How Else Do HubSpot Agency Partners Create Value? (Besides Generating Leads for Clients)

Posted by Todd Hockenberry on Jun 24, 2014 4:19:47 PM

delivering-value-as-a-hubspot-varTake an awesome product like HubSpot and mix in some experience and expertise from the amazing HubSpot marketing agency community and what do you get? Hopefully a lot of value added service that helps the client achieve their goals.  Easy enough to say, but what are your client's goals? Of course we spend most of our time talking about site visits, leads, and sales. Pretty obvious that these are all crucial components of successful Inbound Marketing. If you are not delivering on these basics then you probably will not be keeping your clients long or landing many new ones.  But that is not the entire story, there are other critical area of value creation that HubSpot Agency Partners can impact.

So how can HubSpot agency partners create more value?

First, you need to understand what your clients are looking for. Of course your clients want more leads and increased sales, but what else are they looking for?

We had a manufacturing client which was a small division of a much larger company. Our client had great potential for growth, but their internal sales team generated all of their leads. They had no external sales network, no marketing budget, no internal marketing or inbound expertise, and their website did not generate any leads for them. Of course our client wanted to generate more leads and sales, but their stagnant growth was impacting other areas as well.

This company was in a situation where they might have to let some of their highly trained and experienced personnel go. They knew that they would probably have the work to hire back any staff they let go later in the year, but there was no guarantee that the staff would still be available so they might have to replace them with less skilled employees.

The client knew they needed more sales and leads, but more than that they also needed a way to decrease employee turnover. And, because we were able to help them increase their sales, we were able to help them keep their employees. We identified this value area during our qualification calls and made this an area of cost savings that was atrtributed to our work. We came to agreement on the value of retaining these employees and the resulting savings.  

This is just one example of how agency partners can create value for their clients above and beyond simple increased leads and sales.

You need to figure out the consequences and implications of the obvious value you provide, and then assign a dollar value to those areas because you should be getting paid for your value. From decreased costs to a faster sales cycle, agencies have a lot of areas they can positively affect in terms of generating measurable return for their clients.

Reducing the marketing customer cost of acquisition, or COCA, is one of the primary ways in which a agency can deliver value for its clients. Reducing the COCA should be one one of the big ticket items for agencies. If you can lower the cost of customer acquisition, it frees up more resources to attract more customers – in other words making the marketing and sales function more efficient as well as more effective.

There are a lot of other areas where agencies can add value. Check out the list below and leave a comment if you can think of any others.

  • Increased revenues or profitability
  • Faster time to market
  • Decreased marketing costs
  • Improved operational efficiency
  • Revitalizing the organization
  • Enhancing customer loyalty
  • Increased market share
  • Decreased employee turnover
  • Attracting better employees, partners, vendors, investors
  • Improved customer retention levels
  • Increased revenue per customer
  • Increased competitive differentiation
  • Faster response time
  • Decreased operational expenses
  • Increased sales per customer
  • Improved asset utilization
  • Faster collections
  • Minimize sales and marketing risk
  • Additional revenue streams
  • Improved time-to-profitability
  • Increased billable hours
  • Increased inventory turns
  • Faster sales cycles

During the recent partner day at HubSpot, I was part of a presentation about value-based fees, or getting paid for the results you deliver and not just the tasks you do (or heaven forbid the hours you work).

Here is a before and after example from an actual client of ours.  We agreed on these areas and levels of value BEFORE we signed a retainer agreement: 

Area of Value – projected year one

Value

Revenue for existing products

$600,000

Revenue from expanded sales network

$100,000

Lower COCA (decrease by 10%) – increase margins

$50,000

Revenue from new products

$250,000

Maintain work force

$50,000

Internal promotion

$50,000

Increase existing lead conversion (improve close rate by 20%)

$100,000

Internal branding/Thought leadership

$100,000

Total Value

$1,400,000

 

Here is the ACTUAL value delivered in year one.  

Area of Value – after year one

Value

Revenue for existing products

$650,000

Revenue from expanded sales network

$125,000

Lower COCA (decrease by 10%) – increase margins

$50,000

Revenue from new products

$150,000

Maintain work force

$25,000

Internal promotion

$50,000

Increase existing lead conversion (improve close rate by 20%)

$100,000

Internal branding/Thought leadership

$50,000

Total Resulting Value

$1,200,000

Total Fees

$65,000

ROI

18X

 

This is a happy client.  Make sure you identify all of the areas of value creation and maximize the real ROI for your services and for Inbound Marketing and get paid for it.

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Topics: Top Line Results

Technical Content Drives Online Engagement For Industrial Companies

Posted by Todd Hockenberry on Oct 19, 2013 8:06:00 AM

technical content inbound marketingWe work with a lot of highly specialized, technical manufacturing companies and one of the things we've heard a lot over the years is that no one wants to read about them. We've had clients who thought their products and services were too complex and technical to drive substantial internet traffic to things like a blog or social media account.

