If you build it, they won't come

By admin on 22/12/2016

2017 is the time for you to get better at sales and marketing.

A lot of people that read this blog and/or follow me on Twitter are likely involved in some form of software development. Be that games, web, mobile, tools or otherwise. Whether that's as own-projects or a for-hire service to others.

I'm going to stick my neck out and say the vast majority of us doing so, are pretty terrible at sales and marketing. This is something we collectively need to improve on in 2017.

The problem is, those who *are* good at the salesy stuff (massive, opinionated, sweeping generalisation incoming...), are generally not particularly great at the actual production side of things. They tend to be pushing sub-standard products, but are good at doing so. Sadly the reality is, you can create the best product in the world but without decent sales and marketing it won't see the light of day. Conversely, good sales and marketing is an entirely viable approach for even the shittiest of products.

It's easy to convince ourselves, that adding some incredible new feature, redoing some art with a new aesthetic or refactoring a bit of messy code will result in huge popularity and assured success...

If we allow ourselves to stop and think about it, we know we're kidding ourselves and what we're actually doing is simply staying within our comfort zone.

I'm terrible at marketing

I see this all the time. Really though, this is the equivalent of downloading a copy of Visual Studio, clicking around for 5 minutes then declaring "I'm terrible at coding" or the same with Photoshop, Maya or any other tool/discipline. Sales and marketing aren't singing, you're not going to be naturally gifted at it, no one is. They will take time, patience and perseverance and you need to be willing to commit to it. Probably as much time as you are to actually building your product/service.

That might be a terrifying prospect so let's look at some very simple first steps of how you might make it more bearable.

1. Think of what you're currently doing

You are probably already doing more marketing than you might first think. If you have a website/blog, are active on social media or attend relevant events these are all opportunities that might well serve your goals. Any activity you do that raises your profile or educates others as to what you're working on should be considered a part of your marketing efforts (whether that was previously intentional or not).

Think about what you already do and consider if you might be able to focus your efforts slightly to better serve your purpose. This might be as simple as adding a simple summary of what you're doing and a link to your profile or introducing some more discipline to frequency of posting. You don't have to turn into a spammer, but just be more mindful of how these channels you already frequent might help.

2. Define your audience

Spend some time thinking about your ideal audience. Don't be too prescriptive as you never really know where your next opportunity will come from but do include a variety of specific organisations and roles. You're trying to find the sweet spot between becoming irrelevant noise to too broad an audience and too specific that you're missing 2nd or 3rd degrees of separation from the decision makers (a project manager might not be the decision maker, but could be the one to raise awareness of you to the right people, they might in turn have found out about you from one of their team). Simply thinking about who might be your customers (or partners/evangelists) will help you with your positioning. Follow more of these types of people on social media, look into the events they're attending, read the same media they're consuming so you can better understand them and what your product can do for them.

3. Make it fun

Sales and marketing isn't all cold-calling and banner ads, in fact those are probably the least effective methods available to you. Think about what it is your product/service is doing and why you are doing it then focus your efforts on how to best communicate those points. Create visuals, videos and write ups about the things that excite you the most about what you're working on. This should help maintain your interest and will most likely be the areas most interesting to your audience too.

4. Network

For some reason, in business we use the term "networking". This labelling makes most people I know cringe at the prospect and find any reason possible to avoid it. What we really mean is "meet like-minded people with a common interest" which, whilst still might be daunting, is comparably a much nicer prospect.

When we have the prospect of "networking" in our minds, we build up a picture of a room full of super confident, arrogant people who all know each other and aren't very welcoming to outsiders. We imagine ourselves stuck on the outside whilst everyone else is having conversations and we're awkwardly loitering with no one to talk to. Sound familiar? It's simply not the case and almost everyone will be entertaining similar concerns.

Attending meetups and events is a really easy small step to take. There is almost always an event going on somewhere and you will absolutely make useful contacts if you put the effort in. Events can be difficult to measure the effectiveness of because it's not often you'll turn up, make a deal and go home. But there is absolutely value in each and every connection you make and that is how you should measure their effectiveness. Search meetup.com and Eventbrite for any events that might be remotely relevant to your project and attend something.

Wrapping up

That's four pretty simple things you can start doing right now. I'm going to be posting more thoughts on this subject as it's something I've thought, written and spoke about a lot in the past. I will be working on it myself a lot in the new year so feel free to follow along and let me know how it goes for you!

#adventblogging post 20 of 24 see the rest.