By Joe Pulizzi published February 24, 2016

[NEW RESEARCH] B2B Manufacturers Stuck When It Comes to Content Marketing


At the risk of sounding like a broken record – our latest round of research shows that only 18% of business-to-business manufacturing marketers say their organizations are effective at content marketing – down from the 26% we reported on in 2015.

Now I don’t know how many of our survey respondents changed jobs over the last year – or how many of them were taking our survey for the first time – but I do know that 50% of them said their organizations were in the early or first-steps phases of content marketing maturity. Maybe that had something to do with it (the research showed an increase in effectiveness among organizations that have higher levels of content marketing maturity). Or maybe some organizations actually slid backward? It’s a question we want to dig into more deeply on our next annual survey. In the meantime, I encourage all manufacturing content marketers to consider the following questions:

Do you have a documented content marketing strategy? Only 18% of our survey respondents do

If you’ve documented your strategy, great. If you only have a verbal strategy, please take the time to put it in writing (our 16-page guide on documenting your content marketing strategy can help). I’m a huge believer that you’ll never get to where you want to go if you don’t have a road map. If you are “doing” content marketing with no strategy at all (as 27% said they are), please stop. You are wasting precious time and resources.

You’ll never get to where you want to go if you don’t have a road map via @joepulizzi #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

Are you building an audience? The survey data reveals missed opportunities

It was good to see that 71% of manufacturing respondents ask their audience to subscribe to e-newsletters – but it basically stopped there. Only 35% asked people to subscribe to their blogs (even though 66% use blogs).

If you are like most manufacturing marketers, one of your biggest opportunities may be with video. Consider these stats:

  • 89% of manufacturing marketers use videos for content marketing purposes (videos are tied with illustrations/photos as their top content marketing tactic)
  • 70% of those who use video say it is an effective tactic
  • 87% distribute videos on YouTube
  • 66% say YouTube is effective

But … only 15% ask their audience to subscribe to a video series.

An interesting example of where we are is General Electric. With its From the Factory Floor series, GE created an ongoing show around how and why things are made. Some of the videos are fascinating and, for engineers, it’s compelling stuff. What went wrong? Well, like most companies, GE stopped the program. Subscription doesn’t work unless you continue to deliver on your content promise.

If you’re a manufacturer who asks your audience to subscribe to your video channel, let us know in the comments because we’d love to know how that’s working for you.

Are you reaching your audience where they are?

Whereas this year’s data showed that manufacturers are using more content marketing tactics this year than they did last year – and getting more effective with them (terrific news) – it revealed the opposite for social media platforms. Usage of all the mainstream social media platforms decreased slightly, as did their effectiveness ratings (with the exception of YouTube – its effectiveness rating held steady).

While we don’t know for certain why this is happening and are working to find more answers, this may not be a bad shift if manufacturing marketers are prioritizing their efforts where their audience is and where they can get the best return.

Are you experimenting with promoted posts but not getting far?

We saw a spike this year in the percentage of manufacturing marketers who are using promoted social posts to distribute content – but a decrease in the proportion who say they are effective. Here again, we see the confusion (or maybe the word is experimentation) with the use of social – is social providing a big enough bang for the manufacturer’s buck?

A positive sign we are seeing with our advisory clients at CMI is a movement into fewer social channels after what’s been a few years of an incredible amount of experimentation. We see this as a positive move – instead of being in every social channel, limit your time and energy to a few channels where you can make a true impact with a specific audience.

Are you creating too much content that’s not the RIGHT content?

Mounds and mounds of content. It’s the same story everywhere and manufacturers are no different (74% say they plan to produce more content in 2016 vs. 2015).

As forward-thinking marketers know, more often is not better. I love this sentiment from Robert Rose, which he published in our weekly Content Strategy for Marketers newsletter:

“From now on when people ask me how much content they should be producing, I’ve decided on a new answer:

‘As little as you can while still creating the impact you want to create.’

“It’s in this way that I think content strategy should be like golf. We should not aim to produce overwhelming amounts of content – even if we can be great at it. Rather, we should aim to produce just enough to deliver the value we intend, to create the change in behavior we are trying to effect. No more. Get through the course in as few swings as possible.”


Even though content marketing has been around since, well, forever, it is a new approach for most manufacturing organizations. Even those that are experimenting with content marketing are still heavily product-focused. The sales organizations in manufacturing organizations dominate budgetary thinking. Leads and closed deals rule. This means that patience through a measured content marketing approach is often absent.

