Millennial Misconceptions: How You’re Totally Wrong About This Generation

Instead of buying into the stereotypes, we checked out some studies that went straight to the source — millennials themselves — to find out what they want (and don’t want) from their jobs.

Here are three myths that deserve busting.

Myth: Millennials are out for themselves, so don’t expect them to stick around for long. Contrary to the popular opinion that millennials think of themselves as “free agents,” a study by employment site Monster.com found they’re more optimistic than Generation X or baby boomers about finding long-term careers that offer stability and financial security. Having grown up in an era of economic turbulence, millennials crave the idea of a career, not just a “job.”

So why do millennials leave? Research from PayScale and Millennial Branding, as well as Ernst & Young, found promotions matter hugely to this generation — probably because they’re just starting out in their careers and are less likely to have reached a level they’re comfortable with.

Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, a Gen-Y research and management-consulting firm, backs this claim up when he says the top reason millennials leave a job is “lack of career opportunity.” According to their research, many millennials say that they’d be willing to stay at the same job for five years so long as they’re able to advance.  Schawbel suggests creating internal procedures to help younger employees advance and grow their career. Plentiful opportunities for training and mentoring, as well as regular feedback and reviews that focus on developing that much-desired career path, can help millennials stick around.

Myth: Millennials only want to work at Facebook or Google. Not true. Payscale and Millennial’s Branding’s research shows millennials actually prefer working for small companies, because, according to Schawbel, they offer “more flexibility, an opportunity to embrace their entrepreneurial ambitions and the opportunity to use social networks at work without strict corporate guidelines.”

For people looking to bring these young stars on board, use social media to reach out to millennial job candidates, and create an online presence that conveys your company culture as a fun, flexible and energetic place to attract Gen Y.

Myth: Millennials can’t tear themselves away from their smartphones or Facebook long enough to hold a conversation with clients or co-workers.  A Cornerstone study discovered that millennials — often stereotyped as the always-on, tech-connected generation — are actually more overwhelmed by technology in the workplace than Gen X or Boomers. In fact, they actually prefer to work in-person, rather than remotely.

Millennials grew up in a world of mobile devices, social media and no boundaries between work and life. Sometimes, it can get a little overwhelming. Although this generation does value workplace flexibility and do expect to be able to work whenever and wherever they choose, the E&Y study found they’re more collaborative than any other generation.

Working in teams is easier (and more fun) when you’re all in the same room, so make sure you provide plenty of opportunities for your millennial employees to do what they do best: work together — IRL (that’s “in real life” for you boomers).


3 Brand Experience Strategies to Attract Millennials

3 Brand Experience Strategies to Attract Millennials

It should come as no surprise that millennials hold an overwhelming desire for adventure and risk. A survey from Harris Poll revealed, for instance, that from trying new foods to traveling, 78 percent of millennials would rather spend their hard-earned dollars on collecting experiences rather than things. Unsatisfied with the status quo, they seek out the new, the unique and the exciting.

So, if millennials are opting for adventures over products, what can brands do to hold their attention? The answer is simple: Weave compelling experiences into your brand strategy. If members of this generation associates your brand with adventure and excitement, they’ll be more likely to support your company with their impressive purse power.

Embrace the three strategies below to seamlessly incorporate branded experiences, in order to reach this important market.

1. Appeal to their sense of adventure.

Having a solid “event strategy” lets you appeal to millennials’ need for spontaneous, unique experiences and their desire to look good in front of their peers. Branded VIP parties, exclusive sneak peeks and selective, influencer-only events are all great ways to make millennials feel like trendsetters among the crowd, and also appeal to their sense of adventure.

Taco Bell employed this strategy for the launch of its breakfast menu, giving prepaid burner phones to an exclusive group of 1,000 influencers across the nation. Those influencers were given a direct line to Taco Bell headquarters, and received secret missions to accomplish via Instagram and Twitter. The chance to be one in 1,000 and participate in something innovative and fun resulted in over 16,000 tweets about the campaign in just 10 days.

2. Get customized.

Adventure doesn’t have to take the form of international trips or flashy parties — sometimes it’s as simple as offering fun, customized surprises. Birchbox, one of the leading subscription ecommerce services, has it down to a science. Customers create a profile on the Birchbox website and answer various questions about themselves. At the start of each month the company ships a customized package full of beauty products that match the individual customer’s interests. The thrill of receiving personalized, surprise deliveries is enough to captivate millennials’ spontaneous nature.

