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Great DevRel Content is a process, not a project with Jason Lengstorf Episode 35

Great DevRel Content is a process, not a project with Jason Lengstorf

Jason Lengstorf is the host of Learn with Jason. A pair programming YouTube channel with more than 30,000 subscribers.

· 38:10


Jason: So it's really, really important. To find something that's worth repeating and then be willing to commit even if there are other things you want to say, because it's better to get one message to land than to have a dozen great messages that fall flat and get forgotten.

Jack: Hi everyone. You're listening to Scaling Dev Tools. This show then investigates how dev tools go from zero to one. I am delighted today to have Jason Langor on the show. Jason is the host of Learn with Jason, a pair programming YouTube channel with more than 30,000 subscribers. And Jason was previously the VP of DevX at Netlify and now helps startups produce better developer content.

I've been a big fan of Jason's YouTube channel for a while now, so it is really exciting to have you on. Jason. Thank you so much.

Jason: Yeah. Thanks so much for having.

Jack: Jason, one of your blog posts recently was talking about how creating great content is a process and not a project. As someone who has a great YouTube channel, could you talk a little bit about why that's so?

Jason: I, I think there are a few factors that go into it. When you're looking at building content, I think that the urge is to think of each piece of content as a standalone unit where you are. Coming up with an idea, you're creating the thing, you've launched the thing, and then you leave that in the archives and move on to your next project, which is a, wholesale starting over again with the whole process.

And that can be true, but if we look at the content that has the most impact for us personally, I would be willing to bet that almost all of us rely on series more than we do on standalone pieces. Looking at it from that lens, then as a content creator, your goal should be to create something that is familiar because the value of content isn't unique.

Presentation isn't that It's got a, a brand new layout or a brand new approach to packaging. It's what you say. And so finding a way to iteratively improve how you deliver content and rely on what you've done before to improve what you've, what you do in the future is gonna have a significantly bigger impact because you're spending less energy on How will I do this?

And you're spending more energy on what will I say? So that's one big factor of it is by creating series, by creating episodic content. You're able to create a process for a lot of the, foundational structural pieces of the, the content, and that lets you focus just on the, content itself, what you're trying to say.

The other piece of it is that , I think people worry a lot about whether they have got the perfect approach or the, the correct format, or the right gear, or the right positioning, and the to put anything out until they feel like they've got it all just right, and that leads to significantly less content.

Every piece of content is really stressful and the overall impact is much lower because even if I put out a absolute banger of, well-researched and thought through and highly produced piece, if I only do one of those a. it's just not gonna land the same way that somebody doing something once a week, even if their thing is less produced, less thought through lower quality.

That consistency pays off. And so I think the, trick to getting to high quality is iterative slow progress. It's a process of trying, learning subtle improvements, trying again, learning again, and continuing that. So if you look at Learn with Jason, for example, if you go back to our first episode in 2018, It's me and Nader Dabo on a Zoom call and you can see the Zoom screen sharing ui.

And you know, it's very clearly not a produced show. I don't even know if I had a single overlay graphic. I might have had like a little icon down in the corner because I was at Gatsby at the time. And since then, , if you kind of skip forward a few months at a time, you can see the slow introduction of, well, now I have the Twitch chat available now I have an overlay with the name of the episode.

Now I've got a place for the videos to be that's got the guest name on it it was very slow, but I was always building off of what was working in previous episodes and then adding another thing that I thought would be good. And now, you know, four years later, the show is, Significantly more polished, but I have a million ideas for things that I still want to do that I haven't had time for yet.

And if I was waiting until I had all of that, before I would pull the trigger on anything at all, I'd be four years down planning and I'd have no episodes. But instead I've got 320 something episodes, I think, at this point. And each one of them is a little bit better than the one that I did before, and I think that has a significantly higher impact on the quality than any amount of planning or preparation that I could do.

Jack: Yeah, that's a, that's an amazing way to think about it. If you're a startup or when you work with startups, I know you're doing that a lot at the moment. and they have so much uncertainty. How do you kind of get them to commit to, I'm gonna go focus on this process when things are kind of changing a lot and.

Jason: This is gonna be a little bit of tough love for the startups , and this is something that I've learned the hard way the most. Damaging thing you can do as a company for your, brand and your marketing is change it every few weeks. And yes, as a startup, you have tons of uncertainty.

You're learning new things every day. So much new information is coming to light, and you always want to adjust and tweak and, oh, we got a better message. Oh, this resonates better. The problem is it takes so long to get a message. Two saturation in a community. And if you look at the companies that are doing a great job of this, they have one message and they've been repeating it for months. Do they have a better way to explain their product? Absolutely. I talk to their devs all the time, and they're always giving me a new analogy or some new use case or whatever, but they're really consistent in their messaging and it only changes every once in a while. And you see this in TV advertising as well, where a company picks their message and they stay on message for a minimum of a quarter, but typically six to nine months and.

if it's really successful, they just stick with it. You know, we've seen, progressive has been doing the, the ads for car insurance in the US where they have the same spokesperson for, it's gotta be a decade at this point. And Geico's got the gecko and, you know, we've got a few where these companies very clearly found a thing that works and they're sticking on that message.

But even the ones that change relatively frequently, like Apple, they have one message. and they stay on it for about six to nine months. And it's about like, they were on security for a while. They wanted to talk about privacy and how their phones were, were really difficult to hack and how your data was safe.

They'll make sure that that message lands, that people say that when you talk about Apple, it'll come up organically in conversation. Oh yeah, well they're big on privacy. And then, you know, and it doesn't matter if that's true or not, it's just what they've said so often that now people. Right, and there are about a billion other things that Apple could be talking about. They could be talking about the quality of their camera. They could be talking about , the new M two chips. They could be talking about, you know, anything. They have a million products and they've got a million features, and any of those things would be good.

But if they try to talk about all of 'em, We wouldn't remember any of 'em. Right. And so I think what happens is a lot of startups, they, get into this mode of thinking. We have to launch everything. Everything we talk about has to be new. And that means that any given piece of information has a three week shelf life.

And no one remembers any of it. So I, I've seen this firsthand when I was at nullify, we would regularly have some feature that we thought was incredible. We would launch it, we'd go hard. There'd be a bunch of excitement. And then we'd kind of move on to the next thing, and then months later somebody would go, God, I really just wish any company would do whatever the thing was that we had launched.

Because no one actually, it never stuck in their brains that we had created it, that it was there. And we've watched other companies launch the same feature that we had to a bunch of fanfare. Like finally, somebody's doing this thing, and they're like, wait, we did that months ago, but we never told anybody about it.

We didn't keep on message. So it's really, really important. To find something that's worth repeating and then be willing to commit even if there are other things you want to say, because it's better to get one message to land than to have a dozen great messages that fall flat and get forgotten.

Jack: That's like a amazing, amazing explanation. Jason, thank you so much. Actually on this point about content. So startups, they get their process going and, and they're, you know, reeling out content on a weekly basis. How can they start to reuse that content and make it kind of go further?

I've seen you write a lot about this.

Jason: I kind of jokingly call this the Buffalo Stick, which is an homage to, to Sarah Dresner, who's kind of famous for, for coming up with gibberish terms to describe brilliant, brilliant concepts, , what that means is it's, it's this idea of both. There's , the old adage of like, use every part of the buffalo, nothing goes to waste, right?

And then there's the other one of, feed two birds with one scone, or there's a of a more common violent version. , and that's sort of how this came was it was like, yeah, use every part of the buffalo, oh, scratch multiple buffalo with one stick. Oh, the buffalo stick, right? It's just nonsense. But , it sticks in my brain. And what that means is, is this general approach of looking at the things you do, not just for the one goal that you set out with. And the example I use a lot is I'm a dev. I'm going to go out and make a tutorial about how to use this particular, tool with, my company, and along the. , I'm going to need to talk to a couple experts on the tool.

