It has never been easier to start a company and it has never been harder to make it successful. We hear stories about the Great Resignation and how everyone and their brother is starting their own business. I’m a member of this cohort and I’ve quickly realized it’s far harder than it looks. This week I’m going to try something new. I’m going to begin Marketing In Public.
The things I’m good at don’t quite get the job done. Sure I can build it. It’s software, it can be anything. If you can imagine it, I can build it. And that’s what I did with Signal Flare. I had a clever idea about adding notes to my charts and making those notes available to anyone. It’s built and it’s amazing.
But, the thing about engineers is that we tend to undervalue all the other things that go into making a successful business. Sales and Marketing are particularly vilified. Over the past few years my perceptions around these tasks have changed. I now see their value and I recognize that there is real skill involved. If I’m going to excel in this space I need to start practicing my marketing in earnest.
Where to begin?
The best way I’ve found to quickly come up to speed on a topic is to seek out the podcasts. Finding the primary voices of the community and listening to their conversations immerses you in the core concepts. What they are talking about today always represents the state of the art. None spend time talking about the old ways of doing things because everyone is pitching their new ideas. That’s where to go to understand how things work today and plan for may work tomorrow.
After a time soaking in all their insights I’ve come to recognize a pattern: it’s an echo chamber. Very few new ideas emerge and the core ideas become ossified as the only way to success. “Build your email list” “Use social media” “Do things that don’t scale” “Launch on Product Hunt” and on and and on. So many people talking about so few ideas. Example after example of how this company or that company found success doing a kind of marketing.
Let’s put aside the obvious survivorship bias in the examples, the one thing in common is the story tellers are relaying a message about what worked in the past. The case studies from these companies detail techniques from years ago. From a time where those techniques were novel.
The mistake we all make is believing their stories will work for us today.
Building In Public
One of the more popular trends I see today is the advice to “build in public“. It falls into the Product Led Growth category and allows a technical team to believe that they are avoiding the “If you build it they will come” trap. Instead idea is that “If you talk about it while you build it they will come.”
It’s a comforting lie. It allows tech people to continue to build while pretending to be doing marketing.
The mistake here is not spotting the fact that the Build In Public technique has become crowded. Too many new products fighting for an audience of interested early adopters. We forget that this audience is a small group. It only includes people who like to follow along as a product is built. The people I like to call “Kickstarters” because it’s the same experience to them. They vote with their attention for the things they want to see come to life.
So, when you choose the Build In Public, you are joining a crowded marketing space and fighting for a narrow type of customer with finite amounts of attention.
I tried it. It didn’t work.
Getting noticed doing this kind of marketing requires you to have an existing audience in the first place.
Marketing In Public
So, if Build In Public doesn’t work, what will? What is different than what everyone else is doing? It strikes me that people rarely talk about the mechanics of how to do marketing as a the subject of their marketing. I’m thinking “Marketing In Public”
A quick Google search tells me that nobody is talking about doing “Marketing In Public”. It’s a concept of my own mind and reasonably original. Here’s what it’s about:
When I look around I don’t see many people explaining their marketing as they are doing their marketing. I know I would follow that person because what I need to see right now is how marketing is planned, executed, and measured. I bet I’m not the only technical founder struggling to get their marketing engine fired up. This is an open field with few, if any, voices.
I bet that the reason no one is trying “Marketing In Public” as a technique stems from a couple of reasons. First, the idea is new and my own. Secondly, the audience for a “Marketing In Public” campaign is unlikely to align with most companies customer profiles. Unless you’re selling to marketers, a “Marketing In Public” strategy makes little sense because you’d build an audience unrelated to your actual market.
Here’s the thing, I am selling to marketers! Signal Flare is for marketers playing the long game.
Signal Flare helps marketers understand how their marketing efforts are impacting their KPIs. Seeing your notes directly on your analytics is an amazing way to improve your decision making process and optimize your growth.
So if my target audience is people who do marketing everyday, and those people are being measured on their performance. Then providing real life examples and case studies of marketing campaigns from beginning to end is adding real value to the world. Value enough to attract an audience. And an audience made up of people who fit the customer profile of Signal Flare users.