Growth September 21, 2020

You don't have to follow all the "best marketing practices" to grow your startup

Marko Saric @markosaric

Many indie hackers struggle when it comes to growth and finding users for their products. As a developer, you may get overwhelmed when trying to learn about the different startup marketing practices.

There are so many things people say you must do that you end up doing nothing at all or you try and fail on many tactics without being able to focus and put a lot of effort into any one of them. And this lack of growth can mean the end to your indie hacker venture too.

You can grow by saying no to all the best marketing practices

With Plausible Analytics, we’ve gone from $415 MRR in April this year to $4,747 MRR at the time of writing. That’s 1000% growth in 6 months.

And we've done that by saying no to pretty much all the best marketing practices. Many for ethical reasons, some for not wanting to spread ourselves too thin.

As a bootstrapped startup, resources are limited. We simply don’t have enough time, money nor people to do everything, be everywhere and follow all the recommended marketing practices:

  • We don’t do any paid advertising
  • We don’t use pixels from Facebook and Google for retargeting
  • We don’t watch visitors using session recordings
  • We don’t do any exit popups and other calls-to-action
  • We don’t have affiliates
  • We don’t do A/B testing
  • We don’t do any sales calls
  • We don’t have a fancy email sequence to “nurture” people into paying
  • We don’t try to engage people after they sign up for our product
  • We don’t use a chatbot or an AI-tool to engage and convert visitors
  • We don’t ask people to join yet another webinar to learn some secrets
  • We don’t participate in any link buying to game search engines
  • We don’t have a podcast and a video channel

Focus is necessary to make marketing work for you

To successfully grow a startup, you need to pick your spots, choose a selected few tactics that make sense to you and ignore everything else until you have more capacity. Each one of the tactics we say no to can be succesfull but they need a lot of time and effort to do so and we cannot afford that.

Those tactics that we do pick, we make sure we can commit to being consistent on and put a lot of effort into day after day. We're focused on publishing content on our blog, being part of niche communities such as Indie Hackers and building a following on Twitter.

That's more than enough marketing for a startup. You can read more details about our marketing activities here.

It's ok to say no

So don't be afraid to say no to what people say you must do to grow your startup. This will leave you with more time to actually focus on one particular activity that you believe has the most potential to unlock growth. You can put a lot of effort into it, excel at it and make it help you grow your startup.

  1. 6

    Can't agree more. Thanks for sharing the insight. Lots of marketing tips are marketers writing for other marketers (often with fat budget). It's like blasting you have to use aws, serverless, react, postgress to non coders.

  2. 4

    It seems like you watched "the social dilemma" on Netflix haha, I loved your ethical approach! But I'm not sure if this would work on a market that isn't that active on blogs and internet like the one I'm trying to market to...

    1. 2

      I did and it's a great movie, thanks! :)

  3. 3

    One of the things we have been doing at www.ruttl.com is trying to listen to our beta testers and truly understanding what the customer wants.

    I believe that if we have a great product that is actually helping our users, it already easy to market to people. The mainstream methods you just listed above were most of the things I've read on the internet.

    However, do you have any tip as to how I can compete with the marketing efforts of my competitors?

    1. 2

      In OrgPad user is king. We listen to their feedback, response promptly ASAP and fix bugs quickly. We also believe that a great product helping our users sales itself.

      It is most powerful when you combine a great product with a great customer service.

      1. 2

        Absolutely @KamilaHerkova, I agree with you.

    2. 1

      Makes sense Harsh! I think you can run your own race. As in if the product is good, you truly understand what people want and they love what you've created, then don't worry about the marketing efforts of your competitors. Do what works for you, what you think is the right move for your situation. We don't really follow anything that others are doing even though there are so many other tools in this space.

      1. 1

        Makes complete sense @markosaric.
        Do check out ruttl.com incase its useful for you.
        Cheers!

  4. 3

    Same here. Approaching 2000€ revenue this month without any of what you listed.
    Agree 100%.

    1. 1

      Great to hear Sumit! Congrats!

  5. 3

    This gives me hope! Thank you for sharing and the list of marketing activities is super helpful. Would love to get to where you guys are at without ads/press.

    1. 1

      You're welcome Tiffany! And good luck with your project!

  6. 2

    Well said. You nailed every point and justified it all. In general, there are no best marketing practices. Marketing is what marketing does. Marketing is to connect your brand to the masses and engage with them. Engagement can happen in any form. Create happy customers who can be your brand advocates who will promote your brand free of cost.

  7. 2

    Strongly agree. Pick 1-2 channels that are cheap but effective. For us (https://wildkard.io), it was 1st degree referrals and emails - i.e. we're Slack/Discord for sports teams, so acquiring the coach was critical to on-boarding on a team. Paid ads only works if you have $10k min in the bank. Everything else like social media, blogs, podcasts requires significant time and creative investment. Not viable for us.

    1. 1

      Thank you! Definitely the right approach. The 1-2 channels that work for you may not be the same as those that work for us but that's all most startups need, especially in the early days.

  8. 2

    Thanks for this!

    I'm about to launch my first product and sometimes I come across some of these "growth hacking" tips that just sound like you're trying to trick people into giving you money.

    Happy to read about hackers being good people!

    1. 2

      Thank you, Robert! I appreciate that! Good luck with your launch!

  9. 2

    I'm so glad that I read this today, I'm a dev who is struggling with marketing and in mind I was agreeing with all what you mentioned.

    1. 1

      Glad to hear this helped, Waseem!

  10. 2

    Hey Marko! A big fan of your company. I've curated one of your growth strategies at www.growthunt.com

    Keep them good advices coming! Have a great day ahead.

    1. 1

      Thank you for the kind words and for featuring my tips!

  11. 2

    This comment was deleted a month ago.

    1. 1

      Thank you, glad this resonated with you!

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