Using Digital Industrial Marketing for Reaching Younger Engineers

Digital industrial marketing is the norm these days, not because it is fashionable but because that’s how industrial buyers now prefer to interact with their suppliers. I’m sure you are aware of the fact that the industrial buy cycle is made up of four stages. Publishing generic content that is not tailored to each stage is not very effective.

It is virtually impossible to create relevant and engaging content unless you have a very good understanding of the roles engineers play at every stage of the buy cycle. Two more factors that you should be aware of to make your industrial digital/content marketing effective are:

  1. Engineers are time challenged – 44% of engineers are working on more projects now than they were two years ago and 55% of engineers are being asked to do more with less. (Source: IEEE Engineering360 survey).
  2. Understanding the age gap is important in digital marketing for industrial companies – 49% of engineers surveyed are less than 49 years old (Source: 2017 Digital Media Use in The Industrial Sector, IEEE GLOBALSPEC)

For more on point number 1, see my post “Overcoming the Challenge of Marketing to Busy Engineers.”

Role of the engineer in the buy decision

In this post, I’ll focus on understanding the age difference and how it affects your industrial digital marketing strategy and tactics. Before I dive deep into that, first let me give you some anecdotal evidence as to why this is important.

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Industrial Content Marketing — Goals are Misunderstood and Misaligned

Industrial content marketing is used by an overwhelming majority of manufacturers. It stands at 85% according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 survey. According to ENGINEERING.COM’s 2017 survey, 87% of engineering marketers use content marketing.

The CMI survey also reported that that 80% of manufacturing marketers rated themselves as “Not At All Successful” to “Moderately Successful” with content marketing.

Success with industrial content marketing

Dissatisfaction with industrial content marketing

C-suite executives at large industrial companies and owners of smaller family-owned manufacturing and engineering companies have plenty to be unhappy about with their lack of success with industrial content marketing. The big reason – MONEY! (or the money spent on content marketing).

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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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