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What’s Happening in Manufacturing Content Marketing [New Research]

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

If you were to guess the top challenge facing content marketers working in the manufacturing industry in 2020, you’d likely get it wrong.

It’s not communicating complex ideas in a digestible way. Nor is it getting access to experts to explain these complicated concepts.

The top challenge in manufacturing is one content marketers in many industries share: overcoming the traditional marketing-and-sales mindset.

More than half (55%) of manufacturing marketers named this the top challenge for 2020, up from 50% in 2019. That’s one of the findings in today’s release of Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends, sponsored by IEEE GlobalSpec.

55% of #manufacturing marketers say top challenge is traditional marketing-and-sales mindset via @CMIContent. 2020 #originalresearch Click To Tweet

On the bright side, manufacturing content marketers are getting a better handle on creating content appealing to multi-level roles within their target audiences. That was the top challenge in 2019 (68% picked it), but it dropped 15 percentage points to 53% in the 2020 report.

Making an even better jump is the number of manufacturing content marketers who have a documented content marketing strategy (41%) vs. 21% in 2019. That’s the highest number we’ve seen since we began reporting on this data point for the manufacturing vertical in 2016.

Perhaps that’s one reason why content marketers in manufacturing, despite their challenges, feel more successful this year. Here’s a look at the details on that finding and other insights from the report.

The outlook is optimistic

The big picture indicates that things look bright for manufacturing content marketers. Every year, we take the temperature on overall content marketing success. Specifically, we ask respondents to rate their organization’s overall level of content marketing success. Eighty-two percent of manufacturing respondents say their organization is extremely, very, or moderately successful. Sixty-five percent say they are much more or somewhat more successful than one year ago.

The big picture indicates things look bright for #manufacturing content marketers, says @LisaBeets via @cmicontent. #originalresearch Click To Tweet

Gaining access to experts and communicating complexities

Perhaps contributing to the increased success are gains manufacturing marketers report in access to subject matter experts and in communicating complex content.

While half of marketers reported accessing experts as a challenge in 2019, only 40% did this year. The biggest drop, however, was with communicating complex content. Only 36% report this as a challenge in 2020, down from 60% in 2019.

These two findings likely relate to each other. Communicating complex content is less challenging when marketers have access to subject matter experts.

Going outside the in-house team

Marketers in manufacturing also turn to experts in content creation for help. Sixty-four percent of manufacturing marketers report they outsource at least one content marketing activity. Of those who outsource, almost nine in 10 (87%) outsource content creation, making it the top outsourced activity.

#Content creation is most outsourced tactic by #manufacturing marketers via @CMIContent. 2020 #originalresearch Click To Tweet

Less than one-third outsource content distribution, content technology, measurement, editorial planning, and content strategy.

Focusing on the customer journey

Only 40% of manufacturing marketers say their organization always/frequently crafts content based on stages of the customer journey as indicated by the traditional sales funnel.

Only 40% of #manufacturing marketers always/frequently craft #content based on customer journey via @CMIContent. 2020 #originalresearch Click To Tweet

Scrutinizing the stages reveals an interesting breakdown. These marketers created half their content for the top of the funnel, 21% for the middle of funnel, and 15% for the late stage. About 10% of the content was developed to support loyalty and brand advocacy.

Perhaps this disparity helps explain why more manufacturing marketers are challenged by the traditional marketing-and-sales mindset. Too many marketers focus on content to generate awareness and interest and ignore the latter stages – often to the detriment of their relationship with the sales team.

Also noteworthy is that while only 40% of manufacturing marketers are often focused on crafting content across the sales funnel, 62% say their organization prioritizes delivering content when and where a person is most likely to see it. Those findings would seem to indicate that priority is aspirational for many.

Mapping content across the buyer’s journey is necessary to deliver relevant content when and where a person is most likely to see it. Furthermore, only 39% agree that their organization provides customers with optimal experiences across their engagement journey.

Click to enlarge

Learning more

To read the new story of what manufacturing marketers have to say as they head into 2020, download the full report. In it, you will discover:

  • Highest-performing content types for manufacturing marketers
  • Organic and paid content distribution platforms, including social media
  • Organization of content marketing teams and budgets
  • Technologies used
  • Metrics, KPIs, and ROI in the sector

Are you a manufacturing marketer? How do these findings reflect your experience? What’s your top challenge in 2020?

Make sure you’re among the first to receive the remaining 2020 research reports. Subscribe today to CMI’s weekday newsletter.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute