How Industrial Content Marketing Increases Awareness and Creates True Differentiation

Industrial content marketing can be very effective in solving two common problems that many manufacturers and distributors face. They are:

  1. Lack of awareness about them among engineers and industrial buyers
  2. Inability to differentiate themselves from the competition

Given the fact that today’s industrial buyers prefer to do their own research and rely more on a variety of digital tools, it is critical for these industrial companies to address these two problems because they have a negative impact on their sales. The second problem is more acute among distributors because more often than not, their website content is mainly copy and pasted text from their principal manufacturer’s site.

Industrial content marketing usage and effectiveness

Needless to say, these industrial companies are eager for marketing solutions. They are aware of industrial content marketing and want to implement it, but I’m not sure they understand its full impact and are struggling to use it effectively to meet their goals. I say that based on my daily conversations with manufacturers and distributors from various industries.

That is not just my opinion, take a look at these two charts from 2016 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends Report from the Content Marketing Institute.

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Industrial Content Marketing Boosts Sales for Distributors

industrial content marketing attracts customersMy conversations with distributors about industrial content marketing almost always start with them needing help in growing their sales. That should come as no surprise.

The real problem however lies in the definition of the problem itself. Most distributors define their problem as “lack of sales.” The solution therefore must be this new-fangled thing called “industrial content marketing” since traditional tactics like cold calling, e-mail blasts and print ads are no longer producing satisfactory results.

So with that mindset, they want to dive right into creating content. The assumption is that the more content they publish, the easier it will be for their target audience to find them in search engines and once they arrive at their site, visitors will be ready to talk to their sales team. (See How Industrial Companies are Stuck on SEO for Content Marketing Strategy).

I wish it were that easy. Conversion optimization is a completely different challenge from discovery optimization even though they are related.

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Marketing to Engineers Requires Accurate and Truthful Content Presented Logically

Marketing to engineers is challenging, but manufacturers, distributors and engineering services companies cannot shy away from it because engineers make up the bulk of their target audience.

Engineers regardless of their experience are concerned with keeping their skills current and their technology knowledge up to date. They are actively looking for reliable information about advancements and innovations. This extends beyond content marketing for engineers; many of these industrial professionals are motivated to attend trade shows and conferences to learn about something they don’t know. (See Why Manufacturers Need a Multichannel Industrial Marketing Strategy).

The irony is that engineers are hungry for information, but industrial marketers are struggling to provide them the right content and engage with them in a meaningful way. Marketing people at these companies need to work with in-house Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) for creating content that their target audience will find helpful and is technically accurate.

There are two key challenges when it comes to marketing to engineers with content – time and trust.

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Industrial Content Marketing’s Role in Sales

You’ve probably read all the buzz surrounding industrial content marketing. You are in good company if you are already doing it. The Content Marketing Institute found that 81% of business-to-business (B2B) manufacturers in North America said that their organizations were using content marketing (Source: 2016 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America).

Here’s a reality check—only 18% of those manufacturing marketers reported that their content marketing was effective in accomplishing their overall marketing objectives. That, by the way is lower than the 26% in 2015 and 30% in 2014. So the effectiveness has been trending down over the past three years.

Industrial content marketing effectiveness - CMI

Fear not though, in another survey done by ENGINEERING.com (Engineering Marketers’ 2016 Campaign Plans Research Report) there was very good news. Here’s what they said based on the responses from their audience – “Content marketing has become so powerful in the marketing industry that only 3% of marketers say they are going to reduce their spending in this category. That’s even more amazing when you see that 27% (10% + 17%) said that it isn’t really working. The buzz around this concept is so powerful that if it doesn’t work, marketers blame themselves. In fact, they are 3X more likely to increase their budget if it isn’t working than they are to decrease their budget.” 

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How Manufacturing Content Marketing Sets the Table for Sales

Manufacturing content marketing sets the table for SalesI recently received two emails from two different manufacturers. They both inquired about using manufacturing content marketing to help their sales efforts. Both these companies had used telemarketing and other conventional marketing tactics with very little success in generating sales qualified leads.

You may be experiencing the same or similar problems as these two manufacturers. Here are excerpts from those emails.

  • “Using a lead generation company right now that charges too much and delivers too little. They do not understand industrial sales, and although they are talented and penetrating accounts, many of the set appointments do not answer the phone.”
  • “I have been doing the conventional style of marketing i.e. making cold calls, face-time with clients. After all such interactions, I was simply told to mail the information regarding our product, company credentials etc. I have met 100+ people and so far only a few have responded.”

These two manufacturers are experiencing firsthand the realities of industrial buyer behavior these days. Buyers are in self-serve self-select mode and remain mainly invisible for a large portion of the buy cycle. These industrial buyers will engage with your sales team only when they are ready. Hounding them with cold calls or unwanted emails is not going to help them make a more informed decision of selecting your company as the preferred manufacturer.

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Marketing Engineering Services with Content

Marketing Engineering ServicesMarketing engineering services is very different from marketing industrial products. The biggest difference is that you are selling an intangible concept as versus a physical product. The final deliverable in engineering services may be a written report but it is still not the same as selling a motor or a pump.

I have run across hybrid situations where the manufacturer sells custom-engineered products. These are not standard off the shelf widgets but require significant amount of engineering consulting upfront before producing the final product.

In this post, I’ll stick with marketing pure engineering services such as Soil and Groundwater Investigation/Remediation; Engineering Feasibility Studies and Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) Audits to name a few.

Traditionally, engineering services firms have relied on referrals, professional networking and event sponsorships to grow their business. Referral business is great but they are usually few and far between for a dependable growth strategy. Networking and sponsorships are time consuming and expensive.

Let’s say you’ve perfected your marketing message into a concise 30-second elevator pitch and you’ve become good at delivering it to strangers you meet at professional events. Assume you’ve managed to pique their interest, which is no small feat. Guess what, they are going to check out your website when they get back to the office. The content on your site will make or break that first impression.

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Content Marketing for Manufacturers: What’s real and what’s hype?

If you are a manufacturing marketer, I’m sure you’ve heard all the buzz and the hype surrounding content marketing for manufacturers. It is a fact that today more manufacturers are using content marketing for increasing awareness (branding), lead generation and sales. That’s not hype, it’s definitely a reality as reported by the 2015 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs.

Goals of content marketing for manufacturers

Is content marketing for manufacturers meeting those goals and expectations?

I’ll answer that question by first citing study findings and then with my own experiences with manufacturing clients.

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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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Content Industrial Buyers Want from Supplier Websites

Manufacturers and industrial companies have shifted more of their marketing dollars to digital marketing channels for a very good reason. Their target audience—engineers and industrial buyers are using digital media to find components, equipment, services and suppliers (77%); obtain product specifications (73%); find product availability information (70%); perform research (67%); and compare products across suppliers (66%). (Source: 2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector; IHS Engineering360 Research Report).

The chart below shows how industrial professionals are using the Internet for work-related purposes.

work-realted use of the Internet by industrial professionals

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Industrial Marketing Plan: A 3-Phase Approach

Industrial marketing plan

As we go deeper into Q4 with the holidays right around the corner, most industrial companies start to think about their industrial marketing plan for the next year. As an industrial marketing consultant, I’m often asked by clients the best way to approach this important planning task.

My preferred way is what I call the 3-phase industrial marketing plan approach. I refer to them as phases instead of steps because each phase consists of several smaller steps.

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