By Jerry Rackley

Editor’s Note:  This post is part of a series of interviews with sponsors and speakers at the upcoming Demand Metric Sales Enablement Virtual Summit, which will take place on April 3, 2014.

Tim Riesterer, chief strategy & marketing officer at Corporate Visions, is on the agenda to present “Winning the Complex Sale” at the upcoming Sales Enablement Virtual Summit.  We asked Tim to share his thoughts on Sales Enablement:

Why is Sales Enablement so important?

Companies can do everything right with their products, go-to-market strategy, segmentation and personas, BUT, in B2B sales all this has to pass through the lips of a salesperson. Selling conversations are literally the bridge between company strategy and customer acceptance. Sales Enablement is about making sure those typically unstructured moments are consistent and high quality – on purpose versus by accident. Increasing sales performance comes down to increasing selling conversation competence… which is at the heart of Sales Enablement.

Our research shows that only half of organizations have a Sales Enablement function, and many that do have it aren’t doing it well.  Why do you think this is?

As with many ‘movements’, Sales Enablement seemed originally to be driven by a “technology-as-panacea” approach. “If you just buy this piece of technology you will be doing Sales Enablement. If you just centralize all of your education, commercial training, product information, etc. you will be doing Sales Enablement.” At its core, technology is always a tool to improve the efficiency of access and use of stuff and, what Sales Enablement technology showed us is that sales processes are failing or, at best, under-used.  It also showed us that most selling content and training is off the mark (product and company centric versus customer centric), or at best misguided, and it showed us that the critical departments – Marketing, Sales, Training – are not aligned around the same objectives. So, now companies are grappling with the “stuff” that the technology solutions brought to light, which is more around organizational inertia and change management, which is always harder to fix than writing another check for a piece of software.

You’ll be presenting during the Virtual Summit – what will attendees learn during your session?

Enabling selling conversations requires the ‘enablers’ to know the objectives and desired outcomes of the various ‘value conversations’ that take place across the buying cycle. My presentation will provide a simple, concrete way for looking at the key value conversation inflexion points, providing definition as well as three fresh ideas for how to improve each of the value conversations with enablement content and tools.

About Tim Riesterer

Tim has more than 20 years experience in Marketing and Sales. Prior to joining Corporate Visions, Tim co-founded Customer Message Management, LLC where he served as CEO until its acquisition by Corporate Visions in 2008. Tim is co-author of Customer Message Management: Increasing Marketing’s Impact on Selling (Thomson/AMA) and Conversations that Win the Complex Sale: Using Power Messaging to Create More Opportunities, Differentiate Your Solution, and Close More Deals (McGraw Hill).

Tim Riesterer

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Summit gathers industry experts, analysts, users and vendors to discuss strategy, technology, tools and best practices for Sales Enablement

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On April 3, 2014, Demand Metric will host its very first Virtual Summit, “Sales Enablement for Success: Research, Experts, Tools and Solutions”.  This Summit is a forum that gathers industry experts, analysts, users and vendors to discuss strategy, solutions and Sales Enablement best practices.

Free for attendees, the Summit features three keynote addresses and the opportunity to interact with industry experts and Demand Metric analysts.  Those who attend will receive more than 80 premium Demand Metric Sales Enablement resources all for free, and attendees that take a survey poll are entered in a random drawing for a free Macbook Retina.

The Summit features a Technology Expo that opens at 9:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on Thursday, April 3, 2014 that lets attendees visit the online vendor booths.  At 10:00 AM EDT, Demand Metric founder and CEO Jesse Hopps will share welcoming remarks with attendees and introduce keynote speakers, including:

  • Clare Price, vice-president of research at Demand Metric
  • Meagan Eisenberg, vice-president of demand generation for DocuSign
  • Craig Nelson, principal of the Sales Enablement Group
  • Tim Riesterer, chief strategist of Corporate Visions

After the keynote presentations, attendees can visit the Summit’s Communications Lounge and participate in a group chat with these industry thought leaders.

