One of the purposes of this blog is to share, candidly, our learnings as we go about putting together a new technology product and business.
This means that, at the very least, we want to share the things that we’re learning as they happen, as close to real-time as possible in the hope that you can learn something as well.
(Aside: I personally like “business” and “corporate” blogs that share all facets of business-building instead of just being glorified “product updates” or changelogs.)
I recent article via David Bailey title Why Founders Fail to Market Their Products really resonated with me and I wanted to not only share that post here for our readers but provide some context as to what we’re doing to avoid failure due to the lack of marketing or, at the very least, exposing and sharing our story earlier in the launch process.
David shares honestly the myths that he’s encountered and personally struggled with on his last project:
- Marketing is cheating
- Marketing starts after launch
- Most marketers don’t get it
- Marketing too soon is deadly
- Hiring a marketer takes too much time
You really need to read the full breakdown as he goes into greater depth on each myth and exposes them each for how superficial and wrong they are.
One of the bottom-line realizations was simple and profound message to founders everywhere:
Someone needs to be doing marketing activities at your startup from day 1. Not after launch. Not during some PR campaign. Every day. Building a great product is hard. Great marketing is hard too. And you absolutely need both in order to win.
Let that sink it for a moment and feel the very weight of that.
Now, of course, every startup and every company is vastly different and there are a near-infinite amount of companies that have done zero marketing pre-launch and have done just fine, amazing in fact.
But I think the point that David is making is this: Given the fact that building a startup is entirely up to you and the things that are under your control and given the fact that marketing from Day #1 is an opportunity to minimize the chance of failure, why wouldn’t you do it?
Even if you personally struggle with the myths that David shares, even if you had the chance to reduce the chance of “parking the venture” (as David had to do), why wouldn’t you devote some time, energy, and resources to it?
I love how David ends the post, though, because without a great product and something that people really want, then, marketing is obviously a waste of time and energy.
All of this, naturally, goes without saying.
What We’ve Done (Are Doing)
If you’ve been following us for a bit of time then you already know that we don’t have a product publicly available or in the market quite yet.
We’ve been heads-down for months silently (and somewhat privately) building something that we first wanted to use for ourselves and then slowly sharing it with others through personal channels and then inviting folks to join an Alpha Test Group in the last month or so.
And it’s too early to say that we’ve done anything necessarily “right” in terms of product as we’re still rapidly iterating and putting the pieces together but I’m personally proud that we’ve followed David Bailey’s guidance from the very beginning.
What we did was very simple: We began a public and open conversation about what we believed to not only be a problem but also begin to share what we believed could possibly be a solution.
We made no hard promises nor did we give any grand overtures in terms of implementation; we just decided to share our thoughts around the problem space, the industry as a whole, and our unique perspective. Nothing complex but something doable, repeatable, and sustainable.
If we had any “rules of engagement” it was singular in nature: Blog weekly. Sometimes this manifested in two blog posts a week and sometimes one.
We weren’t particuarly religious about this but we were persistent and we were open to evaluating it constantly (and even breaking our own rule). For instance, last week we didn’t blog at all because of the holidays and the simple fact that we didn’t feel like we had anything special to necessarily share!
Do we consider this type of weekly activity “marketing”? Sure, it could easily fit into that category. But if we are to take Bailey’s final point as true, that “marketing development takes longer than you think,” we needed to start early, start often, and not quit.
The best time to start anything, as the proverb goes, was yesterday. The next best time is today.
Here are some other things (in addition to blogging) that we’ve been doing since Day #1:
Started Engaging via Twitter
This one was easy and could easily be added to our existing personal workflows. The results have been slow to build but have already had very positive effects.
At the time of writing we have 120 lovely and loyal followers. Nothing to be overly-proud of, but, a start (which is the point). Our strategy? Simple: What we do is simply share interesting article(s) that we’re reading and resources. When we publish a new blog post we’ll share that. That’s it. Nothing complex. Nothing crazy.
And now, 6 months later, we’re starting to see some real fruits from it. For instance, we’re having DM convos that are converting interested followers into Alpha Testers!
Check this out:
Building an Email Newsletter
The second thing that we did was start an email newsletter. We actually experimented with this one a bit more than Twitter as we first launched a weekly digest of links and resources that really scaled the newsletter quickly.
But, it wasn’t sustainable and it wasn’t ultimately what we wanted to do. I knew that email newsletters were powerful and more than a handful of well-known startups and companies got their start from email newsletters! But that wouldn’t be our pathway and we re-converted our email newsletter back to “updates only”.
As of this writing we have double the amount of subscribers as we do Twitter followers and feel really good about that. Again, nothing to “hang our hat on” but it’s a great start from scratch.
But the most important thing to note is that we started this newsletter 8 days after our first blog post. Meaning, we started nearly from Day #1 and haven’t stopped collecting emails. Bingo.
Using Our Personal Properties as Channels
Finally, we’ve started introducing the folks that we’ve personally built relationships with to our growing project. There wasn’t a “plan” or a strategic way about which we wanted to do this but our rule-of-thumb was to make it feel natural, organic, and easy.
An example of this was Jeff’s more recent public announcement about his involvement, which you can read here:
His introduction to the world publicly was a big step for us and obviously increased the visibility of what we were doing to a much broader audience. Positive conversations with all types of folks have ensued, as you might imagine.
Personally, I started (again) from Day #1 and as the primary writer (for now) of this property I just simply starting sharing the posts like I would do anything else via the various channels that I was already engaged in (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, my personal blog).
And even a new creative video project has already brought folks into contact with Pinpoint. For instance, just the other day someone pinged us via Intercom that we had just recently implemented that had come from the vlog:
And this makes a ton of sense when you think about it at a top-level: With the ever-increasing crossover and fluidity of our personal lives and the projects we work on, this type of pathway for a user to encounter a new project feels natural and organic.
Want another great example? Here’s a tweet conversation:
But, again, we started from Day #1 and we don’t plan on giving it up anytime soon, especially with results like above!
Finally, do all of these things guarantee success? Of course not. There is no guarantee and we’ll be fortunate and grateful if we get to see our project lift-off in a significant way.
But, we’re not going to give up the marketing component of our so-called strategy to just “luck” – we’re going to iterate and continue to execute against it as intentionally as we do product.
And as we’ve shared with you in this post, there have already been some very positive first-fruits that we’ve collected and the compounding interest of our efforts puts us on a flywheel that could really return multiples.
If that sounds good to you then I encourage you, especially as this new year fast-approaches, to put the investment into marketing as you do your product, just like David Bailey preaches.