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74 Comments

I’m a developer who resisted doing marketing for years. Here’s what made me change.

Hey everyone 👋

I'm a software engineer who’s been coding for 16 years.

In 2018, I decided to take the plunge and build my own startup, with my wife as a cofounder.

I love to code and she loves to design. And since we’re doing a logo design product, I thought that focusing on these areas would be enough to succeed.

From the start though, people kept telling me to focus on distribution and marketing.

It made sense but I felt that it didn’t apply to us. I was convinced that finding product-market fit would be enough to make us successful.

Just like the unicorn success stories you see all the time. I hoped that we would be so good and disruptive that we would become viral. I assumed actual marketing wouldn’t be needed.

meme Dagobert Renouf product vs marketing

How it started

Actually, focusing on the product worked well in the beginning.

When we launched last year, we had 1 sale out of every 800 visits. There were still big problems in the flow.

So by spending time on features, we got it down to 1 sale out of every 200 visits. It was a big improvement!

But by focusing on that exclusively, we stopped trying to get traffic. And even with a better-performing website, it didn’t sell that much.

By January 2021, we had already fixed the bigger problems with our site.

But we kept focusing on features until the end of May, except for some participation on indiehackers and reddit.

This didn’t lead to any major improvement in sales and got us down to a tiny ~700 users and 7 sales per month. Even worse, half of those were late conversions from traffic acquired in 2020.

image traffic
The result of focusing only on product

Seeing the problem

As the months went by and we kept improving the product, we experienced firsthand how it didn’t change anything.

Regardless of our efforts, we were still barely selling a handful of logos a month.

So eventually we had no choice but to admit it.

We did not create a product so mind-blowing that it became an instant-hit. We’re not the next Facebook or Uber.

And that means we need to do marketing.

meme founders product vs marketing

Making the switch

I really didn’t want to do marketing.

I wanted to create my dream job, where I could do what I love every day (code and UX) without a boss telling me what to do. Now I have to learn something that seems like a big chore?!

Lucky for me, my target market is founders and entrepreneurs. So I took the smallest step that I could: participate more in online communities.

It doesn’t feel like marketing if it’s just « participating » 😅

So I became more active on twitter, indiehackers, and reddit. I joined lots of private slack groups.

I forced myself to reply to tweets for hours and bring value to every online discussion that I could.

It felt like a grind at first, and it was hard to not work on my product.

But after a couple of weeks, one of my 100s of replies got viral on twitter. It got us thousands of visits and a couple of sales.

I had finally gotten a win 🤩.

Marketing as a priority

This made me want to double down, and by staying consistent, sure enough, I kept getting more wins, which led to more traffic and sales.

image traffic

I got a bit more comfortable, and it even became something I enjoyed doing. I started making memes about the indie journey (the ones you see in this post) and this led to some more growth for my twitter account.

The best part is I don’t have to be salesy at all. Most of the time I just try to be helpful, share my experience and don’t mention my product.

But people are naturally curious, so if they like my answer, they go check my profile. Then they follow the link to my website 🤷‍♂️.

Closing thoughts

Do I still want to do product? Yes.
Would I rather live in a world where I can just build a great product and become instantly successful? YES YES YES.

But at some point during my journey, I realized that it was just a fantasy. Sure 1 out of every 1000 founders will hit the jackpot with an instantly viral product. But for most of us, there’s no silver bullet.

If I want my product to succeed, I have to make a conscious choice to make it visible to the world. Even though it still doesn’t come naturally, it's gotten easier by focusing on bringing value and having fun.

Thanks to this, I'm finally making logology grow. I hope this article can inspire you to go out there and do the same 🚀

meme founders draw 25

  1. 5

    Great read, I have got to the point now where I hate working for others more than I hate marketing, hearing my own voice, filing myself or being embarrassed of saying the wrong thing. We all get there eventually - well done on getting it working for you

    1. 1

      You summed it up perfectly, it's the same for me.

