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Engineering & Marketing MMA – Customer VS Product

July 31, 2014 - Journal - , ,

How do you create and manage a balance between engineering and marketing without it turning into a Joe Rogan commentated UFC event?

It starts with defined roles.

Marketing’s role is to engage the prospective customer and bring them towards a product evaluation and positive purchase decision. This is achieved by using multiple methods through the company’s coordinated sales and marketing strategies and tactics. However, once the customer is front and center, marketing and sales also needs to ensure they don’t become a barrier to the customer getting more detailed product information at a technical level and need to engage various members of the engineering team as required in supporting the sales process.

Engineering’s role is to bring the technology into the customer’s product decisions. Engineering needs to answer questions such as : What are the technical capabilities? What else is possible? What is the best way to implement the technology? What will it cost and how long will it take to achieve implementation. Engineering needs to ensure they provide details and data for helping the prospective customer make a favorable product decision. Engineering also needs to make decisions in favor of supporting the customer’s requirements instead of the options engineering wants to build.

The OVERLAP is where Engineering and Marketing need to interact and engage. The more technical the product, the more significant the overlap between teams.

What’s the Right Mix?

Finding the best people for each role – the right team members will maintain a foot in both worlds. Great marketing people will have a strong technical knowledge of the product while great engineering people will have significant customer interaction experience. Most importantly these people will be experienced in knowing when to defer to their colleagues’ respective expertise when discussions with the prospective customer warrant.

It’s the customer demand for an optimal solution that drives internal decision making for both marketing and sales teams. In order to achieve this all relevant teams need to be consulted to create a collaborative solution that results in the prospective customer purchasing your technology.

It’s also important for marketing to give the customer a window into your internal processes – provided they aren’t dysfunctional! Giving the customer insight and knowledge that you are working directly to help provide an optimal solution builds the customer’s understanding of your technical competency and trust in your ability to deliver the best solution for them.

Optimizing the Path Forward

Once the product plan has been defined and agreed to, engineering and marketing need to also create guidelines on how to manage continuous change and alterations. The business reality is product plans rarely stay the same for more than six months as the customer’s requirements change however there needs to be parameters in place to ensure changes don’t get out of control and sandbag the development schedule.

The reality is that feature changes result in engineering becoming less efficient. The cost of feature changes and alterations are real, have an attributable cost and have a dramatic impact on engineering productivity. Marketing and sales teams need to work effectively with the customer to ensure feature changes and customization is limited and product engineering deliverables remain on track.

Of course, marketing wants the product yesterday in order to “superserve” the customer. Engineering must ensure that planned deliverables and project milestones are met or exceeded as missed deadlines can create a ripple effect that can impact the customer’s business I.e. Trade Show Launch of a Product or Solution. Schedule changes or missed deadlines c can severely distort the customer’s plans and directly impact their bottom line. If engineering isn’t able to deliver defined product requirements or feature sets, the negative impact can be potentially huge – resulting in the customer needing to re-position the product, alter marketing materials and marketing strategy and lose revenue

What Delivers the Best Results?

Ensuring that engineering and marketing both understand and agree to a common goal is critical to delivering an optimal product to the market. The relationship is symbiotic – in that by working together the end deliverable to the customer will exceed expectations.

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