With past obstacles like the pandemic, supply chain issues and hiring freezes in the rearview mirror, the office equipment industry is poised for record sales in 2023. And marketing’s role in helping sales move the needle will be under even more scrutiny.
Leadership should demand ROI from their in-house marketing team or outside agencies. Traditional methods like radio, TV and billboards just won’t stack up to strategic content and video marketing where KPIs are measurable. Open and click-through rates for email campaigns should be compared to industry standards and evaluated for their effectiveness in educating prospects and creating sales-qualified leads. Blogs should include ranking keywords for SEO and website traffic. Videos should be optimized for search engines and boring webinars should be eliminated from schedules. Whatever mix of marketing you’re participating in, there should be one expectation, does it drive sales? If the answer is no, then it’s time to move on to more sophisticated methods of marketing.
Smarketing is crucial
The first thing you need is a strongly aligned marketing and sales team, affectionately referred to as Smarketing. It’s important for sales and marketing teams to work together. When these two departments are aligned, everyone wins. When marketers understand sales goals, they can work together to create sales-qualified leads that results in record sales.
Another data point crucial to the sales and marketing alignment is knowing the lifetime value of your customer. While new customers are the lifeblood of a dealership, it’s essential for sales and marketing to understand customer lifetime value, because it’s always less expensive to maintain an existing relationship than to create a new one. Selling additional services like managed IT, ECM and voice services will create loyal customers in the end. Per Hubspot, “Only 31% of marketers say their sales and marketing teams are strongly aligned. It’s no surprise that almost half of marketers are shifting their goals in 2023 towards sales and marketing alignment.”
AI at the top of the list
Perhaps the most talked about marketing breakthrough in years is artificial intelligence (AI) and specifically, ChatGPT from OpenAI. If you haven’t accessed the ChatGPT website, sign up immediately and begin exploring: When I asked the chat to describe marketing trends for 2023, I received the following text:
“A trend that is expected to shape the marketing industry in 2023 is the use of artificial intelligence (AI). This technology has the potential to revolutionize the way businesses market their products and services. From chatbots that can assist customers with their purchasing decisions to personalized recommendations based on customer behavior, businesses will need to start incorporating AI into their marketing strategies if they want to stay competitive.”
In addition to the open-ended conversation with a chat AI assistant there are image generators, spreadsheet creators and product name pages. The possibilities are endless, but as the author of “They Ask, You Answer” Marcus Sheridan blogged, “AI will give you the ability to gather facts, and then turn them into an article (or even video) dramatically quicker.” But what it won’t do, at least yet, is provide the human element of storytelling. Nothing compares to the warmth and sincerity true marketing storytellers can exhibit. Certainly, a combination of AI and personalization will be the foundation for marketing in 2023.
Short-form video takes the stage
Another marketing strategy that has been talked about for years is video. According to the latest HubSpot newsletter, “Short-form video has taken the marketing world by storm, and we predict it will carry over in 2023. A staggering 90% of marketers using short-form video will increase or maintain their investment next year, and 1 in 5 marketers plan to leverage short-form video for the first time in 2023.”
If you don’t have someone on staff creating video content and posting on your website and social media, then you need to make this a new hire priority now. We’re living in such a visual society today and getting your point of view across can be difficult, but video can cut through the clutter. This leads to the next trend.
Not your parents’ social media account
Social media is far from an original concept and making TikTok videos and Facebook reels might seem unconventional for the office equipment industry, but what a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Gearing them to a business-to-business audience will certainly gain some attention. If you’re not ready to dabble into TikTok and Instagram, start with a strong content strategy on LinkedIn, that’s the best place to reach MPS targeted audiences and those likely to be making the purchasing decisions.
Inbound is still king
Getting back to the basics, the number one thing you can do to impact sales is to have a website built on strong inbound marketing strategy. Gartner’s Future of Sales research shows that “by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels. This is because 33% of all buyers desire a seller-free sales experience – a preference that climbs to 44% for millennials.” Is your website easy to navigate? Does it answer key questions buyers are looking for with blogs, videos and infographics? Is your contact us page simple and do you have a live chat experience? If you have multiple dealerships, be sure each location has their own landing page; it will increase traffic and make your SEO stand out.
Life of the party
A successful marketing trend for our dealership has always been event marketing. After a long lockdown, B2B buyers are looking for a way to get out of the office or away from their WFH situations. From simple lunch and learns to elaborately planned technology summits, your dealership can benefit from face-to-face events with prospects and customers. Customer appreciation events can also go a long way in solidifying relationships and building rapport with your existing customers. No matter how small or large the event is, make sure it’s well planned and executed. Pay attention to details, from the invitations and online registration to making sure your customers are greeted warmly, the event space is ready on time and things run on schedule the day of the event. Having a speaker who can inspire your attendees or a tour of a building they’ve never had access to is always a bonus. Thank them for attending with goodie bags and raffle items and be sure to follow up with a NPS survey to make sure attendees will be back for future events.
Finally, not so much a marketing trend, but an observation is the increase in gender diversity in the office equipment industry. Jennie Fisher of GreatAmerica Financial Services recently hosted a panel at the Executive Connection Summit on Women in the Office Industry. She acknowledged that the room certainly looked different than 10-15 years ago, but that much progress is still yet to be made. Statistics tell us that for every 10% increase in gender diversity, earnings rise in companies by a glaring 3.5% (McKinsey & Company). From this data, we know that women leaders have a measurable impact on an organization’s bottom line. When women become leaders, they bring their talent and new perspectives, resulting in more successful ideas and execution.
While it might be hard to do all the things in this article, focus on one or two strategies and make them work for your dealership. Whether it’s updating your website to drive traffic and increase sales leads or committing to posting daily on LinkedIn, make incremental changes that you can measure and be sure to report to leadership for the most visibility. Marketing is never a one size fits all strategy, so use what works for you and you’ll be successful in 2023.
Connie Dettman is director of marketing for Gordon Flesch. She has extensive advertising agency experience, having helped businesses effectively promote their products and services. In her role as director of marketing, Connie helps identify business opportunities and leverages tools and strategies to reach the appropriate audiences with the right messages.