Growing your business and increasing market share necessitates a constant stream of new leads that you can nurture and turn into repeat customers.
Tradeshows, industry magazine advertising, and cold calling have long been the primary methods for generating leads for industrial companies.
Tradeshows and in-person events were widely seen as the most effective methods to meet new customers and strengthen relationships with existing ones. However, during the last year and a half, most of them have been postponed, and the cancellations continue as the Delta variant keeps us on our toes.
At the same time, demand for manufactured goods is growing. To keep up with rising material expenses, a widening skills gap, and a nationwide labor shortage, industrial automation investment is on the rise.
Manufacturers that haven't yet invested heavily in automation are looking for education and buying options, and those that are already investing in automation are doubling down and furthering their journey into Industry 4.0.
So, how do savvy distributors ensure that they are in touch with these new customers?
According to Amazon's B2B E-Commerce in Evolution Report, which surveyed 250 U.S. B2B buyers and sellers in December 2020 and January 2021, buyers reported that online features were far more valuable than in-person interactions. The top requested features include online product comparisons, detailed product descriptions, and self-service.
By providing comprehensive product information and a well-designed keyword search strategy, distributors can transform their website into a lead-generating machine.
Tracking visitors to the site may help distributors figure out what items are popular. Search patterns may also reveal how a customer got to their selection. This is especially true if the website includes tools for comparing and selecting various items or technologies.
The collected information can transform a simple web search into a qualified lead. The qualifying phase is where the true difference in the value of leads is found.
For example, a spreadsheet including the names of engineers at every production facility that has a robot is a list. If we establish that the engineer is investigating, learning, and devoting time to evaluating a product that will be connected to the robot, we can now call that engineer a qualified lead.
The number of pages visited and the amount of time spent on each page is easy to track. The information obtained from a web visitor who spends 20 seconds on a single page is significantly less valuable than a similar visitor who reviews a product and then spends the next 20 minutes digging deeper into additional information on a product or technology that interests them.
A method for assessing the degree of interest enables a business to rank or score the leads it receives. The most promising leads are sent along for further consideration, either via direct contact with the prospect or by migration to an automated system that may provide the prospect with more relevant information.
Unintentionally, many manufacturer and distributor websites miss essential information to capitalize on this new, primarily digital buying journey.
For example, many sites do not have keyword searchability at all. Others devote significant time and resources to raising brand recognition while failing to provide essential product information to prospective customers.
In addition, many sites are fragmented and difficult to navigate for a buyer due to the organizational structure of the business and the channel sales approach.
Here are our top 7 tips for digital lead generation for automation distribution businesses:
Embrace Omnichannel Marketing
Unless visitors are already familiar with your product or service, expecting a successful sale on the first touch is an unreasonable expectation to have.
This is why "omnichannel marketing" is more than just a trendy phrase; interacting with prospective customers across a variety of channels increases the likelihood of a sale conversion by a significant margin.
A prospect who hits your website, then sees a blog post on Twitter, then an ad on LinkedIn, followed by an email showcasing client testimonials, there's absolutely no way they won't remember your brand or put on their curious hat to learn more about your company, right?
A well-balanced mix of email, search, social, and content marketing efforts is required to establish omnipresence in the customer's mind, which is the key to converting new leads to sales when the time is right.
Participate in Virtual and Hybrid Events
The pandemic all but shut down in-person events for the last 2 years so event organizers have had to get creative.
Now that some states and countries have opened up in-person events are back on, but with a notable difference: a parallel online digital event! This "hybrid" gives potential buyers the option to attend in person or digitally, thereby extending the reach and life of in-person events significantly.
Distributors can attend virtually and network at events that in the past would have been outside their travel zone. Posting about events on social media is another great way to enter the conversation and be relevant, even if they aren't investing big bucks in a tradeshow booth.
In addition to attending, sponsoring, and participating in discussions around other's events, the barrier to creating your own events is now significantly lower.
Hosting your own virtual events, which eliminate geographical boundaries and time constraints while saving money on expensive hospitality expenditures, intimidating setup costs, and staffing requirements can also be a great source of evergreen content for your website and other marketing efforts.
