Tl;dr - A well-executed manufacturing blog is fundamental to successful industrial marketing. Proper blogging requires blended strategy and tactics. A sound blogging plan supports multiple, somewhat contradictory marketing and goals. Here's how.
Blogging Blindly Hurts Industrial Marketing
When I mention a "blog" to industrial manufacturers I typically get one of two reactions.
Either a quizzical look as they conjure up images of some troll in the basement posting political screeds, or assurance that they're already active bloggers. My response is that their impression is a decade and a half old, or they're missing the point, respectively.
Most industrial blogs are nothing more than a periodic spasm of self-promotion.
So instead of ranting, let's understand what an industrial blog is, and how to blog effectively as part of an integrated manufacturing marketing and industrial sales effort.
HubSpot1 describes a blog as
A blog is typically a section of your business's website -- but, unlike the rest of your website, you need to update the blog section frequently by adding new posts. Additionally, your blog is a tool that allows you to engage more with an audience, either by analyzing how many readers share your blog posts on social, or by allowing readers to comment on your individual posts. In this way, a blog is more like a two-way conversation than the rest of your website.
A manufacturing blog has several purposes.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - help Google (or Bing) put your information in front of the right people who are searching for answers to problems and insights (NOT JUST products and services)
- Demonstrate your company's expertise and understanding of buyers' challenges and desired outcomes to establish credibility
- Share company news - new products, hires, offices, etc.
- Foster community by sharing a stream of knowledge with an audience that is connected with you
- Attract new followers and generate leads among people who didn't know you but find you because your blog articles answer questions they're asking Google
The challenge companies face is that this full range of purposes is not compatible.
While it may seem simpler to just pick one or two, the result is 80% of the work with 10% of the value.
So let's look at how to properly optimize the "blog" effort to satisfy all the objectives simultaneously.
How to Plan and Structure Blogs for Manufacturing Marketing
Creating and delivering the right content for each objective, without detracting from others, is complex. Creating the range and volume of content required is taxing. And publishing on a consistent tempo is important.
So how do you go about doing it right?
Here are some tips.
- don't write about you and your machines except tangentially on your primary blog
- have a consistent schedule - Andrew Davis' Brandscaping does a great job explaining why
- speak to them (your prospects, buyers and customers), their questions, and their interests - Marcus Sheridan's They Ask You Answer explains how to make that mind-shift
- include video when appropriate
- start with the four key blogs described below, and plan content separately for each
- create content according to an editorial calendar that supports strategy, and translates strategy into defined objectives (audience, persona, stage in buying journey, key term, etc.)
- be conversational
- don't write about you (exception - see below Events and News blog guidance)
- understand that you're writing to attract new people (and work to convert them to blog subscribers)
- understand that you're writing to enrich subscribers - you want them to find value every week when they receive your posts
- ensure that emails are properly configured to provide subscribers with new posts (your text vs. default, proper slug, consider options for weekly and monthly subscriptions if you blog more than once/week)
- accept that you'll never know which posts will really resonate in advance, and expect a Pareto distribution (try to learn from those that do perform extraordinarily well)
- segment well so that the right people get the right info (and therefore they don't get the wrong info and unsubscribe!)
- don't write about you on your primary blog that's designed to help prospects
- use a chatbot to encourage subscriptions
- it's not enough to create great content - yes, there's value in SEO, but you also need to have a plan for content distribution to reach more people
- don't just write about the specific problems you solve (and definitely don't write much about your machines!) - include some articles (maybe 25%) about topics that are adjacent to your space but of import to your targets. NO, you don't have to be expert on it. It's possible to write an interesting and worthwhile article based on industry research
- find guest bloggers who may bring interesting insights to your audience and who may expose you to their audience as well
- hire a journalist - they know how to interview, research, codify different perspectives into a narrative, write against deadlines, etc.
- and remember, don't write about your, your products, etc. on your primary blog
- create a style manual for the company that covers tone, voice, editing details
- management has to participate and make it clear it's a priority - they should contribute some content themselves, and NEVER allow an SME to miss content deadlines because of some other "priority"
- share content successes with the company (e.g. anecdotes about target accounts that visited and reached out for the first time)
- coach sales on how to use content in various situations in the sales process
- FIRE any sales rep that unsubscribes from your own blog
- set targets for subscriber numbers
- be realistic that this is a process of at least weekly primary blog posts, for 6-12 months before you have impact...and if you don't, assume that you've missed something NOT that it doesn't work for your audience or industry....I can assure you, it does
- and don't forget - DON'T WRITE ABOUT YOU!
- limit your tags to about 10/blog
- review performance metrics weekly to identify top and bottom performers - and tweak/republish the latter
- share your blog posts by social media (ideally automatically)
- pre-publish at least a week ahead so that you're not scrambling and cutting corners
- invite internal SMEs to review outlines and drafts for technical accuracy - don't get into style review
- make it easy for SMEs to contribute - e.g. give them a list of questions and a way to record their answers as they drive into work or to the airport
- actively work to grow subscribers with appropriate outreach, from the right people, to the right audience (e.g. have your PR team invite industry journalists to subscribe to your news blog and have your after-market team invite customer maintenance and ops folks to subscribe to your Tech Notes blog)
- always offer "the next step" - a blog visit by a new contact could be the first in a series of "yesses" so make it clear and easy what to do next (e.g. download something relevant, more articles related to the same topic, etc.)
