These days it is popular to say “Content is marketing currency.” What does it really mean to an industrial marketer, especially if you work for or are a small to mid-size manufacturer or engineering company?
Industrial giants have deep pockets to create marketing content on a daily basis. You don’t have that kind of a marketing budget; smaller as it may be in these tough times, yet a lot is expected of you or your marketing team. How can you use marketing content to generate a decent volume of sales-ready leads at a low(er) cost?
What is effective content marketing?
Content marketing does not mean churning out white papers, case studies, articles, blog posts, podcasts and webinars for the sake of putting out content. Most B2B marketers find it relatively easy to create and use content to gain search engine presence. The big hurdle they face is in engaging and converting readers into prospects, leads and ultimately customers.
Passive reading of your content will not move the prospect along in his/her decision making process. He/she must take a desired action for that to happen. While conversion may be the ultimate goal, building trust, increasing awareness, improving the company’s reputation, expertise and credibility and encouraging social sharing are all worthy content marketing goals too.
Ardath Albee of Marketing Interactions, Inc. and the author of eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, calls this Contagious Content. She defines it as “Contagious content must educate them [prospects and customers] about what they need to know, apply your company’s unique expertise in addition to your product and prove you walk your talk through the sharing of evidence. How effectively you employ this content makes the difference in the outcomes you achieve.”
In order to get there, you need to start with a content marketing plan and that starts with a content audit.
What is a content audit?
A content audit is a process of mapping out the content you already have and matching it to the content you will need as determined by your marketing goals and/or new site map.
According to Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor, you are going to need two critical pieces of information to conduct a content audit. They are:
- Buyer Personas – deep insights on the people who buy your products and services
- Buying Process – the steps buyers go through to acquire your products and services
Buyer personas go a lot deeper than just demographics. And in a complex industrial buy cycle, things can get well…complicated. There is plenty of information out there about buyer personas. Let me direct you to a good article that I read recently that explains this concept very well. Read The Anatomy of a Great Web Persona by Brian Massey.
Once you have done your content audit, you can begin the content mapping process. This is where you’ll begin to identify redundant and missing content in order to be relevant throughout the industrial buy cycle.
Mapping content to the industrial buy cycle
For this part of the article, I’m going to rely on what I learned from a webinar by GlobalSpec and Frost & Sullivan. The content mapping discussed here is based on the four stages of the industrial buying cycle identified as Needs Awareness, Research, Consideration & Comparison and Procurement (See my earlier post Deconstructing the Four Stages of the Industrial Buy Cycle).
Industrial buyers of today use online content extensively in making their buying decision. To put that into perspective, here are results from a survey done by GlobalSpec (2010 GlobalSpec Industrial Buy Cycle Survey):
- 83% of buyers review 3 or fewer pieces of content before purchases under $1,000
- 70% of buyers review 4+ pieces of content before purchases over $10,000
The two key questions you need to ask when mapping your content are:
- Does your content address the needs of buyers at the various stages of the buy cycle?
- Are your company, products and services visible in various online channels used across the stages?
These three charts (from the webinar) illustrate how to answer these key questions.
Key takeaways of content mapping
- Get found early and often: Make sure your content is available where your buyers are searching for solutions and vendors
- Offer relevant content: Understand the industrial buy cycle and offer content that match the stages
- Offer a variety: Don’t restrict your content to web pages. Offer white papers, podcasts, videos, slideshows, case studies and make them friendly towards social sharing
You need to start with a content audit and then map it to a proven industrial buy cycle in order to accomplish your content marketing goals. Is your current marketing content achieving its goals? If not, how are you tackling the problem? Share your thoughts here.