What if we told you there was a way to get clients to call your B2B sales team, instead of the other way around? You’d be interested, right? Well there is a way to do this, and it’s called inbound marketing. The principle is simple: produce content that attracts leads to you, rather than traditional methods of push marketing, in which you put yourself in front of the potential lead, whether they wanted you to or not. (Want a longer explanation? Check our complete guide to inbound marketing.)
More than ever, buyers are performing thorough online research before making purchases. This isn’t just the case in the consumer market; B2B clients are using online search to increase their efficiency when sourcing products and services for their businesses. What that means is that a digital presence, and an effective one, is crucial for any B2B manufacturer or service provider who wants to stay competitive. Using inbound marketing in that digital strategy can support your sales team in many ways.
Creating content that is useful to your potential buyers at every stage of the buyer’s journey is one of the ways that inbound optimizes your B2B sales team’s time. If your clients can get the information they need about the product or service you provide from your website, without ever having to call you, that means that a) when they do call, they’re qualified leads and b) your sales team is spending less time fielding calls about general awareness topics from unqualified parties who are not ready to make a purchase decision. Awareness stage content will inform readers about the value of your product or service and allows them to self-qualify or disqualify, before ever making contact with sales.
This content also helps you to build buyer trust. Buyers are more skeptical than ever of salespeople, who ultimately have an agenda—make a sale. When you create content on relevant topics that address the needs, concerns, and challenges that your potential customers face without an obvious sales pitch or pressure to make a purchase, these readers come to trust and appreciate your brand.
The formula is simple: produce quality content → attract leads → make sales. If your content is informative and compelling enough, it can practically make the sales for you. Investing time writing content saves you time—you invest the time writing once, but it’s read numerous times—and effort—non-leads will disqualify themselves, and buyers at the decision stage will contact you. When your B2B sales team isn’t busy fielding calls for awareness stage information, they can focus their energy on qualified leads who are ready to make purchases, and investing their time in these leads will increase sales and produce satisfied customers. If you’re interested in what inbound marketing can do to support your B2B sales team, or how you can implement digital marketing strategies for your company, let’s talk. For more information on inbound marketing for B2B manufacturers, check out our comprehensive guide below:
B2B sales have never been easy, but in the past 20 years, constantly changing technology and evolving sales methods have made common B2B sales challenges even more difficult. Gone are the days where you send your sales team out to that new factory they’re building over in Ohio to pitch your product, and gone are the days of cold calling. The internet and social media has completely overhauled the way the B2B consumer finds and purchases products.
If you’re like many B2Bs out there, you’ve probably recognized the change. If you’re looking to stay relevant in this new technological age, inbound is one of the best ways to start solving some of the most common B2B sales challenges. (Learn more about the basics of inbound marketing here.) Whether you’re a B2B business owner or sales rep, you likely already what your sales team faces on a daily basis, but we’ve got a few ideas for you, proven to solve a lot of those unique challenges:
B2B Sales Challenge #1: Technical Products
B2B products are often complicated technical products. And even if your buyer has a degree in engineering, they might not know that your product exists. That’s what makes B2B products so difficult to sell.
Your client doesn’t need a long drawn out sales pitch, they need an education. They need you to tell them why your product or service provides a solution to a problem in their industry, and they need to know how. They’ll want to know how it works, how it fits into their production process, and what their ROI is going to be.
The Inbound Marketing Solution: Content that Educates
We’ve talked about it before, but what the modern B2B consumer really wants is content that allows them to learn about the product on their own. They want to be able to peruse helpful information at their leisure, until they decide what’s best for them and their company. For the B2B sales team, this should come as a relief. If clients are educating themselves on products and business solutions, that means your sales reps spend less time doing it face-to-face. This saves them time, and saves the company money.
You just have to make sure that you’re still the one providing the information they need. Inbound marketing comes in handy here, because you can create all of that educational material that potential clients are looking for, and put it up online where they can peruse it in a way that best suits them. By providing content in a bunch of different formats, like blogs, infographics, and even informational videos about your product, your clients are able to learn in the way that best suits them.
