Most industrial marketing and sales professionals know that engineers have moved online to complete much of their buying process.
Sixty-two percent of engineers complete at least half of their buying process online before choosing to speak with someone at the company, according to the research report “2021 State of Marketing to Engineers,” produced by GlobalSpec and TREW Marketing. Twenty percent complete 70 percent of their buying process online before contacting a sales rep.
Those important early stages of the buying process, including need identification, researching potential suppliers, and comparing products and services from different suppliers, are completed without an engineer contacting your company.
This trend will continue
As with almost every industry, youth is beginning to take over. Engineers age 45 and under spend even more time online before choosing to speak to someone at a company.
Seventy percent or more of technical professionals in this age group report completing more than half of the buying process online. This trend will continue, as older engineers reach retirement age and younger professionals take their place.
A clear communications preference
When engineers are finally ready to speak with a company, 52 percent of them prefer email over other forms of communication. Twenty-nine percent prefer phone, while only eight percent would want an in-person meeting.
Interest in online chat has grown slightly over previous years and is up to five percent, but adoption of this sales tool in the B2B engineering space remains low overall.
How marketers should respond
There are three key areas where manufacturing marketers can add value to their customers’ online buying process:
- Take steps to make sure their company, products, and services are found online by engineers during the early stages of the buying process.
- Provide relevant, educational content that keeps their company in contention to win business.
- Support your sales team by arming them with appropriate content and information for when they do connect with a prospect.
Getting found online
- Deploy marketing programs on the channels that engineers use. When asked where they go most often for information now that trade shows and in-person events are cancelled, engineers reported their top five sources are supplier/vendor websites, online trade publications, publication email/e-newsletters, vendor email/e-newsletters, and industry directory websites.
- Maintain a consistent and persistent presence on those channels so that you can be found whenever engineers begin their search.
- Make your website as strong as possible, with clear navigation, deep technical information, and pages optimized for specific keywords that are important to your company.
Provide relevant content
- The most useful content to engineers is educational and technical in nature. White papers, CAD drawings, in-depth white papers, and video tutorials are the type of technical content that engineers are most willing to fill out a form to access.
- There is no definitive answer as to whether content should be gated or not. If you do put a form in front of content, you will gain contact information for some engineers, but others will refuse to fill out forms. If you don’t gate your content, you will still get prospects contacting you if your content is targeted, compelling, and meets the needs of your audience.
- Engineers are likely comparing your content to what they get from other suppliers. Make sure your content is accurate, up-to-date, and comprehensive. Even simple, clear, technical data sheets can be very valuable and can help give your company an edge over other suppliers.
Support your sales team
- When sales people do finally get contacted by a potential customer, make sure they aren’t caught off guard. It’s marketing’s responsibility to educate the sales team on what marketing programs are running, what content might be in the hands of their prospects, and what marketing messages are being promoted.
- Your sales team may very well get questions that engineers formulate based on what they have discovered in your content. Make sure the sales team has copies of all marketing content so they can quickly be on the same page with a prospect.
- Because email is such a popular way to contact a company, work with your sales team to develop a library of potential responses that can be customized or to develop email signatures that provide links to additional content or promotions.