As CEO of 5MetaCom, a marketing communications agency focused on technical and scientific products, Chris Wirthwein has helped clients reach buyers of complex products, including specifiers, chemists and engineers. BtoB recently spoke with Wirthwein—who is also the author of “Brand Busters: Seven Common Mistakes Marketers Make” (Paramount Market Publishing, 2008)—about best practices for marketing to engineers.
BtoB: What should marketers keep in mind when targeting this audience?
Wirthwein: We've heard it repeatedly, but we're in an age of unlimited choices and limited time. It didn't always used to be that way; we had unlimited time and limited choices. When the Model T was invented, the choice was “I can go with the horse and buggy or I can go with the Model T.” But then there was a proliferation of choices. And I see this with the technical buyers of clients' products we work with. Marketers have to recognize and oriente themselves to how important their product offering is in the world of the buyer. Sellers of technical products tend to fall in love with their product and forget about the buyer. If [the product's] highly important, then [the buyer has] greater capacity for information. If it's low in importance, then they have less capacity. I see marketers make that mistake all the time. It all feeds back to the fact that people are short on time, and you better respect that time and calibrate how much you deliver and what you deliver to that.
BtoB: You say there are three important rules that technical marketers forget. What are they?
Wirthwein: One of them is that people are people. ... [For us to notice something,] things have to stick out. In design, for instance, why do we organize everything on a page so it's nice and symmetrical and nothing sticks out? People, even engineers, are emotional.
The second thing is that people forget. Especially with so much information and so many choices, we say, “Gee, we've been talking about this for six months. How come our customers don't know?” Well, you just need to keep at it. We can discount frequency theories and so forth, but the brain remembers things that are repeated. And furthermore, things that are repeated are believed to be more “true,” even if they're not.
The last thing is “Me first.” Don't forget it's about the buyer. Marketers forget that; they fall in love with their products and say what they want to say; but it's the buyer first. The buyer decides the agenda and people who don't appreciate that do so at their peril. —M.E.M.