Are Software Developers from Mars and Tech Marketers from Venus?

24 May

Marketing to developers is almost an oxymoron. In a typical corporate setting those two departments either sit on the opposite sites of the office space or in separate buildings, depending on the size of the company. Similarly, engineers at your customer’s company hardly ever reach for marketing collateral when evaluating your product.

Engineering driven companies appreciate their developers. Steve Ballmer even dedicated them his unforgettable stage show “Developers, developers, developers”. I haven’t seen a CEO of a tech company pay such tribute to the marketing team.

Without great developers there would no product. But without great marketers the product wouldn’t sell itself.

A lot of tech marketers make the mistake of oversimplifying the value proposition of their product. Every tech innovation these days is “agile, flexible, reduces costs and increases productivity”.  As I explain in my Marketing Plan for Tech Startups (and not only), in today’s crowded marketplace you need to constantly re-win your customer business by delivering real value. A marketer’s job is therefore to position the product in the customer’s mind as an indispensable part of their professional or personal life. Calling a product “cutting edge, best of breed or visionary” without saying what it actually does and explaining the implementation philosophy behind it is not going to work.

If you’re in Tech and haven’t heard about Docker, you’ve been living under a rock. The ultimate Silicon Valley darling went from a two-person startup into becoming the de facto standard of modern application design virtually overnight. Two years ago very few people knew about Docker. Today, if your software is not supporting Docker, you’re not part of the cool kids club. In my opinion Docker is a marketing driven company because early on it understood the needs of their customers, i.e. the developers, and created three fantastic value propositions. First, Docker solved an important problem for developers: it overcame the limitations of the existing Linux container technologies and made the promise “build an app once, run it anywhere” possible. Second, Docker adopted “give before you take” attitude, open-sourced their code and contributed to the DevOps community early on. Lastly, Docker focused on making the developer’s life as easy as possible by building a bunch of tools to automate mundane tasks.

Another brilliant example of a company that removed common roadblocks preventing a developer from trying a new tech product is Twilio. A quick-start tutorial paired with code samples and detailed API specs allows a developer to build the first app in a matter of minutes. That’s real value.

Every company in the Valley prides itself on solving the vendor lock-in problem but the reality is it takes time for even the brightest human being to master the new and abandon the old. A marketing driven company knows how to add value to their customers’ lives and a great tech marketer will invest the time and budget into an ecosystem of documentation, support and community that will differentiate the output of the engineering team’s work and create a product that sells itself.


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