B2B Content Strategy: Learning From Your Competition

April 22, 2019
Travis Triplett
Director of Accounts

SEO, manufacturing, marketing technology

Content Marketing for Manufacturers: Your Guide to Online Success

Competition is a good thing. After all, where would Apple be today if they didn’t have Microsoft threatening to steal a share of their market? And where would Microsoft be without an Apple to keep them on their toes throughout the years, constantly challenging them to innovative and create more advanced products?

The intense competitive drive that applies to these tech companies also applies to the best practices in marketing for manufacturing companies, especially as more buyers seek out these products and services online. In fact, a recent report by Forrester found that 68% of today’s B2B customers prefer to carry out their own independent research before ever speaking to representatives or sales reps on a company’s team. Additionally, 90% of B2B buyers say online content has a moderate to major effect on their purchasing decisions. 

As a result of all this, content marketing has become a huge focus for B2B organizations across a variety of industries, and the manufacturing sector is no exception. To ensure your own content marketing strategy is optimized for the modern digital arena, here are some essential content marketing tips to help drive your online success.

Identifying your Digital Competition: Search Results

Any time a user conducts a search online, they land at Search Engine Results Page (SERP) #1, which displays the top results related to your query (plus a handful of relevant paid placements, as well). 

Every marketer's dream is to dominate search and be the first organic result displayed at the top of SERP #1 for every keyword related to their business, but in reality, this is extremely hard to achieve - especially for keywords that aren’t applicable to your business. However, if you believe you belong near the top of the SERP results for a relevant keyword, you can gain a ton of insights by simply checking out who shows up on SERP page 1. With a little luck, you’ll be able to discern why certain sites/pages are able to maintain such a high ranking, while also identifying some new competitors to keep a watch over.  

Seizing Competitive Opportunities in SEO

You’ll need at least some knowledge of SEO best practices before you start analyzing search results from a content marketing perspective. Why? Because you’ll need to be able to identify which factors of what competitor pages are leading to their high ranking. In addition, having some amount of SEO knowledge will help you to know what components of content optimization to focus on, including: 

  • Keyword Opportunities: Your competition can give you plenty of insights when it comes to optimizing for the appropriate industry- or product-specific keywords. By evaluating the pages that rank for relevant keywords, you can uncover everything from the theme of the content presented to the pages’ URL phrasing, and a whole lot more. Tools like Moz, SpyFu, and SEMrush allow industrial companies to dig even deeper to see exactly what keywords their competitors are ranking for so they can adjust their optimization strategy accordingly.
  • SERPs To Avoid: If a search engine results page is made up largely of content that’s irrelevant to your industry or customers, then it’s a safe bet that particular keyword is not worth targeting. That’s because, in reality, the companies who are competing for those searchers aren’t your direct competitors (or even your indirect competitors). Even some of the most powerful manufacturing companies cannot completely alter an entire keyword market if the market demands to see certain types of content. 
  • Linking Opportunities: Taking advantage of linking opportunities means doing things like beating competitors through better quality backlinks, finding more keyword-friendly slugs that have yet to be adopted by others, and various other link-related tactics. Throughout the linking optimization process, you might even be able to identify new sites to link to or seek links from, all of which helps to raise your reputation - and your ranking (assuming these are, in fact, reputable sites with respectable domain authorities).

Determining the Relevancy of Your Content

Knowing what relevant trends and topics your B2B competitors are blogging about is especially useful within niche industries, but it’s not always an easy task to accomplish. However, if you can refine your process, you’ll likely discover that you’re able to generate high-value blog ideas that showcase your thought leadership. 

Alternatively, you might also discover that managing a blog is not a feasible content strategy for you after all and that you’d find more value in creating technical, research-oriented content instead. You’ll never truly know until you scope out the competition and see what’s working (or not working) for them!

Still, regardless of whether you decide to go with a blog format or a more technical research library, each and every piece of content you generate should be relevant to your audience if you want it to add value to your brand story. Seeing what works and what doesn’t work for others in your industry can help you refine your own efforts; after all, when you know your consumers in-and-out, you’ll be able to create content that grabs - and holds - their attention. At the same time, you’re nurturing valuable relationships, establishing brand loyalty, and creating potential future customers who will remember the expertise you can bring when purchase time comes around.

Messaging, Voice, and Tone 

It’s not uncommon to read a competitor’s content and think “Wow! They’re talking to their users much differently than we are!” And that’s quite alright, because every organization has its own unique way of speaking (that is, its own distinct tone or voice). Even so, there’s a lot to be learned by analyzing the similarities and differences in how you and your competition speaks. 

For example, there are always some general writing-for-the-web best practices that might seem irrelevant or non-applicable to your particular industry or brand - that is, until you see someone else who’s doing it really well. You never know what might actually work until you see it in action! Then, you can think of ways to take what you like, tweak it to fit your own brand or voice, and potentially discover a whole new way to connect with your audience.

Paid Campaigns 

Here’s an interesting research exercise you could try: go seek out relevant keywords for products or services that your manufacturing company provides, then ask yourself, “Is anybody else advertising for these things?” 

If so, click and see where those paid placement links take you. If it’s to a general website or any on-site page, you can start to see what types of content your competition values as high-priority for the Googlers of the world. If it’s a landing page, then you can usually assume that your competition has built campaigns around a specific area of their business, which can provide you with some helpful insights for building out your own campaigns.

Content Management Systems 

Having a technically-minded content writer or strategist who can thoughtfully evaluate what the competition is doing through their own digital content can reveal some surprising insights. Say a competitor just launched a new website and you’re curious what they are using to manage their content with. 

A little research might reveal that they are on the same CMS platform that you’re considering switching from or a brand new enterprise-level platform that might also serve your business well. With this knowledge, you can be more confident in your own decisions regarding content management and the capabilities you’ll need in the future.

Social Strategies

Social media is here to stay, but the popular tools associated with it are constantly changing. Next year’s trendiest social network might not even exist yet, nor the strategies to generate successful content on them. For now, however, there’s no reason you can’t look at what your competition is doing on the social media sites that already exist and are relevant to your mutual audience. Start by considering things like: What are they sharing on their Facebook? Is it different from what they’re sharing on LinkedIn? Are there obvious strategic differences in how they are utilizing various social media platforms that you could learn from?

With the right preparation and a good eye, analyzing the effective or ineffective social media efforts of your competition can provide some telling insights into their overall content distribution and promotional strategies. 

Email

The most successful content marketing for manufacturing companies leverages email marketing as much as possible. But like most marketing tactics, email marketing comes with several questions to answer beforehand, such as:

  • How often should I email? 
  • How much content should be included in each email?
  • Should I do industry- or service-specific campaigns? 
  • What should I put in the email if we don’t really have new content to push out there? 

To answer these questions, you can gain some valuable insights by subscribing to receive a competitor’s emails. Everything from what types of subscription options are available to great subject line ideas can come from your industry peers. Again, just make sure to consider how you can create your own fresh and brand-consistent content inspired by these initiatives, and not merely try to steal their ideas to pass off as your own.

Ready to Start Learning from Your Competition?

As you can see, there’s always something to be learned from your competitors. From email marketing and social media initiatives to your content or brand's voice and tone, there's no shortage of areas where you can improve your B2B content strategy by leveraging insights from your industry peers. If you’d like some guidance on how to best leverage insights and takeaways from your own competition, contact the content strategists at ADK today - we can show you where to start!

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