Effective Industrial Content Marketing Requires Working Closely with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

Industrial content marketing needs the help of SMEs

If you are responsible for industrial content marketing at your company, you know it is a challenge and can be a daunting task to engage with engineers and technical buyers. It is not too difficult to prove effectiveness with top of the funnel results such as increased traffic, page views, content downloads and newsletter signups.

However, most manufacturers and other industrial companies are not going to be satisfied with that. They want and expect their industrial content marketing strategy to engage with engineers and persuade them to start a conversation with their sales team.

Industrial companies that I talk to on a daily basis, find it challenging to market to engineers. Their biggest hurdle is the lack of response from their target audience. These companies are at a loss and want a better way to market since their target audience is primarily engineers from various disciplines. And therein lies the challenge.

SMEs help to leverage the power of one engineer to another

To connect with engineers and technical professionals, you need your content to speak to their needs by recognizing their daily challenges at work and addressing them. In short, make your industrial content marketing more about them and less about you. Your in-house SMEs are the people who are best qualified for this kind of one-on-one communication with other engineers.

Marketing alone can’t create engaging content, they need to collaborate with their SMEs. Even if marketing does the ghostwriting, the content must be reviewed and authored by SMEs.

“Reliance on interaction with fellow engineers dwarfs other modes as the preferred method of communication for solving problems and gaining new insights.”

(Source: A global research study produced by Beacon Technology Partners and UBM Tech Electronics Network).

Industrial content marketing must leverage this collaborative ethos without wasting the engineer’s valuable time with content noise. For more on this, see Marketing to Engineers Requires Accurate and Truthful Content Presented Logically.

Using tacit know-how of SMEs to gain a competitive edge

The concept of “tacit know-how” and its implications for engaging with engineers are important to understand when it comes to industrial content marketing. Product features are great for specifying or getting your industrial products “designed in” but they alone can’t move you to the top of the list so you are not just one of three competitive bidders. It is the experience and the expertise of your SMEs that will convince other engineers that you understand their applications/problems (been there, done that) and prove that you have the right solution.

It’s a myth that engineers and industrial buyers make buy decision strictly based on facts. There is a strong emotion at play – fear of failure. They want to validate their choice by backfilling it with logic. Keeping your SMEs in the forefront provides that valuable assurance and builds credibility with your audience.

Watch this short video (2:15) from UBM Tech’s CEO of Electronics, Kathy Astromoff where she talks about tacit know-how, engineers’ challenges, perceptions, and information-gathering habits.

Engineers and SMEs have more on their plates than ever before

SMEs are very knowledgeable and passionate about their own products, services and solutions. However, engineers are extremely busy and are facing increasing demands on their time and resources.

According to IHS Engineering360 Research Report, 2016 Pulse of Engineering Survey, slightly more than half of engineers (51 percent) said the pace of engineering is accelerating, and 59 percent said they are required to do more with less.

Industrial marketers must understand this time crunch if they want SMEs to help them with content marketing. Don’t expect SMEs to create the content for you. You have to coax the main talking points out of them and then do your own research to flesh out those bullet points. It is our job as industrial content marketers to edit, optimize and create compelling content that is technically accurate while being customer-centric rather than company-centric.

How to work with SMEs for creating engaging content

Whether you an in-house content marketer or an external company offering industrial content marketing services, you will have to work closely with SMEs. This is very important if you want to create content that engineers will find engaging and useful in making a more informed buy decision.

Over the years, I’ve learned some valuable lessons working with clients’ SMEs. I’ll summarize the key points here and you can read my post, Industrial Blogging Lessons Learned from Working with Technical SMEs where I have provided more details.

  • Identify a core group of SMEs
  • Build an editorial calendar
  • Learn to interview SMEs intelligently
  • Do your own industry research
  • Become a ruthless editor
  • Understand the review process
  • Use your SEO expertise
  • Learn to promote content without becoming salesy

Building a close working relationship with SMEs takes a lot of work and time. I have to do my homework even though I’m a degreed Mechanical Engineer myself. I have found that the effort pays very rich dividends. It has helped me produce the results my clients really want from their industrial content marketing.

Case Study: Industrial content marketing helps manufacturer jumpstart marketing program and generate sales ready leads

Key Results: 40.9% increase in deals won and adds an additional low seven figure revenue directly attributed to marketing.

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