How to Have an Effective Marketing Mindset as a Creator
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"
- 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.
This Week In Learning
In addition to writing, another meta-skill that's important for entrepreneurs is our ability to speak well. My specific interest in practicing speaking skills is for teaching. Giving workshops, recording videos and screencasts, creating online courses, etc.
How to Speak - This is a video lecture from MIT OpenCourseWare. It's a 1 hour talk by a professor who teaches artificial intelligence but also how to speak well. It goes beyond the common surface-level advice we typically come across. Here are my takeaways that you can apply:
1. How to start a talk
Start with an empowerment promise. A statement that promises that there is something you'll learn by the end of this talk which you don't know now. And that knowledge will be beneficial in your life. In other words, answer the question of "what's in it for me?" or "what will I get out of this talk?" upfront.
Side note: starting with the promise is also common advice for writing, especially copy writing.
2. Techniques called cycling, building a fence, and verbal punctuation
Cycling is about repeating your idea at least 3 times, coming back to it from different angles. This is because a certain percent of your audience is zoned out at any given time. So tell them what you're going to tell them, then tell them, and then tell them what you told them again. [This feels unintuitive to me, though I've observed it being used by others in practice]
Building a fence is about separating your ideas so that they are not confused with other common ideas. (example "sketchnoting is about ideas not art". I heard this phrase repeated in every videos on the topic)
Verbal punctuation is about having 'seams' in your talk that allow people, who have zoned out, to jump back in. For example, saying "there are 3 main reasons for...". Then each time you say "reason 1 is...", "reason 2 is..." it's an invitation to rejoin for those whose minds have wandered off somewhere.
3. Make your presentation memorable - by exhibiting passion for your topic, tell stories, ask questions about the stories, analyze stories by connecting them.
I don't actually recommend listening to the whole thing, but the beginning is good. The above points are the most useful ones.
1. Learning is bravery - this is a 3 minute ted talk, watch it! The part about not making the menu longer but making one dish that people are willing to drive across town for, deeply resonates with me.
2. Once you start a newsletter, you have to keep writing it forever and ever right. Nah. I'm not familiar with his work but here's a note from someone shutting down a newsletter after 8 years.
3. You may have noticed that Google had an outage last week, effecting google docs and such. I found the outage root cause analysis since I was curious. It's a bit sparse in terms of details, but if you read between the lines turns out it was ultimately a human error. I like that, humans make errors.