Please stop calling what I do “marketing fluff”

Last week for the umpteenth (umphundredth?) time, someone referred to marketing’s contribution to a particular effort at work with a hand wave and snickering reference to “marketing stuff.”  

Plain Old Fluff In my last job, I’d regularly proofread and edit technical folks’ papers, which they asked me to do and really needed.  They’d be totally thankful for my work and in the next breath they’d ask if I could beef up their intro with my “marketing fluff.”

Also in my last job, I had responsibility for managing the resources and experience for customers visiting our facility.  My opening hour-long presentation on corporate strategy and history was regularly referred to as “the marketing stuff.”

I know the people I work with respect me, don’t think of me as “filler” so why the derision?

Now I have a dirty little secret – I’m offended when other people do this, but I’m just as bad.  I will often mumble the marketing part of my job title.  “I do PRODUCT marketing,” I’ll say.  I’ll say, “I’m the technical part of the marketing team” or “I’m barely allowed to stay in marketing, I’m so technical.”

I don’t really know where this comes from.  I’m not ashamed of my job – in fact I’m proud that I’ve gotten here.  But marketing carries with it a lack of gravitas, a reputation for being lightweight, a part of a company that college students who didn’t know what else to major in end up.  I got news for you – it’s none of those things.

Here are some of the problems I’ve been working on since I started at Infinio three weeks ago:

  • Who will our customers be and how will we find them?
  • If we put a lot of engineering resources into a new feature, does the market exist to justify the decision?
  • What’s the right balance of talking about the benefits of our product vs talking about the technology?
  • What are our competitors doing, how are they talking about it, and how do we differentiate our product?
  • Is the vertical market we’ve chosen to focus on the right one?  How do we know?
  • What resources do our salespeople need to successfully articulate the value of the product to close deals?  (Oh, and we’re a startup – so that list you made? Great, now go make the resources.)
  • What resources do other parts of marketing need to successfully attract new customers? (See above)
  • What is the one-sentence, 50-word, and 100-word summary of our company?

(And if you think that last one is easy, try it.  Then show it to 100 people and see what they think.  Then go back to your previous non-gravitas, lightweight job and thank your lucky stars that messaging isn’t your job.)

This stuff is hard.  It’s the part of the company that decides how we are going to talk to the public about what we do.  It can be really technical if you are the person ensuring that the messaging is technically accurate (blended latency vs. average latency vs. latency – which one of these can we say).  It’s a part of the company that has to be really close to customers (imagine writing a case study without knowing a customer really well).

Also, a lot of it is very analytical. We look at models of the market, the programs we are running, the cost of new leads, the close rate of deals, just about anything you can imagine measuring is measured in marketing.  Fun Fact: my teammates use Excel more than they use PowerPoint.

Sure, marketing is also where pithy advertisement sayings come from and it’s where the people are who decide what the giveaway is at tradeshows.  But the former is really, really hard.  And the latter is a tactical decision made in the context of lots of strategic decisions before it.

So enough with the “fluff” and “stuff” when you refer to marketing.  I promise to do the same.

I’m in product MARKETING.

6 thoughts on “Please stop calling what I do “marketing fluff”

  1. Achmad

    Righteous, Sheryl! I’ve spent a lot of time these last few weeks taking stock of the value I bring to my employers. Good marketing is creative problem-solving, often at its most complex.

    I find this post empowering, and hope it helps undo a lot of crass misconception out there.

  2. Gminks

    Clap clap clap!!!! Great post. Add to the list answer technical questions in online forums because social media is marketing fluff it the list please 🙂

    I didn’t know you went to Infinio! Congrats!!

  3. Getaclue

    I have been in my first marketing job about a year. This is after 20 years of system engineering, professional services, and sales jobs in major IT compaines. How people react to the marketing title is alarming. I am the same person; yet I’m not. This is encourging post, and I would welcome others that would help quantify the value of what marketing people do.

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