I'm going to do some, you know, some exploration. I'm gonna try it out a few different ways and, you know, experiment with plugging in different connectors. Maybe a different state management library, maybe a different front-end framework, whatever it is, right? And each of those things that I'm trying, I'm learning, I'm getting a better end product.

And then I'm going to, uh, write my article. I'm going to. , get my demo built and put all that source code into the article and then I publish it and then I'm done. Right. And in the traditional way of thinking, I would've made one thing, I would've made the tutorial. So then you can start thinking like, what wasn't that other content valuable though?

Like didn't I do other things? If people would benefit from like that conversation with an expert on a tool about how to use that tool together with the thing that I built. That's interesting. Why are they good or not? Why? What is the, the compatibility, the pros and cons, the trade-offs? That conversation that I use to inform my article is a great separate piece of content and the exploration that I'm doing where I try out different things.

I could just go live on Twitch and try that, you know? And here's me working through some of my ideas and it's not all gonna work. But hey, if you wanna follow along and co-work with me, come learn. I'm playing with this thing today. Then there's discussion, there's community building, there's this, this sense of comradery of people trying things out together.

Then you have the actual demo that you build. During that demo, you're gonna hit error messages. You're going to find things that you have to Google, and there are a few of those things you Google aren't gonna be very well documented. Write the 500 word post that answers the question that you had trouble Googling.

So there's a little mini piece that comes off of that, and those are SEO gold, like writing air messages. I'm not the first person to think about this, but it is such a good way if you are trying to make a point and drive traffic to your, to your content, like show people how to solve common error messages in the, thing that they're using.

So that's maybe one or two more little pieces that come out of it. Then you make your tutorial. , well, the tutorial is teaching you how to build an app. What if that app was just easy to deploy? Now you can make it into a kind of ready to deploy template with a little bit of cleanup. And if it's, you know, maybe something you can deploy to nullify ever sell, and, you put that in the, here's the button.

Just deploy this right now, it's gonna run. Then you've written this tutorial. You've got a playbook now go record that. Make a video out of it. Talk, you know, put the. Steps of you building this thing from the tutorial that you just built so you know it's gonna work. Build that on a, a video and edit that down and embed it in the, the tutorial itself, but also like, just set it loose on YouTube, put it on, different like educational channels.

And suddenly this one thing, this one tutorial that you were gonna build turns into like 10 plus. Pieces of useful content, and each one of them is something a little bit different, but everybody in the industry learns differently. I prefer watching somebody build so that I can watch it at two x speed, skip around to the pieces where I, I'm learning the thing that they need to do, and then I can try it myself.

That's how I learn. Other people wanna read. , They do really well with written content and they get some information that they can then copy, paste out and try it out and see it running. Other people want to hear the discussion. Why do experts think the way that they do? Why, why?

How do they make decisions? How are they debugging? Other people just want somebody to co-work with. Each one of these things is valuable in a different way. And so if you are building a thing, Don't just think about the one application. Think about all the other ways that these things you're doing, this is time you're spending.

Make it more valuable. And you can do that by thinking of ways to reuse and repackage. And often that stuff doesn't add that much overall time to the project. So, you know, it can be a huge time multiplier if you get 10 pieces of unique content out of one tutorial build. Instead of the, call it eight to 16 hours you would spend on the tutorial.

Equaling one piece of content. Now maybe you spend 24 hours, but you get 10 pieces of content and that's a pretty big return on investment, right? So that's the, that's a lot of that content Reuse is mostly just getting scrappy and recognizing that if you're looking at it from the right perspective, almost everything you're doing as part of your preparation and learning process that gets you to the thing you set out to do is also valuable in different ways and can be used as its own brand of.

