Overcoming the Challenge of Marketing to Busy Engineers

Engineers from different fields probably make up a large part of your target audience if you are a manufacturer, distributor or an engineering company. As an industrial marketer, you know it is a challenge marketing to engineers.

While engineers do use social media, they tend to be passive participants making it hard to engage with them using those channels. To illustrate that point, here are a few key findings from the 2016 Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector report published by IEEE ENGINEERING 360.

  • 82% of engineers and technical professionals spend no more than two hours weekly on social media for work-related purposes.
  • 70% of industrial professionals have never shared or posted news about their companies to their own social networks.
  • 64% of engineers and technical professionals say the biggest challenge in using social media for work is its inefficiency when compared to other methods such as search engines, supplier websites and online catalogs.
  • 55% said that social media has too much noise and not enough substance.

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Technology is Not a Substitute for Good Industrial Content

Some of the people I talk to about industrial content marketing seem to be hung up on adding more technology to solve their lead generation problems. The thinking behind it is that technology will cover up the many holes in their strategy, content and help speed up the process. This mindset is not surprising since the top person at many of these manufacturing and industrial companies is an engineer. That is not a dig at engineers, I’m an engineer myself!

Once while discussing an industrial website redesign project, the owner/founder of a manufacturer of valve actuators told me, “I can program anything.” I had to politely bring to his attention that “coding isn’t marketing.”

The rush to add marketing technology

It is not that technology is new to them. Many of these industrial companies already use sophisticated technology such as ERP and CRM systems to run their businesses. So, adding marketing technology is a natural solution for them when pipelines run dry and sales teams are screaming for more leads.

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Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends and Challenges

For the past four years, I have downloaded and read research reports on Manufacturing Content Marketing in North America published by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). I believe 2014 was the first year that CMI published its annual Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report specifically for B2B manufacturing content marketing.

I’ve noticed some interesting trends emerge over the years. In this post, I’ll compare some of the key findings from these research reports. Whether you are a manufacturer, a distributor or an engineering company, there are good takeaways for all industrial content marketers.

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Content Marketing to Engineers is Tough. And Getting Tougher

Every industrial marketer should sit up and take notice of some of the preliminary findings from a recent survey called the Engineering Marketers 2017 Survey conducted by ENGINEERING.COM. As you read through this article, pay close attention to the prediction and the recommendations for achieving success with industrial content marketing to engineers.

This post is a departure from my usual ones. It is a guest post written by John Hayes exclusively for my blog. In case you are not familiar with him (check him out on LinkedIn), he is the CEO of ENGINEERING.COM.

Take it away John!

Welcome to 2017. Engineering marketers are now well versed in content marketing. In a recent survey, 89% of engineering marketers said that they were using content marketing as part of their overall marketing strategy.

Engineering marketers using content marketing

And most of them are having success. In fact, 75% of the marketers who use content marketing say that it is working.

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Making Industrial Content Marketing Engaging for Engineers and Industrial Buyers

Industrial content marketing is facing a big challenge because manufacturers are struggling to make it more engaging for their target audience. They have a good grasp of industrial content marketing’s contributions at the top of funnel but can’t quite connect the dots when it comes to measuring its effectiveness in driving sales.

Show me the money - Tom Cruise as Jerry MaguireThe problem is not just a matter of better analytics and/or in-depth ROI reports from Marketing Automation. These marketing tools are a big help but can’t completely close the gap. The decision makers at these industrial companies want to know how industrial content marketing will increase their sales before they invest the money. In other words, they are saying, “Show me the money.”

Challenges with industrial content marketing exist across different industries and varying company sizes. Consider these key findings from the sixth annual content marketing survey, 2016 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs:

  • 81% of manufacturers in North America are using content marketing
  • 87% said Sales was their number one goal
  • 18% said they were effective (That is not a typo! Effectiveness was defined as “accomplishing your overall objectives” in the survey)
  • 82% of manufacturing marketers cited creating more engaging content as their top priority

There is a big disconnect here between industrial content marketing and its impact on sales.

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Effective Industrial Content Marketing Requires Working Closely with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

Industrial content marketing needs the help of SMEs

If you are responsible for industrial content marketing at your company, you know it is a challenge and can be a daunting task to engage with engineers and technical buyers. It is not too difficult to prove effectiveness with top of the funnel results such as increased traffic, page views, content downloads and newsletter signups.

However, most manufacturers and other industrial companies are not going to be satisfied with that. They want and expect their industrial content marketing strategy to engage with engineers and persuade them to start a conversation with their sales team.

Industrial companies that I talk to on a daily basis, find it challenging to market to engineers. Their biggest hurdle is the lack of response from their target audience. These companies are at a loss and want a better way to market since their target audience is primarily engineers from various disciplines. And therein lies the challenge.

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Content Marketing Strategy Must Drive Your Industrial Website Redesign

Jeffrey Zweldman on content and web designAn industrial website redesign shouldn’t be a quick decision because your site is the very foundation of your online presence. Why is it such an important decision?

According to the Industrial Buy Cycle survey of engineers and technical professionals conducted by IHS Engineering 360 (formally GlobalSpec), “The top three most frequently used sources for searching for products and services to purchase are search engines, supplier websites, and online catalogs.

The survey also found that in the early stages of the Buy Cycle, Needs Awareness and Research phases, industrial professionals use a variety of online sources of information.

By the time buyers reach the final Procurement stage, supplier websites and online catalogs become the most important sources of information. Take a look at this chart from IHS Engineering 360’s Buy Cycle survey.

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Industrial Content Marketing: Awareness to Conversion Takes Time and Hard Work

Industrial content marketing success for most manufacturers and other industrial companies is usually measured  by an increase in the number of RFQs/RFPs. Arguments about quality vs. quantity tend to fall on deaf ears because these companies with long sales cycles need a certain volume of quotes to keep their pipelines full and active.

Often, their stated goal for content marketing is “We want to increase awareness among engineers and industrial buyers and generate new contacts.” You’ve probably heard the same or something similar if you are part of an in-house marketing department or an outside industrial marketing consultant like me.

On the surface, it looks like a well-defined marketing goal but if you look closely, you’ll see that it takes many interim steps between raising awareness and converting traffic into qualified leads. It is this lack of understanding of what it takes to go from point A to point B that causes owners and decision makers at these industrial companies to get frustrated from the lack of quick results and shocked by the price tag.

Growing pains in industrial content marketing

According to Engineering360’s online survey addressing the marketing trends, challenges and expenditures within the engineering, technical, manufacturing and industrial companies, thirty-nine percent were just getting started with content marketing and only 12 percent can show how content marketing contributes to sales.

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