Covid-19 has taken growing trends and accelerated them at exhilarating speeds. This has made it difficult for businesses to keep up with new consumer needs and best practices. Juggling social distancing and quarantine periods has been difficult enough; now organizations need to figure out how to thrive in a post-Covid world.
One such trend is that of digital and virtual sales. A study conducted by McKinsey and Co. shows that 90% of B2B decision-makers are confident that virtual sales will continue even after Covid-19 has passed. While remote/digital sales became necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, businesses should prepare to make this a part of their full-time strategy entering 2021.
Changing your B2B sales strategy is easier said than done. To help you make the transition effectively, keep the following tips in mind. Theyâ€™ll help you get started on the right foot.
Embrace New Technology
Transitioning to digital sales will be a challenge if your business isnâ€™t equipped with the right tools. A carpenter will be much more productive with a table saw than a sheet of sandpaper. Your digital arsenal will need a boost if you hope to find success with virtual sales.
Here are the types of tools youâ€™ll need to succeed with digital-first B2B Sales — especially during and after this pandemic.
Videoconferencing tools enable more fluid and personal interaction with customers.
Customer relationship software keeps track of customer information and sales leads.
Data analytics tools let you know which strategies are working and which arenâ€™t.
Email marketing software automatically sends email messages to generate leads and close sales.
An online sales navigator organizes the sales you make online over platforms such as LinkedIn.
Sales presentation tools broaden the capabilities of your videoconferencing calls, increasing their effectiveness.
While even one of these tools will help, the best strategy implements multiple tools. Start with your digital sales goals and pick out the tools that will help you reach them.
Learn How to Build Relationships Digitally
A huge part of sales is the relationship-building process. How can you develop close ties with customers and partners without seeing them in person? Just like with sales pitches, youâ€™ll need to take a different approach to really reach your clients on a deeper level.
Charles Gaudet, CEO of the business coaching and consulting firm Predictable Profits, offers the following three-step guide for building relationships digitally:
1. Social Selling
Your social media sites can be used for more than just marketing. Interacting with clientsâ€™ pages by liking, commenting, and sharing their content helps establish a digital relationship with them.
As with sales pitches, video is more effective than text or voice alone. Video calls are more personal than emails or even phone calls. While all three should be used to a degree, great success comes from making sure video is a part of your relationship-building strategy.
3. Steady Communication
As important as the platform you use to contact customers is how you communicate with them. Such is true with any partnership or relationship. Prompt follow-ups, honest inquiries, and genuine care expressed through steady communication will go a long way.
These three simple steps will help you start developing relationships with your customers virtually. As you get used to the process, you can adjust it to meet the needs of your customer base and fit it to your teamâ€™s strengths.
Learn How to Sell Virtually
Traditional sales tactics arenâ€™t as effective in the virtual world. Some techniques will translate over nicely, but your general sales approach will need some tinkering to align with virtual interactions. These small adjustments are what set a successful digital sales strategy apart from the rest.
For example, in-person sales meetings often involve reading and expressing body language. Body language helps the sales rep gauge buyer interest and figure out what keeps them engaged during a presentation. Your appearance, expression, gestures, and posture also carry more weight in an in-person meeting.
What methods will you use in your digital sales strategy?
Virtual meetings donâ€™t allow for as much physical expression, so you must learn how to generate interest and attract attention using other methods. For example, a study performed by Gong.io shows that deals close 127% more quickly when video is used. Video allows you to connect with customers more effectively and use visual resources that can be of great benefit to a sales pitch.
Be Aware of Pitfalls
Digital sales isnâ€™t a fairy wonderland of endless cash flow and paying customers. There are still pitfalls and obstacles that stand in the way of success. Recognizing and anticipating these pitfalls will prevent you from getting stuck in a sales rut.
â€œThe biggest pitfall of a digital-first sales approach is the ability to get and keep your prospectsâ€™ attention,â€� notes Gaudet. â€œWith every enterprise sales organization using a digital-first strategy, inboxes are flooded with messages. To counter this challenge, companies must use an omnichannel approach to prospecting.â€�
An omnichannel approach means using a variety of sources to contact and connect with customers. Email, social media, and cold calls are all methods that work better together than separately.
Grab Hold of Digital Assets
Prospects will do their research when shopping online for products, services, or business partners. Due to their careful research, youâ€™ll need to have your digital assets lined up and displayed to attract their attention and lure them to your company.
Your first digital sales weapon is your website.
Your website is often the first exposure a customer will have to your brand. Your website should have educational resources, clear pricing and product/service options, as well as a certification of authority in your respective field.
Your online sales and marketing strategies will bring customers over to your website and social pages, where the content they find will influence them just as much as any sales pitch would. Take the time to review your digital assets to look for ways to strengthen them, display them better, or add to them.
Give digital sales a try — and get good at this type of sales.
Ready to give digital sales a try? Remember that your remote sales team is important and will need training for these unprecedented times. Better now than later, because this trend will sweep you in its direction eventually whether you like it or not.
The sooner you start working on your digital sales strategy, the sooner you can optimize it to shatter your sales goals in 2021.
A business is as good as how it portrays itself. It might have the best product on the market, but how it packages that product determines how it will fare. Here is how to properly use PR and SEO to amplify marketing results.
What is Your Consumer Appeal?
With the advent of technology, firms are increasingly becoming competitive to match the supply of goods and services from competitors. Revamping online presence features prominently in communication strategy as companies angle out their consumer appeal.
PR and SEO handle the same segment, but their approach is different. PR is creating desirable content that resonates with consumers, while SEO customizes the content to rank among the competition.
If these two components of the corporate communication link, they form an integrated communication approach that works both offline and online. Letâ€™s take a look at a few tips on how to use SEO and PR to conquer online marketing.
Capture the Attention of More People
You are capturing more people’s attention if you are using SEO to find your clients and improve your image. SEO brings you to the top of search rankings even if the customer was not looking for your business specifically. If nothing else, the customer will continue to see your business represented in search results.
Over time, it will become clear to the customer that you are an expert in the industry. After all, your website continues to appear in their search results. Potential customers will remember your name, and they will associate your brand with a certain industry. You have branded yourself as a useful resource, and customers will start searching for your company alone in the future.
SEO Keyword Lists to Grow Your Audience
However, you must use SEO keyword lists to grow your audience. If you have just one or two keywords, you are only capturing a fraction of the attention that you deserve. Think bigger. Use SEO keyword lists to highlight everything you do and every location you serve.
For example, you should not list the services you provide. It would help if you used industry keywords that mix with these services. A company that offers pressure washing might add the name of an industrial device it uses.
It would be best if you listed everything you pressure wash. Therefore, you will have keywords for pressure washing driveways, sidewalks, homes, offices, commercial buildings, and industrial buildings.
Where Are You Located?
Take the next step by adding locations to your keywords. You have positioned yourself as a company that can provide customers with the service they need, but they might not know where you are located. Adding every location you service and the surrounding towns or cities makes your SEO more effective.
At the same time, you are adding these locations to your branding. You now have a reputation for serving people in every city you have listed.
When people live and work in your area, they often drive by convenient locations that are far from home. Someone who drops the kids off at school might realize that you are close to the school. You have become a convenient option. If you are close to someoneâ€™s office, you are convenient.
Finally, you must add keywords that make you look like a family business. You want to talk about helping families, helping local businesses, or helping local students. When you speak to your customers using friendly language, they are more likely to shop with you.
Adding SEO keywords to your content helps more people find you, and you have successfully integrated PR with SEO.
Increase Brand Awareness
The main aim of marketing is to make products known to the public. Brand awareness entails detailing the component and benefits of the product and its utility to the consumer. Clients choose a product based on how well they know it. Crafting a product description is part of public relations where the producer paints a picture of the product.
SEO brings in the online search patterns which the possible consumer uses to get information. Infusing the keywords into the product description and forming a desirable word combination increase product visibility on search engines. The impact of SEO amplifies the PR of the brand.
