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Business Process Management Business Systematization

Why Your Remote Team Will Fall Apart Without Processes

There’s a psychological theory developed back in 1895 that still holds true today that can help explain why remote teams fall apart if they’re mismanaged. It’s called deindividuation, and states that when groups of people can’t be identified in a group, they’re more likely to misbehave, e.g. cause violence, riot.

To put it in the words of Gustave Le Bon, the psychologist who first theorized this, “a loss of personal responsibility in crowds leads to an inclination to behave primitively and hedonistically”.

Bear with me…

This might sound like a long shot, but it holds true for remote teams, too.

In an office, everyone is held physically accountable for the work they do. They’re a tangible employee in a building, being actually overseen by other people. In a remote team, everyone’s just an icon on Slack, an email address, or a source of app notifications. If team members feel like they can get away with not communicating, not keeping their team updated, and not getting work done, they’re much more likely to.

And that’s why remote teams are fragile. This is a shame for businesses who can’t manage them because 77% of remote workers are more productive than their office counterparts, and get more done in less time.

In this article, I’ll look at the problems that come along with having a remote team, and go through some methods for solving them.

Problem #1: No accountability without remote team processes

In an office you keep your team updated naturally by chatting how work’s going on the way to lunch, or just mentioning your progress while you have a coffee break. However, many remote workers report feeling isolated, which is part of what creates a lack of accountability, causing teams to go silent and work to start slipping.

How do you solve a lack of accountability?

At Process Street, our remote marketing team has several channels of communication and policies that mean we always keep in the loop:

  • A group Slack channel
  • Trello card comments
  • Two short meetings every Tuesday and Thursday

It’s enforced that all work-related conversations amongst the marketing team must go into the group chat, creating an activity log of work and information. Any task being discussed must be presented alongside a link to its Trello card, and it’s expected that all Trello cards will be commented on whenever progress has been made.

During the meetings, we present our Trello cards to each other for review as proof of work (plus an activity log recorded in Trello/Slack), and go through the tasks together.

This approach leaves absolutely no room for a lack of accountability. If team members aren’t working on their tasks, it’s totally obvious because there will be no record of it.

Problem #2: No centralization of information without remote team workflows

With your whole team collaborating over the internet (without opportunities just to look over their co-worker’s shoulder) it can be a pain to share information if it isn’t centralized. It’s an obvious problem for businesses since some of the biggest software companies — Dropbox, Box and other document management systems — were created purely to solve it.

How do you centralize information?

One of the main ways to do it is to make sure you’re working entirely on the cloud. We’ve written about all of the SaaS (software-as-a-service) products we use together before, and it made me realize how stuck we’d be without live collaboration and the ability to store information in the best, most easily accessible places.

As I said in the solution to problem #1, everything can dumped into a Trello card. Trello cards can hold links, attachments, images, and even spreadsheets, so there’s no excuse for not centralizing information when it’s that easy. For documents, we use Quip and Google Sheets, ensuring we can always access what we need, no matter where we are.

Get information centralized by enforcing all work-in-progress task material to be uploaded to Google Drive or Dropbox, or dropped into a project management app like Trello or Asana.

Problem #3: No teambuilding without remote planning

Building camaraderie through direct messages is easier than before thanks to the prevalence of emojis, gifs, and other just-for-fun things, but it’s nowhere near as easy as when you’re face-to-face.

You might get invited to a get-together after work if you’re in an office, but that’s not the kind of thing that’ll happen in a remote team, and neither will natural team-building.

This could mean that team members are shy, uncommunicative, or less productive because they feel isolated.

How do you improve remote team building?

The ways that have worked in our remote team have been have:

  • gaming tournaments (playing the card game Hearthstone against each other to win a prize)
  • sharing videos, movies, and music (we will share weekly recommendations, such as guilty pleasure movies, music to help focus)
  • having a general chat channel (a work-unrelated channel for water-cooler style conversation)

If those options don’t suit, you can also try this list of team building activities for remote teams.

The long-term solution: Agile process management

All three problems explained in this article are caused by a lack of communication, policy, and process.

As Atul Gawande explains in The Checklist Manifesto, key aspects of how we get work done can be overlooked without a process, and policy to enforce it.

When we look closely, we recognize the same balls being dropped over and over, even by those of great ability and determination. We know the patterns. We see the costs. It’s time to try something else.” — Atul Gawande

Remote teams are susceptible to disconnection, deviance from process, and an attitude of unaccountability.

As Gawande says, and as we’ve found in our time building process software, the solution is strict regulations and processes that enforce the centralization of information, encourage communication in open channels, and actively build culture.

It doesn’t sound as appealing as letting a strong team grow organically, but it’s a lot more likely to work.

Resources to help you get started: Your remote team processes!

Below are some public Process Street templates and then a whole load of really useful blog posts they’ve published too, to help you get started and systemize your remote business!

Process Street remote team processes

Remote team blog posts about remote work processes

I think this is a pretty complete round up! If you have any other recommendations or resources, leave them in the comments below!

Categories
Sales and Marketing Standard Operating Procedures Technology

5 Ways to Improve Your Next Sales Outreach Campaign

improve sales outreach

One of the best ways to improve your craft is to check out what your competition is doing. If you get to know what’s working for everyone else (or at least the success stories), you can avoid many pitfalls when it comes to your own company.

So, when I set out to find out how we could improve our sales and marketing cadences around 6 months ago, I knew that I’d have to gather data. A lot of data.

By the time I was finished, I’d signed up to 281 SaaS companies (including the Montclare SaaS 250 and some of the top startups in AngelList) using the details of a fake Vodafone employee and analyzed the 1,000+ emails and voicemails I received in return.

While I won’t go over everything I learned right now (we’d be here for days) I will highlight five of the core takeaways I gathered to help you convert more of the leads you generate.

If you want the rest of the data (including a Slideshare summary and copies of every email and voicemail I received), check out Inside SaaS Sales – a site we set up specifically to house this data. Otherwise, read on!

#1. Send an email every day

First up, you need to keep in regular contact with any potential lead who signs up. This both reminds them that you’re there and builds the connection they have with you.

