Bill Bice has always been an entrepreneur, starting his first company at age 14, putting on road races with corporate sponsors. At 18, he started ProLaw Software, the first integrated ERP for law firms. After selling the company to Thomson Reuters, Bill became a VC as a founding partner in the Verge Fund, investing in high tech, high growth companies in the Southwest.
One of the core things that Bill has learned in building and investing in companies is that the go-to- market is always the hardest part of growing a business. He got so frustrated in trying to get great marketing for his companies that he decided to tackle the problem. A programmer at heart, Bill founded boomtime, tackling marketing as a technology problem. It turns out that when you follow the data, really good things happen. That’s why boomtime built the world’s first marketing-as-a-service platform: fuse. boomtime’s marketing strategists follow the data: they already know what will work. Instead of reinventing the wheel, boomtime applies proven marketing techniques at scale.
[Podcast Transcript Using Artificial Intelligence]
Umar Hameed 0:00
Hello everyone, I had a great conversation with Bill Bice, the big enchilada at boomtime. We talked about how to build stronger relationships with your prospects, so they become customers that are raving fans. Before we go into the episode, I want to tell you about NeuroBoosterz. It's my web app that allows sales people to decide how they want to show up in sales, so they get the help they need when they need it. Think of it as software for your mind. I'm gonna put a link in the show notes, get ready for another great episode of The No Limits Selling Podcast.
Umar Hameed 0:39
Are you ready to become awesomer? Hello, everyone. This is Umar Hameed, your host and welcome to The No Limits Selling Podcast, where industry leaders share their tips, strategies and advice on how to make you better, stronger, faster, get ready for another episode.
Umar Hameed 1:08
Hello everyone. Today, I have the pleasure of having Bill Bice, the CEO of boomtime and Zebraworks with me today. Bill, welcome to the program.
Bill Bice 1:17
Umar, great to be with you.
Umar Hameed 1:19
We live in interesting times. As you know, sales has always been a challenging thing to do. But now with the world being shut down, it's more important than ever. Are you seeing any change in the climate right now in terms of how customers are thinking reacting.
Bill Bice 1:33
Whilst it's been incredible, because I mean, the way I look at it is whatever trends you've been following in, in your industry, the industries of your of your clients, it's just been all accelerated, right? Whatever, wherever you were expecting to be 10 years from today, you're there. Now we're all we're all living in terms of the impact on our business 10 years and the timeframe of one year. And if you look at it that way, there's you know, there's actually incredible opportunities that come out of that.
Umar Hameed 2:02
Give me an example for your company, what's an opportunity that's come up for you guys?
Bill Bice 2:06
Well, you have so you know, we specialize in in high end, B2B marketing. And B2B is a space that is traditionally really reliant, particularly on you know, on high value sales, on face to face. So you're going to go to conferences, to trade shows, to events, to networking events, well, all of a sudden, that has just all disappeared. And so, you know, frankly, this has been great for our business, because you have to move to our approach to marketing. Now, since that's been since I've been taken off the table. And I don't think it's I mean, we're all gonna, there's gonna be this pent up demand, we're all we all want to get back out into the world. But it's never going to come back to the same way it was because we're all learning how to do business with less travel less expense. And a lot of ways it's, it's much more efficient. And so let's just take the, the obvious example of LinkedIn as your replacement for those networking events. And that's exactly how I look at LinkedIn, it's, it's the ideal networking event, I get to meet only the people I want to I get to do it in the, in the right context, I don't have to eat horrible food while I'm there. It's vastly more scalable and efficient. And so if I've got a niche product, and, and I know who my audience is, and I've got a good definition of who I want to get to, now all of a sudden, I can connect with every single one of the ideal prospects for my company. And then and then talk to them, you know, forever after.
Umar Hameed 3:28
Where I'd like to start this conversation is many of the clients you're working with, I suspect have been around for a while and are profitable and making money and all that stuff. True statement?
Bill Bice 3:39
Umar Hameed 3:40
And then they come to you, and you get them, get them to see the world in a different way. And oftentimes you help them get more strategic with their marketing, what do you think the disconnect is with companies when they don't quite get it, and you guys help them. So let's take a look at that first, then we'll go into the platform and figure out you know, how we can all do better.
Bill Bice 4:00
He has, what often happens is you have a company that that has really done all the hard work, right? they take care of their their clients, they have referrals coming back in but you know, things have started to plateau. And maybe don't really even understand why that is. That's the kind of business that I love to work with because they're they're already doing the most important part, they're taking care of their clients, they have referrals, they just want more of them. And the beautiful thing about us all being connected is that we can take this really core thing that that has always worked, it's really it's the best form of marketing word of mouth. And now we can really amplify it because we're in this digitally connected world. And if you've had a traditional sales approach that's driven by, you know, connections and salespeople out, you know, just wandering, wandering about around the planet, making that jump to how you can take that same approach, but do it online in a digital world. That's a really Important transformation to go through. And it's, you know, it can be a pretty dramatic change in the trajectory of your business if you do it well.
Umar Hameed 5:08
You've got some case studies online, while you walk us through one of those customers that came in what they were doing, and then walk us through what you did to help them be more effective.
Bill Bice 5:19
Yeah, it's really that there's a, there's a commonality in all of those case studies. So what what we're really doing is the is the same thing over and over again, which is taking essentially techniques out of the out of the challenger sale, which is taking a very consultative approach to sales, and using insight and perspective driven content to create sales opportunities that otherwise wouldn't happen. And so the best way to do that is talk to all the clients today, past clients, every prospect you've ever had, if you stay in front of them over and over again, and you move from a model of instead of selling yourself, and just start sharing expertise that's beneficial to them. It's amazing how effective that is in generating more referrals. So it's just moving from a, from a sales model, to an educational and in consulting model, you know, and consultants get 10 times more referrals than than salespeople do. So if we move your sales team to taking that approach, is really, it's really amazing how that can change the kind of relationship and the, and the success that that your team has. And we're gonna, we're in an age now, where, because there's so much information available online, the where your prospects are at when you get to them, you know, it's great if you're the leader in your market, and you just want to be an order taker, and you can be in that position, but we work with smaller companies that just don't have that benefit. So you've got to be part of that process. And, and this is really the only way to effectively do it. And what you're doing is creating new sales opportunities by changing somebody's perspective about something important in their business. And so you'll see that sort of in every case study we have of really leveraging what that business's deep expertise is, they tend to be niche businesses where, you know, you're working with hundreds or thousands of companies that are very similar. And because of that, when you're sitting down with the CEO of that company, there's a tremendous amount of perspective you can bring to them, because you see it across their whole industry where they're, you know, they're the CEO, but they're stuck in their one company and, and sitting there running that business. And so that that's the approach that we've just found to be amazingly successful in this kind of high value B2B space.
Umar Hameed 7:42
One of the areas that you help people figure out is their website, because oftentimes, companies have pretty websites, what are some of the things that you make sure are done properly, so the website actually converts visitors to customers?
Bill Bice 7:55
Yes. That's one of the areas it really drives me nuts. Because websites are almost always designed backwards, it's let's create something that's really beautiful, and then figure out how to put our message into that. And of course, it really needs to be the reverse, let's figure out what we want to communicate and then come up with the best design to do that. And particularly important in that design, is, is controlling the customer journey, because you're going to be telling your story over time. And so a great specific example of this, you know that the second most visited page on your website, in the space that we're talking about, it's always the About Us page. So homepage is number one, the first thing that a prospective client wants to know is who's behind the company. So they're searching out to find about us page. So if you go pick some random company you're working with today, one, they're very likely going to make it difficult to figure that out, even though that's the number one thing somebody wants to know. And then two, when you do find the About Us page, and you can you scroll to the bottom of it. So first of all is going to be filled with with boring buyers that don't really do a good job of time together. And then you get to the bottom of the page and there's just nothing there. Like you're leaving the prospect to go figure out okay, what, what is it I want to know next, we want to do is control that customer journey and tell that story, let's take them to the next natural step in the process of really explaining why you're great at what you do. And so if you just do that, if you just really look at the customer journey across your website, and then get really focused on the number one thing you want, which is to capture the email address of that prospective client. So we get the opportunity to now talk to them over and over again and keep bringing them back. Just doing that has a dramatic impact on what, what your version looks like.
Umar Hameed 9:40
I'm just looking at my about page as we're talking somebody advised me to do this crazy thing which was don't do the typical kind of about us, just tell your story Umar so it's actually a lengthy journey from you know, where I was born to where I am now and I went kind of deep in it. And I'm kind of surprised how many people talked me out towards and says, "I read the About page," they actually read the whole thing because it was an interesting conversational read, intuitively, I would have said, that doesn't make any sense but reality is quite different.
Bill Bice 10:11
Well, it is. And I love what you're doing there because it's the advantage that a small business has. So, so often we see small businesses that try to do the reverse, they want to look big. And so they don't add that personal element. They don't talk about the management team and the passion for what you're doing, why you do it. And yet, it is the advantage you have, it's why somebody is going to choose you over that much larger competitor, because they actually know who's behind the company, they know who's responsible for delivering the product or service to them. And then they buy into why you're doing it. I mean, I mean, I'm a huge fan of that, you know, the, the standard Simon Sinek. Why approach because that's, that's really how you set yourself apart as a small business.
Umar Hameed 10:53
If you come across a company, something like no world domination, Incorporated, you know, is some guy in his underwear in his mother's basement. And if it's a corporation called ABC Corp, you know, they probably rule the world.
