Don’t Forget About Organic Marketing

Developers must nail their organic marketing
efforts first before investing in paid media.

I know your pain as a developer. You created an amazing app that solves pains that people are potentially willing to pay you for. It does everything that people need, they just don’t know about it yet!

Now that you have a great product that’s worth your time to sell, you want to get in front of your target audience. So, you made an investment on Facebook Ads or Google AdWords. You’ve gained a decent number of clicks, but you’re not seeing not the customer acquisition numbers you had hoped.

The problem is that many developers jump to using paid media to gain traction. The cold hard truth is that attention is earned, not bought. This post offers useful advice to help you in this journey.


The prerequisite before an app invests in paid media is that they need to first tighten up their messaging. They need to be able to articulate their target audience and a target market, which may be one in the same, but not necessarily. A good test is if you can actually find them. Not in theory, but in practice. If you had to pick them out at a busy conference, could you?

Helpful Tips:
You should be able to explain your product without jargon or gobbledygook
– Your audience should be able to repeat your message back to you
– You know what pains your market has and what benefits you offer

The name of the game when it comes to messaging is to exercise discipline in not explaining “everything” your app does. Most people only want the highlights. If they are curious for more, they will ask. Give them only highlights, but make additional information available for people to digest later.

In the words of a former editor of mine who enjoyed my blog articles, she said, “I love it, now cut half the words.” This was a bit disappointing at first, but what resulted was an even better article with half as much fluff. Get to the point and get to it quickly. (Of course, I grant myself license to break this rule on my posts on Medium, but it’s great advice nevertheless.)

If you think you’ll spend your way to the top, you’re wrong. You can’t spend your way to profitability. So, what can you do? Investing in organic marketing is proven to be one of the higher-performing investments a small business can make [1] [2].

Organic Marketing

In 2012, marketers invested in paid media 8X more than organic marketing. Yet, in 2014, 64 percent of all website traffic is driven from organic marketing. The cognitive dissonance between one’s marketing activities and one’s performance couldn’t be any greater. Logically, if one invests in a channel to drive traffic 8X more, it should produce 8X more traffic, right?

And this is why I love organic marketing. Efficiency. With a continued, strong and steady investment in high-quality content aimed at a specific audience, long-term, significant gains will result.

The difference between nitromethane (“nitro”) and gasoline is the fact that Nitro requires eight times less oxygen to burn, so more of it can fit in a cylinder within the internal combustion engine. Due to the stoichiometric differences between nitro and gas, nitro delivers 300% more horsepower. It also costs roughly $56 per gallon A typical run from a top fuel dragster burns one gallon of nitro per second. Luckily, their races are only about 4–5 seconds long. (Expect to burn about 22 gallons total between warm-up, burnout, staging, etc.)

Average miles per gallon of nitro: 1.1 MPG
Average miles per gallon of gasoline: 24.1 MPG
Cost difference ($2.60 vs. $56): 2054%

When thinking about nitro versus gasoline, it’s a lot like paid versus organic. You can both achieve similar results, but through entirely different measures of efficiency. It will be quite expensive to go 25 miles running on nitro, but about $2.60 using gasoline.

Organic marketing is more efficient than paid marketing. It should be the first thing that developers do to raise awareness for their apps before spending a dime on paid media.

What is Organic Marketing?

What exactly is organic marketing? My interpretation “organic marketing” consists of three core elements:

  • [Discovery] Does not rely on paid placement or sponsorship;
  • [Offer] Implicitly suggests people take action;
  • [Content] Is shared or distributed by people with no material benefit in mind.

Organic marketing is the natural discovery and distribution of content for people and by people. Primarily, organic marketing channels includes a business’ website, online search, social media and “word of mouth.” These channels aren’t mutually-exclusive silos, but they tend to work in concert with each other.


