Engineering to Marketing: Why STEM Backgrounds Are Your Strengths?

It may not seem like a natural transition from engineering to marketing, but the reality is that in today’s job market, an undergraduate degree in engineering can take you down almost any career path.
Kimley Horn staff collaborate on project
Courtesy: Kimley Horn
By | 7 min read

On the surface, marketing to engineering may seem like mutually exclusive activities. But nothing could be further from the truth. At the end of the day you have a business to run, and selling engineering services is your reason for existence.

Engineers and scientists are solving some of the world’s grandest challenges, from medical breakthroughs that improve health and quality of life to discovering new and more affordable sources of energy to improving transportation safety. To do their jobs better, faster and cheaper, they need information they can trust, and products and services they can use.

82% of firms get referrals from people who have never worked with them before rather than through existing clients. So there’s no question that recommendations are a vitally important way to get new clients – especially within the AEC industry.

Transitioning from Engineering to Marketing: View from Expert

Anne-Marie Walters a Global Director of Marketing at Bentley Systems. Bentley Systems is the leading global provider of software solutions to engineers, architects, geospatial professionals, constructors, and owner-operators for the design, construction, and operations of infrastructure, including public works, utilities, industrial plants, and digital cities. Ann Marie’s gonna talk about how she transitions from being a chartered chemical engineer to a global marketing director. When Anne-Marie went into chemical engineering at the university, she wasn’t doing it as much for her engineering degree as she was to get a “base” education that could take her in other directions.

“For engineers, that’s great and so it sounds like you had a real personal goal in mind and that personal goal drove you to just figure out the best ways to achieve it. Even if it meant going outside of engineering. Annie-Marrie told that she kind of didn’t even think about going outside of engineering. “I think one of the reservations for doing that is if I want to go into sales or marketing. About me, I’m not good at sales and marketing. I’m good at engineering so when I made that pivot in your career, you know, I can’t imagine that you were a great salesperson. It is because you never did it before so how did that go so so yes that was quite that I was that was quite young at the time and when you’re still young, you kind of try things, and you just go.

 I think I was willing to do it, to put myself out there kind of thing, and to try this new approach to try the new engineering approach. And most of the new train, new sales and marketing approach, I think engineers are really quite good at solving problems and get excited the technical achievements we can make. So, when you when you’re selling to other engineers, that are pretty good. I did find that I had initially I was able to very easily get on with the other people like me and when you’re selling to engineering when you’re selling to engineers it’s they’ll get that it becomes more difficult and I’ve learned this over time when you go up that level to senior management and you need to understand the business value and understand how that wonderful technical achievement impacts the community in which you live in.

The Advantages of Stem Backgrounds

In the modern life context, everyone thinks of plastics has been bad. Oil and gas or oil leaks been got by nuclear. But at the end of the day, they are processes that improve them. We know no longer have chimneys belching out, black smoke or polluted rivers. Those problems have been solved and so on. Engineers are constantly improving processes and improving the way energy is being used, the way emissions are reduced. And now, reducing carbon emissions will be a big focus. Engineers will always solve those kinds of critical problems of electric cars they came from good engineering processes. This is the way to market the value of engineering information and the value of engineers to the world.

Like Anne-Marie said “I am an engineer and I want to try something different like sales or marketing. I may be nervous and it might stop me because I don’t feel comfortable with those skill sets. However, I would imagine that on all my engineering knowledge from selling and marketing engineering product services initiatives. That could also be a great advantage for the way you can understand how technology is being used, what it’s, and how best to use you know an engineer. An engineering sales and marketing person who understands the end-user and what they’re trying to do and what they’re trying to achieve.

It is so important that how they should speak out and how they go about the products so that you can make the enable the client to make the best use of the products in the best way because you understand the role that they’re playing in the job that they have to do and so on as an engineer.”

According to Annie, If you were an engineer, you can connect with engineers in your training program. I’m making here is you know it’s kind of one of those things where you might think like, well I can’t do sales and marketing because I’m an engineer, I don’t have those skills. But at the same time, what you do have may help you really, maybe much more valuable than what you don’t have. You know you can learn the sales and marketing you can go to training courses or classes.

Like Anne Marie said, whether it’s your company or outside training that you can find. But you know, someone who’s a salesperson that’s never been an engineer, it’s very difficult for them to understand the technical processes, the steps the project management all of those things. This is why if you have the technical first and then, the sales and marketing it can be a great advantage.

Engineering to Marketing: Essential Strategies

HDR engineers review stormwater plan
Courtesy: HDR

Marketers charged with targeting technical audiences are grappling with the shift toward online and content marketing and how to implement this approach effectively to attract, engage, and convert skeptical engineers. Marketers need to understand what content engineers trust and where and how they look for it online. You need to understand how engineers’ behaviors toward traditional marketing channels such as advertising, are changing with the onset of modern channels such as social media. While content marketing research exists for consumer and broad B2B markets, there is a gap in available, actionable data to educate and inform marketers who are specifically targeting highly technical audiences such as engineers and scientists on the most effective ways to do marketing for the greatest return on investment

#1. More Time for Passive Content

Increasingly, scientists and engineers engage with content through searching for the specific piece of information they seek at the time. During this activity, they do not want distractions. But when they are passively “perusing” or engaging in content for general interest or educational purposes, they are open to finding tangential information that may be of interest. This is the narrow window in which marketing content can be of value to scientists and engineers.

Engineers are life-long learners, and they want to grow their knowledge. The opportunity for marketers is to create great content that engineers choose over the competition. One tactic is to look at the content that comes up in the top search results for keywords you want to get found on and brainstorm with your SMEs how yours can be better.

Passive content consumption is widely seen as the source of inspiration and/or serendipitous discoveries among technical audiences. Many experienced scientists openly admit that increasing “seek-and-retrieve” content consumption due to online access to content limits their purview.

Engineers need information they can trust, new products and technologies they can use, and trusted services they can employ to do their jobs better, faster, and cheaper. Developing trustworthy content along the funnel, with a mix of educational content at the top and moving to more promotional/sales-oriented content as you move through the funnel, is key to attracting engineers along their learning and buyer journey

#2. Search on Multiple Vendors’ Websites before Talking to Sales

TLC engineer communicate with clients
Courtesy: TLC

Almost customers want to search online on multiple vendors’ websites and read available information about their products and services first before talking to sales. Most of the sales process now happens digitally. The result is that marketers are being tasked to qualify their contacts more fully before passing them to sales. That’s difficult to do, and most industrial marketers struggle to develop good lead nurturing programs. Engineers don’t want to be bothered when they are doing their research and building consideration. They are in control of where, when, and how they search and it is our challenge, and opportunity, as marketers to ensure they find our companies in their search. This is good news for sales and marketing – we can work together to market our high-quality content so our target personas find our companies when they are searching. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and it requires thoughtful planning and discipline over the long-term.

The workers in market engineering work within the legal and economic environment and this affects all the business of the sales department and the organization because they deal directly with market components like partial market structure, information technology infrastructure, and business infrastructure. Market engineering is also concerned with determining the factors that influence product marketing, choosing the proper distribution points, delivering products in the proper quality, time and place, and for a suitable price. The objective of market engineering is to restructure the market to be a channel to achieve and accomplish the exchange process. Another objective for market engineering is to make the market work as efficiently as possible, from the design to the commercial exchange process. Dealing with the market concept is very useful in implementing new policies and proposing rules that reserve company style and objectives by identifying factors or elements that are most efficient in the market so that marketers can accomplish the exchange process according to market engineering objectives. Being a marketer in the AEC industry, which include the following market engineering objectives:

  • Analyzing and designing commercial deals elements, market divisions, infrastructure and business structure in markets
  • Determining implementation fields where coordination, based on the market, is an effective and efficient way or channel or coordination
  • Producing new ways, methods, channels, tools, and knowledge to markets engineering; also determining implementation fields or sectors for coordination that is based on the market
  • Contributing and sharing in making decisions taken by marketing management concerning marketing activities
  • Contributing and sharing in making decisions that are concerned with products and services that are produced by the organization

#3. Speak Your Audience’s Language

When you’re dealing with a sophisticated and knowledgeable audience, your content strategy has to be equally strategic to be successful. But what many marketers get wrong is failing to produce content that the target demographic will find relatable. A study found that engineers, themselves, develop a 75% higher trust value when other engineers author their content. Start with the understanding that your firm is your brand. If you were an engineer and now, a marketer, you can build trust – your audience will see you as the expert. It also can demonstrate your capability and show that you are transparent and trustworthy.

Before you can capture the attention of your qualified leads and convinces them to take action, you’ll need to build that trust and authority. The easiest way to do that is to make sure you’re creating highly-technical marketing materials and content that ‘speak their language’.

Simply put, you’ll need to generate content that uses industry jargon, abbreviations, and terminology as much as possible. Doing so not only pulls the reader into your content more readily, it subsequently telegraphs that you understand their problems

When putting together the marketing strategy to find clients for your engineering firm, remember that while the traditional B2B inbound methods such as SEO, content strategy, and branding are essential – they’re often not enough.

Your sales and marketing efforts have to go beyond these approaches. Acquire leads to use as referrals, positioning yourself as an authority, and ensure that your content uses the language and terminology of your audience. By putting these into practice, you’ll be well on your way to increasing your client base and increasing your revenue.

The Bottom Lines

Companies seeking to sell to this highly technical audience must take a unique and thoughtful approach to market and selling that places a high bar on accuracy and diversity of content and a level of patience that allows the prospect to give the buying signals before sales engage.

The old days of interrupting the prospect are over. The customer is in control, and it behooves vendors to change their marketing and sales tactics to create a win-win for them and their prospects. To do this, they need to invest in a strong online presence, commit to high-quality content along the funnel, develop a pipeline management model that defines shared accountability between marketing and sales, and implement marketing and sales automation to increase speed, intelligence, and scale. So, don’t be afraid. With a STEM background, you can always change your career from engineering to marketing.

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