About kpapajanis

-Better known as Kirko Papajanis, President of Boxpilot. Kirko's specialities include operations management, marketing & sales strategy, IT deployment & management, kaizen, human resources, production systems, workforce and project management.
Kirko was originally in charge of all call center operations, overseeing all technology projects and in 2004 became involved in Sales & Marketing. He was instrumental in shaping the company's current production, sales and marketing systems.

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About kpapajanis

-Better known as Kirko Papajanis, President of Boxpilot. Kirko's specialities include operations management, marketing & sales strategy, IT deployment & management, kaizen, human resources, production systems, workforce and project management. Kirko was originally in charge of all call center operations, overseeing all technology projects and in 2004 became involved in Sales & Marketing. He was instrumental in shaping the company's current production, sales and marketing systems.

Email Alone Won’t Sustain Us Anymore (Episode 2 of 2)

In last week’s post we left you with the question: “how can one stop … loss to competitors, and how can one get touches with higher levels of engagement than with email alone?”.

The answer that we have seen emerge lies in utilizing a mix of media.  Alongside emails, we’re talking phone calls, voicemail, texts, notes, among other methods.

Everyone knows it takes more than popping out a few emails to really drive engagement, and that if your competitors are the ones who are really engaging prospects, they’re going to be the ones taking the sales.

Let’s look at some of reasons using a mix of media works.

Mix of Media: Keeps prospects in the funnel

For one, there’s opportunity where clutter doesn’t exist and where touches actually get noticed.  A call, a voicemail, a text, a handwritten note – these are things that still stick out to us because we don’t get nearly as many as with emails.

On top of that, engaging with a real human voice, even if it’s just periodic, identifies you as a real person where a stronger relationship and trust can be built.

We’ve seen that it’s a mistake to leave making a human connection to the bottom of the funnel only.  And it is a mistake to let your competitors be the ones engaging prospects more than you.

Actually, in a study called Dale’s Cone of Learning, we see that more engagement generates more recall – people remember 10% of what they read, but as we go up in engagement, 50% of what we hear and see, a 5x improvement.

Mix of Media: Better at qualifying prospects 

Another benefit is that you can’t truly qualify people without actually getting details about their situation.  And to get this info you have to actually have dialog with them.  And to talk in this
way, they need to be engaged.

Armed with reliable info, when you know that they’re not truly qualified, you can loop them back higher up in the funnel to let them simmer until their circumstances change.

And if they are in fact truly qualified, they can be pushed down the funnel faster to the sales team which in turn will grow more sales.  Either way using a mix of media is going to help get the engagement to enable this process.

More Engaged Means More Sales 

And so to bring it home, recall the McKinsey study earlier that echoed our results.  If 70% of buyers are more predisposed to choose the company who engages them more with a mix of thoughtfully integrated email, voice touches, texts, notes and so forth, rather than the company that uses email alone, it really means companies are potentially closing only up to 30% of their prospects.  This means that doing a better job of engaging prospects in this way can result in 2.3x more customers.  (Note: increasing share of sales from 30% of all prospects, to 100% of all prospects, is 2.3x more sales.)

Sales can be increased in this way by virtue of not losing prospects to competitors by having built stronger relationships with them, while at the same time keeping prospects more interested and engaged as a result of communicating with varied media.  And by making prospects feel like they are being treated well, their expectations of post‐sale service stay at a level that further supports their decision to buy from you rather than your competitors.

At the end of the day, companies today are adding a mix of media to their contacting plans, rather than relying on email alone, to generate sales‐ready leads because it works, increases prospect conversion, prevents loss to competitors, and generates more sales.

Email Alone Won’t Sustain Us Anymore (Episode 1 of 2)

Over the next two weeks we will look at how the use of email as a prospecting and nurturing tool has changed.  This week we will examine some of the challenges, and next week we will discuss some possible solutions.  So stay tuned, as I share what we’ve learned when looking at email closely.

Email Alone: The “go-to” tool (?)

You may have noticed in the past couple of years, especially with the adoption of many of the marketing automation platforms out there, email has really become the go‐to method to offer content and attempt to qualify.  It’s understandable, because companies have invested significant expense and time into setting up the CRM and marketing automation systems that essentially enable them to really only trigger emails right out of the platforms.  So in essence, they’re tied to email, in a way not even by choice.

