Wednesday, 13 December 2017

6 Sales and Marketing Tips & Ideas to Grow Your Business

Hey everyone.  Today's guest post is from Matt Goldman.
Matt Goldman is a Content Marketer/Social Media Strategist for Tenfold. His writing has focused on social selling, marketing, as well as gamification.

The original article is available here:

https://www.tenfold.com/sales-and-marketing/6-sales-marketing-tips-ideas-grow-business


To grow a business these days, one needs to understand why traditional sales and marketing strategies are failing and how to develop a sales marketing strategy that works.

What is Sales Marketing?

A well-crafted combination of sales and marketing is necessary for successful business growth. Sales entail the direct one-on-one interactions, those interpersonal connections that directly add revenue to the bank accounts. Telephone calls, networking, and meetings are all part of the direct sales process.
Marketing, on the other hand, involves all those actions that a business takes to reach and recruit prospects. Examples include direct mail campaigns, advertising, public relations, and television or radio commercials.
Direct sales marketing embodies all of these strategies. The number of ‘touches’ a prospect requires to convert into a sale varies, though research suggests anywhere between three and twelve touch points. More important than quantity, then, is following and maximizing each contact so that the time, cost, and effort put into each sale decreases.

What Isn’t Working?


Some of the most tried-and-true methods of marketing still work. People still love video advertising, for instance. In fact, video accounts for 69 percent of all consumer Internet traffic, according to Cisco Visual Networking. However, many other marketing strategies are falling flat. To be sure, Sirius Decisions reports the average sales cycle has increased by 22 percent over the past five years since more decision-makers are being involved in the buying process.

  • According to the 2016 DMA Response Rate Report, direct mail is expected to experience a 19% decline over the next 12 months;
  • A mere 13% of people who read print publications report ever looking at the ads;
  • 44% of direct mail is never opened;
  • 70% to 80% of online users don’t look at online ads, preferring to focus only on organic search results;
  • 86% of people ignore television commercials.

Effective Sales Marketing Ideas

As buyers become increasingly over-saturated with advertising gimmicks, it becomes even more important for business owners and marketers to devise innovative ways to target potential customers. It is the role of a business owner, then, to ensure that information is delivered to prospective customers at the right time, in the right format, and on the right platforms. This is where an inbound marketing strategy becomes crucial.

Research

There’s no need to spend copious amounts of time drudging up case studies. Instead, ‘research’ refers to time spent understanding the company and its goals, understanding the industry, and understanding the customers. This is where business owners focus on attracting customers rather than seeking leads and customers.
  1. Clarify what the business is and ask:
  • What does it mean to ‘grow the business?’
  • How will someone know if they’re successful?
  • What are the long and short-term goals?
  • What is the sales process?
  1. Check out the industry
Whether a person has been in the industry for two, ten, or twenty years, chances are pretty high that the industry will keep on changing. As innovations come up or new expectations are established, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve. This is where industry research comes in.
  • How do other businesses fare against meeting (or exceeding) the goals?
  • What marketing strategies are other businesses in that industry doing to attract clients or customers?
  • What current events and news is impacting that industry?
  • Is there a business to business marketplace a business owner can access?
  • Are there any leaders that a business owner can speak to within the industry?
  1. Figure out your customer base
Speak to the people on the ground—those who directly communicate with customers—to better understand the customer base. These are the people who can provide the most insight into what customers want. When talking to them, here are some worthwhile questions to ask:
  • Which marketing tactics are most effective?
  • Are customers complaining about any current strategies, such as too many emails or obnoxious ads?
  • What are the customer demographics?
  • What questions are the sales teams answering most?
  • What pain point/s does the product or service help alleviate?

Create Effective Content

No longer is it sufficient to leave a website dormant while expecting customers to magically discover its presence. Instead, business owners should update its content consistently. Over 70 percent of marketers say relevant content is the most effective search engine optimization (SEO) tactic, while companies that blog 16 times or more per month enjoy four times more leads than those who publish blog content less than five times a month.
The most effective content is that which focuses on helping customers reach their goals and/or solve their problems. While content on the Internet often grows stale within weeks after publication, it’s best to make sure content is as evergreen as possible so that it can retain its value for years to come.
Recognizing the importance of having an efficient, skilled copywriter either on staff or freelance is imperative. Doing so can increase the company’s revenue substantially, double its customer retention rate, and create brand recognition.

