What is inbound marketing? The beginner’s guide for chemical suppliers

Published March 31, 2022 | Written by Nicolas Dupond

Chemical suppliers have heavily relied on traditional marketing and commercial hunting to acquire new customers.

But these strategies based on massive and unsolicited communications are less and less effective. Their performance is relative to your investment, which means that they no longer generate any value once your budget dries up.

But what if you could attract potential customers to you when they have a need?

This is inbound marketing — a powerful strategy to attract and engage new customers.

In this post, you will learn all the ins and outs of inbound marketing applied to the chemical industry.

Grab a cup of your favorite drink ☕🍵, get comfortable and turn on your brain 🧠⚡. Ready?




The definition of inbound marketing

Inbound marketing is primarily based on a content strategy designed to attract visitors to your blog and website, and to convert these visitors into leads and customers thanks to marketing automation, lead nurturing, lead qualification, social engagement and more.

The philosophy behind this strategy is to make it easy for your future customers to come to you when they have a need or a question, to use your domain expertise to help them, and to earn their trust and permission to pursue the discussion. Each of these will help to create interest in your solution and influence them to choose you.


A simple example of inbound marketing in action

Are you lost with all the jargon I just used? Maybe this simple example will help you.

When a chemical engineer has a need — a problem to solve, a product alternative to find, a trend to learn more about — they will use a search engine like Google to find the answer.

If you have published the right content, they may land on your company’s website to get the answer.

From this page, they could find a nice guide to download about how to solve one of their typical problems. This unknown visitor then becomes a lead: a new contact for you.

What do you do now? Well, you are now able to email this new lead a few days later to perhaps share a case study on how you and your product helped to solve his or her problem. This email is the first step in your lead nurturing process.

And hopefully, you will not send this email manually. It will be automatically sent if the lead matches your in-target criteria. This in-target criteria will be gathered in your download form and will probably include the company activity, job position, and country. This automatic sending of an email is marketing automation.

After downloading the case study, maybe this lead will request a discussion with you. But before asking one of your sales team members to run a one-hour meeting, you will have a quick phone interview to determine if this lead has a viable project for your products. This is lead qualification.



Inbound marketing vs outbound marketing

If you were fishing for a specific species, would you use a dozen of the right type of hook in the most relevant harvest area? Or would you cast a wide net in multiple places and hope that you get lucky?

It’s the same story with inbound versus outbound marketing.

Inbound marketing uses the right content hook on the right channel to attract the right person at the right time, while outbound marketing is a wide net that drags everything into its mesh, while you hope and pray that it worked.

But enough about fishing, I am no fisherman.

Outbound marketing — or often referred as traditional marketing — is all about reaching out to your potential customers with unsolicited communications.

Advertising, promotional emails, cold calls… no one is expecting (or even wanting) your outbound messages. Therefore, the efficacy of an outbound strategy is limited when your goal is to engage new customers quickly.

The probability is extremely low that your message reaches the right person, at the right time, with the right positioning for them. To get results, outbound requires mass marketing actions and expensive budgets to balance its limited ROI.

Do you remember the email that you deleted 10 minutes ago from an unknown company who was requesting 1h to discuss their services because they think it is great for you? That is outbound.

On the opposite end, you have inbound marketing that drives the interest of your potential customers by sharing valuable content adapted to address their challenges and help them in their current stage in the buying process.

They initiate the buying journey, and you give them all the expertise and support they need to progress and make the right decision.



The benefits of inbound marketing for chemical suppliers

Inbound marketing is a mid-to-long term investment. If done well, the reward is substantial and repeatable, and will deliver way beyond your current outbound results.


1. Improve your lead quality and convert more leads into customers

With inbound marketing, you attract leads with a strong intent or a strong interest in your products.

The chance that they have an ongoing project or a need that matches your solutions is much higher with inbound leads versus outbound leads.

We did a study a few years back that compared 1,500 leads that originated from both inbound and outbound sources.

What did we find?

Leads generated through inbound channels converted into business opportunities at a 6X higher rate versus outbound-generated leads. These inbound business opportunities were from companies that matched our client’s target criteria and that had a viable project for our client’s product.


2. Be always on, constantly generate leads

When it comes to engaging new customers, you should consider your content as your new sales team.

Your website doesn’t have working hours, weekends, holidays and does not even have a heavy workload. And, your website doesn’t favor a repeat buying customer over a new prospect that needs further qualification.

Your lead generation is always on, and mostly relies on the traffic that your content constantly attracts from search engines.

