Many engineers see marketing professionals as people trying to sell snake oil -- replete with overblown promises, misstatements, and outright lies.
If you hate marketing, you're not alone. To do something well, you have to love it, so how can marketing people love what they do? Many engineers see marketing professionals as people trying to sell snake oil -- replete with overblown promises, misstatements, and outright lies.
A number of memes floating around the Internet poke fun at marketing and make the marketing guy or gal look like a dunce. All I can say is, "Wow. I hope to start changing your mind."
Some of the negative image associated with marketing arose from practices from many years ago. The thing is that marketing's focus has evolved over time.
|Focus|| ||Profits come from|
|Production|| ||Production methods|
|Product|| ||Product quality|
|Selling|| ||Pitching methods|
|Marketing|| ||Needs and wants|
|Holistic marketing|| ||Everything matters|
Academicians say that the production focus ended in the 1950s, the product focus and selling focus ended in the 1960s, and the marketing focus remains current to this day. But looking at the actual marketing practices of high-tech companies, many had a production focus through the 1970s, with some companies holding out until the mid-1980s. One company rode the 70% learning curve from the early 1960s until well into the 1980s. High-tech isn't alone in sticking with techniques that were proven to have major problems. American car companies remained stuck in first gear (pun intended) with their focus on production. They were surpassed by Japanese manufacturers that focused on smaller, higher-quality cars.
Marketing defines objectives, strategy, and tactics to achieve a specific business goal. By way of an analogy, an objective is like deciding that you wish to travel to Fresno, Calif. A strategy is deciding you're going to drive there, and tactics are choosing the route you'll take.
In past years, marketing often tried to influence potential buyers to identify themselves through psychological manipulation. Some companies continue to manipulate, but marketing has undergone a series of enlightened transformations. Businesses have generally moved through the focus stages from production to marketing because each stage works better than the one before. Marketing exists to achieve two goals: to get people to identify themselves as interested consumers for the company's products and to identify new products to satisfy consumer wants.
Marketing is moving from manipulation to finding ways to meet both the needs and wants of prospective customers. How does that happen?
Determining the market focus of a product line, or even an entire company, shapes how marketing is performed. One product line with which I was associated relied strictly on products that, according to the wisdom of the time, were outdated. But were they obsolete? Not really. The line centered on 15-micron metal gate products made for a single customer or a handful of customers. These parts had a very long lifecycle -- they could be reasonably expected to last 20 years or more. The products were easy to make and very profitable. The marketing task was getting closer to the customers to understand their probable future needs for these products, and then to predict the needs for these long-term customers. The result was a successful business that (to my knowledge) continues to this day, more than 20 years later.
Marketing for engineering-focused companies is often split into two disciplines: technical marketing and ordinary marketing. Functionally, technical marketing deals with the internal workings of parts and how engineers can use them to solve real-world problems. As the name implies, this is a hybrid discipline that requires technical (engineering) excellence and at least rudimentary skills in more general marketing. Ordinary marketing is often focused on finding ways to get people to identify themselves as potential users (buyers) of products. How do they do that?
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