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What A Hacker Learns After A Year In Marketing (brooklynhacker.com)
260 points by coloneltcb on Aug 21, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 67 comments



I come from a marketing background, and I have to say that sometimes the negative view of marketers is completely deserved. All it takes is some kid in business school to watch The Social Network and decide he needs a "code monkey" to build his awesome idea. He becomes the "idea" guy, tries to find someone to give 10% equity to build everything, and gets ready to snort cocaine in Palo Alto.

But if you've ever worked with a truly talented marketer, it's an incredible experience. The way they can take something, craft the messaging to it's JUST RIGHT and find the proper channels to market on - it's a beautiful thing. But for someone who doesn't come from a marketing background, it's very hard to discern.

I'm sure there are really bad hackers (or do we still call them "hackers?"), but if you're a marketer it's hard to tell the difference.

Generally disrespect comes from a lack of willingness to understand what actually happens on the other side. I think it should be mandatory for every marketer to learn how to code - even if it's some basic HTML/CSS/JavaScript. Hackers should all have to try and acquire customers, and see that it's not all sending out a couple of tweets or emailing a TechCrunch columnist. Whether you consider the other side a "code monkey" or a "non-technical idiot," you're in big trouble. It takes two hands to clap, and both are immensely difficult to accomplish.

You have to specialize, but you also have to understand.


He becomes the "idea" guy, tries to find someone to give 10% equity to build everything, and gets ready to snort cocaine in Palo Alto.

I think marketers would be well served to do some self-marketing and figure out a way to spread the word that "idea guy" != "marketer". As you say, a truly talented marketer is something special. Most random "idea guy" types know bugger-all about marketing.


Actually in my experience, a lot of the best people in marketing are very much "idea guys". Some of them along the HN-hated template of "well just get some coder to knock it up" (being good at marketing doesn't automatically mean you understand anything about what technical people do..), some of them realise this isn't realistic or sensible.


Actually in my experience, a lot of the best people in marketing are very much "idea guys".

Right, marketers can (and probably should) be "idea guys", but not all "idea guys" are marketers. Most "idea guys" (in my experience) don't know much about anything at all. It's that distinction that I think real, professional, talented marketing people should try to make... otherwise they risk getting lumped in with the chumps.

Some of them along the HN-hated template of "well just get some coder to knock it up" (being good at marketing doesn't automatically mean you understand anything about what technical people do..)

So this is where my opinion may be biased by my technical background, and where I may go against the grain a bit... but I think really good marketers (of technical products, that is) should have at least a modicum of technical knowledge, and should understand exactly what their product does (if not the deep details of how it does it), and should be able to articulate - in some detail - how their product addresses a customer problem. To my mind, not being able to do that, as a marketer, is shooting yourself in the foot.


When it comes to marketing technical stuff, I'm on the fence. As someone who works in marketing, and whose inner geek loves tech stuff, I agree with you in principle - however my experience has shown me plenty of people who really know little about what they're selling and yet do a fantastic job. Possibly the reverse of this experience is that maybe they're better at short-term sales, worse at actually giving customers what they want and therefore worse at keeping customers, I suspect this is the case.

But anyway, when I was talking about good marketers who don't understand tech stuff, I didn't mean people who are marketing the same tech products (such as Twilio). For example I was speaking to a client this morning, a fairly important guy in a company that makes certain types of consumer PC components. Ask him about several areas, such as PSUs, and he knows everything, in so much detail. But my conversation this morning was helping him work out who in his company he needed to speak to about creating a small landing page, and how to get the subdomain he wants. He doesn't know the meaning of any of the following: "DNS", "IP", "sub-domain". Great at marketing, great at understanding the products he markets, but if he had an idea that involved any coding, he wouldn't have a clue.


I think the thing I'm coming around to is that an understanding of the core domain is pretty important to doing a job well. If I was in construction marketing and knew how concrete worked, I'd be advantaged over someone who didn't. If I was in plumbing marketing and knew the pros and cons of copper pipes, I'd be advantaged over someone who didn't.

Someone who is in the technology business at any level or capacity who understands technology has an edge over people who don't. In startup tech in particular, I'm seeing the ability to code as particularly advantageous regardless of where you hang your hat on the company floor plan.

