How to Use Content to Ease the Pressure on Engineers

The annual “Pulse of Engineering” survey published by GlobalSpec has long underscored the pressures faced by engineers as they do their jobs. This year’s report reveals that these existing pressures have combined with the impact of the coronavirus to create even more challenges for engineers to face.  

Every day, engineers are dealing with highly competitive markets, shrinking design cycles, time-to-market pressures, and loss of institutional knowledge.

Consider these survey findings:

  • Fifty-eight percent of engineers say the competitive landscape is global and competes 24/7.
  • Seventy-three percent say designs are becoming more complex/sophisticated, 64 percent say there are increased time-to-market pressures, and 58 percent report that design cycles are shrinking.
  • The majority say their company’s productivity, innovation, and/or product quality are constrained by a shortage of specialized talent/knowledge.

Marketers can step in and use their content creation and marketing skills to help alleviate these pressures on engineers. Here are four ways you can be a part of the solution to the challenges facing engineers.

1. Help engineers complete their projects

Engineers use technical documentation, software and development tools, product specification data, and datasheets as their most essential systems or tools to complete projects.

Good content from vendors helps to educate engineers and increase their confidence in the products and services they purchase or recommend. Your content should include the technical information and specification data that engineers are seeking.

Maintain a well-organized, accurate, and up-to-date portfolio of technical content that engineers can easily access on your website and that you promote to them through your marketing efforts such as email, social media, and industry websites.

The manufacturer that meets these content needs for its audience and provides the helping hand in completing projects is the manufacturer that is more likely to earn and convert business opportunities.

2. Focus messaging on customer pain points

Specifications and datasheets are essential, and so is providing context around your product and service offerings. When creating content, focus on how your products and services can help speed up design cycles or reduce time-to-market pressures.

In an era in which designs are more complex, does your content explain difficult concepts clearly, helping engineers grasp what you have to say quickly and easily? When you hit your customers’ pain points, they will respond to your messaging.

3. Fill in knowledge gaps

In the “2021 Pulse of Engineering” survey, 58 percent of engineers said that knowledge and/or information loss as employees left the company is very or extremely important. Another 26 percent said it was moderately important.

The issue is exacerbated due to older engineers retiring, layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic, and organic turnover. Yet only 39 percent of companies have formal practices in place to identify senior-level and specialized experts to train, transfer, mentor, or retain their knowledge among others in the organization.

That leaves a significant gap in some companies. Marketers can be a valuable contributor in helping their customers preserve institutional knowledge. White papers, webinars, articles, and other technical content can explain processes, describe how to complete a task, compare different approaches to solving a problem, and document best practices.

This type of content—educational and customer-focused rather than promotional and sales-focused—can become a part of a client organization’s knowledge library.

4. Help engineers advance their skills

Engineers report that their most effective ways to systematically or formally maintain, educate, and advance their professional skills are online training courses, webinars, and peers.

But only 39 percent of manufacturing marketers used webinars/online events as a content type in the past twelve months, according to the research report “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020,” produced by the Content Marketing Institute.

It might be time to devote more resources to webinars, especially during the coronavirus pandemic when many engineers are avoiding traveling and most in-person events are canceled.

You can create webinars to host online training sessions for engineers covering topics they need to know and that you specialize in. Be sure to archive any training sessions so engineers can always have access to the content.

The “2021 Pulse of Engineering” report has clear takeaways for manufacturers: become the vendor that meets your audience’s information needs. Don’t be afraid to take a deep dive into your products and services, offering the technical, in-depth knowledge that engineers and technical professionals are looking for. They will thank you with their business.

Content Marketing

Budget-Conscious Content Marketing Ideas

saving money on content marketing

Content marketing is one of the most important and successful initiatives for industrial marketers. Your audience of engineers is constantly searching for relevant content to educate themselves and to help make more informed purchase decisions.

Eighty-two percent of manufacturers consider themselves at least moderately successful at content marketing, according to the survey, “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020,” conducted by the Content Marketing Institute.

Your ability to be successful right now might be compromised due to budget limitations and market conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. However, industrial marketers are a creative, resilient group that knows how to do more with less.

Here are some budget-conscious ideas to help you maintain content marketing momentum and success. Not every idea is appropriate for every company, but there should be several that fit nicely with your goals.

Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose

Repurposing content is an established best practice of content marketing. It saves time, saves money, and helps ensure a consistent message across different content formats and channels.

