Ever wonder if you’re the only one facing a particular challenge in marketing your company and its products? Is it attracting and retaining talent? Keeping pace with changing technology? Securing new business? Maybe you’re among the 61% of marketers who say generating traffic and leads is their top challenge. Our survey suggests a different top challenge.
I recently attended the Manufacturing First Expo & Conference, held in Green Bay, Wisconsin, along with a record crowd of more than 1,300 attendees, where many challenges were discussed.
Not only did I attend; I was honored to be one of the presenters. In preparation, our agency conducted an online survey of manufacturing marketers to discover their biggest pain points and marketing/sales objectives. Here, we’ll outline three major areas and the takeaways from our survey and, in case you missed the conference, recap the top 10 steps for improving business development results shared during my presentation.
Top Sales and Marketing Goals
What are your company’s top 3 marketing priorities or goals over the next 12–18 months?
- 76% — Attract more high quality prospects
- 73% — Grow revenue from existing customers
- 61% — Successfully introduce new products
There’s not much of a margin separating the top two goals of most manufacturers, yet both perfectly align with inbound marketing methodologies. Attracting high quality leads continues to be top of mind, stressing the importance of qualifying leads with targeted marketing efforts that speak to their pain points. And growing existing revenue also speaks to the importance of nurturing clients, improving the customer experience and building customer confidence to keep them coming back for more. I’m encouraged by the third place answer surrounding new product success which supports economic indicators pointing to manufacturing growth.
Biggest Marketing Challenges
What are your company’s top 3 marketing challenges?
- 79% — Proving strong ROI for marketing activities
- 46% — Generating website traffic and leads
- 37% — Hiring top talent
Overwhelmingly, the majority of our respondents expressed that showing the value of their marketing efforts is a major pain point. Traditionally, marketers have struggled to provide data proving their efforts were successful. Did a new customer hear about your company because of a trade ad, sell sheet, web banner or word of mouth? With traditional (outbound) methodologies, there was no way to know.
With inbound marketing, detailed metrics about customers’ behaviors are available to map out exactly how they’ve engaged with your website and how long they’ve spent viewing a page, which blogs they’ve read, what infographics they’ve downloaded, how many emails they’ve opened, whether they clicked on a link and more. Providing metrics and analytics about customer behaviors is simply the best way to prove ROI for your marketing activities.
Toughest Sales Obstacles
What is more difficult to do in sales compared to 2 to 3 years ago?
- 62% — Engaging multiple decision makers at a company in the buying process
- 50% — Getting a response from prospects
- 42% — Identifying/prospecting good leads
Gaining access to decision makers at a company isn’t a new challenge for sales professionals — there are gatekeepers within almost any organization. The search for a solution to a problem often begins with Google, and the person typing into the search bar is often someone who’s been given responsibility by decision makers to research and identify potential solutions. That person may not have a lot of decision-making power, but is likely the gatekeeper who has a lot of influence.
It’s imperative to earn the trust of these influencers who will research, vet and ultimately make recommendations to the decision makers within a company. Make it easy for these influencers to find and share your content and, more importantly, the answers to their biggest questions. Advanced content such as eBooks, webinars, infographics, videos and more can help them get to know you and your products, and build confidence that they’re presenting the best options. Make their success and the success of their company the core of your marketing efforts. When building your inbound strategy, be sure to clearly identify your buyer personas and include influencers within your playbook.
Top 10 Steps for Improving Business Development Results
So, what does all this mean? How can you overcome these challenges? While I can’t cover my entire presentation, I’m happy to share an overview of the best ways we’ve found for improving your marketing and sales efforts to scale your business.
1. Be honest with yourself
Let’s face it, we can sometimes be overly optimistic about expected results. Before implementing an inbound strategy, it’s important to understand the true cost of acquiring a customer, to fully spell out your lead attraction and management processes, and to outline and track the overall measures of impact and effectiveness. In other words — define and measure success.
2. Understand your growth gap
Do you know how many more new customers you need to acquire than your current approach is reaching to attain your sales goals? Breaking your revenue goals down into different categories and then measuring and managing each category separately will put you in better control of each of the pieces, and in better control of the totals.
3. Reach consensus on your ideal customer
While you certainly don’t want to ignore potential buyers who don’t fit into a certain mold, you do need to focus your efforts on those who are ideal customers. Imagine if you had $1 to spend on marketing, and you could only spend it on one prospect, what type of prospect would you spend it on? That’s your ideal customer.
4. Map out your ideal customers’ buyer journey
With today’s digital landscape, prospects will do 70% of their research before ever talking to a salesperson. You need to consider each phase they go through in that time — from the first time they type a search in Google, to when they read a blog, to when they download a resource, to when they click “submit” on a demo or consultation request. Create relevant and engaging content for their awareness, consideration and decision phases, and understand the gates they need to go through.
5. Turn your website into your best salesperson
A website can and should be your greatest sales tool, and it must be a living, breathing resource that can easily adjust to the changing behaviors of your ideal buyers. Make sure your website is easy to update with marketing automation tools like HubSpot, and that you leverage data to see where changes are needed. This continuous improvement approach is known as Growth Driven Design.
6. Draft an initial Service Level Agreement (SLA)
This agreement between marketing and sales is essentially a 360-degree contract between the two, helping to ensure alignment and that both are on the same page. Start by defining marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs), and the specific goals for each. Include an agreement on lead turnover and lead management protocols, and the cadence and depth of 360-degree communication.
7. Prioritize quick wins
Build confidence in your inbound program by identifying low hanging fruit and targeting those opportunities. It might require relying more on judgment than on data and analysis, since you may not be able to leverage metrics to their fullest in the short run. Even if you haven’t fully mapped out the buyer’s journey, consider some more obvious industry topics that could be written on or email campaigns that might get the ball rolling.
8. Practice the mentality of agile marketing
Agile manufacturing is pretty much a given in today’s marketplace. Similarly, agile marketing uses teams focused on delivering value that impacts the business, and delivers units of value (minimum viable product) for customers (your sales team). Agile marketing relies on a continuous improvement mindset that encourages small tests that provide quick results.
9. Measure and monetize progress
The beauty of inbound marketing is the vast amounts of data at your fingertips, making it easy to determine which efforts are providing the most value. Based on customer lifetime value, you can work backwards to calculate the value of a qualified lead to demonstrate the ROI of your marketing efforts.
10. Reinforce with accountability and results
To change attitudes you need to change behaviors. Setting up a disciplined cadence for reviewing results shows your team how valuable it is, and also gives leadership a great platform to practice the two most important behaviors: demonstrating accountability around the protocols and results that you’re seeking; and celebrating progress and wins to show the team how much it matters.
No doubt about it: inbound marketing requires discipline and dedication in order to get results. Most things in life do. Don’t just take my word for it, however. Several of our clients have shared the results they’ve had with their inbound marketing programs in our case studies, so check them out. And if you’re considering taking an inbound approach to your marketing efforts, take a look at the resource below to learn about preparing your website for inbound. Of course, we’re here to help take you through the entire process — from creating a playbook to launching a new website to managing your inbound program and more. Just reach out.