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Native Advertising: How to Do it Right

Although nearly everyone with an internet connection has seen a native ad, not everyone knows what they are. As an industrial marketer, you probably already know that native advertising is a company-sponsored article that is designed to look just like the other content of the publication in which it’s featured.

Native advertising is proven to be highly effective. It isn’t disruptive and doesn’t interfere with the flow of the user experience. It’s also much less vulnerable to ad blockers than other types of display advertising.

According to Business Insider, native advertising will make up 74 percent of all display ad revenue by 2021. Additionally, research from marketing firm Contently indicates that consumers who read native ads that they identified as high quality reported a significantly higher level of trust for the sponsoring brand.

Despite the high potential for success, native advertising is not without its challenges. Let’s discuss potential hurdles and how to overcome them.

A perfect fit for the industrial market.
Native advertising is an excellent vehicle to give engineers and technical professionals what they’re constantly seeking out during their buy cycle: reasoned, educational, and informative content.

However, you want to make sure that your native advertising program continues to uphold your reputation as a trusted provider of your products, goods, and services. The Contently research found that there is significant confusion on the part of readers as to what constitutes an article and what constitutes an ad, and consumers often have a difficult time identifying the brand associated with a piece of native advertising. Forty-eight percent have felt deceived upon realizing a piece of content was sponsored by a brand.

The key to success with native advertising is to make sure you work with a reputable publisher that has experience in native advertising and will ensure that your ad follows FTC guidelines. According to the FTC, “Advertising and promotional messages that are not identifiable as advertising to consumers are deceptive if they mislead consumers into believing they are independent, impartial, or not from the sponsoring advertiser itself.”

The FTC guidelines are anchored less on what type of content is acceptable in native ads and more on displaying and labeling them as advertisements. For example, native advertising should be clearly labeled as sponsored content. The use of the advertiser’s logo also helps clarify the publisher-advertiser dynamic, as well as helps build brand awareness and visibility for the advertiser.

Media partners can help guide you
The benefits of native advertising definitely outweigh any risks—especially if you execute properly. One recommendation is to work with a media partner and publisher that knows and adheres to FTC guidelines for native advertising. Whether your ad is native or not, you want your content displayed to your target audience and only on those sites or pages that are relevant to them. That might seem obvious, but some publishers don’t offer careful targeting—or clear labeling— of native advertising.

The content of a native ad remains up to you. It’s your chance to connect with your audience to demonstrate expertise, thought leadership, or other value propositions. A savvy and experienced media partner should also be able to assist you with content, which will add another layer of confidence that you’re not creating a deceptive or misleading ad.

Native advertising is one tactic that IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions offers in its comprehensive portfolio of content marketing solutions targeted exclusively to your audience of engineers and technical buyers. Learn more about native advertising opportunities.

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Three Big Reasons Why Engineers Need You

You need engineers and technical professionals. They are your customers and therefore the lifeblood of your company. But the relationship is mutual: Engineers need you as well.

Leveraging this mutual need is the key to building and maintaining long-term, loyal relationships with your customers.

The upcoming “2017 Pulse of Engineering” survey revealed three key areas where suppliers can focus their marketing efforts to provide more value to engineers and technical professionals. Let’s discuss your customer’s pain points and how to help them:

1. Provide Design and Project Assistance
The majority of engineers and technical professionals surveyed agreed that designs are becoming more complex at the same time that design cycles are shrinking and time-to-market pressures are increasing. Fifty-five percent of engineers are being required to do more with less; 68 percent are working on three or more projects simultaneously. Yet team size is not increasing. Seventy-six percent said the average size of the teams they work on has decreased or stayed the same.

Due to these pressures, many companies are looking outside for help. Thirty-eight percent said that design involvement from external partners, vendors and customers has increased. This represents a golden opportunity for suppliers to educate their customers and become more involved in their work processes.

However, expect engineers to choose their outside influences judiciously. You can demonstrate your expertise and get closer to customers by marketing your brand and value propositions across the channels that engineers use to locate suppliers, products, and services. Online catalogs, webinars, technical articles and white papers are all good vehicles to showcase your company’s expertise, and to demonstrate how you can add value in the design phase of projects.

2. Fill the Knowledge Gap
Forty-seven percent of engineers have 30 or more years of service, and many are nearing retirement. Thirty-six percent of industrial companies are experiencing increased losses of senior employees to retirement. Twenty-seven percent of technical professionals said they were only slightly or not at all likely to be employed by their current company in five years.

