Manufacturers and industrial companies have shifted more of their marketing dollars to digital marketing channels for a very good reason. Their target audience—engineers and industrial buyers are using digital media to find components, equipment, services and suppliers (77%); obtain product specifications (73%); find product availability information (70%); perform research (67%); and compare products across suppliers (66%). (Source: 2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector; IHS Engineering360 Research Report).
The chart below shows how industrial professionals are using the Internet for work-related purposes.
The same study also found that the top three work-related digital resources used by technical professionals of any age have remained unchanged from 2014 to 2015: General Search Engines (89%), Supplier Websites (75%) and Online Catalogs (74%).
All those statistics are very encouraging but they only tell half the story because it only represents the demand side – how industrial buyers are making their purchase decisions. However, suppliers are falling short when it comes to providing content that industrial buyers want.
Does your website provide content industrial buyers want?
Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes and see if the content on your current site will persuade you to take an action that will ultimately lead to an RFQ.
The tendency for most companies is to talk about their product features and available options. Those are great and technical specifications are important to engineers. So it makes sense to create lots of good product-centric website content but there is a big disconnect.
Industrial buyers are in self-serve and self-select modes
The problem lies in the assumption that site visitors will pick up the phone and want to speak to someone on your sales team. That just isn’t happening often enough and it is the biggest source of frustration that I hear from my industrial clients.
More than half the engineers (58%) that responded to the IHS survey mentioned above waited until the comparison/evaluation or purchase stages of the buy cycle to contact the supplier.
Don’t expect your site visitors to pick up the phone or email your sales team after their first visit. You may not make the initial cut if your content isn’t found in search engines by your audience and/or isn’t relevant to their needs. Your site content must match the industrial buyer’s needs at every stage of the buy cycle if you want your industrial website to be an effective sales tool for generating qualified leads. (See Industrial Web Design – Visit to Call is Not Automatic).
Build trust with website content
Your website content must build trust with your audience. You can’t earn someone’s trust if all you do is talk about yourself and turn a deaf ear to their concerns. Effective industrial content marketing should bring out your knowledge and expertise to the forefront. Online content that focuses on customer challenges and your solutions elevate you from being a vendor to a partner. (See How Industrial Content Marketing Builds Stronger Relationships Based on Trust).
I have found industrial blogging to be very effective in bringing to the forefront the knowledge and expertise that are inherent in most if not all industrial companies. The challenge is in putting this domain knowledge in front of your customers (engineers) early in their buying cycle when they are in their Awareness & Research phase. (See Winning the Engineer’s Mindshare with Industrial Blogging).
What kind of content do engineers trust? I’ve found the most effective content strategy for building trust is one engineer to another. Here’s a finding from a joint study done by ENGINEERING.com and TREW Marketing that confirms my point.
Engineers have the highest trust (4.5 out of 6) in content written by an engineering expert at a vendor company followed by industry analysts (4.3) and editorial pieces in industry publications in print or online (3.9).
Website content that persuade industrial buyers to take action
White papers and eBooks work well but they are designed for passive consumption. Downloads are usually Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) that need nurturing and qualifying to turn them into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). You need your visitors to actively engage with your content and move them along in their buying decision. For example, content that helps a design engineer spec or “design in” your industrial component will move him/her much closer to the procurement stage (RFQ).
Here are my suggestions for content assets that persuade industrial buyers to take action and lead to higher conversions.
- Online product configurators and design tools
- 2D CAD drawings and 3D CAD models
- “How to Order” part number builder
- Parametric part number search applications
- Assessment tools, sizing programs and calculators
- Online tracking of legacy installations and managing spare parts inventory
- Cross reference and selection guides
- How-to videos and on-demand training modules
- Online demos and freemiums
- Evaluation and engineering kits
There are two more content marketing tactics that deserve a special mention because they work very well with engineers. They are:
Webinars and online events: The IHS survey found that in 2014, two-thirds of industrial professionals attended at least one webinar or online event, and 30 percent attended four or more. Webinars and online events have proven to be effective marketing platforms, attracting a motivated audience willing to take time out of their busy workdays to attend.
E-Newsletters: The ENGINEERING.com and TREW Marketing survey reported that engineers are very engaged with e-newsletters: almost all respondents (89%) pay attention to the e-newsletters they subscribe to and trust in some way. The primary ways engineers interact with e-newsletters are scanning subject lines (36%) or opening to scan for content (30%).
In 2015, technical professionals are subscribing to an average of 4.4 digital publications, such as e-newsletters and digital trade magazines, versus an average of 1.4 printed trade magazines, a difference of more than three-fold. (Source: IHS/GlobalSpec).
So before you dive into your next industrial website redesign, pay a lot more attention to the website content instead of making it an afterthought. To emphasize that point, here’s a quote from Jeffrey Zeldman, an entrepreneur, web designer, author, podcaster and the founder of A List Apart, “Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.”
Download the research studies I’ve cited in this post.