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9 Steps to Kickstart Your Content Strategy for Manufacturing Marketing

As manufacturing marketers, we’ve all asked the question: Is content marketing worth the effort? Spoiler alert: content more than “worth it.” And they’re essential if you want a steady flow of prospects in your sales pipeline.

Most B2B buyers engage with 3–7 pieces of content on a company’s website before talking to a sales rep. When SEMrush dropped this stat in their State of Content Marketing Report, it confirmed exactly what we’re seeing with our own manufacturing customers at goBRANDgo!.

Content marketing isn’t just for trendy tech startups anymore. And gone are the days manufacturing can rely solely on trade shows, cold calls, and the good old-fashioned milk run. Today, your audience craves insightful content, and every resource on your website needs to pack a punch.

97% of marketers use content marketing as part of their marketing strategy, but only 66% of manufacturing companies do — and only half of those have their strategy documented. But this gap is closing rapidly and if you don’t have a robust content strategy today, it’s time to create one.  

Here are 9 steps you can take today to kickstart your manufacturing content strategy.

1. Decode the Manufacturing Marketing Hourglass

Understanding the marketing hourglass is key for creating a winning multi-channel content strategy—and delivering the right content to your audience at the right time and place. For the uninitiated, the marketing hourglass might seem like complicated marketing jargon. But it’s simple. Each stage generally correlates with a certain type of messaging and content that your audience may be expecting to see.

Top of Funnel (TOFU):

Know: “Nice to meet you!!”

Like: “Here are helpful tips about tools and tech!”

The top of funnel stages can generally be referred to as the awareness phase. Naturally, this is the first step if prospects have never heard of your company before. Top of funnel content is geared around questions your audience is already asking to bring awareness to your brand and expertise on a certain topic.

Middle of Funnel (MOFU):

Trust: “Here’s proof of our success and why customers love us.”

Try: “Here’s a free download/assessment/trial”

The middle of funnel stages are all about building credibility and offering value at low-risk entry points to get prospects to engage with you. This is where case studies, testimonials, free whitepaper downloads, along with free trials and online assessments, come in handy.

Bottom of Funnel (BOFU):

Buy: “Ready to partner up?”

Repeat: “Let’s make this relationship even better.”

Refer: “What can other customers like you expect when working with us?”

Bottom of funnel content is all about keeping your current customers engaged. This could be in the form of industry trend reports, new product information, how-to videos for products they’ve purchased, and beyond.

2. Treat Personas like Your BFFs

You wouldn’t sell a jackhammer the same way you’d pitch ultra-precision CNC machining; or sell tire chains the same way to a store owner as you would an independent truck driver. The motivations and features of each product and audience are different, which means your content messaging should be too.

For example, let’s take a chain manufacturer that sells tire chains (or traction chains) for driving in icy conditions. For store owners and end users, the behaviors and motivations behind tire chains are different. Owner Owen’s primary goal is probably to keep shelves stocked with a variety of chain types for their customers because he wants to continue to be their go-to supplier and never miss out on a sale. Trucker Tim, however, is likely more focused on selecting the right chain for their vehicle the first time and making sure they can easily install it themselves.

Here’s a quick list of other personas that pop up a lot in the manufacturing and industrial space:

  • Engineering Evan: Always looking for better ways to solve complex problems and is usually the smartest in the room.
  • Operations Omar: Keen on optimizing manufacturing processes with a sensitive BS detector.
  • Purchasing Paul: Price and inventory are the name of the game — must make a really good ROI case to get them to open the checkbook.

Personas make it easier to come up with relatable content topics for your brand. Get in their heads, and you’re golden.

3. Rally the SMEs

You know those folks on your team who can chat for hours about hydraulic mechanisms or sustainable materials? Those are your subject matter experts. Tapping into their knowledge to write expert content is the best way to generate trust and brand-savvy awareness throughout your funnel.