- don't just write - plan every piece according to the editorial calendar (which is developed in support of strategy) for proper SEO
- create all original content - citing others is fine, including brief quotes, but no copying. Use a Wikipedia type approach to source and reference footnotes to avoid diluting your SEO impact
- use different approaches - new insights, challenge assumptions, other perspectives, etc.
- build a group of internal SMEs, external resources, and outside (contract) writers
- each month update and republish at least one post to make it more applicable and boost performance
The lists could go on for pages, but you get the idea.
The point is that blogging has to achieve multiple purposes with very diverse audiences. Plan for it.
Don't just write. You'll waste the time, generate almost no results, and arrive at the wrong conclusion.
Next, let's look at how you should structure your blog (actually blogs - each being a category of posts.)
Four Blogs at the Core of Manufacturing Marketing
No single blog can satisfy all the competing objectives. The solution is simple. Have multiple blogs.
Don't be tempted to use a single blog, using tags to differentiate each of the types below. That doesn't solve for the audience. You need people to be interested in subscribing to a stream of articles that solve for their needs and interests - tags help them filter on site. Separate "blogs" with distinct subscription options and lists are the solution.
Here are the four blogs that every industrial website should have at a minimum.
1. Primary Industry Blog
This is your core blog. At a minimum you'll post to it once/week, working from an editorial calendar.
As you build the muscle and want to improve you can consider the following improvements:
- More frequent posts (there's nothing that says you couldn't post multiple times every day!)
- Add another blog and post 1X/week to each. For example, many of my clients provide capital equipment to food manufacturers. The primary audience is often engineering, maintenance and operations. Often though food science and marketing are deeply involved in decisions, and a blog targeting one of those functions could help to attract large new audiences and provide fabulous sales enablement content for large, multi-disciplinary buying teams. Other examples include:
- the distinction between consumer/retail food vs. institutional/restaurant food. It could be effective to have parallel blogs for each specialized audience.
- different target industries - for instance, many clients have solutions for food, pharmaceutical, and industrial applications
- Target geography / language. A good CMS will accommodate multiple language options. But it's important to understand differences in business considerations in each market, and often to create market-specific content in the appropriate language.
2. News Blog
This is where you'll put all those self-serving posts about new hires, transactions, partnerships, office openings, technical innovations, flagship customer wins, certifications, awards, etc.
By publishing that information here, in fully optimized content that fits the editorial calendar tempo and goals, you'll provide important information to Google without grating on your subscribers.
Pro Tip: Publish here a couple days prior to pushing your press releases out on the wire. That way you'll accrue original content credit, and leverage a very inexpensive content promotion technique to reach broad new audiences.
3. Events Blog
Every trade show, open house, and other event will be announced here.
As with the news blog, this is important information for Google and some visitors, but annoying for subscribers. And remember, every post is optimized around key terms that support strategic priorities.
Of course, there will be some overlap. You might include event announcements in marketing emails, and after a trade show, a primary blog article recapping industry trends could be effective.
4. Tech Notes
Remember that your blog should:
- help prospects find you
- offer valuable insights
- engage subscribers
- provide enablement tools
That's why the Tech Notes blog is important for industrial manufacturers. There will be some overlap with your Knowledge Base (which should be optimized for SEO to help prospects find you, provide insights, and support enablement as a resource to provide links for efficient tech support.)
But unlike your knowledge base, this blog will help to engage subscribers. The subscriber base will be the users and maintenance teams that have a large voice in repeat orders. Help them do their jobs better by proactively providing optimization tips (vs. troubleshooting in knowledge base.) By becoming a valuable resource to them, not only do you support your mission and purpose but also often increase LTV (lifetime value.)
This blog will provide monthly articles (often with video, text and graphics) that speak to common maintenance and optimization challenges common across most installations. And of course, it will be planned and executed according to the editorial calendar
It's Not Enough to Just ✅ Check The Blog Box in Industrial Marketing
The premise of ORE™ is the interconnectedness and progressive degrees of refinement of each aspect of manufacturing revenue growth.
Blogging is a perfect example.
Too often companies add a "blog" to their site without clarity of the purpose or objectives. As a result, it's not built on a framework that considers strategy, SEO, sales enablement, and various marketing purposes. And frequently, therefore, a few random posts are the extent of the effort.
In order to realize the value of a blog (and indeed it is invaluable to a proper manufacturing marketing effort), a thoughtful plan must be supported with ongoing, long-term execution.
1. HubSpot is both a company and a software suite that I often help industrial manufacturing clients implement. Consilium has been a HubSpot partner since April,2012. The suite includes tools for sales acceleration and CRM, for marketing automation, email marketing, social media, website and blogging, and for service cases, knowledge base, and more. It's been gradually purpose-built on an integrated database. The article on blogging can be found here.