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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Content Marketing for Manufacturers: Overcoming Writer’s Block

Overcoming writer's block in content marketing for manufacturers82% of manufacturers said they are using content marketing according to findings from the 2015 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America published by CMI. More than half (59%) also said one of their top challenges is “Producing Content Consistently.” This is not an isolated finding; I’ve read other research studies that have reported similar results.

Writer’s block – the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing. (Wikipedia). That is exactly what I hear most often from my industrial clients who are struggling with content marketing.

Part of the problem is that in-house subject matter experts (SMEs) are too busy with their regular jobs to create content and the other part is the notion that they have nothing more or new to say because their audience who are primarily engineers already knows everything there is to know about the subject matter.

If you are facing the same challenges, I have two suggestions:

  1. For the first challenge, read – Industrial Blogging Lessons Learned from Working with Technical SMEs
  2. For the second part of the problem, read on…

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Why do so Many Industrial Website Redesigns Fail?

why industrial website redesigns failThis is a long post, so grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable. You are going to be here for a while and thanks for taking the time to read.

We’ve all heard or read about industrial website redesigns that have failed. I’m not talking about the aesthetics of a site which can be subjective; I’m referring to a site redesign that fails to produce results. For manufacturers and industrial companies that usually means that the redesign failed to deliver enough high quality leads that turned into sales opportunities.

I’ve had many conversations with prospective clients that start out something like this, “We’ve spent a bunch of money with an outside company to redesign our website but it hasn’t done much for our sales.” Some have even gone as far as saying “This other web developer did a disservice to us.”

Understandably they are now reluctant to spend more money on another industrial website redesign. What went wrong? It’s not that the other web development company deliberately ripped off these people, though there are some unscrupulous companies out there.

Most web design companies are led by graphic designers and coders; some are also experts at search engine optimization (SEO). Their primary focus is on creating an attractive site that gets found in Google for certain keyword phrases. Well, what’s wrong with that, you ask?

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Why are Manufacturers Still Struggling with Content Marketing?

Last week, I received an advance copy of the research study, 2015 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America thanks to Amanda Subler of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). There may be slight differences between my draft copy and the final version that was published by CMI recently.

Even though there has been a slight decline this year in the number of manufacturers who said they use content marketing (82% vs. 86% last year), far more manufacturing marketers cited sales as a goal this year than they did last year (85% vs. 56%). Content marketing for driving sales has now become an accepted industrial marketing strategy.

Content marketing for manufacturers

That’s the good news.

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Marketing to Engineers is a Big Challenge

Many industrial companies find it challenging to market to engineers. The biggest complaint that I hear is that engineers just don’t respond to marketing like others do. These companies are at a loss and need to figure out a better way to market since their target audience is primarily engineers from various disciplines.

You’ve probably read that you should market to people and not to a business or a company. Yes that is true and of course, engineers are people too. However, marketing to engineers is different.

Here’s how I see it:

  • Even though the line between our personal and professional lives has blurred, engineers make work related decisions very differently from their personal lives. Risk aversion is the primary emotion that drives engineers to make a buying decision which is then justified with logic
  • Big ticket industrial purchases are rarely ever made by an individual engineer. There is usually a committee of stakeholders. Your marketing may never reach/touch some of these internal decision makers
  • The traditional BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timing) approach to score a lead who is an engineer may not work very well. A design, manufacturing or applications engineer may be the specifier who must “design in” the industrial component before a functional buyer can make a buy decision
  • The commonly held belief that engineers hate marketing is only semi true

Full disclosure: I’m a Mechanical Engineer and have been an industrial marketing consultant for the past 25+ years. I can understand if you think my opinions are biased and are skeptical about what I have said here. So like a good engineer, let me validate my observations with evidence from independent, third-party research findings.

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Content Marketing for Manufacturers Must Go Deeper than ToFu

Many manufacturers are using content marketing but few consider it effective in generating leads that turn into sales opportunities. According to the 2014 study done by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 86% of manufacturing marketers use content marketing but only 30% of manufacturing marketers say they are effective at it.

content marketing for manufacturers

Here’s another finding, according to the 2014 Forrester Research/Business Marketing Association/Online Marketing Institute study, while 51% of B2B marketing leaders rate their content marketing practices as very mature, an overwhelming 85% fail to connect content activity to business value — and, as a result, fail to retain customers or win their long-term loyalty.

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Content Marketing for Manufacturers Isn’t Just Publishing More Content

Content marketing for manufacturersContent marketing for manufacturers has become a staple of industrial marketing with 61 percent using it as a marketing tactic and 54 percent planning to increase their spending on content creation (Source: IHS GlobalSpec Research Report).

However, the same study also found that only nine percent can demonstrate how content marketing contributes to sales (ROI) and only 15 percent align their content with the different phases of their customers’ buy cycle.

In other words just publishing content without a good content marketing strategy isn’t going to move the needle for manufacturers and other industrial companies. That’s the biggest problem I see firsthand when talking to these companies.

The mindset is pretty much that of a one-off marketing campaign instead of content marketing being an overarching marketing strategy to meet their business and sales goals. There is very little time spent, if any on discussing the “Why” of industrial content marketing and the focus is on the “What” as in “what should we write about?”

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Top 12 Industrial Marketing Posts of 2014

top 12 industrial marketing posts of 2014It’s time to look back at the most read industrial marketing posts that I published in 2014. I’ve culled the list down to 12 based on the data from my Google Analytics. These industrial marketing posts are listed in the order of published dates –oldest to the newest.

#1: What’s Hot and What’s Not in Digital Marketing for Engineers in 2014: I just downloaded my copy of the 2014 Digital Marketing for Engineers survey published by John Hayes and his team at ENGINEERING.com. There are some interesting and encouraging findings. I’ll use a few of the charts from the survey results that show what they found and then add what I am seeing firsthand with my industrial clients. Read more…

#2: Industrial Website Redesign Should Fit Your Sales Process: If you want your industrial website to generate qualified leads and drive sales (Of course you do), make sure you and your web developer takes the time to ask and answer the key question, “How will the redesigned website align with our sales process?” Many other related questions begin to surface whenever I ask that question. Read more…

#3. How to Create Successful Industrial Marketing Content for TOFU: 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? Read more…

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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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The Cardinal Rule of Industrial Content Marketing: Know Thy Buyers

cardinal rule of industrial content marketingIt may seem obvious to say that you must build your industrial content marketing strategy around your buyers but it doesn’t happen with regularity with most manufacturers, distributors and engineering companies. At least, that’s been my experience with industrial clients.

I often hear my clients tell me they know their customers very well. They can rattle off the industries they sell to and the job titles of their buyers at the drop of a hat. Some can even tell me the size of the company and other demographic data about their customers.

Unfortunately that is the extent of their knowledge about their buyers, very rarely if ever do they know the roles played by various stakeholders involved in the buying decision. Their assumption is the person who contacts their sales team is the buyer. Their entire content marketing strategy and SEO are built around that assumption.

The thinking goes something like this, “So and so from XYZ company called to inquire about our ABC widget. Therefore others (substitute job title) from similar companies must be searching for our products.”

Then they’ll ask me, “Isn’t that how it works?” My answer: Not exactly!

To illustrate my point, let me describe two scenarios that are very common in industrial buying.

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