Marketing for Geeks

This page serves as the table of contents for my series of articles entitled "Marketing for Geeks".  The central theme here is that if we demystify marketing, it can be competently done by technical people.  The series is still being written, with new articles coming soon to an RSS feed near you.

In most small ISVs, it's important for at least some of the developers to have an understanding of basic marketing.  However, most geeks tend to shy away from marketing, citing their lack of creativity and graphic design skills.  But these are typically not the differentiators which determine whether marketing is competent or not.  Marketing efforts tend to succeed or fail on their strategy, not on their artwork.  In fact, many teams can improve their marketing simply by realizing that marketing, like software development, has two distinct phases.

The Two Phases of Marketing

When we build software, we typically have a design phase, followed by an implementation phase.  In the design phase, we carefully figure out exactly what we want to do.  In the implementation phase, we do it.

Likewise, marketing has a strategic phase, followed by a communication phase.

  • The strategic phase is analogous to the design phase of building software.  (In fact, they are related and must usually be done together.)

  • The communication phase is analogous to the implementation phase of building software.  We call this set of activities "marketing communications", or "marcomm" for short.

I find it interesting that although marketing people and technical people often think they have nothing in common, both groups naturally try to weasel out of doing their first phase.  Maverick programmers don't want to write specs and do design.  They simply want to write code.  Similarly, marketing people often prefer to plunge headfirst into creating messages, taglines and ad campaigns.  In either case, skipping the first phase will get you the instant gratification of visible results, but you'll have all kinds of trouble down the road.

Articles about Strategy

Product Parenting ()
Baptists and Boundaries ()
In the neighborhood where I live, 100% of the people need a well that is at least 300 feet deep. I could extrapolate from this and decide that there is a big market for well drilling in my area. However, the city water system is only three miles away. This example may seem absurd, but at this very moment, there are lots of entrepreneurs writing business plans which use similar logic.
How to get people talking about your product ()
Word-of-mouth is not a strategy. It is the result of a strategy. How do we make it happen?
The Game is Afoot ()
We can understand deep abstractions and object oriented programming.  We have no problem grasping how virtual memory works.  Some of us can even remember the keystrokes to do a search and replace in vi.  But when geeks start talking about the issues of software product strategy in a competitive market, otherwise intelligent people suddenly sound like Paris Hilton.  We just don't get it.  Geeks understand market competition about as well as men understand women.
Geek Gauntlets ()
To reach mainstream customers, we sometimes need to ignore our own preferences and just do what the customers want. Non-geeks in marketing generally have no trouble with this. Once they decide what the market prefers, all they want to do is get that product into the customer's hands. They don't have strong opinions about technology, so they don't have trouble separating customer preferences from their own.
Act Your Age ()
But step three is something that happens to your product whether you like it or not. Not unlike the natural aging process we experience as human beings, our products go through various stages of life. In both cases, the only way to avoid the next stage is death, so we might as well learn to handle these stages with a measure of grace.
Marketing is not a Post-Processing Step ()
"Marketing is not just telling the world about your product. Marketing is also deciding what product to build. You have to design and build your product to fit the market position you want it to have."
Choose Your Competition ()
It's important to specifically choose who you want your competition to be. I like the Jim Barksdale philosophy of choosing competition: Find a competitor who is "big and dumb".

Articles about Marcomm

Going to a Trade Show ()
Trade shows are my favorite of the basic "marcomm" tools because they are so interactive. Advertising and PR are primarily one-way communication, from you to the customer, without much chance for information to flow the other way. Other marcomm tools certainly have their place, but there is nothing like a trade show.
Magazine Advertising Guide for Small ISVs ()
For most small ISVs, print advertising is just not an appropriate use of funds. For example, a full page color ad in a major software development magazine will cost over $10,000.  How many copies of your product would you have to sell in order to pay for that ad? Frankly, ten thousand lottery tickets might be a better investment.