Technical Content Drives Online Engagement For Industrial Companies

Posted by Todd Hockenberry on Oct 19, 2013 8:06:00 AM

technical content inbound marketingWe work with a lot of highly specialized, technical manufacturing companies and one of the things we've heard a lot over the years is that no one wants to read about them. We've had clients who thought their products and services were too complex and technical to drive substantial internet traffic to things like a blog or social media account.

The thinking goes that highly technical fields, such as fiberglass reinforced plastic parts for cooling towers, aren't flashy enough to be interesting to read about. If someone is in the market for these kinds of goods and services, then they're going to want spec sheets and wouldn't be interested in regular blog posts.

There is one big problem with this line of thinking. It isn't true.

Well, to be fair, part of the underlying assumption is true. It is true that there isn't as much interest in something like laser marking systems as there is in celebrity gossip or home décor. Highly specialized engineering and manufacturing-based blogs and other content probably isn't going to go viral, retweeted by teens and pop stars. But that's not really the point of this kind of content anyway. So, what is the point?

Content With a Job

Every piece of content needs to have a purpose, a job. When it comes to technical content the job is fourfold:

1. Attract

2. Educate

3. Qualify leads

4. Contribute to the Inbound Sales process

To really understand and get the most out of technical content you need to keep the purpose of the content in the forefront of your mind.

Attract

Straight up good old SEO is a prime use for technical content. By definition technical content is long tail. Not many people search 'pipe beveling machines for gas lines' or 'fuel additives for power generators,' but when they do, you can be fairly certain that they want to know what you are about. Industrial SEO is measured in quality of leads, not quantity. Most industrial companies need 10s and 100s of leads to make a huge sales difference as opposed to a consumer-oriented seller that needs thousands just to move the needle a little bit. Some of our clients are thrilled when we get them two or three great leads per month making the long tail part of SEO an ideal tactic to grow revenue.

Educate

Technical information might seem dull, but it has great potential for education. One of the great things about working with technical and industrial companies is that there is always something to write about. There are always topics to cover that the average reader might not know a lot about, or might like clarification on. New applications, new inventions, even new industries always provide lots of topics in which to place in context the solutions of an industrial company. Problems multiply and solutions are always in demand so the technical company that is writing will never lack for topics to address.

Qualify Leads

Technical and complex areas of manufacturing aren't going to dethrone the latest Justin Bieber stunt, but that's ok. Good technical content is going to help you pull in leads that are high quality. Why? Because a Justin Beiber fan isn't going to be in the market for a laser marking system, but someone who downloads a case study about laser marking probably is. Judicious use of prmeium content will help qualify leads. Developing content that matches sales cycles shows you where technical buyers are in the sales process. Someone who asks for a request for quote is probably heading for the bottom of the sales funnel. Someone downloading a whitepaper about the used of fiberglass resins in the chemical processing industry is in your world, but may just be beginning to research a project and is an ideal candidate for lead nurturing.

Contribute to the Inbound Sales Process

The right case study sent to a good prospect builds credibility for inbound-focused salesperson. A relevant blog article builds credibility for a salesperson as more than an order taker.  A vibrant LinkedIn group where the latest technical information is shared and discussed positions the salesperson as an expert in their field.

Using content produced for inbound marketing as a sales enablement tool is the hallmark of an inbound salesperson. Inbound is all about attracting people using marketing that is relevant to them. Inbound sales is about being the type of salesperson who prospects want to engage with and not hold their nose and tolerate.  

Sharing great content, focused on prospects, delivering technical solutions that they need, using the channels they use, is the right way to drive online engagement for technical and industrial companies.

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Topics: marketing for manufacturing, Top Line Results, inbound sales

Ensure Inbound Marketing Success with The First, First Impression

Posted by Todd Hockenberry on Jul 10, 2013 7:31:00 AM

beer goggles
You don't want your prospects to need these to make your site experience better!

The first "first impression" happens when a visitor finds you online. More often than not the first impression your company makes takes place far from any representatives of your business. Not that long ago you could control your first impression — a perfectly staged trade show booth, a well researched phone call, an amazing sales pitch. Nowadays you still have opportunities to make great impressions, but more often than not the first impression happens without you even knowing it.

Back in my days as an EVP Sales & Marketing at a manufacturing company, we always tried our best to get requested test samples back to a prospect as fast as possible. We were a small company playing with some big competitors and we figured if we got our stuff back to them first, we would set the table for everyone else.

If our samples were high quality, correct to the specifications, and the first in the door, then we had the upper hand. Everyone else was now measured against our quick response and quality work. Whenever we conducted a win analysis with our customers, this first impression was often cited as a critical reason why our company was chosen.

That was few short years ago and while the idea of making the first impression still holds, it now relates to what your prospects see before they ever call you.

For you manufacturers and industrial B2B companies out there, I am talking to you.

There are a lot of examples of great websites, but so often industrial and manufacturing companies websites are examples of what not to do. I've seen many manufacturing websites that look like a glorified business card or catalog, but in today's business climate that just doesn't cut it anymore.

Your buyers are turning to the Internet for answers long before they reach out to you. Between online directories, social media, and stellar web content — it's no wonder that the first place consumers turn for a solution is a search engine. Inbound marketing principles are gaining traction, content marketing is becoming a standard marketing activity, and more and more companies are spending their money on building great sites that attract the best prospects.

Making the First Impression Count

If the first thing that your prospects are going to see about you is your website, you need to make it count. To make sure our clients' sites are packing a punch, we start with a simple checklist to make sure the basics are covered. Once you've nailed down the basics you can worry about the details.

1) Great Images - people are visual and becoming more so every day. Make all of your images top quality, focused on your solutions, and please stop using those stock images (see the lady with the headset on supposedly depicting someone's customer service).

2) Statement of Value - who are you, what do you do, and who do you do it for. Do not use marketing mumbo jumbo words like 'world class' or 'top quality.' Say what you do plainly and clearly. This makes a strong first impression and sets the tone for the rest of your interactions with a visitor.

3) Compelling Offer - give way your knowledge, show that you care about them and now what issues are relevant to them by sharing something of value to them, not to you (your catalog does not count as interesting or valuable).

4) Call To Action (CTA) and Landing Pages - put high quality offers behind landing pages and attract visitors to them by using compelling calls to action. This step alone has generated an outsized level of value for our clients by taking existing content assets and requiring a conversion on a landing page to get them.

5) Sharing Options - make it easy for your site visitors to share your awesomeness with others. Enough said.

6) Easy Ways to Connect - e-mail, blog updates, social media, phone calls. Give your visitors as many ways to connect with you as possible.

7) Reasons to Dig Deeper - add interest to your site by having a varied approach to content so that the first impression is of a company that has something to say and is worth investigating further.

The first "first impression" is the one you do not even know you are making or when it will happen. Make sure you set your company apart by leaving an impression that keeps them coming back for more.

Beer Goggles Image Credit: Guardian UK

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Topics: industrial marketing, marketing for manufacturing, Top Line Results

How to Grow Your Manufacturing Business with Inbound Marketing

Posted by Todd Hockenberry on Jun 12, 2013 7:21:00 AM

how to grow your manufacturing business

Beetle Plastics, founded in the 1950s, designs and manufactures custom fiberglass pipe, large diameter fiberglass ductwork, fiberglass tanks, fiberglass vessels, other equipment and services relating to fiberglass products.

Beetle Plastics is a subsidiary of Midwest Towers, Inc., a world-class manufacturer of evaporative water cooling towers. Beetle Plastics' operations include its headquarters and plant facilities in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and a nationwide network of sales and representative offices.

As a part of Midwest Towers, it was content for many years supplying the components for cooling tower projects sold by the parent company. President Larry Brown knew the firm needed to branch out and find more direct customers for Beetle Plastics. So when he read an article in Composites magazine about inbound marketing, he was confident that he now had a method to help him do just that.

