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What are your feelings on marketing?

What are your feelings on marketing?

What are your feelings on marketing?

I've been working for the past 3 years working for two engineering clients (environmental and thermal engineering) as a marketing associate.

Fortunately, it's been a great match on both sides since they trusted me and we keep getting good results. It is very rewarding to work for small-medium firms and compete with bigger firms with more horsepower.

I can understand how frustrating it is when you hire someone and they just run away with your money. There's always a lot of risk hiring/contracting someone, even more so when something so "esoteric" as marketing is the role to fulfil.

However, the feedback that I get when talking to some staff on my clients' team and other firms is that marketing just doesn't work. Not that they got burned by some sketchy agency and vowed to never try again (although some have), but that it just doesn't work in the manufacturing / engineering market.

Since I know firsthand it can bring results, I'd like to know about your experiences and opinions when it comes to marketing your services, so I can better relate and serve my clients.
Replies continue below

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RE: What are your feelings on marketing?

You can call if marketing, but in my experience, getting to know the potential clients via professional and other organizations does bring in engineering work. They can civic as well as religious groups. You never know what might result by being active that way. Besides it gets engineers out and rounds them out I think. Some professional engineer companies hire "go getters" "glad handers", etc. just for this purpose. I'll add stopping in t se your friends as city engineers, etc. also is great way to get municipal work.

RE: What are your feelings on marketing?

Reputation....Reputation....Reputation....depends on performance, honesty, integrity. Build it and they will come!

RE: What are your feelings on marketing?

In my area, what engineers can advertise is highly restricted. You can advertise that you offer a certain service but you can not make any claims about how you do it better than others, etc.

We've never seen any value in it, and rely strictly on word of mouth, referrals, repeat clients, etc. And for that ... see Ron's post above.

In a previous life, the boss (who was not an engineer) wanted us to do cold calls or mailings and the like, if we weren't busy with paid project work. We were not marketing people. We (engineers) despised doing this, in large part because unless you miraculously land on someone who needs your particular service at the time that you call and doesn't already have someone lined up to do it, cold calls don't work ("Sorry, we're not interested / too busy / don't need that service"), and mailings go to the circular file. (All the mailings I get go there.) Emails, nowadays, just get deleted if they're not relevant.

RE: What are your feelings on marketing?

I would think that the very largest consulting firms have 'marketing depts', but most if the small to mid size consultants don't do much in terms of true marketing but will have personnel assigned to business development activities.

Ron hit the nail on the head, it all comes down to reputation, and of course, "Who do you know?"

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)

RE: What are your feelings on marketing?

For 18 years I worked for a large (international) consulting engineering firm. When I started, we were using the "performance counts" approach, depending entirely on reputation and performance. It worked just fine. Then we got a CEO who was flamboyant and wanted to play the "big firm game". We were already internationally recognized (Top 10 in ENR) and had plenty of profitable business....it just wasn't enough to satisfy the flamboyant CEO. He wanted to be the biggest and best! His ego was larger than the company! He set up "marketing" programs and everyone was required to participate. Hired "marketing" professionals, set up marketing programs for each branch office..... Long story short....he drove the company close to bankruptcy in less than 10 years. New CEO was similar, but used intimidation tactics and ending up putting the company on the market for sale in about 5 years.....I left in year 4 of this fiasco because the company was being driven by accountants, lawyers and marketing people...not engineers. Never regretted that decision.

Engineers are professionals. They don't "need" non-engineers "selling" their services. They need to perform, be ethical, and educate their clients to that effect.

I have started and run two engineering firms. NEVER would I consider hiring a "salesman" for our services. Currently (in business for 13 years), we do NO marketing. We rely on our satisfied clients telling others. We don't make cold calls. We don't send flyers. We don't advertise in technical journals....yet we keep busy with work we like and that we choose to do. Ideal? Yes. Will it last? Who knows....I've done it twice and it worked both times. I'll take those odds.

RE: What are your feelings on marketing?

Performing, getting work done and delivering, will make you known to those who actually need
your services.
Marketing will make you known to everyone else...

RE: What are your feelings on marketing?

JMO but I'd say that good marketing is critical for both potential suppliers and their OE customers in product design and manufacturing. At every company I've worked for, anybody free and interested has been highly encouraged to attend the various sales pitches occurring every 2-3 weeks whether they be local job shops or Fortune 50 suppliers hocking their latest mechatronics. Regardless, for those of us in engineering, quality, or purchasing these need to be a combination of deep technical and logistical discussions. Leave the contracted "outside sales" folks and novelty garbage home, bring only a presentation and the 10+ year "go-to" employees who understand the facilities, products, and logistics intimately. Bringing an engineer or three helps, but honestly I've had CEOs present that knew their products and technical capabilities do just as well. As an OEM engineer I want to understand 1. what you can manufacture, 2. how you manufacture it, 3. any niche prototype/other capabilities, and quite often most importantly 4. cost/lead time guesstimates. At the very least I'm adding you to the list we all keep for when current suppliers fail, which is often when we need something yesterday. At best, I'm writing a PO asap.

RE: What are your feelings on marketing?

@Ron, I totally agree with your views. The firms I work with only have engineers doing the sales process.

Both have CEOs that are brilliant engineers, not management guys that somehow got there.

Clearly, there's no amount of marketing nor tricks that will turn a bad reputation around or hide a poor performing company.

@BrianPetersen, which kind of restrictions are in your area?

For sure, cold calling, flyers and the usual cold emails don't work since they are too easy to send and we all regard them as spam.

@CWB1, I've seen that too, so we only send good professionals to any meeting. In fact, as you say, they tried in the past to send less experienced engineers due to time constraints and the results were way worse.

RE: What are your feelings on marketing?

Re restrictions: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/900941#BK91

"In a factual manner without exaggeration" ... the interpretation of this is that you can advertise that you exist, and that you offer a certain service, but you can not say anything that someone, including a competitor, could interpret as being "exaggeration". In other words, you can't say that you're better than anyone else, or better than any benchmark if you could figure out such a thing ... you can't make any claims about how good you are, etc. All the stuff that the marketing wizards dream up for marketing campaigns ... not allowed.

We of course have a company website. We exist. We offer certain services. Here is how to contact us. That's it.

RE: What are your feelings on marketing?

There is a lot of work that goes to large well known consulting firms just based on name recognition. The work that they do is all over the map. Some of it is good and some of it is done by a newbie. If I was looking for the best work that I paid for, I would go with a small firm with a good reputation. Small firms with bad reputations just die as soon as everyone else can handle more work. When oil and gas was booming, we got a few projects at the EPC that I worked at that had been screwed up by three firms before us and we were the last stop.

If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.

RE: What are your feelings on marketing?

Ron - I fundamentally agree with your relationship/reputation approach, but I also think there is value in some marketing. It should be secondary but can make a difference even when negotiating with old clients. For example, old clients, love hearing that you won an award for something. It makes them feel special that they knew you first, even before your current greatness.

RE: What are your feelings on marketing?

reputation should not be the only thing you rely on. its good and may help to maintain work from existing clients, but don't expect your existing clients to spread the word of how wonderful you are, that is not their job. there are other things that can be quite useful and which could be considered a form of marketing, such as:

  • organize a lunch and learn, invite existing or potential clients, (they can bring a sack lunch, no need to spend money on catering)
  • attend professional conferences, write a paper, present it, host a luncheon or social and man the booth
  • call your favorite clients once a week, month, quarterly, etc to just touch base and see what they are doing.
  • attend social events such as golf tournaments, community days, etc and invite clients to participate
  • attend / serve on professional societies
  • send out press releases when your company does something big, or hires a new PE

RE: What are your feelings on marketing?


It should be secondary but can make a difference even when negotiating with old clients. For example, old clients, love hearing that you won an award for something. It makes them feel special that they knew you first, even before your current greatness.

In product design and manufacturing its common to present to past, current, and potential future clients at least annually. It lets the customer keep current on expanding facilities/capabilities/products and ensures both sides know who the correct points of contact are for various depts.

JMO but I cant imagine running a business based solely on reputation and a website unless you were in either a tiny niche or your competition also refused to market themselves. In my industry everybody sells mainly through marketing and personally, most including myself are not approving a PO of any decent size unless the supplier has sat down with us and given the "warm fuzzy" to multiple folks.

RE: What are your feelings on marketing?

cvg....your list is almost verbatim the plan our corporate office put in place in the 90's. By 1997 the company was close to bankruptcy. Stock sales were stopped, pensions frozen, etc. It wasn't necessarily the plan that was at fault, but the implementation of the plan took income-producing people away from producing income, while having them do something they were ill equipped to do....marketing. The major successes of that marketing program were large government projects by a few marketing professionals at higher levels while the "bread and butter", which depended on performance, went lacking.

RE: What are your feelings on marketing?

you must do both things
agree it must have been implementation. agree that your best client is your current (happy) client. and a happy client requires that you do a good job and cater to them.
bullet 3 in my list is especially important for interfacing with your current or repeat clients.

but eventually your current client does not have any new projects, than what? you need to go out and find new ones (clients and projects). You cant do that without some advance work. that means identifying projects and clients a year or more out (if possible) and then doing the legwork to put yourself in a good position to get the work. The best way to find those projects is face to face with your potential future client.

RE: What are your feelings on marketing?

At small scale like my business you don't have the resources to do big marketing surveys or advertising blitzes. But informal real time chats with clients are doable even for the most antisocial of nerds. Everyone talking to clients needs to be on board with the program in that respect. If you are looking for work and you are talking to people they will get the sense of what you need and will hook you up with colleagues etc. New projects come through all kind of people, including relatively junior people, and definitely not only through "bosses".

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