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Since marketing for manufacturers typically involves the development of a new website, one of the first things we have to do is to explain to clients that for the website to be successful, they will need to continuously add content to it.
Invariably, the client’s reaction is something along the lines of, “That’s great, who is supposed to write that?” And when we say that they need to get the experts within the organization to write, people laugh at us! They say, “We’re never going to get engineers to take the time to do this!”
We admit it can be hard to get people to write, and it can be extra hard to convince someone with an engineering mindset of the value of blogging regularly. However, we know it is possible because we’ve coached a good number of our clients through implementing this process successfully.
The most important step is creating your content strategy. All of the content created should be connected to and informed by a clear content strategy.
A content strategy outlines the goals and objectives of the content and provides some guardrails in terms of what ultimately gets out there representing the brand. A content strategy asks the question – is this idea and the way it’s presented speaking to the right person at the right time?
Putting out content without matching it against a well-crafted content strategy can be dangerous. It’s purpose is to help you make sure you’re not saying the same things over and over again and ensures you are covering everything that’s important to readers.
Your biggest challenge at first will be to optimize the use of your SME’s bandwidth. Especially if they are already working overtime and you’re asking them to add something new to their plate.
Do whatever is needed to demonstrate to your SME that this blogging initiative is an organized, systematic, and ongoing process that’s here to stay. Show them the content calendar and make sure that topics are assigned and agreed upon well ahead of time. The more organized the process appears, the easier it will be to engage people, especially at first.
Before you can get people on board, you have to demonstrate the importance of this new big initiative by committing to a monthly content meeting. This is a team meeting that’s open to everyone in the organization.
Participants should be encouraged to offer up a specific point of view on a topic that is unique to your organization not just idea for topics they think the customer would like to read. They also should take a crack at distilling their idea into a working “headline” that describes what the post will be about and come up with a compelling email subject line for when this post gets sent out to subscribers.
Another way to signal the importance of this content meeting is to make sure it is very structured, with a tight agenda about what people will learn, what they need to bring, deliver, or discuss.
Have someone take notes and capture all the ideas so you can log them into a content idea bank. If your Subject Matter Expert (SME) has a blog post due and is struggling with what to write about, they can utilize the content bank as a resource of ideas for them to research.
It’s also okay to make the monthly meetings fun. Hold them after work, order in pizzas, do something special to encourage people to participate. Encouraging involvement and inclusion with blog ideation process will increase their sense of ownership and with it their investment in making your content initiative a success.
When it comes to helping SMEs get the blog posts written, there are a couple of options.
The first is to pair the SME with a ghostwriter. To support first time writers, we recommend pairing them with a ghostwriter. A professional writer can interview your expert on the topic, help them write the blog post (at least the first few), and guide them through the review process.
You also could provide the SME with access to an editor. In this scenario, the SME takes the first crack at writing the article and then hands it off to an editor for polishing.
Optimally, you’ll want the SME to write the pieces on their own. However, to ensure that the blog is aligned with the brand, there will always need to be a final review by marketing to makes sure it aligns with the overall content strategy.
Blogging successfully doesn’t end with a good piece, however. Recognize that someone (typically a coordinator role within marketing) also has to be responsible for loading the content into the content management system. This could include picking relevant and appropriate imagery, refining the headline (title and H1 tags), selecting a keyword, tweaking the post for that keyword, assigning a category, optimizing the unique URl, and writing the meta-description that will tell search what the post is about. Whew!
Someone also has to coordinate the sharing of the posts on social channels. Sharing the content on LinkedIn is a good way to increase the audience. In addition to sharing it on your organization’s LinkedIn page, have the blog writer share it on their personal LinkedIn account as well.
After the novelty of writing the first few posts wears off, you will likely need another way to keep your SMEs motivated. The best way to do this is to provide them with feedback. Comments on their blog post would be great feedback, but until the blog gets traction, comments may be scarce.
What you can do right away is to tap Google analytics to provide your writers with metrics such as how many page views their post has received and how long visitors spent reading it. SMEs will love hearing the numbers and will respond to those results.
In addition to Google analytics, you’ll also want to monitor your social media channels and report back on the sharing and interaction with the different posts. For example, LinkedIn is a great way to drive traffic to the post.
SME’s (especially engineers) have a unique point of view and a built-in advantage. By design, they are very close to the customer experience because they are sitting on same machine, testing and experiencing the same challenges as your customers. They literally know what the customer is going through and are in the best position to communicate information about solutions and do it in a powerful way.
While other types of organizations might focus on writing about trends and hot topics, manufacturing companies typically focus on articulating their thoughts on customer facing challenges because that’s what will be most helpful to the user.
For a manufacturing company that has just rebuilt their website for the first time in a long time, just getting the site done is a big challenge. To ask them to convince 50+ SMEs to contribute to it can seem insurmountable.
What you may not realize is that your SME’s are already sharing their thinking and expertise outside the company, on professional forums such as the Practical Machinist Forum for machine builders, as well as their personal LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, and they have experiences every day on the job that they could write about.
They’re sharing articles, pictures, and expertise through these channels and posting their opinions in blog comments. You just need to harness their enthusiasm in written form for your website. It may be easier than you think.
It also may be more effective faster than you think. For example, recently, one of our clients made a big sale based on a single brief post someone wrote about a specific product. Proof that a couple hundred of helpful words can help customers and prospects that are on the fence decide to buy!
You can’t realize any of these benefits, however, if you never get started.
Start now, and soon you could be like one of our clients who in just one year grew their crew from 3 to 50+ blog writers (and yes, they were mostly engineers).
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