One result of changing demographics and worker mobility is a knowledge drain. Forty-five percent of survey respondents said that knowledge and/or information loss as employees left the company was very or extremely important. Yet only 36 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.

As a supplier in the industrial sector, you can help preserve and grow your customers’ knowledge by educating and training them on trends and technologies, and serving as a trusted information resource. Engineers and technical professionals primarily maintain and advance their professional skills through colleagues, books, and technical white papers and training provided by vendors.

Make customer education, training and thought leadership cornerstone initiatives in your marketing strategy. By becoming more valuable to your customers you can become more entrenched in their work processes and serve as a primary source that they will turn to for technical and industry knowledge.

3. Help Engineers Do More with Less
While the pace of engineering continues to increase and engineers are asked to do more with less, 47 percent of survey respondents say that technology is helping to improve productivity. Embedded in these findings is a valuable question for suppliers to answer: How do your offerings help engineers improve their efficiency?

Research such as “2017 Pulse of Engineering” allows you to identify the challenges and concerns of your customers, and to align your messaging and solutions in a way that resonates with your audience. For example, the survey reveals that engineers often must meet aggressive launch dates for products that meet high standards for customer satisfaction. How do your products/services help engineers do more with less? Or shorten design cycles? Or increase efficiency? How are your technologies at the forefront of innovation or sustainable for long periods of time? Craft marketing messages in a way that positions your offerings to help engineers overcome their challenges.

The upcoming “2017 Pulse of Engineering” research report from IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions can help guide your marketing efforts. Results tell you exactly what engineers and technical professionals in the industrial sector think about the pace of engineering, work environment, competition, challenges, performance management and knowledge management practices.
 

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Three Ways to Connect with Content

The upcoming “2017 Pulse of Engineering Survey” reveals how engineers and technical professionals work, the pace of engineering, their work environment, what they look for in a supplier and more.

The upcoming survey makes it clear that it’s more important than ever for suppliers to ramp up their content marketing efforts. Why? Engineers are being forced to do more with less, and are turning to outside vendors more and more for design input and technical information. Content marketing is a great way to provide this experience and demonstrate value to your customers and prospects.

But what kind of content are engineers looking for? And how do suppliers ramp up their content marketing efforts? The survey results help shine a light on the answers.

1. Seventy-one percent of engineers and technical professionals say that designs are more complex/sophisticated, 63 percent say there are more time-to-market pressures, and 61 percent say that design cycles are shrinking.

Your customers are looking to you for expertise. Thirty-eight percent of engineers and technical professionals said that design involvement from external partners, vendors and customers has increased. However, expect engineers to choose their outside influences judiciously. You can increase your opportunities to get closer to customers by creating content that markets your value proposition and approach to partnering on design. Why should customers consider partnering with you? White papers, webinars or technical articles can help get your message across.

2. Forty-five percent of engineers said that knowledge/information loss was very important or extremely important as employees left the company. But only 36 percent of companies have formal practices in place to preserve knowledge by leveraging senior-level and specialized experts.

What types of content can you produce that will align with your customers’ needs to preserve, protect and pass on knowledge? Approach customers and offer to form a partnership to develop a technical knowledge base or a library of articles. With many seasoned engineers nearing retirement age, it makes sense to reach out to a younger generation of technical professionals through articles, white papers, technical briefs and more to help them fill in knowledge gaps. Highlight your point of view on major industry trends and position your company as a thought leader and knowledgeable authority.

3. Colleagues, books, and technical white papers and training provided by vendors are the four most effective ways that engineers maintain and advance their professional skills.

The message here is pretty clear—offer technical content and training to educate engineers and help them advance their professional skills. Develop a series of training webinars or educational white papers that will help engineers grow their skills and knowledge as well as perform better in their jobs. If you can become a go-to resource for engineers to learn and improve, you will build a stable base of long-term, loyal customers. Engineers are asking for help. Give them the content they need.

I’m Ready to Create and Connect – Now What?

You may embrace the idea of ramping up your content marketing, but just don’t have the time and resources to do it. If you really want to overcome content marketing challenges, gain back time and earn a return on investment, you should probably consider turnkey content marketing services from a trusted media partner.

Content development and content marketing are just two of many services available from IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions. Check out all the advantages here. Also, to further advance your content marketing efforts, download the complimentary white paper: “Content Marketing for Industrial Marketers: Establish Thought Leadership, Build Brand Awareness, and Drive Engagement Opportunities.”
 

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The Millennials are Coming!

Actually, they’re already here. While there are no precise dates for when this generation begins or ends, most consider anyone born from the early 1980’s to the mid 1990‘s to be a millennial. That puts the majority of millennials in the sought after 18-34 demographic.

