Contrary to traditional outbound marketing that “reaches out” to potential customers, inbound marketing simply aims at “being present” on your future buyer’s digital journey thanks to valuable and helpful online content.
This content is designed to attract, educate and convert your ideal customers all along their buying journey by addressing their pains and hurdles.
But what channels do you choose to ensure that you are on the path of those solution-seeking buyers in the specialty chemical industry, meaning the engineers, the formulators and the product developers?
In this article, we are short-listing the top 3 inbound channels for suppliers of specialty chemicals and cosmetics ingredients.
But don’t get us wrong, inbound marketing is not about choosing one channel and investing all your resources in it.
Using inbound marketing means being where your prospects are. And your future customers are using several channels to complete their exploration and ingredients and material selection process.
And you need to be found on all those channels to maximize the impact of your inbound marketing strategy, and quite frankly, to not lose business to your more digitally-savvy competitors.
#1 Channel: Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Most if not all buyer journeys start with online research whether in Google or another search engine.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a combination of techniques to maximize the chances that your content appears in the top 3 search results to attract your future buyers.
And the best recipe to attract this huge inbound traffic starts with creating valuable content and optimizing it to appear on top of the search results.
Here is how you can start to implement your SEM strategy to attract inbound leads.
1. Create content for your target buyers’ needs
To attract your future customers, you need a content strategy.
This content is typically hosted on a corporate website and even within a corporate blog.
Each content you publish must be built around your target buyers’ problems and the solutions you can bring to them. Adapting the topic and the format to the buying stages of your buyer personas is also key to help them progress in their decision.
“How to” guides, articles, interviews, infographics, case studies, and video tutorials are ideal documents to answer your prospects’ exploration and selection needs.
As writing and designing content takes time, repurposing or updating old content is an excellent way to keep your content fresh and release new content or new blog posts more often.
2. Educate yourself on SEO/SEA
SEM includes search engine optimization (SEO) strategies as well as search engine advertising (SEA).
Search engine optimization or SEO strategies are tied to how to write and code your content for a given keyword to maximize your organic traffic. It consists in optimizing on-page and off-page parameters for a specific keyword.
- On-page parameters are those you can directly optimize on your website including such items as URL, titles, meta tags, wording, text formatting, word count, HTML code, responsive design, hyperlinking etc.
- Off-page SEO mostly relies on gaining backlinks to your content from external and reliable websites, such as being quoted by authoritative websites.
Search engine advertising or SEA strategies use a different yet complementary approach to SEO. SEA top-references your content as long as you “pay per click”. This pay per click system is based on keyword bidding, and the more competitive a keyword, the higher the bid. The highest bidder has his/her content listed on top.
This technique is highly effective to immediately drive inbound traffic from the keywords you want, even for competitive keywords that are more difficult to impact with SEO strategies.
There are also many third-party providers that specialize in SEA management and optimization, to help you to minimize the bidding cost and maximize the traffic from your pay per click search engine advertisements.
3. Portray your company as a serious and reliable supplier
Your corporate website is your online identity and many chemical suppliers still underestimate the negative impact that an old-fashion website or a bad user experience will have on their inbound lead generation.
When those solution-seeking engineers have selected the best chemical ingredients for their project, their next step is to look at the associated suppliers, which will lead them to your corporate website, if you have done your SEO correctly.
And they have come to answer their last decisive questions.
Is this supplier serious and reliable? Do I want to contact them to request a sample or a price?
First, to maximize your chance to capture those hot inbound leads, you must use responsive design to ensure an optimal user experience on every device. For example, are your website and contact forms optimized for mobile phone users?
Next, your website must clearly explain who you are, what you do and why you are the right partner for your prospects.
And last, make it easy for your prospects to contact you. Encourage your prospects to contact you in the way they prefer to engage with you. Make your online contact forms short, share your phone number, show a dedicated email address that has a mailbox that is monitored and answered by a human. You can even consider using chatbots which are becoming more and more popular in B2B supplier websites.
