Its a hand-picked collection of resources for solving practical marketing tasks, such as:
- finding beta testers
- growing first user base
- advertising project without a budget
- scaling marketing activities for building constant revenue streams.
We faced these question when we made our first product (a tool for iOS engineers). It took us almost 2 years to learn how to market our project.
During this time we read, tried and bookmarked many useful things: articles, videos, spreadsheets, podcasts & tools. These resources helped us a lot! Please, learn, adapt and test awesome marketing hacks from our collection & experience. Good luck!
Lisa & Ahmed, founders of Flawless App, tool to verify iOS app according to the design
How to Use and Contribute
For getting needed advice, please:
- Go through our Table of Contents. To help you navigate, we`ve added brief overviews of every marketing category. Also, content titles are displayed as clearly as possible (so it will tell you the context and how you can benefit from it).
- Search for a keyword or phrase (for example, Product Hunt, Facebook, Blog).
- Ask Lisa on Twitter.
If you have found some great marketing content or tool, please, contribute to Marketing for Engineers collection. Simply submit a Pull Request with respect to our Contribution Guidelines. We would love you to see your suggestions!
Table of Contents
User research gives you an answer for whom is your product. Analyzing potential users & customers will help to:
- understand users’ needs, pains, motivations and decision-making process;
- outline product roadmap, key features, UI design and UX scenarios for interacting with your product;
- define the right marketing message (positioning) and choose marketing channels to spread this message;
- make your marketing & communication strategy.
I hope that I have convinced you that user research is very important. After learning these materials you should be able to make user research, create basic Persona and validate it on real people:
A marketing persona, or buyer persona, is a way to segment target market by common characteristics. It is used to guide media campaigns to target the right audience with the appropriate messaging. Buyer personas usually comes from market research. … If marketing persona is focused on the WHO, a UX persona is more about the HOW. A UX persona, or design persona, can include all the information in buyer persona, but with additional emphasis on the task-oriented user behavior. What a UX persona wants to uncover is all the steps a target user will take to go from point A to point B.
You need to reach your potential users and validate your Persona & hypothesis. You can get real users insight through surveys, interviews, online & offline meetings, chats, Skype calls, checking existing analytics (Google Analytics, social media data), analyzing competitors’ customers, ethical googling your users’ emails & names and researching them on social media:
- 9-min video on creating a Persona, when you already have something to analyze: website, followers for your product on Twitter\Facebook, first users or paying customers.
- Simple blueprint for conducting a thorough buyer’s journey study. It’s a bit old article, but it has a nice plan for making user research interviews (study) with current or potential users.
- Asking the right questions during user research, interviews and testing will be in use when you actually start talking to the potential user (
you must do this).
User research is an initial part of the customer discovery process. You should not only research your potential users but also test if what you want to build is needed on the market (its called Product Market Fit). If you are not familiar with the Lean Startup approach, I advise you to check these resources. It’s more startup-oriented, but still relevant for newbie product makers:
- Google search (here you will find how to make clever googling with advanced search).
- Twitter Advanced search and comprehensive guide how to use it.
- LinkedIn search and brief article from the LinkedIn team on how to use their new search (it’s very easy!).
- Pipl helps you to find information about email’s owners.
- The Buyer Persona Word Doc Generator from HubSpot can help you to make the first hypothesis for your persona.
- TypeForm is an easy-to-use, mobile-optimized form-builder that’s great for gathering online surveys. You also can use Google Forms for making online surveys.
How is your product better than other solutions? What is unique about your side project, open-source tool or mobile app? What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don’t get?
You should have answers to all these questions. Market research will help you out! Personally, I define Market Research as a combination of User Research and Competitor Analysis. The first part we discussed in the section above. And these guides will explain how to research your competitors, catch trends and validate market opportunity:
- Google Advanced Search Operators is a competitive audit tool to help you find exactly what youre looking for
- Twitter Advanced search is an easy way to search anyone on Twitter.
