Industrial Content Marketing’s Impact on Customer Experience

Imrpoving customer experience with content marketingCustomer experience — the Holy Grail of customer loyalty and repeat business. Every company wants it, many talk about it but only a few get it right.

Customer experience is critical to manufacturers and industrial companies because it takes a long time and lots of hard work to find new customers from a limited pool of qualified prospects where their competitors are fishing too. You may be missing a huge opportunity if you are counting on your sales team and/or sales support people to provide “exceptional customer experience” from start to finish.

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Social Media Usage by Engineers and Industrial Professionals

Last week I downloaded and read the new research report, “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector” published by IHS GlobalSpec. Some of the findings are consistent with their reports from previous years and others are good wake up calls for industrial marketers.

It is still true that most engineers and industrial professionals are passive users of social media – they prefer to “read, watch and research as opposed to publish, post and comment.”

Two statements from the report caught my attention. They are:

  1. In terms of researching work-related purchases, engineers prefer other online resources, such as search engines, online catalogs, supplier websites, and vertical search engines (VSEs) such as GlobalSpec.com.
  2. 54% of industrial professionals say there is “too much noise and not enough substance” around using social media for work-related purposes.

Those two findings should be a big wake up call for industrial marketers. First, industrial companies shouldn’t expect social media to pick up the slack if they stop doing things like optimizing their websites (SEO) and adding content assets such as CAD viewers and Parametric Part Number Finders to help their buyers take interim steps that will lead to the final buy decision.

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Industrial Companies shouldn’t Replace Email Marketing with Social Media

Right off the bat let me say that this post is not about email marketing versus social media. However, I’ve had conversations with manufacturers and industrial companies where I am asked if email marketing is still relevant and effective since all the talk these days is about social media. Yes, social media generates all the buzz but discarding email marketing, a tried and true workhorse would be a mistake and here is why.

In a March 2012 online survey of US marketing professionals, trade publication Chief Marketer found that the most popular tool in digital campaigns, according to 78% of the respondents was email marketing followed by Email newsletters (59%) and a close third was social media at 58%.

Here is a chart from emarketer.com showing the growing number of tools used by marketers to improve Website engagement.

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Industrial Content Marketing with Purpose

In my last post, I talked about using content to convert website traffic into leads and customers. In this post, I want to continue with a similar theme and talk about why your content marketing must have a purpose.

With the abundance of content available on the Internet these days, it is difficult to rise above the noise and get noticed. Manufacturers and industrial companies cannot be content with just publishing content, their content marketing needs to drive the sales process.

Telling owners and C-level executives at these companies that inbound marketing with content takes time to produce results will only hold them off for so long. They expect, and rightfully so, that their marketing investments produce ROI sooner rather than later, now would be even better. (See Content Marketing: Think Like a Publisher, Act Like an Investor).

However, creating content that will convert traffic into leads in one fell swoop is a challenge since industrial sales typically have long sales cycles and a multitude of stakeholders are involved in the purchase decision.

Consider these suggestions then to overcome the hurdle – change the purpose of your content marketing from conversion to action. What am I talking about?
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Blogs and Social Marketing in the Upstream Oil & Gas Industry

The Upstream Oil & Gas industry, also referred to as the exploration and production (E&P) sector, has a reputation of being very conservative and conventional. Even though the companies that operate in this sector are well-known global brands, they are not exactly forward thinking online marketers who use business blogs and social media regularly.

However, these companies are no slouches when it comes to using the power of blogging and social media to talk about a politically and emotionally charged topic like hydraulic fracturing. Google the search phrase hydraulic fracturing blogs and it will return 2 million results!

Sure, there are plenty of blogs written by die-hard tree huggers and other environmentalists with their own agendas but the list of blogs on hydraulic fracturing from companies and organizations reads like the “who’s who” of the E&P industry.

