One great frustration I have with myself is that I can’t think of an original product to build.
If there is one thing I could advice to Migs, it is to learn the principles of marketing.
If you’re a geek and you said “no f****** way” after hearing this advice, it’s alright. That’s the normal reaction 99.99% of the time. I’m sure every developer in the world has a story to tell how the marketing guys turned the software into a “seamless highly integrated end-to-end solution” when all the software can do is import a CSV file. Outside work, we are bombarded with marketing bullshit like “whiter than white skin” and systematic lies like hiring Charlene Gonzales to tell us the Taheebo tea tastes great or gorgeous babes endorsing shampoo products that can make your hair shiny and healthy in 7 days.
But real marketing is not about “lying”. Marketing is about defining the right customers for you, identifying what they value, and creating the whole product package that delivers that value. It is about solving problems, not applying technology. It is about them, not you.
Programmers think they have nothing in common with marketing guys but that is not true. Marketing people also do research, design, and tests just like what we programmers do. If we skip these things and go straight into coding, we produce buggy software. Similarly, when marketing people jump into logos, taglines, color branding, they end up with marketing campaigns that are pathetic.
As a geek, we believe that the value of a product is a function of its objective utility. If an MP3 player with 8GB sells for $100, and the 16GB version costs $150, it makes sense. But if the same 8GB version comes with a choice of fuchsia, cerulean, or periwinkle casing and sells for $125, it does not make sense anymore. The idea of paying more because it has a pretty color or just because you like it is not really understood by geeks.
In the software world, having personal, standard, enterprise editions of a single software product helps many companies earn more money. There is a reason why this is so effective and the marketing guys know them. If you are geek that understands how marketing works, you would be in a better position to build a product that will fulfill the need of your customers because just like the marketing guys, you understand what your customers need. And in case you decided to start your own company, you already know the importance of marketing and you will not shoot in the dark.
For a start, I recommend the following books:
- Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout. This book is a classic and highly recommended.
- The Business of Software by Eric Sink. Eric has devoted 9 chapters on marketing.