According to the Pew Research Center, there were approximately 55.2 million millennials in the U.S. workforce in 2015. By 2025, that number is expected to grow to 74 million, representing 44 percent of the workforce.

Millennials are flooding the B2B industrial sector and advancing into positions where they influence and/or make buying decisions. Research conducted by the B2B marketing firm Sacunas found that 73 percent of millennials are involved in product or service purchase decision-making at their companies. Approximately one-third of millennials report being the sole decision-maker for their department.

As marketers, you must learn to connect with this group and win them over.

Preferred Channels for Millennials
Millennials are less reliant on any one information source than other age groups. A report compiled by Chief Marketer claims there is no “silver bullet” to reach the millennial audience, and that a “mix of channels and approaches is your best bet.”

Fortunately, a multichannel strategy is the best way to reach engineers and technical professionals of any age. The three most popular channels to research a work-related purchase are general search engines, supplier websites and online catalogs, according to the “2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector” research report from IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions. In addition, online communities have seen a significant growth among younger engineers, with 39 percent now using them.

Naturally, social media is an attractive channel for millennials. Eighty-five percent use social media to research products and services for their companies. Facebook is the most popular platform, and the majority also use LinkedIn (Sacunas).

2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector” found that professionals under age 35 are more likely to make contact during the needs analysis/research phase of the buy cycle, while professionals over 49 are more likely to wait until the purchasing stage. The takeaway is that suppliers must be discoverable and approachable during any phase of the buy cycle, through a variety of marketing channels. This conclusion aligns with millennials’ desire for a hassle-free, multi-channel client experience that is tailored to their specific needs.

Types of Content Millennials Consume
According to Sacunas, when researching new products and services to make B2B purchasing decisions, millennials prefer video-based content and case studies. In terms of targeted content, they rate training, demos and product news as being the most helpful information to receive from vendors.

The way that millennials consume content is worth noting as well. Technical professionals under age 35 conduct significantly more product searches and read more news and e-newsletters on their smartphones than their older colleagues (“2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector”). Suppliers should consider creating websites and e-newsletters that are compatible with mobile.

What Millennials Look for in a B2B Vendor
What are millennials looking for in a B2B vendor? The top priority was ease of doing business (35%), followed by willingness to work collaboratively with their organization (33%), and industry/marketplace experience (31%), as reported by IBM. Eighty percent of millennials in the Sacunas survey indicated that social, environmental, or philanthropic efforts of companies are important to their purchase decisions.

How do you ensure you are the right company for a millennial customer? Pay attention to this audience’s preferences for channels, content and brand attributes during their buy cycle, and adjust your marketing accordingly. You might find your customer base becoming both younger and larger as a result.
 

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Three Tips for More Effective e-Newsletter Marketing

Chances are your company publishes one or more marketing e-newsletters. Eighty-one percent of B2B marketers use e-newsletters as a content marketing tactic, according to joint research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. Sixty-four percent of B2B marketers rate e-newsletters as very effective or effective.

Your audience gravitates toward digital publications. They subscribe to an average of 4.4 digital publications, in contrast to 1.4 printed trade magazines, as reported in the “2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector” research report from IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions.

This audience uses e-newsletters as an important information source through all phases of their buy cycle, from early awareness, to research, to consideration and comparison. Engineers and technical professionals are looking for specific types of information in e-newsletters. They don’t want to be sold to; they want to learn and become educated. They want to know who’s who in the supplier world. They want to discover the newest products and technologies, stay-up-to date on industry trends and check the latest news.

Whether e-newsletters have a long-standing role in your marketing program or you’re of the 19 percent that don’t yet use e-newsletters (you should), here are three tips to pump up the effectiveness of e-newsletter marketing.

1. Determine goals and measurements in advance
At the Maven, we like to drill this message home: no matter what marketing campaign you’re launching, establish your campaign goals and metrics for success up front. If you already have them, see if they need tweaking. Also, make sure you know your audience: what they want and need. The reason that goals, audience and measurements come first is that these factors drive all other decisions.

One thing you don’t want to do is keep publishing the same old e-newsletter just because that’s the status quo. Instead, have purpose.. Do you want to increase exposure? Then you should measure opens and forwards. Do you want to drive readers to a web site to take further action? Count clicks and forms completed. Analyze what is working and tweak the aspects that your readers aren’t responding to.

2. Allow form to follow function
The “form follows function” principle says that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose. The same holds true for e-newsletters, in regards to both advertisements and editorial content. Design follows goals.

