Ep. 137 – How to Market Complex Products to Engineers w/ Dr. Masha Petrova

How to Market Complex Products to Engineers

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In B2B, there tends to be a huge disconnect between marketers and engineers. This gap can be bridged once marketers understand how engineers think and work, how they search for information, and what resonates with them. When done strategically, they can also capitalize on the knowledge, experience, and expertise that engineers have to develop assets and campaigns that will help to differentiate their B2B company in the market.

That’s why we’re talking to SaaS marketing expert Dr. Masha Petrova (CEONullspace) about how B2B marketers can market complex products to engineers. During our conversation, Masha talked about the pitfalls to avoid and how marketers should probe properly to extract better insights from engineers. She also talked about the importance of finding an engineer who can be the subject matter expert and advocate for the company.

Play Video about B2B Marketers on a Mission EP 137 Masha Petrova Youtube thumbnail

Topics discussed in episode

  • Why most marketing that targets engineers falls flat [2:18]
  • How to avoid the common pitfalls when marketing to engineers [9:36]
    • Masha shares some specific guidelines and advice to the two groups of marketers [10:48]
  • Masha helps us understand engineers and how to work with them [22:01]
  • How the disconnect between the engineers and marketers created a disastrous marketing ad [26:07]
  • How to get buy-in from engineers [28:48]
  • Actionable tips: [37:35]
    • Find your technical champion
    • Find your corporate sponsor
    • Internal marketing – deliver your message in a way that’s easier for your audience to consume
  • Masha’s thoughts on AI [45:10]

Companies and links mentioned

Transcript

SPEAKERS

Christian Klepp, Masha Petrova

Christian Klepp  00:03

Welcome to B2B Marketers on a Mission, a podcast for changemakers where we question the conventional, debunk marketing myths, provide actionable tips, think differently, disrupt the industries, and take your marketing to a new level, from improving your campaigns to making you a better marketer. These are the inspirational stories that will help us change the way we think and approach B2B marketing, one conversation at a time. This podcast is brought to you by EINBLICK Consulting, helping you to stand out in the market and drive revenue to your B2B business. And now your host, Christian Klepp.

Okay, welcome, everyone to this episode of B2B Marketers on a Mission. This is the show where we help you to question the conventional, think differently, disrupt your industry and take your marketing to new heights. This is your host Christian Klepp. And today I’m joined by someone on a mission to help B2B companies focus on the human aspect of B2B marketing. So coming to us from Orange County, California, USA, Marsha Petrova. Welcome to the show.

Masha Petrova  01:09

Hi, Christian. So good to be here.

Christian Klepp  01:12

Great to be connected, Masha. And I’m really looking forward to this conversation, because I’ve been doing this for about three years now. And I think you’re the first person that is going to talk about this topic. So I am really looking forward to it.

Masha Petrova  01:25

Oh, exciting. I’m thrilled to be here.

Christian Klepp  01:30

So Marsha, you’ve got quite the interesting, magnificent professional background. If I’m gonna say it loudly, right? As you’d like to put it, you’re the creative who became a rocket scientist, and then a marketer. I don’t know if that’s the correct order. But like, let’s, let’s go with that. Right?

Masha Petrova  01:46

I guess. Right. And now a CEO, so the whole gamut. That’s right,

Christian Klepp  01:51

Exactly. So for this conversation, let’s focus on a topic that I think has become part of your professional mission. And it’s super, super important. I cannot stress this enough. Because we’re gonna get into this in a second, a lot of people get this wrong, how to market a complex product to engineers. So yeah, now we kick off the conversation with this question. Why do you think a lot of marketing that targets engineers falls flat?

Masha Petrova  02:18

Yeah, so it’s such an exciting topic to talk about. So I am an engineer, recovering engineer, I should say, My PhD was in aerospace engineering. And then I pretty quickly went into the dark side of sales and marketing and sort of stayed there for quite a while. But I still was always in the space of very deep engineering software. So the products that I typically would market was software for engineers, and a lot of times PhD level engineers. So like, as engineering niche as you could get, I was preparing for this podcast, and I was looking at some statistics. And it looks like there’s about 5% of all of the professionals in the United States are engineers. And so it’s pretty small area, right? Small piece. And then if you look at PhD engineers, that’s like less than 0.1%, or something like that. So it’s a very small space that we’re all sort of fighting for. And as you know, B2B marketing is different from consumer marketing, because in the consumer space, you’ve got basically the world is your oyster, and the competition is fierce. So there’s a ton of money goes into marketing, well, most money, most company budgets go into marketing, nobody is going to blink an eye when Coca Cola is dumping millions of dollars into marketing or, you know, great example is Liquid Death, the water brand, if you’re aware, I’m sure you’ve probably discussed it on your channel, it’s water, the product is literally comes out of the faucet for free. And the company was just valued at something like $1.4 billion, or something like that, the evaluation. In that space of consumer marketing, everyone’s used to spending lots of money on marketing, upping their marketing game, and really treating marketing as a profession. And B2B space, when we’re talking about, you know, lower competition, you’re not really vying for the masses, you’ve got a much more focused group, you know, sales is leading a lot of times, you know, personal relationships is leading a lot of times, and in engineering software space, there’s only like, three competitors at any given time that you’re trying to like, you know, that’s who’s you’re trying to claw your market share away from. So it’s a very small group of users that you’re going after, and you’re only competing after with a very small group of companies. And so, the marketing techniques that work for the masses do not work in such a small space at all. And so, I think what happens is there is a big discrepancy between you know, typically in marketing schools you know, if your traditional marketer you went to school for marketing or business development or something like that, or PR or advertising. You typically learn consumer techniques, and maybe there’s some B2B courses that you might take. But it would probably be like, you know, more generic B2B, not such techie niche, niche areas, you know, marketing to scientists and engineers. And so when marketers like that come into an engineering organization, there’s a huge disconnect between engineers and what they’re used to, what they expect and the marketers. And sometimes, you know, there’s just, it’s such a huge disconnect that organizations give up and go, you know, what, we’ll just take some engineers and tell them to do marketing, because how hard could that be? Like, marketing is just colors and letters, like anyone could do it, which obviously, is really not the case, for the most part. And I think that’s, that’s the issue that we face in this space.

