What Separates Electronics Engineers From Their Peers

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In its fourth annual research report—“The Pulse of Engineering”— IEEE GlobalSpec Media Solutions took a fresh approach by segmenting survey responses from electronics engineers. These engineers represent a significant part of IEEE GlobalSpec Media Solutions’ audience and are a frequently targeted population for manufacturers.

The survey revealed what engineers think about the resources available to them, their competition, how their performance is measured, and the climate at their current company. It also delved into an engineers’ work style, along with their motivations and career path.

When looking at these findings, a number of differences between electronics engineers and those engineers working in other industries are evident. For manufacturers that market to this sector, the findings should shape how you communicate with this audience.

Larger Companies and Design Teams

Electronics engineers are more likely to work for larger companies that employ 500 or more engineers. They are also more likely to work in design teams of 100 or more engineers and in teams that have a greater number of design team participants from other countries.

These results indicate that you may need to reach out to a greater number of engineers who have a variety of perspectives and interest areas. Some may be focused on how well a product works, others on how well a product fits into their existing environment, and still others on the economic payback of a product. When marketing to electronics companies, you may need to create content and messaging that resonates with different areas of focus and that can appeal to a variety of team members and decision makers.

Conditions at Electronics Companies

As with engineers across every industry, many electronics engineers report that the pace of engineering is constantly increasing, the pressure to meet deadlines is putting product quality/rework at risk, and they are required to do more with less.

However, electronics engineers are less likely to say that their companies are losing specialized knowledge and senior expertise faster than they can gain it. If you are a contributor to that specialized knowledge and expertise in a company through your products or services, then you’ve proven yourself to be a valuable ally to these engineers.

Other research findings specific to the electronics industry include:

  • Electronics engineers are more likely to consider software and development tools, coding resources and design kits as essential to completing projects.
  • Electronics engineers are more likely to say that the competitive landscape is global and competes 24×7, that new technologies and companies disrupt markets and products faster, and that competitors are quick to adapt and take away business—all findings that reinforce the turbulent and fast-changing nature of the electronics industry.
  • Workforces are more likely to be increasing in electronics than in other industries. At the same time, layoffs are a bigger reason for electronics engineers to leave their company than it is in other industries. The top reason to leave a current role or company is in order to pursue advancement opportunities.
  • In terms of upgrading their career skills, electronics engineers are most interested in learning programming languages, new and emerging standards such as 5G and how to implement artificial intelligence. If you can help educate electronics engineers in any of these areas, you should produce focused messaging and content to support the initiative.

No matter what industries you market to, connecting with engineers requires understanding their needs and motivations, and producing technical and educational content to help them succeed at their jobs.

For a more complete understanding of engineers and their work environment, download a complimentary copy of “2018 Pulse of Engineering.” This valuable resource includes all research results along with analysis and marketing recommendations for industrial marketers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Customer Relationships Electronics Marketing, General
millennial engineer professional

How to Market to Millennial Engineers

In many respects, millennials are like their older, more experienced engineering colleagues: smart, hardworking, ambitious problem-solvers. But in other ways, millennials set themselves apart, and not just in the ways you may have read about previously.

New research from IEEE GlobalSpec Media Solutions—“The Pulse of Engineering”—included exclusive analysis about millennials, which are generally considered born in the time period between the early 1980s and 2000, and for this report have less than ten years of engineering experience.

The results of the survey provide insight into work styles, engineer’s motivations, and their desired career path. A few things stand out about millennials that can help shape how you market to and communicate with them.

1. Millennials are more optimistic than more seasoned engineers.

Engineers of all ages report that the pace of engineering is constantly increasing and that lack of time and resources are their most significant challenges. However, millennials are more likely to believe that technology is improving productivity and they are not as concerned that their companies are losing senior expertise faster than they are gaining it.

Millennials are also more likely to report increasing budgets and new hires in their companies, growth in their engineering workforce, and are less likely to report that cost-cutting pressure is affecting their products.

Takeaway:

Millennials may be more responsive to messages about the benefits of new technology. At the same time, they may not be moved by dark or dire FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) marketing tactics that some manufacturers employ. They’re more optimistic—you should be too when communicating with them.

