Why are Manufacturers Still Struggling with Content Marketing?

Last week, I received an advance copy of the research study, 2015 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America thanks to Amanda Subler of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). There may be slight differences between my draft copy and the final version that was published by CMI recently.

Even though there has been a slight decline this year in the number of manufacturers who said they use content marketing (82% vs. 86% last year), far more manufacturing marketers cited sales as a goal this year than they did last year (85% vs. 56%). Content marketing for driving sales has now become an accepted industrial marketing strategy.

Content marketing for manufacturers

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that manufacturing marketers find it very difficult to measure content marketing’s effectiveness in generating sales. Measuring ROI is a difficult challenge in complex B2B sales but it seems even more pronounced for manufacturers. Only 12% say they are successful at tracking the ROI of their content marketing programs (Compared to 21% for other B2B marketers).

Joe Pulizzi (@JoePulizzi), Founder of CMI described the problem very well in his executive summary where he said, “There is, however, a disconnect between tactic usage and effectiveness. And among all groups we’ve studied this year, manufacturing marketers are having the most difficulty with measuring content marketing effectiveness and ROI.”

There are several reasons for this disconnect. The top three in my opinion are:

  1. Only 20% say they have a documented content marketing strategy (21% last year)
  2. Only 34% of those who do have a documented strategy said they follow it very closely
  3. Only 37% of manufacturing companies have a dedicated content marketing group

These findings match what I see on the ground with my manufacturing clients. Almost all industrial marketing conversations start with a client or a lead wanting to do content marketing. Yet, they have no answers to my questions about why and what they expect to get out of it other than to say “we want more sales.”

In other words, they have spent little to no time thinking about the “Who, What and the Why” of content marketing but want to jump right into content creation. To them content marketing is just another one-off promotional campaign and the new way to do search engine optimization (SEO). They don’t want to hear about strategy, they want sales to start rolling in soon after publishing some content.

Folks, “It Ain’t Gonna Happen.” (See Content Marketing for Manufacturers Isn’t Just Publishing More Content).

The results speak for themselves, only 26% say they are effective, which is a decline from last year when 30% of manufacturing marketers said they were effective at content marketing.

Content marketing for manufacturers

Manufacturing marketers allocate less to content marketing when compared with their B2B peers overall (22% vs. 28%). Last year, manufacturing marketers allocated 21% and this year the average is 22%. So they are spending slightly more than last year and yet they are less effective.

Content marketing for manufacturers

This trend is expected to remain the same since nearly half (47%) of manufacturing marketers plan to increase their content marketing spending during the next 12 months vs. last year’s 46%. That is still well below the 55% for B2B marketers overall.

Spending the time and money on a well-thought-out industrial content marketing strategy is not merely a marketing exercise, it is critical to success. Take a look at this comparison chart to see what effective (“best-in class”) manufacturing content marketers do versus those that are least effective.

Content marketing for manufacturers

Measuring website traffic still continues to be the number one metric for assessing content marketing success (67% this year vs. 63% last year). Therein lies the problem, traffic doesn’t always turn into qualified leads and sales opportunities in complex industrial sales with long sales cycles. Just because someone found you in Google doesn’t mean the phone will ring or you’ll get an RFQ after their first visit to your site. Conversion optimization is very different from discovery optimization. (See Industrial Web Design – Visit to Call is Not Automatic).

Manufacturing content marketers are beginning to pay attention to this problem as seen in this chart about their plans over the next 12 months.

Content marketing for manufacturers

That’s my take on this year’s research findings on content marketing for manufacturers. What’s yours?

You can download CMI’s full report from Slideshare.

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  1. […] strategy is critical to successful content marketing campaigns and an increase in sales, yet only 20% of manufacturing marketers have such a strategy in place. Then, only about a third of those follow […]

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