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Marketing Advice for Developers

Walter, the old man puppet used by Jeff Dunham.Dear Reader,

(You can skip the prelude and OMR if you like and go straight to the recommendations. You won’t hurt my feelings.)

I am going to take a break from talking about Public Speaking to answer a DM I got from a friend about a month ago.

Cal, what sites do you read, to learn about email marketing and mastering social media?”

Vending Machine vs. Slot machine

The reason it has taken me nearly 30 days to answer this is because, by-in-large, the self-help marketing industry is a vending machine. You go to the blogs, you can see the materials, but if you want anything that will actually move the needle, you have to insert a quarter. By a quarter, I mean anything from $250-$1,995 USD. The more I thought about it the more I realized that at least with a vending machine, you are pretty sure what you are going to get out.

Best Buy vending machineIn most large US airports Best Buy has set up vending machine. You insert your credit card and you can buy headphones, an iPod, etc. It’s expensive, but you know what you are getting and you are reasonably sure that it will do the job you expect it to.

Self-help marketing has evolved, it is now a slot machine. Yes, I can insert my credit card (metaphorically) and I will get something. The problem I see is that a lot of the people out there are asking 5 figures for a class on something they may have actually done only once. But is what they are selling me their story of how they did it? Or have they now repeated the process enough times to actually know what works and what doesn’t? And – and this is the big question – do they know for certain that it will work for me? because honestly, a five figure course is a lot of money for most of us. So it’s not a vending machine, it’s a slot machine. You put in your quarter, you pull the lever, and you hope that it will help.


The OMR Portion of Today’s Show

I’m old. I’m cynical, I’ve purchased Ginsu knives; so I am very skeptical about this stuff. If the course promises me that I can grow my mailing list to 10,000 names in 3 months, I want to know where they are recommending that I purchase the 9,900 names.  If they promise me I can “make bank” on FaceBook ads, I want to know how many lego bricks I’m gonna need to make this bank.

I see people offering to take my money by the bucket-full without proving to me that it will be worth it. So I am in a quandary as to what to tell my friend. I want to help developers understand that there are some things that they can do to market their services or products, but I don’t want to send anyone to the casino with what few quarters they have.


The Recommendations

If you are just joining us after having skipped all the fun stuff, here are the resources I will recommend and any notes I have about them.