Pay attention to SEO

In the world of marketing, SEO is the latest buzzphrase—and with good reason. SEO consists of all the factors that influence search engine ranking. It is like turning on a spotlight so that customers know where to find a business. After discovering what a company’s customers are looking for (see above), it’s important to weave those keywords onto every page of the website.
To optimize a website for SEO, Entrepreneur magazine suggests that business owners:
  • Create a priority list of targeted search terms that pertain to the customer base and market segment;
  • Review pertinent industry sources and competitive lists to determine what keywords should be used;
  • If users frequently misspell a word, include that in the webpages as well;
  • Track the site’s rankings every 30 to 45 days to ensure the keywords remain effective;
  • Determine goals ahead of time and make sure they are measurable so that it’s possible to note the return on investment regularly;
  • Create page titles;
  • Develop new sitemaps for Google and Bing;
  • Place strategic words and phrases throughout the content on every page;
  • Continually test and measure the business’s success using objective tools to do so.

Develop Podcasts

People love to receive something for nothing. In the world of marketing, the most valuable asset is knowledge. Offer this to customers through an effective use of Podcasts. Podcast listening increased by 23 percent between 2015 and 2016.

Become social media savvy

The effectiveness of social media marketing is contentious. While some people say it’s a complete waste of time, the numbers suggest otherwise. After all, the breadth of audience participation is unparalleled.
  • 72 percent of adult Internet users utilize Facebook;
  • During the past two years, content consumption on Facebook has increased by 57 percent;
  • Instagram has 500 million active monthly users;
  • LinkedIn has 450 million members, with a reported 25 percent active on a monthly basis;
  • Thirty percent of U.S. millennial internet users use Snapchat regularly.

Stay in contact

Depending on the product or service offered, it may be that the company is on the customer’s mind daily, such as the case with a food product, or only occasionally, as is the case with expensive beauty treatments. Regardless, it’s critical to be in the customer’s thoughts as soon as they are ready to buy. The way to do that is to maintain constant and consistent communication.
  1. Collect the customer’s information at every opportunity;
  2. Craft email or text campaigns to stay in contact with prospects and previous customers;
  3. Be sure the business is listed in local directories and search engines.
Effective marketing means more than relying on direct mail advertising or television commercials. It has evolved into a multi-dimensional, multi-sensory process. Keep up with industry trends, as well as the new technology available to assist marketing efforts using these suggestions.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Nathan's blockchain projects and pilgrimage to London

So as some of you may know I've been heavily involved in the blockchain / crypto world this year.  I started a company called Minespider that uses blockchain tokens to track responsibly sourced metals.  I started a blockchain podcast called Analysis in Chains that has grown to over 1500 regular listeners. 

Well last week I was invited to London because Minespider was a finalist in the Talent Unleashed Awards.  It was a fancy ceremony and dinner at the Museum of London. The prize was an all expense paid trip to Silicon Valley in the spring to meet tech companies and hang out with Steve Wozniak.  

The great news is that I won!  Minespider won the global prize for the Best Idea - One to Watch category.  I'm very excited!

What's more is that the Talent Unleashed team has amazing connections and marketing.  They introduced me to CNBC and I appeared on Squawk Box the next morning to talk a little about Minespider and the current state of bitcoin.  You can check out the segment here:



All in all London was good to me. Here's a little bit more about the projects I'm working on:

Minespider

If I had to explain blockchain in just a few sentences, it's a way of arranging data that makes it very resistant to tampering. This allows us to create unique digital items called "tokens" that can hold value.  Bitcoin is a great example of this, as it holds about $200b of value right now with each Bitcoin 'token' holding nearly $15000 each. 

But there are other types of value you can store using blockchain.  What about certification value?  

Our project is to create digital certification "tokens" for an amount of metal produced at a responsible mine.  These tokens can be sold as offsets or passed up the supply chain along with shipments of minerals to demonstrate that your supply chain is responsible.  Effectively we want to turn due diligence from a service to be performed into a commodity that can be purchased.

