When Engineers Embrace Marketing


There was a time when engineers looked down their noses at marketing, and many still do, but others embrace the idea of promoting their products and services. There are those who think code is so amazing that of course people will pay for their work, and those who see marketing as as part of business. When engineers are interested in doing business, and put their interest into action, they get positive results.

Plentiful are the reasons to have a negative view of the advertising world. Food advertising convinces us to poison ourselves with too much sugar and makes us dissatisfied with our material possessions. When we look in the mirror, we hate our bodies and when we look at free entertainment, the marketing messages clutter our minds.

At the same time that the reasons to hate advertising have multiplied, the general idea of marketing as an ingredient in success has become more prominent and accepted in our culture because so many people are engaging in personal branding and paying for advertising.

If yoga teachers can love marketing because they have discovered that sponsored posts can fill their retreats, so can engineers. What drove people who promote spiritual practices to this new love? Meditation teachers and sanskrit scholars realized that without marketing, far less people would subscribe to their monthly lessons. They adopted common practices of giving away PDFs with titles like the 9 Easy Steps To Enlightenment to tempt the uninitiated into giving up their email addresses, then they email them tips until they buy. When engineers realize that more people will ask to use their services and more people will download their apps with marketing like free trials, webinars, speaking engagements, they start experimenting.

Incentives also work to motivate this change. A coder’s lifestyle will change if he or she is a financial success due to marketing, but there’s also another motivation than getting a dope crib. There’s career advancement and job satisfaction. Technical entrepreneurs didn’t get funded because they wanted their pristine code to be unsullied by marketing. Venture capitalists asked them for a marketing plan. CTOs and VPs of Software didn’t rise in their organizations because they kept their noses pressed up against their monitors. Technical founders of successful startups and higher level technology professionals are very focused on marketing, branding, conversion rates, lead generation and so on.

When engineers embrace marketing and participate in the business end of their craft, they thrive a little more, but how to start giving marketing a hug? Rip a page out of the marketing playbook, and try a few things that could become funnels for your company. Here are a few suggestions.
Write some blog posts. Then submit links to those posts as answers to questions on stackoverflow. Put the links to the posts on your Linkedin and Facebook pages. Content marketing really has an effect.

Speak at conferences or small meetups, perhaps about the same subject as your blog post. It might be scary the first time, but get over it and admit to your audience that you are a virgin to public speaking. Get up in front of your audience and simply explain something technical that you know really well. Practice your talk a couple times, first, and that will make you less nervous.

Blogging and speaking publicly on a certain subject can make you an expert and you could write a book on the subject for O”Reilly. Considering that you will make little or no money for writing a book, that is actually marketing.

You can also participate in the actual marketing activities in your company. Ask someone of your marketing team how you can collaborate. If they are any good, they’ll think of a cool growth hack for your product or a lead bait program for your company’s services, like the offer of two hours of free consulting to prospective clients. That collaboration may add measurable revenue to your company and your CEO may give you a raise.

Economic incentives definitely help, but also imagine getting emails out of the blue asking you to speak at events. Marketing will get you out of the office and talking with people. When engineers embrace marketing, their pet project can turn into an acquisition target.

Yet, there’s a bigger outcome than self advancement. I’m a marketer and I can tell you that it feels good to help people with their projects. That’s what engineers also feel when they embrace marketing, that they are helping the greater team, beyond database security, beyond the underlying code, beyond the design for manufacturing process, and all the permutations that encompass engineering. Contributing to the success of your team, and seeing the results for everyone, can feel good.

Give marketing a big hug, and it’ll hug you back.

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