The how-to resource WikiHow recently produced an article with the tantalizing title “How to Manage Geeks.” Reading it brought me back to my days working alongside the true heroes within technology companies. Then I realized, hey, these management suggestions apply just as well to communicating with engineers, programmers, and IT professionals.
So here I reprint WikiHow’s geek-management suggestions, along with my perspective on what they mean for high-tech marketing communications:
1. Value training. Geeks need constant education to stay at the top of their fields and solve new challenges. Build lots of tutorials, demonstrations and access to the experts into your campaigns.
2. Give recognition. Geeks are not always appreciated for the hard work they do. Consider programs that celebrate their real-world achievements. At McBru, for example, we manage an award competition for one of our clients, complete with worldwide publicity and a swanky reception.
3. Keep overtime down. Long hours and hard deadlines define the geek’s life. Get to the point, deliver your information and make it easy for them to respond. If your program becomes too involved, they will move on.
4. Avoid using management-speak. Talk plainly, in the language of your audience. Don’t say “productivity” when your audience wants to hear “done in 15 minutes instead of an hour.”
5. Don’t try to appear smarter than the geeks. Your customers know their applications and challenges better than you do. Don’t assume you’ve served up all the facts. Make sure your customers can ask questions or, better yet, contribute to the conversation. We recommend customer advocacy and community programs as a great way to show your respect for their expertise and build long-term trust.
6. Act consistently. Deliver on your promises. Geeks have long memories.
7. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the geeks. Many communications programs focus solely on the decision makers or check writers – you know, “let’s go C-level.” But you must delineate clear reasons to choose you for every group in your customer organization, especially the technical staff that will do the hard evaluation.
8. Include them in IT related decisions. When you practice number 7 above, you tend to get the technical users behind your product or service, which will make it easier for decision makers to sign off.
9. Give them the tools needed. What does the geek need to get behind your product? Evaluation boards, demo versions, a trial account, an API, detailed specs, a blog discussion, Red Bull…? Whatever it is, give it to them.
10. Remember that geeks are creative workers. While specs and standards may get you into the game, don’t forget to communicate the excitement about what’s possible with your product or service. You’re giving them the means to finish new products on time, implement new standards, surge past their competitors and grow their businesses. Some of our recent advertising campaigns are raising awareness of new semiconductor components by depicting exciting end-user applications such as automotive and wireless electronics.
11. Recognize the outcomes of not treating geeks with respect as outlined above. For this last point, the WikiHow article stresses that poor management leads to results like low motivation, high employee turnover and lower productivity. For the marketer, failing to understand how to talk with geeks leads to a more definitive outcome.