The primary goal of lead generation is to engage with as many potential customers as possible to increase odds of closing more deals and increasing revenue. It follows that those potential customers need to be vetted to see if they are well-suited to your manufacturing process or that your product meets their need. And that’s where marketing comes in: identifying who those potential leads are and getting your message to them in a way that resonates.
Today there are more ways than ever to reach potential customers, but they generally fall into two categories: inbound and outbound marketing. They’re both effective ways to generate qualified leads but they’re quite different approaches. Here’s a quick review of the difference between inbound and outbound marketing.
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing draws people to you and usually that’s accomplished with online content. Examples of content that is powerful in manufacturing and industry are:
Your social media posts
Technical eBooks and white papers
Downloadable “assets” like an ROI calculator or planning tool
Spec sheets and technical drawings
Inbound marketing is somewhat indirect since you’re not contacting people on a one-to-one basis with content. Instead, it lives on your site (or your LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, or if you’re lucky, linked as a reference on an industry directory or trade magazine website) waiting for people to find it.
Is our content “findable”? And is it worth finding?
You might wonder how these potential customers will know your content is there, and that’s where the idea of being “findable” comes in. Internet searches (ok, predominantly Google searches) are how most people find information and engineers, buyers, and other decision makers are very likely to research industrial and manufacturing products and services that way too. But your content has to be close enough to the top of the results list that people will see it (be honest – when was the last time you clicked through all 25 pages of search results about anything?). This is known as your search ranking and your goal with inbound marketing is to maximize it. A great approach for this is to develop content that uses common keyword search terms strategically for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which we’ve discussed on our blog before.
Just be sure that when people click the link to your content that they’ll actually find relevant and useful information, not just a bunch of search terms stitched together into blocks of text. Do this by writing content that targets the people you most want to read it: the same engineers, buyers, and decision makers mentioned above. Anticipate their questions and answer them, explain common misconceptions about your manufacturing process, and give them technical information. For example, it’s far more helpful to show how your automated drilling equipment solves their throughput problems or how and why your sensors speed up quality inspections than just the mere fact that they exist. Helpful information is what brings visitors back to your site again and again.
Who’s finding us online?
You’ve created interesting and detailed content that readers find helpful, you’ve put it online, and now you want to know if it’s working to draw people in and, more importantly, who those people are. Marketing automation tools, like Hubspot and others, help you create content and host it on your site, They also keep track of who’s opening your emails, clicking links, reposting your social media posts, downloading documents, and more. Tools like Google Analytics and visitor identification software can help you get a picture of your visitors, and some can even trace the visiting IP addresses to a company.
The reality is you’ll never identify every visitor and get their contact information, but you can use all of your analytical tools to determine which pages and topics perform best (i.e. which are most popular or get the most comments or downloads) so you can create more on those topics or fill in gaps.
You can further this process by creating content compelling and valuable enough that visitors will be willing to give up some information to read or view it: email address to subscribe to your new blog notifications., the more you segment and identify most important personas the more you can tailor content to them, and more likely they are to provide info to interact with it. also entice people to provide some personal information with the promise of value-added content. for example, complete form with phone number and company name in order to download the exclusive worksheet or calculator that goes with your new eBook.
Just make sure you don’t overdo it with this kind of “gated” content. It’s wise to provide some valuable information without asking for anything in return because it builds trust and shows you want to educate people about your industry and your expertise, not just get their contact info.
What is outbound marketing?
Outbound marketing involves direct outreach to individual companies or people in your target audience who may or may not already be aware of what your company offers. Examples include:
webinars and in-person workshops
trade shows and professional conferences
calling campaigns (a.k.a. telephonic outreach)
Each of these requires doing some background market research to determine who to contact and what to say to them in your campaign. It’s critical to have a strategy and pinpoint things like target industries, their biggest challenges that you can address, and job titles and roles relevant to what you provide (e.g. plant engineer, purchasing agent, parts manager, etc.). You’ll also need to obtain contact information for calling campaigns.
The most efficient approach is to segment your contacts by industry, company size, geographic location, pain point, and other meaningful categories. This makes it easier to address each segment with a tailored message. It also lets you run a pilot program with a single segment to see what works and what needs fine tuning before scaling up to a large campaign.
While many people do the majority of their research online and take a deep dive into content from blogs and ebooks, most will still need to speak with a representative with questions at some point. Person to person contact remains an effective way to build relationships, which is a big part of attracting and retaining customers.
What about email?
Does email count as inbound or outbound marketing? It has characteristics of both! On the inbound side, email messages contain a written or graphical message that can be consumed at the recipient’s convenience and referenced later, similar to how they consume web content. Often the message is tweaked depending on the target audience. Email can also contain links to online content, webinar invitations, or offers for eBooks or other resources to download – an invitation to further engage with your content. But on the outbound side, email is a direct form of outreach, sent to a specific person at their personal email address based on your market research and segmentation.
What’s Acadia’s take on the matter? It’s more important to build a solid email campaign that resonates with your audiences than it is to worry which category it falls into.
Both inbound and outbound marketing have a role to play in lead generation. By utilizing both strategies you can reach those you’re aware of and those you aren’t. And getting your message out to your industry with multiple channels, you’re using your time and money more efficiently.