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What is “Business Development”?

What is “Business Development”?

In my prior post – Introducing the Guide to Business Development and Partnerships – I provide a curated list of articles written by “experts” on the topic of “Business Development”.  The first four sections of the guide are focused on the “What, Why, When and How” with regards to Biz Dev.  In this post – the first of several follow-up posts – I tackle the “What”.

Confusion around the term “Business Development”

The term “Business Development” (aka “BD” or “Biz Dev”) is not well defined or well understood.  People agree on what other business functions – like Sales, Marketing, Finance, Product, and Engineering – mean.  If you ask ten people to define one of these functions, you will get ten responses that are similar.  Not so much with “Biz Dev”, where you are likely to get ten different responses.  In this post, I attempt to answer the question: “What is Business Development”?  (And yes – I wrote this in part because I don’t want to keep having to explain to my parents (Hi Mom!) and my girlfriend’s parents (Hi Ken!) what it is that I do for work.)

Let’s start by discussing what Biz Dev is NOT.

Business Development is not (pure) Sales

I define “Sales” as the function at the company that is responsible for selling the company’s products to end customers in exchange for money.  Salespeople are in direct contact with potential customers (new sales) and/or current customers (renewals, upgrades, and cross-sells). 

In the past few years, many Sales people stopped referring to themselves as “Sales” and started to refer to themselves as “Business Development” instead.  I assume they made this change because they think that the term “Sales” has some negative connotations, while the term “Business Development” is more neutral and therefore preferable.  Whatever the reason, this has created lots of confusion around the term “Business Development”.  For example, most job specs for what are clearly Sales roles use the term Business Development in their title.

As I will explain, Business Development is not Sales, as the BD function is not responsible for selling the company’s products to end customers.  (Just to be clear, I am not saying that BD does not overlap with Sales.  In many instances, BD works closely with Sales.  And in one instance – specifically when the company sells via the channel – Business Development can be part of Sales.)

Business Development is not Corporate Development

I define “Corporate Development” as the function at the company that is responsible for M&A (i.e., acquiring smaller companies) and investments (i.e., investing money off the company’s balance sheet into smaller companies).  This is a transactional function that requires finance skills, and as a result, it is typically staffed by former investment bankers.

In many companies, the Business Development team will be part of the Corporate Development team and vice versa (meaning Corp Dev will be part of Biz Dev).  For example, when I was VP of Corp Dev at Gerson Lehrman Group, my responsibilities included Biz Dev (meaning partnerships).  And this happens for a reason – both Biz Dev and Corp Dev are responsible for engaging with organizations outside of the company, and the DNA of a good Biz Dev and a good Corp Dev professional can be similar.  But as I will explain, Corporate Development is not Business Development, as the BD function is not responsible for M&A and investment activities at the company.

Now that we have identified what Biz Dev is not, let’s discuss what Biz Dev IS.

What Business Development Is

In the first section of The Guide to Business Development and Partnerships, I highlight several experts who attempt to define Biz Dev.  I think Andrew Dumont gets it best when he writes: “In it’s simplest form, Biz Dev can be described as connecting similar businesses to similar goals.”  I like his definition in part because it is so broad.  But I don’t think it is specific enough.

Business Development is the function at the company responsible for identifying, securing, and/or managing relationships with organizations outside of the company (excluding customers and suppliers) that helps other key functions at the company achieve their respective goals.”  Let's address some of the key ideas in this statement:

  • I use the word “relationship” to describe the myriad structures – formal and informal – that a company can have with another organization.  Note that I have deliberately excluded relationships with Customers, which are managed by Sales, and relationships with Suppliers, which are managed by Procurement / Finance.
  • I use the terms “identify, secure, and/or manage” because BD can take both a “hunter” (i.e., identify, secure) and “farmer” (i.e., manage) role.
  • I state that BD helps other key functions at the company achieve their respective goals.  Specifically, BD helps, 1) Sales, 2) Marketing, 3) Product, and/or 4) the CEO.  In an ideal world, none of these functions would need to rely on an organization outside of the company.  For example, Marketing would hit their lead quota every month without any outside help. A Product would release every feature on their roadmap on time without any outside help.  But the reality is that each of these functions is constrained, so each function could potentially benefit from a partnership with a 3rd party.  And Biz Dev is the function at the company responsible for managing the company’s efforts in this area. Now that I have defined “Business Development”, let me provide some concrete examples of the various forms that BD can take.

Examples of Biz Dev in the wild

Per my definition, Biz Dev works alongside four functions inside the company: 1) Sales, 2) Marketing, 3) Product, 4) the CEO.  In the framework below, I group the various models that BD can take based on which function it works with.  And I try to include some specific examples, most of which involve B2B SaaS companies in Boston (a market that I know relatively well).

Category #1: BD aligned with Sales

A common arrangement has BD working closely with Sales to achieve Sales-related goals, which (not surprisingly) are focused on growing revenue ($’s) and/or customer count (# of logos).  Possible structures include:

  • Re-seller – in this model, the company sells its products to end customers via a 3rd party.  The partner could take many forms, such as a professional services firm (like Hubspot with marketing agencies or Xero with accounting firms), a VAR or systems integrator, or a larger ISV.
    • This is the one caveat to my prior statement that BD is not “pure” Sales (emphasis on word “pure”).  In “pure” Sales, the Sales team is selling directly to end customers.  In a Reseller model, Sales is working with partners who are selling to the end customer.  In this scenario, the BD team focused on re-sellers looks and acts like Sales and may, in fact, be part of the Sales team.  This is the set-up at Hubspot, which has a large Channel Sales team led by a VP of Sales.
  • OEM  – in this model, the company licenses its product to a 3rd-party, which then bundles it in with it’s own products (often the company’s product is white-labeled) for resale .
  • “New” markets – in some companies, BD takes the lead on opening up new markets – like a new customer segment or a new geography.  In this scenario, BD does the initial customer development work and researches the new market (identifies the competitors, identifies possible partners, etc.).  Eventually, BD hands off the execution to Sales.

