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Social Media Use Holding Steady in Industrial Sector

 Social media has value among engineers and technical professionals, although not as a top resource for researching work-related purchases. This is one of the key takeaways from the IHS Engineering360 annual “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector Survey.” You can download the white paper here.

Over the past few years, the use of social media by technical professionals for work-related purposes has stabilized. Engineers have determined how to integrate social media into their work activities and have chosen their preferred platforms. However, engineers prefer general search engines, online catalogs, word of mouth, and supplier websites to social media for researching work-related purchases.

HOW TECHNICAL PROFESSIONALS USE SOCIAL MEDIA FOR WORK
Sixty-one percent of technical professionals spend less than one hour a week using social media for work-related purposes. The most commonly performed work-related activities on social media are reading content or product/industry news, watching a video, searching for contacts, and following a company or group.

Fifty-seven percent of engineers and technical professionals use social media to find product reviews. This is the most popular use of social media sites. One trend worth noting is that significantly more engineers used social media sites this year than last year to contact a supplier or service provider (42 percent vs. 29 percent), to find expertise (44 percent vs. 29 percent) and to find product reviews (57 percent vs. 49 percent).

One-third (33 percent) of technical professionals report sharing or posting news or information about their company to their social networks. The age group of 18-34 has a slightly higher rate (37 percent). This low percentage represents an opportunity for industrial companies to recruit their employees to be social media ambassadors and to help spread the word on their social media networks.

PREFERRED SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
LinkedIn is the most popular platform among engineers, with 66 percent having an account. Facebook and Google+ are the next two most widely used. In the age group 18-34, Facebook is slightly more popular than LinkedIn.

Forty-six percent of engineers follow 1-5 work-related company profiles on LinkedIn. The majority of engineers (56 percent) belong to 1-5 groups on LinkedIn. Ten percent belong to more than 10. Most technical professionals are passive members of LinkedIn groups. Sixty-eight percent read discussions, but only 27 percent participate in discussions. Technical professionals prefer to read and watch on social media as opposed to posting and commenting.

Fifty-one percent of technical professionals use YouTube or other video sharing websites for work-related purposes. When segmented by age demographics, use of video sharing websites among engineers under age 50 is greater than those 50 and older. The most common work-related content watched on video sharing websites are how-to videos/tutorials, product demos, and training videos. Customer testimonials lag, with only 14 percent of engineers watching them.

THE VALUE OF SOCIAL MEDIA FOR RESEARCHING WORK-RELATED PURCHASES
The most valuable resources for researching a work-related purchase are general search engines, online catalogs, word of mouth, and supplier websites. These findings are generally true across all age groups. Among social media platforms, Google+ and LinkedIn ranked highest for researching a work purchase. Facebook, SlideShare, and Twitter have the least value.

Why isn’t social media used more for work? Sixty-seven percent of engineers and technical professionals say the biggest challenge is that social media is inefficient when compared to other methods such as search engines, supplier websites, and online catalogs. Forty percent say they can’t find useful content on social media.

RECOMMENDATIONS
Many industrial marketers are not sure what role social media should have in their overall marketing efforts. However, social media is no different from other marketing initiatives, and as such, you should approach it with a clear purpose and defined goals that map to your other marketing and business objectives.

To help you optimize your use of social media and better understand the level of resources to devote to it, download a complimentary copy of “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector Survey.” The research report includes all survey results represented in chart form, along with analysis of the findings and recommendations on how industrial marketers can optimize their use of social media. Get your copy today.

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Keep Social Media Channels Alive with Fresh Content

It’s great to be a listener on social media. You can find out what your customers are saying and learn more about their interests. Listening is also a great way to test the viability of a social media channel for your marketing efforts. But at some point, to use social media effectively, you have to participate as well as listen. Participating means posting, and posting means you need content.

Content is the fuel that you must feed social media channels. Without content, your social media program will wither. Have you ever visited a company’s social media account and discovered it hasn’t been updated with fresh posts in months? No doubt you came away with a negative impression: This company can’t keep up or doesn’t care. It’s better not to have a social media presence at all than to have one you let die on the vine.

The way to use social media effectively and maintain a fresh, lively and relevant presence on your social media channels is to keep the content flowing to your followers. Here’s how:

START WITH A CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY
Make a list of key topics you want to address in your content marketing. Then determine the various types of content you will need to create on your own or curate from other sources to support your marketing objectives. It could be original white papers, webinars, videos, articles, and blog posts. You could also work with third parties and partners to distribute their content. Another option is to follow industry news and trends and point your subscribers and followers to this content.

