By Joe Pulizzi published March 11, 2014

Content Marketing Making Strides in the Manufacturing Industry: Report

manufacturing-marketers-CMI-researchIn our February 15, 2014 podcast, Robert Rose and I highlighted a SlideShare presentation titled, The Manufacturer’s Growth Manifesto, by marketer Bruce McDuffee. In his report, Bruce says:

Most executives in the manufacturing industry are laggards when it comes to understanding the new buyer’s habits and how they apply to go-to-market strategy and tactics… the window of opportunity is open for modern, bold executives willing to change the way they interact with their target audience…

Our new report, B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America, sponsored by Oracle Marketing Cloud, shows that 86 percent of manufacturing marketers have adopted content marketing. That’s a decent adoption rate; however, it’s also the lowest among the four top vertical industries we gathered data on this year. Does that make manufacturing marketers “laggards” when it comes to content marketing — or are they just taking a slower, more conservative approach? While we can’t know for sure what this data portends for marketers in the manufacturing vertical, let’s take a look at where the segment stands this year, according to the research:

Only 30 percent of manufacturing marketers say they are effective at content marketing (click to tweet)

When compared with their B2B peers overall (of whom, 42 percent say they are effective), manufacturing marketers lack confidence in their content marketing effectiveness. This could be due to the fact that they are newer to content marketing, or because they don’t have a documented content marketing strategy in place, or both — or even to some other combination of factors. What is certain, however, is that other CMI research has found a clear link between a documented strategy and overall effectiveness, and only 21 percent of manufacturing marketers have one (compared with 44 percent of B2B marketers overall).


Manufacturing marketers use same average number of tactics as other B2B marketers

Manufacturing marketers use many of the same tactics as their overall B2B peers, and even use the same average number of tactics (13). They do, however, use print magazines (69 percent vs. 35 percent) and print newsletters (35 percent vs. 22 percent) at higher rates when compared with other B2B marketers. They also use eNewsletters (82 percent vs. 80 percent), in-person events (81 percent vs. 76 percent), and videos (80 percent vs. 73 percent) more frequently. Of all the tactics they use, they rate in-person events and videos as most effective (click to tweet).


YouTube is the preferred social media platform

Eighty-one percent of manufacturing marketers use YouTube to distribute content, and they also rate it as the most effective social media platform they use (click to tweet). While many manufacturers use video to demonstrate products, video storytelling is on the rise in this sector (see an example here).


Manufacturing marketers cite different goals for content marketing when compared with other B2B marketers

While all B2B marketers say brand awareness is their top goal, manufacturing marketers place more emphasis on customer retention and loyalty (68 percent vs. 57 percent) and less on lead generation (67 percent vs. 74 percent). The biggest difference, however, is that manufacturing marketers seem far less concerned with thought leadership (44 percent vs. 68 percent) (click to tweet).


Producing engaging content and the inability to measure effectiveness are big challenges

Manufacturing marketers are markedly more challenged than other B2B marketers with producing the kind of content that engages (62 percent vs. 47 percent) and with the inability to measure content effectiveness (48 percent vs. 33 percent) (click to tweet).


Download the report today to learn more about these and other findings, including:

  • What percentage of budget do manufacturing marketers allocate to content marketing?
  • What metrics do they use to gauge success?
  • How much content creation do they outsource?

In CMI’s discussions with manufacturing organizations that are getting started with content marketing, we are seeing success in small “pilot” programs. These tend to last at least 6 months, with agreed-upon objectives that, at the very least, are getting different silos within the organization talking about what marketing objectives can be accomplished with consistent content creation and distribution.

Do you think that manufacturing marketers are “laggards”? Why or why not? Are you just getting started with a program? What are your challenges? Or do you already have some successes to share? Let us know in the comments!

Want to learn more about the tactics your industry peers are turning to for more effective content marketing creation and delivery? Read our eBook, Building the Perfect Content Marketing Mix: Execution Tactics

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

  • Drew Franklin

    Great post! Thanks for sharing. I work in as a marketing manager at a manufacturing company in the oil & gas industry. We are not necessarily “laggards” on the curve but I wouldn’t say we are first to the party either. Good point about video – we have seen more success from video than any other industry editorial or print ad we have produced. It is our belief that the manufacturing industry as a whole “does not have the time to research or check out different content marketing offerings”… I hear it all the time from the folks in the field. Another small victory is email marketing with product video.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks for chiming in Drew!

    • Ken Schreiner

      My clients would certainly agree. I’ve shot for CADCAM software maker Delcam and PartMaker for years and individual manufacturers. They bought into video early and always tell me how much it paid off for them.

  • Bruce McDuffee

    Thanks for the mention, Joe! The statement I made about manufacturing, in general, being laggards was admittedly anecdotal based on my exposure to a handful of manufacturing companies. However, I do believe when it comes to content marketing the term is representative of manufacturing companies in general. With reference to my last post, The One Big Mistake, I suggest that most manufacturers make that mistake; they talk about their products, features and themselves. Therefore, I would classify them as laggards when it comes to content that engages at the top of the funnel, or within the 70% of the buying process where their customers self educate. Note Drew Franklin’s comment talks about a small victory with a “product video”. There is still a huge opportunity for manufacturers to take advantage of good, top of the funnel, content marketing. I like to call it “Knowledge Marketing”, but there are other names. I submit to the manufacturing companies in the audience, if they figure out their customers’ needs, then figure out how their own particular expertise (not the product) that helps solve those needs and finally put together an educational content strategy, their sales will soar and the will no longer be content marketing laggards.

