In certain industries, such as manufacturing, generating promising leads can feel painfully difficult.
Your industry is headlined by a handful of well-established giants, such as the Boeings and Fords of the world. You, the smaller vendor, don’t have the brand recognition to attract leads with just your company name alone. You need to reach out.
Unfortunately, you’re often priced-out of employing similar ad-heavy marketing tactics. You can’t afford to fully exhibit at every trade show, nor can you afford the expensive advertising spots at JFK, the Super Bowl, or the Wall Street Journal.
In situations where you can afford to buy ad space, let’s say on an industry magazine, you won’t have nearly enough space to tell your story about the company and benefits.
In addition to these constraints, you also have lots of comparably-sized -- and larger -- direct competitors chasing after the same opportunities. They’re cold-calling the same prospects as you. They’re competing for the same advertising opportunities. They’re squeezing you out.
You’re in a tight and competitive space. So how do you stand out? How do you reach out to the right prospects? How do you freely tell your story?
Answer: Employ Inbound Lead Generation Strategies
Okay, sounds great… but how?
It’s incredibly costly to rely on outbound marketing strategies like ads, trade shows, telemarketing, and direct mail. In fact, it costs more to get leads through outbound marketing strategies than inbound.
Don’t get me wrong, outbound strategies are valuable, but they aren’t cost effective at scale. Moreover, a mixed approach that includes inbound can actually enhance outbound efforts.
If you’re a small vendor with a limited marketing budget, leaning heavily on traditional outbound could mean missing on better opportunities for targeting the right prospects and promoting your business in a cost effective way.
...a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
Where Do You Start?
With content marketing, a smaller B2B competitor -- such as a consulting business, midstream manufacturer or logistics company -- can use its company website to attract the right prospects, engage them with information that provides value, and leverage trust to convert them into leads.
Sounds simple, but let’s get into the weeds a bit.
First, you need to define your buyer personas.
Your buyer personas are basically semi-fictional representations of your target market.
Through research and experience (via existing customers and past leads), you should have an in-depth understanding of who they are.
You need a comprehensive look at who they are, their internal and external pain points, how they fit into an adoption curve, the maturity of the market you’re selling into, decision criteria, and several other factors. These insights will help frame your planning efforts.
Since there are multiple decision-makers in the B2B buying process, you will need to create multiple buyer personas. With these in place, you will have a grounded reference point your team can refer to when developing content.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Second, you need to pull your target market to your website. Critical to that is building a full search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. The idea with SEO is to leverage the questions or queries your target market is asking on Google as a means to get their attention.
The first step to an SEO strategy is to identify the relevant search terms -- or keywords -- that your target market is using. You can do this with SEO tools, such as Ahrefs and SEMRush.
Through these tools, you can not only identify specific keywords, but also examine the search volume, how difficult it is to rank for, how dominant websites are using it, and other metrics.
With SEO, you are basically attracting readers through search engine traffic.
The advantage of this approach is that the traffic you’re getting is free (i.e., organic) as well as targeted, i.e., with the right keyword research, you can find keywords that lead to the exact kinds of readers you’re targeting for business.
Conversely, with poor keyword research, you could end up with the wrong people visiting your website, which will not do any good for your lead generation efforts.
Once you’ve narrowed down the keywords you want to rank for, you must then optimize your website -- including pages, blog posts, etc -- to rank for those keywords. However, pulling the reader to your website is only part of the battle; you need to deliver on their expectations too.
(Note: You could also leverage keywords for paid traffic. The idea is to pay to push your website to a higher result rank -- ideally the top search result, but this isn’t guaranteed -- when someone searches Google. However, as with organic traffic, delivering on expectations is key).
Third, this is where you need to create different types of content that anyone in your audience would want to consume regardless of how ready they are to buy.
So, your product spec sheets and case studies are great, but you can see why they won’t appeal to someone who isn’t ready to buy.
How do you determine what content to create? Keyword research is a great first place to start. Keywords are the search phrases people type into Google. You can research these using a variety of tools, or with the support of an inbound agency.
Your goal is to find the keywords that your target personas type into Google. Identify all of the questions they’re asking, and -- with your content -- offer answers to those questions on your website.
Those answers can come in the form of blogs, ebooks, white papers, case studies, infographics, videos, podcasts, and other content. Any approach can work, the point is that you’re controlling the narrative, and you’re providing the value.
The idea with ‘value’ is that your content should answer your target audience’s questions and help them solve their problems. In time, your buyer persona should view you as a trustworthy source for information and insights on your industry.
In fact, 78% of B2B decision-makers say they place “a higher emphasis on the trustworthiness of the source” of the information vendors give them. Moreover, 61% of them will actually read 3 to 7 different pieces of content, at least, before deciding.
Unlike advertising - which is a sunk cost - content marketing is an investment in recurring traffic growth. Older content continues to drive traffic, and new content creates new traffic.
Once audiences are on your site, you’ve got several opportunities to convert them and further a discussion towards a sale.
Fourth, the next step is to convert your audience into leads.
You can capture leads using a number of different tactics.
Some examples include offering high-value content behind a form and sharing it only if someone fills out the form. Alternatively, you can offer a high-value low-cost service for free - like an audit - and call it out on the blogs you write. These are just a few options.
You should also build a habit of integrating calls-to-action (CTA) to your blogs and pages. These are basically prompted that encourage the reader to act, such as signing up for a free eBook (i.e., by giving you their contact details and other information).
And That’s It… Mostly
Your B2B inbound marketing efforts won’t thrive right off the bat, the key is to be persistent. Keep providing value on your site, and keep trying ways to convert your traffic.
Once people are converted on your site, you’ll be able to engage them on an ongoing basis. If they download some content - try an email campaign (called a lead nurturing strategy) to keep them engaged. If they requested a free service offer, make sure to respond quickly.
You can also leverage a wide range of tools that show you the company and contact names of people who visited your site.
For example, if you see that a prospect company was reading your blog about ‘How to Solve Manufacturing Issues’, your sales team can hyper-focus their efforts on that company and pain point. You already know they have an issue because they were reading about how to solve those problems.
When Can You Call Your Campaign a Success?
As time passes, the return on your investments will compound. Traffic will continue to increase, and your opportunities to generate leads will follow. You can measure this through many tools, such as Google Analytics, HubSpot, and many others.
When you have enough content and traffic for a given persona or industry, you move onto the next, and the next.
The only reason you’d stop creating content is if there is no longer any reason to go after a certain persona or market.
Generating leads in a tough industry isn’t difficult if you reframe your efforts towards adding value, rather than selling.
Create content that helps your audience, build trust and a reputation as a thought leader, and leapfrog your competition by making your brand larger than life in the digital sphere.