After you’ve worked to build your online presence, increase your brand, and drive traffic to your website, the next step to growing your manufacturing business is converting that traffic into leads. You’ll notice there are different groups of leads that may come through. There’s a difference between marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs) and you need more of the former in order to get more of the latter.
So how can you identify MQLs in your sales pipeline and, more importantly, how can you offer effective nurturing that turns them into warm leads and SQLs? Let's break down the basic steps.
Understand That Not All MQLs Will Become SQLs
MQLs are potential prospects who may become customers down the line — but they haven’t yet shown any signs of initiating a purchase. According to studies, only 5% to 15% of leads are sales-ready at the outset, while 60% of the people who browse your product pages and read blogs will be marketing-qualified leads. The rest will be idlers who never do business with you.
For MQLs to transition to SQLs, they must get the right messages and offers at the right time. Your online communications must speak directly to their needs, challenges, and goals.
But even the best marketing strategy in the world can’t guarantee 100% conversion. It’s important to embrace this uncertainty. An effective nurturing initiative should not only work to close more deals, but to close them more effectively. Ensure your marketing goals are realistic and all your efforts are aligned to the same goal to convert your website traffic to leads using the framework below.
The Framework For Converting Website Traffic To Leads
Step #1: Determine What Makes A MQL A SQL
Go through your existing funnel and, with the help of tools like Google Analytics, dive deep into data to identify actions that leads take. Investigate things like:
- What content do MQLs consume before turning into SQLs?
- How does their browsing pattern change when on your site?
- Do they take any special social actions, like sharing your posts?
- Do they fill out forms or request product demos?
Once you have a list of potential tipping points, document them, sort them by impact, assign points, and create lead-scoring rules within your marketing automation solution or your customer relationship management (CRM) tool.
This will allow SQLs to be quantified. You no longer have to rely on the intuition of your sales reps and your marketers. Plus, with the ambiguity gone, sales won’t complain about receiving unqualified leads. And marketing is less likely to complain about poor close rates since the team knows exactly how many MQLs have converted to SQLs.
Step #2: Offer Content On Your Website Your Buyers Can Easily Find
Getting quality traffic to your website is an important step to increase leads and business opportunities, but once they’re on the site, they’ll need some direction on what to do from there. One thing that holds many buyers back is the number of questions they may have about certain details of the products or services you offer. This can include specifications, tolerances, material options, minimum/maximum orders, delivery information, pricing, etc. Many industrial suppliers shy away from including these details on their websites, preferring to offer vague, once-over-lightly descriptions. These companies believe that, by leaving some questions unanswered, it encourages potential buyers to call to get an answer.
We also highly recommend utilizing CAD assets to drive lead conversions. CAD and BIM files are critical lead generation pieces for manufacturers of standard components and actually convert leads 2x more sales opportunities — learn more about reaching more engineers with CAD assets here.
Manufacturers should find a balance with the right mix of assets and educational information. In today's fast-paced world, an industrial buyer is more likely to submit an RFQ to those suppliers who answer the greatest number of questions upfront and provide the greatest amount of relevant information. To convert website traffic to leads, you’ll need to make content available to them.
All the information on your website should be logically organized and easy to find. If you have a complete product catalog on your site (and you should if you have standard products) it should be easily accessible from the homepage. Even something as simple as a product e-catalog can generate 30% more conversions. The minute a buyer is unable to find something, you risk losing that potential sale. According to a Thomas survey, 76% of industrial buyers list difficult navigation as the most important reason for leaving a website without considering buying. Similarly, 61% prefer suppliers with search capabilities on their websites.
Step #3: Create Landing Pages And Forms For Your Content Offers
There’s a catch to creating valuable content on your website — you also want to learn more about who’s visiting your site, right? That’s where creating gated offers come in. An offer is a downloadable piece of content that users can access after they submit a form on your site. You control how much information they’ll need to enter, so you can quickly gather their names, job titles, email addresses, companies, and more. In exchange, they’ll get whichever piece of content they’re interested in.
