Welcome to the 2024 State of Marketing to Engineers Report. This marks the seventh consecutive year GlobalSpec and TREW Marketing have partnered to better understand the buying behaviors and communication preferences of engineers and technical buyers.
Our survey contains a mix of popular topics we’ve asked about consistently to monitor trends, along with fresh questions that take a deeper dive into buying behaviors. This year’s research touches on attitudes toward artificial intelligence (AI), content preferences (and how they vary) between hardware and software purchases, and popular social media channels for work needs versus personal use.
The State of Marketing to Engineers Report is designed to:
- Help you better understand the information needs of technical buyers
- Provide critical insights to guide your marketing plans
- Educate and forge alignment with your leadership and sales organizations
Key Takeaways for Industrial Marketers
- On average, technical buyers spend 66% of the buying process online
- 41% of technical buyers turn to vendor websites for information on a regular basis, followed by 37% for online technical publications
- 63% of technical buyers use AI tools for work
- 90% of technical buyers listen to work-related podcasts, up from 73% in 2023
- Technical buyers find YouTube, LinkedIn, and GitHub to be the most valuable social media platforms for work
- 51% of technical buyers use YouTube in their personal lives
- 89% of technical buyers plan to attend at least one in-person industry event in 2024
- 98% of technical buyers subscribe to newsletters, and 81% subscribe to LinkedIn newsletters
Sixty-three percent of technical buyers regularly use AI-based tools for work. Technical buyers use AI-based tools for a variety of purposes including content creation and distribution, sales enablement, programming, and data analysis, among others.
“Technical buyers experimenting with LLMs to research a topic are increasingly frustrated by the need to validate or refute the information presented. As more search tools move to a generative search experience (looking at you, Google), it will be key to provide links to credible sources which supported the provided answer.”
Overall, the jury’s still out on AI-based tools. Most technical buyers don’t consider themselves particularly trusting or distrusting of them, but they’re somewhere in the middle. While thirty-five percent of respondents are curious about AI-based tools, they’re feelings are mixed.
“In chemical engineering, AI tools expedite simulations and assist in designing novel processes. They optimize reaction pathways and improve product development.”
-- “All in” / committed, Curious
Download the full report to hear how other respondents feel about AI-based tools.
While more research happens at the beginning stages of design and development, it continues throughout the process. Nearly twenty percent of technical buyers say they do the most research on products and services in the test and debug stage.
Consistent with years past, most technical buyers turn to supplier / vendor websites when looking for information about products and services. Trade publications, both online and print, are also popular information resources. New this year, respondents were given the option to select “Sales / Application Engineers” and “Large Language Model (ChatGPT, Bard, etc.).” Twenty-nine percent selected Sales / Applications Engineers as a resource in their most recent purchasing process.
“Trade publications are a valuable resource because they offer educational content and product information from many companies in one place. They can cut through the clutter and marketing noise to offer more unbiased information than company websites, and our editors and technical review board are industry experts so understand the technology and the best way to present it to engineers.”
-- Patrick Hindle Editor, Microwave Journal
Similar to years past, YouTube, LinkedIn, and GitHub are most helpful for technical buyers looking for work-related information. “Threads,” “WeChat,” and “Discord” were new additions to our research in 2024.
When isolating the top two social media platforms that were cited as “extremely” and “very valuable” by age, YouTube and LinkedIn hold most of the top spots. With Facebook and GitHub holding more value by the 36-45 and the 66 and older age groups.
To see how this compared to social media preferences in respondents' personal lives, download the full report.
Eighty-nine percent of technical buyers plan to attend at least one in-person industry event in 2024. Twenty three percent say they’ll be attending more than three.
“With nearly 90% of respondents planning to attend live events this year, the question is not ‘should events be part of my marketing strategy’ but ‘how can I maximize the return from my event investment’ by repackaging and amplifying the content, personality and subject matter expertise displayed in the booth through pre- and post-event brand and content marketing.”
-- David Necessary, EVP Product Development, Garder Business Media
Watch the webinar for more on which events technical buyers are most excited to attend in 2024.
Ninety-eight percent of technical buyers subscribe to at least one newsletter, while sixty-six percent subscribe to at least three newsletters.
Eighty-one percent of technical buyers say they specifically subscribe to LinkedIn newsletters. Of the subscribers, seventy-nine percent are between the ages of 26 and 45.
“Engineers are constantly looking for reliable sources of data and information, and their interest in newsletters is no exception. The strong uptick in subscriptions demonstrates an unwavering curiosity and desire to learn about new technologies and product applications.”
