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2022 State of Marketing to Engineers Research Highlights

The 2022 State of Marketing for Engineers Research Report summarizes the survey results of more than 800 engineers and technical professionals from a variety of industries, including manufacturing, automotive, energy, electronic components, semiconductor, and aerospace/defense. 

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TREW Marketing and GlobalSpec recently released our 5th annual study of how engineers and technical buyers seek and consume information to make purchase decisions. In this episode, Christian Haight joins host Wendy Covey to walk through some of the major findings from the report, including:

  • Engineers value a company's technical expertise and responsiveness over price and company values 
  • 83 percent of engineers are willing to fill out a form in exchange for technical content
  • 73 percent of engineers listen to work-related podcasts throughout their week, a 33% YOY increase
  • Engineers prefer YouTube and LinkedIn over other social platforms




When Rebecca Guyer and I started True Marketing way back 14 years ago, we quickly realized that engineer executives were very skeptical about what we were recommending, despite our many years of experience in the industry. And we go to them with data such as B to B market trends and reports, and they would still kind of shake their heads and say, but that's not how a technical buyer behaves. And so became the inspiration to conduct annual research studies, looking specifically at the audience that we serve, which is engineers and highly technical buyers to look at their behavior and examine what they do, where they look to find information to make purchase decisions, how many pieces of information they need, what types of content they prefer, and so forth. And for the last five years, we've conducted this research with Global Spec. Today, I'm bringing on my research partner in crime. And we're going to walk through some of the major findings for this year's 2022 State of Marketing to Engineers research report. Now, if you're interested in past research, we have it all up on the True Marketing website. Also, for this year's report, you can download the full report on Truemarketing.com. You can also find the on demand webinar, which was held just last week.


And look at that as well. All right, let's do this. Welcome to Content Marketing Engineered, your source for building trust and generating demand with technical content. Here is your host, Wendy Covey. Hi, and welcome to Content Marketing Engineer. On each episode, I'll break down an industry trend challenge or best practice in reaching technical audiences. You'll meet colleagues, friends, and clients of mine who will stop by to share their stories. And I hope that you leave each episode feeling inspired and ready to take action. Before we jump in, I'd like to give a brief shout out to my agency, True Marketing. True is a full service agency located in beautiful Austin, Texas, serving highly technical company. For more information, visit Truemarketing.com. And now on with our podcast. Hey, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Content Marketing Engineered. My guest today is CJ Hayte. He's the content marketing manager from Global Spec. Welcome, CJ.


Thank you, Wendy. I'm very excited to be here. Thank you for having me.


You're welcome. We have been spending a lot of time together lately, getting our annual research report pushed out the door. So I feel like I'm talking to an old friend here.


Yes, it has been quite a sprint. I've been enjoying it.


Good. Me, too. Well, CJ, before we launch into our fifth annual research study and highlight some of the results, I thought we might start with you telling us a bit about yourself and about Global Spec.


Yeah. So Global Spec, we provide data driven marketing solutions for industrial marketers to help promote their business and their products. We have an audience of engineers and technical professionals who come to us as a trusted source of content. They come for our community, our Webinars videos and news. At Global Spec, I am the content marketing manager, as you said. So I kind of oversee all of Global Specs content marketing needs that could be from white papers to infographics and research reports such as this and blog articles.


So you're doing the same job as a lot of people listening right now? Sounds to me absolutely.


Lots of experience with them.


Right. I think we need a whole separate episode just hearing about your planning cycles and how you manage your day to day needs of all this different type of content that you get out the door. So let's put that on our calendars.


Yeah. I'm sure our listeners would love to hear that.


Well, today we're highlighting our annual State of Marketing to Engineers report. And this report helps marketers, salespeople, and executives better understand how engineers and technical buyers find and consume information to make purchase decisions. And it also helps marketers justify their spend and figure out make some informed decisions on where they allocate people time and budget. So think of that marketing mix pie. This helps you decide what is the right mixture for you reaching technical buyers and CJ, we'd had a great response this year with over 800 respondents. That was pretty exciting.


Yeah, absolutely.


Definitely had a nice end sample. And between that and the fact that we have five years of history, and in many cases, we were asking the same question year over year for the past five years. There's a lot of goodness here, a lot of trends that we can speak to. But in addition to all that, each year we try to focus on a different area. So CJ, tell us about some of the areas that we dug into that are new this year.


So as our fifth year together, we've always had kind of an underlying focus on how engineers find information. Last year, we had a lot of questions concerning Culver 19 and the impact that engineers saw from that. This year, we went a little bit more back to formula. We put in a lot of questions from last year's popular questions that we saw to keep following those trends that you were talking about. We've dived into some areas that we thought could be of high interest to industrial marketers, that is, social media, videos and podcasts, and, of course, an engineer's preference when speaking to a salesperson.


