CEDIA WHITE PAPER. Inbound Marketing 2014 CEDIA

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1 CEDIA WHITE PAPER Inbound Marketing 2014 CEDIA

2 INTRODUCTION Surveys and testimonies of CEDIA Electronic Systems Contractor (ESC) Members show that the majority of ESC companies don t have a marketing/ communications plan and spend less than one percent of annual gross revenue on marketing and advertising. Referrals are reported as the primary and most successful strategy for generating leads in the industry. (CEDIA 2008 Benchmarking Survey) While the strength of referrals is not waning, the industry, market, and world are changing. These changes are forcing ESC owners to reevaluate their business services, practices, and chosen methods of communication to potential clients. Consumer technology is growing rapidly and causing consumers to struggle with processing all the new information received. To adapt to the changing industry, market, and world, ESC companies may want to consider new trends in marketing and communication to secure and strengthen their businesses. OUTBOUND V. INBOUND Outbound marketing is the direct delivery of company information, products, and services to potential clients. The primary vehicles of outbound marketing are sales teams, advertising, and promotions. The advent and increased popularity of the internet have increased the ways companies can pursue outbound marketing. The internet has created a new way of marketing that welcomes the interested consumer and isn t considered another interruption in their day. Inbound marketing is making information on companies, products, and services available and accessible to the interested and pursuant consumer with hopes that they will become potential clients and/or share information with others. The primary vehicles of inbound marketing are websites, search engines, blogs, and social media applications. Many ESC companies may not have the resources to support an expensive outbound marketing plan. However, inbound marketing is a reasonable alternative because it can be inexpensive to incorporate into a business, and instead relies more on time and dedication put forth by the company. This isn t to say that outbound marketing efforts should be abandoned. The best strategy may be to create a communications plan that blends both types of marketing. Inbound marketing has become a big new trend in communication to the consumer and the accepted medium of younger generations. As mentioned earlier, the four main forms of inbound marketing are websites, search engines, blogs, and social media applications. 1. WEBSITE A company website serves as the heart of inbound marketing programs. Websites that are complicated and/or inactive don t encourage return visits. A website should be easy to navigate, inexpensive to change, and interesting upon return. A website should make visitors want to come back, provide a call to action, and offer forms for visitors to submit their questions and/or contact information. Forms on a website give the company the ability to generate leads out of site traffic. Adding a blog, posting videos of current projects, and inviting visitors to follow the company on social media applications will all increase chances for inbound marketing. Updating a website shouldn t be expensive, and the goal should be to create a simple site that is easily changeable without the assistance of IT professionals. Applications and software that allow a company to change its website in-house will amount to tremendous savings in the long run. 2. SEARCH ENGINES In today s world, when a consumer wants information on products, they utilize internet search engines to educate themselves and provide comparison. If a consumer who is interested in building a home theater searches on Google for more information, a company would want their site to appear on the first page of the search results. One option for achieving this is securing paid ads through Google. However, a company can accomplish first page results for free by putting time and effort into inbound marketing strategies such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is designed to condition a website for higher placement in organic (unpaid) internet search engine results, thereby improving the volume or quality of traffic to the website CEDIA

3 The order of search results is based upon the search engine s determination of the quality of the content on the page. While search engines use sophisticated and constantly-evolving methods to determine a websites quality and relevance, companies can employ a few baseline best practices to help improve their page rank. These methods can include having a unique URL and a concise meta description tag with keyword usage, utilizing keywords in page titles, using and tagging headings throughout pages, and including links to other sites. The website also needs to be linked on as many other sites as possible. 3. BLOG Development of the keywords used and tagged throughout a site should be given much consideration. When selecting these terms, a company should consider how the consumer will search for its services and its products. One of the best ways to increase a ranking with search engines like Google is to start a blog. Adding a blog to a website can make it more interesting, findable, and collaborative. Once the blog is set up, make sure it has an RSS feed or offers the ability to subscribe through . The blog articles can be about anything related to a company s business and as long or short as necessary. Topics can include recent experiences on a project, a new technology, or an article that applies to the industry. Include links to other sites, videos, and pictures in the blog, but don t push products and services or use the blog as a sales vehicle. Instead use it to educate, share information, and get to know site visitors without the pressure of sales. Those interested in inbound marketing should begin utilizing an RSS reader and subscribing to industry blogs and forums. Commenting on articles will help drive more people to the website and blog, and the experience will contribute to better blog writing. 4. SOCIAL MEDIA lifestyles utilizing these applications to network and find information, social media offer businesses a way of engaging a range of potential clients for free. The easiest way to understand the applications is to start using them. Followers will begin to accumulate, and each follower has the potential to become a new client. To gain followers, a company must start by following others like staff, current clients, industry friends, etc. Utilize the space to post interesting information, articles, pictures, blog posts, links, and videos. The company profile should have the same appeal as the website and should be constantly changing and always interesting. Link the company website on social media accounts and include links to all of the company s social media profiles on the website for visitors to have easy access to all platforms. SUPPLIERS & PARTNERS Another way to utilize inbound marketing is through the support of partners and suppliers. If industry partners and suppliers have blogs, RSS feeds, and social media profiles, a company can use these to bring more traffic to its blog, website, and social media profiles. Suppliers may have brands that are familiar to the consumer and large groups of followers. By joining their groups, a company can expand its marketing reach to a much larger audience. Suppliers and partners may be more than happy to help and link partner websites. After all, a partner s success becomes their success. COMPETITION When using inbound marketing tactics, a company should always stay aware of how its competition is or isn t using the same tactics. Staying informed on what competitors are doing is a way to see opportunities, gather topic ideas for articles, and keep a company truly competitive. Don t become paranoid; just remain aware of what unique things a competing business is doing to reach clients. In the short time that social media applications have been available, they have grown in popularity and now boast millions of users. The most popular applications are Facebook Twitter LinkedIn com/, Digg StumbleUpon and YouTube youtube.com/. With people of many different ages and 2014 CEDIA 3

4 MEASURING EFFECTIVENESS There are tools on almost every application to help users gauge how successful their efforts are. Utilizing these tools allows the marketer to make better decisions on how to allocate time and resources. A few excellent tools to measure inbound marketing success are: HOW DO I GET IT ALL DONE Inbound marketing sounds great, but how can a person carve time out of an already packed day to focus on it? Just like anything else, inbound marketing is one step at a time. Each new method should become easier with practice. Start with the heart; the website has to be functioning properly for all of the other strategies to work effectively. Also, remember that one single person may not be able to do this alone. A company can utilize its partners, suppliers, and friends in the industry that are invested in its success and can help it get started. It is important to have realistic expectations for these applications. It would be optimal to keep a constant flow of new content appearing by tweeting at least once a day and blogging at least once a week, but for some this just isn t realistic. If a company decides to involve and share these new marketing techniques with its staff, it is encouraged to have a clearly stated policy of expectations when using social media on behalf of the office and while at the office. This policy makes sure that everyone is clear on what is and isn t appropriate, so that the entire team can work together for the company s success. Another great way to manage time is to utilize an organizational tool. Applications like TweetDeck tweetdeck.com/beta/, Hootsuite and Twhirl can help manage multiple social media profiles at once. These one-stop organizational areas may help the company reach a larger audience in a shorter amount of time. CONCLUSION The goal of this paper is to educate readers on the trends, opportunities, and tools of inbound marketing. Before investing time or resources into any new concept, a company should consider its own business models, resources, and target markets. Strategies that may be successful for one company type may not be for another. Companies are encouraged to evaluate the current market demands, recommit to the strategies that have proven successful, and stay open to adopting new trends and tactics that will allow increased stability and relevance in a changing world. ABOUT BEST PRACTICES ACTION TEAM This development of this white paper and its content was managed by the CEDIA Industry Best Practices Action Team. Mark Komanecky, simplehome LLC, served as the team subject matter expert for this topic. The Industry Best Practices Action Team is responsible for conducting research to identify and better understand the best practices of residential electronic systems contractor companies. The goal is to determine different levels of benchmarking that will provide valuable assistance for companies of all sizes and to provide new and old companies a road map on how to grow their companies in an organized fashion. The team utilizes the information gathered to inform the membership and collaborate with CEDIA University for the support of educational content CEDIA

5 CEDIA MEMBER TESTIMONIALS The typical marketing for our company in the past two years, in order of lead generation results, has been Google AdWords and SEO, Facebook, Yelp, and Citysearch. We do well with online lead generation along with referrals. But most of our lead generation is from Google AdWords. We have about 7 campaigns with 4 regional searches and residential and commercial campaigns separated. Shawn Hansson Logic Integration Inc. As with many CEDIA pros we are looking for new ways to reach more potential customers. We have just invested a decent amount of money in having a new web site built with SEO being the #1 priority. Instead of just trying to optimize our current site, we thought it may be best if the site is built from scratch with SEO in mind from the start. Along with the investment in SEO, social networking is a priority for us so we can reach as many potential customers as possible. We are not sure if social networking will bring more business initially, but we do believe it will be used more and more by the next generation that one day this will be the way they heard about Cyber Home Networks, Inc. - Kevin Hourihan Cyber Home Networks, Inc. A significant portion of our leads come from the web, and a large portion of our web traffic comes from SEO. When you think about the number of people voluntarily filling out our webform, and compare it to the number of people who typically mail back a contact card from a print advertisement, the difference is staggering. For some reason people are more generous with digital information than traditional methods of communication. I don t know why that is, but digital information is no less valuable to us. So this is an exciting time for us, because marketing is getting cheaper, faster, and easier at the same time. We ve been using an inbound marketing consultant now for 4 months. We signed an annual contract. We have not had any sales as a result of that effort and only 2 contacts from prospects. Perhaps our website is so bad no one wants to call us but I don t think so. We re getting 350+ click throughs per month and spending about $1000 per month. I am really perplexed. Either our site has to change dramatically or this is a complete waste of money. At the moment, I m leaning toward the latter. Our business is about relationships. What we do won t sell on Amazon. - Ray Lepper Home Media Richmond At Engineered Environments, we hired an AdWords specialist from the electronic systems industry to establish and fine tune our search parameters, but after 4-5 months of spending $1,500-1,800 a month, we didn t get a single qualified lead. The poor results could potentially be attributed to (a) selecting the wrong inbound marketing consultant, (b) the fact that our website was not optimized for search engine crawling nor do we have a blog, (c) we didn t stick with it long enough, and/or (d) poor market timing (during the recession). I am confident that inbound marketing can be hugely effective for some, but have also come to believe that certain industries, markets and sectors will experience much different results than others, and that we may not be the right fit. - Randy Stearns Engineered Environments Bob Gullo Electronics Design Group CEDIA 5

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