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Diary of a programmer with no clue about marketing (neat.io)
307 points by basil on Nov 6, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 144 comments

Nice. So one of the things that happened to me when I came to the Bay Area was I was working at Intel and I had to talk to a lot of marketing folks (who were talking to 'the public' about Intel's chips). I realized I didn't have a clue what they did.

I set out to correct that before I started my own company and looked for a job that would let me work closely with marketing but still be engineering based. I found one at Sun which was effectively a 'technical marketing engineer' although at the time I joined the marketing folks just needed an engineer to translate what the competition was doing into something they could argue about. I too was amazed at how much more complex it was than my simplistic assumptions had been. I moved over into the kernel group later (they too had offered me a spot when I had interviewed) and have been pure engineering ever since but never forgot the lessons of that time.

Things I learned,

1) Marketing is not sales - Sales is the process by which you convince someone with money to give it to you in exchange for a good or service. Marketing is the thing that happens before that which informs you why you might want to talk to a sales guy. A guy marketing a car will tell you that the car has the highest safety rating ever, the guy selling the car will tell you if you write a check right now he will take an additional $1,500 off the sticker price.

2) Marketing is about perception, and perception is personal. The job of a marketeer is to communicate an idea so that you can see it and perceive it the same way the marketeer does. That requires that you first discover the perceptual language of the target, then translate the message into that perceptual language, communicate it, and then test again for understanding. Marketing a car that smells like bacon to a vegetarian just doesn't work. If the biggest chunk of car buyers are vegetarians, and your car consistently smells of bacon, you need to translate that into something positive somehow. Not simple :-).

3) Marketing is ubiquitous - one of the interesting conversations with my daughter as a teen about what to wear, your clothes give others an impression of you, you cannot prevent that, all you can do is control it. People are constantly taking these bits of information in and reasoning about them consciously and unconsciously. To be successful you have to have influence over as many of those information channels as possible. Getting that influence can be tricky.

Basically, it isn't as easy as it looks like it should be was my conclusion.

I'd add that Marketing is about value creation ultimately. You have to start with the right mindset, i.e. that you product has no value per se, and that marketing is everything you are going to do around your product/service to create the perception of its value. Your customers don't know how time you spent on it, they don't care how complex it is, they don't even want to know how it works (at least not until they are interested to buy it). You have to somehow create the need (that may be either a true need, or a perceived need) and your product/service has to be a presented as perfect fit (whether true or not) for it. Sometimes products/services create new needs as well so you need additional engagement to focus on the need itself if it's not obvious.

We operate with this mindset for each of the roles in our org:

Sales: assume the product sucks and your job is to convince customers to buy a really shitty product

Product: assume that there is no sales and your job is to create a product that people cannot stop raving about after using it for few minutes

Client Services: assume the product sucks and your job is to still keep the customer satisfied

You working for Red Bull?

Edit: To clarify: Red Bull is, for me, THE epitome of marketing. They sell a tremendously unhealthy product (bacon-smell car) as something that is healthy, basically by connecting themselves with extreme sports. Red Bull IS extreme sports and lifestyle. How insane if you think about it.

Seriously, have you seen what they do in extreme sports? I think a bit of Red Bull won't kill those guys, but lack of concentration might. :)

I agree with you though.

Red Bull is extreme sports, bottled for the sedentary.

Curious, is Red Bull any more unhealthy than Coke?

I don't know, probably not. But Coke's marketing is more towards lifestyle in general. Red Bull is explicitly associated with "being active", "sports", even "high endurance" and "extreme situations". But in these situations, you won't need a Red Bull. Red Bull establishes a fake image that, to some degree, is the exact opposite of the actual product.

> But in these situations, you won't need a Red Bull.

It's pretty easy to attack a product with the argument that "you won't need" it. There are only a handful of things that humans truly need.

I think what he means is this: When I'm tired from snowboarding, skateboarding, or really any of the extreme sports they sponsor; Do I feel like grabbing a Red Bull, or do I want water (and 5 minutes to catch my breath)?

I understand but that goes for just about every marketing campaign. If I want a threesome, the answer is not to saturate myself with a can of Axe.

Ha! That's a hilarious analogy. What would you do instead?

Haha, I like your way of putting it. I'll save your comment and re-use it when I have the chance :)

Just one thing I wanted to add. If anyone has a startup idea "Marketing as a Service", HN is probably a good place to start your service since we see this as a regular need: people making applications they have no clue how to market. There's probably a ton of unmet needs in this field.

Lots of people have had that idea, but it doesn't work because you just end up with "Sales as a Service" to use your words.


Marketing as a service has been around for years. They are called Ad Agencies.

That's not really what I meant. Ad agencies only do a very tiny part of what I call Marketing. If you think that's only it, you are reducing Marketing to a very small chunk of what it actually is.

As a marketer who is also a founder I'd love to hear more about your idea.

Marketing done wrong is advertising an already conceived product.

Marketing done right is strategic. It's about segmenting a market, targeting the right niche, and looking for the right positioning within the niche. It's about guiding the product towards both stated and unstated needs. It should happen before, during and after development. And yes it should also involve generating demand.

Starting marketing after the fact is like building quality into an already created product. Quality is designed in.

Another Sun story. I was at the annual Sun employee conference way back in 2002. As engineers, we were raving about Java/Swing & the JDK. After a while, one of the audience members couldn't take it anymore & spoke up loudly - "WTF is Java ? It has never made a dime. We sell boxes. That's what makes money. We should be talking about that!"

He was a marketing guy for the Sparc workstations that was Sun's bread & butter. Atleast for a brief window of time, the Java server-side experience was actually better on a Sparc than anywhere else.