There are other types of content to consider. Infographics combining text and visuals have become increasingly popular as a way to explain complex ideas or processes. You can create online polls and share results, or quick surveys. Stage a contest. Create a game. What about contracting with a partner to produce a mobile app? There are apps that calculate pressure drop, estimate pipe size, calculate volumetric flow, connect with other engineers, and many more.

While you should know what themes and messages are important to get across as part of your strategy, you don’t have to plan every piece of content you’ll post. For instance, you can have a monthly content slot allotted to a topic of interest that is generated by comments or questions you get from your social media followers. Or you can have a content feature based on the most important industry or company news of that month.

DEVELOP A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLISHING CALENDAR
At the beginning of every year or quarter, develop a calendar for publishing content to your social media channels. This way you won’t be scrambling trying to come up with ideas for social media updates.

Work your calendar from the general to the specific, starting with your broad themes (perhaps theme-of-the-month), and filling specific content into publishing slots. Be sure to account for any major milestones that may require intensive content publishing, such as promoting your presence at an event, a product launch, or a key announcement.

MATCH CONTENT TO SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNEL
You might be using multiple social media channels as part of your program. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ are the most popular among technical professionals and engineers. You might require a slightly different type of presence on each channel. For example, you might host a group or start a weekly discussion on LinkedIn. This might be a place to distribute more traditional content such as white papers and technical articles. Facebook might be your go-to channel for lighter fare, such as quirky news items, giveaways, polls, or contests.

You should have content lined up for each channel that you use. Some content may work across all social media channels, but other content might be specific to a specific channel, or needs to be re-purposed for other channels. For example, a customer interview on YouTube might be re-purposed to a written case study you post on LinkedIn and announced on Twitter. A webinar can be uploaded to SlideShare.

INVESTIGATE SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT TOOLS
Even for organizations with a modest social media presence, and definitely for industrial companies with a robust social media strategy, using a social media management tool might make sense. There are many free or low-cost options to help schedule content publishing, coordinate across multiple social media accounts, and measure the effectiveness of your efforts. A few to consider include Hootsuite, HubSpot, and Sprout.

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Social Media is About Planning, Not Popularity

March is Social Media Month at the Marketing Maven, with blog posts focusing on how suppliers and manufacturers can best incorporate social media into their marketing efforts to connect with engineers and technical professionals. At the end of the month, we’ll report the findings from the latest IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions social media research survey.

A key concept that industrial marketers should embrace is that social media success comes from taking a disciplined, planned approach rather than thinking social media is some kind of popularity contest. Sure, you can do something outlandish on social media and you might get your post or video to go viral and garner many views, but whether that rampant visibility contributes to your marketing objectives and strengthens your company’s brand is highly doubtful.

Another thing to realize is that social media is no longer new. Its use has stabilized in the industrial sector, and research shows which social media platforms technical professionals prefer and how they want to use social media for work-related purposes. The more you approach social media as one of a portfolio of tactics in your overall integrated marketing strategy, the more social media will serve as a valuable asset to your company.

CREATE A PLAN BASED ON OBJECTIVES
As with any marketing program, social media is an effective tactic for achieving a certain set of objectives, and less effective at others. For example, social media is oriented towards interaction, education, and networking, and therefore may not be a direct driver of qualified leads and sales. On the other hand, it is effective for distributing content to your target audience and raising your brand visibility in the early stages of your customers’ buy cycle.

If you’re putting together a social media plan in order to generate fast leads and sales, you will likely miss achieving those objectives. However, if your plan is based around building thought leadership, fostering a sense of community, and generating brand awareness that will lead to engagement opportunities, then you may experience a high level of success.

FOCUS EFFORTS ON THE PLATFORMS YOUR CUSTOMERS USE
There are a multitude of social media platforms in play, and it seems as if new ones are popping up all the time. It’s impossible to spread your social media efforts across every platform available. Nor would you want to. Instead, focus your efforts on the social media channels your customers use.

According to the latest Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector Research Report, which will be released later this month, the three most popular platforms for engineers and technical professionals are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+. If you can devote resources to only a few platforms, those are good places to start. Also, more than half of this audience uses video-sharing platforms like YouTube, so video can play an important role in your social media outreach. Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest have much less value for this audience. No other social media platform is relevant to them at this time.

Use this information to inform your social media plan. You might include tactics such as establishing and maintaining a company LinkedIn page if you don’t already have one. Post news and content to it. Invite customers and prospects to follow you. You can do the same with Facebook and Google+.

GIVE CUSTOMERS WHAT THEY WANT
Two of the biggest complaints technical professionals have about social media are that there’s too much noise and not enough substance, and that other channels such as search engines, online product catalogs, and supplier websites are more efficient sources of information.

We’ll devote an entire post to the content marketing side of social media, but for now, follow this one guideline: use social media to deliver what engineers and technical professionals seek. Their top uses of social media are to find product reviews and to keep abreast of the latest news on companies, products, and technologies. Therefore, social media is a great place for you to provide links to reviews of your products, relevant news stories or press releases, and thought leadership articles and white papers.

As for videos, how-to videos, product demos, and training videos remain immensely popular with this audience.

Your social media plan should include an editorial calendar that lists the types of posts and content you will publish. Naturally there will be impromptu opportunities that pop up, such as a mention of your company, products in the media, or a published interview with an executive, but planning keeps you from scrambling for content and helps keep down the annoying, irrelevant social media updates that turn off engineers and technical professionals.

REVISIT AND REVISE YOUR PLAN
Your social media plan should support marketing and business objectives, and therefore you need to establish metrics to determine how your plan is performing. Here are a few measurements that might be important to your social media efforts:

• Increase interactions with followers by X percent
• Successfully resolve X number of customer service questions over social media
• Solicit X number of suggestions from followers
• Increase content downloads by X percent

These are just a few examples. Your metrics will depend on your goals.
If you’re missing your targets, you should revisit your plan. Do you have unrealistic expectations of what social media can do for you? Are some platforms not working as well as others? Are you missing opportunities to better engage your audience? Revise your plan as necessary or reconsider your objectives—or both.

Social media appears to be here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. If you have a solid plan in place and devote the appropriate resources, social media can be a valuable contributor to your overall marketing strategy.

Up next: social media and content marketing.

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The Early Stage Buy Cycle is When the Relationship Starts

The early stage buy cycle for engineers and technical professionals is the equivalent of the top of the sales funnel for the manufacturer’s and supplier’s sales teams. It’s the beginning, when a buyer becomes aware of a problem or need and then begins to conceive of and search for a solution. If your company is already known to them, or becomes visible and sparks interest during a search, that’s when your relationship starts with a potential customer.

man with bouquet flowers
Begin your relationship with prospects early as generating initial awareness is critically important to the success of your sales and marketing efforts.

Because of the vast amount of content available from digital sources, it’s easier than ever for early-stage technical buyers to discover and research information about products, services and suppliers, and to narrow down their options before getting a vendor involved.

In this early stage, you might not yet have any personal contact with your prospect, you may not even have captured their name, but this is when they enter the top of your funnel.

Generating this early-stage awareness is critically important to the success of your sales and marketing efforts. You must connect with potential customers early in order to be a contender later when they are ready to make a purchase decision. Beginning the relationship early, even an anonymous one, offers key benefits to your organization:

  • You make a positive first impression on potential customers. If your company name comes up when they begin their search, it’s only natural that they gravitate toward you. Your widespread visibility in itself instills a sense of expertise and fosters trust. For example, the engineer searching for new diode laser technologies will be interested if they keep coming across your name (especially if it’s linked to quality, useful content … but more on that in a bit).
  • You stay top of mind. If you put consistent effort into branding and visibility tactics that raise awareness and help to widen and populate the top of the funnel, prospects will be exposed to you more often and will keep your company and products in their mind when they have a need.
  • Perhaps most importantly, marketing for the early-stage of the buy cycle can help to shorten the sales cycle for your sales team. Your prospects will already be aware of your company and what you offer. They’ve been accessing valuable content that’s helping to educate them. This means your sales people are speaking to an informed prospect and don’t have to start from the very beginning every time.

The keys to early-stage success

The first thing to realize is that if a potential buyer does not know about you or find out about you in their early stage, they will not be contacting you in a later stage. They will be contacting one of your competitors. To be the brand that matters to your target audience, you should:

  • Build and maintain a strong online presence on those digital resources your customers use most in the early buy cycle stages. Research shows that general search engines, supplier websites, online catalogs and industry-specific search engines and information resources such as Engineering360.com are the most popular digital channels for engineers and technical buyers early in the buy cycle. Diversify your presence across these channels.
  • Produce and publish a steady stream of content on digital channels for your prospects and customers. Your audience is eagerly searching for content as they engage in their buy cycle. They are looking for white papers and technical reports, watching webinars and product demos and reading articles, newsletters, blog posts and more. At this stage, your content should be educating prospects on a high level by, for instance, comparing approaches to solving problems, explaining how something works or commenting on trends. Your goal is to get in the game by demonstrating knowledge and expertise. It’s too early to be selling and trying to close the deals.
  • Recognize and respond when prospects move to later buy cycle stages, such as consideration and comparison. At some point, either the buyer has dropped out or you will have generated an engagement opportunity, with your prospect registering for a webinar, subscribing to your blog, or initiating contact with your company. You should have in place a plan to manage your engagement opportunities, either through ongoing lead nurturing programs or escalating a prospect to your sales team if they are giving off indications they are ready to buy. Don’t waste those early stage efforts—make sure you know how to move prospects through the funnel.

