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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.

A lead is not always a lead in industrial lead generation

The above examples may sound very different from each other, but there is a common underlying problem—the absence of a clear definition of a qualified lead.

Generating a high volume of industrial leads without first developing a documented strategy for qualifying, scoring and nurturing them into sales opportunities, is not going to produce the results you want.

By now, you’ve probably read or heard about lead scoring and how Marketing Automation can help you do that. All that is true, but adding another layer of technology won’t solve all your lead generation problems unless there’s an agreement between marketing and sales on the definition of a qualified lead. (See Better Industrial Marketing Doesn’t Mean More Technology).

You know as well as I do that quality of leads will always trump quantity.

Qualified industrial lead generation with content marketing

Manufacturers, distributors and engineering companies that are focused on generating qualified leads, rely mainly on industrial content marketing. This digital marketing strategy works because it aligns very well with today’s industrial buyers who are in self-select and self-serve mode for a large portion of their buying journey. They are more in control of when and how they’ll interact with your sales team.

Industrial content marketing is not all about getting found in search engines (See How Industrial Companies are Stuck on SEO for Content Marketing Strategy). Use the full potential of content marketing to capture Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), qualify and nurture them into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) before handing them off to Sales to convert them into RFQs and wins.

Industrial content marketing must set the table for sales by attracting the right visitors, increasing brand awareness, educating their audience and earning their trust in order to generate better quality leads. Here’s a chart from the Manufacturing Content Marketing 2019 report  that shows you how manufacturing marketers have used content marketing successfully over the last 12 months.

Goals of manufacturing content marketing in industrial lead generation

Understand MQLs, SQLs and CRO for better industrial lead generation

Creating content for the sake of content marketing is not going to move the needle. It must lead to conversations for Sales. It is Marketing’s responsibility to qualify and nurture Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) from free downloads until they become Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) before handing off to sales to take follow up action.

You can’t nurture leads without first developing content assets that support each stage of the buy cycle. Sales must provide feedback to Marketing to refine and modify lead scoring rules and lead definitions. This agreement between Sales and Marketing is easier said than done, because at most industrial companies, the mindset is that Sales is responsible for generating leads. It is very difficult for them to accept the fact that Marketing must now play a more active role because of how industrial buyers are interacting with salespeople on their own terms and timing.

In short, it all starts with a clear definition of a lead. For more on this, see SAL is the Glue that Binds Sales and Marketing in Lead Generation.

Don’t confuse getting found in search engines with converting leads into opportunities. There is a big difference between search engine optimization (SEO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO). It takes a lot of hard work, knowledge and time for those two to work together in synchrony. To learn more about these differences, let me point you to a few of my earlier articles.

The primary objective of industrial lead generation is getting that RFQ or RFP, but you will struggle if that is your sole definition of a lead.

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