Build your marketing into your product!

Ask a marketer, “How does my product grow?” They'll reply:

Ads, affiliates, sales, social, yada yada yada

They’re describing top-down growth. Your classic funnel. Pour more in. Get more out. Here’s the problem.

  • Acquiring new customers from scratch is hard
  • Funnels flow in one direction
  • Growth is linear

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The best marketers think less about funnels. More about loops.

Loops feed themselves. The actions of one user create an output which create a new user.

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Let's look at some examples.

1) Personal viral loop

Some products improve with more users. So there's a personal incentive to invite new users.

e.g. Fantasy football, Slack, Trello

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2) Financial viral loop

Some products have financial incentives to invite new users.

e.g. Dropbox, PayPal, Tesla

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3) Social viral loop

Some products are so good, people just like talking about them.

e.g. DoubleTree, Stripe, Game of Thrones

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4) User generated content loop

Some products leverage users content to grow their own organic traffic.

e.g. Quora, Reddit, Stack Overflow

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5) Physical content loop

Some products attract new users simply by being noticeable. Lime's bright green is not a coincidence.

e.g. Lime, Square, ChargedUp

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6) Supply-side content loop

Some products incentivise users to promote their content for them.

e.g. Meetup, ProductHunt, Typeform

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7) Embedded loop

Some products grow by embedding themselves on other platforms.

e.g. Trustpulse, Intercom, Algolia

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Most people think you build the product then you market it. Thinking in loops means you build the marketing into the product.

The product doesn't precede the marketing. The product is the marketing.

One more example

Writing this just now I realised all the different loops at play at Indie Hackers:

  • Meetups — Incentive for event organizers to promote the event
  • Forums / Interviews / Products — User generated content loop
  • Milestones — Incentive for users to share on social media

Each one leverages existing users to create new users!


Big credit to Brian Balfour and Casey Winters. They've written a load of great stuff on this topic. This article is really just text book notes. Brian's actually been on the IH podcast and discussed Growth Loops Indie Hackers Podcast

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Thanks for reading — Harry
Sent from my iPhone

  1. 6

    I think the best ever example of this was Hotmail, back in the day.

    They added a little "Sent with Hotmail" link at the bottom of every email and it quickly grew the service to being what it became.

    1. 3

      Yes. Great shout!

      Reminds me of Apple's Sent with my iPhone which I just added to the piece.

      1. 2

        Yup - do think hotmail were one of the first to really hook into that type of cyclic marketing.

        Paypal did it very well too.

        These were both probably before your time but I remember seeing "sent with hotmail" and "sent with PayPal" and being almost frothing at the mouth with excitement: "I NEED THIS" was going through my mind.

  2. 2

    Just delightful to read as always @harrydry

    1. 2

      Cheers Gordon. Appreciate it.

  3. 2

    Good stuff Harry.

    Distribution of a product is generally underrated.

    Thinking in feedback loops is a useful mental model for that.

    1. 1

      Cheers Anthony. Don't quite get the last line. Can you elaborate.

      As in how quickly you can get feedback on you're ...

      1. 1

        oh, by feedback loops what I mean is rewarding users for their actions to incentivize them to continue that action.

        it doesn’t entirely relate to everything you just wrote

        but if you want users to market your product for you then one way to do that is by rewarding them somehow

  4. 2

    Great content as always, Harry.
    I remember "embeds" used to be a great way to increase your backlink profile/SEO with the right keywords across every site that has you embedded. A lot of calculator sites still do this.

    1. 1

      Ahh yes! A nice 2nd order effect on embeds. Do you know if it still works or if Google wise against it now?

        1. 1

          What Google says ≠ What Google does

          Most things that Google points out and wants to penalize, they end up not doing much. Look at unorganic links, guest blogging, etc.

          The only grand problem this could have is if it contains keywords in every single embed due to Google's Penguin Update. But rotating keywords in embeds per ID would still probably work:

          1. Numbers 1-2 get keyword or link #1
          2. Numbers 3-4 get keyword or link #2
          1. 1

            An old client of mine got a penalty for this, while another one keeps using this tactic and everything is fine.

            I guess it all comes down to how risk averse you are 🙂

  5. 1

    Marketing loops is the exact description of something I've been looking for for a while now!

    I think this is one of the key factors which make one product stand out from another. Not only because it is in incredibly valuable marketing machine, but also because it's quite difficult to implement properly, both technically and conceptually.

  6. 1

    What is nuru massage, lol. Great post harry.

  7. 1

    Awesome Harry! Bookmarking.

  8. 1

    This comment was deleted a year ago.

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