Can You Really go Viral?

Lately, I have been asking myself, “Why do companies really push their marketers to go viral?” Only 15 percent of marketing material actually goes viral, so why not push for something more realistic? I get that companies want to “Go big, or go home,” but this mindset just wastes marketing dollars.

Going viral literally just means the number of views your campaign reached. So, the obvious choice to get your marketing to the masses is social media. According to Jason Akeny, a contributor at Entrepreneur, “Getting your brand noticed via social media grows more difficult with each passing day. Users upload 100 hours of video to YouTube every 60 seconds and share more than 4.75 billion pieces of content on Facebook every 24 hours. Add to that 500 million new tweets per day, and the chances of breaking through to a wider audience can seem virtually nonexistent.”

The companies that have mastered the art of going viral, such as T-Mobile, Similac and Chipotle also have the marketing budget, for lack of better words, to waste when it comes to focusing on going viral. So, what can small businesses do to reach this same level of success? The truth is going viral isn’t an effective marketing strategy. This may be a hard pill for many to swallow, but it is still possible for those smaller companies to go viral, it just can’t be the end goal.

There is also the misperception that if you produce more content then it has a higher chance of reaching more people. But it will most likely just get lost in the social media ocean of information. Companies need to focus their attention on what their marketers are producing; quality not quantity.

“An assumption can be defined as anything that is considered to be true without proof,” states Marketing Strategy, book one in the SMstudy® Guide. So, going viral is really just that, an assumption. How do we prove how to go viral? As stated in the book, “Competition analysis involves examining the competitive landscape for competing products with a view to understanding the company’s current product portfolio relative to other products and determining opportunities for product differentiation.”

This does not necessarily mean that an analysis should be done for a company’s specific industry, but rather for many industries in order to find that proof. When it comes to creating viral content there is no formula, but evaluating how other companies achieved their success is a good place to start.

Companies that are looking to successfully market their brand (this is what the main focus should be) need to think outside of the box. Madison Avenue has always struggled to market feminine product companies. Women just don’t associate their “special” time of month with dancing on the beach in white pants. In 2013, HelloFlo, a subscription-based company that delivers feminine products right to one’s door launched.

The new brand was barely keeping their head above water when they decided to try something a little different. They decided to be honest. “The Camp Gyno” hit YouTube in the summer of 2013 and within 24 hours it became the ad of the day and reached 6 million views in its first month. Not too shabby for a product that was produced on a small budget.

It is possible for small businesses to go viral, but that doesn’t mean it should be the goal. The goal should be to create quality content that breaks away from the norm and makes people think, laugh, or even cry. Producing a content mill will not reach your prospective consumers, but creating the right content will. Stop wasting your time producing a lot of content when you could be producing the right content. Go ahead, I dare you.

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Leaky Funnel

Accepting that the sales and marketing funnel will always be leaky is akin to accepting that, despite all efforts, we will not grow taller… or younger. It’s never going to happen, we know this. The marketing funnel will always be leaky, no matter how talented and thorough sales and marketing teams become at plugging the holes. But accept it we must! Since as of today, there is no leak-free funnel and none on the horizon, we all just have to deal.

We learn from SMstudy that the leaky funnel is an analogy. Water being poured from the top represents prospective customers and the water existing from the bottom represents converted customers.

SMstudy states: “Digital media reaches out broadly and acquires potential customers using a variety of online tactics. Marketers then capture information about those customers and begin to target them more effectively with marketing messages and other digital marketing initiatives, and many become qualified prospects or leads. Eventually some of the qualified leads buy the product, thus becoming customers.”

In a perfect place known as “Sales-and-Market Landia,” every dear soul who ever views our ad, not to mention visits our website, would be swirled into our seamless steel-trap funnel with no chance of escape except out the bottom as the proud owner of our product or service, free to roam and spread the good word.

Well, the real world is not “Sales-and-Market Landia,” and most of those who venture into the funnel will ultimately slip through the cracks on their way to the final stage (aka the sale). Leakage numbers vary, but according to Lisa Cramer nearly 80 percent of those who fall into the funnel are never brought to sales. On the bright side or perhaps a cautionary warning, 60 percent of leads who enter the funnel will end up purchasing within the next 24 months… just maybe not via that same funnel.

