Are you a technical entrepreneur or a developer who likes the idea of building your own software company? If so, chances are good that you enjoy writing software but hate the idea of marketing. It’s not your fault. Like sales, marketing carries connotations of being a sleaze-infested cesspool of rotten people and you probably don’t want any part of that.
I don’t blame you. I used to be a lot like that. In some cases, I still am. For example I refuse to be an affiliate for or promote products that I don’t believe in. I won’t intentionally email people after they’ve unsubscribed from one of my mailing lists. If we’re discussing working together and what I’m offering isn’t something that I think you’re going to benefit from, I’ll tell you straight up that it’s probably not for you. I simply don’t feel comfortable selling a product to someone that isn’t going to be a good fit.
For me, most of this boils down to basic honesty and a sense of human decency. I won’t sacrifice my moral compass in an effort to make a few extra dollars. It’s just not worth it.
But if you’re anything like me, you probably spend a lot of time on the internet. Between your desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone, you’re probably online more often than not when you’re awake. And as such, you see some dark corners of the internet that are downright ugly. You know what I’m talking about. My Spam folder has thousands of emails in it. I remember a time when I might get one or two each week. Now I get more than 50/day and that’s on an extremely slow day.
The shady side of marketing is why developers shy away from marketing. They don’t want to be put into the same bucket as sleazy marketers and salespeople and developers tend to be inundated with the amount of sleaze they see on a regular basis. A good product should sell itself, right? There are lots of good products and services out there like DropBox or Airbnb that aren’t all up in your face. You might think: “They sell themselves and don’t do any marketing!”
Just because someone isn’t overly pushy about their product doesn’t mean that they don’t do any marketing. It’s a matter of how overt they are about their efforts and how much you recognize it as marketing.
The core of DropBox’s marketing efforts in their early stages were to allow you to get more disk space by sharing it with your friends. They engineered a viral program to an astonishing efficiency. Those words are very deliberate… they engineered that marketing effort.
Airbnb leveraged the audience of Craigslist to grow quickly. Some people look at it in retrospect and believe it was a bit further than they would have been willing to go, but its users didn’t notice, nor did they really care.
Both of these are prime examples of doing marketing in a way that’s closer to the middle of the road rather than either end of the spectrum. Let’s talk about that.
At one end of the spectrum, you have Super Sleazy Steve. He’ll sell anything to anyone and do whatever it takes to make that sale. At the other end, you have Zero Marketing Joe who wants to stay as far away from Sleazy Steve as possible. Self promotion of any kind is unthinkable.
Unfortunately, Zero Marketing Joe launches a product, nobody hears about it and then he has to go get a full-time job because he can’t pay his bills.
What Joe really needed to do was be a bit more reasonable and set aside some time to do some smart marketing. That’s where Marketing Monday comes in.
What is Marketing Monday?
Let me state for the record right now that the idea of Marketing Monday isn’t mine. I first heard about it at MicroConf several years ago and repurposed the phrase in one of my talks the following year to indicate a day of the week that you do nothing but marketing for your business.
As developers, we have a predilection for wanting to write code at the expense of all other tasks because we feel comfortable doing it. Writing code is enjoyable for many reasons. We get to see our changes almost immediately so our feedback loop on whether something is working is super-short. We get to be creative and solve hard problems. And we get to focus on stuff that makes sense to us and is interesting.
But it’s the first thing that’s really appealing about writing code. Getting feedback on what we’ve done is often no more than a compile or browser refresh away. This satisfies our ever growing need for immediate gratification and if we’re honest with ourselves, we really need that.
As a society, we’ve become accustomed to everything being made better over time. From smartphones to internet bandwidth, if you can make it better, do it. And so we’ve become accustomed to really short iteration loops. We crave them because results generate an endorphin rush which becomes addictive.
The downside to this is that when you’re doing marketing, it takes radically longer to get that feedback. You can get that feedback immediately when you’re writing an article by looking at what you just wrote. But what about promoting the article? How many shares did posting it to Reddit get you? How many people visited it from your email list?
It’s frustrating to do those activities and see no quantifiable results for days or even weeks after the fact. The effectiveness of an article you write isn’t measured by how well you write so much as how many people see it. Most of your efforts should be spent doing promotion, yet without the immediate feedback it’s difficult to motivate yourself to spend that time doing promotion. Not to mention the feeling that you’re being sleazy when you self-promote.
Marketing Monday Alleviates Open Loop Feedback
Looking at traffic stats from one day to the next for most entrepreneurs doesn’t help you make decisions because those statistics on a day over day basis are generally meaningless. They can fluctuate wildly from one day to the next. I would challenge you to find a B2B company whose internet traffic isn’t generally high Monday through Friday and then significantly lower on the weekends. I know they’re out there, but most small B2B companies are open five days per week and their website traffic reflects the days of the week that their target customer base is working.
Comparing Thursday’s traffic to Wednesday’s traffic means very little. But comparing Wednesday’s traffic to the previous Wednesday can show a growth pattern. And comparing the last several weeks of traffic together is even more meaningful than that.
Marketing Monday helps to alleviate the pain of open ended feedback loops because it forces you to consider the effects of your efforts over a block of time. By considering these effects at only one point during the week, you eliminate the mental anguish caused by looking at your key performance indicators in the middle of a cycle. If you use Marketing Monday, then you’ve arbitrarily chosen one week for that cycle.
You could just as easily choose the 1st of each month or the 15th. But by choosing a single day of each week, you accomplish several other objectives simultaneously.
Marketing Monday Blocks Off Dedicated Marketing Time
When you set aside a specific block of time for marketing efforts, you’ve artificially created a scenario where you will perform some level of marketing activities each week. Marketing is a constantly evolving problem that requires regular maintenance. More about that later but for some of us, that’s a bitter pill to swallow. Personally, I’m not a fan of routine maintenance.
Most of us prefer code. Code doesn’t rust. You write it once and if it works, you don’t need to touch it again until something externally breaks it or the user requirements change. Code just runs over and over again and so long as it isn’t negatively impacting anything else, it’s fine the way it is.
With marketing, you need to be constantly measuring, experimenting and doing different tasks to keep on course. Marketing is a little bit like riding a bike. If you stop pedaling, eventually the bike is going to stop moving. If you’re not constantly making course corrections with the handle bars, you’re going to crash. The bike isn’t going to ride itself. You need to assist the mechanical system to help keep everything under control.
And just like riding a bike, you can can coast for quite a while if everything is going smoothly. You might catch a strong tailwind or go down a hill. A well timed PR piece on your company or product can do wonders for your publicity. But as with riding down a hill, eventually that’s going to end and you will need to keep pedaling. You need to perform those course corrections or your bike will crash.
Additionally, developers going down the path of entrepreneurship have a tendency to code first and do marketing later because marketing is uncomfortable. Setting aside dedicated time to marketing not only ensures that you at least do something, but you will get better at it over time. As you get better, you become more comfortable and the positive impact of those marketing efforts becomes more pronounced.
What Does Marketing Monday Look Like
If you’ve made the decision to set aside a day of the week for marketing, congratulations. You’ve taken the first step away from being Zero Marketing Joe. Now what?
The first thing you will need is a checklist that tells you what to do each Monday. Remember that part of marketing is performing routine maintenance on your marketing efforts to keep them on track. To do that, you need to know where things are at now. Here’s where metrics come into play.
Step 1: Gather Your KPI’s
The first step on your Marketing Monday checklist should be gathering the key performance indicators (KPI’s) for your business. Those KPI’s might be website traffic, email subscribers, trials, sales or a variety of other statistics.
The specific metrics you gather will depend on where you are in your business. If you’re just launching a product, then website visitors, email signups and visitor to email conversion rates will be more relevant. If your business is later stage, then the number of trials per week or the trial to paid conversion rate will be more relevant.
Each of those numbers should be gathered over a set of specific time periods so that you can compare apples to apples. The following time periods make sense as a starting point but again, if your business is in later stages, other time periods may be more appropriate.
– Past 7 days
– Past 14 days
– Past 28 days
– Past 3 months
Step 2: Compare Trends
Now that you have your data, start comparing how well your KPI’s are trending against previous time periods. Now ask yourself two questions about them:
- Are they moving in the right direction?
- Is it a meaningful difference?
Obviously if the numbers are going in the wrong direction, you have a problem. A more subtle problem is whether or not the numbers are showing a meaningful difference. This is partly based on percentages and partly based on gut-feel.
For example if you have 100 website visitors one week and 125 the next, it’s moving in the right direction and raw percentage-wise is a 25% growth rate. That sounds promising. But do a gut check. Is adding 25 website visitors week over week really meaningful? It’s not. You can get thousands or even tens of thousands of visitors in a single day if you post a relevant link in the right place.
If you multiplied everything by 100 and increased from 10,000 visitors one week to 12,500 the next, that would be meaningful. The percentage growth is an important indicator, but the base number must be a meaningful number too.
Speaking of meaningful numbers, look for sudden spikes in your data. These can be either positive or negative spikes and depending on the KPI can be good or bad. You want to know if these spikes were caused by dumb luck or your marketing activities. Try to trace each spike back to its source. You might be able to replicate good effects by doing more of whatever activity caused the spike.
Step 3: Identify Poor Performers
Some of your KPI’s are either underperforming or going in the wrong direction. It should be easy to identify these and treat them as problem areas that need to be addressed. Once you have this list, ask the following:
- What explains the behavior of this KPI?
- What things can I do to influence the behavior?
- Which of those things will have the most impact and take the least amount of work?
