How to Create an Effective Integrated Marketing Campaign

An integrated marketing campaign arranges multiple marketing channels that work together to achieve a specific marketing goal. While integrated marketing relies on multiple channels to achieve results, it is more than just multichannel marketing, because the integration comes from having aligned messaging and goals.

The benefits of running an integrated marketing campaign include:

  • Reaching a wider audience than you could through any single channel or tactic.
  • Strengthening your brand by increasing visibility in the market and reinforcing your message across channels.
  • Building trust among your customers by maintaining a consistent message.
  • Saving resources by reusing marketing assets such as images, copy, video clips, and other content.

Start with a SMART Goal

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Attainable and Realistic are not the same thing, because a goal can be attainable if you marshal every resource you have towards it, but still not be realistic because you can’t put all your time, energy, and resources into one endeavor.

Let’s use an example: Your goal might be to increase conversions through your website by 20 percent over the next six months in support of a new product launch. That’s specific (conversions) and measurable (how many completed forms). You have a time period of six months.

But is the goal attainable and realistic? If website conversions are down six percent, increasing them up to 20 percent might not be attainable and realistic. But if conversions have been increasing at a rate of 10 percent every six months, then getting to 20 percent is certainly attainable. If you have resources to devote to the initiative, it makes it all the more realistic.

Align Messaging to Support Your Goal

Sticking with the example goal of increasing website conversions to support a product launch, make sure your messaging is consistent around this goal. Maybe your ads focus on one or two top benefits. Your calls to action all revolve around going to your website to download a white paper or to register for a webinar.

Repeated messaging increases the likelihood of getting noticed by your customers and prospects, no matter what channel they use to find you. Conventional wisdom says that a prospect may have to hear your message up to seven times before responding in a positive manner. So make sure you’re delivering the same message across your campaign.

In addition, strive to use the same look and feel across all channels. For example, if you’re using photographs of your products, use similar style treatments in display ads, e-newsletter sponsorships, and landing pages.

Whenever possible, use the same fonts, colors and other visible branding elements across all media.

Choose a Mix of Channels

Your mix of marketing channels is your point of connection with potential customers. Engineers and other technical professionals have their individual preferences for media, but almost all of them use digital media to research products, services, and suppliers in the early stages of their buying process.

In the increasing conversions example, you might place ads in industry e-newsletters and display ads on targeted industrial websites, optimize web pages for key search terms, fine-tune messaging on content hubs, create supporting social media content, and distribute press releases.

While the messages on each of these channels can be slightly different, they all must align to support the product launch. The call to action in every case should motivate engineers to take the next step and arrive at a landing page on your website to take advantage of your offer, such as getting a white paper or viewing a webinar.

Fine-tuning your media mix in an integrated marketing campaign requires both skill and creativity to make sure your channels work together but are not redundant. GlobalSpec offers a wide range of marketing channels and the necessary expertise to help you create an effective integrated marketing campaign. Contact us today for more information or download our media kit.

Marketing Strategy Marketing, General

Where to Focus Your Marketing Efforts for 2021

For many industrial marketers, 2020 was unlike any year they’ve faced. And there’s no forecasting what 2021 might bring: more of the same, better, or worse?

But uncertainty doesn’t mean you don’t have any control. One thing you can do is to devote your energy and resources to three specific areas of focus that will help your marketing organization perform better, no matter what market conditions are like.

Concentrate on Digital Channels

Industrial marketers for years have been skewing their budgets in the direction of digital channels such as email, websites, search, webinars, and social. These and other digital assets are the online resources their target audience of engineers prefers to use to connect with suppliers and to find products and services.

The events of 2020 caused an even greater reliance on digital as in-person events were postponed or canceled. Beyond the acute impact of the pandemic, trending influences include a new generation of digital-first engineers as well as technological advances that make digital even more relevant and enticing.

Now, in 2021, our advice to you is to go digital-heavy to increase your visibility and generate opportunities. Webinars, online conferences and meetings, and other virtual events have proven to be highly effective in terms of results and costs. Furthermore, digital channels continue to offer the advantage of being easier to track and measure.