The thinking goes that highly technical fields, such as fiberglass reinforced plastic parts for cooling towers, aren't flashy enough to be interesting to read about. If someone is in the market for these kinds of goods and services, then they're going to want spec sheets and wouldn't be interested in regular blog posts.

There is one big problem with this line of thinking. It isn't true.

Well, to be fair, part of the underlying assumption is true. It is true that there isn't as much interest in something like laser marking systems as there is in celebrity gossip or home décor. Highly specialized engineering and manufacturing-based blogs and other content probably isn't going to go viral, retweeted by teens and pop stars. But that's not really the point of this kind of content anyway. So, what is the point?

Content With a Job

Every piece of content needs to have a purpose, a job. When it comes to technical content the job is fourfold:

1. Attract

2. Educate

3. Qualify leads

4. Contribute to the Inbound Sales process

To really understand and get the most out of technical content you need to keep the purpose of the content in the forefront of your mind.

Attract

Straight up good old SEO is a prime use for technical content. By definition technical content is long tail. Not many people search 'pipe beveling machines for gas lines' or 'fuel additives for power generators,' but when they do, you can be fairly certain that they want to know what you are about. Industrial SEO is measured in quality of leads, not quantity. Most industrial companies need 10s and 100s of leads to make a huge sales difference as opposed to a consumer-oriented seller that needs thousands just to move the needle a little bit. Some of our clients are thrilled when we get them two or three great leads per month making the long tail part of SEO an ideal tactic to grow revenue.

Educate

Technical information might seem dull, but it has great potential for education. One of the great things about working with technical and industrial companies is that there is always something to write about. There are always topics to cover that the average reader might not know a lot about, or might like clarification on. New applications, new inventions, even new industries always provide lots of topics in which to place in context the solutions of an industrial company. Problems multiply and solutions are always in demand so the technical company that is writing will never lack for topics to address.

Qualify Leads

Technical and complex areas of manufacturing aren't going to dethrone the latest Justin Bieber stunt, but that's ok. Good technical content is going to help you pull in leads that are high quality. Why? Because a Justin Beiber fan isn't going to be in the market for a laser marking system, but someone who downloads a case study about laser marking probably is. Judicious use of prmeium content will help qualify leads. Developing content that matches sales cycles shows you where technical buyers are in the sales process. Someone who asks for a request for quote is probably heading for the bottom of the sales funnel. Someone downloading a whitepaper about the used of fiberglass resins in the chemical processing industry is in your world, but may just be beginning to research a project and is an ideal candidate for lead nurturing.

Contribute to the Inbound Sales Process

The right case study sent to a good prospect builds credibility for inbound-focused salesperson. A relevant blog article builds credibility for a salesperson as more than an order taker.  A vibrant LinkedIn group where the latest technical information is shared and discussed positions the salesperson as an expert in their field.

Using content produced for inbound marketing as a sales enablement tool is the hallmark of an inbound salesperson. Inbound is all about attracting people using marketing that is relevant to them. Inbound sales is about being the type of salesperson who prospects want to engage with and not hold their nose and tolerate.  

Sharing great content, focused on prospects, delivering technical solutions that they need, using the channels they use, is the right way to drive online engagement for technical and industrial companies.

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Topics: marketing for manufacturing, Top Line Results, inbound sales

Targeted Lead Generation

Posted by Todd Hockenberry on Sep 3, 2013 7:30:00 AM

targeted lead generationIn July of 2012 we began working with a company that designs and manufactures custom fiberglass pipe, large diameter fiberglass ductwork, fiberglass tanks, fiberglass vessels, other equipment and services relating to fiberglass products. This company is a subsidiary of a larger parent company, and for a number of years was content to supply cooling tower components for the parent company's projects. We began working with them because they felt it was time to branch out and had turned to HubSpot and inbound marketing to help them reach new markets.

Like a lot of manufacturing companies, many of the companies within their industry were using very high level, general keywords. Our client, like their competition, was targeting keywords like fiberglass pipe and fiberglass tanks. As you can imagine, the competition for these keywords was fierce, but also broad. If you searched for fiberglass tanks it would return everything from huge industrial tanks to small tanks for animals.

This is something that a lot of the clients we've worked with have seen. Every company has some high level keywords that are pretty standard across their industry. There is nothing wrong with these keywords, and there is nothing inherently wrong with the leads they bring in. But as you can imagine, a lead that comes to a site looking for a fiberglass animal tank isn't much interested in an industrial fiberglass tank for chlorine storage.

The goal, then, is to generate specifically targeted leads.

1. Identify your wheelhouse

The first step in targeted lead generation is to figure out what it is that makes your different. What do you do that your competition doesn't? What do you do better? What makes your clients choose you?

Our fiberglass client, for example, identified their ability to create targeted industrial solutions as one of their strongest points. The fact that they could create very specific, tailored fiberglass solutions made them stand out from their competition.

