Unleash Greatness

How To Cultivate Engineers As Industry Thought Leaders

By Rob Hawse

Engineers have a wealth of knowledge and keen insight. In our experience, subject matter experts like engineers make great thought leaders. They have a wealth of knowledge and keen insight into your organization’s customers.

But, if you’re looking for the quickest way to cut yourself off from their wealth of knowledge and wisdom while ensuring they avoid you like the plague for the rest of their tenure, ask them the following question:

Hey, what do ya want to blog about next?

Your goal, of course, is to access all the great knowledge and insights your engineers have on the customer’s buying journey so that you can position them as not just subject matter experts but actual thought leaders.

The problem is, all too often marketing’s approach to these engineers is not aligned with the way they think. This creates a road block between what you need from them and what they are naturally inspired to do.

The trouble starts when you fail to ask for their input in a way that computes correctly for them.

The trouble starts when you fail to ask for their input in a way that computes correctly for them. To get unstuck you have to provide them with a problem they perceive is worthy of solving. (Hint: Your need to publish a blog post this week is not a problem worthy of their attention. Sorry, Charlie).

Let me explain.

I have the luxury of working with engineers almost every day. The best of them have an innate ability to identify and solve problems. In fact, solving problems is what they live to do. So, instead of paralyzing them by asking what topic they want to write about, bring them an actual problem in the form of a customer challenge. Then watch what happens!

Combining their point of view with how the problem should be solved exposes their natural insight into the buying journey.

Topics that are unique and hyper-relevant to your prospects will pour forth and with them the keys to presenting the right message to your customers at the right time…Content marketing utopia!

This sounds simple, right?

But, to get this to work, you need to do three things.

  • First, you need a way to identify those engineers who can catch on.
  • Second, you need to create a mechanism to inspire content production!
  • Third, you need to invest in that talent, nurturing and developing them.

#1 Identify the Talent

To identify your top talent, gather the entire content creation team and those that may be a good fit in thought leadership workshops. Here you can guide and mentor them on how to ideate and generate topics that fit within your content strategy.

You might start this meeting by reviewing the customer journey and surfacing the friction points that customers experience.

Your engineers will connect with this approach because they will see the bottleneck and be compelled to share their recommendations for fixing it.

Engineers will have many opinions when it comes to how to get prospects further along the journey because they understand the lineage of the problem.

In fact, more than once we’ve been in the room when an engineer generates 5-10 hyper-relevant topics in rapid succession when presented with the challenge or problem in the right way.

As you hold these meetings, superstars will rise, and it should be no surprise when you discover that most often they will be your engineers!

#2 Inspire Talent to Produce

The best way we’ve found to keep everyone producing great content is to show them how their contributions impact sales.

At the beginning of each meeting pass out a report of metrics and any comments their posts may have received. Engage them to evaluate personas and make recommendations for how they could be modified or updated. Provoke conversations around obstacles to surface new angles to inspire and motivate your customer.

The results will surprise you. Engineers at a manufacturing firm we work for completely re-envisioned the process of the standard direct product comparison chart enabling prospects to better understand the meaning and impact that each of the choices would have on their business!

#3 Nurture Your Talent

Once you get a team that is producing on a regular basis, the next step is nurturing that team. Remember, much of what these experts have been doing is ingrained, instinctual and borderline automatic.

To get them to go deeper consider sending them out for additional training. You’ll most likely get some pushback. But, their attendance at content marketing conferences, workshops — even a webinar, will introduce them to new concepts.

For those who show the most interest, you might encourage and support them in additional formal education in marketing. This will broaden their vision and tap into what is already so natural to them. A STEM degree bolstered by an advanced marketing degree could result in the cultivation of tremendously effective future CMO.

With the volume of research the customer is doing today, it has never been more important to say the right things at the right time.

Engineers Can Make Huge Marketing Impacts on Your Organization.

The best way to be a part of the conversation with a customer is to understand what they are going through. The positive impact your engineers will make to your organization can be huge, particularly the positive impact they can have on sales by becoming a crucial part of the customer journey and the sales conversation.

Take the time to identify, inspire, and nurture these incredible problem-solvers and they will ultimately provide the solutions to your success.

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