Marketing for Developers

Learn how Justin Jackson built an audience and used an email launch sequence to make $20,000 from his popular book-course combo, Marketing for Developers.

Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?

Hi, I'm Justin Jackson. I started working for startups in 2008 and eventually worked my way up to being Product Manager at Sprintly in 2014.

But, I've always had a side-hustle. In 2012 I created a podcast called Product People. A year later I created my first solo product: JFDI.

JFDI Landing Page

Fast forward to 2015: I discovered that most of the folks on my email list (and listening to my podcast) were software developers. So I created a book + course called Marketing for Developers.

After the release of Marketing for Developers, I felt like I had enough product revenue to go solo. Last year I made $146,000. This year I'm shooting for $200,000.

What motivated you to get started with Marketing for Developers?

In 2014 I was working full-time as a product manager, but I had been podcasting and blogging on the side. Because of this, my mailing list was growing.

I'd regularly send out emails where I'd ask my subscribers: "What are you working on? What's your biggest struggle right now?" Their number 1 struggle was: "How do I get customers for my app?"

Don't start with an idea. Start with people.
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To validate the idea I put up a page that said simply: "Marketing for Developers. A guide to marketing your software, apps, and digital products."

Marketing for Developers Landing Page

I created a sample PDF that people could download if they gave me their email address. To promote the page I wrote We are not normal people. The next thing I knew I had about 1000 people on the waiting list. That big response confirmed I was on to something.

I never changed the title after that, because it seemed like the people affirmed that it struck a chord with them.

What did it take to build the initial product?

The initial idea was to write a book. Writing a book is the worst. It takes so long. I wrote a first draft, and then scrapped it.

Then I started a second draft, and just got discouraged. There was a lot of stress at work. I still had my family to take care of. It just wasn't happening.

Then, in June 2015, I decided to start working on it again. I'd been invited to speak at MicroConf in Barcelona, and so I made August my deadline. I talked about it on this podcast.

I didn't hit my initial deadline, but I did release an early-access beta on August 27th. The official launch was October 15, 2015. It felt so good to get it out!

How have you attracted users and grown Marketing for Developers?

Anticipation builds demand. People don't know you've been working on your project for months. You need to get them excited! You can't build all that excitement on launch day. It takes multiple touchpoints to effectively whet people's appetite.

One of the best ways to do this is with an email launch sequence. This is the launch sequence I used for the waiting list:

  • 4 weeks before: Announced the official launch date.
  • 7 days before: Gave people 7 day advanced notice. Defined who the book was for. Explained the tiers, and shared the price.
  • Day before: Shared sneak peek. Answered frequently asked questions. Reiterated prices, launch discount, and tiers.
  • Launch day: Sent an email that just listed the packages, with prices, with direct links for people to buy.
  • Day after: Shared one testimonial, and then linked directly to the purchase page.
  • "Last chance" email: Right before the launch discount expired, I sent one more email.
You can't be afraid to send email… Folks need that extra push.
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While I was writing the book, I kept blogging, sharing the landing page, and getting people to sign up. The final launch list had 5,545 recipients.

How much money did you make from the course? What are your future goals?

I launched it with three tiers:

  • $39 — book only
  • $85 — mid-tier (4 vids, 4 interviews, book)
  • $195 — complete package

All of these tiers had a launch discount of 20%.

I did a beta launch in August, and the official launch in October. It looked like this:

Launch Revenue Graph

When you look at how much revenue each tier provided it breaks down like this:

  • $39 tier — 1,017 views, 299 sales, $8,757.55 revenue (29% conversion)
  • $85 tier — 326 views, 30 sales, $1,946.50 revenue (8% conversion)
  • $195 tier — 611 views, 88 sales, $9,585.75 revenue (14% conversion)

My main goal for this year is to hit $200,000 in revenue. First, I'm going to try to grow revenue for Marketing for Developers and Product People Club (previously JFDI). These were my top earners in 2016 (55% and 20% of revenue respectively).

I'm also building a new product called Tiny Marketing Wins. I didn't build it like a course. It's a subscription service that sends you a new marketing tactic to try, every week. It just launched and it's already earned $30k.

What are the biggest challenges you've faced, and what have you learned?

Most important: set a deadline!

Two months before I released the book, I was floundering. I was 90% finished with the project, but that last 10% was taking me forever. (Sound familiar?) I'd forgotten a crucial piece of startup wisdom:

"When you impose a deadline, you gain clarity." —@dhh and @jasonfried

Here are a few other launch lessons I often share:

  1. Customers respond to urgency: the bulk of my sales come in the last 48 hours of a launch.
  2. You can't be afraid to send email. I was really hesitant to send all of those launch emails I mentioned. I don't think any of us want to send more email. But it really works. Folks need that extra push.
  3. Your pitch is everything. The most important question your website needs to answer: "How will my life be better if I use your product?"

What were your biggest advantages? Was anything particularly helpful?

Building an audience and growing my network were my two biggest advantages. The podcast (Product People) was especially helpful.

First, I met all these amazing founders (Hiten Shah, Nathan Barry, Ruben Gamez). They became friends and mentors to me.

Second, doing that show is how I started to attract an audience. I was helping people learn the basics of product design, execution, and marketing.

Finally, I was able to see opportunities for helping my audience even more. These turned into blog posts, episode themes, and eventually, paid products.

Once I realized I had some traction in the product people space, I focused on it. I was insatiably curious. I would research, ask questions, and do experiments.

Don't start with an idea. Start with people.

What's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?

I know some folks that quit their job and start building a business from scratch. That works for some people, but my advice is to have a side-hustle instead. Here's how it looked for me:

  • In 2008 I started my blog.
  • In 2012 I started the Product People podcast with Kyle Fox.
  • In 2013 I released my first (tiny) product online.
  • In 2014 I started the Product People Club.
  • In 2015 I released Marketing for Developers.

A side-hustle has many benefits: First, you'll been able to build a network, a reputation, and an audience. Momentum takes time! Second, you can increase your side-revenue every year. Instead of needing a full-time salary right away, you can grow it gradually:

Graph of Justin's Total Side Income, 2012-2015

Justin's side-income each year

Where can we go to learn more?

And definitely check out Marketing for Developers and Tiny Marketing Wins ;-)

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