Your content library may have a few signature pieces, such as a comprehensive white paper or an eBook. White papers or eBooks can be segmented into a series of short articles, blog posts or web pages. A presentation you created for a conference can become a webinar. A single slide with figures and data might make a good infographic.

Focus on the most important content

According to the survey, “Smart Marketing for Engineers,” produced by IEEE GlobalSpec and TREW Marketing, the content most valuable to engineers includes datasheets, case studies, product demo videos, and white papers.

If you’re not able to produce all the content on your list right now, stick to these essential pieces. Technical datasheets can serve double-duty by as a page on your website—another example of repurposing content. The same survey found that the most important website features for engineers are in-depth technical information and technical specifications.

Increase Social Media Usage

Social media is an effective way to raise brand awareness and keep your company top of mind with prospects even if they aren’t ready to buy right now.

Social media posts can be short and simple. Consider starting a discussion on LinkedIn or participating in other discussions. Also, you don’t have to create all of your own social media content. Easily half of your content can be curated from other sources, such as industry experts, partners, analysts, or others. Include a short note on why the content is relevant to your audience, create a link and you’re done.

Another idea is to recruit guest bloggers. You can look to customers, partners, and your own subject matter experts for blog posts.

Narrow your target audiences

On average, manufacturers create content for four different audiences. Half of the content is for top-of-funnel awareness.

If you’re really strapped for resources, focus content marketing on your most important audiences—those that have the biggest sway over purchase decisions. Make sure that you have content for various stages of your customer’s buying cycle, but don’t overdo it.

Send an extra email or two this month

You likely have an email marketing strategy and most manufacturers use an email marketing platform that offers flexibility around how many and how often you send emails.

Now is a good time to craft a “special” email that extends the boundaries of your usual campaigns. Inform your audience what’s going on at your company. If you have any new policies or procedures for interacting with customers, this is a good way to let them know. Work with your sales team to craft a special offer. Or simply let customers and prospects know you’re staying in touch and thinking of them during these challenging times.

Bring on a summer intern

There are a lot of college students out there eager for something to do this summer. An internship in the marketing department of a manufacturer would look good on their resume.

Determine what activities you need the most help with, whether writing or designing content, updating social media, repurposing for other formats, shooting video, or assisting with analytics. Lots of talented young people are out there. You’d be doing yourself and them a favor by making one of them an intern.

Content Marketing

Tips for Marketing During Challenging Times

Your plan was set in place and the marketing machine was humming along, but then uncertainty set in.  You suddenly find that external factors you simply cannot control, such as the economy or the impact of the coronavirus, are affecting your marketing efforts.

Your instinct might be to pull back from marketing during difficult times, but this is unlikely to be the best strategy. Cut back and you could lose market share to competitors or you begin to fall behind leading to a downward spiral.

Instead, when faced with external challenges, you need to find ways to adjust your current marketing plan to be more effective. Your mantra should be to “prepare not panic.”

Here are some tips:

Focus on what you can control

While you can’t control the emergence of external factors, you can control how you react. For example:

  • Recognize where demand is and what markets are strong and allocate your investments in those areas.
  • Keep track of what your customers and prospects are saying and doing and adjust your marketing channels and messaging to align with their needs.
  • Maintain visibility in your most important sectors, even if it means reallocating budget from less essential or more experimental programs.

Re-examine your marketing goals

During challenging times, it’s important to take a close look at your marketing goals. You might have to make decisions regarding what goals are must-haves, such as supporting a new product launch, while others might be nice-to-have, such as trying to enter a new market.

Given the current situation, some of your goals may no longer be achievable or your plans no longer viable. The sooner you recognize what you can and can’t achieve—and prioritize what you must achieve—the quicker you can take effective action.

For example, if you usually promote a product launch at a trade show that has been canceled, you can reallocate that marketing budget to other activities, such as e-newsletter or display ads, webinars, or content marketing.

Stay on top of measurement

More than ever, you need to get the most out of every marketing dollar during challenging times. While it’s always the right time to purge marketing programs that don’t perform, it may be time to suspend or scale back any marketing plans whose results you can’t measure or are unsure about.

If uncertainty is causing rapid changes in the market, increase your frequency of measurement to spot any disturbing (or encouraging) performance trends in your marketing programs.

You might find that some programs are working better than expected, while others are underperforming your stated goals. Use this opportunity to reallocate your budget to those programs that are most effective.

