Posts

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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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 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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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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Subscribers to Free Content are NOT Leads

I’ve heard some of my manufacturing clients call their subscribers to free content leads. I’ve also read articles by other industrial marketers where they recommend using free content to generate new leads.

That is good advice and it is a proven tactic for inbound marketing. However, I do have a problem with classifying these new subscribers as leads.

IMO, these people have merely raised their hands to indicate some interest in your company, content and the free offer. They are prospects by my definition.

Let’s face it; you are going to get a few sign ups just because it is free. They found your content interesting and valuable but are not likely to become customers ever. Some of them may even be your competition.

Visitors who sign up to download your white papers, eBooks and other free content definitely grow your list of contacts but calling them leads without taking the next step is premature at best if not a costly mistake.

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Industrial Blogs for Lead Generation Using Inbound Marketing

If you are an industrial or a manufacturing marketer, you know all about the constant pressure of generating high-quality sales leads. Upper management asking you to fill the pipeline with ever-shrinking budgets is a given these days.

There are three key ideas in the headline of my post – 1) Industrial blogs, 2) Lead generation and 3) Inbound marketing. In this post I’ll talk about how the three work together nicely in industrial and manufacturing marketing.

Various studies and my own experiences with industrial clients show that filling the top of the lead-gen funnel is still the number one goal.

A study of over 1,400 small and mid-sized businesses found that marketers with blogs generated 67% more leads. (Source: HubSpot).

Industrial marketers who don’t use a blog are missing a key component of feeding the top of their sales funnels. The single biggest benefit of blogging that I know of is getting found early and often when engineers and industrial professionals are researching solutions using search engines.

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Most Industrial and Manufacturing Websites are Still Stuck in Web 1.0

Lead generation from their Websites is the number one objective of most manufacturers and industrial companies that I talk to. Yet, their existing Websites have little to no lead generating capabilities.

That statement may come as a shock to many site owners because they are convinced that sales leads will just roll in because their site includes a toll free number in a big bold font, there are links to the “Contact Us” page everywhere and/or there’s a RFQ form on the site.

Here’s what’s wrong with that picture: Read more

Lead Nurturing Is Not A Marketing Option, It’s A Sales Necessity

Plenty has been written about the importance of lead nurturing in B2B and industrial marketing. If you need a quick primer, read my earlier post, “B2B Lead Generation without Lead Nurturing is Doomed to Fail.

Most of the lead nurturing best practices guides and articles that I’ve read are from a marketing perspective. Let’s switch gears for a moment and think of it from a sales point of view.

What does lead nurturing do for sales?

IMO, the two key contributions of lead nurturing to sales are:

  1. Realigns the timing of buyers and sellers
  2. Builds trusting relationships with permission

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