Research shows that 94% of B2B customers perform extensive research online before coming to a purchase decision. This indicates a categorical change in buying habits, the sales process, and how business is done. Manufacturing companies, in particular, have more complicated considerations, as they often market to a variety of target markets.
This includes OEMs that have multiple influencers and decision makers made up of scientists, engineers, purchasing agents, and plant managers who are looking for complex and often expensive products and services to meet their needs. The end game is very straightforward: if you don’t provide these decision makers with enough valuable information, you won’t make the sale.
To satisfy information-seeking prospects, marketing for manufacturing companies has become more complex and competitive over the past few years. Cold calling without a structured marketing strategy simply doesn’t work anymore; the competition has evolved, and so should you.
People have also changed the way they communicate with businesses. They no longer expect to be interrupted with phone calls or invasive emails. If they want a product or service, they will research it themselves and contact a company when they need more information or are ready to purchase. Change can be scary, but the solution is simple: adopt an inbound marketing strategy for your manufacturing company.
Implementing an entirely different industrial marketing strategy at your company may seem like a formidable task. To help you through the process, we’ve created this all-inclusive guide on inbound marketing for manufacturing companies. Read along or jump to the specific section you are most interested in:
- What Is Inbound Marketing?
- The Inbound Marketing Methodology
- The Buyer’s Journey—How Engineers and Purchasing Agents Buy
- Four Amazing Benefits of Inbound Marketing
- Closing Industrial Sales—Better and Faster through Inbound Marketing
- How Grant Marketing Can Help Implement Inbound Marketing for Your Business
What Is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is a marketing methodology designed to attract visitors and potential customers to your website, helping them to self-identify with your products and services through information and interactions they seek out. It replaces the old “spray and pray” tactics that bombard people with ill-timed, intrusive, and irrelevant touch points, forcing a brand, service, or product onto prospects, hoping they will eventually convert into customers.
Inbound marketing works as a process—attracting, engaging, and delighting customers online. For manufacturers to achieve the final stage of the inbound process—delight—you must consistently provide value to your prospects and foster a relationship built around trust.
Implementing an inbound marketing program involves leveraging a combination of digital channels—most often content creation, SEO, social media, and email marketing—to attract people’s attention. According to HubSpot, the industry leader in marketing software and inbound marketing practices, “By publishing the right content in the right place at the right time, your marketing becomes relevant and helpful to your customers, not interruptive.” Creating content specifically designed to cater to the needs of your customers attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more. This is a marketing experience that people can love—and do respond to. As far as marketing methodologies go, inbound reigns as the most qualitative (yes, you can track ROI with real-time and YoY analytics) and efficient form of marketing today.
The Inbound Marketing Methodology
Even though your industrial company operates within the B2B environment, it’s important to remember you’re still marketing and selling to humans. As an inbound marketer, your goal is to attract prospects to your company, engage them with relevant content at scale, and ultimately delight them on an individual basis. Keep in mind that the buyer’s journey is no longer linear. Each phase of the journey can help provide momentum and growth for each buyer and even within the other phases for other prospects and customers. See the graphic representation of this on the flywheel below.
You want people to visit and interact with your website, but these visits are only useful if they convert into leads (and hopefully customers). To attract qualified leads, you need to provide helpful, relevant content at the right time. The right time means at all times—so visitors can have access to it at their convenience: morning, noon, night. By putting out timely content updates and information on the web, you’re much more likely to meet the needs of people within your target market while they are actively looking for what your offering.
The content tools that are most commonly used in the attract stage are blogs, videos, ads, social media, and an effective content strategy centered around pillar pages. A pillar page (much like the one you are currently reading) acts as an authoritative guide on a topic that visitors can find in one place. There’s a behind-the-scenes strategy with pillar pages that helps add search engine optimization (SEO) strength to them so people can find the information easier when they search for it online. Creating comprehensive pillar pages will help build your search authority and rank for the topics that matter most to your business and the prospects you want to reach. Consistent publishing of blogs and/or videos is a great way to stay relevant and offers a unique opportunity to educate your viewers on more specific aspects of a topic you may have written a pillar page about.
Social media is the perfect place to promote your blog and video content to gain viewership and visibility across different platforms. Finally, creating targeted ads across different mediums will help raise your brand awareness with your target audience. Through each stage, you will be reporting and analyzing the results of each tool to stay informed on what’s working and what isn’t—allowing you the opportunity to refine and optimize each campaign you run.
The engage stage of inbound marketing is all about creating lasting relationships with prospects on the channels they prefer—be that email, bots, live chat, or messaging apps. For B2B industrial companies, this stage is crucial and is where you need to establish trust with the people you’re communicating with. The best way of getting in touch with your target market is to offer them “premium” content—case studies, white papers, eBooks, data sheets, etc.—for which they are willing to exchange their contact information. Conversion tools, such as call to action (CTAs), forms, and lead flows will allow you to capture the information of the people downloading your content. From there, it’s your job to follow up with them and continue fostering their interest.
