David Leonhardt’s SEO and Social Media Marketing

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TrueTwit marketing is evil genius

Nov 30, 2015 - filed under marketing 4 Comments

Why does every story have to have an evil genius? TrueTwit has done something visionary, but you’ll have to get past my rant first.

I am impressed by something TrueTwit is doing these days, and has been for the past month, in the field of marketing. For those who know what I think of TrueTwit, this might come as a surprise. For those who have never had the pleasure to hear me rant on this topic, now’s your chance.

What makes this marketing visionary?TrueTwit is a service the forces people fill in a captcha field before they can follow you. Here is how TrueTwit works:

  1. You follow somebody.
  2. Truetwit sends you an automated direct message (DM) with a link: “To validate click here“.
  3. You click the link, and land on a TrueTwit page
  4. You successfully complete the captcha on that page, and now you are finally following the person that you had actually followed three steps ago.

Honestly, this is a make-work project that only the government could have come up with. Here is what TrueTwit does in its own words:

Twitter spam is a drag. What if you could know for sure that your followers are truly human, and not some bot? TrueTwit is designed to help you:

Verify people from robots
Avoid Twitter spam
Save time managing your followers

Why do I not normally have a whole bunch of really nice things to say about TrueTwit. For starters, there is the whole principle of it. My job on social media is to manage what I do, not what somebody else does. I manage whom I follow, not who follows me. Who cares if one robot or a million robots follow me, as long as I don’t follow any robots.

It’s the bots that I follow that can plug up my tweet stream. It’s the bots that I follow that can DM me. I don’t want to follow any bots.

The bots that follow me can’t touch me, so why would I care about them? People using TrueTwit are a little confused on this point; good thing there is somebody eager and willing to exploit that confusion.

  • Does TrueTwit verify people from robots, as it claims? Yes, but not the right people, and well, I’ll get to the accuracy in just a moment.
  • Does it avoid Twitter spam, as it claims? No! Spam can come only from the people you follow. And from TrueTwit on their behalf, by the way.
  • Does it save time managing your followers, as it claims? No, because you don’t manage your followers; they manage themselves. You manger your own actions, not those of other people.
  • Does it even work at all?  Uh, well… OK, I’ll get to that in a minute.

If TrueTwit was just benignly useless, why bother ranting?

Unfortunately, TrueTwit create problems. I hinted at issues of accuracy a moment ago. TrueTwit not only prevents bots from following you, but it prevents real people from following you, too.

  1. First, some people do not look at their DMs. They never even know that they need to go through an extra step of bureaucracy to do what they thought they had already done – follow you.  Thanks to TrueTwit, those people will never be your followers. Or will they?
  2. Second, some people see the DM that TrueTwit sends them, but ignore it without even reading it along with the rest of the automated DM spam that too many people send to new followers. Oh, boy! Do you see the irony there? This service that inaccurately claims to “avoid Twitter spam” is possibly the biggest spammer on Twitter, sending out automated DMs to everybody who follows anybody using the service.
  3. Third, some people see the DM that TrueTwit sends them, but ignore it because, as Brad Knutson puts it, “there are so many email and social media scams out there today, most people have been convinced that any suspicious link that is sent to them will lead them to a site that will steal their credit card information and first born son.”
  4. Fourth.  It turns out that TrueTwit validation doesn’t actually stop anyone from following you.  Not even bots.  It even says so in the FAQ: “If someone doesn’t complete the validation request, they can still follow you.”  And it says it again: “Twitter allows anyone to follow anyone else, and there isn’t much TrueTwit can do about it.” It makes everybody get “validated”, sends people tons of spam, and doesn’t do anything.  Nothing.  It doesn’t even stop one bot.

Not only do you gain nothing by using TrueTwit, but you lose followers and become a DM spammer.

If you really want to know just how bad TrueTwit is, you can read Mary C. Long’s post from a couple years ago. It goes into the kind of detail I will never have the patience to suffer through.

TrueTwit , clever marketing

Yes, that’s quite a rant, but now TrueTwit has caught my eye for a very different reason and I am very, very impressed with their marketing.  It’s not so much “their” marketing in the sense that it is not their services being marketed.  But they have begun selling what might just be the cleverest advertising on the Net. In fact, I would call it visionary.

