How to properly prepare and host a virtual meeting

How to properly prepare and host a virtual meetingBefore mandated separation was in place, we all spent an incredible amount of time in virtual meetings. It was an essential part of how we all worked, but now that we are all stuck working from home, virtual meetings are a way of life. As a result, people have somewhat forgotten some of the essential rules for hosting and taking part of conference calls and online meetings. The purpose of this article is to share some quick tips to ensure you hold better and more efficient virtual meetings.

  • Start with the invite itself – Remember, everyone’s calendar is stuffed with various agenda items. With people jumping from call to call, it is easy for your meeting to get lost in the mix of all the others competing for mindshare on a calendar. One way to get your meeting to stick out is how you structure your invitation.
    • Streamline the subject. Subject lines should be clear and explanatory. Something such as: 3SixtySMB | Client Name Discussion Regarding Fridays Webcast and Next Steps – Wednesday 4/29 @ 1pm Eastern Time. A subject line like this one clearly shows the recipient who they are speaking with, why, and when… It is much harder to glaze over a subject line like this, and within seconds, the recipient knows exactly the purpose of the call.
    • Condense the body. The agenda should be clear and concise… Now is not the time to write War and Peace; no one will read it. Keep it simple.
    • Provide only a dial-in option when possible. Virtual meeting solutions are nothing new, yet people still do not understand the basics of how to properly use them. Nothing will throw off the tempo of a meeting more than waiting for someone to join because they waited last minute and need to download WebEx for the hundredth time. Or, listening to someone typing away on their keyboards because they forgot to mute their lines. Dial-in only options eliminate many of those headaches.
  • No back-to-back meetings – This is a standard meeting rule of thumb that people tend to forget… Always leave 15 minutes between meetings if possible; we all know how often meetings run over their allowed times.
  • Prepare for the meeting – Ensure that either at the start of the day, or at least an hour before the meeting, you share the background of the meeting with others from your team that might be joining. Items such as who you are speaking with and background for the call are critical pieces of information to be shared with them. This ensures everyone is on the same page prior to the start of the meeting. Again, everyone is busy, but you do not want your team showing up unprepared.
    • Take 15 – 20 minutes prior to the meeting to prepare yourself. Review notes, background, and remind yourself of who you are speaking with. Jot down a few very specific questions in which you plan on asking and your end goal for the meeting.
    • Be mindful of your background. When participating in video calls, this is especially important. Just take a few minutes to tidy up anything that could be seen in the background. And, ensure that whenever possible, you can mitigate noises or environments that could disrupt the meeting.
    • Always use a headset. This is a huge personal pet peeve for a few reasons. Most speakerphones are designed for one person to speak at a time… What ends up happening is the person on a speakerphone will continue to speak and miss those subtle cues that someone is trying to speak and just bowl right over them. Also, most speaker phones have horrible room acoustics and as a result, some people become difficult to hear. Laptops are worse; they are not designed for conference calls… If someone has their volume too loud, you get an echo that everyone can hear but them. You end up completely oblivious to the fact that you are making the call painful to listen to for everyone else… Plus, people tend to forget that their keyboard is attached to the laptop, and again, you end up oblivious to the fact that everyone can hear your extremely loud typing.
