In today’s competitive and constantly evolving IT industry, Value Added Resellers (VARs) and solution providers are facing immense challenges to differentiate themselves in the market and increase their margin to remain viable in the reseller space. Inbound marketing has become a marketing staple to bridge the gap between your business and your prospects and create an open communication channel.
Let’s face it, whether you’re looking to integrate expand your professional or managed services business, or promote your cloud solutions, you’re facing serious competition at every turn. Competition from other resellers repping the same manufacturers, manufacture partners selling direct, or customers buying different solutions and services from many vendors all cause havoc on your bottom line and customer retention. Being relevant and answering the questions you get asked is the name of the game. Marcus Sheridan calls it "They Ask, You Answer," I call it Inbound Marketing 101.
Although most partner resellers find leads through social gatherings and networking events, this approach is really a top-of-the-funnel activity and provides many unqualified contact lists, not actual leads your internal sales hunters won't call.
How Does Inbound Marketing Work?
Inbound marketing is a strategy that focuses on getting your brand and expertise out into the marketplace so your prospects and customers can find you when they research online products or services your business offers. With inbound marketing, you can earn your way to new customers by publishing helpful information on online forums, blog posts, or social media.
Inbound marketing includes:
- Strategy planning: What is your target audience (buyer persona), where do you want to grow (location, market, audience), and what do you want to grow (product, service, program)?
- Content marketing: This may include blogging, content offers like guides, social media posts, infographics, videos, etc.
- Campaign Promotion: Includes things like advertising and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
- Lead Conversion: Forms, landing pages, pillar page content, thank you pages, etc.
- Metrics: Closed-loop reporting of each campaign and the overall effectiveness of your marketing strategies.
Why IT Resellers Are Slow to Adopt Inbound Marketing
Over the last 25 years, industry giants like IBM, Cisco, and Microsoft have built their empires on the backs of IT resellers. With increased competition in this industry, any company looking to withstand the tides must approach its marketing campaigns from a different angle.
We see IT resellers slow to adopt inbound marketing for a few similar reasons:
Many resellers invest in marketing with an internal person who can project manage, do some social media, and manage events in a reactive approach to marketing. Resellers often have inadequate resources and the expertise to execute a results-driven inbound marketing strategy.
Ad-hoc Content Creation:
Creating content in a reactive approach, without consistent publishing and a plan for what and when to publish causes confusion to your audience, limits your reach on Google, and often stops marketers in their tracks altogether. Taking your content creation lead from sales and service as ideas come to mind is fine when pressing news impacts the industry, but trying to adopt inbound marketing without a content calendar and plan for success leaves the funnel dry and marketers discouraged.
Lack of Technological Knowledge:
Most resellers and solution providers have an internal marketing person that is new to the industry and lacks the technical knowledge needed to churn out buyer persona-oriented content like blog articles, whitepapers, ebooks, how-to guides, etc, on a regular basis. It is important to give your marketing team exposure to your sales and service conversations and invite them to spend time with your subject matter experts to ask questions and learn about the industry on layman's terms. This is the first step in building technical writing expertise in-house.
SEO is Hard:
Creating content is one problem, getting it found and found by the right organization size, industry, and person is harder. In my nearly 15 years as an IT marketer, I've never met a reseller who has SEO expertise in-house. Now, we've bought tools and taken classes, but SEO and even paid searches are almost always better done by an outside expert. You wouldn't try to tackle a wireless implementation without the knowledge and tools to do a heat map. The same goes for SEO. Choosing relevant keywords to help your content rank better on search engines, the right channels for syndication, and the right ad spend, these things are critical to having quick success with content marketing and forming a true inbound approach.
The fact is, even if resellers wanted to put everything in place, they don’t have the luxury of time to focus their effort on inbound marketing alone. An integrated approach to IT marketing is still recommended, the key to inbound marketing is bringing more qualified leads into the funnel and increasing your speed to sale.
Why Professional Inbound Marketing Strategy is Important
Instead of shifting focus from your core business to execute inbound marketing, you can engage professionals to get the blogs written and launch various marketing campaigns. You can save up to 62% of your marketing budget while generating qualified leads and increasing your customers and sales.
Overall, professional inbound marketing offers the following benefits:
- Access to industry experts in different inbound marketing strategies
- Costs much less than hiring an in-house inbound marketing team
- You hit the ground running and get results quicker than figuring things out yourself
Statistic from Corporate Executive Board as cited by Microsoft Dynamics CRM’s Seth Patton indicates that 57% of buyer research is completed way before a vendor is even contacted. This means that your business must be found online – easily and quickly – for the keywords your customers are searching for. Historically, IT resellers have demonstrated that they are poor at marketing themselves, often regarding marketing as a necessary evil. That’s why it’s important to engage a professional inbound marketing agency and concentrate on what you know best – creating innovative solutions for the tech industry.
How Much Doest Outsourced Inbound Marketing Cost?
The costs of inbound marketing can vary widely, but we're going to provide average prices for the highest quality work. Although you can hire freelance writers on Fiverr or Upwork for as little as $10 per blog, you most likely won’t get the quality that will win over your readers and turn them into leads.
With that in mind, you can expect to spend around $3,000/month for a content marketing strategy for a minimum retainer of six months. To build a full inbound marketing strategy in IT with SEO, content, and some content syndication or paid search, expect to spend around $6,500 (which includes about $1,000 of ad expenses and full ad management). In terms of the timeframe, expect to sign a retainer for a minimum of 6 months.
You may need to pay an upfront charge for an onboarding month to build the plan, do keyword research, and begin the execution. Of course, this will depend on the depth of services delivered, but as a general rule of thumb, any serious inbound marketing professional (especially in the IT space) understands that it takes about six months to drive traffic and start seeing results. This is especially true if you are starting from a purchased list or an email list of multiple, cold, disengaged prospects.
Ultimately, inbound marketing is the most efficient and cost-effective marketing you can get for your buck. Not only will inbound marketing help you to find new customers, but you will also find teaming partners and potential merger and acquisition entities. If you’re looking to begin inbound marketing for your IT reseller company, contact us today and begin the conversation with one of our industry experts.