Any Success Stories Without Marketing?

I've wrote two lengthy posts and deleted after having a moment of enlightenment. In short I've been procrastinating for weeks and focusing on utterly nonsense stuff to avoid marketing efforts. By saying marketing efforts all I think of is a simple landing page with a few sentences and a few stories on several networks (reddit, hn, ph.). I already convinced myself that it's going to fail anyways, that's why I kept postponing it.

I wonder if there is another way. If any of you managed or heard of any product that just took off like that. With zero marketing, zero budget, zero advertisements.

  1. 5

    We sold a SaaS business on the Empire Flippers marketplace that I think would qualify. It was a smaller SaaS, I think maybe around $60k if I remember, definitely below six-figures. The only marketing they did was basically post in a related subreddit and said "Hey we're live!" Sure they got mod approval of course before doing that, but that was it.

    My friend that bought it, he has since added marketing to it and after a few months owning it, it is probably worth closer to $200-300k nowadays.

    You can indeed make things happen sometimes with pretty much zero marketing, but if you want to grow you'll eventually need it. For most businesses, they'll almost always need some kind of marketing to really get going, even if it is just cold emailing your target audience trying to get your first few customers.

    Marketing doesn't just need to be ads. If you look at us at EF over 80% of our traffic is 100% organic inbound traffic from our content strategy. Content marketing takes a much longer time to pay off, but it's awesome once it does.

    We're heavily focused on building our email list too because email serves as another traffic source (one you actually own) that can be nurtured into an addressable audience. When done right, some of your best engagement will be your email list and it can help you a lot to get other marketing efforts off the ground.

    For example we just launched our The Opportunity podcast where we primarily interview buyers from our marketplace of how the deal went down and what happened after owning the business for some time. We used our email list to launch it and got over a 1,000 downloads pretty quickly. And likewise with that podcast we could promote something else we're doing on that show, so all of our various content channels feed into each other with pretty much zero ad budget.

    Ads though are awesome when done right, the scalability is amazing when you stumble upon a profitable campaign :-)

  2. 5

    I built Ministry of Testing to seven figures without ad money and all boostrapped.

    I'm not sure I would call it 'without marketing' because everything people do is marketing. My way was to focus in on the community, serve them and let it grow organically.

    1. 1

      I suppose I need to find my way of marketing, thanks.

  3. 4

    I've gotten beyond 100k page views in a month for codewithhugo.com without HN, Reddit etc, it's pretty much all search traffic

    I think that's the goal for anything, get organic traffic without having to post to 10 different sites every day.

    1. 1

      Hey Hugo, that is impressive! By search traffic do you mean SEO?

      1. 1

        Yeah traffic from search, SEO is optimising for search engines (to get more search traffic)

    2. 1

      That's great, looks like a good resource. Also a good method that I'd gladly follow. I wonder did you apply the same with your book or experimented different stuff to sell it.

      1. 1

        Yep, the approach is pretty much get some organic traffic to posts around some topic.

        Each section in the books goes on the site as a post and there's a call to action from the post to the book landing page.

  4. 3

    This post is also considered as part of your marketing.

    As long as you're distributing content, whether it's short or long, people read, reply, engage, and you're gaining visibility and people who are curious about yourself + your product.

    It's already the beauty of marketing.

    Do not afraid to fail. No content is perfect.

    Go :) @anilkilic

  5. 3

    Marketing encompasses everything you do to get in front of your customers. Three buckets: Earned, Owned, Paid.

    While you may do 0 efforts in one of those three, you'll never do 0 in all three or you will never get in front of any user.

    If you want to consider 0 marketing efforts, I think you're falsely limiting yourself.

    For instance: SEO is marketing and can be done without google.

    An online course on Udemy can be successful without the creator doing marketing.
    If you can build a product in established channels and let that channel do the work, then there's still marketing involved but you get to focus on the product.

    I launched Better Sheets to 7 sales in one month. Then when it was featured on AppSumo got 100 sales in the first day. I would say: "I didn't do that marketing" but rather partnered with them to do the marketing to their established community.

    You can replicate this in a few ways: Udemy, AppSumo (has a submit button), Facebook Marketplace, Fiverr, Upwork, etc. are all search engines you can optimize to get your product or service into the hands of people looking for it.

    Earned marketing efforts, in my opinion, are the hardest and least-utilized.
    Influencer marketing, a combo of Earned and Paid, is specifically great for partnering with someone on a product that you build the product and launch to their audience.

  6. 2

    Lots of social products took off like this. Facebook, Twitter, etc. But it's because they have a viral loop built in. So I guess with zero marketing budget, you need a viral loop (fantastic word of mouth is a kind of viral loop too).

  7. 2

    Tautologically .. it’s impossible. If it took off there has to be some sort of marketing. The closest example I can think of an “accidental success” is flappy bird. But its going to be a rare thing.

  8. 2

    When I hear people say ''without marketing'', to me that sounds as silly as in the 80s when engineers were perceived as eggheads and MBA's or experienced CEO's were the cool geniuses that were gonna make it rain money.

    Marketing and Engineering are mom and dad. Two sides of the same coin. While it's true that depending on the type of business the proportions change, you'll still need both.

    In a world where you're building for robots and there's not a human involved anywhere then your marketing efforts would be close to zero. (Still not zero because the human that's designing the process needs to decide how to design it. That's marketing.)

    In a world where the building is trivial and it's all about making people want what you already have, the engineering part is close to zero. (Still not zero because it needs to get build/shipped/scaled etc. Which are all technical problems.) [1]

    I'm in the process of writing an essay on Dutch School Marketing which is the right way to think about marketing in a sea filled with marketing morons nowadays that have zero knowledge, a ton of hubris, and no respect for the craft. [2]

    Marketing isn't just about distribution (IH, Reddit, PH, etc.), it's also about what to build, what not to build, what it does, what's it for, and for whom?

    [1] This essay talks about the brilliant campaign that caused you and the rest of the planet to buy a diamond engagement ring when you're getting married: https://www.younglingfeynman.com/essays/engagementring?rq=diamond ring

    [2] This essay has a paragraph on Dutch School: https://www.younglingfeynman.com/essays/reframing?rq=dutch school

  9. 2

    I was able to bootstrap One Word Domains to over 35K users & 150K pageviews through organic & word-of-mouth marketing - here's a Hackernoon article that I wrote where I documented my entire journey from start to finish.

  10. 2

    I built a series of Alexa skills and got tons of organic traffic through the alexa skill store. I did pay for marketing once 10 months after starting. That was $500 for a dedicated newsletter in August it helped a little but not much.

    I'm making $2k+/month in profits now, think I'll hit 3k by December and 5k by the end of 2021 without spending any more on marketing.

  11. 2

    We are getting 6K visitors a month. 90% of traffic from organic keywords. No guest blogging, no link building, no forum promotion,etc. There will be minimal promotion using a VA for 200 dollars a month in India. Our site is Hupport.com

    1. 1

      Looks interesting. Do you have a lot of customers using it?

      1. 1

        Yes. But Not lots of customers. Daily we get around 10-15 live chat leads. Over the couple of year, we got around 220 paid customers and 730 free users.

  12. 2

    Well,I haven't made a penny from colorsandfonts.com but O has a lot of traffic before, around 30k monthly it it has come down though...

    I never did marketing for it but what I did was..

    • list it everywhere I could for free.
    • made accounts on:
      Dribbble, Instagram, FB....and even in a Russian Social Media, I can't even speak it...

    Posted updates on Dev.to and reached 4k followers...

    • It went viral on Reddit.
    • Youtubers featured it, even Gary Simons from Coursetro...
    • Big newsletter featured it too, like Sidebar, Code Drops.

    On social media I posted every day during 7 months more or less.

    • Dribble Shots
    • 5 instagram posts
    • 5 Tweets

    It was wild...

    1. 1

      Why don't you monetize it?

      1. 2

        I tried, didn't work. Now I use it to drive traffic to wickedtemplates.com ( working on a new one https://new-wicked.netlify.app/)

        and unicornsfeed.com

    2. 1

      What you did sounds too exhausting to me. Maybe it's because I don't enjoy what I'm doing currently. And 👏 for the grind.

      1. 1

        it was,...is a pain in the ass. I wouldn't do it again if I do not get anything back.

  13. 2

    I already convinced myself that it's going to fail anyways, that's why I kept postponing it.

    Haha. You are awesome. I love your honesty. Especially on Sunday.

  14. 1

    If you consider "0" marketing to zero or almost no effort at all here are some examples:

    • shipyourenemiesglitter.com - $100k within a week
    • the world record egg - from 0 to 52M insta likes and 10M insta followers within a week - insta account estimated worth = $10M
    • pokevision - 50M unique users/day within a week
    • donothingfor2minutes.com - 2M unique users within a week

    There's more of it. If you're interested I publish them here: http://kickstartsidehustle.com/

    1. 1

      Thanks Kanka, I wasn't looking for these kind of extreme examples. I was wondering if it's possible for some projects can get up in their feet without marketing and become at least ramen profitable.

      And I laughed hard, you are a genius.

      Weekly Danny DeVito-size email with:
      ☑ < 0.3% of People unsubscribe

      1. 1


        I guess then, "building in public" a big enough demand product. That seems to always work xD

  15. 1

    There is no "without marketing". You'd always be marketing one way or another.

    Even if you had a brick-and-mortar shop in a corner you'd still have to market your business with banners and giving out the word. How you come out is a whole different game. Whether you come out as genuine or salesy or annoying is what that matters.

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