The Super Power of Content Marketing

     

    This week we are re-posting the most popular episode of the year. Did you know that content marketing has super powers to grow your manufacturing business? It's true, but you need to know how to release the superpower. Robert Rose shares just how powerful content marketing can be for your business.

    Guest: Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Officer at Content Marketing Institute  

    Highlights:

    • Content Marketing Institute standard definition of "Content Marketing" . Robert shares a deeper definition of content marketing where it is important to be aware of whether you are building your content on some else's platform (rented) or your own platform (owned). [4:00]
    • Creating content is not the same thing as content marketing.  [6:00]
    • Content marketing is about using content in a thought leadership, but it can also be entertaining or evoke an emotion. [8:30]
    • Content marketing isn't meant to replace all marketing activities and tactics. [9:10]
    • Check out Andrew Davis and his ideas about 'pre-customer database'.  They may not be ready to buy today, but when they are ready, they want our brochures. [10:15]
    • Here's why there is such a huge opportunity for B2B manufacturers. [12:10]
    • John Deere and Caterpillar as examples of successful and effective content marketing. [13:00]
    • "Great content marketing is a multiplier of my marketing strategy, it doesn't replace everything."
    • Good content marketing builds TOMA, credibility and reciprocity so that your customers may even pay a premium for your product because of the trust you have established. [16:45]
    • Manufacturers have a second layer of leadership when they sell through distributors. [21:00]
    • Manufacturers can help their distributors sell more and grow their businesses by enabling them with content marketing. Treat your content marketing plan like a product. [21:00]
    • Robert shares a little about his most recent book, Experiences - The 7th Era of Marketing [27:20]
    • Imagine your content marketing effort as a separate profit center! [28:20]
    • Content marketing adds value to the thing you are manufacturing and gives you a competitive edge. [30:10]
    • "Every business will not have a content marketing approach, but every successful business will." [33:50]

    Interview Questions:

    Question 1 – Robert if I were to get 10 of my audience in a room and ask them to define content marketing, I might get 10 different answers. Just to level set with the audience, would you share, in a practical sense, what is content marketing? What is not content marketing?

    Question 2   In your experience dealing with B2B manufacturing companies, if there is an opportunity for manufacturers who adopt content marketing to gain an advantage; increased market share, more sales, competitive advantage, etc., would you describe that opportunity? Content marketing is a common term these days, thanks to CMI, isn’t everyone doing it now?

    Question 3 –  Manufacturing is, some would say, a different animal as compared to high tech or the service sectors because they make a product and the company culture revolves around that product.  Content marketing is about sharing expertise and not about pitching the product, correct?  When I talk to manufacturers, they struggle with this idea of sharing knowledge and not pitching the product to gain engagement. In your dealings with manufacturers, have you also seen this culture hurdle and how do you advise a manufacturing marketers who want to get started with content marketing to deal with the product culture?

    Question 4 – Most of the manufacturers I talk to still go to market with a 1990s strategy, meaning they rely on a field sales team or distributors to build relationships one to one.  But their customers want to buy like it’s 2016.  Is this what you are seeing as well? Would you agree that herein lies the opportunity, closing that gap between how mfg goes to market and how their customers want to buy, for savvy B2B manufacturers? I don’t think content marketing is for every manufacturer, it’s not easy and it’s not for the faint of heart, but if done well, it really pays off.  Suppose there is a CEO or VP Sales and Marketing of a mid size B2B manufacturer listening to this podcast who understands the potential power of content marketing, but doesn’t know how to get started.  What would you advise?

    Challenge Question –  This week our challenge question comes to us from a VP Sales and Marketing at a Midwest metal fabricator. “I just attended an industry conference where one of the speakers was talking about how we should get into content marketing by starting a blog. We started a blog and nobody is reading it. What is your advice, should we continue with content marketing or, since the blog is not working, go back to pushing our widgets?”

    • The answer is not 'channel'. This questioner heard some bad advice from the speaker, you never start with a channel or medium then figure out how to fill it with content. Reverse the thinking and ask the question, "what value can we share with the audience?"
    • Take a couple of steps back and think about the topic, is it a high value topic for your audience? Then choose the channel.

    Takeaways: 

    • Don't look at content marketing as creating more product content, think about how you can add value by sharing expertise and create content around that topic.
    • Think about how you can serve the audience, beyond the product, and build content around that idea. That is the crux of content marketing.

    Bruce :
    Welcome to Manufacturing Marketing Matters, a podcast produced by the Manufacturing Marketing Institute, the center of excellence for manufacturing marketers. I'm Bruce McDuffee, thank you for listening. Hello manufacturing marketers. Before we get started today I'd like to remind our audience about the Manufacturing Marketing Alliance. It's a mastermind group for manufacturing marketers and if you like what we talk about here on the podcast and you want to meet with like-minded manufacturers in a virtual mastermind group, with me as your mentor, you should check it out. You can find out more at mmmatters.com/alliance.

