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.

Exhibit A: (Source: Engineering Marketers 2015 Campaign Plans by engineering.com. You can watch the recorded webinar here.)

How is marketing to engineers different

My take: Engineers don’t necessarily hate marketing; they recognize marketing fluff easily and question the marketer’s credibility when they see it. That doesn’t mean your content needs to be dull and boring.

Exhibit B: (Source: Best Practices for Marketing to Engineers: Alicia (Bauer) DuBay, Global Product Group Manager – Safety at ABB Inc. and CFE Media)

What makes engineers challenging

Bullets 2 and the last one are very important in marketing to engineers. Understanding the age difference is critical to developing your digital marketing strategy (See my post, “Understanding the Age Gap is Important in Digital Marketing for Industrial Companies.”).

Linda Rigano, Executive Director of Media Relations for ThomasNet also talked about the generational gap in an article where she wrote, “When you’re communicating with customers and prospects, the dangers of inertia loom large – you may be targeting your ‘past-tense’ customers without even realizing it, relying on the same messaging and tactics you always have. There’s a new generation of buyers not only emerging, but already active at every stage of the buying cycle.” (Source: Are You Speaking to the New Generation of Industrial Buyers?).

“Slightly more than half of engineers (52 percent) said the pace of engineering is accelerating, and 57 percent said they are asked to do more with less.” (Source: 2015 Pulse of Engineering. The Changing Work Environment for Engineers Today, IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions). Instead of wasting their valuable time with information engineers can easily access online, create content assets that save them time. (See 9 Must-Have Content Assets for Successful Industrial Websites)

Why bother marketing to engineers?

It is a fact that today’s engineers are in self-serve mode for information for a large portion of the industrial buying cycle. They are not willing to talk to or engage with your sales team until they are ready. I have seen research studies that say almost 65% of the buying journey is completed before industrial buyers will talk to Sales.

That means industrial marketing must take the lead and set the table for Sales to have productive conversations and increase their win rates. The next slide from the engineering.com survey confirms this.

Exhibit C:

importance of marketing to engineers

How are industrial companies allocating budgets for marketing to engineers?

It is no surprise that content marketing is the preferred industrial marketing strategy and is thus getting a bigger share of the budget. (Source: Engineering Marketers 2015 Campaign Plans by engineering.com)

Exhibit D:

industrial companies are overwhelmingly positive about content marketing

Exhibit E:

content marketing for engineers is getting bigger share of the budget

I find that the most effective way to earn an engineer’s trust and build strong relationships is with content marketing where in-house Subject Matter Experts (Engineers and technical people) are brought to the forefront and marketing remains in the background doing the heavy lifting. (See “How Industrial Content Marketing Builds Stronger Relationships Based on Trust”)

Let me conclude with two more exhibits that drive home the point about using content to effectively market to engineers.

Exhibit F: (Source: Best Practices for Marketing to Engineers: Alicia (Bauer) DuBay, Global Product Group Manager – Safety at ABB Inc. and CFE Media)

content is king for marketing to engineers

Exhibit G: (Source: CFE Media’s “Marketing to Engineers” event in downtown Chicago, March 2014). Presentation by Rebecca Geier, CEO & Co-Founder of TREW Marketing)

engineers care about quality content

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  1. […] There is a strong disconnect between the purpose of the site redesign and the internal sales process. You or the site developer must invest the time to clearly understand how the redesigned website will not only fit the sales process but become an effective sales enabler. Marketing to engineers is different and it is difficult. (See Marketing to Engineers is a Big Challenge) […]

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