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How to generate manufacturing leads for B2B

15 min read2023-04-04

Although manufacturing is essential to our lives — without it, all those consumer goods we cherish so much don’t exist! — manufacturers tend to struggle with lead generation. Often, manufacturers work in ‘invisible industries’ that struggle to find a place in the world of digital marketing. Manufacturers shouldn’t lose hope! There are opportunities for manufacturers to grow their digital lead generation through a variety of channels. Let’s look at our top three digital channels for generating manufacturing leads.

LinkedIn for Manufacturing Leads

LinkedIn has become the go-to social network for professionals in almost any industry. Though LinkedIn marketing has a reputation for spammy direct messages and endless requests to connect with salespeople, there are ways to make LinkedIn work for your manufacturing business lead generation efforts.

How to generate manufacturing leads on LinkedIn

LinkedIn for Account-based Marketing

LinkedIn is a powerful prospecting tool to support account-based marketing campaigns. Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategy that involves researching and identifying specific accounts that you will market to directly. In some ways, it is an inversion of the conventional marketing funnel. Rather than focusing on inbound marketing for a wide audience, ABM means focusing on custom-tailored sales documents, resources, and even case studies intended to attract a specific client.

ABM is a great strategy for manufacturing lead generation because it’s highly relevant and targeted. Often, manufacturers service a niche market where there are dozens or hundreds of potential clients instead of thousands or millions. Account-based marketing is ideal for small markets, particularly if the accounts have significant overlap in their wants and needs. LinkedIn provides the tools manufacturers need to get started with ABM, particularly their powerful Sales Navigator product.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator allows manufacturers to build prospect lists based on filters such as annual revenue, industry vertical, company size, service area, and much more. It even allows manufacturers to set up alerts for target accounts, which will inform you when a company receives funding or when key personnel change jobs. This tool provides the data and insights needed to build a strong prospect list.

Learn More about Account Based Marketing With Our ABM Explainer Article!

LinkedIn for Cold Outreach

Cold outreach can be challenging for manufacturing businesses. It involves high rates of rejection and is best suited to businesses that have sales and marketing automation strategies, typically via a CRM or third-party service.

Although LinkedIn’s direct messaging system can be misused, it is a powerful cold outreach tool. People browsing LinkedIn are usually in “work mode”. They’re primed to receive business-related messages and may even be browsing for solutions to their business challenges.

Through the same prospecting method a manufacturer might use for account-based marketing, they may build lists of prospects who don’t just need your services — they need them now!

For example, if a relevant company has recently replaced their purchasing manager and have received a new round of funding from investors, it may be the right time to reach out directly to a decision-maker to start a conversation about becoming their supplier. LinkedIn provides the tools needed to identify leads ready to take action, then reach them directly.

LinkedIn for Manufacturing Lead Generation Summary

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a powerful prospecting tool for cold outreach and ABM
  • Even though LinkedIn direct messages and connection requests can be spammy, a targeted and strategic outreach campaign can yield strong results
  • You don’t just need to find prospects in your vertical: you need to find prospects ready to take action in your vertical. Consider their financials, recent hires and departures, current and upcoming projects… anything that will improve your reply rate on cold outreach.

Paid Search Advertising for Manufacturing Lead Generation

Paid search advertising is a powerful lead generation tool for many manufacturing companies. Where LinkedIn’s value is in outreach, paid search advertising supports inbound marketing: you bring the customers to you!

How paid search works

Paid search, sometimes called paid search advertising, cost-per-click advertising, or simply ‘Google Ads’, is a form of advertising where companies pay to show their website at the top of the search page for important search terms (”keywords”). Depending on competition (the number of other companies bidding on your chosen search term) and a variety of factors including content relevance and website quality, you’ll pay a certain amount for every click on your web page. A low competition keyword for a quality website might only pay a dollar per click. A high competition keyword for a low-quality and irrelevant website could end up paying $50 or more for a click — or not even show up in search results!

In many cases, “expensive” keywords are worth paying for because they have strong purchasing intent. Purchasing intent means that the searcher is likely to buy, request a quote, or otherwise make contact with your business.

For example, a keyword like ‘chemicals’ has very low purchasing intent. A keyword like ‘chemical manufacturer’ has better intent. A keyword like ‘b2b metalworking chemical manufacturer’ might have excellent intent!

Finally, search volume is a factor. The most relevant keyword in the world isn’t worth anything to you if it never gets searched for. Running a sucessful campaign requires balancing keyword cost, competition, intent, relevance, and volume. Clear as mud?

Paid search success for manufacturers requires a solid keyword strategy and a well-constructed digital marketing funnel.

Setting up the marketing funnel

We have to start with a goal — ONE goal — that we want our visitors to accomplish. Is it to submit a contact form submission? Place a phone call? To sign up for a newsletter, webinar, or other content marketing channel? A campaign may have secondary objectives, but it needs to have a singular goal that takes priority over the others. Keep in mind this is the lead generation goal, not the sales goal. Paid search is considered a ‘middle of funnel’ marketing strategy, that provides moderately qualified leads. We’re looking to get a prospect engaged with the business, then use follow-up engagements to push them down the funnel until they complete a sale.

Once we’ve established our goal, we need to provide an entrance to the marketing funnel. Usually this means developing a special marketing web page (often called a ‘landing page’) and configuring marketing analytics software like Google Analytics to track our primary and secondary goals. This way, we have an entry point to our marketing funnel that tracks and attributes performance and goal completions. If we can’t measure it, we can’t optimize it for lead generation!

Whatever our chosen goal, we also need to identify a follow-up strategy. After our user completes a goal, how do we pressure them down the funnel? When a user submits a contact form, maybe we send them a follow-up email with more sales and marketing details to keep them interested while a rep services their request. If they sign up for a newsletter, the newsletter should include content and links that encourage taking action. Otherwise, we’re paying to have a low-value, one-sided conversation with a stranger.

Building an effective lead generation campaign

Arguably the most important part of a search campaign is the keyword list. An effective keyword list takes into account everything we mentioned above — cost, competition, intent, relevance, and volume. Some of these attributes, like intent and relevance, are relatively easy to account for. Cost, competition, and volume can be far trickier. Free tools like Google’s keyword planner (available to users with an existing Google Ads account) can provide rough estimates on volume and price. More robust paid tools like SpyFu can analyze competition and provide more detailed keyword data that can help us plan more effective and predictable campaigns.

Another big consideration is location. Ad campaign target location can greatly modify keyword competition. If your business is best suited to servicing companies in your state, province, or metro area, you might consider running a localized campaign. This shifts keyword competition to the local market, which can be very different from a national or global market — either better or worse! It’s a case-by-case decision.

Finally, the ads themselves matter. When we advertise on Google, we need to write ads for every ad group or campaign we run. A great ad can be the difference between getting a click and getting nothing. It can also help you get the right kind of click! An ad that’s too vague or focuses on the wrong selling propositions can attract low-value users and waste your ad budget.

Entire books have been written about keyword strategy, ad writing, and advertising in general. This article is little more than a general guide to lead generation for manufacturers. If you want guidance in setting up your advertising campaign, consider reaching out to us for expert advice and advertising management services.

What to expect from a manufacturing lead generation ad campaign

There are many moving parts to a paid search campaign — more than a single blog post could hope to cover! Instead, let’s look at a few things to expect from a successful ad campaign. As an agency, we’ve managed millions in total advertising budgets across dozens of business and manufacturing verticals. Here’s what we found.

  • Businesses often need to choose between volume and intent. Manufacturers tend to have very specific offerings that can suffer from low keyword volume. In these cases, it’s sometimes wise to broaden the keyword to reach a wider audience, knowing that you’ll sacrifice lead generation rate and lead quality in doing so. This is better than starving a campaign with low volume keywords.
  • Better content and landing pages make for better leads. Some manufacturers have questioned the value of content production and custom landing pages. We’ve seen the results. Improving content relevance and website experience attract more relevant, higher-quality leads from bigger clients. Landing page experience is one of the first places to analyze for improvements when a campaign goes poorly.
  • Rome isn’t built in a day; neither is an ad campaign. It takes time, expertise, and ongoing analysis to optimize a campaign. The first few days or weeks of a new campaign may not yield results, but be patient. If after a month or more you are not seeing at least some results, you may want to revisit your strategy.
  • Don’t get hypnotized by the wrong metrics. Some clients get distracted by metrics like cost per click or click volume, when the metrics that really matter are leads generated, cost per lead, and return on investment. Other metrics merely support campaign analysis; they do not explain the true value of an ad campaign. Consider how much a lead is worth before calling Google Ads ‘too expensive’. How many leads, at what cost, would you need to generate to break even, given your sales close rate? Use that calculation to determine your advertising budget and expectations.

Organic Search Marketing (SEO) for Manufacturing Lead Generation

Finally, we get to our last digital marketing channel for manufacturing lead generation: organic search. By utilizing search engine optimization best practices, we can passively attract high-quality traffic to valuable web pages.

SEO vs. Paid Search for Lead Generation: What’s the Difference?

Given that two out of three proposed marketing channels involve search engines, you may be wondering what the difference is between organic search marketing and paid search advertising.

Although SEO and paid search both rely on the same platform — usually Google, though don’t discount Microsoft Bing as a sales channel in some industries — their strategies are quite different.

Organic search allows us to rank for a wider range of keywords than paid search is feasible for. Paid search requires that intent to take action — it’s trickier to see ROI from keywords that aren’t highly sales-driven.

Organic search works great for lower-intent, further up the funnel keywords. Because we’re not paying for each result, we can develop informational content, blog posts, guides, tutorials, and think pieces meant to attract potential customers that aren’t yet looking to buy. The idea is that we generate a lot of traffic volume for key articles and pages. This large cohort of users will contain some legitimate leads that just aren’t ready to purchase. Instead, we provide them opportunities to stay engaged with our content until they ‘heat up’ and are ready to talk business. A common tactic is to encourage users to register for a newsletter or informational event like a webinar. This way, we can capture their contact details and drip-feed them information over time to convince them to buy.

SEO Strategy for Manufacturing Lead Generation

A basic SEO strategy for manufacturing lead generation might be centred around long-format informational content like case studies and white papers.
Let’s imagine a manufacturer sells custom monitoring systems for chemical manufacturing processes. It isn’t a product that their customers think too much about, but it is an important part of quality assurance and production efficiency. The manufacturer has a variety of reasons why their custom solution is better than a more conventional solution. Perhaps the sensors can tolerate higher temperatures or safely monitor more volatile substances than their competitors. Maybe each monitoring system is easier to assemble and repair than their competition. In any case, the selling propositions are clear, but the ability to reach customers through paid search might be lacking. After all, what search terms offer intent and volume for this product?
Enter organic search. The manufacturer talks to their clients to understand why customers prefer their solution. They find that their custom monitoring systems are much faster to install and easier to maintain than other solutions, while providing valuable production data that saves labour time on manual analysis. A larger up-front investment in sensor technology, the manufacturer finds, yields long-term savings by reducing labour costs for each production cycle.

This is a product ripe for organic search marketing. Through his keyword research, the manufacturer finds that there are many popular topics and keywords related to reducing labour costs and increasing yields in chemical manufacturing. Armed with this knowledge, the manufacturer develops a series of case studies and short articles on the topic and publishes them to their website. Each one features options to engage further, from newsletter sign-ups to webinars, podcasts, or other forms of content marketing.

Over time, the articles bring in more and more traffic. Although a very high percentage of the traffic never contacts the manufacturer directly, a small percentage do. The sheer volume of traffic to these resources eventually proves to be a consistent and affordable source of business leads.

How to make SEO work for your manufacturing business

Our example illustrates one case where SEO might make more sense for a manufacturing business than paid search — when there are few relevant keywords for a paid campaign, but many informational keywords to develop content for. In truth, SEO often accompanies paid search campaigns as the long-term, slow burn strategy.

SEO takes time to build momentum. The idea is to invest in SEO today to reap benefits in a year. This can sometimes be a hard sell! What’s important to remember is that SEO performance often improves over the course of years with minimal follow-up investment. Once the content is in place, it matures without much overhead, providing more and more value through the years.

A properly built website with a robust SEO strategy may eventually render paid search obsolete for the business. Once the website appears near the top of the page for valuable search terms, it becomes less important to pay for those top results. Investment in SEO today can result in reduced advertising costs in the future.

The Best Marketing Channels for Manufacturers

There are many effective marketing channels for b2b marketing lead generation. The three highlighted in this article are among the very best digital channels to learn and leverage as a manufacturing company.

At the end of the day, the value of each channel comes down to quality of implementation. A poorly implemented LinkedIn or search strategy can waste time and money while providing disappointing results.

This is where we come in. If you need to improve your manufacturing lead generation, we’re a capable full-service marketing agency specialized in providing services for B2B manufacturing businesses. Reach out to us today for a no obligation consultation.

Your business runs on leads. Together we can help you fill your pipeline with qualified, high-value prospects.

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