If you intend to make money from a personal project, you’ll sooner or later have to think about marketing. If not, chances are you’ll end up with yet another great product that nobody’s heard about.

But when you’re hacking away on a small-scale personal project, you can’t always use the same strategies as funded startups or bigger companies. Maybe you don’t have the funds to just buy traffic, or else famous bloggers won’t even give you the time of day.

My first book: Step by Step UI Design

I got lucky with my first book, which randomly got popular on Hacker News and went on to be very successful. But for a project of Discover Meteor’s scale, we couldn’t afford to rely on luck alone. So after doing a lot of research and learning from people like Nathan Barry and Patrick McKenzie, I came up with a marketing blueprint that ended up working pretty well.

Here’s the point where I would usually say something like “for the first time ever, I’ll be revealing the marketing secrets that made me rich!” and come up with a catchy name (how about “Sacha’s Seven Secret Strategies for Success”?), but 1) I’ve talked about all this before, 2) none of it is secret, and 3) I’m not that rich either…

Still, I hope you’ll enjoy this video (filmed at the last HNKansai meetup) where I give a rough outline of our marketing strategy for Discover Meteor.

The video is fairly long (I ended up talking a lot more than I anticipated) so here’s a quick table of contents along with my notes on each topic:


1. Validating Your Ideas [03:45]

  • Set up a sign-up form on an existing pagewe did this on the Telescope homepage.
  • Set up a dedicated landing page for the product

2. Building An Audience [10:10]

  • Have a blog
  • Keep your email list “warm”we shoot for 2-3 emails a month, although we’ve been slipping a little lately.

3. Building The Product [15:18]

  • Use flexible tools - we wrote the book in Markdown to make it easier to potentially reuse the content elsewhere.
  • Get beta users/reviewersnot only will they provide feedback, but they will also help kickstart your community.
  • Add interviews, screencasts, case studies

4. Press [17:39]

  • Write guest posts - instead of trying to get people to write about you.
  • Get your product reviewed
  • Find the people who are already writing about your topic - whether they’re “famous” or not.

5. Landing Page [21:05]

  • Give away stuff
  • Answer people’s questions - focus on providing practical information, not just wowing people.
  • Use social proof - people like faces.

6. Pricing [24:10]

  • Pricing high → More money
  • Pricing low → More people
  • Segmentation → Best of both worlds
  • Give discounts - but use discount URLs, not coupon codes.

7. Post-Launch [33:28]

  • Keep marketing to your audience
  • Segment your list
  • Keep over-delivering - think about reverse funnels
  • Showcase success stories - give your users superpowers

I hope you’ll find this useful. And if you’d like to ask questions or give me some feedback, feel free to do so either here or on Hacker News (upvotes are appreciated too!).