Industrial Content Marketing – Selling the Problem not Just Solutions

Industrial content marketing for problem solvingManufacturers, distributors and engineering companies want to jump into industrial content marketing because they’ve read the buzz about its effectiveness in generating high quality leads for selling solutions. They want to educate the market about their solutions and in the process create “thought leadership.”

Those are all great and valid reasons for industrial companies to do content marketing. There is a problem however and that is the problem itself.

I see industrial marketers assume that their audience is aware of the problem and is actively seeking a solution, presumably theirs. Their entire content marketing strategy is based on that assumption. They write blog posts about their solutions and create content that is very solution-centric.

You ask, “What’s the problem then? Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do with content marketing?”

Indulge me for a moment because I’m about to tell you something different.

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To Blog, or Not to Blog…That’s the Question Many Industrial Companies are Asking

Industrial blogging questionsManufacturers, distributors and engineering companies have read or heard about all the benefits of content marketing in general and blogging in particular but many are still sitting on the fence. I’m often asked the question, “Should we start a blog?” It is a simple question but the answer is not a simple yes or a no.

Yes, you should start an industrial blog if you haven’t already done so. No, you shouldn’t blog if you don’t have a well-thought-out blogging strategy in place already.

Even though blog strategy comes before content creation, only 19% of manufacturing marketers outsource this function. That was one of the findings from the 2014 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs.

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Jumpstart Industrial Content Marketing with Application Notes

Jumpstart your industrial content marketingApplication Notes or App Notes are very effective and can help you jumpstart your industrial content marketing, especially if you are stuck because of lack of content. Application Notes are closely related to Case Studies but they are not the same.

I’ve heard some people refer to them as white papers. IMO, there’s a difference but that’s a topic for another post. My point is that these content assets are powerful tools of industrial content marketing for lead generation.

Application Notes focus on a particular process or application of a manufacturer’s product. They provide general guidance on the product’s usage under certain operating conditions. Sometimes these documents may highlight unusual or challenging applications of the part. App Notes put the spotlight on the manufacturer and are part of its marketing materials, albeit technical in nature. Here are two examples of industrial App Notes:

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How to Create Successful Industrial Marketing Content for TOFU

Sales funnel for industrial marketingIn case you aren’t familiar with the content marketing acronym TOFU, let me define it for you. TOFU stands for top of the funnel and relates to content that attracts qualified visitors to your industrial website or blog.

Creating effective marketing content for TOFU is proving to be a challenge for many manufacturers. That’s because these industrial companies have plenty of product datasheets, user guides and other product-centric marketing collateral but very little content that is customer-centric. Why is this important?

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5 Most Popular Industrial Marketing Blog Posts from 2012

Happy New Year!

For my first post in 2013, I thought I would take a quick look back at the past year. Here are the five most popular industrial marketing blog posts from 2012. I picked these based mainly on the number of Pageviews and the Average Time on Page according to my Google Analytics.

Social sharing and comments also played a part but to a lesser extent since my primary audience of engineers and industrial professionals tend to be passive participants in those channels as many studies have shown.

  1. Content Marketing for Engineers
    I’ll go out on a limb and state that content marketing for engineers is different. Yes, I do get it that the lines between work and personal lives have blurred thanks to today’s hyper-connected world where everybody is always “On.” And I agree that at the end of the day, marketing to engineers is still all about communicating with people. Call it P2P (People-to-People) marketing if you will. (Continue reading…)
  2. How Manufacturers Use 3D CAD Models and 2D CAD Drawings as Sales Enablers
    Manufacturers usually want their industrial marketing to generate leads that result in RFQs as quickly as possible. Inbound marketing tactics such as SEO and other content marketing strategies do fill the top of their sales funnel but converting leads to sales opportunities takes too long for their liking.

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Blogs and Social Marketing in the Upstream Oil & Gas Industry

The Upstream Oil & Gas industry, also referred to as the exploration and production (E&P) sector, has a reputation of being very conservative and conventional. Even though the companies that operate in this sector are well-known global brands, they are not exactly forward thinking online marketers who use business blogs and social media regularly.

However, these companies are no slouches when it comes to using the power of blogging and social media to talk about a politically and emotionally charged topic like hydraulic fracturing. Google the search phrase hydraulic fracturing blogs and it will return 2 million results!

Sure, there are plenty of blogs written by die-hard tree huggers and other environmentalists with their own agendas but the list of blogs on hydraulic fracturing from companies and organizations reads like the “who’s who” of the E&P industry.

