Content marketing allows businesses to improve their visibility across multiple platforms and to make it easier for customers to access their products and services. However, a challenge for many manufacturers is knowing how to get started with a solid content marketing strategy. In fact, only 55% of manufacturing marketers think their organization’s overall content marketing approach is “moderately” successful.

For manufacturers to remain competitive, they need to understand the problems and pain points of their customers. To be effective at this strategy, their marketing team has to form a deep understanding of their target audience and the content itself needs to highlight how their products can solve the problems of their customers.

Are you ready to bring your content marketing efforts up to speed? Follow these 6 steps in building a solid framework for creating and delivering content that will convert prospects into your best customers.

1. Hone In On Your Ideal Client

The first step in creating a successful content marketing strategy is to take a hard look at your current client base and the niche in which your company is serving. Start by asking a few questions about these clients at a company level. Which clients yield the most profitable projects or contracts? Which clients allow your company to do your best work? Which clients do you enjoy working with and have created positive and healthy partnerships with? Through these reflective questions, you may start to see a pattern of who your “ideal client” is. Now take some time to identify the commonalities of these clients. Ask questions such as:

  • What industry do they fall under?
  • What is their annual revenue?
  • What is the size of their company (employees)?
  • What is their spend with your company?
  • Where are they located?
  • Who do they sell to? Distributor, dealer, or end consumer?
  • What technology do they use?
  • Do you have access to decision makers?
  • What are their company values?

Answering these questions will help you hone in on and round out your “ideal client” profile. Having a level of specialization in what kind of clients you serve ultimately helps differentiate your company from alternative competitors. When your business development and marketing teams narrow down and target the companies that fit this criteria, a few things will start happening. Your volume of leads will go down, but their quality and ROI potential will go up, because creating these market segments will help maximize the effectiveness of your programs and will tackle different niches for each product or service you offer.

2. Create Buyer Personas

It only makes sense that both your marketing and sales efforts speak to potential customers. These are known as your buyer personas. This could be a decision maker (ROI focused individual like a CEO or C-Suite Executive), a spec seeker (technically minded individual like an engineer, product manager, or plant manager), or an information gatherer (someone tasked by a manager to find different options for a solution to a problem). Depending on your company and the nature of the buying process with your clients, you could have anywhere between 1-5 (or even more!) personas. Who do you commonly find are the core people involved in the buying process? Once you’ve identified these individuals, write down detailed characteristics for each such as:

  • Job title
  • Role and power in buying process
  • Level of authority
  • Common pain points, problems, challenges
  • Type of buying experience they seek
  • Values they look for in a partner
  • Level of education needed to know what to purchase
  • Level of influence in the buying decision
  • Where they seek information during the buying process (google search, your website, industry resources, etc.)
  • How they discovered your company
  • Potential objections for partnering with your company
  • Keywords they might search for in Google (specific problem to solve, specific product or service to be found, specific type of manufacturing company, etc.)

Buyer personas allow you to craft an actionable strategy that lies at the heart of your content management strategy. Any and all content that is created henceforth should adhere to this written framework.

3. Think About Your Goals and Expectations

Before you dive into formulating a detailed content marketing plan, you need to understand why you are creating content in the first place. What is the goal or objective of these efforts? Are you simply looking to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry? Do you want to announce a new product/service that you have recently launched? Are you looking to niche down and place more focus and attention on your ideal client? Are you looking to address a common pain-point that your product or service can solve? The goals and objectives of your content marketing efforts will ultimately determine the approach used to create and deliver content.

Setting goals allow you to have more clear expectations regarding your marketing approach. Rather than expecting results overnight, be aware that most content marketing strategies that distribute content organically realize results after 12-18 months. In addition, the IEEE Engineering 360’s 2016 Industrial Buy Cycle Study found that the length of the typical industrial buying cycle can be up to 12 weeks on average, which can lengthen the overall time of seeing ROI. These buying stages could include:

  • Research and Needs Analysis: 4-5 weeks
  • Comparison and Evaluation: 3-4 weeks
  • Purchase: 4-5 weeks

Continually reflect on whether or not your goals are being met and take the time to refine your content strategy so that it aligns with your company's objectives and expectations. A clear and unified strategy simply allows your team to work smarter and more effectively towards a common vision.

