I suck at marketing.
Up until now I've been calling myself a maker. And I guess technically this is true, since I've created a few projects the last couple of years. But something's been missing. For once, I'd like to make something that other people are excited about too.
You see, I've been building projects that no one but me seem to be using. This was not intentional - I've always shared them on the usual suspects like Hacker News, Reddit and Product Hunt. I've shared them with my (admittedly exceptionally small) private network. But they never seem to take off.
I've been seriously contemplating the possible reasons behind this lately. It hurts a bit to have sunk so many hours, days and months into projects that might as well be pulled from the internet, and only reside on my local machine.
I guess this might be the beginning of a strange journey for me. An arduous one that'll make me face my short-comings and possible make me unpleasant to be around at times. It will probably invoke all kinds of emotions people normally try and avoid. But I feel it's time I admit my limitations and to tackle them head on.
As from now I'm stoping coding any new projects in my free time. From now on I'll be doing the things that don't come naturally to me - sales, marketing and interacting with people.
Why I've been failing
My go-to excuse for not addressing my lack of product success has been "at least I learned some cool new stuff." And that's true I guess, but I think I've learned enough of the technical side to at least get going with a product that can bring benefit to others. Now I need to figure out how to get said others to come to the party too.
I've been thinking about what I've been doing wrong and it seems to be that;
- No one knows about my projects
- These projects don't solve any urgent problems better than the alternatives
- They don't inspire excitement
- My personal network and social presence is minuscule.
The Grand Play
So here's what I'll be doing. I'll be writing a series of posts where I'll take you along on my journey of marketing masterdom(one hopes).
Although I have not mapped out exactly where all this would lead, I'm guessing it would essentially involve ingesting a lot of information about sales and marketing, matching up what I've learned with some case studies, and then finally trying to express this newly minted knowledge in practical exercises to measure it's efficacy.
The nature of exactly what these exercises would involve is still unclear to me - perhaps it would mean tweaking my existing projects, perhaps some short test projects, or perhaps going to meetups. Who knows.
I'd also like to generate some resources for all you good people who happen upon this random blog, and hope to have some condensed down and actionable insights that would help you in your efforts to produce useful(and used) things in the world too.
Setting the stage
What exactly is marketing?
Investopedia defines marketing as the things a company does to promote the buying and selling of their products.
If you've ever spent some time formally studying marketing concepts you'll have stumbled upon the well-known concept of the marketing mix or 4 P's.
I know it's not in vogue for makers and indie hackers to refer to formal and academic marketing models 🤷♂, but I think there might be some real value to be gleamed there. At least as an initial construct of investigation.
So what is the marketing mix and why do I think it will help me stop making shitty side-projects that no one uses? The marketing mix consists of the following elements;
- Product - Your product should solve a real problem a real group of people want solved so much, they'll pay for it.
- Price - The product's price should be sufficient enough to make the product profitable and worth your while to develop and maintain, but not so high that customers would dismiss it as unaffordable.
- Place - You should be defining, identifying and optimising the distribution channels and mediums of where and how customers would find your product and take the action to buy it.
- Promotion - Promotion would be all the efforts involved in getting customers learn about and find about your product, and be convinced enough by what they learn to at least go to the above mentioned Place to learn more.
If any of the elements in your marketing mix is lacking or sub-optimal, your income will be too.
For the purposes of this series, I will be reversing this list. I've be covering these concepts starting with Promotion, then Place, ect. The reason for this is that I want to intentionally get some distance from Product at this time. It would be too easy to suddenly get inspired and then want to blindly jump into building shit again. Not this time. This time I'm starting with the stuff that's hard for me.
I will be using the marketing mix as framework of analysis on some of the popular products and their creators out there to see what I can learn from them. Ugh, I guess I'll have to get over my insecurities and perhaps reach out to some of them the see if they could give me some input too. This would result in either more useful information for you, or(more likely) a thicker, callused skin for me.
I'll be doing things that make me cringe, like being the annoying guy who posts his blog posts to hacker news and reddit. I'll put myself out there and be willing to take the flak for it. I don't know if this would be helpful but I'll try it out and see at least.
I'll then use what I have learned to roll a strategy and approach most appropriate to me and my sensibilities, and hopefully start making some headway.
Yes, I do have some constraints that I want to enforce on my decision-making regarding this journey;
- Any methods or ideas I learn should be applicable to remote-based projects. I do not want to consider solutions that only apply to geographically-confined business models at this stage.
- Any projects I use as case studies should be making a minimum reasonable amount of income($1000+ p/m) and would likely be doing so for the foreseeable future.
- The strategies and solutions I adopt should be doable for a single person, working on their own. I do not have teams of content creators, designers or social media monitors on hand.
- Any and all marketing efforts should be as cheap and shoe-stringy as possible. Money is tight.
Let the journey begin
The next post will be about Promotion. What it is, what it can be, and some brilliant approaches that others have used.
If you have any suggestion or comments, please feel free to contact me on Twitter. To be honest, I'm not a fan of Twitter, but I have a feeling it might be good for me to use it a bit more.