Since organic marketing inherently is more difficult to measure as compared to paid advertising, tracking your efforts the best you can is important. You can’t improve what you can’t measure. Attribution is key so you can compare the performance of your investments. Attribution consists of traffic sources, influences and specific signs of purchase intent. The entire topic of attribution is widely debated depending on who you ask, so don’t get caught up in the specifics — look at the trends and observe how people consume your content regardless of what stage they are in the sales and marketing funnel.

Is Organic Marketing Free?

While organic marketing tends to be free to distribute, it isn’t free to produce. You get what you pay for when it comes to organic marketing, so you would be ill-advised if someone tells you organic marketing results in immediate returns.

It requires patience and trust that what you’re producing will result in customers at least several months later. If you lack patience for it, you will be more than likely to skip the important work of understanding your audience and producing content that is enjoyed by them.

As an independent app developer, you must be very discriminating with your time. You can’t produce every asset of content yourself, and if you do, you’ll experience diminishing returns.

As evident with hundreds of tools, networks, and services to help one’s message get out there, organic marketing easy for everyone to solve. (I’m kidding.) It’s a challenge that a lot of companies are trying to solve.

Content Marketing ‘Lumascape’. [Source: Lumapartners]

Organic marketing is inherently strategic. Without a formidable strategy, you could truly spend all day submitting and distributing content, and have no time to actually author and produce high-quality, engaging content.

As a business, you need to identify what networks your customers consume. You also need to determine what forms of media they use along the buying process.

Organic Marketing Checklist

Without knowing the specific pains an app addresses or the industry it resides, I can’t suggest a tailored organic marketing strategy, but if I was to propose a checklist that could work for many apps, it would be this.

  • Website: It is rather obvious, but I’ll say it anyways. Make sure that it is easy to read without clutter. Organize your website in such a way that it educates and builds interest in your app, but doesn’t overwhelm visitors. Ensure that factors such as on-site SEO are covered, is viewable nicely on mobile and doesn’t use Flash/PDFs to hold your best content.
  • Images: Be sure to use high-resolution images of your app in the sizes that are recommended on social media platforms and also ideal for email. It might not be a bad idea to have a few in the hopper just in case you get picked up in print media. Have photos of you and your team available when reporters want to feature your for your hard work and innovation.
  • Videos: I recommend a new app utilize video to succinctly communicate about their solution. The first video should consist of a brief overview no longer than a couple minutes so people understand the concept and should be available on the homepage. The second video should be more detailed that a more qualified audience can gain a deeper understanding of your solution, its benefits and how it works. Read my other post for tips on how to make a great demo video.
  • Blog: In my opinion (and experience), a blog should be the center of the website. Featuring the latest conversation, intriguing stories and educational articles on your industry/market is what will attract and grow your online audience. I recommend authoring any of these 35 topics.
  • Twitter: Leverage Twitter for short, simple explanations of your app. Actively listening to user feedback is a big plus! Sharing interesting and even provocative messages to encourage people to share is encouraged. Most importantly, listen! Listen to what reporters and media are already discussing in your industry and be present in the conversation without pitching.
  • Facebook: Be sure to use proper images and detailed descriptions for your app, brand and share updates on the progress of your launch. This enables your website to appear optimally using Open Graph tags and yields you greater control in how it looks when people share it.
  • Customer Stories & Case Studies: While I do recommend publishing these case studies and customer examples on your website, be sure to maintain a caché of success stories that you can reach into and provide to others. These examples don’t have to be cookie-cutter “whitepapers” if you don’t want them to be; you can use these to spread across your organic marketing channels. On this same note, be sure to gain consent from your customers that you will use their details in your sales and marketing.

When you invest your time, energy, and other resources into Organic Marketing, you will efficiently get the word out about your solution. The beauty is that this isn’t the destination — it’s the journey. You will learn what messages and positions resonate with your audience. After a while, you will figure out the right time when it’s time to amplify your message with paid media. The answer isn’t “no,” just “not yet.”

Have you built an app and earned a lot of street credit?

How did you get the word out? Any examples of how you figured out your message and attracted a flurry of customers? Recommend and comment back on this post and share what you did!

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