Get more from your existing marketing assets

This could be a good time to focus on updating web pages, repurposing content for other uses, or even combining programs.

Whatever the external climate, your website is still the face of your company and prospects will continue to visit. Make sure the content is current and accurate, links work, and pages are optimized for search.

In addition, repurpose and reuse content. Take that white paper and create a series of blog posts or develop a webinar. Create infographics using market or product data. Conduct a customer survey. You remain the owner and in full control of your content, so focus on making the most of what you have.

Another possibility is combining programs. If you are running a webinar series and planning to exhibit at a trade show that is no longer part of your plan, you may want to integrate your tradeshow message into your webinar series and use email and e-newsletter advertisements to promote the combined event.

Stay visible in your most important markets

If you do have to make program adjustments due to external pressures or other factors, don’t sacrifice your most important markets or most effective programs. If anything, reallocate budget to those initiatives from weaker performing programs or uncertain markets. Challenging times are often the right time for “circling the wagons” and defending your territory.

Reap the benefits of working with media partners

In challenging times, you may be forced to make harder and smarter decisions about allocating budgets. You don’t have to do this alone. Ask existing or potential media partners, who may have a broader and deeper view of the market, their advice on how to handle market uncertainty.

Ask media partners to demonstrate how their marketing solutions can help your company achieve its goals during challenging times. You may come away with unique ideas to navigate this period of uncertainty and come out the other end in a position of strength.

Content Marketing Digital Media Marketing Strategy Marketing Trends Marketing, General Productivity

What to do About Tradeshows

Tradeshow

With many tradeshows and conferences being cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, industrial marketers are facing significant disruptions to their marketing plans.

An IEEE GlobalSpec survey conducted in the earlier days of the coronavirus outbreak found that 56 percent of marketers said the shows they planned to attend or exhibit at have been cancelled. Thirty-eight percent had cancelled their own plans. Those percentages can only be higher now.

The question for marketers is what they should be doing in place of tradeshows to pick up the marketing slack.

Reinvest or Cut Back?

The survey showed that 28 percent of industrial marketers will shift their tradeshow budget to digital ads, while 46 percent said they will not reinvest that budget.

It’s understandable that companies may want to save their budget during uncertain times. However, by reducing your presence in the marketplace you may lose business to competitors who don’t cut back and you may have a harder time regaining marketing momentum when conditions stabilize again.

Those companies that reinvest at least a percentage of their tradeshow budget to digital platforms can continue to maintain visibility and generate engagement opportunities with prospects who are in various stages of their buying cycle. When the situation improves, you will be in a better position to win new business.

Tradeshow Substitutes

One coveted feature of tradeshows is the ability to meet person-to-person. While that is no longer possible when a tradeshow is canceled or postponed, you can still engage your audience, show prospects who you are, and provide a personal touch.  

Webinars

For years, webinars have been carving into the tradeshow market, and with good reason. Ubiquitous broadband and technology advances have allowed webinars to become an interactive, engaging experience between presenters and their audiences.

You can include real-time polls, offer live Q&A, and show video during webinars, while your audience remains at their desk.

Webinar solutions from IEEE GlobalSpec offer additional benefits, including:

  • Promotion of your webinar to your chosen target audience
  • Audience registration and attendee tracking
  • Webinar files for continued on-demand viewing on your corporate website or other marketing channel such as YouTube

Video

Video is another effective substitute for a tradeshow. From your office, you can film that keynote speech or educational workshop you were going to present at a tradeshow and post the video on your website, social media or supplier hub on IEEE GlobalSpec.

Engineers, particularly younger ones, are steadily increasing their use of video as a way to discover companies, products and services.

Digital Ads

Digital platforms such as e-newsletter ads and display advertising can help you reach your tradeshow audience and achieve similar branding and visibility benefits:

  • Advertise in targeted, opt-in e-newsletters that reach the same audience as you were targeting with your tradeshow. You can use the ad to promote a video or webinar that might be serving as your tradeshow substitute.
  • Stay visible to your audience and keep your message in the market through the use of display ads on industrial websites. You will be able to showcase your brand to many of the same engineers and technical professionals who might see you at a tradeshow.

Content Marketing

Tradeshows have a reputation as being time and resource intensive. You can put some of the saved time and resources to good use by updating or creating content. Your audience is always looking for educational information to help them do their jobs better, and with travel and tradeshows down, many engineers and technical professionals will be conducting more online search for content to help keep them current.

