Marketing to Engineers is a Big Challenge

Many industrial companies find it challenging to market to engineers. The biggest complaint that I hear is that engineers just don’t respond to marketing like others do. These companies are at a loss and need to figure out a better way to market since their target audience is primarily engineers from various disciplines.

You’ve probably read that you should market to people and not to a business or a company. Yes that is true and of course, engineers are people too. However, marketing to engineers is different.

Here’s how I see it:

  • Even though the line between our personal and professional lives has blurred, engineers make work related decisions very differently from their personal lives. Risk aversion is the primary emotion that drives engineers to make a buying decision which is then justified with logic
  • Big ticket industrial purchases are rarely ever made by an individual engineer. There is usually a committee of stakeholders. Your marketing may never reach/touch some of these internal decision makers
  • The traditional BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timing) approach to score a lead who is an engineer may not work very well. A design, manufacturing or applications engineer may be the specifier who must “design in” the industrial component before a functional buyer can make a buy decision
  • The commonly held belief that engineers hate marketing is only semi true

Full disclosure: I’m a Mechanical Engineer and have been an industrial marketing consultant for the past 25+ years. I can understand if you think my opinions are biased and are skeptical about what I have said here. So like a good engineer, let me validate my observations with evidence from independent, third-party research findings.

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How Unqualified Leads Bog Down Sales Pipelines for Industrial Companies

I have yet to come across a manufacturer, a distributor or an engineering firm that didn’t ask for more leads. No surprise there!

The more I probe, the clearer it becomes what they really want are more requests for quotes or proposals. This is understandable since the sales pipeline needs to be full and active at all times because of the long sales cycles that’s typical for industrial companies.

However, this singular focus is causing a lot of frustrations because not enough leads generated by marketing are converting into sales opportunities. If you haven’t already heard or read about this problem, here are two stats that will make you sit up and think.

  • 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance. (Source: MarketingSherpa)
  • 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to Sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified. (Source: MarketingSherpa)

I can cite many reasons for this disconnect. Based on my experience as an industrial marketing consultant working with clients, the root of the problem is the lack of understanding and/or spending enough time to understand the differences between Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), Sales Accepted Leads (SALs) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). As a result, Sales continues to blame Marketing for generating “crappy” leads that never turn into sales.

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Industrial Marketing in the Age of the Customer

Let me give credit where credit is due, I first heard the phrase “The Age of the Customer” from Forrester Research. It has a nice ring to it and IMO, it is a true reflection of buyer behavior today.

I have also heard/read the same phenomenon referred to as the Digital Disruption. Whatever you want to call it is fine with me, but the fact is that there has been a permanent shift in how customers interact with sellers now.

This means that sellers must change and adapt to new ways of acquiring new customers and keeping the current ones. If not, a more nimble and more relevant competitor who isn’t carrying the baggage of “old ways” of marketing will win over your customers and eat into your market share quickly. That’s the fact, Jack!

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Industrial Content Marketing for Accelerating Sales Pipelines

Industrial content marketing for accelerating sales pipelinesManufacturers and industrial companies that believe in content marketing are seeing good results from their efforts. However, most of the success is at the beginning of the sales pipeline or top of the sales funnel if you prefer the funnel metaphor.

Where many of these companies are struggling are in the middle and end of the sales pipeline. In other words, deals are stuck and they can’t figure out the problem.

The typical scenario is one where all went well with the sales presentation and suddenly your sales person can’t get the lead to return his/her calls or emails. Many of these deals fail to close even after 6 to 8 months of the best efforts from the sales team.

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Sabotaging Industrial Marketing Hurts Sales

Industrial marketing must drive salesWhat is the real purpose of industrial marketing? One can come up with a list of at least half a dozen or more excellent goals. IMO, the single most important function is that it must help drive sales and grow revenues.

I agree the journey is not straightforward from point A to point to B, especially in industrial sales where the sales cycles are typically 4 to 12 months long and there are several decision makers involved, some of whom may never interact with your marketing content.

