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.
> 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.
I recommend this [updated] 10-year-old article about finding your first 1000 customers:
Much has been written about the idea:
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)
Yes, it does indeed say that on the second page. :)
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)
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.
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.
But yeah, of course, having people actually use and pay for your product is the ultimate validation.
When I started https://mattebot.co/ I made sure to make marketing a top priority for products I release in the future.
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
It's funny how different perspectives we have.
What's your perspective?
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.
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.
Your “advice” would fall under the “getting your first 1000 users” trope:
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.