 

2. Millennials are eager to learn and find new opportunities.

When reporting on factors important to their careers, millennials are driven less by compensation and more by learning opportunity, growth potential and by good work/life balance.

The number one reason millennials would leave their current role is to move to another company to pursue new opportunities, followed by promotion to a more senior role.

For millennials that change jobs, many report they would need to upgrade their current skills by learning programming languages, software development, data science, business skills, and communication and presentation skills. The top four ways they maintain and advance their skills and become educated are colleagues, books, online training courses and webinars (true across all age groups), but millennials are much more likely to use online video and less likely to use technical white papers by vendors.

Younger engineers are also more likely to use datasheets, coding resources, and design kits to help complete projects they are working on.

Takeaway:

Create and deliver technical content that helps educate millennials and improve their skillsets. Plan online training courses for your audience, host webinars, and create instructional videos. Produce detailed datasheets. Offer comprehensive design kits. If you can become a millennial engineer’s trusted resource now, they are much more likely to remember your company and stick with you as they move up the ladder or change jobs.

3. Millennials want open access to information

Millennials are less willing than other engineers to register on a website for access to specific documents. They are also more likely to believe all content should be free and open access.

Takeaway:

These findings have important implications for your marketing programs. If you have gated content that requires user registration, millennials are less likely to fill out a form. It’s not that surprising they believe content should be free and open access—they grew up with the internet and a constant flow of freely available information at their fingertips.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have registration forms on your website to collect prospect information, but you may need to consider other ways to distribute content, such as through social media and email. Or make an executive summary of important content open access and require registration only after you’ve demonstrated your content’s exceptional value. You may also want to consider progressive forms that only require the bare minimum from prospects initially. Millenials may be more likely to fill out a form if it takes only seconds to do and doesn’t compromise too much of their privacy.

 

 

 

Customer Relationships Market Research Marketing Trends

How to Keep Up with Engineers on the Move

 

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Only 37 percent of engineers say they are very likely or completely likely to be employed by the same company five years from now.

Of those engineers who might leave their current role, 32 percent stated that moving to another company would be the reason they leave their current role. That percentage rises to 37 percent of those in the Electronics industry and 51 percent for millennials.

These results, from the “2018 Pulse of Engineering” survey conducted by IEEE GlobalSpec Media Solutions, point to the conclusion that engineers are on the move—and the impact on manufacturers and their marketing strategies can be significant. You may have invested significant time and resources toward building relationships with these engineers, only to have them move to another company.

Your goal, then, must be to make sure that when engineers move, they take you with them. How can you do this? By making your company so valuable to them that they couldn’t imagine starting a new job without your company as their ally.

Manufacturers Can Be Trusted Providers of Content

You might gain an advantage if your company can play a role in helping engineers advance along their learning curve. One of the keys is to produce content valued by engineers.

When asked how they systematically or formally maintain, educate and advance their professional skills, engineers answered books, colleagues, online training courses and webinars. Next most popular were technical white papers by vendors. And to complete projects they are working on, engineers turn to technical documentations, software and development tools, and product specification datasheets.

It may be a good time to review and possibly upgrade your company’s online training, webinars, technical documents and white papers.

Engineers May Leave, But You Can Stay

If you establish strong enough relationships with engineers, they may recommend you in their new positions when they change companies. Additionally, you still want to remain entrenched in their previous company, and the way to do that is to be an indispensable knowledge resource.

Engineers admit that knowledge or information loss is moderately (28 percent), very (31 percent) or extremely important (16 percent) as employees left their company. Yet 55 percent of companies surveyed don’t have formal practices in place to identify senior-level and specialized experts to train, transfer, mentor, manage or retain their knowledge among others in the organization. On average, engineers gave a 5.2 out of 10 satisfaction score for their company’s talent or knowledge management processes.

A significant gap exists between where companies are and where they should be in terms of maintaining, managing and transferring knowledge internally. That gap creates an opportunity for manufacturers to step in and provide customized content and training that will benefit these companies as well as embed the manufacturer within the company because of their expertise. Forty-four percent say that design involvement from external partners and vendors is increasing.

