Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Being a Developer Makes You Valuable. Learning How to Market Makes You Dangerous (talsraviv.com)
374 points by talsraviv 1946 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 83 comments

I really cannot emphasize enough how the intersection of these two fields is a) extraordinarily rare, b) extraordinarily capable of producing directly attributable, measurable improvements across an entire business and as a direct consequence c) very, very richly valued by the market right now.

>c) very, very richly valued by the market right now.

Yeah. I think, in fact, it's overvalued by the market right now. Many people are bidding for ad words as if the google adword is what brought you the customer.

The thing is, at least in my case, this simply isn't true. Nobody buys a VPS on the first click; if someone clicks through a google ad for my company, yeah, google should get some credit, but most of the credit should go to the blog the customer saw a month ago.

That's the thing; because the adwords are the first hits and are super convenient for the customer, they pick up a lot of people that would have clicked on the organic result.

Now, this is okay if they are taking a very small cut, but the way many people use google adwords? the price is bid up to a very large cut of the profit you are going to earn from that customer. I mean, yeah, sure, if google really is bringing me brand new customers that had never heard of me; people I would not otherwise have a chance with, yeah, I can see paying 90% of the profit. But if google is bringing me customers that were very likely to come to me anyhow? eh, I'm not going to want to pay google nearly that much.

I think this is also why facebook is so highly valued; people believe that facebook has enough tracking data to see that blog that my customer read last week that actually caused the customer to sign up through the adword this week. And maybe they do... but it's a dang difficult problem, and I haven't seen facebook make much progress. Even then, they are going to have a hard time integrating the people that heard of me because of the checkout-line advertisements I bought in Mountain View Safeways.

(because of this, my advertising dollars go into cost per impression advertising, rather than cost per click.)

While I do not disagree with what you have to say with regards to Google getting to claim credit for skimming the cream off of their advertisers' own brand equity (and then selling that cream to them at impressive prices), that's sort of orthogonal to the point I was making. Specific to, say, AdWords, the point I'm making is that people who a) have enough development capability to ship software products and b) also know AdWords well enough to get entrusted with a company's budget are as rare as hen's teeth. Because many, many companies have 6 figure AdWords spends monthly and generate millions of dollars of revenue as a result of them, someone who is capable of applying their skills horizontally across a company's AdWords operation (+) can be very, very useful to have around.

There's approximately four people in the world that can do that. Two of them like their jobs, one just got funded, and the fourth one can charge whatever he darn pleases. (This is an exaggeration, but not much of one.)

+ You might naively assume I'm talking about the AdWords API, but there are so many things a developer could do to wring extra money out of an AdWords campaign that it is virtually cheating. A consulting client once bragged to me that they had a lot of landing pages, and they asked me how many I had. It turns out that they had 11 and I had, at the time, only 900-something. There are a lot of marketing departments which think that developing 900 landing pages would take a team of 20 people the better part of a year. A properly motivated intermediate Rails developer could bang that out on any given Monday. (P.S. If you're not going to make the company a million bucks next Monday, consider banging this out.)

>Specific to, say, AdWords, the point I'm making is that people who a) have enough development capability to ship software products and b) also know AdWords well enough to get entrusted with a company's budget are as rare as hen's teeth. Because many, many companies have 6 figure AdWords spends monthly and generate millions of dollars of revenue as a result of them, someone who is capable of applying their skills horizontally across a company's AdWords operation (+) can be very, very useful to have around.

This is something I have very little knowledge of... I have a (perhaps irrational and unjustified) generally low opinion of marketing people, and little contact with that world, but I thought that adwords/seo people were usually mediocre programmers.

> (P.S. If you're not going to make the company a million bucks next Monday, consider banging this out.)

so, how come you aren't a millionaire many times over? Clearly you are good at this sort of thing, you are a reasonable programmer, and on top of that, you are a good writer, and have a bit of fame. (I am convinced that being able to write well is one of those skills that, while nearly useless on it's own, dramatically multiplies the value of any other skills you obtain.)

I mean, I'm not saying you are wrong... just that it's more complicated than that. Marketing fluff, I mean, selling something for money that is pure marketing and nothing else is harder than it looks. And actually providing a service to a large number of users is also harder than it looks.

There is always that choice of "do I spend my time improving the product?" or "do I spend my time on marketing?" - the more time you spend on the latter, the harder the former becomes. The more time you spend on the former, the easier the latter becomes.

This is my current problem; I can't add users much faster than I am without degrading the service for existing customers. Marketing, right now, is mostly a 'for fun' thing.

This is something I have very little knowledge of... I have a (perhaps irrational and unjustified) generally low opinion of marketing people, and little contact with that world, but I thought that adwords/seo people were usually mediocre programmers.

