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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Industrial Marketing is not Disconnected Tactics

Many manufacturers and industrial companies are learning some hard lessons these days. Business as usual is not working – referrals are trickling in, if at all and the pipeline of leads is running dry. The old way of hiring away salespeople from the competition with their “ready book of business” is not producing the quick sales they had expected.

Next, they try a series of marketing tactics without a strategy or a plan, hoping something will produce results. When that doesn’t work, they turn to the Internet in search of information on how to do industrial marketing on a shoestring budget.

After being burned a few times by free tips from self-proclaimed experts online, they become frustrated and are suspicious of any more advice even if it is from a legitimate and proven industrial marketing consultant. In desperation, they start looking for a quick “Band-Aid” fix for their lead generation problems while spending as little as possible since budgets are tight or non-existent.

In short, they are now looking for Cheap Miracles or may be, Industrial Marketing Made in China.

Marketing for these industrial companies has always been a sales support function — put together a PowerPoint presentation for the next sales meeting, create a few posters for an upcoming tradeshow or make the product catalog look “pretty.” It is very difficult for them to change this mindset and think of an industrial marketing strategy before implementing tactics. Yes, there is a big difference between strategy and tactics. Google strategy vs. tactics and you’ll get 4,030,000 hits so there is no sense in me repeating all that here.

How can industrial marketing remove this disconnect?

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Lead Generation: What’s Working – Tactics, Budgets and Preferences

Summer is a good time to look back at what has worked for lead generation and compare yourself with your peers as you plan for the second half of the year. You could use some of these findings to validate your own industrial marketing strategy and/or find some new ideas to fine-tune it for the remainder of 2012. With that in mind, here are some useful data and charts from various sources. Click on each chart to see a larger image.

MarketingSherpa: (www.marketingsherpa.com)

What were the most effective SEO tactics used for lead generation in 2012? Here are the results from a survey of 1,530 B2B marketers during this year’s B2B Benchmark Study to find what works in online and offline marketing.

MarketingSherpa

In another survey of nearly 2,000 B2B marketers, participants were asked, “Please indicate the expected changes to your lead generation budget for the following channels for 2012.”

And the survey says…

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Is Your Industrial Website Leaking Leads?

One persistent problem for many manufacturers and industrial companies is the small number of leads generated from their Websites. By default, they assume that the issue is the lack of traffic because of poor SEO. It is quite likely, that your industrial Website is attracting enough traffic but suffers from poor conversion. In short, you may have a leaky industrial Website. (See my earlier post, You’ve Got Traffic. Now What?)

Look at your Google Analytics, one quick indicator of a leaky Website is your bounce rate. Google defines bounce rate as “The percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page.” Anything over 60% is worrisome and you may have a leaky Website.

One caveat to the above rule of thumb – a page for downloading case studies probably will have a very high bounce rate but that doesn’t mean it is bad. If you are sophisticated enough with analytics, you can set up conversion tracking within Google Analytics to get a better handle on where the leads are leaking from your Website.

Often, I find industrial websites designed with no thought given to traffic conversion. The most common conversion mechanisms I see are a toll free number in a big bold font and a Contact Us or a lengthy RFQ form. While making your contact information very visible on your site is a good idea, it is not very effective in converting site traffic into named contacts or leads.

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How Manufacturers Use 3D CAD Models and 2D CAD Drawings as Sales Enablers

Manufacturers usually want their industrial marketing to generate leads that result in RFQs as quickly as possible. Inbound marketing tactics such as SEO and other content marketing strategies do fill the top of their sales funnel but converting leads to sales opportunities takes too long for their liking. Think of 3D CAD models and 2D CAD drawings then as supercharged content assets for moving leads closer to the RFQ stage much quicker than any other type of content resource.

There are several benefits to offering 3D CAD models and 2D CAD drawings on an industrial website. By far the strongest reason, at least in my opinion is that they help get manufacturers’ or distributors’ parts “designed in.” Design wins lead to prototype and production orders. That’s why I like to call them “sales enablers.”

ThomasNet research indicates that up to 80 percent of the time a buyer or engineer downloads and specs a CAD drawing into a design, that part is purchased. That is not an isolated case; I have read many comments that are variations of a common theme – design engineers will look for alternate suppliers if they cannot find 3D models on a vendor’s site.

