More Than 75 Percent of Manufacturing Marketers are Winging It Without a Content Marketing Strategy

by | Content Marketing

The key to success in manufacturing marketing — any marketing, really — is a great strategy. It’s especially important with content marketing, as that impacts deliverables in multiple ways.

Yet, according to the Manufacturing Content Marketing 2019 report, fewer than one in four marketers has a documented content marketing strategy.

Mfg Marketers with Content Marketing Strategy

In this post, we’ll review a simple framework for building your own content marketing strategy and documenting a plan. You’ll get a leg up on the competition in the process.

CoSchedule says that marketers who document their strategy are 538 percent more successful than those who don’t.

Impact of Marketing Strategy

538%!  Or 5.38 times more likely to succeed.

If a stock is likely to deliver returns 5.38 times greater than market leaders, I’m going to pick that stock.

If a free throw shooter is 5.38 times more likely to hit a shot than his teammates, I want him on the line when it matters most.

If product A is 5.38 times more likely to sell than product B, guess which one I’m going to build?

Why a content marketing strategy is so critical

It’s reasonable to ask why, in spite of of such stats that evidence success, marketers — again, especially content marketers — often don’t document a strategy.

But it’s also reasonable for marketers to ask, “Who needs another marketing plan that sits on the shelf and collects dust?”

Here’s the answer to the latter question:

Strategy Determines Content

This is absolutely mission critical, because while winging it may be easy, it’s not effective with content. And it’s a habit that should have been abandoned in middle school.

Selecting and documenting a strategy doesn’t just foster better content organization and promotion. Knowing these topics will have a high impact on your Google ranking, according to HubSpot:

Publish more on a particular topic.

Focusing on specific topics will likely generate higher subscription rates.  

Who is going to subscribe to a blogger who writes about everything and anything? It isn’t a sign that blogger is smart. It’s a sign that he doesn’t know where to put his energy.

Find your niche.

Ok, I’ve made my point.  You need a plan, Stan. So how do you do it?

Five key components of a content marketing strategy

I’m going to share Winbound’s process for creating a content marketing strategy. With collaboration, dedicated time and efficient internal reviews, you can create your own in three to five weeks.

We’re going to design our strategy around a fictitious company that manufactures lighting systems for senior citizen complexes — ElderLights.

ElderLights

Overview

I think it’s good to start with an overview of the overall marketing strategy, including why the marketing department is integrating content marketing into its approach. A good overview should include:

  • A brief history of the company
  • Relevant overall marketing goals (quantitative and qualitative)
  • Why the company is embarking on content marketing

Overview excerpt: ElderLights was created by Steve and Jeff Jones, two brothers who had between them forty years of combined experience in the industrial lighting vertical. Research indicated a growing incidence of falls in senior living complexes. Improvements in lighting could slash the incident rate. They decided to niche in the market and create a company.

Clarity statement

We started including a clarity statement in content marketing plans after I read Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage. It’s a great way to summarize and define the client.

The company should provide three-to-five sentence answers to the following questions about themselves.

  • Who we are
  • What we do
  • How we’re unique
  • The one thing that sets us apart
  • Our vision for growth

Keep your answers brief. Example:

Who we are: ElderLights — a wholesaler and installer of lighting systems for senior complexes.

What we do: Analyze current lighting systems and design new systems specifically to reduce the rate of falls.  Work directly with senior facility managers and contract to local electricians.

How we’re unique: We are the only company that uses ergonomic approaches for the elderly combined with a science-backed knowledge of lighting.

The one thing that sets us apart: We consult with caregivers and physicians who specialize in geriatric care.

Our vision for growth: To establish a baseline of preventative fall data established with our new systems, and then patent our process.

This is easy to do with my fictitious company, but much harder for established companies that tend to offer all things to all people.

Remember, though, the more you focus, the more successful you’ll be.

Competitive overview

Provide an overall assessment of your top competitors.  This can be a simple summation of your competition, in the form of a list, including brief descriptions and competitors’ URLs.

You can also list secondary competitors — organizations that may not compete against you directly, but are vying for the attention of your customers.

For example, if you’re a doctor, your online competition might be WebMD, which is ranking ahead of you for keyword phrases.

Particularly helpful here is an analysis of competitors’ domain authority, which you can determine by either loading the MozBar all-in-one SEO tool into your toolbar, or using keyword research tools such as SEMrush or Ahrefs

Compare domain ratings.

Websites with substantially higher domain authority than your own can be difficult to outrank in search engines, so understanding the playing field will help you determine if you can compete.

