In this episode, Grace Clark and Christine McQuilkin delve into the art and science of creating compelling content for highly technical companies. They discuss the importance of technical detail, the role of SEO, the value of brand name mentions, and the dangers of oversimplifying content. Join them as they share best practices and insights to help engineers and tech firms effectively communicate their expertise to their audience.
Welcome to the Rivergate Marketing Podcast. Grace, tell me about your background. Did you study engineering in college?
I didn’t actually, although going to Oregon State University, where engineering is a really heavy focus and popular subject to study, I knew many engineers. In fact, I’m going to marry one, but I was actually a marketing major and I just happened to enter the world of system integration through an internship. But I know that you are an engineer, so could you tell me a little bit about your engineering background?
Yes, well, congratulations on your upcoming nuptials! I come from an engineering family, so it was only natural for me to study it as well. I got a bachelor of science in civil / structural engineering, and I did some design work before returning to get my masters degree in engineering management from Dartmouth College.
Very cool. So, you went to school for engineering, but what drew you into marketing from your engineering career?
When I was getting my masters degree, I took several courses from the Amos Tuck School of Business, and I met and fell in love with marketing. Afterwards, I worked at an engineering software company where I both did engineering work and I got into some marketing. After that, I took some time off to stay home and raise my family, but when I returned to work, I was hired by a system integrator to do their marketing. Coming into this industry, as you probably remember, was trial by fire. It was a steep
learning curve, but it was an incredible learning experience. Over a very short period of time, that company grew from 5 million to about 50 million, and I became the director of marketing there. They actually hired Patty Engineering as a controls contractor, which is where I met Georgia Whalen.
After I left that integrator, I joined the Rivergate team and I brought an in-depth understanding of what its like to be on the other side – on the client side.
So Grace, I understand that my background is kind of similar to yours, where you worked at an integrator before joining Rivergate Marketing.
Yes, I actually met Rivergate Marketing through this integrator because they were a CSIA integrator. They were part of the association, and I actually served for a brief amount of time as a co-chair to the marketing committee that’s put together by the CSIA and I was the co-chair with Georgia, so I got a little bit of experience with her.
But, like I said before that I had entered into the world of integration as an intern, which led later to me becoming a marketing coordinator. Did that for a bit, including through the pandemic. That was a fun challenge.
But, this industry is really interesting. It really does take a long time to learn the language of engineering, and not just engineering, but system integration specifically. It took me a while to really understand. I like to tell people I can remember having my first conversation or kind of interview for content with an engineer and trying to understand what they were saying of like, ‘okay, you know what this is, right?’ ‘No, you got to go lower level.’ ‘Oh, like this?’ ‘No, no, no, no, no. Unpack that a little bit more.’ ‘Like this?’ ‘Even more, get me to the most fundamental of fundamentals.’
So, I think without an engineering background, you got to start somewhere, but it really does take time to cultivate that kind of language for system integration. But with your background, I mean, going from engineering to marketing I think is really interesting, and what do you think is special about marketing to integrators?
Well, coming from an engineering family and being an engineer myself, I recognize that the content we produce for this industry, it needs to clearly illustrate our client’s expertise with the subject matter. I mean, sometimes the engineers we work with have the ‘curse of knowledge’, meaning that they’re so knowledgeable on the topic that they think everyone must also know what they know and they discount the value of sharing that expertise. So I think we can really do a lot of good work for our clients in sending that message out to a broader audience and really illustrating their authority and leadership on some of these very technical topics.
So Grace, how can highly technical companies create better content?
Its such a fun question because I think some engineering companies or highly technical companies don’t realize that they have so much content potential at their fingertips and that the projects that they’re working on, the companies that they’re working with, there is some really rich content and stories to be told there. And I think when you start tapping into that, there are a few best practices that you can
really apply that will help it go a little bit further. For example, you don’t want to do a sales pitch to your clients. They’re not interested in hearing about how great you are or what a deal this is or make it all about you.
Instead, these engineers that you’re talking to or higher level people in the industry even, they enjoy jargon because they’re in this industry, they know this language and they want lots of technical detail. Those technical details are really important for a multitude of reasons. One being it really shows that you know what you’re talking about. You can speak their language too. You know what they’re talking about. In addition to that, it makes really great content in your digital sphere. That technical content is really important for ranking for SEO. Its just important for Google to be able to find you to be able to know what you’re all about. So, that’s a really important best practice that people should include.
