Interview with TrustRadius founder, Vinay Bhagat

Image representing Vinay Bhagat as depicted in...

Vinay Bhagat, TrustRadius Image via CrunchBase

We were lucky to find out about TrustRadius the enterprise software comparison site founded by Vinay Bhagat

Image representing TrustRadius as depicted in ...

Image via CrunchBase

through a search we were doing for clients.  As a result, we got in touch with them and secured an interview.

Why did you start TrustRadius?

We’re trying to change the way software is bought and sold. If you’re a consumer who wants to buy a product or service there’s a wealth of information out there.  But if you’re trying to buy a piece of technology which could have a huge impact on your career, or business – it’s more challenging; more opaque.

Technology marketers try to control the information flow a customer gets.

Our belief is that through a platform like TrustRadius we can give buyers a more authentic, rapid way to make smarter decisions.  It’s not just picking the right product – it’s the right product for your use case.

Every business has unique needs – on TrustRadius you can crowdsource different perspectives about the context around the problem the business is trying to solve. This allows the user to made a more informed choice.

This isn’t trying to provide all the answers.  TrustRadius is a layer to get intelligent and get insights, way to avoid mistakes.  It’s more than a content layer, it’s a way to allow people to connect with each other. a contextual social network.

What are the issues with other solutions?

The Gartner magic quadrant is not appropriate for everyone.
We have a user who contacted people through the site and did information exchanges to get to the real story behind their tech selection and purchase.

People have tried to do backchannel references for years – it’s hard to get peer input rapidly at scale.
Reviewers have authentication – and we use Linked In – in connect button to verify identities.

What’s your business model?

Today we are not focused on making money – we’re trying to create a trusted at scale network – as a young company we

have to concentrate at this.  If we can wedge ourselves between the buyer and seller its a $4trilliion marketplace.  We bootstrapped for 1 year and now have raised VC money last June – we maniacally focus on getting to scale through effectively recruiting reviewers, sourcing content and engaging vendors. Read more

3 ways to improve proposal writing next steps

We advised a client today about how to make 3 improvements to their proposal ending texts.  Writing a descriptive of your service or product and pricing it is only part of the new business development process.  It is essential that it leads to a next step to keep the discussion going and lead towards a buy/no-buy decision by the prospect.

Three key information points in a proposal

  1. clarifying next steps
  2. adding a timescale
  3. pushing the client towards buying what you want to sell

Here is the original ending paragraph they wrote:

Let me know if you are interested in talking more. If it would help, we can quickly provide a demo of steps 1 and 2 if you provide us with some game event data. As part of that demo we can demonstrate how simple creating new reports / analyses is.

By improving the text the reader is given clear expectations about next steps in the discussion process .

We recommended editing the last paragraph to give clarity on the 3 key information points

“The next step is for you to send us with some game event data and we can quickly provide a demo of steps 1 and 2.  

As part of that demo we can demonstrate how simple creating new reports / analyses is.  We would make a nominal charge for this work of $XXX which will be fully refundable if we proceed to a full implementation.  

I will call you on Wednesday next week to confirm when you can send us the data and a date for the demo.”  

Although sounding rather presumptuous this text sets clear expectations with regard to timeframes and next steps against which you can update your biz dev pipeline.

What are your favourite closing sentences in a proposal?7 Make New Biz Happen icon

How to introduce your business by email

Copy this email introduction for your business; make a template and add in key information about your business.

In my networking group, we’re working hard to make it really EASY for members to introduce each other to new prospects and new clients.

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writing: Sandro Botticelli’s St. Augustine in His Cell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was asked by the group to help coach them in the best way to write an introduction that others could use.  So here’s an introduction to my own firm and a commentary on what information to put down for yourself.

Now read the perfect email introduction.

What does my business do?

This is an email you can send about our services
Creative Agency Secrets is an expert in marketing and promoting businesses using traditional and online methods.  We work as the outsourced marketing team for busy businesses doing marketing that starts conversations and leads to sales.
 
