When you think of oil and gas marketing, do you think of huge exhibition stands, glossy brochures, flashy advertising posters and lavish corporate hospitality? This may have been the case in the (even very recent) past, but now it seems that whether temporarily or permanently, the big budgets are shrinking. High profile, conspicuous profile-building activities no longer seem appropriate. At the same time, the market is becoming more competitive, with less business to go around. So, what do you do?
When marketing to companies in the oil and gas industry, you need to achieve three things:
- Keep hold of existing customers - don't let them move to your competitors just because they're cheaper than you.
- Reach new customers - grow your business and increase your market share.
- Reach a wider audience of stakeholders - the press, influencers, investors, employees.
All this while keeping your costs down, your reputation up, not looking as if you're spending for vanity and being able to measure and justify every penny you spend. With budgets under tight scrutiny, and people leaving the industry more or less daily, personal relationships within the industry may no longer be enough.
Fortunately, that's where inbound marketing comes in.
How it works
What do you have that your customers need? You may have specialised equipment or much-valued expertise in a particular area; and before they do business with you people want to know who you are, how you can help and that they can trust you.
Customers nowadays have the upper hand. They have access to a world wide web of information and a social network of opinions. They need to see the proof, and you need to provide it; through useful, relevant information to be found in the right places at the right time.
Your boss and the board also want to see the proof. They want to see the results from your marketing budget. Is it a cost or an investment?
Inbound marketing and its starting point, content marketing, helps you get in front of the right audience just when they're looking for what you have to offer. It saves wasting budget on promotional activities that reach the wrong people - or reach the right people at the wrong time. The huge billboard at the airport looks amazing and says all the right things, but if your target buyer isn't looking for your services on the day they're heading out on a business trip, it's worthless. It may well build awareness, but it won't generate hard cash. In an ideal world, you'd be doing inbound marketing and getting those billboards up, but when times get tough, it's the immediate income generating activities that are going to help you stay in a job.
It works. According to HubSpot, 54% more leads are generated by inbound tactics than traditional paid marketing. Even better, companies save an average of $20,000 per year by investing more in inbound marketing vs. outbound.
Before you start
So, the two questions you need to ask before you start creating content are:
1. Who are you trying to reach? Develop a precise picture of your typical customer - also known as a buyer persona.
2. What is your buyer's journey? How do they get from first hearing about you to becoming a loyal customer?
A typical inbound journey for a oil and gas industry buyer might be:
- see a tweet from your business
- click on a link in a LinkedIn post shared by a colleague
- read a blog post on your website
- search on google for information to help in their job
- see your website and click as it is familiar already
- read another blog post
- see a call to action at the end of the blog post and provide their email address to obtain a hugely valuable and useful sheet of facts and figures to help them in their job
- receive an email from you offering a video guide or a checklist
- watch the video
- receive an email offering an audit
- request an audit
- receive their audit and a case study showing how you helped a business like theirs
- receive an offer of a face-to-face meeting to talk through the audit
- meet your Business Development Manager
- buy something
- buy something else
- tell all their friends how great your products are
The more you know about your buyer and their needs, the more likely that the content you provide is going to be useful and relevant and therefore the more likely they are to engage in a long-term relationship with your business.
As you see, the entire process is driven by content. It starts with social media and search and moves through blogging to providing specific and valuable information. Blogging is vital here as it generates the content for your social media, gives you somewhere to send your social media connections, and leads then through to providing their data in return for information of genuine value. It is also the "special sauce" for helping you showing up in the all important search engines in the long term. HubSpot statistics show that marketers who blog are 13 times more likely to drive positive ROI.
The other appealing factor is that inbound marketing is easy to measure. At any given moment you can see the number of potential clients at each stage of the buying process, find out how they got there and track what they do next. So you know exactly which activities are most effective.
If you're still not sure, ask your sales team if they'd like you to make their lives easier. Social media has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing. (State of Inbound Marketing, 2012)
In conclusion, when budgets are under scrutiny, marketing techniques which save money and generate more leads have to be worth considering. Research by Demand Metric indicates that content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing, but costs 62% less.
If you want to hang on to your marketing budget, or even increase it, apparently inbound marketing success is the way ahead. The HubSpot State of Inbound, 2014 report finds that "no single factor has a greater impact on budget than previous success with inbound marketing. Remarkably, the financial upside of prior inbound success exceeds even the downside of adverse economic conditions. Simply put, success – best expressed in terms of return on investment (ROI) – unlocks budget and insulates marketers against economic vagaries."
That's got to be worth thinking about right now.