Perhaps you can clue me in: What was Sun's plan with Java? For a company that sold hardware, making a runtime that works everywhere, and has cross-platformness as a core feature seems sort of counterproductive. Did Sparc offer some sort of competitive advantage, hardware wise (like hardware assisted GC) or something?

Edit: In Microsoft's case with the CLR, I can see the cross-platform goals being mainly technical, but MS sells software and developer tools. So it makes sense for them to get everyone using their platform. Did Sun have an aggressive plan to control the ecosystem and sell tooling and whatnot around it?

As an original member of the Java group I can tell you they didn't really have a plan. Prior to it going viral the plan was to flush it and move on, everyone had made plans for a new job come Jun 30th, 1995 (the end of the Sun Fiscal quarter and the point at which the funding was ending for the "LiveOak" group.

Once it was being seen as the "death" of Microsoft, taking away the desktop monopoly and moving it into the browser. Well then it became a hammer to beat upon the enemy, and beat they did.

That it was effective against Microsoft ensured it would get funding and support, it also prevented some really useful things from coming to market from Sun at least (like a native compiler, ala gcj, in which to build Java 'binaries')

"For a company that sold hardware, making a runtime that works everywhere, and has cross-platformness as a core feature seems sort of counterproductive."

This might possibly be connected to the fact Sun no longer exists as an independent corporation.

> ... no longer exists as an independent corporation

You can safely say just "no longer exists". Oracle made sure it erased any trace of Sun trademark from anywhere it could. Now it is Oracle Java, Oracle VirtualBox,... I always wondered why they chose to totally eradicate this trademark instead of keeping it. Does anyone know?

Relatedly, I was at sun in 2002 and went to one of the town halls that Johnathan Schwartz was doing in menlo park. Someone asked how we would make money from {thing} and he was told by Mr. Shwartz that engineers shouldn't worry about how to make money from things, they should focus on the code.

One of the many reasons our stock price went from $80 to $2 methinks...

I would disagree with that characterization. At the time it was released Sun was losing the battle for "Web" mindshare to SGI and was on the verge of becoming irrelevant as the 'wave' of the Web hit its crusty servers. There was certainly a lot of 'drag' as they say in terms of buying servers from the maker of Java. Especially as it became the defacto business logic implementation tool. So while I don't think licensing revenues paid the development bills (I may be wrong there) I know it kept Sun in the game during the dot.com explosion.

I want to know why Jini failed and if something like it (internet dialtone) either exists now or will exist.

A few notes... Marketing for large enterprises is a different challenge than promoting a product on your own, so insights from working at SUN might not translate into street level marketing.

1) marketing is not sales - This is absolutely incorrect. Marketing is any communication that touches a prospect or customer. Copywriting is salesmanship in print. Sales is absolutely a key ingredient of marketing!

2) Marketing is about perception - Partially true... Branding is about perception, marketing is about much more than just perception.

3)Marketing is Ubiquitous - This time you got it right!!! Marketing is influencing every possible touchpoint with consumers.

I feel like this comment might sum up the difference between high traction B2C and slow and steady B2B. At no point do you mention the closing or cashing the check. Your approach is perfectly valid for most B2C stuff, but as a B2B guy, this looks completely foreign. Definitely a learning experience for me at least. As a B2B, this approach would IMHO fall on its face miserably, but I can totally see how this would be effective when more users == more value and sales-guy-on-a-phone is not scalable. That said, for B2B people, I would be highly skeptical that this approach would work. When your market is small, you had better have closers on the line to ring the bell.

To be fair, at the time Sun had exactly 4 products, the Sun 3/50, the Sun 3/75, the Sun 3/160, and the Sun 3/280. But you are absolutely correct that Enterprise marketing is different than start up marketing. I was fortunate to be at Sun through the transition.

We'll have to disagree on your characterization of Marketing as Sales, I see them as two very different types of communications. That said, I know people who flip back and forth between the two, and people who are really stuck in one side or the other.

Marketing is about matching up the right message to the right market through the right media...

Sales is a marketing tactic. The salesman is the media, the sales pitch is the message, and the prospect is the market...

The pitch and process might be different, but thats because its a different form of marketing than print or tv or internet,etc...

But... your sales team should be under the umbrella of your marketing department... otherwise you will have the classic conflict of bad leads vs. bad salesman, a classic environment where people can easily shirk responsibility and shift blame instead of recognizing that they are all part of the same process.

Wow... this was truly a great, insightful post. I definitely learned something.

Thank you sir. Added your blog to my bookmarks.

I'm vegetarian, but bacon still smells good.

Mmmm, bacon! I am a vegetarian and thank God that bacon is the only flavor that can be faked well.

If it helps, you just keep believing that.

Upvote for making me literally lol

This is going to sound sanctimonious, but I'm vegetarian and to me bacon smells like rotting corpse (because that's what it is).

Except it's not - it's well preserved, and not decomposing in the way that a rotting corpse would be.

It's still a decomposing dead animal, preservation just slows down the process. If you don't believe me, leave a pack of bacon in your fridge for two months then take a big sniff.

Of course, picked vegetables are also decomposing at a certain rate - but they don't have a dead animal smell. This is also why I'm excited about Soylent, and I haven't seen them play up the sustainable/ethical angle as yet.

Yes bacon is "a dead animal", but the typical bacon smell is not related to that. Bacon smells of cured meat, and there if you fry some cured vegatarian/vegan products you get a simmilar smell. (Deep fryed, thin sliced, King Oyster Mushrooms with smoked Salt).

> It's still a decomposing dead animal, preservation just slows down the process.

Isn't that the same for all dead vegetables as well? You can dry cure meat to a point where it will barely change if the environment is just right.

Looks like you didn't bother actually reading my comment before responding to it. It was only two very short paragraphs, the second of which began: "Of course, picked vegetables are also decomposing at a certain rate - but they don't have a dead animal smell."

And dry cured meat is not relevant to my initial statement that to me, bacon smells like dead animal. Actually, jerky doesn't have that smell. I miss jerky, but I like cows more.

You and I are also decomposing, I wouldn't say we smell like decomposing animal. The rate of decomposition changes the dominant smell, so it's not really valid to say that bacon smells like decomposing dead animal, because it smells much more like other things.

Unless you're a zombie, you are not decomposing, you're aging[1]. I'm afraid there's a rather sharp binary distinction between alive and dead. I suppose one could argue that the pigs confined within a factory farm never really get to live.


Ah you're right, sorry, my point was that cells are being damaged all the time and then repaired, but it's not quite the same.

Except we've established :

1) bacon's smell has nothing to do with bacon itself - it's the preservatives that are used just the same for vegetables (sometimes)

So you're just responding to a bad eating experience from long ago. I have the same - with fish. I can't stand being in the same room with it, I can't eat it without throwing up. I also know it's safe because for the first 3 years of my life I ate almost nothing but fish, and then I guess I ate a bad batch, and given my parent's habits I'm guessing I was forced to finish that. That's what's causing my aversion.

I like to say that it's animals (and plants) forced to swim in their own faeces all their life, even in human faeces near coastal cities where nearly all fishing happens. I know several other people who have an aversion to certain foods (different from allergy because aversion is psychological, allergy is physical). But I'm under no illusion that fish is actually unhealthy. On the contrary, I fully realize it's healthy (and yes, I make sure to eat/drink/season things with fish oil on a regular basis)

I would say that there's a lot of reasons you should reconsider vegetarianism though.

2) humans can't survive without eating the components of meat. There is no doubt about it, all human species are omnivores : while we can live for long periods without meat, it's risky, and going entirely without meat leads to death (even replacing meat with fish is risky). In the modern world it's actually possible to get a meat-replacing diet, using many components. Most vegetarians don't do it this way - they ignore the problem. Result : at first, slimming, which is what they're generally going for, and after a while (generally months or years) : sudden shutdown of a bodily function, or sudden death after a medical incident or blood loss (because it depletes stores of critical molecules they can't replace). Vegetarianism not healthy, it just slows the rate of depletion of critical proteins to a rate that won't cause issues for years (in an adult. Try it on a baby and they WILL die. E.g. http://naturalhygienesociety.org/diet-veganbaby.html )

A lot of vegeratians seem to think an attack against vegan/vegetarian diets is an attack against them. And because they've developed this psychological aversion, that there is something evil about a person trying to "convert" them. No matter the science behind it.

there's an argument that while vegetarianism certainly isn't an ideal diet, it's better than McDonald's. And that's probably true.

> we've established : 1) bacon's smell has nothing to do with bacon itself

That has been asserted, not established. I assert that if one is a regular meat-eater, they no longer notice the corpse smell.

> 2) humans can't survive without eating the components of meat... going entirely without meat leads to death

Oh lordy, where do I even begin with this broscience. Allow me to introduce some actual Science.

In 2003, 42% of Indian households were vegetarian and ate no fish, meat or eggs[1]. There are many cultures around the world who abstain from meat for religious reasons, eg Buddhists and Hindus. I'm afraid this directly contradicts the outlandish claim that a vegetarian diet leads inevitably to ill-health and death.

[1] http://www.fao.org/WAIRDOCS/LEAD/x6170e/x6170e09.htm

1) What you describe is clearly psychological aversion. Please don't call it anything else. You notice it, others don't and it makes you sick. That's called aversion and has zero cause outside of your own mind. It means you got sick after eating pork a long time ago. Nothing more. Nothing bad about it, most people have at least one aversion. Explaining it through "corpse smell" is stupid though.

2) a lot of Indian households are indeed "vegetarian", in the sense that they can't afford any meat (not even poultry). They replace it by eating animal fat on bread. Pig fat mostly. Europeans do the same thing, and today you can get it as a delicacy. It's a very original taste, but let me tell you. If you dislike the smell of bacon, this is unlikely to agree with you.

3) "There are many cultures around the world who abstain from meat for religious reasons, eg Buddhists and Hindus". Hindus abstain from eating cow meat (though not milk). I'm not aware of Buddhist attitudes, but the first line on wikipedia directly contradicts what you're saying [1]. Clearly it's only monks (which have been eating meat for -at least- 14 years as part of the general population). There are zero cultures around the world that abstain from meat alltogether. For obvious reasons : if you do, people die, without fishoil and pig fat ("food supplements", guess what they're made of ?).

4) how do you talk yourself out of the -many- cases of food deficiency caused by vegetarianism and/or veganism ? Not just the ones today, but the many documented attempts, for seafaring and other travels of vegetarian diets that resulted in death on a large scale. Large enough to alter outcomes of battles, kill entire crews and so on.

5) Also the tons of instances of babies dying from food deficiency where it was blamed -by medical professionals- directly on the diet of their parents ? I hope you're not planning on having kids - ever (although a kid will be fine with a vegetarian father, it's the mother that causes problems early on. Afterwards, not feeding the kid meat or fish is bad). Hell I checked in the supermarket here and the apple + banana baby feed mentions that infants can't survive on fruit alone, and you really should also provide meat and fish products, ideally both.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_vegetarianism

This topic has nearly reached maximum depth, and you clearly aren't interested in a rational discourse at any rate. So I will leave you with two thoughts:

1. Everything you have said about Hindu and Buddhist vegetarianism is poorly researched and inaccurate.

2. If you are going to make extraordinary claims like "vegetarianism inevitably leads to illness and death", you'd better provide some compelling scientific sources rather than "zomg this vegan baby like totally died once lol XD".

Upon reflection I think you have just been trolling me. Poor show, HN is a place for serious conversation, not reddit style childishness. Jog along.

You make it sound like I'm making an even remotely controversial claim. Billions (in fact, all 7 of them, easily) eat meat and most live healthy lives eating it. All cultures, all ethnicities, all genders, all everything. You're the one claiming this is somehow bad, and you're acting like I'm making this grand contradictory claim, when it's you that is making the ridiculous far-fetched claim.

Mmmmm, gamey. Makes me think of well hung duck.

Sales is the process of overcoming objections.

If your marketing isn't helping you overcome objections, you need better marketing, because your marketing isn't selling.

"So now after years of neglecting anything to do with marketing. I get it. Marketing is hard. So crushingly hard.Also I was incredibly naive in thinking that the product was so good that the marketing would just snowball itself into action"

This right here ... a 1000 times. I've been a developer for years now and I always held onto the same fantasy of launching something so good that marketing would take care of itself. After building a couple of products and being involved in a startup or two I've found that getting software built is not usually as hard as marketing it successfully

I don't mean to reply with just a me too - but, absolutely agree with you through my own spend a year developing a product I can't market experiences...

Software Development = Easy

Marketing that Software = Wicked Hard

Software Development = Easy

This is only true because most people are building fairly trivial software.

Was talking to an extended family member a few months ago, who had built up a large marketing channel for a potential new game, and was frustrated because he couldn't find a developer to build the game at a price he was willing to pay.

So I would say, it's only true because Hacker News consists mostly of people who already know how to build software, but far fewer of us know how to market.

You are taking that in a different context. It should be read as software development is easy compared to marketing that software.

For example, in a child comment you mention go build photoshop and get back on how "easy" it is. Problem is more complicated the software, harder the marketing part. In-fact, you might need a full fledged marketing and sales team if you were to successfully launch a complicated software.

Fairly trivial software sells too, my friend.

Sure. Trivial software + heavy marketing seems to be the quickest path to software riches lately.

But that doesn't mean we should make blanket statements that building software is easy. Because it's only easy if the problem you're trying to solve is easy.

The size of a need and the complexity of software for that need tend to be completely unrelated.

People are paying in proportion to the pain/joy you solve, not in proportion to how hard it is to solve that. The difficulty affects only supply - i.e., if you do make it, how large the competition will be.

Sure. If anything they tend to be inversely related. But go build Maya or Ableton Live or Photoshop and get back to me on how "easy" it is to build software.

I,oddly enough, had the opposite. Gave my software out to a few friends (wrote it for myself, as the others in its class sucked), Next thing I know I'm getting 100k d/l a month (paying for overages, fun) - and soon after have a few million users. Never have spent any money on advertising (even though the software DID make it on to a TV show in Denmark a few years later - and magazines, newspapers, etc.) Still getting downloads and new users.

Have also written tons of other stuff that this did NOT happen to :)

The Software was "StationRipper" (still IS StationRipper - first released in 2003. Holy crap, Dec 13 2003!?!?!!??!!? I'm glad I posted this, I had no idea it was almost the 10th anniversary!!!)

"Wrote it for myself, the others in its class sucked" sounds like the key to your success. Poor competition, which is always helpful. A solid understanding of the customers' needs, because you were one of them. And a very large market.

Just curious, what software was this?

I'm currently in between a programmer and a marketing guy in a specific niche. My interpretation is slightly different:

With software, you can find a way to get it to work. Given the right knowledge, you can accomplish your goal. (Assuming a goal that other people of similar skill have achieved it, and not proving P=NP type stuff.)

With marketing, even if you do everything "right", there's still a huge chance at failure. Being experienced, knowledgeable, and focused doesn't mean you'll accomplish what you set out to do.

I think it's related to the fact that you control software when you write code. Marketing has so much outside of your control that even doing everything right still only results in a < 100% success rate.

Nice! Great to read your experience from creating a product to launching it. Also glad to win over another developer to not thinking that all marketing is BS ;-)

Some tips from a marketer:

+Get analytics set up! I see that you've only mentioned the top of the funnel (traffic) and the bottom of the funnel (downloads). I'm assuming you don't have tracking for the full flow (traffic > install > activation > day 1-30 retention > Sales). Get this set up pronto. It's crucial to understand where the bottlenecks are and to also segment traffic to know which efforts are working.

+Marketing starts before you launch. You'll get a far stronger reaction from blogs, sites, and other people when you contact them 2-3 weeks before launch. Creates a sense of exclusivity and plus gives you some momentum to develop an installed base from Day 1. In light of this, perhaps you should call the current app an 'alpha' and re-launch to get some buzz :-)

+Major sources for you to consider: Organic: SEO Referral: Blogs, 3rd Party App Stores, Tech Sites, Forums, Quora, Stack Overflow, and where ever people who have the problem you're trying to solve is asking for help. Partner: App stores, resellers, etc... Paid: Facebook, AdWords, LinkedIn, GDN (I advise you to do thorough research before starting. It's easy to launch poorly designed campaigns and get the misinformed idea that these channels don't work) Viral: Add any social sharing anywhere you can.

+App Review sites review 100s of requests each day. I ran FreeiPadApps.net for 2-years and received 20+ app review requests/day. Mostly from indie developers, agencies, and bots. Try instead to reach out directly to an editor or writer by email/twitter/linkedin.

+SEO: Get up to best practice (title tags, headings, kw research and mapping to content), but don't bank on it. The gold rush for SEO growth circa 2007 is largely over :-(

+Look heavily into any type of 3rd party app stores for free promotion.

+Not sure of JIRA/Github has any 3rd party app pages. Worthwhile to look into this and seeing if you can get included.