B2B Sales Challenge #2 – Buyers want to control their buying cycle (and it’s long)
Purchasing a heavy-duty piece of manufacturing equipment requires a bit more thought than that 25¢ cup of lemonade on a hot day. A B2B purchase is the furthest you’ll ever get from an impulse purchase. It takes a long, long time before a client decides to bite the bullet on that expensive machinery. And it makes sense. No one wants to buy an expensive software solution for their company, or a million dollar piece of equipment only to find out it doesn’t provide the service or ROI they were expecting.
These are major sales, at a high price point, and they require a bit of due diligence. That’s why most modern B2B buyers want to control as much of that buying cycle as possible. They have to ensure they’re going with the right product from the right company before they present it to higher-ups. Once that happens, they’ll still have to wait for budget approval before they can make the purchase. All this contemplation leads to a long buying cycle, which as you know, is frustrating for your B2B sales dept.
Inbound Marketing Solution – Content that addresses each stage of the buyer’s cycle
You already know that your B2B buyers have to go through each stage of the buyer’s cycle: awareness, interest, consideration, and decision. Make sure that you have content that helps those clients in every stage of the cycle. If you’re answering their questions all the way through their buyer’s cycle with quality, educational content that they can trust, you’ll be able to close a deal considerably faster than if you wait for them to figure it out on their own or set up a meeting.
Whether you devise a foolproof set of infographics, gated content offers, free trials, blogs, or webinars, your content has to speak specifically to each client. This means you need content for potential buyers that speaks not only to where they are in the buyer’s cycle, but also to their industry and market. By answering their questions, regardless of their place in the decision making process, you develop authority, and draw them through to a final decision much quicker than if they’re left to their own devices.
What’s more, this method is helpful and relationship building. Potential clients are able to easily access the information they need, without feeling like they’re being sold to, or forced to make a decision before they’re ready.
B2B Sales Challenge #3 – Multiple Decision Makers
Let’s say a production manager wants a solution to increase production efficiency. When she comes to your company for the product that will provide that solution, she not only has to gain approval from her higher ups, say the CEO and CFO, but she’ll have to work with the production engineer to ensure that the new solution can be integrated smoothly into the production process. This means that at the very least, the B2B sales team has to convince four people that this is the right purchasing decision.
Inbound Marketing Solution: Content for each audience
The best solution to the multiple decision maker issue is to provide content that addresses each decision maker’s greatest concerns. Let’s think about it: the production manager needs to know how your product or service will increase efficiency. On the other hand, the bigger players, like the CEO and CFO, need to know how this purchase will affect their bottom line. And last but not least, the production engineer needs to know the specs and info on the product, so they can ensure it will function seamlessly with production, and so they can determine how and where to install it.
To make sure that you’re answering everyone’s questions, inbound marketing best practices suggest you develop buyer personas. You can then use those to create content that targets each decision maker. By providing solutions for each party’s pain points, you’re working to get everyone on board with your product, and reach a decision that satisfies everyone.
B2B Sales Challenge #4 – Proving ROI
Finally, another challenge that B2B sales teams face is proving that their methods are effective, especially when it comes to marketing. Many B2B companies are reluctant to invest more money in their marketing practices because they aren’t sure the ROI will be favorable. But consider this: when your inbound marketing method is effective, your sales team has less work to do, and can focus on converting important, qualified leads.
By implementing an inbound marketing strategy that speaks to all of the major decision makers, educates buyers about your product, and speeds up the notoriously long buyer’s cycle, your sales team really only has to handle the most productive part of the sales process: closing the deal. But how do you prove it it’s working?
Inbound Marketing Solution – Metrics and Analytics
Your inbound marketing strategy will work to feed you the most qualified leads, will help you weed out the leads that aren’t qualified or the buyers who aren’t yet serious, giving your sales team the opportunity to really focus on the leads you know show great potential. Best of all, an inbound marketing strategy is easily monitored through website metrics and analytics. Over time, this is the easiest way to prove ROI.
When you implement inbound marketing best practices, you’ll be able to see who’s coming to your website and what they’re interested in. Based on this online behavior, you can judge where they are in the buyer’s cycle. By monitoring site and search engine metrics and analytics, you’ll be able to learn what you’re actually getting out of your inbound marketing strategy. That’s invaluable information that not only proves ROI, but helps your sales team close deals, and shows you how to refine your strategy to further increase ROI in the future.
Are you a B2B Manufacturer? For more information on how inbound marketing can boost your ROI and solve the most common B2B sales challenges, check out our B2B Manufacturing Guide to Inbound Marketing below:
If you’re a company out of West Michigan looking to up your inbound marketing game, you’re probably looking for an agency to help you develop the right strategy. The problem is that with all of the agencies out there all promising the best results, it’s hard to know who can actually deliver, and who’s just trying to take your money. You need an agency that can actually perform, deliver results, and put your company at the top. So here’s 9 tips to help you cut through the smoke and mirrors, and find the right West Michigan inbound marketing agency for you:
1) Hire an Inbound Agency that focuses on your industry or field.
You wouldn’t have a general practitioner to perform a highly specialized surgery on your spine, would you? Probably not. You’d find a spinal surgeon who specialized in that specific surgery. The same principle applies for your website and inbound marketing strategy.
Your website is the backbone of your company, and your inbound marketing strategy is what draws people there, so you shouldn’t trust any agency that doesn’t have experience in your industry. If you’re a large B2B manufacturer, you should choose an agency that specifically works with B2B manufacturers: one that understands the B2B process, knows how your industry works, and understands your goals as a manufacturer. While there are probably plenty of general agencies out there that will take on your project, you’re better off with an agency that’s familiar with your industry.
2) Hire an inbound agency that understands your goals & objectives and has a plan to achieve them.
This one goes along with the previous point in the sense that to understand your goals and objectives, a good West Michigan inbound marketing agency should also understand your industry. From there, they should be able to sit down with you and talk about what you’re looking to achieve, and they should outline exactly how they’ll go about it. If you’re not sure what goals you’re looking to achieve, they should help you determine that before the commencement of any project.
3) Hire an inbound agency that practices what they preach.
The first thing you should look at when choosing a West Michigan inbound marketing agency is their website. Is it optimized for inbound marketing? Does it rank well on search engines? Does it look professional and showcase helpful content that targets their ideal client? Did it draw you in? Since you are in fact, one of their target clients, you’re a great example of the effectiveness of their strategy.
If their content offers drew you in, made you want to download more content, and eventually convinced you to contact them, then it’s a good sign that they’re following their own rules. A company that doesn’t produce results for their own website can’t be expected to produce results for you.
4) Choose an inbound agency with a proven & documented strategy.
Any agency will tell you how great their strategy is and how well it works, but do not trust anyone without legitimate proof. A good West Michigan inbound marketing agency should have a strategy that is documented and proven to deliver results for companies like yours, in the West Michigan area. Whether they provide case studies that showcase results they delivered for previous clients, or they have a written-out strategy that they’ve proven themselves, you should see some sort of evidence before you enter into any kind of business relationship with the agency.
5) Choose an inbound agency that publishes case studies with compelling results.
Like we mentioned previously, case studies are easily one of the best ways to tell if an inbound marketing agency is a good fit. First of all, the agency should have case studies. Second of all, those case studies should contain pretty compelling results. You need to be sure that this inbound marketing agency has produced actual results for other companies in West Michigan. If they don’t have tangible proof, you’ll want to keep looking.
6) Hire a true agency with a team that can keep up with demand.
Solo agencies may have their benefits in terms of price, but you still need an agency that’s big enough to handle the demands of a full inbound marketing overhaul. We’re not saying stay away from solo agencies, but you will need an agency team that’s got more than one or two people, because they just won’t be able to get the job done for you. There’s a lot that goes into a complete inbound marketing strategy, and you’ll need a team that’s big enough to handle the initial work, as well as the ongoing maintenance that occurs once everything is set in place.