This year, make sure your website is the best it can be, your webinars are engaging, your display ads capture attention, and your email marketing targeted. Your media partners can help you develop an integrated, multi-channel digital marketing program that fits your budget and is aligned with your marketing goals.

Maintain a Consistent Message

Customers prefer to do business with brands they are familiar with and trust. One way to build trust and demonstrate what you stand for is to maintain consistency in your messaging.

Too often companies can become scattershot with their messaging in an attempt to “be everything to everybody” in hopes of not letting a single potential customer slip through the cracks. However, this approach can dilute your message, resulting in confused customers and becoming “nothing to nobody.”

A coherent and cohesive message that spans all of your marketing channels can help you cut through the clutter of intense competition and gain mindshare with your customers. This doesn’t mean you have to say the same thing using the same words every time, but you do want to align all your messaging within your overall value proposition and brand statement.

Use color palettes, visuals, text styles, and layouts to support and affirm your messaging. If your company can become known in the market for a couple of exceptional benefits delivered to customers, you will likely find marketing success in 2021.

Enable the Buying Process

In a survey of more than 250 B2B customers, Gartner found that 77 percent of them rated their purchase experience as extremely complex or difficult.

A data point like that leaves a lot of room for improvement—and opportunity.

The fact is, buyers are in control of the buying process, not marketing, sales, or business development. In addition, the majority of buyers don’t contact a potential supplier until they are well into their buying process.

Our job as marketers is to make the entire buying process efficient and easy for our customers.

We can do that by producing customer-centric content to meet buyer needs at all stages of their buying cycle. Content such as educational articles, white papers and webinars in the early stages, and practical case studies, comparisons, and ROI calculators in the later stages. Don’t try to wow them with fancy content—try to be useful to them.

Get content into the hands of potential customers through an easy-to-navigate website and through the digital marketing channels that engineers use.

Moreover, enable your buyers to connect with you by providing numerous and flexible options, including email, online chat, forums, phone, and social media. Make 2021 about making buying decisions easier for your customers, and you will be rewarded.

From the Maven, we wish you the best in getting off to a strong start in 2021. If you’re seeking additional ideas on where to focus and what channels to use, reach out to a GlobalSpec digital marketing expert or download the 2021 GlobalSpec Media Kit.

Marketing Strategy Marketing, General
person using macbook pro on table

Why Digital Advertising is Crucial in 2021

person using macbook pro on table

While the overall ad market in the U.S. is contracting due to COVID-19, B2B digital ad spending is up 22.6% year over year, according to “U.S. B2B Digital Advertising 2020,” a research report by eMarketer.

Why is digital ad spending increasing?

  • When you can no longer meet in person, digital channels perform the heavy lifting of connecting suppliers with potential customers.
  • As overall marketing budgets are constrained, the need for B2B marketers to measure and report back ROI only intensifies.
  • Digital advertising, such as search, social media, and display ads provide metrics to easily measure their performance.

In sum, a digital heavy approach can give you greater control over your budget and measurement, as well as connect you with prospects in this difficult time.

What if customers aren’t buying?

Economists are not in complete agreement on whether we are in a recession or just a temporary dip due to the pandemic, but either way, the impact is the same, especially if your customers aren’t buying right now.

So why should you invest in digital advertising right now? Many research studies have shown that companies that continue to market during a recession come out stronger and with a better market position than those companies that cut back.

Even if your customers aren’t buying right now, digital advertising can increase the visibility of your brand and keep you top of mind with customers and prospects when they are ready to buy.  Otherwise, you might forgo a chance to be remembered and placed on their shortlist of potential vendors for future purchases.

Furthermore, the sales and buying cycle tends to be longer in B2B markets. This favors longer-term branding efforts through digital advertising channels. By laying the groundwork now, you may not be able to immediately profit during the recession, but you will be more likely to capitalize during the recovery.

