Tom Tunguz reveals a report from the Corporate Executive Board that quantifies the consumerization of IT. For every dollar that the CIO spends, another 40 cents is spent by departments across the company making their own IT purchases.
I saw an interview recently with the CEO and Sales VP of a rapidly growing SaaS company. They were quickly adding both Sales Development Reps and Account Executives in order to acquire more customers and become the dominant player in a new market.
I can’t imagine how the CEO and VP Sales are managing through this phase of rapid growth in the company. Think of all the things that have to work together: They must fund the cost to recruit, hire, and train new people. As they hire people, this new company also is developing a sales method to acquire customers at a rapid rate. And finally, they have to make sure new customers are successful.
As I was listening to the interview I began to speculate on how a growing startup might begin to implement sales process excellence.
First let’s look at the goals of the company. These goals include:
- Acquire customers
- Retain those customers
- Acquire them at a low cost
The metrics are monthly recurring revenue (MRR), churn rates, and customer acquisition cost (CAC).
What does their sales process look like? The sequence is simple since they only have one distribution channel. They use outbound calling for lead generation and inside sales for selling.
What undesirable results might this company be experiencing in marketing and sales? Here are some possibilities:
- Not enough leads. Marketing generates some leads, but the sales development reps must find many leads on their own.
- Staff turnover. In this intense environment people burn out, they are fired for lack of performance, or they become dissatisfied with growth opportunities. But it’s expensive to recruit and train new people.
- Lack of follow-up with leads that do not turn into customers. Just because a lead is not ready to become a customer today doesn’t mean they will never become a customer.
- Inconsistent qualifying and selling methods. The company has hired a lot of people, given them goals, and told them to go to work. Each sales development rep and account executive is using their own methods. Some are better than others. The company only has informal mechanisms for people to learn best practices from each other.
Given these undesirable results, what are some basic actions that the company could take to improve the sales process, to retain their staff, and to strengthen their financial results? Here are a few ideas taken from Michael Webb’s Sales Process Excellence.
- Establish clear definitions of a marketing qualified lead and a sales qualified lead. What are the criteria that an MQL must meet in order to justify an SDR phone call? And similarly, what criteria must a prospect meet in order for the SDR to pass the lead to an AE?
- Identify and disseminate best practices. What questions work best when an SDR makes a call that quickly add value to the prospect and also qualify the prospect for further conversation? When the AE demonstrates the software to a prospect, what are the most beneficial features to demonstrate? Do they differ by industry or company size?
- Meet regularly to assess the pipeline flow. Establish and track conversion ratios. Evaluate the quantity and quality of new potential opportunities. Review the number of orders, installs, satisfied customers and referrals.
MailChimp has written a company Style Guide to help their employees “write clear and consistent content across teams and channels.” They shared the guide with the world via their website. They even posted it to GitHub and made it available for other companies to adapt under a Creative Commons license.
Rachael Maddox, Kate Kiefer Lee, and Alan Crissey have given both their company and the rest of us a helpful guide for writing online. Thank you.
As I was reading the Style Guide I realized how many audiences and how many types of content a company must master. Businesses today write legal, technical and educational content. They must be able to write for social media, email, and blogs. Their writing must meet accessibility standards and it must be easily translated into other languages.
The MailChimp Style Guide helps today’s business people achieve all these goals. It coaches business writers on the many aspects of grammar and mechanics that people face when they write for online audiences.
The Style Guide explains how to write various types of content. These include everything from something short like a web element or a social media post to longer pieces like technical articles and blog posts.
But the Style Guide goes much further than explain mechanics. It advises writers to adopt a particular style that works well for online writing. It coaches writers to use a combination of both the practical and the classic styles.
Steven Pinker explains in The Sense of Style that people use the practical style when “the writer and reader have defined roles (supervisor and employee, teacher and student, technician and customer), and the writer’s goal is to satisfy the reader’s need.” Writing in the practical style often conforms to a specific template and must be brief because the reader needs the information right now.
You can see the influence of the practical style when the MailChimp Style Guide advises writers to make their writing clear, useful and appropriate. It tells writers to adopt a voice that is straightforward.
The practical style works well for some online documents, but often writers want to engage their readers more fully and more directly than the practical style allows. Consequently, the Style Guide also makes many recommendations that are consistent with the classic style.
According to Pinker the guiding principals for people who write in the classic style are to be conversational and to give the reader a specific point of view.
The writer knows the truth before putting it into words; he is not using the occasion of writing to sort out what he thinks. Nor does the writer of classic prose have to argue for the truth; he just needs to present it. That is because the reader is competent and can recognize the truth when she sees it, as long as she is given an unobstructed view. The writer and the reader are equals, and the process of directing the reader’s gaze takes the form of a conversation.
The MailChimp Style Guide advocates for the classic style. It tells writers to be friendly, human, and familiar. It advises writers to be conversational.
It directs the reader’s gaze to a particular window on the world when it advises writers to “Focus your message, and create a hierarchy of information. Lead with the main point or the most important content.”
The MailChimp Content Style Guide provides useful advice. It goes well beyond explanations of the mechanics of online writing. The Style Guide also shows writers how to adopt the classic style, how to engage readers in a conversation and how to give them an unobstructed view.
For visitors to your site, popup email subscription forms can be annoying.
But for you, they work well to increase the size of your email list.
What should an email marketer do? You want a peaceful browsing experience for visitors. You also want a bigger email list.
Mailchimp addressed this issue in a recent pair of articles.
In the first article they explain how three MailChimp users addressed the issue of popup subscription forms on their site.
Thing Industries introduces a popup to visitors after five seconds on the site. Unlike some websites, the popup does not return once it has been closed. As an incentive, Thing Industries offers a 15% discount to new suscribers to their email list.
3D Robotics was initially hesitant to use a popup. They already had a subscribe link at the top and bottom of each page. However, they did some A/B testing and were shocked to find that a surprising percentage of visitors subscribed. Even better, they had high open rates.
Briefing employs a clean design aesthetic and was reluctant to intrude on visitors with a popup form. They invested time and resources to design a form that fit their aesthetic and language. The popup appears after five seconds and re-appears after three days. Subscription conversion rates increased by 28.4%. The popups started producing 70% of new subscriptions.
The second article from MailChimp explains how to stop displaying popups to people who already subscribe to your list.
- Add params to the links in your campaigns so you know which campaign sent a customer to you.
- Add some code to your site that will check for a parameter in the query string of the URL that determines if a visit originated from a campaign.
The article explains the details of these two steps.
Popups can be annoying. But with some thoughtful design, some A/B testing, and some protection for existing subscribers, you can gain the benefits of popups and also provide a peaceful browsing experience for your visitors.
Fred Wilson points out that if your application has been on the market for 3-5 years, it’s likely that only 10-30% of the people who downloaded that app are using it. This leaves 70-90% who downloaded your application but are not using it.
Of course, you can’t just send them an email and ask them to start using the application again. What can you do?
How about offering some tutorials on how other people have used the product?
Or an offer that gives them some incentive to try the product?
Or a description of improvements to the product since the customer last used it?
These winback campaigns, if done properly, can be incredibly effective.