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5 Things Industrial Marketers Must Do to Attract Engineers and Turn Them into Loyal Customers

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Contrary to popular beliefs that engineers are consumers too and therefore one must market to them as people first, I believe marketing to engineers is different. Sure, they are human beings like the rest of us but they have very different emotional triggers and needs when it comes to making work-related decisions.

I should know — I am an engineer too. So I’m not only familiar with an industrial marketer’s target audience, I am the audience or at least a member of it.

Having worked closely with many manufacturers and companies from the industrial sector, I have learned several valuable lessons about what works when it comes to marketing to engineers and technical buyers. Here are my top five industrial marketing lessons:

Lesson #1: Save them time
Most engineers, especially design engineers are already overloaded with work. Anything you can do to help them find the right information quicker will score big with engineers. Having a search function on your website is no longer an option, it is a requirement. You need to move beyond the free Google Custom Search tool for websites.

Create a more robust search application where engineers can select several design or performance parameters to find the exact part number. The details page should show all available sizes, options and other selection criteria with active links to downloadable PDFs of datasheets. Add a link that carries the part number to the shopping cart if you also have an online store or to the RFQ form on your site.

Lesson #2: Familiarity does not breed contempt

It is tempting to get fancy with design bells and whistles to make your website stand out. Don’t! Engineers are creatures of habit. Following tried and tested protocols is how scientists and engineers are trained to solve problems. Make sure your primary navigation and site pages conform to a familiar user interface.

For example, segment your products and services by application and/or industry. Engineers are accustomed to this approach from their frequent use of industry vertical search engines like ThomasNet and GlobalSpec. Don’t force them to spend extra time or use multiple clicks because of a non-intuitive navigation scheme.

Lesson #3: Features are the benefits

Your online marketing content may consist of images, videos, PowerPoint presentations, PDFs, white papers and pre-recorded webinars. It is always a good idea to serve up your marketing content in different formats but your text is the key component.

Website copy optimized for keywords and phrases is how your technical audience will find you. However, once they get to your site, engineers don’t want to read marketing fluff. Give them hardcore specifications typically found in product spec sheets.

The first thing an engineer wants to know is do your products, parts and components meet his/her design specifications and standards?

Don’t try to embellish features with wordy benefits. For example, instead of writing “our valves are manufactured to world-class standards and continue to operate trouble free in the harshest of operating conditions,” simply state “Manufactured to ASME Code standards, designed to handle up to 300 psig and 415°F.”

That conveys a precise benefit to the design engineer who would then feel confident specifying your valve. If possible, add basic pricing information on your site to offer complete information without leaving your site. (See B2B Websites: To Publish Prices, Or Not To Publish…That Is The Question)

Lesson #4: Sample kits and CAD drawings

The easiest and quickest way to sell to the engineering and industrial marketplace is to have your parts and components “designed in.” Design for manufacturability (DFM) is the practice of designing products in such a way that they are easy to manufacture. It applies across the board to all engineering disciplines.

Offer engineering kits with a full range of standard values with free refills to help the electronics design engineer evaluate his designs without having to go to multiple sources. Design wins lead to production volume orders.

For other engineering disciplines and architects, you can create an online library of detailed CAD drawings. To protect your interests, put them in a secured area that requires username and password to log in and access the drawings. You can also upload CAD files that are non-editable.

Lesson #5: Path of least resistance

Engineers are taught to find the path of least resistance. They eat, breathe and sleep factor of safety or safety factor (used to provide a design margin over the theoretical design capacity to allow for uncertainty in the design process). So the overwhelming emotional trigger is fear of failure or risk aversion. Let’s face it, a structural failure can cause millions of dollars in losses, lawsuits and in the worst-case scenario, loss of life.

Engineers therefore tend to be very loyal and there is built-in inertia to change or try something new. As long as you can make their entire sales experience easy (both before and after) and your products meet specifications for them to specify with confidence, you probably have a lifetime customer unless you fail him/her badly.

As an industrial marketer, you can:

  • Save the engineer time and energy from having to go to multiple sources for parts and components
  • Provide easy to find technical information that is complete, preferably with pricing information
  • Supply engineering kits and CAD drawings to assist in designed-in process and evaluation
  • Provide access to knowledgeable peers within your organization
  • State quality standards and industry certifications clearly

For more ideas on creating a remarkable sales experience, see my earlier post, What Not To Do For Better B2B Customer Relationships.

Those are my five top lessons for industrial marketing to attract engineers and turn them into loyal customers. What’s on your list that’s not on here?

Achinta Mitra

Achinta Mitra calls himself a “marketing engineer” because he combines his engineering education and an MBA with 35+ years of practical manufacturing and industrial marketing experience. You want an expert with an insider’s knowledge and an outsider’s objectivity who can point you in the right direction immediately. That's Achinta. He is the Founder of Tiecas, Inc., a manufacturing marketing agency in Houston, Texas. Read Achinta's story here.
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