Our hope is that this report (this one moment in time) is what we could call a “bottom,” and that those who are committed to a content marketing approach over time will begin to document, plan, resource, and make the hard choices necessary.

To read all the results from the manufacturing marketing research, download B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America, produced by Content Marketing Institute and sponsored by Lionbridge.

Join us at Content Marketing World 2016 where we’ll have an entire industry lab dedicated to manufacturing. Use code BLOG100 to save $100 off of the main event and all-access passes.

Cover image by Lisa Lehman

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.

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  • Aaron

    My new marketing role is in electronic manufacturing and particularly in my country (UK) the content is so product and service focused. I am currently running a campaign to literally ask our target audience what they want to read and what they currently read… hopefully will yield some good responses and insightful information. I feel it will be aimless to just start writing without sufficient evidence the content is adding value.

    • Adealingz Akhter

      Aaron One good tool to figure out what your target audience want to read is Google Keyword planner. List down keywords that you would have searched for if you had to buy from electronic manufacturing company? This can be helpful.

      Connect with your targeted and potential segments on LinkedIn. Join there groups and see what they are taking about? There discussions would hep you to create content which is “IN” these days.

      • Adealingz Akhter

        @disqus_DEW9CBWLx3:disqus By the I would love to know how much % of the marketing budget you have assigned for content ? And any rough bracket of your marketing budget would help a little more to actually figure out how much serious the decision makers are towards content marketing.

        Hope mentioning a bracket wont be an issue!

      • Adealingz Akhter

        Aaron By the I would love to know how much % of the marketing budget you have assigned for content ? And any rough bracket of your marketing budget would help a little more to actually figure out how much serious the decision makers are towards content marketing.

        Hope mentioning a bracket wont be an issue!

  • Michele

    Thanks for this article. Great information! Yes, us manufacturers are “stuck”!

  • Nigel Dean

    Thanks for another great article Joe. How often do we work hard to create content or some other piece of high quality marketing, without actually thinking about how it fits in (or more importantly, doesn’t fit in) with our overall marketing strategy? In B2B marketing, it’s important that we keep focused on long term goals and make sure everything we do is another step on that road – don’t get distracted!

  • Jeff Drust

    Pls check your bulleted numbers on slide 5 – they’re wrong compared to the data on the left

    • Lisa Murton Beets

      Hi Jeff – The numbers in the chart reflect the responses from the overall sample. The bullet points to the right show the phases of maturity reported by those who said their organizations were “most effective” (Top 2) at content marketing. You will notice how 58% of the “most effective” reported being in the sophisticated/mature phase. Please let me know if you’d like to discuss further. Thanks!

      • Jeff Drust

        Thanks Lisa – my mistake – understood now

  • Jeff Drust

    Does the “Illustrations/Photos” content category that is up to 67% this year from 55% last year include Online viewing (and/or download) of Manufactured Product CAD models? This is a particular content type specific to manufacturers of components (eg a bearing) and engineered parts (eg a motor).

    • Lisa Murton Beets

      Thanks, Jeff. The way this option was worded on the survey was simply “Illustrations/Photos,” so I’m not sure if people answered with CAD models in mind…good question!

      • Jeff Drust

        Thanks Lisa. I’d guess they are then since no other category fits for them. Maybe call them out separately in next years survey? We’re finding Product CAD models to be the most effective type of content for manufacturers – conversion rates to sales of up to 50%…

        • Lisa Murton Beets

          Interesting, Jeff. Thanks for sharing!

  • Plugleads

    Nice Post. There are lot of Business development automation tools available in online for B2B lead generation which are helpful to business people to enhance their business.

  • Philippe Ingels

    Although having a documented content marketing strategy, making sure you’re building an audience, using video and all those other strategies are important it all falls rather flat if you don’t have a differentiating and truly engaging creative concept behind all that planning and accepted ‘must have’ strategies. It’s like doing all the right things to build a great car but there’s no power source. You will attract a few people but ultimately all that effort is not going to get you anywhere. I think THAT is why most content marketing fails … it’s boring noise dressed up in strategy and statistics.

  • Akshita Rajput

    A good content marketing based on some strategic facts
    always gives a fruitful result. One who is known well to the benefits of the content
    marketing will be able to handle the business line successfully. One must know the actual effects of content