Features vs. Benefits: The Coder-Marketer Mind

You’re an indie developer, and you’re often wearing double hats: coding and marketing.

Technology sells, but it won’t if you keep thinking like a coder. With this article, you can better weave your coding brain and marketing mind together.

“Are you a developer or a product designer?” my friend asked me over coffee. He looked at me with genuine interest. “Well, ” I answered, “I got a bunch of these big books about coding, but I’m more into designing and marketing products.”

Tweet: “Technology sells.”

A pause. My friend put down his coffee and said: “You’re a developer, then.” The big coding books (called “bibles”) were a dead give-away. If you’re brave enough to dig through hundreds of pages of O’Reilly’s JavaScript Cookbook, you must be a coder.

In my mind I’ve always been the inventor. A maker of things, a solver of problems. Many products I’ve built in the past were results of creative thinking across different fields, not only made with the field of programming and technology.


Are You A Coder Or A Marketer?

Let’s talk about you. Are you a coder or a marketer?

You’re a coder when this sounds familiar:

  1. When something breaks, you try to fix it yourself.
  2. You’ve taken broken stuff apart and put it back together to see how it works.
  3. If someone comes to you with a problem, technology-based or not, you never fail to systematize the solution. Without effort, you define the components of the problem system and pinpoint the spot that needs fixing.
  4. You use words like: feature, building, nice-to-have, and agile.


A marketer thinks like this:

  1. When something breaks, you hire an expert to fix it for you.
  2. You’re curious for the psychology of decision making, buying and selling. You want to know why people buy products.
  3. If someone comes to you with a problem, you try to fix it, and if you can, sell the solution back to them.
  4. Marketers use words like: benefit, investing, deal-breaker and timeline.


The coder and the marketer use different approaches for the same task. The coder is a builder, the marketer is a designer. The marketer designs the product-market fit, and the coder makes sure it all actually works.

Both tasks are equally important to you, because the indie app maker is both coder and marketer.


Nerds Rule The World

Chances are you started out with apps as a coder. You’ve had success coding in the past. Back in 2008–2010 when the App Store started up you gave it a shot and built an app. Assuming that was a success, you either started to build apps for others or kept building your own app-based business. In other words: you were a coder, initially.

Your indie app world has changed since 2008.

At first apps were booming and new, and it took almost no effort to market an average app in the App Store.

But now in 2015 we’ve grown 5 million apps and it takes increasing effort to stand out. Moreover, the technology that powers app marketing has become much more refined. As a result your marketing effort requires much more know-how and expertise. Likewise the barrier-for-entry has become much lower with online course platforms like Udemy, Stanford U and Treehouse.


How does this affect you, the aspiring or seasoned indie app maker?

Let’s look again at the words coders and marketers use. It’s no coincidence that they complement each other:

  • Feature vs. benefit
  • Investing vs. building
  • Nice-to-have vs. deal-breaker
  • Agile vs. timeline

Your coder-marketer mind is the ultimate inventor. Instead of solely focusing on building or selling, you win the hearts of your customers with technology. At the same time, you get to know what your customers really need and sell that to them on a continuous basis.

When you complement your coding brain with a marketing mind, you get this:

  • What benefit does this feature have for the end-user?
  • Can I invest in a relationship with my customers, to keep profitably building products in the future?
  • Do we really need this feature, or can we live without it?
  • Are we shipping this now, or building it tomorrow?


Recode Your Marketing Effort

Imagine the impact you can have, as the CEO of your company, the leader of your team, or as a nimble indie app maker, when you’re capable of both building and successfully selling your products.

Tweet: “Your coder-marketer mind is the ultimate inventor.”

  1. Start talking to your customers right now. If you don’t have any customers, start talking to people about what you’re building and listen to what they think of it.
  2. Don’t build a feature into your app unless you know for sure your customers want it. The best way to figure out what your customers want is to talk to them, and watch what they do in your app.
  3. Get out of your chair, away from your computer, and get out there. As a coder you can ascertain perfectly how stuff works. Now it’s time to figure out how marketing works. The best marketers roam free, and get inspired in the outside world.


Code your brain to start thinking like a marketer. You’ll find out that coding and marketing is much alike, when used in tandem. Sell your technology, and build what people want.

Yes, in that order.


About The Author – Reinder de Vries

Reinder is an indie app maker who teaches aspiring app developers and marketers how to build their own apps at LearnAppMaking.com. He has developed 50+ apps and his code is used by millions of users all over the globe. When he’s not coding, he enjoys strong espresso and traveling.