Marketing is hard and scary

Marketing is really hard, despite the rumors you’ve heard. The more I get into it, the more I’ve come to respect the skills (if not necessarily the tactics) necessary to deliver a message to prospective customers. Up until this point, Snowtide has done virtually no marketing, and we’ve made out very nicely. We now have a mature product that really kicks ass. I’m proud of what PDFTextStream is doing for its users, some of whom simply would not be able to do their jobs if it weren’t for it. But we’re past the point of working small niches. Scores of development shops, large and small, would have fewer bad days if they had PDFTextStream humming on their servers and in their products. So, the time has come to spread the gospel and make sure they know that. To that end, we’re starting a new marketing strategy in July. It’s going to start slow as we learn our footing (the conventional wisdom is that summertime sees a slowdown in corporate software purchases because of vacationing). It will build through the end of the year. And, it will end with PDFTextStream being the only serious choice for developers in enterprise-class environments. There’s the tricky part, though: convincing people that our product is better than its competition. The foundation for that has been laid for PDFTextStream — it’s been borne out in customer experiences. The problem is that, without appropriate marketing, the people that are likely to appreciate that fact will never even know about your product. In order to change that, we’ve got to write good ad copy, hire good designers to craft and mold that copy into digestable elements (ad banners, text ads, white papers, editorial placements, etc), and feed those elements into a cacaphony of interruptive marketing noise to be noticed and not ignored. Technical people and marketing folks have always had their differences; they simply do not understand the difficulties inherent in their respective trades, and that often leads to disrespect. That is ever so slowly changing, in part because of pieces similar to this post, typically made by an in-the-trenches software company founder (like myself, I suppose), who inevitably describes how difficult marketing is. And seriously — it’s really, really, hard. Every step in the progression of tasks I enumerated that leads to a prospective customer seeing, noticing, and acting on a pice of advertising is hard. And personally, I find it very unpleasant, simply because I am, by nature, technical. I know how the bits in software work, and I know those types of things very well. It’s a perfect occupation for someone who is a bit of a control nut. Yes, I am that. So it makes me very uneasy to engage in an activity (like marketing) where I cannot readily control the outcome. It makes me even more uneasy to engage in an activity (like marketing) where I am less than fully confident in my (and in this case, our) abilities. We are fundamentally technical; we know how the bits work. Even with help, we find the fuzzy, soft, vague world of marketing just a little scary. That will get better in time, as we fail a little, succeed a little, and do a little more of the latter and a little less of the former each time we try. It would be a high crime to not try, try hard, and try often; we have a great product, it should be seen, and it will be seen.