Whether engineers are moving to other companies or trying to retain knowledge when others have left, manufacturers can step up by providing the important content that can make them an invaluable resource to their present and future customers.

 

 

 

 

 

Content Marketing Customer Relationships Marketing, General

Secrets of the Engineer’s Work Environment

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It stands to reason that the better you know the mindset and working conditions of your target audience, the better you can communicate with them in a relevant and meaningful way.

IEEE GlobalSpec recently conducted its fourth “Pulse of Engineering” survey to gain knowledge about engineers’ work habits, the pace of engineering and their work environment. The results produced a number of insights that can help you better your audience’s work environment – and what they need from you.

What’s Most Important to Engineers

Whether professionally employed for three years or 30 years, the most important factors in the careers of engineers and other technical professionals are having interesting work (selected by 87 percent), good work/life balance (67 percent), learning (59 percent) and compensation (54 percent).

Millennials (born between 1983-2000) are less driven by compensation and more by learning opportunity, growth potential and by good work/life balance.

Design Teams are More Diverse

The majority of engineers (53 percent) work in design teams of 1 to 5 people. Thirty-nine percent work on teams of 6 to 24 people and 8 percent on teams of 25 or more. Design teams of over 100 people are more often found in the Electronics industry.

While the average size of their design team has stayed the same for most engineers, the team’s makeup and output has changed. The number of projects worked on, the number of female team participants, the number of participants from different countries and design involvement from external partners have all increased since last year’s survey.

As a marketer, you must connect with a busier and more diverse design team. It may be helpful to build buyer personas or audience profiles to better craft your message.

Engineers Face Increasing Work Pressure

The majority of engineers and technical professionals agreed with these two statements: “The pace of engineering is constantly increasing” and “We are required to do more with less.” Forty percent agreed that “Pressure to meet deadlines is putting product quality/rework at risk.”

These findings confirm what everyone in the industry already knows: that engineers are under significant pressure at work. Forty-three percent of engineers are concurrently working on 3 to 5 projects; 23 percent are working on six or more.

Other survey results reinforce this conclusion about work pressures:

  • 79 percent agree that designs are becoming more complex/sophisticated
  • 65 percent say design cycles are shrinking
  • 72 percent report there is more time-to-market pressure
  • 52 percent say the number of competitors is growing

What do these findings mean to marketers? Perhaps most importantly, it means that any message or content you want to deliver to engineers must be laser-targeted and highly relevant if you want to gain a moment of their attention.

Take a look at your marketing efforts and how you position and talk about your products and services. Will a busy engineer pay attention? Do you have something to say that can help alleviate some of the pressures they face? For example, do your products reduce time to market, speed the design cycle, or explain complex ideas simply?

It might be time to tweak your content to make sure it’s aligned with your audience’s mindset and work environment.

How Performance is Measured

As is the case with many professionals, engineers are measured in terms of achieving stated objectives. The most common goals/objectives to measure team performance are product quality (used by 60 percent of companies) and customer service/satisfaction (58 percent). Launch dates is the next most common goal (49 percent). When reviewing your marketing strategy, ask yourself how you can help your audience meet these goals. Make sure your products and services’ selling points can be directly related to their objectives.

Not surprisingly, given what we know about the nature of engineers, they are good at meeting their objectives:

  • 78 percent frequently or always meet product quality objectives
  • 75 percent frequently or always meet customer satisfaction/service goals
  • 53 percent frequently or always meet launch dates—a lower percentage than the other two, but many factors beyond an engineer’s control influence whether a launch date is met or not.

The overall conclusion to draw is that engineers and technical professionals are successfully fulfilling or surpassing the requirements of their profession, at a time when internal and external pressures are increasing. You’ve got an admirable and dedicated target audience out there. Make sure you tell them that.

 

 

 

 

Customer Relationships Marketing, General

Engineers Are Facing an Information Shortage – Here’s How You Can Help

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Most marketers know that engineers and technical professionals consume a lot of content. Various forms of content are necessary to help them stay informed, perform their jobs better, and to aid their buying decisions. Good content from vendors helps educate engineers and increases their confidence in the products and services they purchase or recommend.