You need to identify why your clients are your clients, what makes you stand out, because if you can—then you can move onto step two.

2. Generate long tail keywords

Once you know what makes you stand out, you can start creating long tail keywords targeted at leads who need what you offer.

We created keywords for our client like:
large diameter fiberglass pipe for waste water
fiberglass storage tanks for HCL storage

The number of people searching for these keywords is, admittedly, low. On the other hand, if you search for a large diameter fiberglass pipe for waste water then you want what our client offers, not a fiberglass tank for your hamster.

3. Create highly targeted content

Step three is creating content focused on those highly targeted keywords. For our fiberglass manufacturing client, we created a number of pieces of content focused very narrowly on a variety of vertical industries and custom solutions. This meant downloads and blog posts that addressed a narrow set of concerns. For example, the long tail keyword fiberglass storage tanks for HCL storage spawned a download and multiple blog posts about specific clients the company had worked with who needed HCL storage tanks. We also created some posts about HCL, its properties, and challenges associated with storing, hauling, and manufacturing.

These pieces of content did a couple of things for our client. First, this content attracted the leads we were specifically targeting. The leads that converted on landing pages for HCL storage tanks were actually looking for information about HCL storage tanks — no more lost pet store searches! Second, these pieces of content really helped to build our client's credibility. The content we were helping our client create was highly specialized and, a lot of the time, technical. Content like that really resonates with the target buyers in this industry and generated high quality leads.

4. Fill in the blanks

All of the work you've done to get through steps one through three isn't going to get you very far if you neglect all the other aspects of inbound marketing. So step four is doing all of the other bits that make an inbound marketing strategy work.

Without getting into too much detail, that means creating conversion opportunities, landing pages, maintain and engaging in social media, lead nurturing, the works. You're only going to be able to engage in targeted lead generation if you have the internal resources and structure to support it.

Inbound marketing finally gives industrial marketers the tools to target specific targets that match their ideal customer persona.  We can stop casting a wide net and hoping to catch a few fish and focus on finding and attracting the right prospects.


 

 

About the Author: Todd Hockenberry is the founder of Top Line Results, an inbound marketing agency that specializes in leading top line revenue growth at small and medium-sized companies with a focus on manufacturing, technology and capital equipment.

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Topics: lead generation, inbound marketing, Top Line Results

Ensure Inbound Marketing Success with The First, First Impression

Posted by Todd Hockenberry on Jul 10, 2013 7:31:00 AM

beer goggles
You don't want your prospects to need these to make your site experience better!

The first "first impression" happens when a visitor finds you online. More often than not the first impression your company makes takes place far from any representatives of your business. Not that long ago you could control your first impression — a perfectly staged trade show booth, a well researched phone call, an amazing sales pitch. Nowadays you still have opportunities to make great impressions, but more often than not the first impression happens without you even knowing it.

Back in my days as an EVP Sales & Marketing at a manufacturing company, we always tried our best to get requested test samples back to a prospect as fast as possible. We were a small company playing with some big competitors and we figured if we got our stuff back to them first, we would set the table for everyone else.

If our samples were high quality, correct to the specifications, and the first in the door, then we had the upper hand. Everyone else was now measured against our quick response and quality work. Whenever we conducted a win analysis with our customers, this first impression was often cited as a critical reason why our company was chosen.

That was few short years ago and while the idea of making the first impression still holds, it now relates to what your prospects see before they ever call you.

For you manufacturers and industrial B2B companies out there, I am talking to you.

There are a lot of examples of great websites, but so often industrial and manufacturing companies websites are examples of what not to do. I've seen many manufacturing websites that look like a glorified business card or catalog, but in today's business climate that just doesn't cut it anymore.

Your buyers are turning to the Internet for answers long before they reach out to you. Between online directories, social media, and stellar web content — it's no wonder that the first place consumers turn for a solution is a search engine. Inbound marketing principles are gaining traction, content marketing is becoming a standard marketing activity, and more and more companies are spending their money on building great sites that attract the best prospects.

Making the First Impression Count

If the first thing that your prospects are going to see about you is your website, you need to make it count. To make sure our clients' sites are packing a punch, we start with a simple checklist to make sure the basics are covered. Once you've nailed down the basics you can worry about the details.

1) Great Images - people are visual and becoming more so every day. Make all of your images top quality, focused on your solutions, and please stop using those stock images (see the lady with the headset on supposedly depicting someone's customer service).

2) Statement of Value - who are you, what do you do, and who do you do it for. Do not use marketing mumbo jumbo words like 'world class' or 'top quality.' Say what you do plainly and clearly. This makes a strong first impression and sets the tone for the rest of your interactions with a visitor.

3) Compelling Offer - give way your knowledge, show that you care about them and now what issues are relevant to them by sharing something of value to them, not to you (your catalog does not count as interesting or valuable).

