Manufacturing content marketing for reaching engineers and technical buyers is an integral part of industrial marketing today. That shouldn’t surprise any marketer who is trying to reach this audience.
Several research studies have shown that more industrial buyers are now completing 50% to 70% of their buying journey online.
- Nearly 75% of buyers complete more than 50% of the buying process online
- 25% said over 70% of their journey is conducted online
- Younger engineers (ages 45 and under) spend even more time online before choosing to speak to someone at a vendor company.
Here’s a chart from the 2020 Smart Marketing for Engineers published by IEEE GlobalSpec and TREW Marketing.
Conversely, 65% of manufacturing marketers said that they are much or somewhat more successful with content marketing compared with one year ago. (Source: Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020 published by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs).
That’s all very encouraging. However, there are some areas of manufacturing content marketing that are still proving to be challenging for many. I’ll focus on those problems in this post.
Manufacturing content marketing too focused on the top of the funnel
Many manufacturing marketers are too focused on the top of the funnel activities and measurements. Being found in Google and other major search engines is important, I’m not discounting that but I’m talking about obsessing about showing up on the first page of Google’s search results (SERPs in SEO).
First page rankings have gone down in importance over the years. That is not just my observation, the same research report from IEEE GlobalSpec found the following:
- 73% of engineers are willing to view three or more pages of search results before selecting one or starting a search over
- 28% are willing to view five or more pages of search results, up from 19 percent in 2018
- Only 5% of respondents stop at the first page for results, a trend that continues to decline over the years as engineers spend more time searching
- While younger engineers as a whole stop their searches sooner, they are still more likely to search past page 10, than stop at page one
While manufacturing marketers have become better at segmenting and developing different personas for their audiences, they are still struggling with creating content that is relevant to different stakeholders at different stages as they go through their buying journey.
You may not be using the full power of manufacturing content marketing if your sole focus is on top of the funnel and generating only Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) without nurturing them into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs).
Manufacturing content marketing as sales enablers
I understand sales enablement is a vast topic and it means different things to different people. My focus in this post is on using manufacturing content for moving engineers through their buying journey in a logical manner. This is not the same as lead nurturing with content.
I’m referring to downloadable 3D CAD Models and Online Product Configurators. These are invaluable to manufacturers of industrial components that must be “designed in” by a Design Engineer. Studies have shown that downloaded CAD files lead to a sale 81% of the time.
Now, you may be thinking of creating a simple library of PDF files to post on your website. Those days are over!
I’ve downloaded an excellent e-book called “How to Sell More Products with 3D CAD & BIM Models” published by CADENAS PARTsolutions. It is packed with useful ideas and tips to help manufacturers use CAD models and e-catalog solutions.
Key takeaway for manufacturers: If you aren’t providing 3D models to customers, you are losing business to those that do.
Here’s a chart that shows the Industry Adoption of 3D CAD Models and CAD Catalogs.
Challenges of manufacturing content distribution
When it comes to distribution of content, manufacturing content marketers are using the usual suspects—company website/blog, social media channels, and email.
However, I have seen too many manufacturers rely 100% on posting their content only on their website or blog and then expecting their readers to discover the content. I call this the “post and pray” strategy. It doesn’t work very well these days when you are competing with so much information online. Think of making content distribution an integral part of your content marketing strategy and allocate budget accordingly.
According to the report from CMI, fewer manufacturing marketers take advantage of speaking/events (43%), media/influencer relations (33%), or guest posts/articles in third-party publications (31%).
Manufacturing content marketing success KPIs
Measuring the success of manufacturing content marketing and/or proving ROI is another area that is causing a lot of confusion and problems. Many in their rush to become data-driven marketers, are measuring all the datapoints from Goggle Analytics just because they can.
Unfortunately, traffic, pageviews etc. are great KPIs for marketers, but they mean little to upper management if you can’t show how they translate to sales and revenues.
Another challenge is the issue of attribution. Because of the long sales cycles and multiple stakeholders involved in the buying decision, some of whom remain invisible or rarely interact with your content, correctly attributing content marketing’s contribution to sales and revenues is complicated. As a result, many manufacturing content marketers are simply giving up on measuring ROI. See my post, Measuring ROI of Industrial Content Marketing is Difficult.
What metrics are manufacturing marketers tracking to measure content performance? This chart from CMI provides the answer.
That’s my take on the challenges faced by industrial companies with manufacturing content marketing distribution and measurement.