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How to Resolve a Key Disconnect for Manufacturing Marketers

Editor’s note: We’ve updated our annual Manufacturing research study for 2023.

As the author of 2010 B2B Manufacturing / Processing Industry Report, I got an inside look into how manufacturers use content marketing. You can read the findings by downloading the report, but the one finding that struck me was this group’s top marketing goal: brand awareness.

When I think of “brand awareness,” I think of soda. Beverage companies spend billions of dollars every year to convince us that their particular brand embodies a specific set of personality traits.

I’m no brand marketer, so I can’t speak to how B2C brand marketing works or even whether it works. As a B2B marketer, I’ve always been focused on helping companies generate leads directly or indirectly – which, based on my own experience, has been the objective of almost any B2B marketing campaign.

So I was rather puzzled that B2B marketers across the board listed “brand awareness” as one of their top organizational goals with regard to content marketing in the Junta42 and MarketingProfs 2010 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report – with 82% of manufacturing marketers listing it as their top goal.

Manufacturing marketers also responded that “customer retention / loyalty” and “lead generation” were their next two goals, at 78% and 66% respectively.

What I found puzzling is the seeming disconnect between these organizational goals and how marketers measured them. The number one way B2B manufacturers measure these goals is through web traffic (58%).

“Web traffic” doesn’t measure behavior

“Web traffic” as a measurement tool isn’t the best indicator of whether a company is building brand awareness, customer loyalty or lead generation as it’s often expressed as a finite number: e.g., “We got 12,500 hits last quarter – up 2% from Q1.” This piece of data does little to explain the behavior behind why or how prospects visited a web site.

In other words, by focusing on developing content that builds brand awareness and then not being able to effectively measure this objective, B2B manufacturing marketers are missing the crucial objective of content marketing: developing content that helps drive the conversions that move prospects along the sales cycle.

Overcoming the “disconnect”

To overcome this disconnect, marketers can employ the following three steps:

1) Change your mindset

The first step is also the most complicated – changing the organizational marketing mindset from brand awareness to lead generation. To get started in supporting the shift, read: 3 Strategies for Changing Your Company Culture to Support Content Marketing and Content Marketing in Action: 13 Examples to Get You Inspired.

2) Determine benchmarks

Next, figure out which benchmarks you need to measure the effectiveness of a content marketing strategy – a strategy that’s based on your organization’s sales and revenue goals. For my smaller B2B clients, for example, I often tell them to simply track how many calls and emails they receive via the web by asking prospects, “How did you hear about us?” Larger companies can track downloads of content, subscriptions to newsletters or blogs, demo requests, etc.

3) Measure behavior

The third step is to use different tactics and tools that allow you to measure actual behavior, which you can do in one of the following ways:

Search engine optimization – B2B companies, from Fortune 500s on down to mom-and-pops, have been slow to harness the power of a well-optimized web site. The reasons vary: lack of knowledge and a budget are generally the two biggest. Yet SEO is one of the best investments a company can make as it helps ensure that searchers looking for information regarding products and services easily find this content.

Web analytics – Whether a company uses Google Analytics or another software application, web analytics are the “Rosetta Stone” to unlock how prospects find a web site via search (e.g., SEO, pay-per-click, referrals, direct access) and other online campaigns, and the actions they took once they arrived (clicked right back out, hung around for four minutes, downloaded content, filled out a form, etc.).

Marketing Automation – Relatively new to the B2B marketing scene, marketing automation is web analytics turbo-charged. Once prospects have been identified, marketing automation allows companies to track them and monitor their web behavior – allowing marketers to make decisions based on real data, not hunches.

The 2010 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report for the Manufacturing / Processing Industries has some really great data with regard to how marketers are using social media to market their content. These data made me see that we all have an opportunity to better educate our clients or upper management on how to effectively implement and measure a content marketing strategy.