Industrial Blogging – An Underutilized Content Marketing Tactic

Industrial blogging - IMTIndustrial blogging is usually not a favorite subject of discussion with my manufacturing and engineering clients. Probably the most common complaint I hear is, “We’ve been blogging for a while but haven’t seen any tangible results (leads, sales opportunities etc.).”

Another major concern is that it is too time consuming to create fresh and relevant content that will engage engineers and industrial professionals.

These issues with industrial blogging are valid and justifiable, but don’t give up on it just yet. I’ve found industrial blogging to be a strong content marketing strategy for engaging with time-challenged engineers.

That’s been my own experience working with my clients and in my own industrial marketing consulting business. 100% of new leads are now inbound leads and usually originate from this blog. I admit it has taken me several years to build up to this stage (I’ve been blogging since 2008).

Using industrial blogging to win the engineer’s mindshare

Engineers thrive on solving problems and they love a technical challenge. They are keen on gaining knowledge and staying current about their industry. They trust, respect and want to learn from their peers. Those are not just my observations.

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To Blog, or Not to Blog…That’s the Question Many Industrial Companies are Asking

Industrial blogging questionsManufacturers, distributors and engineering companies have read or heard about all the benefits of content marketing in general and blogging in particular but many are still sitting on the fence. I’m often asked the question, “Should we start a blog?” It is a simple question but the answer is not a simple yes or a no.

Yes, you should start an industrial blog if you haven’t already done so. No, you shouldn’t blog if you don’t have a well-thought-out blogging strategy in place already.

Even though blog strategy comes before content creation, only 19% of manufacturing marketers outsource this function. That was one of the findings from the 2014 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs.

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Winning the Engineer’s Mindshare with Industrial Blogging

Winning engineer's mindshare with industrial bloggingEngineers love a challenge and solving problems. They are always on the lookout for gaining knowledge from their peers. They trust and have more confidence in reading or hearing something from other engineers. One engineer to another is a far more powerful tool than sales messaging when it comes to building trust and establishing thought leadership.

However, engineers and technical buyers don’t easily change processes that are working well unless you can convince them they may have a problem that they are not aware of and/or you have a better, more efficient way of doing something that they have been doing for many years.

There is a two-fold challenge here. First, you have to bring attention to real-world technical problems and not something that you’ve cooked up to sell your solution. Second, engineers are trained to be skeptical and demand proof of concept before they’ll buy your solution.

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Purpose Driven Industrial Blogging

Industrial bloggingWhen I talk to manufacturers and industrial companies about blogging, which is practically every day, I can’t help but notice that these people do understand that blogging is a key component of good industrial content marketing.

What I find lacking most often is a clear understanding of purpose driven benefits from blogging. This gap prevents them from fully harnessing the power of blogs to boost industrial lead generation and drive sales.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of industrial blogging.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Marketers at industrial companies understand the importance of organic SEO. They realize that their sites and blogs need to be at the top of search engine rankings in order for their target audience to find them. The problem is their entire focus is on search engines, trying to find the latest “trick” to beating Google and other search engines.

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Blogging Still Lagging in Industrial Marketing

Compared to most B2B marketers, blogging still plays a minor role for most manufacturing and industrial companies. Look at these charts from two different surveys to illustrate my point.

The first chart is from the survey – Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs’ fourth annual B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America.

B2B Content Marketing Tactics Usage

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Priming Industrial Websites for Content Marketing

Many of my industrial clients are starting to plan and budget for 2014. High on their list of priorities is redesigning their industrial websites. A welcome change in these discussions is that redesigns are now driven by the needs of inbound marketing with content rather than just a cosmetic facelift to the site.

Manufacturers and industrial companies are more willing to accept the fact that their customers and prospects are interacting with them differently and this change in buyer behavior is permanent. They’ve seen how expensive traditional outbound marketing tactics are and how difficult it is to track results from those efforts.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that one should abandon outbound marketing. However, the balance has definitely shifted more towards online digital marketing for industrial companies.

