Marketing to Engineers - Ten Barriers to Engagement

Stephen MartinSeptember 15, 2020

10 Reasons your prospect may not be engaging or buying from you

Unless you have a large marketing team and with tightly controlled hand-off of sales-qualified leads you probably often work in the gray areas between marketing and sales. Some of you are likely responsible for both marketing and sales. 

If you have worked in an engineering-driven industry like Embedded for any amount of time you may be familiar with some of these barriers to engagement and sales.

1. Timing. The embedded industry is project-based. If your customer does not have a new project starting soon then it will be hard to get his attention. He is likely busy working on his current project.

2. Relevance. Your product doesn't solve his problem or the problem he thinks he has.

3. Resistance to change. Engineers rely on what they already know; they will generally only spend time learning about something if it is job-critical or if it piques their curiosity.

4. Project risk. Even if you have a fantastic product or service, the potential customer may be reluctant to consider a change to their supplier or to even think about using new hardware or software. Engineers are risk-averse, and for good reason. Even the smallest embedded projects are increasingly complex. A key job for the engineer is to manage risk while achieving the product requirements. Every new variable can potentially affect system performance or the project schedule.

5. Budget. The project budget is not approved or the available budget is already locked down and will not allow for additional costs. A corollary to this is that the budget has been cut and the engineers are asked to make rather than buy.

6. Lack of brand awareness. Your product sounds interesting but he has not heard of your company. How much time will he spend learning about what you have to offer if you are unknown or do not have any industry reputation.

7. Incumbent competitors. This is related to many of the above obstacles because of budget, risk and internal factors. The company that already has the "socket" can be difficult to dislodge. If it is an existing tool there may have been license fees or capital costs to acquire that need to be amortized over many years. A hidden obstacle can be user training and familiarity. How much investment has the company made in training its engineers using an incumbent tool? How much resident knowledge and familiarity exists?

8. Purchasing department. Even if you get full buy-in from the engineering team you may need to get understand the dynamics of the purchasing and contracts departments. Many a sale has been delayed or disrupted by purchasing. Do you know if your company is an approved vendor? Will your technical buyer be able to get the necessary approvals? Your target division may have good reason to use your product but corporate has a multi-year purchasing agreement in place with a competitor.

9. Hidden costs. Often the target company has invested a lot of resources in the current solution. (If you are marketing a drop-in replacement product then this may not apply.) This can include training costs or license fees. What license fees have already been paid and for what duration?

10. Politics and influence. You may have a perfect solution but the engineer knows that his boss plays golf every weekend with the sales rep that sells a competing product. Or you have convinced a junior engineer that your product is a great solution but he does not have the political clout to overrule the opinion of the more experienced engineers on the team.

Did I leave anything out? You probably have stories to share that can illustrate many of the above challenges. I welcome your comments and feedback using the comments section below.

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