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Facing your fears: marketing for developers

May 17th, 2020

5 min read

Person standing on a rickety wooden bridge over rushing water.

Written by

Ben Long


Developer Insights

Many developers prefer to leave the marketing up to… well, the marketers. But these days, everybody is a marketer. Because, whether you’re freelancing, working in a company, or creating your own products, you have ideas to promote and a story to tell.

The problem is marketing has got a pretty bad name for itself, thanks to a small percentage of people who use tricks to grab attention and get people to buy things they don’t even need. So, it’s not surprising that developers in particular (who value transparency, honesty, and usefulness) feel uncomfortable with the idea of marketing, or maybe even afraid of it.

But marketing doesn’t have to involve tricking people. Chances are, you’re already promoting your ideas in the workplace and helping people with your knowledge… without calling it “marketing”. And if you market a little more consistently and strategically, you could have a bigger impact.

So, to continue our series on developers and marketing, let’s look at what you can do to overcome the fear of marketing and confidently promote yourself and the products you work on.

Be helpful and offer value

Marketing has shifted a lot over the last decade or so - these days, marketing done right is all about helping people, solving problems, and adding value. As a developer, you have something that adds value to your audience, whether it’s your own knowledge and experiences, or a product or service.

So, before you start marketing, get clear on what problems you solve, what value you can offer, and how you can help. If you’ve got something that can help people, don’t deprive the world of it because you’re afraid to promote it. Speaking of fear...

Understand the fear

Will Ferrell nods his head

If marketing makes you uncomfortable, dig a little deeper to find out why so you can work through your fears.

So, what’s so scary about marketing? 

  • Rejection - Most people are afraid of rejection, whether it’s their product, ideas, or opinions.
  • Vulnerability - Putting yourself out there, telling your story, and putting your face and name on something requires you to be vulnerable and open. 
  • Privacy - It’s especially hard if you consider yourself a “private” person. 
  • Imposter syndrome - You think to yourself: “There are other people out there with more experience who are better qualified to talk about this than me.” (By the way, this is super common - apparently 58% of tech workers get imposter syndrome.)

It feels safer to keep your voice, face, and maybe even your products hidden away. If you’re happy to stay right where you are indefinitely, that’s fine. But if you want to make a change, you’ll need to overcome your fear of marketing by understanding what you have to gain.

The benefits of marketing for developers

When you stay hidden, you can’t grow, make an impact, and influence others. But when you put yourself out there, it can benefit you, your company, and your audience. 

When developers engage in marketing activities, share content, and promote themselves, it can open the door to:

  • More customers
  • More clients
  • Speaking opportunities
  • Promotions
  • Mentoring opportunities
  • Job opportunities
  • Launching your own product
  • Growing a community
  • Helping more people

Picture where you (or your company) want to be in a year or more, and see how engaging in marketing activities will help you get there. Now hold that thought - it will help you stay motivated as you work through any fear and discomfort!

Make a plan

Get your head around what kinds of marketing you’ll do and when. You’ll need to know:

  • Goals - What are your goals? What benefits do you want to come from the marketing? How does it fit with your personal or company vision?
  • Audience - Who is your audience? What are their goals, pain points, and interests? 
  • Platforms - Where does your audience hang out? What kinds of content will best connect with your audience?
  • Content - What topics (related to your product or service) will add value to the audience?
  • Schedule - How often will you need to share content?
  • Analytics - How will you know you’ve been successful? What data will you need to test what works and adjust your strategy over time?

If you’re doing all the marketing yourself (for your own product, service, or personal brand), you may need to create your own written marketing strategy. But if you’re working to support a marketing team at your company, they’ll bring you up to speed on their existing strategy.

Contribute where you can

You’re still a developer first and foremost, so contribute to marketing in ways that make the most of your knowledge, skills, and connections. Some common ways developers can get involved in marketing include:

  • Creating video demos
  • Contributing to technical documentation (how to install, how to get started, and best practices) 
  • Writing blog articles with stories and insights based on your experiences (like this one by Matthew Thackwell)
  • Tweeting about events you attend or speak at
  • Sharing content with your LinkedIn network
  • Engaging with other developers on social media

But this will depend on your product/service, your audience, your strengths (written vs video content), and how much time you have.

Put your plan into action

Animation showing chopsticks placing sushi inside a mouth with red lips. The sushi is decorated to represent social media icons

Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it… that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.

Dale Carnegie

Don’t wait too long to act on your plan. Actually, if you follow Mel Robbins’ 5 Second Rule, you should probably take action in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

Because if you don’t, you most likely won’t do anything.

So, what’s one quick action you can take right now to start marketing?

A few ideas:

Pick one, make a start, then keep going. 

Open the door to bigger things

Some of the best moments in your career will happen because you did something that made you uncomfortable, or because you went beyond your standard job description. For many developers, marketing and self-promotion will open the door to bigger things. 

For example, stepping outside of my comfort zone into a new community helped me learn more about web accessibility. And in turn, this led to us implementing a useful change to our product so that users can indicate an image as decorative.

So, feel the discomfort and do it anyway - it will get easier each time and if you stick to your plan, you’ll soon see the benefits.

Content marketingDevelopers
byBen Long

Computer scientist, storyteller, teacher, and an advocate of TinyMCE. Reminisces about programming on the MicroBee. Writes picture books for kids. Also the wearer of rad shoes. “Science isn’t finished until you share the story.”

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