Why Every Marketer Needs To Speak Engineer

Posted by · January 12, 2017 10:00 am

First published in MarketingDaily

If only John Wanamaker could see us now. Once upon a time, the early U.S. marketing pioneer famously said: “Half my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.”

But that was then; Wanamaker died almost a century ago. Now technology means marketers need never be in the dark about their results or their efficiency.

This power to truly correlate cause and effect is an offer only to those who can read the signals and speak the language. Modern marketing means learning to think like an engineer.

Business is changing, and marketing is no different. Our trade has long been deemed a creative discipline, one in which soft skills ruled and liberal arts graduates made hay whilst writing copy, designing brochures, or drafting emails.

But marketing, at its most effective, is now a technical role. Simply understanding advertising auctions, plus producing a creative guaranteed to engage an audience, is a quest for performance to conversion, and then optimizing on those results. Conventional marketing now is really all about using tools — analytics to optimize user flows, click tracking to understand user behavior, and so on.

But the change doesn’t stop there. We now have reams of data at our fingertips with which to perform far more analysis. Instead of launching a product campaign based solely off of some research and competitive analysis, we can now test market segments, analyze results, and optimize for conversions early on.

This is where learning to speak the language is about more than simply knowing your way around AdWords. The biggest emerging trend is that marketing can have a much bigger role in product development — and that means conversing with, understanding, and often leading engineers and developers.

When a company builds a new product or service, it is essential that there is a good product-market fit. Building a product without adequately testing the market is the road to waste, so understanding the competitive landscape and diving deep to identify the pain points that should inform a product solution … these are the tasks that are to be fulfilled by modern marketing.

This is an inversion of the way many of us commonly think of the practice. Until now, marketers have been handed a finished product and been compelled to use creativity to communicate word of its existence far and wide. Developers have ruled the roost, confident in the provenance of their product.

But marketing a product that doesn’t fit an actual customer need is a waste of time and money — all the creative communication in the world won’t seal the deal.

It is a problem that can be obviated by collecting and analyzing data before a product launches, as well as mid-flight, so that you have time to optimize or pivot before you begin.

This is why marketing must move up its own funnel, if you will. In short, why the marketer must walk, talk, and think more like an engineer.

Informing product development decisions with marketing-grade certainty means being in engineering meetings, sitting beside developers, informing their roadmap and having the knowledge required to make the recommendations that light the way to necessary iteration. And it means fighting for your role as the evidential basis on which those decisions are taken.

Marketers have come a long way, and the role will continue to evolve. Attendance in these early stages of product development, before the product needs to be sold, offers up a more informed view of its offering.