A few weeks ago, I was honored to be among the industry experts presenting tips for successful marketing at the 2016 Marketing to Engineers event hosted by CFE Media in Chicago. The event featured a full day of learning, including presentations on best practices, trends in content marketing and the latest Marketing to Engineers research.

For the manufacturers and marketers in attendance, the event was a daytrip into the mindset of an engineer during the purchase process. As a presenter and first-time attendee, I came away from the event with a refreshed perspective on how engineers make purchasing decisions and what they’re looking for from the manufacturing brands I work with on a daily basis. Here are three takeaways from the event:

1. Engineers think differently
A consistent theme throughout the event was that engineers think differently. Engineers possess habits of mind that generate very specific ways of thinking and approaching problems. They conceive, design, implement and operate. And they approach your marketing with the same task-oriented focus with one goal in mind: solving problems. If your marketing efforts don’t help them do that, it’s not going to be effective.

To fully understand an engineer’s perspective during the purchase process, we must tap into their thought process, including their wants and needs, their challenges, and their communication preferences.

During the marketers’ panel, I was able to share how we tap into the engineer mindset at Two Rivers Marketing, including our content strategy processes and how we create effective buyer personas. The panel conversation often gravitated back to the research techniques we use to understand the engineering audience, such as one-on-one interviews with customers and prospects in various buyer phases and decision roles.

 

 

2. Trusted service is almost everything
Engineers are hardwired to solve a problem and move on, so if you’re the first manufacturer to offer a viable solution, you’re typically going to make the consideration set. However, being first alone is not enough; engineers also expect manufacturers to listen to their challenges and provide personalized solutions, which speaks to the importance of providing great service.

In fact, service is the No. 1 factor engineers consider when deciding between vendors. Service can mean many different things, but for engineers it includes building trust from the get-go. Your timely outreach should be echoed with responsiveness, proactive suggestions and a willingness to collaborate on a custom solution. According to the panel of engineers, a vendor that integrates itself into the design team early on will be more successful.

As noted by the engineer panelists, it’s easy to destroy trust with engineers since they do not forget… ever. The key to building trust often revolves around transparency. As the problem-solvers of their organizations, their reputations are on the line, and they expect the information you share with them to be technically accurate. Another way to build trust is to provide them with tools that will help them look good and build trust with their clients. This might include providing relevant case studies that engineers can share with key decision-makers to help build their confidence in your brand.

3. Stop selling and start helping
One of the most impactful messages at the event was the plea for marketers to stop selling and start providing solutions. The amount of marketing content that engineers consume on a regular basis continues to increase, and marketers must work harder to break through the clutter. Analytical in nature, engineers are programmed to ignore the “fluff” and focus on messaging that matters.

Bruce McDuffee, founder and executive director of the Manufacturing Marketing Institute, emphasized the need to focus on top-of-mind awareness (TOMA), credibility and reciprocity when trying to connect with engineers. McDuffee explained that the reason product pitching often fails is because a very small portion of your audience is ready to make the purchase.

The reality is that more people have a problem or pain point that you can help them solve. In fact, according to McDuffee, 60 to 80 percent of your audience is self-educating during the customer purchase timeline, and manufacturers that can help with this education are going to be in the consideration set.

While these three takeaways were derived from a conference about marketing to engineers, they can easily be applied as principles of marketing to any audience. It’s our job as marketers to understand our audience and provide the best solutions possible. We often need to remind ourselves that the best way to market to our customers is not to market to them at all, but to listen, engage, and respond to their specific wants and needs. The next time you’re creating content, remember that engineers think differently and so should you.

About Hillary Ferry

After launching her career at a firm in Los Angeles, Hillary’s family lured her back home to Des Moines as our digital marketing director. Outside of work you can find her coaching gymnastics. Reach out to her at hillaryf@2rm.com for help with digital strategy — or your cartwheel technique.