As of this writing we have just completed a scoping study for the GIZ (German International Development Agency), and one of our team has just returned from Rwanda visiting mine sites looking at how we will collect data for the system with a large mining company and a large downstream user of metal.

Analysis in Chains

When I started this project I needed to do a lot of research on Blockchain, what technologies are out there, how they work, who the major players are, and how the crypto economies work.  I also needed a way to engage the people I was meeting so I could really connect in the industry. My friend Neal and I decided to start a podcast that would serve this function.

We started in July and have consistently put out an episode twice a week for the past few months.  We have just passed 40 episodes and 40,000 downloads.  Our most recent episodes average around 1500 listens each.  Mondays we talk about news and developments in the crypto scene and Fridays we will post either an interview with a prominent figure in the blockchain space, or an in-depth look at a crypto project.  We have had some pretty high profile and interesting people on our show already including:

Our target listeners are somewhat familiar with the blockchain world, but new, and want to learn more about the different projects out there, how they work, and the factors that are influencing development of technology as well as the price fluctuations in the Cryptoverse.  Basically we started the show for people like us, and used it as a way of focusing our learning and research.  

We also started a Slack group for people to discuss all the topics we bring up in the show and even made our own crypto token, the Nutshell, that we pass out to people for listening and participating. 

Take a listen and join us at http://www.analysisinchainspodcast.com

 


Monday, 4 December 2017

5 Steps to Social Selling

Hello everyone. Today we have a guest article from Patrick Hogan, CEO and Cofounder of Tenfold, from Austin Texas. The original article is available at:

https://www.tenfold.com/social-selling/sales-marketing-social-selling


Imagine: You’re going about your full day. Suddenly, someone wants to speak with you on the phone. You’ve set up your whole day so you’d have a couple of hours all to yourself–but someone decides to interrupt you with a call. Being the nice person that you are, you take it. And it’s a sales rep.
Nobody wants to be sold to. That’s the reality salespeople have to contend with.
During the prospecting period, sales professionals take pains to understand targets to make sure leads is warmed up before making a direct pitch.
Real talk: 57%—that’s how far along the average buyer is through the buying process before even engaging with a supplier.

So, aside from your prospecting tactics, you also have to make the utmost effort to make sure you are in your customer’s radar.
Phone calls are still an invaluable tool in sales, but with the advent of the internet permeating all aspects of industry, it’s foolish not to keep up! Phone calls close sales. Phone calls happen when they call you or you’ve warmed them up!
Social selling has been garnering buzz the last few years. It is what it sounds like. Selling on social. But it’s much more than just that.
Social selling is using social networks to research about customers’ buying preferences and behavior, connecting with them, and starting the conversation–and the ultimate goal is to drive revenue.
Social media has become such a personal space for a lot of people, and sales professionals can feel a bit of wariness when it comes to connecting with prospects on these sites. However, keep in mind is that buying is personal. Whether they’re making a personal B2C purchase or a B2B decision, people’s decisions are personal matters.
In this connected world, you snooze you loose. Failure to keep up with the times will cost you bigtime.
Now, you ask: Social selling seems to be straightforward, but how does my team really begin doing it? I suppose it’s not as simple as just adding everyone on social networks and chatting them up.
You’re right. It’s not that simple. Like all processes of sales, it’s a science. But since you’re still dealing with people here, there are a lot of nuances to take into account.

We put together this 5-step approach to jumpstart your team’s social selling, ASAP!