7) Choose a team with a dedicated project manager.
We’ve found that one of the key components to success with an inbound marketing agency is a dedicated project manager. If you’ve had bad experiences before with agencies handling your website and inbound marketing strategy, this is even more important. You need a specific point of contact: a person that will keep you up-to-date with your project, and tell you exactly what is happening when. A West Michigan inbound marketing agency that has a dedicated project manager will be able to keep you in the loop at all times, so you know what the agency is working on, and when you can expect project advancements.
8) Hire an inbound agency shows you transparency and results.
The only way to know that an agency is actually doing their due diligence is to see their results. Measurement is key. And you can measure results by having access to their regular reports. A good West Michigan inbound marketing agency should keep things transparent, allowing you to see actual results, so that you’re aware of the benefits of the agency and their strategy. An agency that agrees to keep you in the loop is trustworthy, and certain to be working in your best interest.
9) Hire an inbound agency with friendly, responsive and communicative staff.
There are all kinds of inbound marketing agencies in West Michigan that will tell you they’re the best, they have the only true, proven strategy, and that they’re better than everyone else. It’s best not to take a bunch of blustering and shameless self-promotion at face value. Recognize that whoever you hire will be who you’re working with throughout the entirety of your project.
If you don’t like the agencies employees, or if the agency can’t deliver on their promises, it’s going to be a long road. Make sure the agency you hire is one you can get along with, and one that truly generates results. Their team should be responsive, friendly, and readily willing to communicate with you. The agency itself should be capable of providing what they say they will. Big egos need not apply.
As an inbound marketing company with expertise in B2B manufacturing, there are a few things we’ve come to recognize as absolute truths with B2B sales and marketing. One of these absolute truths is that everyone does online research before making decisions. By everyone, I mean everyone in the world. We all do it. We’ve heard time and time again from manufacturing companies their customers “aren’t online.” That’s complete bull-sugar.
The fact of the matter is that while you may be likely to retain your current customers, you’re not going to get new ones (or better ones) by just sitting around. And telling your sales team to “hit the ground running” and “pound some pavement” isn’t going to get you the results you want either. Why?
Because your new clients aren’t out on the road, or a phone call away. They’re online. Doing research.
But, you don’t have to take our word for it:
According to a 2014 study done by the State of B2B Procurements, 94% of business buyers conduct some sort of online research before they make a purchase. That’s irrefutable evidence that your customers are in fact, online. The study also showed that:
77% of those B2B buyers use Google for their research
84% of them check out business websites before buying
34% visit 3rd party websites for unbiased information
41% read the user reviews
These stats make it pretty clear that people want to gather all the information they possibly can before they call your sales team. They know that they need your general product, that’s not the issue, they just need to know specifically which one they need, and from what company. A B2B manufacturing purchase is no small investment, and people are taking the time to make educated decisions based on the information that is available to them. And that information is sought after on the internet.
Your best potential clients are Googling whatever product they need, figuring out everything they can about it, and then, as the last two statistics show, comparing prices and quality before making their final decision. They want to know they’re getting the best product for the best price, and they’ll do extensive research (at least 79 days worth of it according to this study) to ensure they’ve made the right decision before they finally make a purchase.
What these stats are telling us is this: Your buyers are empowered. They know what they need, they just want the information to help them make the best educated decision for a solution. Your buyers don’t want to be sold on anything, they want the information to make their own decision.
That means they don’t want blogs or posts that tell them how great your company’s product is and how well it will work; that’s amateur infomercial content that won’t get you anywhere. Instead, they want the facts. They want complete, unbiased information that tells them how to troubleshoot their machine, what size machine they need for their factory, or what product will function best for their operations.
But why the different marketing stance? And when did your buyers become so empowered?
