Engineers in Marketing meetup review

A guest blog post by Petri Kainulainen. Orginally published at Petri’s blog.

About a month ago my friend Janne asked me to talk at the Sales Engineering Finland meetup.

I said yes because the topic of my presentation was interesting, and I wanted to see what Sales Engineering Finland is all about.

The website of Sales Engineering Finland states that:

Sales Engineering Finland is a network of engineers and subject matter experts in or interested in sales and marketing. Let’s grasp the opportunity of the paradigm shift in sales and marketing and lead the way in change of attitude towards selling in Finland.

Doesn’t that sound interesting? My thoughts exactly!

Anyway, that meetup was held on 21st of April at Futurice , and this is my report from the event.

The Evening Started With Presentations

The meetup had three presentations:

  • Laura Snelmann-Junna (Head of Marketing, Futurice) described how Futurice leverages engineers in their marketing efforts. I must admit that the term leverage might not be a bit negative because I got the impression that futupeople are marketers firsts and engineers second. Or maybe that sounded a bit fishy as well. Let’s just say that they care about their customers and colleagues.
  • I identified four reasons why people think that they cannot write a technical blog and (hopefully) crushed those excuses. I was also prepared to describe the lessons that I learned when I wrote my first book, but I skipped that part because I ran out of time. Also, if you want to take a look at the slides of my presentation, you can get them from Slideshare.
  • Marko Saarinen (Principal Industry Partner, Service Development, Digia) described the responsibilities of a digital marketing engineer and mentioned a few companies that have understood what digital marketing really means. I got the impression that is almost impossible to find people who can find meaningful patterns from the gathered data, present these patterns in a visually appealing way, and find good answers to the questions asked by the management. In other words, if you happen to have the required skills, this might be a very lucrative career path for your.

My Trip Back to Home Started Too Soon

Unfortunately I had leave right after the presentations were over because I had to catch the train back to Tampere.

This meant that I didn’t have a lot of time for networking, but I managed to meet Timo Sorri, who has a very interesting business idea. His company (Havain) designs impressive Keynote, Powerpoint, and Prezi presentations.

He wanted to do a complete makeover to my slide deck and write a blog post (in Finnish) about it. I agreed, and the new slide deck looks awesome.

Anyway, although I had to leave too early, I am happy that I traveled to Helsinki because the meetup was worth it. The other two presentations were interesting, and I had some interesting discussions. Also, I got something new to read and an awesome credit card holder.

If you are an engineer who is interested in marketing and networking, you should visit the next Sales Engineering Finland meetup. The atmosphere is really friendly and relaxed, and I promise that you will meet many interesting people. And who knows, maybe I will be one of them.

Editor’s note: thank you! Remember to follow Petri at Twitter.

Digitalization Is Also About the Technology

Particle Accelerator
Muon Barrel (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Finnish economy is at a dead end. It not just about the financial crisis and aging population: our engineering driven paper and electronics industries have shrunk to a fraction of what they used to be. With the loss of Nokia’s consumer business, we tend to blame ourselves for our strong engineering roots and lack of sales and marketing skills. We pine for the Swede’s marketing driven success with global consumer brands and we see our industrial success as a thing of past.

Now as we pin our hopes on digitalization, which is seen as paradigm shift comparable to the industrial revolution, we have seen the cautious warnings about not repeating the mistake of the past by approaching digitalization as driven by technology. Important remark; it is not about the technology, but it is certainly also about the technology. It doesn’t matter if you keep beating around the bush by, for example, outsourcing your technology know-how. Digitalization is a renaissance, an all-encompassing change, and technology is definitely part of it.

Look at Uber. Yes, they have a revolutionary business model and excellent marketing. But many say that their greatest asset and most significant innovation is the algorithm they use to balance supply and demand. Look at Amazon, which started as a book store. Many see AWS cloud infrastructure as potentially the most valuable part of Amazon. And look at Netflix and how their development has come up with dozens of revolutionary open source projects.

It is not a question about whether the digitalization is driven by technology, economics or a cultural change: capitalizing it requires a balanced understanding of it all. That’s why it is no coincidence that many digital disruption success stories have been written by start-ups. It is not easy to enable the renaissance in an established, fragmented, organization. Small groups are better at a complex task. Just compare the Apple team responsible for the first iPhone with the size of Nokia’s mobile phone organization.