Although tactics obviously differed based on the company, the majority of companies (41%) sent us one email per day until they stopped contacting us.

Other companies averaged out to sending one email per day, but instead took a staggered approach. A great example of this is Salesforce.

Their team sent us two emails per day for the first two days, then one email for the following four days, and then one five days after that as one of their final touch points.

This is a great way to strike while the iron’s hot (aka, when the lead first signs up), but to avoid drowning them in sales and marketing emails if they aren’t interested.

#2. Don’t send the same kind of email two days in a row

Although most companies sent us one email for every day of their sales cycle, it’s important to make the distinction between marketing and sales emails.

Too many marketing emails and the lead’s attention could be split between offers or they may not have the drive to take action on your product (depending on your copy).

However, too many sales emails and most people will also be put off. Doing this makes your sales efforts very impersonal, and they will feel like they’re not being valued as a potential customer.

That’s why sales teams on average only sent one email every two days – the rest were marketing emails.

#3. Leave a voicemail (if it’s worth it)

Assess whether the lead’s value is enough to warrant the time and effort to reach out and call them. If so, it’s also worth your time to leave a voicemail if they’re unavailable or don’t answer.

I’ll say straight-up that not every lead is worth following up on in this manner (the resource investment can be massive depending on the number of leads and size of your team). A massive 74% of companies analyzed didn’t leave voicemails, which gives a clear picture of the kind of investment we’re talking about.

If you’re not sure whether voicemails are for you or not, compare the resources you have to the potential gain from the lead.

Does your sales team have time for another call? How much would a call effectively cost in terms of time spent and the sales rep’s wages? What would such a call prevent them doing, and how valuable is that action?

Also, don’t forget to look at how successful voicemails have been for you in the past to get an idea of how likely the gamble is to pay off.

#4. Stick with leads you voicemail for longer

If you have a lead that’s worth voicemailing, it’s also worth sticking with that lead for longer. This was shown by the sales cycle of companies who left voicemails being 160% longer than those who didn’t.

In other words, if these companies left a voicemail, they kept trying to convert us for 1.6x as long.

Now, I know that this data could be due to a number of reasons. It could just be that the companies who had the resources to leave voicemails just had a longer sales cycle. Maybe a few took special exception to us since we were a high-value lead.

Either way, if you think that a lead is worth the investment to leave a voicemail after failing to call them, then chances are you have the resources to stick with that lead for longer. You’ve put the work in, so don’t throw it away at the slightest resistance!

#5. Use (or at least consider) marketing automation

Marketing automation is a fantastic way to save time and money – it lets you queue up your emails long before they ever go out and is an absolute must-have for any team looking to scale.

Any kind of business process automation is vital for those looking to grow quickly without running a major risk of imploding.

However, to back up the point, a massive 67% of companies used marketing automation to send their emails. An even more shocking 39% only used automation – there were no salespeople involved.

In short, if you’re not using some kind of automation to take the strain off your team, you’re missing one of the biggest shared tricks in SaaS sales cycles.

Don’t make the same mistakes as everyone else

While all of these points are useful, if you only take one thing away from this post today, take away this.

Don’t make mistakes that someone else has before you.

It might sound simple, but this simple principle will take you a long way in almost anything you do.

Whether you’re looking for a way to improve your sales cycle or you’re trying to build a blog, do your research beforehand and search for what others have to say on the subject. Someone out there will have published their own experience on the topic, and learning that takes you one step closer to success.

Categories
Marketing

How Top SaaS Companies Use Email Marketing

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Effectively using email to connect with your customers is an important part of being a SaaS company.

When someone signs up, you want to reach out to show off what your product can do, or tempt someone into upgrading to your premium service.

We know this all too well, and we know how difficult it can be.

With low open rates and even lower click through rates, email can sometimes seem like a daunting area to focus on.

This is why we conducted a study of how top SaaS companies approach their email marketing and sales.

In partnership with PersistIQ, we looked at the sales cycles and drip marketing techniques of 281 top SaaS companies, analyzing 1183 emails in the process.

We compiled all the emails into a searchable database at first but decided to make it a bit more user friendly for people to browse by turning it into the microsite Inside SaaS Sales.

You can hop on there to search by company and view their emails; analyzing their approach.

Our tip is to find a few companies like yours – i.e. with similar business objectives – and work out why they’ve created and structured their emails in the way they did.

But there’s only so much we can learn from one email at a time. What trends can we find in the data? What sales cycle takeaways do we have?

The key findings from analyzing 281 companies’ emails

Companies follow up for 9 days before stopping contact

Companies tend to be persistent. While avoiding sending emails on weekends, the average period of a sales cadence is 9 days – just short of two working weeks.

Some companies tended to stray quite a distance from this average. Salesforce, for example, took 1 month before giving up with their outreach. While a company like Slack, where each customer tends to be of less value to the business, hit the 9 day mark square on the head.

Companies send one email per day until the end of the cycle

In that opening flurry of emails, the SaaS company doesn’t want to overdo it and scare you the customer away, but they don’t want you to move on either.

Looking at the two previous examples, Slack send the first 4 emails over the first 5 days with the final email coming on the 9th day. That pattern of sustained outreach initially followed by quiet rare reminders is mirrored by Salesforce’s approach, even if their cadence is longer.

Salesforce send two emails a day for the first two days and one email a day for the following four days. The last email in their cadence comes over a fortnight after the penultimate.

This pattern can be seen across the data set and suggests that a sprint start is preferable to a balanced campaign.

65% of companies hand you over to an automated marketing campaign

Automation is huge at the moment, and not just in marketing.

We’re slowly walking into a world where computers are performing an increasing number of our tasks. In the report Four Fundamentals of Workplace Automation from McKinsey, they predict that 18% of a marketing executive’s working time could already be automated by existing commercially available technologies.

And that report is about 18 months old. Zapier have integrated with an extra 500 companies since then!

In our data, it is clear that though lots of companies use automated elements, many of them combine automated with manual. Both Slack and Salesforce send automated marketing email, but Salesforce have a person on hand to reach out to you too; using the double tap method to follow up on previous outreach as a warmer mechanism

Consider automation! All I’m saying…

Most SaaS companies have two sales contacts per lead

Typically a company will have two contacts and at least one of them will have a title which is geared toward bringing in new customers: Sales (35%), Business Development (18%), or Marketing (18%).

It’s not unusual, however, for a company to reach out from a different member of staff – something which puts a friendly face on the company. Like the CEO or Founders themselves (7%) or a Customer Success (6%) person.

This kind of internal branding could add a little more positive to the mix, maybe?

74% of companies don’t leave voicemails

If a company leaves voicemails, the sales cycle length is usually 160% longer.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise because voicemails are indicative of a high touch sales approach. This involves a lot more effort and a lot more commitment from your sales team.

Generally, a company like Slack has no interest in sending you voicemails. Yet, a company like Epicor – who provide serious industrial services in a high value specialized niche – knows that their market is smaller and each lead is super valuable.

It’s in their favor to leave voicemails where possible! (All voicemails we received are transcribed with the rest of the email data on the microsite)

MailChimp is the most common email marketing software

Used by 49% of the sample, Mailchimp is the faraway winner of the email marketing software battle.

Up in second place is Marketo at 21% with HubSpot biting at their heels on 19%.

The rest come in a little further behind with “other” coming before (in order) Eloqua, Tout, Sidekick, Pardot, Marketing Cloud, Sable, and Sendgrid.

Mailchimp is very easy to use and they’ve offered useful automation elements for a while now. It’s surprising to see how far ahead they were in terms of usage amongst industry leaders, but it’s a compelling sign for anyone searching for an email marketing tool.

Learn your techniques from the best

It’s very easy to write an article online about how you should approach your email marketing.

You’ve probably read loads of these articles. I know I have.

But often these articles are written without the expertise for your particular needs. The expertise you need to listen to and learn from lies within the businesses with whom you share business objectives and demographics.

Hopefully, we can help you cut the bull and check out what the real big players do, so you can learn from them.

Let me know how your company approaches its email marketing in the comments below!

Categories
Business Process Management Marketing

6 Marketing Tasks You Can (and Should) Automate

The following is a guest post from Ben Mulholland, content creator at Process Street.

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Everybody — and I mean everybody — has tasks they could automate.

From basic tasks like saving email attachments to centralizing customer data, the possibilities for saving time are practically endless. Plus, as we all know, time is money.

Getting started with business process automation can be a daunting task, so I’m here to show off six tasks our marketing team automates (mostly using automation platform Zapier).

Use these to get started automating your efforts and giving yourself time to focus on the tasks that actually need your attention, like attracting clients and growing your list.

Organizing post ideas

Inspiration can strike at any time and from anything. You could be sat at your computer actively trying to think of blog post ideas, or one could take you by surprise as you browse a local shop. When that time comes you’d better be prepared to record and organize your idea properly, or risk losing it forever.

Our marketing team does this by creating a note in Evernote (which can be installed on any device) to hold the idea and then assigning a particular tag to it. However, rather than having to open up Evernote later and manually process these ideas, we use Zapier to automatically push notes into Trello and format them into actionable project cards.

In other words, when inspiration strikes we note it down in Evernote and that will automatically get pushed into Trello and organized appropriately.

Creating documents

While it may sound lazy or unnecessary, automatically creating a new document for the posts you write saves a huge amount of effort over time.

Rather than having to open up a writing app, create a new document, organize it, and post a link back to it in Trello, me and my team can just move the corresponding card into our “WIP” column. Zapier picks up on this, creates a document in Quip, sorts it into the correct file (according to who the Trello card is assigned to), and posts a link back into the card.

Again, it may not seem like much, but every little helps when you’re running a tight ship in a field where flow and minimum distraction levels rule supreme.

Triggering checklists

Whether it’s keyword research or guest posting, we have a documented process for everything we do more than once. That way we aren’t ever left wondering what to do next – we can look straight at our checklist, follow the next step, mark it as complete to track out progress, and then continue.

Unfortunately (much like creating documents), creating checklists manually adds up to a hefty chunk of time over any extended period. So, instead, we automatically trigger them with Zapier.

For example, blog pre-publish checklists can be triggered by moving a Trello card, and meeting checklists can be triggered at a set time (even without using Zapier). In fact, speaking of meeting checklists

Centralizing meeting notes

We’re a little mad on centralizing information – the idea that everyone should be able to access everything they might need to. Hence why we post notes takes from our meetings into our shared Slack channel.

Usually this would need manually pasting in, but instead we have Zapier detect when our meeting checklist is complete, then automatically ship the notes into Slack for us.

While it’s true that we technically have an accessible version of the notes with the checklist, having that second copy in a much more freely available space is a godsend. That way we can check exactly what we’ve each pledged to work on, what we need from each other, and our CEO doesn’t have to go digging around for the checklist to be able to see our progress at a glance.

In short, everyone wins.

Tracking activity

I’ve already mentioned how we use Trello to manage our marketing team, but it actually goes further than that. Each of our team members has their own personal Trello board, while we share boards for thing like “Blog articles” and “Knowledge Base Content”. That way we can manage our personal tasks separately from, say, blog articles and ideas we need to easily separate and track.

Now, the main problem with Trello is that is can be extremely difficult (and awkward) to get a concise summary of a person’s activity, or that of activity on a board in general. This can be easily solved, however, by once again using Zapier.

We’ve linked our Trello boards to various team members’ Slack channels, meaning that any activity in those boards is posted as part of a conversation in our messaging app.

So, rather than even having to open Trello, I can see everything that’s happened in the Blog board by just checking a Slack channel. Similarly, my boss can see all of the activity I’ve taken (along with a timestamp) on my personal board by checking a different channel.

This makes it incredibly easy to get an immediate summary of how our team has spent their day, thus increasing accountability and making everyone more aware of the need to report any work that they’ve done. It may sounds a little extreme, but it’s one of the best ways to keep on top of a remote team such as ours (especially if some members are new to remote work).

