Content marketing plays a crucial role in guiding prospective buyers through the complex B2B sales funnel in the manufacturing industry. According to recent research by the Content Marketing Institute, 71% of manufacturing marketers agree that content marketing has gotten more important to their businesses over the past year — but only about 25% of those marketers say their content marketing strategies are “successful or very successful.”
What’s the problem? Research shows that “creating content that appeals to different stages of the buyer’s journey” is the number one challenge for manufacturing companies. We’re here to help with that, with 24 content ideas to hit the mark with potential buyers, from those who are just becoming aware of problems and pain points your manufactured products can solve, to those who are ready to buy — and everyone in between.
What Are the Different Types of Content Marketing?
Content marketing encompasses a wide range of strategies and tactics aimed at creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and engage a target audience. By understanding the different types of content marketing, manufacturing companies can effectively leverage various formats to reach their prospective buyers and nurture them through the sales funnel. Here are some key types of content marketing:
Blogging is a popular content marketing format that enables manufacturing companies to provide informative and educational content to their audience. Blog posts can cover a wide range of topics, including industry trends, best practices, case studies, and thought leadership pieces. They are an effective way to establish expertise and authority, drive organic traffic to your website, and engage with potential customers.
eBooks and Whitepapers
These long-form content pieces provide in-depth information and insights on specific topics. Manufacturing companies can create eBooks and whitepapers that delve into industry research, market analysis, or comprehensive guides. By offering valuable knowledge and data, they position themselves as industry leaders and generate leads by requiring readers to provide their contact information in exchange for access — a process known as “gating.”
Video content is highly engaging and enables manufacturing companies to showcase their products, services, and manufacturing processes. They can create product demonstrations, customer testimonials, virtual tours, or educational videos to provide visually appealing and informative content to their audience. Videos are shareable, increasing brand visibility and driving engagement.
Case studies highlight successful projects or collaborations with clients. They showcase real-world examples of how a manufacturing company addressed a client’s challenges and delivered positive outcomes. Case studies demonstrate credibility and build trust by providing evidence of the company’s expertise and ability to solve customer problems.
Infographics visually represent complex information or data in a simplified and engaging manner. Manufacturing companies can use infographics to present industry statistics, process flows, or product comparisons. Infographics are easily shareable and can be effective in attracting attention and driving traffic back to your website.
Webinars and Podcasts
Webinars and podcasts enable manufacturing companies to host live or recorded events where they can share industry insights, conduct expert interviews, or provide training sessions. These formats enable interactive engagement with the audience, allowing for real-time Q&A sessions and fostering thought leadership within the industry. As a bonus, after the virtual event is over, it can become a gated downloadable resource for lead generation.
Social Media Content
Social media platforms offer manufacturing companies the opportunity to share a variety of content formats, including text, images, videos, and links. Companies can leverage social media to distribute blog posts, promote videos, share industry news, and engage with their audience directly. Social media content can help increase brand awareness, drive website traffic, and foster community engagement.
Email marketing enables manufacturing companies to regularly communicate with their subscribers and share relevant content, updates, promotions, and industry news. Email can help nurture leads, maintain customer relationships, and drive repeat business by providing valuable information directly to the inbox of interested individuals.
By incorporating a mix of these content marketing types, manufacturing companies can effectively engage their target audience, establish authority in the industry, and, most importantly, generate leads. The key is to understand the preferences and needs of your prospects as they navigate their buyer’s journey, and tailor the content accordingly to provide value. You can think of content marketing as one way to build lasting relationships with your manufacturing brand — ultimately leading to more sales.
Why Is Content Marketing Important for Manufacturers?
Content marketing holds immense importance for manufacturers in today’s digital landscape. Here are several reasons why content marketing is crucial for manufacturers:
Establishing Thought Leadership
Content marketing enables manufacturers to position themselves as industry leaders by sharing valuable insights, expertise, and knowledge. By consistently creating and distributing high-quality content, manufacturers can establish thought leadership within their niche. This helps build credibility and trust among potential customers, making the company a go-to resource for industry-related information.
Increasing Brand Visibility
In a competitive marketplace, manufacturers need to stand out from the crowd. Content marketing enables them to increase their brand visibility and reach a wider audience. By creating and promoting valuable content, manufacturers can expand their online presence, attract more website visitors, and generate leads. Increased visibility also leads to improved brand recognition and recall, which are vital for long-term success.
Educating and Informing Prospects
The manufacturing industry often involves complex processes, technologies, and solutions. Content marketing provides an opportunity for manufacturers to educate and inform their prospects about their products, services, and industry trends. By creating informative and educational content, manufacturers can address common pain points, answer questions, and provide solutions. This helps potential customers make informed decisions and builds trust in the manufacturer’s capabilities.
