How to Improve ROI with Content Marketing for Manufacturers

How would you rate your manufacturing content strategy? Let me skip to the punchline. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s recent study, your answer is more than likely “I don’t know.”
You’re not completely in the dark. About 80% of manufacturers have adopted some form of content marketing tactics. They’re writing blog articles, creating case-studies and how-to guides, and email newsletters, and participating in social networks. However, a mere 12% of industrial companies claim to be successful at figuring out how to measure how their content efforts are linked to generating qualified leads and a healthy ROI.
Measuring ROI can be difficult for any industrial business with a complex sales process (a better, but less-than-ideal average of 21% of other B2B marketers claim success linking their content marketing campaigns to generated sales), but why is this rate even more dismal in the manufacturing industry? What can manufacturers be doing better?

5 Tips for Planning Out Your Content Marketing Strategy

A consistent and integrated content marketing strategy is critical to successful content marketing campaigns and an increase in sales, yet only 20% of manufacturing marketers have such a strategy in place. Then, only about a third of those follow their own plan.
No wonder there’s a disconnect. But, why?
Manufacturers want results – more sales! – and they want them now. The majority of them want to skip over the planning process in favor of jumping right into the content creation, often seeing this as just another one-off promotion. They expect the content marketing to instantly drive website traffic and immediately yield results.
But they don’t know who they’re talking to yet, let alone what they need to say and why their prospects would find that valuable.

Start With Specific, Measurable Goals

When planning out your content marketing strategy, first decide what it is you want to accomplish, and then work backwards to determine what actions you’ll need to take in order to accomplish those goals.
Developing SMART goals is critical to the success of your strategy.

  • Specific – An increase in sales is one of your top priorities, but in itself is too vague. Set a specific numerical goal with real deadlines.
  • Measurable – Make sure you’re able to track your goal. Don’t focus on abstract metrics like “brand engagement.”
  • Attainable –Make your goal ambitious, but still within reach.
  • Realistic – Challenge your team, but don’t expect the impossible.
  • Time-bound – Setting goals for “some day” and “ASAP” are ineffective, at best. Set a real deadline and stick to it.

Remember, the more specific and targeted your goals are, the more effective your campaigns will be.

Use personas to inform your content strategies

Buyer personas are research-based representations of your “ideal customers.” Developing insights about your customers beliefs, perceptions, objections, goals and questions, is actionable. This information can directly inform the messaging, supporting content subject matter, formats and even channels that you’ll want to use to reach them.
By giving your customers what they need, when they need it, you’re also protecting your market and creating more opportunities for your customer to interact with your brand.
They not only tell you who your customer is, but why they’ve sought out your product and how they feel about it. Buyer Persona Research inspires every step of the content marketing strategy, from content topics, to distribution and post-sale follow-up.

Identity Key Performance Indicators to Track Your Success

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the metrics used in observing the performance of your business and tracking the progress towards your goals. Some examples of KPIs include:

  • Cost of Customer Acquisition
  • CLV, Customer Lifetime Value (Download the CLV resource Guide) or try the Online CLV Calculator
  • Lead volume
  • Revenue growth
  • Retention rates
  • Website visits
  • Content downloads
  • Inbound links
  • Social Media reach
  • Subscribers

Website traffic still continues to be the key metric in assessing content marketing success, but, as we all know, more traffic does not equal more sales. However, an increase in website traffic is an important factor in determining brand awareness (which is right up there with increased sales as a top priority for most manufacturers). Setting those SMART goals in the beginning will help you determine your own set of KPIs.
With today’s technology, you’ll be tempted to analyze every possible piece of information. Resist that temptation. Your performance evaluation will get drowned in a sea of data, leading to a lack of actionable intelligence. Stay focused, and concentrate on the KPIs that are properly aligned with your business goals.

Reduce Your Leaky Sales Funnel with Sales Automation Tools

You’ve done a lot of strategizing, research and goal-setting. Now it’s time to put all of that hard work to use. Use your research and personas to guide your content creation and implementation. If your ideal customers spend their time connecting on LinkedIn but rarely even visit Facebook, adjust your distribution accordingly.

Use technology to respond to user-behavior

Tools like HubSpot and other technologies with CRO conversion rate optimization features (try the CRO resource guide) help marketers by delivering content that is personalized to users who are either identified in the database because of previous interactions or because of their behavior. For example, a user that was referred by linked in, or a specific Google Ad or read a specific page on your website. We can come up with a hypothesis for why the user is visiting the website and what kind of content and messaging might be of interest. The combination of automation and personalization helps deepen customer engagement and improve lead conversions.

Measure & Optimize

The results are in: your website traffic has increased by over 200% — fantastic! But how are your sales? If your site is raking in visitors but those visitors aren’t becoming customers, your content marketing strategy (and perhaps your sales process) will need some tweaks. And that’s the beauty of this system: strategize, implement, measure, optimize, repeat. You’re continuously analyzing data, processing that data into intelligence, and converting that intelligence into action.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Think outside the box, but don’t lose sight of your goals and your buyer personas. Create value, be inventive, track your results, improve your effectiveness, and continually move forward.

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