Eric Sink has an excellent weblog for technologists who need to do marketing. In a recent post, he writes about how geeks make the assumption that everyone is like them and what can be done about it.
To reach mainstream customers, we sometimes need to ignore our own preferences and just do what the customers want. Non-geeks in marketing generally have no trouble with this. Once they decide what the market prefers, all they want to do is get that product into the customer’s hands. They don’t have strong opinions about technology, so they don’t have trouble separating customer preferences from their own.
Not so with us geeks. We care too much about technology. We chose software development careers because we love technology for its own sake. We fight amongst ourselves in religious battles that seem arcane and irrelevant to normal people. We debate vi against emacs, Linux against Windows, C# against Java, RSS against Atom. We have strong opinions and we make them visible to everyone around us.
And when we get involved in marketing, we can stumble over those opinions. We need to talk about what customers want, but our own preferences get in the way. We bring our technology prejudices and biases to the discussion, often without ever being aware of the problems they can cause.
So it’s important to learn how to set aside our own preferences when appropriate. However, we don’t want to also set aside the deep technology understanding we have. Those two things come together, like the two sides of a coin. The religious preferences are inseparable from the expertise. The former is an obstacle to marketing discussions, but the latter is a tremendous asset.