Consider who is making these purchasing decisions today. True, it used to be old, senior executives of the company who had the power and the ability to say “I want that product, and I want it in x amount of time, no matter the cost.” Then they grabbed their Rolodex and started making calls. But what you need to know, as a B2B manufacturer in 2016, is that your target market isn’t middle-aged men with business cards on a Rolodex anymore.
Who are they then?
Google conducted a study with Millward Brown Digital in 2014 that focused just on B2B buyers. They wanted to know who was buying, how they bought things, and what their buying process was.
One of the most relevant discoveries to you, is that nearly half of the people responsible for the B2B buying decisions were millennials. And what do we know about millennials?
They’re digital natives.
They grew up with technology in their hands. By the time they made it into the workforce, they already had Blackberrys and were firing off emails like they were born to do it. And let’s face it, they were.
Millennials are the most tech savvy generation in the workforce, and they’re taking over as B2B buyers. Google’s study shows that they research, research, research, do some price comparison, and then research some more, before they even consider making a call to a sales person.
So, what we’re trying to get at here, is yes, your customers are online. In fact, they’re all over the internet. The Millennial generation now makes up the largest percentage of B2B buyers, which means they deserve your attention. And if you don’t have useful digital content for them, they’re not going to come to you.
The old marketing plan used to be, “get your name out there, make sure people are aware of your brand, and hope they call you.” We suggest that you don’t hope. Although we do appreciate the positive mental attitude, you can’t build a business on hope alone. Don’t hope that someone will call you. Know it.
And how do you know that people are going to call you?
By generating compelling content that is useful to your buyers.
The research shows that people don’t want to be sold to anymore. Your buyers are empowered business men and women, who want to come to their own conclusions with the help of great, informational content.
That’s why content marketing works.
People are doing online research, and when you come up with all kinds of great content that helps them decide what products are right for their company, then you become a trusted authority.
When people trust you to provide decent, helpful, informational content, they’re more likely to purchase your product, because you’ve nurtured that relationship. They know you have their best interest at heart, and are working to sell them a quality product that will improve and make their lives easier, not just for your own personal gain.
Sound too touchy-feely for a B2B manufacturer?
That’s okay, we’ve got examples.
You’ve heard of John Deere, right?
Perhaps the largest manufacturer of farming and agricultural equipment, John Deere makes just about every kind of large machine that works outdoors: from tractors to combines to lawn mowers. But the real question is, why have you heard of them?
(If you’re guessing we might be hinting towards content and inbound marketing, you’re right)
Believe it or not, John Deere started content marketing over 100 years ago. John Deere’s son, Charles, started a magazine called The Furrow back in 1895, not as a catalogue to sell their equipment, but as a genuine farming magazine, dedicated to helping other farmers better their business. The magazine had tips and articles on farming, like how to grow your farm, and how to make a larger profit in the agricultural industry. Now, more than 100 years later, The Furrow is still circulated to millions of customers on six continents, and is translated into more than 30 languages. And without even so much as mentioning themselves in their magazine, John Deere has become the leader of the agricultural industry.
And honestly, that’s the trick. In all of their magazines, through hundreds of years of publications, John Deere has probably mentioned their own equipment a handful of times. Because endless self-promotion doesn’t do anything for your customers. The Furrow educates and informs its readers in an unbiased way, and those millions of customers respect John Deere for that. Though John Deere foots the bill for the magazine, it is completely independent of the publication itself, and yet one third of all of the millions of readers of The Furrow buy John Deere.
If that’s not a testament to content marketing, we don’t know what is.
John Deere published the best, most informative content that was relevant to their target market. Readers appreciated the honesty, and really appreciated the lack of selfish product placement. And because John Deere had the best unbiased content that spoke to their potential clients, they got the business anyway. No hard-selling techniques, no cold calling, just proven content marketing.
And this business model works across the board.
We’ve proven to you by now that your customers are researching online voraciously. With 94% of your potential customers searching for information about you and your product on the internet, you’ve got a massive opportunity to target customers through content creation. You know they’re doing the research, you just have to provide the information that fuels that research process.
The facts is, your best potential buyers are online. They’re tech-savvy, and they’ll put in the time and the effort to do months of online research deciding which big-ticket item they want from your B2B. To reach those buyers, you need to develop quality content that addresses their pain points and feeds them the information they’re looking for. When buyers keep coming back to your content for reference in their research, and to help them make major purchasing decisions, you become their adviser and the company they trust to purchase the product they need.
Inbound marketing works. And if you’re looking to make it work for your B2B manufacturer, we can help. Check out the case study below to see how we helped one West Michigan B2B get on the first page of Google Search Results.
“Inbound marketing refers to marketing activities that bring visitors in, rather than marketers having to go out to get prospects’ attention. Inbound marketing earns the attention of customers, makes the company easy to be found, and draws customers to the website by producing interesting content.” Source: Inbound Marketing
Simply put, Inbound Marketing brings your customers to you. Inbound Marketing references many types of content marketing including podcasting, blogging, SEO, and, of course, social media. When you plan, develop, and execute your content plan, you will attract traffic. With some keyword research and buyer persona research, that traffic will be qualified as potential prospects. Once you have qualified traffic, you can use offers and lead magnets to convert your visitors into leads. Once those leads are in your marketing automation system, you can convert those leads into sales and delight them as customers. This is the essence of the Inbound Marketing strategy: ATTRACT > CONVERT > CLOSE > DELIGHT.
A sound Inbound Marketing strategy is focused on using your website and online presence to bring new prospects into your sales cycle. HADM has had a tremendous amount of success using the Inbound Methodology to generate leads and grow our B2B Manufacturing, E-Commerce, and Real Estate clients. Inbound Marketing has also been instrumental in our own growth. As a Certified Hubspot Partner, HADM is positioned at the top of West Michigan Inbound Marketing providers. We provide a fully-integrated solution to Inbound Marketing, lead generation, and customer acquisition.
Would you like to learn more about Inbound Marketing and what it can do for your business?
We are Inbound Methodology evangelists. It has grown and transformed our business and has been a crucial part of our success. If you think Inbound Marketing might be a good fit for your business and you would like to learn more from an expert, reach out to us and schedule a consultation.
If you are a real estate developer or if you’re making marketing decisions for a real estate development, then you need to be generating leads in order to stay on track with your sales goals. Depending on your sales goals, you may need to generate leads every day.
Generating enough leads from your website and from digital marketing campaigns may seem intimidating, but it’s not really that hard. In fact, it’s pretty easy to do. In this article I will outline a few major changes which you can implement on your website that will open up your real estate development lead generation.
SITEPLAN & PRICING:
Let’s start with the most important update that you need to implement right now. This single, easy to implement change will probably double your lead generation metrics. It’s part of every real estate development website that we design and develop. Here is the simple change: Remove your siteplan and pricing information from the website. Place a small thumbnail of the siteplan on a landing page and require visitors to convert by submitting their information in order to download the siteplan and pricing. Everyone who is interested in your development wants this information. Why not qualify who’s serious and make them give you something for it?
DIRECTIONS & LOCATION MAP:
If you want your prospects to schedule appointments to tour your development with sales people, then you need to remove this information immediately. Instead of giving people a map to check out your development on their own, leverage this information to qualify your prospects by making them submit their information to schedule an appointment. This allows your sales staff to control the presentation from the beginning. You will lose drive-by traffic, but you will gain qualified leads.
PUBLISH LOCAL INFORMATION:
Local information about popular events and new attractions is the low hanging fruit of the long-tail SEO world. That same traffic also happens to be very well-aligned with real estate clients. Simply posting local information and resources on your website will help you be found in search engines and drive the necessary, local traffic to your website.
I have outlined just a few things you can do right away which will dramatically improve your real estate website’s lead conversion metrics. If you want to super-charge the results of these changes, try driving some paid search traffic to your website. If you want to transform your website into a conversion tool and generate leads every day, check out the offer below: