What programmers need to know about marketers

Doug Schaffer likes to claim marketing types are on a ‘different plane of the universe’. Seth Godin has finally provided a great explanation for developers trying to understand marketers.

My favorites include:

#3 – Most marketers have no clue whatsoever what to do. So we do unoriginal things, or stall, or make promises we can’t keep.

I think open source and developer to developer marketing has made things even more difficult for marketers.

#10 – Without marketing, all your great coding is worthless. Push your marketer to be brave and bold and remarkable. Do it every day. Your code is worth it.

This is why I think it is imperative that developers are involved in the marketing of their product. It is important to push the marketer but you also need to take responsibility to help lead the marketing.

6 thoughts on “What programmers need to know about marketers

  1. The interesting implication of open source and marketing is being able to use the code itself as a marketing tool.

    People have downplayed that and said that regular users don’t look at open source software code but it’s different for a developer-targetted product like Eclipse. It’s certainly useful to be able to look at the Eclipse code to see how things are done so you can replicate the same thing in your own product. You can’t do that with Visual Studio, so it’s certainly a selling point.

    As for making things difficult for marketers, most developers that keep up with the biz understand the implications of open source. The transparency of the Eclipse process actually makes it easier to market claims like “we’ve delivered on the same day the past three years in a row and this is how we did it”. Developers will certainly respect that.

    It might be harder to market an open source product to business people that don’t know the software engineering benefits of open source. But when you’re marketing a developer product (and platform) who do you really have to convince, the developers or upper management?

    How has developer to developer marketing made things more difficult? Rather than a guy like Scoble (a strong marketer/blogger), a developer marketer could be someone who’s knee-deep using Eclipse/RCP at least 50% of his time.

    This could be someone developers could get information about Eclipse minutia — where the rubber hits the road — because the person has been-there-done-that and shipped (and continues to ship) a real RCP product. This person could participate in the Eclipse community, help people, write blog posts about the RCP and all of that good stuff as well as marketing duties like speaking at conferences. But coding continuously would be an important part of it, so that (s)he remains credible to the developer audience.

    The product(s) this person works on could be new or existing open source Eclipse plugins or RCP products, so they’d be free to discuss the specifics of code and show real-world examples.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts. Does the Foundation have developer marketers like this?

  2. Ian, in the opensource community, we all play the role as marketing people. Once people realize that, there’s no reason to understand your marketers, since you’re one yourself. In the open source community especially, I’m reminded of Wipperfurth’s book (Marketing without the Marketing)… in regards how open source projects evolve on their own are really hijacked (defined) by their community.

  3. Hijacking is a great point, Chris. That can happen as the community gets more involved in the process (ie. votes en masse for a particular bug).

    However Eclipse doesn’t have a benevolent dictator (Linux kernel, Ruby) so it might be harder to “hijack” since you have to convince more people. That can be a good and bad thing.

    Another way to hijack — and this is specific to Eclipse — is to make a plugin that alters Eclipse’s default behaviour and does what you want. Then you can distribute this plugin however you want (like Subclipse and the WordWrap plugin by an SoC student).

    Initiatives like Planet Eclipse and having some of the committers blogging will surely kick-start an Eclipse blogging community (and I’ve noticed some momentum building already!). But the Foundation might be able to help that along by “sponsoring” a few developers so they can do their open source work full time and talk about Eclipse+RCP to market it, like I talked about above. Just an idea!

  4. Ryan,

    I certainly agree that code is the best marketing tool. It is interesting to watch new projects come to Eclipse. Until they get code into CVS, they really don’t start to get community input.

    I think the best example of your developer marketer is Wayne Beaton our Eclipse Evangelist. It would be great to have more people like this!

  5. One of the great benefits of being a project lead and working for a smaller company is that I get to work a lot with marketing people. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate everything they do to help spread the message about the great work we are doing as developers.

    However it did take me a while to understand how they think and how the audience receives their message. It is very different than the “black and white” that developers have to deal with. But once you learn to understand it and to take advantage of their work, you’ll find it’s well worth the paradigm shift you have to through when talking with them.

    And I fully agree with point #10. If people don’t know about you’re great work, then they aren’t going to benefit from it, and neither will you. And the marketing people in our world have some great techniques for getting the message out. Including describing things a little “rosey pink” sometimes.

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