    Now, on to the show. Our guest expert today is Robert Rose. Robert is the chief strategy advisor at Content Marketing Institute. Welcome Robert.
    Robert:
    Thank you so much Bruce, great to be here.
    Bruce :
    We're thrilled to have to have you on as a guest on the podcast today and I know a lot of our audience is looking forward to hearing this conversation. Folks if you don't know Robert he's one of the foremost experts in the world on content marketing. He's a famous keynote speaker and a prolific author advocating the practice of content marketing throughout the world. His most recent book Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was co-authored with Carla Johnson. Carla was a guest on the podcast a few months ago. This is a must read book for guys so check it out. It really gets you to understand why this type of content marketing is so important.

    For more than 20 years Robert has been helping marketers to tell their story more effectively and over the last five years Robert has worked with more than 500 companies including 15 of the Fortune 100. He's provided marketing advice and counsel for global brands such as Capital One, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Thompson Reuters, Abbott Labs and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as UPS. Hopefully you picked up there's a few manufacturing companies in that list. He also brings a lot of experience in dealing with B2B manufacturing companies. Helping them to increase their sales and get competitive advantage in their tough manufacturing markets.

    Today, we're going to discuss and learn from Robert just how content marketing as a strategy and associated tactics can give you, the manufacturers out there, an advantage over your competitors. I'm talking about a significant advantage. Listen up manufacturers this is a rare opportunity for you to hear it direct from the direct source who's seen it, done it and been there. Robert, first question. If I were to get 10 of my audience members in a room and I ask them write down a definition of content marketing I might get 10 different answers. Just to level set here for the audience could you share in a practical sense what is content marketing and maybe at the same time what is not content marketing.
    Robert:
    Sure. Happy to. Well and I suspect it's not even industry specific. I suspect if you get 10 people in the room and you ask them to define content marketing you might get 15 different definitions.
    Bruce :
    That's probably true.
    Robert:
    Look, there is our standard definition that we use which was the creation and syndication of content that is valuable to a consumer in order to change a behavior and that's a very buzz wordy, overly formal definition. At its simplest core what content marketing is is creating an owned media experience or multiple experiences. Owned media, what I mean by that is you own the media. It's not renting the media from a publisher where you would have advertising or renting the media as you would say on a social media channel. Where you were dependent upon the existence of that social channel in order to experience the drive's value for the business through the creation of content that drives value to that audience.

    Whether they be your customers, prospective customers, influencers, whoever they are it's using that owned media experience to deliver value to both the customer first and then driving value out of that in a number of ways for the business.
    Bruce :
    Okay. Have you seen some examples of people who have said, "Hey yeah, I am doing content marketing" but they're not? Maybe a couple of examples.
    Robert:
    Of course, yes, of course and it happens all the time, right?
    Bruce :
    Yeah.
    Robert:
    In our research ... We do research every single year and we ask actually, "Are you doing content marketing or not?" Inevitably everybody says, "Yes of course we are." Inevitably a lot of people are creating more content than they ever have before and this of course includes manufacturers. Whether it be trying to engage with people on social media or trying to engage through a blog or an email newsletter program or webinars or events or whatever expression of that content takes form. It's really how do we reach these people and persuade them ultimately to do something. That's been the job of marketing forever.

    Now, the challenges is that many marketers, and this is true in manufacturing as well as it is for other industries, it's the idea is that many marketers are creating content simply as an alternative form of collateral material. In other words we create a whitepaper but it's really just a brochure in disguise. It might be a case study or it might be talking about how we're so awesome or what we do and really very, very shallow under the covers it's selling something. It's not truly delivering any value and so a lot of times what we see is this myopic focus on the top of the funnel.

    Lead generation, lead nurturing focus which really gets into this idea of how do I just use an alternative form of content to try and move business or drive revenue? That's not really content marketing. That's just an alternative form of regular old campaign based marketing. Content marketing is a little different. We're not selling initially. We're not trying to get them to buy something initially. What we're trying to do is get them to engage with content so that ultimately they come to a conclusion in our favor. Whether that's buying or staying longer or simply providing us with information or giving us insight into their behavior.

    There's lots of value that could be drawn from a subscribed audience and purchase is one of them. Ultimately when we're talking about a content marketing program it's how do I deliver content consistently over time that delivers value in and of itself aside from our product or service. In and of itself delivers value to that customer so that they ultimately want to have another experience with our brand. Whether that's a purchase, a retention and/or just an engagement type of action.
    Bruce :
    Great. That's great background and I agree it's all about ... Content marketing and maybe a clarification on this Robert. Content marketing is sharing your expertise, sharing your knowledge to help the people in your target audience to solve a problem or have less pain or maybe even have more passion about something.
    Robert:
    Yeah.
    Bruce :
    It's not about pitching the product.
    Robert:
    That's right. Exactly right. That's exactly right. It's delivering that value. Now, you just encapsulated it very well in terms of the thought leadership idea which is sharing knowledge. Teaching someone how to do something, teaching someone about some new trend of technology or approach to solving their particular need and especially in B2B in solving their need for the business that they work for. That's wonderful but it can also be simply entertaining, it can also be useful in other ways. It can make you laugh, it can make you cry. It doesn't always have to teach you something but I will tell you in most cases specific to manufacturing it's very commonly educational.

