The Challenges of Marketing to Industrial Engineers


Industrial marketers and sales professionals should not ignore digital channels in their business development efforts. At the same time, the tactics that work for other B2B firms are less effective on non-starters for OEMs, distributors, and contract manufacturers targeting engineers.

As a segment, engineers have unique content needs and expectations from the time they spend on a manufacturer’s website. You need to keep those needs in mind and adapt accordingly. Social media, for example, is more difficult to leverage with this audience, as illustrated by data from an IEEE Engineering 360 report. In it, 64% of engineers cite the inefficiency of social media as a reason they avoid it in favor of traditional supplier catalogs and websites or a search engine.

Engineers are busy and don’t want to take the time out of the day to peruse LinkedIn or read recent blog posts from your marketing team. So how do you tap into this valuable segment of your target audience?

Recognizing and Supporting Engineering Time Crunch

If engineers are so busy and laser-focused on the content they consume, what can you do to use content and address their needs? There are ways to do it, especially for custom manufacturers and distributors who have already started supporting in the design process. Your digital efforts become an extension of this support when implemented properly. Some of the things you can do include:

  • Build Relationships with Existing Contacts – Many of the engineers in your database have been working with you for years and are inching closer to retirement. Engage with those people through nurturing emails and recurring content that fits their needs, while also encouraging further engagement with younger engineers at their organization. Direct outreach from sales staff to update records and add new contacts to company records can help.
  • Target Young Engineers Researching – The engineers most likely to engage with your digital efforts are young and tasked with research in the buying cycle. Provide valuable educational resources and support to help them better understand the design process for the parts you manufacture. Especially young engineers will appreciate the added support. Save them time – engineers are busy, and anything you can do to save them time will be immensely valuable. This includes things like technical reference documents, measurement and sizing charts, compatibility charts, CAD files, and anything else that supports their design efforts.
  • Provide Content Resources They Can Share – For those engaged with your company or interested in the parts you can supply, provide technical documentation and content that can be shared with stakeholders who may not otherwise visit your website. Because engineers are rarely the final decision-makers in the buying cycle, it’s important to provide high-quality, presentation-ready materials they can bring to procurement or management.

Engineers care most about form, fit and function. A typical marketing message that focuses on the key benefits of working with your company, highlighting particularly impressive features or cost savings will not resonate with young engineers who have been tasked with evaluating potential vendors for a new part.

What they need, and what you can offer that other manufacturers do not, are guidance and technical expertise on a specific process that they need within their design.

Creating a Long-Term Relationship through Digital Marketing Efforts

The most challenging aspect of industrial marketing is the divide between procurement and engineering. The former responds well to traditional marketing strategies, focusing on price, reliability, and value-add services. These are the individuals your sales managers have been speaking with on the phone for decades, and the same conversations you had with them 20 years ago will resonate in a digital format today.

Engineers, however, are a different matter. They are both less accessible, and a fantastic opportunity for manufacturers who embrace digital marketing to get their message out. Why? Because this is an audience that, 20 years ago, you may not have been able to reach at all.

Today, however, young engineers are tasked with actively engaging with your most prominent marketing materials on your website and in directory listings to learn more about your services and determine whether they can source needed parts and services. With more than half of engineers being expected to do more and over two-thirds working on three or more projects simultaneously, the manufacturers who can engage with them, providing value, and augmenting their search with thought leadership, will perform much better.

Customize your messaging, take off your marketing hat, and supplement your website and digital marketing efforts with an engineering-focuses approach that educates and supports their research efforts. You’ll find yourself building long-term relationships with advocates in the heart of your target sales prospects.

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