In today’s digital world, engineers have more ways than ever to source their news and information. But when it comes to sharing content, data, insight, or promoting a brand, what is the most effective way to do this? This is an important question for engineering consultants, especially freelancers who need to maintain a project stream to keep themselves active.
In 2016, ENGINEERING.com surveyed over 1000 engineers from a number of industries, to assess how the modern engineer searches for and consumes information. This post gives some insights on where and how engineers retrieve information which may be helpful for CFD engineering consultants.
Digital publications and vendor websites came out as the number one information source, which is perhaps not surprising due to their overall convenience. 40% of respondents said they get their information from social media, a figure that looks likely to rise in future as the millennial workface grows further.
While a company’s website is still essentially the ‘shop window’, social media channels (Linkedin, Twitter, Quora, Reddit) provide a useful way of placing content in front of a captive, targeted audience. As advertising tools evolve and become more targeted, businesses tend to favor these channels to maximize content reach and applicability.
Linkedin has 3 advertising modules that allow you to share your content with your exact target demographic. Facebook also has a module that is even more targetted, however in our experience this channel is hit or miss when it comes to attracting the right prospects. Twitter is powerful if you're personalizing your messages. Their automation tools can help attract a lot of followers, but again it is often the wrong audience. The key is to achieve a healthy balance of personalization or automated process to keep your customer acquisition & marketing costs down.
The report also raises the importance of having a social media presence for consultants themselves. In many cases, social media is used as an ‘information gathering’ platform in the early buying process. Prospective customers are now very informed by the time they establish contact with service providers. The brand needs to be consistently represented across channels.
The desk-based influence
96% of people reported that they read content on computers, possibly due to a large part of their working day involving a desktop or laptop machine.
Interestingly, 53% also report reading engineering content on their smartphones, so those companies without a mobile friendly website, are potentially missing out on half their audience. It’s vital to consider responsive web design and responsive emails, and of course, mobile-friendly platforms are much more useful when it comes to SEO.
In addition, 70% of the youngest engineers, and even those up to the age of 35, are using smartphones to access engineering content, even out of office hours. Half of engineers in their 50s are also using smartphones in some ways to gather information, so having mobile friendly content, whether a website or blog, is essential, and it is likely to become even more important as the digital world gains further traction.
We love information
As engineers, we’re always seeking out new information and data, whether to help us with our day-to-day work, or just for our curiosity. Almost three quarters of respondents said they seek out engineering information or data at least once a week, and in many cases, even more frequently. It is difficult to expose your messaging & articles with all audiences, therefore it is best to repost content somewhat frequently and in different timezones if you're selling in different continents. Linkedin does a great job of exposing content and can recirculate posts many times over.
This is of course where content marketing plays a huge part. For those CFD consultants looking to market to engineers, they have to consider multiple personas and needs, and develop content to suit each one individually. So for example, here at Envenio, our product appeals to multiple sectors, so our blog has to reflect this.
The Impatient Engineer
It seems we’re quite an impatient bunch, but perhaps that is more reflective of the wider world. 68% of respondents said they prefer to acquire their engineering information via a search engine, with 59% saying they will search it out via a digital publication, and 57% through emails they have received.
In fact, engineers only spend some 8 hours or less per week consuming work content, so it’s vital that content must be easy to find.
Many companies, including us here at Envenio, amplify our content via email marketing, delivering information direct to our subscriber’s email inbox. Tools like Hubspot CRM can be useful for scheduling and sharing content across multiple channels and reducing the time you're spending on distribution.
The report shows that 97% of engineers will consider an email in their inbox, so this is a particularly strong way of conveying content. However, 83% of engineers use a spam filter, so it’s important that emails are optimized and relevant to the intended audience.
When it comes to improving the quality of emails, the report recommends spending three times longer writing your subject line than you do the email body. First impressions count.
Engineers trust sponsored content
The majority of those surveyed said they trust sponsored content as much as they do any other. While engineers are often sceptical when it comes to marketing, 58% said they trust sponsored content as editorial, while 35% read with scepticism, and 7% choose not to read the content at all. Investing time in joint publications or joint projects can help establish credibility in the market.
For anyone producing sponsored content, it is essential to focus on the subject matter, and ensure content is heavily weighted toward the intended audience. Engineers in the report were less likely to interact with promotional or sales-oriented content. The key is to add value first, then develop a relationship later.
Engineers are a self-serve group
The majority of those interviewed said that at least 60% of their buying process happens online, and over 80% want to search online before talking to a member of the sales team.
Only 20% of engineers want to be contacted at the start of the buying process, while 55% wanted to be contacted once they have narrowed down their options.
For this reason, online platforms must have content that is appealing and informative, and companies must ensure they are visible online through good-practice SEO.
Market pressures – the greatest challenge
While there was a great deal of parity between the types of challenges facing engineers, market pressures were named as the highest concern. Staffing/training also scored fairly high with 17%.
This is an important result for companies, as understanding the challenges and concerns of the industry, will make achieving a solution easier and more relevant to the engineer.
Concerns of Automotive Engineers
Automotive engineers were most concerned about competition from electric vehicles. Interestingly, the survey also found that the engineers worried about autonomous vehicles were generally older individuals (21%), while those concerned about the companies handling and management of this threat were younger (20%). This is reflective of the company structure, with many older members currently in management, and younger members working their way up through the ranks.
Concerns of Aerospace Engineers
In general, cost pressures are at the forefront of aerospace engineers’ concerns (22%), while 21% of engineers in this field are concerned about technology. The key issue here, is that engineers are trying to push forward with technology while working to acknowledge and stay within restricted budgets. We have a full article on the challenges within the aerospace sector here.
Concerns of the Construction Engineers
It seems there’s a shortage of recent graduates in the construction sector, and many companies are concerned about losing internal knowledge and expertise as older members of the company retire. 29% of respondents reported they were concerned about staffing and training, while technology and marketing pressures were also highlighted (22% and 22% respectively). This could be an opportunity for CFD engineers to supplement the missing talent gap.
Concerns of Electronics/Consumer Products Engineers
When it comes to electronics/consumer products, keeping up with advances in technology was named as the key concern, with 25% of respondents highlighting this issue. 18% also reported concerns about new product formation, while just 13% reported an issue with staffing and training. An opportunity for CFD engineers would be providing the training & education piece on top of simulation services.
Concerns of Machine Tools and Equipment Engineers
Engineers working in the machine tools/equipment sector said that innovating new products was their biggest concern (28%), while market pressures were also a factor (24%). CFD consultants can help these companies iterate faster on products and keep pace with their competition.
The survey raised a number of interesting points from the way engineers gather their content, to their preferences when it comes to making purchasing decisions.
While some content, such as the use of digital publications over print, may seem obvious, a number of findings are less so.
Over 50% of engineers now access content from their mobile device, and with millennial engineer numbers rising, this has to be a key consideration for any engineering consultant or company looking to share information or make content more accessible.
When it comes to acquiring content, the majority of engineers prefer to use search engines to find their information, but still use digital publications. In addition, email marketing content was found to be the most successful method, as long as the subject matter was informative and targeted.
Sponsored content is trusted more in the engineering sector than many other industries, and when it comes to making purchasing decisions, engineers only want to speak to sales and marketing individuals when they reach the midway stage in their buying journey.
The results of the survey, and the concerns raised on an industry-by-industry basis, are an empowering and interesting insight, and provide vital intelligence to anyone seeking or sharing content in this field.
Read the full report and survey here.