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Marketing & Business Dev People - If I Write Code For 8+ Hours Every Day, What Will You Do?

As a programmer, I hesitate to join forces with people who don't write code when starting a SaaS company. A lot of programmers I know feel the same way. Personally, it's because I feel like the hours I put in and the value I create (keep in mind this is for a SaaS company) will not be matched.

Let's say there is an early-stage SaaS company comprised of two programmers. What can Marketing and Business Dev people offer the company, especially if it's a company that may not want to raise money (aka no fundraising duties)? What tangible value would they create? Programmers work notoriously long hours (I know I do). Should working the same hours be expected of Marketing and Business Dev people?

22 Replies

Mike Whitfield
4
0
Mike Whitfield Entrepreneur
Sr. Software Engineer, EPAM, Google
Hey Austen,

I can't help but notice 2 threads from you now that have reflected disdain for the biz process. FD is a highly vetted community, so this is a place where you can rest assured everyone here is serving some significant value to the company and the business process.

What's deeper past the feelings of ill-will on business processes?

-- also an engineer

Politely,
Mike
Jake Carlson
7
0
Jake Carlson Entrepreneur • Advisor
Software Development Manager at Oracle
Not in Gerald's case, apparently. ;)

As a fellow developer, I hear what you're saying. But your software isn't worth the hardware it's compiled on if nobody uses it and nobody makes the deals that makes the business run. We can all argue in circles about how much value each role brings to the table, but at the end of the day it's up to each individual to prove their worth to the business. If someone can double your revenue, I'd say that person is very valuable (arguably more valuable than that second programmer, in some cases).

A marketing person that doesn't add value should be let go, just like a programmer that doesn't add value. If you're worried that you'll get stuck with someone that doesn't add value, just make their compensation tightly coupled with performance. Also, the number of hours worked really should not be a primary metric. The amount of value added should be. As programmers, we both know that simple but elegant solutions trump extra hours spent solving the wrong problem or solving it in the wrong way.
Shobhit Verma
2
0
Shobhit Verma Entrepreneur • Advisor
building an adaptive recommendation engine
Those are awesome responses.
I am a programmer myself and I have been doing Marketing for ~1.5 years now.
There is a book called "The mythical man month" which removes the fallacy that a coder working for 8+ hours is better than a coder working for 3 hours. So clearly even coders cannot be compared based on hours they put in.
Marketing "progress" is even less measurable. I would say that the right marketer/biz dev person may even appear to work only for 1-2 hours but what matters most is their passion. I know good marketers who live and breather their products, they get ideas when talking to friends, when waiting for a cab or when a crow shits on them .. why ? Because they observer every life experience and ask the question -"what does it teach me about how to market my product better?". Talk to them about how they want to solve the marketing problems and see if they make sense to you, you may want to use an expert's advice if you haven't developed the faculty to assess.

TL;DR Coding- which has a tangible outcome- cannot be measured in hours, and marketing is even harder to measure. Use expert advisors to help choose such cofounders, otherwise it is like buying a used car when you haven't even driven a car before. You can get lucky, but more often than not, you will be sold on something that is not relevant. Don't do it without expert supervision.
Erin-Michael Johnson
5
0
Erin-Michael Johnson Entrepreneur
Principal Software Engineer at Shelvspace
I'm also a programmer, so I "sort of" get where you're coming from; however, I think you're making the assumption [probably incorrectly] that value creation is a linear process owned solely by product development. In some highly public success stories, this is certainly the popular narrative (read: social network). In my experience, YMMV, working with startups and being a technical co-founder myself (8 years strong, profitable, backed, rejecting capital), I know that the contributions of smart developers (I like to think I'm smart) are integral to success. But... success is a bumpy road, and I've also watched GOOD marketing (biz dev) of a GOOD product (prod dev) become the tipping point for success. Not just once. Pretty much always. My point, be careful discounting the value of skillsets other than "programmers." We're a linchpin, no question about it, but don't drink TechCrunch's koolaid make you believe we're the only people who matter.
Austen Collins
1
2
Austen Collins Entrepreneur • Advisor
Founder at Servant
Thanks for the responses so far :)

Jon - Your comment made me laugh out loud, thanks :)

Mike - No ill-will here. I characterized the post a specific way because I'm looking for tangible and measurable ways these types of people can contribute to a SaaS business. I guess I have sort of a non PC/BS style.

Jake - I agree with everything you're saying, I'm just looking for tangible, measurable ways these people can contribute to a SaaS business in the early, early stage.

Shobhit - Thanks for your input. But, I think marketing and business dev is measurable.