    To my friends in the manufacturing industry, remember this, “Knowledge marketing sails where product marketing fails”.

    It would be great to hear back from manufacturers. Please don’t take the label ‘laggards’ as a pejorative label. In most cases, manufacturers are fighting against years of culture and business strategy built around the product. This change (to stop pitching products) is very hard to make, but the rewards can be enormous.

    • Drew Franklin

      Bruce, I appreciate the insight! You are spot on with your point to provide expertise and education in our content marketing. Thanks!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Great take Bruce. Thanks!

  • Alexandra Petean-Nicola

    I do understand why YouTube is the preferred platform. It is directly connected to the fact that they use videos more frequently. In the manufacturing industry you can make impressive videos for you prospect clients with different sequences of the process. But the reasons why they might not be confident on their own strategy beside the fact that there is no clear documentations and probably measurement, is because they need to transform the presentation into a marketing tool.

    Also they need to perform certain tasks to make their videos SEO. Not an easy process when you first do it but it becomes simpler with time.

  • James Curtis

    Interesting that YouTube is the so popular, when so often product videos tend to rail off the features of products as essentially animated bullet points, rather than really building on the story telling narrative that visual media offers. Video offers a great chance for manufactuers, particularly in commodity industries to really build on testimonials, thought leadership and more.

    That half of B2B manufacturers are still struggling to measure content effectiveness is to me indicative of the lack of strategic investment into content marketing. Not just through the funds, but the organisational drive to produce and share content, and monitoring and controlling content’s effectiveness in the sales cycle.

    It’s been a bit of a pet peeve for me, and speaking to other marketers involved in the discipline, one that’s becoming more obvious as the discipline matures. Unless true ROI can be determined (and it’s not easy when you maybe telling a content story across multiple platforms in a non-necessarily linear order!), funding may not be so free-flowing when it’s still trial and error for many organisations.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks James…I think subscription (as a key metric) is overlooked by MFG companies. I wish more would take it seriously.

  • Ian Pickering

    Great post, I deal with this myself. I am a marketing director for an industrial pump manufacturer.

    You hit it dead on in a lot of areas, but our own customer segments are really what determines the most effective channels. Even though I actively work to build our social media presence, I’d say at least 80% of our end users don’t even have a Facebook account.

    YouTube is a great one, as we can send links to videos of our products in operation, video presentations, and recorded webinars.

    It really just comes down to what is effective. Content marketing is always effective, it is just using the right channels to push the content out.

  • Paul

    Thanks for sharing. This information provides me with the ammunition I need to help my accounts grow. I’m not surprised about the preference of using video on YouTube. It makes sense that producing a video of how a product works instead of lugging a demonstrator unit all over the country without a more than passing interest. What does surprise me is the high preference of Facebook. I always thought of FB as fitting a B2C consumer. Can anyone explain this to me?

  • Phil Smith

    Some great information. I find most of the manufacturing businesses I talk to do understand the concept and value of inbound marketing (and content marketing as part of the mix). They understand the value of content but they tend to stall at an issue that does not appear to be covered in your post and that is delivery channel. Their challenge is delivering content to the point it is most likely to be viewed by their customers and prospects. Linked in apart, social media is generally a none starter and I am surprised it ranks at 79% in your survey. However, print and EMail are used more than in other markets and this stacks with your results. I tend to find that some of the tactics ranking at <55% in your results are actually the most effective.

  • jeff drust

    Interesting article and comments though it seems to be missing a key type of content that’s perhaps unique to manufacturing.

    One way to segment manufacturers is into 3 groups; those that make components (springs, gears, bearings, etc), those that make engineered parts (motors, gearboxes, etc) and those that make finished products (cars, fridges, etc). For those in the first two groups, their products are usually designed into new products by engineers using CAD systems.

    Nowadays design engineers search online for parts, if they can easily find the part they need and download it as a CAD model (content) of the component or part they save time and are assured of accuracy as well as all the Bill of Materials (BOM) info (eg part number). This CAD model type of content is specific to industrial marketing (in mechanical and construction industries) and especially effective for most suppliers because:
    1. When parts are designed in they are purchased – surveys reveal 50-80% of the time. Of all types of content do any others convert at anywhere near that rate?.
    2. With email registration for the download sales leads get collected.
    3. Trigger events – download of a CAD model alerts you to a possible new design being initiated – astute and helpful sales followup can be timely! To Bruce’s point CAD models of products really engage at ‘top of the funnel’.

  • Jason Yana

    Great Information, when it comes to content marketing for manufacturers, making engaging content can be difficult. One of the best ways to create this engaging content is using high-end 3d animated videos which make the product the star of the show. Jeff Drust, in his comment, made a great point as well regarding a different type of content manufacturers should think about – technical content marketing.

    My company, Jason Yana Studios, ( provides 3d models of products, 3d animations of products, installation videos, marketing videos and CAD/BIM services.

    I see the cad files, installation videos and beautiful drawings I create for building product manufacturers as valuable content which can be shared on social media, shared on web sites and used to provide customers with utility, while also serving as marketing tools.