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Content marketing vs PPC: what's best for manufacturers?

Unless you’ve been living in the storage cupboard for the past six years, you’ll be aware that digital marketing is a proven method for generating high-grade manufacturing leads.

The primary issue with that statement is that digital marketing encompasses many different tactics and techniques.

Content marketing, social media, SEO; how are you supposed to know which one is better for your manufacturing business?

Maybe you don’t know what they are.

If you’re struggling to determine what marketing methods will help you construct a robust digital marketing strategy, you’re in the right place.

For the purpose of this article, we’re going to show you two types of marketing you need.

A short-term digital strategy to get you some quick wins. And a long-term strategy that’ll keep generating leads far into the future.

Think of short-term and long-term strategies like goal setting. Your short-term goals are easier to achieve and flexible, whereas your long-term goals take time to achieve and need more planning.

Your short-term strategy is Pay-Per-Click (PPC). Your long-term strategy is content marketing.

Later, we’re going to show you how to integrate these two components to create a slick marketing machine. But for now, let’s define what they are.

Content marketing

You use content marketing to forge trust with prospects and provide them with valuable information. Content appears in many forms: videos, blogs, infographics, landing pages, ebooks and website copy.

You can discover content in search engines when you type in specific keywords, social media posts and emails.

We can see two blogs appear for the ‘

manufacturing marketing

’ search term.

manufacturing marketing keyword

Content is formed after audience insights are researched and documented, which is known as a buyer persona.

For example, if you know business owners don't spend much time reading blogs, you can create a SlideShare or a video.

Here are some ace examples of content marketing by manufacturers:

The Caterpillar #BuildIt campaign is a creative, unique product demonstration. It’s a sticky idea because it takes us by surprise, hooks our interest and makes us wonder what’s going to happen next.

The music builds tension, and the fast panning shots keep us intrigued. Will they do it? Of course they will. But we still want to see it.

Video marketing at its finest.

John Deere has been content marketing since 1895 with their magazine The Furrow, which is now online.

For farmers, the magazine is their Rolling Stone. For marketers, it’s like finding out the first electric car was invented in 1828 — way ahead of its time.

The goal is to provide their customers or prospects with useful information; they must have done something right.

the furrow content marketing

Most manufacturers are B2B companies that make deliberate, considered decisions, so going straight for the conversion won’t work.

This is where content comes in, it helps you show value, expertise in the industry and prove that you can help people.

Advantages of content marketing

  • Branding — Builds brand awareness, trust and loyalty.
  • Natural attraction — People tend to avoid ads because we don't like to feel like we’re being sold something. Educational content makes us feel like we’re making the decision.
  • Costs — Keep costs lower by eliminating advertising fees (although agency fees or staff salaries need to be considered).
  • Supports organisation — Content supports other departments like sales and customer service, as the marketing team can be commissioned to create sales material and customer service guides.
  • Targeted — Generate targeted leads, people who are interested in your opinions and what you have to say.

Disadvantages of content marketing

  • Time — you won’t get instant results from content marketing, it’s a longer process, but one that has rich rewards if you persevere. You’ll need a short-term strategy for some quick wins.
  • Specialist skills — you either need Marketing Execs and Managers with plenty of experience in different areas (videos, writing, photography) or you have to outsource to a specialist.
  • Ideas — we aren’t saying manufacturers aren’t creative, you need to be inventive to create and build new products. But you need someone with a different type of creativity to take over and promote the product.
  • Measurability — For example, you can find out how many people watched a video and clicked a call-to-action, but you don’t know the real ROI of that campaign in terms of paying customers.

inbound marketing template

Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC)

You use Google Adwords to create ads that appear on a Google search page. The more people click the ad, the more you’ll be charged.

For example, when you type in manufacturing ERP software, these ads appear at the top of the page.

Ads are judged on quality; factors like landing page quality, ad relevance and likely CTR rate determine whether you’re the top result.

content vs ppc

Different keywords have different prices, and popular searches will cost you more.

In Google Keyword Planner, we determined ‘manufacturing ERP software’ has a search volume of 50, the lowest value click for is £15.59, and the highest is £42.72, but this varies.

So depending on your location and your Search Network settings, you’ll pay anywhere between those two numbers for a click.

manufacturing keyword search

Look at the bottom keyword. ‘Manufacturing ERP’ has nearly triple the search volume, and a lower bid range on both high and low volume bids.

You also need a landing page, which is where people are directed once they’ve clicked your ad.

We clicked on the links from the above results.

ppc landings pages

As we can see by the form on the right, this is a conversion-focused landing page. The conversion goal is to get the visitor to download an ebook about Epicor MES.

The Zoho landing page is also conversion-focused, but there are more options. What we’re getting at is, your landing page needs to have a conversion goal.

A B2C business can make a direct sale here, as consumers are more likely to impulse buy.

A B2B business wouldn’t usually take that route, decisions are more considered, and buyers make educated purchases, so getting an email address for further marketing is a better option.

