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After more than three years helping to build a business around a developer facing SaaS product, I've left to start my own consulting company called Reify. We do sales and Marketing software and process consulting for developer-facing, business to business SaaS companies. Get in touch if you make a product for developers and need help!

Five failure modes for technical founders

Developers who also have a knack for products and want try their hand at being an entrepreneur are in an amazingly advantageous business position: they can build and sell whatever they want. Usually, though, they’re much clearer on the build part than the sell part. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make and sell products to developers over the course of more than three years at Code Climate.

Witnessing things for myself and talking to lots of technical founders, I’ve found five common ways that technical founders can get it wrong. Correct these issues early on and stay on top of them, and your chances of succeeding will be greatly improved.

If you’re a founder and are struggling to build a business, find product market fit, and just plain sell, you may be doing one or more of these things:

Let’s briefly take a look at each of these issues and why they’re important:

Not making something you and your colleagues would use

You got into this business because you’re a developer and you know developers, right? If your product doesn’t solve a problem you or your friends and colleagues have had, it might not be the right product at all. It’s very hard to sell something you don’t believe in, and believing in a product starts with knowing that it’s going to be useful, and that its value proposition is clear.

Not charging enough money

As a developer, one area where you shouldn’t listen to your friends and colleagues, for the most part, is when it comes to pricing. Developers can be very price sensitive, sometimes unrealistically so, and they often just don’t have the insight necessary to know what it takes to make a business meet your business goals. If you want one free piece of advice, before I even take a look at your pricing page for you, it’s this: DOUBLE YOUR PRICES. You’re welcome.

Not knowing your buyer

Thinking about, obsessing over, and modeling the persona of your ideal buyer at software companies is one of the most challenging but crucial aspects of selling SaaS products successfully. Your marketing, pricing, and functionality all hinge on who it is you’re trying to sell to.

Not automating enough

Sales and marketing can be really hard, but thankfully we have software to help us! Use your skills here and automate. Get crafty about sales and marketing the same way that you get crafty about development and operations. Thinking like an engineer here is a gift - there’s lots of ways that being lazy can help you sell better.

Not embracing sales and marketing

It’s never too early to start investing in sales and marketing. As the founder of a company you’re the best one to sell its products, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be getting help from experts.

What do you think? Have you experienced these problems? Think I’m full of shit? Get in touch and let me know!