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From Developer to Marketer

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The transition process and learning curve has been tough – to say the least.

But it is necessary. Absolutely necessary.

I never thought I would label myself as a marketer, but as I learn more about my craft and about selling products like Soliloquy, the best responsive WordPress slider plugin, it is more and more evident that I need to be just as good a marketer as I am a developer – if not better.

If you have not read the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, I encourage you to pick it up and read it. In the book, Robert Kiyosaki outlines and describes his experience with his two fathers: one educated, “poor” dad and one uneducated, “rich” dad. The principles and thought processes behind the book are incredible, but it was a particular story that really gripped me.

Kiyosaki was entertaining an interview with a budding journalist. During the interview process, she had remarked that she would like to be a best-selling author, just like him. Kiyosaki probed the young girl as to why she had not achieved her dream, and she simply uttered that her work, while praised by her peers and friends, “did not go anywhere”. Kiyosaki responded that she should attend some classes that train people to sell, and immediately her countenance shifted and began to look in disgust.

(paraphrased) “A salesperson?? I have a Master’s Degree in English! Why would I want to be a salesperson!??!”. Kiyosaki pointed to some text on a book and told her to read it. “Robert Kiyosaki, best-selling author”, she said, to which Kiyosaki responded “Best-selling author, not best-writing author”.

And that’s when it hit me. That one short story completely changed my thought process behind developing websites and products. I had been focusing on the wrong thing.

Now don’t get me wrong. I still write great code, but it is no longer my primary focus. Great code doesn’t make me a successful product owner. Great code doesn’t make me a successful businessman. Focusing on great code garners me lots of critics who think their code is better than mine, and that’s a rat race that I never care to get involved with for the long haul. There is always going to be someone smarter than me, someone who knows more than me, someone who writes better code than me, someone who _______________.

I’m having to learn how to become a salesman to those who don’t care about code at all. I’m having to learn how to market both myself and my products in a way that convinces and eases clients and customers that I’ve got the solution they need. And let me be the first to tell you that it is completely counterintuitive to what I’ve done the last 2.5 years.

I was a developer. A developer who sought after the reward and praise of other developers. And what did that get me? A few friends, plenty of enemies and lots of wasted time over nit-picky arguments that never amounted to anything that potential customers would care about.

To be sure, I don’t think my time spent as a developer was wasted. On the contrary, I am incredibly grateful for all the things I have learned (and am still learning). But the fact of the matter is: I’ve got to learn how to become a master salesman.

Kiyosaki says that “money should work for you, not you working for money”. E-mything your business means that you work “on your business”, not “in your business”.

I’m tired of working for money in my business. I’m ready to work on my business with money that works for me. And that’s the start of my transition from developer to marketer.

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About Thomas Griffin

I live and breathe WordPress. I create products around WordPress (Soliloquy and OptinMonster), contribute to WordPress core and do lots of fun development around WordPress in general. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

  • http://twitter.com/edwardjbeckett Edward Beckett

    Didn’t expect that one … many developers aspire to move on to CTO / CEO of a start-up :-)

    • griffinjt

      I should probably mention that my shift is more towards autonomy and freedom to make things for people who actually want and need my services/products rather than other developers. The last thing I would want to do is shift my focus from pleasing nit-picky developers to money-hungry angels. ;-)

      The problem with being a CEO/CTO of a startup is still the same – you working in the business, not on it. :-)

  • http://twitter.com/paul_wp Paul de Wouters

    Definitely a smart move. You’ve certainly established yourself as a great developer, so now it’s time to reap the rewards.
    I’d love to see more insights as to what techniques have the most impact on your sales, maybe you’ll write a few posts on that?
    I’m sorry to hear about your bad experience with other developers, but it’s probably a good sign. Successful people tend to make more enemies than friends, but the few friends you have, you can count on.