For example, if you’re primarily sharing articles, your design might include a branded graphic header, followed by a list of compelling headlines, snippets of copy and links to more information. These design elements combine to make for easy user recognition, scanning and action.

Many organizations include house ads in their company e-newsletters. These should be designed around what action you want the user to take. Provide value through a benefit-oriented headline, image, a bullet point or two, and a compelling call to action—that’s all you really need.

Use images in a similar fashion. If you’re introducing a new product, show a clear photo of it and ask the user to take action: “Download the data sheet.” “Read the article.” “Request a demo.” If you’re promoting a white paper or analyst report, use an image of the document in the banner ad. Show users what they are getting.
Buttons and arrows, as simplistic as they may seem, make good visual cues for the user to take action. The same is true for “action” verbs. All the examples above include action verbs: Download, Read, Request.

3. Think beyond your company newsletter
If you’ve been publishing a newsletter for a number of years, it might be hard to move the needle further forward in terms of user engagement. That’s to be expected. Applying the two tips above will help improve results.

When you take a look at your goals, you might realize they can’t all be achieved through your current newsletter alone. Maybe you want to connect with hard-to-reach prospects who aren’t in your database. Maybe your goal is to penetrate a new sector or geographic market this year. Or, maybe you’re strapped for marketing and production resources but you want to expand your newsletter advertising efforts.

The solution is often to advertise in a respected and relevant third-party newsletter. Ads in third-party newsletters, such as the dozens published by IEEE Engineering 360, deliver broader yet still targeted exposure, giving you access to a highly engaged audience and new markets.

Another advantage of advertising in third-party newsletters is that someone else does all the heavy lifting. The right media partner will handle database and list management, newsletter design and production, and sending and tracking. If the newsletter is opt-in, you should receive timely reports about who clicked on your ad, which will offer new engagement opportunities for your company.

Finally, a media partner can help you integrate newsletter advertising with other digital campaigns, resulting in a holistic approach to the market and producing greater impact for your overall marketing program. To learn more about newsletter advertising options from IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions, click here.


 

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Why Print Media Should Still be Part of Your Advertising Mix

For the past few years, the B2B marketing world has been buzzing about the rise and relevance of digital media. It’s true that there are many digital channels available to help companies connect with their potential customers. From social media to webinars, online catalogs to video, email to apps—B2B marketing has experienced a sea of change.

Conversely, spending on print is declining. According to research from CMO Survey, investments in traditional advertising have consistently dropped by single digit percentages each year for the last half decade. Digital marketing spend, by comparison, has consistently grown by double digit increments year after year.

And yet, data shows that print media still plays a role in a successful multichannel marketing strategy:

• The CMO Survey also found that digital spend is only a portion of total marketing spend for most businesses, and that companies are also spending marketing dollars on offline/traditional media.
• Fifty-seven percent of B2B marketers use print or other offline promotions as part of their marketing mix.. (2016 B2B Content Marketing Trends – North America: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs)


The Benefits of Print
There are many benefits to reaching your customers using print media. Print is still a top-of-funnel medium, and can help you establish the value of your brand. Additional benefits of print include:

• With print circulation down, readership for most publications has been culled to only the most engaged, targeted audience, which is a desirable trait from an advertising standpoint.
• Print is perceived to offer credibility, especially in the B2B industrial space.
• Readers of print are not interrupted by targeted digital ads being served up in real-time based on browsing history or digital footprint.
• Readers are more focused when engaged with print, rather than multitasking like they do when consuming digital content.
• Print offers pass-along exposure among colleagues.
• Print offers high visibility—fewer ads mean more impact.

Finding Where Print Belongs
Research by the sales and marketing firm Outsell showed that marketers are increasing the number of tools in their marketing stack. Research from Lewis PR found that 84 percent of senior marketers worldwide state multichannel marketing is a key focus of their current marketing strategy.

Print advertising can still have a place within your stack of tools and overall marketing mix. . The question is finding the right fit in an integrated and multichannel marketing program.

When choosing print media, keep in mind that the real value in print advertising may be in brand awareness and perception, and in getting your message or offer to stick over the long run. By simultaneously using both print and digital media, you can achieve concurrency of media and have a greater opportunity to connect with your target audience in different settings—whether they are at their desks, on their mobile device or offline.

Measuring the effectiveness of print is easier than in the past.. Do this by integrating print and digital efforts. Marketers can include scannable QR codes, or set up ad-specific URLs and corresponding landing pages so that they can track how much traffic is generated from a particular print promotion.

