In the fast-paced digital landscape of today, online lead generation has become the lifeblood of B2B industrial businesses.
The digital playing field presents vast opportunities for mid-sized B2B companies with sales ranging from $10 million to $1 billion, but unfortunately, many are missing out on these opportunities due to a lack of attention to evolving SEO and content development practices.
In this article, I explore the significant opportunities that mid-sized B2B businesses are overlooking and the strategies they can employ to unlock their true potential in online lead generation. I will back up my theory and comments with a recent case study and research.
The Changing Landscape of Online Marketing for B2B Industrials
The digital marketing landscape is continually evolving, and staying updated with the latest trends is crucial for businesses of all sizes. Mid-sized B2B companies often face challenges in keeping pace with these changes, primarily due to limited resources, marketing expertise and heavy reliance on outbound sales. In my 20 years of experience in the mid-size industrial market I have found key areas where mid-sized B2B companies are not just missing opportunities but are not even in the ball game.
SEO Strategies Lag Behind: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the cornerstone of your businesses online brand visibility. However, many mid-sized B2B businesses still rely on outdated SEO practices or fail to invest adequately in SEO. As a result, they struggle to rank high in search engine results pages (SERPs) and miss out on potential leads. From personal experience, I have found that most marketing agencies and individual web developers build great looking websites but lack the know-how when it comes to SEO and tactics that elevate your industrial brand's visibility.
Content Quality and Relevance: Content marketing is a powerful tool for attracting and engaging prospects. Unfortunately, mid-sized B2B companies often produce generic, uninspiring content that fails to resonate with their target audience. This lack of high-quality, relevant content hinders their ability to be found on the search engine return page and therefore capture leads.
Neglecting Social Media: Social media platforms are invaluable for B2B lead generation. Yet, many mid-sized companies underestimate their potential in this area. Consistent, strategic social media efforts can generate brand awareness and connect with potential clients. I can’t tell how often I have asked an owner who does their social media marketing, and the answer is often, “Our receptionist takes care of Facebook”. Hint: If you are going to do social media in the B2B industrial space, focus Linkedin first.
Data-Driven Decision Making: In the digital age, data is king. Many mid-sized B2B businesses lack the infrastructure or expertise to gather and analyze data effectively. As a result, they miss out on valuable insights that could guide their marketing strategies and lead generation efforts. Of course, for this very reason, I recommend B2B industrials embrace marketing automation platforms such as HubSpot so they have a data infrastructure they can rely on. Platforms such as HubSpot and Google Analytics provide great data for our own website and marketing efforts, but to really uncover competitive advantages you will need industry-specific data from research platforms such as SEMrush.com. SAAS platforms such as SEMrush store an amazing amount of data when it comes to your company’s competitors ... so you can maximize online brand visibility.
Now that we've identified the challenges, let's explore how mid-sized B2B companies can seize the online lead generation opportunities they are missing:
Invest in Modern SEO: Allocate resources to update and improve your SEO strategy. This may involve hiring SEO experts, conducting keyword research, and optimizing your website for search engines. A strong SEO foundation is crucial for ranking higher on SERPs and attracting organic traffic. This SEO foundation also lays the foundation for all other online marketing activities that will follow. Online tactics such email marketing, webinars, social media, paid advertising and great SEO complement each other.
How many times have you met someone face-to-face, watched a webinar, downloaded white papers, saw a YouTube video and then went directly to a website to validate what you just heard or saw?
Create High-Quality, Relevant Content: Develop a content strategy that focuses on creating valuable, industry-specific content. Address the pain points and questions of your target audience. High-quality content establishes your authority and attracts organic traffic, which can convert into leads. Not to mention brand trust in your company.
Leverage Social Media: Embrace social media platforms relevant to your industry. Engage with your audience, share valuable content, and participate in industry discussions. Consistency and authenticity on social media can help build your brand and generate leads.
Harness research tools such as SEMrush: Implement data analytics tools to gather insights into your website visitors and customer behavior. Use this data to refine your marketing strategies, personalize your content, and target your audience more effectively.
Collaborate and Network: Mid-sized B2B companies can benefit from collaboration and networking within their industry. Partnering with complementary businesses or participating in industry events can lead to valuable leads and connections.
In my opening paragraphs I wrote that the mid-size B2B industrial market is missing online opportunities for lead generation.
Personally, I witness this daily.
I easily see that most industrial websites are attractive, but when I search for their blog, there is nothing. Creating great content in a blog is the very first step in climbing Google’s ranking ladder. When I look into their basic site map, I can see these websites are not designed for easy indexing for Google’s algorithm or artificial intelligence. Again, it is apparent these sites were developed by a web designer without consulting an SEO marketing and content expert.
So, I decided to put my theory to the test.
Using SEMrush.com, I plugged in 15 well established and well-known mid-size industrial service companies. These are largely regional companies scattered around the United States. They are all in the exact same business. Most are 2nd and 3rd generation owned. I also plugged in the largest national company for this niche into my SEMrush “project”… as SEMrush calls it. I wanted to see if even the "big boys" could compete with the regionals in terms of online visibility. At the same time, I plugged in 45 generic, verified (Verified for search volume, using SEMrush’s data) and critical keywords or topics into my SEMrush project. These are topics that every one of these businesses should be on the first page of Google’s search engine return page (SERP).
The average position for all competitors and keywords … 98! To be clear that search result is on the 10th page of Google's search engine return pages. According to GlobalSpec's 2023 State of Marketing to Engineers, engineers will only go to the 5th page of search results.
Estimated traffic to all companies … 0, yes ZERO. Again, not even in the ball game.
Brand visibility (Brand visibility measures the number of these keywords or topics that show up in Google’s top 100) was 0.05%. Yep, a brand visibility percentage of less than one percent. SAD!
None of the companies in my study topped 4% brand visibility. 10 out of 15 did not even get above 1% for brand visibility as demonstrated in the graphic from SEMrush below.
Out of 45 keywords or topics, there were only two keywords that were in the top 100 of Google, and they were 63 and 64 positions in Google at the time. (Sept 2023)
I have personally guided comparable mid-size B2B industrials to almost 50% brand visiibility compared to their competitors. This means that out of 100 keywords, almost half were in the top 3 positions of Google's search engine return page.
One Last Point
Does your industrial brand resonate with your buyers?
As my friend Greg Miller from Maxwell+Miller says , "price, service, experience and quality don’t count. Customers already expect that you do those well or you wouldn’t still be in business. They’re cost of entry, not differentiators".
As Greg goes on to say, "If your brand is greeted with more “huh” than “hooray,” it’s time to take a good, hard look at your industrial brand.
Don’t be the best. Be different. Be memorable.
Miller goes on, "I bet you think your product is the best in its category. Right? And you’re telling that story online, in marketing materials, everywhere you can think of. You’re the best. There’s a problem though. If I asked your competitors about their products, they’d say the same thing. “We’re the best.” Ooops. When everyone says they’re best, everyone looks average. You need to zig while they’re zagging."
Frankly, I know quite a bit about the 15 participants in my research sample above. I have looked at each website. They all have a very unique brand story to tell and none are doing it effectively. All are focused on price, service, years of experience or quality. Again ... just the price of entry.
Perhaps Al Ries, in The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, said it best: “A branding program should be designed to differentiate your cow from all the other cattle on the range. Even if all the cattle on the range look pretty much alike.”
Does your industrial company have a great story to be told? We can help with that as well.
Can you say, “HUGE opportunity”? How about, "A clear playing field"? Or, "An opening so big you could drive a Mack truck through it."
Mid-sized B2B businesses are sitting on a goldmine of online lead generation opportunities that they often overlook due to a lack of marketing expertise and attention to evolving best practices. By hiring an expert SEO and content specialist dedicated to the industrial market, (I just happen to know one!) creating high-quality content, embracing social media, harnessing data, and fostering industry connections and taking a fresh look at thier brand story, these companies can unlock their true potential … especially as more of your buyers depend on the web for procurement information.
The digital landscape is constantly evolving, and those industrials that adapt and stay ahead of the curve will thrive in the world of search, social, mobile and AI. It's time for mid-sized B2B businesses to realize that the opportunities they seek are well within their reach, waiting to be tapped into with the right strategies and expertise.
A passionate marketer attempting to change the way industrial marketers leverage the web as a growth-oriented, lead generation machine. View all posts by Tom Repp