Industrial content on websites of most manufacturers and industrial companies tends to be heavy on product specifications. Of course, it is important to have technically accurate and up-to-date product information because that’s the first step in an engineer’s evaluation of your product or solution, especially if you manufacture a component that must be designed in.
However, product specifications alone are not enough to differentiate you from the competition. There are shortcomings to being overly reliant on product-centric content as an industrial content marketing strategy.
Industrial content that engineers and buyers want
There have been several research studies done on content’s role in the buying journey of industrial buyers. Here are the top findings from Smart Marketing for Engineers®: 2017 Research Report.
A simplified version of the industrial buy cycle has four stages; 1) Needs Awareness; 2) Research; 3) Consideration & Comparison; and 4) Procurement. I read another research study done by Thomas Publishing where they expanded on this model and provided a lot more details on what the buyer goes through at each stage. It should be clear from this study that product data alone cannot meet all the content buyers need and want during an increasingly complex buy cycle.
Take a look at these two charts from their research study, How To Meet The Needs Of Your Buyers.
Winning the mindshare of engineers with industrial content
Younger or less experienced engineers are usually tasked with online research and finding information in the early stages of the buying journey. These engineers are hungry for and are voracious consumers of industrial content.
Engineers are also time-challenged. According to the findings from the IEEE ENGINEERING 360’s 2017 Pulse of Engineering Survey, 44% of engineers are working on more projects now than they were two years ago and 55% of engineers are being required to do more with less.
The #1 concern among all engineers regardless of their experience is keeping their skills current and their technology knowledge up to date. (Source: Beacon Technology Partners and UBM Tech Electronics Network). Engineers have become more dependent on their vendors to provide technically accurate and current content to help them make an informed decision. It is critical for you to win the mindshare of the younger engineers, otherwise you may not make it to the short list. Read my post, “Overcoming the Challenge of Marketing to Busy Engineers” for more on this.
Reaching the invisible buyer with industrial content
Industrial buyers these days are in self-serve and self-select mode. They prefer to remain anonymous for 60% to 75% of their buying journey. They will engage with your sales team only when they are ready. Telemarketing and email blasts are no longer effective in reaching these invisible buyers.
A common complaint that I hear from new clients is, “We know who we want to reach. We just don’t know how to reach them.” Their sales people are finding it very difficult to reach them on the phone or get any face to face time. In 2007, it took an average of 3.68 cold calls to reach a prospect. Today, it takes 8 call attempts. (Source: TeleNet and Ovation Sales Group). Obviously, more cold calling isn’t the answer.
The reality for many manufacturers of custom-engineered products and built to order CAPEX equipment is that they have a limited pool of qualified prospects to target and these people aren’t actively searching for your solutions on a daily basis. Many may not even be aware of your product or solution. You can’t sell your solution to someone who is not even aware that s/he has a problem to solve. Raising awareness of the problem should be an integral part of your industrial marketing efforts. (See Industrial Content Marketing – Selling the Problem not Just Solutions).
Earn trust with industrial content marketing
Successful sales people will tell you that their secret is building strong relationships based on trust. How do you start and build strong relationships if your target audience remains invisible and difficult to reach?
Manufacturing content marketing is tailor-made for industrial sales that have long sales cycles with multiple stakeholders involved in the buying decision. By no means is this an easy sell because it requires manufacturers to reevaluate and rethink their industrial marketing strategy. If done right, industrial content marketing will help you earn trust by putting the focus on your customers’ challenges and issues instead of talking only about your company, its products and services.
Here’s a common problem that I hear, “We’ve been publishing optimized blog posts and we have good content on our website, but we are not getting too many good quality leads.” Industrial content marketing is not about publishing more content, so don’t have unrealistic expectations. Neither is it a quick fix for slow sales. Understanding the difference between discovery optimization (SEO) and conversion optimization (CRO) is very important.
Your content marketing must first earn the audience’s trust and differentiate you from the competition for them to make that call. Bring your Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to the forefront and let them interact with your audience. One engineer to another is a very powerful strategy for winning their trust. See How Industrial Content Marketing Builds Stronger Relationships Based on Trust and Industrial Content Marketing: Awareness to Conversion Takes Time and Hard Work.
Product specifications and descriptions are very good at answering the WHAT questions but are inadequate when it comes to answering the WHY questions. In short, product-centric content fails to answer the “What’s in it for me (WIIFM)?” question for each of the stakeholders involved in the industrial buying cycle.
Marketing needs to help sales teams create a deeper engagement with customer-centric content marketing. Sales can’t do it all by themselves anymore because the buyer is in control for a larger portion of the sales process. (See How Manufacturing Content Marketing Sets the Table for Sales).