Many engineers see marketing professionals as people trying to sell snake oil -- replete with overblown promises, misstatements, and outright lies.
Enlightened marketing understands that there is no single method to get consumers to identify themselves. Why should engineers care about this? A narrow market (prospect) focus is easier, because the people in that narrow focus will tend to be homogeneous in their needs and wants. Sameness simplifies everything, but too much sameness limits sales. This, in turn, may make the product not viable financially. Selecting the people whose problem you will solve is always a business judgment call. If a product can fail because its market is too small, the answer would seem to be serving the largest market possible.
In the Harry Nilsson animated movie The Point, a character observes, "A point in every direction is the same as no point at all." So it is with products, especially technology-based one. If you make a product too specific, too few people can buy it. If you make it too general-purpose, too few people will buy it.
Making correct marketing decisions is critical. When I went into technical marketing for a semiconductor company in the late 1970s, companies on the leading edge of marketing were just beginning to adopt a feature-benefit approach to the marketing problem. The idea was that every product feature must have some good quality that leads to a customer benefit. When combined with quality management techniques -- like Isihawa diagrams (fishbone diagrams) and Pareto analysis -- the mental approach shifted the focus to a systems approach. Marketing then was about product/service, price, place, promotion, people/personnel, positioning, and packaging.
Much of the shift in marketing approaches has its roots in the lectures and consultation of Peter Drucker and W. Edwards Deming. Deming was a statistician who applied scientific techniques to previously unquantified business issues. He originally had little impact on American business, but he found an eager audience in postwar Japan. I was privileged to attend a large number of lectures and workshops tha Drucker and Deming held in the Washington area in the mid-1970s.
Since the 1970s, much progress has been made in understanding the use of information and how people select whether to continue reading, listening, or watching. The results of scientific studies can be used for nonmanipulative reasons. However, like many scientific facts, information can be used for less noble purposes.
Commonly accepted production and engineering tools from statistical process control (SPC) are often used in developing marketing decisions. Fishbone diagrams and Pareto analysis are just two of the SPC tools that have found their way into marketing. The trick is to use the tools to help shed light on difficult situations and decisions. As with any other modern technique, there is great potential for misuse, but there are also huge benefits to bringing structure to a previously haphazardous process.
Marketing is becoming a scientifically grounded discipline that is gaining engineering-like methods and procedures to guide what we produce, how we present it, and why we might choose to maintain or discontinue a product. How about you? Do you have any input into the marketing process at your company?