The Rise of the Maker-Marketer

Why creators—and marketers—need to start telling their truest stories.

Instead of sleeping next to my beautiful wife in our cozy bed, I am curled up on a short couch, my long legs awkwardly dangling over the edge.

In the afternoon, after a frenzy of outreach, press, sharing, and thanking, I sneak back to the couch for a much-needed power nap. I’m out of my element and I’m absolutely exhausted.

My startup co-founder, David Khavari, doesn’t hesitate to document the process.

That sleepy photo? That’s me. That’s me in the exact spot I had slept a pitiful 3.5 hours the night prior — which, to me, is almost a formality.

It’s ironic that I ignored sleep, food, and family to launch a product designed to inspire great habits. And I began to feel guilty.

In that doubting moment, I got these messages from my wife and kids…

When I knew my family was with me — that it was OK for me to go overboard for a few days to launch our Kickstarter — my guilt vanished.

I realized in that moment that I didn’t have to choose between my family and my startup — I could choose both in a healthy, if unconventional, way.

I’m a lifelong designer. When I think back to my days at Microsoft, Google or Capital One — I sometimes felt like design’s biggest enemy was marketing.

“In the corporate world, I sometimes felt like design’s biggest enemy was marketing.”

Suffice it to say, when David began orchestrating our marketing campaign, I broke into a cold sweat, and I wanted nothing to do with it.

“I make products. Marketing just isn’t for me,” I thought.

But I had no choice. It was marketing, or inevitable public failure.

24 hours and $15,000 later, finally clean-shaven, showered, and well-slept in a normal-sized bed, I’ve found some wisdom in the madness.

Much in the same way that I realized that my family and my startup could co-exist in a healthy way, I realized that marketing could happily co-exist with great design.

At that moment, I stepped back from my preconceived notions, and I saw that I could approach marketing in my own design-focused way.

After VentureBeat first broke our product story, many other press outlets wouldn’t touch it. They didn’t want to break old news.

As I sat down with a cup of joe, I wrote something personal and human rather than just something I thought would drive a lot of traffic. Then I shared it.

My co-founder, David, is a 23-year old Stanford grad and one of the most competent people I’ve ever met. It’s been a wild ride…so I wrote about it.

Together, we collaborated with two high-school engineering whiz-kids as consultants and developed a radical hardware product.

I went totally off-script co-founding with David — and we went off-script working with two kids — but these choices have built a huge source of strength and creativity, even though they seemed incongruous at the time.

Despite being turned down by several major publications, people started to read the article. Before I knew it, people were reaching out to me. Direct messages snowballed into tweets, which eventually culminated, ironically, in features in major online publications.

If I’ve learned one thing from all of this, it’s that you can market in your own way, and—if it’s real and compelling—it’s more likely to work.

That’s why I believe that makers must become marketers…and that marketers must become makers: sincerity is invaluable and unmistakable.

Now that you’ve heard my story, here’s what I’m asking you to do:

Treat your next marketing campaign like you’re designing a product. Think about the value you’re delivering and make it authentic. If you focus on that, the attention will come.

Design on, my marketing friends.