How a Good Relationship between Marketing & R&D Improves Product Development

When Marketing and R&D are truly focused on understanding and acting on customer needs, it makes both of their jobs easier and their results more productive! This is a powerful competitive weapon since this is not the case at many companies.

R&D employees complain that Marketers provide weak data, that they’re most useful in developing launch plans rather than in developing new products. Meanwhile Marketing employees perceive that R&D doesn’t involve marketing early enough in the product development process. R&D will take credit for successful products while blaming marketing when a product doesn’t sell.  Does this sound familiar?

But the point is that neither function will reach its full potential without the cooperation of the other! So here are some tippers to encourage cooperative behavior:

R&D and Marketing need to work together.  Perhaps R&D can be masters of the art of Possibility while Marketing can master the art of the Possible–that is what customers need and are willing to pay for.  It helps to boost awareness of each other’s functions and their value within the company.  Another idea is to get R&D to quantify the value of their work by how it will help the customer. Encourage Marketing to be more technically aware so as to appreciate R&D’s value to the company.

When Marketing has too much power, it stifles the creativity of engineers, so product advances may only be incremental  On the other hand when R&D has too much clout, Marketing is only called in at the end of the product development process, when it’s time to develop a launch plan.  Products might get developed that the customer will never buy!

Other ways to get Marketing and R&D to cooperate is to create cross-functional teams to discover unmet customer needs.  This forces people to experience each others’ contributions and to forge connections and communication.

A major oil company forces R&D to prepare its reports for Marketing and Sales based on how the new technologies will help customers.  Thus R&D has to explain all the critical benefits in layman’s terms.

Focus on the customer. Get both sides to ask good questions to customers. Observe and engage with customers to generate reliable, robust marketing insight. Let engineers spend time with current and potential customers.

Companies that bring R&D and Marketing together around what really matters to their customers will build a strong competitive company!

Check out an earlier blog on how teaching Sales elicitation skills–that is knowledge acquisition through conversation, rather than direct questions–will improve a company’s competitive intelligence, product development, and customer intelligence. This is also a good way to get Marketing, Sales, Product Developers and R&D to connect. They have to so that Sales knows and understands the key questions they need to get answered by their customers.

What behaviors have helped your company get marketing, R&D and product developers to communicate constructively?

This blog contains excerpts from “Playing Well with Others,” a Wall Street Journal article by Phil KotlerRobert C.Wolcott and Suj Chandrasekhar.

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2 thoughts on “How a Good Relationship between Marketing & R&D Improves Product Development”

  1. Excellent article; I agree completely; and a good company to use as a case study of your comments is IBM.

    About 15 years ago IBM asked each Division, including R&D, to assign members by vertical Industry Sector area. That linkage has led to powerful, global, end-to-end solutions. For example, in Banking (or in Autos; or in Insurance; or in Media, etc.) members of R&D and Marketing, as well as each of their hardware, services, and software brands, align by industry sector.

  2. Yes IBM is an excellent example of such a company. That’s also why they’re still successful in the midst of this rotten economy. Another that comes to mind is 3M. GE also, although their results have been hampered by financial services, and more affected by the reduced global demand for industrial products.

    Thanks for your great sharing, Alan!

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