CMTC's Shifting Gears

We succeed because you do.

Season 2 Episode 2 - What is Inbound Marketing?

Posted by Rachel Miller

 

Episode Show Notes

Episode 2 features Hannah Going, Director of Marketing at Accel-RF Instruments Corporation, and Alex Meade, VP of Sales & Marketing at Beacons Point. Hannah and Alex discuss what inbound marketing is, the steps to getting started, ways to get company buy-in, and how to get the most value out of it.

Alex Meade began his career in film and TV as a Producer and Associate Producer for Original Productions. During his time, he worked on several of the company’s most popular programs including Discovery Channel’s show “Deadliest Catch”. After hauling his fair share of Alaskan crab home from filming, he spent time working as the Lead A/V Editor and Assistant Producer for advertising heavyweight TBWA\Chiat\Day. There he was responsible for overseeing content and creative portions of campaigns for the likes of Nissan, Gatorade, Pepsi, and more. When Alex is not working on client work as the VP of Sales and Marketing at Beacons Point, he’s serving as the Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce and hanging out with his wife, Mary Beth, and dog, Hank.

Hannah Going is an experienced marketing strategist, currently serving as the Director of Marketing at Accel-RF Instruments Corporation. Driven by a desire to modernize the marketing approach in an industry that hasn’t fully embraced inbound marketing, she takes pride in providing creative and efficient strategies that drive growth. Having spent her career in B2B manufacturing organizations in the semiconductor industry, Hannah has a unique perspective on the challenges of marketing to a highly technical engineering audience. Hannah holds a BA in Digital Arts from UCSD and an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Marketing from SDSU. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and two kids, where she spends her free time enjoying San Diego’s beautiful beaches, parks, and hiking trails.

Highlights

00:01:27 - Introductions

00:02:43 - Defining inbound marketing

00:06:37 - Inbound marketing buzzwords explained

00:08:26 - Attract, convert, close, and delight stages of inbound marketing

00:11:09 - How the inbound approach leads buyers to contact a company

00:12:27 - How inbound marketing compares to other marketing approaches

00:16:11 - Inbound marketing as part of a larger toolbox

00:18:35 - Post-event marketing

00:22:48 - User experience as long-term engagement

00:24:17 - Why small and medium-sized manufacturers should consider inbound marketing

00:27:56 - Whether inbound marketing is a good fit for all types of manufacturing

00:29:14 - Using tools can magnify reach and eliminate bottleneck in communication

00:31:18 - Finding internal resources to produce content

00:35:16 - Measures of success of this strategy

00:38:22 - Who to turn to for help

Transcript

Gregg Profozich [00:00:02] In the world of manufacturing change is the only constant. How are small- and medium-sized manufacturers, SMMs, to keep up with new technologies, regulations, and other important shifts let alone leverage them to become leaders in their industries? Shifting Gears, a podcast from CMTC highlights leaders in the modern world of manufacturing from SMMs to consultants to industry experts. Each quarter we go deep into topics pertinent to both operating a manufacturing firm and the industry as a whole. Join us to hear about the manufacturing sectors' latest trends, groundbreaking technologies, and expert insights to help SMMs in California set themselves apart in this exciting modern world of innovation and change. I'm Gregg Profozich, Director of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies at CMTC. I'd like to welcome you. In this episode, I am joined by Hannah Going, Director of Marketing at Accel-RF Instruments Corporation, and Alex Meade, VP of Sales and Marketing at Beacons Point. Hannah and Alex discuss inbound marketing and detail the steps to get started. Hannah offers her insights from a personal experience with inbound marketing and how it's led to higher quality leads and improved sales for her company. Alex and Hannah close with the ways to get company buy-in and how to get the most out of inbound marketing. Welcome, Hannah. It's great to have you here today.

Hannah Going [00:01:21] Thanks, Gregg. Good to be here.

Gregg Profozich [00:01:23] Welcome, Alex. I'm so happy you could join us today.

Alex Meade [00:01:25] Yeah, thanks. Thanks for having us.

Gregg Profozich [00:01:27] Great to have you both here. Before we get started, if you want to just take a minute or two and talk a little bit about what you do at your company, what your company is all about, that would give some context to our listeners. So, Hannah, why don't you go first?

Hannah Going [00:01:38] Sure. Yeah. I work here at Accel-RF Corporation. We're over here in the Kearny Mesa area of San Diego. I've been here...gosh...like seven or eight years, actually, now. I'm Director of Marketing here. Our company is a manufacturer in the semiconductor space. We build test equipment for accelerated life testing that essentially assesses the reliability of semiconductor devices over time. So, we like to say we're technology agnostic, any device technology. But we're working with a lot of semiconductor partners worldwide.

Gregg Profozich [00:02:11] Excellent. Thank you. Thank you. Alex, tell us about yourself and Beacons Point.