I have seen their work for [name a client] and used them for my own business to write the copy on our website About Us page.  And I’ve also recommended them several times and had great feedback especially about their careful attention to detail.
 
I will leave you two to connect – I’ve spoken to you both about each other and shared your emails and phone numbers below.

The elements in an email introduction

Start: with your one-liner…. who are you and what do you do
Build: with an example of their work for someone you both know, preferably.  If you can’t say you have worked personally with them, a mutual acquaintance is a positive reinforcer.
Memorability: Add an anecdote that describes your experience – if you can make it funny, cute or WOW that’s best but not strictly necessary.

End: Include all the information they need to continue a dialogue without you….

We plan on creating a shared document for everyone so they can cut/paste the text into emails for business referrals for new business development.

The best introductions are when you’ve spoken personally to both parties.  NOTE not emailed, spoken….

Want to know more? Make sure to download our FREE e-book "Cold Emails – Doing it right and netting yourself leads".

cold emails ebook

The Top 6 most popular articles of all time

A Closer Look at Agency Search Firms – The Future Factory

This blog post series looks in depth at firms from our List of Agency Search Firms. These are businesses who help to match brands with agencies, while helping those agencies handle pitches and get meetings. You’ll learn exactly what agency search firms do, the different services offered and what your agency needs to look for in a search firm.

The Future Factory profile

This week we’re looking at The Future Factory, a London based cold calling firm. The Future Factory aims to create leads for agencies listed with them by calling up potential clients and offering services on their behalf. The most interesting thing about The Future Factory is their hands on approach to their clients and business in general. They opt to work so close to the client, even spending several days in their offices, to really understand the agencies they work with. In doing so they then fully understand the best approach to take when cold calling for them and it develops quite a close relationship.

The Future Factory

The Future Factory

They offer:

  • Cold calling work search services for agencies.
  • Relationships management services for agencies.
  • Provide brand research and feedback for agencies.

Services for Agencies

By spending 8 days per month, half of that time in the agency’s offices, The Future Factory get clients for agencies by cold calling potential brands. They research these brands and develop relationships with them.

Before this is undertaken however they go through a rigorous understanding process whereby they get to know the agencies business and core principles. They also pass on all information about brands they get work from to their agencies and make sure they are well prepared for the meeting. In this way The Future Factory double as a relationship building firm.

Services for Brands

The Future Factory provides no services to brands directly. Rather they research what services they could provide brands and call up those brands based on a set of unknown criteria.

Charges and Fees

Monthly membership subscriptions are the only apparent payment The Future Factory takes. They decide total monthly costs based on meeting and negotiation (this may be fixed for every agency but it is unclear). These fees may possible be extended each time they win work for their clients but again this is unclear.

Key members of staff – from Linked In

Who is The Future Factory right for?

Agencies who like a hands on approach to client work will find The Future Factory to be greatly accommodating. They work closely with their clients and their testimonials suggest they regularly bring in work. They also benefit those agencies not wanting to get in too deep with an agency search firm through the monthly subscription service, meaning you can cancel any month if it’s not working out.

The risks seem low and the potential rewards seem high, so working with The Future Factory could be a good way to test the waters for newer agencies. If your relationship procurement and development skills are high as an agency though, you might want to go for more of a listing service so you have a greater presence online.

Shortcomings

No listings, only calls – With no listing or extra exposure, The Future Factory is only good for bringing in clients directly. This means if you are already a star agency at procuring and developing relationships then they may not do too much for you. If you’re looking for a greater online presence, better go with a company that  lists your on their website for seeking brands to find.

For a full list of companies in this blog post series, click through to the

Agency Search Firms Listly

New business development copywriting: Stalled prospects

September is the time business gets down to work after the summer break.  Blair Enns at the Win Without Pitching team say this is the perfect time to clean out your list of prospects and new business opportunities.

Find out which ones are going to buy and which aren’t worth your time chasing further.  Blair writes

Below is a simple email template that you can use to raise deals from the dead. It works throughout the year but this week, more than any other period in the calendar, is when it works best.

THE EMAIL

It was taught to me as The Takeaway but I refer to it by the subject line that I prefer: Closing The Loop. Draft it, modify it if you dare, but send it to all those prospects you were talking to over the summer about real projects only for them to disappear on you. That’s the intended purpose of this email – to raise deals from the dead and solicit a response from someone who has been avoiding you over the summer.

Your natural inclination is probably to do the opposite of what I’m about to suggest. Resist. Do not send an overly polite email. Do not make excuses for your prospect’s behaviour over the last few weeks. Do not email in pursuit of a yes or even an answer. No, your mission is to strip away all emotions and matter-of-factly just let your prospect go. Below is how to do this and then what to expect afterwards.

Ready?

Read the detailed email Blair recommends

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Facebook Icon On Fire

How Facebook Boosted My Newsletter Subscribers

Email or FacebookFacebook hasn’t replaced any newsletter (at least not yet but you never know what Facebook’ll do next). What Facebook has done is equal the amount of traffic driven to our website from our weekly newsletter.  And helped us to recruit new opted-in newsletter subscribers.

Better yet – it’s all free.

Key things to note: Our weekly newsletter has over 4,500 subscribers. Our Facebook page had just 400 (over the course of this experiment we increased this to 550).  Wow – that’s ten times fewer subscribers but they’re visiting and re-visiting the website.

Everyone knows the theory of email newsletters – their open and clickthrough rates so I won’t waste time here. We’re going to tell you how you can drive more traffic to your website from Facebook.  Then invite visitors to join the newsletter.

What we were doing

We posted 3 times a day on Facebook, for Facebook – all of which was shared from other users and pages on Facebook. These posts were backed up by regular blog post entries (one every day) which were automatically fed to our Timeline. Very standard.

So what did we change?

There were 3 major changes.

  1. The first was to do with posting amounts and timing. We increased the frequency of posting and changed what time of day we posted Facebook updates. This was increased to 5-6 times a day (effectively doubling our previous posting frequency).
  2. The second major change is where we post from. We changed all sources of our posts to our website and then linked to them.
  3. Our third major change was where we sourced our content from. It’s important to note here we hardly ever created original content – we either shared others or repurposed our archived content.

To facilitate changing the source of our posts to our website we installed new plugins. People will spend less time on our Facebook page because we are directing them to our website. As a result, many of the plugins we installed were to make sure our content is still shared (which often doesn’t happen once you leave a social media site). As we knew many of our visitors would also be arriving from a mobile device (Facebook’s App is becoming more widely used) we paid particular attention to how our site looks on mobile devices.

Step 1: Smarter Posting Times

Our audience is active at all times of the day. We were initially posting 3 times daily between 9am and 5pm – Not the smartest move when you look at the graph below of our visitor traffic over 24 hours.

When Fans Are Online

Click To Enlarge

For this reason – we opted to post every 4-5 hours. Remember – we don’t want this to take up all our time and we definitely don’t want to be up all night so we chose to schedule our Facebook posts. To enable auto-posting of blog at all times of day we installed new plugins which I’ll discuss below.

Step 2: Make The Website The Destination

We want to drive traffic off Facebook to our website.  This is marketing real estate that we control and manage.  We’re not dependent on Facebook’s grace.  Making most of your posts direct to your website is therefore logical.  And remember our objective is to drive readers from Facebook to becoming opted-in newsletter subscribers.

This of course means publishing content designed for Facebook on your website. Whether you’re sharing an article or a photo, upload it to your site (add a link on the post to credit the photograph if appropriate).  Don’t just link them straight to the original source, ideally you’re seen as the source of the content so they spend longer on your site and less elsewhere.

With our new plugins – photos are uploaded from our website to Facebook automatically. When a user clicks on a photo expecting it to enlarge they are instead redirected to our website (where there is a larger image front and centre). Bingo – we’ve just driven traffic from Facebook to our site. From here you have 2 challenges –

  1. How can they share this with their friends?
  2. What’s going to keep them from leaving your site?

The first challenge is easily answered – plugins which I will discuss later on. The second is to have an attractive website littered with quality content – this is discussed just below.

Step 3: Sourcing Quality, “Original” Content

To ensure our content is appealing, we need it to be socially shareable. While there are no guarantees, using already proven socially shareable content is a start. But you don’t want to appear a copycat. So how do you get proven socially shareable material while still looking “fresh” and “original”? The easiest strategy is to find content from sources other than Facebook. Pinterest was a great resource for me as pictures make the best Facebook posts and most photos came with a short description or piece of information – perfect.

Setting Up Your Website: Plugins Used

Below is a list of the plugins you’ll want to install if you’re on WordPress. I’ve described the types of plugins you want before stating what plugin we used. These plugins are all free and you may have your own preference.

  1. New Automatic Posting To Social Media (Facebook/Twitter).

    • NextScripts: Social Networks Auto-Poster [Hands down the best autoposter plugin. Fully customisable, plenty of social media options and looks like the posts were shared straight from Facebook. 2 great features of this plugin are that you can choose individual posts to be image posts or linked posts etc & Imports Facebook comments so your website appears popular]

  2. A more simple “Like Us” button further up the News main page.

    • Facebook Social Plugin Widgets (This plugin installs widgets to be used wherever – we used them in the sidebar of our blog page [note page and not post])

  3. When someone enters our site (for the first time) a like us on Facebook plugin pops up [This doesn’t interfere with our pre-existing Newsletter signup popup].

  4. Horizontal social sharing toolbar along the top is non intrusive and doesn’t cover any text unlike many vertical floating ones.

  5. Sharing of individual pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest by simply hovering your mouse over the picture.

  6. Floating Sharebar down that follows the user down the side of the post. It allows sharing to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc

    • Digg Digg (Leave a comment if you’d like my custom CSS code so the spacings etc look nice and clean with no borders or ads)

  7. Mobile Plugin so website looks good on every device

 

Results?

Results of Our 1st Change

So what were the results of our changes? The graph below reveals all. With a simple change in the frequency and timing of posts our weekly reach exploded. This is most likely due to reaching more individuals as opposed to reaching the same people multiple times.

Click To Enlarge

Click To Enlarge

 

Results of Our 2nd Change

The screenshot below is of our website’s referrals for the 2 week period before and during our Facebook efforts. As you can see, vast improvements. We basically received 1000 extra page views each week (remember, at the time we only had 400 people liking our page). I’ve highlighted the Twitter referrals as well (t.co) as although we designed this campaign for Facebook – using the NextScript Autoposter plugin we also published the same content to Twitter (although we changed the structure of the titles and links etc from within the plugin’s settings). You’ll notice the amount of referrals we got from Facebook Mobile (m.facebook.com). Good thing we had WPtouch installed so our page would look good on any device.

Click To Enlarge

Click To Enlarge

 

Did Our Plugins Do Their Job?

I was initially skeptical when installing the Facebook Page Promoter Lightbox – no one likes popups. After 2 weeks though, we picked up 50 likes from external “Like” buttons. These buttons were only in 2 places, the first was in the sidebar on the blog page the second was the aforementioned lightbox. I’m almost 100% sure the lightbox is where we picked up all of those likes.

Click To Enlarge

Click To Enlarge

Sling pic and both social sharing bars (vertical and horizontal) picked up a few extra “Likes” and retweets which was nice – nothing to write home about but every little bit counts. WPtouch can be attributed to the 13 mobile likes as although it means people liked our Page from Facebook (on a mobile device), the website must have been attractive enough to have convinced them.

Conclusion

The initial results are all very promising, only time will tell how good a long term strategy this is. The short term gains were an instant increase in likes going from 400 to 550 in 2 weeks, engagement going up and a large increase in unique visitors and page views. There were of course more minor, intricate strategic choices made during this period and still being made now – these will be discussed in a later post.

