Thursday, February 17, 2005

People don't get "Marketing", and that gives us all bad reps.

As a marketer I often bemoan the reputation marketing has for not being trustworthy or authentic. Just read this post from NY Times Technology writer, David Pogue, expressing a moderate amount of surprise that a company's PR rep was actually honest with him. How sad really. And when people aren't imagining all marketing types as skeevy, scummy liars, they're imagining them as minimally useful. And that's because a lot of people, even corporate types who should know better, don't really get the various segments of the Marketing function.

At one point in my career I had to give a presentation to my direct boss, the VP, and his direct boss, the acting COO, on what Marketing did, because the VP was a PR guy and the COO was a technical guy. How did those two end up being the chain of commend for a product management and marketing organization? Can you say "Re-org"? Can you say "5th Re-org in about a year"? They were basically the last guys left!

I recently read this article on MarketingProfs that, if nothing else, absolutely accurately nails why Marketing is so rarely successful in high tech organizations. The fact is Marketing can be broken into multiple distinct categories, and it's going to be rare to find one or even two people who will excel at each category, yet no company will invest to hire an expert in each category. So you get a bunch of people desperately trying to multi-task across tasks where their skills have little chance of fitting all of those tasks well.

The first segment of Marketing is: Product Management
This is generally an "inbound" role...working with engineering. But even this function really covers two distinct disciplines:

1. Product Definition: It is really Product Management that is tasked with understanding the market picture...from macro to micro...and helping R&D use that information to develop the right product at the right time. Understanding the customer; understanding the competition; understanding the technology. Tall order, no?
2. Product Delivery: The Product Manager also gets turned into Project Manager extraordinaire when it comes to launching a product. Harnessing all of the other cross-functional team members, making sure everyone brings in their deliverables on schedule and with the right level of quality. And that includes working with the highly technical to the not-so technical as you drive a product through the alpha and beta and launch phases. Communication, leadership, motivation, attention to detail...maybe even some BusDev if your product is only part of a partnership chain.

The second segment of Marketing is: Product Marketing
And how many companies do you know where they simply have one PM who is meant to do both product management and product marketing? I'll answer: most of them.

But Product Marketing is generally an "outbound" role...working with MarCom, sales, customers etc. Product Marketing gets saddled with tons of deliverables...content for collateral, and presentations, and sales trainings, and the web site, and RFPs and trade show get the idea. But the people Product Marketing communicates to and for is very different from the people Product Management communicates to and for.

Yet, you so often see one person responsible for every bit of all of the above. It's a recipe for confused customers or frustrated engineers, frankly.

The third segment of Marketing is: Marketing Communication
This is where you find PR and event planning and branding and often web stuff and usually collateral stuff. This is often where you need the person with the eye and the ear. What looks good? What sounds good?

And where in all of these segments do you make room for:

Strategic Marketing
Technical Marketing
Marketing Engineering


You begin to see why Marketing feels under-appreciated and misunderstood, right?

NOw, just add this to the mix:

Marketing can't control the hands-on execution of the product design/development or the hands-on manufacturing of said product...they're not coding; they're not building.

Marketing can't control the hands-on sales of the product. They simply don't close the deal.

They're just in the middle trying to keep all those balls in the air, trying to make all those internal and external customers happy, and trying to avoid being called liars along the way!

Find a marketing person and give them a hug today. They need it.

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