Is content marketing effective for highly technical industrial buyers? The old wisdom says no. It says that manufacturers and their customers are immune to content marketing messages that lack the granular, technical details. Details that make or break a sale.

But data from Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 Manufacturing Content Marketing survey show that the benefits of content marketing are becoming clearer to manufacturers who devote the time and resources to these marketing programs.

That must mean that technical buyers are buying in.

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Manufacturers are gaining ground

One reason content marketing is viewed as ineffective in manufacturing is that fewer manufacturers have these programs in place, compared to other marketing sectors. But that’s changing rapidly. Manufacturers are adopting content marketing programs at a quickening pace. 31 percent reported having documented content marketing strategies compared to just 18 percent a year ago.

The data also point to manufacturers beginning to understand content marketing in the same ways other industry sectors do:

  • 64 percent of manufacturers always or frequently consider how content marketing impacts overall experience compared to 71 percent of other B2B content marketers overall
  • 64 percent of manufacturers always or frequently prioritize quality of content over quantity compared to 76 percent of other B2B content marketers overall
  • 49 percent of manufacturers stated their marketing leadership team gives marketers enough time to produce content marketing results compared to 52 percent of other B2B content marketers overall

Recognizing how content marketing plays into overall brand experience, focusing on quality over quantity, and understanding that results take time, are critical pieces of a solid content marketing program. B2Bs with successful programs know this; these data show more manufacturers do, too.

Measuring maturity in content marketing programs

Manufacturers are largely new to content marketing compared to other industry sectors. Only 19 percent of surveyed firms claimed to have mature or sophisticated content marketing programs.

But what of the remaining 81 percent?

  • 37 percent said their content marketing programs were in adolescent stages; they had developed a business case for programs, seen some success with them, and improved at measuring and scaling them
  • 28 percent claimed to be in young stages where growing pains were evident as they tried to develop cohesive strategies and measurement plans

Note that commitment among manufacturers to develop and/or maintain their content marketing programs is strong:

  • 49 percent claimed to be extremely or very committed to content marketing
  • 59 percent said their organizations have been much more or somewhat more successful thanks to their content marketing programs

Finally, consider this other important point: 19 percent of manufacturers reported their overall content marketing approach has been very successful while 49 percent considered their approach moderately so.

We know content marketing takes time to produce results, and we know that manufacturers are committed to maintaining or bolstering these programs. If the trends hold, the big bubble of adolescent- and young-stage programs will soon burst into maturity.

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What drives success?

According to the survey, a few factors emerged as critical to successful content marketing programs:

  • 82 percent of manufacturers said that creating quality content factored into their success
  • 69 percent reported that a clear content marketing strategy drove success
  • 62 percent claimed an increased priority on content marketing was critical
  • 57 percent said spending more time on content marketing was key to their success

Notice that the bottom three points above are crucial steps en route to the top point—creating quality content. Keep that in mind when you consider what manufacturers said contributed to stagnancy in their programs:

  • 67 percent of manufacturers claimed not spending enough time on content marketing factored into stagnation
  • 62 percent reported content creation challenges drove stagnancy
  • 51 percent reported that shortfalls in their content marketing strategies caused stagnancy
  • 42 percent said that stagnancy occurred when content marketing was not prioritized highly enough

The relationship between what leads to successful content marketing and what leads to its downfall from an easy checklist marketing managers can use to monitor the health of their programs.

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What about Return on Investment?

Boiled down, we know that content marketing is supposed to generate more qualified leads and create more business. Has it worked for manufacturers?

Basically, yes:

  • 71 percent of firms claimed they could prove that their content marketing efforts lead to more leads
  • 70 percent said they could prove that their programs increased audience engagement
  • 53 percent claimed they could demonstrate how content marketing has increased sales

Related content: Best Content Marketing Strategies

Are these programs worth the effort it takes to devise, implement, monitor and measure them?

More than a quarter—28 percent—of manufacturers said they could demonstrate that their content marketing programs led to lower customer acquisition costs. That means manufacturers are not only buying into content marketing, they’re getting better at measuring the data that makes the case to keep doing it.

Optimism trumps uncertainty

While the data show that more manufacturers believe in content marketing enough to try it, some uncertainty about these programs remain:

  • A third of surveyed firms said their organizations were clear about what a good content marketing program looks like
  • A third said their organizations weren’t clear on this point
  • A third weren’t sure either way

Despite this uncertainty, it looks like manufacturers are pressing forward: 97 percent of them said they planned to create at least the same amount of content this year as they did last year; 68 percent said they planned to create more.

If some manufacturers still wonder whether these programs can speak to their buyers, the data show they already do.


A persistent claim in the B2B marketing universe is that content marketing programs are a poor investment for manufacturers. But data from Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 Manufacturing Content Marketing survey show that the benefits of content marketing are becoming clearer to manufacturers, and that must mean that buyers are buying in.