Manufacturing content: patience and perseverance key to success

August 12, 2016

Just one in ten manufacturing marketers say that they can show how content marketing contributes to sales, as per a new survey.

However, with Engineering360’s 2016 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trend report finding that 50% of manufacturing marketers are in the “Young to First Steps” phase, it’s no great surprise that many are struggling to work out the return on investment from content marketing.

As my colleague, Kevin Mason, documented recently, some prospects need to hear your message as many as seven times for it to register with them, and spur them into action.

With content marketing, the sales message needs to be super subtle, so an increase in the volume of quotes/sales can feel like a long time coming.

Are decision makers underestimating the buyer’s journey?

Reporting on Engineering360’s US-based survey, manufacturing marketing expert Achinta Mitra says it takes “many interim steps between raising awareness and converting traffic into qualified leads”.

Writing for the Customer Think website, he suggests it’s a lack of understanding of what it takes to go from point A to point B that causes owners and decision makers at manufacturing firms to throw their arms up in the air at content marketing.

It’s widely regarded that there at least six stages to the buyer’s journey: Before Awareness, Awareness, Search for Information, Pricing and Negotiation, Vendor Selection, and After the Sale.

Content is able to address the needs of the buyer at every stage of this long and complex industrial sales cycle – but it takes a lot of time to create a variety of content assets for every stage of the buy cycle.

Then, you (or an agency, if you’ve outsourced) will need to repurpose them into different formats and distribute the content via channels most often used by your target audience.

Content marketing needs some assistance

As well as employing marketing automation to help create drip marketing campaigns for lead nurturing and score leads based on pre-set rules of interactions, you still need a structured process to determine if an enquiry is a viable project or a massive engineering change order, Mitra writes.

He stresses that there is a big difference between nurturing leads and qualifying leads that can turn into sales opportunities and profitable customers.

Qualifying requires direct interaction with the customer by a specialist, which will provide a “crucial human touch”, and allow you to evaluate if the lead has the budget and authority to make a purchase.

So, content marketing should be judged on its ability to “create more opportunities for productive conversations necessary in industrial sales”, Mitra argues, rather than just the volume of quotes it has generated.

He acknowledges that content marketing success will always be reflected in the number of requests for proposals to some extent, but stresses that it shouldn’t be the sole criterion for a qualified lead.

After all, content marketing can give a firm greater visibility in search engines, higher domain authority, more referral traffic, improved brand reputation, and other benefits which are hard to put a price on.

You’ve got to be in it for the long game

Engineering360’s survey reports that 83%of buyers review up to three pieces of content before making a decision on small purchases, while 70% of buyers review four or more pieces of content on larger purchases. It’s safe to say that buyers would want to review in excess of ten pieces of content for those major purchases.

This finding underlines both why you’ve got to be patient to reap the rewards from content marketing, and why it is such a vital component of every marketing strategy.

Buyers today are not prepared to commit to a purchase until they’ve done the research; that research content is primarily coming from vendors, and it makes sense for buyers to favour a purchase from those producing the best content.

Mitra puts it all into perspective by comparing content marketing to hiring new sales people: a new sales person can take anywhere from eight to 12 months to ramp up – similar to the length of time it takes for content marketing to payoff. Except, you don’t get all the brand benefits when you opt for another sales person…

Dan Vivian - Business Development & Marketing Director