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 That mode of thinking is outdated and simply doesn’t work today where you are dealing with mostly invisible and self-directed industrial buyers.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.
How content marketing improves lead generation for industrial companies
Manufacturers, distributors and engineering companies that I talk to don’t want to become “publishers,” they want to sell more of their products and services. They want more selling and less helping.
I get that, but I also believe that the real value of industrial content marketing is badly misunderstood by these companies. They continue to think of content marketing as a one off campaign with a start and end date, expecting leads and sales to roll in soon after the launch. Whereas content marketing is a process that takes time to gel and produce results.
I find the lack of patience one of the biggest problems in making a business case for industrial content marketing. However, it is no different from traditional ways that took time to build relationships. Content marketing helps you build relationships based on earned trust. (How Industrial Content Marketing Builds Stronger Relationships Based on Trust)
This is very important if you are trying to reach new markets and forge new relationships. Assuming you’ve done a good job of SEO, your content is available to your target audience whenever and wherever they are searching for information about what you sell. There are only so many trade shows, fishing trips and sporting events that are physically possible for you to attend. These traditional methods are far more expensive than content marketing.
Just like traditional marketing tactics, content marketing costs real money too. However with content marketing, once you’ve built your audience, you own it and it continues to generate marketing results. You no longer have to pay rent to media. This is similar to buying a home where you build equity over time versus renting a place where you keep paying for its use.
So think of your content marketing budget as more of an investment than an expense. The cost per lead also decreases over time as seen in this chart from a study done by Eloqua and Kapost.
Content marketing’s role in long and complex sales cycles
It is not unusual for industrial sales cycles to last 8 to 12 months or longer. Traditionally, sales people picked up the phone to follow up or sent out emails that started with “Touching base” or “Circling back.” You know they don’t work otherwise you wouldn’t be here reading this post.
Instead, let content marketing continue to nurture your leads and move them forward in a logical manner to their buy decision while making you look more like a valuable partner instead of a peddler of “solutions.”
This chart from ThomasNet illustrates the role of content marketing at various stages in a long buy cycle.
I’m not suggesting that you completely abandon traditional marketing. Instead, use it selectively with content marketing to boost industrial lead generation that will drive sales.