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Podcast interview: “Justin Jackson on Marketing for Developers”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Programmer reading Marketing for Developers book

Why does marketing have a bad reputation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to the whole interview with Justin Jackson

Further reading:

Update: Marketing for Developers book re-release

I’m updating and re-launching the Marketing for Developers book.

Programmer reading "Marketing for Developers" book

Here’s what I’ve finished so far:

  • A new chapter on “Choosing the right market” for your product – download this chapter free here ⚡️
  • A new chapter on “Why customers buy products”
  • A new case study on Adam Wathan’s $100k launch

Currently, I’m working on:

  • A new section on SEO for SaaS and software products. (One of the most important marketing channels)
  • Updating all the existing chapters with new screenshots, removing old material, etc…

Initially, I’d hoped to have all of this done by the end of July 2017, but now we’re looking at August release for sure.

I’ve just hired a contractor, named Tim, who’s going to be helping with the book. This should help things move a lot faster (especially the parts that have been slowing me down: research, formatting, etc…)

Thanks so much for your interest in the book update! Can’t wait to share it with you. (If you’re already a Marketing for Devs customer, you’ll get the update for free!)

To tide you over, I’m releasing this chapter for free today (still draft, might have a few formatting mistakes). 👍

Cheers,
Justin Jackson

PS: I had an awesome time speaking to Laravel developers at Laracon in NYC. Here’s a quick clip:

If you’re a fan of Elon Musk, I think you’ll like it. (There’s a few swear words)

How to choose a target market for your SaaS

Some SaaS (Software as a Service) customer groups are bigger, easier to reach, and more profitable than others. How do you find a profitable target market?

How can a SaaS increase MRR from $5k to $700k?

A good example of this is Nathan Barry and his SaaS, ConvertKit. ConvertKit started back in 2013 and initially positioned themselves as “email marketing for digital product businesses.”

“We were just doing email marketing for whoever happened to be frustrated with MailChimp. That wasn’t an effective marketing strategy.”

It wasn’t until around 2015 that Nathan decided to go full time on ConvertKit. During that year he discovered the positioning that would save his business:

Initially I asked: ‘who are people like me that I know are making a good living online?’ I wanted folks who had an audience, were selling products and were likely to have the same problems as me. Initially chose ‘authors’ because I described myself as a writer. The problem is most people who describe themselves as authors are selling their Kindle novels for $0.99. They’re not a profitable customer to have. So then we tried like email marketing for course creators and eventually narrowed it down to professional bloggers.

Changing their positioning to “email marketing for professional bloggers” was a turning point for ConvertKit. But initially, other people in the software business made fun of them.

“People were like: ‘Seriously? When are you going start selling to real companies?”

Luckily, Nathan stayed the course. Since ConvertKit started targeting professional bloggers, monthly recurring revenue went from $5,000 in 2015 to over $700,000 in 2017!

ConvertKit's saas MRR revenue

Customer positioning was key to Nathan’s success. Are you building a SaaS? Choosing the right market is crucial. Here is what I recommend in my book: look for a target market that has:

  1. Purchasing power
  2. Purchasing desire
  3. Market mass

Let me explain these three points.

What is your target market’s purchasing power?

First, purchasing power. What you’re looking for is somebody who can pay for whatever you’re producing. In Nathan’s case, a professional blogger is the only person he needs to convince to buy his product. There’s only one decision-maker; they don’t need to run their expenses by anyone else.

Many software products, like project management software, have to convince a whole team of people to make a sale. You need to talk to the CTO, the COO, the Product Manager, and the development team. Purchasing decisions made by committee increase the cost of every sale.

Purchasing power also refers to how much money people can spend to solve their problems.

A college student might have the autonomy to spend their money as they please, but they’re generally cash poor. A business owner, on the other hand, has both spending authority and the budget.

A customer’s desire for software

Next, you should look at purchasing desire. You are looking for a group of people that is highly motivated to solve their problems. They’re willing to spend money to overcome obstacles and make progress in their lives or their business.

Professional bloggers make most of their money by building an email list. They are a great market for ConvertKit to target because email is the core of their business. Furthermore, if they’re having problems with their existing service (like MailChimp), they’ll be highly motivated to switch.

Desire is important. Certain types of business owners have the ability to spend money as they please, but they’re cheap. They’re not willing to pay to overcome certain types of problems. If you’ve ever been a part of a business’ budget discussions, you’ll notice that every business has certain non-negotiables. Phone service, website hosting, and email service are necessary for most businesses. But other applications are just “nice to have.”

The final ingredient is “market mass.” To have a sustainable business, you need enough people in your target market with the ability and desire to pay you. If your market is too niche, it’s going to be difficult to make a profit. However, if there are thousands (or millions) of people in that market, your opportunity to attract leads is greater. Choosing a niche is still important, but it has to be sizeable enough to support your business.

Selecting a target market for your software product is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Evaluate each potential market on its ability to pay, its desire to pay, and its size.

Get more SaaS marketing advice

Looking for more? You might like the startup marketing checklist and essentials for SaaS marketing (with PDF download).

Marketing for Developers is a crash course on building a software business. From finding the right customer, to choosing the right marketing channels. You can get a free chapter below:

Essentials for SaaS marketing (with PDF download)

Before you start marketing your Software as a Service you need to have two things in place:

  1. Product / Market fit
  2. Analytics and tracking

We’ll talk about product / market fit in a different article. In this piece I want to focus on the the Lean Marketing Stack.

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What is the Lean Marketing Stack?

The Lean Marketing Stack is the base infrastructure you’ll need to market your SaaS. It includes three fundamental tools:

  1. Your website
  2. Basic analytics
  3. Your email list

The sooner you start collecting data, the better decisions you’ll be able to make. How will you know if your campaign is a success if you don’t have any metrics?

Remember, there’s always a chance that your product will get traction before you expect it. I’ve spoken to hundreds of developers who had their product featured on Hacker News or Product Hunt before they were ready. They had no way to track conversions or have people sign-up for a waiting list. Don’t miss out on these opportunities!

Also, building a basic website now will force you to answer important questions. These include, “Who is my product for?” and “Why should they care about my product?” Writing a simple landing page helps focus your product development on what users want.

How much will this cost?

If you’re looking to save money, you can use these providers and pay nothing:

  • Website hosting: GitHub Pages
  • Analytics: Google Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics, Segment, Mixpanel
  • Email list: MailChimp

In this post, we’ll cover the basics of setting up the Lean Marketing Stack. If you’d like to set up more detailed analytics, you should get the full version of Marketing for Developers.

Your website

If you don’t already have a website for your product now is the time to build one. It doesn’t need to be fancy, expensive or take a long time to create. A simple landing page will do to start.

Domain set up

My recommendation is to organize your domain structure like this:

  • yourname.com – marketing site
  • app.yourname.com – production server for your web application
  • staging.yourname.com – staging server for your web application

Keeping your marketing site separate from your app will help keep your visitor data clean: it clearly delineates between your app’s users and people visiting your marketing page.

If you haven’t found a good domain name yet, tools like Hover and Lean Domain Search offer great name recommendations.

Content Management System or plain HTML?

I’m a fan of both! If you think you’re going to start blogging right away, use a content management system (CMS). Otherwise, a static HTML site will work fine.

If you’re hosting a simple static site, I highly recommend GitHub Pages. You host your files directly from your GitHub repository; when you push your changes they go live on the web. GitHub also offers hosting on it’s global Content Delivery Network free on this platform.

Which content management system should I use?

I’ve worked for large consulting companies and small startups, and almost all of us end up using WordPress. It’s a great CMS for marketing sites. It’s flexible, has great integrations, and you can host it almost anywhere.

Do not manage the hosting yourself! A good hosting service like WPengine or Pagely might feel expensive, but will save you hours of administration time. Site Ground is another good option and is less expensive.