Lessons from previous downturns

Companies have learned a lot about navigating through recessions, and many marketing lessons hold true across time and apply to industrial suppliers:

  • Don’t withdraw from advertising, unless your company’s short-term survival depends on it.
  • When there is little current demand to be had, use longer-term brand advertising to take the place of shorter-term demand generation.
  • You can defend and even gain brand recognition when competitors cut back.
  • Adjust your message to acknowledge the pain your customers may be experiencing.

Match the mood of customers

Every customer wants to feel listened to and understood. This is the time to demonstrate humanity and warmth. It is time to let them know you are there for them and will continue to be there when they are ready to make purchasing decisions.

You can weave this kind of messaging into advertising, articles, white papers, social media posts, webinars, and more. You can also create more content that is purely educational, such as how-to pieces, descriptions of processes, or explanations of technologies.

Choose advertising channels wisely

Despite all the reasons to continue maintaining a digital advertising presence during this difficult time, you might not have as much budget to spend as you normally would.

To maximize the positive impact of your budget, seek out measurable, proven digital channels that reach the specific audience you want to target, whether it’s current customers or potential markets. The best way to do this is to work with your media partners.

GlobalSpec stands by ready to assist you. Download our 2021 Media Kit or contact us for more information about how you can make the best use of digital advertising during this uncertain period.

Digital Media
person in black pants and black shoes sitting on brown wooden chair

Is Your Marketing Plan Off-Balance?

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As 2021 approaches, industrial marketers face unprecedented challenges in solidifying their marketing plans for next year.

What’s a marketer to do? The answer is to balance two factors that largely determine both short-term and long-term marketing success: demand generation and branding.

While both branding and demand generation work in tandem as part of your complete marketing strategy, they perform different functions and have different attributes.

Demand generation:

  • Short-term campaigns (typically less than three months)
  • Highly-targeted to defined audiences
  • Messaging around solving specific problems

Branding:

  • Longer-term campaigns (typically more than six months)
  • Focused on gaining visibility in the market
  • Lays the groundwork for future business opportunities

According to research conducted by LinkedIn, B2B organizations allocate 45 percent of their marketing budgets, on average, to branding.

Marketers might be tempted to lean even more heavily toward demand generation in hopes of spurring short-term revenue growth, but an imbalanced strategy is unlikely to produce the desired results in 2021 for several reasons:

  • Short-term demand for products and services may be depressed during the pandemic and amid economic uncertainty, and no amount of marketing magic can change that.
  • Unless your company is a household name in the industrial sector, demand generation programs are forced to perform too much heavy lifting without the support of branding to keep your name top of mind with potential customers.

More reasons to balance demand generation and branding

  • Name recognition is important. Customers prefer to buy from brands they know and trust. It reduces the fear and risk involved in making a purchasing decision. There’s some truth to the old adage: “No one ever got fired for buying from IBM.”
  • Stronger brands command a price premium because buyers are will to pay more for brands they recognize and trust.
  • According to GlobalSpec’s upcoming “Pulse of Engineering” survey, only 34 percent of engineers say they are very or completely likely to be employed at the same company five years from now. That’s a lot of movement among your customers. If you lose an individual’s contact information when they change jobs, the only way to keep your company top of mind with them is through ongoing and broader branding campaigns.
  • Branding campaigns support short-term demand generation success by helping to shorten sales cycles. Salespeople are not starting at ground zero every time they engage with a prospect; instead, they are speaking to an informed person who already knows the brand attributes your company represents.
  • Branding allows you to reach beyond your own base and find new contacts and establish new connections, which is key to new growth.

Balance your measurement too

It’s easier to measure ROI for demand generation programs because their metrics are immediately available and results are known in a shorter time frame. Branding is a longer game that contributes to demand generation success but is more challenging to measure.

Track the effect of branding over a longer period of time. Choose metrics such as reach and visibility, name recognition, any trends in sales, or shortening of sales cycles. You could also allocate the costs of branding campaigns among your demand generation efforts under the assumption that branding is assisting those programs.

Combine branding and demand generation

Look for opportunities to gain both branding and demand generation benefits through integrated programs. Examples include using digital ads to promote a foundation webinar that features an industry expert. Or running a regular advertisement in an industry e-newsletter in which you offer brand-sponsored educational content.

Resources to help you

Marketing Strategy
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How to Build Trust Via Email – 8 Tips

focused female employee reading information on computer in office

Forty-three percent of engineers open most or all newsletters they subscribe to and they either read every one or at least scan for content. Another one-third of engineers scan subject lines and open the ones that intrigue them, according to the research report “2020 Smart Marketing for Engineers.”

These numbers could be higher. The way to increase email effectiveness is to build greater trust with your audience. When engineers trust you, they gain confidence in you, and are more likely to engage and do business with you.

Here are eight tips for building trust via your email communications.

1. Get permission

This isn’t just a tip, it’s a requirement. Unsolicited email does the exact opposite of building trust—it sows suspicion and doubt in the recipient, violates spam laws, and can harm your brand.

When you only send email to opt-in recipients, you are taking the first steps toward building trust.

2. Always make yourself known

Even with opt-in email, you need to use the ‘From’ line to your advantage by letting your audience know who the email is from. It could be from your company or from a specific group within your company (for example: GlobalSpec Media Solutions send out the Marketing Maven newsletter).

You can also use a person’s name in the ‘From’ line, such as a sales representative or a business leader, as long as that person is known to the recipient. This name recognition tactic and one-to-one communication fosters a greater sense of trust.

3. Set expectations—and adhere to them

When someone signs up to receive email from you, let them know how often you will email them and what you will be emailing them about. If possible, give them options for the type and frequency of communications they want to receive.

Don’t violate this pact. If they are opting in for only a monthly newsletter, don’t send them weekly promotions. Keeping your promises is one of the best ways to build trust.

4. Make the content relevant

This is one of the most important factors contributing to the building of trust via email—and to the success of your email communications.

Engineers are looking for educational, informational content that helps them do their jobs better, grow their knowledge, and make more informed buying decisions.

Try to segment your audience into groups based on product interest, roles and responsibilities, or other criteria, and then craft emails targeted to their needs and interests. Forty-five percent of industrial marketers produce content for 2-3 audiences and 27 percent for 4-5 audiences, according to “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020,” produced by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs.

5. Personalize whenever possible

Personalization creates bonds. Bonds create trust. Personalization can be as simple as using your recipient’s name in the subject line (such as ‘David, here is an article we think will be helpful’) or in a salutation (such as ‘Dear David’).

Using marketing automation software, you can take personalization deeper by tracking what emails or content a recipient has engaged with in the past and using that data to determine what to send them next.

6. Avoid the “Do Not Reply” address

Sometimes you get email that says “Do Not Reply” in the ‘From’ line or elsewhere in the email. This phrase does not belong in email marketing because it shuts down conversation and suggests to your recipient you don’t really want to hear from them.

Again, this is no way to build trust. Instead, give your audience a way to engage with you, offer comments, or start a conversation. For example, at the end of every Marketing Maven, we include this note along with an email link: “Email the Maven. We’re interested in learning from your experiences, too! If you have a question for us or a story to share, please send us an email.”

7. Use Conversational Language

Build trust by being human. One way to do this is to treat your email communications like a conversation, using normal, everyday language. Stay away from formal writing. Put the thesaurus away and simply talk to your audience as you would to someone face-to-face.

8. Track and improve

You can always get better at your email communications, and the better you get the more trust you will build. Eighty-six percent of industrial marketers use email engagement to track the success of their content (“Manufacturing Content Marketing).

Track email delivery statistics, opens, clicks, and forwards to find out what’s working and what needs improvement. As you finely tune your email communications, you’ll also increase the trust level between you and your audience.

E-Mail Marketing

How to Use Content to Ease the Pressure on Engineers

The annual “Pulse of Engineering” survey published by GlobalSpec has long underscored the pressures faced by engineers as they do their jobs. This year’s report reveals that these existing pressures have combined with the impact of the coronavirus to create even more challenges for engineers to face.  