4) Call To Action (CTA) and Landing Pages - put high quality offers behind landing pages and attract visitors to them by using compelling calls to action. This step alone has generated an outsized level of value for our clients by taking existing content assets and requiring a conversion on a landing page to get them.

5) Sharing Options - make it easy for your site visitors to share your awesomeness with others. Enough said.

6) Easy Ways to Connect - e-mail, blog updates, social media, phone calls. Give your visitors as many ways to connect with you as possible.

7) Reasons to Dig Deeper - add interest to your site by having a varied approach to content so that the first impression is of a company that has something to say and is worth investigating further.

The first "first impression" is the one you do not even know you are making or when it will happen. Make sure you set your company apart by leaving an impression that keeps them coming back for more.

Beer Goggles Image Credit: Guardian UK

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Topics: industrial marketing, marketing for manufacturing, Top Line Results

How to Grow Your Manufacturing Business with Inbound Marketing

Posted by Todd Hockenberry on Jun 12, 2013 7:21:00 AM

how to grow your manufacturing business

Beetle Plastics, founded in the 1950s, designs and manufactures custom fiberglass pipe, large diameter fiberglass ductwork, fiberglass tanks, fiberglass vessels, other equipment and services relating to fiberglass products.

Beetle Plastics is a subsidiary of Midwest Towers, Inc., a world-class manufacturer of evaporative water cooling towers. Beetle Plastics' operations include its headquarters and plant facilities in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and a nationwide network of sales and representative offices.

As a part of Midwest Towers, it was content for many years supplying the components for cooling tower projects sold by the parent company. President Larry Brown knew the firm needed to branch out and find more direct customers for Beetle Plastics. So when he read an article in Composites magazine about inbound marketing, he was confident that he now had a method to help him do just that.

In early July 2012, Beetle signed up for HubSpot and hired Top Line Results to guide their inbound marketing efforts. The initial goal was simple—work with Beetle professionals assisting them to translate their fiberglass expertise in to web content that would attract high-quality prospects and help to convert them into happy customers.

Our plan was simple, we focused on three keys things:

  1. Optimize the web site for long tail keywords
  2. Create calls to action and landing pages for existing content to drive conversions
  3. Create new content targeting ideal prospects

During the first 30 days of the project we developed keyword sets based on end products, vertical markets, and specific solutions. By using this format, we were able to speak very directly to site visitors. Previously Beetle Plastics, as well as all of their competitors, were using high level, general keywords like:

The end results was that there was significant competition for these keywords as well as no differentiation in the searches. A search for 'fiberglass tanks' would yield results for small tank for animals all the way up to large industrial tanks. By narrowing the keyword focus, we were sure that the quality and quantity of traffic would increase.

Our new keyword sets came out as:

Next, we took existing content bundled it up as valuable downloads and created calls to action, landing pages, and thank you pages. However we were still facing two major obstacles with respect to quantifiable results. Number one, the site was generating a low level of visits and number two, it was not producing any leads.

Potential leads were visiting the site, but very few were converting. This was primarily due to a lack of conversion opportunities. For example, potential customers only were given the option to ‘contact us' or ‘request a quote.' Using existing content, we created an engineering catalog targeting top of the funnel visitors looking for information on using custom fiberglass as a building material.

Finally, we embarked on a multi-faceted, aggressive content creation campaign. The campaign was tailored to address the needs of a variety of vertical industries and a large line of custom solutions. We developed technical stories relating to chemicals and fiberglass resins. Most importantly, we wanted to incorporate the benefits of Beetle’s end products and how fiberglass construction materials and custom products solve difficult industrial problems like chemical handling and storage harsh environments.

The intent was to position Beetle Plastics in the composites fabrication world as a thought leader and progressive thinking company. Content ranged from regular blog posts to case studies to whitepapers.

Our goals for the marketing projects were to:

  • Significantly increase traffic from the <10 visits per day starting point
  • Drive leads from ideal target prospects
  • Increase the credibility of Beetle Plastics and assist in driving leads through the buying process
  • Contribute to a significant increase in sales

After almost one year the results are clear:

growing your manufacturing business

 

Credibility can be tough to measure, but in August of 2012 Beetle Plastics landed a very large project from a South American firm and using HubSpot we were able to see how often the engineers and decision makers from this company were using and interacting with the web site.  "Our salespeople closed the business but our web site was certainly a huge help in building our case and enhancing our credibility with the customer and in winning the business" says Mr. Brown.

Beetle Plastics' use of inbound marketing is steadily expanding their reach into end users of fiberglass products and, more importantly, engineering and design firms that design, specify, and oversee construction materials purchase and large construction projects. "We are opening doors for our engineers and team of experts that traditional sales approaches would not open. By focusing on the builders' needs and solutions they are looking for, we are more often seen as the experts in our field and are being sought out as the expert. Our solution-based content is very attractive to our target engineer prospect and our website and the inbound marketing methodology give us the tools to be there when they are looking online" says Mr. Brown.

