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.