Thursday, October 13, 2011

Marketing for engineering, scientific and technical b-2-b companies

For every Apple, Google, GE and Microsoft there are thousands and thousands of small businesses trading with other small businesses in the engineering, scientific and technical sector that need to market their products to a global audience on a small budget.

It is a big ask for a small business with small budgets to do this successfully which is one reason why we set up Technical Marketing Ltd to help companies like this to succeed. Common to successful engineering projects and successful marketing is the importance of planning and testing first. Our technical marketing philosophy helps engineer marketing solutions that support and aid delivery of company objectives. Starting at the beginning of the planning process is the marketing plan. Very few companies actually seem to have one any more than they have a formal business plan. There is too often the impression conveyed that the only marketing plan is to repeat last year's pattern of expenditure - usually the last several years - which makes it difficult to find budget for new concepts. All at a time when marketing is rapidly evolving. The usual reason given for not having a formal marketing plan is lack of time. But what is the point in spending money without knowing why or having any benchmark to measure whether it is successful? We recommend not only reviewing the marketing plan at least annually, but also setting the budget that will help deliver the results and company objectives. 

Technical marketing brings the same engineering methodology and thinking to marketing - introducing staffing structures, building the team, setting objectives through the marketing plan, formalising budgets, introducing financial controls, defining schedules and setting specifications for creative projects. Too often companies launch into building a web site, designing a brochure, booking an exhibition stand or commissioning an advertisement without first deciding on what they need to achieve. Design led agencies naturally play to their strengths - a flare for creative and compelling designs - and wow clients with exciting images. Arguably engineering marketing, or as we call it technical marketing, lacks some of that wow factor, but what we have discovered is that clients recognise the benefits that our approach can bring to the bottom line. We supply the rationale. And with the increasing importance of the Internet in marketing, a technical competence and comprehension of what works online too.  Of course there is a need for professional creativity, but it requires purpose and direction - in short planning, organisation, discipline and control. So engineering marketing solutions works - our clients testify to that.

So do the marketing techniques employed by giant companies too woo consumers work for the less glamorous world of business-to-business marketing, where budgets are considerably less? The answer is that the general principles of marketing still apply – the challenge is how they are applied. People buying business products and services are also consumers who experience the world of consumer marketing every day, but in their professional capacity will be less influenced by emotional appeals. When buying or specifying b-2-b products the process is not characterized by a spontaneous desire for instant gratification. It is a process of evaluation and consideration which may be quite lengthy. But what might ultimately differentiate one similar product from another is the reputation of the brand of the supplier. Although price will always be important, quality, reliability, technology, availability, post sales support and many other factors may figure in the final purchase decision. Building that reputation for a brand is where marketing performs a vital role in creating an environment where purchasers will ultimately demonstrate a preference for one product over another.

Marketing should not be confused with sales. It is far more to do with planning for the future, with strategy to keep ahead of fast moving trends, the routes to market, and the means of promotion and delivery that provide the essential environment in which selling can be successful. When marketing technical products, there are many facets to the marketing role. Technical marketing will typically embrace new product development, marketing communications and protection of intellectual property. Instead of the emotional appeal of consumer marketing we recognize that in the marketing space we address of industrial, engineering, scientific, technical and entertainment technology products, we are more typically engaged with engineers. Accordingly we have introduced an engineering approach to marketing. Engineering brings discipline to marketing, a discipline much needed in controlling the flights of fancy of the creative media types in getting the i's dotted and t's crossed, keeping feet firmly on the ground and keeping sight of the purpose of marketing a product - not in winning design awards. And if bringing engineering into marketing might seem a strange notion, unless marketing is properly controlled and brought in on budget then it will be a disaster. Engineering projects are as much about planning, adherence to schedules and budgets as they are about technology. In fact engineers are increasingly being employed in some surprising areas including many types of management consulting even in the financial sector. 

Planning needs to be followed by effective implementation. This is an important part of our client involvement – working as part of the team to actually implement the plan at an operational level. By working in partnership with our clients, changing circumstances can be easily accommodated in the plan. We bring experience in a range of marketing disciplines from traditional to evolving online techniques and can handle some or all of these to an agreed plan. The mix will differ according to each client’s own specific needs and resources. Most of our clients now regard Technical Marketing Ltd as part of their team thanks to long standing business relationships.

If you market technical products and think your business could benefit from working with us then get in touch. If you are just interested in what we do then sign up for our e-mail newsletter or just follow us on Twitter or any of the other options offered on the web site. We are here to help businesses succeed.

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