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.


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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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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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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How to Find Hidden Treasures in Industrial Content Marketing

Have you ever watched those TV shows where folks find old, dusty, ugly, items in the attic and then find they are worth thousands after being analyzed by an expert? Turns out the item was right under their nose for years. The recipients of good fortune often talk about the many times they wanted to take the item to the dump or rummage sale.  Now, to their surprise, they have an extremely valuable item…still old, dusty and ugly.

So it is with long-tail keywords for the industrial market.

Old dusty, long-tail keywords such as “15 infinite variable swing lathe” or “electric motor vibration analysis” or “quench oil coolers” or “Falk 5DTC gear reducer” can be extremely valuable.

Let me explain how you can be the recipient of good fortune as well…

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When You Do Industrial Content Marketing…Do No Evil

I was in the car today and made the mistake of answering a local number that was not identified by caller ID. Sure enough, I had to put my nasty hat on and tell them to “get lost”.

My wife and I switched from Android to iPhone last month at the assistance of my wife…actually my wife’s friends, as well as my own kids. (Domestic tranquility is bliss.)

I noticed that several of my favorite blogs were now populated with extremely annoying pop-up ads on the iPhone versus my old Android. I will fix that!

It seems like every website you visit now has followed you around like some sleazeball stalker and then displays ads for the last watch you were looking at on Amazon, that last automobile you were researching or those magnificent golf clubs you had your eye on. Creeps me out.

Technology is great. Your car works better because of technology. Your medical care is better because of technology. Industry is more productive because of technology.  And so, it goes.

But marketing is suffering because of technology & marketing automation…and big-data is the culprit.

Now marketing professionals can slice & dice customer data and push data and annoying ads to millions of customers and a meager 1% conversion renders a healthy return on their investment.

I hear it almost daily from my marketing friends, “But…it just works”. To me it is evil.

If you know me and read this blog you know that I am a believer in using the web, big-data and marketing automation to gain a competitive advantage over your industrial competitors.


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Industrial Marketing Strategy & Insights in the Age of Google

industrial marketing strategyI recently met with two Presidents in the same week. One was a mid-size manufacturer of machine tools. The other was the owner of a third-generation industrial supplier.

Almost in lock-step they both, passionately, howled, “Tom, our trade shows, cold calls, and e-mails blasts just don’t work as they used to!”

Both went on to admit they are woefully behind when it came to using the web to brand and market their businesses. They both wanted to know if the web could improve lead generation and customer retention…i.e. industrial branding.

Both, wanted to know if there was some recent marketing data on the buying habits of their customers. Frankly, neither executive had any idea of where to begin and wanted some solid marketing data on what others are doing in their sectors in terms of web marketing.

I was aware of two recent studies that would provide guidance and intelligence for these two industrial executives as they re-tooled their respective industrial marketing strategies.

I viewed this opportunity as a teachable moment to instruct both on the value of industrial content marketing. I told both, “Tell you what, I know of two excellent studies and I will publish them on my blog right after New Year’s. I knew both were subscribers to my blog so I instructed them to keep an eye on their inboxes as they will be notified when I publish my post.

So…if you are looking for some critical intelligence concerning your industrial marketing strategy here are two recent reports: One from titled, IEEE GlobalSpec Releases Findings from Its Annual Industrial Marketing Trends SurveyThe other from titled, How Engineers Find Information 2018.

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Further Evidence of the Opportunity for Industrial Content Marketing

industrial content marketing-making the caseFirst, if you are not serious about retooling your industrial marketing strategy to create sustainable lead generation and top-line growth, you don’t need to bother reading this post or follow up on the valuable links below.

If you are serious about creating top-of-mind experiences for your industrial prospects and sustainable lead-generation, then spend 10 minutes to educate yourself from two of the most reliable resources on the web, and Search Engine Land about the need for industrial content marketing.

For those you that follow me and read my blog, you know that I have been consistent concerning the opportunities for the savvy industrial marketer. The articles below provide further evidence that my customers are on the right track when retooling their online strategy & taking advantage of opportunities in the industrial market:

Can you say, “OPPORTUNITY”?

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