Broke as hell and with very little options, a lot of startup founders tend to do critical aspects of running and growing their startup themselves, even when they're barely qualified. This leads to a reliance on the knowledge-filled internet (Or so it seems?). I don't know about you but I cringe everytime I hear someone say: Why pay money to do a course when you can learn the same stuff on the internet for free? It's also cringeworthy when I watch an ad and hear: This course will change your life!
When it comes to learning, the internet is filled with smokescreens (A WHOLE LOT OF THEM), but there are golden nuggets if you know where to look. I'll breakdown how you can avoid wasting your time and money when it comes to investing in marketing knowledge and where it's actually worth dedicating your time.
I'll also share some straight-to-the-point, no B.S resources that I would recommend, if not already personally using on my current lifelong journey to go from an expert growth hacker to one of the greatest growth hackers to ever live.
- Here’s What’s Really Out There
- What Makes It So Difficult To Do Quality Marketing
- The Correct Approach For Startup Founders
- My Personal Journey From Amateur To Expert
- Filler-Free Expert Resources (free)
- Filler-Free Expert Resources (expensive)
Here’s What’s Really Out There:
How many times in life have you bought cheap shit that broke down on you as soon as you started using it?
The same principle applies here. Think of the internet as one big storage warehouse when it comes to quality information on marketing your startup. And just like in a warehouse, online information is stored in multiple “sections” like:
- Charity section (free) ------> Marketing blogs, articles, YouTube videos or similar, free downloads/access in exchange for email, fake “gurus” content, etc.
- Cheap shit section (<$100 USD) -----> Marketing books, Udemy courses or similar (ranging from bad to really good), paywall-blocked content, fake "gurus" workshops, etc.
- Slightly affordable section (<$1,000 USD) -----> Fake "gurus" workshops, courses/workshops from talented individuals, beginner courses from distinguished online marketing bootcamps.
- Expensive corner (>$3,000 USD) -----> Advanced/full courses from top tier distinguished online marketing bootcamps, advanced courses from pioneers/some of the best in the industry, mega fake “gurus”, etc.
- Private corner (priceless) -----> True experts in the game with inspiring hunger for what they do. This knowledge takes much more than an email address or money. Most only open up when there’s an authentic connection and you can match their passion for marketing. You probably won’t because you’re focused on growing your startup, instead of marrying marketing (which isn’t really a bad thing - she tells me she loves me everyday). My weirdness aside, this is the only segment I won’t be diving further into.
Fake gurus are like the internet’s cockroaches. Some hide in plain sight with a lamborghini or two on the side, while others hide inside “credible” institutions.
Also, most people spend the majority of their time in sections 1-3 when learning marketing and even more so in the charity and cheap shit section.
What Makes It So Difficult To Do Quality Marketing?:
When trying to understand the intrinsic value of learning a new skill, you first have to understand the market that surrounds it and the intensity of that need. For marketing:
- It’s essential to grow a business, especially an online business.
- The demand for it is extremely high, with insufficient high quality people. Emphasis on high quality.
- It costs a business 80-150k USD per year to hire a growth marketer/growth hacker. The high payscale shows how difficult it is to get to this level (becoming a T-shaped marketer - expert in a large number of disciplines/areas).
- Realistically, amateurs are most times unable to get their marketing campaigns to break through the noise of other extremely good competitors.
- The barrier to entry is quite low, but the dedication and constant time investment required to be successful is extremely high.
- Multiple skills are required for the best results, even if you’re just trying to focus on a single area (like social media marketing - you can’t be good at social media marketing without being a damn good content marketer, that’s also good at certain aspects of SEO and social advertising). And by good, I mean generating actual valuable conversions (active paying users or freemium/free trial customer evangelists), not just getting likes or becoming the next Twitter Santa with your product.
The Correct Approach For Startup Founders:
Don’t try random multiple channels, hope to get lucky, miserably scale with that tactic, to then end up as another soul in this startup graveyard article of 368 souls.
There’s a difference between growth experiments and randomly trying 20 different things to see which one sticks. I remember attending a “Ted Talk” inspired session for a startup (I won’t name here) that had nearly 1mill users at the time and them mentioning that even though the majority of their users came from “X” channel, the ones that were more active and gave more feedback came from the “Y” channel. To put it short: focus on quality, not quantity. Now let’s go back into the “warehouse”, where I’ll explain how you should approach each section:
Charity section (free) ------> If you want to waste as much time as possible, you’ll probably attempt to consume random blogs and articles or even just Youtubing your way to “success”. Don’t do that. Instead, seek articles from online institutions that focus on a single topic and how it’s broken down. By broken down, I mean, the overview, purpose, benefits, etc of learning such topics with respect to your audience.
Watch intro/beginner videos that give an overview of each topic until you’re informed enough, to move on to the cheap shit or moderately affordable section to purchase a course that’s comprehensive enough to learn the top-funnel or beginner level materials you like or would consider your potential strength.
Cheap shit section (<$100 USD) -----> Why move on to here instead of staying in the charity section? FOUR WORDS: It’s faster, much faster. To qualify which cheap shit, you should go with, you first have to remember these 2 things:
- Don’t go for the resources from the legitimate ones at the tippity-top.
Let’s be real, only a handful of legends at the top think their content is valued at less than $100 unless it’s the classic “needle in a haystack” scenario, they packed it with fluff or they’re just having a really good Friday and feel like giving a generous discount. Whichever the case, it’s rare for it to be this cheap.
- Seek practical info over just theory.
Courses with refund policies are a strong sign that they contain plenty of practical info. It also allows you to skim the content. Plus, just compare it to going to school. I’m sure you know how to spot teachers that only came for the salary vs. teachers that came to WORK.
- Slightly affordable section (<$1,000 USD) -----> This section is for only when you want to work on either strengthening the basics you’ve already learnt and get a glimpse of intermediate material or just dive straight into intermediate. In other words, you now know how to create amateur marketing campaigns that will surely burn money and time and you want to learn more on how to survive. You’re going to do a lot of exploring here. This will probably take longer though.
Search for articles (especially ones that are consistently fluff-free), books, blogs, podcasts, newsletters, annual statistics resources, etc and get recommendations from pros in the game when you can, then bookmark EVERYTHING. Consume these new resources diligently to slowly identify next steps, create a list that matches them with outcomes, then decide on your next steps (example: advanced email marketing, adv paid ads, etc).
- Expensive corner (>$3,000 USD) -----> You’re finally ready to completely take off the training wheels and develop a much higher experimentation success rate (currently around 25% and above are where the experts are at). From your vast collection of bookmarks from above, identify the top inspirations based on who presents the most practical value in free/cheap/slightly affordable content, who are competitively affordable and who consistently zooms in on the area/channel you’ve identified and validated to work the best for your startup. Set a personal timed goal, invest your cash, and go hardddd. How is this different from moderately affordable content? It usually comes with extra stuff that will be very helpful for you such as live workshops with the legends, personal coaching sessions, immersive online assignments, etc.
My Personal Journey From Amateur To Expert:
I was fascinated with sales psychology as a teen and found out that copywriters are like sales specialists that write instead of talk. So, I started learning copywriting, on top of sales and customer experience around 5-6 years ago through multiple ways: groups, courses, podcasts, books, everything. I added more skills to my arsenal as I went along and when I felt I was ready to go even further to become a true expert growth marketer/growth hacker, I invested about 9 or 10k USD overtime in multiple different courses, tools to practice with, consultations, workshops, trade shows, etc.
I did it the expensive way because I live by the mantra: you have to study the best to become one of the best. Only if that’s your goal too, would I recommend following my footsteps since it takes much, much longer and would derail your focus from growing your tech startup.
Filler-Free Expert Resources (Free):
- Hybrid Consulting ---> Ever had a “f**k marketing” moment? I personally built this system to be a startup founder’s cheat code to market your product better and faster through 30 days of hands-on support from me (expert growth hacker). I'm currently helping some of the fastest growing early-phase startup founders. Fill out this form to receive updates and save your spot in my next batch
- Growth Marketer Website ---> Nearly 250 podcasts episodes with top growth experts (including Sean Ellis and Seth Godin), a weekly newsletter to thousands of subscribers with trending tips and news and an extensive blog. Nicholas is a real down-to-earth dude to talk to and I’ve been following his content for a while now. You can subscribe for free here.
- r/GrowthHacking Subreddit ---> Ran by India’s “most followed growth hacker” with over 250k followers and a real genuine guy. I had a great chat with him on the effects of paywalled content about a little over a week ago. If you’re on Reddit, you can join here for free.
- OpenView Resources ---> Remember when I said I study the best? Calendly, UserTesting, Pantheon, and a couple other big shots. This VC backs them and they truly deliver when it comes to resources, including their 2020 SaaS Benchmarks Report from over 150 SaaS companies (latest one is 2020- download for free)
Filler-Free Expert Resources (Expensive):
- Copyhackers Academy ---> Taught by one of the pioneers in copywriting. She is extremely good at conversion copywriting and has been featured by leaders from Google, CXL, Stripe, Shopify, Mail Chimp, etc. She offers her knowledge in her own online academy here. Oh and she also has an extensive blog on her website.
- Digital Marketing Institute ---> Over 150k graduates with some now working at multiple tech titans: Google, Facebook, Hubspot, IBM, etc. Expensive as hell, but quite worthwhile overtime. Check them out here.
PREVIEW: WHAT’S NEXT? ---> There's more in store that I'm hush hush about. Ensure to hit follow me here on Indie Hackers so you’re notified as soon as I release it. If you found this article helpful, leave an upvote so other startup founders like yourself will benefit from it too.