3 More Essential Truths to Keep in Mind When Marketing to Engineers

February 18, 2020 by
3 More Essential Truths to Keep in Mind When Marketing to Engineers

This is the second of a three-part series drawn from a new CopyEngineer white paper on marketing to engineers. You can click here to read Part 1.

In this installment, we'll look at the two things engineers want most from marketing content and why, as well as an effective method for overcoming an engineer's inherent skepticism.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Essential Truth #4: Engineers want technical detail

How is marketing to engineers different from marketing to other business buyers?

In a survey of engineering marketers by engineering.com, the most frequent response to that question by far was: engineers want technical content. Marketers also said engineers want precise details, in-depth specifications, and validated, error-free data.i

Recent findings on engineers’ content preferences validate those impressions.  According to a 2019 study by Trew Marketing and IEEE GlobalSpec, the most influential type of marketing content among engineers is still the old, reliable datasheet.ii

The most influential type of marketing content among engineers is still the old, reliable datasheet.

Bear in mind that, in most cases, engineers are seeking information that will help them develop their own technical solutions. They want to be assured that your solution is compatible with theirs. Clearly, all content aimed at engineers, not just your datasheets, must provide solid technical information.

Essential Truth #5: Engineers want problem-solving content

Another frequent response among engineering marketers surveyed is that engineers want “content that solves problems.” i This is related to risk aversion; engineers want proven know-how.

And once again, engineers themselves confirm marketers’ perceptions. Consider the following chart from a study of engineers’ content preferences:

 Figure 1: Engineers’ value rankings of marketing content formats
Figure 1: Engineers’ value rankings of marketing content formats
(Source: Trew Marketing and IEEE GlobalSpec, 2019 Smart Marketing for Engineers ii)

Note that after data sheets, which typically proved the greatest technical detail, the next seven content types engineers find most valuable (case studies, product demos/how-to videos, online courses, webcasts/webinars, eBooks, white papers and application notes) are all geared toward addressing how to solve problems or how problems were solved. In contrast, the four formats at the bottom of the chart (interactive content, trade publication articles, infographics and podcasts) are all less likely to provide problem-solving information that those above.

Engineers are problem solvers. That’s their job. When solving complex problems, it’s only natural they look to credible sources for help. Marketers can gain the trust of engineers by providing them with reliable problem-solving information.

Essential Truth #6: Engineers are highly skeptical… but they trust their peers

Engineers are technology experts. If they need technical advice, the first person they’ll want to ask is another engineer.

So, it’s no surprise engineers prefer informational content that’s written by their peers.

When engineers were asked to rank their level of trust in content by source, they said an “engineering expert at a vendor company” was the source they trusted most—even above a neutral industry analyst—while an “an anonymous source at a vendor company” was the one they trusted least (Figure 2).ii

Figure 2: Engineers’ level of trust in content by author/source
Figure 2: Engineers’ level of trust in content by author/source
(Source: Trew Marketing and IEEE GlobalSpec, 2019 Smart Marketing for Engineers ii)

Figure 2 is further evidence that engineers "inherently distrust" marketing messages; they tend to prefer neutral third-party content over vendor content. But it also demonstrates that engineers truly trust their peers; replacing an “anonymous source” with an “engineering expert” elevates vendor content from “least-trusted” to “most-trusted” status.

Interestingly, engineers generally trust sponsored content, especially if it comes from an expert source. Some 55% trust sponsored content as editorial. Another 37% will still read, though with added skepticism, and only 9% will reject sponsored content outright (Figure 3).iii

Figure 3: Engineers’ level of trust in sponsored content
Figure 3: Engineers’ level of trust in sponsored content
(Source: Engineering.com, How Engineers Find Information 2019 iii)

“Clearly labeled sponsored content from a trusted resource should feel seamless next to the ‘regular’ content,” says Shawn Fitzgerald, Vice President of Marketing at Thomas. “When done right, it is just an extension of a good story that focuses more deeply on a certain product or service. This can be a very impactful campaign for product launches or new use cases for an existing product.” iii

There are two important takeaways from all this.

First, it pays to byline your engineering subject matter experts. Be sure to highlight their background in an “about the author” box, even if they don’t write the content themselves.

Second, engineers expect your content to speak their language. Ghostwritten content must sound authoritative, use correct domain terminology and be factually sound. To assure this, it should be written from interviews with your engineering subject matter experts.  Your ghostwriter should be someone capable of communicating with your SMEs and understanding your solution’s technical domain.

Ghostwritten content must sound authoritative, use correct domain terminology and be factually sound.

Finally, ghostwritten content must be reviewed by your relevant SMEs to make sure all the technical details are correct, and the language rings true for them.

Next time, in the final installment of this series, we'll examine three more content preferences prevalent among engineers, and how you can take advantage of them.

Take-away Points

  1. Engineers need to know your solution is compatible with theirs, so provide plenty of technical detail in your marketing content.
  2. Engineers are always looking for proven know-how to help them solve problems. You can build trust and loyalty by providing them with solid problem-solving information in your content.
  3. Engineers trust their peers. Give them sound, authoritative content that draws on the knowledge of your own engineering experts.

Next steps

Want more tips on reaching technology buyers and influencers through content marketing? Click here to sign up for CopyEngineer's newsletter, Technical Response. You'll also receive my special report on How to Plan a White Paper.

Looking for help developing content for an engineering audience? As an engineer-turned-content-writer, CopyEngineer is here to help. Contact me by phone at (+39) 011 569-4951 or by email at info@copyengineer.com.


References

i   Hayes, J., Webinar: Engineering Marketers 2015 Campaign Plans, Engineering.com, January 2015.

ii   2019 Smart Marketing for Engineers, Trew Marketing and IEEE GlobalSpec, November 2018.

iii Hayes, J. et al, How Engineers Find Information 2019, Engineering.com, December 2018.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.