The Importance of Content Marketing for Industrial Marketing Teams
Content marketing is an important facet of any inbound marketing plan for industrial marketing teams.
To succeed in inbound marketing, you need quality content on your website that’s SEO-optimized, that’s specifically tailored to your unique audience and business goals, and that generates trust in your company’s products and services.
The reputation of content marketing has suffered lately as marketers have scrambled to produce content, any content, as quickly as possible to appease the Google ranking engines. This has resulted in a profusion of poor-quality content flooding the internet, doing neither marketing teams and companies nor their prospects much good. While Google has lightened up on requiring content to be published multiple times per week, in favor of ranking higher-quality content, it remains absolutely critical for marketing teams to maintain a practice of producing quality content, on an ongoing basis, that educates, inspires, and generates trust with key audiences.
Industrial companies aren’t all the same, so your approach to industrial content marketing shouldn’t be identical to your competitors’. However, there are many best practices surrounding industrial content marketing, and within this article we’ll cover the ones we find most important.
What is Industrial Content Marketing?
According to Oxford Languages, content marketing is “a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.” In the context of industrial marketing, it means that you’re creating all of the above-mentioned content for the specific group of people that have a need for your products and services.
In their 2011 book, The Challenger Sale, authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson discuss in great detail the sales advantages of adopting a “commercial teaching” technique, in which your sales reps act as educators and trusted allies to prospects, with a curriculum that centers on the overlap between a prospect’s needs and pain points and the solutions that your company offers. Fast-forward a decade and more, this is now a job that your website does (in addition to your best salespeople), through its content.
In this paradigm, the line between “marketing” and “content marketing” is indeed blurry. However, where marketing might be more focused on information about your products and services, specifications, offers and moving people through the sales funnel, content marketing typically engages people higher up the funnel, when they might not yet have a specific need for your products, but are nevertheless part of the group of people most likely to buy in the near or not-so-near future. Content marketing, done well, can and should make mention of your offerings, but only in an informational, non-salesy, sidebar-like fashion. The focus is on providing helpful information that provides value to your prospects and positions you as a trusted advisor.
Why Do Industrial Marketing Teams Benefit From Content Marketing?
If your content does its job of positioning you in the hearts and minds of your best current and future prospects, you’re building a reputation that will come in handy when they do have a need for your offerings. Good content marketing helps you rise in the search engine ranks for key terms that align with your offerings, and it gives engineers (and other technical prospects who want to get their hands on information before making a phone call) access to the way your team thinks, behaves and solves problems, allowing them to assess the fit in working together even before they have a specific need.
While this might sound risky if you’re accustomed to having all information controlled by your salespeople, which was common in the old paradigm of sales and marketing, it’s the best way to do business in the current day and age. In many cases, engineers who can’t find answers online would rather search for the next website than pick up the phone. There’s also tremendous benefit in allowing your salespeople to focus their energy on fewer, but better-fit, prospects rather than spreading efforts across a larger number of less-qualified prospects.
Produce Content That Speaks to Your ICP & Business Objectives
Before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, you need to define your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile). Without this, it will be impossible to create effective marketing content that attracts and speaks to the right people. Go through the exercise with your organization to determine your ICP, and get a good idea of your key personas’ pain points, challenges and needs before you spend time creating content. That’s the first half of information needed for the equation.
Next, identify your most important offerings—products, services and/or categories from a revenue, profit and/or growth perspective, depending on your company’s objectives.
From these, identify the most important keywords that are relevant to your offerings and/or your customers’ pain points, challenges and needs. The best content marketing will combine your business objectives and your ICP and key personas’ needs in both content and keywords, helping both your business and your prospects.
Understandably, there may be a lot here, so prioritize one content area at a time.
Focus on Quality Over Quantity
Your audience is smart and technical, and your products and services are likely complex. What this means is that fluffy articles written by the lowest-bidding writer, without access to your subject matter experts, won’t help your marketing and sales mission—they’ll only contribute to the growing quantity of “noise” on the internet.
Instead, start out on the right foot by focusing on delivering quality content, even if on a slower cadence, so that when your key prospects do see your content, they’re intrigued rather than turned off. For more on how to get started with this process, read How to Improve Your Industrial Marketing Content Writing Process for Real Impact on SEO and Sales.
Now that you know who you’re talking to, what you’re talking about, and how to do it well, you can start to create different kinds of industrial marketing content.
Blog Articles, Whitepapers, Webinars
Blog articles, whitepapers and webinars are some of the most tried-and-true methods of content marketing. Not only do these pieces of content help inform your visitors of who you are and what you do, but they provide important SEO value to your website. Each piece of content extends your net of possible new leads. Gating some of the content allows you to convert not-ready-to-buy prospects as MQLs, to include them in future marketing.
The first and most important priority is to have a high-quality website to which you are regularly adding informative content that will appeal to your ICP and personas. Blog articles provide a rich opportunity to Incorporate SEO into your overall content strategy. Research trending topics related to your industry, and ask your salespeople what your best prospects are asking about. Use those topics to create keyword-optimized blog posts or other content to help drive organic traffic.
White papers, or whitepapers, are ideal for sharing deep knowledge, best practices and research to expand the prospects’ understanding of technical topics and help them solve problems or make decisions. B2B industrial content marketing whitepapers are usually 1,000- to 4,000-words, or two-to-eight pages, long—or longer. They’re an ideal type of content for a gated approach, in which anyone can access an excerpt or introduction, but must provide contact information before they can read the whole thing. We’ve written an article to help you define, develop and distribute white papers.
Webinars containing educational content based on your company’s expertise and point of view can be highly engaging. You’ll want to require registration, including an email address, for a live webinar. After that, you can continue to share a recording of the webinar with those who provide their contact information.
Content is most effective when it’s highly targeted to your ICP and personas. As you’re developing ideas for content based on what you know about your audience and the keywords they search, you can organize your thoughts into a content calendar. Your content calendar should include future topics, due dates, focus keywords and assignments for writing the blog article (or other piece of content). You might assign a writer and a subject matter expert to each piece, or your SMEs might be able to create content that you or another team member can edit if necessary.
Why is creating all this content such a valuable investment? Let’s say your blog articles pull in anywhere from eight visitors to 140 visitors a month. If we average that to 74 users per blog post per month, and you’re posting two articles per month, that comes out to be an extra 22,200 visitors each year to your website. Not all of those visitors are going to be squarely in your target audience, but the higher-quality your content and the more tailored it is to your audience, the better your chances of attracting and converting prospects that convert to future sales. To optimize your ranking in search engine results pages, read more on how to create content that actually ranks.
Especially when your work is service-oriented and custom in nature, your best-fit clients will want to see and read about what you’ve done in the past. While every project is different, case studies show others how you solve problems and the nuances and complexity of work your company has performed. Case studies help prospects trust that you can help them with their specific and unique situation, by showing how you’ve helped similar clients previously.
Help prospects quickly understand what you do by including images and video when possible, and by calling out successes and noting challenges you overcame throughout the project. Include results that your work contributed to and the impact on your customer’s business. Optimize case studies so that they pull in new prospects through SEO and also work as a tool to self-qualify leads who browse them.
If you aren’t sure where to start, we’ve written this in-depth article on how to create great case studies.
Facility & Case Study Videos
When thinking about industrial marketing content, go beyond text on the page. It’s important to provide professional-looking, accurate images and videos, where applicable. Video has become one of the most popular ways for people to consume content, and not just for entertainment purposes. Videos, whether they are product videos, tutorials, project overviews or even facility overview videos, help your ICPs make informed buying decisions. You don’t want to miss out on a big sale because the competition shared videos detailing past case studies and you offered nothing comparable.
Here is an example of how you can create an easy-to-follow project case study video. (Footage was provided by the client and edited by Windmill.)
Utilizing Social Media
For industrial, manufacturing and technical B2B businesses, social media is a piece of the puzzle that layers onto other, more foundational aspects of your marketing strategy. Most importantly, your website should be up to date and accurate, so that any social media users who click through will be able to understand what your company does and perhaps dig into some valuable content.
There’s value in claiming your business profile on the most common platforms if only to prevent someone with a similar business name from doing so, but you don’t need to have an active presence on all of them, or even more than one or two. The two that are most appropriate for industrial companies are LinkedIn, for sharing blog articles and event information, and YouTube, for posting video content.
LinkedIn is an (almost) purely business-focused channel. It’s your best opportunity to connect with C-level business leaders and sales departments. Engineers aren’t as active on this network, but there is still value in connecting with other LinkedIn members at their companies. For the greatest reach, your marketing and sales teams should share content from their own LinkedIn profiles, as well as from your company profile. In addition to sharing content and creating awareness, LinkedIn can be a good tool for targeted sales outreach and networking.
Manufacturing and industrial businesses typically involve complex processes, systems and products. YouTube, as a video sharing platform, gives industrial manufacturers an opportunity to make the complexities of their processes more accessible. Videos can be posted first to the channel, and then easily embedded in your website, making them easy to find and pull into product demos, how-tos, technical support and other forms of content.
Social media can be a valid marketing tool for mid-sized B2B technical, manufacturing, engineering and industrial companies. We recommend getting your website into good shape first, then taking a slow and steady approach, using one or two platforms and tracking your results as much as possible. Balanced with the time and effort required for social media marketing activities, you can determine how much makes sense for your business going forward.
This article provides a more in-depth look at the intersection of social media and industrial content marketing.
Measure, Monitor & Improve
Wherever you are in your industrial content marketing journey, prioritize a plan to measure, monitor and improve.
Tracking the performance of your current content allows you to set realistic goals for the future. Knowing where you stand helps you focus your team’s efforts where they matter most. Sometimes a small change can move one of your website pages from the second page of search engine results to the first page, making a big impact on your overall SEO performance. Furthermore, finding patterns in the performance of your current content helps you steer new content toward the best performance possible. Our article on analyzing current content takes a deep dive into tools like Google Analytics, HubSpot, HotJar and SEMRush.
Content is an ongoing project that requires a commitment of time and effort, and rightfully so. At the same time, there are ways to score some quick wins that will add up over time. Making improvements to the five most frequently viewed pages of your website, especially your homepage, will deliver results sooner than if you start tweaking pages at random. Removing content that doesn’t serve you—pages with a high bounce rate, typically—and prioritizing the creation of “missing” content are other recommendations. Our article on quick wins to improve content performance goes into greater detail on these methods.
Over time, high-quality content will set your industrial, technical or manufacturing company apart. If getting started seems daunting, take it one step at a time. Follow best practices. Focus on quality over quantity. And keep track of what works.