First, the good news: More manufacturing companies are recognizing the importance of creating great content.
Eighty-two percent of manufacturers are incorporating content into their marketing strategy, according to the 2015 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing trends report, recently published by the Content Marketing Institute. More than ever before, they're focused on using it not only to generate awareness, but to drive sales.
Unfortunately, only 26 percent of manufacturers said their organization's approach to content marketing was effective; only 4 percent said it was very effective. That's a huge gap between where manufacturers see their strategy now and where they want to be.
Some types of content are more effective than others in helping manufacturers achieve their goals. There's no magic formula guaranteed to work every time; it all depends on your industry and the needs of your customers. That's why it's important to have a mix of content in various formats that will answer your customers' questions at every stage of the buyer's journey.
No matter what your company makes or who you're targeting, these eight essential types of manufacturing content will help set you up for success.
Companies that blog are much more likely to be found than those that don't. Each blog you create is a new opportunity for search engines to index you, creating a direct path to your website for someone who's searching for a solution. In fact, nearly 80 percent of companies with a blog reported a positive ROI in 2013, according to HubSpot's annual State of Inbound Marketing report.
How often should you publish?
We tell our clients to blog as often as they want to be found, which is probably several times a week. The more you blog, the more opportunities you'll have to attract leads. Consider the fact that 82 percent of companies that blog daily acquired a customer through their blog, compared to just 57 percent who blogged once a week. If publishing every day isn't realistic, start with once a week until you've built up a team of employees, freelancers and industry partners who can contribute on a rotating basis.
Compass Automation, a fast-growing company that designs equipment to streamline the manufacturing process, publishes regular insights and statistics on robotics on its company blog.
Let's face it; eBooks are almost as ubiquitous as blogs these days. That means there's more pressure to make yours stand out in a sea of content. If you need some inspiration, think about the most significant, overarching challenges in your industry and the role your company plays in overcoming them. Think about what information you can offer that your customers can't get anywhere else.
You could also use an eBook to highlight original research, insights from industry leaders or tips specific to the type of work your customers do.
Here's an example of an eBook we created for Rapid Micro Biosystems, a manufacturer of products for faster detection of microbial contamination in the manufacture of pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and personal care products.
While many blogs and eBooks tend to resonate most with customers who are just discovering your company or still exploring their options, case studies are helpful when they want to know more about what you can actually do for them. What better way than to show them how you've worked with other companies like theirs?
Some case studies are more elaborately written and designed that others, but no one says they have to be. All you really need for a compelling case study is a summary of a problem, an overview of your solution and the final results. Here's an example of a case study that keeps it simple by custom build-to-print electronics engineer Epec.
As your potential customers get to know you better, they're going to need to see some specs on your products. Don't make them go fishing for it. In the B2B world today, more than 80 percent of the sales cycle is over before a customer ever makes a call. If your customers have to pick up the phone for basic information, they'll get frustrated.
Generally, product information should be easy to access. We don't typically recommend putting it behind a form unless it's something you want to reserve only for current customers, such as material safety data sheets you wouldn't want your competitors to easily access.
Here's an example of a technical resource page for AllPure Technologies, which includes content like processing guides, data on chemical compatibility and more.
In addition to technical data sheets specific to your product, it's a good idea to have some broader guides or tip sheets about the processes where your products are used. An injection molder may not be using your material (yet), but he or she has probably had issues with sink marks or ballooning. This handy injection molding guide from Lubrizol can help that molder pinpoint the cause of the problems.
It's a practical way to position your company as an expert and a great gateway to your website for someone searching for common injection molding problems.
Your customers may be strapped for time, but they're always looking for opportunities to learn something if it will help them stay competitive. Webinars are the perfect way to demonstrate your expertise in the field and bring in other industry leaders. Manufacturing companies have a lot of processes that are difficult to explain and more easily demonstrated, making them ideal topics for webinars.
Rather than feeling daunted by the prospect of creating a webinar from scratch, think about the sales and marketing activities your company already has in the works and look for opportunities there. Is your company sponsoring an automotive technology day? Hosting a fabrication workshop? Ask the presenter to help you put together a recap of the event so you can share it with a broader audience.
3D print technology company Stratasys has an entire page on its website devoted to webinars on evaluating 3D printers, creating various printed parts and addressing liability concerns.
After in-person events, manufacturing marketers rated videos as the second most effective tactic in the CMI's B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing trends report, with 65 percent of marketers characterizing them as effective.
Again, this goes back to the fact that video allows manufacturers to demonstrate some of their more complicated processes, but it's also a way for them to show their personality. This video by Vestas shows striking footage of the world's most powerful wind turbine coming together from the perspective of the machine itself. It's inspirational rather than informational, showcasing what is possible without saying a word.
GE's innovation is reflected in everything from its revolutionary adaptive cycle engine to its approach to content marketing. It has an impressive library of fascinating videos, and it clearly understands its audience on social media. Each day, it shares statistics, inspirational quotes and images that attract hundreds of shares on Facebook. (For instance, did you know that every 2 seconds, a plane with components made by GE takes off somewhere in the world?)
Sharing images like this won't close your next sale, but they'll make your brand more human, more likeable and more visible. Having that brand recognition can make all the difference in bringing someone to your company's website. Once they're there, your industry expertise and products and services will do the rest—assuming you have the right content to showcase them.