This week’s guest hails all the way from Victoria, British Columbia! Darragh Grove-White has been the Digital Marketing Manager at LJ Welding Automation for two years, and has been deep in the world of online marketing for eight years.
THE COMPANY’S HUMBLE BEGINNINGS BEFORE DIGITAL MARKETING
LJ Welding is an industrial automation manufacturer based out of Edmonton, Alberta. They began largely in the field of oil and gas (and the many sub-industries thereof) forty years ago. Over time, they started to branch out after the economic crash in 2009 to include nuclear power, military contracts, and even companies involved in space exploration.
With so many different industries to reach, LJ Welding’s marketing has to be very persona-specific in order to reach the right people and appeal to them in the right way.
You can’t market to a business owner in the oil and gas industry with the same message that you use for a nuclear plant’s health and safety officer.
When Darragh came on the scene, he knew they needed to transition into digital marketing. But first, he helped LJ Welding to differentiate their target audiences until they had a list of six distinct personas for each industry. Each of these personas has distinct pain points and buying motivations.
Knowing these personas is particularly important because many end-users feel that their jobs are threatened by automation…the very thing that Darragh is trying to market. Because of this, Darragh makes sure to categorize each lead when they come in. He also makes sure his sales team knows what each persona means. That way, they can communicate more effectively with each lead.
But coming up with such a streamlined process took a vast amount of effort.
While the company is over forty years old, it was purchased from Larry John in 2006. At that time, the business was only based in Edmonton in a single garage bay, and marketing consisted of little more than paper flyers and a select few loyal, local customers. Since then, the company has grown exponentially.
That little single-warehouse business grew into two facilities reaching 45 countries, with an annual revenue of $30 Million. And Darragh contributes it all to their transition into digital marketing.
LJ has spent several thousands of dollars on paid ads, from Facebook and LinkedIn to even Reddit. Additionally, the company got a head-start on Google Adwords and gained more targeted traffic for a few years before their competitors even realized what was happening.
RECOGNIZING THE NEED TO TRANSITION INTO DIGITAL MARKETING
After the company originally came under new management, one of the first changes they made was to create a website. However, that site was little more than an online photo album and “glorified mailbox,” according to Darragh.
He came onboard just as the company was deciding to increase its online content. At the time, they were producing a few blogs here and there without any purpose.
They were just posting content for content’s sake. No one was asking customers what they wanted to know or see.
Darragh had just gotten his university degree, and his HubSpot Inbound Certification. To this day he asserts that taking the free online marketing course is one of the best choices he ever could have made. His previous experience in sales prepared him to transition into digital marketing without issue.
“To be a really good marketer, you have to first be good at sales.”
Once he came in, Darragh figured out LJ had no clear ROI on their ad spend or lead generation. They weren’t even tracking conversions; just counting leads (qualified or not). That was a serious problem.
“If you’re not able to track things, you’re not able to improve things.”
The company’s problem also wasn’t that it was necessarily ignorant of its needs. Rather, the staff were just too busy to implement the changes they needed.
As Darragh recalls, the COO was trying to do the marketing himself, while being the central deal-closer for the business. Because of that, his energies and focus were split between two very key departments. Each really deserved a single person’s whole attention.
Was the arrangement functional? Sure. Was it cost-effective? No.
“Good marketing is expensive. Bad marketing is even more expensive.”
To complicate matters even further, LJ was employing an outside marketing agency to manage their PPC at the time. On the surface, that decision was just fine…until Darragh dug deeper.
LJ was getting some leads from their agency’s marketing. However, none of those leads were differentiated, or necessarily even qualified.
As it turned out, the agency was chosen mainly because they were local. And without other agencies to compete against, they were able to charge a high price for what the company now knows was pretty poor paid advertising.
“If you’re using an agency for your PPC and they aren’t asking enough about your customers, that should be a red flag. And the trouble is, they weren’t. And although we were getting a lot of traffic to the website, it was not targeted traffic… They were doing the bare minimum, because they could see LJ was doing great on its own.”
As Darragh dug deeper into the agency’s work, he found that they were blending metrics to make results look better than they actually were. They were taking credit for results that they couldn’t clearly measure as their own.
THE FIRST STEPS INTO DIGITAL MARKETING
As well as phasing out that agency, Darragh started implementing changes for his company. They started to take control of their own transition into digital marketing by using HubSpot for Calls-To-Action and link tracking.
