Manufacturing Better Content

Robot arm and tablet used in manufacturing

In my work with manufacturing marketers, I have found that many of you struggle with content—what to produce, how much, and how often. I want to look at the question of “what to produce” first, because if we get that right I think it will help determine exactly how much of it we should be creating and how often we should be publishing it and/or updating it.

It seems to me that the field of content marketing itself is at least partially to blame for some of the confusion. For several years now, and what to some of us feels like decades, content marketers have defaulted to quantity versus quality. They have been happy to suggest that simply publishing 8, 12, or more blog posts every month will have a direct and almost immediate impact on your site traffic and lead flow. Just use one of these “Top 5 Post Types That Get Clicks!” or “14 Blog Title Formats People Love” (you get the picture) and all will be well.

For these and a variety of other foundational reasons (information on the web is still largely text-based, after all), the majority of content that marketers are producing is in written format. Ebooks and blog posts are the meat and potatoes of many content strategies, with the occasional infographic or video being thrown into the mix to spice up the dish. Unfortunately, many manufacturing marketers find that the people eating this kind of content up often aren’t serious, real B2B leads. One of the first challenges with the typical approach is that it places more of a premium on traffic acquisition content than on conversion content—so while site traffic might see an uptick as the strategy progresses, the flow of quality leads doesn’t follow suit. Let’s look at this a different way.

Think “Conversion-out,” not “Acquisition-in”

In addition to struggling with what content to produce, most marketers struggle with finding the time or budget to do it all. And when we can’t “do it all”, it is always best to start with conversion content and work our way out, not the other way around. There’s one big reason (and a few others) why I believe this:

The site traffic you already have is likely to be better qualified than the new site traffic you could pay / work to acquire.

If you’re like most manufacturers, you’re converting less than 1% of your site visitors into contacts—names and email addresses you have permission to market to. And if you’re converting less than 1% into contacts, you’re converting far fewer than that into real marketing qualified leads. Without knowing anything about your site traffic, I can tell you that it is very unlikely that 99% of them ended up on your site by accident. The simple fact is that almost every manufacturer today is turning away qualified leads by not offering an optimized mix of conversion opportunities on their website.

This is why I say we should think “conversion-out”—let’s create content that captures and converts more of this qualified traffic before we invest too much energy or budget in trying to drive new site traffic with things like blogging. Plus, if we get our site converting more qualified leads, not only are we getting more out of our existing traffic, we’re also laying the groundwork that will help any future traffic acquisition strategy perform better. Win/win.

Start with interactive tools whenever possible

First, let’s be clear on what I mean by “interactive tools“. What I’m referring to here is content that visitors sign-up to use that takes them through a series of questions or options, where the answers they give or selections they make determine the outcome. Often, these are tools like “ROI Calculators” or “Solution Finders” or “Product Selectors,” to name a few.

So what makes interactive tools better? Three things:

1. They convert a larger percentage of your visitors.

Interactive tools typically convert at about twice the rate of non-interactive content assets. Our work in this area has seen this pattern repeated time and time again. Quite simply, I have never seen an instance where an interactive tool was outperformed by a static, non-interactive piece of content like an ebook. While there are likely many deeply profound psychological reasons for this, it just seems that people prefer exchanging their contact information for “something to use” versus giving it up for “something to read”.

2. The people who convert and spend time using these tools are often your buyers.

Not only do interactive tools convert more people, the people they convert tend to over-index in lead quality versus non-interactive content. While every piece of content you produce will inevitably find some tire kickers, the more detailed / technical / helpful / useful the interactive tool you create is, the more likely it is that the only people willing to spend time using it are those who are qualified to buy from you.

3. Interactive tools deliver actionable insight for marketing and sales teams.

If these tools are built correctly, the answers that site visitors give while using the interactive tool are captured, along with their contact information, in your CRM and marketing automation platform. Depending on your sales process and cycle, this insight can power everything from more customized nurturing campaigns to more informed sales calls.

So there you have it. Interactive tools will convert more visitors, more of the visitors that convert will be qualified leads, and you will have more information on those qualified leads so you can market and sell to them better than ever before.

Can you get halfway there another way?

Despite all of the signals pointing to interactive tools as the way forward, sometimes it’s just not in the cards. For whatever reason (budget, time, difficulty in knowing what tool to build, etc), sometimes the development of an interactive tool has to wait. It’s at this point when I’ve been asked: Can I get the benefits of an interactive tool with the content I already have? And the answer here is a solid maybe. Let me explain:

If we move away from the PDF as our delivery mechanism for ebook-style content and publish this content on a web page instead, we can mix in other assets that add value and create a piece of content that delivers many of the same benefits provided by interactive tools. For HubSpot customers, we’ve created an interactive ebook template that allows you to do just that.

Let’s say that you have already produced a technical spec sheet and brochure for your newest product line, and recently recorded a demo video and a webinar as part of the launch. This written content could be combined with the video and webinar, and possibly a short customer quiz, to produce a piece of interactive content that delivers many of the same benefits as a full-blown interactive tool. Detailing the richness of the content when promoting it on-site may help drive up conversions versus a standard ebook. The quiz, along with page visitor analysis data (video view count, etc), will help deliver more insight to marketing and sales. And you just might find that the people who are attracted to this incredibly useful piece of content also over-index as buyers for this new product line—a good audience to target when the development of an interactive tool has to wait.


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