Automating Sales by Nurturing Prospects with HubSpot

hubspot-logoThere are two tools I’m often recommending for blogs – WordPress and HubSpot. I recommend HubSpot in place of WordPress, or in addition to it, if you plan to automate sales by using a lead nurturing system.

Why would I want to create a system for nurturing prospects (aka leads), you ask? Let’s explore a few different angles in Q&A format.

Q: What do you mean by nurturing leads?
A: Most often, I am assisting companies with long sales cycles that typically close offline. Usually there is a lot of “spade work” involved in that type of sales process, and rarely are there enough people or time for the education and follow up desired – especially if the business is intending to scale. A lead nurturing system fills in the gaps, while adding automation and consistency to the sales process. As with all other aspects of online marketing, a system also allows for experimentation, measurement and improvement of the sales process.

Q: Our sales process is so personal / different every time — how could I possibly automate it?
A: Sales automation benefits from a deep understanding of who your customers are, and why they buy. Quite commonly, businesses are so busy growing and adapting that they don’t have the opportunity to to stop and reflect on exactly how their products and services fit in the marketplace. This is where the process of Customer Discovery comes in, ala Steve Blank. That’s the subject for a different blog post, though generally speaking you can think of Customer Discovery as a process designed to find the most easily replicable sales and understand what primary factors went into a prospects decision to buy. The automation process then capitalizes on these learnings.

Q: How do I automate the sales process?
A: Understanding who your prospects are allows you to create targeted “workflows” (i.e. a series of communications) for each type of prospect. Lets say you are recruiting students to a college. In that case, you have several different types of audiences: students, parents, and guidance counselors to name a few. And as you can imagine, the primary messages each of those audiences wants to hear are quite different. While that may seem obvious, few businesses in any industry are taking full advantage of tools like HubSpot to carefully craft online marketing campaigns deeply targeted to each audience – leaving room for companies who do to gain competitive advantage.

Q: What’s a workflow?
A: A workflow in HubSpot is a simply a series of emails that you schedule to be delivered over a period of time. The emails are designed to provide the information your prospects need as best as you can anticipate them, based on your Customer Discovery research. Prospects “enter” a workflow by “triggering” criteria you set, such as filling out a contact form. The trick is getting that contact form filled out in the first place. The good news is, many companies aren’t doing this yet, leaving plenty of opportunity for you.

For example:
Lets pretend I’m a student searching for the “best business degree in the midwest” on Google. (You can follow along by trying the same search and see what happens.) Personally, I’m besieged by ads to “speak to an enrollment coach now!” “request info!” “learn more!” and “enroll now!” However, the search I made was very early in the sales process (aka “Top of Funnel”), and I am not even close to being ready to be coached through enrollment, or to enroll now. (Seems kind of obvious when you look at it with a different lens, doesn’t it?) What I’m trying to do is compare different colleges, and not a single ad responded with “download a comparison of the best business degrees”. So I’ll wind up clicking on the US News Rankings link instead, and every one of those advertisers just lost the opportunity to start a conversation with me.

How could that example have ended differently?
1) Reflect the search query in your ad, such as “compare the best business degrees in the midwest”. 2) Create a custom page on your website (a landing page) that offers the comparison. 3) Offer something of value. Perhaps your custom page has an interactive tool. Perhaps you offer a downloadable guide (with your branding on it, of course.) By offering something of value, you create an opportunity to collect an email. 4) Once you have an email, you can “get to know each other” over time using a carefully crafted workflow. (HubSpot is smart enough to ask different profile questions every time a prospect returns to your site, building a profile over time – the subject for yet another future blog post!) 5) Answer the call when the prospect calls you, ready to take the next step.

In the end, the goal of sales automation with HubSpot is to make your phone ring. When your prospects already “know” you by the time they call, it will be different than the calls you’re receiving now. You’ll be answering late stage questions (at the “Bottom of the Funnel”) about how to engage your company, or how to buy Product X, because the prospect is already educated and ready to buy.

Here’s hoping this helps you get your phone ringing!

What Does Google Say About Your Brand? (You Might Be Surprised…)

What Does Google Say About Your Brand?Funny things happen in live presentations. I’ve been surprised many times by how shocked a business owner is to see the results of a search for their company name that I’m realizing this step is so basic, it’s often overlooked. Have you checked lately what Google has to say about your brand? If not, you might want to take a peek…

One of the surprises is created by Google’s “new” Knowledge Graph (launched in May 2012). For brand searches, the Knowledge Graph compiles information about your company and typically displays a big “box” on the right hand side of a search results page. Information within the box includes pictures, location, hours, reviews, etc.

If what shows up in the box isn’t what you’d choose, the good news is you can update the information by clicking on the “Are you the business owner?” link immediately below the box.

If you’re a new business and no box shows up at all, then your first step is to sign up for a Google Places page.

In both cases, you’ll be able to update business information, share photos, make special offers, and respond to reviews.

Once you’ve updated the information in the Knowledge Graph that dominates the first page of results for your company, then it’s time to take a look at what else shows up. Some typical things you’ll want to clean up:

  • “Dead” social media accounts. Social Media accounts tend to show up near the top of results, and it’s not great for your brand if it hasn’t been updated in months – or years. If you’re not going to use it, close it. You may want to preserve the brand name (so poachers don’t grab it) by posting a “goodbye” message (rather than closing the account) by inviting potential customers to contact you IRL (In Real Life) in a way that fits your brand.
  • Other companies using your brand name. Yes this happens – and depending on how they’re using it, whether it’s legal or not. At the very least, it’s good to be aware and be able to take action if need be.
  • Results that just don’t “fit” your brand name. If the types of results showing up aren’t what you’d like to see as the face of your brand, it’s a good signal that it’s time to do some more deliberate work on your online presence to emphasize what you DO want to be your brand image.

Have fun with Google Places and getting your brand image where you want it to be!

Some How To’s on Setting Up a WordPress Blog (From an SEO Perspective)

wordpress-logoI often recommend WordPress for websites because it’s one of most the ubiquitous platforms, well designed to support your SEO efforts, and generally inexpensive to set up. If you are setting up a WordPress blog on your own, there are a few choices to make, some of which could affect your findability in the long run. These common questions will help you avoid some common setup “gotchas”.

Q: Where do I set up a WordPress site?
A: You have two basic choices: 1) a free site, or 2) paid hosting through an independent hosting provider.

1. Free hosting. There are a few catches to free hosting. If you’re going to want your site to “do” stuff, chances are won’t suffice. This is because you won’t be able to upload plugins (part of the magic of WordPress in the first place) and you won’t have a lot of control over the design (including being stuck with an advertisement for in your footer). For a list of other differences, this article does a nice job: 4 Reasons You Should Never Use (And 4 Reasons You Should).

2. Other (paid) hosting providers. If you know you’ll need more features than provides, then you need to choose a web host. While you could setup WordPress on any web host, you’ll have far fewer headaches by choosing a dedicated WordPress web host. A few WordPress web hosts are listed in the article above; personally, I use WP Engine. Their basic version starts at $29 per month, which includes all the bells and whistles I want: great customer support, automatic site backups nightly (so you can easily roll back to a previous version of your website if a new plugin mucks things up), and they automatically install all WordPress updates, with no charge to me. At one time in my life I provided web hosting, so I know what goes into it – the amount of service I get for $29 per month is amazing.

Q: If I already have a website, do I need to get a new address (e.g. URL) for my WordPress blog?
A: So glad you asked! As a matter of fact, you do not want to get a new URL in most cases. (That would fall under the category of establishing a new brand, which is typically beyond the means of most early/second stage companies.) Instead, you’ll want to use one of these two popular conventions for naming your blog:

  • -or-
  • (for this you would set up what’s called a “subdomain”)

For all practical purposes, choosing one convention over the other is a matter of preference. The reason we want to use your existing site name is to channel all of the “Google Juice” from your blog into your website, helping your existing site, as well as your blog.

