I hate marketing. There, I said it. I hate hate hate marketing. Reaching out to people, forming new “connections”, networking–I cannot stand even the thought of imagining myself at a tech conference. I hate the thought of approaching strangers and trying to somehow mention or convince them of me or my product. Apart from my wife and a few long-standing friends, I am notoriously bad at up-keeping relationships.
Marketing for me is something I haven’t been able to learn like other things. If you want to learn to program, well, that’s easy: just follow the tutorials. If you want to learn to write, well, that’s easy-ish: read a lot and be observant. But there are no “tutorials for marketing. You might say it’s an art form, but if it were, it would be some cursed, wicked form of art.
Marketing is the only field I know where once a new strategy has been tried and is found to work, it completely stops working. Meaning, if someone discovers a new way of clever marketing, it’s immediately copied by all, and is thus rendered useless. Marketing seems to be “the art of sticking out”, and when everyone does the same thing, well, that’s the opposite of marketing.
As for me, I just want to code. That’s all I ever think about doing. But coding, at least in my current stage, is a guilty pleasure. I know I shouldn’t be doing it. I should be marketing. Getting more people attracted to my project. Reaching out. Ekh.
At first, I tried to embrace my hatred towards marketing as a learning opportunity. “Hey, here’s something challenging and rewarding, can’t wait to learn all about it! But I haven’t really made any progress, other than blind luck. And that’s just it: it seems there’s a huge luck factor involved in marketing, especially (or actually, particularly) when you’re working with a zero marketing budget. And when my fate hangs by a wire, “luck is not something I want to be toying with.
I need consistency. Reproducibility. Calculability. Marketing and networking offer none of those. I know people who are so good at networking that it upsets me and boggles my mind at the same time. There’s a pretty great Netflix show called Atypical about an autistic teenager named Sam who functions almost “normally except for the fact that he struggles to understand normal social cues and interactions. But in a sense, you don’t have to be on the spectrum to struggle with making sense of all the kinds of relationships and their subtleties.
When a friend explains networking to me, I am utterly baffled. “Wait, so you’re saying you reach out to random people you don’t know if you’ll like or not, sit through an hour lunch with them while you try not to talk with your mouth full, and call it a wrap until you do it again a few months later? And then you have to email them every month or so to keep the relationship â€˜active’? And you have to go out of your way to do something for them in hopes that 20 years from now they might do something for you? And that on top of all that, you shouldn’t have a cynical or “reciprocal" outlook about it, but instead it’s about sincerely getting to meet new people? What in the actual fuck?”
Yeah. No thanks. I’m gonna go back to coding where things actually make sense.
P.S. I originally published this post on my experimental blog, where I try to write every day. You can subscribe to new posts in the top right corner.
P.S. II: If for some strange reason you like marketing, maybe reach out?
Top comments (21)
If it helps, I think it's perfectly good marketing to think of some of the standard marketing practices as outside the scope of a project's constraints. Upkeeping relationships is hard, but it's also potentially not necessary if you define your constraints based on what you're good at. Marketing is often seen as having to check all the boxes, when it's usually possible to funnel your efforts into the pats that match the skills of the people and market on hand.
I see what you mean. Luckily for me, I just might be able to get by without ever having to "network" face-to-face. But given that's how I've heard every other company was founded (meeting "the right people"), I feel guilty not doing the same.
For what it's worth, I think there are more than one way to succeed and you can usually do it by leaning in on your strengths and focusing on your customers as opposed to potential business partners and such. There are a lot of direct channels to success and "the right people" aren't always worth your time.
It's great to do that stuff if you are good at it and you like it. Far from the rule though. You're a programmer with the capacity to go end-to-end on product. You have a huge advantage in the market and you can lean in on that.
That's a good point. There are definitely a million and one ways to make it. Might just be "common startup advice" whispering worrisome thoughts in me. For what it's worth, I've given up on trying to be a better networker. I'm just going to go all in on what I already can do ;)
I do not know if you are referring to "personal brand marketing" or your startup/product marketing, there are different things. One should be done by you, the 2nd should be done by your CEO/business partner.
There are tutorials on marketing, and you can learn from others experiences. For example there are a few tricks of personal development in this video (ignore the title)
I understand your pain, going to meetups and local conferences was a big blind leap for me, but after just a few weeks of feeling strange, lost and weird, it's all working out (my network is growing daily, I learned a ton of stuff about programming and local projects, I've made developer friends of all levels, I'm helping junior devs to learn, I'm learning about technologies I want to learn from experienced users first hand).
The most important thing I learned by going to tech meetups: everyone felt the same as me, lost, confused, scared, now knowing what to do etc. But the desire to "evolve, grow" all led us to that moment.
Maintaining relationships is easy, talk about programming on a chat (skype or whatever), and meet up with ppl once a week or so. It's way easier than the close friends/wife relationships.
It's sort of a time management issue for me. If I spent the same amount of time on networking/marketing that I do on coding, I'm sure I can make some progress. But I can't do both. When I try to do both, I fail on both fronts. So, this post is me coming out and finally saying, I can't do both, and I accept it.
I may be mistaken, but in most cases I have met (including me), in my short "going out" period, doing a small amount of networking (<30% compared to code time) actually help to do bigger leaps in knowledge, opportunities and career overall.
Do not under appreciate the human contact, ppl trust more other ppl that met face 2 face, you can find out answers from stack overflow, but actually talking about the technology and problem it may be better on the long run, with the same experienced person it could reply to you online.
I can't understand how did you failed, we're here on the long run, we're here to stay and learn 10yrs from now too.
I think the big question is: do you believe this is a problem that you need to somehow resolve? Or do you believe that it is not a problem at all?
If you believe it is a problem that you want to solve, there are many paths for you to take to resolve it.
If you believe it is NOT a problem and/or you have no interest in "changing it," then I think you can build your career as a developer around it, recognizing that it might get in your way. When it does, it helps to have defined strategies to follow.
I really don't know what to think. I'd prefer for it not to be a problem. But it's a problem, when for example, sucking at marketing makes it hard to find someone who is good at marketing.
I love this post you have described my feelings on marketing. I would rather work on "my product" than market myself. I'm also terrible at relationship building unless it's my immediate family. Just FYI I found this post by literally googling "how to market when you hate marketing"
Lol what you just did at the end of your writing (adding links to your blog) is actually Marketing (or not).
But more seriously, as someone currently graduating in Marketing and coding a lot, I feel your struggle. Marketing as you have experienced it is hard, and that is exactly the same as with coding. The reason why it become hard is that people (specially beginners in these fields) like to think there are some kind of "magical stick" or "magical formula" to approach it. But let me tell you that it is (almost incredibly) "easy-to-approach" and "self-rewarding" when you think of it as a giant opportunity for impacting someone else life positively. Marketing at its essence is just about finding out how people would use/interact with a product and delivering exactly on what they expect. But at first you have to feel yourself comfortable with your own product. Let me explain:
You worked very hard for an app/tool/website (content), now you have to let people know how great it is (marketing as it sounds). But it has not to be complicated, what you just created or spent a lot of time coding is pretty new and is like a baby. You wouldn't show it (or market, I dislike this word FWIW) to people you don't know or a yet-to-convince audience because you fear their premature judgement, which is normal and appropriate. Alright the feedback you need is from people you already know even if these might not be your primary audience/target. But you know what, that was the first step of the stairs which is better than deciding not to climb at all. You'll certainly gained confidence with time and find it easier to introduce your creation to people you're not very familiar with which can be hard and challenging at the same time. The hard part is trying to "market" a crappy "content", the challenging part is making people discover a (new) way to solve their problem, like it's time to get out of your comfort zone. And again as with coding, that is a process that never ends.
IMO that process only doesn't have nothing to do with Marketing, it literally is everyday life. Making something is good but improving it is better. How do you improve it? Let people know about it. Alright the only secret here is people, I guess and learned that's what that barbaric word "Marketing" is all about.
PS: Good Luck with Standard Notes, Sounds really cool!
Great advice, thank you.
From my point of view is Ok if you hate marketing, is not like all Developers love it. And maybe you don't have to literary find that person to make "the networking" that boost you. Instead your work and quality of it will make you a desirable connection to some people.
Hopes the best for you and Standard Notes, really cool project and totally useful, at least for me.
Thanks, glad you like the project :)
This is pretty much how I've always felt about marketing as a consumer. I think in its minimal form, marketing is about connecting people with products and services that they actually want or that solve problems they are having. But once you add greed into the mix, marketing becomes about tricking people into wanting things that you provide.
Edited to not just be a rant.
I don't know how I would actually do marketing if I was bootstrapping my own product. If I'm betting my livelihood on it, I might hire someone to take care of it for me. If it's a side project, I guess I might just announce in a few targeted (online) circles "Hey I've got this product if you're having this problem." But I haven't been in those shoes. The company I work for is fortunate to have someone in the marketing role that's pretty good at it.
I'm pretty much taking the latter approach. Posting it online. But never it directly. Only things that point to it.
I struggle with this too, marketing my products is the bane of my existence. I'm thinking about just going on fivver and giving it a whirl.
As a super-shy introvert who has to work very, very hard to communicate with people face-to-face (and it never gets easier)...
I feel your pain.
Naïve me talking. Maybe you just need to find people you genuinely empathize with, and build professional relationships with just those people.