Passing between epochs
I saw an article recently which quoted a geologist who believes that the earth is transitioning from the Holocene epoch, which we've been in for roughly 12,000 years since the end of the Pleistocene, into an new epoch which he proposes to call the Anthropocene.
That's a pretty bold claim - and I'm going to make another.
We're moving from the publishing epoch of industrial content marketing into the "wiki" phase
Manufacturers aren't publishers
How many times have you heard the call to action for industrial content marketing success - you need to think like a publisher.
Except you're a manufacturer - if you're reading this, probably a capital equipment or industrial OEM.
So blogs and infographics and eBooks and social media are probably already a challenge - particularly when you're told you need to do at least 3 blogs/week. "Right....." you say...."and how about bending & welding steel and wiring panels?
The two aren't actually mutually exclusive...but like youngsters pursuing their next "belt" in karate, there's another level to which industrial manufacturers should aspire for their B2B industrial marketing.
The Wiki phase.
Industrial content marketing evolution
In about 15 years (a couple millenia in internet years) we've passed through some well defined stages:
- early pages for direct navigation
- crude search engines and simple key word tricks
- more sophisticated SEO
- basic content marketing
- mobile optimization
- advanced content marketing
You may quibble with the delineations, but the progression is clear.
And it's also clear that it's advanced to the point where many industrial manufacturers with decent blogs and content are finding it harder and harder to move the needle on traffic.
We're reaching a point where search engines and users will change their measure of helpful content - from one where a body of articles with helpful nuggets was the standard to one where a massive body of knowledge will be the expectation.
From the sophomoric "Ultimate Guide to 7 Steps to Pick the Best XXX Machine" to a collection of articles, insights, calculators and tools which answers every reasonable question that any user or decision maker at any stage in their buying journey will have. That's a tall order and not something that will be built quickly. But the required mindset, architecture and content planning will never occur if it's not clearly foreseen.
Here's an example of the range of articles a strong capital equipment manufacturer might have:
- Example IRR calculations for adding XXX machine
- Key OSHA regulations that impact and influence operation of XXX machine
- How to troubleshoot the XXX servo on XXX machine
- Keys to look for in a 3D laser scan in advance of XXX machine installation
- Marketing, merchandising, operations, maintenance & engineering pros & cons of adding XXX capability to XXX machine
- Suggestions on how to market specific production capabilities to customers & end users
- What your commercial banker won't understand about your XXX machine investment
- Best cloud based PM management tools, and how to import standard schedules for XXX machine
- What range of voltage fluctuations will interrupt proper operation of XXX machine
- Steps to improve OEE of your XXX machine operation
- Questions your rigger should ask in preparation for installing XXX machine
- Siemens vs. Rockwell controllers vs industrial PC - implications to resale value
- Foreseeable buyer trends that will impact XXX industry
- Checklist for machine EoL & scrapping
These are all hypothetical, but illustrate the range of information that the market expects. "They don't" you say? Actually they do - but you've spent so much time just talking about your machine that you don't realize what they really want! In many cases even the persona creation process and qualitative interviews simply focus on the machine and miss the ecosystem implications.
They're also elements of a knowledge base - all are important, but not all are appropriate to be blasted out through RSS blog emails. This is bigger than just building a library of blog articles.
As great as search has become, it's not ideal for users. Information is presented differently - sometimes in an outline, sometimes with linked references, sometimes with a UX that is useless on mobile devices - and always with branding and graphics that are different from site to site.
That means that the next stage of content will likely use a simple UX with continually improving web technology for devices and speed.
It will be richly linked to internal and external related topics so that users can easily navigate. The article on programming the home position on a certain drive will link to the motion control manufacturers site, to data sheets, to the program itself, to programming instructions and various other info. Similarly an article on troubleshooting sealing (a topic common in the packaging equipment industry which is one of my areas of specialization) there would be rich links to plastic resin information, types of seal knives, cutting and heating profiles, comparison charts for metric and standard pressure measurements, articles on hermetic seal requirements, shelf-life and food safety guidelines and more.
Some of that, you probably note, is actually industry, or even company and machine specific. That's right.
The fact is that most companies do a dismal job of knowledge management - even when they consciously decide to do well. Just think, after all, about how many of your customers can even locate operators manuals for machines installed just a couple months ago. And herein lies your enormous competitive opportunity.
White label their knowledge management in your area of expertise - in other words create a global resource that addresses the enormous range of information relevant to all your customers AND create a parallel private space for information specific to a given company. You'll be able to populate some of it for them - and you'll provide an easily searchable tool to which they can contribute and edit.
You'll help them do their jobs. There's perhaps no higher calling for a capital equipment manufacturer!
You may define yourself as a machine builder, but when you help customers' engineering, maintenance and production teams sync up between locations....you're much more. And the beauty of this is that it's an offshoot of doing what you need to be doing anyway to succeed in industrial marketing.
Revenue growth continuum
The final piece to understand about this approach is that it finally aligns the information you provide with the customers' view of their relationship with you. They experience a relationship continuum - from when they start searching for a solution to a problem, through when they scrap your machine decades later.
It's your org chart that disrupts that - PR, marketing, sales, customer service, tech service, etc.
This wiki knowledge base approach not only powers your content marketing, but powers your customer relationships.
Probably to a point where you become virtually untouchable.
While you ponder that future - here's a chance to improve immediately. Capital equipment manufacturers spend lots of money on trade shows - in most cases that's the bulk of the marketing budget. But most do a mediocre job. This free guide outlines 17 tips to maximize the investment. Download it here.