3. Offer work experience.

Given millenials’ often-overwhelming student debt and the competitive job market, these young people are always looking for new avenues to acquire work experience. Give them the chance to flex their talents and pad their resumes by involving them in the creation and development of your brand. Use ambassador programs, research groups and co-creating opportunities to engage millennials on a deeper level. Not only will they help you create a product more tailored to their needs, they’ll appreciate the invitation to get involved and be more likely to turn into brand advocates.

Each brand experience strategy has its own advantages and disadvantages, but no matter which you choose, always stay true and authentic to your brand. Only then will you win the hearts — and dollars — of your most coveted customers.


4 Things to Know to Effectively Lead Generation Y

4 Things to Know to Effectively Lead Generation Y

At N2 Publishing, we have a large number of employees from Generation Y– the millennial generation loosely made up of a post-college workforce in the 20 to mid-30 age bracket. In fact, we’ve hired more than 100 Gen Y’ers in the past few years alone, with dozens of them earning promotions to key leadership positions. As C.O.O., I work closely with this ultra-talented group every day. I’ve assembled a list of my most significant observations as to what distinguishes this specific group of workers.

1. The ever-increasing value of intangible benefits.

Thanks to popular job and career sites, job seekers today are armed with data on compensation plans from competitors. HR departments also know this and are able to position themselves in a flattering spotlight accordingly, making intangible benefits more and more a topic of conversation.

Salary and benefits are still just as important to Generation Y as it was to their parents and grandparents, but the benefits that you can’t crunch in a spreadsheet play a larger role in determining a career direction.

2. Flexible schedule/balance.

Flexibility in scheduling, the ability to work remotely and balance are, without question, things that are on Generation Y’s radar. Their familiarity and comfort with technology makes the notion of being tied to a brick-and-mortar operation increasingly obsolete.

The millennial workforce has had smart phones for years, some of them seemingly more familiar with a world including them, than not. That means that they’re used to making calls, sending emails, face-timing, etc. on the go from home, car, or coffee shop, often at hours outside of the traditional 9-5. Because of this, they scoff at the notion of needing to be at the office as simply a relic of a bygone era.

There was a time when it was just assumed across the board that when you were starting your career, often before marriage and family, that 60-80 hour work-weeks were the norm. Pay your dues as a younger person; then reap the rewards of a cozy middle-manager role later in your career. Today, that’s not the case.

Millennial workers don’t shy away from hard work, and they’re definitely still career driven. They’ve also learned from the mistakes of previous generations, who sacrificed too much for career and never got those years back. The millennial generation wants it all. The millennial is attracted to opportunities that allow for a life outside of the cubicle. I also believe they have a strong sense of their personal “why,” the reason they work, their motivation. Consequently, they seek jobs that allow for the pursuit of it.

3. Autonomy.

Millennial workers are smart, technologically savvy and anxious to make their mark on the world. We’ve all heard stories of the 20-something tech genius who founded and runs a household name company. These stories have increased the confidence of the most ambitious millennial workers in their ability to make strategic decisions. Words like experienced, seasoned and veteran are being replaced by hungry, cutting-edge and aggressive-minded.

Bottom line, the most talented young executives want nothing to do with being micromanaged and want to be involved in the organizational decision-making process. They don’t understand “why” they shouldn’t have a voice, and more often than not, they are right.

4. Transparency.

The millennial worker isn’t conditioned to just go with the flow and nod their head in agreement to every decision that comes down from the leadership team. They want to know the reason and logic behind decisions, they want to be informed and know the “why” behind it.

In the era of information and social media, companies are always better off being transparent with the “why” behind important directional decisions. All employees may not agree with the logic, but they will greatly appreciate the candidness.


Marketing to Millennials? Make It Personal and Customized.

The millennial generation in the United States is not only the largest population cohort it’s also the most racially diverse and highly educated generation in American history. In the last U.S. Census, 18- to-32-year-olds outnumbered even baby boomers. As the buying power of millennials increases, entrepreneurs seeking their business must understand that members of this generation expect to be treated as individuals.

