Every year, the Content Marketing Institute releases its Manufacturing Content Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report. The most noteworthy event was a shock to the manufacturer’s system courtesy of COVID-19: Marketing is now a must-have.
We reached out to CMI research director and report author Lisa Murton Beets, who has provided insights for us in the past about the report, which is a compilation and analysis of survey responses from manufacturing content marketers. According to Lisa, the CMI report for 2022 provided some interesting insights.
1. The pandemic woke up a “sleeping giant”
The pandemic caused major disruptions in supply chains for manufacturers in terms of raw materials and parts shipments. It also impacted a traditional distribution channel for sales and marketing messages — the trade show.
According to the report, without in-person events and face-to-face selling, many who had previously paid little attention to content marketing suddenly became aware of its power.
“It forced people to add marketing as a focus and it elevated the role of content,” Lisa explains. “Sales teams couldn’t go out on the road, and they had to learn how to use content…and when.”
The rise in virtual events went from 55% up to 70% online. Now granted, this survey was conducted back in 2021, and we don’t know whether more COVID-19 variants will continue to disrupt trade shows and in-person events.
But what’s clear is that relying solely on these events for sales and marketing is a precarious strategy at best.
2. Videos and articles now top two content assets
Let’s look at a different aspect of this chart: The top two digital assets used by marketers.
Video has continued its push to the top, especially in the manufacturing space. An astounding 86% of marketers use it, along with 83% also using short articles (around 1,500 words).
Manufacturing definitely skews higher towards video. “When we look at research we’ve done in B2B as a whole, 66% of B2B marketers reported using video, versus 86% in manufacturing,” Lisa said.
Blogs grew as well, up from 79% in last year’s survey to 83% in this year’s survey, which may indicate more marketers are producing both video and written content (and perhaps one can be repurposed to create the other?)
3. Videos produced top results
It should also be noted that videos are the content asset that produced the best results in the last 12 months. Virtual events, e-books/white papers, and short articles also did well.
Digging even deeper, we find that “How-to” videos were the best types of videos produced, followed by webinars/webcasts/web series, and then interviews with industry experts. All these make for excellent top-of-funnel content.
4. Distributing content through organic channels: LinkedIn the clear winner
We talk often on this blog about not only the need to produce content, but to distribute it as well. If you create content but don’t use channels to get it out, no one sees it.
Social media are organic channels, meaning you can post your content for free on them. Not surprisingly, many manufacturers tried a variety of channels…
…but the clear winner was LinkedIn. Note that TikTok is now gaining some traction as a social media channel, and that the upstart Clubhouse, which was all the rage just a short time ago, has fallen into oblivion.
But which types of social media get the best results?
It’s not even close. For organic content, LinkedIn far and away beats the rest.
5. 77% of marketers use paid distribution through social media
Marketers didn’t rely solely on organic distribution for their content. Social media advertising and promoted posts were used by 77% of marketers, as well as pay-per-click by 55%. Other forms of advertising were used as well, including events, trade show booths and other platforms.
And, as was the case with organic distribution, LinkedIn led the way in paid. Note that Facebook and Instagram also performed, despite their poor performance in organic. That’s indicative of the pay-per-play nature of many of these social platforms.
6. 59% have one or no full-time employees dedicated to content marketing
Our anecdotal experience tells us that most manufacturers don’t dedicate many internal resources to content marketing, and the research backs it up. A whopping 59% percent of manufacturers have zero or one full-time employee dedicated to the task.
This is why you also see a direct corollary between the percentage of manufacturers who outsource content marketing activities.
7. Top challenge is moving away from sales-oriented content and mindset
One of the tenets of content marketing is to create content that educates and informs prospects. In manufacturing, the traditional approach to marketing is to mainly talk about your products and services, and less about the customer’s needs and challenges.
That mindset seems to be a real issue for content marketers. Marketers tend to bang the drum about focusing on the needs of the customers. But this research indicates that they are meeting internal resistance.
8. Finding partners with adequate topical expertise is top challenge
Just like last year, the top challenge for manufacturers is finding partners with adequate topic expertise (last year was 60%).
But the big climber this year was “Finding partners who understand/can empathize with our audience.” According to Lisa, that’s higher than other B2B verticals. “It indicates that it’s tough to find an agency that can empathize with their needs,” she said.
It’s also noteworthy that budget issues and lack of clear return on investment (ROI) metrics are neck-and-neck. Perhaps if ROI can be proven, those budget issues wouldn’t be such an issue? It’s an ongoing challenge for marketers.
Takeaways: Implementing a comprehensive approach with meaningful content
Can we draw some conclusions, or at least produce a few hypotheses for marketers in 2022? Let’s mix some of Winbound’s experience in the manufacturing industry with some of CMI’s number and give it a shot:
1. Marketers will become more adept at repurposing content to access more channels. With content consumption occurring mainly in text and video, the astute marketers will learn how to repurpose for both types of content consumers.
2. Distribution needs to be varied and strategic. Marketers are using a paid strategy as often as they are using an organic one. But choosing the right channel will become more important than ever as greater emphasis is placed on paid advertising.
3. The biggest challenges are understanding the customer, as well as the business. With 59% of manufacturers outsourcing some aspect of their content, we see a real shortage of agency experts in the space. However, among all marketing agencies, the need to truly understand the customer is just as daunting a task.
We’ll keep an eye on all these trends as 2022 moves on. We’ll also update this post with new data for 2023! Special thanks to Lisa Murton Beets and the Content Marketing Institute!