More businesses are focusing on content marketing as a crucial component to driving sales, and that includes manufacturing companies. In the 2023 Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs Manufacturing report, organizations report content marketing has become more important piece of their marketing strategy than a year ago.
In that same report, 34% of manufacturing organizations had a documented content marketing strategy, which leads to the not-so-surprising result of 22% rating their content marketing efforts as successful.
Documenting and building a strategy around your content marketing activities can help refine your program to improve its impact on your business, including the content’s ability to drive leads and sales.
Here, I’ll talk about how your content marketing efforts can have a direct impact on businesses in any industry, as well as specifically relating to sales in manufacturing, and how to use content to make life easier for your sales team.
Content before tech
There are so many tools available to help improve the sales process. Database managers, marketing automation platforms, business intelligence integrations, etc. It sometimes seems like those tools are the best ways to fix a broken sales process.
But, according to two of content marketing’s biggest names, none of them have the same impact without a good strategy and great content.
I recently interviewed Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose of the Content Marketing Institute about how they saw these tools affecting content marketing. Their responses were less than enthusiastic.
“No amount of tech in the world,” Joe said, “is going to help irrelevant content.” Robert echoed those sentiments by adding, “Instead of letting the newest features of technology drive our [content] strategy, it should be the other way around.”
When you’re trying to generate more leads and drive sales, developing a sound content strategy is often the best place to start.
Measuring your content marketing ROI
Traditionally, content’s impact on organic traffic and SEO value has been the go-to method of measurement. Brandpoint president, Scott Severson, lays out this relatively simple method in a piece he wrote for Content Marketing Institute.
The method boils down to this: Find how much organic traffic your content marketing is driving and calculate how much it would cost to pay for that same amount of traffic, either through Google Ads or sponsored content.
Using this method, we’ve seen our clients recoup the cost of content in nine months and even double their organic traffic in just a couple of years.
Content marketing and the sales process
We love the organic-traffic method. It makes sense to us and our clients, and reflects the compounding, long-play nature of content marketing.
However, content marketing is so much more dynamic than that. We can use content to influence sales directly and create a more immediate impact on someone’s business.
The typical sales cycle is 3 1/2 months long. In manufacturing, the sales cycle is even lengthier, ranging from anywhere from 6 months to five years – depending on the cost and complexity of your offerings.
If you’re like most organizations, most of that time is spent in the consideration stage where your prospect has identified a problem and is trying to find the best solution.
By developing emails, blogs, eBook and case study content specifically designed to answer the most common and important questions your prospects have, you can shorten that sales cycle and close more sales.
These are a few of the questions your prospects may have at any stage of the buyer’s journey:
- How can I make my current tactics more effective?
- What tools are available to help me do my job better?
- Is it time I look for an external solution?
- How can I make the biggest impact with the budget I have?
Be the first to make the connection
In her discussion on B2B buyer persona development at Content Marketing World, Ardath Albee said that having content assets in place to answer these questions allows you the opportunity to become your prospect’s benchmark resource. You might not be the first one to provide your prospects with this information, but you can be the first one to help them make the connection between their problem and a possible solution. When you do that, you become the resource by which they judge all other options.
How this works depends largely on your sales process and how well you understand your buyers. But content of all types can be an important sales tool that not only helps you create better alignment with your sales team but also helps them shorten the long sales cycle of manufacturing and close more deals.
Trade show content and lead generation
In a more literal sense, content helps drive sales by being an invaluable inbound marketing tactic, particularly at manufacturing trade shows and other industry events where you meet with and engage with leads and prospects.
According to Demand Gen’s 2022 Content Preference Report, 55% percent of B2B buyers rely more on content to research and make purchasing decisions than they did a year ago.
That means your content is responsible for priming your audience. before they engage with you at the trade show while also maintaining engagement weeks and months after the fact.
To drive even more value from your content market strategy, integrate it into your trade show marketing efforts before, during and after the event. By using content to drive visits to your booth and capture leads for follow up connections, prospects will retain more and better information about what you offer.
Here’s how just a few content types can help you move people down the buyer’s funnel before they even engage in a sales conversation at the trade show event:
According to Act-On and Gleanster research, about 70% of companies use email for customer acquisition and retention. It’s a great way to engage one-on-one with your clients and prospects and is the perfect vehicle for other content assets.
Use email to generate buzz for new products and services you’ll be featuring at the trade show, and include a button to book signups for demos and consultations at your booth.
eBooks tend to be more in-depth about a specific topic and are usually gated. That means users are required to enter some information about themselves (usually a name, email address and company) to download it.
Downloadable eBooks establish credibility (critical in any sales conversation), which will make your trade show connection more memorable when it’s time for the sales team to follow up on their new slate of leads. When the eBook offers a very specific kind of solution that speaks to the needs of your audience, the encounter at the trade show will make a stronger connection.
Case studies can play an important role in inbound lead generation and the actual sales process. When you develop case studies for all areas of your business, you’ll likely be able to provide your prospects with an idea of how they can solve their problem and how you can help them do it.
Before the trade show, share case studies on your company’s LinkedIn channel and have your sales team do the same. Content that speaks directly to your problem-solving prowess helps attendees connect the dots on how you can help with their biggest challenges. Better yet, you may even convince them to pay a visit to your booth!
The perfect match
Content marketing is exploding but marketers are asked more and more to prove their efforts are making an impact on sales. But when you look at the questions your prospects are asking, it’s clear that strong, relevant content and a healthy sales process go together like ham and cheese. You simply have to know who your audience is and invest in the right content resources to serve them.
If you’re looking for a digital marketing partner to enhance your online presence with a strategy that’s tailor made for your manufacturing needs, contact us. Our digital marketing team will act as an extension of your marketing department and help you reach your goals.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October, 2017 and has been updated for relevancy.