However, many engineers are facing an information shortage or having trouble managing information- they don’t have easy access to the amount of technical, relevant and educational content they are looking for. The IEEE GlobalSpec “Pulse of Engineering” survey reports that 44 percent of engineers are dealing with constraints in accessing/managing information. Sixty-six percent of engineers are constrained by a lack of specialized knowledge in their organizations.

Here’s how to help your current and prospective clients by satisfying their need for knowledge.

Get Technical with Your Audience

If engineers are constrained by an information shortage, the impact can be significant due to their reliance on technical content. When asked what the three most essential systems or tools they use to complete their projects are, 69 percent said technical documentation and 67 percent said software and development tools. The next most important tools were product specification data and datasheets.

These results offer a message to manufacturers: your customers need technical content. Don’t be afraid to dig deep and get into the weeds on the specifics of your products and services, and how they compare to others in the industry. If you can supply this content, you will likely be in a better position to win business and become an essential ally to your customers.

Get Information in Their Hands

For manufacturers like you to meet the information needs of their audience, they need an effective content marketing strategy. The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

The good news is that the vast majority of manufacturers (86 percent) use content marketing, according to an annual research report — “2018 Manufacturing Content Marketing” — conducted by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, and sponsored in by IEEE GlobalSpec Media Solutions.

However, only 22 percent of manufacturers describe their content marketing efforts as mature or sophisticated and only 19 percent have a documented content marketing strategy. Fifty-five percent consider their organization’s content marketing approach to be moderately successful. That leaves plenty of room for improvement.

Among the content types, distribution formats, and social media platforms that respondents use, videos (pre-produced), email, and LinkedIn were rated by content marketers as most effective in helping their organizations achieve specific objectives. The top six types of content produced by manufacturers are social media posts, pre-produced video, illustrations/photos, case studies, eBooks/white papers, and infographics. In creating and refining your content marketing strategy, learn from your peers and consider adding these types of content that have proven effective.

What Engineers Will Exchange for Content

Your audience is willing to exchange a range of things for the information they want. The Pulse of Engineering report found that 53 percent of engineers are willing to register on a website for access to specific documents. Twenty-six percent said they were willing to pay for access to premium content and prefer to pay one set rate for access to all of an organization’s documentation. Twenty-three percent prefer to pay for access to documents as they are needed.

As far as content used to advance their professional skills, engineers mainly use books, colleagues, online training courses, and webinars.

These two research reports provide clear takeaways for manufacturers: Become the vendor that meets your audience’s information needs. Improve your content marketing efforts. Don’t be afraid to take a deep dive into your products and services, offering the technical, in-depth knowledge that engineers and technical professionals are looking for. They will thank you with their business.

Content Marketing Customer Relationships Marketing, General

Three Big Reasons Why Engineers Need You

You need engineers and technical professionals. They are your customers and therefore the lifeblood of your company. But the relationship is mutual: Engineers need you as well.

Leveraging this mutual need is the key to building and maintaining long-term, loyal relationships with your customers.

The recent “2017 Pulse of Engineering” survey revealed three key areas where suppliers can focus their marketing efforts to provide more value to engineers and technical professionals. Let’s discuss your customer’s pain points and how to help them:

1. Provide Design and Project Assistance
The majority of engineers and technical professionals surveyed agreed that designs are becoming more complex at the same time that design cycles are shrinking and time-to-market pressures are increasing. Fifty-five percent of engineers are being required to do more with less; 68 percent are working on three or more projects simultaneously. Yet team size is not increasing. Seventy-six percent said the average size of the teams they work on has decreased or stayed the same.

Due to these pressures, many companies are looking outside for help. Thirty-eight percent said that design involvement from external partners, vendors and customers has increased. This represents a golden opportunity for suppliers to educate their customers and become more involved in their work processes.

However, expect engineers to choose their outside influences judiciously. You can demonstrate your expertise and get closer to customers by marketing your brand and value propositions across the channels that engineers use to locate suppliers, products, and services. Online catalogs, webinars, technical articles and white papers are all good vehicles to showcase your company’s expertise, and to demonstrate how you can add value in the design phase of projects.

