Can’t we all just get along?

Home  >>  Can’t we all just get along?

It’s often said that marketing is the art of offering a solution to an unmet need. There’s a problem that doesn’t have a solution. And if engineers are about anything, it’s about solving problems. Engineers love to solve a problem.

Seems like a perfect match, no? No, in fact, because they approach the space of ‘problem’ very differently. Engineers want to define a problem in such a way that they can solve it, definitively, with the best possible solution. The problem is the right one to solve, and their solution is the best. Problem solved.

Marketers approach the space of problem as an opportunity to find problems that need solving. They are fluid with respect to how a problem can be solved. In this, they are more like experimental scientists: they form and discard hypotheses.

This can make an engineer nuts: “What do you mean you don’t know the answer? The answer is obvious (and you are wrong).” Another favorite: “It depends: if (A) is true, then the answer is “X”; if (B) is true, the answer is “Y”.

We wrote this book for two audiences: engineers and marketers. But really, we wrote it for engineers. In our experience, any company that makes stuff (which includes stuff made of software) has more engineers than marketers. It’s rare to find an engineer who will say “I totally get what the marketing guys are doing, they’re absolutely right and I’d love to help them.” Believe it or not, this is exactly what marketers wish engineers would say; they just don’t know where, when or how to ask.

Why marketing matters

Where engineers set out to discover the best solution to a problem, marketers are out to discover the value of some unmet need. This is a different kind of journey. It starts with some broad, often imprecise impressions about a problem that could have financial or economic or time implications. Marketers suggest an offer that solves such broadly conceived problems. The suggestion imposes the minimum burden on those who might have that problem, using with comparative adjectives or the notorious ‘elevator pitch’.

It’s a strange confluence of confidence and inferiority.

  • Confidence: What I am about to tell you is going to be so much better!
  • Inferiority: I know you don’t have time to listen to anything but the most superficial synopsis so I won’t bother you with too many details so you can get off this elevator and not miss your floor.

In a world where everyone everywhere assaults our senses with things to do or buy, marketers quickly get bracketed in with some real quacks. This pattern makes it seem that distraction is their stock in trade, the opposite of genuine intellectual effort.

Butet it right, and marketing can unlock some absolutely outrageous fortune. Ask Larry and Sergei or Zuckerberg, and all those who have re-engineered our relationship with unmet needs.

If you get a regular paycheck for applying genuine intellectual effort to to solving problems with products and technologies, you need marketing now more than ever. Without marketing, no one will find your sweet product and genius idea; or worse yet, you’ll have invested tears, sweat and blood in solving a problem that no one besides you knows to care about.

You may not be crazy about marketing, but ignore it and those paychecks won’t be so regular. And if you want to solve a big problem for more and more people — on a steady path to world domination — marketing has to be central to how you think about the world.

As engineers, we want this book to provide you a guide to the processes used by marketing to make connections between problems and the value of solving them. The intent is not merely to de-mystify them like some documentary on the Discovery Channel. Rather, it is to help you understand where adding some of your unique intellectual talents to the marketing efforts makes a difference (and where it doesn’t).

Here, we’re going to focus on the business of business-to-business, aka ‘B2B’, i.e., selling by professionals to professionals, and each side is part of an organization. If you want to make zillions selling candy bars to middle-school boys, you may still find the discussion useful, though that’s not our main purpose.

If you’re a marketer, our intent is to help you identify where in marketing processes you should — and should not — ask for engineering participation, and what forms that engineering participation can take. Engineers and technologists can create proof points that no adjective, color or emotional connection can match.



Are we there yet? What you need to accomplish

Marketing seems to keep a lot of people busy. What are they all doing? And how do you know they are doing it well?

We often view marketing as opaque, because the outcomes that it delivers are not direct (famous stupid marketing joke: half of advertising spend works, but you don’t know which half). That opacity is made worse by its ubiquity: wherever you look or go, certainly in modern economies, someone is communicating at you to buy or care about something. It’s in your face, almost impossible to turn off.

That saturation undoubtedly contributes to skepticism about the value of marketing. But the intensity of the noise directed at our attention is only a surface phenomenon; the real heavy lift in marketing is to ensure those nice people with the money actually part with it. And from there, world domination, of course.

