Many manufacturers are using content marketing but few consider it effective in generating leads that turn into sales opportunities. According to the 2014 study done by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 86% of manufacturing marketers use content marketing but only 30% of manufacturing marketers say they are effective at it.
Here’s another finding, according to the 2014 Forrester Research/Business Marketing Association/Online Marketing Institute study, while 51% of B2B marketing leaders rate their content marketing practices as very mature, an overwhelming 85% fail to connect content activity to business value — and, as a result, fail to retain customers or win their long-term loyalty.
The two-part problem of content marketing for manufacturers
There are two parts to the problem as I see it when talking to manufacturers. The first part of the problem is that most of them consider industrial content marketing to be a top of the funnel (ToFu) strategy. The assumption is that their target audience will find them in Google, visit their sites and call their sales team. Obviously that is not happening with regularity and therein lies the problem. (See Industrial Web Design – Visit to Call is Not Automatic).
Industrial buyers are behaving very differently now than in the past. These buyers are in self-serve mode for information and are not willing to talk to sales people until they are ready. In short, the buyer not the vendor is in the driver’s seat. Many of these industrial companies are having a great deal of trouble accepting that fact and tend to fall back on old sales and marketing habits which are not working either.
If you too are struggling with that then may be this dose of reality will help you see the light. “Business buyers can now access an abundance of digital information to research and shop for solutions on their own terms,” said Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst Laura Ramos.
In other words, your buyers go through the Awareness, Research and Consideration & Comparison phases of the industrial buy cycle on their own and without ever talking to your sales people.
Second part of the problem is that manufacturers focus their content marketing primarily on top of the funnel (ToFu). They have been told by experts and therefore believe that it is a new strategy for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). As a result they are seriously underutilizing content marketing by ignoring the complete sales funnel.
Don’t get me wrong, organic SEO is very much alive and is just as important today as it was in the past. However, SEO has evolved well beyond keywords and keyword rankings. Search engines now reward pages with the right combination of ranking factors, or “signals.” SEO is about ensuring your content generates the right type of signals.
Here’s the Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors from Search Engine Land that illustrates the point very well.
To sum it up, content marketing for manufacturers must go deeper than just ToFu. Content must address all phases of the buyer’s journey; address different needs of various stakeholders involved in the buying decision and your content must be found when and where the target audience is searching for solutions to their problems.
You can’t count on your sales team to fill these needs because they won’t get in front of all the stakeholders and neither will they become aware of the all the internal pushbacks. Create “Champion Content” that will help your primary contact carry the message and sell your solution internally. That’s how manufacturers can use content marketing to accelerate their sales pipelines.