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

Ed Marsh | Oct 19, 2015


It's not the products

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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.

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. 


companies can integrate fifth wave manufacturing with their corporate news ideology to boost news exposure. public events create a great opportunity with events preconditions to combine two dimensions of their storiesThis 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 To Catch 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

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.

Deeper Dive Into  Manufacturing Brand Journalism

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, the intersection of manufacturing and journalism heralds a new era, perhaps called the "fifth wave manufacturing," where the fusion of technology, storytelling, and industrial innovation becomes paramount. This emerging trend reshapes how companies approach content marketing and redefines their engagement with news organizations and the broader news media landscape. Here's why embracing this wave is critical for manufacturers who wish to stay ahead in the digital age.

The rise of Manufacturing Journalism signifies a shift towards a more nuanced and investigative approach to content creation, one that mirrors traditional news media practices. This approach leverages in-depth news investigation, analysis of labor statistics and industry trends and perspectives, and the dissemination of press materials to provide a richer, more engaging narrative for audiences. By adopting journalistic methodologies, manufacturers can produce content that not only informs but also captivates, turning complex industrial topics into compelling stories.

To a brand journalist, news events and public events become pivotal. They offer manufacturers a golden opportunity to showcase their innovations, share insights, and position themselves as thought leaders. Coverage of these events, when executed with a journalistic eye, elevates a company's content from mere promotional material to insightful, timely news sources that audiences value. This transformation is at the heart of Manufacturing Journalism, where the goal is to become a trusted provider of information, akin to traditional news organizations.

Another aspect where this wave makes its impact felt is in the utilization of advanced technologies like machine vision and generative AI. These technologies are not just revolutionizing manufacturing processes but also how manufacturers communicate their advancements. By incorporating discussions on machine vision and other innovations into their content, companies can illuminate the technological leaps happening within the industry, offering a peek into the future of manufacturing to their audience.

However, the journey into Manufacturing Journalism is not without its challenges. One of the biggest hurdles is addressing missing information. Unlike traditional content marketing, which might gloss over less favorable aspects, a journalistic approach demands transparency and a commitment to uncovering the full story. This includes reporting on product and service features and other data that might not always paint a rosy picture but is essential for credibility and trust.

The role of press releases also evolves in this wave. Rather than simple announcements, they become stories in their own right, crafted with the same care as journalistic articles. This means going beyond the basics to explore the implications of news, how it ties into larger industry trends, and why it matters to the audience.

Ultimately, Manufacturing Journalism is about more than just adopting the trappings of news media; it's about embracing a mindset that values depth, accuracy, and relevance. By integrating these principles into their content strategy, manufacturers can connect with their audiences on a deeper level, offering insights and stories that resonate long after the initial publication. As the fifth wave manufacturing continues to unfold, those who master this blend of journalism and marketing will not only lead the conversation but also shape the future of the industry.