Alex Meade [00:02:15] Yeah. My name is Alex Meade, and I'm one of the co-founders here at Beacons Point. We are an inbound and content marketing agency. We do work with manufacturers and software companies in the B2B space providing that understanding of who your customer is, building out that inbound and content strategy, and then implementing and delivering on that strategy to target the right customers with the right content and converting at the right time.

Gregg Profozich [00:02:43] Excellent. Thank you for that. Excited about our conversation today. The topic is inbound marketing. I believe it's particularly relevant in today's world. While it's been around for a number of years, particularly in companies in the direct-to-consumer and service spaces, it has not necessarily reached full adoption in the manufacturing sector. So, to get us started, how do you define inbound marketing? Talk to us about what it is and, maybe more importantly, what it's not.

Alex Meade [00:03:06] Great question. Inbound marketing is something that is relatively new as a tactic. Last 10 years it's really developed into more mainstream, but it's under this idea that a customer goes through what they call a buyer's journey. When you are looking for a product or service, you might come in and not really know anything about the industry or the service that you're looking for, and you start from square one. That's really the awareness stage of this process, where you're trying to learn as much as you can about it. So, that said, you might not really know much about it, but you know it exists; you know you have this problem, and you're trying to solve for it. You go through this buyer's journey, where then it's more of an engage, where it's like, "Now I know I have a problem. I've realized some of the solutions. Now I want to really identify specific companies that have specific solutions that might be good for me." You go through this buyer's journey all the way down to conversion or convert, where you come to make a decision to buy or to engage with a company. Inbound is really creating highly effective and engaging content throughout this buyer's journey to help your customer learn about it, learn about what you do as an overall industry, learn about why you and your services are different, then learn what is the social proof, what are the case studies, show that you know what you're doing. Then how to make them become what we call a promoter in the delight stage, where now that you've become a customer, you want them to tell everybody about you, and tell you how great your services were, and continue to give them tools to better educate themselves and better use your tools or products or come back to purchase often. When you think of inbound, there's an understanding that there's this thing called the buyer's journey. You as a company that's engaging in inbound marketing, it's creating high effective content that is engaging; it's educational; it's valuable. You're really trying to help them in this process. Ultimately, that'll lead to purchasing from your services or hiring you as a company.

Hannah Going [00:05:13] I think from our perspective here for inbound marketing, we talk about they're going to have potential customers looking for us. So, putting out material to them that's educational in nature that will help establish us as a subject matter expert. That's just attractive to them from a learning point of view. That will lead them to our company, and our brand, and solutions for their problems.

Gregg Profozich [00:05:37] Okay, thank you. Thank you, Hannah. Alex, anything to add to that?

Alex Meade [00:05:40] I think oftentimes pre this inbound revolution, it was tactics that were in your face when you didn't want them to be there. Really, inbound is creating content, distributing that content where your potential customers are, and really trying to be helpful first through content.

Gregg Profozich [00:05:59] So, it's not so much sending out ads and trying to get me to buy; it's more trying to engage me if you will. Is that the way it works?

Alex Meade [00:06:05] I think that's a good way to think of it. Manufacturers, they solve something. They're producing something for somebody who needs it. So, there's different cases of how you can engage. But if you've got a product and you're trying to manufacture it, you're going to be looking for someone to solve that. If you can find information about that process, what makes it good, what makes it bad, what makes it more efficient, why nearshore versus offshore, if you can find that education information, you can make more informed decisions, and most likely you're going to go with the person who's been providing that value to you.

Gregg Profozich [00:06:37] Okay, excellent. One hears a lot of buzzwords over time. I'm sure manufacturers that are listening are no exception. Can you contrast for us the similarities and differences between inbound marketing and maybe digital marketing and some of the other buzzwords they may have heard?

Alex Meade [00:06:51] Sure. This is an interesting question because we run into this problem. Oftentimes with our clients, they say digital, we say inbound. Really, the lines mix quite a bit. Digital marketing really refers to anything that's digital. So, content consumed via digital blogs, downloadable PDFs, that's all digital. Putting out Google search ads, Facebook, email marketing, social media, all of that's digital. Inbound, a lot of it takes place online. An event can be part of an inbound campaign. Direct mail can be part of an inbound campaign. So, the lines certainly cross. I think it really comes down to inbound is more of a methodology and a tactic that's part of digital marketing, but it's not necessarily limited to just things digital.

Hannah Going [00:07:40] Yeah. I think the way that we've seen it work for us, as Alex is talking about, folding it in the event space. Coming from an older, more established industry where events used to be a big part of or maybe all of what we did as far as trade shows, and technical conferences, and that kind of thing, the way that we're able to still fold those live events into an overall inbound strategy, I think, makes it a little bit different than just purely digital marketing.

