Early Stage Marketing: What I Do Not And Prefer To Do

One of the most draining tasks for solo entrepreneurs is…. Yep marketing.

What’s so funny is that the majority seems to follow the same playbook and are afraid to draw outside those lines in early stage.

I live by certain rules in marketing, and I want to list a few things I would never use/consider because of its abuse but foremost, because the impact is not plus EV long-term.

Here are 2 channels or certain strats I would NEVER use.


Producthunt

Yes, that’s right. Granted that we launched Buy A Pixel in public and closing off with PH, I do not see this as a viable channel.
I would never use this for a an actual product that requires long-term growth or is classified as a serious business. We did it with BAP because it’s a fun build and was always meant to build-finish-set and forget on the web.


My observations over the years are that:

  • It’s over-biased. Those who can rack up more votes through X, cold DM or paid will change the narrative.
  • It’s sending conflicting signals to the founder. 1000 votes does not validate your product unless there’s at least 5% conversion. Lots of people are hung up on the metrics
  • It’s influencing SEO too much: When people would type in your brand, it’s almost certain that PH will overshadow in SERPS. Especially when you have established nothing on the organic side. That leads to people clicking those links and can cause a loss of conversion, because they might be distracted by the entire dynamics of ProductHunt. I think most people underestimate the losses of conversions by distraction.
  • It’s no benchmark for future reference. Period.
  • If you’re a serial builder and launch frequently, your PH track record will show past builds. But many of those are guilty abandoning at a high frequency, which can lead to no conversion or commitment from a buyer perspective.

Real Reason

But my biggest reason why I do not use Product Hunt comes from a VC, PE and Angel perspective.

I am on that side of the table as much as I am on the creator side. And I think most people underestimate the data driven signals and social signals we extract to make better decisions.

Imagine a scenario like this (very dense example):


The buy side works seasonal or yearly. Balancing their investment portfolio. PH data can be very easily extracted and we can cross-reference popularity in verticals and spot trends.

All we do is: Find a better business or team to fund that has more upsides.

Since I am on both sides of the table, the value I extracted from PH was significant on the data driven side.

In other words, you’re exposing yourself to an unknown world that has far more data, intelligence and ammo where one solo entrepreneur can lose their edge overnight.

The same goes for major companies. They don’t just add features. They are backed by data driven decisions. And where do you think they parse the data from? Not only from customer feedback but from what moves in their particular industry.

External sources, PH included.


Would that mean I would never use it? I would, but I need to be sure I am on track with:

  • MRR or Revenue
  • Found unfair advantages
  • Maturity of the product
  • Growth so I can push to scale
  • Be at least 1-3 years on the market

Reddit Threads


Many make attempts. Create a thread, hope to get traffic. Being shut down the next day and question on X why this happened.

Repeat the process until one sticks.

But the time spent is… ridiculous. I cannot ever approve this method being valid.

Simply because you’re going in with the idea of promoting your business but your motifs are: Trying to sell without selling and hide the true meaning.

Marketing is also very opportunity driven.


The subtle difference between you making a thread for promo versus replying in a thread if someone is looking for a particular solution can be a deciding factor if one at least wants to try out your recommendation.


One is based on an organic opportunity, and the other one is forced upon. I am a strong believer in social signals, social monitoring and ORM (online reputation management) to obtain a better grip on brand equity but only doing it correctly will yield enough results long term.

It’s one of the reasons why I acquired Keymentions and set to roll out social monitoring out on Reddit.

Pushing your product or service to a wildcard audience is just never a great idea. Once in a blue moon, you might find temporary success, but risk reward and effort ratio would tell me your focus and efforts are better spent somewhere else.


Instead, I would go for these routes:

Cold e-mail based on ICP

I wrote a one-pager once about how to cold e-mail for your SaaS or business and majority of people had an opening rate of 70%.

I will revamp this one-pager and add it into a library for NanoBets because the science and method behind it yielded me tons of success over the years.

But cliff notes:

The goal is to cold-email potential early adopters with clear terms
Value isn’t translated in cash, but in feedback. An unbiased audience outside of your circles that probably will never be truly honest with you. Because they’re afraid to blow up any relationship or might you for their own PH launch. (Yes, I said that)


Cold e-mail: Invitations of guest bloggers.

Specifically micro-bloggers that are still in dire need of content diversification.
I prefer fresh blogs under 2 years old with some authority or little because you can offer them a great incentive:

  • Invite them to access your platform for life (or pay them a fee), in exchange for a well written blog post about your industry, project and personal experience.

The upsides?

  • You strengthen your organic SEO profile, whether they are do-follow or no-follow links
  • You can shake up the SERP results with more in-depth content
  • It makes your product more mature from a buyer perspective if more sources are referring to your startup
  • It works great for overall brand equity
  • Exceptional for ORM overall
  • You can set terms on keywords you would like to be found on

Not every blogger can afford a product but every product requires bloggers to build a better narrative.


If you remember that, you will see the merits and understand why micro-bloggers are MOAT. Offer those micro-bloggers access and you get a lot more in return overtime.

Which leads to…SEO

SEO

SEO itself is a slow and painful process and one should have started… yesterday. Before the business even exists.
SEO can come in many forms but I would deffo point out the part where corporate blogging is crucial. Because it displays:

  • Authority
  • More maturity
  • Lead magnet for organic users to touch your brand
  • Lead magnet for organic users to convert
  • Fits nicely with a better organic backlink profile and your guest-blogging strategy
  • It helps you tell a better story

I am always so tilted by those who think flipping up a landing page, lack the fundamentals, call it a SaaS startup will get them to entrepreneurship status.


Marketing is primarily storytelling, and SEO, including building a corporate blog adds so much fucking weight to the story.

Consumers become far more brand loyal to a build that checks all the boxes.


Play the Early Adopter Card

How many times have you’ve seen people on X doing the following:

First 20 people will get my product at a discount. And… well there it stops.

My observation is that lots of them undervalue the EA status.

Early Adopters are not only the ones that are the risk takers but they can also be your organic brand ambassadors.


EA opens up influential reach. In other words:

  • Onboard Early Adopters that are far likely will mention your brand, share their own experiences once in a while and become true supporters of your brand.
  • Don’t always go with the sales aspect of giving your first users heavy discounts. Because the story just ends there.
  • Early Adopters are practically your affiliates that don’t want a paycut.

Treat them with the most care and reward them in all possible ways. Even if the numbers would indicate diminishing returns short-term, long-term you yield more with lesser efforts.

What Else?

Pfff, my list is long of channels I would use when GTM in early stage but I don’t want to spill too much in public. Because all of the above are just standard practices.

The more unusual ones and true gems will be written up for a private content library in NanoBets and FocusX.

However, I think for most early-stage builders this should be more than enough to consider.

I personally have a more complex playbook for different industries and verticals since tone of voice, messaging and reach is different.

Not to mention that I have an unfair advantage because I can tap into 1.4 billion people that speak Chinese where yet again approach, mindset, buying power and decisions are made differently.

Chances are that I will discuss during a PodCast on PodBlaze and map out more tactical edges in a private content library.

Because I want to bring Supercharged for example to the Chinese market and most likely turn it into a public case study.

Other than the last paragraph of shameless self-promo, I want to point out that sales are a result of your marketing. But it’s up to you how to find an edge, keep that edge and be absolutely tactical about it.

  • For more focused advice or actual coaching, I would suggest to take a look at LaunchPad.
  • If you are looking for a more private circle of entrepreneurs, then you can join me on Discord with FocusX
  • Looking to start out? NanoBets might be a great place to start with.