From Forbes: Getting Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Dale Carnegie changed my life, so my ears perked up when I heard Charles Osgood mention him on CBS’s Sunday Morning show.

It brought me back to a life-changing event years ago in Des Moines. The event, a near-disaster at the time, quickly led to my stepping ‘way out of my comfort zone.

At the time, I was Book Marketing Director at Meredith Corporation and had flown out to Iowa for the regular results meeting. Halfway through the presentation, my brain froze. No thoughts at all. And, of course, no words.

People’s worst fear is public speaking, #2 is death (So, people would rather die than speak in public).

Numbers don’t come easily for me, and here I was yakking away about response rates, costs, net profit, etc. But it wasn’t the numbers. It was standing up there talking to so many people all focused intently on me. My mind just went blank. Somehow, I recovered and, flustered, finished.

When I got back to New York, “Fred”, one of the executives at the meeting called to say “You need to do better at public speaking. I’d like you to sign up for the Dale Carnegie course.”

Public speaking! Stomach in knots, I went. The wonderful instructor told me later that I was his most frightened student ever.

It’s good to give someone a nudge to be better at anything

It turned out to be a turning point in my life. Dale Carnegie gave me confidence, and soon I was actually getting paid to give speeches. A professional! My mother was astonished. Thanks, Fred, for pushing me out of my comfort zone. Sometimes that’s what it takes. Visit my blog, Joy of Direct Marketing for my speaking tips.

And sometimes, you just do it on your own. Tuesday’s New York Post had an article about Mindy Meyer who’s running for New York State Senator. What’s unusual is that she is just 22 years old and a “fun-loving, Orthodox Jewish law-school student” who believes young people should get involved in politics. She’s running as a Republican which, all by itself, takes courage in Brooklyn.

A work in progress

I have some things I’m still working on to get out of my comfort zone. Travelling alone is high on my list. So is going to networking events. I fight the urge to sashay out of there.

I get into ruts, don’t you? Work, go home, eat, sleep, work, repeat. You get comfortable and have to force yourself to do something totally different.

  • A couple of years ago, I took a two week cruise down the Dneiper River in Ukraine. We started in Kiev and wound up in Odessa. Along the way, we stopped in several middles of nowhere to visit farms and small towns. We toured the Crimea on the Black Sea. It was great but friends thought I was nuts. Why not Paris? London? Rome? Well, I’ve been to those places so often that they’re honorary members of my rut.
  • Of course, you don’t have to leave town to do new things. Mike, our Creative Director, just bought a series of DVDs about learning calculus, of all things. He’s always doing stuff like that. He was raised in Montreal and never learned about our Civil War. Now he’s practically an expert.
  • I always wanted to learn to paint so I took a class at the Ft. Lauderdale Art Museum, and enjoyed every minute of it. My assistant, Rachel, does new things without even thinking about them, things as simple as trying a new restaurant or taking different routes home.

Comfort zone, rut, zombie state (according to my friend Dwain), whatever we call it, when we’re stuck in it our brains get mired in the muck of routine thinking and automatic reaction. We begin to bore even ourselves, never mind our clients and their customers and prospects.

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From YEC: The Key Startup Advice That Helped Shape myYearbook

Good advice is hard to come by. When you are in a leadership position, people tend to ask you for advice rather than offer their own. Therefore, it is important for entrepreneurs to seek out advice from all sources, whether it roots from other companies, good books, caring parents or British politicians! Here are three pieces of advice that shaped myYearbook (now known as MeetMe), and my life:

