The pandemic has impacted many professions and industries, including engineers working in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. But engineers have long demonstrated they are a smart and resilient bunch—they have jobs to do and find ways to get them done, pandemic or not.
That’s not to say that engineers haven’t made adjustments to how they search for and connect with suppliers, and how they source and consume content. Here are some tendencies that have changed during the pandemic and that should be on your radar when crafting marketing programs during this unsettled period.
Participation is increasing in virtual events and webinars
First, there might be some confusion about the difference between virtual events and webinars. To help clarify, consider webinars as standalone, specific events—short, often technical, and focused on a single topic.
Virtual events are more expansive and last longer. While they often contain technical presentations that you might encounter in a webinar, virtual events may also include keynote speeches, exhibitions, discussion forums, sponsors, and other content and interactive features.
Of those engineers who attended a virtual event, 80 percent found the event a valuable experience. Still, engineers prefer webinars to virtual events by more than a two to one margin, while 28 percent aren’t sure which format they prefer. This makes sense, as virtual events in their current incarnation are relatively new.
Whether at a virtual event or a webinar, if an engineer shows up, they’re looking for technical content. When developing your own webinars, keep this in mind. If participating in or hosting a virtual event, make sure you have plenty of opportunities to deliver technical presentations to your audience that help them do their jobs better.
Podcasts are an emerging content type
Fifty-five percent of engineers now listen to podcasts for work. Thirty-seven percent subscribe to 1-5 podcasts.
Out of those engineers that listen to podcasts, 33 percent listen for 6-20 minutes a week, followed by 26 percent that say they listen for 5 minutes or less. Given that the average podcast is 15-25 minutes in length, this data indicates that engineers are listening to about one episode for work per week.
If you plan to delve into podcasts as a marketer, treat them like other content you produce. Make each episode focused on a single topic, don’t be afraid to get technical, and pay attention to production values.
Other tips: use good microphones, choose speakers who have strong and clear voices, be professional but also foster your personality, add beginning and ending themes to the podcast, and edit the file to create a tight and smooth final product.
Video is popular, but be careful
A whopping 96 percent of engineers watch some videos for work. Forty-eight percent watch less than one hour, while another 48 percent watch for one hour or more. By comparison, engineers spend twice as much time watching video as they do listening to podcasts.
Video has grown steadily in popularity, particularly among younger engineers. Thirty-two percent of engineers are willing to fill out a form to access gated video tutorials, making video a viable way to begin a relationship with engineers.
However, there are signs of video fatigue setting in. This is primarily due to the quality of videos. While a smartphone is all you need to make an effective video, not paying attention to production values can derail your efforts.
One way to make the most out of video is to use this content format for what it does best: showing visuals and movement as a way to explain concepts. That’s why demos and tutorials are the most popular subjects for videos, while talking heads can be snoozy.
Keep your videos as short as possible while still covering the topic. Pay close attention to your video statistics, particularly length of view. If a large portion of your viewing audience is dropping off around the same time, you’ve got a problem.
The biggest reason for drop off is lack of relevancy. Make sure your videos are about subjects your audience cares about and keep engineers interested by moving your story along.
Most industrial marketing and sales professionals know that engineers have moved online to complete much of their buying process.
Sixty-two percent of engineers complete at least half of their buying process online before choosing to speak with someone at the company, according to the research report “2021 State of Marketing to Engineers,” produced by GlobalSpec and TREW Marketing. Twenty percent complete 70 percent of their buying process online before contacting a sales rep.
Those important early stages of the buying process, including need identification, researching potential suppliers, and comparing products and services from different suppliers, are completed without an engineer contacting your company.
This trend will continue
As with almost every industry, youth is beginning to take over. Engineers age 45 and under spend even more time online before choosing to speak to someone at a company.
Seventy percent or more of technical professionals in this age group report completing more than half of the buying process online. This trend will continue, as older engineers reach retirement age and younger professionals take their place.
A clear communications preference
When engineers are finally ready to speak with a company, 52 percent of them prefer email over other forms of communication. Twenty-nine percent prefer phone, while only eight percent would want an in-person meeting.
Interest in online chat has grown slightly over previous years and is up to five percent, but adoption of this sales tool in the B2B engineering space remains low overall.
How marketers should respond
There are three key areas where manufacturing marketers can add value to their customers’ online buying process:
Take steps to make sure their company, products, and services are found online by engineers during the early stages of the buying process.
Provide relevant, educational content that keeps their company in contention to win business.
Support your sales team by arming them with appropriate content and information for when they do connect with a prospect.