You can also consider contributing content to Engineering360.com or taking advantage of an Engineering360 product advertorial which provides engineers new ways to learn about your product offerings—a good alternative to a tradeshow. Click here for more info.

Yes, these are uncertain and challenging times both personally and professionally. However, it’s no time to panic. Instead, carefully evaluate your situation to determine how you can best persevere and succeed in your role as a marketer.

Content Marketing Marketing Strategy Marketing, General Tradeshows

Content Creation and Distribution: 5 Best Practices for 2020

content marketing creation and distribution

Manufacturing marketers are taking a more strategic approach with their content marketing and are gaining confidence in communicating complex content.

In addition, many are reporting success with their overall approach to content marketing, according to the research report “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends” produced by the Content Marketing Institute and sponsored by IEEE GlobalSpec.

One key area covered in the report is content creation and distribution. Manufacturers were surveyed about their processes, and the results reveal a number of best practices manufacturers should adopt to help improve their content marketing efforts in 2020.

1. Create Content for Different Audiences

The more closely your content is targeted to the needs of your buyer, the more likely potential buyers will pay attention because the information is relevant to them.

On average, manufacturers create content for four different audiences, with 45 percent creating content for 2-3 audiences and 53 percent creating content for four or more audiences.

Unless all of your customers fit the same profile and have the same needs, you should be creating different types of content for different audiences. One way to define your different audience’s content needs is to create buyer personas, which are profiles of the different types of customers you have. This article can help.

2. Create Content for Different Stages of the Buying Cycle

Currently, 40 percent of manufacturing marketers create content based on specific stages of the customer journey: from awareness of need, to comparison and consideration, to purchasing decision.

Half of the content that manufacturers create is for audiences in the early stages of their buying journey. The purpose of this top-of-funnel content is to create awareness and interest. But manufacturers also need content for their customers’ consideration, evaluation and purchase stages, as well as post-sale content to drive loyalty and brand advocacy.

3. Choose a Variety of Formats for Content

Engineers have personal preferences when it comes to searching for, discovering and consuming content, which means you need a variety of content types in order to effectively connect with your audience.

The top five content formats manufacturers use are social media (such as tweets and stories), videos, email newsletters, blog posts/short articles and in-person events. The majority of manufacturers also use infographics/charts/photos/data visualization content and case studies.

4. Align Content to Marketing Goals

The Content Marketing Institute survey asked respondents which content types are the highest performing for their organization in terms of building brand awareness, securing leads, nurturing leads and converting leads.

For both securing and converting leads, in-person events was the most common response for what type of content was the highest performing. However, for building awareness, social media was the highest performing content. Manufacturers should conclude that they need some type of social media presence as part of their awareness campaigns, but should also realize that social media, while important for capturing attention, is not a primary lead generator.

For nurturing leads, email newsletters are the top performers. Most manufacturers that nurture leads set up email drip campaigns to stay in touch with prospects who are early in their buying journey and to help move them along toward a purchase decision.

5. Use the Right Channels

Manufacturers use both organic (nonpaid) and paid channels to distribute content to their target audiences.

The top organic content distribution channels that manufacturers used in the past 12 months are social media platforms, their organization’s website/blog, and email.

Of the organic social media platforms they use, respondents say that LinkedIn generates the best overall content marketing results, although Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are also widely used.

The top paid content distribution channels are social media advertising/promoted posts, search engine marketing/pay-per-click, sponsorships (booths, workshops, branding), and banner ads to promote content.

Content marketing is one of the most significant and most effective ways for manufacturers to connect with their target audiences and to generate opportunities. Download your complimentary copy of the research report “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends” to find out more about how manufacturers approach content marketing, including strategy, teams, budgets, and overcoming challenges. Click here for your report.

Content Marketing Digital Media Marketing, General Social Media

What Engineers Want from Your Website

Collaboration

For any industrial company, your website is an important marketing asset. With engineers conducting the majority of their buying research online before contacting your company, a prospect is sure to visit your website in hopes of discovering information they are looking for.

If engineers find what they need, and if your products and services compare well against the competition, then you’ll likely generate a potential sales opportunity.

If your website falls short, you’ll miss out.