Digital channels are more plentiful, and offer concrete measurements and flexibility. Plus, the majority of the technical audience goes online first when searching for product, services and suppliers. However, a well-planned print should still play an role in your marketing mix – as long as it’s integrated with
digital in your multichannel marketing strategy.

Tell us – Where do you see value in print advertising? How are you merging digital and print?

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Five Industrial Marketing Trends that Matter in 2017

With the new year comes a fresh perspective and another chance to improve and optimize your marketing program. To make sure your plan is rock solid, check out the top industrial marketing trends for 2017 from the Marketing Maven and consider how to best implement them into your own strategy.

Trend #1: Media Mix is More Diversified
With so many media channels now in use, marketers have more competition than ever for share of voice, making it harder to capture the attention of your audience. Moving into 2017, we predict that more industrial marketers will incorporate a carefully planned, comprehensive mix of channels into their marketing plans.

According to a Content Marketing Institute/Marketing Profs survey, marketers use an average of 13 different channels to promote their message to the market. Leading the way are social media content, case studies, blogs and e-newsletters. B2B marketers also use an average of three paid advertising channels. The top three are search engine marketing, print or other offline promotion, and traditional banner ads. It’s not just paid search engine ads anymore.

The Industrial Marketing Trends Survey from IEEE Engineering360 shows that about 80 percent of industrial marketers are diversifying their mix, but the majority say they need to diversify more. If this describes your situation, you might want to work with media partners, agencies and other experts to help you determine the most effective mix for you.

Trend #2: Digital Spend Will Continue to Grow
The statistics are plentiful: At $83 billion, digital B2B spending outweighs all other B2B marketing spending by two times or more (Outsell). Forty-two percent of industrial marketers are growing their online budgets. Online display advertising is up 28 percent, while email spending is up 9.1 percent (Winterberry Group). Overall, 41 percent of marketing budgets will be spent online, a percentage that steadily increases year over year (Industrial Marketing Trends).
Industrial marketers are increasing their spending across a diverse mix of channels. The top areas of increased spending are content creation, search engine marketing, direct mail using in-house lists, social media, online directories/websites, and webinars. With the exception of direct mail, all of these channels are online or directly impact online marketing efforts. Digital is where your peers are focusing more marketing budget, and we expect this focus to continue in the year ahead.

Trend #3: Measuring ROI is a Priority and a Challenge
The pressure continues to rise for marketers to demonstrate ROI on marketing investments. Marketing budgets have gotten tighter, and are often under more scrutiny by executives. Additionally, the growth of digital media channels means an increased ability to measure marketing efforts — making demonstrating ROI no longer the exception, but the rule.

According to The Content Formula by Michael Brenner, 81 percent of B2B marketers say that measuring marketing effectiveness is their greatest challenge. But how is success measured? It depends on what metrics matter.
Salesforce reported that revenue growth is the top metric for digital marketing success. This makes sense, although it is often difficult to attribute a sale to a specific marketing program. A prospect has many touches with a potential supplier and there are often many decision makers and influencers involved before a purchasing decision is made. Hence, it remains a challenge to attach revenue gains to specific marketing initiatives.

After revenue growth, customer satisfaction and retention rates are the most important measures of success. In this way, the industrial space mirrors the overall B2B space. The number one metric of success is sales attributed to marketing campaigns. After that, metrics such as customer acquisition, customer satisfaction, leads and customer retention come into play.

Twelve percent of industrial marketers don’t have a method to measure success. If you fall into this category, consider working with your executive team and media partners to determine what results matter to you, and how you can begin measuring them.

Trend #4: Content is the Kingdom
As marketing expert Lee Odden says, “Content isn’t king. It’s the kingdom.” Content marketing is becoming more evolved, more sophisticated and is driving key performance indicators and measurements. Content is how companies get their message out to the market.

In a recent Content Marketing Institute survey, 88 percent of B2B respondents say they are using content in some way, shape or form. However, effectiveness varies. Only eight percent say they are sophisticated content marketers. Eleven percent say they are just taking first steps and have not yet made content marketing a process. Everyone else falls somewhere between these two extremes.

If you are just getting started with content marketing, you are not alone. Thirty-nine percent of industrial marketers are in the same situation (Industrial Marketing Trends). This means that 2017 presents a big opportunity for improvement and success in this area. Be sure to devote time and resources this year to developing a content strategy, producing engaging content on a consistent basis, and measuring content effectiveness.