But with everyone thinking and using email in this way, we’ve seen some significant challenges emerge as a result of this over‐reliance on email.

Email Alone: Holes in the funnel

The main problem is that over-reliance on email creates holes in the funnel.  The sheer quantity of emails that people are getting today, plus the fact that your competitors are also over-relying on email, has pushed email overload to an all-time high.  Thousands of emails per day piling up on each other makes for clutter and receiver desensitization to the point that truly engaging prospects and making a genuine connection with email alone has become very difficult, even with good content.

But it is precisely this needed connection that keeps prospects from becoming bored, losing interest, going stale, and ultimately flowing out of the funnel to your competitors

The Depth of the Email Overload Problem

The majority of all email traffic in the globe comes from the business, not consumer, world.  According to a recent study, more than 108.7 billion business emails are sent per day, growing to 139.4 billion per day in 2018 (Radicati).  The average business person is sifting through approximately 121 expected work emails per day, growing to 140 per day by 2018 (Radicati).  This is in addition to being bombarded with the mess of unsolicited or graymail emails each day that are not caught by filters. There’s been a 300% increase in newsletters year over year (Riparian) making more than 82% of the emails in our inbox simply a newsletter, social update or type of notification (Mashable).  Today, only 14% of emails in inboxes are considered by recipients as genuinely important (Mimecast), with the rest being considered trivial, non‐critical or insignificant.  But most disturbingly, as a result of all this clutter, 18% of important work emails are lost in the inbox and never even read (Riparian).
The above stats help to explain why engaging with email alone has become increasingly difficult.  The amount of clutter is overwhelming and to get through the day’s workload efficiently, employees have become desensitized to this massive influx.  Email efforts meant to capture a prospect’s attention are flying out the window and are either never seen or quickly forgotten. And although many companies think sending more and more emails is going to solve the problem of breaking through, with everyone thinking this way, it is just compounding the problem and increasing the difficulty in truly engaging prospects and customers with email alone.

Email Alone: Never truly qualified

Plus, even if someone consumes content and increases their lead score over time, it doesn’t mean they necessarily have the budget or the situation needed to purchase your product.  Too often sales reps are wasting time and money calling on someone who could never actually buy. What we’ve seen is that the key to properly qualifying is to engage prospects to the point that they are motivated to tell you specifics about their situation.  And relying solely on email and web forms often only gathers info that is partial or unreliable. So in summary, while of course there is an important place for email in the overall mix, over‐reliance on email doesn’t optimally engage or qualify, and as a result hurts sales.

Email Alone: Loss to competitors

Using email alone hurts sales because it sends prospects to competitors.  Let’s look at this example workflow that only uses emails to move prospects down the funnel:

Email Alone

As an illustration, maybe it is a white paper offer by email, and then if they click through, they get an invitation to an event by email, all by email, etc. We studied buying preferences in the face competition in one of our internal research reports.  With similar companies competing for a buyer’s business, we found that when one of them used just email to communicate, while the other used email
alongside other touches with higher levels of engagement, 70% of buyers were more predisposed to choose the company who engaged them more.  The reason is that they viewed it as an indicator that they cared more, and that customer service and support would be higher after the sale was made.  This supports a McKinsey study which shows that 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.

What this means is that companies are potentially losing up to 70% of their prospects to competitors who are doing a better job of engaging them!

So this prompts the question – how can one stop this loss to competitors, and how can one get touches with higher levels of engagement than with email alone?

…And on that cliffhanger, I encourage everyone to tune in next week for the exciting answer to this question and many more!

B2B – Back to Basics But Better

In its heyday outbound marketing even in B2B embraced a huge list of media options. In addition to email we had:

  • Direct mail – in regular letter, postcard and dimensional versions
  • Voicemail
  • Online Advertising
  • Newspaper, Business Magazine and even Outdoor Advertising
  • Telemarketing
  • Radio
  • TV

While not everyone could afford all the arrows in the outbound quiver, there was a widely used mix of options.

