Are you crazy? This is the typical response of management when someone suggests that Joe.the engineer and designer of the super-whamadyne, write the marketing material for it and answers customer questions. And, typically, that’s Joe’s reaction too. The last thing Joe wants to do is write. He wants to do engineering.
Everyone “knows” that engineers can’t write. Of course, it’s OK for engineers to write key company and client technical reports but that’s not really writing, is it?
But both management and Joe are missing some key factors that may affect the company’s success and Joe’s success by deciding that engineers can’t or won’t write.
When the potential customer for the firm’s product wants detailed engineering information he would prefer to talk directly to the engineer who designed it. However, most companies put a salesperson between the engineer and the customer. The company doesn’t want the customer talking to the engineer. What happens then?
The customer gives his questions to the salesperson, who, depending on the person’s engineering expertise, may or may not understand the questions. The salespersons passes along to the engineer what he believes are the customer’s questions. The engineer then answers the questions from the salesperson which may or may not reflect what the customer really wants to know. Then the salesperson passes what he understood the engineer to say on to the customer.
Remember the telephone game? What do you think the chances are that the customer gets the information requested after so many handoffs?
And so it will go until, after who knows how many of these handoff circuits, the customer finally gets answer to the questions. That’s if the customer is still around and has not moved to another supplier.
Imagine how much faster and more complete the answers would be if the customer spoke directly to the engineer. The customer would also be much happier because the answers came from the “expert”.
Now there is some risk allowing the engineer to speak directly to the customer. Engineers are helpful souls and will usually provide much more information than requested. Ask an engineer the time and he will give you the time ad also explain how his watch works, So the engineer may inadvertently give away some company proprietary information. But this can be prevented by making the engineer aware of this and by providing some training on how to answer customer questions without giving away company secrets.
As for having marketing people write marketing materials for the product, management must understand that engineers do not like salesy information. Instead the company expert could write a white paper or a case study about the product features and benefits. This has advantages for both the company and the engineer. By having its expert write these types of marketing materials, the company can establish itself as a thought leader in the area. This will attract customers. So, that instead of the company having to chase customers down they will come to the company.
And what about Joe,, the expert who is writing these marketing materials? Joe may view this as a waste of his time but, if he thinks about, he is getting industrywide free advertising of his capabilities. This may lead to attractive job opportunities and establish Joe as a guru in the company, if he chooses to stay, and in the industry whether he stays or not..
When Joe realizes the upside to writing marketing materials he will constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to write and to present at industry shows.
So, engineers, you know you can write. Looks at all those technical reports you put together for management and clients. Now start writing not just for the company’s benefit but for your own. There’s nothing like being able to tell clients that you wrote the book or the definitive white paper on a topic.