What we've learnt about manufacturing and content marketing

What we've learnt about manufacturing and content marketing

Posted on: 6 March 2015

Sparks fly as manufacturing machinery works

The Content Marketing Institute has just released its latest research into content marketing in manufacturing, and as always it’s an interesting read. Being based in Birmingham and the Midlands, an area with a rich manufacturing heritage, and our involvement with festivals celebrating local industry, like Birmingham Made Me, means that the Ember team are always intrigued by the findings in this study.

Although the survey focuses on North America, there are still pointers we can use in the UK. Previous studies have shown that the US is ahead of the curve when it comes to content marketing. It’s fair to say that the situation in the UK wouldn’t be radically different and there are always lessons we can learn from our friends across the pond. Here are the headline findings.

Manufacturing marketers are investing in content marketing, but they’re not sure it’s working

Probably the most striking finding was that 12% of marketers said they were unable to track the ROI of their content marketing. For an industry where the business imperative is to produce products in the most efficient and cost-effective way, it’s odd that ROI is not more imperative. This finding might explain why only 26% of manufacturing marketers considered their efforts to be effective compared to 38% of B2B marketers in other industries.

Video comes on top as the most-used tactic... 

Obviously this is the statistic that stood out for us. 87% of marketers use video, with YouTube catching up with LinkedIn as the most used social media platform. We could see this figure rise next year as 66% agreed that the social video platform was more effective than LinkedIn.

It’s easy to see why video can be so effective for manufacturing marketers, and in particular product marketers. Most sales conversations are based around what a product can do and what makes them different. The need for visuals is key, and video is a logical sales tool alongside product samples and showrooms.

Video can also play a role in exports. Buyers and suppliers from around the world can watch videos where they haven’t been able to see the products before. Exports in the West Midlands have risen again despite a fall elsewhere in the UK, so investing in video could develop these international interests.

...but in-person events are seen as the most effective

Graph showing manufacturers' effectiveness rating for content marketing tactics 2015

In person events are seen as the most effective marketing tactic (66%), nipping in ahead of video (65%). Out of the content options included in the question though, video was the only tactic that could be used in all the other options, including events, showing how robust and cost-effective it can be - a point we’ll return to later in this blog.

The two biggest challenges for manufacturing marketers are producing engaging content and measuring its effectiveness

Experience tells us that these are the two biggest challenges in content marketing generally. That said, there is no reason why manufacturing content doesn’t have to be engaging, as content from machinery manufacturers Caterpillar demonstrates. The videos on their YouTube channel range from the beautiful and emotional to the informative and helpful.

They obviously have huge budgets and access to top creative talent, but I believe it’s possible for any manufacturer to create content that delivers results. So, here are three suggestions on how to help ensure that manufacturing marketers produce engaging, effective content.

1. Involve your target audience in the content planning

When you’re developing the ideas and concept for your video content, identify who you want to watch it. Whether it’s the technical product designers in the R&D department or buyers at an expo, the more specific you can be, the better.

It’s also helpful if you can involve a member of the target audience in the pre-production and development meetings. The manufacturing industry is based on long-term working relationships, so use these and have an informal conversation with a regular customer. For example, if the target audience are electrical engineers working on location, they can advise on the information they want when they need to purchase a particular part. Feed this into the script and concept development.

2. Understand what you and the other teams want to achieve with the content - and measure it

Video content should be used to solve a defined communication problem, so there needs to be a clear set of goals from the start. What are you trying to achieve? To drive website traffic? Convert customers? Boost brand awareness? The goals could also be indirect, such as simply getting the audience to ask questions about their current arrangements or products. While your product video may not be watched by the Studio head at a company, it could be seen by one of the product designers who is provoked into asking “does our product do that?”, and that’s when an internal conversation around your idea is started.

Not being able to see how useful a content marketing strategy is usually caused by not having a defined set of metrics. Content data is getting easier to access, but that doesn’t mean everyone has the skills to use it as a basis to inform decisions. It’s worth getting a basic understanding of how analytics work. There are plenty of online resources, but a good starting point is the analytics bible Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and the Science of Customer Centricity by Avinash Kaushik. He has a talent for explaining the world of data analysis in clear and accessible ways, and his passion is infectious. Highly recommended.

Book cover for Web Analytics 2.0 by Avinash Kaushik

3. Consider the context of the video

Before developing your video content, think about the different ways it could be used. Video content can be easily repurposed and played in different situations. For example, one product video could be used on a website landing page, shared on social media, shown on event stands and uploaded onto tablets for sales people to show at meetings. That’s four ways of reaching your target audience from one video alone.

It’s worth considering this when thinking about what to include in the video. If it’s going to be shown at noisy events where sound is an issue, talking head interviews and voiceovers won’t be useful. We had this in mind when we developed the product video for Systems Integration. They wanted to feature it on their website, but also at events and looped on the screens in their reception area. When using video in this way, motion graphics and featuring product demonstrations are more helpful. Well-chosen music can be used where hearing audio is less of a problem, like in an office or meeting room.


The study shows that a rising number of manufacturing marketers in North America are using content marketing in their annual strategies. While there is little equivalent market data for the UK, there's plenty to learn and apply - particularly in the focus to produce compelling, helpful content and making sure analytics are used to measure the impact of the content. To find out more, here's the full report:

2015 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing - Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends - North America from Content Marketing Institute


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What we've learnt about manufacturing and content marketing



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