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Engineering is Hard, Marketing is Harder - Mike Seiler, MSEE
Adventures in Engineering Trade-Offs

Engineering is Hard, Marketing is Harder

With 20/20 hindsight, I conclude that marketing is harder than engineering.

For example, when I look back at why the success of a product I designed stalled after I sold over 10,000 of them, I can see that this was due to a lack of marketing savvy.

I  was fortunate that I was able to ride on the coat tails of an excellent speaker during much of the run up to selling 10,000 units. The speaker would promote my product because he was the inventor of the underlying concept, and he happened to like my implementation.  But once my spokesperson retired, I discovered that I did not know beans about marketing.

It took me a few years to realize I need to come up the marketing learning curve.  Now, a over a decade later, I find that marketing is still more difficult than engineering.  There is no quick and easy formula for fanning the flames of desire.

It comes down to this – It’s easier to design a tangible gadget using engineering design principles than it is to figure out how to elicit enough desire in people to have them part with cold hard cash  for said gadget.

I’m not the only one who seems to be having the problem. It is the most common source of startup failure.  Specifically, a product is built, and get’s some traction with early adopters.  But then, a  startup flounders when attempting to broaden it’s market into a larger population of consumers.

A friend of mine did a study of 220 silicon valley startup failures.  87% of the time, the startup money was misspent.  Specifically, to much time and money was budgeted for product development, and not enough for marketing.

Ratios vary by industry, but I’ve heard that a successful startup ends up spending twice as much on marketing than on development.  If this is true then it points out in dollars and cents terms how difficult marketing is.