When it comes to marketing, you can’t afford to ignore the massive changes that technology is driving. Sure, there are new marketing technologies that enhance your decision-making, track lead scoring and the like. But the real change is coming from how prospects are educating themselves about the purchases they want to make.

The simple truth is that prospects behave differently now. They do more research on their own, and more people are weighing in on (or arguing about) the right solution. They contact you later in the sales process–if at all.

Consider these important facts from DemandGen about B2B buyers:

  • 65% said that the winning vendor’s content had a significant impact on their buying decision.
  • 72% said that they used social media to research vendors, while 22% connected with vendors directly on social media.
  • 46% said that search engines were their first source when starting their product research.

You can’t sell or network your way out of changes like this. You may not even get a chance to present your strengths before a prospect finds your competitor online, finds their content compelling, trusts their expertise and ultimately buys from them. But, you can influence your way into their decision-making process.

Inbound Marketing = Influence = Trust = Revenue
Inbound marketing (also called content marketing) is the great equalizer. It’s the strategy of attracting prospects to your content by helping them solve real business challenges they likely face, and then presenting relevant offers to convert them into leads.

How it works:

  1. Assume a VAR is interested in expanding their security business. He/she will likely enter a phrase such as “How to grow a network security practice” in Google.
  2. As a security vendor, you have unique expertise in this space, because you understand what it takes to grow a security business. You create a blog with that same title.
  3. The VAR finds the blog in the search results, clicks on the article title and comes to a website with your article.
  4. At the bottom of the article—after you have gained their trust in your expertise—the VAR is presented with an offer to download an ebook titled 10 Ways Networking VARs Can Grow Their Security Revenue.
  5. The VAR believes that the ebook will be the same high quality as your blog post, clicks on the link and converts into a lead for your sales team.

That’s inbound marketing. And it’s how your competitors in the channel are quickly increasing their lead generation capabilities.

Inbound Marketing In the Channel. It’s Hard.
As a vendor selling through the channel, you have unique challenges tapping into these behaviors.

  • Your corporate marketing team is likely focused on your core products and services through your corporate website.
  • You don’t have a platform for publishing content that would attract VARs.
  • You may not have the marketing resources to help you execute a VAR-focused inbound marketing campaign.

What Will It Take to Succeed?
Just like technology, inbound marketing has a maturity model that requires aptitude in three major areas. They are:

  1. Attracting visitors: Top-performing channel vendors are proficient at attracting qualified visitors to their websites through blogging, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, social media, PR, and other tactics. The more quality, relevant, and optimized content we create, the more visits your website will receive.
  2. Converting leads: Top-performing channel vendors are effective at converting traffic into leads through targeted conversion paths, including downloadable content, well-placed call-to-action buttons, effective landing and thank-you pages, and well-crafted follow-up emails. They also conduct significant testing to maximize the performance of their campaigns.
  3. Closing customers: Top-performing channel vendors understand that nearly 70 percent of website visitors are not ready to buy. As a result, they are skilled at nurturing leads through the sales process and using email to increase engagement with leads. These companies also employ lead scoring to ensure salespeople prioritize activity on those leads that have the highest probability of becoming customers.

Example: A ProAV Industry Checklist
We recently completed a campaign for professional audio/video (ProAV) resellers designed to help them identify the best industries to grow their business. The campaign consisted of a variety of assets including blog posts, landing pages, lead nurturing emails and social media promotion. Key results from this brief campaign include:

  • 88 leads
  • 755 blog views
  • 611 visits from social media

With inbound marketing, every blog post, landing page and piece of content you create works to generate leads and traffic well after the formal campaign is over. This means that your marketing investment has built the foundation for a strong marketing presence, more brand awareness and a better reputation in your market.