Sales Enablement: Content, Technology & Support that Shortens Sales Cycles


In most companies, sales produces more content than marketing. But every minute a sale rep spends creating content is a minute he or she is not selling.

Sales enablement helps organizations streamline the sales process and shorten sales cycles by improving buyer interactions with better, more relevant sales content and equipping sales teams with the tools they need to be more informed and productive sellers.

We know that nearly 60 percent of the buying decision is made before a lead will talk to sales. That means marketing is already participating in sales enablement.  Yet, according to Hubspot, only about half of the organizations surveyed align their marketing activities with their sales objectives.

From Seismic

BackBone’s Sales Enablement service provides you with the support, content, and tools to position your organization to sell more effectively. We help you develop timely, focused content to improve – and sustain – communications with prospects and customers (case studies, product sheets, white papers, ebooks, articles, emails). And on the technology side, we work with you in streamlining the storing, sharing, targeting and continuous improvement of your sales messages.

Our service gives your sales team more time to do what they do best – engage prospects and close business – within shorter your sales cycles. It also puts in place a system that allows you to more quickly onboard new sales reps and build your team.

We’re offering the first 10 companies that respond a free sales content and technology audit. Contact us today to get started.

Finding Your Voice on Social Media

 

Almost every time we’re asked whether we do social media, we know what’s really being asked: “Can you help us figure out a coherent communications/business strategy, as we don’t have the time or patience, let alone the faintest idea why a particular image of a shrugging Siamese cat is so damn funny?”

The problem is that “doing” social media seems pretty basic, until you try actually doing it. After all, what’s so hard to understand about a 140 character tweet or putting up and maintaining a company Linkedin or Facebook page? But it’s kind of like starting a diet — after week one you’re thinking, this isn’t so bad, I can do this. But come week three and week four, you realize what you‘ve gotten yourself into. After a month, perhaps two, of somewhat regular tweeting, posting and uploading, you don’t seem to be getting anywhere. Your incisive comments, insights, and flashes of genuine wit are failing to be liked, retweeted, commented upon. Your following is stuck in the low three digits and doesn’t seem to budge no matter what you do. You’re wondering why your content isn’t resonating…and in a fit of frustration you make the terrible mistake of posting an image of a shrugging Siamese cat.

Before you post a picture of a shrugging Siamese cat (which, full disclosure, I have never exactly seen), we’d like to share some thoughts on how you can use social media to make friends and influence highly influential people.

Pick a strategy, and stick with it. This pudding, thundered Churchill, has no theme! The lack of a theme — or overarching strategy — can be as devastating to a bowl of tapioca pudding as it can be to social media activity. Take a look at the Twitter or Facebook pages of the top companies in your space, particularly those are particularly active and effective (based on numbers of followers). Their tweets/posts may seem random and disconnected, but it’s very likely that there’s method to it. A social media strategy begins with goals — what are your areas of focus, who is your target audience, how do you define success? Once this is firmly established, it’s imperative to establish daily operational procedures to coordinate timing and topics/content. If it’s a team effort, keep all stakeholders in sync. (Pro Tip: using a tool like Hootsuite for Twitter makes it easy to coordinate team activities, and via their analytics you’ll get a sense of what’s working and what’s not.)

Find your “voice.” Social media is qualitatively different from traditional communications channels. For instance Twitter has its own syntax, language, time-honored in-jokes and memes. Mastering the subtleties of irony — or at least knowing it when you see it — is an important skill to have. Think of a company voice as a company brand within the context of social media. It’s more subtle than just conveying your brand, requiring more careful calibration of your “tone.” Being too “corporate” or “official” sounding can come across as stiff and off-putting. You must always bear in mind that social media is, fundamentally, about a conversation — think of a tweet or post as a conversation starter or stirrer…you are not tweeting “at” you are tweeting “with” (Ed. Note: though we still reserve the right to laugh at you, not with you).

Connect and engage. Our primary social media strategy is to engage reporters and analysts via Twitter, which is where many of them live. We monitor several feeds throughout the day and respond to tweets that for any number of reasons have particular resonance — maybe it goes to a technology or issue that’s relevant to a client, or it’s simply interesting and timely. We aren’t always looking to advance the interests of a specific client, but rather, keep our media relations fluid and consistent, and to underscore our value as a reliable editorial resource…so when we do want to send a pitch, it’s more likely to be given consideration. Of course your mileage may vary — chances are you’re looking to use social media to raise your profile among potential customers, possibly new business partners. There too, you’ll want to build your following by consistent engagement, while being selectively opportunistic in reaching out via a direct message. Reply to them, tweet stories at them, and don’t be afraid to crack a joke or two during a Friday tweetstorm. Keep it professional, but keep it light too, and your brand could develop a reputation for being hip, fun and informative.

