Several weeks ago I was talking with a friend who is also a developer. I was talking about some of my various experiments with entrepreneurship and his responses were really funny.
I was talking about CodeSmith and a tool I had in mind to go along with it. His response was that developers wouldnt buy it. Developers do not buy that kind of stuff was his assertion.
Oh really? CodeSmith? ReSharper? Code Rush? Telerik? so on and so on. All businesses that sell add ons for VisualStudio. All doing reasonably well from what little I can tell. Frankly I can’t use Visual Studio without Resharper anymore. I have so many templates and snippets setup using it that using VS in the buff is like pour salt in my eyes.
Responses like the above are part of the reason I don’t talk to developer’s too much about what I’m doing. Actually, I’m nearing the point where I don’t bother asking for advice from anybody. To date the amount of usable advice I have received is next to nothing. It is really discouraging. What you really end up getting when you talk to people is a reflection of how the world works.
What brought this topic to mind for me is this post by Seth Godin: “The Rule of High School”. His point is to not take things too seriously. Stay focused on what you are doing. You’ll hear a lot of crap from irrelevant people that think you ought to be doing things in some particular fashion. Great: tell them to go do it that way and see how it works.
So if you can’t listen to your friends and colleagues, who do you listen to? Basically, the market. In my case what I’m building is going to be web focused. So I’ll pay attention to three things: customers, traffic, and communities.
Customers come first because they’ve actually opened their wallet and handed over money. That indicates a certain level of commitment. Even if it is not money, just registration for example, these people deserve your attention. Find out what they want, what their problems are and what they say they need. Address those things.
Traffic is next. If you do not have traffic (ahem) then you are doing something wrong. Figure it out and fix it. If you do have traffic but the conversion sucks you are doing something wrong. Figure it out and fix it. Watching traffic provides feedback about how well your marketing is working. That deserves attention.
Communities are last. Communities in your niche are basically your future customers. the same questions apply to them: what do they want, what are their problems, and what do they need. Learn to gather that information efficiently and then learn to analyze it and use the analysis to help address the other two areas.
Basically the three areas can be summaries up to paying attention to feedback from a large group of people. Just like in high school, if you just take the feedback from bullies you’ll end up sitting in a dark corner hugging your knees rocking back and fourth hoping the bad people will just go away. But if you take a wider sampling you’ll see a very different world.
Sure there are developers that refuse to buy anything. Irrelevant. There are plenty of developers that are smart enough to see the value in finding tools and utilities that will help increase their productivity. But if you listen to the first group you’ll never venture out and find the other group.