If you simply had this content available to everyone on your homepage, you would have no idea who was visiting or what they were interested in. By “gating” this information as an offer, you’ll have valuable insight to use in nurturing campaigns that move individuals through the buying cycle.
The content that you display to site visitors should be different depending on where they are in the marketing funnel. MQLs are going to need to be nurtured with more top of the funnel content, while SQLs need to be served lower-funnel content that will help close them as a customer.
So what kind of content should you be serving to MQLs to convert them to SQLs?
- Targeted email campaigns that touch on prospects’ pain points, business problems, while also showing how you can help solve their problem.
- eBooks can be a great addition to your email campaigns and typically offer prospects educational value.
- Long-form blog posts will show the authority and expertise you have in your industry while providing the prospect value.
And what kind of content should you be serving to SQLs?
- Spec sheets provide the technical aspects of your product or machine.
- Case studies will provide social proof of your products or services.
- White papers to further prove your industry knowledge.
- Online calculators to help them get their jobs done.
- Testimonials are a great way to show social proof because it reassures prospects that doing business with you is the right decision, straight from the customer's voice. Bonus: Check out our video testimonials for inspiration.
Step #4: Upgrade Your Email Campaigns
By now you’ve learned that strong content your buyers are looking for will keep them engaged online and convert them to leads. The next step to converting those leads is by reaching out to them with emails, which serve as another personalized platform to share the content you’ve created above. Many manufacturers already do some form of email marketing, but how effective is the quality of your content in the email and does the layout match your brand?
Give yourself the best possible odds of having your message read in the first place. Good subject lines are unique, specific, and urgent while implying that there is value inside the email. Learn more about effective subject lines to increase your open rate.
Time is precious and attention spans of your buyers can be short. Emails should not be long-form copy — that’s what your blogs, guides, and eBook are for. Keep your emails under 150 words and include calls-to-actions (CTAs) that link to those landing page offers. Want them to contact you? Prompt them to call. Want them to buy your product? Invite them to do so. If you leave your audience wondering what your point was, then you’ve wasted your time and theirs. A good CTA is direct, focuses on value to the reader, and combines text with visual elements.
The layout of your emails also makes a difference to readers. Just like organization and layout are important for the efficiency of a home office or shop floor, the same applies to email marketing. If an email does not portray the essence of your brand, if it looks unprofessional or sloppy, readers get disinterested and you will lose opportunities to your competitors. In fact according to an eMarketer study, 75% of U.S. email users said a poorly designed email negatively affects their perception of the brand. Branding is an important factor in marketing strategy, and especially in email marketing.
Practice Good Branding And Layouts
As a growing manufacturing company, you want to set yourself apart from the competition, and branding is typically the way to start. Reaching out to clients and prospects must be consistent with your brand essence; you want to be sure they recognize your company immediately and feel they’re not being spammed.
Branding techniques include:
- Logo graphics and relevant imagery to add more visual appeal than a plain text email. Maintain consistency in all your emails and don’t over-fancy it; white space is preferred in terms of readability.
- Links to your company website and social media platforms. Make sure the links work and send the reader to the right location on your site; bad links typically frustrate consumers.
All of these techniques are essential for branding, but there’s more to consider when executing a successfully appealing email campaign. Your email only goes as far as what your readers can understand, so make sure the content in your email is clear and aligned to what’s on your website and other content marketing efforts.
If the point of sending one of your emails is to inform your clients and prospects about company updates and new products, then you should aim to engage and connect with them with a few different email types. They include:
- Welcome emails
- Email newsletters
- Dedicated emails
- Transactional emails
- Lead nurturing emails
We review the advantages of each email type here.
Email layout makes it easy for readers to navigate through your emails and read them entirely. For example, with email newsletters, navigation is important since they usually include various sections that contain more information than regular emails. If you facilitate navigation through email and make email layouts easy to follow, you can potentially keep readers’ attention and more easily convert them into a lead and sale.
Learn more about what type of content works best in each stage of the buying cycle.