In early July 2012, Beetle signed up for HubSpot and hired Top Line Results to guide their inbound marketing efforts. The initial goal was simple—work with Beetle professionals assisting them to translate their fiberglass expertise in to web content that would attract high-quality prospects and help to convert them into happy customers.

Our plan was simple, we focused on three keys things:

  1. Optimize the web site for long tail keywords
  2. Create calls to action and landing pages for existing content to drive conversions
  3. Create new content targeting ideal prospects

During the first 30 days of the project we developed keyword sets based on end products, vertical markets, and specific solutions. By using this format, we were able to speak very directly to site visitors. Previously Beetle Plastics, as well as all of their competitors, were using high level, general keywords like:

The end results was that there was significant competition for these keywords as well as no differentiation in the searches. A search for 'fiberglass tanks' would yield results for small tank for animals all the way up to large industrial tanks. By narrowing the keyword focus, we were sure that the quality and quantity of traffic would increase.

Our new keyword sets came out as:

Next, we took existing content bundled it up as valuable downloads and created calls to action, landing pages, and thank you pages. However we were still facing two major obstacles with respect to quantifiable results. Number one, the site was generating a low level of visits and number two, it was not producing any leads.

Potential leads were visiting the site, but very few were converting. This was primarily due to a lack of conversion opportunities. For example, potential customers only were given the option to ‘contact us' or ‘request a quote.' Using existing content, we created an engineering catalog targeting top of the funnel visitors looking for information on using custom fiberglass as a building material.

Finally, we embarked on a multi-faceted, aggressive content creation campaign. The campaign was tailored to address the needs of a variety of vertical industries and a large line of custom solutions. We developed technical stories relating to chemicals and fiberglass resins. Most importantly, we wanted to incorporate the benefits of Beetle’s end products and how fiberglass construction materials and custom products solve difficult industrial problems like chemical handling and storage harsh environments.

The intent was to position Beetle Plastics in the composites fabrication world as a thought leader and progressive thinking company. Content ranged from regular blog posts to case studies to whitepapers.

Our goals for the marketing projects were to:

  • Significantly increase traffic from the <10 visits per day starting point
  • Drive leads from ideal target prospects
  • Increase the credibility of Beetle Plastics and assist in driving leads through the buying process
  • Contribute to a significant increase in sales

After almost one year the results are clear:

growing your manufacturing business

 

Credibility can be tough to measure, but in August of 2012 Beetle Plastics landed a very large project from a South American firm and using HubSpot we were able to see how often the engineers and decision makers from this company were using and interacting with the web site.  "Our salespeople closed the business but our web site was certainly a huge help in building our case and enhancing our credibility with the customer and in winning the business" says Mr. Brown.

Beetle Plastics' use of inbound marketing is steadily expanding their reach into end users of fiberglass products and, more importantly, engineering and design firms that design, specify, and oversee construction materials purchase and large construction projects. "We are opening doors for our engineers and team of experts that traditional sales approaches would not open. By focusing on the builders' needs and solutions they are looking for, we are more often seen as the experts in our field and are being sought out as the expert. Our solution-based content is very attractive to our target engineer prospect and our website and the inbound marketing methodology give us the tools to be there when they are looking online" says Mr. Brown.

Was the investment worth it?  

"We grew Beetle Plastics by over 20% since we started our inbound marketing project and we feel like we are just getting started," states Mr. Brown.

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Topics: industrial marketing, marketing for manufacturing, Top Line Results

How Landing Pages Get Salespeople Interested in Inbound Marketing

Posted by Todd Hockenberry on Jan 13, 2013 7:03:00 AM

In my last post, I talked about how to convince your salespeople to help you create content for inbound marketing by showing them that they are already creating engaging content every day. The deep connections between salespeople and prospects mean that salespeople are often the best people to understand what messages resonate with customers and what questions customers want answered. Once you've gotten great content out of salespeople, your next step is delivering that content in the best way possible.

Create Highly Focused Customer Centric Content

The content that salespeople create is highly customer-focused and has great potential to convert into prospects. However, when customer-focused content is paired with interesting calls to action and landing pages then you see those prospects become leads. Landing pages themselves may not interest salespeople that much but what comes from them certainly does. The formula is simple — the sales team helps create the right content for target prospects. Calls to action and landing pages bring in what the sales team needs — qualified leads.

The job of a landing page is, at its simplest, to connect content with visitors and convert them to leads. However, a landing page can do a lot more than deliver some well-crafted content to the right audience. If salespeople are helping shape and craft excellent content that is being released through a landing page created by someone in marketing, the landing page then serves as a point of connection between the sales team and the marketing team. Landing pages can also be leveraged to drive traffic from a site, or part of a site, that was generating little or no traffic before.

Increase Incoming Leads Quickly

For example, one of my clients had the fairly standard "Contact Us" form on a simple landing page. There isn't anything wrong with a Contact Us page, but in this client's case that form wasn't creating any leads for them. We came in and took some of the content already on their site, made it into downloadable content, attached the content to landing pages, and then added calls to action across their site. Adding landing pages as gate keepers to content that was already there resulted in a lot of leads very quickly. This client increased leads per month from the website from 0 to over 60 just by adding a few basic offers and landing pages to the site.

manufacturing marketing

Not all landing pages are created equal, however. To get the most out of a landing page you should shape them around the same kinds of customer-centered thinking that drives good content. Great content is driven by a persona and is focused on their issues, needs, interests, and problems. The landing page that you build in front of that content should be just as shaped by that persona as the content itself was.

Qualify, Qualify, Qualify Those Leads

Having targeted landing pages in front of your customer-focused content is how you create leads that are more qualified. Qualified leads, in turn, allow salespeople to follow up at a much higher level. This is why it is so important to understand your target persona and to create the best, most focused content for them.

Beyond that, however, the form on your landing page represents an amazing tool for lead segmentation. You have a great piece of content that prospects want to get to, so make them answer a few basic questions first. By adding a few segmenting questions into your landing page form, you can get your leads to self-qualify and help drive them further into the sales funnel. Ask them what their job title is, what their biggest problem is, what their main goal is, budget, when they need a solution – be creative and see if you can actually interest the prospect because you're asking the same questions they are asking themselves. The more answers you get, the better the lead is qualified. Now sales can start the conversation at a much higher level.

One of our clients grew their business 86% in the first year of working with us. They generated this significant increase while doing fewer proposals than the previous year. This was a big deal because they are a small company and doing a proposal is a big time investment. By segmenting leads using landing pages they were able to sort the best leads from the top of the funnel inquiries and spend their time closing sales, not writing proposals.

I love this success story because it reminds me of something one of my first sales bosses said to me. He asked me how things were going and I responded with something like “I am doing great, I did 14 quotes and made 43 calls.” His response? “We don’t sell quotes here, son.”

Landing Pages For Testing Ideas

Finally, landing pages are a great way for sales people to test the interest in a given market for a new offering or to test new positioning for a product/service. If the idea behind the call to action and landing page converts, then sales can assume that the offer has some legs. A landing page is a very easy, inexpensive way to perform a litmus test that tells sales whether or not they should promote a new idea in their direct calls and selling.

One of the ways we have used this technique to test the waters for a client was to offer engineering documents (drawings, specifications, test results) on landing pages to see who would convert and download them. My client had purchased a series of product lines and did not know everyone who had previously purchased the products. These old customers found the landing pages and converted. Sales now had a reason to talk to these leads and an insight into their business. The leads that converted showed that there was interest and demand for after sale support and proved that these documents could be used to attract new contacts previously unknown to sales. The conversions on our test landing pages put sales into a position to deliver more value and make more sales.

Creating great content is always going to be the first step, but putting time and effort into landing pages is essential. What's more, the time and effort you put into landing pages pays serious dividends. Whether you need to do some quick market research for a new product, better qualify your leads, or leverage your website to bring in leads, landing pages can be serious work horses in your inbound marketing campaign.

About the Author: Todd Hockenberry is the founder of Top Line Results, an inbound marketing agency that specializes in leading top line revenue growth at small and medium-sized companies with a focus on manufacturing, technology and capital equipment.

