The contract manufacturing industry is booming. Yet many contract manufacturers are fighting an unpredictable and stagnating pipeline. Here, we explore how content marketing can help you cut through the noise in a hypercompetitive market and grow your business.
Many contract manufacturers are still working in the old sales-led world. They're putting pressure on their sales teams to work harder, only to find they aren’t achieving their projected growth goals.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.
According to research by the CMI, 50% of contract manufacturers admit their reliance on traditional marketing strategies is failing them.
In today's fast-paced and highly competitive market, the power has shifted from the seller to the buyer. In this new world, more time must be spent building authority and authenticity in the marketplace to build better long-term and profitable pipelines.
By investing in content marketing, you can position yourself as a trusted expert and guide to right-fit OEMs that naturally gravitate towards you.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a strategy focused on regularly creating valuable and relevant content (like blogs, guides and videos) to attract, engage, and retain your ideal customers.
It’s a long-term strategy focusing on building a relationship with your target audience. So when they come to purchase a product or service, their loyalty already lies with you, and they choose you over competitor options.
How can contract manufacturers benefit from content marketing?
Opportunities in contract manufacturing continue to grow. The industry remains resilient and innovative, and the outlook across the sector is one of increasing demand.
By 2023 the contract manufacturing industry will be worth $2.7 trillion a year to the commercial world (source: BCC).
Yet many contract manufacturers are fighting stagnating pipelines. Finding and keeping ‘right-fit’ OEMs is a constant challenge. And without bringing in new customers, you risk relying on a small number of clients for most of your revenue.
Contract manufacturers are also facing growing commoditisation, which is devaluing their service and putting their margins under constant pressure. Where OEMs feel no loyalty and see no differentiation, the ease of changing suppliers fuels crippling price wars, leaving you buffeted by market forces.
At the same time, supply chain disruption means just-in-time operations are much harder to achieve. Justifying this complexity to your clients is difficult, and trust can erode.
Against this backdrop, it’s not enough to rely on referrals and trade shows to bring in new customers. Today’s buyers rely heavily on digital information to support progress across their entire buying journey. By the time they’re ready to talk - assuming they’ve found you - there’s little surface area for actual selling.
So how can content marketing help?
Content marketing will help you cut through the noise of a crowded marketplace to support differentiation and long-term sales growth.
It will enable you to build relationships with your ideal customers, so you’re not seen as just ‘another supplier’ but rather a trusted and authentic voice in the industry. And one that good-fit OEMs will want to do business with.
What types of content should you create?
You can use many different types of content to attract and engage your ideal customers. Here are some of the most valuable.
1. Blog posts
Regularly blogging is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your website and build engagement with a growing audience. A good blog calendar delivers a mix of original stories, topical analysis, and educational content that target the needs of your buyer personas at a specific stage in the buying process.
For example, a blog post titled '5 benefits of outsourcing to a contract manufacturing company' could be helpful when OEMs are first considering outsourcing. When making a final decision on which supplier to choose, they may benefit from the post 'How to choose the right contract manufacturer for your company'.
Guides enable you to cover core topics in great detail and are a brilliant way to educate your buyers and build authority. They aim to answer your buyers' questions about your industry or any aspects of your services.
For example, you could create a guide that explains what the process of working with you would look like. This would be powerful content for potential buyers considering doing business with you.
Guides also play a vital role in helping to generate leads for your business. They give your buyers valuable information in exchange for their contact details, enabling you to convert visitors into leads. It’s a win-win situation for you and your buyers. And once you have their email address, you can continue nurturing them by sharing more content with them.
3. Pillar pages
A pillar page is a website page that covers a topic in depth. Think of it as a comprehensive resource page covering everything your buyers want to know about a topic. For example, you could create a pillar page titled, ‘The manufacturer’s guide to outsourcing’.
A pillar page should link to high-quality content (blog posts) on supporting subtopics. In turn, these posts should link to the pillar page. Developing these content 'clusters' around a central topic is one of the best ways to succeed in search engine optimisation (SEO). The more supporting content you have, the stronger link chains you create, and the higher your page will rank in a Google search.
You can also turn your pillar page into a guide, giving visitors to your site the option to download a copy of the content they can print out and read in their own time. That way, you can create a pillar page and a guide all in one go.
4. Case studies
Case studies are a vital content asset that all contract manufacturers should be creating. They allow you to tell customer stories and build credibility by showcasing how you have helped actual companies succeed.
Case studies are also highly versatile, as they can take many forms. For instance, you could share your case study in a blog post, compile several case studies in one guide, or even interview your client in a video for your website.
Videos are a highly engaging form of content and can be shared on your website and social media platforms. Although they involve a greater investment in time and resources than written content, they can also offer a significant ROI.
In the CMIs latest research, 53% of manufacturing marketers cited video as the content format that produced the best results for their business in the last 12 months.
Examples include how-to videos, customer interviews and case studies, 'behind the scenes' content, and other valuable insights to address common questions that arise during the sales process. For example, you could create a video that shows potential customers what it’s like to work with your company.
You could even embark on your own research project and publish it as content. Research-based content is highly engaging and can help enhance your authority in your industry. When done well, it can garner more shares and likes than almost any other form of content. Just like case studies, research can be packaged in many ways to create multiple pieces of content, from blog posts to infographics, videos and webinars.
Infographics have the power to represent data in a more compelling way than words alone. They are great for sharing a lot of data, as visuals help readers process information faster. Infographics can also increase your content’s exposure as they are highly shareable - perfect for posting on your social media channels.
Webinars are an engaging way to share information and ideas, creating a sense of an event. They can help you generate new leads, nurture quality leads, and position you as an expert in your field. Webinars offer many opportunities. You could share a presentation on outsourcing to your company, interview an industry expert, or even host a virtual roundtable event to discuss industry trends.
Developing a content marketing strategy
Successful content marketing means putting strategy before tactics. A good content marketing strategy involves the following:
- Defining your audience - Who are your ideal customers? Having comprehensive buyer personas will enable you to produce more relevant and valuable content that they'll want to consume.
- Understanding the buyer's journey - The buyer's journey is your ideal customer's path to purchasing your solution. It can be split broadly into three stages: awareness, consideration, and decision. Understanding the buyer's journey lets you create content that will resonate with your buyer personas and nurture them as they move through each stage.
- Determining which types of content to create - What content will you create? Producing content assets in a range of consumable formats, from blogs to guides and audio to video matters because you can continue engaging with customers in ways they value.
- Defining your tone of voice - A consistent, distinct brand tone of voice will help keep content cohesive. When identifying your tone of voice, consider your buyer persona.
- Creating content - With well-defined buyer personas, a clear picture of the buyer's journey, and a library of content formats to play with, you can now start thinking about the topics your content needs to cover.
- Distributing your content - Just as you can create content in different formats, you'll also have various channels to publish your content, including your website and social media.
- Analysing and measuring content performance - This will help you identify whether your marketing efforts are driving sales and help you discover insights that can guide you on where to go next.
Contract manufacturers can utilise the services of a content marketing agency to help develop a strategy and create content on their behalf. A good content marketing agency will help you fully understand your ideal customers, develop a strategy for creating content designed to engage those customers, and create, promote and measure the performance of your content.
If you decide to seek the help of an agency, consider one that has experience working with companies like yours and who understands the specific challenges contract manufacturers face.
In a hypercompetitive market, you need to be more than just ‘another supplier’ if you want to grow your contract manufacturing business. By investing in a content marketing strategy and regularly publishing valuable content that resonates with the OEMs you wish to attract, you can build trust and authority so that when they are ready to outsource, they’ll choose you over competitors.