content marketing for manufacturers graphic

One of the toughest steps for a manufacturing organization, as they get started with content marketing, is simply figuring out what to write about. You’re not alone there. But my advice is actually quite simple. And ten minutes from now after you’ve worked your way through this article and downloaded our Content Planner Worksheet , I’m confident you’ll feel much less intimidated.

So – are you ready for the big reveal?

OK. Here it is…

Answer the common questions you get from customers every day.

Yep. That’s it.

I realize that might sound like a cop-out. But keep reading and I’ll show you what I’m talking about.

As a true marketing geek, one of my personal heroes is Marcus Sheridan, one of the most respected leaders in the marketing industry today and author of a book you absolutely MUST read if you haven’t yet – They Ask You Answer. In his book, Marcus couldn’t say it any better:

“If I was on a sales appointment, as soon as the prospect would ask me a question my immediate thought was, have I answered that on our website yet? And remember, I’m not talking here about one -or two- sentence answers to questions. I’m talking about really answering the question, including deep explanations while approaching each with a “teacher’s” mentality—without bias and trying only to educate the reader.”

Think about the questions you (or your company’s sales professionals) get every day on sales calls. What are the common problems they’re trying to solve that you hear about all the time? You know – those ones that are so familiar that you know exactly what they’re about to describe before they even finish the first sentence.

These are what we call “content triggers”.

Here’s how John Hall, the author of another great marketing book – Top of Mind – describes content triggers in an Inc. Magazine article:

“That moment when you see something really valuable or innovative but realize it’s not well understood is what I call a content trigger. A trigger is something you identify as an idea or topic that you can develop content around to communicate a message to an audience. The better you become at identifying, documenting, and acting on these triggers, the better you become at communicating your brand’s innovation.”

When you make a habit of proactively looking for content triggers, you’ll begin to notice them everywhere in your communications with prospects and customers.

What are the long answers to questions that you rewrite in emails all the time that make you think, “I just typed up a really similar response to that same question the other day”? If you’re at all like me, there are plenty of occasions where I find myself digging through my sent emails to copy and paste a few paragraphs into a new one.

These are content triggers.

What are the comments, issues or requirements you see time and again in RFQ submissions that warrant a thorough response?

These are content triggers.

What types of content to create from your triggers

In They Ask You Answer, Marcus Sheridan devotes a series of chapters to “The Big 5” types of content – a concept he’s preached about for years. They are:

  1. Cost/price articles
  2. Problems articles
  3. Vs./Comparison-based articles
  4. Review-based articles
  5. “Best of” articles

For our B2B industrial sector clients, we often lean on the first three in this list to generate content ideas.

Cost/price articles

Cost/price articles address the common questions you get about the cost of one service vs another, one product vs another, long-term cost of ownership, expected ROI, etc. For whatever reason, conversations about money tend to be avoided early in sales conversations – as if they’re taboo. But you know your prospects are thinking about money, so go and write about it. At the very least, you’ll earn their respect for being transparent.

Problem articles

Problem articles address those common problems your customers come to you to solve on a regular basis. Write about those problems and corresponding solutions in depth. We always say that it’s the job of our journalists at Gorilla to extract the expertise from the brains of the engineers and technical professionals at our clients’ companies and translate that into educational content for their audiences. If your company is filled with true subject matter experts, there’s no reason you can’t do the same.

Vs./Comparison-based articles

Vs./Comparison-based articles are exactly what they sound like. What products or services are your customer and prospects trying to compare during the buying process? What are they trying to understand about each? Just as you’d compare and contrast them in conversation, do it in writing or through a video and give it life on your website.

Content for different buyer personas and different stages of the buying process

Many of our manufacturing clients don’t sell widgets, but instead, complex and often highly-customized products or services. The more this rings true, the more valuable their in-depth, educational content becomes. Think about buying a car vs. a pair of socks.  One can be highly customized, with much more at stake if buyer’s remorse follows the purchase. The same can’t be said for the other. So as a result, you naturally have more questions to get answered when you’re buying a car. The same applies throughout that long and complex industrial buying process.

And “buyer” often doesn’t refer to a single person either. Instead, you’re facing a buying committee made up of a Design Engineer, a Plant Manager, a Procurement Manager, a CFO, a CEO and who knows who else. Each has different priorities and needs. And each might be involved at different stages of that buying process.

So plan your content accordingly. What content triggers exist earlier on in the Research stage? How about the Evaluation Stage? And as you move closer to making the sale? What content should be created for each stage to address those triggers? And which of those members of the “buying committee” – or your buyer personas – should they be written for?

So here’s how to get started

Start by downloading our Content Planner Worksheet and use it as your guide. Here’s what it looks like:

Content marketing for manufacturers

Then call a brainstorm with your Sales team. Heck – take them all out to lunch. Start your brainstorm by filling in your content triggers in column A. Note which buyer persona you’re dealing with for that trigger in column B. And then write in the potential titles of articles that could address those triggers in column C. Repeat this process for each stage (Research, Evaluation and Purchase) of the buying process.

By the end of a 60-minute lunchtime brainstorm, I would bet you’ll have anywhere from 20 to 50 great content ideas. And just as importantly, you’ll feel confident about your direction as you kick off a fresh content marketing campaign.

Good luck getting started and let us know if we can help!