Engineers are a different breed from the rest of us. They are data-driven decision makers who like to be in control and favor a consistent routine. These builders and makers want to understand how and why things work and are often drawn to the latest tech gadgets. Today’s modern industrial engineer has more barriers to overcome in their workflow—managing more work with increasingly compressed timelines necessitating a need to work smarter and more efficiently.
Marketing to engineers requires an intimate understanding of the typical buyer’s journey and aligning the right communications, at the right time, in the most relevant places to reach them. Research that we conducted speaking with a variety of engineers mirrors the findings of other existing industry research widely available demonstrating that engineers are increasingly relying on digital media to research, shop and interact with brands while preparing to make a purchase decision. This includes going to the internet first rather than the catalogs of yesterday to find components, equipment, services and compare across suppliers. These professionals are visiting 10 or more websites, averaging several hours weekly for work-related activities. This number jumps to more than 20 websites per week for younger engineers.
Understanding the typical behaviors and triggers in each stage of the “buyer’s journey”—starting with research, then evaluation, and concluding with a purchase—will enable marketers to map the most relevant content to each phase and even target engineers with real-time digital messaging creating new prospects and sales leads. Brands looking to influence and engage engineers require a visible and integrated multi-channel content strategy for each stage.
Research Stage: Aligning relevant content across digital channels
This initial phase is critical as digital media has made it more convenient than ever for engineers to do their due diligence online. Having the right content across multiple channels makes it easier for your brand to be found. In fact, additional GlobalSpec research shows that 59 percent of engineers don’t even make contact with suppliers until very late in their process. These decision makers have a diverse and endless amount of information right at their fingertips and it is more important than ever to connect with them at the onset of their process.
Online resources are abundant, providing the modern engineer with just about any detail needed to begin a researching a work-related activity online. IHS Engineering360 revealed that the four most valuable resources engineers first turn to when starting the “buyer’s journey” are search engines, online catalogs, supplier websites and good, old-fashioned word of mouth. In this early “needs, analysis, research” phase, engineers are turning to the internet to find equipment, components, pricing, services and suppliers. Outside of the important peer validation, the primary activities are in the digital realm and offer astute marketers an opportunity to provide relevant information to align with these active online activities. For example, providing engineers with product specifications, product demonstrations, training how-to videos, and detailed case studies with plenty of supporting data meets the immediate needs as they initiate their early research.
Evaluation Stage: Providing multiple pathways for validation
Once your brand is on their radar, engineers typically want to dig deeper and validate. In this evaluation stage marketers should look to provide digital content that naturally extends from the research stage, delivering it in relevant ways that align with behaviors and preferences. For example, offering an in-depth webinar as an extension to someone who viewed or downloaded a case study in the research stage provides a clear path in the buyer’s journey. The approach will also vary due to the distinct differences in the preferences of younger, less experienced engineers compared to their mid-career and veteran counterparts. IHS Engineering360’s “social media use in the industrial sector” 2015 research report polled the responses of more than 1,300 engineers and other technical professionals. Social media typically provides an outlet for peer validation with real-time dialog, online reviews and more. The research bears out that social media use typically increases more mid-cycle during the stage two evaluation process led by the most popular work-related activity—more than half use social media to find product reviews.
The highest social media channel usage by engineers is the mid-career engineer, aged 35–49 years old with 76 percent having a LinkedIn account. Overall, there is no single source online for digital content. Here are a few examples:
Digital publications: Engineers prefer online publications over print by a three-to-one ratio. The typical engineer subscribes to almost five digital publications, which include e-newsletters and online trade magazines compared to 1.5 printed trade magazines.
Social media: Following companies and groups—providing brands with an opportunity to engage and influence—was the highest overall response for any activity and LinkedIn was the channel of choice. More than two-thirds of the audience felt that social media was not as efficient compared to search engines, supplier websites and online catalogs in the early research phase. Overall, engineers and technical professionals as a group are passive users of social media, preferring to read and watch rather than engage online. However, one-third of engineers have shared or posted news about their companies with their own social networks—often the group of engineers 35 and younger.
Webinars and online events: Webinars and online events are continuing to grow in prominence with seven out of 10 engineers attending at least one event. According to GlobalSpec, 32 percent went to four or more events.
Videos: How-to videos, product demos and training videos are the three most popular types of content. Knowing that engineers first go to search engines, online catalogs, and supplier websites when starting their research, marketers must create more visual content for each of these outlets to capture engineering mindshare.
Interested in finding out more about the changing face of engineering? Visit our website to learn more about engineers through a series of short videos and download our free eBook “What Makes Engineers Tick” for valuable access to deeper marketing insights.