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:
- 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).
- 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.
I was speaking with the President of a manufacturing company and he was sure that engineers weren’t really his customers. His customers were from the purchasing department. He insisted that engineers played only a small role in providing technical specs.
In our second call, I invited his VP of Sales to join the discussion. Long story short, it turns out the sales team initiated contact with the customer’s engineering team who qualified the company and its products. This helped them get on the Approved Vendor List (AVL) that his customer’s purchasing department used to contact vendors for bids.
My client would have never got the call for an RFQ from Purchasing if the engineers hadn’t first “designed in” his industrial products. That’s when the proverbial “aha moment” happened for my client when he realized that he was dealing with two types of buyers, the specifier (engineers) and the functional buyer (purchasing). That’s how the final customer contact (Purchasing Manager) got into his CRM.
Younger engineers influence the industrial buy cycle
Instead of writing hundreds of words explaining this topic, let me present two charts from another study done by IEEE GlobalSpec that highlight the influence of staff engineers who tend to be younger and less experienced than engineers in management positions.
How to use industrial digital marketing to influence engineers
You must create relevant content for the Research and Needs Awareness stages of the buy cycle to influence staff engineers. They are usually tasked with finding suitable solutions and suppliers. Many of the senior engineers and management people, the folks with the buying authority may never visit your website. You need to create champion content to reach these invisible stakeholders.
Search this blog for several posts on this topic that I’ve written in the past. To summarize them, here are the key takeaways:
Sixty-two percent of engineers don’t contact a vendor until after the Research and Needs Analysis phase. Younger engineers play a dominant role in this phase. Your influencers and buyers are in self-serve self-select mode. Cold calling or bombarding them with unsolicited emails won’t be successful.
Sixty-seven percent of technical professionals attended at least one webinar in 2016, with three being the average number attended. Thirty-one percent attended four or more online events. Webinars are a great way to highlight your technical expertise and reach engineers on their own schedule without being disruptive.
Younger engineers use social media and video more than their older colleagues. They use a variety of digital channels for product searches, gather technical information and find suppliers.
Nurture existing relationships developed over the years but recognize the fact that many of these senior engineers are close to retirement. You need to win the mindshare of younger engineers who are taking on more decision-making roles.
As the larger engineering population is aging, encourage your current contacts to pass on their knowledge and experience with you to the next generation of engineers before they retire.
Use industrial digital marketing to educate younger and less experienced engineers who are looking for more help from their vendors because they are time challenged and internal resources are becoming scarcer.
I co-hosted a webinar with John Hayes of ENGINEERING.com where I talked about how to make a business case for industrial digital marketing. You can listen to the webinar recording here.