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Industrial Companies Underuse the One Social Media Tactic with Proven ROI

Social media usage by industrial companies has received some coverage lately. I’ve read two different survey studies about how companies within the industrial sector use or plan to use social media. Depending on which study you read, the results can be confusing. Here’s one example of the confusion that I’m referring to.

The study done by GlobalSpec reported, “Only 22 percent of industrial companies use Twitter, which reflects its low value among engineers as a social media resource.”

Whereas the study (2011 Social Media in Industry Survey) conducted by Semplice Industry Marketing states, “Of those who used Twitter in 2011, 78% found it somewhat to very useful.”

The one statistic that stood out for me and is consistent in both these studies is that company blogs rated low for usage across the board. Blogging is a proven social media channel and yet, industrial companies seem to severely under utilize this proven social media tactic.

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Industrial Blogs and Their Benefits-Challenge Duality

Blogging is proving to be just as as paradoxical for industrial companies as the wave–particle duality in quantum physics. Manufacturers, industrial distributors and engineering companies that I talk to do understand the benefits of using a blog as the hub of their inbound marketing strategy for SEO, lead generation, thought leadership and branding. However, they are struggling with the challenge of creating engaging content for their industrial blogs.

It is difficult for these companies to shift their mindset to think like “publishers” when their entire library of content is strictly product-focused. Industrial distributors find it even more challenging to come up with their own content when traditionally they have depended on the manufacturers they represent to supply them with all the marketing content.

The problem of creating content and blogging is not limited to industrial companies. General B2B marketers are struggling too. This chart published by MeraketingSherpa illustrates my point.

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Create a Content Series for Industrial Marketing

Happy New Year!

This is my first post in 2012 and I want to start the New Year by answering a perennial question about content marketing for manufacturers and industrial companies. The question – what do we write about?

The answer – create a content series.

Just like popular TV serials, you want to create a series of short blog posts that revolve around a common theme. There are many advantages to this content marketing strategy. The most important ones are:

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Retrofitting Blogs and Converting Industrial Websites into Blog Sites

I am seeing more manufacturers and industrial companies willing to try inbound marketing with content. A sure sign of that is the number of conversations that I have had recently with my current clients and new leads. They all want to either add a blog to their static industrial websites or convert them into dynamic blog sites.

Retrofitting a blog into an existing site is quicker and less expensive than recreating the site on a blogging platform. However, a blog site with a fully integrated blog has many advantages over the retrofit option. For a full list of benefits, refer to my earlier post, “Build Industrial Websites as Dynamic Blog Sites.”

Some companies need help setting up their business blogs but for most, the biggest obstacle is creating content. One way to get over this hurdle is to repurpose some of your existing content into blog posts.

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Industrial Blog Sites Revisited

The idea of combining a website with the benefits of a blog is very appealing to many industrial marketers. In my conversations over the past few months, I have noticed a growing acceptance of blog sites among manufacturers, industrial distributors and engineering services companies.

Blog sites as inbound marketing hubs

Industrial companies have realized the importance of inbound marketing and its impact on lead generation. They are beginning to look beyond a static informational website and are now seriously focusing on developing a more robust online presence for attracting qualified traffic, generating higher quality leads and positioning themselves as thought leaders in their respective niches.

If you are still not convinced about the power of industrial blogs and inbound marketing, let me highlight some of the facts and findings that I have written about in the past.

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How Blogs Help Manufacturers Enter New Markets

The current economy and a global supply chain have forced many manufacturers to reevaluate how they do business these days. Traditional sources of new business – word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business from existing customers have slowed to a trickle for many of these industrial companies. They now find themselves in uncharted waters where they have to think of and appreciate marketing as something more than mere sales support.

Business owners and executives crave stability and predictability but expectations and behaviors of industrial buyers have changed. It is time to get out of your comfort zones and rethink your industrial marketing strategies and tactics if you want your company to survive and thrive. That is an important and sometimes painful lesson that many manufacturers have learned over the past couple of years.

Entering new markets (49%) is cited as one of the top three areas where manufacturers and industrial companies will be spending more time and effort in 2011. (Source: 2011 Economic Outlook Survey by GlobalSpec.)

How do you enter a new market where you have no brand awareness, credibility or customer references?

