To be certain, engineers are a different breed. The usual stereotypes associated with them are social awkwardness, stubbornness, and introversion. While these couldn’t be [much] further than the truth, engineers do not behave like traditional consumers. Engineers undergo an extremely rigorous academic curriculum, and their jobs demand that they pay strong attention to detail. The adage “measure twice, cut once” refers to this trait. Engineers are valuable to their organizations less for what skills they have, and more for how they think. They are humble (even insecure about what they don’t know), and are self-aware enough to realize how much they don’t know. Engineers primarily rely on their own perspectives to make decisions, but they also know that there is likely someone outside their immediate area of expertise (read: knowledgeable salesperson) that can educate them about a product.
It is this recognition that makes engineers a value asset to an organization’s purchasing process. While typically not the final decision maker, 69% of engineers provide input into the buying decision. Clearly, winning this group of influencers for a technical product purchase is critical. But how? Engineers are naturally skeptical, taught to question everything they hear and compare with their own experience and knowledge. This thinking leads to innovation and progress, so engineers love that part of their role. To that end, traditional marketing methods are unlikely to work with this consumer group. They rely on their acquired method of thinking, research, and judgment to filter out irrelevant preliminary options before calling in the expert. Engineers do not commit to buy until they are comfortable with their understanding of a product. To appeal to technical experts, marketing itself must adapt and offer what the engineer craves the most: information-packed content.
The 2017 Smart Marketing for Engineers Research Report sheds some light on engineers’ methods of learning about a product. Because they love to learn (some even developing content writing themselves), over 90% of engineers said that they are more likely to partner with a vendor that produces new and current content. They want to learn before than commit to the purchase. But what forms do engineers use to educate themselves when learning about a product with the intent to buy? The top 5 sources they use to get informed are:
From the table, it is clear that engineers prefer easy-to-access, powerful, informative technical information. Further, 3 of the top 5 content sources are digital, signaling that engineers value convenience and expedience in accessing information.
After consuming enough content to provide sufficient confidence in the final few options, an engineer is happy to engage a product expert at that point. Though confident in their ability to sift the product offerings down, they seek validation to ensure the recommendation or purchase is the best choice. The benefit, at that point, is that if they receive this validation, the sales person has gained the engineer’s unwavering brand loyalty. Backed by individual research and external validation, engineers see no sensible need to conduct the exhaustive research effort again.
By their nature, engineers are steadfastly good patients at the doctor’s office. The trust the doctor’s education, and know that if they follow the instructions given to them they will likely get the result they seek. Similarly, if engineers can learn information that makes sense, and it is presented in a direct, succinct manner, the speed at which they acquire the confidence they need to converge on a buying decision increases dramatically. Content marketers produce the exact information the engineers crave. The chart below summarizes the type of content engineers assign the most value.
The first four categories indicate that engineers are willing to spend time consuming mid- to long-form content. Further resolution around age demographics showed that videos jumped to 80% for engineers between 25 and 35.
Engineers use the power of information to educate themselves about a buying decision. Due to their pragmatic method of thinking, engineers typically influence final decision makers, so developing marketing strategies to this unique group has a clear value. Engineers want and expect informative content. The data shows that investing in long-form content has a high likelihood of return when targeted at engineers. Instead of traditional marketing methods, business owners would be smart to seek this technical audience to win the race for their initial and repeated brand loyalty.