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Marketing to Engineers: Be Helpful! Part II

Part II of II.

You don’t have to over-think how you market to engineers. This is the second post with useful tips on how marketers should focus less on talking “at” engineers and instead focus on being helpful.

These posts intentionally don’t cover subjects such as how to develop the right messages (which is critically important, and always the first place to start. You won’t get their attention if you’re not relevant). Nor does it cover subjects such as marketing automation which is very effective at staying in front of your potential customers – as long as you’re being helpful. They are focused on reinforcing that rather than speaking “at,” or pushing messages to engineers, the most effective marketing engages with engineers to help them throughout their specifying and implementation process.

The previous post talked about making information easy to find for engineering customers. This second post focuses on how to helpfully engage with them.

Be helpful: Speak directly to them.

Most will agree: engineers make decisions based more on logic than emotion. Every good copywriter knows how to puff up a product, but it’s best to save that for selling to consumers. When you’re talking to engineers, you’re talking about their work and the success of their company. BS gets you nowhere. As one client said to us recently, “When an engineer gets on our website, they want facts. They don’t want fluff. They want to see the nuts and bolts.”

Engineers need to understand product benefits, but they’re also looking for features and specifications. Of course, we want to show products in the best possible light – but it’s better to do that by writing what’s true and useful about the product rather than throwing around superlatives and clever turns of phrase. Engineers also rely on visual information. They want to see charts and graphs and process flows.

That said, many people are involved in the decision making process – from the project owner to the procurement specialist. All of whom will most likely visit the website at some point in their decision-making process. So it’s important to write for the entire potential audience. Strip away unnecessary complexity. And don’t rely on obscure acronyms and jargon. Conducting SEO research prior to content development helps inform copywriting, allowing you to use the language most widely searched and understood by your target customers.

There’s no reason for engineer-talk to be stiff and dull. Even engineers prefer an easy, engaging read. Everyone does!

Be helpful: Connect on a personal level.

If you ask engineers directly whether or not they use social media for business, their response is typically “no” or “not much.” But as you dive deeper, you find that engineers do engage in professional discussions on community sites. One engineer who told me “no” continued to say, “The closest thing I use to social media…well, they’re communities. Sometimes there are topics that are pretty interesting. So I’ll read through some of those threads and maybe respond to it. It’s almost like they pull me in with something that I’m interested in, and then I engage with it for a couple of days.”

That’s the very definition of social media! Online communities allow engineers to speak directly to each other – in their own language, on a personal level. And it’s a rapidly growing trend. LinkedIn is exploding with new community groups while distributors, publications and even online directories are establishing their own. These communities are growing – some slowly, some fast.

Engineers researching the best solution place high value on the advice and opinions of their peers. Encouraging your engineering, sales and customer service teams to engage with potential customers on LinkedIn and other community sites is not an easy task. It’s a time commitment. Many don’t believe in it. And many worry over what information will be posted publicly.

It’s important to address these objections. However, as social media inevitably spreads through engineering communities – as it does through every community – it will prove to be one of the most effective channels to engage with and influence customers.

From a brand standpoint, using a connection to professional sports or even humor to garner engagement can be effective. Engineers behave just like anyone else when using social channels such as Twitter and Facebook, where the personal and business worlds intersect. It may seem difficult for a brand to break from its standard corporate messaging. But if you put the emphasis on quality personalized connections, instead of solely pumping out information about your business, you can get your foot in the door – and then open it wide when the time is right to help them with their jobs.

Be helpful: Don’t make them guess what you’re selling.

This feels like a simple point, but we see it with many of our clients. Many marketers today are trying to demonstrate that they offer “solutions.” They want to prove they add value beyond the product itself with their application knowledge, experience and capabilities. There is certainly value for their customers in knowing this. But the challenge is always to show exactly how the solution functions within the client’s application and an environment. Too often, this contextualization removes important details about what the manufacturer is actually selling.

Show and explain exactly where your product fits into the customer environment. If you’re going to show photos of facilities or machines, visually indicate where your product fits and how it integrates. Simple line drawings can accomplish this. To us marketers, it’s not always the most captivating solution – but remember, engineers are literal and visual.

Even better – show your products in person! Engineers want to see and touch the technology. It’s not always easy to get a product in front of an engineer. Invest in Lunch & Learns. Engineers place value on these. Invest in a roadshow. Rent a truck and drive across the country.

Any time you can get your product in front of an engineer, the better chance you have they’ll want to specify it. It’s also a good way of getting access to those engineers who are tucked away in companies and can be difficult to find from afar.

Be helpful: Give them engineering tools to support decisions.

This may be the most helpful of all. We live in an age where we are all being bombarded with more content than we can possibly consume. And we are all busy. Engineers are among the busiest of all.

So if you want to stand out – to be helpful – provide interactive tools or software to make their jobs easier. This is one of the most effective ways to generate leads today. In contrast to creating an account just to get basic website access, engineers are willing to provide contact information to acquire tools that simplify their lives. Smart desktop and mobile tools can help engineers select the right product, see how it will work in their application, calculate pricing and ROI, place orders, and implement solutions successfully.

Interactive tools and software take time and money to develop, but they give manufacturers a significant advantage when engineers are evaluating products to specify for their application. One engineer told us, “If I’m going to buy a product from one guy and his price is much lower, but another guy has got better tools and better sales interaction and all that stuff, that’s going to weigh in very heavy.”

Symmetri believes in being helpful.

We founded our business on the premise that engineers and other professionals need and want help. So they can choose and successfully implement the right solutions for the long-term prosperity of their business.

The last two Symmetri Blog posts have discussed some of the key principles we’ve developed for being helpful to our clients and their customers. The real work begins with putting these principles into action – understanding real-world engineering problems and helping solve them through every available marketing channel.

The principles of helpfulness are a fundamental starting point. Now let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work being truly helpful.

Contributions: Thanks to Greg Miller, Tom Smart and Amanda Lurvey for contributions and editing of our “Marketing to Engineers” blog posts.