2. Fill the Knowledge Gap
Forty-seven percent of engineers have 30 or more years of service, and many are nearing retirement. Thirty-six percent of industrial companies are experiencing increased losses of senior employees to retirement. Twenty-seven percent of technical professionals said they were only slightly or not at all likely to be employed by their current company in five years.

One result of changing demographics and worker mobility is a knowledge drain. Forty-five percent of survey respondents said that knowledge and/or information loss as employees left the company was very or extremely important. Yet only 36 percent of companies have formal practices in place to identify senior-level and specialized experts to train, transfer, mentor, manage or retain their knowledge among others in the organization.

As a supplier in the industrial sector, you can help preserve and grow your customers’ knowledge by educating and training them on trends and technologies, and serving as a trusted information resource. Engineers and technical professionals primarily maintain and advance their professional skills through colleagues, books, and technical white papers and training provided by vendors.

Make customer education, training and thought leadership cornerstone initiatives in your marketing strategy. By becoming more valuable to your customers you can become more entrenched in their work processes and serve as a primary source that they will turn to for technical and industry knowledge.

3. Help Engineers Do More with Less
While the pace of engineering continues to increase and engineers are asked to do more with less, 47 percent of survey respondents say that technology is helping to improve productivity. Embedded in these findings is a valuable question for suppliers to answer: How do your offerings help engineers improve their efficiency?

Research such as “2017 Pulse of Engineering” allows you to identify the challenges and concerns of your customers, and to align your messaging and solutions in a way that resonates with your audience. For example, the survey reveals that engineers often must meet aggressive launch dates for products that meet high standards for customer satisfaction. How do your products/services help engineers do more with less? Or shorten design cycles? Or increase efficiency? How are your technologies at the forefront of innovation or sustainable for long periods of time? Craft marketing messages in a way that positions your offerings to help engineers overcome their challenges.

The “2017 Pulse of Engineering” research report from IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions can help guide your marketing efforts. Results tell you exactly what engineers and technical professionals in the industrial sector think about the pace of engineering, work environment, competition, challenges, performance management and knowledge management practices.
 

Content Marketing Customer Relationships Market Research Marketing Trends

The Millennials are Coming!

Actually, they’re already here. While there are no precise dates for when this generation begins or ends, most consider anyone born from the early 1980’s to the mid 1990‘s to be a millennial. That puts the majority of millennials in the sought after 18-34 demographic.

According to the Pew Research Center, there were approximately 55.2 million millennials in the U.S. workforce in 2015. By 2025, that number is expected to grow to 74 million, representing 44 percent of the workforce.

Millennials are flooding the B2B industrial sector and advancing into positions where they influence and/or make buying decisions. Research conducted by the B2B marketing firm Sacunas found that 73 percent of millennials are involved in product or service purchase decision-making at their companies. Approximately one-third of millennials report being the sole decision-maker for their department.

As marketers, you must learn to connect with this group and win them over.

Preferred Channels for Millennials
Millennials are less reliant on any one information source than other age groups. A report compiled by Chief Marketer claims there is no “silver bullet” to reach the millennial audience, and that a “mix of channels and approaches is your best bet.”

Fortunately, a multichannel strategy is the best way to reach engineers and technical professionals of any age. The three most popular channels to research a work-related purchase are general search engines, supplier websites and online catalogs, according to the “2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector” research report from IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions. In addition, online communities have seen a significant growth among younger engineers, with 39 percent now using them.

Naturally, social media is an attractive channel for millennials. Eighty-five percent use social media to research products and services for their companies. Facebook is the most popular platform, and the majority also use LinkedIn (Sacunas).

2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector” found that professionals under age 35 are more likely to make contact during the needs analysis/research phase of the buy cycle, while professionals over 49 are more likely to wait until the purchasing stage. The takeaway is that suppliers must be discoverable and approachable during any phase of the buy cycle, through a variety of marketing channels. This conclusion aligns with millennials’ desire for a hassle-free, multi-channel client experience that is tailored to their specific needs.

Types of Content Millennials Consume
According to Sacunas, when researching new products and services to make B2B purchasing decisions, millennials prefer video-based content and case studies. In terms of targeted content, they rate training, demos and product news as being the most helpful information to receive from vendors.

