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Inexpensive Tools To Help You Increase Online Sales

Written by Taylor Hawes

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Inexpensive Tools To Help You Increase Online Sales

Fostering additional sales is a priority of virtually every business on the planet. After all,
growth requires additional revenue, allowing you to reinforce your offerings to better serve your customers. However if you are a startup, or simply cash-strapped, you probably don’t have the capital to pour thousands into sales lead services. Thankfully there are several tools available to help increase online sales that are both efficient and inexpensive.

 

Lead Generation

ZoomInfo Community Edition – ZoomInfo offers several paid plans but has a free database with over 60 million contacts available under its community edition license. The caveats are two-fold: you have to share your business contacts with ZoomInfo and you are limited to 100 contacts per month. If you are just starting out, it is an excellent tool for leveraging a community of aspiring businesses to the success of all involved.

Lead411 – Another searchable database, Lead411 offers great detailed information including email addresses and phone numbers for contacts. It is not free, but is a reasonable $29.95 per month and offers you access to over 100,000 company profiles and 700,000 executives. If you decide to upgrade to the $39.95 plan, you are permitted access to nearly three times that many contacts. The one drawback with this particular service is the sometimes questionable quality of the information therein, so tread with caution.

Jigsaw – Jigsaw is part of the prolific and ubiquitous Salesforce.com. You earn points for adding or updating any of their contacts and can then use those points on free contacts. They offer paid plans but if you are cash strapped you can start out by earning free credits and building your address book in the process. All listings include name, title, email, phone number and address.

 

Pipeline and Contact Management

Zoho – Zoho is a customer relationship management (CRM) program unlike any other. The basic level is free and allows you to have up to three users and 5,000 records. With mobile access and a usable interface, the app sets itself apart from competitors, to your benefit. In addition, it can scale with your business and the upgraded plan is only $12 per month.

Streak – if you are using Gmail as your email client then you Streak is a must-have. It is a simple plugin that integrates your CRM directly into your inbox, enabling management of multiple contact conduits simultaneously. You can designate your contacts as leads, prospects, customers, etc all within Gmail. Furthermore, sharing data with co-workers is easy, allowing the ability to share part of your inbox with others. For the busy or forgetful business-person, it can even schedule emails to send later.

Contact Monkey – Another powerful free add-on is Contact Monkey. This tool lets you know who opens the emails you have sent, how they opened it (mobile or desktop), and if they clicked on any links. When working to tailor your communications for best reception, this data is invaluable.

Rapportive – When dealing with clients, context is crucial. Also an add-on to Gmail, this tool integrates all the data about your contact next to their emails for easy viewing and consideration. You will see their picture, pertinent data, and any public social networking info, giving you a comprehensive picture of their online presence.

Newsle – If your contact appears in the news, it is always a great reason to touch base with them. Newsle tracks anyone you know with your social media network and notifies you if they appear in the news. It is a great way to have an excuse to get in touch with a prospect, either to capitalize on a financial success, or wish them well in the event of difficult times.

 

While this list is certainly not comprehensive, it is a great place to start. These inexpensive and free sales tools will help you generate some new sales leads and manage those leads more effectively to increase your online sales, synergizing to assist your business in one of its primary goals: revenue through efficient outreach.

How Outlines Improve Your Content

Written by Taylor Hawes

Friday, March 14th, 2014

The Case For Outlines How It Makes Your Content Better

There are few among us that take delight in organization. The process of planning something instead of building it requires a great deal of patience. When it comes to content, however, everything from your process to your impact can benefit from an organizational outline. By enabling writing, reading, focus, and memory, outlines are a powerful tool for any business blog, improving perception and enabling your commercial goals.

 

They Facilitate the Writing Process

Writing is a unique skill set, endowed in only a few. Unfortunately for those of us without that gift, our companies need content, and that content must be of prime quality to build a readership.

Fortunately, outlines help ease the process of writing, imbuing the kind of quality required of published content for even those with meager writing skill. By creating a structure around which ideas are formed, the mind naturally constructs ideas in a coherent manner, allowing you to easily articulate one element of your piece after another, unburdened by concerns of flow and formation.

Furthermore, they help provide inspiration. When writing content paragraph by paragraph without understanding the “geography” of your work, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees, so to speak. By understanding your work from a top-down perspective, filling in the prompts with coherent paragraphs becomes a much less arduous task.

 

They Make Reading Easier

The writer isn’t the only party that benefits from outlines. The ever-important reader reaps the fruits of organizational effort as well.

Our minds are eased by structure. Traffic lights, lines at grocery stores, and chapters in books all help us understand the boundaries of our actions and attention, working to help guide our cognitive resources in one, simple direction. Outlines are much like the road signs that lead us to highways and points of interest, constructing a narrative and helping set expectations for what’s to come.

In addition, well-crafted headings help summon the resources needed to finish reading. If your reader is forced to determine whether they should continue with each passing paragraph, the cognitive burden involved is likely to lead to page abandonment. Attention grabbing headings help remedy this decision-making process by piquing their interests and guiding them forward.

 

They Provides Focus

If you’ve ever had a conversation with a pedantic acquaintance, then you know how difficult unfocused conversation can be. If your conversation partner is offering compelling information
or engaging you on an active basis, then your attention is held, identifying value in the
experience. In the case of the talkative friend, however, your mind wanders, wondering when
the toil will end, and when your next important task can begin.

Poorly structured pieces are like wordy cohorts: they amble, providing value, but only among meandering sentences. Outlines help remedy this situation by setting reader expectations and then delivering on them in an efficient manner. An article entitled “The Ultimate Guide to Product Pages” makes a lofty promise, but by breaking the writing process into manageable chunks, the reader develops an understanding of the aspects of product pages that a cursory discussion could not deliver, perceiving value and continuing through to the final paragraph.

 

They Make Your Message More Memorable

Your content delivers value, but that’s not its only purpose. In helping your customers, your ultimate goal is to strengthen your brand and facilitate sales conversion through an engaging
conversation. Without the mental association between your content and your company, these
efforts fall short.

Outlines, through their multiple benefits, help build this desired association. By allowing writers to write more effectively, easing the readers burden, and providing focused value, readers
inherently recognize the value of your efforts. The end result is an enhancement of brand image
that will have a synergistic effect on commercial success.

With content gaining importance in the marketplace, it’s tempting to prioritize pace over
organization, but savvy writers know that outlines facilitate both rate of production and ROI. By
unburdening your writing process, improving reader experience, adding focused value to your
content, and leaving an impression in the minds of customers, outlines represent one of the
most valuable tools in your blogging and marketing toolkit.

How To Develop A Clear Voice For Your Brand

Written by Taylor Hawes

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

How To Develop a Clear Voice For Your Brand

There are many elements of your business that contribute to its success, but perhaps the most important (and intangible) is your brand. From the visual design of your ads to the reputation of your customerservice team, your brand has a voice, and identifying it can improve many aspects of your operations. By understanding the importance of this voice, identifying the characteristics that articulate it, and honing in on your desired perception, you too can take advantage of this powerful tool.
 

Understanding Voice

First, it’s important to understand what “voice” is in a marketing sense. Simply put, it is how you say things and what language you utilize when talking about your products, services, and business.

Your voice creates a culture that your customers will recognize and relate to. If properly implemented everything your business produces (emails, website copy, social media messages, etc.) will all have this same tone. Well utilized, a clear voice will connect you to your customer through consistent rhythm, pacing, word choice, and aim.

 

Defining Your Identity

So how can you craft this elusive unique voice for your brand? The key lies in identifying the following three traits:

● What your brand is

● Who your target customer is

● What you sound like

Maintaining a voice that’s consistent with your current marketing efforts will help strengthen your reputation, identifying your target customer will help craft a voice that resonates with them, and determining what your voice will sound like will help craft the language you use.

While these items can be challenging to nail down, the following steps will help you identify the points that separate you from competitor and help you craft a clear voice that communicates efficiently and personally with your customers:

1. Identify your company’s values- Why was your company started? What is the driving force as to why you are in business? It should be clear from your mission statement, catch phrase or tagline.

2. Pinpoint any basic human values your company embodies- Perhaps your company is more spiritual focused or abstract. Identify what these are.

3. Note what it is about the way your company works that is different- What makes you stand out from your competition? Noting this difference will help show you your priorities and values.
 

Constructing Your Message

Once you have distinguished yourself and know clearly who you are it is time to select language. There are several linguistic considerations to weigh.

The first is formal vs informal language. This will largely be denoted by your audience. Ask your team which will appeal more to your customers: “Here is an opportunity we would like to bring to your attention” or “Hey there is going to be a great sale coming up!”?

The next is technical vs. simplified language. Depending on what kind of business you are and the education level of your base audience your vocabulary will need to accommodate their reading level. In addition, B2B and industrial organizations will need to deliver language that meets the technical knowledge of their target audience.

