As a manufacturer, you very likely are sitting on a content goldmine — a virtually inexhaustible source of expert information and insights. And this valuable natural resource is hiding in plain sight.
Where is it?
It resides in the brains of your expert level employees, your product specialists, mechanical engineers, senior machinists, inside sales folks, customer service agents, and others.
I know what you’re thinking.
But they’re not writers. How do you know that? Have you ever asked? More than one client has been shocked by the serious writing chops and great writing styles we’ve uncovered! Our best guy doesn’t have a college degree. Your audience doesn’t care and they won’t check. If they’ve been with you forever and know your products and processes inside out and upside down, their down to earth perspective will add to your credibility by providing your audience a feeling for what it’s really like at your company. Mechanical engineers? Their knowledge is gold and your audience really wants to know what they know. Their message might just need de-jargonizing. It can be done. Pair them with a good editor capable of translating their innovative ideas and insights from engineer-speak to plain language your audience will understand.
You’re looking for people who have been there a long time and who not only understand but also believe in the long-term benefits of your product. You want people who have seen the industry change and who understand the context of your tremendous history.
These folks don’t necessarily need to interface with customers, but they should have deep knowledge of what you make and why it’s special. You also might seek out newer employees who have recently worked for a competitor who are now working for you. What makes you different will be top of mind for them, as they will still be in the process of soaking up the differentiation and making the connections.
Look for the people with the best, in-depth knowledge. Look at them through the lens of “what they know that our customers would like to know.” You can always shop out support processes such as editing, but your subject matter expert’s deep knowledge and insights will be completely unique and that is a big part of its core value. Accept no substitutes – because neither will your readers.
That’s because people in manufacturing spend their lives making thing things and/or around things being made, and so they look at things, and absorb them in a different way than the average Joe/Jane.
That said, you may discover one or two Unicorns, people who have it all, but more likely, at least at first, you will need to provide your SMEs with some support. For example, consider pairing them with a shadow writer who will interview them and draft the post for them until they get the hang of how to do it. Be willing to do whatever you need to do to polish that raw powerful knowledge into a format ready for audience consumption. It is worth it.
There is a caveat, however. It’s one thing to have identified a source of gold; ensuring that gold is fashioned into assets that are relevant and on strategy is another story. To do that, you need a solid content strategy. In his book, “A Website That Works,” Mark O’Brien defines a content strategy as “a plan for adding unique, expert, and indexable content to your site on a regular basis.”
This plan should include a deep topic list that not only is in alignment with your organization’s distinct point of view or company “why” but that is also supported by a disciplined editorial calendar that governs who is writing what, by when. It also should call out a process for broadcasting that content, via social, email, etc. A solid content strategy provides you with the ability to ensure everything that is created will address and advance all aspects of your customers’ journey — or it doesn’t get created.
Take some time to get the content strategy together, and then jump in. You can start small. Who is first? Provide them with a topic and say “Go!” If they aren’t comfortable writing, hire someone to capture their thoughts on the topic and draft a post for them. Then do it again, and again. After a month or two, add a second person. But who will want to add blogging what is already a 10-hour day? Perhaps no one, at least at first. But as you start to nurture your contributors and reshape their roles — and they see their byline and people commenting on their posts – you may find they become quite enthusiastic!
And so will you, when you begin to see the powerful magnetic effect that those raw, real stories start to have on your audience. You will quickly notice how your willingness to share fuels your audience’s desire to develop a relationship. A relationship that is meaningful and will last because it is built on relevancy not interruption.
Ready to get started?
Take a few minutes to look around the office for one of these content generating gems. Look closely though as they are most likely hiding in plain sight.
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