Step 1: Optimize your social media profiles

If you want to engage in online activities, you must work on how you represent your company and yourself online.
A lot of companies and sales professionals fail to do this correctly.  We can’t stress this enough: you have to work on your social media profiles with the same meticulousness you do with your products and pitches.
Think of it like this: Your LinkedIn profile is your main representation on that social network. All prospects, visitors, and decision-makers will see you through your profile.
Even in the B2B space, known for being drab and formal, the new age of social buyers wants personal and authentic brands. While selling by putting your products in your customers’ faces worked before, you have to make it about them now!
Yes. Talk about your customer, not about yourself.
If you’re starting out on social selling, it’s best to concentrate your efforts on one or two channels before setting off to all social media channels. The principle behind it is simple. You want to monitor everything. You want to know how your efforts are paying off. You want to know what works where and what doesn’t.  For B2B sales, LinkedIn is still the leading social network. So much so that LinkedIn itself is now providing in-network solutions for sales people.
According to LinkedIn’s data, social selling leaders create 45% more opportunities than traditional sales.  Do you want to miss out on that?
It’s important to note that while you should work on your company’s profile, individual sales professionals’ profiles are equally important.
Like the company page, individual social media profiles need to be customer-centric. How? Talk about benefits.
Use a headline that speaks about what you bring and not what you’re called. Example, if you are a sales executive for Business Solutions Inc., you write, “I help businesses with their problems through solutions”.
Write up your summary like webpage copy. What do you bring to customers? What can your products do for the customers? Apply the same principles when talking about your past work. You need to emphasize that you are a trustworthy and competent person. This adds to your authority.
Remember: No authority, no listeners, no sales.

Step 2: Research your targets.

One of the things that sets social selling apart from social marketing is that in social selling, you are adopting a laser-like approach, whereas social marketing is about reach and casting a wide net.
If you and your team have built a rock-solid buyer persona, identifying the particular people you’re selling to on social networks shouldn’t be hard.
Identify the companies you’re prospecting and get to know the patterns of people you want to connect to. Here’s some of the information you need:
  • Who are the decision makers in the organization
  • Who are the ‘front-end’ people who are connected to the decision makers
  • What are the activities their company engages in
  • How connected are they, how much importance do they put on social media
  • What is their company about
  • What is their product
Having this info in your arsenal will enable you to talk to them on their own terms. This information will be your communication lubricant. Now, that’s something that’s terribly missing from cold-calling.
Watch your target’s patterns without making it known to them. On Twitter, keep track of their tweets: what’s for work and what’s personal. On LinkedIn, you can save their profiles without adding them as a connection.

Step 3: Listen

You are very excited to reach out to your prospects because you just know that they are the right fit. They need you. They will be excited once they hear your pitch. You’re sure of it.
Well, the reality is that people want to talk more than listen. You need to take advantage of this by offering an audience to your targets. Find out what products they use. Get to know what they think of those products.
You might know the benefits from the product brochures–but what’s priceless is the actual use cases from these customers. Once you find out what matters to them when it comes to products, you’ll communicate better and be guided better.

Step 4: Make connections. Initiate conversations.

Social selling is about connecting on an individual level.To initiate these connections, though, you have to be present and visible. Broadcast yourself in such a way that appeals to your prospects.
Be the helpful commenter. Be the non-salesy sales person.
Now, you might think that all of this is sounding manipulative and creepy. Well, it’s not.
You have a product that they need. However, with how intrusive sales practices have gotten in the last few decades, people are now very wary of being sold to.
This is why you have to make connections.
How? It starts with building trust. Staying Alive UK’s Michael Groot said, “People buy from people they know, like, and trust.”
We go back to the first few points. You make a credible, trustworthy profile. You engage with the community. You listen to your prospects and the larger set they belong to.
Social Selling Pro-tip: Share your targets’ content.
When you’ve entered their radar, it’s time to ask for that connection on LinkedIn, or that first DM on Twitter. Here is where you have to make your initial moves toward your sale. Be honest and direct. They will know you are a sales professional. They should know. But if you’ve done your homework and ticked off your checklist, you shouldn’t be seen as intrusive at this point.

Step 5: Be a source of excellent content.

Social selling is similar to content marketing in that you build authority by only sharing posts that are worthwhile to read for your audience. For your very particular readers as a social seller, it is imperative that you share and promote only the best relevant content.
Some social sellers engage in content creation on a massive level–almost like marketers. However, coordinating with your marketing department and filling them in the personas you’ve gathered about your prospects will make sure that there is synergy in the content they create and the stuff that’s available for you to share.