But, there were some big issues with B2B outbound marketing . Personally, I don’t consider that those issues were either that they were interruptive a.k.a. intrusive ( which used to be considered a good thing) or that they attempted to force the dreaded sales presence on not quite ready to buy prospects.  Rather, the issues were that Outbound was not well targeted and most of the options cost too much. Looking back, its easy to see that in many cases the issue of cost would have been easily addressed if we had done a better job targeting the messages.

But, that was the Heyday.

Right now, B2B Outbound is in a sorry state. In an effort to correct the problems of the past, and because the shiny new automation tools pushed us that way, we’ve thrown too many  eggs into one basket – email.

Let’s face it, email is (relatively speaking) cheap, fast and easy. It’s the darling child of the automation platforms and hence the darling child of social media, which in many areas is manipulated by the staff and content farms selling us inbound marketing and marketing automation software and services.

Oh yes……and it is brutally over used.

Check out this report. “The State of B2B Lead Nurturing” produced by Bizo (about to be aquired by LinkedIn) in association with Oracle Marketing Cloud. Two conclusions drawn in this report are:

1. “Email marketing is widely used, but does not reach a significant proportion of known contacts. On average, 79 percent of marketers say their email open rates don’t exceed 20 percent.”

So, in other words 79% of marketers who are actually measuring their opens know perfectly well that 80% of the people they need to message – aren’t reading their messages. Now, I ask you, “Does this sound like effective, affordable outbound?” Nope – I don’t think so either. So it’s pretty hard to disagree with the second conclusion.

“In order to help fill the sales pipeline, marketing must embrace a truly multi-channel lead nurturing strategy that goes beyond traditional email marketing strategies.”

It would seem like a good time to re-invent B2B outbound marketing and take advantage of the lessons we have learned.

Lesson # 1 – No more blasting out one size fits all messaging. Not only is it wasting your money, even worse, it’s wasting your influence. Even though many of you have databases that are in (kindly) a semi-sorry state, you can at least segment company and contact information to the extent that you can produce messaging that fits the priorities of the people you can talk to.

Lesson # 2 – Embrace a multi-media outbound lead nurturing strategy. You’re missing too many opportunities with email. For lead nurturing opt first for choices where you can target your messages.  Voicemail, live voice, text messaging, direct mail are choices that offer control, cost efficiency, speed of deployment, timeliness of messaging and a degree of automated delivery.

 

 

 

Stop Throwing Leads Away

Generating quality leads is – according to some very sensible sources- the #1 priority for marketing and with priorities come expenses!  So just how much of your lead generation expense is being tossed out the window when your painfully generated leads don’t get timely follow up?

When research shows that 35-50% of the sales go to the vendor who responds first it makes sense that 61% of B2B marketers will send leads directly to sales.  But,  is your sales team following up on every lead in a timely fashion?  Sadly, probably not and one of the major contributing factors is the difficultly experienced by B2B callers when it comes to reaching leads, responders and even current customers live on the phone.

But, when it comes to:

  • qualifying new leads,
  • staying in touch with current customers  and
  • intelligently deciding which contacts stay with sales and which go to automated nurturing

 

There is no substitute for a live conversation.

  • Email might communicate some features
  • Voicemail can draw attention to your message
  • Downloads and web responses can hint at interest levels

But only a dialogue with someone in your company can INSTANTLY ask and answer the questions to identify which leads should demand your immediate attention.

If you are not talking with every person that your marketing programs are identifying as a lead, then why are you spending the money on lead generation?

There is a low cost, very simple way that Boxpilot can help your callers talk more and dial less. Click here to ask about it.

Stop the Summer Sales Slump

It a sure sign that summer’s here: Sun is shining, birds are chirping, kids are playing, sales are slumping (?!?!?).

What was that? you say.  Sales slumping?  That’s right, 68% of businesses report a drop in sales over the summer months.  Now, I can buy that some of those businesses may actually be seasonal, but 68%?  Surely not.

But if you think about it, summer is full of productivity killing (but certainly fun!) distractions: vacations, beaches, backyards, patios, etc.  And, if productivity is down, sales are sure to follow.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  As a manager, I’ve been faced with this obstacle myself, and have come up with a few ways to overcome this challenge.

1) Intelligently stream responsibility:

  • Forget about a vacation “out of office” message
  • Make sure people who reach out to you in your absence are handled appropriately, whether that’s with an autoresponder or a live call— delegate a human to make this assessment.

