Unique Challenges of Manufacturing Content Marketing in 2019

I just finished reading the Manufacturing Content Marketing 2019—Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report published by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and sponsored by IEEE GlobalSpec.

Lisa Murton Beets (@LisaBeets), Research Director at CMI said, “The data suggest that manufacturers have a way to go with putting the audience’s informational needs before their own sales/promotional message. In addition, marketers in these organizations say they are uniquely challenged with creating content that appeals to multi-level roles within their target audience. Many are working to address these challenges, for example, by developing personas.”

I couldn’t agree more with her summary because that is pretty much what I find, working with manufacturers and industrial companies every day.

What is unique about manufacturing content marketing?

If you have been a regular reader of my blog, you’ve probably read many of my posts where I have talked about the differences between manufacturing (industrial) content marketing and other B2B content marketing.

There are three key differences that you should be aware of:

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Making Email the Cornerstone of Industrial Content Marketing

You may think email marketing is dead or passé with all the talk about social media. However, that is far from the reality that I see every day, working with manufacturers and engineering companies, especially when it comes to industrial content marketing.

Engineers and industrial professionals do read emails, provided you’ve earned their trust with valuable content and can get through their spam filters. According to the research report “How Engineers Find Information 2018” published by engineering.com, 95% of engineers will consider an email in their inbox.

You can read about this in my earlier post, Industrial Email Marketing for Engaging Engineers and Technical Professionals.

Email should be an important component of industrial content marketing

Given the above findings, it makes a lot of sense in making email marketing a key component of your overall industrial content marketing strategy. My opinion is corroborated by independent research findings.

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Industrial Content Marketing that Engages Engineers

When it comes to effective industrial content marketing, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “One-size-fits-all content” just doesn’t cut it. How do you make your content more relevant to time-challenged engineers, deal with the age gap within your target audience, earn their trust and build stronger relationships? Those are some major challenges in industrial content marketing that can’t be overcome by just pumping out more content.

You are not alone if you are having difficulties with manufacturing content marketing meeting all your goals. According to the findings from the research report, 2018 Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America published by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 55% of manufacturers in North America reported that they were only moderately successful in achieving their organization’s desired/targeted results.

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Industrial Content Marketing for Engineers to Make a Buy Decision

Manufacturers want their industrial content marketing for engineers to generate Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) and not just Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) from content downloads. There is a big challenge faced by manufacturers of components targeting Design Engineers. These Design Engineers often don’t have the final buying authority but unless the industrial parts are “designed in” by these engineers (Specifiers), the Purchasing Department (Functional Buyers) can’t or won’t issue a Purchase Order or contact you with an RFQ.

Search this blog for my earlier posts on MQL vs SQL and understanding the differences between a specifier and a functional buyer. In this post, I’ll focus on a specific industrial marketing strategy that is an effective sales enabler when targeting engineers.

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Industrial Marketing – Budgets, Challenges and Performance

Curious about how your peers and the competition are spending their industrial marketing dollars? You are in the right place at the right time.

I just finished reading the research report, 2018 Budget Trends in Industrial & Technology Marketing published by engineering.com. To put their findings in the right perspective, the top three segments of their demographics were:

  • Demographics for industrial and technical marketing32% Manufacturers
  • 20% Software companies
  • 16% were companies that provide Consulting/Engineering services

See the chart on the right for a complete breakdown.

The average industrial marketing budget is under $100,000 for more than half (52%) of these companies. There are a few (7%) with a budget of more than a million. Raise your hand if you are one of them!

Avergae size of industrial marketing budgets

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Use industrial content marketing to enable sales

Industrial content marketing plays an important role in driving sales for manufacturers and engineering companies. Of course, going from publishing content to growing sales is not as easy as going from point A to point B.

If you are a manufacturer of custom-engineered systems, you know that it is nearly impossible to generate Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) without first having one or more conversations with the right people. To get to that point requires more than publishing a few blog posts and/or sending out emails.

Many of these industrial companies already know their limited pool of prospects who are qualified to buy their equipment and services. They don’t want to wait for these people to find them; they want to reach out to them proactively.

The fact is your target audience of engineers and technical professionals are in self-select and self-serve mode. They want to learn as much about you and your solutions before they’ll engage with your sales team. Industrial content marketing aligns perfectly with how today’s self-educating buyers want to interact with their suppliers.

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Why Industrial Content Must Be More Customer-Centric

Industrial content on websites of most manufacturers and industrial companies tends to be heavy on product specifications. Of course, it is important to have technically accurate and up-to-date product information because that’s the first step in an engineer’s evaluation of your product or solution, especially if you manufacture a component that must be designed in.

However, product specifications alone are not enough to differentiate you from the competition. There are shortcomings to being overly reliant on product-centric content as an industrial content marketing strategy.

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Proving ROI of Industrial Content Marketing is Still a Big Challenge

Congratulations if your 2018 industrial content marketing budget increased or at least didn’t get cut. You are in good company. 38% of respondents from the 2018 Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America survey expect their manufacturing content marketing spending to increase this year and another 46% expect it to remain the same as last year.

budgets for industrial content marketing

I’ve read other research reports that have reported a similar trend in larger budgets for industrial content marketing.

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How do Engineers Use Content in Their Buying Decision?

Of course, you know that engineers use content in making work-related decisions, i.e. buying decisions. Datasheets, case studies and how-to videos have always been popular with this target audience. However, have you ever asked yourself the question, “how do engineers use content?” The answer to that question is fundamental in developing an effective industrial content marketing strategy.

Recently, I read a research study published by ENGINEERING.COM. This report goes well beyond the general assumptions about how engineers use content and provides researched proof. You can download the “How Engineers Find Information” study from that link.

Why is content important for reaching engineers?

The old ways of cold calling and e-mail blasts are proving to be ineffective. This has nothing to do with the popularity of content marketing. This behavior is driven by how engineers want to interact with their suppliers. They are very much in self-select and self-serve mode.

The chart below shows that 75% of engineers prefer to engage with a vendor representative somewhere in the middle of their buying journey to just before making a final decision.

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Industrial Content Marketing: Product Centric vs. Customer Centric Content

Product centric vs customer centric industrial content marketing

Recently, I had an interesting conversation about industrial content marketing with the President and the Marketing Manager of a manufacturing company. They design and make engineered systems used in the Metalworking and the Pulp & Paper industries.

Our conversation happened in the early stages (Thank God!) of developing a content marketing strategy. This company has been in business for over 20 years and had done plenty of conventional outbound marketing over the years. They contacted me to help them effectively use industrial content marketing to generate qualified inbound leads and convert them into sales opportunities.

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