With figures like these it’s no surprise we find all sorts of advice on how marketers can plug the holes of their own unique funnels. Just google, “plug leaky funnel” and you’ll see what comes back, a bucket load of funnel advice.

Basics such as data analytics and understanding the Point of Loss (POL) and Point of Influence (POF) can help to identify and shore up the holes, and realistic genuine attempts should be made to do so. But at some point, acceptance of a leaky funnel is key to not obsessing over the holes and maintaining your sanity.

David Lund of Marketing Executives Networking Group recognizes the inevitable nature of the leaky funnel and the necessity of accepting said leakage, but still offers these simple steps to increase sales even for a hole-riddled funnel:

  • Put more total people in the funnel.  Your funnel still leaks, but more people in should mean more people out.  If only 1-5% of the people at the top of your funnel actually buy from you or sign up for your services, you need to first focus on improving your funnel rather than putting more people into it.
  • Put more of the right people in the funnel.  You hope to attract and sell more of your target audience.  But, if you don’t clearly understand why they are choosing you, this approach will not be fully effective.
  • Retain more of the right people in the funnel.  By slowing or stopping the leaks in your funnel, you will optimize your efforts to attract and retain more target customers.  This is usually a much more productive near-term effort versus just spending more on ads or offering promotions.

So, ideally, yes, all holes would be plugged and anyone who ever knowingly or unknowingly fell into our funnel would come out the proud owner of whatever product or service was for sale. But that is a myth, a dream straight out of “Sales-and-Marketing landia.” The truth is, despite all our efforts, there will always be holes. Always. But still we plug on!

For more articles on sales and marketing, visit

[Spring Eselgroth, VMEdu staff writer, contributed to this article.]

Photo credit: Catherine,


SMstudy Guide, Digital Marketing, pg.62-63.

Sales Success as an Optimistic Cynic, Tibor Shanto, Pipeliner CRM, July 7, 2015,

The Beginner’s Guide to Identifying Leaks in Your Sales Funnel,” Dale Cudmore, The Daily Egg, June 8, 2015,

“How to Reduce Lead Leakage Now,” Lisa Cramer, Marketing Profs, Oct. 27, 2011,

“Do you know where your marketing funnel is leaking and how to stop it,” David Lund, Marketing Executives Networking Group, July 30, 2013,

Lower Your Bounce Rates with SMstudy

The bounce rate (BR) or the percentage of people who entered a website and immediately left, is a popular metric companies use to determine the quality of a webpage.

According to Digital Marketing, Book 2 in the SMstudy Guide®, bounce rate is defined as “the percentage of visitors who leave the first page of a website they encounter without clicking to other pages on the website. A lower bounce rate from a modified advertisement would indicate that customers were leaving the page less often, possibly because they were finding the page relevant to the advertisement. The target bounce rate should be the bounce rate of pages linked to similar advertisements that the company has used successfully.”

So, a BR is not exactly a percentage of people who visited a website and immediately left, but actually a percentage of people who visited a website but then performed no other trackable actions. Technically, according to these guidelines, a person could read a 10-thousand-word article on a company’s website and share it with five hundred of their closest friends without actually performing a trackable action. A common misconception in regards to BR is often the way it is calculated. If a company does not take into consideration the example above, then the bounce rate will appear to be too high.

Once a bounce rate is properly calculated, it’s time to get down to business. User experience should be the first factor a company looks at in the hopes of reducing their BR. People that browse websites are looking for a seamless passage through the site. If a company’s website is confusing, difficult to navigate or causes confusion, people will tend to look for another site they can get around more easily. As the old saying goes, “keep it simple, stupid.” Another easy way to enhance user experience is to ensure the content is relevant and engaging. This can be done by creating videos, images, blog articles, and more.

One additional action that can easily improve a person’s user experience is customizing language to region. As stated in Digital Marketing, “In order to ensure that the marketing message is relevant and reaches audiences around the world, businesses can also customize their ads based on the language preference for their audience. For example, a company providing services in Canada may wish to develop both French and English versions of their ads to target search queries in either official language.”

For more information about bounce rate and how to lower your company’s percentage visit www. where you can be sure you will be able to take a seamless journey through our website.

[Stephanie Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article] 

Importance of Questions During Lead Generation Process

Questions are an effective tool for the Needs Assessment for Each Qualified Lead process. Asking questions is especially useful when the qualified lead does not have clearly stated needs.

Even in cases where requirements are documented, questions are an effective approach to gain a better understanding of the need or needs driving those requirements. Questions are also helpful in conveying a better understanding of the lead’s industry. Answers to the questions during this phase serve as inputs for designing, creating, or customizing a solution.

The questions asked during the Needs Assessment for Each Qualified Lead process are generally classified into two types:

Closed Questions – Closed questions can be answered with either a simple “yes” or “no,” or the answer may lie in a single word or phrase. Typical examples of closed questions include the following:

  • Is your annual revenue above $5 million?
  • Does your company use an ERP system?

Open Questions – Open questions require longer answers and cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no.” Typical examples of open questions include the following:

  • What can you tell me about your current business environment?
  • What can you tell me about your manufacturing process?

Needs assessment uses a combination of closed and open questions.

Build Relationships with Negotiation Training

In sales, all that matters is the bond between the seller and buyer. The buyer always finds arguments to have a better deal than the quoted one, and that is when the negotiation skills of the seller comes in! Negotiation skills are much like a language. People who are unacquainted with the concepts and terminology of negotiation may find it intimidating.  With proper training, constant use and practice, it can be learned and mastered.

Negotiation Strategies

  • Distributive Negotiation – This type of negotiation often results in a win-lose scenario. The parties involved in this type of negotiation work towards getting the most out of a fixed value or sum. Hence the gain of one party results in the loss of the other. Say for example, you are bargaining to buy a gift from a foreign trip where you are not going to purchase from the seller again. Given the nature of this strategy, very few negotiations are truly distributive.
  • Integrative Negotiation – This type of negotiation is carried out with the objective of achieving a win-win scenario. The deals negotiated with this strategy are meant to create and deliver value for both the parties by integrating their interests.  Examples for this type of negotiations can be mergers and acquisitions or the relationship between a manufacturing company and its suppliers.

Negotiation Styles

Kenneth W. Thomas identified five styles of negotiation based on dual-concern model.

  • Accommodating – Individuals who emphasize on preserving personal relationships and consider other party’s problems during negotiation.
  • Avoiding – Individuals who do not enjoy negotiation and try to avoid the confrontational aspects of it.
  • Collaborating – Individuals who enjoy the problem solving aspect of negotiation and tend to use creativity to come to mutual agreement.
  • Competing – Individuals who enjoy and dominate the negotiation process.
  • Compromising – Individuals who are eager to close the deal by being fair to all the parties involved.

Preparing for Negotiation

There are four steps to prepare for a negotiation:

  • Consider what would be a good outcome for both parties. The negotiator should determine the interests and objectives of his party as well as those of the other party. This is to done by thorough research or by having a dialogue with the other party. Areas of common ground, compromise and opportunities for favorable trade need to be understood.
  • Learn about the people on the other side before negotiation. Negotiating is an interpersonal activity. Experienced negotiators know this and try to learn as much as they can about the people on the other side. Experience of the negotiators, their negotiation style, their levels of authority, the culture of their organization and the importance of the deal for their organization are some of the things that can help you during negotiation.
  • Gather external information about the deal points and negotiate from your positions of strength. Each side wants to get a fair and reasonable deal at the end of the negotiation. It is a good practice to benchmark with industry standards for the negotiation. There are many criteria for fairness and reasonableness. During preparation, it is essential that the team research the criteria that is more favorable to them and should be ready to show that those criteria are more relevant than other factors.
  • Determine the authority position of the person with whom you are negotiating. Ideally, the negotiator on the other side should have similar authority as the negotiator on your side. To determine the authority of the negotiator on the other side, one must try to figure out the decision making process of the other side.

For more intersting and informative articles on sales and marketing, visit http://www.smstudy,com/articles

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is performance-based marketing where customers or partners, known as “affiliates”, are rewarded for designated actions that help market the brand. This can be a productive way for a company to expand its reach and marketing efforts. There are two ways affiliate marketing is approached: companies offer affiliate programs directly to other companies/individuals, or they can sign up to be an affiliate through another organization. The company that is offering or controlling the affiliate program will pay a commission for every lead or sale the affiliate delivers to the company’s website.

