Is your Company Market Driven or Product Driven?

The battle between Marketers and Engineers has been going on for a while, Engineers claim that building the best product is enough to succeed, and Marketers claim that understand the external forces (competitors, customers, needs) is the solution.

Update: saw an interesting tweet from tomob: “@jowyang – the engineer’s pipe dream = product so good we don’t need sales or marketing”

We’ve seen cases of heavy engineering companies like Google, with little marketing efforts become the most well known brand online. On the other hand, companies like Coke spends a major portion of their corporate budget on Marketing, to become the top brand in the world.

Or, take Apple, which has great products (although it was debated that Sony had a superior MP3 player –but didn’t know how to market it) also does sophisticated brand and emotional branding aimed at a be different lifestyle.

To add color, andrewparadies tweets: “@jowyang I’d argue that it takes a pretty strong combination of both to succeed. Apple has great marketing, but they also make solid product”

Now add social computing, where we companies are using blogs to market their companies, or SalesForce’s Ideas or Uservoice to let customers define how engineering will focus, things start to mix up, the lines blur. In the end, marketers need engineers, and engineers need marketers, but the balance will vary.

With social media, how will your company improve it’s marketing or engineering? Or do things stay the same.

35 Replies to “Is your Company Market Driven or Product Driven?”

  1. Social media gives unfair advantage to marketing… 🙂 Somebody’s gonna have to tell me how it can come anywhere close to that in engineering.

  2. Perhaps a radical thought Graeme

    Engineering can now bypass ‘traditional marketing’ to find out customer and market requirements by having a direct conversation with their own market.

  3. Jeremiah, I am neither Google nor am I Apple, but I cross both lines of engineer and marketing. I think all companies do this in their own way. For instance my belief is that marketing is “anything” that leads to a sale, so if Apple makes a sexy product, Marketing and Engineering must work together on the development task.

    I am a woodturner, artist, and sculptor. Sort of a non standard if you would in social media. I have been reading your blog for quite some time and I enjoy the content.

    So, in closing. I have to wear both hats. My products are unique, beautiful, and one of a kind. However, without a million dollar ad budget I use social media to create genuine relationships to help build my brand.

    Thank you for all that you do for the community.
    (KeithBurtis – on twitter)

  4. I’d say it’s the CEO job to lead the company.

    Marketing is great for finding out what people want (or telling them what they should want) and engineering is great for building insanely great products. But you also need solid operations, tight financial controls, great customer relationships, great political lobbying, etc. The skill of a great CEO (imho) is to hire great people into those roles and then manage those hires while providing a coherent vision of what the company wants to be.

    And it isn’t a constant picture, Apple has launched a couple of lame ducks, and Google is no slouch on the marketing front.

    The people that are in real trouble are the one’s that answer ‘stay the same’ to your last query above. But then, ever was thus in business.

  5. An interesting question…but one vital group appears to be missing from the dialogue: services. Most organizations spend most of their energy building a pipeline OR focusing on creating the next cool thing…but it’s the services folks (customer support, account managers, etc) who provide an important – if often overlooked – function that fulfills the experience quotient that’s initially hinted by marketers and developed by engineers.

    Social media has an opportunity to extend the overall experience. In such a way, I’d suggest that companies can strive to be Experience Driven so that it’s not an “either-or” question, but a cross-functional one that focuses on people rather than departments like marketing, engineering, services, sales, and others. It’s in the latter option that turf wars erupt as one group tries to outdo the other or claim superiority.

  6. With market saturation, I’d say that it comes down more than ever to a consideration of the individual user. Youtube wasn’t the first video-sharing site, but it made its product user-friendy, with multiple ways to share a video. In this case, neither marketing nor engineering win outright – they play off each other. The product was engineered extremely well, with intelligent insight of the competition & what the user demand was. To have one without the other is to have half an idea.

  7. I would say that it depends on your goals. If you’re a startup, there is definitely a skew towards marketing (via a formal department or WOM). Look at all the buzz around “invite-only” products and services, which may or may not even exist!

    For longevity’s sake, however, you need to have a solid product. No amount of marketing can sell something that’s utterly useless (or non-existent!)

  8. Just my two cents – but, use whatever means you can, but success, whether engineering or marketing, lies in building a product that the market wants. Brand loyalty only works so far (i.e. Apple Newton,) but market wants trump all. Social media is only one tool that should be used in gathering market requirements.

  9. If the products/services are high tech – some of the engineering skills are required for design and manufacturing, but both can be outsourced as well. But I tend to agree with Jeremiah’s first comment, web 2.0 enables engineers to by pass traditional marketing, sales and even purchasing and there are examples of that e.g.

    However, meaningful combination of new kind of marketing and new kind of engineering that will add value to consumers, is most likely to succeed. Unfortunately engineering & business schools still keep there areas far apart from each other…

  10. I’d argue a company should be neither market-driven nor engineering-driven. Ultimately companies need to be customer-driven, or user-driven, if you prefer. This means a focus on creating the greatest possible value for the customer or user from all of the organization’s activities. Marketing and engineering, like other responsibilities within any company, are the means to an end.

