Whatever your size, or the type of industry you may be in, the basic process involved in generating leads online will be the same. You’ll be aiming to encourage potential customers to share their contact details with you via your website.
And when it comes to online lead generation, content marketing can be a hugely effective tool. It can provide you with the perfect way to target a specific audience and then nurture them along towards a conversion. While the basic principles may remain the same across the board, the tactics and tools you use may need to be slightly different depending on your line of business.
Here we take a closer look at what it takes to be successful when you’re a manufacturing business.
Today’s B2B buyers
To generate leads in a digital world, where B2B buyers are informed and armed with complex questions before they even come knocking on your door, takes a different approach.
Traditionally, manufacturers may have relied on their sales teams a lot more than on marketing. Often events would have been the only - and certainly the biggest - activity on the marketing calendar.
When a new product was launched the team may have created a marketing campaign specifically for the launch, but afterwards, it would usually fall back to leads being driven through referrals and cold calling potential prospects.
But thanks to the growth in online, manufacturers now have a very cost-effective strategy at their fingertips for generating those elusive leads - content marketing.
One of the biggest changes needed with this approach is to use the company website as a hub of information for potential customers, not a glossy online brochure solely focused on the company. If executed well then a modern website will be packed with high quality and relevant content that will attract the right kind of buyers.
When used alongside other tactics, such as events, networking, industry portals, supplier databases, cold calling and purchased lists (check out our blog ‘Avoiding the pitfalls when it comes to buying company data’ for more advice on this), manufacturers can use content marketing to generate a continuous stream of leads. And this stream can be enhanced even further when coupled with powerful software like Lead Forensics, which can help you work with every lead who visits your website.
Manufacturers who have used content marketing for some time report that one of the main reasons it works so well is that their customers want more content, and for it to be delivered in different forms and via different channels. By providing content they want, at the right time (such as via a well thought through email drip campaign) and making sure it is always high quality and relevant, using insights gained from analytics to ensure it is what really interests potential prospects, these companies are able to generate incredible ROI.
So what do you need to think about to maximise your impact and potential success?
Core company content
The first type of content you need to produce is your core company content – basically, all the things that relate to you, your product/services and how they would potentially benefit a client. With these items, the key is to ditch the pushy marketing material and instead go for being informative. Here are a few examples:
1. FAQs (frequently asked questions)
The best way to do this is to answer the questions that customers and prospects are genuinely asking, not simply try to use it as an excuse to plug your product features again. Ask your sales reps what the most commonly asked questions they hear are and answer them. Put together a pdf and make it available for download from your website, or make an article version to help the search engines find the content, or both! Either way, this is key content that will help shorten your sales cycles and make your sales reps more effective, as they won’t need to spend time going through them.
2. What do potential clients need to know?
Apart from what prospects already ask, you are likely to have a list of all the things you wish they did know. As above, create content around these points.
3. Vendor decision
When the decision to buy draws closer the question of which vendor to use will arise. Think what content you can produce that will help with this process. Don’t turn this into a sales pitch, instead, focus on showcasing the ideal fit for your company.
4. Information on the manufacturing process
You may be faced with two types of prospects - those who have no clue about manufacturing but suddenly need a supplier of some kind, and others who know the industry inside out. Your content needs to reflect this and to cater for the various different levels of knowledge. By providing content for beginners, as well as more advanced visitors, you will gain valuable insights. Based on what they look at and respond to, you’ll be able to judge how best to approach and speak to them.
When working in a B2B environment it makes sense to provide an online catalogue of some sort. But think how you may be able to do this more effectively. Perhaps you can make it more interactive, so people can find what they need quicker. Or offer a downloadable pdf – just be careful here to think about file size. It’s probably more helpful to offer a web-optimized version to download and not the one you send off to your printers.
Having well-written reviews and case studies is important for all companies. They demonstrate the type of businesses you work with and how these businesses may be benefiting from your product/service and using it in a real-life situation. It may be worth considering adding the option for people to add their own review themselves, if that would be appropriate and potentially speed up the process. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to approach clients to ask (and draft) reviews on their behalf. Make sure you do this regularly to keep it current.
7. Conversion offers
Remember to include calls to action and prompts to encourage the sharing of contact details wherever appropriate. Apart from pdf downloads consider adding something like an: ‘Ask a ___ (eg engineer)’ service. Also, reword your ‘contact us’ section to make it ‘request contact’ instead. This simple change increases the likelihood of a visitor making contact. When it comes to trying to prompt someone to make contact by saying ‘request quote’ it is usually best used when people already know what they want and just need to know the price.
Another conversion opportunity is a chat bot sitting in the corner of your website. We experiment ourselves with this feature and find great success with it.
All these items form part of your core company content. They are the first pieces of content you should look to establish, to help you attract qualified sales leads you need as a manufacturer, as well as close them.
The next thing to consider is how you can best position yourself as an expert and leader within your field. This is about providing content based on issues and topics surrounding your industry that may be of interest to potential prospects. If you give a lot of talks then think about making your slides available for download on your website. Also, make a list of all the topics that have something to do with your industry and provide content around those. Your aim here is to inform and educate your audience. But it doesn’t just have to be copy, there are now many choices of format you may consider, including video.
Do your research
Have a look at what your competitors and similar companies in other industries are doing in terms of content. This type of research may help inspire you with further content ideas of your own. This isn’t about copying what others are doing, it is about thinking how you can stand out from the crowd and what you are competing against.
As always, it’s important to know your numbers so you can monitor what’s working and what’s not. Once you start using content on your website, make sure you have analytics software in place to track who visits, how they found you and what they read. This information alone can provide hugely useful insights. Add to that the other engagement signals you may be getting from emails and other channels and you can fine-tune your content strategy even further, to achieve your desired results.
Bonus tip for Lead Forensics customers: With Lead Forensics software you can see which website visitors read which content on your site the most. That means you can set up triggers and notifications so you never miss an active lead again. The sooner you speak to a lead after they visit your website, the higher the chance of engaging them and building a relationship faster and deeper, helping you bring them to a close sooner.
So now you have an online strategy and the right tools in place, when can you expect a return?
One of the biggest advantages of content marketing for manufacturers is that once you’ve set up your content it will start working for you. The first couple of leads are going to be the most expensive because you’ve just had to spend the time and money creating that content. But once it’s up and running you don’t need to spend any more. That means future leads become cheaper and cheaper, turning your content into a cost effective asset. And with the right content, delivered in the right way and to the right people, your success gaining sales leads for your manufacturing business and turning them into paying customers is just around the corner.