Many businesses that sell through distributors face the same challenge - increasing product sales when you have no direct relationship with the end customer.
This week, my guest is Greg Linnemanstons, President of The Weidert Group, an inbound marketing agency located in Appleton, Wisconsin and Platinum levelHubSpotpartner. Weidert Group has been a HubSpot partner since 2011 and specializes in B2B clients in the industrial space.
In today’s interview, Greg is sharing the details of a campaign that was successful in creating demand amongst restaurateurs and other end customers for a wholesale pizza crust manufacturer.
Check out the complete show notes below to learn more about how Weidert used content to reach both distributors and end customers, and the lessons you can take away from this campaign to improve your own inbound marketing results.
Listen to the episode here:
Alive and Kicking (A&K) Pizza Crust has been a client of The Weidert Group for a little over a year and first reached out while in the process of acquiring another company. The founders of A&K started out with a couple of pizzerias in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Their kids got involved in the business and they discovered that they could grow the business dramatically if they focused on just dough and crust. They know how to make pizza and they have a wonderful test kitchen. and their product offering has evolved quite a bit as a result. They recently introduced a wood fired crust and are able to produce those at plant quantities.
A&K's traditional business had involved the production of par-baked crusts for frozen pizza. At the time, they were selling to companies that did contract manufacturing for clients like Walmart, Kroger etc. and inbound marketing wasn’t a great strategy for that business because the potential customer pool was small and competition very limited. Everyone pretty much knew everyone else in the industry.
The acquisition changed all of this. The new business that A&K acquired is a pizza dough company primarily focused on food service, which is a dramatically different marketplace comprised of hundreds of thousands of independent operators as well as small chains, all buying through distributors. It's a very unconcentrated market that is absolutely primed for an inbound marketing approach.
A&K approached Weidert Group looking for a complete website overhaul and a marketing strategy that would attract restaurant operators to the site and build leads that they could take to distributors.
The A&K team had two audiences it wanted to reach:
Food service distributors; and
Restaurant operators (who almost all buy through local or regional food service distributors) and other businesses (such as bowling alleys, etc.) that sell pizza.
To better understand the target audience, the Weidert team began by interviewing all of the customer-facing team members in A&K as well as a handful of the company’s customers. Through this process, they learned that restaurant operators function on a shoestring budget and therefore are often scrambling to get answers to pressing questions around menu development, pricing, ingredient choices, etc.
Because many pizzeria operators are not experienced restaurateurs, they rely on distributors for help, however, the distributors themselves can’t possibly be experts on everything that an operator needs to know. The Weidert team identified this information gap and quickly concluded that there was an opportunity to be the voice for the restaurant operator - the person who is the expert on how to establish, operate and optimize a pizzeria for growth and profitability.
Although A&K sells through distributors, the objective of the campaign was to attract restaurant operators as primary traffic to the website. As a result, the strategy created by Weidert focused on content that was helpful to restaurant owners and would encourage them to take action.
Prior to launching the campaign, the Weidert team worked closely with A&K to establish clearly defined key performance indicators, including:
Traffic: Because they were starting from almost zero (traffic to the A&K website was in the low hundreds of visits per month prior to the campaign’s launch), the Weidert team set an objective to attract 1100 visitors per month by month six of the campaign.
Leads: From the traffic target of 1100 visitors per month, the team hoped to convert four qualified leads per month. This target was created using the Weidert team’s understanding of conversion rates from visitor to lead, lead to qualified lead, and qualified lead to customer.
Customers: From the four qualified leads, the team wanted to convert one new customer every other month.
While one new customer per month might not sound like a lot, it was a meaningful number for A&K because their business is not at all transactional. Restaurant operators don’t want change. They want their staff to know that the same product is coming in every week, so something has to really go wrong for a new customer to churn. As a result, the lifetime value of a new customer is very high.
This campaign for Weidert marked the first time that A&K had used inbound marketing to generate leads and as a result, the A&K team had no prior experience creating marketing content. Because of the technical nature of the subject matter they were looking to create, The Weidert Group kicked off its engagement with A&K by holding a workshop intended to educate the A&K team on what inbound marketing is, how consumer buying behavior has changed, and how technology can facilitate a different kind of marketing process. Through this process, people who might never have participated in things like content creation or social media began to realize that they have an important role to play in implementing a modern marketing approach.
