How To Help Prevent the Engineering Knowledge Drain

The “2021 Pulse of Engineering Report” reminds us that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has put a further strain on the knowledge drain identified several years ago among engineering companies.

Twenty-four percent of engineers said the engineering workforce at their company has decreased in the past year. Thirty percent have experienced the loss of employees due to downsizing and layoffs. Twenty-two percent of engineers said that colleagues being laid off or furloughed during the pandemic has impacted their ability to complete projects. Thirty-three percent have lost senior employees to retirement.

Too often, specialized knowledge walks out the door when an employee does. Fifty-eight percent of engineers said that knowledge/information loss was very important or extremely important as employees left the company. Only three percent said it was not at all important.

When asked about their level of satisfaction with their company’s talent and knowledge management process, engineers gave on average a middling 5 out of 10 satisfaction score, a score worse than last year (5.7) and leaving much room for improvement.

Forty-five percent of engineers said that their companies have no 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. This leads to the loss of institutional knowledge and important skills but as well as the loss of knowledge about vendor relationships.

The trend of losing engineers will likely continue. Forty-four percent of engineers are not likely at all, slightly likely, or only moderately likely to be employed at the same company five years from now. The most likely reasons for an engineer leaving their current role are moving to another company and retirement.

This dilemma created by a shifting engineering workforce offers marketers an opportunity to become a valuable contributor in helping their customers preserve institutional knowledge.

Here’s how:

  • Create detailed, educational, and technical content that can help engineers maintain and increase their 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 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.
  • Make clear to engineers that you can help fill in the knowledge gap through your online training courses, webinars, and white papers.
  • 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 of 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.

Employee loss is inevitable, but 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 own bottom line as well.

Customer Relationships

Use the Content Marketing Ripple Effect to Your Advantage

Have you ever tossed a pebble into the water and watched the ripples expand in widening circles that spread across the surface?

That same concept is applicable to content marketing when you put in motion an integrated strategy that the support of social media and search engine marketing.

Consider the effort involved in launching a new product or service. To promote the launch, you create a variety of useful, relevant content. This may include white papers, press releases, blog posts, data sheets, webinars, videos, infographics, and more.

How you distribute that content and the ripple effect it creates will largely determine the success of your efforts. The plan for content might look something like this:

  • First, develop targeted content to support the marketing initiative.
  • Next, post content on your website and promote it through email marketing, directory listings, display advertisements, and social media.
  • Then, keyword-heavy links in your promotion channels drive your audience to your content and to your website where they can learn more about your product and you can capture visitor conversions.

That launch sequence is akin to throwing the stone in the water—it’s your initial splash.

If your content is strong, directed to your target audience, and relevant to them, the ripple effect can occur.

Here’s how it works:

When an audience interacts with your content or clicks on a keyword link, they are being directed to your website. Or when your audience likes your post on a social media, leaves a comment, or shares it with their own followers, they are helping to amplify your content and expand its reach.

An increasing number of inbound links from directories, advertisements, and social media to your content increases relevant traffic to the web pages devoted to the product or service you are launching and promoting.

While no one knows exactly how social signals such as views, likes, shares, and retweets directly influence search engine rankings, we do know social signals broaden your brand exposure, drive traffic, and increase incoming links. This activity creates a downstream positive impact on the factors that major search engines do consider, including relevant traffic, backlinks, and page popularity.

For example:

  • When your audience likes your post, re-tweets your tweet, leaves a comment, and shares your content with their own social connections, these social signals raise the profile of your content (and your company) and expand its reach.
  • As your content appears in more places and more links are generated to your website, your search engine rankings for specific pages can improve. This is true when content and links are on directories and media sites, such as GlobalSpec, as well as when the content and links appear on social media channels.

There is an additional advantage to posting links to your content on social media: While almost everyone uses search engines in their mission to find products and services, engineers are more likely to trust recommendations from people they know than they are the results of search engine keyword queries. If you’ve ever had a friend or colleague share a social media post with you and say “I love this product” or “You have to check this out,” chances are you will.

One caveat: providing a stream of strong, relevant content to your audience is not a one-and-done deal. It is an integrated and ongoing strategy of content creation, social media sharing, and searching engine marketing. You must continually provide fresh content for search engines and your audience, and not just make a single splash when you have a big announcement or launch.