Programming is the rainbow sprinkle that puts your sundae over the top. (blatantly trying to make @shit_hn_says here)


I cannot stress how useful this is. When I came to the SF Bay Area I was working for Intel, but I too felt that some day I wanted to run my own company. My job at Intel was an engineering job but I spent all day interacting with the marketing group and the design engineers as a liason. I realized I had some built in assumptions about how 'easy' marketing was and I didn't even know what they did.

When I was recruited into Sun I had a choice to either take a job offered by Marketing (Carol Bartz was my boss' boss :-) or the kernel group. I chose Marketing because I really wanted to learn that skill. It was a hugely valuable choice. After 18 months I decided at my heart I was an engineer and switched over to the systems group, but having that knowledge gave me a new found respect for what marketing folks have to do, day in and day out.

That in turn let me recognize the difference between good marketers and mediocre ones, and to understand what they needed from engineering to communicate to future customers.


Killer story Chuck. You should write a post of your experience. That stretch in Sun's history is always something that fascinated me - never get tired hearing stories from that period.


I was a bit hesitant to click the link, but I'm glad I did.

"As it turns out, the ones who do it well are rare and far less visible because - like good programmers - their work is a lot harder to notice."

This sums my experience perfectly. It takes a long time to be able to understand who is good at something and who is not.

Pardon my language but many marketers are charlatans. When I first started in marketing I thought the charlatans were the ones who were good (incompetent people [me at that time] are the least competent at recognizing those who are good). Now, after a decade at it I can firmly agree with the statement above and I think it bodes very well for the author.

I believe the 2nd point is the most important to understand when trying to get good at marketing. The rest is ancillary to doing a great job, but having the data is essential to knowing what to do.

I believe great marketers are like methodical scientists. They can put aside their own biases and test their hypothesis and analyze the data. Beyond that, they can look at the data in front of them, identify what they need to know more about, and discover things they did not expect. Through this they can affect change that improves the entire organization.


"I believe great marketers are like methodical scientists. They can put aside their own biases and test their hypothesis and analyze the data. Beyond that, they can look at the data in front of them, identify what they need to know more about, and discover things they did not expect. Through this they can affect change that improves the entire organization."

GREAT quote. Bravo. Way to put into words what I struggle to say. Thanks.


+1, but to be fair to the discipline, I think there are fair number of posers in any important line of work. Programming is plagued by the same affliction, as anyone who has ever had to fill head count will tell you.


That was a great little read. Whenever I try to explain to my developer friends why my job is important, I'm usually shrugged off rudely. This guy gets it, experience is the only way to learn WHY marketing is so essential.

My humble request to developers: Stop being dismissive of marketers, they are an essential part of the equation.


I think it goes back to what Rob highlights in the post.. the bad marketing is what sticks out. When we think of marketing, we think of booth babes, commercials with bad actors saying awkward things, and airheads who don't understand their business or product.

The best "sales" guy I ever met was a guy who just stopped and listened. He would ask a few questions, work to understand the underlying problems, and if he couldn't help directly, he'd put you in touch with someone who could.. and then buy a beer the next time he saw you.

I believe marketing should be the same way.

(Disclosure: I report to the OP at Twilio.)


When we think of marketing, we think of booth babes, commercials with bad actors saying awkward things, and airheads who don't understand their business or product.

That's covered under points 1 and 2 in the article. I found GoDaddy's "informational" videos to be even worse than the ads (at least the ads were just driving traffic, but the videos were incredibly condescending and treated the models as furniture). But I know that those were A/B tested with a lot of variations, and conversion is highest with "booth babes" and saying awkward things.


What's more--bad software marketing is SOOOO bad! Think of all that "cloud" marketing that is full of empty lies. Developers don't want to see that. It's such a frustration. I agree with the sentiment-- if you're a marketer, try to code something --or better yet, just download your product you're trying to sell. You need to empathize with your customers a bit to understand how they can get to your product.


This applies to so many fields. IT and security are two common examples from more technical areas. Both are invisible unless they screw up. Programmers get this a lot, too. Good software is often invisible to its users, and programmers mostly get attention when users hit bugs or bad design.

The way we see marketing is often the way a lot of people will see us, so it's something worth learning more about.


You're entirely right, the good sales person and the good marketer spark the conversation and keep it going. They shouldn't be the dominant voice. See my reply below as it pertains to this.

