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Start Marketing the Day You Start Coding (tomasmartty.com)
104 points by tmartty on Dec 26, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 37 comments

It’s important to distinguish what most people reading this are likely to consider ‘marketing’ with what actually made these businesses successful.

All of the businesses cited succeeded because they established a differentiated position in the market - GMail because it gave you 10x more storage than was available at the time, and a conversational interface; WhatsApp because it meant that international SMS was now free; Tesla because it sit at the intersection of eco-friendliness and premium design.

Saying that GMail is just about messages, Tesla just about electric cars does a disservice to what actually makes these businesses exceptional. And you do genuinely need that differentiation, otherwise all you have to compete on is price.

I’d be worried that someone reading this would take the idea that all you need is an average business idea and some growth-hackery business tactics like a landing page and Facebook ads, and presto you have a business.

Most businesses do fail because of poor marketing, but not marketing as the HN crowd generally sees it.

Completely agree.

> WhatsApp because it meant that international SMS was now free

Not sure the exact meaning of "international" here. In Brazil SMS was not free at all, so Whatsapp became a free SMS for all, with bonus of a nice chat UI that made easy to be in conversations (contrary to any phone's SMS UI at the time), groups, images (becoming a MMS for free too).

So, a 100x better SMS for free. No wonder it exploded.

But the use case was mostly for local messages, not international messages.

Agree - I put international SMS as in some countries (such as the UK) providers were beginning to bundle ‘free’ SMS before WhatsApp came along - in these markets international SMS / Voice / MMS for expats, students etc was a big deal. You’re right to point out though that in many countries, WhatsApp was the first cross platform free SMS of any kind.

This conversation has not been very productive. Basically it’s a pedantic discussion about the meaning of marketing.

I recommend this [updated] 10-year-old article about finding your first 1000 customers:


Much has been written about the idea:




FYI: Patreon is the realization of 1000 True Fans, at least for musicians. Except only 50 - 250 patrons are needed to subsist full-time, much less than 1,000.

Thanks for the links!

Big fan of Rob and his work, for those unfamiliar with him he's one of the founders of MicroConf, half of the "Startups for the Rest of Us" podcast and built and then sold Drip (an Email Service).

Whether or not you're seeking to build your own microsaas or you're going full VC funding I feel pretty strongly that you'll see the time spent reading his book as worthwhile.

Here's a direct link to it (it's not gated on his site, so this seems fine to share)


>>Here's a direct link to it (it's not gated on his site, so this seems fine to share)

Yes, it does indeed say that on the second page. :)

Some good advice I heard here a few years ago is start marketing well before you start coding. Eg create a website, start your advertising, look for customers while providing a white label product or even just a promise to deliver later. Its a great way to find out if anyone is interested. If you can attract actual customers then you can start coding. If you have trouble getting any attention maybe you have the wrong product.

This may have been good advice a few years ago, but things do move on. People are wary giving their email address to the promise of a service and will normally now be hesitant to engage without some kind of product in return.

What’s more, having people actually use and pay for your product is much better validation than people saying they will (not always the same thing)

I feel the opposite. The early days of the internets (2000-2010) spam was crazy and annoying. I hated giving out my email because I would just get even more unwanted email and I knew I would forget my password to any new account I made.

Today, we have much better spam filters, companies realizing sending unwanted spam only hurts them (so they offer unsub), and password managers.

I would signup for a product just to see more info if I was curious about their offering.

Is anyone else comforted when they see an email signup is through list-manage.com?

I trust that at absolute worst I can email MailChimp and they will actually act on my desire to unsubscribe, and I know that almost certainly that won't be needed because of their enforcement of reasonable unsubscribe.

I find it ironic because it seems they wanted as anodyne a domain as possible so they wouldn't clash with their customers' brands.

They offer unsub because they are legally required to.

I don't think people are that wary about giving their email addresses. If you're solving a problem for them, they'll probably subscribe.

But yeah, of course, having people actually use and pay for your product is the ultimate validation.

Sounds similar to the idea of crowdfunding.

This!!! I have started many "side projects" with the notion that once I build it I will then find customers etc. This is terrible thinking and most of the times lead me to think my idea is horrible, when in reality I have done nothing in terms of marketing. So yes I fully agree with start marketing the day you start coding.

When I started https://mattebot.co/ I made sure to make marketing a top priority for products I release in the future.