You're mostly right. SWAG numbers: 50% of SEM/SEO professionals are FizzBuzz-level efficient in Excel, 10% of them know what a pivot table is, 5% of them know enough scripting to do their jobs. Against that expertise curve, the least accomplish programmer in e.g. an entire class of YC startups is a programming god among men. If you can ship products, you're so far ahead of the curve it isn't even funny.

so, how come you aren't a millionaire many times over?

The things I'm really good at tend to scale with the size of whatever line-of-business I'm allowed to work on. A 10% improvement in BCC's numbers is worth, ballpark, $5k a year or so. (Or it was before I doubled conversions recently -- guess it would be worth $10k a year now? Ask me in December for a better guess, summer throws things off.) A 10% improvement in $CONSULTING_CLIENT's $PRODUCT is worth, ballpark, a lot more. The large majority of that upside will accrue to whomever beneficially owns $CONSULTING_CLIENT.

marketing fluff

You don't need to have a product of your own to sell to monetize an engineering/marketing skillset if you (or someone in the audience) hypothetically has it. Many companies already have things to sell, and they will pay handsomely, in a variety of ways, for your expertise in making that happen.

This is my current problem:

I'd tell a client in your circumstance to focus on the hardware provisioning or CS bottleneck or whatever which is apparently making it infeasible to service VPS customers acquired at scale. In the meanwhile, continue experimenting with marketing channels. After solving the bottleneck, double down on whatever marketing channels seemed to work in microscale.

Yeah. I think, in fact, it's overvalued by the market right now. .. .. This is something I have very little knowledge of... I have a (perhaps irrational and unjustified) generally low opinion of marketing people, and little contact with that world, but I thought that adwords/seo people were usually mediocre programmers.


It might be worth holding off evaluation of how much something is worth until you know what you are talking about.

Sincere question -- how do you programatically create 900 pages that aren't crap? I often advise the multiple, targeted landing page strategy, but I've always considered the best performance to be carefully considered pages with crisp copy that should at least be reasonably performant, and then test the hell out of those pages to try and boost them.

I've seen the programatically generated 'query-catcher' pages that the big boys use and have always dismissed them as effective (because they don't work on me). Am I completely missing the boat somewhere or is there some intersection I've yet to discover?

There are many people in the world who a) don't even know what a landing page is, b) hypothetically, if they knew they were at a landing page, would not be able to tell if it was programatically generated and c) if they knew it was programatically generated, still would not care. All they knew is the Googles had the exact answer to their question. Thanks Googles!

More broadly, "My behavior is not a good proxy for the behavior of all people everywhere." and "I may be smarter than substantially everyone in my industry but that is not the way I should bet." are two lessons to learn early and well.

Heh. To the contrary, I was betting that if my simple-old self saw what was up, then so would everyone.

Thanks for the head's up though. I'm still all for the careful crafting of landing pages, but at least I know I wouldn't be wasting my time to script out a bunch to at least put up until / unless they can be replaced or upgraded.

I would advise a mix of both strategies. Auto-generated content can allow you to test a large number of keywords/niches, and you can go to town creating better versions by hand once something has proven itself to actually be worth the effort.

I don't suppose we could persuade you to link one or two of those programatically generated LPs, could we? I'd be really interested to see how you're doing what you're doing.

Two questions, why do you say there are only four people?

Also what is your advice about the landing pages?

"Four people" is an exaggeration intended to be humorous. The more straightforward way of saying it is: there is tremendous market demand right now for this skillset. This skillset is extraordinarily uncommon irrespective of the demand for it. Additionally, market conditions currently offer many independent, extraordinarily attractive options to individuals who possess this skillset. Three options, among many, include being a) extraordinarily highly compensated at a Fortune 500 firm which is capable of being arbitrarily generous to retain their services, b) using their skillset to found a startup, or c) forsaking full-time employment and instead consulting for numbers which would make your head spin. There exist other options, too. This means that the number of people in the (already small) hiring pool who are actually available for hire is even smaller than you would otherwise assume.

My advice about the landing pages is in more depth on my blog in multiple places, but basically, "Build a CMS to spit arbitrarily high numbers of landing pages out of some data source which you have and some templates. Iterate on the templates in a data-driven fashion." It's essentially as technically complex as the Rails 15 minute build-a-blog demo. For more elaboration, see blog.

what's your opinion on building automated computer-generated content from data you own (trends from stats, etc). Isn't that frowned upon by Google?