Within manufacturing and industrial companies, I am seeing some real issues where industrial marketing is hampered and as a result, there is a negative impact on sales and revenues. These problems go beyond the typical marketing cutbacks in a difficult economy.

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Industrial Marketing, Lead Generation and Sales: It’s Complicated

Industrial marketing is complicatedRemember this rom-com from 2009? Despite the critics giving it mixed reviews, it went on to gross $219.1 million worldwide. A hit movie for sure.

Sometimes I feel the same way about industrial marketing for lead generation and its relationship to sales – It’s Complicated!

Every industrial company I talk to wants more leads at a lower cost per lead. Yet, very few have a formal process in place to measure marketing’s contribution to sales and revenue.

It is easy to measure data points such as Visitors, Pageviews, Pages/Visits etc. and downloads but it is not easy to tie them back to actual sales. Measuring ROI or ROMI sounds good in theory but difficult to accurately measure in the real world. According to some marketing pundits, these may be too simplistic to understand marketing’s full impact on sales.

Here are two sobering findings from a 2013 survey done by the B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn and managed by Holger Schulze (@HolgerSchulze).

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Are Industrial Companies Wasting Their Leads?

No matter the size of the company or the industry they are in, my conversations always boil down to them wanting more leads from their industrial marketing. Yet I see very few of these companies with a lead nurturing strategy in place to convert leads into sales opportunities. As a result, online leads sit untouched or go without a response for weeks if not months.

Often I see marketing people from manufacturing and industrial companies hand off leads to sales with little to no qualifying. This only causes more frustrations and reinforces the long-standing belief by sales that “Marketing generates crappy leads.”

It is important to understand the differences between a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL), a Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) and a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). (See my post, “SAL is the Glue that Binds Sales and Marketing in Lead Generation.”)

Here are some eye-opening statistics from a study done by MarketingSherpa:

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Creating Relevant Content for Industrial Marketing is a Challenge

I am not referring to the age-old question, “What will we write about?” Creating content that an industrial and technical audience will find relevant is not easy.

An industrial marketer can only create so many application notes and case studies. Case studies are difficult to produce because well-known customers are reluctant to give their permission for fear of violating their corporate and legal guidelines. It is common in industrial content to find customers with generic names such as “A large Tier 2 OEM from the automotive industry” or “A major utility company on the US East Coast.”

Marketing consultants will advise you to address your customers’ pain points. Very good advice but I’m here to tell you that it is not always easy to do that in industrial marketing. Here’s why.

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Content Marketing Must Go Beyond Inbound Marketing in Industrial Sales

There is quite a bit of confusion among my industrial clients about the terms Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing. For many, the two are synonymous and it is just a matter of semantics. IMO, Content Marketing goes well beyond Inbound Marketing.

The classic definition of Inbound Marketing focuses on the top of the sales funnel (ToFU) and is built on the principle of being found in search engines and social media, attracting traffic and converting visitors into leads with relevant content. All worthwhile goals and takes a lot of hard work to accomplish them. However, you are likely to be very disappointed if your industrial marketing stayed focused only on ToFU.

I prefer the broader definition of Content Marketing because it addresses every phase of the buyer’s journey, both before and after the sale. I found a very fitting football analogy by Joe Pulizzi (@juntajoe) – the Founder of the Content Marketing Institute and the author of the books Managing Content Marketing and Get Content Get Customers, in a blog post Joe wrote, “If content marketing were a football field, inbound marketing would get you to the 35-yard line. Definitely critical, but hard to score from that distance.”

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Are Manufacturers Turning a Deaf Ear to Content Marketing?

Despite all the published reports about the great results that businesses are deriving from content marketing, it seems manufacturers and industrial companies are still stuck in their old ways of marketing. According to a recent commissioned study done by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Act-On Software, SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses) prefer the more personal touch of face-to-face marketing tactics for customer acquisition.

Marketing Tactics Used by SMBs

Even though the study included 208 SMB decision makers, it is very relevant to manufacturers and industrial companies because 40% of the respondents were Manufacturers from various industries.

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