Alex Meade [00:08:05] To add a little bit more there, Hannah reminded me of a few things there. Part of a good inbound campaign oftentimes is social media, digital advertising, Google search. Those things often make an inbound marketing campaign more effective. So, again, those lines are very blurry when it comes to how do you define one or the other.

Gregg Profozich [00:08:26] Excellent. Great point. So, the buyer's journey. If you look out on the internet, you can find the attract, convert, close, and delight stages of inbound marketing. I'd imagine there's different tools that you use and different content that you publish along the way. Can we talk a little about that? Hannah, you can lead this one off, and then give it back to Alex afterwards, on some of the tools you use at different stages and why we would use them, and why they're effective.

Hannah Going [00:08:51] Sure. Yeah. It's another great question. One of the things we actually did in this process really early on was some work on developing buyer personas. That's one of the linchpins of this inbound strategy is that you have to be able to put yourself in your customer's shoes and understand from their point of view what it is they're looking for, what are their pain points, and what are they trying to solve. Every company is going to be a little different in how many different personas you're trying to serve. For us, we had two main ones: a very technical track, where we're talking to engineers and highly educated and highly skilled people who've been in that arena for a long time, and then we also had the company side that was more financially minded. So, we had two tracks of content to work through and develop that were going to appeal to those two different personas at different points along their journey. At the very beginning, we're doing a lot of educational things, awareness pieces. So, things for us that were blogs and that sort of thing that were more explainers and dip your toe in the water of this world where you're still trying to learn about maybe the industry at large and slowly starting to hone in on your pain point and your problems. So, we lead off with a lot of blogs and awareness stuff, maybe short-form video, but nothing that's too technically heavy for us in the early stages. As we work forward, especially in this engineering and technical track, we're going to more tech-heavy pieces, things like white papers, or tech talks, even something like a webinar, where we're really getting more longer form but also just in-depth on heavier technical content to lead people down that education path. We really don't go too far in at this point. One day maybe. The handoff for us as we're moving down that path to get someone that's really, truly ready to purchase or sales qualified, we haven't found a great replacement for our salespeople yet in the digital realm. So, we focus, really, more on this front end of marketing awareness and those technical pieces that will get people to the point to realize we're offering a solution for a problem they need to solve. Then we're comfortable handing off to a person to engage from that point and walk through with our interested contacts at that stage.

Gregg Profozich [00:11:09] Excellent. Excellent. So, you bring up the sales connection. I do want to talk about that a little later in one of the questions we're coming up on. So, as I'm going through my buyer journey, if I'm hearing you both correctly, you're going to be publishing content that is going to engage with me and help, number one, give me an awareness more about this industry or more about this solution. Then as I move closer to that, you're going to draw me through interactions with your website, interactions with emails you might send, interactions with other kinds of content you might put out so that I can figure out if you're a good fit, to get me to engage further, and really make the connections of why what you offer is a great solution. I come to the answer on my own then, right? It's not, "Gregg, you need to buy this." You're saying, "Hey, we've got some great stuff. Let us educate you a little bit about this." The more I learn, the more connected I am. Is that the approach I'm hearing?

Alex Meade [00:11:58] Yeah. I think you came to a great summary on that. What Hannah said. Buyer personas is really what dictates the entire inbound strategy, from what content you create, from how you communicate. Maybe it's an email; maybe it's a text message; maybe it's on a forum. It really just depends on who you're targeting, what their preferences are, what their habits are, what their biggest challenges are. Then you create that content and distribute it and deliver it how they will mostly engage.

Gregg Profozich [00:12:27] Okay. There have been a number of marketing approaches that have been used over the years and lots of different techniques that have been employed in various ways over time. How is inbound marketing different than those other approaches? I think we just started to touch on it, but let's go a little more in-depth into that of what the strategy or the philosophy of inbound marketing is.

Alex Meade [00:12:44] For me, I think of it as look, there's a lot of noise in this industry. There's a lot of people saying things, or there's a lot of people looking for answers, and I want to help them find the right answer. Most businesses have buyer personas, and they have their ICPs. What that is, that's an ideal customer profile. Ideal customer profiles are really built... Most sales teams have those identified. It's a way to define who they're targeting. So, that might be manufacturers with a specific code or with a specific industry type, with revenue or headcount capacity, someone that would be an ideal fit for their product or services. You don't work with everybody. We at Beacons Point don't work with just everybody. We have a very select few industries that we work with. By doing that we know what to say; we know how to go about that, and we know how to be helpful. There's no wrong combination of types of marketing services that can benefit a business. It's really never one-size-fits-all. I think a lot of companies hear inbound and think, "Well, I don't want to go inbound, because this service also works for us." I think one of those misconceptions of inbound is that it's just purely writing content and creating white papers, but it's really more of a methodology of help first and sell second, where more of a traditional sense is how do I convince them to buy versus how do I give them tools for them to be educated, and be better at their jobs, or help that business first?

Gregg Profozich [00:14:22] So, it sounds like more of a partnership philosophy.

Hannah Going [00:14:26] Yeah, yeah.

Gregg Profozich [00:14:27] Hannah, anything to add to that?

Hannah Going [00:14:29] Yeah. I think just a little on the business perspective of it. I think maybe uniquely for us as a small business manufacturer — and maybe I'm talking to a lot of people here who are in that same realm — the inbound methodology and the way that it's wrapped up with digital marketing tools and strategy was a big leap for us as far as modernization. We didn't really have access to a lot of metrics, data analytics on any of the efforts we were doing prior to jumping into this world. There were a lot of dollars maybe spent on industry publication advertising or events but not a clear way to show any link of what that money was doing for you. Maybe from a trade show, you had a list of leads, but you didn't really have a lot of attention paid to what stage those leads were in if they were ever going to turn into dollars, who did we reach, who opened this email. Even things as simple as that that we didn't have visibility into prior to jumping into this digital world. Then also from a small business point of view, here I'm a one-person marketing department. The reach we can have through some of these platforms now and the way that we can appear as a larger company who is making a lot more touches with customers than one person would ever be able to do manually is really huge. I know customers who learn about us and come to us and then realize that we're actually a 15-person show here are always floored that we're able to have the reach and communication breadth that we do with so few people. So, the way that we're able to leverage our marketing spend in this world is a big asset to us as a small company.

Gregg Profozich [00:16:11] It sounds like you've had some great results. Okay. So, inbound marketing sounds like a very useful tool in the marketer's toolbox. Does it replace all the others, or is it part of a larger whole? How does it fit in with things small manufacturers might already be doing now?

Hannah Going [00:16:25] Yeah. It's a really good question. It's certainly not a replacement for us. When you're in an industry that's been operating a certain way for decades, you're not going to replace face-to-face relationships and touches with a wholly digital platform. We've got a lot of people that we talk with that have been in industry 40, 50 years. So, this world to them it's very different. We still are very much reliant on some of our events and technical conferences, especially because we're always trying to reach a very engineering-heavy audience. Those are folks that like to get in a room and take a class that's in conjunction with a trade show. So, all of that stuff is still in place for us. We've folded more of the digital strategy and the inbound methodology around all of it. What it does help us do is tighten up our reporting and our analytics that are available from those events, because we're able to promote more heavily in a way that we couldn't before. We're able to analyze after the fact what worked and what didn't. It just raised our game, I would say, folding this in around all of the older stuff that we did do, that we're still doing. But now that we have this digital piece in play and inbound methodology working for us, we can really put the missing pieces in that buyer journey around the events to try to make sure we're leading people down the path that we want to be leading them.

Gregg Profozich [00:17:45] So, the events, the in-person events actually become opportunities for continuing someone down the buyer journey. I'd imagine you're collecting names and contact information and then doing follow-ups after an event, something like that. Is that how it works, how it's integrated?

Hannah Going [00:18:01] Yeah, yeah, absolutely, whereas before, the calendar focused around an event a quarter or whatever it was, and it wasn't really part of a larger strategy. This has really made us think from that 30,000-foot view about where does this event fit, who are we trying to reach, what do we really want to get out of it. That attention and focus is big. Just the ability to continually lead those people to something when we're not in the event and not in front of them face-to-face to get them to the next stage, that's when inbound content can really help fill in.

Gregg Profozich [00:18:35] So, what would that look like in a tangible example? I come to one of your events as an engineer. I attend one of your breakout sessions and learn the details and the technical aspects of a certain aspect of your technology or of the industry. Two weeks later I get an email with a white paper type of thing. Is that we're talking about, other things of interest around that kind of affinity or that kind of domain expertise?

Hannah Going [00:18:57] Yeah, that's absolutely the idea. We just had one of our first virtual events just a couple of weeks ago. So, there is a list of people that — unfortunately, it wasn't a face-to-face thing — visited with us during that conference. So, I got an email list from the organizers of that event with, "Here are your leads." We do it the same way as if it were an in-person event that we used to do. We're able to reach out to those people in a more targeted way after the fact because we know that they visited us at this conference. So, we can make mention of something that we either talked about there; we can follow-up with some targeted information that we didn't necessarily hand over in the context of the trade show that is something new. We'll just say, "Hey, we talked about this solution. Here's another follow-up white paper or article that we wrote about this," and feed them the next thing in the stage, since it's getting them closer to realizing, "Hey, my problem has this solution, and these are the guys that know about it."

Gregg Profozich [00:19:56] So, it's further participation, engaging in a conversation not just in person but also digital white papers, email, any various forms of communication, right?

Hannah Going [00:20:06] Absolutely. Yeah.