  • Marketing Over Coffee podcast
    This may be the ONLY thing I have to recommend that is NOT a slot machine. It’s not even a vending machine. I’ve been listening to this podcast since it began and while sometimes they get off on a tangent (we get it, you are from up north and are Democrats. Don’t care about your politics, just talk marketing) by-in-large, these two gentlemen dispense solid advice without trying to upsell you on anything.
  • Startups for the Rest of Us podcast
    Ok, so not specifically marketing, but for general entrepreneurship advice that sometimes includes marketing but that usually doesn’t include an upsell, this is a good one. The hosts do run 2 conferences and (I think) a for profit forum where you can hang out, ask questions, etc. Still, the pitch is never hard and the advice flows freely.
  • Michael Hyatt podcast
    This one I just stopped listening to. I don’t have time to listen to advice on how I need to take a one-week sabbatical in Tahoe every six months with my wife and plan the next six months of my career. If I had the money to take a sabbatical in Tahoe, maybe that advice would resonate.
  • Amy Porterfield Podcast
    Ok, we are walking into the casino now. I’ve been listening to this podcast for around a year and I will have to say she usually delivers. Some of her ‘casts have been jam-packed with solid advice, other times, meh. The point of her podcast is to drive you to her mailing list so she can sell you her course. I have not taken her course, I cannot tell you if it’s worth it, if you’ve got the cash and it sounds interesting to you, drop your quarter, pull the arm, and then tell the rest of us what you thought. Of all the “casino style” vendors I come across, Amy is the one I like the best. I am still not convinced she can do anything except market courses about marketing to those who don’t know, but she gives away a lot of decent advice.
  • Bryan Harris VideoFruit Blog, mailing list, webinars
    Bryan is my hometown boy. He was born in Mobile, AL and now lives in Nashville TN. I like Bryan. That having been said, Bryan is another slot machine. I have no idea if his stuff works. Yeah, I get that he’s got “social proof”, tweets from people who have built their list to 10,000 in a small amount of time. What I need to know is does he have actual proof. I don’t know these people tweeting about his. For all I know they could be sock puppets.I’ve attended a few of his free webinars. Enough to know that while I’m sure he means well, they simply end up as frustrating time-wasters because, in the end, the point of them is to get you to subscribe to his mailing list so he can get you to pull the lever. I’m old. I don’t have time to waste anymore. If you are simply going to try to sell me on your product, tell me that up-front. Don’t promise me 10 new shortcuts to getting facebook likes.
  • Chris Brogan blog, mailing list, webinars
    I like Chris. Chris is up-front bout what he does. Chris doesn’t do a lot of  free webinars. If Chris invites you to a webinar, up-front, he’ll ask you for $20. This is your indicator that you ill get at least $20 worth of information out of his webinar. The last one I went to was $20 for one hour of advice. It was generic advice, sure. He didn’t take the time to sit down with me personally, understand my needs, and give me targeted advice. Then again I only paid $20.It was money and time well-spent because it was what I expected. Yes, I got added to his list. Yes, I get ~2 emails a week from him regarding the things that he does. That’s fine, I didn’t get pitched in the webinar. (At least I don’t recall getting pitched. I think if he had I would have got all ranty on twitter about it.)
  • Amy Hoy blog
    Amy is a developer. (Side note, I’ve known of  Any since ~2004. We may have actually talked on the phone once or twice. I’m sure she wouldn’t remember me.) She dispenses a lot of what she considers tough-love advice for developers who want to be entrepreneurs. In the end, while a lot of her blog posts sound interesting, most of them set up a problem that can only be solved by taking her course. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you know going into any of her blog posts that it will eventually get back to a pitch to get you to pull the lever. It’s classic “content marketing”. Every now and then I’ll find a gem of n idea that I can run with in one of her posts. Also, I like her writing style. It was “Silicon Valley” snark because we had “Silicon Valley”. (The HBO Series) Make no mistake, Amy is a slot machine. In her case, I do know people who have taken her course and have privately given me mixed reviews.
  • Conversion Rate Optimization Blog
    If you are into WordPress then you probably know the names Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner, and OptIn Monster. If you aren’t into WordPress, you are still in luck. Syed publishes one of the best blogs for self-marketers, Conversion Rate Optimization Blog. It’s full of checklists and top X lists and a lot of things that if you are willing to do they work, actually convert, regardless of whether you use any of his products. On the surface, this may seem like yet another content marketing blog, this one is different.  This blog really does have actionable intel. Unlike a lot of the others listed here in this list, Syed isn’t trying to sell you a class. Yes, dang near everything is behind a Reg-Wall, and yes, he’s going to add you to his mailing list, but for this content, that’s a small price to pay.  If you do use WordPress, look into OptIn Monster. it’s a good product.

So What DOES work?

I am so glad you hung around for this part. Because I have discovered a nugget of marketing wisdom and I’m going to share it with you.

  • No, you don’t have to subscribe to my mailing list to get it. (but if you wanted to subscribe to the Nomad PHP mailing list, I’d appreciate it)
  • No, I’m not going to set up a course that you have to pay me for so that I can share it with you.
  • No, I won’t make any promises to you as to how applicable it is to your situation.

You’ve powered through my rambling rant, you’ve stayed the course, so I’m going to tell you what I know. Ready? Here it is.

Watch all of those people. See how they actually market their services, not just how they tell others to. Watch for any shortcuts they take, what how they handle their lead-gen, their webinars, and pay attention to the phrasing and cadence they use in their marketing materials and blog posts.

I can hear you now “Wait, Cal, are you saying just watch what they do and rip them off?” Absolutely I am. Well, you do have another choice, you can drop a quarter in and pull the lever. But if you are patient, and you are observant, my guess is that if they are worth what they are charging, they are taking their own advice. By observing, you should be able to do 2 things.

  1. Get some good ideas on how you should be marketing your services or products.
  2. Figure out if the slot machine will pay off. Look if you can get traction by simply observing and mimicking them, how much more can you get by actually listening to them?

So go, observe and mimic. If you find one who seems to be doing the right thing, drop your quarter in and see if that slot machine pays off. If on the other hand, the things they are doing don’t work for you, chances are real good that the slot machine won’t pay off for you. Move on.

Until next time,
I <3 |<


Photo Credit: Walter by Patricia van Casteren
Photo Credit: Best Buy Vending Machine by Rocky A
Used under Creative Commons license