Image Above: Brittney Stepanek, Strategic Marketing Director at Collabrance, shares best practices with the team in the NOC.
When I started at Collabrance, I attended a marketing conference featuring Marcus Sheridan to learn about “inbound” – he changed the way I thought about marketing. Inbound marketing is about getting your customers the unbiased information they need via online activities (Website, Blogs, Social media) with the objective of building trust and confidence in what you are offering. I bought into the idea that we needed to create a strong online presence and include a blog. The first big project in my new role was to revamp our website and include a managed services blog. I knew inbound was going to take time, and the blog required a lot of commitment, but I believed in the impact it could have on the company. We knew we should be doing it, but had a hard time understanding so early on what the return would be on our resource expenditure.
We do a weekly blog post that can include a variety of topics from technical, sales and marketing, hiring and retaining employees, to any other topics readers request. The blog is a team effort. Depending on the topic, we also rotate authors. As a trusted technology advisor, our philosophy behind the blog is to share information with others who wish to grow their managed services business.
Our blog is about 18 months old and has generated the following online traffic:
Our blog is one way for us to share best practices with multiple audiences and stay connected in the industry. We have thousands of readers visiting our managed services blog who we are educating. Today, the blog has become one of the top priorities for my marketing role at Collabrance. The results have been exciting and the blog has been totally worth it!
Over the last year, we have seen inbound marketing come to life at Collabrance. We have more and more individuals proactively reaching out to us after finding us online.
These online prospects have taken the time to go through our website and self-educate, which allows us to have more advanced conversations specific to their questions and needs.
It makes a better use of our team’s time, and our prospect’s time.
Our inbound activity has yielded more results and interest, including a new partner who first found us by an online search. Inbound is an evolution, so every day we work to improve our sales and marketing process as the two departments merge closer together. This includes setting up automated alerts on business intelligence, getting better at assignment selling, and making sure online users are able to find the information they are seeking in order to make a decision to do business with us (weeding out ‘bad fits’ too are just as important!). Inbound marketing has taken time to build, but we are seeing positive results and enjoying how it is helping our sales and marketing.
A prime customer-centric tactic of inbound marketing is to quickly and accurately answer all questions visitors to your business may have and post them online. Think about this as you re-purpose your marketing materials. The more ways I can find to reuse and repurpose a marketing project, the higher priority it becomes on my to-do list. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel, instead take the time to understand where else your marketing efforts can be used and how you can repurpose it to target different audiences.
For example, this recent video we just did to celebrate 2017 was reused in the following ways:
Repurposing or reusing already created marketing materials save time!
Just like your technical staff can’t be a SME in ‘all things technology,’ an individual marketer can’t be an expert in all things marketing. You can’t expect an individual to be able to master video, a website, a blog, graphic design, content generation (i.e. case studies, whitepapers, presentations), product launches, social media, events, emails, market research, analytics, media management, etc.
The above video is an example of outsourcing. I know video is not my strength. (Of course, if I have the time, video is fun and enjoyable, but my to-do list isn’t getting any shorter). It is more efficient for me to outsource this video project and manage it, than spending a full-day producing it myself. I still needed to do the research, write the script and provide direction for a 3rd party, but they took care of the production.
Outsourcing to a 3rd party helped me complete my project in a timely manner and freed up my time to work on other urgent projects. I was able to trust someone else who is talented in this area to follow the script and create a solid product.
We have heard that nearly 70% of the buying process has evolved and takes place before an actual sale or phone call to the rep happens. Sales and marketing must work well together toward the same vision in order to accommodate a buyer's needs.
Image from Marketo
“Everyone is in sales” is our team emphasis. I attend sales meetings, answer the sales direct telephone line, and sit in the sales pod next to three (amazing) reps. My talents are not the same as a sales rep, but I also directly impact our sales and revenue. As a sales and marketing team, we work extremely well together and are constantly trying to find ways to leverage each other’s skills on almost all projects. It has been a win-win!
At Collabrance, we started paying closer attention to trackable marketing tactics. This allowed us to establish a baseline and set goals that could be measured against that baseline. This is the starting point for determining return on your marketing investment. A lot of options are available in how you go to market, and analytics will help you prove a particular marketing investment is worth it .There are tools and tracking capabilities to help marketers share their value.
Better analytics brings focus and measurability to marketing.
At the end of the year, I pulled some marketing KPIs to give the team an overview of our marketing strategy and tactics. The metrics provided tangible evidence on what’s working and what’s not and where we are getting the most return. It helped influence our SWOT analysis and find ways to concentrate our efforts moving forward. Remember, not just to track your marketing metrics, but to monitor them as well and use them to your advantage.
It is too easy to get caught in day-to-day busy work which only seems to accumulate. Requests and new project ideas appear faster than we can cross them off our lists. However, if you don’t take time to step outside the noise, your vision could get cloudy. Bryan Kramer has some great tips for how to be productive. I’ve conversed with him on the idea that every week I try to reserve one day to think ‘big picture’ or use as a catch-up day for all those unplanned tasks that popped up.
My calendar has become my to-do list and I scope out and reserve blocks for how much time projects will take, as well as set reminders for what I need to do in the future. Friday’s are a great time for me to think ‘big picture’ with the assumption that I’ve completed all of my other projects for the week prior.
When you do fewer things better, you gain time to sit back and look at the whole picture.
Thinking big picture can include how to repurpose marketing materials, how to tie them together or with other materials or GreatAmerica business units, researching 3rd party software opportunities, digging into marketing metrics, setting goals, or simply taking the time to pick the brains of team members! It’s important to have a marketing vision and make sure you’re able to have time to work toward achieving it.
Brittney Stepanek, Strategic Marketing Director for Collabrance, is responsible for helping build relationships and brand awareness through strategic marketing initiatives. Before working at Collabrance, Brittney joined GreatAmerica in 2012 doing marketing for the Office Equipment Group. She received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology at the University of Iowa.