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:

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