2014 Report on B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing in North America

May 22, 2014

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect

The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs recently released their fourth annual report on the content marketing practices of business-to-business (B2B) marketers working in the manufacturing industry.

In this report you’ll find answers to questions such as: What percentage of manufacturing marketers have adopted content marketing? What tactics are they using? How does their approach to content marketing differ from that taken by other B2B marketers?

This report also looks at how manufacturing marketers approach content marketing when compared with a wider group of B2B North American marketers representing a range of industry segments.

Here are some key highlights from this most recent study on manufacturing marketers and their content marketing efforts:

  • 86% have adopted content marketing
  • Only 30% say they are effective at content marketing
  • Use the same number of tactics (13) as other B2B marketers
  • 81% use YouTube to distribute content and rate it as the most effective social media platform
  • Cite different goals for content marketing when compared with other B2B marketers
  • Top challenges faced for their content marketing programs: 1. Lack of time, 2. Producing the kind of content that engages and 3. Producing enough content
  • 46% plan to increase their content marketing budget over the next 12 months

Click here to read more details and download the full report.

The Secret to Going Viral

May 15, 2014

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Engineer, Sonnhalter

You’ve probably heard the word “viral” in relation to online marketing before. If you’re not quite sure what it means, here’s a very brief definition:



: becoming very popular by circulating from person to person, specifically on the internet.

If something “goes viral” that means it has been shared a great number of times; there is no threshold number of shares to be reached before something can be considered viral, but in general you know when something has gone viral by the way it is talked about.

So here’s the secret to going viral:

The one aspect that every viral thing has in common is that it is a quality piece of content that resonates with your audience. Content that goes viral is often in the form of blog posts, pictures or videos.

Content can resonate with your audience in many ways, most of the time viral content resonates through humor. Content that is controversial or sparks a debate, as well as timely, helpful information will also resonate.

In our industry, content doesn’t often achieve viral status, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t resonated, sparked conversation or been effective.

As marketers, we cannot make content become viral. Content can only be made viral by your audience(s) – they have the power. Marketers and brands do not have the power to make anything viral.

Image via Scott Cresswell

Image via Scott Cresswell

If you’re disappointed that you know the secret to viral but can’t do anything about it, don’t lose heart!

The goal in any marketing initiative should not be creating viral content; it should be on creating quality content.

Marketers and brands have the power to create quality content that will resonate with audiences. If that content goes viral, then that is just a happy side effect.

Manufacturers: Why Are You Using Content Marketing?

February 18, 2014

I just saw a stat this week that over 90 percent of B-to-B companies are now using content marketing. I wonder if you asked them why, what the answer would be. Hopefully it’s not because everyone else is using it! If you’re using content, you know how much time it takes you and your team to develop and place good content.

Whether it’s content marketing or any other tactic, there should be good reasons for using it and a detailed plan of action – what to say, where to use it and how to measure it. I recently read an article by Heidi Cohen, Why Use Content Marketing – 7 Reasons that I thought would help us all in not only reviewing what we’re doing, but more importantly, evaluate and possibly refocus our efforts on those activities that are working.

We all have different reasons and priorities, and from a manufacturer’s point of view, here are three things you may want to consider when using content marketing:

  • Build your brand - this should be true in any type of promotion, but building good content helps set you apart and builds your reputation.
  • Attract new customers - Give customers what they want pre- and post-information that will help them through the sales cycle. Good content will sell itself.
  • Support existing customers - with updated product/installation information, handy apps or other tools that will make doing their job easier. Remember, existing clients are your best repeat customers, so continue to engage them.

Why are you using Content Marketing and what tactics are working best for you?

If you like this post, you may want to read:

Manufacturers: What Are You Trying to Accomplish with Your Content Marketing?

Smaller Companies are Doing a Better Job with Content Marketing

What are you Doing to Improve your Content Marketing Performance?

Content Marketing: Have a Strategy and Be Relevant.

How Sales and Marketing Can Get the Best out of Their Content Marketing

February 5, 2014

Although sales and marketing are getting better at working together, there is always room for improvement. Together they can make sure they deliver the right content to the right people at the right time.

