Skip to content

[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