2) Set up a predictable lead nurture program ahead of time for your active pipeline.

  • Work with your marketing department (or services like Boxpilot 🙂 ) to make sure you have a preset contact stream going out.
  • Schedule emails and/or calls with targeted messages to go out on a preset schedule.

3) Keep your cold outreach going out—your funnel will thank you.

  • Work with marketing to have daily calls and emails scheduled so that it’s like you are not gone.
  • People worry about not being there to accept response, but the fact is, response rates are low, and lower still are the number of people who are ready to buy after that first response.
  • Have cold outreach responses fed to a auto responder campaign or a live call (see #1 above).

It may seem beastly to administer, but without it, sales slump.  The best place to start is by having Sales and Marketing sit down together to lay out responsibility.  Utilizing external support from a service provider, may be the best option to solving this problem without headaches—let the 3rd party enable coverage.

Putting effort into building a great system will not only make a difference this summer, but any slump period your business typically has.

 

Your Best Voicemail Campaign

Voicemail marketing has evolved since 2001 when I first started  working with clients to help them create successful campaigns. Honestly, I miss the way it used to be when all it took was a reasonably natural sounding message, a half decent offer and a list that wasn’t total garbage. We routinely drove double digit response rates. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. Fun to sell and lots of happy, happy clients with an awesome ROI even when bumped up against a (really pointless) measurement like cost per lead.

It’s not so easy anymore. Changing markets, escalating workloads, too much automated marketing thrown against the wall of poorly discriminated targets and too many supposed lead lists from completely unqualified inbound responses. All these factors have combined to take response rates for email, direct mail, telemarketing and just about every type of lead generation campaign and caused them to basically TANK, compared to what they used to be.

But this is the new reality. Like most other marketing tools that have been around for a while, voicemail does still work, but it works differently than it used to and one of the differences is that it needs to be executed well. With a few rare exceptions, there are 5 MUST HAVE elements for a successful voicemail campaign execution. They are:

    • Natural Sounding Message – While there are a few people who naturally do this well, I’ve found for the most part that too many clients don’t give this consideration the respect it deserves and that’s almost a crime because please, be assured that the instant a busy decision maker realizes that they are listening to a recording- they’re gone. We all get those lousy canned recordings both at work and at home- do YOU listen to them? I don’t. Natural – takes work in both the scripting and the recording.
    • Kick Ass Opening – Have you ever noticed how much testing, is applied to email subject lines? Naturally, you appreciate that weak subject lines mean email messages lost in the clutter. Never Opened. Never read. Ineffective. Take this principle and start applying it to your voicemail messages. I think – in the interest of simple human courtesy you still get a “Hi – sorry I missed you”, but if you follow that up with some irrelevant blather about your company and who you are and what you do and how successful, blah, blah, blah you’ve been – you’ve just squandered a rare opportunity.  Push your punch line to the front of your message.
    • List Quality-Part 1 Cleaning the Data – The B2B marketing community has given lip service to the issue of data quality for years now, so why do we still see such crappy lists? Hmmm, let me think – probably we see crappy lists because not enough people are picking up the phone and verifying that the information is up to date, that titles are accurate, that phone numbers actually relate to where that person can be found and not just the head office number that many computerized search tools default to. I fully concede that software list services have come a very long way, and there are some good ones out there, but without verifying the information, you are investing your efforts and your money against an assumption. Of course, if all you’re doing is slamming out cheap emails, maybe you don’t care.
  • List Quality – Part 2- Stop the Carpet Bombing – Here is how I see this problem. Cheap email and marketing automation controlled by workflows that are written with the analytical discretion of a 5 year old have turned so called sophisticated marketers into carpet bombers. Reacting to declining response rates, our solution has been to reach out more frequently to expanded lists without truly considering who we should we reaching – and then reaching out to everyone with the same vanilla message. Of course, if all you’re doing is slamming out cheap emails, maybe you don’t care. (Deja vu).

Guided voicemail is not bulk email, please target responsibly!

