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.