Entrepreneurs, startups and emerging businesses need to define and test their markets. There were multiple criteria recommended in the Business Basics Chapter of Your Virtual Success. Is the recommended criteria written five years ago still valid today?
- Vetting the value proposition
- Is it a want or a true need
- Will prospects pay the target selling price
- How does it compare to competing products and services
- If it’s an innovation, is the market ready to adopt it
- Is it affordable for a sufficient number of prospects
- Is there current demand for this product or service
- How difficult to reach the buyer
- How long is the sales cycle
- Can you collect up front (deposits)
Little seems to have changed in this list – it is as valid then as it is today. If we were to apply this to an emerging agency, they would need to determine which lines of coverage to offer, the size of the target prospect by revenues or employees, would they need to add experts to their sales efforts (compliance expert for ACA for example), how difficult would it be to reach a given decision maker (risk manager, owner, VP HR, ect.), and the competition in their given target sales area. For more information on Your Virtual Success, or my new book Sell More & Work Less, visit startupselling.com/book.html. For assistance with b2b marketing or insurance web marketing, call (518) 222-6392.
Posted on November 30th, 2010 by John Scranton
As we close the books on November 2010, StartUpSelling has achieved a record sales month. We were able to sign more clients this month than any other in our 7 year history, and renewed a few client contracts along the way. The important question that I am asking myself this morning is – how did we do it? Identifying this will allow us to reproduce those results, and I wanted to share what I came up with to help you build your business. This record growth was achieved by executing our Integrated Marketing Strategy, and making it as easy as possible for prospects to become clients. Here are the key elements to the process:
- Outbound Marketing– Our monthly eMarketing and web seminar series provides consistent outreach to our target prospects. Consistent and effective outreach has been our most productive and reliable source of prospects. We prefer the webinar approach to cold calling, because it builds momentum and a foundation for future growth.
- Inbound Marketing – Social Media Marketing and Search Engine Optimization have produced a steady stream of inbound leads (with no hard cost). This makes our lives much easier when trying to hit our weekly and monthly appointment/demo goals. Refining our ability to quickly qualify these inbound leads has made this an effective source for new business.
- Warm Calls – I still make cold calls periodically when I think there may be an opportunity, but I spend time every day making warm calls. Successful outbound and inbound marketing campaigns have created a library of prospects that know who we are and have a level of interest in our offerings. Then it becomes a matter of finding the right time to talk or engage.
- Simple Proposals – By using very simple proposals with minimal legalese, we make it as easy as possible for clients to sign. Having contracts hung up in legal is a nightmare for salespeople, and providing a brief and concise legal clause minimizes the possibility that this will happen. You can find a sample agreement in Alan Blume’ Your Virtual Success.
The integrated approach of blending outbound and inbound marketing campaigns with consistent warm calls has allowed us to build a robust pipeline. Simplicity in the signing process has assisted our efforts to close new business. These elements have been the key contributing factors to our record month, and I believe would help many salespeople improve their results. Happy selling!
The CEO of my company, Alan Blume, recently published a book titled Your Virtual Success: Finding Profitability in an Online World. Since he signs my paychecks, any reader of this blog would assume that a book review would likely be biased (and they would be right). So instead, I will simply introduce the book’s content and share a personal story relating to the concepts shared in the text.
Your Virtual Success provides business people with a how to guide to virtualize your organization. The reader is exposed to web-based cloud computing tools that allow businesses to grow faster, more profitably and with less risk. Resources are shared showing how to hire and manage talent effectively in home-based offices without ever meeting employees in person. This model has dramatically increased the productivity, flexibility and responsiveness of the author’s business – while also improving his lifestyle.
Now lets talk about MY virtual success. I spent five years working as an insurance agency producer. I enjoyed the work and was never unhappy with the requirements of the job, although my efforts gradually increased as my book of business grew. By my last year, I was driving 40,000 miles annually. I left home at 7am and did not return before 9pm most days. I accepted this as the requirements of success. My wife was very supportive, but I am sure she did not enjoy eating alone most evenings.
Fortunately, I was introduced to StartUpSelling, Inc. – a completely virtual business. It did not take long to see this was a tremendous opportunity for both career advancement and a lifestyle upgrade. In my new role as VP Business Development for StartUpSelling, I still spend as much time as possible trying to generate sales. However, I am able to be significantly more productive in a 40 hour virtual week than I was in a 60 hour week on the road. I am more responsive to clients and prospects and my closing ratios have improved.
Most importantly – I eat dinner with my wife every single night. All other factors aside, this reward alone has made going virtual a great success for me.
If you would like to learn more about the virtual business model and how it may help you and your business, please visit Amazon or any major book retailer. Heres to Your Virtual Success!
I am taking tomorrow off to spend the day with my wife and newborn daughter. As today winds down, I am thinking about what we might do with my day off. In the afternoon we are going out to lunch and likely heading into the Adirondacks. In the morning I will probably start out my day with coffee and a newspaper. And then I realized…
Newspapers are such an inefficient and ineffective medium that the only time I can afford to bother with them is when I am on vacation. On regular business days I rely on a quick check of CNN, CNBC and Twitter – then its time to focus on revenue generating activities. Time wasted combing through papers is time lost.
What parts of your business can become more virtual, digital, effective and efficient? Find them or eventually others will.
As Facebook approaches the billion user mark, let’s examine some fascinating facts about the social media phenomenon.
- It’s estimated that Facebook will hit 1 Billion users in 2012
- February 4, 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched “Thefacebook”, originally located at thefacebook.com.
- Membership was initially restricted to students of Harvard College, and more than half the undergraduate population at Harvard registered within the first month
- in 2004 Napster founder Sean Parker became Facebook’s president. It received its first investment later that month from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.
- On October 24, 2007, Microsoft announced that it had purchased a 1.6% share of Facebook for $240 million, valuing Facebook at approximately $15 billion
- In March 2011, Facebook reportedly removes 20,000 profiles a day from their site for infractions like spam and inappropriate content
- About 50% of active users log on to Facebook in any given day
- People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook
- There are almost 1 billion objects that people interact with
- An average user creates 90 pieces of content each month
- More than 250 million people per month engage with Facebook on external websites
- An average of 10,000 new websites integrate with Facebook every day (since social media plugins were made available)
- More than 2.5 million websites have integrated with Facebook
- There are more than 250 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices
- Facebook’s current Market Cap is about $66 billion (that would be about $66 per user this year).
Assuming these estimates are correct, that would place Facebook in the hands of about 1 in every 7 people globally. Facts were gathered from a variety of sources including Facebook, Wikipedia and other internet sources
For almost a decade, I’ve enjoyed the flexibility and increased productivity of a work from home office environment, conducting all of my business virtually and efficiently. In fact, my entire team is virtually based across the US. So it came as no surprise that a recent study concurred with this sentiment, as many people now consider themselves to be more productive when working away from their traditional offices. In a recent Puget Sound Business Journal article, Todd Bishop discussed the Microsoft Telework study, “Sixty percent of respondents to the Microsoft Telework survey – conducted among 3,600 employees in 36 cities nationwide – say they are actually more productive and efficient when working remotely,” Microsoft says today said in a summary of the findings. “With less time spent commuting and fewer cubicle ‘drive bys’ causing distractions, respondents say, more time can be spent on the task in front of them.”
Boston, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Atlanta were listed as top telecommuting cities, while Seattle didn’t even make the Top 10 list. This was a tad ironic, as Microsoft is pushing their virtual tools including many of their cloud based solutions. Notable was Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Yammer, a collaboration solution that would play well in the virtual business market. Microsoft said that only 41 percent of the companies responding had established policies for remote working, offering a large and untapped user base for virtual tools.
While millions commute in a stressful and limited productivity environment, virtual workers begin their day with minimal effort and in many cases at their preferred and optimum starting time. This should mean less gas, less pollution, lower costs, less stress and improved productivity. For those companies and jobs which can accommodate a virtual “telework” program, sooner is better, especially with all the new cloud computing tools available today.
Even the IRS, a bastion of bureaucracy, has realized the future needs to be virtual as they test video-conferencing for tax audits. This seems like a very logical and more efficient method for the IRS and reminds me of a discussion I had recently with a CPA. He had expressed surprise that an IRS auditor drove an hour to visit him, to ask a few simple questions about one of his clients. These questions were readily addressed in 5 minutes (literally), and the tax man then got back in his car, and drove an hour back to his office. Had this been a web meeting or two-way video conferencing call, the tax man would have saved 2 hours and plenty of gas.
As reported by Blake Ellis on CNNMoney.com today, “In what could be an indication of things to come, the IRS launched a pilot program at the end of last year that allows taxpayers to use two-way video conferencing for assistance with tax questions and problems. The Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent watchdog arm of the IRS, is already calling for the agency to expand to virtual audits. The IRS says it needs to evaluate the success of the pilot program before making a decision. The pilot program is currently being tested in 12 locations, where taxpayers needing assistance can log into a computer enabled with video-conferencing.”
So, if your business has yet to embrace web meetings, video conferencing and webinars over seminars, you may be in danger of falling behind a true laggard, US Government Bureaucracy! When I speak with businesses who still embrace the old cold calling, canvassing, car driving, traffic jam methods of selling, I try to convey the importance of virtual business, but now I have the added ammunition that even the IRS is working on this approach. Good for them – and good for your business too.
For more information on Web Marketing go to StartUpSelling for Insurance Agency Marketing or JurisMarketing for Law Firm Web Marketing. For more information on web selling tips, go to Sell More & Work Less.
Real-World Scenario (Excerpt from Sell More & Work Less)
About ten years ago, I helped a company develop their virtual sales and marketing strategy. Its solution, let’s describe it as a client behavioral research solution, was new to the market and required an evangelical sale. The businesses targeted for this new solution had to be convinced to take a leap of faith and try a new method to analyze their customer behavior. In addition, this method was a completely Web-based, SaaS solution. Evangelical sales are common with technology companies seeking to sell a breakthrough product (e.g., eMarketing solutions, MP3 downloads, cloud computing, electronic reading devices, and even DVRs). The first step in the process was to identify the target market and build a suspect list, just as I mentioned above. The CEO had an insurance background and landed a few insurance company clients. We decided this would be the first niche market to target. How did we build a comprehensive virtual suspect list? We utilized several top 100 industry lists and imported them into a simple Microsoft database. We searched for on-line insurance company listings and added them to our virtual suspect list. Then, we called every one of these insurance organizations (there were about 300 initially targeted). These targeted cold calls resulted in up-to-date contact information, key executives, titles, direct phone numbers, and emails. These were often gathered by offering the suspects an opportunity to attend an informational Web seminar. Within a few short months, the database was quite comprehensive, and the suspect list began to yield a compelling prospect list. Utilizing my Prospect Scorecard system and qualifying acronym, we were able to identify possible buyers, convince these buyers to review the solution in a Web seminar or one-to-one web meeting, and then move them to the qualification phase. Out of the 300 initial suspects targeted, we were able to convince over 150 to review the solution in our first year of sales efforts, and about 20 percent of them purchased within that same year. An impressive result for a self-funded, emerging operation selling 99 percent virtually, without travel or face-to-face meetings and the costs and inefficiencies associated with that model. Today, many years after we helped this client create a target suspect list, they continue to dominate their niche.