Change is the order of the day. Macro forces are combining to place intense pressure on organisations and entire industries. The manufacturing sector is no exception – most notably, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (and all that it entails) is looming large. Additionally, there is a growing demand for customised products, and an increased pressure to get products to market faster – while simultaneously staying one step ahead of the competition.
Against this backdrop, the way that customers interact with manufacturing companies (and, indeed, all companies) is also changing. To remain relevant in today's uncertain environment, it's vital to ensure that you can effectively reach the people that matter most to your business. Content marketing plays a key role in achieving this.
It's not uncommon for manufacturing companies to view marketing as little more than the "colouring-in department". And this view may not be entirely unfounded if they have had negative experiences in the past.
However, conventional sales and marketing simply don't work like they used to. So, let's explore why your manufacturing company needs a content marketing plan.
Adapting to change
To remain successful, manufacturing companies need to flex and adapt to meet the challenges ahead. When it comes to sales and marketing, traditional processes simply don't have as much leverage as they once did. Cold-calling, print advertising, unsolicited email blasts; these are all tactics that are becoming less and less effective.
Instead, the power has passed into the hands of buyers, who want to ensure they are informed and educated about their needs before they speak to a sales person. In fact, according to a survey carried out by Forrester, 74 per cent of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase.
That means manufacturers need to have a strong online presence and be offering high quality content, in order to be found by their prospective customers. Even if trade shows play an important role in your organisation acquiring new business, the people you meet will still likely go away and research your company online. What they find makes all the difference.
The power of content marketing
Content helps to bring your target audience to you. From blog posts to eBooks, podcasts to videos; educative and valuable content will attract the right people to your website and show them why you are the best fit for them.
Your content should speak to people at each stage of their buyer's journey and provide relevant information that answers their questions and addresses their concerns. For instance, someone who is just beginning to research a topic, in which your organisation is an expert, will be looking for content that will help them to gain a deeper understanding. Whereas a person who has converted to a lead will be looking for content that focuses more on specific facets of your business and how you differ from your competitors.
To create the best possible content, you first need to define your buyer personas. These represent your ideal customers: what drives them; how they proceed on their buyer's journey; what a successful purchase looks like to them. Your buyer personas should inform all the content you create - otherwise, you risk spending time and energy writing blog posts, and the like, that get read by the wrong people or, worse, don't get read at all.
It's also vital to pinpoint what makes your company remarkable - your unique selling proposition (USP), so-to-speak. When you're creating content, particularly that which is aimed at people who are seriously considering doing business with your company, you need to emphasise what makes you a superior choice to your competitors. What can you offer that they can't?
Defining your content marketing plan
Once you know who you are targeting and the topics you need to address, you need to come up with your content marketing plan. This involves working out exactly what content you are going to create and when. For instance, you might commit to weekly blog posts and four eBooks a year. For more in-depth advice, why not read our post: How to come up with a winning content marketing plan.
It's also important to decide who will be responsible for creating this content - you may be surprised to find that your company has more budding content writers than you might think! For instance, an employee that works in the sales department will have an acute understanding of the kinds of questions that customers ask again and again. Each of these questions could be answered in detail within a blog post.
Alternatively, you might choose to work with freelancers or to partner with a content marketing agency, whose expertise can help you to achieve great results.
Whichever route you decide to go down, it's best practice to document your plan in full and to circulate it to all relevant team members. This ensures that everyone is clear on the objectives and how these will be achieved.
The manufacturing sector is undergoing significant changes - including the way that manufacturing companies connect with their potential customers. Implementing content marketing is an important part of successfully navigating this new landscape. High-quality content provides prospective buyers with what they are seeking, bringing them closer to you - and closer to making a purchase.