The Final 3 Essential Truths to Bear in Mind When Marketing to Engineers

March 5, 2020 by

This is the last of three articles on marketing to engineers that will soon be released together as a new CopyEngineer white paper.

In this final installment, we'll provide some tips on how to better engage engineers with your content—and on how to avoid annoying them—as they travel along their buyer's journey.

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ESSENTIAL TRUTH #7: Engineers Like to Do Their Own Research

Engineers like to formulate their own opinions and make decisions based on their own research. When engineering.com asked engineers, “What is your preferred way to acquire engineering information?” their top three responses were Google search, trusted trade publications, and email (Figure 1).i

Figure 1: Engineers’ top three means of finding information
Figure 1: Engineers’ top three means of finding information
(Source: Engineering.com, How Engineers Find Information 2018 i)

For technology marketers, these findings translate into three must-dos.

First, optimize your problem-solving content for search, so engineers can find it easily with Google.

Second, place content in relevant trade publications and industry web portals. Feature articles and case studies are great for gaining exposure, but also consider press releases that describe and provide links to other content, like white papers and eBooks.

Finally, provide an opt-in newsletter that delivers your content directly to your prospect’s inbox. Some 95% of engineers say they will read your subject line to consider your email’s relevance to them, and 47% say they open and either read or scan most of the emails they receive (Figure 2).ii

Figure 2: How engineers treat work-related email
Figure 2: How engineers treat work-related email
(Source: Engineering.com, How Engineers Find Information 2019 ii)

“Trade publications and platforms will always provide the most relevant data in the shortest time frame. Their market focus allows for more accurate data and faster consumption,” says Shawn Fitzgerald, Vice President of Marketing at Thomas. “The best way to be ‘filter resistant’ is to have an opt-in newsletter that delivers high quality data to engineers every day. When your target audience is asking you to deliver data and expecting it, you become an even more valuable and trusted resource.” ii

“The best way to be ‘filter resistant’ is to have an opt-in newsletter that delivers high quality data.”

– Shawn Fitzgerald, Vice President of Marketing, Thomas

Engineers are deliberate and thorough in their work, and that includes their consideration of technology purchases. Overwhelmingly, they want to delay speaking with sales reps until at least the midpoint of their buying journey—after they have eliminated options that don’t fit their needs. Only then do they seek conversations to confirm suitability for a specific application (Figure 3).i

Figure 3: Point in the buying journey where engineers want sales contact
Figure 3: Point in the buying journey where engineers want sales contact
(Source: Engineering.com, How Engineers Find Information 2018 i)

“Engineers and industrial buyers are in self-serve and self-select mode. Your marketing strategy must align with their preferences,” says Achinta Mitra. “Going against this trend by bombarding them with cold calls and unsolicited emails is a waste of time and money.” i

Essential Truth #8: Engineers value brevity, but will read as much as they need

In their surveys of engineering professionals,i, ii engineering.com found engineers access short-form content (short articles, social media and videos) most frequently, but they also consume long-form content (long-form articles, white papers and eBooks) on a regular basis (Figure 4).ii Patterns for engineers who make purchasing decisions were roughly the same, but show somewhat higher consumption overall and a slightly greater preference for long-form content (Figure 5).ii

Figure 4: Engineers’ weekly consumption of content by format
Figure 4: Engineers’ weekly consumption of content by format
(Source: Engineering.com, How Engineers Find Information 2019 ii)
Figure 5: Engineering decision makers’ weekly consumption of content by format
Figure 5: Engineering decision makers’ weekly consumption of content by format
(Source: Engineering.com, How Engineers Find Information 2019 ii)

In other words, engineers will read as much as necessary to get the information they need.

“The results for short-written and video don’t mean the other formats are less valuable, but rather that they would be consumed less frequently,” says John Hayes. “You can leverage the best of both by pairing your gated content with a short article or a video. Once a reader has taken the time to consume the easy-to-access content, it’s a small investment for them to then download a related eBook or white paper.” i

“Long-form content does very well in the evaluation and decision-making part of the buying process, says Fitzgerald. “This is the portion where engineers want to get deep into the capabilities and possibilities of a product or service they are investigating. After they select a path forward, they still like to be reassured that they’ve made the right decision.” i

“Long-form content does very well in the evaluation and decision-making part of the buying process."

– Shawn Fitzgerald, Vice President of Marketing, Thomas

Regardless of length, engineers need solid information to know if your product meets their needs. Just don’t waste their time. Engineers quickly grow impatient when forced to wade through a lot of verbiage to find the data they need. Don't use any more words than necessary, and deliver content that’s clear, informative and engaging.

Essential Truth #9: Engineers like images that convey information

Engineers solve complex problems using complex technologies. Neither are easy to describe using words alone. Moreover, many engineers are far more at ease with schematics, charts, and equations than they are with written communication.

For those reasons, it’s generally a good idea to include clear, informative images in your content.

"Pictures can help illustrate concepts and improve readability of written content,” says Marina Malenic, formerly a Content Editor at Kuno Creative, “Engineers and scientists value images, because pictures are one of the best ways to communicate and assist in solving problems at a glance. Images also greatly improve the readability and comprehension of your engineering resources by breaking up large chunks of text." iii

Good illustrations for engineering content include:
• Product photos (close-ups)
• Embedded product demonstration video clips
• 3D models
• Cross-section and blow-out illustrations
• Technical schematics
• Flow charts
• Use case diagrams and other modeling language (for some audiences)
• Graphs or charts of performance data
• Product comparison tables

“Engineers and scientists value images, because pictures are one of the best ways to communicate and assist in solving problems at a glance."

– Marina Malenic, Content Editor, Kuno Creative

Be careful with stock photos, however. They can make your content look like fluff and sabotage your efforts to earn the trust of this audience. Use stock images sparingly, preferably to illustrate a point.

Take-away Points

  1. Engineers like to do their own research before they talk to sales. Make it easy for them to find your content, and don’t bombard them with cold calls and unsolicited emails.
  2. Use both short-form and long-form content as appropriate, but keep it factual and concise.
  3. Engineers like images that convey information. Be careful with stock photos that might make your content look like fluff.

Next steps

As mentioned earlier, this is the first of a 3-part series drawn from a new, CopyEngineer white paper on marketing to engineers. To request your free copy...

Click here to get the full white paper

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. et al, How Engineers Find Information 2018, Engineering.com, December 2017.

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

iii  Malenic, M., Marketing to Engineers: Examples of Smart Content for Technical Minds, Kuno Creative, August 2018.

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