Getting found online
Deploy marketing programs on the channels that engineers use. When asked where they go most often for information now that trade shows and in-person events are cancelled, engineers reported their top five sources are supplier/vendor websites, online trade publications, publication email/e-newsletters, vendor email/e-newsletters, and industry directory websites.
Maintain a consistent and persistent presence on those channels so that you can be found whenever engineers begin their search.
Make your website as strong as possible, with clear navigation, deep technical information, and pages optimized for specific keywords that are important to your company.
Provide relevant content
The most useful content to engineers is educational and technical in nature. White papers, CAD drawings, in-depth white papers, and video tutorials are the type of technical content that engineers are most willing to fill out a form to access.
There is no definitive answer as to whether content should be gated or not. If you do put a form in front of content, you will gain contact information for some engineers, but others will refuse to fill out forms. If you don’t gate your content, you will still get prospects contacting you if your content is targeted, compelling, and meets the needs of your audience.
Engineers are likely comparing your content to what they get from other suppliers. Make sure your content is accurate, up-to-date, and comprehensive. Even simple, clear, technical data sheets can be very valuable and can help give your company an edge over other suppliers.
Support your sales team
When sales people do finally get contacted by a potential customer, make sure they aren’t caught off guard. It’s marketing’s responsibility to educate the sales team on what marketing programs are running, what content might be in the hands of their prospects, and what marketing messages are being promoted.
Your sales team may very well get questions that engineers formulate based on what they have discovered in your content. Make sure the sales team has copies of all marketing content so they can quickly be on the same page with a prospect.
Because email is such a popular way to contact a company, work with your sales team to develop a library of potential responses that can be customized or to develop email signatures that provide links to additional content or promotions.
Thank you to all who joined GlobalSpec and TREW Marketing for our 2021 State of Marketing to Engineers Research Findings live webinar.
We were not able to answer all of the fantastic questions posed by attendees during our live webinar, but have since tackled them all. We thought you might be interested in reading through the full Q&A, so that you can glean information to help inform your own industrial marketing efforts.
It’s hard to get the visitors to our website to engage with Chat, do you have any suggestions for how to get better engagement? We feel like they are just using us for our content and leaving.
Chat is best used as a means for website visitors to get an immediate question answered (such as where to find information, how to get in touch with sales, etc). If you’ve set up your website so that visitors can easily find info, you may not notice a lot of engagement in your chat, which is ok. The research data shows us that only 5% of engineers want to use chat as their first engagement with sales, signaling that they are not yet bought into this means of communication. Part of this might be due to the complexity of the need, but also a hesitation to interact with what might perceived as a salesy conversation. Consider experimenting with your chat settings and what the prompt is – striking a helpful tone may help engagement. And the silver lining is that we are seeing B2B chat growing in adoption (albeit at a faster pace than for engineers). As buyers interact with chat more and more in their B2C personal lives, you’ll see the behavior spill over more in B2B. Keep blazing the trail!
Has in-person meeting preferences with engineers changed with COVID?
We didn’t explore this topic in our research, but what we’ve experienced with our own businesses and clients’ businesses this year is, no surprise, a dramatic shift to virtual meetings. In speaking to engineering leaders, it seems that the pandemic has shifted work culture enough that virtual meetings and virtual working environments will become more of the norm after the pandemic. This will vary based on job function, so consider updating your audience personas with this question in mind, and monitor as the year progresses.
Could you speak briefly on the use of virtual calls?
Virtual meetings on platforms like GoToMeeting and Zoom became a norm this year. Our team at GlobalSpec has conducted virtual calls for years, but we were surprised by how many of our clients were suddenly eager to turn on their cameras when in the past had not. This visual aspect helped to forge a closer “human” connection with meeting attendees, and we now advise others to turn those towards cameras on (and worry less about the dog in the background — your furry pet is fodder for a perfect meeting icebreaker).
People are suffering from video meeting fatigue, how do you feel this will change over the next few months?
Long video calls tethered to a computer, starting into a camera can be exhausting. Consider breaking up lengthy meetings into shorter ones (no longer than 2 hours) and provide a brief break in the middle as well. Also, consider when video is not necessary. Old school phone calls can alleviate some video fatigue. I’ve had some of the most productive 1:1 calls with team members while taking a walk or sitting outside over the phone.
Do engineers have a preferred platform for webinars? (GoToWebinar, other?)
This would be a great question for the future. My suspicion is that content prevails over platform.
What type of podcast do engineers listen to?
This would be a great topic to dive into further in next year’s research. What we do know is that almost half listen to at least one podcast episode per week for work-purposes.
What are the professional networks they’re joining? What is a professional community network? How can marketers take advantage of those networks?
