Tag Archives: sales

Finding B2B Clients: 4 Strategies We Use

Getting more clientsAs a B2B sales and marketing agency, we are often asked how VA Partners finds new customers. Here are four tactics we use on an on-going basis to build a funnel of potential clients.

1. Use Inbound Marketing

Using a mix of blogs, white papers, email newsletters, website content, social media and SEO, we have built a great inbound lead generation process at VA Partners. We generate close to 60 inbound leads every month, qualify all our leads and then add them to the sales effort.

2. Be a Leader in the Local Startup Space

VA Partners has been in business since 2006 and since that time we have worked hard to build relationships with many well respected organizations. This has led to monthly speaking opportunities, mentoring opportunities, and leading peer-to-peer sessions. This is not a one-time effort, but an ongoing and consistent pursuit.

3. Network and Attend Events

The team is regularly at startup or small business events through the Toronto and GTA region, including KW, Halton and Hamilton. This has been a great way to meet prospects and potential partners.

4. Look for Sales Triggers on Social Media

Social media is a wonderful tool for growing firms. Every member of our team has a strong presence on social media. One of the great opportunities from a sales effort is finding sales triggers that can then be acted upon quickly. Early this year we signed a new B2B customer and also helped a client close a customer through a conversation that started on Twitter and Linkedin. Both of these opportunities closed in less than a month.

What strategies does your business use to find new clients?

Need help getting started with sales? Download our free Introduction to Startup Sales white paper to learn about researching prospects, using LinkedIn for sales and handling sales objections.

How to make social selling easier for your sales team

According to HubSpot, 56% of B2B marketers are planning to increase their social media spend in 2013. But what does the customer-facing sales team think? Do they see the value of social media for sales?

Despite the fact that ‘social selling’ is a pretty popular concept right now, there still seems to be a good chunk of salespeople out there that remain reluctant to embrace business to business social media as a sales tool. Why is this?

In a business world where the average buyer is now 70% of the way through the decision-making process before they even engage with a sales rep, it’s just crazy to ignore the potential of social media on the buying process.

At its core, marketing is about education and influence, and marketers should view the task of onboarding their sales teams no differently than any other campaign they run. As marketers, we need to do a better job of selling B2B social media to sales. And since we all know salespeople love quantifiable benefits, here’s a few statistics that should help your case.

Here are 4 ways that marketers can make social media easier for sales teams:

  • Social Media Training & Onboarding Getting started with social media can seem daunting at first, especially for salespeople in traditional industries. This step is all about change management. Marketers need to provide both initial training sessions and ongoing support to salespeople as required.  As a best practice, every onboarding session should provide the sales team with a 360-degree view of social selling, starting with why social matters and culminating with account set-up and industry best practices. Who should salespeople follow? What keywords should they target? What tools should they use to monitor chatter? How should they engage? What should they avoid doing?
  • Set Objectives Setting objectives for the sales team is a great way to make social stick. However, trying to boil the ocean is the quickest way to fail. When setting objectives for social media, start small. Set weekly, monthly, or quarterly activity goals for sales reps that escalate over time.  Measuring shares, posts, likes, RTs, and followers is a great place to start for a new user. Over time, you can shift these activity-based objectives into goal-based objectives, such as inbound leads and booked meetings.
  • Develop Easy to Follow Processes Marketers must develop easy-to-follow business to business social media processes that can be easily integrated into a salespersons average day. For example, a daily LinkedIn company page update or tweets from the corporate account followed with an email reminder can help keep social selling top of mind for busy salespeople.
  • Work With Sales to Identify Content Opportunities Here lies the true opportunity for marketers. By creating a strong feedback loop with front-line salespeople, marketers can gain insight into what prospects really care about, what works and what doesn’t. Involving sales in this process can not only increase the accuracy of the information, but also help to establish a sustainable content program in the long-run.

Ultimately, integrating social media into the business to business sales process should be a key objective of forward-thinking startups and growing B2B organizations. If you’re a marketer looking for help getting your sales team onboard with business to business social media, I’d love to talk about your challenges. Feel free to reach out to me at any time.