The Virtual Summit agenda for the afternoon includes a series of presentations and customer success panel discussions:

  • eSignatures: panel members include Brian Frank, vice president of global strategy at LinkedIn, Marshall Nam, senior product marketing manager at DocuSign and Clare Price, vice president of research at Demand Metric.
  • Enablement Knowledge Management: panel members include Julie Zisman, head of marketing at Showpad, Matthew Penzone, field marketing manager at Infraredx and Clare Price, vice president of research at Demand Metric.
  • Sales Intelligence: panel members include Kent Potts, executive vice president & chief marketing officer at Skura and Jerry Rackley, chief analyst at Demand Metric.
  • Account Based Marketing: presented by Russell Kern, president & founder of Kern Agency.
  • Marketing Automation: panel members include Leo Merle, marketing programs manager at Act-On Software.
  • Asset Management: panel members include James Mooney, founder & CEO at ROInnovation and Jeanne Sauer, director of solutions marketing at Broadsoft.

When not in sessions, attendees can visit the Technology Expo to learn about vendor offerings

“The Sales Enablement Virtual Summit is an important industry event for several reasons,” says John Follett, chief marketing officer for Demand Metric.  “It’s a gathering place for the Sales Enablement community, providing a forum for interaction between users, experts, vendors and analysts who have a common interest and goal:  empower sales and optimize the sales and marketing partnership for better performance and profitability.  It’s also a launching pad for some groundbreaking new content, including:  six Benchmark Reports and Infographics, a Best Practices Report with a maturity model and framework, six Technology Solution Studies, more than eight Vendor Profiles and Case Studies, 12 Analyst eWorkshops, six How-To Guides, and two Consulting Methodologies and Tool-Kits including dozens of practical templates and tools to engage our members and drive attendance of senior marketing and sales professionals.  Attendees will have access to this rich, new set of resources at no cost, thanks to the generosity of our sponsors.

Participation in the Sales Enablement Virtual Summit is free for attendees.  Those wishing to attend simply need to visit the Virtual Summit registration page.

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Maturity model will allow organizations to evaluate the strength and success of their Sales Enablement initiatives.

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London, ON – March 26, 2014 – Demand Metric is set to unveil the Sales Enablement Maturity Model at its upcoming Virtual Summit, “Sales Enablement for Success: Research, Experts, Tools and Solutions” on April 3rd.  The premier Maturity Model will address Sales Enablement and will serve as the foundation of the more than 80 premium Demand Metric Sales Enablement resources Demand Metric will give to attendees of the Virtual Summit.

Demand Metric Maturity Models enable organizations, marketing departments and technology vendors to evaluate the strength of their organization or solution against well-defined, critical success factors.  These holistic Maturity Models describe four key stages in the journey to maturity and growth: Undefined, Progressive, Mature and World Class.  The Demand Metric Maturity Model provides an objective framework for rating the maturity of vendors, their technology solutions and the organizations that use them.

Demand Metric Maturity Models are supported with tools and other resources to help vendors and organizations using vendor solutions to progress to more advanced states of maturity.  “As our Maturity Models detail the progression from one stage to the other, we give companies and vendors the strategies and tools they can implement to move forward from stage to stage,” says Clare Price, vice-president of research for Demand Metric. “Our vision for these Maturity Models is to foster improvement throughout the organization.  Not only will they provide an objective framework for assessing maturity in a number of marketing technology and practice areas, they also point to tools and resources for improvement.”

The initial release of a Demand Metric Maturity Model addresses Sales Enablement, and its release will take place on Wednesday, April 3, 2014 during the Virtual Summit.  The Sales Enablement Maturity Model enables organizations to determine in which of the four stages – Undefined, Progressive, Mature and World-Class – their Sales Enablement initiative belongs by considering eight key organizational components: Orientation, Leadership, Technology/Infrastructure, Alignment, Sales Support Tools, Process, Metrics and Results.

“Using the Demand Metric Sales Enablement Maturity Model, an organization can highlight achievements, discover gaps and focus on challenges needed to increase company success,” continues Price.  “Organizations should use our Sales Enablement Maturity Model as a roadmap to develop a World-Class Sales Enablement Function.”