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Build Industrial Websites as Dynamic Blog Sites

For most industrial companies and manufacturers, a Website is the centerpiece of their online presence. By now, most industrial marketers are aware of the power of inbound marketing for lead generation. A blog is considered the cornerstone of an effective inbound marketing strategy.

What if you could combine the best of both these marketing tactics? I’m talking about creating a blog site with dynamic content instead of a static digital marketing asset.

Building or redesigning a company Website as a blog site is increasingly becoming the preferred method for many industrial and manufacturing marketers.

Here, I’m referring to an integrated blog site where yourcompanyname.com is the home page of the blog or is in a subdirectory within your main domain such as yourcompanyname.com/blog and not an external blog like someotherblogname.com.   

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Industrial Blogs for Lead Generation Using Inbound Marketing

If you are an industrial or a manufacturing marketer, you know all about the constant pressure of generating high-quality sales leads. Upper management asking you to fill the pipeline with ever-shrinking budgets is a given these days.

There are three key ideas in the headline of my post – 1) Industrial blogs, 2) Lead generation and 3) Inbound marketing. In this post I’ll talk about how the three work together nicely in industrial and manufacturing marketing.

Various studies and my own experiences with industrial clients show that filling the top of the lead-gen funnel is still the number one goal.

A study of over 1,400 small and mid-sized businesses found that marketers with blogs generated 67% more leads. (Source: HubSpot).

Industrial marketers who don’t use a blog are missing a key component of feeding the top of their sales funnels. The single biggest benefit of blogging that I know of is getting found early and often when engineers and industrial professionals are researching solutions using search engines.

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How to Coax Content Out of Engineers

Keeping a steady flow of content coming out of engineers and in-house technical experts is a challenge.

You know your work is cut out for you if you are a Content or a Marcom Manager at an engineering or manufacturing company.

Engineers are known to be passive participants when it comes to generating marketing and social media content of any kind. What can do you do if you are tasked with maintaining an active industrial blog that needs fresh content regularly?

If you are a marketing department of one, I suggest you do whatever you can to hone your journalistic skills. You will need to become good at:

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Why Your Sales Funnel May Run Dry Without a Business Blog

Happy New Year!

Are you leaving additional sales leads and revenues on the table?

Industrial marketers who don’t use a business blog are missing a key component of feeding the top of their sales funnels. By not using every opportunity to generate high-quality leads, they may be leaving money on the table.

You can find lots of online articles about the advantages of using a business blog for building thought leadership, communities and humanizing your company. A business blog will help you do all that but what about finding new leads and more sales opportunities?

The answer is a resounding yes. A business blog is a powerful online marketing tool for inbound lead generation. A continuous stream of high-quality leads to feed the sales funnel and keep it humming is the lifeblood of industrial marketing.

To prove my point about business blogging for lead generation, here is an eye-opening statistic – marketers with blogs generate 67% more leads. The chart below shows the difference between B2C and B2B companies.

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3 Business Blogs with Proven ROI from Industrial Companies

A business blog is an important and integral component of inbound marketing. While there are plenty of business blogs from B2B marketing consultants (including this one), industry portals and vertical search engines, there aren’t too many from manufacturers and industrial companies.

Manufacturing marketers do understand the value of a business blog for thought leadership, search engine optimization (SEO), lead generation and community building but proving its ROI has been a challenge. As a result, many of them either ignore blogging as a marketing strategy or wait until their competition launches one.

It is easy for us marketing consultants to extol the virtues of a business blog but clients want to see actual examples before accepting our recommendations on blind faith. They need to see verifiable results and not just screen shots in our online portfolios.

I found three industrial blogs that have produced measurable ROI in terms of lead generation and sales – key performance metrics that resonate with the C-suite.

Here’s proof that business blogging is an effective inbound marketing strategy for manufacturers, engineering and industrial companies.

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How to Use a B2B Blog to Win Customers and Influence Prospects

I admit my headline is a play on Dale Carnegie’s bestseller, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” This timeless classic, one of the first bestselling self-help books published in 1937 and sold over 15 million copies globally is still relevant today.

As a B2B marketer, we want to reach our ideal prospects and communicate with customers to maintain top-of-mind awareness throughout their buying cycle. A B2B blog is the perfect online tool to accomplish that.

If you are still not sure about the benefits of using a business blog, head over to HubSpot and read these articles:

Assuming you are now convinced and have your own B2B blog, here are six basic steps for making it the hub of your online presence to win customers and influence prospects.

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