Today’s topic is almost the opposite of the last one (How do I get developers to blog). It’s what to do with the engineer (or other technical expert) who thinks that because marketing is a ‘soft’ skill that they can surely do it better in the 10 minutes they’re having a morning coffee than the marketing department.
It’s a pervasive problem in technology start-ups. Someone who will remain nameless (to protect her identity) was complaining to me recently about an engineer who constantly belittled a very effective marketing team.
Then there was the Crowded Ocean blog post only this morning on “How to avoid bad clients.” They suggest telling the client who won’t hand off the marketing reins something like: “…no problem if you want to jump in and tell your designers (or writers or SEO experts) how to do their job—just let us know when you want them to come in and code the product.”
I’ve also met people who at first felt no need for hiring a writer, because, as they say, “I can write a 50-page white paper in an evening.” Great, but 50 pages is almost never a target length for lead generation paper.
There are more subtle cases of this mindset:
- Engineers who assume that they are the target personas, hence everything in marketing must sound like it came from them
- Startups that decide to save money on marketing by having the engineers write all of the sales collateral
- Startups that try to save money by having the engineers write the website. It’s easy to spot these companies.
How do you handle unwelcome marketing interference:
There are several different strategies you can employ:
Repurpose – If you’ve got someone who likes to write, terrific. Take their 50-page paper and repurpose it into several blog posts, videos, solution notes, etc. Their efforts will be ‘heard’ without being the voice of the company.
Re-orient –Introduce them to your organization’s buyer personas. (You do have personas, right?) Help them understand that their perspective is just one of many you must address.
Research – Talk to them about some of the research behind marketing, such as eye-tracking studies, SEO strategies and cognitive learning. Perform A/B testing where possible. (This is also a great way to demonstrate if their Adwords ad copy is horrible.) If you let them know that there is some science and research behind what you do, many developers will at least give marketing a little more respect.
The best long-term strategy is to earn the respect of these people. This can take time and patience. If that’s not possible, just filter what’s valuable from their suggestions and ignore the rest.