- SimilarWeb provides detailed info on different sites & overview of their marketing strategy. A free version is pretty good.
- Alexa is one of the oldest web analytics tools out there, but its still a great option with strong free version.
- Social Mention is a nice free tool, which provides real-time search on brand mentions.
- With Buzzsumo you can find the most shared content for a given topic or competitor. In a free version you will get the full page of content with many filters.
- Siftery and AlternativeTo allow you to find alternatives to any product.
Marketing without Budget
You will find here a collection of free marketing channels for getting the first users. Most of them will take a lot of time & effort, but it will not cost money to do it yourself. Some channels, like Content Marketing or Influencer Marketing, are comprehensively explained in its own directories below. So, get fresh ideas from these real-life stories and think of what could work for your users:
- Do Things that Don’t Scale by Paul Graham. He is a co-founder of Y Combinator, a computer scientist, investor, and entrepreneur. Paul shows how such popular companies as Stripe, Airbnb or Facebook got their first users. It’s a more philosophical read for helping your brain to think in the right direction.
- How to Grow Your Startup on a $0 Marketing Budget by Hiten Shah. It highlights a bunch of different ideas to try.
- How We Got Our First 2,000 Users Doing Things That Dont Scale by amazing Ryan Hoover, co-founder of Product Hunt.
- How we got from $0 to $75,000 MRR with zero marketing budget by Sergei Gusev. They sent free products (designer fragrance) to the market influencers and got video reviews. It grew their sales dramatically!
- How We Got Our First 100 Paying Customers in 24 Hours by Alex Turnbull, founder of Groove.
- Comment Marketing: How to Earn Benefits from Community Participation by Rand Fishkin. You can gain attention to your company by sharing meaningful opinions and thoughts. Rand Fishkin made an excellent 9-minute video on using this technique
- How to create Online Courses and Webinars to get users for your product. Very clever marketing tips in these The Startup Chat podcasts!
- 5 Places to Find and Poach Your Competitors’ Customers. Sapph shares many smart ways to find leads and pitch them.
- Hacking the Press: Clever Ways to Get Free Press Coverage with Zero Budget by Tucker Schreiber from Shopify. The post is focused on an online stores industry. But the principles of getting free press attention are applicable to any market.
- How to Get Press Coverage for Your App: a practical guide from Dan Counsell, indie developer & agency founder.
- Referral Marketing and Mobile Referral Marketing can give you word-of-mouth growth. For inspiration check 51 Best Referral Program Examples of 2016. These useful guides were prepared by Brandon Gains from Referral Saasquatch.
- 5 Low-Cost Guerrilla Marketing Tactics via Braveen Kumar.
Direct offline exposure via foot traffic would suit physical products and brave founders.
- Use free tools for lead generation when you have a difficult software product with many use cases. It’s a great way to show the benefits of your main offering and increase brand awareness. This post shows how to sell Clearbit API-solution via free easy-to-use tools. You can invest your time and make some free stuff as well UI kits, browser extensions, funny games or open-source tools.
We used many free marketing channels. To be honest, when we started Flawless App we didn’t have other ways. We wrote cold emails, talked to influencers, manually recruited users at events, posted at Facebook groups, worked with developers & designers via Twitter and did many other stuff. These gave us our first 1000 beta users. So it worth trying out!
Content marketing is about promotion via content. You can run a personal blog, guest blog or write at platforms, like Medium (or combine it). Focus on how you can help your users with your content. You don’t have to be a professional writer for making cool articles. Just give yourself space to be creative and share your expertise.
I encourage you to start doing content marketing by yourself. Outsourcing it can be very tricky, especially at the beginning.