Gregg Profozich [00:20:08] Excellent. Excellent. So, Alex, Hannah is talking to us about the specifics at Accel-RF. You work with a number of different clients. Any other examples like that? Or maybe talk about the power and the value of the approach that she's employing with some of your other clients, as well.

Alex Meade [00:20:23] Yeah. The example Hannah gave I think is a great example. It doesn't matter what industry you're in. It doesn't matter if it's manufacturing or software. These events, both in-person and now virtual, have been happening for a long time. Previously, if someone went to an event and you didn't have necessarily a good track record with them, you would just send them your generic package of this is who we are and what we do. But if you know what event they went to, you know what breakout session they were at, what that topic was, you now can extrapolate what their interests were, what level they're at, and you can send them information that is more relevant to what they're looking for and giving them the right information at the right time for them to take the next step or to realize maybe this isn't the right path. Both cases are a win that you can allow people to identify their needs and challenges on their own. With inbound one thing that's not always discussed as part of an inbound methodology that Hannah touched on is the data collection and information collection. There's data — what ads do they click on; do they have deals in the pipeline; has sales reached out to them — but there's also information of what articles did they look at, what topics are those under. The attribution of a lead doesn't go in a straight line like we all put the diagram for. It usually bounces around to 15 to 20 different touchpoints, going up, going back, reading an article, going to an event, reading a blog, engaging on social media, replying back to an email, and ultimately, filling out a different form with a different person within your company. So, touching on that, knowing where they were, what event, what virtual, what in-person, you can provide more value that will be a better customer experience for them. The next iteration of inbound is this idea of customer experience. If you go to an event, and it's about a specific topic, and you send something that is so out of the blue that's not relevant to them, that's a turn-off because they don't think you know what their needs are, and that's not a very personalized approach. So, with inbound, with good data collection, with good CRM systems, that amplifies the ability of content and inbound.

Gregg Profozich [00:22:48] So, Alex, you're talking about the user experience a little. I want to expand on that. As I'm listening to the both of you talk about the specifics of this, I'm thinking I went to a trade show. I attended your event. Yeah, we exchanged business cards. If a week later I get a phone call from you, it becomes a binary thing. I'm either ready to buy or I'm not. So, if you do the follow-up phone call and I'm not ready to buy, then it's really hard to do anything more after that because it ends the relationship. But if you send me content, and keep engaging with me, and give me opportunities to learn more about you, you're keeping me warm until I'm ready, if you will, or keeping me engaged with you until I'm ready. It sounds like that's really what the strategy is all about. That's the end goal is that longer-term engagement. Trying to force a close on somebody who's not quite ready can get you some results sometimes, but it's not necessarily the best experience for the buyer, and it doesn't necessarily build a long-term strong relationship.

Alex Meade [00:23:45] Yeah. There's a time to sell; there's a time to close. But most of the time, people, especially manufacturing and a lot of other businesses, the sales cycles are not short. They're not a couple days, couple weeks; they're usually a couple months if not a couple years. It's really staying valuable, staying in contact, and staying relevant in their eyes so when it is time to make that decision, you're already top of mind for them. I think what you were just talking about and describing is part of that strategy.

Gregg Profozich [00:24:17] Excellent. Excellent. That makes a lot of sense. It makes a lot of sense. So, okay, tell us a little bit about what in the inbound marketing approach makes it something that small- and mid-sized manufacturers, in particular, should be looking into, because it's not necessarily the traditional way that most manufacturers have gone to market in the past. What about it is particularly powerful or valuable to them?

Hannah Going [00:24:37] I touched on that maybe a little bit before in talking about the business case for us and why this is so important and powerful. Just what you can do in the inbound and digital worlds that used to take a whole team of people that you can do with a smaller staff in a more targeted approach, not spinning your wheels and wasting things that you know aren't returning results. So, some of it is just that visibility, and that loop, and being able to go through your own analytics and understand what's working and what's not, and redeploying those efforts into things that are working. I think for us in that small to midsize world we don't have the bandwidth to call each person after a trade show, for example, and say, "Hey, it was great meeting you." But what we can do in this inbound world and in the digital world is make our communications feel personalized, still, to those people, because we can select certain things that we're going to send to follow up based on actions that they've taken previously. We are spending a lot of effort really diving in and understanding each lead, where they fall in our buyer journey that we've set up. The idea that you're really just putting yourself in the customer's shoes and understanding that you're not wanting to just spam them with stuff and reach them at a point when they're not ready. But the whole idea of just nurturing them along with the appropriate content at the right times for them to be learning and continue to keep you top of mind but also not having to spend a lot of manpower to do that, just because there's so many automated tools and things available to help you execute on that kind of strategy.

Gregg Profozich [00:26:10] Okay. Alex, anything to add there?

