The Importance of Empathy for Tech Providers

I came across an interesting remark the other day:

“Marketing is emotionally harder than product management.”

There were several things embedded in that observation, so let me unpack them a bit to explain why the comment has stuck with me for the last few days.

As a marketer, you’re always listening—to what the press is saying about what your company is doing, what analysts say your company should be doing, what customers and prospects think they want your product to do, where your executive staff sees future opportunities and wants to take the business. You have to synthesize and triangulate among all those opinions and then apply your own judgement to come up with an effective and sustainable course of action.

This is also true for product managers, but there’s a fundamental difference in focus: the product manager uses this information to prioritize features within an appropriate time-to-market framework. There’s a fairly tangible, black-and-white outcome to those decisions: you either sell more products, or you don’t. You can quantify your impact in bottom-line terms.

A marketer’s job is to do two things:

1)      Make the world at large aware of his/her company and product’s existence, and give the world a reason to want to learn more.

2)      Find ways to help prospective customers balance a product’s deficiencies (there are always some—see above about feature prioritization) against the particular value they would derive from deploying your product vs another one or maintaining the status quo. (NB. No, this doesn’t have to mean lying. This is important. It means helping the prospect understand whether the product would materially improve life for them.)

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