Lead Generation Strategies for Manufacturers
BY CHRISTINE TORRES
Published May 13, 2021
If you want to catch a fish, you must go where the fish are. Do you know where to dip your line and concentrate your lead generation on what works best for your company, product, or service? Dave Meyer, president of BizzyWeb, a WordPress web design and social media consulting firm in Minnesota, discusses some rules and strategies for lead generation during the #USAMfgHour Twitter chat.
Businesses might rely on some tactics more than others, but there are generally several activities to drive in leads. A lead generation strategy map like this one from Brian Carroll, author of “Lead Generation for the Complex Sale,” includes phone calls, email, social media, content marketing, direct mail, public relations, events, online marketing, website traffic, referrals, and branding through associations or sponsorships. While all are effective, the results can vary. How do you identify leads for your business? Do you have a process for finding new opportunities?
“We use various tools including our website (with forms) and have lead-qualifying info we've developed. Leads with a specific employee size and revenue are assigned to sales reps,” said Lane Supply Company, industrial supplies, and parent to Finish Systems and Compressed Air Technologies in Colorado.
“We do a lot with our email marketing leads and joining in the conversations on social media,” said Ben Nordman of Obsidian Manufacturing, OEM for Arter Grinders, Magna-Lock USA work holding, and MagnaLift and Power-Grip lift magnets in Illinois.
“Tradeshows, trade publications and associations, email marketing, PPC,” said Gina Tabasso of Dar-Tech Inc., a specialty chemical distributor in Ohio.
“A lot of our leads come to us through referrals, SEO, and that CTA form on our site,” said Ruby Rusine of Social Success Marketing, a B2B social marketing firm in California.
"The best lead source is current base," said Dan Bigger of Chenango Valley Technologies in New York, a full-service injection molding company. "By keeping up with their needs you can potential find new business. New customers are identified by our current. We seek new by finding similar customers and reach out to see if there are similar needs we can assist with."
“We do not technically have a process,” said Shannon Simpson of DuraTech, a full-service manufacturer of custom graphics in Wisconsin. “We have places to "find" leads, but no technical process I should say.”
“We have a pretty defined process,” said Paul Kiesche of Aviate Creative, a creative agency with an edge in manufacturing in New Jersey. “First we created profiles for our target market audience. Then we search for those types of professionals in databases and LinkedIn. We then reach out through a few different forms of communication and engagement.”
“Our marketing and operations teams work hand in hand,” said Mike Womack of NJMEP.org, a manufacturing extension partnership in New Jersey. “Marketing brings in opportunities, operations vets those individuals and turns them into leads. Our process is constantly shifting and expanding. We have countless ways of finding new opportunities.”
“I used to get all my leads at conferences after speaking at them,” said Nigel T. Packer of PelaTis, a customer experience optimization consultant in the United Kingdom. “I also picked up clients at training courses that I delivered for membership organizations. Lockdown has made me review the process. WiP.”
“We first look at industries that work really well with our product then we connect with businesses that are expecting to grow and folks that want to better streamline their workflow,” said Julianne Schaub with Striven, an all-in-one business software solution in New Jersey.
“Our site is our main source for leads,” said Nicole Kangos of Snaptron, manufacturer of tactile metal dome switches for electronics, in Colorado. “So, most of our marketing activities aim to drive people to our site. We do this through some gated content like design guides and free samples. Social media marketing, SEO, & PPC is part of it.”
“Look at the traffic on your online properties for MQLs,” host Dave Meyer of BizzyWeb said. “Check with your sales team and look for SQLs. Analyze the sources of both marketing and sales qualified leads by looking at Google Analytics and other reporting platforms. Having a CRM helps immensely!”
What networks do you use to connect and engage with your prospective audiences? Share how you connect and grow your audience.
“Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. We ask our Sales team to engage and create new connections and followers,” said DuraTech. “We created a Brand Ambassador program last year for our team members to help engage on these platforms and hope to get more leads and connections.”
“We use a variety of tools such as LinkedIn, Our Web Site, Twitter, Mailchimp, A CRM System, writing blogs, etc.,” said Kirsten Austin of DCSC, developer of DCWarehouse, a WMS, shipping and supply chain solution for distributors and manufacturers in Missouri.
“Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Alignable, Yelp, GoogleBusiness, our websites, blogs. Email marketing, referrals,” said Sue Nordman of Obsidian.
“We looove our LinkedIn community. Sometimes worry that we get a bit myopic and think that world is the totality - but so many out there aren't on it at all, particularly in manufacturing,” said Erin Courtenay of EarthlingInteractive, a web and mobile app developer in Wisconsin.
"Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, MEP's, Incubator networks, professional networks and more," said CVT. "For us, it is all about engagement. We talk to a lot of people in a lot of places and share our story and educate those that do not know about us or what we do."
“We use LinkedIn, Twitter, FB, Instagram, and YouTube. A lot of conversations with our audience are also happening on Reddit. We put out content that is educational,” said Snaptron. “I've found that a lot of technical folks will use Reddit for troubleshooting. It's a great resource and we find many mentions of our brand or product there. And, I noticed that it's a way to get an idea of your brand awareness.”
“Your website is the foundation of all leads,” Meyer said. “Where your prospects will look at to qualify you - LinkedIn is great for B2B and CXO-level decision-makers. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are good for specific audiences - Don’t forget targeted email and trade groups!”
Do you have a process to cultivate relationships with your prospects? What happens after they click on a social post, visit your website or open an email from you?
“Our industry is slightly diff. We can't go aggressive with nurturing. We don't try to retarget right now, but that's on the radar for sure,” said Sam Gupta of ElevatIQ, a digital transformation consulting firm in New York.
“We do attempt to comment on interactions above a click,” said Phil Samuels, a manufacturing marketing expert who works at Intuilize. “I usually look at profiles of people who interact that I’m not connected to already. If we can have a mutually beneficial relationship, I will extend an invitation.”
“Unfortunately, we don't have an integrated marketing automation platform with our CRM. So, it's tough to track. Suggestions?” asked Dar-Tech.
"I guess it depends on where it is and how it happens," said CVT. "Usually it is a Thank you and an inquiry as to what their needs are and how we can assist. We do not have email campaigns yet."
“We have a team of industry experts that are tasked with creating long-lasting relationships built off trust,” said NJMEP. “Our marketing team identifies highly engaged potential clients and processes those leads with operations to provide our team with appropriate insight.”
“We have a process - a nurture flow - via ActiveCampaign and LinkedIn to follow-up with more value. We are building our library of use cases and value-add pieces,” said John Buglino of Optessa, a production planning software company in California.
“Hubspot starts out free - tough to beat for the price. Starting is $50/mo. Even if you have another tool, using something built to help convert and easy to use alongside can make the case for finding budget,” said Meyer, to which other chat participants concurred.
“We use Saleslogix. It works well,” said DCSC.
“Using different data points from across different systems can be used to trigger automated workflows in the marketing automation system,” said Vince Rose of EarthlingInteractive. “Content personalization also can be used to bubble up relevant content to customers on the 1st and subsequent visits.”
While there are several good ones to choose from, including Zoho and Salesforce, “this is where CRM systems come into play,” Meyer said. “Automate your engagement to give prospects more of what they’re asking for – a ‘choose your own adventure’ of deeper engagement. Check back consistently, don’t oversell, and think about helping vs. selling.”
Describe your sales funnel: What steps does a typical new customer take to decide to buy from you (what’s your buyer’s journey)?
“The buyer's journey can vary a lot, but it can be pretty long sometimes,” said Kiesche. “They go from being unaware of our services to: 1. Researching 2. Interested lead 3. Discussions 4. Decision 5. Active client 6. Recurring client.”
