Topic Clusters…Industrial’s Most Potent Marketing Weapon

 

Topic clusters!

Yep, topic clusters are an industrial marketers’ most potent marketing and lead generation weapon.

Especially for industrial marketers! I will tell you why industrial marketers have a unique advantage in a moment.

The use of topic clusters has been an SEO tactic for several years. But few use it and industrial marketers, hardly at all. At least, not yet.

OK…so what are topic clusters?

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Industrial Content Marketing…The Universal Truth

the truth about industrial content marketingOK…there are a few more than one, but in my mind, there is one key element of success when it comes to small & mid-size industrials attempting to leverage the web for branding, lead generation, etc. In other words, industrial content marketing.

The one universal truth is this:

If the leader is not FULLY on board with content marketing, it is doomed.

PERIOD.

Sorry to be so dystopian (the opposite of utopia).

However, if the leader fully understands the full implications of industrial content marketing there can be shades of utopia in his future.

I speak from, up-close & personal, experience in the mid-size industrial marketing. I guess my 10,000 hours of dedication to the craft of industrial content marketing makes me an expert, according to bestselling author, Malcolm Gladwell.

Most owners of mid-size industrials understand there needs to be a change in the way they go to market. The web is literally “eating their lunch” as buyers use the web to source just about everything.

If the leader’s branded sales materials are not there to greet a new, demanding, web-enabled buyer, then his company lost any hope of expanding his prospect and customer base for the purpose of lead generation and top-of-mind awareness…via his largest pool for prospects…the web.

So, the leader needs to embrace the change and as Jack Welch (former CEO of GE) says, “Change before you have to”.  And from Peter Drucker, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence (the web has clearly created turbulence) is not the turbulence…it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

So, how does a business keep up with with all the web turbulence?

As I said, it all starts with leader’s attitude about growth.

If the leader is committed to growth and understands the turbulence the web has created in his channels to market, then his formerly detached attitude concerning the web will be displaced by an unbounding love of the opportunities the web has created for his company and employees.

NOW…he is ready to lead an industrial content marketing initiative.

Along with his changing attitude about the web and change, comes four other KEY elements a leader must understand for online success.

Understanding your corporate brand…your online foundation

First, if you are an industrial supplier and your brand mentions something like “best service”, “expert service”, “finest products”, “we represent premier brands”, etc… you are following…not leading. If these examples are similar to your brand message…in today’s world of search, social, mobile & AI, you may be dressed for the big game, but not competitive.

I am not even going to attempt a long discussion about industrial branding. It is a broad and deep subject and has as many facets as branding practitioners. However, I will voice my opinion. You need a brand message that tells a story…a story that connects with your buyers and bypasses the typical pablum about “best service”, “best price”, etc.

Your brand needs to connect in a more human way.

If you have decided to join the ranks of early adapters for industrial content marketing, start with your brand first.

 

Typically, I suggest my customers talk to Greg Miller at Maxwell and Miller agency in Kalamazoo. If you want, you can start with a publication we collaborated on, A Branding Road Map for Industrial Marketers. This e-book will give you a flavor of the best way to create a fresh brand for our industrial company. If nothing else, it helps get the creative juices going so that you can look at your company from a fresh perspective.  A more human perspective, that connects beyond the typical price/service/quality ad copy.

Find a trusted marketing partner

I have often said that in the age of search, social, mobile & AI it is difficult for a mid-size industrial to afford a quality web marketing effort.

If the leader has bought into the industrial content marketing concept, typically there are two conventional roads to follow…neither expressways to success.

  • Hire additional market personnel
  • Hire an outside agency to specializes in industrial content marketing

The first alternative typically does not work because the industrial owner/manager does not even know the right questions to ask a potential marketing hire. Because this discipline is so new the employer is thinking old marketing versus new media marketing. These are two difference disciplines. I have seen on multiple occasions…the new hire does not last 6 months. Primarily because the employer did not know what to look for.

If you are going to hire a marketing specialist to guide your new marketing effort, then hire a more experienced marketing person who comes from a traditional marketing background, yet has adapted well to new media marketing. Typically this individual comes with a bigger price tag.

Then, I also see industrial owners hire the kids with marketing degrees and they don’t really understand the human aspects of marketing & industrial sales. They know the high-tech stuff, but not the high-touch, human stuff.

There are a hand full of agencies that are experienced in the industrial content marketing. They tend to be very expensive and even if your budget can afford that approach, it is difficult to budget and maintain a sustainable content marketing effort…which is required for online success.

With a shameless plug, I suggest hiring an independent marketing guru (I just happen to know one) that can align your company with the necessary contractors to get the job done.  See…to compete in today’s online world you need to have a branding expert, a web developer, a graphics specialist, a SEO specialist, a data analyst, a social media expert and a great technical writer.