Industrial marketers can sometimes overlook the importance of their customers’ early buy cycle. By focusing resources on building brand and raising visibility, you’ll attract more prospects at the top of your funnel, helping to ensure you have a pool of potential customers when it’s time for them to make a purchasing decision.

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A Quick Refresher to Improve Your Email Marketing

How long have you been using email marketing to connect with engineers and technical professionals? A number of years, most likely. And when was the last time you cleaned your email list and made strategic improvements to your email marketing efforts? Chances are, the time has come to freshen up. It’s worth the effort, because email remains an effective tactic in the industrial sector.

The time has come to freshen up your email marketing. It’s worth the effort, because email remains an effective tactic in the industrial sector.
The time has come to freshen up your email marketing. It’s worth the effort, because email remains an effective tactic in the industrial sector.

First, Clean Your Email List

If you are emailing to a stale list, you are likely incurring damage in terms of low response rates and brand reputation. You might even be risking having your account suspended by your email service provider if you incur a large number of spam complaints, undeliverable messages or unsubscribe notices.

There are several ways to clean an email list. You can send emails out asking recipients to verify their address and their desire to continue receiving emails from you, but if your list is poor, you’ll get a poor response and this tactic won’t help much. You can manually go through the list looking for problem addresses, which could take a long time and still not produce the results you need.

If you choose to manually validate and clean your email list, look for and remove:

  • Duplicates
  • Improperly formatted addresses
  • Syntax errors
  • Role accounts like sales@, support@ and info@
  • Accounts with words like spam, junk, abuse, etc.

To increase the likelihood that your email list will stay cleaner longer, use only an opt-in strategy when building your list. Also, consider using email to fulfill downloadable offers; sending the recipient an email with a link to download a white paper, for example. This ensures you have a valid email address.

Also, going forward, keep an eye on bounces and unsubscribes. Make sure they are removed from your lists and suppressed from future mailings. Most email service providers will do this automatically for you.

Use Analytics to Improve Performance

With a clean email list in hand, it’s time to freshen up other aspects of your email marketing efforts. Your number one tool in this is analytics. Most email marketing platforms can help you create more targeted campaigns and improve results. For example:

  • Identify highly engaged recipients who most often open or click on your emails, and then offer rewards in terms of early access to a new white paper or industry research, special offers or a sneak peek at new products. Be sure to note in your copy that they are receiving the discount or special offer because they are a valued reader.
  • Identify recipients who tend to ignore you and try to re-engage them. Give them a reason to pay attention again: discounts, an invitation to a special event, or a just-published white paper or video.
  • Split your list in two (called an A/B split) and test various aspects of an email campaign, such as subject line, headline, copy, layout and graphics, and call-to-action. Change only one variable at a time when performing a test. Incorporate the successful changes into subsequent emails and you will get closer and closer to optimizing your email campaigns.

Incorporate these Proven Strategies

Industrial marketers have years of email marketing experience and many have learned what works and what doesn’t. Here are some proven strategies and best practices that other industrial marketers have incorporated into their campaigns:

  • Use an email marketing service offering responsive design templates that will automatically render well on different user devices, including mobile phones and tablets.
  • Include only one offer in each email and repeat it several times, making it easy for your readers to understand and take action. Include both text links and buttons for your offer.
  • Visually break up copy and make scanning easier by using subheads, short paragraphs and bulleted lists.
  • Get to the point quickly by keeping important information, including the first mention of your offer and a call to action, near the top of the email.
  • Include the offer (webinar, white paper) and/or action verbs (register, download) in your short and sweet subject line.
  • Create synergy between your email and landing page by repeating key copy points and using the same colors and graphics. Landing pages are a great place to put social sharing icons allowing your audience to share the content on their social media platforms.

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Six Tips to Get the Best Return from Your Webinars

One of the key reasons why webinars are an effective marketing tactic is that your attending audience tends to be motivated and interested. Think about it: they are taking 30 minutes to an hour or so out of their busy day to listen to your message and interact with your presenters. That takes a lot more effort on their part than, for instance, scanning an email or reading a web page.