Category #2: BD aligned with Marketing

Another common arrangement has BD working closely with Marketing to achieve Marketing-related goals, which (not surprisingly) are focused on growing the # of leads and/or improving the quality of leads.  Possible structures include:

  • Referral – in this model, the company develops relatively close relationships (i.e., marketing collateral, sales training, etc.) with organizations that send them leads, which are typically of higher quality.  In exchange, the company pays them a fee (the referral fee).  When I was at InsightSquared, we did this with many companies, including Bullhorn.
  • Affiliate – in this model, the company develops a program where if an organization (the affiliate partner) sends them a lead (typically of lesser quality), the company then pays them a fee (the affiliate fee).  In this scenario, the company has an arms-length relationship with their affiliate partners, meaning the company does not provide much (if any) education or training on the company’s products to the partner.  InfusionSoft does this.
  • Informal –  this category describes the variety of informal marketing initiatives that a company could pursue with another organization.  For example, Company A and Company B could collaborate on a joint webinar, where both companies invite their respective audiences (customers, prospects), co-host the event, and share the RSVP and attendee lists with one another. Other examples include joint whitepapers, joint events, guest blog posts, etc.  Typically, no money changes hands, although both companies invest their own time and resources to support these initiatives.  When I was at Axial, we did some joint marketing with a variety of organizations, including Capital IQ. Referral deals are relatively difficult to implement, while the other 2 (Affiliate and Informal) are much easier to pull off.

Category #3: BD aligned with Product

A third arrangement has BD working closely with Product to achieve Product-related goals, which (not surprisingly) are about improving the product and/or accelerating the product development process.  Possible structures include:

  • Marketplace – in this model, the company’s BD team creates and manages a program that allows 3rd-party developers to build applications that integrate with the company’s core product / platform.  While the company can benefit in a couple of ways from such a program, the Product team benefits by offloading some of their work to partners.  For example, Salesforce (which has built the poster-child for a successful marketplace) has off-loaded the development work in several product areas to partners (like DocuSign and EchoSign for contract management).  Athena health's BD team created (skip to 4:45) their apps marketplace because they wanted to reduce the burden on the company’s Product team.
  • Integration – in this scenario, the company’s business model is predicated on having the company’s product integrate with 3rd-parties.  The BD team works with Product to identify potential partners and then close and manage these relationships.

Category #4: BD aligned with the CEO

The fourth arrangement has BD working closely with the CEO on “strategic” activities:

  • Strategic – two of the CEO’s primary jobs are: 1) to defend the balance sheet (i.e., ensure that the company does not run out of cash) and 2) to return cash to the investors (i.e., dividends, recap, M&A or IPO).  In many cases, the most logical investors and/or acquirers for a business are companies that also represent potential business partners.  And the first step in a securing an investment and/or an acquisition offer is often a partnership.  In this scenario, the BD team works alongside the CEO to first identify logical investors / acquirers and then explore potential partnerships, with both tactical goals (drive revenue) and long-term goals (investment or acquisition) in mind.  John O’Farrell writes a great post about this in the context of the sale of Opsware to HP.  When I was at GLG, I secured a partnership with Bloomberg for both tactical and strategic reasons.

So there you have it – the “definitive” definition of “Business Development”, details on the various models BD can take, and specific examples of these models in the wild.

Notes

(1) I owe my thinking on this topic to a more experienced BD professional who once told me that “BD sits at the intersection of Sales, Marketing, and Product”.

(2) Note that in some companies, Biz Dev is a standalone function where the VP of BD is part of the management team and rolls into the CEO.  In some companies, the BD team is part of another function – likely Sales, Marketing or Product.  And in some companies, the BD function is actually distributed across Sales, Marketing, and/or Product – meaning each function has people performing BD activities on its behalf.  I will dive into these ideas in detail in a follow-up post.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Social Media Marketing World, My Belligerent Impatience, & First Post On Medium

Social Media Marketing World, My Belligerent Impatience, & First Post On Medium

This is about deviating from processes and editorial schedules. This is about me fucking up our content teams’ ‘flow’ because I thought a timely story, as it pertains to my company, might be some good PR.

They really don’t like me for that.

They may publish it yet, or not. Who knows? This is written from a legal marketing bent (go ahead and Google me, I’m not trying to hide where I work and what I do), and I guess I’m just tired of waiting. My co-workers are great, really. Caring people who want to do the best they can. But I’m impatient. And if I learned anything from attending a social media marketing conference, it was that timeliness, responsiveness, and creating connections matter.

Also, I like to curse a lot. Can’t do that on the company blog.

Bear in mind, the opinions and words you’ll see down the road(note the above) are my own and don’t represent the company I work for. I’m much more civil and polite when needed. Also, my grammatical errors and incorrect punctuation are corrected by a team of highly skilled editors/experts. Not so much here.

So, here ya go- Parts one AND two. If you like what you see, (and are maybe interested in learning a little bit more about what my company does and how we could possibly help you) — feel free to reach out.

At my workplace, we recognize the value of individuals who strive to learn more and stay up to date with trends and issues in our industry. As such, we’re all about furthering our employees’ professional education.

With that in mind — as well as the fact that I’ve never been to the West Coast — I broached the subject of flying to San Diego to attend Social Media Marketing World (SMMW), one of the largest social media marketing conferences in the United States. As in past years, dozens of prominent figures in the industry were in attendance, delivering lectures or hosting workshops throughout the week-long event. I figured if I was going to attend a conference, I might as well start with a bang (and also go someplace warm because Michigan winters are the soul-sucking kind).

The team agreed, plane tickets were purchased, Airbnb was booked, and since merging work with pleasure is a specialty of mine, I brought my husband along to share in the fun. We haven’t been on a vacation together in more than a decade — literally — so we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to jettison the kids and get away from it all.

