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.

Now for the bad news. I predict that content marketing for industrial marketers is going to get tougher in 2017. In this post, I’ll outline what marketers say they are going to do with content in 2017, why it’s going to get tougher to build your audience, and finally, what you can do about it.

What are Engineering Marketers Planning for Content Marketing in 2017?

When we surveyed engineering marketers about their budgets for this year, they told us that they were planning to spend more on content marketing.

The following chart breaks it down by type of content. The orange columns indicate the percentage of marketers who are planning to spend more on webinars, case studies, blogging and video. These orange columns are at least 4X larger in every case than those columns indicating marketers who are planning to spend less (the blue columns).

How engineering marketers are spending their budgets

Here’s the data in a table format for those of you who prefer to read it that way:

Type of content

Blogging

Video

Case Studies

Webinars

Marketers Spending More

27%

37%

29%

26%

Marketers Spending Less

3%

3%

0%

6%

So what does that mean for engineering marketers? It means that your colleagues are doubling down on content marketing. By a factor of 9:1, more marketers are planning to increase their spending on blogging, for example, than are planning to decrease their blogging budgets. The same is true, only more so, for video budgets.

These increases are in the same range as engineering marketers committed last year when asked about their plans for 2016. For example, that makes at least two years running that marketers committed to increasing their video budgets by 37%. Two times 37% is a 74% increase in budget (if we don’t count compounding). That’s a big deal. Other line items show similar growth trajectories.

Why are engineering marketers planning to spend more on content?

In a word, content marketing works. When we asked marketers specifically whether content marketing was helping to deliver more qualified leads to their sales teams, 75% of marketers who use content marketing said “yes”.

75% of engineering marketers say that content marketing is helping them deliver more qualified leads to their sales teams.

And here’s a weird thing. There were a bunch of marketers who said No, content marketing was not helping them deliver more leads. Of those marketers who report that it is not working, most of them plan to keep investing the same or more in 2017 anyway, in hopes of making it successful. Here’s the breakdown:

Engineering marketers will continue to spend more on content marketing

That means there is going to be a staggering volume of content coming from industrial marketers in 2017.  Even the ones who are doing it poorly plan to keep on spending money to churn out more and more content. And that content is all targeting the same audience.

In a survey of 1,003 engineers a few months ago we asked whether engineers are open to reading stories that are written by content marketers. More specifically, we asked, “How do you treat engineering stories that are sponsored by vendors?”  More than half of all respondents (58%) said that they read the stories with the same level of skepticism that they read all engineering editorial, while 35% said that they read with more skepticism, but they still read it. Only 7% said that they ignore, or don’t read sponsored stories.

This is an excellent reason why engineering marketers are continuing to invest in content marketing – engineers are reading the stories.  So why do I predict that content marketing is going to get tougher?

Why Content Marketing is Going to Get Tougher in 2017

I read recently that there are approximately 2M blog posts published every day. 2M! Mind boggled. That statistic is in keeping with the plans for industrial marketers pointed out above. Everyone is in the content game.

Try typing “engineering blog” into Google and see how many results you get. (I got 124,000,000). You can see where I’m heading with this. There is incredible competition for the attention of engineers, and they don’t have time to consume all the content that marketers want them to read.

The chances of Google finding and ranking your blog for any of the keywords that you are targeting is very slim, unless your company already has a huge following and excellent page rank.

A few short years ago, when content marketing was relatively fresh and new, you could write pretty much any old dreck and rank for the keywords you were targeting. And so that is exactly what happened. The Internet was flooded with tons of blog posts that were of pretty poor quality. And so the ante went up. Now to get any traffic at all you have to:

  1. Be a true subject matter expert
  2. Research your subject matter thoroughly to see what new facts or perspectives you can contribute
  3. Share information that isn’t available anywhere else – i.e., your secrets
  4. Promote your content through influencers, social media and paid distribution

But creating better content is expensive, isn’t it? You bet. And that’s a big reason why engineering marketers say that creating engaging content is the single biggest challenge they face in content marketing. Here are the rest of the “biggest” challenges in order, according to the 2017 engineering marketers survey. BTW – I’ll be hosting a webinar to share all the results on Feb 2nd.

  1. Creating engaging content
  2. Resources for content creation (anyone know an engineer who wants to write?)
  3. Amplifying and distributing content

So what is an engineering marketer to do?

Three things you can do in 2017 to improve your content marketing success:

The Internet is deluged with ways to improve your content marketing success, so I’m going to highlight just three that even some of the savviest industrial marketers won’t know.

  1. Write fewer, but better posts. Check out the size of this post, for example. As those of you who have read my blog for years (OK, both of you) will notice, the posts in the last year have become substantially more substantial. Every post has way more meat in it. That makes it more valuable, and more shareable, which means that it will rank better.If you have a limited budget, and who doesn’t, you will have more success writing four 2,000 word posts than writing 20 posts that are 400 words each.
  2. Reach out to influencers to help you spread the word about your stories. Here’s an example, I’m writing this post on Achinta’s Industrial Marketing Today blog because Achinta, aside from being a very good guy, is a powerful influencer in the world of Industrial Marketing. Yes, it sounds like sucking up, but it’s still good business. [Ed.: Thanks John and right back at you!]For those of you who don’t have an Achinta in your circle, consider paying a publication to write and publish your stories for you. We do a ton of this at ENGINEERING.com and our customers are coming back, so it’s working.
  3. Plan to spend more on content distribution. You can’t count on getting the word out on your own.Engineering marketers told us that paying for amplification and distribution is another big reason why their content marketing budgets are going up in 2017.

So that’s my bit of a rant on content marketing for engineers in 2017. If you found this post useful, please click one of the sharing buttons. If you disagree or agree with any of this, please say so in the comments on the blog or on Linkedin.

It’s not too late to complete the engineering marketers 2017 survey – I would love to have your input. And if you want to see all of the results, please consider joining us for the webinar on Feb 2nd.

Thanks,
John

2 replies
  1. Jason
    Jason says:

    As always, great content, Achinta. When you mention content distribution, are you talking about PRWeb, social media advertising, a PR firm, or what?

    Reply
    • Achinta Mitra
      Achinta Mitra says:

      Jason,
      Thanks for the compliment. Industry portals, technical articles in trade journals, webinars, how-to videos on YouTube, presentations, webinars and of course, SEO so people can find your content.

      Reply

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