July 22, 2016
My friend often says, “I love technology – you can sell it to anyone.” Technology has, over the past two decades, become the backbone of every industry, from agriculture to energy, from manufacturing to retail and from consumer goods to financial services. And therein lies the problem.
Technology product and services companies today are suffering from a lack of direction and are adopting a random spray and pray approach to the market. These companies build up huge databases of more than 100,000 e-mail addresses that they routinely bombard with promotional messages that offer little returns. Neither are these e-mail address opted-in (and so have not granted permission), nor are they effective (because recipients ignore the message). Given that the world is an oyster for tech companies, they need to focus more on a specific target segment or risk losing all of them.
I was once traveling in Africa and chanced upon a lioness that snuck into a herd of zebras at a watering hole. The lioness was beside itself with joy and attacked one of the zebras. As that astute zebra slipped away, the lioness chose to attack another zebra instead of following the first one. The second zebra slipped away too, at which point the lioness tried pouncing on a third one. This process repeated until the lioness tried and failed at catching any of the six zebras that were close to her. This is the plight of IT companies today.
“If you can’t know all your customers, let all of them know you.”
This is one of the fundamental principles on which we operate, and is one of the pillars of inbound marketing.
The number of customers that a tech company could approach is massive. However, the number of channels that these customers use to find a vendor is very finite. By adopting the inbound marketing approach, tech companies can convert the large problem of reaching a huge market into a smaller problem of being present in a few channels. These channels vary based on the stage of the funnel that you target.
For lead generation, the primary channels are search and social. By being found on search engines and by leveraging social media to give your brand a voice, you are effectively conversing with a sizeable segment of your target audience.
Once you generate leads from these channels, then you need to nurture them. Here, e-mail plays an important role. This is not the kind of e-mail marketing where you blast an e-mail to 100,000 unsolicited addresses, but a drip workflow that tailors messages to opted-in e-mail addresses and pushes them along the buyer journey. When the lead has been nurtured enough, you can pass the lead onto the sales team, through your CRM, which will strike when the iron is hot.
So what do you need to get started with inbound marketing?
1. A kickass website
Your website needs to be informative and yet persuasive. Visitors should get enough value from your website to be interested in you and then know how to talk to you.
1. Part-time developer and designer;
2. A tool to create landing pages, forms and CTA;
3. An analytics tool to figure out what’s working;
4. A creative copywriter who understands your business deeply.
2. Discoverability on search engines
About 40 percent of traffic to the websites of tech companies comes from search. Further, this traffic has immense potential because visitors have already exhibited purchase intent by searching for keywords related to your business. You are simply available to them like a Coke machine in a desert.
1. Part-time SEO specialist;
2. A list of keywords to be targeted;
3. A tool to optimize your website and your blog for these keywords;
4. A list of target websites where you want your website’s link to be referred back from;
5. A content writer who can write blogs around these keywords.
3. A voice on social media
While social media can support your marketing efforts at various stages of the purchase journey, it is most effective at building your brand and generating leads as a by-product.
1. Part-time social media specialist;
2. A list of Twitter influencers whom you need to convert into advocates;
3. A list of relevant bloggers and publishers whom you can leverage for promoting your thought leadership articles;
4. A list of forums such as LinkedIn Groups and Quora where you can participate in ongoing conversations;
5. A social media calendar for you to post curated and original content.
4. A lead nurturing program
The lead nurturing program is to convert your cold leads into hot leads. Visitors have given you permission to approach them by leaving their contact information with you. Use that information not to cold call and lose their interest, but to build up their interest.
1. Part-time e-mail marketing specialist;
2. A tool for creating drip campaigns;
3. A tool for creating landing pages, forms and CTA (already mentioned above);
4. An e-mail service provider;
5. A newsletter theme (which can be fulfilled by the social media specialist);
6. Lead scoring (should be available with the drip campaign tool);
7. CRM (for your sales team);
8. E-mail writer (which can be fulfilled by the content writer)
5. A content backbone
As you have seen, content is integral to every aspect of inbound marketing. Without content, you cannot have a website, nor can you be found on search engines, nor can you promote yourself through social and e-mail channels, and most importantly, cannot maintain your blog. It is essential for an inbound marketing program to have a savvy content writer who understands the business.
6. Learn and repeat process
Finally, you need someone to manage the entire process in parallel tracks, evaluate the most effective activities, and experiment with new initiatives.
1. Part-time marketing manager;
2. Analytics tools (already mentioned above);
3. Project Management tool;
To summarize, here is a list of all resources required for your inbound marketing program:
1. Part-time marketing manager;
2. Part-time SEO specialist;
3. Part-time social media specialist;
4. Part-time email specialist
5. Part-time developer and designer;
6. Full-time content writer.
The reason I emphasize on part-time resources is because most B2B companies do not have the volume or the need for full-time resources. Yes, if you are IBM you probably have an army of each of them sitting in your office. But if you are an SMB or a mid-market tech company, then you probably do not need full-time resources.
1. Create landing pages, forms and CTA;
2. Market intelligence (competitors, industry, customers, suppliers, influencers and partners);
3. Keyword optimization;
4. Drip campaigns;
7. Project management;
8. Lead scoring;
You could either look at different tools for each of these activities and then integrate them, or get a consolidated “marketing automation” tool such as HubSpot that rolls all the activities into one platform.
Prashanth Meka is a digital marketer with expertise in content-driven communication. He tempers creative content with effective communication, and builds marketing frameworks for the sheer joy of it. An evangelist and a strategist, his experience has come handy in overcoming marketing challenges in markets such as North America, the Middle East, Africa and India. You can find Prashanth on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.