The way that millennials consume content is worth noting as well. Technical professionals under age 35 conduct significantly more product searches and read more news and e-newsletters on their smartphones than their older colleagues (“2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector”). Suppliers should consider creating websites and e-newsletters that are compatible with mobile.

What Millennials Look for in a B2B Vendor
What are millennials looking for in a B2B vendor? The top priority was ease of doing business (35%), followed by willingness to work collaboratively with their organization (33%), and industry/marketplace experience (31%), as reported by IBM. Eighty percent of millennials in the Sacunas survey indicated that social, environmental, or philanthropic efforts of companies are important to their purchase decisions.

How do you ensure you are the right company for a millennial customer? Pay attention to this audience’s preferences for channels, content and brand attributes during their buy cycle, and adjust your marketing accordingly. You might find your customer base becoming both younger and larger as a result.
 

Customer Relationships Industrial Marketing and Sales Market Research Marketing Trends Marketing, General Thought Leadership

Five Ways to Get Closer to Your Audience

 When you’re selling into the industrial market, it’s important to clearly describe your products, including their features, uses, and specifications. Facts, logic, and rationale—they all influence your customer’s buying decision.

But your sales and marketing materials need to appeal to more than just reason in order to win customers, especially for big or complex sales. Customers can be fearful of making the wrong buying decision. They want to be sure they can trust you. They want to be confident that you will be there to support them.

For these reasons, you must not only have great products, but also be able to establish a strong relationship and an emotional connection with your audience. Here’s how to get closer.

1. Talk to your audience as individuals.
You may not be able to speak one-on-one with every potential customer – and you may not want to, depending on what type of sale you are making. However, you always should communicate in a relatable way in your marketing materials.

You can do this by developing buyer personas and speaking to those personas. A buyer persona is a profile of your customers—who they are, what type of companies they work at, what positions they hold, what problems they would turn to your company to help solve, what motivates them, and so on. You might have a number of different buyer personas.

When developing content, write as if you were speaking to your buyer personas, and you will be able to connect better with them as real people. Use a conversational style. Pretend you are sitting across the table from them. Make it clear that you understand their needs, their concerns, and their motivations.

2. Educate your audience.
Rather than thinking in terms of sell, sell, sell, think in terms of educating, informing, and helping. Become an expert resource for your audience instead of just another vendor. Show them that you understand the challenges that they face. Outline different ways to overcome those challenges.

Focusing on educating and helping is the foundation of thought leadership programs, which can increase your credibility and the level of trust your audience has in your company. That, in turn, can reduce their fear of making the wrong buying decision.

3. Solicit their ideas.
Relationships are two-way streets. It can’t be just your company talking to your audience; it should be your audience talking to you as well. Customers who believe their voices are being heard are more likely to be loyal to your company and products.

Start by asking your audience questions. You can use one of the many free online survey tools that are available. Ask about their challenges, their views on your industry, their product and feature preferences, what’s important to them, and what’s not. Ask about their work environment. Ask about their company’s mission and strategy. Ask how you can help them.

By soliciting your audience’s feedback and ideas, you not only build a stronger relationship, you also gain valuable data your company can use to help shape product plans, develop marketing strategies, and hone marketing messages.

4. Tell stories.
Everyone loves a good story. People bond over stories. They are at the heart of many cultures, including business cultures. It could be a customer case study. It could be a story about an innovative use of your product. Or a story about a customer who left the fold and returned.

There are several elements of a successful story. First, it has to be relatable and relevant to the audience. Therefore, match the story to the buyer persona you are trying to reach. Second, something has to happen in the story, such as a customer facing and solving a problem. Or how a new technology or product impacts industry trends. Don’t be afraid to use humor or add some personal style or voice to the stories you tell.

5. Demonstrate that you care.
If your company offers loyalty programs or incentives, let your audience know. It shows that you want to establish an ongoing relationship with them. If your company has a social conscience or is environmentally friendly, share this with your audience. If all other things are equal between two companies or products, when it comes to making a decision, buyers will choose a company that shares their values and demonstrates its commitment to more than just selling products. They will choose the company that makes them feel a stronger connection.