According to the research report, “Smart Marketing for Engineers,” produced by IEEE GlobalSpec and TREW Marketing, engineers want access to the basics on your website. They are looking, first and foremost, for technical content.

This audience is not as concerned with website bells and whistles. Items that an industrial marketer may view as a “must have” – pre-filled forms, interactive graphics, online chat, and more are not so special to engineers.

Get Technical, Get Specific

When asked what features of their favorite websites were most important to their experience, engineers overwhelming said in-depth technical information (81 percent) and technical specifications (75 percent).

The next closest were features to help configure products/systems (30 percent). Interestingly, only 11 percent said that a wide range of content was important to their experience.

The takeaway is clear: engineers want technical content specific to their need, and they don’t want other stuff getting in their way.

How to Structure Information

As for web usability, 75 percent of engineers prefer concise information with links to in-depth content, so they can drill down if needed. Forty-three percent want to see imagery/icons related to the content.

This puts the responsibility on you as a marketer to develop a logical taxonomy and clear hierarchy for organizing and presenting information on your website. The drill-down model works because you won’t overwhelm the engineer with too much information at once or confuse them by presenting secondary information before they are ready for it.

This type of information presentation makes sense. It somewhat mirrors the news story, inverted-pyramid approach, where the most important information is presented first, with secondary details to follow. The difference is that on the web, instead of writing a continuous narrative, you segment the content into discrete chunks users can access by clicking on links.

The Coveted Content

The content that engineers find most valuable when researching a product to purchase are datasheets, case studies, product demo videos and white papers.

You should have as much of this content as possible on your website. Whether you offer the content freely or keep it gated behind a form is a choice each company must make. But the majority of engineers are willing to provide work email, first name, company name, last name, job title, and industry in order to access content they deem valuable to them.

Don’t be afraid to put content behind forms—as long as the content is valuable. Engineers will trade their contact information for information that helps them.

Your Website Must Build Trust

Because most engineers are researching your offerings before contacting you, it’s important that your website helps to establish trust between your company and your potential customers.

When engineers were asked what causes them to lose trust in a company or brand after looking at their website, the top two answers were lack of technical information (69 percent) and lack of product information (50 percent), further reinforcing the need to have technical content on your website.

Other trust-eroding factors for engineers include getting no response after contacting a company and having no ability to contact a company for additional information.

You should have a contact link on every page on your website—and of course you should monitor and respond in a timely manner to any prospect that contacts you.

Keep it Simple

That’s the lesson here—your website should be simple. That lesson should also be encouraging to you. If you are struggling with limited resources (time, people, and budget), focus your website efforts on what will deliver the most value to your target audience. In this case, it is detailed, technical content that is easy to access and understand.

For a more in-depth look at engineers’ content, online and website preferences, along with survey results about an engineer’s buying journey, download your complimentary copy of the report “Smart Marketing for Engineers.”

Content Marketing Digital Media Marketing, General Web Sites – Design & Usability

How to Address the Top Content Marketing Priorities and Challenges

What are manufacturing marketers prioritizing in 2020? According to the latest Content Marketing Institute (CMI) research, “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends,” it’s both content quality and quantity, as well as distribution and promotion.

Unique challenges manufacturing marketers face include overcoming the traditional marketing and sales mindset and creating content that appeals to multi-level roles within their target audiences.

This post takes a closer look at these priorities and challenges, and offers ideas on how to successfully address them.

Marry quality and quantity together

Fifty-six percent of manufacturing marketers will be focusing on content quality/quantity. However, the choice isn’t between creating a lot of average content or a few pieces of high-quality material. You need to have both quality and quantity. But with limited resources, how do you do it?

  • Focus content creation on your areas of expertise that are of most interest to your target audience. You will create better content if you have access to subject matter experts.
  • Always create content with the needs of your audience in mind. What do they need to know? How will this information help them?
  • Re-purpose content for multiple uses to increase the quantity of pieces. White papers can be become technical articles or a series of blog posts. Create both a video and a text version of a customer case study or testimonial. Use a trade show presentation as the basis for a webinar.
  • Outsource some aspects of content creation. Most manufacturers (64 percent) do. Contract with writers or designers who have experience and knowledge in your field to help ease your burden.

Seek new content distribution channels

Fifty-two percent of survey respondents want to improve content distribution/promotion. Most already rely on a combination of both paid (social media advertising/promoted posts, pay-per-click, sponsorships, banner ads) and unpaid (social media, company website/blog, email) distribution channels.