Was the investment worth it?  

"We grew Beetle Plastics by over 20% since we started our inbound marketing project and we feel like we are just getting started," states Mr. Brown.

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Topics: industrial marketing, marketing for manufacturing, Top Line Results

Transform Your Website (and More) With Inbound Marketing

Posted by Todd Hockenberry on May 16, 2013 7:20:00 AM

transform your websiteWe've been HubSpot partners for over three years now and have on boarded over 40 customers as well as consulted with a few dozen others. But something happened today that has never happened to me before—I got a rousing round of applause from a client.   

We recently were retained to help a regulatory consulting company re-design their website and launch them on a full blown inbound marketing campaign. The owner knew she needed a new website and she knew she needed outside help to get it done. The company culture feared change, feared online marketing, feared competition, and had no idea of how to take the steps needed to overcome these fears and build a website that attracted prospects using valuable content.

This company knew they needed to change, but needed a framework to work by and a nudge in the right direction. So when the owner was referred to me and we hit it off she hired us and we started down this road of inbound marketing. Many of you already moving on that path would recognize what we did as a straight forward, basic plan.

That is what it looked like to me. What it looked like to them was totally different.

Here is what the employees of this company saw:

  • An opportunity to share their expertise to the world
  • Proof that management was progressive and concerned about the future
  • An outlet for creativity in a pretty un-creative world - telecom regulation
  • New sales opportunities in a stagnant market
  • A new enthusiasm for the expertise they have
  • A new appreciation for how much they help their clients and how important they are to them
  • A new energy to find ways to add more value and be even better at what they do

This company came to understand how they can translate what they do every day into content and how that content is used to attract new prospects and they are excited about it! They see that buying is changing and they need to change to meet the expectations of new prospects.

In short, a simple website re-design turned into a new sales and marketing strategy. This project created a new energy and enthusiasm for the business, their customers, their market place, and their jobs. They were thrilled to be moving ahead and excited about the opportunities this new website and the thinking that goes with it will bring.

So when I was asked to attend a meeting this morning to review the project with the team I expected to meet with 5 or 6 key people. Instead I met with the entire company and walked them through the site and answered their questions.

And at the end of the meeting they gave me a round of applause for helping them change.

Remember, it's not just a new website, it's a new way of thinking. 

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Topics: web design, inbound marketing, Top Line Results, inbound marketing agency

Use Inbound Marketing Principles to Plan for a Successful Trade Show

Posted by Todd Hockenberry on Mar 20, 2013 7:47:00 AM

planning for a trade showWhen was the last time you went to a trade show? If you're like most of my agency’s clients, you've been to a trade show sometime in the last year or two. What was your trade show experience like? Did it involve a lot of standing around the booth hoping someone would make accidental eye contact and feel guilty enough to come over and talk to you? How did you prep for the show? Did you spend a lot of time on having promo material ready, getting your backdrop just so, and filling your toolkit?

In my experience trade shows are a prime example of how otherwise engaged companies drop the inbound marketing ball. So often companies spend all of their time getting their physical materials together for a show. Those same companies then show up and hope attendees with find them in the show directory and come over to the booth. Trade shows become very inwardly focused and passive. I've seen companies with great social media followings go to trade shows and the only thing on their profiles is a single update about the show! If you're going to spend the money to go to a trade show, do the leg work to make it successful.

Before the Show

Long before the first day of a trade show you should be preparing your target audience. Just because a trade show is something that you physically attend doesn't mean it shouldn't follow the rules of any good inbound marketing campaign.

Your first step should be to decide what your message is and develop calls to action. Of course you're also going to need a great landing page for prospects who engage with your call to action. And once you've got your CTA and landing page you are going to need to attract some attention to them. Maybe you email your current customers and tell them about the trade show and include your CTA. You could also buy/rent a list of the shows attendees and contact them with your CTA. Some shows even have social media accounts or hashtags that attendees can follow or "like" to stay up to date with show news. You can post links to your CTA on the shows' social media outlets.

The key principle to follow is before the show, attract as much attention as you can to the fact that you're going to be there. If you can get people excited about your attendance, maybe with a giveaway or demo you've been talking about online, then you should see more foot traffic to your booth.

At the Show

I've been to a lot of trade shows, and I've noticed a few things about show attendees over the years. The first thing I've noticed is that people tend to lack concrete answers to a very simple question. I like to ask the people manning the booth what makes them different/better than their competition. A lot of the time they say, "Our quality," but what does that mean? No one goes into a trade show and says that they have a substandard product or service; everyone is going to say they have a quality product. How much better is your quality? How does that quality transfer into better performance or results for your customers? If you want to stand out, figure out precise and evidence-based answers to those questions before you step onto the trade show floor. Find the answers, work to define, quantify and support them. This work needs to be done, and marketing needs to do it.