Professional networks include professional associations with networking opportunities and role-specific discussion boards. We did not ask specifically which professional networks (though next year I think it would be excellent topic to explore!). Examples of this include StackOverflow, GitHub, IEEE Collabratec, Quora and the CSIA Industrial Automation Exchange. Some engineering publication online sites have networking communities as well.
Why is YouTube not listed as a social channel?
YouTube’s functionality leans more towards a search engine than a social channel, though you could make the case for both. You’ll find YouTube results on page 13 of the research report, which show that 27% of respondents turned to YouTube to seek information and/or networking opportunities, where as social media as a whole came in at 17%. In our 2020 report, we did include YouTube within social options, and found it to be highly valued, coming in 2nd place to professional community networks, edging LinkedIn to third. Our conclusion is that whichever way you categorize YouTube, it is a valued channel by engineers and with the overwhelming adoption of video as valued content, an important channel for 2021.
Do social channels change based on age?
We didn’t do this analysis for the 2021 report, but here is the social breakdown by age from the 2020 research (note that YouTube was included as a social channel in 2020 but not in 2021):
Ages 35 and under found the most value in YouTube (46%), LinkedIn (35%) and Professional Communities (35%); they found the least value in Instagram (61%), Facebook (57%), Pinterest (54%), and Twitter (54%), and Reddit (43%)
Ages 36-54 found the most value in LinkedIn (35%), YouTube (33%), Professional Communities (28%); they found the least value in Instagram (53%), Pinterest (53%), Facebook (44%), and Twitter (47%), and Reddit (47%)
Ages 46-55 found the most value in YouTube (32%), Professional Communities (29%), and LinkedIn (26%); they found the least value in Pinterest (64%), Instagram (63%), Twitter (61%), Reddit (59%), and Facebook (50%)
Ages 56-65 found the most value in Professional Communities (24%), YouTube (20%), and LinkedIn (14%); they found the least value in Reddit (71%), Instagram (70%), Pinterest (66%), Twitter (66%), and Facebook (57%)
Ages 65+ found the most value in Professional Communities (42%), YouTube (20%), and LinkedIn (14%); they found the least value in Instagram (68%), Reddit (64%), Pinterest (66%), Twitter (66%), and Facebook (64%)
Do you see more success with organic or sponsored LinkedIn posts?
We’ve found the most success through a two-pronged approach: keep a consistent cadence of organic content flowing, ideally posted by company spokespeople (in their own voice) rather than only company posts. Supplement with advertising in short bursts with an engaging ad and enticing call-to-action.
Do you think there is a correlation between the engineers age and their seniority, for example, the more senior the engineer is the more likely they are to be ‘reading around’ their subject matter and engaging with materials as they will be seen as the local expert and conversely the younger engineers haven’t needed to perform this at this stage in their career?
Great point about the correlation between age and seniority. It is interesting to consider the need for certain types of content by stage of career and role within the organization. We find younger engineers perform more long-tail specific searches and need more basic education in what is often a “specifier” role, whereas older engineers with more experience often have a broad network of colleagues to tap. This older group may seek new ideas and different angles to complement their established expertise, while others may have a tendency to fall back upon trusted solutions of the past.
Ebooks seem to be growing in popularity, did you consider those as an option in any of your survey questions or did it show up anywhere?
We included ebooks in our 2019 research, with the descriptor “longer, more in-depth than application notes/white papers” and found them to be similar in popularity to white papers and webinars. Because there seems to be a general lack of understanding between white papers versus ebooks amongst engineers, we choose to drop that option from this year’s survey, but this doesn’t reflect a lack of preference for ebooks. Through our own experience, we find ebooks to be very popular lead generators and highly memorable due to their graphic-heavy nature.
Do you have any recommendations on how to deal with a prospective engineering customer that says “Your product looks valuable and I am interested, but don’t have the time to take a detailed look right now.”? We get this continued response a lot.
Give your prospect time to get to know your company and solutions more fully, and build preference through targeted content. One way to keep the lead warm is through a nurturing email campaign. Create a 4-5 email sequence keeping each brief with one relevant content offer, and set expectations for the engineers on how long it will take to consume the content (e.g., include something at the top of the page or even right in the email saying how long it takes to read). The goal of the campaign can be to set up a meeting with a salesperson (use a calendar app to reduce friction for this step), but hold this offer until towards the end of the campaign sequence.
Since the majority of engineers spend half of their journey online before talking to someone, will they be “creeped out” or deterred from moving forward with us if we reach out to them early in the cycle (leads)?
The data suggests that reaching out too early may indeed repel your prospect. Using a marketing automation tool, look for buying signs such a repeat visits, downloads, and other engagement. These indicate a level of trust and implied receptiveness to receiving a sales email.
