The struggle between marketing and engineering teams must end

Varun Jain
Sep 21

Marketing and engineering teams at various tech startups seem to be in a near-constant struggle. And mostly it is marketing on the losing side.

This struggle is for engineering resources.

Marketing (or growth teams) teams' requests for engineering resources on their projects are often met with resistance, delay, or cancellation by a (perpetually) short-staffed product development team.

The result is that marketing teams are often scrambling or making do with whatever they can get to launch their campaigns.

In my opinion, the solution lies in outsourcing the engineering side of your marketing projects externally.

Technology startups outsourcing projects to service agencies may sound absurd to many. After all, if you are a technology startup doesn't it mean that you have the capabilities and people required to take care of all your technology needs.

But before I start building the case for outsourcing why can't startups build dedicated engineering teams just for their marketing teams.

In preparation for writing this piece I talked to several marketing heads and founders of well-funded startups over the last few weeks asking them one important question:

Do you have dedicated engineering teams for your marketing projects?

The answer in most cases was No.

And this wasn't due to lack of need but other factors such as cyclical need, org structure, etc. Even after admitting that this would probably help resolve several bottlenecks and increase the experimentation cycle in marketing a lot of the leaders were hesitant about building a full-fledged development team supporting just their marketing efforts.

The surprising part was that these issues apply to all sizes of startups, from early-stage or Unicorn startups. This led me to the conclusion that outsourcing your tech requirements to the right vendor is a good choice for many startups.

Some of the key reasons why you'd want to consider doing so:

  1. Cyclical requirements - The need for technology resources from marketing goes up and down depending on the campaign plans or on external events. This requires on-demand resources that can be put to task in a short span of time. It often becomes difficult to justify hiring full-time resources for this position as the resource may site idle for a considerable duration.

     In some cases when teams did hire a resource, they were slowly and gradually absorbed by another team that borrowed them during their idle time but never released them back to the marketing team.

  1. Challenges with borrowing internally - In a similar vein as the previous point borrowing internally can be quite painful too. The larger the organization, the more troublesome it is. It can cause disruption and friction within a team, right from the manager of the resource to the resource themselves.

    For the resource, this may mean significant context switching from the project they were working on. For the resource manager, it means losing a team member contributing to their deliverables.

    Especially in the current context where hiring engineers is a big challenge for the product teams, marketing projects often get de-prioritized.

  1. Resources of different kinds - The technology skillset required by the product team at a startup can be quite different than what a marketing project might require.

    If you are part of an AI, robotics, or mobile app only startup the skill-set of the existing engineers might be at a great mismatch for what marketing requires. If it is a SaaS startup then the engineers might consider themselves to be too skilled to work on marketing projects.

    Marketing projects require developers to be skilled on CMS platforms like Webflow for marketing websites or be able to make lead magnets such as browser extensions, sheets plugins, etc.

    It can often become a point of friction and ultimately attrition if the borrowed resource doesn't want to work on the platform or feels that their skill is better utilized in the product development team.
  1. Challenges with Hiring - Technology hiring is no doubt one of the toughest undertakings startups have to do. The bar is pretty high and even if you roll out an offer the chances of the candidate joining are slim.

    Combine this with the never-ending talent requirement of the product team the marketing teams hiring requirements often get de-prioritized.

Conclusion

Whether you call it Digital Marketing, Growth hacking, or Growth marketing, your marketing team needs to leverage technology to some extent to be able to do its job well. The lack of resources or delay in finding them can seriously hamper growth for any tech startup.

We at Bowstring Studio have been working with marketing teams of various startups, from early-stage to Unicorn, and helping them navigate the challenges listed above. Through these engagements, we have also developed an understanding of how marketing teams function, their working style, priorities, and the technology platforms most suited for their requirements.

Please reach out to the Bowstring team to schedule a free consultation call today!

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