My second piece of advice for day-of-success deals with the people you have manning your booths. Basic rules of business attire are essential; dress neatly and conservatively in clothing that fits well, is clean, and is ironed (if need be). Once you've replaced the too small/too large, rumpled, and casual clothing, you need to work on the enthusiasm levels. If you need to, you can rotate out teams throughout the show to keep your people fresh, awake, and enthusiastic. Whatever you do, you need to keep in mind that the people in your booth are the face of your company. For best results you want the face of your company to be professional, knowledgeable, and engaging.

After the Show

Once you get home after a trade show it can be tempting to sit back and wait for your phone to start ringing, and that's what a lot of companies do. If you want to maximize your trade show efforts, you should treat the post-show just like you did the pre-show; work the inbound marketing. Did you collect emails/business cards at the show? Create a lead nurturing campaign designed specifically for the trade show contacts you collected. Did you hand out flyers or proportional material? Stick a QR code on anything you hand out that directs people to a landing page with a great offer. Did you make new industry connections? Make sure you get on your social media accounts and connect with any new contacts you made at the show.

Don't be afraid to work the trade show angle as much as you can. For example, trade show interviews on your YouTube channel, photo diary of the show on your blog, or blow by blow show updates on your Twitter stream. The key to a successful trade show experience is making every aspect of the show work together. Keep your message clear, arm your people with the quantitative data they need to back up your message, and stay enthusiastic!

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Topics: industrial marketing, Top Line Results, trade shows

Crafting A Blog Post for Your Business: 4 Keys to Success

Posted by Todd Hockenberry on Feb 13, 2013 7:14:00 AM

crafting a blog postOnce you've got your salespeople to come around to the idea of inbound marketing, what do you do with their content ideas? If your salespeople followed the "notepad method" of content creation, then after a couple of weeks they should have plenty of ideas just waiting to be turned into killer content.  Check out this recent interview where I discuss this idea in detail.

But pages of questions, comments, and unconnected ideas aren't going to cut it in the content-centric world of inbound marketing. You've got to tie all of those great ideas into a cohesive whole. 

One of the best ways to put all of your content ideas into use is by turning them into blog posts. Blog posts are awesome because they:

  • don't have to be terribly long
  • tend to be written informally
  • allow you to offer up concentrating chunks of information
  • and the comments section gives you an avenue for interacting with prospects.

As great as blog posts are, writing a post can be challenging. There is no single "right" way to take an idea for a blog post and turn it into a finished product, but there are a couple of suggestions I can offer if you're having trouble.

1. Stay focused

You might have a hundred great ideas for blog posts, but I guarantee they aren't going to work if you try to shove them all into one post. Stick to one central idea and follow it through to conclusion. There's nothing wrong with a personal anecdote or digression here and there as long as they bolster your main idea, but try and keep it to a minimum. If your post is a series of unconnected personal stories, then your readers are going to lose sight of your point. One way to make sure all of your paragraphs and ideas work together is to outline your post. For example:

Introduction and Main idea: Pens are better than pencils.

Supporting detail 1: Pencil lead smears, but ink doesn't smear after you let it dry.

Supporting detail 2: You don't need to sharpen pens.

Personal Story: Short paragraph about that time I couldn't write down a number because I had a broken pencil.

Conclusion

You don't have to write out an outline, but keeping a format in mind while writing can help keep you focused and on topic.

2. Let SEO Be Your Guide

If you find yourself casting around for something to write about, or you're drowning in too many ideas and don't know which to focus on, choosing one or two high ranking keywords to use as a guide is a great way to gain focus. Do the leg work and research the keywords that have clout in your industry, the keywords you rank for, and the keywords that you want to rank for. Once you know the keywords that you want to go after, dig into your pile of ideas and create posts around those keywords. Creating blog posts around keywords is a great way to work on your SEO and get content out there.

3. Stay Calm

You aren't writing an academic paper, you're writing a blog post; you don't need to overawe your readers with four syllable words and a formal tone. Write in the same tone that you would speak in as if you were talking to a prospect. If you're having trouble getting into the right frame of mind imagine that you're having a conversation with a prospect. What questions would lead into the point you want to make? What would the normal progression of ideas be if you were having a conversation? If it makes sense, you can set up your post in a question and answer format. If the best way to explain your point is with a numbered list, then format your post so that your points are in a numbered list. Write your post in whatever way is the most natural and clear.

4. Write

The best suggestion I can give is simply to write. You don't have to have a perfect post the first time through, but you do need to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). If you find yourself putting off writing your next blog post, then I recommend scheduling yourself time to write. Block off a half an hour or an hour just like you would for a meeting, and don't let yourself do anything else until you have your first draft down on paper. You can always edit later, but the most important thing is to get your ideas out.

Salespeople are excellent sources of content for blog posts and they can then use them to build credibility with prospects as they progress through the buying process. Salespeople that are also blog authors build a reputation as thought leaders and establish themselves as helpful resources and not just order takers.

About the Author: Todd Hockenberry is the founder of Top Line Results, an inbound marketing agency that specializes in leading top line revenue growth at small and medium-sized companies with a focus on manufacturing, technology and capital equipment.

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Topics: how to start a blog, blogging for business, Top Line Results, content creation

How Landing Pages Get Salespeople Interested in Inbound Marketing

Posted by Todd Hockenberry on Jan 13, 2013 7:03:00 AM

In my last post, I talked about how to convince your salespeople to help you create content for inbound marketing by showing them that they are already creating engaging content every day. The deep connections between salespeople and prospects mean that salespeople are often the best people to understand what messages resonate with customers and what questions customers want answered. Once you've gotten great content out of salespeople, your next step is delivering that content in the best way possible.

Create Highly Focused Customer Centric Content

The content that salespeople create is highly customer-focused and has great potential to convert into prospects. However, when customer-focused content is paired with interesting calls to action and landing pages then you see those prospects become leads. Landing pages themselves may not interest salespeople that much but what comes from them certainly does. The formula is simple — the sales team helps create the right content for target prospects. Calls to action and landing pages bring in what the sales team needs — qualified leads.

The job of a landing page is, at its simplest, to connect content with visitors and convert them to leads. However, a landing page can do a lot more than deliver some well-crafted content to the right audience. If salespeople are helping shape and craft excellent content that is being released through a landing page created by someone in marketing, the landing page then serves as a point of connection between the sales team and the marketing team. Landing pages can also be leveraged to drive traffic from a site, or part of a site, that was generating little or no traffic before.

Increase Incoming Leads Quickly

For example, one of my clients had the fairly standard "Contact Us" form on a simple landing page. There isn't anything wrong with a Contact Us page, but in this client's case that form wasn't creating any leads for them. We came in and took some of the content already on their site, made it into downloadable content, attached the content to landing pages, and then added calls to action across their site. Adding landing pages as gate keepers to content that was already there resulted in a lot of leads very quickly. This client increased leads per month from the website from 0 to over 60 just by adding a few basic offers and landing pages to the site.

manufacturing marketing

Not all landing pages are created equal, however. To get the most out of a landing page you should shape them around the same kinds of customer-centered thinking that drives good content. Great content is driven by a persona and is focused on their issues, needs, interests, and problems. The landing page that you build in front of that content should be just as shaped by that persona as the content itself was.

Qualify, Qualify, Qualify Those Leads

Having targeted landing pages in front of your customer-focused content is how you create leads that are more qualified. Qualified leads, in turn, allow salespeople to follow up at a much higher level. This is why it is so important to understand your target persona and to create the best, most focused content for them.

Beyond that, however, the form on your landing page represents an amazing tool for lead segmentation. You have a great piece of content that prospects want to get to, so make them answer a few basic questions first. By adding a few segmenting questions into your landing page form, you can get your leads to self-qualify and help drive them further into the sales funnel. Ask them what their job title is, what their biggest problem is, what their main goal is, budget, when they need a solution – be creative and see if you can actually interest the prospect because you're asking the same questions they are asking themselves. The more answers you get, the better the lead is qualified. Now sales can start the conversation at a much higher level.

One of our clients grew their business 86% in the first year of working with us. They generated this significant increase while doing fewer proposals than the previous year. This was a big deal because they are a small company and doing a proposal is a big time investment. By segmenting leads using landing pages they were able to sort the best leads from the top of the funnel inquiries and spend their time closing sales, not writing proposals.

I love this success story because it reminds me of something one of my first sales bosses said to me. He asked me how things were going and I responded with something like “I am doing great, I did 14 quotes and made 43 calls.” His response? “We don’t sell quotes here, son.”

Landing Pages For Testing Ideas

Finally, landing pages are a great way for sales people to test the interest in a given market for a new offering or to test new positioning for a product/service. If the idea behind the call to action and landing page converts, then sales can assume that the offer has some legs. A landing page is a very easy, inexpensive way to perform a litmus test that tells sales whether or not they should promote a new idea in their direct calls and selling.

One of the ways we have used this technique to test the waters for a client was to offer engineering documents (drawings, specifications, test results) on landing pages to see who would convert and download them. My client had purchased a series of product lines and did not know everyone who had previously purchased the products. These old customers found the landing pages and converted. Sales now had a reason to talk to these leads and an insight into their business. The leads that converted showed that there was interest and demand for after sale support and proved that these documents could be used to attract new contacts previously unknown to sales. The conversions on our test landing pages put sales into a position to deliver more value and make more sales.

Creating great content is always going to be the first step, but putting time and effort into landing pages is essential. What's more, the time and effort you put into landing pages pays serious dividends. Whether you need to do some quick market research for a new product, better qualify your leads, or leverage your website to bring in leads, landing pages can be serious work horses in your inbound marketing campaign.