The first sample of this I saw was from British Airways:

British Airways Brand Marketing

That is the captcha you have to fill in to follow the person whom you thought you had already followed three steps ago.  You no longer have to type in some illegible combination of characters three times in an attempt to get it right.  Instead, you just have to type in “British Airways”.  Unlike advertising that you just read or watch, this is advertising you have to type in.  You have to mentally engage with the brand.  If you follow a lot of people, you’ll have British Airways etched into your mind the next time you want to fly somewhere.

That is clever marketing.

The next sample I saw was for Best Buy, a store whose branding actually obscures what it does. In case you don’t know, it sells electronics.  When it first came to Canada, I just assumed it was a grocery or pharmacy chain, because hitherto those were the only verticals that used pricing words in their names: PriceChopper, Save-on Foods, Pharmasave, Pharmaprix, PirceSmart Foods, No Frills, Value Drug Mart, Familiprix, Lucky Dollar Foods, Valu-Mart, SaveEasy, Lucky Dollar Foods, Thrifty Foods, Uniprix…and that’s enough, because I am running out of breath!

Best Buy predictably took a different approach from British Airways.  Rather than type in the company name, it wants us to type in “lowest price”.  Just in case we don’t understand what “Best Buy” means, we get to stare at the logo while typing in “lowest price”.  After doing this a few dozen times, do you think we’ll get the message?  Obviously Best Buy is banking that we will, and I suspect they are right.

Best Buy Brand Marketing

Then I saw this Club House ad, and clearly they are trying to introduce Twitter users to their Club House Skillet Sauce.  In fact, we have to type out those four words just to follow the person whom we thought we had already followed three steps ago.

This might be effective, or it might actually make people upset with Club House for making them type so many letters. British Airways make us type just two words.  Best Buy makes us type just two words, wisely sticking to “lowest price” and dropping the longer spelling trap “guarantee” to avoid people cursing their name.

Club House Brand Marketing

Then I saw this American Express ad, and they seam to figure people can handle four words, too.  I am sure the folks at American Express and Club House are a lot smarter than me when it comes to these things, but I know how much people hate filling in captchas, and how quickly they’ll forget that this is better than typing some illegible combination of characters and how soon they’ll start grumbling about it being easier to type “lowest price” than “The Gold rewards Card”.  Just sayin’.

American Express Brand Marketing

Advertising sucks. Either it is disruptive to the target market, forcing people away from what they were trying to pay attention to, or it is useless to the advertiser because it fails to force people away from what they were to paying attention to.

But this is advertising that engages the target market. It’s no more disruptive than typing some illegible combination of characters into the captcha box, and it arguably saves people some headaches. Thank you British Airways. Thank you best Buy. Er…I’ll get back to you, Club House and Amex.

[Tweet “Visionary #branding: Branded captchas are ads that engages the target market, even arguably saving people some headaches.]

The best part of this is that TrueTwit can serve up this visionary advertising to a captive audience of suckers they spam every day through other people’s accounts with the message that they have to get “validated”.

Wait, no.  That’s not the best part, come to think of it.  Actually, that really sucks.  But would this idea not be amazing and visionary if applied to a real website that people actually wanted to go to and had a valid reason for making people fill in their captchas?

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Click Here! Two action words worth using

Oct 26, 2015 - filed under SEO No Comments

Some people will tell you to avoid linking with “Click here” as anchor text.  But look what you would be missing.

If you are old enough to remember the olden days when SEO was “a thing” – before it became something to carefully ignore with a studious sideways glance – we were all counseled to avoid using generic terms like “click here” as anchor text on links.  “Click here” was a dirty word.

Even I was counseling against that approach, and with two very good reasons.

First, the search engines could see what a page was about by reading it, but they also wanted to know what other people thought the page was about.  So they would read the anchor text of hyperlinks pointing to the page for clues.

If the anchor text said “content marketing for real estate promotion”, the search engines would assume that the page was at least somewhat about “content marketing for real estate promotion”.  The page would therefore rank higher for “content marketing for real estate promotion” and for related phrases, such as “content marketing for real estate” and “real estate promotion”.

Using keyword-rich anchor text made good SEO sense.
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Your website’s need for speed

Aug 24, 2015 - filed under website conversion 15 Comments

If it seems like life has been getting faster every day, that’s because it has. And if it seems like the Internet is getting faster every day, that’s because it is. We’ve moved from pedal boats to rocket ships.

