The adventures of a developer in the world of marketing

Original author: Saleem
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Note from the translator:

We have nothing to do with the product that the author mentions. To be honest, we did not even familiarize ourselves with its free version. Mention of the product name in the article was left out of "ethical" considerations.

Most of the marketing methods described in the article are known to most specialists, but are often ignored by beginners. We hope that this material will help those who independently promote their projects, as they demonstrate the basic principles on a real example.

Preparatory stage

I did not do marketing until the product was launched directly. I didn’t even think of letting my friends test my app. The first user who saw and tested my idea got to know it after the project was already launched on Codecanyon. Today I sincerely regret that I did not carry out any preparatory work and did not collect a preliminary database of email addresses before starting the project.

Launch on Codecanyon

I posted the product on Codecanyon, as this resource seemed to me a suitable place for this. Duet was well received. Sales were good, but did not reach the title of impressive. I did not make any marketing efforts, because I wanted to test the product in a "battle", test it and fix errors before reporting it to the whole world.

Hacker news

When I was sure that most of the existing errors were found, I went to Hacker News. This was a major part of my marketing plan. I read a lot of articles about how a successful message on HN can generate a huge amount of traffic. I thought that if I manage to attract the audience of Hacker News, the rest of the users will come after them. My first post was published on May 12, but went unnoticed. Despite the fact that I was depressed, I realized what I needed for success, and returned to HN on May 15 with the message:

“Hey, HN, I myself created an alternative to Basecamp. Demo is here »

The reaction was positive and brought me short-term success. The message brought 27k new visitors over the course of an hour, which brought me about $ 2,000 in net revenue. After that, traffic dropped significantly, but I earned another 10 thousand over the course of a month. In general, everything went well, but I again regretted that I did not have a newsletter that users could subscribe to, because I again lost valuable information in the form of an email database of my clients.

Over the next few months

For a while I did absolutely nothing to develop my marketing campaign. Instead, I focused on what I can do: programming. I fixed errors, expanded functionality, etc. Unfortunately, Duet has not received the viral spread that happens with products just because they are good.
Traffic died almost completely, which is not really surprising, but that was not what I expected after the positive reaction of Codecanyon and Hacker News. Today I understand perfectly well that neglect of marketing has become one of the biggest mistakes. When I started marketing again, I had to start from scratch.

Start of sales

Thanks to Hacker News users, I realized that my idea of ​​selling a product through Codecanyon was terrible. Therefore, I removed the application from this resource and started selling it directly to customers using Gumroad. This was a great solution also because it allowed me to finally start collecting data about my clients.


The next step was to try to get my product mentioned on several popular blogs. I sent out thousands of letters, most of which simply went unnoticed. Those few who deigned to answer, most often asked for money for their services. It seemed to me something wrong to pay for reviews, and I refused their offers.

A very small number replied that they would like to get acquainted with my product for some time. I sent out copies to some bloggers, but, unfortunately, none of them wrote their thoughts about my project. I sincerely believe that these people are just very busy, but this turn of events pretty much disappointed me.

Freemium The

Freemium model works well for SaaS applications, so I decided to develop this area and start distributing a version with limited functionality for free. The free version is called "Solo". I was hoping that after installation, users would appreciate my application and would like to purchase the full version. This was a good solution and still serves as a good source of conversion.

Solo gets into the media

Once I received an email from a resource called eWebDesign. This was the first time I heard about him, but its content seemed appropriate for me to post an article about Solo here. I sent the resource employee the necessary information, and he agreed to publish the news absolutely free. The appearance of the product on this resource was the second most effective way to attract new users, after success on Hacker News.

After “Solo” appeared in the media, several more resources cited a message about it, which led to a new surge in “free” traffic.

Tweets about Solo

The “Solo” site has buttons for citing on social networks, which has led to a significant number of retweets and Facebook posts. This provided good traffic for a few more weeks. I realized that it is necessary to add such functionality on the Duet website, since I do not use the full potential of social networks.

Comments on Project Management Application Blogs

I have personally commented on Duet in many blogs that write articles on project management applications. It was an exceptionally laborious process that did not bring significant results. But I noticed that users who come from these resources spend significantly more time on the page of my project. This is probably good.

I also answered some of Quora's questions about PM applications. I still don’t know if this has any effect.

Blogging Again

I got addicted to Hacker News, I just can't count the number of successful entrepreneurs who preached to HN that marketing content is the key to success, which is why I plan to devote considerable effort to blogging and articles like this.

The overall effect of my efforts

Nothing beats the 27K visitors I received from HN on the same day, but sales are still pretty good and are slowly growing. Today I have a little over 5k unique visitors per month, which is not so good, but not scary.

Future plans

I will continue to blog, but I am actively looking for additional marketing opportunities. Here are some ideas that I have:

- I plan to release another free application in the same vein as Solo. This will be the most lightweight mini-application;
- Deal with email marketing. I have a couple of hundreds of email addresses, but I have not sent a single letter yet, because I do not want to scare potential customers and I do not know what to write to them;
- To expand the presence of my products in thematic blogs;
- Resurrect my second blog “codebasehero”, which still receives decent traffic, despite the fact that I completely abandoned it;
- Take advantage of paid marketing (someday).

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