Sidenote: I love Twilio as a company and have ever since you guys sponsored a Startup Weekend in Chicago about 3 years ago. I wish y'all were hiring.



You're right! I actually checked before submitting that comment, I should have said, "I wish you guys were hiring IN CHICAGO."


If you're interested in Developer Evangelism in Chicago, email me. We make it there but not nearly often enough.

I'm Austin based.. and it's way better than SF. ;)


Austin is a town I want to live in some day! I'm emailing you now.


I think it's a culture thing. There are good marketers and there are terrible marketers.

In programming, there is a culture of calling people out for their bullshit. In most other business cultures, it's a bit less belligerent.


"In programming, there is a culture of calling people out for their bullshit. In most other business cultures, it's a bit less belligerent."

Marketing can be every bit as confrontational, but it's usually more passive aggressive. You'll rarely get called out in a meeting, but you'll get outmaneuvered or back-channeled after the meeting is over.

The field is incredibly political. When I worked in marketing, I felt like I was a character in "Game of Thrones." The constant alliances, shifts, backstabbings, feints, etc., were exhausting. Obviously, a great deal of this depends on company culture. But as general disciplines, marketing and sales seem to attract political types.

Given the choice between the two styles of confrontation, I'd much rather have it out in the room, all agendas laid bare on the table, than have to play GoT every day. But that's just a personal preference.


Can I also add the following things: the passing of the buck, unnecessary competition, brutal micromanagement, since marketing is "easy" everyone feels they are an expert, having to take responsibility for the failures but rarely getting credit for the wins, fighting for resources (even when you have the numbers on your side)...

I think a company where sales and marketing becomes more about politics and less about analysis and creativity is doomed to fail (or at least not achieve its real potential).


I agree with everything you're saying. It's driving me up a wall.


ENTIRELY dependent on company culture and this goes back to the lack of performance measurement for marketers. Everyone involved in the process is looking over their shoulders. If a company values marketing and gives their marketers "free reign" as it were, all is right in the world. When marketers are micromanaged, that Game of Thrones comparison is spot on.

The passive aggressiveness in the industry is suffocating.


The problem isn't so much that marketers don't have concrete and measurable KPIs. They do. But at many companies, marketers affect those KPIs only indirectly. For instance, if you work in marketing for a B2B sales-driven company, it's very hard for the marketers to quantify their performance (whereas it's fairly easy for the salespeople to do so, even if some credit deserves to be shared). Similarly, if you're working in marketing for a retailer, the buyers or operations people will be able to measure sales, profit margins, operational efficiency, etc. Marketing may have a huge impact on several of those metrics, but the marketer doesn't have his or her hand on the lever as directly as the buyer does. Etc.

The problem with the discipline of marketing is that it's often a complementary discipline. It's sort of like the Steve Nash or Magic Johnson of company operations: if it's performing well, it's enhancing the performance of everyone else on the team.

In certain industries, by contrast, marketing rules the roost. The consumer packaged goods (CPG) business, for instance, is directed by marketing. A marketer at a CPG firm, known commonly as a Brand Manager, is exactly that: he or she is running almost every aspect of a major brand. Accordingly, the performance of brand managers is (relatively) easy to measure. You've got sales, margins, market share, etc., and all of them tie fairly directly to your business decisions. Brand management is akin to general management, and many brand managers would argue that what they do is full-spectrum marketing; everyone in marketing in other industries is just performing a subset of what the brand manager does.


Really like this analogy. I'm coming around to the metaphor that engineering is the fire and marketing is the gasoline.

Still not sure if it applies universally, but generally acknowledge it can be the catalyst for a great product to get widespread adoption.


I think Apple is a classic example of tech marketing done extremely well. The engineers and designers build some truly outstanding products, but the marketers figure out how to sell those products to customers in equally impressive ways. There is real (and undervalued) skill in taking the set of all features a product has, and winnowing that set down to the perfectly curated and articulated list of benefits. And vice versa: there's real skill involved in figuring out the unarticulated needs of the marketplace ("the problems people don't even know they have").


Couldn't agree more - very difficult to measure your impact - we're using attribution modeling to get there.


>When I worked in marketing, I felt like I was a character in "Game of Thrones." The constant alliances, shifts, backstabbings, feints, etc., were exhausting.

This sounds fucking awful.


Yeah, it's tough for marketers in a different sense. Good marketing it pervasive, but no in your face and blatant. When a marketer is doing a good job, that "work" is not readily apparent because it could have been as simple as having the right conversation at the right time.

My daily struggle is to quantify my accomplishments, it really is too easy to dismiss the "marketing guy".


Often there is a culture of one-upmanship, which is subtly different.


Thanks. :)


You're welcome! Articles like yours encourage me to learn to code and become a more well rounded marketer.


If you're a coder, build something and figure out how to take it to market. Then, and only then, you'll understand marketing.

If you're a marketer, try and build something. Then, and only then, you'll understand development.

There's no better way to learn than to fail miserably.


I hear you here Dan, but I have to admit seeing it done right is pretty powerful as well. Working with Danielle Morrill and Lynda Smith in particular strongly accelerated my understanding of this business discipline.

I think there's room in the universe for both approaches.


I'm a writer and editor. I've done marketing and financial writing, and the job I'm starting in two weeks will require me to do technical writing. I've also started learning to code, because I'm interested in it and because it's an important part of how important systems in the world work.

There are common attitude problems on both sides of the the technical/non-technical fence. From the non-technical side, there's a sense of unfairness, that people with the interest to pursue technical subjects are guaranteed 80k/year jobs right out of college, that they are stuck-up and dismiss the ideas and opinions of people with fewer credentials, etc. Like most stereotypes almost none of that is true. My coder friends are some of the most generous, respectful people I've ever met. It's much harder even for someone trained in CS to get a job than it looks from outside. HN is largely technical--you know that there are reasons for how technical people behave even when it might seem strange to outsiders.

The most common mistake I see technical people make about non-technical people is in the area of algorithms and specifications. To but it simply: in a lot of disciplines, there aren't any. The common misunderstanding is that there are formulas you can use, or rules you can follow, to get the result you want in non-technical disciplines. There are huge numbers of artifacts in the world that aren't empirically measurable. Take a pair of jeans and say, "Is this OPTIMAL?" The question is as nearly meaningless as makes no difference. Look at a wedding bouquet, or a corporate event, or a logo. The people who make these things are constantly making choices informed by their education, experience and perception, but those choices aren't based on data that's easily quantified. At best, you start to notice patterns that work and patterns that don't work, which is something that I think can also be said about software development.


Good stuff. I guess, as hackers go, I was always a little weird, in that I always found marketing fascinating. But over the past year or so (and especially the past 6 months) I've been diving into marketing big time, studying as much marketing (and, to a lesser extent, sales) material as I can, and starting to do things like putting together a tentative marketing plan for our startup.

Wow. The OP is right, this stuff is NOT easy. Here's one for you... a guy named Chet Holmes, who is a fairly well known marketing guru (and who unfortunately passed away recently, R.I.P.) spoke a lot about "core stories" and how "market data trumps product data," and suggests that the "story" you tell about your product be informed by data about the market of the people you're selling too. So, if you're selling software to,say, bolt & screw manufacturers in the Southeast, you need to know what's going on with bolt & screw manufacturers in the Southeast, what the trends are, what problems they face, and how to talk to them in terms that relate to their problems first and foremost, and NOT your product first and foremost.

So, here's your homework... go out and start researching bolt and screw manufacturing in the Southeast, identify some meaningful trends and patterns, come up with hard numbers, economic issues, etc., and then find a way to use that to use that to tie your product to a problem those guys are having. And now write up a compelling educational brief for that market, which tells a good story, and educates, while contributing to demand for what you do.

Now come up with a great headline for your story that will capture someone's interest.

Now figure out how to get it in front of the people that need to see it.

Now call them and try to get a meeting so you can talk to them in person about the issues at hand.

Now do this for each identifiable target market you're pursuing (note: I'm referring mainly to B2B scenarios here, since that's what we do).

But wait, there's more... you also need to think about your "ultimate strategic position" and how all of your messaging contributes to that positioning, and about how to achieve "top of mind awareness" among your audience. And for extra giggles, coordinate PR campaigns, manage events, do market research which is more "product focused," etc., etc., etc.

Nah, this stuff is definitely not easy. It's hard in a way that's different from hacking (which is what makes it fun, to be honest), but hard nonetheless. I really have a newfound respect for the really good marketing people out there, and it's growing as I learn more about what marketing entails. Hint: It's not just throwing a few Google Adwords out there and waiting for the money to roll in (well, not for most of us, anyway).