Bill Bice 11:06
Exactly. And it just doesn't work to pretend that you're bigger you want you want to be professional. But the the advantage you have is putting a face on the business. And being who you really are.
Umar Hameed 11:18
The websites the first place to fix to get clean messaging, you know, that's focused on the customer, if you've got this problem, you've come to the right place kind of messaging so you've got a good website built. One of the other areas to focus on is LinkedIn. And often times everybody in the uncle has LinkedIn, but they don't use it effectively, is a powerful tool. What do we need to know to get more value out of LinkedIn?
Bill Bice 11:42
Yeah. Whatever you're doing on on LinkedIn today, you got to put 10 times more effort into it. And the key to it is to is to take that networking event analogy all the way through. So there's so many people on on LinkedIn that it would be like you met them at a cocktail party, and they immediately pulled out their PowerPoint and went into a pitch. And it doesn't work on the cocktail party that doesn't work in LinkedIn. In there was a time when it worked. And so I understand why that strike is out there but it's, it's dead and gone, you really need to come in with the same goal that you have at any networking event, which is to build your network, bring value to that network. And if you do that, and you're reaching out to the right people for the right reason, then you have the ability to build exactly the right network. And what we have found amazing, amazingly effective is to do that. And then every time somebody accepts a connection request for you. So our first goal is, let's get let's get a really high acceptance rate. So if you're just randomly sending out connection requests, you're going to get about a 15 90% acceptance rate. But if you optimize your profile, and if you make sure you have a lot of connections in common with ideal targets of who you want to get to, which means sometimes you need to build up and around your ideal customer before you actually reach out to connect with them. Because the biggest factors in whether somebody is going to connect with you, the number one is how many connections you already have in common, you have a lot of connections in common, a lot of people just accept the connection request request based on that. Then the second thing is what's your headline, which, you know, shouldn't be just the boring what your position is at company X, it needs to show through what you're passionate about what you're great at, so that people know why they would want to be connected with you. And so if you do a good job of optimizing your profile and having personal messages, when you're reaching out to somebody, then you can get a 45-50% acceptance rate on on a regular basis. And then if you follow that up with a message, and so we'll often do it 24 hours after somebody accepts the message, because a lot of you a lot of people use LinkedIn at the same time every day. And then following up that up with a really great piece of content that has performed well, that is we call it a reframing article. It's another concept of the challenger sale, where you take something specific that you know about in, you know, in your clients business, there's nothing salesy about it, it's just providing perspective and a different way to think about an important issue in their business. That's a great way to introduce who you are to them. And it's really effective to strike up conversations and and build relationships, which then then turn into sales opportunities. So it's just the best way to, to prospect and build and build your network.
Umar Hameed 14:37
How much time would you recommend, let's say a small business, you know, 10-12 people, the person dedicated to LinkedIn, how much time do you think they should be spending a day on LinkedIn?
Bill Bice 14:46
Well, each each profile that you're running a campaign for, and you really need to optimize the so, if you're if you're going after two or three different markets, really tough to do that with one profile. You have to do one market at a time or you take, you know, the three most senior people in the company and, and optimize the profile for each market you want to go after. And if you're doing this yourself internally, you're going to need an hour a day for each campaign every day. And you know, the goal is send out 40 to 50 connection requests a day, you have to be using Sales Navigator in order to want to do this effectively. And then the real key is that once you've built up that network, and it really starts to take off, when you get, you know, we see when you get to about 3000 connections, you start to get some some organic growth that just comes out of having that larger net.
Umar Hameed 15:41
Bill Bice 15:42
But then the key is you've got to constantly create activity, and, and be communicating with that network that you've built. And that's where the content piece just becomes crucial. So you need a regular series of posts that the take the same thing as that reframing article. Is just inside perspective driven content that helps your audience there's nothing salesy about it, it's sharing your expertise and showing how good you are what you do.
Umar Hameed 16:07
When you're doing an article on LinkedIn, would you do the entire article on LinkedIn? Or would you do like a teaser on LinkedIn with a link to a blog post on your website?
Bill Bice 16:17
Well, both. That's one of the things that's really strange about the LinkedIn algorithm, because you would think that they would put emphasis on pulse articles, which are, you know, when you put a blog article on on LinkedIn, but they don't, it's actually going to be the post that gets automatically generated out of you making impulse article is going to be the worst performing post you can do. So I recommend doing both put the content on LinkedIn, because I'm as good when somebody finds your profile. And it shows up in the profile of the articles that you've written. But what's going to perform better is to then take that article, also put it on your website, don't call it a blog, or industry news or insights or something. Nobody, nobody reads blogs anymore. And and then when you make that post, don't link directly to the article, it's, it's just by changing how you do your posts, you can get four to six times more organic engagement. This part does make sense about Lincoln's algorithm, when your post is the way that that LinkedIn makes it easiest to do, which is to make an external link. That immediately devalues how much organic reach you're going to get. And just by taking that same link and adding it to the first comment, you will get four, four times more organic opportunity for people to link and comment on the article. So four times more opportunity for it to take off and get more exposure. And really our goal there is what we what we call everyday viral. Like we're not trying to hit something out of the park every once a while we want a regular flow of content that gets a nice level of exposure to this very specific audience that we care about.
