December 13, 2007

The Balance of Marketing and Engineering  Comments 

Filed under: High Tech Marketing — admin @ 6:13 pm

How do you create a balance between marketing and engineering?   First set up the two functions each with a different primary focus.  Marketing with a focus on the customer, and engineering with a focus on the technology.

Marketing is responsible for bringing the customer into the product decisions.  This may be through many methods including: customer research, customer visits, reviewing support requests, and reviewing sales results.   They need to also make sure that they do not become a filter.  If certain discussions need a more technical person involved, marketing needs to facilitate that too.

 

Engineering is responsible for bring technology into product decisions.  What is possible, what is the best way to implement it, what will it cost.  Engineering needs to make sure they provide good data for making the decisions and guard against the options that they favor the options that they want to build.

 

The amount of overlap depends on the nature of the product and market.  There is significant overlap for most technical products and there is a need for high levels of interaction. 

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The best at working this relationship often have a foot in both worlds.  The marketing people often have a technical degree and experience in engineering.  The engineering people have had significant customer interaction. 

 

Once a product plan has been agreed to, there also need to be guidelines on how to proceed in a changing world.  Few plans can stay the same for more than six months in our constantly changing world.  But there needs to be understanding that keeps the changes from getting out of control.

 

Marketing must realize that feature changes make engineering less efficient.  The cost of context switching is real, and can dramatically affect the productivity of the engineering team.  If the feature set changes for each customer, then marketing is not doing their job.  If the feature set never changes there is a good chance that marketing is not talking to enough customers.

 

Engineering must realize that changes in the schedule or feature set, makes the product introduction less optimal.  The timing of an introduction is often targeted to a specific event that will get maximum impact such as a trade show.  There may also be several events that were done before the event as build up or preparation.  Changing the schedule can severely distort these plans and hurt the effectiveness.  The changing of the feature set causes the documentation to be modified at a minimum and at the worst can cause a need to re-position the product, which can change all the marketing materials and the marketing strategy.

 

 

Rick Denker

Packet Plus, Inc.

 

2 Comments »

  1. Hi Rick. I fully agree that both parties – marketing and engineering – must have some experience with the “pain points” of the other’s domain. But what happens when marketing in place above engineering in the organzational chart? Or vice-versa? I have friends working in both types of organizations. When marketing leads engineering – often without any technical experience – then real pain will be felt, most likely by the customers. Any thoughts? Cheers. — JB

    Comment by John Blyler — December 17, 2007 @ 3:36 pm

  2. There are many issues here and deserving of a complete post, if not multiple posts. However, let me make a few points.

    First, the pecking order within an organization is determined by many factors. Usually it is influenced by the importance and size of the function to the success of the company. For example, early in my career I worked in software and since it was a small part of the product, it was below hardware in the pecking order. Over time the percentage of the effort in software has increased and correspondingly the influence has increased.

    Second, the customer will get a non-optimal solution whenever any part of the organization is not heard in internal discussions, engineering or marketing. I also believe that that the way a company behaves internally will ultimately become visible to a customer. As a customer I am sure that you have experienced at some point a company that did not value documentation, customer support, training, repeat sales, technical elegance, or marketing clarity.

    Third, different functions have different timing needs which can cause conflict. Commonly engineering has a long-term focus, sales has a short-term focus, and marketing gets put in the middle to try to balance these out. Neither focus is best all the time. There are times when comprises need to be made to make the current quarters financial target and there are times when short-term revenue needs to be passed up for the longer term good.

    Fourth, making sure that the functions have a common goal is critical to making the balance work. If engineering and marketing both succeed or fail together, this stops a lot of the problems that can arise. I believe that ultimately that both engineering and marketing need to be rewarded for product success. If engineering is rewarded for technical excellence that does not create customer value, or marketing is rewarded for over-positioning the product capabilities that are not fulfilled by the product, then it can create severe distortions of the balance.

    Comment by Rick Denker — January 7, 2008 @ 11:19 am

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