(aside: I'm taking a very broad view of marketing here. I see marketing as a strategic component, which entails selecting the ideal customer segments, driving product decisions, receiving input/feedback from customers, determining the vision the company wants to communicate to the market, and communicating that to the market... as well as the tactical elements such as "create brochure," "create whitepaper," "create screencast," "organize PR campaign," "do focus group," "take pizza and t-shirts to hackathon," etc.)


I'm in a very similar position currently. Do you have any recommendations on resources/books to study? Actions to take?

I've been in the process of trying to redefine how we talk and show our product, build product flyers, discount flyers, pricing sheets -- all for using at conferences we attend and for attaching to e-mails. In addition, learning about the customer segment is something I've been trying -- but it is HARD!

E.g.: - How much can you really talk to your existing customers, or potential customers, to gather information before stepping over the line?

Building a great understanding of your customers is absolutely necessary to be an effective marketer. Building that understanding, and having a sense of how tuned-in you are, is hard and something I haven't yet figured out.


E.g.: - How much can you really talk to your existing customers, or potential customers, to gather information before stepping over the line?

My tip on that would be to seek out the customers that are having the biggest problems / most pain. You'll find that they're really happy to talk for as long as you like to help solve those problems.

They're also the most forgiving when it comes to any marketing missteps you make - since you're helping with one of their big pain points.

I've found a tendency among some dev-oriented folk to treat the "important" customers - the ones that you need most - with kid gloves. In fact those customers tend to need you just as much as you need them, so are much more willing to talk, advise and forgive than the larger market.


I'm in a very similar position currently. Do you have any recommendations on resources/books to study? Actions to take?

That's hard to summarize in concise fashion, as my own interest in marketing dates back over a decade, and I've read a book or two here and there, read an article here and there, etc. over those years, plus took Marketing 101 at the local community college, and even went out with a woman who was a marketer for a while (that bit was, by the way, totally a coincidence). So what I know about marketing has been cribbed together over a long period of time, and I wouldn't suggest you replicate my steps (especially that marketing gal).

That said, going from memory, I'll throw out a few things:

0. Read and digest The Four Steps to the Epiphany - it's not strictly about "marketing" in and of itself, but it certainly touches on elements of marketing, and should be required reading for any startup founder, IMO.

1. Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore (more marketing strategy / product strategy than marketing tactics, but a valuable read)

2. Lookup the current textbook for "Marketing 101" (or it's equivalent) at a nearby college. Go buy the book and read it, even if you don't take the class. If you have time and money, take the class.

3. The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes. I'm deep into studying Chet's approach now, and his book has some great stuff on it. If you can, get hold of his videos from the program he did with Anthony Robbins titled "Ultimate Business Mastery System." You can safely skip the Tony Robbins part, but Chet delivers some good stuff.

4. In Search of Stupidity by Merrill Rick Chapman.

5. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries, Jack Trout and Philip Kotler

6. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk! by Al Ries and Jack Trout

7. Re-Positioning: Marketing in an Era of Competition, Change and Crisis by Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin

8. The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by Al Ries and Laura Ries

9. Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition by Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin

10. Successful Business Research: Straight to the Numbers You Need - Fast! by Rhonda Abrams. This is good for learning about how to find the numbers you'll want to use to put together a first cut of a marketing plan. Think your "target market" is "screw, nut and bolt manufacturers in the southeast with more than 500 employees"? Then you need to know how many of those even exist, before you know if the market is even theoretically worth pursuing. Think your market is "adolescent girls in Massachusetts?" Then you might want population demographics and birth rates, etc. This is a good basic, (and cheap) book with some good pointers on how to get started on that kind of market research.

11. Marketing High Technology by William H. Davidow

12. How to Drive Your Competition Crazy: Creating Disruption for Fun and Profit by Guy Kawasaki

13. I'm a big Seth Godin fan, I'd say read anything and everything by him. The Purple Cow stands out in my memory as a particularly good one. Permission Marketing is good as well.

14. The Cluetrain Manifesto

Also, I don't have any specific titles handy (I'm out of town consulting right now, unfortunately, so I can't even walk into the other room and check), but just go to a good used book store near you (if you have one) and find a couple of cheap used textbooks on "marketing research" and "marketing strategy". The exact title won't matter, you just want something you can read through and get the high level stuff. You're not trying to become an MBA, just to learn the language and the broad brush stroke overview of what goes on.

