This December-January, 4,226 electronics engineers took a fairly extensive online survey for CMP Media's Electronics Group. After analyzing the resulting data extensively, CMP graciously shared their 61-page confidential study results with MarketingSherpa. (Thanks.)
Although we can't reveal the full text of the study, CMP gave us permission to discuss the top five lessons we learned from the data that you might find of practical use.Lesson #1. Super-hip media doesn't thrill most engineers
You might assume that because electronics engineers are the ones who invent cool new technology, they'd love cutting-edge information vehicles such as podcasts, RSS feeds and blogs.
Not entirely so.
When asked to indicate which sources they used to gather information on electronics in the past 12 months, participants answered they used (in part):
78% printed industry publications
78% vendor/manufacturer Web sites
14% blogs and online newsgroups
5% RSS feeds
So, yeah, the guys who invented the technology that makes podcasting possible, don’t listen to them for work.
And, although we suspect in a few years RSS feeds and podcasts may crack the double digits, the data indicates just as with other business professionals, engineers will never rely on them alone.
Media mix is what matters. 55% of queried engineers strongly agreed that "I need access to a variety of info sources -- print AND Web AND face to-to-face."
So, if you're pushing all of your budget into one media (such as search marketing), you're missing from places engineers are looking for you. Plus, and perhaps this is the most critical, if you like many business-to-business marketers use multiple media to collect leads, but then shift to just house email plus your own site for ongoing lead conversations, your program is certainly underperforming.
One last interesting factoid: Only 7% of surveyed electronics engineers used paid-for research consultantcies (think Gartner, etc.) for information. Lesson #2. What engineers want from your Web site and newsletters
94% of engineers visit Web sites looking for downloadable data sheets and application notes. The second-most popular activity (at 61%) is researching pricing. New product information comes in at 56% and the ability to reference designs is at 54%.
Lesson here: Nobody's looking for marketing fluff. Arrange your home page navigation and calls to action in order of importance around what engineers are looking for and you can't go wrong.
If you primarily market via distributors, don't relax and assume their Web presence is good enough. Also, as reported above, 78% of surveyed engineers went to vendor/manufacturer Web sites for information, just a piddling 41% checked out distributor Web sites.
Why? They didn't spell it out, but we suspect it's because distributor sites often have little information beyond basic brochureware such as a logo and contact information. Manufacturer sites are often loaded up with everything from tech specs to canned webcasts and white papers. And engineers are not dummies; they know it's not worth going to a distributor site to find that useful stuff.
Tip: Consider syndicating useful content to your distributors so they can fatten their sites to appeal to the engineers who do visit them. It's quite a few. Perhaps start an educational program (webinar and/or newsletter) for the webmasters who work at all of your distributors. Become their webmasters' best friend -- it will pay off.
CMP's study also examined where electronics engineers look for specific types of information:
Breaking news -- 42% prefer email newsletters, 26% went to trade publication Web sites but only 6% went to vendor Web sites.
New product info -- 27% prefer email newsletters, 26% went to vendor Web sites and 18% to trade publication Web sites.
How-to design ideas -- Only 8% preferred email newsletters, while 37% went to vendor Web sites and 15% to trade publication Web sites.
Do you notice the trend? Seems that what engineers want from your email newsletter is news, even just news briefs. They're also looking at the trade Web sites for that breaking news, so be sure to invest in PR. However, when it comes to your own Web site, they are more interested in much more in-depth evergreen content -- the how-to stuff.
Tip: When promoting opt-ins to your email newsletter, tell engineers it's for "news" information. And consider making your newsletter frequency linked to the actual news itself, not waiting 30 days to clump content into a monthly newsletter.
Then, use navigational call-outs on your newsletter template to promote evergreen tools on your site, everything from instructional content to technical specs. Lesson #3. Webinars and trade shows
Surprise, webinars have not caught on as much as one might expect with this tech-savvy audience. Just 31% said they'd used a webinar as an information source in the past 12 months.
That doesn't mean trade shows are hugely successful either, only 40% had attended a trade show or industry event. One key: At 42%, the biggest reason respondents said they would go to a conference was to "network and exchange ideas with colleagues."
And 33% of respondents noted, "Internet cannot take the place of face-to-face meetings and events."
That means if you do invest in trade shows (which we highly recommend), consider also investing in a show cocktail party or Q&A session in your booth with a guest star that attendees would consider a must-meet peer.
On the webinar front, don't despair. Of the engineers who had attended a Webinar, on average they went to 4.7 per year. So, once an engineer goes to his or her first webinar, the doorway opens for a lot more attendance.
Tip: Consider offering an ongoing linked series instead of just one-offs.
75% of these attendees used webinars to "deepen knowledge of a particular topic." 66% really liked the "convenience." Only 47% used webinars to "stay abreast of new product announcements." And, unlike trade shows, just 23% wanted peer Q&A during a webinar.
Lesson learned: Your webinars should probably be more like university courses instead of newsy or case study focused.
One last thing: Just as with other media, the coolest is the last to catch on with engineers. In this case, while most find webinars useful (once they can be persuaded to attend one) only 19% found work-related video content very useful. Lesson #4. Global differences
Webinars are hardest to pitch in China, which makes sense because these engineers may have less bandwidth access than their global peers.
On the other hand, engineers in India in particular are passionate about gathering information. They gobble up information in nearly every media more than their peers elsewhere, especially in podcasts and video. You get the feeling their hearts are beating just a bit faster than everyone else's with passion and competitiveness these days.
Japanese engineers still rely (heavily) on print and vendor Web sites and are hugely interested in attending trade shows and face-to-face events. On the other hand, they're less interested in the newest forms of new media.
North American engineers are more likely than engineers in the rest of the world to use printed manufacturer catalogs, even though they are also the most likely to use your Web site!
Lesson: For North America, you can't assume because you have a great site with heavy traffic that you can retire your print collateral. Not yet anyway.
Last but not least Europeans are the most excited about email newsletters. Definitely make a big opt-in push there to grow your house list, they are waiting to hear from you via email. Lesson #5. Generational/age differences
Engineers under 35 were more likely to do about everything you'd expect, from listening to podcasts to appreciating work-related videos. However, just as with most other professions, the younger you are, the less likely you are to spend a lot of time devouring information.
Some of this may be generational. After all, the keep-it-brief Nintendo generation are more likely to correspond by text message than memo. Some of it is also job-related; the older you are, the more likely you're being asked to figure out which technology or ideas to invest organization funds in. More is at stake, so you're seeking more information.
Engineers under age 35 are more inclined to rely on the Internet for electronics industry-related information than their older counterparts. They also need more editorial analysis than those over age 50.
Most of all though, our overwhelming takeaway at the difference between the generations was how *small* it is. Variances in answers were often only a handful of points if even that.
In the end, engineers are engineers are engineers, no matter what age they are. Useful links related to this article:
EE Times -- CMP Electronics Group's flagship publication
Beacon Technology Partners -- the market research firm that aided CMP Media with this study
Past MarketingSherpa article, 'How to Market to Engineers: 5 Must-Know Strategies Plus 2 Surprises'