But in order to accomplish this, they need to work together. Here are some tips to help maximize the results of the collaborative efforts:

  • Know your audience - different people buy for different reasons. By sales and marketing working together, they can define the different personas and identify the prospects’ perspectives and content needs.
  • Have a sales retention plan - We’re all so focused on getting a lead and making a sale that once that’s completed, we forget about them until the next sale. Now that they are a customer, it’s easier to help them. Start a nurturing program and engage them, and with appropriate content, that will help with the next sale.
  • Have a plan - By working together with sales, set objectives to get the right content into the hands of your customers. Realize the one-size-fits-all approach isn’t going to work.

By working together, sales and marketing can determine the right content, whether it’s for leads, brand awareness or thought leadership.

Content Marketing: How Will It Affect You in 2014?

January 21, 2014

Content marketing is becoming more of a focus with all of us, and for it to be effective like any other tool, you need to have a plan and strategy.

Content can be developed in many forms and this can be an overwhelming task, all the more reason to have a plan.

I recently read a post by Heidi Cohen, 2014 Content Marketing Predictions that I thought was interesting and wanted to share some of the highlights of her 7 points:

  • Content Marketing should be part of an integrated program - content needs to be created in different formats as people take in information in various ways and we need to make sure we’re touching them several times.
  • Content Marketing expands to all corporate communications - it’s no longer limited to marketing.
  • Managing Content Marketing assets - track and maintain assets identifying those that need updating  and those that need to be created.
  • Track Results to sales - start by nudging readers to some call-to-action to start an engagement and then follow it through to a sale.

What kinds of actions are you taking in 2014 to improve your content marketing?

What Are You Doing to Improve Your Content Marketing Performance?

December 3, 2013

When you go to all the work to create great content, don’t miss out on opportunities to share it. We’re all guilty of getting into a routine when creating content and rarely deviate from it, whether it be because of time constraints or just laziness. The point is, we need to shake it up a bit sometimes.

According to 2014 B2B Content Marketing Trends, there are over two dozen tactics that you could use. Here are some that I think are important in going after the professional tradesman:

  • Offer useful info on your website - Make sure to include topics that help folks through your selling cycle.
  • Industry newsletters - As you collect email addresses, send out a regular newsletter quarterly or monthly. If you are selling to several different audiences, segment the newsletters so they will be more meaningful for those who read them.  A plumber probably isn’t interested in something a HVAC guy would be. Don’t be concerned about the size of the lit, but the quality of it. I’d rather be regularly communicating with 500 key prospects than 5,000 unqualified ones.
  • Case Studies – By market or application are in high demand by your target audience. Tradesmen like to see what their peers are doing and the results. Post on your website, use it as an e-blast to your targets and have them reprinted so your sales force has something to hand out.
  • Videos - How to and feature and benefit videos are an easy way for you to get your point across. Put it on your website, and put it on YouTube (create your own channel) with the appropriate search terms.
  • Online Presentations – Take those PowerPoints you do everyday on why you’re better than the other guys and put it on your website, along with putting it on SlideShare with appropriate key words.
  • Podcasts - Even if you don’t have a blog, you can utilize this tactic. Interview an industry leader on the issues of the day or what’s coming down the line that might impact your reader. You can use it again on your website and do e-blasts to targeted audiences.

Those are some highlights from my point of view. Whether it’s utilizing these tactics or others, step outside the box and try other things. You’ll be glad you did.

Are You Missing out on Mobile Marketing Opportunities to the Professional Tradesman?

October 2, 2013

We’ve talked many times about the importance of having a mobile strategy when wanting to reach the professional contractors. Their office is a jobsite and they need to be and stay connected. Mobile is changing the way we reach these important people.

A recent article by Bob Oord in marketingprofs outlines the explosion in this market and ways we can maximize our efforts there. An amazing stat is that their usage has doubled in just 1 year! The integration of mobile apps with CRM and business intelligence has changed user expectations.


  • Responsive website – so it can be read on any device
  • Mobile-friendly campaigns - optimize landing pages.
  • Mobile advertising - can be tailored by location, time and device so take advantage of them.
  • Mobile email - make sure your HTML can be read properly on these devices.
  • Mobile apps - apps let you secure a prominent presence on your customer’s device.