General Research Questions
What was the total number of respondents to this survey?
We had a total of 1,361 qualified responses.
What new findings surprised you the most in this year’s research compared to prior years?
The biggest surprise was the number of respondents — twice as many as last year! With the data itself, there were no massive YOY swings on the whole, rather incremental increases that support continuing trends: more of the buyer’s journey shifting online, more adoption of video, and lack of enthusiasm over most mainstream social media channels. LinkedIn was an interesting one…while it ranks high when compared to other social channels, the percent of “not very valuable” responses jumped from 28% to 46%. This suggests fatigue (I know I’m tired of the aggressive sales bot messages!) and supports a more targeted and thoughtful approach. I am hopeful with more changes on the horizon in the LinkedIn platform, this channel will be seen as more, not less valuable, in our next research report.
Is the survey data specific to US market or global? If only US, do you think these behaviors are similar across the globe?
This survey includes respondents from around the world. In our past surveys, we have found that while small differences emerge in what types of companies engineers work at and what social media channels they prefer, the larger trends prevail
I would be interested to see & analyze the survey data, is this made available?
Year after year, industrial marketers tell us that their top marketing priorities are to generate qualified leads for sales and to increase brand awareness.
One way to help achieve both these goals is to increase your marketing visibility. High visibility leads to high brand awareness, and together they produce a host of benefits, including:
Instilling in customers a sense of trust in your company, brand, and products.
Discoverability early in the engineer’s buying cycle. This is essential, as engineers and technical buyers prefer to search and research independently before contacting a potential vendor.
Engagement with potential customers. Without visibility, there is no opportunity for engagement and qualified leads.
A shorter sales cycle, as customers often prefer to buy from companies they recognize and that are known in the market.
What Helps Increase Visibility
There are two primary factors that help increase marketing visibility: reach and regularity.
Reach is how far and wide your marketing presence extends. Depending on your strategy, you may be using marketing programs to:
Penetrate deeply into your current markets and core customers
Get your message out to new markets and new potential customers
Some weighted combination of these two strategies
Regularity is how often your brand and message are visible to your target audience. Are you maintaining a consistent and highly visible presence, or only periodically appearing in the market to support specific initiatives?
Ideally, you want to maintain some level of visibility at all times in the market, and bump up your presence to a higher level to support product launches, important company milestones or news, or in response to a unique market opportunity.
Effective programs and channels that help to maintain regular visibility and also can generate immediate interest or engagement opportunities:
Company website—Your number one brand ambassador, allowing your audience to find you whenever they are searching.
Email—allows you to stay in touch with your house list and keep your brand top of mind with customers and prospects.
Social media—Regular updates on social media channels help keep you front and center with engineers. Relevant posts can be easily shared by users, helping to increase your reach.
Display advertising—Used on a network of targeted industrial sites, display ads offer high visibility and brand awareness.
Industry-specific websites—Directory listings, content hubs, and online catalogs offer you an opportunity to be as visible as larger companies and reach potential customers during their search process.
Media relations—Public relations efforts such as pitching stories, writing by-lined articles, providing expert opinions on newsworthy topics, and sending press releases can increase the number of mentions your company receives.
Webinars/online events—Whether hosted by your company or with an industry partner, online events are powerful, subject-specific branding opportunities that deliver a captive audience.
Video—One of the fastest growing marketing tactics for manufacturers, watching video is popular among engineering and technical professionals.
How to Measure Visibility
Every marketing initiative you undertake should be measurable, including efforts to increase marketing visibility.
Unlike a call-to-action lead generation program that produces short-term results, increasing visibility takes time and therefore should be measured over time. The key is for trends to point in your favor. If your results increase month over month and quarter over quarter, you’ll know that your visibility is increasing as well.
Individual programs have their own related metrics that allow you to measure visibility.
Email metrics include number of emails sent, number opened, and number of clicks or other desired actions such as forwards.
For display ads, visibility can be measured by impressions, which is the number of times your ads are seen. Clicks on display ads measure engagement with your content. These metrics hold true for e-newsletter advertisements as well.
On industry-specific websites, the number of visitors to your directory listing or content hub measures visibility; additionally, the number of click-throughs to your website measures how interested your audience is in what you have to say.
Social media metrics such as the number of followers, shares, and retweets all measure visibility.
The most important website metric for visibility is the number of visitors. The ratio of new vs. returning visitors gives a sense of visibility with a new audience. If the percentage of new visitors rises in relation to returning visitors, your visibility is increasing because new audiences are discovering you.
