My conversations with distributors about industrial content marketing almost always start with them needing help in growing their sales. That should come as no surprise.
The real problem however lies in the definition of the problem itself. Most distributors define their problem as “lack of sales.” The solution therefore must be this new-fangled thing called “industrial content marketing” since traditional tactics like cold calling, e-mail blasts and print ads are no longer producing satisfactory results.
So with that mindset, they want to dive right into creating content. The assumption is that the more content they publish, the easier it will be for their target audience to find them in search engines and once they arrive at their site, visitors will be ready to talk to their sales team. (See How Industrial Companies are Stuck on SEO for Content Marketing Strategy).
I wish it were that easy. Conversion optimization is a completely different challenge from discovery optimization even though they are related.
Defining the industrial marketing problem
The lack of sales is the pain or the symptom that these distributors are feeling. However, unless they or their industrial marketing consultant take the time to diagnose the cause of those symptoms, just publishing more content for the sake of content marketing is not going to solve the problem.
The first step should be a complete assessment and internal discovery which should lead to a carefully planned content marketing strategy. Implementation should happen only after the strategy has been thoroughly vetted and it must align well with the company’s sales and business goals. The content marketing strategy should be revisited regularly (at least quarterly) and refined based on measurements and results.
Importance of a documented content marketing strategy
The content marketing strategy should be documented and not in someone’s head. The importance of doing so should be obvious from this finding from the 2016 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America: Content Marketing Institute/ MarketingProfs report.
“45% of the most effective manufacturing content marketers have a documented strategy. By comparison, only 11% of the least effective have a documented strategy.”
I understand distributors, for that matter, most industrial companies want sales now, they are not inclined to be patient and/or invest the money in creating a strategy. Going with the hit or miss approach of trying various content marketing tactics in the hope that something will work is just as costly if not more so. I say that from personal experience of helping clients who have tried just that before retaining me.
I have also seen cases where distributors opt to do nothing and hope that their sales will turnaround on their own. Granted maintaining the status quo is a less risky option but there is a significant opportunity cost in terms of lost opportunities and market share.
Content marketing strategy vs. content strategy
There is a big difference between a content marketing strategy and a content strategy. It is not just a matter of semantics, instead of writing hundreds of words trying to explain the differences, I’ll defer to an article from the Content Marketing Institute and use their graphic with the key takeaways.
Industrial content marketing for effective differentiation
A big challenge for many distributors is creating true differentiation. Visit any distributor’s site and if you cover up their name and/or the logo, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference between various distributors in a given industry. It is virtually impossible to convince your target audience of your experience and expertise if most of the content on your website is product-centric and often copy-pasted from the principal manufacturer’s site.
Industrial content marketing when done right, can bring the distributor’s unique expertise to the forefront, earn trust and build stronger relationships that the competition cannot easily duplicate. For more on this, read Content Can Differentiate Industrial Companies When There’s Parity in Value Propositions and How Industrial Content Marketing Builds Stronger Relationships Based on Trust.
Leads from industrial content marketing tend to be of a higher quality that turn into wins more often and cost less per lead. While quality trumps quantity in lead generation, distributors still need a certain volume of leads to keep their pipelines active.
“Content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing, but costs 62% less.” (Demand Metric).
I’m not suggesting that distributors rely 100% on industrial content marketing to boost their sales. I recommend they plan for a multichannel industrial marketing strategy that is a good blend of digital and traditional industrial marketing tactics.