First of all, get over your own stigma of being in a boring industry. Just because you’re not selling a Tesla car or the latest craft beer doesn’t mean you’re in a boring industry. While it may not be the perfect industry for a highly entertaining Super Bowl commercial, your business is interesting to a vital group of people: your leads. More specifically, warm leads.
Think of it this way: Would you walk door to door, knocking on strangers’ doors and pitching your product or service? Or would you rather have people knocking on your door, asking you to tell them all about your business? That’s the difference between outbound and inbound marketing.
So, now that you know you’re not boring the leads who want to know about the problem your business solves, how do you overcome the stigma of staleness? In a word: content. From relevant content directly tied to your business to peripheral information tied to your industry, content can come in many forms.
I run the marketing department for a mortgage lender. Talk about boring. Who really wants to talk about a mortgage payment? Interest rates? Yawn. However, if you’re looking to buy a home, especially for the first time, you’re probably looking for a lot of answers to very specific questions. You’re also probably interested in many things about the home.
The key to being not-so-boring in an otherwise drab industry is to be helpful and interesting in the way you deliver your message. In fact, as I prepared to talk about this subject at a major marketing conference, I decided that super models and fast cars are no longer the measure of what’s sexy.
Helpful is the new sexy.
Think about it: when it comes to business, a helpful company is an attractive one. Good customer service and friendly reps are sexy. We’re drawn to helpful, interesting content.
Below are the five tactics I’ve found extremely helpful when it comes to marketing in a boring fascinating industry.
The first tool any marketer needs to have in their toolkit is the buyer persona – a deep dive into who their customers are. It’s more than just demographics. Think of personas as your customers’ stories. Get to know their demographics, their pain points (and how your company can solve them), their technology appetites, where they “hang out” to consume information and more. Really get to know them.
A great way to develop buyer personas is through interviews. Talk to your sales team about the people they work with every day – their “usual” customer. Once you’ve developed your first draft, go back to the sales team and ask them if that person sounds familiar.
Share your buyer personas with your entire company. From sales to marketing to customer service to the receptionist, every person in your organization should know who it is you’re working with. Consider putting these personas on posters and hanging them in your break room or a hallway each employee walks every day.
Blogging and other forms of content creation are the bedrock of inbound marketing. Research shows that companies who blog more than once per day tend to acquire customers through their blog. In fact, according to HubSpot, 92 percent of businesses blogging multiple times per day drive customer acquisition through their sites.
But it’s not just about throwing some content on a page and hoping for the best. Your articles need to have purpose, complete with a call to action (CTA) that goes to a landing page.
What, specifically, is a CTA? A CTA is an instruction in your article for the reader to take the next step. It can be text or an image, but it must let them know the next logical place you’d like them to go. Whether it’s for more information, a demo or another offer – the CTA moves the prospect through your process. Every article should have a CTA of some kind, even if it’s as top-of-the-funnel as “subscribe to receive updates.”
And what, specifically, is a landing page? A landing page is the web page where an “offer” lives. A landing page contains a form for the prospect to fill out in exchange for something of value that you are offering. Guides, videos, case studies, research whitepapers and free consultations are all offers your prospects would trade their contact information for.
A landing page and its offering are what drive your next level of connection: email marketing.
Email marketing is a lot like courting. This is where the relationship develops.
Imagine this scenario:
I’m a prospect, and I find your business because you’ve done your SEO and promotion well. On your website, you offer me the chance to download some terrific content that takes me on a deep dive into the solution to my problem through your product or service.
Now that I’ve downloaded your offer, you have my email address and first name. You’ve probably also asked pertinent questions about my situation. If it’s a B2B relationship, maybe you now know how many employees my company has, the area of the country we’re located in and the greatest challenge we face.
Now that you have data on me and my business, you can create emails to speak to each of my pain points. You can use the size of my company to craft a message speaking to the unique challenges of a small company – or a large one. Your emails will be smart and connected – developing my trust that you’re helpful and knowledgeable.
Building trust through email marketing isn’t ridiculously difficult: continue to offer more helpful, relevant content rather than just another sales pitch. Tailor the information to me as a buyer persona, so you know what level of information I require.
Email marketing isn’t just a way to “blast an email out to a list.” It’s a way to nurture the relationship. With the right tools, you can see if I’m clicking links you’ve embedded in the emails. You can tell if I’m ignoring them altogether, in which case editing the subject line may be necessary. Use data and personalization to help increase engagement.
Emails are even more effective when the information found within them is so valuable that it’s shared with another person. Think of it like this: if I tell my friends what a great experience I had at a specific restaurant, they’re more likely to try it than if that restaurant bought ads on a local radio station they listen to.
Social proof is powerful. We trust our sphere of influence. Forwarding your company’s email to someone I think it might help means I trust you, and in turn, my friend trusts me, so they’re starting off with a higher level of confidence in your organization. As you already know, referrals are golden. The best email marketing becomes a way for you to empower your leads (and customers) to become your very own promoters.
Social media can take your marketing – and your customer satisfaction campaigns – to new levels. Whether it’s delighting current clients, developing business partnerships or looking for new customers, social media can really add to your communications portfolio. It’s also another way to empower an army of evangelists for your brand.
Let me say that I adhere to the philosophy of Dan Zarrella in that unicorns and rainbows need to be ignored. When it comes to social media, terms like “engagement” are an elusive measurement. However, I’ve also come to realize that social media is often a terrible place to sell.
Allow me to explain. Think of most social media platforms as a social entity, like a party or gathering of friends. Imagine you say to a friend, “I really can’t stand my apartment. I think it’s time to buy a house” and then some guy appears and says, “You should look at this no-down-payment mortgage option for buying a house!” Would you want a random sales person interrupting your time with a sales pitch?
As businesses, we often tend look at social media as a place to reach new customers and sell to them. But what if we looked at it as a place to develop relationships and deepen our connections to customers instead? What if social media became a place for us to find business partnerships that could become guest post opportunities?
When we look at social media as a real place with real people, we tend to interrupt less and instead offer helpful content that empowers others to share. When we share and connect, we – as a business – become real. This strategy takes time and planning – and it can certainly include the things we already do like share articles, images, and videos – but it also shifts our attitude from “always be closing,” to “always be connecting.”
Social media can be a powerful tool and PR opportunity when we’re using it for things like customer service and delighting our brand advocates. Just like any other business development strategy, it takes time, effort and strategic planning to pull off. You can’t simply have a Twitter account and never visit it. That would be like opening an office on a main street in town and keeping the lights on, but never going in to answer the phones or talk to people walking in.
Much like email marketing helps develop deeper relationships, video can add a very personal touch to your marketing and sales cycles.
When I was a TV news producer, I was friends with the on-air folks like news anchors and weather personalities. I noticed something back then – people treat you like they know you even when they’ve never met you, simply because you’re “on TV.”
Think about it – that anchor is in your living room every morning or every evening. As a viewer, you see them every day. You hear their stories and you trust their delivery of news. You get to know them through the screen.
Every time I’d go out to lunch with my on-air friends, someone would approach them and talk to them like they were old friends despite the fact that it was the first they’d met each other. Video had allowed a connection that fostered a relationship that seemed reciprocal to the viewer. You can have the same thing with a YouTube account.
When you create videos that answer questions about the problem your business solves, offers advice, gives information or positions you as the expert, you add value to your content. Your viewers talk to you like they know you. That trust leads to deals and referrals. Video is powerful.
Think of all the questions you and your sales team hear. Every one of those questions can be a video or a series of videos you send to prospects. You’re answering their questions before they even realize they have them.
Just start. Don’t be afraid of video; it’s not open-heart surgery. Even if you start with your phone’s video camera and you don’t upload the videos, get in front of the camera and begin to tell your story. Or find someone to be your “face.” But the key is to just start. A marathon begins with that first step.
Be patient. Your videos will likely be average at best when you start. It takes time to build an audience and get better at producing video. This isn’t an overnight initiative. Someday you’ll look back on your early videos and wonder how you ever got through them. Patience pays off.
Get the right tools. You don’t have to have a Hollywood budget for the right tools. Keep in mind, however, that consumers buy high definition TVs and enjoy quality video. As consumers, we can be pretty forgiving, but video with bad audio, no lighting and the steadiness of a drunken sailor in a storm will turn us off quickly.
Get the right equipment from the start. You’ll need a camera, a tripod and a microphone. The microphone can be hard-wired or wireless, but it needs to be an external mic that plugs into or syncs with your camera. When shooting, be sure to take lighting into account. Light your subjects with natural or artificial lighting, but make sure you can see them. Finally, editing software is likely available on your computer already. Start with that, then look at upgrading to Adobe Premier or Final Cut.
Hire internally. Video production can get very pricey. If you want to create consistently great videos, you’ll need to hire internally. A production house can produce a great “company” video. If you go this route, learn from them. You’re paying for more than the video – you’re paying for their expertise. Ask questions. Then when you’re ready to create weekly or monthly videos, hire someone and buy them the equipment to help you on the inside. Even if you think you only have one video idea, you’ll be surprised at what you can do. We create two-to-four videos every week at our organization and we “just do mortgages.”
Who should you hire for video? My suggestion is to hire a TV news photojournalist with a few years of experience. They know how to tell stories through video and they’ve worked with reporters. They’re also paid terribly in the TV news world and will be receptive to your budget.
Be helpful and concise. Video doesn’t have to be just 60 seconds. One of our most popular videos at AmeriFirst is 11 minutes long, but it’s full of helpful information. Your video should be as long or short as it takes to tell your story. However, two minutes is a good rule of thumb to follow.
Remember: help, inform and educate. Don’t aim for a viral video hit; that’s not a solid strategy. Build your audience with consistency and you’ll drive leads over time.
So here is your rally call: Helpful is the new sexy. You don’t have to be in an industry that everyone clamors to be a part of. Your industry is interesting to those warm leads you’re trying to reach with relevant content in a digestible manner. You can be sexy and not boring – be helpful!