The Benefits of Marketing By Yourself
One of the many areas where more is better than less seems to hold true is in compensation. Now, compensation can be measured in many ways: It can mean more money, more free time, more responsibility, a job promotion, more visibility at the office, or any number of other desirable characteristics. We all want these things. The problem becomes how to apply more is better than less in practical ways that increase our compensation.
Technologists have an overriding problem: They are unskilled communicators. The cult-movie classic Office Space, a favorite of technologists, offers some valuable insights into communication issues and the usefulness of self-marketing skills
Another crucial aspect of successfully marketing yourself is to understand how you contribute to the business’s success. Always income minus expenses must be greater than zero. How does your job at a business help to either create income or reduce expenses. We learned how to communicate what I had done and the benefit that my experience brought to clients. I highly recommend that you understand the benefit that you provide the business before proceeding to the next step.
What Will You Market?
we always searching for some concept to market, something that I could use to tell a client “I can solve that problem”—in short, something that a client needed. I started off by saying that I could “build apps right.” Unfortunately, that is a nebulous concept that clients can’t see, feel, touch, or necessarily understand. Clients don’t typically understand what building an application correctly means. They understand that they have identified a need in their business and are trying to fill that need. At the very least, clients want to know that they can trust you to build a solution. To the end, you have to provide them with something that they can see and that demonstrates how your expertise can solve their problem.
Our second attempt at marketing was around the message of “scalability and databases.” I tried to use the messaging that my apps could scale higher than anyone else’s because we have a great understanding of database concepts, tables, referential integrity, indexes, foreign keys, and such. This was an adequate message. Sometimes clients had needs in that area, and we are worked well with them.
By the mid-2000s, I realized that clients needed to be able to see what I was trying to convince them of in a concrete way. I needed both a specific concept to market to clients and a way to present that concept in a tangible manner that clients would “get.” Around 2005, the concept of AJAX took off, and I was “all in.” AJAX solved several problems for me and was a good horse to ride for several reasons:
- AJAX, and the type of interactivity that it brought to the table, offered functionality that users want.
- Because AJAX did not involve full-page response to the server, it helped in the area of performance and scalability. I could keep my interest in performance and scalability.
- It was easier to get clients on board with AJAX because they could easily see it. I could load a web page and easily demo to the user the benefits of AJAX.
- It made so much sense, but there was also a problem with marketing my AJAX expertise that we didn’t realize at that time.
What Should You Promote?
After you’ve decide what you will market, you need to determine the area of expertise that you will promote and the type of market segment you should go after. Clearly, if your business is the likes of an IBM, an Accenture, or a consulting company with an extensive market presence, the answer is whatever market segment you feel can be profitable. This usually means the largest market segments around.
However, you are not the only fisher man in the sea. You have some hurdles to overcome in establishing your presence in the market:
- Basically, anyone can say he or she is a software developer. There is no legal requirement for certification of development skills. This is different from other professional service areas. If someone claims to be a professional engineer, lawyer, or doctor and is not, there can be serious legal consequences for those actions. Software development has no similar requirements.
- The fact that software development is associated with a keyboard leads many management types to conclude that there is little difference between the “typing pool” of the 1950s and software developers today. The result is low wages paid to developers, or worse, outsourcing and offshoring to the lowest-priced bidder. Although IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and many other large organizations have the facilities and resources to make offshoring work, and work well, smaller companies have very little hope in getting outsourcing/offshoring to work. You must be able to communicate the value of your skills to a potential client’s business; otherwise, it will be hard to sell management or “the Bobs” on your value to the organization.
Now, back to the question of what area developers should target for their expertise. Going after the largest market segment can actually be difficult because of the intense competition in a segment. As I mentioned, intense competition has a tendency to drive down prices. That’s great if you are a client, but not so great if you’re looking at the return on investment of learning a new technology as a consultant.
A better solution might be to go after a smaller market segment When Microsoft developer professionals think of EF consultants, The lesson learned is that being in a large market segment of technology, such as ASP.NET or Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), might not be the best idea. You need to narrow down your area of expertise to encompass a smaller scope.
So now you’ve determined a technology area that you want to dig into and become an expert in. You’ve delved into the relevant technologies, you understand how they benefit you as a developer, and you understand how the technology benefits your client/company. What do you do now? Now comes the hardest part for a developer. You actually have to go and market your expertise in that area. How do you do that? It’s a two-step process:
- You, the developer, must create the content that demonstrates your expertise. This undertaking includes but is not limited to writing books, writing magazine articles, doing webinars, speaking at groups/conferences, writing blog posts, and, essentially, doing anything and everything to get your message out to as many people as possible.
- Once the material is created, your next task is to make sure that people know about this content. “Marketing the content” is the last step in the process, but the one that I see most people drop the ball on. Take a book, for example. Who is responsible for marketing a technology book? 99 percent of developers say it is the publisher’s responsibility. WRONG! It is everyone in the chain’s responsibility: the publisher, the author, the tech editor, and anyone else who has been involved with the book. What can a technologist do to market this content? Post blogs, tweets on Twitter, and Facebook and LinkedIn updates, as well as continually mention your content on any of many other online resources. Ask your friends for help. Don’t be afraid to tell your coworkers about the content you’ve published. Let everyone know what you have done. You’re proud of yourself; show it off!