      I hate doing marketing, but I'd hate working for somebody else again even more. So let's goooo 😂🚀

  2. 3

    This is such a great piece Dagobert thank you! And hugely reinforces my thinking also, which is always nice :) So happy things are starting to work out!

    1. 1

      Thank you Meri 🙏

      Feels good finally finding a way to grow a bit more, we needed that 😅

  3. 2

    Great read. I was just recommended the book "Hacking growth" - hopefully, I'll read some techniques to put this into work 🤙

    1. 1

      Let me know what you learn, haven't read that one yet 🙏

  4. 2

    I absolutely love the site and will prob be a customer at some point next time I'm trying something new. One piece of constructive criticism though.

    The name of the site and strapline logology.co – a way to get a designer-quality logo for your startup in 5 minutes" is not where I see value as a founder. I almost didn't click on the site, because I thought "just another of the hundreds of logo sites". For me as a customer, the actual value you provide is 90% in the branding work and only 10% the logos.

    As soon as I saw the carousel of brands and scrolled down to the pricing I was sold - and to be clear I was sold on the top price option because of the branding content . I feel you are underselling what you can actually do - and I appreciate the tactic maybe get them on the $49 plan and then later they'll upgrade and it might work - but I think you should be clearer in your messaging. Because I think there are many people looking for branding who would skip over your site because it's marketed as a logo website.

    Honestly, I've scoured Fiverr and Upwork and the price point you are doing brand guidelines at x the quality is hitting a real sweetspot. i.e. Fiverr just doesn't have the quality - poor graphic design unless you are paying thousands of dollars. Same for upwork - there are good designers but charging thousands. I think you've found a middle ground of good design + reasonable price.

    My recommendation would be to A/B test another site or at least angle "brandology" where you focus on selling branding guidelines (inc. logo) i.e logo is not the front end offer. Would be interested to see what happens.

    1. 1

      Thank you so much for trying it out and giving such a detailed feedback!

      It's very funny, but I was thinking of changing our positioning from logo to branding this morning too... It just sounds higher quality, and more easy to speak to high quality buyers this way.

      Will definitely try an a/b test soon. Thank you so much 🙏

  5. 2

    Hey Dagobert, thanks for pointing me to your IH newsletter. This resonated loads. I find learning from peers so much more helpful these days instead of those hundred millions exit success stories. Keep writing!

    1. 1

      Thanks a lot Jason, I'm so glad it could help.

      I will write more but don't hesitate to remind me 😅

  6. 2

    Great read! What are some of the private slack communities that you recommend for indiehackers?

    1. 1

      Thank you Prasanth!

      Indieworldwide is really good.

      I also joined megamakers a couple of years ago but it’s on the expensive side. Met some very nice people though.

  7. 2

    Great read! Thanks for sharing! So your marketing efforts are mostly centered on posting helpful comments? Do you do any additional/supplemental activities like content marketing or even paid ads?

    1. 1

      Thank you Tristan 🙏

      I tried paid ads a few months ago and it failed. Did both google ads and newsletter sponsoring.

      I noticed that for my product, people take a very long time to buy. Because when they hear about us they usually don’t need a logo right away. However they come back in a few months when they launch their next project.

      So I need a way to be on top of people’s mind on the day they think « I need a logo now ».

      The formula for me, since my target market is « startup founders » is quite simple. I just share my journey as a founder. This in turns grows my audience, which increase the number of people who come to my site everyday.

      I try to post one article like this every week, and have become very active on twitter.

      It takes a lot of my time right now, almost all of it. But I went from 150 to 770 Twitter followers in 2 months, with high engagement. And it already led to a few sales. I’m also gaining subscribers here on IH.

      If I keep doing that, eventually everybody in the community who needs a logo will think of us when the time comes. Or that’s my hope at least.

  8. 2

    Great read.
    I feel the same thing putting my product out there hopping it will sell it self but without marketing nothing happens

    1. 1

      Thanks 🙏 It's a hard lesson to learn, but we all gotta experience it at some point.

      Good luck on your journey 🚀

  9. 2

    Great post! I find myself now in the same position, starting to think about marketing.

    1. 1

      Thanks! Good luck on your journey 🚀

  10. 2

    I thought I was reading about my own journey it's the same as what I went through. Being a tech founder has some cons as well they all resist doing marketing in the beginning.

    1. 2

      Right on Robins! Seems like everyone warned us about the trap, but we still have to fall in it to understand the mistake 😅

  11. 2

    Hey Dagobert

    Love the memes! I like how you're showing your vulnerability. We all need to do marketing and distribution, no matter how much we dislike it. It's either that or die 😅

    Here's to growing even stronger!

    1. 2

      Thank you so much Welly, I feel really seen when you say that 😊.

      Love what you've been doing by building in public lately. Let's keep going and we'll rise to the top eventually 🚀

  12. 2

    100% resonate with all of this. I've had better engagement talking about my skills without people even seeing/hearing them. Participation/conversations seem like the way to go!

    Also, your meme game is strong.

    1. 1

      Thanks Luke 🙏.

      I feel like as soon as I see someone promote some particular topic, my brain goes into "am I interested or not" and so I might skip it instantly.

      But if it's just someone talking about their experience, I can just be curious without feeling the need to decide anything. And in turn check out a bit deeper about what that person is doing.

      If that makes sense 🤷‍♂️

      1. 2

        Totally understand you. Something we should be aware of if both of have this subconcsious standpoint ourselves. Experience is much more relatable across various disciplines I guess.

  13. 2

    Great read, and pretty relatable. I remember reading somewhere that people usually think that the best way to improve their product is doing more of what they're good at or enjoy.

    • Marketers think they need to do more marketing.
    • Product people think the product needs to improve.
    • Engineers think the engineering needs to get better.

    I personally enjoy performance work, so I tend to "procrastinate" by improving performance.

    1. 1

      That's right on, I've been thinking of this a lot lately.

      Initially I built my product, and I thought it would solve all my problems.
      Then I heard about "positioning" and I spent weeks working on that, thinking it would solve everything.
      And now I'm all about distribution...

      The thing is, none of them alone works, but by doing a bit of everything, it compounds to something good.

      I had a meme ready for that actually, still unreleased. Here's a preview
      meme startup everything matters

      Try not to spend too much time on performance work 😅

      1. 2

        Yeah that's pretty spot on. On our project feels like we spent a lot more time on engineering, and very little on marketing, so I've pretty much been telling my co-founder that the engineering is irrelevant (it isn't). Just needs a bit more balance :)

  14. 2

    This was pure gold. Thank you for sharing. I had a similar experience with service I created. I worked hard for months on it only to hear crickets after releasing it. I made the mistake of believing its a game changer and people will 'obviously' come. Lesson learned: Marketing and distribution matter as much as coding.

    1. 1

      Thank you for the kind words 🙏

      We all have to come to this realization sooner or later. It doesn't feel good but we can eventually solve it, just like any other coding problem.

      Good luck on your journey 🚀

  15. 2

    Love the sharing and learnt a great tons! Thanks for this article.

    What are your current marketing activities that you're doing daily?

    1. 2

      Thanks a lot man!

      So right now I'm heavily focused on growing my twitter audience. Creating tons of memes and forcing myself to tweet twice a day, as well as spend time replying on other accounts.

      I went from 150 followers (barely active account) to 720 in 2 months doing this. It took a lot of my time but it's worth it.

      Here's weekly traffic from twitter, keep in mind that I don't even mention my site all the time, it's mostly people checking out from my profile.

      twitter stats

      It's the first time I have regular traffic since launching this thing, thanks to twitter. Also it keeps growing, as long as I stay active.

      Second thing is I'm writing more long-form content like this one. My goal would be to write 2 a week. But just 1 every week for a few months would already be a big step in the right direction.

      Right now I almost don't do any product, but I'll come back to it soon enough (and I've being doing it for 2.5 years so I feel like a couple weeks off isn't a big deal 😅).

