Like most new businesses, we struggled to get the right tools in place. We used Excel to track revenue, clients and projects. When it came to proposals, a Microsoft Word template was all we had. But we have now found better, more efficient ways. Bidsketch is a proposal writing platform that cuts the time and effort it takes to write proposals. We tried it for recent marketing proposals and we have to say we are hooked.
It’s amazing how much time you could spend doing admin in a small business. Yes, admin is important. It supports the overall business and keeps you right. But it takes up valuable time that we could spend on business development, strategy and delivering high-quality client work.
At YO! Marketing, we realised that we needed better tools once we started to grow. That’s why we took a trial version of Bidsketch a few weeks ago. We used it to write one of our most important marketing proposals yet – a high-value project that we wanted to add to our growing portfolio of content marketing gigs.
Here are 10 things we love about using Bidsketch for YO! Marketing proposals:
- It is easy to start a free trial – just one click and you are all set
- You get a customised domain – ours is https://yomarketing.bidsketch.com. You can customise it further if you wish!
- There are built-in templates that cover various types of proposals such as content marketing, social media management, project management, IT consulting, mobile app development etc
- The templates are customisable so you can add and remove sections depending on your project needs
- Your marketing proposal contains sections where you can sell the value of the project and your team
- There is existing text in each section that provides inspiration for you to create your own text. For instance, the value of the project is a key section where you need to think about why your potential client should consider such a project in the first place
- Our favourite feature is probably how Bidsketch allows you to break down the client fees in our marketing proposals. We itemise each work task and define them as one-time fees, monthly fees or yearly fees. You can also add optional add-ons separately. This is hugely valuable for us as we always want to be completely transparent so that there are no hidden fees. Our proposals provide the whole picture of what our clients could get depending on their budget
- You can add your own logo to the proposal as well as an image on the cover page. Therefore, our marketing proposals have our brand and feel like us!
- Once you’re done, you can simply send the proposal to your client within Bidsketch. Within Bidsketch, you can see when the client has viewed the proposal and how long they viewed it – cool, eh?
- And finally, there are a number of actions the client can take via the Bidsketch link. The client can accept the proposal or request changes/revisions
For our proposal, we often make changes based on client requests. It was easy to do this within Bidsketch and resend the proposal to the client
We not only cut proposal writing time but we could be really clear about the project scope. We love how easy it is to present our clients with high-quality proposals that communicate our expertise and the impact that the project will have on their business.
A couple of things that we would like to see in Bidsketch:
- Incorporating our brand colours and preferred fonts
- Adding more information about the client e.g. industry, location and key contacts
Overall, we love Bidsketch! We have incorporated it into our process and we know that can upgrade as our team grows. Thank you, Bidsketch for giving us our YO time back – whew!
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For a recent Forrester report on the B2B digital transformation, the team interviewed senior execs from global corporation giants GE, IBM and Cisco Systems. The report highlights key themes arising from the move to align sales teams with the new reality of the digital world.
Why B2B Digital Transformation?
B2B digital transformation is driven from the buyer’s side as companies seek to attract digital buyers. Previous articles suggest that the root cause of sales and marketing misalignment is a lack of understanding of the buyer. Some practitioners explain that closer alignment between sales and marketing could even shorten sales cycles.
Therefore, global leaders like GE, Cisco and IBM have taken steps to reevaluate sales and marketing strategies and to enable new ways of empowering direct sales teams. Part of the reevaluation is a digital transformation. According to the Forrester report, key areas of best practices are experimentation, collaboration and innovation. Similar practices apply to any change management programme including social media and technology adoption.
In this blog post, I will summarise the three case studies: GE, Cisco and IBM to draw out key insights.
Cisco: B2B Digital Transformation through Collaborative Innovation
Cisco aims to tie innovation to business outcomes and to de-fragment pockets of innovation throughout the business. The goals are:
- Meet customers where they are
- Reach new markets more efficiently
- Give sales teams more time for actual selling activities
Focusing on innovation and collaboration, Cisco executed its B2B digital transformation as follows:
- They built and piloted new tools, managing the innovation from incubation to scale. The new tools were based on increased efficiency and higher quality interactions with potential and existing buyers.
- They established collaboration and shared goals between sales and marketing. For instance, they paired marketing’s sentiment data with sales data. These create insights that tie to opportunities for the organisation.
GE: B2B Digital Transformation through Centralised Innovation
GE is a complex, matrix organisation with several products being sold across different divisions. Therefore, the emphasis for the industrial giant are:
- Centralise new technologies
- Form new collaboration partnerships across the divisions
- Reduce sales cycles by 50%
Some of the positive benefits of executing the initiative were that:
- Centralising enables scaling of technology. For instance, it allows the reuse and recycling of successful tools and processes. It also provides a 360 degree view of interactions at all levels across the organisation, hence increasing collaboration on opportunities.
