When Mike and I first started talking about what to cover in the podcast, we began with through-partner marketing automation and through-partner marketing agencies (which I think is an incredibly exciting development in our market). But we pretty quickly decided to focus on inbound marketing. As a former partner and someone who completely buys into the new buyer’s journey, I’m fascinated by inbound marketing. This kind of marketing is being done very successfully in direct sales. With about 70% of tech business now going through the channel, it’s time for vendors to help their partners become inbound marketing experts—especially for partners targeting the mid-size/SMB market.
Wikipedia defines inbound marketing as the process of “promoting a company through blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, newsletters, whitepapers, SEO, physical products, social media marketing, and other forms of content marketing [that] serve to attract customers through the different stages of the purchase funnel.” I like to think of it as “give to get:” You provide prospective customers with great information, and in return, they give you their contact information so you can market to them.
In that vein, I liked the way Mike laid out four keys to successful inbound marketing.
Key #1: Understand the New Buyer’s Journey
Hubspot, which developed the “inbound marketing” methodology, divides the buyer’s journey into four stages: attract, convert, close, and delight. Instead of using marketing as a sledge hammer to beat people’s doors down, disrupt their lives, their inbox, and their telephone in order to make yourself known, says Mike, attract them to you by sharing interesting information—not just about your products and services, but about the types of problems and challenges that buyers are experiencing.
Key #2: Provide Both Empirical and Emotional Information
I’ve talked before about how the way individuals go about buying a car reveals a lot about how the buyer’s journey in general has changed. In our podcast, Mike used the example of buying a boat instead. But it’s the same process. Customers start off in the “learning mode,” often using online search to find out all they can about the choices of boats on the market. That requires one kind of content to attract the customer—the overall “speeds and feeds” kind of information that provide the buyer with the basic empirical knowledge they need to start narrowing their choices.
Next, customers go into “shopping mode,” comparing one type of boat to another—inboard versus outboard, fishing versus cruising. Mike says that if a boat company is doing good inbound marketing, this is when they can convert a buyer to their customer. The company might provide something like an online boat-buyers guide or user reviews of different types of boats.
Key #3: Tell Buyers the “Why” Not the “What”
The third key is understanding exactly where on the journey the buyer is now. The salesperson or marketer is more likely to close the deal if they know when the buyer is ready to engage. This is not the time for the salesperson to start at the beginning and tell the customer all about the kinds of boats on the market. As Mike says, this is when the buyer is looking for affirmation more than information. They want to know why they should by a specific boat, not what kinds of boat are available. This is a time to provide more emotional information—how one boat feels versus another. This content usually takes the form of customer stories, presented as case studies or testimonials, and it can often prove decisive in closing the sale.
Key #4: Don’t “Set It and Forget It”
The final stage in inbound marketing’s buyer’s journey is “delight” and it’s all about making that buyer a customer for life. This stage is particularly important for SaaS offerings and product offerings that includes service, where a company’s success depends on its ability to build ongoing customer relationships. Instead of putting its marketing on autopilot—instead of “setting it and forgetting it,” companies need to continue to use inbound marketing to delight its customers with new and interesting content.
Keep Your Eye on Direct Marketing Methods
We both agree that direct marketers tend to be way ahead of channel marketers, who historically have used the same methods for decades. “All the innovation, all the cool stuff, all the new tools—everything is geared around how a brand markets directly to customers, says Mike.
However, we also agree that times are changing and savvy channel marketer are figuring it out. With a little help from folks like Averetek, and by having a clear process and framework, companies can focus much more on targeted messaging, and provide high quality content, so that when it reaches the end customer—whether they’re in learning, shopping, or buying mode—they will find it relevant, interesting, and helpful to their buying decision.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steven Kellam, President at CCI
As a growth specialist, Steven is responsible for driving CCI’s evolution to expand its offerings and grow across its product suite, utilizing marketing to position the organization for continued, long-term success. He is also responsible for developing the strategic alliances necessary for CCI to achieve its revenue and profit goals, including technical alliances, service partnerships and sales relationships. Steven has experience in both the VAR space, having run a successful managed services IT business, and a background in manufacturing where he built a channel of over 2,000 partners.