As the Internet speeds up, your competitors speed up, too. And that creates expectations on the part of your two most important audiences – your customers and visitors, and the search engines on whom you probably rely to bring you customers and visitors.

Public expectations are pretty harsh these days. With life so fast-paced, is it any wonder that 47 percent of the public expects your web page to load in two seconds or less? Or that 57 percent will abandon your website if it take three seconds or more to load? Or that the reason half your customers don’t complete their purchases, but rather abandon their shopping carts, is due to impatience with load times:

“Roughly 70% of online shopping carts are abandoned before checkout, and new findings suggest that slow load times are the number-one culprit.”

As long as people can get what they want at the speed they want elsewhere, they won’t put up with a slow shopping cart. Slow pages cut conversions. They also increase bounce rates…and that can affect your search engine rankings.

Does your website have enough speed?

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Four ways to get your retail business online

Aug 11, 2015 - filed under marketing 2 Comments

It’s almost comical to imagine it, but there are still a ton of businesses that are not online.  I know, right?  That includes retailers.  But it is never too late to get online and discover how the Internet can make your business take off, as Brian Young discovered.  He got punched in the face, but you don’t have to take it that far to see why getting online makes good business sense.

Here are a few ways to quickly get online.  There is so much more than this that you can do, of course, if you want to be serious about it.  But this is a start.

Get your retail store online Read the rest of this entry »

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Are you getting paid enough on client projects?

Jul 22, 2015 - filed under clients 15 Comments

Do you track your time for client projects? Should you? And if so, how best to do it?

Tracking the time you spend on a client’s project might be easy for you. Or it could be a nightmare. The more a person works in a silo, the easier it is. The more a person multi-tasks, the harder it is.

There are two reasons why one would want to track project time. The first is the most obvious; if you charge by the hour, you need to track those hours. If you don’t, you won’t get paid for your work and the clients will not be satisfied as to how much work they are paying for.

The importance of time tracking
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Email marketing – Do you GetResponse or focus on Constant Contact?

Jul 16, 2015 - filed under email 4 Comments

Once you choose an email provider for your blog or business, you are pretty much committed. So best make a very informed decision before you sign on, says guest blogger Gail Gardner.

Do you think all email providers are the same? There are some surprising differences. Choosing the best fit is important because moving an email list can result in losing a huge chunk of your subscribers.

Businesses can take a shortcut to choosing the right solution by using the same strategy for solution providers they use for choosing products: peer reviews.

Instead of using technology to automate processes, think about using technology to enhance human interaction. – Tony Zambito

Instead of popping over to Amazon, focus on sites that compare solutions. While some “Top 3″ type sites choose the three with the highest affiliate commissions, there are legitimate sites that focus on comprehensive reviews. Read the rest of this entry »

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Infographics as business tools

Jun 15, 2015 - filed under marketing 6 Comments

People think of Infographics as a viral Web tool, but they have a much wider application and a richer history.  Recently, we have been creating Infographics for use in a variety of exciting offline applications, some of which I will be sharing today.

Even as a child, I recall Infographics in newspapers and magazines.  Often they would be maps of unstable areas of the world, trying to explain to us North Americans what was going on visually (because so many of the place names meant nothing to us without the map).  I recall Infographics that helped explain economic trends, because numbers would be confusing without a visual display.

USA Today Infographics

Infographics really came into their own when USA Today was first published. That publication built a lot of its brand on quick and easy-to-digest news, which included visual representations of key take-aways.

To this day, Infographics are an integral part of newspapers and news magazines.  In fact, there is even a blog dedicated to newspaper Infographics.

But for some reason, we talk about Infographics almost exclusively as a viral tool on the Internet. Read the rest of this entry »

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The 5 rules of blogger outreach

May 18, 2015 - filed under guest post 15 Comments

Want to get the attention of a blogger? Here are five rules, along with a little insight into my own reactions to the non-stop spam I get from people like you.

Almost every day, somebody emails me offering to write a free post for this blog. Sometimes they offer a list of titles. Sometimes they tell me to name the topic, and they’ll write something for me. Sometimes they are not even in my niche. They obviously don’t read my blog.

And that is the first rule of blogger outreach. Know your target audience. Read the blog.