Jack: Yeah, I love it. I love how you've put that together because if you just set out to write a tutorial on YouTube and then a completely other tutorial that was written, those things are gonna take so much time. There's so much like, hate to use the word synergy, but like you've done the hard work

Jason: yeah, and the, video tutorial and the written tutorial, that Venn diagram is almost a circle, like it's so close in terms of what you're gonna do. So to not do both, like you don't have to, not everybody's comfortable making videos. You don't have to do all of these things, but you can find a lot of different ways to reuse that content.

And then each hour counts for two, instead of you having to come up with individual projects for each thing that you wanna build.

Jack: And I imagine there's a lot of kind of, you could get collaboration on these things where you could create the tutorial that someone else could create the video and.

Jason: This is actually something that I think is. is very easy in theory, and it gets tricky fast. But in a, in a high functioning team, you can absolutely build out these processes where the team sort of thinks of the, the bigger story they want to tell, and then everybody starts to take slices of, of how that thing's gonna get built.

Um, We've done it a couple times on the the DX team at Netlify, where, for example, we wanted to do a big blitz on teaching people how to use Contentful with different frameworks on nullify. And we took the whole team, everybody chose which framework they wanted to work on, and then we kind of split up and figured out what the common pieces were.

And there was some like, Serverless glue code that needed to exist. And so one of the folks on the team built that, and then everybody was able to reuse a lot of their content. And you could, yeah, we, we've done it where like we've got a, a content person who can take an interview and turn it into a written article and we've got, , somebody in the the press team who can take.

A big demo collaboration and kind of turn that into a PR tour of what's the framing of that, and then pitch that out to different podcasts and, and news publications to see if we can get coverage and, you know, so, so there's lots of different ways that you can work with your team to try to figure out how can everybody take this effort that we're making and, and. it in different ways so that we're not all trying to come up with bespoke projects to, to meet our OKRs, but rather we're all working on one big project that now has all these branches that that lead to more. And this really heavily relies on that one message. Right? So going back to what I said earlier about being focused and on message.

If the whole company is focused on one message, it's much easier for the the email marketing team and the PR team, and the content marketing team, and the SEO team, and the dev rail team, and the sales team to all be building artifacts that rely on each other's work because you're all on the same message. If you're, if everybody's trying to find something else to market, you're launching a new thing every couple of weeks, it's almost impossible to do this because you're gonna find that all of the teams have some initiative that doesn't quite overlap properly. So you just end up not doing it.

Everybody's got their own project. You work in silos and, things kind of, you know, do the whole thing. So the, the magic here is really being, Very disciplined, and this discipline has to come from leadership. So , the founders, the C level, whatever size company you're in, if, there's not focus there, the rest of the company cannot focus.

Even if the CEO o of the company has literally nothing to do with the execution on the marketing side. If the c e o can't focus on a message and keeps telling everybody, well, now our focus is this, well now our focus is this, then you're never gonna get good marketing because you're, you're actively pulling the strategic rug out from under everybody on your team, and they can't.

Create cohesive and, and more elaborate, messages because they're just gonna keep hitting that wall of like, well, okay, we've got, what can we do in three weeks is very different from what can we do in six months?

Jack: You talk about this consistent message coming from the top. If you're working with a startup and you're working directly with the founders, what kind of things are you telling them to help them stay on message?

Jason: I mean, the, biggest thing is, is. Really embracing that you have to believe that what you're building is good and that it's worth talking about. And so it's, it's a lot of taking time early out to think through who buys our product? Who should be buying our product? What is the value of that product?

What problem do people have that leads them to choosing this tool? And if you can understand, like developers at this size of company solving this category of problems tend to choose our tool because it. X, Y, Z problems disappear. You can get really clear on the marketing messaging and on the, outgoing messaging that you want to give and be really confident that it's gonna land, and then you just kind of have to rely on the founders having the self-control because again, Somebody at the founder level, at the sea level is they're drinking from a fire hose.

