Content Marketing for Industrial Companies – Authenticity is Mission Critical

Authenticity in industrial content marketingMarketing sometimes gets a bad rap of being deceptive. There is a fine line between persuasion and deception. Stretching the truth, exaggerating the positives and putting a positive spin on the negatives have been staples of marketing for a long time.

Today’s industrial buyers are far better informed and using deceptive marketing practices won’t get you too far with them. Authenticity and maintaining transparency are critical for industrial companies to succeed with content marketing. (See my previous post, “How Industrial Content Marketing Builds Stronger Relationships Based on Trust”)

Your buyers don’t have to take your word for it, they have various social and online channels to check and confirm your claims. The quickest way to lose credibility is for you to say/write things that you can’t validate. The old adage of “Buyer Beware” has been turned on its head to “Seller Beware.”

Authenticity and transparency in industrial content marketing sound great but are they realistic goals? Do profits, revenues and short-term goals take precedence? The honest answer is probably yes. So how can you be authentic with content marketing and still meet your business goals?

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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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How Unqualified Leads Bog Down Sales Pipelines for Industrial Companies

I have yet to come across a manufacturer, a distributor or an engineering firm that didn’t ask for more leads. No surprise there!

The more I probe, the clearer it becomes what they really want are more requests for quotes or proposals. This is understandable since the sales pipeline needs to be full and active at all times because of the long sales cycles that’s typical for industrial companies.

However, this singular focus is causing a lot of frustrations because not enough leads generated by marketing are converting into sales opportunities. If you haven’t already heard or read about this problem, here are two stats that will make you sit up and think.

  • 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance. (Source: MarketingSherpa)
  • 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to Sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified. (Source: MarketingSherpa)

I can cite many reasons for this disconnect. Based on my experience as an industrial marketing consultant working with clients, the root of the problem is the lack of understanding and/or spending enough time to understand the differences between Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), Sales Accepted Leads (SALs) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). As a result, Sales continues to blame Marketing for generating “crappy” leads that never turn into sales.

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3 Online Content Tips for Industrial Distributors to Differentiate Themselves

content to differentiate industrial distributorsAlmost every industrial distributor that I talk to, both clients and new prospects struggle with one key problem – differentiating themselves. This is particularly challenging for distributors because the competition in their niche carries the same products. Visit any distributor’s site in any industry and you’ll find their line cards read pretty much the same.

In short, there is so much parity in value propositions that it is difficult to differentiate one distributor from another, especially online. This in turn has a very negative impact on generating qualified leads and sales opportunities for these industrial companies.

I get it that the distributors are in business for the sole purpose of selling their industrial products. However, the Internet and digital marketing have completely disrupted the old ways of generating new business.

Today, industrial buyers have many more online resources available to them to do their own product research. They no longer rely on distributors to provide them that information. Customers prefer this self-serve mode of research for a large part of their initial buying journey before they will even contact a distributor.

If they can’t find your site in Google early and often, you may be out of contention even before the process starts or become one of three competitive bids for someone to fill out their spreadsheet.

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Understanding the Age Gap is Important in Digital Marketing for Industrial Companies

If you are using digital marketing (You are, aren’t you?) to market your industrial company, its products and services, then you need to understand the importance of the age gap and its impact on digital media usage.

I’m sure you have read many of the dire headlines about the critical skills gap in the industrial sector and how it could threaten the competitiveness of manufacturing in the U.S. If you read between the lines, the underlying cause of this problem is the age gap. Here are a few recent headlines and direct quotes to drive home my point:

  • New talent needed as baby boomers age and jobs continue growing in the industry. (U.S. News & World Report)
  • “The senior geologists will soon retire and there is no one to take over except much more junior geologists. The age demographics among geologists has resulted in a skills, mentorship and leadership gap, which is becoming a concern.” (Deloitte)
  • The demographic age gap is expanding at an alarming rate because the aging workforce will be retiring within the next 5 – 10 years and not enough young people are finding the industry attractive enough to join. (World Petroleum Council)
  • Oil field workers are retiring in huge numbers, leaving a workforce that’s younger and — more importantly — less experienced. (NPR)
  • “When the Deepwater Horizon exploded, no one in the BP engineering team had been on the job for more than six months.” (John Konrad, author, ‘Fire on the Horizon: The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster’)
  • Put simply, we are experiencing a growing age gap in engineering-focused fields. (Boston.com)
  • The reasons for the dearth of qualified job candidates are varied. Both Mercer and Manpower cited age, disruptive technology like hydraulic fracturing and education as key drivers of the problem. (NBC News)

I don’t want to get into a debate about all this being just a ploy for companies to ship jobs overseas for cheaper labor. The fact is we have a problem. Enough said!

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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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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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