Marketing is not as important as creating and building. And it's the type of work that other people do, it's not really my thing. If I build a product that's actually good, people will hear about it by word-of-mouth.
If the above statements made you gasp, good. And of course I'm being a bit facetious with that headline. Although, most builders, makers and creators do think some version of this early on, I did. But in order to be a successful solo entrepreneur, you will have to evolve your thinking about marketing.
I've read half a dozen books on marketing as well as short-form articles over the last year. Sharing the recurring themes from my learning below, as well as insights from personal experience:
"A good idea isn’t worth much if it doesn’t reach people who can benefit from it" - Seth Godin
- The logic of marketing is to reach people who'd actually benefit from your idea. It is on you do the work necessary to surface your product to customers. Instead of your potential customers doing all the work. Have you ever had the experience of looking for a specific product or service for weeks or months and then one day finding it. Wouldn't it be nice if the maker of that product did more work to find you instead.
- You have to engage in marketing activities to debug your ideas. How do you know if your idea is working? If you put something out into the world and no one engages with it, can you conclude that the idea itself was not a good one? No you can't. Because the other possibility is that the right people never found out about your idea (and the idea is actually was good). It helps to reduce the probability of it being the 2nd reason. Which implies that we should do everything we can to surface our work to the right people.
- You have to answer the question "Who is it for?" If you make it for everyone, it won't work well for anyone. It's tempting to appeal to everyone and make a product (or write a book) for everyone. It feels safe to cast a wide net. But it doesn't work. This doesn't feel intuitive at first, but makes good sense. When you, as a buyer, look at a product page, you're more likely to buy if you can easily answer the the question "is this for me?" (Example: workout programs for busy parents vs. fitness app for everyone)
- I read that "people buy from you because they know you, like you, trust you". My corollary to that is: well if you believe you're trustworthy, likeable person then you better do everything you can to allow people to know you. (This one is especially tough to apply, as a typical introvert I doesn't care to draw attention to myself)
The main thought that helps me is this: I'm doing disservice to potential users who'd truly benefit from what I've created, if I don't do everything possible to reach them. It's not about me.
Knowing this theory is not the same as being able to put it in to practice though. The most important thing you can do is form habits around this marketing mindset. Here's are some ideas for how you can apply these marketing lessons in a consistent sustainable way:
— Track your making time and marketing time daily or at least weekly. I have two tags on my personal calendar where I plan my time blocks. C for create and M for market. First step is to track your time and review, then make adjustments.
— Marketing/sharing/publicizing becomes easier when you create something that you're proud of. Something that you yourself need or would buy. Make something that would be valuable to a past you.
— Think of marketing as doing experiments and debugging results. And doing experiments is fun, you'll learn something one or another.
— Marketing starts before you start building. By making sure you can easily answer the "who is it for?" question.
— Marketing activities also become easier when you feel that you're genuinely helpful. For example, sharing and teaching others what you know and learn. It's a win-win situation.
My job as a maker is not only to create but also to do everything I can to make sure that my work reaches the people that can truly benefit from it. This is marketing.
I have that written on a sticky note at my desk. It's helpful to think about this each time I'm tempted by if-I build-something-good-users-will-magically-come.