FYI on Android Firefox Preview social icons are behind heading. No idea if that's true for other mobile browsers.

fascinated by the 'ideas aren't worth that much, tell everyone' argument

have been trying this and every time my splash page gets a click I get nervous (cloudprogress.io).

certainly lights a fire under me on the prelaunch work though

Somehow I read title of book like this. As developer I should market the day I started coding. Like I started coding 17 years ago, I may know some stuff, hire me please.

It's funny how different perspectives we have.

I don't understand.. noone's trying to get hired here, Rob is a well known guy in the ecosystem and I'm just a developer with my own agency.

What's your perspective?

A lot of what is referred to as marketing at the end of the article sounds like ux

You mean the 'Validate your idea, build a prototype, show it to people, gather feedback, improve it and keep going' part? That's far from UX, and also far from marketing.. those are steps I'd take if starting a new project. BUT all those steps should be intersected with marketing from day one.

Hmm, that’s what I think ux should do, what the marketing department was doing at my last job and why they were at war

Marketing usually costs money.

If you’re trying to bootstrap, you probably should wait until your product is finished? There are very few free avenues for self promotion on the Internet for “code”, other than a blog.

It doesn't need to if you're doing something highly valuable for a specific subset of potential customers.

I don't know what it says in the book, but I'd expect the message would be similar to the YC advice, which is to start talking very early and frequently to potential and existing customers, to ensure that what you’re building is highly valuable to them.

YC partners have often said that the companies that achieve the biggest success are the ones who are the most active in talking to existing/potential customers.

They also note that the ones who spend money on paid marketing before they have a highly valuable product and organic (i.e., free) growth are the ones who fail.

Talking to potential is customers is more about making sure you’re solving someone’s real problem, as opposed to “build it and they will come”. That should probably fall under a different category than marketing. We’re overloading the term, which could lead to confusion.

Your “advice” would fall under the “getting your first 1000 users” trope:


> "making sure you’re solving someone’s real problem"

When I studied a couple of university marketing subjects in the mid-90s, we were taught that's about the most fundamental aspect of marketing.

> “We’re overloading the term”

I think it's more likely you're reacting to a stereotype of marketing held by people outside the field, rather than what it really is according to those who do it properly.

From the author's own summary of the book:

So basically: start marketing the day you start coding.

Or, actually... before you even start coding! Validate your idea, build a prototype, show it to people, gather feedback, improve it and keep going.

Sure, this is a 10+ year old idea about finding 1000 true fans.


There’s no value in repackaging the idea into “start marketing the day you code”. It’s confusing the real intent with an ambiguous and broad term.

That's not a quote from the author of the book, that's something I wrote, just to be clear.

> That should probably fall under a different category than marketing.

I work in product marketing for a large SaaS and would absolutely consider talking to customers (potential and actual), and talking to people who talk to customers (such as sales, CS) as part of my job. It would be incredibly hard to do my job without it.

The answers to most questions in marketing come from outside the building. We’re not overloading the term - you appear to be narrowly defining the term as advertising and branding.

Market research isn’t its own category?


Although you might hire specialist market research firms, market research definitely falls under the remit of the modern marketer’s job.

Market research firms will also regularly supply insights and opinions about positioning, which definitely falls under marketing.

Competitive differentiation is so fundamental to positioning that it doesn’t really make sense to treat them as siloed functions.

The term is "product validation" which isn't core marketing of course. But for that you need initial users and to get these you need limited marketing efforts early on. No rocket science :-)

Doesn’t cost anything to make PowerPoint pitch decks. Doesn’t cost anything to write use-case documents. Doesn’t cost anything to throw a lead generation page up on GitHub. Costs a few bucks to get a domain name. Doesn’t cost anything to cold call 10 businesses every morning before you start coding.

I think this is a stepping stone entrepreneurs learn only after a few failures. My last startup went from 0-90k in 5 months with simple marketing. Having premade material to give out means the difference between a follow up to a cold call and never following up with them again.. I’ve had both happen, so I always spend an hour or two selling, then marketing before doing any kind of coding or other deeply technical work

Don’t wait!

From the moment you decide to pursue the idea, you have to do marketing, advertising, and public relations.

Yes, there is a cost. That’s the reality.

I would not advertise until you have 1000 cold calls under your belt and a product. You will waste money advertising an alpha product. Your 20/80 customers won’t come from an ad. Press releases are your friend, Ive lost track of how many companies I’ve found with potential by simply watching the news wire the comes through my investment account website/app

And it's usually a hard investment to do since what it most requires is time. And time is extremely valuable when you're first pursuing an idea and starting a project.

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