Sponsored by Episerver
By Morgan Short, Content Marketing Manager – Product & Audience Episerver

At the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, marketers from industries across the board have been scrambling to update their marketing playbooks. Unique and trying times often force companies to re-evaluate their messaging, budget, products, services and of course, their content. Agile manufacturers and distributors who can shift at a moment’s notice will out-perform their competitors and thrive well into the future. Many companies are focusing on upping their content marketing game.

Episerver’s B2B Digital Experience Report revealed that 60% of manufacturing respondents and 63% of distribution respondents prefer to learn about B2B companies directly from their website over other channels. There’s a huge opportunity to tell your story through content on your site. What content is most relevant? How can you convey your message in a way that builds credibility and instills confidence in new and returning customers?

Here are a few tips for building content that not only resonates with your target audience, but also ultimately moves them to take action:

1. Return to your roots

Your company has likely been open for decades. Founders of manufacturing and distribution companies had great visions to build businesses that would create solid jobs and support their communities. From day one, manufacturers and distributors have been relentlessly committed to serving their customers through anything. Celebrate that. If you’ve been in business for 90 years, tell your customers you’re still there. You’re open for business. You’re ready to serve your customers through anything and you’re working around the clock to get things done.

Here’s a sentiment we love from Guest Supply, an industry leader in hospitality supplies, serving the top hotel chains and independent properties:

“For over 40 years, Guest Supply has been fulfilling the needs of the hospitality industry, providing better selections, better products, and faster delivery anywhere in the world. Our company has always been where the needs are, and now the needs of the world are bigger than one industry. Whether it be hospitals, government agencies, public health centers, or any entity who needs supplies right now, consider us your supply and solutions partner.”

2. Provide helpful resources front and center

People are relying on digital content today more than ever. Unfortunately, many companies are finding they are ill equipped to serve their customers online. In March, Episerver asked B2B companies if their company had a customer-centricity gap, meaning the digital experience their company offers does not meet the expectations of their customers. 76% of manufacturers and 77% of distributors said their company has a customer-centricity gap.

During this time, one of the areas companies can focus on to close the customer-centricity gap is through great content. Not sure where to start? Here’s a great tip from Lori McDonald, President and CEO of Brilliance Business Solutions:

“Start by identifying your team’s subject matter expertise and the ways you add value that are unique to you. Create content around your expertise – articles, videos, how-to guides – the possibilities are endless. Across verticals, your B2B company’s website is where B2B decision-makers most want to learn about you – use that to your selling advantage.”

Behler-Young, a premier HVAC/R distributor for licensed contractors, has stepped up their content game during the COVID outbreak by hosting panels, gathering information to help HVAC/R contractors navigate legislation for small business, and providing other helpful COVID-related updates.

3. Communicate with your customers clearly, thoroughly, and frequently

Many manufacturing and distribution companies are classified as essential businesses, so they have remained open for business through it all, serving customers to the best of their ability.

Communicate with your employees, vendors, partners, suppliers, and customers early on and frequently through various channels. Let everyone know you are taking the potential impact of the disaster seriously and review and monitor the situation daily to respond as necessary.

Since March 9, First Supply, a single source supplier of plumbing, HVAC, municipal, waterworks and industrial supplies, has been providing continuous communications from leaders about their COVID response and providing tools to help their customers succeed. You can check out their response strategy here.

4. Humanize everything

Manufacturing and distribution companies were built on relationships. Make people the center of your message. Celebrate the heroes who are keeping your warehouses running and getting orders delivered to your customers.

Here’s a great example of human-first marketing from The Granite Group, a leading plumbing and HVAC distributor:

“We’d like to start our week by honoring all of our Granite Group Drivers and Warehouse team members who have been working non-stop to help keep our business moving as we navigate the COVID-19 crisis. A huge THANK YOU to them and to ALL of the drivers and warehouse workers out there making sure essential supplies are getting where they need to be everyday. #ThankADriver #HeroesOfTheRoad”

5. Listen to your customers’ greatest challenges and do your research

Finally, publishing content is one thing, but make sure you’re not just adding to the clutter of information. Check in on your customers to learn how COVID is impacting their businesses. Then, provide resources that can help them address challenges they are facing. Here are some ways you can get content ideas from your customers:

  • Host virtual round tables where like-minded companies can share common challenges
  • Send out surveys to gauge how COVID is impacting your customers
  • Analyze web traffic trends with special attention to frequent searches and most commonly visited pages
  • Build a list of common questions your customers are asking and deliver content that answers those questions

Even in the manufacturing and distribution industries, when it comes to marketing, content is KING! Manufacturers and distributors who have identified how they can offer support for their customers, bring their communities value and provide helpful resources are flourishing in the current economic state. Authenticity, credibility and flexibility are incredibly important right now. It’s time to replace insensitive content with empathetic content.

Interested in auditing your content and learning where to focus your content efforts? Take Episerver up on our free Content Diagnostics Offer (regardless of what technology you’re using to run your website).

About Episerver
Episerver empowers growing companies to compete digitally. With our Customer-Centric Digital Experience Platform, marketers and merchandisers can create digital experiences that put their customers first – with speed and efficiency. Our platform combines best-in-class content management and robust commerce powered by AI-backed data and personalization tools that enable organizations to develop greater customer lifetime value, grow brand affinity and increase revenue.