Generating Quality Leads in Manufacturing
8 MINUTE READ
It can be disappointing to do a ton of work or pay for advertising and net a bunch of cold, dry leads. High-quality leads are the best but finding them can be tricky. Manufacturers' News Inc. is the nation's oldest and largest compiler of industrial information, based in Evanston, Illinois. The publication shares its tips for generating quality leads in manufacturing for the #USAMfgHour Twitter chat.
Time, Work, Effort
"U.S. manufacturing is growing fast, and we are excited to be back with you today to talk about generating quality sales leads in this powerful sector," said MNI. "MNI is a long-time industrial information resource, helping companies prospect for new customers or source materials among 400,000 U.S. manufacturers and 1 million executives."
What are some of the challenges you have faced in finding high-quality leads in manufacturing for your salespeople?
"One of the challenges in a quality lead is the changeover in the contact at the company you are trying to engage," said Nick Rivers from Obsidian Manufacturing in Rockford, Illinois.
"Our challenge has always been finding out where those "right" people are. We always have to get ahead of projects (in the design phase) and it's not always easy to find information when it's that early in the process," said Rebecca Hart of Drive Source International/Dynamatic in Sturtevant, Wisconsin.
"One of our biggest struggles was the pandemic. We were trying to get out more & meet new leads face to face & then had to abruptly stop. That challenged us to pivot & find new avenues. I'm glad to say some of the changes we implemented have worked out nice," said Sue Nordman of Obsidian Manufacturing.
"Being super-niche! I can't stress enough how small markets get, even when you serve a multitude of industries," said Kelley Pernicone of North American Coating Laboratories in Mentor, Ohio.
"None, I have so many leads I am trying to get to them all and there are way too many more that I don't even know about yet. Lots to do in my new role," said Dan Bigger of Custom Profile in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
"Where to find them, and no replies," said Shannon Simpson of DuraTech Industries in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
"I would say as a marketer, finding the decision-makers at the companies in our target market. Oftentimes, we find other marketing people for companies, who are typically not working with our actual products in their places of employment," said Ben Nordman of Obsidian Manufacturing.
Manufacturers' News said finding quality leads is all about finding the right customer.
How much time do you have to generally spend pre-qualifying leads?
"Since this isn't something that I do directly, I couldn't tell you. I don't imagine it's more than 20-25% of our sales team's day, but I could be wrong," said DSI/Dynamatic.
"Not certain of this answer. Curious what others do though," said DuraTech.
"Literally less than 2 minutes to prequalify. I would say that with the media channels available, I can find what I need to know pretty quick," said Rivers.
"A lot, we sell to specific Distributors & Manufacturers Our product that integrates with Sage500 and soon we will have an integration with Acumatica, we talk to CIOs, CEOs, Warehouse Managers, Customer Service managers and CFO's. It's a longer and more complicated sales cycle," said Kirsten Austin of DCSC Inc., in St. Louis, Missouri.
"Time is precious around here; I'm not going to lie. The answer to that question fluctuates with our workflow. There are some weeks we barely have time to squeeze this chat in. So, I can't give you a good solid answer to that right now," said Sue Nordman.
"All day every day. That is my main function," said Bigger.
"It depends on the source. Some contacts are quick to pre-qualify other times it takes a bit longer. I try to dedicate the first half-hour and last half-hour of my day to qualify leads. That keeps me from getting lost in research," said NACL.
"True story... when my previous employer invested in a new leads database, my contact ratio DOUBLED OVERNIGHT on day 1! Appointments TRIPLED... DAILY from there on out! (this is the #1 reason I do what I do!)," said Kati McDermith, MNI's brand ambassador.
What are your 3 top resources for finding leads in your niche?
"Social Media, Zoom Info and referrals- can't say physical trade shows, as COVID shut those down for some time," said DuraTech.
"Social media and email, digital marketing in general, also survey's and market research, word of mouth," said GENEDGE in Virginia.
"Right now, I think we use purchased lists, social media, and networking," said DSI/Dynamatic.
"Social is key," said MNI. "Twitter & LinkedIn especially (we have some do's and don't's of social selling). Blogs, of course! Our content marketing has become a major source of leads."
"We utilize trade shows, webinars, and LinkedIn. I'm interested to see what others do!" said NACL.
"I don't do a lot with marketing - but I try to find leads by looking at who our current customers are doing business with. Then using Linked In to find customers like our current customers," said Rivers.
"Current Customer Base Competitors to our Current Customer base Referrals through Networking, which I do a ton of," said Bigger.
"SEO and PPC (driving demand and being findable), Proactive outreach and research (LinkedIn, DataMining tools and lists from trusted sources) and networking (existing client base, referrals from partners and orgs)," said Dave Meyer of BizzyWeb in Twin Cities, Minnesota.
"IndustrySelect, IndustryNet blog posts, asking for referrals," said McDermith.
"No specific order but content marketing, email marketing, and referrals I'd say. Having a long history with our brands, the brand names kind of speak for themselves in some cases but we've ramped up our content and email recently," said Obsidian.
"I don't have them ranked so listing them randomly but we use social media, content marketing, referrals, networking, SEO," said Sue Nordman.
"Our own research to find clients who are performing badly. Business press and LinkedIn," said Nigel T. Packer of PelaTis Online in the United Kingdom.
Next-Level Lead Tactics
What sort of information are you missing and wish you had on your prospects in manufacturing?
"Decision maker contacts," said Obsidian.
