Engaging engineers begins and ends with meaty content

If you’re like me, you’re loving the resurgence of creative in marketing. TV shows like Mad Men and The Pitch have put the spotlight squarely back on the stuff that actually moves people—the message.

The message, of course, is communicated a little differently in the high-tech, business-to-business (B2B) world. Engineers are a tough bunch, not easily swayed by the leopard that’s supposed to portray “fast switching speed” or the fighter jet that suggests you’re “battle proven.” No, these are not your average humans. Like cowboys, they smell bull from a mile away. They’re independent thinkers who will rarely admit to being swayed by advertising because they think it’s a sign of weakness. Oh, how I love them. Let me explain why and why good creative is now just the beginning of a great campaign.  

I could have forged a path to Madison Avenue pitching soup to soccer Moms, but I’m the son of a surplus electronics junkie. Forever surrounded by components, test equipment, fiber optics, and solar cells, I learned from my Zen Master Dad to quickly figure out how something worked and where the market was for it. I’m 46 now, and I still love that hunt. It’s brought me to high-tech regions far and wide with my agency. And I know that engineer in his cubicle or at his bench is waiting for my next approach. He will find every typo and missed message that gets by me. But I also know that he’ll swallow my piece de résistance whole when I serve it up right.

What’s “right”? Some marketers look at the newest things like quick response (QR) codes, mobile apps, facebook, and blogs as the next silver bullet. And to be honest, there are some extremely powerful new marketing tools out there. But while it’s easy to understand how they can be leveraged to grow awareness and drive traffic for, say retailers and coffee chains, are they really useful in the business-to-business (B2B) and engineer-to-engineer (E2E) space?

Certainly social media is gaining ground even in the most vertical industries. Sixty-eight percent of manufacturers increased their spending on social media way back in 2010. According to a November 2011 Advertising Age stat list, B2B marketers are spending millions of dollars annually on social-marketing programs.The same list declared that LinkedIn is the most popular social media B2B application with 64 million professional subscribers in North America alone. Twitter use, mobile apps and mobile search are also going through the roof across all consumer segments. On the flip side, company blogs are steadily declining in popularity due to their heavy maintenance requirements and displacement by Twitter’s micro-messaging approach. A Forrester Research study in 2011 also showed that one of the hottest trends in marketing, mobile phone quick response (QR) codes, are hardly habitual. Only 5% of Americans with mobile phones had actually used them.

As with audiences everywhere, the technology professional is both reading and watching online.However, for every tweet or e-mail read there is also someone scratching his or her head, wondering why their efforts aren’t catching on.  The reason is usually quite simple. The biggest mistake technology marketers make with social media is that they treat it like, well, traditional marketing.

That’s why so many of us are steering towards a content driven strategy. Bait in the water where the fish are feeding. After traditional media is created we now get to carve it up in a variety of bite-size pieces and then hang the original piece off a hook.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

After a full page brand ad was created and placed in Microwave Journal proclaiming an engineer could “Exorcise Phantom PIM Signals” with San-tron’s newest low PIM cable assemblies, a white paper that Strand produced has been announced on their website and advertised in the Journal’s online white paper archive and in a month of Microwave Flash newsletters. It was then the source of a pitch and successful feature piece in the Journal’s last issue; has been announced to the world via Marketwire; has been subsequently published in print and online around the globe (various Web links embedded in the release providing “popularity” to search engines and paths to Web crawlers); is a lead gen tool in an upcoming e-mail campaign; and will be used by our social media team as a suggestive solution in and around industry forums and blogs on the paper’s topic of passive intermodulation. We’ll also be connecting with journalists and followers of the MTT-S show’s hash tag #IMS2012 and letting everyone know the paper is free to download from the company website, and of course is available in their booth along with San-tron’s now famously exciting show giveaways.

The super-sexy title and subhead of the paper?

Minimizing PIM Generation from RF Coaxial Cables and Connectors

Understanding mechanical tolerances, coaxial design details and connector materials used in cable assemblies helps produce communications equipment with the lowest levels of passive intermodulation (PIM).

It’s weird that I enjoyed penning that almost as much as the ad’s headline. But like a fisherman who just strung a bloodworm on a barbed hook, I can’t wait for the bite.

Got a fishing tip you’d like to share? Leave a comment. We’re all in this boat together.

David Strand is CEO and Brand Director of Strand Marketing, and a microwave industry insider. He can be reached at dstrand@strandmarketing.com and his agency can be followed on Twitter at @StrandMkt.