Assuming your manufacturing organization has a strong product culture and a low-influence marketing department, you might only have one shot at proving the worth of knowledge-based marketing. If you have followed my advice so far and have laid the groundwork for a pilot program, it is likely that you were given support to proceed. There are a few tactics that will provide you with a much higher chance of success. We'll call these tactics "best chance tactics."
A best chance tactic has three specific criteria.
First, the tactic must easily demonstrate meaningful numbers that show engagement. Since the ability to show numbers is essential, the tactic must offer a measurable call-to-action.
Second, the data you count must include the contact information. In other words, the count should not be anonymous, such as clicks or likes.
Third, the topic must resonate with and be highly relevant to the people in your target audience as defined by your audience-facing mission statement (AFMS).
The Educational Webinar Series
One example of a tactic that fits these criteria is an educational webinar series. Webinars are perfect for producing meaningful numbers. A webinar allows you to collect exact numbers such as registrants and attendees to the live broadcast. A webinar also requires registrants to provide their contact information.The reason webinars are so conducive to counting and capturing contact information is the built-in call to action of the registration form. The list of attendees is a list of qualified leads. Qualified leads are a very strong success metric.
Imagine being able to tell your stakeholders that your pilot program webinar garnered 253 qualified leads. This type of result will guarantee a continuation of your pilot program.
The critically important component that will ensure the success of the webinar is a relevant topic. If your topic is in line with the AFMS, you will get good numbers. If you demur in the face of criticism or pressure from the sales or product stakeholders and allow the topic to be about a product, you will lose, and your pilot program may be all for naught. You are better off not doing anything than doing a webinar about the product if your goal is to engage the greater target audience (which it should be) and generate top of the funnel leads.
Opt-in Email Newsletter
Another example of a tactic that has a high chance of success is the opt-in educational enewsletter. An opt-in enewsletter is delivered via email on a consistent and regular schedule. The opt-in definition means you do not blast it to everyone in your database. By only sending the enewsletter to those who request it, you must prove the value of the content in the email, or you lose your subscribers. An opt-in enewsletter will perform about three times better than a blast enewsletter as measured by open and click-through rates.
In many instances, when a manufacturing marketer thinks about a newsletter of any kind, they conjure up a two or three-page document all about the company and its products solicited from the various operational groups throughout the organization. These newsletters include articles about a new employee, new product, community service, and some company news typically populate these types of newsletters. DO NOT create a company focused enewsletter!
Do not, under any circumstances, use an enewsletter for your pilot program if the content will be about the company, its employees, or the products. It will fail. The best chance enewsletter will contain one story and one article as defined by the AFMS. It is okay to include an ad strip with some company news, but the ad strip should not dominate the enewsletter. Sometimes you have to add a product promotion in the ad strip to appease the product and sales team leaders.
The format that works best to gain and keep subscribers is one with a theme defined by the AFMS. The enewsletter should promote a high-value content asset, but not wholly contain the asset. An abstract with a thumbnail picture is enough. The reader of the enewsletter clicks on the asset link to download the full piece of content.
This type of enewsletter does two precious things:
- It gives control to the subscriber
- It supports the AFMS by providing information, education, or knowledge about a pain point that is common to the target audience.
The opt-in enewsletter allows for a count and captures contact information, since people must provide, at the very least, an email address. See this blog post for a detailed execution plan to create an opt-in enewsletter.
In the example we discussed earlier, a company that manufactures measurement instruments for humidity defined the AFMS as “To help the people in our target audience make a more reliable, repeatable, and accurate measurement of humidity.” A good theme for an enewsletter supporting this company’s AFMS could be “Humidity Theory, Terms, and Definitions.” Each enewsletter would include a synopsis of an article and an option to click through to read the whole article about humidity parameter definitions, for example.
Because your call to action is for someone to subscribe, you get a true count of engagement, and it is relatively easy to compare the subscribers’ purchasing behaviors to the purchasing behavior of your entire database. Assuming the subscribers purchase more and more often as compared to the general database, you will have another substantial metric supporting the success of your enewsletter pilot program.
Blog + Email Newsletter
I have seen many manufacturing companies start out with a blog as their pilot program. Starting with a blog by itself is a mistake. It’s hard to get a good count of people reading your blog, and it’s difficult to capture the contact information of the people reading your blog. A blog will not show up in organic search results unless it is tightly optimized. Even with a search-optimized blog, it takes a considerable length of time before it starts to show up in search results and generating web traffic. If you are not able to optimize every post, your blog will not be found.
There are a lot of blogs out there, and it takes a long time for them to get any traction. The other danger of starting with a blog is that it is hard for most manufacturing companies to sustain a regular cadence. By some accounts, 95 percent of all blogs have been abandoned.
While a blog by itself is a poor tactic for your pilot program, the combination of an opt-in enewsletter and a blog is a powerful tactic. You gain the exact numbers and contact information from the email subscription. You can easily repurpose newsletter content for the blog, and the content on the blog page is useful for organic search results.
- Choose a pilot program tactic that contains the three critical components: meaningful numbers that show engagement, identification of the contacts, and a highly relevant topic.
- Webinars and enewsletters are the two tactics that work best. If you have the resources available, couple your opt-in enewsletter with a blog, but do not use a blog by itself as your pilot program tactic.