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content preferences of engineers

Content Preferences of Engineers and Industrial Buyers

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Understanding the content preferences of engineers and industrial professionals is crucial to your success with industrial content marketing. That applies to the content for industrial websites too.

Compounding the problem is the fact that engineers from all age groups do not respond the same way to your content. While everyone wants to reach the final decisionmakers, you’d be making a serious mistake if you ignore younger engineers who are taking on more responsibilities.

These younger engineers have different content preferences and prefer to interact with vendors differently than their older counterparts. Understanding this age difference among engineers is important.

Reliable research data on industrial buyers isn’t easy to come by as in the world of B2C marketing. I know of only a handful of research studies that focus exclusively on manufacturing or industrial marketing. You probably know them too if you market to engineers and technical professionals.

One such report is the 2020 Smart Marketing for Engineers published by IEEE GlobalSpec in partnership with TREW Marketing. I’ll highlight some of the key findings related to content preferences of engineers and industrial buyers.

Content preferences of engineers and industrial buyers ranked by value

Look at this chart from the report, you may be surprised to find that good old product datasheets are still the most valued content preferred by this technical audience.

content preferences of engineers

Now look at the data from the perspective of various age groups. Here’s what the research found:

  • While engineers from all age groups found datasheets valuable, engineers aged 35 and under placed the most value on them.
  • Engineers in the 36-45 age range found the most value in case studies when compared to other age groups.
  • Engineers aged 45-55 preferred white papers.

Importance of content on industrial websites

You already know that these days engineers and industrial buyers complete a large portion of their buying journey online. Nearly 75% of this audience completes more than 50% of their buying journey by using the Internet. 25% said that they complete over 70% of the buying process online.

Again, there are differences among various age groups. Younger engineers (35 and under, and 36-45) place more value on YouTube than their older counterparts.

While social media is not irrelevant, it is dead last and has been consistently lagging for the past few years.

“For younger engineers, they’re more likely to source information from their social media accounts before they ever pick up a print magazine. For their peers older than 55, the opposite is true.” (Source: How Engineers Find Information 2019,

website content for industrial marketing

Don’t obsess over page 1 ranking for SEO

This may be another surprising revelation from the research report since manufacturing content marketers are always talking about ranking on page one in Google. Yeah, it’s a good goal but don’t base your entire content marketing strategy on SEO.

  • 32% of engineers are willing to go 3 pages deep in search results
  • 17% will go as far as 5 to 10 pages and 11% will go more than 10 pages

engineers go beyond the first page of search results

Using industrial content as sales enablers

Passive reading of your content isn’t going to help you generate better quality leads that turn into sales opportunities. I’m not talking about using email marketing to nurture leads.

You need content assets that I refer to as “sales enablers.” I’m talking about using downloadable CAD files and e-catalogs. These content assets save time, improve accuracy and minimize repetitive tasks for engineers.

As a manufacturer of components or parts, this is imperative because without your part being “designed in” you may not get to the RFP/RFQ stage. I have written several posts on downloadable CAD files that you’ll find here.

What is the big difference with downloadable CAD files? These are usually gated content (Need to fill a form to gain access). Here’s what the research found:

  • 53% of engineers and industrial buyers are willing to enter their basic contact information in exchange for downloadable CAD files.
  • Engineers aged 35 and under are most likely to provide contact information in exchange for CAD drawings.
  • Engineers in the 36-45 age range are most likely to provide contact information for a webinar.
  • Engineers aged 66 and older are the least likely to fill out a form in exchange for content.

Those numbers are huge because you are generating qualified leads and not passive visitors who take no follow-up action. That’s not only me saying that. Here are some key statistics on downloadable CAD files published by ThomasNet.

  • CAD models create sales leads at a 2.5x greater rate than text-based product information
  • 89% of designers only select components from manufacturers who provide CAD models online
  • Up to 88% of businesses ultimately buy a part after downloading a CAD file
  • 94% of designers will also specify that same part for future projects

Notice that webinars are good performers too because they are good learning opportunities. As in-house resources for training become more scarce because of cutbacks and retirements, the less experienced engineers are looking more to their vendors for that valuable training.

most engineers prefer CAD files

This post and the research finding should help you better align your efforts with the content preferences of engineers and industrial buyers.

Achinta Mitra

Achinta Mitra calls himself a “marketing engineer” because he combines his engineering education and an MBA with 35+ years of practical manufacturing and industrial marketing experience. You want an expert with an insider’s knowledge and an outsider’s objectivity who can point you in the right direction immediately. That's Achinta. He is the Founder of Tiecas, Inc., a manufacturing marketing agency in Houston, Texas. Read Achinta's story here.
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