    You nailed it when you said it's helpful, it's valuable in and of itself. It doesn't have anything to do with the product or service other than the fact that our brand is the one who brought you this value.
    Bruce :
    Okay. Great. What about the spec sheets and the product brochures, is that part of the overall content marketing strategy or is that separate?
    Robert:
    Well, I would look at it as separate, right? It's a separate piece of classic direct marketing. One of the things that often gets lost is that content marketing isn't meant to replace all of the other things that we do. It makes all of the other things that we do better. When I think of things like spec sheets or brochures or something that helps nurture a lead through the pipeline my first question is well what should I be giving them and when should I give it to them? Because they're not necessarily a lead when they first engage with us. They may be thinking about a change in their business.

    They may be thinking about our particular kind of product and all of the different solutions that might solve that problem. There's lots of different mindsets that they'll have in their buyer's journey. The one thing that content marketing tends to do especially at the top of the funnel is to help educate. Then we understand when it is we should actually be approaching them with a one sheet or a brochure or something that is sales. I love when Andre Davies who is a colleague of mine and I think you know him.
    Bruce :
    Sure, I know Andrew.
    Robert:
    He talks a lot about this being your pre-customer database, right? One of the tremendous values that we can get out of building an audience is that they are our pre-customer database. They may not be ready to buy today but when they are ready to buy we are top of mind for them because we've been engaging and teaching and providing them with useful materials. That when they are ready to buy or replace the thing that we actually have the solution for they're actually ready and wanting our marketing materials. They actually want the brochure because they're now ready for a buying decision.

    Then it helps create a much more efficient direct marketing process. Content marketing is ultimately helpful in that regard by providing some of that insight into the people that you're attracting into your sphere of influence. Having that sphere of influence there using content as the means can help you be much more targeted. If I'm delivering to a sales guy a lead and I say by the way this lead is interested in these things because we've been watching them consumer this kind of content and that kind of content and this kind of whitepaper. Well now the sales guy is having a much more relevant conversation with that lead rather than just what do you need because I got it all, right?
    Bruce :
    Hopefully.
    Robert:
    It's a much more engaging conversation and a much more assistive conversation.
    Bruce :
    Yeah. That helps roll right into the next question I have for you Robert is about opportunity. This is about for B2B manufacturers. From your experience I know you've dealt with a lot of B2B manufacturers and a lot of B2B companies.
    Robert:
    Yeah.
    Bruce :
    Is there an opportunity for manufacturers if they're able to take that idea we just talked about with content marketing and educating the audience and getting that credibility and positioning at that first place. Is there an opportunity for manufacturers to really increase their sales and get a competitive advantage over the others who aren't doing it?
    Robert:
    I think there is and I think the real key here is to look at the entirety of and figure out where it is you can create that differentiating advantage. In other words one of the best opportunities I've seen for B2B manufacturers is quite frankly hey we may be okay in sales. We may actually be okay at driving awareness, we may actually be okay in our close rates. That's not where it hurts the most for us. Maybe right now the reason that it hurts the most is because we're looking at customer retention. Or we're looking at how customers are switching our product out for others more readily because our particular product has become commoditized in the market.

    Adding that content value experience is a way for us to drive better retention with customers. John Deere is a great example with this. They consistently get high net promoter scores and loyalty to their products not because necessarily they have better products although of course they would argue that they do. The reason that they create such wonderful loyalty is because they've created these content driven experiences. Namely a print magazine and apps and web content and digital content teaching farmers how to be better farmers. That's not to sell more tractors it's to keep those customers that have bought tractors from John Deere truly engaged after they've purchased.

    That's one area to become more differentiated in your market. Of course if we start looking at the top of the funnel we start looking at lead generation and new markets, et cetera. I'll give you another example, a similar kind of business to John Deere which is Caterpillar. When we look at what Caterpillar has been able to do by trying to really revamp their brand into something that's a little more young focused, a little taken a little less seriously. They've realized that a lot of their new purchasers were quite frankly young people who looked at the Caterpillar brand as this conservative old man's brand.

    They wanted to try and use content as a means of changing the brand awareness so they did fun videos and they did this comedy stuff on YouTube. Really they had the Caterpillar tractors driving around picking up Jenga blocks and giant Jenga.
    Bruce :
    Yeah, I saw that. That was a good one.
    Robert:
    It was a wonderful piece. It's all really in changing perceptions in the way that their new customers would view them. Up and down the buyer's journey we can use content to differentiate the real critical pieces understanding where we actually want to optimize that journey and focusing on that first because it's where it'll have the biggest impact.
    Bruce :
    Is it possible for a good, and I'll say proper content marketing program itself to be a differentiator in a marketing space?
    Robert:
    Yeah, I think well that's it, right?
    Bruce :
    That's what you're saying?
    Robert:
    Yeah. It becomes a leverage point. I like to call it a multiplier, right? Great content marketing is a multiplier of my marketing strategy. It doesn't replace all the things I'm doing. I don't want to replace advertising. Look I'm a huge fan of advertising. Love it. I'm a huge fan of enabling sales teams with great materials. I'm a huge fan of PR, I'm a huge fan of classic digital direct marketing. Love it all, but content marketing can help my organization have a multiplier of the effectiveness of all of those things. I can help my media buy by understanding my audience better.

