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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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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Better Industrial Marketing Doesn’t Mean More Technology

Marketing Automation vendors have done a great job of spreading the message about the benefits of technology in marketing. Industrial companies are paying attention. I’ve been asked several times about using Marketing Automation (MA) in industrial marketing. I should be excited and jumping up and down with joy, right? Not so fast! Why do I say that?

Unless you get your marketing house in order first, technology alone isn’t going to solve all your industrial lead generation problems. A popular quote by Bill Gates sums it up nicely. He said, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

How Marketing Automation Works

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Industrial Web Design – Visit to Call is Not Automatic

Calls from industrial websitesNine out of ten times, manufacturers and industrial companies want their site visitors to call them right after they visit the site. Right or wrong, this is the primary call to action they want when discussing industrial web redesign. They do like the idea of generating leads via content downloads but that is secondary to the phone call.

To a large extent, I do understand their need for the phone call. Most industrial sales require an applications engineer or an expert to talk to the visitor to fully understand their needs before presenting a solution. The exception may be distributors using eCommerce to sell components online. Even they are moving more towards solution based selling.

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Industrial Marketing for Engaging with Engineers

It’s a myth that engineers hate marketing. What they definitely don’t want is more meaningless marketing fluff. Those two statements are based on my personal experience of working with and marketing to engineers for the past 25+ years. I’m a Mechanical Engineer myself and passionate about marketing. Over the years I’ve met and worked with many engineers who feel the same way and some are very good at creating their own marketing content.

As a manufacturer or an industrial company, your marketing must target and communicate with engineers and technical buyers. So what do you have to do to make that happen?

If I had to summarize the answer in one sentence, it would be, “Industrial marketing must be from one engineer to another.” That is by far the most effective strategy for marketing to engineers.

One of the recommendations for industrial marketers that came from the 2012 survey, Mind of the Engineer released by UBM Electronics was, “Engineers communicate with and trust other engineers. Leverage this collaborative ethos.”
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Industrial Content Marketing — Different Strokes for Different Folks

Any industrial content marketing strategy that is based on “one size fits all” content is likely to fail. That statement may seem like an overgeneralization but I have seen it happen one too many times to ignore.

Sure, there are many common types of content assets used by manufacturers and industrial companies but how they are used, who uses them and at what stage of their buying journey make all the difference. And that’s the main thrust of this post.

Before I dive into the subject matter, did you notice the two popular musical references I’ve made? First, “Different strokes for different folks” is a line from the 1968 hit song “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone. It later inspired the title of the popular TV sitcom, “Diff’rent Strokes.” The second musical reference is “One Size Fits All” from the 1975 rock album by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. These two phrases became so popular that they are commonly used today in marketing, business and life in general, sometimes in a different context than the original meaning.

Commonly used industrial content marketing assets

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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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