Once you’ve gathered a lead’s information within your CRM, use it to personalize your communications with them. Envision the flywheel: communication is the centripetal force to lasting customer relationships and brand loyalty. Hand-crafting emails and messaging will make your prospects feel valued and will reinforce that you truly care about their business. Offer people samples, answer their questions, and provide them with anything you can to allow them to familiarize (self-identify) themselves with your product or service. The golden rule here is to back up what you say. If you offer them a solution, be 100% sure you can follow through with your promise. The more active your company is with engaging your prospects, the more trust you build, and business you’re likely to earn.
Nurturing customers is an ongoing process, and all your efforts should be focused on delighting them throughout. Regardless of their purchase decision or stage in the buyers’ journey, continue to gather information about your prospects’ needs—and answer them. Provide an outstanding experience that adds value and empowers people to reach their goals. Your goal is to create brand loyalty and have them become promoters of your company.
Continued online engagement with your customers is the most effective way to delight them and keep them coming back for more. Use email and marketing automation as well as conversational tools to deliver the right information to the right person at the right time, every time. Optimize highly targeted CTAs, interactions on social media, and most importantly, continue to publish content people want to consume and share. Fostering delight as a part of your business model may feel daunting, but by providing authentically helpful interactions through inbound marketing initiatives, you can create a loyal following that will keep your pipeline full.
The Buyer’s Journey—How Engineers and Purchasing Agents Buy
Inbound marketing methodology is built on intercepting the buyer’s journey with relevant, quality information that helps the buyer find a solution on the seller’s website. With most B2B or manufacturing companies, the buyer’s journey (and selling cycle) of their customers can be an extremely long and delicate process. The most influential factor in supplying people with helpful, applicable content is to tailor that content directly to which stage in the buyer’s journey an individual is currently in. As stated above, it may not be linear, as they can enter in and out of the various stages, but there are distinct types of information they will seek during each stage. The buyer’s journey consists of a three-step process:
- Awareness Stage. During the awareness stage, buyers first realizes they have a problem, challenge, or opportunity they wish to solve or pursue. They also decide what level of priority they are going to assign to achieve this new goal or to solve their issue. At this point, they are gathering research to define and gain a greater understanding of their problem.
- Consideration Stage. By the time buyers reach the consideration stage, they have clearly defined their problem or goal and have committed to taking it on. They are also actively evaluating the different approaches, products, or methods that will allow them to achieve their desired outcome.
- Decision Stage. At this point, buyers have decided on a specific approach, method, or solution strategy. They have compiled a short list of vendors and products that can help them achieve what they’ve sought out to do. The buyer is narrowing down—often through use of a pro/con list—the specific offerings they’ve researched and will finally come to purchase decision. At this stage, they have also selected a list of vendors. Important to note: most buyers have made their way 70% down the sales funnel without contacting you. That means you need to do a thorough job on educating them on your products and services, as you only have 30% of their attention (split among competitors) in the sales funnel to close their business.
The graphic below illustrates the process of and the types of content you should offer based on their current stage.
Four Amazing Benefits of Inbound Marketing
So, inbound marketing has everything to do with reaching your prospects in an organic and noninvasive way. It’s obvious to see how this form of marketing benefits the consumer, but what do you stand to gain as a business by implementing this approach? Here are a few reasons why your business should switch to inbound:
- It’s Cost Effective
When discussing the benefits of inbound marketing for manufacturing companies, the first advantage is cost. Inbound marketing can generate leads for industrial companies of any size for much less cost than older, traditional marketing strategies. Why? Because most of the methodology is based on producing content organically. You can save huge portions of your marketing budget by placing emphasis on organic content that your company owns, rather than pouring thousands of dollars into paid platforms to host all of your marketing collateral. HubSpot’s State of Inbound report cites, that small B2B businesses in North America can earn the leads from inbound marketing at about one-third the of outbound marketing efforts.
- Simplifies the Jobs of Marketing and Sales
One of the main goals—and benefits—of inbound is that your sales and marketing teams join forces to become one cohesive unit. Sales personnel are tasked with providing critical information to the marketing team on the types of questions, issues, and needs customers are communicating to them at different phases of the buyer’s journey. The marketing team, now loaded with great insights, can create highly targeted content speaking directly to the queries and demands of customers. By having both teams fully integrated with each other, your company has a leg up on the competition and can effortlessly produce information that drives leads, increases conversion rates, and nurtures relationships with your loyal customers.
- Increases Trust
People have options available to them at every turn, whether they are actively looking for it or not. As we’ve said, provide people with the information they want to answer the questions they have—which generally exist for them as problems, issues, or concerns. They need to find the answers! Ever had the experience of looking for one product or service—thinking it was exactly what you needed—and ended linking to articles that guided you to a new, and better, solution? This is how having the information at the ready can work for you … and build trust in your brand with a new prospect and existing customers. Be the authority on the subject and people know they can depend on you for solutions. Better yet, be their solution.
- Attracts Qualified Leads
The more leads, the better, right? Not so fast. Sure, aggressive marketing tactics may result in more clicks and visits to your website, but often these efforts are rendered useless because the leads aren’t relative to your business. Who has time to qualify all those leads? And how many qualified leads might you be losing because you haven’t sifted through them properly? No gains there! What companies should strive for are qualified leads: people who are looking for what you’re offering and are motivated to learn about your specific services to help them reach a purchase decision. Qualified leads are exactly the folks your business wants to do business with. According to HubSpot, 54% more leads are generated by inbound tactics then tradition paid media—better yet, inbound, on average, generates 451% more qualified leads for companies using marketing automation throughout their lead nurturing process. The statistics speak for themselves.
Closing Industrial Sales—Better and Faster through Inbound Marketing
With the technology available in today’s B2B marketing and sales platforms, we can now close the loop between marketing and sales and have the analytics to back it up. There is no excuse for marketing and sales to work in silos. Think of marketing as sales enablement. Management wants to close sales better and faster—and know what the ROI is on marketing efforts. The end game for manufacturing and industrial companies is business growth through increased sales. There is no one solution, but there is much available to you to market your industrial company successfully. Learn more about industrial manufacturing marketing myths and realities in our article, What Industrial Companies Don’t Get About B2B Marketing.
The Importance of a Sales-Enabled CRM
This sales process operates best with the use of a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. The right CRM empowers sales people to properly manage the sales process with a plethora of contact intelligence and a means to track the entire sales progress—beginning with the marketing initiatives. Manufacturer sales reps and company sales teams live for quality leads, so it’s important that industrial B2B marketing efforts feed the CRM.
CRMs have been around for years. They were pretty much stand-alone databases that helped sales keep track of leads, but they were pre-internet, and were not connected to marketing. Now, CRMs can directly integrate with marketing initiatives, especially inbound marketing methodologies.
By the time the buyer visits the seller’s website, reads helpful information on the seller’s blog, and downloads a piece of valuable data that helps the buyer make a decision about the seller, the salesperson has marketing data intelligence that will integrate with the CRM to give the salesperson important information—not only on this specific buyer, but also on the company the buyer works for. This intel can be effectively used to nurture the relationship you build with prospects (and customers) by creating meaningful, useful touch points with them. These touch points will help the salesperson move the marketing lead through the sales funnel and life cycle changes from lead to marketing qualified lead, to sales qualified lead, to opportunity, and finally, to new customer.
Sales Outreach Made Easier
When a sales rep receives an inbound lead or decides to target a specific company or decision maker, they don’t have to go into the initial outreach blind. Today, there’s a deep mine of buyer information at the sales rep’s fingertips. Before picking up the phone or writing a cold email, reps can research their buyers on:
- Search engines
- Company website
- Industry-specific sites
As well, integrated CRMs are designed to gather all the inbound marketing strategy data related to blogs, social media, content offers, and email marketing, readily accessible to the salesperson. A CRM that integrates with your marketing automation system gives sales reps a comprehensive picture of the prospect’s recent interactions with your company, and valuable insight into their needs.
With marketing automation and a CRM, the sales rep can nurture the prospect along through automated emails until the prospect becomes a customer or is deferred to a later time when the buying need is greater.
While there are many excellent CRM software programs, the HubSpot CRM is excellent—and it is FREE! The HubSpot CRM automatically saves and logs voicemails and emails, as well as any buyer interactions that have taken place in the interim. With the right context at hand, salespeople can tailor their follow-ups based on what the buyer’s done and what’s already been said.
Are you ready to sell better and faster with the help of a modern CRM platform? The Beginner’s Guide to CRM sheds light on why 75% of sales managers say that using a CRM helps drive and increase sales; as well, a CRM improves customer retention by 27%. Download it now to learn about the 4 benefits and 9 must-have features of a CRM.
How Grant Marketing Can Help Implement Inbound Marketing for Your Business
As an inbound marketing agency, our focus is to deliver a powerful package, which is a combination of digital marketing methods comprising content creation, social media, SEO optimization, lead nurturing, and email marketing tactics. All with proven results.
To help you get the most from your inbound marketing experience, Grant Marketing offers an integrated set of inbound marketing services. We aim to increase your website traffic, help convert visitors into leads, and nurture leads into sales by:
- Helping more potential customers find you online through SEO best practices
- Producing content that will appeal to your target audience with our content and blog management services
- Harnessing the power of social media communications to engage people and draw them to your website
- Using the HubSpot inbound marketing automation platform to help convert more of your website visitors into leads, and ultimately, sales
Grant Marketing works with you to develop and implement an inbound marketing strategy to effectively engage your target audience, increase leads, and keep the sales pipeline flowing. We’re a hands-on agency with 20+ years of experience on guiding companies through the inbound process. Keeping up with the latest trends and marketing strategies, our goal is to help your company achieve sustainable organic growth. Contact us now to get the conversation started.