I’ll admit that I’m a fan of industry studies. Among my favorites are the surveys conducted by publishers to document how engineers learn about new products and where they go to buy them. In an era of growing ecommerce, Amazon and other dramatic shifts in how companies market to engineers and other technical buyers, keeping in front of these trends is rather critical.
So, with gratitude to several engineer-focused publishers who share our interest in digital marketing trends, here are some highlights from a variety of studies we’ve seen recently.
- Perhaps at the top of the list is the explosive impact Amazon is having in the b-to-b market. We’ve talked about it coming for several years. Now Amazon has gone from no where two years ago to a whopping 38% of electronic engineers reporting they buy products on Amazon for work-related purchases. It’s even more pronounced among younger engineers, as you’d expect: 55% of younger engineers report using Amazon.
What it Means: If you don’t have an Amazon Prime store on Amazon, get one. Before the end of the day.
- In a study from EETech, 22%, more than one in five, of millennial engineers are the “prime” decision-maker for products and purchases.
What it Means: make sure your database includes young engineers. If the average age of your database is in the 50s, you risk talking to a less and less important sector of the market and missing a major cohort of decision-makers for whatever you’re selling. Sales teams need to focus on transferring established relationships at companies to younger decision-makers. Marketers need to focus on account penetration in their databases, moving beyond one-two contacts to ensure they have all members of engineering teams in their databases. Account penetration needs to be a prime objective for marketers going forward. And, if you don’t know the average age of your own database, do the homework to find out and ensure it’s below 50.
- The media market is fragmenting. While in the past engineers used to read a few leading websites such as EETimes, EDN, Electronic Design or Electronic Products, younger engineers now have found “newer” sites to get their news from such as allaboutcircuits.com, hackaday.com or electronics360.com. “The old trade-mag sites are all just full of press releases,” said one respondent.
What it Means: your advertising schedule and PR targeting need to diversify beyond the traditional media in order to reach younger engineers.
- The EETech research reported that engineers get their information from distributor websites, search engines, online forums, vendor websites, co-workers and blogs. The rankings were similar in the IEEE study, with co-workers/colleagues at the top, closely followed by vendor-supplied white papers, training and webinars. Companies should take heart that their websites are seen as a reliable information source. The presence of colleagues and blogs are significant, and require investment of time there.
What it Means: marketers should prioritize spending dollars on search, tutorial content, their websites. Even though it’s at the bottom of most surveys, marketers need to spend time building their social media channels in order to spur colleague word-of-mouth referrals. Engineers most want technical articles, white papers and data sheets. Building a content strategy around these three will improve rankings on search, improve lead/quote request flow from your website, and drive influencer word-of-month referrals via social media sharing.
- White papers and sponsored content, in particular, seem particularly persuasive – not just popular. Engineers were asked in the CFE Media study what actions they took after seeing particular content pieces. Again, tutorial white papers were at/near the top of the list when asked what moved the engineer to provide their contact information, or actually to purchase/specify the product. We pay particular attention to those two actions. Beyond just building a brand or pushing a message, generating a contact or purchase is the ultimate outcome we’re trying to create, of course.
What it Means: articles, white papers and sponsored content are hard to produce. Yet marketers who are trying to generate opportunities, quotes and purchases, not just leads, must realize that spending time to generate technical, tutorial content is indeed time well spent.
- In an IEEE survey 45% said that knowledge and/or information loss as employees left their companies is very or extremely important. And 51% complain that they struggle against a “constantly increasing pace” of advancing technology.
What it Means: the opportunity for manufacturers to provide tutorial content would be seen as valuable and critical information by engineers. Among the most popular items published today in terms of readership and clicks are “basics” articles or “difference between” content that defines basic principles and concepts.
- Many wonder about the ongoing viability of print publications. It’s a discussion that’s gone on for many years, and it’s true that most companies have moved all or the bulk of their media spend to digital only. Even many publishers have stopped publishing print magazines, as engineering audiences continue to age and younger decision-makers spend their time online rather than in print. The Tech Briefs study showed the same, that while many say they’ll continue to use print, it’s the tactic most likely to diminish in the future, said respondents.
What it Means: our agency continues to de-emphasize spending on print media in marketing plans, and we would expect clients to continue to decrease spending here. We also see social media spending evolving to those programs that focus on lead generation, rather than merely trying to achieve more “likes” or followers.
An underlying context to all the studies is that engineers are no different than any other buying group – they’re busy, they feel pressured, and they’re spread thin on more projects and teams than in the past. What’s also true is that they not only want and need information, but they see manufacturers as a credible source of tutorial, technical information that can help them do their jobs better.
Any content that’s produced that follows that mantra, “teach me something to help me do my job better,” is likely to gain their attention and reflect well on the company providing it.
We have more details on these ideas, along with the charts and graphs that relate to the four studies, avilable in our white paper. Click on the icon below to grab it!