Customer Relationships Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing Strategy

Top Priorities and Challenges for Industrial Marketers

 In the recent IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions research report, Trends in Industrial Marketing, we revealed the top priorities and challenges that industrial marketers are facing today. The priorities that matter to industrial marketers include customer acquisition and retention, brand awareness, and content production and distribution. The list of challenges includes increased competition, generating leads, and measuring success.

That’s a lot to manage for any marketing team. The Maven is here to help. We’ll look at each of these priorities and challenges and put them into context for you. Why are they important? And what can you do to best manage your priorities and conquer your challenges?

Priority: Customer Focus
Customers are the lifeblood of every business. Industrial marketers know this. Customer acquisition is the primary marketing goal for 43% of survey respondents, earning it the top spot six years running. In addition, focus on customer retention has grown every year for the past several years, with 15% stating it is their primary marketing goal in 2015. Moreover, 54% state that customer acquisition is used to measure marketing success.

To stay focused on customers, industrial marketers are investing in digital programs such as email marketing, e-newsletters, webinars, and catalog programs to get closer to customers and potential customers. They also are focusing on working with media partners who best understand the customer and can offer programs that produce significant levels of awareness and engagement.

Priority: Brand Awareness
Over the next five years, industrial marketers indicated their marketing teams will be placing more emphasis on brand awareness. Having a brand that is positively recognized in your market puts your company in a position to shorten the sales cycle and win more business.

Marketing programs that deliver a consistent and persistent presence – such as your website, online catalogs, and banner ads – can increase the visibility of your brand. Webinars and content marketing initiatives can help personalize and strengthen your brand.

Priority: Creating and Distributing Content
Another area of focus for marketing departments will be creating and distributing content. Engineers and other industrial professionals are constantly looking for relevant, educational content to help them do their jobs better, such as webinars, articles, how-tos, white papers, spec sheets, and more.

Fifty-one percent of industrial marketers increased spending on content creation in 2015. However, 39% are just getting started with content marketing, and only 12% can show how content marketing contributes to sales. Marketing teams should develop a content marketing plan and schedule, which will help them produce needed content and get it into the hands of customers and prospects using the digital channels they prefer.

Challenge: Increased Competition
For the first time, industrial marketers report that increased competition is their number-one challenge. The digital era and its multitude of channels has largely leveled the playing field for competitors. Engineers and technical professionals now have more resources than ever at their disposal to discover information and research purchases, making it harder for marketers to be highly visible and to differentiate their company, products, and services.

The solution is to diversity your marketing presence across the channels your customers prefer to use. Putting too much emphasis on one area, such as the company website, can leave you vulnerable to competitors who are increasing visibility and generating engagement opportunities across a variety of digital channels. Past research demonstrates the performance benefits of diversifying your marketing spend across multiple digital media channels versus relying on a single platform.

Challenge: Generating Qualified Leads for Sales
Thirty-five percent of industrial marketers report that generating enough qualified leads for sales is one of their top three marketing challenges. What’s more, demand generation is the second most important marketing goal for industrial marketers and a precursor to the top priority — customer acquisition.

The key to overcoming this challenge is to invest in marketing that generates valuable engagement opportunities for you. You can often measure the worth of a contact or inquiry in its timeliness. Engagement opportunities coming to you in real time, as they are generated, are more likely to convert to a sale than those weeks or even just days old.

In addition, marketers should have lead nurturing processes in place to help transition early-stage leads into qualified prospects ready for your sales team. For additional advice and best practices in this area, download the complimentary white paper, “Best Practices for Managing and Increasing Engagement Opportunities.”

Challenge: Measuring Return on Investment (ROI)
The top measurements for marketing successes are sales attributed to marketing campaigns and customer acquisition. Because the industrial buy cycle can be long, complex, and involve multiple decision makers, you will likely engage with customers along a number of marketing touchpoints before they make a buying decision.

For example, a customer may first see your banner ad, later visit your website, download a white paper, and eventually attend a webinar. It’s important to track all of these interactions along the buying journey in order to measure the effectiveness of individual marketing tactics and your program as a whole. This will also prevent the mistake of attributing a sale to the last touchpoint with a customer, because rarely is any one interaction, or even the most recent one, the sole contributor to marketing success.

