Making a Side Project, Part 11: Marketing
I’ve talked a lot about about the idea, the product features, design and development of side projects. Although these are all very important things, marketing for your side project may be even more important than everything else.
“If you build it, he will come”
This iconic scene from Field of Dreams, is commonly rephrased to “If you make it, they will come”. It is the hope of makers all over the world. If we make a great product then magically users will show up and use our product. If only the reality was so simple.
Getting users to visit your product’s website, and signed up for your service is difficult and time consuming process. You should be devoting as much time to this process (if not more) as you are the building of the project. I’m bad at this, but trying to get better.
When I’m considering partnering with people on a side project, someone who is capable of doing this highly desirable. Yes I know most people are clamoring for developers and designers to partner with, but someone who can acquire users, in an affordable way is worth their weight in gold.
I haven’t done any direct marketing for Deaton. Since I’m building in public and building it as part of the Product Hunt global hackathon, things have been a little different.
I have managed to get about 160 subscribers for the Product Hunt Upcoming page for Deaton and about the same for this publication. While there is surely some overlap, 200–300 potential users is a pretty good place to start, when Deaton is ready to be launched. I would have like to do more marketing, but writing this novel and launching a couple of other projects for the hackathon has taken up a lot of time.
How to promote your product
Some people like to validate their idea before starting working on them. I don’t typically do this for my side projects, as I’m usually building something I need or just scratching my own itch.
This usually involves setting up some kind of landing page, which you can use to collect peoples interest in your solution to the problem you’re solving. In some ways it validates your ability to build a landing page that describes what you’re building, why you’re building it, and why using what you’ve build will solve a users problem or serve their need somehow.
While not exactly validating your idea this is a good skill to have, because if you can’t describe what you’re doing now, you won’t probably won’t be able to do it later when you really need it.
Once you’ve decided you have a good idea on your hands and want to start building, having a landing page collecting potential users for when you’re ready is a good idea.
It’s a good idea to stay in touch with users you have expressed an interested in your product, to keep them in the loop with what you’re building, so
You might have noticed I skipped a small step. You have a landing page, but how are people going to know about it, how will you get them to visit it?
There are a few websites that can help you get early users. Sites such as BetaList, and Product Hunt’s Ship that list upcoming products, will help drive users to your landing page. Getting yourself listed can come at a price (or a very long wait), but is an easy way to get some early adopters.
If there are online communities that serve your target users, join them, participate in them. Don’t overtly promote your landing page, but join the conversation, be helpful, and the opportunity to share your landing page will come naturally.
You can spend some money on advertising on Facebook, Adwords, or Twitter to target potential users to get them to your landing page. Make sure you’re sure your landing page does a good job of describing your product before spend any significant money here.
My favorite way of getting users to visit my landing pages is thru content marketing.
Content Marketing has been successfully used to promote products and services of all kinds.
News, videos, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, podcasts, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, blogs, etc. are all forms of content that be used for marketing.
I’ve written many articles, been on podcasts, posted photos to promote my products and just as importantly myself. Side projects are by their nature are an extension of you, promoting your side project is and should also promote you.
Ryan Hoover has written about building an audience first, having a 1,000 fans for you is in many ways much more valuable than having 1,000 fans for your product. It is one of the reasons that I helped to build Publicly.
Publicly is an easy way to people to follow along as you build things in the open. I’m hoping it allows people to more easily build that solid foundation of fans they need while building their side project, hopefully in the open.
I hope my work over the past few years has helped me to build a solid group of fans, I’m feeling the love!
In a later post I’ll talk in detail about marketing the launch of the product. Now get out there and market your product!