Should Marketing Be Held To A Higher Standard Than Engineering?

startup marketing strategies

startup marketing strategies

Should marketing work product: blog posts, tweets, webpages, PR, product descriptions, onboarding, customer service, tag-lines, logos, articles, influencer marketing, case studies and all the other 1,000 marketing things we do be held to a higher standard of perfection than the engineering work product: software code, hardware, and UI? In other words which disciplines work product has a greater negative affect when it’s not perfect?

Part of the argument centers around the impact of less than perfect work product and how easy it is to fix versus how much of a negative it is when it’s wrong. A core tenet of smart, modern marketing and engineering teams is the idea that:

[Tweet “Done is better than perfect.”]

This is a pretty radical approach. It started with the lean and agile style software development teams and morphed into the concept of minimum viable product (MVP) and lean startup. In other words do the absolutely bare minimum work to get the absolute bare minimum product into the hands of the potential customers as fast as possible. This is predicated on the idea that the vast majority of startups have no earthly idea what they are trying to do or what their business model is going to be. They have lots of ideas of course but ideas don’t make a business. 

Even product/market fit does not make a business. Only a business makes a business.

startup marketing strategies

[Tweet “Marketing is a contest for peoples attention”]

Which of the two gets the raw end of the stick? Marketing or engineering?

In my experience with a wide variety of businesses I have found that there is an inordinate level of scrutiny and pressure on the marketing work product that goes far beyond the level of scrutiny and input over the engineering work product. Not to say that no one cares when engineering screws up, but there are some striking differences in how the two products are judged. Although there is almost always a much higher pressure level put on engineering teams in development cycles. This is not what I am talking about. I am talking about when other people in the company, who are NOT on your team, look at your work product ow do they judge it? How do they judge mistakes or imperfections? Why do they treat them differently?

startup marketing strategies [Tweet ” Engineering is a contest to keep peoples attention”]



I think the differences come down to two simple things:

  • Marketing FEELS subjective but SEEMS objective
  • Engineering SEEMS objective but FEELS subjective

And further differences in how the two disciplines are perceived:

  • Most executives in most companies feel they understand marketing very well
  • Most executives don’t value marketing very highly as it is seen as touchy-feely
  • Most executives believe that marketing is a necessary evil
  • Most executives in most companies do not understand engineering well
  • Most executives feel that engineering is objective and cut and dry
  • Most executives believe that engineering is basically magic since they don’t understand it

In other words most business people feel they understand marketing, think its easy to do and that it is very subjective. However most executives don’t truly understand marketing so they focus on the low hanging, unripe fruit of punctuation, spelling, pixel borders, image size, logo placement and other subjective (but seemingly objective) things. That way they can be shown to have strong opinions, caught errors, made an impact and ‘did marketing’.

Those same executives absolutely do NOT understand engineering and are frustrated and confused by engineers and their high-faluttin’ words and technical jargon. Since they don’t understand what the hell engineering does let alone how they do it they trust them to do their job. Compound this with the widespread belief that engineering is purely objective when it’s clearly got a LOT of subjectivity and you have a strong mixture that is designed to give engineering immense leeway.

These ideas are dangerous and build in disaster to organizations. Obviously there are many, many companies who do not operate like this, but far more that do.

My main question is:

If the concept of MVP is the GOAL, not just the acceptable, then why so the vast majority of companies hold marketing output to the higher standard of Maximum Perfect Product? I am NOT advocating for spelling, punctuation or other easy to make and even easier to fix mistakes in any discipline. I am advocating for a wider understanding that just like in engineering marketing too has an MVP goal and that done is better than perfect.

How long will your customers remember that time you did not put an Oxford comma after the and in that tweet last month? How long will those same customers remember the time engineering put a tiny little bug in the code that lost them a weeks worth of data and cost them money?

Which one will cause you to lose more customers?

Should BOTH be held to the same standard of perfection (or lack thereof) or should one have higher standards of perfection it is held to?

By Andy Newbom

My name is Andy Newbom. At this time there are less than 10 Newboms in the world. Not sure if thats good or bad.