By Lisa Murton Beets published November 1, 2017

6 Ways Manufacturing Marketers Can Improve Their Content Marketing [New Research]


With each passing year, there are more examples of manufacturers doing impressive things with content marketing. Though manufacturers have been slower than those in other industries to adopt the practice of content marketing, CMI’s annual survey a year ago indicated a breakthrough: 59% said their organization’s overall approach to content marketing was more successful compared with one year before, and most (82%) attributed that success mainly to doing a better job with content creation.

Even so, many manufacturing companies are in the young/first steps phases of content marketing maturity, as reported in today’s release of Manufacturing Content Marketing 2018: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America sponsored by IEEE GlobalSpec Media Solutions.


What can manufacturers in the young/first steps phase do to take their content marketing to the next level? To get deeper insight, we looked at how their responses compared with those in the sophisticated/mature phase.


As a marketer, you may think there isn’t much you can do to change your program’s content marketing maturity – that it simply takes time. However, content marketing maturity doesn’t necessarily depend on how long a company has had a content marketing approach.

#Contentmarketing maturity doesn’t necessarily depend on how long the program has existed, says @LisaBeets. Click To Tweet

For example, a company getting started with content marketing might invest in a team that can get the organization to the mature phase in a short period. Conversely, a company that launched a content marketing effort many years ago still can be in the young phase of maturity. This could be due to many possible reasons (e.g., staff turnover, budget cuts, a change in leadership).

Whatever the case, before making efforts to achieve more from your content marketing, consider your organization’s commitment to the approach. As you can see in the comparison chart, those in the sophisticated/mature phase are 5.6 times more likely than those in the young/first steps phase to say their organization is extremely/very committed to content marketing (13% vs. 73%).

While it’s true that commitment can strengthen based on results over time, how can you move forward if your organization isn’t strongly committed in the first place?

Thus, assuming your organization has made a meaningful commitment to content marketing, we offer six ways to grow in your content marketing maturity.

1. Develop a written strategy

Observation: Compared with 33% of the sophisticated/matures, only 10% of those in the young/first steps phase have a documented content marketing strategy (32% have a verbal strategy and 47% plan to have a strategy within 12 months; 11% have no plans to develop a strategy within 12 months). 

10% #manufacturing marketers in young/first steps have a documented #contentmarketing strategy. @cmicontent Click To Tweet

Action item: CMI research has consistently shown that a documented content marketing strategy is one of the most important keys to content marketing success. Even if you’re just starting, formulate a content marketing strategy and write it down. (You can use this one-page plan.) It can (and will) change over time. The important thing is to document a starting point.

2. Deliver content consistently

Observation: Three-fourths of sophisticated/mature manufacturing marketers always or frequently deliver content consistently (i.e., on a defined, regularly scheduled basis) vs. 29% of those in the young/first steps phase.

Action item: Develop an editorial calendar as soon as feasible, and make it a priority. Decide which types of content you’ll deliver when. If it’s a monthly e-newsletter, get it scheduled. If it’s a blog post every other Wednesday, write the due date and commit to it. If it’s one webinar per quarter, put it on the calendar.

Develop an editorial calendar as soon as feasible, and make it a priority, says @LisaBeets. Click To Tweet
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: Editorial Calendar Tools & Templates

“If you’re just getting started, focus on one type of content, on one platform, and deliver that consistently over a long time,” says Michele Linn, CMI’s editorial strategy advisor. “Be realistic with what consistent should mean for your team. Publishing every day – or even a few times a week – is time-consuming. If you are uncertain, start slower and build from there.”

Focus on one type of #content & deliver that consistently over a long time, says @MicheleLinn. Click To Tweet


HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: You Are Publishing Too Much (and Failing)

3. Set and communicate realistic expectations

Observation: Manufacturing marketers in the sophisticated/mature phase are far more likely than those in the young/first steps phase to agree their organization is realistic about what content marketing can achieve (67% vs. 29%).

 Action item: If your team is excited about content marketing, harness that enthusiasm but keep expectations in check. This is just one reason why your documented content marketing strategy is important; it should spell out your vision and each initiative along with realistic, achievable goals.

“It typically takes about 12 to 18 months to see results if you are distributing your content organically. If you want to speed up that process, put money behind content that is working,” Michele says. “For instance, if you have a blog post that is converting at a high rate, use a tool like BuzzSumo to figure out which social platform(s) it is best shared on and put some money on that post on that platform. Understand that the results of your program may be different in the early/young stages vs. when your efforts are more mature.”

It takes about 12 to 18 months to see results if you are distributing your #content organically. @MicheleLinn Click To Tweet

For guidance on what you may want to measure when you’re getting started vs. when your efforts are more mature, see From Newbies to Seasoned Marketers: How to Measure Your Content Marketing.

4. Value creativity and craft in content output

Observation: One of the startling findings is that only 43% of manufacturing marketers in the young/first steps phase agree that their organization values creativity and craft in content creation and production (vs. 80% in the sophisticated/mature phase). Worse yet, 32% of those in the young/first steps strongly disagree that their organization values creativity.