    I can help my PR by driving greater awareness by creating great content. I can help my sales guys by giving them reasons to have conversations with customers other than handing them a brochure. I can enable so much more and leverage so much more out of my relationship with my prospective customer by using content. Rather than looking at it purely as a sales relationship I'm looking at it as a means of delivering value to them. If I can do that effectively it is a differentiator for my business against the competition.
    Bruce :
    Yeah, and I tell folks who listen to my podcast Robert I say if you can share your expertise and stop pitching your product at the top of the funnel for engagement then you create three things. You create top of mind awareness which means as you just said earlier in this podcast when the day does come around and they're ready to pull the trigger and buy something, they're going to buy it from the person that's been sharing that content.
    Robert:
    That's right.
    Bruce :
    You get credibility because you're sharing expertise so the audience says these guys really know what they're talking about.
    Robert:
    Yeah, that's exactly right.
    Bruce :
    Finally you get reciprocity, right? Because you're giving the people in your target audience a gift. You're not charging them for that expertise. You're sharing it freely so when they're ready ... again, ready to buy you get the call. You're first in line.
    Robert:
    That's exactly right. All of that is exactly right.
    Bruce :
    Is it even fair to say that they may even be willing to pay a little bit more money because of that relationship that's been built?
    Robert:
    Yeah, that's your 201 class but basically that's it, right? You can see this happening all over product development as well, right? Coming back to John Deere, John Deere has I think 27 different apps in the app store all content driven experiences that help you get the most out of your tractor. Everything from real time farm to looking at the real time access into your tractor and best practices and the community that's built in there so user generated content. These are all content driven experiences that add value to why you would buy a John Deere tractor in the same way that you add value when I buy a pair of Nike sneakers.

    I not only get the Nike sneakers but I get them equipped with a wonderful app and a website and a content driven experience that I can go see what my peers are doing and I can compete with my friends and I can see how my stride is doing. Product development has now become and a layer of that has become these content driven experiences to increase the value of this products and differentiate them in the market place. Well that same opportunity exists at the top of the funnel as well. By creating really valuable content experiences we're actually adding value to our product.

    Thus can either maintain price and profitability or not have to discount it as much when we're in the middle of a negotiation.
    Bruce :
    Exactly. Folks this is important listening out there because if you're stuck in the mode of having your sales people and your marketing people pitch features and benefits or features and attributes of your products, you're looking like everybody else out there. Because that's all the B2B manufacturers, let's say most of them are doing. Here's my product, here's the attribute. Our company has been around these many years. All these things and they don't care.
    Robert:
    That's right.
    Bruce :
    They don't care about that. What do they care about? They care about I call it [inaudible 00:18:37]. They're asking themselves what's in it for me? You've got to answer that with your content.
    Robert:
    Absolutely.
    Bruce :
    Robert manufacturing they picture themselves ... I should say we picture ourselves as a different animal. We're different than high tech or the service sectors because we make a product and the culture in a manufacturing company it revolves around that product. Everything is about that product because that's what it's all about. When I tell them or you tell them or someone says, "Hey content marketing is not about pitching that product. You've got to stop talking about the product for the engagement at the top of the funnel, you've got to share your expertise." They have a hard time with that because that culture is so strong.

    I've talked to many manufacturing marketers who come in and say, "I can't get this idea of sharing expertise adopted." What would you say to them? How can they get that idea of not pitching the product but sharing expertise adopted by a leadership in let's say an old style manufacturing company?
    Robert:
    It's a tough one and look there are unique attributes to a manufacturing company. Not the least of which by the way is not only internal leadership but also the fact that many manufacturers sell through distributors and retailers. When you're talking about that in many cases ... One of the biggest challenges I see when I talk to manufacturers is yeah. If we're not putting up a billboard where our main distributor CEO drives every day then we're getting yelled at because he doesn't think we're marketing the product enough. Literally the billboard on that highway that nobody drives down except for the CEO of that distributing company is the only reason we have that billboard bought.

    You expand that and of course exponentially multiply it by all the distributors and retailer relationships that you have. I understand that manufacturing marketing has an interesting and unique responsibility to a second layer of leadership there. It's both educating the internal leadership as well as our retail and distributor relationships that we can teach people. This is a different kind of investment model. This is something that will give us and by the way you, because in many cases one of the biggest changes I've seen and benefits to manufacturing companies, when they actually enable some of their distributors and retailers with content, right?
    Bruce :
    Yes.
    Robert:
    In other words I can help the retailer by delivering how to videos and other kinds of kits. Blog posts and whitepapers and thought leadership that they can then brand themselves and they can then roll out to their partners and enable them with content marketing as a means of doing this. Ultimately the real key here in changing that mindset is that you've got to pitch it as a different kind of investment model. This is something where we're in many ways building a content marketing program is not unlike building a product plan. Because what you're doing is you're building something that you're going to invest in and theoretically should increase in value over time because the content is not campaign oriented.

