Why you should market your startup earlier than you think


Last week I had the chance to meet lots of different super smart entrepreneurs here in Vienna. There was one great discussion I had with a startup that I particularly admired. They have built a product so beautiful and seamless I was blown away.

In fact, I have used other similar products out there too, both of which can’t match themselves with what they have built I felt. We talked a lot about when you should start marketing your product. Since this particular theme of waiting with marketing your startup has come up a few times now, I wanted to give some thoughts on the topic.

Of course, every startup is different, yet, when there were so many good things that came from marketing Buffer as early as possible.

This These were the key points:

Treat it as finished

One mistake that we made at the start, but quickly stopped ourselves from doing is to think “This is not our product, once we have this feature and that feature, then it’ll be our product.”

This kind of thinking is both demoralizing for you as a founder to no end and actually also a big aspect leading to analysis paralysis and stopping you from marketing early. That’s why we kept saying to ourselves: Whatever we have right now as a product is what we have, is what we have, is we have.

What you build tomorrow or next week is important – but really irrelevant when you think about what your product is today. Take what you have, treat it as finished and push it out there.

Joel also wrote a wonderful post about this: Treat it as finished.

There are always more people

Another mistake that we made very early on at Buffer too, is this notion of “I don’t want to waste my marketing potential”. The thinking goes around the fact that you believe, if you try to get lots of users now, and you have a huge drop-off, then you have wasted your marketing potential and ran out of people.

The good thing is: you don’t. No matter what, there are always more people that haven’t heard about your product. Given that during your marketing push you constantly iterate the product anyways, you will never have any problems of reaching new people.

Don’t worry about the few thousand people that have dropped off. Worry about finding the millions of people that haven’t heard about your product and will find it useful.

People don’t sign up for your product after hearing about you for the first time

Marketing takes time, it’s not something that happens overnight with a magic “push”, at least that was my experience.

What’s even more important is that 99% of people don’t sign up for your product when they hear about you for the first time. They need to read about, hear about, see stuff you did many many times before they sign up. How many times? The old Rule of Seven in marketing says, well, 7 freaking times.

The 1% of people who do sign up for your product the first time, will be more than delighted to find something that is not polished like crazy. Something where they can give you feedback, something where they can be part of your development process. Remember, the first people using your product are an amazing breed.

More volume means more learning and faster iteration

So when should you start marketing your product, service or idea? To speak with Seth Godin’s words:

“Start marketing your product before you have your product.”[…] The key is to  “add marketing from the very beginning”

The reason is that marketing is about telling a story, explaining how you solve a problem. It’s very difficult to do this in a short space of time.

The earlier you start, the better you can use all that volume of people to accelerate your learning by many multiples. You can shape the story around your product better, change pitch lines and test them in blogposts and PR pitches multiple times. The speed by which we could validate through marketing at Buffer, was a great blessing for us. Each blogpost we wrote with a different headline, different explanation of the problem, helped us to shape our vision better and focus on the right pain points.

And most importantly – you will have a lot more fun with lots of people on your site, using your product.

That’s why I would start marketing my startup very early. Over to you now. What do you think about getting started with marketing a lot earlier than you think? How would you go about it?

Photocredit: betsyweber

Post credit: I just realized Joel wrote a fabulous post about the same topic a while back: Why you should start marketing early

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