#AskProfAcademy - Our Live Twitter Sales Q&A Highlights

Published: 30 October 2014

Live Twitter Sales Q&A  

Recently (October 29th to be specific) Professional Academy took our first foray into the world of Live Twitter Q&A's via our Twitter page (@ProfAcademy) and the hashtag #AskProfAcademy. The chosen subject for the first session: Sales

Below are a collection of 8 of the best questions and our answers for those who missed the live session. Keep an eye out for future Q&A's via our Twitter feed in the future. 









Continuing that thought

If you would like to know more about ISMM Sales Qualifications you can find info on the Sales Courses Page. Alternatively you can contact a qualification advisor or download a Sales prospectus today.   

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The New CIM Re-Brand: Is it just a logo change?

Published: 29 October 2014

The CIM Logo and Re-Brand

Sky News style YouTube videos, selfies, blue logos, hashtags and hackathons – it’s all changed a fair bit at the CIM as of Monday but "what is the point of it all?" I hear you ask! Why so much fuss over a new blue colour scheme and a new logo?

Well first off it’s about a little more than a logo change. Anyone who has worked in Marketing for a long time knows how big a logo change is – usually it signifies something much better, a change of brand, a change of identity and a change of thinking for which this CIM Re-Brand is now different.

The CIM Logo Change

So let’s talk about the new logo.

Yes the CIM have switched from red to blue (we are a bit partial to blue as you have probably noticed) and they have also gone for a clear cut, minimalist look which is both retro and futuristic but design can be like that sometimes. We mention the logo first because it is the first thing people notice and the first thing people usually criticise. Design is objective after all and as such we do not want to dwell on this aspect and move towards the deeper meaning of the re-brand.


CIM Syllabus Changes.

As you may well know (and may even be on the study pathway for) the CIM launched new Foundation, Certificate and Diploma syllabi over the past few months with a shift in focus towards digital and customer centric marketing as well as a deeper focus on strategy at diploma level. This was great news for Marketing as it updated thinking and gave us all a shake-up in regards to what marketers were being assessed on versus what was actually being done on a day to day basis in Marketing.

This syllabus change was an insight into the CIM’s change in thinking and desire to bring the CIM not only up to date with the needs of Marketers but to also start thinking about the future.


Marketing 2025.

Future focus brings us nicely to discussing 3 of the big ideas coming out of the CIM Re-brand. Starting off with Marketing 2025 for which you may have seen the hashtag #marketing2025 all over Twitter on Monday.

Marketing 2025

So what is Marketing 2025?

Marketing 2025 is a crowd sourced conversation on the future of Marketing over the next ten years. The CIM has rightly acknowledged in the past 10 years Marketing has developed in ways they, nor we, could have predicted. If you spoke to a Marketer in 2004/5 about Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, crowdfunding, hashtags, content/native advertising or SEO you would have received a very blank look simply because these things did not exist and even when launched it took a long time to recognise the capabilities and best practices of these new tools. There were a lot of mistakes made in the early days of the social web, a lot of naysayers and a lot of businesses who adapted too slowly eventually collapsing. Marketing 2025 looks to prepare Marketers better for the future.

For those who aren’t aware of crowd sourcing this where a large volume of people contribute a little or a lot to a project they believe in, to become an active part of it. The best example being KickStarter - a crowdfunding site which has funded movies, businesses, technology development and potato salad (find out more about the potato salad here!). Truly social and truly interactive it is a bold move from CIM because crowd sourcing can be a double edged sword but also creates the opportunity for new ideas and new thinking in the world of Marketing.

CIM Hackathon

The CIM Hackathon

This isn’t quite as it may seem name wise for those of us who have been around the block a few times. Hacking is no longer only associated with those who break into websites/computers/databases and mess about with them. A hack nowadays can also be a tip to make your life easier. If you head to a site such as BuzzFeed you will see several articles called “24 simple life hacks for Neat Freaks/Students/New Mums/Young Couples/Moving into a new house etc etc”

In this context the CIM are inviting you to register and starting with the CIM AGM on the 19th of January to join the conversation. In the words of the CIM themselves:

“Based on the principle of open innovation, we will invite marketers everywhere to contribute their ideas online about the future of marketing, what marketers will be facing between now and 2025, and to generate ideas and come up with practical solutions.”

We would advise you to register today - after all it is free and all are invited to the conversation so we look forward to seeing the grassroots marketing innovations coming to the forefront in January.

CIM Future Focus Events

Future Focus Events.

The conversation is not only online - the CIM also want to meet you face to face and hear your thoughts on the future of Marketing at their Future Focus events (of which 4 are near key Professional Academy study centre locations so you may see us there).

These events run throughout November & December and aim to gather the brightest and most enthusiastic marketers from each region together to talk about the next 10 years of Marketing. So if you have spotted something the CIM haven’t or have been working with a tool or process that the CIM may have never heard of then this could be your chance to talk about it with your peers and the CIM in one place.

Find all of the events here and register for your region today.


So it’s about more than just a logo then?

Yes it is – so next time you look at the CIM logo and think “why did they do that?!” remember there are a lot of reason but you should take comfort in the fact the CIM are looking forward to the future of Marketing not just on their own but with your help as well.


If you would like to study with the CIM you can do so with the Professional Academy. You can find more information about the CIM Marketing Qualifications and courses here. Alternatively you can contact a qualification advisor or download a CIM Marketing prospectus today


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CIM and Professional Academy Workshops - The perfect marketing mix - Dave Thackeray's Guest Blog - Part 3

Published: 28 October 2014

The Student Journey Part 3 - Workshops

Dave Thackeray is digital lead for a northern charity by day - and CIM Level 6 Diploma in Professional Marketing student during the darker hours. He recently experienced one of Professional Academy's two-day learning workshops - and lived to tell you the tale...

I realised there was a mountain to climb in achieving the coveted status of CIM Level 6 Diploma in Professional Marketing graduate.

It wasn't until about 9.30am last Friday I realised I was missing sturdy boots, Kendal mint cake, windcheater, and a map. In fact, without that workshop I would have been attempting to conquer Everest starkers.

Professional Academy offers two strains of learning mode for its CIM students.

The diet version, distance learning, gives you access to a nifty online dashboard packed with resources and guides to help you pass your next assignment or exam.

But it's the all-singing blended learning system that comes complete with workshops where a tutor delivers the goods and helps all the information you need to know sink in.

And that's why I spent my Friday and Saturday in a hired room of the Thistle Hotel in Manchester for an audience with Carol Laing.


The Workshop Experience

You might remember Carol from a previous article of mine (Questions with Carol). She's the one on the rope swing with all the answers.

As if that photo wasn't magic enough, you should have been there last weekend.

Seen those YouTube videos of people jumping off roofs on mountain bikes, skydiving off the Moon, stuff like that? Carol eclipsed them all with her unique style of coaching alchemy.

My Strategic Marketing module is a bit of a beast. CIM puts out a study guide 'complementing' the course book, which is roughly 12890 pages long. We're talking a lot of material.

And using the kind of technology that puts memory mattresses to shame, Carol somehow squashed all this information into 140 slides.

You're probably doing some elementary maths right now and are baffled how you can digest 70 slides-worth of marketing babble a day.

It's not easy. There were 11 of us in that room and by 5pm each day we emerged like survivors of a week in the world's hottest sauna. Bewilderment, perspiration and fear drove us that heady weekend.

But here's where the miracle happens. A couple of days later, the effects are similarly extreme but in an entirely different - and positive - way. All that knowledge Carol shared has started to sink in.

As we left for the second and final day of workshops, Carol said to expand our marketing repertoire. Read widely, notice how we perceive things around us differently by putting a marketing spin on them - stuff like that. And slowly come to terms with the fact we now know vastly more stuff than we did on Thursday. And by jove, she's right.

On Sunday I created a Facebook Group - Carol's CIM Crusaders. Those people starting the workshop as strangers are now friends. And we're sharing insights and experiences by the bucketload.

They say when you attend conferences the best part is what you learn in the corridors, and the people you meet at breakfast. There's a similar analogy here relating to these Professional Academy workshops: they're the fuel pump for your car, but it's the driving afterwards that puts a real smile on your face.

Professional Academy has created a brilliant way of learning, here. Workshops include one weekend day so you don't need to take two days' holiday from work. And I'd recommend doing it in your own time since a girl on my workshop who was technically there on work time was getting calls from her boss during the group study which must have been incredibly distracting for her.


What happens post workshop?

Where now? To the CIM saloon. During the workshop my new friends talked of Marketing Expert, a dedicated resource on the CIM website for people practicing the dark art of marketing. It's a heaven-sent place to turbocharge your knowledge. And then I found a marketing planning tool that helps you shape your marketing plan - one of two components of the Strategic Marketing module.