    It is meant to be an evergreen useful, teaching, educational, helpful piece of content that not only helps in the campaign that we're supporting in today's one month campaign but also net month and the month after that and a year after that, et cetera. We're building an asset. We're building an asset and a subscribed audience and the content that we use to subscribe that audience and it's a different kind of investment model. Once you start to do that slowly and iteratively and make the ... Don't get me wrong. The change management bit here, the cultural change is the hardest part of content marketing. It is for every industry.

    Manufacturing has its own unique challenges because of that secondary level of old school leadership. It's really this idea of how do we start looking at this as a different kind of investment model where we're delivering an owned media product that increases in value over time? Getting part of our marketing budget and part of our marketing effort toward that. That's the best way I can say to do it is slowly, iteratively and partially and building the case over time and making the case by the way that it's not replacing what we're doing. It is simply supplementing and helping what we're doing.
    Bruce :
    Yeah. That's important too. Marketers out there listening you're not going to go in tomorrow after you've heard this podcast and say, "Hey we're going to change the way we market." You don't go up to your CEO and say, "Hey the only way we're going to grow this business is if we stop pitching our product and start sharing expertise." You're never going to win that way. As Robert was saying it's incremental one step at a time, one bite of the elephant at a time and making that slow shift. I think eventually Robert once this content marketing is introduced and it starts to be proven then most of the marketing strategy may be content marketing.
    Robert:
    It may be. I've gone on record as saying that I don't think ultimately there is such a thing as a content marketer. What I believe is that all marketing will ultimately have content marketing as a piece of it. Just as we include other kinds of elements of marketing from direct marketing to advertising to PR to all of these wonderful practices that we bring. Unique methodologies and practices that we bring to the holistic practical look at marketing, I think too at some point content marketing just becomes a thing that marketers do. I think in varying degree it becomes a thing that all businesses do to some point.

    I think there are some companies that will have a very little piece of they do be content marketing and there are some businesses that'll be all they do, is content marketing.
    Bruce :
    Makes sense. I love that idea that you just shared about treating content marketing like a product. I think that's fantastic.
    Robert:
    Yeah. Well it's truly what the book is about. When you think and you look out at all of these successful examples of content marketing so you go to a conference, you read the magazines, you see the blogs. Every time you'll see a successful mention of content marketing out there it's what they're referencing. The strategic part is the collection of assets, right? It's the blog, it's the magazine, it's the webinar series, it's the whitepaper series, it's the resource center. It's not any one of those things. Looking at that resource center, blog magazine, webinar series, whitepaper series, book.

    Whatever the expression of the content is as a media product, as an owned media product whose goal is to drive a subscribed audience that delivers value to the business is a way to look at it from a product. A media product development perspective. That really helps make the case in the conversation not about one to say this is a short term campaign based investment. This is rather a different kind of investment where we're investing money today that may not be paid back quite frankly for a year or 18 months but it doesn't mean we can't measure it. It doesn't mean we can't optimize it, it doesn't mean we can continue to operate it.

    What it means is that that return on investment may be a longer term investment than something like a campaign which is a short term investment.
    Bruce :
    Manufacturing marketers out there this is where if you talk about ... This is fascinating because if you talk about content marketing as a product you're talking the language of your leadership. They get developing products, they get building products for their audience.
    Robert:
    Yeah, exactly.
    Bruce :
    Manufacturers they're good at making products. They've got processes, they've got strategies, they've got tactics, they've got all this stuff. If you could somehow figure out how to translate that internal knowledge and those processes into the content marketing you might be on to something. What do you think Robert?
    Robert:
    I do, I absolutely do to the point where I will tell you and I don't have any manufacturing case studies just off the top of my head. Many companies now are starting to use their content marketing properties to quite frankly drive revenue and partnership opportunities. You look at a company like Kraft and their food and family magazine which is a print magazine that subscribers pay for. It's good enough that subscribers pay for it and so it's a revenue generator for Kraft. This is a marketing opportunity that drives purchase intent. It drives data acquisition and it drives effectiveness and advertising for all the brand managers at Kraft but it is a magazine that subscribers pay for.

    It pays for itself. Or you look at something like Experience Life which is the magazine created by Lifetime Fitness which is a fitness chain of gyms in the Midwest. They are driving a profit with their magazine and their digital expression of that magazine. They sell banner ads. They don't sell ads to their competitors but because they have a wonderful lifestyle fitness, yoga, diet kind of magazine that they deliver to their audiences. They can actually have enough traffic now that they can actually sell advertising to some of those either local businesses or national businesses like Visa or somebody like that, that might want to get in front of that audience.

    You can actually have some of these programs pay for themselves and/or generate even a profit once they get to a point where you're actually generating enough audience and traction to actually look at them that way.
    Bruce :
    Well, how about that marketers. You're no longer an expense item, you're a profit generator. A literal profit.
    Robert:
    Now you've heard the topic of my next book.
    Bruce :
    Awesome.
    Robert:
    The one that Joe and I are looking at next.
    Bruce :
    We'll look for that for sure. Well Robert most of the manufacturers I talk to they still go to market with a 1990 strategy. What I mean is they have a field sales team or distributors building relationships one to one but their customers we're all consumers in one form or another. Manufacturing customers they want to buy like it's 2016. Like we buy from Amazon or like we buy anything. Would you agree that here's the opportunity for manufacturers. If you can be the one in your competitive space that closes that gap. Where you begin with content marketing and you start to engage your buyers your target audience like they want to be engaged can you beat the ones who are still stuck in the 1990s?
    Robert:
    Well that's really the thrust of our whole conversation, right?
    Bruce :
    Yes.
    Robert:
    Is that looking at this and creating a different kind of experience that adds value to the thing that you're selling then of course you can actually beat those that are not doing that, right? This is an innovative new way to add value and extended value to what it is you do for customers. I'll say one other thing which I think is important because that marketing like it's 1999 versus 2016 and the customers and the relationships that sales people have, there's a really interesting thing here. I was working with a manufacturer who sells door treatments, so everything from the locks to the pneumatic thing that closes.

