Engineers pride themselves on being technical and precise. Knowledgable about how things work. Not people, necessarily…
This is a big problem for us.
I know from personal experience.
Maybe you are like me. I spent so much of my early life happily absorbed in geeky, solitary activities like Legos, science kits, video games, and model airplanes that I was very slow on the uptake for people skills.
That’s me with a radio-controlled glider that I designed and built myself while a freshman in college. Few pictures survive of my Lego days — fortunately.
Eventually, I realized that real work happens with teams of people. People working together. The better we can work together with other people (and them with us), the better everything turns out to be. Including our engineering designs.
Engineering is usually cut and dry. But add peoples’ personalities and emotions into the mix, and you no longer have a simple, straightforward engineering problem. You have a bigger “systems engineering” problem, where people are an inherent part of the system.
I know a very talented, knowledgable engineer who is a recognized and respected leader in his technical domain. Yet he also tends to be a micro manager. He often directs work to others by saying “Here’s what we need to do, and here’s how you need to do it.”
But once, in a meeting to discuss a technical problem, a woman in the group said, “What if we do it this other way?” I can’t be more specific, but it was a valid technical approach that showed a lot of creativity too.
Fortunately, he recognized the value of the idea and it became the approach that the team used to solve a complex engineering problem.
Fortunately, the woman had the self-confidence and tact to voice her idea to the intimidating technical expert. She raised it in the form of a question.
I believe it also helped that this was in a group setting. If it had been just the two of them, I strongly suspect that the personality dynamics and formal position relationship between the two of them would not have allowed for an open and honest dialog.
That’s one tip for how to deal with a micro manager I’ll share with you:
include an independent stakeholder, such as a customer representative or internal customer, to provide a customer-centric focus on the discussion, rather than a power-dynamic focus.
The point is to focus on “the why” of the assignment–the ultimate goal, which should be about customer value and delivery. Then the entire team can be involved in figuring out the best way to achieve that goal, or “the how.”
Back to our original point here. As engineers, we need to think about customers too! And customers are always…
But if you aren’t used to thinking of people in your engineering brain, this can be a difficult task.
Is there a way to apply your engineering and analytical skills in the area of sales and marketing?
That’s what it means to be thinking about customers.
There are tons of books, websites, podcasts, and online products about marketing and sales. How to sell this type of service, how to market that type of product, how to get more readers to your website, how to sell a book, how to get more viewers to your YouTube videos, how to get more Twitter followers….
But then I got a tip from one expert who recommended that I go to the original sources on how to be an effective marketer or salesperson.
As an engineer or technical person, this advice should make a lot of sense to you. If current tactics and lessons are derived from a few fundmantal laws, concepts, and principles — would you rather spend your time learning about the specific applications, or would you rather learn the fundamental principles yourself so that you can apply them however and wherever you need?
The second option is better, obviously.
I was surprised to learn that one of these original sources was written way back in 1923!
Even more amazing, it was written for someone with a very analytical and technical mindset! It’s perfect for engineers. The book is called Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins.
In this book, I learned the fundamental principles behind such topics as:
- how to write a captivating headline (now a blog title, podcast title, or book title)
- the value of a story (creating a powerful narrative)
- human psychology (the psychology of selling)
- when and why to use details in your sales pitch
- data-driven decisions (testing, analysis, what metrics to use)
- the benefits of split testing (A/B testing)
- when and why to use free offers (the freemium model)
- how to encourage others to sell for you (how to make something viral)
It might be hard to believe that so many modern marketing methods can be traced back to the insights in this book from the 1920s. But it’s all in there! Plus more.
If you are like me, you have a lot of catching up to do to become an effective person with sales and marketing in our digital age. We can’t afford to waste any time and effort getting there.
Don’t worry about particular markets or tactics. Take a smart engineering approach and go right to the source. Learn and understand the fundamental theories and practices behind EVERY sales and marketing campaign. It’s all in the book Scientific Advertising.
There are some books I love because I call them “concentrated learning.” It’s like buying concentrated soap. Why pay someone to ship 95% water half way around the globe when you can add it yourself right at home?!? This book is a concentrated dose of sales, marketing, and advertising information that you need if you want to avoid all of the fluff. Fluff in sales and marketing may seem redundant. But there’s no fluff in this book! That’s what is so unexpected and enjoyable about it to me as an engineer.
This is the kind of book I expect would be in an MBA program as essential reading material. Maybe it is in some programs…but I bet most college students today couldn’t handle it’s concise style and logical approach. Let’s keep this our little secret treasure from 1923… like an Indiana Jones treasure.
I appreciate you ordering the book through one of my links, which will vector a little bit of Amazon’s profits over my way. More importantly, it would be great to put our heads together to figure out how we as engineers can become masters of marketing our own unique expertise in the modern age. Innovation won’t be successful without great engineering. But engineers need to know how to sell our innovative capabilities. We can’t afford to rely on other people to do it for us. We certainly can’t afford to sabotage our own efforts by being willfully ignorant or actively destructive in our behavior with other people.
Wouldn’t it be great to get quickly up to speed on the fundamentals of marketing and promotion? That’s what this book did for me. I believe it will do the same for you.
After you buy and read the book, please come back here and let me know how you want to apply what you’ve learned. If you haven’t subscribed to my blog yet, please do that now so we can stay in touch.
Thanks for being here to engineer your innovation. Keep on learning and innovating!
P.S. You might be saying to yourself, “Just what I need, another book to read.” OK, I get it. Let’s try this instead. Since you took the time to read through this entire article, I appreciate your attention and time very much. If you could learn the fundamental principles behind a certain aspect of marketing, selling, or advertising, what would it be? Or, what is your specific scenario you have in mind? Write to me directly and let’s see if I can extract the relevant portion of the book for you. There’s no downside — worst case I will ignore your comment or my website form is broken and I won’t ever see it. But if the form works and I see your note, I promise I will write back to you. Then you can decide if a nugget from the book is helpful for you or not. I’m curious if anyone will actually take me up on the offer!
Brett Hoffstadt is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
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