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Engineers Need Marketing Skills

Engineers Need Marketing Skills

Cross-functional marketing teams are essential for robust sales. Equipped with hard and soft skills, sales engineers are especially beneficial in presenting engineering solutions to clients.
An engineering business that grows revenues, innovates products, and enjoys brand recognition likely owes much of its success to marketing. This lets current and potential clients know about a company’s successes and helps to retain and attract new business. It’s possible to build the best product in the world, but it doesn’t matter if no one knows about it or uses it.

Mechanical engineers have the technical information to market their projects outside their companies but are often reluctant to take time away from their current projects to help with marketing. This results in a big disconnect between the marketing and engineering teams.

What engineers do not realize is that their reluctance to market themselves or their projects or work willingly with the marketing team can lead to lost revenue and fewer clients. Furthermore, if the company does not grow as fast as its competitors, it will lose key personnel, and salaries and bonuses will stagnate.

Building cross-functional teams

Engineers who work with marketers combine their expertise to design customer-centric products that have broad appeal. Marketers who work with engineers create smarter campaigns because they have a deeper understanding of the technology and have all the marketing bullets they need. Respectful, cross-functional collaboration is the key.

Because they are so technology-oriented, some engineers may not have solid soft skills, which can slow down the project team’s effective communication and decision-making. For engineers to be successful at marketing, they must be accomplished communicators, listeners, and problem solvers. On their own, they can market their work and their companies at conferences. These tend to be competitive events where vendors have displays, videos, and materials that are both marketing and technical in nature.

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Engineers need to work with the marketing team to create the most effective materials for these events. A successful trade show or conference means solid interest from participants, plentiful leads, and maybe even some new business, all of which will increase revenue.

The sales engineer

A sales engineer often acts as the bridge between the development of a product and marketing or selling it to potential buyers, typically in a business-to-business setting. Sales engineers are usually engineers themselves and deeply understand all the technical details and features of a company’s products or services, so they can discuss them fluently. They also know they may not be selling to tech experts so it is important they can explain complex products and concepts in simple terms that are easy to understand.

Sales engineers are especially valuable because they are on the front line, talking to customers and potential customers about needs, problems, and other issues. Therefore they can recognize trends that are developing within an industry, allowing them to identify solutions that already exist (or can be built) to service these trends. They must know everything about their company’s capabilities and be empathetic problem-solvers.

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Understanding the customer

Sales engineers are effective at knowing what current or potential clients (or industry groups) want. They hear issues repeated from multiple clients, perhaps revealing an unmet need and opportunity to deliver a product or service that can benefit an entire industry.

Direct client communication and problem-solving (regardless of whose product they use), is the best way to develop a strong brand and a growing customer base. Another technique for winning over customers is “engineering as marketing.” Sales engineers know what customers are looking for and a good marketing approach is to create a free tool or resource that provides immediate value to the customer. For example, it could be a proprietary tool that was developed in-house that other mechanical engineers would find useful. An email address is used to download the tool from a dedicated website, where the emails are collected and used to generate high-quality leads.

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Building the engineer-marketing relationship

Steps that mechanical engineers can take to work more effectively with marketing personnel include:
  • Knowing how marketers will use data/technology points helps engineers determine and deliver the right information quickly;
  • Appointing a marketing team member to be the single point of contact for the engineering team, which reduces redundant requests and actions;
  • Collaborating on a plan with benchmarks and deadlines; and
  • Adapting tools that simplify data processes and workflows for both teams, saving time and optimizing interactions and discussions.
By building effective cross-functional and collaborative processes, mechanical engineers and marketers can work together to drive new product development, boost profits, and gain market share.

Mark Crawford is technology writer in Corrales, N.M.

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