Tim Stobierski
Written By
Tim Stobierski

In the manufacturing industry, if you work in sales then you want one thing: To close more deals, hit your quota, and earn a nice, juicy commission—maybe even a bonus. When you’ve got a list of high-quality leads to pursue, this relatively easy. But how do you generate that list of leads to begin with?

Being able to generate high-quality leads is one of the most important parts of any sales process, and most successful manufacturing companies will build their sales process around a lead generation strategy that prioritizes attracting and identifying those high-quality leads. Unfortunately, without such a framework, manufacturing sales teams tend to fall back on strategies like cold calling that just don’t work anymore in today’s world.

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If you’re spending your days cold calling and getting nowhere fast, it’s easy to be frustrated. The good news is that there’s a better way. By taking the time to generate high-quality leads, you can dramatically boost your ability to close more deals in less time and make more money.

Without further ado, here are 10 ways that you can generate leads for your manufacturing business.

1. Leverage your existing customers/clients

There are plenty of ways that you can leverage your existing clients or customers to drum up new business. The most basic of these is to see if they want to upgrade or expand their relationship with you (hopefully you’re already working this angle on a yearly or quarterly basis).

But beyond that, existing clients can be a goldmine for bringing in brand new work. If you have a strong and friendly relationship with a client, you should leverage that relationship. Ask them if they know of any other, similar companies that are looking for services that you offer, or if they’ve got contacts elsewhere—at past employers, for example—that they’d be willing to share.

You can also leverage existing clients by asking for testimonials which you can use throughout your marketing and sales process: On your website, on landing pages, in newsletters and brochures. Even reviews on Yelp can go far in establishing your brand as one that can be trusted. Once that trust is established, it’s much easier to make a pitch and close a sale.

2. Speak at industry events

One of the best ways that you can get your company name in front of a targeted audience is to attend the industry events that your ideal customers are attending. If you target the supply chain and logistics space, some of the big conferences you should consider are Modex, Promat, and Operations Summit. But you can’t just attend and set up a booth: You’ve got to show them that you know your stuff.

The best way to do this is to sign up to give a lecture or presentation (as most industry conferences aim to facilitate). Doing so allows you to accomplish a number of things. You can:

  • Demonstrate your expertise
  • Provide value to prospective buyers (in the form of information)
  • Begin developing trust
  • Potentially set up meetings with interested parties for after the lecture

Even if you don’t walk away from a lecture or talk with leads in hand, participating in events like this allow you to establish your company and your own personal brand as a subject matter expert. Plus, the presentation could very easily be converted into content that you can place on your website to attract potential buyers. Which brings us to the next point…

3. Start blogging

If your company has a website (and lets be real, almost every company does at this point) then you should be leveraging that website to attract potential clients and customers. And the best way for you to do that is to create valuable content that answers the questions your buyers are asking. This content can, and should, take many forms. But the most basic of these forms is blogging.

Quality blogging begins by conducting keyword research so that you know the terms your ideal customer uses when they turn to Google with a question. Once you know the words they use, you can write content that is optimized to appear in search results.

Though, yes, your overall website should be built off of these same principles, blogging enables you to rank for a broader range of keywords. That helps you get in front of even more people, answer even more of your buyers’ questions, and build even more trust as a subject matter expert—making it even more likely that a visitor to your website will convert into a customer.

4. Make sure your website is optimized to convert

For a blog to achieve its purpose of generating quality leads, though, you’ve got to ensure that your website is optimized in such a way that encourages people to convert. This can be achieved in a number of ways, but the most important are:

  • Ensuring that your content is accurate, complete, and up to date
  • Placing calls-to-action (CTAs) throughout your website encouraging visitors to your website to take the next step—sign up for a newsletter, download an ebook, register for a webinar, request a consultation
  • Utilizing forms to capture data about your visitors that will then become your list of leads
  • Analyzing performance to determine what’s working and what isn’t

Once your website begins to generate leads, it’s crucial that you actually follow up with the leads that are generated—and the faster the better. According to the Harvard Business Review, companies that follow up with their leads within an hour are almost 7 times more likely to have a meaningful conversation than those who wait longer.

5. Offer free assessments, consultations, or scorecards

Offering free assessments, consultations, and scorecards to visitors to your website accomplishes a few things. For starters, if helps you establish trust with your prospect because you are providing them with your time and expertise. But beyond this, it can help you create a sleeper agent within the company you’re pursuing.

By offering your prospects a free assessment, grade, or scorecard that pinpoints a business weakness that accurately sums up why they should be working with you, you’re giving them the ammo they need to build the case internally within their organization. This allows them to champion your manufacturing company in a way that you never could: From the inside.

Remember, if you’re the one that helped them identify a certain pain-point or business challenge, you increase the chances that you’ll be the one they turn to to help solve it.