That's an oversimplification of Google's approach to mass creation of pages vis-a-vis organic SEO. Google will let (many) pages that would never appear in the main results appear in AdWords ads as long as one's credit card doesn't get declined. (There are things Google disapproves of in landing pages, but "having lots of landing pages" is not one of them.)

Do all these landing pages live on the primary domain or are they spread around different domains?

OK, so what about auto-generating pages that you intend to rank for organic search, NOT to advertise in Adwords? Do you think this should never be done? Or are there scenarios where it's gray-hat, but you figure it's safe to do?

You can always throw in some noindex,nofollow tags on the landing page to prevent Google from indexing them.

You could also consider using canonical tags for landing pages that are slight variations of each other [to prevent duplicate content penalties]. This one is really just a guess.

I thought you had some lady who writes your landing pages for you. Have you got it totally automated now, or am I confused?

Content for the website was written by freelancers, yes. It all sits in the database. My AdWords landing pages repurpose a subset of the same data with different templates relative to the (publicly exposed) content.

Four people is just an exaggeration. He's saying there are very few people who are genuinely great at this stuff.

The problem you're describing is well known in digital marketing. It's called "last touch attribution" - basically giving the last touch point your customer had with your company all the credit for the sale when there often are multiple touch points (story in techcrunch, blog post on site, mention on twitter, then finally a click on a banner ad when the customer is ready to buy). Here's a blog post on hacking Google Analytics to help: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-to-get-past-last-touch-attrib....

A google search for "last touch attribution" will give you other resources. Agreed on it being a very difficult (and valuable) problem to solve, though. The privacy issues with tracking a person's every touch point with your brand makes it even harder.

Huh. cool. Of course, even if that problem is solved, it's still very difficult to track meatspace interactions (I spend, actually, more money on meatspace ads than on online ads. check out the checkout lanes in the safeway on shoreline in mountain view.)

If I'm right that people are willing to pay more for advertising they can track, and that meatspace advertising will remain nearly impossible to track, meatspace advertising will remain undervalued.

The thing is, at least in my case, this simply isn't true. Nobody buys a VPS on the first click; if someone clicks through a google ad for my company, yeah, google should get some credit, but most of the credit should go to the blog the customer saw a month ago. That's the thing; because the adwords are the first hits and are super convenient for the customer, they pick up a lot of people that would have clicked on the organic result.

This is called attribution measurement. It is generally considered the next big thing in advertising technology - primarily by anyone who runs a website where buying intent isn't obvious.

I think this is also why facebook is so highly valued; people believe that facebook has enough tracking data to see that blog that my customer read last week that actually caused the customer to sign up through the adword this week.

Facebook isn't valued because of this, it is valued because of the sheer volume of people. Facebook lets you advertise to people who "like" something, but doesn't do anything very smart to predict this (perhaps they might in the future).

Google, OTOH, does have data on what you search for and actively uses it on 3rd party sites, as well as offering re-targeting.

As a programmer/engineer/developer/etc. and marketing enthusiast, I agree with your post. I know I'm quite rare in regards to my understanding of both fields. I find more similarities that differences. Where some hackers might see marketing as voodoo, I see it in the same way I see code: Just a collection of steps that are meant to achieve something. One of the best examples I can share is the one of designing a marketing campaign using code. Yes, code. I sit down and just create a list of "objects" which are the marketing tools. Then I create the main program and write in the possibles scenarios using conditionals and loops. If I feel like having fun, I use Ruby's blocks (DO...END). It sounds really weird, but think about it. Marketing is just an object oriented program.

For example. One could sit down and write the following for an email mailing.

class Mailing:

    def __init__(self):
        self.name = "name"
        self.email = "email address"
        self.subject = "mailing subject"
        self.campaign = "mailing campaign name"

class WeekendSaleMailing(Mailing):

    def set_name(name):

    #basically define the mailing using code.
The you go on to __main__ :

    weekend_sale = WeekendSaleMailing()

    #set the details of the mailing (customer names, offer, etc.)
Then you go on and describe every scenario that you can think of and describe it using conditionals:

    if client responds_to_mailing():

    elsif client open_emails_but_does_not_buy:
        #you might want to then write more code describing what to do in this case.
You might also want to include a loop to describe what iterative process you will use to market to a customer.

For example,

    while customer does_not_buy():
        #send a different mailing or marketing tool.
and so on.

It may seem like a lot of work, and it is. But it just shows that marketing is just like code. In the way that you abstract away your marketing plan and design it as if it was a complex object oriented program. This way you still feel that you are programming and not outside of the scope of your skills.

Try it out. It works. And it takes away the sense of weirdness of marketing. After all, it is not marketing anymore, its code.

