Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Engineering Speak

As B to B communicators, one of the challenges many of us face is winning over engineering audiences. That’s because in the companies we target as prospective customers, engineers are often decision-makers or influencers in the selection process.

And even if the target for your communications program isn’t someone in an engineering role, that person may have an engineering background.

The same goes for internal customers of many branding and marcomm initiatives. In engineering-driven organizations, it’s common for engineers looking for new challenges take on roles in marketing or sales.

But engineers are notoriously tough customers when it comes to marketing and marketing communications. They want the facts, and have little patience for marketing claims they perceive to be unsubstantiated.

As such, we advise our clients to live by the following rules when it comes to marketing communications aimed at engineering audiences:

1) Credibility is king. Engineers are skeptics by nature. Do everything you can and more to support your claims about why and how your company, product or service delivers unique value. Minimally, that means providing technical content at or beyond what engineers have come to expect in your industry.

Sharing the numbers is also important. You’ll win big cred with engineers by documenting the results your company or product has produced for customers.

2) Lead with the claim, not the technical details. Too many companies make the mistake of getting too technical too early. They miss the chance to frame technical content with a clear, valued and differentiating premise. A better approach is to launch the premise at the outset via a brand tag line or campaign theme, and then extend that premise through all other content as a unifying idea. (See an earlier post in this blog for more on this topic.)

3) Position your company’s engineers as thought leaders. Like the rest of us, engineers are more likely to trust those they consider their peers. By positioning your company’s engineers as thought leaders, you make it easier for engineering audiences to conclude that they can trust your company.

Proactive Public Relations is a particularly good way of accomplishing this. Contributed features from your engineers, speaking engagements at industry conferences, white papers and other tactics are all ways of connecting your engineers to those in your customers’ organizations. You also help engineers build their own professional identities in the marketplace—an important element in keeping engineers satisfied with their tenure at your company.

4) Don’t skimp on the creative. Engineers are consumers, too. They’ll appreciate and remember high-impact, highly inventive and even humorous creative—particularly if the creative demonstrates an understanding of how engineers see the world. But get to the facts quickly. And provide engineers with a quick way to get much more information if they’re interested.

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