“The journey has been so complex we are no longer on steps - feels like we are going up a down escalator,” said Optessa. “We've been working to get more information upfront rather than be surprised or let down later on in the sales cycle.”
“Same here! Ever heard the term ‘hopium’- it is what happens when you don't ask too much 'cuz you're hoping it will all be amazing (and then it usually isn't). Our team is getting much better at asking hard questions early,” said EarthlingInteractive.
"They usually research or ask about us through a referral," said CVT. "Contact is next. Discuss the project, review project. Quote. Follow up. Revisions if needed, move forward, delay, or cancel."
“Our sales funnel starts with our social posts, Google Business posts, etc. to get people curious,” said Obsidian. “Then with something like a call to action, we get their information in order for our salespeople to contact. Finally, we follow up post-business.”
“Depending on the request, we have found that most leads already have a pretty sound idea of what they are looking for when they reach out,” said Snaptron. “So, I'd say they are in an evaluation stage. We try to create content that reaches them in all those prior stages.”
The four stages of a manufacturing buyer's journey, according to Meyer, are:
1) Attract - blogs/social/site
2) Convert - forms/calls to action/landing pages
3) Close - CRM/workflows
4) Delight - surveys/smart content
Sales and lead generation tactics may have shifted in the past year amid disruption from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Has the pandemic changed your business development process? What are you doing to make up for lost in-person networking or sales opportunities?
"This is going to sound bad, but the pandemic has only helped," said CVT. "There is still plenty of ways to network and get out there. It is all about being active and building a good network of people around you and referral sources."
“I have missed the physical meeting of people in networking events,” said Packer. “Having a live audience is much more fun than 2D screens. For digital, I have made many new friends and connections over a wider geographical area which is great. *you nice people*.”
“Social media and our online store have definitely become the center of our post-pandemic business model,” said ZeroSurge, series mode powerline quality filters in New Jersey. “We're already seeing positive improvements from it, but it certainly takes a lot of time and patience to grow!”
“Webinars, online networking events, and virtual booths and virtual coffees,” said Rose.
“The pandemic did change our process. We were on a solid trajectory and things shifted pretty heavily,” said Kiesche. “We did pretty dang well last year considering all things. We do a lot of virtual meetings now.”
“I am actually the first full-time digital marketing professional at the company, because of the transformation toward digital business,” said Ben Nordman of Obsidian. “Additionally, our sales team has engaged in social selling (check out next week's chat for more on that.)
Manufacturers are using online marketing to replace in-person events. “Inbound Marketing has made huge inroads in the past year – providing helpful information and automation,” said Meyer. “Virtual sales replace ‘windshield time’ and allow better tracking of results.”
Do your sales and marketing teams have regular meetings to improve your lead quality and handoff processes? How do you collect feedback between teams?
“Our handoff is on Slack. Everything is open in our org,” said Gupta.
"Yes we are contently talking as we are the same person in both departments," said CVT. "Handoffs are rather smooth."
“Typically, we have follow-up calls with our application team to make sure their requirements/needs have not changed since we've spoken with them,” said Optessa.
“Drawing that line can be tough, but this is a problem where our team comes in,” said Rose. “Showing how value goes from digital marketing and analytics to the CRM for leads to won opportunities is totally something that gets us excited.”
“Your CRM is the sole point of truth for all activities,” said Meyer. “Regular meetings to share new leads/feedback keeps teams accountable. Set KPIs for each team such as the number of leads delivered for marketing, leads contacted within one hour of receipt for sales, etc.”
Meyer said the key takeaways should be:
- Use a CRM to keep track of your leads – we recommend HubSpot
- Sales and Marketing need to work together – think “Smarketing”
- Know your numbers: measure, track, and improve through automation
Anyone who champions U.S. manufacturing can join in on a new conversation each week on Twitter using the hashtag #USAMfgHour. The chat starts at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time/2 p.m. Eastern. Share positive blog posts, helpful articles, news, important information, accomplishments, events, and more with other manufacturers and supporters from throughout the country.