To add,

Same with doing marketing tools. I write my ads by using code. I have a basic template of an ad, and then I run through it the different headlines and paragraphs until I find an ad that works. Then its just testing to see which ads pull better than others. Testing is super easy because you now have a framework to work with. You dont go blindly into it, you have a set of parameters to measure. For example, Headline 1.a might pull more than headline 1.b, because it added the more "FREE" at the end, instead of using it at the beginning.

Anyhow, what patio11 says is true. If you approach marketing as if it was software, you are going to really get ahead because most people treat marketing as if it was black magic. It isnt.

email in profile for questions

PS. Its not real Python, btw. Just pseudo code.

One of my favorite sayings: Ideas are worthless. Execution is everything. Getting people to pay for what you executed on is more everything.

If there are 1000 people who are 'idea people', 100 of them can execute on an idea; actually build something. 10 can get that thing sold.

Those 10 are the dangerous ones.

Great post.

While I agree that it is a good post, isn't it kinda obvious that if you are an idea person, can execute on that idea to make a product and also sell it, you are king of the world? I mean, you have everything except finding a way to repair your brain and body towards immortality (which I am still not quite sure if desirable)...

I agree its obvious. But the reality is a shocking number of people (990 of 1000?) never leave the building.

Being a Developer Makes You Valuable. Learning How to Market Makes You Dangerous

I hope this is true! I've been developing for 12+ years, and always had an interest in marketing, but never really studied marketing. Now, I'm one of three tech co-founders of a startup that does not yet have a dedicated marketing person. So, I've finally been diving into really trying to learn and understand marketing (and sales).

OK, wait, I did take "Marketing 101" at the local community college a couple of years ago, but that's the only formal education on the topic I've had.

Now, I have a huge stack of sales and marketing books I'm working through. So far I've mainly focused on the Jack Trout, Al Ries, et al. stuff... Positioning, Re-positioning, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, etc., and I've been going through a video series from Chet Holmes (of The Ultimate Sales Machine fame).

Looks like some good resources in the linked article, so looking forward to chewing through some of that as well. And here's a pre-emptive "+1" for more good startup marketing related links on HN!

Marketing and sales are about story telling and influencing would be customers, so that they can see a need for the product you offer. For me, I have found the list of books below to be very informative. Note, they are not listed in any particular order. I mostly listen to the audio or mp3 versions, that way i can just play them as i do other things. Most of them have actionable steps and are not just high level talk.

a. Spin Selling by Neil Rackham

b. 50 ScientificallyWays to Be Persuasive by Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin, Robert B. Cialdini

c. Three Steps to Yes by Gene Bedell; -Only print, no audio

d. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

e. How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Heh, I own 4 of those 5 books (not the Gene Bedell one). All are on my "to read" list but other than Spin Selling (which I've browsed through a bit), I haven't read them yet.

I've heard a lot of good things about Made To Stick though, so I think it's time to bump that up the list a little.

Thanks for sharing!

One sales book I read, and found quite interesting:

The Greatest Salesman in the World

by Og Mandino.

Just a word of advice, I've read most of those books and haven't found them super valuable. It really depends what you're selling, but the approach that's worked for me is to figure out my top 5 marketing goals and then find blog posts or interviews that help answer those questions. Almost all marketing books are a little too high-level to be useful in my opinion.

Just a word of advice, I've read most of those books and haven't found them super valuable. It really depends what you're selling,

Yeah, we're working on a somewhat traditional product oriented company... more Microsoft or IBM, than AirBnB or Dropbox. In that world, I think the positioning stuff matters, but I will freely admit that it may be less relevant in a different domain.

Nontheless, I would think most companies would want to achieve what Chet Holmes calls "Top of Mind Awareness," where your company is first in mind for a customer when they think about a need for $FOO. For example, ask most people to "name a router manufacturer" and the majority will almost certainly come back with "Cisco" (a few oddballs might say "Juniper" or something weird, but Cisco clearly has "TOMA").

But isn't this just stating the obvious? being a Developer + learning $cool_skill makes you $positive_adjective.

Well duh. Also, the sun rises in the east.

$cool_skill element_of {marketing, design, negotiation, leadership skills, design, writing ....}

$positive_adjective element_of {dangerous, rockstar, ninja , pirate, extraordinary, one in a million, cool, killer ... }

mix and match and you have a dozen or so catchy titles.

Throw in links to the top books on the topic and links to some blogs, and most importantly an ad for an ebook somewhere in the post. Profit.

Repeat a few dozen times. Landing pages for SEO. Hey you are a guru!

Maybe, I am just feeling too cynical abut such 'how to do a startup' porn. Feel free to ignore me.

OTOH HN generally has good discussions, even when the submission is spammy/low quality.