You should also track other metrics that are not tied to any specific channels or programs, yet offer deep insight into how visible your brand and message are in the marketplace. For example, how often users type your company name into search engines is a good measurement of brand awareness. In addition, to measure the impact of media relation efforts, use the free service Google Alerts, which will notify you of specific keywords mentions such as your company name, product names or other relevant keywords that appear in news articles, blog posts web pages.
If these metrics are increasing over time, you will know that your marketing visibility is increasing as well.
An integrated marketing campaign arranges multiple marketing channels that work together to achieve a specific marketing goal. While integrated marketing relies on multiple channels to achieve results, it is more than just multichannel marketing, because the integration comes from having aligned messaging and goals.
The benefits of running an integrated marketing campaign include:
Reaching a wider audience than you could through any single channel or tactic.
Strengthening your brand by increasing visibility in the market and reinforcing your message across channels.
Building trust among your customers by maintaining a consistent message.
Saving resources by reusing marketing assets such as images, copy, video clips, and other content.
Start with a SMART Goal
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Attainable and Realistic are not the same thing, because a goal can be attainable if you marshal every resource you have towards it, but still not be realistic because you can’t put all your time, energy, and resources into one endeavor.
Let’s use an example: Your goal might be to increase conversions through your website by 20 percent over the next six months in support of a new product launch. That’s specific (conversions) and measurable (how many completed forms). You have a time period of six months.
But is the goal attainable and realistic? If website conversions are down six percent, increasing them up to 20 percent might not be attainable and realistic. But if conversions have been increasing at a rate of 10 percent every six months, then getting to 20 percent is certainly attainable. If you have resources to devote to the initiative, it makes it all the more realistic.
Align Messaging to Support Your Goal
Sticking with the example goal of increasing website conversions to support a product launch, make sure your messaging is consistent around this goal. Maybe your ads focus on one or two top benefits. Your calls to action all revolve around going to your website to download a white paper or to register for a webinar.
Repeated messaging increases the likelihood of getting noticed by your customers and prospects, no matter what channel they use to find you. Conventional wisdom says that a prospect may have to hear your message up to seven times before responding in a positive manner. So make sure you’re delivering the same message across your campaign.
In addition, strive to use the same look and feel across all channels. For example, if you’re using photographs of your products, use similar style treatments in display ads, e-newsletter sponsorships, and landing pages.
Whenever possible, use the same fonts, colors and other visible branding elements across all media.
Choose a Mix of Channels
Your mix of marketing channels is your point of connection with potential customers. Engineers and other technical professionals have their individual preferences for media, but almost all of them use digital media to research products, services, and suppliers in the early stages of their buying process.
In the increasing conversions example, you might place ads in industry e-newsletters and display ads on targeted industrial websites, optimize web pages for key search terms, fine-tune messaging on content hubs, create supporting social media content, and distribute press releases.
While the messages on each of these channels can be slightly different, they all must align to support the product launch. The call to action in every case should motivate engineers to take the next step and arrive at a landing page on your website to take advantage of your offer, such as getting a white paper or viewing a webinar.
Fine-tuning your media mix in an integrated marketing campaign requires both skill and creativity to make sure your channels work together but are not redundant. GlobalSpec offers a wide range of marketing channels and the necessary expertise to help you create an effective integrated marketing campaign. Contact us today for more information or download our media kit.
For many industrial marketers, 2020 was unlike any year they’ve faced. And there’s no forecasting what 2021 might bring: more of the same, better, or worse?
But uncertainty doesn’t mean you don’t have any control. One thing you can do is to devote your energy and resources to three specific areas of focus that will help your marketing organization perform better, no matter what market conditions are like.
Concentrate on Digital Channels
Industrial marketers for years have been skewing their budgets in the direction of digital channels such as email, websites, search, webinars, and social. These and other digital assets are the online resources their target audience of engineers prefers to use to connect with suppliers and to find products and services.
The events of 2020 caused an even greater reliance on digital as in-person events were postponed or canceled. Beyond the acute impact of the pandemic, trending influences include a new generation of digital-first engineers as well as technological advances that make digital even more relevant and enticing.
Now, in 2021, our advice to you is to go digital-heavy to increase your visibility and generate opportunities. Webinars, online conferences and meetings, and other virtual events have proven to be highly effective in terms of results and costs. Furthermore, digital channels continue to offer the advantage of being easier to track and measure.
This year, make sure your website is the best it can be, your webinars are engaging, your display ads capture attention, and your email marketing targeted. Your media partners can help you develop an integrated, multi-channel digital marketing program that fits your budget and is aligned with your marketing goals.
Maintain a Consistent Message
Customers prefer to do business with brands they are familiar with and trust. One way to build trust and demonstrate what you stand for is to maintain consistency in your messaging.