Social selling is the here and now

There is no escaping social selling. Sales experts are recognizing this pressing matter, going as far as some saying that cold calling is dead. We will discuss that in a coming post. Do you think social selling is ethical? Should all sales professionals engage in social selling?
In coming posts, we will talk more about this topic, including how to measure your social selling efforts, how to incorporate other sales marketing techniques under the banner of social selling, and other cutting-edge approaches to the ever-changing world of sales.
Have you started selling on social?

Friday, 1 December 2017

Who should you not disappoint?

One of the challenges many startups face is knowing who to disappoint.  You will never have enough time, organization, money, or energy to manage all the opportunities that come your way. Learning who you can say "no" to, and how to do it well is an important skill to have.

Who are your supporters?

Going from an idea to a company is a lot of work.  It involves meeting an immense number of people, pitching, events, design meetings, fundraising, and on and on and on. Many people will be interested in your company if you have a good base.  Some will want to know more.  A small group may make introductions for you, or maybe they have resources and are interested enough to schedule a meeting or ask for a pitch deck. Very few will be supporters.  Supporters keep you top of mind, reach out regularly, and actively help your business. Supporters are the ones you want to make sure are appreciated at all times.

One common mistake that I am guilty of having made a number of times is letting supporters fall through the cracks.  I've lost supporters for a number of reasons:


  • I was very busy and didn't respond to a supporter's email
  • I flaked out on a meeting a supporter helped set up 
  • I was a no-show at an event where I was supposed to meet a supporter
  • I made an off-colour joke and lost a supporter's respect
  • I took advantage of a supporters help but failed to communicate appreciation
  • I forgot to invite a supporter to a celebration event
  • I did not use or give feedback on helpful advice a supporter offered
Supporters are more often than not business contacts, and not necessarily friends. There's not the same depth of relationship present as with friends and family, so all it takes is one disappointment and supporters could stop returning emails.

Becoming Less Self Absorbed

Let's face it.  Startup founders are at high risk for becoming self-absorbed.  We are surrounded by problems constantly, and the stress of the situation often takes up the majority of the founder's thought space.  It's easy to let supporters slip through the cracks when you're overwhelmed from a full work week and demands from every side.

More often than not, slighting supporters is unintentional.  But in a way that doesn't matter, because a slight communicates the truth, that the supporter is giving more than they are receiving in the relationship.

Breaking out of this pattern usually involves deliberate action.  Self absorption is a side effect of the chaos of starting up, and no matter our intentions we are vulnerable to it.  A few actions we can take to help offset this are:
  • Setting regular dates in our calendar for touching base with key supporters
  • Making a supporter list in our email filters and making sure that folder is read first
  • Flagging which events are key due to supporter presence

How to reward supporters

Business relationships are more transactional than friendships.  This doesn't mean that people will only help you if they get help in return, but rather that there are fewer external ties to maintaining a business relationship that isn't delivering. There are a number of ways you can deliberately deliver value to your supporters:

Acting on their advice or help

If someone's advice is good advice, you need to act on it.  If you have an advisor with experience and a network helping you, one of the best things you can do is take their advice, thank them, and follow up with the leads they give you in a prompt timeframe.  This seems basic but is important to communicating that their help is valued.

Being publicly recognized for support

Not everyone wants their support to be known publicly, but if you have supporters who put in extra effort, time, and resources to make projects happen, publicly acknowledging that goes a long way. None of us succeed on our own, and this should not be overlooked.


Material rewards for supporters

Celebration dinners for volunteers, little gifts for board members, discounts for early customers.  Supporters should be rewarded. 

One aspect that can be overlooked is if you have investors or key customers who have put money in your cause, offer to buy lunch.  They may have given you funding, and may have an expense account on which they can charge everything, but offer anyway. I once fell into this dynamic with one of my financial supporters. He was the hand that feeds, and I wasn't at a stage where there was a return.  But the amount of appreciation I got when one day I picked up coffee for both of us reminded me that the giver in a relationship can easily feel taken for granted.  Don't let that happen.


Supporting them back

Keep a short list of supporters top of mind. Know what projects they are working on and what could help them, and actively look for ways to help them succeed.  Be the first to buy their book, attend their event, pass them a job or sales lead, and give their new project a shoutout on twitter.  