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Industrial Blogging Lessons Learned from Working with Technical SMEs

IndustrMy clients often ask me to write posts for their industrial blogs. This requires me to work very closely with engineers and technical SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) on a daily basis for creating content. I have learned some important lessons about blogging that are specific to this technical and industrial audience.

  • Editorial calendar: This may sound like content marketing 101 but let me tell you why it is so important for industrial blogs. At a recent discovery meeting, I received little to no response when I asked a group of engineers about their customers’ challenges that we could blog about. I was expected to do the industry research and come back with a list of topics.

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Guest Blogging: An Important Strategy of Industrial Marketing

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about all the great benefits of blogging as a cornerstone of your content marketing. However, one aspect of this industrial marketing strategy that doesn’t get much attention is guest blogging. There are unique benefits of guest blog posts that deliver powerful marketing ROI.

In the past, many SEO experts pushed publishing guest articles and blog posts for the sole purpose of generating inbound links with keyword-rich anchor texts. This SEO or content marketing strategy relied heavily on quantity over quality of links. Google’s war on content farms has pretty much rendered this tactic useless. Don’t get me wrong, quality inbound links still matter in SEO.

IMO, there are three bigger benefits of guest blogging. They are:

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Content Marketing Challenges for Industrial Distributors

Industrial distributors face a unique set of challenges when it comes to content marketing. These companies have traditionally depended on the depth and breadth of their line cards to highlight their strengths and sell industrial products.

In the past, their marketing content came straight from the manufacturers they represented. You will find the exact same product content on sites of various distributors serving a particular industry. They’ve never had to create and publish their own content before.

The problem is republishing the same manufacturer’s content won’t help your SEO or add any value for your customers and neither will it help to differentiate one industrial distributor from another.

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Add a Blog to Jump Start Industrial Websites

It is not uncommon to find industrial websites that have not been updated for a long time or with outdated content. Providing a cosmetic facelift is not going to improve the site’s performance either. What can you do if a complete website redesign is not feasible?

Adding a blog to your current site is a quick and easy way to breathe new life into an old or underperforming industrial website. Now, every time I mention the word blog to manufacturers and industrial companies, they put on their mental brakes. This is because they think they won’t have anything to write about, at least not as far as publishing new blog posts on a weekly or even a monthly basis.

Here are two practical tips to help you overcome this hurdle of content creation for industrial marketing:

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Why Industrial News Releases Make Good Blog Posts

Press or news releases about industrial products have been and still are very popular. They work because the content is mainly about features that help engineers specify these industrial products.

In the past, manufacturers used them primarily in traditional print media like an industry-specific tabloid. People sent back a completed reader service or bingo card and leads were generated that way. Of course, those days are long gone. Today, you are more likely to see a URL like http://ogpe.hotims.com or http://powereng.hotims.com printed at the end of the news release.

Since industrial companies struggle with content, I think one way to overcome the problem is to take a traditional marketing tactic like a news release and turn it into a blog post for use in digital marketing.

What I’m suggesting here is not to copy word-for-word from your old product releases but to expand on them and create new blog posts. Instead of listing product features and specifications, your blog posts can add a lot more information, which will be more educational rather than a blatant sales pitch.

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What You Should Know Before Developing Industrial Blog Sites

At this time of the year, many industrial companies are getting ready for their annual budget planning meetings. If you are one of them, a redesign of your industrial website may also be part of those discussions.

Blog sites have become a very popular choice with many manufacturers and industrial companies since content plays such an important role in today’s digital marketing programs. These dynamic sites combine static webpages with a blog to give you the best of both worlds – fresh content and functionality. See my post, “Build Industrial Websites as Dynamic Blog Sites” for advantages of blog sites.

The thing that worries me though is that in my conversations with some of these industrial companies, I find that they want to discuss their choice of Content Management System (CMS) with me. In my opinion, that is not what you should be focusing on.

As the Owner/President/CEO, your input should be in shaping the content marketing strategy. Focus on the kind of content you need that will attract the most qualified traffic to your site and convert those visitors into customers. Help the site designer build the functionalities that your site visitors want. Leave the choice of the CMS to the web developer, be it in-house or outsourced.

