Inbound Marketing Is A Perfect Fit For Manufacturing Companies And Today’s Buyers
A few weeks ago, I attended the B2B Marketing Exchange conference and found a steady stream of what I would call industrial manufacturing firms searching for ways to improve their marketing. They were looking for account-based marketing insight, data cleansing recommendations and information on how to apply technology, while also investigating inbound marketing.
As I spoke with those CMOs and directors of demand generation, it was clear they recognized the industrial manufacturing marketing they’ve been doing is not working productively anymore. Many of them have traditional sales teams and most of them have distributor networks, too. The blend of marketing tactics to support sales and distribution networks makes the challenge even more complex.
When I listen to their challenges, it’s obvious that for some of the companies inbound marketing and B2B lead generation is part of the solution. Here are some of the specific issues facing industrial manufacturing and how inbound marketing might deliver some answers.
If You Need More Top-Of-The-Funnel Leads
Who doesn’t? But understand that going after top-of-the-funnel leads is like fishing with a net; it’s very likely you’ll snag some little fish that you’ll have to throw back. Don’t be discouraged if this is your experience and don’t fault inbound if not all of your leads are “ready to buy today” leads.
If this is one of your biggest challenges, the way to fix this with inbound is to improve the diversity of content offers on your website and to highly optimize the conversion strategy associated with the content and the site. For example, we find most manufacturing clients have only bottom-of-the-funnel offers on their website, such as “request a quote” or “speak with a rep.”
You’re not getting enough top-of-the-funnel or middle-of-the-funnel leads because you don’t have educational, creative and helpful content offers for 90% of the people visiting your site. You only want sales-ready leads, so you only have bottom-of-the-funnel conversion points. Once you add other types of content offers and the necessary conversion mechanisms, top-of-the-funnel leads will start flowing.
If You Need More Sales-Qualified Leads
People who want to give you their contact information are marketing-qualified leads. People who want to talk to you are sales-qualified leads (they’re not yet sales opportunities; that’s up to the sales team to decide). If you need more people reaching out to speak with you and your sales team, you can deploy very specific inbound tactics.
One way to deliver more sales-qualified leads is to create more value-oriented bottom-of-the-funnel offers. Here are some real examples from a few of our manufacturing clients.
An adhesives company created a custom sample to show its fast prototyping capabilities. The bottom-of-the-funnel offer was: “Challenge us! Tell us your most complicated adhesives requirements and we’ll get you a custom adhesives solution in just 24 hours. Contact us to share your requirements and we’ll get right on it.”
Here’s another one from a lithium ion battery manufacturer that aggressively supported battery solutions for clients requiring more creative battery options: “Get three portable power options in just 30 minutes. What’s your situation? We’ll give you a variety of battery options to consider.”
One more, from a safety products manufacturer: “We're so obsessed with sending your people home safe tonight, we'll come in and provide a free safety audit of your plant.” Now they get to look around, tell their safety manager prospects what might need to be improved AND start talking to them about products that might help them offer a safer work environment.
You can see from the language in the offers that real value is delivered to the prospects. In the first scenario, they get recommendations for their most challenging adhesives issues. In the second scenario, they get battery recommendations for their specific projects. Both cases position our client as the expert and give them an opportunity to help the prospect, get to know them much better, provide valuable insight and qualify the prospect based on opportunity.
I think you’d agree this is going to convert at a much higher rate than “contact us” or “speak with a rep.”
If You Need More Sales Opportunities
A sales opportunity is a prospect who’s ready to hire someone. You’re speaking with power, you’ve identified they’re a good fit for what you provide and they have expressed a high level of pain. They’re going to buy from someone soon — you need to make sure it’s you.
Everyone wants more opportunities; it’s one of the most elusive parts of marketing. They want not only leads; they want high-quality leads who are ready to buy today. It’s the rallying cry for every sales and marketing exec on the planet.
The way you get these (and the reason it’s so hard to deliver these) is to combine a number of marketing tactics simultaneously.
