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Submitted by Ajoban on
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 I'm a director at a small (25 ppl) software company.  And we've been downsizing slowly over the past few years.  And like many organizations we're asking people to take on more responsibilities.

In the organization, we have few competencies in Marketing in general.  I've been asked to take on leadership of the marketing guys (1.5 ppl); even though my core-competency is not in marketing.  So far, I've been leading the technology product group which is relatively stable recently.  

I know that (in general) every hour spent on improving marketing is better for the organization than every incremental hour on technology. I'm just not sure if i'm the best person to take it on.  I can do it, learn, make mistakes along the way and make some improvements; however i'm not sure if this is the most effective way to move forward.  Should i force the issue and ask to hire a specialist (at further expense), or take on the challenge and figure it out?

GlennR's picture

Think about these reasons

  1. If you're downsizing, it hardly seems the right thing to do to recommend a new position be created. That could strike a discordant note with some. This is stepping in to help your organization out. What better way to demonstrate that you're a team player.
  2. Learning a new subject will make you smarter. It will enable you to look at your core position in ways you haven't thought of before. Marketing, like sales, is all about persuasion. It will help you "sell" your ideas to your internal customers and will assist in creating strategies to sell your technology products to your external customers. At this level it removes the middle man. I wouldn't be surprised to see your marketing skill eventually help improve your products as they become more customer-centric.
  3. Your new skill may make you more "marketable" (yea, I did that) in the years to come as other positions open up. Both the skill itself and the can do attitude you would have adopted should be remembered and rewarded. (Or captured on your resume for external posititons.)
  4. Having a background in marketing could enable you to be a better senior manager down the road.

Try it. What have you got to lose? If your stint as marketing director is not successful, then they should cut you some slack because you're "a technology product guy." At that point, perhaps they'll hire someone.
 

One last thing.This has happened to me. If you take this on, the first time you meet with your marketing folks, let them know you know they are smarter than you. My software people are smarter than me. They know that. I know that. I told them that from day one. I have no problem calling one of them and saying, Hey, I'm about to ask a Stupid Software Question." Don't be afraid to ask "Stupid Marketing Questions." 

Here's one of my favorite quotes:

“But there’s no substitute for getting smarter faster. And the way you get smarter is to screw around vigorously. Try stuff. See what works. See what fails miserably. Learn. Rinse. Repeat.”

 --Tom Peters, quoted in “Fast Company” Dec. 2001.