At Forty 49 we work with quite a few manufacturers, building solutions businesses and other specialist B2B services for whom content marketing can be quite a challenge.
Many do not have a content marketing strategy in place and often the thinking is that these industries do not lend themselves to the creative, interesting content produced by B2C marketers. But, if tackled in the right way, there is plenty of opportunity to boost your brand, generate leads and grow the relationship with your customer.
Content marketing for B2B is different
Content marketing is all about communications rather than promotion, and it is online, in print and any media that follows the customer journey, and for B2B and manufacturer’s customers, that is a different journey. Some of the factors that make content marketing different for B2B and especially manufacturing and industrial companies are:
- The products and services are more complex. Often extensive expertise is required to understand the offerings and how to communicate them.
- Different levels of information are required at different levels of customer buying chain. Much of the time, the audience is looking for information, a lot which needs to be highly technical or deeply knowledgeable. Expertise will be one of the main reasons that potential customers will trust the brand.
- The audience will take a lot more time to make a buying decision, so it is a long-term strategy, but one that will capture and grow customer relationships throughout your business.
- There are often multiple audience groups to consider when creating content. It can be the key decision maker, procurement manager, product manager, technician, skill specialist and so on. There is a chain of people involved that need to see content in the move from gaining attention, gaining recognition, gaining trust and familiarity and then adoption. So, the content marketing strategy need constant review at all levels to stay on track.Some of the audience groups may be very small in the case of highly specialised niches.
What else should you consider when creating a content marketing strategy
Understand the customer journey…
..and the buying process, and map out who you are talking to and what they need in terms of content. Who are they, what is their day-to-day role, what are their pain points and what can you provide to help them? This is a key part of the planning as it will need some in depth research about your customer. Align your content to your findings.
Make sure your content has a business goal
Much like any other strategy, be clear about what you are trying to achieve. How does your content best serve your overall strategy for the business? What are you going to use to measure the success of your strategy? Will it be views, mailing list growth, downloads, landing page views? Think carefully about what you are trying to achieve.
Inform, entertain, tell a story, DON’T SELL
Many B2B marketer shy away from giving away knowledge for free, but it is one of the key ways that a potential customer will understand what you offer. The messaging for manufacturers and industrial businesses is often complex and can’t be truncated down into one simple selling point. It is rather the overall story and multiple pieces of content that will build a picture of credibility, expertise, knowledge and trust.
By giving useful information, you are building a connection with your customer at different levels of influence. For example, an energy company will offer online courses or information on how homeowners can improve energy efficiency at one level, whilst at another it might produce a video for businesses on how to install solar panels for their customers.
Design your content well
Design is a key element of any content. It has to set the right tone and have something that ‘speaks’ to your audience. If your audience finds your content, make sure they take the next step and consumer it through good design and layout. It’s one thing having great content but how it looks reflects your brand and your values and ensures that your content is recognisable from one channel to the next by being consistent.
Storytelling is a powerful tool in content strategy
Stories are more emotive than facts and are therefore remember more easily, but of the marketers we have met in this sector they often don’t feel they have a story to tell. But they don’t realise the story gold mine they have in their case study arsenal. It is a case of looking through what the business has done, their history and their staff and customer stories to find the memorable starts to excellent content. Did they do a crazy installation, was there an historical house involved, how did they get through a crisis and come out the other side?
Good content can pay for itself
Generating content can be expensive in the first instance, especially for B2B marketers where expertise and specialists are involved to produce the quality of content needed. However, once the hard work is done, this educational information can be adapted and used in multiple channels, from websites, case studies, white papers, blogs, webinars, PR and so on.
Not only that, but the content can also be repurposed and used again for the audience that showed interest the first time, and just need to be reminded to increase the chances of further engagement. With minor updates over time, you can also expect to keep that knowledge you have created for content for a lifetime.
What content type should I use?
Some of the best types of content material for manufacturers and specialist industry companies:
Blogging helps to showcase your industry knowledge and expertise which in turn, establishes you as a thought leader and builds trust with your audience.
According to Hubspot:
- Companies that blog have a 434% higher chance of being ranked highly on search engines.
- B2B marketers that use blogs generate 67% more leads than those who don’t.
- Brands that blog receive 97% more links to their webpage than those that don’t.
- Case studies reinforce your credibility by using your best resource, previous clients. This can really influence your peer group as case studies are trusted.
- Case studies provide an excellent source of original content (which is good for Google) and make compelling stories.
- If you can get customers to participate it means they are prepared to get behind your brand, and there couldn’t be a better endorsement.
Aligning social media to your content marketing can give great results and there are many ways that businesses can adapt content to social media for the right audience.
- Share your story or some of your customer’s stories, even if you have to break them down into bite sizes.
- Get behind a cause.
- Make relevant commentary.
- Expand your identity
Video is one of the most successful pieces of content you can have. It is engaging, easier and quicker to absorb than many written pieces of content. For manufacturers and other specialist industries where select expertise is needed it can be a large part of content marketing. For example:
- How to videos are a quick and simple way to make your knowledge useful.
- Announcements: a quick, 15 sec video with wonderful imagery, announcing your carbon reduction will be more memorable than reading it.
- Interviews: Let your customers get to know you, and in doing so they understand more about what you can offer.
- Behind the scenes footage gives an idea of your workplace, your values and reinforces what it would be like to work with you.
This is one of the most trusted pieces of content and is exactly what your specialist audience needs to convince them of your knowledge and expertise, and how you would resolve a problem that they are experiencing. White papers can take from a few weeks to a few months as they involve much deeper research, but they come with great benefits:
- They can generate leads: When buyers are just about ready to make a decision, this can be just the final push to get them to commit.
- They help to build your email list by just asking for customer information when offering the paper. This can then be used for further customised content.
- It builds trust with prospects: The buying decision is long, and buyers don’t move from one supplier to the next easily so by sharing useful information and insights, they will start to trust your expertise.
Brochures and books: the value of tangible content
With so much information online, brochures can afford to be more emotive, can tell a story and then just sign post the way to further information online.
This is when the brochure or book becomes a tangible piece of trusted information or valuable keepsake. A tangible reminder that has been thoughtfully planned and beautifully executed is something that is kept around and is visible long after a screen page has been clicked off. The right type of content will be physically shared and often looked at or read by multiple people in the organisation.
It serves as a constant reminder of your brand.
Brochures and books have many uses:
- They show a pictorial story of the company or its services. What are they used for, how did that product get there, what was the journey?
- They can showcase some of the best case studies with big format photography.
- They can mark a key celebration in the history of a business.
- They can demonstrate through great design, key company values for employees.
Content marketing is all about the consumer of the content. Much like other marketing tactics it involves standing in your audience’s shoes, it means looking from the outside, in, and asking yourself how can I help and solve problems for my audience? If you can successfully create the content to serve that need, you’ll be building a following and customer base that stays loyal throughout the life of your business.
If you are struggling to plan your content marketing, we’re here to help. Karen or Richard on 01283 533196.