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John Hayes
By
April 26, 2017

Engineers Hate Your Content Marketing

In a survey of engineering marketers, 87% said that they were investing in content marketing. 

Blog 20170427 - Image 1 Using Content Marketing.jpg

Unfortunately, that same survey revealed that creating engaging content for engineers was the biggest challenge.

Why do engineers hate your content marketing?  Well, it’s because marketers are the ones directing the content marketing show.  Simply put…

It’s not them. It’s you.

In this post, we’ll look at:

  1. Who engineers trust the most to give them product information
  2. What experts say about marketers creating marketing content
  3. One thing that you can do to deliver content that satisfies engineers.

Who do engineers trust to provide reliable product information?

In another survey, this one of 580 engineers, we found out who engineers consider the most trustworthy source of product information. The chart below scores the following candidates in terms of trustworthiness when it comes to delivering quality engineering information:

  • Editors in a magazine (online or print)
  • Industry analysts
  • Anonymous person at a vendor company (think marketer)
  • Engineering expert at a vendor company (think of your application engineers)
  • Sponsored story-teller

Blog 20170427 - Image 2 Trusted Sources.jpg

At the bottom of the list with a dismal score of only 2.16 out of 5.0 is an “anonymous source at a vendor”, which as we all know is usually somebody on the marketing team.

On the other hand, the absolute most trustworthy person for delivering content to another engineer is the engineering expert at a vendor company. That’s a bit gobsmacking, is it not? While the engineers won’t trust us marketers with their leftover lunch, they’ll bet their career on what they hear from one of your internal engineering experts.

Industry analysts and publishers get a decent nod as well, but your own internal resources are the most trusted.  Too bad they can’t / won’t write your content.

What do experts say about marketers creating marketing content?

You’ve listened to your internal engineers. You’ve been in the industry a while. So maybe you are tempted, when the chips are down and you need some content, to just write it yourself.

In an interview published in Crain’s Cleveland Business, Craig Coffey, marketing communications manager at Lincoln Electric, said, “We have outside talent write all our cover stories because, unlike us, they can get outside the conversation about our products. As marketers, we can't help but get in our way. Sometimes you can lose that perspective if you're doing all the writing in-house.”

I’ve seen this first hand as well. As you might imagine, we write a lot of sponsored stories and have created a lot of video. These sponsored posts are difficult. We find ourselves caught between what we know our engineers want to read, and what our customers, the marketers desperately want to say.

The content series sucked - it became about a product rather than about the engineers using the product.

Marketers don’t always lead with the product, but I am still scarred by one disaster that happened many years ago when we first started to create content for clients. We had a real knock-down battle with a client who reminded us that she was, in fact, paying for the content series. And I caved in. The series sucked - it became about a product rather than about the engineers using the product. This was my failure, because I didn’t stand up to the client and refuse the work after they had placed the order. And no, I’m not going to name any names. The fault is mine. Our company has learned from that experience and we create better content as a result.

In a nutshell, as marketers we think about our products in terms of features and benefits. Engineers think in terms of problems / solutions. It’s hard to align those things. As a marketer, you are better off leaving the content creation to an expert, either internal or external.

How can you create content that will satisfy engineers?

The single biggest thing that we have found in publishing more than a dozen engineering stories every day for the past many years is that there is no such thing as too detailed, nor too technical.

Take a look at this recent example from our own Jim Anderton. He’s interviewing John Lytle from Dynatect about automated machine doors.

It’s hard to imagine a dryer topic. And yet, Jim and John manage to pull off five solid minutes of fascinating information about a door that opens and closes. How did they do that?

 

 

Jim started with an objective of making an authentic investigation into how a particular product solves a series of problems for engineers in a manufacturing environment. To make the content satisfying, they not only showed what the product does, but how it works.

The engineers in the audience don’t trust high-level promotional content. They trust a product when they learn the physics of it. They can then appreciate the intelligence that went into the product design, and they can trust it.

That’s why showing the optical-eye sensor and the electronics conduits are necessary to make this video work.

How can you develop a satisfying stream of engineering content?

Since your internal engineers are the most trusted, but won’t write for you (engineers who write are a rare breed), I suggest you hire external writers to interview them or to video them. This allows you to develop:

  1. Trust in the content because the source knows their stuff
  2. A level of technical depth to the story that is satisfying to an engineer

Good luck with your content efforts. You know where to find us if you would like a hand with that.

Thanks for reading and sharing,

John

 

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Research Report: How Engineers Find Information
Research Report: How Engineers Find Information
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