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What to Do When You're Running Out of Content Ideas in Manufacturing

By Annie ZelmJul 24, 2014

History of manufacturingDo you ever think to yourself, “If I’m tired of writing about this, then my readers are definitely tired of hearing about it”?

There are times when we all feel pigeonholed by our industry, no matter what it is. But writing about manufacturing can be particularly daunting. Your plant is firing on all cylinders, but your own wheels just aren't turning. It may be months or even years before you have a new product or service to launch. And unlike other industries that feed off a highly engaged audience, the folks you’re trying to reach are more likely to be up to their elbows in production. They’re so busy actually doing the work, they don’t have much time to read about it.

Just when you thought you’d covered every aspect of your business, we’re bringing in a new shipment of ideas you may not have considered.

Here are eight places to look for content inspiration in the manufacturing industry.

Start With What You Have

If you haven’t already, make a list of all the content you have at your disposal. It might be mostly blogs or guides you’ve created yourself, but it should also include things like trade show brochures and videos. Sometimes you can find hidden gems in publications that have long been buried in the marketing storage closet or within a microsite.

See if there’s an opportunity to update something or present it in a new format. It’s not cheating—it’s called repurposing. For more on how to do that successfully, check out this post from our archives.

Think Back To Your Origins

manufacturing content ideasHow did your flagship product or service start? What were people using before you offered them a new solution? Is your company coming up on an anniversary, even if it’s just for a particular division or product line? Thinking about these questions can bring some inspiration. You don’t have to write a comprehensive history of your company (and you probably shouldn’t since few people will read through all that). Instead, showcase a collection of historic photos and explain what they portray. Or put together a timeline of milestones to show how much the industry has evolved.

Scan Industry News

If you’re already doing this a little at a time each day by checking industry websites and subscribing to relevant Google Alerts, you should have plenty of articles bookmarked in your browser. If you’ve fallen behind, try some keyword searches specific to the past 30 or 60 days. What new products have been introduced? What new regulations have gotten people fired up? Most importantly, what are the implications for your buyers?

When you’re in a pinch, there’s no shame in writing a commentary about a piece someone has already written. Just make sure you’re adding enough fresh insights to make it your own.

Read Reviews

Admit it—you’ve been avoiding this because sometimes honesty is brutal. And blatant lies about your products or services are just plain infuriating. If you’ve noticed a theme in the reviews your customers have been posting, though, a blog is a great way to address them. Maybe there’s a misunderstanding about your warranty or confusion in your customer service department.

Taking the time to read the most common complaints is a proactive way to improve, and it can even give you a quick and easy post. Just remember it’s OK to highlight the positive reviews, too, as long as you’re not glossing over a serious problem.

Crowdsource

When you’re not sure what to write, ask your customers what they want to read. You can solicit some feedback on social media—”Hey, what’s on your mind lately?”—or slip your request into the next scheduled email you’re sending. Tell your customers you want to make sure they’re finding answers to their most pressing questions, but first, you need to know what they are.

You can also indirectly find out what your customers want to know by looking to see what others in your industry are asking. Type some keywords into Google and see what words automatically follow. Or spend some time browsing industry topics on a question forum like Quora.

Consider Your Most Interesting Employees

catwalkDo you have someone who has been at your company for more than 40 years? Or maybe you have a mechanic who canvasses a catwalk 200 feet high to inspect your equipment every morning. People like this will hardly ever call attention to themselves, but they’re the backbone of your operations.

You’ll probably have to do some persuading to convince them to let you follow them around with a camera, but it’s well worth it when you can uncover a fascinating story. It may even be picked up by the media.

Consider Your Most Visually Interesting Process

People love to see how things are made. Even if you’ve watched your CNC machine cut out a template a thousand times, it’s new to someone else. Consider creating a blog based on photos with brief captions to explain the process as long as what you’re showcasing isn’t proprietary.

Use HubSpot’s Idea Generator

Still trying to overcome your writer’s block? Yes, there’s an algorithm for that. It’s called the HubSpot Idea Generator, and it really is as easy as it sounds. You just need to come up with three nouns that relate to what you want to write about, which is a lot easier than coming up with a whole new piece.

Plug those words into the fields, and HubSpot will give you three topics. As you consider the right words to use, think about these three questions:

  • How do people describe your products or services?
  • What problems do your products or services solve?
  • What industry keywords are important to rank for on Google?

Let’s say you’re a custom metal fabrication company. Your three words might be custom fabrication, automation and metal design innovation. We plugged those words into the idea generator and “shazam!” We now have five topics:

  • What Will Custom Fabrication Be Like in 100 Years?
  • Think You’re Cut Out for Doing Automation? Take This Quiz
  • 20 Myths About Metal Design Innovation
  • The History of Custom Fabrication
  • 14 Common Misconceptions About Automation

Even if you need to tweak these a little to fit your audience, it’s a place to start.

Where do you look for content inspiration? Tell us in the comments below!

Personalized Content: Generate More Revenue with a Dynamic Web Experience
Additional Topics: Content and Design
The Author

Annie Zelm

As the content manager, Annie manages a team of brand journalists and is the driving force behind the content strategy for companies in a wide range of industries, including healthcare, technology and professional services. Relying on interviewing skills she developed in her seven years as a journalist, she uncovers insights about what motivates buyers in these industries and uses that knowledge to shape client websites and editorial calendars.
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