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Manufacturing Infographics for Content Marketing

Infographics, short for information graphics are hot right now. It seems everyone is creating one these days. Infographics have been around for a while and are used to communicate complex concepts visually and easily. If done right, they can be very effective in content marketing for manufacturers and industrial companies.

In the early stages of lead generation, you are primarily dealing with “suspects” – people who you have not yet qualified as prospects or leads. For top of the funnel content, infographics are very effective because of their focus on educating the reader rather than being product-centric.

Even though suspects may not fit your ideal customer profile, they may be people who will share your content if they find it worthwhile and interesting. Infographics fit the bill the perfectly for this purpose. Shareable content increases awareness about your company and drives more traffic back to your site or blog. Filling the top of the funnel with interested readers is one of the key objectives of content marketing.

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Industrial Companies Underuse the One Social Media Tactic with Proven ROI

Social media usage by industrial companies has received some coverage lately. I’ve read two different survey studies about how companies within the industrial sector use or plan to use social media. Depending on which study you read, the results can be confusing. Here’s one example of the confusion that I’m referring to.

The study done by GlobalSpec reported, “Only 22 percent of industrial companies use Twitter, which reflects its low value among engineers as a social media resource.”

Whereas the study (2011 Social Media in Industry Survey) conducted by Semplice Industry Marketing states, “Of those who used Twitter in 2011, 78% found it somewhat to very useful.”

The one statistic that stood out for me and is consistent in both these studies is that company blogs rated low for usage across the board. Blogging is a proven social media channel and yet, industrial companies seem to severely under utilize this proven social media tactic.

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2012 Content Marketing Trends for Manufacturers and Industrial Companies

I just finished reading an excellent research report from the good folks at Content Marketing Institute (CMI). This report is chock full of statistics and graphs about B2B content marketing. In this post, I want to focus on some of their findings that I feel apply to content marketing for manufacturers and industrial companies.

Even though the content marketing adoption rate for these companies is at an impressive 83%, I am surprised that it is even that high; the Manufacturing/ Processing industry (as defined in the report) is dead last among the six industries studied.

What is encouraging though is the fact that 68% of companies with 10 – 99 employees maintain a blog as compared to only 55% for larger companies that employ this content marketing tactic. Many of the manufacturers and industrial companies fall in the smaller size category.

That’s not the only good news for blogs. Even though other marketing tactics like in-person events and webinars are still seen as the most effective tactics, this year blogs registered a 45% increase in “perceived effectiveness” as compared to the study done in 2010. (See chart below).

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Cool Stuff Manufactured in America

In the spirit of Thanksgiving later this week, this post is my way of giving thanks to those manufacturers who still believe in the value of “Made in America.”

Manufacturing has been a bright spot for a while now in our economic recovery despite the anemic growth and sporadic hiring. During these holidays, I’d much rather talk about the good news instead of Wall Street’s roller coaster ride or the recent failure of the Super Committee.

I came across a slew of manufacturing videos called “Cool Stuff Being Made” from National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). You will find lots of useful information on their site and if you like, you can join and get involved.

I’ve selected three for this post because they are about small manufacturers in the US. Some of these manufacturers are family-owned and operated and have been around for decades. Surviving the economic turmoil and thriving while bucking the offshoring trend are major accomplishments that need to be recognized. Read more

Retrofitting Blogs and Converting Industrial Websites into Blog Sites

I am seeing more manufacturers and industrial companies willing to try inbound marketing with content. A sure sign of that is the number of conversations that I have had recently with my current clients and new leads. They all want to either add a blog to their static industrial websites or convert them into dynamic blog sites.

Retrofitting a blog into an existing site is quicker and less expensive than recreating the site on a blogging platform. However, a blog site with a fully integrated blog has many advantages over the retrofit option. For a full list of benefits, refer to my earlier post, “Build Industrial Websites as Dynamic Blog Sites.”

Some companies need help setting up their business blogs but for most, the biggest obstacle is creating content. One way to get over this hurdle is to repurpose some of your existing content into blog posts.

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