Too often companies can become scattershot with their messaging in an attempt to “be everything to everybody” in hopes of not letting a single potential customer slip through the cracks. However, this approach can dilute your message, resulting in confused customers and becoming “nothing to nobody.”
A coherent and cohesive message that spans all of your marketing channels can help you cut through the clutter of intense competition and gain mindshare with your customers. This doesn’t mean you have to say the same thing using the same words every time, but you do want to align all your messaging within your overall value proposition and brand statement.
Use color palettes, visuals, text styles, and layouts to support and affirm your messaging. If your company can become known in the market for a couple of exceptional benefits delivered to customers, you will likely find marketing success in 2021.
Enable the Buying Process
In a survey of more than 250 B2B customers, Gartner found that 77 percent of them rated their purchase experience as extremely complex or difficult.
A data point like that leaves a lot of room for improvement—and opportunity.
The fact is, buyers are in control of the buying process, not marketing, sales, or business development. In addition, the majority of buyers don’t contact a potential supplier until they are well into their buying process.
Our job as marketers is to make the entire buying process efficient and easy for our customers.
We can do that by producing customer-centric content to meet buyer needs at all stages of their buying cycle. Content such as educational articles, white papers and webinars in the early stages, and practical case studies, comparisons, and ROI calculators in the later stages. Don’t try to wow them with fancy content—try to be useful to them.
Get content into the hands of potential customers through an easy-to-navigate website and through the digital marketing channels that engineers use.
Moreover, enable your buyers to connect with you by providing numerous and flexible options, including email, online chat, forums, phone, and social media. Make 2021 about making buying decisions easier for your customers, and you will be rewarded.
While the overall ad market in the U.S. is contracting due to COVID-19, B2B digital ad spending is up 22.6% year over year, according to “U.S. B2B Digital Advertising 2020,” a research report by eMarketer.
Why is digital ad spending increasing?
When you can no longer meet in person, digital channels perform the heavy lifting of connecting suppliers with potential customers.
As overall marketing budgets are constrained, the need for B2B marketers to measure and report back ROI only intensifies.
Digital advertising, such as search, social media, and display ads provide metrics to easily measure their performance.
In sum, a digital heavy approach can give you greater control over your budget and measurement, as well as connect you with prospects in this difficult time.
What if customers aren’t buying?
Economists are not in complete agreement on whether we are in a recession or just a temporary dip due to the pandemic, but either way, the impact is the same, especially if your customers aren’t buying right now.
So why should you invest in digital advertising right now? Many research studies have shown that companies that continue to market during a recession come out stronger and with a better market position than those companies that cut back.
Even if your customers aren’t buying right now, digital advertising can increase the visibility of your brand and keep you top of mind with customers and prospects when they are ready to buy. Otherwise, you might forgo a chance to be remembered and placed on their shortlist of potential vendors for future purchases.
Furthermore, the sales and buying cycle tends to be longer in B2B markets. This favors longer-term branding efforts through digital advertising channels. By laying the groundwork now, you may not be able to immediately profit during the recession, but you will be more likely to capitalize during the recovery.
Lessons from previous downturns
Companies have learned a lot about navigating through recessions, and many marketing lessons hold true across time and apply to industrial suppliers:
Don’t withdraw from advertising, unless your company’s short-term survival depends on it.
When there is little current demand to be had, use longer-term brand advertising to take the place of shorter-term demand generation.
You can defend and even gain brand recognition when competitors cut back.
Adjust your message to acknowledge the pain your customers may be experiencing.
Match the mood of customers
Every customer wants to feel listened to and understood. This is the time to demonstrate humanity and warmth. It is time to let them know you are there for them and will continue to be there when they are ready to make purchasing decisions.
You can weave this kind of messaging into advertising, articles, white papers, social media posts, webinars, and more. You can also create more content that is purely educational, such as how-to pieces, descriptions of processes, or explanations of technologies.
Choose advertising channels wisely
Despite all the reasons to continue maintaining a digital advertising presence during this difficult time, you might not have as much budget to spend as you normally would.
To maximize the positive impact of your budget, seek out measurable, proven digital channels that reach the specific audience you want to target, whether it’s current customers or potential markets. The best way to do this is to work with your media partners.
GlobalSpec stands by ready to assist you. Download our 2021 Media Kit or contact us for more information about how you can make the best use of digital advertising during this uncertain period.
As 2021 approaches, industrial marketers face unprecedented challenges in solidifying their marketing plans for next year.
What’s a marketer to do? The answer is to balance two factors that largely determine both short-term and long-term marketing success: demand generation and branding.
While both branding and demand generation work in tandem as part of your complete marketing strategy, they perform different functions and have different attributes.