If you’d rather not use WordPress, consider trying Squarespace. It’s powerful, simple to use, and starts at $8 per month.

brennan-dunn-tweet-squarespace

Thinking about hosting is one of the rabbit holes that developers fall into. Yes, you could probably do it yourself, cheaper and better. As a product creator, your most valuable asset is your time. If you can save time by hiring an existing tool, you should!

Site design

Marketing sites built by developers have a telltale design: they use the default Bootstrap theme. As a developer, fiddling around with a design isn’t the best use of your time. Here are some good resources for site templates:

The goal here is to communicate who your product is for and how it solves their pain. Once you’re making sales, you can invest more money into your marketing site. In the meantime: keep it simple!

Analytics

Marketing is about testing, analyzing the data, and iterating. To do this well, you’re going to need metrics that tell you who is buying and why.

First step: set up Google Webmaster Tools

At one point, Google’s webmaster tools were only marginally helpful. Nowadays, it is the only place to see which search terms people are using to find your site. You should install this right away because the more data it collects, the sooner you’ll get valuable results.

Second step: install Segment

Every time I’m on a project and skip this step, I end up regretting it. Segment describes themselves as “a single hub to collect, translate and route your customer data.” It allows you to easily add new tracking snippets to your site without having to go in and change your code each time. It also stores your historical event data and automatically loads that data into the new tools you choose. Now, instead of interacting with multiple APIs, you only need to work with Segment’s.

Note: if you tried Segment in its early years and were disappointed I’d recommend trying them again. They’ve solved their data leakage and latency issues.

Their free tier for developers will give you up to 1000 MTU/month, perfect for a new project.

For a detailed explanation on how to set up tracking events in Segment, you should get the full version of Marketing for Developers.

Third step: install Google Analytics and Mixpanel

Once you have Segment installed and tracking data, you can set up other integrations. For analytics, Segment features over 38 tools. While you can definitely explore some of these in the future, I’m going to recommend that you start with Google Analytics and Mixpanel. Both of them are free (Mixpanel has a free tier for developers) and both cover the essentials you’ll need for tracking goals, funnels, and cohorts.

(Want step-by-step instructions on this? Get the full version of Marketing for Developers.)

Last step: mailing list

Nathan Barry once told me:

“My email list is my most important asset.”

Most people will visit your website and leave, but if you can get their email address, you’ll have additional opportunities to contact them.

We’ll talk about setting up email forms, squeeze pages, and drip sequences later on, but for now let’s talk about choosing an email provider.

In this book I’m recommending you use MailChimp. It’s free for up to 2,000 subscribers, has many built-in integrations, and features an easy-to-use automation tool. A strong runner-up is Gumroad’s free Audience feature.

Those are the basics

If you’re about to launch your SaaS, I highly recommend you read the entire Lean Marketing Stack section of Marketing for Developers.

In those chapters, I’ll explain how to set-up more detailed tracking events in Segment, Google Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics and Mixpanel.

Show your ConvertKit subscribers personalized content

My friend Brennan Dunn has been doing a lot of work on personalizing web content lately. He’s using Drip (his email software) as the central datastore for subscriber data. When these subscribers return to his website, he’s able to show them personalized content.

I wanted to try something similar. One problem: I’m using ConvertKit as my ESP instead of Drip. Here’s how I did it:

Want to try this for yourself?

  1. Sign up for ConvertKit
  2. Sign up for Logic Hop

Interested in more tutorials like this?

I’m thinking about creating more. To get notified when they’re released sign up here:

How do you get traffic for your site?

Generally, to get sales for a product or service online, you’re going to need traffic to you site.

Visitors to your site could turn into leads who then (hopefully) turn into customers.

Here are my top 10 sources of traffic for this site:

Top 10 sources of traffic for website

One note: I only recently installed an SSL certificate on this site, which means a lot of my referrer data was lost to the (direct) / (none) category.

We can see the website actually gets a fair amount of search traffic.

Most of the visitors are from my blog, newsletter and Twitter: writing and publishing regularly is a great marketing channel. It’s the best way to earn the trust of your audience.

I did a deal with AppSumo that drove a lot of traffic (they have a huge list).