    • Start up a team chat. This will allow for you to coordinate as a team in the background as the call happens. This really allows for more of a team-cohesive approach to the meeting.
    • Prepare to join 3 – 5 minutes early – Virtual meeting platforms will fail you at the worst time. Prepare to join 3 – 5 minutes early; this ensures you give the meeting platform enough time to spin up properly. Nothing is worse than when your participants are ready but waiting on you to load up the virtual meeting platform.
    • Mute by default – Your line should be muted by default, and you should only unmute it when you want to speak. Whether you are in the office or at home, no one wants to hear the noise in the background, your heavy breathing while they are talking, or you taking a bite of a sandwich because you skipped lunch.
  • During the call, start with a proper agenda – Take care of roll call, introductions, meeting summary, and opening questions before getting started. The most important part of the meeting is how you set the stage, ensuring that everyone is on the same page on the reasoning of the meeting. Too many times people skip this part, only to find out 30 minutes into a meeting that the reasoning behind the meeting changed on the other side or they had a piece of critical information missing that changes everything. Also, if it’s a smaller meeting, try building a bit of a rapport before hopping right into things. A little bonding goes a long way!
    • Actively listen – There is a difference between listening and actively listening because there is a big difference between “what people say” and “how they say it”. Sometimes the nuances are in the way something is said, and those small nuances can be the difference between good and great meetings.
    • Be present/listen – Seriously, too many people forget the simple concept of being present and listening. Some believe they are listening, but they’re too involved in jotting down notes, or thinking of their next question and are really not present. As a result, they miss things… and nothing will annoy people more than someone that isn’t paying attention to what is being said asking questions that were answered previously in the conversation.
    • Take detailed notes – Part of listening is taking notes, lots of them… Many believe they can simply remember the fine details. However, after a few hours, those details can be forgotten. And of course, don’t be afraid to share these notes with co-workers. This goes back to doing your homework; note-taking and sharing are extremely important to ensure everyone has the most relevant information and is on the same page.
    • Never make assumptions – Too many make assumptions, and those assumptions lead to bad meetings. For example, these can be assumptions such as believing you know what the client wants, that the right people are on the call, the budget, and decision-making process… the list goes on. Never make assumptions, and always ask questions to understand unanswered details. Your meeting counterparts will respect that you are trying to understand their situation better.
    • Clear next steps – This is a big one… Never, ever end a call without clear next steps and a scheduled call! Nothing kills the momentum of a good discussion more than not having a scheduled next step. People are busy, and unfortunately, you are not always their top priority–almost anything can happen once a call ends. Without a scheduled next step, there is no guarantee you’ll get them on the phone again.
    • Summarize – Do not forget to summarize what was discussed in the meeting and ask for confirmation. We all hear different things at times, and it is critical to make sure everyone is on the same page before leaving.