- Collaboration enables sales to respond to customers 50% faster. For instance, GE built an app to reduce time that sales teams spend addressing forecast questions. Salespeople can input information on the fly through voice text solutions. Overall, GE’s sales teams are spending more time on customer-facing selling activities.
IBM: B2B Digital Transformation through Data-Driven Sales Innovation
IBM saw significant incremental sales revenue from putting data scientists in sales teams rather than at corporate level. The success from leveraging data science can be attributed to:
- Making data scientists part of the sales team. The organisation developed deeper understanding of buyers due to a more scientific approach. For instance, salespeople could differentiate between a motivated buyer and a latent buyer. Also, the teams could more accurately assign sales cycles and measure the impact of new tools and tactics.
- Identify pockets of innovation in the sales team then empower salespeople who already have digital affinity to test new approaches. This drives a culture of innovation starting with early adopters.
- Seek out tools that increase efficiency in the sales team, enable more personalised engagement and provide rich buyer/seller/relationship analytics.
- Have at least one data scientist that aligns with sales.
To read the full report, contact Mary Shea, PhD or visit Forrester.com
Feature Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash
Guide Your Buyer’s Journey Through Inbound Content Marketing
Content marketing has become an ongoing business process and a crucial part of B2B marketing strategy according to 73% of B2B marketers.
While content creation and distribution are top factors for success, 72% of marketers agree that a strategy for development and adjustment contributes enormously to success.
In creating a strategy, you must consider your target buyer’s journey. One reason that they might not engage with your content is because you provide it at the wrong time. That is, your target buyer is not yet ready to engage with or act on the content you provide. It is crucial that you understand a typical buyer’s journey as this will guide your strategy.
The buyer’s journey was the main topic of the HubSpot Inbound Certification training that I recently did. Rich with actionable tips, the course focused on how creating the right content drives sales by being relevant to the buyer’s journey.
Now, what are the stages of a typical buyer’s journey? They are:
Stages of a Buyer’s Journey
Let’s take these in turn.
Awareness is the stage where your potential buyer identifies that they have a problem. They might sense that something isn’t right, but they are not sure what it is. At this stage, your goal as a vendor is to help the potential buyer become aware of the problem such that they can define it.
Thereafter, they might start to look for possible solutions. They will want to know how they can solve the problem. Therefore, your goal at this stage is to identify potential solutions to the identified problem.
Now that the buyer knows the problem, and has considered a range of solutions, your goal is to give them the information they need to decide which solution to go for.
Do not try to sell your products or services at the Awareness and Conversion stages. In fact, try not to mention your company at all. Your role at these stages is the role of an educator.
Let’s look at examples of the kind of content you could create at each stage.
At the Awareness stage
Share content that outline best practice for instance, The Ultimate Guide to Writing Persuasive Landing Page Copy. This gives the target customer an overview of what an ideal landing page copy looks like. They then realise how they might not have been following best practices and hence, not getting optimal result. In this example, the target customer probably knows that their landing pages aren’t great but doesn’t know what they are doing wrong. Your Ultimate Guide helps to identify the problem.
At the Conversion stage
Your target buyer is looking for ideas to solve their problem. Let’s say the buyer has identified that they are struggling to generate content within their engineering business. They might come across 12 Engaging Content Ideas for Engineering Companies, which is packed with ideas for content formats that they could implement in their business. You offer solutions to an already identified problem.
At the Decision stage
The possible solutions are known but your target buyer is comparing options to decide. Testimonials, case studies and price comparison content are ideal at this stage of the buyer’s journey. A case study about how employee advocacy worked well in a technical setting might be the key to deciding to go with the vendor that implemented the programme or delivered the tools. Absolutely write about your business’ products and services.
You can also offer free trials and consultative meetings. Do you see how the awareness and conversion stages might not be the right time to offer these? I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences. Comment below 🙂
Photo by Freddy Castro on Unsplash
This blog is written by Gillian Thomson, Director of GT Limited. With a background in engineering and almost 20 years’ experience across a variety of industries, Gillian helps businesses to get the best out of their people. She specialises in leadership development, team effectiveness, conflict resolution and HR strategy & support. You can get in touch with Gillian by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @GTLimitedUK on Twitter
Leadership and the magic weekend
Whilst not unique to technology industries, the “magic weekend” is a phenomenon that’s common in this field. Excellent technical specialists are promoted to positions of leadership because they are great at being technical specialists. Not necessarily because they have great leadership skills. On Friday, you are part of the team. Then by Monday, you are leading it. You often get very little support for the transition, and are just expected to know how to deal with all the challenges that come with being a leader. This can be even more difficult when you are friends with the people you are now responsible for leading. So how can you ease the transition and become the leader you know you can be?