The Demand Metric Sales Enablement Maturity Model is part of the content bundle available at no charge to attendees of the Virtual Summit, “Sales Enablement for Success: Research, Experts, Tools and Solutions.”   The Virtual Summit opens at 9:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on Thursday, April 3, 2014.  Participation in the Sales Enablement Virtual Summit is free for attendees.  Those wishing to attend simply need to visit the Virtual Summit registration page.

 

About Demand Metric

Demand Metric is a global marketing research & advisory firm serving a membership community of over 40,000 marketing professionals, CEOs, and business owners with advisory services, 100+ research & benchmarking reports, 20+ consulting methodologies, 50+ training workshops & courses, and a library of 500+ practical tools and templates.  Using Demand Metric resources, members complete projects faster and with greater confidence, boosting respect for the marketing team and making it easier to justify needed resources. Our 1,200+ corporate clients range from start-ups to consulting firms to members of the Global 1000. To learn more about Demand Metric, please visit: www.demandmetric.com.

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What is Sales Enablement?

March 24, 2014

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By Jerry Rackley

Sales Enablement seems to suffer from an identity crisis.  Recent Demand Metric research paints a picture of Sales Enablement that is both a paradox and a panacea, depending on the organization in which it exists.  A marketer from a high-tech firm with over $100 million in annual sales shared, “I have not heard of Sales Enablement.”  Similar comments came from a number of others who participated in the Sales Enablement benchmark study Demand Metric recently completed.  Others, however, have a very clear vision for Sales Enablement, and they report that it contributes significantly to their revenue goal attainment.

Sales Enablement is a new and emerging function that organizations are embracing with varying degrees of enthusiasm and commitment.  Like all emerging arenas, the definition of Sales Enablement shifts depending on the perspective of the company, user and implementation. For this reason, it’s important to develop a foundational definition of Sales Enablement that clarifies the value proposition of the function, and provides direction.

Demand Metric defines Sales Enablement this way: the processes, practices, technologies and tools that improve the performance and productivity of the sales organization. In other words, Sales Enablement enhances the ability of the sales team to increase company revenue through sales.  The bottom-line:  Sales Enablement drives revenue by directly impacting the sales teams’ ability to close more deals.

The definition above is a great starting point for orienting the Sales Enablement function.  Let’s build on that definition with further detail and best practice data to help structure a Sales Enablement function that truly helps drive revenue.

Sales Enablement is Strategic

It’s easy and even tempting to put Sales Enablement in place with a simple charge to “help the sales team”.  When you do this, however, what usually results is a Sales Enablement function that is a slave to the sales team.  This isn’t ideal, but neither is having Sales Enablement function as the master of sales.  Instead, what is needed is for Sales Enablement to have a Sherpa-like relationship to the sales team:  a wise-experienced guide that helps carry the load, choose the path and avoid the perils while letting the sales team lead.

What this looks like in practical experience is a Sales Enablement function that stays close to sales, develops a deep understanding of the sales process, and then recommends techniques, tools and assets to facilitate sales success.  Too often, however, Sales Enablement exists as an order-taking entity that fulfills requests from sales for assets: presentations, brochures, proposals, etc.  This latter arrangement may seem convenient for the sales team, but Demand Metric research makes clear that this operational orientation doesn’t create favorable results as well as when Sales Enablement works strategically.

From our research, examples of what this strategic Sales Enablement orientation looks like includes but it not limited to:

  • Recommending, providing or administering systems and support to facilitate sales
  • Providing sales effectiveness training
  • Integrating new channels into the sales process
  • Offering coaching to members of the sales team
  • Flattening the organization to secure internal resources needed to support sales

Sales Enablement is Understood

Our research reveals what seems obvious:  Sales Enablement is far more effective when it is understood.  Who wouldn’t understand what Sales Enablement is?  As it turns out, a surprising number of organizations don’t really understand the Sales Enablement function that exists within their walls.  What is occurring is that an organization rightly perceives that Sales Enablement is helpful, but in the zeal to implement it, overlooks the need to communicate what it does and whom it is for.  This oversight is serious enough to develop into a fatal flaw.

