Thank you to all who joined GlobalSpec and TREW Marketing for our 2021 State of Marketing to Engineers Research Findings Live Webinar. Over 700 marketing and engineering professionals registered to learn how to better reach technical audiences and hear how COVID had impacted how engineers seek information to make purchase decisions.
We were not able to answer all of the fantastic questions posed by attendees during our live webinar, but have since tackled them all. We thought you might be interested in reading through the full Q&A, so that you can glean information to help inform your own industrial marketing efforts.
It's hard to get the visitors to our website to engage with Chat, do you have any suggestions for how to get better engagement? We feel like they are just using us for our content and leaving.
Chat is best used as a means for website visitors to get an immediate question answered (such as where to find information, how to get in touch with sales, etc). If you've set up your website so that visitors can easily find info, you may not notice a lot of engagement in your chat, which is ok. The research data shows us that only 5% of engineers want to use chat as their first engagement with sales, signaling that they are not yet bought into this means of communication. Part of this might be due to the complexity of the need, but also a hesitation to interact with what might perceived as a salesy conversation. Consider experimenting with your chat settings and what the prompt is - striking a helpful tone may help engagement. And the silver lining is that we are seeing B2B chat growing in adoption (albeit at a faster pace than for engineers). As buyers interact with chat more and more in their B2C personal lives, you'll see the behavior spill over more in B2B. Keep blazing the trail!
Has in-person meeting preferences with engineers changed with COVID?
We didn't explore this topic in our research, but what we've experienced with our own businesses and clients' businesses this year is, no surprise, a dramatic shift to virtual meetings. In speaking to engineering leaders, it seems that the pandemic has shifted work culture enough that virtual meetings and virtual working environments will become more of the norm after the pandemic. This will vary based on job function, so consider updating your audience personas with this question in mind, and monitor as the year progresses.
Could you speak briefly on the use of virtual calls?
Virtual meetings on platforms like GoToMeeting and Zoom became a norm this year. As a remote workplace, TREW team members have conducted virtual calls for a decade, but we were surprised by how many of our clients were suddenly eager to turn on their cameras when in the past had not. This visual aspect helped to forge a closer "human" connection with meeting attendees, and we now advise others to turn those towards cameras on (and worry less about the dog in the background -- your furry pet is fodder for a perfect meeting icebreaker).
People are suffering from video meeting fatigue, how do you feel this will change over the next few months?
Long video calls tethered to a computer, starting into a camera can be exhausting. Consider breaking up lengthy meetings into shorter ones (no longer than 2 hours) and provide a brief break in the middle as well. Also, consider when video is not necessary. Old school phone calls can alleviate some video fatigue. I've had some of the most productive 1:1 calls with team members while taking a walk or sitting outside over the phone.
Do engineers have a preferred platform for webinars? (GoToWebinar, other?)
This would be a great question for the future. My suspicion is that content prevails over platform.
What type of podcast do engineers listen to?
This would be a great topic to dive into further in next year's research. What we do know is that almost half listen to at least one podcast episode per week for work-purposes.
What are the professional networks they’re joining? What is a professional community network? How can marketers take advantage of those networks?
Professional networks include professional associations with networking opportunities and role-specific discussion boards. We did not ask specifically which professional networks (though next year I think it would be excellent topic to explore!). Examples of this include StackOverflow, GitHub, IEEE Collabratec, Quora and the CSIA Industrial Automation Exchange. Some engineering publication online sites have networking communities as well. When it comes to marketing opportunities, each site is unique. Some are oriented towards engineer-to-engineer conversations, and are best leveraged by participation from a technical subject-matter-expert from your company. Others offer blog contributions, premium listings, sponsorships, and other ways to showcase your brand.
Why is YouTube not listed as a social channel?
YouTube's functionality leans more towards a search engine than a social channel, though you could make the case for both. You'll find YouTube results on page 13 of the research report, which show that 27% of respondents turned to YouTube to seek information and/or networking opportunities, where as social media as a whole came in at 17%. In our 2020 report, we did include YouTube within social options, and found it to be highly valued, coming in 2nd place to professional community networks, edging LinkedIn to third. Our conclusion is that whichever way you categorize YouTube, it is a valued channel by engineers and with the overwhelming adoption of video as valued content, an important channel for 2021.
Do social channels change based on age?