Being effective begins with a coherent strategy, clear goals and sustained commitment. Before you get any traction, it’s a grind. The key is finding your social media voice — it’s a process, but it’s there and you’ll eventually find it; the real challenge is sticking to it! Whatever you do, resist the urge to post pictures of Siamese or any cats, for that matter, as it’s a sure sign that you’ve given up. They’re cute, no doubt, but it’s not a great look.

WOS New: BackBone’s PR Initiative for EAPs with Stories to Tell

 

Communicating the business value of an EAP to business audiences has always been a challenge. The Workplace Outcome Suite (WOS) was developed by Chestnut Global Partners to change that by making a data-driven business case for investing in EAP and Health/Wellness Coaching. This also makes the WOS, when combined with your anecdotal success stories, the perfect narrative device for telling a quantitative and qualitative story that a general business audience will immediately get.

The WOS EAP PR Initiative helps EAPs cost-effectively promote their outcomes-based work. The “package” includes the writing and targeted media distribution of a press release and/or case study based on EAP outcomes and success stories. The program will be managed by BackBone, Inc., a public relations and marketing agency specializing in EAP, wellness and technology, and a long-time CGP partner.

This initiative provides targeted, affordable communications support for our family of WOS EAPs, while bringing a sustained, data-supported message to market – one that, over time, will make the business value of evidence-based EAP self-evident…and enable purchasers to know exactly what they’re buying.

We’re offering EAPA members and/or WOS users a 20% discount  on standard pricing, including a discount for wire service distribution. For more, visit www.backboneinc.com/WOSEAP or email us at wospr@backboneinc.com.

 

As our long-time PR partner, BackBone has been successful in telling our story to business and specialized audiences. The WOS PR Initiative gives EAPs an effective and affordable way to tell theirs – while underscoring the business value of evidence-based EAP. Dave Sharar, PhD, Director Commercial Science for CGP

 

For more on the WOS EAP PR Initiative, email us at wospr@backboneinc.com.

 

 

 

The Great Twitter Experiment: Will #Twitter280 Change What’s Unique About Twitter?

Imagine waking up to a world where nets are 11 feet high, zen koans are 75 syllables, amps go to 11, and speed limits are all 85 miles per hour (well, maybe that last one wouldn’t be that bad), or Tweets are longer — doubled, to a full 280 characters. Besides being the length of an ingredients label or a newspaper classified, 280 characters is a huge departure from the character limit that has, until now, made Twitter unique.

This week, Twitter made a controversial announcement — certain users would begin to beta-test 280 character tweets, rather than the traditional 140 characters, which has been in place since the social media platform began. Amidst the jokes and memes and, well, inevitable Tweets about this change, there’s been plenty of talk on both sides of the argument about whether or not this is a good idea in the first place. Should Twitter really be expanding its character limit for most people? Does the typical Twitter user have anything so profound to say that it can’t go in a thread or fit into 280 characters? Is this really a good thing? Is it the way of the future, or a huge step back?

In the “pros” column, there’s the obvious take — 280 characters will cut down on long Twitter threads, allow for full sentences and correct grammar, and perhaps even get rid of horrible abbreviations entirely. 280 characters means you can include apostrophes, which is a welcome sight for grammar nerds cruising through Twitter on a daily basis (ahem, hello). Perhaps 280 characters could lead to more profound revelations, more important thoughts, and longer-form deep dives into politics, the news of the day, and more.

This likely also won’t be quite as radical as some users might think — honestly, what Twitter user’s day to day life will change in any humongous way? Out of habit, most users will probably end up sticking to 140 characters regardless, and a quick, snappy joke won’t come close to overtaking 280 characters, making the entire limit arbitrary anyway. It also may encourage more people to tweet in the first place — people who found the 140 character limit, well, limiting. People with inactive Twitter accounts will be able to share more thoughts, tag more people, include more images, and overall just have more freedom. Could that possibly be a bad thing?

However, there’s another take to this, which is that this fundamental change could ruin what Twitter is about in the first place. One of the best things about Twitter’s 140 character limit is that it encourages brevity, thought, and cleverness (well, amongst most users). 140 characters is always smaller than you think, and even though a longer thought process is always going to require a thread, that’s really not the end of the world, and bite-sized thoughts remain pure and brief.

Only time will tell if this change is for the better or for the worse, but in the meantime, there’s a lot to chew on with this drastic character-doubling Twitter has bestowed upon certain (mostly validated) users. From a business perspective, especially when it comes to news, character limits won’t change what’s most vital about Twitter — immediacy. When a huge news event breaks, Twitter lets that information unfold in real time and is frequently faster than any news site out there, and expanding tweets to 280 characters won’t make this any less valuable. At a certain point, with our modern attention spans, we’ll likely find 280 characters just as limiting as 140, at which point, 280 will simply become the new 140, and the world will keep tweeting, er, turning.

