Ask the professionals

By the Editor In Thought No comments

There are a lot of hugely talented people on this planet and sometimes they offer up their time to answer burning questions that we all have. Recently several well known business owners and industry professionals have been asked some great questions and they’ve dedicated themselves to answering them accordingly. Below you’ll meet several great people along with their answers to some interesting questions.

David Meerman Scott (Twitter)

David Meerman Scott is an American online marketing strategist, and author of several books on marketing, most notably The New Rules of Marketing and PR with over 250,000 copies in print in more than 25 languages.

Question:

What do you see as the biggest shift in sales and marketing that’s most likely to happen in the next 10 years? And what can we as marketing professionals do about it?

Answer:

Most sales organizations are built and run as if it were still 1989. The sales model is broken.

From 2004 through 2014 it has been a decade of the rise of Inbound Marketing. Now, from today through 2024 will be the rise of Inbound Sales.

Early in my career, I worked as a sales representative at a Wall Street economic consultancy. Back then the salesperson had the information and therefore the power in the relationship.

If the buyers wanted information about how the product worked, they needed to come to me. If they wanted to negotiate a discount, they had to come through me. If they wanted to speak to a customer to learn about their experience with my company, they had to come through me. If they wanted to talk to the founder of the company, they had to come through me. I was involved from the very beginning of the relationship, and most of the leverage was with me, the sales rep.

But now, because of the wealth of information on the web, the salesperson no longer controls the relationship. Now, the buyers can check you out themselves. They can find your customers and read their blog accounts about what you do. They can reach the founders directly via Twitter and LinkedIn. Buyers actively go around salespeople until the last possible moment and then come into negotiations armed with lots and lots of information. Now its the buyers who have the leverage.

Sales needs to change in order to be successful in this new world.

I wrote about this in my newest book titled The New Rules of Sales and Service: How to Use Agile Selling, Real-Time Customer Engagement, Big Data, Content, and Storytelling to Grow Your Business which releases in three weeks!

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Avinash Kaushik (Twitter)

Avinash Kaushik is an Indian entrepreneur, author and public speaker. In his writing and speaking Kaushik has championed the principle of aggregation of marginal gains, and encouraged the pursuit of simplifying perceived complexity in the field of data analytics.

Question:

#1) Google claims to have transparency as a core value and as part of their mission statement, yet they have been becoming more and more opaque, particularly around their core business (removing the search API years ago, removing keyword data for organic search referrals while keeping it for paid, removing the social connections page showing how Google knows about and uses social data for your account, taking actions against those who aggregate paid search data and attempt to write about it, etc). How does Google reconcile their values with their actions? I know Larry & Sergey still allow employees to ask them questions every Friday – have people asked about this conflict? Have they given answers?

#2) What else, outside of your current role, is on your professional bucket list?

#3) I’ve always been hesitant/afraid of sharing politically charged content on my professional social channels, yet it’s something you’re obviously very comfortable and open with. I’m curious – has it ever gotten you into trouble? Would you recommend that open approach to others?

Answer:

1.Remember I’m not involved in setting policy at Google. For anything. Let me make this observation. I think people don’t have all the data that they might need when they go out and attack Google or Apple or Microsoft or SEOmoz. People on the outside have some data (including some that the company being attacked might not have). People inside these companies have that data, and a bit more (including insights into strategic direction/choices being made that might be a few years out).

In this tricky situation I personally believe that Google walks the tightrope really well. It is perhaps more transparent than most companies. As its business has grown it can and can’t say some things (tight rope). I believe that it lives its values well.

I personally wish there was even more transparency on a couple things here and there. When I bring it up and get the context as to why that is not the case, in almost all the cases (except two) I’m satisfied that it was the right decision.

Google, like every company on the planet, gets things wrong. Often there is a course correction, sometimes there is a public reversal, always the wounds are licked and lessons learned for the future. I cannot stress how good Google is at that last part.

On the last part: At TGIT the answers are provided, 99.995% of the time!

2. In one of the comments above I mentioned the non-profits, that would be it.

3. Oh, no. Not comfortable. It is not easy.

I’m in a little different situation than you, I don’t have to shoulder an entire company’s business. I have Market Motive. I have my personal engagements and my personal platform. But it is nothing like being the CEO of SEOmoz.

At some point a couple of years ago I realized that I had a platform and to not use it 1% of the time to talk about issues I deeply care about is a mistake. Staying quite because people won’t read my books or slam me on social media or hire me is silly. So I use my platform to go off message and talk from my heart. I talk about gay rights (I deeply care about equality). I talk about the sometimes poor choices US foreign policy makes. I talk about solving for the society and not just self.

