Measuring ROI of Industrial Content Marketing is Difficult

Manufacturers, distributors and engineering companies are finding it difficult to accurately measure the ROI of their industrial content marketing efforts. Only 44% of manufacturing content marketers report their organization measures content marketing ROI. (Source: Manufacturing Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs and sponsored by IEEE GlobalSpec).

Measuring ROI of industrial content marketing

While the number of leads generated by industrial content marketing is still a very important measure, it is not enough. Marketing is now held accountable for a wider range of metrics compared to previous years. Here’s a chart from the 2018 Budget Trends in Industrial & Technology Marketing report published by engineering.com.

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Industrial Content Marketing: Awareness to Conversion Takes Time and Hard Work

Industrial content marketing success for most manufacturers and other industrial companies is usually measured  by an increase in the number of RFQs/RFPs. Arguments about quality vs. quantity tend to fall on deaf ears because these companies with long sales cycles need a certain volume of quotes to keep their pipelines full and active.

Often, their stated goal for content marketing is “We want to increase awareness among engineers and industrial buyers and generate new contacts.” You’ve probably heard the same or something similar if you are part of an in-house marketing department or an outside industrial marketing consultant like me.

On the surface, it looks like a well-defined marketing goal but if you look closely, you’ll see that it takes many interim steps between raising awareness and converting traffic into qualified leads. It is this lack of understanding of what it takes to go from point A to point B that causes owners and decision makers at these industrial companies to get frustrated from the lack of quick results and shocked by the price tag.

Growing pains in industrial content marketing

According to Engineering360’s online survey addressing the marketing trends, challenges and expenditures within the engineering, technical, manufacturing and industrial companies, thirty-nine percent were just getting started with content marketing and only 12 percent can show how content marketing contributes to sales.

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No Digital Marketing for Manufacturers = Marketing in the Past

Are you marketing in the past without digital marketing for manufacturers?Most manufacturers including precision CNC machine shops and fabricators have difficulty understanding the true value of digital marketing for manufacturers. Some that have implemented it, struggle to produce tangible results, meaning a boost in sales that they can attribute to marketing.

The need for a robust online presence (Website and customer-centric content marketing) is driven by your customer’s behavior and not because marketing consultants are telling you to do so. Today’s industrial buyers are in self-serve and self-select mode, making them virtually invisible and hard to reach. They don’t need or want to talk to your sales people to get product information. Your buyers will engage with your sales team only when they are ready. Hounding them with cold calls or unwanted spammy emails is not going to make them choose you over the competition.

The lack of buy-in for digital marketing is a two-fold problem as I see it with my industrial clients. The first issue is a mindset at the top and the second part is one of incorrect attribution.

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How Industrial Companies are Stuck on SEO for Content Marketing Strategy

I find too many manufacturers and industrial distributors basing their entire content marketing strategy with one goal in mind – getting found in Google. In other words, the entire focus is on Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

“What’s wrong with that?” you ask. After all, your content is useless unless people can find your website when they search.

Focusing your content marketing strategy only on SEO or top of the funnel traffic has many drawbacks. If I had to summarize it in one sentence it would be, search engines are not your target, human visitors are.

People won’t automagically convert into qualified leads just because they found your industrial website in Google or other major search engines. That’s why your industrial content marketing strategy must be based on the entire sales funnel and not just ToFU (Top of Funnel) activities. Traffic by itself means zilch if you can’t convert it into opportunities.

Technical SEO vs content SEO

Right or wrong, SEO has an aura of mystery about it. This in turn turns off many site owners and marketers. While it is true there are certain aspects of SEO that are technical, it is only a small part of optimizing content.

Thanks to the recent algorithm updates by Google, current best practices in organic SEO go far beyond keyword matching, Meta tags and keyword density. The new Google is smart enough to understand and interpret search intent.

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Planning Your Industrial Marketing Strategy for 2015

industrial marketing strategyI hope you have already started planning your industrial marketing strategy for 2015. You may be wondering why you need to spend the time and effort in creating an industrial marketing strategy when you already know the problem – not enough quality leads generated from your current website.

It would be easy to dive right into redesigning your current industrial website. That however could be a mistake because the lack of leads is the symptom you are feeling, the underlying cause of the problem may be something completely different. You need to first identify the root cause and then come up a with plan of action to solve the problem. That plan of action is what I’m referring to as your industrial marketing strategy.

