Monday, October 01, 2012

Tips: Growing a Culture where Marketing and Development Respect Each Other

"If you build it, he will come" from Field of Dreams is often misquoted as "If you build it, they will come." This misquote is the mantra of many software development teams. Of the teams I've worked with, few believing that a product markets itself succeed. Development and marketing must work together hand in hand.
Salt and Pepper Shakers
I've always told people the reason I went into marketing was that you can have a great product, but if no one knows about it you have nothing. To support my statement, I would give the Apple/Xerox PARC Alto example. After touring Xerox PARC Alto, the Macintosh UI was born. The technology existed but until a marketeer dreamed up a story and then started production to make that vision a reality, its value was unknown. (I understand that this isn't really what happened, but this is the lore I heard first and that has stuck with me.)
Being able to articulate the value of a not-yet-built product was my motivation for pursuing both a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. For me, technology had no inherent value until it was used by someone, and before it can be used, business professionals needed to understand how it impacted revenue or the bottom line for it to be deployed.
“I looked him in the eye and told him, 'I can do this job, but we have to agree that marketing will never become a second class citizen to software development.'
I was actually afraid, for a moment, that I wouldn’t get the job but I told my husband later that I’d rather know right then what kind of company it was going to be than be miserable for the next year figuring it out.”

--Danielle Morrill
Growing up in the Bay Area and having gone to Santa Clara University, I've had the opportunity to work for over a half a dozen technology companies at a variety of stages, from Angel funded to public. I started in the industry in 1992 joining Ungermann-Bass, a public hardware company that had been the leader in their space for 13 years, just as Cisco and Cabletron were successfully challenging their reign. I next worked for an early-stage software startup that challenged entrenched market leaders. From there I joined LogicVision, an early-stage hybrid software and hardware start up that was ahead of its time. My next startup, Blue Titan, was again ahead of its time: its SOA governance solution was too elegant for early adopters. And so on.
Working for a startup is hard work with no guarantee of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Having worked for six startups I can say wholeheartedly that the most rewarding startups (ignoring any monetary gain) were those where marketing had a seat at the table: we built products that people used.

Three Steps For Getting Marketing and Development in the Same Room

I've also had the misfortune of working for organizations that barred the conference room door to marketing. Here are three things you as a founder or a team lead can do.

1. Establish open communication between Marketing and Development.

How do you foster an open culture between marketing and development? If you're leading a company (or skunkworks project), choose your first marketing hire carefully. Foster a culture of respect by building cross-functional teams.

2. Choose someone in Marketing willing to wear multiple hats without attitude.

Start ups (or skunkworks teams) hiring (choosing) their first marketing professional should read Danielle's must haves for early marketing hires. I agree with all her tips, especially her recommendation to hire a generalist and someone with a positive attitude. I have worn many hats before a start up "arrived," from designing office space to provisioning phone service to learning and pouring traditional Japanese tea for customers to spec'ing IT infrastructure. Not all tasks are glamorous, but they have to be done.

3. Don't undervalue what you don't know; have Marketing and Development shadow each other for a day.

Companies with existing development and marketing teams should share Luke Stokes's 5 Behaviors for Marketeers and 5 Behaviors for Developers. If your teams don't already have mutual respect for one another, these tips may help them get there. Avoid sarcastic comments about the other team's work. If you don't understand something, talk.
What's your ideal relationship between Marketing and Development?
Why do you prefer it?

Happy Monday!
Credits: All images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.