Alex Meade [00:26:12] We're on the edge of the pandemic, almost getting back to normal. It's changed buyers; it's changed businesses, and there's a lot of things that aren't going to go back to where they were. I think as buyers change, as companies change, it's progress. How you market, and how you sell, and how you do your business has to evolve. That's always a thing. The companies that last a long time find ways to evolve and change. I think that goes the same with marketing. There's a new generation of people doing business. They're using the internet; they're googling; they're doing their research; they're asking friends and referrals. A lot of that has to do with if you recommend something, you go straight to the internet and google that. I think businesses have the right knowledge to be helpful and to show off their business and their skill sets. With inbound and content marketing you have this ability to do that at a relatively low cost that stays there and continues to work as long as that is a relevant topic. If you spend $5,000 a month on Google advertising, as soon as you turn it off, you're not getting any more leads from that. It's done. But if you spend money to create value-based content that has staying power or needs updating every few years, that content is going to continue to produce based on the strategy of keywords. So, thinking about it as a long-term strategy, content is something that continues to grow. I think that's starting to creep into all industries, not just tech, not just software. I think it's really reaching into this manufacturing space, as well.

Gregg Profozich [00:27:56] Excellent. Thank you for that. So, Alex, like all other tools they have an application to a specific problem. Inbound marketing is a tool in the toolkit. It can work great in certain situations, maybe not so great in other situations. Other types of manufacturing companies that inbound marketing is probably not a really strong fit for, or does it apply generally across all of manufacturing?

Alex Meade [00:28:16] That is a good question. I don't know if it's type of manufacturing as it is type of company. If it was a small team with no marketing department, inbound, that's a little bit harder to implement. For inbound to work you need to have some sort of marketing mind, marketing strategist to be there. I think I can argue the case that any business needs content and inbound. It might not need the full scope of inbound. It might need just awareness; it might need awareness and attract. But every business is going to need content marketing in the future. The Google algorithms are changing; advertising policies are changing, and you won't be able to be as targeted with your Google ads in the future. But content and value-based content will still be high ranking. So, it's still going to be valuable for everybody.

Gregg Profozich [00:29:02] So, pretty much applicable to certain degrees to any manufacturer is what I hear you say.

Alex Meade [00:29:07] Yeah. If you think about the core of inbound, it's value-based educational content. I think every business could benefit from that.

Gregg Profozich [00:29:14] Yeah. So, to go back to the trade show example, I collect 200 business cards. I can't call 200 people tomorrow or even the next day. It may take me two or three weeks to get through that whole list and to actually talk to them, and then it's three-week-old information. But I can send an email thanking them and saying, "Hey, click here to see more about this." I can send that the next day. Using these tools can really magnify my reach and take the human being out of being the bottleneck in the communication and allow the conversation to go much quicker.

Alex Meade [00:29:45] Let's take a step further than that. You collect 200 business cards. Out of those 200 people let's say 50 of them — 25 percent — go, "You know what? Accel-RF does look like something I could benefit from. I'm interested." You go to their website, and all of a sudden, they have the ability to read more and learn more. There's extra resources; there's additional blogs; there's video content; there's things that are actually helpful to that person. Now they're going to reach out. You don't even have to reach out to them. I think the idea of inbound, often people say, "Well, we're an outbound sales org; we don't do inbound." The way I see it — and I think a lot of companies are starting to realize this — when you have a strong inbound, your outbound becomes more effective. If you guys ever get a cold email and you click on a link, if it's something valuable, and you see the trust, you see case studies, then you reply. I think a good inbound is helpful to a good outbound strategy, as well.

Gregg Profozich [00:30:45] So, if I've never heard of your company before yesterday at the trade show, if I go on your website and there's almost nothing there, I don't have necessarily a lot of credibility, but if there's a lot of content there and you're all around the space that I'm going to have a problem in, it sounds like you guys have some real capabilities here. You've got the credibility or gravitas that, "Okay. Yeah, I want to engage with you more, because you might be the solution to my problem." So, that digital presence magnifies that one-on-one interaction from traditional marketing and sales techniques is what I hear you say.

Alex Meade [00:31:18] Yeah.

Gregg Profozich [00:31:18] Excellent. Excellent. Okay. So, if I'm a small or midsize manufacturer, internally within my organization I need to find people to engage and buy into the process because I have to have them help me create the content. It's not just going to be the marketer who's writing the blogs, and the white papers, and all those things, that piece. What's that journey like? What's that experience like? Hannah, you're probably a little closer to this, probably having experienced it directly. Maybe you want to talk about that one first and let Alex go after that.