If people were to read this blog, they would understand that I don’t publish same-old, same-old drivel. I publish opinionated analysis of the state of online marketing. That’s right, my opinions; this post is a fine example of how I write for my own blog. I occasionally do publish a guest post, but it is certainly not from a stranger taking a pot shot and hoping that something sticks. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you the two ways to become a guest blogger here.

The second rule is to be very, very respectful.

Whether you come begging or pushing a wheelbarrow full of gold, you are seeking a favor from the blogger. You are hoping to be published, to get exposure, to build a link, to build traffic, or to get Austin Moon’s attention by posting something on my blog. Well, maybe not get Austin Moon’s attention on my blog – that’s would be someone else’s niche.

Blogger outreach done wrong

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Redden up your website

Apr 22, 2015 - filed under web design 2 Comments

Red is a powerful color, evoking passion and warnings, excitement and action. But is it a color you would want to identify your business? Would you want your logo in red? Would you want your main website colors to include red? Would you want to brand yourself red?

In many cases, the answer is yes. In other cases, the answer is not. Let’s look at the psychological meanings of red and see if the color is right for you.

SPOILER ALERT – if red is not an ideal main color for your business, you still should use red in one specific case – even if red is the worst possible color for your business. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s first look at red as a main color for your brand.

RED color for website

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Interview with Mike Ellsworth about social media for B2B

Apr 08, 2015 - filed under social media 1 Comment

Today we are interviewing Mike Ellsworth, a partner in Social Media Performance Group and one of the people who really “gets” social media.  He is one of three authors of  The Infinite Pipeline: How to Master Social Media for Business-to-Business Sales Success.  It’s not just about getting shares on social media; it’s about doing business on social media, and by “business”, I don’t mean just selling.  And that’s where we ask Mike…

What motivated you to write the book?

My business partner, Robbie Johnson, has had great success using social selling techniques in his business. Back in 2011, when the first version of the book was written, social selling was not as well known as it is today, and we thought that a book would be a good way to help sales people understand how social media could drastically improve their sales results. As we got into the writing, it occurred to me that just learning how to use social media for business-to-business sales might not be enough to ensure that company sales efforts would be successful. That was when we combined social selling techniques with internal and external social business communities, a concept we’d written about before, in our Be a Person series.

Social Business Communities

What’s the difference between internal and external social business communities?

The Infinite Pipeline concept involves creating communities and adopting organizational changes to enable sales people and sales management to make social selling sustainable. In the Infinite Pipeline, not only do sales people get trained on social selling techniques, but the company creates two communities: an internal, sales-oriented community for everyone who touches the sales effort (like marketing, communications, product management and so on); and an external, problem-solving community to help customers and prospects resolve their issues.

The internal community foster communication about sales opportunities, customer problems, and encourages anyone in the company to contribute leads and information about possible sales influencers.

The external community is just about solving customer problems. A company may want to ensure their sales support and customer service people are heavily involved in this community along with sales people.. The idea is that, if the company becomes known for solving problems, sales will follow. Typical selling behavior is prohibited in the external community.

The book contains a long list of external B2B communities developed with the tremendous help of Vanessa DiMauro of Leader Networks, who is experienced in setting these communities up.

Have you found this to be successful?

Without the organizational commitment that Infinite Pipeline requires, we expect inconsistent application and success with social selling techniques. In fact, we predict that in five years, fewer than 20 percent of sales organizations will have realized the benefits of social selling.

Sales people, as a rule, aren’t early technology adopters. Their skill set is more on the relationship side, and so that’s what we emphasize in the book. We compare and contrast old-style sales techniques like Eat What You Kill and Farming to the Infinite Pipeline and show how our system can work with each.

We’re readying for publication two more Infinite Pipeline books: a sales executive version that goes deeper into how to lead the social selling change, and a deluxe sales executive version that has lots more practical implementation advice.

Why did you go with three authors?

Social Media Performance Group has three principals and all three of us contributed in some way to the book. I am the primary author and worked closely with Robbie, the subject matter expert, and Ken Morris, who helped give a sanity check based on his extensive experience as an HR executive.

Is there a real-world example, a company that has followed your process?

There is no company that has followed our process as of yet. There are plenty who have implemented external communities, and we have a list of them in the book. The list was created by us in collaboration with Vanessa DiMauro of Leader Networks, who is an experience community builder.

