I’m sure every time you’ve talked with an industrial marketing consultant about content marketing, you’ve been told that you need to start with a “content marketing strategy.” That’s very good advice but what does it really mean if you are on the other side of the table and are responsible for marketing your industrial company?
I don’t want to overgeneralize the process of developing a good content marketing strategy because it varies from company to company. There are some guidelines and best practices that most professional marketing consultants follow but that doesn’t mean the strategies are cookie cutter plans.
What I’ve outlined here is my process for developing a sound content marketing strategy for industrial clients who are new to using inbound content marketing for generating more high quality leads at a lower cost per lead.
You are probably very familiar with the phrase “To succeed with content marketing, you have to think like a publisher.” Building on that foundation, my process is based on the time-tested principle of “the Five Ws (and one H)” of good journalism. In case you are not familiar with that term, the five Ws are – Who, What, When, Where and Why. The H stands for How.
Who: Clearly defining the “Who” of your marketing content is a critical first step. This may seem obvious since you want to create content for your customers and prospects but it is somewhat of a tricky question. Industrial sales typically involve various stakeholders, each with different pain points that your content must address. People tend to consume content in their preferred formats and in their own ways. Creating generic, one-size-fits-all content will deliver poor results.
You need to define specific roles (personas) such as Design Engineers, Field Technicians, Purchasing Managers and C-level Executives so you can create content that specifically targets their needs. Your content must match stages and roles in their decision making process.
What: What to write about is probably the biggest hurdle for many industrial companies that want to get on board with content marketing. This step of the strategy development is much more than just building a list of topics to blog about. It should help you shift the focus from writing about your products and services to how you help your customers solve their challenges. One way to prevent falling back on talking about yourself is to keep asking “So what?” This will lead you to answering the most important question for your readers/ visitors, “What does it do for me?”
During the onboarding process, I ask probing questions to peel back the layers to get to the core of my clients’ expertise – what are they really good at and what subject matter expertise do they have that sets them apart. Without this step, it would be difficult to create true thought leadership content that the competition cannot easily claim.
Why: I’ll address the “Why” before the When and the Where because it is more important than those two questions in my opinion. Some consultants begin their process with this step. Why do you believe your site visitors will take action after reading your content? What do you expect them to do? Just like the “Who,” it is easy to fall into the generalization trap by saying, “We want to do content marketing because we want our phones to ring.” (See my last post, “Can Digital Marketing Make the Phone Ring for Industrial Companies?”).
It probably won’t happen in one fell swoop but content marketing will get you there if you use compelling calls to action. This will help your readers take a series of interim steps in their decision making process while moving the needle for you. Every piece of content that you create must serve a specific purpose for them and you. You may want to read my post, “Industrial Content Marketing with Purpose.”
When: To answer this question, I suggest developing an editorial calendar. It needs to be more than a list of dates or a publishing frequency. Your calendar must be flexible enough to accommodate hot topics because of an event or incident, coverage during major trade shows, regulatory changes and/or targeting seasonal services such as turnaround service for refineries and power plants. Add a sense of urgency to your content if you want your readers to take action now instead of later.
Where: This is the easiest question to answer – of course all roads lead to your industrial website. You have the best solutions for your customers’ problems!
How: Okay, now that you have all five “Ws” answered, what about the “How?” You can go one of three ways on this one; 1) outsource industrial content marketing, 2) Do it all yourself (DiY) or 3) Part DiY and part outsourced. In my experience, option number 3 works the best.
If you do want to go the DiY route, here is a short video from Joe Pulizzi (@juntajoe), the man who wrote the book on Content Marketing. He explains a basic content marketing strategy that you can implement easily.