Getting Marketing and Engineering to Work Together Effectively

Marketing Vs. Engineering (part 2)

This is the second in a series of three posts addressing how marketing and engineering should work together in a software business. In the first post we covered why engineering and marketing disagree—how they take such different approaches due to their training and natural attitudes. These differences can lead to a gulf forming between the engineering and marketing departments and they can end up:

  • Not accepting input from each other
  • Duplicating effort
  • Even competing with each other

Successful software companies harness the creative and logical talents of both their engineering and marketing teams to work effectively together to:

This is important for every software business from the smallest startup to the largest corporate.

  • Marketing, on its own, can only produce slideware and brochures that look good–but do nothing.
  • Engineering, on its own, can produce the software it thinks people want but no-one will know about it.

The largest software corporates have had to solve the challenge of getting marketing and engineering to work together effectively. The problem grows with the size of the teams and, to be blunt, if they hadn’t worked it out they would no longer be in business.

Strategic Alignment

Strategic alignment at the executive level is clearly essential and one of the key functions of the company’s leadership. The best way to achieve this alignment will largely depend on the individuals, personalities, corporate politics, power, and strategy. The only advice that would apply to all organisations is to:

  • Clearly state corporate strategy and objectives
  • Ensure engineering and marketing both really understand the customer—buyers and users
  • Listen and learn from each other—instead of trying to be “right”

Assuming your marketing and engineering executives are aligned at a strategic level, you can proceed to ensure tactical alignment.

Tactical Alignment

The main way that large successful software businesses ensure that marketing and engineering work together is to design aligned product manager and product marketing manager roles and processes into the heart of departmental structures and processes.
Engineering and Marketing align using product managers and product marketing managers

Product Management and Product Marketing

Product Management is:  

  • The gathering and prioritizing of both the marketing and technical requirements
  • Managing the product lifecycle from conception to end-of-life
Product Marketing is:  

  • The translation of technical capabilities into benefits customers will enjoy
  • Educating the market
  • Understanding how and why buyers buy
  • Helping the sales force sell

Product managers and product marketing managers work closely together, often as a pair.  They are jointly responsible for the success of the product.

The product manager 

  • Manages technical and “inbound” aspects (from the market into the company)
  • Is a member of the engineering department and is responsible for communicating with the other parts of the engineering / software development department
The product marketing manager 

  • Manages business and “outbound” aspects (from the company out to the market)
  • Is a member of the marketing department and is responsible for communicating with the other parts of the marketing department

Lessons Learned

The details will vary from company to company, but the important point here is to establish one person from marketing and one person from engineering and together the two of them are:

  • Jointly responsible for the product
  • Focused and hands-on (not executives)
  • Working closely together and building mutual understanding, trust, and respect
  • Acting as the communications conduits for the rest of their departments

In the next post we’ll cover ways that smaller companies can incorporate lessons learned from the corporates so they can include marketing the smart way, even as they start up:

Marketing Options for Software Startups

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