Marketing to Engineers [6 Copywriting Do’s & Don’ts]

Thirty seconds into my very first-ever buyer persona interview with a manufacturing engineer, one thing was clear. We were speaking different languages.

I don’t mean that literally, of course.

Both myself and my interviewee, Karl, a Senior Processing Engineer for an aerospace company, spoke English. But as I stumbled through my script of open-ended questions – each one intended to spark a meaningful discussion and “peel back the curtain” on key buying motivators for engineers – it was clear that my traditional approach wasn’t cutting it. The open-ended questions were too open. Too indirect. Conversations were not sparking. And the curtain wasn’t budging.

Thankfully, an interview lets you pivot your approach on the fly, which ended up being the case with Karl. But what about your written content?  Are you striking the right tone with your engineering audience? Or turning off and turning away your target readers? Even if you’ve nailed the subject matter, simple communication nuances—referred to here as our Copywriting Do’s and Don’ts—are critical. 

#1. DO take a no-frills, no-fluff approach.

Engineers like efficiency. They are hard-wired problem solvers who prefer to get to the point without much distraction. In your marketing communications, brevity is critical. Stick to shorter, more direct phrases – for example, resist too many adjectives or qualitative statements. In general, engineers prefer to draw conclusions on their own, so its essential to form your content in a way that helps guide readers to your desired conclusion using helpful facts, figures and advice.

While technical writing’s primary goal is to educate, good technical writing also marries the technical specs to the marketing message; it delivers factual copy that informs yet sells your solution.  It speaks to an engineering or scientific audience, in their language, in great detail, on the nuances of a hot trend or technology.  It should connect with the reader, often by presenting a bold concept or idea that will solve a challenge he/she may not have even realized they had.  And it should do all of this seamlessly and ideally, succinctly. 

#2. DO NOT re-state what they already know. 

A well-written B2B blog can “hook” a reader through a pain point. This tried-and-true writing technique is an effective way to grab people with an empathetic appeal, a friendly reassurance that lets them know, “Hey, we get it!” 

For engineers, you may want to bend those rules a smidge. If something truly is a problem, engineers will not need convincing. It’s okay to start with a pain point – but avoid spending too much time discussing the problem. Rethink rambling lead-ins that seek to “get on the same page” with your reader, and go for an approach that’s more direct and less emotional. That being said, good technical writing will break down complicated information into short, memorable points that readers can retain.  

Pro Tip: Consider following an inverted pyramid style; presenting the most essential information in the first few paragraphs.  Readers value brevity, especially with a complex subject, so topic organization is essential.   

#3. DO use blunt honesty.

Can honesty about your shortcomings work in your favor? B2B marketers may bristle at the thought of this – we’re naturally inclined to talk about our business solutions in the best light. But it’s your tech-minded readers who are arguably the most put off by the notion that perfection is attainable. Engineers are quick to call a marketing bluff: perfection is not realistic, and hyperbolic claims suggesting as such can seriously discredit your brand.

Blog author Mat Handal, whose blog series lays out helpful advice for marketing to engineers, says it best. “Nobody wants to show a chink in their armor, especially architects and engineers. But by showing your imperfections, you can create an environment of trust.”

When writing for engineers, then, how about getting in front of that proverbial eight ball? As Handal suggests, you can “openly admit a product’s weakness, but then have an immediate response.” By proactively answering every question or objection that pops into the reader’s mind, “there should be no questions or objections left to raise.” In finding this balance, you can serve a powerful message.

#4. DO NOT make empty claims.

Building on the point above, non-specific claims offer no value. Does your business “offer a superior solution that streamlines operations and creates maximum efficiencies that will help your business grow?” These types of worn-out words and phrases will make little impact on your engineering-minded reader – or any reader, for that matter! If you make a claim, be sure you have appropriate evidence to support it. You’ll also want to be careful not to overstate or oversell the value of your B2B solution. Case studies are an incredibly effective way to show how a solution led to precise, measurable results.  

#5. DO help them convince their boss.

Many of the writing strategies listed here can help tip the scales for your techie readers who are in the Buyer’s Journey’s most critical stages. But what happens when your readers and decision-makers are not one and the same? Have your efforts gone to waste? Definitely not!

A well-developed buyer persona will you identify whether your readers are purchase influencers or direct decision-makers – and from there, you can adjust your content strategy accordingly. If you’re speaking to engineers who are purchase influencers, spend less time discussing your B2B solution’s benefits, and more time building a business case. Focus your content on the ROI of your service or solution, using visual aids like comparison charts, infographics, and other easy-to-digest content that will help those influencers present the same points to their boss.  

#6. DO NOT wing it.

Some readers are.. well, hard to read. Engineers are just one of several niche audiences where communication nuances are crucial. Whatever you do, don’t wing it! Your content is your best online representation of your brand, so take some time to make sure it’s written thoughtfully and strategically.

Pro Tip: We all process information differently, and those reading technical papers are, by nature, conceptual folks.  Flow charts, component schematics, renderings, photos, graphics etc., not only add visual interest, but demonstrate solid representations of your subject matter.  Text should be treated similarly.  By adding call-outs, subheads, bold and italics, you can emphasize your key points so they stand apart.  This copy treatment helps readers navigate and scan information more easily, yet still glean your key points. 

With the right balance of information, organization, graphics and style, dry technical information can engage an engineering audience! We hope these Do’s and Don’ts point you in the right direction – and if you simply don’t have the time or resources to fine-tune your content strategy, just fill out the form below and let us know what you’re looking for. We’re always happy to help!

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Allison Woodbury | Director of Content Operations
About the Author
Allison Woodbury, Director of Content Operations

Allison Woodbury has been a Content Marketer for our agency since 2016. She’s a content marketing, writing, social media and branding guru who spends her writing time alternating between getting in the shoes of her readers and scrutinizing super-niche industries. She loves to see what her readers like – so tell her what you want, what you really, really want (to read more of)!