Automate Your Emails
With traditional marketing methods, like placing an ad in the newspaper or on a billboard, almost everybody sees the exact same message. Email marketing gives you the power to do better with targeted marketing and automation.
Hopefully you’ve been paying attention to your leads coming through and segmenting your audience. Tailor your messages and delivery timing to better grab attention and increase appeal to each audience segment. Practice persona targeting and segment your email lists according to their needs and where they are in their buying cycle. This will increase the effectiveness of your messaging.
Marketing automation with a CRM like HubSpot can save you a significant amount of time and hassle by firing off messages after certain trigger events, thereby optimizing the impact of your message. Automated email delivery improves your professional image through consistency of timing and targeting. It takes human error out of the equation by eliminating the need to track client activity and release messages accordingly.
CRMs can also help you measure the ROI of your email marketing campaigns to equip you with more information to better define your strategy. If emails you send out on Tuesdays get more clicks than those you send out on Fridays, these results should inform future endeavors. The same goes for the effectiveness of different email styles, subject lines, layouts, and types of offers.
Even if you aren’t aware of it, your MQLs are being nurtured in some way. In some cases, they are not ready to purchase yet, but they’ve been contacted by sales representatives.
Based on what you uncover, you may need to revise, upgrade, or streamline your efforts. Some solutions may no longer serve your needs, and some may just be eating up your budget — so take some time to dig deep and organize your new efforts.
A robust nurturing blueprint contains the following information and answers the following questions:
- What kind of impression of your brand does the MQL need to have in order to become sales-ready or an SQL? This will depend on the values you embody, the products you offer, and the most dominant pain point of your buyers.
- What tactics should this strategy utilize? Do you employ a drip campaign? How frequently do you email your MQLs? When do you stop?
- Is this nurturing premeditated, or a knee jerk reaction to prospect actions?
- How effective is this nurturing? How many touchpoints and channels (e.g., email, retargeting, social) are being leveraged?
- Who will own which tactic or touchpoint? Will it be marketing, with no assistance from sales, or will there be involvement from your sales team as well?
- How will the handoff happen? Larger companies tend to have sales development reps who handle MQL nurturing. The content may be created by marketing, but it is the responsibility of the sales reps to ensure that the content is consumed and has the desired effect.
- Sales reps can unobtrusively loop in account executives (AEs) into email threads to gradually shift the conversation from education to purchase. Or the nurturing can be automated and overseen by marketing, with a hard handoff once the MQL hits the SQL threshold points within the system.
- How will you determine the efficacy of nurturing? What metrics will you capture?
Step #5: Align Your Sales And Marketing Teams
Depending on your teams, this step may occur at the same time as the first step. As you break down your current nurturing process, you may uncover gaps between your marketing and sales teams. The digital transformation of sales and marketing has been a challenge in the manufacturing industry — we discuss more on those manufacturing challenges here.
Ensure sales reps and marketers are on the same page through weekly meetings; allowing for a shared celebration of wins; and implementing cross-training, in which marketing discusses buyer personas and sales talks about the actual bottlenecks reps face when closing a lead. This paves the way for the creation of content that both parties find valuable and can share unreservedly across all platforms to help convert traffic to warm leads.
What's clear is that buying habits will continue to shift, and if manufacturers and industrial companies want to stay top-of-mind in new generation workforces, they need to adopt new digital strategies and keep their teams aligned.
Learn How To Get Better Quality Leads
MQL-to-SQL nurturing isn’t hit-or-miss. There must be a tried and tested method in place to achieve the results you’re looking for and turning a lead into a customer — but it takes time to investigate what's currently working (or not) and care to maintain and improve. Need some help building out your process? Contact Team Thomas for a digital health check to see exactly where your online presence stands online against competitors.
If you feel you have the right process in place, but just need some help filling the pipeline and hitting your lead generation goals, download our full marketing guide here or check out these additional resources below in our Step By Step Guide series:
- Existing Online: The Manufacturing Leader’s Step by Step Guide to Building a Strong Digital Presence
- Get Visible: The Manufacturing Leader’s Guide To Driving Qualified Users To Your Website Site
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