Step 4: Identify Top Performers
Any of your KPI’s which are performing well for this time period should be analyzed and have an explanation applied to them. If you can attribute their performance to your activities from previous weeks, that’s fantastic. You most likely need to do more of those activities, especially if your KPI’s are performing much better than anticipated.
If you can’t explain it adequately, then either it was a fluke that you probably can’t replicate or you need more data to identify what happened. It’s not likely to be obvious from your KPI’s alone what caused the trend you’re seeing so you’ll need to dig a bit. The KPI is going to dictate where you look. If the KPI has to do with website visitors, then digging in your Google Analytics account is appropriate. If the KPI has to do with paid acquisition, then your paid acquisition channel is the place to start looking for answers.
When searching for answers, be careful that you don’t get stuck going down a rabbit hole. Find the answer to the cause of your KPI trend and move on. Don’t get distracted by “interesting, but non-relevant” data points.
Step 5: Reinforce and Execute
Now that you’ve identified what’s working, what’s not and the causes of the trends you’re seeing, you need to execute on your marketing activities. Many times, it’s appropriate to double down on the things that are working and abandon the things that aren’t. If you’re going to abandon a marketing strategy, make sure that you’ve given it enough time to work.
Something like paid acquisition should yield immediate results, while content marketing or SEO could take months to see any noticeable effect. The point is that abandoning a marketing strategy should be a conscious and calculated decision, rather than something you stop iterating on because you are afraid isn’t working. If you’re unsure of what to do, run it by a colleague or a mastermind group the next time you meet. Those people are there to help you.
Most marketing activities are a result of continuous repetition. Posting new blog posts, link building, adding pages to a website, tweaking or redesigning different content, etc. These are things you simply keep doing more of. Over time, the results compound themselves and become more effective.
Step 6: Sanity Check Your Marketing Strategy
At this point, you’ve validated the data from your KPI’s. You will have analyzed the data to make sure things are working and replaced anything that isn’t. You’re probably close to the end of your time allocated for marketing.
The last step is to look at your KPI’s and consider whether those KPI’s still make sense for you. Are those data points still the most important aspects of your business or should they be replaced?
If something is working well and you’re getting diminishing returns from the tweaks you’re making, perhaps it’s time to move on to something else. The idea is to make the entire system better and if you’re getting 90% efficiency from the second stage of your marketing system but the third stage is only at 5% efficiency, working harder on stage two won’t make stage three any better.
Put stage two on the back burner and make stage three your KPI instead. That doesn’t mean you should stop tracking that data from stage two. It only means that it’s no longer a focal point for Marketing Monday where you’re trying to adjust that number.
Another big mistake that many people make when choosing KPI’s is having too many of them. There’s a difference between tracking a data point and treating it as a point in your marketing system that needs to be adjusted. There’s a lot to be said for having just a single KPI that you’re completely and utterly obsessed with but in many businesses, that’s not realistic. Usually you will have three or four that you’re looking at with one being more important than the others.
Once you get over five or six KPI’s, things get messy. It’s really difficult to make changes in a half dozen places and expect to be able to narrow down exactly what changes caused what results. Don’t try to do too much all at once.
This bonus step is brought to you by Jacob Thurman of TwoDesk Software.
Keep a journal of everything you do on Marketing Monday. Write down each experiment you start, what you were thinking when you did it, and then later, the outcomes. Spend a little bit of each Marketing Monday going back and re-reading a portion of that journal, so you only have to learn lessons once, and you don’t spend your precious marketing time re-learning or re-deciding something you already figured out months or years ago.
That’s a fantastic addition to this six-step process. The last thing you want to do is have to run an experiment again because you didn’t adequately document the results the first time.
The Goal is to Maintain Your Marketing System
What comes to mind for me when I think of a marketing system is something along the lines of the machines in a manufacturing line you might find in a semi-automated bakery. In a bakery like this, you will have a bunch of raw materials that need to be fed into the machines. Some are materials are refined and ready to be used immediately while others needs to be mixed up or massaged a bit.
If the incoming materials in the bakery are not quality ingredients, you won’t get the results you want. Either the resulting bread is completely unusable or it will be of poor quality. If it’s an intermediate step where the materials from that processing stage need to be fed into the next, the effects will cascade down the manufacturing line. The same is true of your marketing efforts. If your incoming leads are not well qualified, the results of your efforts to turn them into paying customers will be poor. You may see those effects immediately or you might not see them until the end of the line, which could take days or weeks.
In a bakery, you can try to substitute different ingredients that cost more or less and then measure the effects on the final product. The same goes for the leads you gather into your marketing system. The raw materials in your marketing system take the form of blog posts, emails to your mailing list, paid advertisements, the prospects who enter the marketing system and more.
When you think of your marketing efforts as an assembly line with lots of little switches, dials and inputs, suddenly marketing makes a lot more sense. Your job is to fine tune the various inputs and intermediate stages so you can get more performance out of the system. This produces a better system and ultimately a better business. However to accomplish that, you need to spend the time maintaining the system.