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You know who you are, one of the hundreds of unemployed, highly educated technology-marketing executives who used to be “somebody.” Your spouses are going back to work while you “network” and hope that “new economy” doesn't mean THIS.

Well, I'm sorry to say it, but we consultants are a part of your problem.

The jobs you (we) had are gone. That's it, game over, the point is moot, eighty-sixed, etc. They are not coming back in their former form. Ever.

“What about all that education and experience?” you say. Well, maybe you should have spent more time bumming around Europe after college.

So what does one do? Spend a year with the kids? Sure, that can't be a mistake; and now, they really may have to take care of you in retirement. Fix up the house? Yeah, you might as well have it ready to sell. Or you can join us and become a part of the problem, making sure those jobs never come back.

The Problem

Let's look at why our old jobs won't be coming back in any event:

  • First, we were too expensive. Can a company with a top line of under $10 million support a full-time marketing exec with a “loaded” cost of over $150,000/year? If you run through the ratios for a reasonable gross margin product line, you will find that it cannot. You can rationalize the expense when revenue and share values are growing at double-digit rates, but not when they are not; the money simply is not there.

  • Second, we did not do that much. OK, I hate to admit it, too. But marketing executives are great at making impressive-looking stuff happen in a short time on a deadline. They spend the rest of the time “socializing” concepts, learning, synthesizing, and letting their well-balanced brains grind through the vast amount of data available. So they “work” in a productive and tangible sense (as viewed by the rest of the organization) maybe about 25% of the time.

  • Third, the technology guys never trusted us. And they are in charge now. Sure, I'm an engineer too, but the “real” engineers distrust marketing folks as smooth talking, backslapping, overachievers who think they should be running the company. And the engineers are probably right. When the tech bubble burst, it was an obvious choice to cut marketing (not a good choice, arguably, but one that any GM would make). The remaining folks in the firm are now operations and engineering oriented. They feel (rightly, in their view) that marketing folks just waste money and make problems.

So How Do We Get Back in?

We have to work with the obstacles. Consider a marketing outsourcing model that lets client firms pay about 30% of what they would for a traditional marketing executive.

We did that by limiting the number of hours we work for any client in a month while still accomplishing a series of long-term milestones. Using a very process-oriented approach, we work on the basic stuff, help point the technology in the right direction, manage channel relationships, and guide management in building the “credible history” of the firm that would otherwise atrophy.

The engineers trust the process-oriented approach. After a year of not doing any marketing, they now realize that they have to do something, and they appreciate experienced, apolitical advice. Our consultants make a nice living at it by supporting several companies at once. The work is flexible, so we still get to stay in touch with our kids.

Everybody wins, with the upside of some cross-exposure of businesses through our firm.

We hear the naysayer's argument, What about “connections” and the value of an industry expert as the lead marketing person? Excuse me, but by “connections” do you mean the guy two places back in the unemployment line with the 18-month-old in his backpack? Everyone's Rolodex has turned upside down over the past two years; your connections are not what they used to be. Even when they are, who is willing to pay for them?

Industry expertise is still a company requirement; if the client company is still around, the CEO or CTO had better be an industry expert. They already have the vision, some connections, and need some disciplined help from glib, smooth-talking, backslapping, overachievers who are not interested in running the company. This is why the model works.

Welcome to the Reality of Modern Technology Marketing

The problem of permanent job loss is real, and by creating a viable substitute for those technology-marketing positions, firms like ours will continue to be part of your problem.

We're sorry, but a process evolving to meet customer demands is not a new-economy thing; it is a very old-economy thing, and it is here to stay.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Richeson is the general manager of Market Plan Engineering (www.marketengineering.com), a technology consultancy in Atlanta, Georgia. Steve has been CEO and VP Marketing for several Atlanta- and San Jose-based startups and works with companies at Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center.