  • Campaign Integration – One Hit Wonders are not marketing campaigns – Use your guided voicemail as one element of an integrated campaign, by which I mean support it with email follow ups, build a coherent message strategy, generate some level of voicemail messaging frequency and measure your success within the overall structure of your campaign. I still talk to too many people who talk about “Sending out a voicemail blast” and think they’ll solve all their problems. This is not where the smart money is. In this instance, the hesitancy of many to engage with sales reps really works against them. No one knows more about putting together a good campaign (in any medium) than someone with loads of experience, success and peer expertise to draw on.

So, of course there is always more, but to very quickly summarize- if you want to create a successful voicemail campaign: Create a natural sounding message, grab attention quickly, clean up your list, Select your contacts carefully and integrate voicemail with everything else you do.

Canada’s Anti-Spam Regulations -CASL- July 2014

If you are selling, doing lead or demand generation to any company or individual employee located in Canada – you need to pay attention to CASL coming into effect on July 1, 2014 because my friends, this could be very ugly.

1- Make no mistake that this legislation applies only to messages sent to consumers – It applies equally to B2B communications.

2- Unlike the US regulations that require (quite reasonably) that companies honor opt-out requests, this law ONLY permits you to send commercial emails – like lead generation, sales approaches, download and event invitations to organizations with whom you already have a relationship OR who have specifically opted IN to your messaging.

3- The legislation will not only impose very severe penalties for violators, it also opens up both companies and individuals to Private Right of Action – which- loosely interpreted means that you can be sued as well as fined.

Here is a link to a copy of the actual legislation:

CASL – The Act

While email will no longer be an option – and this act also applies to text messages sent to a phone – voicemail messages are specifically excluded from the act.

Expectations – A Painful Wake-Up in a Tough Market

Managing a potential customers expectations is only important if you want to make more than a single sale. Buyers beware. The company that promises more than you have a reasonable right to expect might not be looking at anything more than this month’s revenue.

The biggest problem with managing expectations with integrity is that it will easily and often cost you the business, when a realistic expectation is not what your prospect is willing to hear.  The painful part is that money from companies with head-in-the sand expectations goes just as far to pay the bills.

Do you have any idea just how much it hurts when a sales rep is forced to take your lofty expectations and smash them (probably along with the sale) on the jagged rocks of reality?  Do you thank them for it? Probably not. In fact, judging from past experience, you probably give your business to the other guys- the ones who told you that “Absolutely. We can do that.”  But it didn’t work out that way did it?  And now, you’ll just stay away from that type of service because it doesn’t work.

Let me illustrate:

One of our reps recently spoke with a company and here is how it went:

  • Prospect – A Director of Sales & Marketing for a small software company
  • Target – CEO, CFO, CIO/CTO – Manufacturers
  • List – 2,000 names from inbound leads collected within the last two years
  • Contact Success – Average of 3 attempts – one voicemail and two email follow ups -without a response
  • Campaign Objective – Send one voicemail + email message with a free demo offer to the list to revitalize it with budget of $10.00 per response.

To many, this looks like a reasonable expectation, but it’s not. So, what’s wrong with this picture?

1- For starters, how can you tempt a CEO, a CFO and a CIO to leap from basically no interest to responding to a demo offer with the same message? They are, after all, working with some different priorities. As a starting point you must begin with at least three different message approaches.

2- If the list of 2000 names has been collected at an even rate over the past two years, given that the average rate of decay in a B2B list is at least 2% a month. You can expect that 500 of these records are no longer valid.

3- If the combined cost to reach your list of 2000 contacts is $2/name and you (should) already know that only 1,500 are likely even there to reach, at your budgeted cost per lead of $10.00 you need to get 400 responses. Off a maximum base of 1500 names assuming total delivery  that’s a response rate of 26%.

Usually, it is considered that the fault of the numbers lies in the fact that the cost per name is two dollars when the expectation was that it should be around twenty cents, but if you were making those calls with your own sales team, what would they cost you? – Let me give you a hint – @ 50 calls a day that’s 12 weeks of work for one person.

There is a solution, which involves, stripping down the list, focusing on a single audience, building a case over repeated contacts and setting up these prospects to be contacted by a real sales rep to get that demo trial, which is, a significantly higher quality lead than a $10 click-through-to-an-article download.

The sales environment has changed and the smart money is with those who can change their expectations and approaches to match it.

