I have both a technical background and a marketing background, so I get that marketing for developers can seem like a chore. When I was working primarily in a scientific and engineering research environment, I did a lot of liberalarts-splaining where Drama majors told me I wasn’t creative. (Really? Scientists aren’t creative?) I was told I needed to get in touch with soft skills. (Like writing grant proposals—?) Working in marketing in analytical equipment and tech, I see a lot of the reverse, techsplaining my new world.
No-one working on anything will ever hear me accuse them of not being creative. However, as a marketer working to help technical leaders build companies and brands, I do feel like a little marketing coaching might be valuable. So, for the developer who wonders why they have to answer that product manager’s email, here’s a little marketing code to inject into your dev DNA.
print(“merit does not make a market”)
If you build it, they may not come. Even if it is the best code ever. Even if it solves a small problem that you can solve another way, but more elegantly. Even if no one else has a solution.
Why? Well, talk to your friendly product manager, and if they know anything, they know that solving a problem is only part of the equation for attracting customers. Solving a problem that people will pay to have you solve is what creates customers—and, a market.
How do you discover what people will pay for you to solve? Accept that your competition is your customer doing nothing, then work from there. This means no matter how awesome your product, if it is more trouble and cost than inertia, your product is toast.
When your product serves developers, scientists, and engineers, it is important to remember that they may just design around the problem. Until that problem is big enough that they can’t do that, you don’t have a market.
print(“the sound of one hand clapping is bankruptcy”)
Assume that you solve a mission-critical problem. You need to let someone know there is a solution. Rise above the urge to roll your eyes when someone asks you to write sales enablement material that will allow someone to learn about your product. Without a way to learn about your product, your product doesn’t exist. And neither will your business.
print(“marketing deadlines matter”)
You finished your product write-up one week after the cloud computing exhibitor’s guide publication deadline? Yay! Except that the world of cloud computing has moved on, and your product isn’t in it. You wrote that pithy response to a qualified lead’s objection in one week instead of one day? They bought something else. You waited a month to write the blog post explaining how your product protects information against ransomware? Your customers all moved on to how to get simultaneous, multi-company credit freezes.
There are psychological moments when customers are prepared, and even eager, for information about your product. Conferences, tech digests, contact forms, responses to current events—These are all time-sensitive moments where you have customers asking for information. Miss them, and you are back to working to get their attention again.
print(“personal recognition is tied to product adoption”)
Technical expertise is important. If you don’t have the expertise necessary, you can’t build a good product. However, if no one wants your product, your expertise may not be that relevant.
If you are seeking recognition for your design, your code, your insight, or your drug, it has to matter beyond the intellectual beauty of your achievement—which means that no job is too small to help a customer use your product. Simplifying a design based on how a customer will use it, or reducing costs to hit a price acceptable to the market isn’t selling out, it’s selling in—as in selling into your market. That equals adoption, which equals profit—along with pay and recognition.
Marketing and product development are inextricably tied. Regardless of your actual responsibilities in this process (making a product or selling it) your job is to make the entire thing succeed. Marketers may ask for things that seem simple or trivial or even redundant, but assume that they are tied to data about the market, deadlines to create awareness of your product, and goals to fulfill your customer pipeline. As long as that pipeline is full, you will be asked to keep developing new products.