Christian Klepp  05:49

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, you’re talking about like, a niche of a niche of a niche, or I like to call it niche cube. Like, you’re really going after a specific segment of your niche. Right. So you’re talking about, like multiple layers down, right?

Masha Petrova  06:06

Yes. Yes.

Christian Klepp  06:08

Seeing that, like, what was? What was the statistic you mentioned? So it was about 5%…?

Masha Petrova  06:13

5% of professionals in United States in 2017 are engineers.

Christian Klepp  06:20

So considering the population, the entire population of the country, that percentage is quite…, you’re talking about minority within a minority…

Masha Petrova  06:27

Yes, yes. Yes, for sure.

Christian Klepp  06:29

Yeah. No, certainly there are challenges. And as you mentioned, there’s this big disconnect between the engineers themselves and the marketing people that well, don’t see things from the engineers lens. So we’re gonna get into that in a second. But where would you say, and I know, there’s two camps out there. And I’m curious to know which camp you belong to. But there’s people that say, you should totally ignore the emotional aspect in B2B marketing, right? It’s all factual, logical, information, social proof, I could go on and on and on. But what’s your take on that? Do you think the emotional aspect should be completely dismissed?

Masha Petrova  07:05

Well, no, of course not. Absolutely not. We’re not robots, people still buy from people and engineers still have emotions. Now, most of them will look at you like they don’t if you ask them about feelings, or emotions, they would literally look at you like a deer in the headlights, but they still have them. It doesn’t mean they don’t have them. They’re just, they’re just not focusing on them for the most part. And they will still buy emotionally because that’s how people buy that’s been proven over and over again, there’s, you know, statistics and research around that. So you know, it’s not my opinion, that’s just facts, however, and then in the space where I typically market, which is engineering software, right, selling to engineers. Trying to explain that doesn’t work. Because if you’re trying to… it’s like trying to explain to a fish how to fly, right? And you’re just like, well, you’re just flapping your wings. And the fish is like, what’s wings? What are you talking about? Well, they flap my fins, I swim, like, What are you talking about flying, you know. So, that doesn’t work, however, there are common points between engineers and marketers that you could sort of latch on to, and build some really cool successful marketing campaigns and projects. And I’ve done that in the past that worked incredibly well, for both engineers and marketers, but it takes a lot of sophistication, a lot of work to get to it, right. And so that common ground is, you know, facts are facts. And engineers love facts. And that’s what they do all day long. And they rely on numbers and figures and facts. And if you as a marketer can accept that and say, Okay, that’s what they understand. So let’s build my whether it’s marketing campaign, an ad, email blasts, whatever it is that you’re building, with your marketing product, focus on the facts first, and because it will resonate with engineers, and then you can embellish, you know, like, maybe on the colors and the branding and all the like fun aspects of marketing. But make sure it doesn’t change the underlying facts of what it is that you’re trying to convey, if that makes sense. And that works. But to get to that point, it’s hard.

Christian Klepp  09:14

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And we’re gonna unpack that in a second. But before we do, and I’m not trying to get all religious on you, but talk to us about the Deadly Sins of marketing to engineers, and you brought up some of them already. But talk to us about these pitfalls of, for lack of a better description, these pitfalls to avoid, right and what should be done instead.

Masha Petrova  09:36

Yeah, and I love talking about this topic because it happens over and over again. And I think not enough is talked about it and there’s a lot of it could be avoided. And so if we just have more education, so first let’s talk about, there’s sort of two groups that we can kind of bucket are: marketers who are doing B2B marketing in engineering or science oriented type field like very technical field, right? That typically would be your standard marketing person who’s maybe done B2B marketing and other space that’s not so technical, who is now like, dropped into the space of like, I’ll just talk about engineers, because that’s what I know, this, this engineering space, and they are trying to do things and nothing is landing. And you know, they feel like a failure because nothing seems to….that work before is not working anymore. And they don’t know why. So that’s one group. And the other group is the engineers who were now kind of like, usually shoved into marketing. I mean, some of them every once in a while want to do marketing, but that’s rare. It’s typically like, Okay, we got to do some marketing, let’s take this engineer and make him into marketer, right. And so a different set of rules, applies to them, or not rules, guidelines, I should say.