Trend #5: Email Marketing Maintains its Value
You may have heard that email is dead, but that simply isn’t true. Email has remained a cornerstone marketing tactic for B2B marketers for almost two decades. With mobile phones and tablets, your audience can connect with email almost anytime, anywhere. And don’t forget that email marketing offers easy to measure metrics like opens, clicks, forwards and conversions.

Data reinforces email’s continued popularity and effectiveness. Salesforce reported that 73 percent of marketers believe email marketing is core to their business, 65 percent say email is an effective marketing channel and 58 percent are increasing their email marketing spend. Newsletters are the most popular email marketing tactic.

As you continue to shape your marketing efforts in 2017, be sure to keep email in your portfolio. If you already publish a newsletter, consider advertising in other industry newsletters to reach a broader yet still targeted audience.

Where do you see 2017 heading for industrial marketers? Comment below and tell us where you’re focusing your efforts in the year ahead.

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5 Key Takeaways from the Industrial Buy Cycle Survey

 Every industrial marketer must be tuned into the industrial buy cycle—a complex, three-stage collaborative process for recommending, specifying and purchasing equipment, components and software, and services in the industrial and electronics space. The three stages of the buy cycle are:

1. Research and Needs Analysis—when you identify specific needs for your company and explore available options. Activities might include web searches, attending webinars, reading white papers, scanning industry news and connecting with peers.
2. Comparison and Evaluation—when you determine the most suitable options for your company. Activities might include comparing specifications, watching how-to videos, testing samples, and interacting with the supplier’s technical staff.
3. Purchase—when you make a specific purchase decision. Many engineers still stay involved when it’s time to negotiate terms, get proper signatures and finalize pricing and scope.

Recently, IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions conducted the “2106 Industrial Buy Cycle Survey.” Its purpose was to better understand the buying process engineers and other technical professionals engage in, and to provide useful information for industrial marketers who must connect with this target audience. Below are the five key takeaways from the survey.

1. Engineers Have Substantial Buying Authority
Engineers are in the problem-solving business, and if you can demonstrate that your solutions help solve their problems, they will authorize a purchase. Engineers have substantial buying and sign off authority, and they employ this authority to purchase a wide variety of components, software, equipment and services.

Engineers possess an average sign-off authority of nearly US $5,000 when purchasing products and services. In addition, they personally are responsible for an average of $110,900 in spending. Those holding managerial titles are responsible for more personal spending—37 percent more spend than staff engineers—and a commensurately larger sign off authorization level.

2. The Average Buying Cycle is 12 Weeks
The average buying cycle is 12 weeks—although 20 percent of engineers report buying cycles of four weeks or less, and 14 percent of 20 weeks or more. The average annual workload of engineers is four projects per year, regardless of product/service under consideration. When you consider the average number of projects (four) and the average length of buy cycle (12 weeks), engineers are actively involved in buy cycle activities all year long.

This means that engineers and other technical professionals are constantly searching for products and services that will meet the demands of their projects. The question for industrial marketers is: When engineers are searching for solutions like yours, will they find you?

3. Engineers Influence All Phases
While it’s true that the buying process is a team effort, engineers and engineering managers hold the majority of influence—52 percent. They are most involved in specifying, evaluating and recommending products/services to be purchased. Corporate management (particularly financial management) and purchasing are most influential during the purchase stage when terms and conditions are negotiated and the supplier relationship is cemented.

For a supplier, this means that cultivating connections with engineers early in the buy cycle are as important as establishing relationships with the people who ultimately issue the purchase orders.

4. Remember the Rule of Three
Engineering teams are remarkably consistent with regard to the number of suppliers they evaluate or ask to submit quotes. During the buying process, three competing suppliers on average are evaluated and sent RFQs—the “rule of three.” Those spending $1 million or more on products or services are more likely to evaluate or request quotes from four suppliers, but overall this “rule of three” is consistent across product categories, project loads or company sizes.

5. Engineers Have a List of Buying Criteria
Engineers and technical buyers want to work with suppliers that possess certain characteristics. These criteria fall under three general categories (another “rule of three”): supply chain, support and brand.

• Supply chain considerations have to do with product availability, delivery schedule and comfort with the supplier—such as having purchased from the vendor in the past or the supplier being an approved vendor. Lowest cost is also a factor, but not the most important one.
• Technical support is the single most important consideration, with 78 percent of engineers saying it is very important or somewhat important. After-sale customer assistance, design assistance, help with system integration or compatibility with legacy solutions, or simple access to a knowledgeable sales team are all considerations when making a purchase decision. For approximately 40 percent of engineers, the location of a supplier’s manufacturing facilities or service centers is of preeminent concern, especially for those buying services.
• Only half of engineers around the world feel it is critical to deal primarily with vendors with “recognized company names.” This should encourage smaller or lesser known suppliers. However, to win business from the half of engineers who prefer to work with known brands, these lesser known companies must successfully demonstrate there is little risk in doing business with them, both in terms of products and ability to deliver.