Umar Hameed 17:56
We've been speaking a lot about content, people tend to feel very protective about their expertise, like, you know, "This is my expertise, somehow it's magical and wonderful. And I don't want to give everything away," what we need to do is share our best stuff in the most powerful, compelling way. And I think that generates a lot more business than being stingy about it.
Bill Bice 18:18
Oh, absolutely. I mean, it, it is magical and special, which is why it's your best sales tool. And that's why you have to give it away. And so whatever you think is the most valuable advice you have, that's what should be the cornerstone of your content strategy. And it's, that's what you've got to give away for free. It's the best marketing you can do, your clients still aren't going to want to do it, you can tell them everything about how to do it, they're still not gonna want to do it. But now they're going to know you really are the expert, and they're going to come to you to actually get it done.
Umar Hameed 18:48
So Bill, what are your thoughts about, certainly, you can write an article that is very formal and very proper. And you can also write an article that is very conversational, and casual, still good content, but just the way it's delivered is more if you and I was sitting at a coffee shop, and we're having a conversation, any thoughts on which one performs better?
Bill Bice 19:12
Well, I think getting the voice right for your business and the and the management team at the business, right? It's much more effective to do this with the management team, everybody would prefer to connect to the CEO and the president. And and so you, you run it for the management team, and you create sales opportunities that you hand off to, to the sales team. So getting getting that voice right is crucial. In general, the more conversational approach is what we see, be more effective. The key is, is to always be testing. I mean, I'm even with the hundreds of businesses that we do this for and all the data that we have to leverage which which gives us such a great starting point. I'm still surprised at the things that we learn because we're constantly testing that's it's really the only way to Figure it out. And so, if you're a law firm, it may, it may be that you need to be a little bit less conversational and and let more of the, you know, professionalism show through. But for, for most businesses, the more conversational approach is more open and is going to get more engagement. And that's what we're after. The reason we're doing all that testing is to figure out what gets us the engagement. And if we follow that through and see how people are using the website, once we get them to the website, understand how that customer journey is working, then that engagement is going to turn into into sales opportunities.
Umar Hameed 20:39
Brilliant. Because I think at the end of the day, it's if you can connect human to human or humanize your organization, people want to do business with humans and not so much entities.
Bill Bice 20:49
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that's, that's the advantage we have as small businesses and, and so video is a great example of that, like one of the great ways to get more leverage out of your content. And this is a, you know, this is a tough thing to get to get the management team to do. But we don't need high production value. In fact, it works better without it. So you sitting at your desk, with your iPhone talking for 60 seconds, about the same thing that you that you have an article going out about, it's just a great way to get more leverage out of out of that same content.
Umar Hameed 21:24
Definitely. Bill, if you were advising a brand new company that's starting out to get all of this stuff, right? What advice would you what are the top three things you would get them to do?
Bill Bice 21:34
Well, so the, you know, the biggest mistakes that I see over and over again, so what one is talking about yourself, which just doesn't work, the only thing that matters is what your audience cares about. The biggest problem in in really, every business and that is particularly true in startup is, is consistency. It's the hardest thing about marketing. I mean, most companies marketing is really just, you know, a series of random acts [garbled]. And, and that's why marketing is so tough. It's why we all have this experience of spending money on marketing and not getting results. Because the only way you get an ROI is to pick a strategy and stick with it long term. And so I just see this over and over again, where you know, the first six months are laying a foundation and, and often you get lucky and have some nice results. But it's it's really a year in where you really start to see the value of what you've created. And that's a tough thing to do. If, if everything you've ever tried before for marketing was the sort of one off thing that didn't work that well. And so the biggest problem that a startup has is is you do these things and it starts to work. And because you're all doing it your yourself internally, it does work you get business and in therefore the marketing gets ignored for a while and then things slow down again and you just end up in the cycle that you never break out. So the key thing you have to do is is choose to put the long term emphasis and priority on marketing so that you really get the the success that that you deserve out of what you're building.
Umar Hameed 23:13
Brilliant. Bill, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I really appreciate I learned a lot. I'm going to put all your contact information in the show notes. Thank you so much for being on the program.
Bill Bice 23:23
Appreciate thanks, Umar.
Umar Hameed 23:29
If you enjoyed this episode, please go to iTunes and leave a five-star rating. And if you're looking for more tools, go to my website at nolimitsselling.com. I've got a free mind training course there, that's going to teach you some insights from the world of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and that is the fastest way to get better results.