Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends and Challenges

For the past four years, I have downloaded and read research reports on Manufacturing Content Marketing in North America published by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). I believe 2014 was the first year that CMI published its annual Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report specifically for B2B manufacturing content marketing.

I’ve noticed some interesting trends emerge over the years. In this post, I’ll compare some of the key findings from these research reports. Whether you are a manufacturer, a distributor or an engineering company, there are good takeaways for all industrial content marketers.

Content marketing usage among manufacturing marketers

manufacturing content marketing usage

After declines in usage in 2015 and 2016, content marketing usage among manufacturing marketers went up in the 2017 survey. According to CMI, of the 15% of nonusers, 53% say they plan to launch a content marketing effort within 12 months. That is encouraging!

How manufacturing marketers rate the effectiveness of their use of content marketing

Effectiveness of manufacturing content marketing

This is where things get interesting, notice how effectiveness went down in 2015 and 2016. The good news is that it did improve slightly in 2017 to 20% from the low of 18% in 2016 but it is still not anywhere close to the 30% reported in 2014. For the purpose of the survey, CMI defined effectiveness as “accomplishing your overall objectives.”

How manufacturing marketers assess their organization’s content marketing maturity level

One explanation for the improvement in effectiveness in 2017 is that 37% of the companies consider themselves to be in “Adolescent” stage of manufacturing content marketing as compared to 29% in 2016. Also, 58% of these industrial marketers reported that they were “somewhat more successful” to “much more successful” in their organization’s content marketing approach compared to one year ago.

Maturity levels of manufacturing content marketers


2017 maturity levels of manufacturing content marketers

Goals of manufacturing content marketing

Goals of manufacturing content marketing

Brand Awareness has been consistently at the top at either #1 or #2 for all four years. That may come as a surprise to you since most industrial companies want more leads. In my experience, Brand Awareness plays a big role in industrial lead generation.

Sales as a goal was third from the bottom at 56% in 2014 and climbed up to the number 1 spot in 2016 with 87% of the respondents stating that it was their number one goal of manufacturing content marketing.

I cannot explain why Sales as a goal took a nosedive in 2017 and fell to 62% in 2017. That is not what I’m seeing with my industrial clients. May be someone from CMI can shed some light here.

Content marketing challenges for manufacturing marketers

This is one area where it is hard to compare apples to apples because the findings were reported differently. What I did notice is that “Content that Engages” was not considered a big challenge in 2014 with only 13% reporting it as one of their big challenges.

However, the challenge of creating more engaging content has grown significantly, and in 2016, 65% of the manufacturers reported it as their top content marketing challenge. Yet, 68% of the respondents said they are going to create more content in 2017 as compared to 2016.

My advice, focus on creating more relevant content because quality trumps quantity. Pay attention to conversions and not just top of the funnel activities. Some of these manufacturing marketers are doing just that and are going deeper into the funnel to measure manufacturing content marketing’s ROI.

Accurately measuring ROI or ROMI is still a big challenge. One of the problems I see is the improper attribution of marketing’s contribution to sales and revenues. Even companies using CRMs and Marketing Automation tend to attribute conversions to the last click.

Manufactruing conetnt marketing challenges and ROI

I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase, “Lies, damned lies, and statistics” and are probably skeptical of some these findings because I may have presented selective statistics since I’m an industrial marketing consultant. So, I encourage you to Google and you’ll find other studies done by independent organizations who report similar findings about manufacturing content marketing.

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