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Marketing for Engineering Firms: Lead Generation Tactics

Jacob Brain


A key goal of marketing should be to help engineering firms get new clients. But how should it work?

It’s a big question – but it’s important to get right, because leads are key to business growth. With that in mind, we’re putting our extensive B2B tech marketing background to work to answer it correctly. Admittedly, there’s a lot of noise out there that can get in the way of good results.

Here’s how we’ve helped engineering firms to keep new business coming in:

  1. Define the audience.
  2. Shape the message and your firm’s value propositions.
  3. Make the website work.
  4. Build intelligent paid ad campaigns.
  5. Create impactful content.

It’s important to note that these steps should (nearly always) be completed sequentially – so you wouldn’t be able to, for instance, “create impactful content” before “defining the audience”.

With that said, here are the five steps to marketing for engineering companies.

1. Define your engineering company’s audience.

Your audience must be clearly defined for your marketing to succeed.

It seems obvious, but poorly-defined audiences are actually all-too-common. For instance, we’ve worked with engineering firms who were attempting to speak the language of prime contractors, but, in reality, were functioning as subcontractors. Making this distinction is helpful in shaping nuanced value propositions.

By defining the audience, you can ensure the leads you’ll generate will actually have buying interest.

This starts on a company level. For engineers, there are generally three potential methods of audience targeting:

Location. It’s okay to be a generalist if you’re focused on a certain location. Target and speak to the business community in your location, and you’ll be able to make an impact.

Business size. Some engineering companies, for example, may only want to target businesses of a certain size. There may be enough similarities in needs and service offerings in this context to justify a broad industry target if sizing is consistent.

Business / industry type. I’d argue that this is better than pure size for targeting purposes, simply because needs tend to vary across industry (and even if they’re similar, the language in which they’re expressed changes). This might mean focusing on engineering for educational facilities, or specialized manufacturing, etc.

Capabilities. This is the easiest targeting method for engineering firms to frame themselves by, because it’s what they do. This is a valid (and essential) targeting mechanism, but be sure, as you define your audience, to keep in mind that you know more about your capabilities than they do. Don’t expect them to be familiar with all of your jargon.

With a target in mind, the next step is to hone in on the individual buyer personas that would be involved in the sale.

For instance, if you’re targeting REITs, you might sell to a portfolio manager. If you’re targeting corporations, you might home in on the C-Suite. While you’ll probably have a pretty good idea of who you’ll typically be dealing with just given the nature of the company, the best way to verify this kind of buyer data will be through research. Do buyer research, even if you have built-in assumptions.

2. Refine the message.

Okay, so you’ve got an audience identified. Now, it’s time to start marketing to them by refining your message.

For engineering companies, this is where you start to identify the unique needs your audience faces. If they’re REITs, could you speak to how your work improves portfolio value? If you’re selling to primes, could you speak to the efficiency of your work?

There are a variety of tools to help you work through marketing message refinement; at New North, we like Hubspot’s Buyer Persona questions, the Storybrand framework, and the Empathy Map. Basically, these are scripted questions or narrative formats that help you to identify pain points and the true value in your service.

No matter what you use, though, the end results should be:

  • You’re able to communicate the problem, solution, and value that your engineering services address in three to five sentences.
  • You have a clear and effective unique selling proposition.
  • Your message is in the language of your target audience – not just in the language of engineers. This means that you’ve avoided jargon.

3. Make your engineering company’s website work.

From a high level, defining your audience and refining your message should give you confidence in your strategic direction. The next step is to put it all to use on your website.

We view the website as the hub of your marketing and lead generation efforts. In fact, every other channel – from email to SEO to social media to paid campaigns – should revolve around your website, both in terms of messaging and in terms of driving attention, because the website is the key mechanism in showcasing your engineering business to potential clients.

Your website’s goals should be to generate relevant traffic and convert visitors into high-value contacts.