"Aside from buying power, sales, size, and speed, I wish I could find more demographic data on decision-makers," said GENEDGE. "I would have better conversations and offer targeted solutions which resonate and ultimately shorten the sales cycle."
"Buying cycle time frame. Needs. Issues," said DuraTech.
"The correct contacts are so important. Bad data can add tons of time to an already busy sales executive. Plus obviously, normal things such as warehouse sizes & locations, manufacturing plant info, product info, number of employees, sales volume, etc.," said DCSC.
"So true! The more (quality) data, the better," said MNI. "Our profiles contain a lot of info on each manufacturer and demand keeps growing for more info! People love to know annual sales, employee count, parent/child relationships, etc. Here's a sample company profile: https://www.mni.net/sample/?src=WKG
"Contact name and email with buying power and decision-making abilities! That's the first thing that comes to mind. We all can relate to the frustration of wading thru a pool of information to get to the right person with the ability to purchase," said Nordman.
"The correct contact information," said NACL.
"All of their needs. This can be difficult to figure out when you start in. I usually know that they have some need, but I have found that there are usually others that I am not aware of. We are a custom contract manufacturer," said Bigger.
"I want to know who they have worked with in the past and their spending habits. What's important to them? USA? Warranty? Customer Service? Price? Lead time? Maintenance? That kind of info.," said Rivers.
"If you're not getting enough detail there are ways to get more. CRM is essential to collect info. Sales and Marketing need to work together to continually add to the information we have on leads: what stage of the buyer's journey, sales signals, demographics, etc.," said Meyer.
"It would be nice to know how to pronounce some names. I do pretty well I think... but I really hate accidentally butchering someone's name. I promise I try very hard not to," said McDermith.
With more work being done remotely, how have your communications with potential clients changed?
"MANY, more phone calls, emails, web-meetings and better content on our web. Gosh, I miss people IRL. I'm a hugger and hand shaker, whew this is weird," said DCSC.
"More zoom and virtual meetings, emails, webinars, etc. Our guys are used to 'In-person" and although this is still a practice, there has also been more virtual communication which wasn't necessarily the case pre-COVID," said GENEDGE.
"Our Sales team is still having difficulty meeting anyone in person. It is limited," said DuraTech. "This was a tough change for them. We incorporated more video conferencing tools, more video content, more social media content, and more training for Sales on Social Media."
"Zoom and LinkedIn are the two that have definitely increased since the start of the pandemic. We have always communicated a lot over the phone and that has not changed much," said Obsidian.
"No, not really. I work remotely. I reach out and talk to potential and existing customers. From there, since I am new, I am building the relationship and listening. It's all about conversation and getting into deep, deep detail as to what they need," said Bigger.
"When we do find them, it's a struggle to get a response," said DuraTech. "What's the secret to getting them to call us or email us back? Or follow us on social media? We know not to be too salesy or too promotional. Any tips?"
"This is really the magic/money question for BizzyWeb this year," said Meyer. "80% of our clients have changed their lead engagement strategies significantly, and we're top of their list. We're seeing webinar fatigue - but are adding strategies to spice things up."
"I personally send a lot more links to our online media as it has become a lot more informative and user friendly. We also request a lot more pictures and drawings from our customers," said Rivers.
"For us, not too much has changed. We do a lot of communication via email normally. We've remained in the office, so we're easy to reach. Utilizing zoom/teams have been helpful too," said NACL.
"We instituted more Zoom calls and we're sending more emails and making more calls. Not a huge change, but we do miss in-person events," said DSI/Dynamatic.
"I think our emails have more potential than ever before. We've worked hard to ramp up the quality of content and the frequency," said Nordman.
"I love this question! I am definitely more myself than ever before. I love video emails," said McDermith. "I like making video calls!"
Do you purchase lists of leads? If so, what are the main downsides and benefits of using lists?
"Honestly we did in the past and it (what's a professional word for sucked?) Good, accurate, current data is worth its weight in Gold," said DCSC.
"I/we do not. I have never found any value in them. In my last position my predecessor did, and they were all garbage," said Bigger.
"We've had little luck with those. And usually, they are not the right leads we need once purchased," said DuraTech.
"No, we do not. Not a big fan of them," said Nordman.
"A list was purchased once. It was one of those, man it's really cheap we might as well decisions," said NACL. "While 99.9% was useless, we did secure 1 customer from that list. The list had ROI and I was shocked! Shocked, I say!"
"Lists are almost always terrible," said Meyer. "Tons of gotchas: known spam addresses (so-called ?honeypot' addresses) will automatically flag a list as spam and may get you banned from your email platform, etc. Engage responsibly, especially with GDPR and CCPA rules."
"No, we do not, it is better to generate a lead list of interested prospects. They end up being much warmer and easier to nurture," said GENEDGE.
"I have used many. All of them were the worst." Said McDermith. "IndustrySelect was a game-changer for me. Literally changed the course of my life completely. Queue the voices of Angels."
This past year has been a testament to the strength, agility, and endurance of U.S. manufacturers. "The #USAMfgHour show of support is truly inspiring," said MNI. "We look forward to helping more manufacturers & those who support them grow and thrive!"
For those interested in trying out the IndustrySelect database of manufacturers for lead gen efforts, IndustrySelect is offering a free demo: https://www.industryselect.com/register
Anyone who champions U.S. manufacturing can join in on a new conversation each week on Twitter using the hashtag #USAMfgHour. The chat starts at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time/2 p.m. Eastern. Share positive blog posts, helpful articles, news, important information, accomplishments, events, and more with other manufacturers and supporters from throughout the country.
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