Lead Nurturing in the B2B Manufacturing World

Since the dawn of inbound marketing, it’s been clear that B2B manufacturing leads need nurturing. They have the longest buyer’s journey of nearly any other industry; purchases of that size often have to go through a long chain of approval, and have to be researched extensively, so there’s nothing quick about it. B2B buyers need a lot of nurturing to get through the sales funnel of any B2B manufacturer. What hasn’t been clear, however, is the best way to work on that lead nurturing. Many people, marketers included, have advocated that email marketing is the singular best way to nurture leads in the B2B manufacturing world. But what if that’s not true?

It actually isn’t, according to a study done in 2014 by Bizo, in association with Oracle Marketing Cloud. Their study, which interviewed more than 500 B2B company executives about their lead nurturing strategies, found that email marketing alone is not an effective way to nurture B2B leads.

So why isn’t email marketing working?

Well, the inherent problem with email marketing is that you have to have a lead’s email in order to email them. And while contact forms are pretty good, they can’t always tell if they’ve been given a fake email, and they certainly can’t make email recipients open those great lead-nurturing emails you’ve put out. According to Bizo’s study, 79 percent of marketers report that their email open rates don’t exceed 20 percent.

That means that if you send a great, well thought out, helpful, nurturing email to 100 potential clients, 80 of them won’t even read it. And of the 20 that do, maybe one or two people will actually convert. Maybe.

To clarify:

  • Your email database is small compared to the amount of potential buyers that are out there.
  • You might not even have the right email address for many contacts.
  • If you do have a potential client and the right email address, it’s unlikely that a potential client will open the email.
  • If a potential client does open the email, they probably still won’t convert.

Both marketers and B2B manufacturing executives are having this issue with email marketing.  So, if email marketing isn’t effective, what is, and how can you implement a lead nurturing program that does work?

For starters, you have to know how the modern B2B buyer shops. And today, that basically means a lot of research. The average B2B buyer will research until they’re almost positive that they know what they need, before they call a sales rep.

All of this research is actually making the buyer’s journey longer, too. According to Bizo, the average marketer has plenty of reason to believe that the amount of time from lead to sale for a B2B buyer has increased over the past three years. And a longer buyer’s journey means that marketers for B2B manufacturing companies have to beef up the lead nurturing program that much more.

It’s clear that the average B2B buyer does a ton of research before even contacting a company, and in many cases, is 90% of the way through the buyer’s journey before they even talk to a sales rep. So if clients are making their decisions before they make it to your sales team, how do you make sure they buy from you?

You need to make it into their research process.

According to Bizo’s study, the most effective lead nurturing strategy is one that is multifaceted, and relies not just on email marketing, but on a whole host of other lead nurturing methods. The more tactics you use, the more stages of the buyer’s journey you can target. By getting the attention of potential leads while they’re in the research phase of the buyer’s journey, you’ll be better able to pull them through your sales funnel. Not sure how to do that? Don’t worry, we’ve got options for you.

Things to consider incorporating into your lead nurturing strategy:

Content Creation

We’ve talked about how B2B marketers need to get in front of potential buyers while they’re still doing the research. The absolute best way to do that is to create content, and publish it for those researching leads to find and appreciate. To do this, think about trying to answer the most common questions your company is asked. You might already be doing this in your email marketing, but the point of making content freely available to those who aren’t subscribed is that you’ll be reaching a larger audience.

The more useful content you have out there that helps your potential buyer answer his or her questions about your product, the more likely they are to call you when they finally get close to purchasing. The easiest way to get your content out there is to start a blog. As you continue to publish relevant content that helps buyers, they’ll begin to seek out  more information from you. That’s when you can begin to capture their email address and market to them based on their specific needs.

It’s important to remember that you want to create content that addresses questions in every stage of the buyer’s journey. For instance, you might write one post that talks about how to choose the right fittings for your operation. This addresses buyers that are just getting started in their research process. Someone searching for this content doesn’t even know what type of product they need yet. From there, you can create content that addresses “how many units should I purchase based on my production levels?” This will speak to those clients that are a little farther along in the buyers journey. They already know what product they need, they just aren’t sure how much is enough yet.

By targeting each stage of the buyers journey, you’ll be able to draw in more qualified leads, and nurture them through their journey. Instead of just hoping you can get clients who are ready to buy, you’ll be addressing leads that you know need to buy, and your great content will show them that you’re a knowledgeable, honest source that they should consider purchasing from.