 

 

 

Want Renewals? Step 4 – The Close

Yes! You Need to Close.

You’ve done all you can to provide the best possible customer experience.  You have a terrific customer success team and you regularly communicate with all of your customers to offer help and suggestions – without being too sales or spammy.

Throughout the year, you’ve kept your customer success and your renewal sales team talking and working together so you know who is really using all the features, who might be needing something with a bit more horsepower (or less) and you’ve shared stories with your customers about others  who’ve had success using different features or solving different problems.

At least 120 days out from your annual deadline, your renewal sales team has executed a contact plan that has intelligently added voicemail messages to your email reminders because this is no time to risk emails being ignored. A goodly portion of your renewing customers have let you know that “Yes” they plan to renew.

So don’t screw it all up now by just sending out the bills and crossing your fingers that the money will come rolling in. Some will, but not enough.  This is the time for your sales team to directly engage with your renewing customers and close the deal!  Better yet, wherever there is an opportunity, this is when your sales team truly pays for themselves by up selling and cross selling your renewing customers.

I worked with a company once who made the mistake of backing off the customers as soon as they agreed to renew.  The reps never really closed the sales and even worse, since each sales group handled a distinct product, intra departmental conflicts precluded any attempt to up sell or cross sell and each sales team jealously guarded their client rosters.  If you don’t believe I don’t blame you, because this is crazy talk.  But it’s true never-the-less.

Book appointments. Your customers deserve that much respect for their time from you. Take the opportunity for your sales team to deliberately review their business needs. Look at changes that have happened in the last year. Look at new opportunities on the horizon.  Somewhere along the line, you probably told your clients about how you didn’t just want to take their money, you wanted to be their partners.  Make good on your promise to add some value.

Even the best-managed companies are going to lose some customers every year and the bigger you grow, the harder it is to replace the customers who churn out. So, employ every possible defensive strategy and the rock solid close, the up sell and the cross sell are among the best defenses.  It only takes a small increase to make a big difference.

Yes. If you’re thinking that you can’t possibly do this for business that renews every month, you’re right.  For larger sales or multiuser licenses, think about how often you can sensibly re-engage and create the “new close” opportunity

 

 

Want Renewals? Step 3- The Decision: Ask Early and Often

Is putting added emphasis on pushing customers early and often for a decision to renew is worth the effort? According to a 2011 report from Morgan Stanley, on average, for the technology sector, 30-40% of the revenue and about 50% of the profits are driven by recurring revenue. For those exclusively focused on web-based software or services, the numbers are obviously going to be higher.

There are a few other factors to consider, the specifics of which will vary by industry:

  • Many companies that depend on recurring revenue models do so knowing that it takes roughly the first year of revenue to pay back the acquisition cost. Renewals are the only road they have to profitability.
  • Confirming the renewals is actually a two step sales process; getting the decision and then confirming the close.
  • Over 45% of customers who did not renew their contracts, claim they were not contacted to ask for the renewal*
  • By one month, the renewal rate for contracts that have expired will be about half of what it could have been if followed up earlier.

So, is a concerted effort to get a yes/no renewal decision from your customers worth the effort? Yes. Clearly it is.

Use a multi channel approach to gain the decision. Realistically, almost everyone will use email as their first line of contact. It’s fast, easy, cheap and should do a decent job to gain the easiest decisions. Everyone already knows that much, but that 45% number, who claim they were never contacted flies in the face of emails adequacy as a sole source of contact. It’s much too easy to ignore and this decision is too important to the financial future of the vendor to be ignored.

The second line of contact is to call. This is the quickest, surest way to cut through the clutter of the email environment and guarantee that your customers know you are looking for a renewal decision. Start your calling 120 days ahead of the renewal date.

In the early stages, if you haven’t used the phone already to support your customer service outreach or customer nurturing programs you’ll probably find that the contacts you thought you were communicating with aren’t there anymore. So you’ll need to find the new influencers. You are going to hit voicemail, so plan a series of intelligent and compelling messages and use them along with your continuing emails to get a yes/no decision. If you’ve put a good sales process in place, those specific responses will prep your sales team for their closing calls.

*ServiceSource Recurring Revenue Index by Wavelength Analytics, July 2013