Industrial marketing has become more digital now than in the past. (See Marketing to Engineers—Why Digital is the Dominant Strategy). ToFU stands for Top of the Funnel in marketing and not the edible kind. 😊 Manufacturers and engineering companies realize digital industrial marketing or industrial content marketing is more effective for lead generation than traditional marketing strategies. However, many are underutilizing it. I say that based on my daily conversations with industrial companies.
Many manufacturers are using content marketing, but few consider it effective in generating leads that turn into sales opportunities.
“75% of the manufacturing companies surveyed by the Content Marketing Institute said they are Moderate to Not at all successful with content marketing.” (Source)
The 2-part problem with industrial marketing
The way I see it, there are two parts to the problem of ineffective industrial marketing. First, most of my conversations with manufacturers start with some form of, “We want more leads from our website.” However, there is a serious disconnect here.
Their entire industrial marketing strategy focuses on the goal of getting found on Google and other search engines. The decision-makers at these industrial companies assume that their target audience will find them on Google, visit their sites and call their crack sales team after the first visit. As a result, their industrial marketing strategy is all about top of the funnel (ToFU) goals. Needless to say, that is not producing the results they want.
Assuming your marketing people have done a terrific job with organic SEO, not an easy task to begin with, you start to see an increase in traffic. Great! However, there is a big difference between discovery optimization (SEO) and conversion optimization (CRO). That is the second half of the equation, which is about converting those visitors into leads. This part is just as challenging as SEO, if not more so. Read more about this in my post, Industrial Content Marketing — Goals are Misunderstood and Misaligned.
The second problem I see is about the behavior of industrial buyers today as compared to just a few years ago. Most industrial professionals are in self-serve and self-select mode now, where they complete a large portion of their buying journey on their own while remaining anonymous. They will only contact your salespeople when they are ready. As a result, your sales team may be finding it difficult to get in front of or have conversations with decision-makers early in the journey.
A while back, I had read a quote by Laura Ramos, Vice President, Principal Analyst at Forrester. She said, “Business buyers can now access an abundance of digital information to research and shop for solutions on their own terms.” It is more relevant today than ever before.
Manufacturers are having a tough time accepting that reality. They expect industrial content marketing to produce quick results like traditional past campaigns. If that doesn’t work, resort to cold calling and/or email blasts. You don’t need me to tell you those don’t work very well either.
Understanding MQLs and SQLs in industrial lead generation
Generating Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), which are typically new contacts from downloading a content asset, is only part of an industrial marketer’s responsibility. They need to be actively involved in nurturing those MQLs into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). This is another challenge in industrial marketing.
Sales and Marketing need to work together to define lead scoring and qualifying rules. Marketing can then qualify MQLs according to these preset rules. Once MQLs reach a certain threshold to become SQLs, they can then hand those leads over to Sales. This handover is usually called SAL. It stands for Sales Accepted Lead. This is a critical step in bringing together Sales and Marketing. Read my post; SAL is the Glue that Binds Sales and Marketing in Lead Generation. FYI: I published this post in 2010, and it is still one of my Top 10 posts visited consistently. That’s proof for you about the power of blogging.
Once Sales accepts a lead, they must take follow-up action to determine if a lead represents a real sales opportunity or not. They must provide feedback to marketing to refine these definitions over time as needed. That’s how you create an efficient lead generation system.
For more information about MQLs vs. SQLs, read Industrial Lead Generation – MQL vs. SQL.
Creating relevant industrial marketing content for various stages of the buyer’s journey is not an easy task. Many manufacturers struggle with it.
Manufacturers who responded to the CMI survey I mentioned earlier said their top three content marketing challenges were creating valuable content instead of sales-oriented content, overcoming the traditional marketing and sales mindset, and accessing subject matter experts to create content.
Let me sum this up by saying that industrial marketing for manufacturers and engineering companies cannot be restricted only to ToFu. You must utilize the full power of content marketing for all phases of the buyer’s journey and address the different needs of various stakeholders involved in the buying decision. Your content must be found when and where the target audience is searching for solutions to their problems.