If you aren’t already, you should integrate webinars into your marketing mix. If you currently are using webinars, you can make them stronger and more successful. Here are six tips (plus a bonus!) on how to be efficient and earn a higher return on your webinar efforts.

siemens plm software
WeBINARS ATTRACT MOTIVATED AND ENGAGED ENGINEERS AND TECHNICAL PROFESSIONALS. mAKE THEM WORK EVEN HARDER FOR YOU WITH THESE SIX TIPS.

1. Leverage content you already have

You might have an existing presentation from an industry conference, technical report, white paper, product demo, customer testimonial or other content that can make a strong foundation for a webinar or at least help generate ideas for a webinar. You don’t have to start from scratch every time. Another benefit of leveraging existing content is that it helps you deliver a consistent message to the market.

2. Be clear on your topic and the audience you want to reach

You need to be honest with your audience on what to expect during your webinar or they will lose trust in your brand and company. Webinars are ideal to deliver thought leadership content. If your webinar is about how additive manufacturing is transforming the automotive industry, then it shouldn’t be about your 3D printers. It’s standard practice for the host or sponsor of a webinar to deliver a brief promotion about its products. However, if you want to devote an entire webinar to the benefits of your products, then that needs to be clear in your webinar promotions.

Before creating your webinar, you not only need to define your topic but also the audience you wish to attract. Leveraging your existing content can again provide an advantage here. For example, you might invite everyone who downloaded a certain white paper to a webinar on a topic related to the white paper. That way, you are matching topic to audience, and will increase the likelihood of keeping your audience engaged.

3. Promote the webinar through multiple channels

First follow the tip above about identifying your topic and the audience you want to attract, and then determine the best channels to promote your webinar. Your in-house email list is a likely choice as are your own website and social media platforms. You might consider reaching farther out to connect with a wider audience, as long as your content is relevant to them. Advertising in industry-specific e-newsletters is an effective way to reach a potentially new, yet still targeted audience. If you are working with a partner on the webinar, reach out to their email list in addition to your own. For an even broader audience, try promoting your webinar through banner ads on industrial websites, distributing press releases, or posting on your directory listings.

4. Generate new content during the live webinar

Today’s webinar hosting platforms offer sophisticated features such as real-time polls and live Q & A. Not only can you deliver educational content to your audience, you can capture content from your audience in return. Poll questions can serve as effective transitions between topics, help involve your audience, and return to you valuable information. You can display answers in real-time and offer comments on the results, making the webinar even more interactive. After the webinar, results of your polls can be the basis for blog articles, social media postings, infographics and more.

At the end of the webinar, you will typically leave time for a question and answer period. Again, you can gain valuable information from your audience based on the questions they ask. You might be able to use this content to create an FAQ document to share on your blog, website and through social media.

5. Extend the shelf life of your webinar content

Your webinar content can remain useful long after the live event itself is over. You can archive the webinar on your website for on-demand viewing. Post it to YouTube or SlideShare. Write a blog post re-cap of the event. These other channels provide an opportunity for those in your audience who missed or didn’t know about the webinar to access the content. On-demand availability also gives you another opportunity to reach out to your email list (Sorry we missed you, now you can view the webinar at your convenience…). You can reasonably ask for registration information from visitors who want to view recorded webinars, resulting in additional engagement opportunities for you.

6. Follow-up with attendees

An engineer or technical professional who attended your webinar has demonstrated an active interest in your content. Be sure to have in place a marketing process to stay in touch with those attendees. Some of them might have expressed enough interest to qualify as a good engagement opportunity for your sales team; others may be better suited to a longer-term nurturing program. However you score these opportunities, be sure to deliver relevant content to them based on their interest in your webinar topic.

Bonus: Sponsor a webinar featuring an industry thought leader

If you would like to take advantage of the engagement opportunities generated by a webinar, without putting together and executing the actual presentation, you may want to consider sponsoring a webinar delivered by an expert in your industry.

These types of webinars are usually on a pre-determined topic (although the sponsor may have some input) and feature a trusted authority in the market presenting on a topic of interest to your audience.

The sponsor receives branding and association with the expert’s thought leadership as well as exposure to an audience they might not otherwise have attracted to their content.

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Learn more about webinar solutions from IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions.

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New Research Shows Engineers Under Increasing Pressure

The pace of engineering is accelerating, designs are becoming more complex at the same time that design cycles are shrinking, and time-to-market pressures are increasing. If that sounds like a challenging work environment, welcome to the life of today’s engineer.