To implement Sales Enablement by assuming everyone involved intuitively understands what it is and how it helps is a serious mistake.  Fortunately, this mistake is easy to prevent and even correct.  Sales Enablement, like any function, needs a vision to drive it.  A clear, articulated vision, however, is not enough.  It’s also imperative that the sales team understands exactly why Sales Enablement exists and how it will help, so they will perceive it as an ally and not a threat. Good, clear communication early in the process of building the Sales Enablement function sets it up for effectiveness and success.

Sales Enablement is Measured

Like any function, Sales Enablement needs a set of success metrics that are tracked, reported and used to improve the process.  The Demand Metric Sales Enablement benchmark study reveals that almost half the organizations reporting that their Sales Enablement function isn’t contributing have no measurements in place for it.  Those that do have effective Sales Enablement not only measure it, most are using some combination of a financial measure (e.g. sales or profit) and a productivity measure (e.g. assets created, training hours delivered or some other measure of throughput).  Selecting a relevant financial and productivity measurement provides an effective tool for managing Sales Enablement, as long as those measurements are taken and used.

Summary

The current reality is that the destiny of Sales Enablement is entirely in the control of the organizations that have the function.  It is either highly effective, a failure or somewhere in between.  What determines its position on this spectrum is the vision expressed for it, its strategic orientation, the resources provided to it and how it is measured and managed.  When Sales Enablement is implemented using this model, it contributes significantly to revenue goal attainment.

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CRM

Everyone knows customer relationships are key to growing a business of any size. And customer relationship management (CRM) software provides an easy way to manage those relationships and stay on top of opportunities and leads.

CRM is by no means the new kid on the corner. You could say Rolodexes and contact databases from the 1980s were the predecessor to the tools we have today. But the users of early systems wouldn’t even recognize the CRM software and features we have now. Today’s CRM goes far beyond simply managing contacts, making it easy to track sales, assign tasks, and oversee projects.

Even though CRM isn’t new, there are still little-known facts you can use to give your company a competitive edge.

1. Not Everyone’s Using It
Before you assume that your competitors are using CRM, check out this statistic:

More than 23% of businesses are not using any CRM system.

What does that mean for you? It means if you’re leveraging the power of CRM, you have the opportunity to take more market share from your competition. Having a 360 view of your leads, their activities online, and your interactions with them can help you predict what their next moves will be.

2. It’s Not Just About Contact Information
Where early CRM systems focused on providing databases of customer information (the basics, like contact info, purchases made, etc.), now it’s much, much more. Tools like the Insightly Gmail Gadget, which lets you connect your emails directly to contacts in your CRM, assign tasks to your team, and manage projects, are taking CRM to never-before-seen levels.

The data you can view in your CRM helps you see patterns in purchases and alerts you if purchasing patterns change. This gives you the opportunity to reach out to your client and find out why their orders have shrunk.

3. Social Integration Gives You a Competitive Edge
Another way that CRM has evolved is by integrating social media streams within a single profile. This helps you deepen relationships, both with leads and existing customers. You can be proactive about your communication and find more opportunities to connect.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to close a deal with a contact and you notice on his LinkedIn profile that he was recently promoted. You can reach out with a note of congratulations. It might not be the thing that wins you the deal, but he’ll definitely be impressed that you were paying such close attention.

4. CRM Makes You More Money
Rather than focus on the investment of time and money (and realistically, it’s not much of a financial investment for most businesses), focus on the return. In a recent survey of CRM decision makers, Nucleus Research discovered that successful projects are generating a return of up to $5.60 for every $1 spent. This return is measured in various ways, particularly the improved productivity of users in key departments (up to 15% for salespeople, for example).

Many CRM systems are geared toward small businesses, and are priced accordingly. So don’t assume that you have to pay what enterprises pay. A simple and affordable CRM solution is out there waiting for you.

CRM is still a stealthy tool to help you close more deals and win more business. Just don’t tell anyone your secrets!

Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in marketing communications, copywriting and blog posts. She’s also the founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners. She’s written three books: DIY Press Releases: Your Guide to Becoming Your Own PR Consultant, 101 Entrepreneur Tips and Internet Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurs, and contributes to several sites, including ChamberofCommerce.com, The Marketing Eggspert Blog, CorpNet, Small Business Trends, and BizLaunch. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.

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Tech Secrets Small Biz

There are 23 million small business owners in the U.S. competing against major retailers every day.  This makes technology a vital tool that can level the playing field for small town merchants. You have worked hard to build a great business reputation; now it’s time to use the new technology that’s literally at your fingertips to increase your profits and keep up with –or ahead of—your competition.

With a tablet or other device and some key apps, today’s small businesses can easily tweet or post the day’s specials, process a credit card, run a customer loyalty program, and manage payroll.  The new tools are affordable, ubiquitous, user-friendly, and make it feasible to compete with the big dogs.  Take a look at these five technology secrets you don’t want to miss:

Move Your Business to the Cloud
Many small-service companies still juggle paper, calendars, and spreadsheets to stay organized.  This system can cause issues that waste a lot of time – from searching through file cabinets to difficulty sharing information.  Cloud services help alleviate many of those hassles; there are a range of cloud-based and mobile tools designed to help with billing, scheduling, and sign ups that will make the small business owner’s life much simpler.

Develop Loyalty and Rewards Programs
A repeat customer has a higher lifetime value than a new customer – that means it is worth it to invest in customer loyalty.  You may wonder; do loyalty programs really work?  The answer is yes, when designed and maintained correctly.

The time when only big corporations offer elaborate loyalty programs is long gone– mom-and-pop-shops can offer them too.  Instead of paper punch cards, today small business owners can utilize loyalty programs like FiveStars and Perka to create inexpensive and up-to-date loyalty and digital programs that will encourage repeat business from your biggest fans.

Take Advantage of Marketing and Sales Plug-Ins
A plug-in app allows small businesses to turn their Gmail service into something much more powerful.  The use of Streak will turn Gmail into a customer-relationship management tool so businesses can track customers and active leads from the inbox.  Don’t miss out on other apps such as email tracker Yesware and the scheduling and reminder tool Boomerang.

Utilize Inexpensive Tools for Productivity
Accounting and HR software once were costly – now business owners can take advantage of the simple cloud apps to help their business run efficiently. For accounting and invoicing, Freshbooks or WaveAccounting are useful and Intercom is great for customer care.

Say Goodbye to Point-of-Sales (POS) Solutions
Tablets and Smartphones with free apps can replace pricey POS systems so small retailers can accept more than just cash payments.  Even your childcare provider can use the mobile Square card reader on their iOS device or Android to accept credit or debit cards.  Make sure to protect your mobile phone from prying eyes and keep it safe and secure.

There are numerous apps that small businesses can utilize today to stay on par with their supersized competitors.  When it boils down to it, small businesses are lucky – they no longer have to fight the battle alone.  There is an app or some form of technology out there for every business need.

What technology secrets have you uncovered that make your small business run with added efficiency?

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Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

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Instagram

Instagram is a well-loved app that’s known for the pictures you can take with it – but contrary to popular belief, that’s not all it offers.  Beyond the pictures you snap is an app that can be very influential for your business – it actually can be your next business-changing marketing tool.  There are over 150 million people on Instagram and 55 million photographs uploaded every day making it a large, active network where you want your business to have a presence.

As the population of Instagram users continues to grow, it’s a place small businesses should explore and just one of many ways to build a great business reputation. Here are some benefits Instagram offers your small business:

Promote a Personal Feel
Beyond just some pretty business cards or a nicely decorated lobby, Instagram can truly create a personal vibe and personality for your business.  You may be one of many small business owners who depleted their savings, took a major risk, or even quit an office job to fulfill a dream of owning a business.  But many of your customers have no idea that you did all of that.

Instagram gives you the chance to put your personal side on display for your customers to see and may help speed up the growth of your business.  Not only does Instagram allow you to humanize your company, you also can share your passion for your business. Consider sharing a behind-the-scenes peek at how your business runs. Simple pictures and videos don’t take a lot of time but make a lasting impact on consumers. 

Reach a Greater Demographic
Through images, Instagram connects people from all parts of the world.  Once your business uses it, you open yourself up to a new audience.  For nearly any business, this can only be a good thing.  With the millions of people on Instagram who upload photographs daily, it’s an app worth downloading.  Create your presence through staying open to new connections and by being active, which means you need to like, comment, and follow others.

Network with Ease
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in all of the picturesque images, but remember that there’s more to Instagram than the photos alone.  It’s like other social networks, so maximize your Instagram presence and network.

Remember why social networks were invented – to help people meet others and build strong relationships.  Interact with new people and you can gain followers and new customers.  Keep in mind that the benefits of Instagram don’t stop there: Instagram is connected to Facebook and Twitter which allows you to easily link all of your networks and use them interchangeably with ease.

Who would have thought taking pictures can do all of this for your business? But it is true – pictures tell a story and, when utilized well, can drive engagement. Instagram has the ability to be a powerful avenue that allows you to share the personal side of your business with your customers, connect with potential prospects and create meaningful relationships.  What are you waiting for?

What benefits has your business seen as a result of an Instagram presence? 

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Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

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cloud computing

Cloud computing has come a long way and is now a mainstream technology tool for business.  The cloud services industry grew to $45 billion worldwide in 2012.  Driving that number were the six million small businesses that purchased their first cloud service that year.   Having cloud computing is one of many ways to build a great business reputation because you can better care for your customers.  Here are other reasons how small businesses can benefit from the Cloud. 

There isn’t technology to worry about.
Think of cloud services like it were a car rental.  If you rent a car the rental company, not you as the renter, handles any repairs and breakdown assistance.  The same is true of cloud services: you sign up, use the software without installing it, maintaining it, downloading updates or keeping it secure.  You don’t need a server or other IT investment that larger suites of software require.  It is all taken care of for you by your service provider.  Therefore, you can devote less time to your technology and do more useful things that help your business.  There are ways technology makes small businesses big and cloud computing is one of them.

It is predictable and economical, a small business owner’s friend.
A very great benefit of the cloud is financial.  Cloud computing doesn’t charge some hefty fee upfront; instead, just a low, predictable flat-rate fee is paid each month per user for the software.  You have the ability to size up or down, as your business needs require.  As you hire new staff, you can make changes at that time and the same applies if the number of staff members decrease.  Cloud services are now an operational expense and one that you can modify to adapt to the emerging needs of your business.  Plus, you never have to jump through hoops for access to the latest version.  It’s immediately made available to all subscribers, which keeps your business at peak competitiveness. 

You can work from any location.
Gone are the days that software only works on the computer in which it was installed. Today’s small business owners don’t work exclusively at a desk in an office.  They work from their homes, from their cars, from the airport and in hotels.  So many businesses are switching to cloud computing because with the cloud, you will always have access to your software.  Simply log in and you can pick back up where you stopped.  Plus, you data is stored securely.  If your office is broken into or you accidentally forget your laptop somewhere, your data will still be safe – and you can access it online from another device.

Cloud services offer something unique to its users.  It’s agile, convenient, and predictable.  It’s a way small business can launch websites, mobile, and social applications, too.  Many businesses are placing their trust in the Cloud and running their small businesses with new-found ease.

Why do you think the Cloud benefits small businesses?

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Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

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Join us for a free eWorkshop on December 12th @ 1pm ET to get a full briefing on the results of the employee engagement study referenced in this post.

fortune 100 best companies

 

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Demand Metric has just completed a study on employee engagement.  Why should marketers care?  Employee engagement is important, but most companies relegate the responsibility for it to Human Resources, right?

Well, it’s true that HR tends to own employee engagement initiatives when they exist, but marketers should ignore this topic at their own peril.  Here’s why: employee engagement has the potential to create a highly sustainable competitive advantage.  At Demand Metric, we haven’t met a marketer yet that isn’t interested in gaining a competitive advantage.  Most of us in the marketing community look elsewhere for competitive advantages.  We are quick to recognize them when they come in the form of product innovation or brand awareness.  But employee engagement?  It just sounds, well, uninteresting.  It’s time we took a different view.