    • griffinjt

      Sure – I will write some posts about that stuff too! And I’d much rather have a few close friends than lots of acquaintances. :-)

  • http://youneedfat.com/ FAT Media

    Marketing is a seriously undervalued skill amongst developers, so it’s great that you understand how important it is! We’re working really hard to become known as a developer-friendly, WordPress-based internet marketing company because I believe there is a serious void in the market. Sounds like you can see it too!

    If you ever feel like talking shop, don’t hesitate to hit me up on Twitter or send us an email. I’m pretty much always available to discuss strategy with other devs-turned-marketers. :)

    • griffinjt

      I completely agree, and there is a void in the market. Bill Erickson does a great job of marketing himself, and it is no surprise that he is always jam packed with work.

      Turning knowledge into a marketable commodity isn’t necessarily easy, but I believe the rewards are well worth the time and effort into developing said commodity.

  • Guest

    This was a very interesting and thoughtful article to read though i’m not coding myself, i’m just familiar with HTML and CSS. I’m going to look into a university so i could study web programing and get an exam. What i’ve noticed about this particular job is that it’s plenty out there, am i right?

    • griffinjt

      As long as you are good at what you do and can execute, there will always be jobs for you.

  • wpio

    Hi griffinjt yeh, nice piece. It’s the difference between running a lifestyle business and a product business to my thinking.

    Anyway, tried to sign up for your email newsletter: http://www.webpagescreenshot.info/img/143657-311201353310PM – think that’s an AJAX error? Can you make sure d@wp.io is subscribed please!

  • http://twitter.com/GaryJ Gary Jones

    I don’t recall us having any arguments, but I could imagine that I got you to focus on aspects of writing code that others might call nit-picking. Sure, finished is better than perfect, but you having gone through the nit-picking stage means you’re an all-round better developer, and that in turn, will make you an all-round better *anything* in the long term, as you’ll have fewer maintenance and support issues to deal with, allowing more time on improving and marketing the business and therefore making more money.

    Do customers care if you’ve fully documented your code, written arrays in certain ways, added unit tests or followed precise and testable code standards? Probably not, but each of those bits have intrinsic values for future you or or some other person who has to maintain your code later on.

    • griffinjt

      I completely agree with you. You are the one guy whom I attribute most of my coding skills too! I think I just looked at the skill as the “end-all-be-all” for so long and didn’t realize that I needed to turn it into a marketable asset. It’s just like the girl in the story. Sure, you can be an excellent coder, but if you don’t turn it into a marketable and sellable skill – you’re generally just a stereotypical programmer.

      Being on my own, I’m learning how to take this skill and make it into something that can be marketed to better provide for my family and give me avenues of future business. :-)

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  • http://sdavismedia.com/ Sean Davis

    Nice write-up, man. I just recently released my first major php application (a WordPress framework) and it has taken less than a few days for me to realize that people are way more concerned with how I make them feel about my framework than how it was actually built.

    As mentioned already, I don’t regret my coding practices at all. I’m a fairly new coder so I want to do everything I can to get better. But, man… what I value in my work is completely different from what people are looking for when they check it out.

    Time to find balance. Good piece.

    • griffinjt

      Very nice! it’s good that you have come to that realization so early. It took me nearly 8 months with Soliloquy before I was jarred to that realization (server crash + a week long being down).

      People want solutions, so that’s what we should give them, right? :-)

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  • http://www.zulhilmizainudin.com/ Zulhilmi Zainudin

    Absolutely true! I noticed that closing sale & copywriting skills are more important than writing a (very) neat code. Because, customers won’t really care about it at all and they just want their tasks to be completed just like they wished.

    I realized this when I’ve been too long designing and coding. After I do add myself with some great businessmen (especially on social media), I do adapt the new environment and I can see how do they ‘story telling’ about their products and soft-selling their products.

    The process is very unique and this skills is very crucial for all coders! So, be balance and get social. Learn how to be a (much) better salesman! ;)

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