That means engaging in the hard work of content marketing day after day, week after week. There are no shortcuts. But the benefits of the ripple effect are worth the effort.

Content Marketing SEM Social Media

How Your Content Marketing Strategy Can Lead to SEO Success

Industrial marketers know their audience of engineers is constantly seeking educational, technical content that helps them do their jobs better and make more informed, confident buying decisions.

That’s why almost every industrial company engages in content marketing as a key marketing tactic. At the foundation of content marketing is having a strong content strategy.

A content strategy will align content marketing with your overall business and marketing goals, offer guideposts to measure your content marketing efforts, and prevent you from aimlessly or hurriedly creating content on an ad hoc basis to fill gaps.

One key benefit of a content marketing strategy is that it supports your SEO efforts by helping to grow organic web traffic. Content can be a great ally to SEO if your content strategy includes:

  1. Anticipating a user’s search query and providing a clear and comprehensive answer with your content
  2. A process for continually updating and refreshing content
  3. Positioning your company as an authority on a particular subject
  4. Creating and distributing original, newsworthy content of interest not only to your customers, but to the media and other industry influencers

1. Anticipate a search query

Your web pages can rise in search results if you are able to answer a user’s question. You can do this by researching appropriate keywords likely to appear in a search query and subsequently creating web page content that answers the question posed in the query. Search engines often give preference to content their algorithm determines most closely answers the user’s question.

2. Continually refresh and update content

Search engines also place a high importance on recency of content. As part of your content strategy, you should regularly and methodically audit your content. Get rid of the old and outdated. Post and feature what’s new and updated. Make sure the content is always answering a user question.

3. Position your company as an authority

Search engines factor in authority signals from web pages. These include incoming links from reputable sources, case studies, quotes, customer and partner lists, awards and recognitions, and other content that demonstrates that your company is an authority on a particular subject.

4. Create and distribute original, newsworthy content

This factor goes beyond simply keeping your content up to date and focuses on creating original content that may have interest to the media and influencers in your industry.

This type of content includes original research studies or surveys of your own customer base. Or it may be a fresh perspective or interpretation of data from other research studies. The value of this content is that you can pitch your research and analysis to influencers and the media, leading to greater exposure and potentially earning the type of relevant backlinks to your website that search engines favor.

A Comprehensive Strategy is Needed

The positive relationship between a content strategy and improved SEO results is just one reason to have a comprehensive content strategy. Most importantly, a good content strategy ensures that you prioritize the needs of your customers and prospects.

When assembling your strategy, make sure to document the goals you are trying to achieve through content marketing (traffic, lead generation, brand visibility), profile the audience you are targeting, determine the channels you will use, and line up the resources you will tap to achieve your objectives.

And for more about achieving SEO success, read this month’s companion article about the upcoming change in Google’s algorithm.

SEO

Why You Shouldn’t Be Concerned About Upcoming Google Algorithm Changes

You may have heard Google is updating their algorithm for how it ranks results when buyers search the web for products and services. The changes will roll out in May 2021. Will your rankings suffer?

Many industrial marketers are worried, but if search engine optimization (SEO) has been part of your marketing practice, we don’t think the change should negatively impact your rankings, even though some media outlets are raising warning flags.

Who Will This Update Target?

We believe this algorithm update will be geared more toward media websites and other sites monetized by banner ads that try to squeeze maximum dollars out of their traffic by increasing page views and ad clicks. We don’t expect most industrial, ecommerce, and other B2B websites that focus on creating a frictionless user experience leading to a purchase will be as impacted.

Factors to Consider:

Page Experience

The algorithm change will take into account a new factor Google calls Page Experience. It includes all aspects of how users interact with a web page and how positive or painful the experience is for them.

The major factors considered are mobile friendliness, loading speed, interactivity response, call-to-action, and visual stability of page elements. Mobile friendliness and page speed have been part of the Google’s page-ranking algorithm for several years. These two factors are important, and they will impact your rankings.

To help ensure that you maintain your rankings, or potentially improve them, take steps to optimize your site for mobile and speed.

Speed

First, use Google tools to run a page speed report.

