Content marketing is proving to be a big challenge for industrial distributors that I have talked to. The problem stems from the fact that distributors have relied heavily in the past on their principal manufacturers to provide them with marketing content and collateral. Weaning themselves from that reliance and becoming publishers of original content is not only a challenge but they just don’t have the necessary resources for content marketing.
The second part of the problem is that these companies are sales driven and marketing has never been a major part of their sales process. Sales people cold calling, setting appointments for face to face meetings and building relationships are how they have always generated new leads and increased sales. Distributors have realized that industrial buyers are no longer engaging with their sales people like they used to. They recognize the fact that they need to support their sales team with better industrial marketing with content.
Industrial distributors don’t want to become publishers of content; they want to sell more of their products. I accept that reality, the challenge lies is delivering quantifiable ROI from content marketing. (See my post, “Content Marketing: Think Like a Publisher, Act Like an Investor”)
Using content marketing for organic or natural SEO to drive qualified traffic for top of the funnel (ToFU) activities is a large part of the solution. However, it is only half the equation. Your content needs to engage with visitors, persuade them to take action now rather than later and convert them into sales qualified leads. This conversion process is far more challenging.
Typical content marketing cycle
In other words, just increasing traffic is not enough, there has to be conversion for content marketing to produce results and increase sales. (See “Content Marketing Must Go Beyond Inbound Marketing in Industrial Sales”). To do this, the focus of content marketing for distributors must shift from selling products to solving customer problems. This change in mindset is not easy for distributors to accept and adopt.
It’s a mistake to assume that just because someone has found you in Google or other search engines, they’ll pick up the phone and call after they visit your site. Your site content must be relevant to their search (needs), convince them that you have the expertise to understand their applications and build trust that will motivate them to call you.
It is difficult if not virtually impossible to build trust and differentiate yourself if all you have for content is the exact same product descriptions, datasheets and catalogs as manufactures. Effective content marketing can help distributors differentiate themselves from the competition and convince site visitors of the extra value you can provide them. Only then will they contact a distributor instead of the manufacturer directly. (See “Content Can Differentiate Industrial Companies When There’s Parity in Value Propositions”)
Industrial content marketing is not a replacement of your sales team. In my experience, the best results come from using a good mix of content marketing, telemarketing and direct contact by sales people. The key lies in developing a content marketing strategy that closely aligns tactics with buyer roles and their stage in the buy cycle. I recently wrote about this in my post, “Industrial Content Marketing — Different Strokes for Different Folks.”
As a distributor, you probably don’t have the in-house people to do content marketing on a full time basis. Outsourcing is an option you should consider seriously; at least for help with developing a content marketing strategy, initial implementation, building your in-house team and training them to utilize the system to its maximum potential. Thereafter you may only need help with ongoing content creation, management and reports.
What I’ve outlined in this post is based on my own experience of working with industrial distributors in helping them use content marketing for lead generation and sales. I’m interested in hearing from you about your own industrial content marketing journey.