Yeah. And the fact that this survey was conducted during these uncertain, continuing code times, I think there's still some things to be derived from that, especially since 2022 is off the sort of that same tumultuous start. So anyway, that's an interesting dynamic with these reports in these set of years.


Yeah, absolutely.


Yeah. So we took the research and really categorized it in three ways. Information sources, content preferences, which includes video and podcasts, and engagement with sales. So let's just dive right in and talk about some of the findings. And if those of you listening are wanting more detail or specific demographics, all of that is covered in the research study itself and in the webinar. And at the end of this podcast will point you to those resources. But spoiler alert, you can find them on either one of our websites. So, CJ fundamental question. We always have to ask this. Where do engineers turn to find information to make a purchase decision? What sources do they turn to?


So similar to what we saw last year where engineers turned to find information after industry conferences and trade shows were canceled, about 69% of engineers this year said that they go directly to the source, meaning that they're going to the supplier or the vendor websites. They'll check online trade publications, and they'll look through publication emails and newsletters. We also found industry groups and association groups were popular for information sources as well.


I'm glad you brought that up, because we hadn't included associations in that chart in the past. So that was a new response option this year, and it was interesting to see how highly it was ranked, and I wasn't really surprised by that. I think it's a good one to keep in there. Boy.




Supplier vendor websites, though I can't emphasize enough how important your website is. So if you need to dust it off, if it's going on four years, five years, you're probably not performing too well and might be time to give it a look.


Yeah. Make sure those are updated. That's very important, especially heading into a new year.


Yeah. And Google changed their algorithm this past year and really focused on the mechanics of the website. So things like load time responsiveness. So if you're not aware of that, we have a podcast a while back that you can go look up and just run your website through one of the website graders to see where you're doing well and where it might be failing. So that would be good advice. So those are information sources. And then what about social? This is obviously a controversial topic.


Yeah. So YouTube, LinkedIn, and GitHub, where our top three platforms that engineers found valuable, with both YouTube and LinkedIn taking the majority lead. In fact, we found that only 12% of respondents considered YouTube to have little to no value. So that's quite a few people engineers who love going on to YouTube. And what was also interesting, similar to what you were just saying, this was the first year that we included GitHub, and that took third place. So it will be interesting to see where the growth is for that in the next few years as well.


Yeah. What I love about these findings are the surprise that people have about what's least favored.


Yes. So what we saw for least favored was Reddit, Instagram and Clubhouse. They were ranked lowest on our list. I think it's important to note that over half the respondents Mark, these three platforms is not applicable to them. However, we saw the same thing with GitHub, even though that took the third place spot.


Now a lot of people are spending quite a bit of resources on Twitter and Facebook. What would you say to them based on these findings?


I would say Twitter and Facebook are definitely going to be important in terms of advertising. Obviously, you're going to want to get on YouTube and LinkedIn. Those will be the two places that engineers are going to find themselves, especially during the day, during work hours, looking for work related videos. But Facebook and Twitter are also just they're such high on social media platforms that I would suggest putting some budget into advertising on there.


Okay. All right. Every year I look at this and say, wow, the Twitter just really surprises me on its lack of popularity compared to how much investment marketers make in that platform at the expense of LinkedIn. And I feel like the past year or two that's really shifted and people are spending more time on LinkedIn and then YouTube gosh, it's like its own little animals. So when we get to video, we'll look at that in more detail.


Yeah, of course.


Yeah. Okay. Another interesting thing we're seeing this year is a trend, actually a two or three year trend regarding e newsletter subscriptions.


Yeah. So I actually find this one very interesting. If we go back and compare some of our numbers from previous years, we're seeing a trend of engineers subscribing to less newsletters. So for example, in 2019, 2000 and 22,021, we saw a small but steady increase in engineers subscribing to six or more newsletters. In 2022, we saw that number drop to less than it was before 2019. And another example is engineers subscribing to three to five newsletters. That's kind of been dropping year over year. So in 2020, we saw 47% say that they were subscribing to three to five. In 2022, we're now seeing about 39%. Where we have seen a little bit of an increase, though, is in one to two newsletter subscriptions, which I did find interesting. That jumped up in 2022.


So it sounds like maybe people are getting fed up with their email boxes inboxes being overwhelmed. And we're seeing this with true marketing clients and with our own marketing. And we're calling it the covet email effect, if you will. I think that when trade shows canceled, when sales couldn't go up to visit, everyone was turning to email a little too often. And people are getting fed up. They're getting more particular about what they're allowing to come through. What are you seeing on your side at Global Spec?


Yes, we are seeing something similar. So in another research report that we do, the manufacturing content marketing research report, where we survey industrial marketers specifically, a lot of them have marked it. They found a lot of success in email marketing throughout the pandemic because that's of course, where they would mostly turn to once in person events were canceled. I would imagine that that may have caused some sort of fatigue with engineers and overcrowding their emails. And now maybe they might be drawing back on subscriptions. I don't believe that they are done with email by any means. I think engineers will keep going to email to find information, but they might be a little bit more picky in terms of what they're subscribing to.


Yeah. And you know what? That is a good reminder to marketers to be very strategic about your subject line and the types of information you're including here. Because if you're putting in fluff, you're going to be one of those that drop out of their mix. Right?


Yeah. And how often you're sending emails as well? Don't be overcrowding their emails with your own content. Make sure you're sending them what they want to see.


Yeah. Great reminder. Well, let's turn to video now. So video, as we have seen each year, is a key information source with 96% of engineers watching weekly. Basically what I get from that is you need to be doing video, period. You can't just ignore it or think, well, maybe if I could get to it, between the YouTube finding and video finding, it's pretty much a Slam dunk. Would you agree? Cj?


Yeah, absolutely. Industrial workers need to be thinking about video.


Yeah. But if video is sort of like, okay, pay attention, because now it's same finding as last year. Almost everybody's watching video. I found that the bigger news was in podcast adoption. What do you think about this?


Yeah. How exciting to talk about podcast numbers on a podcast. We started looking at this data last year for the first time, and I'm happy because compared to the numbers from last year and this year, we have seen significant change. We did briefly mention podcasts in our 2020 findings, where over half of our respondents, they stated that they found little to no value in podcasts. So it wasn't a huge surprise last year when 45% of engineers said they didn't listen to podcasts at all. And out of the 55% of people who did listen to podcasts, only 48% of them actually subscribe to any, and only 11% listen to more than an hour a week. In 2022, though, we've seen quite a few jumps in those numbers. For example, 73% of engineers state that they listen to work related podcasts, and 23% of them said that they're now listening to more than an hour. So that number more than doubled from last year, which is very exciting. And now not only are more engineers listening to podcasts, but they're also listening to podcasts for longer, and more of them are subscribing as well. In 2020, we saw that 48% of listeners didn't subscribe, and now that number has dropped down to 36%.


Here we go. The growth of podcast. So maybe people are spending less time on email and more time listening. So maybe people who are doing monthly newsletters need to think about changing things up and considering podcasts.


What a great idea.


Yeah, right. But I will say the conflicting information with this is found back on the favored channels to find information. And podcasts, it still ranks pretty low compared to email compared to websites. So you have to take all of this in and look at it because it's weird. I don't like it as much as these other things, but yet I'm willing to spend time there.


Right. It is a growing trend. So it'll be very interesting to see where podcasts sit on that list two to three years from now, if it's grown up and become more of a topic that engineers are flacking to or if it's still something that they enjoy but not something that they're constantly seeking out.


Right. Well, I'm here to tell you that hosting a podcast takes a lot of work. So for someone thinking about doing this, a nice way to dip your toe in is to be a guest on somebody else's podcast like you're doing. Cj, you had a pretty easy compared to all the things that we're going to do to produce this one episode anyway, just to hang out there to those that aren't ready to go and dive headfirst into it. Okay. Well, every year we absolutely have to include a question about gated content, and this is because engineer executives are so skeptical about this. There are quite a few marketers in the industry. Sue CJ, will engineers fill out a form in exchange for information?


Yes, they will. I'm happy to say yes. 83% of engineers stated that they would be willing to fill out a form for in exchange for technical information and content, with over 30% of respondents saying that they would also fill. I'm sorry. With over 30% of respondents saying that they'd fill out a form for white papers, CAD drawings, and webinars, which is interesting because comparing those data to last year, webinars were ranked fifth. And so now they've jumped up to third. But the percentage in terms of the scale actually hasn't changed. It's still sitting at 30%. So rather than seeing a jump in webinars, we've actually seen a decrease in depth case studies falling from 40% down to 29%.


So we know that case studies are still an important tool, an important type of content, but the finding might be. Yeah, maybe this shouldn't be behind the forum so much.


Yeah, exactly. Okay.


All right, well, let's switch gears now and talk about buyers interacting with salespeople. And this was fun. We added some new questions this year, and I really have enjoyed just reading people's responses and getting engaged on how they prefer to interact. So one of the things we asked about was exactly that how do you want to interact with salespeople? Where are you on the buyer's journey? And what does that interaction look like. So what did we discover?


We saw that 51% of engineers say that they prefer to research online, knowing that there's a salesperson available to assist them if needed, but not necessarily constantly reaching out to them, which doesn't feel like too much of a surprise, just because we have seen that trend kind of continue for several years where engineers want to do most of their research online on their own, and then they'll reach out to a sales rep when they're ready.


Yeah. I always wonder, as the baby boomers retire and we have a big population of millennials that are getting into decision making and specifying roles, if we wouldn't see a trend where, let's say, the less experienced folks want a technical salesperson to partner with them earlier in the buyer's journey. So I think it's good that we're checking in on this and looking at it by age. But you're right, it's still showing up the same way of let me do a lot of research online, serve up the technical content I need, and I'll tell you when I'm ready to talk to sales. We also asked about sales behavior that engineers find most to least annoying. How about this one? Cj?


Yeah. The three behaviors that engineers Mark is feeling the most frustrated or the most annoyed with is, like you said, a lack of technical expertise. That was the number one. The second was poor responsiveness, and the third being contacted too often. So definitely an engineer is going to want someone who is very technical and has quite a bit of knowledge, especially if the product that they're talking about will respond quickly and isn't going to reach out to the engineer too often and kind of bug them too much.


Yeah. I don't like being hounded by sales people either. So I can identify with this.


Absolutely. And speaking from experience, I know what it's like to go into a store and have done some research and talk to someone who seems to have not done nearly as much research on the own product that they're selling. So I can understand that as well.


Yeah, I think that has some implications for companies that are looking to cut corners and hire sales prospectors that are out there doing cold calling and making those first phone calls but have absolutely zero technical background, that might be hurting you more than helping. So definitely examining that and thinking about the trade offs between that and having someone with true technical expertise at the other end of the line.


Yeah, that's a great point, Wendy.


Well, finally, one more question that I'd like us to highlight. For those working on company positioning and messaging, they should listen up here. We asked what were the most influential factors in the overall decision making process, and some of the answers were kind of surprising.


So what we saw here was technical expertise being number one as well, and responsiveness and customer service being number two. So maybe not reaching out to the engineer too often, but definitely being able to respond whenever they reach out to you. And number three, what we saw was innovative technology.


Yeah. And then at the very end of the list or towards the end was values and social responsibility and awards. As an agency, we often help companies with their messaging and how they differentiate and often company values. Some companies want their values, their social responsibility to dominate their messaging. And this tells me if they do that at the cost of talking about their technical expertise, they may have a missed opportunity here and may not make it to that shorter cut. So be careful about where you sprinkle that in. We're not saying it's not important. It's just the order of importance, really. Technical expertise being the top and how you treat your customers, how you respond to them, as you mentioned.


Yeah. I think we are just so used to seeing that in other spaces where people do care about awards and if you're environmentally conscious, but engineers, they clearly care about the technicalities and the expertise that the salesperson has that they're speaking to more than those other areas.


Yeah. And you can see if you're trying to solve a complex challenge or something that's very critical that may impact someone's livelihood. You could see where that technical expertise needs to come in first over. Oh, this company also does a lot of greater good for the environment. So not that it's not important.




Well, good. This is an excellent teaser. Obviously, we're not taking the time today to dive into every finding in the report. Where can our listeners go to learn more about global spec and plug into your community and get their hands on these research findings.


Yeah. So going over to GlobalSpec comAdvertising, you'll be able to find just about all of the content that we produce. We also have a blog called Marketingmaven Globalstack.com. You'll also be able to find that on the advertising site, but you'll be able to find more content and blog posts that are all targeting for industrial marketers.


And what about if people want to connect with you personally.


CJ, with me personally, you can find me on LinkedIn by LinkedIn. Comcastenj. And you can also find global spec on LinkedIn and all of the other social media accounts.


Great. And how do you spell your last name just so people can find you?


My last name is Hate. H-A-I-G-H-T.


Here we go. Good deal. And then on True Marketing site, we have the report in our resources section and also the on demand webinar. So look for that as well. Thank you for joining today, CJ. I really appreciate you being here.


Thank you very much for having me. I had a great time.


Thanks for joining me today on content marketing engineers. For show notes, including links to resources, visit truemarketing. Compodcast. While there, you can subscribe to our blog in our newsletter and order a copy of my book content marketing engineers also I would love your review on this podcast so please when you get a chance subscribe and leave me a review on your favorite podcast subscription platform. Thanks and have a great day. Bye.