Last week, after feeling burned-out sitting on my chair for WEEKS without breaks (other than sleep and meals), working on my product Goals , I decided to stay away from my chair for a week to recharge.
I'd been working on Goals for exactly a year by July 1st. I've got it to $900-$1500 MRR (fluctuates because of churns). It can be seen as a success if I had lived in a place with lower living costs, but it's still far from paying my monthly mortgage payments.
The product is great and unique, according to its core users, but I've failed to communicate the message efficiently before users download the app. In other words, I didn't know marketing.
Well, how could this be? In my past life, I've worked closely with marketing people and solved their problems, built tracking systems, hundreds of A/B tests, and overheard lots of tips about marketing. They see me as one of the rare devs who understand them. I thought I'd be a marketing genius when I started.
So, I bought 5 marketing books (one of them is @arvidkahl's new book (zero to sold, very timely) and decided to read them during my break time. 50% into these books, I admit, I didn't know marketing.
As a product engineer who has worked on hundreds of projects activating users (onboarding, growth) and retaining users (valuable features, great UX, email campaigns), I realized I didn't spend nearly as much time on acquiring users, and even LESS on the step before that: understanding users/niche.
When I joined companies as an employee, most of the time someone else (founders) has already done the work of identifying the niche and target market. So I always took it for granted. As a result, since I started last year, I spent most of my time building features for power users and had nearly 0% focus on the technological stack for attracting, capturing, nurturing, and converting prospects.
To correct this problem, I've come up with a new mental model:
Market Engineering (Attracting the right prospects)
Growth Engineering (Converting prospects to users)
Product Engineering (Providing value to users)
It's clear. I've got 10+ years of experience in Product Engineering, 3+ years on Growth Engineering, and 0 years of experience in Market Engineering.
Market Engineering is the ultimate "Front-end" engineering. We all know that all users experience the app through its Front-end, they don't care about how well your backend is written as they will never interact with it directly.
Similarly, all prospects experience the business through its marketing message, and they don't care about how good your onboarding is unless they see you, and in a short period of time, are convinced that you can help them.
It's fascinating to identify my own shortcomings because it means I can finally put a conscious effort to nail it.
More to come!