Every day, engineers are dealing with highly competitive markets, shrinking design cycles, time-to-market pressures, and loss of institutional knowledge.

Consider these survey findings:

  • Fifty-eight percent of engineers say the competitive landscape is global and competes 24/7.
  • Seventy-three percent say designs are becoming more complex/sophisticated, 64 percent say there are increased time-to-market pressures, and 58 percent report that design cycles are shrinking.
  • The majority say their company’s productivity, innovation, and/or product quality are constrained by a shortage of specialized talent/knowledge.

Marketers can step in and use their content creation and marketing skills to help alleviate these pressures on engineers. Here are four ways you can be a part of the solution to the challenges facing engineers.

1. Help engineers complete their projects

Engineers use technical documentation, software and development tools, product specification data, and datasheets as their most essential systems or tools to complete projects.

Good content from vendors helps to educate engineers and increase their confidence in the products and services they purchase or recommend. Your content should include the technical information and specification data that engineers are seeking.

Maintain a well-organized, accurate, and up-to-date portfolio of technical content that engineers can easily access on your website and that you promote to them through your marketing efforts such as email, social media, and industry websites.

The manufacturer that meets these content needs for its audience and provides the helping hand in completing projects is the manufacturer that is more likely to earn and convert business opportunities.

2. Focus messaging on customer pain points

Specifications and datasheets are essential, and so is providing context around your product and service offerings. When creating content, focus on how your products and services can help speed up design cycles or reduce time-to-market pressures.

In an era in which designs are more complex, does your content explain difficult concepts clearly, helping engineers grasp what you have to say quickly and easily? When you hit your customers’ pain points, they will respond to your messaging.

3. Fill in knowledge gaps

In the “2021 Pulse of Engineering” survey, 58 percent of engineers said that knowledge and/or information loss as employees left the company is very or extremely important. Another 26 percent said it was moderately important.

The issue is exacerbated due to older engineers retiring, layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic, and organic turnover. Yet only 39 percent of companies have formal practices in place to identify senior-level and specialized experts to train, transfer, mentor, or retain their knowledge among others in the organization.

That leaves a significant gap in some companies. Marketers can be a valuable contributor in helping their customers preserve institutional knowledge. White papers, webinars, articles, and other technical content can explain processes, describe how to complete a task, compare different approaches to solving a problem, and document best practices.

This type of content—educational and customer-focused rather than promotional and sales-focused—can become a part of a client organization’s knowledge library.

4. Help engineers advance their skills

Engineers report that their most effective ways to systematically or formally maintain, educate, and advance their professional skills are online training courses, webinars, and peers.

But only 39 percent of manufacturing marketers used webinars/online events as a content type in the past twelve months, according to the research report “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020,” produced by the Content Marketing Institute.

It might be time to devote more resources to webinars, especially during the coronavirus pandemic when many engineers are avoiding traveling and most in-person events are canceled.

You can create webinars to host online training sessions for engineers covering topics they need to know and that you specialize in. Be sure to archive any training sessions so engineers can always have access to the content.

The “2021 Pulse of Engineering” report has clear takeaways for manufacturers: become the vendor that meets your audience’s information needs. 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

Should Your Marketing Mix Include Virtual Events?

Due to COVID-19, many in-person tradeshows and industry conferences have been delayed or canceled. While navigating this situation has been a challenge for both engineers and industrial marketers, it has also created an opening for the emergence of virtual tradeshows.

GlobalSpec recently conducted a survey of engineers regarding virtual tradeshows. The results showed that a slim majority of engineers have never attended a virtual event, but those that did found the event valuable.