The pros and cons of early adopters

Anyone who’s studied startup marketing or is trying to grow a startup knows about the adoption cycle and the potential of ‘early adopters’. This blog post will share with you some of the key highlights of a recent LeanCoffeeTO meetup on how to maximize the value of your early adopters. It will also touch on the pitfalls to watch out for, since early adopters present both challenges and opportunities.

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Here are 3 ways to maximize the value of early adopters:

  • Allow Early Adopters to Guide Development Early adopters can often find new and unexpected ways to use your product. Attracting early adopters and being open to how early they interact with your offering will help guide your product or services development.
  • Collect Feedback to Improve Your Offerings Early adopters can help identify or confirm why your solution offers value for end users. Early adopters may even offer ideas on what could be added, removed or changed to improve the value proposition. Be sure to put this valuable information to use to refine your offering and bolster its chances of success. For added insight, consider validating your sales and marketing plan by meeting potential customers.
  • Target Specific Thought Leaders Getting thought leaders from your target industry onboard can be a great way to fuel your growth, add credibility, and quickly expand, as though leaders satisfied with your solution can be a great source of promotion. Consider popular posters on industry related forums, bloggers, and prominent social media users when deciding whose influence you’d like to leverage.

Here are 3 things to watch out for when attracting early adopters:

  • Avoid Attracting People Who Will “Adopt Anything Early” It’s great to attract new users, but attracting the right early adopters is they key to success. You can promote your offerings to specific, well-suited groups or forums, or offer a closed beta to help control who is allowed to be an early adopter. Doing so can help you ensure the opportunity to collect meaningful feedback from the right demographics.
  • Temper Early Adopter Feedback Early adopters may be overly excited by the idea of “new” and might provide you with an inaccurate evaluation of your solution. Temper the feedback of overzealous early adopters and, when possible, try to meet face to face in order to find the most meaningful feedback. Watch for early adopters that can identify both the positive and the negative qualities of your product or service. They are the ones most likely to offer some of the most valuable feedback.
  • Be Mindful of the Implications of Big Users The idea to take on a big user is certainly an attractive one. However, it can often come with a few often overlooked pitfalls, as big users often have big demands. Whether their demands stem from specific requirements on your systems, time, production capacities, or whether they are based on special customization or development that they want to see, when considering going after big users make sure you have the resources in place to accommodate the size of their needs.

Attracting early adopters can be an exciting time for any startup. Apply these tips to grow with confidence by getting the most out of your early adopters while avoiding overlooked obstacles and easy-to-make mistakes.

6 Top B2B Lead Generation and Prospecting Tools

Conversations are important. Before you can win a sale, you must always first start a conversation with your prospects. But how should you reach out to them, and what prospecting tools can help you along the way? At VA Partners, we work with a variety of clients who sell to a number of industries. Whether we are helping to sell email receipt solutions to ecommerce and retail organizations, or fleet management solutions to industrial and construction organizations, choosing the right B2B prospecting tool can be the key to getting your message heard.

Here are the mediums of contact we use and the tools we recommended to maximize value:

  • A CRM for All Mediums I want to begin this list by recommending the use of a CRM. Your CRM can be your best friend in making sure that you stay in touch with your prospects, allowing you to organize information, record interactions, and schedule future activities. My coworkers and I use Salesforce, and I personally recommend it. For tips on using a CRM be sure to check out our thoughts on the 5 best practices for utilizing a CRM for Sales.
  • Skype for Long Distance Calls If you’re a startup or small business, you’ll understand the value in finding ways to do more for less. At VA Partners, there are times when some of our clients choose to target international prospects or when an international inbound lead comes in. With Skype we can make more long distance calls to reach a wider area of prospects without running the risk of incurring significant long distance phone charges.
  • ContactMonkey for Emails ContactMonkey is the most recent tool I have tried and I strongly recommend it. ContactMonkey is an inexpensive plugin that can be associated with your Outlook or Gmail account and can show you when your e-mails are opened, what time and where they were opened, and how many times they were opened. Take advantage of ContactMonkey to become more responsive to your prospects’ interest.
  • Excel and Word for Mail To mention the use of traditional mail in today’s digital era might earn a few chuckles, but it is important to remember that your medium needs to match the industry and prospects that you want to target. Recently, on behalf of a client, a mail-out was sent to a number of industrial and construction prospects. Microsoft’s Excel and Word mail merge helped me create a professional looking document, complete with a personalized touch, in a fraction of the time it would have taken to do every letter manually. If you are interested in learning how to perform a mail merge Microsoft has instructions that can help you out.
  • HootSuite for Tweets If you use Twitter as part of your social selling toolkit, I recommend going one step further and trying HootSuite or other free social media management tools as a B2B prospecting tool. HootSuite allows you to maintain a strong digital presence throughout the day through the use of scheduled tweets, and can help you monitor activity through the use of custom searches. If your organization manages multiple twitter accounts, be sure to read up on how to be successful.
  • Mobile App for LinkedIn In sales, timing and responsiveness are critical. With LinkedIn’s mobile app you can have the power of LinkedIn wherever you go. Your mobile app can allow you to view accounts,  message contacts, look for information updates, and conduct research even while out of the office and away from your computer. Stay up to date on new developments with your prospects to help win new business.

Be sure to try these B2B prospecting tools to maximize the value of their respective mediums and boost your B2B selling power. If you enjoyed this post and are fired up to learn more about prospecting and social media tools, Venture Accelerator Partners has a number of free white papers you’re sure to love.

Why you should be using a social media content calendar

In a world of content marketing, the one with a plan is king.

Now that the production and curation of quality marketing content is widely viewed as the best way to engage customers and drive meaningful leads, it’s crucial to have a plan that lets you take advantage. And in a world where social media has become a primary means of communication, insightful timing and dogged consistency are the keys to success.

A social media content calendar, a detailed management schedule of how you plan to leverage social media to support your sales and marketing activities, will help keep you focused, save you time, and enhance your social media ROI.

Here are 3 reasons to create a social media content calendar:

  • Integrated Sales & Marketing Support Social media is a tool to support your sales and marketing strategy – not a sales and marketing strategy unto itself. Aimlessly tweeting or posting links to Facebook without an overarching strategy doesn’t add a whole lot of value. To be successful, social media can’t exist in a silo. It must be closely integrated with all other marketing and sales elements to be worthwhile, and a content calendar can help align your social media efforts with your greater strategy. For example, if you’re planning to launch a new product in February, use your content calendar to plan your social media efforts now. Plan to write a series of blogs that help define the problem and demonstrate the need for a solution; schedule a series of escalating tweets and Facebook posts that shift the conversation towards awareness and desire as the launch date nears; plan a Facebook contest that will spur continued engagement post-launch.
  • Better Efficiency & Organization As the number of social media tools used in B2B marketing continues to grow, it’s certainly a challenge to keep track of everything. At VA Partners, our social media content calendar lives in an Excel spreadsheet that gets updated and assessed on a week-to-week basis. Though seemingly simple, our content calendar saves us a huge amount of time and effort with regards to researching and scheduling social media activity. It’s a wonder for 3rd party content curation too, providing us with a guideline/template from which to source great material from top industry sources. Other key benefits are that it keeps us focused and on message, prevents overloading on a single topic, and keeps everyone on the team on the same page.
  • Take Advantage of Timing Different social media tools work best at different times. For example, research has shown that content posted to Facebook garners the most shares around 6:00pm, the most likes around 8:00pm, and Facebook also seems to be more effective at driving engagement on weekends. For its part, Twitter seems to be most effective at driving engagement between 3:00pm-6:00pm (in terms of RTs). Of course, the best time of day will vary for every company, but using a content calendar can help ensure you’re using the right tool at the right time to reach the right audience.

Given that it’s the holiday season, it also seems worthwhile to mention that looking ahead is never a bad idea. Identifying key dates throughout the year (whether they’re holidays, birthdays, customer milestones, etc.) will help ensure you don’t miss out on an opportunity to leverage a special day to engage with customers, employees, or partners.

Does your company use a social media content calendar?

