Let your customers do the work

How we built a (free) sales team from thousands of happy users.

Imagine you’re in the market for a product you know very little about.

It could be an espresso maker, a road bike, or even new accounting software. Anything.

In this scenario, you have no pre-existing brand loyalties and you’re feeling overwhelmed by the choices.

Now, you have two options:

  • A —Spend hours and even days doing online research. Read user reviews, industry articles, and expert opinions until your eyes blur.
  • B — Ask a friend for a recommendation, assuming this person has strong feelings about their espresso machine, road bike, or accounting software.

Which scenario is easier — and more compelling?

B, of course. A direct endorsement from someone you know can override even the deepest online research.

Our friends and family members aren’t selling the product and they usually have our best interests in mind. We also trust their taste. If they like it, chances are we will, too.

That’s why a personal, word-of-mouth recommendation usually seals the deal.

It’s the the Holy Grail of marketing. But, it won’t work if your product doesn’t deliver.

A killer product is your best marketing strategy

Let’s talk about facial hair for a moment.

If you’re a man like me who shaves his beard regularly, you probably have a trimmer.

It would be safe to assume that you did some research before you bought it, and you might have tried two or three different products before you found one that’s totally awesome.

In my case, the Beardscape Trimmer (not an affiliate link) is the best thing that ever happened to my shaving routine.

I used to hate shaving, but now I enjoy it. All thanks to Beardscape.

It’s the Apple of trimmers. It fits perfectly in your hand, with high-quality materials and it’s just the right weight.

But the ceramic blade… OMG! It goes into your beard like a hot knife into butter. I’m going to buy this trimmer as a birthday present for every bearded friend on my list.

Okay. Enough free advertising.

What did Beardscape do to get me talking and writing about them — without a commission? What kind of marketing tactics and psychological tricks did they apply?

They created the best product I’ve ever used.

They have the best packaging I’ve ever seen for a trimmer. I keep everything in the original box and I love it.

They have the best trim-length control I’ve ever met. The sharpest blades I’ve ever used. It’s silent and powerful as hell.

Is that marketing?

Not really.

It’s just such a good product that I can’t help but talk about it. I had another trimmer before I found Beardscape, and I can assure you — there’s no trick or marketing tactic in the book that could make me go back.

That’s why product quality crushes marketing in every round. SEO and multi-platform advertising might keep you on your feet, but you can’t win the match without an amazing product.

And it’s almost impossible to sustain consistent growth if you don’t have organic, word-of-mouth momentum.

Successful companies need to create superfans. These are the people who tell all their friends about the sandwich or car brand they love.

Superfans write glowing online reviews and blog posts. A rare few even tattoo company logos on their bodies.

No marketing campaign can possibly compete with authentic endorsements from your biggest fans — and the only thing that creates and maintains brand loyalty is an amazing product or service.

Your product IS your marketing.

Let that sink in for a moment.

When you have an amazing, tell-everyone-you-know kind of product, it makes the marketing department’s job about 1,000% easier.

There’s no need for aggressive campaigns or the latest growth-hacking trends. Marketing a great product starts by helping other people (namely your customers) to spread the word.

Equip your superfans to be salespeople

I’m the CMO at Ahrefs. Running our marketing is simple, because I believe we’re the Beardscape trimmer of SEO tools.

We’re not as big as some of the other brands, but we work hard to keep our customers happy — and we have a lot of vocal evangelists.

Customer evangelists (who aren’t paid or compensated in any way) can seriously accelerate your marketing efforts, and this is the only way that my beloved trimmer comes up short.

Beardscape consistently fails to communicate the awesomeness of their product. They don’t give me the tools to help me “sell” for them. That’s why I had to share such my long shaving story with you.

Check out their product page: https://www.brio4life.com/products/beardscape-beard-and-hair-trimmer

It’s pathetic.

The trimmer description makes me cry.

What if Apple tried to sell their latest iPhone with that copy? Would anyone want to buy it? Would people still camp out in front of the store, hungry to get their hands on it the next morning?

Read this sentence: “The ceramic blade is 4 times harder than stainless steel, creates less friction and heat and is quieter than metal.”

How many trimmers have a ceramic blade? I haven’t seen any.

That’s a HUGE and unique selling point, but it’s mentioned fleetingly in a dull, one-paragraph description. Once again, they could learn a lot from how Apple highlights the ceramic Apple Watch case.

A top-class product is the most effective marketing strategy.

Building an amazing product is the first step, but the work doesn’t end there. You can elevate your product marketing by making it easy for excited, loyal fans to sing your praises. Give them easy ways to tell others why it’s awesome.

Seth Godin describes this approach beautifully in his book, Flipping the Funnel:

“Marketing is a funnel. You put undifferentiated prospects into the top.
Some of them hop out, unimpressed with what you have to offer.
Others learn about you and your organization, hear from their peers, compare offerings, and eventually come out the bottom, as patrons, converts and supporters.”

He goes on to say that most marketers shovel an increasing amount of time, money and attention into the top of the funnel. They run more ads and do more SEO, which quickly drains budgets.

Instead, “what if we flip the funnel and turn it into a megaphone?” says Godin.

Then, the people who already know and love you have a powerful way to spread the word.

You’ve given them a megaphone. And instead of pushing, you step out of the way and let those patrons, converts and supporters share what they love about you.

Brilliant.

Most startups already have limited time, budgets and team members. Equipping your fans with powerful, hands-on marketing tools can free up resources to pursue other projects.

That’s a big deal in today’s cluttered marketing landscape.

If you build it, they will share

Here at Ahrefs, we try our best to communicate the value of our product to our customers.

We create good looking product release videos.

We write detailed product overview articles.

We record product walkthrough videos.

And, above all, we clearly communicate the main strength of our service compared to any competing solution: the size and quality of our data.

We also educate our customers about why choosing us was a smart decision. So, they won’t hesitate, even for a second, when asked why they prefer Ahrefs over any other option.

We also encourage them to share the message with their peers:

Which they eagerly do:

That’s how our marketing works, in a nutshell.

We might not be as popular as other big brands on the market, but our brand evangelists are loyal — and vocal. Whenever there’s a public discussion of SEO tools, our community will dwarf the competition by a mile.

Best of all, this enthusiasm is 100% natural. We don’t email our customers and ask them to skew voting numbers. We’re more interested in seeing the “unbiased” results anyway.

It’s a lesson worth repeating: make sure your product is top-in-class and it will drive your marketing in powerful ways.

And even though my title says “CMO,” a good chunk of my time is dedicated to product improvements. I work closely with our founder and CEO, Dmitry, to plan new features and tools.

We’re constantly working to improve the product in ways that excite our customers.

Just like my beloved Beardscape, we want people to be genuinely thrilled about using Ahrefs.

We listen, learn what they need, and then we give them easy ways to share their excitement.

It’s simple. It works. And everyone wins.

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