Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Engineers don't have a clue what Marketers do... but would be better than Marketers at it.

In fact, most engineers I know have very little respect for marketers, and think that they don't "do" anything.

If anything, engineers, and lets face it, much of the "non-marketing workforce", think Marketers are
about 'making advertisements'. You know the TV spots, the Web Banners, and that stuff.

Well Engineers with experience do have a sense that there is another side to marketing that is SUPPOSED to be there, namely the inbound marketing function (or product marketing). However, engineers have been so burned by this concept, so left "dry" and "hanging" by product marketing concepts, that many are left feeling that Marketers don't DO anything...

The funny thing is that if Engineering knew what Product Marketers were supposed to be doing: they would do a VERY fine job of it, and perhaps be better than most marketers at it.

I will explain why Marketers are struggling in a second, but first, here are a few of the functions of "inbound"/product marketing that engineers would knock out of the park and why:

1.) Surveys. Why? Because engineers can learn how to craft unbiased surveys, cull the data into actionable information, and summarize it all in a usuable format... its second nature for engineers.

2.) Customer Interviews. Why? Because engineers are usually less "fake seeming" than marketers, and would take DETAILED notes and then... SHOCKINGLY, cull the data into actionable information.

3.) Product Features & Feature Details. Why? Because engineers KNOW the pain of not having detailed information about a desired feature. Also because they will undoubtedly understand 'realisim' as well as 'what IS possible'... and tie it together in a nice, well documented, fully culled feature set.

So, why are marketers supposedly so bad?

Short answer: "culling the data" into 'actionable information'. This skill takes patience, confidence, and frankly, engineering talent to pull off... and you have to be willing to put in the work, learn statistics, and believe you are right.

Many marketers may "do these things", but fail to deliver the results in any meaningful way.

To my marketing friends (some of whom follow this blog), do not despair. YOU CAN do it. You just have to take the time, and for goodness sakes... if you've done some research... do yourself a favor: present it with the feature set (on the Marketing Requirements Document: MRD), and earn yourself some credibility with the folks that do the REAL work!


  1. I hope you're OK with me disagreeing with your entire premise here :)

    You say engineers can craft unbiased surveys.. "marketers" can't?

    Engineers are "less fake" than marketers?

    Marketers can't empathize with customer needs?


    C'mon now, Harlan! You're comparing BAD marketers with GOOD engineers, but I don't think that's useful at ALL. (Might be realistic in certain situations, but that's by no means the ideal). If that's your team, tell them to hit the road!

    Let me throw this out there too: You say Engineers would be better than marketers at [whatever marketers do]. I say, if you are "better than marketers" at marketing, you'd best change fields, because sales and marketing is the function of a company that has the most impact on the bottom line, making them the most valuable and highest paid. That's a fact -- top level sales and marketing people will always get paid more than engineers, especially TECHNICAL sales and marketing people!

  2. Disagreement breeds good discussion. Obviously, any time I make wide-sweeping Stereotyping comments, its meant to engage this kind of discussion/debate, I love it!

    Given there are exceptions, finding what you call "good" marketers is very, very hard. I think many Engineers SHOULD switch to marketing and sales at some point: its the whole point of this blog actually. The reason is that they have analytical skills that are just typically lacking in Marketing Graduates. (For example, Statistical Analysis, Formal Problem Solving, Mathematical Modeling, and Hunger for Knowledge/Learning).

    One last note: it is a crying shame if Marketers are making more than Engineers in any company. Its not been my experience at Intel, Bigfoot, or Britestreams. (VPs not included).


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