Sponsored Content: Fake News or Savvy Marketing?

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re procrastinating your next big project (likely not hard to imagine) and you’re browsing an article on Buzzfeed, Bustle or GQ. Maybe you’re looking for new pasta recipes; maybe you want to learn more about the five love languages; maybe you want to see what’s happening in men’s fall fashion. The article seems… somewhat pointed, perhaps, and keeps mentioning Amazon, a men’s fashion subscription box, or Barillo pasta. You get curious and scroll to the top of the page, only to realize that the post is what some refer to as “native advertising” but what is, essentially, sponsored content. Which is to say, money changed hands in order for the content to appear.

You’d feel kind of tricked, right? Like you just wanted to read an article and instead, you’re being sold Amazon products or a specific pasta brand just so that the website can rake in a tidy profit from a particularly sneaky form of advertising? Sponsored content is becoming more and more prevalent as more publications — even the most prestigious — accept and even promote sponsored content. This is perfectly understandable, as media companies are under intense economic pressure and are looking for new revenue streams just to stay afloat. But does sponsored content do readers a disservice? And in so doing, are companies making a mistake going in this direction if it risks alienating their customers and potential customers who might feel had?  

When you see an ad on TV, in print, or on a website, you know you’re looking at a paid message. With sponsored content it’s not always obvious that what you are reading or looking at has been sponsored by a third party. Do publishers have to disclose when content is sponsored? Legally speaking, yes. According to Federal Trade Commission, publishers are required by law to disclose any “material connection” to a brand. Even a one sentence Tweet should include the hashtag #sponsored or #ad. The FTC gives publishers detailed guidelines about how, when and where to disclose this info. Unfortunately not everyone follows these laws – indeed, many big publishers hide their disclosures in order to blend their paid content in with their non-paid content, sometimes called native advertising.

Relatively new media companies such as Buzzfeed and Vice offer a diverse amount of “special content” and have been followed by blue chip media companies such as the New Yorker, which has branched into sponsored content in recent years, and the New York Times, which launched a branded content studio a few years ago called T Brand Studio.

Sponsored content has a place in the “marketing mix,” so long as the media outlet clearly delineates journalistic content from that which is paid for. We’d also note that just because you’re paying for it doesn’t mean you are now free to promote your brand, product or service…we’d argue that it’s all the more imperative that you take an even-handed, reportorial approach, erring on the side of providing information and insight versus bald touting of your awesomeness. As in most things, we recommend you just let your awesomeness emerge organically.

Bear in mind that BackBone specializes in “earned media” — getting clients coverage in credible media outlets on the strength of your story. This is still the most persuasive type of “messaging” as it’s either a reporter writing objectively about your and your company…or a bylined “thought leadership” article written by your or your CEO that’s almost entirely informational (with some degree of editorializing). Getting into a Forbes or Crain’s is hard, and sponsored may be the surest route; ideally, you’d be able to develop a portfolio weighted toward earned media, with key “gets” via sponsorship.  

We’ve worked with companies in developing sponsored content and believe it does have a place — but there are caveats and considerations. Ultimately, sponsored content works best when it’s “backed” by the credibility and third party validation that comes with  “earned” media.    

Hurricane Checklist for PR Pros (or just about any SOHO-based business)

 

As Hurricane Irma puts South Florida in the cross hairs, we here at BackBone are methodically wind and flood-proofing our ultra-swank Boca Raton-based headquarters. We’ve been down this road before and have outlasted Katrina, Hugo, Wilma, and more, usually with minimal disruption, but this one feels different, because it is different. Even if Irma is downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane, it has the potential to reduce large swaths of South Florida to fine rubble.

If you’re a small or home-based business in Irma’s direct path, like BackBone’s tastefully appointed Boca Raton central office, chances are you’re going through the standard checklist and are making all the recommended preparations. The following items are not usually included on a standard hurricane checklist — even if you’re safely out of Irma’s reach (and Jose’s, which is on its heels), you may find these tips useful in the face of any event or emergency that threatens business continuity and, while formally outside the scope of this blog post, your life and family’s welfare.