After some rather irritating travel rescheduling and rerouting, we arrived in San Diego late in the evening before the first day of the conference. Jet lag and two-time changes made Sunday morning a little difficult, but with a shower and a stiff cup of coffee, I was able to adequately recharge before the first sessions began.

Though all the sessions are fairly general in regards to social media marketing, there were some stellar points in each presentation. I’ll cover some of the key takeaways from my favorite ones, as well as specific applications for law firms and legal marketing teams.

Sunday was mostly devoted to workshops — longer sessions designed to provide hands-on, pertinent content you can walk away with and utilize for your business. I was able to attend two 90 minute workshops; here’s some info about my favorite one of the day.

How to Write Copy That Sells (Without Being Sleazy)

I’m a firm believer in presenting yourself and your clients in an honest way that is free of cheap sales tactics. Naturally, the primary goal of social media marketing is to generate interest, capture leads, and increase ROI, but that doesn’t mean strategy, tactics, and posts should be gimmicky. Users see right through that, and we are not in the business of patronizing our potential or current clients.

Too often, consumers see law firms and attorneys as “ambulance chasers” who only care about maximizing their payout. Frequently this is an unfair association, but I do see too many instances when the copy on attorney websites and blogs does little to dissuade that opinion.

I believe this is sometimes an honest mistake, that the content is often written by the lawyers themselves and they are used to writing legal briefs that simply state the facts — they offer their services but leave out the finesse that is needed to encourage conversion from a potential client. Nevertheless, creating copy that converts without sounding “sleazy” is something all law firms should keep in mind.

Key takeaways:

  • Headlines matter. Give yourself time to craft a good headline. There is a vast amount of content out there and the headline is the first thing your audience sees. It determines whether a potential client will continue reading your article or ignore it entirely.
     Writing a headline is easier than you think! There are a few headlines that consistently get a high volume of clicks: these headlines appeal to the curious nature in all of us and address our innate desire for answers.
  1. The “How-To” — We all want answers. Creating a headline that addresses your potential clients’ needs is a surefire way to get them to your website. For example:
     -How to Respond When the Insurance Adjuster Calls
     -How to Bike Safely on City Roads
     -How to Make Sure Your Estate Planning Is in Your Loved One’s Best Interest
     On the flip side of this headline is the ‘How to Eliminate’ phrase. People like to know how to get rid of things that are bothersome or cause worry. Take advantage of this when crafting your headlines.
  2. The “Top Ten” — Who can resist the appeal of a list? This could just as easily be top five or top twelve. This headline automatically sets a reader up for an article they can quickly skim and get the information they are seeking. Think about the information your potential clients would seek out from you: How can you help them? For example:
     -The Top Ten Things You Should Do If You Are in a Car Accident
     -The Top Five Reasons to Hire a Divorce Attorney
     -The Top Three Facts You MUST Know about California Tax Law
  3. The “Doctors’ Secret” — The surgeon, the artist — everyone wants to know how the authorities do it. Use this to your advantage. For example:
     -The Lawyers’ Secret to Preparing for a Deposition
     -Your Attorney’s Secret to Getting Ready for a Jury Trial
  • Know who you are writing for. Take time to think about your audience and your customers. What do they want? Give it to them freely before you ask them to buy what you are selling. Ultimately, you can’t give them all the answers they really need in a blog post, but if you provide enough to answer their search queries in a helpful fashion, then that individual will turn to you, a trusted source, when they are ready to hire an attorney.
  • Build a framework. Have a website that is organized in a way that is simple for a potential client to find the information they need. They shouldn’t have to click through three hundred links to find your “Contact Us” page. Request the information you need to build a relationship and potentially create a conversion (name/e-mail address), but don’t ask for extraneous information that you don’t really need to begin your relationship with that client. It’s frustrating and many people won’t complete a form that asks for too much personal information and takes too much time to complete.
  • Be engaging. Relate and tell a story. Ultimately, you are creating content for people. Make it interesting. Use current events and information and figure out how it relates to your area of practice. Address issues you are passionate about in a rapid response blog post. Share your voice as an attorney and your voice as a firm.
  • Work at it. There is always room for improvement. This is key advice for anyone — lawyer, marketer, human. Work at your success, commit to your goals, monitor your data and ROI, and actively work to make your successes even greater.

Sunday ended with networking and laughter, some good conversations, a bit of exploration of beautiful San Diego, and — thankfully — a good night’s sleep.

Monday: Monday signaled the beginning of the authentic conference experience, with sessions, workshops, lunch, and networking occupying my entire day. I sent the husband off to meet up with friends and explore the city while I headed to the convention center after a cup of coffee from Café Virtuoso (highly recommended if you are in the city).

 What the Newest Research Reveals:

Hosted by the founder of Social Media Examiner (the official host of the conference), this session was pretty much exactly what one would assume: a true social media expert dropping some knowledge bombs on our eager brains. The implications of the research discussed are wide-reaching, and everyone there was considering how to best utilize what the newest data affirm about the future of social media marketing.

Key takeaways:

  • IF YOU AREN’T USING LIVE VIDEO, NO ONE KNOWS YOU EXIST!
     
    Okay, I am definitely adding some dramatic flair here, but the importance of live video can’t be ignored. Periscope, Facebook Live Video, Blab — people want the opportunity to engage in real time. While there are certain considerations the legal industry must take into account (such as ethical regulations in your state) when providing a live feed on any platform, it’s a virtually unexplored forum for lawyers and law firms. Some potential ideas to capitalize:
     -Instead of posting a FAQ YouTube Video that’s edited, offer the opportunity for individuals to ask you questions related to your area of practice and respond, in real time, via Facebook Live or Periscope.
     -Plan to host a Blab on a topic of relevance and interest (for example, a Personal Injury Lawyers take on the CTE/Concussion connection with football and other high impact sports) and present yourself as a thought leader in your field.
     Your imagination (and ABA ethical considerations) are your only limits to using video.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Reoccurring Themes from Social Media Marketing World

Reoccurring Themes from Social Media Marketing World

About the Reoccurring Themes

What if the insights presented were the same-old information that I had been stockpiling in my repertoire for ages? I shuttered imagining repetitive session after session of common-knowledge redundancies and ‘tips and tricks’ that anyone with Google access could master.