  • Fifty-two percent of surveyed engineers have never participated in a virtual industry conference or tradeshow event.
  • Of those that did participate, 80 percent found the virtual event experience valuable.
  • Forty-nine percent of engineers said they find standalone webinars more valuable than virtual events. Twenty-percent preferred virtual events. The remainder were unsure.
  • Thirty-one percent of engineers said they would likely attend their favorite in-person industry conference or trade show if it were staged as a virtual event in 2021. Fifty-six percent said maybe they would attend.
  • When industry conferences and trade show events were canceled, the leading alternate sources engineers relied on for information and/or networking opportunities were supplier/vendor websites (63 percent), online trade publications (44 percent), publication emails/e-newsletters (43 percent), and vendor email/e-newsletters.

Recommendations for Marketers

The findings of this survey point to several possibilities for marketers:

1. Strengthen your webinar game

At this point, engineers prefer standalone webinars to virtual events. Webinars are shorter, more focused, and easier to host. They also provide excellent engagement opportunities. Furthermore, engineers are familiar with the webinar format and more likely to  commit time to attend them. This is particularly true if they trust they’ll receive high quality and relevant information.

Consider creating a series of short webinars (20 minutes or so) that build on each other but also can individually stand alone. You can also produce one or two foundational webinars that feature an analyst, industry expert, or customer who can tell a powerful and compelling story.

To increase interest and attendance, engage your audience through interactive webinar features such as live polls, chat windows, and Q&A sessions.

Here are eight tips for creating a successful webinar.

2. Refresh your home page

There may not be anything wrong with your website’s home page, but engineers are relying more on vendor websites during this time of COVID-19, and you should make sure your home page shines.

Don’t worry about having the fancy bells and whistles on your home page. Instead, focus on providing engineers with easy access to the latest detailed technical information and specifications they are looking for. Clear and simple navigation allows engineers to dig deeper and discover more.

3. Devote more resources to email

With in-person events shut down, engineers are relying more on email and e-newsletters from vendors and industry websites as alternative sources of information.

Continue to send regular emails to your house list. To reach potential customers not on your list and whom you might have connected with at tradeshows, consider advertising in opt-in industry e-newsletters that are targeted to your audience.

You can also work with a media partner to send custom, co-branded emails that can capture your target audience’s attention.

4. Seek a virtual tradeshow opportunity

You may have an opportunity to exhibit at or sponsor a virtual tradeshow or other online event. Of course, many such events are popping up, and some will be better than others. Event spaces, exhibitor profiles, registration, content library, support for live streaming, and lead retrieval are a few of the factors you must take into consideration.

While a virtual event can be an excellent networking and engagement opportunity, evaluate your options and choose an event that’s aligned with your goals and capabilities. Be sure to read this before committing to a virtual tradeshow.

Tradeshows

How Industrial Marketers are Affected by Supply Chain Issues

birds eye view photo of freight containers

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, people worldwide have experienced the effects of supply issues. Here at GlobalSpec, we were curious about how it has impacted industrial marketers specifically, so we conducted a survey. Marketers can use these findings and recommendations to:

  • Better understand disruptions that facing their company, customers, and the industrial sector at large
  • Adjust and improve marketing plans as needed to align with the current situation
  • Craft messaging and content that acknowledges what is happening and supports customers

The Majority are Impacted

Sixty-four percent of industrial marketers said their supply chain has been affected by COVID-19 this year; 32 percent said it was not.

When asked if their company was currently experiencing supply chain issues, the results were similar: 61 percent said yes; 34 percent said no. This shows us that few supply chain issues have been resolved, and the effects of the pandemic are still impacting marketers.

Marketing Strategies Affected

Most marketers—69 percent—have experienced an impact on their marketing plans due to supply chain issues. The most common consequences were shifted marketing plans (53 percent), marketing budget cuts (49 percent), and product launch delays or cancellations (47 percent). Forty-two percent said that their product marketing focus has changed due to supply chain difficulties.

When asked to rate their confidence in the supply chain for 2021, the average answer was a 6 out of 10. It’s not a very optimistic outlook, but slightly better than neutral.

Delays are a Common Theme

As marketers elaborated on how supply chain issues affected their company this year or how they feel about the upcoming year, we began to see common themes.