You can run this report for any page on your website. It will give the page a score and offer suggestions on how to increase speed. Major factors influencing speed are:

  • Image size and format
  • Flash elements that slow down loading
  • Excess or unused code

Look for opportunities to compress images and optimize code. While working on images, be sure to use the Alt-text tag to describe the image using keywords. Remove Flash elements that bog down page loading time.

Interactivity of a page is its response to clicks, which is related to page speed. One element Google mentions regarding interactivity is the call to action (CTA). The CTA should be short, specific, and clear about the action needed. Ideally include a benefit.

Mobile-friendly

More than half of all web searches globally are now performed using a mobile device. The mobile friendliness of your website can definitely impact your search engine rankings.

Google also offers a mobile friendly test.

If you don’t have a responsive web site design that renders pages quickly and cleanly on mobile phones and tablets, you may need to invest resources to make that happen. With so many searches being performed on mobile devices, having a responsive website is a requirement.

Remember: Great Content is Still the Most Important Factor

Some marketers might get so caught up in the metrics and technical issues of SEO that the most important element—great content—gets pushed to second place.

As Google has written on its own blog, “Great page experience doesn’t override having great page content.”

Fresh, relevant content that answers the question posed by an engineer’s search query will always play a critical role in determining page rankings. Your content should be simple, it should answer a need, and it should be unique to your business.

When you have such content, and then optimize your site to create a seamless and frictionless user experience, from headline to copy to CTA to Shopping Cart and Sale, you could see your rankings move closer to the top.

SEM SEO

How the Pandemic Has Impacted Engineers

The pandemic has impacted many professions and industries, including engineers working in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. But engineers have long demonstrated they are a smart and resilient bunch—they have jobs to do and find ways to get them done, pandemic or not.

That’s not to say that engineers haven’t made adjustments to how they search for and connect with suppliers, and how they source and consume content. Here are some tendencies that have changed during the pandemic and that should be on your radar when crafting marketing programs during this unsettled period.

Participation is increasing in virtual events and webinars

First, there might be some confusion about the difference between virtual events and webinars. To help clarify, consider webinars as standalone, specific events—short, often technical, and focused on a single topic.

Virtual events are more expansive and last longer. While they often contain technical presentations that you might encounter in a webinar, virtual events may also include keynote speeches, exhibitions, discussion forums, sponsors, and other content and interactive features.

Forty-eight percent of engineers have participated in a virtual event, according to the “2021 State of Marketing to Engineers” research report developed by TREW Marketing and GlobalSpec.

Of those engineers who attended a virtual event, 80 percent found the event a valuable experience. Still, engineers prefer webinars to virtual events by more than a two to one margin, while 28 percent aren’t sure which format they prefer. This makes sense, as virtual events in their current incarnation are relatively new.

Whether at a virtual event or a webinar, if an engineer shows up, they’re looking for technical content. When developing your own webinars, keep this in mind. If participating in or hosting a virtual event, make sure you have plenty of opportunities to deliver technical presentations to your audience that help them do their jobs better.

Podcasts are an emerging content type

Fifty-five percent of engineers now listen to podcasts for work. Thirty-seven percent subscribe to 1-5 podcasts.

Out of those engineers that listen to podcasts, 33 percent listen for 6-20 minutes a week, followed by 26 percent that say they listen for 5 minutes or less. Given that the average podcast is 15-25 minutes in length, this data indicates that engineers are listening to about one episode for work per week.  

If you plan to delve into podcasts as a marketer, treat them like other content you produce. Make each episode focused on a single topic, don’t be afraid to get technical, and pay attention to production values.

Other tips: use good microphones, choose speakers who have strong and clear voices, be professional but also foster your personality, add beginning and ending themes to the podcast, and edit the file to create a tight and smooth final product.

Video is popular, but be careful

A whopping 96 percent of engineers watch some videos for work. Forty-eight percent watch less than one hour, while another 48 percent watch for one hour or more. By comparison, engineers spend twice as much time watching video as they do listening to podcasts.

Video has grown steadily in popularity, particularly among younger engineers. Thirty-two percent of engineers are willing to fill out a form to access gated video tutorials, making video a viable way to begin a relationship with engineers.

However, there are signs of video fatigue setting in. This is primarily due to the quality of videos. While a smartphone is all you need to make an effective video, not paying attention to production values can derail your efforts.

One way to make the most out of video is to use this content format for what it does best: showing visuals and movement as a way to explain concepts. That’s why demos and tutorials are the most popular subjects for videos, while talking heads can be snoozy.