Look closely at any company (Click Here for Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For 2013) that has earned a “best place to work” award, or one that regularly wins accolades from customers and you’ll discover a common thread: highly engaged employees.  What exactly does it mean to have highly engaged employees?  There are several textbook definitions, but the simplest one is this:  employees who are working for more than just the paycheque.

The way it used to work was this:  employers could secure the full commitment and best effort of the workforce with a decent wage and benefits.  The problem with this formula is that it leaves out an increasingly critical component: the emotional connection or bond between an employee and the organization.  For companies to compete at the highest level and on the biggest stage, this emotional bond is not optional.

Intellectually, it’s very easy to make an argument for improving employee engagement.  It’s the same argument for flossing or regular tire rotation: it makes good sense, but viewed this way, it’s just not very compelling.  The employee engagement study just completed paints a far more compelling picture.  Compared to companies with lower levels of engagement, companies with higher levels report higher levels of benefits in several key areas:

  • Revenue growth: 15% higher
  • Customer retention: 17% higher
  • Profit margin:  18% higher

Having more engaged employees leads to better organizational performance and customers feel the difference.  In our study on this topic, 51% of almost 300 participating organizations reported a workforce of engagement level of below 50%.  Essentially half of organizations are leaving a source of tremendous competitive advantage on the table.   The organizations that figure out how to nurture engagement turn the potential energy in the workforce into the kinetic energy of engagement, creating a significant competitive advantage in the process.

Join us for a free eWorkshop on December 12th @ 1pm ET to get a full briefing on the results of the employee engagement study referenced in this post.

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Social Media Changes

Although it may feel like social media marketing can’t possibly progress any further – another year comes to a close and the evolution continues.  Did you know that 79 percent of businesses use social media for content marketing? However, a Small Business Marketing Survey revealed that small businesses ranked social media as number eight on their list of communication channels. How should small businesses redirect their marketing efforts to match industry changes the upcoming year will bring? Take a look at these social media trends & changes we anticipate the next year holds as you get your marketing plan aligned for 2014:

Investment in Social Media Becomes a Necessity
A small percentage of people still view social media investment as a luxury and a “should have” versus a “must have.” However most businesses have come to terms with the need to integrate their social media efforts with their content strategy, and are seeing firsthand the impact of social media in terms of revenue, lead generation and referral traffic.  As businesses experience these real and measurable benefits, it appears there will be a steady movement away from social media tasks completed by existing employees.  Concentrated social media strategists who specialize in their field will be brought on board to take the reins.

Google+ Will Become More Influential
Facebook continues to be a leader in terms of monthly active users – but Google+ is gaining momentum as more small business owners view the platform as integral in terms of SEO and providing a personalized experience.  Google+ now has the second highest number of monthly users and its growth is anticipated to skyrocket for both business and personal use.

Image-Centric Networks Will See Huge Success
The consistent trend of 2013 is success through sharing images and video as opposed to text-based content.  Visual content’s vitality as a piece of the content strategy puzzle will not waver, and Pinterest will shed its rap as a network for women exclusively.  As a business, be mindful about which photos on your website and blog are sharable.

Guest Blogging for Exposure Will Become Essential
Exposure – it’s everything.  In addition to showing off your brand through content, businesses and marketers will also see the value of guest blogging on well-known sites.  If businesses can’t create and post blog content themselves for any reason, they’ll seek out partnerships to help gain maximum business exposure.  Blogging can be a challenge, but there are ways to never run out of blog ideas and always come up with relevant information your readers will find beneficial. 

As social media continues to be a major part of many consumers’ lives, marketers should always keep their eyes peeled for new ways to engage and enthuse. While most businesses realize that social media presence is a must, expect 2014 to be the year that nearly every business finally climbs aboard the social media bandwagon – and commits the necessary time to social media efforts.

Which social media networks do you think will see great success in the New Year?  Do you anticipate any that will show a decline?

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Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

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