#2 Channel: Chemicals & Material Databases
When using search engines, chemicals engineers, formulators and product developers will often see chemical product databases as one of the top 3 search results.
Because these product database websites aggregate great quantities of technical content about hundreds of thousands of chemical ingredients and materials.
Examples of such databases include SpecialChem’s Universal Selector™ of chemical ingredients for formulation of polymers, coatings, adhesives or cosmetics as well as material selection for plastics, MatWeb™ materials database, or even UL Prospector® database.
So how do you capitalize on these product databases for inbound leads?
1. Get reached by a massive and targeted audience
Every day, thousands of engineers, formulators and specifiers are using online product databases to find technical information on the chemical ingredients and materials they are looking for.
In 2017, 1.3 million professionals used SpecialChem’s Universal Selector™.
Those users primarily result from organic traffic from search engines (75,000 organic searches a week) and are more likely to be involved in an active project as detailed in our infographic “Outbound vs Inbound Leads: which convert more into business”.
In this case study, we measured that inbound leads generated through our own database converted 6 times more into business opportunities than outbound marketing leads generated through emails and newsletters.
With this massive traffic of active inbound leads, it is not a surprise that chemical ingredients databases must be on the top of your list of inbound channels.
2. Activate marketing features to capture leads
Each database company typically offers a variety of digital marketing solutions to help your products stand out in the users’ search results.
They also provide lead generation services to not lose the momentum of the professionals actively seeking solutions right now. You can receive the contact details of the professionals who are requesting a sample, looking at your product and downloading your attached documents.
At SpecialChem, we are even using artificial intelligence to analyze and predict the probability of a lead having an active project based on their navigation history.
#3 Channel: Social Media & Networks
What social media channels are your customers using for product research, advice, or even selection?
Unsurprisingly, B2B social media like LinkedIn and Twitter are the best to start with, and especially LinkedIn Groups.
There is a plethora of LinkedIn Groups available to join.
You should choose those that have permission-based joining (open groups tend to be overloaded with ads) and check out the feeds in them to ensure that they are focused on chemical and ingredient selection advice.
1. Don’t sell, share solutions
Once you choose the right groups, you need to contribute!
Remember you are here to help your potential customers by sharing information that is important to them such as how to choose a product grade, troubleshooting, formulation advice...
The better your post and content, the more you will see group members share, like and comment. Don’t use social media to “sell” – it will be a turn-off for members of the group, and you might even be banned from the group.
2. Gate your content to capture leads
Once people land on your content, provide some information for free and then gate the higher value information, giving access only after your prospect provides key contact details such as a name, an email, a job position and a phone for example.
Gathering these contact details will be helpful to trigger outbound campaigns later if this inbound lead is indeed in your target.
And last, make sure visitors have an easy way to contact you through an online form, phone or email. Give them the freedom to choose how they prefer to interact with you.
3. Be active and create a relationship with your followers
Keep in mind that to maximize the impact of social media, a strong presence and intense publication rate is needed.
For LinkedIn groups, we recommend several posts per week, which can be difficult to manage for small and medium companies.
To address this challenge, you can share the publication workload among different persons in your company. For example, one person responsible for one topic, based on his or her field of expertise. You can also consider using social media management systems like Hootsuite® to plan and automate your post publications.
B2C digital habits are spreading into the B2B world and specialty chemical suppliers cannot hide from it.
With 94% of engineers extensively using online resources(2) to feed their projects, inbound marketing is the most important way to attract your future customers.
It generates higher quality leads for sales, with 6 times higher chances to convert them into business compared to outbound marketing leads.
To be successful, chemical companies will need to create valuable content for their buyer personas and be present on the biggest inbound channels where their customers are.
But in the meantime, suppliers will need to reallocate their internal resources to adapt their lead management to inbound leads and boost their content creation capabilities.
Average cost per lead by industry: the final answer from 22 influential articles
Digital media use in the industrial sector