Economic conditions are better in the industrial sector than they have been for several years, according to the GlobalSpec 2011 Economic Outlook Survey of engineering, technical, and industrial professionals in the U.S. Better conditions should translate to better market opportunity for suppliers.

One encouraging indicator is the majority of companies (55%) anticipate sales to be up this year, an eight-percentage-point improvement over last year when 47% anticipated sales to be up. Along with increasing sales comes increased budgets and more projects to work on. Thirty percent of engineers and technical professionals stated their departmental budgets are increasing in 2011, compared to only 18% of departments increasing budgets last year. And the majority of engineers (51%) are working on more projects in 2011 than they did in 2010.

Where Suppliers Should Focus
Almost all industries are showing improvement. Twenty of 23 industries surveyed expect higher sales in 2011 than they did in 2010. More than 70% expect higher sales in Paper, Printing & Textiles; Packaging Machinery; Chemicals, Plastics & Rubber; Oil & Gas; and Medical Equipment/Instrumentation.

Suppliers who sell products and services into these industries should accelerate their marketing efforts by choosing programs that specifically target these sectors. Other suppliers and service providers should explore if their products can meet customer needs in industries that are improving. If the answer is yes, marketers should re-focus marketing efforts to these segments.

Another way to gain traction is to gear your marketing toward the areas where engineers will be focusing time, effort, and spending. For example, the top three areas where industrial companies will be spending more time and effort in 2011 than in 2010 are researching future projects (50%), new product design & development (49%), and entering new markets (49%).

Part of an engineer’s work process in each of these areas includes searching for and specifying components and services. The industrial buy cycle tends to be long and complex, and therefore suppliers should build and maintain a highly visible market presence where customers can find them during the early research phase of the buy cycle, or they could miss out on sales opportunities in the future.

Engineers are also spending more time on projects to save energy (45%), reduce waste/scrap (43%) and to increase production capacity of existing lines (43%). If appropriate, suppliers should adjust their messaging and re-purpose marketing materials such as white papers and data sheets to address these specific needs areas of engineers.

Impact on Supplier Marketing
The results of the Economic Outlook Survey can help suppliers and manufacturers make more informed decisions about how to allocate their marketing resources. The industrial audience—your customers—is continuing a well-documented trend of relying on the Internet for work-related purposes.

Seventy-five percent of engineers spend three or more hours each week on the Internet for work-related purposes. Almost half (48%) average more than an hour per day on the Internet for work. These professionals use the Internet to obtain product specifications, find suppliers and components, and perform research—all essential functions of the industrial buy cycle. They also use a variety of online resources including general search engines, supplier Web sites, online catalogs, and, among others.

Fifty-six percent receive three or more e-newsletters, and Webinars and other online events are surging in popularity among this audience, while the use of traditional resources such as printed trade magazines and on-site trade shows continues to decline.

The message is clear: suppliers need a broad and persistent online presence to connect with potential customers for both short-term and long-term sales opportunity. Now is the time to ramp up marketing, with the industrial economy improving.

Five Marketing Recommendations
The 2011 Economic Outlook Survey research report offers detailed survey results, analysis, and five marketing recommendations for suppliers for 2011. Download your complimentary copy of the white paper and use the information as a benchmark to measure your current situation and marketing activities. Click here for the white paper.

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