Creating invoices

The final basic task you should be automating to save time and money is that of creating invoices. Everyone likes getting paid, after all, so why not make the moment even sweeter by taking the boring work out of the equation?

The exact method for this will vary depending on what you use to create your invoices (eg, an accounting app or something simple such as Google Docs) and how you wish to record your information, but we decided to keep things simple.

By filling in an invoice checklist in Process Street we can quickly note down all of the important information the invoice needs, such as the date, payment amount, personal and client details, etc. Once complete, ticking off the final task will (using Zapier) automatically push that information into an invoice template and email the final product to both ourselves and the client.

These are just a few of the tasks you could be automating to make time for the work which actually requires your attention – to make the most of automation you need to get creative and test the limits of what you can do. After all, wouldn’t you rather automate as much shovel work as possible?

What tasks do you automate? Have you got any automation tips of your own? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Categories
Blogging Marketing

How to Build Connections with Influencers to Get Links, Shares, and Exposure

influencer-marketing

Making connections with influencers isn’t just for fashion blogs and trendy Instagram accounts.

You’ll need a ‘way in’ no matter who you are or where you’re going.

Whether you’re looking to write for big publications, get a boost to your social shares, improve your SEO, or just get on the radar of a blogger with a big following, you’re going to need to start somewhere.

In this post, I’m going to go through the process I used to write for TechCrunch, get guest blogging slots, and build relationships with social media personalities. It all boils down to a repeatable process with just a few points, and takes very little time or effort.

Let’s get into it…

A few steps before you get started

We’re all blinded by what we already know,

An easy way to find influencers is to use Buzzsumo’s Twitter influencer search. By typing in a keyword relevant to your niche, you can find editors, bloggers, and broadcasters that you can leverage to get more exposure. Alternatively, you can find publications in your niche and then find who’s responsible for content submissions and editing there.

Since this is a social-focused technique, the next step is to follow the influencer on Twitter and add them to a Twitter list.

Now, add their RSS feed to your feed reader so you can keep up to date with what they’re writing:

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Now you’re set to get on with the rest of the process.

Retweet two of the influencer’s articles

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The first part of the interactions after getting started is to retweet two articles. This should be done over time, either with Buffer to Buffer the retweet, or manually by checking back.

To stand out, you can even add a comment inside the retweet, like above. The more you say to start a conversation, the better the outcome will eventually be, and the faster you’ll get to a comfortable stage where you can reach out personally and offer help / make an ask.

Leave two comments on their blog posts

The comments section is an excellent place to interact with bloggers. It’s their home turf, and every blogger loves getting comments and responding to them because it means their work is being read and they’re not just writing into the void. Even if they get a lot of comments already, more can’t ever hurt. Especially if you say something more worthwhile than other people.

Make sure you:

  • Add value to the post (explain how you’ve tried similar methods, or share some of your own experience)
  • Encourage a response (by asking a follow-up question)
  • Say thanks!
  • Sound like a real person

Here’s an example of a great blog comment made for relationship building:

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Overall, a thoughtful, conversation-starting response is the most important thing.

Since you’re subscribed via RSS, you can easily keep to date with what’s being posted and just take a little time in the mornings to read it on your phone and comment.

Share two of their articles on different platforms

I don’t often get my work shared on LinkedIn, but when I do it’s usually by someone who’s got an active following there and I remember the occasion because my Twitter feed is flooded, but my LinkedIn notifications update only rarely.

The people who interact with me on LinkedIn stand out, and that’s a tactic you can try too.

Like before I mentioned how you can Buffer retweets so they don’t go out all at once, you can do the same thing with social shares across multiple platforms. Buffer connects to Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.

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The influencer could be grateful you’re sharing their content on a platform where they don’t have as much presence.

Send a personal email with an offer and a request

Do you know the most important factor that goes into an influencer deciding whether or not they’ll open your emails?

The name of the sender is the most important factor to 64% of respondents, so if they recognize your name as ‘the person who I had a great conversation on Twitter with’, they’re way more likely to feel obliged to open and respond to your email.

When Alex from Groove tried to build an ‘inner circle’ of influencers to help promote his content, he found that a good way to get shares and exposure was to ask for the influencers’ opinion on the draft of a blog post in an email like this one:

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Alternatively, if you’re reaching out to a journalist, you might want to try an email like this one:

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Dmitry from JustReachOut.io has compiled a list of 26 cold email templates, which he says he’s used each one of to take his career to the next level at some point, and for requesting an interview with an influencer, he suggests using this one:

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Your next steps…

To make it simple, I’ve compiled an SOP you can run to do influencer outreach here. Make sure you’ve compiled a list of 10-15 influencers, and that you run one checklist for each influencer and work through the list.

Using that method, you’ll find you get more followers on social media, more shares, better placement for guest posts, and more backlinks.

And it all starts with a little work on social media, so I’d say the reward is fair for the work put in!

Have you tried any similar methods or checklists? Let me know in the comments.

Categories
Business Process Management

7 Marketing Tasks You Should Really Outsource to a VA

outsourcing-businesss-marketing1

It’s no secret that time is money in any business. No matter whether you’re selling the hottest real estate around or making toothpicks for a living, you don’t have time to do everything yourself if you want to scale (or even run) your business effectively. You need to outsource some of your workload, but what should you offload?

Whilst the answer is really “anything which you personally do not have to do”, as long as your time could be better spent on something else, we have the top 7 tasks to outsource to a VA right here. These are the most common, time / resource consuming tasks which (frankly) we could happily see the end of.

If you want more time to focus on the things that matter for your marketing efforts, go ahead and outsource these tasks before anything else!

Gathering Emails

Nobody likes the arduous task of trawling through hundreds of contacts, manually adding their email address to each one. Equally, the task of finding new contacts and their email address can happily chew up hours upon hours of your work day; hours which could be much better spent personally building a connection to those new contacts, rather than just finding them.

Hence, whenever you have a task which requires the collection of email addresses, you should be outsourcing it to a VA. This is a prime example of everything an outsourced task should be; it’s time consuming, monotonous and doesn’t require any of your personal input or expertise to carry out.

