Content marketing is challenging in any business sector, but it’s especially hard for manufacturers to develop content. Manufacturers who get it right can reap substantial long-term rewards. But it’s easy to get it wrong and waste time, effort, and resources. Follow these steps to make sure you get it right!
Identify Your Users
Who do you want to read your content? What information do they want from you? Those people and their wants are crucial, so it’s important to start by identifying both.
First, research your existing customers. Reach out to them formally, either through a survey or scheduled interview; or informally, when they converse with your sales or support team. Ask about their needs. Think about the sort of digital content that could meet those needs. If you’re unsure of what to ask, check out this post to get started.
Once you’ve spoken to existing customers, you’ll want to pose some of the same questions to sales prospects and industry professionals outside your company. Use all the contacts in your network to gather a list of customer needs to address in future content marketing.
Map Content to Your Buying Cycle
Anyone involved in manufacturing knows that buying cycles tend to be long. Because of this, users have different reasons, on any given day, for interacting with your content. Also, each consumer of your content comes to it with a particular level of familiarity with your brand, your products, and even your industry.
Adapt your content to each stage of the buying cycle of your audience. Make sure that it fits potential customers at all stages of the typical manufacturing buying cycle: awareness, consideration, intent, purchase, and loyalty.
Prospects in the awareness stage have never met you. They might be seeking a manufacturer, but your company hasn’t even come up. Content for users at this stage must introduce not only your company, but also your industry. Here, you’ll want to help the customer understand the basics. An example of content in this stage might be a blog post titled “How to choose a bearing manufacturer,” which aims at a reader who seeks a partner but is unaware of your business.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is critical at this stage. These users are seekers and perform generic searches. You want your content to rank high in their search results, and you want that search result to win positive attention. The article isn’t a sales pitch; instead, it establishes your expertise and raises awareness – and gets potential customers to your website. Once there, they might click to other pages on your site or sign up for your email. To learn more about optimizing your content for SEO, read about SEO basics.
Prospects in the consideration stage actively look into your business and others like it. Content for this stage should dive deeper into the specifics of manufacturing in your sector. It should demonstrate your expertise in your field and still reach an audience that might not share your level of expertise. (It’s important to write clearly and simply and to avoid jargon.)
Blogs, as a medium, generally work well in the consideration phase. SEO continues to matter, as you could pull in additional prospects who are researching manufacturing partners in your industry.
But a blog post might not be quite enough. Consider writing a white paper. White papers can be more expansive and include more technical content; they tend to address a sophisticated audience.
If you have a marketing email list, use it to distribute the white paper or blog.
Users in the intent phase of the manufacturing buying cycle are nearly ready to seal the deal. Now is the time to drive home the specific benefits of working with you. Case studies and video testimonials can be very powerful in this stage. You might be able to use existing content to prove to these potential customers that you’re the right partner.
Use your email list, direct mail, or one-on-one conversations with your sales team to deliver this content to prospective customers. The content should live publicly on your website, but the personal touch in delivery to them will help underscore that you care and that you’re the right manufacturing partner for them.
Once your prospect has become a customer, it’s time to build on your relationship. Content suited for the loyalty stage could include answers to technical questions users often ask during customer support sessions. It’s important to make the medium fit the content; blogs can work, but videos convey hands-on maintenance and repair very effectively.
Many content creators are writers by training and inclination, and they tend to go to text by default. Text is often – but not always – the best answer. Be ready to use video or even podcasts to fit the need at hand and to build a well-rounded manufacturing content marketing plan. If you have the staff to support it, consider creating a podcast of conversations and interviews with industry professionals and experts. Create behind-the-scenes videos in your own shop. Don’t give away proprietary secrets but do showcase the strengths of your manufacturing operations.
Distributing Your Content Marketing
Your content marketing can take on life beyond your website. We’ve mentioned some options, including distributing content through a sales team member or via an email list.
Content marketing can fuel nearly every area of your current digital marketing plan. Social media posts can link and drive traffic to blog posts. You could also pull images, charts and graphs used in blog posts and white papers for use in social media. Text excerpts from a case study might also serve as convincing ad copy. The opportunities are endless.
Content Marketing for Manufacturers Doesn’t Need to Be Difficult
Manufacturing content marketers can overcome their biggest challenges by establishing a user-focused strategy at the beginning and sticking with it. The most common mistake of content marketers in manufacturing: Failure to understand the needs of their users or failing to meet those needs.
Keep your users’ needs top of mind as you create and distribute content and remember that their needs change. Adapt to those changes and test your strategy as you go. Then you’ll be well-positioned to meet the needs of current customers and use your content marketing to drive new leads that grow your business in the years ahead.
If you need assistance with content marketing, our expert SEO and content team is here to help! Don’t hesitate to contact us.