Industrial Lead Generation – MQL vs SQL

Industrial lead generation - MQL vs SQL

Industrial lead generation is an important, if not the #1 goal of industrial marketers. Sure, there are other objectives of manufacturing content marketing as can be seen in this chart from the Manufacturing Content Marketing … Read more

Industrial Lead Generation for Sales – It’s Complicated!

Industrial lead generation and sales, it's complicatedIndustrial lead generation is the lifeline for manufacturers, distributors and engineering companies when it comes to accelerating their pipelines and growing sales. However, turning new leads into sales is not straightforward or simple. Just like the hit movie, it’s complicated!

There are many reasons for the failure of industrial lead generation to convert into wins in long and complex sales cycles. Before I go into those, let me give you three real-life examples of conversations that I have had with industrial companies.

Example #1: The Head of Business Development for a manufacturer of compressed air dehydrators said to me, “My sales team can tell if a lead is qualified or not within five minutes of talking to someone.”

The problem was that his sales team wasn’t receiving enough of those calls and they were having a hard time getting in front of the right decisionmakers to make that qualifying decision. Sales were down as a result and they needed to fill their pipeline with more leads.

Example #2: The North American Sales Manager of an engineering company that designed custom-engineered skid-mounted modular process systems for the upstream Oil & Gas industry said, “We don’t talk to leads until we receive an RFQ/RFP.”

He didn’t want to sell on price because the company’s strength was in providing engineered solutions. Unfortunately, it was too late for his team to start talking about their expertise because the buyer had already reached the final stage of his/her buying decision. S/he wanted all vendors to conform to a given set of specifications so it was easier to do an apples to apples comparison of bids based on price and lead-time.

Example #3: The President/Owner of a Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) services company that primarily targeted refineries and petrochemical companies, emailed me to say, “I want to meet the right people and if necessary, jump on a plane to go anywhere, but I don’t know who to meet.”

This client had tried email blasts to rented lists and telemarketing companies to set appointments. Neither of those tactics produced results for him. He was desperate for new leads.

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Use industrial content marketing to enable sales

Industrial content marketing plays an important role in driving sales for manufacturers and engineering companies. Of course, going from publishing content to growing sales is not as easy as going from point A to point B.

If you are a manufacturer of custom-engineered systems, you know that it is nearly impossible to generate Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) without first having one or more conversations with the right people. To get to that point requires more than publishing a few blog posts and/or sending out emails.

Many of these industrial companies already know their limited pool of prospects who are qualified to buy their equipment and services. They don’t want to wait for these people to find them; they want to reach out to them proactively.

The fact is your target audience of engineers and technical professionals are in self-select and self-serve mode. They want to learn as much about you and your solutions before they’ll engage with your sales team. Industrial content marketing aligns perfectly with how today’s self-educating buyers want to interact with their suppliers.

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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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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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Lead Generation for Industrial Companies is a Process not a Campaign

I hear too many manufacturers and industrial companies talking about creating campaigns because they want to pump up their lead generation. That mode of thinking is outdated and simply doesn’t work today where you are dealing with mostly invisible and self-directed industrial buyers.

Buyers are looking for information online and interacting with sales people on their own terms. Your industrial lead generation needs to evolve to meet their needs. Otherwise you are going to struggle generating qualified leads that turn into sales opportunities. That is a virtual certainty.

Evolution of industrial lead generation

The old ways of industrial lead generation have changed. Engineers and technical buyers do most of their research, evaluation and finally selecting a vendor very differently today than in the past. Complicating the process is the fact that the buyers do not usually go on a linear buying journey. There are many stakeholders involved in the buying decision, some of whom may never visit your website and/or meet your sales people.

Now I know you’ve read/heard all this before so what exactly is different about lead generation today? Here’s a handy chart from Marketo that explains the differences between then and now.

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Take Industrial Lead Generation up a Notch with Marketing Automation

Marketing automation technology is one of the areas where B2B marketers will increase spending in 2014 according to an article I read in the September 16 issue of BtoB Magazine. There are many more choices available today in Marketing Automation (MA) offerings and one can find the right fit at various price points. This post is not a product review or a comparison of different marketing automation packages. You’ll find plenty of such articles online written by vendors and independent marketing consultants. You can visit sites of different MA vendors and get the laundry list of all the features they offer.

I’ll stick to my area of expertise – industrial marketing and the use of MA in this specific niche. I have used HubSpot for about four years for two different clients and am now using Pardot for another manufacturer. I want to zero in on two key benefits of using MA for improving industrial lead generation and conversions.

  1. Prospect Profiling
  2. ROI Measurement and Reporting

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Marketing Automation Alone Can’t Deliver ROI for Industrial Companies

Let me start by saying that I’m a big believer of Marketing Automation (MA) and have seen it produce incredible marketing ROI for some manufacturers and industrial companies.

Then why does the headline of this post make me sound like a skeptic? That’s because it’s a case of good news, bad news.

First, the good news, MA does make the entire process of converting Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) into Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) very efficient and measurable. It produces amazing results when implemented and managed correctly.

This infographic from Pardot (A SalesForce Company) shows the real results automation users are seeing, descriptions of how automation is transforming companies, and staggering growth statistics.

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Storytelling in Industrial Content Marketing

Storytelling in industrial content marketingIf storytelling sounds too “Kumbaya” to you for hardcore industrial marketing and sales, then I suggest you read on for a fresh perspective.

There is a very good reason centuries old Aesop’s Fables and others of that genre continue to be popular today for teaching valuable lessons. Their power lies in storytelling. Who doesn’t love a good story, don’t you?

Today’s industrial buyers believe in self-serve in the early stages of their buying journey. S/he wants to read content that will help him or her make a more informed decision. A hard sell would be a total turn off. For engagement to happen, you have to make buyers immerse themselves in your content by the stories you tell to sell your solution.

How do you make that personal connection? You do that by addressing their “What’s in it for me ((WIIFM)” concerns. It’s about them, not you! By telling stories that are unique to you and your company. That’s how you differentiate yourself from others. Your competition may be able to outspend you and easily copy your industrial marketing tactics but they can never steal your stories and make them their own. See my post, “Content Can Differentiate Industrial Companies When There’s Parity in Value Propositions.”

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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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Content Can Differentiate Industrial Companies When There’s Parity in Value Propositions

A Value Proposition plays an important role in differentiation, which in turn affects lead generation. Yet, if you read the content on most industrial websites, they tend to sound similar within each industry. Most manufacturers and industrial companies make generic claims that are often copied by their competition and lack validation.

How do you rise above the noise when there is so much parity in Value Propositions?

There are experts who are more qualified than I am in crafting a Value Proposition that is so unique to a company that it cannot be easily duplicated by others. However, my clients look to me for answers for overcoming their lead generation challenges using my knowledge and experience in industrial marketing.

One strategy that has consistently produced good results for my industrial clients is using the power of industrial content marketing. You’ve probably heard that before so what’s different about what I’ve just said?

Let me answer that by giving you some specifics:

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What Does a Content Marketing Strategy Mean for Industrial Companies?

I’m sure every time you’ve talked with an industrial marketing consultant about content marketing, you’ve been told that you need to start with a “content marketing strategy.” That’s very good advice but what does it really mean if you are on the other side of the table and are responsible for marketing your industrial company?

I don’t want to overgeneralize the process of developing a good content marketing strategy because it varies from company to company. There are some guidelines and best practices that most professional marketing consultants follow but that doesn’t mean the strategies are cookie cutter plans.

What I’ve outlined here is my process for developing a sound content marketing strategy for industrial clients who are new to using inbound content marketing for generating more high quality leads at a lower cost per lead.

You are probably very familiar with the phrase “To succeed with content marketing, you have to think like a publisher.” Building on that foundation, my process is based on the time-tested principle of “the Five Ws (and one H)” of good journalism. In case you are not familiar with that term, the five Ws are – Who, What, When, Where and Why. The H stands for How.

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Can Digital Marketing Make the Phone Ring for Industrial Companies?

Generating leads is always the central theme in my daily conversations with manufacturing, engineering and industrial companies. However, a qualified lead means different things to different people and it is rare for me to find too many of these companies to have a clear definition of what a lead means to them.

Truth be told, lead generation is a catchall for “We want our phones to ring.”

I wish it were that easy. Then again, I had better be careful about what I wish for because if it were that easy, my clients wouldn’t need my help solving their industrial lead generation problems.

Let me make it clear from the outset, this post is not about sales vs. marketing. I firmly believe that complex industrial sales require both sales and marketing to work together. I advise my clients to embrace that philosophy and not to think of industrial marketing as mere sales support.

How can digital marketing help create more qualified opportunities for industrial sales?

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Do You Know the Cost of Maintaining Your Industrial Digital Marketing Status Quo?

For the past six years, more than two thirds of manufacturers and industrial companies have said that lead generation or customer acquisition is their top marketing priority according to the latest industrial marketing survey released by GlobalSpec.

The same survey also found that 42 percent of these companies have increased their budgets for digital marketing in 2012 and 47 percent of the respondents spend more than a third of their overall marketing budgets online.

Despite all the encouraging findings about the use of digital marketing within the industrial sector, it is common to find websites that are several years old. I have talked to owners and marketers from manufacturing and industrial companies of various sizes that sounded enthusiastic about launching an industrial blog and moving forward with inbound marketing with content but it seems easier for them to do nothing and maintain their digital marketing status quo. They are hoping that their lead generation problem will somehow solve itself if they continue to do business as usual.

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Why a Content BOM is Crucial to a Successful Industrial Web Design

Content BOM is not a typo in my headline. Read on…

I am amazed how often I find that creating content is an afterthought for people who are considering an industrial web design (more commonly a site redesign). Somehow, they assume the web designer will take care of content creation and the cost is included in their proposal for designing the site.

It is not surprising then that many of these industrial web redesigns are nothing more than a cosmetic facelift with copy-pasted content from their old site and/or outdated marketing collateral. Beyond the initial “looks nice” reaction, the new site doesn’t produce the results that were promised and expected.

What went wrong? The short answer – no content BOM (Bill Of Materials). Let me explain by using my personal experience.

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The More Industrial Marketing Changes, the More it Stays the Same

I’m not trying to be clever or facetious with my headline. 67 percent of manufacturers, industrial and engineering companies stated that customer acquisition or lead generation is their primary industrial marketing goal in 2012, the same top two marketing goals for the past six years.

That’s one of the findings from a survey done by GlobalSpec during the first quarter of 2012. The online survey addressed the marketing trends, challenges, and expenditures within the engineering, technical, manufacturing, and industrial communities.

The primary goal of industrial marketing has not changed even though marketing strategies and tactics have changed significantly in the past 5 years. Either that or we industrial marketers haven’t quite figured out the lead generation puzzle yet.

Here are some other key findings from their report:

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