A long conversation on the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) this week reminded me of an old country song that became a number-one hit recorded by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.
Written by Patsy Bruce, “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” tells of how cowboys never stay home and are always alone. This may or may not describe what it’s like to be a marketer today, but the conversation resulted in a very clear demonstration on why it’s critical to keep technical product experts out of the marketing arena.
The conversation began when an executive in a B2B start-up software company turned to the individuals who developed the product to create its Web site. Once complete, he went onto MENG and requested that other MENG members take a look at the site and answer these questions:
- What does the company do?
- What is the target market?
- What are the unique benefits it provides?
- Why should I believe that it does this better than a competitor?
The very few truly technical members reviewed multiple pages and were able to answer the questions. The rest of us couldn’t even answer the simple question of what the company does. We reviewed the entire Web site and still did not know what the software did, who would use it, or why.
The final comment by the exec that began the conversation was, “I have to say that I was overwhelmed by the quality of the replies. I gave up rating the quality since all were valuable and helpful. While they were each individual, I did see a clear pattern, with which I agree. Now we see why it is a bad idea to allow the technical people to design and implement a company’s website however good they are at writing code!”
Why shouldn’t people who know the product best write the Web site or help with marketing? It’s not the job of marketing to use the product. It’s the job of marketing to translate the features of the product into user benefits. We don’t need to know how a feature does something automatically — just that it is automatic and that it will save the user time, or money, or effort, or reduce risk, or a number of other benefits.
Marketing should always talk to those who know nothing about the product or service and are just looking to solve a problem. It’s rare to find a developer who can turn the complex into simple, straightforward, benefit-oriented messaging that’s critical to effective marketing.
So, B2B executives, don’t let your developers grow up to be marketers. It may not keep them from being lonely, but it gives your Web site a chance to be productive.