The typical mid-size industrial company simply cannot afford all these skills sets. So, it makes sense to have an “Executive Producer” that hires top talent on an as-needed basis. This is just about the only way a small or mid-size company can compete…in a quality way…online.

Get involved with an online marketing automation platform

Online success requires you deploy tons of marketing assets and track all of it…much in the same way your accounting or ERP software manages and tracks your physical & financial assets. I have written previously about this subject and believe, more than ever, online success requires a great marketing automation platform.

Get Your Sales Group Involved

This a very broad & deep subject as well. Do your best to understand the relationship between your fresh marketing efforts and your more traditional sales efforts. Make sure your sales team is involved and they know you have their best interest at heart.

It is critical.

Rather, than writing at length on this subject, I suggest you read a nine-minute blog post from HubSpot titled, How to Integrate Sales Development with Inbound Marketing to Multiply SQLs. HubSpot is not only the leader in mid-size marketing automation software, but they are also leaders in the relationship between marketing and sales. Base on HubSpot’s financial success they know this subject as well as anyone.

Below is an example of a client that has successfully outmaneuvered larger, national competitors in terms of visibility on the web. The owner is fully engaged and understands each key element of success outlined above. His great content and improved positions on the search engines has translated into improved top-of-mind awareness, lead generation and even improved hires for my client.

This graph is from SEMrush, a leading tool for digital marketers. This graph clearly demonstrates the superior position of my client (in Green circle) for multiple keywords related to their industry. Two of the domains in this graph are two of the largest companies in my client’s industry and the purple domain is the leading non-profit organization for this industry…a site visited by thousands of practitioners in the industry for updates, specifications, certifications, guidelines, etc.

We are currently working with this client to dramatically improve their search positions using a concept called topic cluster or pillar pages.

Once we launch the pillar pages on my client’s site, I fully expect this graph to show even greater distance between my client and competitors.

I will follow up and show you the results in another post in a couple months…sort of a before & after

Are you a leader?

 

For more info on what The Repp Group can do for your industrial marketing & lead generation…CLICK BELOW

 

Personal Branding for Industrial Can Be a Huge Advantage

personal branding for industrial I have been an unyielding advocate of using online content to spread your brand message using the least expensive channel available…the web. Nobody realizes more than I there are still a ton of doubters in the industrial community. It is still difficult for me to believe there is even debate about the benefits of content marketing for industrial. Building your industrial brand using helpful content to help educate your prospects and customers using a channel that, virtually, reaches every potential customer on the planet is a no-brainer.

But…I digress.

In today’s environment of marketing rebellion (i.e. prospects do not listen to promotional stuff anymore), building a strong personal brand using content from your key employees is critical as well.

I believe we are at a tipping point, of sorts, in the industrial market. Allow me to explain.

Think about it. When you visit a new prospect or interview a potential vendor, what do you do beforehand?

You look them up online…right?

Then why doesn’t your industrial company provide the visibility prospects and customers are begging for?

That goes for your top technical and sales employees as well. They need to be as visible as your corporate brand.

Picture this.

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Industrial Content Marketing Isn’t About Leads

“No more fancy metrics or acronyms that I don’t understand. I just want results…I want leads.”

This is exactly what a customer told me couple years ago, only six months after we had started an impressive website rebuild along with industrial content marketing.

Another large industrial supplier called me one month after launching a fresh brand and website with all the SEO elements built into the site and wanted to know why they were not showing up in search results for critical keywords. (I never promise quick results when it comes to web marketing and search engine placement).

Talk about short-term thinking!

I can’t tell you how many executive meetings I have attended where the following narrative was expressed; “We will only get a budget for the web project if we can guarantee lots of leads.”

In the age of search, social, mobile and AI (artificial intelligence) short-term thinking creates fatal blind spots for the industrial marketer such as illustrations sited above.

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The Cheapest & Most Costly Advice for Industrial Marketing

Anybody that is anybody in marketing certainly knows the name David Meerman Scott. David is probably the best know online strategist in the country. David has written many best sellers including, Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, The New Rules of Sales & Service and Newsjacking, to name a few.

David was also kind enough to endorse my own e-book titled, The Essential Guide to Industrial Marketing…The Inbound Way.

As an online marketer, I am always gleaning the thought-leaders for tips and tricks to improve my client’s online marketing efforts.

David Meerman Scott’s most recent post, The Five Essential Skills for Building an Effective Website caught my eye from feedly.com, a blog aggregator app I monitor daily on my iPhone.

