New Research Shows Engineers Under Increasing Pressure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowledge Management is an Issue

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

Forty percent said their companies lose specialized knowledge and expertise faster than they gain it. Yet only 43 percent of companies have formal practices in place to identify senior-level and specialized experts to train, transfer, mentor, manage or retain their knowledge among others in the organization.

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

Environmental Sustainability is Important

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

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

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

Performance is Measured by Customer Satisfaction

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

Download the Research Report

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

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

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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Three Tips for a More Effective Multichannel Strategy

With engineers and technical professionals using a variety of digital resources for work related purposes, industrial marketers must deploy a multichannel strategy to attract new customers and connect with current ones. But it takes more than simply placing advertising in different digital media channels.

Instead, you must be able to deliver a seamless, consistent experience across multiple channels in order to build confidence and trust among your target audience and increase opportunities to win business.

Being consistent and seamless requires that the attributes and value of your brand come across to your customers at all times, on all channels. Many customers might be exposed to your company through multiple channels: e-newsletters, websites, online catalogs, webinars, online events, banner ads and more.

You don’t have to—and shouldn’t want to—use the exact same message across channels, or make all your creative and layout look the same, but you should find the appropriate threads to weave through your marketing that will cause potential customers to recognize and understand your brand at every digital touch point. Here’s how:

Cross Media Multiplier Effect

1. Anticipate multiple exposures
There’s a theory that a potential customer has to interact with your company up to seven times before they’re ready to make a purchasing decision. If you’re truly deploying a multichannel strategy, you should work under the assumption that engineers and technical professionals will be exposed to your company numerous times across multiple digital channels.

For example, the person who sees your ad in an e-newsletter might click through to your website and later might view a video on your YouTube channel and read one of your tweets or blog posts. Provide visual consistency by using similar colors, layouts, fonts and other design elements across channels and content.

Provide message consistency by reminding your audience of your brand value. How do you want your audience to perceive you: Are you a technology innovator? A low-cost provider? Known for stellar customer service? Find a way to reinforce your major brand message, even if the specific marketing campaign is more focused.

2. Plan your content
Be the company that is always putting out fresh content on multiple digital channels. The latest news on your products or trends in the industry. A new white paper, video or webinar. If you strive to constantly refresh your content, it will be easier to maintain consistency and deliver a seamless experience across channels.

In addition, create a schedule for publishing content so that you know when and where your content will appear. This will help you avoid, for example, having last month’s story still promoted on your social media platforms while this week’s e-newsletter concerns itself with more recent topics. Remember that not every channel has to carry the same message or news (which would be dull), but they do have to work together and you have to be aware of what’s appearing where.

3. Tie it all back to your website
A good portion of your marketing effort is likely devoted to funneling customers to your website where they can accept your offers, make a purchase, contact you or interact with your company, brand and content in other ways. Whether a potential customer is exposed to your company through a banner ad, e-newsletter, online catalog, social media post or other channel, every potential customer that clicks through to your website should immediately recognize something familiar, whether it’s a message you want to continually reinforce or a consistent look and feel you want to promote.

If you integrate all the components of your multichannel marketing strategy in these ways, not only will you provide a consistent, seamless and memorable experience to your target audience, you will create the impression of being everywhere in the digital sphere. Customers will see and recognize your presence, which will help form a stronger and longer lasting connection with your brand, company and products.

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Why You Need a Social Media Audit

The majority of industrial companies (61 percent) use social media for marketing purposes, according to recent IHS GlobalSpec research. However, only 27 percent of industrial marketers are satisfied or very satisfied with their company’s social media efforts, and only one in five industrial companies have a full-time employee dedicated solely to social media.

social media800

These statistics may mean that your company’s social media use was developed in an ad-hoc manner, with some industrial companies getting involved without having a clear social media strategy or goals. If that’s the case at your company, or even if you have a social media plan, you can achieve better results if you take the time to conduct a social media audit.

Whether you’re a social media solo practitioner or part of an integrated team using social media, a social media audit will help you gain better control over your social media accounts, establish a social media strategy that supports business goals, and execute more effective social media programs.

Step 1: Inventory social media accounts
Start by taking inventory of your existing social media presence. It may be larger and more fragmented than you realized. Social media often starts at the business unit level as divisions create their own social media presence. In addition, new and existing employees open new social media accounts all the time. If your organization has grown through mergers and acquisitions, there could be multiple social media accounts operating under different brand names. If possible, centralize ownership of the accounts.

Step 2: Align social media strategy to business and marketing objectives
Once you have identified your overall business and marketing objectives, determine how social media initiatives can support those objectives. For instance, if one of your marketing goals is to drive thought leadership and establish your company as experts, then a logical social media initiative would be to publish educational and thought leadership content over social channels. If a goal is to better support customers, you might use social media to distribute user tips, invitations to training webinars, or how-to videos. If brand awareness is a goal, you’ll know that part of your social media strategy is increasing the number of followers and shares on your social media accounts.

One way to help shape your strategy is by tagging keywords and listening to what is being said on social networks about your company, products, services, industry, and competitors. You will be able to uncover opportunities for engaging with your audience and the market that you may not have considered.

As part of aligning your social media strategy with business and marketing objectives, you should establish measurable goals for social media, such as traffic delivered to your website, conversions, likes/follows, comments, shares and more. Only with measurable goals can you determine if your social media efforts are working.

Step 3: Determine how your audience uses social media
Are the social platforms you’re using the same ones that your customers use? Your social media efforts will be wasted if you’re not connecting with your target audience. The most popular social media platforms for technical professionals are LinkedIn and Facebook, and Google + is growing rapidly among this audience. You may not have the resources to manage accounts on all social media channels, so in your audit you might have to trim the ones that aren’t relevant.

Step 4: Evaluate your social media content
Content isn’t only what you post on social media, but what’s included in each of your social media profiles. Start by making sure the basics are all there: the appropriate company description, accurate urls and contact information. Next, are the header graphics consistent with your brand? Do individual users have profile pictures?

Then turn to the content itself. Is your messaging consistent? Are you publishing content across all of your social media networks to reach the greatest possible audience? Are you including links in your posts? You’ll also want to track what content is popular (measured by comments, shares, likes, clickthroughs, etc.) and what is ignored. This will provide the intelligence you need to develop useful, relevant content that your audience responds to.

Step 5: Create a social media “playbook”
Creating a social media playbook is an important action item in your audit process. Your playbook should clearly document your company’s social media strategy and goals, identify its accounts, define policies and guidelines for using social media (including any approvals or permissions needed to post on social media accounts), and identify team members and their roles.

Revisit the playbook on a regular basis—whenever there’s a change in your social media strategy, or a new team member comes on board, or you conduct your next social media audit.

Step 6: Consider using a social media management tool
If you’re committed to using social media for marketing purposes, then you may need to get more serious about managing your accounts and your content marketing efforts. There are a number of social media management tools (some of them free) that can help you be much more efficient on social media and gain centralized management of your entire social media presence. From a single dashboard you can schedule posts across multiple channels, publish content, track results and more.

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Digital Media Use Survey Shows Different Work Habits by Age

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost half the engineering workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next few years. A younger generation of technical professionals will be taking their place, a group that exhibits different online work habits compared to their older colleagues.

This finding from the 2014 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector research report will impact your marketing strategy. You must make an effort to attract and cultivate younger technical professionals early in their careers as they form habits and opinions about their industry and the suppliers and products available to them. You can download a complimentary copy of the survey results including charts, detailed analysis and marketing recommendations.

digitalmediause

Trends Among Younger Technical Professionals

  • At greater rates than older technical professionals, those under 35 years old use the Internet for collaborative design, career research, to compare products across suppliers, for competitive information, to download software demos, and to purchase parts.
  • Forty-two percent of technical professionals visit more than ten work-related websites each week. In the under 35-year-old age group, significantly more respondents than any other age segment visit more than 20 websites each week.
  • Younger technical professionals are more likely to use the Internet for research and product comparisons, whereas the older crowd is more likely to be obtaining product specifications and finding components, equipment, services and suppliers.
  • Year-over-year comparison shows the growing importance of general search engines, industry-specific search engines and webinars among the under age 35 group, whereas online catalogs and supplier websites grew in importance among those over 35.
  • Technical professionals are mostly passive users of social media. They prefer to read and watch rather than to create content or join discussions. However, younger technical professionals are more likely to actively participate in discussions than are older technical professionals.
  • Technical professionals under age 35 conduct significantly more product searches and read more news and e-newsletters on their smartphones than their older colleagues do. We can expect the use of mobile devices to continue to grow. Suppliers should consider creating websites and e-newsletters that have response design features, which improves rendering and increases their usability on mobile devices.
  • Industrial professionals over age 49 have more autonomy with purchasing decisions than do their younger colleagues, regardless of the spending amount.

Findings Applicable Across All Age Groups

  • Technical professionals average six hours per week on the Internet for work-related purposes, with 29 percent spending nine or more hours.
  • The primary uses of the Internet for technical professionals are to find components, equipment, services and suppliers (74 percent); obtain product specifications (73 percent); compare products across suppliers (69 percent); find pricing information (68 percent); and perform research (66 percent).
  • The top digital resources technical professionals use for work are general search engines (89 percent), supplier websites (79 percent), online catalogs (76 percent) and industry-specific search engines such as GlobalSpec.com (54 percent).
  • Only 41 percent of technical professionals contact a vendor in the early needs analysis/research stage of their buy cycle. Fifty-nine percent wait until the comparison/evaluation or purchase stages. You must connect with potential customers early in their buy cycle in order to be a contender later when they are ready to make a purchase decision.
  • Almost half of all technical professionals (49 percent) did not attend an in-person tradeshows in 2013. On the other hand, seven out of ten technical professionals attended at least one webinar or online event. Thirty-two percent said they went to four or more. Webinars and other online events continue to be effective marketing programs in the industrial sector.
  • Technical professionals subscribe to an average of 4.9 digital publications, such as e-newsletters and digital trade magazines, versus an average of 1.5 printed trade magazines, a difference of more than three-fold. Digital publications make it easy to connect with your target audience.

Access All Survey Results

The Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector research report offers industrial marketers valuable intelligence you can use to help evaluate your own marketing strategies and optimize your marketing programs. The age of your target audience has become an important consideration when making marketing decisions.

Our new research report includes all survey results, along with charts and graphs and key recommendations for marketers. Get your complimentary copy today.

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How do you market to industrial buyers through digital media? What tips or strategies would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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3 Rules for Developing a Digital Media Strategy

It’s the digital age. Engineers and other industrial professionals are spending more time online than ever before. They use a variety of digital resources to perform work-related tasks, transforming their buy cycle and, in turn, challenging traditional marketing and sales processes for suppliers and manufacturers. This phenomenon, often called the Digital Disruption, has ushered in a new digital era and a mandate for suppliers to develop an effective digital media strategy.

The Digital Disruption is fully explored in the new IHS GlobalSpec white paper: “A Strategic Approach to Digital Media: How to Develop a Budget, Create a Strategy and Measure ROI.”

The majority of industrial marketers already use digital channels to connect with customers and prospects. However, their efforts do not always generate desired results. Only 35 percent of industrial marketers are satisfied or very satisfied with their online marketing efforts, according to the research report “2013 Trends in Industrial Marketing.”

1. Take a multichannel approach
The main reason there is so much room for improvement is that many marketers think of digital as a single tactic. They are not taking a holistic or strategic approach to digital marketing. Just as “traditional” (print advertising, trade shows, direct mail, etc.) was never a single marketing channel, “digital” is also a broad term encompassing many online marketing strategies and tactics.

Because industrial professionals have many digital tools and sources of information at their disposal—from general search engines to specialized search, from industry websites to supplier websites, from online events to e-newsletters, digital catalogs, social media and more—suppliers must deploy a multichannel digital marketing program to be successful.

Of course, you can’t be everywhere, but you can make strategic decisions about where to allocate your resources. You should focus on the channels that:

1. Your target audience prefers
2. Align with your goals and objectives
3. Match your customers’ buy cycle behavior

One point to consider: Many industrial buyers do not initiate contact with a vendor until they have completed the early stages of their buy cycle and are close to a purchase decision. Therefore, it’s important to build and maintain brand visibility and awareness as part of your multichannel approach, so you can be discovered by customers at all times during their research.

2. Create a digital media budget
The first step in creating a budget for digital media is to consider reallocating resources from marketing programs that have performed poorly or are difficult to measure into digital channels that your target audience is using.

Industrial marketers are making the shift to digital, some faster than others. Fifty-four percent of manufacturers report they are spending more for online marketing in 2013 than in 2012. However, half of companies are devoting at least 36 percent of their overall marketing budget to online media and only 30 percent are devoting the majority of their marketing budget to digital efforts. With a target audience that has already made the shift to online resources, industrial marketers have to ask themselves if they are committing enough budget and resources to reach and engage their customers and prospects through digital channels.

