I used to think that marketing is a necessary evil for the business - but not for me. How irrational was I? I’ve then realised how developers with good marketing skills were getting the best jobs or contracts. I know that should be obvious but let’s take a step back.
The marketing place
As a web developer and project manager, I was focusing on:
- getting the best outcome for customers when defining required features / quoting
- wireframing the UX to get the best user flow and conversion rate
- designing / coding it in a way to minimise manual work and potential issues
I would do that 40 hours a week (and read about it on the weekend). I bet all developers are doing similar things and potentially more. Amongst other things, developers are also often responsible for scalability, reporting, documenting, customer support, etc.
My point is simple, developers have a lot to think about and marketing generally is the very last thing on our mind.
What’s marketing anyway?
The American Marketing Association most recently defined Marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
Basically marketing yourself means making sure other know who you are, what you can do, what you love to do, etc. Marketing doesn’t have to be evil.
A simple example
There are plenty of interesting developer blogs out there. The ones that inspired me to get started is Coding Horror. The author - Jeff Atwood - wrote that his blog changed his life. His blog helped him finding better jobs and meeting the right people to start Stackoverflow. Thanks to his blog, he quickly got developers testing Stackoverflow. If Jeff didn’t start his blog and instead worked longer hours for his boss; would Stackoverflow exist or would it be successful?
This is just an example, blogging is one thing amongst many others you can do to market yourself.
How to market yourself as a developer
If there is one developer who keeps talking about marketing, it’s John from http://simpleprogrammer.com. He does have strong opinions about this; he blogs about it, wrote a book about it, etc. I’ve watched some of his videos and here is the one I find the most interesting (hence this blog post :) ):
Here are some highlights from that video:
- marketing yourself is really easy
John mentions that blogging once a week is enough. There are obviously many other ways:
- Be active on open source projects (via Github for example)
- Go to conferences, give talks there, etc.
- Participate on stackoverflow
- Build a personal project
For a project to become successful, it is common knowledge that the idea doesn’t matter much. Every single entrepreneur will tell you that it’s 90% about execution (idea + timing + luck are just a small part). John argues that even though you need a good execution; the main factor is the need for an audience.
That does make sense if you look at Stackoverflow; Jeff already had an audience of passionate developers so it’s no surprise that it was easy for him to get people trying out Stackoverflow quickly (within hours as a matter of fact).
Best of both Worlds
I think that being aware of these simple facts is important. On the other hand, marketing shouldn’t be the end goal. Marketing should be a nice side effect of working on projects outside your main job.