Please note that a recent report by Forrester, “Don’t Confuse Tablet And Mobile Marketing,” a B2B marketer needs to differentiate between smart phones and tablets. Smart phones have a much smaller screen for content experiences and is used “on the go,” while tablets are used more at home and in the office offering rich content opportunities.

If you liked this article, you might want to read:

Mobile Marketing to the Professional Tradesman: What are you Doing?

Why Mobile Marketing is Important for the Professional Tradesman.

Content Marketing: Have a Strategy and Be Relevant

September 26, 2013

Today we have a guest blog post from Rosemarie Ascherl, PR Foreman at Sonnhalter, discussing content marketing. Content marketing should be part of all B2B [and B2T] business’s overall marketing strategy.

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend a fabulous week of learning and motivation when I attended the 2013 Content Marketing World Summit at the Cleveland Convention Center.

CMI iconContent marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior. It is an ongoing process that is best integrated into your overall marketing strategy, and it focuses on owning media, not renting it.

While the term content marketing has become popular in recent years, content marketing is a marketing technique that marketers have been using all along. Top B2B content marketing strategies are social media, articles on a business’s website, eNewsletters, case studies, videos and articles on other websites.

While there were many important takeaways from the conference, a couple stood out:

Content marketing needs a strategy

Before you dive into producing your content, you need to have a content marketing strategy. You need to establish your goals and mission, define your audience and establish your process. Content needs to be planned around a clearly outlined purpose. You need to establish the why behind your content strategy before you can begin to put together the how and the where.

Content marketing must be relevant

To establish authority and gain trust with your audience, your content must be valuable and relevant to them. This relevant industry information should provide insight or entertain them. Content must fulfill a need, be interesting and unique.

How can you create something meaningful for both your brand and your audience? Understand your customers, and try to find ways to solve their problems. Give them content that addresses their needs. Remember that it’s not about you—it’s about them. Ultimately, providing this type of content allows a company to steadily build rapport with its demographic and develop a loyal following.

If you find this post interesting, you may be interested in the following:

Manufacturers: What are you trying to accomplish with your content marketing?

Why do you use content marketing – Do you think it’s for branding or for selling?

B2B Marketing: 9 Ideas for Solving Your Biggest Content Challenges

June 27, 2013

Today we have a guest post from Michele Linn the Content Development Director of the Content Marketing Institute and a B2B content marketing consultant who has a passion for helping companies use content to connect with their ideal buyers. You can read the original post here.

Last week, when we published findings from our study, B2B Small Business Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budget, and Trends – North America (sponsored by Outbrain), reader Andy Detweiler posed a great question in our comments section:

“Any insight on how small B2B companies plan on solving the problems listed? Would be curious to understand what they see as potential solutions versus a larger enterprise.”

Andy’s question inspired us to take a closer look at some of the content marketing challenges faced by North American B2B marketers who work at small businesses (companies with 10 – 99 employees), as compared to their peers at enterprise organizations (companies with more than 1,000 employees). We’ll also share some insights on ways content marketers can address these issues — regardless of the size of the organization they work for.

1. Engagement

b2b content-engagement

In general, both groups are similarly challenged with producing the kind of content that engages — and it is the top challenge for enterprise companies. In a way, I think it’s encouraging to see this as a top challenge, as it shows that marketers are focusing on the value of quality over quantity. And, there is good reason why engaging content matters: Customers and prospects who engage with content are more likely to reach out or initiate a relationship with your organization.

Ideas: Engaging content means different things to different people, so you’ll need to start out by determining your organization’s definition of “engagement” — and what metric(s) you can use to measure it. For instance, as Joe Pulizzi discussed in his recent post on the building blocks of content marketing strategy, we at CMI know our email subscribers are more likely than our other readers to sign up for our events, so “email subscriptions” is an engagement metric we focus on.

(For more on how to define, produce, and measure engaging content, check out our eBook, “Your Kick-Start Guide to Engaging Content.”)

2. Quantity

b2b content-producing enough

While small businesses cite producing enough content as their top challenge, it’s an issue that concerns the majority of content marketers across all business types that we’ve researched.