I'm with you. I feel the same way about startup porn. It's just that when I saw Wasswa's email it hit me most programmers don't work closely with good marketers and understand this. It's an unnecessary lost opportunity. I also figured there's many hard working people like him that just needed to be told marketing (or any skill in that set) is learnable that got me motivated up to write something.

you're not alone. It's harder than they make it seem.. much harder. As an example, landing pages for SEO is trivial.. stupid trivial. How to get those pages to rank for your desired keywords though is challenging, but no growth hacker wants to do that, or tell u how to do that.

In some sectors it can be as easy as it looks. It's just when the playing field is really competitive that it gets a bit tough. Ranking #1 for 'dentist in irlam' will be levels upon levels easier than ranking for 'dentist in london' in terms of SEO. Similarly the cost-per-click in paid search will probably be orders of magnitude apart and optimising your campaigns will be much harder. Choosing the best keywords for what you'd like to achieve is tricky and figuring that out only happened after I dived in - it's likely a lot of what I've learned there is niche specific too.

Plain old marketing is simple. You gotta reach your audience. You gotta figure out what they look at, and you gotta get their attention. If your audience is searching Google, you hit them with SEO and Adwords. If they are watching TV, you gotta get on the shows they are watching. Once you get their attention, they know about you, and then it is matter of sales if they buy.

For good branding, it helps to have a good name, logo, etc. Although, in the end it helps if they like your product.

If you're in a crowded space, marketing is going to be harder. Although, I've never really found marketing to be that complicated. If you are in a crowded space, it can be harder to market, because your message gets crowded out.

Who is struggling with marketing? Let me know. I don't really think it is that hard.

It's amazing actually how many programmers don't concentrate on marketing at all. I've recently got a few emails from fellow developers asking if they need a blog/twitter/google+ account in order to get customers as a freelancer.

The answer is yes, yes you do!

The proof, 3 months in to my freelance career and I'm already getting customers, via blogging and Google search results. Heck I've even been lucky enough to get one customer as a direct result of getting front paged on Hacker News.

I have no idea whether I'm approaching "dangerous" yet. But I know for certain, I've still got a lot of marketing effort to go, and one hell of a lot left to learn.

Good comment.


I own http://drivingtests101.com/ . It is a free driving test prep website covering ~400 tests across 11 countries, all states/provinces and vehicle types. It was not until we spent time on SEO and pushed to get into the media a few months later before we truly began to realize the fruits of our labor. A product or service can often lead to no monetization without a push from marketing, aside from the true viral one-off hits. Do not count on this!

Marketing is key and I would encourage all business owners, not just developers, to learn this invaluable skill.

Good luck!

I'm trying to dig into Marketing and really figure out how to hack it. I've found patio11 extremely helpful, and also some of Peldi's posts on the Balsamiq blog: http://blogs.balsamiq.com/product/2008/08/05/startup-marketi.... I will definitely check out some of the recommendations here.

Does anyone have any other actionable suggestions for reading? I've picked up a few books but I'm looking to really dig in and get better at selling SaaS stuff online.

Every single blog post under the SaaS tag on this site - http://www.forentrepreneurs.com/saas/

Thanks! I'm starting my journey of learning marketing, and going to be writing about it if you're interested (http://blog.codiqa.com/2012/07/step1-admit-you-have-a-market...)

Does anyone have any other actionable suggestions for reading?

Not necessarily SaaS specific, but some of the foundational works of recent times are the works by Jack Trout, Al Ries, and various co-authors: Positioning, Re-positioning, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, and Differentiate or Die among others.

I would really extend this to the following qualities that people in the field of building products should try, to the best of their abilities, to be good at. They might not become the best at each one, but enough to become potent and in the very least better than they were before trying:

-Understand technology. What it takes to build, scale, maintain and fix things. What are the affordances and benefits of one approach over the other.

-Understand design. Not just pretty pixels (in fact that is the least important part, IMHO). But the WHY. How it affects people, what the goals are, why the current system is broken or why it does not exist.

- Understand Marketing. How do you convince others that your product (idea or finished) is THE one they should vouch for. Why should they invest time and money into it. How can you make them believe that you know what you are doing and better than any bad experiences they have had with products of that kind. Selling/Marketing is not evil. It is a necessary (evil). Many humble and smart people fail to understand that.

I totally understand it is very hard for one person to be great or even good at all three. But hey most don't even try, so you are already better then them the first day you try.

The best part about being a developer and interested in marketing is you have all kids of opportunity to learn and tinker.

You can build a mobile app, submit to the app stores and see how it sells. Track your sales, dive into the numbers and find out what works and what doesn't. Does a good design help? What key words help your app get found? What about your UI? Do people love it? Hate it? Why?