Likewise, my audience hangs out on sites like Product Hunt and Medium, which also drove traffic.

And finally, some fairly big email newsletters (Hacker Newsletter and SaaS Weekly) picked up my story, and sent it to their subscribers.

Here’s another way of looking at traffic by channels:

Which channels give the most traffic?

A lot of the Direct, Referral, and Social visits are from an audience I’ve built up over time: through my podcast, blogging, being active on Twitter, speaking, etc…

All of the above takes time, but for me, it’s proven to be the best way to market the site.

Should I build a SaaS first?

On the Bootstrapped.FM forums, Khaja Naquiuddin asks:

I am full stack developer and getting started to launch a product. I don’t have any audience though. There is a famous advice on the internet by many entrepreneurs to start a small product first, before starting a big SaaS business. Do you think it is really true? Should I first learn the business by launching small products and then launch bigger SaaS products?

A mistake a lot of developers make is focusing too much on the form of the product, instead of who it’s for and what that customer wants to accomplish.

Here’s a helpful exercise: don’t start by thinking about what type of product you’d like to build, but rather ask yourself:

  1. What type of person would I like to serve?
  2. What are they struggling with currently?
  3. How can I help them right now?

This is the advice I got from Derek Sivers years ago.

He ended up making this video about it:

If you want to be useful, you can always start now with 1% of what’s in your grand vision.

For a customer, a product is just a means to an end.

It doesn’t need to be SaaS, an app, or hardware: it just needs to solve their problem.


I just shared one common mistake programmers make when building products. I have 3 more to teach you. You can get them by subscribing here:

How is the course different than the book?

My most popular product ever, Marketing for Developers, has a brand new version.

It’s a major update to the old book + video packages.

How is the new Marketing for Developers course different than the book?

Here’s what you can expect from the new course:

1. You’ll get 23 tutorial videos

The beauty of the online course is I can easily add new tutorials. In fact, in the last few days, I’ve already added 5 new videos! ?

Enroll now, and you’ll get new videos like these:

  1. Use A/B tests to increase conversion
  2. Find out what your competitors are missing
  3. Improve your search rankings
  4. Create Facebook ads that convert
  5. How to price your product
  6. Grow your email list
  7. Your launch plan
  8. Amplification
  9. How to find good topics for blog posts
  10. Targeting customer pain
  11. Interviewing your customers
  12. Understanding customer motivation
  13. How to succeed in marketing

View all 23 of the videos here.

2. You’ll get 14 interviews (with more coming)

One of my students’ favorite features is these interviews with founders. Here is a sampling:

  1. Josh Pigford, Baremetrics
  2. Tracy Osborn, Hello Web App
  3. Des Traynor, Intercom
  4. Ryan Hoover, Product Hunt
  5. Alan Klement, JTBD
  6. Nathan Barry, ConvertKit

3. Interactive online workbooks

I’m using OfCourseBooks to enable you to:

  • Answer questions and take notes online
  • Share your answers with me, your instructor
  • Export the workbooks to PDFs (or save them online)
  • Have student <> teacher discussion (you can “raise your hand” and start a discussion with me)

I'm using OfCourseBooks for student interaction

4. You can track your progress

The worst part about the previous video tutorials is you couldn’t track your progress. You had no idea what lessons you’d finished, and where you were. Now, with the new course platform, you can see exactly where you are.

Track your progress in the online course

5. You get a $50 discount!

Act quick, and you get a nice discount:

Use this coupon →

You have to move fast: that coupon expires in less than 12 hours (10am Pacific, Tuesday, Oct 18, 2016).

Join now ?

(The course is regularly $295, and you get access for life)

If you have questions, email me here: words@nerdnorth.com

Cheers,
Justin Jackson
@mijustin

PS: when you buy now at this price, you’ll get all future updates free. The next time I do a launch for this course, the price will likely be going up to $395. Buy now and lock-in at the lower price.

Announcing: early access

Today I’m giving you a chance to get the new Marketing for Developers course early.