Plus, representatives of this tech-savvy, media-connected generation tend to be independent politically, a trait that carries over into their personal lives. Millennials are postponing marriage, and record numbers of them, compared with previous generations, say they have no religious affiliation. And although millennials tend not to be a trusting lot, they are optimistic about the future.

Here are some critical variables about millennials that can play a major role in a startup’s marketing moves:

1. Millennials want to know a company is paying attention to their specific needs. Establishing a social media presence across a variety of channels such as Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook (not to mention on smartphone apps), is the way to reach millennials. But a company will not keep their attention long if the communication is not two-way.

Beyond responding to tweets or “liking” a Facebook comment, a company’s engaging with millennials means adding value to their experience of the brand through loyalty programs, recognition events and special access to sales and other promotional events. Even more, it means creating the impression that each consumer is special.

The clothier Primark markets to millennials through its Primania website, where shoppers can upload pictures of themselves wearing Primark apparel. Other shoppers can rate the “looks” and the site also invites users to register for prizes and chat about fashion.

By appealing to millennials’ highly developed sense of self and the narcissism inherent in the “selfie” culture, Primania connects with Gen Yers by offering them, as its website says, the “opportunity to develop your own unique style profile and to share your fashion ideas and inspirations with others.”

One size does not fit all. The look and feel of a customized product is important to members of this generation who are growing up in a society far more diverse and embracing of diversity than preceding generations. This affects their taste in consumer goods and how they are marketed to.

For example, a few years ago when American Express realized the need for a financial product tailored to millennials, my company, Lucule, helped conceive a credit card that would give users customizable features, access to exclusive entertainment deals and targeted savings opportunities on products and experiences of interest to this generation.

Have you scanned a fashion magazine lately? Or browsed a fashion website? Not only will you see racial diversity, but also diverse body types, people with physical disabilities and nontraditional family groupings. In other words, millennials want assurance that they are dealing with a business whose face looks like “me and my friends.”

Earn millennials’ business by doing good. A recent study by Cone Communications, a public relations firm specializing in cause marketing, found that “millennials are hyperaware of, and have high expectations for, corporate social responsibility efforts to make the world a better place — for themselves and broader society.”  Indeed, millennials will switch from companies that do nothing in this areana to ones that publically share their values.

Successful entrepreneurs understand this. Last year Stephanie Daniels started her gateway shopping site PopNod with millennials in mind. She explained in a recent interview that her site empowers “people to change the world by combining shopping and saving with giving.” Shoppers who use PopNod can click on a store website of their choosing and receive cash back on their purchases, PopNod also donates to the shopper’s charity in an amount based on the cash-back savings.

Any new business launching today should create such a socially aware site, provided that it is in support of a belief their company truly holds. Tell on the corporate website the story of why the company did something and why the entrepreneur believes in it. Empathize with customers about why the company’s activism is important.

Emphasize authenticity and transparency. Millennials respond positively to these characteristics, attracting both loyal consumers and brand ambassadors. Without a company’s expressing an entrepreneur’s feelings and passion, even if what the firm has done is positive, millennials will see the effort as a business ploy.

This is a situation where the company is making a personal appeal to millennial consumers and establishing that the firm and the millennial consumer are part of the same community.

The 2014 Pew Research Center report “Millennials in Adulthood” is a gold mine of information about this generation and is a great read for those interested in learning more about the specific characteristics of millennials.


3 Essential Tips for Marketing to Millennials

3 Essential Tips for Marketing to Millennials

Millennials — young adults who are currently between ages 18 and 34 — wield $1.3 trillion in annual buying power. That’s certainly enough to make any marketer sit up and take notice. But despite common misconceptions of the group as a single, narcissistic entity, U.S. millennials are diverse. Nearly 43 percent are non-white and roughly 25 percent speak a language other than English at home.

With such a diverse group — and such preconceived notions about its personality and interests — it can be hard to know how to approach marketing to this generation. However, there are certain characteristics that are shared between nearly all millennials, and those that aren’t can be targeted through niche marketing.

1. Rock your mobile marketing.

Marketing through mobile devices is important in general, but given that 85 percent of millennials in the U.S. own smartphones, it’s essential when you’re targeting this generation.

To excel at mobile marketing, first consider the basics. Are your landing pages optimized for mobile? Are they too graphics-intensive, making load times longer with slower connections? Is your call to action clear, even on a smaller screen?

