One of the smartest marketing people I ever met told us the essence of marketing one day at a meeting: “You try something. If it works, you do it again; if it doesn’t, you try something else.” At the time I was a writer at a small technology company where marketing executives lasted an average of six months (and it took up to two years of searching to hire another one). Why?
The Mindset of Engineers Is Sometimes Anathema to Marketing
Upper management had a mindset problem. Although we were a small company (less than 100 people – and stayed that way), upper management kept to themselves. I only got a peak into what went on behind the closed doors (and minds) when one day my boss, who often attended these meetings, told tales out of school.
She said that what she witnessed was pretty scary. The engineering types who ran the company would go over every detail, study the facts, and debate endlessly before coming to a decision. Now this doesn’t sound very different from marketing debates, except that the discussions went on for a very long time, almost guaranteeing missing the market.
In addition, once senior management made a decision, they stuck to it rigidly, regardless of how badly things went. They felt that they had studied the matter so thoroughly that they had to be right – and shut their minds to alternatives that would have given them a strategy if something was obviously failing. They lacked the flexibility of the marketing mind.
Following this line of reasoning, I would argue that Steve Jobs was more of a marketing guy than a technical guru. Anybody remember “Think Different”? On the other end of the spectrum, IBM continues to prosper because it has always been more of a marketing company than a technology company in its quietly conservative way.
Moral of the Story: What to Do
The moral of this story is simple. Whether you are an engineer with a crazy new idea or a marketing person whose agency is working for a technology company or a writer fighting for your copy, remember the mind set you may be dealing with. If you sense rigidity, you need a strategy at the beginning. Better yet, anticipate rigidity.
Don’t end up like one of the revolving door Marketing VPs at the company I’ve been describing. At his farewell luncheon, I mentioned my mindset theory to him. He said he had come to the same conclusion just that morning when he picked up a book he had just started reading (a little too late) – one about styles of thinking (analytical, experimental, emotional, etc.). He suddenly realized that he thought differently, even though he was technically savvy.