Inbound Marketing for a B2B/Niche Manufacturer
Case Study: Content Marketing Consulting, Execution for Mid-Size Business
A B2B manufacturer struggled to market its sprawling, niche products through messy contracting of several one-trick-pony agencies/developers. Upon enlisting protocol 80 – a full-service inbound/content marketing consultant for small-mid-size businesses – that changed. Blogging, promotion, SEO, and other tactics happened under one umbrella.
This inbound marketing case study shows how In barely 2 years, a strategic, single-source approach increased …
- Page visits by 537%
- New website leads from < 5/month to 45/month
- # of ranking keywords from 125 to 1,825
Want to skip to results and data? Click here!
Where: Jamestown, N.Y.
When: Since 1909
Why: To help customers (mostly B2B) solve unique, specific design & engineering challenges in mechanical motion controls
Problem: Bumpy Road to a Full-Service Agency
What was the state of WK’s digital marketing heading into 2019? Alive, but not necessarily well.
Weber Knapp had had a website for decades – longer than many manufacturers – but it wasn’t exactly aging like a fine wine. It pitched the company’s products, and included an information dump about the company’s history, but educating and converting the customer wasn’t a priority.
“It was very dated,” says Leila Bell, the company’s sales and marketing manager for the past 3 years. “It was not user friendly.”
Throughout Bell’s prior 5 years as Weber Knapp’s business development manager, there had been no content marketing assets, and very little off-site promotion.
“There was no email (marketing strategy),” she says. “We had a Facebook page, but there was absolutely no consistent posting.
“I knew our traffic was really painfully low and shouldn’t be that way. I knew the content we had on the website was not interesting to anyone. We weren’t really offering anything other than, ‘This is what our product is, this is what we can manufacture, and this is our phone number – call us and talk to us.’
“In this day and age, I know that’s just not how we can do business anymore.”
Perhaps most challenging of all, there was a lack of pre-existing structure or data-driven strategy to marketing or sales activities.
And so the long path toward a more “inbound” mindset began, albeit with some bumps.
Option #1: Solo Developer
After looking into some marketing and web development organizations, the manufacturer hired a solo developer to update the website. With just one person to execute Weber Knapp’s digital marketing needs, there were issues with quality, timeliness, and consistency.
“We had been really burned and frustrated with the extended timelines,” Bells says. “Everyone makes
great promises, but do they actually follow through?
Option #2: Marketing Agency With Web Development Focus
After that first dip into digital marketing fizzled out, Weber Knapp brought on a new agency. Based in part on the agency’s own recommendations, it almost entirely focused on website development. How focused?
“We were told that blogging was a thing of the past and a waste of time,” Bells says.
(p80 Tip: If a marketing agency ever tells you this, run away. Quickly. Blogging is one of marketing’s most reliable ways to drive traffic, leads, and customers to your website.)
At least the company would have a robust, intuitive website – right?
“It was a very, very, very slow process,” Bell says. “Even the simplest things … the timeline was too much. They were really more interested in making it flashy than creating the content we knew was important.”
Today, B2B websites earn leads and revenue by solving for the customer – helping first, and selling second. The new approach to the website – or, we should say, websites – didn’t keep that in mind.
“This organization had us setup with three or four different websites – one for our Vectis brand, one for Weber Knapp, and one for our hospitality (solutions),” Bell says. “I think it was confusing to our customers. At the end of the day … all of these websites, they didn’t really link or really provide enough information to help the customer.”
“I didn't think our goals were aligned, and the things I wanted weren't happening.”
Option #3: Graphic Design Company
Concurrently, Weber Knapp contracted with a graphic design company. But the manufacturer quickly found that the design firm couldn’t even cover all of their graphic needs. So …
Option #3B: A Second Graphic Design Source
Weber Knapp had to subcontract to yet another designer to handle what the first firm couldn’t. That way, the client could cover all its graphics needs:
- Magazine ads
- Other print ads
- Business cards
Solution: Full Content Marketing Consulting & Execution, Tailored to a Mid-Size Business
For the Weber Knapp executive and sales teams, what were the biggest driving factors in selecting a solution? The same qualities their own customers value about Weber Knapp: the ease of collaboration and communication a “one-stop shop” can offer.
