By Rebecca Geier published August 30, 2017

How to Create Content for the Technical B2B Buyer

create-content-b2b-technical

The B2B buyer journey, particularly in the technical professional space, has transformed. At TREW Marketing, our engineer-centered research in North America and Europe has shown these trends:

  • The majority of the engineer’s buyer journey has moved online.
The majority of the #engineer’s buyer journey has moved online, says @RebeccaG. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
  • Engineers valued Google as the most valuable content resource, followed by vendor websites.
#Engineers valued @Google as the most valuable #content resource, followed by vendor websites, says @RebeccaG. Click To Tweet
  • Nearly all engineers prefer to do online research and evaluate vendors before talking to sales.
Nearly all #engineers prefer to do online research before talking to sales, says @RebeccaG. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
  • Most engineers have between three and seven interactions with a company before talking with its representative directly.
Most #engineers have between 3-7 interactions w/a company before talking directly, says @RebeccaG. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
  • Most engineers are more likely to do business with a company that regularly produces new and current content.
#Engineers are more likely to do business w/ a company that regularly produces current content, says @RebeccaG. Click To Tweet

Let’s tackle the critical factor in all five trends – content is THE deciding factor. How do you create content to engage technical experts and do it consistently? Here are five tips to keep you in your audience’s buyer journey:

1. Ensure that content is technically accurate, current, and includes detailed diagrams and images.

engineers-most-important-content-aspects

2. Have a technical expert at your company author it because technical experts trust other technical experts.

technical-experts-level-of-trust

Image source: Smart Marketing for Engineers 2015 Study

3. Craft case studies, as that’s the content type technical professionals value most.

Engineers and other technical professionals are risk-averse and want to stay with the herd. Reference the experience of others whom they perceive to be similar. They want to hear about the challenges your customers faced, and how your products and services helped them solve those challenges.

Use case studies for #technical professionals who are risk-averse & want to stay with the herd @RebeccaG Click To Tweet

TIP: To secure approval from customers to publish their story, here are a couple suggestions:

  • Ask for permission and include verbiage to use the customer’s experience for a case study when the contract is signed.
  • Invite your customer to join your event or webinar to share how they overcame challenges and succeeded. It gives them a chance to shine and you can turn the presentation into a case study.

If your customer won’t consent to a case study, publish what I call an “unbranded” case study, a short overview of the challenge and solution without mentioning the customer by name. While this is not as effective as a fully branded case study, it can be valuable if it includes sufficient credible, technical descriptions.

4. Create customer-centric content that resonates with your specific technical buyer personas.

Consider these questions as you brainstorm content themes and topics:

  • What are your prospects’ biggest pain points?
  • What tough questions do your customers consistently ask your sales engineers?
  • What are the top three to four questions most relevant to your application focus areas?
  • What are the business risks associated with the application areas you work in and what can you share about how to mitigate these?
  • What gaps in the market can you educate your prospects about?
  • What does your company do better than your competitors that your prospects need to know about?

5. Make sure your content has great headlines – good headlines are not enough.

Because engineers’ most valued content source is Google, your content must stand out from the pages and pages of search results competing for your buyer’s click. Engineers go deep into search results – 30% go through four to 10 pages of results, and more go through 10-plus pages. You will win that first click with an effective and relevant content’s title and meta description (10- to 15-word description).

Over 1/3 of #engineers go through at least 4 pages of search results in their buyer journey. @RebeccaG #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Engineers interact with e-newsletters in a similar way. The majority of those surveyed told us they scan for subject lines that intrigue them and delete the rest.

e-newsletter-interaction-engineers

Image source: Smart Marketing for Engineers 2017 Study 

Conclusion

Content planning, development, and marketing is hard work for any market. With technical audiences who are skeptical, data-driven, risk-averse, and who want to hear from experts, your job as a marketer is exponentially tougher. But if you understand the unique attributes of this audience – and respond to those nuances – your content will keep you in the game of attracting and engaging technical buyers.

Spend the day learning more about reaching technical audiences with content that sticks at the Industrial Manufacturing Lab Sept. 8 at Content Marketing World. Register today for the lab. Haven’t signed up for the main conference? Register now and use code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Rebecca Geier

Rebecca Geier is CEO and co-founder of TREW Marketing, and author of Smart Marketing for Engineers: An Inbound Marketing Guide to Reaching Technical Audiences. Named by The Wall Street Journal among the Ten Most Innovative Entrepreneurs in America, she and her team build data-driven, inbound marketing programs to drive demand for engineering and scientific clients in North America and Europe. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccag

Other posts by Rebecca Geier

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  • bobbly

    I don’t know where you got your info about case studies. But engineers, and I am one, are MUCH more into technical articles with useful how-to content. Case studies work very well when marketing to engineers. But most are perhaps a bit too superficial.

    • Rebecca Geier

      @bobbbobbly You are absolutely right – engineers do value technical articles with useful how-to content, including white papers. Interestingly, however, in our most current research that will be released in partnership with IEEE GlobalSpec next month, 81% of the 811 engineers surveyed globally said “Case study/application note” was the most valued type fo content (ie, very valuable = 38%; moderately valuable = 43%). However, just looking at the US/Canada data (n=227), while “case study/application note” was still the most valued type of content (72% rating is as very or moderately valuable), the next most valued type of content was white papers, at 67%. I hope this helps. I included a couple of images of the research data below, and all our research reports are available for free on our website, FYI.

      As a sidenote, next time we do the research, I plan to break out “case study” from “application note” to see how that changes the data. With that said, in all my 25+ years marketing to engineers, case studies have time and again proven to be one of the most valued types of content – if not THE most – and continues to be a critical component of any content marketing program targeting technical audiences. Geoffrey Moore’s book Crossing the Chasm illustrated it well – the early and late majority pragmatists are risk-averse and want to “go with the herd”, hearing from others who have gone before them vs. the vendors only.

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c1093af413e883c60d89ecd52283f4e6778facbddc16e1bd2ddd4881f8eda22f.png https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7eaa1e5577b4bdc3551ed1c77272e8b3079dded13b9161b66291cafd85ea3d00.png

      • bobbly

        Having written both application notes and case studies aimed at engineers since 1979, I can tell you that they are two entirely different things.

        • Rebecca Geier

          Thanks @bobbly:disqus For another datapoint, in our research we did in 2014 with CFE Media (in the mfg space), 74% of the 873 engineers surveyed in N. America said white papers were very/moderately valuable and 72% said case studies/application stories were. So again, all our data has white papers and case studies neck and neck in terms of their value to the prospective/engineer buyer.

          • bobbly

            In the early 1980s in NYC, there was a small PR firm that exclusively ghostwrite technical articles for industrial clients; the articles were placed in trade journals and bylined by the subject matter expert — a nice little business! There was also a pipe-smoking writer who did nothing but industrial case studies and published a widely read booklet on that topic.

  • JDoubs

    Sorry. Turned off by an article that plugs the author’s business in the second sentence.

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com Lisa Dougherty

      @jdoubs:disqus We believe transparency is important in the content we publish — and attribution is essential. In this post, the author’s company released research we thought was valuable to CMI readers, and we wanted to make sure readers knew the source of the data upfront.

      • JDoubs

        Okay, fair point. It just seemed self-serving and distracting. I may have chosen a more subtle approach but that’s my editorial preference.

        • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com Lisa Dougherty

          We welcome your thoughts, @jdoubs:disqus. Without opinions from others, it would stunt growth. Thank you for stopping by. Cheers!

  • hlillyd

    Agree there is no need to mention Trew Marketing at the beginning of the article, but it is still good information.