Remember word of mouth marketing? It used to be the number one way for B2Bs to generate qualified leads. Well, online B2B reviews are kind of the new, improved version. B2B buyers love to read reviews about companies they’re considering purchasing from, because it gives them a clearer idea of what to expect, and how to judge the quality of service they’ll be receiving.
The average buyer does about 60% of their research before they even consider contacting a B2B company. And since we live in the 21st century, they do most of that research online. Having a decent amount of online reviews can seriously boost your conversion rates. It’s a way of providing potential clients with the information they need to decide to pick up the phone and call. What’s more, it’s information they largely trust, because it’s given by objective third parties who have had direct contact with your B2B. So what all do you need to know about online review for B2Bs, and more importantly, how can you generate quality online reviews for your B2B manufacturer? Let’s get into it:
Reviews are a search engine ranking signal
First and foremost, if you’ve been looking for a way to boost your B2B’s SERP ranking on Google, reviews can really help. A study conducted by Moz, a respected SEO guru, shows that online reviews account for about 8.4% of Google’s ranking factors. Though that’s not a huge percentage of Google’s ranking algorithm, reviews are certainly one factor that can work to boost your SERP ranking and generate more qualified leads at the same time.
B2B Reviews show up in search listings
When you get reviews on Google, your overall star ranking will show up next to your company name in search listings. Research shows that consumers are more likely to click on starred search result options over those that don’t have any stars. That’s because stars show clients that the business has been vetted, even if only cursorily, by other clients. Google estimates that you can increase click through rates by as much as 17%, just by having star reviews next to your company name in search results.
But what about negative reviews?
We get it, when you open yourself up to reviews from customers, it’s possible that you’ll get the odd negative B2B review. And sure, that’s scary. Your company does everything it can to keep clients satisfied, but there are just some customers who can’t be helped, and they’re often the ones to leave a negative review. Many companies we talk to are concerned about inviting customer reviews for just this reason, but in fact, negative reviews can have more of a positive impact than you’d think.
Believe it or not, most consumers are more likely to trust a company that has a few bad reviews over a company that has all five star reviews. Today’s consumer is very aware of scams where companies buy reviews to boost their overall rating. A few negative reviews show a consumer that people are giving their actual opinions, and the reviews listed are unsolicited.
It definitely hurts to get those negative reviews, but you can also use them to your benefit by replying to the negative commenter, and doing what you can to resolve or explain the situation. Now, don’t try to refute their negative claims, even if they’re wrong or unnecessarily critical. The best thing you can do with a negative review is to comment, say you’re sorry for the commenter’s poor experience, and offer to fix it. From there, it’s up to them. A tactful, apologetic response will go a long way when future customers are looking into your B2B. Whatever you do, don’t respond while you’re angry. That will only make matters worse.
Improve trust in your brand, lower ad costs, boost conversion rates
It’s important to remember that 60 percent of research for a B2B purchasing decision is done before the buyer ever contacts your company. That’s why reviews for B2B manufacturers can be such a great help. They work to make your company stand out from the competition by providing a solid star rating. Additionally, it’s a form of advertisement that costs you almost nothing, except the time it takes to send an email to a client requesting a review. Online B2B reviews on platforms that your ideal clients regularly surf, like Google+ and LinkedIn, will ultimately have a positive effect on your conversion rate. They provide potential clients a barometer with which to judge your products and customer service, and they help to boost your online presence, getting more eyes on your website and your company. So on to the biggest question of all:
How do I get B2B reviews, and where?
It’s easy to say that B2B reviews are great and that you should have them, but how do you get people to write them?
First, it’s important to decide where you’d like to have your reviews show up. The best, most influential platform is probably Google+, because that’s most every researcher’s first stop, but Linkedin, the Better Business Bureau, and Angie’s List are also great options.
From there, devise an email that thanks previous customers for their business, and requests their honest feedback. Your email should make it as easy as possible for people to review you, and should link to those outlets you’re looking for reviews on.
Let them know what’s in it for them, too. There are a variety of incentives you can provide that make writing a review seem more enticing, and work to further your relationships with those existing customers. For example, you might consider entering all reviewers into a raffle where they could win a prize, or you could offer a small discount on their next parts purchase from you. This is a great way to turn first time clients into repeat customers, and it gets you the reviews you were looking for!
The biggest part of successfully requesting B2B reviews is timing. You’ll want to figure out the best time to ask for reviews by determining when people are most apt to fill them out. In most cases, the sooner the better. You want to ask for a review when your excellent customer service is in the forefront of their minds. However, depending on your B2B’s product, it might make sense to wait until they’ve had your product for a few weeks, and are starting to realize the real benefits of your great product. Test out review requests a few ways, and see when you get the highest number of responses. After a bit of trial and error, you should be able to send out review requests that get a pretty good response rate, especially when you’re offering incentives.
Quality online reviews are invaluable. They show Google that you’re a real, legitimate company that does great business, and they offer new potential clients an insight into how your company works, and the level of service you provide.
If you have more questions about boosting your online presence or requesting more reviews for your B2B, feel free to get in touch with us at HA Digital Marketing. We’ve been working with B2B manufacturers for some time now, and would be more than happy to answer any questions you’ve got on inbound marketing, online reviews, or web presence. Get in touch with us today!
And for more information on generating warm, qualified leads, make sure to check out our B2B Manufacturer’s Guide to inbound Marketing. In it, you’ll find all the tips and tricks you need to effectively optimize your B2B’s inbound marketing strategy:
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:
In the B2B manufacturing industry, it’s often difficult to generate new leads. Many companies have worked with the same clients for decades, and while they could use new customers, are unsure of how to go about it. As you may have guessed, the internet and your website play a big part. Today, your website is your greatest tool to create business. When used effectively, it can act as your own virtual sales rep, catching leads 24/7. But to do that, you have to optimize your website to become that perfect lead generation machine you’re looking for.
First, let’s talk about what we mean when we say digital lead:
A digital or online lead is a person who is interested in obtaining your B2B manufacturing company’s product or service. These leads are people who come to your website, read your content, and decide to contact you for more information. Specific to B2B leads, these people are often near to making their purchase decision, have an idea of the size of their purchase, and already have a budget allocated.
You get leads when a site visitor fills out a contact information form, with their name, email address, and maybe a little bit more of their personal information, in exchange for more information, or subscription to your newsletters or email. Once you have those leads, you can focus on nurturing them, through targeted content, until they finally make their purchasing decision.
But how can you get more leads?
There are two things that affect how many leads your B2B manufacturing website generates. The first is overall site traffic, so the amount of people who are coming to, and viewing your site. This includes anyone who looks at your website, whether they’re coming from Google or Facebook.
The second is your conversion rate. This is the percentage of people that come to your site as viewers, and then convert to a lead. For example, if 100 people visit your site, and 2 of those 100 people fill out a contact information form, your conversion rate is 2%.
Typical B2B industry conversion rates span between 2-6%. If you don’t know your conversion rate, or if yours is way below those numbers, don’t worry! We’re going to tell you how to bump them up.
Here’s how to increase both your site traffic and your conversion rate:
Upgrade your website
If you’re like most B2B manufacturers, you probably started your foray into the internet wilderness with a website that basically functions as a brochure for your company. It probably doesn’t have a ton of pages, it doesn’t have a lot of information, and other than your phone number and maybe an email address, there isn’t any other way for potential clients to contact you. While it’s good that you at least have some online presence, this website isn’t doing any work for you.
Your first step to more traffic is to create a website that looks beautiful, is user friendly, interactive, and mobile friendly. It should offer your potential customers the information they’re looking for, with a content-centric design. An old, outdated website is one of the first things that turns potential customers away, so with your new web design, you’ll start seeing a boost in traffic just because it looks more modern. An upgraded website is also a good way to bump your ranking on Google. Google likes websites that are regularly updated, and the more content you have, the better you’ll rank for relevant keywords. The higher you rank on Google, the more traffic you’ll get.
Start a blog
Once you have a new, modern, user-friendly website, it’s time to start a blog. While this sounds pretty intimidating at first, it’s actually one of the easiest things you can do to increase your site traffic. All you have to do is think of questions your clients ask you regularly, and answer those questions in a blog post. Do your best to write posts that address specific pain points of your B2B manufacturing clients in a clear and thorough way.
Additionally, make sure to incorporate SEO tactics into your blog writing process. Your best bet here is to focus each blog post around one keyword. Then, include that keyword into the blog in a way that seems natural. Google has gotten pretty advanced in the past few years, so it’s likely to recognize synonyms, meaning you don’t have to stuff the same exact word or phrase into one blog post 50 times to rank for that keyword.
The 80/20 rule
If you want to increase your traffic and keep people coming back for your awesome information, there’s one content rule you really need to know about: the 80/20 rule. Your blog content should be 80% informational–content that answers client’s questions, and gives them relevant information they can use–and 20% promotional–content that has to do with your company specifically, whether that’s talking about awards you’ve gotten, or just detailing the services you provide.
While this might seem like an extreme ratio, if you look at your blog from a customer’s perspective, it is necessary. While you are trying to sell, no customer wants to read pages of marketing jargon that just talks about how great your company is. That type of content won’t draw in more traffic, and it won’t help you boost lead generation. Use it once in awhile, when you really have something great to say, but make sure it takes the backseat to content that’s actually useful to your target audience.
A lot of B2B manufacturers don’t use social media accounts because they don’t think it’s a legitimate way to market their product. They are wrong. If you think about it, almost everyone you know has some social media account, whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. And since these social media platforms are so good at targeting ads and content to specific demographics, it’s very easy to get your name in front of the right people. Simply by participating in the conversations that other industry leaders and potential customers are already having on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, you extend your online reach. The more people that see your ads, and read your helpful content, the more pathways you create for potential clients to navigate to your site.