      Cheers 🥂

  16. 2

    Great read @dagorenouf (memes included) ! As a dev myself i can definitively relate. Its really easy to neglect marketing when you are enjoying building your product

    1. 1

      Thanks Niko 🙏

      Yep, I feel at the end of the day, when you spend enough time not making sales, you eventually give up not doing marketing. Have to get out there wether we like it or not 😅

  17. 2

    Once you've kicked off your initial marketing and have an initial base of users, the best marketing is almost always a superior product.

    1. 1

      Definitely the case with many products.

      I guess since my product doesn't really have "users" (since it's a one-off purchase), maybe I need to have a slightly stronger marketing game if I want to survive in the long run. What do you think?

  18. 2

    Thanks for sharing. Doing more marketing is why I created an indiehackers account today. So glad the first article that caught my eye was yours. We will see how far this not programming activities takes me.

    1. 1

      Welcome to the party Christian! you've taken the first step.

      I remember years ago when I joined, it felt like a big deal. I had finally started interacting with others about my product, which felt scary at first... Now it's becoming more and more like second nature.

      Looking forward to seeing you grow 🚀

    2. 1

      Welcome to IH ! If it helps, I'd love to offer you a free access to my database of curated growth strategies at GrowthHunt.co to help you with marketing and growth.

      Cheers!

      1. 1

        Hey that would be great 👍

  19. 2

    Such a great article, and so relatable. Been working on advertising for 16 years and quit my job to start my own startup with my wife as a coFounder. Scared of doing marketing and trying to build my dream job.
    A lot of issues in my startup right now, so a lot to learn from this.
    Thanks so much for sharing this!

    1. 1

      You're welcome Arnau, best of luck on your journey 🚀

  20. 2

    I'm in the first picture and I don't like it 👀

    But seriously though, this is important advice! And it's always a superpower to be a part of the target audience of your own app. You can just participate in the communities you're already a part of -- and it won't even feel like marketing.

    1. 1

      Exactly Richard.

      Actually, we could have built a similar product for different businesses than startups. But we had no idea how we'd easily reach those. So even though eventually, our product will be for anyone looking for a logo, right now it's built to help startups the most.

      Does the market for notabase have communities you can naturally participate in?

      1. 2

        There's a lot of communities, but they tend to be segmented by the app that people use. Naturally, they don't take kindly to any kind of promotion, especially for a competing app 😅. And they tend to be pretty happy with the app they're already using, so it's harder to get them to switch anyway.

        Marketing + distribution is an ongoing struggle!

        1. 1

          Right I can see that. I don't assume you'd do to well on r/RoamResearch for example 😅

          But actually maybe, you could play it super transparent and be like: I love roam but these few things bugged me. So I created this alternative that does X Y and Z differently, what do you think?

          Just an idea, it's not an easy problem to solve.

          1. 2

            A lot of these communities have "no promotion" rules which make it hard to even do a post like that. Like r/RoamResearch for example has the following rule: "No advertisement or promotion of other services, unless they are part of your Roam workflow." Pretty clear-cut there 😅

            I'll probably participate in those communities anyway without mentioning my product, and maybe they'll be interested enough to click on my profile. But what I think will work the best in the long term is SEO and word of mouth.

            1. 1

              Yes that makes sense. SEO is a really good long term bet.

              There might also be an underserved need from roam users you could tie yourself to, that they're searching for?

              1. 2

                Maybe! I'll definitely look into it when I invest more into SEO.

                Thanks for the advice :)

  21. 2

    If I want my product to succeed, I have to make a conscious choice to make it visible to the world.

    Well said!

    I'm struggling with this problem right now. It's very tempting to work on a bunch of programming tasks from the TODO list. But doing that killed past projects I worked on.

    This week I've 'banned' myself from doing any further programming until I've done some marketing and outreach to promote my projects. It's difficult going outside of that comfort zone, but it's required.

    1. 2

      Right on Dave. My suggestion would be to keep pushing until you get a win. Like a semi-viral post or even a sale.

      It totally changed my perspective when I saw that it COULD pay off. I suddenly started feeling like I had control of our sales number. This is pretty incredible when I think of it.

      1. 2

        Absolutely!

        I got my first sale by showing-off a prototype of one of my products and it was an incredible feeling. Yet it's so difficult trying again and again to gain momentum. But I'll keep pushing!

        1. 1

          Right on! Definitely a great feeling 😍

          The next step is finding a way to bring value without just saying "hey I just launched my product". A bit harder but doable, just gotta try again and again to find the right angle.

          Good luck ! 🚀

  22. 2

    Good read!

    I was happy to stumble across this post because I've used logology to help me with a quick logo for my little startup, dimetric.

    I started going down the route of dealing with an actual designer but your website was both easier and provided a better result (I swear I wasn't paid to promote these guys). And then I received a nice little thank you letter in the mail! What a nice touch. I hope you continue to grow.

    1. 1

      Be careful you're gonna get me flagged 😂.

      Thank you so much for the kind words Mitchell, I'm so glad you loved the letter. Oh and you've made good use of the whole brand also, landing page look good 🔥.

      Just sent you an email to make a proper testimonial 😊

  23. 2

    Thanks for sharing!
    Recently I've been thinking about "Perfecting my craft" and as an engineer, I tend to put more weight on development than any other area. There's still design, business, marketing, etc.

    As an indie developer, you have to wear all the hats. Naturally, you tend to stick with what you are comfortable with. But if you're goal is to have a successful business you need to focus on other areas that may not come as easy.

    It's easy to say it, but quite difficult in practice. Overall, as you mentioned you start to enjoy the process. I like that you mentioned that, I think it's true with anything. Just got to get over the hump

    1. 1

      Right on Miguel 💪.

      Because it was so new and not something I wanted to do, I felt like I would be bad at it. And when I started it didn't work at all, so I could have given up.

      But like everything, if you keep applying yourself and questioning your approach, eventually you can figure it out.

      Marketing is just another problem to solve. The fact that it involves interacting with other people, and not just with code, is irrelevant.

      We're even lucky in that we can do it online, we don't even have to get of our shell to the point of actually meeting people live 😂.

      So let's keep trying and eventually things click 🔥

      1. 2

        So let's keep trying and eventually things click 🔥

        💯 absolutely dude! that's the key, things will click after persistence

  24. 2

    Awesome read!
    I'm in the same boat! It's insanely hard for me as well😁
    So yeah, I'm starting with video tutorials. And then marketing on tiktok 😁 But it's hard as hell!

    1. 2

      Let's keep pushing John! The video tutorials look nice, just gotta put it in from of people's eyes 👀

      1. 2

        Yeah, that's the plan. Already done 7 tutorials, I want to create another 3 tutorials + 2 tips & tricks, and I've got a good start 😎

        Also, I assume you meant "front" not "from" ?

        1. 2

          Having a dozen video seems like a strong start, good luck 💪

          Yep I did mean "front".

          1. 2

            Thanks, it's not easy, but it's what we need to do!
            Good luck to you too! 💪

  25. 2

    Good read mate.

    I've always seen marketing as being a slimy salesperson but as distribution is key you need to do it one way or the other haha

    1. 2

      Haha right on.

      I really wanted to not do it but I just gave up 😅

      At least with memes it’s a bit fun.

      1. 2

        Lel, I also have to slide in at least one meme in every article 😁

  26. 2

    I am in the same boat as you. I love building new things. As soon as the product is done my energy for marketing fizzes away. I have changed my thought and habits since 2019 and applying the same towards my new tool.

    1. 2

      Good luck Nilesh, it’s the way to go for people like us 🚀

  27. 2

    While I haven't done any marketing in practice yet, the prospect of it, while difficult and time-consuming, sounds kinda fun to me. Getting the word out about something I build excites me. The only thing that turns me off is trying to figure out how to do it without being spammy. It sounds like you found a great way to do that while being naturally involved in various communities. Kudos.

    1. 1

      Thanks Kevin that’s it 🔥

      Just get involved with other people, invest time to be helpful, and they’ll naturally checkout your product.

      If you haven’t yet, you can also of course launch and announce your website in various communities. Always helps to get things going 💪

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