I'm nervous as hell about the exam - it's December 2, so you still have plenty of time to console me with study tips @davethackeray on Twitter - but I now feel fortified by the support given by Carol at her workshop and the people I met there. Now it's just a case of applying all the study tips I shared with you in my last blog post and laying down little treats along the way to stay motivated and reach the winning post in style!

Dave Thackeray Documents his CIM Student JourneyFormer journalist, editor and company owner Dave is now the web and social media officer at WLCT, a charity operating leisure services for councils. After years making his way through the marketing maze he decided to go back to basics and learn how to do it properly with Professional Academy and CIM. Follow his progress on this blog and feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter to ask about his experiences. 

If you would like to Join Dave on a CIM Marketing Qualification Course you can contact Professional Academy for some advice or Download a copy of the Marketing Prospectus today

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Digital Strategy is not about being digital. It's about enjoying an evening with friends.

Published: 21 October 2014

Take a different look at Digital Marketing

By Nolan Collins, Blunt Brit Marketing

Everywhere you turn right now, the experts are talking about digital this and digital that.  KPIs, Metrics, Analytics, Facebook, Omniture, Video and on and on.You have to remember that these are just tools, no more than a hammer to drive in a nail and a level to make sure it is straight.  Tool and analysis. But ask yourself, what are you measuring? That the picture is straight? That the hammer did its job? 

The analysis really comes after the tools are put away and you see people stop and look at the picture.   

When I go into people's homes (I am usually invited!) I love to look at the family pictures.

They are not always straight, but they evoke questions and emotions.  Through their inadvertent revealing display of who they are, I can see what interests them, where they have been, if they are one of those families that wears the crazy jumpers for the family photo!.  Lots of pictures on display usually portrays them as extroverts, socialites and people who like to get involved.  Few pictures means I'll have to work a little harder to get to know them!

Whatever they display, it allows me to relate to them on a new level.  But remember also that they are at a disadvantage.  Where I can easily see what interests them, it is I who will have to deftly insert what interests us on a common level to earn their trust.

As the evening goes on, if I was observant at the beginning, and stay observant during conversation, I can interact with them by talking about things that interest THEM, not me.  By doing so, they'll get to know me better and will engage and parry with their own questions.  Conversations get more interesting when old slides and photo albums are pulled out and you really capture their emotions when they pull up the videos of the last holiday, staying at the Villa in Spain with the ocean in the background.

I have, on occasion, mentioned something that I didn't realise was a sore point.  A pet who has passed on, a member of family no-one talks to, or an interest that isn't there any more. The conversation starts to close down and I've had to think quickly to re-engage and bring back the level of passion and engagement that was there a few moments before.

Asking their opinion or viewpoint is an easy way to re-ignite a conversation and can lead to stories, experiences, triumphs and, of course, failures.  Through it all, we listen, observe and adjust our tone and content for the next segment of the conversation.

By the end of the evening, we both know more about each other and we decide in the final moments if we want to do this again.  Sometimes, it's our wives arranging a get together with other families.  This is what our goal was… social acceptance and a desire to meet others!  Other times, it's the promise of a new ale we'll be trying.  Even the kids make connections and sometimes the kids are the only ones who make the connection, and that's ok.

As we leave, we're already thinking about what we forgot to mention, and things we should talk about, or ask, next time we see them.

The Race Model from Smart Insights and Dave Chaffey

My point behind all of this is that digital strategy is no different than an evening with friends.

Like developing a friendship, digital strategy is also a perpetual cycle of planning, engaging, interacting, assessing and adapting. Or as Dr. Dave Chaffey puts it, RACE. (With some planning first, of course!)

- Plan

- Reach

- Act

- Convert

- Engage

Now that you've experienced how it plays out in real life, let's take a look at the business side of things using the RACE system from Dr. Dave Chaffey of Smart Insights.  This is, of course, a simplified account!


Before you start, here is something to think about: 

“Digital marketing is not about spending £1 to reach one customer.  It is about spending £1 to reach one customer who will tell hundreds more about you.” Bud Cadell, Digital Strategist

 So through all of this you have to ask yourself; is what I'm putting in front of my ideal customer worthy of being shared?



First, you plan ahead.  Define your objectives, evaluate yourself, your competitors and your existing knowledge of your clients or prospects (especially if you are new to market) Defining a clear persona of your client is also critical at this stage. 