Download the white paper “2015 Trends in Industrial Marketing” for an in-depth look at the goals, challenges, budgets, and plans of industrial marketers, along with recommendations on how you can strengthen your marketing efforts in the coming year.

Content Marketing Customer Relationships Demand Generation Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing ROI Marketing Trends Multichannel Marketing

The Early Stage Buy Cycle is When the Relationship Starts

The early stage buy cycle for engineers and technical professionals is the equivalent of the top of the sales funnel for the manufacturer’s and supplier’s sales teams. It’s the beginning, when a buyer becomes aware of a problem or need and then begins to conceive of and search for a solution. If your company is already known to them, or becomes visible and sparks interest during a search, that’s when your relationship starts with a potential customer.

man with bouquet flowers
Begin your relationship with prospects early as generating initial awareness is critically important to the success of your sales and marketing efforts.

Because of the vast amount of content available from digital sources, it’s easier than ever for early-stage technical buyers to discover and research information about products, services and suppliers, and to narrow down their options before getting a vendor involved.

In this early stage, you might not yet have any personal contact with your prospect, you may not even have captured their name, but this is when they enter the top of your funnel.

Generating this early-stage awareness is critically important to the success of your sales and marketing efforts. You must connect with potential customers early in order to be a contender later when they are ready to make a purchase decision. Beginning the relationship early, even an anonymous one, offers key benefits to your organization:

  • You make a positive first impression on potential customers. If your company name comes up when they begin their search, it’s only natural that they gravitate toward you. Your widespread visibility in itself instills a sense of expertise and fosters trust. For example, the engineer searching for new diode laser technologies will be interested if they keep coming across your name (especially if it’s linked to quality, useful content … but more on that in a bit).
  • You stay top of mind. If you put consistent effort into branding and visibility tactics that raise awareness and help to widen and populate the top of the funnel, prospects will be exposed to you more often and will keep your company and products in their mind when they have a need.
  • Perhaps most importantly, marketing for the early-stage of the buy cycle can help to shorten the sales cycle for your sales team. Your prospects will already be aware of your company and what you offer. They’ve been accessing valuable content that’s helping to educate them. This means your sales people are speaking to an informed prospect and don’t have to start from the very beginning every time.

The keys to early-stage success

The first thing to realize is that if a potential buyer does not know about you or find out about you in their early stage, they will not be contacting you in a later stage. They will be contacting one of your competitors. To be the brand that matters to your target audience, you should:

  • Build and maintain a strong online presence on those digital resources your customers use most in the early buy cycle stages. Research shows that general search engines, supplier websites, online catalogs and industry-specific search engines and information resources such as Engineering360.com are the most popular digital channels for engineers and technical buyers early in the buy cycle. Diversify your presence across these channels.
  • Produce and publish a steady stream of content on digital channels for your prospects and customers. Your audience is eagerly searching for content as they engage in their buy cycle. They are looking for white papers and technical reports, watching webinars and product demos and reading articles, newsletters, blog posts and more. At this stage, your content should be educating prospects on a high level by, for instance, comparing approaches to solving problems, explaining how something works or commenting on trends. Your goal is to get in the game by demonstrating knowledge and expertise. It’s too early to be selling and trying to close the deals.
  • Recognize and respond when prospects move to later buy cycle stages, such as consideration and comparison. At some point, either the buyer has dropped out or you will have generated an engagement opportunity, with your prospect registering for a webinar, subscribing to your blog, or initiating contact with your company. You should have in place a plan to manage your engagement opportunities, either through ongoing lead nurturing programs or escalating a prospect to your sales team if they are giving off indications they are ready to buy. Don’t waste those early stage efforts—make sure you know how to move prospects through the funnel.

Industrial marketers can sometimes overlook the importance of their customers’ early buy cycle. By focusing resources on building brand and raising visibility, you’ll attract more prospects at the top of your funnel, helping to ensure you have a pool of potential customers when it’s time for them to make a purchasing decision.

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How are you expanding the top of your sales funnel? What advice or tips would you give your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Buy Cycle Customer Relationships Demand Generation Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing Strategy