 

If you’d like any help setting these plugins up or want to discuss how this can apply to your online strategy get in touch by leaving a comment below.

Failure of the creative agency business model

Reading a great post about the lack of scalability in the creative agency business model is a great reinforcement for me and validation of the business that we run here at Creative Agency Secrets.

Years ago I realised three things

  1. No agency staff are trained on how to do biz dev
  2. A process must underpin successful, reliably consistent new business
  3. Only by getting buy in from all the senior team can it work in the medium term

Our new business methodology underpins all our work and that’s why, like Blair, our  recommendations from past clients fall into 2 camps. The politely nice and the ecstatic. For the latter, we  succeed in embedding a process that has continued long after our consulting assignment ended.  That is the difference the Creative Agency Secrets team makes in new business development.

Follow our 8 step New Business Methodology in the categories on the right side you’ll see articles listed on each step that can help your business embed, codify and practice new business development successfully.

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Online marketing for accounting firms: a research summary

Accountancy firms are the backbone of the business economy serving every sector of the community. Business owners use their accountant to get advice and recommendations on a wide range of commercial issues. They are trusted advisors for New Zealand business.

Yet accountants often present themselves poorly online. They are difficult to find on the internet, their websites are dull, unremarkable, and aren’t easy to use for prospective clients who want to research and find an advisor.

The attributes of a good business website:

  • Findable on search engines for search phrases that relate to the industry or product not the business name
  • State the services or products offered in clear, non-technical language
  • Illustrates specialisms and points of difference for the firm
  • Helps guide the customer to the correct service they need
  • Enable the customer to get in touch with the business by a range of communication channels – including social media as well as traditional telephone and email
  • Name key members of staff and their contact details
  • Show office locations, ideally on a map

Every business uses some form of marketing promotion to bring in new clients and to keep current clients coming back for more.

A website is the linchpin of modern business marketing activity. Most other marketing work directs curious web searchers to the website. These days, who hasn’t got a business card without the firm’s URL?

Creative Agency Secrets has appraised a substantial amount of accountancy firms’ websites for evidence of current marketing and promotion activities within the industry.

 

Here’s what we found

  • Over one quarter of all firms surveyed do no marketing promotion aside from their website.
  • 38% have some basic promotion, normally in the form of a newsletter.
  • And at the other end of the scale 6% are very active and seek to engage website visitors and encourage them to get in touch with the firm.

Where does your firm sit on the proactive marketing scale?

Top performers include

  • Deloitte
  • Cabbage Tree Accounting
  • William Buck
  • Astill Hawke
  • DJCA
  • Gilligan Rowe

What sets these firms apart?

The best accountancy firms have several key attributes in common

  1. They are highly informative both on their business, what they offer, and their industry
  2. Their web pages maintain public resources for research and self-discovery
  3. The have prominent and recent communication activity using written, audio and visual media which engages readers and keeps them on the website
  4. They encourage the visitor to reveal his identity to the firm

Why do prospective clients find these factors appealing?

Imagine going into a shop for the first time – you browse around looking for the product you want to buy and at “just the right moment” a sales assistant steps forward and offers to help you. They guide you in an un-pushy manner to the product you want but stay on hand to answer any further questions you have. A modern website needs to do the same job for the firm.

But on a website a visitor is anonymous.

You have no idea who has visited your site – just tracking cookies and the number of visitors in your analytics. The Firm doesn’t know their names, what their interest is and whether they are looking to buy some accounting advice.

Social Media

Businesses are moving into the social media scene. Yet most accountancy firms have not taken advantage of the core social media sites.

twitter researchfacebook researchother social media research

Our research reviewed accountants’ websites for public links to social media sites. We expected to see LinkedIn used the most because it is the professional business social media site but we were wrong: 34% had LinkedIn pages; 34% had Twitter and 46% had Facebook profiles.

Firms with an active social media presence tended to also have higher scores in overall web presence and influence. There are many additional influencing factors and it is important to note that where a company is on social media, they also have invested time in YouTube videos, blogging, or email marketing as well.

We ranked firms comparing their activity on the web by assessing how often they updated their marketing activities and what tools they used to market themselves online. This shows that activity really does boost your noticeability as an accounting firm online. What’s more interesting about these results is the outlying firms with our assigned activity scores of 2, 3 and 4 who also have a good Alexa Rank which suggests that content is an important factor in gaining a prominent online presence.

Online Marketing Tools used by Accounting Firms

There are a lot of opportunities to display expertise using content marketing techniques online.

Newsletters

When searching there accountancy firms’ websites for newsletters, we looked at whether firms actively requested prospective clients’ email addresses, and the ways in which the firm used them. Many displayed historic newsletters but they were often displayed in PDF format which is less searchable or sharable.

Of those with newsletters, a significant amount website visitors had no way to subscribe to receive the news online. Giving visitors the ability to subscribe gets you their email address for a mailing list and analytics information about those visitors. Mailing lists are a great way to start a dialogue with customers by building a self-service database. An opportunity lost by these firms.

Opted in databases of email addresses are among the most powerful marketing assets a firm can own. They can even be used to deliver a series of emails called autoresponders. These can welcome new subscribers, give them an introduction to the firm, and explain its services.

Blogging

Many of the news pages or blogs for the accounting firms we researched are static and have not been updated for many months or even years. They have no clickability or linking to other pages in the website and they are created on a single web page. This means an individual article cannot be hyper-linked, only the whole page.

By creating a blog-style page, the opportunity exists to create more internal and external links to your site which again increases the chances for search engines to visit more frequently as well as encouraging visitors to browse across multiple website pages. This also provides opportunities for other websites to link to specific articles from you which ultimately lead the visitor to your website.

Videos

Larger accountancy firms host videos on their websites, mainly used for training. None have made use of online broadcasting technologies like webinars, podcasts or recordings. Video and audio recording is now cheap and easy to do. They are a good way to communicate and to enable listeners to share your content and are far more engaging than text.

Training

Many accountants provide training and conduct seminars for in-person attendance. It would be very easy to broadcast a training event or record it at the same time for later broadcast. Training is a fantastic marketing tool but if someone can’t make the event time, watching a recording means they can still gain value from it.

 

In Conclusion

Most accounting firms have the beginnings of a good website presence. However they need to add new functionality that works to continuously draw new visitors into the website from search, from the email database and to encourage them to reveal their identities and join in a dialogue with the firm. This can be enhanced by including social media in their marketing plans as they create more and more points of contact for potential clients, as long as you know your clients use social media to connect. LinkedIn is particularly good because of its professional nature.

If you’re an accounting firm looking for a free website appraisal, you’ll find one here at Creative Agency Secrets.

Get in touch with us.

Website not showing up in Google: BNI New Business Development tip of the week

THis week I’m focusing on a client whose website was not showing up on Google – not for pages and pages.

He knew this was a problem and had been overcoming it by paying for SEO to put it onto the top of search.  But he knows this is a short term solution which he doesn’t want to continue.

We investigated and found 3 quick things to correct

  1. Site meta tags were not populated
  2. Blog was created as a page not posts
  3. Photo Alt tags weren’t used and images were uploaded with the camera image id (long string numbers)

So some easy quick fixes.

Medium term, we’re teaching them how to use links and key words in blog posts which will reinforce search queries as well as social sharing and reciprocation.

 

Check out Otautahi Tattoo’s amazing story as refugees from the Christchurch earthquake and relocation, growth and reinvigoration in Auckland – the photo is of All Black Keven Mealamu having his latest ‘rose’ design added.

Otautahi Tattoo with Keven Mealamu All Black rugby player

Otautahi Tattoo with Keven Mealamu All Black rugby player

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