Don’t Underestimate Industrial Marketing’s Contribution to Sales

The more I talk to manufacturers and industrial companies, the more I’m convinced that RFQs and sales conversations are all that matter to them. I get it that industrial marketing must be held accountable and I firmly believe that it should make a direct contribution to growing sales and revenues. However, ignoring industrial marketing’s role in creating sales opportunities is a fallacy in my opinion. (See Manufacturers Need Lead Management to Close the RFQ Gap)

Industrial companies are having a difficult time adjusting their mindset to the new realities of buyer behavior. I have had many conversations where I have heard the other person tell me that they’ve never had to actively market their products and services before. They are accustomed to customers calling them for RFQs/RFPs. They’ve always depended on a constant flow of referrals and repeat business. Obviously, those channels have dried up, otherwise we wouldn’t be having a conversation about needing my industrial marketing consultation in the first place.

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Inbound Marketing won’t Boost Short-term Sales for Industrial Companies

Inbound marketing is a frequent topic of discussion in my daily conversations with Owners, CEOs and Business Development professionals from manufacturing and industrial companies. Irrespective of the size of the company, they all have one thing in common – they want to boost sales as quickly as possible.

These industrial professionals have heard about inbound marketing being the “in” thing these days from marketing consultants like me and from other sources. However, it is a shock to them when I tell them “Inbound marketing is not a short-term fix. It is a long journey.”

They don’t want to hear that, they want their phones to start ringing, RFQs coming in and their sales team involved in deep conversations within 30 days.

Those are unrealistic expectations in my opinion. Here’s why; unlike a one-off ad or direct mail campaign, inbound marketing requires assessment of your current marketing programs to identify weaknesses, developing a strategic plan of action, implementing tactics, auditing existing content to identify gaps, creating new content and repurposing old ones, tracking, measuring and refining the process. These steps take time, at least six months for all the moving parts to mesh together like a finely tuned engine that will drive lead generation and generate sales.

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Is Your Industrial Content Marketing Reaching a Dead End?

In my daily interactions with manufacturing, engineering and industrial companies, inbound marketing or content marketing is a popular topic of discussion. Decision makers in these companies want to jump on the content marketing bandwagon but they really don’t have a strategic plan of action and/or a clear idea of how it will drive sales and generate revenues.

Not that I’m complaining, this gap means more business opportunities for me as an industrial marketing consultant. 😉

The problem as I see it is that many of these industrial companies still think of content marketing as a one-off marketing campaign. Their efforts are limited to spending some money on SEO and PPC to drive traffic to their websites. Some of them are filling the top of their sales funnel but the pipeline of qualified sales opportunities is running dry.

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Industrial Content Marketing with Purpose

In my last post, I talked about using content to convert website traffic into leads and customers. In this post, I want to continue with a similar theme and talk about why your content marketing must have a purpose.

With the abundance of content available on the Internet these days, it is difficult to rise above the noise and get noticed. Manufacturers and industrial companies cannot be content with just publishing content, their content marketing needs to drive the sales process.

Telling owners and C-level executives at these companies that inbound marketing with content takes time to produce results will only hold them off for so long. They expect, and rightfully so, that their marketing investments produce ROI sooner rather than later, now would be even better. (See Content Marketing: Think Like a Publisher, Act Like an Investor).

However, creating content that will convert traffic into leads in one fell swoop is a challenge since industrial sales typically have long sales cycles and a multitude of stakeholders are involved in the purchase decision.

Consider these suggestions then to overcome the hurdle – change the purpose of your content marketing from conversion to action. What am I talking about?
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You’ve Got Traffic. Now What?

You’ve done all the hard work of optimizing (SEO) your industrial website and now you have a steady stream of traffic to your site. Congratulations!

Sorry to rain on your parade but that is only half the equation. The other half is all about converting that traffic into leads and customers.

I find there is a strong but mistaken belief among industrial companies that somehow their site visitors will interrupt their online activities and pick up the phone to call their sales people. Even though this behavior is contrary to how they themselves interact online, they expect their target audience to behave differently. (See my post, “Do You Believe in Industrial Websites?”).

