Within deep tech B2B industries, design engineers remain key personas due to their influential role in specifying products from component manufacturers and other suppliers. However, the way in which they interact and source information from companies before making a decision has changed dramatically.
For instance, 20 years ago it was common for a design engineer to have a very personal connection with component suppliers. Indeed, it wasn’t unusual for them to pick up the phone and speak to a Field Applications Engineer (FAE) with whom they were well-acquainted who may have supplied components in the past – to home in on a solution for a particular requirement in a new design.
This type of direct interaction may have been supplemented with some desk research – such as checking industry journals, directories – along with making trips to tradeshows to scope out suppliers’ latest offerings.
Now all that has changed – the internet, technical trade media and social media dominates and design engineers get most of the way down the design funnel before contacting a potential supplier, let alone speaking to someone directly.
This means that to be successful, not only must component manufacturers and suppliers offer the ideal product solution, but also tick the following boxes to say with any degree of confidence that they are visible to design engineers and offering ‘self-service’ at all stages of the design and buying journey.
Six ways to reach, influence and support design engineers
1. Raise your brand awareness
The need to be visible in what is an incredibly competitive market space means that companies cannot neglect brand awareness activities, such as sustained earned and paid for trade and social media campaigns. Executed correctly, these can act as an effective means to stand out and rise above the competition. The first step is to develop concise and impactful messaging that will resonate with design engineers e.g. by demonstrating you understand their pain points and have developed a solution that addresses their specific, day-to-day challenges.
Once that’s done, it’s essential to consider how those messages can be deployed in a creative and visual way that will resonate with your target audience. Then it’s a case of researching and selecting the right channels where design engineers are likely to see your messaging. In some cases, this will be through dedicated design forums on industry-specific websites or groups in social media platforms. In some areas, such as Germany and the DACH-region, print media continues to be an essential and valued medium for reaching the engineer.
2. Demonstrate technical thought leadership
Showing that you have a finger on the pulse of (and are responding to) the latest technological trends and market developments can go a long way to influencing a design engineer to look more deeply into what your company has to offer. One way this can be achieved effectively is through ‘hero’ content such as whitepapers, webinars or sector research reports that show you have a comprehensive understanding of specific topics and trends of relevance or concern to design engineers.
Another benefit of developing this type of content is that it can be targeted at design engineers within particular niche segments. One way this can be achieved is through Account-Based Marketing (ABM) techniques whereby you might, for instance, select a specific portion of design engineers, or even people working in a particular company, and then target them with messaging or ads that will drive them to a landing page on your website where a gated whitepaper or webinar registration form is located.
3. Produce content to educate your engineering audiences and amplify it
To reach design engineers at every stage of the buyer journey (awareness, consideration, decision), you should ideally produce a wide array of informative content. In addition to hero content such as whitepapers, this could include short written info briefs and concise ‘How to’ videos through to in-depth technical application notes and design guides. The ultimate goal is to educate design engineers about how your components or services can and will meet their overriding design challenges.
Now the task is to get this content seen. 77% of B2B buyers state that their latest purchase was very complex, or difficult. This means you have a plethora of choices, as the truth of the matter is that engineers are searching for information everywhere. One thing is clear, you need a strategy that encompasses an “always-on” element in the form of SEO or PPC.
Layered on top of this, there are a number of dedicated design engineering outlets. Despite these having diminished in recent years, there is still a good and healthy number of respected news sites that offer a wide array of earned and paid options to promote the content that design engineers look for before making a purchase decision: from press releases about the latest components to technical articles and case studies that demonstrate how a component supplier solved a company’s product design challenges.
Social media provides options to target your existing followers, work with influencers, and specifically target vertical sectors or specific companies.
Blog posts are especially popular amongst design engineers and as discovered in our latest social media report, short-form content on websites is shared nearly twice as much as longer content.
And don’t forget to target subscribers to your mailing lists…
4. Offer accessible and easy-to-use data, services and tools to speed-up design for your customers
Once a design engineer, who may or may not have read some of the educational content you’ve produced, finds your company website they will inevitably look for resources and tools that will help to accelerate and simplify their design process. These types of resources typically range from dev kits and datasheets to online calculators and interactive design tools and must be easy to find and access.
When a potential customer reaches your website, which will now increasingly be via their smartphone, they need to find what they’re looking for in a small number of clicks, or they may leave and look elsewhere. That challenge aside, design engineers also demand digital software-driven resources that are highly interactive and intuitive.
5. Offer parts with ready availability via popular and multiple channels
It sounds obvious, but offering a quick and readily available supply of components and parts is essential to meet the fast-paced needs of design engineers. You need to ensure that the ordering process is simple and lead times are clearly communicated. Thinking beyond your own website is also crucial as design engineers will typically consider distributors and resellers when making a purchase decision. For that reason, having established knowledgeable and proven channel partners is vital if you want design engineers to specify your solutions.
6. Demonstrate strong CSR, ethics and diversity as an employer and partner
While ethics, diversity and sustainability are important to us all, it is also increasingly becoming a factor that determines if a potential customer chooses a company as a supplier. More and more companies are developing and implementing plans and policies to ensure that they are behaving in the correct way. Where this is the case it is important to share the principles and details via your website. This serves not only to demonstrate your commitments in this area to prospective customers but also to educate, inspire and foster similar behaviours amongst site visitors and their organisations.
In conclusion, good marketing communications support the delivery of these facets. To reach design engineers, it is critical to have all the pieces of the content jigsaw in place but also to communicate them effectively – as ultimately there is little point in doing one without the other.
For more insight into how to target engineers, please contact us.