Among the more subtle aspects of your voice is colloquial language. If you can make pop culture references and the vast majority of your audience will understand them, inserting some slang into your voice is an option. However if you have an older or more traditional audience you might want to stray away from these. This can be largely dependent on the geographic location of your audience.

The final and most niche consideration is swearing. Rarely there are companies who can get away with swearing as part of their brand voice. Less extreme swear words such as “hell” or “damn” might seem insignificant to you but can still have an impact with your audience. If it is a significant part of your voice proceed with caution.

 

Once you have developed a clear banding strategy craft your brand voice is an essential next step. A clear brand voice is a simple tool to help your consumers relate and better identify with you, improving your customer service, recognition, messaging, and revenue.

The Spark: A Startup Is Born

Written by Cy Khormaee

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Editors Note – Cy is a friend of HostGator, currently pursuing entrepreneurial dreams in Silicon Valley. We have asked him to share his adventures.

***

Every once in a while, that elusive flash of inspiration delivers the seed of an idea.  It seems innocuous at first, but it lives and grows in the back of your mind; you can’t shake it.  It make take years to come to the fore, but it never fades.  For me, that is exactly how Contastic became a company.  What follows is our story.

From the moment I walked in the door to my first sales job at Microsoft, I knew that sales is a winner-take-all business.  The top performers close ten times more deals than the average rep.   After spending a bunch of time with the top performers, I still couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly how they were accomplishing such remarkable numbers.  Their close rates and techniques seemed just about the same as everyone else; why were their results so spectacular?

 

The Epiphany

My epiphany came when I saw their prospect lists.   The best sales people had massive funnels 10+ times larger than those of everyone else.  They would progressively farm this list to surface deals – ensuring they stayed in touch with as much of their network as possible.

 

contastic Contastic’s dashboard, showing your engagement with your contacts.

 

I use the word “surface” because that truly is the key to great sales.  It’s all about discovery – not conversion.  It’s really hard to talk someone into buying anything they don’t already want.  Instead, it’s more efficient to simply discover who is already looking to buy – and then be in the right place at the right time to sell to them.

My observations are further backed by research (don’t take my word for it!).  The first wake up call comes from Gleanster Research, which published that 50% of leads are qualified but not yet ready to buy.  This points directly to a need for lead nurturing to stay top of mind with those leads until they’re ready.  And Forrester drove it home by showing that companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost.  The numbers don’t lie!

 

Staying in touch: The Hard Way

This transformed the way I thought about sales, from being an act of persuasion to a feat of engineering.  It was about designing a process that would efficiently surface and qualify leads through prospecting.  I built a massive thousand-row Excel sheet of every person and every customer I had ever met.  I’d record interactions and, on a quarterly basis, I’d try and reconnect with everyone on the list.  By the end of my three years I became a top rep.

This was, however, a painful and awkward process.  I’d have to search for each person’s email to figure out when we last spoke and on what topic.  Crafting a personalized email then required several more minutes, and often times I’d simply be sending a no-value-add checking email (“Hey X, how are things with you?”).  For high value contacts, I’d take 20-30 minutes to find an interesting piece of news or research to send them – as a way to (I hoped) at least contribute some value to their life.

 

Staying In Touch: The Right Way

I thought – why can’t I give this VIP level of service to all of my contacts?  Why can’t the lead nurturing process be automated to provide personalized service to every customer and prospect? This idea sat in the back of my head as I was swept into my first startup (cimls.com) where I saw realtors struggle with this exact same problem – staying in touch with current prospects and past clients.  I witnessed this every single day in business school as well, students networking with each other and talking with different companies to find jobs. Lost connections and lost opportunities, simply because it was too hard to stay in touch.

When I graduated in 2013, I knew I had to build this tool to help people stay in touch.  I moved out to Menlo Park, CA – with nothing more than 5 boxes of my belongings via UPS to pursue my dream of building Contastic –a platform to help professionals stay in touch.  How can one recent grad convince others to join him, build a product, find customers and realize his dream?

 

Stay tuned for the next post: Perilous Pivots – When A Dream Meets Reality

***

 

About Cy

I’m an engineer who loves to sell.   My career started out in big data engineering for Microsoft evolved into a sales role that landed me as the founder of Contastic.  I bring the hard data-driven approach of an engineer to the softer science of sales.  It’s always a pleasure for me to meet new people and help them evolve their sales practices.  You can find me online at cykho.com.

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