I have never been more delighted to be wrong. Each speaker wowed me with fresh perspectives and actionable recommendations. I couldn’t have estimated the weight of valuable knowledge that was about to drop on me – and instead of crushing me, it clarified topics that I didn’t even know were fuzzy.

In just three days, I attended over ten workshops and tracking sessions, took 15 pages of tightly-typed notes, and accumulated enough business cards to keep me searching on LinkedIn for days.

So now for the fun stuff… the stuff that I learned in my three days that you can apply in your own business! Here are the
5 reoccurring themes.

  1. Video Runs The Show

People want to see a story. I wouldn’t write this post touting “content is king” because that’s so 2011. But that doesn’t mean the adage no longer applies – it’s more important than ever, in fact. But the way people are digesting content and the way marketers are creating it are the changing variables.

Once upon a time, big-budget commercials were the only way to broadcast your video. Now, Fortune 500s are opting for smartphones instead of camera crews. It speaks to their audience and to the platforms: more real, relatable, and “social”. Michael Stelzner, of Social Media Examiner, reported that 73% of marketers are increasing video – but are they doing it right?

  1. Live Is Leading The Way

Meerkat (who’s that?), Periscope, Facebook Live, Snapchat. Only over the past year have these platforms really made their way into mainstream social media. Overheard repeatedly throughout the three days is that Snapchat is “no longer just a way for 13-year-olds to send naughty photos – it’s a real player in this game”. It’s a legit social media channel with proven business results… and people are obsessed with it. And those people aren’t just Millennials.

There’s an urgency that’s taking over the social media space. People want the most up-to-date, relevant content as it’s happening, instead of watching the recap reel. They want to feel like part of the action and the excitement of being in the moment – and smart brands are capitalizing on it.

  1. Influencers Aren’t Going Anywhere

Even though the FTC is making it more difficult to hide that you paid for advocacy, the exposure from these strategic partnerships drive results. The right influencer humanizes your brand, provides credibility, and (duh) extends your reach to people who may have never considered your brand before.

A few years ago TV celebrities were the biggest thing on social media (think Ashton Kutcher on Twitter). Now, social media stars are reinvigorating TV (think of the cast last season on Amazing Race – all social stars). 

  1. Algorithms Are Everything

Gary Vee, social media expert and Keynote speaker at the conference, fears that Twitter will be the next Myspace. Why? They haven’t nailed the algorithm. People are getting ‘content shock’ and social channels are scrambling to fix this by algorithmically picking and choosing the content you see. This plan is two-fold from the channel’s perspective: 1) They want you to stay and engage on the platform, and 2) they want their advertisers to pay for prime real estate within their feed.

Instagram recently released their algorithm approach, Pinterest continues to work on their ‘Interests’, and Facebook is making it harder and harder for posts to be seen organically. Oh – and did we mention that Facebook engagement is down on all Pages? According to Social Media Examiner, this isn’t stopping advertisers from forking over increased budgets to the social giant.

  1. Social is Unpredictable

Yes, we already knew this. But each time we turn a corner, we are reminded. The knowledge that I learned in 2016 might not be relevant in 2017… or even next week! We’re moving at an accelerated pace, the trends flashing before our eyes and the landscape constantly shifting under our feet. But isn’t that the fun part?

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

The many Trends from Social Media Marketing World

The many Trends from Social Media Marketing World

Social Media Marketing World (SMMW)

 
As you may have noticed from our Facebook and Instagram profiles, our team recently attended Social Media Marketing World (SMMW). This was our fourth year in attendance, and we love connecting and collaborating with social media marketers from around the world. It’s exciting to see where the field is heading, so we’re imparting some knowledge we’ve gleaned from the sessions and talks.
 

One of our favorite acronyms we picked up at SMMW was “ILT”: Invest, Learn, Teach. For marketers, this means to invest in skills and tools, learn as much as you can, and then pass along that knowledge to your customers and peers. In the spirit of ILT, here are five of the biggest trends discussed at Social Media Marketing World.

Landing pages are king

A landing page is a standalone web page intended to collect leads. The art and science of an effective landing page dominated many social media marketing talks this year. Landing pages are usually focused specifically on a product, event or feature, so they can be a component to your primary website, but function independently. Luckily, ShortStack makes it super easy to create landing pages, and we have a bunch of templates to choose from depending on what you want your landing page to highlight.

Since visual and audio media was such a hot topic this year, we saw many marketers create landing pages for their podcasts or videos. Podcasting expert Paul Colligan emphasized the value of landing pages in the context of creating podcast show notes, transcripts and CTAs (call to actions). This is a way to promote your multimedia while still interacting with and collecting information from your users, which creates active consumption of your media instead of passive.

Live video broadcasts connect brands with users

Services like Facebook Live, Periscope and Blab.im provide individuals and brands the ability to live stream video broadcasts to their users and followers. This was huge this year, and the conference hall was filled with marketers live streaming in between sessions. A live video keynote (which feature notable live streamers such as Mari Smith, who is an avid Facebook Live broadcaster) discussed why live video is so effective. The takeaway? Live video shows users that their favorite brands and companies are comprised of real people. And people like connecting with other people, not just words, and images. Video allows realness to come through. Marketers can use live video to their advantage by creating a landing page to capture leads.

Creative targeted ad use can funnel content to the right people

Marketers are learning the power of creative targeted ads, particularly on Facebook. Ads are a great way to cut through Facebook’s algorithms to make sure your content is seen by the right people. Yes, it requires payin’ up, but the results are so worth it. Our friend Jon Loomer, with whom we hosted a stellar taco and margarita party during SMMW, is the master at using Facebook ads in creative ways. Try participating in one of his experiments, and you’ll be amazed at how he’s able to automate his process to share very specific content with you on your feed, controlling it all through ads.

