Are you among the many B2B manufacturers struggling with content marketing? You’re definitely not alone.
The idea of writing compelling, keyword-optimized content for what’s often a highly niche audience segment… let’s just say, it’s not exactly intuitive. Nor is it your primary area of expertise (because manufacturing is)!
But love it or hate it, content marketing is critical if you want to grow your pipeline. It’s without a doubt one of the most effective ways to connect to B2B buyers who are searching online for manufacturing solutions just like the ones YOU offer. Ignoring this strategy simply means you are losing leads to your more content-savvy competitors.
Whether you are ready to tackle your content marketing in-house, or are considering outsourcing, there are a few things yon need to know to get started. This blog breaks it all down into five easy steps.
The first thing to know: don't skip this step! Your content won’t do much good if it’s not in front of the right eyeballs -- and keywords help bridge what you write and what the rest of the world sees. We’ll start with the basics.
By marketing definition, keywords are search terms entered into Google and other search engines that will trigger related results pages. Manufacturing companies must strive to optimize their digital content in the hopes of ranking at the top of a search engine results pages (SERPs). Implementing an effective keyword strategy drives higher-quality traffic to your website and creates valuable conversion opportunities via organic search.
We like to think of keywords as a way to connect “human” searches (the terms your buyers are using when they search online) to “robot” searches (the terms search engines rely on to connect to a vast library of digital content).
So let’s start on the human side. What are the primary areas of your unique business that you want to be known for? What are the buzzwords that are critical to your industry? What might someone in need of your solution be searching on?
As an example, an air hose manufacturer might include keywords such as air hose fittings, air compressor hoses, compressed air lines, air hose medical, and so on. Also think about your customers’ pain points and include “problem-driven” keywords -- such as air hose pressure. Involve your team to come up with a good, long list, then whittle it down to a manageable set of priority keywords.
Now, consider the robot side. How do you gauge how viable your search terms are? Always start by simply entering that term into Google to get a sense of your content marketing competition. Then dig deeper using tools like SEM Rush, Answer the Public or Google’s Keyword Planner to further assess keyword viability based on factors like:
If there is no reported search volume for a term you have in mind, broaden it a bit or use an alternate angle of that phrase. Or, if a search term is too broad and the level of difficulty is too high, try making your term more specific.
Let’s say you are a plastics manufacturing company, and one of the things you strive to be known for a speedy prototype process. With some keyword research (in this case, we are using the tool SEM Rush), we find the following:
With a reasonable level of difficulty and a robust monthly search volume, the keywords revealed are fodder for content marketing topics, like blogs. That brings us to our next step.
Creating an Editorial Calendar is not as hard as it sounds. (And, if you conduct your keyword research according to Step 1 above, your calendar will practically write itself!)
Let’s refer back to our example above, where we determined that the term “plastics prototype” has potential for a high-ranking blog topic. An idea for your first blog, then, might be something like, From CAD to Plastic Prototype: What the Process Looks Like. Does this sound like a topic that might catch the eye of the 240 monthly searchers who are searching on that phase? We think so!
Simply put, your editorial calendar helps you set content marketing goals and stick to them. It formalizes your keyword findings into actionable ideas, and also provides an at-a-glance marketing roadmap to help you tie in other marketing initiatives as well, like social media posts or a quarterly email newsletter.
Don't miss our related article: 5 Kick-Off B2B Blog Topic Ideas for Manufacturers.
On a more tactical level, your editorial calendar can also help you plan details like your monthly blogging cadence, target publication dates and who might serve as subject matter experts for your content. Onward to Step 3.
Even with a general topic in mind, you may still be at a loss for compelling topic angles and/or the finer points of your content piece. So why not lean on your team for expertise?
Start by speaking with the folks who face your customers; your sales reps, installation folks, repair teams, industry partners, related industry experts, and so on.
Don’t rule out your existing customers, either -- arrange interviews with your top customers and ask for their insight on how your company has helped them through an industry challenge. Chances are, this content will be relevant to searching prospects who are facing the same challenges.
Whomever you call on, you’ll be surprised by how asking a few simple yet probing questions can generate a plethora of new content ideas. What problems do they face? What questions are they being asked? Which mistakes do they most commonly see? Are there industry obstacles they are challenged by? These are all good questions to begin with. Remember, to ensure your content marketing offers a helpful solution, you must first relate to the problem.
Keyword research is best when it’s done regularly, and from the ground up. But that doesn’t mean you need to totally reinvent the wheel with your content. You can still work with what you’ve got.
Take a full inventory of your content to help you identify what you have on hand versus what to develop in the future. This assessment goes beyond traditional content, like blogs and white papers. Think broadly and out of the box.
Do you have existing sales presentations? They could be the beginnings of a new Customer Guide or eBook. Got a list of industry FAQs? This could be the start of a series of blog posts. Did an existing customer recently provide positive feedback about your company? Go the extra mile to develop it into a Case Study.
If you already have a blog, assess which ones are most valuable. Many times, an older piece of content can be repurposed to integrate more current ideas or new keyword research. In some cases, even minor tweaks (like changing up blog titles and on-page SEO elements to include keywords) can lead to notable improvements. Just avoid the “lipstick on a pig” approach: the quality of your original content matters a great deal -- so if it’s not valuable to begin with, stuffing in keyword changes won’t make it so.
Take the time to determine whether or not the content you have on hand has repurposing potential, using your content inventory as your starting point. Repurposing what you have will save some time and money in the end, and help you gain traction more quickly.
As a marketing rule of thumb, it’s always a good idea to know what your competition is doing.
So who is your competition? Chances are, you will recite the same 3-4 manufacturing company names that you’ve known about and have been tracking for years. That's a good start. Keeping tabs on those companies is vital to your business, as it helps you differentiate your own company from the rest of the pack.
With content marketing, though, your competitive analysis is a little different. It must also reveal your competition according to search engines.
As stated in Step 1, you always want to Google your content topic ideas to see what else comes up. The goal is to write something better than what’s out there.
Have you noticed that the same few competitors always seem to appear in manufacturing-related searches? That’s no coincidence. Those are your content-savvy competitors who are likely stealing the lion’s share of online traffic -- and with the right strategy, you can find the holes and capitalize on them.
Before you start creating content, make sure you pay mind to these five starter steps to ensure that you are investing your time and money in content marketing that truly works. If you don't have resources on hand to manage it yourself, don't panic! 87% of manufacturing marketers say that content creation is the activity that they are most likely to outsource. An adept outsourced marketing firm (hint, we know a good one!) can help you tackle any or all of these steps -- and ensure that your content marketing is operating as efficiently as your manufacturing floor!
Denise Locke has been a Content Marketer and Marketing Technical Writer at PMG since 2008. She’s a content transformation master, specializing in turning dry information into exciting, interesting copy that engages engineers and stray readers alike. Industrial manufacturing copywriter by day, analytics tracker by night, Denise breathes all things technical – and loves making content that will be relevant in the industry for years to come.