  1. Don’t be afraid to make (and measure) mistakes. Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” While it is extremely disheartening to have something fail — something you have been working on for months and months – what you learn is invaluable. Not every feature launch is a success, and not every update has game-changing results. If you are too worried about making mistakes, then you don’t give yourself room to innovate. Many decisions, especially as they pertain to new technology, need to be made very quickly, before enough information is known — making mistakes much more likely. If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not making decisions. However, not learning from your mistakes will lead to failure. The only way to learn from the mistakes is to have good measures of impact. At myYearbook, we have a metrics-driven culture and can quickly assess how a new product or feature is performing. It’s a cliché, but as the saying goes, “The only failure is not to try.” Take the risk, but be sure to track it.
  2. Be about one thing. Google believes that “It’s best to do one thing really, really well.” When we started myYearbook, we had a broad mission. We wanted to be where you go to have fun and connect with any type of friend — new or old. But it didn’t feel right. As time went on, our message became more crisp and we realized the value in Google’s wisdom firsthand. Over the first few years, we narrowed our focus and became about being less, not more. Instead of trying to continue to compete with Facebook as another social networking platform, we completely broke off into a different category — the meeting network. As a meeting network, we do one thing — connect you with people who you want to know, not people you already know. This allowed us to focus our product and create features specifically around meeting new people, giving us considerable growth in the U.S. without spreading ourselves too thin.
  3. Take a break. When I am working on something for a while and at a standstill, my mom always tells me to go to bed and try again in the morning with a clear and fresh head. It’s wise advice that I try to follow and nearly always leads to a better idea, a clearer picture or a better perspective. When I am stressed out or deep in thought, I know that I can go for a run or get some fresh air, and even if I don’t solve the problem right away, I’m always glad I took the break. It’s also important to know when to end your work day. When I graduated college, I decided to live 20 minutes away from the office instead of in the same town so that I would be able to maintain a sense of unwinding by “going home.” Even if you’re doing something you love, you still need to rest from it once in a while to clear your head. The breaks don’t have to be long; it’s whatever best suits you at the time. I think it would be hard to stay sane without those little breaks.
 

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From Forbes: Must-Have Communication Tools For Every Business

Whether you’re a startup or a Fortune 500 company, every business needs to communicate effectively with their clients, employees and vendors. Since I started my company, MOD Restoration, I spend hours each month researching the best communication tools out there to enhance our customer experience and internal processes. I’m happy to share them with you so you can focus your time on the more fun stuff – like growing your business.

Phone System

When MOD started in 2009, it was comprised of two 24 year-olds and an IKEA desk. On day 1, I decided that we needed to sound like an established conglomerate. The solution? A professional phone system with a full-blown auto attendant. I couldn’t afford a $6000 PBX System, but I did discover Virtual PBX systems, which have the same sophisticated features as a regular PBX system at a fraction of the price. We went with Nextiva and still use them today, more than three years and 12 employees later.

Email Hosting Provider

MOD Restoration Uses Google Apps

Google Apps For Business

People are funny. We prefer to go back and forth by email for hours, when we can just pick up the phone instead and get an answer in 3 seconds. I’m guilty of that too, and have no idea why! Point is, email is extremely important. MOD started out using GoDaddy‘s email service but switched to Google Apps when we needed a more reliable and sophisticated email provider. Google Apps is really great for any size company, from a one-man show to a company with 500+ employees. If you still have an AOL or Yahoo email account, it’s time you switch to an @YourCompanyName email address!

Website Platform

I’ve had my fair share of bad website experiences, and threw away lots of money (specifically to some web developer from Nagpur, India!). I finally realized that you really do get what you pay for, so I hired a legitimate English-speaking web development firm to build my websites, MOD Restoration and MOD Textiles (built on Drupal and Magento, respectively).

We’re in middle of rebuilding our blog in WordPress since it comes with all the social media bells and whistles. Aside for it being lots of fun, blogging is really important for our businesses. It engages the client, infuses personality into your brand, and by default, gives you brownie points with Google. At the end of the day, we all want to rank highest on Google’s organic search results, and blogging will definitely help by creating relevant content. For example, if you were searching for a company to reupholster your Herman Miller Classic Sofa, Model 0693, you’d likely type in Google “Herman Miller Sofa 0693 Reupholster”. And who comes up first on the organic search results (below the yellow paid ads)?

File Sharing

MOD Restoration Uses Dropbox

Dropbox File Sharing

Before the days of Dropbox, I’d literally have to email every file that I wanted to share – even if the person was sitting 2 feet away from me! And if the files were too large, I’d have to put it on a flash drive or figure out how to access our FTP. It was a royal pain. Dropbox (and now Google Drive, for half the price!) allows you to share actual folders and files that reside on your computer. When you add or update a file, it updates on the shared person’s computer instantly! Amazing.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

With hundreds of emails coming and going on a regular basis, we couldn’t keep track of what we told to which client, whom we sent a follow up email to, or whom we needed to reach out to. Once we started hiring staff, it got even worse. With multiple cooks in the kitchen, we were always afraid of double dipping responses to the same client. A CRM system finally solved that problem. We can interact with existing clients and prospects, keep track of sales, marketing and customer service support. We use ZoHo, which is a simpler version of Salesforce, and more affordable for growing companies.


