We’ve touched on lead generation in the past, but we’ve not actually nailed down what it looks like for manufacturing businesses. Lead generation is a key part of the interaction and overlap between your marketing and your sales activity, but it can also be a seriously misunderstood part of your business process. This week we explain lead generation, and give you some guidance on how your business can generate sales leads...
You’re great at what you do. Your pricing is right. Your customer service is second to none. And your sales force is so good they could sell five pound notes for a tenner each.
None of that is going to do you any favours unless you have a queue of people eager to do business with you. That’s where lead generation comes in. In this article we’ll think about what lead generation is and explore ways that you can generate leads for your business.
What Are Leads?
A lead is a person or business that might be interested in what you’re selling and want to buy it. Lead generation identifies these people and businesses. This means that you can target your sales and marketing activity with laser-like precision and not waste time and resources trying to sell your capabilities to someone who will never want them no matter how good they are.
Leads can be categorised in a few ways, one way to categorise them is as cold leads and warm leads. Here’s how you go about generating leads for your manufacturing business.
First Up: Cold Lead Generation
A cold lead is a person or business who you think might be interested in your services and capabilities. Cold lead generation is building a list these businesses and their contact details.
You can actually buy lists of leads off the shelf, but it’s easy enough to build your own. Let’s say you manufacture a niche product like bearings for industrial fans. It’s likely that industrial fan manufacturers are going to be interested in your product (obviously!), so grab yourself a coffee and sit down in front of Google for an hour and start searching for them. It’s as simple as that, really!
That’ll get you a list of industrial fan manufacturers, but that’s not going to win you too many prizes unless you have the name of the person in each company who’s responsible for making the purchasing decisions. Once you’ve got your list, call each business to find out the name, phone number and email address of the person that you need to be contacting.
This isn’t easy, at all! It takes patience, and in some cases, a thick skin. You can actually outsource this piece of work if you aren’t too comfortable doing it yourself.
This type of lead generation is really putting yourself out there, and the likelihood of rejection is high. Your timing may be wrong, you may speak to the wrong person, there may even be a policy against handing out emails and names in some businesses. A few of these leads may come off, and it’s these few that make cold lead generation worthwhile.
However, a bout of trying to generate leads from nothing but icy coldness may leave you seeking a bit of warmth. Next up, a trip to those warmer climates of lead generation…
Time for Warmer Climates: Warm Lead Generation
A warm lead is different because with a warm lead, the person or businesses has already shown an interest in your capabilities even if they haven’t yet placed an order. Whereas you have to chase after cold leads, it’s the other way round with warm leads - they approach you.
Clearly warm leads are more valuable to you than cold leads. They’re fishes that are already on the hook and all you need to do is to land them. So how do you generate warm leads?
The best warm leads are existing customers or referrals from existing customers because they already know how good your product is. However, you’re going to need more leads that that will yield to sustain or grow your business.
Traditionally, you’d have generated warm leads via:
Those are fairly arms length interactions with your potential leads and you have limited control over the interactions. The good news is that now we’re in the digital age you’re able to have much closer interactions with potential customers.
Generating Warm Leads Online
Online is where most leads and potential customers will first interact with your business, the buying journey very much starts online these days. So you need to think about your online presence. And as we’ve said before, you need to do a bit more than simply throw a website together, it’s about presence and prominence (being visible in the right places).
Capturing contact information from these stealth visitors is a challenge. One way to get this information from people who visit your website is to offer them a lead magnet. What’s a lead magnet?! We’ve talked about lead magnets before. They’re an excellent way to generate leads and capture contact information. Once they’re set up, they generate leads for you automatically, without any further effort from you! (now that sounds better than all that cold calling!)
Essentially, a lead magnet is a bribe that persuades website visitors to give you some information about themselves. They take a number of forms, including:
Basically, if there’s a piece of content that you think your customer will find valuable, they’ll be happy to swap their contact information for access to it.
But there’s more to having an online presence than simply having a website. If you’re interested in improving your online presence, check out our series of 10 minute online presence boosters. In a crowded market you can often make much better use of your time exploring other options rather than chasing the top spot in Google searches.
Capability Awareness Generates Warm Leads
Social media such as LinkedIn or Twitter can work well to generate awareness of your manufacturing business and it’s capabilities. Don’t do the hard sell thing because that will most definitely put prospects off. Persuade people that you’re the expert in your field and that you have an interesting perspective. Then, when they have problems, or a requirement for your capabilities you’ll be at the front of their minds, ready to pick up the lead!
You can set up your own group and invite people to join it, however it’s quite a challenge to build an active group. An easier option would be to join existing Linkedin groups and network with those groups’ members. Contributing to a group discussion only costs you time, but your time can all add up.
Of course you should include Manufacturing Network at the top of your capability awareness mission (I’m biased, but I’m also right!). We’re a platform designed specifically for UK Manufacturers to market their manufacturing capability and generate warm leads who are seeking your specific blend of capabilities. Find out more about how you can boost the power of your online marketing with a Manufacturing Network Business Mini-site.
Remember that you should capture as much information for each lead as you can so you can contact them in a personalised manner, speaking to their exact needs. Leads are the fuel that goes into your marketing funnel to keep your business running sustainably. It’s a process you need to build, refine and Kick Ass at!
There are numerous ways to undertake lead generation. We’ve outlined some in this article but there are loads of other ways you can generate leads.
Warm leads are better than cold leads, but any lead is better than no leads. The more leads you have, the more opportunities you have to make the sales you need to keep your business thriving.
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Ashley is our resident Engineering Marketer. Passionate about everything Engineering, Innovative and Creative, his mission is to get UK Manufacturers online and growing.
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