Industrial Marketing Blog

Industrial Marketing, Lead Generation and Sales: It’s Complicated

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Industrial marketing is complicatedRemember this rom-com from 2009? Despite the critics giving it mixed reviews, it went on to gross $219.1 million worldwide. A hit movie for sure.

Sometimes I feel the same way about industrial marketing for lead generation and its relationship to sales – It’s Complicated!

Every industrial company I talk to wants more leads at a lower cost per lead. Yet, very few have a formal process in place to measure marketing’s contribution to sales and revenue.

It is easy to measure data points such as Visitors, Pageviews, Pages/Visits etc. and downloads but it is not easy to tie them back to actual sales. Measuring ROI or ROMI sounds good in theory but difficult to accurately measure in the real world. According to some marketing pundits, these may be too simplistic to understand marketing’s full impact on sales.

Here are two sobering findings from a 2013 survey done by the B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn and managed by Holger Schulze (@HolgerSchulze).

For most marketers, between 5 and 10 percent of qualified leads convert to customers. A whopping 25 percent don’t know their conversion rates.

B2B tech marketing 2013 survey

Cost per marketing qualified lead ranges from less than $25 to over $500 per lead – but most B2B marketers simply don’t know (41 percent).

B2B tech marketing 2013 survey

You already know about the complications because of the long sales cycle that is typical in industrial sales. Many other everyday situations can also make it very difficult to correctly attribute marketing’s contribution to industrial sales.

The two examples I have used here are from real situations.

Example #1: A PPC ad for a specific component leads to a click to your landing page. However, the visitor takes no action and leaves. A week later the same visitor reads one of your blog posts and downloads an application note. A few months later, a design engineer from the same company emails your engineering department with a question about his application. This leads to a conversation with one of your sales engineers and the second contact is entered into your CRM system as a lead. Did the PPC ad generate the lead or was it your content marketing responsible for the conversion? Do you give equal attributions to both marketing tactics?

Example #2: You have been tracking visitor activity from a particular company for a while now but there have been no conversions so far. One day you receive an RFQ for one of your pumps but you don’t hear back from the engineer. However, a month later you receive a second RFQ from another engineer from the company and he wants you to quote on a skid-mounted system using three of the same pumps and several other process control equipment that you manufacture. Are these two separate sales opportunities or one? Did the second engineer ever visit your website or did the first engineer influence him for the second RFQ? (See Does Your Website Content Meet the Needs of Industrial Buyers?)

My point is that it is not always possible to measure everything that industrial marketing does to create real sales opportunities. Measuring data points alone cannot give you the complete picture. It is imperative that sales and marketing work together to understand the complete sales process from the customer’s perspective in order to develop effective industrial marketing strategies for lead generation and sales.

Without these deep insights, you’ll be left wondering about marketing’s real contribution to sales. You are probably familiar with John Wanamaker’s famous quote, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Don’t let this happen to you.

What do you measure and can you accurately attribute industrial marketing’s contributions to your sales?

Achinta Mitra

Achinta Mitra calls himself a “marketing engineer” because he combines his engineering education and an MBA with 35+ years of practical manufacturing and industrial marketing experience. You want an expert with an insider’s knowledge and an outsider’s objectivity who can point you in the right direction immediately. That's Achinta. He is the Founder of Tiecas, Inc., a manufacturing marketing agency in Houston, Texas. Read Achinta's story here.
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  1. Hi Achinta,
    Another great, and thought provoking post! While I agree that it can be difficult to measure different marketing touchpoints a prospect may have before they become a lead or customer, I do think that with a good content management CRM solution it can get a lot easier.

    Hear me out, our company recently started using HubSpot, and the behind the scenes analytics is a content marketing dream. It can track the IP addresses to show how many visitors from a company came to our website, and once a lead downloads an e-book it tracks any future interactions they have on our website, and what other pages or blog posts they look at. It’s not only helpful from a content marketing end -knowing which blog posts resonate with our readers, but also from a sales and marketing perspective we’re able to send leads that have been to our website several times over to sales, and sales can also easily pop in and see which pages and e-books the lead’s history with our blog. I’m not promoting it or anything, I’m sure there are other software solutions out there similar to it, just speaking from my own experience. Personally, it’s encouraging to see the impact that my work as a content marketer has on sales, and it has encouraged a better collaboration between the two teams in-house.

    • Daisy,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences. I think you meant to say CMS and not CRM. HubSpot integrates with many leading CRMs such as SalesForce.

      HubSpot is a powerful all-in-one software tool and is a good fit for many companies as it is in your case. I say that from my experience of using and managing HubSpot for two separate clients, one of them is on the Enterprise plan.

      No marketing automation solution can adequately handle either of the two examples I’ve cited in my post without human intervention. These situations are the norm in industrial sales and not the exceptions. The key IMO is that technology alone cannot solve the problem without the right processes in place and the right people to manage it. Marketing automation is a must for optimizing the entire process of lead generation, nurturing, qualifying and handing off SQL leads to sales but it is not the silver bullet.

      • Yes, my mistake it is a CMS. It’s been radically different coming from a system like WordPress, to using HubSpot I sometimes forget it is a CMS at the end of the day.

        I see what you are saying, and I agree there is no magic solution out there. And without a process and people to to monitor and and track the analytics and how each effort feeds into the big picture any marketing software out there is of little use. Being able to crunch data is an increasingly valuable skill in marketing!

        I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this post I wrote about measuring ROI in social media, I came across a stat from some research Adobe did on how marketers stuggle to measure social media ROI and I explored some options on how a company can track that,

        I’d love to know what you think based on your experiences in the manufacturing industry, if your time allows.

  2. “Measuring data points alone cannot give you the complete picture.”

    This really hit home for me. Data can only get you so for. Sure you can review web traffic, and bounce rates, and crunch numbers, but you need to add some context to said data. A lot of companies only focus on the numbers and miss out on opportunities that come from looking at the results holistically rather than just the hard data.

    • @Nick,

      Thanks and agreed!

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