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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.

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Industrial Content Marketing — Goals are Misunderstood and Misaligned

Industrial content marketing is used by an overwhelming majority of manufacturers. It stands at 85% according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 survey. According to ENGINEERING.COM’s 2017 survey, 87% of engineering marketers use content marketing.

The CMI survey also reported that that 80% of manufacturing marketers rated themselves as “Not At All Successful” to “Moderately Successful” with content marketing.

Success with industrial content marketing

Dissatisfaction with industrial content marketing

C-suite executives at large industrial companies and owners of smaller family-owned manufacturing and engineering companies have plenty to be unhappy about with their lack of success with industrial content marketing. The big reason – MONEY! (or the money spent on content marketing).

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Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends and Challenges

For the past four years, I have downloaded and read research reports on Manufacturing Content Marketing in North America published by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). I believe 2014 was the first year that CMI published its annual Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report specifically for B2B manufacturing content marketing.

I’ve noticed some interesting trends emerge over the years. In this post, I’ll compare some of the key findings from these research reports. Whether you are a manufacturer, a distributor or an engineering company, there are good takeaways for all industrial content marketers.

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How Industrial Marketing Influences Buyers

Industrial marketing precedes industrial sales. That is the reality today.

I understand manufacturers, distributors and engineering service providers may find it hard to accept that fact. That’s because these industrial companies have traditionally depended on sales teams to drive their lead generation efforts from start to finish. Marketing has always provided sales support and not expected to play an active role.

Today’s industrial buyers have flipped that sales and marketing paradigm upside down. Even though the industrial buy cycle has not changed, buyers go through their buying journey very differently now. They prefer to operate in a self-serve and self-select mode by using a variety of digital sources of information.

If you are in industrial sales, hold off on your “salespeople are not dead” comments until you’ve read through to the end of my post.

I’m sure you’ve heard this digital marketing mantra ad nauseam. As an owner or a business development professional at one of these industrial companies, you are probably skeptical about that message, especially when it comes from industrial marketing consultants with vested interests.

Let me reassure you with some key research findings from unbiased, independent third parties.

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Industrial Content Marketing’s Role in Sales

You’ve probably read all the buzz surrounding industrial content marketing. You are in good company if you are already doing it. The Content Marketing Institute found that 81% of business-to-business (B2B) manufacturers in North America said that their organizations were using content marketing (Source: 2016 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America).

Here’s a reality check—only 18% of those manufacturing marketers reported that their content marketing was effective in accomplishing their overall marketing objectives. That, by the way is lower than the 26% in 2015 and 30% in 2014. So the effectiveness has been trending down over the past three years.

Industrial content marketing effectiveness - CMI

Fear not though, in another survey done by ENGINEERING.com (Engineering Marketers’ 2016 Campaign Plans Research Report) there was very good news. Here’s what they said based on the responses from their audience – “Content marketing has become so powerful in the marketing industry that only 3% of marketers say they are going to reduce their spending in this category. That’s even more amazing when you see that 27% (10% + 17%) said that it isn’t really working. The buzz around this concept is so powerful that if it doesn’t work, marketers blame themselves. In fact, they are 3X more likely to increase their budget if it isn’t working than they are to decrease their budget.” 

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How Manufacturing Content Marketing Sets the Table for Sales

Manufacturing content marketing sets the table for SalesI recently received two emails from two different manufacturers. They both inquired about using manufacturing content marketing to help their sales efforts. Both these companies had used telemarketing and other conventional marketing tactics with very little success in generating sales qualified leads.

You may be experiencing the same or similar problems as these two manufacturers. Here are excerpts from those emails.

  • “Using a lead generation company right now that charges too much and delivers too little. They do not understand industrial sales, and although they are talented and penetrating accounts, many of the set appointments do not answer the phone.”
  • “I have been doing the conventional style of marketing i.e. making cold calls, face-time with clients. After all such interactions, I was simply told to mail the information regarding our product, company credentials etc. I have met 100+ people and so far only a few have responded.”

These two manufacturers are experiencing firsthand the realities of industrial buyer behavior these days. Buyers are in self-serve self-select mode and remain mainly invisible for a large portion of the buy cycle. These industrial buyers will engage with your sales team only when they are ready. Hounding them with cold calls or unwanted emails is not going to help them make a more informed decision of selecting your company as the preferred manufacturer.

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