Content marketing starts with great content. So if you're building a new website for your company, you might write a couple of content pieces about your latest machine, tool, or manufacturing process and think you're ready to go.
If you've got a great digital asset, like an eBook, whitepaper, or quote form that will help capture email addresses, great. But you'll need to engage in nurturing those leads and prospects long after you've received their contact details.
Lead Nurturing for Long Sales Cycles
In lines of business where long sales cycles are common, lead generation and nurturing is crucial. If you're selling equipment that requires your customers to make a large capital investment, timing is everything. If there isn't a plan in their budget for a large capital investment you may have to wait until the next fiscal planning period.
This is where lead nurturing comes in. If you devise a tactful way to continue to keep your prospects warm and your brand top-of-mind, you’ll be able to close the sale when the client is ready.
While marketing automation is critical, don't forget the human touch as well. A great recipe is a good balance of well-timed lead nurturing emails and offers combined with an occasional personal follow-up.
Automated Drip Campaigns for Manufacturing Leads
The foundation of your lead nurturing plan should be rooted in email. Yes, email. It might be hard to believe, but people spend a lot of time and energy consuming and responding to emails. If you create a strong set of automated emails that will go out at timed intervals, your leads will be thinking about you and your brand will be top of mind.
Email drip campaigns are a series of predefined emails. These emails are sent to a lead in a logical order. The ultimate goal of these emails is to slowly convert your sales leads into paying customers. The art and science of building these campaigns has a lot to do with both your industry and the length of the sales cycle for the product or service you'd like to promote.
When compiling your list of emails and putting them in a logical order, remember the concept of the sales funnel and path to purchase. Top-of-funnel, or initial touch emails, should focus on awareness. Bottom-of-funnel, or communications late in the campaign, should speak to consideration and the tangible benefits of your products or services.
Great Lead Nurturing Email Content
Here are some rules of thumb about the types of emails you want to send.
- Encourage the lead to complete a single action or goal.
- Keep them short, longer is not necessarily better.
- Make sure it adds value for the lead.
- Time the emails at a pace that makes sense for BOTH of your sale cycles.
Example Lead Nurturing Campaign for Manufacturing
The best way to explain lead nurturing is to use an example.
Say you work for a company that makes machinery to support a manufacturing process. Your team builds a specialized corrugate box sealer called the Box-O-Matic 120 that sells for $30,000. The sales cycle is about nine months. You and your team are tasked with creating a lead nurturing campaign.
Potential leads are added to your email campaign after leads provide their email address when downloading a product guide on your company’s website.
In devising a plan, you put together a list of emails that will provide value to the customer. The plot line of the emails starts at an awareness sales funnel state and builds towards getting asked for a quote for the machine.
To achieve this goal, your simplified plan includes a 6-step email marketing campaign.
Example List of Campaign Email Subject Lines
- Thanks for Downloading our Product Guide, Find out More Here.
- Latest in Packaging Trends
- Tips for Automating Your Packing Process
- How to Calculate ROI for a Case Sealer
- Webinar on the Box-O-Matic 120 Corrugate Sealer
- Get a Quote for a Box-O-Matic Case Sealer
Given the typical sales cycle, you space these emails at 2-4 week intervals.
Before running the campaign, you polish your emails and make sure each email has a clear call to action. Once your email content is ready to go you'll load it up in your marketing automation tool. (If you're looking for a marketing automation tool, check out this marketing automation post here.)
Monitoring and Adjusting A Live Email Campaign
Once you've got your drip campaign turned on, don't forget to monitor it. As much as some of the software companies would like to tell you to "set it and forget it," the reality is your automation workflow is communicating with humans, and humans aren’t something you can predict. By watching things like email open rates, click-through-rates (CTR), and actions taken on your website as a result of your emails, you can make adjustments to your campaign to achieve greater impact.
Make sure to plan for a period of refinement. This tweaking process is not so much about a specific timeframe but rather about having a significant number of leads running through your entire campaign so you can optimize things for best results.
Sales is All About People, Don't Forget the Human Side of Things
"I talk to the customers so the engineers don't have too!" That’s a memorable line from the cult classic 90s movie, Office Space.
But this is not the 90s, and in all likelihood, your sales team, or pre-sales engineers, are going to have to talk to the customer. While the marketing automation process is an important part of growing your business, it can’t be the only source of customer communication.
To combat this potential pitfall, think about where along the lead nurturing process it would make sense for a member of your sales staff to reach out to the customer with a personal phone call. This traditional 7 step sales process, supported by lead nurturing, is likely to close your deal.
Don't Let the Sale Be the End of Your Campaign!
For most manufacturing and heavy equipment sales, the delivery of the product to the customer is just the start of the relationship. Maintenance, service, parts, and add-ons are all important offers to deepen the relationship with your new customer. Often the highest margin for businesses is the add-on parts that come after the initial sale. These add-ons can occur one, five, and even 10 years down the road depending on the average life of your product. Be smart about setting up campaigns that cater to the individual needs of your customers --- both new and old.
With a strong automated lead nurturing campaign, a great engagement strategy, and consultative selling support from your staff, you'll be on your way to accelerating those leads through your pipeline and closing more business deals.
Until next time, keep on marketing!