If you want to know the economic outlook in the industrial sector, here’s one answer: signs point to improving conditions, which means there are opportunities to grow your business. Here’s the other answer: signs point to continuing challenges, which means you need to make smart decisions on where to invest your marketing resources. In other words, economic indicators are decidedly mixed, with some companies optimistic and others more cautious, according to the results of the 2012 GlobalSpec Economic Outlook Survey.

This annual survey of engineering, technical, manufacturing, and industrial professionals in the U.S. measures the impact of economic conditions in the industrial sector. In the most recent survey results, 49 percent of companies anticipate growth for the remainder of the year, while 51 percent of companies expect to remain flat or fall short of plan. And although 40 percent expect higher sales than last year, 32 percent estimate sales will be lower. Clearly it’s an up and down economic environment.

Outlook varies by industry
Some industries are faring better than others in this economy. In the Biotechnology/Pharmaceuticals sector, the majority (58 percent) estimate that sales will be ahead of plan in 2012, making it the best performing sector. Additionally, 50 percent of those working in Computers, Systems & Peripherals and in Industrial Machinery/Tools & Equipment expect sales to be up. Communications – Data/Telecom/Wireless Networks is the hardest hit industry, with 57 percent expecting sales to be down from their 2012 plan.

Companies are focused on growth
Despite these conditions, many companies are focusing on growth. Industrial companies anticipate spending more or the same over the next six months compared to the last six months in all product and service areas. They also are focusing on growth initiatives such as entering new markets (56 percent), new product design and development (50 percent), and researching future projects (50 percent). And 42 percent of engineers are working on more projects this year than last year.

These are positive signs for manufacturers and suppliers marketing to an industrial customer because the growth initiatives will lead to product, services, and component spending.

New markets are attractive
When economic conditions are in flux, companies often seek to expand their presence in markets that are performing better than the average and where their products and services may be a good fit. This strategy also helps to limit their exposure and risk in other markets that may be underperforming. Fifty-six percent of companies are applying time and effort on entering new markets, the top initiative reported among respondents. Thirty-eight percent stated they were focused on new markets, and 26 percent stated they are specifically expanding sales into new markets.

Biggest area of concern? It’s the economy.
When asked what issues or areas of concern their companies were focused on, 55 percent of respondents said the economy. No surprise there. Other frequently noted issues or areas of concern were quality, improving production efficiencies, and expanding into new markets.

These survey results offer several key takeaways for industrial marketers.

First, manufacturers can find new opportunities by focusing on the markets expected to perform the best, such as Biotechnology/Pharmaceuticals; Computers, Systems & Peripherals; and Industrial Machinery/Tools & Equipment.

Second, now is the time to build awareness and recognition among engineers who will need to research and specify products and components to support their growth initiatives. Over the next six months, industrial companies will be focusing on entering new markets, new product design and development, and researching future projects.

Online programs allow you to display your products and services simultaneously across multiple markets, giving you the best opportunities to connect with potential customers in both current and new markets, while making the most efficient use of your marketing investments. Research shows that engineers and technical professionals spend significant time online for work-related purposes such as searching for products and services. That’s where you need a strong presence as well.

For complete survey results, including charts, analysis, and recommendations on how to use the survey findings to measure or adjust your marketing strategies, download your complimentary copy of this latest GlobalSpec research report, “Economic Outlook Survey 2012: State of the Industrial Marketplace.”

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