  11. Engineering is the foundation. It’s vital and you have to invest in it. However, the tail should not wag the dog. 99% of technologies that are invented fail commercially. They do so because of operational and goto market issues. You must invest heavily in these areas to succeed.

    social media enables brings leverage (through lower costs and higher touch) to companies. It’s an absolutely essential part of the mix. Every person in our company is involved in the online conversations in and around our company.

  12. As a CEO, I have a constant struggle with balancing these functions. Without our engineering group, we wouldn’t have a product… without our marketing group, we wouldn’t make a product that people will want to use.

    In some ways, I’d say that the importance of each group within a company is highly correlated to the life cycle of a particular product that company is selling. So for us, right now as we’re building our first product, our engineering group is critical in creating core functionality. As we grow, the engineering group will provide product enhancements but the relative importance of each enhancement will be diminish as we add more and more to the product.

    This isn’t to say that our marketing group isn’t critical, as we define our product through our understanding of our customer’s needs.

    I guess I’m coming back to the same statement – both groups functions are vital to success.

    To answer your query above on social media and its affect on these functions, I would say that social media heightens the importance of communication between departments as the feedback cycles have become faster. Social media also provides a good opportunity to engage customers on a personal level to understand what they want in a product, so with good inter-departmental communication, I would hope that social media can help ensure that the products coming to market will truly meet customers needs.

  13. lets not confuse market driven with marketing driven… I have worked with plenty of marketing groups that are not customer centric but are more of a product marketing function. car companies and airlines are classic examples here. Being market focused in web 2.0 is about getting the collective wisdom throughout the entire organization…every group should be using customer intelligence and looking for ways to get access to the collective wisdom. I look forward to the day every group is asked how much customer influence went into that decision? and the answer does not start with, we interviewed, surveyed xx customers. Product roadmaps are shifting to customer/market roadmaps and efficiency measures are now meausres of how open and accessible your company is.

  14. wow, what an interesting discussion you started, Jeremiah! this is awesome — some really great insights here (not bad for a holiday!)


  15. Just for fun, I’ll take Graeme’s first comment – ‘tell me how engineering can match the advantage that marketing gets from social media’ – as a challenge.

    Social media is a set of communication tools, nothing more. The telephone gave sales and marketing an advantage by creating a telesales channel where only catalog, retail and direct had existed before. But engineers certainly benefited also from the ability to collaborate across distances.

    In the same way, social media is a great toolkit for marketers in enabling intimacy and two-way contact with prospective and current customers. But isn’t that a great tool for engineers too? What about the ability to crowdsource the prioritization of features or response to interface changes, for example? Or interact as part of a community with other engineers solving similar problems?

    If the basic purpose of a business is to create value for customers, anyone who is part of that business potentially benefits from social media, IMHO.

  16. The true trick, IMHO, is getting engineers to understand the impact on things like brand (the two are connected).

    Japanese companies, like Sony, take a more thorough approach to design than many of their Western counterparts…I think Apple has done a wonderful job in this regard. Who doesn’t own an Ipod these days? Beautiful and functional.

    Some companies, such as google, can be driven by engineering; most companies, however, don’t have that luxury. Amazon is a great example of a company that attempts to blend both from an e-commerce perspective…

  17. I put it to you that Google is successful because it is market oriented. It has great products but it understands consumers.

    There’s a difference between marketing and being market oriented.

    Of course a great product built with the customer in mind shouldn’t need sales and marketing. That should be built right in because great products meet or create customer need.

  18. Any idea taken to an extreme becomes a bad idea.

    As a marketer, I know that even the coolest product will bomb without a market. But I also know that great marketing won’t produce a profitable product line – i.e. if the product isn’t good in a special and relevant way, lights out.

    The role of social marketing is still unfolding, but at the very least smart engineers will tap it to increase their customer connection.

  19. @Erik Kokkonnen – I think what you’re describing is market-driven. I’m of the opinion we need to better incorporate customer insight (incl mkt research) into the term “marketing.” It’s not just the communications/advertising side that defines the profession.

  20. i want to generate income through advert in my newspaper.How do go about it?
    The market is very competitive and tight.

  21. How to market one’s product in Ghana has been come become very challenging because alot of newspaper, radio and TV stations has taking over the market with their sales executives. How do i market my company in this instance.

  22. I agree with Jennifer’s post. I believe that both marketing and engineering – (both market driven and product driven) play an equal part in the successful launch of a product. You have to identify the target market and provide them with a product that works, is a solution to a problem and is an easily understandable concept. You need good advertising but what good is advertising if the product does not perform?

  23. Here the conapnly like apple has come up with a prodcuts which rules the market and enables customer to purchase it. prodcut is drving the market

  24. Specifically…..what are the different company use market driven,quality..for they competitive advantage..plz..answer..thanks…

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