In Industrial Lead Generation, a Lead is a Lead, Right?

Defining leads in industrial lead generationEvery discussion I’ve had with manufacturers and industrial companies starts with “we need more leads” or ends with “we need results.” I understand and accept the fact that the main goal of industrial marketing is to generate leads. I have no issues with that but do these companies know what a qualified lead is?

That may sound like a dumb question to ask in industrial lead generation but in reality, you would be surprised by how fundamental and serious that question is. I’m not making this up or trying to be clever here.

Let me explain with three excerpts from conversations I have had in just the past few months.

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BANT May Not Work in Qualifying Leads for Industrial Sales

 

Using BANT to qualify leads for industrial sales

Sales people have been using BANT (Budget, Authority, Needs, and Timing/Timeframe) criteria to qualify leads and prospects for a long time ever since IBM first coined that acronym. It made a lot of sense from salesperson’s point of view because they want to know up front if the prospect has the money or can get the budget approved and has the buying authority. They don’t want to waste their time on unqualified leads. Nothing wrong with that!

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Lead Generation for Industrial Companies is a Process not a Campaign

I hear too many manufacturers and industrial companies talking about creating campaigns because they want to pump up their lead generation. That mode of thinking is outdated and simply doesn’t work today where you are dealing with mostly invisible and self-directed industrial buyers.

Buyers are looking for information online and interacting with sales people on their own terms. Your industrial lead generation needs to evolve to meet their needs. Otherwise you are going to struggle generating qualified leads that turn into sales opportunities. That is a virtual certainty.

Evolution of industrial lead generation

The old ways of industrial lead generation have changed. Engineers and technical buyers do most of their research, evaluation and finally selecting a vendor very differently today than in the past. Complicating the process is the fact that the buyers do not usually go on a linear buying journey. There are many stakeholders involved in the buying decision, some of whom may never visit your website and/or meet your sales people.

Now I know you’ve read/heard all this before so what exactly is different about lead generation today? Here’s a handy chart from Marketo that explains the differences between then and now.

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Industrial Lead Generation Can’t Happen Without Conversations

conversation for industrial lead generationWhat are the top two things my clients want from their industrial website redesign? It isn’t too difficult to guess, they are:

  1. Get found in Google (SEO)
  2. Get site visitors to call

Only if it were that easy to get from point A to point B, we wouldn’t be having a conversation in the first place.

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Take Industrial Lead Generation up a Notch with Marketing Automation

Marketing automation technology is one of the areas where B2B marketers will increase spending in 2014 according to an article I read in the September 16 issue of BtoB Magazine. There are many more choices available today in Marketing Automation (MA) offerings and one can find the right fit at various price points. This post is not a product review or a comparison of different marketing automation packages. You’ll find plenty of such articles online written by vendors and independent marketing consultants. You can visit sites of different MA vendors and get the laundry list of all the features they offer.

I’ll stick to my area of expertise – industrial marketing and the use of MA in this specific niche. I have used HubSpot for about four years for two different clients and am now using Pardot for another manufacturer. I want to zero in on two key benefits of using MA for improving industrial lead generation and conversions.

  1. Prospect Profiling
  2. ROI Measurement and Reporting

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Marketing Automation Alone Can’t Deliver ROI for Industrial Companies

Let me start by saying that I’m a big believer of Marketing Automation (MA) and have seen it produce incredible marketing ROI for some manufacturers and industrial companies.

Then why does the headline of this post make me sound like a skeptic? That’s because it’s a case of good news, bad news.

First, the good news, MA does make the entire process of converting Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) into Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) very efficient and measurable. It produces amazing results when implemented and managed correctly.

This infographic from Pardot (A SalesForce Company) shows the real results automation users are seeing, descriptions of how automation is transforming companies, and staggering growth statistics.

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Storytelling in Industrial Content Marketing

Storytelling in industrial content marketingIf storytelling sounds too “Kumbaya” to you for hardcore industrial marketing and sales, then I suggest you read on for a fresh perspective.

There is a very good reason centuries old Aesop’s Fables and others of that genre continue to be popular today for teaching valuable lessons. Their power lies in storytelling. Who doesn’t love a good story, don’t you?

Today’s industrial buyers believe in self-serve in the early stages of their buying journey. S/he wants to read content that will help him or her make a more informed decision. A hard sell would be a total turn off. For engagement to happen, you have to make buyers immerse themselves in your content by the stories you tell to sell your solution.

How do you make that personal connection? You do that by addressing their “What’s in it for me ((WIIFM)” concerns. It’s about them, not you! By telling stories that are unique to you and your company. That’s how you differentiate yourself from others. Your competition may be able to outspend you and easily copy your industrial marketing tactics but they can never steal your stories and make them their own. See my post, “Content Can Differentiate Industrial Companies When There’s Parity in Value Propositions.”

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Are Industrial Companies Wasting Their Leads?

No matter the size of the company or the industry they are in, my conversations always boil down to them wanting more leads from their industrial marketing. Yet I see very few of these companies with a lead nurturing strategy in place to convert leads into sales opportunities. As a result, online leads sit untouched or go without a response for weeks if not months.

Often I see marketing people from manufacturing and industrial companies hand off leads to sales with little to no qualifying. This only causes more frustrations and reinforces the long-standing belief by sales that “Marketing generates crappy leads.”

It is important to understand the differences between a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL), a Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) and a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). (See my post, “SAL is the Glue that Binds Sales and Marketing in Lead Generation.”)

Here are some eye-opening statistics from a study done by MarketingSherpa:

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Not All Industrial White Papers Merit Registration

White papers are used most frequently for lead generation and nurturing in industrial marketing. Many of these white papers are very technical and require engineers and other domain experts to spend quite a bit of their time in producing these content marketing assets. A freelance copywriter cannot create them with an hour or two of work.

It is natural for industrial companies to want to maximize their ROI after investing all that time and resources. However, should all industrial white papers be gated – require registration? There are two schools of thought on this.

On one hand, you have those who insist on registration because they believe it is an equitable value exchange. Free knowledge and valuable educational content in exchange for contact information.

Then there are those who advocate setting all your content free. This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky concept. There are well-known content marketers in this camp.

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