You might say that I have a soft spot, in fact a fascination and high respect for engineers. My three daughters would be rolling their eyes at me right now saying “Yea Dad. A little too much.”
Just let me explain…
I might have had all three of them playing instruments by the 5th grade because I heard somewhere that children who play instruments are better at math and science. Hey, that actually became true and they are good at math. So was I wrong?
I might have also repeatedly sent them links to engineering websites such as “Engineering Girl” or something like that. I guess I was secretly hoping that these subtle hints would slowly infiltrate their subconscious until one day they woke up and said, “I think I want to be an engineer. That’s so unexpected…”
No? It doesn’t work like that?
Well shockingly one of my daughters did become an engineer, probably because all of my tactics actually worked, but who’s keeping score? She was actually the one I least expected would enjoy math or science. Until her Sophomore year of college, she showed no signs of hope to cross over to the engineering side. I mean seriously. When asked, she said that Lunch was her favorite subject in school.
So, one day at dinner when I was visiting her in San Diego, she was telling me her frustrations with the lack of available engineering and construction information online. She was a Construction Manager in the US Navy at the time, and it seemed like she had to jump through hoops to find information relevant to her projects, materials, RFP processes, contractors, mistakes to avoid, etc.
I thought that was strange since it seems that most industries are charging towards the Inbound Marketing methodology to grow their companies online. As a result, you can find almost any information online. In fact, if your company is not publishing content, then it can affect your credibility and brand awareness.
Since engineers are usually at the forefront of innovation, technology and growth, I was baffled when I came to find out through research that almost the entire industry was pretty much left behind when it came to effective online marketing and sales.
I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother or affect me much. I would look at the websites and social media pages of leading engineering firms and let out a sigh of disappointment with what I saw.
So why am I writing this?
I’m rooting for the engineering industry. If I can make even one firm face the reality that they are so far behind in one of the most critical areas a business needs to succeed and grow, then I would be beyond proud of that firm.
Now For The Necessary Evil of Telling the Ugly Truth
Engineers are extremely smart, very analytical and have lead our country and the world through the most fascinating innovations that the mind can deliver. But why is it that engineering companies still struggle with digital marketing?!
Is it because they lack the ability to creatively think outside of the traditional RFP box? Or, are they still hanging on to the outdated, outbound marketing approach, as if the digital world has not evolved in their industry?
This year we were requested to evaluate 10 very accomplished engineering companies from a digital marketing perspective. Honestly, I was a little stunned with what I found.
As a group they appeared to be 5-7 years behind in the most effective digital marketing methodologies, such as Inbound Marketing.
To share my insight with you, here are the 7 most common inbound marketing mistakes we found in the evaluation of these 10 major engineering companies:
1. Weak or Non-Existent Value Propositions
These were all well-accomplished engineering firms to say the least. But it was difficult to find a value proposition on their website that clearly stated what made them different from their competition.
In fact, if you were motivated and stayed on their website long enough, you may eventually determine how they can help you and why you should choose them over their competition. But, within 8 seconds or less, your prospective customers want to know “What can you do for me?” and “Why should I choose you?”
I think that 8 seconds was horribly breached.
Your value proposition needs to be able to quickly and effectively communicate why website visitors should choose you. Your visitor should see your value proposition above the fold on your home page before ever having to scroll or click around.
And you need to continue to have evidence throughout the entire website that supports and gives your value proposition credibility.
To be honest, this is an area that even the most experienced marketers struggle with and often completely miss the mark when it comes to their own website. That’s because it’s sometimes difficult to articulate your own value prop when you are too close to it.
Value propositions are critically important in order to keep your target audience engaged on your website from the first moment they arrive. It is also a key factor in converting them from an anonymous visitor, just trying to do their research, into a known lead or prospect that you can follow up with.
The reasons why so many engineering companies are challenged with effectively communicating a compelling value proposition are because:
- They have never actually identified a value proposition for their company yet
- They have not clearly expressed their value proposition
- They have never tested and measured the effectiveness of their value proposition to know if it is working
2. Weak or Non-Existent Calls-to-Action (CTAs) and Landing Pages
Lets Begin With The CTAs…
CTAs are key to motivating your website visitor into action in order to engage with your company further. CTAs were actually used by 60% of the engineering firms evaluated but they were weak. They mainly consisted of:
- “read more”
- “download our brochure”
Instead, consider starting your CTAs with much more effective and descriptive verbs, such as:
You also want to personalize your CTAs. This includes using words such as:
CTAs need to communicate value in the minds of your prospects with words they understand and relate to. And they need to describe what they will get if they click on the link. Don’t make them “submit.” Instead, allow them to “get” or “download” you guide, eBook, or whatever you are giving them.
And More Importantly, Landing Pages…
Even more concerning to me in this evaluation is that none of the engineering firms used landing pages.
The CTA is meant to get your prospective customer’s attention and motivate them to learn more by going to a landing page. The landing page is meant to describe the offer and the benefits they will receive after providing basic information collected by a form, such as the person’s name and email address. The collection of this information gives you to opportunity to market and connect with your prospect.
3. For the Love of Blogs
Only 40% of the evaluated Engineering firms published blog articles. Blog articles are one of the the most effective organic website traffic generators from search engines. The blog articles help rank your website higher in the search engines for the specific key terms your prospects are searching for.
We even found one of the engineering websites prominently promoting their blog on their home page, yet when you clicked to their blog, there were no articles in it!
If you are not going to consistently publish blog articles, don’t bother putting up an empty or outdated blog. This is more harmful to your credibility.
4. Content Was Definitely Not King
None of the engineering companies we evaluated provided educational content offers such as:
- Case Studies
- How-To Videos
According to research by Engineering.com, engineers are twice as likely to go to a digital publication or website to gather information than a print publication.
However, engineering firms tend to post pictures of a bridge, road, waterway, building, etc. on their website with only a project name associated with the picture, as if that tells you something of value. A few will describe the project in a little more detail, but they significantly lack key information about their projects that their prospects are searching for as part of their research, education and evaluation process.
Next, there were no whitepapers or case studies to educate their prospects or show their measurements of success in a way that is meaningful for their potential customers. Engineering firms do generate a lot of public relations information in the form of news and press releases, but that is still not educational content.
Even with the high volume of news and press releases generated by these firms, only 20% were optimized for search engines and effectively distributed throughout Google News and other online press release networks. That means that only 20% of the press releases they most likely worked very hard on were actually effective.
5. Websites Are Not Mobile Friendly
We found that only 60% of the engineering websites we evaluated were optimized for mobile devices using responsive design.
Responsive, or mobile-friendly websites, are a big issue for all business websites. In April, 2015 Google announced that it would take into consideration (hint, give preference) in search engine rankings to mobile-friendly websites for searches conducted from mobile devices. And the reality is that over 50% of Google’s searches are from mobile devices.
Since over 50% of all engineers use a mobile device to find and consume engineering content, the engineering firms that do not have their website optimized for mobile devices are in trouble. In fact, over 70% of millennial engineers use a mobile device to access engineering content, based on research by Engineering.com.
Rumors are now that Google will soon base all of their search engine results on mobile-friendly websites, even if searched from desktop computers.
Basically, time is running out to get your website mobile-friendly if you care about ranking well in search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.
6. Social Media Usage Dominated by Self-Promotion
Engineering firms lean towards LinkedIn as their preferred social media network. They should in our opinion, since engineering is basically a B2B industry.
However, the social media posts for the firms that we evaluated were all self-promotional and almost entirely linked to their public relations and recruitment departments.
That left very little educational content to help someone seeking and researching their services.
We also saw a divergence in how civil engineers chose to work based upon their age.
For example, 64% of millennial engineers rely on digital media for engineering information. In contrast, only 20% of the senior engineers rely on digital media, preferring more traditional trade or print publications instead.
7. Lack of Marketing and Sales Automation
Only 10% of civil engineering firms we evaluated have implemented marketing and sales automation tools and processes.
Of the firms interviewed, the common reason for not implementing any type of marketing and sales automation seemed to be “this is the way we have always done it.”
Marketing and sales automation tools and processes have proven to be critical for effective marketing across all industries, especially in our 24/7 digital ecosystem. No industry is immune from this digital life that we must be plugged into daily.
Engineering.com’s research reveals that:
- 73% of engineers are seeking information weekly to help them perform better at their job.
- Most engineers use a search engine like Google, Yahoo or Bing to acquire engineering information.
- Engineers do not want to speak to sales and marketing representatives until midway or later in their buying journey. Only 20% of engineers are open to talking to a sales person at the beginning of their evaluation process.
- 55% of engineers want to be contacted only after they have researched online and narrowed down their options.
Marketing and sales automation, with related processes, is key to marketing and selling effectively today and in the future. Engineering firms clinging to the “old-school” way of marketing and developing business will struggle to find continuous success in the new digital era.
The executives and managers of engineering firms need to evolve their marketing practices and methodologies to be more successful now in order to sustain it for the future.
It’s time for engineering companies to seriously reevaluate their marketing efforts to grow their business today.