Marketing software companies might orbit the planet marketing. But they certainly do not live on it.

Despite claims to the contrary, tech geeks still don’t ‘get’ marketers. But what can marketers do to improve relations with techies?

Disclaimer: I own and run a tech startup and before that I was at another tech company for more than three years. So some might argue that I don’t get marketers either. But in a not so distant past I was a marketer.

What’s wrong with the tech side of the equation?

99% of marketers are using a piece of marketing technology to achieve a result. A result is not to complete a task in a software program. A result is to remove a pain of something not working or to improve something already working fairly well.

That ”something” is always a something related to a large or small marketing KPI. An email marketing manager doesn’t send out a newsletter to distribute emails, she does it to execute that summer sales promo. It seems painfully obvious but to tech companies it’s not. I promise.

See, all software companies that I have come across work on the basic assumption that their users will want to spend time using the software application.

That (if done right) the marketer will enjoy spending time performing tasks and will consider it an important and even enjoyable part of her daily routine. That the marketer sees her performing software tasks well as a goal in itself. She doesn’t.

Reality is that marketers accept technology as a means to an end. Nothing more, nothing less.

Now that’s a solid foundation for mutual frustration.

Ever felt the need to scream at your technology provider in the face?

The supplier wants you to spend as much time as possible with their product. You want to spend as little time as possible.

It’s not that odd. It’s their baby, it’s what they do all day, every day and all year round. They live and breathe their product. And because it’s the most important thing in their lives, it’s extremely difficult not to think that it should be as important to you.

You do the same with the stuff you’re into. Every marketing department in the world thinks that the CEO should spend more time on marketing related issues. It’s important to you, so why shouldn’t it be to everyone else?

This conundrum is absolutely crucial for marketers to understand. Because it takes understanding and empathy if you want to turn around the geeks.

Divorce or couples counselling?

Most software companies have executives that are pretty keen on turning a profit. Because that how they keep their jobs and make their handsome salaries. Just like most married men are essentially pretty keen on staying married. For equally obvious reasons.

The technology executives are willing to listen to you – at least the smart ones are – because they’re eager to salvage a good business relationship.

But just like it’s counterproductive to tell your spouse that everything he does is utterly annoying and that “he should just shape up”, you need to be selective in guiding your vendor.

In my last job I was in charge of the commercial operation, which included customer support, so I spent a substantial amount of time speaking to clients and partners. I wanted to make things better and I had a mandate to do it.

But whenever someone told me that they ”just wanted it to be easier” or that ”it should just work”, it didn’t really help me much. And that made it very difficult for me to help them.

Think long and hard about what you really want from them. Let them know what frustrates you in particular. Is it that you’re spending too much time performing a specific task? Is it that you’re always really confused about how to do something specific?

You don’t have to come up with solutions but you have to express what’s wrong. If you just unload randomly, chances are that they’re going to change something randomly.

Take a serious stab at making your vendor relationship work before you file for divorce.

Is there still hope?

Are all of you poor marketers doomed to a career long experience of hopeless tech partners that seemingly strive to make your life miserable?

I don’t think so. As a firm believer in predictable structural development of industries, I think we can look to the past to predict the future.

Remember content management systems five or eight years ago? They were horrible unless you were a front-end developer with a serious can-do attitude.

Now they’re slick and easy to use. Mainly because new entrants have looked at the current products and have created solutions for the mass market (that’s you – the geeks were happy without WYSIWYG editors and drag’n’drop interfaces). The same will apply to the stuff frustrating you now.

So hang in there. Try and tough it out with your current vendor before you start looking for a young, handsome lover to come along.