Industrial Marketing Blog

Manufacturers Need Lead Management to Close the RFQ Gap

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Talking to manufacturers and industrial companies on a daily basis has convinced me that when they say they need help with their lead generation, they really want more RFQ (Request For Quote) opportunities.

Generating new leads, qualifying and nurturing them until they turn into a RFQ is too much work for them. For a real-life example of this lead generation disconnect, read my post, Manufacturers: Don’t Start a Lead Generation Campaign without Sales.

During my internal discovery process, in nine out of ten cases, I’ll hear the President/CEO/Owner of manufacturing or industrial companies tell me one of their goals is to double the volume of RFQs they generate. To most of these decision makers winning new business is strictly a numbers game. They are convinced that the more they quote, better are their chances of scoring more deals.

I have to politely disagree with them because “activity is not the same as productivity.” It is not an easy sell for me to change this mindset. I have to make a strong business case before I can even get their attention.

Here are the steps I go through to change their minds and have worked well for me:

Step 1: Give them an overview of what inbound marketing is all about and how it differs from traditional outbound marketing. I direct their attention to all the blog posts that I’ve written in the past about inbound marketing for industrial companies. Many of these articles include findings from research studies done by respected third parties. Hardcore numbers and statistics are powerful tools in convincing skeptical technical decision makers.

Step 2: Show them why it is a bad idea to treat all leads the same and jump right into creating a detailed price quote or RFQ. I talk about how the job of inbound marketing does not end with lead generation but extends into setting the table for sales so they can be more productive. See my article, “Inbound Marketing Must Set the Table for Industrial Sales.”

Step 3: Plant the idea of creating a structured lead management program that objectively scores leads, get sales and marketing to agree on the definition of a qualified lead before sales will take follow up action. Read my post, SAL is the Glue that Binds Sales and Marketing in Lead Generation.

Step 4: Discuss how to create a planned and repeatable lead nurturing program to maintain contact with the prospect when the sales cycle is long. It is important to understand that a good lead nurturing program is NOT the same as an automated drip email marketing program or picking up the phone and telling the other person that “you are calling to touch base.” Lead nurturing must move the prospect forward in their decision making process and help you discover objections and push backs along the way. Your RFQ can be easily derailed without this critical step. See Lead Nurturing Is Not A Marketing Option, It’s A Sales Necessity.

Step 5: Convince them that none of this is easy, quick or cheap. Unless there is complete buy-in from the top, it is impossible for me and/or their internal marketing team to produce results. How I overcome the objections at this step is a topic for another blog post.

BTW, did you realize that the above plan of action wouldn’t work unless I had a blog that is devoted to industrial marketing? Manufacturers and industrial companies can adopt the same blogging strategy instead of reinventing the wheel each time they need to answer questions about their proposed solution and/or RFQ. I can’t stress enough about the importance of using a blog as an integral part of your inbound industrial marketing strategy.

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. Achinta,

    Useful insights here. I’ve run into a number of clients like the ones you described, who focus all their time on generating as many quotes as possible just in order to be bidding on something. The problem is that they usually end up spreading themselves so thin that only a fraction of a fraction of these bids ever lead to a contract.

    My company works in sales lead management , and inbound marketing had become a vital part of our campaign creation. I’m looking forward to that possible future post about generating buy-in from higher-ups during this sort of pitch.

    • Jacob,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences. I plan on writing more posts about the objections and obstacles that I run into with inbound marketing for industrial companies.

  2. Achinta;
    As usual, an insightful and informative article – thanks for posting!

    Totally agree with the strategy you have suggested above – if one can’t persuade a manufacturer to adopt the approach using your 5 steps, the company is probably not going to be competitive in future because they do not understand the fundamentals of business these days.

    I believe the suggestion of a partial solution is not easy to implement. While it may seem easy to implement say just the email drip marketing campaigns, it’s not possible to do this without having suitable content to include in the drips. Content which nudges the person onto that next stage of the purchasing decision-making process. Finding, cataloguing and preparing this content always take time and effort. And usually, there are not enough pieces of it to cover the various buying-cycle stages of each persona, so more of it has to be created.

    I’ve commented before on what we consider to be the ideal Process which should be used to operate an Inbound Marketing Automation system. Rather than repeat that all here, if anyone is interested in learning more about the Process’s 4 Phases of: Attract, Engage, Convert, Nurture/Qualify, he or she will find a great deal on our website both in the blog and in the resource section.

    • Eric,

      Thanks a lot for adding your insight and your kind words. You’ve summarized the problem very nicely — not devoting enough time and resources for creating a library of content that matches the buyer’s needs. It is difficult to be successful with any online marketing tactic without first building a strong foundation of content. I like your approach to overcoming the FUDs of inbound marketing automation.

  3. Hi Achinta

    As always, an interesting and insightful post. You clearly have the pulse of this market.

    Given the lack of buy-in of the full lead generation/lead nurturing process, I wonder if the best solution here might be a partial solution.

    If industrial decision-makers don’t want to do the work of inbound marketing, why not give them those pieces of the puzzle that don’t require as much work?

    For example, an automated email drip campaign may not be the complete lead nurturing solution but it does allow you to stay in touch with your prospects even for a long sales cycle.

    And if each email includes a large RFQ button, these manufacturers may start to see some results and want to do more.

    It’s not perfect or even close to complete, but it’s a start.

    • Bob,

      Thanks a lot for not only being a regular reader of this blog but also for adding your thoughtful comments here. You’ve made a good suggestion about giving them a partial solution. Some manufacturers and industrial companies do use email marketing but their open and clickthru rates have been disappointing. The other problem is the “wall of silence” they face after sending out the RFQ. One of my tasks is to help them make their email marketing more responsive and productive.

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