Importance of a formal industrial marketing strategy

Let’s take a step back and see why formulating an industrial marketing strategy is so important. I’m sure by now you have read or heard enough about how content marketing is the best strategy for generating more high quality leads at a lower cost per lead. So making content the cornerstone of your industrial marketing strategy is vital.

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How Industrial Content Marketing Builds Stronger Relationships Based on Trust

how industrial content marketing builds stronger relationships absed on trustStrong relationships have always been the cornerstone in complex industrial sales. That hasn’t changed and won’t change in the foreseeable future. How we start and build new business relationships have changed in today’s digital age.

Ask any successful salesperson and s/he will tell you that trust is the key to building strong and sustainable relationships. They’ll also tell you that trust needs to be earned. You can’t earn someone’s trust if all you do is talk about yourself and turn a deaf ear to the concerns of your audience.

Industrial content marketing when done right will help you earn trust by putting the focus on your customers’ challenges and issues instead of talking about your company, its products and services.

Note how I qualified my statement by saying “when done right.” That is the crux of the problem as I see it with content marketing done by most manufacturers, distributors and engineering companies.

It starts with a lack of clear understanding of what content marketing is and how it can drive the sales process. Most if not all my new client engagements start with answering the “what and why” questions about content marketing. And of course they all want to know how it will increase their sales and how quickly they can see results.

Here are some common content marketing myths that I’ve encountered in my daily conversations with industrial companies.

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Content Marketing for Industrial Distributors

Content marketing is proving to be a big challenge for industrial distributors that I have talked to. The problem stems from the fact that distributors have relied heavily in the past on their principal manufacturers to provide them with marketing content and collateral. Weaning themselves from that reliance and becoming publishers of original content is not only a challenge but they just don’t have the necessary resources for content marketing.

The second part of the problem is that these companies are sales driven and marketing has never been a major part of their sales process. Sales people cold calling, setting appointments for face to face meetings and building relationships are how they have always generated new leads and increased sales. Distributors have realized that industrial buyers are no longer engaging with their sales people like they used to. They recognize the fact that they need to support their sales team with better industrial marketing with content.

Industrial distributors don’t want to become publishers of content; they want to sell more of their products. I accept that reality, the challenge lies is delivering quantifiable ROI from content marketing. (See my post, “Content Marketing: Think Like a Publisher, Act Like an Investor”)

Using content marketing for organic or natural SEO to drive qualified traffic for top of the funnel (ToFU) activities is a large part of the solution. However, it is only half the equation. Your content needs to engage with visitors, persuade them to take action now rather than later and convert them into sales qualified leads. This conversion process is far more challenging.

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Purpose Driven Industrial Blogging

Industrial bloggingWhen I talk to manufacturers and industrial companies about blogging, which is practically every day, I can’t help but notice that these people do understand that blogging is a key component of good industrial content marketing.

What I find lacking most often is a clear understanding of purpose driven benefits from blogging. This gap prevents them from fully harnessing the power of blogs to boost industrial lead generation and drive sales.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of industrial blogging.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Marketers at industrial companies understand the importance of organic SEO. They realize that their sites and blogs need to be at the top of search engine rankings in order for their target audience to find them. The problem is their entire focus is on search engines, trying to find the latest “trick” to beating Google and other search engines.

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Industrial Marketers Face ROI Challenges

Developing a good digital marketing strategy and then executing it is complex enough but measuring ROI is proving to be a bigger challenge for marketers within manufacturing and industrial companies.

Thirty-one percent of industrial marketing professionals stated that measuring ROI is the biggest challenge in their profession. That is one of the findings from IHS/GlobalSpec’s 2013 Trends in Industrial Marketing report.

Measuring ROI of industrial marketing is a challenge

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Industrial Marketing Can’t Succeed Without Sales

Industrial marketing and sales - mythbustersI can assure you this is not another post about sales and marketing alignment. Plenty has been written on that topic already.

I am sure you’ve read many articles about today’s industrial buyers completing most of their decision making long before they ever contact anyone in sales. Various statistics show how Sales is not involved until the final procurement stage, thus making a strong case for using content in inbound industrial marketing to bridge the gap.

I read an article where recent Forrester research found that 75% of the buying cycle is completed before sales is engaged.

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Marketing Automation Alone Can’t Deliver ROI for Industrial Companies

Let me start by saying that I’m a big believer of Marketing Automation (MA) and have seen it produce incredible marketing ROI for some manufacturers and industrial companies.

Then why does the headline of this post make me sound like a skeptic? That’s because it’s a case of good news, bad news.