1. Have Apps — and Data — Will Travel. In the old days, before cloud computing, preparing for a major natural disaster was a huge hassle — making sure your data was backed up and synchronized, your email was up to date and the latest versions of all business critical apps were installed on your laptop. These days with things like Gmail, cloud-based CRM and storage, and more, your apps, data, email and bookmarks follow you. If you’re working from a seldom-used laptop, or notebook, or using your brother-in-law’s desktop if you’re riding out the storm at your sister’s, you may find yourself at an impasse if you can’t remember or find your password. This is a perfect opportunity to use LastPass, which gives you secure access to all your pw-protected apps and sites; it’s also a perfect opportunity to change “password123″ that you use on EVERY account to something a tad harder-to-crack — which you can do easily with LastPass.

2. Make sure your clients know you may be incommunicado for several days. If Irma hits, there’s a very good chance South Florida will experience broad power outages. Roads may be impassable, so a trip to the closest Starbucks may not be an option. And even if you could make your way through the downed trees and power lines, stalled cars, knee-deep water and debris, their power and Internet may be also down. Let your clients know that you may not be able to respond to emails or calls with your customary speed. Unless there’s something pressing, they’ll understand. Actually, discreetly letting them know you’re emailing or texting as 100+ mile an hour winds pummel your office and home, imperiling life and limb, will garner lasting respect that can only improve your business relationships.

3. Making do with limited bandwidth & access. It’s safe to assume that either you’ll be bandwidth constrained, or at some point, you’ll have no Internet access. If you need to access web pages, there are plugins that allow you to cache those pages for later viewing, even if you don’t have Internet access. Gmail also has a feature that allows you to search your email even if you can’t access your online Gmail account. You’ll need to resist the urge to stream videos or binge Netflix originals, which shouldn’t be done during business hours anyway — but if you must, we suggest you download the MP4 or MKV file to your laptop or mobile device and stream it locally.

4. Ear buds or noise canceling headphones. If you’re staying with friends, family, or even at a local school, temple, church or shelter, you’ll need something to block out the persistent chatter, background noise and frequent interruptions. Stockpiling MP3s of your favorite ambient music to sonically wall yourself off from the surrounding noise is also a very good idea — we highly recommend several Brian Eno efforts, particularly Music for Airports and Apollo. We’re also fans of his work with Roxy Music and David Byrne, but that’s for another checklist.

5. Be aware of your pet’s needs. If you work at home, you know the hazards of an unexpectedly demonstrative pet. Rover or Boots will be particularly high-strung and “vocal” with the wind pouding or when they’re in an unfamiliar environment. Make sure they’re properly taken care of — fed, walked, attended to, played with, and certainly cuddled — to limit any unannounced interruptions.

6. Coffee. You’ll want to have a lot of ice on hand anyway, but for PR professionals — or really, any professional at all — coffee is one of the biggest priorities. Make a huge batch that you can ice. If you have enough ice and room in the cooler, you may want to add a bottle of top shelf vodka or a refreshing Zinfandel for after-hours stress-relief.

7. Drugs. Have a full complement on hand: Advil, Pepcid, cold meds, allergy pills, whatever you might need. Given the likelihood of elevated stress levels, you should consider expanding your Rx inventory accordingly.

8. Don’t forget everyday items that are easy to overlook, but will be sorely missed if you find yourself without. This can include any number of things — for instance, a stress ball that you rely on without which you will become increasingly anxious, irritable and a complete drag to others you’re sharing a space with as you ride out the storm, which gets us to the next tip.

9. Figure out how to live communally. If you work from a small or home office, chances are you are fiercely independent and don’t always play well with others. But you may find yourself hosting family or friends because you’re better fortified, on a sturdier power grid, or offer a broader range of entertainment options. Or, you may find yourself taking refuge elsewhere — at a local school, synagogue or mega church. Your fierce independence and ossified ways will make temporary communal living very difficult. You can make the transition a bit less difficult by packing the aforementioned noise-canceling ear buds, which are absolutely necessities. You may not be a sharer by nature, but you’ll need to be more flexible if someone asks to borrow your charger, needs a packet of sweet and low, or several squares of toilet paper. And do not neglect your appearance and personal hygiene — if you’re used to working in small or home office chances are you’ve grown somewhat, uh, relaxed, in your attire and personal hygiene. If you’re accustomed to working in pajamas or a robe, transitioning to, say, a jogging suit, should be easy. Deodorant is a not an option, nor is dental hygiene. As a general rule, be aware of your surroundings and be mindful of the fact that you’re not the only one who’s uncomfortable, anxious and easily triggered.

10. A lot of luck. The great Branch Rickey defined luck as preparation meeting opportunity. That sounds about right, but in reality, there’s no amount of preparation that will serve as a bulwark against a Category 5 hurricane. You ultimately just need a lot of luck. For this there’s no tip we can offer — we suggest you rub your favorite good luck charm, hope your accumulated good karma finally delivers an ROI, and that your deductible is manageable. That said, good luck, and be safe!