Finding Contact Handles

This task has many parallels to gathering emails; finding other contact information such as Twitter handles or LinkedIn profiles can be just as time-consuming as gathering their email. Time which, once again, could be much better spent creating content to market, improving your website or, as with the emails, building a personal connection to said potential contacts. Essentially, instead of building the framework, you’re shaping your network.

Curating Social Media Content

If this is not already handled by your business process automation system, social media is something which you (by and large) don’t want to be dealing with. You want to have your social media accounts topped up with content that isn’t just an endless stream of self-promotion, but where exactly do you get content that resonates with your audience.

Depending on your tastes, you might try social bookmarking sites like reddit, Inbound.org, GrowthHackers, or putting together a small list on Twitter of accounts that tend to share top notch content. Making a marketing process for this should be easy if you know the kind of content you’d like to curate.

Visual Content

Whether you’re designing the cover for your brand new ebook or just need to get some header images to pair with your Twitter and Facebook posts, you could spend the time to do them yourself. After all, if you just have to do one or two images you might as well take the 5 minutes it takes to whip up a good image.

However, when you get to the stage where you need professional-looking infographics, 20 social media images a week and a new ebook every couple of months, it only makes sense to outsource the task to someone more qualified. Hey, just because the task is going to a VA doesn’t mean that it’s going to be worse quality! All you need to do is make some inquiries to learn who has experience with creating visual content, and then boom; you’re away.

Blog Commenting

Other than being a fantastic way to get your name and brand out there and seen on more popular sources, blog commenting is another monotonous task which can take up hours upon hours without ever being complete (as long as there are more blogs and new posts, blog comments can be made). So, rather than tackle it yourself, you can quite happily hand the task off to a VA without too much trouble.

The only problem which can be posed by outsourcing this task is that the comments should have some sort of review process. This could either be yourself (even if you review each comment, you’ll still save the time taken to write them) or a permanent member of your marketing team, but there should be at least a little quality assurance before a VA is allowed to say anything under your name.

Transcriptions

Although this mainly applies to those of you who produce a podcast or video content, transcriptions are easy to do and provide you with extra content with relatively little effort. If you outsource the task you’re not even wasting any time on it – you’re essentially getting several mediums of content for the effort put into just the one.

Content Creation (Be Careful Though)

This may be a bit of a controversial one, but content creation doesn’t always have to be handled by an internal member of your team. You can outsource your content creation to a VA with little problem and, although you’d better have a thorough employee onboarding process to help them along, it should take little time for them to produce similar quality content to yours in the same (or even a shorter) time period.

As with the blog commenting, this should always be monitored and go through at least one of your team members before being pushed live; although many VAs are very talented and can most certainly deliver on what they promise, there’s always a chance that an error has snuck by them or that they haven’t got your tone right.

And there you have it! With a little caution and training, VAs can be a massive boon to your marketing efforts if you let them take these time-consuming tasks off your hands. However, why not take it one step further? Get creative with analyzing your day-to-day tasks and you may find that you can outsource more than you thought to great effect!

Categories
Marketing Sales and Marketing Standard Operating Procedures

Ebook Marketing: How to Generate 1,000 Leads Overnight

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Do you want to build your email list and rank for highly desirable keywords with content that generates leads automatically?

In this post I want to let you in on the best way I’ve found to get hundreds of targeted leads on our email with just one piece of content.

I want you to be able to read this post, then go away and start doing the exact same thing as me. I’m going to start with the creation of the ebook, and then move through to promotion.

Writing the ebook

The ebook — a guide to business process automation — was written casually over the course of a couple of months. It consisted of all of our blog posts on the topic, tied together with an intro and outro, structured so it developed like you’d expect a book to.

So, while we were building our blog and posting like usual, we were also creating an ebook in the background. This means we can rank for all of the chapters individually plus the ebook page, and it’s much less work.

Essentially, it’s one giant content repurposing project, allowing both the posts and ebook to generate leads.

The way to start is to do a little keyword research. Once you’ve found a great keyword (high volume, low difficulty, well targeted at your audience), start to brainstorm 5-10 blog posts on the topic, all going after the long tail keywords related to it.

Note the structure using a tool like Evernote or Trello, then start turning keywords into titles. Once you’ve got the titles down, blog away as normal until the book’s written.

The blog posts were all sent as links along with our graphical assets (icons, gradients, etc.) to a freelance designer hired through Upwork. She came back with a PDF and ePub version within the week, and then it was time to prepare to promote it.

Before promoting the ebook

Next up, we needed to find as many people as possible that we thought would like the ebook. To do this, I used BuzzSumo to scrape the names and Twitter handles of 250 people that talk and write about business process automation. We also gathered everyone who had been mentioned in the book because they’re more likely to have a vested interest in its promotion.

Handing it off to a VA to scrape the emails, I went about writing the landing page copy.

The landing page copy for all of our ebooks follows the same structure:

  • Problem (you’re doing too much in your business manually)
  • Solution (you can harness automation, if you know how)
  • Call to action
  • Who’s this book for?
  • What’s in the book?
  • Call to action

We have a template of this in WordPress, so it’s easy to duplicate it and work off of it to make sure you’re not missing anything out.

With the emails loaded up in Close.io, our CRM, and the landing page ready to go, I wrote an email template informing the outreach contacts I found earlier that we’re launching a book they might be interested in, like this:

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Launch day: ebook marketing in action

On the day of the launch, we posted the ebook on Product Hunt, sent emails to the list of influencers, and watched the email subscribers roll in. By some bizarre stroke of luck, we hit #1 in Books on Product Hunt despite the narrow audience of the subject.

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We also posted it up on reddit and inbound.org, which, as you can see, brought a comparatively small slice of traffic when checked against Product Hunt:

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After launch day

To make sure we were capturing as many leads as possible, we went back to every relevant blog post and added a call to action to get the ebook. Since some of the posts had already started to rank in Google, it meant that we were able to capture some of that success and make it stick.

We still find a few hundred leads coming in every month from the ebook, even after the launch day buzz has long gone. For a side project, it’s well worth investing your time.