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Is Blogging Right for Every Industrial Company?

The fact that you found this industrial marketing blog and are reading my post, tells me that you have asked yourself that very question and are curious about the answer. There are literally millions of articles written on why you should be blogging and they are easy to find in Google. I see no point in rehashing the same ideas here.

Instead, let me share my experiences in helping manufacturers, engineering and industrial companies launch successful blogs, produce results from them and in some instances, flat out advised them not to start one.

In this post, I’ll talk about some of the more difficult questions you should be asking yourself before jumping on the blogging bandwagon. Otherwise, you may be joining the ranks of countless other industrial blogs that were launched with a great deal of enthusiasm and expectations but were abandoned after only a few months.

Let’s dig a little deeper to understand what it really takes to achieve the four major benefits of blogging.

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Industrial Marketing Company Celebrates 25 Years in Business

April 2012 marks a milestone for my industrial marketing company Tiecas, Inc. We are celebrating 25 years in business! It has been an incredible journey so far. Come along with me as I take a trip down memory lane…

I remember registering my DBA as “Tiecas Type & Graphics” on April 14, 1987 with the Harris County Clerk’s Office in Houston, Texas. I had read an article in Inc. Magazine about a coming revolution called “desktop publishing.” That was the impetus for me to quit my management job with an oil country tubular goods (OCTG) manufacturer and take the plunge into starting my own business.

I owe a big debt of gratitude to the late, great Steve Jobs and his innovative products. I could not have launched my company without the Apple Macintosh Plus, Apple LaserWriter Plus with a PostScript interpreter from Adobe and PageMaker from Aldus Corp.

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Blogs and Social Marketing in the Upstream Oil & Gas Industry

The Upstream Oil & Gas industry, also referred to as the exploration and production (E&P) sector, has a reputation of being very conservative and conventional. Even though the companies that operate in this sector are well-known global brands, they are not exactly forward thinking online marketers who use business blogs and social media regularly.

However, these companies are no slouches when it comes to using the power of blogging and social media to talk about a politically and emotionally charged topic like hydraulic fracturing. Google the search phrase hydraulic fracturing blogs and it will return 2 million results!

Sure, there are plenty of blogs written by die-hard tree huggers and other environmentalists with their own agendas but the list of blogs on hydraulic fracturing from companies and organizations reads like the “who’s who” of the E&P industry.

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Manufacturers Need Lead Management to Close the RFQ Gap

Talking to manufacturers and industrial companies on a daily basis has convinced me that when they say they need help with their lead generation, they really want more RFQ (Request For Quote) opportunities.

Generating new leads, qualifying and nurturing them until they turn into a RFQ is too much work for them. For a real-life example of this lead generation disconnect, read my post, Manufacturers: Don’t Start a Lead Generation Campaign without Sales.

During my internal discovery process, in nine out of ten cases, I’ll hear the President/CEO/Owner of manufacturing or industrial companies tell me one of their goals is to double the volume of RFQs they generate. To most of these decision makers winning new business is strictly a numbers game. They are convinced that the more they quote, better are their chances of scoring more deals.

I have to politely disagree with them because “activity is not the same as productivity.” It is not an easy sell for me to change this mindset. I have to make a strong business case before I can even get their attention.

Here are the steps I go through to change their minds and have worked well for me:

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Industrial Companies Underuse the One Social Media Tactic with Proven ROI

Social media usage by industrial companies has received some coverage lately. I’ve read two different survey studies about how companies within the industrial sector use or plan to use social media. Depending on which study you read, the results can be confusing. Here’s one example of the confusion that I’m referring to.

The study done by GlobalSpec reported, “Only 22 percent of industrial companies use Twitter, which reflects its low value among engineers as a social media resource.”

Whereas the study (2011 Social Media in Industry Survey) conducted by Semplice Industry Marketing states, “Of those who used Twitter in 2011, 78% found it somewhat to very useful.”

The one statistic that stood out for me and is consistent in both these studies is that company blogs rated low for usage across the board. Blogging is a proven social media channel and yet, industrial companies seem to severely under utilize this proven social media tactic.

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