Keep your videos as short as possible while still covering the topic. Pay close attention to your video statistics, particularly length of view. If a large portion of your viewing audience is dropping off around the same time, you’ve got a problem.

The biggest reason for drop off is lack of relevancy. Make sure your videos are about subjects your audience cares about and keep engineers interested by moving your story along.

Marketing Trends Marketing, General

The Changing Relationship Between Engineers and Sales Reps

The Changing Relationship Between Engineers and Sales Reps

Most industrial marketing and sales professionals know that engineers have moved online to complete much of their buying process.

Sixty-two percent of engineers complete at least half of their buying process online before choosing to speak with someone at the company, according to the research report “2021 State of Marketing to Engineers,” produced by GlobalSpec and TREW Marketing. Twenty percent complete 70 percent of their buying process online before contacting a sales rep.

Those important early stages of the buying process, including need identification, researching potential suppliers, and comparing products and services from different suppliers, are completed without an engineer contacting your company.

This trend will continue

As with almost every industry, youth is beginning to take over. Engineers age 45 and under spend even more time online before choosing to speak to someone at a company.

Seventy percent or more of technical professionals in this age group report completing more than half of the buying process online. This trend will continue, as older engineers reach retirement age and younger professionals take their place.

A clear communications preference

When engineers are finally ready to speak with a company, 52 percent of them prefer email over other forms of communication. Twenty-nine percent prefer phone, while only eight percent would want an in-person meeting.

Interest in online chat has grown slightly over previous years and is up to five percent, but adoption of this sales tool in the B2B engineering space remains low overall.

How marketers should respond

There are three key areas where manufacturing marketers can add value to their customers’ online buying process:

  1. Take steps to make sure their company, products, and services are found online by engineers during the early stages of the buying process.
  2. Provide relevant, educational content that keeps their company in contention to win business.
  3. Support your sales team by arming them with appropriate content and information for when they do connect with a prospect.

Getting found online

  • Deploy marketing programs on the channels that engineers use. When asked where they go most often for information now that trade shows and in-person events are cancelled, engineers reported their top five sources are supplier/vendor websites, online trade publications, publication email/e-newsletters, vendor email/e-newsletters, and industry directory websites.
  • Maintain a consistent and persistent presence on those channels so that you can be found whenever engineers begin their search.
  • Make your website as strong as possible, with clear navigation, deep technical information, and pages optimized for specific keywords that are important to your company.

Provide relevant content

  • The most useful content to engineers is educational and technical in nature. White papers, CAD drawings, in-depth white papers, and video tutorials are the type of technical content that engineers are most willing to fill out a form to access.
  • There is no definitive answer as to whether content should be gated or not. If you do put a form in front of content, you will gain contact information for some engineers, but others will refuse to fill out forms. If you don’t gate your content, you will still get prospects contacting you if your content is targeted, compelling, and meets the needs of your audience.
  • Engineers are likely comparing your content to what they get from other suppliers. Make sure your content is accurate, up-to-date, and comprehensive. Even simple, clear, technical data sheets can be very valuable and can help give your company an edge over other suppliers.

Support your sales team

  • When sales people do finally get contacted by a potential customer, make sure they aren’t caught off guard. It’s marketing’s responsibility to educate the sales team on what marketing programs are running, what content might be in the hands of their prospects, and what marketing messages are being promoted.
  • Your sales team may very well get questions that engineers formulate based on what they have discovered in your content. Make sure the sales team has copies of all marketing content so they can quickly be on the same page with a prospect.
  • Because email is such a popular way to contact a company, work with your sales team to develop a library of potential responses that can be customized or to develop email signatures that provide links to additional content or promotions.
Customer Relationships

Your Most Asked Questions About the State of Marketing to Engineers

Thank you to all who joined GlobalSpec and TREW Marketing for our 2021 State of Marketing to Engineers Research Findings live webinar.

We were not able to answer all of the fantastic questions posed by attendees during our live webinar, but have since tackled them all. We thought you might be interested in reading through the full Q&A, so that you can glean information to help inform your own industrial marketing efforts.

Chat

It’s hard to get the visitors to our website to engage with Chat, do you have any suggestions for how to get better engagement? We feel like they are just using us for our content and leaving.