Enhance Content Development
As you develop content, you want to be as specific as possible. You are educating your customers when they are reading what your business does. You have branded your business such that you work in every city in the area.
By doing so, you have proven to customers that you can help them even if you do not have the same zip code as them. Additionally, it would be best to talk about specific issues that customers in that area have.
Creating a post on an issue, product or statement needs systematic wording. Content development is more than putting words together to explain. Whereas the formulation of the statement drives the meaning, how it sounds, and the target market informs its development. PR ensures formations while SEO customizes it to reach the target market.
How do You Better Serve Your Customer?
If you work in the pressure washing business, you should talk to customers about how you can solve their problems with salt on the roads in the winter, debris on their homes, and other specific items to that town. You can even reference local landmarks that show you have worked in the area.
You are not just an expert in your industry. You are proving to your customers that you are an expert in their hometown. These customers are more likely to trust you, and your brand looks more trustworthy because you have spoken directly to the customer.
What About Vids?
While you can say that you serve everyone in the area, many customers will not believe you until you reference the place where they live. Each new article should educate the customer on something new, and you can do the same thing with videos.
More potential customers will see videos with titles that include locations. Plus, customers can see you working in their area and might even recognize the background. As these videos progress, customers realize that you can come to their location to offer the same service. They trust you because they have seen you at work, and they understand that you can respond quickly.
Content development is popular in blogging, especially for companies offering social services. It helps create a narrative that appeals to a specific cluster of people. Business websites use SEO and PR to style their content to score a particular business goal.
Improve Brand Confidence and Consistency
Every business strives to come out in the best way possible. The product might be exemplary, but its communication decides how it will fare in the market. Consumers relate more with a known brand than a newcomer. They trust their ability since they have little information on the competitor.
However, the difference between brand awareness and brand confidence is how steady and consistent it is, both as a product and its quality. The authority fit commands is in how it communicates and interacts with its customers. The feedback mechanism sparked by the description improves its visibility and implore the producers to standardize the product. Trust builds brands, while confidence breeds authority.
When you are using PR and SEO together, you can be much more consistent with your brand message. A list of keywords will keep you on-task, and you can write in the same style every time you release an ad or write an article. Consistency makes businesses much more profitable, and you want to get as much help being consistent as you can.
Improve Your Brands Reputation
When you want to improve your brand reputation in a certain area, you can start using those keywords more than others. For example, a company that offers plumbing and electrical services might have just started offering its customers electrical services. Start talking more about electrical work to show that you are an expert in the industry.
You can do the same with any other product or service that you offer. If you have been thinking about your approach to these issues, it is much easier for you to brand yourself as an expert in new fields. Customers will see the same brand message in many locations, and they will feel as though they can trust you.
How May I Contact You?
You must also remember that customers can interact with you if you are posting articles online, writing in your blog, or using social media. You can use a script to talk to all these customers so that they always get the same message. This is vital to your success because it shows customers that you have taken the time to give them the best experience.
Share Ideas and Grow as Business Partners
You can share ideas more easily when you have a positive brand image. As you share your message and brand your company as an expert in a certain field, other companies will want to work with you. These partnerships can be profitable and increase your level of productivity. Social media is one place where people often share ideas and meet new partners.
When you are on social media, you can engage in witty banter with other businesses. These businesses might want to work with you, and your chat logs might even go viral. You can share ideas with these businesses, and you can even ask your customers for ideas. This is a very important step in the process because you want your customers to feel involved in what it is that you do.
Do You Convert Your Keywords to Hashtags?
You can convert all your keywords into hashtags. This means that you can share PR-style ads and slogans with the public, but you can use all your SEO keywords to reach more customers. These keywords are not just used in searches.
Social media companies have designed algorithms that find new people for customers to follow. When someone has searched for a company like yours, you will be recommended if you are close to their location.
Many of your most loyal customers might come to you because they found you on social media. Plus, they can check out your pictures or videos, leave comments, and even recommend your business to others. These people can even share your posts via a messenger app.
Social Media Apps
Social media apps also allow your customers to share your posts on their feeds. When customers really like your business, they will advertise for you. You can even create contests that ask customers to post your images or videos on their feeds. When they do this, they might win a prize. While these customers are excited to win something for free, they tell all their friends, family, and followers that you are trustworthy.
You might even go so far as hiring influencers who will advertise for you on social media. Tell the influencer all the hashtags you want to use, and they can add more credibility to your brand by posting about you a few times a week. Each of these steps, then, ensures that your brand image is improving while also driving web traffic to your site.
Social media has become a business tool for all budding enterprises, thanks to the following it attracts. Companies invoke social connotations to explore new markets and reach a wider audience. They customize their posts to rank higher with social circles. It spreads faster and relays messages in socially acceptable wordings.
Sharing a post or an advert personalizes the message and reaches as many people as possible. Websites are customizing posts to bring out the intended message before the reader fully opens it. Transmission is faster and conversion significant. This digital marketing strategy opens up companies to infinite possibilities.
When you want to improve your public relations and your overall brand image, SEO is a good place to start. You might think that these two things are completely unrelated, but they are not. Many people do not know anything about your business, and they have never been exposed to a marketing campaign of yours in the past.
As you read through these tips, imagine how much your brand can improve when using the proper keywords and strategy.
Are You Trustworthy?
PR is the act of making your brand look more trustworthy. You want everyone who interacts with your brand to believe that you are the best company for the job. SEO helps you find the newest customers. Mixing these two things makes sense when you are running a business in any industry.
Moreover, companies rely on the internet to push their brand beyond its confines and research on emerging trends. However, its marketing results determine its sales conversion and product customization moving forward. As companies develop their communication strategies, a combination of SEO and PR should be their primary focus.
Amazon Prime alone relish more than 54 million individuals and tallying. If Prime were a nation, it would have 8,000,000 more individuals than Spain and be the 27th generally crowded on the planet. Those are simply the Amazon Prime family. This vast figure simply ensures that Amazon isn’t going anywhere.
With endless vendors in the space dominating on Amazon the market is struggling. Youâ€™ll have different sellersâ€™ scores for some random product hoping to get their listing on the top before similar purchasers and sell more on Amazon. It’s a ruthless world, and numerous Sellers have depended on underhand strategies.
Amazon, in any case, is getting savvy about these practices. Regardless of whether it’s purchasing positive reviews, spamming competitors, or compelling clients to eliminate negative reviews, Amazon is making moves to stop these practices.
You shouldnâ€™t be obscure or insidious! There are many completely secure Amazon hacks you can utilize to help you figure out how to sell on Amazon effectively and overwhelm the Amazon commercial center.
Some Of These Tactics That Can Make You Win, Your Amazon Business Are:Â
1 – Solid SEO/Keyword Research:
Amazon ranking algorithm is a lot easier, yet unique from Google’s, and they use various variables. It all works along with the keywords, sales, ratings, and reviews, etc. Keywords are basic. You only need to envision the most significant words your potential customers will look for.
Identify a mainstream root keyword in Google’s Keyword Planner.
Enter that keyword into Amazon’s hunt bar followed by an arbitrary letter (start to finish)
Get search suggestions for that keyword. These keywords are highly recommended or searched on Amazon.
Keyword research tools can extract more keywords with search volume as well. It is a convenient way to find more suitable keywords. Some popular keyword research tools are:
2 – Photography and Graphics:Â
After the perfect listing optimization, when customers find your product on Amazon, they look for images of why your Product Photography, Designing, And Image Text need attention. You must opt for Amazon Product Photography Services and Amazon A+ Content Services from a reliable source.
3- An incredible Competitor’s Research:Â
Examine the positioned higher individuals and look at what they are doing, which is working so well. What is their Amazon advertising procedure? Do a detailed survey on their product listing, Amazon product photography, and A+ content. Research is an extraordinary opportunity to discover what they are progressing admirably and where things are turning out badly. Give incredibly close consideration to any negative surveys. This observation reveals to you where they are tumbling down, in addition to the fact that this gives you a chance to perceive what sort of issues may manifest, yet additionally how you can beat them.