After you’ve done that, it’s time to get creative. Brian Wong, himself a millennial, figured out how to integrate advertising natively into mobile gaming by allowing companies to offer rewards after in-game accomplishments. His company, Kiip, also integrates advertising with other types of mobile apps, allowing companies such as Gatorade to offer rewards to users — in this instance, after specific fitness accomplishments.

Finding ways to integrate your advertising natively into popular mobile applications and programs, especially if it’s styled as a reward, is a great way to reach millennials.

2. Target social groups, instead of life stages.

Millennials are the most non-traditional generation so far, and they don’t value traditional life-stage advertising the way previous generations did. They view life differently. The word “family” has many different meanings, not all of which are connected to marriage. “Community” has a variety of meanings as well, and their physical neighborhood is not likely the first thing they think of.

In addition, milestones such as purchasing a home are less attainable for many millennials, given the economic conditions they face. And that’s assuming they even want to — a growing trend among young people is to work toward a location-independent, traveling lifestyle. Adult life isn’t linear for millennials, and advertisers have to adjust accordingly.

Instead of focusing on life stages, target millennials based on social groups. For example, you can focus your attention on population segments that are drawn to social causes, those who are in alternative lifestyles or those who avidly follow specific social media personalities. Millennials are much more likely to have a strong attachment to these social identities than they are to strongly identify with a specific stage of life.

3. Be relevant and engaging.

While this strategy obviously applies to all generations, it’s required for millennials. A good deal of millennials have never known a world without the Internet and social media. As a result, they’re the last group you can expect to simply accept your message on face value and take the action you request.

Instead, millennials are focused on solving real life problems through online research — both in search and social media. Brands that can bring relevant, simple solutions to real world problems are the ones that are going to win attention from this generation.

In addition, you need to be engaging. Roughly 95 percent of millennials say that friends are the most credible source of product information. This means that if you can engage a customer base within this generation and create brand evangelists, you’ll see far better results than you will through any other form of traditional online marketing. The best way to get your message heard among millennials is to have millennials themselves spreading the word.

All of this means that you need to be relevant, engaging and building community as you share your products and services. Otherwise, millennials will ignore you as just part of the inevitable noise of a connected world.

Marketing to millennials doesn’t have to be hard. By rocking your mobile marketing, targeting social groups instead of life stages and being relevant and engaging, you’ll definitely make a splash with this demographic. Beyond these three tips, you’ll want to segment the population and drill down to the exact ideal buyer you’re targeting. Millennials are incredibly diverse, so the more segmentation you can achieve, the more return you’ll see for your marketing dollar.


How Airbnb and Dropbox Achieved Tremendous Growth With Referral Marketing

How Airbnb and Dropbox Achieved Tremendous Growth With Referral Marketing

The Airbnb case study

As of March of this year, Airbnb is valued somewhere around $20 to $25 billion. That’s nearly double what it was worth this time last year — impressive for a company that didn’t even exist a decade ago. But more impressive is how they achieved such staggering growth in the matter of a few years.

The answer is simple: referrals. Airbnb took a straightforward referral approach by sending email invitations to existing participants. The offer was enticing: referrers would receive a $25 travel credit when new members took their first trip. Then, they would receive an additional $75 credit when they hosted a guest for the first time.

From Airbnb’s perspective, the referral program was a no-brainer. After all, they were only paying for referrals after new users made a purchase. This ensured that they weren’t wasting any money on unprofitable referrals. The program worked (and still does), helping Airbnb to achieve incredible growth, in which the total number of users has practically doubled each year since 2012.

The Dropbox case study

Dropbox also encouraged growth by starting an incentive program. They did so out of necessity more than desire, but the rewards were incredible. With PPC ads too expensive and long-tail search terms too competitive, Dropbox decided to launch a double-sided referral program, with both the referrer and the referred having incentive to take action.

In addition to the referred member getting benefits, the referrer was given extra storage space (a key component of product enjoyment). The program permanently increased signups by a whopping 60 percent, with more than 2.8 million direct referral invites taking place in the first 18 months. In fact, 35 percent of all signups now come from the referral program.

How entrepreneurs can apply this strategy to their startup.

