Marketing is Your Moral Obligation.

4 Tips For Makers, Authors and Product People.

If you already take marketing seriously, then you should stop reading.

The obviousness of this pep talk is going to make your head hurt.

For the rest of us, this is a talk that I started by giving to myself. Then I started giving to the coaches at Coach.

And now I give some version of it to anyone who’s built a great product but is dragging their feet on letting people know about that product.

Marketing is your moral obligation. Not every person carries this obligation — only people who care about providing a high-quality product or service. If that’s you, if you built a better mousetrap, then it’s your obligation to shout down all the other inferior mousetraps.

Your product could be an app, it could be a cabinet, it could be your services styling hair or advising CEOs.

Here’s a problem you might be facing. Do you think marketers are manipulative weasels who are tricking people into buying sub-par products?

Some are. I get that you don’t want to be that type of person.

There are two ways not to be a shady marketer:

  1. Don’t ever market anything.
  2. Have a great product.

I used to be in bucket #1. I rationalized avoiding marketing as something sleazy, even though the real reason was simply that I was (am) bad at it.

Here are a couple of thoughts for people, like me, who are new to marketing.

1. Marketing starts with positioning, not promotion.

I learned this from a very angry marketer.

He was offended by my limited view of marketing. I had said to him:

“We’ll build the product and then you’ll go win us some customers through press and advertising and stuff.”

He yelled back, “Marketing is the product.

Who is the product for? Figuring that out informs every single design decision.

Sometimes you know your positioning before you put your product together. Sometimes you figure it out after you think the product is done.

Here’s a simple recent example of how marketing changed a recent blog post. It’s an example of how you can’t just be a writer, you also have to be a marketer of your writing.

I wanted to write an article that would teach my writing methodology. I was on a streak of publishing a blog post for 75 straight days. So, I thought people might be interested in the steps, I wrote up a little tutorial and then turned that into a blog post.

Then I turned to the headline.

In writing, the headline is the key step in positioning a post.

The first draft headline described the what of the content, but not the why or for whom. That first draft headline was “5 Step System for Writing Every Day.

So I started pondering who should actually use my system. I’m not sure it’s for everyone. This pondering is the start of positioning. If you don’t have a clear answer, then your product isn’t positioned.

Eventually, I settled on intuitive thinkers as in people who are writing to think through a topic. They don’t start typing with a clear end goal.

That’s how I write, and that’s who I think my system is for.

That led to a second headline, “How to Write Clearly If You Are an Intuitive Thinker.

But suddenly, the content of the post didn’t match the headline. None of the content said anything about intuitive thinking. So I had to go in and do a massive edit. Half of post that I ended up publishing is new content that I wrote in order to make the article fit the headline.

That’s what I mean about marketing being part of the product. Once I had positioning, I needed to go redo the product.

2. No, your product isn’t for everyone.

Imagine if your tagline is “haircuts for anyone.”

Who is that tagline positioned for? Anyone and everyone? Nope.

It’s positioned for people who don’t care about their haircut.

Imagine that tagline paired with a high price. Would you pay $80 for a haircut from a generalist?


Your product always has a positioning, even if you don’t mean to.

So, stop dragging your feet and pick a target market.

This is the part I drag my feet on the most. I think it was Tim Ferriss who explained it in a way that gave me confidence. He’d originally targeted people who work in tech, knowing that there were adjacent markets of people who admire people who work in tech (or at least think that a lot of useful trends emerge from tech).

3. Marketing is table stakes

In tech, we had a period in the late 90’s where building software was nearly impossible. So having a strong engineering team was all it took to succeed. Engineering was table stakes in order to participate.

Then in 2005–2010, software got easier to build, so people started differentiating through design. During this period, design was table stakes. If your product was ugly, you couldn’t compete.

Now, practically every industry has a glut of high quality options. It’s not enough to be able to build a high quality, well-designed product. Nobody will hear about that. You also need to be able to market.

Marketing is table stakes.

If you don’t do marketing then you aren’t at the table.

Would you have still built your product if you knew nobody would ever use it?

4. Promotion starts with your friends

You tweeted once, so now you’re a marketer.


Why would a stranger trust you if your friends don’t.

This is the last piece I’m always telling the coaches I work with.

Always, always, always go to friends for early product feedback.

You need that feedback. You need friendly early customers. You need friends who will help you promote what you’re doing.

So that’s it — at the beginning of your new life as a marketer, the challenges aren’t technical or tactical.

They’re emotional.

Do you have the humility to mold your product to the people you want to use it?

Do you have the decisiveness to choose one target market even though there may be dozens?

Can you get over yourself and admit that marketing is actually your responsibility to do well?

And finally, are you brave enough to ask your friends to hear about the thing you are most passionate about?