Engaging Prospects at Different Stages
The B2B buyer’s journey in the manufacturing industry is typically lengthy and involves multiple stakeholders. Content marketing enables manufacturers to engage with prospects at different stages of the sales funnel. By providing content tailored to each stage, such as educational blog posts for awareness, product comparisons for consideration, and case studies for decision-making, manufacturers can effectively attract and nurture leads and guide them toward a purchase decision.
Enhancing SEO and Organic Traffic
Content marketing plays a significant role in improving search engine optimization (SEO) for manufacturers. By creating optimized content with relevant keywords, manufacturers can increase their organic visibility in search engine results. Valuable and well-optimized content attracts inbound links and social media shares, further boosting organic traffic to the manufacturer’s website.
Supporting Lead Generation and Conversion
Content marketing serves as a powerful tool for lead generation and conversion. By offering valuable content gated behind lead capture forms, manufacturers can collect contact information from interested prospects. This enables ongoing communication, nurturing, and ultimately, the conversion of leads into customers. Content marketing also helps in upselling and cross-selling to existing customers by providing relevant and valuable content that showcases additional products or services.
Building More Profitable Customer Relationships
Content marketing is not limited to attracting new prospects; it also helps build and maintain relationships with existing customers. By providing valuable content through email newsletters, exclusive updates, or customer-centric blog posts, manufacturers can engage with their customers, offer ongoing support, and foster loyalty. Building strong relationships with customers can lead to repeat business, positive referrals, and long-term success.
How Is Content Marketing for Manufacturers Unique?
Content marketing for manufacturing presents unique challenges and opportunities. For example, it’s relatively easy for a B2C pet care brand to create and publish lots of pet-centric content that will appeal to their target audience and drive sales. It’s much more challenging to create and execute a content marketing strategy for a B2B industrial company with a niche audience and complex, high-cost products.
Here are several aspects that make content marketing for manufacturing unique:
Manufacturing often involves intricate processes, specialized equipment, and technical knowledge. Content marketing for manufacturing needs to address these complexities by creating content that educates and informs the audience about industry-specific topics, advanced technologies, product specifications, and regulatory compliance. Manufacturers must strike a balance between providing technical information and making it accessible and understandable to their target audience.
Targeting Multiple Stakeholders
The B2B buying process in manufacturing typically involves multiple stakeholders, including engineers, procurement professionals, executives, and end-users. Content marketing for manufacturing must cater to the needs and interests of these diverse audiences. It requires creating content that resonates with different roles and addresses their specific pain points, priorities, and decision-making criteria.
Long Sales Cycles
Manufacturing sales cycles can be lengthy and involve extensive evaluation, comparison, and consideration before a purchase decision is made. Content marketing for manufacturing must support prospects throughout this journey, providing the right information at the right time to nurture and guide them through the decision-making process. Content should be tailored to each stage of the sales cycle, from creating awareness to validating the chosen solution.
Demonstrating Expertise and Trust
Manufacturing companies often operate in highly specialized and competitive markets. Content marketing plays a crucial role in establishing expertise and building trust among potential customers. Manufacturers need to showcase their knowledge, industry experience, and successful track record through content formats such as case studies, thought leadership articles, and expert guides. Building credibility and trust are essential for manufacturing companies to differentiate themselves and win over prospects.
Visual and Product-centric Content
Manufacturing products, processes, and equipment often require visual representation to effectively communicate their features and benefits. Content marketing for manufacturing needs to incorporate visual elements such as product images, videos, infographics, and virtual tours to provide a more engaging and immersive experience for the audience. Visual content can help potential customers visualize products, understand their functionality, and make informed decisions.
Emphasizing Safety and Compliance
Safety and compliance are critical considerations in the manufacturing industry. Content marketing should address these concerns by providing information about safety protocols, industry standards, and regulatory compliance. Manufacturers can create content that highlights their commitment to safety, quality control measures, and adherence to industry regulations. This demonstrates a focus on customer well-being and reinforces trust in the manufacturer’s offerings.
After-sales Support and Training
Manufacturers often provide after-sales support, maintenance, and training for their products. Content marketing can play a role in delivering ongoing support and training materials to customers, ensuring they can maximize the value of their purchase. This can include instructional videos, troubleshooting guides, product updates, and user manuals. By offering valuable content post-purchase, manufacturers can enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Understanding the B2B Manufacturing Sales Funnel
In the traditional B2B sales funnel, prospective buyers in the manufacturing industry are typically categorized into three stages:
1. Awareness (Top of the Funnel, or TOFU)
At this stage, prospects are just beginning their exploration of manufacturing or industrial solutions and are in the early research phase. They are seeking information and options to address their specific challenges.
2. Consideration (Middle of the Funnel, or MOFU)
In the consideration stage, prospects are actively evaluating different options and comparing manufacturers or industrial providers. They are seeking specific products or services that can effectively address their identified challenges and meet their requirements.
3. Decision (Bottom of the Funnel, or BOFU)
At the decision stage, prospects have made the choice to pursue a particular manufacturer or industrial solution and are taking steps towards procurement. They are looking for validation and confirmation that the chosen solution is the right fit for their needs.
A More Comprehensive View of the Manufacturing Buyer’s Journey
While the traditional sales funnel simplifies the buyer’s journey, research suggests that the reality is far more complex. According to Gartner, buyers need to complete six “jobs” to finalize a sale:
1. Identifying the Challenge
Prospects recognize a specific challenge that requires a solution.
2. Exploring Potential Solutions
Prospects research and explore the available products or services that can address their identified challenge.
3. Establishing Requirements
Prospects determine the precise functionalities and capabilities the products or services should possess to effectively overcome their challenge.
4. Selecting the Right Supplier
Prospects evaluate different suppliers to determine if their product or service offers a suitable solution for the identified challenge.
Prospects seek validation that the identified solution is viable and will meet their needs effectively.
6. Creating Consensus
Prospects work to achieve agreement and buy-in from all decision-makers involved in the purchasing process.
It’s important to note that buyers do not always progress through these jobs in a linear fashion. They may jump between jobs or work on multiple jobs simultaneously. To effectively reach and engage prospects, manufacturers need to incorporate all six jobs into their content marketing strategy.
Content Marketing Ideas for Each Job in the Manufacturing Sales Journey
The key to a successful manufacturing content marketing strategy is to create content in a variety of different formats for each of the jobs your prospective buyers need to complete. Using the traditional three-step sales funnel, we might construct our strategy like this:
- Publish TOFU content such as blog posts to attract buyers at the awareness stage.
- Offer a gated mid-funnel content offer, such as an eBook, to convert blog readers into leads.
- Create BOFU content, such as a video product demo, and promote it to your leads via an email drip campaign until they’re ready to pick up the phone or request a quote.
That approach can be effective, but our manufacturing clients see even more success by creating both gated and non-gated content in various formats for each of the buyer’s jobs, keeping in mind that different decision-makers are hopping into and out of the buying process in a non-linear way.
By making more content more accessible to more people involved in manufacturing purchasing decisions, you make it easier for your customers to navigate the purchasing process. That’s a big deal. According to Gartner’s research, customers who are able to get useful information from manufacturing suppliers in order to “advance across their buying jobs” were 2.8 times more likely to say that the purchasing process was easy — and three times more likely to “buy a bigger deal with less regret.”
With that in mind, here are some content ideas to help your prospects complete their buying jobs and become loyal customers.
Job 1: Identifying the Challenge
Example: Vital client Consolidated Sterilizer Systems (CSS) published this blog post on best practices for controlling hospital infection rates.
People searching for information on this topic are likely hospital administrators or staff in the process of identifying a problem with infection rates at their facility. They’re not anywhere near making a purchase to help solve the problem, but by using content marketing to make this part of their job easier, CSS is able to position themselves as a thought leader.
The blog post is ungated, so its purpose is to drive traffic, not generate leads — but visitors who read this post will also be introduced to gated content that will continue to help them with their purchasing journey.
3 More Content Ideas for Manufacturing Customers Who Are Identifying a Challenge:
1. Blog post: “Unleashing Operational Efficiency: Overcoming Manufacturing Challenges”
- Topic ideas:
- Addressing supply chain bottlenecks
- Mitigating quality control issues
2. eBook: “Navigating Industry Disruptions: Finding Solutions for Manufacturing Challenges”
- Topic ideas:
- Adapting to technological advancements
- Managing changing regulations
3. Case study: “How Company X Overcame Production Hurdles to Improve Output”
- Topic ideas:
- Resolving capacity constraints
- Optimizing workflow processes
Job 2: Exploring Potential Solutions
Example: Vital client American Modular Systems (AMS) produced this video on sustainable design trends.
Prospective customers interested in sustainable design trends have already identified their challenge (sustainability) and are looking for solutions. This video demonstrates how AMS modular classrooms solve sustainable design challenges.
3 More Content Ideas for Manufacturing Customers Who Are Exploring Potential Solutions:
1. Whitepaper: “Choosing the Right Manufacturing Partner: Key Considerations”
- Topic ideas:
- Evaluating vendor expertise
- Assessing compatibility with existing systems
2. Product comparison video: “Comparing Manufacturing Solutions: A Comprehensive Overview”
- Topic ideas:
- Highlighting unique features
- Demonstrating use cases
3. Infographic: “Key Factors to Consider When Selecting a Manufacturing Solution”
- Topic ideas:
- Integration capabilities
Job 3: Establishing Requirements
Example: Vital client Parterre Flooring published this eBook on choosing the right flooring for a business.
In this gated resource, luxury vinyl tile flooring manufacturer Parterre guides business owners through the requirements process of choosing a type of commercial flooring. To get the eBook, readers fill out a form including their name, email address, and job title — the minimum amount of information Parterre needs to continue to market to these prospects as they work on their other buying jobs.
Three More Content Ideas for Manufacturing Customers Who Are Establishing Requirements:
1. Webinar: “Customization vs. Standardization: Finding the Perfect Fit for Your Manufacturing Needs”
- Topic ideas:
- Balancing flexibility and cost
- Understanding customization options
2. Expert guide: “Defining Essential Functionality: A Blueprint for Manufacturing Solutions”
- Topic ideas:
- Outlining critical features
- Industry-specific requirements
3. Survey report: “Industry Perspectives: The Most Valued Features in Manufacturing Solutions”
- Topic ideas:
- Insights into common requirements
- Emerging trends
Job 4: Selecting the Right Supplier
Example: Vital client Northland Tool & Electronics (NTE) publishes detailed case studies, such as this “featured repair” of a Weiss GHK 176239 spindle.
This is a great example of extremely specific content that is incredibly useful to a niche audience. People looking for a repair provider for this particular spindle can learn all about NTE’s approach and capabilities, positioning them as an expert who has already demonstrated the ability to get the job done.
Three More Content Ideas for Manufacturing Customers Who Are Selecting a Supplier:
1. Case study: “How Company Y Achieved Success with Our Manufacturing Solutions”
- Topic ideas:
- Success stories
- Quantifiable results
- Customer testimonials
2. Product demo video: “Experience Excellence: A Virtual Tour of Our Manufacturing Solution”
- Topic ideas:
- Showcasing features
- User-friendly interface
- Industry-specific applications
3. FAQ document: “Choosing the Right Manufacturing Partner: Answers to Common Questions”
- Topic ideas:
- Addressing concerns
- Clarifying capabilities
- Implementation process
Job 5: Validation
Example: Vital Client PLT Health, a supplier of nutraceutical ingredients for food, beverages, and supplements, has a robust resource library full of useful, engaging content for potential buyers. An important piece of validation for this audience is clinical research that proves the efficacy of the ingredients, so PLT posts this research on their site.
The clinical research document is gated, so PLT gets the contact information they need for lead-nurturing. Meanwhile, the prospect gets a highly authoritative report to validate the solution’s efficacy.
Three More Content Ideas for Manufacturing Customers Who Are Validating a Supplier:
1. Industry report: “The State of Manufacturing Solutions: Benchmarks and Best Practices”
- Topic ideas:
- Market trends
- Performance metrics
- Industry awards
2. Third-party reviews: “Why Industry Experts Recommend Our Manufacturing Solutions”
- Topic ideas:
- Analyst opinions
- Independent evaluations
- Customer ratings
3. Testimonial video: “Client Success Stories: Real-world Validation of Our Manufacturing Solutions”
- Topic ideas:
- Experiences from satisfied customers
- Before-and-after results
Job 6: Creating Consensus
In reality, just about every example of content marketing we’ve given you so far could be used to build consensus amongst decision-makers, just by being shared and discussed with a larger group. That said, some manufacturers take a more proactive approach to helping prospective buyers who need to create consensus with a group of internal stakeholders.
Example: To return to our client CSS, their eBook on the total cost of owning an autoclave is a great example of a tool to build consensus.
Anyone who’s been involved with a B2B manufacturing purchase knows that cost is an important hurdle to clear in reaching internal consensus. This guide to the total cost of ownership of an autoclave works to build trust amongst decision-makers who are focused on the bottom line, easing fears about hidden costs and making it easier for the higher-ups to say “yes” to a purchase.
Three More Content Ideas for Manufacturing Customers Who Are Creating Consensus:
1. Thought leadership article: “Driving Transformation: Empowering Decision-makers in Manufacturing”
- Topic ideas:
- Change management strategies
- Stakeholder engagement approaches
2. ROI calculator: “Quantifying the Benefits: ROI Analysis for Our Manufacturing Solutions”
- Topic ideas:
- Cost savings
- Productivity gains
- Reduced downtime
3. Customized proposal: “Building Consensus: Tailoring Solutions to Your Organization’s Needs”
- Topic ideas:
- Addressing specific pain points
- Showcasing a personalized approach
Content marketing is a cornerstone of Vital’s approach to digital marketing for manufacturers. We take a methodical approach to planning content calendars that cover the entire manufacturing buyer’s journey, and we apply fanatical discipline to execution, data analysis, reporting, and continuous improvement.
If you’d like to talk about how a comprehensive content marketing strategy can take your manufacturing company to the next level, contact us. We’d love to learn about your business’ biggest marketing challenges and put our heads together to overcome them.