Bridging the gap between (non-technical) marketers and developers at an early stage SaaS startup

When I first started my job at Witful, I didn’t think that knowing the technical side of things would be important to my job – it never had been necessary in previous roles, and I figured, for the most part, I’d do my thing while they (developers and technical-speak people) did theirs.

But after only a few short weeks on the job, I realized how sorely mistaken I’d been.

It’s absolutely *impossible* to work at an early stage startup and not be involved in… well, basically everything having to do with building your company and product. 

That means that marketers get mixed in with product development and strategy, and developers think about channel mix and driving growth. It’s a big, giant, exciting, scary, fast-paced mess. And it’s a mess that requires a lot of smart, curious people to do a lot of things that they haven’t done before, don’t know much about, or do know a lot about, which they need to teach others so that everyone can keep working together and moving things forward. And did I mention that it all needs to happen quickly? 

So. I needed to learn what was up with Witful, and I needed to do it fast. I also hoped that the team of really incredible developers at Witful would have the patience to help me learn what I needed to know (spoiler alert: they did and still do). And surprisingly, there aren’t many resources for marketers looking to master the technical learning curve.  

A bit more quick context: Witful was built and is run by a team of software engineers, developers and tech enthusiasts. They’ve built a successful consultancy on that expertise, so being ‘non-technical’, in this case, is an outlier for our team. I asked our co-founder, Robert, if he would write down the technical aspects of Witful, so that as I was scouring the web for channels and audiences that might like our product, I could include the most relevant information and keywords possible, and that were based on how our product was built, from a technical perspective.

Here’s the gist of what he said:

  1. Data security and privacy are top of mind for us, and were foundational considerations for Witful
  2. The product design of Witful influences our technical implementation (and this is as true today as it was when it was initially being built)
  3. Witful is built to feel like it always works (online or offline) and that it has really snappy performance

If you can’t tell, I already slightly edited what he wrote so that it made more sense to me (and, hopefully the other non-technical readers of this blog). There’s a lot of other, tech-heavy stuff that he wrote, that I’m still doing my homework to understand. But for now, here’s how I translate what he wrote in my non-technical-but-learning marketer brain: 

  1. I read a lot about data security, and know it’s top of mind for many people in tech (read: users and would-be users). It’s helpful to know that we are *on it* when it comes to security, and that we were built that way from the ground up, by a team who knows it’s important and built it with a mind on security from the beginning.
  2. We listen to our customers, and hear what they need and want out of Witful – and determine our tools from there. We don’t choose tools and then try to retrofit or add functionality that isn’t exactly what our customers need. Which in marketing is typically called a “customer-first mindset.”
  3. It’s fast, easy to use, and functional across many types of devices. If our users are at a conference or other location with less-than-ideal internet connectivity, they’ll still get great performance out of Witful. After having just moved and been without high speed internet for almost 2 weeks, I can attest to the fact that Witful is great even when your internet connection isn’t.

The interesting thing about doing this work as an employee of Witful is that it actually serves two purposes. While of course, I need to be able to understand the technical side of our product so that I can contribute to internal conversations about product development, I also need to be able to translate what we do into easy-to-understand terms for our customers, and explain how using this product will help make their lives easier. So while I began this exercise in a somewhat self-serving way to better contribute to the team, it’s been immensely useful for understanding what Witful does for our users, why it does what it does, and the intention behind it.

Robert sent a bunch of other features and behind-the-scenes information that I’d love to share here in another post. 

There’s a lot more to learn, and a lot more I still don’t know about Witful. The rest of the team has been an amazing resource for me on this journey – you may have seen our posts here about feature testing and why we decided to build the app with Elm despite it being a somewhat niche language.

So stay tuned for the next post with more nitty gritty detail about our tech stack, and how a non-technical marketer can be educated, engaged and excited about a tech-forward product, even when it’s not obvious or easy to know the why behind how something is being built.