    These are commercial big huge campus commercial door outfitters. They manufacturer the whole kit and caboodle. From everything from the lock to the ... and they still have guys who run around the country in their cars with parts in the trunk and show locksmiths and facilities directors and all that's stuff, their wares to try and get sales appointments. They're trying to get sales appointments with all kinds of people. They have hundreds of sales guys running around the country but they have tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of potential customers. The quintessential problem for these sales guys is who should I prioritize?

    Who should I be spending my time driving around going to see in my little patch that I'm going to go visit? That is a huge challenge for sales efficiency trying to drive. What if instead and this company is actually starting to do this, we had a content hub or a content center of gravity where all these people would get educated about what's going on with locks. What's going on with door outfittings and security and how doors work and really getting them educated into this stuff. We capture that subscription info and that becomes a prioritized call list for these sales guys to go visit.

    Because once they start to visit and they start understanding this stuff now these sales guys know, "Hey I can go talk to these four people who we've never heard of before. Or I can go talk to this guy who's actually been surfing our content and getting some value out of it and now I can go talk to him about what I might do." Just purely as a means of prioritizing the sales guy's channel it becomes a wonderful way to start to optimize what you're doing from a sales and marketing perspective.
    Bruce :
    Absolutely, because sales can't do it. There's only so many people, so many contacts one person can make.
    Robert:
    Exactly. That's exactly right. Turning your sales guys ... Then the next step of that of course is taking this material and delivering to your sales guys. Because what this company is now doing is arming these sales guys with the next best thing which is the whitepaper or the educational book or the class. They can invite these guys to events at local hotels and give them a class on this stuff. In turning them into teachers and making them an exclusive distributor of this content turns them into instructors which ultimately turns them into better sales guys.
    Bruce :
    Think about the comparison folks, think about it. You've got this one company like Robert's describing. They're educating, they're sharing expertise, they're engaging with content beyond what the sales people can do compared to the competitor out there who is still stuck in the 90s with their one to one relationships. Just as a scaling factor it's huge. That's great advice. Robert on the other hand I don't think content marketing is for every manufacturer because I know you'll agree with me it's not easy and it's not for the faint of heart. If done well boy does it pay off.
    Robert:
    Yeah. That's exactly right. As I've often said and this is a bit too cute but what I've said before is just ...
    Bruce :
    Go for it.
    Robert:
    ... that I don't think every business will have a content marketing approach but I believe every successful business in the future will. What I mean by that is that it is a skill set that is learned. It is a new muscle for many organizations and as I said in the beginning it doesn't necessarily mean you're replacing anything. It just means that it's additive process. Even if you do it at the very smallest levels there is ... As I said to one CEO of a B2B manufacturing company. I said, "Listen, forget all the marketing stuff, forget all the sales stuff, forget all the stuff that you're doing. Just forget all that for a minute.

    Forget I'm even going to make that case." I said, "Are your people, are your marketing people, sales people PR people, the people that you have working in your business are they creating more or less content year over year?" Of course he said more because we all are. We're all creating more emails, more content, more whitepapers, more stuff. We're creating more stuff year over year. I said, "Doesn't it make sense just to get your arms around that?" I said, "Even if it's only to mitigate the cost of the content you're already creating. Doesn't it make sense to get a strategic approach to this so that you're actually just creating an efficiency for the stuff you're already doing?"

    That's a hard argument to be against because it's really just being smart about what you're already doing and then thinking, "Okay now asking do we actually want to expand this and do this in a smarter way?"
    Bruce :
    Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Before we get into the challenge question Robert I know there's probably might be a CEO or a VP sales and marketing out there. Probably a mid-sized B2B manufacturer listening to the podcast who says I get content marketing. Maybe it's even someone who went out to content marketing world and attended 20 different sessions and his mind is spinning. How do they get it started? What's the first thing or what's the first step to get started?
    Robert:
    My favorite thing to do is to ... There's this new idea of the idealized funnel and this holds true in manufacturing as well. What I mean by the idealized funnel is you've seen it. It looks like an hour glass which is it starts with awareness and then consideration and then purchase and purchase and customer is in the middle thinnest part of the hourglass. Then it widens out from there as you start looking at retention and evangelizing the product or service et cetera. It looks like that. I will literally put that up on a wall and ask a VP or a CEO, I'll say, "Where does it hurt the most right now?"

