Every 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.
Problems in industrial lead generation
Conversation #1: The US Sales Manager of a manufacturer of level controllers and control vales said to me, “We don’t talk to leads until we receive an RFQ/RFP.”
Problem: The buyer is already at the end of their buying decision by the time an RFQ/RFP is issued. He wants to compare bids from vendors based on price and lead-time. The manufacturer doesn’t want to sell on price because their strength is in providing engineered solutions. It is too late for the manufacture to start talking about their expertise at this stage because they have to conform to the exact bid specifications in order to provide a price and a delivery time.
Conversation #2: The President at a distributor of natural gas and compressed air dehydrators said, “My sales team can tell if a lead is qualified or not within two minutes of talking to someone.”
Problem: The sales team isn’t receiving enough calls or able to get in front of enough prospects to make that quick determination. As a result, sales are down and they need more leads.
Conversation #3: The VP of Business Development for an in-line inspection systems manufacturer emailed this to me, “We want to reach major distributors throughout the US by creating an email blast. We want them to call us with active projects, we’ll take care of everything and they’ll get a big commission for doing very little work. A Win-Win situation for everybody!”
Problem: They don’t know who to reach and their in-house mailing list can’t help them reach new customers. The best they can do is to rent a list based on firmographic data. Emails sent in the past have produced poor results.
Defining a qualified lead for industrial companies
These three examples may seem very different from each other but the underlying problem is the same—the absence of a clear definition of a qualified lead.
Just generating more leads is not the answer. The key to success is figuring out the minimum quantity of high quality leads needed to keep your pipeline active. Scale up from there to increase wins and sales.
I’m sure by now you’ve 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).
Marketing must 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.
Marketing cannot create content for the sake of marketing, it has to lead to conversations for Sales. In short, it all starts with a clear definition of a lead.
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.
The ultimate goal in industrial lead generation is getting that RFQ or RFP but you will struggle if you are using that as the only definition of a lead. (See Lead Generation for Industrial Companies is a Process not a Campaign).