“We needed inbound marketing, but we were going to continue to advertise in magazines,” Bells says. “So I needed someone who could design print ads and business cards (in addition to running an inbound campaign).”
Weber Knapp’s next marketing move came down to simple math. Would the company:
- Hire two in-house employees to handle B2B content marketing strategy at X expense?
- Or find an all-in-one marketing agency like protocol 80 that could also handle …
- Web development …
- A/V production …
- SEO (search engine optimization) …
- Paid ads …
- … and trade show marketing?
Given its size – 110+ employees – Weber Knapp leadership determined that a full inbound marketing agency could meet its needs and goals better than insourcing the work. The decision wasn’t just about getting the work done; it also was about doing inbound the right way with thorough strategy and data.
“As soon as I moved into this (sales and marketing manager) position,” Bell says, “I knew it was really important to find an organization that could get us over the hump and teach us what we need to know about inbound.”
After multiple fellow B2Bs recommended protocol 80, Bell reached out, and the rest was history.
“(p80) basically offered us everything that we were looking for.”
Month 1: Onboarding
To set both sides up for long-term success and mutual understanding, protocol 80 ran a thorough onboarding process:
- Benchmark evaluation – Discussion of current and future goals to gain a clear view of Weber Knapp’s starting line. Current progress toward those goals helped inform what activities were necessary to reach them, and at what amount/velocity.
- HubSpot setup – Setup of Weber Knapp’s portal, including email marketing, social media posting, blogging, CRM (customer relationship management) system, page publishing, and analytics dashboards. p80 eased the team into their new tools, providing sales enablement training as needed.
- Buyer workshops – Meetings to map out what an ideal customer looks like to Weber Knapp (far beyond just surface-level demographics). Interviews with current customers to learn the pain points and buying factors that led them to Weber Knapp.
- SEO/content/strategy audit – Use of professional tools and data to evaluate Weber Knapp’s website for traffic and lead-conversion potential. Development of web development and marketing strategies to support growth goals.
In the past, the wide-ranging nature of Weber Knapp’s products and services made it tough to ID and target the right audience with content.
“We do a lot of different motion control solutions for a lot of different industries,” Bell notes.
“What p80 helped us learn very quickly is … we’re still trying to target the same people – design engineers – in all of those industries. That had been a challenge for us for a long time. We realized that … whether an engineer is designing a refrigerator or a heavy hatch for an armored vehicle … as long as we speak their language, we can reach them.”
Months 2-18: Rebuilding Value – Website & Content
With a growth-minded calendar of activities in place, website rehab began … again. First and foremost, that meant transforming it from a “We’re so great!” e-brochure into a customer-first educator and lead generator.
For a website visitor to convert into a lead, they need a reason to show up in the first place. p80 started building content and promotion around research-backed SEO keywords and topics catering to Weber Knapp’s unique B2B buyer persona.
A common hangup decision makers have with content marketing for B2B & tech companies is, “Why would someone want to read articles about a boring product?” But those people do exist – they’re the very engineers most industrial companies should be trying to reach!
p80 produced niche content marketing assets about hinges, motion control, and more:
- Educational blog posts – 1-2 per week
- Product-demo videos
- Premium content (e-books, consultation offers, etc.) – 1 per quarter
- New & revamped website pages (Industries Served, product one-sheets, & landing pages for new products)
To increase brand awareness and website traffic, p80 also developed a content promotion strategy:
- Email – monthly newsletters & marketing strategy examples/templates for salespeople to use
- Consistent social media sharing of blog posts, e-books, etc. – several per week
- Trade show marketing materials
- Print ads
- SEO implementation – technical fixes, keyword research & optimization, etc.
- PPC (pay-per-click) ads
Months 19-30: More of the Good Stuff + Added Value
More content = more chances to rank your pages in Google for valuable keywords. The ensuing year was a continuation of improving SEO rankings and lead capturing through content (with tweaks to
keyword/topic focus based on performance and market data).
