Unique Challenges of Manufacturing Content Marketing in 2019

I just finished reading the Manufacturing Content Marketing 2019—Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report published by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and sponsored by IEEE GlobalSpec.

Lisa Murton Beets (@LisaBeets), Research Director at CMI said, “The data suggest that manufacturers have a way to go with putting the audience’s informational needs before their own sales/promotional message. In addition, marketers in these organizations say they are uniquely challenged with creating content that appeals to multi-level roles within their target audience. Many are working to address these challenges, for example, by developing personas.”

I couldn’t agree more with her summary because that is pretty much what I find, working with manufacturers and industrial companies every day.

What is unique about manufacturing content marketing?

If you have been a regular reader of my blog, you’ve probably read many of my posts where I have talked about the differences between manufacturing (industrial) content marketing and other B2B content marketing.

There are three key differences that you should be aware of:

  1. Long sales cycles (12 to 18 months is typical for custom-engineered systems)
  2. Buying decisions are made by a committee (Many of the stakeholders remain invisible and rarely interact with your content)
  3. The Specifier is different from the Functional Buyer(Manufacturers of parts need their components “designed in” by an engineer before Purchasing can issue a PO or an RFQ)

Now look at this chart for the findings from the CMI report.

Unique challenges of manufacturing content marketing

Documented strategy and buyer personas lagging in manufacturing content marketing

Most industrial companies are not sure what a content marketing strategy is supposed to be or do. To them, an editorial calendar and/or a plan of action (POA) for implementing content tactics is their strategic plan. Often in a family owned and operated industrial company, it exists only in the head of the founder and is never documented.

The problem with a POA is it only answers the “what” question and fails to answer the “Who and Why” questions. As a result, they’ll jump right into content creation and then wonder why content marketing isn’t working as advertised.

Buyer Personas is another mystery to them. Don’t get me wrong, most manufacturing marketers have a clear understanding of who they want to target, but it rarely goes beyond firmographics (also known as emporographics or firm demographics, from Wikipedia). Some of my clients have gone a bit deeper and have segmented their audience by Job Functions. This is more of an exception than the norm.

Without a deep understanding of who you want to target and their challenges, it is easy to fall into the trap of creating more product-centric content instead of being customer-centric. It isn’t surprising then that manufacturing marketers are struggling with understanding their audience’s informational needs.

My opinions are corroborated by the findings from the CMI report.

Documented strategy for manufacturing content marketing

Buyer personas in manufacturing content marketing

You don’t know what you don’t know about manufacturing content marketing

It is difficult to measure the ROI of manufacturing content marketing if you don’t have a robust analytical tool that you use to track and measure. It is not just about adding a layer of technology, you also need to have a good understanding of how to use it. Accurately measuring is another challenge faced by manufacturing content marketers.

Measuring ROI of manufacturing content marketing

Based on my experience in industrial marketing, I can tell you accurately measuring ROI is not just a matter of technology and/or tools. They certainly can help, but it is not easy to overcome the problem of incorrect attribution which in my opinion is a bigger challenge. This is particularly true in complex industrial sales where there are multiple stakeholders involved and sales cycles can stretch into 12 to 18 months. (Proving ROI of Industrial Content Marketing is Still a Big Challenge).

I’ll be publishing more posts in the future about the challenges faced by manufacturing content marketers. Stay tuned!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers in the U.S.

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