7 reasons why you'll regret missing the Manufacturing Journalism wave

Ed Marsh | Oct 19, 2015

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It's not the products or the content

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More and more industrial manufacturers are experimenting with digital marketing.  From pay-per-click (PPC) ads through periodic blogging and even an occasional offer.

Many never overcome the trap of product focus - it doesn't matter how gorgeous your eBooks are if your prospects never find them, convert on them, derive ideas that help them excel, or engage with your nurturing and further content.

Fewer still really understand (many fewer in my experience than are confident of their understanding) the importance of properly crafted personas through real buyer 3rd party interviews, 3D buying journey and content mapped to each phases of the resulting matrix.  The"quality vs. quantity" debate has raged for several years, and some folks like Jim Burns (@salesvpi) have developed systems to help companies scale content creation using some of the same approaches upon which trade publishers rely.

It's digital nirvana

Most industrial manufacturing companies "get" the fact that buyers now use the internet, that sales cycles are irrelevant, that information ubiquity changes their leverage, etc.  They may even agree, at least intellectually, that the industrial marketing and B2B sales teams should be realigned and resourced to reflect the shifting market realities.

But the bottom line is that they cut and bend steel.  They need to drive the sales that keep the factory busy and maintain the stream of profitable spare parts orders.  Digital marketing is viewed as a means to that end.  That's not wrong - but it misses the transformation which will really differentiate exceptional companies from the rest over the next decade.

Manufacturing Journalism™ is the mindset that a small number of extraordinary companies will adopt and which will vault them to unexpected levels of success. 

Defining MANUFACTURING JOURNALISM

This isn't trade publishing.  

And it's not an abstract theory.  Here's a handful of inspiring examples:

and in case those examples lead you to presume only "big" companies can make it work, here's an interesting small company twist

And as the Content Marketing Institute often reminds us, John Deere's The Furrow set the stage for Manufacturing Journalism a century ago.

7 Reasons why you'll regret missing the manufacturing journalism wave

OK, I agree, these are a bit speculative.  Until it's widespread, and we can review the trend in retrospect, we won't know for sure...

  1. While you're focused on product innovation driven by your R&D team, some competitor will recruit the world to help them identify and prioritize key steps on their product road map
  2. You'll be surprised when your trade journals and trade associations are replaced by a savvy manufacturing competitor
  3. Whomever ultimately seizes this ground for your industry may not (read will not) accord you the respect and prominence to which you will likely feel entitled and may be accustomed
  4. You were bruised by global sourcing - you'll be killed by global marketing...and this will define global marketing in the future
  5. Boomers are retiring and new generations of buyers & decision makers will substantially value a thought provoking center of excellence over individual expertise (read loyalty to your brand will diminish)
  6. ou'll be incredibly envious of competitors who co-opt industry luminaries to contribute to their center of excellence - and be frustrated when they ignore you
  7. The pain, frustration and futility of being the "3rd quote" today will be magnified enormously as you watch lessor companies define your industry and win orders for which you never even have a chance to compete

What's required to implement it

You could certainly turn this into a big project.  For a strong online "Center of Excellence" you'd probably need at least:

  • Senior Editor - $150K loaded
  • Contributing Editors / Staff Writers - 2 @ $90K loaded
  • Ongoing site design & evolution - $25K to start + $5K/month
  • Promotion & Social Engagement - 1 person @ $60K loaded plus $2K/month in promotion budget
  • Tools - e.g. marketing automation, etc. $35K

Totaling an annual cost of approximately $500K.  That certainly sounds like a big number for many middle market manufacturing companies whose annual marketing budget is comprised of printing data sheets, making occasional website edits and attending several trade shows.  But how does it really fit?

Let's assume that it would be a part of overall marketing - let's call it 1/3.  That means the total marketing budget would be $1.5 million.  Now let's assume that a strong industrial manufacturing firm spends approximately 3.5% of revenue on marketing.  That means that for companies with annual revenue of just $43MM this suddenly becomes feasible.  

(Note - that when you start to factor in the shifting responsibility for lead generation and virtual sales FROM the sales team TO the marketing team (or at least functions traditionally associated with marketing) then some of the current sales budget is redirected to marketing.  That shifts the curve and lowers the annual revenue number required to justify a full fledged program of this sort to somewhere in the $25-$35MM range!)

But...and I recognize a big but...you've got to prove the concept.  I understand.  So the first question is what does it take to do that?

  • skunk works
  • moderate budget to start
  • opportunity to build a culture of content

Small biz and lower middle market?

And for companies that aren't 43MM, or $30MM, or don't spend 3.5% of revenue on marketing?  Is there an option?  For sure.

First, ratchet up your traditional content marketing.  Take Cerasis as an example - a logistics service provider offers great content around a wide range of manufacturing best practices.  (Don't misunderstand - this is no small task itself!)

And then get creative.  Why not set up a collaboration with several other complimentary and like minded manufacturing companies?  Ultimately a great site is a collaboration anyway - take charge and build it from the ground up.

Want to back up and take another look at traditional content marketing?  Download our free eBook.

Intrigued and want to explore a disruptive approach?  Should your business seize the high ground now to hold it as the onslaught comes?  Let's talk.

image - huffpo