5 extra tips for success

There are a few things to know about this tactic before getting stuck in:

  1. Make sure your landing page copy is long. Short copy and gated content doesn’t rank at all well in Google
  2. Write an announcement blog post and link your ebook’s landing page in it to help it rank
  3. Send the PDF file to everyone who’s already on your list so they don’t have to put their email in again
  4. Use SumoMe’s click triggers for creating call to action buttons anywhere on your site
  5. Make sure your ebook is super relevant to your business, so the leads you get are the best quality

Have you had success with ebook launches in the past? Let’s chat in the comments.

Categories
Business Process Management

How to Build Efficient Processes for Your Remote Team

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Working remotely is a skill. People often don’t realize this.

Working remotely is something you learn to do and you get better at with time.

As a manager, you have to recognize this as much as anyone on your team. You have to recognize this because you have to take responsibility for your team members’ ability to deliver.

That’s why I’m writing this article to give you an insight into some of the processes we use to keep our team’s productivity high while working remotely, and to give you some idea of how we constructed these processes.

We’ll look at:

How to build a process without bringing in consultants

The first step to running any remote organization well is to create processes.

The thing is, you probably already have a stack of processes you use day to day whether your team realizes it or not.

As such, the first thing we need to do is identify one activity central to your team’s activities so that we can begin to look at the method of improving the team’s performance.

To make this easy, we’ll take an example process that I would use within my team as a writer – the content creation process.

This process already exists. Let’s say it happens in the following way:

  1. An article is assigned
  2. Keyword research is undertaken
  3. I do research for the article
  4. I write the article
  5. The article is formatted
  6. The article is approved and published

Super simple, no?

What we have above is the most basic iteration of a documented process. Once we have this, we can start analyzing its constituent parts; adding detail or assigning roles where necessary.

How is the article assigned? Does an editor send an email? Does the writer propose the article and have the idea accepted or rejected?

These are the little questions that need to be asked of that basic documented process.

Eventually, we’ll start to see that there are multiple smaller processes within this workflow. The process of researching for keywords could be considered a standalone process. The process of formatting an article could be too. You can see two basic version of these processes here:

You don’t need to go into this level of detail at the beginning. Start by doing what you normally do and document each step of it. Every action you take, note it down.

This will give you a clear linear flow of how your team operates on a daily basis.

From here, you can present this process to your team and collaboratively improve it. Some team members might have tools they use to improve steps: e.g. Use an extension like Grammarly to be continually checking spelling and grammar, saving time in the proofreading.

Your team are the ones who will be using this process regularly so they need to be the ones most comfortable with it.

When your process is fully documented, make sure your team use it each time they undertake that activity. Over time, this will highlight any obvious mistakes in the process and naturally result in proposed improvements.

In the meantime, we want to find ways to improve these remote processes. Which brings us to the tools which help remote teams thrive….

Tools you can use to improve remote working

I’ll give you our 4 key tools to help a remote team get more done. I’m of the school where I believe less is more. Every interruption during a task is a potential moment for lost productivity. As such, if you keep your team working from the smallest number of platforms, you’ll see less moments of distraction.

My 4 recommended tools:

  1. Slack
  2. Process Street
  3. Airtable
  4. Trello

Slack keeps your team connected

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I hate email.

I blame it on having done sales in the past. A few quick reasons:

Email just isn’t fun to use. It feels formal and stale. Even the best organized inbox will distract you with unimportant mail. It’s terrible for multiple people to communicate through together. I don’t like using it on mobile.

All of those problems, conveniently, are items where Slack does well.

Provided you learn to use asynchronous communication techniques, a remote team using Slack can be really well connected. Slack’s instant message approach with both individual messaging and team channels creates a really well streamlined way of keeping up to date with each other, and other teams.

We have a rule where all communication must exist in public channels. This fosters a stronger sense of company culture, and means that you learn from reading other people’s conversations. The knowledge spillover which results from public channels is a resource and you should be using it.

Keeping communication strong across your team will make sure productivity doesn’t take a hit. No one likes mass emails, but a post in a public channel feels less intrusive.

Process Street lets you track your processes

Process Street lets you build your processes in template form and then run each process as a checklist whenever it needs to be done.

As a manager, you can see these checklists and monitor the progress. It also means that when the template for the process is updated as part of your never ending attempts at optimization, all employees will now be working from the updated process.

This simply allows you standardize company activities and iteratively improve them.

What’s not to like?

When you’re part of a remote team you need to make sure everyone is doing each task properly. The best way to do so is to Stick To The Process.

Airtable is your database in the cloud

We’ve moved a huge amount of our activity to Airtable over the last year.

Airtable is primarily a cloud based database set up which allows you to view your data in a spreadsheet form. Much faster than Google Sheets much more comprehensive, Airtable lets non-techies manage data like they’d just done a course in MySQL.

It’s a great place to store information and we first started using it to archive and track all of our output – articles and the like.

However, in 2017, Airtable released a new feature which allowed line entries to be viewed as cards on a Kanban board. This along with an improving calendar feature encouraged us to switch over for our task management.

The result being that all information entered into our task manager was now archived forever in our database. Very smooth and very manageable.

Trello manages your tasks so you don’t have to

Full disclosure: it is Trello which we’ve been moving away from.

For us, the amount of data we had on our Trello boards made it slow and difficult to find things from the past.

However, for less data-intense teams, Trello is a great option because it is intuitive and the Kanban system is a very effective means of organizing.

When you’re working remotely, it is beneficial to be able to hop onto someone else’s Trello board, find the task they’re working on, and check their progress. Particularly if your work is reliant on some of their work.

You don’t need to reach out to that person, you can simply enter their virtual office and see if they’ve uploaded that file you need yet.

It saves you interrupting them and it saves you waiting for their response.

How to optimize these processes over time

Once your team are working from standardized documented processes, your job as the manager is to improve those processes.

Utilizing tools like the ones mentioned above can improve your processes through speeding up communication or making helpful resources easier to locate.

But optimizing a process requires you to pick it apart and look at different sections:

  1. How well is the desired output being achieved?
  2. How often does the process break down, and why?
  3. How much of the process can be automated?

There are whole libraries of books to help you improve your processes. You could use techniques related to the Deming cycle, like PDSA or PDCA to improve the quality of the output.

Or, you could employ Six Sigma techniques to reduce the defects in the process, like DMAIC.

But point three is even easier.

Tools like Zapier, IFTTT, and Flow can be used to cut out some of the more time consuming menial tasks like data entry. They can also be used to set up notifications to other team members automatically when another activity is created.

These third-party automation tools – of which Zapier is my personal favorite – can shave time of your processes and allow your team members to focus on the work they do best.

Build effective processes designed for your remote team

According to the McKinsey report Four Fundamentals of Workplace Automation, the typical marketing executive could save 15% of their working hours by automating simple tasks.

Automation is here and it can help you.

But automation will be of little use if you’re not working from set processes. Because if you’re not working from set processes, how will you know what to automate to attain best results – not just for yourself but for the whole team?

With a mix of process management philosophies, cloud based modern SaaS products, and one eye on the future, you could drastically improve the performance of your remote team.

Not with a whip. But by building processes which help them focus on what they do best.

Categories
Sales and Marketing Standard Operating Procedures Technology

SaaS Email Marketing Tactics: How 281 Companies Automatically Nurture Leads

The following is a guest post from Adam Henshall, content writer at Process Street.

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Email automation has become the standard approach for marketers all over the world. This summer we decided to ask how it is done best.

There’s only so much you can learn from one person self-reporting their own successes, or only examining the cycles of one or two companies.

We decided to go one step further.

We began a research project where we examined the sales cycles of 281 top SaaS companies from AngelList to Zenefits.

We published an overview of this study at the end of August and launched a micro-site (Inside SaaS Sales) along with PersistIQ where users can browse all our data and access all emails and voicemails which we received.

We learned loads about how these companies structure their sales cadences; when they automate, how persistent they are, who is presented as point of contact, etc etc.

In this article, I’m going to pull apart their use of automation in email marketing and dig down into the data to give a few examples of how companies do it in practice.

How many emails do top companies send?

Our analysis was of 1183 emails, so the volume was pretty high to begin with!

But what do we find each company doing?

Companies very rarely send one email before backing off. This kind of soft touch approach negates the purpose of running an email campaign of any sort. Yet, throughout our research, we found that some companies still take this approach.

In fact, 25% of companies we studied only sent one email before backing away and leaving the customer alone. The majority clearly favor a more persistent method, but those readers who aren’t employing email automation can at least take solace in not being alone in that approach.

This article is going to focus more on the 75% – the ones who make an effort to run a marketing campaign, and particularly those which choose to automate segments of that.

The average company attempts to follow up for 9 days. Given a focus on midweek rather than weekend, this accounts for essentially 2 business weeks.

Within this period, we’re looking at an average of one email a day. Companies typically send one email a day until the end of their cycle – which varies depending on the company.

A business like Slack choose to hit a short sharp campaign with 3 outreach emails in quick succession. This is in keeping with the general trends across marketing drip campaigns which we found typically consists of three emails – a radically different approach to the more sales-oriented measures, particularly those utilizing a high touch sales method.

We’ll look a little closer at Slack’s approach later on in the article.

Should I be automating my email marketing?

Automation has quickly become the hot game in town, but not every company is joining in just yet.

We found that 65% of companies hand you over to an automated marketing campaign.

This still leaves a number of companies without an automated approach, but it is clear that the movement is toward greater use of automation potential.

It is important to note, however, that automation and non-automation are not mutually exclusive. In fact, we found that 53% of the emails we received were from automated campaigns rather than sales people, but often these would both come from the same company.

If we take the example of Salesforce, we find that the automated emails are sent out and then followed up on by a real salesperson.

If you look at this automated email below, you will see a clear attempt to provide generic value:

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Whereas, if you contrast that with this email afterwards, you’ll see a much more personal attempt at outreach from a dedicated sales person:

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This demonstrates the importance of remembering to keep a human touch where it is appropriate to your business.

It isn’t necessary to automate every step. For a service like Salesforce which can charge its customers reasonably high amounts of money, it is clearly of value to them to build automated emails while also leveraging the personal attention given by a salesperson.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Use automation wisely.

What email marketing providers are companies using?

When companies did use marketing automation, they weren’t building it all from scratch themselves.

Like you would, they searched the market to find existing tools they could use to improve their automated workflows to deliver value to their customers.

What I found marginally surprising was that these companies tended to use the same tools that we all use, rather than some gold plated premium service.

In order, the marketing automation services used by the companies studied were:

  1. MailChimp – 48.82%
  2. Marketo – 21.16%
  3. HubSpot – 18.74%
  4. Other – 5.33%
  5. Eloqua – 3.77%
  6. Tout – 3.26%
  7. Sidekick – 3.26%
  8. Pardot – 3.26%
  9. Marketing Clout – 3.23%
  10. Sable and Sendgrid – 2.17%

As we can see, MailChimp dominate the list by some distance, seeing off both Marketo and HubSpot despite the two putting up a good fight.

This is a resounding success for MailChimp and suggests that they’re a good option for small businesses who want to get started with marketing automation. I know from experience that the system is intuitive, so maybe it’s a good place to start.

What tone of communication is most common?

Running an email campaign is so much more than just lining up a workflow and clicking send.

Like any other aspect of your product, you need to consider how it is structured, who it is aimed at, and what its purpose is.

If we look again at the Salesforce example given above, we can learn a few small things from a tonal perspective.

The automated email is personal and opens with a clear statement of Salesforce’s value, followed by a straight question directed at the reader. This keeps the email feeling personal despite the automation, and the statements are general enough to apply to anyone with as much as a passing interest in Salesforce and their service.

Salesforce focuses on using clear and easy to understand language with a gentle sprinkling of statistics to help drive the value home. Across the board there was a trend toward clarity and an avoidance of overly technical jargon or typical sales-speak.

One interesting thing we discovered in our study came from looking at whose name was attached to the emails. The Salesforce example has a generic team for the marketing email and “Strategic Accounts” for the more personal sales email. But that isn’t always the trend.