So I have some very specific guidelines, because I know you like your guests to give specific advice to your audience. So I have some specific advice to whoever’s listening. So if you’re a marketer, and you are now in having to market to engineers, and you come into the space, and you’re like, what is happening, like, I can’t get my footing, like nothing seems to be working, I recommend a few things. Number one is your common ground with engineers as facts, focus on facts. So I’ll give you even a magic, some magic words you could use that almost guarantee that your marketing will be will start to resonate with engineers. So what you want to do, let’s say you’re designing an ad, you’re designing a marketing campaign, email blast, banner ads, whatever, a website. And you’re having to do it for engineers, and you’re working in an engineering organization, first step is to write a short summary, short, of what is the purpose of what is it that you’re trying to do? And what is the thing that you’re trying to design is supposed to… is meant for doing. Is that a product announcement, if it’s a product announcement, where the key messages that you want to get to the customer. If it’s a lead generation type of campaign, like what kind of leads or you’re trying to get, you know, some just basic good Rules of Marketing, write it down in the short paragraph, and then find a group of like, I recommend three to five engineers in your organization, or possibly customers, if you have that relationship with customers, but engineers in your space, and run that paragraph by them and say, Hey, I’m designing marketing campaign, email blasts, whatever. This is the main message. And then this, here’s a key magic phrase, okay to ask an engineer, “is this a technically accurate statement?” Okay, so I’ll repeat it again, it’s that important. Mr. or Mrs. Engineer? Could you read this? This is for my marketing campaign, this is underlying messaging from my marketing campaign or purpose of my marketing campaign. Is this a technically accurate statement? Because that triggers an engineer to look for facts and look for technical facts, because what happens a lot of times, and this is probably one of the biggest issues when marketers tried to design marketing products in an engineering environment. They will try to solicit feedback from engineers, and they will go to them with full ad, or the full, you know, banner ad or whatever an email and say, Hey, what do you think? So an engineer will tell you what they think. They will tell you, they don’t like the color red, they tell you there’s not enough words, they tell you that you’re not explaining things enough, engineers always want to explain things a lot more than marketers ever do. Always, that’s just default, they’ll tell you to put more words in that. They’ll tell you to make the font smaller, they’ll tell you to put equations in there, you know, all the things that are irrelevant, and you know as a marketer will not work. So that’s a that’s a bad way to ask for feedback. So when you go to an engineer and ask for feedback on whatever it is, your marketing piece is, the magic phrase is, is this a technically accurate statement? And if they say no, then pry more, ask more questions, why not? Like what would make it more technically accurate? And you kind of have to fish out that… those answers might take some fishing because engineers will tend to give you every detail they possibly can to be as accurate as they possibly can. And that’s your job to kind of like fish through that and get the main message. Right. But that’s probably the biggest key, I would say, and then communicate with them. It is your job as a marketer to get engineers to nod and say, Yes, this is, this is technically accurate. And you know, this doesn’t offend my senses as an engineer, it is not their job to come to you constantly and tell you that something’s wrong with your marketing products. So remember that and be humble about it. And know that you will never know as much as an engineer from the technical perspective, even if you worked in an engineering field for 10 years, unless you go and get your engineering degree in that space. Just accept that the engineers will always know more on the technical side of things and get their feedback. And then they have an advanced technique for your listeners, if you would like. So let’s say you listen to this podcast and you’re like, Oh, this is great idea. I’m going to do it and you start asking your engineers is this technically accurate, and you started getting feedback and responses and you’re listening to them and you’re adjusting your marketing campaigns and they seem to be working better. And you’re like, oh, cool, what else can I do? So here’s an advanced technique. Gotta be careful with this. This is only if you already build trust with engineers, they already are listening to you. Okay. You could ask the same group of two to three engineers, let’s say you already have your final product. Let’s say it’s a banner ad, just to make it simple. You designed the banner ad, if you already know, it’s technically accurate. And you go to them and say, Hey, how does this ad make you feel? Now, this I’m saying it’s an advanced technique, because most likely you will get a deer in the headlights stare from an engineer, because engineers don’t do feelings, period. Like… I know, it’s a stereotype. But it’s a very pervasive stereotype. And it just happens all the time. The job requires an engineer to be very introverted, to be very focused, to be very focused on details, to be very focused on safety and be very conservative, and to be very internally focused to process and think through things systematically, right. So they don’t typically focus on other people’s feelings. Whereas marketers, that’s literally all we do all day long, right? So you might just get kind of like a blank stare, in which case, you can ask, okay, looking at this ad, do you feel compelled to do the call to action? Whatever it is… literally press the button, learn more. Yes or no? And then why? Like, why do you feel compelled to press it? Why do you felt not compelled to press it? If you were our customer, would you feel compelled to press on the Learn More button? Right? If you get engineers who can either talk about their feelings in which case you’ve struggled, this is your go to technical resource, you go to them to ask all kinds of questions about marketing campaigns, or they give you some good responses on like, Well, I would press on this button, because, you know, I like, you know, the sentence is compelling to me. And it makes me want to learn more, for these reasons. Great. That’s another technical resource that you could go to. But if you’re just not getting anything from them, then maybe ask other engineers. So hopefully, that’s, that’s helpful.

Christian Klepp  17:12

Yeah, no, no, it’s absolutely helpful. I’ve just been furiously writing notes as you’ve been talking. Thanks again for that. So I’m just gonna, like, try to quickly summarize what I’m hearing you say, right, like, so basically, you’re saying that there’s generally two groups, right. So there’s marketers who are doing B2B, and they might have been in another industry that is probably not as technical as like, say, if they’re working with engineers, but that’s one group. They’re trying to do things and nothing is landing. The second group, our engineers, and I’ve worked with some of these too, engineers that have been pushed into some kind of marketing role. Right? So and I totally agree with you, you gotta find some common ground, right? I find more often than not, the resistance comes when you go in there and say, Well, you’ve been doing it wrong all this time. And this is the way you should be doing it, the engineers will most likely fire back. Right? Yes. Asking questions, asking the right questions, I would say is like, you know, things like, where you hope to elicit a more insightful response or something to the effect of, is this a technically accurate statement? Yes or No? And why not? And then you probe from there, communicating with them on a regular basis, I found this to be very useful and approaching them with deep humility, you know, that’s my interpretation.

Masha Petrova  18:31

Yes. Yes.

Christian Klepp  18:34

Advanced techniques, so asking them about, like, how they feel, but not like, Okay, does this make you feel happy or sad? Not that kind of feeling like, if you read the ad, and you see the call to action, would you be compelled to respond? And if yes, fantastic. And if no, why not? You actually made me think of something because, you know, we had this discussion in the pre interview call. I worked with companies, and I’m not going to say who they are. But like, I worked with teams of engineers, that were basically, let’s just put it this way. They were wired to identify errors.

Masha Petrova  19:07

Yes.

Christian Klepp  19:08

Yhey’re wired to identify problems. I mean, it’s an occupational hazard. It’s part of what they do. Is that permeates across everything. Right. That means yes, probably also their personal lives, but also, also when you present them with marketing assets or marketing materials. So in my case, for example, we were coming up with a storyboard for corporate video. And a lot of these guys were wired to identify what they thought was wrong,

Masha Petrova  19:32

They will tell you everything that’s wrong with your marketing campaign first, so just assume that’s what you’re gonna get. And that’s totally fine.

Christian Klepp  19:39

It’s totally fine. But I think the way that I manage that situation, which they were very receptive to is, first of all, I came with a flowchart and a diagram.

Masha Petrova  19:47

Yes, there you go.

Christian Klepp  19:48

These are the project milestones. I could see their eyes sparkle already like wooo, right. This guy totally gets us, right.

Masha Petrova  19:55

Yes. (laugh)

Christian Klepp  19:56

The other thing I did, and I’m just gonna give a very specific example of one of the components of the video included talking about these particular type of engines. Right? They kept going on about it right? And they gave me all the product specs. And I’m like, Okay, well, we can’t, we can’t put like 10 pages of product spec on the video right (laugh). So just walk me through it, I will go with you to the factory if I have to. But explain to me how this engine works and why it is better. Right? So not necessarily compared to the competitor. But why would somebody go to a shipyard and see that and say, like, Yes, this is the kind of engine that meets our technical specifications. So that’s exactly what they did. Right? It wasn’t even an hour, it was 30 minutes walked me through, okay, this is this is how it works. Right? Then they sent me an explainer video after they, after they walked me through it. And then it’s like, okay, so from there, I was able to extract three to five key points key benefits of why this product is better. Right? So I suppose, and I know, I’m oversimplifying it now, but like, it’s something to that effect, right? Because….

Masha Petrova  21:08

No, I mean, you hit the nail, I would love to work with you. If I was still an engineer and you’re a marketer. You know, it sounds like you hit the nail on the head. You’re, and I think being humble. And sounds like you were in that situation is so critically important. So absolutely, that that sounds like… I approve of your approach. (laugh)

Christian Klepp  21:28

Well, I think it was also to your point about like, you know, you can argue about marketing, however you want, but there’s an art and science to it, right? Yeah. For me, the, for me, the art and science, especially when it comes to engineers is okay. Going back to that point I brought up, how do you take this 10 page or 50 page instruction manual, right, that has these technical specifications… And how do you extract those insights that make it… as my teacher and school used to say, make it long enough to cover the subject but short enough to be interesting?

Masha Petrova  22:01

Right. So because as a marketer, your job is to elicit a certain feeling that will drive a certain person to act, right. And so a 10 page instruction manual may be factually accurate, but it’s not going to elicit any feelings except, like, either read this manual and understand it, but don’t feel compelled to do anything. Right, or just frustration. So, so you’re absolutely right. And you know, I think a good thing to think about and that this helps me as well, if you’re a marketer, and you’re just trying to understand engineers, and how to work with them, you know, think about like the saying of an engineer, a goal of any engineers career is to avoid any major disasters. Right. So like avoiding disasters, engineers have a thing called a safety factor. So when you are building a car, a bridge, what or designing, I’m sorry, designing a car, a bridge, as an engineer, there is all kinds of safety factors, these are numbers that you… multiplication numbers actually multiply by your forces and et cetera, to make it so that there is multiple ways that if your car fails, you will still not die, you know, like it will be a minor failure, as opposed to a major failure. So that’s something it’s very unique to engineering. You know, you don’t hear that in marketing, we don’t have safety factors built in. We’re, you know, the so the opposite of that, I would say like an entrepreneur. So think about Mark Zuckerberg, motto or slogan for Facebook, you know, a few years back, move fast and break things, literally opposite of avoid any major failure, and then your success as an engineer, right, so just think about those differences. And know that engineers, again, very fact based, they will look for failures first, they will look for all the points where your marketing campaign will break down, and they will tell them to you. So don’t get offended, just assume that’s a way of communication, you know, and fix the things that you think need to be fixed that are not technically accurate. But then know that you are also the artist, you are also trained visually. So engineers typically are not focused on the visual aspect of things. They’re just not trained their eye, a lot… I mean, and again, this is generalizing and stereotyping, and I apologize, but it is a very common stereotype in engineers because they are so internally focused, or they’re running through a lot of processes. They’re trying to avoid errors. They’re trying to avoid problems and major disasters, right. They’re not particularly looking at how things look, is this, you know, is this code line like pleasing to the eye, you know, for the most part, and so when you’re working on brand campaigns, like as a marketer, that’s what you’ve been trained to do. You have a good eye, right? Like you’ve been trained to… I worked one time with an amazing art director for one of my campaigns who I will be… I’ll look at a font, right like we’ll do an advertising campaign, where we did like a series of YouTube videos, and then we’re trying to come up with thumbnails, right? And that he would give me options for different fonts. And I would look at a font and I go, You know what I, this doesn’t work for me like, I don’t think it’s going to work for our customers, but I don’t know why. And he would literally break it down and say like, Oh, do you see the letter R are like, there’s a little curly Q at the end that you can barely notice. And that maybe instills, you know, like too much femininity in this particular, you know, whatever or too much uncertainty or this, this letter is slightly slanted, leaning to the right, and, you know, you’re expecting it to lean to the left and I go, Oh, my gosh, yes, exactly. And so, you know, he’s been trained, he’s eye has been trained in a way that engineers are trained to debug code, or, you know, write out and solve linear algebra equations. And so engineers don’t have that training, your eye has not been trained like that. And so as a marketer, and especially if you’re working on branding, it is your…, just remember that you still have the power, and you still have that training and some very special skills that engineers do not have. But you do not have the technical expertise, and the factual basis for whatever it is you’re marketing. So just like you said, be humble about it.

I have another like, fun story for you if you’d like. So, at one point, I worked at a large public company that was developing engineering software for PhD level engineers. And there was a marketing team there, that was not great. So they were not great marketers to begin with. But they also were… there’s a huge rift between. Engineers hated them, and they hated engineers. And there was a small group of them, you know, it was an engineering centric company. So marketing, which looked down upon to begin with, so it wasn’t a great place for them to be in. But they also weren’t respected. And in return, they also did not respect the engineers. So I at the time was running product marketing for the one product they had. A product line that they had… was for additive manufacturing, or 3d printing. So 3d printing software for engineers. And I went to the marketing team and said, Hey, we need to take out an ad, full page ad in this particular trade magazine, very specific trade magazine that is read by engineers, right? And so they said, Okay, give us like a brief. So I put together a brief, like, here’s where it’s targeting, there’s the main message, here’s some images to use, you know, and then they did not come back to me with any feedback, they didn’t ask me for feedback, they didn’t have any lines of communication open, they just went and printed the ad. So the magazine came out, you know, we haven’t seen it. Like at the magazine in the mail, I opened it up to a full page spread of this advertising. And what they did was, they essentially said, it was like some sort of, they’re trying to make a joke, but it didn’t land, like some lame joke about 3d printing. And then the image was like a dirty, grimy, dumpster, full of metal parts. So our software was supposed to manufacture, additively print metal parts. So full of metal parts that are just clearly not 3d printed. These are like gears and random stuff from cars that are, you know, an engineer would look at it and say, like, this literally doesn’t make sense. And then some sort of something like some attempt at a joke that also didn’t land with engineers. And the whole thing was just awful. It was like, you felt dirty looking at it, and grimy and like, you certainly did not want to learn more. Yeah. So don’t do that. Like, don’t do that.

Christian Klepp  28:07

I’m glad you… I’m really glad you brought that up, because that’s such a great segue into the next question about conducting the right research, right?

Masha Petrova  28:18

Yes.

Christian Klepp  28:18

Probably part of the reason… I mean, I don’t know enough of the details about that particular case, except for what you’ve just told us, but like, I would assume that they probably didn’t do their due diligence.

Masha Petrova  28:29

That’s right.

Christian Klepp  28:30

So let’s talk about that a little bit. Like when it comes to marketing, complex products for engineers, let’s try to look at this from the engineers lens, and conducting the right research, what do they look for? What are their preferences and objections? And you brought up some of them already. And what can be done to get their buy-in… So if you can give us a little bit of pitch on that?

Masha Petrova  28:48

Yeah, I think it just all goes back to engineers are very fact based, factual based, right. So I recommend as a very first step, do a short paragraph describe, it doesn’t matter what you’re creating, whether you’re creating an ad campaign, YouTube video, you know, email blasts for lead generation, online banner, whatever it is that you’re designing or developing as a marketer. First, create a short and I don’t recommend like two page brief, like, that’s not… because engineers will get stuck in the details, they will nitpick at every single thing and the whole thing will fall apart. Do a one,  short one paragraph description, you know, we’re trying to reach automotive, you know, engineers working in automotive industry, we’re trying to showcase that the newest release of the software is five times faster, or like it has this particular exciting feature that allows engineers to blah, blah, blah, you know, that’s it, that’s your overview. And then we’re trying to get them to learn more, or we’re trying to get them to sign up for a webinar or like whatever your call to action is. Do that little description of fact, and then go to group of two to three engineers that you are now trying to develop as your sources essentially in the engineering space and ask them is this technically accurate, you know… If they ask you more questions, tell them. Engineers are curious. And if they are, you know, friendly towards you, and they’re open towards learning more, tell them like, this is what we’re trying to do you know, what do you think? If they start giving you feedback on, well, I prefer blue over red, and you need to add more facts in there. And the ad should have like a paragraph long description, you know, like you said, a manual technical manual, you know, and not a one liner. Ignore that, that’s just them being engineers. But if they’re telling you, you know, what, this is not like, factually accurate, actually, our software is not 10 times faster, it’s like, you know, five times faster, or actually, that’s not the main point of the new release. The main point is that it’s, you know, has this new feature that does this. And that’s now a lot of times it’s a process, because engineers will give you details, technical details that you will not understand because you’re not a technical person. And that’s normal. Just keep on digging, and keep on asking more clarifying questions to get to the core, you know, until you could say, okay, so what you’re saying is, the main point, or the biggest feature of the new release that automotive engineers would care about is that it has this feature that allows them to, I don’t know, simulate a combustion engine, and they didn’t have that feature before, correct. They, the engineers will say, Yeah, overall that’s correct. Great. That’s it, you got your key, like you said, you got your key message. But it just takes work. And it takes being humble. And it takes understanding that you are not an engineer, you will not understand the technical details, don’t try and assume it. And don’t try to write the technical details for the engineer. Right.

And the other really cool technique that works for me is, you can also go out, go back to the engineer and try and either record them, ask them if it’s okay to record, do a zoom recording, if you want, get as much of the like words that they’re saying, the details that they’re saying down first. So you might get pages of description of, let’s say, a new software release, right? Because that’s easy, or whatever the new part that’s being developed, you might get pages, it is much easier to go in and like, pull out the key message out of that, then go to an engineer, listen to what they’re saying, not really take notes. You’re not a technical person. So you’re probably not going to remember a lot of the like, main technical words or words, you will remember them with a wrong meaning. And then try and rephrase it with your own words. That’s the worst, do not do that. Do not do that, do not make up your own technical terminology, do not try and be creative and describe things in the way that an engineer didn’t describe it to you, you’re not gonna be able to do it, you’re not an engineer, that’s not what you’re good at. You’re good at, like I said, pulling out that key message without distorting the facts. Right. And then there’s another caveat, if I might say on the… on the flip side, right, if you’re an engineer that’ve been now put into the marketing role. Or perhaps you want to be in the marketing role, right? Same thing, you have to be also humble and understand that marketing is… so I’ve done both, you know, I’ve got my PhD in aerospace engineering, and I have 20 years of running marketing teams and being a chief marketing officer. And so I could tell you that putting together a solid marketing campaign is just as hard as getting a PhD in engineering. Okay, so as an engineer, if you think that marketing is just colors and letters and how hard could that be? And anybody could do it? Absolutely not. I mean, it’s crappy marketing. Sure. But that’s not gonna get you results. So also be humble and learn from assume you’re gonna have to learn a lot. Learn from what I recommend, learn from b2c marketers. Learn from…  follow some of them maybe certain cars that you like, look at car brands, look at clothing brands, look at liquid death as an example. That’s pure marketing. And see what they’re doing and start asking you questions like, Oh, why did they do that campaign? Why did they do an ad like that? What are they trying to do with it? Why did they spend a billion dollars on this crazy campaign? Where are they trying to do? And, you know, why does it look like that? Because again, as an engineer, you’re probably not trained to be very visually picky. Right? You’re not probably not trained on color theory, you’re probably not trained on symmetry, like in terms of like visual effects. So just understand that and understand that, that takes also years to perfect and learn and get your marketing champion. Get someone who understands that stuff, and reverse roles, right, like the same thing and also understand you’re gonna have to deal with feelings, like marketing is about triggering feelings, to get people to do certain things. And as an engineer, and when you have tried to, like, avoid feelings altogether, you’re gonna have to start tapping into that.

Christian Klepp  34:43

Yeah, exactly. No, I love it. I love it. Exactly. Like you said. It’s a process right? Like it… Yes. It takes a lot of back and forth. I call it like, it’s two way traffic, right?

Masha Petrova  34:54

Yeah. Yeah.

Christian Klepp  34:56

Recording I think is such a great suggestion. I’ve done it many, many times, of course, with a person’s permission, right? Because sometimes they get very technical, they’ll go deep down that technical rabbit hole. But sometimes, especially as marketers, it’s important and all that, right. The trick is like, you don’t have to regurgitate everything they’re saying, but the art lies and trying to like, as I said before, like summarizing that, or paraphrasing it correctly. Right.

Masha Petrova  35:22

Right.

Christian Klepp  35:22

Correctly. And then again, the deep humility part, I can’t stress that enough. Because, you know, I’ve had, I’ve worked with some marketers that go in there, and, and they just assume they know everything, right? Yes. And as a former client of mine, who’s an engineer, who’s British used to say, that won’t do at all. Right.

Masha Petrova  35:39

Exactly. But you know, can I just say, you know, one thing, what’s even worse than marketers trying to be technical people, what I’ve seen, like even more disasters and with engineers going in and not being humble, not honoring the fact that marketing is a whole profession and requires a whole different set of skills, and trying to be cute or funny, and trying to be cute and funny, and there isn’t any kind of like controls over them. And they’re just spewing it out there. So you know, whatever social media posts or ads or things like that, and it just, it comes off all kinds of wrong, and all kinds of ways, they’ve just offended a whole bunch of people that you really shouldn’t have be offending. And so I think a guideline for if you’re marketer, oh, sorry, if you’re an engineer turned marketer, I would recommend for the first like year or two. Don’t be cute. Don’t be funny. Don’t try and be creative. Focus on facts. You’re an engineer, you’re really good with facts, engineers trust you, right? So keep your whatever it is you’re creating as a marketer. Keep it simple, keep it clean, and keep it fact base, it might not be the most creative thing anyone’s ever seen. But it’s going to resonate with engineers, and it’s not going to affect people. Do not try and go like, Oh, I’m a marketer, I’m going to create all these kinds of things, because you don’t know basic principles of marketing. You are gonna screw it up. Don’t do it. Not until you learn more on the marketing side.

Christian Klepp  37:03

Okay, fantastic. So Marsha, we get to the part in the conversation where we’re talking about actionable tips, and you’ve given us a lot already, but let’s just assume there’s somebody out there that falls into one of those two buckets that you were talking about, right? So somebody that’s in B2B working with engineers, or an engineer that’s a marketing person, if they’re listening to this conversation, what are three to five things that they can act upon right now, to help market those complex products to this very technical target audience?

Masha Petrova  37:35

Yeah, I think you mentioned, you know, one of the important things, and I think you brought it up on your podcast before is finding a champion for you. And I’m going to talk about finding two champions, one is your technical champion that will help you make sure that your marketing lands with engineers, and is technically accurate, and that might be a few. So that’s one. The other one is your corporate sponsor, executive sponsor. So that’s, if you’re not… yourself are not the CMO. Right. And typically, in these B2B engineering organizations, you might not even have a CMO or VP of marketing, you might be reporting to product or you might be reporting to the CEO directly, or whatever it is, right. But finding someone an executive sponsor, who will make sure you have budget, because that’s very important for marketing, and you’re not gonna see results right away, right. So if you don’t want to just do lead generation, all day long, you actually want to focus on brand and, you know, more advanced forms of marketing that take time to come. You need someone champion for a budget for you. Right? So that’s an executive sponsor. So let’s talk about the kind of easier one first, and that’s finding your technical champions. So I would say number one, look, internally, look at your engineering department, your development department, and you’re a marketer, you’re hopefully probably extroverted, or the very least are used to working with people because you’re, that’s what you’re doing as a marketer. So do that, go talk to people talk to your engineers. Sit in product meetings, if you can, I will always sit in product meetings even after I went to marketing. If… you know ask, Hey, can I sit in this product meeting I’m not gonna interrupt. Do not interrupt, do not give any guidance, just listen. Ask to sit on sales calls. So salespeople are usually extroverted and are willing to give you information. So ask to sit in sales calls, ask to go talk to customers, ask to go to sales meeting or ask to sit in quarterly business reviews with salespeople. So be very proactive about getting feedback from your internal engineers and your customers who are also probably engineers or technical people. And just by being in that soup and your internal engineers, you can ask a lot of questions, you know, communicate with them as much as you can. And remember, that is your job to carry the burden of communication and to gather feedback. It’s not the opposite. It’s not their job to come to you and explain things to you. And like you said, Be humble. So that’s one.

The second one is getting your executive sponsor, whoever is a corporate person that’s going to help you get the budget for marketing, right. So what I would do, I’ve worked in, I think, eight or nine different organizations, engineering organizations, I always had to, as soon as I would come in, I typically build a marketing team from scratch, sometimes I inherited a team, and then I would expand it, I would instantly have two marketing tracks. One was my typical external marketing, like the job that I was put out there to do as VP of marketing or CMO. The second one was internal marketing, internal marketing starts as soon as you start your job, internal marketing is just as hard as your external marketing, it should be just as much of a focus for you. Meaning if you put out a successful campaign, and you get a successful result, you will make sure everyone in the company, including your engineers knows, and you don’t do it by just blasting an email out, you talk to them, you print out pictures, you print out numbers, and you go to them and say, hey, look, we got 200 people signed up for this webinar, where before we had five, you know, because we did these things differently, and you engineer helped me a lot to do that, because you made sure it was technically correct. That is an ongoing effort should be about 30% of your time. That’s a lot. But that’s how you’re gonna get money for your marketing campaigns. And so get if you have anyone in the C suite interested, you make sure you update them and show them pictures, a picture says assign 1000 words, you’re a marketer. Market internally. That’s my other guideline.

Christian Klepp  41:29

That is such incredible advice. And I’ll tell you why. It blows my mind how many people I talked to who don’t do that. Right. Like, have you? You know, have you spoken to your engineers? No. Well, have you told the salespeople about like, the recent campaigns and initiatives that you’re rolling up? Well, we sent them an email, I’m like, that’s not what I was asking. Like, have you actually told them because, you know, in a lot of… Not, not every company, but a lot of these B2B situations, you know, especially when it comes to marketing, out of sight, out of mind. Right? If I don’t know anything about it, then that means it’s not that important, which is a dangerous assumption. But unfortunately, it’s the reality of a lot of these, you know, these marketing folks have to contend with. Right? So it really is a bit of a balancing act. And I totally agree with that. It’s a lot also about… I call it internal customer service, right?

Because you have to rally people around the flag, not to not to sound revolutionary here, but you know what I mean, right? Like, just get everybody to rally around your cause, get them to understand what it is you’re doing, and get these champions internally to say, hey, these marketing people are doing a great job, because we are working together with them. This is what they’re rolling out. And this is the kind of, the kinds of results that they managed to generate. And as a result of that, we think that we should be able to approve their budget for the next quarter or the next fiscal year or whatever. Right?

Masha Petrova  42:19

Yes, yes.

Yes. And I have to say, you know, for the most part, so I understood early on the importance of that, and it is hard, it’s not easy, you know, I would work nights to send out… you know… make sales emails, pretty and effective to send to the salespeople, because I knew the importance of internal marketing. So when you think about like, oh, I’ll just send an email out talking about what we did. That’s the easiest thing for you to do. But you should not be doing what’s easiest for you, you should be doing what’s easiest to consume for your, the people that you’re trying to get to. Right. So they don’t read. Salespeople generally have very short attention spans, they will probably not read your long email. So unless it’s a one liner…

Christian Klepp  43:35

Can you repeat that again, please? And a little bit louder please.

Masha Petrova  43:38

A little bit louder for the people in the back. (laugh)

Christian Klepp  43:43

Please, please repeat that last sentence. Because it’s so important, please.

Masha Petrova  43:46

Yeah. So when you’re doing the internal marketing or internal marketing campaign, it is difficult and as time consuming, but it is important, your paycheck depends on it. Your promotion depends on it. How cool of a marketing campaign you could put together, it depends on it. So your job is not to do what’s easiest for you and to send it an email like every quarter saying, Oh, this is what marketing did, because it’s just okay, you got it. It’s off the checklist, right? You checked it off. You’re done job is to make sure it actually lands and the people who you’re trying to get to actually hear it. That means you might have to say it multiple times. You might have to print out, physically print out pictures and stand in front of their office, catch them when they’re going to get a coffee and say, Hey, let me flash this image. What do you think? Right? Like it’s work. It is not what’s easiest for you. It’s what’s easiest for your audience to consume.

Christian Klepp  44:39

Right, right, actually. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And that that in itself was interview gold. Thank you for reiterating that. Marsha. I get the feeling that you’ve been on your soapbox this whole time but please stay up there a while longer.

Masha Petrova  44:56

I have multiple soap boxes. I can jump around. (laugh)

Christian Klepp  44:59

Take your pick. Whichever one, whichever one you want to get on. Yeah. So what is the status quo in your area of expertise that you passionately disagree with. And why.

Masha Petrova  45:10

So maybe we can shift gears a little bit. Shift gears a little bit from marketing, and it’s still kind of marketing. But I think the status quo in my space right now is all the hype, all actually in everybody’s faces the hype around AI, right? We all hear I mean, it’s honestly, it’s like tiring, I can’t even hear about it anymore. I think a lot of people are tired of it. And so to me, the frustration about is I’ve been in the space of Engineering Simulation. Engineering Simulation, is something that started you know, maybe 50 years ago to really take shape and to become commercial, commercially accessible tool. Essentially, Engineering Simulation is simulating real physical processes in the computer, right. So simulating how water flows in a pipe, simulating how external combustion engine works, so that you could test those physical things inside of a computer. Right? I know the amount of brainpower, PhD level brainpower that goes into these tools, and I know that it takes sometimes decades to develop a solid software that will, more or less accurately simulate how your car will drive down the road, or how it will when it crashes into something how that crash will, how that will behave. Right. I’m now in electromagnetics side of things. So my company and all space does electromagnetic simulation, that stuff you can’t even see, that’s all the waves flying through the air. We can’t even see that’s how things communicate with each other through Rf and, and electromagnetics. And having to simulate that is extremely difficult and requires, again, less than point 1% of the world’s population has PhD in Engineering, and will understand all of that or be able to develop that right. And then we go to AI, where all of a sudden, everyone’s claiming is that we can simulate the human brain, which I would argue is a lot more complex than the car or airplane, you know, and I can build this AI up in a weekend. You know, as a Stanford dropout. Forget Stanford as a high school dropout, we took a three month, you know, AI development course. And all of a sudden, I create an app that is, you know, simulating the human brain process. To me, it is such a inconsistency between the two and what I’ve seen, like what it takes to simulate a physical process of a fluid flow, or a car mechanics or electromagnetics. And then all of a sudden now like, we’re developing all these, like apps that are simulating the human brain, you know, that’s such BS. And I would say that’s my soapbox for the day.

Christian Klepp  47:37

Yup, no, I totally agree. Totally agree with that one. Okay, here comes the bonus question. Okay. Oh, here we go. Okay, you were able to learn a new skill. What would it be and why?

Masha Petrova  47:54

…Able to learn a new skill, you know, I used to draw a lot in high school. I never was great at it, but I loved it and paint. And I found that with age and with stress, and with the infinite to do list, I can’t do it anymore. I like when I try and sit down and paint something or draw. There’s not enough creative juices to do it. So I would love to have the brain space, to be creative and to learn to draw better. Okay.

Christian Klepp  48:22

Wow, that one really resonated with me because I don’t know if I told you this in our pre interview call. But I I started drawing again, during pandemic, after decades of not doing it…

Masha Petrova  48:32

Yes. that’s awesome. That’s awesome.

Christian Klepp  48:34

I was in the same headspace like, Y’all, I’m building my own business, I’m running this podcast, I’m, you know, raising a family, etc, etc. So it was all these, I wouldn’t say that were excuses. But all these reasons that I would put it off. But um, I’m taking this course online on a platform called Domestika, you know, you just learn at your own pace. It’s not like one of these. Oh, shucks, I missed the class, right? Um, you just, you just switch it on, you just log in. And I’m following a couple of people on Instagram. And a lot of them are saying like, even if you set aside 15 minutes a day, right? So instead of like, watching another Netflix episode, I switch it off and I draw.

Masha Petrova  49:12

Oh, that’s amazing. That’s a great idea. I’ll have to get that program name from you. Maybe one day?

Christian Klepp  49:19

Absolutely. And I can send it to you in an email but Masha, wow, we could have gone on for another 10 hours I think (laugh). But being respectful of your time, and thank you so much for coming on and for sharing your expertise and experience that the listeners. I learned a lot from this conversation and I hope the audience does too. Quick intro to yourself and how folks out there can get in touch with you.

Masha Petrova  49:40

Sure. So I’m Dr. Masha Petrova. I’m a recovering engineer turned marketer and the CEO of a company called Nullspace, and they’ll space develops software for simulation of electromagnetic, electromagnetics for electrical engineers.

Christian Klepp  49:55

Fantastic, fantastic. And how can we get in touch with you?

Masha Petrova  49:59

So my LinkedIn is probably the easiest way MarshaVPetrova on LinkedIn, or our website is nullspaceinc.com

Christian Klepp  50:08

Marsha, once again, thank you so much for your time. Take care, stay safe and talk to you soon.

Masha Petrova  50:12

This was a blast. Thank you so much Christian.

Christian Klepp  50:14

Thank you. Bye for now.

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