E.g.: - How much can you really talk to your existing customers, or potential customers, to gather information before stepping over the line?

What line? Talk to people who will talk to you. Ask them for referrals to other people. Learn what questions to ask (The Four Steps to the Epiphany is gold on this bit). One thing that we've done (because our product isn't even shipping yet) is go in with a clear "this is an informational interview only, we're not trying to sell you anything" position. People are more open if they don't think you're trying to sell to them... but later, if you come back to them, they're now a warm contact - someone who knows you and has a little bit of a connection with you.

I've been in the process of trying to redefine how we talk and show our product, build product flyers, discount flyers, pricing sheets -- all for using at conferences we attend and for attaching to e-mails. In addition, learning about the customer segment is something I've been trying -- but it is HARD!

On this, I'll go back to what I said earlier in the thread, about how Chet Holmes emphasizes that "market data trumps product data" and "talk about the customer, not about your product." I can't do justice to summarizing that in the time/space I have here, but read Chet's book and see if you can get your hands on those videos. Google "core story" and find anything you can on how to develop a "core story". Once you have a solid core story about your product, and some good market data relevant to your target customer segment, you will be much better equipped to develop good sales/marketing collateral.

If you want to talk about any of this in more detail, feel free to shoot me an email.


> So, if you're selling software to,say, bolt & screw manufacturers in the Southeast, you need to know what's going on with bolt & screw manufacturers in the Southeast, what the trends are, what problems they face, and how to talk to them in terms that relate to their problems first and foremost, and NOT your product first and foremost.

Better yet, BEFORE you even develop the software, get the goods on your potential customers first. Even better yet, if you're just starting out, CHOOSE your potential customers.


Better yet, BEFORE you even develop the software, get the goods on your potential customers first. Even better yet, if you're just starting out, CHOOSE your potential customers.

Agreed. But a growing company may with an established product line may simply be looking to broaden out into additional markets.

Definitely for a startup though, you want to learn about your customers before - or in parallel with - building the product.


This is really thoughtful. Thank you.


Agreed. Even more difficult when your bolts and screws are only accessible via a POST request.


Nice piece - as a coder turned entrepreneur, the sales and marketing side of things has been exceptionally hard for me. It's a battle everyday, and if I could turn back time I would have ensured I worked in a marketing department, or with people skilled in the area before embarking down my current path...

That said, I'm in the hole now, learning as fast as I can, solo. Can anyone make some current/and also seminal marketing book must-haves?


> as a coder turned entrepreneur ...

As an entrepreneur turned doer-of-everything, I recommend you reconsider your path unless you're truly confident in your ability to execute on whatever skills you learn in RL, for real money. I'll give you vague suggestions anyway, but please realize you not only must have the sales and marketing down pat, you need serious money and cajones to go "solo", else you better have an impossible string of luck or one idea of the century after another.

This is not directed at you in particular, but HN is no different than other forums in other industries: you have a ton of people fronting like Jesus but who make shit revenue, then you have the people who make shit revenue, meanwhile 5% or less of the total posters are truly raking it in. Don't be willing to forefeit your field of specialty and competitive advantage after getting starry eyes on [insert website here], and 2) when you go to learn sales and marketing it is critical you learn only from truly proven people.

Well how about some suggestions: everything from copywriting classics (Ogilvy), contemporary marketing video course legends (Kern), to psychology and successful sales trainers.

stackthatmoney.com (not an affiliate)

If you are a coder, you have a significant advantage in that - assuming you're willing to approach your marketing and sales learnings like you approached learning to code - you can become better at sales and marketing than a (surprisingly) large number of life long salespeople and marketers. The question is, are you going to make the sacrifices necessary to both learn it all and then go out and do it.


Thanks for the tips - I've worked as a freelancer for the last 10 years, and have now run my own company for the last 2.5 years, so doer-of-everything is in my nature, and its just a matter of making the decision to really knuckle down with study and hard work.

For me, it's really about being frank with myself and rapidly addressing the areas of my knowledge and experience that are lacking, even if part of me doesn't want to. I'm surviving in my own business though, and my stronger concentration on sales and marketing is what will push me to the next level. Thanks again.


Thanks partner - hats off to you for jumping in the deep end.


