Why Every Developer Should Add Marketing to Their Skill Set

Adding some marketing knowledge will increase your value, and improve your product.
Headshot of Ryan Nehring
Ryan Nehring
Expert Contributor
October 22, 2020
Updated: October 23, 2020
Headshot of Ryan Nehring
Ryan Nehring
Expert Contributor
October 22, 2020
Updated: October 23, 2020

At first glance, programmers and marketers seem like substantively different people.

Programmers live in a world of boolean logic where true and false can always be checked and quantified. Marketers live in a human behavioral gray area, teasing out the intricacies of the intangible motivations of consumers and figuring out how best to leverage them.

Although having seemingly incompatible mindsets, the truth is every programmer would do well to add a hefty dose of marketing knowledge to their skill set.

This is true across all of the myriad variants of the developer role, from the smallest one-man-shop developing a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, all the way up to members of large coding departments working on enterprise software. Let’s examine why.

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Marketing and UX Go Hand in Hand

As a developer, the usability of your products should always be at the forefront of your mind. Finding the right balance of functionality, ease of use, and aesthetic edge without overcomplicating the interface is a tricky task. When done correctly, nothing will sell your product better than a user feeling comfortable and empowered by the user interface you’ve designed and programmed.

Understanding a marketers mindset when you build out your project will help you make informed choices about color schemes, button placement, and user flow that will appeal to your end user. No amount of search engine optimization (SEO), flashy advertisements, or clever copy will make a poorly designed product a success, so understanding some marketing basics as you build keeps you from inadvertently sabotaging your effort.

 

It Will Make You a Better Member of Your Team

In my years as a developer, I’ve seen a lot of fights and resentment between developers and marketers. There’s a perceived baseline animosity that seems to exist as a byproduct of the seemingly disparate nature of our work.

The truth is, everyone working on a product wants to see it succeed, and most of the time everyone is genuinely trying their best to contribute to that success via their specific expertise. Often, that expertise isn’t valued the way it should be, and I firmly believe that to be a function of not honestly understanding the nature of the different roles.

Developers have been known to reduce marketers to a used car salesman sort of stereotype as a way to invalidate their arguments. Similarly, I’ve certainly seen marketing departments that regard their developers as robots with no understanding of human nature and in need of corralling.

Neither of these is true, and simply learning and understanding more of what makes the marketing department tick can go a long way toward finding some middle ground. Developers who can do that offer dramatically more value to their team and company.

 

It Fosters Flexibility, a Requirement in the SaaS Era

It’s safe to say the era of SaaS is no longer “the coming thing,” but instead the current reality. It’s no accident that monster companies like Apple have pivoted toward “services” as a major income model going forward. Selling a single piece of software or an app once is nice, but selling a service creates an ongoing revenue stream with infinitely more potential.

This change in paradigm means developers have to learn to wear more hats than they used to. We don’t get to just sit in dark rooms with glowing screens living out our Matrix fantasies anymore. More and more a developer is expected to not only understand, but help out in other areas like marketing, customer service, and onboarding as well as the usual technical support of the product.

This means we’re no longer exempt from flexibility and teamwork. The absolute best way to achieve that flexibility and team camaraderie is to understand the jobs your coworkers are doing and the goals they’re trying to achieve. Since many successful SaaS shops are small teams or even single developer shops, the ability to understand marketing becomes even more important. Your killer app won’t go far without proper marketing and exposure.

I’m not suggesting every developer become a marketing whiz kid. Your best role as a developer is coding and creating the product itself, but having some core principles and understanding, and, most importantly, respect for the marketers craft is an approach every serious developer should no longer view as optional.

We developers often feel a strong sense of ownership over the projects we spend untold hours coding and building. That sense of ownership should inspire us to do everything in our power to see it succeed. Moreover, expanding our skill sets with some marketing knowledge and a general appreciation for its function will make us more successful in the companies we work for. If you catch a reputation as a developer who works well with the marketing department, your value to the company as a whole will rise considerably.

Most developers spend a lot of time self-educating in an effort to keep up with the latest ever-changing tech. Take just a little bit of that time to read and learn some of the principles that drive your marketing department. Grab lunch with a member of their team and ask questions about what they do, and, most importantly, why. You’ll be amazed how quickly it can help you streamline your efforts behind the keyboard, and, ultimately, build a better, stronger, more marketable product.

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