Winning new customers starts with establishing trust — by helping your prospects truly believe you can solve their business problems. But the conversations needed to establish that kind of trust are harder to come by these days. According to a recent study by IHS Engineering360 titled 2015 Digital Use in the Industrial Sector, "The majority (58 percent) of technical professionals don’t make contact with suppliers until the later consideration/evaluation or purchase stages of the buy cycle."
In other words, your prospects are doing their homework first. They’re researching and learning before picking up the phone. And today, a good majority of that homework is happening online. The same study shows that 77 percent of technical professionals are using the internet to find components, equipment, services and suppliers.
So what does this mean? Your company needs to be a problem solver online before you earn the opportunity to be one in person. And your website will have to do a lot of the heavy lifting.
This leads us to two questions. How do you become a problem solver for your prospects online? And more importantly, how do you translate problem solving into lead generation and business development strategies?
Here’s a short, actionable process to get you started.
1. Make a list of the common problems your company solves. These should come from the conversations your business developers are having daily with prospects.
2. Think about how a prospective customer would search for a solution to his problem on Google. What questions would he ask? What keywords would he use?
3. Write a 500 to 1000 word solution to each of those problems. You don’t have to give away your secret sauce. Just a sampling of it. Say enough to capture your reader’s attention. Include those important keywords in your articles so Google knows what they’re about.
4. Include a simple call-to-action at the bottom of each article. Offer something more — for free. A product catalog download. An educational white paper that explores the topic in more depth. A free consultation. But require some contact information through a form in exchange for it. Keep in mind that you’re giving away free help here. Asking for a small something from them in return is fair.
5. Define an inbound lead development process. When a prospect fills out that form on your website, who should be notified? Your Marketing Director? Your Head of Business Development? Who should contact that lead? What should the follow-up process look like?
Examples of industrial companies doing it the right way
Amazingly enough — even as we approach 2016 — it’s not easy to find examples of manufacturers and industrial service providers who are taking this problem-solving approach. So I wanted to illustrate the concepts above with a few examples of smart industrial marketing strategy in action.
The Rodon Group
The Rodon Group is an injection molder that consistently publishes high quality, informative content for their audience. Rather than talking about themselves, they help educate their website visitors to make the buying process easier.
This article, Manufacturing a Perfect Plastic Part, summarizes an effective manufacturing process without being overly promotional. And at the end of the article, The Rodon Group places a call-to-action to download their free related ebook. By doing so, they’re turning anonymous website visitors into real leads, and in turn creating the opportunity for conversations to begin early in the buying process.
The Rodon Group’s Marketing and Communications Specialist, Jill Worth, had the following to say about their website content:
“Over the past 5 years our focus has been on building a brand for The Rodon Group and bringing in qualified leads that fit our specific capabilities. We’ve done this primarily through content development and inbound marketing methodologies. Defining our potential customers with specific personas and creating content based on solving their problems and answering their questions has put us in a great position as an industry leader. Our blog and social outlets have helped us to engage with our audience and long-term prospects. We try to stay ahead of the curve and are now just starting to see other molders get on board with similar inbound efforts. With the millennial generation leading the way in the near future, we are in a good position to gain the attention of engineers and purchasing agents who are looking to source a high volume molder in the U.S."
Malisko Engineering is a forward-thinking manufacturing process automation provider that has taken a similar approach. Their Learning Center houses a variety of educational topics that showcase their expertise — but in a way that’s helpful to their audience. This Learning Center on their website includes short articles on a variety of customer-centric topics as well as more in-depth, downloadable guides. Like The Rodon Group, Malisko's content exists to help first and promote second.
The concept is simple
Just as you do your homework before you make a big purchase in your personal life (like a computer, a car or a house), industrial B2B buyers are doing the same. They want to get it right the first time when choosing a partner. And as their research shifts to the web, you have a major opportunity to capture that online real estate before your competitors do. Go make it happen.
Joe Sullivan is a partner at Gorilla 76.