Industrial Content Marketing: Product Centric vs. Customer Centric Content

Product centric vs customer centric industrial content marketing

Recently, I had an interesting conversation about industrial content marketing with the President and the Marketing Manager of a manufacturing company. They design and make engineered systems used in the Metalworking and the Pulp & Paper industries.

Our conversation happened in the early stages (Thank God!) of developing a content marketing strategy. This company has been in business for over 20 years and had done plenty of conventional outbound marketing over the years. They contacted me to help them effectively use industrial content marketing to generate qualified inbound leads and convert them into sales opportunities.

Product-centric vs. customer-centric industrial content marketing

The discussion became quite heated just like the very successful Miller Lite “Tastes Great!… Less Filling!” beer commercials. The Marketing Manager was adamant about leading with product specifications, technical content and other product-centric content. His take, “We sell products and people call us about equipment for their applications.”

The President, a Mechanical Engineer like me, made a statement that I thought was extremely important. He said, “We don’t sell standard off-the-shelf equipment. Everything is engineered and designed to meet the customer’s specific application.”

That is exactly the difference between product-centric and customer-centric industrial marketing. And you thought engineers don’t use their creative right-brain capabilities!

The Marketing Manager is not entirely wrong either. Product specifications, features and benefits are very important in industrial sales but those alone are not enough.

How product-centric content fails to meet the buyer’s needs

For industrial content marketing to set the table for sales, it must overcome several challenges.

  • Large built to order CAPEX equipment buying decisions are usually made by a committee and not an individual. Each stakeholder has a different need and may even have his/her own agenda to promote.
  • Conventional prospecting tactics are no longer effective because industrial buyers are in self-serve and self-select mode, making them virtually invisible and hard to reach.
  • Buyers are not actively searching for engineered systems on a daily basis. Some in your target audience may not even be aware that they have a problem, so it is difficult to sell a solution without first raising awareness of the problem (See Industrial Content Marketing – Selling the Problem not Just Solutions)
  • A Request for Quote may come from the Purchasing department but you are not likely to get that call unless your equipment is specified or “designed in” by an engineer first. Content must win the mindshare of specifiers and not just focus on the functional buyer.

In short, product-centric content fails to address the various needs of multiple stakeholders, some of whom may never visit your site or directly interact with your content.

As the legendary Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt put it, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

The image that I’ve used above, the Heinz upside-down ketchup bottle is a great example of designing a product to meet the user’s needs and offer a better experience, Less squeezing. Less knife poking.

I’m not suggesting that industrial content marketing alone is enough to drive sales but customer-centric content needs to be the foundation of a well-rounded industrial marketing strategy.

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