They're getting new metrics every day. They're getting industry information. They've got gossip from their back channels. They're hearing what's going on in their, competitors. They're hearing from the VCs what the, industry's doing, there's this urge to be like, oh, we gotta adjust.

Oh, we gotta adjust, we gotta adjust. And that adjustment feels really productive when you're a founder. And it's exactly the opposite, like tearing up your roadmap every two weeks because you heard new industry information is a great way to make sure that everybody's spinning their wheels and not a lot is happening.

And so the important thing that I try to talk through with founders and, and the message that, you know, if you look through what I write on the lead dev or, or things like that, it's very much. . It is so much better to be consistent with a pretty good message than to be inconsistent with very good messages, you're just not gonna get any, I mean there's so many different ways to, this is phrased, but you're not gonna build a head of steam.

You're not gonna build momentum if everybody's not pushing consistently and. A way that I've heard , this put, that I think is actually brilliant. It was, framed from the standpoint of hospitality. It's Danny Meyer, who's , the restaurateur who's responsible for Shake Shack and some high end restaurants in New York.

His management philosophy is constant, gentle pressure. And what, he means by that is he's talking about if you're the manager of a restaurant, when you're looking around at the tables and, and you see that the table was reset and like the centerpiece is a little off center. You gotta stop and go get your crew and come back and be like, Hey.

Make sure these are exactly centered , and, you know, push 'em on that thing. But it's , these little things, this constant gentle pressure of, correcting and moving toward the right things that doesn't feel overbearing. You're not coming in with brand new strategies and rip up everything. You're always just gently guiding everyone toward the thing, but you're never letting up.

And that's the importance of this messaging. If you are a startup and you're looking at what you want to accomplish, your goal, your job is to have the entire company exerting constant gentle pressure on the audience that you want to use your product. You are trying to give them a message that shows them how their life can improve, how their workload can be better if they use your.

And the only way that happens is if you're consistent in your messaging and you're constant in your messaging. Big, loud flash in the plan, in the pan stuff is exciting, but like we hear that all the time. It's the Twitter main, character cycle where somebody does something and we all talk about it for three days and then we literally forget about it.

And then you can make a meme out of it a year later saying, Hey, remember Bean dad and everybody chuckles a little bit, but there was no. Noticeable impact on the discourse or on the way people think about the world as a result of that thing. Like Superba is really good at this.

If you look at super base's marketing, they have one message and they've got one playbook. They do memes and they do launch weeks. And then they just push, on that message and everybody is starting to get it. Everybody thinks of super base early. If you think about databases in the, the front end space, I guarantee you they will be on the list if somebody starts listing off database companies.

And as a result, they're very present. They've started to build good inroads , you could get into the technical discussion of like, is it better than X, Y, Z? And maybe, but the, the answer is it's gonna get used. because they're consistent and they're constantly there. They're applying that constant, gentle pressure of messaging and consistency.

You can look at their work. They're very much following that like process, not a project. They use the same things and they just iterate on them over and over again through time, and that's led to them having this very constant and strong presence in the community.

Jack: So we've got process, we've got constant gentle pressure. and I know you're speaking with a lot of founders right now, so I just wondered if there's anything else that you are speaking to them about that they should be doing Well,

Jason: The other main thing to really be thinking about , as a company, there are about a million factors that you have to balance to succeed. And so you're trying to find the right balance between, you know, we need conversion, we need higher ACVs, we need, we need more leads, we need more people moving deeper into the funnel.

We need a bigger top of funnel. We need, more brand recognition and, the, levers that are out there. Each one of them influences the others, but they all have to be in place. And so what I've seen some companies over focus on is they'll pick one piece of their process and they'll only do that.

So you'll see a company go on like an adoption drive where all they want, they don't care who it is, why it is what, what matters. They just want more users. And then all of their users are unhappy because they came in for the wrong reasons. They went on this push of like, sign up, sign up, sign up.