-- Tina Streett, Newsletters Product Manager, GlobalSpec
While datasheets presenting the facts about a product or service are important across the board, those seeking software and turnkey solutions found reviews, testimonials, and demos useful in their decision-making too. For hardware purchases, CAD drawings were among the most valued forms of content.
Download the full report to learn more about what forms of content respondents found most valuable when making significant purchases for work.
Gated content (content that requires the completion of a form) is a popular and effective way to generate web leads. Ninety-seven percent of technical buyers are willing to provide their information for technical content they find valuable (e.g., tutorials, trials).
Podcast & Video
While technical buyers have a reputation for being hands-on professionals, they represent a variety of learning styles. Thirty-three percent consider themselves visual learners, twenty-nine percent consider themselves read/write learners, and twenty-six percent consider themselves kinesthetic learners.
Ninety percent of technical buyers listen to work-related podcasts, compared to seventy-three percent in 2023. Twenty percent spend less than an hour per week listening to podcasts, while seventy percent listen for an hour or more.
For a breakout of time spent listening to work-related podcasts by age, download the full report.
“As podcast listenership continues to rise, we hear technical audiences more often demanding greater frequency of episodes rather than longer durations. 30 minutes is the sweet spot for this audience and most others, as it corresponds with the average American commute, where so many listeners are consuming their podcasts. Years ago, we’d recommend a bi-weekly release schedule for most tech shows, but with that rise in listenership, we now suggest weekly or even twice a week for the engineer audience. Buyers, at least anecdotally, tend to be less engaged with a single show than engineers are, so a bi-weekly or weekly cadence seems to be right for that subset to fit in with their often diverse playlists.”
-- Eric Singer, Executive Producer, Coupe Studios Music + Sound Design
Similar to 2021, when we last asked this question, ninety-seven percent of technical buyers watch work-related videos, but the amount of time they’re spending has increased. Seventy-eight percent spend an hour or more of their week watching work-related videos, while eighteen percent spend less than an hour.
“B2B audiences engage with video to learn about products and services -- but also to learn about the people who use them – and the people behind them. Prospects want a human connection – and video offers that. Videos, especially short form, are more prevalent everywhere these days, which helps explain why time engaging has increased; however, long videos certainly have their place. It all depends on your goals for each video.”
-- Lisa Murton Beets, Research Director, Content Marketing Institute
What is the ideal length for videos? See what respondents thought by downloading the full report.
When it comes to video content, technical buyers are most annoyed by ads, long introductions, and lack of technical depth. Video quality matters less if the content is sufficiently technical and direct.
Interacting with Sales
On average, technical buyers spend sixty-six percent of the buying process online. Seventy-seven percent spend at least half of the buying process online before choosing to speak to someone at the company.
Younger technical buyers spend more of the buying process online than their older counterparts.
For additional insights, download the full report.
Watch the Webinar
Join Wendy Covey and CJ Haight as they share important findings from the research on the content, online search, and buying preferences of engineers and technical buyers.
During the webinar you will uncover new insights about technical buyers, including:
- Attitudes towards AI technology
- Content preferences (and how they vary) between hardware and software purchases
- Where technical buyers routinely seek information
- Popular social media channels for work needs versus personal use
- Which industry events technical buyers are most excited to attend in 2024
Meet the Speakers
CEO and Co-Founder
Wendy Covey is a CEO, technical marketing leader, author of Content Marketing, Engineered, one of The Wall Street Journal’s 10 Most Innovative Entrepreneurs in America. Over the last 25 years, Wendy and her team at TREW Marketing have helped hundreds of highly technical companies build trust and fill their pipelines through inbound marketing.
Content Marketing Manager
CJ Haight is the Content Marketing Manager at GlobalSpec, where he focuses on creating and improving all customer-facing elements such as collateral, media kits, GlobalSpec’s Marketing Maven blog, social media presence, and websites. He is also a strong brand ambassador, making sure we are presenting our brand identity appropriately.
GlobalSpec is a provider of data-driven industrial marketing solutions designed to help companies promote their products and grow their businesses.
Our audience of engineers and technical professionals relies on the GlobalSpec family of brands as a trusted resource for content, community, and engagement at all stages of the research, design, and purchasing process. Our clients count on us to deliver deep industry intelligence, customized marketing programs, and measurable campaign performance.
About TREW Marketing
TREW Marketing, headquartered in Austin, Texas, is a strategy-first content marketing agency serving B2B companies that target highly technical buyers. With deep experience in the design, embedded, measurement and automation, and software industries, TREW Marketing provides branding, marketing strategy, content development, and digital marketing services to help customers efficiently and effectively achieve business goals.