The reality is that the vast majority of site visitors will do nothing and leave. What they have is a website that is leaking potential leads like a sieve. Whenever I make that statement, there is silence on the other end of the phone or in a face-to-face meeting; I get a look that says, “What the heck are you talking about?”

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Manufacturing Infographics for Content Marketing

Infographics, short for information graphics are hot right now. It seems everyone is creating one these days. Infographics have been around for a while and are used to communicate complex concepts visually and easily. If done right, they can be very effective in content marketing for manufacturers and industrial companies.

In the early stages of lead generation, you are primarily dealing with “suspects” – people who you have not yet qualified as prospects or leads. For top of the funnel content, infographics are very effective because of their focus on educating the reader rather than being product-centric.

Even though suspects may not fit your ideal customer profile, they may be people who will share your content if they find it worthwhile and interesting. Infographics fit the bill the perfectly for this purpose. Shareable content increases awareness about your company and drives more traffic back to your site or blog. Filling the top of the funnel with interested readers is one of the key objectives of content marketing.

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Manufacturers Need Lead Management to Close the RFQ Gap

Talking to manufacturers and industrial companies on a daily basis has convinced me that when they say they need help with their lead generation, they really want more RFQ (Request For Quote) opportunities.

Generating new leads, qualifying and nurturing them until they turn into a RFQ is too much work for them. For a real-life example of this lead generation disconnect, read my post, Manufacturers: Don’t Start a Lead Generation Campaign without Sales.

During my internal discovery process, in nine out of ten cases, I’ll hear the President/CEO/Owner of manufacturing or industrial companies tell me one of their goals is to double the volume of RFQs they generate. To most of these decision makers winning new business is strictly a numbers game. They are convinced that the more they quote, better are their chances of scoring more deals.

I have to politely disagree with them because “activity is not the same as productivity.” It is not an easy sell for me to change this mindset. I have to make a strong business case before I can even get their attention.

Here are the steps I go through to change their minds and have worked well for me:

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Manufacturers: Don’t Start a Lead Generation Campaign without Sales

Every manufacturing or industrial company that I talk to wants more leads. However, there is a serious disconnect between sales and marketing when it comes to defining a qualified lead.

This is not a new problem. Google sales and marketing disconnect and you will find thousands of articles written on this topic. I am here to tell you that it is very real and thriving within manufacturing companies.

Recently, a manufacturing client retained me to help them improve their industrial lead generation campaign. This company had spent thousands of dollars in Pay-Per-Click (PPC) and banner ads in niche industry eNewsletters. They had received a fair amount of traffic from those efforts but had little to no conversions. In short, very poor ROI from their lead generation efforts.

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Manufacturers Use Evaluation Kits for Effective Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing plays an important role in industrial lead generation programs because it is rare that an industrial sale is completed on the first call or the first visit to the manufacturer’s website.

Forrester, CSO Insights and Marketo reported that lead nurturing produced much better results. Here are some of the significant findings from their research studies:

  • Reduced the number of marketing-generated leads ignored by sales to as low as 25%
  • Raised win rates on marketing-generated leads by 7% and reduced “no decisions” by 6%
  • Helped 9% more sales reps make quota and shortened ramp up time of new ones by 10%

Still not convinced? Read my earlier post, “Lead Nurturing Is Not A Marketing Option, It’s A Sales Necessity.”

Lead nurturing is usually done by sending out helpful content to prospects and moves them from the top of the funnel (ToFU) to the bottom of the funnel (BoFU) where they are ready to make a purchase decision. Some refer to this as “drip marketing.”

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Align Industrial Websites with Sales Process

If you want your industrial website to generate qualified leads and drive sales (Who doesn’t?), make sure the site is aligned with your sales process. Without this critical link, your newly redesigned industrial website may be nothing more than eye candy that does very little for your sales.

In my daily conversations with manufacturing and industrial companies, I find the mindset is still very much centered on marketing the old way. They want their site visitors to call and their crack sales team will take care of everything to close the deal.

Even though these people have read all the industry studies, they have a very difficult time accepting the fact that their buyers are no longer willing to engage with their salespeople until they need a quote. Now it boils down to price and delivery time.

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