Upon joining Gordon Flesch Company (GFC) in 2016 as director of marketing, one clear directive was imparted upon Connie Dettman: fix the website.
OK, so maybe her job description was a bit more detailed than that one task. However, the Madison, Wisconsin-based dealership knew well what Dettman would soon discover: the company’s website needed a bit of massaging to become a more effective tool, especially in its role of providing inbound opportunities that could be converted into sales. The site she inherited was rich in text, lacked photos and valuable content, and had absolutely zero lead generation capabilities.
Dettman touted an advertising agency background, and her former employer made excellent use of the HubSpot inbound marketing automation tool. As she began down the path of converting the site, Dettman couldn’t help but think a HubSpot-powered site relaunch and an extensive inbound marketing program would pay dividends for the dealer. Little did Dettman know the degree of success GFC would enjoy.
Today, gflesch.com is a full-featured website teeming with graphics, videos, 600-plus blogs, free downloads and calls to action for clients and prospects to interact with the dealer. Recently, a live chat feature was added to provide real-time information. In less than five years, the site has produced more than 4,000 leads, 1,000-plus sales and revenues of $13.6 million, of which $7.5 million is represented by net-new customers. The average lifetime value of the customers is $187,000, which translates to $82 million over the next 10 years.
GFC’s monumental success in transforming its website is just one of countless success stories enjoyed by office technology dealerships. This month’s State of the Industry focus on marketing illustrates how dealers can leverage an area that’s traditionally been regarded as a cost center to greater heights through inbound and outbound marketing measures. The humble website may have been regarded as a digital brochure 20 years ago, but like the marketing department itself, its unlimited potential can’t be overstated.
Dettman credits the Weidert Group, an Appleton, Wisconsin-based inbound marketing specialist—and GFC customer—in helping transform the site into a cash cow. The results are fairly stunning.
“All that good SEO and content we’ve produced has really taken off, and we’re reaping the benefits of it,” Dettman said. “We keep putting more and more into the machine, adding content that is fresh and new, as opposed to resting on our laurels.”
Usually, marketing is off in its own corner, making brochures and doing its thing. We’re now a part of the sales meetings, part of the goal setting. It’s important to have that level of visibility if you want to have the whole system work.– Connie Dettman, Gordon Flesch
While the investment was fairly significant, GFC turned an ROI within the first year and continues to exceed expectations. It’s also elevated the significance of the marketing department within GFC, and fully aligned it with sales.
“Usually, marketing is off in its own corner, making brochures and doing its thing,” she said. “We’re now a part of the sales meetings, part of the goal setting. It’s important to have that level of visibility if you want to have the whole system work.
“Marketing is all about data, data, data, and you have to be good with Excel docs, crunching the numbers and making it work. It’s expensive, and to do it well, you have to be all-in. A dealer really needs a marketing person or an agency who’s going to drive the initiative.”
If anything, marketing’s role took on even greater significance for GFC during the pandemic. In addition to marketing home office and temperature-scanning kiosks, Dettman’s department was busy producing informational materials that were populated among clients and prospects, touching on subjects including a school district case study (temperature kiosks), managing remote workers, COVID-19 signage for businesses, copier cleaning best practices and business reopening tips.
“The results were immediate and we had a record number of leads and a record amount of traffic coming to our website,” Dettman noted.
Email marketing has taken center stage for Access Systems of Waukee, Iowa, as the dealer has employed a more in-depth approach to supporting its sales team. Marketing Coordinator Maddie McGinn and her team created tailored templates for reps to use as a precursor to drip marketing campaigns that help keep the dealer top of mind with prospects and increase brand awareness. McGinn also crafted email campaigns that speak to specific vertical markets and customer pain points, positioning Access Systems’ services and solutions as an office elixir.
McGinn has used blogs to help illustrate problem-solving solutions in light of the pandemic. In one example, titled “Leveraging Technology in the Pandemic,” she spoke of how the company’s VoIP solutions helped companies efficiently transition into work-from-home scenarios.
“We highlighted the importance of cybersecurity in working from home, and how companies need to consider protecting their assets, as it opens the door to potential hackers and malware threats,” McGinn said. “One example of a cybersecurity tool is multi-factor authentication that can make customers’ homes and networks more secure. It was all about tailoring our language to support companies during the pandemic.”
Charlie Kiesling, director of people and culture for Access Systems, notes the wide disparity between customer sets in their return-to-work approach. For example, in its Des Moines, Iowa, market—which is heavily skewed toward insurance companies—many of its biggest clients still haven’t returned to the office, making IT and security the prime talking points. Meanwhile, for its Sioux Falls, South Dakota, territory, business conditions remained relatively normal throughout the period despite a population in excess of 177,000. Thus, the need to tailor messaging based on the dealer branch was essential.
From an inbound perspective, Access Systems uses marketing and recruitment blogs that link back to their website to draw in more web traffic. McGinn huddles with sales teams every three months to gain insight to the buzz words and content that will create value with readers and position Access Systems as a thought leader. She also shares the dealer’s YouTube page to its home site, as it contains links to manufacturer content (how-to videos from Sharp, Ricoh and Toshiba) to gain valuable insight on a range of topics.
We’re in the development phase of a new overview video to give customers and prospects a general view of Access Systems and who we are that includes interviews with our executives. This should draw increased traffic and generate more activity for our website.– Maddie McGinn, Access Systems
“We’re in the development phase of a new overview video to give customers and prospects a general view of Access Systems and who we are that includes interviews with our executives,” McGinn added. “This should draw increased traffic and generate more activity for our website.”
Prior to 2021, Virginia Business Systems (VBS, and its sister company, Edwards Business Systems, EBS) outsourced the hosting and editing of its websites to a company that had offshore data center and development resources; the same firm handled the dealers’ social media and blog content. According to Keith Bax, director of marketing for Virginia Business Systems, the organization felt it was imperative to control the sites and content internally, so last March the websites were repositioned into a domestic HubSpot hosting location where content and edits are directed through the HubSpot CMS.
By incorporating video, we’re making our website less of a data dump and are answering more of customers’ questions. The combination of that and the work that Keith and his team are doing with SEO have been the major changes.– Jim Dotter, Virginia Business Systems
The company relies on a mixture of inbound and outbound marketing efforts that incorporate video, content marketing, organic SEO and email prospecting. Phone and in-person prospecting by sales reps is supplemented by vertically focused phone scripts and leave-behind materials for in-person visits. Equally as important, EBS/VBS generates 100% of its blog content and social media posts internally.
The organic content, and much of what EBS/VBS generates from a marketing standpoint, emanates from the teachings of Marcus Sheridan, author of “They Ask, You Answer.” VBS invited Sheridan to present at a sales and marketing workshop the dealer hosted at the University of Richmond, and he spoke on the virtues of content marketing, using video and assignment selling. It proved to be an epiphany for the dealer.
“We came away from the workshop in agreement that we would adopt the ‘They Ask, You Answer’ principles in our sales and marketing efforts,” noted VBS President Jim Dotter. “That is our playbook now. Rather than listening to companies or consultants, we all read the book and are implementing those processes. By incorporating video, we’re making our website less of a data dump and are answering more of customers’ questions. The combination of that and the work that Keith and his team are doing with SEO have been the major changes.”
In addition to the original content, EBS/VBS has revamped various aspects of its website. For example, there’s a new section dedicated to pricing and explaining costs, according to Bax.
“That’s really driven our Google rankings right through the roof,” he said. “An independent firm provided us with an SEO evaluation that showed we had well over 100 search terms that were showing up on page one for Google results, with about 1,500 terms in all that were ranking. We’ve gone from nothing in terms of SEO to where I feel like we’re beginning to get some traction with our program. Around 70% of our traffic these days is organic, so it’s really working out well for us.”
When the pandemic struck, EBS/VBS pivoted its website strategy with a pop-up message that exclaimed “VBS and EBS are open and here to help” as well as work-from-home talking points. The dealers also reached out to their client bases via email, explaining that both Virginia and Pennsylvania had designated the firms as essential businesses, with a continuation of on-site technical service and a remote model for sales, marketing and administration functions.
We’ve gone from nothing in terms of SEO to where I feel like we’re beginning to get some traction with our program. Around 70% of our traffic these days is organic, so it’s really working out well for us.– Keith Bax, Virginia Business Systems
From a product/service marketing standpoint, EBS/VBS continued its email prospecting programs and used video to annotate its proposal documents. Plus, “like everyone else on the planet,” EBS/VBS expanded its use of Zoom exponentially. “We feel like we weathered the primary phase of the pandemic much better than we had initially anticipated,” Dotter said. “As far as our approach on the back side of the pandemic, we are trying to move back into pre-COVID mode as soon as conditions allow.”