And they'll, gamify it, right? You, get these companies that they come up with something that's like novel.

It's fun to look at. People wanna play with it, and then they force people to, register, to play with the thing. And so it's got this virality and then they get a, you know, a hundred thousand registrations. And none of them convert. , cuz nobody wanted to go to the thing. Nobody wanted the, the product, they just wanted to play with the.

Right? You've basically gamed this metric now where you've created something that just literally doesn't matter. And so now not only is that thing that they're building, all their metrics are broken because their top of funnels gonna look strong. And now their, their conversion is gonna be, In like trash and all of their downstream metrics are gonna look like garbage because they gamified the top of funnel.

Brand awareness is another thing where like, if you overfocus on brand awareness, but you have no idea why somebody would come through your funnel and actually convert to a paying customer, if you don't know who your customers are, what problems they're trying to solve, then you leave yourself open to this really pretty negative problem where you have now.

Like started to build a brand and you don't know what the perception of the brand is because you don't know what people should be believing about the brand. Right? And all of these, it's, fully integrated from the, first time somebody sees your logo down to when you get the, enterprise million dollar contract signed all each step of that way.

They're all influencing factors. So I think it's, really important for founders to be aware that like where you show up, how your message lands, how you move somebody from, like, I've seen your logo to, I'm trying your, your tool to, I'm being onboarded into your tool, to I'm ready to swipe a credit card.

Each of those steps should feel consistent. It should feel like you're going on the same journey. And it shouldn't feel like, oh, well it was great when I was a solo dev, but now that I'm in sales, this feels really. Like it has to feel consistent. You've gotta be creating a good story all the way through.

And that's where that like one message, constant gentle pressure. If the whole company's on the same message, it's really hard to feel disjointed and to feel like you're not part of the same story. And it's also easier to start thinking about these things in terms of like actual flow. If we are out there with this message of like, developers with X problem need our tool.

That's your branding awareness, that's your acquisition, your landing pages, your homepage. All of these things are kind of building around that. And then your onboarding is, I'm gonna show you how to use our tool to overcome the problem we said you had, and now when you get into your sales cycle, we say, Hey, it looks like you're a pretty big company solving this problem.

Do you want to kind of. , look at our more advanced offerings. It can make this even better for teams. And then they say, yeah, I'd love to. And then you get 'em into the sales process. They're like, yeah, so you came in, you're, you're struggling with this. And they say, yeah, I was struggling with that. It's like all part of one conversation now as opposed to, well, you came up as a sales lead, so let me just like beat you over the head with our sales deck, and hopefully you'll say yes.

Right? And I think that's what, happening in a lot of these companies is they don't have that cohesive story because they're not thinking. The end-to-end message, then they're not on a single message. So everybody's making up their own set of value. Props that are true, but not necessarily cohesive.

Jack: I'm someone that's worked in. Development teams as well as in sales teams. And I can see when you talk about that kind of joint up messaging and being consistent, how much easier that would be to kind of make sure that knowledge is spread across the organization. Because if features are changing every on a weekly basis or monthly basis, you know, it's gonna be, yeah, really hard, I guess for the sales team to kind of stay a abreast with some of these things, especially in devs where it may not always.

Be, you know, something that they'd have experienced themselves as a problem. So take some learning or a bit of time allocated.

Jason: You, you mentioned the, like new features every week. The other thing that's really important about this constant gentle pressure and, and consistent messaging is that also applies to the product roadmap. If you know which problem set you're trying to solve, which user you're trying to acquire, your product roadmap gets a little simpler.

Right? Because I, I think what we ran into at several companies I've worked at is we didn't have an ideal customer profile. We didn't have a clear vision for who we were trying to reach, which problems they were trying to solve. . And so every feature was kind of like, well, we heard somebody say this, so let's build it.

