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Marketing to Engineers

Developing marketing communications messages for industrial manufacturing engineers is different from other demographics. But not that different.


Industrial Manufacturing EngineerFor years, marketers in the industrial manufacturing world have debated about how to best communicate their product/service information their primary target; engineers. The most argued position is that an engineer “wants product information presented to them as simple clear facts” and that clever or tricky marketing design concepts are “a put-off” or “make our company look silly”. The point of this side of the debate is that the engineer is so left-brained and logical that they would not engage in an entertaining design concept (whether print, online, direct mail, or trade show messages) to communicate a market message. This position didn’t make sense to me. Why would the engineers in this industry be so different from other industries? I had to figure this out, so I did a bunch of research.


What became evident is that the position of how to market was extracted from history. Manufacturers had become accustomed to ‘marketing’ to engineers by delivering extensive product catalogs and showing product information at every communication point. I was there in early 2000 looking at different advertisements, trade show signs, and direct mail pieces and consistently seeing a bland sea of blue, black, and grey machines and components photos with small font in bullet points listing features. No one stood out. Engineers absolutely need product specifications to do their job, and the primary responsibility of marketing is to engage them in the first place so in the past, details about equipment were used at every communication point because it was more challenging to gather details. Now that engineers can access extensive product information with keyword search whenever they want, the requirements of marketing is much more expansive. The objective of marketing is basically two-fold.


First, you must get the engineer’s attention (most likely by using an entertaining design concept) and deliver a primary message that ties them to understanding your brand attributes. That way, when they do their keyword searches in their hunt to specify products, they will subconsciously think, “Oh, that’s a good/familiar brand”… and off they go into the sales cycle. Why would they consider your company if they are completely unfamiliar with your brand? Your next job as a marketer is to give them the details when they engage with your brand. Optimize your website and plug all kinds of online directories and search engines with links and information to get your website found. Arm your inside and outside sales people with tools to provide details. Don’t confuse the message by trying to dump the details into the advertisement. Keep only a primary message in the ad, and then provide all of the detail in web/product material.


The marketing process was much more single-focused in the past, as it was a point where customers collected data in addition to retain your brand message. But the Internet has changed things, and that is why the debate remains. Both positions are critical and necessary. If your organization is only focused on the data entry part, you are missing out on the biggest opportunity to gain (or even maintain) market share. If you can drop the debate and take on a strategy of brand marketing supported by a dedication to provide easy-to-find product and support information online, then you are properly marketing to the engineer.

Get Out of the Way of Design

When too many people try to drive your marketing designs it can be like you're a passenger of a teenager driving an old car with manual steering and a stick shift!

I find that when most CEOs, Product Managers, Sales Managers. and even Engineers initially work with marketing communications, they have a tendency to try to drive the design concepts. Often when these ‘internal customers’ get involved with a campaign or marketing project, they have a tendency to insert their opinion on the design to communicate the ‘big idea.’ Sometimes their involvement can feel like you are the passenger with a 15year-old kid driving a '57 Chevy with a stick shift and manual steering racing down Mulholland Drive… It just always ends badly.


The internal customer’s leverage can be paralyzing to the process. For example, I’ve had a CEO tell me to run his design concept or I might lose my job. I’ve had a Product Manager demand we run the picture of his product or he would pull the whole campaign. And I’ve had a Sales Manager practically bully some of my staff members trying to push his marketing concepts. It’s quite natural for product and sales owners to want to be involved as developing concepts is one of the most exciting parts of being in marketing. After decades of experience, however, I have found the best way to connect the message with the design is to give designers solid demographic details, strong market messages, and possibly an experience with the product or service, and then just get out of the way.


The silver lining if you do find yourself wedged between an internal customer trying to steer and a designer spinning from too much direction is that there is some good that comes from everyone involved. Mistakes can be a very healthy way to learn that each player in the process has a specific role to make the marketing campaign effective. The Engineer needs to develop a product the market will desire; the Product Manager needs to tap the voice of the customer and be clear in communicating which differentiating features and benefits to promote that will best connect with the customer. The Marketing Manager needs to package a design brief that clearly outlines all aspects of the communication plan, coupled with the Product Manager’s information. The CEO and executive staff must clearly outline the financial resources and expected outcomes. And finally, the Designer must develop concepts that will be visually arresting and effectively communicate the core benefit to the target demographic. When members of the team overstep their bounds or fail to deliver their part, the process suffers.


