Getting moved from engineering to marketing -Reply

Subject: Getting moved from engineering to marketing -Reply
From: Bill Sullivan <bsullivan -at- POWERWARE -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 28 Jun 1999 13:46:28 -0400

>Do you have any advice for me?

What is the expertise of your new boss in marketing? I can't tell from your email whether your situation is like mine or not, but I document software in a hardware company. Nobody understands much of what I do. So I have a lot of independence, and the fact that I am nominally in marketing or tech pubs is no big deal. My real work is with the software developers.

So if your setup is going to be mostly like mine, I guess my advice would be to not sweat it. OTOH, one of the worst things in the world is to have to report to somebody who hasn't a clue about your job or what you are doing, or who wants to salt everything with marketing cliches.

My advice on attending marketing meetings would be to remember that marketers are mainly concerned with delivering features to people, while engineers are mainly concerned with building things and how things work. In either case, marketing and engineers are concerned with giving people things they may not need. Often new features are added so the company product stays ahead of the competition.

Your job as a tech writer is to show a user how to get a job done. Users basically want to save time and money, and get good reviews, raises and maybe a bonus. You probably understand by now that part of your job is to act as a filter for 99 percent of the information you get from engineers (well, maybe just 90 percent) before releasing information to your users. OK, so now you can learn to filter the marketing claptrap, too.

You've got the perspective of the engineers, the perspective of the marketers, and the perspective of the tech writer and the user. There is always some overlap, but there are also distinctions. Just a few minutes ago, somebody brought me a list of half a dozen features that a marketer had drawn up. I looked at each one, and clearly the problem was the marketer didn't know how or hadn't thought to take this list and add some phrases that would unsubtlely tell the user how the features would make his or her life better. Sometime marketers refer to these things as benefits. Features bring joy to marketers. Benefits please the users.

My advice would be that you do your best to keep the talk of engineers, marketers and yourself in perspective. I don't know how old you are or what your career goals may be, but you could have worse things on your resume than some marketing experience. If you can keep the various roles straight, I think it can be interesting.

So join the STC Marcom SIG. Read Writing High-Tech Marketing Copy that Sells, by Janice King. Visit Janice's web site. Give it your best shot.

And don't ever lose sight of the fact that there is a great difference between hyping a feature and showing a user how to be more efficient.


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