Project Management System (PMS)

When we started out, everything I needed to do was scribbled on a sticky note. When my screen was covered from top to bottom with yellow stickies, I’d email myself reminders of what needed to get done. It reached a point when I sent 1 email to myself for every sticky, since I wasn’t sure which I’d end up reading, the sticky or the email. It was time for a PMS. I wanted something dummy-proof and cost effective. I was thrilled when I found Teambox, a PMS that integrates with Dropbox. Now my entire team uses Teambox, and we can’t imagine life without it. Don’t get me wrong, we still do use yellow sticky notes for special occasions.

Email Marketing

mod restoration uses mailchimp

MailChimp Email Marketing

You know those mass emails that you get on a daily basis and instantly send to your junk or spam folder? Those emails are sent using an email marketing program, which is actually the only legitimate way to send mass emails to people who (hopefully) signed up to your newsletter or want to hear from you. There are so many email marketing companies out there (SmallBizTrends lists a whole bunch), but I personally love MailChimp. It’s free for under 12,000 emails a month, it’s super easy to use, and their monkey is kinda cute.

These communication tools have helped increase my company’s productivity, efficiency and sales, and I’m hopeful that they will do the same for you. Of course, if you are currently using other tools that you love, please do share them with me!

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From Forbes: 3 Ways to Infuse Your Work With Passion Again

During tough economic times, many people think they need to sacrifice their passion to focus on earning money. From a spiritual perspective, this is the exact opposite approach to generating real abundance. Though paying your bills takes practical action, it also requires an internal belief system, powered by inspiration and passion. Without an emphasis on passion, it’s likely that no matter how many actions you take, you’ll still wind up feeling stuck.

Neglecting passion blocks creative flow: when you’re passionate, you’re energized; when you lack passion, your energy is low and unproductive. Equally, energy is everything when it comes to earning. Your thoughts, attention, and focus affect your energy and, therefore, everything around you—including your bank account. So when you’re thinking only about the mundane to-do lists and practical action steps, you’re lowering your energy and, in effect, lowering your earning power.

But when you focus on following your passion and letting your inspiration flow, your energy gets a boost and your earning capacity is strong. Here are three simple and effective ways you can bring more passion into your life—even if you’re already incredibly busy:

Find passion outside the office.

Our culture places such a huge emphasis on our careers that we lose track of our passion projects. But who said your job had to be your only source of passion? A dear friend of mine is a powerful example of balancing passion and career: he works in corporate America, but moonlights as a guitar player. Though he spends his weekdays at a desk, he spends his weekends indulging in passion projects such as gigging with his band, writing, drawing and learning about art. Though he dedicates most of his time to his career, there is no lack of passion in his life.

Find passion in service.

When we’re of service to the world, we feel inspired and passionate about the work that we do. Rethink your business as one that is service-related; seeing how it serves the world at large may make you more passionate about it. If that’s not the case with your job, try volunteering for a local charity once a month or find a way to give back to your community. Promote greater causes and awaken a service mentality. When you serve the world, you serve your soul.

Find passion in your perception of making money.

If you’re hung up about the fact that your primary source of revenue doesn’t come from your true passion, shift your perspective. Be grateful for the work that you have and focus on the good things; find even the smallest part of your work that ignites your passion. Maybe you love interacting with clients or the neighborhood where you work. Maybe you’re learning something new by being on that job. Focus on what you do have and you’ll create more of what you want.

Take these action steps seriously. We all have work to do to support ourselves and this economy, and if we’re void of passion, we won’t have the energy and inspiration to serve. The more passion we ignite in our lives, the higher our earning capacity will be and the more we’ll impact financial growth in our country. When we all raise our thoughts, we’ll raise our bank accounts—and greatly serve the world.

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From YEC: 7 Lessons From My First Year as an Entrepreneur

A year ago, I started Greatist with no real clue what I was doing. We’re now the fastest-growing health and fitness site on the Web, so a lot has gone right. But a lot has als0 gone wrong. A year ago, I’d never really hired someone. Never really fired someone. Never incorporated a company in Delaware. Never spent days accounting in Excel, signed an office lease, paid the IRS, saved a crashing website, negotiated with a potential acquirer, or been responsible for six people’s paychecks. But those things could always have been figured out.

