Beer & Blog: Growing Tech Companies through Inbound Marketing, with Chris Bihary

Posted by Michele Nichols on Tue, Aug 16, 2016

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Chris Bihary, CEO and Co-Founder of Garland Technology, sat down with Michele Nichols in downtown Buffalo, near Garland’s new headquarters, right in the middle of Buffalo’s revival.

Chris shared the results of a shift to inbound marketing strategy and the ramifications on the rest of his business.

 

Michele: What was the trigger to move to HubSpot and an inbound strategy?

Chris: Two years ago, I was reading a book on inbound marketing on a plane back from Germany, and by the time I got off the plane, I was pumped to get started.

We sell to systems engineers, network engineers, and IT architects. By nature, these customers want to do the research and find their own solution, own it and recommend it for their companies. This is a perfect storm for inbound.

In my prior company, we used a traditional sales model—10 outside sales people who developed and grew their own territories, and one part time marketing person who doubled as our admin. Things have changed, though. People are so busy—they don’t want to be sold to. At Garland, we had the opportunity to do things differently. Garland Technology manufactures network access and security products for complex networks. Our network TAPs are highly technical products designed for a well-educated customer.

 

How did you get started with HubSpot inbound marketing?

We started by defining customer personas and ‘mystery shopping’ competitors. We worked with an agency to get started, but after onboarding, we realized we weren’t getting the technical content we needed. Rich, on-point educational content has really been the defining success factor for us.


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What kind of growth have you seen with HubSpot?

It’s been two years since we implemented HubSpot, and we’ve grown from 500 visitors a month to 5000+. Our leads are up substantially, and we know where each lead comes from, allowing us to optimize our website and marketing channels for conversion. I’m a huge advocate of the inbound philosophy.

At the end of year one, we were seeing traffic growth and leads, but hadn’t yet integrated marketing with sales. I almost think it’s a three-year cycle:

Year one: Get up to the plate—define and begin to execute your marketing/content strategy.

Year two: Figure out what to do with the leads—integrate with sales.

Year three: Knock it out of the park—create true alignment.

The real problem with defining ROI from HubSpot or any marketing is that most organizations don’t have any data to start. We certainly brought in enough business to break even on marketing that first year, but 2017 will let us see how profitable. We implemented the HubSpot CRM and did a lot of work in aligning sales processes for lead follow-up. We’re even integrating HubSpot with our ERP system for true visibility into customer lifecycle revenue dollars.

 

What are your biggest lessons learned?

  • Smart content wins. We’re blogging two times a week now and have finally built up a library of quality white papers.
  • Pick up the goddamn phone. Lead follow-up is critical.
  • Timing is everything. No matter how strong the relationship, the company needs to have a project underway. Inbound helps you find the projects and nurture the customer when there aren’t current projects.
  • Be patient and ride the wave. You’ve got to build up content, optimize it and refresh it.
  • Get intelligent with the data. What’s resonating? Why did it work? What are your KPIs?
  • Inbound alone won’t do it. In this industry, tradeshows and email marketing are still important—leverage all your activities.
  • Figure it out. The data is now available—you don’t have to guess.
  • Pick the right partner—long-term attention and accountability for results are important.
  • Know your audience. Ours is 90% male, and we can be edgy and fun and different from our competitors by appealing to their sense of humor.
  • Integration is the missing link. The HubSpot CRM is the best salesforce automation tool on the market that no one knows about—and it’s free.

How has this shift changed your sales model?

Ask any CEO or head of sales—if you can go from 10% right to 40% right, you’re golden. Inbound lets us do that, to talk with prospects when they’re interested. It makes our sales efforts so much more efficient—who to call, and when to call.

an aerospace company hit our site a few times, and when we were alerted that they were looking at a particular product in that moment, we reached out. They were actually using our specs to create an RFQ that we wouldn’t have ever known about. That ended up being a $40k deal.

We got a lead in Europe who purchased about $60k worth of equipment because of our professionalism and credibility. We never spoke due to language barriers, but our website, content and email exchanges were deciding factors for him.

Inbound has changed our sales processes—we’ve moved to a team approach, and we are not as reliant on the ‘hunter’. We’re able to use more mid-level salespeople instead of relying on highly compensated sales people with their own rolodex.

We measure marketing and sales success by one KPI: How many Design IT meetings did you book?

Our delivery model has changed, too. Without as many face-to-face meetings, our new headquarters is set up for great white board video meetings so that we can review and deliver network infrastructure drawings, engineer to engineer.

 

Chris, thanks so much. See you at Inbound in Boston this fall, and we are looking forward to watching your growth!

 


Tasting Notes: Check out Big Ditch Brewing in the Delaware and Chippewa area of downtown Buffalo, near Garland’s new headquarters.

 

Topics: Inbound Marketing, Sales, HubSpot, Beer & Blog (interviews)