You can build a static website and attach Google Analytics and see where your traffic comes from, how is your SEO working? What mobile users are on your site? What pages are they viewing? What's your conversion rate?

Build an e-commerce website and see what sells. Does the position of the items matter? What colors are people buying? What are your buyers preferences? Are your price points too high? Too low?

There's so many cool things you can learn when you start to get interested in marketing. If you're hacker, you can have a lot of fun and learn a ton of stuff just by creating simple things and seeing how the public/users react and use it. It really is completely fascinating.

I think you're talking about conversion optimization rather than pure marketing.

Tracking numbers for a mobile app is fruitless if you don't have a way to get tons of people to use it in the first place. A/B testing design, colors etc of a mobile app is only useful once you users.

Similarly, for an e-commerce site, it doesn't make sense to A/B test different things like price if you got a measly number of visitors.

Now, how is one supposed to get all those visitors/customers/users in the first place, so we can then tinker/test the various variables? That is marketing, and a lot of it isn't "hacker" oriented. It's actually messy, and geared more towards people who are sales oriented, even some of SEO. SEO is actually one of the few remaining hacker-friendly methods of marketing.

So true. You have a massive advantage to learn quickly because you have complete freedom to iterate as you please without waiting on anyone.

I started as a developer, coded the first version of Visual Website Optimizer myself, but quickly discovered the importance of marketing. I agree to the OP's assessment that marketing is every bit as juicy as coding. Discovering a channel, executing a successful marketing campaign and crunching out hard ROI from it, seeing 10 customers because of it is as exciting (if not more) as learning the wonderful node.js and implementing a chat server on your own.

That said, I'd say after a certain scale, it becomes incredibly hard to do both: a) coding; and b) marketing. There's so much to do in both fields that you cannot do justice to both _at the same time_. So you have to eventually build a team and decide between coding or marketing (but the great part is that by that time you can afford to do this).

Speaking as a developer, I think I can see the analogy between dev and marketing. But from a learning perspective, software development has a big advantage. You can build everything from a hello world app to your own toy OS without being negatively impacted by existing software out there.

As a marketer, it seems like you always have to be on the cutting edge. What worked in the 1980s is unlikely to work in 2012. Even what was cool in 2008 is unlikely to be effective today. The next problem is that marketing is, by its nature, a public activity. Doing it badly is embarrassing and likely limits your ability to even give it a second try.

I'd tend to disagree: everything old is new again. Sears Roebuck beat me to A/B testing by, what, eighty years?

There is nothing new under the sun, but people are forgetful.

Hang on, did you just claim that marketing requires cutting edge techniques which change year by year, but software development doesn't?

Is it even possible to work as a programmer if you are using 1980s tech? What about if you know nothing created after 2001, how limited would your carrer prospects be?

I think you have things backwards.

Headlines, calls to action all the same stuff as in print 100 years ago, just the medium is different now. Marketing isn't about fancy tools.

The cutting edge of marketing is usually horribly ineffective (see QR codes).

This is a topic near and dear to my heart; I am a developer who tried to take up marketing but gave up.

So this post's call to action is to read/listen/watch various resources; in sum they are probably dozens of hours of learning. With a little searching, I'm sure the actual material available stretches into hundreds of hours.

So my question, similar to the one I posted almost a year ago [0], is: what is the best available material out there, where I can learn 80% of marketing in 20% of the material?

0. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2967010

You can learn a lot of nuts and bolts stuff from guys like Rob Walling and Patrick McKenzie. It can take time for things to sink in, but nothing pushes it faster than creating your own product and trying to sell it.

If you have a commute, I'd recommend listening to some podcasts like Internet Business Mastery, Foolish Adventure, Lifestyle Business Podcast, Startup Success, and Startups for the Rest of Us. Find the ones that suit you.

With a little searching, I'm sure the actual material available stretches into hundreds of hours.

I'm sure it's far more than that. Especially if "a little searching" includes bittorrent trackers. Not that I advocate this sort of thing, but there's one tracker I know of, that specializes in business related topics, with a healthy dose of sales and marketing material. There is so much material (books, videos, reports, articles, podcasts, etc.) to watch, listen to, read, etc. that you could probably spend tens of thousands of hours on it.

, is: what is the best available material out there, where I can learn 80% of marketing in 20% of the material?

OK, I'm not marketing guru, just another "developer trying to take up marketing." But based on a lot of reading, watching, asking questions, etc., I get the sense that material from Chet Holmes, Dan Kennedy and Jay Abraham is usually regarded as pretty good. I'm watching some Chet Holmes videos now, and finding a ton of value in them, FWIW. YMMV, of course.