The biggest challenges, instead, have been personal, and on that level, it’s never been harder. I’ve never been so busy, so behind, so unsatisfied with how much I can accomplish with the mere 24 hours in each day. At the same time, I’ve never been happier. I’ve never been more optimistic, more excited for what can be achieved,  more able to genuinely say I love every second of what I’m doing. Now I can.

Here are 7 lessons I’ve learned this past year of being an entrepreneur:

  1. Starting something for the first time is really, really hard. Imagine the hardest thing you’ve ever worked on. Now imagine that thing is the most important thing you’ve ever done. Then imagine you have no idea what you’re doing. Most startups are different, and most founder motivations and ambitions unique – but no matter what it is, if you think it’s going to be easy, you’re wrong. This experience has been way harder than anything I’ve ever been challenged with. I love that challenge. A startup is a to-do list with infinite scroll. It’s true that it’s never been easier to start a startup, but that doesn’t mean that starting a startup is remotely easy.
  2. Sometimes you just have to make mistakes for yourself. There’s an unbelievable amount of brilliant, experienced entrepreneurs/investors/male models regularly sharing advice on the web (Vin VacantiFred WilsonMark CubanChris DixonBen HorowitzAlbert WengerRob GoBijan SabetBrad FeldJason Goldberg, just to name a few of my favorites). Those + Quora can answer nearly any question. But you’re going to mess up anyway. I recognized that it was likely I’d make a lot of mistakes, but I’ve realized I had to make an awful lot of them for myself. Example: knowing that you should fire someone who isn’t working out because they’re hurting the team’s culture quickly is much easier than actually fully realizing that’s what’s happening and then acting on it. I knew, but I didn’t really know until I felt the taste of mistake in my mouth. And it tastes salty.
  3. Asking others for help and meaning it is important. I’m the worst at asking for help, but I’m getting better. Entrepreneurs are, by nature, usually confident, positive and optimistic, but if success in startups is the outcome of a million random factors, inspiring help from others is among the most important. Asking for help is humbling, but the minute you genuinely eat your pride, tell it like it is, and share what you need is the minute things can change. If what you’ve built is truly meaningful and impressive, let your guard down. Share your hardest challenges, biggest worries and scariest fears, and people will help if they can.
  4. Surround yourself with friends who will remind you you’re awesome when you need it, and call you out when it’s time. In my experience, entrepreneurship is sort of like a see-saw: sometimes it seems like everything is falling apart and, at others, that huge thing you’ve been working to achieve may actually be possible. Friends can be an escape, sure (and you need escapes, big time), but they can also be the external support you need most. It’s hard to keep up with friends regularly when you’re starting a company, but each time I do, I’ve been working increasingly hard to allow them to push me in the way I personally need pushing (and, by the way, try to do the same right back!).
  5. Sharing what you’ve learned with others can pay back in a million different ways. With Greatist, I’ve found putting the time into teaching others has paid me back many times over. I started a class with Skillshare mostly because two awesome buddies, Peter Boyce and Scott Britton, asked me to. I taught How to Grow from 0 to 250,000 Organic Uniques in Under 6 Months with no expectations… and have since taught a few more. Each time I’ve been shocked by how much I’ve learned, from the people who take the class and those who follow up afterwards. I’ve made great friends, started major brand partnerships, been introduced to some remarkable people, and brainstormed amazing ideas with others because of them.
  6. Schedule in specific time to think and be creative. Emails, meetings, sleep, repeat… and suddenly a week has gone by without time to think. This might sound a little silly, but put time blocks into your calendar to just think. I’ve literally just started scheduling “thinking time” on my calendar at regular intervals, and beg everyone on my team to do the same. Also, a lot of my most creative ideas come from doing, seeing, experiencing something else entirely. Some of my best ideas have come from seeing a random movie, attending a jazz concert, or taking the time to explore somewhere new.
  7. The only way to build something different is to do things differently. A good friend, Runkeeper’s Jason Jacobs, said in an interview once: “We have no exit strategy, we have longtime horizons. We are digging our heels in and we are going to slog through this over a long period of time.” I’ve noticed it’s increasingly easy for people in the startup community to become swept up in, “That’s just what everyone else is doing.” It obviously makes some sense to do what others have done to fit how everyone else defines success, but I’m learning that success, to me, is different. I’m getting better and better at realizing that to achieve something different, we need to do different things.

