How Unqualified Leads Bog Down Sales Pipelines for Industrial Companies

I have yet to come across a manufacturer, a distributor or an engineering firm that didn’t ask for more leads. No surprise there!

The more I probe, the clearer it becomes what they really want are more requests for quotes or proposals. This is understandable since the sales pipeline needs to be full and active at all times because of the long sales cycles that’s typical for industrial companies.

However, this singular focus is causing a lot of frustrations because not enough leads generated by marketing are converting into sales opportunities. If you haven’t already heard or read about this problem, here are two stats that will make you sit up and think.

  • 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance. (Source: MarketingSherpa)
  • 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to Sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified. (Source: MarketingSherpa)

I can cite many reasons for this disconnect. Based on my experience as an industrial marketing consultant working with clients, the root of the problem is the lack of understanding and/or spending enough time to understand the differences between Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), Sales Accepted Leads (SALs) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). As a result, Sales continues to blame Marketing for generating “crappy” leads that never turn into sales.

[Read more...]

3 Online Content Tips for Industrial Distributors to Differentiate Themselves

content to differentiate industrial distributorsAlmost every industrial distributor that I talk to, both clients and new prospects struggle with one key problem – differentiating themselves. This is particularly challenging for distributors because the competition in their niche carries the same products. Visit any distributor’s site in any industry and you’ll find their line cards read pretty much the same.

In short, there is so much parity in value propositions that it is difficult to differentiate one distributor from another, especially online. This in turn has a very negative impact on generating qualified leads and sales opportunities for these industrial companies.

I get it that the distributors are in business for the sole purpose of selling their industrial products. However, the Internet and digital marketing have completely disrupted the old ways of generating new business.

Today, industrial buyers have many more online resources available to them to do their own product research. They no longer rely on distributors to provide them that information. Customers prefer this self-serve mode of research for a large part of their initial buying journey before they will even contact a distributor.

If they can’t find your site in Google early and often, you may be out of contention even before the process starts or become one of three competitive bids for someone to fill out their spreadsheet.

[Read more...]

Understanding the Age Gap is Important in Digital Marketing for Industrial Companies

If you are using digital marketing (You are, aren’t you?) to market your industrial company, its products and services, then you need to understand the importance of the age gap and its impact on digital media usage.

I’m sure you have read many of the dire headlines about the critical skills gap in the industrial sector and how it could threaten the competitiveness of manufacturing in the U.S. If you read between the lines, the underlying cause of this problem is the age gap. Here are a few recent headlines and direct quotes to drive home my point:

  • New talent needed as baby boomers age and jobs continue growing in the industry. (U.S. News & World Report)
  • “The senior geologists will soon retire and there is no one to take over except much more junior geologists. The age demographics among geologists has resulted in a skills, mentorship and leadership gap, which is becoming a concern.” (Deloitte)
  • The demographic age gap is expanding at an alarming rate because the aging workforce will be retiring within the next 5 – 10 years and not enough young people are finding the industry attractive enough to join. (World Petroleum Council)
  • Oil field workers are retiring in huge numbers, leaving a workforce that’s younger and — more importantly — less experienced. (NPR)
  • “When the Deepwater Horizon exploded, no one in the BP engineering team had been on the job for more than six months.” (John Konrad, author, ‘Fire on the Horizon: The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster’)
  • Put simply, we are experiencing a growing age gap in engineering-focused fields. (Boston.com)
  • The reasons for the dearth of qualified job candidates are varied. Both Mercer and Manpower cited age, disruptive technology like hydraulic fracturing and education as key drivers of the problem. (NBC News)

I don’t want to get into a debate about all this being just a ploy for companies to ship jobs overseas for cheaper labor. The fact is we have a problem. Enough said!

[Read more...]

To Blog, or Not to Blog…That’s the Question Many Industrial Companies are Asking

Industrial blogging questionsManufacturers, distributors and engineering companies have read or heard about all the benefits of content marketing in general and blogging in particular but many are still sitting on the fence. I’m often asked the question, “Should we start a blog?” It is a simple question but the answer is not a simple yes or a no.

Yes, you should start an industrial blog if you haven’t already done so. No, you shouldn’t blog if you don’t have a well-thought-out blogging strategy in place already.

Even though blog strategy comes before content creation, only 19% of manufacturing marketers outsource this function. That was one of the findings from the 2014 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs.

[Read more...]

Content Marketing for Industrial Distributors

Content marketing is proving to be a big challenge for industrial distributors that I have talked to. The problem stems from the fact that distributors have relied heavily in the past on their principal manufacturers to provide them with marketing content and collateral. Weaning themselves from that reliance and becoming publishers of original content is not only a challenge but they just don’t have the necessary resources for content marketing.

The second part of the problem is that these companies are sales driven and marketing has never been a major part of their sales process. Sales people cold calling, setting appointments for face to face meetings and building relationships are how they have always generated new leads and increased sales. Distributors have realized that industrial buyers are no longer engaging with their sales people like they used to. They recognize the fact that they need to support their sales team with better industrial marketing with content.

Industrial distributors don’t want to become publishers of content; they want to sell more of their products. I accept that reality, the challenge lies is delivering quantifiable ROI from content marketing. (See my post, “Content Marketing: Think Like a Publisher, Act Like an Investor”)

Using content marketing for organic or natural SEO to drive qualified traffic for top of the funnel (ToFU) activities is a large part of the solution. However, it is only half the equation. Your content needs to engage with visitors, persuade them to take action now rather than later and convert them into sales qualified leads. This conversion process is far more challenging.

[Read more...]

Better Industrial Marketing Doesn’t Mean More Technology

Marketing Automation vendors have done a great job of spreading the message about the benefits of technology in marketing. Industrial companies are paying attention. I’ve been asked several times about using Marketing Automation (MA) in industrial marketing. I should be excited and jumping up and down with joy, right? Not so fast! Why do I say that?

Unless you get your marketing house in order first, technology alone isn’t going to solve all your industrial lead generation problems. A popular quote by Bill Gates sums it up nicely. He said, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

How Marketing Automation Works

[Read more...]

Industrial Web Design – Visit to Call is Not Automatic

Calls from industrial websitesNine out of ten times, manufacturers and industrial companies want their site visitors to call them right after they visit the site. Right or wrong, this is the primary call to action they want when discussing industrial web redesign. They do like the idea of generating leads via content downloads but that is secondary to the phone call.

To a large extent, I do understand their need for the phone call. Most industrial sales require an applications engineer or an expert to talk to the visitor to fully understand their needs before presenting a solution. The exception may be distributors using eCommerce to sell components online. Even they are moving more towards solution based selling.

[Read more...]

Industrial Marketing for Engaging with Engineers

It’s a myth that engineers hate marketing. What they definitely don’t want is more meaningless marketing fluff. Those two statements are based on my personal experience of working with and marketing to engineers for the past 25+ years. I’m a Mechanical Engineer myself and passionate about marketing. Over the years I’ve met and worked with many engineers who feel the same way and some are very good at creating their own marketing content.

As a manufacturer or an industrial company, your marketing must target and communicate with engineers and technical buyers. So what do you have to do to make that happen?

If I had to summarize the answer in one sentence, it would be, “Industrial marketing must be from one engineer to another.” That is by far the most effective strategy for marketing to engineers.

One of the recommendations for industrial marketers that came from the 2012 survey, Mind of the Engineer released by UBM Electronics was, “Engineers communicate with and trust other engineers. Leverage this collaborative ethos.”
[Read more...]