For instance, he recently ran an ad that gave the viewer three options to choose from, based on their skill level with Facebook ads: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced. After selecting “Intermediate” (some of us around here are more savvy with ads than others), videos Jon had made for Intermediate users began appearing in our feed, with messages and information just for us. We also received an email follow-up, all by simply clicking on the Intermediate option via Facebook. We’d think it’s magic if we didn’t have some insight into how powerful ads can be in the right environment.

Which leads us to our next point…

Automation can aid in customer rapport

Automation helps marketers in numerous ways, such as streamlining workflow or connecting with customers. Facebook recently announced the ability to create “bots” for Facebook Messenger, which, like ads, can help you manage the way you respond to and collect information from your users. For instance, when a user submits a question to your company Facebook Page about an order that they want to track, the bot can respond to the user with the tracking information. This allows users to get immediate responses with your signature flair, but it doesn’t require you to answer every single request.

Marketers are also employing features like action-gating into their landing pages and websites. An action-gate requires users to interact with you somehow — such as entering an email address or other contact information — and in return, you share something with them (a downloadable guide, a contest or coupon, etc.). This follows the “if this happens, then that happens” function format. You can try this out by using our Action Widget on your ShortStack Campaign.

Omnichannel marketing is the way of the future

Omnichannel marketing means running marketing campaigns on more than one platform at once. We’ve been evangelizing omnichannel marketing for a while, and we’re quite pleased that other marketers are seeing value in it, too. We’ve written about this before since our users have seen major success with running omnichannel Campaigns

So although Facebook was still discussed frequently, thanks to their Messenger and Facebook Live developments, these features were part of a bigger picture. Ultimately, our takeaway is that marketers are using a mix of platforms and tools at their disposal to connect and collect from users. But rather than getting overwhelmed with new platforms and strategies, they’re using automation to streamline this process. Smart, targeted marketing campaigns were the name of the game this year.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Playing with the Search Engine Organic vs Sponsored Results

Playing with the Search Engine 

Organic vs Sponsored Results

As an Internet Marketer, one question people frequently ask me is “what is the difference between organic and paid search results?” Trying to get a website ranked without opting for a paid listing is not that hard to do in theory but actually getting a website ranked is challenging – but it isn’t impossible.

Google’s Sponsored Search Results

At a first glance, Google offers a simple answer on organic vs sponsored search results. Listed at the very top of the search results are the paid ones. They are there simply because they availed of Google’s “Adwords” service. How this works is that while your link is at the very top (or in another prime location), Google will charge you based on where you are on the list and your keywords. It is worth noting that Google will charge you more the higher you want your link to be listed.

Availing of Google’s Adwords services is a fairly simple process. You simply have to create a Google account, register it in the Adwords domain and then you can set it up to get your desired spot in Google’s search engine.

It is extremely easy to get searched if you avail of Google’s Adwords service. However, in the long run it is still a risky move. While each click is not that expensive by itself, you still have to consider the fact that not everyone is going to avail of your service. Some of them might simply be curious and there are even some cases where people accidentally click on your link. Simply put, each and every click isn’t really worth it.

Another aspect that people consider is the fact that people have a predisposition to not trust ads. Some of them have heard of junk mail and phishing scams so these people tend to avoid clicking on ads. The best way to become visible is by creating quality content that’s good enough to be ranked higher on Google’s search engine results.

Organic Search Results

As I have repeatedly said before, it is considered a good practice to naturally have your content and links rank higher on Google. One of the end goals of SEO is ranking higher with organic search results. One thing bloggers and internet marketers should put into practice is creating worthwhile content while optimizing their website in a way that satisfies Google’s standards for a reputable web page. Simply put, the better content you put out, the better Google will treat your website and rank you higher on their search engine.

Organic Search Results are important precisely because they are relevant to the search keyword. Google determines what is relevant by using their unique algorithm. They naturally appear as search engine results depending on their relevance to the topic as well as their reputation.

Another thing worth considering is the fact that better content produces better results overall; not only with SEO but also with how people perceive and respect your brand. If you can successfully convert people into promoters for your brand then ranking higher even without relying on sponsored search results will come naturally.

In conclusion, while it is definitely easier to rank higher by availing of a Google’s AdWords, it is better for your website in the long run if you put into practice the creation of quality content. You don’t need to pay money to advertise your link if people who are satisfied with your products and services can do that for you. Are you interested in practicing SEO for your website? SEO Hacker is the best place to start.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Why Understanding (TF*IDF) Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency is Critical for SEO

Why Understanding (TF*IDF)

Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency

is Critical for SEO

In SEO, one of the primary focuses that specialists take note of are keywords. Keywords are necessary for websites to rank popularly with search engines such as Google. In order for a website to have a truly effective set of keywords, a study must be made which basically involves researching how frequently people research these keywords.

Like many things in SEO, however, keyword research is essentially an educated guess – and there are many unpredictable factors that have to be discovered through trial and error. The beauty of keyword research, however, is that it is a continuous learning process in which the SEO specialist will spend dozens of hours discovering what people think of the keyword, how often they will use it in their searches as well as its relevance to the website’s overarching theme.

Looking back at the relevance of keywords

During the formative years of SEO, specialists around the world flooded their content with dozens of keywords. At the time, penalties weren’t given to these abusers simply because Google’s algorithm wasn’t up to par at the time. In simpler terms, they couldn’t determine whether or not a single document or article was filled with keywords.

Google will now penalize what we now know as keyword stuffing because keyword density is something that every SEO specialist should watch out for.

Thinking back upon the much simpler times for SEO, the number one way for ranking websites was done with keyword stuffing. This was a bad practice that was considered normal at the time and a lot of SEO specialists ranked high – and for all the wrong reasons.

Times are much harder now and it is definitely harder to rank precisely because of the fierce competition between websites and SEO specialists – and keyword stuffing is no longer on anyone’s mind.