Let’s take an example to illustrate the idea. An individual might mention in a social media post that he or she purchased a product and gain a certain number of reward points for the post. The affiliate marketing program may be structured in such a way that the individual earns certain reward points  for every ten likes or comments on that post. The affiliate can then redeem these points against the company’s products.

Affiliate marketing helps widen a company’s reach exponentially using the most credible medium—existing customers. Websites offering price comparison services, coupons, shopping directories, and virtual currency platforms are the most popular affiliate marketing websites. One of the main advantages of affiliate marketing is that companies can gain more customers with limited budget, since the approach is commission or reward points based. However, there is the possibility that some merchants may incur high commission, maintenance, and initial setup costs, depending on the nature of the business.

Affiliate marketing is different from referral marketing in the way that it uses online marketing platforms—social media, blogs, search engine marketing, and more—to market the product while referral marketing is primarily based on word-of-mouth and relies heavily on trust and personal relationships between existing customers and prospects.

Attracting the right partners is very crucial for the affiliate program to be successfull and in determining the volume that can be expected from the program. Common-place brands, even consumer packaged goods brands, can benefit greatly from affiliate marketing with the help of the right offers and efficient partners. Getting products onto as many sites as possible is not necessarily the most important goal. Marketers must also consider the relevance, value, and traffic of the sites and platforms that one is able to reach.

To learn more about affiliate marketing, visit

Get the SMstudy, not Nuts

When creating a brand for your company do not use an American celebrity to shoot chocolate bars at innocent bystanders. Apparently Mars, the company who produces Snickers chocolate bars, did not get the memo.

In July of 2008, Snickers UK launched a commercial starring Mr. T, an American actor and one determined (and brave) speed walker. In the commercial, Mr. T crashes through a building, in what appears to be a supped-up pickup truck, and pulls up alongside a young man wearing tight yellow shorts. Mr. T proceeds to open fire with what appears to be a Gatling gun, pelts his victim with Snickers bar “bullets” and yells, “Speed walking?! I pity you fool. You a disgrace to the man race. It’s time to run like a real man.”

The commercial was pulled after just one week.  The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group, criticized Mars for spreading, “the notion that violence against LGBT people is not only acceptable, but humorous.”

Mars could have avoided this marketing failure by taking a look at Marketing Strategy, book 1 of the SMstudy Guide®. According to the book, “Brand perception refers to how prospective and current customers react to seeing or hearing about a company’s product or brand and how the company is perceived within the market. Leading organizations across industries realize that a powerful brand is one of their most important business assets, so they work hard to maintain a positive brand perception as it helps to increase sales and improve profitability.”

This was the second commercial in a three-part campaign entitled, “Get Some Nuts.” Mars had envisioned Mr. T as the face of the Snickers brand, but instead they were branded the company with the face of homophobia. Snickers could have avoided this issue by performing surveys as explained in Marketing Strategy. “Brand perception can be measured using a variety of approaches, but it is mainly measured via research surveys that question participants about the perceptions of the company and/or its products. Surveys typically gather quantitative and qualitative data. They are conducted to help companies understand how their brands are viewed in the market and to identify the brand attributes that are preferred by customers.”

The intention of the “Get Some Nuts” campaign was to target men and their masculinity. In order to be a real man you need to be tough and aggressive like our good ole pal Mr. T. Mars could have avoided yet another blunder by sticking to Marketing Strategy. As stated in the book, “Once a company has identified all market segments, explored the competition, and then compiled the details of competitive products, it should then analyze the various segments and the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats faced by the company in order to identify the target segments in which the business would be most competitive. This process involves identifying the type of customers a company plans to target and the product categories under which it intends to create products.”

In this case, the campaign did not just humiliate homosexual men, which makes up 1.8 percent of the male population, but also men perceived to be “wimpy”. The campaign only targeted men that are rugged and tough, which does not help a company when it comes to forming target segments.

Companies can benefit from providing their employees with the knowledge that can be found in the SMstudy Guide®. If only Mars had been aware of what a Sales and Marketing certification can do for its company, they may have eluded a very big marketing fail.

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