Hannah Going [00:31:46] Yeah. It is a challenge. That is something to be aware of and to analyze yourself as an organization before you're going to dive in here of where you are in your ability to create content. That was, honestly, one of the big worries for me going into this. Just knowing that we try to reach such a highly technical audience, that me as a non-engineering background marketer, I have no way of faking that knowledge. So, if I'm going to talk to them one-on-one, sure, I can tell them about our company, I can tell them about our product, but within a matter of minutes, we're going to get to a technical level that's over my head. So, in trying to create content, I can help and assist with blogs, but I'm not going to be able to write a white paper for our organization. That's going to require one of our engineers, one of our CTOs, our CEO. Because we're such a small company, it gets up to the top of that pyramid pretty quick of whose time you're asking for in creating the content. But I will say that there are a lot of very creative ways, once we do have the right person to answer the technical challenge, that we've been able to capture content and deploy it, and redeploy it, and refactor it, and deploy it again into different formats and make it really work for us in a lot of different ways. One of the very smart things we do is we record calls, and take transcripts, and can employ a team of writers to dive in on those, which Beacons Point helps us do, and take a transcript with our CEO where we went through talking about a technical challenge or a product use case. That can be spun into a white paper that then we're only working on the editing of that draft. We've recorded videos, and we've used those in a bunch of different ways into smaller snippets or a larger format, longer things that are more technically heavy. We've also taken those very technical pieces and spun them the other way, taking them back out to a more simple blog as an intro to that technical topic. So, I will say yes, it is a challenge when you're trying to reach a technical audience and you don't have a huge staff of technical writers to do that. But there are a lot of creative ways that we've gotten around it and worked on using those pieces that we do get and using them across different formats like I said, and deploying them in different places along the buyer's journey or keeping them on our website as lead capture offers. It's working for us. As we develop each piece, we know it's something that's good; it's solid; it's going to be there. As Alex was talking about, longevity of these things. These are not things that need to be refreshed every 60, 90 days; these are things that are going to last for a couple years before we really have to go in and do any major overhaul. So, I'm not going to lie and say that the technical stuff is not a hurdle, but we've been real creative, I think, in the ways that we've gotten around that.

Gregg Profozich [00:34:35] Yeah. I think that repurposing you're talking about is hugely important. We do that a lot here at CMTC. We'll do webinars. Since COVID started we've done a lot of webinars on workplace safety and many different aspects of how to be resilient through the pandemic. A lot of those turn into blogs or white papers. You can take the transcript and then generalize it a little bit and publish it a different way. So, maybe you've got somebody who does not come to your website and see to sign up for the webinar, but they do see your blog post because they're connected to you on LinkedIn. So, it's just another avenue, another opportunity for a touch and for that impression that you're trying to get to start that engagement conversation. I think that's what I hear you saying there. I think it's really powerful.

Hannah Going [00:35:14] Yeah. 

Gregg Profozich [00:35:16] So, Alex, I'll ask you this one as we're wrapping up with the last couple of questions here. What should I expect if I'm a small or midsized manufacturer and I go down this inbound journey? What should I expect to see six months in or a year into using inbound? How is my business going to change? What are the measures of success?

Alex Meade [00:35:34] In a year if you are consistently creating content, whether that be in the form of webinars, videos, articles, podcasts, or a combination of those pieces, I think you can expect to see... Obviously, one metric that we start with is your website traffic. It should go up 20 percent, 15 percent. All those numbers really depend on your industry and search volume. So, it really depends on a lot of information, too. You want to start to see are you getting more opportunities in the pipeline? A lot of marketers go straight to they should be leads, MQLs, SQLs, which are good things to track. An MQL is a marketing-qualified lead. That's usually somebody who has engaged with either a level of content — so, maybe a webinar that's very important or the number of pieces that they have. Oftentimes it can be a lead scoring system that moves someone from a lead to an MQL. An SQL is a sales-qualified lead, which is more of sales has identified this person as qualified. You should really start to see are we seeing our deals, and opportunities and revenue going up without putting all those other things in place? If you're just creating high-quality content and you're getting it in front of the right people and the right audience, you should start to see some revenue trickle up. That could be from your sales team. That's the thing with inbound and content marketing. Yes, you can track it all, but that doesn't mean they don't talk to a salesperson ever. Hannah and Accel-RF, that's not something that's digitized, and it shouldn't be. It's very technical, and things have to be discussed. Especially in manufacturing — plan, samples. If someone came to your blog and visited three blogs and then called someone, that's a business win; that's not necessarily marketing claims. It's sales claims. That's the revenue system working. So, I think really just trying to get in a process of creating more content, getting it published to where your audience is, you'll start to see your website trickle up, you'll start to see if you have it gated, more forms filled out, more leads. Ultimately, the end goal, you should start to see a revenue increase from your activities. If you haven't, a lot of people like to give up after six months or three months, but it takes a while for Google to index a lot of the stuff you're creating. It does take time for it to kick in and get traction. You also need to make sure you know who your buyers are. Hannah mentioned the buyer personas. It's important to know your buyer personas because if you don't, you could be creating content that's not relevant or helpful to your actual customer even though you think it is. So, there's a lot of things that can go wrong with it or that you think can go wrong with it. Creating value-based content is going to help in your process.

