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So, I’ve got good news and bad news.

We’ll start with the good news: 53% of manufacturing company websites offer educational content to their visitors. It’s a slim majority, but it’s a win for the MFG sector.

Where did we get this number? Did it pop out of thin air? Did it come to us in a dream? We’ve worked with manufacturers for over 15 years now, so while we do feel like we live and breathe MFG marketing, it didn’t come to us as a message from the beyond. We conjured up the numbers in a study ourselves.

Presenting the PMG Manufacturing Website Study

From our immersion in the manufacturing industry and our years of watching the marketing landscape change drastically, we know that manufacturers can get a bad rap when it comes to making themselves stand out online. That, paired with the fact that digital marketing techniques shapeshift nearly every day, makes it tough for MFGs, who are already statistically behind to begin with, to keep up.

But we also know that the younger marketing industry can be very on-trend, willing to leave behind the old for the new. Plus, manufacturers tend to have longer lasting relationships with their clients – as long as they have an online presence to update those loyal customers, does it really matter if they have a fancy, flashy website?

Armed with the experience of an agency who loves its MFG clients and the desire to get the answers for ourselves, we identified 14 website best practices proven to help our clients generate leads. Then, using those best practices, we researched, surveyed, and put to the test 100 manufacturing websites. And thus was the creation of the PMG manufacturing website study, Digital Lead Generation for Manufacturers in 2018 (which you can download here).

The results? Like our friends in the industrial lighting sector, they were simply…illuminating (haha…sorry).

The Great "Gate Debate" and You

One of the best practices we identified was the importance of having gated content on your website. Simply put, gated content refers to the aforementioned digital educational material that 53% of MFGs have on their sites, except its hidden behind a form.

Currently, there is a raging Internet debate going on about whether or not websites should have gated content. There’s data (and valued marketing experts) on both sides of the argument.

The Gate Lovers say it’s an excellent way to generate QUALIFIED leads – if they’re interested enough in what you have to say to the point where they will hand over their contact information, it’s more likely they’ll be interested in doing business with you.

The Gate Haters say it can affect your SEO and repel readers. We delve deeper into the pros and cons of the “Gate Debate” here, but to keep it short and sweet, the argument can be funneled down to one simple question: which is more important to you, generating page views or generating leads?

For us, and hundreds of other marketing companies, the answer is clear: generating leads means potential customers. And potential customers means potential relationships, which then fosters potential for the coveted sale.

And this leads us to the bad news: while 53% of MFGs have educational content on their website, 85% of MFG websites have absolutely no gated content. We didn’t dream that stat up either, but it IS something straight out of a nightmare!

If There's So Much Debate, Why Should I Gate Anything?

Your educational content has value. It allows you to satisfy your readers curiosity, and therefore helps you form a relationship with them. Handing out your content like candy on Halloween is generous, but it may not do anything for you. We tend to strongly suggest a mix of gated and ungated content on your website. Giving all of it away for free can be detrimental to your sales funnel, as well as your website’s ability to continue valuable relationships with its readers. Bounce rates abound. Site visitors come and go. And it's much more difficult to make any new connections – and to tell exactly who is engaging.

Gated content is a magnificent beast when treated with proper care. For those 53% of manufacturing websites that already have existing educational content, you’re building enough credibility to gate content.

But for the remaining 47%, proceed with caution. Gated content can help you generate qualified leads, allow you to collect more accurate data on your prospect base, and boost your thought leadership. But as with everything, there is a time and a place for the gate. If you don’t have anything educational on your website, like blogs, infographics, or case studies, you’re not positioned to gate your content. You’re also missing an opportunity – to build credibility. Your customer base is coming to you with more information on your product or service than ever – if they know about your specialty and your website isn’t offering any new information, you can put the possibility of engaging that prospect to bed. So, start slow – create a blog.

For the 53%-ers, a gated content strategy is integral. It’s not about taking your existing content and throwing it behind a form (although gating a roundup of related articles is a quick and painless starting point). It’s about what you’re going to do once someone downloads it. Do you know what qualified leads look like for your business? Do you know how and when you will send follow ups to your downloaders? Do you have a strategy for reaching them based on their position in your sales funnel? Gated content will help you identify prospects, but it’s your job to nurture them.

The bottom line is this: content matters to your marketing strategy, and gating valuable content will help you identify, generate, and create relationships with qualified leads. It will allow you to reach the people that will add value to your business, and in turn you can add value to theirs. Now THAT’S a dream come true. 

Want to know more about how your manufacturing website should be performing? Feel free to download our study. And as always, if you have any questions on how to create a gated content strategy (or anything else marketing-related), never hesitate to give us a call.

Digital Lead Generation for Manufacturers in 2018: An Analysis of Website Effectiveness [Research Study]

 Tags: Marketing for Industrial Manufacturing Lead Generation / Conversion

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