Looking at it all written out seems like a lot of details to ensure a good virtual meeting, but honestly after a few calls, it should become routine and easy to follow… Given that 100% of all business is being done virtually these days, now is the time to make sure you are doing things right!

11 Tips to Realign Your Small Business for Success Today

Realign Your Small Business for SuccessWe are in some difficult times. With essentially the entire world on lockdown, business has been tough. We are seeing businesses freezing budget, pulling back on expenses and laying off employees in record numbers, just to keep their heads above water. All is not lost, business around the world is being conducted and people are winning new deals. It has just become more difficult. In times like these, we continuously need to remind our teams that the slowdown is not a result of their actions and that their hard work can and will eventually pay off. Our rule of thumb is you have to work two or three times as hard in order to close the same (if not less) business… No level of complaining will fix this problem—only good old fashion hard work will win the day! With that said, it takes more than simple hard work; you must also work smart. We’ve put together some quick hitting tips to help realign yourself for success:

  • Work Smart – Make no mistake, there is absolutely a difference between working hard and working smart… It’s the smart workers that are more likely to win the day! – Busy Isn’t Always Productive – 10 Tips To Becoming More Productive
  • Small Details Matter – Right now, business is difficult to come by and everyone is fighting for the same budgeting dollars. A great sports analogy comes to mind. Think of the Super Bowl, Word Series, NBA or NHL Finals: what differentiates the winners and losers? It typically comes down to the smallest of details that gave them the extra inch to win the day. In times like these, the difference of winning and losing business can sometimes come down to the smallest of details. – Sales Is A Numbers Game, How To Increase Sales Without Increasing Pipeline
  • Take Losses Gracefully – In business, you are going to get a lot of noes… Unfortunately, during times like these, there is no denying that the amount of noes vs. yeses is going to grow exponentially. Don’t take it personally; take a loss with grace, and down the line, it will pay off… – Take A Sales Loss Gracefully
  • Educate More, Sell Less – When business is taking a slump, it is only natural for management to push harder for sales. Here’s the problem: everyone is pushing harder for sales and bombarding their accounts with “buy, buy, buy” messages… This tactic not only frustrates clients but comes off desperate. Instead, find new and interesting ways to educate your clients. At the end of the day, the more educational and informative you are, the more likely clients are to stay engaged with your brand. It will make the selling process much easier when they are ready to buy. – Why Email Marketing is Broken, and How To Fix It
  • Develop an Account Management Strategy – It is surprising to see how many small businesses do not have a measurable account management strategy. Now is the time to develop a proper account management strategy, as it will strengthen the overall penetration you have with your account base and will increase sales without question. – Account Management Strategy 101
  • Dive In – Technically this falls in line with an account management strategy, but it needs to be emphasized. Within small businesses, we find that businesses only have one key buyer within their accounts… This is a huge mistake; not only does it put the account at risk if their primary contact leaves the business (or is laid off), but you are also missing out on the opportunity of finding additional buyers within the account. A rule of thumb is to have at a minimum of five active contacts within each account… The bigger the account, the more contacts. Some enterprise businesses could have upwards of 100+ different contacts.
  • Strengthen Marketing – One of the very first items to be cut during an economic downturn is marketing… This is an incredibly huge mistake for a business to make. Now is the time to double down and strengthen your marketing strategy. As mentioned earlier, during times like this, you need to work two to three times as hard to bring revenue in the door… Marketing is a key component to driving awareness and leads into the pipeline. Cutting marketing off is only going to increase the already growing gap in your business. – Marketing Performance Metrics Need to Be Just as Visible as Sales Metrics
  • Evolve Product and Services – Now is not the time to hold your ground with respect to your products and services. A common theme/mistake within leadership is to think you know better than your customers and prospects, making them conform to the limitations of your products and services. The reality is, in a buyer’s market, no one is going to conform to your business. They will simply move on to the next name on their list… Let’s not forget, we are all in the same boat together, and your competition will be all too eager to accommodate those client requests to win their business. – Social Media and Online Forums, Hidden Gems of Customer Insight, Landmark Case with TripAdvisor, Makes Businesses Think Twice About Reviews & Target Uses Local Retail Stores As Virtual Warehouses
  • Measure Everything – Continuous improvement is a strategy that is more important now than ever before… Establish baselines across the business and begin to measure them. Only once you start to properly measure the different aspects of the business, you can really know if the changes implemented are helping the business or not. – How To Make CRM Play A More Important Role In Your Small Business
  • Break Down the Silos – Silos make everything difficult, full stop… Break down those silos within your business to ensure your team can work effectively and efficiently together. The better they can align themselves now, the better they can react to market and customer needs. – The Importance of Interdepartmental Communication in Small Businesses
  • Know When to Let Go – Terminating an employee is one of the most difficult tasks we all have and quite frankly, always a last resort. However, in troubling times, now is not the time to hold on to dead weight within an organization. That dead weight can and will cost you precious time and money, and it could result in the loss of more employees, or even your business down the line. We are huge fans of doing whatever is necessary to help someone turn around, but there are just times were nothing will work. – When Terminating An Employee Is Necessary

In difficult times like these, it is important to continue down the right path and do everything that you believe is right to keep the business afloat… We are all in the same boat together, but unfortunately there are going to be some businesses that simply do not make it…

Have other tips? Share them below… If you need help, feel free to contact us any time!