Short-term campaigns (typically less than three months)
Highly-targeted to defined audiences
Messaging around solving specific problems
Longer-term campaigns (typically more than six months)
Focused on gaining visibility in the market
Lays the groundwork for future business opportunities
According to research conducted by LinkedIn, B2B organizations allocate 45 percent of their marketing budgets, on average, to branding.
Marketers might be tempted to lean even more heavily toward demand generation in hopes of spurring short-term revenue growth, but an imbalanced strategy is unlikely to produce the desired results in 2021 for several reasons:
Short-term demand for products and services may be depressed during the pandemic and amid economic uncertainty, and no amount of marketing magic can change that.
Unless your company is a household name in the industrial sector, demand generation programs are forced to perform too much heavy lifting without the support of branding to keep your name top of mind with potential customers.
More reasons to balance demand generation and branding
Name recognition is important. Customers prefer to buy from brands they know and trust. It reduces the fear and risk involved in making a purchasing decision. There’s some truth to the old adage: “No one ever got fired for buying from IBM.”
Stronger brands command a price premium because buyers are will to pay more for brands they recognize and trust.
According to GlobalSpec’s upcoming “Pulse of Engineering” survey, only 34 percent of engineers say they are very or completely likely to be employed at the same company five years from now. That’s a lot of movement among your customers. If you lose an individual’s contact information when they change jobs, the only way to keep your company top of mind with them is through ongoing and broader branding campaigns.
Branding campaigns support short-term demand generation success by helping to shorten sales cycles. Salespeople are not starting at ground zero every time they engage with a prospect; instead, they are speaking to an informed person who already knows the brand attributes your company represents.
Branding allows you to reach beyond your own base and find new contacts and establish new connections, which is key to new growth.
Balance your measurement too
It’s easier to measure ROI for demand generation programs because their metrics are immediately available and results are known in a shorter time frame. Branding is a longer game that contributes to demand generation success but is more challenging to measure.
Track the effect of branding over a longer period of time. Choose metrics such as reach and visibility, name recognition, any trends in sales, or shortening of sales cycles. You could also allocate the costs of branding campaigns among your demand generation efforts under the assumption that branding is assisting those programs.
Combine branding and demand generation
Look for opportunities to gain both branding and demand generation benefits through integrated programs. Examples include using digital ads to promote a foundation webinar that features an industry expert. Or running a regular advertisement in an industry e-newsletter in which you offer brand-sponsored educational content.
Forty-three percent of engineers open most or all newsletters they subscribe to and they either read every one or at least scan for content. Another one-third of engineers scan subject lines and open the ones that intrigue them, according to the research report “2020 Smart Marketing for Engineers.”
These numbers could be higher. The way to increase email effectiveness is to build greater trust with your audience. When engineers trust you, they gain confidence in you, and are more likely to engage and do business with you.
Here are eight tips for building trust via your email communications.
1. Get permission
This isn’t just a tip, it’s a requirement. Unsolicited email does the exact opposite of building trust—it sows suspicion and doubt in the recipient, violates spam laws, and can harm your brand.
When you only send email to opt-in recipients, you are taking the first steps toward building trust.
2. Always make yourself known
Even with opt-in email, you need to use the ‘From’ line to your advantage by letting your audience know who the email is from. It could be from your company or from a specific group within your company (for example: GlobalSpec Media Solutions send out the Marketing Maven newsletter).
You can also use a person’s name in the ‘From’ line, such as a sales representative or a business leader, as long as that person is known to the recipient. This name recognition tactic and one-to-one communication fosters a greater sense of trust.
3. Set expectations—and adhere to them
When someone signs up to receive email from you, let them know how often you will email them and what you will be emailing them about. If possible, give them options for the type and frequency of communications they want to receive.
Don’t violate this pact. If they are opting in for only a monthly newsletter, don’t send them weekly promotions. Keeping your promises is one of the best ways to build trust.
4. Make the content relevant
This is one of the most important factors contributing to the building of trust via email—and to the success of your email communications.
Engineers are looking for educational, informational content that helps them do their jobs better, grow their knowledge, and make more informed buying decisions.
Try to segment your audience into groups based on product interest, roles and responsibilities, or other criteria, and then craft emails targeted to their needs and interests. Forty-five percent of industrial marketers produce content for 2-3 audiences and 27 percent for 4-5 audiences, according to “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020,” produced by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs.
5. Personalize whenever possible
Personalization creates bonds. Bonds create trust. Personalization can be as simple as using your recipient’s name in the subject line (such as ‘David, here is an article we think will be helpful’) or in a salutation (such as ‘Dear David’).
Using marketing automation software, you can take personalization deeper by tracking what emails or content a recipient has engaged with in the past and using that data to determine what to send them next.