There are plenty of companies that have internal communities, many of which are dedicated to sales, and some of them have done social selling training. A good example is Oracle, where our contributing author Jill Rowley let a social selling transformation a couple of years ago. She used Jamie Shanks’ Sales for Life social selling curriculum to train hundreds of Oracle sales people and used Oracle’s internal communities to reinforce, along with Shanks’ standard training followups.

But the innovation proposed in the book—our Infinite Pipeline Relationship Development Process combined with both and internal and external community—has yet to be implemented fully anywhere.

What tasks would the internal, sales-oriented community typically undertake?

One key to the internal community is to leverage the relationships company employees already have. So a sales person might ask a question such as, “I’m looking to engage Hugh Bigend of XYZ Corp. Anybody know him or an influencer?” Employees might also volunteer information about target companies and people they know who work there.

Another use of the internal community is to solve customer support issues. I wrote a blog post on transforming the help desk, that talks about integrating social media into customer support processes. An issue could come in to the external problem-solving community and be taken care of there by customer service people. They could alternately turn to the internal community to elicit the help of other parts of the organization, such as product development, production, or marketing.

The internal community also offers a collaboration space where sales people can ask marketing for materials to curate to their customers and prospects or to jointly work on messaging based on what sales people find in the field. We’re under no illusions that just having a space like this will end the war between sales and marketing, because that’s the biggest transformation that we propose in the book, and one that requires a revamping of compensation for all parties involved in influencing sales.

A fourth use of the internal community is to keep everyone up to date with the latest in their industry, in social media or social selling, and in what people are saying about the company by contributing the results of social listening.

What tasks would the external, problem-solving community typically undertake?

SAP is a great example of using external communities to solve customer problems and also to enable customers to help find solutions. We use SAP as a key case study in the book because they’ve been doing this for 12 years. Here’s the case study from the book:

Infinite Pipeline CoverIn the B2B space, since 2003, SAP has pioneered using external communities to create and prototype new products with their Idea Place and SAP Research Prototypes communities. Their framework integrates their third-party social presence with their community presence.

A key to succeeding with Infinite Pipeline external problem-solving communities is to ensure that your goals for the community support your company’s goals. SAP’s strategic goals include:

  • Build and Harness Communities—of prospects, users, developers and partners
  • Amplify awareness and purchase consideration—to bring SAP into purchase consideration set
  • Enhance demand generation—by enhancing lead gen and nurturing programs
  • Accelerate adoption and end-user nurturing—via richer and proactive engagement of end-users
  • Extend market coverage—by enablement of developer & reseller partner community

As you can see, this is a mature strategy. SAP has laid out the following goals that support this strategy:

  • Awareness—evangelize SCN
  • Immediacy—real time
  • Reach—broaden audience
  • Engagement—connections
  • Reputation—social media leader
  • Conversion—to contributor, customer

SAP has successfully involved thousands of members from their customers in rich, problem-solving communities.

You can tell these guys have been working on this stuff for more than 10 years by the complexity of their vision. The communities have paid off, yielding:

• 2.4 million members from 200 countries in 2011

• 2,500+ Top Contributors in 2011

• 2 million topic threads and 7 million messages in 2011

• 100 SAP Mentors

• 7,180 ideas contributed, with 183 turning into actions
SAP gets results from their community, including 750+ SAP solutions sold and also lots of little victories for their customers:

• “Siemens resolves NetWeaver-related technical problems using SDN 50% faster than through other channels.” Richard Hirsch, Senior Portal/SAP NetWeaver® Consultant, Siemens

• “SAP EcoHub is an easy to use single source that will streamline the process for identifying trusted, relevant solutions that meet our business needs and work within our existing SAP installations.” Matt Stultz, Vice President, Global Information Technology, NewellRubbermaid

• “SCN offers SAP partners like us the opportunity to get connected with 2 million members of the SAP ecosystem, who live and breathe SAP, to exchange know how and to demonstrate our thought leadership. It’s a great way to connect directly with SAP customers, partners and SAP employees.” Ross Moris, Director of Alliance Sales, Sabrix

The idea of the external community is simple: Solve customer and prospects problems and they’ll naturally gravitate to your products. Don’t be salesy or you’ll scare them away.