If you’re looking for help streamlining your social media efforts, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

 

Choosing the Right Social Media Tools for Your Startup

By now we’re all aware of the importance of social media for marketing and sales. There’s no marketing tool that can rival Facebook’s usability and visual nature. Except for Pinterest. And Twitter’s interconnectivity and speed is unrivalled in the history of mass communications. LinkedIn is the only avenue for B2B marketing and sales that matters. The list goes on and on.

As a free (or nearly free) tool, social media has become a pillar of startup marketing and sales strategies. But with so many social media tools at your disposal, it can often be hard to know exactly where to start and which tools are worth your time and effort.

While I’m a firm believer that creative marketers can successfully leverage any platform, it’s a reality that some social media tools will be better than others for building relationships with the customers you need to reach. Here are 3 questions to ask yourself when considering what social media tools you should be utilizing:

1. Who is your target audience? Understanding who your target market is, where they are, and what they are looking for must be at the centre of your marketing, sales, and social media strategies. The medium is the message, and unique target markets will respond differently to different social media tools. If you’re a startup focusing on reaching young, fashion-savvy teenage girls, Pinterest is probably a good place to invest your time since 68.2% of Pinterest users are women, it’s a visual platform, and its social atmosphere should resonate.  If you sell standardized industrial widgets? Take a pass. It’s unlikely the foremen you sell your products to spend their workday browsing for the latest hip fashions. There are better uses for your time and marketing budget.

2. What are you trying to accomplish? The key question here is “What sort of behaviour am I looking to drive in my target market?” It’s immensely important to define your goals. If your focus is raising awareness, you should be using a different set of tools than if your focus is seeking out prospective customers to add to your sales funnel. It may sound odd, but some social media tools are inherently more ‘social’ than others. To create a marketing buzz, focus your efforts on social media tools that allow for easy sharing and are organized based on user interests like Twitter, Pinterest, or a blog.

3. What are the limitations of the available tools? Take the time to thoroughly understand what each social media tool can offer your business. Will your target market respond better to a link to a relevant website on Twitter or an interactive video on YouTube? Are the unique benefits of your products and services best communicated through text or photos? Answering questions like these will quickly narrow your focus. Many websites also provide businesses with a host of helpful tips and programs that can be of great value to a startup. Place an emphasis on tools that provide quality analytics programs so you can analyze your efforts and make adjustments as needed.

Don’t try and boil the ocean. As labours of love, startups are already time consuming enough. While social media can be helpful in prospecting for customers and nurturing relationships, not all businesses are well suited to every social media tool. The best social media tools for your startup are the ones that will help you connect and collaborate with customers, build the right relationships, and optimize your content for maximum ROI. To find out more about how Venture Accelerator Partners can help you with your marketing, sales, and social media, check out our website.

 

How to get the most from a networking event

Blog by my fellow co-worker Marc DeAmorim (@marcdeamorim)

Networking is an important aspect for both individuals and companies. It can allow you to build powerful and potentially profitable connections with numerous people. However, networking can prove to be challenging and at times even a little intimidating. I recently attended my very first networking event, SproutUp hosted by Sprouter here in Toronto and would like to offer my personal experience to help you get the most out of your networking events.

Below is a list of points that helped me get the most out of my very first networking event.

Define your networking success. It might sound odd to “define” what you would deem a networking success but it proves to be most helpful. By establishing what you want out of the networking event you have set a goal for yourself -one that you can work towards achieving. The best goals should be reasonable and measurable, such as collecting five business cards or talking to ten people, thus allowing you to clearly determine if you were successful.

Practice what you want to say. Going over what you want to say ahead of time will help you feel more comfortable while at the event. A good elevator pitch is a big help. With a little practice you will have helped to put yourself at ease and will have smoother conversations once at the event.

Arrive early to the event. This will allow you to become comfortable in the new setting and allow you the chance to ease into your networking event. You will also have the opportunity to introduce yourself as new people arrive, making for a great time to say hello.

Be friendly and be confident.If you are polite and friendly they will welcome the chance to get to know you, so don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. Be confident in knowing that these people are just like you -here to meet new people and make connections.

