As an industrial marketing consultant, I interact on a daily basis with engineers and technical professionals from the Automation and Process Control industry. I receive valuable firsthand feedback on what this audience wants and needs from their digital marketing initiatives.
It was reassuring then when the findings from Machine Builder Research and Buying Study 2011 done by Control Design mirrored what I’ve been hearing from my industrial clients.
I’ll summarize the major findings from the study in this post but the headline of the cover story from the March 2011 issue says it all, “Sign of the Times: Wider Adoption of Web-Based, Digital Tools Usage Is Cruising Ahead.”
BTW, I found out about the study from a discussion posted on a LinkedIn group called Automation & Control Engineering. Yup, social media does work in the industrial sector, sometimes. 😉
One of the drawbacks of any kind of a year-to-year industry study is the lack of trends because spikes and dips could very well be due to bad data from one year to the next. This study has eliminated that problem by comparing the values over a four year period.
The study’s respondents came from a variety of industries — from Assembly to Woodworking with the highest concentration at 17% in System Integration. Job Functions included engineering, management, support and research. The largest group was Control System Design/Engineering at 61%.
In short, a core target audience of control and automation professionals.
Digital marketing trends in 2011
- Primary and preferred method of researching products – supplier’s Website. In 2011, 33% of the respondents chose this option which is a five point jump over 2010
- Most important things these professionals want to see on a supplier’s Website – pricing information, even if it is only ballpark estimates, detailed product information (datasheets, manuals, etc.) in PDF format without requiring registration, robust search capabilities and logical organization of the site for quicker and deeper research
- What makes a poor site experience – flashy animations that are slow to download, too much marketing fluff, unsubstantiated product claims and the need to create a login account or registration too early before the visitor has determined if s/he will return or not
- Google was the number one non-vendor site used to do product research and the reason cited most often was that industrial marketers have improved their search strategies and are now more capable of returning relevant results
- In 2008, 78% of the respondents agreed that the results at the top of a search list were probably bought and paid for, regardless of relevance. This year, that view is shared by only 64% of respondents
- Social media continues to show low adoption and usage among these control and automation professionals – Twitter and Facebook garnered only 1% each for weekly work related usage and as high as 62% of the people said they never use them (personal or work), LinkedIn faired a little better at 4% weekly work related usage, Blogs and Podcasts also suffered from poor showing at 4% and 5% respectively for weekly work related usage, those that did use Podcasts, preferred the on-demand kind
- Surprisingly Forums and Bulletin boards showed a strong 15% weekly work related usage even though many considered them as often outdated and not moderated with a lot of bad information from self-proclaimed ‘experts’
- Product videos and machine automation videos receive only an occasional or rare monthly use but the level of occasional use has grown from one in seven in 2008 to one in three in 2011
There were some surprising and interesting twists to all the data as some of them are broken down by age groups.
For example, 33% was the aggregate number for people who used supplier Website as their primary product research tool. However, 44% of the 30-39 year-old group opted for this option, compared with 28% of the 40-49 year-old group and 37% of 50-59ers. The first number isn’t surprising but the last two are.
Another surprise, Speaking/Meeting with local distributors (26% overall) was the primary method of 44% of the 40-49ers, but only 24% of the 30-39ers and 19% of the 50-59ers said it was their primary method. This one left me scratching my head.
You can read all the details of the Machine Builder Research and Buying Study 2011 on their web site. It is definitely worth it.
You may also want to read my earlier posts about industrial Websites, Most Industrial and Manufacturing Websites are Still Stuck in Web 1.0 and 5 Rules of Website Redesign for Engaging Engineers and Industrial Buyers.
Do the findings agree with your own experience in digital marketing to control engineers, machine builders and designers?