Understanding the Mind of the Engineer: Six Major Misconceptions Revealed


Understanding the Mind of the Engineer

Getting into the head of an engineer is a top-of-mind task for B2B marketers who need to get their product designed into OEM equipment, integrated into a system or specified as a solution. Because the engineer’s mindset is different from other influencers in the buying process B2B practitioners often fail to grasp the engineering mentality.

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These misconceptions often lead to communication problems — and wasted marketing budgets. To help B2B marketers improve their communications with the engineering audience, UBM Tech, publisher of multiple online and print media reaching electronic, IT, and industrial design engineers, recently completed a massive study distilled into the deck “What’s on the Mind of the Engineer?” Blending that study with decades of Godfrey experience with engineers in mechanical, civil, chemical and other disciplines, it’s apparent that misunderstandings occur in six major areas:

1. Engineers think inside the box, so don’t push the envelope.

It’s true that engineers often appear to be thinking inside a box with little interest in exploring unconventional ideas. But that is a big misconception. People outside the engineering discipline mistake the level of single-minded focus and sustained concentration needed to solve an engineering problem with rigidity and close-mindedness. Just like everyone else, engineers have a two-sided brain. Their creative side enjoys trying new things. When asked by the UBM Tech Study, an astounding 97 percent either agreed strongly or somewhat strongly with the statement, “I like trying new things.” In fact, older tenured engineers “derive more satisfaction from solving problems and thinking ‘outside the box’ than others.”

In summary, each side of an engineer’s brain is likely to be more intense than average. The mindshift for B2B marketers is not to avoid creative messages or innovative offerings, just make sure your messaging is ramped up to be real signal rather than more noise.

2. Engineers know it all, so don’t bore them with facts.

It’s true that engineers are educated in a rigorous discipline, and these days, getting advanced degrees and additional certifications. But while engineers may know more than the average Joe, they understand that they are life learners. The UBM Tech study shows 87 percent agree strongly or somewhat strongly with the statement: “I like to learn about things even if they may never be of any use to me.” And one UBM Tech study after another states the #1 concern among all engineers is “keeping their skills current and their technology knowledge up to date.”

In summary, an engineer’s brain is an information sponge. The mindshift for B2B marketers is to include a space where engineers can do a deep dive into your brand’s knowledgebase and engage with your subject matter experts through webinars, tutorials, and forums — either face to face or online.

3. Engineers are wired in, so you can switch off print media.

It’s true that engineers are heavily endowed with smartphones, tablets and power-user laptops. And they are increasingly linked in to social networks and online communication — especially the younger set. But when it comes to doing their job, the UBM study shows engineers prefer straightforward information sources: talking to fellow engineers, visiting vendor websites, and trade publication media (including email newsletters, websites, and print publications).

In summary, traditional media is still important — along with trade shows — depending on the engineer’s discipline and tenure. The mindshift for B2B marketers is to recognize that engineers are unusually susceptible to cognitive overload and to select media carefully to improve receptivity for the information you want to communicate about your brand.

4. Engineers think they are smarter than anyone else in the room, so appeal to their ambition for innovation.

It’s true that engineers are open to new ideas, as previously discussed. But “innovation” is the weakest way to appeal to the engineer’s mind. In fact, the UBM Tech study reveals that companies offering the most innovative products in the industry or introducing more new products per year than any other company had the least influence in earning their trust especially among tenured engineers.

The mindshift for B2B marketers: delivering accurate information, resolution to problems and high cost/performance value can build loyalty for your brand.

5. Engineers are loners, so don’t expect them to connect with social media.

It’s true that engineers can focus in their own little world, as explained above. But in fact, they are not loners. A majority of engineers in the UBM Tech study saw themselves as extroverts. Social media is being used increasingly — including LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, and Facebook — with Google+ appealing to tenured engineers over Facebook and Twitter. And 64 percent attended at least one trade show over the last year. A vast majority — 92 percent — strongly agreed or agreed somewhat with the statement “I am very comfortable sharing my view with my co-workers.” Collaboration is highest with European engineers, but Japanese engineers are less comfortable in leading groups or sharing information among co-workers.

In summary, engineers are clued into the social landscape, but they are not lemmings. The mindshift to B2B marketers is that engineers will engage with social media, just make sure if your brand engages with them through social media, that the venue and content is very, very relevant — especially for tenured engineers.

6. Engineers are wound up too tight, so my fun idea will help them unwind.

It’s true that engineers face time and cost pressure at work, which, according to the UBM Tech study, is increasing. But when creating a “fun” event or concept for an engineer, it’s important to remember that “fun” in an engineer’s mind may take a different form. Engineers identify with Dilbert and can smell a marketing ploy from miles away. 

In summary, engineers come in all shapes and sizes and ages and disciplines. The mindshift to B2B marketers is to get pro insight before thinking your idea will illuminate the LED in an engineer’s brain.

Conclusion: Use insight to clear up misconceptions and deliver B2B communications into the engineering brain.

About the Author

Ken Jones

I am an unabashed believer in the contribution of marketing communications to the success of a business.


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