Marketing: You Hate It. But You Need It.

If your are into software project management, you are into “marketing”. If you are planning to keep on working in (software) projects in the years to come, you better get good at it.

It seems to be a dirty word among technical people: “marketing”. But it’s not about selling your soul to the devil. It’s not about tricking people into buying stuff they don’t want.

Being a (software) project manager you need to negotiate win-win conditions between the stakeholders. This not only means listening to both parties, but this also means putting certain aspects in the spot light, promote a certain point of view to close the gap between stakeholders. You are marketing point of views to enable progress in your project:

“The entire process of software projects is strongly stakeholder-driven. It’s their wishes, fears, dreams, their stakes (hence the name) that determine the course of the projects. A stakeholder can be a project team member, an employee of the user organization, or a senior manager. Virtually, it can be anyone, as long as they have something to do with the project.

The stakes are the crown jewels of the holders. They stick to them, they defend them, they are married to them. They also make up the words to formulate their expectations. The individuals will take all actions necessary to defend their stakes, or to get near the realization of them.

Stakes can be in two directions: fears or wishes. With the first there is a stake to lose, with the second there is something to gain. Either way, stakes are sacred things; anyone, including a project manager, should not try to mess with them.

Again, in order to do anything with the stakes of the holders, the project manager should be the greatest negotiator he possibly can be.”

The average tech geek can see the benefit in marketing other people’s point of views; he’s being pragmatic to get the project in gear and to get a higher acceptance rate of the end result.

But this is not going to be enough in the years to come. Project people have to kick the marketing techniques into gear: they really need to get fluent in self-promotion, personal branding, marketing yourself.

Software projects are ideal conditions for using labor from all parts of the world and using technology to let people work together. Even the main output of the endeavor (software) is digital!

If you are trying to get on board a fabulous project team, you are competing with the rest of the world. Why should the project manager pick you? Why should the organization pick you as a PM? Why should they have even heard of you?

Self promotion, Baby!

What makes you “you”? Why are you more suited for the job then the rest of the crowd?

The average person today has the attention span of a fruit fly. To promote you need to be able to distinguish yourself very fast from the crowd. People want to know quickly what you are about. Every professional has to get into the game of self-promotion or personal branding sooner or later.

Pick a niche and become an expert in it. Start with a very small niche as it is easier to become an expert in a small niche.

Getting a niche, starting your expertise is the first step. Now you have to get noticed:

“Say you are living on a small rural village in Jordan, somewhere in a dessert. You have internet access, a telephone, you speak English and have all the skills that are in high demand. You don’t know anyone outside your village. You start calling people up using the phone book and start by the letter A-Z – every week you learn one person that is connected with something you want to do.

You move to the capital, the city of Amman. You attend a small seminar and meet 100 people . All relevant people that can help you out in getting what you want. Those 100 people also know people, and because they are all in that city everyone’s networks accelerate by the growth of anyone else’s network. Being in the center of economic activity – acts like a tornado, it sucks everything to it.”

Note that this example is a metaphor. You don’t need to move physically to the city. You have to move digitally to the centers of activity. Get active on forums and blogs that are related to your niche. Answer questions and contribute. Put yourself into the spotlights, gently but actively.

Sounds like a lot of work? It is. It also sounds like a lot of fun. Which it is.

Of course you have no time for this. But skip television in the evening. Spent 30 minutes every day on this.

In a couple of years you own your niche. In a couple of years businesses from around the world will find you.

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