As the industrial buying journey has become more elongated and complex, and more buyers are doing a majority of their research online before engaging with companies, solid content planning has become an essential starting point for industrial marketing. And while there are more content channels and types of content than ever, putting together a content marketing plan does not have to be complicated.
Here is an easy way to build your industrial marketing content plan:
- Start with your business goals. What does the company want to accomplish?
- Determine your marketing strategies and objectives. What does marketing success look like in order to achieve those business goals? Gather input from other areas of the company. Listen to what service and sales reps are hearing from customers.
- Align your content tactics. What is the content you want to distribute to different personas at different times? What themes do you want to emphasize at different times and on different channels?
Your content plan essentially is:
- What content you will produce
- When you will produce and distribute it
- Who you are trying to reach with each content piece
In the latest episode of the Industrial Marketer Podcast, co-hosts Joey and Nels walk through the content planning process. The lines between content and advertising have blurred to the extent that many people may not realize what amounts to a paid placement vs. unpaid. For this article, we are focusing on unpaid content, though many of the principles apply in terms of messaging and planning. If you would like to see the spreadsheet we use for our content plans, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you a copy.
What Types of Content Are You Going to Produce?
The range of potential content is ever increasing with the growing adoption of audio and video formats and more available channels and target segments. It can be frustrating for industrials to prioritize resources because almost any format and tactic might work for you. Our advice is to prioritize efforts that support your core marketing goals and find a couple of areas to experiment and adjust.
Here is a solid approach to mapping out your potential content buckets (and keep in mind how you can use a video format for some of this content):
- Website content
- Regular page – Don’t overlook the need to update and improve existing content on your site. Products and services evolve, and you have undoubtedly learned over time how customers use your products or what pain points they are looking to alleviate.
- Pillar page – This is a high-level piece of content that gives a broad overview of a main topic and links out to other related content, such as FAQs, demonstration videos, articles about subtopics and case studies and testimonials.
- Social media
- Lead magnets
- Case studies
- White papers
- Spec sheets/collateral
Another way to map out your content is what we refer to as the templated approach. For every key product or service, plan on:
- A product guide
- A solutions-oriented blog post
- A customer success story
Your plan will be unique to your situation (business goals, resources, industry, etc.). This is also where it pays off to have buy-in from other areas of the company, such as sales and product people. You will need their help to produce the best content possible.
When Will You Release and Distribute Your Content?
The second key component of content planning is deciding when you should release the content. While you should have a regular cadence for email newsletters and social media in order to build a loyal audience, the timing of other content can vary. You can have a quarterly approach to content marketing or monthly. Your content plan should take into account:
- Product launches or timing around key internal initiatives
- Seasonal considerations, if any
- Trade show dates
If many of your customers do their budgeting at the end of the calendar year, you might want to schedule content in the fall that speaks to the benefits of a preventive maintenance program. Don’t let some of your key products or services fall into the “out of sight, out of mind” darkness.
Also keep in mind that Google doesn’t care when you post your content. Consider the possibility of posting the content live on your website before you direct readers to it through announcements, social media or email. Having it on the site prior to an announcement will help your search and keyword performance.
You also can leverage themes in your social media to provide more content to post. Do a week of safety posts, or highlight staffers, or focus on different products for a week at a time. Be creative with your social media. People love lists. Think of it like a conversation with your followers.
Who Are You Trying to Reach with Each Content Piece?
Your content planning should revolve around your marketing personas and the customer buying process. Who are you trying to reach at what point in time with what message?
Most industrial marketers do not have the resources to develop differentiated content plans for all of the types of people involved in the extended industrial buying cycles — engineers, facility managers, finance people, etc. But if you focus on these four general stages of the journey you will have touch points with all of them:
- Awareness – This is educational content that focuses on the features and capabilities of your product or service. Make this content more customer and solution focused — i.e., What does this do for the customer and how does it solve their issues?
- Consideration – Blog posts and case studies that show how the product or service addressed specific pain points for customers or helped them increase output, improve quality or save time.
- Decision – This content might be a blog post that spells out the ROI from the perspectives of finance, staffing and production. ROI calculators and product configurators can be powerful tools at this stage.
- Evangelizing – Think of these as customer success stories. They do not have to be detailed case studies, though those are most powerful if you can share details and metrics. These can be testimonials and simple stories of how a customer solved a problem or improved their operation.
Measure and Adjust the Outcomes of Your Content Planning
It’s essential to keep in mind that a good content plan is still just a plan. A well-run industrial marketing operation will include a continuous improvement mindset or Kaizen (We are industrials, after all). So once you “plan” and “do” your content, you should measure the results and adjust accordingly.
Your content results should feed into your key performance indicators, and you can also benchmark the results of your content planning against internal goals or industry standards. A high-performing content operation also will be doing A/B variant testing for things like email subject lines, blog post headlines and website displays.
There are a lot of variables in the elongated industrial buying journey. Think of a solid content planning practice as a good foundation for success.
Listen to the Podcast for More on Content Planning
For more insights into how to develop an effective content plan, tune into Episode 27 of the Industrial Marketer podcast.
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