High-tech capital equipment is often a mix of fundamental physics, materials science, and chemistry in a package of sophisticated control and mechanical systems. It follows then that its marketers must have high level of technical competency to succeed.

As a result, product management and marketing teams in high-tech capital equipment companies are usually populated with alumni from the engineering and science ranks.

However, as an engineer or scientist intent on making a successful move to the marketing and product management side of the house, you’re going to need to make three critical changes to how you think about products. They are:

  • Think need, not can
  • Think what, not how
  • Think why, not how

Let’s take a look at each of these.

1. Think Need, Not Can

As an engineer, you were usually tasked with figuring out what you can do when it comes to creating products.  It was your job to figure out what product performance is possible and when it can be achieved.

However, as a marketer your job has changed from designing products to defining them. The task is now figuring out what product capabilities and availability timing are needed to be successful.

That means taking an external perspective to determine what is needed to meet customer requirements and beat the competition.

As a marketer, there’s nothing wrong with knowing your capabilities and strengths, but it’s critical that you know and communicate what is needed for success. Otherwise you’ll end up with a product strategy describing what you can do rather than what you need to do.

2. Think What, Not How

As an engineer you were the steward of how to design great products. As a marketer, your job has changed. Now you’re the steward of what is needed, not how to design it.

It’s harder than you think. It’s much more natural to describe a solution than a clear explanation of what is required, especially if you’ve spent a large part of your career in charge of the “how”.  In fact, specifying solutions instead of requirements is one of the hardest habits to break as an engineer turned marketer.

Understanding this concept is also very helpful when things get heated in the give and take between marketing and engineering.  When there is an issue on the table that marketing and engineering cannot agree on, your first step should be to get consensus on whether you are arguing about “what” is needed or “how” it will be achieved.

3. Think Why, Not How

As an engineer you were often called on to present how you designed something or how it works.  To answer the call, you probably created presentations organized along the lines of how you architected the product.

The problem is that this leads to a presentation organized much like a tour through an art museum.  You walk your customer through the system architecture pointing out key features and benefits along the way, just like an art museum tour guide educates visitors about the paintings on the wall.

The result is similar as well. After a museum tour, you know a lot more about the paintings, but feel no compulsion to purchase the museum.  A product presentation organized in this features-and-benefits tour format educates the customer, but doesn’t motivate them to buy.

As a marketer you need to learn a new way to talk about your product, one that makes the case for why a customer should buy it.

It starts by understanding that the only reason your customers buy your equipment is to make money.   Furthermore, when they’re deciding between two suppliers, they’re going to buy from the one they believe will make them the most.

So it follows that, as a marketer, you need to organize your product presentations, not around features and benefits, but around the customer problem you are solving, your unique ability to solve it, and financial value your product will create for the customer when they buy it.