Many marketers mentioned delays, such as long lead times for parts that lead to delays in finished product, shipping, and payment. Some companies are unable to offer fast or “as quoted” delivery. Others are facing increased freight costs. The overall unpredictability and inconsistency of market conditions has been difficult for marketers.

In addition to supply chain, decreasing demand and its effect on marketing was noted by several companies.

Recommendations

  • Reach out to new suppliers. If your company is affected by supply chain issues, marketing can help by planning an outreach campaign to potential new suppliers. Diversifying the supply chain is a strategy that makes sense for every company.
  • Use content to acknowledge supply chain disruptions. If your customers are impacted by supply chain issues, let them know you understand what they are going through. Tell them if your company can do anything to alleviate their situation, such as offering faster shipping or more favorable terms. Reassure customers that your company is stable and ready to serve them. Content that gives a sense that you understand and share their pain and that “we are all in this together” is helpful.
  • Reallocate marketing dollars. If certain markets you sell into are more impacted than others, consider pausing campaigns to the affected markets and using that budget in other markets that are performing better. The same holds true for delayed product launches. If you still have that budget, reallocate to where your marketing spend is still producing results.
  • Create a second marketing plan for 2021. You may need more than one marketing plan going into 2021. The first plan would assume that supply chain (or other COVID-19-related issues return to normal), while the second plan would accommodate supply chain disruptions or other potential negative impacts. Some companies are already in the habit of creating three marketing plans: a best-case scenario, a realistic scenario, and a worst-case scenario.
Industrial Marketing and Sales Market Research Marketing Trends
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How Marketers Can Help Prevent Institutional Knowledge Drain

concentrated black man reading book in library

Industrial companies are facing a pressing problem: the loss of knowledge and information as employees leave the company.

In GlobalSpec’s forthcoming “2021 Pulse of Engineering” survey, 58 percent of engineers said that knowledge and/or information loss as employees left the company is very or extremely important. Another 26 percent said it was moderately important.

The issue is exacerbated due to older engineers retiring, layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic, and organic turnover. Twenty-six percent of engineers said they were only moderately likely to be employed at the same company five years from now. Thirty percent said they were only slightly likely or not at all likely to be employed by the same company.  

That’s significant employee loss—often accompanied by specialized knowledge walking out the door.

Formal practices are required

Only 39 percent of companies have formal practices in place to identify senior-level and specialized experts to train, transfer, mentor, or retain their knowledge among others in the organization.

That leaves a significant gap in some companies. Marketers can be a valuable contributor in helping their customers preserve institutional knowledge.

Here’s how:

  • Create educational and technical content that is focused on the needs and interests of engineers. White papers, webinars, articles, and other technical content can explain processes, describe how to complete a task, compare different approaches to solving a problem, and document best practices. This type of content—educational and customer-focused rather than promotional and sales-focused—can become a part of a client organization’s knowledge library.

  • Engineers report that their most effective ways to systematically or formally maintain, educate, and advance their professional skills are online training courses, webinars, and peers. You can host online training sessions for engineers covering topics they need to know and that you specialize in. Be sure to archive any training sessions so engineers can always have access to the content.

  • Host and moderate a knowledge database or online discussion forum around specific topics that are relevant to engineers. You can do this for one company, such as a large, important customer. Or you can open the forum to all engineers, and serve primarily as its moderator:  answering questions, contributing to discussions, and pointing toward other content you’ve created that is useful to your audience.

  • Keep all your content, particularly technical specifications, up to date and easy to use. If your technical content is comprehensive, logically organized, accurate, and easy to access, you can gain a reputation as a supplier that is a trusted source of knowledge and expertise. Engineers will come to depend on you more. 

  • Because engineers are on the move, if you only have a couple of contacts within a company, you risk losing that connection if the engineer changes jobs or retires. Consider a campaign to help update your database by having engineers verify their contact information, asking them to recommend a peer or colleague that would benefit from knowing about your company and products, and encouraging engineers to share your content such as blog posts, articles, and videos so that you can increase your number of contacts. Keep your database updated so you can track engineers who change companies.

