“I don’t know what to write about.”
I’ve been in dozens of meetings with clients who initially hate the whole idea of blogging, primarily because they don’t know what to write about. While we take on the task of writing most clients’ posts, many manufacturers want to do this on their own but struggle with identifying topics they think will be interesting to prospects. Finding meaty topics, though, is easier than you might think.
Here’s an outline of the best places to get topic inspiration – for blog posts and ebooks, tip sheets, guides, videos, etc. Rely on these to generate the kind of blog posts that attract prospects to your site and demonstrate why they should work with you:
First, leverage internal resources…and start with your sales team.
The people who are in direct contact with prospects every day have the most insight into what prospects are looking for, what questions they have related to your business and products, what they’re struggling with, and even what competitors are doing.
What are the best questions sales people hear from prospects?
These are the questions that may be related to challenges they face, issues that your capabilities address better than anyone. Or they might be about situations you’ve solved many times in the past that make your solutions more relevant than the competition. Understanding the best questions coming from ideal prospects can often be a rich source of authentic content ideas.
What usually “makes” the sale?
Is it price, cost-in-use, lifespan, after-sales service, technical capabilities, head-to-head comparisons to a competitor’s product…? The “something” that takes the sale over the finish line should be one topic you hit hard – and often. If leads are convinced to buy from you when they’re told that your equipment’s lifespan is 2 years longer than competitors, this is something you need to communicate broadly and from different perspectives (the effect of longer lifespan on ROI, on productivity, on maintenance, etc.)
Price, as a side note, should only be covered carefully, often in general terms that focus more on the “how” of pricing rather than specifics around “how much.” First, you don’t really want to attract low-price hunters; second, price depends on so many factors that you can’t accurately detail it in a blog post. Instead, talk about your value, (e.g., the features that deliver added value, why your product requires less maintenance/downtime, how customers see greater productivity that results in reduced cost-in-use, etc.). Don’t avoid the discussion about cost – it’s one of the primary areas of interest to B2B buyers so you can bet they’re Googling it.
What customers have you enjoyed helping most and why?
When your sales people answer this question, you’ll have the makings of great case studies. Sales people love solving problems and helping customers’ businesses grow, and when they’re that energized, they’ll provide great stories – what customer’s challenges were, what alternatives they considered as they evaluated solutions, why they eventually chose your company, and ultimately the benefits and results they’re experiencing using your products and services. By including actual metrics that validate performance improvements, case studies like this draw the reader into a story that gives you added credibility and relevance, making them think, “I want them to do that for my business, too!”
Name 5 things that you feel competitors may be doing better.
Perhaps your competitors are truly better at something, but maybe it’s just a perception out there. What you need to do is get out in front as a thought leader on the topic. If, for example, the perception is that Competitor A’s tungsten blades hold an edge longer than yours, focus some blog posts and other content on the elements that make yours superior: your processes, performance in the most demanding situations, ease of use, reliability, etc. – whatever it is that customer feedback and your own testing prove. Do whatever you can to erase the false perception and start building an authentic new belief set.
Another way to “one up” the competition is to focus on your capo d’astro bar…find the thing that differentiates you (make sure it’s something your prospects and customers value) and discuss why customers benefit from it.
Once you make a sale, what feedback do you typically get?
Is it generally very positive, or are there issues you hear about repeatedly? If your team hears the same thing again and again about late shipments, you can assume prospects have heard it too. Get ahead of the issue by first fixing the problem, then talking about how you’ve improved. And what about positive feedback you get? By all means share what customers are saying by turning those good comments into blog posts. If sales people are often told that your training or certification programs are exceptional, write a blog about what you do and how it benefits customers. Include testimonials if you can!
Engineers, customer service reps and others also hold a wealth of knowledge prospects would find useful and compelling. Don’t hesitate to get their input on what they’re asked and what they hear from customers and leads.
Pay attention to the voice of the customer!
Start by interviewing customers who represent your ideal customer, and think about bringing in a third party to conduct interviews. Customers are more likely to feel comfortable telling the whole truth about their experiences, both the great and not-so-great, especially if the interviewer creates respect for the confidentiality of their comments. The best questions revolve around why, from their perspective, did they choose your business, and why they have remained loyal. You’ll get it in their words, and you’ll learn some things about needs and challenges they’re still looking to solve. Wonderful potential blog ingredients!
Look to publications and associations to guide you toward trending topics.
Manufacturing Today, Industry Today, Industry Week, Advanced Manufacturing and The Manufacturer all keep on top of the latest industry developments, sharing insights about implementing robotics in your facility, how to leverage the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), ways to improve margins, the effect of current and pending regulations, labor shortages and hiring strategies…all the things your customers are thinking about. Find topics that you know your prospects are dealing with and offer your perspective.
Last bit of advice: Try not to talk about what you think is important – always strive to be in the shoes of your prospects so you can write about what they think is important. Too many manufacturing blogs today discuss things like their history or mission or certifications or new products. And while those things contribute to why you’re good at what you do, prospects aren’t Googling “history and mission of XYZ company.” They’re Googling “how to reduce metal fatigue in water pumps” and “best end-of-line packaging systems.” People go to the internet for help, and they’ll find your site because you wrote about the questions they needed to answer.