Get to know your team
You may think you already know your team, especially if you were peers before now. But do you really know them? Take time to understand their aspirations, their strengths, what they need support with, what they are looking for from you as their leader. Consider using a tool such as Emergenetics® to understand thinking and behaviour preferences and help the team work more effectively together.
One of the hardest challenges for new managers is letting go of the detail. They need to delegate that to others, trusting others to do the work that you consider yourself the expert in. Be clear on the desired outcome, but allow the team to get there in their own way. It may be different to yours, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong! I often use a tool called ‘setting the waterline’. Consider if you were the captain of a ship. If the ship’s engineer discovered a hole the size of a penny at the top of the hull above the waterline, and he was perfectly capable of fixing it. There’s really no need for you be involved. If, on the other hand he discovered a hole that was letting in gallons of sea water under the water line, then you probably need to know. Talk to your team about where your waterlines are. What are the things they can just get on and do, what are the things that you really need to be involved in?
What do you think? How does success look like? Which barriers do you see right now? What would you do next if time/resources/money were not a constraint? The questions you can ask as a leader are limitless. Effective questions unlock the potential of our people. Allow them to figure out the answer’s themselves and give them confidence that they can deal with new situations that they face. Be careful of “Why” questions such as “Why did you do it like that?” as they can come across as judgemental. Don’t feel like you always have to have the answer.
Learn to Listen
Effective listening is one of this most important skills a leader can have. Usually we’re not actively listening, but waiting for our chance to speak and thinking about what we’re going to say next. Or mulling over that important email that came in just before you sat down for a catch up with your team member. Take the time to properly listen when you are having conversations with your team
Give feedback well
Giving effective feedback is an art. And all too often leaders save it up for the end of year appraisal when it is overwhelming and the individual will likely only focus on the 1 negative thing you told them, and not the 20 great things. Give feedback (both positive and constructive) in the moment, as soon as possible after the event. Be specific about the situation or the behaviour, make it future focused and make it factual – avoid assumptions
Managing conflict and difficult conversations are the top two things that leaders say they find difficult to do, according to research from the CIPD. But we need conflict and disagreement to drive innovation and creativity within the team. As leaders, it’s important that we know how to manage conflict constructively. Invest some time in learning these skills and you’ll reap the dividends, not just with your team and potentially across all areas of your life!
This blog post is by Annika Rautakoura, Content Manager at Smarp. Smarp provides an employee communication, advocacy and engagement tool for building influence and engaging employees through content.
With digital and social media mowing the content landscape, content marketing has become the core of building up brand awareness and an online presence that drives business. The importance of content marketing has not gone unnoticed. Currently, 73% of B2B marketers include a plan to operate content marketing as an ongoing business process. It is not simply a campaign (Content Marketing Institute). The focus of content marketing investments have shifted from just content production to content promotion. It’s a combination of these both that ultimately determines the success of content efforts.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a long-term strategy based on building a strong relationship with your target audience by giving them high quality content relevant to them on a consistent basis. “Eventually, when customers make a purchase decision, their loyalty already lies with you. And they will purchase your product and prefer it over competitors’ products”, says Neil Patel. Why is this? Let’s look at some of the reasons.
Content is a way to increase brand awareness by building a voice and authority online. It’s about creating an image of honesty and expertise in your respective field. How does this happen? Certainly not overnight. It takes consistency; being accurate and not misleading your audience. Posting on a regular basis keeps you visible to your audience, and posting consistently helps your audience form habits around the consumption of your content. In other words, audiences can expect you to provide certain types of content in a timely fashion. Trust also calls for grabbing the attention of your audience in the right way. You can do this by encouraging employees to participate in content production, connecting with the right influencers and giving shout-outs to brands and people with engaged audiences. When audiences spot your content through familiar or influential people, they are more likely to take that next step towards purchasing.
Content marketing is a way to start discussions around topics that are important for your business and attract the interest of people and organisations tackling with issues your services can provide solutions to. Researching your audience and targeting this audience based on what they’re looking for is the key to get leads. By having the right lead qualification processes in place and having different types of content to provide for leads at different stages of the purchase funnel, you can turn your leads into business. A well-established content strategy means that you need to work less to find leads, when leads will find you through the content path that you have laid out.
You can measure and adjust
Not investing in the right technology and tracking system for managing and measuring the performance of your content marketing efforts is like trying to hit a moving target in the dark. There is little point in producing or sharing content with no means to adjust any setbacks or build on successes. Here are some tips on with content. Tip: focusing on conversions is valuable for witnessing the actual effects of your content, i.e. action taken after consuming it, whether this means subscribing to a newsletter or downloading an e-book.
Boosting thought leadership through content marketing
Investing in content marketing supports your efforts to get messages across to your target audience. You can also build up a brand image through stories that provide readers with something they can relate to. Content that showcases the company’s achievements. For instance, case studies and user testimonials focused on the client are valuable for highlighting the results of your business. Content that brands the company as an employer allows for more personal material, such as behind-the-scenes articles. If you’re not yet convinced on the importance of employer branding, remember that your current or former employees have as much power in sharing the word about your brand.
What type of content works?
Blogging – B2B marketers with using blogs generate 67% more leads (TechClient). The amount and intensity of blog posts is dependent on resources and strategy. More is more, but quality should always be kept in mind.
Social media – A foolproof way to drive traffic to your site and the content you produce. It’s also an easy way to showcase your industry by linking to relevant third-party content that you consider to be of value to your followers. Social media efforts should always be tied to your overall content strategy, so that they have a maximum impact for your marketing goals.
Visual content is gaining in importance. The use of visual content in articles published by marketers increased by 130% between 2015 and 2016. Social media tools like Instagram and Snapchat are alive and well, and increasingly investing in features for companies. Especially in the B2B industry, people wish to see products in practice.
What’s it all about?
Everything boils down to having a strategy and executing efforts with the goals in mind that they contribute to. It’s about experimenting and learning from your efforts, doing your best to educate and attract readers, and raising their interest with your expertise.
Even in so-called boring industries, there is great content. But finding new content ideas can be a real problem for marketing teams. Particularly in engineering companies, getting fresh content often means being creative.
Photo credit: unsplash.com
For instance, any content must be technically sound and easily digestible on online platforms. But as engineers usually don’t like to create content, it is often up to the marketing person or team to do it. I have found a camera phone and a listening ear could be all you need to develop great content. Take notes as your engineer discusses his product. Record a one to two minute video about the launch of a new product feature. Ask your customer support team to answer one frequently asked question by customers and expand on it in an online blog. These are just some of the ways to generate content. Here are 12 content ideas – one a month for 2017!
1. Primary research on topical issues in your industry.
Have you done a survey? Do you have data that you could use to show preliminary findings? If confidentiality is a concern, strip out client names and anything that can identify them. Ensure your client knows they’ll have anonymity
2. Video interviews with experts.
Ask your Chief Engineer or technical expert to discuss an engineering challenge he is solving. These days, a camera phone is enough to record short, great content at work
3. Secondary research for various sources.
An article that collates multiple viewpoints could be powerful. It allows you to look outside your company for other research and perspectives on the same issue. Don’t worry if you find conflicting opinions – that’s actually a good thing. Put out thoughts for your customers to engage with and respond
4. How-to articles.
Your customers probably struggle with a gazillion things. Create an article that teaches how to do something in a step-by-step guide. Point to additional resources on your website such as a video, case study or white paper.
5. Price comparison.
Think about how grateful you are when you find a price comparison article when you are trying to make a decision on a purchase. Your customers will appreciate this too. Write an article that compares the overall costs of a technical solution across similar products. Review the cost of a bespoke solution versus off-the-shelf options, for instance.
6. Ways to complete a task.
Show your customers a number of ways to complete a complex task. Highlight the pros and cons of each approach. Link to more resources and offer to answer further questions via an email address or discussion thread.
7. Podcast series.
You can build a strong audience with a regular podcast series. People listen to podcasts at work, more so than video because they can keep working, with earphones in. It could be the same guests each time (discussing a different topic) or you could ask different people to feature each time. Consider bringing in partners, suppliers and even customers to feature
These can be downloaded from your website or made into hard copies for your customers to take away. Use e-books to provide more detailed guidance on a complex subject, product or service
9. Case studies.
Showing who else you have done work for, and the outcome is a good idea in B2B sectors such as industrial engineering and manufacturing. Case studies are one way of advertising your success on a past customer project. You can describe the situation, benefits and outcome of your solution to the customer.
10. Photo with quote.
We can’t always develop elaborate content. Photos are a good way to be brief and still have impact. They also work well across all social media channels. But photos need to be meaningful. Capture what it is like to work at your organisation. Pick a great quote from your CEO or Product Engineer and put it on a great photo. Avoid stock photos as they appear unauthentic. Take your own.
11. Article inviting opinion.
People love to be asked what they think. Write an article that raises key issues around an emerging trend or technology. Ask for opinions and other viewpoints. Then watch the magic happen.
12. Slides explaining an idea.
A slide deck is a great way to distil complex information. This style of presenting information forces you to focus on simplicity and conciseness. Use platforms like Slideshare to showcase your content or create a document that customers can download from your website. Remember to put your company logo, website and contact details. This way, your brand follows the content wherever it goes, signposting all that read it back to you.