I’m still in the process of uploading additional videos and adding worksheets but…

I don’t want you to wait any longer. ☺️

Get early access ?

If you order now, you get $50 off!*

Here’s what Vadim Demedes said about Marketing for Devs:

★★★★★ What can I say – amazing! A specific checklist on how to market & launch your product.

The goal of the course is to help folks like you go through these stages:

Stages of a bootstrapping business - how solopreneurs earn income and go independent

Over 2,500 people started their product journey when they read the Marketing for Devs book (it’s included in the course btw!).

My goal, however, wasn’t just to get people to engage with it, I want it to change their lives. I want to see you choose an audience, build a product, get traction and get your first 100 customers.

Get a sneak peek inside the course ?

When I evaluated v1 of Marketing for Devs, the folks who bought the video tutorials made the most progress. So in this new course, I’m doubling down on screencasts, video, interviews, and interactive worksheets.

Here’s what you can expect:

  1. All my recent learning. This past year I’ve been doing more marketing experiments, seen more results, and learned new frameworks (like Jobs to be Done). For example, in the initial book I just talked about FB retargeting ads. In this course, I’m doing a deep dive on FB ads in general.
  2. “Show don’t tell.” In the book, I could display screenshots, but with a video, I can explain each tactic step by step.
  3. It’s interactive. The new course has the workbooks that get you engaging with the material. You can save your answers, export them as PDF, and even share them with me.
  4. More updates. It’s way easier to add new material to an online course. Instead of having to re-distribute each new update, you get the new stuff automatically. The course is evergreen, and you get lifetime access.

I’m excited to share all of this with you. *This $50 discount is only good until Tuesday (10/18/2016) so don’t wait too long!

Have questions? You can email me at words@nerdnorth.com

Cheers,
Justin Jackson
@mijustin

PS – I made a little preview video for the course here:

Marketing for programmers

Juan is a C# programmer living in Seattle. He recently sent me this message:

Programmers who learn marketing skills have the ultimate combination:

  • They can code an app (without having to hire someone else).
  • They can find customers for their app (without having to hire a marketer).

A lot of software developers are looking for co-founders that can handle marketing and sales. Likewise, a lot of these “business people” are looking for a “technical co-founder.”

You don’t need a co-founder.

There’s no reason you can’t build and launch a product and get hundreds of paying customers by yourself.

You just need to learn marketing skills.

The good news? It’s way easier for you to learn marketing than it is for a non-technical founder to learn to program.

How to get started

Step 1: Define your audience

Who do you want to build products for?

Unless you’re Coca-Cola, your answer shouldn’t be “everybody.” There are three basic criteria you should be looking for in a target market:

  1. A group you like and understand
  2. A group that pays for things
  3. A group that congregates online

A lot of people get stuck on this step. Here’s an easy way to choose. Just ask yourself:

What group is already paying me for my time and expertise?

If you’re a consultant, whose primary customers are Shopify store owners, you could focus on:

  • Shopify store owners
  • Other consultants who focus on Shopify stores
  • Programmers who want to start building on the Shopify platform

Step 2: take someone for coffee

Your next goal is to find someone who matches your audience description and talk to them. So if you defined your audience this way:

Consultants who serve Shopify stores

Then you’ll find someone who matches that profile. It could be a current customer, a competitor, someone on your launch list, or a cold call. You’re going to ask them one crucial question:

“What’s something you’re struggling with at work?”

Meet them for coffee, and introduce yourself by saying:

“I’m someone who’s trying to make the lives of people in [your niche] better.”

Next, ask the question:

“Can we talk about your work as a [your niche]? What’s your biggest struggle right now?”

Sit back, and listen. I guarantee you, if you do this you’ll get valuable insights you can use in future marketing efforts. You’ll know which pain-points to focus on, and what language to use. Best of all: you’ll have the assurance of knowing you’re targeting something people care about.

In-person is best. The next best option is the phone.

What are the next steps?

I’ve just taught you two things, but I have so much more to teach you.

I can’t do it all in one blog post, so I’ve made a short course that takes you through the next five lessons.

You can get it here: