I am a big fan of Content Marketing or as some people like to refer to it as Inbound Marketing. It is heartening to see that content is at the center of most discussions about the state of B2B marketing today.
However, industrial marketers face a challenge when it comes to producing a steady stream of fresh content to keep their target audience engaged. What do you do when the bulk of your marketing content, with the exception of case studies is product focused? How do you shift the focus from you or your company to your prospects and customers?
Here are seven content marketing strategies that you can use to engage your prospects and move them forward in their buying cycle.
- Parametric part number search – in addition to the standard word search tool on your website, build a parametric search application. This is particularly helpful if you are a components manufacturer and have a large inventory of parts. Help the design engineer select the exact part number by selecting critical parameters s/he needs. Once they find the correct part number, offer datasheets with performance characteristics, applications and tolerance information, include a way for the visitor to send a quick question to your engineering department and if applicable, add a “buy now” button to take advantage of online sales.
- CAD drawings – you probably already have an extensive library of CAD drawings. Why not create a downloadable library on your website? This feature is very useful if you are serving the architectural and builder communities. You have a much better chance of getting the order if your parts are designed in and included in the Bill of Materials (BOM). Offer the drawings in PDF and JPEGs instead of editable DWG or DFX formats if you are concerned about someone altering your proprietary designs.
- Valve sizing programs – these are great and easy to use tools for any manufacturer of valves for chemical, hydrocarbon and industrial process, power, water and wastewater industries. Customize them to suit your particular product line, which makes it much easier to specify and buy your valves.
- Online color selector – build an interactive tool for your website for visitors to mix and match different colors and components in real-time. I have seen this application being used very effectively by metal building manufacturers to help their customers choose the right color combination for roof, wall and trims. You can see a working example on my client, Schulte Building Systems’ site.
- Community/Customer forums – forums have been around a lot longer than social media and have proven to very effective for engaging the engineering community. The primary ways industrial companies participate in social media today are through community/discussion sites for customers as well as similar internal sites for employees whereas adoption of newer social media tools like Twitter is very low at only 9% (Source: Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector by GlobalSpec).
- Expertise blogs – starting your own company blog to showcase your internal experts is a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Your own engineers, technical and R & D team members are great resources for generating fresh content that is more customer-focused. Engineers tend to respond much better to peer-to-peer recommendations than some stranger tweeting about your company or its products. The best example of an expertise blog that I know of is the Emerson Process Experts blog moderated by Jim Cahill. BTW, it recently won BtoB Magazine’s BtoB Social Media Awards 2010 in the blog category.
- Tell a story – most industrial marketing content tends to be cut-and-dried with lists of features and benefits. The focus is squarely on you, your company and its products and services. This kind of sales oriented marketing content is no longer effective. Instead, weave a story around your marketing copy to make it more engaging for your site visitors and prospects. I read a very interesting post by Ardath Albee where she has taken Lou Hoffman’s seven story elements and applied them to the traditional 5W’s (Who, what, when, where and why) of copywriting. Read her original post to learn how to use story elements in B2B marketing content.
NOTE: Both 5 and 6 are easy to start but do require a significant amount of internal resources to manage and update regularly. Think carefully before you jump into either one of them.
Using all or any of the above content strategies will help you shift the focus from your products and services back to the customer. When you do that, your B2B marketing content will also move the prospect closer in their buying process.
I encourage you to add your own ideas to my list of seven. Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.