New Research Shows Engineers Under Increasing Pressure

The pace of engineering is accelerating, designs are becoming more complex at the same time that design cycles are shrinking, and time-to-market pressures are increasing. If that sounds like a challenging work environment, welcome to the life of today’s engineer.

These are just a few of the key takeaways gleaned from new research conducted by IHS Engineering360 and presented in the new, complimentary research report The Pulse of Engineering: The Changing Work Environment for Engineers Today.

pulse of engineering
Survey of engineers finds a strong pulse of engineering but reveals key challenges including resource constraints, accelerated pace of work, increasingly complex designs and more.

Pressure and risk were among several recurring themes noted by the 2,162 engineers and technical professionals who responded to the survey. Consider some of the other findings:

  • Forty-six percent of engineers are working on more projects than they were two years ago.
  • Fifty-seven percent are being required to do more with less.
  • Fifty-five percent said the number of competitors is growing.
  • The majority are facing budget constraints (60 percent) and time constraints (69 percent).

What will be the result of all these pressures? For one, engineers should be granted superhuman status for shouldering the load—55 percent said they frequently or always meet launch dates and product quality standards. On the more sobering side, these conditions may be cause for concern: 44 percent said the pressure to meet deadlines and cut costs is putting product quality at risk.

What does this all mean for the industrial marketer? These results, the conclusions we can draw from them and our recommendations based on what engineers are telling us can help inform your marketing strategy.

How do your products/services help your customers – the engineers and technical professionals that responded to this survey – do more with less, shorten design cycles, or meet performance targets?

Industrial marketers can make valuable use of this data by creating buyer personas that describe your various types of customers, their motivations and the problems they face. Messaging based on buyer personas will resonate more deeply with your target audience.

Knowledge Management is an Issue

A significant percentage of the engineering workforce is aging or on the move. Nearly a quarter of respondents said they could retire in the next five years. Thirty-one percent said they were only slightly likely or not at all likely to be employed at the same company five years from now. In many cases, when these employees leave, institutional knowledge goes with them.

Forty percent said their companies lose specialized knowledge and expertise faster than they gain it. Yet only 43 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.

Industrial marketers have a great opportunity to step in and help fill the knowledge void as well as build customer satisfaction and loyalty by producing trusted, reliable technical content that helps engineers do their jobs more effectively. Your customers will turn to you for authoritative knowledge and you will become an essential resource to these companies.

Environmental Sustainability is Important

Another theme arising from the survey is the importance of environmental sustainability. Seventy-six percent said designing/developing environmentally sustainable products was important to their companies. Fifty-five percent said that environmental/sustainability pressures on products/designs have increased over the past two years. In addition, the majority of engineers said that the number of environmental/sustainability regulations, regulatory complexity and frequency of regulatory changes have all increased.

If your products are energy efficient, help reduce energy consumption or are made from safe or recyclable materials, make sure you get that message out to your target audience. The same is true with messaging around other trends reported in the survey, such as engineers being strapped to do more with fewer resources while having to meet aggressive launch dates.

Take advantage of these trends in your marketing. How can your products reduce time to market for engineers? Improve productivity? Save time and resources?

Performance is Measured by Customer Satisfaction

Having satisfied customers was the most often cited objective used to measure a team or department’s performance, chosen by 60 percent of respondents. Product quality – a key aspect of customer satisfaction – placed second among performance objectives (57 percent), followed by launch dates (45 percent).
Engineers are doing a good job living up to performance expectations: 75 percent said they frequently met customer service and satisfaction targets. It appears that the desire to achieve a high level of customer satisfaction permeates all corners of an organization. Even for engineers, the customer is king.

Download the Research Report

Download your complimentary copy of The Pulse of Engineering: The Changing Work Environment for Engineers Today. This research report profiles the respondents and analyzes and presents results of the survey. It also offers recommendations to industrial marketers to help them better understand their target audience, strengthen relationships with customers and position their products to align more closely with industry trends.

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What do you think of these findings? Any surprises? Or what you expected from your audience? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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How to Craft Content for the Three Types of Industrial Buyers

The industrial buy cycle can be long and complex, and can involve any number of recommenders, influencers, gatekeepers and decision makers who all have a say in the final purchase decision. It’s a daunting task for a marketer to create content and design communications that are relevant and that resonate with these various audience types.

