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StartupBD: Master of None

One of the interesting challenges I’ve come across is sometimes figuring out exactly what does business development “own”? With other functions, it is more clear. Product owns the product, Sales owns “the number”, Marketing owns the message and so on. What does BD own? A strategy? A partnership? Sometimes maybe a number. And even if its ownership is clear, how BD achieves success often isn’t.

Often to achieve a BD-related goal, you need to partner closely with multiple functions; ie: Product/Engineering to help with an integration, Marketing to promote a partnership, Sales to share leads etc.

That is why BD is as much an internal facing job as it is an external one. To be successful, you have to understand the imperatives not just of the the business as a whole, but of individual functions. I sometimes think of BD an internal corporate diplomat, trying to get agreement and resources from multiple functions towards a single idea.

Here’s some of my guiding principles:

Brief early, brief often: Get your idea out there internally with all the relevant (and even tangentially relevant) functions to get buy-off and feedback. Yes, sometimes it takes a lot of time but it is worth it. If you’re going to be coming back to various functions for help or if you’ll be assigning them work, you better make sure you have their input and they feel invested in your deal.

If they think it, you’ve thunk it: Basically, do your homework and try to understand your colleagues’’ priorities and the potential objections. Know their individual imperatives and how your deal fits into them. Yes, your deal may be fitting into some larger corporate strategy, but how does it also fit into each function’s individual priorities. Don’t just pitch a deal. Pitch the deal internally and highlight the unique relevance to each function (again, Sales, Marketing, Product, Engineering… etc)

You don’t have to do everything, just make sure everything gets done: The two big mistakes in trying to get multiple things done to complete a deal is either trying to do everything yourself, or the opposite, which is just dumping tasks on people and assuming it’ll all get done because of the “strategic importance” of your deal. Neither approach works. Good BD people are always in partnership and working with functions to get things done. Sometimes it is rolling up your sleeves to do something yourself, sometimes it is sitting with a function and helping them prioritize what you need them to do. There’s an art to being flexible all while working diligently to a deadline.

StartupBD: Learning from LinkedIn to Take Intelligent Risks

One of the partners I’ve worked very closely with over the past few years is LinkedIn. They are a great company and it is a great experience to work with them and understand both their strategies and their tactics.

Clearly, something is working well for them as they recently celebrated the amazing milestone of 400 millions members!

I was recently at their Sales Connect event and was struck by LinkedIn’s approach to taking intelligent risks. This is something they’ve mastered so it was really inspiring to understand how they approach intelligent risk-taking.

I’ll do my best to summarize but in short:

  1. Understand the upside and the downside
  2. Consider the expected outcomes
  3. Manage your portfolio balance

I explain more in the blog post linked below:

Source: LinkedIn Sales Connect 2015: Take Intelligent Risks, Says LinkedIn’s SVP of Global Solutions — Hearsay Social

Startup BD: Focusing on local for social content marketing

One of my favorite Hearsay BD deals was to partner with Trapit to resell content aggregation services. As many of Hearsay’s customers were ramping up their social strategies, they often realized they needed a lot of content.

So enter Curated Content Channels, a Hearsay-branded content aggregation service that lets our customers find and curate exactly the stories and articles they need to power their content marketing.

One of the first customers using Curated Content Channels was Farm Bureau Insurance of Tennessee (FBIT). What was interesting about FBIT was their focus on using local content to create a very localized, very personal brand; an absolutely great use-case for Hearsay’s Curated Content Channels!

These are BD deals that I love doing; working with partners to create a whole new value-added experience for customers.

You can read more about how FBIT uses Hearsay’s content offering in the case study below.

Source: Local Content to Engage Local Audiences: A Look Inside Farm Bureau Insurance of Tennessee’s Social Strategy — Hearsay Social

Partnering to bring new skills to industry

I’ve worked on quite a few great partnerships at Hearsay, but this is one that I’m particularly proud of. I come from a long line of teachers so anytime my work contributes to education, I get a bit of a rush.

Maybe there is a teacher gene in me somewhere.

The American College is the leading post-secondary institution dedicated to training and educating financial advisers. Pretty soon these students will be using social to better reach out and connect with prospects and clients.

They’ll learn the ins-and-outs of social through a great new course offered jointly by The American College and Hearsay Social. The College is providing the forum and the credit, Hearsay is providing the content.

This is a great example of academia and industry working together to bring the latest in-demand skills to students.

Source: The American College Of Financial Services To Add Social Media Curriculum… — BRYN MAWR, Pa., Nov. 9, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ —

Platform Partnering is Selling

There’s a lot the partnering/alliances world can learn from a well-run sales and marketing team. The pitch, the focus on results, and the need for a predictable, repeatable funnel-conversion system are all hallmarks of an efficient sales machine.

These should be the hallmarks of an efficient alliances machine as well, especially if the machine is focused on building and maintaining large ecosystem integration and go-to-market partnerships.

Here’s what I mean:

Partner to the Problem

Remember that scene at the end of “Wolf of Wall Street” when Leonardo DiCaprio is asking people to sell him a pen? In reply, his audience members talk about the virtues of the pen rather than the customer problem the pen solves. His point in the movie was that to sell, you needed to see the pen from the eyes of the customer and understand what problem the customer is facing.

The same is true in partnerships. Too often companies sell the virtue of their technology and why the whole litany of features on offer makes the company such an attractive integration partner.

What is lost is that partners, like customers, have problems too. If you’re encouraging a company to integrate their application with yours, then you need a solid business case that goes beyond the technology benefits and addresses real partner problems. How does integrating with your technology address a partner’s needs or, even better, the needs of a partner’s customers.

Do Sales and Marketing

The systems developed for sales to fill the top of a funnel and then move a prospect along to that final sale are all relevant for partner organizations. To build an extensive ecosystem, you want to have a strong marketing component to pique the interest of a potential partner and get them to interact with your company in some way (attend an event, download a whitepaper, etc.).

Once engaged, then there should be a process by which that lead can be passed along to an equivalent to an SDR who can qualify the partner and send them down the right track; ie: is this partner a high potential one who needs special care, or could they simply avail themselves of self-service modules?

If the partner is deemed to be high potential, then they need to be placed in the care of a more senior alliance professional who can ensure the partner get the sales, marketing and technical support appropriate.

The same process for passing along a customer from marketing to SDRs to a sales professional holds true in the partnering world as well; especially if the goal is to build a large partner ecosystem.

Grow and Tier the Partnership

A sales team will tend to have an account plan for a high-value customer. A sales rep will check in, understand what the customer is up to, and figure out how to upsell, cross-sell or just plain sell, sell, sell to keep happy the customer and grow the business. This is only achieved via an intimate knowledge of the customer’s business and business imperatives.

The same can be said for managing partners, especially for high-value partners. An intimate knowledge of the partner’s business will help you understand which of your offerings would be of most use to further build and expand their partnership.

Of course, you won’t be able to do this for all your partners but rather for the highest value ones. But if a partner is deemed highly strategic, then it makes sense to have a dedicated partner manager who is executing against a dedicated partner plan.

There should be a plan as well for partners that don’t merit a dedicated resource. There should be an automated or light-touch way to continue to develop those partnerships and find the ones that can move up the ranks and provide more value to your company.

Teaching social media skills to finserv – Hearsay and The American College

Happy to see another new partnership for Hearsay announced. We’ve been speaking to The American College for some time about how to bring great social media training and education to their students and today we’re happy to talk about what we have planned.

In case you don’t know, The American College is one of the leading institutions of higher learning dedicated to financial services. They do am amazing job teaching people how to be helpful and successful financial services professionals.

Look for more details soon at the series of courses we’ll be offering with The American College to help train both this generation and the next generation of financial services professionals to use social media in a responsible and effective way to communicate and educate their client

“The American College of Financial Services has a longstanding reputation for offering innovative and relevant practical education and high ethical standards for financial services professionals, so we’re excited to partner with Hearsay Social and include social media for the first time as part of our formal curriculum,” said Robert R. Johnson, President and Chief Executive Officer of The American College.
“Advisors know that being social media and digitally savvy has become a prerequisite to reach and connect with both today’s and tomorrow’s generations of clients,” said Hearsay Social CEO and founder, Clara Shih. “More than 110,000 advisors use Hearsay Social and Hearsay Sites today, and we are thrilled to partner with The American College to help them, as well as thousands of others, achieve the next level of professionalism and success through our new joint social media education offering. Advisors asked, and we are delivering.”


Hearsay Social Teams With The American College to Advance Social Business Education — Hearsay Social.

Curating the Authentic Voice

An authentic voice. We all have one.

It is who we are. It is the words, grammar and syntax we use everyday to communicate our thoughts and talk about what is important to us, to the world around us.

Our authentic voice communicates our personality, and expresses our humanity.

How ironic it is therefore that on the most human of technologies, social networks, we often find ourselves communicating in a way that is robotic. Too often advisors post and re-post the same series of financial updates on social in some vague attempt to engage a following.

But ask, is that how an advisor communicates in the offline world? As an advisor of a person’s financial wellbeing, something that is highly personal, do you begin a conversation citing stats and dry, distant financial content in the hope your listener reacts positively?

Or do you make yourself relatable. Talk about your personal interests, ask questions and uncover the interests of others around you?

You do the latter. You want people to connect with you first as a person, and then as a financial advisor.

As Clara Shih, our CEO, has often noted, financial advisors have always been social. They have always first dawn on their personal connections and personal networks to build and grow their financial business.

Understanding this, Hearsay Social launched Curated Content Channels, an innovative way for advisors to find and articulate in their authentic voice on social.

With the help of our Customer Success team, Hearsay admins can now create new content channels in the Hearsay content library. These content channels can be on any topic, general interest or financial, and can even be localized to focus on content from a particular region or city.

The Curated Content Channels offering will draw on tens of thousands of online sources to present the relevant content to the Hearsay admin. The Hearsay Customer Success rep can work with the admin to actually teach the system what content is desired, so the system will actually learn and seek out more relevant content in the future.

With a few clicks, admins can create a stream of relevant, curated content to make available for their advisors. This will save admins the considerable time they now spend to find content to populate content libraries.

Advisors, for their part, can find the content that is more relevant to them and that helps them best find their authentic voice. Sharing and commenting on their personally relevant content will help the advisor evolve from a seemingly automated poster to their original human, and social form.

f8: Facebook finds your audience

The f8 conference was an epiphany for me. I saw the rise of a totally vertically integrated media company where content, IMG_4440communications, commerce, audience and advertising were all neatly wrapped up with a bow on a single platform called Facebook.

One of the big ah-ha moments for me was when Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, illustrated the evolution of sharing. In the early days it was all about text. It then moved to images (hence the acquisition of InstaGram) and now video, where Facebook is rolling out a series of new video experiences for the user, for video producers, and for brands.

In the not-too-distant future, sharing will evolved to virtual reality experiences as well (think Oculus).

What was amazing to me was that this evolution wasn’t about the most life-like way to share a cat video or what you had for breakfast, it was about sharing and broadcasting content in general.

Any content in any format can now be targeted at exactly the right audience at the moment they are mostly receptive to it.

Facebook is a platform where you can browse for content and rely on serendipity for discovery, where content is recommended to you by your friends, and where content can find you based on your stated interests.

For the everyday consumer, that content could be the mundane (cat video) or it could be the profound, as in the example Zuckerberg gave of sharing moments of a trip to Venice.

Media companies and brands (which are rapidly becoming the same thing, but that’s another discussion) can use these same immersive, targeted experiences to tell stories and provide information to their audiences.

The sophisticated targeting on Facebook means you can aim both content and advertising at exactly the right audience. Want to target a piece of content to 35-45 years olds? No problem. Within that content, do you want to target advertising only to females 35-45 years old? Facebook has you covered. No wasted ad-spend here.

IMG_4442Presentation after presentation demonstrated that Facebook is one of the premiere platforms to share any sort of content; personal, professional or corporate.

I recently heard the clever phrase “If content isn’t spread, it’s dead.” That is so true. As a brand, agent or advisor, if you have amazing content that isn’t shared by your audience to their audiences, it isn’t making any more sound than the proverbial tree falling alone in the forest.

Through its reach, targeting capabilities, and both organic and paid distribution options, Facebook is ensuring that content producers, be they cat and breakfast enthusiasts, brand or agents, or Pulitzer prize winning publications, can locate, zero-in on, and engage exactly the right audience at exactly the right time.

The Excellent Intro: Humanizing the Finserv Advisor using Content

Content and content marketing is the hot new idea to make brands seem more human, empathetic and alive.

But what happens occasionally when a human business-person (think advisor, consultant, professional services) uses content marketing to project an image? Yeah, they may end up sounding kinda robotic and corporate. That’s a bit of a strange irony, isn’t it?

Even if you’re using a great piece of content, it is often easier to Tweet out “must read” or something similar to your audience and hope people will take your word for it. Such intros rarely engage an audience, so the point you where trying to make with the content is then often lost.

Certainly, I’ll confess to being guilty of publishing out the automaton-sounding social message from time-to-time in a rush to say something, but for my more thoughtful moments here are best practices I’ve noticed:

1) Skip to the end: Jumping to the last chapter and summarizing it is a time honored way to finish that college paper, the same can be said for content marketing. If you have a great piece of content you want to send out but don’t know how to introduce it, skip to the end and summarize in one sentence the conclusion.

2) Things that make you go “hmmm…”: One way to engage an audience with content is find those few sentences that make the whole piece interesting, and then distill those sentences down to one and use that to intro the post.

3) Answer your own question:  Rather that saying “Interesting article about xyz…”, answer the question “This is an interesting article because….” and everything after the “because” falls into your intro. For example, if the article is interesting because it explains how to optimize returns bycutting fees with index funds, then title your post “Need to optimize retirement returns? Try index funds”, rather than the more automated “Interesting post on index funds.”

Finding great content can sometimes be easy. Finding a way to get your audience to engage can be harder. But looking to the content itself to find the one or two nuggets that really help the piece shine can also help your own posts sparkle.

On Facebook, high-quality, engaging content is more important than ever

In order to ensure people are always seeing highly relevant content, Facebook® recently announced that fewer overly promotional posts will appear in people’s News Feeds beginning in 2015.

As people connect with more friends and Like more business Pages, News Feed is becoming increasingly crowded. Overly promotional posts in News Feed add little value compared to other more relevant posts, so Facebook, after conducting a widespread survey, listened to people’s feedback and addressed this in their recent announcement.

As I’ve highlighted with other evolutions of the News Feed, high-quality, highly engaging organic content will continue to be featured. So for financial services professionals, if your posts are getting a lot of Likes and comments, Facebook will continue to feature them in News Feed; good content that informs, entertains and makes people think will win.

What does Facebook define as “overly promotional?” This will include posts that strictly sell and make no attempt to engage, such as:

  • Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
  • Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
  • Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

High-quality organic posts will continue to appear in News Feed. In addition, with Hearsay Social’s new promotional posts feature, financial services professionals can also use ad dollars that were previously wasted on low yield ads like billboards and instead invest them in higher yield Promotional Posts to get even greater reach.

Facebook® is a registered trademark of Facebook Inc.

Cross-posted from Hearsay’s blog


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