Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A KPI's Analysis Taken From A Real Life Situation.

A KPI's Analysis: A Real Life Situation.
Based on the conversation generated around last week’s post, entitled "How To Build A Social Media Strategy That Makes Sense For Your Business", I thought it’d be appropriate and useful to complement it with an example on how a KPI analysis ("Key Performance Indicators") should be put in place, trying to maintain an equally easy-to-understand language so that you could use this approach when measuring results of your social media strategy.

Let me start by telling you that "Key Performance Indicators" are not exclusive to social media or marketing. They’re definitely not.

“Performance indicators” are used in any situation in which you have to:

  • Identify relevant information for decision making.
  • Discard irrelevant information for decision-making.

And they are called "Key" performance indicators because it’s that indicator and no other which gives us the information required to make a specific decision. It’s that simple and I will show you how it’s done (or, at least, should be done).

A performance analysis taken from real life: My bike rides.

As you know (and if you didn’t, you do now) I’ve been riding my bike for a little over a year now. Since I started, I use a mobile application, Endomondo, to monitor my stats and progress as I go. I've tried others apps, but I really like this one and works very well for me.

Like many other applications, Endomondo gives me a wealth of very important information about my biking sessions. Notice all the data available to me:

Step 1. Analyze information available.

  • Activity Type (I have over 20 options to choose from).
  • Date and time.
  • Distance.
  • Duration.
  • Average speed for the session.
  • Maximum speed achieved.
  • Calories burned.
  • Hydration.
  • Minimum altitude.
  • Maximum altitude.
  • Total ascent.
  • Total descent.

As you can see, a lot of data that you may find interesting and which could easily distract you a bit as well. However, what is the first thing I do to not lose focus?

Clearly define what my goal is and, based on this, choose the information I should monitor, discarding all other stuff that doesn’t help me and keep my eyes only on relevant data.

Since my goal is to improve my riding performance on the bike, doing the same distance in a shorter period of time (therefore at a faster pace), I do proceed to discard the information I don’t need:

  • Type of activity: It is important to measure apples to apples, and not to pears. It’s not the same walking, than running or biking, therefore, the activity has to be always the same "Cycling" however it’s not relevant to my performance as such, only serves as a reference.
  • Date and Time: Not relevant to my performance, but serves as a reference only.
  • Distance: Although it could seem important, in my case (as my goal is to improve my performance) it isn’t. Distance only relates to the time I have available to ride: If I have only a couple of hours, I go for a short distance, if I have more time (and will power)then I’ll ride for a longer distance, therefore, it’s not relevant information. It allows me to compare apples to apples but, again, it’s not relevant to performance analysis.
  • Maximum speed: Not relevant at all. Along the route I follow, there are some important descents which allow me to reach top speeds. Although they rub my ego, it's not what I am focused on. Not relevant.
  • Calories burned, hydration, minimum and maximum altitude, total ascent and descent are not relevant, therefore they are all ruled out.

Focusing on what is really important: Choosing my key performance indicators.

Step 2. Choose your KPI's.
Moving on then I proceed to choose the parameters I use to measure my cycling performance. I guide myself by these two parameters: Duration of the session and the average speed maintained throughout.

All other pieces of information are used as a reference but are not really relevant to monitor.

Now the moment for the real analysis: Compare data obtained.

Next step after monitoring data is to comparing data obtained for two (or as many as you wish) different events. In my case, it’s good enough to compare two consecutive sessions.

How do I do it? Compare two sessions in which I pedaled more or less the same distance, in two different dates, and compare data obtained:

Step 3. Analyze the data.
My data analysis goes as follows:

  • Make sure both sessions were performed on two different days.
  • Make sure they were all categorized under the same activity. In my case, “Sport Bike”, which is between casual riding and mountain bike. Why is it important? Because I need to compare “apples to apples, and not to pears”, remember? Statistics you get from Facebook, are not equal to those from Twitter, therefore it doesn’t make sense to mix them together and compare.
  • Make sure distance traveled is about the same in both sessions. Again making sure to compare apples to apples, however ...
  • In the second session, it took me 30 minutes longer than the first one to do the same distance, therefore I kind of know my performance was well below this time.
  • And even though in the last session I was able to reach a higher top speed, almost 50 km/hour ...
  • The average speed of the session was (unsurprisingly) much lower than that of the previous one (20.3 km / h <22.2 km / h).

I make the last note simply to show you how maximum speed attained during the session has little relevance when it comes to evaluating my overall performance.

In this case, the two performance indicators chosen as my “Key” to analyze my bike rides show me that, this time, my results were significant lower than last time.