To make your job easier, you can segment all of those involved on the customer side into one of three buyer types: the analytical buyer, the economic buyer and the technical buyer. Speak to the needs and interests of these three types of buyers and you can simplify your communication efforts while increasing your opportunities for winning the deal.

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The Analytical Buyer: Will it Solve My Problem?
The analytical buyer is the technical professional who has a problem to solve. They need, for example, an oscillating pump or a diode laser or a circuit board to perform a specific function. The analytical buyer is often the first point of contact your company has with a potential customer. They’re the person who has performed initial research to identify the suppliers, products or components that could meet their needs.

The biggest question on the analytical buyer’s mind is whether your product or service will solve their problem. They’re asking: What functions does the product perform? What are its specifications? Why is your product better than another product? Or: How does your service meet my needs?

Analytical buyers want facts and solutions. They respond to content such as demos, how-to videos, problem-solving webinars, and white papers.

The Economic Buyer: Will We Earn ROI?
The economic buyer’s greatest concern is return on investment. They often have significant sway in any large or long-term purchase. Economic buyers asking that if their company buys your product or service, will the return they earn in terms of economic benefit be higher than the price they pay?

The benefits to economic buyers might be measured in terms of expected time savings, increased efficiency, uptime, product lifespan, reliability, warranties, opportunity cost (if they purchase your product over a competitive one, how do they gain or lose) or other factors.

Effective content for the economic buyer might be interactive ROI calculators, case studies showing demonstrated success and benefits other customers have achieved, analyst reports, depreciation schedules, and executive briefs. The content should be numbers oriented and benefit focused.

The Technical Buyer: Is it the Right Fit for Our Company?
The technical buyer is often behind the scenes and may not come into play early in the buy cycle. They are concerned with the bigger picture of whether your product, component or service will fit into the larger technical infrastructure, environment or policies at their company. For example: Are your products compatible with other products the customer uses? Do your products integrate well or will modifications elsewhere be necessary? How is support provided? These questions are particularly relevant with software and hardware purchases, but also for other industrial products.

Fitting into environment also includes questions such as: Is this kind of company we want to do business with? If the customer has a policy to prefer suppliers that engage in “green” business practices, or that manufacture only in the United States, you’ll find this out from the technical buyer. Also, if the customer requires a certain type of support, such as on-site or 24/7, the technical buyer as well as the analytical buyer will be looking for that type of information.

Technical buyers want specifications, but they also want to see your policies and procedures. They can nix a sale for any number of reasons, and so you’ll have to produce content that answers their questions.

The Buyers Together
You might produce individual pieces of content for each type of buyer or you might try to communicate with all your audiences at once. There are no set rules other than to be clear and relevant to your customers and to address their concerns: Does your product do the job well, deliver required benefits, and fit seamlessly into their environment?

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How do you communicate to the needs of these three types of buyers? What advice would you give to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Marketing Chart: How Will the Emphasis of Your Marketing Team Change Over the Next Five Years?

For the 2013 Trends in Industrial Marketing research report, industrial marketers were asked to look ahead and tell how the emphasis of their marketing teams will change over the next five years.

The biggest shift will be a stronger focus on the customer followed by content creation and distribution, brand awareness and digital marketing initiatives.

emphasis change chart sm
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Beyond Email Marketing: 3 More Ways to Use Email

Email remains a popular and proven marketing tool for connecting with your target audience. Seventy-four percent of industrial marketers are using email marketing to internal lists as a marketing tactic in 2013, making it the most widely-used marketing tactic, as reported in the 2013 Trends in Industrial Marketing survey.

These emails primarily take the form of a regular e-newsletter or a concentrated email campaign to push products or promote content (white papers, webinars, etc.). That’s a good use of this channel as industrial professionals respond to email. But did you know there are other ways, beyond traditional marketing, that your company can use email to help distribute your message, build your brand, and strengthen customer relationships?

As a marketer, you should work with each of these groups to help achieve overall company goals and objectives:

1. Emails from the sales team
You should already have in place a process for transitioning sales-ready leads from the marketing department to sales. But just because a lead belongs to sales now, it doesn’t mean that marketing ends. Every email that a salesperson sends to a customer or prospect is an opportunity to nurture a lead, polish your brand image, and put your company in a strong position to win business.