About the Author: Todd Hockenberry is the founder of Top Line Results, an inbound marketing agency that specializes in leading top line revenue growth at small and medium-sized companies with a focus on manufacturing, technology and capital equipment.

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Topics: landing pages, business to business lead generation, business advice, marketing for manufacturing, Top Line Results

Get Salespeople to Embrace Inbound Marketing and Grow Your Business

Posted by Todd Hockenberry on Dec 14, 2012 10:38:00 AM

Convincing sales people that inbound marketing is an effective way to prospect and fill the sales funnel is a great way to grow a business. We've worked with dozens of companies that either have a small sales team or don't have a marketing department, and they struggle with lead generation. We've heard different versions of the same story over and over:

"When we get face to face with a good prospect we close a high percentage of the business, but we're just not getting enough chances to win."  

Many companies in this position try to solve their problem by telling the sales people to do more prospecting, make more cold calls, and just go make more sales. The problem with this is that simply demanding more sales isn't a strategy or plan for success. We have helped our clients build an effective pipeline and grow their business by helping them develop the tools they need to successfully use an inbound marketing strategy.

By adopting inbound marketing methods, sales people can be their own marketing department and make the connection between what they do every day and generating content as fuel for inbound marketing.

Creating Content

Not many sales people like to write content (or much of anything else for that matter), so how do we get them to create the content that is the foundation of inbound marketing? The first step is to show them that they are creating content every day — they just don't realize it. Examples include:

  • Any letters or emails with detailed explanations of the uses of their products to solve problems
  • Phone calls with customers answering questions
  • Sales presentations, especially the parts that are designed for particular industries, companies, or common problems
  • Internal training on products and their use
  • Interactions with service and technical support
  • Industry trends, news, and events that affect customers
  • Questions and objections from existing prospects and customers
  • Success stories and testimonials

We've tried a lot of tricks to get sales people to create content, but the most effective one we've ever used is to have the sales people keep a pad of paper by their phone and to make a note of every call they make or email they send where they are answering questions, explaining their products in detail, or otherwise dispensing information. It doesn't take very long before the sales person realizes they are already creating content that is re-usable on a daily basis. Once they have gotten over their fear of "writing" and "content", they often find that creating content is something they're good at. There's nothing like stroking the ego of a sales person by showing them how much of an expert they really are.

Most sales people aren't aware of the large amounts of valuable content that they already have and aren't using to drive prospecting. A lot of sales content comes to sales people only as product-based information like catalogs, specifications, and feature focused content. This kind of content is easy to create because it is internal and, more often than not, cut and dry. There's a lot of great information in this kind of content, but it isn't very good at grabbing prospects' interest.

The key is shifting your mindset so that you are focused on the prospect, their issues, their needs, and their opportunities. You can reshape that internal, dry content into something that caters to your prospects and their needs. Thinking like the customer and creating content that matches their expectations is often best accomplished by sales people that interact with customers every day.

Publishing and Publicizing

Sales people should identify the information platforms that their target customers are using, learn the rules of the road for that platform, and then publish consistently to them. In many cases, sales people want instant gratification so they need to understand that building a following and learning how to communicate using new mediums takes time and effort. Just like making an effective face-to-face presentation takes time and practice, so does learning to use inbound marketing and content publishing to attract quality prospects.

We work with sales people to build reasonable daily activity schedules that are perceived as manageable and not too time-consuming. Twitter and LinkedIn are generally the most popular for B2B engagement, but it all boils down to fishing where the fish are.

Engaging

Once content is being created and published, sales people can now engage with prospects and build credibility for themselves and for their company. Inbound marketing is about attracting and educating prospects first and selling second, so sales people need to be patient and not go for the sales the first time someone responds. The selling will come in time if the prospect is engaged at the right time.

We have a client that produces industrial lasers used for marking just about any part. They publish really cool videos showing how lasers can be used to mark unique parts. The videos are often made as a part of the engineering and technical specification of the system and can be easily shot by the salespeople during a test or plant tour. We added them to the list of content we were publishing and qualified prospects find the videos and other related blog posts and convert into leads as a result. Instead of selling the features of the lasers, sales people share the benefits and capabilities, attract prospects that need those benefits, and a conversation is started.

This type of inbound marketing generated conversation is different than one generated by a cold call. The prospect is self-qualified because they want, and seek out, the information you have. The sales person is positioned as an expert helping and sharing educational content, not as a time wasting annoyance.

Sales people may or may not come to the conclusion on their own that inbound marketing is an effective lead generation strategy. However, showing them that there is a process and a pathway that yields demonstrable results leads them to the water and, most of the time, gets them to drink.

 

About the Author: Todd Hockenberry is the founder of Top Line Results, an inbound marketing agency that specializes in leading top line revenue growth at small and medium-sized companies with a focus on manufacturing, technology and capital equipment.

 

  

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Topics: sales force development, sales lead generation, Top Line Results

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