Engineers - why your company should start a Technical Blog

Monday 23 July 2012
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Engineers, manufacturers and technicians are typically a no-nonsense bunch. They make their livings through the application of science, not spin, and they tend to be deeply skeptical, often with good reason, of marketing fads and PR fluff.
It should therefore come as no surprise that in a recent GlobalSpec survey of Industrial Marketing Trends (link below), only 23% of engineering and industrial companies surveyed maintained Blogs, compared with just under 50% of companies in all B2B markets. The same survey reported that Trade Shows were destined to be the most popular form of marketing for industrial companies in 2012 (67% of companies) closely followed by ‘E-Marketing using in-house lists’ (65%). Out of 22 options, ‘Public Relations’ came in at no. 8 (38%) and ‘Internet Banner Advertising’ at no. 12 (34%). Blogging languished at no. 13.
Blogging – an Engineers Perspective
I thought I had an inkling of why Blogs were relatively unpopular amongst the engineering fraternity, but just to be sure I decided to conduct my own, 100% unscientific, survey. The feedback from the handful of engineering managers I spoke to was pretty much as I would have expected. Blogs, they told me, are usually self-indulgent and not really a serious, focused approach to marketing. Generally, they were viewed as the latest Marketing bandwagon - a fad that would probably pass as quickly as it had come along.
Popular approaches to Industrial Marketing
So I decided to look into the Marketing and PR activities that industrial companies were pursuing. As I’ve already mentioned, Trade Shows come in at Number 1. Fair enough, maybe. If well planned, they can be an efficient means of direct communication with a dispersed client base – significantly less costly than travelling to meet all those customers individually. But Industrial Marketers (in the same survey) tell us that their two biggest challenges are ‘Generating leads for sales’ and ‘Measuring the ROI of my efforts’. Trade Shows are inherently high-cost, and the generation of completely new leads is inevitably a hit and miss affair, determined by who turns up on the day. As with most activities, ROI measures can be created, but Trade Shows hardly provide us with a model of accurate measurability.
'PR' is popular too...
After that, a couple of hours poring over industrial company websites soon confirmed that ‘PR’ remains a trusted approach to communications. See all those ‘News’ pages filled with pdf Press Releases announcing the company’s 25th anniversary, a visit from a Member of Parliament, Geoff getting his gold watch for forty years’ service. Generally, these are produced by specialist PR companies (i.e. they cost money) and, in their defence, most of these PR companies have embraced new Social Media - now, you can learn about Geoff getting his gold watch on Twitter! We’ll touch on the question of whether that represents good ROI later.
So what is effective Industrial Marketing?
To answer this question, it’s perhaps best to start by considering how industrial buyers now go about their buying activities. Not all that long ago, the Sales Representative was in a position of relative power and authority. He knew his product, and could present it as the solution to the buyer’s unsolved problem. That was before we had the internet. Now buyers are able to research their problems extensively and with ease, or ask colleagues to do so for them, before they even engage with your Sales Team. And we know they do – 48% of industrial professionals are now spending 6 hours or more per week online in the course of their jobs (source: GlobalSpec).  By the time they speak to you, they’ve already worked out the solution to their problem by themselves. As a result, the Sales meeting can be little more than a price negotiation, pretty much on their terms.
Back to Technical Blogging
So, the moment of purchasing decision-making has moved forward, to the moment when the buyer types the words ‘reduce widget wear’ (say) into Google. What he finds will be whatever most closely matches his Search – i.e. his specific needs. What he then chooses to read will be the most engaging content that addresses those needs most directly and authoritatively. Cue your Technical Blog. The changed nature of buying means that it’s time to forget many of the old approaches to Marketing – the flashing ads and the shouty ‘Buy Now!!!’ messages. By creating content which directly addresses your customers’ technical problem, at the precise moment when they are researching the solution, you can establish yourself as a trusted authority in your specialist field and increase significantly the likelihood of being contacted, and of making a sale.
Optimising your Technical Blog
There is, of course, no panacea. The main reason there’s so much scepticism regarding Blogs, as with other marketing approaches related to Social Media, is that so much of the content people create is simply not good enough. Prospective customers won’t find, won’t want to read, and won’t share Blog articles that are poorly targeted, badly written, uninformative, or just downright boring. To achieve results your Technical Blogging activities must be carefully planned and prepared, in terms of subjects, content, Keywords, style and so on. You’ll probably need to assemble a Blogging Team (including senior managers and technicians, definitely not just marketers), appoint an Editor (probably your Marketer) to ensure that Blog posts address identified customer needs, and produce a Publishing Plan, to ensure that the right kind of output is maintained consistently over time. And then you must keep going, because results are unlikely to happen overnight.
But when they do come, the rewards could be substantial.
As well as directly addressing your prospective customers’ needs and attracting them to you, a high quality Blog will boost your Search Engine ranking (websites with Blogs get 55% more traffic than those without (source: HubSpot)), establish you as a ‘thought leader’ in your industry, provide a Technical Resource with an unlimited Search life, provide measurable data on the effectiveness of your marketing campaign (with Website Analytics), and help you build a community of industry followers who trust you, and want to buy from you. The question is, is your company ready to take the plunge?
Data source: GlobalSpec: Trends in Industrial Marketing, 2012 - 'How Manufacturers are Marketing Today.

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