One exciting addition was launching or re-launching multiple hospitality and outdoor products.
Want to understand what “one-stop shop” truly means? Check out the successful 2021 launch of the Smokin’ Ugly grill kit, and all the value Weber Knapp got from p80 in one project:
- Strategy development
- Landing page copywriting and design
- Demo video and GIFs
- Logo design
- Co-creating a recipe book
- Print ad copywriting
- Pay-per-click ads
- Writing supporting blog posts
For a busy Weber Knapp team, offloading that effort to one source was icing on the relationship’s cake (or glaze on the ribs?). It’s also when KPIs really started cooking:
Result: Exponential Traffic Growth; Product Sales Explosion
In 2+ years contracting with a content marketing consulting firm specializing in small-mid-size businesses, Weber Knapp’s traffic, leads, and sales heated up.
It’s not a coincidence those numbers started soaring just past the 18-month mark. Happy with early results but hungry for more, Weber Knapp nearly doubled its inbound investment at that time.
The data proved Bell right:
The chart above shows weberknapp.com’s total website views, which increased:
- From 1,016 in August 2019 …
- … to 6,467 in September 2021
This chart filters those results to only show views of the company blog. Check out the impact SEO-focused blogging has on website popularity! In November 2021 ...
- Blog views totaled 3,169 …
- … out of 6,034 total website views …
- … meaning 53% of the site’s traffic was thanks to blogging. (You know, that thing another agency called “a bad idea.”)
Consistent, reliable content creation has allowed Weber Knapp to rank #1 in Google for numerous keywords that great-fit prospects are using. Just a few examples from p80’s SEMrush keyword tools:
In May 2019, the company ranked in Google’s top 100 for 125 keywords. In October 2021, it ranked for 1,825. In May 2019, Weber Knapp made Page 1 of Google search results for only seven keywords. In October 2021, it made Page 1 of Google for 151 keywords, virtually all of them highly relevant to Weber Knapp’s products and services.
Because p80’s keywords, topics, and content are thoroughly researched and discussed with Weber Knapp, the niche nature of their industry has been no sweat.
“We’ve never had a situation where we had to say, “Gosh, I really don't think they understand us …” Bell says. “It’s really quite seamless.”
In early-mid-2019, as Weber Knapp and protocol 80 finalized the partnership and onboarding, the website generated fewer than 5 new contacts monthly. In June-December 2021, that average exceeded 45 per month:
Remember this is just new contacts alone, and doesn’t include lead reconversions! On top of that, this number doesn’t fully include leads p80 helped generate through support of trade shows and print ads.
“The increase in conversions over the last 2.5 years has been absolutely phenomenal,” Bell says. “Just having all those leads coming in that we were not able to capture before. Whether people were visiting our site before or not, those people still weren't emailing us, they weren’t being engaged by the information we had on the website, and weren’t asking us questions.”
It hasn’t just been organic blogging and lead conversion efforts. Pay-per-click advertising has drawn numerous leads for Weber Knapp as well. The company now uses PPC to boost visibility of new products and promote itself before important trade shows.
Bell estimates that in recent months, more than 25% of the leads arriving via the website are becoming customers.
“To me that’s absolutely worth (the investment),” she says.
Better digital support of product campaigns has been especially fruitful for new sales. From 2020 to 2021, sales of the Lift Gate Assistant increased by more than 3x.
“I would say the majority of the Lift Gate inquiries that come through are turning into sales,” Bell says. “That’s really amazing.”
Unlike in past campaigns, the Lift Gate promotion was almost entirely website- and social media-based, with Weber Knapp only publishing one print ad. p80 designed that ad – and it won an award (see the nearby picture).
“The majority of that (success) goes to p80 and the information we have on the webpage and paid ads and the blog,” Bell says. “… I know it’s the website content that really set us over the top.”
Not every impact of an inbound marketing/sales agency is directly measurable with a chart or stat. Weber Knapp saw value in many other aspects an agency relationship:
More Time for Sellers to Sell
Simply put, a full-service agency can make your sales team’s lives easier. Buyers can now research on their own long before the final sale, thanks to a massive library of content on Weber Knapp’s site.
