For decades, B2B (business to business) manufacturing marketing has revolved around the same three concepts— tradeshow lead generation, sales cold calls and networking/relationship selling. While those are important tenets for the big guys, content marketing has leveled the playing field. Never before have financially bootstrapped new businesses been able to out-compete legacy brands. That means that legacy brands need to modernize their marketing efforts to maintain or grow market share. Content marketing is scalable, it can work on any budget, and it reaches an entirely new tech-savvy generation that doesn’t play by old rules.
The truth is that modern B2B buyers are doing extensive research outside of their interactions with a salesperson. In fact, B2B buyers consume about 13 pieces of content before making a decision at all. Overall, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads, but manufacturers have historically been hesitant to modernize. Only during 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic virtually eliminated trade shows, did most manufacturers switch their focus to content, be it blogging, social media, newsletters or other avenues. Today, the Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) 2020 Manufacturing Content Marketing Report shows that 68% of manufacturing marketers still say they’re only “moderately successful” with their efforts.
So, how can you take your content marketing to the next level? These tips can help.
Focus on buyer needs, not the sales pitch
For decades, manufacturers won clients by touting product benefits, but today’s buyers are inundated with ads and incessant sales messaging. We tend to filter it out the same way we put an adblocker on our internet browser. Unfortunately, it’s one of the industry’s biggest battles. According to the CMI report, more than half of marketers struggle to abandon the traditional marketing and sales mindset. A great way to break out of the rut is to focus on buyer needs rather than the sales pitch.
Today, buyers are looking for trustworthy, knowledgeable partners, and you can build this trust through content that positions your company as an authority in the industry. Aim to produce content that helps buyers do their job. For example, TestDevices put out a free e-book called “Spin Testing for Manufacturing 101” that gives an in-depth look at spin testing. Other companies have found success with industry reports, such as CGR Products’ Automotive Manufacturing Report, or webinars.
Create content for each step of the buyer’s journey
The B2B buyer’s journey is extraordinarily long compared to B2C (business to consumer) sales, which means content shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all solution. You can’t rely on impulse buys and need to nurture leads every step of the way, building a relationship as you go. For this reason, you should target buyers at each phase in the customer journey simultaneously. This includes:
- The educational phase: when they first research their problem, challenge or opportunity.
- The evaluation phase: when they start weighing their options
- The conversion phase: when they’re ready to choose a company and make a purchase.
- The delight phase: the post-purchase phase where businesses should aim to keep customers happy and interested to nurture them as a future lead.
The best course of action is to create a range of content. For example, someone in the evaluation phase might enjoy a virtual Q&A with managers, whereas someone in the educational phase might be looking for a helpful e-book. Either way, most manufacturing marketers fail on this front. In 2019, CMI found that only 40% of those surveyed always or frequently create content based on the buyer’s journey, so working this into your strategy can give you a leg up.
Try video marketing
The CMI report also found that video is the manufacturing industry’s top-performing type of content. That’s not surprising when you consider the fact that 96% of consumers say that the amount of video content they’ve watched has increased over the past year. Overall, most marketers agree that video helps bolster website traffic, sales, leads and an understanding of their product.
Video content comes in a range of styles, from short social media posts to livestreams to longer explainer and how-to videos. Many manufacturing marketers find success with things such as video factory tours. In some sense, this can speed up part of the buyer’s journey. It can help give buyers a greater understanding of what you have to offer and can eliminate the need to fly out to see your facility in person. Premier Mounts has a great example. It’s all about building trust and credibility.
Personalize your email list
Though email lists might seem vintage in an era of TikTok, they’re still one of the most effective ways to reach buyers and, in particular, manufacturing engineers. According to a 2020 Smart Marketing for Engineers research report, 65% of engineers subscribe to at least three newsletters, and a little fewer than half actually read each one or scan them for content. Beyond that, more than half of engineers prefer to connect with salespeople through email rather than over the phone. In other words, your email newsletter could be a direct pathway to sales, as long as you reach the right people. It’s no wonder that email newsletters are the manufacturing industry’s most popular form of content, even though video is generally more effective.
One way to maximize the effectiveness of your marketing message is to send out personalized and segmented emails. Since the B2B sales cycle is long, particularly with manufacturing, you can keep customers engaged by creating segmented lists that focus on categories such as:
- Position in buyer’s journey
- Past engagement with your company
This way, you can send the targeted emails to the customers most likely to convert or at least most likely engage, since it’s important to build customer relationships both online and offline. According to MailChimp, segmented email campaigns lead to 23% higher open rates and 49% higher click through rates.
A 2020 CMI report found that most organizations that create content struggle with the same things: communication and content production workflow. Planning out a definitive content strategy with an editorial calendar can help mitigate this. This way, you’ll know your goals, understand your progress, and be able to adapt based on what is and isn’t working. At the end of the day, the most effective way to create content is to simply commit.