4 min read

The secret equation – advice on marketing to engineers in South Africa

    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents
    Many industrial, equipment, technical engineering type companies hire marketers begrudgingly.

    Industrial companies headed by an engineer, they seldom understand marketing and don’t value the marketing contribution to organisational survival or success.

    Having spent 10 years observing and studying the engineer mindset towards marketing I have come to the conclusion that engineers don’t value marketing because they think they are immune to persuasion. At its heart marketing is persuasion. The engineer is typically of the opinion that they can identify persuasion. Once persuasion is identified they ignore it, getting down to the hard facts and figures. They seem themselves as objective, scientific people able to discern facts from fluffy marketing rubbish. Since they can spot it so well and hence ignore it, they reason that it is thus neutralised – so why bother with something that doesn’t work? Why spend all that marketing budget on something that the objective engineer type can easily identify and ignore? While I somewhat agree with this logic, I am of the view that Engineers can be persuaded with marketing.


    In this post I will explain:

    1. Why engineers are so sensitive to persuasion.
    2. Point out some observations of the engineering “animal”
    3. Provide some tips on how to fly below the engineer’s persuasion radar.
    Engineers are sensitive creatures.

    Many a wife and colleague will complain about how detached, insensitive, brusque the engineer type is. But I think it’s really a function of them being quite sensitive creatures, and that they need to constantly protect themselves from that scary thing so that they can manage. That thing that’s so unquantifiable, so unmeasurable… emotion, feelings. They hide from their feelings because they can’t manage them as well as others can.

    They hide their emotions in a number of ways:

    • Ignoring
    • Avoiding
    • Being aggressive
    • Being too busy
    • Being “above” the issue
    • Passing the buck

    If you don’t believe me, as an exercise in prodding a dog through a fence, try cornering an engineer and tell them how much you value their work. Build them up a bit telling them how hard it must be and how you admire their cleverness. Then drop a big bomb on them like their tie is dog ugly or they have no sense of style and in fact they can barely speak English. Then step back (in-case a punch comes flying your way) and watch as they explode in anger, ignore you, avoid you or dodge the issue blaming their mom for the tie. Then tell them you’re just joking. They just can’t manage their emotions as well as a person in HR or customer service can.

    Persuasion radar

    The stereotyped engineer I describe above develops a radar to identify situations and instances where emotions and feelings will come into play. You see they are experts in their fields. Masters of the mathematical world. Superior human beings in their eyes, so they learn to avoid uncomfortable situations where feelings are exposed or need to be managed. Sales interactions, persuasive marketing plays, social events, exhibitions, public speaking engagements and meetings with strangers are all dangerous spaces for engineers so they develop a radar that identifies potentially uncomfortable encounters… which is why they can see persuasion and marketing coming a mile away. Their safe space is equations, numbers, quantifiable measurable things. Which leads me to the next section which describes the world of an engineer.

    Engineers like the concrete, the mathematical. . .

    They like the following information types:

    1. Spec sheets
    2. Technical requirements, Technical documents
    3. Graphs, Charts
    4. Performance data tables
    5. Equations
    6. Technical drawings
    7. Line diagrams
    8. Wiring diagrams
    9. Site maps
    10. Instruction manuals.

    In addition to these things, the concept they like the most is efficiency. Everything in engineering world boils down to efficiency. The efficiency of motor A to lift X compared to motor B. The efficiency of a gas generator to produce electricity over the efficiency of a diesel generator.

    The secret equation – my advice on marketing to engineers in South Africa

    Marketing to engineers = flying below persuasion radar: f (present information in number format + argued logically)

    It’s that easy. Give them a set of numbers and equations that systematically prove an outcome and they will go right along it. Chart it nicely, and discuss it in a very clean, clinical non-emotive way and you will sneak in under their radar. Dress your arguments up using the ten types of information they’re used to consuming.
    Whatever you do, do not make it too glossy. Keep it fairly bland in terms of looks and get straight to the point.

    In light of the engineer’s dislike of humans, serving the information via an impersonal medium like the internet is very effective. We find blogging and the application of Inbound Marketing theory to be a very efficient medium for reaching and persuading the unpersuadable… because it gets below their discomfort radar.

    I have borrowed some stats from HubSpot to support how powerful blogging can be:

    The average company that blogs generates:

    • 55% more website visitors.
    • 97% more inbound links.
    • 434% more indexed pages.

    Which means more opportunity to get under that radar…
    You can also have a look at this post on inbound marketing and this post on efficiency if you’re curious to learn more about marketing to engineers – something we have developed a speciality in.

    Feel free to have a look at our marketing budget tool if you’re in the engineering space in South Africa and want to compare your budget to a generic budget we developed which proves how efficiency in marketing can be achieved through the use of inbound marketing.

    Download Budget Tool

    Scroll to Top