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Embrace 3 Goals to Crush Competitors Using Featured Snippets

Just imagine what your industrial brand would look like in a couple years if you achieved the following goals:

  • Became an online thought-leader for your industries’ most important topics
  • You reach #1 page rank in Google for each of your company’s products, services or industry topics
  • For each of your company’s most important topics, your company’s content was featured at the top of Google’s return page in featured snippet format or as some call it, Google’s answer box (See example below)

Google's featured snippet

Let me show you the why & how.

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Nobody Will Fall in Love with Your Industrial Logo

industrial branding, Nobody Will Fall in Love with Your Industrial LogoHear I go again…beating the drum for industrial branding.

Forgive me.

I write often about industrial branding, as recently as November 9; Industrial Branding: You Get What You Pay For!

I will be the first to admit I have always been influenced by a quality brand message. When I first became involved in marketing the companies that created a strong brand captivated me.

“How, in the world, did they do that?”

Then, years ago, I became good friends with Greg Miller, Michigan’s grand guru of branding.

At our weekly coffees at “The Club” (Tim Horton’s or Grand Traverse Pie), Greg further convinced me how many of my industrial friends were not capitalizing on branding and how it could benefit them…particularly in the age of search, social and mobile. We both felt that the web & new technologies were brand multipliers…if done properly.

Every time I approached the concept of branding the typical response was, “We have a good logo and re-did our tag line recently” …or something similar. I would then check out their website, sales literature, brochures, social accounts, etc.

And what did I find?

PABLUM.

Absolutely nothing to distinguish them from their industrial competitors.

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Gated vs Ungated Content for Industrial…My Dilemma

gated vs ungated content-a dilemmaThink hard now…when was the last time you saw some valuable content on the web and decided to download?

You said to yourself, “Man, that looks like great information…just what I was looking for.”

Then you hit the download button and changed your mind because you had to give up your name & e-mail address. You thought, “The content looks great, but I don’t want to open myself up for more harassment.”

If you are like me, you harbored some lingering pangs of distrust towards the company that offered up the content…for “free”.

Research demonstrates that 90% of web-users will ignore the sign-up page for fear of getting peppered with more email. It seems the whole privacy/data collection issue is top-of-mind for consumers.

For those of you that follow this blog you know that I am a huge proponent of marketing automation platforms like HubSpot. All marketing automation platforms make their living…sort of speak…by exchanging personal data for “gated” content. Using forms to gather more information about an interested prospect has been the virtual foundation of most of these marketing automation platforms. Information gathered from forms is the currency many of these platforms promote as “lead generation” and the best way to cost-justify the additional expense of marketing automation.

Now, however, after much thought and research I am leaning towards ungating content as common practice…as I have done on my own page.  (If you download some of my work…enjoy!)

But…like a good economist, “It depends” or “on the other hand”

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Industrial Branding: You Get What You Pay For!

you get what you pay for when it comes to industrial brandingWe all know our parents had the best advice. As I baby boomer, I still recite my Father’s favorite axioms: “If you want something done, give it to the busiest people”, “The cheapest insurance you can buy are the best quality tires”, “The will to prepare comes before the will to succeed”…and of course the most time-honored quote of all:

“You get what you pay for.”

Still true today.  Thanks Dad.

Often, I am asked to start an online marketing effort including website, content deployment, e-mail, blogs, the “whole shootin’ match” (thanks again, Dad).

But…before they embark on a comprehensive online marketing effort, I always suggest they start by taking a critical look at their company’s brand.

Often the discussion ends with, “I don’t believe we can afford to spend the extra dollars on brand development”…or something very similar.

A well-defined brand message is the most misunderstood and underutilized marketing asset for most businesses, especially for industrial companies.

Why?

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4 Steps to Achieve Competitive Advantage Using Rich Snippets

using rich snippets to gain competitive advantageHave you recently noticed when you search for a specific product, a specific restaurant, a specific recipe or a specific definition you often receive a “rich snippet” that gives you EXACTLY what you were looking for in a nicely formatted box? Some call these “featured snippets”, some call them “answer boxes”. As a techie would say, “I use structured data to create rich snippets on my webpages.”

No longer is Google’s search engine return page (SERP) a simple list of blue headlines.

You may have also noticed that voice searches are becoming more accurate than your first attempts a few years ago.  For example, “Siri, where can I get the best car loan rate?” or “OK, Google, where can I get spare electric motors in Kalamazoo?”. If you have not tried this, go ahead and open your Android or Apple device and try it.  (Personally, I like Google’s Assistant as they have a lot more data for artificial intelligence to glean from, resulting in more precise answers.)

Let us explore how you can gain a competitive advantage using rich snippets.

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