These are just a few of the key takeaways gleaned from new research conducted by IHS Engineering360 and presented in the new, complimentary research report The Pulse of Engineering: The Changing Work Environment for Engineers Today.

pulse of engineering
Survey of engineers finds a strong pulse of engineering but reveals key challenges including resource constraints, accelerated pace of work, increasingly complex designs and more.

Pressure and risk were among several recurring themes noted by the 2,162 engineers and technical professionals who responded to the survey. Consider some of the other findings:

  • Forty-six percent of engineers are working on more projects than they were two years ago.
  • Fifty-seven percent are being required to do more with less.
  • Fifty-five percent said the number of competitors is growing.
  • The majority are facing budget constraints (60 percent) and time constraints (69 percent).

What will be the result of all these pressures? For one, engineers should be granted superhuman status for shouldering the load—55 percent said they frequently or always meet launch dates and product quality standards. On the more sobering side, these conditions may be cause for concern: 44 percent said the pressure to meet deadlines and cut costs is putting product quality at risk.

What does this all mean for the industrial marketer? These results, the conclusions we can draw from them and our recommendations based on what engineers are telling us can help inform your marketing strategy.

How do your products/services help your customers – the engineers and technical professionals that responded to this survey – do more with less, shorten design cycles, or meet performance targets?

Industrial marketers can make valuable use of this data by creating buyer personas that describe your various types of customers, their motivations and the problems they face. Messaging based on buyer personas will resonate more deeply with your target audience.

Knowledge Management is an Issue

A significant percentage of the engineering workforce is aging or on the move. Nearly a quarter of respondents said they could retire in the next five years. Thirty-one percent said they were only slightly likely or not at all likely to be employed at the same company five years from now. In many cases, when these employees leave, institutional knowledge goes with them.

Forty percent said their companies lose specialized knowledge and expertise faster than they gain it. Yet only 43 percent of companies have formal practices in place to identify senior-level and specialized experts to train, transfer, mentor, manage or retain their knowledge among others in the organization.

Industrial marketers have a great opportunity to step in and help fill the knowledge void as well as build customer satisfaction and loyalty by producing trusted, reliable technical content that helps engineers do their jobs more effectively. Your customers will turn to you for authoritative knowledge and you will become an essential resource to these companies.

Environmental Sustainability is Important

Another theme arising from the survey is the importance of environmental sustainability. Seventy-six percent said designing/developing environmentally sustainable products was important to their companies. Fifty-five percent said that environmental/sustainability pressures on products/designs have increased over the past two years. In addition, the majority of engineers said that the number of environmental/sustainability regulations, regulatory complexity and frequency of regulatory changes have all increased.

If your products are energy efficient, help reduce energy consumption or are made from safe or recyclable materials, make sure you get that message out to your target audience. The same is true with messaging around other trends reported in the survey, such as engineers being strapped to do more with fewer resources while having to meet aggressive launch dates.

Take advantage of these trends in your marketing. How can your products reduce time to market for engineers? Improve productivity? Save time and resources?

Performance is Measured by Customer Satisfaction

Having satisfied customers was the most often cited objective used to measure a team or department’s performance, chosen by 60 percent of respondents. Product quality – a key aspect of customer satisfaction – placed second among performance objectives (57 percent), followed by launch dates (45 percent).
Engineers are doing a good job living up to performance expectations: 75 percent said they frequently met customer service and satisfaction targets. It appears that the desire to achieve a high level of customer satisfaction permeates all corners of an organization. Even for engineers, the customer is king.

Download the Research Report

Download your complimentary copy of The Pulse of Engineering: The Changing Work Environment for Engineers Today. This research report profiles the respondents and analyzes and presents results of the survey. It also offers recommendations to industrial marketers to help them better understand their target audience, strengthen relationships with customers and position their products to align more closely with industry trends.

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What do you think of these findings? Any surprises? Or what you expected from your audience? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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Five Tips for Differentiating Your Business from Competitors

Every market today is a busy, crowded, competitive market. In the industrial sector, many companies offer similar products, components and services. The quest to stand out from the crowd and differentiate from your competitors is a difficult challenge, but once overcome will help you gain a stronger, more recognizable position in the market.

Here are five tips to help you create differentiation, and distance, from your competitors:

Differentiating your company from competitors is not easy but will help your position in the marketplace.
Differentiating your company from competitors is not easy but will help your position in the marketplace.