Read the Entire Survey Report
Results of the “2016 Industrial Buy Cycle Survey” have just been published by IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions. You can download your complimentary copy to see all the survey results, read the analysis, and access recommendations for industrial marketers. Click here to download.

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Connect with Potential Customers Throughout the Buy Cycle

 Engineers and industrial professionals are problem solvers, and the way they solve the problem of sourcing and purchasing products and services is by engaging in a well-documented buy cycle. The cycle consists of three stages: research and analysis, comparison and evaluation, and purchase.

From the results of the “2016 Industrial Buy Cycle Survey,” we also know:

• Access to information throughout the buy cycle is vital to engineers, and their dependence on proven sources of information is part of what gives them a leg up in their search for solutions and know-how, and to keep current with technology and business trends.
• Purchasing is a collaborative effort, with influence from engineers, management, operations, purchasing and more. Budget authority resides throughout the organization—not just with senior managers.
• The buy cycle averages 12-weeks and the cycle constantly repeats with every new project that comes an engineer’s way, an average of four buy cycles per year for an engineer.

From these facts, industrial marketers can draw two conclusions that will help steer their marketing decisions:

1. Create compelling content—You need to have a consistent overall message to market, but you also need to ensure that you are creating compelling content for and communicating with the entire extended engineering team (including operations, corporate management, and purchasing).
2. Choose the most effective media—A constantly regenerating buy cycle means engineers are regularly looking for products and services, which in turn is always bringing you new opportunities if you are using the most effective media channels to consistently connect with potential customers.

Create Compelling Content
In the early stages of the buy cycle—research and analysis—your engineering audience is searching for approaches to solving their problems, insight on which suppliers might have offerings to fit their needs, or guidance on what new technologies might have an impact on their buying decisions. Your job is to educate them on how you can help solve their problems. It’s too early in the buy cycle to be in selling mode.

As the buy cycle progresses, more team members get involved in the purchasing process. Engineering management, IT and operations, and finance, for example. They want to know not only if your product or service will solve the problem, but also if it will fit into the customer’s environment and deliver a return on investment. Potential customers will compare your offering to competitive solutions. At this stage content such as specification sheets, how-to videos, success stories, product samples, and cost and ROI calculators are important.

In the final buy cycle stages, when the entire team might have a hand in the decision making, you need clear pricing sheets, terms and support policies. For every stage of the buy cycle, your goal should be to develop and deliver content that makes the purchasing decision simple and straightforward, and that gives your buyers confidence. Make sure your messaging focuses on relevant issues and salient benefits, not just glittering generalities regarding supplier capabilities.

Choose the Most Effective Media
The “2016 Industrial Buy Cycle Survey” shows the many different information sources that engineers and technical professionals use throughout the buying process. The takeaway is that there is no single “go-to” resource preferred by industrial professionals at any stage of the buy cycle. Therefore, you need a multi-channel marketing strategy to connect with potential customers. The name of the game is consistency across multiple modes of information delivery.

Asked about which sources of information they typically use when purchasing products and services, engineers and technical professionals have settled on several:
• Colleagues
• Search engines and the websites of suppliers and other industry players
• GlobalSpec.com/Engineering360.com and its e-newsletters
• Catalogs—online or print
• Printed publications, directories and buyer’s guides (including materials from industry standards organizations like IEEE or ASME)
• Trade shows and conferences
• Educational materials such as video as well as white papers and webinars
• Online communities, blogs and social media

Some sources are used consistently throughout the buy cycle—including colleagues, search engines, online catalogs, and supplier and industry websites. You should concentrate on showcasing your products and expertise and maintaining a consistent presence on these channels (except for colleagues, of course), particularly the digital media, where engineers turn first when beginning their buy cycle research. This way, you can increase the odds that you will connect with potential customers during their buy cycle.

Results of the “2016 Industrial Buy Cycle Survey” have just been published by IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions. You can download your complimentary copy to see all the survey results, read the analysis, and access recommendations for industrial marketers. Click here to download.

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How to Meet Marketing ROI Milestones

 Measuring the success of marketing programs is nothing new. There has always been a focus among B2B marketers to quantify the reach and engagement of their initiatives. In the past, much of this measurement focused on metrics like the circulation of print publications, the growth of catalog mailing lists, business cards collected at trade shows, and completed magazine “bingo cards.”