I’ve decided that I’m only going to live once. Might as well be myself.

(But remember I care a lot less about my business than so many can afford do so this might not be the right choice for everyone.)

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Will Critchlow (Twitter)

Will Critchlow founded Distilled with Duncan in 2005. Since then, he has consulted with some of the world’s largest organisations and most famous websites, spoken at most major industry events and regularly appeared in local and national press.

Question:

What are some of the “culture hacks” you have at Distilled? Small things you do as a company that are unconventional — but effective.

Answer:

A weekly email round-up (I got this from Rand). We’re still (just) managing this to be all hands but it’s creaking and groaning. A short summary of the most significant thing from your week.

Weekly all-hands meetings (short presentation and Q&A) – shamelessly stolen from Google and not very unconventional.

“Happiness budget” – everyone gets £750 ($1,200) / year to spend on anything that will make them happier / more productive at work. Many use it like a “stuff budget” (headphones, bigger monitor etc) but it’s also been used for all kinds of things including things that have positive externalities like wall stickers for the office.

Distilled-athon – getting the whole company together every ~18 months (we’ve only run one so far but we’re planning the next) – this is a pretty big deal for a bootstrapped company like ours.

Beer o’clock – Friday ends with beers in the office

We ran a “dragons den” (shark tank in the US) at our last distilledathon which let people pitch for how to spend £5k ($8k) on improving distilled. The winning pitch was to give everyone kindles with some curated books on them. All new joiners now get kindles on their first day.

We try to have fun with target-setting – we’ve bought new coffee machines, done a whisky tasting and taken people on holidays for hitting targets.

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Dharmesh Shah (Twitter)

Dharmesh Shah is co-founder and CTO of HubSpot. In addition to co-authoring Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs, and Inbound Marketing: Attract, Engage, and Delight Customers Online, Dharmesh founded and writes for OnStartups.com, a top-ranking startup blog with over 350,000 members in its online community. Dharmesh holds a BS in Computer Science from UAB and an MS in the Management of Technology from MIT.

Question:

What you think about the impact of FB search over Google, will fb be adding results from bing into Graph search? will this reduce the Google share in search market. The future of FB search seems to be getting user the best local result & if they succeed in this then Google will be taking the punch.

Answer:

Over two years ago, I’ve been predicting that Facebook would eventually get into the search business. They have a *different* dataset to work with than Google has. Whereas Google primarily crawls/indexes the web and builds a link graph, Facebook has data on people, their likes — and their interactions.

A few thoughts:

1. Facebook’s dataset is much more efficient to build. Most of the data is collected within FB’s own infrastructure and can be processed in real-time. That’s an advantage.

2. For certain classes of searches, I think the data that FB has might yield better results. An example would be people-based services. Like “interior designer in Boston”. It’s possible that when searching for a professional, knowledge of who your friends are, what companies they have engaged/liked is more relevant than Google’s approach of analyzing websites/pages and their authority.

Having said all that, I think FB is still in the very, very early stages. It’s unlikely that they’re going to put a significant dent into the Google search market share in the next couple of years. But, they definitely have the financial incentive to do it. If they can figure out how to capitalize on user intent and intersect it with their data, it’s a massive opportunity for them.

Oh, and that model is actually a lot easier to succeed with than the ads model they have now.

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Alexis Ohanian (Twitter)

Alexis Ohanian is an Armenian-American internet entrepreneur, activist and investor based in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, best known for co-founding the social news website reddit, helping launch travel search website Hipmunk, and starting social enterprise Breadpig. He is a partner at Y Combinator.

Question:

What advice do you have for folks in the early stages of building a user-base or community (like we have on inbound.org)? The early months are tough, because you’re often starting from a dead-stop. Any tips for marketing something in the early stages?

Answer:

Hustle! Use your product every day and be as helpful and amazing as possible.

I get asked this all the time, so I wrote an e-book about it. Starting reddit was a lot harder in 05 because there was no such thing as social media. Today you have so many platforms for pushing out great content. Show off the best stuff your communities generate. You all know a thing or two about inbound marketing 😉 do what buzzfeed/huffpo/gawker/everyone does when they repackage reddit content and do it yourself for inbound content!

From a product standpoint, early on karma and leaderboards were the primary incentives for people to submit content, but that was 9 years ago and things have changed quiet a bit. understand the motivations for people to become influential in your community from creating good content and reward them through software.