Calls-to-Action

When we talked about content, we were talking about addressing those qualified leads that need your product and have just started the research process. But what about those qualified leads who have already made it to your site? According to the Bizo study, most B2B companies can get hundred or thousands of visitors to their business website every day. How do you capture them, and pull them through your sales funnel?

Calls-to-action are your best friend in this situation. B2B companies that don’t have calls-to-action will only convert an average of 1-5% of those visitors that come straight to the site, typically because there isn’t a clear, visible way for those new visitors to contact the business about their order.

The fix here is to implement calls-to-action that give site visitors a very obvious way to get in touch with your sales reps. These typically take the form of brightly colored buttons that say “request more information here,” “get help with your order now,” or “request a free quote.” By offering up clear pathways for site visitors to take the next step, you’ll boost your conversion rates, capture more email addresses, and have someone to send your email marketing efforts to.

Buyer Personas

A successful lead nurturing campaign has to have buyer personas. Buyer personas are essentially fictitious people that closely resemble some of your most frequent buyers.

Say, for example, that you manufacture parts for laboratories. One of your buyer personas is likely to be a lab manager. This is often the person responsible for making purchasing decisions on lab equipment, and in charge of any renovations that may occur.

In creating your buyer personas, think of who your most common clients tend to be. How old are they? What are they like? Do they have lot of free time, or are they very busy in their job? What are their biggest pain points when looking for B2B manufacturers, and what do they want from a manufacturer?

By defining these fictitious people, you’ll be creating a more solid idea of who you’re marketing to. When you understand who you’re marketing to, your lead nurturing efforts will become a lot better. You’ll know what each potential client is looking for, and you’ll have a better idea of how to address their pain points. From there, you can identify potential leads based on those buyer personas, and you can market to them specifically, providing tailored content that answers questions you know they have.

Email Marketing

We said earlier that email marketing is not effective alone as a lead nurturing technique. That doesn’t mean that you can’t ever use email marketing; just the opposite, in fact. Email marketing is incredibly effective if used properly and in conjunction with other aspects of a multi-faceted lead nurturing strategy.

So, if you have the other aspects of your lead nurturing campaign straightened out, email marketing can be an exceptional tool. It’s a great way to target specific buyer personas, once you’ve got their email address. You can send these leads more of your great content that’s specifically relevant to where they are in the buyer’s journey. This is content that answers questions they’re likely to have, which in turn pulls them through the sales funnel.

When you’ve got your buyer personas nailed down, you can easily segment your automated marketing tools to send specific emails out to leads that fit those certain buyer personas. When they recieve content that they really needed, and that helps them in their buyer’s journey, they’re more likely to contact you later on down the line.

Social Media

We’ve included social media as our last point in the lead nurturing segment because it really is important. Many B2B manufacturers write off social media platforms as frivolous websites that can’t be used to attract real clients. Believe it or not, your clients are on those social media sites. For B2B manufacturers, the two platforms that seem to work the best are Linkedin and Facebook, because they allow for highly targeted advertising. On both platforms, you can pick and choose what type of person you’d like to display your ads to, even going so far on Linkedin to limit ads to specific job titles.

So say you’re marketing to that lab manager. Linkedin can isolate your ad or content to show up in front of lab managers alone, targeting that specific buyer persona, wherever they are in their buyer’s journey. Facebook does much of the same thing, but since it’s not a site for strictly professionals, it can tailor ads based on age and location demographics rather than title.

Social media is another measurable way to nurture leads. Just think of all the times you’ve added something to your cart on Amazon, only to find it on the ads on the side of your Facebook wall. It’s not a coincidence, that’s lead nurturing through social media at work.

The changing times and changes in technology have altered the way we market, the way buyers purchase products, and even the way they research the products they’re considering buying. These changes mean that B2B manufacturers have to alter their methods too, in order to bring in the greatest number of qualified leads possible. No longer will a simple email marketing strategy get the job done. If you want to truly nurture potential buyers through the sales funnel in a way that expedites the process and gets you more clients, you’ll need a multi-faceted approach to your lead nurturing strategy.

We hope these tips help show you what a comprehensive, effective lead nurturing strategy looks like. If you have any more questions on lead nurturing in the B2B manufacturing world, or if you’re looking to implement some of these practices into your own marketing strategy, make sure to get in touch with the experts at HA Digital Marketing. We’ve been working with B2B manufacturing companies for years, so we’re confident we can help you get on the right track with your lead nurturing efforts.

And for more information on generating and nurturing more qualified leads for your B2B manufacturing company, make sure to check out our Inbound Marketing Guide for B2B Manufacturers. Click below to download for free!

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