Manufacturers have historically relied on a combination of reseller channels and traditional marketing efforts (i.e., print/online advertising and events) to market and grow their businesses. Although those efforts may continue to pay some dividends, the Internet is where the true opportunity lies.
More and more business decision-makers looking to manufacturing equipment and services are starting their search on the Web. According to a 2007 Forrester study, over 90% of buyers begin a search for any product on the Web. With stats like that, not having a Web presence can crush any new business opportunities, even for tried-and-true brands.
Creating Content For The Web
More and more successful businesses are employing something called "content marketing". Content marketing is the practice of creating relevant, valuable and compelling content to customers and prospects (instead of sales information). This type of "un-marketing" is now the last option available to target buyers who are tuning out advertising messages across the board.
In order to attract the attention of buyers, manufacturing marketers must first understand search engines -- where most buyers start their search. Search engines love content, especially valuable and relevant content that generates links from outside, reputable Web sites. Unfortunately, creating valuable and compelling content is not easy to do.
Even though most manufactures may agree with the movement to the Web, most are still using the traditional marketing strategies they have used for decades. There are several reasons for this:
- Most manufacturers are set up to sell products and services, not to provide relevant and valuable information to customers and prospects. Educational newsletters, blogs, white papers and free reports are just a few types of initiatives that are challenging for manufacturers to consistently produce. It's as simple as this: if the information you are sending out to customers doesn't help them do their jobs better or live happier lives, don't send it.
- Most manufacturers have well-worn marketing paths that are easy to follow. Going off the beaten path into uncharted territory is intimidating.
- Most manufacturers may believe that their customers are still not active on the Web.
- Many manufacturers aren't measuring their marketing, so they aren't even sure what is and what is not effective.
- Many manufacturers lack both the right people and the right processes to implement a new kind of marketing.
Or, maybe you work in the kind of business where no one even realizes that traditional marketing alone is no longer working. Perhaps no alarm bells have gone off yet.
As customer behavior continues to move to the web, taking a new approach is not an option, so the same old practices won't work (if they ever have). By implementing a new content strategy, manufacturers can see positive results through search engines and referrals in as little as six months. But that is simply one objective...the real key is to deliver valuable information to customers and prospects in order to be part of the conversation. Without valuable information, why would they want to talk with you?
The B.E.S.T. Formula: A Structured Approach for Creating a Content Marketing Roadmap
In order to grow your business, you must think like a publisher by delivering relevant content that will have intrinsic value to your targeted customers. Providing information about your products and having a web presence isn't enough. In order to create a dialogue with customers, you need to feed content into your site and to your buyer database all the time. Although some manufacturers offer learning centers and helpful tips, most add it to their websites and then stop adding content.
Even manufacturers who are willing and eager to move toward a content-marketing strategy find development and implementation difficult. Because there are few roadmaps to steer organizations safely through this marketing frontier, too few are willing to make the trek.
That's why we've developed the B.E.S.T. framework -- so that content-based marketing can quickly become part of your corporate DNA. The process is designed to make it easier to transition toward the creation of valuable and relevant content for your customers.
The B.E.S.T. formula for content marketing is a simple guide that you can use to develop and deploy a successful strategy. It also lets you take a critical look at what you're doing now, to determine whether you are mired in the swamp of traditional marketing malaise.
In a nutshell, the B.E.S.T. formula simplifies a complicated process. Apply it so that your marketing is:
Behavioral -- Everything you communicate with your customers has a purpose. What do you want them to do? Do you want them to contact you, complete a form, sign up for a newsletter, take a quiz...make sure there is an action that needs to be taken.
Essential -- Deliver information that your best prospects really need to succeed at work or in life. If it's summer, what tips do your customers need now? How do energy prices affect them in the interests of the products and services you sell? Tell them.
Strategic -- Your content marketing efforts must be an integral part of your overall business strategy.
Targeted -- You must target your content precisely so that it is truly relevant to your buyers. What kind if customer is in your sweet spot? Who is your model customer? How much do they make? Where do they live? What's relevant to those people? What other media do those people come in contact with so you can reach them? How do they normally find the services you have to offer?
First Understand, Then Be Understood
You cannot hope to implement a successful content-marketing strategy without understanding exactly what outcome you require. Equally important is an in-depth understanding of your targeted prospects. Only then can you craft a content marketing approach that will deliver more sales, more customers, and more measurable results.
The answers to these questions will guide you to a profitable content-marketing strategy. With this process, you can become a trusted resource that persuades prospects and buyers to become loyal, long-term customers.
- How do we want the customer to feel?
- What effect must we achieve with them?
- What action do we want them to take?
- How will we measure their behavior?
- How will we put them on the path to purchase?
- What do our buyers really need to know?
- What will provide the most benefit personally or professionally?
- How can we present the content for maximum positive impact?
- What media types must we include?
- Does this content marketing effort help us achieve our strategic goals?
- Does it integrate with our other strategic initiatives?
- Have we precisely identified the prospects we want to target?
- Do we really understand what motivates them?
- Do we understand how they view the product or service we offer?
By taking the time and committing the resources to answer these questions, you will have the necessary information to create a content marketing plan that works. Integrating the B.E.S.T. formula within your organization isn't easy, but it is imperative to growing and sustaining a profitable manufacturing products or services business.
Joe Pulizzi is founder of Junta42 Match, a free resource for businesses looking for content experts that match their fields. Additional information on content marketing can be found in Pulizzi's book, Get Content. Get Customers. -- How to use content marketing to deliver relevant, valuable, and compelling information that turns prospects into customers. The book teaches you, step-by-step and through countless case studies, how to create and market your own content to acquire customers. www.getcontentgetcustomers.com.