John Schirmer serves as VP-worldwide sales at SupplyFrame Inc., a provider of online sales and marketing channels serving the electronics industry. BtoB recently spoke with him about best practices for reaching electronics engineers. BtoB: How have digital channels affected the way marketers reach out to this vertical? John Schirmer: The engineering audience—these are the guys who invented the Internet. These engineers were online and using content online before marketers were ready to recognize or accept it. Over the last several years, engineers are engaging online not only in the early stages (of a purchase) to see what is out there but also to do all of their research, comparison and simulation. When you're an engineer trying to make mission-critical decisions on a design for an airplane or a laptop, you have to have so much documentation. Companies are creating tons of content. Datasheets have always been one of the first things any engineer looks for. But now (marketers) are creating videos. They are creating reference designs and chat rooms around the technologies. They are creating new content to engage users. There is so much content that the semiconductor suppliers and distributors are essentially becoming media companies. They have some of the best content. Engineers can go to a distributor's site, or a supplier's site or a third-party site and find almost all of the information to make the decisions that they need to make without even talking to a live body. BtoB: So getting engineers to visit a site becomes vital. What kinds of activities work best? Schirmer: Marketers have got to be doing SEO and SEM. They have got to be looking at digital platforms that are getting messages out, whether it's in scale or whether it's niche. The goal is to get users to come to a landing page with technical documentation and development tools. That's why marketers are gravitating to digital and spending money on SEM. They can go after keywords and get users to that landing page, and then show (the number of) unique users and content views. It's online accountability. —C.W.