As industry copes with information overload, organizations report “much more of our story to share” but marketing, messaging is under-resourced

December 31, 2018 |

71% of industry executives believe that for their organizations, there is much more of their story to get out than they are successful in doing so far, but struggle to allocate resources to building and maintaining attention though 80% believe that establishing and hitting awareness goals is important to their company’s success. One of the problems? Industry executives report significant interruption and information overload, with the average industry respondent reporting having only 10 minutes between differing calls on their attention during an average working week.

Those are the headlines from the Digest’s 2018 Pathways to Success industry survey, which looks at how companies in the bioeconomy set and achieve their awareness, visibility and credibility goals and the tools they use to meet those goals.

Visibility & validation

The survey asked, “how would you rate your organization in terms of industry awareness?” – aiming at understanding how organizations rate themselves in terms of establishing basic awareness of their products, services and brands.

71 percent reported that there’s “much more of our story to share,”, while 36 percent reported that “the industry’s heard something but not much about us” and 18% said that “we’re new here, people don’t know much at all about us”.

The role of awareness in meeting organizational goals

Despite the low self-ratings on awareness, respondents felt that awareness building is important to meeting their organizational goals. The survey asked, “How would you rate your organization in establishing awareness goals and driving forward to achieve them?”, and 79 percent of respondents believed that setting and meeting awareness goals were important to their success, 49 percent rated them “key” to achieving optimal results, and 20 percent rated it mission-critical.

Investors, customers, R&D partners are key awareness stakeholders

The survey asked, “In driving towards your future milestones and goals, which communities are of the most importance for you to reach over the next 18 months?” and almost across the board, customers, investors and R&D partners rose to the top, outstripping groups such as policymakers, supply-chain partners, distribution partners and potential key employees. Instead, organizations focused on relationships such as investment and R&D partnership that helped them to build technologies and relationships with customers that help monetize the technology built.

29 percent said that customers were “mission-critical”, with 27 percent rating investors that way and 14% rating R&D partners thus. Important now? 62% said customers were important or mission critical, while 57 percent said this os R&D partners and 54% responded this way for investors. No other category of stakeholders was rated as important or mission critical by more than 50 percent of respondents.

The challenge? Information overload and breaking through the clutter and noise

In the survey, respondents were asked, “How many calls are there on your attention?” with interruption examples including email, phone calls, texts, alerts, reports, meetings and in-persona interruptions, among others. Respondents reported an overwhelming amount of digital and in-person interruptions — the kind that makes it difficult to maintain attention on any given subject, opportunity or challenge.

The average respondent reported 236 calls on their attention in an average working week, or one every 10.2 minutes across an average 40-hour week. 57% of these are emails, 12% texts, 7% calls, 6% social media alerts, 5% verbal interruptions, 4% presentations or reports, 9% all other.

Call me or check out my website

Information overload was evident in the way that respondents suggested directing queries about their own organization. The survey asked, “What are the best ways for your present and future stakeholders to find out more about you and your organization?”

62 percent responded “direct contact” but 61 percent also suggested “our website”, while 32 percent directed potential partners and customers to “conference presentations and exhibits:, 22 percent to the tweets, posts and shares of social media and 8 percent to gather information via 3rd party websites.

Not using skilled players

It’s a surprising result for an industry based in technology where precise skills are celled for, that only 50 percent of organizations report having a specialist or team of specialists in charge of attention building and awareness management.

The survey asked “Do you have people that work on building awareness of your organization’s products & services?” and 18 percent responded that they have no one at all working on awareness and attention. 30 percent report that they use outside partners to manage attention and awareness, 41 percent say it is assigned to non-specialists outside of sales, marketing or public relations. respondents could choose more than one option, and results add up to more than 100 percent.

We’re using email, too

No wonder industry respondents report being snowed under with email interruptions — it’s their own favorite tool for reaching out to their own critical stakeholders. The survey asked “In your awareness building efforts, which tools has your organization used in the past or uses at present.” 67 percent reported that they are using email to reach established contacts with good results, and 58% are successfully using it to reach new contacts.

Conferences are popular awareness-building tools, as well. 64 percent that they are successfully using conference attendance to reach stakeholders, while, 50 percent report using conference speaking and 40 percent are successfully using conference sponsorship.

Other tools are less popular but a wide rage are being employed at least by a section of the industry. 50 percent of respondents say they are using press releases with success, while 45 percent are having some success with social media, 33% are getting good results via industry media partnerships, 27% are using webinars, and 23% are using video.

On the negative side, 19 percent report mediocre results with conference sponsorship and 18 percent say this of social media, while email, industry media partnerships, webinars, video and press releases all check in between 10 and 16 percent  in terms of organizations that have discontinued using them because of poor results. Only 9 percent report conference speaking and 8 percent with conference attending have reported similar negative results.

The Digest’s Take

Information overload is a serious problem. Attention spans can be measured in increments of 10 minutes placing pressure on some types of communication. At the same time, retention of messages is bound to be low with 236 interruptions per average industry respondent, per week. Yet, companies rate awareness as important to their objectives, and report numerous individual stakeholders groups such as investors, customers and R&D partners to reach regularly and effectively — a “one size fits all” approach will not work. Nor will reliance on old-fashioned methods such as in-person meetings, printed brochures and the like — these chew up large amounts of time and are generally focused on presenting one solution rather than a range of options — one reason why conference may be proving so popular.

No doubt, human contact is thought to be critical — support for the value of direct contact and conference encounters remains high, But clearly, the industry needs to have multiple tools in the kit and to use them repeatedly to maintain awareness levels.

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