After completing the initial content workshop, the Weidert and A&K teams worked together to brainstorm topics and from this, built a blog editorial campaign of one post per week. Working closely with the A&K sales team, they identified topics like different crust types, things you can do with leftover pizza dough, improving yields, pizza crust proofing, increasing revenue per box of dough, upcoming trends in “crust technology”, etc. The topics identified were meant to address the different questions and issues facing pizzeria operators.
The top posts (as measured by number of views) created as part of the campaign included:
In addition to creating blogs, Weidert created a number of conversion offers aimed at generating leads. Today, the resource library on the A&K website is incredibly comprehensive and some of the better performing offers include:
The Pizza Component Chart (Cost Calculator): This is the number one offer on the A&K website. Because the team was starting with nothing, they wanted to identify some quick wins that could deliver leads right out of the gate and decided to create an ingredients and cost calculator. This is a simple tool that helps optimize the amount of cheese, sauce and other ingredients, as well a the weight of the pizza crust and helps operators price the finished product. The cheese component is the most volatile because cheese costs go up and down dramatically and pizza operators are constantly forced to look at pricing and optimizing their cost basis.
Elements of a Profitable Pie (Infographic): While infographics are often given away, in this case, Weidert created a high-value infographic that focuses on how you stay profitable as an operator. It was gated behind a landing page and conversion form, and visitors needed to fill out a form in order to get it.
A&K’s landing page conversions rate are extremely high because their content is so focused on pizzeria operators and therefore have developed a lot of credibility with that audience. This strong audience focus - as well as the emphasis on creating high-quality content - is key. Producing bad content is worse than producing no content at all because trust is fragile.
Although the campaign has only been running for a little over a year, it has already surpassed the objectives that were set.
The traffic target of 1100 visits per month by month 6 was achieved in month one.
As of May 2017, A&K was getting about 6000 visits and 8 or 9 sales qualified leads per month.
Some of the best marketing results came from promoting the company’s content via PMQ (Pizza Marketing Quarterly), a traditional trade publication. A&K paid to get links on the PMQ site and promoted the company’s content offers through it. That really helped to jumpstart things and brought a wider audience into A&K’s website.
Today, 75% of A&K’s website traffic is organic, something that the team attributes to the regular publication of high quality, audience-focused content, and strong promotion through industry channels.
Lessons Learned and Key Takeaways
What can you learn from The Weidert Group’s experience creating and implementing this campaign for A&K? Greg shared some of his biggest lessons learned as well as takeaways that you can use to improve the results of your own inbound marketing campaigns:
Getting subject matter experts such as engineers to shift their thinking from sharing their knowledge post-sale, to participating in the sales process and sharing what they know via blogs and other forms of content is essential to the team’s ability to create high-quality content.
One great way to work with technical SMEs is to begin with a workshop that explains what inbound marketing is, how consumer buying behavior has changed, and how technology can facilitate a different kind of marketing process. This is effective at building buy in for the approach and can then be followed up by a content workshop to draw out topics for future content.
Companies need to shift from thinking about selling to thinking about helping. This means operating like a publisher rather than a sales-driven organization.
Always start by getting into the shoes of the buyer and really understanding the customer buying journey. For Weidert, it was important to understand the pitfalls that operators face and how A&K is uniquely qualified to speak to those.
It's important to use a third party to interview customers when doing buyer persona research. What Greg has learned is that almost everyone thinks that the customer is agonizing over price, but in reality, most clients want a reasonable price but are more concerned with service, philosophical fit, etc.
For businesses that sell through distributors, it pays to get aggressive and take an account-based marketing approach. For A&K, Weidert used the same content they did with the operators but sent it to distributors with a message along the lines of “wouldn't you like to have access to the lead flow that is coming from this?”
Start by identifying the most compelling needs that your customers and prospects are expressing. In the first conversation, Greg has with salespeople, he says “give me ten things you love to hear from a prospect that gets you excited to help them.” If you start having those conversations internally, and you’re good at what you do, inbound can be a really good fit for you.
Inbound marketing really shines a light on you and relies on transparency, so if you’re not good at what you do or delivery is lacking, you should focus on fixing your operations, customer support, etc and THEN start sharing your knowledge and experience with the world. The best campaign in the world can’t make up for a flawed product or service.
Don’t be afraid to be aggressive with campaign timelines. When Weidert started with A&K, they thought they were just going to focus on promoting the “live dough ball,” but quickly discovered that operators and distributors are looking for a broader product line. In hindsight, Greg would have been more aggressive on the timeline and the variety of products promoted via the campaign.