Plus, if you stop creating content — which I do not recommend — the previous content is still available, and it still attracts traffic and helps to convert your leads into customers.

This is the main reason why inbound marketing is a long-term investment as well. Your content is here to stay and be found by potential customers searching for a solution.


3. Generate more and more leads over time

If you regularly feed your content library, your number of pages can only grow over time. As a result, you will attract more and more traffic to your website and more and more leads will be generated too.

Traffic generation is a much more complex task. As this is a beginner’s guide, let’s keep it simple for now.


4. Reduce your cost per lead

The cost of inbound marketing is 61% lower per lead vs. outbound marketing (HubSpot, 2017).

I don’t think I need to elaborate further on that.


5. Be the undisputable leader in your segment

If you provide honest and useful expertise in your content — instead of selling your products — your future customers are more likely to consider your company and your products.

They will see you as a reliable expert in your domain, where providing support is more important to you than selling your product. This remains true even if your product is not a fit in the end.

For example, who would you like to work with? The company that helped you to understand how to solve your problem through their blog that you found on Google? Or the one that is only offering an option to “book a meeting” to get an answer?


Test your company's digital maturity



The key success factors for a good inbound strategy in the chemical industry

Define your buyer personas

Your buyer personas are the typical profiles of your target customers.

And you cannot build a strong inbound strategy if you do not clearly know who you want to target and what are their pains and challenges.

Who are they? Where are they? What are their job positions and decision power? What are their needs or challenges? What questions do they ask? What are their companies’ activity, size, and priorities?

These are the typical types of information that you should collect and understand to properly define your B2B buyer personas.


Create quality content

Your content is at the core of your inbound strategy, and its quality must be your top priority.

Always share helpful and valuable information that is customized for each persona. You are not here (nor is it the right time) to push for a sale of your product.

If you share quality content, you will earn the trust of your future customers and gain their permission to engage in a deeper discussion with them. But if you disappoint them with poor content, your reputation will be seriously compromised, and their door may remain shut for a long time.

For each stage of the buying decision, brainstorm your content strategy and plan your content creation to ensure that you address the right topics with an appropriate format.

Content creation also takes time, or human resources to be more accurate, and requires specific skills. So, make sure that you have a dedicated resource with the right skills and knowledge within your team.

You can also rely on external partners for help, but I strongly advise that you invest in your own internal team and not rely 100% on agencies or freelancers.


Optimize your website

You can have the best content in the world but if your website fails miserably to be listed on top of search engine results, your future customers won’t find it.

Pay attention to your SEOSearch Engine Optimization.

Make sure that your website is responsive, loads fast and is easy to navigate. Put yourself in the shoes of your buyer personas.

And your website optimization is not just about your traffic. Your traffic conversion matters too.

You address this conversion by always including a next step to each of your content pieces. This next step could be a link to an additional relevant content piece or even a call-to-action (i.e. request a free sample).

The goal is to help and encourage your leads to progress down your conversion funnel and to track their navigation to score their behavior and intent.


Use social media and material selection platforms

To have an effective inbound strategy, you must tap into all the inbound channels that your target customers frequently use.

Many technical buyers of specialty chemicals and materials are on social media. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram are great channels to use to retarget, nurture and engage your visitors with additional content.

The chemical industry also benefits from material selection platforms like SpecialChem and UL Prospector®. With massive product databases, these two channels are huge inbound magnets that attract millions of active technical buyers every year.

And visitors to these material selection platforms are not simply digital pedestrians. These visitors are actively looking for chemicals and materials solutions and product alternatives. These are the people you need to care about.

To give you some figures, out of the 9 million visits on SpecialChem websites in 2021:

  • 90% visits were from inbound sources
  • 42% visits were related to projects (SpecialChem, 2021 survey)
  • 70% visitors hold the technical decision power or influence

At SpecialChem, we recommend and execute a custom digital marketing program to help you increase and convert this unknown traffic into leads. Each lead comes with an in-target profile score and an AI-generated intent score to help you to easily identify and prioritize the leads with the highest potential.


Nurture and follow-up with your leads

The goal of your inbound strategy is to generate MQLs marketing qualified leads.

But you cannot only rely on your leads to self-educate. You often need to re-engage them to nurture them. Use marketing automation, lead scoring and lead nurturing techniques to maximize your conversion.

And last but not least, qualify your MQLs to identify the business opportunities among them to ensure that you reap all the potential benefits of your inbound strategy.

Good luck!


Leverage inbound marketing to engage chemical buyers on SpecialChem
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