3. Meeting the Challenge of Measuring Marketing ROI
Many marketers swallow hard when the discussion turns to measuring marketing ROI, and there’s no question that this measurement is a challenge. At the same time, there’s no doubt that marketers need to be more accountable.

Here are several ways to get started measuring ROI:

1. Commit only to measurable programs. Fortunately, the best-performing programs today are digital media. And digital media by its nature is measurable. You can track impressions, clicks, inquiries, conversions, time on page, length of view, and more.

2. Focus on those measurements that provide valuable insight leading to decisions that will improve your marketing program. These include the volume of engagement opportunities, the value of a lead in terms of revenue it helps to generate, the speed with which a lead converts, cost per inquiry, and brand awareness (such as reach and exposure numbers).

3. The industrial buy cycle can involve multiple decision makers and include many marketing touch points. It’s not easy to determine which touch point(s) contributed to a sale, even for companies using sophisticated marketing automation software and having the benefit of tight integration and communication among sales and marketing to share data and insights. Most likely, all touch points contribute to a sale. You may need to assign a weighting to different tactics to help measure ROI.

The white paper, “A Strategic Approach to Digital Media,” includes four additional tips for measuring ROI. Plus recommendations on developing a multichannel marketing approach and reallocating your budget to the digital side. It’s a valuable resource for every marketer. Download your complimentary copy.

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How to Give Your Content Marketing More Momentum

Most industrial marketers understand the importance of content marketing to help feed the industrial professional’s almost insatiable appetite for useful, relevant information. For that purpose you produce a steady stream of white papers, datasheets, how-to videos, webinars, social posts, technical articles and more.

But cranking out content just because content marketing is the thing to do won’t get you very far towards your goals. Your content marketing efforts should fit within a larger plan to build awareness and thought leadership, as well as to generate engagement opportunities.

To achieve these goals, you should check that all of your content meets these parameters:

  • Fits within the framework of the key positioning and messages you want to get across as a thought leader and industry expert. All of the content producers on your team should know the key messages and guidelines to follow.
  • Focuses on the informational needs of your target audience and is educational in nature, helping them do their jobs better. You may want to get across specific messages or positioning, but the content also has to be about your audience and what they want. When the two are the same, your company is in a sweet spot.
  • Is widely distributed and visible across those media channels used by your target audience. Your audience is online, using websites, search engines, email, video sharing sites, online catalogs, social networks and more. That’s where your content needs to be.
  • Is “actionable.”

By actionable we mean that your target audience can and will do something after consuming your content. This is one of the best ways to give your content marketing more momentum. The action could be a small step (get more content, re-think a position) or a large step (engage with your sales team, make a purchase), but the point is to help your customers and prospects move forward through the phases of their buy cycle.

Here are some tips to make your content marketing more actionable:

  • Make the next offer. For example, at the end of a white paper, promote a webinar that’s based on a related topic. In a blog post, link to other articles of interest. Add a link in a short video interview to a more in-depth case study. Think in terms of “if my audience likes X, then they should also be interested in Y.” Give them X, then offer them Y. The idea is to always be offering more, and making your audience want to say yes.
  • Create content that’s easy to share. Especially with complex industrial products, the buying cycle can be long and involve a number of decision makers, influencers and recommenders. Therefore, it’s important to make content easy to share among the decision-making team. Include a forwarding feature in emails. Make web pages that are easy to print, email and share. Don’t be shy about asking your audience to share and recommend content that they like.
  • Ask for interaction. Getting your audience involved helps boost the momentum of your content marketing, helping it reach farther and become more visible. Ask provocative questions about important industry topics on your blog or Facebook posts to get the conversation rolling. Take a stand on an issue and ask your audience for their opinion. Use polls on web pages and emails—and share the results.
  • Include contact information. You never know when your content might motivate a customer or prospect to contact you. That’s why you always need to provide a contact mechanism. It doesn’t have to be, and probably shouldn’t be, a hard call to action (Buy now! Call us today!), but it’s easy and non-aggressive to add a ‘For more info’ or ‘Have questions?’ or ‘Contact’ at the end of your content and put in an email address or phone number. It’s surprising how many marketers skip this step.

Content marketing is essential in today’s industrial marketplace. Make sure you do it with purpose and action in mind, and you will experience forward momentum.

Download IHS GlobalSpec’s complimentary white paper, Content Marketing for Industrial Marketers,  and get the information, inspirations and recommendations you need to develop or accelerate a winning content marketing strategy.

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