Oh, we heard somebody else say this, so let's build that. And suddenly we've got 20, 30 things on our roadmap, and the validation is like, yes, the, community is talking about them, but is, is the person in the community somebody who's actually gonna buy our product? Or is that somebody just kind of having ideas?

And they would never, no matter what we do, they'll never swipe their credit card. And so if we build that feature, we're building it for somebody who's not in. . And if you get into that really consistent messaging, then when a product feature comes up, somebody says, we should build X, and we go, great. How does that help ideal customers solve X problem that we have stated is our message.

And somebody says it doesn't. We say, great, put it on the good ideas that we're not gonna do list and we're gonna focus on these three things that actually move that needle because Every feature is useful and the the hardest part, I think about success is realizing that you're moving from the standpoint of build anything and see what sticks.

You're just saying yes all the time. There are opportunities. We're gonna chase them all. We're gonna see what works. You start to see success and you have to shift out of that mindset to. Most of the time, I'm gonna say no. The vast majority of ideas are great ideas that we're not gonna follow through on because we can't split the focus that way.

We have to focus on the thing that we're trying to solve. And if we do it and we're not getting ROI, and we're not seeing registrations and people that we thought were having this problem solved, aren't actually willing to pay. We gotta figure out why, like, did, did we do bad research? Did we miss on the execution?

There's a thing that goes wrong here, but if we validate one market, then we can shift that market. If we're just spaghetti at the wall when it's not working, the most likely culprit is lack of focus. , but then you don't know how to focus because you haven't, you're not validating markets, you're not disqualifying groups of people who don't care about your product.

And instead you're just saying like, please come, please pay. And a couple people do and a couple people don't. You don't have a clear idea of why, which makes it so much harder to adjust when things aren't going the way you want 'em to go. And you know the last thing you want is to have a product that's got a good product market fit, but you're not quite sure which market that is.

And so you're seeing everything grow and then you kind of hit that first plateau where the business isn't growing the way you thought it was, and you realize, holy shit, we don't know why we were growing. We have no idea who this audience is, what market. This is why they use our product. We just know that a certain group of people love us and we're not reaching more of those people anymore.

You don't know how to market. You don't know how to phrase things you don't know onboarding, you don't know which obstacles you need to overcome. You're back at ground zero. Now you gotta go do all of that research, all the customer profile building just to understand who already paid you so that you can then go and build out a marketing strategy to get more of those people.

So you wanna do that as early as you can. , you wanna do that before you hit the plateau, before you find out that your investors are like, Hey, your numbers aren't looking good. You better fix this. Right? Like, do it before there's pressure to do it, because then you can do a good job.

Jack: That sounds like a really hard thing to do. Probably lots of moving parts and maybe beyond the scope of what I could get through with you on the podcast, but it sounds like if it was something that , the companies that you've worked at as companies, I've seen, it's so hard to know.

Like there's so many questions I have here on like, I mean, how do you even refer that back to your ideal customer profile? How do you keep that updated? In terms of not knowing which market you're in? Like that seems like an incredibly hard question to answer

Jason: yeah, I mean the, the short answer is hire great UX researchers and then listen when they tell you things like that. Like for real. Just do those two things and you will be better than 80% of the companies out there. Because most companies don't have UX research. They just kind of rely on their guts.

They rely on what they're hearing from other people, and that's fine at. The early stages, but as soon as you grow it all, you're no longer your target customer, and now you need someone to tell you who that is. So you need a UX researcher. And then the, the second piece, and this is the really hard piece, is once you've hired an expert and they tell you something you don't want to hear.

You have to listen to them , like when they come and say, I know that you thought you were X kind of business and that that was really cool and exciting, but everybody who's paying us is this kind of business that you're not super interested in. But that's where people are willing to pay. And you go, Hmm, I don't want to do that.

I want to be a cool business. and then you're just like fighting against you can pivot and try to be appealing to the cool business, but like listen to the people that you hire who are experts on determining that information and, if you want a successful company, you gotta go where the customers are.

