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.

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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

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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.”
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Industrial Content Marketing — Different Strokes for Different Folks

Any industrial content marketing strategy that is based on “one size fits all” content is likely to fail. That statement may seem like an overgeneralization but I have seen it happen one too many times to ignore.

Sure, there are many common types of content assets used by manufacturers and industrial companies but how they are used, who uses them and at what stage of their buying journey make all the difference. And that’s the main thrust of this post.

Before I dive into the subject matter, did you notice the two popular musical references I’ve made? First, “Different strokes for different folks” is a line from the 1968 hit song “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone. It later inspired the title of the popular TV sitcom, “Diff’rent Strokes.” The second musical reference is “One Size Fits All” from the 1975 rock album by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. These two phrases became so popular that they are commonly used today in marketing, business and life in general, sometimes in a different context than the original meaning.

Commonly used industrial content marketing assets

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What’s Hot and What’s Not in Digital Marketing for Engineers in 2014

I just downloaded my copy of the 2014 Digital Marketing for Engineers survey published by John Hayes and his team at ENGINEERING.com. There are some interesting and encouraging findings.

I’ll use a few of the charts from the survey results that show what they found and then add what I am seeing firsthand with my industrial clients.

Survey Question: Will your 2014 budget for the following activities be smaller, larger or about the same? Bar length indicates respondents who chose “larger”

Digital marketing for engineers 2014 budget increases

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Industrial Marketing in the Age of the Customer

Let me give credit where credit is due, I first heard the phrase “The Age of the Customer” from Forrester Research. It has a nice ring to it and IMO, it is a true reflection of buyer behavior today.

I have also heard/read the same phenomenon referred to as the Digital Disruption. Whatever you want to call it is fine with me, but the fact is that there has been a permanent shift in how customers interact with sellers now.

This means that sellers must change and adapt to new ways of acquiring new customers and keeping the current ones. If not, a more nimble and more relevant competitor who isn’t carrying the baggage of “old ways” of marketing will win over your customers and eat into your market share quickly. That’s the fact, Jack!

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Industrial Marketing, Lead Generation and Sales: It’s Complicated

Industrial marketing is complicatedRemember this rom-com from 2009? Despite the critics giving it mixed reviews, it went on to gross $219.1 million worldwide. A hit movie for sure.

Sometimes I feel the same way about industrial marketing for lead generation and its relationship to sales – It’s Complicated!

Every industrial company I talk to wants more leads at a lower cost per lead. Yet, very few have a formal process in place to measure marketing’s contribution to sales and revenue.

It is easy to measure data points such as Visitors, Pageviews, Pages/Visits etc. and downloads but it is not easy to tie them back to actual sales. Measuring ROI or ROMI sounds good in theory but difficult to accurately measure in the real world. According to some marketing pundits, these may be too simplistic to understand marketing’s full impact on sales.

Here are two sobering findings from a 2013 survey done by the B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn and managed by Holger Schulze (@HolgerSchulze).

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Creating Thought Leadership for Manufacturing and Industrial Companies

Thought LeadershipThought leader is a term first coined in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the Booz Allen Hamilton magazine, Strategy & Business and used to designate interview subjects for that magazine who had business ideas, which merited attention. It has since evolved into describing someone who is supposed to have progressive and innovative ideas. (Source: WikiPedia).

If you are doing any form of industrial content marketing, you know that thought leadership is now a catchphrase. Everyone wants it but how do you create it? Just pumping out content that is nothing more than thinly disguised product promotions won’t cut it.

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How Mobile Technology Helps Component Manufacturers Make Their Printed Catalogs More Productive

Component manufacturers are keenly aware of the fact that design engineers must first specify their components or parts before purchasing can place an order. These manufacturers have relied on their printed catalogs in the past to get their parts “designed in.”

However, there is an inherent drawback to these static printed catalogs. An engineer must first leaf through the pages, find the right part number and then call the components manufacturer for details, CAD drawings and pricing information. This manual process can lead to delays, errors and lost opportunities.

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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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