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Three key insights and takeaways about buying behavior in the engineering industry

By Tony Veroeven posted 09-01-2015 15:11


B2B Buyer Behavior-content marketingMany CSIA members tell me that much of their business is word-of-mouth and repeat business. Some even tell me they aren’t currently looking for new business; they have all they can handle at the moment!

Take heed. While your veteran engineers and managers have established relationships with customers who prefer to pick up the phone to trusted contact, many do research without consulting a salesperson. 

This isn’t new or groundbreaking news. This shift has been happening for years, and it’s not relegated to this “new generation,” known as Millennials. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by CFE Media on buyer behavior, it’s generally difficult to pin responsibility on Millennials, Generation X or Baby Boomers. 

Content marketing is playing “the long game.” One won’t see immediate results, business, or leads. So why do it? Why spend time and resources to post content like case studies, and data sheets on forums, social media and buyer’s guides like the CSIA’s Industrial Automation Exchange in addition to managing your website? 

Frankly, if you play the long game of content marketing, you will win. You will get noticed. Your site traffic will increase and your brand will be associated with knowledge and expertise in the industry. But, you need to create and post content in different sources other than your corporate website. 

You might be thinking, “Why on earth would I want my prospective customers on any place other than my own website?” 

In February 2015 CFE Media conducted a market research/scientific study titled “Identifying Content Needs along the Engineers’ Buyers Journey.” 

Following are three of the questions asked in the survey pertaining to the value of content. For each question, I have also stated CFE Media’s interpretation of the data collected. I added an insight and takeaway from the data, plus why it’s important to the future revenue of your business. 

1. “Q: In your opinion, how valuable are the following content sources when seeking information on the latest engineering technologies, industry trends, and products?” 

In other words, what do clients click on and read? What influences them to narrow down a field of players to three bidders? 

“Sixty percent or more of respondents cited supplier/vendor websites, trade publications, trade publication websites, and industry association websites among the most valuable content sources when seeking the latest engineering technologies, industry trends, and products” (CFE Media, 2015.) 

Note that search engines were reported as the most valuable source, followed by supplier websites, trade publications, industry association websites, and newsletters. Social media appears “valuable” by “only” 20% of respondents. Use caution in interpreting this data. Much of the aforementioned content is also shared on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. 

View the data here, Slide 9. 

Key Insight: Buyers will use several different sources online and offline, digital and in print to research and learn about automation technology. 

Key Takeaway: You must be seen in several different places to get noticed and earn their trust. 

2. “Q: How valuable are the following types of content when researching the latest engineering technologies, industry trends, and products/services?” 

According to the study, “Seven in 10 respondents value product information, white papers, trade publication articles (print and online), and case studies when researching the latest engineering technologies, industry trends, and products or services. Additionally, two-thirds of respondents also value webcasts or webinars for the same purpose” (CFE Media.) View the data here, Slide 10.  

Pay close attention to the entry on the bottom of slide 10, “Value of content types.” Again, use caution in interpreting this data. Even though blogging has a relatively low ranking (21% of respondents found value as a content type) as a valued source of information, consider that most of the aforementioned datasheets, brochures, case studies and white papers are delivered via contextual links in blog articles or social media. Automation World and CFE Media write blogs with such linked content; these could be considered trade publications, previously reported as highly valued content sources. 

Key Insight: As your clients try to solve their automation issues, they will do Google searches, ask LinkedIn Groups for referrals, and consult industry knowledge in many forms. You won’t be able to pin one source as “the one” that convinced the customer your company is the right fit. That takes time and incremental marketing touches. 

Key Takeaway: Your company must adopt a diverse approach to content marketing. While you should put content only where your customers are to avoid spreading your marketing team too thin, it should be found in several places to give credence and validity to your message. 

3. “Q: What percentage of your buy/specify evaluation process is complete when you typically contact a supplier/vendor?” 

According to Google’s Zero Moment of Truth Study, buyers will consult more than 11 sources before they make a purchasing decision. 

Did you know when researching new vendors or products for solutions in automation technology, clients build trust with your company without direct input from your staff? 

While one could argue that clients aren’t always engineers, (the focus of the study) content marketing is a ubiquitous to every industry. Statistics will vary by industry, but the importance of creating and sharing content is still relevant. For instance, in the consumer market, buyers are as much as 90% through their decision making process before contacting a vendor (Google, 2012.) 

On average, buyers are nearly 40% through their decision making process before connecting with a vendor directly (CFE Media.) View the data here, Slide 10. 

Whatever the generation, profession or industry, people use online sources to make key decisions about purchases. Assuming you want your company a part of that decision, it’s imperative that your marketing strategy includes posting content in places where your prospects will find it. And the more places they see your brand, the more they see you are not a fly-by-night organization. One of the principles of successful marketing communications is repetition. 

Key Insight: A corporate website should only be one part of the journey for a prospective client. The buying process is no longer linear, therefore a website is not the final destination. (Harvard Business Review, 2014.)  

Key Takeaway: Don't be afraid to show them around your marketing collateral hosted and linked elsewhere. Don’t be reluctant to post your marketing collateral on multiple sites. The marketing and sales funnel no longer look like this, instead the new marketing funnel looks like this. 


As mentioned previously, marketing through content is a long haul, but it does pay off. You can’t ignore how buyers make important decisions. They will look for you on Google. And if you are diligent and pervasive, you will get noticed. 

Your site traffic will increase and your brand will be associated with knowledge and expertise in the industry. You need to create and post content on different sources other than your corporate website. 

Sources Consulted and Cited: 

2015 Marketing to Engineers Research Study, CFE Media

Marketing Can No Longer Rely on the Funnel Harvard Business Review

The New Rules of Marketing and PRDavid Meerman Scott

Three Flaws with the Funnel, Forrester Research, Pardot

Trust AgentsChris Brogan and Julien Smith

Zero Moment of Truth 2012 Study Google

The New Marketing Funnel Economy Watch

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