With all that said, doing everything above will get you on par with what everyone else is doing. To separate yourself from the pack, the awesomeness of the product needs to take over :-)

Best of luck!

some other tips

- reddit can be a goldmine of traffic because it has so many subreddits that one is bound to cover your niche (IF you have a really niche product)

- have a blog, then write interesting things that may not necessarily have to do with your product in a direct way 42floors.com is a good example to follow.

- optimize said blog for SEO

- make sure you get email addresses from prospects that land on your site and use them, email marketing is one of the most effective forms of marketing software ... go here for how http://www.kalzumeus.com/2012/05/31/can-i-get-your-email/

- make sure you have at least a twitter account and if you have the time, fish for people that could be interested in your product by finding tweets about competitors, or hashtags related to your product. engage these tweeters.

etc etc ad nauseam

I hate to admit I'm mostly posting to remind myself of this comment but all of this advice is pure gold. You can almost never have too many metrics and you can always dial it back. Not knowing is the worst feeling and there's so many ways to track in apps like this, it always makes sense unless you pay per volume. Hitting that volume would most likely be a great problem to have anyway so there's very little to lose, I think.

Extremely great advice here. Most people might think this is second nature, but there really is a list of boxes to check and these are all necessary.

Your website is a perfect demonstration of your title.

A nice funky starfield with a pretty logo taking up half of the page, and a partial screen shot taking up to the rest of my screen space (1920x1080).

Nothing about what it does instantly pops out. Then I realise there's more, so I scroll - Something, something, JIRA, GitHUB, FogBUGZ, something something.

Hmm, ok, based on that probably not something I'd need. Close the page (before even getting to any of the other stuff).

Come here to read the comments, and buried away here, I found this comment by you https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6686624, which says:

"I work on contract iOS jobs and I need to track my time to invoice my clients. It sucks using my web browser to start and stop the timer. "

And I think, this, yes, a thousand times yes, and am now downloading it to try it out.

The takeaway from all this, I shouldn't have to find out about that from a comment tucked away on HN, but your website is not arranged in a way that makes it immediately obvious that I want this product.

And now, the download finishes and I run it, and it turns out it won't run on Lion. It would have been nice to mention somewhere what versions of OSX it runs on.

You don't need AdWords right now.

This comes from an AdWords guy. Seriously, work on marketing to the community and with content, not with paid ads. Paid ads come in when you've identified a market, medium to reach them and what your message is. Have that nailed before you spend a dime :)

This looks like something I could actually use. I've just downloaded it.

My take from the website, there is no price on the main page. I have to click 'Buy Now' with no idea whether I want to actually purchase. Which is a commitment (in my head) that I'm not prepared to make without knowing the price.

I didn’t even realise it wasn’t free until reading your blog listing 'sales' separately to 'downloads'. Price needs to be way more obvious up the top. Only now just seeing it’ll cost $50, is a disappointment after thinking it was free.

$50?? Wow. This person needs to learn more than just marketing.

I thought the same

I'm one of those people who downloaded the trial, ran it for a few days, and then deleted it. I liked a lot of things about the app, but there were a few bits that I found unintuitive—particularly around managing multiple projects from different sources.

I decided to pass, but I bookmarked it so that I'll be able to find it again in the future if I ever find that I really need a quick way to access my Jira issues from the desktop.

The $49 price is entirely reasonable considering the breadth of the feature set and the target audience, but it does put it outside the impulse purchase comfort zone. It might have been helpful to put it on sale at launch with a discounted price in order to build some traction and lower the barrier to adoption for people who are on the fence.

This is the second or third post I'm seeing today where a dev person could use some help with marketing their product. This is what I consult in, so I'd be happy to try and answer any questions you or anyone wishes to ask. Fire away!

If the answer requires more information then I'll ask you to email me instead.

Oh man nobody replied, guts

Hrm... random impressions I had:

1) The above the fold stuff sort of showed me what it describes itself as, but not what it really is. A looping animation or video would have been really helpful.

2) The below the fold stuff originally came across as separate products. Like I thought it was your catch-all page for a few other products you've made. So maybe you could make it clearer that they are all components of Bee.

3) Just my own reaction that I noticed - when you demonstrate compatibility with several outside services, there might be a weird disincentive to try it out if the potential customer doesn't use all of those services. Like I immediately had a suspicion that since I use Jira but not Github or Fogbugz, that the other focuses of the tool would get in the way or make it feel unwieldy. (I didn't download it to disprove that feeling.)

4) Time/task tracking is a REALLY crowded space, and I imagine it is really difficult to convince someone to try out a new tool, partly because of switching costs. For instance, for me, I use Quickbooks on the Mac, and I'm pretty married to Intuit's "My Time" since it's the only tool I know of on the Mac that will automatically transfer time records to Quickbooks, which I then use to make invoices. And then if someone asks me why I create my invoices from time records in Quickbooks, then... heck, I dunno, I made the decision at one point and it works for me. I could do a whole first-principles analysis I guess that might lead me to a completely different way of working that might lead me to being able to using a different time-tracking app like Bee, but... I don't like going that low on my e-Maslow's hierarchy very often.

5) No obvious mention of price on the front page... no obvious indicator of what clicking the "Buy" button will do or where it will take me. I moused over it, looked for an info tip, and didn't click. (I'm one to just buy rather than deal with download/try/maybe-buy.)

Basil - beautiful aesthetic. A few thoughts for you:

1. You are currently marketing the features of your application. Consider instead marketing the problem that you're solving. Demonstrate that you understand the problem and then show why Bee is the solution to it.

2. Which value proposition are you competing on? Clayton Christensen suggests that often markets move through functionality, reliability, convenience, and price. For software professionals, that probably looks like functionality, usability, reliability, convenience, and price.

3. As a gut reaction, your price to feature set seems off. How did you originally come up with the price? It's one of the hardest and most difficult things. If I were you, I'd set up an intro price of $19 while you're on HN front page, and advertise that right on the landing page.

Nice work. I've also recently released my first Mac app [0] and I'm working on getting the word out about it by making it free, the idea being that if it's known by people, it can be spread through word-of-mouth, especially if it becomes indispensable. GitHub's API currently reports 600 users, and I'm working on increasing that to 1000 before making it a paid app and marketing it.

Nice to see both approaches here; I wonder which truly works better in the long run.

[0]: http://issuepostapp.com/

Really liking the app. Also enjoyed the "free for a limited time", adds a bit of a time component where you download it quickly and then maybe get hooked to it for when you have to pay later on.

Thanks! Totally agreed, I think that psychologically, 'free for a limited time' makes people have to make a decision on whether they want it now or not, which is an interesting behavior.

Great landing page, although it would be handy to be able to replay the video. There is a lot happening there and I didn't catch everything at first.

Good call, I'll try to work on adding a replay button to the page—though since there's so few elements already and one more may break the balance of it. Thanks for the feedback!

I've been using your app a little bit since I saw it mentioned on HN. Really well done. It's simple, intuitive, and gets out of the way as soon as I'm done using it. Thanks.

Thank you! This is amazing to hear—those qualities of the app (simple, intuitive, gets out of the way) are exactly the points that I want to target, so I'm really glad that it's hitting on those. Cheers for the feedback.

I love your landing page. I know exactly what it does, how it provides value, and will look it up again if I ever find myself creating lots of Github issues.

Thank you! I worked on making it highly targeted so people knew exactly what it does as quickly as possible, so I'm glad that it got across.

That intro video says it all. Beautifully done.

Thanks a ton! I tried to make the intro video simple yet deliver the message effectively, and it's good to hear that folks get it.

looks great! Love the simplicity of the landing page too. Though I'm a little unsure why you have the reddit page in your video? Did you mean that with your tool, you'd save lots of time (to waste?). I personally find it distracting and misleading.

Thanks! Haha, the Reddit bit was just to put in a gag that I feel like a lot of programmers will recognize, nothing more.

I've been using Bee for the past week to avoid interacting with Jira's slow interface and it's been absolutely excellent. It's a polished app, and the one bug I encountered was fixed within a day. Just waiting for the trial to finish.

> Are people waiting for the trial to run out (14 day trial) ...?

People who buy your software usually do so during the first few days of a trial. Only a small percentage of those who let the trial go to the end will buy.

Source: My (and fellow [m]ISV's) experience over the years.

/edit: Oh, btw: A search in the mac app store for "github issue tracker" (and other similar terms) won't show your app.

What I would like to read is why the OP put his time into building a task app. Not because the world doesn't need another one (I'm not being sarcastic here...)...but if you don't have much talent or time for marketing, then something must have been guiding you, right? I would think that without any other external guidance, it's the programmer himself who finds the product useful and uses it everyday as he develops it.

So, did the OP find his own product useful?


I work on contract iOS jobs and I need to track my time to invoice my clients. It sucks using my web browser to start and stop the timer. I also wanted quick access to all my tasks, past and present without going through a slower web UI.

Also the app comes in handy when I need to jot down a quick note or remember something.

Maybe I should incorporate some of that ^ on the site.

Forgo the maybe and do it. We use a redmine clone at my current employer and opening a tab or a billion is still rough. I've always preferred clients. If I could live in visual studio like I wanted when I started, there's a decent open source one for that. Also tortoisemine helps with respect to linking checkins but I'm still on a text file keeping track until I get around to putting stuff in. Its never exciting or useful.

There does seem to be a saturation of apps on my platform: windows phone to where just another makes no sense. Mostly devs make it for themselves and since we're all unique, these things are like snowflakes too.

That is what I do as well, I'm considering purchasing Bee based on my trial of it this morning. My only concern is in keeping enough clients around that I need to use it! But actually, for me, this is the kind of native client I didn't know I needed (I spend way too much time in Jira...) and that it hooks into GitHub as well is a big selling point, since that's pretty much how I divide my personal work from client work. The interface is slick, although there seems to be some stuttering when I move the window. I'll probably buy it when I get my next paycheck. And maybe if I write a blog post about my own app that has sold 12 copies, I'll sell a few more! ;)

One small tip - your page links to the app page, but doesn't otherwise say anything about what it does, just calling it "this thing". That diary page is marketing too, include a summary of what it does there!

And it talks in the end about how users can't provide feedback, but the blog entry doesn't let you comment or even give a way to email, just a link to his twitter account.

Congrats on your launch!

Be careful about your plan to "…keep pushing out updates to the app to fill out the feature requests existing users have". It's easy to fall back to strengths – adding fun features, responding to tangible requests from existing customers. But clearly your priority should be getting the word out.

Maybe commit to yourself: no new features unless you're certain they will close new sales?

I recently read the book "Cashvertising". It's very good at breaking down how to sell in print. I recommend you read it. For example, your headline "Better task tracking on your Mac" offers no real benefit. What is good about task tracking? What is the benefit it offers? Make that answer your headline.

Read the book. It helped me immensely.

Reason dev-ing a software is not that hard = computer is consistent and feedback is instantaneous.

Reason marketing is effing hard (for us programmers) = human is fickle and feedback is sporadic.

It looks like a great tool, but like others have mentioned, I just can't justify a $50 price point in my head. I don't really "need" a new app to update my issue tracker, I've already got the browser open which I'm using for other concurrent tasks (and a browser tab with a familiar HTML interface > learning a new tool and remembering to keep it open).