If you find yourself playing a role in this marketing process as an internal customer, I encourage you to step back from your expectations, and let the process drive the result. While the outcome may surprise you, it will most likely give you the biggest bang for your buck. If too many people try to grab the wheel and drive the design, you will end up with a massive compromise. In the short-term compromise will satisfy internal customers but do nothing to connect with your external one and that will result in a tragic crash of your marketing investment.

Our Sales Incentives are Upside Down

Let’s remove some of the insanity from the sales process. We have a very different customer these days thanks to changes in online resources. It’s time to rethink how you approach the market with incentives for your frontline sales force. Are your commission structures actually promoting behaviors that keep your revenue growth stagnant?


First, double-check your sales model. Commissions need to promote behaviors you want your salespeople to execute. What percent of sales growth is tied to new products or services versus reorder of existing ones? It’s human nature to sell what you are comfortable with, but the point of having a professional sales team is to push the bounds of your customers' comfort zone and move them into higher efficiencies and/or quality with your new technology. If the commission is the same on new and existing products, it’s much easier for a salesperson to have a customer reorder product instead of stretching him/her to purchase the new technology. There are issues with new technology that justify the increased commission… education, cost justification, challenges of new installation, and more. External sales teams should focus on new product sales, experiencing high commission incentives for selling new technology and low commission incentives for reselling existing products, which can be handled by more of an order-taker skill set.


Consider how you leverage your customer-facing internal resources. Customer service should be encouraged to ping customers and work an up-sell based on the past activity of a customer. Your marketing team should get prospects attention with online keywords, newsletters, social networks, chat, direct mail, etc., and then engage them by pulling them in as leads and keeping the company’s brand messages and product/service offerings top-of-mind.


Stop motivating your expensive field sales team with incentives to be “order takers.” Spread incentives wider than field sales, but keep that frontline team lathered in income potential. Top salespeople should make more money than their managers if your incentive structure is properly set up. If done correctly, you will slow down the craziness of trying to grow sales by doing the same things you’ve always done and increase organic, sustainable long-term growth with properly motivated sales and marketing team members.

Evolution Of Your Sales Approach

Now that customers have become much more savvy at gathering information about your products and services, a traditional sales approach has become archaic. What can you do to map your organization’s approach to have effective interactions with your customer that continue to grow revenue and market share?


An obvious start would be to implement an integrated Contact Relationship Management (CRM) system and open communication between departments. To keep tossing out leads and expecting the sales people to pull in more and more sales without providing them an army of helpers throughout the sales cycle will lead to serious dysfunction. Even without a CRM or way to immediately share contact and sales information between departments, you need to establish your sales approach to engage more contributors to the sales process. Consider your ‘sales team’ to be much more expansive than the people that have “sales” or “business development” in their title. Contributors include management, marketing, customer service, field service/maintenance, and even accounting.

New Sales Structures include interactions from multiple individuals that are not necessarily in direct sales but can still move the sales process forward with the customer

When everyone has access to information on the customer’s sales/order process, then each person who interacts with the customer has the potential to move sales along as well as introduce new opportunities to buy. Use technology to your advantage. It keeps everyone connected almost immediately with text messages, email, online chat, and keyword opt-in services to pull data and alerts when and you want them.


When you map your organization to support a new collaborative sales approach, then everyone who can connect with your customers is considered (and provided incentive to be) a contributor to the sales cycle. Ultimately, your customers will become more attached to your organization, and your sales revenue will grow.

Why Do Salespeople Only Follow Up On 20% Of Trade Show Leads?

It seems kind of crazy from a marketing person's perspective that 80% of the leads collected on the trade show floor are not contacted by the sales team after the show. For years, this statistic was reported by the exhibit industry.


My personal experiences in researching the contact management systems of most companies I’ve worked with proved that about half of the leads are contacted. Still, the number is frustrating to a marketer as well as the executive staff, so I started getting serious about finding out, “Why?” I found out two major points.


1. The definition of followup from a salesperson’s perspective and a marketing person’s perspective is different.

2. The statistic in the industry wasn’t backed up by hard facts.


I’ll address the definition point first. In talking with salespeople, most of them called all of their leads but considered the act of leaving a voicemail or email completed the followup. As a professional salesperson, they feel that multiple calls and emails would be considered ‘bugging’ their potential customer. If there was a quote involved, they were more aggressive with the followup, but most leads from a show are contact names that request literature and do not specify a project. In that case, they feel a call/email is appropriate to give the requested information and provide their own contact numbers. Many marketing people define a followup as a belly-to-belly or live telephone conversation with a ‘next step’ reported. You may think there is a disconnect with the sales and marketing organizations, but it is more in the preparations of properly defining and communicating the expectations and providing an easy and useful way of reporting the results.