The most important step: The decision-making based on data analysis.

It’s useless to simply collect data, statistics, indexes, projections, scales or other figures, if all that information is not used within the decision-making process and the implementation of all corresponding actions.

In my case, the evident decline in my performance this week pushes me to evaluate which could have been the reasons behind it  (little rest, having trained the day before, etc ...), make changes so it doesn’t happen again for the next session (more sleep and not training at all the day before), go out again for another session, go for the same distance and monitor key data again, compare it with that of the previous session, and see how did it go.

As I hope you can see it now, the conversation about KPI's is not unique to social media by far. It’s a simple activity we could (indeed, should) implement in many of our daily activities to ensure we are walking in a positive direction towards achieving our goals.

Remember one last tip: Discard what distracts you and focus on the information that really matters to you.

Related article in this blog:
How to Create A Social Media Strategy That Makes Sense For Your Business.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How to Create A Social Media Strategy That Makes Sense For Your Business.

Building Strategies That Make Sense.
I am pretty much sure the first time you started to seriously think about developing a social media presence, you experienced, at least, two different feelings: on one hand a sense of urgency, realizing "everybody else is doing it" and it's only now that you're seriously considering it; and on the other hand, some anxiety because you don't really understand why or how you should do it.

You created your business with a clearly defined goal in mind: To make money. You can spice it up as you wish or view it from different points of view, but really your bottom line is to make money. 

And it is normal. Most businesses are created with the same goal in mind.

Therefore, all your actions should be geared towards achieving such goal: Making money, make your business profitable, either directly or indirectly.

For your business, all roads must lead to Rome.

And by that I mean that everything you do should be aimed at achieving your business goals. Social networks are not an exception and must be part of a comprehensive strategy, following the same rule, helping your business achieve its goals.

That's why all activities, from scheduling tweets, updating Facebook status twice a day, producing a demo on video for a new product, everything should be oriented to achieving your business objectives, because otherwise, it may lead to an unpredictable loss of time and money.

Some time ago we said in social networks, without goals, there can't be a plan. Therefore, the first thing you have to do is to establish these goals. If we start by understanding that your real desire is to make your business profitable and make money, then the question to ask is the following:

How can social networks help my business make more money?

With that understood and looking at all things from this point of view, it all becomes simpler. There are two ways your business can make more money. One is selling more, of course, and the other one is cutting down on expenses, a little less obvious but very effective as well. Social networks allow you to achieve a mixture of both.
  • I want to save money, avoid spending money on phone calls and improve customers' experience using social media as a channel for customer service.
  • I want to sell more using social media to increase traffic to my company's website.
  • I want to increase sales by educating customers about my products, offering interesting advice and information relevant to their needs through social networks.
  • I want to save money on prospecting new business by searching for quality leads for my business.
  • I want to sell more by sharing information about product promotions and special offers.

How do you know if you are achieving your goals or not?

Once you have defined what you want to achieve clearly enough, it's then time to establish a way to measure your progress. This is called, in formal language, defining "Key Performance Indicators" to help you know whether the objectives are being achieved or not.

For example: You want to use social media to generate quality leads for your business and you refer to a "quality contact" as an environmental engineering company. Your key performance indicator, in this case, would be to measure how many new contacts you've done for your business in social networks that could be included within the "environmental engineering agencies".

Or, for example, if you want to educate your customers and users about a specific topic publishing an e-book, you could measure your efforts' performance by analyzing how many times the book has been downloaded, shared and commented.

And so on. But remember: The rule is "to establish the performance indicator that lets you know if you are achieving your goal or not." You don't want to measure something that isn't relevant to your business goals.

What actions must you implement to achieve your goal?

Suppose then you use social networks to make contacts with environmental engineering firms, your "quality leads". Your second step should be to determine how you are going to do it, the resources and tools you will use, and how and who is going to have it done.

In this case you could, for example, do the following:
  • Use LinkedIn as a platform.
  • Build new contacts with environmental engineers.
  • Follow companies which are engaged in your professional area or closely related.
  • Identify moderators of forums and groups in which environmental issues are discussed.
  • Develop connections with these people.
  • Include a contact form on your website so that visitors can register to receive relevant content about topics of their interest. The contact form must include a field in which visitors state their professional area.
  • Develop a database and include all pertinent information about people you get in contact with since you started developing these specific actions.

As you can see, the options are countless and varied, but once you've segmented them according to goals you want to achieve and how you will measure them, it all starts to make more sense and be much clearer.

You always have to know if things are going well or not so well.