Tactic #1 – Effective Lead Nurturing: This tactic, when deployed properly, is designed to move prospects down and out the bottom of the funnel. If you can nurture more leads, you’ll get more sales opportunities. Even your best prospects who become sales-qualified leads might not be ready to buy immediately. But by nurturing them, you provide additional insights, you help them see challenges and the true cost of those inefficiencies, and you continue to remind them of the solutions. This does bubble up more active sales opportunities.
Tactic #2 – Highly Efficient Sales Process: Once your prospects engage with your sales team as sales-qualified leads, some of the responsibility to turn them into sales opportunities lies with the sales team. Giving them the process, technology and tools to move those prospects along quickly and efficiently and in a way that helps them feel safe with your company will produce more opportunities.
This means you need to create a sales process that delivers an educational experience to prospects, uses content to educate and guides instead of trying to sell.
Tactic #3 – Lead Scoring And Attribution Insights: If you want more sales opportunities, you’ll have to pay more attention to the sales leads you already have. That means creating a scoring model to help you focus your attention on the best prospects with the most opportunity. Lead scoring can be based on demographic information or psychographic information like attitudes, opinions or past behaviors.
Other more data-driven factors have to do with attribution behaviors. What pages have they visited on your website? How many times have they been on your site? How many different types of content have they downloaded or viewed? How many emails have they opened and clicked through? All of these attributed behavior data points help you build a more complicated lead scoring model that points your sales team in the right direction. By focusing their activities on better, more highly-qualified prospects, you’ll fill up your actual opportunities budget more quickly and dramatically improve the conversion rate between sales-qualified leads and sales opportunities.
If You Need More New Customers And More Revenue
This is all about the sales process, your sales team and the experience you create for the people engaged with your sales team. This process could take two weeks, a month, three months or three years. If you want to turn more sales opportunities into new customers, you have to look at each and every touch point in that process.
If you want some guideposts to check on how you’re doing, answer these questions: Are you making the prospect feel safe hiring you? Do you respond quickly? Are your emails well written? Are you providing a lot of education along the way? Do you ask a lot of questions about them? I think you’d agree, if you answer “no” to any of these questions, your prospects are probably not going to feel very safe hiring you. This slows down the sales cycle and gives competitors an opportunity to deliver “a safe feeling” and beat you out for the customer.
Here’s one more: At the end of the process, are your prospects saying about you, “We have to hire this company”? If the answer is not “yes” and everyone is not saying that at the end, you have more work to do. You have to review every part of your sales process and make adjustments. Keep in mind, I didn’t say, “We have to hire this company because they’re the cheapest.” The comment we’re looking to generate from every prospect is not dependent on price — they should be willing to hire you because you gave them a remarkable experience and made them feel like this was a safe choice, not because you’re the cheapest vendor.
If You Want To Leverage Data To Make More Informed Marketing Decisions
Historically, marketing decisions were made based on opinions, past experiences, attitudes and assumptions. This might be how manufacturing companies made marketing decisions in the past, but today, decisions are based on facts, numbers, quantitative analysis and insights derived from real-time performance data.
Have fewer-than-expected marketing-qualified leads this month? Here’s what the data says, here’s what we need to do about it, here are the tests we’re running and the expected results from those tests. We’ll check back in two weeks when we have enough data from the tests to make a smart decision.
Have fewer-than-expected sales opportunities this month? Here’s what the data says, here’s what we need to do about it, here are the tests we’re running and the expected results from those tests. You get the rest of the narrative. Now you’re making marketing and sales decisions not based on gut feelings and past experiences, but rather on live prospect behavioral data.
Marketing and sales are now a science as opposed to an art.
In no way am I oversimplifying the incredibly complex sales and marketing environments most manufacturing companies live in day in and day out. This is just a collection of the most common challenges shared with me at the conference. There were many more specific company challenges around the quality of data, sales/marketing alignment and the deployment of technology to fix some of these issues.
It does, however, appear that these more traditional companies have now realized some of their legacy tactics are producing diminishing results, and they’re open to new options, methodologies and tactics. If this describes your company, you might want to consider some of the solutions provided above. While they all might not be perfect for your company, there are probably a handful of recommendations that you could take and apply today.
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