You ought to likewise do this with your listing. Examine your pessimistic surveys and see what individuals are generally worried about. This practice assists you with refining your product and improve the worth you offer your clients.
To get a genuine thought of how they work, take a stab at purchasing their product. Examine it and study everything â€“ from the product itself to how it is packaged and their email groupings. Take a look at how they speak with you. Consider their information, their work embeds, and if their client care makes it pretty much likely that you will leave a positive survey. Utilize this data to make sense of an ideal approach to sell your products on Amazon.
4 – Positive Reviews and Evaluations:
One factor that will oversee whether you show up in the purchase box will be sure your rating and reviews have been. By and large, you will just observe sellers in the buy box who have an average rating of 90% or above.
The ideal approach to guarantee proper evaluation is to sell excellent products and ensure they make it unblemished and on schedule.
Yet, there is nothing of the sort as flawlessness. Regardless of whether you ace your product and your transportation measures, the chances are acceptable. You will experience negative feedback sooner or later. What makes a difference the most is the way you react.
5 – Delivery PerformanceÂ
Regularly, Amazon puts a tremendous need on quick, bother free delivery for their clients. That is the reason (FBA) Fulfilled by the Amazon program is a better option.
Also, transporting execution incorporates various individual measurements, including Order Defect Rate (ODR) and Perfect Order Percentage (POP), the two of which we discussed in our keep going post on Amazon positioning elements.
ODR (Order Defect Rate) is when the number of requests is dropped, returned, dispatched inappropriately, or gets negative criticism in any capacity whatsoever.
POP (Perfect Order Percentage) is the number of requests that go consummately smoothly with no client intercession.
In this manner, Amazon monitors how regularly you run out of stock, so attempt to keep up a 100% in-stock rate.
The foremost thing to keep in mind while selling on Amazon is that Amazon is a customer-oriented platform. All Amazon considers is how accurately you are delivering to your customers and what their feedback is.
If you somehow manage to be visible to potential clients and serve them the best, you will automatically dominate your business rivals.
COVID-19 has changed the way people worldwide behave daily, and nowhere is this felt more keenly than in bricks-and-mortar retail. For decades, retailers have been trying various customer engagement strategies to bring people in and let them browse samples and linger to their heartâ€™s content. But the pandemic has made nearly all those experiences risky and undesirable. Personal safety wins out of the desire to try on clothing, jewelry, makeup, and other wearable products.
Increasingly, with COVID-19, retail businesses are turning to virtual dressing rooms as an alternative for their customers.
A virtual dressing room allows a user to upload a video of themselves and then renders an Augmented Reality image of the person modeling their perspective items.
Certain sectors of the retail industry have already been embracing Augmented Reality dressing rooms, most notably the cosmetics and jewelry industries. But many more retail sectors are adopting virtual dressing rooms, and the pandemic has accelerated the process greatly.
Artificial Intelligence in Virtual Dressing Rooms
Like many digital business applications, virtual dressing rooms are driven by recent advances in technology, from AR and VR to Artificial Intelligence. In fact, technology is advancing so quickly that one of the barriers to adoption is simply that many people donâ€™t realize how good virtual dressing rooms can be if theyâ€™ve never tried one before.
But more and more consumers are trying them and generally like their experiences. As a result, the virtual dressing room market looks to have staying power even after COVID-19 becomes less of a clear-and-present threat. By 2027, the virtual dressing market is projected to be aÂ $10 billion industry.
Virtual Dressing Rooms Becoming Mainstream
For several years, certain retailers have toyed with virtual dressing room solutions and related apps, although frequently, these have been limited in scope and with mixed results. However, the combination of technology-driven increases in quality and the pandemic driving customers away from physical store locations has led to a significant uptick in virtual dressing room adoption.
Global retail giants like Macyâ€™s and Adidas have led the way in virtual dressing room implementation, with many smaller retailers following suit.
Amazon is also involved in virtual dressing room development, as its online retail model continues to gobble up market share.
For many retailers, embracing virtual dressing rooms is a necessity right now. Theyâ€™ve blocked off their physical dressing rooms and forbade customers to handle merchandise like they once did out of fears that these behaviors will spread COVID-19. And many customers simply arenâ€™t coming out to stores regardless.
In todayâ€™s retail landscape, the virtual dressing room represents an opportunity to recapture some of the lost business thatâ€™s crushing most retailersâ€™ profit margins.
How Virtual Dressing Rooms Work
From a technical standpoint, the two broad technologies pivotal to the virtual dressing room are Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence. These are huge domains that stretch far beyond the scope of a virtual dressing room solution, and itâ€™s useful to understand just how these technologies apply here.
The virtual dressing room process begins with video capture of the person who will be trying on the virtual item. Often, the recording device is a mobile smartphone. A smartphone is an ideal vehicle because it contains both the camera to capture video and a screen to display the AR image of the person/body part with the wearable item modeled.
The video is parsed by human pose estimation algorithms that identify a range of key points or locators on the human body, which allow the application to understand the contours, size, and spatial location of the person. Often, AI deep learning routines are used to make these determinations. The accuracy of these AI-driven processes can be far superior to a human programmed process, allowing for far greater fidelity in virtual dressing room development.
Once the bodyâ€™s dimension and location are fixed, the application then appends the item of clothing or accessory to the image on the screen, allowing the user to model that item virtually in a 3-D, photorealistic display.
Pros and Cons of Virtual Dressing Rooms
Like any business or technological innovation, virtual dressing rooms have their advantages and disadvantages when compared to the traditional model.
Itâ€™s important to grasp that virtual dressing room technology continues to develop and evolve, and as the process continues the industry will change. Former drawbacks may be mitigated, and advantages may heighten as supporting technology improves.
But even as some problems may fade in relevance, others may develop. The following pros and cons represent a snapshot of the short — and medium-term projections for the virtual dressing room landscape.
Benefits of Virtual Dressing Rooms
The most obvious benefit to a virtual dressing room is giving the customer the ability to sample and model products remotely. But for this to be worthwhile, the AR rendering has to be realistic enough to be useful. If a user doesnâ€™t feel comfortable with the image theyâ€™re seeing, a virtual dressing room is a failure.
Fortunately, the science of capturing the human body and rendering it in a virtual environment is one that engineers and developers are devoting massive amounts of time and resources to. While virtual dressing rooms arenâ€™t the most important or lucrative application of these processes, we reap the rewards of that development and innovation.
The real game-changer is the implementation of artificial intelligence in the video capture and rendering process. Deep learning algorithms can estimate and display the userâ€™s full body, face, head, hands, feet, or any other specific body area with rapidly increasing clarity and accuracy.
This is taking us toward the point where the average shopper regards a virtual dressing room as roughly equivalent in quality to the physical experience. Once weâ€™ve achieved that benchmark, the traditional dressing room is nearly entirely obsolete.
Potential Drawbacks to Virtual Dressing Rooms
Many of the current drawbacks to virtual dressing rooms are temporary issues likely to be addressed in the coming years.
People are excellent judges of the human form, especially their own. If a virtual dressing room image has minor imperfections, this can detract from the immersive experience and leave a customer uncertain about whether they can trust what theyâ€™ve seen.
In some cases, virtual dressing room solutions are close but to quite up to the highest standard, meaning that customers would prefer traditional ones if given a choice.
During this pandemic, virtual dressing rooms receive a bump simply by being the only realistic option for people looking to minimize their COVID-19 risk. However, at some point in the next year or so, countries will begin to get the pandemic under control via the release of vaccines.
At this point, the question is whether virtual dressing rooms will offer a seamless and accurate experience, one good enough to keep people using them when life can return more to normal. This is where the industry will be continuing to focus.