To make sure everything is going on the right direction all you can do is get into the habit of monitoring, monitoring and monitoring again. There is no other formula.

After implementing the steps indicated above: setting goals, performance indicators and actions to be implemented, the only thing left to do is to keep track of things to ensure it's all going in the expected direction.

If everything is right, congratulations then. If things don't look so good, it's time to go back to the beginning and review where the error can be, correct it and get it all started again.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, developing a social media strategy for your business should not be cause for urgency or anxiety. Quite the contrary.

Anxiety disappears when you have a clear reason to do what you are doing. Urgency .. well, it's very simple, the only thing you get by rushing it, is getting exhausted. Nothing happens if you are arriving late at the party.

As long as you achieve your goals, no matter if you make it a few minutes later, don't you think?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How to Develop Your Selling Skills and Get Better Results.

Desarrolla Tus Destrezas Comerciales
Develop Your Sales Skills.
If there's something I've learned in my career is that personal productivity is closely connected to the development of certain habits we must apply in our daily routine to work efficiently and get the results we expect.

I have had the opportunity to work with great sales professionals and have learned many things from them. Things that, when transferred to your own environment, can simply help you become a more productive person.

Never be afraid of the word "selling".

Because, after all, your business and its growth depend on your ability to "sell it to others" from the very beginning. Whether when you are having a meeting with a potential investment partner, or when you are making your first interviews to select people who will be part of your team, or simply if you're trying to sign a deal with a large distributor which could help you open up new markets, your ability to sell your idea, your proposal will be crucial.

Remember there is a big difference between "selling" and "selling your soul to Evil", and such difference is created by people and how they behave, and not by the selling activity itself.

How can you develop your own selling skills and be more productive?

First of all, you must remember that all doors are closed until they open. I know it sounds absurdly logical, but it's a rock-solid truth: An opportunity doesn't exist, until you do your homework and find it.

It's like the story of the guy claiming God he hadn't won the lottery and the one thing God said was: "Son, at least, you should go out and buy the ticket. Don't you think?"

Nothing happens if we don't make it happen. It's just like that. And now that you're aware that things depend on you, and that you should be trying to "open doors" it's then well worth to consider the following tips:
  • Never assume rejection: No matter how crazy you think your proposal is, nor how difficult the situation is or even how solid your competitors are, don't assume your proposal is going to be rejected. Always allow the other side to be the one giving you the "no". Listening to what the other side has to say, will give you a great chance to improve your proposal and move forward. If you don't listen, how will you ever get to know?
  • Don't be afraid of rejection: Keep in mind for each "yes" you receive, there will be at least nine people closing their doors to you. If you keep this 9 to 1 rule on mind, it will be easier for you to keep your energy levels up, move forward and achieve your goals.
  • Don't be afraid to make some commitments: things done only halfway generally don't work and, if they do, they usually work halfway. Only if your are 100% committed to your business, you'll be able to deliver the best results. Keep yourself on the look for venues and alternatives to make things happen. Don't allow "giving up" to be an option for you. Keep on fighting with all your strengths to fulfill your goals and, if you aren't able to make it, at least you'll know you've made the best of your efforts.
  • Remember to work really hard and for as long as necessary: ​​Achieving the best results is always a mix of having the required talent, working hard, a bit of luck and being in the right place at the right time. Out of all these, the only one under your direct control is just working hard. Spend all the time needed to sign that important deal you've been dreaming of, to connect with customers and develop mutually beneficial relationships.
  • Always set for yourself big and realistic goals: When I started biking, I felt really comfortable riding between 15 and 20 miles a day. Only the day I decided to push myself a little further and set a higher goal, I could then achieve it. It was only then I thoroughly squeezed myself and got to 30, then 40 and ultimately up to 60 miles in one single day. Don't make your goal to earn money enough to live well. Think about making enough money to live comfortably well and you'll see the difference it makes. Remember: Always big and realistic!
  • Don't ever be satisfied: Make "always learning and growing" your slogan. Celebrate every success and take it as a testimony you can still take your company and your business further ahead. No matter how difficult things get or how small your steps forward are, make sure you are always moving forward.
  • Don't give way to boredom in your life: If there's one thing nobody can deny is that you can always find new opportunities, new customers, therefore there is no moment in which you can say: "This is it". Feeding the spirit of "continuous search" will get you very far in any endeavor you get into and achieve the best results.
  • Cultivate the habit of keeping in touch: Most big deals aren't signed either on the first or second meeting. There are even deals with longer sales cycles yet. What happens if you give up too soon? That you will not be there when the client ultimately makes the decision. If you're not there, what will happen? Simply that someone else will get the deal and the money. Make of following up an important habit into your routine.
  • Concentrate on developing long-term relationships: Do not focus just on transactions. Just don't. Build bridges to firmly connect with each of your prospects and customers. Remember the value of a customer is not only what he can buy from you now, but what he can buy throughout his life, the friends he can refer you with and the good reputation he can create for your business. Business are based on relationships instead of transactions and they are always built long-term.
As an entrepreneur or a business owner, your main responsibility will always be to grow your company. Developing your sales skills will be of enormous help to make it happen but, like all things in life, it's a continuous learning, self assesment and improving process.

