Out with the old, in with the new!
In the wake of today's web savvy entrepreneurs, social media-frenzy Vayniacs and full-time bloggers, "inbound marketing" has recently emerged as a way for businesses to generate inbound leads using the Internet.
This creates a huge opportunity for account managers and veterans in our industry alike to embrace this new form of marketing for generating new business.
Over the past 12 months you may have noticed a huge surge in web marketing within our industry. (I certainly have.) Last year Xerox was the only company who understood how to leverage Google AdWords. This year, Ricoh's Laserfiche banners and Kyocera's display ads show up on almost every website I visit. Dealers are updating their websites and most of the big players are using Twitter to further engage with their audience.
Thanks to pioneers such as Dealer Marketing having great success (Darrell Amy is a great guy), more and more people want a piece of the action offering dealerships blogging and social media services.
In this blog post I'm going to shed light on the truth about inbound marketing within our industry. As an ex-affiliate marketer, blogger and social media enthusiast, I feel I have the experience and the expertise to share with you what you can really expect from your efforts... And why for the sake of our industry you should jump on this bandwagon.
Copiers Are Always An Afterthought.
One of my first sales managers taught me that no one ever wakes up and thinks, "I feel like buying a new copier today!"
Our industry is primarily driven through cold calling and always will because it is the most effective way to engage with key decision makers about the benefits of replacing their old print technology. No matter how hard you fight it or how many base customers you have, your income is reflective of your prospecting efforts. I've studied the best in our industry and they all say that having the discipline to prospect daily is the #1 key to long-term success.
Take it from me: I've invested dozens of hours into inbound marketing trying to get inbound leads when I should have been out cold calling. Just like writing proposals, inbound marketing should be done off-hours. Using blogs and social media to connect with your customers will not pay off with free, qualified leads. However, it does pay off with Personal Branding.
MPS Is Not The Saviour. Personal Branding Is.
When Managed Print Services was introduced, it was believed to be the savior of our industry. Hardware sales were in a decline (and still are), so dealerships had to create new revenue streams to increase profits.
When I first started with Canon, our training was to pitch solutions. So I cold-called with eCopy PDF Pro Office demos on my USB stick and talked about how our managed print software could effectively reduce your print costs by 50%.
UniFlow is great software, but it's hard to compete with it when your local dealership is up against you with Papercut, hardware at wholesale pricing and a cost per copy of $0.006 fix for 5 years. In the end, customers just want cheap boxes.
So why did we start pitching software and MPS in the first place? It was a value-add... a consultative approach to winning business by developing more TRUST with the buyer.
You all know Sales 101...
#1 Buyers decide to make a purchasing decision when the VALUE of your product or service is worth more to them than the PRICE.
#2 Buyers use TRUST to choose between similar valued products. When TRUST is missing, buyers use PRICE to choose.
Personal Branding allows you to build TRUST with your prospects by being able to refer them to your blog/website that contains a wealth of valuable, educational information. In your customers' eyes, this situates you as an industry expert...a trusted adviser. Following your customers on Twitter or LinkedIn continues your relationship with them outside of the "sales cycle" by taking an interest in their activities. Think of re-tweeting your customer's morning breakfast tweet as one more "touch point."
This is not new stuff. Business has always been built on successful relationships. Twitter, LinkedIn and Blogging are just new media platforms for doing this.
Customers want boxes. But they want to trust their sales rep to choose the right box for them. If all car sales people and real estate agents were as sleazy as their reputation, those industries would not exist. With Personal Branding, our industry can rebuild trust and reputation.
So How Do I Start Using Inbound Marketing?
Step One: Build a Wordpress website. There are two types of Wordpress blogs you can build, Wordpress.com and Wordpress.org. A Wordpress.com blog is hosted by Wordpress and has a web domain of www.yourblogsite.wordpress.com. A Wordpress.org blog allows you to host your own web domain and offers greater customization of your website. Save yourself the cost of using a web developer and head on over to Studiopress.com for a list of professional designs you can use. My blog cost me $50 and about 10 hours of work to design in full.
Step Two: Find out where your customers are. In our industry, LinkedIn and Twitter will be your biggest platforms for connecting with decision makers.
Step Three: Spice up your Social Media profiles. Make sure they are filled out completely and that you have a professional-looking picture of your face showing.
Step Four: Follow your customers on Twitter and connect with them on LinkedIn. "Listen" to what your customers are saying and build relationships with them by engaging with conversations about the content they post.
Step Five: Write blog posts on your website designed to engage with your customers. Make your content interesting and valuable. For example, answer questions that your customers ask you. Or write about success stories and case studies.
Step Six: Share your blog post links across your social media profiles.
That's it! By combining Content + Customer Interaction you will slowly, overtime, become a more reputable face amongst your key clients.
- Use a combination of Push and Pull marketing. Listen to what your customers are saying on social media, but don't be afraid to self promote either.
- If you want more followers on Twitter, follow others to get them to follow you. More followers equals more impressions when you post your blog post links.
- Show your face on your social media profiles and on your website. Show customers online that you are a real person.
- Be different. If your competitors are already blogging, try using YouTube.
- Let loose the professionalism and be authentic. Greg Walters is very good at doing this. I don't golf, so I talk about UFC with my customers. Being a chameleon is overrated.
Tools and Resources
ReciteThis - Create beautiful looking quotes to better engage with your customers through pictures. Pictures are proven to help increase clicks to your blog post.
Fiverr - You can buy any product for $5 here, from SEO services to graphic design. Highly recommended.
Gary Vaynerchuk's YouTube Channel - The CEO of VaynerMedia and THE foremost authority on social media for businesses today.
BlueHost - Create your own Wordpress blog in under 5 minutes.
Aweber - Create "optins" so that you can begin collecting email addresses for email marketing purposes.
Did you like what you read?
These are the fundamentals of Inbound Marketing. If you have questions about getting started or my experiences with Inbound Marketing, please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.