Sales & Marketing for Engineers & Scientists: MRS in Review

Posted by Michele Nichols on Wed, Apr 06, 2016


The Materials Research Society held their Spring Meeting in Phoenix last week. While we have attended in years past, this year the conference organizers asked us to present a session for conference exhibitors, "Sales & Marketing for Engineers & Scientists.”

In materials, like in optics and photonics, instrumentation and components, it is common to rotate promising engineers or scientists through the marketing role. Many personable engineers and scientists are also surprised to find themselves in technical sales. They may lack the background or training in marketing and sales best practices and processes, but this doesn't mean they can't be successful.

If you missed the presentation, you can download the slides here.

This presentation shares:

  • An approach to sales that is a better fit for scientists and engineers
  • A way to generate leads through what you already do well: innovate and educate
  • The data behind sales and marketing

For a pulse-check of what your peers in the industry are considering, here’s a roundup of the questions presented to Michele after the presentation.


I have an article appearing in an upcoming issue of a trade publication. Should I take out a banner ad to accompany it? How do I know if it works?

If you have a clear call to action, yes, banner ads can be effective and improve the traction you’ll get from the article. Think clear, high-contrast graphics, and a reason to click through to your website. This reason could be:

  • “See a demo”
  • “Find out your ROI”
  • “Download the white paper”

Ad reps like to talk about impressions. We don’t find this to be a meaningful metric; instead, look at clicks. For some of the trade publications we watch, the cost per lead on banner ads is worse than it is on their other digital advertising opportunities. Targeted digital advertising is our top choice for ad spend; it’s measurable and better qualified. Audience segmented email newsletters, especially when tied to a show, like Laser Focus World’s ‘Best of Show’ newsletter advertising, is a great choice.


There’s so much data. What are a couple of numbers I should be watching?

The companies we talk to tend to fall in two camps: 1) no data analysis, or 2) too much time spent tracking too many (contradictory and sometimes meaningless) metrics, resulting in analysis paralysis.

We like to strike a balance: watching fewer numbers every month, and deciding on action based on the trend lines. Regardless of whether you’re using HubSpot, another similar marketing automation platform, or a mixed toolkit including Google Analytics, you should be watching:

  1. Unique visitors
  2. Bounce rate: the percent of visitors that leave your site seconds after they get there
  3. Time on site
  4. Leads
  5. Sales-qualified leads

Ultimately, it comes down to money in the bank from your sales and marketing. Look closely at any gaps that you cannot measure today, such as close rate.


How much should I spend on marketing?

The rule of thumb is 1-6% of target revenue. For a startup or second stage growth company, spend should be toward the high end of that range. An engineering-driven company that has engaged little in marketing and has some catching up to do should plan on closer to 6% as well.


I’m still in startup mode. Where should I spend my limited budget?

The web lets start-ups and small companies compete with the more established competition. Focus on:

  • A name that will stand the test of time.
  • Simple, clean logo and brand. If you have to DIY, just pick a font; don’t try your own design.
  • Great business card on quality paper.
  • Hunting: Identify the top 10 companies you want to work with, and start calling them.
  • Quirky ways to build your name. Like ThorLabs’ snack packs, it’s the little things that stick in your memory. We used to send holiday cards and gifts because other suppliers did, but they got lost in the shuffle. The pies we send on Pi Day sure don’t.

Have your own questions? Contact us.


Topics: Marketing Strategy