I write frequently about the dissonance between how management of industrial manufacturing companies rigorously improves the back end of the business (operations, manufacturing) and how they neglect the front end (revenue growth.) There's a huge disconnect in most companies - and it's reflected in a variety of symptoms around sales performance.
Sell cycles are long and unpredictable, quote volumes are high while "no decisions" are the most common outcome, prospects aren't willing to meet with sales reps, prospecting is ineffective, etc.
Among the relatively small number of industrial manufacturers that actually embark on an industrial content marketing program in support of revenue growth, there's a parallel dissonance which I frequently see.
Content perfection paralysis. (More on that below, and a solution at the bottom.)
"Oh, gosh, that was Gen 1/a prototype/an early model"
Every manufacturer that has R&D, innovation, product road map or some sort of progression of product development has instances where early versions weren't quite perfect. And they're OK with that - just as they should be. Some wear it as a badge of innovation honor - others are a bit more circumspect - but all readily accept the fact that creating something new and putting it out into an industrial environment for use and abuse will result in lessons learned and stubbed toes.
But when it comes to reviewing and approving content that's been created for specific tactical reasons within an agreed strategic framework.....well suddenly they submit everything to a completely different standard.
And the net effect is rapid reversion to mediocrity.
Maybe it sounds good to them....
Here are examples of the silly things they say...and don't say, or stop to think about.
- "We can't publish that! Our competitors may read it."....but we're going to proudly put it in our tradeshow booth and announce it to the world!
- "We're not experts in that area so we can't write about it."....but we'll happily make outrageous claims about our customers' ROI without having any real financial information
- "People aren't interested in that - they come to our site to learn about our products and services."....I hate getting calls from sales people that just call to pitch their products without understanding my business.
- "We can't publish more than once/week because we're not going to spam our subscribers."....We have subscribers, right?
The result is that articles which are designed to support content pillars and appeal to the 97% of buyers that aren't in the market at any given time often end up rewritten according to the same tired formula of company product claims - or they simply get abandoned and a publishing opportunity is lost.
Alternatively there's a repetitive review where CEO style and grammar preferences dictate delays for review, then re-review...often with different changes each time!
Sometimes there's even a big kerfuffle when an entirely appropriate article is published, the CEO has a fit, and the article is unpublished. That's a real content creation productivity and morale booster! I've written about this on Medium "It’s not a content creation problem — it’s the finishing that’s broken."
Toss in an employee profile every now and then (your people may be your company's biggest asset, but your customers expect their business improved), and you manage to take a dynamic market development strategy and turn it into a boring blog. Companies actually make their blog into precisely the waste which they hesitate to create initially....
But it doesn't have to be this way.
These nine principles will drive success
Nobody ever finishes a business book with the observation "That's the most beautifully written business book I've ever read." People read business books to be challenged - and they read articles for exactly the same reason.
The key to successful B2B content creation is the ideas and concepts. Those must be selected and planned in the context of a bigger strategic framework and tactical execution plan.
First, if the company has more than 3 people, the CEO (at what size is that title no longer pretentious?) shouldn't be anywhere near reviewing content.
Second, demand that material have reasonable citations, make reasonable claims, be consistent in tone with company culture....and then be reasonable.
Third, expect that spelling and grammar errors will be eliminated...and then recognize that they will occur and you can easily edit and update; that the person in the company that gleefully points these out should be challenged on their priorities and productive use of their time; and that style is different than correct.
Fourth, work from an editorial calendar that's preapproved and built on a market development strategy that's been agreed to, which in turn is derived from company strategy. That way nobody's surprised. If you didn't like the topic you should have asked earlier - but if it didn't jump out at you at the time....it's going to be OK.
Fifth, accept that nobody cares about your product and your company except those of you within it. The rest of the world wants to improve their condition - across a much wider range of areas than you touch.
Sixth, set a goal that you'll always be embarrassed to look at your content that's a year old and realize how sophomoric it was compared to the great stuff you're creating today. If not, you're just mass producing low value stuff that suits your talking points and is about as appetizing to readers and Google (potential readers) as the Play-Doh cookies pressed out with dirty hands in a museum play space.
Seventh, make sure each piece challenges with a clear message and leaves the reader with some takeaways. (Here's a short, great piece on what makes content great.) To push the dots closer together....who do your fawning biographical sketches that recap your staff's hobbies fulfill this objective?
Eighth, good is good enough for a blog as long as the ideas are big and legitimate. Pretty good makes a great offer. All the "high quality" argument around content really means substantive, original ideas and insights that will make a difference in your prospects' business. Absent absurd errors, you're better off just getting it done.
Ninth, accept that this is art AND science. You're going to be wrong. Some topics that you're sure will be hits...will be duds, and vice versa. That's OK. Keep it in mind when you review your metrics, try to learn from it, and recognize that traffic from irrelevant articles (e.g. about 'workplace ethics') doesn't help sell industrial products.
Wondering how industrial content marketing can drive revenue growth for industrial manufacturers? Check out this free guide.