It’s easy to think that the traditional approaches to market effectively to engineers are unlikely to work. Throw them out, try something entirely numbers-focused for these data-thirsty calculation machines! In truth, marketing to engineers is not wildly unlike other disciplines; the difference is in the focus and execution of the campaign. Engineers, in general, do not respond impulsively nor to emotion. They are results-driven and need to understand the ‘why’ behind the recommendation. If you invite them to tour the cockpit, they’ll happily let you fly the plane – provided they like what they see!
Here are the six steps to creating a content marketing plan for engineers.
1) Define the campaign mission
No journey will reach its destination without knowing the path. An essential part of any marketing campaign, especially one aimed at technical experts, is to ensure you design a path to the desired outcome. If you want them to engage a service or offer them a product, state that. Engineers need and want to understand what it is they are learning about to become engaged. If they feel deceived by marketing jargon, you’ll lose them instantly.
One technique to do this is to describe the campaign mission in one succinct sentence, like a thesis statement. Another is to explain it to a child or someone in an unrelated field and have them explain what they just heard. Contrary to engineer paradigms, they do not want to hear overly technical verbiage when learning something new. They want to know the marketer knows the topic, but excessive tech-speak will turn them (and most audiences) off. Explaining a complicated topic simply and for an audience with a robust technical background is the secret.
2) Uncover market need gaps
To engineers, knowledge is power. The more information they have before making a decision, the more likely they are to proceed – and when the engineers do get behind a solution, they are fiercely loyal. Through market research, if you can demonstrate a trend or need gap that engineers are unlikely to know, you’ll capture their attention and trust.
Engineers love to solve problems, and learning gaps in the current market space inspire them to create and to innovate. This condition is the quest: to find the edge of where the [market/research/technology] is, and push the boundary outward to a new state.
3) Identify alternate solutions
This one is a secret weapon.
As confident as they are when armed with knowledge, engineers are equally fearful when they feel uninformed. If you walk them logically down a singular path, at some point, technical authorities are likely to step back and evaluate where they are on this journey. They’ll think, “of course this is the solution to the problem; it’s the [product/service] you’re selling me.”
The first part is showing them there is a gap; the next is instilling confidence that your proposed solution is the best option. You can accomplish this by identifying alternate solution paths. If you present these options, the engineer trusts that you have helped them to vet their choices. After joining you through that due diligence, your conclusion is also likely to be theirs.
4) Benchmark competitive solutions
In the same vein as arming them with knowledge about the state of the market, engineers love to understand what other companies have done to solve similar problems. Reviewing case studies of firms with similar opportunities provides an engineer comfort in being able to predict a result of a decision.
When designing part or process, engineers frequently go through Failure Mode and Effect Analyses (FMEAs) to walk through the logical outcomes of a negative outcome of a decision feature. This approach is a worst-case scenario in which experts gather and score the severity, occurrence, and detectability of failures to ensure the team has thought through the challenges and designed them out to a feasible degree. This approach becomes ingrained in their minds, and they want to apply similar logic to a product or service selection.
Providing examples of humanized case studies improves their confidence in their ultimate decision.
5) Create and speak to audience personas
Your campaign should be aimed at various technical personas. A technical decision-maker, such as a VP or Director, may have a slightly different view than an individual contributing Principal Engineer. The executive management-level persona is budget-focused; he is committed to the ROI of the product or service. Highly sensitive to investment, the executive needs plenty of information to justify the purchase if they pull the trigger. To speak to a technical executive, use guiding questions such as:
- What is a typical payback? Does it meet the typical range of the industry?
- How have peer companies succeeded with this solution?
- How will it free up additional resources, time, or capital?
- How will it be supported? Will internal resources need to be diverted to maintain and train?
Answering these throughout the campaign inspires confidence in the decision-maker that the solution is ideal for their specific situation. For the technical expert, questions like:
- How can it improve the consistency of my output?
- Will it help me to predict or standardize a design feature?
- Will it enable innovative approaches to extend beyond the current state?
- Are my industry peers using this, and is it a useful tool to have/learn?
Either way, most engineers are highly skeptical of marketing jargon. When you speak to them, you must be direct and “sell” the features/benefits with accurate data and facts. All engineering marketing personas respond to that style of marketing.
6) Scope, execute, and quantify
Any successful engineering marketing campaign has to provide measurable results. Once you define the components of the marketing plan, you need to define success criteria or key performance indicators (KPIs). These metrics can take the form of social media likes, comments, and shares, or inquiries, visits, and appointment requests from website sessions. Document the initial state (e.g., website visits per day), and track the response from marketing efforts over time. While measuring success is a critical part of marketing to all disciplines, data is the currency of engineers. If you can demonstrate a positive outcome due to a marketing plan, they will be even more receptive to future campaigns.