A great tool for understanding one aspect of your (successful) competitors is to use a tool like Topsy.  Focusing on Twitter, you can go back and see entire histories of tweets and see how and why their audience engaged with them!

Another great tool for spying on your competitors is SocialMention. Simply enter a company name, keyword or search term and Social Mention will display content from social and blog spaces.


Next, you’ll engage your audience using paid, owned and earned media.  Paid, of course, being paid advertising.  Owned includes your social accounts, website, blog and videos.  Earned media will be referrals, retweets, guest blogs and partnerships.

Constantly review what is working and consistently optimise your content to increase brand awareness and integration across multiple channels.

(In real life, paid would be the bottle of wine you bring with you, or the round of drinks at the 19th hole!  Owned would be your own stories that you tell to interact with your audience and earned, well that’s when your friends tell others how cool you are!)

A couple of great tools for analytics are Google Analytics and, for the more advanced users, Omniture.  Both have a learning curve but can offer great feedback when used optimally!


As more data arrives, it’s time to create the conversion tools that will drive better brand interaction and conversions.  Lead pages, video and landing pages all play a role as well as analyzing engagement on both desktop and mobile platforms.  Adjust your ongoing strategy to allow for growth in channels that may not have shown much activity in the past.

(In real life your landing pages are the cliff hangers you tell to get people to want more from you.  You don’t sell the ending before you know they WANT to know what comes next!)

If you are a smaller company and want a good landing page system, LeadPages offers great training as well as a list of landing page designs that work better than others!


With more data and better insights, your conversion funnels are now created.  You’ve got the leads so use them to really focus in on what works best for each lead source.  Split testing in emails, posts, and landing pages contribute to better conversion rate optimisation.

(In real life, when you’ve finished one story, and your audience is hanging on your every word, you already have the next story lined up, ready to keep them with you)


The journey has just begun.  Once you have a captive audience, whether on your social channels, email lists or as actual paying customers, it is important to stay with them and keep your brand strong.  Crafting detailed CRM systems to segment and track your customers ongoing journey will lead to repeat sales, referrals and advocates who will make every £1 you spend worth a hundred.

Remember this, if nothing else; Email is still the tool preferred by most brands to stay in touch with and connect with their customers.  Great CRM systems allow you to segment your heart out as you keep adding more and more information about your customers to their profiles. Use this to reach out on a personal level and let them know that you don’t just get them, you get their reasons for why they follow and refer you.

(In real life, this is where you swap emails and phone numbers and start inviting each other to BBQ’s and community events.)


Virgin Experience Days - Digital Strategy Case Study

Case Study:

iCrossing worked on Virgin Experience Days (the plan) and realized that there were anomalies in the language used for search queries and what was actually on the site.  Acting on this information (act) helped them improve the UX, decrease bounce rates and increase the effectiveness of paid media (reach).

What was also impressive in this campaign was that non-brand SEO traffic was increased substantially showing that knowing what your customers are looking for, and adapting quickly, can increase visibility and interaction. (engage)

See the case study here: Virgin Experience Days


What's next?

While you revel in developing a quality digital strategy now, it is always wise to follow the words of an ancient Chinese proverb:  Keep one eye on the past and the other on the future.

Content is king.  Authentic, heartfelt, sincere, beneficial and adaptive.  Knowing your customers better leads to be better content, better engagement and more conversions.

With the abundance of data to continually analyse (Big Data as it's now called) it's also important to pick the tools that work best for you. Mobile is also key with the surge in both users and online interactivity leading to online sales.  It's not enough to be responsive, or reactive.  Know that mobile needs to be part of your plan and adapt now before your competition does.

If your company was born mobile (e-commerce etc), you have an advantage, but never stop understanding how your UX is influencing your customers and how simple tweaks in design can increase conversions and create fanatical advocates referring their followers to join your tribe.



If my friends read this, they'll probably wonder if I'm analysing them when I visit next!  The truth is, no more so than they are when we walk through the door.  I recently met some extended family for the first time after discovering they live only a few miles away.  Within minutes our kids, wives and the dads had all connected and we now consider them friends too.  Sometimes the connection happens quickly.  Other times, it may require some work. 

When you look at your customers and clients, look at them as people who have interests and experiences that, when you look closer, you'll discover you can interact with them on a more personal level.  After all, isn’t what all this digital stuff is trying to help us achieve?

