In today’s uncertain economy, manufacturing and industrial companies are taking more than a hard look at their marketing spends. These companies have always thought of marketing as sales support, so it requires a lot of convincing to change that mind-set. Upper management and key decision makers are skeptical about inbound marketing with content being able to generate qualified leads and set the table for sales. According to them, that has always been a job done by sales and not marketing.
As I’ve written before, just publishing content won’t move the needle. (See Content Marketing: Think Like a Publisher, Act Like an Investor). I am also convinced that these executives really want sales opportunities and not more of marketing qualified leads (MQLs). Read my post, “Manufacturers Need Lead Management to Close the RFQ Gap.”
Given this situation, how do you sell the value of content marketing to industrial companies? For the moment, I am going to set aside analytics and ROI measurements and focus on the real value of content marketing as it relates to industrial sales. Let’s look at three scenarios that are very common in the industrial sales process.
Scenario #1: You sell complex engineering services or you are a manufacturer of industrial equipment that requires big-ticket capital investment. These buy decisions are not going to happen without C-level execs giving you the nod. However, these decision makers are probably not going to read your blog posts, follow you on social media or visit your Website.
They rely on a few handpicked people they trust to filter out all the noise and provide only key facts to help them make a decision. These people make up what I refer to as the sphere of influence for the decision makers.
Create marketing content that will turn these influencers into internal evangelists who will carry your message to the final decision makers. Make them the hero who found the right solution that will save their company tens of thousands in costs and/or generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in future revenues.
Scenario #2: You manufacture industrial components and parts used by OEMs. Design Engineers are the primary target of your content marketing. They are the specifiers of your product.
These people won’t score very high if you rely only on conventional BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeframe) criteria for scoring your leads from content marketing. The fact is you are not going to get anywhere close to an RFQ unless your component or part is “designed in” by these specifiers.
The value of your content marketing to these design engineers is saving them time and eliminating specification errors. I have provided one way of doing this in my post, “How Manufacturers Use 3D CAD Models and 2D CAD Drawings as Sales Enablers.” Another effective content marketing tactic is using Engineering and Evaluation Kits for lead nurturing.
Scenario #3: You manufacture process control equipment that goes on skid-mounted systems often used in the upstream oil and gas industry. Your customer is an OEM/Fabricator. He fabricates the system to his customer’s specifications. This is typically an EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) company and is the technical buyer. The EPC company decides which vendor will supply the valves and level controllers that go on the fabricated system. In other words, your customer has little to no influence on the selection of the preferred vendor.
The EPC company relies on its field service people to provide vital information about your equipment’s reliability, ease of maintenance and availability of spare parts. These factors strongly influence the choice of equipment vendor specified by the EPC company to the OEM/Fabricator – your customer is only the functional buyer in this case.
Assuming your equipment performs as specified, your marketing content has to make life easier for the field service professionals. Provide them with the tools that simplify maintenance data management, help with regulatory compliance, track and plan future actions, manage inventory of parts and spares, help them quickly locate authorized service centers that offer 24/7 emergency service and are within close proximity of their project sites.
Content marketing that adds real value to industrial sales requires much more than writing blog posts and tweeting about them. It requires thinking of every stakeholder involved on your customer’s end, the role they play in the final decision and then delivering the right content, at the right time and in their preferred format.