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Lead Generation for Industrial Companies is a Process not a Campaign

I hear too many manufacturers and industrial companies talking about creating campaigns because they want to pump up their lead generation. That mode of thinking is outdated and simply doesn’t work today where you are dealing with mostly invisible and self-directed industrial buyers.

Buyers are looking for information online and interacting with sales people on their own terms. Your industrial lead generation needs to evolve to meet their needs. Otherwise you are going to struggle generating qualified leads that turn into sales opportunities. That is a virtual certainty.

Evolution of industrial lead generation

The old ways of industrial lead generation have changed. Engineers and technical buyers do most of their research, evaluation and finally selecting a vendor very differently today than in the past. Complicating the process is the fact that the buyers do not usually go on a linear buying journey. There are many stakeholders involved in the buying decision, some of whom may never visit your website and/or meet your sales people.

Now I know you’ve read/heard all this before so what exactly is different about lead generation today? Here’s a handy chart from Marketo that explains the differences between then and now.

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Content Marketing for Manufacturers Isn’t Just Publishing More Content

Content marketing for manufacturersContent marketing for manufacturers has become a staple of industrial marketing with 61 percent using it as a marketing tactic and 54 percent planning to increase their spending on content creation (Source: IHS GlobalSpec Research Report).

However, the same study also found that only nine percent can demonstrate how content marketing contributes to sales (ROI) and only 15 percent align their content with the different phases of their customers’ buy cycle.

In other words just publishing content without a good content marketing strategy isn’t going to move the needle for manufacturers and other industrial companies. That’s the biggest problem I see firsthand when talking to these companies.

The mindset is pretty much that of a one-off marketing campaign instead of content marketing being an overarching marketing strategy to meet their business and sales goals. There is very little time spent, if any on discussing the “Why” of industrial content marketing and the focus is on the “What” as in “what should we write about?”

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Purpose Driven Industrial Blogging

Industrial bloggingWhen I talk to manufacturers and industrial companies about blogging, which is practically every day, I can’t help but notice that these people do understand that blogging is a key component of good industrial content marketing.

What I find lacking most often is a clear understanding of purpose driven benefits from blogging. This gap prevents them from fully harnessing the power of blogs to boost industrial lead generation and drive sales.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of industrial blogging.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Marketers at industrial companies understand the importance of organic SEO. They realize that their sites and blogs need to be at the top of search engine rankings in order for their target audience to find them. The problem is their entire focus is on search engines, trying to find the latest “trick” to beating Google and other search engines.

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Priming Industrial Websites for Content Marketing

Many of my industrial clients are starting to plan and budget for 2014. High on their list of priorities is redesigning their industrial websites. A welcome change in these discussions is that redesigns are now driven by the needs of inbound marketing with content rather than just a cosmetic facelift to the site.

Manufacturers and industrial companies are more willing to accept the fact that their customers and prospects are interacting with them differently and this change in buyer behavior is permanent. They’ve seen how expensive traditional outbound marketing tactics are and how difficult it is to track results from those efforts.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that one should abandon outbound marketing. However, the balance has definitely shifted more towards online digital marketing for industrial companies.

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Storytelling in Industrial Content Marketing

Storytelling in industrial content marketingIf storytelling sounds too “Kumbaya” to you for hardcore industrial marketing and sales, then I suggest you read on for a fresh perspective.

There is a very good reason centuries old Aesop’s Fables and others of that genre continue to be popular today for teaching valuable lessons. Their power lies in storytelling. Who doesn’t love a good story, don’t you?

Today’s industrial buyers believe in self-serve in the early stages of their buying journey. S/he wants to read content that will help him or her make a more informed decision. A hard sell would be a total turn off. For engagement to happen, you have to make buyers immerse themselves in your content by the stories you tell to sell your solution.

How do you make that personal connection? You do that by addressing their “What’s in it for me ((WIIFM)” concerns. It’s about them, not you! By telling stories that are unique to you and your company. That’s how you differentiate yourself from others. Your competition may be able to outspend you and easily copy your industrial marketing tactics but they can never steal your stories and make them their own. See my post, “Content Can Differentiate Industrial Companies When There’s Parity in Value Propositions.”

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Industrial Content Marketing is NOT New

Everything old is new again in industrial content marketingManufacturers and industrial companies have been using content marketing for a long time whether they know it or not. What do I mean?

Product Releases have been a staple of industrial marketing long before inbound marketing with content became so popular.

Case studies, application notes, calculators, how-to articles, white papers and frequently asked questions (FAQs) have always been a part of industrial marketing.

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Industrial Content Marketing – Dazed and Confused

How many of you remember the song “Dazed and Confused” from Led Zeppelin’s debut album based on a folk song by Jake Holmes? I am finding industrial content marketing in a similar state of confusion.

Manufacturers and industrial companies are confused by the dizzying array of things they have been advised to do in the name of content marketing. I found this chart from the Content Marketing Institute that shows the usage of various content marketing tactics by manufacturers in North America.

Manufacturing content marketing Usage by manufacturers in North America: CMI

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Creating Relevant Content for Industrial Marketing is a Challenge

I am not referring to the age-old question, “What will we write about?” Creating content that an industrial and technical audience will find relevant is not easy.

An industrial marketer can only create so many application notes and case studies. Case studies are difficult to produce because well-known customers are reluctant to give their permission for fear of violating their corporate and legal guidelines. It is common in industrial content to find customers with generic names such as “A large Tier 2 OEM from the automotive industry” or “A major utility company on the US East Coast.”

Marketing consultants will advise you to address your customers’ pain points. Very good advice but I’m here to tell you that it is not always easy to do that in industrial marketing. Here’s why.

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Content Marketing Must Go Beyond Inbound Marketing in Industrial Sales

There is quite a bit of confusion among my industrial clients about the terms Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing. For many, the two are synonymous and it is just a matter of semantics. IMO, Content Marketing goes well beyond Inbound Marketing.

The classic definition of Inbound Marketing focuses on the top of the sales funnel (ToFU) and is built on the principle of being found in search engines and social media, attracting traffic and converting visitors into leads with relevant content. All worthwhile goals and takes a lot of hard work to accomplish them. However, you are likely to be very disappointed if your industrial marketing stayed focused only on ToFU.

I prefer the broader definition of Content Marketing because it addresses every phase of the buyer’s journey, both before and after the sale. I found a very fitting football analogy by Joe Pulizzi (@juntajoe) – the Founder of the Content Marketing Institute and the author of the books Managing Content Marketing and Get Content Get Customers, in a blog post Joe wrote, “If content marketing were a football field, inbound marketing would get you to the 35-yard line. Definitely critical, but hard to score from that distance.”

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Is it Time for Your Industrial Website to Sing Auld Lang Syne?

As 2012 ends and we look forward to 2013, it is a good time to review your current industrial website. In keeping with the tradition of celebrating the start of the New Year by singing “Auld Lang Syne,” it may be time for you to say farewell to the old site and greet the New Year with a redesigned website.

There are many reasons for redesigning your industrial website, mainly because it is outdated or it is underperforming or not producing any results at all. However, before you dive into the deep end of a site redesign, you need to first plan your content. By content, I don’t mean just the text on your web pages.

Based on my experience in developing successful sites for manufacturing and industrial companies, I suggest you spend a lot of time on the following tasks before beginning the redesign:

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