We found, first and foremost, that sales campaigns through email tended to have two potential points of contact. One of those contacts often had “Sales” in their title, and these were likely the first to reach out.

The use of higher positions was interesting, with CEO or Co-Founder being used to give the email more gravitas. I’m personally not sure how well this tactic works as it strikes me as possibly dishonest, but I’m sure some CEOs are hands on with their approach to certain emails – just I’m not sure why the CEO is taking the time out to email me personally…

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What is the purpose behind each email?

A further consideration when looking at the content of the emails is the purpose of an email. Ignoring “verify your email” and other miscellaneous items, the purpose of an email was typically split into one of these three categories:

  • Encouraging you to use it more.
  • Upselling you to a premium service.
  • Describing technical capabilities.

We’ve already seen examples of the last two from Salesforce. Describing technical capabilities was left to automation, while upselling was given to a real salesperson.

My favorite example of the first approach comes from Slack:

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And a second, but this time with pizzazz:

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The emails are both short and sweet with a clear purpose.

Slack have enough faith in their product that they know the most important first step of their customer journey is to get teams onboarded and using it. As such, this is their focus. Their sole focus.

If you contrast this with a company like Epicor, who provide niche industrial services at high rates, you find Slack can stick to a few small emails rather than the high touch email and voicemail sales approach.

Use an email marketing approach suited to your business

So, there you have it.

We’ve looked at how many emails you should send, when you should automate them, what provider you can use, what tone to employ, and what purpose you should put behind your email.

But the key point is this: choose an email marketing strategy suited to your business’ needs.

If you have a small number of very high value clients, don’t operate like Slack.

Tailor your emails to your audience and your business objectives. With a little iteration and effort, you’ll have a campaign flourishing in no time!

Categories
Support

How Your Marketers Can Improve Customer Service

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The following is a guest post by Ben Mulholland, a content marketer at Process Street.

I used to hate being put on customer support duty. I’m a marketer, not a support technician, and that Intercom notification noise has practically given me PTSD by now.

Then I realized the benefits being on support had given me. Other than mixing up my daily tasks (which I’ve found can help me be more productive) it:

  • Forced me to learn our product inside-out
  • Brought me closer to my audience
  • Showed me what my audience wanted/needed to know
  • Kept me up-to-date with our product releases (features, bug fixes, etc)
  • Taught me more about our SaaS stack

Rather than waffle on about every little thing support has taught me, let’s stick to those four points and expand them. Here we go.

Support duty makes them learn your product inside-out

Before being assigned to support duty, I had a basic understanding of what our product was, how you could use it, and what problems it could solve. After one week on Intercom chatting with customers, there was practically nothing I didn’t know about the product.

This is a vital advantage of marketers who have taken support duties – they’re ultimately more aware of the benefits and limitations of your product, and so they know better how to position their marketing efforts.

For example, without support duties I wouldn’t have known about the various use cases for our API, and by answering questions on the topic I inherently drilled the solutions into my own head.

So, when I switched back to marketing I knew more of what our product could do, and therefore how to more easily tie it into topics such as integrating SaaS apps.

Not only that, but I also knew what you can’t do with our API, meaning that nothing in our marketing made false promises as a result of incorrect assumptions.

It brings them closer to their audience

There’s nothing like support duty to let you know what your customers really want. From the questions asked, along with Intercom stats such as the company size, what platform they’re using, and what product plan they’re on, I was able to better flesh out the personas of our target audience.

This, in turn, led to us being able to better target a similar audience with relevant topics. For example, in manufacturing the most valuable feature of your product could be the ability to track the success rate of your processes. Knowing that means that we can benefit from making a point of that feature in any material which relates back to manufacturing.

There’s also the element of direct communication between your marketing team and their audience. Having some of your most visible employees (eg, your blog’s authors) answer direct questions from customers is a great way to enhance the connection they have to both your content and product.

Think about it – if you saw an article you liked, and then after reaching out to the support team manage to strike up a conversation with the author of that very article, there’s going to be an instant affinity to that team and author.

Common misunderstandings become apparent

Speaking of bringing your marketers and audience closer together, this also makes your team aware of the most common misunderstandings and points of confusion with your product.

In turn, this means that your marketers will have a much better idea of what they should be writing about to cater to their audience.

For example, let’s say that you’re an SEO SaaS startup, and your churn rate is in dire need to fixing. In your support box, ¾ of all free plan customers that leave are asking how to analyze the keywords their site currently ranks for, and what keywords they could branch off into.

That’s an opportunity.

If your marketers are on support duty they will automatically know that your audience needs to be told how to use your product to do this. Whether they create a single hefty blog post, a series of posts, a video, or an entire ebook on the topic, the content they create from knowing those questions will target key friction points your audience encounters, and help to ease them through their troubles.

This knowledge of common/key friction points can even help to reduce churn through your marketing material, as you’ll both attract a wider audience and educate your existing customers in the same piece of content.

They will know exactly what’s going on with the product

First, a declaration – I’m not in any way saying that marketers who haven’t been on customer support duty won’t have a clue what’s going on with the product. An organized team (no matter the shared responsibilities) will keep itself in the know with little trouble.

However, we still come back to the fact that the support team is closer to the product than marketing. For example, while you both may be told of updates that are coming to your platform, support will likely know of them first (through answering customer feature requests). Marketing (in my experience) is also far less likely to be notified of bug fixes when they’re pushed.

Once again, this knowledge can be vital when organizing your marketing processes and content. If there’s a big upcoming update then there’s every chance you’ll have been told to produce some sort of promotional material to go along with it, but minor updates can slip under the radar instead of being tied into fresh material for the blog.

For example, let’s say that your product is going to be updated to allow you to assign a group of people where previously only individuals could be placed. Knowing this, your marketing team could tie in some content which will allow them to mention how that’s possible using your app as an example.

Honestly, the list goes on, but even with these four key elements, it’s easy to see why your marketing team should be taking part of your support duty roster. Yes, it takes up their time, but the knowledge gained and relationships built from doing so far outweigh the negatives.

Have any experiences of your own with mixing up your support roster? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.