This does not mean the change can’t be led by an established organization. Look at what Tieto is doing with the IoT startup inside the company. The best practice is to split the organization into two distinct groups: one taking care of the traditional operations — running today’s enterprise — and the other in charge of exploring and developing the next generation. This applies whether you are moving to dev-ops, experimenting with its counterpart growth hacking, looking into internet of things or wondering how to approach digitalization

My suggestion is that we do not forget our strong technical roots, but instead refresh them and use them as a base to build on. The change is all-encompassing. The Swedes have the same struggle with a strong marketing driven culture  and trying to integrate technology into the picture.

Join Sales Engineering Finland: let’s come up with something great!


Engineers are taking over marketing

Original: Jean Tinguely, Alles beweegt! (Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0)

I have written about the paradigm shift in sales before. Two-thirds of the sales process happens online now, and customers are already quite knowledgeable when they contact the seller. This provides a great opportunity for subject matter experts, first in supporting online visibility with quality content and, second, in acting as a trusted advisor when the customer engages with the seller. Overall it is a great opportunity for interested engineers to stand out and change the generally reluctant attitude towards sales among subject matter experts.

But if the sales climate is changing, so is marketing. The role of marketing has been pretty stable for a long time; from the engineer’s point of view, it is usually a somewhat disconnected function working with vague, unmeasurable concepts. The disconnectedness can be seen in two organizational areas. First, from the product development perspective, marketing usually takes the product market fit pretty much as given, driving customer focus, but without close collaboration on product requirements. Second, from the sales perspective, marketing usually throws in the towel a bit too early, for example, providing leads but not being accountable for the outcome. As a result of these two factors marketing, as important it is, often ends up in a non-measurable vacuum.

In the digital world, engineering will re-connect marketing with these internal processes. As all products, services, and processes become more and more digital, it is not enough that marketing drives customer focus from the outside: marketing need to get involved in product definition and dimensions like user experience, analytics, and distribution will need to be engineered into the core of the product and the company. Moreover, analytics will penetrate everything, including the measurement of marketing effectiveness. With all the new sensors, tracking, and big data capabilities available, many previously “black box” marketing activities will become predictable, measurable, and consequently accountable for results—a form of engineering science.

The new engineered marketing, also known as growth hacking, already has had plenty of good success stories, including Amazon, Airbnb, and Uber, not to mention Finn’s own Supercell. The challenge is that these success stories always tend to be the same greenfield startups operating in the consumer market. Could Supercell’s success be replicated in B2B market by an established company? I think so. Do you want to discuss?

It happens that the theme of the next Sales Engineering Finland Meetup is Engineers in Marketing. Please join us, grab the opportunity, and lead the way toward changing Finnish engineering culture!


Selling has changed, and we should reconsider our biased view of it

Always Be Closing
Screenshot from the movie Glengarry Glen Ross

There is no need for business to business salespeople anymore: “We let all our salespeople go and it didn’t affect our sales at all” is a story we hear more and more. And there are good reasons to think like this.

If customers have issues, they can do their own research online. The Internet is full of information that can help them understand problems and learn how others are solving them. Customers can attend webinars, download white papers, discuss their problems with other people, and collect opinions. In the best case, when customers have made their decision, they can finalize the deal online.

Thus, it is no surprise that it is getting harder and harder for salespeople to get customer meetings. In the experience of most customers, the typical salesperson doesn’t add any value to their decision-making process. Why should a customer meet with a self-interested salesperson who asks irrelevant questions, gives boring presentations, and provides minimal insights? Customers can get better service online.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. As a seller, you need to engage online so that you are visible in customers’ search queries, discussions and recommendations. Let customers do the first two-thirds of the buying process themselves and find you; when they do, be ready to serve them and provide value.

And this doesn’t mean that selling is not required anymore or that passive waiting can be considered as a strategy. You still need to be proactive in opening the dialogue and keeping it going. However, make sure that you provide value in every step of the process and expect customer to be generally well-informed.

Now we are getting to the inspiration for this blog post: Juuso Myllyrinne, with his excellent insights into the Finnish bias in regards to branding, reminded me of how attached we Finns are to the notion of the heroic salesperson’s role in the selling process. Instead of genuinely being interested in understanding and helping customers with their issues we still yearn to be, or hire, this epic figure who can open any door and close any deal for our product or service. And as Finns we think we are bad at this.

But that approach to sales is finished. We as Finns don’t have to excel at it anymore. The future of sales lies in customer focused service: adding value, communicating it and making buying easy. Finnish engineering culture provides an excellent basis for this approach to sales. We are competent and trustworthy. We just need to open up, engage, and focus on the customer.