Customer experience — the Holy Grail of customer loyalty and repeat business. Every company wants it, many talk about it but only a few get it right.
Customer experience is critical to manufacturers and industrial companies because it takes a long time and lots of hard work to find new customers from a limited pool of qualified prospects where their competitors are fishing too. You may be missing a huge opportunity if you are counting on your sales team and/or sales support people to provide “exceptional customer experience” from start to finish.
Just claiming, “We provide the best after sales care in the industry” on your industrial website won’t do you much good since your competition can make the exact same claim. Customer experience (CX) is not just after the sale, it is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. From awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy. (Wikipedia).
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Let’s look at the Who, What, When, Where and Why industrial content marketing helps manufacturers improve their customer experience. I’ll list the 5Ws in the order of priority based on my experience.
- WHY: Industrial buyers today rely heavily on self-service for their initial research. Studies have shown that they are almost 60% of the way into their buying process before contacting the vendor’s sales people. Industrial content marketing must set the table for your sales team to have conversations that are more productive, help them build trust and forge stronger relationships. Optimizing your content is very important but it is not just about SEO. See my post, “Content Marketing Must Go Beyond Inbound Marketing in Industrial Sales.” Conversations lead to conversions!
- WHO: Your content must be about them (your customers) and not you. Your customers don’t care that much about you or your company, all they want to know is what you can do to solve their problems. Effective content marketing requires a 180-degree change in mindset from what we have to sell to what our customers want done. Jay Baer, the author of the bestselling book Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype said it best, “The difference between helping and selling is just two letters. But those two letters are critically important to your company’s success.”
- WHAT: Content marketing is not about churning out more content that is not much more than promotional copy. Pay close attention to customer feedback, industry trends and get your sales team involved to get a better understanding of the challenges and issues your target audience is grappling with. Using surveys is a great way to get a pulse of the industry. Create content that addresses these issues and helps your audience move forward in their buying journey. (See my post, “Does Your Website Content Meet the Needs of Industrial Buyers?”). Here’s a handy chart from GlobalSpec that shows various content assets that can be used during each phase of the buying cycle.
- WHEN: Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you need content marketing just to fill the top of your sales funnel. Buyers consume content at their own pace. In a way, this idea breaks the traditional definition of a sales funnel. It means you need to create a variety of content for each phase of the buyer’s journey – Needs Awareness, Research, Consideration & Comparison and Procurement. Turn your content marketing from passive reading to actionable assets by creating content taking into consideration the customer’s buying cycle and the needs of various stakeholders involved in the decision.
- WHERE: Expand the reach of your content marketing by going beyond publishing on your website and blog. Look for trade magazine portals that accept guest posts and articles. Use social media to announce new content and drive traffic. Reach out to industry experts and analysts, add links to their content whenever appropriate. You’ll get a lot more in return with valuable inbound links and social cred.
One final thought based on creating content for some of my industrial clients. Don’t target your content marketing only at the person with buying authority. Often in industrial sales, the initial specifier has no buying authority but you’re not going to get the order unless your component or product is first specified by them.
This holds true for end-users too. Field installers and production line personnel have little to no influence on the initial purchase but they can make or break your repeat orders. Make sure your content addresses the needs of these people too. FAQs, How-to videos and technical manuals are very handy content assets to use for your after sales support.
Those are my thoughts on how content marketing impacts customer experience for industrial companies. Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.