There is no doubt programmers need help getting the word out about their projects. They can't tell people about their projects while stuck behind their computers all day. So, the need for Marketing and Business Dev people is obvious in the SaaS space. Is it unreasonable to expect to find a scrappy, hard-working, Marketing/Business Dev person with a toolbox full of strategies to deploy for gaining traction, customers, and revenue? Where can programmers find those people? Can you selecthustleras a skill-set when browsing the FD network?




Ahmad Raza Khan
3
0
Ahmad Raza Khan Entrepreneur
Sr. Technical Account Manager at Amazon Web Services
As an engineer working in enterprise sales, I see how technology purchasing decisions are made everyday. If your SaaS product is B2B, I would argue that you wouldn't get very far without a great marketing team that can get the word out to the targeted segments as well as a motivated sales team with the right relationships. In a high-stake deal, a customer will more likely buy from people they like and trust rather then a cool website. This is especially true if you have 10 other companies trying to offer the same product are not clearly differentiated.

For a B2C product, you might not need sales and business development people but I would still consider marketing to be essential.
Paul Travis
7
0
Paul Travis Entrepreneur
Multifaceted Online Executor: Product Marketing to Program Mgmt. to Business Development
I did a decade of professional software development on product millions and millions of people use(d) then got bored and jumped the fence to marketing and business development and have been successful in this for 20 years.

I've even had business partnerships which went "askew" because my tech colleague went so far down a path before we vetted that the particular approach added value.

The way you say "programmers need help getting the word out about their projects" suggests to me that you have little value in the collaborative process, but I think that's where the gold is. A pricing/licensing system, web page, or channel strategy is worth every bit your code is worth.

(In fact, I'd say you're sounding remarkably like some of my clients -- who really want JUST the results of sales and marketing but don't actually want me to do any of the work it takes to get there...)

Alicia, what do you have to say on the matter?
Austen Collins
0
0
Austen Collins Entrepreneur • Advisor
Founder at Servant
Ahmad - Thanks, I appreciate your answer. I do have a B2B product and you've given me some things to look for/expect from a Marketing/Business Dev person:
  • Someone who can segment out your potential customer base and target them uniquely.
  • Someone with useful relationships related to your potential customers.
  • Having a sales team that can develop a relationship with customers and build trust will differentiate you from your customers (highly relevant to SaaS businesses because it is crowded out there).
Edward Sullivan
4
1
Edward Sullivan Advisor
Founder and Executive Coach
1) First, FounderDating needs to fix this auto-responder-hell issue. Sheesh...

2) This part of the OPs latest response confuses me: "Is it unreasonable to expect to find a scrappy, hard-working, Marketing/Business Dev person with a toolbox full of strategies to deploy for gaining traction, customers, and revenue? Where can programmers find those people? Can you selecthustleras a skill-set when browsing the FD network?" I thought you help Biz/Marketing people in such contempt that you were questioning their value? But now you sound like you're trying to find one? Very confusing...

3) Overall, I find the premise of the original statement/question deeply flawed. To imply most if not all of the value of a company lies in it's product/programmers belies a deep misunderstanding about how starting and building a business actually works. Anyone can come up with an idea. Any programmer can build an MVP. But getting from "Look at this cool thing I built" to a few million people using it (and PAYING for it) is 100% sales and marketing.

You say that the hours you put in and the value you create will not be matched. But what value is there if no one uses your product? The start-up graveyards are filled with smart technical founders who couldn't market or communicate their vision.

Over the years, I have worked with teams of engineers who have spent a lot of time developing cool products and exactly ZERO time thinking about how to take it to market. They say, But we built this amazing thing, why is no one using it? The value savvy business partners provide them makes all the difference between languishing with a few hundred users and large-scale adoption. And much of the value they provide would be considered "soft skills" by a coder: design, brand, messaging, discipline around product simplicity, answering the question "Are we solving a major pain point?", introductions to taste-makers and opinion leaders, early customer trials, user advocacy, user feedback, partnerships, policy initiatives, etc. To say all of that pales in comparison to the value provided by the programmers is patently indefensible.

If you want to know more value about what value non-technical co-founders provide, try reading about Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Reid Hoffman, or hundreds of others...

Chris Walker
3
0
Chris Walker Entrepreneur
Co-Founder & CTO at Friday
"As a programmer, I hesitate to join forces with people who don't write code when starting a SaaS company"

Fundamentally you need to understand that a company's success - and therefore value - depends on a whole suite of complementary disciplines coming together to work towards a shared vision and ambition. Given you're starting a SaaS company, having a team who can understand the technical product would be important. That doesn't mean they all need to be coders however - indeed, they shouldn't be.



"Programmers work notoriously long hours (I know I do). Should working the same hours be expected of Marketing and Business Dev people?"

Oh boy. You're considering value created/productivity based on hours worked? This is completely the wrong way of looking at things. You're not building a factory that makes grommets.

Here's an article about hours worked vs. productivity:http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2013/09/working-hours







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