I wrote about the exact opposite: what I've learned about getting users without any marketing or PR.

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4415473

I am posting this here in case someone who's good in marketing or PR sees it and reaches out.


I can absolutely attest to this. Rob came to a hackathon I participated in a few months ago at the University of Miami. He did a great job and really made Twilio seem totally awesome. He was great to work with and really pushed my team to reach above our potential.


Thanks yo! I just wore my UHack shirt the other day at the Red Sox game and a couple Hurricane alumni gave me a high five.

Had a great time.


There is a big difference between marketing for a brand and now always knowing your exact quantitative output in monetary value and performance based marketing. I work in performance based marketing running a variety of online ad campaigns for a number of clients. At the end of the day you always know exactly how much revenue you brought in and at what margins. It's exciting, creative, and extremely data driven. In this day and age marketing is partly creative, but is also subject to a variety of algorithms and mental calculations.


Now I can code all goddamn day and probably never achieve the same impact as that little conversation in the middle of a busy conference.

Correlation is not causation. Sounds like the author is about to enter that glossy pink world of hybris where you think the words that come out of your mouth is what makes the world go 'round. ;)

I'm not saying those words of encouragement where worthless, but they did not cause the development and launch of a successful business.


"... Sales and marketing were skills I just didn’t have and were I to ask others to entrust their livelihoods and their families in such an enterprise, it would be incumbent upon me to learn. ..."

Business/marketing readers, this would be the line you give back to hackers who say learn to code and point number 4, "You Can Learn To Schmooze" highlights a hackers weakest link, people.


It's good to be exposed to this sort of thing as an engineer. What it teaches you to do is how to make an impact--you can figure out that feature X, despite seeming boring and uncool, will dramatically change your business. That's a great skill to have and will definitely help your career in the long run.


I hope so. The strange effect has been it has up-leveled my community impact for the developer communities in New York I care most about. Learning this stuff has definitely helped me converse better with my own kind.


Thank you for giving a little bit of reputation for our trade of skills around here :)


It's tough work. Not sure I'll ever be good enough at it to be a marketer, but hats off to you lot. It's tough.


WRONG TITLE: This post is about developer evangelism than marketing lessons. Please make sure you know what you're talking about @author


Developer evangelism is marketing.


Old-style marketing is where you run around to meetings and conferences, build relationships, convince people one on one. Old-style marketing is dead. I say this as an old-style marketer.

Why dead? Old-style isn't repeatable, it doesn't scale, and you can't train for it. Old-style is expensive, and doesn't mesh with developer culture.

Growth hacking has replaced old-style marketing. (google it!) Growth hacking has super-scale, repeatability, measurabilty. Growth hacking is code-driven - it is developer culture.

IMHO the best approach is Steve Blank style customer development, followed by product development and growth hacking. Developer culture top to bottom.


"Old-style marketing is where you run around to meetings and conferences, build relationships, convince people one on one. Old-style marketing is dead. I say this as an old-style marketer."

I'm pretty sure you're describing sales rather than marketing. And growth hacking, while a cool approach, hasn't replaced anything in traditional, old-style marketing - as a recent meeting at P&G has shown me.

To me, the growth hacking idea is simply another way of saying "how do we make our product viral", which was the question everyone asked me after Hotmail blew up. The difference, and I think there is one, is that you think of putting someone in a marketing role in charge of this, instead of product, with the assumption that the marketer actually has some clue as how to create growth.

That all being said, as a marketer, I'm intensely data focused!


The two types of marketing are for different products. Growth hacking is when you have data, flow of traffic and can manipulate it with code.

You can't do that when your doing marketing for B2B sales clients, which pretty much requires you to show up for meetings, etc.


It's not dead. Far from it. You still need to have meetings and conferences. The amount will just depend on your industry.

I really like the idea of growth culture, but thinking that it will apply to all industries is short sighted IMO.

I run a marketing analytics groups and I'm an ex-hacker/ex-database analyst (C/perl/php/mysql/postgresql/SAS/Oracle).

Most of the good marketers making their way to the leadership positions with digital marketing in my n=1 perception have a mix of marketing and hacking on their resume.

I find the two skills very complimentary.


Well, I have to agree. How you go to market depends on your business and industry.

But to the extent that you can align your business with growth-hacking style marketing, the better off you're gonna be. IMHO.




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