    Because not everything is perfect right now, you're doing stuff and not everything is working in as optimal a way as it probably could. If course it's not. It might be top of the funnel. They might say you know we've to this new product. For example the lock company that I was talking about earlier their big challenge right now is that as technology moves people to access control systems and computers in the way that security is handled and physical security is handled. That's something where they don't have a lot of expertise so their brand doesn't have a lot of awareness right now.

    That's their biggest problem right now, is driving awareness for their expertise in technical access control systems instead of physical locks. Or is it that we have a ton of awareness for our brand but we're having a really tough time nurturing customer and getting them to trust us. We have a lot of opportunities that fall out of the pipeline. Or is it that you have a customer churn problem and we have customers that buy our stuff but it's more commoditized and we're actually trying to develop something that would add value to keep customers loyal to our brand. Or are we trying to get customers to talk about us on social media to drive better word of mouth marketing and better evangelizing of our product?

    Somewhere along that journey you're hurting the most or you can optimize the most. That's the place to start because if we start looking at that one is we have very little to lose by starting there because it's the place that it hurts the most. Can we build a business case to optimize that part of the customer journey by creating something that adds value to the customer, Extends the value of our brand to that customer to help them through that part of the process? In other words to make us more aware in the marketplace or to help develop trust by delivering great expertise and thought leadership to that lead who wants to come through.

    Or to help deliver better how to's and shared values to customers who become customers so that they give us word of mouth or churn out less or find more value so that they don't switch from our product. Whatever that thing is that's the place to start. Then developing a content media product, owned media experience to help supplement and drive value to that part of the buyer's journey. We can certainly get some investment in that. Once we agree that we can get some investment then it's just a question of how fast do we want to move? Do we want to spend a lot of money and move quickly or do we want spend a little bit of money and mitigate our risk and try and drive this organically?

    Quite frankly how much it hurts is usually an indicator of that.
    Bruce :
    Where they're willing to spend. Okay.
    Robert:
    Yeah.
    Bruce :
    Good. I think that helps. That brings us to the second part of the show. Robert is the challenge question. These folks out there listening send in your challenge question. Send it in. You can email it to me, it's Bruce@mmmatters.com or you can hashtag it at MFGmarketing on Twitter and send it in and I'll pose your question to our guest expert. This week our challenge question comes to us from a VP sales in marketing at a Midwest metal fabricator.
    Robert:
    Okay.
    Bruce :
    Here it is, I just attended an industry conference where one of the speakers was talking about how we should get into content marketing by starting a blog. We started a blog and nobody is reading it. What is your advice? Should we continue with content marketing or since the blog is not working maybe we should just go back to pushing our widgets? What do you say Robert?
    Robert:
    Well first of all I hate the answer that you got from the speaker. It's not a good answer.
    Bruce :
    Start by content marketing.
    Robert:
    Creating a blog. The answer should never be channel. The answer is not channel. A blog might be the right solution. What we need to understand first is who is the customer and what value can we deliver to them? In their particular case ... Again I don't know much about this particular individual case about why nobody was reading the blog. I'm going to assume for the moment is because they created the blog because they wanted to create a blog and quite frankly then started to figure out how they could fill it with content. It's a classic marketing mistake, right? The classic marketing the way we've been taught in marketing from the four Ps.

    Product, place, price and promotion onward is to say I have a medium that I want to market in and now how do I fill it full of content? We think to ourselves I have a television campaign, how am I going to fill it full of content? I have a print campaign how am I going to fill it full of content? I have an email campaign how am I going to fill it full of content? Our immediate inclination is to say as a classic marketer I need a blog how am I going to fill it full of content? We actually need to reverse that thinking today. We need to look at what value could we deliver to the audience first and if we can't answer that then we shouldn't even ever talk about channels yet.

    We should figure out what is the value? What is the great teachable moment? What is the education? What is the help? What is the entertainment? What is the value that we can deliver to the consumer at that stage of their journey? Because just to the previous question we have to figure out what stage of the journey they're in when we're delivering this value? Are they just searching for solutions? Are they unaware? Are they well engaged with us and we need to deliver trust and thought leadership or what stage are they in and what value can we deliver? Then we can start thinking okay great what are all the channels that we might want to express this through?

    For this particular case maybe it was a webinar program or maybe it was a physical event. Or maybe as we talked about with the lock company it was basically arming sales guys with better thought leadership material that they could hand to prospective customers. Or there are many, many ways to distribute and disseminate and create content expressions. What we have to figure out first is what is the value? Because then we can figure out what is the right expression of the content and then quite frankly let's assume all of that was done one of the things that we have to be willing to do with our new content product is promote it.

    We actually have to treat it like a product. We have to give it its own promotional budget. We have to give it its own sharing capabilities. We have to give it its own means of getting out into the wider universe to rise above the noise that's out there to say, "Hey we've created this valuable little jewel of a thing. Come and read it, come get value out of it." That's how it'll start to get a lot more traction. No, I think they just need to take two steps back before killing the blog and say let's figure out what we're doing, why we're not resonating first. Are we delivering great editorial value?

