As an industrial manufacturer, your time is short. You have new products to develop. Expensive equipment to maintain. Plus tight production and shipping deadlines to meet. Marketing your company may not be top-of-mind, let alone content marketing. And just what the heck is content marketing anyway? Content marketing can be described as the online presence of your company; the image you portray to clients and prospects every time they browse your website, click on a link, or check your product catalog. Content marketing describes the way in which you communicate the value of your company and the value of your brand. What does your content marketing say about you? We’re here to share the best practices of Content Marketing 101, but with an industrial manufacturing focus. Consider this your guide to develop messaging that will engage your engineers, fill the funnel, and, ultimately, convert leads to customers!
Let’s start at the beginning, by identifying your target audience (also known as your buyer persona). Best practice is to first identify the person you’d like to reach, determine exactly what they are searching for, and then define the role they play in the decision-making process. By taking this crucial first step, you can more closely target your market and tailor your message. Clearly, each persona has a unique perspective, and each has an influence in the decision-making process. But there is no one-size-fits-all message for the entire group. Just as engineers may not be concerned about per-unit pricing, manufacturing buyers may not be familiar with the differences in specs from one product supplier to another. Yet all have a role to play in finding the right product at the right price to move their products out the door.
Now that we’ve established the need to target and tailor your marketing efforts, how can you begin? What should your message be? Start with some brainstorming and research to help you understand your audience and determine how to capture their attention. Here are a few steps to get you started:
- Brainstorm keywords – What are some of the buzzwords (or keywords) that are critical to your industry? Begin by brainstorming a good long list, and then whittle it down to a manageable set of priority keywords. Then choose those keywords with the best search volume as the basis for your content marketing, as your material will rank higher in search engine results. An adept outsourced marketing firm can help you develop this important list (hint, we know a good one!). For example, an air hose manufacturer might include keywords such as air hose fittings, air compressor hoses, compressed air lines, air hose reel, air hose medical, etc., with a “problem” keyword of air hose pressure. Implementing an effective keyword strategy drives higher quality traffic to your website and creates valuable conversion opportunities via organic search.
- Take a content inventory and repurpose – Why reinvent the wheel? Start with what you’ve got! Begin by taking an inventory of your current content to help you identify the materials you have in stock vs. new materials you might want to develop in the future. Many times an older piece of content can be repurposed with some minor copy and design revisions. Do you have existing customer presentations? They could be the beginnings of a new ebook. Got a list of industry FAQs? This could be the start of a series of blog posts. Get the idea? Repurposing your inventory will not only help you save the time and expense of creating all new content, but can also help you gain traction quickly.
- Talk to your subject matter experts (SMEs) – Looking beyond existing pieces, how can you begin to create new content? Start by speaking with the folks who face your customers; your sales reps, installation folks or repair teams. Or arrange interviews with your top customers and ask for their insight on your company and the industry. You’d be surprised by how asking a few simple yet probing questions can generate a plethora of new content ideas. What problems do they face? What questions are they being asked? Which social media channels do they follow? Are there industry obstacles they are challenged by? These are all good questions to begin with. Remember, to provide a solution, you must first understand the problem!
- Observe the competition – Of course, it’s always a good idea to take a look at what your competition is saying in their content marketing. Are they successful in their efforts – or missing the mark? Evaluating the competition can help you solidify and differentiate your company from the rest of the pack.
Once you’ve researched your priority keywords, taken a material inventory, spoken to your SMEs, and checked out the competition, now you can get to the actual creation! But first, a few pointers to keep in mind before you begin ― remember that great content marketing does not sell products, but solves problems. Using our example of targeting an air hose manufacturer, consider how your product can solve a persistent air hose pressure issue. Or describe how you can deliver a better ROI than your competitor. Does your product reduce in-field failures or last longer than a competitive product? Each of these perspectives appeals to a different buyer persona, yet may also solve the
problems they regularly encounter. Keep these 3 points in mind when developing your content:
- Follow the 80/20 content rule – Remember that your content is for the benefit of your audience, so speak from their perspective. Good content follows the 80/20 rule; 80% should focus on benefits and 20% should have a promotional focus. You’ll gain much more credibility by promoting your solutions vs. your brand. After all, would you be more apt to read a blog post with the title of 5 Tips to Improve Your Air Hose Pressure or ACME Air Hoses Are Superior? See the difference?
- Become a resource – Build a connection with your audience by providing thoughtful, educational content; no fluff, just facts. Research your topics thoroughly and create
material with a goal in mind.
- Build thought leadership – This point goes hand-in-hand with the one above. Thoughtful, articulate and factual information will build trust with your target market and build your reputation as a provider of solutions.
Every good marketing strategy should begin with a well-optimized website, using keywords, CTAs (Calls-to-Action), landing pages, etc. But from a content material perspective, there are a number of resources to include in a comprehensive strategy. Some formats may be long and detailed (white papers), others can provide information in a friendly, concise manner (blog posts); yet each plays a role in the buyer’s journey. Ultimately, you want to educate your target market and give them information that they can rely on. But remember that personality is also important; even industrial industries
that are sometimes perceived to be “dry” can be fun with a little creativity!
- Start a blog – Blogging is a proven method of increasing leads. In fact, B2B companies that blog get 67% more leads, as each new blog post provides a new landing page to improve SEO. There is really no limit to what you can blog about, but best practice is to build your editorial calendar around your keywords and to blog consistently. Mix up your topics to include Q&As, SME interviews, videos, how-tos and other formats.
- Develop white papers – White papers are generally long, detailed reports that explore a vertical or industry challenge in great technical detail. They often include product technical data and are geared to address an industry issue of challenge, with very little (or no) promotional content.
- Write case studies – Case studies are meant to share your company’s strengths and introduce a solution that your audience may not have thought of. Keep in mind that you do not have to reveal the names of your customers (for competitive reasons); you can simply provide relevant application details within the appropriate industry. To preserve confidentiality, consider a title such as, “How a Major Contractor Reduced Air-Hose Failures By 20%.”
- Generate videos/infographics – Content marketing is not just the written word; share your information via visuals to reach all types of audiences. Consider how-to videos to demonstrate a new product, or a Q&A with your Service Manager. Infographics can feature a chart or diagram of industry data.
- Build eNewsletters – Digital newsletters are a great way to nurture your leads on a regular basis. Consider a monthly challenge/solution format, comment on tradeshow takeaways, or review a recent application experiment. Content can vary greatly.
- Get social – It is becoming more and more critical to include social posts in your content marketing strategy. Develop and promote your company’s LinkedIn page, tweet an excerpt from your blog, or create a company Facebook page. Your social outreach is the perfect opportunity to promote your content and interact with your target market!
In conclusion, remember that timely, relevant content marketing is a worthwhile investment for all industrial manufacturers. With the right strategy and correct buyer persona, plus relevant, educational content, you can build your thought leadership and the value of your brand. But the biggest takeaway of all? Don’t sell products, solve problems!