While these two case studies are great, they’re useless if you can’t apply anything to your business. After all, a case study is only valuable if it helps you to improve or to change. Here are some tangible takeaways from these two examples:

Target the right customer segment. Despite what you may think, a referral program shouldn’t necessarily target your entire customer base. Instead, you should go after your most active customers. The reasoning is that your most loyal supporters are more likely to give positive recommendations to their friends. Coupled with an official referral, these personal anecdotes make the program exponentially more powerful.

Offer benefits for both sides. Jason Wei, co-founder of the Los Angeles-based startup Taggler says, “The problem with many referral programs is that they only benefit one side. It creates an issue in which one side of the equation has little motivation to take action. Two-sided referral programs, on the other hand, encourage existing users to share, while simultaneously mitigating risk for new users. For example, for new customers we offer a $20 promo code and also give $20 in real cash to the referrers.”

Select the right rewards. Furthermore, it’s important to select the right rewards. Dropbox did this by giving both parties extra storage space. This is a key component of the core product and is seen as invaluable by users. You have to give up something if you want users to jump onboard.

Streamline the CTA. You can’t launch a successful referral program unless the program is easy to understand. In other words, the call-to-action needs to be integrated into the signup process and website. If you can’t clearly explain the program in a few bullet points, it’s too complex. Break it down into actionable steps, and make it as easy as clicking one or two buttons and typing in an email address. Additionally, the email that the referred individual gets needs to be simple and personable. They should understand who is sending the referral and what the value is after reading the first couple of sentences.

While you can’t create a carbon copy of another business’s referral program and expect the same results, you can learn a lot by studying some of their components and strategies. Use Airbnb and Dropbox as examples, and think about how you can develop your own referral program starting today.


8 Steps to a Successful Sales Call

Sales Call Checklist

1. Preparation Prior to Sales Call

Did I:

  • Research the account prior to the call?
  • Learn something about the person and their business before the meeting?
  • Send an outline of the agenda to the client before the meeting?
  • Have three value-added points prepared?
  • Bring all materials, brochures, contracts, etc.?
  • Answer the three important pre-call questions:
    A. What is the goal of the call?
    B. What do I need to find out during the call?
    C. What’s the next step after the call?

2. Greeting and Introduction

Did I:

  • Observe the prospect’s office décor (e.g., trophies, awards, pictures and so on)?
  • Find out about the prospect’s personal interests, hobbies, family and so on?
  • Find out the names of contacts in the account and write them down?
  • Bridge to the business topic smoothly?
  • Listen more than I spoke? (Ideally, you should spend 80 percent of your time listening and only 20 percent talking.)
  • Ask the customer about their business goals?
  • Ask the customer what challenges the company is facing?

3. Qualifying

Did I:

  • Find out who the decision-makers are by asking “Who else besides yourself might be involved in the decision-making process?”
  • Ask what process they normally go through when considering a new vendor?
  • Find out how and why they made the decision for their current product or service (assuming they are replacing a product or service)?
  • Find out what their time frame is?
  • Find out if funds have been allocated–and how much?
  • Find out their specific needs?
  • Ask if they could change something about their product or service, what would it be?

4. Surveying

Did I:

  • Ask open-ended questions (who, what, where, when, why, how, how much, tell me about it, describe for me)?
  • Ask about the corporate structure?
  • Ask about the prospect’s role at the company?
  • Ask what’s important to them?
  • Ask what’s interesting to them and then focus on that?
  • Ask what risks they perceive?
  • Ask how we can help solve their problems?
  • Ask what they think about our company?
  • Ask what they like and dislike about their current vendor?
  • Ask how industry trends are affecting them?
  • Ask “what if?” questions?
  • Ask what they would like to see from a vendor and salesperson in the area of support after the sale?
  • Ask what their short-term and long-term goals are?
  • Ask how I can become their most valued vendor?
  • Ask what is our next step?
  • Establish a specific follow-up schedule?
  • Parrot the prospect to encourage him to expand, elaborate and go into detail about each answer?

5. Handling Objections

Did I:

  • Listen to the entire objection?
  • Pause for three seconds before responding?
  • Remain calm and not defensive?
  • Meet the objection with a question in order to find out more?
  • Restate the objection to make sure we agreed (communication)?
  • Answer the objection?
  • Complete the six-step process?
    1. Listen
    2. Define
    3. Rephrase
    4. Isolate
    5. Present solution
    6. Close (or next step)

6. Presentation

Did I:

  • Prioritize the prospect’s needs?
  • Talk about benefits to the customer?
  • Use layman’s terms?
  • Link the benefit to the prospect’s needs?
  • Verify each need before moving on?
  • Present myself, company and product in a positive light?
  • Re-establish rapport?
  • Ask if anything changed since our last meeting?
  • Pre-commit the prospect?
  • Give a general overview of the product or service?
  • Keep the presentation focused on the customer’s needs?
  • Involve the customer in the presentation?
  • Summarize the prospect’s needs and how our product or service meets those needs?

7. Closing

Did I:

  • Get the customer to identify all possible problems that might be solved by my product or service?
  • Get the customer to identify the value of solving the identified problems?
  • Get agreement that the proposed solution provides the values identified?
  • Ask for the order (“Why don’t we go ahead with this?”)?

8. Customer Maintenance

Did I:

  • Write thank you letters for appointments, orders and so on?
  • Earn the right to ask for reference letters and referrals?
  • Establish a schedule for follow-up calls and customer visits?
  • Ask for referrals (“Do you know three people who could benefit from my product and service like you did?”)?
  • Send thank you notes to lost accounts?
  • Ask what are three important things we can do as a vendor to keep our relationship strong?

This checklist will help you stay focused. Every time you schedule a sales call, run through this list before-hand to make sure you’re prepared–and after the visit to see what you can do next time to make the call run more smoothly and increase your chances of success.


How to Maximize Your Online Sales Leads

How to Maximize Your Online Sales Leads

Eighty percent of sales are executed by just 8 percent of salespeople. This doesn’t mean that there are some killer sales reps out there who are simply better wired at bringing home the bacon, it means most sales teams are failing to execute because we officially live in a new hyper connected, fast paced and digital-first world.

A connected world means there are a myriad of channels for businesses to connect with their customers. In opening the floodgates, many mistake a wide sweep as an effective lead generation strategy. Unfortunately, the bulk are wrong and navigating the digital sale requires a blueprint. The average B2B lead to closed deal conversion rate is actually less than one percent — and takes over 100 days, according to Implisit. This means the vast majority of leads take a lot of time to nurture, but still go nowhere.

The silver-lining is that all these failed attempts give us a wealth of data, showing us clearly what not to do. There is a science to lead conversion, the cold-call will no longer cut it. So, how can you master lead conversion, and how can you use technology as an asset to cut through all this noise to improve your lead to sale conversion rate?

Understand the online business lead.

Don’t be fooled, although there are many great ways of reaching your customers online — email marketing, ad re-targeting, a plethora of social media platforms — your competitors know about them too. As a result the average consumer is bombarded with information.  One estimate puts this at 5,000 ads for every person each day!

People actually used to watch those two-minute television commercial breaks. Thinking about wading through those commercials today it sounds almost painful. The most worn out button on my remote control is the fast forward button. We are all surrounded by such a flux of distractions that holding a person’s attention, and actually evoking some form of enthusiasm, can be a challenge. It is important to tailor your content, and to remember what a lead really is.

A Facebook Like — or a love, a wow, or a haha — is not a lead. An email newsletter subscriber or new Twitter follower doesn’t mean someone wants to purchase your service. It simply means you reached a person, and you may have whet their appetite. This is still important, but these people are not asking for extra information about your product and a cold sale attempt could actually leave a bitter taste.

A real sales lead, from a prospective customer is the provision of accurate contact information — name, phone, email or such — that says a person is interested in your product and wants to hear or learn more. You can use “big data” created by the software I mention below to identify what your customer wants by understanding their online behavior. This allows you to personalize and refine your approach over the phone or by email and SMS.

Technology is your friend.

We have come a long way from the days of an automated reminder. Today emails, texts and even targeted ads can be used as a part of your follow-up and using behavioral data can create a “choose your own adventure” experience for your customers. Every next stage in the customer journey should be a tactical step selected for that individual, and defined by all the information they have already given you.

Every potential customer is unique and these tools can let you identify the needles in the haystack — as opposed to a one-size-fits-all email blast that will forever exile you to the junk folder.

