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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Content Marketing Delivers Lead Insight to Sales

It is true that industrial buyers are more in charge of the buying process today than ever before. Even though the process of buying industrial products and services has not changed much over the years, how industrial buyers prefer to go through their buying cycle has changed dramatically. Content marketing has become indispensable for addressing this changed buyer behavior.

Several studies have found that most engineering and industrial professionals today prefer to use the Internet during the early stages of the buy cycle – Needs Awareness, Research and Consideration & Comparison. It is only at the last stage, Procurement when buyers have already prepared a shortlist of vendors do they contact a manufacturer’s sales rep.

That does not mean that content marketing has reduced the role of industrial salespeople to mere order takers. On the contrary, it makes them more productive by providing valuable insight into the lead. See my earlier post, “Inbound Marketing Must Set the Table for Industrial Sales.”

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Use Content Marketing to Manage Industrial Sales Funnels

B2B and industrial marketers are usually tasked with two main responsibilities:

  1. Fill the top of the sales funnel (ToFU) with high quality leads
  2. Maximize the middle of the funnel (MoFU) for converting more leads into sales opportunities

Achieving those two objectives are difficult enough, now add to that the constant pressure of having to lower the cost per lead at the same time. That’s why more B2B and industrial marketers are turning to content marketing to lift their lead generation ROI.

Several studies have shown that these lead generation challenges hold true across the board in B2B marketing. According to the recent MarketingSherpa’s B2B Marketing Benchmark Survey (June 2011) of more than 1,700 B2B marketers:

52% of the companies reported, “Converting qualified leads into paying customers” (MoFU) as their biggest challenge. This was followed by Lead Generation (ToFU) at 48% and Lead Nurturing (MoFU) at 40% (See chart).

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Inbound Marketing Must Set the Table for Industrial Sales

In my conversations with industrial companies about inbound marketing, I find my audience agreeing with me up to a certain point and then there is a big disconnect.

I see heads nodding in face-to-face meetings or hear plenty of “Uh-huhs” on the phone when I talk about the benefits of inbound marketing. They agree it helps them get found in search engines early and often, drives hordes of traffic to their site and fills the top of their funnel with qualified leads at a lower cost per lead.

Then comes the silence because they are having trouble connecting the dots between inbound marketing and sales.

I can’t help but think that the person at the other end is silently telling me, “Show Me the Money!” just like in the movie Jerry Maguire.

This is when I have to take a step back and start talking about how the job of inbound marketing does not end with lead generation but extends into setting the table for sales so they can be more productive.

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Inbound Marketing Alone May Not Be Enough for Industrial Companies

Inbound marketing with content has been getting all the attention lately. Consultants and practitioners of “pull” marketing want marketers to abandon “push” marketing because they say it is old school and no longer effective.

I too have read all those studies about the how the Internet has permanently changed the industrial buyer’s behavior. They provide examples of how the target audience behaves in their personal lives where they TiVo through commercials, use caller ID to ignore telemarketing calls, direct mail pieces go straight to trash and of course, nobody ever reads a newspaper or a trade magazine anymore.

Ergo, these people are too busy at work and couldn’t be bothered with anything that is deemed as interruption marketing.

I agree that there is a lot of truth to all those findings. After all, every industrial marketer would like hordes of interested visitors swarming to his/her website, eager to sign up for free content and engage in a meaningful conversation at every stage of their buying cycle.

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Don’t Take “Selling” Out of Content Marketing

Notice how discussions about content marketing are full of words like engagement, helpful, sharing, nurturing and community building. These are all great at soft selling without irritating the customer. No complaints there.

However, have we gone too soft with content marketing when it comes to selling industrial products and services?

May be it’s time to inject a healthy dose of reality into this warm and fuzzy picture. And that is…content marketing must deliver a real business value.

Let’s not kid ourselves; business is war, especially in today’s hyper-competitive global marketplace. A touch of Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” couldn’t hurt.

Even though it applies across the board in B2B content marketing, I’ll stick to my domain of expertise – industrial and manufacturing marketing. At the end of the day, every content marketer must help sell more industrial products and services. It is as simple as that.

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Boost Email Relevancy With Dynamic Content

Email marketing has been a staple of industrial marketing for a long time. However, many of these marketers are now experiencing declining open and click through rates.

With all the buzz about social media, blogs and RSS feeds, are email marketing and eNewsletters dead?

Not so fast!

IMO, they are and will continue to be very useful provided your content is relevant.

That’s the standard advice you are likely to get from most marketing consultants. It’s easier said than done as you’ve probably already discovered.

The solution – use dynamic content to boost relevancy of your emails and make them highly personalized in order to truly engage with your audience of engineering, technical and industrial professionals.

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Manufacturers Use CAD and 3D Parts Catalogs to Generate Leads

For a while now, manufacturers have been using online searchable product catalogs to generate new leads and sales. Downloadable CAD files have played a major role in components and parts being designed in – a key and necessary step in the industrial buying process.

I have written about the benefits of creating an online CAD library in several of my posts in the past. See my previous article, “Details Matter in Creating Content for Engineers.”

I believe it was ThomasNet that had pioneered the use of online CAD drawings in the industrial sector. Their unique CAD technology allowed manufacturers to put 3D CAD models of their products directly into the hands of more than 100,000 engineers and architects who had registered on their site. That was back in 2005. I’m sure that number has grown significantly since then.

I found it quick and easy to search through the more than 67,000 categories listed in their CAD library. With just two clicks, I was able to narrow down my search to Pumps, Valves & Accessories > Valves: High Pressure. I could then select a specific manufacturer’s CAD library to view.

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