inbound-manAs a marketer in an industrial manufacturing field, it can be a challenge to convince your owner or CEO of the benefits of inbound marketing. After all, they say, your customers are serious technical people who don’t use social media or the Internet to shop around like consumers do, right?

This opinion could not be further from the truth. Yes, your customers may be business entities, but these businesses are composed of people who do use the Internet to solve work-related problems. A recent survey from GlobalSpec found that up to 74% of technical professionals use online sources to find components, equipment, services, suppliers, pricing information, and to perform research, throughout all stages of the buying cycle – from needs analysis, through research, to the final purchase. Your manufacturing company can use content marketing strategies to gain a competitive edge by reaching prospects earlier in their buying cycle and accelerating their decision process.

Inbound vs Outbound Marketing: A Tale of Two Prospects

Imagine that you manufacture mixing machines to produce custom color paints. Typically, you rent these machines to your customers and provide service and support. Your sales team goes to a trade show and meets a prospect who is impressed with your system. But this prospect has just signed a two-year contract with a competitor. He will not be ready to re-evaluate this contract for another 18 to 22 months. What can you do? If you only have traditional marketing tools, you can put the prospect on your mailing list and send an outside salesperson to call on them in 18 months. You have a tenuous relationship with this prospect.

Inbound lead nurturing strategies can cultivate this initial contact into a real relationship where the new prospect comes to view your company as a trusted expert and adviser. Through social media connections, blogs, email newsletters, white papers and ebooks, you build an ongoing relationship with your prospects – not with a hard sales pitch, but by keeping in touch with helpful informative content. When your salesperson shares contact info with a prospect at a trade show, they can stay in touch through social media, your blog, personalized email and other highly targeted Internet marketing assets. Many of these assets are automated, so you can build this relationship without a high-pressure sales pitch. Then, when the prospect is ready to buy, she approaches you, the expert that she already trusts.

Just a Google Search Away

In our example, your company meets the prospect through a traditional trade show. However, many businesses that could use your product may not be at the trade show. Imagine that an engineer is sitting at his desk and wondering about how to produce custom color paints for his products. How does he start his research about these custom color-mixing systems? Easy! He searches the Internet. If your company ranks highly for his keyword searches, then he is likely to click on the link that takes him to your website. Using inbound marketing strategies, your blogs and other website content appears in search engine results and attracts more qualified prospects.

Educate and Influence

Once a prospect discovers your website, you can begin to form a relationship. This happens when you provide interesting and informative content about the problems that your prospect is looking to solve. This content should be objective and educational and showcase your company’s expert knowledge of the field. You can do this with a blog, white papers, email newsletters, instructional videos and other content. By providing useful information to your prospects, you help form their opinion about how to solve their problem, slowly guiding them toward the solution that your company provides. Your prospect comes to see your company as a trusted partner, who they want to do business with. This shortens the buying process since both you and your prospect are thinking in the same way.

Strike While the Iron Is Hot

Lead nurturing systems can monitor the behavior of your website visitors and let you know when a prospective customer is interacting with your website in way that indicates this prospect is ready to buy. At this point, the prospective customer has done their research and learned something from your inbound marketing campaigns. This helps warm the lead, who is ready to hear what the salesperson has to say. This shortens the buying process because the salesperson only gets involved when the prospect is ready to buy.

By strategically deploying inbound marketing resources, your company can generate prospects and shorten the buying decision process. These inbound marketing strategies can be used in conjunction with traditional marketing tools in order to win a huge competitive advantage for your company in the marketplace.