Marketing vs. Engineering: Can’t We All Just Get Along?
I’ve had the pleasure of working with engineers since very early in my career. Many marketing people wouldn’t use the word “pleasure” in this context. My experience has been at times challenging but at the same time I wouldn’t have been able to be successful in the tech industry without the input and support of engineers.
Traditionally, the worlds of engineering and marketing have been at odds. Most engineers believe that the value of anything is a function of its objective utility. The notion of a purely subjective value is not really understood in this world of numbers, measurements and data. They know that subjective values impact purchasing decisions – even in their own lives, but they distance themselves from it because it just doesn’t make sense.
In the world of engineering, marketing is a place where the laws of utility don’t apply. Marketing makes subjective decisions. Usually they work, sometimes, they don’t. Because there doesn’t appear to be any rational cause/effect relationship here, you can’t trust marketing. It is voodoo perpetuated by flakes. It is not a real discipline but, instead, more of a con job.
Marketers, on the other hand, haven’t helped the situation. Too many of them buy into the theory that marketing and engineering are foes. These same people tend to guess at solutions rather than develop fact based strategies through professional research techniques. I’ve met many marketing people who were flakes and who seemed to live off in the clouds, far removed from the reality of the manufacturing floor. It is no wonder that a chasm has developed between these interdependent disciplines.
The fact is, tech marketers need engineers and engineers need marketers. I even had an electronics engineer on my staff who interfaced directly with the client’s engineering team and our creative team. The result was smart tech marketing programs that enhanced the impact of both parties.
To bring these two camps together, engineers need to realize that marketing is a systems discipline. Markets are economic systems and the role of marketing is to facilitate the transfer of money from the market into the company by ensuring that the company is delivering value out to the market. This exchange obeys the laws of equilibrium. If either side of the system lacks what the other needs, the exchange doesn’t happen. If the right product, message and timing happens, the exchange is made. Marketing manages, defines and tracks this system providing a constant feedback loop for future development and refinement.
When marketers connect with engineers, amazing things happen: product ideas and refinements that hit the bulls eye with customers.