Remember, employee loss is inevitable, but the loss of specialized knowledge doesn’t have to be. By focusing on getting relevant, educational content into the hands of engineers, you can become a trusted partner in helping them slow down the loss of institutional knowledge. Ultimately, you’ll help your bottom line as well.

Customer Relationships
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How Has the Coronavirus Impacted Engineers?

woman having a video call

Almost everyone around the world has been impacted by the coronavirus, and engineers are no exception. In the forthcoming “2021 Pulse of Engineering” survey, GlobalSpec asked engineers three key questions about the coronavirus. Here are their responses.

1. Has the coronavirus impacted your department’s budget?

Forty-six percent of engineers said that the coronavirus has caused their budget to decrease, while 36 percent said it has not impacted their budget.

  • More midsized companies with 50-250 employees saw their budget decreased (64 percent) than larger or smaller companies.
  • The regions most impacted by budget decreases were Africa (75 percent), followed by South America (68 percent) and Asia (67 percent). The region least impacted was Australia, with only 28 percent of companies experience budget decreases. In North America, 46 percent of companies saw their budgets decreased.
  • The industry most impacted by budget decreases is Consumer Electronics (72 percent), followed by both Automotive and Education (each at 64 percent). Sixty-two percent have experienced budget decreases in Fabricated Materials, General Manufacturing, and Oil & Gas.
  • Several industries saw the average company experience either budget increases or stable budgets. These industries include Government, Aerospace & Defense, Engineering/Tech Design Services, Communications-Data/Telecom/Wireless/Network, Medical Equipment/Instrumentation, and Industrial Machinery/Tools & Equipment.

Key Takeaway: While many budgets have decreased due to coronavirus, some have increased or remained stable. Even in industries or regions where budgets have been most impacted, the show must go on. Marketers should continue their campaign efforts, making adjustments where necessary to account for lagging industries or markets.  

2. How has the coronavirus impacted your ability to complete projects?

The most common impact on the ability to complete projects is supply chain issues and the availability of necessary parts, which was reported by 40 percent of survey respondents.

  • Supply chain issues and availability of necessary parts has had a larger impact on smaller companies with fewer than 100 employees than on larger companies.
  • Australia (38 percent) and Asia (35 percent) are the regions most impacted by supply chain issues.
  • The industries most impacted by supply chain issues are Agriculture/Forestry, Biotechnology/Pharmaceuticals, and Packaging Machinery, all at 40 percent.
  • The ability of half of those working in Semiconductor & Electronic Components to complete projects has been impacted by colleagues being laid off or furloughed.
  • Twenty-six percent of engineers said that working from home has impacted their ability to complete projects.

Key Takeaway: Because supply chain is the most common issue impacting engineers’ ability to complete projects, if there is any way you can expedite or improve the ability to get parts into the hands of your customers you should make that point clear in your marketing messages. Alternatively, think about some other ways you might be able to alleviate the pain their feeling from supply chain issues.

3. What has been your biggest challenge during the coronavirus?

The biggest challenge engineers face during the coronavirus aligns with the most common impact on the ability to complete projects: the availability of parts and components, reported by 26 percent of respondents.

  • Twenty-two percent of engineers said that working remotely was their biggest challenge; 16 percent said canceled work travel.
  • Working remotely and canceled travel were more of a challenge for engineers at larger companies.
  • The challenge of the availability of parts and components was felt particularly by engineers at smaller companies with up to 50 employees.
  • In most industries, the availability of parts and components is the biggest challenge. However, working remotely is the number one challenge for Government, Education, Utilities/Energy, Aerospace & Defense, Oil & Gas, and Consumer Electronics.

Key Takeaway: In addition to alleviating supply chain concerns, think about how your customer’s work environment is different than normal, and account for that in your outreach. Are there better times of day to reach them? Is a conversation via Zoom a better option? Your typical outreach might need to change.

Look for more insights into the work environment of an engineer in our upcoming research report, “2021 Pulse of Engineering.”

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