Growth March 10, 2020

I suck at marketing. Here's to changing that.

Rik Nieu @RikNieu

Hi, I'm Rik and I have been making products that nobody uses. I want to stop doing that.

I've decided to stop jumping in and coding up projects in the blind without making sure that what I'm working on is actually needed, and to make sure that those who'd benefit from it would actually know about it when it launches.

I'm going to start focusing on learning marketing, promotion, product validation and expanding my network. I'll be documenting my progress here in a succinct and to-the-point way, and then a longer elaborated version on my blog(

I want to do this in public because I hope it would induce a form of accountability that will help me when my motivation inevitably wanes, and I hope that some of you might help me out with useful tips and suggestions too. So if you have thing to share, please let me know! I'm just stumbling around here hoping that I'll eventually find my way.

I also hope to help any other lost souls like me see the light(if I can get this fire started properly) and give back to the community that way.
So with all that said, let me jump in.

Why I've been failing
My projects(and I'm guessing some of yours) have been failing because of a mixture 4 main issues;

  • No one knows about my projects
  • These projects don't solve any urgent problems better than the alternatives
  • They don't inspire excitement
  • My personal network and social presence is minuscule.

These are the things that I'd need to be mastering and improving on.

What I'll be doing
I'll be taking a systematic approach of information gathering, followed by finding examples to shape into case studies related to what I've learned. Then I'll attempt to formalise the results in some sort of knowledge nugget or strategy that I'll be testing, to measure its effectiveness.

These tests will be practical in nature, with measurable results for us to see how things went.

My framework of enquiry - the Marketing Mix

Investopedia defines marketing as the things a company does to promote the buying and selling of their products.


Product refers to an item or items the business plans to offer to customers. The product should seek to fulfill an absence in the market, or fulfill consumer demand for a greater amount of a product already available. Before they can prepare an appropriate campaign, marketers need to understand what product is being sold, how it stands out from its competitors, whether the product can also be paired with a secondary product or product line, and whether there are substitute products in the market.


Price refers to how much the company will sell the product for. When establishing a price, companies must consider the unit cost price, marketing costs, and distribution expenses. Companies must also consider the price of competing products in the marketplace and whether their proposed price point is sufficient to represent a reasonable alternative for consumers.


Place refers to the distribution of the product. Key considerations include whether the company will sell the product through a physical storefront, online, or through both distribution channels. When it's sold in a storefront, what kind of physical product placement does it get? When it's sold online, what kind of digital product placement does it get?


Promotion, the fourth P, is the integrated marketing communications campaign. Promotion includes a variety of activities such as advertising, selling, sales promotions, public relations, direct marketing, sponsorship, and guerrilla marketing.

I will be reversing this list for my purposes however, it'd be too tempting to just jump in and get stuck on the Product side of things again. No, I'd rather start by focusing on the things I think I suck at most, and conveniently it seems to follow the list above in reverse.

I'll also be going against pushing my comfort levels by contacting the owners of the products I use in my case studies to see if they're willing to give some extra information.

If some of you have products that may qualify and would be willing to humor me for the good of the community, please let me know.


I want to impose some constraints on my enquiries in order to focus it down to my needs a bit more.

  • The methods used should be 100% applicable to remote-based projects.
  • Case studies should be about projects consistently making at least $1000+ p/m
  • Strategies should be applicable to solo founders with no extended specialised teams.
  • The strategies used must be as cheap and cost effective as possible. We don't all have money to through at the problem, and frankly, I feel money would make for lazy decision-making.

I hope this might be of value to some of you.

  1. 4

    Hey Rik, shameless plug: you might want to check Zero to Marketing (by me) and Marketing Examples (by @harrydry). I think you'll find them helpful 🙂

    1. 1

      Thanks Andre!

  2. 3

    Hey Rik! I love that you're doing this - I'm super passionate about connecting with customers, and turning what they need into products, and I'd love to help :)

    My recommendation is actually to start with Place - but rather than distribution, think about place as your literal market (i.e. where it is, and who goes there). It's about identifying the problems the market is having, and figuring out how YOU can solve them for your "target customers".

    I actually just wrote about about how to use the marketing mix to launch a profitable business - it's super digestible and has some easy tips on how to gather customer insights (like what questions to ask), turn them into a product people want, and market to them so they "get" you.

    You can check that out below, or ping me for 1x1 help at [email protected]. I'm always happy to give out advice!


    1. 2

      Also, FYI, I'm about to offer a free workshop on how to write copy that converts. So if you're ready to tackle the marketing piece, ping me and I'll loop you in.

      1. 1

        Can you look at our copy ?

        1. 3

          Sure can! I think there's a lot you can do to make your copy more resonant, and get prospects to take action:

          1. Focus on the problem you're solving for customers - their "pain point".

          In your case, this is data privacy - but you don't use these words anywhere (I actually found this in one of your previous posts). You're missing the "why" on your landing page - why are customers searching for this solution to begin with? Don't get into the "what" or the "how" until you've made that connection

          My recommendation is to come up with the 3 key benefits (not features) you deliver with your product (you can list the features below each). The benefits should focus on value. As developers, it's tempting for us to focus on the speeds and feeds, but if you can explain your value in lay-speak, your conversion will majorly improve.

          Have you talked with many potential customers? Try using the words they use when they describe their pain point in your messaging.

          I actually just wrote a post on how to write copy that converts, so this may be helpful too:

          1. Spin up a blog - this will help you build credibility (and SEO).

          You mentioned that you're struggling to get backlinks - if you can write some blog posts about the "why" (including lots of good search terms like data privacy, etc.), that stuff will get shared (hence the backlink).

          1. Polish up the design - this is esp. important in the security / data privacy space.

          You're selling a product that helps people protect their privacy - which means that YOU need to be super trustworthy. I think a website design with a more serious tone (darker colors, a bit more bold, sharper lines) would help sell this a lot more (trust me, I do go-to-market strategy for security products in my day job).

          Questions? Feel free to ping me, and I'd be happy to help further. I'm actually going to be running a workshop soon on writing great website copy, so lmk if you're interested and I'll loop you in!

    2. 1

      Thanks Rachel, I'll have a look

  3. 2

    Best of luck Rik! A couple of thoughts came to mind:

    • Promotion is the most fun in my opinion :-) How do you intend to build a promotional marketing mix without reviewing the other 3 Ps?
    • Each activity may provide learnings that feed well into the others. Why do these activities have to be in any sequence at all?
    1. 1

      These are all good points, Scott 🤔
      I guess I can apply some exercises to my existing projects. Or create small, fun topical ones. Or perhaps handle the analysis sequentially and then do the practical tests that combine it all.

      Hmmm, food for thought.

  4. 2

    Hey Rik,
    I believe it happens to every engineer at some point. I wish you good luck with your intention and recommend reading a popular book - Zero To One by Pither Thiel that can help you evaluate product ideas before actual development.

  5. 2

    Good luck on your journey Rik!

    My tip would be to start reading up on the book by Rob Fitzpatrick The Mom Test. It discusses the right things to ask and look for when validating ideas etc.