While keyword stuffing is now considered bad practice for SEO, keywords are still important and now more than ever, the quality of the keywords you use is definitely more important and more impressive than the quantity of the keywords people used to stuff in a single document – this is where TF-IDF comes into play.

Understanding TF*IDF

In the first place, TF-IDF means term frequency – inverse document frequency and this is mostly used in text mining and information retrieval. Basically speaking, TF-IDF is used in determining how many times a word appears in a document and how significant it is to the document.

This is important to SEO because this basically means that keywords are easier to determine and the trial and error process is made significantly easier. This may not seem like a big deal but as I’ve said many times in the past, SEO is basically a game where having knowledge is having an edge over your competition – and that’s a very big deal.

TF-IDF is the result of a lifetime of study by renowned British Computer Scientist Karen Spärck Jones. During the 1970s, Dr. Jones published a paper on the concept of inverse document frequency weighing in information retrieval and today, IDF, as part of the TF-IDF weighting method is used by many search engines as part of their internal algorithm.

Application in SEO

So how does TF*IDF work specifically in SEO? As stated above, keywords are now better if they are weighted in terms of quality instead of quantity. Having more keywords may not necessarily be a good thing because Google actively penalizes people who stuff their documents with keywords. TF-IDF is essentially the revolutionary piece that makes keyword research easier and more meaningful because each finding is supported by numerous documents that Google’s crawlers will go through. Basically speaking, TF-IDF will tell you what keywords people frequently use, how frequently it appears and how significant it is to your website’s theme.

Key takeaway

SEO is definitely made easier with TF-IDF precisely because it is a game of knowledge and that’s precisely what it brings to the table – the knowledge of what people search for, what they want, how frequently they search for it and how meaningful it is to the people who do the searching – and that information can make your SEO easier and more convenient.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

How to Manage a Mentoring Relationship

How to Manage a Mentoring Relationship

Below are some guidelines for setting up and running a successful mentoring arrangement:

Set regular mentoring meetings

A mentoring relationship is one of mutual trust and respect. So meet regularly, and lead by example. The mentoring conversation may be informal, but treat the overall arrangement with formality and professionalism.

 

If possible, conduct mentoring meetings away from the mentee's normal working environment. A change of environment helps remove the conversation from everyday perspectives.

Be honest and open

If you're not honest, a mentoring meeting will probably be a waste of time for both of you. Discuss current top issues or concerns. Sometimes an honest exchange leads to the mentor and mentee deciding that they don't really like or respect each other. It's better to know up front and build from this sort of understanding, rather than have it hurt the relationship.

Build sustainable improvements, not quick fixes

Use the mentoring session to exchange views and give the mentee guidance, and don't just give the mentee immediate answers to a problem. A simple answer to a problem is rarely as valuable as understanding how to approach such problems in the future.

Play by the rules

Establish some rules or a charter for the mentoring arrangement, with desired outcomes. This could be a set agenda for points to cover, or some performance goals for the mentee to pursue outside of their regular appraisal structure. (One of the key reasons that mentoring can fail is that there's a fundamental misunderstanding about what's expected from the mentor and mentee.)

Most mentoring arrangements work best when they're outside of the day-to-day line management relationship between people. That doesn't mean that you can't mentor the people in your team, but it's often best to have a mentoring relationship that crosses reporting lines.

In a small organization, you may not have this option. If this is the case, make sure everyone knows when you're acting as a mentor, rather than as a manager.

Key Points

Mentoring is a great way to progress a person's professional and personal development, and help create a more productive organization. It can also be very rewarding – for the mentor and the mentee.

Treat the mentoring relationship with the respect it deserves. Focus the relationship on the mentee's needs, and use the powerful skills of smart questioning, active listening, and value-added feedback to achieve the best outcomes from your mentoring.

To keep the mentoring relationship on track, set regular mentor meetings, be honest and open, and don't look for quick fixes. Mentoring is a long-term commitment.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Mentoring Skills

Mentoring Skills

Using Your Knowledge and Experience to Help Others

Whether it's some advice for a friend on helping them look for a new job or guidance for a child embarking on their first day at school, many of us regularly use our knowledge and experience to help and guide others.

But this type of help and guidance isn't just useful for our friends and family – by mentoring in the workplace, you can help people increase their effectiveness, advance their careers, and create a more productive organization. Being a mentor can also be very rewarding.

In this article, we'll look at the benefits of mentoring, and the skills you need to be a good mentor. We'll also look at setting up and managing an effective mentoring relationship.

Benefits of Mentoring

Mentoring is a relationship between two people – the "mentor" and the "mentee." As a mentor, you pass on valuable skills, knowledge, and insights to your mentee to help them develop their career.

Mentoring can help the mentee feel more confident and self-supporting. Mentees can also develop a clearer sense of what they want in their careers and their personal lives. They will develop greater self-awareness and see the world, and themselves, as others do.

For an organization, mentoring is a good way of efficiently transferring valuable competencies from one person to another. This expands the organization's skills base, helps to build strong teams, and can form part of a well planned Succession Planning strategy. Many apprenticeship schemes are based on the principles of mentoring.

There are two main types of mentoring:

  • Developmental mentoring – This is where the mentor is helping the mentee develop new skills and abilities. The mentor is a guide and a resource for the mentee's growth.
  • Sponsorship mentoring – This is when the mentor is more of a career influencer than a guide. In this situation, the mentor takes a close interest in the progress of the mentee (or, more commonly, the protégé). The mentor "opens doors", influencing others to help the mentee or protégé's advancement.

Skills for Mentoring

To be a good mentor, you need similar skills to those used in coaching, with one big difference – you must have experience relevant to the mentee's situation. This can be technical experience, management experience, or simply life experience.

To be an effective mentor, you need to:

  • Have the desire to help – you should be willing to spend time helping someone else, and remain positive throughout.
  • Be motivated to continue developing and growing – your own development never stops. To help others develop, you must value your own growth too. Many mentors say that mentoring helps them with their own personal development.
  • Have confidence and an assured manner – we don't mean overconfidence or a big ego. Rather, you should have the ability to critique and challenge mentees in a way that's non-threatening and helps them look at a situation from a new perspective.
  • Ask the right questions – the best mentors ask questions that make the mentee do the thinking. However, this isn't as easy as it sounds. A simple guide is to think of what you want to tell the mentee and to find a question that will help the mentee come to the same conclusion on their own. To do this, try asking open questions that cannot be answered with just yes or no. Or ask more direct questions that offer several answer options. Then ask the mentee why they chose that particular answer.
  • Listen actively – be careful to process everything the mentee is saying. Watch body language, maintain eye contact, and understand which topics are difficult for the mentee to discuss. Showing someone that you're listening is a valuable skill in itself. It shows that you value what the person is saying and that you won't interrupt them. This requires patience, and a willingness to delay judgment.
  • Provide feedback – do this in a way that accurately and objectively summarizes what you've heard, but also interprets things in a way that adds value for the mentee. In particular, use feedback to show that you understand what the mentee's thinking approach has been. This is key to helping the mentee see a situation from another perspective.

Remember, mentoring is about transferring information, competence, and experience to mentees so that they can make good use of this, and build their confidence accordingly. As a mentor, you are there to encourage, nurture and provide support, because you've already "walked the path" of the mentee.

Also remember that mentoring is about structured development – you don't have to tell the mentee everything you know about a subject, at every opportunity.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

More on How to Build a B2B Inbound Marketing Machine

More on How to Build a B2B Inbound Marketing Machine

The many levers that will get your B2B inbound marketing machine humming

 

 

This post is part two of a series discussing what B2B marketers need to do to build efficient inbound marketing machines. Today, we'll discuss content promotion, influencer outreach, lead nurturing, marketing and sale alignment and reporting.

In part one, we dove into goal setting, buyer persona development and content creation. If you want to give that a read, you can find that post here. Without further ado, let's get to it. We have a lot to cover!

Content promotion

Creating great content is only the first part of the inbound marketing battle. Once content is produced, successful distribution of your content is a crucial piece of an inbound marketer's job. We asked Nick Lucas of When I Work for his thoughts on content promotion, and he came through with a couple great tips:

  • Content promotion begins the minute you finalize your topic and/or title
  • Be strategic when you're outlining your post and deciding who you want to mention
  • Focus on people that can help you out the minute you publish
  • Look to Product Hunt—a lot of the companies on there are just as hungry for attention as you are

The key takeaway here is that content promotion can't be an afterthought. In fact, it's just as core to your content strategy as SEO. As a content producer, you should be thinking strategically not just about what keywords you're targeting, but also who you're mentioning in your posts or linking to.

With the production complete, promotion then turns to the different channels and promotion strategies that can be used to put your content in front of your target audience.

Social media

Remember those buyer personas we talked about in part one of this series? Now that we know where they find their information online, you should share your content there. These channels might vary depending on the space that you're in, but the core B2B distribution channels are Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+. Promotion to these channels can be handled effectively by creating an editorial cadence to promote your posts, it might look something like this:

Online communities

Another great way to share and repurpose your content is to post it to different online communities. For example, in the marketing and sales space, this could take the shape of posting content to Inbound.org, GrowthHackers, Reddit, and OnStartups. When doing this, don't just promote your own content. You can also build your profile and trust by sharing, upvoting and commenting on the content of others.

 

 

This takes time, but can lead to both steady referral traffic as well as large spikes if one of your posts hits the trending page. For example, we saw a huge spike in traffic when one of our posts trended on GrowthHackers.

Quora can be another effective channel. Find questions that are similar to what you addressed in your blog post. Then you'll have a great jumping-off point to leave a thorough and in-depth answer as well as a transparent link back to your post. In a similar vein, blog posts can also be turned into presentations and posted to community sites such as SlideShare.

Influencer outreach

According to McKinsey, marketing-inspired word of mouth generates twice the sales of paid advertising, along with customers that demonstrate a 37-percent higher retention rate. One of the best ways to get your content in front of a larger audience is through influencers. These are the people who are trusted leaders in your space and have established large followings themselves. If they share your content, it not only helps establish your company as a credible source of information but also allows you to expand your reach quickly. This is where inbound becomes, "all about the hustle," if you will. You need to create relationships with these people.

Paid media

As the content marketing space has become increasingly crowded over the past few years, we've seen the rise of paid content promotion in the form of sponsored content and native advertising. These channels offer great ways to give your content a boost and reach more targeted audiences.

LinkedIn is one of our preferred channels for B2B sponsored content because it allows you to be incredibly targeted, all the way down to a company, category, industry size, job title and seniority. According to LinkedIn, after Adobe started sponsoring posts, its audience was 50 percent more likely to agree that, "Adobe is shaping the future of content marketing."

Of course, LinkedIn won't be the right channel for every business, so assess your options and make an educated hypothesis that you can test when you start to promote your content. This way you can see an appropriate return on your ad spends.

Lead nurturing

Lead nurturing is incredibly important for a couple reasons. Inbound marketing is very different than traditional marketing in that your content will likely attract an audience that has a similar pain that you're addressing, but may not actually be a good fit for your business.

Lead nurturing is important here because it allows you to profile your leads over time and ensure that only leads that are a good fit are passed off to your sales team. The other reason is that lead nurturing is so important is that nurtured leads make 47 percent larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.

At New Breed, we like to break lead nurturing into two distinct types that we call speed one and speed two marketing, a term coined by Jake Sorofman of Gartner. "Speed one" refers to time-sensitive, product-focused campaigns with the goal of driving qualified prospects through the funnel as quickly as possible. "Speed two," is a broader content strategy that nurtures leads who are not yet ready to buy.

