Podcast interview: “Justin Jackson on Marketing for Developers”

I was recently interviewed about marketing for programmers on the Everyone Hates Marketers podcast. You can get the MP3 here.

The host, Louis Grenier, asked me great questions. Here are some excerpts.

Why do you think it’s so difficult for programmers to get customers and revenue in the first place?

I think it’s hard for everybody. But developers like to make things just for the joy of making them. They get excited about a particular piece of technology, or get really excited about coding practices, or the technology stack, or trying out something new.

They may have also heard that you can make money or make a business out of building apps and things like that. I think sometimes they think, “I’m good at making things, if I just make it, it’ll sell itself.”

99% of marketing is just building a product that people want.

I started my book, Marketing for Developers, with a section on “Building Something People Want.” I got a little bit of flack about that. People said: “why does this book start talking about how to build a product?” Once you have something that people want, it’s a lot easier to market it.

Programmer reading Marketing for Developers book

Why does marketing have a bad reputation?

Well, first, there are a lot of bad marketers that are doing things that aren’t great.

Good marketers show people: “here’s where you are, here’s where you want to go, here’s the obstacle in your way, we help you overcome that obstacle.”

But, no matter what, marketing is just trying to get your message through the noise. By its very nature marketing creates more noise. Gary Vaynerchuk has this slogan: “Marketers ruin everything.” I think that’s true. Even good marketers eventually ruin everything; they ruin channels because that’s the way to get your message out.

There’s a part of society that will always hate marketers, because we’re always trying to be loud, we’re trying to breakthrough the noise, we’re trying to get seen. That’s part of it.

But in a normal supply and demand equilibrium, you need to promote what you’ve made, you can’t just let it sit. Most of the people who came to me were asking questions like: “I just finished my app, I’ve been working on it for three years. How do I get customers?” That’s why I wrote the book, Marketing for Developers. My response to those folks was: “You should’ve been marketing all along, you should’ve spent 50% of your time marketing and 50% of your time building your product.”

So, yes, there are bad marketers, there’s bad marketing and marketing by its very definition creates more noise. But if you are going to create something and you want people to use it, it’s the only way to get their attention, it’s the only tool you have so far for getting their attention. In that sense, I think it’s a good thing.

How do you think marketers can make the web a better place?

That’s a really great question. Again, marketing is just communicating. I think one way we can make the web better is through good writing. The web needs better writing. Be thoughtful and thorough!

Also, just because a technique is working, doesn’t necessarily mean we should use all those techniques. I wrestle with this all time. I’ll feel like: “this thing is really working but I just don’t feel right about it, it doesn’t feel good at the end of the day.”

Popups is a good example. On my personal site, I don’t use popups. On the Marketing for Developers site there’s an exit intent popup. I find those less insidious than a welcome mat because a welcome mat blocks you from seeing the content in the first place but an exit intent popup says, “Hey you’re leaving, why don’t you just subscribe and then you can hear from me again in the future.”

Regardless of your opinion about popups, it’s a good idea to constantly be evaluating the techniques we’re using and evaluating whether they’re worth it.

When I was doing client work, I used some techniques I just wasn’t proud of. Things like cold emailing people, cold emailing lists than haven’t opted in; I just hated that stuff. I think if we don’t like doing that stuff, we should just not do it. In my case, I said to the client, “I can’t keep doing this, I don’t feel good about it.”

Ultimately, we have to deliver on our promise. If we’re selling something, we have to have product-market fit. As marketers, we’re making a promise to the customer; that we’re going to make their life better. We have to deliver a product that delivers on that promise.

A lot of marketers, once they get the lead, that’s it, they’re done. They never get to see whether the product delivered on its promise.

If we want to build trust, we actually have to be working on the product too.

Listen to the whole interview with Justin Jackson

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