Action item: If your organization doesn’t value creativity and craft in areas like writing, design, video production, etc., ask yourself why. Are you developing and distributing as much content as possible in the shortest period? Or is it because you can’t find or afford quality creative talent? Or perhaps your leadership doesn’t think it’s that important?

Whatever the reason, you need to stress internally the importance of quality output, which may mean adjusting your publication schedule. If your organization continues to produce subpar content, it’s wasting money – and probably hurting its reputation.

If you’re not producing quality #content, you may need to adjust your publication schedule, says @LisaBeets. Click To Tweet

5. Get your content production process in order

Observation: Only 20% of manufacturing marketers surveyed rate the flow of content creation projects in their organization as excellent or very good. Indeed, CMI research shows this is a challenging area for content marketers across all industries. The processes to take a content project from concept through completion are often convoluted. The good news is that as an organization grows in content marketing maturity, project flow may improve as well (37% of manufacturing marketers in the sophisticated/mature phase rate flow as excellent or very good – not a great percentage, but better nonetheless).

20% of #manufacturing marketers rate the flow of content projects in org as excellent/very good. @cmicontent Click To Tweet

Action item: To improve your content marketing (i.e., grow in your maturity) you need to develop effective processes to scale and create content efficiently. If you don’t prioritize the process, you’ll continually struggle to make strides, so this is key.

Content marketing practitioners and advisors who participated in the B2B Research Roundtable: Workflow Challenges, Bottlenecks, and Solutions at Content Marketing World 2017 offered insights for getting a handle on process issues. Suggestions include defining a common purpose, empowering teams to follow a streamlined process, and setting priorities to wrangle content chaos.

6. Be cognizant of the buyer’s journey

Observation: Twenty-one percent of manufacturing marketers in the young/first steps phase always or frequently create content for specific points of the buyer’s journey compared with 48% of those in the sophisticated/mature phase and 41% of all manufacturing respondents. Surprisingly – especially considering the nature of the manufacturing sales cycle – 38% of respondents say they rarely or never create content for points of the buyer’s journey.

Action item: Stop creating content that tries to be all things to everyone. As part of your content marketing strategy, identify the type of buyer who is your organization’s top priority. “Once you know who you’re focusing on, make sure you know what information that buyer needs at each stage of the journey,” says Kim Moutsos, CMI’s vice president of editorial. “Then create separate content pieces that address the information needs for each phase. Even if buyers don’t travel through their journey in a linear way, you’ll have answered their questions no matter where they are in their process.”

Make sure you create separate #content to address buyer’s needs at each stage of journey, says @KMoutsos. Click To Tweet

For more insights

Looking for more manufacturing content marketing insights? Read the report to learn about:

  • Content marketing activities that manufacturing marketers outsource
  • Types of content, distribution formats, and social media networks they use
  • Which technologies they use to manage content marketing efforts
  • Percentage of total marketing budget they allocate for content marketing, and more

Where is your manufacturing company in terms of content marketing maturity? If you’re sophisticated/mature what did it take to get there? If you’re in the young/first steps phase, how will you move forward? Let us know in the comments.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Lisa Murton Beets

Lisa Murton Beets is Content Marketing Institute's research director. She oversees all aspects of our annual content marketing survey, as well as the reports we publish based on the findings. Lisa also works with CMI’s consulting/advisory and sales teams to develop and report on custom research surveys. Follow her @LisaBeets.

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  • Mkting4Manufacturers

    I think it’s great that you work so hard putting this research together, unfortunately, per your report, this is based on 155 manufacturers who responded to your survey. I don’t see how this can be representative of over 250,000 manufacturers in the U.S.. When I see research results stated only in percentages, it raises red flags to me. Base on your small sample size, I would have a hard time believing that any of the conclusions are statistically valid.

    • Lisa Murton Beets

      Hi Mkting4Manufacturers – Thanks for reaching out. Yes, you are correct about the 155, as per our reported methodology on p. 37. If you’d like to chat about the sampling frame we used, let me know. If you know of any other good manufacturing content marketing studies out there, send them my way – we’re always looking to learn more. Take care!

  • Jeff Drust

    Thanks for the work Lisa, scanned it but thinks it’s really not manufacturing specific. I understand CMI asked generic questions to a large sample then just took a cut of the data (the 155 that said they’re Manufacturers) and published that as this report. For example it totally ignores manufacturing specific types of content such as 3D CAD models, 2D drawings or product configurators. If you are going to do a manufacturing report perhaps research manufacturing specifically?

    • Lisa Murton Beets

      Hi Jeff! I recall your past suggestion about the types of content we inquire about. Eight percent of this year’s manufacturing respondents did indicate “other” content types beyond those we included on the aided list. The report is manufacturing-specific in that the respondents are marketers who indicated they work for manufacturing organizations; however, you are correct in that they were not presented with a unique set of questions (as we examine/compare how different industries approach content marketing in general). Deeper dives in the future are a great idea. Contact me if you’d like to chat more about some possibilities and/or if you see other good research, send it my way. Thanks!

  • Lisa Murton Beets

    Thanks, Jeff! I’ll take a look. We take several factors into consideration each year when determining how to report on the data, including the composition of the respondent pool. The CAD models are fascinating! Take care — Lisa