Aim for credibility in targeting engineers

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Susan Tatum has spent the better part of the past 10 years marketing products to engineers at such companies as Lucent Technologies, Motorola Inc., Agere Systems and Alcatel. She's the president of Tatum Group, a marketing consultancy that helps component and software suppliers reach electronics engineers.

BtoB: What obstacles must be overcome to reach and engage electronics companies and engineers?

Tatum: The biggest obstacle is credibility. Engineers are inherently suspicious of marketing in general. They tend to see themselves as being more intelligent than the average marketing person-even when that marketer is an engineer himself. ... Since engineers aren't going to listen to marketers, it's essential to create opportunities for your engineers to speak to them and show them how the products or components work firsthand. However, most engineers are very pressed for time, and it's difficult to create such opportunities. They're expected to solve problems and deliver new product designs quickly. Companies marketing to engineers must be succinct in their communications, and make information available and easy to find at any time of the day or night.

BtoB: What marketing strategies, media and messaging do electronics engineers best respond to?

Tatum: Peer-to-peer and word-of-mouth marketing are essential. There is nothing better than engineers telling each other how great your product is and helping each other understand benefits and uses. The very nature of their jobs and their personalities makes engineers eager to learn. This makes them ideal for educational programs that feed their natural curiosity and help make their jobs easier. White papers, academic papers, presentations (both online and offline), reference designs, case studies, product briefings, blogs and "Ask the Expert" programs are all more effective than flashy brochures and ad campaigns. ... Creatively, one of the easiest ways to engage engineers is to give them a puzzle or challenge to solve. This appeals to their inquisitive nature and problem-solving instincts. Few engineers, no matter how busy they are, can pass up a truly great puzzle.

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