Information is the Key to Tapping This Highly Educated Market
By Lisa Yorgey Lester
Civil engineering is one of the oldest engineering professions. From ancient pyramids, aqueducts and dams to modern day bridges, runways and highways, its practitioners have been entrusted with building and maintaining the infrastructures in which we live.
In 2000, civil engineers held approximately 232,000 jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half of these engineers were employed by engineering consulting firms that primarily develop designs for new construction projects. The remaining engineers were employed by federal, state and local agencies, construction and manufacturing industries, or were self-employed as consultants.
By law, civil engineers specify and approve the components used in design and construction projects. This responsibility translates into a desire for information and a need for widely diverse products and services.
Demographics point to a decidedly male market that is moderately affluent and well-educated. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that civil engineers earned a median annual salary of $55,740 in 2000.
The minimum requirement for an entry-level position is a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, although many employers now request civil engineers earn a Professional Engineer license, which requires additional postgraduate study.
The pursuit of learning and information, however, is not limited to academic achievement. Civil engineers are "information hungry people," says Gordon Clotworthy, president of NJ-based The Information Refinery, which manages several engineering files.
"To do their jobs correctly, they need to stay on top of the latest technology, processes and products. They have to be on the cutting edge of what's happening in their market," he explains.
They're a good audience for products and services that satisfy their educational needs, including continuing education seminars, association memberships, magazine subscriptions, journals and books, as well as conferences and trade shows.
To keep abreast of new developments within their field, civil engineers often join professional associations. Engineering is one of a handful of professions in which the majority of practitioners remain in the field for life, explains Michael Schoenbach of Edith Roman, who manages the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) file. As such, many civil engineers remain active in professional associations after retirement.
For marketers targeting the civil engineering market, direct mail is the vehicle of choice.
"Engineers are tactile people. It's a hands-on profession. They can hold direct mail in their hands, read it, file it or pass it on with notes to a colleague," says ASCE spokesperson David Rosenblum. He adds that it's not uncommon for ASCE to receive a membership application that is several years old. What's more, ASCE knows its members read through the materials it sends, he explains, because it has received responses with highlighted copy and proofreading or editing comments.
Electronic media also are gaining popularity with this tech-savvy market. ASCE is "seeing success in broadcast e-mail to its newer members, as well as a good return on lapsed members," Rosenblum notes. If someone's membership has expired, for example, he may receive an e-mail announcing the addition of content and resources relevant to his specialty as an incentive to renew.
Rosenblum advises direct marketers to keep their mail packages and e-mail messages simple: "Civil engineers are a practical lot, and don't care as much about bells and whistles. They want information."
Specialize and Drill Down
Because civil engineers design and supervise the construction of infrastructures, the lists and databases containing their names often are segmented by specialty, including structural, water resources, environmental, construction, transportation and geotechnical engineering.
Specialty selects, observes Schoenbach, are "important because often an offer doesn't work across the whole file."
Clotworthy concurs, and adds that using available selects, such as executive decision makers, sales volume and type of work, mailers can "drill deep into the database" to select an audience very close to the offer. "You can tell the difference between a person that drives a train from the person responsible for designing it," he offers.
An alternative to selecting specialties on civil engineering lists is to rent an engineer select from an industry publication with an affinity to a civil engineering specialty. For example, Roads & Bridges magazine has a file of 65,017 subscribers from which 2,843 civil engineers may be selected by title.
If your offer appeals to a broader audience of civil engineers, lists such as The National Association of Professional Engineers membership file and the ABI/infoUSA Engineers Database offer civil engineering as a select.
Because they often are required to visit construction or job sites and "get their hands dirty," says Clotworthy, civil engineers are viable prospects for catalogers that sell merchandise such as safety boots and hats, flags and warning signs. And, the need to travel makes them a good audience for cellular phones and Palm PilotsTM.
Civil engineer lists also are getting secondary usage from general business-to-business marketers. Many civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions, which makes them good candidates for general B-to-B offers, including office supplies, management seminars and subscriptions.
For instance, mailers such as the American Management Association, Business & Legal Reports, Academic Press, Fidelity Products and Prentice-Hall all have rented the Civil Engineers-InfoBuyers file. This direct mail-generated list, managed by MKTG Services, contains the names of buyers of professional-level publications and subscriptions on civil engineering and construction.
ACSE and construction publisher R.S. Means are the biggest users of the McGraw-Hill Civil Engineer Book Buyers file of more than 33,000 24-month buyers who have purchased a book on a civil engineering topic. However, list manager Anthony Dinino of Venture Direct says he's trying to get more general b-to-b mailers to rent the file, because it's a good audience for general business publications, seminars, office suppliers, computer hardware and software, and business travel. What's more, they're proven direct-mail buyers. "These people all are buyers; a name doesn't count as active until McGraw-Hill has money in hand," adds Dinino.
Civil engineers also are a good audience for credit card marketers. MBNA offers an affinity card with the American Society of Civil Engineers, and Dinino notes that a credit marketer has recently rented names from the McGraw-Hill Civil Engineer Book Buyers file.
Aside from purchasing products and services, civil engineers are influencers. "Product manufacturers completely understand that engineers don't buy; they specify," says Clotworthy. He explains that because civil engineers design and inspect a job site, they have a heavy influence on a construction project. Indeed, according to Civil Engineering News' June 2000 Business Publishers Association Statement, 80 percent of its readers have the authority to buy, specify and approve products.
Even more important, Clotworthy adds: "Civil engineers identify the products they prefer by brand name."