Chat is best used as a means for website visitors to get an immediate question answered (such as where to find information, how to get in touch with sales, etc). If you’ve set up your website so that visitors can easily find info, you may not notice a lot of engagement in your chat, which is ok. The research data shows us that only 5% of engineers want to use chat as their first engagement with sales, signaling that they are not yet bought into this means of communication. Part of this might be due to the complexity of the need, but also a hesitation to interact with what might perceived as a salesy conversation.  Consider experimenting with your chat settings and what the prompt is – striking a helpful tone may help engagement. And the silver lining is that we are seeing B2B chat growing in adoption (albeit at a faster pace than for engineers). As buyers interact with chat more and more in their B2C personal lives, you’ll see the behavior spill over more in B2B. Keep blazing the trail!

Virtual Meetings

Has in-person meeting preferences with engineers changed with COVID?

We didn’t explore this topic in our research, but what we’ve experienced with our own businesses and clients’ businesses this year is, no surprise, a dramatic shift to virtual meetings. In speaking to engineering leaders, it seems that the pandemic has shifted work culture enough that virtual meetings and virtual working environments will become more of the norm after the pandemic. This will vary based on job function, so consider updating your audience personas with this question in mind, and monitor as the year progresses.

Could you speak briefly on the use of virtual calls?

Virtual meetings on platforms like GoToMeeting and Zoom became a norm this year. Our team at GlobalSpec has conducted virtual calls for years, but we were surprised by how many of our clients were suddenly eager to turn on their cameras when in the past had not. This visual aspect helped to forge a closer “human” connection with meeting attendees, and we now advise others to turn those towards cameras on (and worry less about the dog in the background — your furry pet is fodder for a perfect meeting icebreaker). 

People are suffering from video meeting fatigue, how do you feel this will change over the next few months? 

Long video calls tethered to a computer, starting into a camera can be exhausting. Consider breaking up lengthy meetings into shorter ones (no longer than 2 hours) and provide a brief break in the middle as well. Also, consider when video is not necessary. Old school phone calls can alleviate some video fatigue. I’ve had some of the most productive 1:1 calls with team members while taking a walk or sitting outside over the phone.

Channel Preferences

Do engineers have a preferred platform for webinars? (GoToWebinar, other?)

This would be a great question for the future. My suspicion is that content prevails over platform.

What type of podcast do engineers listen to?

This would be a great topic to dive into further in next year’s research. What we do know is that almost half listen to at least one podcast episode per week for work-purposes.

Social

What are the professional networks they’re joining? What is a professional community network? How can marketers take advantage of those networks?

Professional networks include professional associations with networking opportunities and role-specific discussion boards. We did not ask specifically which professional networks (though next year I think it would be excellent topic to explore!). Examples of this include StackOverflow, GitHub, IEEE Collabratec, Quora and the CSIA Industrial Automation Exchange. Some engineering publication online sites have networking communities as well.

Why is YouTube not listed as a social channel?

YouTube’s functionality leans more towards a search engine than a social channel, though you could make the case for both. You’ll find YouTube results on page 13 of the research report, which show that 27% of respondents turned to YouTube to seek information and/or networking opportunities, where as social media as a whole came in at 17%. In our 2020 report, we did include YouTube within social options, and found it to be highly valued, coming in 2nd place to professional community networks, edging LinkedIn to third. Our conclusion is that whichever way you categorize YouTube, it is a valued channel by engineers and with the overwhelming adoption of video as valued content, an important channel for 2021.

Do social channels change based on age?

We didn’t do this analysis for the 2021 report, but here is the social breakdown by age from the 2020 research (note that YouTube was included as a social channel in 2020 but not in 2021):

  • Ages 35 and under found the most value in YouTube (46%), LinkedIn (35%) and Professional Communities (35%); they found the least value in Instagram (61%), Facebook (57%), Pinterest (54%), and Twitter (54%), and Reddit (43%)
  • Ages 36-54 found the most value in LinkedIn (35%), YouTube (33%), Professional Communities (28%); they found the least value in Instagram (53%), Pinterest (53%), Facebook (44%), and Twitter (47%), and Reddit (47%)
  • Ages 46-55 found the most value in YouTube (32%), Professional Communities (29%), and LinkedIn (26%); they found the least value in Pinterest (64%), Instagram (63%), Twitter (61%), Reddit (59%), and Facebook (50%)
  • Ages 56-65 found the most value in Professional Communities (24%), YouTube (20%), and LinkedIn (14%); they found the least value in Reddit (71%), Instagram (70%), Pinterest (66%), Twitter (66%), and Facebook (57%)
  • Ages 65+ found the most value in Professional Communities (42%), YouTube (20%), and LinkedIn (14%); they found the least value in Instagram (68%), Reddit (64%), Pinterest (66%), Twitter (66%), and Facebook (64%)

Do you see more success with organic or sponsored LinkedIn posts?