So why the assault on attention?

  • Getting attention lets you get them to admit there’s a problem
  • Getting them to admit there’s a problem lets you get them to consider your solution
  • Getting them to consider your solution lets you get them to buy

Wait, what?

  1. Because attention is step zero. Marketing begins by trying to make it worthwhile to pay attention.
  2. Then what? Step one is always to admit that you have a problem. That’s a good thing, because you need to get those nice people with the money to admit that they have a problem to which you might have the answer. They need to be willing to do something about the problem your marketing has brought to the surface.
  3. Next, confidence. Reminding them of a problem is worth solving does not guarantee that they will pay you to make it so. They need to actively consider what you have to offer and gain confidence in it.
  4. Finally, commitment. They’ve thought about the problem, and they’ve thought about you. If you’ve done the marketing right, they have the confidence to turn consideration into that happy green stuff.

OK, we’ve got an itinerary. In this book, we’ll take you through the steps you’ll need to take to get from attention to cash. Here’s the sequence:  


  • Defining the problem: the positioning statement
    For just about every problem, there are alternative solutions. If you have believe yours is best, the first thing you’ll need to explain is why, followed promptly by explaining who cares.  What a problem matter is who it matters to. Of all the alternative solutions, what gets that ‘who’ to choose yours? Answer who, what, why and howPut those together, and you have the positioning statement to anchor the rest of your marketing efforts.

  • Understanding the customer journey
    What does it take to become your customer? You may have been a customer last night when you stopped to buy chips, and considered nacho cheese flavor before choosing sour-cream-and-onion. Turns out that when one business sells to another, the sequence of decisions by which they consider whether to buy what you’re selling is different. Call it the customer journey.

  • Defining the audience: marketing personas
    Not everyone at the receiving end of your marketing efforts is identical. That’s not just because they wear different sized shoes or live further from large bodies of salt water. Organizations are made up of people who specialize in different tasks and bring different skills to bear. We’ll take a look at how to figure out who they are, and what role they might play in getting to a sale.

  • The economics of attention
    It doesn’t matter if you’re partial to Adam Smith or Karl Marx or Alan Greenspan: economics is an effort to explains how scarce resources are valued and allocated. The first and scarcest resource that marketing must contend with is attention. Attention has value in an ever noisier-world, and it’s a critical gatekeeper. We’ll talk about how to get it and what to do with it.

  • Differentiation and segmentation
    Again, we’re all different. So are the organizations we work for. But it’s possible to identify a bunch that are similar enough — with a similar view of the problems that matter and ways to solve them —  so that you can address in consistent fashion and don’t have to reinvent the wheel every . Winning their money means that you’re going to have to persuade them that you are different, and that no one else can do what you do at the price you do it.

  • Defining your business and marketing goals
    It takes money to make money — ideally, taking less and making more. You may not know everything (yet) about how much you need and what you’ll get, it’s important to be specific  — and set quantitative parameters — about how you’ll translate that money into even more money. It’s true for the business as a whole, but it’s even more important for marketing.


  • Weaponizing your message
    Ignoring things is a potent defense against all those people trying to get your attention. All those people you’re marketing to are defending against your efforts by doing exactly the same thing: ignoring you. The first mechanism to get past these defenses is your message. Your message needs to be more than an explanation: it needs to be repeatable and memorable.

  • Weaponizing your content
    Attention may be hard to get, but again, it’s just a starting point. You need to drive consideration of your solution. In other words, they want to understand how and why you can do better at solving their problems. By


  • Defining the problem: the positioning statement
  • Understanding the customer journey:
    • Single decisionmakers
    • Considered purchases
    • Who do you have to convince to get the business?
  • Defining the audience: marketing personas
    • Now that you know who you’re talking to, get more specific.
  • The economics of attention
    • What it is
    • Why you want it
    • How much do you need
    • How it relates to the business canvas
  • Differentiation and segmentation
  • Defining your business and marketing goals
    • Now that we know who we’re trying to reach, it’s time to get some quantitative goals in place.  Also why these goals matter.
    • SWOT
    • Define resources and budget
  • Weaponizing your message
    • What is messaging
    • The benefits hierarchy
  • Weaponizing your content
    • Teach to win
    • Marketing mix/activity plan/communications plan