6. Avoid the “Do Not Reply” address
Sometimes you get email that says “Do Not Reply” in the ‘From’ line or elsewhere in the email. This phrase does not belong in email marketing because it shuts down conversation and suggests to your recipient you don’t really want to hear from them.
Again, this is no way to build trust. Instead, give your audience a way to engage with you, offer comments, or start a conversation. For example, at the end of every Marketing Maven, we include this note along with an email link: “Email the Maven. We’re interested in learning from your experiences, too! If you have a question for us or a story to share, please send us an email.”
7. Use Conversational Language
Build trust by being human. One way to do this is to treat your email communications like a conversation, using normal, everyday language. Stay away from formal writing. Put the thesaurus away and simply talk to your audience as you would to someone face-to-face.
8. Track and improve
You can always get better at your email communications, and the better you get the more trust you will build. Eighty-six percent of industrial marketers use email engagement to track the success of their content (“Manufacturing Content Marketing).
Track email delivery statistics, opens, clicks, and forwards to find out what’s working and what needs improvement. As you finely tune your email communications, you’ll also increase the trust level between you and your audience.
The annual “Pulse of Engineering” survey published by GlobalSpec has long underscored the pressures faced by engineers as they do their jobs. This year’s report reveals that these existing pressures have combined with the impact of the coronavirus to create even more challenges for engineers to face.
Every day, engineers are dealing with highly competitive markets, shrinking design cycles, time-to-market pressures, and loss of institutional knowledge.
Consider these survey findings:
Fifty-eight percent of engineers say the competitive landscape is global and competes 24/7.
Seventy-three percent say designs are becoming more complex/sophisticated, 64 percent say there are increased time-to-market pressures, and 58 percent report that design cycles are shrinking.
The majority say their company’s productivity, innovation, and/or product quality are constrained by a shortage of specialized talent/knowledge.
Marketers can step in and use their content creation and marketing skills to help alleviate these pressures on engineers. Here are four ways you can be a part of the solution to the challenges facing engineers.
1. Help engineers complete their projects
Engineers use technical documentation, software and development tools, product specification data, and datasheets as their most essential systems or tools to complete projects.
Good content from vendors helps to educate engineers and increase their confidence in the products and services they purchase or recommend. Your content should include the technical information and specification data that engineers are seeking.
Maintain a well-organized, accurate, and up-to-date portfolio of technical content that engineers can easily access on your website and that you promote to them through your marketing efforts such as email, social media, and industry websites.
The manufacturer that meets these content needs for its audience and provides the helping hand in completing projects is the manufacturer that is more likely to earn and convert business opportunities.
2. Focus messaging on customer pain points
Specifications and datasheets are essential, and so is providing context around your product and service offerings. When creating content, focus on how your products and services can help speed up design cycles or reduce time-to-market pressures.
In an era in which designs are more complex, does your content explain difficult concepts clearly, helping engineers grasp what you have to say quickly and easily? When you hit your customers’ pain points, they will respond to your messaging.
3. Fill in knowledge gaps
In the “2021 Pulse of Engineering” survey, 58 percent of engineers said that knowledge and/or information loss as employees left the company is very or extremely important. Another 26 percent said it was moderately important.
The issue is exacerbated due to older engineers retiring, layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic, and organic turnover. Yet only 39 percent of companies have formal practices in place to identify senior-level and specialized experts to train, transfer, mentor, or retain their knowledge among others in the organization.
That leaves a significant gap in some companies. Marketers can be a valuable contributor in helping their customers preserve institutional knowledge. White papers, webinars, articles, and other technical content can explain processes, describe how to complete a task, compare different approaches to solving a problem, and document best practices.
This type of content—educational and customer-focused rather than promotional and sales-focused—can become a part of a client organization’s knowledge library.
4. Help engineers advance their skills
Engineers report that their most effective ways to systematically or formally maintain, educate, and advance their professional skills are online training courses, webinars, and peers.
But only 39 percent of manufacturing marketers used webinars/online events as a content type in the past twelve months, according to the research report “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020,” produced by the Content Marketing Institute.
It might be time to devote more resources to webinars, especially during the coronavirus pandemic when many engineers are avoiding traveling and most in-person events are canceled.
You can create webinars to host online training sessions for engineers covering topics they need to know and that you specialize in. Be sure to archive any training sessions so engineers can always have access to the content.
The “2021 Pulse of Engineering” report has clear takeaways for manufacturers: become the vendor that meets your audience’s information needs. Don’t be afraid to take a deep dive into your products and services, offering the technical, in-depth knowledge that engineers and technical professionals are looking for. They will thank you with their business.