Also, the works of Jack Trout, Al Ries, Steve Rifkin, et al, are usually regarded as pretty important. Trout and crew basically created positioning theory.

And then there's a whole separate world of material for people who are interested in the spammy(er), get rich quick, "Internet Marketing" stuff. I haven't studied any of his marketing materials, but Eben Pagan seems to be one of the more popular guys in that world. Whether or not his material would be of use to the typical HN reader is left as an exercise for the reader. Or, if somebody here is familiar with his work and could chime in, I'd be really curious to hear your take.

So what are these trackers? What material should you look for?

It's no good saying "There's this cool little news site all the smart people hang out on (HN)" without telling us how to find it.

So what are these trackers?

I didn't name it explicitly because I don't really know if pg has any policy of frowning on encouraging piracy here at HN (and most of the content on the tracker I'm thinking of is pirated).

But if you're really curious, my email is in my profile. Just sayin...

I've always thought the person running the development team should understand marketing, and the person running the marketing efforts knows how to develop. The two are so intertwined, but at the same time, it's important to separate the effort. Just like in engineering, the devil is in the details not the conceptual idea. You want a marketing person who knows how to get everything just right, to get in front of customers, sign people up, etc

Feel free to call me a n00b or uncultured, but I don't get your anti-spam measures to subscribe to your posts via email.

Prove humanity by completing the lyric: "Blame..." huh?

for the "uncultured": Blame Canada! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOzG7bBylRo

Thanks for that. Maybe he doesn't want uncultured people subscribing via email. If so, it's working :)

Although having great marketing skills is invaluable, I have come to the conclusion that having a deeper understanding of design is crucial to modern developers; it seems to me that more and more developers are cropping up and the demand has shifted from them to people with great design capabilities.

I guess the morale of the story is to learn everything you can!

So true. Reading books about marketing is good but they are too 'vague'. From my experience, executing marketing / selling is much harder (and more fun) than you think and the only way to learn it. Just get out of the building and start embarrassing yourself (literally).

Definitely agree here. I have a Marketing background but have been learning how to develop the past 3-4 months.

Marketing = Principles/Thoughts Software Development = technical/tangible skill

Marketing = Ideas; Software Development = Execution of those marketing ideas.

I'd like to hear more about non-web marketing like direct mail. I would think small businesses would be more receptive to that. After all, they might not realize they need your tool until you put an advertisement in front of them.

In my experience, non-tech B2B audiences respond very well to 'traditional' marketing - postcard mailings, magazine ads, etc.

IMO there are 2 aspects to doing this well:

(1) USE IT AS PART OF AN INCREMENTAL CAMPAIGN. Use the traditional stuff as the first element to get them involved with you. Sending them a well-designed, relevant postcard invitation = you have their attention (whereas they are 'banner ad blind' and 'email blind'). Use that attention to push them to the next step (which isn't the sale - it's just another incremental commitment like attending a webinar, or downloading a whitepaper, or using an online calculator to spec something out, etc).

Incremental commitment is the name of the game in B2B sales and marketing, and traditional marketing can be a great start to the chain.

(2) LINK OFFLINE STUFF TO ONLINE STUFF. As you can see even from my examples above, it's important to get them into online channels as soon as possible (where they can be tracked and interacted with more efficiently). You want to have tons of relevant content you can offer them, lots of places for them to explore the problem/solution, etc.

The real joy (and pain) of B2B marketing is that you have to do the 'strategic' campaign planning well while also nailing the 'tactical' messaging / design / etc execution.

How to market on HN:

    - Write an interesting blog post and post it to HN
    - Include a link to something you're selling
      somewhere near the end of the post
There are so many people doing this it's unreal.

Certainly one of the stranger aspects of this site. It's almost a sort of meta-game.

The aim of a founder is not to be the best marketer or developer. It's goal should be knowing just enough to hire the best people in every field and lead the team. This what makes a great founder.

You're describing a great CEO, not necessarily a great StartUp founder. In the beginning the founder's job is not to hire people (you're not ready for that yet). It's to execute and demonstrate some sort of traction--the traction you can use to hire great people. Ideas are a dime a dozen. If you want to hire great people, you need to show that idea can be executed before you can hire "the best people in every field"

I support this message as a Marketing/Finance major turned software engineer.

I'd like to call these marketers Growth Hackers. They're a different breed of hackers, and they're just as important as the engineers. A successful startup should have at least ONE growth hacker in the team for it to be successful.

Dear god, please stop abusing that word.

If we don't it will lose all meaning, in some ways it already has.

