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How Manufacturing Content Marketing Sets the Table for Sales

Manufacturing content marketing sets the table for SalesI recently received two emails from two different manufacturers. They both inquired about using manufacturing content marketing to help their sales efforts. Both these companies had used telemarketing and other conventional marketing tactics with very little success in generating sales qualified leads.

You may be experiencing the same or similar problems as these two manufacturers. Here are excerpts from those emails.

  • “Using a lead generation company right now that charges too much and delivers too little. They do not understand industrial sales, and although they are talented and penetrating accounts, many of the set appointments do not answer the phone.”
  • “I have been doing the conventional style of marketing i.e. making cold calls, face-time with clients. After all such interactions, I was simply told to mail the information regarding our product, company credentials etc. I have met 100+ people and so far only a few have responded.”

These two manufacturers are experiencing firsthand the realities of industrial buyer behavior these days. Buyers are in self-serve self-select mode and remain mainly invisible for a large portion of the buy cycle. These industrial buyers will engage with your sales team only when they are ready. Hounding them with cold calls or unwanted emails is not going to help them make a more informed decision of selecting your company as the preferred manufacturer.

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Marketing Engineering Services with Content

Marketing Engineering ServicesMarketing engineering services is very different from marketing industrial products. The biggest difference is that you are selling an intangible concept as versus a physical product. The final deliverable in engineering services may be a written report but it is still not the same as selling a motor or a pump.

I have run across hybrid situations where the manufacturer sells custom-engineered products. These are not standard off the shelf widgets but require significant amount of engineering consulting upfront before producing the final product.

In this post, I’ll stick with marketing pure engineering services such as Soil and Groundwater Investigation/Remediation; Engineering Feasibility Studies and Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) Audits to name a few.

Traditionally, engineering services firms have relied on referrals, professional networking and event sponsorships to grow their business. Referral business is great but they are usually few and far between for a dependable growth strategy. Networking and sponsorships are time consuming and expensive.

Let’s say you’ve perfected your marketing message into a concise 30-second elevator pitch and you’ve become good at delivering it to strangers you meet at professional events. Assume you’ve managed to pique their interest, which is no small feat. Guess what, they are going to check out your website when they get back to the office. The content on your site will make or break that first impression.

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In Industrial Lead Generation, a Lead is a Lead, Right?

Defining leads in industrial lead generationEvery discussion I’ve had with manufacturers and industrial companies starts with “we need more leads” or ends with “we need results.” I understand and accept the fact that the main goal of industrial marketing is to generate leads. I have no issues with that but do these companies know what a qualified lead is?

That may sound like a dumb question to ask in industrial lead generation but in reality, you would be surprised by how fundamental and serious that question is. I’m not making this up or trying to be clever here.

Let me explain with three excerpts from conversations I have had in just the past few months.

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Content Marketing for Manufacturers: What’s real and what’s hype?

If you are a manufacturing marketer, I’m sure you’ve heard all the buzz and the hype surrounding content marketing for manufacturers. It is a fact that today more manufacturers are using content marketing for increasing awareness (branding), lead generation and sales. That’s not hype, it’s definitely a reality as reported by the 2015 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs.

Goals of content marketing for manufacturers

Is content marketing for manufacturers meeting those goals and expectations?

I’ll answer that question by first citing study findings and then with my own experiences with manufacturing clients.

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No Digital Marketing for Manufacturers = Marketing in the Past

Are you marketing in the past without digital marketing for manufacturers?Most manufacturers including precision CNC machine shops and fabricators have difficulty understanding the true value of digital marketing for manufacturers. Some that have implemented it, struggle to produce tangible results, meaning a boost in sales that they can attribute to marketing.

The need for a robust online presence (Website and customer-centric content marketing) is driven by your customer’s behavior and not because marketing consultants are telling you to do so. Today’s industrial buyers are in self-serve and self-select mode, making them virtually invisible and hard to reach. They don’t need or want to talk to your sales people to get product information. Your buyers will engage with your sales team only when they are ready. Hounding them with cold calls or unwanted spammy emails is not going to make them choose you over the competition.

The lack of buy-in for digital marketing is a two-fold problem as I see it with my industrial clients. The first issue is a mindset at the top and the second part is one of incorrect attribution.

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How Industrial Companies are Stuck on SEO for Content Marketing Strategy

I find too many manufacturers and industrial distributors basing their entire content marketing strategy with one goal in mind – getting found in Google. In other words, the entire focus is on Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

“What’s wrong with that?” you ask. After all, your content is useless unless people can find your website when they search.

Focusing your content marketing strategy only on SEO or top of the funnel traffic has many drawbacks. If I had to summarize it in one sentence it would be, search engines are not your target, human visitors are.

People won’t automagically convert into qualified leads just because they found your industrial website in Google or other major search engines. That’s why your industrial content marketing strategy must be based on the entire sales funnel and not just ToFU (Top of Funnel) activities. Traffic by itself means zilch if you can’t convert it into opportunities.

Technical SEO vs content SEO

Right or wrong, SEO has an aura of mystery about it. This in turn turns off many site owners and marketers. While it is true there are certain aspects of SEO that are technical, it is only a small part of optimizing content.

Thanks to the recent algorithm updates by Google, current best practices in organic SEO go far beyond keyword matching, Meta tags and keyword density. The new Google is smart enough to understand and interpret search intent.

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Content Industrial Buyers Want from Supplier Websites

Manufacturers and industrial companies have shifted more of their marketing dollars to digital marketing channels for a very good reason. Their target audience—engineers and industrial buyers are using digital media to find components, equipment, services and suppliers (77%); obtain product specifications (73%); find product availability information (70%); perform research (67%); and compare products across suppliers (66%). (Source: 2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector; IHS Engineering360 Research Report).

The chart below shows how industrial professionals are using the Internet for work-related purposes.

work-realted use of the Internet by industrial professionals

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Industrial Marketing Plan: A 3-Phase Approach

Industrial marketing plan

As we go deeper into Q4 with the holidays right around the corner, most industrial companies start to think about their industrial marketing plan for the next year. As an industrial marketing consultant, I’m often asked by clients the best way to approach this important planning task.

My preferred way is what I call the 3-phase industrial marketing plan approach. I refer to them as phases instead of steps because each phase consists of several smaller steps.

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Content Marketing for Industrial Companies – Is There Content Overload?

There was a time not too long ago when manufacturers and industrial companies were blamed for being slow adopters of content marketing. Have we progressed from that to too much content in just a few short years?

Take a look at these stats from the 2015 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs. 65% of manufacturers are creating more content this year compared to one year ago and that is down slightly from the previous year’s 70%.

Content marketing for industrial companies in 2015

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BANT May Not Work in Qualifying Leads for Industrial Sales

 

Using BANT to qualify leads for industrial sales

Sales people have been using BANT (Budget, Authority, Needs, and Timing/Timeframe) criteria to qualify leads and prospects for a long time ever since IBM first coined that acronym. It made a lot of sense from salesperson’s point of view because they want to know up front if the prospect has the money or can get the budget approved and has the buying authority. They don’t want to waste their time on unqualified leads. Nothing wrong with that!

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