Q: What about using a URL such as
A: As with the question above, you want the “credit” for your great content to benefit your company – not To achieve that, you’ll want to choose one of the naming conventions above (in the second question). If you use to host your site, you’ll want to set up what’s called “Domain Mapping” to point your free blog to your existing site. There’s a small fee per year for this service ($13 as of this writing), which is absolutely worth it. (If you went with a different hosting provider as discussed in the first question, this doesn’t apply to you.)

Q: Where can I learn more about WordPress SEO?
A: The team has developed a great reference here:

Good luck on your WordPress adventure!

Build a Powerful Story with this Business Storytelling Workshop (and Discount)

Screenshot 2014-03-19 11.13.33One lucky friend of Beyond Startup will attend a day-long Entre-SLAM business storytelling workshop at half price – for only $62.50!

Who needs to attend this workshop?

Any entrepreneur working on growing their business and finding it challenging to get media attention, customer orders, employee buy-in, etc. As workshop leader Christa Chambers-Price puts it, “Too often, entrepreneurs get lost in ‘companyspeak’: PowerPoint slides, dry mission statements, and product ‘rah-rah’. If you are struggling with this, you are not alone. If you are seeking ways for your business to have a more effective, memorable impact on your market, come prepared to go on this new journey with Entre-SLAM.”

This one-day workshop will challenge you to:

  • Explore how to use the twists, turns and bumps of your business journey to build authentic connections;
  • Declare and embrace what it is you’re really trying to accomplish with your business;
  • Learn how to harness the principles of a well-told story to get folks rising to their feet with applause instead of ignoring you;
  • Play with your new business narrative and adapt it for other media, pitches and team building.

Too often, entrepreneurs get lost in ‘companyspeak’: PowerPoint slides, dry mission statements, and product ‘rah-rah’. If you are struggling with this, you are not alone.

After this workshop you will have:

  • Learned why perfecting your business narrative is an important tool of leadership
  • Clarified and strengthened your understanding of your core brand and what it is you’re really selling
  • Explored and prototyped case studies of effective business storytelling from highly successful entrepreneurs
  • Examined how to effectively adapt and apply your business narrative to a variety of purposes

I’m hard pressed to think of a better investment in growing your business. An all day workshop like this for $62.50 is an absolute steal. Be the first to email me (catherine @ to receive your discount; others register here: Entre-SLAM Registration.

Dates and Locations:

  • Bamboo Detroit: Saturday, March 22, 2014 – 9:00am – 5:00pm
  • New Foundry | Ann Arbor: Saturday, March 29, 2014 – 9:00 – 5:00pm
  • Incu-BAKE | Lansing: Saturday, April 12, 2014 – 9:00am – 5:00pm
  • D:hive Detroit: Monday, April 21, 2014 – 9:00am – 5:00pm
  • Grand Circus | Detroit: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 – 9:00am – 5:00pm

Happy storytelling!

Online Sales Scorecard, Part 2 – Sales With High Variability

Buckets for organizing your salesQ: How do I fit my kind of sales on an online sales scorecard? Putting a number of sales (like 5) doesn’t “fit” my business. My sales are highly varied in size (some are $15k some are $500k) so I could need LOTS of little ones or one BIG one to meet my sales goals in any given month.

A: This is great! You’re already breaking down your sales goals and grouping them in different buckets. Pat yourself on the back for being ahead of the game, and then we’ll talk about why it’s valuable to think in terms of your quantity of sales, and how to manage counting sales in a case like yours.

Why to count quantity of sales

Going back to the old adage “What gets measured, gets done”, we want to measure the number of sales because that’s the number we ultimately want to increase. (At least, that’s the assumption this is based on, as my clients often need to diversify their base of customers as much as they need the dollar value of sales to increase.) In online sales, the thing I can help you influence most directly is the quantity of sales. The amount of those sales is more directly influenced by other factors such as the types of products or services that particular customer is interested in, etc.

How to count quantity of sales

Since you’ve already starting categorizing the different types of sales you need, counting them is a simple matter of measuring them in those same buckets. I’d be careful not to get too ambitious about breaking down sales into every product or service you offer… At this early stage of online sales development, we don’t want to get so detailed with counting that we lose time to grow the numbers.

