/ How To

Running a business is 80% marketing and only 20% product

by eelco

You finally did it, you overcame the great fear of launching your product. You put many hours days into it. It is a great product. Paying customers are around the corner!

Wrong!

Even if you are [insert-famous-and-known-person-here] (if you are: hello, send me an email), if you do not tell anyone about your product, no one will know about it. Hence: marketing.

The moment I knew I wanted to build a business and not yet another app, I took marketing seriously. But still, that's easier said than done. Marketing feels unnatural if you are a product person because you want to do what's best for the user. Marketing is tricking people into thinking that your product is the best. Wrong too!

“The moment I knew I wanted to build a business and not yet another app, I took marketing seriously.”

Try to see marketing as a tool to help your (prospect) customers. That does make all the difference, right? How can you help them? For instance: create an article they can learn from, create a handy little tool they can use, or tell them about your product that will save them time.

That last one is marketing/sales too, but by framing it as “helping them save time (or money!)”, it is easier to do. After all, your product does help them save time and money, doesn't it? The list is almost infinite—it all depends on your creativity and will also get easier with time.

“If you want to do an X business out of love for X, strongly consider getting a job doing X instead. Then you get to X all day long!”—Patrick McKenzie, @patio11

But I rather work on my product!

Sure, me too! Nothing wrong with that, but don't expect anyone magically come to you and pays for it. That's why I am here telling you: if you do want to run a business, you have to do 80% marketing and 20% product. If that scares you, you don't really want to run a business, but like the idea of running one. Which again, is totally fine!

Things you do that should be spent on marketing

As a product person, you like to be your product to be perfect. But what good does that do, if no one uses it? I've been more than guilty of doing this. Refactoring code to look cleaner or more reusable, make that that design pixel-perfect, create custom CSS animations, build an internal tool, and so on. Also, forget about the details at this very point. For this blog, I spent some time adding tags per blog post and having an author overview page, but what good is that if you have: not many posts yet and only one person writing posts?
These are all things that are not important (just yet), but if you are in the very early stages, there are 1001 things that are better spend time on. Stop thinking as a developer or designer, and rewire your brain to be a business owner.

“Stop thinking as a developer or designer, and rewire your brain to be a business owner.”

Overcome your fear of marketing or sales

But you are willing to get out of your comfort zone and start doing the necessary evil, called marketing. So how to get started? What worked for me was (and is, still!) to see it as a challenge, see marketing as something I could conquer—the same I did with coding (and design before that). Use the tips from this article and get grinding. See how over time you get better at it and it starts to feel more natural to you.

Easy to start marketing tips

The things I currently do to get the word out for Muna and that are easy for you to do:

How to create useful content

To create any useful content, you need to know who you write for (that will be your future customers—see below). The best way is to think of small pains they have and give a solution in the form of a blog post. Make it straightforward, precise articles. Don't overcomplicate things. Write in a natural way, just imagine you talking to them.

How to find your ideal customers

This depends on your product. For Muna this means small to mid-sized (10 - 40 employees), modern and tech-focused, young and open-minded, and ideally SaaS businesses.

How to reach out to your network

These days your network is more than just your Rolodex (a what?). It consists of your contact list, twitter followers, Facebook groups, Snapchat followers and the people in the Slack teams you belong too. Don't ever start with a hard sell, meaning: “here is my product, please buy”. Instead, start a conversation and drop your product at a later stage.

Cold email outreach

The dreaded tasks of all, but if done right can really make a difference. One day you get praise: “just what we were looking for”. The next all you get is shit: “you suck!”. Yeah, people can be rude when only screens are in between them. What you shouldn't do, is simply hard-sell your product. Again, make it an opportunity to help them. Make it personal. Show that you not simply mass-mailing a huge list. Make a little effort to look up their business: use their name, congratulate on some recently archived goal, show appreciation for some thought-provoking tweet. Make it short, but sweet. Overall be precise. A few sentences at most. A wall of text will guarantee them to trash your message right away.
Also, your job is not done after you send the first email. Quite the opposite. Often time, busy people have busy inboxes. Your email might be opened, might be forgotten or it might not yet be the right time. Follow up. And again. And again. It this does feel like spamming, it's not: you send them personal emails, and if done right, you send them something useful. If you do get a firm “no!”, stop, don't take it personally, and move on to the next prospect.

Afterwords

So do you really need to spend Monday to Thursday on “marketing” and Fridays on “product”? No. Neither do you need to keep to the 80/20 rule for that matter. What's important is that you switch your focus to actually sell your product. Stop putting all your time and effort in your product only and do not make selling your product an afterthought.

Tips and improvements

Got any tips or improvements? Have anything that worked really well for you. Do let me know. I am happy to chat about it.

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