The primary aim of any IT value-added reseller is to drive sales and communicate its unique offerings to customers. This is possible only when you can capture quality leads and design an effective marketing campaign.
Traditionally, VAR business has always relied on outbound marketing – a strategy where you initiate the conversations or contacts to reach out to potential leads or customers. Take, for example, trade shows, emails and cold calling. However, outbound marketing is no longer an effective standalone strategy as it doesn’t generate the desired ROI. Not to mention, it is costly too!
In today’s technology-driven times, customers expect the brands or companies they are buying from to be more ‘social’ – that is, to be digitally-savvy and have a presence on the social media. Customers have resources such as smartphones and internet connection to reach out to brands instead of another way around.
This is where inbound marketing comes into the picture. Let’s understand it in detail
What is Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing strategy refers to a methodology to attract new customers and increase brand awareness. The basic goal remains the same as the outbound marketing. However, in this strategy, you try to capture customer attention through content creation aimed at to help them make an informed purchasing decision. It focuses on understanding the problems of customers and answering their questions to gain their trust in your brand, products and services.
The examples of inbound marketing include social media, blogs, e-books, white papers, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), videos, infographics, etc. This VAR channel marketing strategy can bring unique benefits to your business:
- It enables you to create highly-targeted content.
- It increases the visibility of your business faster as the content you publish is online.
- It is cost-effective.
- It generates quality leads and traffic.
- It helps you get improve ROI.
Statistics indicate that inbound marketing brings 54% more leads into the marketing funnel and costs 60% less as compared to outbound marketing!
Lenovo is one of the best case studies of successful inbound marketing. It created a digital content hub called ‘TechRevolution’ for its customers in the Asia-Pacific region. This platform delivered the latest news, trends and practices in technology, leadership and innovation to the IT decision makers. Within 9 months of its launch, it went on to become a thought leadership website with 250+ articles, 34 million impressions, 300k+ link clicks, 170k new web users and $30million attributable sales.
Tips to Implement Inbound Marketing
Here are useful ways to increase B2B sales through inbound marketing
- Identify Your Target Audience
Simply defining your target audience as ‘buyers in Canada’ won’t suffice. You have to be more specific to generate qualified IT sales leads. So, narrow down your target audience in terms of industry type, business size, decision makers, business problems, etc. This will help you to create a customized inbound marketing strategy for them.
- Formulate Your Content Strategy
Content marketing is the core of inbound marketing. 71% of B2B marketers leverage content marketing to generate leads and 93% agree that content marketing generates more leads than traditional marketing channels. You need to develop a plan on what type of content you want to publish and where you want to publish. For example, you may want to publish a topic titled ‘5 ways to increase conversions’ as a blog or infographic on your website. Or, you may want to prepare a video and put it up on your social media handles. Ideally, you should publish at least 3-4 different types of content because viewers have different interests and attention span.
Remember that content marketing strategy would vary according to each stage of the sales funnel.
- The top-of-the-funnel stage focuses on providing informative content to spread awareness about your products and convert visitors into leads. This can be done through a blog, infographics or videos.
- The middle-of-the-funnel stage focuses on creating the value of your products for customer’s problems. This can be done through white papers, e-books, case studies and webinars.
- The bottom-of-the-funnel stage focuses on delivering uniqueness of your products to match the exact requirements of customers. This stage is all about lead conversion. This can be done through a live product demo, free trials or discounts.
- Nurture Your Leads
Let’s say, someone has downloaded a white paper from your website. Now, don’t wait for the user to approach you. This is your lead and potential customer; don’t let him or her go. This is your clue to nurture that lead through a timely follow-up mail and increase your conversion rate. Did you know that the odds of a lead entering the sales process or becoming qualified are 21 times greater when contacted within five minutes versus 30 minutes after an inbound lead converts on your website?
- Be Active on Social Media
The importance of social media for IT marketing can’t be emphasized. LinkedIn especially can generate a good amount of leads for your VAR business. You can publish content regularly, share useful information with followers and join influencer community/forums/groups to express your thoughts. This way, your business will get more visibility and leads.
- Measure Performance
Now, what’s the use of a strategy if you don’t review and measure it? You need to know whether the inbound marketing strategy is yielding the desired results. The usefulness of inbound marketing lies in the fact that it is digital. You can automate campaigns using Customer Relationship Management (CRM tools) and use analytics features to track the campaigns. Some of the most important key metrics for inbound marketing are:
- Number of leads generated
- Conversion rate (prospect to lead)
- Conversion rate (lead to close)
- Conversion by traffic source (website, social media, organic, emails, etc.)
- Number of visits
- Number of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQL).
- A Few Finer Tips
- Publish content at regular intervals – your business should always be on the top of mind of potential customers.
- Publish useful, fresh and relevant content.
- Keep variety in content – mix and match various mediums to keep the target audience engaged.
- Make content SEO-friendly.
- Be responsive on social media by replying promptly to queries, suggestions and grievances.
Inbound marketing is one of the most effective strategies to increase sales. If you have not yet done it, it’s about time.