With that, you should also include brand names in your content. Like for example, if you’re a Rockwell integrator, if you’re a Siemens integrator, those are great names to drop because it gives you this connection to this often large company or maybe they’re a more niche company, they’re not as well known, but that brand name is still really important. You’re connecting yourself to important vendors that are related to your industry.
Another key thing to keep in mind is: keep it positive. You don’t want to trash a vendor while one client might not have had a great experience with one vendor, another has had a great experience with them, you really don’t want to be negative. I understand, especially right now, lead times and the supply chain is terrible and there’s a lot of different reasons for that. Sometimes its in their hands, sometimes it’s out of their hands, but still keep it positive. Its a good policy to follow. And like I was saying, with technical jargon, with technical detail, giving specifics to the technology that you’re talking about is really great. Like we said, if you’re going to talk about a piece of Rockwell technology, be specific about it. What kind of system was it? What type of controls were they? Those are great keywords, and it really shows that you know what you’re talking about.
That really ties into this idea that you hear a lot through the industry, and that is be a thought leader. You’ re demonstrating thought leadership when you’ re able to talk about this specific technology. And one last best practice that I think people should follow when you’re doing a piece of content, like a case study or a blog or what have you, be specific to the problem that you are solving, that is something that clients really relate to really well. That specificity shows that you are capable of addressing the problems that they might have, even if its in a different industry, even if it was a different type of problem, it might be related enough that they can really find
themselves in that story.
And so I know I went on a little bit of a list there, Christine, I’m sure you’ve got plenty of other tips though to cover.
I have a few things to add. If you’re doing a case study, you’re working on a job that’s really interesting, it might be potential for a case study. Hey, take some pictures. They don’t have to be glamorous, expensive photographer-taken pictures, but take some pictures, make a video with your phone. Of course, just be sure to respect client’s privacy. But its great to document this and its wonderful to have images and videos that are not stock to go along with some of your written content.
And finally, start simple. It doesn’t have to be the most intense, biggest project that your company has ever done that’s taken three years, and so you don’t have to start with that case study. You can start with the little machine that is ready to go out the door now or start with that basic piece of technology that there’s probably a lot higher search volume on. Some of the most basic pieces that we’ve written have been picked up by Google, and they just are served up over and over and they provide a lot of traffic for our clients for years. It doesn’t have to be the most difficult concept to write about, talk about all the basics. There’ s a ton of search volume for those topics as well, and you could really rank for that.
On the topic of making content. I think sometimes, especially when I was a marketing coordinator or even when I work with clients, you mention to an engineer, I want you to start making content with me. They start shaking in their boots. So as an engineer, what kind of advice would you give to other engineers in the industry to help them embrace making content a little bit more?
That’s a very good question, and one that we wrestle with often when we are onboarding new clients and trying to convince these engineers who really don’t even want to leave their cubicles, some of them, to come to the conference room and hear our Rivergate marketing pitch for blog writing, but we just try to make connections with them. We try to coach them. We have templates to try to break it down.
Case studies have a very easy format: problem, solution, results. Just give me some bullet points. Let’s start with the bullet points. What makes this piece of content interesting and different? What was special about this project? You can start simple, give a high level, and then flesh it out later.
Some engineers, you almost see them realize it as you’re doing an interview with them for content, how excited they are to talk about what they’re talking about with you. I mean, this is why we talk to them, because this is what they’re an expert on. This is something they’re passionate about. I would encourage engineers to look at this as an opportunity to talk about what you’re passionate about and get to share
that with other people because that’s pretty cool.
Hey Grace, can you share some insights from the website and SEO metrics that we track for our clients?
Absolutely. I really enjoy the SEO metrics that we track at Rivergate marketing just because it really helps us show our clients the big picture and show progress. We can see where they started and where they’re at due to content and all the other efforts that we’re making. So with that, we’re seeing technical B2B businesses are finally embracing social media. This is a good thing. I’ve seen how a social media presence can really impact a business. It can make it easier to get your message out there. It can lead to increased website sessions. It can make you a sought out speaker for industry events. More content is directly correlated to website visits. You’re getting out there, you’re getting in front of people. It only makes sense that its driving people back to your website. Its driving people to that content that you’re putting a lot of effort into. We put a lot of effort into content. You want people to see it. This is one of those ways.