Some of the other benefits include:

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Don’t Underestimate Industrial Marketing’s Contribution to Sales

The more I talk to manufacturers and industrial companies, the more I’m convinced that RFQs and sales conversations are all that matter to them. I get it that industrial marketing must be held accountable and I firmly believe that it should make a direct contribution to growing sales and revenues. However, ignoring industrial marketing’s role in creating sales opportunities is a fallacy in my opinion. (See Manufacturers Need Lead Management to Close the RFQ Gap)

Industrial companies are having a difficult time adjusting their mindset to the new realities of buyer behavior. I have had many conversations where I have heard the other person tell me that they’ve never had to actively market their products and services before. They are accustomed to customers calling them for RFQs/RFPs. They’ve always depended on a constant flow of referrals and repeat business. Obviously, those channels have dried up, otherwise we wouldn’t be having a conversation about needing my industrial marketing consultation in the first place.

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Inbound Marketing won’t Boost Short-term Sales for Industrial Companies

Inbound marketing is a frequent topic of discussion in my daily conversations with Owners, CEOs and Business Development professionals from manufacturing and industrial companies. Irrespective of the size of the company, they all have one thing in common – they want to boost sales as quickly as possible.

These industrial professionals have heard about inbound marketing being the “in” thing these days from marketing consultants like me and from other sources. However, it is a shock to them when I tell them “Inbound marketing is not a short-term fix. It is a long journey.”

They don’t want to hear that, they want their phones to start ringing, RFQs coming in and their sales team involved in deep conversations within 30 days.

Those are unrealistic expectations in my opinion. Here’s why; unlike a one-off ad or direct mail campaign, inbound marketing requires assessment of your current marketing programs to identify weaknesses, developing a strategic plan of action, implementing tactics, auditing existing content to identify gaps, creating new content and repurposing old ones, tracking, measuring and refining the process. These steps take time, at least six months for all the moving parts to mesh together like a finely tuned engine that will drive lead generation and generate sales.

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Is Your Industrial Content Marketing Reaching a Dead End?

In my daily interactions with manufacturing, engineering and industrial companies, inbound marketing or content marketing is a popular topic of discussion. Decision makers in these companies want to jump on the content marketing bandwagon but they really don’t have a strategic plan of action and/or a clear idea of how it will drive sales and generate revenues.

Not that I’m complaining, this gap means more business opportunities for me as an industrial marketing consultant. 😉

The problem as I see it is that many of these industrial companies still think of content marketing as a one-off marketing campaign. Their efforts are limited to spending some money on SEO and PPC to drive traffic to their websites. Some of them are filling the top of their sales funnel but the pipeline of qualified sales opportunities is running dry.

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Industrial Content Marketing with Purpose

In my last post, I talked about using content to convert website traffic into leads and customers. In this post, I want to continue with a similar theme and talk about why your content marketing must have a purpose.

With the abundance of content available on the Internet these days, it is difficult to rise above the noise and get noticed. Manufacturers and industrial companies cannot be content with just publishing content, their content marketing needs to drive the sales process.

Telling owners and C-level executives at these companies that inbound marketing with content takes time to produce results will only hold them off for so long. They expect, and rightfully so, that their marketing investments produce ROI sooner rather than later, now would be even better. (See Content Marketing: Think Like a Publisher, Act Like an Investor).

However, creating content that will convert traffic into leads in one fell swoop is a challenge since industrial sales typically have long sales cycles and a multitude of stakeholders are involved in the purchase decision.

Consider these suggestions then to overcome the hurdle – change the purpose of your content marketing from conversion to action. What am I talking about?

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You’ve Got Traffic. Now What?

You’ve done all the hard work of optimizing (SEO) your industrial website and now you have a steady stream of traffic to your site. Congratulations!

Sorry to rain on your parade but that is only half the equation. The other half is all about converting that traffic into leads and customers.

I find there is a strong but mistaken belief among industrial companies that somehow their site visitors will interrupt their online activities and pick up the phone to call their sales people. Even though this behavior is contrary to how they themselves interact online, they expect their target audience to behave differently. (See my post, “Do You Believe in Industrial Websites?”).