Five Tips to Quickly Help Get Your Business Online, Before It’s Too Late

Open and closedSomething that we at 3SixtySMB have been educating the small business market about for years, has been the need to have a digital and online presence The Importance of Having an Online Digital Presence for Local Small Businesses. Yet, some still haven’t made the change. As a result, slowly but surely, businesses that have not adopted digital and online strategies have been disappearing from the landscape one by one. However, up until recently, it has been process that has been slowly but surely killing them off… But, given the current economic pressures with essentially the entire world on lockdown, businesses no longer have years to make the shift. With most small businesses looking at significant loss of revenue, and in some cases losing their complete revenue streams, they are now looking at potentially days or weeks before they may be forced to close their doors forever. In this article, we are going to cover some quick tips a small business can use to pivot their strategies with regards to their digital and online presences. What we are about to share is not going to close the revenue gap completely, but it will hopefully provide enough revenue to keep the doors open enough to make it past these troubling times.

Let’s face it, unless you are Reckitt Benckiser (Lysol), a toilet paper manufacturer, grocery store, or Amazon, your business is going to have some difficult times ahead. The larger well-funded or profitable companies will have the cash to weather the storm, but for many small businesses, they simply don’t… The fact is that essentially the entire world has been told to stay home and it is putting a strain on businesses everywhere. This has also emphasized in an extreme way, that when you rely solely on foot traffic, you are setting yourself up for failure. In today’s market, it is important to be online because that is where your prospects are, full stop. Here are a few quick tips that can help small businesses readily make the transition:

Social Media ­– Start with social media first. Why? Well, a social media profile is essentially the easiest process to start. And with everyone basically trapped indoors, they are spending significantly more time on it. This is a topic that we tackled not too long ago How To Develop A Social Media Marketing Strategy For Your Business, however when looking to develop a strategy, you need to be quick. Start with setting up a business profile on the major channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram), and begin posting right away. At its core, social media takes only minutes to set up and has become a fundamental way for communicating with your core prospects and clients in real-time.

As an example, if you’re a restaurant, you can use your social channels to let people know about your adjusted hours, specials, menu items and other things such as that. Again, the core goal of using social media is to use it in a way to communicate with your communities in retail-time, and trust me, it works. Over the past few weeks, the way several small businesses have been communicating on Facebook has enticed my family to grab takeout or delivery from them multiple times.

E-Mail – Email is another quick and effective way for communicating, and quite honestly, something many small businesses just do not know how to properly utilize. This was another topic covered not too long ago Why Email Marketing is Broken, and How To Fix It. The key, if you do not know how to get started, is to think of all the email addresses you’ve captured over the years. Most small businesses capture emails to some extent, we just find that many simply do not do anything with them. Now is the time to dust off those emails, build a list and start communicating… Again, similar to social media, email marketing can be a way to communicate in almost real-time with your customer base with little to no effort. The key thing to remember is to keep your e-mails educational and informative, and stay away from abusing the list by trying to sell too much.

Website ­– We are absolutely blown away at how many small businesses do not have websites set up… Let’s face it, the yellow pages are nonexistent, and with the fact that everyone is essentially confined to their homes for the next few weeks, you are getting zero business without a website. We get it, building a website can be a daunting task. The reality is, building a website can be fairly easy, as there are so many companies that offer plug and play website building options that enable almost anyone to build a website overnight. The goal in times like these is to start simple and build a website that covers the basics such as: product and services overview, address, hours, and contact details. Once you get the basics down, you can slowly build out the website to be more comprehensive over time. Services like WIX and WordPress offer options that are extremely low cost and fairly easy to build out with very little experience and expense.

Switch to Virtual Phones – Most businesses rely on traditional wired phones for their primary communication method. When people are in the office, they work very well, however situations like this can cause huge issues. There are many businesses today, that simply are not allowed to have employees in the building and as a result, there is no one answering the phones. This directly results in loss of business and frustrated customers… Now is the time to look into services such as Comcast Business, 8×8, and Fuze which offer virtual phone systems. These systems do not only work the same way a traditional phone system works, but in times like this, allow employees to take “business” calls directly from their computers or mobile phones without skipping a beat. It may sound like a difficult process, but transferring your existing business lines to something such as one of these services is fairly easy to do.