1. Know your enemy

This saying, taken from Sun Tzu's The Art of War, may be on the dramatic side, but for industrial companies it means that in order to differentiate from your competitors you must first study and know them. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do they position their company and offerings? What promises do they make in their marketing? How are they perceived in the industry?
Getting answers to these questions allows you to focus on how you are different and what you do better than your competitors. You need to find those key attributes that set you apart.

2. Stick to your mission statement and core values

The relationship between companies and mission statements can take one of three forms: 1) the company doesn’t believe in mission statements, perhaps thinking they’re a waste of time; 2) the company takes the time to craft a mission statement but then basically ignores it; or 3) the company takes its mission statement seriously, putting energy and resources into understanding the organization’s purpose and core values, what it hopes to achieve, and how to achieve it.

Be that third company. A solid mission statement can help focus your company, provide a framework for evaluating whether opportunities fit your business model and strategy, establish your brand, and give your employees core values to embrace.

A mission statement should be short, simple and specific. Avoid industry buzzwords. Avoid saying what any other company might say, and instead focus on what’s unique and special about your company. If you don’t already have a mission statement and need inspiration, visit the websites of the companies you admire most (industrial, b-to-b, consumer or otherwise) and check out how they have positioned their businesses.

3. Be innovative

A sure way to separate your company from your competitors is to do something innovative. It may be on the product side—being first to market with a new technology or product is a huge differentiator. But there are other ways to be innovative. You could make a name for your company by implementing innovative customer service, warranty or replacement policies that are unique in your industry. You can open a “virtual university” to share technical expertise with the customers, the market or even engineering students. You can be the company that sponsors an online discussion forum for engineers.

4. Tell a compelling story

Every company has a unique and compelling story to tell. What’s yours? Started by a couple of engineers in a garage? Successful merger of two unlikely marriage partners? Built from the ground up by a visionary who identified an unmet customer need? More and more these days, customers are digging deeper into a company’s history before choosing to do business with it. They’re looking for a company with a strong pedigree and satisfied customers. A company they can trust. A company that has that extra something special. Your company does have that extra something that your competitors don’t. Find out what it is. Tell your story. Publish it on your website. Include it in communications.

5. Reinforce though marketing

You know what makes your company unique and different from your competitors. Now you need to repeat and reinforce that message in your marketing efforts. Extract those couple of words or compelling messages and repeat them through social media, content marketing, e-newsletters, banner ads, boilerplates, webinars, and other forms of marketing. Do this often enough, do it right, and back it up, and you will become known as the company that offers the highest quality products, the fastest delivery of custom orders, or best customer support. Or the company with the greatest technical expertise, the most creative problem solvers, the most experienced consultants . . . or whatever differentiates you from competitors and secures your unique position in the market.

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Using Buyer Personas to Find More Customers

Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers that offer real-world benefits and are extremely useful to your marketing efforts. They can be used to develop targeted content for different customer types, craft relevant and compelling messaging, and help unite your sales, marketing and service teams by sharing a greater understanding of your customers. Buyer personas can even help guide product development efforts.

Biomedical engineers.
Buyer personas of your ideal customers offer real-world benefits and help your marketing efforts such as content, messaging, and more.

How to start

The raw material for developing buyer personas can come from multiple sources. It may be enough to rely on anecdotal experience from your sales team or other institutional knowledge regarding the goals and needs of your customers. However, you may want to engage in research or use other data to get a richer, more comprehensive persona. Many companies use demographic data as part of their buyer personas. Others conduct surveys or one-to-one customer interviews. You can also use online or offline behavior patterns to help fill out a persona. You may even have a good deal of this information on hand from other analytic efforts, such as tracking website visitors or content from case studies.

What to include

Buyer personas don’t need to be complex or long. They should contain only information that is useful to your marketing efforts. Develop a separate persona for each type of customer that you have. If you only have one type of customer, you only need one buyer persona. If you have many types of customers, or if many people are involved in the purchase decision for your products (such as recommenders, influencers, users, and purchasing agents), you should develop a buyer persona for each type.

Here is some of the typical information you might include in a buyer persona:

  • Profile. The type and title of the technical professional who is interested in your products. An engineer (design, process, production), a department head or a team lead, a senior manager, and so on. What are their professional duties and areas of responsibility?
  • Challenges. What problem is your customer attempting to solve? How is this problem negatively impacting them? What are the consequences of not solving it?
  • Goals. What benefits do they hope to achieve with the sought-after product/solution?
  • Obstacles/Objections. What might prevent your customer from buying your product/solution? For example: financial constraints, strong competitive offerings, lack of confidence in your solution or perceived weaknesses, support or warranty issues.
  • Value proposition. What solution are you offering and how does it address the challenges, meet the goals, and overcome the obstacles/objections of your profiled customer?

