What’s Preventing Your Engineering Firm from Developing a Winning Marketing Plan?

by Debra Andrews | April 3, 2023

Most engineering services firms we talk with are eager to accelerate their growth, whether that means competing for larger contracts, expanding into new sectors, or offering new services. 

So what’s standing in their way? 

Often, it’s an inability to develop a winning marketing plan: a roadmap that moves away from individualized tactics to a strategy that synchs your marketing and business development with the goal of generating a steady pipeline of leads that convert to clients and fueling your growth. 

Enter the Complex World of Marketing  

As in many professional services businesses, engineering firms are mostly made up of individuals who serve as both sellers and doers—generating new business AND completing the work. Because they wear two hats, they tend to rely on word of mouth as their primary marketing technique. In fact, referrals have been the de facto currency for growing an engineering services business. 

But word of mouth alone is no longer enough.  

With much of the B2B buying journey happening digitally, online searches are replacing referrals as the new business development currency for engineering firms—especially as Gen Xers and Baby Boomers exit the industry.   

  • As younger professionals take the reins as the next generation of engineering firm leaders, they’re less likely to bring a ready-made, long-established network of relationships they can tap to generate new business.  
  • As younger professionals become engineering services buyers, they’re less likely to lean on referrals and more likely to search online for firms that offer the services they need.    

Marketing as a discipline has grown in complexity over the past 10+ years—to be a winning firm you need to think beyond just a website. Winning firms are relying on strategic multi-channel marketing oriented toward generating new business development opportunities that turn into clients. 

All the while, as marketing has become more complex, marketing talent is getting harder to recruit and more expensive—which means you probably don’t have an internal team that represents all the disciplines it takes to do effective growth marketing.  

Read our case study to learn how Marketri drove measurable revenue for an engineering firm. 

It’s All About Priorities 

But all is not lost! You can still develop a winning engineering services marketing plan that drives the growth you’re seeking. It’s just a matter of setting the right priorities. These five tips can help.  

1. Prioritize setting a marketing strategy.  

Too often, professional services firms dip their toes into the marketing pool by generating a list of arbitrary, disconnected tactics. But these random acts of marketing rarely, if ever, work. 

To stand out in a field that is often commoditized, you need a marketing plan that’s grounded in a sound strategy. Rather than jump right to execution, make it a priority to set the right foundation for your plan by researching the market to understand how clients and prospects perceive your firm and how they buy engineering services. Then use that intelligence to develop a marketing strategy that informs your plan. A Fractional Chief Marketing Officer can help by conducting an unbiased discovery exercise, setting a strategy, and developing a research-based marketing plan that aligns with your business goals.  

2. Define and prioritize your ideal buyer. 

An effective engineering marketing plan defines exactly who you want to reach—not just sectors or types of projects, but also types of buyers. For example, your firm might service five different sectors that each approach the buying process a little differently. And those differences will impact your entire plan, from whom you target with your outreach to what your content strategy is, and more. 

You’ll also find that some roles are decision makers, while others are influencers—and the latter carries more weight than they once did. (Meaning, it’s no longer enough just to know the CEO.) A strong marketing plan prioritizes the functional roles with the greatest impact on the buying decision. 

3. Prioritize your sectors. 

Specialization is the name of the game for professional services, even in engineering. Just because your firm can legitimately serve the needs of six or eight different sectors, it probably doesn’t have the resources to proactively market to each of them effectively. A winning marketing plan focuses on just a few sectors where you have the industry-specific knowledge and expertise to provide greater value than your competitors.  

Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll turn down work from clients in other sectors if it comes your way. It just means you’ll concentrate your resources on proactively marketing to a few sectors where you can compete successfully and profitably. 

4. Prioritize your geography. 

Some engineering services are portable, but others require staff who are licensed in the jurisdictions they operate in unless there is a reciprocal agreement. And that’s a great example of why your marketing strategy must align with your business strategy.   

Sure, you might intend to broaden your geographic reach. But if that’s more of an aspiration than a here-and-now plan, then you need to avoid wasting marketing resources generating leads you can’t fulfill. That may sound obvious, but there are lots of ways a poorly designed marketing plan can end up allocating a budget to reaching buyers outside the markets you can serve. A winning engineering marketing plan avoids that pitfall by carefully considering which geographic areas to target and prioritize for the best ROI. 

5. Prioritize getting buy-in. 

New ideas always incite some pushback and adopting a growth marketing approach that incorporates digital is no different. At least one person will ask, “Do you expect me to believe that someone will find our engineering firm online, push a button, and buy our services?” Well, of course they can’t add an environmental assessment to their online shopping cart, but they WILL visit your website to validate your credentials and learn more about your offerings.  

A winning engineering marketing plan includes the critical step of securing buy-in from everyone involved in or affected by the plan—especially the subject matter experts you’ll leverage to develop informative, insightful content. Make it a priority to get everyone on board upfront and you’ll reap bigger rewards later. 

Engineering firms that are ready to generate more predictable, profitable revenue turn to the professional services marketing experts at Marketri. We develop and execute strategic marketing plans that help engineering firms accelerate their growth and thrive in a competitive market.  

I’m always happy to chat and discuss how strategic marketing can be put into action for your firm.