Offer Alternatives – This suggestion goes beyond the concept of digital and online but really focuses on thinking outside of the box for keeping a business afloat in difficult times. As an example, when the governor of Massachusetts first announced the stay home order a number of weeks ago, many small businesses were forced to close their doors overnight. But, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case… Again, I will be using restaurants as an example; there are many traditional restaurants that fell victim and were forced to close doors because they only offered dine-in options. We urge these traditional restaurants to think outside of what is traditional and find ways to offer takeout and delivery alternatives. This can not only provide you with a small revenue source but potentially give employees that would have otherwise been put out, an option to collect a paycheck as well. In cases like this, nothing will replenish your revenue stream completely, but something is certainly better than nothing. Especially when facing potentially laying off employees or going out of business.

Nothing is going to replace 100% of your lost revenue during times like these, but the more that you do as a business to shift to a digital and online presence, can and will help mitigate any losses you might be taking on… Also, when things do come back to normal, you’ll have a competitive edge that you didn’t have once before. Good luck and please feel free to reach out to us if you ever are in the need of help.


The Importance of the Ding Email

The Importance of the Ding EmailAs leaders, one of the toughest jobs we have is keeping a team motivated… When you break it down, we all spend on average 7.9 hours at work, and it is difficult for anyone to stay motivated 100% of that time. We are all human after all, and it’s natural to have cycles of intensity on the job. As leaders, we all have our tactics and secrets to team motivation… One that I wanted to share with you today is the concept of the “Ding Email”, which is something that not only can help motivate a team, but something that can help a team perform more efficiently as well. So, what is a Ding Email?

Well, a common practice within many sales cultures is to celebrate recent wins with the ringing of a bell! The purpose of ringing the bell is simple: get people excited about the sale and improve overall morale…

Not only does ringing the bell celebrate a win, but within sales cultures, it has an interesting side effect of team motivation. If you look within the DNA of any sales team, you’ll find that an overwhelming majority of salespeople have some type of competitive sports background and are extremely competitive by nature… As a result, the ringing of the bell, is an extremely public way of raising the competitive bar for others on the team, and by nature, it will motivate other team members.

Here is the fundamental problem with ringing a physical bell: only people within the vicinity of the bell can hear it when rung. This is where the concept of the Ding Email comes into place. The Ding Email is not a new concept; in fact, it was implemented at HubSpot back in the day. The Ding Email was to take the concept of ringing the sales bell to the next level. Not only did it celebrate a recent sales win, but it provided intelligence to the team abroad around the recent win–essentially the who, what, when, where, and how details of the win.

Here’s the thing: everyone wants to be part of a winning team. And nothing shows individual team members that they are a part of a winning team more than seeing new customers come on board, and the Ding Email is a very public way of showcasing this… However, sharing the details of the deal takes everything to the next level as it provides motivation to the individual departments that things are working and also provides actionable intelligence on the deal itself. In this essence, HubSpot had the Ding Email loaded into their instance, in which when the email was sent, it was then uploaded into the customer intelligence aspect of their instance…

What this did was provide the following teams intelligence on the deal:

  • Account Management – Had intelligence on the complete deal and cycle of the deal
  • Customer Success Team – Had intelligence on who bought, why did they buy, and what were they hoping to accomplish
  • Sales Team – Provides a virtual battlecard of intelligence that might help them win their next deal
  • Marketing – Knew instantly what brought the customer into the funnel and what marketing programs were working
  • Product – Knew what parts of the product customers were most interested in using
  • Finance – Knew who were the billing contacts
  • Support – Knew who were the key users and various details on expected software usage

Each and every one of these teams benefited from this intelligence creating an overall better customer experience… and with one additional interesting side effect: creating a more efficient team. As an example, one of the biggest annoyances for a sales team is constantly being asked by various team members questions such as who a key point of contact for a customer might be or questions on what exactly someone bought or why. However, on the flip slide, nothing annoys teams such as customer success or account management more than getting a new customer with zero information about the deal or customer. The process around the Ding email solved for this and many items.

At the end of the day, the Ding is not just a celebratory email, but it something that can better align a team closer to a customer’s core goals providing customers with overall better customer experience within a company. This is why we recommend this tactic to every new company we work with… Try implementing it and see what happens. And, if you need help, we are always available to help develop this strategy for your company.

Marketing Performance Metrics Need to Be Just as Visible as Sales Metrics

Smarketing - Sales + MarketingWhen you think about the health of any business, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Most people immediately go to sales numbers—pipeline, bookings, and revenue. And, they are not wrong. However, here at 3SixtySMB, we push our clients to focus on another aspect of the business: marketing. Let’s put this into context a bit. How often do you personally purchase a product or service from a business that you’ve never heard of before? If we are being honest with ourselves, the answer is “never” or “very rarely.” This is why we believe that tracking the performance of marketing is as equally important to the health of the business as tracking sales performance. Current statistics show that it takes an average of 5 – 7 impressions for people to remember a brand and that In 2015 Facebook influenced 52 percent of consumers’ online and offline purchases, up from 36 per cent in 2014.

Now, as a business, you can try the old school, brute-force method of focusing solely on outbound sales to generate revenue—and it does work. But in all honestly, this method is directly in line with the “working harder and not smarter” mentality, and it is guaranteed to lead to burnout of the team over time. There is the misconception that marketing equals huge expense, but that simply isn’t true; there is a significant amount of marketing that could be completed with zero budgeting dollars spent (just effort). We’ve already covered that in previous articles: Social Media and Online Forums, Hidden Gems of Customer Insight, The Importance of Testing in Marketing Campaigns, How To Develop A Social Media Marketing Strategy For Your Business and will continue to cover that down the road, but today we’ll talk about how to put a focus on marketing to boost overall corporate performance and morale.

A phrase we use quite frequently is “what gets measured, gets done”… However, we are also firm believers that if you really want something to be done, make sure everyone knows how a team is performing. With most organizations, this is done on a daily basis with respect to sales, as sales numbers are typically reported across the business in dashboards, update emails, and meetings. Yet, with respect to marketing, this almost never happens, and in most cases, no one knows how the company is performing from a marketing perspective. I’m reminded of my time with HubSpot. As a company, not only did they focus equally on sales and marketing performance, but they also adopted the terminology “Smarketing,” frequently combining sales and marketing in corporate communications and meetings. This ensured that both teams were on the same page and also gave everyone the sense of pride that they were all moving forward in the right direction as one team and company. In this vein, we always recommend to our clients to put the marketing team’s performance on a pedestal alongside sales.

At the very core of this, we recommend sharing at a minimum: website performance and lead performance, along with email and social media community growth on a weekly or monthly basis, paired alongside with trending data… But, these are the bare minimum and we always suggest tracking other items such as:

  • Percentage of new vs returning visitors
  • Average number of pages viewed
  • Average time on site
  • Most popular pages
  • Social campaign performance
  • Email marketing performance
  • Pipeline generated from marketing
  • Sales generated from marketing

Each and every one of these statistics provides some real insight to the marketing lifeblood of a company, and when combined with sales and trending data, they can truly lead to a deeper understanding of the real health of a business. Once you start measuring these data points, you can then try to find ways of continuous improvement to keep them moving in the right direction. Sharing these numbers publicly has an interesting side effect as well: it can boost morale … Again, thinking about HubSpot, one of the greatest things about sharing the numbers and trajectory is that it gave everyone a huge sense of pride in the business and was a large part of their culture: Why HubSpot Treats Its Culture as a Product. As a leader within your organization, give it a try and see how it affects the business… We can almost guarantee you’ll have a boost in corporate performance and morale.