Marketing Truths – Don’t Tell the Developers


Marketing is as foreign to most software developers as flying is to fish. We’ve found a list of ten truths of marketing, and we’re secretly sharing them with the developers who hang out here. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone in marketing.

Marketing 101

John Dodds wrote Marketing 101 For Geeks, where he shares 10 observations about marketing that might make sense to geeks and coders.

Here’s John’s list with our comments:

  1. Marketing is not a department. A great way to segue into the conversation – as an engineer, the first visual I always have of a marketing department is the one from Dilbert (Scott Adams draws marketing people as if they are at a perpetual cocktail party).
  2. Marketing is a conversation.* This is hard for developers. Conversation requires two-way communication. That’s a truth. But good marketing pre-empts questions and answers them. Imagine the reader having a conversation with your copy (marketing materials): “I wonder what this is?” “oh.” “I wonder how we could use that?” “oh. cool.” “where can I get it?”
  3. Simplicity does not negate complexity. A clear, easy to understand message is what coders might call “incomplete,” “over-simplifying,” or “simplicistic.” The secret that marketers keep to themselves is that this clear message is what opens the door – making it possible for customers to (eventually) understand and appreciate the power of a product that might be described with greater complexity.
  4. Think what? not how?. As cool as it might be that your search engine uses a trie data structure, what potential customers care about is the fact that you can search a billion documents in a tenth of a second. This secret seems to be the reverse of a simple definition of geek – “someone who cares about how it works more than what it does.”
  5. Think will not can. Featuritis is the condition of having too many features. Even the swiss army knife eventually became too large to slip in your pocket. We have to focus on what users need to do, and not everything that could possibly be done.
  6. Only you RTFM. Think about the obvious ways to use a product. Intuititive user interfaces have affordances. They don’t require people to read the manual. And the manual should be written to help people accomplish their goals- not as a description of the functionality.
  7. Technical support is marketing. Every touch-point with a customer is a marketing opportunity. Remember, we market not just by purchasing ads and putting up booths at conventions. We market by word of mouth.
  8. You’re not marketing to people who hate marketing. Remember the disdain you had when you started reading this list? Well, we’re not marketing to people who hate marketers. People want to know how to solve their own problems. They want to know how they can use our products to help. And they like the people who tell them.
  9. You’re not marketing to people who hate technology products. The people who get our message are the ones who are technology-agnostic (see #4 above). They neither love nor hate the product. But they love solutions.
  10. Marketing Demystifies. Remember the conversation from #2? As the conversation progresses, we enlighten our customers, and eventualy they develop an understanding of what they can do with our product. And from this, they develop a desire to buy our product.

*John’s original point #2 was really an anti-jargon point. We thought the conversational part of his point should be stressed instead.


Don’t let them know, but we’re on our way to understanding how this stuff works.

7 thoughts on “Marketing Truths – Don’t Tell the Developers

  1. Thanks for the feedback guys – you make some interesting additions and I shall make sure to bring this post to the attention of my reader.

    I went back to look at point 2 because I would totally stress the conversational aspect of marketing, but I see my wording could easily be taken as anti-jargon (which I addressed anyway in point 4). Although the post was entitled Geek Marketing, I believe the lessons apply to all sectors – marketing is marketing wherever it is applied and only snake-oil salesmen would try to convince you otherwise. For further reading, my more recent j train minifesto isa good follow-up.

  2. This was the “Dilbert” post for all us marketing folk. Almost feel like giving it to a few people I know with a “welcome to my world” post it stuck on.

  3. I love how you described #3. It’s so true – simple isn’t evil, sometimes it’s the only way to get the door open.

    I must admit that 10 sounds a little one-sided now, though. “Enlighten” is a word that scares me when we’re talking about our interactions with our customers. While there is a place for it – there’s also a lot of enlightening moving in the other direction as well!

    I love your definition of a geek too! (I’m guilty of that myself – I’m not a tech geek – I’m a management geek – but all us geeks are cut from the same cloth regardless of our specialty!).

  4. Thanks Ann, and welcome to Tyner Blain!

    I completely agree about the direction of information flow – we should be getting more from our customers they get from us. The marketing material is one of the vehicles for getting info to them.

    Oh – definitely high on the geek scale here too, but I get geeky about the what (determining the ‘what’ is sort of a ‘how’ for me).

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