Today, online channels command the bulk of B2B marketing budgets, providing marketers access to more data, more metrics, and more insight than ever before. So it’s not surprising that B2B marketers at all levels of an organization are under unprecedented pressure to quantify the return on their marketing investment. In fact, ROI is the number-one objective for B2B marketers in 2016. According to The Content Formula’s Michael Brenner, 93 percent of CMOs state that their greatest challenge is showing measurable ROI. And 81 percent of B2B marketers claim that measuring marketing effectiveness is their biggest riddle to solve.

Whether you are looking to quantify the performance of your current marketing initiatives, or want to have a plan in place for 2017 that will help you reach your ROI goals, these five keys will help you get started.

1. Target your desired outcome. Return on investment is the name of the game, but ROI is not a “one size fits all” term.

According to the 2015 State of B2B Marketing Report from Salesforce, the top three digital marketing metrics for success are revenue growth, customer satisfaction, and retention rates. And when IEEE GlobalSpec asked industrial marketers how they measure the success of their marketing initiatives as part of our annual Industrial Marketing Trends Survey, we found that marketers care most about sales attributed to marketing campaigns, acquisition, satisfaction, leads, and retention.

By having a strong understanding of the goals and objectives of your organization, you have built the foundation for your marketing plan. From there, you can define objectives and tactics that will help you reach your goals.

2. Diversify your marketing mix. Your audience has more digital tools and sources of information to do their jobs better and more efficiently, and they are also exposed to many options when ready to buy. And as companies continue to allocate more of their marketing dollars to digital media, it will become increasingly important to fend off competition online. That’s why diversifying your marketing mix is critical.

Our research shows that a majority of B2B industrial marketers are reaching their target audience via multiple channels and tactics, but many feel like they could be doing more. Not sure how to get started? Consider working with a media partner to develop a multichannel marketing strategy that is measurable and can reach your marketing goals.

3. Understand your customer’s buy cycle. In the B2B space, the buy cycle is often long and complicated, involving multiple stages – needs assessment, comparison, evaluation, and purchase. As a result, it can be difficult to correlate sales to specific marketing channels.

Buyers will often interact with your content and brand many times before contacting you or making a purchasing decision. For example, they may download a technical article they found in an e-newsletter advertisement, attend a webinar that you are hosting, watch a video, type your company name into a search engine, and visit your website – all before beginning a conversation.

Understanding your customer’s buy cycle – and having content that helps them meet their needs at each stage – will help you define and capitalize on the value that your marketing programs deliver.

4. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. It sounds simple enough – reach your audience by understanding what they seek. But remember that a key desired outcome is to reach your target audience where they can be found. Go beyond search engine marketing and consider the websites they rely on, the e-newsletters they read, and more.

Being found in the right place at the right time isn’t enough. Ask yourself, “Are we offering them content they want?” Your ability to answer this question correctly is dependent upon the tools you use to understand your customer and the quality of your analysis. In addition to the product data they are seeking, offer educational materials that position you as a thought leader and help them make a better, more informed decision. White papers, technical articles, datasheets, webinars, and videos are just some of the different content types used by today’s B2B buyers.

5. Implement a formal lead nurturing program. Now that marketing has brought in the leads, it’s time to convert them, right? Wrong.

Very few leads translate into an instant purchasing decision. Adding a clear lead nurturing program to the marketing mix has several distinct benefits that directly tie into ROI. First, you deliver more qualified leads to sales – making them happier and more productive. Next, you can successfully track contacts and inquiries along the sales process, resulting in easier and more accurate measurement. And finally, leads are less likely to fall through the cracks, reducing the potential for lost sales and wasted resources.

Hitting ROI milestones can seem like a daunting challenge. By taking a strategic approach to defining, executing and reaching your measurement goals, you will be well prepared to illustrate the value of your marketing efforts to the c-suite.

Patrick D. Mahoney is President and CEO of IEEE GlobalSpec. IEEE GlobalSpec connects a global audience of engineers and allied technical professionals with suppliers of industrial and electronic equipment, components, materials, and technology. The company combines rich technical product information with comprehensive digital media solutions that deliver measurable awareness, demand, and engagement opportunities at all stages of the buy cycle. Learn more by visiting www.globalspec.com/advertising.  

This was originally published on Marketing Tech News: http://www.marketingtechnews.net/news/2016/sep/15/how-meet-marketing-roi-milestones/

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