Content Marketing for Engineers

by Achinta Mitra on April 23, 2012

in Content Marketing, Inbound Marketing

I’ll go out on a limb and state that content marketing for engineers is different. Yes, I do get it that the lines between work and personal lives have blurred thanks to today’s hyper-connected world where everybody is always “On.” And I agree that at the end of the day, marketing to engineers is still all about communicating with people. Call it P2P (People-to-People) marketing if you will.

However, to engage with engineers and address their needs (WIIFM), your marketing content needs to have a different flavor of storytelling. It is not just about facts and figures, engineers want content marketing to talk about challenges and issues that they face in their work life on a daily basis. Adding a human element into the content makes it even more compelling to your engineering audience.

Emerson’s It’s Never Been Done Before microsite is a good example of powerful storytelling aimed at an engineering and technical audience. These stories are not just about technical and environmental challenges overcome but also about how their solutions were for the greater benefit of everyone. Going from “It’s Never Been Done Before” to “Consider it Solved” is a powerful statement to make, one that resonates well with engineers who love a challenge.

I realize not every engineering company has the deep pockets of an Emerson. The scope of your content marketing will have to scale proportionally to your budget. However, you can gain some key insights into the art of storytelling to engage with engineers by visiting their microsite.

Studies have shown and my own experience confirms it that engineers prefer recommendations from their peers to reading something on a social network. I know it is a challenge (sometimes daunting) for marketers to get engineers to contribute content on a regular basis. Therefore, it has to be a collaborative effort between marketing and engineering departments to produce peer-to-peer content while at the same time meeting the lead generation objectives of the engineering company. Read my post, “How to Coax Content Out of Engineers” for more on this.

I’ll give you two examples where engineers are the star contributors but managed behind the scenes by two dynamic industrial marketers.

  1. Emerson Process Experts run by Jim Cahill (@JimCahill), the Chief Blogger, Surface Dweller, and Head of Social Media for Emerson Process Management. I know it’s Emerson again ;-)
  2. From One Engineer to Another® blogs from Indium Corporation. Rick Short (@RickShort21), the Director of Marketing Communications at Indium Corp. is the driving force behind this effort where 14 in-house engineers write 73 different blogs.

GlobalSpec in their report, Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector, states that engineers and industrial professionals “… are still largely passive users of social media, preferring to read and watch content, versus creating and sharing content.” This trend is consistent and was reported in 2010, 2011 and in 2012.

The same engineering audience can become very passionate and active if the topic of discussion is relevant to them. If you are on LinkedIn, head over to either the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) or the SME (Society of Manufacturing Engineers) groups and do a search for skills shortage. Both groups are chock-full of discussions and comments on this topic.

Content marketing for engineers doesn’t have to be dull and boring. Here is a brilliant example of humanizing an industrial product with a healthy dose of humor. Watch “It’s a Tight, Tight World!” video from Fluke Corp., a global leader in the manufacture, distribution and service of electronic test tools, biomedical equipment and networking solutions.

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Who can forget the wildly popular “Thank an Engineer” series of videos from Texas Instruments (TI)?

To wrap it up, while marketing to engineers is different, the same principles of good content marketing still apply. First and foremost, it is not about you, your content must be all about solving their problems. Sounds easy but not everybody can pull it off successfully.

What is your opinion about using content marketing to engage with engineers?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim Cahill April 23, 2012 at 9:15 am

Achinta, Thanks for the mention in your post! I try to lift the visibility of the many subject matter experts we have around Emerson Process Management from the blog. The goal is to unbury this wisdom that is too often trapped in their email inboxes/sent items folders and make it findable by process automation engineers looking for solutions to the issues in front of them.

Take it easy, Jim

Reply

Achinta Mitra April 23, 2012 at 10:32 am

@Jim,

You are very welcome. Thanks for your comments about how you dig up hidden content gems from subject matter experts.

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Michael Selissen April 23, 2012 at 9:57 am

Achinta,

Thanks for reminding use that content isn’t just for executive-type decision makers.

Here are a few more examples of blogs that speak to technical audiences.

On the high end are:
EMC’s blogs, which span a variety of subject areas: http://www.emc.com/social-emc/index.htm

Palomar Technologies (formerly Hughes Aircraft): http://www.palomartechnologies.com/blog/

On the smaller scale is MDI, a manufacturer of injection-molded foam products: http://www.mdiproducts.com/foamenting-ideas-blog/

Reply

Achinta Mitra April 23, 2012 at 10:33 am

@Michael,

Thanks for the additional examples.

Reply

Jessica September 25, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Michael,
thanks for the mention of the Palomar Technologies Blog! We appreciate the support. It’s a fun challenge to connect with our growing online community through weekly posts.

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John Hayes April 24, 2012 at 10:40 am

Hi Achinta,
I agree. It’s not easy writing a steady stream of great content for engineers. We do it daily, and sometimes we fail. Bil Nye is a wonderful engineer story-teller and he passed along these 3 points:
1. Show before you tell. ie – what happens if you don’t use the product? Does the bridge fall down? Or the deadline get missed? The “Thank an engineer” series does that really well.
2. Keep it short. Marketers love to wrap a lot of story around the key content, but when in doubt, cut the fat.
3. Make it funny. This isn’t always possible or appropriate, but engineers appreciate the extra effort that it takes to make them smile.

To those 3 I would add “Use video wherever possible”. It’s a better medium for showing and for humor.

Cheers,
John

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Achinta Mitra April 24, 2012 at 11:29 am

@John,

Thanks a lot for adding Bill Nye, “the Science Guy’s” points. I remember seeing some of his videos and visiting his site. He is good.

I agree with your point about videos. It is a powerful medium for content marketing and is better at “show and tell.” The Fluke video here as well as some of your own Product Design Show videos are proof of that.

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Randy Amborn May 31, 2012 at 10:13 am

Engineers crave facts, but they also need to be entertained to hold their interest, especially on the web. The timelapse treatment of this YouTtube video of manufacturing a HVAC unit provides the “spoonfull of sugar” to deliver messages on corporate and product capabilities. Viewership exceed our expectations.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZkpM-_c1KI

Reply

Achinta Mitra June 1, 2012 at 9:35 am

Randy,

Thanks for the link to YouTube video. Nicely done!

Reply

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