Make sure your sales team has easy access to marketing content they might want to offer to customers and prospects in their one-on-one emails. A good strategy is to distribute to the sales team a list of links to marketing content, categorized by type and purpose of content, as well as copy that can be used to describe the benefits of viewing or downloading the content. Your salesperson can simply copy this text and the link into an email. With the sales people using the same or similar messaging as the marketing team, you can help reinforce your branding.

Another opportunity is to work with sales people to develop an email signature line that includes links to relevant content or highlights the latest important news. This signature line—with content and links following the salesperson’s contact information—can be updated on a regular basis and distributed to your sales team. Also, don’t forget to include links to your social pages in signatures lines, or a link to your online catalog.

2. Emails from customer service/tech support
Your support teams have regular contact with customers, which provides another excellent opportunity for marketing to get involved. Your customer service teams should have access to the same messaging and links to content that the sales team has at its disposal, and you can also help with signature lines as well.

Customer service emails are also a great way to ask customers questions about your products and services. You can include a poll question right in the email, or invite your customers to take a survey to measure satisfaction or generate product “wish-lists.” Be sure to offer some type of modest incentive for completing the survey, anything from a coffee card to a discount on their next purchase.

3. Automated emails as follow-ups
Whether you use a third-party email marketing service or have an internal email marketing solution, you should have the capability to send automated emails to customers and prospects when they perform an action, such as submitting a form on your website. Signing up for your newsletter, downloading a white paper or other content, registering for a webinar—all of these are opportunities to send something more effective than a generic thank you email.

You can tailor your response depending on the context of the submitted form. Give new e-newsletter subscribers links to past newsletters or articles about your company. Provide links to popular pages. Put contact information in these emails in case a prospect wants to speak with someone right away. If a customer downloads a white paper on a specific topic, offer them descriptions and links to other related content. If they sign up for a webinar, show them the way to past webinars they can view on demand.

The point is to not waste any of your email communications. Every touch point is an opportunity to improve relationships and do better than your competitors. Customers will remember what company is most helpful to them—make sure it’s your company.

How are you using email beyond the marketing department? What tips and ideas about using email would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Industrial Marketing Trends: Shift to Digital Continues; Focus on Customers Intensifies

All marketers know you can’t achieve business success without paying attention to your customers, but this year the focus on customers is especially intense in the industrial sector. Forty-three percent of industrial companies say that customer acquisition is their primary marketing goal, according to the recent IHS GlobalSpec research report, 2013 Trends in Industrial Marketing, which is based on a survey of marketing and sales professionals in the industrial sector.

You can download the research report to access complete results along with analysis and recommendations.

The survey also found that customer acquisition, customer satisfaction and customer retention represent three of the top four ways industrial marketers measure success. In addition, focusing on the customer will be the number one area of emphasis over the next five years in marketing departments.

It’s not a surprise that customers are receiving so much attention. They have more control over the buying process (often not contacting vendors until they are near decision time), more information resources than ever before, and more suppliers to choose from. In response, industrial marketers are putting more effort and budget into digital channels to connect with customers, forge stronger relationships, and keep customers in the fold.

Industrial marketers face challenges, make spending changes
Marketers are feeling the pressure to demonstrate ROI from their efforts. Thirty-one percent say it’s the biggest challenge in their profession, while 58 percent consider sales attributed to marketing campaigns as a measure of success.

At least most marketers are shifting more of their budgets to digital channels, whose performance is easy to measure in terms of impressions, clicks and conversions. Fifty-four percent of industrial marketers are spending more on online marketing in 2013 than they did last year. Fifty percent will spend at least 36 percent of their overall budget on online channels. Five of the top seven most popular marketing channels are digital.

Traditional marketing channels will experience a decrease in spending. Direct mail, printed directories and trade magazine advertising are among the channels taking the biggest budget hits by marketers in the industrial sector.

In terms of overall marketing spend, 32 percent of companies are spending more on marketing in 2013 than they did in 2012. About half are spending the same as last year.

Content plays an important marketing role
Content continues to play an important role in industrial marketing as engineers and other technical professionals seem to have an insatiable appetite for information and education to help them do their jobs better. Fifty-one percent of industrial marketers will spend more on content creation this year. Video (58 percent) and webinars (49 percent) will see increases as well. In addition, creating and distributing content will play a major role in marketing plans over the next five years.

