Trade shows have always been a big part of manufacturing marketing for generating new leads that convert into sales opportunities. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has made in-person trade shows almost non-existent.
It is not surprising then that manufacturing marketers have turned to content marketing strategies and tactics in a big way. Hard data tell the story: (Source: Manufacturing Content Marketing Insights for 2021 published by CMI).
- Use of virtual events/webinars/online courses increased to 55% from 39% last year.
- In-person events decreased to 38% from 65% in the previous year.
- Nearly all manufacturers surveyed (91%) expect some of the changes to stay in effect for the foreseeable future.
My own experiences with manufacturing clients match this trend. They’ve either put more emphasis on manufacturing content marketing and/or those that were sitting on the fence in 2020, are now eager to get started in 2021.
A recent conversation that I had with a manufacturer of custom plastic parts, started off like this, “We’ve done very well in the past with trade shows. We depended almost 100% on that channel for new sales. That has completely dried up. How can you help us get our content marketing started and become successful at it?”
I’ve had several such conversations since the pandemic began in 2020, so this is not an isolated incident.
Types of content used by manufacturing marketers
There have been some major changes in the content marketing tactics used by manufacturers. In 2019, the top three tactics were:
- Social media content at 92%
- Videos (excluding livestreaming) at 81%
- Email Newsletters at 74%
The chart below shows the trends in 2020. Not surprisingly, in-person events decreased and correspondingly, virtual events/webinars/online courses increased.
Where are manufacturing content marketers investing their marketing dollars?
Two specific areas that manufacturing marketers are expected to concentrate on in 2021 are:
- Content creation—76%
- Website enhancements—73%
All this positive news needs to be tempered with the harsh reality of the economic situation because of the pandemic. Most manufacturing marketers started 2020 with a healthy budget, but as the year progressed, things began to change. Most manufacturers expected their content marketing budget to remain flat in the second half of the year.
Take a look at these two charts from the CMI report that was published in November 2020.
Importance of email in manufacturing marketing
Email marketing is and has always been an important part of manufacturing content marketing. With more people working from home, email is the best way to communicate with customers, suppliers, and employees.
According to the research report, 2020 Smart Marketing for Engineers® published by IEEE GlobalSpec and TREW Marketing, 59% of engineers prefer to connect over email and 5% prefer online chat, as opposed to 24% engaging with a salesperson over the phone and 8% in person.
Email is second only to social media when it comes to the distribution of content by manufacturing marketers. This is important because you can’t rely only on organic SEO for your audience to discover new content published on your website or blog.
I’m sure you’ve received plenty of email invitations to register for webinars. Email is the most common and effective way to promote your online events. After the pandemic, when trade shows do become safe to attend in person, email marketing will be used for both pre- and post-show communications just as in the past.
For more on industrial email marketing, see my article, The Importance of Industrial Email Marketing for Targeting Engineers.
Size of content marketing teams and outsourcing activities
You would think manufacturers would need large teams to handle all the content marketing activities.
The reality is that 55% of manufacturers said they had zero to 1 person dedicated to content marketing and 36% had 2 to 5 full-time employees doing content marketing.
Manufacturing content marketers are outsourcing marketing activities to compensate for the smaller teams.
- 61% of manufacturing marketers outsource at least one content marketing activity
- Technical content creation is the activity most outsourced at 80%
This post should help you plan your own manufacturing content marketing strategies, tactics, and budgets knowing what your peers and competitors are doing.