Example:

Stevens Lighting (stevenslighting.com)

Nationwide lighting systems consultants.  Specialize in larger, stadium lighting. Working to establish a nice in senior lighting.

Domain Authority: 28

Content marketing: Intermittent blogging. White papers available for stadium lighting.

Keyword ranking: 1,400 keywords, primarily around industrial lighting.

Personas

We love developing personas, as they yield so many invaluable insights. They can also pay off in the end.

CoSchedule noted in this research developed by Cintell:

Develop personas.

Ideally, you want to focus on two to three personas.  For creating a content strategy, we look for shared interests among the personas.

Let’s look at the key questions you want to answer when you’re creating a persona.  Mary Garrick of Upward notes:

Personas should be personal to your brand.

(Third-party resources are data sources that are not your own.)

To find that “depth of information,” here are Mary’s key questions:

Objectives – Problems

What do they want?

Why don’t they have it?

What’s stopping them along the way?

What micro-decisions do they have to make?

Orientation

How long have they been in their role?

How far into their career?

Personality traits?

Political influence at company?

Political leaning?

Religion Values?

Questions

What are they asking?

And when?

Preferences

Where do they hang out?

Where do they get their info?

How to they like to receive their communications?

Keywords and Phrases

How do they refer to your products / services?

Day in the Life

What does their typical day include?

How do they interact with other personas?

Engagement Scenarios

How does it all work together?

Gathering the persona information

So how do you answer these questions? We recommend two methods:

Persona Development – Internal

Gather feedback from everyone from top management to front-line sales and customer service personnel on the two to three different types of personas who buy your products or services.  

Ask the questions above. Don’t leave anyone who is customer-facing out of the process.

Persona Development – External

Customer research is important.

Including some type of customer research in the mix is the most important part of your persona development.

It’s ideal if you have any quantitative data on your customers — such as survey results. Pre-existing qualitative data from focus groups can also help you answer the persona questions.

One method we’ve used and been successful with is “guerrilla” research, in which you conduct a series of three 1-on-1 interviews with prospects.  Here’s a link to more on the process.

Create a persona synthesis

When you’re finished, create a persona synthesis from both sets of data, which really defines your persona.

Our approach is a little different than most.  Instead of trying to shoehorn all these persona attributes into one or two archetypes, as in, “Meet Bob. Bob is a facility owner…etc.” we look more at overall themes and trends.  

This is easier to do than to extrapolate a persona synthesis into keywords and content.  

Example:

Persona Excerpt

Common persona themes

Career / Job Path:

Facility manager looking to stabilize bottom line expenditures while minimizing risk exposure.

In family-owned facilities, near top of corporate ladder. Otherwise, could be looking to move up to nationwide leadership role.

Challenges:

Must answer to cost-cutting superiors, while continuously under pressure from families for improved services.

Facing ongoing recruiting challenges with facility staff. Increased falls force need for more highly-trained caregivers to help patients recuperating.

Top trends and keyword ideas

  • Reducing costs for senior care facilities
  • Mitigating lawsuit risks
  • Reducing risk in nursing homes
  • Reducing rate of falls and other medical issues

Keyword research

There are varying degrees of keyword research, just like there are varying degrees of madness.

You can dive very deep into tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs and follow incredibly thorough keyword research processes like those we use, or you can learn methods taught by SEO guru Robbie Richards in his SEO Playbook. Either way, you’ll have better data as a result.

Robbie Richards

Robbie Richards

But no matter what you do, we recommend mapping keywords to the customer journey.  

Certain keywords have a specific search intent, which will indicate where the customer is on their buying journey in relation to the traditional sales funnel.

Let’s take a look at some examples for ElderLights.

Top of the funnel

General questions about the topic

Our initial keyword research reveals phrases like “prevent falls by the elderly.”  The phrase has relatively low search volume, but the difficulty level is somewhat low as well (depending on your domain authority — this ties in with your competitor research.)

General questions at top of funnel.

Our persona research also indicates that facility managers need to understand the various needs of the elderly so they can empathize with their residents and address concerns of their legal guardians and other attentive loved ones.

So we widen our search at the top of the funnel, researching other keywords on the topic.

For example, dementia safety is an important topic, and we see some great niche keywords here.

Find niche keywords.

Middle of the funnel

Specific questions – researching the topic for purchase

“Preventing falls in nursing homes” is very specific to nursing homes and falls. It’s leading facility managers right down the funnel, and we can see creating a piece of content specifically geared for the persona with this phrase.