6. Reengage old clients and lost opportunities

As all sales people know, sometimes you can get far down the sales path only to lose a deal at the last moment. Maybe the prospect decided to go with a competitor. Maybe they hit a rough patch financially and needed to shelf their expansion plans. Maybe they merged with another operation and needed to work out some kinks before embarking on a new project with you.

Whatever the case may be, stalled deals and lost opportunities are common in the world of sales. And though they sting in the moment, they can and often do become profitable in the future.

Every so often, you would do well to check in with your lost opportunities. If they decided to go with a competitor, ask them if they’re happy. If they had been going through a rough patch, ask them if it is settled. If they’ve merged, ask if there are new opportunities. Just because someone wasn’t a fit in the past doesn’t mean they still aren’t now.

If you’ve got old clients that decided to leave you in the past, you should consider reaching out to them as well. Find out how things have evolved since you last spoke. If there isn’t an opportunity for new business, you can always ask if they know someone else who might have a need.

7. Communicate with your customers the way they want you to

Sales people are no longer the gatekeepers of knowledge that they once were. Customers are now more informed and have easier access to information about not only your company, and services, but also those of your competitors. All of this information gives the buyer a tremendous amount of power to tune out unwanted calls, emails, and advertisements—the standard tools in a sales person’s toolbox.

With that newfound power, customers are controlling more and more of how they communicate with businesses. One way in which they’re flexing this muscle is by demanding that businesses abandon the typical phone and email tactics for more modern forms of communication: Through social media, for example, and on-site live chat.

Will either of these methods ever completely replace phone calls and email? Probably not, but only time will tell. That being said, businesses will undoubtedly benefit by ensuring that their customers can reach them in the most convenient ways possible. In addition to giving the customer a sense of control (helping them to lower their guard), this also just makes sense: If your customer spends a good portion of their time on social, why would you force them to call you to ask a question? If a customer is already on your website and has a question, why would you make them submit a form to ask the question when, through live chat, you could easily answer their question immediately and possibly close a sale?

8. Keep track of your cheerleaders

If one thing is true from business to business and from industry to industry, it’s this: People move around. They go from one company to another, from state to state, and even from country to country.

While this can be a negative for you as a seller (since, if your point of contact at a company leaves, that means you may have to build a brand new relationship with a new employee that works for your client) it can also be a major asset, especially if we’re talking about someone who loves your service or product.

Simply put, employees that move around can be your foot in the door at countless new companies. They can become emissaries of sort, funneling you business and contacts as they land in new positions. When you find yourself a cheerleader, you’ve got to keep track of them, even if they no longer work for your client.

9. Stay on top of industry news

If you work in manufacturing sales, then you’ve got to make sure you’re keyed into the news that’s important to the industry, for a number of reasons. For starters, it ensures that you’re always knowledgeable if a client or prospect asks about something. But it can also be a great way to pick up leads.

Press releases, manufacturing industry magazines, and other publications can all offer you insight into what companies are actively looking to buy, expand, or build. Common trigger events that might indicate a prospect is either in, or will soon be in an active buying cycle include:

  • New executive hires, or significant role changes
  • Press release announcing funding or a new facility
  • Social media post by a potential buyer related to your company’s value proposition
  • A mention of a competitor on social media
  • A cold lead revisits your website after months of inactivity

By being aware of these buying signals or trigger events, you can begin doing some research to decide whether or not that company would be a good fit for your services. If they are, you should make sure they’re at the top of your list.

10. Consider account-based marketing

Sometimes, you’ll find that there is a company that is such a perfect match for your product or services that you know you need to prioritize them. For example, if you work in order fulfillment and you learn that Amazon is thinking about opening a warehouse in your state or region, landing that contract could propel your business to new heights.

In situations like these, you may find that account-based marketing can help you get your foot in the door and close a deal. With account-based marketing, you’re rolling out the red carpet for targeted accounts that you deem to be high priority. These accounts should only represent a small subset of your total target market: The companies that could have a significant boost on your business.

Though the exact strategy you follow will depend on the intricacies of your business and your target, common plays out of the account-based marketing playbook include:

  • Holding special events (dinner, entertainment, etc.) for your targeted accounts
  • Following up with them more often and staying more active as they go through the decision-making process
  • Sending them interesting, eye-catching direct mail that goes beyond the typical postcard or brochure that you send to all of your other leads
  • Creating company-specific ads, blog posts, landing pages, emails, video, and other content to help you influence your targeted account

Your Buyers Have Changed, You Should Too

If you work in the manufacturing space, then you know just how important it is to have high-quality leads to pursue. If you don’t, then you’re undoubtedly turning to tired tactics like cold calling that just don’t work anymore. By incorporating the strategies outlined above into your sales plan, you can dramatically increase your odds of closing high-value deals.

Once you have identified these leads, you can continue building trust by delivering automated lead nurturing emails that deliver additional value and warm them up until they ask to speak with you. This approach, called Inbound Marketing, is a powerful way to generate a pipeline full of educated, good-fit inbound leads who know, like and trust you.
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