Industrial content marketing is facing a big challenge because manufacturers are struggling to make it more engaging for their target audience. They have a good grasp of industrial content marketing’s contributions at the top of funnel but can’t quite connect the dots when it comes to measuring its effectiveness in driving sales.
The problem is not just a matter of better analytics and/or in-depth ROI reports from Marketing Automation. These marketing tools are a big help but can’t completely close the gap. The decision makers at these industrial companies want to know how industrial content marketing will increase their sales before they invest the money. In other words, they are saying, “Show me the money.”
Challenges with industrial content marketing exist across different industries and varying company sizes. Consider these key findings from the sixth annual content marketing survey, 2016 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs:
- 81% of manufacturers in North America are using content marketing
- 87% said Sales was their number one goal
- 18% said they were effective (That is not a typo! Effectiveness was defined as “accomplishing your overall objectives” in the survey)
- 82% of manufacturing marketers cited creating more engaging content as their top priority
There is a big disconnect here between industrial content marketing and its impact on sales.
The problem is not with industrial content marketing
It would be easy to say that industrial content marketing is flawed and infective for industrial sales. I’ve had conversations with manufacturers where they have been very dismissive and frankly, frustrated with the lack of results. I’m being PC and polite here but someone once told me, “This s**t doesn’t work!”
However, the problem is not with content marketing as an industrial marketing strategy. To use a football terminology, “upon further review,” it turns out the real problem is not understanding how to align industrial content marketing with the manufacturer’s sales process and set the table for Sales to have productive conversations that turn into wins.
Refer to my post, “How Manufacturing Content Marketing Sets the Table for Sales” for more on how to use content marketing effectively at every stage of the sales funnel.
It is critical that either the in-house marketing team or your outsourced industrial content marketing company takes the time to understand the sales process and plan a strategy around it. Doing it the other way around is doomed to fail from the get-go.
Not taking the time to fully understand the sales process doesn’t just negatively impact content marketing, but other areas of industrial marketing too. (See Why do so Many Industrial Website Redesigns Fail?)
Industrial content marketing must go beyond SEO
Another issue I’ve found is the serious underutilization of industrial marketing by manufacturers. They have latched on to this idea that it is the new way for achieving higher rankings in Google and other major search engines. As a result, they do not consider using the full potential of content marketing at every stage of the buy cycle.
To make your content marketing more engaging, the focus must shift from the just technical aspects of SEO (discovery optimization) to conversion optimization (CRO – Conversion Rate Optimization). The two are connected and related but very different. Read my post, “Industrial Companies are Stuck on SEO for Content Marketing Strategy” for more on this issue.
Create content that engineers care about and trust
Creating more content is not the answer for engaging with engineers and industrial buyers. There is a big difference between content creation and content marketing. You are not going to win the mindshare of engineers and technical buyers or earn their trust with more marketing fluff.
To engage with this audience, your content must be specific to their needs, technically accurate, provide proof of concept and address their “fear of failure” concerns by providing validation for your claims and results.
Bring your Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to the forefront and let Marketing be in the background. Content published by SMEs (even if Marketing ghostwrote the content) will create true differentiation for you by highlighting your technical experience and expertise, something that your competition can’t easily copy. (See Content Can Differentiate Industrial Companies When There’s Parity in Value Propositions). Engineers view content from other SMEs and their peers as more trustworthy. One engineer to another is a very effective and powerful strategy for earning their trust. Take a look at these charts from two different studies.
Content marketing assets that persuade industrial buyers to take action
Passive reading of your content is not going to help you generate leads that turn into RFQs and wins. You also need content assets that are time-savers for engineers and help them spec or “design in” your components. Listed here are some of the content marketing assets that usually lead to RFQs and build customer loyalty.
A part is ultimately purchased 77% of the time a CAD file is downloaded according to an engineering survey done by CADENAS PARTsolutions.
- Product configurators or sophisticated tools like visual Configurator Price Quote (CPQ) systems
- Parametric part number search applications
- “How to Order” part number builders
- Mobile apps and sizing programs
- Online maintenance data management, tracking legacy installations and managing spare parts inventory
- 2D CAD Drawings and 3D CAD Models
- Cross reference guides
- Evaluation and engineering kits
- How-to videos and maintenance manuals (after-sales support)
I’m not implying that going 100% with industrial content marketing is the right answer for every manufacturer. There are situations where a mix of digital and traditional media is very effective. I call this integrated industrial marketing.
Industrial content marketing that adds real value to your sales process requires much more than writing blog posts and tweeting about them. It requires thinking of every stakeholder involved on your customer’s end, the role they play in the buying decision and then delivering the right content, at the right time and in their preferred format.
Keep these points in mind as you plan and budget for your industrial content marketing in 2017.