A persistent claim in the B2B universe is that content marketing programs are not effective for manufacturers. The old wisdom says highly technical buyers are immune to content marketing messages.

But data from Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 Manufacturing Content Marketing survey show that the benefits of content marketing are becoming clearer to manufacturers, and that must mean that these technical buyers are buying in.

Gaining ground

A big reason why the myth that content marketing doesn’t work for manufacturers has persisted is because fewer manufacturers have these programs compared to other B2B firms.

That’s still true, but this year’s survey showed manufacturers are gaining ground: 31 percent of manufacturers reported having documented content marketing strategies compared to just 18 percent a year ago.

What’s more, the data point to manufacturers beginning to understand content marketing in much the same way as other B2B firms have:

  • 64 percent of manufacturers always or frequently consider how content marketing impacts someone’s overall experience with their organization compared to 71 percent of other B2B firms.
  • 64 percent of manufacturers always or frequently prioritize quality of content over quantity compared to 76 percent of other B2B firms.
  • 49 percent of manufacturers stated their marketing leadership team gives marketers enough time to produce content marketing results compared to 52 percent of other B2B firms. 

Key takeaway: Recognizing how content marketing plays in to overall brand experience, focusing on quality over quantity and understanding that results take time are critical pieces of good content marketing programs. These data show manufacturers understand that.

Content marketing maturity

It’s fair to say manufacturers are comparatively new to content marketing compared to other firms—only 19 percent of surveyed firms claimed to have mature or sophisticated content marketing programs.

But consider where the rest of the surveyed firms fall:

  • 37 percent say their content marketing programs are in “adolescent” stages, having developed a business case, seen some success and gotten better at measuring and scaling their programs.
  • 28 percent claimed to be in “young” stages where growing pains are evident as they try to develop cohesive strategies and measurement plans.

Plus, the commitment among manufacturers to develop and/or maintain their content marketing programs is strong:

  • 49 percent claimed to be extremely or very committed to content marketing.
  • 59 percent said their organizations have been much more or somewhat more successful thanks to their content marketing programs.

Consider this other important point: 19 percent of manufacturers reported their overall content marketing approach has been very successful while 49 percent considered their approach moderately so.

Key takeaways: Knowing that content marketing takes time to produce results, and knowing that manufacturers are committed to these programs, expect to see many of the firms in “adolescent” and “young” stages move up into “sophisticated” and “mature” territory soon. By that same logic, the 49 percent of surveyed firms who reported moderate success with content marketing need only stay focused on developing their programs. Persistence pays off.

What drives success?

Many factors combine to make a successful content marketing program, but some appear to be more important than others:

  • 82 percent of manufacturers surveyed said that creating quality content factored into their success.
  • 69 percent reported a clear content marketing strategy drove success.
  • 62 percent claimed an increased priority on content marketing was critical.
  • 57 percent said spending more time on content marketing was key to their success.

Notice that the bottom three points in the above list are important steps en route to the top point, creating quality content. Keep that in mind when you consider this:

  • 67 percent of manufacturers claimed not spending enough time on content marketing factored into the stagnancy of their programs.
  • 62 percent reported content creation challenges drove stagnancy.
  • 51 percent reported that shortfalls in their content marketing strategies caused stagnancy.
  • 42 percent said that stagnancy occurred when content marketing was not prioritized highly enough.

Key takeaway: The relationship between what drives successful content marketing programs and what causes them to stagnate is real and compelling.

Uncertain but optimistic

While the survey says more manufacturers believe in content marketing enough to try it, this measure of uncertainty stood out:

  • A third of surveyed firms said their organizations are clear about what a good content marketing program looks like.
  • A third said their organizations weren’t clear on this point.
  • A third weren’t sure either way.

That means there’s still work to do, but it looks like manufacturers are up to the challenge: 97 percent of them said they planned to create at least the same amount of content this year as last year; 68 percent said they’d develop more.

Key takeaway: Manufacturers may remain somewhat uncertain about content marketing, but the survey indicates many of them see value in it. Will these programs speak to their buyers?

The data show they probably already do.

If you’re thinking about starting or overhauling your online marketing program, we’re ready to help you get started. Take the first step by reading our handbook on B2B website planning.