Gregg Profozich [00:38:22] It all makes good sense. So, I guess the last question here before we sum things up is: if I'm a small or midsize manufacturer, this might be a little outside my domain of expertise. I started the business because I have expertise as an engineer, or a metal bender in plastics or whatever industry, food production, whatever industry I'm in. If I need help, are there organizations that I can partner with to help me get the most out of an inbound marketing strategy?

Hannah Going [00:38:45] Both you guys. Call Beacons Point, because that'll get you off the ground. That's how we ended up with this. We were always looking for grant dollars in the marketing world and trying to figure out can we get something moving and off the ground. I guess it helps a little bit I had some bit of a marketing background on my side.

Alex Meade [00:39:07] There's a lot of resources out there online. We're a HubSpot partner agency. HubSpot has a tremendous amount of what they call their academy content. You can learn about what is inbound, learn about content, learn about social media, learn about email marketing. There's, I think, over 100 topics now of content that's around inbound and content marketing that you can learn from to get ideas how to create a strategy, how to create personas. Everything that you would need to know is there at that HubSpot Academy.

Gregg Profozich [00:39:38] HubSpot, of course, being the website platform provider, right?

Alex Meade [00:39:42] Yeah. CRM, marketing, sales tools.

Gregg Profozich [00:39:45] Okay. So, to summarize, if I can, inbound marketing is really about understanding the buyer's journey. You start off with putting yourself in the shoes of your customers and developing a persona. These are the types of people that we think are a good fit for our product or our service, and here's who we're going to go after in terms of trying to engage with them. So, we go through that buyer's journey of attracting and converting, and closing, and delighting using the inbound tools. It's talk about engaging through content. So, the idea isn't to say, "Hey, I've got a great solution for your problem. Here it is. Buy it;" it's, "Hey, I know a lot about this topic, and I've got a lot of solutions. So, let's see how we're a good fit for you and how we can help you to solve the problems that you have." So, it's more of a partner collaboration philosophy than a direct sales, hard close philosophy. So, as part of an overall strategy, it doesn't replace traditional marketing methods. Trade shows and events will still happen. As a matter of fact, it goes hand in hand with those, because it could offer some tools for how to more effectively and in a more targeted way follow up with leads that you might develop through those kinds of events. Then we talked a little bit about the pandemic effects and the fact that the nature of work and the nature of go-to-market approaches has fundamentally changed. A lot of the world has functioned for the past year or so in a virtual space and doing things from a distance, doing things over virtual meetings. So, that's probably not going away. These tools equip you in a unique way to be able to participate in that new virtual go-to-market portion of what's going to be happening in the economy. It won't replace everything, but it's a portion of it. There are lots of opportunities that come out of having an inbound marketing approach--drive much more traffic to your website and interactions but also getting into different kinds of leads that can get produced and that turn into real sales and impact your revenues fairly quickly. There's also opportunities, I think from what we talked about, for repurposing content. If I do a webinar, I can turn it into an eBook, or a blog, or a white paper, also, and use the same piece of content two and three and four times in two and three and four vehicles to reach a broader audience, to try to reach people in whatever channel is their preferred channel of interacting and learning. So, those are the key takeaways that I got from this. Did I miss anything, Alex or Hannah?

Hannah Going [00:41:56] I think you summed it up well. Not a bit.

Alex Meade [00:41:58] Yeah. I wish I said that as quick and eloquent as you did.

Gregg Profozich [00:42:03] Well, I had two very good teachers to listen to. I think you guys did a great job. I really want to thank you both for joining me today and for sharing your perspectives and insights with me and with our listeners.

Hannah Going [00:42:14] Thanks for having me. That was great. Thank you.

Alex Meade [00:42:16] Yeah, thank you.

Gregg Profozich [00:42:17] To our listeners, I'd like to thank you for joining us for this conversation with Alex Meade and Hannah Going on digital and inbound marketing. Thank you so much. Have a great day. Stay safe and healthy. Thank you for listening to Shifting Gears — a podcast from CMTC. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with others and post it on your social media platforms. You can subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your preferred podcast directory. For more information on our topic, please visit www.cmtc.com/shiftinggears. CMTC is a private nonprofit organization that provides technical assistance, workforce development, and consulting services to small- and medium-sized manufacturers throughout the state of California. CMTC's mission is to serve as a trusted advisor, providing solutions that increase the productivity and competitiveness of California's manufacturers. CMTC operates under a cooperative agreement for the state of California with the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (MEP) at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology within the Department of Commerce. For more information about CMTC please visit www.cmtc.com. For more information about the MEP National Network, or to find your local MEP center visit www.nist.gov/mep.

Topics: Sales and Marketing

Tell Us What You Think