Specification sheets and technical drawings are still very much alive as marketing tools in the industrial sector, but they’re no longer the only content marketers must produce, or even the most important content.

Product specifications and data sheets support the later stages of the industrial buy cycle, when engineers are ready to make their final purchase decisions. Examining spec sheets is like buyers dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to make sure a product they’re considering is the best fit for their needs. In the earlier stages of the buy cycle—needs analysis, research, consideration, evaluation—engineers require a different type of content. They’re looking for best practices, tips, new technologies, and industry trends.

Marketers are investing in content creation
According to the article “Content sparks buying cycle: Marketing to engineers now focuses on digital channels, communities,” which recently appeared in BtoB Magazine, vertical industry marketers are now focusing on new types of content, including thought leadership, community engagement, how-to videos and more. While marketers may already have some of this content available on their websites, they also may need to invest in creating new content and using more channels to distribute it.

Many industrial marketers are already focused on content creation. Results from the IHS GlobalSpec survey Trends in Industrial Marketing 2013 show that 51 percent of industrial marketers are spending more on content creation this year than they did last year. Content-focused videos (58 percent) and webinars (49 percent) are seeing increases as well. In addition, creating and distributing content will play a major role in marketing plans over the next five years, placing second in importance only to focusing on customers.

Creating content is not a simple matter. You need writing, design and production resources, but you also must understand engineers and their buy cycle, and then create content that matches their needs. Engineers don’t like to be marketed to and they don’t like sales pitches. What they want is useful information that is relevant to their jobs and the problems they are trying to solve.

Useful information might be why one technology is superior to another, or why one approach to solving a problem is faster and better than others. But what engineers want are facts and expertise, not hype. The company that produces this type of solid, relevant content will elevate its brand and attract more potential buyers.

Digital is the way to distribute content
Engineers are extremely busy today. They no longer have time for browsing print magazines. Few of them can take time away from the office to attend tradeshows and walk the aisles. Instead, when they have a need for information they immediately go online to find it.

Marketers who distribute their content across multiple digital channels are creating the best opportunities to connect with engineers and other technical professionals. Digital channels such as exhibiting at online industry events and advertising in e-newsletters that are product or technology specific allow marketers to get highly-focused content into the hands of their target audience. Interpower, a manufacturer of power system components, uses this strategy and exhibits regularly at online events. Not only can they connect with their audience, but product specialists and technical experts in the company who might not be available to travel to an in-person event can often be available to answer customer questions online. Read: “How Interpower builds its pipeline through virtual events.”

Tradeshows continue to be a popular traditional channel to distribute content, while websites, online directories, e-mail marketing, and Internet banner advertising are experiencing growth on the digital side. Social media is a good fit for content delivery as well—65 percent of industrial marketers who use social media channels use them to distribute content. Many companies are also building online communities for customers to engage in discussions and answer questions.

We all keep hearing that content is king because it does rule. Make sure you have plans in 2014 to create and distribute good content that will help your customers navigate their buy cycle.

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How do you distribute content to engineers throughout their buy cycle? What tips and ideas about marketing planning would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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