Idea: One solution is to simply realize that more is not better. This applies to small and large businesses, alike. That said, if you really do need to produce more content, here are three ideas our CMI consultants suggested in a video roundtable on challenges facing B2B marketers:

  • Reuse content at the beginning and end of the sales funnel: This suggestion applies to any businesses that have a long sales cycle.
  • Curate content: Instead of producing new content, share existing content — created by your organization or by others in your industry. This strategy can be used by businesses of any size.
  • Produce evergreen content: I love Ardath Albee‘s quote from the video above: “I think the reasons that we change subject matters and create new content is because we as marketers get bored. We’ve said it; we’ve heard this before: ‘Let’s create something new.’ We don’t need to.” Again, instead of focusing on pumping out more new content, create a body of evergreen content that you can update, as needed. As a bonus, you may be able to curate content in a way that makes it more useful/gives it new life.

3. Integration

b2b content-integration

Not surprisingly, enterprise organizations are far more challenged with lack of integration across marketing than their small-business counterparts. As more people, products, and geographies become involved — producing integrated content can get pretty complicated.

Ideas: Large organizations like SAP, SAS, Kelly Services, and Intel have complex B2B marketing programs. At last year’s Content Marketing World, we had the pleasure of sitting down with key individuals from these teams to talk about how they manage the process of content marketing. There aren’t any shortcuts — and it involves a lot of work — but there are ways to create efficiencies to minimize the burdens.

While the following ideas will be most useful for enterprise organizations, smaller businesses can also use some of these approaches:

  • Elizabeth Gaines from SAP talked about how her company has content account managers who are plugged into all of the field marketing teams and geographies.
  • Pam Didner talked about Intel’s editorial planning process. Her team has an editorial calendar that they create a year in advance, and adjust throughout the year, as necessary. She then presents it to the various stakeholders across her organization (even though for her that means presenting that calendar 30 times).
  • Kelly LeVoyer and Waynette Tubbs shared that everyone at SAS contributes to one large plan. They also make sure everyone knows the roles assigned to each team — and what KPIs they are being measured on — which, they have found, helps the content marketing plan come together much more cohesively.
  • Michael Kirsten from Kelly Services says that he spends at least 30 percent of his time on intra- and inter-organizational communication.

4. Budget

b2b content-budget

It may seem surprising that enterprise marketers are more challenged with lack of budget than small businesses are, as they likely have more to spend overall. But, enterprise marketers also likely need to go through more internal channels to get budget approval, which may explain why a larger percentage of them feel this is an issue.

Another possible explanation is that lack of budget is just a perceived issue with some enterprise marketers who wished they had more money to work with. In contrast, small business marketers may be more accustomed to having to be resourceful in their content efforts.

Ideas: The root cause of budget issues could be lack of buy-in (see point #5, below): If management has not yet bought into the value provided by content marketing, it will be all the more difficult to get the necessary budgetary support. If this is the case, presenting information on return on investment can help justify the costs.

Kapost and Eloqua developed an eBook, Content Marketing ROI, that compares the cost of content marketing to PPC; it’s a great read if you are struggling with this issue. The eBook breaks costs down for both midsize and large companies.

5. Buy-in

b2b content-buy-in

This is an interesting challenge, as more enterprise marketers find themselves contending with a lack of executive buy-in, yet more small business marketers consider it to be their primary challenge.

Ideas: If you are struggling with getting buy-in, there are two posts I suggest you read: 2 Foolproof Methods for Getting Content Marketing Buy-In and Getting Buy-In for Your Content Marketing: A 3-Point Process. There is some overlap in the ideas, but here are the highlights:

  • Really understand – and be able to articulate – the value of content marketing.
  • Do a pilot program and report on key metrics, such as immediate gains (e.g. social followers), social rankings, back-links and leads/sales.
  • Play on fear. What is the competition doing that you are not? What does your management care about most?

6. Variety

b2b content-variety

While a good portion of both small and enterprise marketers are challenged with producing a variety of content, not many consider this to be their biggest challenge. I personally consider this to be a good sign, as marketers should be focusing more of their efforts on producing content that engages, and on achieving measurable results, than on the formats their content is delivered on.

