I think it’s a pretty safe bet to assume most casino suppliers will find time to attend the upcoming Global Gaming Expo (G2E) show in Las Vegas, arguably the largest gathering of gaming vendors and operators in the United States.
I’m also assuming that many vendors will walk away from the show wondering why they didn’t get the foot traffic they had anticipated. Others will have gotten decent visitation and a fistful of business cards, but wonder how they could have done better.
When I was working the operator side of the casino business, I talked to a lot of sales people and had voicemail and e-mail from many, many more, so I know being a salesperson to the gaming industry is a daunting task. After all, you are the person that must interrupt a casino executive’s busy day—a day that can include everything from multiple meetings and staff scheduling to handling customer complaints and finding ways to do more with less. It’s a tough gig, akin to finding a needle in a haystack; only you’re the needle hoping a casino desires to look for and find you.
And, unfortunately, it appears that the haystack gets bigger by the day, if not the hour or minute. Hubspot estimates the “average human today is inundated with over 2,000 outbound marketing interruptions per day and is figuring out more and more creative ways to block them out.”
Rather than hoping potential customers hear or see your message, I think it’s time to help them “find” your message. According to a 2015 SalesforLife report, 77 percent of B2B buyers said they waited to talk to vendors until they did some independent research, and 65 percent of buyers felt vendor content impacted the final purchase decision. Those numbers will only go up... and quickly. Inbound marketing is a relatively new methodology that is seeing adoption across a number of industries. It’s about using your marketing to bring people to you rather than pushing your marketing out to compete in a crowded landscape.
There are many parts that make up a strong inbound strategy and lots of questions to answer: How do you get in front of people who aren’t taking your calls? How do you get your information in front of buyers who are doing their own independent research? How do you get on the consideration list your target is developing?
Essentially, developing an inbound sales system breaks down into two general stages. First is creating information and content that can get you found by your targets. The other stage consists of landing pages, lead forms and the mechanics that add important information to your CRM system to help your salesforce. What follows is a way to start the part of inbound that gets you found by potential buyers:
Know your audience: One way to accomplish this task is to ask current customers and target accounts the questions needed to create accurate buyer personas. In short, a buyer persona is a fictionalized representation of your potential customer. It generally includes details such as demographics, behavior patterns, motivations and goals. When creating these personas, you should attempt to be as detailed as possible. Try giving them a name. Put these personas up in your office or conference room so that you don’t forget who these people are; they will help you stay focused as you develop your inbound sales strategy.
Remember that for most purchases you’re dealing with more than one persona. For instance, if you’re selling marketing technology, most of your communications may be with the vice president or director of marketing. But who else will influence that purchase and the successful outcome of that purchase? IT? Finance? How about that database marketer who has been using one tool successfully and now has to adapt to something new? What about the general manager? Do they have to approve the purchase? What questions or concerns will any of these additional people have? Paint a detailed picture of each persona involved in the purchase decision and usage.
As part of understanding your audience, recognize the challenges they are facing... honestly. Don’t assume that because you developed a great tool, it is necessarily a solution they desire.
Search, keywords and content: Once you completely understand how your product can truly help a target audience, it’s time to start creating the online marketing content that will actually have these customers coming to you. A key to developing such content in today’s online-centric world is to make sure the items are search engine friendly, that they always include the keywords your target customers use when they search on their own for products like the ones you’re offering. There are a couple of tools I would highly recommend to help in this quest. The first is the Google Adwords Keyword Planner. It is free to use and allows you to see what keywords people are using to search for information or answers to their problems. Another tool I use is Keyword Tool. It allows you to type in a keyword to see additional keyword suggestions and, in some cases, it even gives you suggestions for questions you could answer, which is great for developing content. If you’re using Adwords to advertise already, your Google Analytics will even show you the search queries people used to get to your site. Based on the clicks and engagement measures, you can decide if it’s best to develop new content or just update the existing content.
Meanwhile, ascertain your Domain Authority (DA). The DA predicts how well your website will rank on search engines. Obviously, the higher the number the better, but having a low number doesn’t mean you can’t play in the game. It just means you need to work a little harder. You can increase your DA with a little effort and patience. One way to do this is by increasing the number of good links to your sites, preferably from sites with a higher DA than yours, improving the overall search engine optimization (SEO) for your site.
Developing and distributing your content: The biggest piece to the inbound marketing puzzle is creating content target customers want to click on… and lots of it. How do you develop clickable content? Where do you even start?
For the most part, you can create content in-house, via outsourcing or some combination of the two. Idea generation is one of the biggest steps. Many ideas will come from your keyword research. There are also some great free online tools you can use. I like Hubspot’s Idea Generator, and Google’s “blog idea generator,” will generate a few options you can try.
Now that you have a bunch of ideas, how do you start creating? First you need to think about your overall business and marketing strategy. Remember those plans? It’s important that your content marry up with your overall strategy. After you’ve done your strategy checks, I recommend you start to map out your content. Think of it as a traditional family tree chart. At the top is the keyword or phrase that best suits your product and ranks high with search engines. The next level are questions your target (persona) has that you can answer either by updating content on your site or by creating content that can be used either on your site or distributed in some other form. The next level is three or four smaller subtopics related to each question. These become your white papers, presentations, videos, columns, webinars, etc. It’ll take time to go through this, but once you do, you’ll actually have a good 90 days’ worth of content.
In addition, remember those links we talked about? When you submit content to a third party with a higher DA than you, that link back to your site helps your DA increase. You may wonder why you wouldn’t just put your content on your site instead of submitting to third parties. Well, if your site were the only thing that comes up in a search when people look for something, that would make perfect sense. In reality, multiple sites show up as possible answers to a search query and the higher the DA, the more that site will show up before yours. So the more links your content generates, the more the search engines start to think of your company as the leader in that field.
Social selling: For the most part, vendors are only beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to using social media as a channel for selling. According to SalesforLife, sales people using social media as part of their sales process exceeded their quotas 23 percent more often than those who didn’t. The same report indicates that non-social media users missed their quota 15 percent more often than their social media-using peers. I haven’t met a single salesperson who doesn’t want to be outperforming the competition. In addition, a recent Google update made social links even more important to increasing your website’s rank. It seems the time is now to start mapping out a strategy for using social media that is consistent with the habits of your buyer personas.
Pay per click: With a solid content strategy, a pay per click (PPC) plan will help you get more visitors specifically looking for your content. If you’re great at PPC, you are more than halfway there. If you’re just starting out, you may need to either find a tool that integrates with your campaigns and offers PPC suggestions or you may want to find an agency partner to work with you.
PPC is more than just setting up an ad and some keywords. You can inadvertently be competing against yourself for PPC end up paying more than you should be or you can get really great click thru rates on keywords that don’t produce any level of engagement. Unfortunately, it’s easy to see clicks and impressions as “success” and keep spending. The key is to understand which keywords are right for you and the type of content you’re providing, so that you can optimize your budget rather than spend more.
Thought leadership and public relations: Traditionally, companies sent out press releases hoping their product information makes it into news items and written articles. B2B companies will find that evolving to a thought leadership campaign can be much more powerful as it can create a competitive advantage. Thought leadership can encourage future (and present) customers to see your company as the resource for information and insights. Thought leadership is more about promoting ideas that are relevant than it is promoting your company. By joining the conversation, you can become recognized as the eminent resource in your field, eventually leading the conversation. It shows you walk the talk. It reverses the direction of public relations to you so that you can advance the industry conversation.
The sales process and the role of salespeople are ever-evolving. We can be sure that it will be radically different going forward. As always, success will be determined by how well your company can adapt to these changes.