Your ability to persuade a technical audience, argues one Forbes article, determines your success in B2B marketing. This is especially true when selling to manufacturing leads and industrial companies. To engage and convert these prospects, you need to align with how they arrive at a buying decision.
Like businesses in other B2B industries, manufacturing leads now firmly control the buying cycle and will only reach out to vendors when they’re almost ready to decide.
That means you have little direct influence over what a prospect learns and discovers throughout most of the sales cycle. As much as possible, of course, you want to stay on top of your prospects’ minds during the awareness and consideration stages, so that when decision time comes, it’s your company they’ll do business with, not your competitor.
One way to help ensure this outcome is to become very familiar with how manufacturing leads research and use information about business needs, available solutions, and potential vendors—then build your lead generation strategy according to this behavior.
This blog post talks about the latest trends in content usage and consumption among technical buyers in the manufacturing space. By the end of the entry, you’ll have a better idea on which content types and topics best move manufacturing sales prospects along the buying journey.
How Manufacturing Leads Research and Evaluate Solutions
So, how exactly do engineers and industrial professionals research and learn about a potential purchase? According to IEEE GlobalSpec’s 2017 Smart Marketing for Engineers report, ten key findings best describe how today’s technical professionals consume content throughout the buying process:
- Across the world, engineers prefer case studies (81%), technical eBooks (75%), whitepapers (74%), and books (73%).
- Technical professionals favor online content sources, especially search engines (43%), vendor websites (43%), and trade publication websites (29%).
- 50% of engineers subscribe to at least 4 email newsletters.
- 92% of engineers tend to choose vendors that regularly produce content.
- Over half of engineers consider a company’s website as a key brand indicator.
- When filling out a web form, engineers tend to complete four fields: work email, company name, first name, and last name.
- 42% of engineers expect to be contacted within 24 hours after filling out a form on a website.
- For most engineers, around 60% of the buying process takes place online.
- Only 14% of engineers contact sales reps early in the buying process.
- Most engineers interact with a vendor 3 or 4 times before directly reaching out.
Drilling down on these trends further, the study also uncovers some interesting behavior among technical marketing audiences in the marketing space, including:
- In the US and Canada, engineers’ most-valued content type are how-to videos that are at least 3 minutes long.
- Across all age groups, engineers and technical professionals prefer case studies/application notes, but younger audiences tend to gravitate toward how-to videos.
- Engineers’ top offline content sources include tradeshows (33%) and trade print publications (33%).
- Engineers and industrial professionals in the survey do not think social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram are valuable sources of work-related information.
- Engineers rank content written by a technical expert at a vendor company as the most reliable source of information followed by third-party and supplier content.
- When going over their inbox, 50% of engineers focus on emails with intriguing subject lines and delete the rest.
- When filling out a web form, only 10% of engineers submit data regarding time to purchase.
- When viewing search results pages, only 9% stop at the first page, 61% reach page 3, and 25% make it to page 5.
What This Means for Lead Generation
How do all these trends in the manufacturing space impact your lead generation strategy? According to the 2017 Industrial Marketing Trends survey by IEEE GlobalSpec, marketers are trying their best to keep up with the demands of manufacturing leads:
- 42% ranks customer acquisition as the primary goal.
- 54% differentiate mainly on the quality of their offerings.
- 50% use both inbound and outbound marketing tactics.
- Email marketing, tradeshows, and social media make up the top three channels.
- A majority of industrial marketers plan to increase spending on their company website, content marketing, social media, and SEO.
- 39% are increasing their online marketing budget vs. 45% keeping their online budget unchanged.
That’s what your fellow marketers in the manufacturing sector are collectively doing. Your exact lead generation strategy, of course, will depend on your unique goals, situation, and resources.
Drawing lessons from IEEE GlobalSpec’s findings on how manufacturing leads research and study possible purchases, here are a few things to keep in mind when refining your lead generation plan:
1. Use emails to educate
We’ve seen that engineers and industrial professionals rely on emails extensively throughout the buying process, especially for educating themselves and learning more about a subject. Technical decision makers spend time in their inbox and won’t hesitate paying attention to emails that help them make informed decisions, even those from vendors.
- Focus your core newsletter content strategy on a relevant industry problem
- Present solutions in a way that subtly ties back to your offerings
- Craft compelling copies and top them off with irresistible subject lines
2. Make your digital presence part of the buying journey
Technical buyers spend the first 60% of the purchase process researching and finding information online. That means where your prospects spend the final 40% will depend on the quality of online experience you deliver.
- Does your online presence enable prospects to smoothly move from one point in the buying journey to another?
- Can prospects quickly find the information and resources they need?
- Does your digital presence consistently reflect your brand?
3. Find the right mix of channels
Manufacturing leads consult a number of content sources before directly reaching out to a vendor. In response, half of the marketers in the industry rely on both inbound and outbound channels to capture manufacturing decision makers. To execute a seamless multi-channel marketing strategy, you need to:
- Keep sight of your core message and differentiators
- Remove barriers that separate marketing resources
- Track and measure how each component impacts overall results
4. Deliver content in context
Without answering this blog article’s question directly, it’s pretty clear that actionable information is the main driver in manufacturing leads’ path to purchase. Prospects gain useful information and insights by consuming content delivered in the buying context that the lead is currently in.
- Create content that answers a question or teaches a relevant idea
- Take buying stages and buyer personas into account
- Segment and personalize your content for different audiences
Conclusion: There are many factors that drive a technical buyer’s purchase decision, but it all boils down to having the right information at the right time. That’s why offering information occupies a central role in lead generation for manufacturing companies.