B2B and industrial marketers are usually tasked with two main responsibilities:
- Fill the top of the sales funnel (ToFU) with high quality leads
- 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).
A similar trend is seen in the industrial sector. According to GlobalSpec’s survey of 384 manufacturers and industrial companies of different sizes, 40% of the respondents stated that Customer Acquisition was their primary goal and Lead Generation was second at 31%. (See chart)
Lead generation has always been a top priority in industrial and manufacturing marketing. However, now there is a marked shift in focus from ToFU to MoFU.
This is not surprising since complex industrial sales rarely happen on the first visit to a supplier’s website unless it is an eCommerce site. Engaging content and making incremental improvements to it based on tracking a number of metrics can help you optimize the conversion process. See my earlier posts, “B2B Lead Generation without Lead Nurturing is Doomed to Fail” and “Lead Nurturing Is Not A Marketing Option, It’s A Sales Necessity.”
Content marketing helps industrial and manufacturing marketers manage their sales funnels from ToFU to MoFU. Use optimized content for inbound marketing to attract qualified prospects (ToFU) and then nurture them with engaging content to convert them into “sales ready” leads (MoFU). See my earlier post, “Inbound Marketing Must Set the Table for Industrial Sales.”
Effective content marketing requires developing content that your target audience will find relevant to their needs, roles and the stage that they are at in their buying cycle.
According to eMarketer’s Lauren Fisher, author of the new report, B2B Lead Generation: Using Content to Acquire Customers:
“Online content is the fuel for the new B2B marketing lead generation engine,” said Fisher. “In creating informational, educational and actionable content in the form of white papers and webinars, marketers can effectively lure early-stage buyers into their sales pipeline.
“By mixing this content with comparative, company-specific and interactive content—and regularly sharing it via email or e-newsletters—marketers can build relationships designed to nurture prospects throughout the sales funnel,” she continued.
All this sounds great for content marketers but if you are a manufacturer or a distributor, you don’t want to be a content publisher, you want to sell more of your industrial products. Content marketing must attract the right people, persuade them to take action and drive your industrial sales. It is only then that content marketing brings measurable benefits to your bottom line. For more on this, see my post “Content Marketing: Think Like a Publisher, Act Like an Investor.”
I don’t advocate that you completely ignore outbound marketing. Instead, I suggest that manufacturers and industrial companies take an integrated marketing approach with a good mix of both inbound and outbound tactics. See my post “Inbound Marketing Alone May Not Be Enough for Industrial Companies.”
How do you use content marketing to manage your industrial sales funnel?