Averica made a decision in 2014 to apply effort and investment to “inbound marketing,” the art of helping potential customers find us. Inbound marketing recognizes that today consumers search for a provider instead of the vendor pitching to customers. Think how door-to-door sales changed to cold calling, and changed again – now we research products and companies on the web and place orders directly online, with no human interaction in the sale at all.
Inbound marketing requires that the potential customer find us – that’s about our website and about search engine optimization (SEO) and content. But finding us is only part of it. Doing business with us requires that they find us, recognize us, and associate us with a quality they want or need. That’s about reputation and visibility, and those are key aspects of a good branding program.
In our laboratory services business, we contract with companies who need to access our technology, capacity, or expertise. In the olden days (5-10 years ago), we might have told our story in a print advertisement or a trade show booth. Either is a marketing investment of thousands of dollars. These costs are not only high, but the methods are rapidly becoming ineffective. Few in our industry (pharmaceutical development) read magazines thoroughly or attend trade shows these days. Once-popular shows like PittCon (for analytical instruments and services) have seen attendance drop by 75% in the past ten years.
Like others, we’re constantly experimenting with marketing: playing with a mix of technical content (presentations and downloads), website tuning, social media, and blast emailing. We’ve learned to track the results of these activities forward to customer engagement. It’s been a long learning curve, but a productive one.
Last year (2015) we decided to try a new approach to enhancing our visibility – sponsoring an elite level women’s cyclocross team. Cyclocross is a fast growing bicycle racing discipline that is crowd-friendly and gaining media coverage. Unlike other disciplines, coverage of elite women is nearly as deep as elite men. It’s got a high “cool factor.” And our biggest national markets, Boston and San Francisco, are loaded with cyclists.
The big question, and this was a question from the beginning, is “How can we gauge the impact of our investment in this somewhat unusual budget item?” The sport depends heavily on the support of sponsors, so it’s in the interest of both team and sponsor to understand this. I’m going to try to do a little analysis of this in my next post in this series – stay tuned.