Boost your conversion rate:
Place more calls-to-action
Another major part of lead generation is how many of your site viewers actually convert to leads. If you want a website that functions as a lead generation machine, then you have to have a good conversion rate. And if you want a good conversion rate, you need calls-to-action. The most important point is that they need to be everywhere.
“Request a Quote” and “Learn More Now” buttons make it easy for potential clients to reach out to you, and they boost your conversion rate. Place them at the end of your blog posts, in the top and middle of relevant pages, and anywhere else you can think of. Sometimes, clients may not be sure if they need help or not. If they’re on the fence, oftentimes an easy call to action button is just motivation they need to request more information. Most simply, the more opportunities your site viewers have to convert, the more leads you’re going to get.
Add gated content
Going along with that last point, gated content is another great way to offer more conversion opportunities. Gated content is highly relevant, informational content that site viewers can access for free, after they give you a little bit of their basic contact information. So, say you had a great ebook about “how to choose the right metal finish for auto bumpers.” This is really useful content for a potential auto manufacturing client. Since they want that information, and they can get it for free, they’re usually willing to put in an email address and phone number to gain access. Then you both win:
You get their contact information and they get the content they needed for free. This is a great way to draw in leads who aren’t as far along in the buyer’s cycle. Then, through your lead nurturing emails and newsletters, you can maintain contact until they’re ready to buy from you. This is a great way to boost your conversion rates, because it offers another conversion form, but it targets a different type of lead. The more gated content offers you have, the greater your potential to capture leads in all stages of the buyer’s cycle.
One of the best ways to boost your conversion rate is to consistently A/B test your Calls to Action, and your landing pages. For instance, do you get more conversions when your buttons are blue or orange? Are people more likely to fill out a contact form if you don’t ask for a phone number? A/B testing will give you insightful data that helps answer these questions, which you can then implement to optimize your site. As long as you have access to your site’s analytics and metrics, you can go ahead and monitor what these small changes do to your conversion rate. A few tips:
Make sure to only change one thing at a time. If you change the color of a button as well as the script, you have no way of knowing which change is actually driving your conversion boost.
Your testing should be controlled. If you tested a blue button for a week – Monday through Sunday – you should give an orange button the exact same testing time frame before you compare results. Site traffic can vary widely by day and time. If you test one color on Monday and Tuesday, and then a different color on Saturday and Sunday, it’s possible that the changes you see are more a result of the different days’ traffic levels than the different color button. People are more likely to look at your website on a weekday than on the weekends, so just measuring the success of one button on the weekday and a different button on the weekend won’t provide you with accurate results.
Other Lead Generation Considerations:
Know your metrics
The best way to keep track of how your website is performing, and how many lead opportunities you’re getting is to stay informed about your site’s metrics. You need to monitor them regularly, at least once a week, if not every day. This how you find out what’s working and what’s not, and how you know which adjustments to make.
Site analytics will also tell you where your leads are coming from. Whether traffic is coming to your site from Facebook, Linkedin, or even a paid ad, you need to know. This will help you optimize your paid ad campaigns and your social media strategies to get the most traffic, and thus leads, as possible.
Develop a plan
The absolute best thing you can do to turn your B2B manufacturing website into a consistent lead generation machine is to make a plan. It’s easy to start something, and then forget about it if you don’t have a schedule with deadlines and attainable goals. By creating a plan that outlines how much content you need per week or month, that states your monthly or weekly lead generation goals, and that reminds you to check your analytics and metrics regularly, it’s much harder to fall off the wagon. When you have goals and deadlines to meet, you’re more likely to implement positive changes, and keep working at them to continue to optimize your website’s lead generation potential.
If you have more questions about increasing your B2B manufacturing website’s lead generation potential, make sure to get in touch.
If you’re looking for more information about boosting your online presence, and drawing in more site traffic, check out our B2B Manufacturing Inbound Marketing Guide. In it, you’ll find all kinds of tips and tricks to optimize your site and your marketing strategy!
If you think about it, who would put thousands of dollars into a product without first researching the product and the companies that sell it? You probably wouldn’t, and the statistics show your customers won’t either.
Your qualified buyers: the ones who already know they need what you’re selling, have to be convinced that you’re the best choice. They’ve probably already done some initial research on the product, and they may even be well versed in the product itself, but how do they know that you’re the B2B manufacturer to buy from?
The answer is an inbound marketing strategy. To become that best choice, you need an inbound marketing strategy that gets you site-views from those qualified leads who are already searching for your product.
And by marketing we don’t mean the old “let’s try it and hope it works” guessing game. We mean an inbound marketing strategy that is proven to get results: an analyzed, researched and segmented process that all comes down to specific best practices.
By implementing our comprehensive Inbound Marketing Guide, you can reach clients where they’re at, and harness that research into a lead-generating machine: your website.
We’ve got the information and the data that tells you what you need. And what you need is to develop a concrete digital marketing strategy, track its progress, and keep refining and refining your process until you’re hitting the right customers, at the right time, every time. How do you do that?
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.