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Marketers’ Misconceptions about the Mind of an Engineer

Four common misconceptions marketers have about engineers and how to steer clear of them

In this post I’ll cover a few common misconceptions about marketing to engineers.  But first, you’ve got to see Todd Sierer’s classic video on this topic.  Todd is an engineer who is so good at marketing he joined the dark side.  That’s right.  He’s now one of us.  An engineering marketer.


And with that, on to the misconceptions about engineers' buying behavior:

  1. Engineers are used to being the smartest person in the room, so appeal to their smug superiority.
     But a campaign that relies on that is gonna flop.  Why?  Because while engineers are used to being considered smart, that doesn’t translate into having a big ego.  Instead, they are more interested in feeding their spongy brains tons of new information.  And by spongy I mean that they soak up information faster than normal humans.  It’s a good thing. So feed the monster.

  2. Engineers are detail oriented, so give all the details about your product. 
    That’s true.  And false. True, you should provide the specifications, but you’ll need to start with a few application examples to give those specs some context.  On the other hand, if you provide too much background you risk boring them.  And don’t even think about using platitudes like “save money”, or “reduce design time” or “get to market faster”, or “collaborate”.  That only leads them to ignore anything that comes afterwards.It’s a balancing act, but worth the extra effort.

  3. Everyone responds to deals.  Engineers are no different, right?  
    Nope.  Engineers are more likely than average consumers to remove emotion from the purchasing decision.  While they may not be 100% correct about their ability to do that, they still want to engage with communications that are technical and factual.  And they really value trusted, 3rd party sources to gather information and assess products.  Their brains filter out the sort of overtly promotional content that’s available on most company websites.  With this in mind, consider using a 3rd party to tell your story rather than trying to drive all campaigns to your corporate web site.

  4. Engineers like the internet, so a campaign around Internet memes is a sure thing.
     Well, creativity is good.  Cute is not good.  Don’t cross the line.  No pictures of cats.  No obtuse cultural references (unless they are Star Trek, Star Wars, or the Periodic Table).  That said, being creative in how you deliver a message can really help.  While white papers and case studies are great, engineers have proven to be very engaged and responsive to marketing messages in a video format, or told as a compelling story. One of the top engineering books ever, The Goal, is a manufacturing thesis told as a story.

So here’s a quick summary of what works:

  •         Say what you have to say, and say it fast
  •         Add specification details so that a curious engineer can figure out what they need to know
  •         Seek to educate (white papers and webinars are good) rather than sell
  •         Consider using 3rd parties to package and deliver your campaign message
  •         Feel free to be creative, but never cute

Btw – Todd Sierer is going to be on the team at the USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington DC in April.  Let me know if you will be there so we can connect in person.

If you want to read more about the mind of the engineer, here are a couple external posts: Understanding the mind of the engineer and Use content to uncover tacit know-how inside the minds of engineers.


Happy persona building,


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