With most marketing budgets put on hold last year, the office technology industry has had to step up its game, and fast. With a steep drop in aftermarket revenue, dealers have had to get creative in sales and marketing. Some chose to diversify their product lines, while others doubled down on customer service and catered to the work at home trend. No matter how the market evolves, moving forward in 2021 will require an experienced marketing team that knows how to use a multi-channel strategy and marketing automation software.
With all the uncertainty in the world today, it might be foolish to try and predict marketing trends for this year, but here are my top five marketing trends the office technology industry can’t ignore in 2021.
1. Customer experience
As I said last year in my predictions for 2020, putting the customer first is of the utmost importance. The only way to achieve this is to totally align sales, marketing and customer service teams.
HubSpot’s Dharmesh Shah talks about the trust factor in the customer experience journey. He believes T (trust) = P (probability of good) – P (probability of bad). Essentially, a customer trusts a company based on the chances they will receive a good customer experience versus a bad customer experience.
When I make a purchase on Amazon, I trust the transaction will go smoothly and the product will be delivered on time, which is why my Amazon trust score is extremely high. On the other hand, early in the pandemic, I decided to purchase my groceries online and have them delivered. It was a disaster and now my trust factor with my local grocery store is low.
That grocery store failed in its opportunity to gain my trust and I started shopping at another local grocery store. Whether you consider it a problem or opportunity, you only get one chance to earn a customer’s trust.
The buyer’s journey begins with attracting prospects to your website with blogs, keywords and social media. We can then convert them with landing pages and calls to action. Those marketing leads are then turned over to the sales team where it’s important that they respond quickly with relevant content and information the prospects need.
Once the sale has been made, it’s important to follow up with a customer satisfaction survey and ask for reviews so these customers that trust us so highly can promote you to other new prospects. Each of these stages are crucial in the buyer’s journey and building trust with a prospect.
Maximize your trust score and watch your dealership grow.
2. Battle of the bots
By some definitions, a BOT means “back on topic,” so a chatbot requires responding to certain phrases with programmed responses while remaining on topic. Automating responses with rule-based or AI chatbots may seem daunting for most small dealerships, but as business technology experts shouldn’t we be leading the charge in these areas? If the goal is to provide excellent customer service, then chatbots are the answer for office equipment dealers of every size. In fact, 69% of consumers prefer chatbots because of their ability to provide quick replies to simple questions.
An even bigger incentive is that chatbots can help businesses save as much as 30% of customer support costs. High customer satisfaction and increased savings sounds like a win/win, but where to start? Begin by automating the sales lead department with a 24/7 chatbot that will answer basic questions until your marketing or sales personnel are online to answer questions in real time. The next step is to see where service and supplies can be automated. Think how easy it would be for a customer to order toner online with a simple customer ID and machine number.
3. Content marketing
By now, most dealerships have begun a content marketing strategy. Whether you’re outsourcing the writing to an industry partner or you have a full marketing department with a content writer on board, you need to be participating in a solid inbound marketing plan. Gone are the days when salespeople dropped off manufacturer brochures and then waited for an office manager to call. Today, that decision maker simply goes online and Googles what they need. It’s up to your company to be found. According to the Content Marketing Institute:
• Content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing and generates three times as many leads.
• Content marketing has lower up-front costs and deeper long-term benefits than paid search.
• Small businesses with blogs generate 126% more leads than those without blogs.
• Content marketing rakes in conversion rates six times higher than other methods.
Content marketing is not a trend, it’s a proven strategy that’s not going away anytime soon. Google will continue to value good and well-researched content and it’s up to your dealership to invest heavily in this area. Embrace your inner writer and jump on the bandwagon.
4. SEO and position zero
Once you’ve started building your online content library, you can master SEO best practices. Ask any SEO expert today and they will tell you the goal of good search engine results is the highly coveted “position zero” in Google. If you have strong content on your website, you could be the one hitting the pot of gold for modern-day SEO. Also known as rank zero snippet, making sure the titles of your blog include words like best, vs, definition, price and review can propel you to the top of Google searches.
Start by looking for long-tail keywords that your content can answer online. (Trying to rank for general words like “copiers” is going to be next to impossible.) An easy way to find blog topics is to use the free website, AnswerThePublic. Never mind the creepy guy in the background, be sure to change the dropdown to United States and English and you’ll be impressed with the results. Other websites that can be helpful are FaqFox and KWFinder. By providing in-depth answers to questions you know your prospects are asking, your dealership can rank at the top of Google searches, too.
5. Video marketing
Video marketing is one of, if not the, most important marketing trends for 2021. If I could hire one new person on our marketing team this year it would be an experienced videographer and editor. I’ve had requests from every department within our dealership for more videos. Video is by far the most popular way customers want to learn about new products, so it’s natural that we create videos on printers, document management and cybersecurity.
From live demo streaming to off-site installations and training, video has huge impact on the customer experience. Regardless of your budget, video marketing is affordable for everyone. Today, you can shoot high-quality 4K video with your smartphone. While this might be the entryway for video marketing, it won’t be long before you’re investing in higher quality cameras, microphones, lighting and editing software. We’ve created demonstration, brand, event, educational, explainer, animated and case study videos in the past few years and this will only continue.
To get started, there are tons of free online video tools that your company can try. Have your sales team experiment with free video tools like Soapbox to get the attention of prospects and be sure to host your videos on platforms like Wistia and Vidyard to make sure your audience can view, share and engage with your videos. These platforms will provide a wealth of data that will give you strategic insight for your next video campaign.
Now is not the time to go back to the marketing playbook of previous years, but to capitalize on change and look to improve the office equipment industry. While most businesses are cutting back or trying to pivot, there is opportunity for those who are willing to embrace change and help their companies gain market share in 2021.
Connie Dettman is director of marketing for Gordon Flesch. She has extensive advertising agency experience, having helped businesses effectively promote their products and services. In her role as director of marketing, Connie helps identify business opportunities and leverages tools and strategies to reach the appropriate audiences with the right messages.