Another great example of an external community is SPS Commerce’s Retail Universe. SPS does EDI and other electronic communications infrastructure that help companies communicate with their supply chain. They got the brilliant idea to set up a community where partners could find one another. So a big retailer could find someone to drop ship a special order from China, for example.

The only requirement to join this community is to sign up and be vetted by SPS. You don’t need to be a client or use their network. But naturally, it leads to sales for SPS because small suppliers or retailers who don’t have an EDI solution are naturally going to consider SPS. They do no selling on this community. It just solves problems.

This is only for B2B sales…what if a B2C company picked it up? Would they find it useful? Are there parts they could benefit from?

Most B2C companies have a B2B component. They generally have trading partners or suppliers or other type of purchasing that is B2B. So that’s a natural fit.

Beyond that, many of the concepts of the Infinite Pipeline can be adapted to work with consumers. A company may want to create an external community for their consumer customers. In the book, we recommend caution for any company wanting their own community. Just because you create it, doesn’t mean people will use it. You need to determine that your customers need a place online to communicate with each other and with you. In many cases, B2C companies will opt for public social media communities like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.


However, we have a case study in the upcoming executive edition of the book about GM that illustrates the change in mindset needed to have an effective external community.

If you haphazardly approach this task, you can spin your wheels without gain. No one will hear your message. And you might conclude, as some companies have, that social media doesn’t work.

That’s what General Motors concluded in May 2012 when they pulled their $10M a year ad budget from Facebook, initially indicating that their ads weren’t giving them the return they expected. But check GM’s Facebook posts even today. They’re mostly self-congratulatory, “Look at our new Chevy” types of posts. How likely are fans to engage with this old-style advertising approach?

They’re treating Facebook as just another channel for their advertising and marketing messages.

Don’t make the same mistake with your external Infinite Pipeline community. You’ll want to keep the salesy promotion to a minimum and tie your implementation ideas directly to your external social media goals.

GM is a great example of a company that we would call B2C, since the people who buy their cars are consumers. But in reality, GM sells to dealerships, which are businesses, and thus they’re really a B2B company.

It’s the same with food companies like General Mills. They sell to wholesalers, not you and me. Both companies, though, drive consumption via B2C media. We talk more about marketing with social media in our Be a Person book series.

Mike Ellsworth

Who should be reading The Infinite Pipeline?

This version of the book is targeted at sales people. We hope these sales people will pass the book along to their management, or recommend that their managers get the executive version, our next book, which is all about leading the social selling change.

Ultimately, the transformation of the sales force to using social selling techniques is inevitable. The value proposition is just too compelling. Here are some stats from the book:

i. In 2012, Aberdeen Research measured the effectiveness of social selling and found a 15 percent increase in team attainment of quota.

ii. LinkedIn reported a result from an IDC study that showed social media use actually increases with the seniority of the buyer— 84 percent of decision makers at the VP level or higher use social media when making a purchasing decision.

iii. LinkedIn research shows that 86 percent of buyers would engage with sales professionals if they provided insights or knowledge about the industry.

1. PayPal

a. Achieved almost 3000 percent ROI

b. Reduced sales cycles by 25 percent

c. Multiple threading allows access to several key contacts within a company

2. WeightWatchers

a. Achieved 100 percent ROI in one month

b. Tripled database of leads in the first six months

c. Response rate increased to 20 percent with improved conversion rate

3. Epicor

a. Achieved greater access to companies in their target market, 500-1000 employees

b. Enhanced credibility

c. Dramatic growth in networking

As we know, change is hard. And salesforces are an even harder sell for new methodologies. That’s why we predict it will take many years for the majority of salesforces to transform into social selling organizations. Infinite Pipeline lays out the roadmap for this change, but it will take commitment and investment for a company to complete the transformation.

So is this book of interest only to large companies?

We feel that the concepts in the book are useful for any size company. Smaller companies may not be able to execute all the strategies in the book—such as creating the communities. But any company with sales people can benefit from using the Infinite Pipeline Relationship Development process.

And that ends our interview

Social selling is a topic I expect we’ll all be hearing more of, probably too much of, in the years to come. Companies who do it right will not be “selling”, as much as networking, as suggested in The Infinite Pipeline. How many companies will follow this advice? Let’s not ask GM.

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