3 Essential Truths You Must Keep in Mind when Marketing to Engineers

January 6, 2020 by
3 Essential Truths You Must Keep in Mind when Marketing to Engineers

Marketing to engineers is different. If you market B2B technology, you probably don’t need to be told that.

But coming up with effective strategies for reaching these technical influencers can be a challenge. To help you with that, CopyEngineer has drawn on recent industry studies, personal experience as both engineer and marketer, and the opinions of our fellow tech marketers to identify nine “essential truths” that reflect how most engineers react to technology marketing.

In this article, the first of a 3-part series drawn from a new, soon-to-be-released CopyEngineer white paper, we'll look at three of these essential truths. Be sure to bear them in mind when you're preparing content for a highly technical audience.

1. Engineers have a huge appetite for marketing content

It’s a widely held belief that engineers hate marketing. Holders of that belief may be surprised by some recent study findings.

A poll taken by engineering.com at the end of 2018 found engineers spend an average of 10.3 hours per week consuming engineering content. [i] That was up 24% from the 8.3 hours reported the previous year. [ii]

“Twenty-five percent of a traditional 40-hour workweek is a lot of time,” said Dmitry Shamis, Sr. Director of Creative at HubSpot, who helped analyze the data. “It makes me think engineers in 2019 are looking for resources to solve exciting new problems within emerging technology.” [i]

The 1,540 engineering professionals surveyed also said 8.6 of those hours (84%) were spent accessing content online. [i] In other words, you can't rely solely on printed sales collateral and trade magazines anymore. Today, you must reach your engineering audience online.

Fortunately, most technology companies have caught on. In another engineering.com poll, 87% of the technology marketers surveyed are practicing content marketing. Of those, 78% said content marketing helps them deliver qualified leads. Of the rest, 95% said they planned to spend as much or more on content marketing in the coming year. [iii]

Still, some companies are getting better results than others. Success in content marketing depends on getting your content seen by your target audience, which correlates heavily to marketing spend. Top-performing tech marketers—those whose companies outpace the growth of their industry—spend more on creating and distributing content than their counterparts who lag the industry. They also spend more on search and on email (We’ll see why in Essential Truth #7).  Laggards outspend top performers primarily on print and other offline activities (Figure 1). [iii]

Figure 1: Comparison of marketing budget allocation between industry growth leaders and laggards
Figure 1: Comparison of marketing budget allocation between industry growth leaders and laggards
(Source: Engineering.com, Engineering Marketers’ 2017 Spending Plans [iii])

Clearly, content marketing is a must for marketing to engineers. But it’s not an easy task.

When engineering.com asked engineering marketers to list the biggest challenges they face in executing their content marketing strategy (Figure 2), the top three were:

  1. Creating engaging content
  2. Finding resources for content creation
  3. Amplifying and distributing content*

* Content distribution encompasses paid search, email, social media, placement in print publications, advertisement in online publications, and other tactics.

Figure 2: Technology marketers' biggest content marketing challenges
Figure 2: Technology marketers' biggest content marketing challenges
(Source: Engineering.com, Engineering Marketers’ 2017 Spending Plans [iii])

To overcome these challenges, top-performing tech marketers often outsource content creation to agencies or freelancers. Plus, they spend nearly five times as much of their budget on content distribution compared to the worst performers (Figure 3). [iv]

Figure 3: Percentage of budget allocated to content distribution by technology marketers
Figure 3: Percentage of budget allocated to content distribution by technology marketers
(Source: Engineering.com, Engineering Marketers 2015 Campaign Plans [iv])

Continuous development of fresh content and effective distribution are essential to effective content marketing. It pays to get expert help with content creation if your in-house resources are limited, and then to be relentless in publicizing your content.

2. Engineers hate “fluff”

As the preceding statistics have shown, engineers don’t really hate marketing. What they hate is marketing “fluff”.

“The commonly held belief that engineers hate marketing is only partly true,” says Achinta Mitra, Founder of Tiecas, Inc., an industrial marketing consultancy in Houston, Texas. “Engineers don’t necessarily hate marketing; they recognize marketing fluff easily and question the marketer’s credibility when they see it. That doesn’t mean your content needs to be dull and boring.” [v]

What it means is your content shouldn’t look or sound like “traditional marketing”. Technology and industrial marketers told engineering.com[iv] that marketing to engineers:

  • “Requires a no BS approach”
  • Must focus on “just the facts with no sales hype”
  • Should contain “validated data from reputable sources”

Engineering.com chose one quote to sum up the comments of their survey respondents:

Engineers resist marketing messages. They inherently distrust the message and the messenger.[iv]

Many engineers like to think they’re immune to marketing influence. They believe they make their purchasing decisions based solely on logic—that emotion never enters the equation. As we’ll see in a moment, that is not entirely true. It does mean, however, that we must take a fact-based approach and provide solid, useful information when marketing to this audience.

3. Engineers are highly risk averse

Engineers want and need everything they work on—and work with—to operate correctly. Their careers and reputations depend on it. And while engineers are rarely the final decision makers in major technology purchases, they are often responsible for the technical evaluations of those purchases. Their management depends on them to provide sound recommendations.

These factors make engineers highly risk averse.

"Even though the line between our personal and professional lives has blurred, engineers make work related decisions very differently from their personal lives,” says Mitra. “Risk aversion is the primary emotion that drives engineers to make a buying decision which is then justified with logic." [v]

For just this reason, top marketers spend differently. Engineering.com found top-performing marketers spend three times the industry average on display ads (Figure 4). [iv]

Figure 4: Budget for display ads – top-performing marketers vs. industry average
Figure 4: Budget for display ads – top-performing marketers vs. industry average
(Source: Engineering.com, Engineering Marketers 2015 Campaign Plans iv)

“Engineers live in fear of buying the wrong product,” says John Hayes, former President of engineering.com. “Whatever they’re building could fail if they specify the wrong thing. To relieve engineers’ fear of making mistakes, top marketers spend on awareness (display ads).” [iv]

It’s important your engineering prospects not only get to know you, but to trust you, as well—not an easy thing with people who “inherently distrust the message and the messenger.” Perhaps the best way to do this is by satisfying their information appetite with content that is truly useful to them.

We’ll look at ways to accomplish that goal in the two remaining installments of this series.

Take-away Points

  1. Engineers read a lot of marketing content. Providing them with useful content specific to their needs through content marketing, SEO and email is an effective way to reach this audience.
  2. Engineers hate marketing fluff. Drop the hype and provide them with solid data they can use.
  3. Engineers are highly risk averse. Make sure you're doing all you can to get them to know and trust your brand.

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. Click here to read Part 2.

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 white paper, 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 2019, Engineering.com, December 2018.

[ii]   Hayes, J. et al, How Engineers Find Information 2018, Engineering.com, December 2017.

[iii] Hayes, J. et al, Engineering Marketers’ 2017 Spending Plans, Engineering.com, February 2017.

[iv] Hayes, J., Webinar: Engineering Marketers 2015 Campaign Plans, Engineering.com, January 2015.

[v] Mitra, A., Marketing to Engineers is a Big Challenge, Industrial Marketing Today, February 2015.

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