Though Launch Team has been presenting at Photonics West for the past five years on the topics of sales and marketing, the questions that we are asked are a bit different each year. Many of these questions relate back to the topic of inbound marketing. This concept addresses the tremendous increase in online research that is done by the buyer before they engage with your company on an individual level. In order to be found by or attract leads who are searching for technical information, and to nurture these leads to a point of readiness and beat out the competition for the sale, technical content has become almost essential to success.
The questions below cover those asked in our 2018 Photonics West session. However, if you want to jump right into how to create technical content, take a look at this blog post:
How do we start creating effective content without diverting too much energy away from the things that are already working?
Be systematic and approach changes to your marketing strategy the same way you approach engineering problems: research, hypothesize, experiment. Set aside a part of your marketing budget for testing new ideas. It should only be a small part of your budget, but by doing so, you give yourself the freedom to pursue boldly creative ideas without jeopardizing your existing strategy. While experimenting with website content or structure, use “A/B testing” in which inbound viewers randomly see different versions of the site. Using this method, you can quantitatively ascertain which changes are most effective. Based upon those metrics, shift spending away from methods that are becoming less effective and toward new or alternate methods that are working better.
What website metrics should we be tracking and what tools should we use?
Finding the right marketing performance indicators can be challenging for many teams. The most important thing to track is conversion rate. You need to understand the quality of the traffic rather than just the volume. Ideally, each page should have an obvious next step. If you do not know what you want your visitor to do next and measure the rate of that activity accordingly, it's hard to measure your own website's success. For a company selling catalog products, a purchase is usually the most desirable outcome, and that is the conversion you should be tracking. However, for most of the companies we work with, lead generation is the desirable conversation. The key to encouraging interaction with your site is to offer lead-generating content that is valuable to the visitor.
If you happen to be monitoring your website as it relates to digital ad campaigns, you once again want to be sure you are tracking not just volume but quality of visitors. You will want to drill down to specific traffic sources and see how much time those visitors are spending on your site and how many pages they are visiting.
What kind of content is most effective?
The correct content depends on the activity or conversion you are trying to drive, which depends on where someone is in the buying process. In the early stages, a frequently updated blog is effective at attracting people to your website. This top layer of content improves search engine optimization (SEO) and also acts as a conversion filter for good-quality leads who will be inclined to dig deeper into your site. To this audience, a tip sheet (a brief document that offers some level of expert, practical advice) is a great way to introduce your brand, and it also establishes your business as an expert in your field or market. A visitor who downloads a tip sheet in exchange for personal contact information, and who then responds to follow-up contact, has converted to a strong lead. When a lead is further into the buying process, their attention will generally demand more robust content, such as a technical white paper related to their application. A white paper that connects well with a lead moves toward the final state of customer conversion—a purchase.
We’re busy! Who should create the content?
The short answer—everyone. Quality content provides a snapshot of your business from customer service through engineering support. Accomplishing this requires buy-in from all levels of your company. When done well, being asked to contribute content can be flattering, rather than a burden. For example, many businesses run a “Meet the Team” series in their blogs to establish the personality and expertise of the company by profiling key staff members. Another fruitful exercise is to encourage teamwork between marketing and technical personnel on projects such as tip sheets and white papers. This cooperation ensures better accuracy while also optimizing the balance of technical detail and commercial appeal. Furthermore, this kind of cross-cultural collaboration is good for the internal health of the organization. It improves communication and morale, and it reduces the formation of micro-cultures that rarely interact.
If your team is still struggling to develop content despite buy-in and expertise, consider using a technical writer to conduct an interview and develop the first draft. It is far less time-consuming to take a 20-minute phone call and edit a document than to sit down with a blank screen and start writing.
Is print dead?
The answer depends on what you print, where you print it, and what you mean by “print.”
Actual, printed paper, a.k.a. “collateral,” still has a place, particularly at trade shows. There will probably never be a substitute for an attractive, single-page spec sheet. You can discuss it point-by-point and even draw on it, an activity that has been proven to increase the likelihood that your lead will keep that piece of paper. Attendees will also pluck collateral from the table as they walk by and don’t have time to talk. In this scenario, there are a few rules we follow to decrease collateral waste—the many pieces of paper that are dropped in the hotel garbage before attendees get on the plane to head home:
- Make it an odd size—anything that stands out has a greater likelihood of feeling valuable.
- Hand out your collateral rather than including it in a swag bag.
- Quality is important but so is cost. With a few exceptions, the days of expensive print are long gone. Keep it simple and save your budget for post-show lead nurture.
- Don't forget the call to action. The best collateral has a clear and measurable call to action—try a unique URL or a free download offer.
Yes, people still read magazines and journals. The key word is read. People open magazines to read, and that means a business will attract far more interest by writing an article than by running an ad. Anyone can buy ad space, but not everyone has the qualifications or skill to write an article. Once again, consider hiring a technical writer to help you get through the first draft of an article if your engineers can't find the time.
Print ads themselves can still have value, but they need to be part of a strategic plan and should have a call to action. By using unique URLs in your print ads, you can better track the ROI from each ad. A prominent ad can also be part of a brand focused campaign if you have that type of budget. However, many of our clients have been shifting away from print, with budgets often allocating only 25% of ad spend on print. Digital advertising is easier to measure and can be far more targeted. Some publications even offer keyword advertising on their site.
In a world where almost all purchases begin through an online visit, having compelling technical content on your website is critical. Good content positions your business as an industry expert, and it transitions an inquisitive visitor into a solid lead. Effective follow-up by your sales force can turn that lead into a customer.
Wondering what to do with all those leads after you've got them? You may enjoy the following: