To Blog, or Not to Blog…That’s the Question Many Industrial Companies are Asking

Industrial blogging questionsManufacturers, distributors and engineering companies have read or heard about all the benefits of content marketing in general and blogging in particular but many are still sitting on the fence. I’m often asked the question, “Should we start a blog?” It is a simple question but the answer is not a simple yes or a no.

Yes, you should start an industrial blog if you haven’t already done so. No, you shouldn’t blog if you don’t have a well-thought-out blogging strategy in place already.

Even though blog strategy comes before content creation, only 19% of manufacturing marketers outsource this function. That was one of the findings from the 2014 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs.

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Winning the Engineer’s Mindshare with Industrial Blogging

Winning engineer's mindshare with industrial bloggingEngineers love a challenge and solving problems. They are always on the lookout for gaining knowledge from their peers. They trust and have more confidence in reading or hearing something from other engineers. One engineer to another is a far more powerful tool than sales messaging when it comes to building trust and establishing thought leadership.

However, engineers and technical buyers don’t easily change processes that are working well unless you can convince them they may have a problem that they are not aware of and/or you have a better, more efficient way of doing something that they have been doing for many years.

There is a two-fold challenge here. First, you have to bring attention to real-world technical problems and not something that you’ve cooked up to sell your solution. Second, engineers are trained to be skeptical and demand proof of concept before they’ll buy your solution.

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Blogging Still Lagging in Industrial Marketing

Compared to most B2B marketers, blogging still plays a minor role for most manufacturing and industrial companies. Look at these charts from two different surveys to illustrate my point.

The first chart is from the survey – Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs’ fourth annual B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America.

B2B Content Marketing Tactics Usage

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Use Content to Uncover Tacit Know-how Inside the Minds of Engineers

I recently read the survey, 2012 Mind of the Engineer that was released by UBM Electronics, the global leader in media and marketing solutions for design engineering and the electronics industry. The findings are very interesting and blew away some of the myths about how engineers think.

The key takeaway for me was the concept of “tactic know-how” and its implications for engaging with engineers when it comes to industrial marketing with content.

To get a quick overview of the survey, watch this short video (2:15) from UBM Tech’s CEO of Electronics, Kathy Astromoff where she talks about tacit know-how, engineers’ challenges, perceptions, and information-gathering habits.

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Creating Thought Leadership for Manufacturing and Industrial Companies

Thought LeadershipThought leader is a term first coined in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the Booz Allen Hamilton magazine, Strategy & Business and used to designate interview subjects for that magazine who had business ideas, which merited attention. It has since evolved into describing someone who is supposed to have progressive and innovative ideas. (Source: WikiPedia).

If you are doing any form of industrial content marketing, you know that thought leadership is now a catchphrase. Everyone wants it but how do you create it? Just pumping out content that is nothing more than thinly disguised product promotions won’t cut it.

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Guest Blogging: An Important Strategy of Industrial Marketing

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about all the great benefits of blogging as a cornerstone of your content marketing. However, one aspect of this industrial marketing strategy that doesn’t get much attention is guest blogging. There are unique benefits of guest blog posts that deliver powerful marketing ROI.

In the past, many SEO experts pushed publishing guest articles and blog posts for the sole purpose of generating inbound links with keyword-rich anchor texts. This SEO or content marketing strategy relied heavily on quantity over quality of links. Google’s war on content farms has pretty much rendered this tactic useless. Don’t get me wrong, quality inbound links still matter in SEO.

IMO, there are three bigger benefits of guest blogging. They are:

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Add a Blog to Jump Start Industrial Websites

It is not uncommon to find industrial websites that have not been updated for a long time or with outdated content. Providing a cosmetic facelift is not going to improve the site’s performance either. What can you do if a complete website redesign is not feasible?

Adding a blog to your current site is a quick and easy way to breathe new life into an old or underperforming industrial website. Now, every time I mention the word blog to manufacturers and industrial companies, they put on their mental brakes. This is because they think they won’t have anything to write about, at least not as far as publishing new blog posts on a weekly or even a monthly basis.

