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Build next feature vs. Marketing - How to prioritize?

People often say you should prioritize marketing over features, but is that true especially when your product isn't good enough yet?

Good marketing would be wasted if the product lacked critical features that don't match up to the competition.

On the contrary, feature development isn't a process that happens in a vacuum. Often it's repeated requests from the current customers that drive feature development.

My question is, as a solo founder, how can I go on and "do marketing" if my current user base is nagging at me to implement new features, especially if it's the same feature?

I feel like it's better to just give in and get them off my back.

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    This Microconf talk on SaaS metrics came to mind because he gives some rules of thumb for when to focus on acquisition vs retention.

    If trial to paid conversion is > 35% with credit card required (or 15% without) and churn < 6%, focus on acquisition. Otherwise, focus on retention. He also said that if you have < 30k monthly unique visitors, acquisition will likely give you the best ROI.

    Just rules of thumb, but something to consider.

    Also, it never fails to talk to your customers and potential customers - who's churned and why, who's signing up and why, what leads are you losing? If you can figure out which part of the funnel needs the most work, then that'll help you know what to focus on. Granted, if you're getting a lot of requests for the same thing and it aligns with your vision of the product, it probably makes sense to build it.

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      I like this, a data-driven approach to prioritization.

      The problem is while focusing on retention, as a solo founder, acquisition tends to suffer (so MRR stagnates at best).

      The churns are almost always switching to a competitor, given that I'm in a crowded space, so I've always felt more compelled to focus solely on retention and thus my marketing/acquisition has been neglected for quite some time now.

      I simply can't focus on getting new customers yet if there's a huge leak at the bottom of the tub.

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        I simply can't focus on getting new customers yet if there's a huge leak at the bottom of the tub.

        If you get more people in than you lose, it might still be worth it under some circumstances.

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          Yes, I agree, and I've thought about this before too.

          But I think losing customers hurts me more than just the lost MRR -- it's also reputation, brand value, stuff like that.

          Whereas not populating the top of my funnel is just lost MRR, and even then it's only theoretical MRR, not real MRR.

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            Whereas not populating the top of my funnel is just lost MRR

            Is it? More users also mean more referrals, more word of mouth, more feedback, etc. It might not just be MRR.

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    Not familiar with what a day looks like for you but one solution could be to set x hours for product work and n hours for marketing work. Even if you only spend 1 hour per day doing marketing, if you do it every single day and "work like a lion, not a cow.." there will be results.

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    What feedback do you get when doing marketing? Do people just buy? Do they tell you what features they'd want before they buy?

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      I haven't done marketing in a while now, to be honest.

      I've been spoiled a bit by organic leads that come from the ether, affiliate referrals, SEO clicks, word-of-mouth recommendations, app platforms like AppSumo, etc. etc.

      Because my app is 100% self-serve and self-explanatory, I've been basically relying on organic leads that don't require me to lift a finger.

      I don't want to waste these leads by having a substandard/less-than-state-of-the-art product though, which is why I've been so focused on the product for months now.

      Do you think I should restart my marketing engine, at the cost of product development?

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        If you haven't done marketing in months, I think that it makes sense to put some effort into it.

        When is a product ever ready for marketing? There's always something to improve.

        If you're unsure, I'd try to clearly define what you need to do before you feel it's worth marketing your product.

        That said, if your product can get so many users without any marketing efforts, how far can you push it when you actually do work on marketing? Sounds like the sky is the limit.

        ---

        On another note, I'm kind of in the same situation right now. During the last marketing round, people basically all reported that they wanted 1 or 2 features that would convince them to buy. I'm now building those, but I've also got a clear timeline of when I'm going to start marketing again.

        I'm a developer / product person, so it's always tempting to just make the product better, but I'm trying to resist that.

        ---

        Please take my advice with a grain of salt, though. I only know a tiny bit about what your situation is.

        If you want to chat about this in more detail on a Zoom call, let me know. Would be happy to discuss it and hear your thoughts.

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          That said, if your product can get so many users without any marketing efforts, how far can you push it when you actually do work on marketing? Sounds like the sky is the limit.

          You're absolutely right, and I'd like to think so as well.

          I guess fear is holding me back.

          What if I market it like hell, and growth barely budges?

          At least now I can justify to myself it's because I'm not marketing.

          I'm also a developer at heart, so marketing tends to scare me as well.

          But you're right -- eventually, we all need to get to it.

          Grow or die.

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            Totally get what you mean. That said, great things usually come from confronting our fears. Go for it, man!

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