In your personal life you live the RACE steps with every interaction.  Now you have a better understanding of how to apply it to your business too.

To find out more about RACE and receive a huge amount of digital marketing resources please check out Smart Insights – Professional Academy fully recommend this as a resource.

If you're interested in learning more about Digital Strategy and Digital Marketing for your business, and taking accredited courses, please visit the Professional Academy, UK's largest professional marketing and sales training innovators.


About Nolan Collins

Nolan Collins - The Blunt Brit

Nolan fell into online marketing after having to learn the ins and outs for his own local business marketing strategy back in the mid ‘90’s.  When other businesses saw the results he was getting it didn’t take long for professional organisations to ask Nolan to speak and present at local and state level events and workshops.

Nolan has a strong background in developing and improving training systems for small and large companies.  Some of his clients for marketing and training have included local massage schools in Florida, franchises and National Restaurant chains in the US.

Since moving back to the UK, Nolan has started his new business, Blunt Brit Marketing, helping smaller businesses understand and navigate the digital marketing landscape.  

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Sales Advice: Helping you to get past the receptionist or gatekeeper

Published: 16 October 2014

Get past the gatekeeper - make that sale!

Getting to the decision maker or other influential people can be one of the most challenging and frustrating things a sales person has to do, they almost see anybody that stands in their way as the enemy.  However, if you simply consider that they are doing their job in the same way that you are doing yours, your life can be that much easier.

Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence Them” provides us with a myriad of suggestions on how to build relationships.  In his book he talks of the importance of first impressions and this equally applies with that of the gatekeeper.  Positive happy tones of voice will certainly start to breakdown the initial barriers. 

Although obstructive gatekeepers are usually resistant to protracted conversations, the importance of rapport building through low risk open-ended questions can be beneficial especially when coupled with a genuine interest in the person you are talking to.

Gatekeepers feel their role is to protect those inside “the sanctuary”, and it is appealing to this parent like attitude that often pays dividends, after all if you can pitch your wares to the gatekeeper’s organisation, surely they will be better off because of it won’t they?  It is because of taking this attitude during the conversations and written communications with gatekeepers that will help ensure success.  This opens up another barrier which needs to be overcome, namely that of your own self confidence.  Quite often the only thing standing in your way to success is self-belief where a small dose of positive thinking and affirmation may be just what the doctor ordered.

Gatekeepers are an intrinsic member of any decision making unit who should be treated with respect and with whom all of the usual sales cycle processes merit consideration. 

Build Rapport - Charm that Gatekeeper

The importance of “rapport building” has already been discussed.  The next stage of the sales cycle is “questioning”.  With gatekeepers this equates to understanding their position relating to why they feel the need to protect.  Sales people know that once they have identified a need, they match this with a “benefits based proposition”.  So turning to our gatekeeper this means presenting your reason as to why their organisation would be better off through talking to you.  Fortunately, as we know that all “objections” give us an opportunity to further seal the deal, when the gatekeeper gives us reasons as to why the buck stops with them, we can use our tried and tested objection handling techniques.  As a reminder these techniques include persuasion, reframing and compromise, amongst others.  The final stage of the sales cycle is the “close”, which should be delivered with confidence, remembering of course that the sales cycle is aptly named that, should you meet with resistance you should start back at the beginning.

Don't Give up just before that sale!Research shows us that most sales people tend to give up trying to penetrate a customer after three communication attempts, however the same research also tells us that most buyers acquiesce after seven attempts.  This does not mean seven phone calls or seven emails, it means a variety of communication attempts.  One strategy that often works is an introductory email stating a reason why a conversation with you would be beneficial and that you will be re-contacting via the telephone on a given date and time.  The call to action is therefore “please be ready for my call”.  This heightens the awareness of your contact and may even pique their interest in anticipation of your carefully crafted teaser email.

One final word of encouragement, rejection is by no means a reflection on you as an individual, it is purely a small hurdle along the way to the riches that lie ahead.  Try to learn from each rejection, persevere whenever you feel that others would retire and think laterally about the core messages in your attempts to circumnavigate the gatekeeper, who after all will ultimately be thankful that they wisely allowed you through the door when you demonstrate with clarity their justification for doing so.

If you have more sales questions like this why not join us for our Live Sales Q&A on October 29th over at the Professional Academy Twitter page.

For more in-depth information on Sales why not look into an ISMM Sales Qualification by downloading a copy of our most recent sales prospectus or contacting one of our qualification advisors today.  

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