Today I'm going to introduce to you a valuable lesson I've learned about how damaging it is to trade Sales for Marketing...
Back in 2016 when I launched Shoppe, the first thing I did after I pressed the launch button was to go reach out to 15 customers in my network that I knew would find tremendous value from my product. I gave them the product for free. I sold and developed partnerships.
Low and behold, 9 months later we were on track for $1M ARR and business was like that scene from the Grinch on the night before Christmas where people are rushing the store to buy their last minute gifts. It was nuts. It was nuts because we had been developing our business by selling and making deals with customers.
Never had I ever had over $10k in a bank account before this time and suddenly, within two months, had amassed more than my annual salary from the job I was currently employed in.
And it clouded my judgement... Big time! It made me comfortable, it made me lazy, and worst of all; it made me stop selling my product.
You see, it was at this time that I stopped going out and selling my products to people, which required lots of hard work and guts. It had required that I put myself out there and allow someone to reject my product, which was my baby! Instead I started to take the easy way out with ads and content marketing, not realizing how valuable it was to continually keep pitching my product to customers.
It was a lot easier to just "post something" to social media, rather than DM a potential customer to pitch them. And I did the easier thing.
As a result of an incredibly weak sales game, our business suffered. Growth began to dip, and our product quickly fell out of relevancy as time went on because I started to take the easy way out.
It took me until 2019 to realize that I had committed a huge no-no with my thinking about growth... I had put marketing first before sales. It must be the other way around! Every successful indie hacker out there will tell you that they first sold.
Now I'm not saying that Ads and Content Marketing are necessarily bad, but using those as a replacement for sales in the beginning stages of your startup can be extremely damaging. Shoppe didn't grow as big as it did with marketing. Marketing is the long game that hopefully gets you some organics in the future. In the beginning sales is what gets you the influx of customers you need to validate your product and pivot to a viable business model.
Having a strong sales game is a huge advantage that you will always have over any other product in the market because it requires you to know exactly who your ideal customer is and what their pain points are. But most critical to your startup is the constant refining of your message (your pitch) to your customers that constantly happens in order for you to remain effective at selling your product. The result of which is a product that rapidly evolves as you continue to learn further about your customer's needs and make changes based on feedback from sales.
You don't get the same short feedback loop from marketing.
When you're just starting out your business, having feedback loops that are short and concise are critical to your success. You need to know as soon as possible where customers are dropping off.
As Makers, we need to force ourselves to diligently get feedback BEFORE we make.
This is now the successful formula I apply to any new ventures:
Step One: Sell to a new ideal customer (and current customers) to learn from what they say. What are their pain points? What objections do they have? Do they have a need for your product?
Step Two: Iterate the plan for your product to continue to fit their needs and then execute that plan until sales tell you otherwise.
Step Three: Repeat and never stop repeating everrrrrr.
It works both before you build widget A or after. The point is that you make sure to put customer feedback central to your business. In a time where most likely your market is hyper competitive, short feedback loops are the key to a successful growth strategy. You can't grow without more customers, and customers won't come to you unless your product fulfills several of their needs. You need to fulfills those needs as quickly as possible.
And so today, I have a couple points to impart on you: