Building a company means building a customer base. An effective strategy uses content marketing and practitioner marketing to build your use case first, then your product.
It’s counterintuitive to technical founders to make spending money on marketing as important as spending money on technical development. Stealth mode can be very attractive, and may be necessary, in a competitive market. However, there is a case to be made for creating your market, testing your assumptions within that market, refining your product, and then launching it.
For those of you afraid of holding your feet to the fire of the customer before you have a fully baked product, I have a few words for you: Don’t Cook Your Balls.
That’s not just a verbal ploy to get your attention. The website, www.dontcookyourballs.com, launched well before Sandstone Diagnostics’ first product, a home fertility test for men, hit clinical trials. The website is entirely focused on disseminating information about men’s reproductive health.
By launching this customer-focused website first, Sandstone was able to prove to investors that they had a community of prospective customers. This helped them garner their initial funding by demonstrating the existence of a sizeable market that showed up just for information. They were also able to poll the community they created about everything from product design to the buyer’s journey—which allowed Sandstone to collect valuable consumer data prior to developing their product, much less launching it.
Where are they now? On Amazon. And Trak Male Fertility testing systems are also available on a dedicated product website. So, thus far, Sandstone Diagnostics has successfully raised $3.5M, and has a product on the market. In fact, Trak was named the number one new men’s fertility product in 2017 by Men’s Health. They got there by establishing their use case and market well before they created their product.
What company launches a media site without monetizing? Fixate IO. (No, that’s not a result of paint fumes in our co-working space, megalomania, or just bad planning.) Our goal was to keep our network of practitioner contributors engaged and demonstrate the value of our contributor content for current and prospective customers by giving them an outlet for code-level blogs. We also wanted to attract contributors from backgrounds not typically associated with developers—women, minorities, people without traditional developer educational backgrounds, and atypical geocenters, because we think overlooked perspectives are untapped sources of creative solutions.
How is it doing? Launched in 2016, at two blog posts a week, we are now up to one blog post per day. With our weekly visitor data still growing by 25% every month, we are loathe to report visitors in real time. However, you can see past data in our prospectus.
Our contributors have come from all over the world, including Brazil, Ashesi University in Ghana, Holberton School in San Francisco, Learner’s Guild in Oakland, and Women Who Code. What we find to be the most significant statistic, and a tribute to our contributors, is our bounce rate—just 10%.
Even better, we can demonstrate the value of our practitioners’ content, even before we acquire customers in markets that were new for us, like Big Data, or markets we are still building toward, like bioinformatics.
Fixate IO Senior Editor, Chris Tozzi, has written a detailed analysis of the surprising dominance of Kubernetes over Docker Swarm. He attributes its outsized share of voice in the world of container orchestration to a number of factors, the most significant of which are:
- CNCF Backing: Kubernetes was the first project to be endorsed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, or CNCF.
- Domain Expertise: Kubernetes originated from an internal project at Google, back when Google was using containers to run its own data centers.
- Strong Developer Advocacy: Kubernetes also benefits from a remarkably strong base of developer-advocates, otherwise known as practitioners. One practitioner, Kelsey Hightower, stands out. His plaudits of Kubernetes resonate with other developers, as well as CIOs and CEOs. (Practitioner content marketing, anyone?)
So, we urge you, if you are in stealth mode—Don’t go silent with your content marketing. You may be running lean and mean, but don’t run dumb. Meet your market, build it, and introduce it to aspects of your product BEFORE you build it. Your technical team and your investors will thank you. Your customers will pay you.