4. Choose the Right Marketing Channels

Creating unique, attractive and engaging content is only the first step that manufacturers need to take. An equally important step is identifying the best marketing channels that can deliver the right content that attracts your ideal clients. Doing the initial legwork of identifying your ideal client, creating buyer personas, and establishing goals and objectives will help guide the content subject matter, however, you also have to think carefully about what channels will be most impactful in spreading your message.

According to a 2018 study by Content Marketing Institute, most manufacturers found that email (event emails, promotional emails, and newsletters), social media (Linkedin, Youtube, and Facebook), and in-person events were the most effective marketing channels in helping reach their targeted audience. As far as the type of content that proved to be most effective, videos (pre-produced), social media posts (tweets, pins, etc.), and illustrations/photos took the top spot. Surprisingly, content such as case studies, white papers, reports, interactive tools, apps, and podcasts weren’t as effective in producing tangible results.

Keep in mind that all manufacturing companies are different. You really need to identify who your audience is and deliver content on the channels that best fit their lifestyle. For example, will a CEO spend most of their day scrolling through the news feed on Twitter? More than likely no. If this is the type of persona your marketing team needs to target, think about the marketing channels that would be most effective in not only reaching them but also in providing useful information. Take a look at your current channels and compare which ones have actually produced tangible results. Explore what other marketing channels you can break into that will reach your ideal clients.

After exploring the different marketing channels your team wants to tackle, make sure to create a solid plan so that content is published on a consistent basis. An editorial calendar can come in handy to ensure that your content remains on track and in sync with buyer persona messaging. Also, keep in mind that content needs to be strategically optimized for efficiency. In particular, content should be optimized for search engines, mobile users, and should have quick loading times for buffering content such as video.

5. Measure and Improve Your Strategy 

A content marketing strategy for manufacturers would not be complete without measuring and refining results on a consistent basis. For many, this can be an extremely daunting and confusing task. In fact, about 52% of manufacturing marketers do not measure the ROI coming from their content marketing objectives simply because they don’t know how to or they are looking for an easier way. Additionally, 38% of respondents expect their content marketing budget to increase in the next 12 months. So how are manufacturer marketers supposed to confidently know where to allocate that extra budget when most are unsure about how to actively measure ROI in the first place?

It is imperative to learn how to track, measure, and analyze metrics as a whole to determine if your content marketing efforts are yielding positive results. This will help set a clear basis for allocating more budget and tweaking content strategy over time. Here are a few ways in which marketers can measure content marketing performance:

Google Analytics: Measure content-heavy areas of your website such as your blog. Track the total users, referral traffic, unique blog pageviews, most popular blog posts, top blog posts in search, conversion paths, average time on page, bounce rate, and exit pages. Another useful performance tool is to set up goal completions and measure the goal conversion rate to determine whether or not you achieved your target objectives through website content.

Email: Take a look at your campaigns and collectively analyze open rates, click rates, time of open, and links clicked. What links are receiving the most clicks? Are campaigns being sent at the most optimal time? Is the subject line grabbing the receiver’s attention as soon as it hits their inbox? Is the content consumable and readable? Are you gaining subscribers? Did any of your website form submissions originate from an email campaign?

Social: Aside from shares, comments and follower growth, look at the path users take when leaving social media to visit your website. What pages do they visit? Are you earning backlinks from content that is shared? Are you using conversion tracking to see if visitors ended up completing a CTA like a form submission or a newsletter signup after leaving your social media profile?

You may also want to pay attention to whether or not your sales team has seen an influx of lead generation. It’s incredibly important to be able to pinpoint what content has contributed to this increase in prospects.

Setting up a successful and tactful content marketing strategy is one part of the equation. The other half is measuring, refining, and improving upon these efforts. A “solid” content marketing plan will do little without a systemized plan on how to prove the ROI on these efforts. If you could use a hand developing a manufacturing marketing plan and assistance in measuring and improving upon these efforts for your company, request a free consultation with us. We’d love to hear more about your plans and the upcoming marketing goals you want to accomplish!