Content marketing for manufacturers: Top tips and advice
One of the most common misconceptions held by manufacturing firms is that content marketing is not relevant for their business to business (B2B) industry. We often hear:
“We are the leading manufacturer in our industry!”
“When people want what we sell, they come to us!”
“People just don’t search for what we make!”
If all of the above are true, then why should your firm worry about SEO, let alone content marketing? Well, you may be the frontrunner in your industry, you may even be at the cutting edge of innovation in technology right now; but you are probably not the only company making what you make.
Unlike business to consumer (B2C) companies, one new B2B order can make the difference between an average month and a great month. Say you manufacture plastics, during a particularly quiet week, just one person searches for “plastic injection moulding”; how much could you lose if that person clicks the link to the company ranking above you? That person might not know you are the leader in your industry, all they know is that Google rates them above you. Which link would you instinctively click?
“But my industry is too boring! What would we create content about?”
It’s very easy to get distracted by big brands making a lot of noise. Coca Cola, Nike and Tesco may excel at their version of content marketing, but they are B2C businesses with very big budgets. Content marketing for B2B is different. Simply, it is creating content that your target audience will want to consume and share.
If you’re feeling intimidated by the thought your content will only be a success if it goes viral – it’s time to change your thinking. The word ‘viral’ is often misused by digital marketers. If a company claims “We can create a viral video for you!” be very wary. The term viral should only be applied to content that is being shared exponentially. A lot of content gets created for the internet and not a lot of it goes truly viral. In manufacturing, you don’t need your content to reach the world; you need it to reach a targeted, relevant audience.
Reaching your audience starts with identifying clear objectives. Without objectives you will not be able to measure your success, and you will not be able to refine your strategy as it evolves. In a recent study by Content Marketing Institute, manufacturing firms outlined eight primary content marketing goals:
- Brand awareness: 89 percent
- Sales: 85 percent
- Lean generation: 80 percent
- Engagement: 77 percent
- Customer retention / loyalty: 75 percent
- Lead nurturing: 66 percent
- Customer evangelism: 54 percent
- Upsell / cross-sell: 47 percent
Each individual piece of content should aim to target no more than one or two goals. You can aim to encompass more across your entire content marketing plan, and some goals may be achieved as a consequence of targeting others. Start slowly, by setting small goals, which can expand as your strategy grows. A good place to begin is by asking yourself:
- What are potential clients looking for?
- What could make their lives easier?
- What problems can you solve?
- What can you do that could make them money?
By answering these questions, you should be able to see how your answers correspond to your goals.
For example, take a company that manufactures drainage components. They have created an innovative version of an existing component, which offers increased longevity due to their new patented plastic. They should focus on lead generation and brand awareness. This would ensure their new product becomes associated with their brand name, while encouraging potential customers to get in touch. Focusing initially on sales, for instance, would be a mistake. In manufacturing, people want to know more about a new product before committing to a purchase.
People use search engines to find solutions to problems. If you can identify these problems, you can position your content as the solution. Firstly, you need to identify what people are searching for, but not finding. These are the longer phrases people type into Google: “Content ideas for textile manufacturers.” These types of queries often have smaller search volumes, but greater intent – people searching for these phrases are much more likely to become your customers. Take a look at Ubersuggest for inspiration.
Secondly, you need to identify what people aren’t searching for, but would find invaluable. Identifying gaps in the content market can produce exceptional results. When you are leading the conversation, you are on your way to positioning yourself as a thought leader or an ‘influencer.’ In content marketing, an influencer is someone who has a large, active, and engaged following about a given topic.
Still struggling for ideas? Talk to your workforce. They know the technical bits, the innovative bits, the bits that make people say yes to a sale. Get them involved in your content planning. If you are going to be successful at content marketing, you have to commit to it. Arrange a monthly team meeting and brainstorm. They are probably not the people you should get to see the content through to fruition, but they are the people who can provide you with the seeds of ideas.
