Dear Clueless About Marketing Programmer: Yes it’s hard, but not impossible.

Today I read “Diary of a programmer with no clue about marketing” and this sentence struck me:

“Marketing is hard. So crushingly hard.”

I’m a programmer in the marketing world. (I write software for marketers). Sitting next to them all day long, you learn a thing or two about marketing:

1. In some ways marketing is harder than programming.

Writing a program, you can see your errors and find the root problem with stack traces. There’s no such thing with marketing. Imagine being able to read stack trace reports a week after you’ve launched the program. Good luck debugging that.

Worse, marketing don’t have good inspection tools like we do. Their tools frankly suck. Maybe that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing…

2. Marketing a little each day is better.

“Also I was incredibly naive in thinking that the product was so good that the marketing would just snowball itself into action.”

Unfortunately, in marketing “snowballs” rarely happen. The reality is that they have been slowly building their storm. Those big success stories? By the time they’ve launched, the storm was already been brewing for 6-9 months. It’s just you’ve only noticed it now. Like code, they do something, measure, iterate, and build on top of the last thing.

The point is you have to be marketing a little every day. One big blast rarely works. It’s so much easier to do something a little bit every day and let it build on itself.

3. No, you don’t have to spend all your money

If you think you will “buy your way to visibility through ads” then, in marketing terms, you’re like the programmer who just discovered Github …. in 2013. You’re knowledge of the subject is probably a bit dated. That’s my opinion.

Do you find things online by clicking paid ads? Not generally. Usually, you click links on Google because you’re looking for something. In the marketing world, they call it “inbound marketing.” (they like giving everything positive-sounding names.)

Put stuff on your website that answers things people are already looking for. That sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many people spend so much time making their “about us” page rather than making pages that address real people’s needs. Adding pages to your site doesn’t cost you much, if anything at all.

So what happened?

I ended up contacting the writer. I spent a quick 15-20 minutes looking at his website and competitors. I found a few small things he could do immediately. Maybe that could help him get a few more visits.

Just one hacker to another: Don’t give up. It can be done.

4 thoughts on “Dear Clueless About Marketing Programmer: Yes it’s hard, but not impossible.

  1. Agree that marketing is hard.

    Also, totally agree that it isn’t just about buying online ads. It is important to have this as part of your plan.

    We have been trying to start building our place online with Chinese learning software at with a blog, online community, etc. Cross posting our content to the appropriate Reddit, HN, other topical blogs, and more.

    If you have the time I would love any advice you have on our online presence so far… :-)

  2. As a guy who knows a bit of programming (Im studying Computer Engineering) and actually works as an SEO I can have a glance at both sides…

    Marketers generally don’t know anything about programming (and how it can make their lives easier) and there are programmers that create amazing applications that go unnoticed just because they are clueless about marketing.

    Its a bit complicated, as Marketing is more associated with the right part of your “brain” and Programming with the left side, and people who have developed one side tend to neglect the other

    The best way to leverage that seems to couple a great Programmer with a great Marketer :)
    If someone knows about both disciplines they will have and advantage in both fields… And if someone happens to master both, well, may the gods help their competition

  3. Great article as a marketer I would say to be successful validate your idea before investing any money on business app or website

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