make sure that the technology that you’re sharing accurately reflects what your company will be bringing to market down the road. If you are working with a beta version, make sure that the customer knows this. Don’t be apologetic or make excuses – be upbeat. They’re getting an exclusive sneak peek at the early development!

Be prepared to trouble shoot. Make sure the dev team walks you through the tech you’re demonstrating, explaining all the features, what can go wrong, and how to fix it. Have a plan in mind for how to react if you do encounter a bug – I suggest saying that the dev team is working on a fix as you speak!

Above all else, including your product in your pitch should be fun for you and the customer! Make it exciting and interactive, and you’ll stand out from your competition.

-AJ

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How do Hackers and Makers Factor into Your Marketing?

It’s now easier than ever for consumers to modify and hack technology. Once just the domain of uber-techies, modding, hacking, and maker culture is accessible to anyone with an internet connection, some disposable income, and no concern about the possibility of voiding their warranty.

You know a certain percentage of your customers are probably going to hack your product. Some of them do it to get around security measures, but others do it just for the fun of customizing their devices and finding exciting new ways to use them. So as a marketer, how much should you embrace that sort of customer?

There’s a careful balance you have to strike. Your company should avoid actively speaking out against device mods, as it can alienate the maker community. But if you embrace it too openly, you run the risk of customers blaming the company when their mods damage or even ruin their devices!

As such, your primary marketing shouldn’t mention the modding capabilities. Instead, make it a subtle part of your social media marketing. The occasional sharing of a cool, unexpected way that the maker community is using your device allows you to show that you appreciate what your customers are doing, without necessarily suggesting that others do the same.

In some ways, you can shape the dialog by carefully choosing what sort of mods and hacks you share. Look for the ones that find new and clever ways to use your device without subverting it. Perhaps someone programmed a great app, or found a cool way to get your device to play nice with their sound system and an array of programmable LEDs to create an immersive musical experience. You can also showcase things like custom, DIY cases, stands and displays, which serve to enhance your products without actually modifying them.

Another way you can embrace the maker community is to reach out to them. Send them some free products, or bring them in to the office to solicit their opinion on what you’re working on. This sort of outreach reaps viral rewards, and can also give you some great ideas to integrate into future products. If an in-person visit isn’t possible, consider hosting a video chat or an AMA on Reddit to connect with makers and pick each other’s brains.

The important thing to remember is that makers, modders and hackers are passionate about what they do. They love to discuss their latest mods and builds, to show them off to their friends, to blog and vlog and tweet about them. If you can harness that enthusiasm and show that you respect their dedication to their craft, you stand a good chance of converting them into loyal customers – many of whom may buy more of your products than the average customer, so they can do multiple builds.

Have you seen any clever mods or builds using your products? Let us know in the comments!

-AJ

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You are correct

I recently noticed a trend with my colleagues here in New York:  Whenever they are answering positively to a question , they say ‘correct’, instead of  ‘yeah’ or ‘right’.  For some reason, this really resonates with me. I think because it not only answers the question, but also is deliberate and articulate, while reinforcing the confidence of the person asking the question.

Words are so important — both literally and for what they convey.  That’s why texts and emails can be so tricky, because unless you use the exact words, phrases, or sentence flow, your intentions might be misconstrued.  I’m sure you have read something that caused you to react in an unexpected way, and your reflex was to immediately reply, which was what you probably did.  Maybe, if you had a little more experience, after you wrote the reply, you would have re-read your initial response and probably edited it — maybe even edited it a few times.  Some of you might have actually slept on your reply before sending it.  Others might have decided to make a call or have an in-person chat, so that the conversation had some more verbal context and non-verbal clues.  Of course, sometimes we don’t have the luxury of calling or seeing someone in-person, but a face-to-face (Skype-to-Skype) chat, would definitely give both of you a better sense of each other’s positions.  And when necessary, the presence of a third-party can be very helpful in keeping things more neutral.

At the end of it all, remember that regardless of the method of communication, your words convey an impression.   Therefore, your choice of words needs to be deliberate enough to represent your intention.  And whether the message is ‘good, bad or ugly’, remember that we are all people with feelings.  So make sure that when you reply to an email, question, or comment, try to use words that are respectful and phrases that are fact-based. That way you will get your point across in a manner that is direct and not hurtful.  In doing so, you will become a much better communicator and leader.

Always wishing you the best,

Aruna

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Never Lose Sight of Your Vision

When you’re the head of a busy tech company, it can be easy to get caught up chasing every new innovation, or whatever idea seems like it will make the most money. And while innovation and profit are important, you need to make sure that you’re not losing sight of the initial vision that got you to where you are today.

I’ve written before about how to empower your team to bring your vision to life, and how important it is to have everyone working towards that same goal. As such, it should be easy to see how vital it is that this is a top-down effort. If you get distracted from your vision, your company may find itself adrift and rudderless.

If you have your vision statement written down, read it again. If you don’t have it handy, take a moment and write it down again. I know, I know, it might feel a little silly, but stay with me here. Really think about what you were feeling when you came up with that vision. Remember why you wanted to lead your company. Remember what you hoped to do for the industry and your customers. Ask yourself if that’s still the direction you’re heading in.

If we were in a movie, this is the moment where the music would swell to an inspired crescendo, as you were either reaffirmed that you’re walking on the right path despite the opposition, or you realized you’ve strayed but it’s not too late to get back on track. Since we’re not in a movie, you can provide your own uplifting soundtrack if you want, or just enjoy the mental image and get back to work.

From now on, each time you prepare to make a big decision about the future of your company, ask yourself if it’s in line with your vision. If a lot of the decisions that you want to make don’t line up with it, it may be time to re-evaluate your original vision and consider if your business has outgrown your initial goals and needs a new mission statement to reflect a changing industry or an exciting new area of market growth that you’re dying to get into.

It’s important that you don’t change your vision too much or too often. Your vision isn’t just about what you want, it’s about what everyone in your company is working towards. If you’re constantly going in a different direction, it can lead to a lack of confidence and a sense of instability in your workforce. A new vision should be something exciting, something that builds off of what you’ve been doing in the past in a natural way. A change in goals should make your team feel like you’re evolving and growing, rather than changing on a whim.

Whether you stick with your original vision or move in an exciting new direction, still keep it at the forefront of your mind. Question your decisions, and always seek out new opportunities to keep you on the path to your goals.

-AJ

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Selling Food as an Experience

Because food and beverages play such crucial parts in our lives – from the comfortable familiarity of dinner at home to a special meal out for your birthday to big holiday parties – we often tend to associate food with experiences. You can harness this in your sales pitch. Don’t just sell your product, sell the way your customers will experience it.

For the B2C approach, work closely with marketing to craft some scenarios in which clients might enjoy your food and drink. Depending on what you sell, you might want to evoke feelings of fun, or nostalgia. Work these emotions and ideas into your sales pitch. Your lemonade isn’t just the perfect blend of sweet and tart, it’s also the perfect cold beverage to have with a big plate of BBQ on a picnic with your family.

You’re selling a story, with your customer as the star. You want them to imagine the feel of that cold glass of lemonade in their hand, the condensation running down the side of the glass, the first refreshing sip on a hot summer day, while they sit on a blanket in a grassy field with the kids and the dog running around.

But selling the experience isn’t limited to B2C! You can also sell the experience for B2B clients. Instead of focusing on how your client would eat or drink your product, either focus on how much easier it will make their lives, or sell the experience of working with your company.

To sell the idea of convenience, focus on the amount of time, money, or effort saved by using your product, rather than sourcing it from elsewhere or doing it themselves. Do your pre-chopped onions free up valuable time and counter space, while saving the sous chef from teary eyes? Paint a scenario of your product in use. Share examples of how other customers have benefited from your products.

If you expect to have a long-lasting partnership with your B2B clients, as is usually the case for food suppliers and distributors or restaurants, selling the relationship is a key point. Get them invested in your company culture. Point out ways that your values align with theirs. And above all, sell the experience of how easy you will be to work with. Do you have a streamlined ordering process? A well-designed website? Can they set up automatic deliveries? Do you have a customer service team on-call to answer their questions? You are selling the idea of your company as made up of regular ol’ human beings, professional, dedicated to food, dedicated to strong business relationships.

Food is such a communal experience for so many of us, you want to sell the idea of you and your customers as being part of one big community, working together to keep people happy and well-fed. That’s what selling the experience is all about!

-AJ

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