This is the second post in my series on learning how to not suck at marketing. Please note that although this series will be written from the perspective of a indie maker, the basic principles I wish to study and share with you should(hopefully) translate to most businesses and products.
The purpose of Promotion is basically to make your target market aware of your product and convince them to try it.
Two basic goals of Promotion
There are essentially two major goals when executing a Promotion strategy; a primary and secondary one.
Primary goal: Get people to your Place and convince them to try or purchase your product.
Secondary goal: If they don't need it now, create a sense familiarity and trust for your brand or product in their minds, so that they would be more likely to think of it in the future.
So what strategy can we use to accomplish these goals?
One classic model of conceptualising Promotion is the Sales Funnel. Another approach is the Flywheel. Both of these frameworks do basically the same thing - they divide the process of attracting attention and converting prospects into different stages of a Promotion lifecycle.
Here's my take on it.
The Promotion lifecycle stages are, in order, the following;
- Attracting leads
- Generating interest and trust
- Asking for a commitment
- Encouraging them to tell others
Phase 1: Attract
The first step in the Promotion Lifecycle is the Attract Phase. This is the phase where you're trying to get the attention of those might be interested in buying your wares.
This could be done by either shoving your product in front of their faces overtly, like with ads, or by trying to pique their interest by sharing tangentially related content that they might find interesting and hoping they'll be intrigued enough to investigate you a bit further.
The exact promotional channels, methods and content types use would be greatly dependent on the type of business you're trying to promote and the type of customer(B2B or B2C). You'll need to do some further research about what works in your industry or market segment.
Some general marketing channels to Attract would be;
- Direct Sales calls or cold emails.
- Giving talks at conferences.
- PR events
- Pamphlets or newspaper coupons
- Advertising - Audio, visual, or a mix for both in digital and traditional media.
- Social media - sharing links, tools, images or whatever, preferably your own content, but any content your prospects might find interesting.
- Forums, aggregation sites like Reddit, Facebook groups or even meetups.
- Public or private chat groups on, for instance, Telegram or WhatsApp
- Aggregation sites like Product Hunt, Betalist or the like.
As with all first impressions, it's important that the stuff you share be interesting, exciting, topical and of reasonable quality. In other words, make sure it looks decent, is interesting and relevant, has no obvious mistakes, and that it's easy to share. At the very least it must be amusing.
When you're sharing blog posts, make sure that they look decent when someone posts them to their socials. Most blogging platforms like Ghost or WordPress should do this for you out-of-the-box, but double-check to confirm that it's set up and working.
Attract might be the most important part of the Promotion lifecycle. It forms the base on which the rest of your marketing machinery rests. The more visitors you can scape together in the Attract phase of your marketing drive, the more successful your Promotional drive would be.
The channels you should be considering are those that would bring you the biggest and most relevant audience for your particular niche.
The two most obvious sources of this magic for someone who makes digital products, like myself, would be online communities, aggregation sites, and social media. So these are what I'll be focussing on. But for your product it might be anything between printed pamphlets to local radio ads. You'll need to study your audience and make a call. Let's continue on with digital.
Communities: forums and aggregation sites
If your product is online-based, forums and aggregation sites that attract a similar demographic to your ideal customers would likely be your best source of qualified leads.
These could include sites like HackerNews, if your target audience is mostly computer engineers. Then there's Reddit with a whole host of themed subreddits, like /r/writing, if you want to attract writers. Or perhaps an aggregation or announcement site like ProductHunt for product owners like yourself, with a build-in community feature.
Some communities are more geared towards sharing stuff and some are more geared towards discussion, and you shouldn't trip this dynamic up. You need to quietly observe a while in order to best decide how exactly you can add value to them.
That's the key term when it comes to using communities to attract your target market - add value. If you don't and they feel you're using or abusing them they will turn against you. And rightly so. Communities are the best place to start for those of us who are unknown because you get to ride a shared wave of attraction generated by all community members as a whole. But you need to be careful and respectful when you participate.
Communities can allow you to generate a reputation and following if, and only if you provide them with real value. You do not want to get a reputation as a spammer, liar or deceiver. Those will stick to you and your brand like raw egg to the face for a very, very long time.
Stick to the community rules. Some of them are usually overt and stated under some sort of FAQ and some are subtle, tacit rules that you can only pick up on by keeping your head down and simply watching for a while.
If you sense that a community is not receptive to you, your content or your brand, rather write it off and jump ship.
An example would be Tim Ferriss, who is viewed as an inspirational maverick in a lot of communities, but for whatever reason, as a snake-oil salesman and charlatan on HackerNews. Why? Who knows. I personally like Tim and his work a lot, but he seems to be a very polarising figure. 🤷♂️
We'll look at the practical side of leveraging communities in a later post.
Then there's the free-for-all world of social media. This includes the likes of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and whatever new flavour of the week.
Social media is to me, personally, an enigma. I don't get it. At all. I always feel like I'm shouting into the void when using them and have no clue where to even begin to grow an audience. Hopefully the practical post following this one will shed some light on this. If you're good at it and don't mind explaining things to dense folks like me, please contact me and let's see if we can write a how-to post together.
But let's take a stab at defining the mechanics of it anyway. Social media seems to be more casual and temporally ethereal. The content you share should be more geared towards being topical, viral and conversation-stimulating. Your content also get stale faster, depending on whats going on in the world or the rate of updates for the topic or platform itself.
Large followings on social media can be either totally useless(if most of your followers are random, low quality or fake) or they can be an extremely cheap and easy-to-leverage launchpad for sales, traffic and income generation. Growing an audience more of the latter kind is something I still want to better get to grips with.
From my casual observations, superstar indie makers like Mubashar Iqbal, Pat Walls and Pieter Levels can leverage their huge audiences on Twitter and Product Hunt to a much greater degree than than those of us with no following. Pieter Levels in particular, from my understanding, kickstarted his Nomadlist empire by leveraging his social media following and skills. We'll get to that in the practical post following this one.(Pieter, if for some reason you're reading this, mind if I contact you about some details?)
I've seem those with larger followings get greater traction much faster than those without. I've also seen them get ideas to work that would have been ignored if it were shared by someone less popular. They can also release more "Minimal" Minimal Viable Products, and find a more lenient reception than if they were unknowns.
There are downsides to having large followings too, of course. They are exposed to more haters, shady characters, and could get more false signals when trying to validate ideas. But overall I think the scales of fortune still tip in their favour because your audience size generates social proof and a general sense of authority and trust.
There's also a feedback loop at play where simply having a huge social media following would allow you to grow your reputation and following ever faster, in a similar way that the rich can generate more money faster than the poor.
Businesses with small followings but huge piles of cash could pay to leverage the audiences of other characters( ahem... influencers), but this is less profitable and reliable than being able to talk to your own crowd directly.
Phase 2: Generating Interest
You generate interest by creating and sharing content that your target market will find enlightening, fun, exciting or helpful. Or outrageous.
By creating content designed to address the problems and needs of your ideal customers, you attract qualified prospects and build trust and credibility for your business.
These could be things that amuse them, help them learn something useful(hopefully connected to your product), or perhaps sharing a tool that saves them time, money and hassle.
Examples of these would be blog posts(like this one!), tweets, infographics, videos, reddit posts, free apps, free courses, webinars, competitions, explainer videos, YouTube videos, tip sheets, white papers, ebooks, slideshows, podcasts, guides/tutorials, resource lists, interviews, case studies or templates.
Basically anything that would make them think, "Hmm, this is good stuff. This place knows what I need and I can probably get more stuff from them later". What you're doing is linking that positive experience with your product/brand, and slowly getting them hooked. That's why it's called a content hook.
Good content consists of ideas, solutions and topics yours target market finds interesting, presented in a way that is fun, helpful and engaging, and linked to your product and brand in some way.
Your content should hopefully have some sort of narrative or story built in, to keep it interesting.
Content that tells a story and articles with a plot are the best ways for customers to learn about you. Research shows that 80 percent of decision makers prefer this to advertising. - Neil Patel
Finding the topics your audience find interesting.
Ideally you yourself should be part of the demographic that makes up your target market, which means you'd instinctively know what your audience would appreciate.
For instance, if you created an app for motorcycle enthusiasts, you should ideally be a rider yourself to know what riders would want from an app. This is usually what is meant by the refrain "solve your own problem" in entrepreneurial circles.
If not, you need to identify and thoroughly research your target market in order to learn the following about them; common demographics, needs, favourite communities, income, motivations, slang and lingo, interests, pains, activities, products, social media hashtags and preferred news sources. And then interview members of your target market and ask them what they would pay to solve. Because believe me, you have no idea.
You could also hang out on their communities and look for them most common questions, themes and topics. Attending meetups related to your niche will also likely give you some ideas.
Exactly how to do more in-depth research is a bit out of scope for this post, but for most products you can start investigating with tools like Buzzsumo, Google Keyword Planner, Google Trends, Facebook Insights, or a host of others. I'm developing a tool of my own to do something similar. Sign up to my email list at the bottom of this page if you to be kept in the loop, and let me know if you're keen.
Goals of generating interest
In short, the ultimate goals of the Generating Interest Phase is threefold, to;
- give a nugget of information of particular worth to your prospects
- build a reputation as someone who gets them and can help them in the future
- steer them to a commitment of either a sign or by staying in touch
Which brings me to...
Phase 3: Commitment
Promotion doesn't end once your audience has been convinced to visit your Place and have consumed some of your content.
It's in your interest to use said content to try and encourage them to commit to at least one of the following three actions, in order of importance;
- Purchase your product
- Stay in touch
- Share your content
Of the above 3 actions, converting to a sale basically means mission accomplished. I won't elaborate on that other than saying that it's in your interest to keep track of what content lead to more sales, to figure out why, and to use that knowledge to create more content that does the same. That will be covered in more detail in the future post about Place.
So let's continue with the other two actions.
Asking them stay in touch
You want to capture some of those sweet views for later consumption and not waste all the effort and luck it took to get them in the first place. Like Elon, you should aim to reuse your (content) rockets.
How do you preserve your visits? By asking them to;
- Sign up to an email list
- Allow notifications on your website (I don't like this personally but it seems to work for some)
- Follow you on social media (You can follow me @riknieu 😜)
- Subscribe to your YT channel
- Subscribe to your podcast
- Write you a letter
- Wear your branded shirts, ect
Why? So that when you have new content that might interest them, you can hit them up a little bit more directly and they'll already know who you are. They'll be more likely to return and hopefully be in a better position to be tempted to purchase whatever you're selling. You'll be targeting people who know you, would be more receptive, and become accustomed to viewing you as a valuable, trusted source of information.
By collecting an audience you're also collecting a rich library of information. You can ask your audience all kinds of useful things, like what they'd like from your product in order to buy more, what other, similar products they would be interested in, or what kind of content you should create next in order to target people similar to them in the future.
Just do not spam them. Ever. Only send them stuff that you feel will make their lives better.
Phase 4: Ask them to share with their friends.
You should make it easy for your customers or visitors to share your content with their network. People are more likely to click a link or visit a site if they know their friends have vetted it. It's another form of leveraging powerful social proof to get a more receptive audience.
Make sure there are buttons or something they can click to easily share your stuff on social media.
Other methods is to offer incentives like discount-per-share, affiliate codes or gift cards or codes.
The next post...
In my next post I'll try and find examples to illustrate the principles discussed. I'll also reach out to some hotshots out there who succeeded with good Promotion strategies, and ask them to give us some tips and advice.
If you found this post useful, please share it with your friends. If not, please send me some feedback and I'll try and improve it.
One last thing
I want to end this post with a question to you;
Do you think SEO is part of Promotion?
Let me know what you think. I'll give my take on this in the next post.