It was hard to control my excitement when I saw predictions from the MAPI Foundation of an average of 2.8% growth in manufacturing over the next three years — and an increase in capital equipment spending by well over twice that during that same span. That forecast is promising, especially for makers of conveyors, lift trucks, and other material handling equipment. But like many sectors, material handling has a fiercely competitive, global landscape. Along with other challenges, like increasingly hostile trade policies, rising interest rates, and a growing shortage of skilled labor, executing your growth strategy could prove difficult.
Material handling plays a major role in the production and distribution of goods throughout the world, and with a forecasted business growth of almost 3%, you want to ensure that you’re capturing your share. The best answer is a sales funnel filled with great prospects. The most obvious question, though, is “How?”
How to Make Yourself Visible Today to Your Best Prospects
With competition increasing daily and challenges threatening their sustained profitability, materials handling manufacturers have to make the benefits of working with them very clear to prospects. Because potential customers have a lot to consider and dozens of vendors to look at, content — blog posts and things like ebooks, tip sheets, guides, videos and more — becomes your greatest weapon as you try to win more business. A strategic approach to developing and sharing that content will help you attract prospects to your website and provide their contact information (becoming a lead) in exchange for content that’s valuable to them as they go through their buyer’s journey.
One of the biggest mistakes a materials handling manufacturer can make when implementing a content strategy is to talk about themselves and their products: what they do, their featured products, how long they’ve been in business, what their mission is, their company history, etc. While those things may factor into a prospect’s decision to work with you or not, what prospects are really looking for are these things:
Evidence that you understand their business. For prospects to see you as credible, you have to demonstrate that you understand their short- and long-term challenges. Prospects are interested in you, but only in terms of what you can do for them. Content focused on benefits (improved uptime, reduced maintenance, lower cost-in-use, higher productivity, etc.) shows that you know what matters to them.
Useful information for every point in their buyer’s journey. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to content. You need to create content that addresses their most vexing questions and needs as they first begin their search for a solution (when they’re at the “top of the funnel”), content that answers more in-depth questions and compares your products and services to other options they’re finding (middle of the funnel), and finally content that pushes them over the line in your favor as they make their final purchase decision (bottom of the funnel).
Let’s say your R&D team comes up with a game changer for a particular vertical — an innovative conveyor system that dramatically increases productivity and material integrity. You worked with your sales and marketing teams to develop valuable content to tell the world. It’s important that you don’t stop there — publishing your content on your blog and on social media channels like LinkedIn is only part of the equation. You also need to continually learn and improve what you’re doing. By monitoring and tracking visitors to your site and views of your posts, you’ll be able to determine if you’re making progress connecting with your best prospects. Monitoring is easiest when you have automation software like HubSpot, but can also be done to an extent with Google Analytics.
These 4 steps will help you figure out if your content is working to attract and convert leads:
1. Know who’s viewing your content
As you see who’s viewing and downloading your content, evaluate who’s engaging; if they’re not good prospects (they’re in the wrong verticals or they aren’t the right size) your content may not be written with enough focus on the specific needs of the ideal prospects you’re trying to attract. If you haven’t already identified your best prospects with a fair amount of specificity, it’s time to do that. Your best prospects aren’t “any company that needs to move material from one spot to others.” But “disposable tissue and towel manufacturers with revenues of more than $150 million in the Northeast” might be.
Once you’ve published your blogs and advanced content on your website, make sure there are plenty of opportunities for website visitors to see that content. Throughout your site should be obvious calls-to-action — basically, large, graphic buttons that tell visitors about the content and, when clicked, lead them to the appropriate page to view or download it.
3. Follow up with your sales team
to determine the quality of leads you’re generating. A fundamental part of using content to attract prospects is determining if prospects qualify as Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) or Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs), as this helps you continually refine your approach to attract as many of each as possible. The sheer number of people being attracted to and converting as leads on the content you produce is not nearly as important as the quality of those leads.
4. Keep them engaged
A prospect views your blog, then goes to advanced content you offer at the end of that blog — but then what? One or two pieces of content aren’t enough for most prospects; what you need is a set of content pieces designed to lead prospects through their individual buyer journey.
Through marketing automation software, you’re alerted to and able to reach out to returning site visitors (MQLs) with subsequent and related content. If someone gives you their contact information to download “How to Improve Throughput by 19%,” you might send an email that offers another piece of content titled, “Beyond Productivity: How to Predict Maintenance Needs and Save Thousands.” This keeps your prospects engaged, learning more about you and getting more confident in your expertise and value.
These are exciting times for industrial marketers: the economic landscape is very promising...but the competition is fierce. If you want to get noticed and close more deals than your competitors, provide content that relevant as helpful as they navigate their buyer journey, and make it as simple and frictionless as possible for prospects. If you’re considering adopting an inbound approach in your 2019 plans, now is the time to get started. We’re here and eager to help!
Posted by Cory Retzlaff Cory is a Consultant at Weidert Group with a strong background in brand management and service to industrial manufacturers. With over 19 years in the industrial segment, his deep experience will be appreciated by Weidert Group clients and prospects.