 

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From Forbes: Marketing Lessons For The New Web: Four Success Tips

For today’s marketers, online channels present a vast array of new opportunity – as well as the potential for costly distraction. New and emerging platforms — such as social and mobile channels — continue to evolve the online landscape of consumer engagement. As a result, success metrics and economics can change quarterly depending upon customer adoption curves. Marketers can, and should, choose from a broad menu of customer connection points. But there are endless permutations of online brand building, customer sourcing and repeat driving levers. Which should companies pursue?

There’s also a caveat: Investing early in new applications and platforms can be risky – drawing both time and funds. For example, you may take the plunge and allocate significant resources toward building up a social coupon campaign. While this may have worked for brand X, you might find that your high-cost new customers are more interested in finding the next deal than repeating a purchase.

It can be challenging to find what sticks. Here are my top four tips on building a successful, sustainable campaign online.

1. Build your base.
Core acquisition and retention programs are an online marketer’s bread and butter. Before diving right into the latest, hottest marketing trend and investing in emerging channels, it’s critical to build a strong customer base. To do this, it’s important to focus on margin-positive vehicles – or pay-for-performance ones. Filtering revenue through channels such as targeted e-mail, paid search, affiliate networks and CPA partnerships are proven ways to develop a core customer base. From here, you can use additional, more experimental, vehicles to help drive repeats and referrals.

2. Watch the trends before diving in.
The highest impact campaigns use the foundation built by performance programs to leverage emerging arenas and amplify reach. However, it can be difficult to identify which channels will help you do this. My advice — tap into broad social trends. Major trends, like smartphone use, carry direct impact over the way consumers shop and engage. Think social media for customer retention and branding vs. customer partnerships for quantifiable CPA expansion.

For example, mobile trends have opened up new opportunities for reaching consumers. Online marketers can use the mobile platform to message outside of the conventional workday. Customers can choose to engage at their leisure – whether it’s during their commute time, in the evenings or on the weekends. In addition, we can deliver timely, relevant offers with mobile device-delivered promotions (looking for that perfect Father’s Day gift – today!? We can help!).

Although the core offering stays the same, how that message is delivered changes with available channels.

3. Make sure you’re listening and aggregate feedback.
When developing strategies to amplify reach, remember: Your customers will tell you what to do, you just have to make sure you’re listening. When it’s easy, they tell you directly. But too often they let you know indirectly through defection. Mining all of the ways your customers talk to you can deliver valuable actionable acquisition and retention programs.

At Wine.com, we solicit feedback/reviews and use surveys to listen and engage with customers. Additionally, our full-time community manager – a seasoned expert on social channels and accredited wine connoisseur – is on point to surface and address customer feedback across all online channels. Along with the tracked feedback, these learnings are shared throughout the team. Ultimately, we synthesize the feedback into actionable product changes and marketing campaigns.

4. Deliver.

Listen to what your costumers demand and trust them –they are the experts. Use the insight to deliver both an excellent product and an excellent experience. Aim to delight customers so much they can’t help but return and bring friends.

Some of our most successful initiatives have resulted directly from this kind of customer feedback. For example, one vocalized concern was around the high cost of shipping wine. In response, we developed the Steward-Ship program – offering a year of free shipping for $49 – to take that point of friction out of the online wine-buying process.

Many of our most unique offerings have come directly from customer suggestions: enabling people to schedule exactly what day they want their wine to arrive to ensure somebody over 21 will be present; helping customers find the wine that is right for them and cut through the daunting search process with our “Wine U how to” guides; and virtual “Tasting Rooms.” Our entire content development program stems directly from our customers asking for help.

Like anything, building a strong online marketing campaign takes a process. You have to start with a strong foundation anchored in core online marketing vehicles, then employ tools in the social and mobile arenas to amplify your core message and reach new people in new places at new times. But most of all continue to engage and delight your customers by listening to what they want and providing unique and compelling content and experiences to satisfy their needs. The rest will follow.