There are also other distribution and promotion tactics you can consider. For example:

  • Events and speaking engagements can be a conduit for content in the form of presentations and handouts.
  • Building relationships with the media and industry influencers can help you place articles or promote specific content.
  • Contributing guest posts or articles to third-party publications can extend the reach of your content to new audiences and markets.

Always be educating

Fifty-five percent of manufacturing marketers cited their top challenge is overcoming the traditional sales and marketing mindset. This isn’t surprising. It’s the nature of sales and marketing to be promotional, but the nature of content marketing is educational.

The challenge, then, is not only to make sure your marketing content is educational rather than promotional, but also to educate your marketing colleagues and executive team on how content marketing works.

Your audience is seeking relevant, educational information that can help them make more informed and confident buying decisions when they are further along in their cycle. But in the early stages of their buy cycle, before they have contacted you, it’s all about education. Engineers don’t like to be sold to, they like to be educated, and if you’re aggressively promoting early on, they will be more likely to turn away from you.

Keep reminding your team that tradition doesn’t apply when it comes to content marketing. Success is all based on educating your audience with facts, data, and defendable positions.

Create content for different buyer roles

The second unique challenge, reported by 53 percent of manufacturing marketers, is creating content that appeals to multi-level roles within their target audience(s).

Serving the information needs of technical professionals operating in different roles and different mindsets may seem complex, but there is a straightforward and useful way to approach the challenge. Whether an influencer, recommender or decision-maker, the audience you are creating content for is generally driven by one of three concerns. Make sure your content meets the needs of these three different buyer roles:

Analytical concerns — Does the product solve my problem?

The analytical buyer is often the first point of contact your company has with a potential customer. They’re the person who has performed initial research to identify the suppliers, products or components that could meet their needs.

They’re asking: What functions does the product perform? What are its specifications? Why is your product better than another product? Or: How does your service meet my needs?

Economic concerns — Will we earn a return on investment?

Economic buyers often have significant sway in any large or long-term purchase. Economic buyers ask if the return they earn in terms of economic benefit will be higher than the price they pay for your product or service.

The benefits to economic buyers might be measured in terms of expected time savings, increased efficiency, uptime, product lifespan, reliability, warranties, or other factors.

Technical concerns — Is it the right fit for my company?

The technical buyer is often behind the scenes and may not come into play early in the buy cycle. They are concerned with the bigger picture of whether your product, component or service will fit into the larger technical infrastructure, environment or policies at their company.

For example: Are your products compatible with other products the customer uses? Do your products integrate well or will modifications elsewhere be necessary? How is support provided? These questions are particularly relevant with software and hardware purchases, but also for other industrial products.

For complete survey results, download your complimentary copy of “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends.” This report can help you improve your own content marketing efforts by discovering how other manufacturers view content marketing, where they plan to focus resources, and what challenges and opportunities they see on the horizon. Download your complimentary copy today.

Content Marketing Marketing, General
content marketing research

New Research on How Manufacturers Use Content Marketing

content marketing research

The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) recently released the results of its annual survey, “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends The results are encouraging in many ways—manufacturers are becoming more strategic as content marketers and many are reporting more success.

However, challenges remain, and manufacturers must continue to up their content marketing game to achieve their goals.

The CMI report, sponsored by IEEE GlobalSpec, highlighted these five key findings:

1. Manufacturing marketers are becoming more strategic

Having a documented content marketing strategy in place is a sign of an organization’s commitment to content marketing. Forty-one percent of those surveyed now have a documented content marketing strategy, almost double from 21 percent last year.

Another 37 percent stated they have a content marketing strategy, but it is not documented. If you fall within this group, consider the advantages of documenting your strategy:

  • Everyone involved in content marketing will be aligned around a common mission, helping to increase effectiveness and efficiency.
  • It is easier to determine what types of content to develop, helping to marshal resources and streamline production.
  • A documented strategy, like a business plan, will help to justify and defend budget allocations and expenditures.

2. Many manufacturing marketers create content for different audiences

On average, manufacturers create content for four different audiences, with 45 percent creating content for 2-3 audiences and 26 percent creating content for six or more audiences.

Manufacturers should be lauded for segmenting their audiences and targeting them with different types of content. However, only 40 percent of manufacturers craft content to align with specific stages of the customer buying journey. This is a missed opportunity to be more relevant to your customers.