“For the sales guys, we’re getting more educated leads,” Bell says. “People coming to us after they’ve already been fed the information we’d need them to know. And they’re calling us either to start a project or just get that last bit of information to see if they want to work with us.”
This trust-building content library saves Weber Knapp from fielding extra phone calls and emails. By the time a customer is ready to buy, they already know the Weber Knapp brand – and the company’s expertise.
“The customer’s already coming to us,” Bell explains. “The more time we have to do our jobs, because we have (an agency) we completely trust .. is just invaluable.”
Nobody can address every marketing/sales opportunity and issue at once. At p80, an entire team supplements Bell’s duties as a strategist by providing exhaustive customer, keyword, and competitor research. p80 also helps Weber Knapp stay ahead of its competitors by introducing new best practices and tools.
“Making sure we’re keeping up with our goals … and not missing out on anything … having you guys in place and bringing new things to our attention (is invaluable),” Bell says. “That way we can change midstream or say, ‘OK, that would really work great for Weber Knapp.’"
Thanks in part to working with the p80 team, Weber Knapp salespeople now eagerly use HubSpot’s CRM to automate sales emails and organize contact databases. Important lead information is transparent, and key sales metrics are right there for Bell to analyze and report to superiors.
‘Does Inbound Marketing Work?’ – Transparency & Reporting
For budgeting and accountability purposes, every marketing/sales head needs transparent measurement and reporting practices out of its outsourced partners. They need to easily prove to their stakeholders that an investment is worth the return.
p80’s open and honest monthly reports (plus in-between check-ins) are the easiest way for Bell to do that.
“It's nice for me to be able to track what’s working and not working,” she says. “(p80’s) always done a great job of explaining why something may not be working, and what we can do to improve it.”
The Emotional Investment!
How does working with protocol 80 feel different from other business partnerships?
Weber Knapp prides itself on its ability to become an extension of its customers' in-house team. The company sees p80 in exactly the same way.
“(protocol 80) isn’t working for us, it’s working with us,” Bell says. “They’re not just telling us with an iron fist, ‘You need to do things this way.’ … And you guys are so much fun to work with.”
What Can All-in-One Digital Marketing Do for You?
Many niche or “boring” companies struggle to understand why inbound marketing is important in today’s world. Successful inbound means buyers come to you – whether for business-to-business, manufacturers, e-commerce, hospitality, medical devices, local business, startups … you name it. Why wouldn’t you want potential buyers willingly lining up at your digital door?
Even Bell, an early flag-waver for inbound, has seen her perception change since teaming with protocol 80.
“I didn't realize how broad it was, and how many different areas you could dig into, and the different avenues to get the information out there,” she says. “I already knew about SEO and (concepts) like that, but learning about the ability to give more conversion opportunities — I would have never thought of those.
“I don't know how any business is functioning in this day and age without a really stellar inbound plan.”
What’s Next for Weber Knapp?
Now that its content brings in leads consistently and p80’s involvement has freed up the sales team, the company hopes to attack new markets.
“Every time that we break into a new market, there’s a whole plethora of marketing opportunities,” Bell says. “We need to make sure the market knows we’re out here and what our capabilities are.
Weber Knapp will need new (or updated) educational and promotion materials to target a specific industry and/or persona in Google and elsewhere. Fortunately, p80 takes a “We’ll handle it, but we value your insight” approach to new campaigns.
“The really great thing about working with (p80) is that you’re very, very organized,” Bell says.
“I know my team can focus on making sales and getting out on the road. I don’t need to worry about, ‘This project is out at the graphic person’s place, and this other thing is at another person's place.’ I know p80 is taking care of it, and I don’t have to spend all that considerable time worrying about it.”
What’s Next for You?
Do you see similarities between Weber Knapp’s needs and your own? (If not, check out these other studies of content marketing agencies succeeding with small-medium businesses.)
As more B2B buyers research their problems and opportunities online (avoiding a sales person until the last moment), your strategy must adapt accordingly. Weber Knapp did, and the ROI has been game-changing.
If you want to see the same results ASAP, request a consultation below: