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How Marketers Can Reach Automotive Engineers

We recently surveyed 1,187 engineers about their information consumption habits. We’ll have the full research report out in the next week or so. Starting today, and extending through the next few weeks, we’ll investigate specific segments of engineers to surface unique insights into those populations.  Our goal is to inform your tactical decisions as marketers when you seek to target a specific engineering niche. 

We’ll be starting with the automotive industry. The survey had a healthy turnout with almost 100 respondents in the automotive industry. They demonstrated that they are not like other engineers in many important ways. For example, the following chart shows you the answer to the question “At what stage of your investigations into a new product or service do you prefer to engage with a vendor representative as opposed to conducting independent research?”

Blog 20171109 Sales Funnel Contact Preferences.png

Most Engineers in other industries want to wait until later in their buying process to be contacted by a sales rep from your company, whereas automotive engineers prefer to be contacted earlier. If you are building a campaign that targets automotive engineers, you need to give them the option to be contacted by sales sooner than when you are targeting other engineers. 

I have some theories on why this may be true, but no facts. All I can tell you for sure is that the difference between automotive engineers and other engineers was statistically significant – meaning the difference we are seeing is real, and automotive engineers are unique.   

We also found that automotive engineers:

  • Spend more time each week consuming engineering content than other engineers
  • Consume a lot of short written articles and video
  • Say that new product designs represent the biggest challenges in their industry

In this blog post we’ll share the research about the information consumption habits of automotive engineers, along with a number of charts to help us all make sense of the data.

How much time do automotive engineers spend consuming engineering content?

As you can see in the chart below, the average automotive engineer spends 8.8 hours per week consuming engineering content. That’s more than a full work day per week. It is also roughly ten percent higher than the average engineer in other industries.

Blog 20171109 Time Spent Consuming Content by Automotive Engineers.jpg

Note that these engineers spend most of their time in digital channels, whether on their computers, using a smartphone or a tablet. Only 15% of their time was spent reading print publications. That’s an important data point for marketers.  Also note that the average automotive engineer spends 2 hours per week on their smartphones. That’s a lot of time looking at a small screen, so marketers need to offer content that is easy to access with a mobile device. In addition to having a responsive web site, you will need to tailor your gated content for the mobile experience. For example, the forms need to be easy to fill out with fingers and thumbs.

What sources of content do automotive engineers rely on?

We asked automotive engineers how they sourced the content they read.  The chart below shows the percentage of all respondents who gathered information from various sources in the month prior to the survey. For example, starting on the far left, 28% indicated that they had attended a conference or trade show in the last month, 44% said that they read a printed newspaper or magazine, and 60% said that they read a digital publication.

 Blog 20171109 Automotive Engineers Sources of Content.jpg

Before you ask, yes we understand that there is survey bias here. is a digital publication, so it stands to reason that when we run a survey, there will be a lot of respondents who say they go to digital publications. But even allowing for that, look at how strong the results are that show the significant power of digital media to reach the automotive audience. Fully 60% of respondents said they used digital publications in the last month. When you combine that result with news aggregators (36%) and social media (41%), which is how digital publications distribute their stories, it’s a safe bet that virtually all engineers get most of their information from digital publications.

What topics do they care about/ challenges do they face?

If we can target a campaign to the pain points of our prospects, we are more likely to get engagement. When we asked automotive engineers about the challenges in their industry, they frequently raised concerns about new product design and technology. This is no surprise given the upheaval in that industry around the electronification of drive trains, the advent of autonomous driving and the notion of car ownership disappearing in favour of ride-hailing apps.

Blog 20171109 Automotive Engineers Challenges.jpg

If you can use your upcoming campaigns and content to show automotive engineers how your product will help them address these topics, you are more likely to get engagement.

What formats of content do automotive engineers prefer?

We asked automotive engineers how often they would consume information across a number of formats, from short written articles to webinars and eBooks. They had a choice of responses ranging from never, monthly, weekly, several times per week, or daily.

Blog 20171109 Automotive Engineers Content Consumption by Type.jpg

This chart orders their responses from left to right based on the type of format they would prefer to consume most often.  At the far right is short written articles, which with 74% saying they would consume these weekly is by far the most popular format. That makes sense as this is often the easiest format to consume, particularly when you consider how much of their consumption now occurs on smart phones. 

That doesn’t mean that the other formats are less valuable, but rather that they are consumed less frequently. So as marketers, we’ll still keep cranking out videos and case studies, infographics and white papers, but we shouldn’t expect those to get as many views as the short articles or blog posts that we write.

When you consider that many of these forms of content, such as white papers, ebooks and webinars are typically gated behind registration, the numbers for these harder to access resources looks a lot better. If 48% of automotive engineers are willing to consume white papers on a weekly basis, I’d argue that it is one of the best ways to reach them.  Since they have already “paid” by providing their information to download the resource, I expect they would invest the time to read what they’ve downloaded.

In summary, Automotive engineers

  • Prefer digital content over print
  • Spend more time consuming engineering content than engineers in other industries
  • Prefer to be contacted by a vendor representative earlier in their buying process
  • Read short articles and watch videos, but also have a strong preference for white papers and case studies
  • Are concerned about the pace of technological change and how that is impacting their new product designs

If you would like to talk about how to reach automotive engineers in your next campaign, please reach out to us. And if like most engineers, you want to gather more information before speaking to a vendor rep, by all means download a media guide!

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Research Report: How Engineers Find Information
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