We’ve found the most success through a two-pronged approach: keep a consistent cadence of organic content flowing, ideally posted by company spokespeople (in their own voice) rather than only company posts. Supplement with advertising in short bursts with an engaging ad and enticing call-to-action. 

Content

Do you think there is a correlation between the engineers age and their seniority, for example, the more senior the engineer is the more likely they are to be ‘reading around’ their subject matter and engaging with materials as they will be seen as the local expert and conversely the younger engineers haven’t needed to perform this at this stage in their career?

Great point about the correlation between age and seniority. It is interesting to consider the need for certain types of content by stage of career and role within the organization. We find younger engineers perform more long-tail specific searches and need more basic education in what is often a “specifier” role, whereas older engineers with more experience often have a broad network of colleagues to tap. This older group may seek new ideas and different angles to complement their established expertise, while others may have a tendency to fall back upon trusted solutions of the past.

Ebooks seem to be growing in popularity, did you consider those as an option in any of your survey questions or did it show up anywhere?

We included ebooks in our 2019 research, with the descriptor “longer, more in-depth than application notes/white papers” and found them to be similar in popularity to white papers and webinars. Because there seems to be a general lack of understanding between white papers versus ebooks amongst engineers, we choose to drop that option from this year’s survey, but this doesn’t reflect a lack of preference for ebooks. Through our own experience, we find ebooks to be very popular lead generators and highly memorable due to their graphic-heavy nature.

Sales

Do you have any recommendations on how to deal with a prospective engineering customer that says “Your product looks valuable and I am interested, but don’t have the time to take a detailed look right now.”? We get this continued response a lot.

Give your prospect time to get to know your company and solutions more fully, and build preference through targeted content. One way to keep the lead warm is through a nurturing email campaign. Create a 4-5 email sequence keeping each brief with one relevant content offer, and set expectations for the engineers on how long it will take to consume the content (e.g., include something at the top of the page or even right in the email saying how long it takes to read). The goal of the campaign can be to set up a meeting with a salesperson (use a calendar app to reduce friction for this step), but hold this offer until towards the end of the campaign sequence. 

Since the majority of engineers spend half of their journey online before talking to someone, will they be “creeped out” or deterred from moving forward with us if we reach out to them early in the cycle (leads)?

The data suggests that reaching out too early may indeed repel your prospect. Using a marketing automation tool, look for buying signs such a repeat visits, downloads, and other engagement. These indicate a level of trust and implied receptiveness to receiving a sales email.

General Research Questions

What was the total number of respondents to this survey?

We had a total of 1,361 qualified responses.

What new findings surprised you the most in this year’s research compared to prior years?

The biggest surprise was the number of respondents — twice as many as last year! With the data itself, there were no massive YOY swings on the whole, rather incremental increases that support continuing trends: more of the buyer’s journey shifting online, more adoption of video, and lack of enthusiasm over most mainstream social media channels. LinkedIn was an interesting one…while it ranks high when compared to other social channels, the percent of “not very valuable” responses jumped from 28% to 46%. This suggests fatigue (I know I’m tired of the aggressive sales bot messages!) and supports a more targeted and thoughtful approach. I am hopeful with more changes on the horizon in the LinkedIn platform, this channel will be seen as more, not less valuable, in our next research report.

Is the survey data specific to US market or global? If only US, do you think these behaviors are similar across the globe?

This survey includes respondents from around the world. In our past surveys, we have found that while small differences emerge in what types of companies engineers work at and what social media channels they prefer, the larger trends prevail

I would be interested to see & analyze the survey data, is this made available?

We published the full report earlier this month. Here’s a link.


Want to access the on-demand webinar? Click here to access the 2021 State of Marketing to Engineers Research Findings Webinar.

WATCH ON-DEMAND

Are you interested in digging more into the research findings covered at this webinar? Download the full research report here.

Marketing Strategy Marketing Trends Marketing, General

The Benefits of Marketing Visibility

Year after year, industrial marketers tell us that their top marketing priorities are to generate qualified leads for sales and to increase brand awareness.

One way to help achieve both these goals is to increase your marketing visibility. High visibility leads to high brand awareness, and together they produce a host of benefits, including:

  • Instilling in customers a sense of trust in your company, brand, and products.
  • Discoverability early in the engineer’s buying cycle. This is essential, as engineers and technical buyers prefer to search and research independently before contacting a potential vendor.
  • Engagement with potential customers. Without visibility, there is no opportunity for engagement and qualified leads.
  • A shorter sales cycle, as customers often prefer to buy from companies they recognize and that are known in the market.

What Helps Increase Visibility

There are two primary factors that help increase marketing visibility: reach and regularity.

Reach is how far and wide your marketing presence extends. Depending on your strategy, you may be using marketing programs to:

  1. Penetrate deeply into your current markets and core customers
  2. Get your message out to new markets and new potential customers
  3. Some weighted combination of these two strategies

Regularity is how often your brand and message are visible to your target audience. Are you maintaining a consistent and highly visible presence, or only periodically appearing in the market to support specific initiatives?

Ideally, you want to maintain some level of visibility at all times in the market, and bump up your presence to a higher level to support product launches, important company milestones or news, or in response to a unique market opportunity.

Effective programs and channels that help to maintain regular visibility and also can generate immediate interest or engagement opportunities:

  • Company website—Your number one brand ambassador, allowing your audience to find you whenever they are searching.
  • Email—allows you to stay in touch with your house list and keep your brand top of mind with customers and prospects.
  • Social media—Regular updates on social media channels help keep you front and center with engineers. Relevant posts can be easily shared by users, helping to increase your reach.
  • Display advertising—Used on a network of targeted industrial sites, display ads offer high visibility and brand awareness.
  • Industry-specific websites—Directory listings, content hubs, and online catalogs offer you an opportunity to be as visible as larger companies and reach potential customers during their search process.
  • Media relations—Public relations efforts such as pitching stories, writing by-lined articles, providing expert opinions on newsworthy topics, and sending press releases can increase the number of mentions your company receives.
  • Webinars/online events—Whether hosted by your company or with an industry partner, online events are powerful, subject-specific branding opportunities that deliver a captive audience.
  • Video—One of the fastest growing marketing tactics for manufacturers, watching video is popular among engineering and technical professionals.

How to Measure Visibility

Every marketing initiative you undertake should be measurable, including efforts to increase marketing visibility.

Unlike a call-to-action lead generation program that produces short-term results, increasing visibility takes time and therefore should be measured over time. The key is for trends to point in your favor. If your results increase month over month and quarter over quarter, you’ll know that your visibility is increasing as well.

Individual programs have their own related metrics that allow you to measure visibility.

  • Email metrics include number of emails sent, number opened, and number of clicks or other desired actions such as forwards.
  • For display ads, visibility can be measured by impressions, which is the number of times your ads are seen. Clicks on display ads measure engagement with your content. These metrics hold true for e-newsletter advertisements as well.
  • On industry-specific websites, the number of visitors to your directory listing or content hub measures visibility; additionally, the number of click-throughs to your website measures how interested your audience is in what you have to say.
  • Social media metrics such as the number of followers, shares, and retweets all measure visibility.
  • The most important website metric for visibility is the number of visitors. The ratio of new vs. returning visitors gives a sense of visibility with a new audience. If the percentage of new visitors rises in relation to returning visitors, your visibility is increasing because new audiences are discovering you.

You should also track other metrics that are not tied to any specific channels or programs, yet offer deep insight into how visible your brand and message are in the marketplace. For example, how often users type your company name into search engines is a good measurement of brand awareness. In addition, to measure the impact of media relation efforts, use the free service Google Alerts, which will notify you of specific keywords mentions such as your company name, product names or other relevant keywords that appear in news articles, blog posts web pages.

If these metrics are increasing over time, you will know that your marketing visibility is increasing as well.

Marketing Measurement

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