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Manufacturing Content Marketers Shift Gears in a COVID-19 World [New Research]

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

Manufacturing content marketers have done big things to adapt in a COVID-19 world. Seventy percent have changed their targeting/messaging strategy, 60% have adjusted their editorial calendar, and 57% have put more resources toward social media/online communities.

Those are a few findings from the Manufacturing Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends: Insights for 2021 report from the Content Marketing Institute, sponsored by GlobalSpec. The report presents the responses from the manufacturing content marketers who took part in our broader 11th annual content marketing survey.

60% of #manufacturing content marketers adjusted editorial calendars to adapt in COVID-19 world via new #research from @CMIContent @LisaBeets. Share on X

Like their peers in other industries (as reported in the main B2B report), many manufacturing content marketers (84%) were quick to make changes to their content marketing when the pandemic hit this year. Ninety-one percent expect some of the changes to stay in effect for the foreseeable future.

The importance of digital

According to the survey, the top three types of content that manufacturing marketers use for content marketing purposes are email newsletters (81%), blog posts/short articles (79%), and videos (79%).

E-newsletters top the #content list for #manufacturing marketers (81% use them), according to @CMIContent @LisaBeets. #Research Share on X

Email continues to be an effective way to reach engineers, another recent survey found. According to the 2020 Smart Marketing for Engineers research, produced by TREW Marketing and GlobalSpec, two-thirds of those surveyed subscribe to at least three newsletters. Forty-three percent reported that they “open most or all newsletters and either read every one or at least scan for content.” Another one-third scan subject lines and open the ones that intrigue them.

It’s no secret that manufacturers traditionally relied heavily on trade shows to generate new business leads. With the loss of in-person events in 2020, it’s no surprise that many manufacturing respondents reported an uptick in virtual offerings. Use of virtual events/webinars/online courses increased to 55% from 39% the previous year.

The Thomas Industrial Survey’s May/June 2020 report also found that webinars are becoming more important to industrial professionals. In that study, the percentage of respondents who indicated that webinars/virtual events were important avenues to reach new customers more than doubled from before the pandemic (35% vs. 15%).

Top-performing content types

When we asked manufacturing marketers which content types — among all they used in the previous 12 months — produced the best overall content marketing results, videos came in at the top, followed by virtual events/webinars/online courses, and email newsletters.

Video produced the best #ContentMarketing results for #manufacturing marketers, according to new @CMIContent #research via @LisaBeets. Share on X

Regarding videos, more than half the engineers and technical professionals surveyed for the 2020 Smart Marketing for Engineers report indicated that they spend at least one hour per week watching videos for work (those 45 and younger reported spending the most time watching videos). It will be interesting to see if those video-viewing hours increase as the pandemic continues.

Paid social media advertising is top paid method of content distribution

Eighty-two percent of manufacturing respondents say their organization used paid channels to distribute content in the last 12 months. The top paid method is social media advertising/promoted posts (79%), followed by search engine marketing (SEM)/pay per click (70%).

This finding also aligns with the Thomas Industrial Survey May/June 2020 report, in which 45% of respondents said “digital advertising (e.g., search and social media) was an important avenue to reach new customers after the pandemic began vs. 31% before the pandemic began.”

Marketers continue to build trust, loyalty, subscribers

Manufacturing marketers continue to report growing success using content marketing to reach numerous business goals:

To achieve these types of goals, you must “keep it real,” advises Hailey Cassidy, global branding and digital marketing leader, Americhem, and presenter at Content Marketing World 2020’s Industrial Manufacturing Forum.

The top, most trusted people on digital are tech experts, then academics, then a person who has characteristics similar to the reader, Hailey notes. “Be the real deal. Be credible and upstanding. Never promote false advertising. If your tech experts speak in a video about how fast your lead times are, those rates better qualify as what one in that industry would think of as fast. It’s easy to get caught up in a lack of content and want to fill in the blanks, but make sure all content is up to industry standards.”

Looking forward

Regarding their overall success with content marketing over the last 12 months, 30% of manufacturing respondents report that their organization has been extremely/very successful, with another 61% indicating moderate success. Sixty-nine percent think the pandemic will have a major or moderate long-term impact on their organization’s overall content marketing success.

Content creation and website enhancements appear to be top of mind for 2021. Three of four respondents predict their organizations will prioritize both.

#ContentCreation and website enhancements appear to be top of mind for 2021, according to new @CMIContent #research via @LisaBeets. Share on X

When asked, “What do you think your organization’s biggest content marketing challenges will be during the next 12 months,” many named content creation as well as getting and keeping their audience’s attention.

“Becoming heard in the ever-growing sea of voices now shifting online is an issue,” one manufacturing content marketer wrote. “Companies still stuck on traditional marketing tactics will see the value in digital and shift their dollars/focus, making it more crowded. We will need clever strategies to stand out in the crowd.”

View the report today to see other findings, including information about team size, outsourcing, content marketing spending, social media platforms, and more.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute