It is no longer a question of “if” an industrial manufacturer should use content marketing as part of their lead generation strategy. As I shared in prior posts, content marketing has been soundly proven to surpass traditional marketing in terms of effectiveness and ROI.
And it is not just for the B2C world. According to Forrester Research, the B2B buyer is much more self-directed in the decision making process. Even before the pandemic, the majority of B2B buyers preferred to go it alone and use online content to make purchasing decisions.
60% prefer not to interact with a sales rep as the primary source of information.
68% prefer to research on their own, online.
62% say they can now develop selection criteria or finalize a vendor list — based solely on digital content.
These stats illustrate that content marketing is imperative to reach those buyers and influence their decision making process. It is also an efficient way to reach the rest of the decision-making unit (DMU) – people that influence the buyer’s decision. The typical DMU has grown to an average of 6.8 people, making B2B purchasing processes very complex and time-consuming. Content marketing can efficiently reach and influence a very divergent group of people to facilitate the sales process.
What is Content Marketing?
Let’s start with what content marketing is NOT. It is not just posting a product sell sheet or a promotional offer.
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. Content Marketing Institute
The key words in the definition above are valuable, relevant and consistent. Good content provides valuable information that solves customers’ issues, which then builds trust and loyalty with your brand. Great content will lead the DMU through the sales funnel and turn them into qualified leads faster.
So how do you make content that is valuable and relevant? It starts with understanding your customers’ pain points and developing a content strategy to alleviate those issues for them. Seems logical, but surprisingly only half (51%) of manufacturing marketers consider their audience’s informational needs over a promotional message. From this same study, only 21% of marketers report that they have a documented content strategy. And only 39% have developed buyer personas.
The Biggest Mistake Industrial Manufacturers Make
Based on the results of the Content Marketing Institute’s study, there is a significant gap to fill for industrial manufacturers to create an effective content marketing strategy.
Too many times, marketers make the mistake of starting with the end in mind. They focus content around product sales sheets or promotional offers, trying to get to an immediate lead or conversion. This is like asking someone to marry you on the first date.
Content marketing should help find the right customers, qualify them, answer objections, deliver value, build trust and get the company invited to the final buying phase. It is a solutions-based selling process that is delivered on-line.
What Good Content Looks Like
There are examples of what good content marketing looks like in the industrial manufacturing space. One example is Caterpillar and its 95 Stories for Good campaign. This series of videos highlights “people and communities doing the work to build a better world.”
The campaign is highly relevant as most of the stories are about pandemic-related challenges. And even though the solutions feature Caterpillar equipment and services, the content does not feel “spammy”. It effectively uses a feel-good tone while addressing real-world customer issues.
Great content starts with a solid, documented strategy that is customer-centric. It requires a deep understanding of the pain points, the purchasing journey, what kind of information the DMU needs along the various stages and where do they go to find that information. And, it takes consistent production of quality content.