The sales game has changed and the buying process is vastly different than it was even a decade ago. For this reason, today’s dealers need to find new ways to create opportunities and find leads that can breathe new life into business. One way to achieve this is through inbound marketing — sharing content that drives potential customers to your website. As opposed to traditional outbound marketing techniques, like cold-calling or direct mail, inbound draws interested prospects to your business and, if done right, keeps them coming back for more.
What is inbound marketing?
Although the term “inbound marketing” seems to have popped up over the last couple of years, it may surprise you to learn it’s been around for more than a decade — HubSpot co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan is credited with coining the term in 2005. However, that’s not so surprising when you consider the fact that, whether you’re familiar with the term or not, if you have a website (and of course you have a website) you are probably doing some form of inbound marketing already. Inbound marketing, in brief, is exactly what it sounds like — bringing the customers to you rather than chasing after the customer. You do this by enticing the customer through various avenues — social media, targeted emails, calls to action (CTAs), to name a few — to your website, the hub of all marketing activity.
Getting customers to your company’s website in some way, however, is just one small piece of a total inbound marketing strategy. In its most fully fledged form, inbound marketing provides a complete methodology that helps companies adjust their marketing to better fit the way today’s buyers are shopping for products and services — you’ve probably heard the statistics about how buyers do most of their research online before they ever begin the actual buying process. But there are several pieces to the puzzle, and the more of those pieces you leverage, the stronger the results of your inbound marketing.
Five ways dealers are leveraging inbound marketing today
1. Become a thought leader. Develop content that your customers want to read, and at the same time convince them you have the skills and services they need. This content can take many forms; a simple blog is an excellent starting point. In its “2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends” study, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) found 81 percent of B2B marketers used blogs in their content marketing programs. Larger companies may have internal marketing departments or other writers on staff (or even wannabe writers — you never know what hidden talents are out there) who can provide contributions. Smaller companies or those without writers can look to outsourcing as a solution. Customers might be willing to contribute as well. Just be sure to keep the promotion light and the focus on education.
2. Give something away for free. Everyone likes free things, so build on the idea behind the blogs – remember the content that customers want to read that convinces them they need your services? Build on that and create a product that’s worth registering for — something of a little more value than a blog, like an e-book, for example, or a webinar. Now your website visitors have become leads; ones who have come to you in search of the type of solutions you offer.
3. Build campaigns to stay in touch. Leads are better when you keep them warm. Focus on why your target audience is coming to your site — track the CTAs that brought them in and the pages visited once they’re there. Then follow up with fresh content – blogs, e-books and video to build interest. Send out a newsletter — one that brings valuable information to their inbox — and you’ve got a consistent, regular touchpoint set up.
4. Publish a case study. Everyone loves a good story. Tell your audience a one they can relate to. Assuming you have some satisfied customers (and if you don’t, your needs are beyond what this blog can do for you), you probably have a great case study in the making. This is another item that might require outsourcing, assuming you don’t have a professional writer on staff, but it can be well worth the investment. A case study that tells the story of what you offer and how it helped a customer be successful is an investment that can speak directly to your target audience — potential customers and even current ones who aren’t necessarily using all your services. Show them your best work and let them imagine how it could work for them.
5. Leverage social media to spread the word. In the CMI study mentioned earlier, social media was the most-used content marketing tactic for B2B, employed by 93 percent of respondents. Once you’ve got the content built, use it to build a following on sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to ensure you do not miss your target audience. LinkedIn remains a favorite among the B2B; in the CMI study 94 percent of respondents used it and 66 percent rated it most effective, with Twitter a distant second at 55 percent. Play it safe and use both.
Inbound marketing isn’t a cure-all and it’s not a standalone solution. It will never replace traditional outbound marketing, nor is it meant to. But a combination of marketing techniques can cover much more ground, make marketing a two-way street and ultimately help you close more business. It’s a winning solution — so what are you waiting for?