I started my career as an Engineer, as from an earliest age I was always driven by building things. Through a few convoluted steps, I eventually dabbled my toes in “the dark side” * of Marketing (Product Management to be exact). Having been on the Eng side of the table has helped me immensely as a PM (and sometimes been a problem, but old habits are hard to break). I know very well the innate distrust of Marketeers by anyone who does technical work for a living, and I try every day to keep that in mind.
I think one of the most important clarifications to make when describing what marketing does is to clear up the misconception that “marketing is just about telling people what to buy.” That may have been the old approach for companies like Coke, but in my line (Enterprise Software), you can’t just build something cool and then tell people to buy it, you actually have to build something they want.
“Marketing” is most importantly understanding the customer. Market research, customer interaction, etc. If I ever have to explain very quickly to someone what it is I do I sum it up as, “Work with the customer to understand what they want (to do), work with development to get it built, work with Marcom to communicate that value.” I think the fact that “Marketing” is mostly associated with the last item is our biggest problem, maybe we need a new name for all of this which isn’t so loaded with preconceived notions (or maybe its just that most people only see part C, so that’s all they associate with Marketing).
Anyways, it is definitely true though that there are a lot of bad marketers out there who encourage the stereotypes and re-enforce the distrust. I’ve been following a number of good blogs these days that talk about the importance of sincerity and clarity in outbound communication: Seth Godin, Joel Splosky, and perhaps a new guy John Dodds.
It was the latter that had a post which inspired me to write something: Geek Marketing 101. His top points that really resonated with me include:
1) Marketing is not a department. (Exactly what I said above)
2) Marketing is a conversation, but most people don’t speak geek. (One of the reasons I think I’m good at this)
7) Technical Support is marketing. (I would expand this to say that every single person who touches the customer is marketing, and you want feedback from them all)
* – After spending enough time in Marketing I started to realize that the real dark side is Sales…somewhere that I hope to dabble a bit in the future just so I can better communicate with the other side of the table in my day-to-day dealings.
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