What do you need then? Having a deep desire to improve your own performance, achieve best results and commit yourself to learning and growing better every day.

Photos by Warren Goldswain / 123RF Stock Photo

Related Articles:
Are You An Entrepreneur And Don't Like Selling?
How To Develop A Sales Plan For Your Business?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How To Create A Sales Plan For Your Business?

Creating A Sales Plan.
If you are a business owner or are thinking about setting up your own company, you sure have endlessly heard people telling you about the need to write a business plan, prepare a marketing plan, but almost certainly, you haven’t yet heard anyone recommending you to at least develop a sales plan or a commercial project for your business.

But how come people don’t regularly talk about building a sales plan or a commercial project for your company when they refer to business management?

Usually because business owners think of "a sale" only as something that is achieved when somebody actually buys the product, pay for it, and don’t get to understand the concept on its broadest dimension.

And it’s precisely this superficial understanding of the sales process what pushes companies to focus almost exclusively on developing new customers as if it were the only way to grow their business.

What areas should be covered in your Sales Plan?

Areas of your sales plan.

The sales plan or commercial project of your business should include activities in the following areas:

  • Generation of brand new customers.
  • Maintaining and building loyalty among existing customers.
  • Upsell existing customers.
  • Generation of new customers through existing customers.
  • Follow up regularly to reactivate inactive prospects.
  • Recovery of lost customers.

Have you noticed something? ¡Yes! Generation of brand new customers is just one of six areas covered on (or should be covered on) your sales plan. What happens then? The thing is that we like to make our lives more difficult and we assume that business can only survive if they generate new business on an ongoing basis.

Did you know the cost of generating a brand new customer is much higher than that of keeping them happy, get more sales from them or even higher than the cost of asking for referrals?

And it has been proven that the cost of recovering a lost customer is much higher than any other costs associated with your customers. Do you know why?

Simply because you’ve got to win back their confidence as they don’t want to do business with you again, you’ve to make a stronger effort to convince them to come back, make sure things will be different if they do, and unfortunately all of this is very difficult to achieve in most cases.

So, what do you need to do to start up your commercial project or sales plan?

Ok, now you know it’s not only about generating brand new customers and you are ready to make it all happen. It’s then time to roll up your sleeves and implement actions needed to make your sales plan work.

Which are those actions?

What you need to consider within your sales plan.

  • You must organize all the information you’ll need for your customers: All platforms through which you reach out to your customer must be ready: social networks, website, blog, product literature, catalogs, collateral materials, etc.. You don’t have to have them all, but the more sugar, the sweeter.
  • Through what channels you want to reach your customers? There are many available options, out of which I will mention just a few:
    • Advertising to attract customer to your store or office.
    • Through community or networking events.
    • Reaching out them through sales representatives.
    • Using telemarketing or direct mail to send out information about the company.
    • Email marketing campaigns.
    • Social media and digital channels.
  • How will you keep track and follow up on all contacts made? If you notice, of the 6 areas I mentioned above, 5 are associated with current clients or business contacts, which means you have (if you want) full access to all customer-related information and have the possibility to explore further opportunities with each of them.

And following up regularly with actual customers, whether they are active or not, is certainly the most ignored area on almost all sales plans or commercial projects and by the majority of companies, just because they tend to concentrate only on developing new customers, and not that much in nurturing relationships with actual customers and contacts to get the most benefit out of them.

Keeping in touch with all your customers through customer relationship management platforms (CRM) or the contact management venue of your choice, will allow you to engage with them, increase their loyalty therefore increase the volume of business they do with you, get referrals or simply discover new business opportunities through your existing database, and those are fundamental elements on any sales plan or commercial project.

What do you think you could add to build a more complete sales plan for your business?

Related articles in this blog:
Cold Calling Sales (Part I): Where Can You Start From?
I recommend reading:
Guidelines To Create A Sales Plan (in Spanish)