The Engineer CMO

Blog Post By:Rob Hawse

Great manufacturing marketing is not only intelligent, insightful, rich, and relevant, it’s welcomed by prospective customers. The problem is many marketing teams in this industry struggle to create great marketing because they have little or no access to the best source of marketing ideas and insights – their product engineering team.

This is changing.

Manufacturing marketing is slowly discovering that engineering’s insights are critical to the development of intelligent, rich, and relevant marketing. Marketing that can actually help customers as they wrestle with the challenges they face on a day to day basis.

If you’ve read my other posts you probably think next I’m going to urge you to include engineering in your marketing efforts. Well, yes. You can read more about that in a previous blog post titled, “A Content Goldmine Hiding in Plain Sight.”

However, a Forbes magazine article I recently read has made me realize that manufacturing leaders might actually want to consider taking this marriage of the marketing + engineering teams a step further.

Developing Marketing Leaders with a STEM Background

You might want to consider the potential positive impact bringing on a marketing leader with background or even a degree in a STEM discipline. This, by the way, includes internally developing the careers of any engineers who have demonstrated interest and acumen for marketing. For example, you could offer them the chance to supplement their engineering education by sending them to marketing conferences and/or support them in acquiring a professional designation, or even an advanced degree in marketing.

In the article, “From Engineer To CMO: Why STEM Backgrounds Are Hot In Tech Marketing, contributor Kimberly A. Whistler interviewed Robin Saitz, the CMO of B2B technology company Brainshark, to better understand the transition from Engineer to CMO in tech marketing.

What is it about the background that’s most helpful for someone interested in product management vs. product marketing roles?, Ms. Saitz asked.

“In tech companies, the products and technology often are complex and require that product managers, in particular, need to really be able to understand the problems they are solving. This often requires that product managers have the ability to translate the needs of their buyers – often very technical buyers – to the engineering/R&D group, and this is why an engineering background is so helpful.Product Marketers need to convey the benefits/value of the product to the buyer while the product managers need to convey the needs of the customers to the engineers. The problems are so complex that it requires a depth of understanding that would make an engineering background (or computer science) helpful in both roles.”

The reason I am bringing this up, is that it is our observation that the exact same conditions exist within most, if not all, manufacturing companies!

When initially drawn into the marketing efforts engineering may come in kicking and screaming, but with a little patience they eventually realize that participation in the marketing process is actually very fulfilling, something Ms. Saitz echoes in this comment from the article:

“I tend to get great fulfillment out of helping create solutions or helping the company solve the problems that the customers have. Marketing is a natural extension.”

The quote that marketing is “a natural extension” of engineering and product development is an important point to make.

Marketing may not want to hear this, but it’s true!

The more we work with clients in this capacity the more we see the signs that the engineers are not only an important part of content creation, their input is actually very critical to the overall marketing strategy!

Finally, in answer to how she’s applied her engineering background to her role as CMO at Brainshark, Ms. Saitz replied,

“Engineers are often creative, innately curious, analytical and process-oriented…” and, “being able to apply data to help drive decisions is a key engineering asset that translates well into [a] marketing role.”

We couldn’t agree more.

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