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For a young company, it’s difficult to attract an audience when human and financial capital is limited.

Keeping the lights on is more important than expensive marketing experiments.

We faced this challenge at Repsly when we were ready to sell our product at scale.

Luckily, we found a solution:

Inbound marketing

Did you know that 25% of sales are lost to poor retail execution?

For consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies that operate with razor-thin margins, a percentage this high can hurt even the most established businesses.

Repsly is a retail execution software that helps brands with field teams remedy this problem.

Our company was born out of one global conglomerate’s need for better visibility into what happens to their products after they leave the warehouse.

Ten years later, we’ve evolved from a custom solution to a flexible SaaS product deployed by over 1,100 brands in 80 countries.

Until last year, that growth was driven purely by inbound marketing.

In this post, I’ll explore…

  • The framework and tools we used to drive demand and close deals,
  • Why and how we transitioned to include a formal sales organization, and
  • How we’re using an inbound-outbound hybrid to boost revenue.

“If you build it they will come…”

Strapped for resources, we saw inbound as a cost-effective way to educate an emerging market about our offerings and generate demand for our product.

What constitutes an inbound methodology?

We can define it as “a technique for drawing customers to products and services via content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization, and branding.”

Given the absence of paid media in inbound strategy, we pointed almost all of our efforts towards creating a content marketing “machine”.

The goal was to drive traffic to the blog where visitors would be offered a relevant piece of gated content.

Those who opted in would be contacted via email to gauge interest in our product. At this point, our Customer Success Managers (CSMs) would give a demo of the product to leads of their choosing and ultimately close the deal.

The marketing team used a series of nurture emails for those leads who weren’t ready to consider a software solution or with inadequate contact information.

But obviously, this lead flow didn’t magically appear out of thin air.

Building Up the Blog

To create something from nothing, the marketing team started by looking to our existing customer base to see where there were strong use-cases.

They brainstormed topic ideas for the blog by finding overlap in terms of industry, vertical, and problems solved.

After general topics were determined, it came time to select individual keywords that blog posts would attempt to rank for in a search query.

To do this the team looked at what our competitors, as well as industry publications, were ranking for, and used tools like SEMrush to find out what the difficulty and volume around these keywords was.

For example, merchandisers have always been our target audience, but the term “merchandising” is vague. However, “retail merchandising” is lower in volume, but much more relevant to the reader we’re trying to reach.

It also has a higher volume than terms like “in-store merchandising” or “stock merchandising” which are related to Repsly but wouldn’t garner nearly enough views.

After establishing a “master list” comprised of hundreds of keywords, the team broke it down into tiers based on how topical a given keyword was, how buyer intent-focused it was, and how difficult it would be to rank for.

This exercise created silos of topics that dictated what they’d write about.

Our marketing manager Cameron Garrant explains that when in doubt, it’s essential to stick with your initial assumptions about your product and your target market since great content is useless if it’s not reaching the right people.

With time and practice, blog posts started driving considerable traffic.

To convert visitors and push them further down the buying funnel, we needed compelling gated content that would live within each blog post.

The team decided on subject ideas for these bigger pieces of content based on the volume and quality of blog traffic combined with the keyword intent that a given page was ranking for.

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A modest budget and limited skill set on the team meant that the content had to be fairly simple. Hence, ebooks and best practice guides became the medium of choice.

Some of our most recent titles include “3 Types of Data You Need to Explode Sales in Your Highest Priority Retailers”, “Guide to Using Point-of-Sale Data for Intelligent Retail Execution”, and “The Ultimate Guide to Trade Promotions in 2019”.

At this point, we were gaining traction but knew we couldn’t reach our growth goals if we didn’t make some enhancements.

Scaling Up

By the beginning of 2017, we were averaging 10,000 monthly blog visitors, and we’d acquired roughly 500 customers.

With the content machine in place, it was time to scale.

We looked for ways to double down on what was working and trimmed the fat on what wasn’t.

As Garrant puts it, the team’s benchmark for adding a new tool to the technology stack was “when we started feeling pain.”

What did we do next?

ConvertFlow became important when we realized that a substantial amount of visitors were dropping off after being pushed to a landing page to download a piece of content from the blog.

The new solution allowed us to collect leads directly in the call-to-action (CTA) on the blog page instead of forcing visitors to a separate page to download the content.

Since implementing this alternative in July 2017, we’ve seen 3x the conversion rate from visitor to lead on our blog.

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Another way we optimized our visitor-to-lead conversion rate was by employing the conversational-marketing tool Drift.

We used the platform’s automated routing on specific blog posts to offer visitors relevant content. By engaging with visitors in a conversational way, we were able to move them down the funnel faster.

In early 2018, our inbound efforts catapulted us to a new milestone when we acquired our 1,000th customer!

However, we were starting to understand that in the young retail execution software space, there are only so many brands actively searching for a software solution like ours.

We’d have to alter our strategy to get in front of those who were not seeking one out.

Formalizing Sales

While we’ve always had a sales component to the company, we had never invested in an outbound salesforce.

It wasn’t until mid-2018 that the decision was made to bring on salespeople who would focus their time on reaching out to prospects rather than waiting for them to come to us.

As stated above, our aggressive growth goals made it imperative that we go after cold leads rather than rely purely on inbound.

Nevertheless, inbound remains a critical part of our marketing strategy.

Sales & Marketing Collaboration

We’ve always been a marketing-driven company, and the addition of a sales team meant that the marketing team would shift its role to complement sales’ efforts.

The two teams work together on goal setting and meet regularly to check in on the progress of these goals.

They also exchange feedback frequently. For example, marketing relies on sales to learn more about customer pain points while sales need marketing to create product-centric assets for them.

We never took our foot off the pedal of the inbound engine and continue to focus on harnessing as many marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) as possible.

As we take our product upmarket, we’re creating content that speaks more to the enterprise customer.

Just recently we landed a deal with a Fortune 500 brand whose original engagement point was through one of our blog posts.

Conclusion

Inbound marketing has the power to drive serious sales if your content resonates with the right audience.

It may take a lot of research, time, and trial and error to bring leads to the door, but it certainly pays off in the end.