What prompted this

The event that prompted this post was that today I got a message from someone who has been incredibly supportive asking why I didn't respond to his emails.  When I checked I saw that he had sent 3 emails over a month ago inviting me to pitch at an overseas event, offering to pay for my travel to make it easier.  The subject line of the email was the name and date of the event, so I hadn't realized it was a personal email and had filed it in my "events" folder to look at later.  With a friend, this type of incident is easily patched up, but with supporters, even a misunderstanding can signal that the supporter's help is not valued. 

In the end

You're going to disappoint people.  There are too many people in your circles with too many demands and needs.  Trying to make everyone happy is a fool's errand. Instead, take the time, make a list of key supporters, the people you can count on, and the people who actively look for ways to help you.  Keep these people happy.





Monday, 20 November 2017

Getting the B2C Sales Process Right

Good morning everyone! Today I am sharing a guest post by Dan Sincavage from Tenfold in Austin, Texas.

Dan is a Co-Founder of Tenfold and currently serves as the Chief Strategy Officer. Dan oversees the Tenfold sales organization, manages strategic partner relationships and works with key enterprise accounts to ensure their success with the Tenfold platform.

I have written a number of articles about the B2B sales process, but it's nice to hear from people who have experience in B2C, which is a completely different sales cycle.

The original article is available on the Tenfold website:

https://www.tenfold.com/sales-leadership/b2c-sales-process/






Getting the B2C Sales Process Right

The business-to-customer or B2C sales cycle has always been viewed by industry experts as something of a mystery. In fact, a search on Amazon.com or a stroll through the local bookstore will reveal volumes of material written about the process that consumers undergo before making a purchase.

There seem to be two main schools of thought on the subject. While some advocates believe consumer purchases are driven by a specific need, others argue that sales are driven by psychology.

Understanding the fundamentals of these two theories can help businesses reap the rewards that come with B2C sales. Let’s start with need-driven sales.

Needs-Based B2C Retail Sales


All consumers have needs, and all businesses cater to needs—whether it’s B2B or B2C. The needs-based sales cycle suggests that B2C retail sales begin with an issue the consumer needs to have addressed and then identifies a product that satisfies that need. From there, the five stages of the buyer decision process suggest that the consumer will research the product to make sure it will deliver. This stage involves reading reviews and gathering ‘social proof’ that purchasing that specific product is a ‘smart’ move. Once the consumer has gained confidence in the product, alternatives may be evaluated as reassurance that there isn’t a better alternative. In the fourth stage—once the evaluation process has been completed—the purchase decision is made. The final stage is known as ‘post-purchase behavior’, which includes possible regret or entertaining thoughts that an alternative might have been the better option.
Under this model, selling to consumers involves:
1) Positioning a product so that consumers can easily locate it when a need arises (e.g. windshield wipers at a service station, coffee house in an office building);
2) Feeding appropriate information to help with making a favorable purchase decision, and
3) Vigorous customer support to address post-purchase doubts.

Phychology-Based B2C Sales Cycle

The other popular view relies on human nature as the reason consumers make any purchases at all. While psychology plays a role in the needs-based B2C sales process (validation and post-purchase stages), the fundamental belief is that three key emotions drive all purchase decisions.
Those emotions are:
  • Ego – consumers make purchases to feel better about themselves, a long-held belief by lifestyle-product advertisers and marketers. Businesses selling on ego will appeal to a consumer’s sense of self, applauding the purchase decision as a smart and/or popular one;
  • Fear – consumers make purchases to alleviate a real or, more often, perceived fear. Businesses selling on fear will appeal to a consumer’s doubts and uncertainties and highlight how their product will keep them safe and/or eliminate the fear altogether, and
  • Greed – consumers make purchases for selfish reasons that will advance their own interests. Businesses selling on greed will demonstrate how their product delivers more than other products the consumer’s neighbors, family, friends, and colleagues may have purchased.
It’s important to understand that businesses cannot appeal to all three of these emotions at the same time. This underscores the importance of understanding the product being sold, and which emotion it homes in on.