We want to think as broadly as possible about our sales buckets, which are already framed nicely in the question above as essentially “small sales” and “big sales”. That means all that’s left to do is figure out a break point between those two categories and start measuring sales in those two buckets. There’s no need to sweat getting the breaking point exactly right, as over time you’ll see trends that will tell you if your breaking point is good enough or needs tweaking.

How counting quantity of sales impacts counting leads

Unless your incoming leads obviously fit in one bucket, it’s just fine (in fact, advisable) to track a single number of leads. At the beginning of an online marketing program, we want to measure how many new leads we’re getting into the system, and start increasing that number. Later on, we’ll want to use data we’re collecting in other places (Google Analytics, Google AdWords, HubSpot, etc.) to start influencing who we’re getting as leads – right now, we want to focus on getting more leads, period.

Good luck with your scorecard!

Food for thought from ZingTrain on Gen X, Y and Purpose Driven Business

purposeThis morning Dean Tucker spoke at ZingTrain as part of the 2014 Speaker Series on the topic of Gen X & Y. The biggest take-away for me:

Creating rock star teams and high-performing businesses isn’t about HR figuring out how to cater to the whims of each generation – fundamentally, it’s about building a purpose driven business. It just so happens that Millennials are more driven by purpose than traditional command and control structures. Leaders that build purpose driven teams (vs. profit driven) are Level 5 leaders who naturally embody the qualities that appeal to millennials – and plenty of other employees. It will be a great legacy of the millennial generation if their disenchantment with command and control gets businesses to think differently about how they operate, and to begin shifting focus in business from profit to purpose. I for one, hope they succeed.

Creating rock star teams and high-performing businesses isn’t about HR figuring out how to cater to the whims of each generation – fundamentally, it’s about building a purpose driven business.

This mornings lesson got me thinking about the practical “how to” aspects of becoming a purpose driven business, as I know plenty of business owners seeking to move in that direction.

So lets pretend you’re one of those entrepreneurs who wants to shift to being a more purpose-driven business. Where to start?

If you want more context first:

If the vision stuff still sounds to touchy-feely (or you’re definitely not an anarchist):

  • Start with Gino’s “Traction” or “Get a Grip”. The focus in his books is all business, even though the fundamentals are the same: purpose, values & vision.

If you’re ready to start NOW:

Good luck!

Don’t Miss the Boat! Build an Online Marketing Scorecard (Part 1)

After a number of conversations lately around questions such as “How is my online marketing doing?” and “How do I know if I’m doing a good job?” I think it’s time to introduce the concept of using scorecards to measure your online marketing progress.

A scorecard comes from the practice of Open Book Finance. In essence, it’s simply another version of the old axiom “what gets measured, gets done.” In Open Book Finance, you take the time to figure out what numbers will make an impact on your business if you focus on them, and then report on them in regular team huddles. Your online marketing benefits from the same focus and rigor.

Once you decide to create a scorecard, the next logical question becomes, “What should be on my online marketing scorecard”?

If you are not already collecting data about your online marketing, the most basic place to start is by measuring visits. While I typically wouldn’t keep visits on the scorecard long term, if you don’t have anything, it gives you an easy number to grab from your Google Analytics and get started. I believe it’s more important to get started and build the habit of “keeping score” than to get caught up in finding the “right” metrics, as they will evolve over time anyway.

As I am most often working with B2B clients with long sales cycles, the key metrics I recommend next are usually leads and sales.

How you define a “lead” and a “sale” also tends to evolve over time. In the beginning, start by tracking whatever method you are currently using to receive online leads. Leads often come through an email link, or contact form, which makes adding them to the scorecard a simple matter of counting the submissions received each month. (Bonus points if you are able to track by week vs. month as you start your scorecard.) If some leads also come via phone calls, counting those phone calls would be an eventual goal, but is rarely easy enough to consider incorporating into version 1.0 of your scorecard.

If you are thinking that you have leads coming in at different stages, and want to capture that information – congratulations! You are already ahead of the game. We’ll tackle those kind of details in a later post. If you can start tracking leads at all, that’s a win, and we’ll call it good enough for version 1.0.

What good will tracking leads and sales do, you ask? Well, grasshopper, that right there is the magic of online marketing.

We talked earlier about how what gets measured gets done, right? More to our point, we might say what gets measured gets improved. The more data we have about what influences a sale, the better we can influence further sales. Every single point in your online sales process is a step to be improved, and a step that can ultimately lead to more sales.

Two of the biggest end points in the online sales process are leads and sales, making them key numbers to track. Eventually, you’ll work you way forward in the process to measure where leads came from so you can also start spending more effort in areas that are generating leads, and less effort in areas that aren’t.

Good luck creating your online marketing scorecard!

Corp! Magazine Contest for Leading Companies in Digital, Science & Technology

Corp! magazine is running a call for entries to find Michigan companies and educational organizations leading the way in Digital, Science and Technology or “ DiSciTech”. There are two primary categories of competition:  

  1. Innovative and growing companies (and educational organizations) in research and applied science such as Alternative Energy, Advanced Manufacturing, Life Science, and many more.
  2. Any type of growing company using digital marketing in innovative ways to support their business such as mobile technology, blogs, webinars and more.

The nomination deadline for  DiSciTech is coming up fast on February 7, 2014. Learn more and apply at the Corp! website.


Q&A: Your favorite marketing resources?

questions and answers - Q&AGot a question about online marketing or second stage companies? Send it in, and you may see your answer posted here!

Q: What are your top 5 books on social media? One on analytics and measurement would be great! Also, are there any marketing newsletters/blogs you regularly read? I’d like to find new sources of education/inspiration.

A: Some of my favorite books on online marketing include:

  • The Science of Marketing (data on what social media techniques are most effective, & when)
  • The B2B Social Media Book (yes, social media works for B2B)
  • Trust Agents (for any online marketing to work, trust is the foundation)
  • Web Analytics 2.0 (for a primer in analytics)
  • Persuading Scientists (if you’re marketing to engineers / other technical professionals)

These and more can be found in the Beyond Startup Bookstore.

Some great online marketing blog resources include:

Based on your interest in analytics and measurement you may also want to check out the following blogs:

Good luck!

Have you Given Yourself a Career Wellness Checkup?

Editors note: What are the keys to achievement? What is the secret that makes some leaders a great success? Often, it’s as simple as being focused on the big picture – at work, and in life. These questions posed by fellow coach, Robert Pasick, are a great starting point for checking in on your current alignment with your long-term goals.730

Recently, I have been doing Career Wellness Checkups with my current and former clients. I have found that, just as we have a yearly checkup with our doctors to try to detect health issues that may be arising or have been overlooked, we can benefit by giving ourselves a yearly career review. This is different than a performance review where we are limited to feedback from our supervisor on how we are performing on our job. Here are some of the questions that I have been asking them to consider. I would suggest answering these questions and then reviewing them with a friend or advisor. Of course, I would be happy to consult with you, if you wish.

  • Are you earning as much money as you think you deserve?
  • Are you feeling fully engaged in your work?
  • Are you working at a level where you feel like you are reaching your full potential?
  • Are you achieving as much as you want to achieve?
  • Are you working with the type of people you respect and enjoy?
  • Are you passionate about the work you are doing?
  • Are you utilizing your unique talents much of the time?
  • Are you working in a career which embodies your values?
  • Are you working for a company and a supervisor whom you respect?
  • Is your level of stress reasonable or excessive?
  • Do you have a stretch goal that would enable you to move to the next level in your career?

I am working on putting together a Career Wellness Workshop for the beginning of August, please let me know if you would be interested in attending, or if you have other questions which should be included in the Career Wellness Checkup.

[box type="download"] If you like plans and worksheets, check out the Personal Plan document from the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) for a tool to help you capture your own long term goals. The Personal Plan follows the same framework as the business planning document (the Vision/Traction Organizer) offered by EOS. To download a free copy of the Personal Plan, scroll to the bottom of the downloads list and look for the heading “Additional Tools” to find the personal plan document.[/box]

Online Marketing & Entrepreneurship Coaching for Second Stage Companies