When your brand is an ingredient…your content strategy needs to reflect that

When your brand is an ingredient…your content strategy needs to reflect that

ingredient brands photoIngredient branding is one of the core principles of B2B marketing for those companies whose products are a component of other products. It differentiates the product offerings and establishes how they are essential to other, more familiar products. According to research conducted by Industrial Marketing Today, ingredient brands are shifting budgets and resources from traditional industrial marketing programs to inbound. While some in the C-suite were skeptical about the efficacy of content marketing to generate sales, today’s path-to-purchase overrides these concerns. The decision journey includes multiple decision-makers who want to discover new ways to do things or understand how a component will integrate into their systems. Different content types have different authority and influence at each point of the journey and each individual decision-maker has its own preferences and “go-to” places for high authority content.

Today ingredient brands need to sell their smarts; not their products. Component manufacturers need to overcome their “vender” mentality and instead create a content strategy that demonstrates their value as a visionary partner. Old school content such as product collateral, sell sheets or component catalogs and price books, still have a place on the roadmap but do little to convince the multiple decision-makers of the company’s innovation, solutions orientation or provide an experience that makes them “need” to work with a specific partner.

A recent conversation with Carlos Abler, Leader – Online Content Strategy at 3M, focused on some of the complexities faced by ingredient brands in selling to OEMs or system integrators. According to Abler, “Ingredient brands need to deepen their customer centricity to a more role-based approach. They need to holistically understand the tasks undertaken by each role that ultimately touches or influences the buying decision.”

Companies selling to OEMs, for example, need to consider multiple roles, including:

  • Industrial designer, who is interested in ideas and applications
  • Design engineer, who wants to know the specifications
  • Process engineer, who needs to determine if the solution will work in the company’s manufacturing environment
  • Compliance officer, who ensures the components are environmentally compliant in all manufacturing locations
  • Program manager, who wants to find companies that can contribute to multiple projects
  • Economic buyer, who negotiates terms and pricing
  • Partners, who can integrate products into net new solutions

This suggests a complex sales construct with multiple cells, which needs to be reflected in the content strategy. Companies can no longer act transnationally with customers and prospects. The content strategy needs to combine thought leadership with innovative use cases that span multiple industries and sectors. The content strategy also needs to provide great evaluation and simulation tools; this type of content underscores the partnership mentality of the company vs. the transactional view of a “vender”. According to Abler, “Buyers want an ideational partner. They want to work with visionaries who can articulate and demonstrate future possibilities and share application content that demonstrates this. If the ingredient brand waits until the buyer is at the specification stage, they are too late.”

Another consideration is NDA compliance, which can prevent ingredient brands from disclosing their coolest or most innovative applications. This requires a lot of creativity to communicate their vision and ability to be a creative thought partner without disclosing actual applications.

BASF handled this issue through their long running ad campaign, which established its brand as a component that made products better. Their advertising showed multiple applications that never disclosed customer names. The campaign used arresting visuals of familiar products in engaging situations with a voice over that said things like:

“We don’t make the dress, we make it brighter”

“We don’t make the motorcycle; we make it quicker.”

“We don’t make the sand board; we make it lighter.”

BASF. The Chemical Company.