The content that buyers seek early in their journey is educational in nature, such as articles, white papers, webinars, how-tos and more. As they progress toward making a purchasing decision, content such as customer case studies, product specs, competitive comparisons, and ROI calculators become more valuable. Make sure you create content to support your customers’ entire buy cycle.

3. Communicating complex content and accessing subject matter experts has improved

Only 36 percent of survey respondents reported being challenged with communicating complex content, down from 60 percent last year. In addition, 40 percent reported being challenged with accessing subject matter experts in order to create specialized content, down from 50 percent.

These results indicate that manufacturing marketers are finding ways to access and communicate the deep technical information their audiences are looking for. Building a team of reliable subject matter experts to support your content marketing team is essential to creating content. Marketers by themselves can’t play the role of technical experts.

4. The majority outsource at least one content marketing activity

Sixty-four percent of manufacturing marketers outsource some aspect of their content marketing. Among those who outsource, 87 percent outsource content creation, which may help explain why their ability to communicate complex content has improved. Content distribution is the next closest activity outsourced, by 32 percent of survey respondents.

Writing and designing are the two major skillsets required to create content, and they always seem to be in short supply within the company. You can find outside experts through trade associations, networking, and even through internship programs. If your company lacks internal resources to create content, outsourcing can help save time and money, and free up your internal teams to focus on other pressing needs.

5. Marketers are overlooking several organic (unpaid) opportunities to distribute content

Manufacturing marketers rely on both paid (social media advertising/promoted posts, pay-per-click, sponsorships, banner ads) and unpaid (social media, company website/blog, email) tactics to distribute content.

However, several organic distribution tactics are being overlooked that, if implemented, can help extend the reach of your content. Currently, few are taking advantage of speaking/events (43 percent), media/influencer relations (33 percent), or guest posts/articles in third-party publications (31 percent).

These distribution tactics should become part of your documented content marketing strategy. If you are going to make the investment in content creation, you should do everything you can to promote the content to your target audiences. Expanding your modes of distribution will also help you maintain a consistent message across all channels in the market.

Would you like more insight into the state of content marketing in the manufacturing sector? Download  your complimentary copy of the full report, “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends.” This valuable resource will help you jump-start your content marketing efforts for the year and help pave the way for your success.

Content Marketing

Pulse of Engineering Takeaways Part 2: Content Marketing

Make sure to also read: Pulse of Engineering – Part 1

IEEE GlobalSpec has recently published the results of its “2019 Pulse of Engineering” survey. The survey collected data about engineers’ work environment, the challenges and pressures they face, how they learn skills and manage knowledge, and more.

One of the key findings of the survey is that engineers are constantly seeking quality content from manufacturers. Good content from vendors helps to educate engineers and increase their confidence in the products and services they purchase or recommend.

But being an effective content marketer is not as simple as producing and publishing content. The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Only by laser-focusing on your audience’s needs in this way can you build the trust that will lead to a long-term and fruitful relationship for both you and your engineering customers.

Here’s how:

Put your audience first.

Manufacturers are making strident improvements to their content marketing, according to the research report “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends” developed by the Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs and sponsored by IEEE GlobalSpec.

However, there are still missteps. While manufacturing companies obviously need to explain how their products or services work, about half of the survey respondents said they always or frequently prioritize their promotional message over their audience’s informational needs when creating content for content marketing purposes.

This approach will likely not work. Engineers are wary of being “sold to.” Furthermore, promotional content is not what they are looking for.

The “Pulse of Engineering Report” found that, for engineers, three of their four leading content tools to complete projects are: technical documentation, product specification data, and datasheets (the fourth is software and development tools). Not surprisingly, none of these are overtly promotional materials.

If you can supply the technical content engineers are looking for, you will likely be in a better position to win business and become an essential ally to your customers.

Focus on their challenges.

Most engineers say that designs are becoming more complex/sophisticated, design cycles are shrinking, and there is more time-to-market pressure. These are serious challenges, and the manufacturer that can help them overcome these challenges can gain a significant advantage.

When creating content, focus on how your products and services can help speed up design cycles or reduce time-to-market pressures. In an era in which designs are more complex, does your content explain difficult concepts clearly, helping engineers grasp what you have to say quickly and easily? When you hit your customers’ pain points, they will respond to your messaging.

Help engineers advance their skills.