    Then determine is the blog the way we want to continue to do that or do we want to kill the blog and do something different?
    Bruce :
    I agree, absolutely. I would say first question here you got some bad advice.
    Robert:
    Yeah.
    Bruce :
    That's not the ...
    Robert:
    That's the thing, that's the first thing.
    Bruce :
    Isn't that it? You don't start content marketing by starting a blog and I agree Robert 100% channel is the last thing you look at.
    Robert:
    Right.
    Bruce :
    You look at that topic. Look at your target audience and find out what their pain point is or what their problem is and then say, "Okay I know this is the problem, what's my expertise?" You find that ...
    Robert:
    That's it. That's a great way to put it actually.
    Bruce :
    Yeah. You find that intersection. That's your topic and then you decide okay I know how I can help these people in my target audience. Then you say, "Okay how can I deliver that help?"
    Robert:
    That's right.
    Bruce :
    That's where you should go back and take a couple of steps back to this manufacturing or VP sales and marketing, get some better advice but keep going.
    Robert:
    Well I think they just got some today so.
    Bruce :
    There you go, absolutely. Keep going. Content marketing works. When you do it right it really works.
    Robert:
    Yeah, it does.
    Bruce :
    Robert thanks for answering that question and that brings us to the last part of our show. I always ask our guest experts to provide one or two actionable takeaways for the audience. It can be something you'd like to emphasize from our discussion or it can be a couple of things you want to leave going forward.
    Robert:
    I think they're probably two. One of which comes from our discussion of content as a product and that is really looking at ... If you decide that you're going to do content marketing. You're like, "Okay I'm convinced, we should try something like this." Make sure that what you're doing is to look at not creating and alternative form of sales collateral material. That's not where you'll get the value from content marketing. It is rather by looking at this as a content media product that you'll invest in overtime and that will increase in value over time. If you just look at it that way whether you build it or not ... I had a CEO come up to me one time and say, "Okay I get it.

    We should build a blog or we should build a content resource center. We should have this thing that we're going to build and it's going to add value but guess what we're not going to do that. We're actually not going to build a blog, we're actually not going to build a webinar program. We're not going to do any of those things." I said, "Well great, don't." I said, "But at least have the vision to do it yourself." In other words thinking strategically cost you no more than not thinking strategically. Whether or not you actually build something or not have the vision to do that, have the vision to build.

    What would be the most differentiated resource center or digital magazine or wonderful thing that we could create that delivers value to our customers? Of course asking first what value would be provide and then figuring out how we would build it. Then don't build it but have the editorial plan, have the editorial strategy to actually do that. That a year from now you don't end up with 100 different disconnected assets that supported campaigns but have no more value than just of supporting those campaigns. You actually have a big pile of raw materials that you actually could build something should you choose to.

    Take that one away and then the second thing is as we talked about in the discussion which is really the first step is to understand what value it is we could deliver out to our customer. Either looking at some differentiated value that's not being delivered to our customer today. In other words if we look at our target market yeah a ton of them are actually out there doing thought leadership about this and thought leadership about that, where can we be different? Where can we actually be different and more expert about something that isn't being covered today? Or look at the primary need of your customer and figure out how you can fulfill that with content.

    That's your first step. Then start to look at how it might express itself as a piece of whether it's digital or offline or all of the above types of content. Look at that expression over time and how you'd roll it out. Those are my two takeaways.
    Bruce :
    Great. Two great takeaways. Thanks Robert. Folks I would sum up here to wrap it up. Content marketing when it's done the right way sharing your expertise, adding value to your audience, thinking about the audience asking what's in it for me? You answering that question with your content, think about it that way. Don't think about what can I create that can help me sell more stuff? Even though ultimately it will but don't think about it that way. Think about how can I serve my audience? Think about it that way.
    Robert:
    That's right.
    Bruce :
    This stuff works, believe me. I've seen it work Robert I'm sure you've seen it work. It does work.
    Robert:
    It absolutely does.
    Bruce :
    Robert before we sign off today would you like to share anything about yourself or your books or CMI with our audience?
    Robert:
    Well sure. If you're interested in more of this stuff Robertrose.net is probably the best place to connect into all the things that I'm up to anyway which has got links out to the book. It's got links to what I'm talking about at Content Marketing Institute and certainly some helpful materials and all that kind of stuff. I'd probably just point people to my website which is Robertrose.net.
    Bruce :
    Great. I'll put that in the show notes too folks. Well Robert thank you so much for being a guest on Manufacturing Marketing Matters today.
    Robert:
    Absolutely my pleasure Bruce. It was a real, real pleasure to be here.
    Bruce :
    It was a great conversation. I think we shared a lot of value with our audience.
    Robert:
    Absolutely.
    Bruce :
    That was Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Advisor at Content Marketing Institute. For more information about Robert and CMI you can visit the guest bio page and see the show notes. I'll include links and highlights and a full transcript at mmmatters.com/podcast. Even better subscribe to the podcast. You can subscribe at iTunes or Stitcher or SoundCloud or Google Play. Thanks for listening to Manufacturing Marketing Matters. If you find this podcast helpful and useful please subscribe at iTunes or Stitcher.com. You can download this episode of MMMatters and get the show notes and learn more about the podcast at MMMatters.com.

    I am Bruce McDuffee now let's go out and advance the practice of marketing in manufacturing today.

     

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