In a recent post, Julie wrote about the importance of marketing in a downturn. It was aimed at the good people of Aberdeen and indeed, Houston, who are going through interesting times because of the fall in the global oil price. Most people didn't see this coming, or chose not to, and now marketing departments around these cities are scrambling around in an attempt to get the phone ringing again. Let's just say their lead generation wasn't quite up to scratch.
Here's What Happened
The oil price was riding high. Companies were inundated with enquiries and could sell their products and services 10 times over. In these times their marketing departments spent their budgets on glossy adverts in magazines, publications that were only read by people who already knew about their businesses, before patting themselves on the back with a loud "job done!" and a high-five. Then the music stopped.
The first thing that happened was the marketing leaders were sacked. Their inflated salaries became too much for companies to bear. This left marketing departments being run by lower cost marketing executives who, now the party was over, had to come to terms with the new normal. It might be said their bosses handed them a poison chalice.
Many good people lost their jobs, in fact there was a rout with over 60k oil industry people put out of work in the UK alone.
Here's What Could Have Happened
A collapse in the oil price is always going to result in job losses and businesses going under. Even a smart marketing team's not going to help in some situations, if the demand's not there it's not there. However, those who relied on outdated outbound or interruption marketing, things such as adverts in trade publications, trade shows etc were always going to fall the hardest. This is because outbound marketing rents the space it occupies and when you run out of money you're done, no more adverts, no more exposure. Marketers rely on outbound at their peril; the world's gone inbound.
Inbound marketing is different. It doesn't rent the space it occupies, it owns it. Do a search in Google for <insert a phrase you'd like to rank for but don't, here>; the businesses you see at the top of page one are now paying nothing for the leads and enquiries they're getting from the people clicking those search result links. While the outbound marketers were paying £10k for a glossy advert or £50k for a snazzy trade show stand these businesses were developing buyer personas, understanding their buyers' needs and problems and generating fantastic content to help them; content people liked and shared, content Google now recognises as trustworthy content it's happy to show in search results. See what they did?
I'm Not Making This Up To Sell Inbound Marketing (I Don't Have To!)
This blog post was inspired by (yet another) email from a desperate marketing intern. It read:
"Looking to make our website more visible to our customers, our main competitors are ranking higher than us on the majority of our key service offerings. Due to the current climate in the oil and gas industry the solution would need to be very cost effective."
For very cost effective I read cheap, and I was right. In simple terms this company is now desperately looking for a low cost, and probably quick, way to rank at the top of Google for search phrases that might generate enquiries. Well, there isn't one, there really isn't. She really asked the wrong question, what she (perhaps) should have said was this.
"Our company has relied on adverts and trade shows to generate sales leads but now we want to get leads via our website. We'd like to invest in creating a scalable, predictable marketing machine that's going to make sure our company appears in front of people when they look (on Google/YouTube/Twitter/etc) for solutions to their problems. We realise this is going to need a decent budget but we don't want to go bust so we're ready to invest."
If only we could get an enquiry like that!
If you're enjoying steady demand for your products and services ask yourself this. What would happen if you could no longer afford the TV or magazine ads that currently feed your sales team's thirst for leads. Where would they come from?
Recognise that if you're not investing in building a moat round your business by securing solid rankings in Google for the search terms your customers are using, you're going to come unstuck. Now's the time to review your approach, not once the phone's stopped ringing and your bank account's empty.