The reality is that the vast majority of site visitors will do nothing and leave. What they have is a website that is leaking potential leads like a sieve. Whenever I make that statement, there is silence on the other end of the phone or in a face-to-face meeting; I get a look that says, “What the heck are you talking about?”

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Manufacturing Infographics for Content Marketing

Infographics, short for information graphics are hot right now. It seems everyone is creating one these days. Infographics have been around for a while and are used to communicate complex concepts visually and easily. If done right, they can be very effective in content marketing for manufacturers and industrial companies.

In the early stages of lead generation, you are primarily dealing with “suspects” – people who you have not yet qualified as prospects or leads. For top of the funnel content, infographics are very effective because of their focus on educating the reader rather than being product-centric.

Even though suspects may not fit your ideal customer profile, they may be people who will share your content if they find it worthwhile and interesting. Infographics fit the bill the perfectly for this purpose. Shareable content increases awareness about your company and drives more traffic back to your site or blog. Filling the top of the funnel with interested readers is one of the key objectives of content marketing.

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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: Don’t Start a Lead Generation Campaign without Sales

Every manufacturing or industrial company that I talk to wants more leads. However, there is a serious disconnect between sales and marketing when it comes to defining a qualified lead.

This is not a new problem. Google sales and marketing disconnect and you will find thousands of articles written on this topic. I am here to tell you that it is very real and thriving within manufacturing companies.

Recently, a manufacturing client retained me to help them improve their industrial lead generation campaign. This company had spent thousands of dollars in Pay-Per-Click (PPC) and banner ads in niche industry eNewsletters. They had received a fair amount of traffic from those efforts but had little to no conversions. In short, very poor ROI from their lead generation efforts.

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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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Align Industrial Websites with Sales Process

If you want your industrial website to generate qualified leads and drive sales (Who doesn’t?), make sure the site is aligned with your sales process. Without this critical link, your newly redesigned industrial website may be nothing more than eye candy that does very little for your sales.

In my daily conversations with manufacturing and industrial companies, I find the mindset is still very much centered on marketing the old way. They want their site visitors to call and their crack sales team will take care of everything to close the deal.

Even though these people have read all the industry studies, they have a very difficult time accepting the fact that their buyers are no longer willing to engage with their salespeople until they need a quote. Now it boils down to price and delivery time.

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Industrial Marketing Content that Helps Buyers

It is very common to find marketing content from manufacturers and industrial companies that is all about how great their products are or that their technology is innovative. Sellers may be too close to the forest to see the trees and firmly believe their marketing content is helpful to their buyers.

Buyers can easily find information about your products and that of your competition from their online research. So ask yourself this question, “Is my industrial marketing content really helping my buyers make a more informed decision and is it moving them closer to an RFQ?”

I suspect most of you already know the answer otherwise I wouldn’t be hearing and reading the same objections to content marketing from so many manufacturers and industrial companies. They know the “why” but are having a difficult time figuring out “how” publishing content will help them sell more of their industrial products.

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When the Going Gets Tough, B2B Marketers…

…fall back on tried-and-true marketing tactics that they have relied on for years. In the current tough economy, cutting edge and innovative marketing is taking a back seat to proven strategies for lead generation.

B2B companies are spending more of their marketing budgets on channels such as trade shows, Website design, management and optimization and e-mail marketing. Those three marketing channels received the largest allocation of the budget. The trend holds true across the board even though the mix may be different depending on the size of a B2B company.

Smaller companies, those with less than 100 employees, tend to spend more on digital marketing tactics like Website design, e-mail marketing as well as traditional outbound marketing channels like direct mail. Not surprisingly, they tend to spend less on trade shows.

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Using E-mail Marketing for Lead Generation

Most manufacturers and industrial companies use email marketing as a way to keep in touch with new leads and existing customers. This usually means sending out a bi-weekly or a monthly email newsletter.

It has been my experience within the industrial sector that these companies rarely use email marketing proactively for lead generation. Here I am not referring to new subscribers to newsletters and free content. To me, those contacts are prospects and not leads. There is a difference. For more on that, refer to my post, “Subscribers to Free Content are NOT Leads.”

How to generate quality leads using email marketing

Email marketing is an effective tactic for generating high-quality leads from an audience of engineering, industrial and technical professionals. However, it does require you to think about emails somewhat differently.

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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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