What do you think of when you hear the term engineer? Well if you are like many of us, you likely start by thinking of an older man. Typically an introvert, math-savvy, pocket protector wearing, problem solver who likes to create things ranging from planes and bridges to developing software code to operate some of the world’s most complex computer systems. However, that perception is being turned upside down as the profession of engineering is rapidly transforming—an influx of younger professionals, more often female, with drastically different habits and preferences is taking root in the profession. Senior level engineers, typically male, are retiring faster than they can be replaced. Marketers take note. New ways of thinking are needed in order to effectively reach and influence today’s modern engineer. The demographics of the modern engineer are evolving due to gender diversity and brain drain, offering some interesting opportunities for market disruption. The new breed of younger, early career engineers has increasingly different tastes and preferences in how they go about their work. Typically pressed for time with shrinking project timelines, these modern marvels are going to require a whole new approach in order to influence their purchase behaviors.
STEM recruitment campaigns from large corporations like Exxon Mobil and Textron and an increasing focus on STEM programs in higher education have started to make inroads changing the face of the profession. What has traditionally always been a male-dominated profession now is experiencing a shrinking gender gap, with many more women entering the various fields of engineering. From mechanical engineers to software engineers, women are now beginning to rub elbows with their male peers and helping to replace the thousands of Boomer veteran engineers who are retiring each year in the United States. How they approach problems, where they go for research and evaluation, is often predominantly digital. A much different mix from the printed text books, trade journals and trade shows commonly relied upon by the sage veterans. Marketers need a deeper understanding of their audience’s preferences in order to remain relevant and effective. Delivering visual, informative content to engineers based on criteria such as current career stage, content consumption preferences by channel, and providing information they want when they want it at the most opportune time in the “buyers journey” will rise above others competing for their mindshare.
More and more veteran engineers are retiring each year. In fact some studies claim that there is a need for more than 250,000 engineers in the next 10 years here in the United States. Global companies are engaged in a battle for talent—the current supply still is not meeting demand. Marketers are now working with human resource professionals to help hone communications, often delivered across a mix of digital platforms, to reach young engineers to bridge the widening talent gap. Competition is fierce and recruitment strategies are moving from the physical world of job fairs to now include more comprehensive virtual tactics beyond the LinkedIn online job listing. Social media, webcasts, and search engine marketing are a few of the platforms where marketers are developing integrated communications strategies to recruit, train and educate engineers. Note that “selling” wasn’t listed.
A Market Ripe for Disruption
Engineers never respond well to a sales-centric approach commonly employed by marketers in other industries. While this still holds true for the younger, modern engineer, the market is transforming due to the changing demographics—more females and overall an influx of younger engineers replacing a wave of retiring veterans. The opportunity for disruption is there as the old ways of doing things—print ads in trade media and catalogs, online banner ads, trade show advertising—while still relevant isn’t an effective catchall approach to inform and influence this fickle crowd. As media has fragmented due to the explosion of online technologies like live web casts, real-time answers available with the click of a few keys from Google and social media channels like LinkedIn, marketers need deeper audience insights to stay ahead if the competition. Younger engineers have very different preferences in each stage of the buyer’s journey compared to their veteran counterparts, and aligning the right content at the right moment in the right place is the analytical, systematic approach needed to rise above the fray.
Interested in finding out more about the changing face of engineering? Visit our website to learn more about engineers through a series of short videos and download our free eBook “What Makes Engineers Tick” for valuable access to deeper marketing insights.