Social media finds its place
After a number of years of experimenting with how to use social media, industrial marketers are settling on branding and content delivery as their top goals for these platforms. LinkedIn is the most popular social media platform in the industrial sector, with 72 percent of marketers now using it.

It’s time to evaluate marketing efforts
While industrial companies are wisely reallocating resources to digital channels, just 35 percent of companies report satisfaction with their online marketing initiatives. This is a good time to evaluate the initiatives you are employing, before planning begins for next year. Are you allocating your marketing resources to those same channels that your target audience of industrial professionals relies on most frequently? Your audience is fragmented online, using multiple platforms. You need to use those same platforms to build awareness and generate engagement opportunities.

Download the full results, analysis, and recommendations of the 2013 Trends in Industrial Marketing research report.

To get a better sense of how your target audience is using digital media and the best ways to reach industrial professionals online, download these complimentary reports: Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector and New in Digital Media: Marketers Require Multichannel Solutions to Achieve the Cross-Media Multiplier Effect.

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What trends do you see in industrial marketing? Are you focusing more on the customer and/or shifting more resources to digital channels? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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How to Win with Customers

D. Keith Pigues, dean of the Business School at North Carolina Central University and co-author of the business book, Winning with Customers, has a challenging and pointed question to ask of B-to-B companies: Are customers at the center of your business?

How to put customers at the center of your business, and how that can lead to greater profits for both you and your customers, was the subject of Pigues’ presentation at the recent Industrial Marketing Digital Summit.

The ‘Customer Winning Checkup’
To measure how close customers are to the center of your business, Pigues offered a four-point checkup and stated that while many companies will agree with statement number one, fewer and fewer can honestly agree with the subsequent statements:

  1. We know specifically how we help customers make more money.
  2. We understand how we will make our customers more money in the future.
  3. We measure and track how much money over time customers make doing business with us.
  4. We measure and track how much more money our customers make money doing business with us relative to our competitors.

Notice how each statement is centered around making customers money—rather than making money for your own company. Pigues states that a focus on your customers’ profitability is the key to your company’s growth and profitability, and that the true measure of winning is understanding how your customers make more money doing business with you versus what they can make doing business with your competitors.

Changing the conversation
Pigues argues that that all too often companies spend too much time talking about capabilities, products, features, reliability and quality, and not enough time talking about the reasons why customers buy a certain product or from a particular company. Customers aren’t interested in products and services per se; they are interested in reducing time to market, cutting production costs, increasing shareholder value, driving revenue, accelerating growth and improving other business metrics. And the reason they spend is to get a return in one or more of these areas. Our products and services are simply a vehicle for them to get a return.

This is what Pigues calls the value exchange, which he says is always at work in any transaction. And to the extent that we can help our customers earn a return on their spending, we can also do it for our own companies. But to begin talking about this value exchange, we have to change the conversation.

We tend to think about how much profit we make with our customers, and we all have that coveted list of our top customers. But that top customer list only provides one view of the relationship: how much we make from these customers. The other point of view is our customers’ profitability from doing business with us. If it’s not much, we might not keep their business for long.

Our task is to understand the value exchange by quantifying the value to your customers of doing business with you.

Introducing the Differential Value Proposition
The Differential Value Proposition (DVP) is the net result, expressed in percentage, of how your value propositions result in more profit for your customers. Pigues uses the term ‘differential’ because you should only consider those value propositions that are different from what others can offer. If you’re offering the same thing as other vendors, then in your customers’ point of view, you’re offering a commodity, and you will not be able to charge differential pricing. But each company should have those two or three things that they do that are truly differential and that you can turn into money for your customers.

The way to understand your DVP is to create a hypothesis about your differential propositions and their value, then share your findings with your customer. What you may think is a differential (customer service, for example) may mean little to your customer, who finds much greater value elsewhere (safety, for example). By working with your customers, you can better understand what are the top things you do that can help them make more money. You can also discover areas to grow your DVP by asking customers where they would want you to invest to make them more successful.

The end result is winning with your customers: you both win by both making more money. To learn more about Pigues’ concepts, including his formula for calculating DVP, view his presentation from the Industrial Marketing Digital Summit.

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Do you know how much money your customers make by using your products or services? Is this a better way to view a customer relationship? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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