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70% of Manufacturing Marketers Can Prove that Content Marketing Drives Leads: CMI Study

The 2018 Manufacturing Content Marketing study was released today. One of the headline facts from the study was that 70% of marketers said that their organization has metrics that prove that content marketing has increased their number of leads.

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That figure means that a large majority of manufacturing marketers can prove the connection between content marketing and generating more leads. And most manufacturing marketers are using content marketing in some way. In fact, 86% of respondents to this survey said that they use content marketing.

When surveyed engineering marketers earlier this year we found a similar result, with 87% saying that they were doing some form of content marketing. Four out of five respondents to the survey believed that content marketing was helping to drive more leads, but that doesn’t mean that they could prove it. This new survey helps put more meaning around that result.

42% of those same marketers in the CMI study said that they could prove that content marketing increased their organization’s sales. However, they weren’t so bullish on their ability to prove that content marketing had decreased their cost of customer acquisition. In fact, more people disagreed with that statement than agreed.

Is the disagreement down to having a high cost of content marketing or to not having systems in place that can track the results? The report doesn’t answer that question, but it does answer quite a few others.

Manufacturing Marketers are Finding Limited Success with Content Marketing

69% of manufacturing marketers said that their organization was at least moderately successful with their overall content marketing performance.  Most of the respondents (55%) selected the mid-point on the scale as shown in the chart below.

20171031 CMI Survey Graph 1.png

The proportion who said that their efforts were very or extremely successful was relatively small at 14% versus those who said that it was either not at all or minimally successful, which combined to a total of 30%. That is not a comforting statistic. It means that for every marketer experiencing a high degree of success with content marketing, there are two who are struggling to make it work. 

This disappointing result may shed some light on why organizations were not able to prove that content marketing was reducing the overall cost of customer acquisition. Perhaps manufacturing marketers are now more carefully tracking all the costs associated with content marketing.  When you add up the costs of creating a strategy, content creation, content distribution, and then tracking the buying journeys for your prospects, the budgets can really add up.

Distribution is a Key Success Factor for Content Marketing

In our 2017 marketing budget study we found that engineering marketers were dedicating a significant amount of their budgets to distributing the content they create. In fact, 60% of marketers surveyed said that they would dedicate more than 10% of their budget towards distributing content, up from 51% in the prior year.

The CMI study reported on the distribution channels of choice, reporting that while email newsletters were ranked first, social media came in second. The preferred social media channels for manufacturing marketers are set out below.

20171031 CMI Survey Graph 2.png

As we all know, sharing content to these platforms is relatively easy and free, so it is no surprise that many marketers choose to post on multiple platforms. Not surprisingly, LinkedIn was the most popular choice with 93% of marketers choosing to share their content through that channel.

It’s nice to see that engineering marketers are directing their attention to the channels that are succeeding.  In September, surveyed 1187 engineers about their information consumption habits. 40% of engineers say that they prefer to get their engineering content from social media. Amongst those who preferred sourcing content from social media, LinkedIn reigned supreme – it was five times more popular than Twitter and more than two times more popular than Facebook. 

20171031 ENGcom Social Share.png also found that age was significantly correlated with a preference for social media.  Younger engineers were much more likely to want to receive content through social media than their more senior counterparts.  This could further explain the difficulty of marketers in the CMI study to prove decreased cost of customer acquisition.  Younger engineers are usually one or two levels removed from decision makers, so proving the relationship between content marketing and lower cost of customer acquisition is that much more difficult. 

One small caveat, engineers could pick multiple preferred channels for information, so while social media performed well it was still well below the leader of the pack – digital publications.  If you’d like to know more you can watch the webinar recording where we go over the full results of the study.

The cost of promoting content through the various platforms may drive marketers to allocate budget to channels that engineers don’t necessarily prefer. Anecdotally, I have heard marketers complain about the high cost of generating audience through LinkedIn. Facebook, by contrast, is a relatively inexpensive way to generate audience views. It may not be the professional audience that marketers crave, or the engineer’s preferred channel, but the cost allows marketers to generate a lot of views.

Key takeaways from these surveys of engineering and manufacturing marketers

  1. Many marketers are finding ways to prove the value of their content marketing efforts as measured in leads and sales.
  2. Manufacturing marketers still struggle to prove that content marketing results in lower cost of customer acquisition, although almost all believe that there is value for their organizations in content marketing.
  3. Manufacturing and engineering marketers are changing their campaign and content marketing strategies to keep up with trends in content marketing and the social media consumption habits of their audiences.

There are lots of other valuable insights in this new survey by CMI, so I encourage you to download a copy and read it through. Last week I hosted a webinar that highlighted the findings of the “Where Engineers get their Information in 2017” research report. If you are interested, you can watch the pre-recorded version, or wait a week or so for the eBook.


Thanks for reading, 



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