Through research and direct experience, we’ve learned a lot about the engineering buy cycle. According to the IEEE GlobalSpec “Industrial Buy Cycle Study,” a buy cycle averages 12 weeks in length, is continuously beginning anew, and consists broadly of three stages: Research & Analysis, Comparison & Evaluation, and Purchase.
Here’s what else we know:
• Supplier websites, general search engines, online catalogs and colleagues are among the most popular sources of information during all stages of the buy cycle. But in reality, there is no single “go-to” resource preferred by industrial professionals at any stage of the buy cycle, which reinforces the importance of having a multi-channel marketing strategy to connect with potential customers.
• Engineers prefer to search independently for products and services, and make contact with a supplier only later in their buy cycle. This illustrates the importance of providing high-quality, educational, and easily accessible content to your audience so that you are not passed by.
• Purchasing is a collaborative effort, with influence from engineers, management, operations, purchasing and more. As a result, industrial marketers need to have a consistent overall message to market, but they also need to ensure that they are communicating with these different personas, addressing their key concerns and making a connection.
• When evaluating a potential purchase, an engineering team will typically get quotes from three different suppliers. The challenge for suppliers is to make the final three, and to be the supplier chosen. Most of them are using content marketing to attract prospects and move them toward purchase, but not everyone is matching content to the different stages of the engineering buy cycle.
It’s not only important that you reach engineers and provide them with the information they need to make an informed decision – you need to tailor what you provide them to where they are in the buy cycle. Here’s how:
Research & Analysis
Blogs, newsletters and articles help engineers keep up on trends and technologies, and become aware of innovative companies and new products. They learn possible approaches to solving problems and may even discover needs they didn’t know they had.
This is a good stage for offering thought leadership content that showcases your unique approach to solving problems or that distinguishes your company in the market. Webinars, white papers and articles are also good content marketing options.
Comparison & Evaluation
Powerful and persuasive content to provide for this stage includes easy-to-read specifications, data sheets and infographics; “how-to” tutorials or videos that show products in use; and customer success stories or testimonials.
Comparison & Evaluation is also the stage at which engineers are most likely to contact a supplier’s sales team or technical staff. At this point your customers likely have some knowledge of your company and a potential purchase in mind. Make sure your team has the content they need to answer questions from customers.
It’s time to make a decision. It could go several ways. If you’re ready with the right content, it’s more likely to go your way. At this stage, you’re more likely to see financial and procurement professionals also be involved.
A customer obviously wants to know about pricing, but also terms of the purchase. Are you selling an annually renewable license or contract? Are any product upgrades included? What is the warranty? What is the technical support? In addition to providing this content, you can gain an advantage if you can offer an ROI calculator or other tool to help customers understand the financial impact of their decision.
Provide the information and the resources that engineers require—at the time they need it—to drive preference for your brand and create loyalty for your products. For a deeper understanding of this topic, download the complimentary white paper “The Industrial Buy Cycle Study” from IEEE GlobalSpec Media Solutions.