One final potential drawback worth mentioning is that virtual dressing rooms can pose a data security issue. The process captures usersâ€™ face and body data and background images from wherever the user is filming.
It would be possible for a developer to engineer a virtual dressing room solution that pulls biometrical data and geolocation data from its users. That data could then be used to create profiles of those users, allowing third parties to use this info in a variety of ways.
This particular concern is a universal one in our increasingly digital world, far from unique to virtual dressing rooms. But the video data captured here is particularly intimate, and users may have special concerns.
In 2020, the advent of COVID-19 has reshaped the retail landscape in a seismic way. Consumers avoid stores and businesses find the physical process of trying on and sampling wearable items riskier. In this environment, virtual dressing rooms are being adopted more and more.
But the virtual dressing room concept is more than just a quick-fix workaround for the pandemic. Hand-in-hand with the rise of online retail, virtual dressing rooms have the potential to supplant the traditional dressing room. As AI technology matures, a larger group of consumers will likely find themselves using virtual dressing rooms even afterlife returns more to normal.
There is an invisible real-time data war taking place in the e-commerce world. Made up of numerous battles fought by soldiers, it is waged by major players competing for dominance in the highly competitive e-commerce environment.
The purpose is clear: to post the lowest price and make the sale.
While people donâ€™t realize that this war is taking place, itâ€™s still there and is getting more brutal as time goes on. My company – Oxylabs – provides the proxies or â€œsoldiers,â€� plus the strategic tools that help businesses win the war. This article will give you an inside view of the battles taking place and techniques to overcome some of the common challenges.
Web Scraping: The Battle for Data
Spies are valuable players in any war as they provide inside information on the opponentâ€™s activities.
When it comes to e-commerce, the â€œspiesâ€� are in the form of bots that aim to obtain data on an opponentâ€™s prices and inventory. This intelligence is critical to forming an overall successful sales strategy.
That data extraction through web scraping activities aims to obtain as much quality data as possible from all opponents. However, data is valuable intelligence, and most sites do not want to give it up easily. Below are some of the most common major challenges web scrapers encounter in the battle for high-quality data:
Challenge 1: IP Blocking (Defense Wall)
Since ancient times, walls were built around cities to block out invaders. Websites use the same tactic today by blocking out web scrapers through IP â€œblocks.â€�
Many online stores that use web scraping attempt to extract pricing and additional product information from hundreds (if not thousands) of products at once. Sometimes these information requests are often recognized by the server as an â€œattack.â€� This can result in bans on the IP addresses (unique identification numbers assigned to each device) as a defense measure. This is a type of â€œwallâ€� a target site can put up to block scraping activity.
Another battle tactic is to allow the IP address access to the site but to display inaccurate data.
The solution for all scenarios is to prevent the target site from seeing the IP address in the first place. This requires the use of proxies – or â€œsoldiersâ€� – that mimic â€œhumanâ€� behavior. Each proxy has its own IP address. Thus, the server cannot track them to the source organization doing the public data extraction.
There are two types of proxies – residential and data center proxies. The choice of proxy type depends on the complexity of the website and the strategy.
Fighting on enemy territory is not an easy task due to the home advantage leveraged by the defensive army. The challenges faced by an invading army are especially difficult because they are simultaneously discovering the territory while engaged in the battle.
This is analogous to the terrain faced by web scrapers. Each website has a different terrain in the form of its HTML structure. Every script must adapt itself to each new site to find and extract the information required.
For the physical wars of the past, the wisdom of the generals has proven invaluable when advancing on enemy territory. Similarly, the skills and knowledge of scripting experts are invaluable when targeting sites for data extraction.
Digital terrain, unlike physical terrain on earth, can also change at a momentâ€™s notice. Oxylabs adaptive parser, currently in beta phase, is one of the newest features of our Next-Gen Residential Proxies solution. Soon to become a weapon of choice, this AI and ML-enhanced HTML parser can extract intelligence from rapidly-changing dynamic layouts that include the title, regular price, sale price, description, image URLs, product IDs, page URLs, and much more.
Challenge 3: Extracting Data in Real-Time (Battle Timing)
Quick timing is essential to many types of battle strategy, and often waiting too long may result in defeat. This holds true in the lighting fast e-commerce world where timing makes a big difference in winning or losing a sale.
The fastest mover most often wins. Since prices can change on a minute-by-minute basis, businesses must stay on top of their competitors’ moves.
An effective strategy involves strategic maneuvers using tools and scraping logic to extract data in real-time. Also, the use of multiple proxy solutions so data requests appear organic. While it is possible to construct an in-house real-time data extraction mechanism, anticipate many hassles for it to work as expected. Instead, leading brands tend to outsource ready-to-use tools, allowing them to instantly draw insights instead of focusing on challenging real-time data extraction.
Ethical Web Scraping
It is crucial to understand that web scraping can be used positively. There are transparent ways to gather the required public data and drive businesses forward.
Here are some guidelines to follow to keep the playing field fair for those who gather data and the websites that provide it:
Only scrape publicly-available web pages.
Ensure that the data is requested at a fair rate and doesnâ€™t compromise the webserver.
Respect the data obtained and any privacy issues relevant to the source website.
Study the target website’s legal documents to determine whether you will legally accept their terms of service and if you will do so – whether you will not breach these terms.
A Final Word
Few people realize the war taking place behind the low price they see on their screen. That war is composed of multiple scraping battles for product intelligence fought by proxies circumventing server security measures for access to information.
Strategies for winning the battles come in sophisticated data extraction techniques that use proxies and scraping tools. As the invisible war for data continues to accelerate, it appears that the biggest winners of all are the consumers that benefit from the low prices they see on their screens.
Marketing automation allows your sales assistants, managers, and CMOs to focus less on the organization of the whole marketing process and more on their direct function â€“ selling.
Luckily, there is a wide choice of special tools that can help you automate lead lists building, send sales emails and follow-ups, schedule meetings and calls, and perform other tasks.
Why Is Sales Automation Important for Your Startup?
It Helps Save Effort and TimeÂ
Marketing automation can help increase sales efficiency by 14.5% and decrease marketing expenditures by 12.2%. Besides, business owners, CEOs, and CMOs claim that the biggest advantage of sales automation for their company is saving time at 30%.Â
With business administration getting tough these days, 68% of companies use marketing automation somehow.Â
It Provides Insight Into the Effectiveness of the Sales Process
An increase in earnings (85%) and marketing productivity (69%) are the main reasons businesses want to implement automated lead nurturing. Moreover, 63% of companies are beating their rivals, thanks to sales automation.
It Helps Identify Sales-Ready Leads and Maintains Relationship with Leads
When used to nurture leads, marketing automation tools show an increase in qualified leads. The reason is simple â€“ automated instruments give you detailed data about your prospects. This helps push every deal down the sales funnel and propose a personalized, data-driven offer so that your lead is more willing to make a buying decision.
It Helps Grow Revenue
As reported by 60% of users, implementing sales automation tools in their business has improved the number of leads that convert to deals. And this increase can be as high as 225%! Even just after one month of use, 3x more prospects can be converted to sales.Â
Types of Sales Automation
Modern technologies and artificial intelligence can help you save way more time than you could imagine. If you automate routine tasks throughout each sales funnel stage, you will have enough freedom to focus on interesting and creative tasks. As a result, you will sell more.
You will be surprised at how much can be automated by software:
1. Automate Sales Prospecting
If you implement a dynamic CRM, you can use countless criteria to filter out the most suitable leads based on the required conditions. You can also get a personalized email, Slack notification, or in-app alert once a new lead matches your demands. Put differently; you will keep getting a prequalified list of contacts regularly without lifting a finger.
2. Streamline Processing and Enrich Your Lead Database
The more knowledge about the target audience and existing clients you have, the more powerful you are. Data about your leadâ€™s job position, presence on social media, solutions their business provides, existing suppliers, etc., will help you successfully get in touch with them.
3. Stop Entering Data Into CRM Manually
Set up workflows in your marketing automation software to track records of your qualified leads automatically. For instance, you can determine all the contacts that have submitted the form or downloaded the price list as â€œqualified.â€�
4. Automate Your Email Campaigns
Do you still send each email manually to all your leads or copy and paste the same messages? Alternatively, try using email templates, personalize, and schedule letters for every client’s best conversion. You can try using tools like Snov.io for that purpose.
5. Manage Marketing Collateral
Sales reps spend tons of time searching for useful content or writing texts to send to their leads. Ensure your business has a Ñ�orporate shared Google Drive folder where you store valuable files. This way, it will be easier for you to access the most important marketing documents, saving time during every contact with prospects.
6. Schedule Calls, Meetings, Mailouts, etc.
Planning a meeting with a sales lead over email can take time and reminds us of a tennis game. You suggest one meeting time to your prospect; they propose another option, then you offer a third solution, etc. This is tiresome and can also destroy the impulse in your sales negotiations.
Instead, you can use one of many meeting-scheduling tools (like Calendar, for example). They give your contacts direct access to your calendar and enable them to plan the meeting in any free time span if youÂ dd customized scheduling links 2020 to your email messages and signatures. Most such tools grant free trials, so it is easy to study and test them.
7. Use AI-Powered Analytics of Sales ConversationsÂ
If you want to analyze your calls, check your campaignsâ€™ efficiency, and improve your sales approaches, try using sales communication AI-software. It allows you to quickly check what topics you discussed in a call, what rivals you mentioned, and study the talk-to-listen portion. Tools like Gong and Chorus pull out key pieces of your talks and give you AI-powered insights.
8. Automate Lead ManagementÂ
If you spend hours managing your CRM instead of making calls and bringing contracts, try automating all the activities related to prospects and deals. The market offers plenty of instruments to record your conversations, schedule meetings, and plan emails for you. Check if your current CRM offers workflow automation and start implementing it.
9. Manage Deals and Papers
Today, most of the contracts and offers are mailed and signed over the internet. Tools like Hellosign or Adobe Sign offer solutions for e-signing, lots of impressive analytics features, and functions that can help boost your conversion rates.Â
This is just a small part of the many marketing activities that can be automated. In the age of AI and robots, all types of routine organizational tasks can be automated, while a real live contact with the prospective or existing client should remain to be carried out in person.
How to Choose the Best Sales Automation Tool?
Selecting the best tool or several tools that suit your needs might take some time, as many options on the market claim to be the best. We hope these pieces of advice will help you choose the best instruments for your business.
Decide What Processes You Would Like to Automate
Check all marketing processes you have at the moment. Does lead qualification take much of your daily routine? How much time do you spend on lead nurturing, prospect engagement, and content marketing daily? Do you schedule follow-up calls or send reminders manually? How long does it take to organize bulk seasonal offerings?Â
There can be dozens of similar questions. Analyze your answers and think about what processes should not take so much time or where you can avoid manual work from you or your team.
Make a List of Essential Functions
After you’ve chosen the main processes, try to create a list of specific features you’ll require, such as email marketing automation or mobile availability. If you do not select features and must-have’s your business needs, you might end up with a complex product you cannot use. Choose the required functions and, after that, compare several platforms according to the list of criteria.
Finally, Test the Product in Practice
Once you have specified the must-have functions, prioritize them and shorten the list to several most important items. After that, compare the software once again to see which tool you can start using right now. It would be great to test-drive each platform by getting a free trial or an interactive demo to get a more comprehensive vision and make a more prepared decision.Â
This might look like a lot of work, particularly if you are working hard to help your company survive. Still, experience proves â€“ a couple of hours invested now will pay off a dozen times in the future.Â
Snov.io is an integrated cold outreach automation platform used by sales departments, marketers, startups, and simply anyone who needs high-quality outbound research and outreach tools.
This all-in-one toolkit allows you to speed up creating and managing lists of prospects and bring your brilliant ideas directly to their inbox. It works for every stage of your marketing process:
Non-stop lead gen and verification. You can automate your lead generation, pump up your funnel with targeted leads, and accelerate conversions with this solution. It boasts 98% email deliverability thanks to the high quality of new and existing leads guaranteed by the 7-tier verification.
Nurture, engage, convert. Boost engagement with effective nurturing based on automated outreach. Personalized triggered email drip campaigns can help you easily convert leads and smoothly move them down the sales funnel. Schedule campaigns for existing clients, automate follow-ups and track email responses from your Gmail.
Study market rivals. Snov.io research tools allow you to monitor what sets you apart from your competition and discover new ways to convert. You can check full company profiles and tech stack behind your rivals and leads.Â
Grow and scale your business.Keep your efficiency always in control â€“ sync across platforms with over 2,000+ powerful integrations.Â
Pricing: Snov.io offers unlimited freemium with credits that are renewed every month. Paid plans that start at $33 per month billed annually.
This marketing automation platform comes with some features that promise to help users generate more clicks and sales. Surprisingly easy-to-use and with a short learning curve, Moosend allows you to create and send email campaigns designed to respond to the prospect’s needs.
From user onboarding to abandoned cart sequences, this platform allows you to design workflows that make sense for your audience and lead prospects further down the sales funnel.Â
Users can select any event to trigger the automation, such as visitors browsing a specific page or viewing a product, and set it in motion in a simple manner. What is more, you can test one of the ready-made automation workflow recipes.
Pricing: Moosend offers a free forever program for up to 1,000 subscribers that includes most features. Paid plans start at $8 per month billed annually.
There is nothing worse than a sales team getting a prospect to commit before month-end, only for the deal to get stuck in the contracting phase. Word documents fly back and forth, versions go missing, data is lost, and visibility is non-existent.Â
Sales teams at high-growth startups are turning to new, in-browser tools to end this manual process. Juro is a contract collaboration platform that enables your team to self-serve, agree, and manage routine contracts at scale from one unified workspace.
Salespeople use a natural language Q&A flow to spin up a contract in seconds, from a template over which legal has oversight. They can even generate contracts directly from Salesforce, with two-way data sync making sure versions are the same in both platforms.Â
Parties negotiate in-browser in the sidebar and can then eSign securely on any device to help salespeople close deals on the move. Post-signature analytics help stakeholders spot bottlenecks and friction to keep deals moving fast and make contract management data-driven.
Juro is used predominantly by high-growth tech startups with lots of contract volume, like Deliveroo, Wolt, and Babylon Health.Â
Pricing starts at free, with bespoke plans depending on the integrations required.
Capturing leads is the first and most foundational step in the inbound-driven sales process. Paperform is a versatile form and page builder that might help you do just that: collect leads and kick off the conversation seamlessly and elegantly.
Paperform stands out among the alternatives thanks to its modern interface and customization features. It is easy to make forms and landing pages look unique and fit your companyâ€™s broader brand.
There are more than a hundred form templates available, so you will never have to start from scratch no matter what kind of form you are looking to build.
The built-in email automation feature makes Paperform even more useful. Your startup sales department is likely to have limited bandwidth, especially when responding to leads across different time zones.
You might leverage Paperform to send out automated yet highly-personalized emails to leads that submit your forms. Later, once the conversation is already ongoing, your sales reps can catch up quickly and take it further.
Outfunnel is an email marketing tool with deep CRM integration. Whether you are using Pipedrive, Mailchimp, or Copper, it has you covered. Youâ€™ll be able to create drip or one-off campaigns with defined segments for your sales team using lead-scoring while automating and reducing tasks that were previously done manually.Â
With dynamic sender information and smart workflows, Outfunnel will help you stay on top of your leads while continuously allowing you to build up relationships with your current and future customers.
Pricing: Outfunnel offers a free two-week trial. Paid plans start at $19 per month.
As an all-in-one customer communication tool, HelpCrunch allows businesses to automate numerous aspects of the sales process. Once you sign up for the tool and install its live chat widget, you can put inbound lead generation on autopilot.
First, HelpCrunch helps businesses engage their visitors proactively with the help of automated chat messages. You can offer help in your website’s strategic places, such as product, pricing, or checkout pages, and initiate conversations on your terms.
People will see a quick and convenient way to contact you and will not hesitate. Simultaneously, you can use live chat to collect leads’ contact information and pre-qualify them on the go with pre-chat and offline forms. Visitors will specify their names and email addresses and choose a department that will better cater to their needs.
While the shared inbox will contain all incoming requests in chronological order, sales reps can create their custom inboxes to filter conversations by their tags, assignees, departments, etc. This way, they will be able to assist warm leads on a first-priority basis.
To keep the conversation going, your team can follow up on their leads with the help of automated email sequences and accelerate deal closure.
Pricing: The â€˜Live chatâ€™ subscription by HelpCrunch is available for $12 per month per team member billed annually. If you want to enjoy the â€˜Live chat + Emailsâ€™ plan, its pricing starts from $23 per month per team member.
Zapier is a tool that brings together all your favorite apps, such as Gmail, Slack, Mailchimp, and more. You can automate repetitive tasks, and you do not need to know coding, or rely on developers to build the integration.
Create thousands of different workflows (Zaps), e.g., schedule events in your Google Calendar directly from new Trello cards, save your Gmail attachments to Dropbox, or post tweets across multiple Twitter accounts.Â
Zaps consist of a trigger and one or more subsequent actions. A trigger is an event that initiates your workflow. Zaps automate your processes in the background, allowing you to concentrate on more important tasks.Â
Zapier counts every task you run through your Zap. To decide which Zapier plan suits you best, you should keep in mind the number of tasks your Zaps run.Â
Pricing: The service offers a free trial so that you can study some popular Zap templates. Paid plans start at $19,99 per month billed annually.
Hootsuite is an SMM platform that supports social network integrations for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. The tool helps you boost your organic and paid ads’ effectiveness with the Hootsuite automated ad solution.Â
Hootsuite allows you to advertise on social media easily. Manually or automatically, you can target key audience segments or market niches by age, location, and user interests. The tool can help you reach more of your social media audience, monitor feedback about your brand and rivals, and use social analytics to make data-driven business decisions.
Besides, its mobile apps allow you to manage your presence on social networks from any location. You can also connect your existing instruments with over 250+ apps and integrations in a single toolbox.Â
Pricing: A 30-days free trial is available. Paid plans start at $19 per month.
Wrapping it up
Nowadays, more and more businesses realize the power of sales and marketing automation tools and implement them in their workflows. Accordingly, new instruments in this market niche are emerging a dime a dozen.Â
Analyze your needs and select the best toolkit that will help you seamlessly automate your whole sales funnel: lead generation, nurturing, engagement, follow-ups, conversion, and growing a loyal audience.
Looking to take your email marketing game up to the next level? Here are the best practices and key considerations that will help you create a high converting email marketing campaign to win going forward in 2020 and beyond.
Personalization is still king
Consumers expect brands to provide personalized experiences. In fact, studies suggest that as many as 80% of surveyed consumers say they are more likely to purchase from a brand if it offers personalized experiences.
Further research suggests that the conversion rate is 10% higher when personalization is part of the email content.
Personalization is key to a high-converting email marketing campaign because subscribers want to be seen as individuals. Therefore, personalization is one of the key strategies you should employ (if you have not already) to win email conversions.
Email personalization tips that will help you increase email conversions.
Include each subscriberâ€™s name in the subject line.
Send emails from real service representatives instead of a corporate account.
Include a customer’s first name in every email.
Consider user demographics and locations to create more personalized email copies.
Change visuals and copies in emails to make them more appealing to different audience segments.
Send out personalized recommendation emails concerning each customer’s buying history.
Here is an outstanding example of how a beauty product retailer Sephora uses personalization in emails.
Image Source: Sephora
Donâ€™t forget about mobile experiences
As more and more consumers use mobile devices to communicate with brands and shop online, you want to make sure your emails are responsive and mobile-friendly. Studies show that mobile opens account for 46% of all email opens. This means that by failing to provide mobile experiences, you are risking to lose almost half of your audience. Further studies show that customers delete emails that do not display correctly on mobile devices within three seconds.
The numbers prove that responsive email design is an absolute must if you want your subscribers to convert. That is why you want to have a strategy in place for optimizing your emails to display well across all mobile devices. This includes not only smartphones, but also tablets, laptops, and other devices, like smartwatches.
When designing your emails, make sure to build a logical content hierarchy that will make sense across different devices. This means structuring your content blocks in a logical way that will make sense when viewed both from a computer screen and a mobile device screen, like so:
Image Source: webdevs dot com
Implement persuasion techniques
Implementing persuasion techniques can help you shape a more positive attitude towards your brand and lead email subscribers to make the desired action.
Letâ€™s take a look at the best persuasion techniques and practices worth applying to your email marketing campaign.
98% of marketers cite personalization as a major factor that improves customer relationships. Indeed, the majority of marketers implement some form of personalization in their marketing campaigns.
Yet, not all of them know that the effectiveness of personalization has a lot to do with how human brains work. Personalization in emails works because of selective attention and human ability to distinguish their names from the background noize.
The social proof persuasion principle revolves around the idea that a person who doesnâ€™t know how to behave in a certain situation will look at other people to imitate what theyâ€™re doing.
Humans use social proof as a confirmation that their behavior is socially acceptable, and therefore, correct. So, you can use customer testimonials, reviews, user-generated content, and other forms of social proof in your email copies to increase conversions.
Bribery is another powerful persuasion technique you can use to increase email conversions. It is based on the idea of offering extra benefits in return for a conversion.
In the context of email marketing, you can offer discounts, contests, coupons, special offers, sweepstakes, or generally anything free and extra.
Artificial intelligence is on the rise
Image Source: Pexels
Experts from Essay Writer suggest that with artificial intelligence (AI) on its rise, it is expected to be the number one technology to improve and streamline many marketing processes, including email marketing.
While many marketers already use email automation tools, AI can take your email marketing game up to the next level.
Email automation only streamlines processes but, unlike AI, does not improve decision-making. It makes sense to use AI for tasks that cannot be performed by your fellow marketing team.
A few applications of AI in email marketing that can help you increase the conversion rate dramatically.
AI can help you improve deliverability by restructuring email copies, optimizing send times, and cleaning up email lists.
AI can help you draft email copy and subject lines by analyzing other subject lines and email copy.
AI can help you create smarter email newsletters by sending out hyper-personalized automated newsletters.
A/B test, adjust, repeat
Before A/B testing was invented, an average marketer developed its strategy, implemented it, and just hoped for the best. Luckily, modern testing methods allow marketers to evaluate the effectiveness of each email element and give you hard data on what causes conversions.
Letâ€™s take a moment to make sense of A/B testing. A/B testing is a testing method that allows you to measure the effectiveness of each email element.
Here is how it works. Letâ€™s say you have two identical email drafts with just one difference: the image choice. You want to know which image better resonates with your audience and causes more conversions.
You send out two versions of the same email with two different images to two different groups of your email subscribers. Then, you use data evaluation tools to see which email version caused more conversions.
The main idea behind A/B testing is sending out two versions of an email to different halves of your audience to see which one performed better. You can run A/B tests to examine the performance of the following email elements:
Subject lines (length, word order, content)
Call-to-actions (button vs. text)
Visuals (images vs. no images, style of visuals)
Copy (length, content, tone of voice)
Personalization (personalization vs. no personalization, positioning)
Keep in mind that proper A/B testing requires you to test only one email element at a time. This means that you need to run multiple A/B tests if you want to test out multiple email elements. This way, you will get unbiased and objective testing results.
Wrapping it up
In the world of continuously changing digital trends, it is hard to stay in line with the competition and deliver the most effective email pieces. Hopefully, these five practices and key considerations will help you create a high converting email marketing campaign.
Before you go, letâ€™s quickly wrap up what you have learned today about creating an email that will convert.
Including a personalized element will make the email more relevant to the subscriber and increase the chances they will convert.
As almost half of the email users check their email from mobile devices, creating responsive email design is an absolute must to increase conversions.
When implemented correctly, persuasion techniques are a powerful way to get more subscribers to convert to paying customers.
AI can help you streamline and optimize your email marketing efforts.
Next time you run an email marketing campaign, consider conducting A/B tests to identify which email elements cause more email opens and conversions.
You can start adjusting your email marketing strategy now and win in 2020 —Â and beyond.
There are a glut of software tools, mobile applications, websites and learning portals.
The quality spectrum of these tools is as broad as the tools themselves and the industries they serve. It could be safe to say that the Pareto Principle applies to software applications as much as it does to business in general.
In fact, studies show that the average smartphone user only really uses about 30 apps per month. From my personal experience, even that statistic sounds high.
The overabundance can be overwhelming and cause more than attention overload, it can create counterproductivity that flies in the face of most apps’ intended creation (Facebook, Instagram & Tiktok excluded, of course).
The best and most sticky software products have a few things in common.
Features of the Most Prevalent (& Sticky) Software Tools
I chose this title carefully. There is a reason the most prevalent (& sticky) tools also include the best features (or is it the other way around?). Having great features (and perhaps the right marketing for ample market penetration) typically produces greater market acceptance, which helps provide the revenue to add more features–and the cycle repeats. Here are
First (or early) mover advantage. I’ve been told many times before that “first mover advantage” is a misnomer. It is often NOT the first mover that has the advantage, but the first mover combined with several other gritty features can be very helpful. If not the first mover, it certainly helps to be early. Do you think Microsoft Excel was the first spreadsheet. Hardly, but they were still early in computing (and they owned the platform for distribution). Were they the best at first? No, but they were good enough and they came included, which means it was hard for others to compete. Could you imagine trying to create your own “me too” spreadsheet company today with the likes of Google and Microsoft as your competitors. Early movers enjoy the advantage of market penetration and entrenchment, which is difficult to surmount even for a subsequently superior product.
Industry agnosticism. The best tools can be used across industries. Spreadsheets (can you tell I like them?) are used by churches and financiers alike. Every company has projects and therefore could possibly use project management software. Most larger organizations include a sales team and customer accounts that need to be tracked, charted and reported and hence need a CRM. The most prevalent software products are used across industries.
Pain points prevented! The best and most prevalent products prevent pain points (alliteration unintended). Does it save an organization ample money (not just in the cost of the product directly by in the product’s indirect association to productivity increases)? Today’s up-and-coming software products provide money saving related to disintermediating human intervention through automation. Massive productivity gains equate to large increases in revenue or decreases in overall cost structure. In most cases, such productivity gains help free up time for the higher-functioning tasks that make organizations flourish.
Developers unite! Yes, all the great platforms include a community where new ideas and opportunities are created to bring fresh ideas and better ways of doing things. Kanban operations are built on the idea that quality comes from continuous improvement. Nowhere is this more true than in the software market. Things are always in a state of flux and change. The best platforms are truly platforms where outside developers can create an actual community of contributors where existing models and methods are questioned and where new practices help to push a growing ship of ideas and code forward. Platforms are just one of the reasons why the future of software development is not customization in the true sense.
My Most Frequented Tools & Apps
What follows is likely atypical from most mobile and internet users. I deleted the Facebook, Instagram and a handful of other apps on my phone several years ago, so my most frequented apps may sound more like those of a boring, bean-counting accountant than most. However, I try to stick to applications, websites and tools that include features that add value and time-saving to my life. With kids, family and other healthier distractions than work, I can’t afford to waste time on the trivial.
I’m a big fan and regular user of all things Microsoft Excel. As such, I need a regular quick reference for things like hotkeys, functions and other quick-fixes for all things Microsoft Excel. While I have several websites I frequent for reference, my one bookmarked site that garners the most attention is ExcelTraining.com. The site includes things like an easy to navigate list of keyboard shortcuts, an exhaustive list of Excel functions and a complete list of Excel formulas. As my proficiency has increased I find myself referencing it less frequently, but my desire to stay current in Excel keeps me coming back for the simple list that is easily referenced.
The site also has paid options which I have never used. I’ve found that the more ubiquitous the product, the more easily free information is available to you on YouTube or elsewhere. Excel is something even the basest of individuals working in business should have a keen awareness of. Hence, a good reference for the basics is always a great help and a must.
When it comes to remaining productive, Asana is my hands-down favorite app for project management amount teams. It works for nearly any project. I have personally used it in managing content marketing projects, preparation for raising growth capital, software development, website development and even personal project management where a larger project can be broken down into discrete chunks. It’s been especially great at managing projects run by remote teams (both before and after COVID-19).
I also don’t call out Asana lightly. I have used other project tools like Basecamp, Jira and even hybrid-communications tools like Slack. I just find Asana to be my personal favorite.
If there’s one software tool that have a good proficient and overabundant understanding of it’s customer relationship management (CRM) tools. I’ve worked with numerous other paid and open source CRMs. Some of the open source ones like SugarCRM and X2CRM include very customizable fields and sections, marketing automation tools and email/calendar integration. However, the downside is the lack of commercial support, backups and overall integration with other applications. In one of my businesses, we also use Outreach.io, an email and contact automation tool that ties directly into SalesForce. It is a productivity game changer for our sales and marketing team whose equal is not yet available on any of the open source platforms.
Salesforce also includes added applications (some free, some paid) and the ability to develop, enhance and customize to a company’s individual needs.
I’m a finance guy at heart. I like the numbers and thrive off the analyzation of how to improve them. Quickbooks collates all our companies’ financial data including accounts payable, accounts receivable, credit cards, Paypal, bank accounts, etc. Not only does it bring together all of our financial data. Netsuite needs an honorable mention here as well as it can combine more ERP management into the financial side of a business–something entirely lost on the SMB audience with Quickbooks. As such, the financial tools used for financial accounting and reporting are heavily dependent on the size of the organization and the ultimate goals of the data you need to make critical business decisions.
The features that may be important to one may be entirely lost on another. Some may be more interested in marketing tools, while others are drawn toward finance, the arts and even mobile games. I have always gauged the stickiness of a software product with the following queries:
Does the product have a real commercial need?
Does it add value to the user?
Does it delight (or better yet, entertain) while doing 1 & 2?
If you get the first two, you have a winner. If you are able to nail all three then you have yourself a market leader and a sticky product that is not going away anytime soon.
Product demonstrations are a staple of the sales world. But when everyone is working in separate spots, putting one on isnâ€™t as easy as it used to be.
Many salespeople have embraced Zoom. But screen-sharing doesnâ€™t solve the first half of the equation: the demo itself. A PowerPoint presentation looks amateurish, and screenshots simply canâ€™t show live action. Showing the actual product in real-time risks an embarrassing failure.
To find out what the remote sales world needs, I checked in with Yoav Vilner, Walnutâ€™s co-founder and CEO. Walnut just raised $2.5 million in seed funding to roll out an inside sales platform that re-imagines how demos work, while substantially increasing their conversion rate.
Led by venture capital group NFX, the round also received investments from other Silicon Valley leaders. Wix CEO Avishai Abrahami; Graph Ventures partner Matt Wyndowe; Plangrid co-founder Kenny Stone; Mercury CEO and former YCombinator PT partner, Immad Akhund; and Roundforest CEO Alon Gamzu also joined the round
Whatâ€™s Vilnerâ€™s vision, and what can Walnut do that other sales demo platforms canâ€™t? To Vilner, itâ€™s about two things: a codeless approach, and analytics.
Sales Tech for the Non-Technical
Once a product demo is set up and executives seated, a single salesperson can manage the affair. But behind the scenes, all sorts of other team members may be involved.
