I’ve been on both sides of the employment fence. I’ve been an employee at a startup, a software company and a telecommunications company. I’m currently working for myself. Of all the activities, I still like coding. Because it allows me to solve problems of a nature that’s programmatically solvable.
I’ve worked with customer service officers. They are the front-line of the business, and they tell me how my software is working. Is the customer having problems with logging in? Or with downloading transactional records?
Now, I talk directly with customers. They tell me this part is good, or that part is funny. They ask me questions, and I answer them (whether it’s directly a programming problem or not).
I’ve talked with sales people, and they’re driven and friendly and outspoken. And they tell me what their clients and customers want, because the customers sometimes talk directly with the sales people instead of the customer service officers. Yay me for multiple channels of input.
Sales people want to know sales figures, monthly commission reports and revenue numbers. Well, specific to their own targets anyway.
Now, I keep track of my own revenue and sales. Let me tell you, it’s very sobering.
Marketing and Product
Frankly speaking, everything is integrated into the main sales channel. But marketing and product creation are related enough.
Imagine this. There are people hired to come up with new products for a company to sell (product managers). And people hired to convey the benefits of having said products to the consumers and customers (marketers). And people hired to sell these new products (sales people). And people hired to make sure customers are happy with their purchase (customer service).
Everything is linked.
As a one-man show, I handle everything. I do market research to see if there’s actually a demand (although I might still create the product). I create the product. I write the sales copy on the sales web page. I upload the information products to the hosting server, and make sure the purchase links are working and correct. I’ve written ad copy (and it’s hard). I’ve written educational, marketing pieces of writing to promote my products. I set sales prices based on the value of what the customer will get (let me tell you, this is ridiculously hard and complicated). I talk with customers. I answer questions (sometimes free of charge). I handle taxes.
Out of all of them, I like the coding part the best. An ebook with a bunch of source code attached is basically a programming guide like one of those For Dummies programming books. I don’t mind writing the source code to teach people how to do something. I don’t even mind writing the ebook to explain some of the concepts, because it’s like a really long extended code comment.
But the other parts are hard. Possibly even distasteful.
However, I recognise the importance of those parts. Every single part is needed. And every part affects every other part.
You don’t know what benefits to convey in your sales copy if you don’t have it in your product. If the market doesn’t want a feature, that feature shouldn’t be in the product.
Of course, everything I’ve said presupposes that your product has a software component. But it really applies to the part that you’re good at and really like doing.
Maybe you’re really good at baking muffins, but you’re not really good at telling people why they should buy your muffins. Or you don’t like the tedium of keeping track of muffin sales. Or packaging your muffins so they really look good (you need to convince people that your product is good, even if it’s really good).