Recently I was on The Civil Engineering Podcast being interviewed by Anthony Fasano, PE on the topic of marketing for Civil Engineering firms. (Before you stop reading because you are not an engineering firm, I promise you that this also applies to all businesses! So keep reading!)
Anthony asked me the question, “What are some of the tools that engineers use for primary research in their job?”
I’m so glad he asked that question because I would like to add on, “and why does that matter to you?”
You may be an engineer in an engineering firm, the marketing manager or CMO in the firm, CEO, HR manager, Business Development or a Construction Manager. Heck, you may not be in an engineering firm at all and may be wondering how this even applies to you.
The main thing engineering firms need to understand, no matter what position you are in, is that every industry is moving online. All the research, tools, marketing, publishing, sales, advertising, - you name it - it’s all online.
And as long your firm is not asserting itself online, you are falling further and further behind your competitors who are catching on.
Listen to The Civil Engineering Podcast interview of Alexi Lambert, E.I.T. by Anthony Fasano, PE to hear more of the innovative marketing techniques used for engineering firms here!
So let’s get to the “how-to.” One way to think about it is to look at where engineers are finding their information today. Engineering.com came out with a research study that stated the top three sources engineers are using to find information for their jobs, which are:
- Supplier websites
- Search engines (such as Google, Yahoo, Bing)
- Trade publications, both print and online
One thing to note, though, is that there were 12 sources ultimately listed in this survey. And almost all of the sources were online.
So here’s the problem. We don’t find a lot of engineering firms putting an emphasis on online content or providing the information that is being searched for by engineers. So there is this huge gap there that is kind of astonishing, where engineers are trying to find information, but it’s just not there.
Jack and Suzy Welch said, “When it comes to place [referencing where you should channel your marketing dollars], the question to ask is not, ‘How many channels can we get into to reach the most eyeballs and wallets?’ Rather, it should be, ‘Which channels should we select in order to profitably sell the most volume.”
So knowing these top three (3) sources engineers use to find information needed for their jobs, let’s take them individually and strategize how to market within each source.
How To Market Through Supplier Websites
It really matters who you are trying to target and for what reason on supplier websites. If you are a manufacturing company wanting to market to engineering companies through supplier websites, that’s one strategy. If you are a construction firm wanting to market to other industries, that’s another strategy.
Buyer Personas and targeting matter in these cases. That’s because you should approach these companies, and different positions within the companies, in different ways. No one person is the same as the other, and that goes for companies and firms as well.
So how do you target this “persona?”
The word “person” is in “persona.” That’s because they represent real people. You have to understand their motivations, pain points and personalities.
Ask yourself questions such as:
- How will making a decision to hire your firm affect the buyer’s career?
- How are they professionally perceived within their own company?
- How can hiring you personally benefit the person to whom you are selling?
- What problem is keeping them up at night that you can help solve?
- What metrics are their decisions being driven by?
- How long have they been dealing with their challenges?
- Is this person very analytical with the need for lots of data to back up their buying decision?
- Do they simply just want the bottom-line?
Once you identify who you are targeting on the suppliers’ websites, you can then alter the content that you publish to talk to that person. Stay in front of them through lead nurturing, providing them the information they are specifically looking for, at the time they are looking for it, where they are specifically looking for it.
How To Market Through Search Engines
Oh SEO…where do I begin? This topic could be a book in itself but I will try to just give you the cliff notes. Let’s start off with the undeniable facts:
- 93% of engineers indicate online resources such as websites and search engines are a valuable source of information.
- 79% of engineers often do a keyword search in Google to find work-related content.
- The top way engineers find information is through search engines.
The main three things Google cares about for your ranking is if you are publishing relevant content, if people are linking to your content, and your overall source code (e.g. mobile friendly website, optimization, etc.) If you are missing a leg of the stool, expect to see your sight booted down to somewhere where no one has the patience to find you.
Xcellimark did a competitive analysis for a major engineering firm, and as a result, got some pretty astounding statistics for civil engineering websites. We found that 60% of the civil engineering firms that we looked at are not writing or posting blog articles on their websites, which have become the primary driver of inbound traffic to a website. In fact, HubSpot has shown that a company that blogs 15 or more times a month will generate 5x more traffic than companies that do not blog.
We also found that over 70% of civil engineering websites are not optimized for mobile devices. Think about it. This basically means that over 70% of civil engineering firms are not showing up on Google when searched for on an iPhone, iPad, Tablet, Surface Pro, or any other “mobile device.” I use a Surface Pro 4 for work that connects to a monitor. Think how many other people do that as well.
With so many engineers searching on the Internet, it is absolutely essential that engineering firms start to change these stats. In fact, many engineering firms want to grow and hire more engineers. But if engineers searching for jobs aren’t finding your firm on search engines when looking for job openings, they will be snatched up elsewhere. Just some food for thought.
How To Market Through Trade Publications
Traditionally, when you think of marketing in a trade publication, you naturally think about buying an ad, right? One that an engineer will see on the side or on top of the page. Or even an extra page that is yours entirely to advertise on.
However, Jack and Suzy Welch made another great point stating, “eye-tracking research shows that many consumers have developed ‘ad blindness’—while perusing websites, they won’t even look at areas of the page where they think advertisements or promotions might appear.”
Well then how do you market to engineers in trade publications?
Education. Content is the new black, haven’t you heard? Consistently up-to-date publications are perfect for writing blogs and articles about information being searched for most in the last day, week, month or year. Write something that engineers are thirsty to read about, that can honestly help them in their day-to-day job, or push them to go further in innovation.
Then you don’t have to worry about eye-tracking them. They will want to read your article, blog, white paper, or whatever you decide to publish for that publication.
But it is not a one and done thing. You have to consistently publish. Consistently reaffirm your knowledge and expertise in your field. That way they gain awareness of you and your company and exactly how you solved someone else’s problem. That’s when it will catch on. Keep it educational. Keep it relevant. And keep publishing.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
Marketing to engineers starts here. If you’re an engineering firm, this is where you can start. Data shows that engineers are twice as likely to find information online than in trade shows. You can’t fight the numbers.
So instead of fighting the change in today’s digital world, embrace it.
The most effective methodically that ties and pulls this all together is inbound marketing. Start by going where your ideal buyers are. The people you want to be in front of. Make it personal and publish content that they want to read and that is relevant to them.
In these days, you have to give something to get something. And trust me, this way is substantially cheaper in the pockets than traditional advertising.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in June 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and freshness.
 Engineering.com (and Trewmarketing.com)
 “The Real-Life MBA” by Jack and Suzy Welch
 “The Real-Life MBA” by Jack and Suzy Welch