Edwin Land (1909-1991) was the inventor of the Polaroid camera. In his world, a good product simply sold itself. Today, we live in a completely different world where it is virtually impossible to have a successful product or service without some sort of marketing strategy.
This reality also applies when faced with the challenge of differentiating engineering or systems integration work – marketing is a key aspect. Customer references, industry experience and a good network of contacts are also very important. But, from a staffing perspective, how do we “build” better engineers so as to best represent our services, brand and product offering such that business can be expanded? How do we take engineering to another level in the consulting and services world?
By far, it has to be about getting back to the critical aspect of consulting and services. As someone who lives in this world, we must not only offer ourselves as a consultant, industry expert and a person who can actually perform these services, but we must also work very closely on educating our customer base – who most of the time does not really know what is needed, what can be deferred, or even what is actually available to them at any given time.
This brings me back to the core of what a service offering actually is: Customer service. Knowing your customer. Doing whatever it takes to ensure their comfort in a chaotic business of produce more with less.
Once this realization exists, the next question is how do you ensure this type of service is presented to your customer? Here is where we can learn from the science (or art?) of marketing. If we, as Engineers, can learn to be a better marketer, we can then have a realistic chance of truly expanding our ability to be better Engineers by raising awareness, communicating better value and delivering a more compelling business proposition. But, in order to do so, we must believe in our product, which in turn must show the passion we have for the work we do, while being true to ourselves.
In essence, the customer will see this passion, they will see this dedication to a product and they will believe not only in the product, but they will believe in you as a consultant. Once they believe in you, they will want to follow you and they will look for you to guide them. This should be the new revolution of consulting and services. Engineering experts with a Marketer’s personality and mindset = a winning combination.
One will not exist without the other. If you are an expert engineer and build a flawless manufacturing execution system without being able to capture your customer, your product will always be questioned. At the same, if you are a marketer who can sell a great product that doesn’t work as portrayed to your customer, then they won’t be following your lead for too long. Each discipline must be based in truth, at which point trust and future business opportunities will soon follow. It is a powerful combination to have strong Marketing and Engineering. You will succeed and push forward above the rest.
A word of caution. Keep in mind that saying ‘yes’ all of the time to a customer is at times worse than saying ‘no’. Customers may give you a hard time about their “Wants” vs. their “Must Haves,” but in the end, having passion and being honest with the customer will take you much further. Trust me when I say this, the customer will appreciate more that you told them NO, than to say YES and not actually be able to deliver.
When you have many talented individuals on your services team that have been coached on how to best portray capabilities and value potential, with the right guidance and mindset, then there is nothing you can’t accomplish!