When it comes to effective industrial content marketing, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “One-size-fits-all content” just doesn’t cut it. How do you make your content more relevant to time-challenged engineers, deal with the age gap within your target audience, earn their trust and build stronger relationships? Those are some major challenges in industrial content marketing that can’t be overcome by just pumping out more content.
You are not alone if you are having difficulties with manufacturing content marketing meeting all your goals. According to the findings from the research report, 2018 Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America published by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 55% of manufacturers in North America reported that they were only moderately successful in achieving their organization’s desired/targeted results.
There is some good news though, 45% of engineering and manufacturing marketers reported that their 2018 budgets are larger than in 2017, and over 50% of those reporting budget growth north of 10%. (Source: 2018 Budget Trends in Industrial & Technology Marketing from ENGINEERING.COM).
How to increase the effectiveness of your industrial content marketing efforts
Let’s begin by recognizing the fact there are several issues involved and not just one big problem to solve.
Marketing to busy engineers: More than half of engineers say the pace of engineering is constantly increasing and that they are required to do more with less. Lack of time and resources are an engineer’s most significant challenges. (Source: IEEE Globalspec Media Solutions 2018 Pulse of Engineering Survey).
The same survey also found that knowledge and information loss is a growing concern within the engineering community. Engineers are seeking out more information to help them perform better at their jobs.
- 55 percent of companies don’t have formal policies in place to retain knowledge
- 44 percent of companies have increased design involvement from external partners and vendors
- 61 percent of engineers said that knowledge/information loss was very important or extremely important
You need to provide content that engineers can rely on to be technically accurate and current. Use industrial content marketing to educate younger engineers who are looking for more help from their vendors as internal resources become scarcer. Anything you can do to save them time and educate them, will go a long way in earning their trust.
Understanding the age difference: Don’t assume that the same content will engage engineers from different age groups (The exception being pillar articles or evergreen content). Understand how younger and less experienced engineers will interact with your content and what will best serve their information needs.
The survey from IEEE reported the following:
- 17% have nine or fewer years of professional experience (They refer to them as millennials)
- 42% have more than 30 years of professional experience (Down from 48 percent in 2016)
- 19% have been in the engineering field for 10-19 years and 22% for 20-29 years
Here’s another key age difference, “Millennials are less willing than other engineers to register on a website for access to specific documents and they are more likely to believe all content should be free and open access.” You need to strike a balance between free and gated content to appeal to engineers from different age groups.
Younger engineers are frequent users of social media and use different digital channels for product searches, gathering technical information and finding suppliers. Your existing relationships that you’ve developed over the years with senior engineers may soon become obsolete as many of them are close to retirement. You need to win the mindshare of younger engineers who will take on more decision-making roles.
Marketing to specifiers vs. functional buyers: Younger engineers are often tasked with finding information during the Needs Awareness and Research stages of the industrial buy cycle. Your industrial content marketing strategy must address their needs.
Many of these younger engineers may not have the final authority in the buy decision, but it is important to market to influencers and specifiers and not just target functional buyers. Let’s say you are a manufacturer of industrial components, your parts need to be “designed in” by the specifier before the Purchasing Department (functional buyer) can email you an RFQ/RFP or issue a PO.
To understand the role of various stakeholders in the industrial buying process, look at this chart from another study published by IEEE Engineering360.
Bring Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to the forefront: Marketing alone can’t create engaging content, they need to collaborate with their SMEs. Even if marketing does the ghostwriting, the content must be reviewed and authored by SMEs. Marketing can do the heavy lifting, but they should remain in the background.
To engage with engineers, you need your content to speak to their needs by recognizing their daily challenges at work and addressing them with real-world experiences. Your in-house SMEs are the people who are most qualified for this kind of one-on-one communication with younger engineers.
“Reliance on interaction with fellow engineers dwarfs other modes as the preferred method of communication for solving problems and gaining new insights.”
(Source: A global research study produced by Beacon Technology Partners and UBM Tech Electronics Network).
Industrial content marketing must leverage this collaborative ethos without wasting the engineer’s valuable time with content noise. I’ve found one engineer to another to be a powerful content marketing strategy and the most effective way to earn an engineer’s trust. See my post, Industrial Blogging Lessons Learned from Working with Technical SMEs.
Don’t limit your industrial content marketing: This is really a two-fold problem. The first issue is limiting your entire industrial content marketing strategy with one goal in mind – getting found in Google. In other words, the entire focus is on Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Don’t’ assume that visit to conversion is automatic. Lead generation and conversions can only happen when engineers and industrial professionals trust your content and find it relevant to their needs. Understanding the difference between discovery optimization (SEO) and conversion optimization (CRO) is very important.
The second half of the problem is using industrial content marketing only for generating top of the funnel (ToFU) leads from free content downloads. You must create qualified opportunities that have a higher probability of success. That’s how you’ll gain the confidence of the sales team and achieve a closer alignment between Sales and Marketing.
White papers, case studies and other content marketing assets are great for generating Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLS), but you need to implement sales enablers into your industrial content marketing strategy for generating Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs).
Based on my 30+ years of hands-on experience in marketing to engineers, I see a big opportunity for industrial content marketing to effectively engage with busy engineers by recognizing their time crunch and providing relevant content to bridge the knowledge gap.