First, the good news, MA does make the entire process of converting Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) into Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) very efficient and measurable. It produces amazing results when implemented and managed correctly.

This infographic from Pardot (A SalesForce Company) shows the real results automation users are seeing, descriptions of how automation is transforming companies, and staggering growth statistics.

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Sabotaging Industrial Marketing Hurts Sales

Industrial marketing must drive salesWhat is the real purpose of industrial marketing? One can come up with a list of at least half a dozen or more excellent goals. IMO, the single most important function is that it must help drive sales and grow revenues.

I agree the journey is not straightforward from point A to point to B, especially in industrial sales where the sales cycles are typically 4 to 12 months long and there are several decision makers involved, some of whom may never interact with your marketing content.

Within manufacturing and industrial companies, I am seeing some real issues where industrial marketing is hampered and as a result, there is a negative impact on sales and revenues. These problems go beyond the typical marketing cutbacks in a difficult economy.

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Guest Blogging: An Important Strategy of Industrial Marketing

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about all the great benefits of blogging as a cornerstone of your content marketing. However, one aspect of this industrial marketing strategy that doesn’t get much attention is guest blogging. There are unique benefits of guest blog posts that deliver powerful marketing ROI.

In the past, many SEO experts pushed publishing guest articles and blog posts for the sole purpose of generating inbound links with keyword-rich anchor texts. This SEO or content marketing strategy relied heavily on quantity over quality of links. Google’s war on content farms has pretty much rendered this tactic useless. Don’t get me wrong, quality inbound links still matter in SEO.

IMO, there are three bigger benefits of guest blogging. They are:

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Are Industrial Companies Wasting Their Leads?

No matter the size of the company or the industry they are in, my conversations always boil down to them wanting more leads from their industrial marketing. Yet I see very few of these companies with a lead nurturing strategy in place to convert leads into sales opportunities. As a result, online leads sit untouched or go without a response for weeks if not months.

Often I see marketing people from manufacturing and industrial companies hand off leads to sales with little to no qualifying. This only causes more frustrations and reinforces the long-standing belief by sales that “Marketing generates crappy leads.”

It is important to understand the differences between a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL), a Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) and a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). (See my post, “SAL is the Glue that Binds Sales and Marketing in Lead Generation.”)

Here are some eye-opening statistics from a study done by MarketingSherpa:

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Not All Industrial White Papers Merit Registration

White papers are used most frequently for lead generation and nurturing in industrial marketing. Many of these white papers are very technical and require engineers and other domain experts to spend quite a bit of their time in producing these content marketing assets. A freelance copywriter cannot create them with an hour or two of work.

It is natural for industrial companies to want to maximize their ROI after investing all that time and resources. However, should all industrial white papers be gated – require registration? There are two schools of thought on this.

On one hand, you have those who insist on registration because they believe it is an equitable value exchange. Free knowledge and valuable educational content in exchange for contact information.

Then there are those who advocate setting all your content free. This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky concept. There are well-known content marketers in this camp.

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Content Can Differentiate Industrial Companies When There’s Parity in Value Propositions

A Value Proposition plays an important role in differentiation, which in turn affects lead generation. Yet, if you read the content on most industrial websites, they tend to sound similar within each industry. Most manufacturers and industrial companies make generic claims that are often copied by their competition and lack validation.

How do you rise above the noise when there is so much parity in Value Propositions?

There are experts who are more qualified than I am in crafting a Value Proposition that is so unique to a company that it cannot be easily duplicated by others. However, my clients look to me for answers for overcoming their lead generation challenges using my knowledge and experience in industrial marketing.

One strategy that has consistently produced good results for my industrial clients is using the power of industrial content marketing. You’ve probably heard that before so what’s different about what I’ve just said?

Let me answer that by giving you some specifics:

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Can Digital Marketing Make the Phone Ring for Industrial Companies?

Generating leads is always the central theme in my daily conversations with manufacturing, engineering and industrial companies. However, a qualified lead means different things to different people and it is rare for me to find too many of these companies to have a clear definition of what a lead means to them.

Truth be told, lead generation is a catchall for “We want our phones to ring.”

I wish it were that easy. Then again, I had better be careful about what I wish for because if it were that easy, my clients wouldn’t need my help solving their industrial lead generation problems.

Let me make it clear from the outset, this post is not about sales vs. marketing. I firmly believe that complex industrial sales require both sales and marketing to work together. I advise my clients to embrace that philosophy and not to think of industrial marketing as mere sales support.

How can digital marketing help create more qualified opportunities for industrial sales?

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