How Groth Corp used PDH events to market to engineers

Edward Brunet

by Eddie Brunet, Jr., P.E., NoonPi President

I worked as an engineer in the 1990’s.

Industrial manufacturers often hosted lunch & learns for engineers at the firm where I was employed. One day I attended a lunch & learn hosted by Groth Corporation, a company that manufactures pressure-vacuum (PV) valves used on low pressure oil storage tanks. I learned a lot about PV valves during the presentation and I earned 1 PDH that I needed for my PE license renewal.

A few months later I needed to do preliminary sizing of a PV valve to determine the nozzle size on a tank where it would be installed. I had never sized a PV valve before, so I needed some help. And then I remembered the Groth lunch & learn. I dug up the presenter’s business card and called to ask him some questions. That query eventually resulted in Groth receiving a purchase order on that project.

Once Groth was “on my radar”, I continued to include them in bid lists on future projects. Although it took several months to start bearing fruit, Groth’s lunch & learn resulted in many purchase orders over the years. Groth Corporation is just one of many industrial manufacturers that have hosted lunch & learns at engineering firms. Since at least the 1980’s manufacturers and distributors have used lunch & learn presentations to reach out to engineers where they work.

The lunch & learn is still the productive workhorse that it has always been. But now the industrial marketer has another powerful tool in her toolchest: webinars.

Webinars allow you to engage with hundreds of engineers across the country – new prospects, as well as current and previous customers – for a fraction of the cost of lunch & learns and most traditional marketing options. With a webinar or a lunch & learn, you present an educational topic related to the products you sell, and award professional development hours (PDH) to the engineers.

Engineers love attending webinars because…

  1. They need PDH credits for license renewal.
  2. There are gaps in their knowledge that need to be filled by experts. You can be that expert!

Educational webinars allow you to:

  • Demonstrate topic authority and position yourself as a valuable resource that engineers can rely on to help solve their problems.
  • Create an authentic human connection with engineers, so they see real people when they think of your brand – not a faceless corporation.
  • Build goodwill with engineers by providing something of real value to them.

Hosting webinars and lunch & learns for engineers can be an effective way to establish credibility and build relationships with potential customers. This can help to reduce skepticism and build trust, making it more likely that an engineer will consider specifying your product in the future.

But webinars and lunch & learns are not the only tool in the industrial marketer’s toolchest. Other PDH events, such as speaking slots at tradeshows, conferences, and seminars, allow you to get your message out to engineers.

In 2016, I acquired a seminar company that hosts live 2-day seminars designed for engineers to earn PDH credits. Most of the seminar speakers we invite are industrial manufacturers’ representatives. As I traveled around the country, I witnessed firsthand the results that a PDH event can produce for an industrial manufacturer.

Here is one example:

Indeeco Heat Exchangers

Holiday Inn, South County Center, St Louis, MO

I thanked the speaker and dismissed the audience of professional engineers for a 10-minute break. Mark, a representative for Indeeco, had just finished a presentation on shell and tube heat exchangers.

As I walked to the back of the room to get a cup of coffee, I overheard a discussion between Mark and one of the Dupont engineers in attendance:

“Great presentation, Mark. Listen, we have an application right now for a shell and tube heat exchanger at our plant.”

As I walked past the two, the details of the conversation faded away and was drowned out by other back-of-the-room discussions between seminar attendees. After quickly gulping down a cup of coffee, I introduced the next speaker, then I stepped out of the meeting room. Mark walked towards me with briefcase in hand.

“It was good seeing you again, Eddie. Thanks for the opportunity to speak. I’ve got a plane to catch in a couple of hours, so I need to head to the airport. But I got a great lead from one of the engineers in the audience. He has a need in his plant that I think is a good fit for our heat exchangers.”

I wrapped up the 2-day St Louis seminar the next day and moved on to the next city. I didn’t give Mark’s new lead another thought until I ran into him again a few weeks later in Nashville, where he was scheduled to do another presentation.

“Hey Eddie. You remember that engineer from Dupont that I was talking to in St Louis? Well, Dupont just sent us a $250,000 purchase order for two heat exchangers.

Prior to that day in St Louis, the Dupont engineer had never met Mark and he had never done business with Indeeco. A mere six weeks later, Mark had a $250,000 purchase order on his desk from Dupont.

Obviously, not every engineer who attends your webinar, lunch & learn or other presentation will buy something from you. And it doesn’t mean that prospects from your PDH event that do buy from you are going to give you a purchase order within a few weeks. That’s not the norm for big ticket industrial purchases, which typically have long sales cycles.

A PDH event, such as a webinar, lunch & learn, or a trade show speaking slot, is a demand marketing tool that allows you to meet and begin a relationship with engineers who may be good prospects to specify your products sometime in the future. The goal of demand marketing is to get in front of engineers and gain their trust BEFORE they have a need for your product.

Many engineers have a problem you can help solve, BUT they aren’t currently in a buy cycle. Only about 1-3% of potential buyers are looking for a solution right now. If your marketing is only geared towards buyers who are ready right now, you’re missing out on all the prospects who could be buying from you in 6 months or a year from now.

Most industrial companies aren’t doing demand marketing. Hosting educational webinars gives you an edge that your competitors may not be taking advantage of.

If you’d like to chat with an expert to learn more about how to use PDH events to connect with engineers, book a free consultation.

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