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Advertising to developers?

I have an idea for a software library that could benefit a lot of companies and I'm considering setting up a company to produce it.  I have potential investors lined up but the main thing that's putting me off is a problem that I guess you've had to address with FogBugz – how do you advertise to developers?  Word of mouth is probably the best form of advertising but how do you go about building the critical mass that it requires?  For my potential product I think that this problem is compounded by two things:  Firstly, although the problems that my product addresses are pretty common only a minority of companies attempt to solve them so a developer would be unlikely to go looking for my product.  Secondly the purpose of the product is not easily summed up in a tagline so banner ads on developer sites would be difficult.  How would you address these issues? On the positive side every developer that I have discussed the project with has been eager to buy it, so I know that if I can get their attention for long enough I can sell it.

Monday, February 23, 2004

I would advise you to:
(1) make a web site for programmers
(2) make it really popular

I don't mean to be glib - I really don't know the answer to this question other than to tell you how I did it, which is, steps 1 and 2 above. I can think of some ways other companies did it:

(a) persistent advertising in every single computer magazine for years and years and years (dtSearch, gimpel lint)
(b) getting a stripped down sample in the box with Microsoft developer tools (InstallShield, Dotfuscator)
(c) hiring an expensive sales team and setting your price point around $100,000 (Mercury, Rational)

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Monday, February 23, 2004

Thanks for the answers - at least I got a laugh out of it.  ;-)

If anyone else has any ideas or if you know of any websites that publicise useful dev tools please drop me a line.

Monday, February 23, 2004

I get a newsletter every now and then from the kind folks at

Near the top of the list is a few paid advertisements -- I'm sure they'd be happy to add you for a fee.

This might not suit your particular product, but where do your demographically-compatible developers hang out? I'd bet my Wayne Gretzky rookie card that a few of those sites will take your money.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Is there a blog community that you could target?

For example, if you were going to produce a .NET component I would suggest getting a blog at and start talking about it.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Another thing you could do is astroturf these forums by putting up a link to your developer website and saying:

"I heard about this cool site  Has anyone used it?"

Works every time!

Mr. Fancypants
Monday, February 23, 2004

Thanks guys.  Unfortunately my target market would be C and C++ developers who I think are less likely to visit related websites and subscribe to newsletters etc than for newer technologies like .NET, but I guess there's still stuff like the C++ Users Journal and (Thanks for the reminder about CodeProject by the way - I think that I discovered Visual Assist there, so it obviously worked for them) which would be worth a try. 

As for astroturfing I'm assuming that you were joking but I'll keep well away from it (although I've been accused of it on here before).  I have the same rule about astroturfers for spammers - I don't buy their products.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Advertise it on JoelOnSoftware? (I just gave Joel an idea to make money)

Monday, February 23, 2004

Another way is to be active in adequate forums, be it Usenet, web or anything else, and toss in Lots of Great Responses to people's problems so that your name and signature will be Known and Respected.

Of course the signature will include a link to your product site...

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

I cannot believe that you are unable to describe your library/product in a single sentence.

If you cannot "essentialize" your product description, you will never be able to sell it. 

If your library is so diverse as to cover so many areas that they cannot all be added to the one sentence description, you probably don't have a good product.

If the problem you're solving, is as common as you imply, then the problem surely has a name, and you can use that in your single line tagline.  If it does not have a name, then you need to write (several) articles giving the problem a name, and then describe how to solve it with your techniques and push it to all the appropriate venues that your target clientel frequent.

Friday, March 19, 2004

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