Yes, absolutely. As long as we’re on the topic of SEO, there’s a few points I’d like to make too. I have directly seen with my own eyes the positive benefits for our clients when we distribute a press release to the news wire on their behalf. So, a press release is different than a blog or a news item. Those are put on the client’s websites, a blog or a news item, but a press release is distributed to the news wire, and this is where news outlets, online and broadcast and newspaper in print, its where they pick up their news. So because of this wide distribution to dozens or hundreds of news outlets, there is a real and long-term benefit for SEO relating your company to the specific key words that you’re talking about in that press release. Its always good to mention that in any discussion about SEO.
Yes, absolutely. Especially when we know that SEO is really impacted by what sites are you linking to and what sites are linking back to you. So press releases help get that out there because you’re linking to your website in a press release. So when it pops up on those news channels, you’re showing like, ‘yes, I’ve got some thought authority. I am a trusted source’; I mean to others, but also to Google, which is really important. Another question I have for you, Christine, is that sometimes engineers are not as concerned about marketing or maybe they feel like its secondary to everything else. Is there anything that you would want to say to them to try to convince them to see the light about marketing, kind of like you did?
Well, you can be the very best engineer in the world, and if nobody knows about it, you’re going to go out of business. So we have to share the message. Your company is unique. You have unique skills and experience and talking about that will help show the world that you are a thought leader and have knowledge and expertise in your very specific niche. And I’ve known more than a dozen system integrators, maybe close to two dozen system integrators. And I can tell you they all have very, very
different businesses and very different skill sets, different industries they target. So, to reach the people you need to reach, your own potential clients, you’ve got to be putting out content. You have to have words on the page that will tell the search engines what you are good at, so they will serve you up when its appropriate to potential clients that you would like to reach.
This is a very special industry. Its very different, very niche. Before I had worked with Rivergate Marketing before I was a marketing coordinator back in college days, I had never heard of this industry. I mean, I knew about manufacturing, but I had no idea the level of depth this industry had, all the types of engineers, all the different industries. It’s really a phenomenal and fantastic world to explore. I think
that’s one of the things that makes marketing to engineers so interesting and special.
Well, to end that podcast, I’d like to take a moment here and just counteract some pop business strategy that’s currently making the rounds. Several of our clients have been given the advice to streamline their websites, simplify their message, and cut out the fluff, meaning cut out the words.
And as we’ve been talking about here, the words on your page are how Google finds you and decides what your authority is. So unfortunately, that advice is not appropriate for companies in any highly technical space. I think its not generally understood how traffic arrives at your website, and its pretty simple actually. As I mentioned, the words on your page are read by the bots that go through the site and index the content. The search algorithm decides how relevant your content is and how much authority your site has and serves it up as the answer to search queries when it feels you have the best answer. So if you remove the words from your website, this prevents the bots and actual users also from understanding your authority. So you’ll start losing keywords that you might be ranking for, and eventually you’ll be losing website traffic. Its quick to lose and time consuming to recapture.
Grace, anything you wanted to add on that?
We actually wrote a blog about this topic very recently: The Dangers of Oversimplifying your Website. We’ve seen the damage that it can do know what it can do to your SEO, and we just can’t but keep harping on this, please don’t do it. Please don’t oversimplify your website. That technical content is unique to this industry. It is a unique want and need to this industry, and we can’t encourage you enough to not just don’t oversimplify your website, but keep growing it. Keep growing that content, building that content. You will see a payoff for it.
Words of wisdom. Thank you for joining me with this discussion. Founded in 2009, Rivergate Marketing is a full service digital marketing agency, serving small to mid-size
B2B companies trying to reach technical and engineering buyers. We are passionate about building strategic and data-driven marketing and PR programs to help our clients compete and be found in a crowded digital space against much larger companies with seemingly endless marketing dollars. For more information, visit us online at rivergatemarketing.com