The tried-and-true methods of selling are still being tried, but they’re not so true anymore. Plastering social media everywhere and hoping for a response becomes less effective the more everyone does it (and the more algorithms change to boost paid content). It’s becoming impossible to find good on-the-road salespeople. If you’re able to put salespeople on the road, the process is frightfully opaque, as there’s no good way to know exactly what they’re up to.
Just generating more leads is not the solution. According to HubSpot’s 2021 Sales Enablement Report, half of all leads generated are not a good fit for your company. We need new sales methods for manufacturing that can more efficiently target, cultivate, and close more customers. That method is account-based marketing (ABM), and the key to ABM is sales targeting.
Targeted Marketing for Manufacturing
With an account-based approach, you’re not just throwing money at ads and hoping to see a return, or writing blogs just to have some SEO content on the website, or posting on Instagram and waiting to watch the follower count go up. That kind of untargeted marketing leads to lower returns, more time spent trying to convince leads of your value, more competition from companies that might seem more attractive to some leads. You don’t want to waste your time going after every lead. You just want the best leads. How, then, do you find the “best” leads? You start by identifying and then segmenting the market.
Segmenting the Market
Segmentation involves dividing a broad market according to some identifying factors. But first, you need to know what kinds of leads you want to chase. The most precise way to do this is with data, and you already have some valuable data on hand: your current client list. This can become a slow and complex task, but managing complexity of this kind is a lot easier when you have the right team with the right technology at your disposal. Identify the highly satisfied high-sales customers you are already serving and think about what they all have in common.
This is exactly what American Express did in the 90s to grow their business. They identified their high-sales customers—business executives who travel often—and created rewards programs for frequent flier miles and hotel points that would attract more of this type of customer.
Not all of those leads will have the same level of awareness of your company, so you won’t be able to reach out to them all in the same way. It’s the difference between asking for a bite of your spouse’s sandwich vs. asking for a bite of an acquaintance’s sandwich. One will take no convincing at all, while the other should be approached carefully. So take those leads and segment them into three categories:
- Little or no awareness of your business
- Some awareness of your business
- Much awareness of your business
Since you’ll be making appeals to potential customers at different stages of the buyer’s journey, you’ll have to craft marketing and sales messages that resonate with each segment’s familiarity and relationship with your business.
Crafting Personalized Messages and Solutions
Just because a lead has little awareness of your business doesn’t mean you should write them off as being a poor fit for you. You might be the perfect partner for them—they just don’t know it yet! These low-awareness leads just need to be nurtured. You have to craft messages that move them through the customer journey, from discovery to purchase and beyond. That means making a solid first impression on the low awareness group while getting down to the business of selling with the high awareness group.
Take for example a semiconductor manufacturer who identified its ideal customer and took the time to understand the traits their highest-value customers have in common. In the process, they learned more about distributors’ capabilities and motivations, two vital components of a successful manufacturer-distributor relationship, according to this McKinsey report. They then zeroed in on a few potential customers who were most similar to their ideal customer: distributors that can help with demand creation and that have global connections in the medical device industry.
One of the companies on the manufacturer’s shortlist had attended a webinar hosted by the manufacturer in the past. They go into the “high awareness” category. The others have never interacted with the manufacturer and are put into the “low awareness” campaign, which consists of a series of introductory emails. Those emails have nothing to do with sales and do not end with a call to action asking the receiver to book a meeting with a salesperson. Instead, they introduce the company, with a little bit about what they do and what their values are.
This is the power of sales targeting as a sales method for manufacturing: sending the same email to high-awareness leads as low-awareness leads will likely either feel too aggressive for low-awareness leads or leave high-awareness leads asking, “I already know who you are, so what?” More personalized messages, on the other hand, demonstrate that you’ve taken time to address each lead’s needs. It’s like taking that acquaintance out to lunch a few times and establishing a friendly relationship before asking them to share their food with you. The best part is that juggling all of this information is easy when you have the right technology.
The Way Forward for Manufacturing Sales
If the old ways of generating manufacturing sales aren’t working anymore, it might be time to try sales targeting. Rather than chasing after every lead, you’ll start zeroing in on the leads you’ll have the best chance of closing by reaching out to each of them with personalized messaging. With just a few simple new methods, you can meet your growth goals.
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