12 Marketing Rules for Startup Founders

12 Lessons from 4 years of marketing at startups and corporations. Must read for Startup Founders without a marketing background.

Marketing Rules for Startup Founders
Marketing Rules for Startup Founders

I've been doing marketing for 4 years. FMCG, VC-backed startups, Content products, Productized services — you name it.

I've made tons of mistakes and learned a few lessons. So today, I want to share my 12 Marketing Rules with you.

Must-read for Startup Founders without a marketing background.

1. Nobody wants to book a meeting with you

Users want to try your product or download something for free. No doubt that talking to a stranger is not the best leisure activity.

Your landing page Conversion Rate will skyrocket with the right Call-to-Action. And usually, this CTA is not "book a meeting".

Especially true if you target Millenials and Gen Z.

2. The higher price, the better customers

Being cheap is the worst differentiator from your competitors. Cheap products attract customers who only care about the price. They will leave you as soon they see a cheaper alternative.

Instead, provide a unique value with above average price. You will get customers who appreciate your product and understand its value.

Increase the price, and your mental health will thank me later.

3. Empower users, not market them

Nobody likes to be marketed. Do you enjoy seeing a fake discount countdown or getting bombarded with emails?

No, you don't. Your users don't like it either.

But they like to get free educational resources, feel empowered to achieve their goals, or have a good laugh. Maybe do this instead?

4. Talking to customers is a shortcut to success

You have brilliant marketing ideas.

But do you know who has better ones? Your customers.

Run buyer interviews with your customers and get inspiration from them. Learn why they bought your product, what is important for them, and what they enjoy the most. This will be your next marketing campaign.

5. Having an email list is a superpower

Algorithms change. If you enjoy getting 1000 followers from a Twitter thread, you should be ready to get shadowbanned too.

But having an acquisition channel that you actually control is a superpower. You can market it whenever you want and predict how much revenue you will generate.

If you are not building an email list, you are in danger.

6. There is no such thing as “too much social proof”

People trust people. If someone like me benefited from this product, I should check it out.

Do you already have testimonials? Great! Now add case studies, user statistics, press mentions, product awards, reviews from opinion leaders, and interviews with a Founder.

You can always add some social proof.

7. Showing the product > Describing the product

Some Founders are obsessed with their products. So they write 5 paragraphs about features and lose customers because of it.

Showing a stunning product gif is way more convincing than describing it. Even if you are a world-class copywriter.

People love visuals. Give them more of it.

8. Nail one acquisition channel before adding the second

Don't try to be everywhere from the first months. High chances you will fail everywhere.

Instead, pick one acquisition channel and master it. Learn what's working and what's not. Optimize your marketing campaign and then move to the next channel.

One step at a time.

9. Sell positive future, not product features

Nobody cares about your features and integrations. Sorry to say it.

People only care about the results they can achieve with your product. You are selling a positive future, not 10 brilliant features.

But don't forget to mention features to clarify how you will provide promised value.

10. Your customers are the best promoters

Again: people trust people. If your friend recommends a product, you will check it out. Because you trust their judgment.

Nudge your customers to recommend you on social media. Sometimes it only takes one email to skyrocket your referral traffic.

Your customers would love to help you. But only if you ask them.

11. Distribution is more important than the content

An excellent article with 100 views is worse than an okayish article with 50 000 views.

You should spend more time on distribution than on creating. It goes for your product, articles, TikTok, and newsletter.

Otherwise, nobody will know you even created new content.

12. Paying customers is the true validation

No matter how many said they like your product or how large your waitlist is. You should only care about paying customers.

This is the ultimate validation for marketing campaigns, product ideas, and offer experiments.

Focus on getting paid, not upvoted.

Conclusion

Every marketing situation is different. But I believe these rules apply to 99% of Indie Startups.

If you find some rule counterintuitive, try to think, "Why?". Sometimes you will find that there is a different way of doing marketing.

MakerBox Frameworks Preview
MakerBox Frameworks Preview

If you want more thought-provoking mental models, check out MakerBox Frameworks. It's a Notion library of 50 marketing frameworks for Startup Founders.

Level up your marketing. Stress-free.