Now let’s address the myth of 80% of trade show leads are not followed up. In 2010, Exhibitor magazine was so frustrated with not having the proof of this statistic that they conducted a survey themselves. They found that less than 47% of companies that exhibit actually track their trade show leads, and only 28% have some way of evaluating ROI from the leads collected. Only 5% had a computerized system of capturing and then providing follow-through on the life of the lead.


Sales and marketing need to be aligned in their objectives and expectations before the show. The two people responsible for these roles need to collaborate and then set and communicate the goals. This includes not only establishing the target number of leads but also the expectations for taking action such as the timeframe, type of information to report, and appropriate way to communicate results.

Put Your Tradeshow Signs On Steroids With QR Codes

With ICE under our belts and CPP ExpoLabel Expo and the K Show coming up, I challenge all exhibitors and attendees to download a QR code reader app and hit the floors armed with the reader. The experience at the show will be much more enriched. If the exhibitors do it right, they will have QR Codes on their trade show signs directing visitors to a product-specific web page that may contain video demonstrations, technical specifications, and even offers to get the product or service quickly.


Are you an exhibitor that wants to enhance your prospect’s experience at the show and demonstrate your cutting-edge prowess? Then take some action with this 4-step guide on how to easily create QR codes.


Step 1 – Provide your customer with a very purposeful webpage that will load onto a smartphone or tablet. Make sure you are not just re-purposing something they are already seeing in the booth. Create video, make an offer or provide testimonials that support the message they see next to the QR Code they will scan.

Step 2 – Copy the URL of that webpage, and go to a free QR Code Generator site. There are many available; my favorite is KAYWA, found at

 Easy QR Code Product

Step 3 – Paste your URL into the field, select the “Static” button before clicking on “Generate.” Your QR Code image will be on the left.

Step 4 – Single right-click the QR Code image, and select “Save as…” Then save the image onto your computer so you can insert it into your tradeshow graphic. It’s that easy. Make sure the size is large enough to scan from the reader app on a smartphone or tablet and, of course, test, test, and test before printing!


One last thing… There is an etiquette to using QR Codes, so make sure you don’t use them in a digital environment (email, webpage) because a simple URL link would be more appropriate, and don’t lead the users to content that they already have in front of them. Give them a pay-off for doing the work to scan your code. I’m breaking the rules with my sample image of a QR Code (which technically I have on this page to show you what it looks like) but if you scan it, I have provided you with a little treat once you get to the web page. Go ahead; check it out… It’s worth viewing!

What Can QR Codes Do For Manufacturing?

QR Code Scan Image for ManufacturingLearning how to use QR (Quick Reader) codes in manufacturing has been a low priority because many deem them as having a more ‘retail’ or ‘consumer’ application. But QR codes can be extremely effective in not only your print marketing communications (trade show signs and banners, print ads, etc.) but also in manufacturing, supply chain processes and project management. They are easy to create and are capable of carrying much more information than barcodes. For example, you can use them throughout your building to connect employees to your intranet and give them updated information about things such as a manufacturing process, HR policy, training video and much more. In fact, QR codes were originally used in 1994 in the automotive industry to track car parts in Japan through the manufacturing process!


So what is a QR Code?

A QR Code is a 2-dimensional, typically black & white square image that can be scanned with a smartphone’s QR Code Reader to direct the phone’s web browser to a web page. Recent innovations in QR Codes include printing the code in different shapes and colors, but in the simple form they are black and white and square.


How do I read a QR Code?

First, you must have a smartphone, tablet or type of barcode reading device that has a camera, can download an application and direct the user to a webpage. In the “App Store” of the device, find an application that can ‘read’ the QR Code (see a list of examples below). Once installed, open the application and point the frame of the application over the QR Code in front of you. Technically, your device is using your camera to take a picture of the image and lead you to a web page. That webpage should have expanded information or even a video about the product, service or message in front of you.


Popular products to use include:

QR Barcode Scanner

QuickMark Barcode Scanner

QR Code Reader / Scanner

Scan, Inc.


Though this quick video is consumer focused, it gives you a good idea of how to use your application to scan a QR code… 


Creating a QR Code is another topic, one I will cover in the future.

The Dance, Part Two: The Marketing Plan Approval Process

In my last blog entry, I started the discussion about the frustration many marketers experience when they attend “the dance” at the end of each year where they meet with the executives to get approval of their marketing plan. Most of these meetings end in anguish for a marketer who expects to get approval of their plan as-is; however, it’s not a healthy expectation to go to this meeting with that mindset.


This dance (er… meeting) is an opportunity for the marketer to get closer to the constantly evolving and somewhat confidential vision of the top leadership in the company. The marketing plan may be picked apart but the purpose is to align the recommended marketing approaches (based on the written business strategy and technology roadmaps) with the direction of the organization’s leadership. It’s also an opportunity for the executives to discover trends that connect with their marketplace. The outcome can seem like a mish-mash of tactics, but trust the process, as the result is most likely the best for the overall business.


In the last blog entry I provided two of four preparation tactics (Align The Business Strategy & Research Every Opportunity) to prepare your marketing plan. Following are the remaining two.


Determine Your Marketing Budget

Unless you have a significant product launch or brand initiative planned for the year, estimate that your marketing communications budget is approximately 2-3% of sales revenue. If you have a major launch planned, that percentage could rise to 3-5% (in some industries, it could be as high as 20%!). If your organization is spending less than 2%, consider this a red flag as it demonstrates they are not investing in the future, or they are putting the pressure on other areas of the business (service or sales, for example) to make up the difference. Even if you are the low-price leader, you still need to invest in getting the word out. The elements in your budget should be split between brand promotion (sales literature, website, brand advertising, social media labor), and lead generation (campaigns, direct advertising, events, direct mail).


Track Progress and ROI Quarterly

Once approved and distributed, revisit the plan and budget at least quarterly and report back to the executives. Make sure you have a system in place to track the metrics of each campaign. It may be challenging to track the value of some items such as brand advertising and sales literature, but account for their expenses and demonstrate the value.


The next time you show up to the dance and the executives start picking through your recommended marketing plan, keep the perspective that this experience is a healthy part of the business process. The executives of a company aren’t necessarily able to communicate the knowledge and tactics they are working on, but they do know a lot about the direction in which the company is going. Stay strong in your convictions, but remember that it’s their dance… let them lead.

The Dance: The Marketing Plan Approval Process

At the end of every year marketers attend a dance with the executives of their companies to get approval of the annual marketing plan. Many times their plan gets picked apart and the marketer is left frustrated and feeling like he or she has put too much energy into something not worthwhile. But I’m here to tell you that the time and energy put into a carefully laid plan is absolutely worthwhile to the success of the overall business strategy, even if the work gets picked apart.

If you are one of these disheartened marketers, I suggest you change your perspective the next time you attend the dance (I mean, meeting). Your role is to inform the executives of what is available in the world of communications, and their role is to provide input and direction based on their knowledge and experience. Consider the planning meeting the “first iteration” of your final plan, but make sure you have a very thorough and cohesive one to present.
Here is the start to a healthy approach to preparing your marketing planning.
Align Your Plan With The Business Strategy
Your plan needs to outline the communication tactics for the various market sectors the business approaches. Product management can provide the long-term and short-term roadmaps for their approach, and your marketing communications plan should support their plan within the targeted time frame.

Research Every Opportunity to Connect with Your Customer
To differentiate yourself, you need to communicate with the marketplace in a way that they will receive your message. The options are constantly changing and your job is to stay on top of the common as well as unique ways to connect with the market. This collection can be vast and sometimes random or even seemingly nonsensical, but still collect them because you never know what message your may need to take to market and your job is to present avenues to do so in a memorable and engaging way.
Remember, your plan is developed to give you direction and communicate with the organization. It is not inflexible. As General George S. Patton said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” Stay flexible and take advantage of what opportunities unveil themselves as the year progresses.
Stay on top of your game. Be prepared with a very thorough plan but remain open for change. The organization’s leadership will make changes based on information and experience you do not have. It’s their company and they hired you for bringing the best opportunities forward. Don’t waste time and energy being defensive. Let them tear apart your good work and keep the frame of mind that this is a healthy part of the process.

Stay tuned for Part Two –
Determine Your Marketing Budget
 & Track Progress and ROI Quarterly

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