Although every manufacturer is unique, they often share business development challenges that can be addressed through smart marketing.
Your company is unique. Your products, services, people, processes, marketplace and customer niche all make you different from any other manufacturer. But after 10+ years of running an industrial marketing agency, I’m also willing to bet that the business development challenges you experience are actually quite common. The following six challenges are those we most often hear from manufacturers:
- Lacking awareness among target audience
- Not seeing enough sales-qualified leads
- Buyers making uninformed decisions
- Being short on time/staff required to develop leads through the long buying process
- Not closing enough leads as paying customers
- Lacking an understanding of marketing ROI
If you’ve got all these covered, I tip my hat to you! You’ve accomplished something very few manufacturers have. But if any of these challenges strike a chord, read on. We’ll explore all six. With a smart industrial marketing strategy in place and consistent execution, none should stand between the company you are now and the company you want to become.
Challenge #1: Lacking awareness among target audience
You can’t sell to a prospect who doesn’t know who you are in the first place.
Traditional industrial marketing and sales strategies like cold calling, knocking on doors and walking the floors of trade shows all have their place, but in many ways, these tactics are shots in the dark. You might suspect a good fit, but you never really know whether a lead is simultaneously sales-qualified and sales-ready until you earn (and engage in) that first conversation.
Today, manufacturers have the power of inbound marketing at their fingertips – the ability to attract right-fit prospects (whether those are Design Engineers, Procurement Managers or CEOs) who are actively seeking a solution.
According to IEEE Engineering360’s 2016 Industrial Buy Cycle Study, 78% of those surveyed utilize supplier websites and 70% utilize general search engines to gather information in their buying processes. In other words, your buyers are conducting their research online and they want to find you! Investing in strategies like content marketing, search engine optimization and pay per click mean better visibility, more traffic and more leads.
Challenge #2: Not seeing enough sales-qualified leads
According to the previously-mentioned IEEE Engineering360 study, the length of the typical industrial buying cycle stages are as follows:
- Research and Needs Analysis: 4.5 weeks
- Comparison and Evaluation: 3.9 weeks
- Purchase: 4.0 weeks
Translation: Your prospective customers don’t want to talk to you until they’ve done their homework.
But just because they’re not yet willing to pick up the phone at this moment doesn’t mean they’re unwilling to reveal themselves and their pain points to you. Once you’ve figured out how to attract those right-fit prospects to your website, your next job to create value for them (regardless of their stages in the buying process). That value can be delivered in many forms – white papers, buyer’s guides, educational webinars, newsletter subscriptions, and so on.
However it’s delivered, the key is to trade that value in exchange for contact information so your anonymous visitor becomes a real lead for your sales team.
In our article How to influence the industrial buying process with smart content marketing, we look at how to compel your most-qualified website visitors to become real leads (with names and phone numbers) so you can take control of the sales conversation.
Challenge #3: Buyers making uninformed decisions
There’s nothing more frustrating than a know-it-all buyer. How often have you watched potential customers come to the table with preconceived notions about what they need to buy? The problem, of course, is that they aren’t the experts. You are.
When your AC is broken, you call (and lean on the diagnosis of) the HVAC guy. When you’re sick, you visit (and trust the judgement of) your doctor. So why can’t your potential customers rely on your expertise in that same manner?
Your opportunity lies in content marketing – where you become the educator of your buyers, often long before you even know who they are. Your job is to build trust by serving as their problem solver. And there’s no better venue for making this happen than on your own website. Be the teacher – not a preacher. When those leads are ready to pick up the phone or fill out a form on your website, they’ll be much more sales ready.
Challenge #4: Being short on time/staff required to develop leads through the long buying process
The most common complaint we hear from manufacturers who are new to inbound marketing is that they don’t have time to pursue leads who aren’t ready to buy. Point well taken. We understand that the industrial buying process can be long, highly-consultative and sometimes fairly painful.
But what if we told you that an effective inbound marketing and sales strategy will let you spend more time pursuing your most sales-ready leads while still nurturing the warm and cool ones in the background? Modernizing your email marketing strategy – particularly with the help of automated email sequences – will let you do just that.
Email marketing automation affords you more touch points with more leads so when you’re busy, the new business machine keeps working in the background. In the end, all of this means no sales-qualified lead goes unattended, even those who aren’t quite sales-ready at this moment.
Challenge #5: Not closing enough leads as paying customers
An inbound lead is a different beast than a lead who arrived via referral or through cold prospecting. When a website visitor downloads a white paper or buyer’s guide, subscribes to your newsletter or registers for a webinar, it means that person is already looking for something.
But it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready for a hard sell from a hungry salesperson. The pursuit of inbound leads requires its own strategy. And patience. But as we’ve discussed, marketing automation tools make it easier for us to help these inbound leads through their respective buying processes without overinvesting your precious time. And the content marketing (or teaching) assets we’ve encouraged you to create will keep them engaged as they research and evaluate their options.
Challenge #6: Lacking an understanding of marketing ROI
More (and more-targeted) awareness is great. Leads are better. But if marketing is not producing tangible revenue, why are you doing it at all?
Data collection tools like Hubspot and Google Analytics will teach you how your website visitors discovered you, what search queries in Google brought them to your website, which content engaged them and which offers on your site (white papers, buyer’s guides, tools, etc) compelled them to convert into leads.
And with the right two-way reporting processes in place between your marketing and sales teams, you can tangibly connect revenue to the source of those customers. This kind of knowledge not only validates your decision to invest more (or less) money into marketing, but provides your marketing team with the intelligence they need to refine their strategy accordingly and increase your ROI.
Putting these concepts to work
If you want to learn more about industrial marketing strategy, I recommend downloading The Manufacturer’s Introduction to Online Lead Generation. This short guide will help you formulate your own unique plan for growing your business online.
Joe Sullivan is a Co-Founder of Gorilla 76, an industrial marketing agency that helps manufacturers and industrial service providers grow their bottom lines by attracting qualified leads and producing real sales opportunities.