Content Marketing for Manufacturers: Are You Using its Full Power?

Content marketing for manufacturers

My initial conversations with industrial companies about content marketing for manufacturers usually start something like this, “We can’t be found in Google or other search engines. We want to rank high. We’ve read that content marketing is the way to go. Can you help us?”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that stated goal for industrial content marketing. This can apply to distributors and engineering companies as well, not just manufacturers.

So, what’s the problem?

This is a longish post, so grab a cup of coffee and sit back and read. Click on the links listed under the Table of Contents section to jump to a specific section if you are in a hurry. (Reading Time: 4 minutes.)

Table of Contents

Content marketing for manufacturers isn’t just for SEO

By basing your entire manufacturing content marketing strategy on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you may not be using the full power or the potential of content marketing for manufacturers.

Why do I say that? The short and simple answer is, search engines are not your target, human visitors are.

Don’t assume that visitors who find you in Google and come to your site, will automatically convert into leads. Converting visitors to leads happens only when engineers and industrial professionals trust your content and find it relevant to their needs.

They will subscribe to your list and/or contact your salespeople only after that happens. Understanding the difference between discovery optimization (SEO) and conversion optimization (CRO) is very important.

That’s why your manufacturing content marketing strategy must be based on the entire sales funnel and not just ToFU (Top of Funnel) activities. Traffic by itself means zilch if you can’t convert it into real opportunities.

Proving ROI of manufacturing content marketing

Manufacturing marketers use content marketing to achieve a range of goals as seen in this chart from the report, “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020” published by the Content Marketing Institute.

85% of manufacturing marketers have used content marketing successfully in the last 12 months to create brand awareness.

Goals Manufacturing Marketers Have Achieved by Using Content Marketing Successfully in the Last 12 Months

goals achieved by content marketing for manufacturers

Wow, that’s impressive! Hang on though, measuring brand awareness is difficult. Sooner or later, you have to prove how that translates into tangible business goals—leads, sales opportunities and wins.

As a manufacturing content marketer, you have to go well beyond increasing name recognition. Your efforts must span the entire sales funnel or the buyer journey. You have to tie together conversations with sales, RFQs, opportunities that convert into sales, and customer support (loyalty).

Just publishing blog post and/or other content won’t cut it. You have to continue to market to them with helpful and relevant content. That all starts with gaining a valued subscriber to your list, so you have their explicit permission to send them your content.

Engineers rank email as a preferred means of acquiring information. (Source: How Engineers Find Information 2019 from engineering.com).

Now, go back and look at the chart again. Notice how “Build a subscribed audience” is second to last. I’m sure by now you can see the challenges of content marketing for manufacturers.

What else can manufacturing content marketing do for you?

The list is long, so I’ll highlight just three of them here.

Earn trust: As I’ve mentioned earlier in this post, you have to earn visitors’ trust first before they’ll sign up. Make it a value exchange—helpful content in exchange for their basic contact information. Bring your in-house Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to the forefront. I have found one engineer to another to be a very powerful strategy for earning trust and credibility. For more on this, read my post, Industrial Content Marketing that Engages Engineers.

Nurture leads: Unless you are selling industrial consumables and/or standard components, your sales cycle is probably going to be long and will take multiple touches with different stakeholders. This is particularly true of manufacturers of custom-engineered systems. Use email marketing to stay in touch by providing your subscriber list with relevant and helpful content that will move them closer to the final decision in a logical manner to make a more informed decision.

Create true differentiation: Good manufacturing content marketing can differentiate you from your competition when there’s parity in Value Propositions. This in turn will set the table for your sales team so they can have more productive conversations instead of cold prospecting. (See How Manufacturing Content Marketing Sets the Table for Sales).

Here are a few other statistics from independent sources that show the usefulness of content marketing.

  • Marketers who prioritize blogging efforts are 13x more likely to see positive ROI. (Source: HubSpot, 2019)
  • Content marketing gets three times more leads than paid search advertising. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
  • The top 2 types of content manufacturing marketers use are social media content (92%) and videos (81%) (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
  • Prospecting is the most difficult part of the sales process for salespeople. (Source: HubSpot)

Content marketing for manufacturers is not just blog posts

Don’t forget conventional content assets that manufacturers have been using before the age of digital marketing. I’m talking about product datasheets and specifications. These are still very important, especially if you are targeting Design Engineers.

This chart shows what forms of content engineers find valuable while researching information for making a buying decision. (Source: 2020 Smart Marketing for Engineers, IEEE GlobalSpec and TREW Marketing).

formats used in content marketing for manufacturers

Use premium content such as white papers, guides and e-books to generate targeted leads by using a content-centric lead generation strategy.

Save busy engineers time, minimize repetitive tasks and reduce errors by providing downloadable CAD files. This is a powerful content marketing strategy especially for manufacturers of industrial parts and components. (See my post, Industrial Content Marketing for Engineers to Make a Buy Decision).

According to CADENAS PARTsolutions, there are five major trends in downloadable CAD files that will affect industrial marketers in 2020 and beyond:

  1. 3D modeling is the #1 ranking CAD trend.
  2. High-quality product data, instant configuration and native CAD downloads.
  3. 3D product catalog adoption moves into “Late Majority” stage.
  4. More opportunities to market and sell to architects with BIM files.
  5. More users are downloading 3D models online than ever before.

Download their free e-book, How to Sell More Products with 3D CAD & BIM Models.

I hope this post convinces you about the strong benefits of manufacturing content marketing if you are still sitting on the fence. Look around this blog and you’ll find over 300 articles on industrial marketing; many of them focus on content marketing.

Need help creating technical content? Content creation is the number one marketing activity (87%) outsourced by manufacturing marketers. If manufacturing content marketing sounds too daunting and time consuming, then take a look at my new technical content creation service for industrial companies to help you use content marketing more efficiently.

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