Create a template

Once you have decided what information you need to collect in order to develop buyer personas, create a one-page template that you can complete for each type of persona. A template is a smart choice because it allows you to maintain consistency and have the same fields for each persona, such as Customer Profile, Challenges and Solution.

Share buyer personas with your team and across teams, including sales, customer service and product development. Help everyone get to know what makes your customers tick and what’s important to them so that everyone has a shared understanding. Make use of buyer personas in internal training efforts and when you bring on new team members.

Develop stronger messaging

Detailed buyer personas will help you develop stronger and more compelling messaging in support of your marketing efforts. Better knowledge of your customers allows you to target messaging to their specific needs, goals and challenges. You can more accurately position your products. You’ll be able to focus on the most important benefits.

Developing buyer personas shouldn’t require excessive time and resources on your part, yet the payoff can be significant. Revisit the buyer personas once a year or when your company launches new products, enters new markets or organizational changes occur such as mergers or acquisitions.

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How Industrial Marketing Professionals Use Market Research

Half of industrial marketers now use primary market research to plan their marketing strategy, according to the results of IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions’ latest research report How Industrial Marketers Use Market Research.

Market research is rated as above average in importance by industrial marketers, yet 63 percent spend less than 10 percent of their annual budget on it, and 54 percent say that budget is a primary barrier to using market research. So there is some disconnect on the part of marketers between perceived value and willingness to invest in market research.

market research
Half of industrial marketers now use primary market research to plan their marketing strategy.

Types of research industrial marketers rely on

Primary and Secondary

There are two types of market research: primary and secondary. Half of industrial marketers use primary research, which is new and original research. Those that rely on primary research either conduct it themselves (64 percent), have other internal people do it (63 percent) or hire an outside vendor (46 percent).

Forty-eight percent of industrial marketers use secondary research, which makes use of information previously researched for other purposes and is publicly available. The most popular secondary research sources are Internet search, used by 85 percent, followed by industry analyst reports (78 percent) and books, periodicals and magazines (62 percent). The industry analyst reports most often used come from Forrester, Frost & Sullivan and IHS.

Qualitative and Quantitative

Market research can be qualitative or quantitative in nature. Qualitative research tends to provide information that has depth and subjectivity. Quantitative research is focused on being statistically relevant. Qualitative tactics include one-on-one interviews, phone interviews, usability surveys and focus groups. Quantitative tactics are typically surveys conducted online (the most popular tactic) or by phone or direct mail.

What industrial marketers want to gain from research

For those industrial marketers that conduct primary research, their goals are to gain knowledge about the marketplace/target audience (76 percent), develop competitive analysis (70 percent), understand existing customers (68 percent) and identify potential customers (65 percent). Entering a new market is the top reason why industrial marketers will invest in research.

Five Tips for Creating a Survey

1. Only ask useful questions.

Every question in your survey should have a purpose. The answer to any question should provide data you can use to help make better marketing or business decisions. If it won’t, strike it.

2. Use rating scales in a balanced and consistent manner.

On questions with rating scales, the lowest (or most negative) point should be the worst possible situation and the highest (or most positive) should be the best possible. The labels in between should be evenly spread. For example, “strongly disagree–disagree–neutral–agree–strongly agree” scale is a popular, balanced scale. Your scale direction (negative to positive or vice versa) should always go in the same direction. If “1” is the worst and “5” is the best, keep that rating model consistent throughout.

3. Avoid leading or loaded questions.

These types of questions will give you unreliable data. For example: “Expert reviewers have rated our oscillating water pumps the highest in the industry. Do you agree?” Most respondents will tend to strongly agree or agree with the statement because experts say so. A better way to phrase that question is: “How would you rate our oscillating water pumps?” and provide a rating scale for survey takers to offer their responses.

4. Use a funnel approach.

Ask broad questions first to introduce a topic, followed by more specific or complex questions. This helps your respondents loosen up before getting to the in-depth questions. End with your demographic questions, which are easy to answer.

5. Keep the survey short and simple.

The longer and more complicated your survey, the fewer number of respondents will complete it and some respondents may begin to answer questions without thinking them through. Having clear goals for your survey and making sure each question is relevant and has a purpose will help guide your structure and length. Market research experts agree that 15 minutes is the upper limit of what you can ask for your respondent’s time.

For additional tips on creating and designing market research surveys, and to access all survey results in chart form, download your complimentary copy of the How Industrial Marketers Use Market Research.

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