Swap business cards and make a note. The best way to swap information is through the exchange of a business card but to get even more out of a business card, I recommended making a short right on it.  Jot down something about the contact or their business to help you associate your conversation to their business card. This will be great for following up for future connections.

I am proud to say that my very first networking event was a success. My goal was to collect five business cards, which I was not only able to reach but exceed with an additional ten cards. I felt accomplished knowing that I had reached my goal and look forward to the chance to try again at some of the events in June . Additionally, I met a lot of new and wonderful people at the event, who I have since connected with over LinkedIn, e-mail or Twitter, and I learned some savvy business points from  Sean Ellis (@SeanEllis) on how to avoid common start-up marketing problems. I gained a lot from attending this networking event and feel that the above points really helped me have such a successful night.

Networking can be an exciting opportunity and with the help of these tips I hope that you can get the most out of all your networking events. If you would like to learn about more great events every month, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

To learn more about our part-time sales, marketing and social media services for startups and growing organizations, please visit our website.

 

Pinterest for B2B: What to know and how to start

Many small businesses ask themselves the same question when deciding whether or not they should embark in the newest social media platform: Is it worth my time? I recently read an ebook by Hubspot on Pinterest for B2B. For those who are unfamiliar with Pinterest, it is a social platform that relies on the sharing of visuals images. On the surface, it is easy to see how Pinterest benefits B2C companies, but how may it helped B2B organizations?

Below are is a list of various questions you may be asking yourself about Pinterest. I have provided a few points that may help you make a decision about fitting Pinterest into your marketing strategy:

What is Pinterest?

  • Visual social media platform where users share, like, comment and follow people and boards to pass along information in the form of images and videos.
  • How popular is it? Pinterest saw 155% growth in one month, beating out Linkedin and Google+

How does Pinterest fit into the marketing strategy of B2B organizations?

  • What kind of businesses should be considering it? Businesses that highly utilize videos and images in their core messaging. Keep in mind that you want to be where your customers are. Do some research beforehand to see if your current customers and prospects are using the platform.
  • Pinterest provides connectivity to Facebook and Twitter. Users can sign up using their Facebook or Twitter account, therefore, posting their Pinterest activity to these separate social networks as well

I set up a profile, what now?

  • Optimize your profile: Include your company name, logo, brief description, links, keep the setting ‘hide your Pinterest profile from search engines’ checked OFF
  • Want to be successful? Avoid blatant self-promotion. Even a sales person will tell you that no one likes to be ‘sold to.’ Keep your content educational and informative.
  • Start by creating pinboards in order to build a reach and network. A pinboard is like a Twitter list; it is a tool used to consolidate information pertaining to one particular topic of interest. Remember to utilize your company’s keywords in the title of pinboards for SEO purposes and to clearly communicate what your board is for.

I’ve set up a profile. Is there anything else I should know?

  • There are 2 kinds of follows:
    • 1) Follow a board: Users will receive all information posted on a particular pinboard. It’s similar to following a list on Twitter.
    • 2) Follow a user: Users will receive updates every time your company posts an update. It’s similar to following someone’s Twitter handle.
    • When developing your pinboards, remember some of these great tips:
      • Feature visual content; Pinterest is a visual social network
      • Create pinboards about your company so users can see the people behind the brand. Example: Executive Managament board with headshots of your team.
      • Utilize strong visuals from blog articles to promote your blogs
      • Create a user generated pinboard; allow other Pinterest users to add to your boards
      • Utilize hashtags; Pinterest supports the use of hashtags.
      • Measure, Measure, Measure! Remember to measure your efforts by using a tool such as Google Analytics. Identify how many users are coming to your website from Pinterest and set goals for inbound traffic. For example, increase your Pinterest inbound traffic by 20% per month. Also use analytics to understand what works and what doesn’t; are people visiting your blogs from Pinterest and not your newsletter page?

Hubspot has a lot of great resources if you’re looking to brush up on your marketing knowledge, or if you’re interested in learning something new. Give us a shout if you need assistance putting your thoughts into action and want to start executing a strong marketing strategy. To get weekly tips, sign up for our RSS feed and take a look at our blogs on sales, marketing and social media.

For more information on our part-time sales and marketing services, visit our website.