Successful companies know that content marketing, when done well, can be an excellent way to generate leads and build sales. However, many manufacturing marketers think their tactics are falling short. According to the recent study, “B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing: 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends in North America,” only 26 percent of manufacturing marketers consider themselves effective at content marketing.

Why such the low rating? Perhaps when it comes to the small to medium-size manufacturers, they are simply scared to change. They have been doing things a certain way for so long they assume those efforts are working best for them. They are wrong.

Buyers are constantly bombarded with a deluge of information, and communicating product specs and stats no longer cuts it. Industrial companies must take a more innovative approach if they want to connect with their customers and prospects. The solution? Better content marketing.

Content Challenges
Almost half of all manufacturing marketers say they will increase their spending on content marketing in the next 12 months. Yet, without a solid strategy in place, these efforts may be all for naught. Only 34 percent of industrial companies say they closely follow a content marketing strategy. Problem area No. 1.

The second potential problem? Many companies are trying to be all things to all people. The average manufacturer is targeting five separate audiences. So it comes as no surprise that their go-to strategy is to push out as much content as possible in the hope that it sticks. In fact, 65 percent of manufacturing marketers say they are creating more content than they were one year ago.

But this is the wrong approach. The focus needs to be on quality, not quantity. Rather than adding to the noise, companies need to create a few key pieces that portray their brand’s unique perspective and relate to the audiences on a emotional, humanly relevant level.

Content That Works
There’s no doubt that video is a hot content marketing tactic. So much so that 87 percent of manufacturing marketers use it in their efforts. A majority of marketers (82 percent) are also relying heavily on illustrations and photos. These two tactics resonate well with the manufacturing audience since industrial companies produce precision products that often need to be seen to understand their value.

Other tactics being used include:

  • e-newsletters, 85 percent
  • Social media, 85 percent
  • Digital articles, 84 percent
  • In-person events, 79 percent
  • Case studies, 75 percent
  • White papers, 70 percent
  • Print magazines, 65 percent
  • Blogs, 60 percent
  • Microsites, 56 percent
  • Online presentations, 52 percent

It should be noted that while many manufacturing marketers still put money and effort into doing the tried-and-true trade shows, fewer than 50 percent say they are using the following tactics:

  • Webinars/webcasts, 48 percent
  • Infographics, 42 percent
  • Mobile apps, 38 percent
  • Digital magazines, 35 percent
  • e-books, 18 percent
  • Podcasts, 17 percent

Interestingly, however, some of these tactics are the very ones that marketers claim are the most effective in the industrial space, such as webcasts (62 percent) and e-books (50 percent).

This reveals a window of opportunity. By taking advantage of these underused tactics, you’ll not only be able to differentiate yourself from the competition, but you can more effectively connect to your audiences.

In It for the Long Haul
Manufacturing companies recognize that producing engaging content and measuring its effectiveness is difficult; 62 percent say they are presently challenged with and are working on creating more engaging/higher-quality content.

Here are some tips to help:

  1. Focus your efforts. Many companies try to create a lot of content (video, newsletters, case studies, blogs) and spend large sums of money in year one on too many things. Such tactics can lead to disappointment if their efforts aren’t successful. Manufacturing marketers are better off focusing on a few tactics and doing those well.
  2. Slice and dice. If companies can create a handful of effective pieces in year one, those materials can later be repurposed in other ways, such as social media posts or turning a white paper into shorter, more focused articles.
  3. Don’t sell it. Companies can’t say they are creating thought leadership pieces if the assets read like self-promotional sales brochures. Pick topics that are educational and meaningful. Content marketing is all about building targeted awareness, which is accomplished by creating something your potential customers will consider helpful. You must focus on their changing needs and not your own.
  4. Stay consistent. Maintain a regular cadence of content creation. This strategy can help you learn what topics and types of content resonate most with your audience and enables you to maintain relationships with decision-makers over time.
  5. Promote it. What good is your content if no one sees it? Don’t forget to promote content through search, email, social media or paid advertising to build the audience.
  6. Track the ROI. Only 12 percent of B-to-B manufacturing marketers think they are successful at tracking the ROI of their content marketing programs, and fewer than half use sales as a metric to measure content marketing success. Learn what works best and do more of it to keep ahead of your competitors.
  7. Stick with it. When it comes to content marketing, you need to stay in it for the long haul. Don’t expect immediate results. Building meaningful relationships takes time.

Your company’s products are technical. The environments where industrial products are used can be tough. But your communications don’t have to be just as hard. Your audience needs you to listen to them, understand them and make real connections with them through personalized, relevant content. Content marketing is not just a one-and-done tactic, but a meaningful, ongoing conversation.