Advantages of using PPC

  • Choose a location — you can pick where you want your ads to be shown. Where do manufacturing companies operate? Zoho wouldn’t have much luck if they targeted their ERP ads in London’s finance district.
  • You can create direct competition — You’ve been researching ERP systems, so you search ‘Zoho ERP’ after visiting the landing page and clicking away.

landing pages for ppc

The top result isn’t Zoho? NetSuite, JCM Business Solutions (Zoho Partner) and ERP Focus are all competing for the same keyword. Competing for opposition keywords can sway a buyer’s decision.

  • Use negative keywords — a list of keywords you don’t want your ad to appear for. Let’s say Zoho had enquiries from manufacturers about a CRM system (crucial tool, see this article), but that isn’t the aim of the ad. Cut out confusion with negative keywords.
  • Measurable — everything is tracked by Google Analytics and Adwords, so you’ll always know how successful you are.
  • Customisable — make changes to your ads whenever you feel they need tweaking. Won an award? Add some credibility.
  • Get some quick wins — if you make an ad in Adwords, it’ll be live within 24-72 hours, so you can start generating leads fast.

Disadvantages of using PPC

  • Getting priced out — larger manufacturing companies can bid on competitive keywords because they have bigger marketing budgets. If you’re a small business, you may be priced out altogether.
  • Costs can spiral — Google wants to make more money from you, so they’re always going to encourage you to spend more. The trouble is, if you don’t have a marketer who knows what they’re doing, you could end up losing money unnecessarily (and guess what, Google doesn’t care).
  • Time investment — PPC campaigns don’t run on their own, as well as someone with the necessary skills, you’ll need someone with time.
  • Clicks don’t equal sales — just because someone clicks through to your ad, it doesn’t mean they’ll become a customer. Even if they fill out a form and enter your CRM, you may not be able to convert them into a customer.
  • Shouldn’t be your only strategy — while PPC is useful for businesses that want quick wins, you need a long-term strategy, so you don’t have to keep pumping money into ads.

Content vs PPC: what’s better for inbound marketing?

Here’s where we pull the rug. You should use content and PPC together. Traditional inbound marketers would have you believe all paid ad spend is terrible. That’s not true.

Gone are the days when you could rank for any keyword you wanted if you wrote an informative blog. Most critical keywords are highly competitive.

Here are some situations where you should use PPC, and some where you should use content.

1. Write blogs when you can rank for keywords

Blogs are better when you can compete for keywords in your industry. Let’s say you’re a bulk food manufacturer.

ppc vs content marketing

Using a keyword research tool, we’ve identified ‘how to buy food in bulk’ gets 10 searches in the UK.

You need five links to your article to get on the top page, although a link from a favourable site (someone Google likes) could get you on there.

If five users per month click through to your site and make a food order every month, the blog is always generating business.

Videos are better if you can hook an audience, and particularly if they show something being made.

2. Use paid ads when you can’t compete for keywords

If you’re a new business or you haven’t built much of a digital footprint, it can be challenging if you want to rank for keywords that need a lot of backlinks.

The alternative is to get your content to the top of the page by paying for an ad. You’re risking people bypassing your ad and going for the organic search, but you have to weigh up your options and figure out what’s more realistic.

For example, it isn’t realistic that you’ll rank for this keyword by writing a blog, you need to develop a strategy to get yourself on the top page of organic search results.

keyword difficulty

3. Use paid when you need a quick win

If your content isn’t ranking, or you’ve only just started creating it, use PPC to get some quick wins.

When you get a few wins and you become more confident about your content, you can reduce your paid budget and put it somewhere else.

ppc and content

4. Create videos if you can engage an audience

As a manufacturer, one of the best ways to build trust and credibility is by showing people what you do.

Nobody wants to see an accountant work out a tax bill. But seeing how something you're going to use is made, that’s interesting.

You’ll need a YouTube channel and some video equipment, but it’s worth it if you have the resources.

How do I use PPC and content marketing together?

If you're considering starting inbound marketing, you’ll need a 12-month plan. You should state your marketing strategy and techniques in that plan. Content marketing and PPC both have a place, but you need to be wise with your budget.

From the content perspective, in the first 12 months you’re building out your library of resources. If you have nothing to promote, you can’t offer any educational value anyway.

So, let’s say that for the first 12 months, none of your articles are going to rank. Which is fine.

In those first 12 months, you need to invest in PPC to support your content efforts. You can reduce that spend as your resources become more popular, and after the first 12 months, you can keep it to a minimum.

Remember, not every campaign is like this. If your industry isn’t competitive from a keywords perspective, you could be ranking for keywords within three months. Every business and every strategy differs.

Before you start your inbound strategy...

  1. Consider the positives and negatives of content and PPC
  2. Know when to use each tactic
  3. Use them together for a short-term and long-term strategy

inbound marketing template

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