Here are two practical tips to help you overcome this hurdle of content creation for industrial marketing:

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Why Industrial News Releases Make Good Blog Posts

Press or news releases about industrial products have been and still are very popular. They work because the content is mainly about features that help engineers specify these industrial products.

In the past, manufacturers used them primarily in traditional print media like an industry-specific tabloid. People sent back a completed reader service or bingo card and leads were generated that way. Of course, those days are long gone. Today, you are more likely to see a URL like http://ogpe.hotims.com or http://powereng.hotims.com printed at the end of the news release.

Since industrial companies struggle with content, I think one way to overcome the problem is to take a traditional marketing tactic like a news release and turn it into a blog post for use in digital marketing.

What I’m suggesting here is not to copy word-for-word from your old product releases but to expand on them and create new blog posts. Instead of listing product features and specifications, your blog posts can add a lot more information, which will be more educational rather than a blatant sales pitch.

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Retrofitting Blogs and Converting Industrial Websites into Blog Sites

I am seeing more manufacturers and industrial companies willing to try inbound marketing with content. A sure sign of that is the number of conversations that I have had recently with my current clients and new leads. They all want to either add a blog to their static industrial websites or convert them into dynamic blog sites.

Retrofitting a blog into an existing site is quicker and less expensive than recreating the site on a blogging platform. However, a blog site with a fully integrated blog has many advantages over the retrofit option. For a full list of benefits, refer to my earlier post, “Build Industrial Websites as Dynamic Blog Sites.”

Some companies need help setting up their business blogs but for most, the biggest obstacle is creating content. One way to get over this hurdle is to repurpose some of your existing content into blog posts.

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Industrial Blog Sites Revisited

The idea of combining a website with the benefits of a blog is very appealing to many industrial marketers. In my conversations over the past few months, I have noticed a growing acceptance of blog sites among manufacturers, industrial distributors and engineering services companies.

Blog sites as inbound marketing hubs

Industrial companies have realized the importance of inbound marketing and its impact on lead generation. They are beginning to look beyond a static informational website and are now seriously focusing on developing a more robust online presence for attracting qualified traffic, generating higher quality leads and positioning themselves as thought leaders in their respective niches.

If you are still not convinced about the power of industrial blogs and inbound marketing, let me highlight some of the facts and findings that I have written about in the past.

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How Blogs Help Manufacturers Enter New Markets

The current economy and a global supply chain have forced many manufacturers to reevaluate how they do business these days. Traditional sources of new business – word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business from existing customers have slowed to a trickle for many of these industrial companies. They now find themselves in uncharted waters where they have to think of and appreciate marketing as something more than mere sales support.

Business owners and executives crave stability and predictability but expectations and behaviors of industrial buyers have changed. It is time to get out of your comfort zones and rethink your industrial marketing strategies and tactics if you want your company to survive and thrive. That is an important and sometimes painful lesson that many manufacturers have learned over the past couple of years.

Entering new markets (49%) is cited as one of the top three areas where manufacturers and industrial companies will be spending more time and effort in 2011. (Source: 2011 Economic Outlook Survey by GlobalSpec.)

How do you enter a new market where you have no brand awareness, credibility or customer references?

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Build Industrial Websites as Dynamic Blog Sites

For most industrial companies and manufacturers, a Website is the centerpiece of their online presence. By now, most industrial marketers are aware of the power of inbound marketing for lead generation. A blog is considered the cornerstone of an effective inbound marketing strategy.

What if you could combine the best of both these marketing tactics? I’m talking about creating a blog site with dynamic content instead of a static digital marketing asset.

Building or redesigning a company Website as a blog site is increasingly becoming the preferred method for many industrial and manufacturing marketers.

Here, I’m referring to an integrated blog site where yourcompanyname.com is the home page of the blog or is in a subdirectory within your main domain such as yourcompanyname.com/blog and not an external blog like someotherblogname.com.   

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How to Coax Content Out of Engineers

Keeping a steady flow of content coming out of engineers and in-house technical experts is a challenge.

