Two reminders and six steps to market to engineers
Integrated marketing: Engineers welcome the technology side of integrating controls systems and may avoid taking the same methodical approach about marketing, which can be as integrated as the product lifecycle. Have a marketing plan; a modern, optimized website; high quality content; and track progress, to refine along the way.
Engineering and scientific business leaders often don't know where to invest in technology marketing to get the greatest return, they've tried a do-it-yourself approach that they weren't able to follow through on because of all the hats they're wearing, or they have unrealistic expectations about return on investment (ROI) and timeframe to achieve results. So they lose confidence and often give up too quickly, perhaps believing that marketing doesn't work with technical audiences like control and plant engineers.
To help engineers with marketing as part of an integrated product lifecycle, two reminders and six steps follow, below.
1. Marketing in this space has to be as smart as the people it targets. It takes time and intentional planning to do marketing effectively. The scientific instrumentation and control market shows the importance of accuracy; the spirit of sharing information, research, and educating; and the skepticism that engineers have for slogans and slick brands. By taking a methodical, measured approach and following the steps in the book, marketing can be smart and effective.
2. It is a marathon, not a sprint. Marketing has transformed over the past 20 years, and now the buyer is in charge. In research by Trew Marking and CFE Media (publisher of this magazine) hundreds of engineers said the leading place they go for work-related information is search engines, primarily Google. With buyers in control, the challenge—and opportunity—as marketers is to get found where and when the technical buyer is searching. This takes time and a long-term commitment to publishing high-quality content.
If marketing is done in a smart way, with content at the heart, through patience and perseverance, you will get found, build trust with prospects, and drive demand.
Six steps to help engineers improve how they market technology follow.
1. Say no to grow. It's important to be clear and focused in technical markets because engineers and scientists are working on critical applications; they need expert advice and proven solutions, not general engineering direction. To prove trustworthiness, have a clear position and message and be able to prove it.
Do the hard work to determine what makes what is being marketed unique and articulate it consistently across channels in a way that is differentiated.
To achieve differentiation, make trade-offs to focus, and be as specific as possible. If growth is desired, say no to a generalist approach, stop reacting to one-off opportunities, and say yes to a more differentiated and focused position.
Suppose a manufacturing services company has hit a growth plateau, has limited growth to a 200 mile geographic radius around the office. Perhaps there's a looming threat from too much dependence on existing regional customers. To grow past this, start with differentiation.
To start the conversation, ask questions, such as:
- What applications does the team know best?
- What are you better at than any other competitor? or What are your top three strengths, and what are your competitors' top three strengths?
- What unique market niche can you dominate?
- What are the two or three next big opportunities you would love to win, and what would make you stand out over any other company?
For product companies seeking to differentiate, often the issue they face is a market adoption challenge. They are looking to move across the chasm and beyond the early adopters to get bell curve adoption. This can be either for a young, one-product company, or established companies that are introducing a new product or targeting a new segment. After getting past early adopters, revisit or refine the messaging to get to the early and late majority; this requires clear differentiation as well as content that proves the product.
2. Develop a marketing plan to get an edge over competitors. Many technical business leaders are too busy to stop, focus, debate, and agree on a comprehensive strategic marketing plan. Instead, they go down a reactive marketing road that leads to mediocre results and higher costs in time, money, stress, and frustration.
It's not that most people don't want a plan. Everyone would prefer to know where they're going, and how they're going to get there. I believe instead this is because they are unsure where to start, what should be included in that plan, and how to measure success of the plan. Having a plan provides an edge over competitors, for the three practical benefits of 1) Intention, 2) Measurement, and 3) Efficiency. Those being intentional with marketing know exactly what they plan to do and target and define goals and objectives with timelines and a budget.
Having a plan removes the distraction of the opportunity of the day or week. Know what needs doing, the team is in place, measurements are defined to ensure the plan is on track. Knowing what to accomplish, what to measure, what processes are in place, and having roles and responsibilities defined, enables efficiency. Less time is spent debating, being reactive, and getting distracted, and more time is spent executing, measuring, and tweaking. That's hard for any competitor to compete against.
3. Your website is the most important marketing investment.
A website serves many roles in an organization, such as company storefront, customer support resource, and a recruiting center, to name a few. From a marketing standpoint, it is the hub of all activities and the main vehicle for creating an online branding experience, marketing content, and generating leads.
Building an effective website requires many elements, such as a clean and mobile-friendly design; intuitive navigation; informative graphics; clear company positioning; well-structured code and sitemaps for search engine optimization (SEO); and compelling, succinct, up-to-date, and optimized content. Whether it's a company ad campaign, a trade show exhibit, or social media communication, all channels lead back to the website and content. Without an optimized, well-designed, and responsive website with engaging content, much if not all of the investment spent in those promotional activities will be lost. A low-quality website experience can damage trust in a brand, especially without content for visitors to read and become educated about offerings.
Initial investment in developing a high-quality website may be substantial, but the ROI comes from the ability to make the site work over the long term.
4. Get found on Google. Thanks to Google, buyers are now in control of what, when, and how they search for information to help them do their jobs. Engineers can search and search online—and as research shows, they search much deeper than the average Google user—without ever being interrupted or bothered. With engineering buyer personas (target audience profiles) now in control, the challenge—and opportunity—for marketers is to get found where and when the technical buyer is searching.
Building a website and adding content will get traffic, but the right traffic derives from having the right content optimized with the right key terms. Defined customers groups (personas) need to find a company's website when they are searching keywords related to that company's solutions. To ensure a website pops up in the top search results, focus on keywords that those defined personas use that lead to search results that include the desired products, services, or technologies.
SEO is not black and white. It takes time, patience, and trial and error. Google and other search engines are very particular (and very quiet) about what they allow to rank in the search engine results page (SERP). Take a specific and strategic approach to SEO that will help you gain the search engine visibility that a website deserves. The first thing is to remember is the target audience, and the second is to follow a methodical approach.
5. Treat content like a product. At the heart of successful marketing today is content. In the past, messages were pushed to people at particular times. Today, it is primarily through content that new people find a company from searches; it's also the company's position and thought leadership; how prospects are educated and compelled to complete lead forms; and ultimately it's how trust is built between a business and prospects and customers.
Content can include creating high quality technical content, such as white papers and case studies, and treating content like a product, which has three aspects: optimize, amplify, and repurpose.
Just like launching and marketing a product, companies need to consider high-value content as products. Take a white paper for instance, which is a high investment piece that requires technical subject matter experts to help create it. That white paper can have multiple uses and surprising longevity if treated like a new product, amplified on the web, optimized with keywords, and repurposed across channels.
6. Create a content plan along the funnel. Marketing to a technical audience requires an understanding of the types of content engineers need and where, why, and how they look for and use this content throughout the buying cycle. It is important to learn how engineers find, use, and engage with content. High-quality, accurate content is important to attract technical target audiences and build trust and credibility. Among more than 700 engineers, nearly 75% of them said they are more likely to do business with a company that regularly produces new and current content, according to the Marketing to Engineers 2014 study by Trew Marketing and CFE Media.
Questions to ask to create a content plan
To create a content plan, ask questions to spark ideas, such as:
- What tough questions do customers consistently ask?
- What are the top three or four current trends that are relevant to products or services?
- What are common challenges customers face that could be addressed to help others avoid, evaluate, or work through?
- What competitor weaknesses or gaps in the market can be seized upon, owned, and taught to prospects?
- What real-world examples can be shared to illustrate expertise?
Many companies do not commit to high-quality content development because it takes time to do well. To create content that technical buyer personas value (and that is as good or better than the best content already available) ensure that it is well written, technically accurate, informative, and trustworthy.
Prospects are very smart people. To succeed, ensure marketing is as smart as they are. To do this, have a marketing plan in place, have a modern, optimized website, commit to high-quality content along the funnel, and have measures in place to track progress, so the plan can be tweaked and refined along the way. If marketing is done in a smart way, with content at the heart, through patience and perseverance, it's easier to get found, build trust with prospects, and drive demand.
Rebecca Geier is CEO and co-founder of Trew Marketing. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information about the product and its lifecycle can be included in the marketing lifecycle of the product.
Marketing workflow can be as methodical as engineering.
Make a plan, market, and measure.
Compelling information about a product should be integrated as part of the product and its lifecycle.
This online article has more advice, above and below, than would fit in print.
Trew Marketing is committed to content and like to model good marketing behavior and be generous in helping the manufacturing industry modernize its marketing. With that in mind, there are a lot of options to learn more at little to no cost.
The book, "Smart Marketing for Engineers," available on Amazon, details the process of developing a smart marketing program to generate demand from your technical audiences. It includes data, like what's included in this article, on engineers' content and online marketing preferences as well as real-world examples and step-by-step lists and questions to ask. Recommendations to measure ROI are provided.
For readers who think marketing is futile to engineers, I'd encourage them to read the book and challenge their beliefs. I've seen it done with so many engineers and scientists across industries, including process control, military, aerospace, and consumer electronics. Engineers face enormous challenges in their applications-they need new technologies, new services, and new information. The market is there for the taking, and it's your opportunity to get found, but you have to commit to the long-term, inbound marketing marathon to win.
The Trew blog provides tips, trends, data, examples, and commentary about how to do marketing successfully to engineers in industries such as manufacturing twice a week. Research is included with a link for research downloads.
In-depth eBooks on marketing topics are available from marketing planning and lead generation to product launches and website redesign. As you read, you'll begin to formulate a plan for what to do, how to spend, and the expected outcomes to achieve your goals.
Control Engineering and CFE media also offer resources to help engineers with marketing.
Find more advice on this topic in videos from the CFE Media Marketing to Engineers conference sessions. (Geier presented at the 2014 conference.)