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Topics: landing pages, business to business lead generation, business advice, marketing for manufacturing, Top Line Results

Manufacturing Marketing Ideas for Advancing Manufacturing Technology

Posted by Todd Hockenberry on Nov 20, 2012 7:47:00 AM

Manufacturing is getting a lot of attention in this political season. One of the few things both sides of the aisle can agree on is that everyone wants to see the number of manufacturing jobs increase, either new jobs or returning jobs from overseas. But with all of this focus on manufacturing, very few people seem to be talking about inbound marketing for manufacturing.

This baffles me. Inbound marketing offers a new way to think about publicizing new technologies and engaging potential beneficiaries of those technologies in productive conversations.

Inbound marketing can be used to market emerging technologies and increase awareness and adoption of those new technologies. Most of our clients are in the manufacturing industry and we've noticed a few key areas we consistently address to start these companies on the road to successful inbound marketing campaigns.

Thinking like a marketer and not just a manufacturer

Thinking like a marketer puts you in the shoes of your ideal customer. The mindset is much like an engineer designing a feature in a product that solves a particular problem. The key is in translating that technical, product, problem-solving thinking into content for your marketing efforts. The benefits the customer receives are the fuel for your marketing. Manufacturers tend to think in terms of features and specifications and not in terms of the results the customer receives from the benefits.

For example, producing a top notch product may be what you think seals the deal on sales, but it isn't usually enough in and of itself. You need to be able to attract leads first before you can dazzle them with an amazing product. If your competition is offering a lesser product but are highly visible in the market, they are going to keep getting sales that your superior product could have landed. When you market the benefits of your product using stories, case studies, testimonials, and industry information you give your company and sales team a much better chance of being heard.

Website – not a catalog but a community

When a manufacturer has built a "catalog website", it usually means they are thinking like a  manufacturer and not a marketer. Listing products and descriptions, maybe throwing in a picture or two, speaks to the manufacturing side of the business but leaves the marketing side lacking. If you want your website to attract leads you need to have more on it than your catalog.

Your website should help you start the sales process by attracting prospects and showing them that your product or service is targeted to them, helps them solve their problems, and delivers the proof that you should be taken seriously.

A good website is a community with forums for interaction between you and your prospects and customers, and offers interesting and relevant information they want to download. Manufacturing is full of highly intelligent people with specialized knowledge and your goal should be to build a website that showcases that knowledge.

Social Media – create interest and ongoing engagement


Social media might not seem like it's designed for manufacturing, but there is a place for it in your marketing mix. Manufacturers should not expect millions of followers, but for those people who are interested in manufacturing and technology, social media outlets provide fertile ground for researching new companies, products, and processes. Social media is a great way to easily share industry news and articles and to open up a dialogue with potential leads.

Cool stuff like the 3D printing in this video are ripe for sharing and driving traffic to your site and in generating interest in your company.

Reaching just a few influential prospects or industry experts will make your social media efforts worth the effort.

Email – outreach and information

Email is another great marketing tool for keeping interest and engagement up. With all of the tools that are available now, it's very easy to create multiple versions of an email specifically targeted at different segments of your email list. This gives companies a great opportunity for introducing new products, technologies, and offers in the best way possible to the people that want to consume information targeted to their stated needs.

Manufacturing companies tend to have long buying cycles so using timed and automated lead nurturing campaigns to stay in touch with prospects throughout the buying cycle helps keep your company top of mind and gives the prospect a chance to stay engaged when they may have tuned your sales people and overt sales pitches out. Many manufacturing sales have a dead space in the buying process between initial and option research and final specification determination. Lead nurturing using email can keep you in front of prospects when they will not take your salespeople’s calls.

Inbound marketing isn't going to magically fix the economy, but the more sales manufacturers can land the more people they can hire and that's good news for everyone.

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About the Author: Todd Hockenberry is the founder of Top Line Results, an inbound marketing agency that specializes in leading top line revenue growth at small and medium-sized companies with a focus on manufacturing, technology and capital equipment.

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Topics: small business marketing, marketing for manufacturing, Top Line Results

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