Tracking software such as Woopra, Mixpanel, and Intercom lets businesses identify who from your database is visiting your website and exactly what pages they are frequenting most. Using Mixpanel, Airbnb was able to identify where in the online journey their users posting first-time listings were dropping off — ultimately driving five times the conversion rate by making changes based on more than their gut or instincts.

Who opened your emails, who clicked on your emails, and who is visiting your website. This is information you need to know and you should let this guide your follow up efforts. If someone has shown interest in a specific area of your website you can tailor your follow-up. For example, if they spent time reading your testimonials page, these tools can follow up with personalized email notifications or push alerts sharing more testimonials.

42 percent of marketers do not segment their email campaigns — but the tools exist to let you easily customize emails, so why would you not? Use this to tailor your approach, hook your customer’s attention and then make your move.

Nailing the sales call.

Technology is important to help you turn new and old leads into instant appointments, but having the right salespeople is much more vital. A powerful closer, following up with a genuine lead and making a hyper personalized and well scripted call at the right moment is vital.

According to a study in Harvard Business Review, just 37 percent of companies respond to their online leads within an hour. Another study revealed that 47 percent of leads never get a response. This goes some way to explaining why so many leads end up dead in the water.

Gaspar Noe said, “Time destroys all things.” When it comes to following up on a hot lead he’s spot on. If a company phones a contact within five minutes of submission they are 100 times more likely to reach this person than if they reach out after 30 minutes. And after 20 hours every additional dial will actually hurt your chances of qualifying a lead.

The key is speed, tenacity and scripting or what I call STS selling. Call quickly, call often and know what you are going to say before you say it. On the phone, you lose the advantage of physical presence and the element of body language that is so crucial to human communication. This makes your tone and content (words) all the more valuable.

The Internet era has meant a paradigm shift for salespeople. Technology has overtaken us, to the extent that failure to correctly understand it means an innately human profession has become overrun with too much automation. In an ideal world a business would use marketing to plant the seed, inside sales to create the appointment and a killer sales rep to close the deal. Not all companies can afford to split these departments, but this in no way means you shouldn’t strategize your approach for each step.

Using the best tools and tactics you can create a blueprint for Internet lead conversion success. If you point your sales team in the right direction, quickly, you will turn web leads into a massive acquisition channel.


Turn Your Brand into a Millennial Magnet with These 3 Marketing Tips


Turn Your Brand into a Millennial Magnet with These 3 Marketing Tips

The millennial market can be a tough nut to crack, especially for established brands that haven’t previously targeted this booming demographic. While penetrating a new demographic is never easy, it is possible, as long as you understand the audience. Why should millennials be on your radar? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, they number 75.4 million and have now surpassed the nation’s 74.9 million baby boomers, making them the largest living generation.

So, even if yours is an old school brand, you should focus on attracting the technology-savvy and pop culture-loving savvy millennials. Here are three marketing tips you can use to help attract this younger crowd to your brand.

1. Promote your brand through social influencers.

Millennials consume so much content on social media, they are literally connected to the world via Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. Technology is how they stay up to date on current events, and it’s how they stay connected to their friends and family.

They also tend to pay attention to social influencers, who include celebrities and public figures that have amassed huge followings for various reasons. Think people who have become “famous for being famous,” a.k.a. “the Kardashian phenomenon.”

How much are millennials influenced by social recommendations? According to Kissmetric surveys, 93 percent of this generation’s members have made a purchase based on a recommendation from friends and family, and 89 percent trust these recommendations more than the claims made by the brands themselves.

In fact, millennials are dropping millions of dollars on teeth-whitening kits, diet pills, detox teas, supplements and various other products — and the companies involved are heavily using social influencers to hawk their products because it’s such an effective marketing strategy for targeting millennials.

2. Create ‘ads’ that appear to be native — millennials have strong BS detectors.

According to HubSpot, 84 percent of millennials don’t trust traditional advertising, which is exactly why social influencers are currently so effective. Indeed, millennials are almost immune to traditional advertisements. They don’t want products or services jammed down their throats. So, if you’re marketing to millennials, you need to do that through creativity and authenticity.

Additionally, considering that just under 90 percent of millennials are armed with smartphones, running mobile-focused, pay-per-click ads and sponsored social media posts is necessary to get this target group to notice your brand.

Overall, social media marketing has turned into a “pay to play” space, as organic reach is declining on Instagram just as it did on Facebook. Brands can complain all they want, but that isn’t going to change anything. These social networks are a business just like you — they need to make money in order to evolve and stay above water. You really can’t fault them for closing the window on organic reach, which makes paid promotion a necessity.

So, create “ads” that have the look and feel of native social media content. You want millennials to engage with your offer in the most natural way possible. Even the slightest whiff of “advertisement” will push them away.

3. Offer a rewards program.

I downloaded the Postmates app the other day, and after completing my first order I was given the opportunity to earn rewards. The experience was almost identical to the rewards program Uber has successfully used to leverage millennials’ willingness to promote and share for a reward.

In fact, almost half of millennials are game for sharing a service or product on social media in exchange for a little kickback. They aren’t going to share a poor product or customer experience, but if you combine a great experience with an attractive offer, you will have an army of brand promoters and supporters willing and able to help grow your brand with little-to-no upfront out-of-pocket funding. Giving out discount codes and credit is a very small price to pay for the reach and power of millennial supporters.


The 3 Steps to Building a Winning Brand Strategy

The 3 Steps to Building a Winning Brand Strategy

In their book Start Your Own Business, the staff of Entrepreneur Media Inc. guides you through the critical steps to starting your business, then supports you in surviving the first three years as a business owner. In this edited excerpt, the authors explain the three-step process of creating a branding strategy for your business plan.

In addition to all its other parts, your business plan should include a branding strategy. This is your written plan for how you’ll apply your brand strategically throughout the company over time.

At its core, a good branding strategy lists the one or two most important elements of your product or service, describes your company’s ultimate purpose in the world and defines your target customer. The result is a blueprint for what’s most important to your company and your customer.

Don’t worry: Creating a branding strategy isn’t nearly as scary or as complicated as it sounds. Here’s how you do it:

Step 1: Set yourself apart.

Why should people buy from you instead of from the same kind of business across town? Think about the intangible qualities of your product or service, using adjectives from “friendly” to “fast” and every word in between. Your goal is to own a position in the customer’s mind so they think of you differently than the competition.

“Powerful brands will own a word—like Volvo [owns] safety,” says Laura Ries, an Atlanta-based marketing consultant and co-author of The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding: How to Build a Product or Service into a World-Class Brand. Which word will your company own? A new hair salon might focus on the adjective “convenient” and stay open a few hours later in the evening for customers who work late—something no other local salon might do. How will you be different from the competition? The answers are valuable assets that constitute the basis of your brand.

Step 2: Know your target customer.

Once you’ve defined your product or service, think about your target customer. You’ve probably already gathered demographic information about the market you’re entering, but think about the actual customers who’ll walk through your door. Who is this person, and what is the one thing he or she ultimately wants from your product or service? After all, the customer is buying it for a reason. What will your customer demand from you?

Step 3: Develop a personality.

How will you show customers every day what you’re all about? A lot of small companies write mission statements that say the company will “value” customers and strive for “excellent customer service.” Unfortunately, these words are all talk, and no action. Dig deeper and think about how you’ll fulfill your brand’s promise and provide value and service to the people you serve. If you promise quick service, for example, what will “quick” mean inside your company? And how will you make sure service stays speedy? Along the way, you’re laying the foundation of your hiring strategy and how future employees will be expected to interact with customers. You’re also creating the template for your advertising and marketing strategies.

In the Loop

Many companies large and small stumble when it comes to incorporating employees into their branding strategies. But to the customer making a purchase, your employee is the company. Your employees can make or break your entire brand, so don’t ever forget them. Here are a few tips:

Hire based on brand strategy. Communicating your brand through your employees starts with making the right hires. Look to your brand strategy for help. If your focus is on customer service, employees should be friendly, unflappable and motivated, right? Give new hires a copy of your brand strategy, and talk about it with them on a regular basis.

Set expectations. How do you expect employees to treat customers? Make sure they understand what’s required. Reward employees who do an exceptional job or go above and beyond the call of duty.

Communicate, then communicate some more. Keeping employees clued in requires ongoing communication about the company’s branding efforts through meetings, posters, training, etc. Never, ever assume employees can read your mind.

Your branding strategy doesn’t need to be more than one page long at most. It can even be as short as one paragraph. It all depends on your product or service and your industry. The important thing is that you answer these questions before you open your doors.