No industry can afford to exempt themselves from the ever-changing requirements of search engine rankings or refuse to provide informative and quality content for insatiable readers and researchers like yourself! As marketers we understand that content is, indeed, king.
Even in such a B2B-oriented industry as manufacturing, potential customers are looking to firms that can distill and display their expertise in the form of quality content. Prospects in the B2B space want to partner with manufacturing firms that are thought leaders in their respective spaces, and one of the best ways to demonstrate the potential value your team can bring to a client before they partner with you is through the creation of high-quality, informative content.
In this article, we’ll examine the power of content marketing as it relates to manufacturers. We’ll primarily draw on data and insights from a leader in the study of content marketing – the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) – and their report on the state of manufacturing content marketing heading into 2022.
Our Findings from 2021
In September of last year, we published a blog entitled Content Marketing in 2021. Using data we had collected from our annual survey of technical marketers, we drew a number of conclusions about the effectiveness of content marketing as it was perceived by the marketers who rely on it.
You can click here to read our detailed findings, but to quickly summarize we found that:
- Content marketing has been ranked as the most effective means of marketing to an audience of engineers and the technically minded since we began our survey in 2014.
- Video, webinars, and blog content (in that order) are the three forms of content that marketers spent the most amount of budget and effort on in 2021.
- Marketers are primarily focused on generating leads (33% of respondents) and creating brand awareness (27%) with their content.
- While content marketing consistently occupies the top spot for “most effective” method, it also occupies the top spot for “marketing challenges,” with 44% of marketers in 2021 noting content creation as their greatest challenge.
These insights are all applicable to manufacturing – in fact, respondents who work in the manufacturing industry made up our single largest group of respondents, at 22%. However, a more recent report from the CMI has been released which only surveyed manufacturers. Thus, we want to examine this data in more detail to understand exactly how content marketing is used by manufacturers to reach their goals.
Content Marketing Budgets for Manufacturers
Manufacturers are a little later to the game of content marketing than other engineering-related industries. This isn’t to say that many manufacturing firms haven’t been producing quality content for years, but overall, at an industry-level manufacturers are later than others at dedicating significant resources to content marketing.
For example, one survey from 2021 found that 41% of manufacturing marketing teams had a documented content strategy of some kind. This was a significant increase from 21% the year prior, but with fewer than one-quarter of manufacturing marketers having a documented content plan as recently as 2020, we see that manufacturers have a bit of catching up to do as an industry.
The good news, however, is that manufacturers are diving head-first into content marketing. From a budgetary perspective, 64% of respondents to the CMI survey indicated their content budget was increasing by some amount in 2022. This was up from only 36% who indicated an increase of any amount in 2021. This allocation of budget indicates a shift in how manufacturers are viewing the importance of content moving forward. It’s one thing to vocally support the pursuit of content creation, and it’s another entirely to dedicate significant amounts of additional funding towards it; the saying “put your money where your mouth is” comes to mind here, as it appears manufacturers are doing just that.
How manufacturers are spending their larger budgets is very similar to our findings from our September survey. Manufacturing marketers indicated video, blog articles, and events (virtual and in-person) were the three activities respondents expected there to be the most investment in over the coming year. As we addressed in our own survey report, quality video is an expensive content medium and we speculate that many marketing teams are injecting additional capital into this form of content to purchase new equipment, invest in proper studio space, hire individuals with technical expertise, etc., to improve the quality of their videos.
We know from experience that video is an incredibly powerful tool for marketers, and it quickly is becoming the most-consumed form of content on the web. This is likely why so many marketers expect to invest more in video content in the year to come and why it occupies such a large portion of their budgets already. To learn about how technical marketers are using video, click here to read our blog on the topic.
Most Effective Content for Manufacturers
We have data that shows how marketers plan to spend their budgets in the coming year, but are they spending their budgets in the most effective way? Well, it turns out they are.
The CMI survey asked marketers to select from a list of assets, which produced the best results for them in 2021. Unsurprisingly, marketers’ answers seemed to mimic their intended budget allocations for the coming year. In descending order, 52% of marketers chose Video as a top producer; 48% chose webinars, online courses, and events; 47% chose e-books and white papers; and 43% chose short blog articles. Manufacturing marketers have identified the forms of content that produced the greatest results for them in 2021, and they are dedicating additional resources to those same forms of content in 2022.
Marketers who responded to Engineering.com’s survey as well as those who responded to the CMI survey are in agreement: video, online events, and articles are the most effective forms of educative and informative content. However, what exactly does it mean to be an “effective” form of content. One way we can determine this, is by examining marketers’ stated goals. If marketers are in agreement that certain forms of content are producing positive results, then we can examine their goals to determine exactly what those results are.
Here, our survey and the CMI survey are also closely in-line with one another. Respondents to our survey listed lead generation, brand awareness, and audience education (in that order) as their top three goals when using content marketing. The CMI report also finds these three goals included in marketers’ top 5 but adds two additional goals: “support the launch of a new product” and “help build credibility.” While the precise order of these goals differs between our survey and the CMI report, these same goals are being achieved broadly by technical marketers as well as manufacturing marketers specifically.
Creating Enough Content is Still the Challenge
Each year we ask respondents to our marketing survey what the single biggest challenge is that they face on an annual basis. We first conducted this survey in 2014, and “content creation” has been at the top of the challenges list every year since. In fact, in 2021 nearly half (44%) of respondents to our survey indicated content creation was their number one biggest marketing challenge. So, what is it about content creation that makes it, on the one hand, the most valuable tool in a marketer’s toolbox and, on the other, the most challenging obstacle for marketers to overcome?
For years we’ve heard from technical marketers that creating valuable content for their personas, in the early to mid-stage of the buyer’s journey, is what poses the greatest challenge. Since it’s the subject of this blog, take manufacturing for example. The types of content that are most likely to resonate with professionals in the manufacturing industry are highly technical and detailed forms of content. Manufacturers want to learn about the latest emerging technology trends, designs, processes, etc., to reduce cost, and get products to market faster with better quality. The average marketer isn’t equipped with the industry and technical expertise or knowledge to create this form of content consistently. We know from firsthand experience that engineers have a natural gift of seeing through marketing “fluff,” so content must be authentic and genuine in order to really have a meaningful impact on an audience of engineers.
Unsurprisingly, the CMI report indicates the exact same thing: with 51% of respondents selecting this option, “creating valuable content instead of sales-oriented content” was the largest challenge reported by manufacturing marketers. No technical industry or specialization is immune to this problem it seems, and marketers continue to face this same issue year after year.
While there is no “silver bullet” solution to this challenge, at engineering.com we have some best practices that we adhere to and which we believe might be helpful for marketers struggling with the same thing. We’ve documented these best practices in our e-book entitled Collaborating with Engineers on Content Marketing, which can be found here. Over the years, we’ve found that the only way to make valuable content that engineers want to consume, is for engineers to be involved in the creation process as well. This e-book provides you with some actionable ways to engage your engineers in content creation, while being sensitive to their primary work.
Our findings in our report from September last year have largely been echoed and confirmed by the findings of the CMI report. We also have more granular detail into how content marketing impacts the manufacturing industry specifically, and we hope if you’re a manufacturer reading this you’ve learned something from our findings and can incorporate some of them into your planning for 2022 and beyond.
To access the full CMI report, click here to visit their website.
If you have any questions or comments about this blog article, including how you have found ways to create quality content for professionals in the manufacturing industry, then leave us a comment down below!