You know your work is cut out for you if you are a Content or a Marcom Manager at an engineering or manufacturing company.

Engineers are known to be passive participants when it comes to generating marketing and social media content of any kind. What can do you do if you are tasked with maintaining an active industrial blog that needs fresh content regularly?

If you are a marketing department of one, I suggest you do whatever you can to hone your journalistic skills. You will need to become good at:

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Don’t Let Lack of Content Stop You from Blogging

The mantra for effective business blogging is to regularly pump out fresh content that is reader-centric and not focused too much on you, your products or your company. I agree.

More power to you if you already have a horde of avid readers who visit your blog every time you post new content. For others, the bulk of your blog traffic, in some cases as much as 80%, will come from first-time visitors. These people find your blog while searching for answers to their current problem or visit via social media.

It is not just your latest post that draws traffic. Your blog posts will remain online in perpetuity. A post that is a few months old to you may be news to someone else, as long as it is not time sensitive.

As an industrial marketer, you recognize the importance of constantly publishing fresh and relevant content to attract qualified visitors and convert them into leads.

However, at the end of the day, every manufacturer or distributor of industrial products wants to sell more widgets and not just publish more content. (See my earlier post, “Content Marketing: Think Like a Publisher, Act Like an Investor.”)

Many manufacturers and industrial companies tend to back away from launching their business blog because of this content dilemma.

Is there a way for industrial marketers to solve this “Catch-22” problem for blogging? There is!

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B2B Blogging Gaining Acceptance by More Industrial and Engineering Companies

For a while now, marketing consultants have been preaching the benefits of making B2B blogging the cornerstone of inbound marketing. It is difficult nowadays to find a marketing company or an independent expert not using a business blog to attract and engage with its target audience.

I use this blog to reach a wider audience than before, drive more traffic to my industrial marketing company’s Website and establish my expertise in this niche.

But are industrial and engineering companies getting the message about B2B blogging?

GlobalSpec recently conducted a Social Media Survey of engineering, technical, manufacturing and industrial professionals and found that only 24% of these companies have a business blog.

In an earlier post, I had written about three industrial companies that were using business blogs very successfully. Those are well-known companies and their success stories in using content for inbound marketing are well documented. What about other manufacturers and engineering companies?

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Why Your Sales Funnel May Run Dry Without a Business Blog

Happy New Year!

Are you leaving additional sales leads and revenues on the table?

Industrial marketers who don’t use a business blog are missing a key component of feeding the top of their sales funnels. By not using every opportunity to generate high-quality leads, they may be leaving money on the table.

You can find lots of online articles about the advantages of using a business blog for building thought leadership, communities and humanizing your company. A business blog will help you do all that but what about finding new leads and more sales opportunities?

The answer is a resounding yes. A business blog is a powerful online marketing tool for inbound lead generation. A continuous stream of high-quality leads to feed the sales funnel and keep it humming is the lifeblood of industrial marketing.

To prove my point about business blogging for lead generation, here is an eye-opening statistic – marketers with blogs generate 67% more leads. The chart below shows the difference between B2C and B2B companies.

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3 Business Blogs with Proven ROI from Industrial Companies

A business blog is an important and integral component of inbound marketing. While there are plenty of business blogs from B2B marketing consultants (including this one), industry portals and vertical search engines, there aren’t too many from manufacturers and industrial companies.

Manufacturing marketers do understand the value of a business blog for thought leadership, search engine optimization (SEO), lead generation and community building but proving its ROI has been a challenge. As a result, many of them either ignore blogging as a marketing strategy or wait until their competition launches one.

It is easy for us marketing consultants to extol the virtues of a business blog but clients want to see actual examples before accepting our recommendations on blind faith. They need to see verifiable results and not just screen shots in our online portfolios.

I found three industrial blogs that have produced measurable ROI in terms of lead generation and sales – key performance metrics that resonate with the C-suite.

Here’s proof that business blogging is an effective inbound marketing strategy for manufacturers, engineering and industrial companies.

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