By Margaret Johns, President, Bluewater Consulting
5 Tips for Engineers Transitioning into Marketing Roles
The practice of marketing in the modern era has evolved significantly in recent years and the pace of change continues to quicken. Marketing professionals with substantial experience and an educational foundation rooted in the principles of product marketing are finding it difficult to stay on top of the changes. Demand for content and responsiveness has never been higher and even traditional marketers are feeling the crunch.
Engineering and Industrial Marketing - Career Crossroads
As a result, product managers or engineeris transitioning into marketing centric roles face the dual challenges of mastering the fundamentals while generating leads or increasing brand awareness. It’s a scenario that evokes the image of one attempting to change the oil on a racecar while zooming around the track at top speed. A difficult task indeed.
Fortunately, there are resources that may be applied to this issue. Here we offer five key tips designed specifically to empower engineers moving into marketing career paths.
1. Define Your Goals
While this may seem obvious, many professionals skip this step and proceed straight into workload management. Going to the task may make one appear to be immediately productive but it’s a decision that often leads to professional fallout downstream. Career transitions mark the perfect opportunity to take stock of the contributions that can be made and the approaches that may be taken to deliver both short-term and long-term wins.
Consider whether answers to the following questions are known:
- What is the purpose of this position in the overall context of the business?
- How does this position create value for the business?
- Is the enterprise focused on building brand awareness or is generating leads for specific product concepts the primary objective?
- What does a successful Industrial Marketing function look like? How will it be measured?
- If there are competing priorities, what does the culture of the organization indicate about managing objectives in this context?
Taking the time to identify answers to these questions is a wise investment, whether you're part of a multinational enterprise or a small business. Seeking such answers will likely require you to engage your manager and doing so will demonstrate initiative, creating a positive impression and laying the first brick in the foundation of your new role.
Keeping in touch with your new peers and colleagues and following through on the next steps shows reliability. Setting up idea generation meetings can be a good start.
Once you are satisfied that you thoroughly understand the goals at hand, it is time to develop a plan of action. Developing work plans and managing projects are skills that engineers are definitely familiar with. However, in the context of marketing plans, fulfilling these tasks may require you to look at the business from a different perspective.
2. Look at the Bigger Picture
Engineering disciplines that concentrate on product design and development or the application of those products require focus, adherence to deadlines, and management of dependencies. Focusing all your time on the small tasks will
Completing one’s daily work in these areas often leaves little time to explore other aspects of the business, such as the customer base, market dynamics, the product mix, company history and strategy, and financials.
Understanding different areas of your company will help you do a better job and give you ideas for advancing your marketing career.
Ask your Customers
Understanding the breakdown of the customer base and buying behaviors delivers a snapshot that supports further segmentation and eventual targeting for marketing programs. Pairing such information with historical data allows you to see how the customer mix may have changed over time with the introduction of new products or services or perhaps coinciding with entry into new markets. This is a cornerstone of your customer engagement strategy and will help you understand your customer experience.
Undertake Engineering and Industrial Market Specific Research
It is important to understand the key markets for your business and the factors that influence customer purchasing decisions. This knowledge can help you develop more effective marketing messages and programs.
Understanding your customer and product life cycle gives you a perfect starting point.
Taking to Google and other major search engines, as an example, will give you an overview of where your competitors sit in the market.
Learn from Past Failures (and Successes!)
Getting to know the history of your company and its strategy will help you connect the dots between your new role and the value you deliver for the enterprise. The resulting knowledge may also play a role in the priorities you assign to tasks.
Reviewing the financials of your company or business unit will enable you to see the bigger picture. When analyzed in combination with the strategy, you may also be able to determine how well the company is fulfilling its strategic initiatives. Each of these areas lends useful insights to guide decision making in your new position. Using CRM software with a degree of marketing automation will definitely help you achieve these goals.
3. Build Your Network – Branch Out
Engineers progress through ranks that are largely designed to reward individual contributions. This practice begins in engineering school, where research and the formation of theories and hypotheses must be established and managed by the individual. Transitioning into marketing centric roles, however, requires a bit of a mindset shift.
Marketing roles, whether focused on product marketing, market development, or market strategy, often require cross-functional input. Here you have exceptional value to offer.
Reach out for Input
Applying your background and the connections you have established throughout your career can accelerate progress on projects. If you use your past experiences and connections, you can be a valuable asset to your company or Engineering Marketing team. You can offer a different perspective and help solve problems.
4. Listen to the Research
After completing the three previous steps, it is time to explore the tools and processes available to support a modern approach to engineering marketing. While some modern approaches are best suited to B2C use cases, there are elements that may be effectively applied to B2B marketing initiatives. An excellent example of this is the introduction of social media and digital advertising elements into the marketing plan.
Utilize B2B Social Media
For B2B purposes, and in particular, for B2B marketing plans aimed at promoting highly engineered, technical products, a selection of social media platforms and the use of advertising should be guided by research.
Collect Valuable Data
Outreach may be as simple as inviting existing customers to complete an online survey and promoting responses. If these surveys indicate that there are shifting demographics among your customer base, you may find it helpful to outsource the design of a research plan. Pay attention to your customer journey and aim to improve common pain points.
Develop Buyer Personas
Any Marketing plan aims to understand your customer's behavior. Look for the information sources and types of content they consume regularly, as well as the communication channels they use and rely on the most. This will make up the base of your Marketing plan and will help you choose media channels, content, and call to actions based on these preferences. The use of customer personas will also help improve your organization's customer service.
5. Utilize Marketing Automation Tools
With the outputs of your research in place, the final step involves identifying the buyer’s journey and mobilizing your marketing plan to support it. Identifying the points on the path that your customers follow leading up to purchase ensures you understand the information customers seek when making a purchasing decision as well as when such information should be provided.
Aligning sales and marketing is a critical piece, as the sales team touches the market on a daily basis. They can often provide exceptional insights as to the depth of information required along the various points of the sales cycle. The most effective marketing plans nurture leads throughout the sales cycle, leading to higher close rates and even residual income through eventual account expansion or referrals.
Analyzing your website experience is also important, as the analysis may shed some light on the consumption of content and the depth of content required to stimulate customer engagement with the sales organization.
At this point, if you have not already gained familiarity with the customer relationship management (CRM) system your company or business unit uses, doing so will further inform the next steps. Many CRM tools enable the company to manage the sales funnel by analyzing the movement of opportunities through the funnel in accordance with the sales methodology.
Pairing such data with key web analytics will enable you to identify strengths and weaknesses. Use these metrics to pinpoint relevant content and the best-performing media channels that lead to higher conversion.
Understand the Industrial Buyer Journey
The greatest successes in the application of digital marketing elements are achieved when the enterprise offers the right content, through the right medium, with the right level of frequency.
Marketing automation software greatly helps any marketing team, regardless of size and shape, as they not only automate content delivery but also support audience engagement and message refinement. The most robust software tools in this area also support segmentation, lead scoring, and specified delivery options to hone in on messages unique to each customer’s information requirements.
Make sure you are using the right Marketing tools by assessing the value and the usage level of these existing product marketing programs. Helping your team make the most of a tool ensures greater ROI.
Although at first the task of Engineering Marketing may appear daunting, with the right approach, advice, and tools, even the smaller teams can compete effectively with their larger counterparts.
About Margaret Johns, President, Bluewater Consulting
Margaret has 18 years of professional consulting experience, starting with her tenure in Accenture’s pharmaceutical practice during the industry’s merger and acquisition heyday. She later joined the nano instruments business of materials testing powerhouse MTS Systems Corporation, leading global sales and marketing for a line of precision testing products.
Margaret then joined the life sciences & chemical analysis division of Agilent Technologies, focusing on channel partner programs, new product development, and market strategy. Margaret then launched Bluewater Consulting, a specialized professional services firm that offers marketing and public relations expertise for global clients in the test & measurement, instrumentation, industrial machinery, and manufacturing automation spaces.
She focuses on maximizing growth potential, applying the latest practices in digital and content marketing to deliver value for clients.
When she’s not leading a visioning session, conducting market research, or strategizing with clients on market entry approaches, she can be found riding waves north of San Diego or cultivating heirloom tomatoes in her organic garden.