The first and perhaps biggest change was contact forms. Rather than using one “contact us,” form for the entire website, they started creating multiple landing pages for quote requests.
That way, leads would go to a more personalized page that matches their dilemma, their persona, and their needs. They could also be more easily tracked that way. Darragh and the sales team were able to see which products and services were driving more traffic and conversions.
Darragh also emphasizes that their landing pages were just that: landing pages.
That means the pages had minimum distractions, even going so far as eliminating menu bars and excessive text. One large image or video, a few bullet points, and the form: that was all. The pages were guiding each lead into finishing what they came for, rather than wandering away.
Tweaks and A/B tests like that have gotten Darragh’s average conversion rate on Request-a-Quote pages up to 30%!
20% is acceptable, Darragh says. Less than 10% on a page means you probably need a change…especially if the submissions that you are getting aren’t right for that service.
“Our job as marketers is to get qualified leads.”
Differentiating landing pages and forms for different personas is also a great help to the sales team. By knowing which form a lead came through, sales can identify the needs and pain points of that individual so they know how to talk with them.
If conversions are still a struggle, Darragh recommends trying to decrease the number of questions you’re forcing leads to answer. Otherwise, increase your emphasis on the value of what they’re getting. If you’re giving a free ebook about how to save $1200 per year, remind them what a deal that is in exchange for their contact information.
As well as contact information, there are other questions about leads that might be more valuable to you than others.
One good question to add to your forms is asking your leads what they expect the price range to be.
It’s a very valuable technique for you and for your sales team to see how much a lead values your product or service before going in. And communicating with sales in this way is not an option to Darragh: it’s a way of life. What marketing does will always affect sales.
“For a really good marketing job, your sales person’s job should be little more than a cashier. For a really bad marketing job, your sales person has to be close to a used car salesman.”
Darragh always makes sure to communicate with the sales team to try and make their job easer. He especially makes a habit to ask what common questions sales is fielding from leads. Those could be the subject of new, valuable blog posts.
REDDIT: A SECRET WEAPON FOR MANUFACTURERS?
One unexpected source of leads that Darragh touched on in our interview was Reddit. Frankly, we couldn’t help but ask for more information about that.
As it turns out, Reddit is one of the top nine most visited sites in the world. It even ranks fourth in the United States. It’s the “front page of the internet,” and it’s a bit of an anomaly. Reddit is its own self-contained ecosystem, says Darragh. If you can swing it, it can also be a really cheap source of advertising. But…you need to do it right.
The site is comprised of a predominantly 60% male audience under the age of 38, who are moderate to liberal in their thinking.
So if one of your personas is a millennial male, then Reddit might be an untapped resource worth literal millions to you.
But before you dive into that gold mine, the site requires a lot of understanding before one can really begin advertising there.
Spend some time browsing the sub-reddits (think forums). You’re guaranteed to find one dedicated to just about any hobby in existence, from welding to unplugged woodworking to knitting.
The more popular a post, the more “up-votes” it gets from readers. The poorer the post, the more downvotes it gets. Each vote literally helps to move the post up or down the front page of that sub-reddit.
If you’re just getting started on a sub-reddit, you can also pay around $5 for 30 upvotes to garner some attention. It’s a bit of a black-hat technique, though. Besides, your content still has to be valuable if you want to keep getting upvotes.
Pay close attention to how the popular titles are phrased and how their content is delivered. They’re great examples of how to attract viewers.
“It’s up to us as marketers – industrial or whatever – to stay up on [the times].”
Forums of any kind are great resources, because you can see firsthand what your prospects and personas are discussing. That can help you determine what content to create or release. Weldingweb.com is another forum that Darragh loves to use as inspiration for source material on LJ’s own blog.
Either way, he says, the process involves constant adaptation and change.
There’s no guarantee that certain techniques (especially slightly shadier ones) will work tomorrow. That’s why it’s key to be aware of your personas and their issues, so that you can continue to meet their needs wherever they are.
“It’s this constant process of learning, applying, and testing new things…because the things that work today may not work tomorrow.”
So, to Recap…
In short, a high-quality transition into digital marketing takes…well, work.
You need to identify your personas and figure out what’s relevant to them. Differentiate and track your conversions so that you can make life easier for your sales team. Keep up with the times and find out where your personas are online.
Most importantly, you. Need. To. Measure. Everything.
It was hard to end the interview, with all the amazing tips that Darragh was willing to share. We certainly can’t wait to have him back, but in the meantime he can be reached at [email protected], and also on LinkedIn.
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