At a recent SyncShow hosted event, a question arose from the CEO of a manufacturing company in the group who asked, “We are getting a great deal of website leads, but how do we turn them into orders?”
This question caused me to reflect on experiences throughout my career in the manufacturing space. I quickly confirmed that actually generating new customers from their initial point of interest in your product or service has been a challenge for manufacturing companies long before the Internet age.
Turning “Barking Dogs” into Real Customers
The memories of numerous 8-10 hour days spent working trade shows on cement exhibit hall floors immediately came to my mind. The only thing that made my aching feet feel any relief was the excitement that manifested from the large volume of booth visitors who expressed interest in my products. Any anxiety over pending quota requirements went away as I had more leads than I could handle. All seemed ready to sign a PO on the spot. My immediate post-show belief was that, “It’s going to be a great year!”
Well, to my chagrin, most of these opportunities never materialized. After a trip to the orthopedic shoe store, I was left looking forward to the next trade show to reach this state of euphoria once again. Leading me to ask a slightly different question from my own experience, "How can I turn these barking dogs into real sales?" I ultimately solved this dilemma once I discovered the ability to effectively escalate and scale my sales efforts by leveraging digital marketing strategies.
As my career progressed, I came to realize that certain “truths” have been evident since the dawn of sales (other than aching feet). Whether it involves attendees at a trade show booth or visitors to your website, the following realizations support enhancing your efforts for converting leads to new customers:
Be in the Right Place at the Right Time
If trade show visitors are in search of a solution, they must be able to find your booth. The same holds true for your website. A recent study of the industrial/manufacturing sector (GlobalSpec) identified that “86% of industrial professionals utilize search engines to find components, equipment, services, and suppliers”. GlobalSpec also reported that social media content strategies are becoming a more important element with “61 percent of industrial professionals using social media sites to keep abreast of the latest company, product and technology news.” Implementing effective search engine marketing and social media content strategies supports visibility and brand awareness for potential customers.
Offer a Timely Response and Identify Needs
I remember many instances when the activity in my trade show booth went from zero activity to a flurry of qualified prospects in just minutes. Greeting every prospect, let alone gauging their interest level, was impossible. When properly set up, your website offers a great vehicle for providing a timely response to interested parties. Replicate trade show booth introductions on your website via appropriately placed calls-to-action aligned with helpful next steps for requesting more information or contact with a sales rep. Corresponding website forms with needs-based question fields allow you to capture initial subject matter interest.
Once the prospective customer requests information (and provides their email), you can initiate the dialog through an instantaneous (automated) response. Historical sales process information and website analytics (consumption) data helps to dictate the supplemental content provided in these messages. By utilizing marketing automation software, you can begin building a profile of this individual’s digital behavior to support subsequent messaging and needs refined to their behavior.
Maintain Ongoing (Relevant) Conversations
Over the early trade show years, my inability to maintain a meaningful ongoing dialog with the vast amount of trade show visitors was probably the single biggest reason why I could not transition initial interest to actual customers. All of the typical excuses come to mind such as time constraints, higher priority activities taking precedent, etc...
However, through this experience I learned that these “hot prospects” were probably not ready to “sign a PO on the spot” at all. The majority were in the early stages of the buying process and required a nurturing strategy to keep my name in front of them until they were ready to commit to receiving a proposal.
As mentioned earlier, today’s marketing automation software allows you to begin developing an individual’s digital footprint from their initial point of interest in your products and services. The software allows you to track and store engagement activity resulting from ongoing email communication and website content consumption. This data is often integrated into existing CRM software and leveraged as sales intelligence to support direct communication. It also assists with the creation of relevant messaging for automated email nurturing campaigns moving forward.
Leveraging the digital sales and marketing resources presently available provided for a streamlined, scalable sales process. This approach ultimately resulted in the complete alleviation of my “barking dogs” and led to the unprecedented transition of numerous leads into more real customers.
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