Putting together a single demo shouldnâ€™t take a clown car. If websites can be built with drag-and-drop tools, why not product demonstrations?
To Vilner, thatâ€™s the question sales leaders should be asking. Graphic designers, R&D staff, and product managers are highly paid professionals. With Walnut, sales teams can put together live demonstrations without back-end help.
Walnutâ€™s â€œstorylinesâ€� â€” templates for demos built around past successes and for specific use cases â€” make it easy for salespeople to tell an engaging story.
Underscoring the stakes of showcasing products in real-time, Vilner points to the now-infamous release of a Windows 98 feature. As Bill Gates began the live event, he was shocked to see the â€œblue screen of deathâ€� flash on the projector screen. Although Gates took the snafu in stride, it couldâ€™ve been a major setback for the operating system.
While technology has changed immensely since 1998, the stress and fear that salespeople feel around live presentations havenâ€™t. Layer on the remote element of todayâ€™s product demos, and there are more opportunities for something to go wrong than ever.
Even if nothing goes wrong in a sales demo, however, doesnâ€™t mean everything has gone right. To ensure product presentations are effective, Walnut has focused on a second area of the tool: analytics.
Removing Guesswork With Analytics
The ultimate sign of a demonstration gone right is simple: whether the audience invests in the product and converts to a paying client. But thereâ€™s always more data to dig into, from presentation length to actual human behavior, which Walnut will use to predict and match the right demo to the right client.
â€œOur mission is to turn inside sales from an art to a science,â€� Vilner said. â€œBy doing so, we can remove the guesswork from the methods with which tech companies currently sell their products, mostly relying on the human touch and personal talents of salespeople.â€�
Sales work will always call for the human touch. But by automating things like templatization and data capture, Walnut frees salespeople up for things like networking and negotiation.
For obvious reasons, investors are interested in solutions that save sales teams, time. But thatâ€™s not the only reason Walnut has attracted investorsâ€™ attention.
What Investors See in Demo Tech
Product demos can make a night-and-day difference for sales teams. A study by independent researcher Knowledge Networks PDI found live demos lifted sales by 475%, boosting the wider product lineâ€™s sales by 177%.
Those figures vary by industry, but the big picture does not. Gigi Levy-Weiss, NFX managing partner, highlighted Walnutâ€™s worth to a wide range of sales teams. â€œBesides having a great team, we found Walnut an appealing investment because it solves a broad-market, cross-vertical problem. Nearly every company has to demonstrate its products live on sales calls.â€�
Although Walnut doesnâ€™t post its sales figures publicly, Levy-Weiss pointed to Walnutâ€™s popularity among early-bird clients like Varionis and Namogoo. Walnut also has a robust waiting list, Levy-Weiss added.
Walnut may still be a young startup, but its team gives investors confidence. Vilner, a serial entrepreneur who founded Tel Avivâ€™s flagship marketing firm at the age of 22 and an anti-bullying startup, started the company with Danni Friedland. In his 16 years of software development, Friedland, Walnutâ€™s CTO, founded and sold Javo Analytics to WalkMe. As a senior developer, Friedland worked for The Gifts Project, which was later sold to eBay.
Product demonstrations, much less the wider world of inside sales, will never be a walk in the park. But with Walnut, thereâ€™s no need for it to be a nerve-wracking, teamwide slog. And whether remote work is the â€œnew normalâ€� or not, a smarter demo experience sure ought to be.
While everyone is talking about how the capital letters of innovation — AR, AI and IoT — have turned our lives to online adventure — Iâ€™d like to discuss a bit more prosaic, but still promising sphere. It’s e-Commerce. Here are payment solutions that will flourish in your eCommerce business.
If you still think that going online will cost you a bundle, let me revise some numbers and show you statistics.
According to online-shopping research, the number of online customers will grow to 2.14 billion by 2021.
Are these numbers not enough to drive you forward online retail? All in all, creating a website and a product catalog is a child’s play — integrating a payment API — a five-minute task. And generally, you’re all set and can expand horizons of the business, increase margins.
What if to approach the issue of integrating the API a bit more creatively? For example, develop a loyalty program that allows you to earn bonuses and use them for paying goods, give the clients a chance to pay for things either online or offline, etc.
Most likely, the question “why do I need to devote energy if the solution is already there, and it works?” The page does not hang, payment is not delayed, consumers present, and business grows. Everything is fine.
The answer is simple: increase audience loyalty, profitability, and expand the circle of customers.Â
What are the steps in developing your e-commerce business and payment solution?
1) Apply various payment methods
First of all, in the realm of the Internet, itâ€™s online payments. Applying different acquirers, APIs, and payment platforms — you can gather around your website a whole system with various channels (Stripe, Due, Worldpay, PayPal, ApplePay, GooglePay, RBS, QIWI, China Union).
Off-line payment solutions
As strange as it sounds, you can provide off-line payment solutions in your store by integrating payment services with access to payment kiosk machines (Qiwi, Invoicebox).
Payments with a loyalty program.
Payments with a loyalty program, based on worked out business rules. What is more, the loyalty system with discounts and bonuses is always a plus.
No need to teach a serpent to hiss and tell, that the kinder you are to people and the more sincere your intentions are, the more money will flow into your wallet. The loyalty program solution minimizes possible extra charges and allows clients to pay for products partly with money and partly with earned bonuses. (if you, after all, decided on a loyalty program).
The sweetest part here is that you can create loyalty systems in various manners (integrating some features or bonuses, cooperating with banks on different conditions, and so on).
The technology everybody has heard of, but not all of us realize what it really means. Integrating your application with blockchain, you enable cryptocurrency payment methods and can accept Bitcoin, Ethereum, and hundreds of other currencies.
And right now there are decentralized platforms that allow product verification, their control, and management via blockchain technology. Why is the game worth the candle? Well, fast transactions, low pricing fees, and no chargebacks.
It is the most favorite and popular payment solution in China. As well, most individuals know about WeChat. In this way, the system generates code with information about the product itself. After that, your customer will be able to pay for the purchase in their personal account on the store’s website, or you can send a QR-code by e-mail.
No bank cards, no personal data entries. The customer scans the code with their mobile camera and gets rid of the fear that the confidential data may be stolen by cybercriminals.
2) Employ payment routingÂ
Because you have created a more advanced system you can save on processing fees. How? A team of engineers can analyze the first 6 first BINs of a credit card.
The numbers will give you information about a payment system, an issuing bank, and a card type. The data can be used for payment routing and sending the payment request to a bank with the most preferred terms.
The payment routing solution, however, requires compliance with PCI DSS. Itâ€™s a certificate for the protection of customer payment data (card numbers, CVV, etc.).
With PCI DSS you can work with banks directly via payment interfaces of a bank. The PCI DSS solution excludes interaction between your buyer and a third-party payment website.
Besides, building your own payment system will allow cooperating with several banks at once. Not the simplest service, but with the right provider you wonâ€™t experience any pains.
Another feature that you can add is data analysis. Moreover, you can provide such information to customers in their personal accounts. The set of criteria can be diverse. The most purchased types of products, the amount of money spent by month, you can add graphs and filters for clarity and easy search.
In turn, you will collect business analytics on customersâ€™ behavior, profits, the most popular types of products, and lucrative periods.
This solution will help your clients plan purchases in the store more easily, and you can use the information to optimize marketing campaigns, build mailout, and launch targeted advertising.Â
Once you look at a problem from a broader perspective, youâ€™ll find a range of options on how to improve things. You can get a hosted or integrated customized payment page with a user-friendly interface that offers quick, simple, and secure transactions.
The hosted or integrated solution will allow payment routing, provide broad options of payment methods, and increase conversion rate, connecting all your sales channels to unify the customer experience.Â
Your sales channels and unify of the customer experience will lead to increased profitability of your online e-commerce business, which is extremely important in a highly competitive online segment.