Choosing a format
From blog posts, white papers and industry interviews to videos, case studies and infographics, there are a multitude of content types you can turn to for inspiration. If the breadth of choice seems overwhelming, let your topic guide your choice. Creating an infographic just because your competitors are is not a sensible strategy. The format should provide you with the easiest way to get your message across. People respond better to marketing that tells a story, what format can help you tell yours? Let’s look at three popular options:
A classic choice for content marketers, blogging remains an enduringly popular strategy. Why? It is cost-effective and it works. By including a blog on your website, the search engines are continually being fed fresh, relevant content (which they love) and it’s a quick way to target the longer search queries mentioned earlier. Blogging also encourages loyalty. When people are returning week on week to read your content, who do you think they will come to when they want to make a purchase?
Ideally you should be blogging at least one to two times a week, so a good strategy is to create an editorial calendar. Your blog should feature a mixture of search led, evergreen, and topical content. Think about what events map out the manufacturing year. General Electric (see figure 3) used the recent solar eclipse as a way to drive topical traffic. Google Trends is a great way to see what’s popular when.
Products are at the heart of manufacturing. Your products solve other people’s problems, which makes video one of the best ways to showcase your skill, innovation, and quality. Show people what they are missing out on. YouTube is a free service, which allows you to publish videos on their site, while simultaneously embedding them on your own. By making your titles and descriptions keyword rich, it is also possible your video will appear in the search results.
Another popular form of visual content is the infographic. Infographics are a great way to visualise stories or trends through the use of imagery. By curating facts about your industry, you can create something that is really engaging, something that your customers may want to share with their customers. If you’re feeling really ambitious, why not make something interactive?
Chronological infographics have proven to be extremely popular. These are infographics that explore topical histories. They are particularly effective if you are targeting an influencer, who also happens to be a client. Do you have a big name on your books? Say you manufacture wool that you supply to Marks and Spencer. For this scenario, I would suggest exploring the history of wool and fashion. This allows you to weave both companies into one story – a story that your influencer may want to share.
Get people involved
This is what I like to call the ‘pre-outreach’ stage. This is where you pique people’s interest. It can be as simple as promoting upcoming content in your company newsletter or sharing a sneak preview on Twitter.
If you’re really smart, you could secure a core audience before you even commit to creating the content. How? Ask people to get involved. Are you writing a White Paper? Send out some surveys. Are you writing a blog post? Ask a relevant influencer for a quote.
Get people talking
If you’ve crafted the content carefully, you should already know what the talking points are. They are what you’ve discussed with your colleagues at the planning stage. They are what you’ve promoted during the pre-outreach stage. Getting people talking about your content is very similar to implementing a PR strategy.
Whether you prefer to call, email or tweet, this is about collecting relevant contact data and letting the world know. Crafting the perfect outreach is a craft in itself, although in essence, it’s just about building relationships with people. This may seem time consuming, however, from generating leads to building brand awareness, the more effort you put into outreach, the closer it can bring you to your business objectives.
Get people sharing
They’ve seen it; they’ve loved it, now you want them to share it. There a few simple things you can do to encourage this. Firstly, just ask! At this point, you should be in conversation with plenty of people, most of these will be happy to oblige. Is your content downloadable? Ask people to pay for the download with a tweet. Do you have a strong social media following? Host a Twitter chat or a Google+ hangout.
It is also important to make it easy for people to share what you’ve made. By including social media buttons at the top and bottom of your content, you can encourage social shares onto the network of their choice. If you have created an infographic or video, providing an embed code will encourage people to post it on their blogs too.
It’s hard to stay patient while you wait for your content to spread. If you’ve watched days turn into weeks waiting to see if your content will compel people down the sales funnel, you’ll be well aware that this doesn’t ‘just happen’. It’s also unlikely that it will take only one piece of content before the orders start flooding in. You need to play the long game. To make people act, you must be proactive and persistent. Your content should leave them thinking:
- I want to know more about this company
- I want to know what they are going to do next
This links back to relationship management. It’s about making people think of you at the right time. It’s about building trust and gaining loyalty. It’s about lead nurturing. (Link to Eleanor’s blog about this) Here are a few quick tips to get you started:
- Encourage people to subscribe to a weekly email
- Ask people to connect with you on social media
- Include an rss feed so people can manually subscribe to your blog