Make sure to design and plan these events to be engaging and provide valuable content that will educate your potential customers. You can then repurpose the teachings through shorter videos shared on social media and blog posts that summarize the findings.
Engage Website Visitors Using Live Chat
Having a website that receives a reasonable amount of traffic is fantastic; however, turning that traffic into genuine B2B prospects takes considerably more effort.
Adding live chat to your website gives visitors a frictionless way to contact you about anything they may be having trouble finding on the site, or to engage in a sales conversation such as asking for stock levels or if you carry a particular part they are looking for.
It's critical to use every opportunity to interact with your customers and address their concerns. The vast majority of live chat systems capture visitors' email addresses, which you can utilize to create a mailing list for future conversations and promotional activities.
Including a live chat feature on your website will fundamentally alter the way you generate leads in the future. Instead of just expecting visitors to give you their contact information, you can take the initiative and contact them yourself.
If you connect your chat with client data, you can know who is visiting your site, when they are there, and what they are searching for. Combining live chat and customer data to generate leads has many benefits. For example:
- Every time you talk to someone, it's a potential lead
- It is easier to get more leads when it's easy to contact you
- You get an opportunity to develop a relationship with every conversation
- You can monitor and improve your conversations to increase lead conversion
Run Paid Ads to Bring Traffic
If you truly want to see faster lead generation results, using sponsored advertising to increase website traffic is a great option.
But to make the most of your investment in paid ads your website's landing page should be optimized and make it easy for your leads to find the information they are looking for and to eventually convert to customers.
Retargeting website visitors with ads is also a great way to stay top of mind after visitors have left your site.
Paid advertising works best when you have great information to share or an easy-to-follow process to buy once you have brought a new lead to your website.
If someone finds your ad and comes to your site ready to buy, but then has to pick up the phone to reach you, they may very likely go elsewhere or give up before making a purchase.
Survey Buyers to Understand Their Needs
As a distributor, you are responsible for making sure that your customers have all they need to make an informed purchase decision regarding the items you offer.
It is important to create content that will assist them in answering questions and helping them navigate the buying journey.
But the real question is: do you know what their biggest problems are for 2021?
Periodic customer surveys can provide extremely useful information that you can use to inform your strategy and stocking decisions.
To increase responses you can organize a survey in conjunction with a discount offer or promotion for people who participate.
What matters is that you have the information you need to continue to offer your clients the right products and services they need to grow.
Make Product Information Part of the Strategy
The most important part of a distributor's content marketing efforts should be to provide valuable information that their customers can use to get further in their own buying journey and then lead them to your sales team when they are ready.
Some of the materials you can provide as part of your distribution marketing efforts are:
- Product photographs that showcase distinctive features and application possibilities
- Videos about the product that are dynamic and include lessons and demos
- Application examples and customer case studies
- FAQs and other tools that deal with questions that customers may have during their product selection process
Effective and Consistent Communication
Customers are busy and distributors must compete with a plethora of other businesses vying for their attention.
To stay top of mind it is important to communicate with customers and prospects on a regular basis, providing value and updates.
Consider establishing a knowledge center or site where buyers can go to get the latest product information and to learn about new products.
Publish regular newsletters with company news, product updates and promotions.
Set up drip campaigns to remind customers of abandoned purchases or needs for maintenance and spares inventory.
This is one area where social media platforms can be a useful resource. Distributors with a smaller staff may put up social media groups where buyers can go to receive information and ask questions in a more personal setting.
Many businesses have started organizing Facebook groups for customers and prospects where they can interact with staff and each other to help solve problems or get product recommendations.
One shortcut that distributors can take instead of building all this capability on their own is to join a digital marketplace that caters to their niche.
Marketplaces such as Quotebeam are already a go-to destination for buyers of particular products.
They can help smaller companies with fewer resources catch up to their larger competitors by tapping into the above capabilities as a turn-key service without making significant investments in website infrastructure, e-commerce, data collection, and marketing systems.
Instead, the purveyor of the marketplace has invested the time and resources to create the systems needed, and participating distributors can be up and running in a few days instead of spending months of development.