Researching the topic for purchases

Bottom of the funnel

Purchase intent

When we experiment with buying phrases, we find terms like “nursing home lighting.” It has very low search volume and no keyword difficulty, so we have a good chance of ranking for this term.

Experiment with buying phrases.

NOTE: It’s debatable whether these low volumes would be sufficient enough to sustain and build a stream of inbound traffic.

But this is a B2B company with a vision to build on its promise. The company wants to own this keyword as it increases in importance, so there is huge opportunity to jump on it at this point.

Bringing it all together – the Content Strategy

By now, you’ve gathered:

  • Company background for context
  • Business goals and the company’s vision for growth
  • Persona research, with internal and external input
  • Keyword research mapped to the customer journey

You have a mix of qualitative and quantitative data.  Now it’s time to put your strategy hat on, and think strategically about the types of content you’re going to create, and where they will appear on the customer journey.

Document what you’re going to say and where you’re going to say it

This is a strategic document.  We’re setting the game plan here. We’re not mapping out the details, which you can do with an editorial calendar. Our Content Marketing Strategy document will advise:

  • What you are going to say
  • Where in the customer journey you will say it

Content marketing strategy – ElderLights

Top of funnel – Content at this stage will focus more on the issues of senior safety. We may mention how lighting can play into it, but it’s definitely not a hard push. We want to heighten awareness of the problem — among both facility administrators AND patients.

The more patients become aware of it, the more pressure they can put on administrators to work toward improvements.

Top of funnel content raises awareness.

At this stage, we can reach out to experts in the geriatric field and collaborate on content that addresses not only the issues of falling, but perhaps elder health issues in general.

Creating great content on this topic — especially with proprietary research — can lead to more links to our site from a wider range of sources as well.  (Here’s a great post by Andy Crestodina on the importance of proprietary research.)

Middle of funnel – This is content more specifically geared to facility administrators. It includes steps you can take to prevent falls in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

This can still include a wide range of solutions, but it is where we really hone in on lighting systems and share our expertise.

This can also be shared with local electricians, who may be interested in selling the systems.

Mid-funnel content is more specific.

Bottom of funnel – The enlightened facility administrator is now focused on finding a company that specializes in lighting systems for elderly facilities. This content is heavily focused on solution, and contains a great deal of social proof.

We definitely want this to be lead generating; it’s a landing page, folks, for when people Google this term:

Bottom of the funnel content is lead generating.

How it rolls out digitally

The blog

This will be home to our top of funnel content. We’ll brand the blog “Enlightened Senior Safety Tips” and use it to reach both administrators and children of the elderly. The title is on-brand, and we can bring in outside influencers to touch on a wider range of topics.

The blog is the home of top funnel content.

The website

We’ll integrate mid- to lower-funnel content on the website.

Mid-funnel content around preventing falls in a nursing home can lead directly to a buying page, so we will create informative web pages that don’t necessarily have distractions you might find on a blog.

Buying or landing pages will exist on the website. This bottom-of-funnel content will be loaded up with customer benefits, video from other buyers, and all the social proof we can find.  Of course, it will include a sign-up form and compelling call to action.

Videos and podcasts  

All of the written content you’ve created for your blog and website can be repurposed and become the basis for videos and podcasts. Talk to experts about ways to prevent falls, and conduct interviews with the lighting team to really get into the weeds on the role of lighting.

Infographics and photos

Create photos that provide graphic representation of your data and your lighting systems.

Social media

Social media is the home of awareness and brand building.  Because it’s unlikely you can get people to click through to your blog content, use your videos, infographics and photos to create brand and problem/solution awareness.

Getting people to the blog or website from your content may require advertising. But you can definitely share these messages and tag influencers you’ve collaborated with to spread the word and build your brand.

Your research was long, your strategy was short, and now the journey begins

If you’ve spent a lot of time on research and customer personas, the strategy often writes itself.

With the strategy in hand, you can move quickly to build your editorial calendar and assign content to your team. Then you can start executing and evaluating — and you’ll be surprised how a clearly-defined purpose unleashes your creativity.

You’re also in rarefied air. You are now among the ranks of manufacturing marketers who have a documented strategy. (Fewer than one in four, remember?)

Better yet, you’ve boosted your chances for success by 538% over those who don’t have a plan.

I like those odds. And I bet you’ll like the results.

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Greg Mischio

Greg Mischio

Founder of Winbound, Greg has been a content marketing zealot for many moons. He loves working with small marketing departments to deliver big-time results.

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