And so many businesses started thinking they were one thing, and then realize that what people wanted was a different thing. And the ones that we hear about are the ones that listened.

Jack: That's amazing. Have you got any articles or posts on this, because I want to learn more about us.

Jason: I'm gonna have to listen back to this and like take some notes on, things that need to get broken out into full post.

Jack: This stuff is like, it's hard, you know? It's the basic things that you hear and, but then the way that you're explaining it, it's like, wow. Like, yeah, so many companies don't do this, but then to do it is difficult

Jason: well, I don't even know if it's difficult so much as it's boring

Jack: Boring.

Jason: I think that so much of what goes wrong in tech is that we are like, founders are novelty seeking people. They want to invent things and create stuff and solve exciting problems. And building a strong business is boring as shit because what it means is you gotta get the fundamentals.

And you gotta, you gotta listen to people and follow what the research says and that doesn't feel exciting. It feels, once you start getting product market fit, it feels easy because a good UX researcher is gonna give you incredible information. And if you act on that information, you're gonna get good results because they talk to your customers, and customers told you what they would pay for.

So you build that, you don't build anything else, and you just print. And it's really boring , and you want to go out and invent something. You want to push the envelope, you want to be a technical innovator, then they'll put 80% of their focus on the, excitement and 20% or less on the fundamentals. And that causes so many of these companies to start out so strong because their like, as a founder, your gut's good, you had a good business idea, and then it hit reality and new information, emerg. You choose to act on it or not. And if you choose not to act on it, instead to keep trusting your gut, you're gonna get further and further away from the people who wanna pay you money because you're, building for yourself. And you as a founder who builds this tool have a very different set of needs because you know how to build this tool.

And you are a founder building a successful dev tools company. Not the company that needs to pay for that dev tool. So your gut gets worse and worse as you become more and more successful as a founder. And so you really, really, really have to focus on research and trusting that research. And it's so boring and it's so effective.

Jack: Boring but effective. Fantastic.

Okay, Jason, I think we've covered some absolute gold here and I was just wondering if you could do a very quick, two second T L D R for those that are listening to take away.

Jason: Let's see if we can do this in bullet point format. The first thing is, Remember to, trust the process here. Each thing that you're building is a, a process, not a project. You're building on your, past success and working toward future higher heights. Also make sure that you're reusing content, so lean into that buffalo stick and make sure that each effort that you do gets used in multiple ways and, ideally, as broadly as you can.

Which all relies on staying on message. So choose the story you want to tell and then tell it consistently for at least a quarter, if not longer, as long as you reasonably can. And then as you see that success, make sure that you. Realize that your gut is going to get worse over time and hire experts to talk to your customers and tell you what the customers actually want and what problems they're actually solving and willing to pay for.

And make sure that you do that. Do the, boring fundamentals of building things for the people who pay you and. Resist that urge to chase the novelty of going out and trying to invent new things. That should lead to great success for, you know, for any company that's able to follow that

Jack: Amazing summary. Jason, thank you so much for your time. I am recommending any founders that are looking for a bit of help reach out to you, but how else can people discover you, Jason?

Jason: The easiest way to find me is to go to jason.af/links, and that has a list of all the places that I am on the internet. I'm also on Learn with jason.dev. That's where all of the pair programming videos are, and, schedule of upcoming stuff and my newsletter's there for folks to, get more.

Jack: Amazing. Jason, thanks for coming and thanks everyone for listening, we'll see you again next week.

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Creators and Guests

Jason Lengstorf ⚡️
Jason Lengstorf ⚡️
⚡️ a.k.a. Blitz Jackson 📺 host @LWJShow 🍔 Undisputed Smashburger Champ 🐘 Mastodon: @jlengstorf@hachyderm.io he/him
Lydia Melvin
Lydia Melvin
Editor of Scaling DevTools


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