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Marketing To Technical Audiences: An Inbound Conversation

Mar 6, 2017
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Inbound marketing has become increasingly popular over the last few years. The concept of educating and nurturing prospects towards a business relationship has proven to be effective all around. What's more impressive is the success inbound has had in technical industries. According to a study done by TREW Marketing, Nearly all engineers (93%) indicate online resources such as websites and search engines are a valuable source of information on the latest engineering technologies, trends, and products.

In this week's SMA Marketing Minute, I interviewed a friend and fellow inbound agency owner who also focuses on the technical sector. Jo Shaer runs Lollipop Local located in Essex. She'll share some of the insights and real life experiences she's had while helping technical companies reach their audiences online.

Video Transcript

Ryan:

Hey, what's up? Welcome SMA Marketing Minute. As you guys know, I am Ryan and today we're doing something a little bit special, a little bit different, and I'm actually going to be interviewing a good friend of mine - Jo from LolliPop Local. She's all the way from across the pond and she's going to share a little bit about her agency and how they've been targeting engineering firms and technical companies and how Inbound has really helped that industry not just grow their reach but also grow their influence online, improve sales, and really just create a whole new way of doing business for them. Thanks so much for joining us, Jo.

Jo:

You're welcome.

Ryan:

Can you tell us just a little bit about your agency, just the history, how you all got started, and where you decided to focus on technical audiences?

Jo:

Sure. Okay. I think we are a bit different from a lot of the agencies because I actually really was a lollipop lady when I started doing this and I don't know if you guys know what one of those is. It's a school crossing patrol guard and the little kind of stick that they hold up over here obviously is called a lollipop because it looks like a lollipop. When I started my business, because I was doing that at the time, it seemed like a really good name to me, particularly as it fitted in with how we direct traffic and high visibility online marketing and all those punny, what would you call it, catchphrases. Yes. I was a lollipop lady back in 2010 and I was seeing business owners across the street and they would stop and have a chat with me and they would tell me about how their businesses were going and how they were frightened at their web designer and the local directory salespeople.

Because I was already active on the internet doing some affiliate marketing, it seemed like a natural progression to actually try to help these less techy business owners. That's how Lollipop was born. That was seven years ago and there are now four of us, three of us based in the office and one remotely.

Ryan:

That's a really cool way to get started. I love how you tied what was going on in your life and made it a little bit personal when you were starting your business. I always wonder how people come up with their names. I don't really have such a catchy name. It's just my last name. There are all those cool names. I'm like where do these people come up with them?

What kind of helped you guys or what made you decide to focus on technical audiences?

Jo:

Again, this is a bit unusual in that Jon and I both did karate and so the first people, the first big companies who came to us were people who we rolled on the mat with who already knew and liked and trusted us. It was purely by accident as one of those was an engineer and the other one was in the security systems industry, so those were our two niches that we started with and the ones that we've had the most success with.

Ryan:

I think that's really cool and it just kind of built on relationship. So many times when we're trying to target a niche, we overthink it, maybe. I know I did that same thing, just overthinking "is this a good one? Is this a good one?" Really, you just want to grow out of a natural relationship and I think that's a really cool thing to do. I think it's been really productive for you because it's been built and founded in relationship.

Jo:

Definitely. Definitely. The trust was already there, but then having had success in those industries, we were then able to provide case studies and talk to people that we didn't know in that way and it helped us then to ... Will help them to have the confidence that we could actually do what we said we could do.

Ryan:

Yeah. That's great. What have you seen in the technical world? I know a lot of times when we talk about Inbound, you've got the SAS companies who are a little bit more tech savvy or people targeting the medical industry, some of those kinds of industries that have a little bit more of a digital marketing presence, but why is it important for technical companies to also embrace Inbound? What are the things that you've seen as far as how they've done marketing and how it's really helped transition them into Inbound?

Jo:

Sure. I think the thing we notice most is that the people we work with are really not as technically savvy as the people who are starting up SAS companies, and so they quite like the fact I am a lollipop lady and I can speak in their language and I try very hard to find analogies that help them to understand what's going on. That was our starting point with it, that we didn't really want to go off SAS companies because they were much more technically aware. There's a huge number of suppliers for them where there weren't so many suppliers for this particular type of audience.

Ryan:

Awesome. Can we hear a success story of how you, you can leave out customer names of course if you need to, but just a success story of how you helped one of these less technical companies? You had a technical audience, but maybe they just weren't so web design savvy. How'd you build a campaign that worked and really turned into a really good one in the end?

Jo:

Sure. I think my favorite one is we have an engineering company that we work with and they were desperate to get in with more Formula 1 design engineers. Of course, the design engineers, it's a bit like hunting season for them. They feel like prey because everybody wants to get to talk to them and they very rarely hand out their business cards or details, however that doesn't mean to say that they're not actually looking themselves on the internet. This was a bit of a revelation for our customer because he thought that he was always going to have to be doing the chasing. What we did was we'd worked with them to find some content that would actually appeal to these Formula 1 engineers.

We put that up on the website and we started to get a lot of interest. This particular customer had had a horrible experience with a previous web designer, where they'd spent a fortune on a site and when they came to see us, what they didn't realize was that the whole site was actually not displaying to anybody who was looking at it. It was on a WordPress site and you could only see the full site if you were logged in. Because they were always logged in, they thought their site was showing, but when we actually showed them what we could see, they've paid all this money and you could only see the top bar, the name of the website, and you couldn't see any of the content that was on it.

We had to fix all that before we could get started with them. Obviously, they were very distrustful of technical people or web designers, anyway. It took a while to build that trust, but then once we started getting this content onto the website and they could see it being displayed and they could see people actually coming to the site to look at it, signing up to download the different offers that we put up, that really started to get them quite excited. The customer went to a trade show, which was where he got most of his business from, and on the first day of this particular trade show, the first person through the door was the guy who walked down the aisle went straight to their stand.

He said, "I've been looking at your website and I really like what I see. I'm a Formula 1 design engineer and I was going to come and see you, but you're quite a long way away from me. When I saw on the website you were going to be at this event, which is just around the corner, I thought this was the ideal opportunity, so I'm here." They had a chat and the guy went away feeling, well he seemed very happy to have made their acquaintance and it seemed like a really good relationship was going to start, but he still didn't hand over his business card. Three weeks later, I said to Andrew "What's happening with the Formula 1 guy?" He said, "I've got his number, but I keep ringing him but I can't get passed the gatekeeper."

I said to him "Well, so what are you going to do?" He said, "Well, I'm just going to keep trying." I said, "Well, have you thought of LinkedIn?" He hadn't, so we were able to go and find this chap on LinkedIn. We issued a connection, the guy accepted, and within a couple of days, drawings had been exchanged. Within a few days after that, they were on the approved suppliers list and now they've got orders going between them. It's a bit of a convoluted story, but you can see all the elements of Inbound that have been brought in there to actually make that relationship happen and get things started. Shall I pause for breath now?

Ryan:

No. I love hearing that because I think what you did really well there is walk the client through the process of not just getting a lead, but what do you after you've made that initial contact. Then, you've also done a really cool thing with merging some traditional marketing efforts in with Inbound. Could you maybe elaborate on that? Have you done a lot of that where you're using trade shows and some of these maybe traditional person-to-person events and then also using and how Inbound has supported that? I think this is a great example. Have you done that with other clients as well?

Jo:

Not with other clients. With this one, what we're doing with the next trade show is we're trying to persuade him to actually get some appointments actually made, so they actually meet up with people actually at the event. Again, because he's quite ... It's just he's very reserved about using technical stuff, so he takes quite a lot of persuading but he is starting to see the value of it. Now, we're trying to make sure that he sees the right people at the trade shows. Does that make sense?

Ryan:

Yeah. That definitely does make sense. It's all about using your time wisely.

Jo:

Yeah.

Ryan:

I think that's a really cool story of the different progression and showing that it's not always so systematic. A lot of times that we've talked about Inbound, it's like where you've got to do x amount of blog posts and x amount of landing pages and you get x amount of leads. Sometimes, you've got to go to that trade show or you've got to go digging on LinkedIn and making that other connection using some of the social channels or using some of the other channels online to really establish yourself and then position yourself to make the ask. I think that's really, really cool.

Jo:

There is a quote. I can't remember who made it. I saw it on the internet recently. They were talking about lead nurturing and they said: "When the pain is acute, the prospect turns to someone they know, like, and trust, rather than starting the search from scratch." What I like about Inbound is that it encapsulates all the old school networking, but it allows you to replicate it on a much grander scale, even a global scale.

Ryan:

I like that word networking. That's one of my words for this year that I'm focusing on for myself. What are maybe some networking tips you can give maybe engineering firms that are looking to get out and start some marketing on their own or maybe other agencies that are trying to figure out the networking piece as well? What are some things that you've seen that have helped you?

Jo:

I think with networking, because the networks ... The engineers over here in the UK, it's actually really hard to persuade them to leave their caves. They rely on the traditional avenues, like trade shows. They rely on their existing customers, the ways that they've always done things and it's trying to persuade them to actually leave the security of the cave and come out to some of these other events. They like to come to ones that are specific to their industry. Because obviously if you turn up to the local chamber of commerce event, you may not see or they may not be Formula 1 design engineers there.

It's trying to go to the places where your guys are going to be so that you can get some cards exchanged, you can start having some conversations, and then you can take it back to LinkedIn or you can refer them to somewhere on your website where they can download something. It will start that process. I think people forget the power of that face-to-face interaction. Again, it's just another one of the touches that just comes into Inbound, but it's not just about online. It's about making those relationships in person as well.

Ryan:

I think that's so good and that's so true. I'm noticing while we're generating leads and we're doing a pretty decent job, I feel like, of nurturing them, there's nothing that really substitutes for that person-to-person interaction.

Jo:

It's like this - you don't physically have to be in the same room with them. It's making great connections using the internet and these wonderful tools that we've got that allow this to happen.

Ryan:

I think that's so true. Thanks so much, Jo, for just sharing a little bit about your story. I think that was really insightful and really helpful and obviously a really practical way of just looking at a real example of how Inbound has worked in real life and how we merged traditional marketing and some of the traditional aspects of networking but then also using the new tools in Inbound to really build out that funnel from top all the way to the bottom. Thanks so much for spending time with us. We appreciate it. If anybody wants to check out their site and read their blog and what they're doing, we're going to go ahead and put a link here at the bottom of this post so you can go check them out and network and get to know them a little bit more.

Thanks so much. I really do appreciate you taking the time.

Jo:

It's brilliant. Thank you, Ryan.

Learn more about Lollipop Local here.

Inbound Marketing for Engineers

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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