To increase their knowledge and skills, engineers most often rely on colleagues, books, online training courses, webinars, training courses offered by vendors, and technical white papers from vendors. Younger engineers are more likely than their older colleagues to rely on video as an information source.

Make sure that your content portfolio includes training, webinars, white papers, and videos that are designed to educate engineers and help them develop and improve their technical skills.

Exchange content for contact information.

The “2019 Pulse of Engineering” report found that 55 percent of engineers are willing to register on a website for access to technical documents. However, less than 20 percent are willing to pay for access to premium content, marking a steady decline over the past few years. More millennial engineers believe that all content should be free and open access.

Before you ask for an engineer to register to access technical content, make sure the content you are offering is of value to them. Only in that way can you entice them to give you their contact information, the first step in developing a mutually beneficial relationship.

The “2019 Pulse of Engineering” report has clear takeaways for manufacturers: Become the vendor that meets your audience’s information needs. Improve your content marketing efforts. Don’t be afraid to take a deep dive into your products and services, offering the technical, in-depth knowledge that engineers and technical professionals are looking for. They will thank you with their business.

Download your complimentary copy of the “2019 Pulse of Engineering” research report to get the complete survey results, along with analysis and recommendations for manufacturers.

Content Marketing Marketing, General

The Five “Bonus Benefits” of Content Marketing

The majority of manufacturing content marketers (52 percent) say that their organizations are extremely/very committed to content marketing, with another 40 percent saying they are somewhat committed, according to “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2019”, a research report authored by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs.

The top three goals that manufacturers have achieved using content marketing in the past 12 months are creating brand awareness, educating audiences, and generating demand/leads. These are all worthy goals and justification for engaging in content marketing, which by nature is a long game.

Planning, creating, distributing, and tracking content takes time and resources, and building brand awareness and educating audiences doesn’t happen overnight. Because the investment is significant and the results are not always immediate, content marketers may begin to question their strategy and experience frustration.

But we urge all content marketers to stay the course, not only to stay on track toward achieving their stated benefits, but because content marketing can help your organization realize many additional “bonus benefits.”

These include:

1. Gain greater credibility.

While credibility is related to brand awareness, it is a benefit in its own right. Ninety percent of manufacturing content marketers agree that their audience views their organization as a credible and trusted resource.

When you’re focused on using content to educate your audience, to provide valuable information to help them through their buying cycle, when you’re seen as being a helpful partner rather than aggressively trying to sell, you build credibility.

And the credibility earned isn’t limited to your target audience. The overall market will discover that your company is known as trustworthy and believable, which leads to the second bonus benefit.

2. Earn a reputation as an expert.

Content marketers work hard to balance their company’s need to promote products and services with their audiences’ needs for objective information that will help them make a better purchasing decision. Create the right balance and your company earns a reputation: That’s the company that does “X.” That’s the “Y” company. They’re experts in “Z.”

Every marketer knows you can’t be everything to everyone, but if you can be something important to your target audience, that is a huge win and a bonus benefit. In business, reputation precedes all else. Customers want to buy from vendors who have reputations as experts.

3. Strengthen relationships with your sales team.

The number one way content marketers research their target audience is through feedback from the sales team. Your salespeople are the ones closest to the customer and have access to inside information about customer needs, challenges, and objections. Content marketing offers opportunities for marketing and sales teams to collaborate, which in turn can strengthen relationships between the two groups.

Sales and marketing teams will be more integrated and will work toward a common goal if they are on the same page in terms of who the organization is trying to target, what type of content will be most effective, and how the content can be used.

4. Create recruitment opportunities.

Content that you create will likely have a prominent place on your website for all to see. It’s not just your potential customers looking at your website, it’s anyone who has an interest in your company, including prospective employees, who always visit a company’s website.

Recruiting talented professionals is a competitive business. If potential employees see that your content is clear, informative, and helpful, they will gain a positive impression and likely be more interested in working for your organization.

5. Spread consistent messaging across the company.

Marketing produces more messaging and positioning content for a company than any other department. If it’s quality content, other departments will use it – not just your sales team. Others may not use your marketing content in its complete form, but lifted paragraphs, sections, key points and other content can be helpful to customer support, finance, the executive team and others. It wouldn’t be unusual for content produced by marketing to appear in an annual report or a letter to investors.

Another benefit is that if various departments are making use of marketing content, workload for others is reduced and the entire company stays on message.

Content Marketing Marketing, General