Seems to me like you're making comments just for the sake of making comments. Dear god, stop abusing that privilege. First of all, don't tell someone to stop abusing "that word" without mentioning what word you're talking about. Second, if you're making a point, be prepared to back it up. What is "losing all meaning"? In what ways has it already? What the heck are you talking about anyway?? How is your comment benefiting the original poster at all?

>Seems to me like you're making comments just for the sake of making comments.

I'm not. But since it came off that way I will apologize. First for lashing out at you, and second for not being more specific.

The word "Hacker" is being applied to everything and everyone, and it's annoying. As an example, a search for "Hacker" in my RSS feed produces the following headlines (Among others, but I list these as egregious examples.):

Mobile hackers: The future scares us, change it at Everyme

The Distribution Hacker’s Mission: Create an Unfair Advantage

ShowHN: Hacker Tourist - opinionated ecommerce for photographers

Reinvent Retail. Growth Hacker at YC Mobile Startup.

Ask HN Teachers and Edu Hackers : How do you prepare educational materials?

When you start talking about "Hacker photographers" and "Growth hackers" and "Distribution hackers" I have to ask, do you mean "People who are hackers who happen to know marketing/photography/whatever a distribution hacker is supposed to do/etc too." or are we just applying this term to everything so that everyone can feel like they're part of some elite club?

And that's not even getting into the whole "Well you can't just say you're a hacker and expect everyone to go with it." argument.

EDIT: Which, in certain views on that latter point, the word "Hacker" is about an elite club, which only makes the appending of the word to everything just feel like some sort of envy.

(Full disclosure: I do not consider myself a hacker.)

When I mean "hacker", I mean someone who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations. This can be in the field of software, marketing, photography, or any other field. This doesn't mean that they're part of any "elite club", and it definitely doesn't have to be something that annoys you so much. It's just a term used, that's all!

Note: I am not a developer. My experience is in e-commerce marketing and my degree (est. May 2013) is in Statistics.

I've loved the field of human persuasion for years, and I think I can add something that I have written in the past to this conversation. I essentially made a list of marketing "truths", based on my research and experience, and have tested it against others. What remains of the list is what no one has been able to refute, so I think it's decently close to a list of universal irrefutable "rules of marketing."

The Truths of Marketing

1) Ethos (your perceived character) is the most important.

2) People make judgments by comparison/anchoring.

3) People process information best from stories.

4) People are foremost interested in things that affect them.

5) Breaking patterns gets attention.

6) People look to other people's decisions when making decisions.

7) People will believe things more easily that fit their pre-existent mindset. The converse is also true.

8) People handle one idea at a time best.

9) People want more choices, but are happier with fewer.

10) People decide first, then rationalize - If people are stuck with something, they will like it more over time.

11) Experience is memory, the last part of the experience is weighted heavily.

* Keep in mind that this should not necessarily be used a checklist; see what the director of a large creative agency says on the subject:

"I think that in broad strokes these truisms are accurate, but they aren't really how I personally get to the bottom of the marketing equation when working on a brand.

Of them, I think 1 and 4 are probably the closest, but I think the biggest problem is the same problem you find in how any analysis of consumers, or what is usually called "consumer behavior" is used -- it is, by definition, one step removed from what you're trying to analyze, yet it's treated like the consumers themselves.

Because consumers are often perceived as black boxes to marketers, there's a temptation to analyze their behavior and then market to that analysis instead of to them. Maybe this is because I'm on the creative side, but for me the most useful role of research is to inform and guide what is a form of for our consumer. To not just analyze what drives them, but to genuinely it yourself.

Reading research about twelve-year-old girls' purchase decisions and focus group transcripts is not the same thing as thinking like one. I have a client in that market, and I read everything when I'm working on something -- research, web sites, fan magazines, television -- but none of it is a substitute for sitting in a dark room and genuinely trying to imagine the trials of what it must be like to actually be a twelve-year-old girl from a first person perspective.

It sounds absurd, but that's how you come up with great ideas -- to do your best to become a twelve-year-old girl, and then develop things that you would enjoy.

So I think truisms like yours are useful as long as they remain a means to an end, and not, as they so often do, a checklist, or worse, the end itself."

Amazing summary. I've bookmarked this comment. Thank you. It would be great if you'd elaborate on each one in a post with one story that may have led you to realize this - to make it more memorable. Heck this could probably be a textbook but a short post would get the most eyeballs. And when you post it, i'd like to be the first to know.

It's [almost] like a checklist when working on any marketing project to get inspiration from and make sure you're doing a complete job.

Thank you. I intend to make and have sketched out a simple website that shows the list, but each item links to a separate page with sources, and also allows for comments. Alas for a lack of spare time!

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact