Industrial Marketing Blog

Why More Engineers Ought to be in Sales and Marketing

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Think aligning sales and marketing is difficult? Think again.

In most manufacturing and industrial companies, engineering, sales and marketing operate in their own silos, barely acknowledging each other’s existence. The disconnect is strong and distinct.

As clichéd as this may sound, it seems Engineers are from Mars, Marketers are from Venus.

I feel I am qualified to talk about this problem because I am an engineer who makes a living as an industrial marketer. I see and experience this problem first-hand with my engineering and manufacturing clients. One of the reasons I am retained is to bridge this gap between marketing and engineering.

This misalignment is destructive and disruptive to the entire organization. The insults and accusations come hot and heavy from both sides of this great divide.

Here’s a video on an engineer’s scorn for marketing (from, a blog by Pragmatic Marketing).

An Engineering Mind: What does the term “Marketechture” mean?

Even though this is a tongue-in-cheek video, it generated strong reactions. Here’s a rebuttal from someone who has been on both sides of the fence:

As an engineer in marketing, I can tell you marketing is much harder than engineers realize. I’ve done both and I can tell you that. What surprises me is that engineers with 20 years experience in corporate environment still think marketing is advertising or putting content on the company website. Marketing defines what engineers should be building to make the company enough money to stay in business and keep the engineers employed.

Setting aside emotions, the key takeaway is and I’m quoting Pragmatic Marketing here, “Ideally, you should use architecture to free yourself from the technical and refocus on how the product solves problems for buyers. Now that’s a[n] architecture I can believe! Or as Adele would say, “Got a great product? Get over it.” Talk to buyers about solving their problems, not about your features.”

Unless you are like Apple and can develop innovative products without doing any market research, you must first understand the customer’s needs before engineering or manufacturing a new product.

Jim Pinto, the founder of Action Instruments and the author of the book, Pinto’s Points, says that some engineers jokingly refer to marketing as “the dark side.”

In his article “Engineers—re-engineer yourself,” published in the March/April 2010 issue of InTech, he wrote, “Engineering is a detail-orientated job. The design of products and systems entails a host of details that must be integrated. And so, engineers are usually narrowly focused, trusting in the old adage, “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.”

The truth is the better mousetrap does not sell itself. Before the design is even contemplated, you must know the target customer. The “to do” list for design optimization must include the important market requirements.”

Mr. Pinto also wrote, “If you have a good understanding of the marketing requirements, plus the follow-on manufacturing, quality, sales, and distribution needs, then you are a good engineer. This is what I call “total concept engineering.”

He is not alone in his point of view. Read the comments left by others who agree with him.

Here is another article that also talks about the importance of engineers being more involved in sales and marketing. It is titled “Engineers should learn to sell” and is from Machine Design. It is written by Dr. Joel N. Orr who is the Chief Visionary Emeritus at Cyon Research Corp. in Bethesda, Md.

Dr. Norr writes, “I want my prospect to benefit from what I have to offer. That’s why I consider selling an act of love. When a potential customer can see this, they get the benefit of my expertise and I get paid for the value I bring. Otherwise, either I didn’t do a good job of conveying the information, or there simply isn’t a match between their need and my offer.”

IMO, the main thrust of his article is very nicely summarized by the quote “Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood” from Stephen R. Covey, the author of the best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

To apply that quote in his work, Dr. Norr says, “Once I understand a customer’s pain, I can point out how specifically my expertise can eliminate that pain. It’s not about making them buy; it’s about giving them the opportunity to buy a solution to s[ol]ve their problem.”

Hallelujah! Couldn’t have said it any better.

Unfortunately the lack of alignment with marketing is not restricted to sales and/or engineering.

According to a recent study done by the CMO Council and Accenture Interactive, marketing and IT executives do not get along either and don’t believe they are highly effective partners.

There is some agreement between the two sides. According to the study:

  • 65% of CIOs and 50% of CMOs said that technology now underpins and shapes the entire customer experience
  • 53% of CIOs and 55% of CMOs indicated that access to customer intelligence is critical to competitive advantage
  • 40% of CIOs and 44% of CMOs felt that reaching and engaging the market has become more digitally driven

So far so good.

The discontent begins to rise in how the two sides view each other’s priorities, tactics and roles. Here are some telling statistics from the study:

  • Most marketers surveyed believed IT should first focus on linking marketing, sales and channel groups, and deploying marketing platforms, whereas IT professionals were more likely to focus on automating customer interactions, and using social media for online listening
  • 35% of marketers indicated that they were heavily committed and invested in interactive digital marketing strategies whereas only 20 percent of IT agreed with that statement
  • 69% of marketers felt that the CMO was the leader and only 19% felt that IT played an important role in defining digital marketing strategies. Not surprisingly, 58% of the IT folks see themselves as the champions of digital marketing but 51% did say that the CMO should play a role in it

But wait, it gets even worse…

  • Neither the CMO (46 percent) nor the CIO (49 percent) considers the primary driver or champion of digital transformation to be the CEO or a member of the senior management team. In fact, when given the opportunity to write in a response, only 3 of the over 300 marketing executives, and 1 of the 300 IT executives gave credit to the CEO
  • Both marketing and IT felt that digital marketing initiatives were clearly spearheaded from within the organization and few marketers (14%) or IT people (11%) felt that outside agencies or consultants were driving forces


To bring marketing and IT together, the study recommends, “CMOs must take greater ownership of the customer experience and assume a leadership role in embracing digital marketing practices, data-driven strategies and new marketing process integration platforms across their organizations and companies. But they can only do so in close collaboration and partnership with the CIO and IT function.”

Download the complete study Driving Revenue Through Customer Relevance from here. (NOTE: The 32-page Executive Summary is free and you can buy the full report for $199.)

If you’ve read this far, then you may want to download Engineers Can Sell™ — a white paper I co-authored with Eric Bono.

Achinta Mitra

Achinta Mitra calls himself a “marketing engineer” because he combines his engineering education and an MBA with 35+ years of practical manufacturing and industrial marketing experience. You want an expert with an insider’s knowledge and an outsider’s objectivity who can point you in the right direction immediately. That's Achinta. He is the Founder of Tiecas, Inc., a manufacturing marketing agency in Houston, Texas. Read Achinta's story here.
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