 

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From Forbes: Why Companies Waste 71% of Internet Leads

What would your CEO say if you proved 71% of the leads your company generates on the Internet are wasted? Who would be fired?

Entire industries exist to help web marketers increase lead conversion on their website by fractions of a percent. Training firms work weekly or monthly with entire sales forces to boost closing ratios by 10% or 20%. Businesses are scraping for incremental increases in marketing yields, close ratios, and leverage through technology, yet overlooking a gaping black hole that exists somewhere between their marketing and sales teams.

Companies don’t respond fast enough to leads.

In fact, they take 46 hours and 53 minutes to pick up the phone and respond to a lead. And the sales rep who does call, only makes 1.3 call attempts before giving up and moving on. And recent research shows it is getting better, but only slightly.

How do we know this? We have tested over 10,000 companies in fifteen different “secret shopper” studies over the last five years and these are the combined numbers from all tests. We fill in a lead on their Web site with a real phone number and email address and track how fast they respond and how many calls or emails they make.

This research has been recently published again by Steve Olenski on Forbes.com, and prior to that in Harvard Business Review and Inc.com. At last count, 12 companies have built their business models on responding immediately to leads. A new industry has sprung up called Lead Response Management.

Our own in-house research shows only 27% of leads ever get contacted. Yet with a combination of awareness, best practices, and technology; companies can contact around 92% of leads.  I have seven practices I’ll share in a later article that will enable companies to achieve this target.

An increase from 27% to 92% is an increase of 341% lift in results just by responding immediately and persistently to leads.

Do CEOs know that of the massive marketing spend they have approved to generate leads only 27% of the leads actually get spoken to? And worse yet, in the same studies anywhere from 35% to 64% of the leads never got called at all?

Dave Elkington, our CEO, put it in perspective: “Imagine going to Nordstrom’s on a Wednesday morning and asking to talk to a sales rep about a pair of shoes and the salesperson says they will be happy to help you Friday morning!”

The Internet is shortening our attention spans, but sales teams still have absolutely no idea how fast they need to respond to online inquiries to be effective and they don’t have the technology to help them do it. And IT and marketing departments are rarely any better, often tying up leads for hours or days just getting them routed to the right place.

Some marketing automation companies ‘score’ leads with powerful algorithms, but add hours to the process of getting it to the right place; losing far more value than they gain.

Here’s the quick story behind what may be one of the last frontiers left for companies who generate leads over the Internet to help them outdistance their competition; and why CEOs better take notice.

Dave Elkington and I started InsideSales.com in 2004. We bought the name from a guy who needed money right before Christmas. The first day we turned on the website we got eight leads. With the name InsideSales.com, and the strong trend toward Inside Sales, we built our entire business on responding to web leads. Even though our technology was designed to help companies cold call; we didn’t do any cold calling back then.

In early 2007 our salespeople kept telling us that they noticed when they responded quickly to leads they seemed to get the sale. They couldn’t prove it, but they all noticed the same thing. Intrigued, Dave and I started calling around to some of the industry experts. Dave called Laura Ramos, who was a VP at Forrester and specialized on the topic of Lead Management. She confirmed that there was a lot of buzz around the question of how fast do web leads cool off, but she wasn’t aware of any research to answer the question.

Then we called James Oldroyd, soon to be Dr. James Oldroyd, as he was just finishing up his graduate studies at the Kellogg School of Management, at Northwestern University. He got very intrigued with the question and received approval to do a large survey through Kellogg to determine if there were any best practices around responding quickly to leads. Weeks later he found interesting correlations but basically proved nobody knew.

So there we were; two strikes. But our reps were more adamant than ever.

We called Dr. Oldroyd back.

He said the only way to really answer the question was to do a true research study, not a survey. But we needed call center data (the calls) combined with the customer relationship management or CRM data (the results of the calls.) Dave Elkington assured him the data was available if we could get permission from many of our corporate customers of all sizes and industries, B2B and B2C. We gave him 100,000 data points; far more than he needed to be statistically accurate.

He came back with some amazing information from the data:

Graph from original research from Dr. James Oldroyd showing response time by 5 min increments leading to leads becoming contacted

Graph from original research from Dr. James Oldroyd and InsideSales.com showing response time by 5 min increments leading to leads becoming contacted

He told us Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days to call if you want to contact somebody (by 49.7% over the worst day.)

4pm to 6pm are the best times to call to contact a lead (114% over the worst time, right after lunch.)

8-9am and 4-5pm are the best times to call to qualify a lead, or set an appointment with a lead (164% better than 1-2pm, the worst time.)

This information was all very interesting, but Dr. Oldroyd was far more excited to share what he found next (taken from the original Executive Summary):

“The odds of calling to contact a lead decrease by over 10 times in the 1st hour.

The odds of calling to qualify a lead decrease by over 6 times in the 1st hour.

After 20 hours every additional dial your salespeople make actually hurts your ability to make contact to qualify a lead.”

“The odds of contacting a lead if called in 5 minutes are 100 times higher versus 30 minutes.

The odds of qualifying a lead if called in 5 minutes are 21 times higher versus 30 minutes.”

Graph showing response time from by 5 min increments showing initial dial rate at which leads become qualified

Graph from original research from Dr. James Oldroyd and InsideSales.com showing response time by 5 min increments leading to leads becoming qualified

“How significant is a 100x increase in contact ratios on the value of leads? How much effect does a 21x increase in qualification have on the overall sales revenue of a company?”

Dr. Oldroyd found clear patterns when many companies’ data was combined together, but huge variance in the optimal response patterns for individual companies.  Different industries vary dramatically on optimal call times.

The next big question was why is response time so important?

1-      When we call back immediately we know where they are. We called it “presence detection.” If they just typed in an inquiry on a website, they are probably still by their computer and by their phone.

2-      When we call back immediately we are still on their minds. This is “top-of-mind-awareness.” The average call back time is 46 hours and 53 minutes. Do you remember any of the sites you were surfing on nearly two days ago?

3-      The “Wow Effect.” We came back from presenting our research and built and patented technology that enables immediate lead callback within 8-9 seconds. We were concerned it would freak people out (like big brother was watching.) Do you remember the first time you called someone with Caller ID and they answered and called you by name? Didn’t it send a shiver up your spine?

But on the contrary, it seemed to impress people by the speed or “hustle” that we exhibited. In surveying them, their most common word was “Wow!” And they exhibited an emotional response that built trust, a feeling like, “that is probably the way they are going to service my account.” We called it the Wow factor.

We then coined the words “immediacy” for speed of call back, and “persistency” for how many call attempts are made.

The next big question was pretty easy, how many call attempts should we make to call people back?

We averaged the contact ratios (the contacts divided by the dials to reach somebody) and we found across all industries they average between 10% and 11%. So if you want to reach someone, make 9-10 dials, not 1.3.

So what did we do after this research?

We immediately mandated that every one of our sales reps call their leads back immediately. In trying to get them to respond manually we found the best they could do was 30 minutes (and they missed the 5 minute response effect.)

So we immediately built a technology that captured a lead from a website, looked up which salesperson it should go to, and dialed the rep; all within a few seconds. Then we applied for a patent.

Within a few months we had a person from Dun & Bradstreet Canada go to our site, type in a lead, and when we called them back within 8 seconds they answered and said, “Whatever it is you just did, we want to buy it.”

Another very large national insurance provider flew me out to meet with them (You would know their name.) My first question was, “How fast do you reply to your leads?” Their head of sales hemmed and hawed for quite a while until I grinned and blurted out, “You don’t know do you?”

He had no idea. I walked over to his laptop, went to his Web site, typed my own name in the form asking to be contacted by a salesperson, swore him to silence, and started tracking time.

His sales rep called me in 6 days. The second call came in 11 days. No emails. No additional follow up.

We found out the fastest his IT staff could send out a lead to a sales rep was the next morning. We tested a state team and had their leads sent out each morning and they started calling. By moving their average response time from 6 days to 1 day, their close rates went from 3.2% to 7.5%. Results more than doubled with nothing else changed.

Things have really taken off since then. At last count nearly 120,000 companies have downloaded or accessed those original research studies.

And what we just proved again in our most recent study with 39 hour response times, common knowledge is still not common practice.

Companies who know these truths are wreaking havoc amongst their Internet peers who don’t.

Just seems like common sense.

But it was Alese Elkington, Dave’s wonderful wife who put it in perspective for us, “Congratulations guys, you just figured out you need to call people back… quickly!”

 

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