This is especially important in manufacturing, where a high level of technical expertise is required from suppliers and industry partners. The last thing you want is for your content to come across as fluff and lack the teeth it needs to pull prospects further into your marketing funnel.

4. Create Your Content Roadmap

Armed with your personas and SMEs, you can begin to map out your content roadmap across your marketing funnel for your different personas. Here’s an example of a content roadmap for the Trucker Tim persona for the traction chain manufacturer mentioned earlier. 

Top of Funnel (TOFU):

The easiest way to get in front of your personas is with content that answers the questions they’re already asking. Trucker Tim probably questions whether he should buy import or domestic, or which type of tire chain is best for his vehicle. Tailoring your content topics to answer these questions will not only help Tim find what he needs but will also earn you some brand awareness. 

Example TOFU Topics

Here are some example content topics 

Why “Made in the USA” Matters for Traction Chain

Diamond Pattern Chain vs. Cable Chain: Which is Best?

Best time to Stock Up on Tire Chain for the Season

Middle of Funnel (MOFU):

MOFU is where you should aim to make the buying process easier for your customers. The questions (and answers) here get more specific and are more directly tied to your products or services. For Trucker Tim, this means offering a free Traction Finder tool and other resources to help him quickly find the type of chain he needs for the upcoming winter. Good MOFU content will move your personas into the buying stage. 

Example MOFU Topics

Why Our Chains Are Better for Mixed Road Conditions

Find the Right Chain for Your Tires

Try our Traction Finder Tool

Bottom of Funnel (BOFU):

BOFU content is meant to help keep your current customers engaged and your brand top of mind for the next time they need your product or service. For the Trucker Tim persona, that means providing in-depth installation and maintenance guides.

Example BOFU Topics

Step-by-Step Tire Chain Installation Video

Make or Break: Three Rules of Tire Chain Maintenance

How to Store Your Tire Chains in the Off-Season

Inspect Your Tire Chains Before Winter Hits

5. Save the Sales Pitch

80% of business decision-makers prefer articles over ads, and 60% of them say a company’s content helps them make more informed decisions. There’s also an old adage that goes something like, “People love to buy, but they hate to be sold.” Think of your content marketing as an opportunity to equip your audience with the knowledge they need to get to the next step in their journey. 

6. Set Your Content Cadence

Think big. Be bold. Start smart. Content variety is only beneficial if you can keep up with a regular cadence. Committing to five blogs a month and a weekly podcast isn’t realistic right off the bat for a small team. You may only have the bandwidth to generate one piece of content per month (whether that’s a blog, infographic, or tutorial video), and that’s enough to start! When it comes to content, it’s all about consistency. Joe Pulizzi, known in the industry as “the Godfather” of content marketing, likens your cadence to a heartbeat: “it never stops…sometimes it gets a little quicker, sometimes a bit slower, but it always beats.”

7. Create Your Content Calendar

Time your content strategically throughout the year when certain topics are already top of mind for your audience. For example, a blog on tire chains will be most relevant for our customers right before a winter storm hits. In that case, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have an article in the arsenal ready to publish or share in a moment’s notice. A similar approach can be taken with upcoming product launches, trade shows, etc.

8. Promote Your Content

Once you publish a blog, it’s time to share it with the world. Send an e-blast or share on social—whatever you do, make sure you have a plan in place for which channels to include in your multi-channel content strategy. It’s only worth promoting your content on channels where your audience goes to learn, connect, and be entertained.

9. Define Your KPIs

Don’t just throw content into the abyss and hope it sticks. Google Analytics and SEMrush, among other analytics platforms can help you stitch together a story of what content and tactics are performing the best. Find out what your audience is loving—and do more of that. Then tweak the content that’s not getting as many clicks. Write. Analyze. Optimize. Repeat.

Win at Manufacturing Content Marketing

Crafting and documenting your content strategy is no small undertaking. But the sooner you start, the easier it will be to establish yourself as an industry leader, and the more future-proof your brand becomes.  

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