To those ends, your website should have:

  • Consistent, refined messaging.
  • Clear explanations of your services (both in terms of what your capabilities are and how you deliver them).
  • Pricing. This is a point of tension for many engineering firms. If you’re not comfortable framing rates in any way (or if there’s simply too much variability), you could consider framing engagement / project methods as a conversation starter.
  • Case studies and/or testimonials to provide validation of your expertise. These should definitely have good imagery.
  • Clear calls-to-action for prospects to begin sales conversations (i.e. “Get a Free Consult”).
  • Clear calls-to-action to build email lists (whether through content offerings or newsletter signups – and ideally through both).
  • A blog. This will be the engine behind content across platforms and a key to demonstrating expertise.

This is just the beginning; there are plenty of other things that can be effective on your website. But if you start with these, you’ll be on the right track.

4. Build intelligent paid ad campaigns.

Here’s the reality: if you’re looking for your marketing to serve the purpose of lead generation, paid ad campaigns are the go-to – especially at first.

Years ago, we used to focus primarily on organic lead generation campaigns. We’d prioritize SEO, focus on getting our clients to rank for high-volume keywords relevant to their audience (say, “applications engineering firms in DC”), and dedicate the vast majority of our efforts to making it happen.

The problem is that making organic results happen takes time. SEO is a great method for generating leads, but it’s almost always a long-term play. Same with organic social campaigns. Most companies can’t afford to wait six months for leads; they need them to start flowing quickly.

That’s why paid campaigns are so useful. They’re basically a shortcut to the front of the line when it comes to getting a prospect’s attention. And, if they’re targeted well, paid ads can meet people with a service offering right when they’re looking to fill that need.

The result is high-quality, relevant traffic to the website – which, as we’ve discussed, has hopefully been built to convert those visitors into leads.

I’d recommend getting started with a Google Ads campaign first. The power of Google Ads is that you can reach people literally as they’re searching for your service, which means they’ll be particularly open to buying.

Paid social can be incredibly effective, too. But it’s generally best at entering people into the higher stages of your lead funnel (by facilitating signups to a webinar or content piece, for example, versus dropping them directly into a service consult). Very rarely are the people buying engineering services aren’t doing it on social.

5. Create impactful content.

If a paid campaign is the starter for a lead generation campaign, consistent content is the fuel. There are plenty of directions you can take this, but here’s what we recommend:

Start with the blog. Your engineering company’s blog should be the engine for lead generation content on other channels. Use quick excerpts from posts for social content. Create email content based on top performing posts. Build topic clusters that boost SEO results. As you create content here, it’ll naturally spill over into other channels.

Focus on the right social channels, not on every channel. Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to nail Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and a podcast all at once. Start by identifying the channels that’ll be most impactful, and use them to build out success to other channels. In other words, find out where your audience is listening, and speak to them there. For engineering firms, I’d recommend LinkedIn first – and you could probably stop there. If you want to go further, I’d recommend Facebook next, followed by Instagram (to showcase your work).

Do email. Build your list, and put it to use. Email is still one of the best digital marketing channels because it’s cost-effective and highly-targeted. Newsletters can be build from blog content. Nurture campaigns can be used to transition contacts into leads. The world of B2B email marketing is deep – get a fuller picture of it here.

Be consistent. Look, I get it – everyone wants results, fast. But the reality is that almost anything of lasting value takes time to build, and although it may not seem like it, the same thing’s true of digital marketing for engineering firms. Don’t give up on content production after a few weeks. Commit to making it happen over time (I’d recommend at least a year), and the results will start to build. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t constantly evaluate whether you’re pursuing the right activities, but it is to say that consistency wins the day, even in a digital world.

If you consistently create impactful content on the right channels, the leads will come.

Want to build great marketing results for your engineering company?

Hopefully, these five steps have given you a quick-start guide to making your marketing work for lead generation. Remember, this is only one use of marketing – for engineering companies, nurture campaigns or reputation management campaigns may be especially useful.

Want help? Want to discuss one of the steps in more detail? Want an objective review of your lead generation efforts?

Let’s talk. At New North, we’ve helped engineering companies like you bring in leads month after month through strategic marketing campaigns that get results.

If you’re ready to grow your business, schedule a free consult today.

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