You made the world’s best chocolate and wrapped it in a newspaper. Is it going to sell itself?
Maybe not? This is where the role of marketing comes into play.
Founders, who were engineers earlier and have built amazing tech products, are daunted by marketing. They think of marketing as voodoo magic; something that must be delegated to people who have practiced witchcraft; a necessary evil that must be held reasonably close but sufficiently away from them.
Many founders who believe they are doing some of the best marketing themselves fail to make the cut.
Why does this happen?
The belief system and a mental model they accumulated when pursuing an engineering degree and their professional lives after that are to be blamed.
Once the mindset of thinking in terms of engineering framework is changed your marketing efforts will start seeing great results.
The following are the three reasons why engineers are not very good at marketing.
1 - Getting trapped inside logic
As an engineer, you are trained to think within a logical framework. You start to live in a world of assumptions, hypotheses, proofs, and things that make sense or are rational.
Outside the realm of bytes, logics, and theorems, in the abstract world of flesh and blood, many things that work do not necessarily have to follow a logical framework.
Take Coke for example.
The power of marketing (or branding) makes it an enjoyable drink. Many people across the world associate Coke with happiness and enjoy it. Coke is only a concoction of just sugar and water if you take out the power of advertisement.
For many years, Coke’s marketing campaign has equated the soft drink with happiness. You see those ads, you see your friends, and you tend to associate Coke with happiness.
Coke's marketing campaign is a make-believe gameplay to relate consumption of the soft drink with happiness.
The recall of happiness is what makes Coke a strong brand.
As nerds, most of us think marketing does not work for us. Take, for instance, the swag that we collect from our favorite tech company. Why do we do it? Because it feels so cool.
There is no logical framework that we follow to associate our favorite brand with how we feel high about it. Why would you pay top dollars to buy your favorite watch when you can buy a regular, reasonably-priced watch that tells you what time it is.
Isn’t it an irrational behavior?
So why look for logic while doing marketing? Suspend logic when trying to write emails or copy for your website.
Magic does not happen in logic. Think of yourself as a magician who is trying to impress. With your logically built app, what can you do to impress and wow your potential customers? Allow that wonder to come out.
2 - Having the curse of knowledge
In his commencement speech, David Foster Wallace tells the story of two fishes swimming past an elder fish in a big ocean. As they swim by, the elder fish quips the younger ones, “Boys! How is the water today?".
The two younger fishes look at each other quizzically and say, “What the hell is water?”.
Once we seep deep into an experience, it becomes so natural for us that we stop thinking outside of it. When we become technical experts in building Software, CRM, SaaS, and platform, we presume that everyone has the mental image and an experience of what we do. Remember, many people don’t know what Cloud, SaaS, or even Software is.
Therefore, what appears to be a no-brainer or an usual response to you could be an esoteric idea to understand for someone else. What you know like the back of your hand might require some hours of learning for someone else to understand.
In a spectrum of understanding from A to Z, different people belong to different levels. As an expert on the topic, you would be closer to level X or Y while many others including your potential customers would be spread across at different levels that are much lower than X or Y.
You will have to climb down to the level of your buyers and explain things at their level of understanding.
How to get over the curse of knowledge?
Talk to kids and older people about your topic or product. Take note of the clarifications and questions that they ask. Use them to simplify your understanding and reduce the curse of knowledge.
3. Being adamant about accuracy
When someone repeats what you have said, and you find a technical inaccuracy, then you have the tendency to correct it. Remember that when you are talking to an audience for the first time, they will place what you have to offer in their head.
You may not like that when you try to feed them the clarity of a HD picture and they grasp the knowledge as an 8-bit crappy feeling image.
To generate interest and hook attention, an 8-bit pixelated picture can be sufficient than a detailed, clear picture. Resist the urge to be technically accurate with your audience.
Pay attention to if the crux of the message is understood. Do not expect your audience to understand the nitty gritties of your technical product or a solution. They need to understand that they have found a fitting solution to their problem. Relevance of your message matters more not its technical accuracy.
Go back to a time when you were a kid. Or imagine that you are talking to a kid. Use words that a kid would understand when explaining what you do. You will have to omit a lot of technical details. Watch comedy and magic shows and notice the language they use. Bookmark emails and website quotes within your industry that melted you. You will understand what attracts you the most is relevance not the complex details of the message.
“Relevance is more important than accuracy.”, and this applies to marketing more than anything else. It is better to be approximately right than to be precisely wrong.