In the case of Copiers Northwest, mass media advertising has long proven to be the most effective marketing tool in the dealer’s arsenal, though not the only one. Ian Crockett, president of ICE Advertising, the firm that handles marketing and advertising for the Seattle-based dealer, has 35-plus years in the game under his belt. Radio spots, particularly during morning drive, news and sports talk, have long proven to be revenue generators and are particularly effective for the northwest part of the country.
“Even though a lot of people use satellite radio, Spotify and other services, morning drive is still quite effective because people want to get their local news, sports, weather and traffic,” Crockett said. “That’s been consistent throughout the years with Copiers Northwest and (ICE client) Applied Imaging. I repped a lot of companies during the 1990s and 2000s, and that was the backbone of all our marketing.
“We also do inbound and outbound telemarketing with Copiers Northwest that has been successful. But given the highly competitive nature of its market, we tend to keep those details close to the vest.”
At the height of the pandemic, morning drive radio advertising was severely curtailed by Copiers Northwest, as that region of the country was among the first hit and experienced more severe shutdown measures, with far fewer people commuting to work. Applied Imaging, on the other hand, being more centrally located in Michigan, still maintained a successful slate of drive time ad buys.
Even though a lot of people use satellite radio, Spotify and other services, morning drive is still quite effective because people want to get their local news, sports, weather and traffic.– Ian Crockett, for Copiers Northwest
Crockett notes that Copiers Northwest supplemented the lost radio revenue radio by offering temperature-scanning kiosks and work-from-home packages that focused on A4 units and the necessities clients required to work remotely. The dealer enjoyed decent penetration with both measures, though the offerings merely mitigated losses and would not constitute a significant moving-forward revenue source.
Fortunately for Copiers Northwest, the dealer had embarked on a complete website revamp just prior to the pandemic. The new, more SEO-friendly site is kept updated with blogs and a host of videos, along with 16 pages dedicated specifically to different industries. Crockett notes five new videos were recently produced, including a recruitment spot. Several videos are centered on the company’s technical service competency, long a source of pride and a point of differentiation for Copiers Northwest.
The dealer also capitalizes on its working relationship with the University of Washington and is a gold advertiser for the Foster School of Business sales intern program. Copiers Northwest recruited a number of employees through the program, which attracts roughly 170 students.
“It’s been effective not only as a pipeline for employees, but it provides good PR as well,” Crockett noted. “The relationship has been extremely positive.”
The in-house marketing team for Pearson-Kelly Technology of Springfield, Missouri, is relatively new. The dealer lacked an internal team prior to early 2020, outsourcing modest marketing materials that focused on brand-building to agencies. According to Makenzie Ward, the marketing coordinator who joined the firm in February 2020, Pearson-Kelly Technology used motion graphic videos to explain its product and service offerings, but primarily focused on community events and industry publications to relate its story. The dealer also relied on trade agreements with radio stations and other agencies for marketing support.
Thus, when Ward arrived and found the company had a stellar complement of outbound sales reps, she decided to focus her initial efforts on inbound marketing tactics. The company updated its website with new product and service offerings, defined an organic social media strategy and crafted a robust PR game plan centered on the different awards offered in its markets. And in 2021, Pearson-Kelly Technology began testing paid ads through local newspapers, LinkedIn Ads and Google AdWords.
The results have been positive. Community events are generating leads, which is a new phenomenon for the dealer. Its organic social media strategy is driving employee recruitment. Pearson-Kelly is viewed as more than a copier dealer, due in large part to its PR campaign. And its pay-per-click campaigns are leading to more traffic and increased conversions.
“The one thing we’ve done that I believe led to these minor successes is being transparent,” Ward observed. “We’ve openly talked about the mistakes we’ve made. We’ve given buyers the tools they need to evaluate us and our competitors and pick the best option for their business. That builds the trust we need for our sales team to develop successful, long-term partnerships with businesses.”
While Pearson-Kelly didn’t have a pre-pandemic marketing track record to the extent it does now, Ward notes the dealer focused more on specific questions it was receiving from clients and prospects. It also provided guides, checklists and templates to help IT directors and business leaders, resources that are still available.
We’ve given buyers the tools they need to evaluate us and our competitors and pick the best option for their business. That builds the trust we need for our sales team to develop successful, long-term partnerships with businesses.– Kenzie Ward, Pearson Kelly
As part of its website refresh, Pearson-Kelly Technology restructured and rewrote nearly all its product and service pages to help increase inbound traffic and conversions. An FAQ page was added to help clients and prospects during the decision-making process.
“The goal is to give them all the tools and information they need to have confident and informed conversations about their environment and the products or services they need with our team or with competitors,” she said.