It's during these speed-two campaigns where your inbound strategy will make the most impact and your content can be used to build trust and engagement with your prospects over time. This is best done by creating nurture streams targeted toward each of your buyer personas to illustrate your value proposition and present them with options to re-engage. In some instances, these campaigns can even run for a full year, with an email cadence at 1, 4, 7, 14, 21, 30, and 45 days, and then every two weeks after that.

Marketing and sales alignment

It's been illustrated again and again that businesses that have aligned marketing and sales teams generate more revenue and see a larger ROI on their marketing and sales investment. This was most recently seen in HubSpot's State of Inbound report:

So what does this mean for your inbound marketing machine? It means that you need to build a strong marketing and sales operations infrastructure and align goals across teams, essentially sales team becomes marketing's newest and most important customer, or that a revenue team is formed.

Start by creating a service-level agreement between marketing and sales team that will dictate exactly when a lead will be passed to the sales team, how leads will be qualified, when they will be contacted and how many contact attempts must be made. Then implement a marketing-qualified lead workflow to manage this handoff, and ensure that your sales team is trained on how to follow up with these inbound leads.

Next, create the ability for feedback to be passed back and forth across teams, ensuring that sales had the opportunity to explain why leads have been disqualified and the sales-enablement tools that help progress the sale. This can take place in formal meetings between teams and also documented as properties within your CRM and marketing automation platforms.

Reporting

Now that your inbound marketing and sales machine is humming along, you want to be sure you can carefully measure its performance and fine tune the engine. The State of Pipeline Marketing report shows that "opportunities sourced" is the primary success metric for B2B marketers. This is because these bottom-of-funnel metrics provide a more accurate look into the true contribution of the marketing team than vanity or top-of-funnel metrics alone.

With opportunities sourced as your end goal, it's important to select which attribution model will allow you to best measure the success of the tactics you're executing on. This will allow you to measure exactly which tactics, channels, and campaigns are driving the best results.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

How to Build a B2B Inbound Marketing Machine

How to Build a B2B Inbound Marketing Machine

"inbound marketing had a 76 percent likelihood of being the marketing approach of choice for B2B companies,"

 

According to data from HubSpot's State of Inbound Marketing report, "inbound marketing had a 76 percent likelihood of being the marketing approach of choice for B2B companies," compared to outbound marketing tactics. That's an overwhelming percentage! However, the same report showed that proving marketing ROI is the single biggest challenge that marketers face today.

This disconnect suggests that it's time for B2B marketers to take a step back and look to inbound marketing fundamentals. That way marketers are setting themselves up for success (and showing their bosses the fruits of their labors).

In today's post, we're going to dive into the key elements that make the B2B inbound marketing machines hum.

What is B2B inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is the process of helping potential customers find your company, often before they are even in the purchasing stage of the buyer's journey. By creating content that your prospects love, you can build brand awareness and preference. By leveraging content that is relevant to your audience and targeted calls to action, you can pull this traffic through the funnel and ultimately drive new revenue for your business.

One of the biggest impacts of inbound marketing—that is often overlooked—is the increased opportunity for customer engagement. By developing content that your personas love, you are also educating and engaging your existing customer base. Too many marketers forget about their existing customers in their marketing strategy, but in leveraging inbound for engagement, you will grow net-new revenue and also increase expansion revenue from your existing customer base.

Goal setting

Unlike direct tactics such as PPC, inbound is somewhat more complicated to measure, so it's incredibly important that you have clear goals at the outset of any inbound program. For B2B companies, especially those with an inside sales team, it's best to work backward from your revenue goals to determine marketing's responsibilities. If you're looking for more guidance on how to do this, you can check out this post, where we discuss these steps in detail.

Data from Bizible has shown that the primary metric for B2B marketing success today is the number of opportunities sourced. So even if sourcing opportunities is the end goal, it's important to realize that content marketing and SEO take some time to build. One of my favorite illustrations of this is from SEO Moz, highlighting the "Gap of Disappointment."

Once you're through that gap, content can provide lasting and compounding returns on your investment in a way that no other marketing channel or tactic can.

The point being, if you're investing in inbound, make sure you give yourself enough time to reap the fruits of your labors.

It will take time but once it pays off, it pays off big. And if it helps, you can keep these statistics in mind while you push through the gap:

  • Companies with 30 or more landing pages generate 7 times more leads than those with fewer than 10
  • Companies that blog 15 or more times per month get 5 times more traffic than companies who do not blog
  • Companies that have more than 52 blog posts see an increase of leads by 77 percent

Buyer persona development

Market segmentation and buyer persona analysis go hand-in-hand. Whether your business is a young startup just getting traction, is looking for a beachhead to cross the chasm, or is an enterprise expanding into new markets, having an in-depth understanding of your audience will be the key to your success. This is especially true when success hinges on consistently producing content that addresses your leads' problems and keeps them coming back for more.

Once you have your goals, take the time to analyze and understand your target audience. Know who they are, and ask questions like:

  • Where they fit in the buying cycle
  • What their challenges are
  • How they would define success
  • Where they spend time online

Content creation

Based on your buyer persona research, you should have a good idea of the type of content that your buyer personas like to consume. It might be webinars, blog posts, whitepapers, e-books, templates, webinars or videos. The list goes on and on. However, for most B2B marketers, blogging becomes the foundation that attracts potential customers to your site and is the jumping off point to any other content you produce.

Blogging

When it comes to blogging, it all starts with keyword research. This means targetting longer semantic keyword queries rather than highly competitive and specific keywords. These long-tail keywords are perfect for targeting with blog posts, and allow you to target very specific keywords to your niche to drive highly qualified traffic. 

Before you start doing this keyword research yourself, I highly recommend reading Neil Patel's post, on how to uncover hidden gems.

The next question we hear all the time is, "How often do I need to publish blog posts?" First and foremost, prioritize quality over quantity. But when it does come to quantity, HubSpot data shows that B2B companies that published posts more than 11 times/month generate 1.75 times as many leads as those blogging 6–10, and 3.75 times more as those blogging 0–3.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor