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Engineers are from numbersland, marketers are from wordsland

Many marketing professionals come out of meetings with engineers and other technical professionals shaking their heads, wondering what was miss-communicated. Sometimes the technical people are equally frustrated.

Given the tightness of the current economy, the technical people understand that they need what marketers offer -- but often, those ideas don’t jump across the space between the two brains involved.

Often, the difference comes in the way the two groups think. Technical professionals such as engineers tend to be process-driven and numbers-oriented. They like facts, based on measurable data. Marketers tend to be more oriented around ideas and words, and those can sometimes seem insubstantial to technical people.

It comes down to cross-cultural communication that can be every bit as challenging as situations that are inter-generational, or across differences in education levels.

For marketers, the key is to learn to speak the language that is understood by technical professionals, who tend to think in numbers rather than words. Fortunately, this has become easier with the fast-improving metrics available through social media.

Using the limited metrics available from print media

The idea of metrics isn’t new. Print publications have been doing what they can to provide metrics, for years. The reason: advertisers who needed a good understanding of who reads the publication, so they would know if their ad spend is worthwhile.

To support this, publications have long carried reader service data -- number of subscribers, and often the “pass-along” readership, in that many business publications are circulated around the office, so more than one person reads each copy. Reader surveys help collect data on the industry, geographic area, title and discretionary budget for readers.

All of this data helps the ad salespeople convince potential advertiser that their publication is a must-buy for their ad budget. This information is tabulated in “media kits,” in glossy print form as well as on the publication’s website. Some information is also found in the publication’s entry in media directories such as Cision and Ulrichweb.

What this means is that it’s possible to put some numbers on the value of a published article. In my work, I compile information on each print article published. This includes the circulation of the publication, which is the number of readers.

I can also estimate what it would cost to buy the space as advertising, because the media kit also includes the publication’s ad rate. And anyone who tells you that “print is dead” is just a little (well, a lot) ahead of the curve. Some extremely smart companies continue to buy ad space in trade and professional publications. In the publications I work with, a single-page ad might go for US$8,000, and a half-page $6,000. Does this mean that a two-page article is worth $16,000? Maybe not, but maybe so -- at least that’s what the marketplace says.

Other articles on the Global Reach website will help you learn how you can get articles published on behalf of your firm, at no cost.

Use “digital” metrics, but don’t be dazzled

Many technical professionals are attracted to the detailed information available from online media. This includes numbers of page views, forwards, likes, comments, retweets, followers and a host of other figures. I find that these numbers are a good way to convince professionals of the value of online engagement with their market. Some will need some persuasion about the value of media that seem so ephemeral.

But it’s also important to not confuse quantity with quality. Here, for-profit media may have an edge. If they’re intentional about selling advertising or in other ways monetizing their work directly, they’ve likely gone to some effort to determine their reader or viewer demographics. Having this information may help marketers speak the “numbers” language of their technical professionals.

And some people may be dazzled by the numbers -- such as the thousands of members some LinkedIn groups have, without a clear idea of the demographics of those readers. It is better to have access to a small online group, provided the group is made up of qualified potential clients, than it is a large group.

So ask yourself:

  • What are you doing to do to add ‘numbers’ to your conversations with technical professionals?
  • How can you improve the quantification you offer to your colleagues, to show the value Marketing provides to your firm?

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