Firstly, think how your blog or content is you going to stand out. There are plenty of cool blogs in every industry. How are you going to be different? What unique value can you offer to your users? How can you build an engaged readers community? And the most important question is how you will convert readers into leads. With all those considerations, you should create a content strategy:
Start by creating a blog that not only touts your product but offers helpful recommendations, tips & tricks, links, etc. Check what competitors’ blogs are publishing, what is popular in the industry and what your users are interested in. Align your article ideas with the content strategy, you have already defined. To get some inspiration scroll these bits of advice:
Pick the most appropriate content format video, list, long-read. Then think about the right headline for driving interest to your great article:
Craft your blog with SEO focus:
Check your grammar and readability! I use these cool apps:
Medium is an online publishing platform with a huge active community. You can make your blog there and engage with your users and Medium readers. You still need to promote your articles yourself. Medium is a high-traffic community, but you are not the only one who competes for attention.
Basics of writing on Medium. How to write, edit, publish and add your article to publications:
Articles, where you can find what topics, titles, collections, tags, categories and post length are popular for Medium readers:
Publishing on Medium or elsewhere removes all your technology hassles. It’s a good place to start implementing your content marketing strategy.
Promotion of your content
You need to promote content on your own blog, Medium or guest platforms. Some ideas how to spread the word about your great articles and make it more shareable:
Content Marketing is not only about getting people to read your amazing articles (and use your product later). It’s also about developing and maintaining relationships with the community.
Influencer marketing is focused on working with opinion leaders to drive company message/product/service to the larger market.
These long guides will be good for the
You should not be afraid to reach to the cool people. Be helpful, nice and creative:
Case-studies, which can teach and inspire you:
- Find Twitter Influencers via Klear. It’s free for 10 keyword searches (“skill”). The paid version has more advanced options.
- Social networks. You can find opinion leaders by checking the keywords search, followers number and engagement level.
- Twitonomy gives detailed info about influencer from his Twitter profile. It can show people who are interacting with the influencer on a regular basis. Those people can become your starting point to get to the top-niche person.
- Followerwonk Analyze gives a huge database about any Twitter user’s network. This free tool shows you info on user followers and people, whom this user follows. So you can find the best time to engage, popular users, location info, etc.
- Use RSS apps for getting content from influencers’ blogs. You can comment on those posts and share good ones via your social media. Selfoss is a good RSS app. It’s an open-source, so you may dig into its code and customize things.
Marketing for Product Hunt Launch
Product Hunt (PH) is a place to discover, share, and geek out about new products in tech. Submitting your product there is a good way to appear in front of journalists, tech people and fellow makers. After submission, the product will participate in the daily race. The race starts PST 00:00 and finishes PST 23:59. You have to get as many upvotes and comments as you can by the end of the day!
The most successful products appear on the Homepage and can get a lot of honest feedback, downloads, users and PR buzz. Please, check success PH stories to decide if PH is the right launch platform for you!
Start with basic rules on Posting: how to post or comment, how to ask for support, how to get to the homepage. Then read Five things everyone should know about Product Hunt. Join the PH community and feel how it works, before actually starting you launch activities.
Successful PH launch takes a lot of preparation, promotion during the launch (24h++) and follow-up work. These guides will help you:
- How to Launch on Product Hunt
by Product Hunt team.
- Product Hunt 101 from one of the top hunters, Robleh Jama. It’s very useful to listen to the launch algorithm from the person, who submit a lot of different products.
- The SaaS founders guide to Product Hunt from the Russian company, Amplifr. It’s a nice tutorial about your product preparation (onboarding, language check, emails and other not obvious stuff).
- Master Checklist for Launching on Product Hunt (spreadsheet) by SpreadShare team.
- Launching on Product Hunt: what works and what doesnt [guide & case study] by 3D modeling app, who launched on PH in December 2016. These folks have not typical “sweet product for startup audience” and their launch was “so-so” good. I encourage you to think about resources you will invest in PH launch versus possible outcome!
- Is Product Hunt useful for developer tools? – it’s our story of launching on PH. We shared our marketing tactics and all results: traffic numbers, trials installations and sales. Also, we made a talk on Product Hunt meetup, here is the slides from it. Hope, it will help some of you to succeed on Product Hunt!
- Launching on Product Hunt: A curated checklist from +50 successful launches by Hidden Founders team.
Social Media Marketing
Let’s start with the basics, which can be used for any social media platform:
Useful SMM toolbox:
- When you have multiple Social Media accounts, use dashboards & tools for managing them in one place. My favorite ones are Buffer and Hootsuite (both have free options). These tools have built-in analytics. So you can pick simple metrics that are meaningful and can be analyzed.
- Pablo and Canva for fast creating of nice-looking images (both free).
- Nuzzel can show you the top content being shared among all your followers on Twitter and Facebook. You can use that content for sharing or as an example. It’s a free tool.
- Google Analytics Campaign URL builder for making UTM codes and here is a guide on Using UTM Parameters to Track Social Media Success from Hootsuite.
I love Twitter as a tool for personal use. Moreover, Twitter has a huge variety of opportunities to promote your product personal account, company account, Direct Message Marketing, Chats, Adds. Twitter can be used for sharing your articles, connecting with influencers or looking for competitors’ customers. As you see, it’s a powerful platform for many marketing activities, depending on your goals.
Your personal account can drive traffic to your product and content. While growing your Twitter followers, you increase the media reach you might get. But don’t forget, that Twitter is made for people. To be successful there, you need to communicate with your audience just as you would do offline. If your target audience like your tweets and your personality, theres a higher chance they will trust you and click on your links:
There is nothing wrong with automating your Twitter activities. You can schedule posts, automatically send messages and set up rules for auto-engagement with users. However, using automation only
will hurt your SMM strategy. So mix it with real-time tweeting and being active & helpful with the community:
Direct Message Marketing is about sending personal, mass or automated DMs to your followers. These articles will show you how to use this tool in the right way:
One more option to consider is Twitter Adds. My experience with Twitter adds was not so positive… especially when I set up the first campaign. So be ready to face poor UX, mysterious errors and bad customer support. Anyway, these guides will help you out:
And these tools help you maximize your Twitter presence, from timing to sharing to the analysis:
- Buffer and Hootsuite for scheduling (were mentioned already).
- Trend24 shows the latest Twitter trending topics (hashtags) throughout the day locally and globally.
- Hashtagify is an advanced Twitter Hashtags search engine. It recommends you related hashtags to your keyword, shows several influencers for this keyword and relevant tweets. Very useful free tool for choosing hashtags for your tweets!
- Statusbrew allows you to manage your followers (Audience Feature) and scheduled tweets. Statusbrew finds inactive, spammy or not following back accounts. The tool has a very good free version.
- Followerwonk Analyze gives a huge database about any Twitter user’s network. This free tool shows you info on user followers and people, whom this user follows. So you can find the best time to engage, popular users, location info, etc.
- Twitonomy provides you detailed info about your Twitter account (or any other). Twitonomy UI is terrible. But it can show analytics of your hashtags usage, daily activity (time & days), followers, retweets statistics. All these insights are available in the free version. Also, this tool is useful for Influencer Marketing research.
- Dlvr.it and Hootsuite for grabbing website RSS feeds and auto-sharing the content. Free accounts permit several RSS feeds.
- Twitter Follower,free extension for multi-follow (or unfollow) users on Twitter.
- If you want to spend less time reading tweets, you can automatically unfollow people. This script from Felix Krause unfollows everybody and puts those followers into a list called “Old Follow”.
- Scoutzen allows you to download Twitter followers from your public or private lists. Pretty useful!
- I mentioned tools, that I personally use. However, there are plenty of other great tools to try: The Big List of Twitter Tools: 93 Free Twitter Tools and Apps to Fit Any Need by Kevan Lee from Buffer team.
Facebook has many marketing options that could fit your company focus, budget, and your current knowledge. To target your users there you can work with Personal Profiles, Pages, Groups, and Ads.
Facebook Pages & Groups:
The Beginners Guides to Facebook Advertising. Here you will find step-by-step tutorials for setting up your first ad campaign. I also included articles about ad design, copywriting and typical mistakes. If you have skipped previous content, it will be useful to check posts on the viral headlines in the Personal Blog section and posts in the Social Media Marketing section.
Advanced reading on Facebook Advertising. May the Force be with you!
Some more cool hacks:
Reddit is one of the most active internet community with its own unique culture. You can get tons of cool information there, great product feedback and first users. However, it’s better to learn Reddit rules and basics before you get banned:
Guides on promoting and advertising on Reddit:
- Later helps to schedule your posts to Reddit and cross-post your link to other subreddits. The tool has a free option.
- Subreddit Analysis Tool from Later. It’s a free tool to get insights about subreddits.
- Reddit Insight is an analytics tool for real-time post tracking, single-user tracking, and other data analysis.
- SnoopSnoo provides Reddit user and subreddits analytics.
- RedditList is useful for digging up worthwhile subreddits.
- Reddit converter converts your text (blog post) to Reddit markdown.
I want to tell you a secret: HRs is not the only people who use LinkedIn. With this platform you can build business partnerships, network online, make direct sales and search for investors. LinkedIn is a perfect place for B2B companies and
business professionals. It’s also useful for self-branding. For the promotional purpose, LinkedIn has Personal Pages, Company Pages, Groups, and Ads.
Your LinkedIn profile can be a complete sales and marketing tool. It should communicate the value of your product and your expertise to potential partners. These guides and tips will help you out:
LinkedIn can help you get more eyes on your content, and receive feedback from other folks. Contributing to a discussion will make both your profile and your Company Page more visible. If you listen to Rand Fishkin video on Comment Marketing you know how to establish yourself & your company as thought leaders:
Use LinkedIn for direct sales and getting partners. You can write people via invitation note, direct message, InMail or Group message. You should have clear objectives and know exactly who you want to connect with. Business outreach is common and popular among LinkedIn members, but it should be done in a structural way:
LinkedIn Company Pages & Advertising options:
I heavily use LinkedIn. As you remember, we run Flawless App a tool for iOS & macOS engineers. A lot of our users spend time on LinkedIn, participate in iOS groups or post articles there. I often post cool stuff in those groups, engage with people via direct messages or share my writings. Unfortunately, I do get spam or some random requests from job seekers\recruiters. But in general, LinkedIn works for me.
- If you need to grow your LinkedIn connection base, use this script. It will automatically add targeted people from the “People You May Know” section. You only need to choose the keywords.
- Dux-Soup is another good tool to automatically add LinkedIn connections + send invitations. A free account is not very useful but the paid version is pretty good (worth 15$ a month). It has auto-inviting with personalised messages, auto-messages to 1st-degree connections, downloading your tag-lists with links to profiles.
- LinkedIn X-Ray Search tool using Google. With a free account, you only get 100 search results. To get around this limitation you can use X-Ray Searching.
Quora is a question-and-answer site, where you can get traffic by helping the community:
The K-Factor, Growth and Going Viral, an old but very useful article on viral growth.
Lifecycle Email Marketing
Lifecycle emails can help you to accomplish almost any marketing goal: onboard new users, increase sales, grow users’ engagement, bring back inactive one or build a long-lasting relationship. It’s also known as drip marketing or automated email campaigns. To make it simple: it’s a set of emails that will be sent out automatically based on schedule, triggers, or user actions. There are four key components for such email campaigns: the right user, goal-oriented topic, good timing and contextual message.
Let’s start with onboarding. The goal of it is to increase the number of users who actually use your product (or free trial) and pay for it later. The onboarding process can be done through in-app messages, live chat messages, product tours, welcome modal windows, well-crafted UX or even phone calls. We will focus on onboarding via emails:
Subscriber emails are good for announcing new feature releases or sharing blog posts. It’s also used for sending educational materials or curated content newsletters. All these emails can be an effective tool for growing your existing user’s engagement. With newsletters you can gain many email addresses and turn them into users or partners:
Promotional Emails helps you to grow sales:
You should always A/B test your email campaigns: try different subject lines, texts, message styles, images, CTA buttons. Look at your metrics and measure how well each element works:
Want to learn even more about Lifecycle Email Marketing? Read these comprehensive long guides, that contain all types of emails we talk above with examples, tips & trips and recommended tools:
Cold Email Marketing
Update: After GDPR changes, I won’t recommend you working with cold email marketing.
Most people hate cold outreach and everything connected with direct sales. However, smart user-oriented cold emails can give you new users, partners or recommendations:
Learn from fellow entrepreneurs and makers, who run cold email campaigns:
Some more tips & tricks:
- Norbert for finding emails. It gives you 50 free email searches once you create an account.
- Streak for Gmail for scheduling emails to be sent later and managing your connections. With this tool, you can also see who has opened your email
- GMass for cold mass emailing. You can use GMass for free to send 50 emails per day.
- Time Converter will help you to schedule cold emails considering different time zones.
Communication is the key to building any kind of relationship. Every social community has its own rules. Business people will prefer concise value-driven messages when engineers are more open to deep well-thought-out talk. I encourage you to learn these social rules before writing a single line of LinkedIn invitation:
How and where to find partners:
Check these guides on building partnerships (both for software & physical products):
Psychology in Marketing
If you want to make a deeper dive into the user’s brain, I will recommend you to learn disciplines on the intersection of marketing. These articles will be a nice starting point:
Scarcity makes us place a higher value on things that are scarce and, over time, has become the go-to method for increasing desirability. It is powerful because it combines multiple biases (Loss aversion, Social proof and Anticipated regret) and it comes in different forms (Time, Quantity and Access).
Business Model and Pricing
The business model is the most difficult part of any side-project. It’s hard asking people to pay for the product or service. Usually, it’s a long journey to discover the right way to build a sustainable profit over time. But business is about making money. So we all need to learn how to choose the right business model & pricing strategy and charge our users:
Marketing automation is about using software to automate marketing tasks, including emails, SMM, user support, ad campaigns, lead management, CRM, analytics, data flows and much more. It includes a set of tools, integrations, and approaches which help to personalize the experience for users and save time. In this section, we will more focus on tools as they help to build that magic automation.
Moving to SaaS model
Guides on analytics:
Other Useful Materials
- App Launch Guide aims to be an indie dev’s definitive guide to building and launching your app, including pre-launch, marketing, building, QA, buzz building, and launch.
- Awesome-Indie is a great resource for independent developers to make money. Done by Joan Boixadós.
- The Side Project Marketing Checklist is a comprehensive, chronologically ordered list of marketing tactics and ideas that you can try with your next side project. The list was created by a developer, and is free and open source.
- Marketing for App Developers is a thorough iOS app marketing deck, given at Release Notes 2017, chock-full of references. Includes competitive analysis, content marketing, ASO resources. From designer and marketer Tracy Osborn.
- THE BAMF BIBLE is the complete recipe book of growth hacks (300+ pages of how-to tactics) from Josh Fechter & community. It covers marketing tips for Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Content Marketing, Cold Emails, Backlinks and much-much more!
- MAKE is the book on bootstrapping your startup the indie way from Pieter Levels the creator of Nomad List. It’s basically an imprint of his experiences creating his products from the past several years. Most of the book content is very practical and approachable, aimed to try things yourself.
- The Four Steps to the Epiphany or Successful Strategies for Products that Win by Steven Blank.
- Stripe Atlas guides to running an internet business.
Marketing for Engineers collection is created and maintained by Flawless App team:
All great articles, awesome tools and other shiny things for growing your products were done by independent authors and companies. All credentials are included.
We would love to add more awesome content, which will answer on other marketing-related questions:
- how to validate the idea, before you start coding
- how to make a custom support
- how to deal with scaling and growth
- how to get funding for your project
- and some useful blogs, newsletters, courses.
Feel free to recommend us more topics! And please contribute with awesome content.