How to advertise to software engineers, or how do we make terrible tech choices

How do you convince developers to use your software? Is there a marketing formula that will make them want to use your open-source project, buy your SaaS, or join your startup?

Does the standard marketing approach work in the case of developers?

If you ask programmers, we will tell you it doesn’t work. Programmers don’t make emotional decisions. We use logic. We analyze the problem before making any decisions.

It’s a lie.

Programmers will use logic to justify the decision after making it. Just like every other person.

The same marketing strategies that work everywhere work in software engineering.

This article will show you how to use the AIDA method while pitching to programmers.

Warning: The text is sarcastic. Don’t take it too seriously ;)

Attention, Interest, Desire, Action

The AIDA model is one of the oldest and most popular marketing models.

First, you need to get the prospect’s attention. Then you must spark their interest in your product, make them desire it, and finally, suggest what action they should take.

How to get programmers’ attention?

Show us a cool technical problem. Not a problem we actually have, but a problem we wish we had.

Seriously.

I am pitching my conference talk about “MLOps for the rest of us” to different programming conferences. I want to talk about MLOps practices at companies that aren’t as big as Google or Zalando.

Nobody cares.

Yet, the same conferences accept talks about big-scale practices, enterprise MLOps, and the emerging problems in software engineering.

Let’s be honest. How many of you used Apache Kafka because you really needed an event streaming platform? How many people used it as a bloated message queue? I used it as a distributed log table. We could replace the entire setup with an insert trigger in a database. But Kafka was so much cooler!

All developers (Ok. Fine. Almost all or, at least, a large enough group of developers.) will agree that one day they may have the problem you solve. They must be prepared!

Because, apparently, their software is so hard to change that they can’t modify it when they need to do it…

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How to spark interest?

We already know your product solves the problems we don’t have yet. We feel we have to act now because we are three months away from becoming the next Google. (I told you this would be a sarcastic text.)

Now, get us interested in your product. After all, the software is like fashion. When one company builds a new kind of product, everyone else starts doing it too.

How are you better than everyone else?

Give us something. It may be irrelevant in our case. Most likely, it will be irrelevant. After all, we don’t have the problem. We only dream of having it. But we will use this irrelevant feature to justify choosing your product over others.

Buzzwords = Desire

Now you must be careful. You must use all the correct buzzwords. Imagine a bingo card with all the things in fashion this year in software engineering. You have to say every buzzword at least once.

Also, you have to mention features! We already want your product. We have made the decision already. But later, we will try to justify the decision.

Not because we must justify it.

Not because features and logic matter.

Not because we will change our minds.

But because we need the final kick to make us feel good about taking action.

The emotional part of the brain has already made the decision. Now the logical part must make us feel stupid because we didn’t see the greatness of your product sooner.

Do you know what is even better? Tell us who else uses the product. We have seen one conference talk about it, so everyone is already using it! Even if “everyone” means 900 people across the world.

It doesn’t matter how many companies use it. Try name-dropping. The more, the better. We must feel FOMO. We must get afraid of getting left behind!

You don’t even need to mention the next action

AIDA requires four elements. Action is the last one.

You can skip it. If you did everything else right, we would start googling your website and installing the software before finishing the talk.

Let’s finish the sarcastic part and be serious for a moment.

The process I described above works too well. Can we somehow stop the hype-driven development?

I’m out of ideas. Do you have any?


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Bartosz Mikulski
Bartosz Mikulski * MLOps Engineer / data engineer * conference speaker * co-founder of Software Craft Poznan & Poznan Scala User Group

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