Ideas: That said, producing original content takes time, so there is no reason not to create efficiencies by repurposing the content you already have. Check out 5 Great Starting Points for a Content Recycling Program and 23 Ways to Leverage a Blog Post for Content Marketing Success to get more specific ideas on how to reimagine your content across a variety of formats.

7. Measurement

b2b content-measurement

Our research is conducted annually, and this year is the first time we asked if content marketing measurement was a challenge. Truthfully, we expected this number to be higher, but, as Jay Baer aptly surmised in our B2B measurement roundtable:

“If you, as an organization, are measuring the effectiveness of your content marketing with something so rudimentary as website traffic, then I guess in your own land you are measuring content. Is website traffic the optimal way to measure the effectiveness of content? No, absolutely not. I think there’s a delta between what people think they should be measuring and what they actually should be measuring.”

Ideas: If you are struggling with measurement, take a look at our online how-to guide that walks you through fundamentals and provides specific suggestions on what you should measure. But if you only have time to view one resource, make it the eBook, A Field Guide to the Four Types of Content Marketing Metrics, in which you’ll learn about the best metrics to monitor for consumption, sharing, lead generation, and sales.

8. Training

b2b content-training

Approximately one-third of both small-business and enterprise marketers feel they lack the appropriate knowledge, training, and resources to execute content marketing well. Considering that this field is quickly evolving, and there is no silver bullet, this is not surprising.

Ideas: I know this is a shameless plug, but if you are in need of training, there is no better event than Content Marketing World, which will be taking place in Cleveland from September 9 – 11. CMI’s entire mission is to provide training and education (through our blog posts, magazine, webinars, and more), so if you have a question about content marketing, I’d love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments, and I’ll see what I can do to help and/or we’ll cover it in a future blog post.

9. Professionals

b2b content-professionals

While finding trained content marketing professionals is not a key challenge for many marketers, it is still a concern — particularly for enterprise companies.

Ideas: Another shameless plug (sorry!) but CMI has a fantastic group of consultants led by Robert Rose that help companies with their content marketing programs. If you are a large organization, you may also want to consider hiring a content marketing agency. If so, see what Joe Pulizzi had to say as he explained the 4 Truths About Content Marketing Agencies, and take a look at Doug Kessler’s advice on how to get the best results with your agency in his post, 4 Truths About Content Marketing Clients. If you have a smaller budget, or are only looking for a single writer for your content, consider hiring a journalist.

Are there other content marketing challenges you are facing? Or do you have other suggestions for those facing these issues? Let me know in the comments.

Why Should You Use Social Media in New Business Development?

May 21, 2013

In the traditional sales model, we identify our prospects and then use several tactics to get in front of them, qualify them and ultimately sell them. But what about all the other potential users of your product or service that you don’t know about? Yes, some of them may find you through a referral or get on your website, but there are many more that may not ever know that you exist.

In most cases, especially for manufacturers who are selling more complicated products, there is a sales funnel you need to take folks through before they are ready to buy. That’s great, but that only works if you’ve identified the potential sale.

Think of social media as your silent salesman. It’s out there bird dogging for you and taking a potential through some of the initial stages of the selling cycle.

Social media is a great way to connect with prospective buyers because they will find you based on what they are searching for (what kind of problem they are looking for a solution for) on the web. It allows you, not only to connect, but to start a conversation. It allows them to get a better feeling for the company and how you go about helping people. In other words, you start building the know, like and trust model that comes with any sale, especially to new potentials.

Social media is a great way to educate prospective buyers because of all the tools you have available: YouTube, SlideShare, Blogs, Forums. All are platforms for you to add value to the conversations by giving them great content, and it starts establishing you as an expert they can count on.

Social media is a great way to collaborate with potential buyers because of the tools like GoToMeeting, Google Hangout or other technologies that allow you to connect almost immediately to help answer a question or show them how to fix a problem. There are even listening platforms, like HooteSuite, radian6 and others that will help you monitor conversations around the areas you want to be in, and you can contribute at the appropriate time.

So don’t  just do business as usual. Think outside the box and give social a try. You might be surprised as you might eventually identify themselves as a potential new customer that was never on your radar screen.

If you like this post, you might want to read:

Blogging: Helps Increase New Business Leads by 69%

Are you Using LinkedIn for New Business Development?


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