Manufacturing companies are no strangers to using agile for their manufacturing processes. Constant iterations and product adjustments let manufactures test quickly, see what works and eliminate what doesn’t work, so they continually learn as they create instead of investing months or years on something that doesn’t meet customer needs.
An agile approach creates a competitive advantage by allowing manufacturers to rapidly respond to customers and quickly adapt to customer demand. Making adjustments based on customer feedback not only delivers products based on real life needs rather than educated guesses, it also saves time and money.
While agile methodologies are customary within the realm of product development for many manufacturers; the marketing departments of these same companies are missing out on the benefits of agile processes.
81% of manufacturing marketers use content marketing, which is defined in CMI’s B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Report as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
However, only 18% of B2B manufacturing marketers say they are effective at content marketing. Why? They aren’t approaching content marketing in an agile fashion. 65% of these marketers say they can’t produce engaging content and 62% are challenged with producing content consistently. If they were applying agile marketing principles to their content strategy and production, both engagement and consistency would improve.
Improve engagement by iterating on what works
“Moving from manufacturing physical product to creating digital content may seem like a significant shift in mindset, but the same agile approaches apply. By releasing small content pieces to our audience at a regular cadence, we establish trust while learning their true preferences,” says Andrea Fryrear, Editor in Chief of The Agile Marketer.
With how easy it is to participate in online marketing – from videos to blogging to tweeting– manufacturing companies have a huge opportunity to market in a new way through content and inbound marketing tactics. But, manufacturers have to make sure the content being produced is engaging and resonates with the intended audience. The best way to do this is to iterate on what works and move away from what doesn’t.
“Manufacturers need to move from producing content based on assumptions to providing useful, relevant information that solves problems in the real world. This requires adopting a new way of thinking about content,” says Fryrear.
To be successful in content marketing, manufacturing companies cannot focus on the “we are the best, strongest, most sparkly” story line. The competition is too high and the marketplace is too broad for that message to make an impact. They must solve problems, showcase their expertise and fulfill customers’ needs, ultimately transforming commodities into value offerings.
The first step toward incorporating an agile approach into content marketing is to think about topics that help a specific buyer persona make decisions about product offerings. Start answering real world questions like:
- How do you keep your costs competitive?
- Do you meet detailed and custom requests?
- How does your offer help solve a problem in your buyer’s job function?
Create, publish and distribute content on three or four key topics for 3 months and gauge the success by looking at how many visits or shares the content attracts. Then, build on what is successful by creating more content around the topics that get the most engagement.
If none of the content topics are connecting, at least you’ll know quickly rather than wasting an entire year spinning your wheels creating irrelevant content. After all, bite sized failing is more manageable than epic failing.
Likewise, if a topic is getting great results, you quickly have proof that it works and can use that knowledge as inspiration to develop similar content that resonates and boosts engagement.
Improve consistency by working in sprints
Content marketing enables manufacturers to use their online presence to show their value, speak directly to prospects and customers and ultimately generate qualified leads. Of course, the content needed to gain these leads must be high quality, consistent and relevant to keep people engaged.
One way to ensure consistency is to apply the agile practice of sprint planning, which is a key element used to implement agility in the typical scrum framework: Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective. In simple terms, sprints are finite periods of work that are done to achieve a particular objective or finish a particular project.
One reason the production team of manufacturing companies practice agile is to create a buffer between designers and salespeople who might suddenly request a new product or immediate change request. This type of buffer works well for marketing departments too. While the agile approach gives room to quickly adapt to important news or industry events, it also protects the marketing team from getting off course or becoming inconsistent with delivery of essential content marketing assets like blog posts, videos or email outreach.
“Just as we wouldn’t jump into an assembly line while it’s in full flow to demand that a worker stop what they’re doing to make an entirely new product, we can’t expect content teams to function well if we’re always interrupting their work to demand something shiny and new,” says Fryrear.
An agile infrastructure improves marketing for manufacturing companies by creating a flexible, yet reliable workspace to develop engaging content on a consistent basis. How will you adapt?