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The Opportunity for Bold Manufacturing Marketers

By John McTigueApr 7, 2014

content marketing is not an assembly line

We specialize in a few industry verticals, one of them being specialty manufacturing. Not just because we have experience marketing for manufacturing companies, but also because we are excited about the potential for growth through inbound marketing. Our experience has been frustrating at times, however, due to a reluctance by Marketing to embrace customer-centric content marketing as a replacement for traditional product-push tactics. Let's take a look at some of the challenges for manufacturing companies and back it up with some data.

In a recent post, Joe Pulizzi addressed some of the views expressed in "The Manufacturer’s Growth Manifesto," a SlideShare by Bruce McDuffee, with results and takeaways from a Content Marketing Institute (CMI) study, "B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America." One of McDuffie's comments may raise some eyebrows:

"Most executives in the manufacturing industry are laggards when it comes to understanding the new buyer’s habits and how they apply to go-to-market strategy and tactics… the window of opportunity is open for modern, bold executives willing to change the way they interact with their target audience…"

Well, I don't think I've ever called one of our manufacturing clients a "laggard," but I'll admit, there have been challenges when we walk in the door and recommend some new thinking. Among the most serious obstacles:

  • Marketing is primarily the responsibility of Product Managers who care about one thing—their products.
  • They have lots and lots of content, but it's all product specific, and most of it boils down to brochures and spec sheets.
  • The Marketing calendar begins with a product launch and ends with the beginning of the next product launch. There is no long-term content strategy.
  • While the Marketing Team has considered developing buyer personas through interviews and customer-centric content, it's never become a priority.
  • We'll never be able to publish creative, top-funnel content on a regular basis because the internal legal/regulatory team will shoot it down or keep it in review for months.

The CMI study backs these conclusions up with data:

  • Only 30 percent of manufacturing marketers say they are effective at content marketing (compared to 42% for the rest of B2B)
  • Only 21% have a documented content marketing strategy (compared to 44% for the rest of B2B)
  • Typical content marketing tactics, such as blogs, webinars, infographics and mobile content are in use by fewer than 50% of manufacturing marketers
  • Manufacturing marketers find it relatively difficult to create engaging content (62% vs 47% for the rest of B2B) or to measure its effectiveness (48% vs 33%)

Why the Divide Between Manufacturing and the Rest of B2B?

Well, it could be a matter of time. Eventually there will be enough documented success stories for content marketing by manufacturers to get the attention of the "laggards," but I think it's something else. Manufacturing was born with the creation of process automation and assembly lines. The mantra of manufacturing has always been to create as many perfect copies of the prototype as possible and get them to market in a way that maximizes efficiency and minimizes waste. As Henry Ford once said:

"The easiest of all wastes and the hardest to correct is the waste of time, because wasted time does not litter the floor like wasted material."

Now translate that philosophy into a content marketing strategy that embraces taking time out of an otherwise productive day to create blog posts, share them on Twitter and Facebook and wait for the customers to find their own way to your products... Hmmm, not so much.

But What About the Customers, and Sales?

The approach we use with our manufacturing clients is to talk about sales first. How are sales going? Where are the bottlenecks? Why are you losing sales before your Sales Team even has a chance to contact buyers? Why are loyal customers now flocking to competitor websites and switching to their products? Maybe we should ask them. Maybe they're not getting what they need from you during the awareness, consideration and evaluation parts of the buyer journey. This is the beginning of a new content strategy based on sales, not on disrupting processes. I like what Thomas Edison had to say about this kind of change:

"The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking."

Bold Manufacturing Marketers Have a Choice

Go along with the status quo and accept the results, or set course for a new destination for your company. While most will opt to stay in the safe zone, the disrupters have an opportunity to beat the odds with new marketing methods aimed at stimulating buyers with messages that matter to them. There are lots of obstacles to overcome in building a content creation ecosystem within a manufacturing company, but it can be done.

It starts with goals, followed by planning and execution, just like in manufacturing.

Photo credit: roger428pi

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The Author

John McTigue

With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus.
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