Caveat About Selling to Individual Consumers

Well-respected and bestselling books like Why We Buy and Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work demonstrate that no single theory can adequately dissect the B2C sales process. For businesses wanting to achieve success in the B2C arena, it’s vital to understand their product offering as well as their differentiating factor. In particular, what emotion does their product appeal to the most? How do the business and its products differentiate themselves from competitors?
Once the business understands both itself and its product line, it’s important to align the brand with the most effective stages of the purchase decision cycle while reinforcing the emotion-based rationale for making the right purchasing decision.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Do you have a budget?

The issue

There are two mistakes young entrepreneurs make when being asked to speak at conferences, events, panel discussions, and company workshops:  Asking for money, and not asking for money.

For a new entrepreneur, exposure is extremely important, and getting noticed by the startup community and the corporate bigwigs is encouraging.  In startup hotspots, once you start speaking at events, other invitations quickly follow if you’re a decent speaker with a good story, and it can easily drain your time.  In the early days of Subvise, my first startup, I would go to speaking events as an invited guest once a month or more, often travelling at my own expense, because I believed it would help me be noticed among potential customers.  It did, but it was hard on the budget in the early days, and took a lot of time away from other work I could be doing.

Eventually after friends commented on this, I started asking if there was any funds available to pay for the trip.  Sometimes the answer was no, and I’d go anyway if I deemed the exposure worth it, but sometimes it was yes.  A couple hundred Euros for a flight makes a big difference to a startup whereas it might not matter at all to the organization who invited me.

On the other hand

I have known a number of entrepreneurs who have missed out on opportunities by only speaking when there was both a stipend and money for travel expenses available. Organizers of events who want to get new startups will not usually ask a founder a second time, if they refuse the first time because there was no budget.

That’s why it’s always important to know how to ask.  When you’re speaking at a conference it is exposure to you, but you are also the product that is being sold to the people buying tickets.  The question you need to answer is how well known are you? How many tickets can you sell?  

If you are a very well known speaker, you can probably afford to only speak at events where there is a stipend.  But if you’re reading this article, that’s probably not you.  If you’re starting out, the reason they want you at the event is because you’re a member of a group.  A young entrepreneur.  An early stage founder. A founder who raised money. A female entrepreneur.  A European entrepreneur.  A refugee entrepreneur. A founder in a rather uncommon niche. Your name isn’t what draws interest, it’s your membership in that group.

Some groups are much more in demand than others.  If you’re part of an in-demand group, it makes it a lot easier to get funds for their speaking engagements, so don’t be shy to ask.  However, until your name and company are well recognized on their own, you should still try to be flexible.  The goal is to build reputation for your name and company, and speaking as a member of an in-demand niche group is a pathway to do that, not the other way around.

How to ask for money


I felt very awkward asking for money when invited to speak. It always felt like getting a gift and asking if there was anything else also.  I didn’t want to look demanding, and if I asked then backed down I didn’t want to sound wishy-washy.  

Certain phrases are more diplomatic:

  • Is there a budget for speakers?
  • Can you help me with travel expenses?
  • Are speakers responsible for their own costs?
  • I’m very interested, but I’m going to lose a day of work.  Are there any stipends available to help me offset that?

Framing the issue as a problem they can help solve can help you feel comfortable with asking.

Travelling for companies


If you’re meeting with companies who will be your customers, you might think you have to pay for everything.  But it doesn’t hurt to ask.  Perhaps your potential customers have a budget for a small workshop or training.  If they think of you as a small business they probably wouldn’t give you money to travel to them and make a sales pitch, but if they see you as an innovative startup with a new technology, they might provide travel money to consult on their problem and see how your technology might help them.  It’s the same situation, but framed slightly differently.  It doesn’t hurt to ask.

The decision


Lastly when making the final decision, think of your ROI.  If you’re travelling overnight on a plane to speak an event for free, you might spend at minimum 500 EUR plus 2 days is 700 EUR.  Do you have the potential to make that back with the contacts and exposure you get?  If 200 EUR is covered by the host, then you need to make 500 EUR to even out.  Your time and money are limited so don’t be afraid to turn down a gig if the return just isn’t going to be there.