However, if you could pull out the "flight path" feature ONLY into a separate app at say a $10 price point, I would probably jump. Something unobtrusive in the menu bar that tracks my time on task AND automatically pulls up what I should work on next, quickly and easily, would be great.

Coincidentally just the other week I got stuck using Jira and it's abysmally slow/buggy interface.

FWIW I was very excited to see Bee but haven't done the work to setup a password for my account on our Jira ondemand instance.

I wonder if some of the slower adoption for you has been people like me using a google account to log into Jira and simply not having a real Jira credentials.

I'll get around to it but I suspect I'm not the only one that didn't feel like mucking around in the Jira account settings to setup credentials for Bee to connect with.

I assume there's no way to access the Jira API otherwise?

Came across an insightful video and presentation given at the Konsoll 2013 conference on "marketing indie games on a $0 budget" that might be of interest to folks. It was given within the context of indie game development but its really addressing a common problem.

video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkEQtMP2CuA slides: http://www.indiegamegirl.com/konsoll-2013/

This is exactly why I've been writing "The Hacker's Guide to User Acquisition" (first chapter: http://www.austenallred.com/the-hackers-guide-to-the-first-1..., next chapter will be about getting press). I would point out a few things.

1. The notion that you "build a better mousetrap" and people will beat their way to your door is true maybe 1% of the time. Many more companies have had to fight a little to become successful than just said, "This is so awesome that everyone loves it." That being said, no amount of marketing can make up for a crappy product.

2. Marketing should be baked into the product itself. If you're figuring out "now how do I get this out to people" after everything is finished, except in some rare circumstances it's too late. Explosive growth almost never happens by virtue of a product being so good that everybody shares it and it goes viral. Yours might, but you can't count on that happening. So how can you leverage your existing user base to create more users?

3. Getting press is more than emailing a couple of bloggers. And emailing bloggers has to be done in a very specific way to get their attention. It's difficult, because you only have one shot: Think about having to run some code and if there are any errors it all falls to pieces. That's what emailing bloggers feels like. But when it works, it works. And when one place picks you up, the others jump on board really quickly (they're kind of like investors in that way).

4. A lot of the "marketers" you've talked to might suck. It's a lot easier to pretend to be a marketer than it would be to pretend to be a programmer. And just as a non-technical person would have a difficult time trying to figure out if a programmer is any good, it will be hard for you to tell the difference between a good marketer and someone who has no idea what they're doing

5. You need a critical mass of users to determine if your product sucks. When I started marketing my first product, I couldn't pay people to use it. It wasn't that people were saying, "I don't like this," but I couldn't get anyone to try it to say whether they liked it or not. Then after months of grinding and trying to figure things out, we found the sweet spot. Thousands of users per day jumped on board, to the point that our biggest problem became scaling. (A good problem to have, but certainly a problem). If I had given up one day earlier I would have thought that no one cared, but really there was no one to care. There's a difference.

6. 99.99% of the time doing marketing is spent figuring out what works. Once you know (and it's different for each client/customer/app), it's really easy. Don't discount it when someone says "Oh you just do this and this, and boom, users." The same as you wouldn't look at a designer and say "Well you just designed that really simple logo, that can't be hard," you can't just look at the work they're doing -- you have to consider the work they have done. And getting to simple is hard.

So the moral of the story: Don't give up yet. It's too early to know if anyone will care about what you built; you have to get it out to more people.

And the next time I hear someone say, "You don't need a marketer, it's all about the quality of the product," I'll point them to this post. Thank you for your honesty, and best of luck to you.

No offense, but as an engineer with no particular knowledge or experience with marketing, I don't see very much actionable advice in your items. I see a lot of ways to screw up (emailing bloggers wrong, picking wrong marketing person, waiting to long to market), but a dearth of advice for not screwing up.

Maybe the positive advice will be in your Guide (haven't clicked the link yet)?

EDIT: OK, I should have clicked the link first. :)

Exactly! Well said austenallred.

Most startups fail because they aren’t hitting their target growth rate, not because they failed to build a product that works.

You have to fight to grow. Evaluate how much time you spent building your product, and then invest just as much time in growth-related activities.

that's exactly the conclusion i've reached, at least for b2c apps. marketing needs the same amount of time/money as software development.

I would go a step farther: In many cases (esp. SaaS solutions) marketing takes even more time than the development.

That article was amazing and thanks for this line:

"If I had given up one day earlier I would have thought that no one cared, but really there was no one to care. There's a difference."

Most inspirational thing I've read after getting the 'we are sorry' mail from YC.

What changed to suddenly make all users jump on board?

Just sent you an email with wording "marketing" that can help. I'm interested to see that good things don't languish and I am a strong writer--happy to give.

For your web design, which is part of marketing - namely perception and eye-grabbery - there's too much white space. Too much white space, to me, equals yawn.

I'd make the starfield extend further down the page, past the first screenshot. Then I would somehow frame the other sections of the page. Maybe by adding an interior border or some sort of texture.

Marketing is a cousin of visual design.

I, for one, enjoy the liberal use of white space. No academic reasoning for it. I think it's a pleasing aesthetic in general.

First impressions are good, the main additional thing I would have done is to create a "video" overview. Most people just don't have the time to download, install, work out what is going on, etc etc. I do have 5mins to watch a quick video to see if this is for me. You can just do a screencast, voice it yourself. Keep it simple.

Start collecting emails using autoresponder courses. Think of collecting emails as asking a girl for their number. If you want a date, you're going to call them, talk to them, get to know them, and ask them out. If you want a sale, you need to develop a relationship with a customer.

Collect email from potential users on a landing page. Then, send them email to let them get to know you and you know them. After a few emails, say 5-7, you could say "hey I have this great product that makes doing X way easier!". A number of potential users who get to say the 5th or 7th email will then trial or purchase your product if you ask them to. That's like getting the first date. Your product ultimately still has to be good for it to be a long term relationship.

Pretty much any email newsletter software worth anything supports some kind of autoresponder series functionality.

Try hitting up Reddit. The Reddit community is one of the most active and engaging communities out there. The only challenge is that they are brutally honest so only use Reddit if you're ready to hear the truth.

You could also try getting a promotion from apple in the App Store.

Another thing you should do is incorporate some sort of analytics in your app. Most users wont tell you ANYTHING about your app. I'm running Google Analaytics and I can tell that the average user spends ~7 minutes in my game which lets me know that each session is pretty engaging. That's also 7 minutes that they are getting hit with iAd's if they didn't upgrade. Metrics are key, so add something to track app usage.

Your application is niche so you need to target spaces where people that use your the services that your app integrates with hang out.

What most programmers/writers/innovators often forget is that unless they spend time/effort and money on getting the word out about their products, the world will never see it. It surprises me how often I come across people that believe their product "will sell itself" and totally ignore marketing. Computers world wide are filled with great projects that not more then a handful of people will see. Whatever your idea is, make sure to spend as much time as you spend creating it, thinking and planning out your marketing of same product. Without it, your idea will still be "the best in the world" but nobody will ever know about it.

If anyone knows some good iOS game marketing techniques/tips, please drop me a line--My email is in my profile. I'm trying to market: http://appstore.com/xo9

Downloaded, installed, tried. Created a new task and drag'n'dropped it inside the another one. Couldn't drag it out again. Closed the app. Seems very nice though, I'll give it another try after a while.

Shortfalls: 1. Didn't implement metrics to detect delete, trial to get that feedback.

2. Giving up and ranting too early! Marketing is perception, so make sure you make whatever N users happy then tell them to share (it's as simple as this), rinse and repeat. After a ~100 happy users, you'll have a good sample of customer base and it should steadily grow to market potential from there.

3. First release is just the beginning. Your idea is but a hypothesis. As long as they're is still legitimate feedback to work on, the product is still not reaching it's potential (again, ranting too early!).

Don't just "try AdWords", "try social", "try inbound marketing" or any of those things you think you're just supposed to do for some reason. Think of a strategy and then come up with an offer that presents a compelling value proposition. How will you show your product to your customers before they decide to buy? Who are you customers anyways? Come up with a few customer profiles.

One you figure these things out, creating campaigns that accomplish your marketing objectives will be more natural and less like a stab in the dark.

Bee seems awesome and while Basil might not get marketing, he gets it now: after a week of resultless marketing efforts he writes a blog post about it, posts to HN and scores the #1 position. Kudos.

I'd love to follow your journey of marketing your product.

If you intend to go hard on marketing this app and exploring ways to do that, can you put up an email form, so I know when your next blog post is?!

I'd also be interested in following your work; it's a great product to learn marketing from.

Getting to the top of HN should fix a lot of your user issues. I like your UI Style, but maybe the product is not very clear to me. Im not a pro perhaps, but you could still work a lot on your product site, make it more concise and easy for an idiot like me to understand too? Are you on the Mac App store? If I were you and If I had a product half as good as this, Id relentlessly blog about it with gorgeous screenshots till around 500 people bought this-Takes patience. Marketing ooutput = Intensity* Focus

I for one will thank you for your admittance that marketing a product or service to a prospective target audience is indeed hard, and for along time here on HN, many would say oh your just the marketing guy what do you have to offer or bring to the table if it's not marketing and programming then why do I need you on the team? I'm just glad that both sides of the table are seeing that we should all work cohesively to our strengths to reach the end goal of a particular project or startup.

There you go - your article doesn't really provide any value to us, yet you are on the frontpage of HN. Nailed it, now do the same thing over and over again.

One of my biggest takeaways from WWDC, as a student, was that even really great products don't launch themselves; they need an immense PR effort to get them off the ground — however, this doesn't mean a big budget.

In my opinion (of limited authority), a lot of 'spin' can be spun, mostly for free, that can generate a great buzz pre-launch.

It's something I'm going to invest a lot of time and effort in next time I do a launch.

This is really awesome. I'm almost at the beta point with my own side project, and I'm realizing it's time to do some marketing (virtual pet game for FireFoxOS/browsers - goal is to be interesting to smart people). I'm realizing I simply don't know how to do this marketing thing (yeah, emails, landing page, etc, but those only work when people get there.)

Wow that's the first non-crappy Mac app with JIRA support that I've heard of. While I'm really glad that I found out about Bee now, you should really dig into this pain point, IMO. JIRA is terribly slow, and in times of faster tools like Trello or Blossom people are really getting fed up with that. I imagine that marketing it mainly as JIRA client could work well.


1. Use Cases- If your product aint selling, you need to illustrate use cases for your product. If you manage to showcase a very contextually relevant use case, it could literally explode. Like Youtube instant- Its a relatively unused but incredibly useful feature that got its share of sun because it came quick on the heels of Google Instant.

Have you tried using google news api to find articles in your market? You can turk out compiling a authors contact list and prepare a press release package for the few hundred writers to publish. Some will not respond but some my write for established sources or even many. This will help get attention and increase your ranking.

People do not want to know who made ​​it but they just think how they enjoy it. In this world, there is no second place or second champ, the world is a kind of binary system, 0 or 1, we just choose death or life. "quote on Hackers 3 [2011]

Did anyone else have their display get corrupted by opening this site, opening Chrome dev tools, and closing chrome dev tools? My screen started putting up random squares of color and other artifacts and I lost keyboard control.

I want this, it looks awesome, but I can't justify $50 on it. A shame.

I'm with you dude. This shit is hard.

so if nothing work out. blog about it and submit it to HN about your failure and hurray you are a success :)

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