We weren't able to pull this data before the publication date of this FAQ, however we will circle back and update the post when the data is available. In the meantime, here is the social breakdown by age from the 2020 research (note that YouTube was included as a social channel in 2020 but not in 2021):
- Ages 35 and under found the most value in YouTube (46%), LinkedIn (35%) and Professional Communities (35%); they found the least value in Instagram (61%), Facebook (57%), Pinterest (54%), and Twitter (54%), and Reddit (43%)
- Ages 36-54 found the most value in LinkedIn (35%), YouTube (33%), Professional Communities (28%); they found the least value in Instagram (53%), Pinterest (53%), Facebook (44%), and Twitter (47%), and Reddit (47%)
- Ages 46-55 found the most value in YouTube (32%), Professional Communities (29%), and LinkedIn (26%); they found the least value in Pinterest (64%), Instagram (63%), Twitter (61%), Reddit (59%), and Facebook (50%)
- Ages 56-65 found the most value in Professional Communities (24%), YouTube (20%), and LinkedIn (14%); they found the least value in Reddit (71%), Instagram (70%), Pinterest (66%), Twitter (66%), and Facebook (57%)
- Ages 65+ found the most value in Professional Communities (42%), YouTube (20%), and LinkedIn (14%); they found the least value in Instagram (68%), Reddit (64%), Pinterest (66%), Twitter (66%), and Facebook (64%)
Do you see more success with organic or sponsored LinkedIn posts?
We've found the most success through a two-pronged approach: keep a consistent cadence of organic content flowing, ideally posted by company spokespeople (in their own voice) rather than only company posts. Supplement with advertising in short bursts with an engaging ad and enticing call-to-action.
Do you think there is a correlation between the engineers age and their seniority, for example, the more senior the engineer is the more likely they are to be 'reading around' their subject matter and engaging with materials as they will be seen as the local expert and conversely the younger engineers haven't needed to perform this at this stage in their career?
Great point about the correlation between age and seniority. It is interesting to consider the need for certain types of content by stage of career and role within the organization. We find younger engineers perform more long-tail specific searches and need more basic education in what is often a "specifier" role, whereas older engineers with more experience often have a broad network of colleagues to tap. This older group may seek new ideas and different angles to complement their established expertise, while others may have a tendency to fall back upon trusted solutions of the past.
Ebooks seem to be growing in popularity, did you consider those as an option in any of your survey questions or did it show up anywhere?
We included ebooks in our 2019 research, with the descriptor "longer, more in-depth than application notes/white papers" and found them to be similar in popularity to white papers and webinars. Because there seems to be a general lack of understanding between white papers versus ebooks amongst engineers, we choose to drop that option from this year's survey, but this doesn't reflect a lack of preference for ebooks. Through our own experience, we find ebooks to be very popular lead generators and highly memorable due to their graphic-heavy nature.
Do you have any recommendations on how to deal with a prospective engineering customer that says "Your product looks valuable and I am interested, but don't have the time to take a detailed look right now."? We get this continued response a lot.
Give your prospect time to get to know your company and solutions more fully, and build preference through targeted content. One way to keep the lead warm is through a nurturing email campaign. Create a 4-5 email sequence keeping each brief with one relevant content offer, and set expectations for the engineers on how long it will take to consume the content (e.g., include something at the top of the page or even right in the email saying how long it takes to read). The goal of the campaign can be to set up a meeting with a salesperson (use a calendar app to reduce friction for this step), but hold this offer until towards the end of the campaign sequence.
Since the majority of engineers spend half of their journey online before talking to someone, will they be "creeped out" or deterred from moving forward with us if we reach out to them early in the cycle (leads)?
The data suggests that reaching out too early may indeed repel your prospect. Using a marketing automation tool, look for buying signs such a repeat visits, downloads, and other engagement. These indicate a level of trust and implied receptiveness to receiving a sales email.
General Research Questions
What was the total number of respondents to this survey?
We had a total of 1,361 qualified responses.
What new findings surprised you the most in this year's research compared to prior years?
The biggest surprise was the number of respondents -- twice as many as last year! With the data itself, there were no massive YOY swings on the whole, rather incremental increases that support continuing trends: more of the buyer's journey shifting online, more adoption of video, and lack of enthusiasm over most mainstream social media channels. LinkedIn was an interesting one...while it ranks high when compared to other social channels, the percent of "not very valuable" responses jumped from 28% to 46%. This suggests fatigue (I know I'm tired of the aggressive sales bot messages!) and supports a more targeted and thoughtful approach. I am hopeful with more changes on the horizon in the LinkedIn platform, this channel will be seen as more, not less valuable, in our next research report.
Is the survey data specific to US market or global? If only US, do you think these behaviors are similar across the globe?
This survey includes respondents from around the world. In our past surveys, we have found that while small differences emerge in what types of companies engineers work at and what social media channels they prefer, the larger trends prevail.
I would be interested to see & analyze the survey data, is this made available?
We published the full report earlier this month. Here's a link.
Want to access the on-demand webinar? Click here to access the 2021 State of Marketing to Engineers Research Findings Webinar.
Are you interested in digging more into the research findings covered at this webinar? Download the full research report here.