Just like your kid, your product is probably no special.
Well, sorry if you’re offended … or, you know what, actually I’m not sorry at all.
But why am I even saying this anyway?
Let’s start at the beginning:
I have met a lot of people lately, both in the WordPress community and outside of it. All trying to build their businesses/products and asking for my advice on various things, but also complaining that they can’t get the marketing cracked for their products, blog posts, courses, etc.
My main observation is that – and I’m guilty of this too at times – people generally tend to believe that their product is great, and that the only reason they can’t get enough eyeballs on it is because they lack the money or the marketing skill to promote it effectively.
At least 90% of the time.
But let’s talk examples. Here’s my quick analysis of 4 things/products/articles of ours that got popular, and the role that marketing played in that:
- Our transparency reports over at the CodeinWP blog.
- The Zerif Lite WordPress theme.
- The Revive Old Post WordPress plugin.
- My previous article about remote work on this blog.
1. Transparency reports – why they worked
To be completely honest with you, I haven’t spent more than a couple of hours promoting our transparency reports.
Usually, I’m just submitting them to ManageWP.org, and sometimes asking a few people on Twitter to take a look.
Yet they still get mentioned at WordCamps, people talk about them on blogs, podcasts, and they have a really wide reach in the niche.
Certainly marketing isn’t the reason. I have spent waaay more hours/money trying to promote our other articles.
So the answer is the content quality on its own. It’s the content that jump-started the whole movement.
Writing unique insights that can’t be found elsewhere and that actually help people with “something” will always work, and will always come on top of other content that might not be so revealing.
Look at one of your articles now, and think of these:
- Does it provide any unique insights that can’t be found anywhere else?
- Is your article a few times better than everything else written on the same topic?
- Or maybe it actually rehashes the ideas that are already out there?
Just think about that really honestly. Try looking at your article as if you were the reader who’s actually in the same niche, and probably on a very similar level of knowledge as you. Will they be like, “wow, I didn’t know that!” once they read your article, or will they be more like, “yep, pretty much sums it up”?
Or, better yet, try to find a quick and cheap formula that will tell you if a given article is worth promoting or not:
- Ask 5 different people for feedback when you write something new that you think is cool. If all of them say it’s good, then start working on promoting it.
- Create a small and well-targeted Facebook or Twitter ad. Spend $10 and see if the article is likely to pick up any traction.
- Submit it to some Facebook groups and post it on your social networks. If you get some exceptionally good feedback then work on promoting it.
If all of the above check out, and you indeed have a promotion-worthy post on your hands, then here is what you can do from there:
- Build a segmented email list or social audience that you can leverage.
- Find 2-3 free/paid newsletters in your niche that you can ask to be included in or pay for the inclusion.
- Find what the most popular social bookmarking sites in your niche are, and submit your article there.
- Mention other people or get quotes from other people, include them in the article, then reach out to those people and ask them to spread the word.
2. Zerif Lite – our most popular free WordPress theme – what has made it
Before releasing Zerif Lite we already had 10+ themes launched, and I spent good money and time promoting all of those themes.
However, when Zerif Lite landed, right from day 1 it generated 1,000% more sales and downloads than all of the previous themes combined!
Right away, I understood that this theme was different, that people loved it, so I started to put more efforts into promoting it.
At that point, it wasn’t that hard. I reached out to some popular blogs, insisted they listened, and at that moment I wasn’t afraid to pay for their attention and for having Zerif listed everywhere I could.
The theme was already way better than all the other free themes out there, so the promotion worked right away too. People started to write about it, it was much easier to promote it, and it felt a lot less like I was pushing it onto everybody. It all felt natural.
Do you have a new WordPress theme and you’re certain that it’s either just as good as Zerif Lite or even better?
Well, it needs to be if you really want to make an impact with it. You will get a good indication whether that’s the case from your users’ feedback. If the feedback is great, exceptionally positive even, only then you should consider working on marketing it heavily.
If that’s the case, here is what you can do:
- Make sure your theme is in the WordPress.org repository.
- Make sure it is translated into 5-10 popular languages.
- Reach out to major news websites in those 5-10 languages.
- Do some sniffing around and ask to be included in various roundup posts on popular blogs that publish lists of “top X themes for Y.” Don’t be afraid to pay for this, by the way.
If your theme is good enough, this will work … 100%.
3. Revive Old Post – what made it a must-have plugin
Revive Old Post is our top social media plugin. It takes your content and shares it automatically to your various social media channels.
It has been in the WordPress.org repo for 4-5 years, and we only acquired it around 2 years ago.
The funny thing is that nobody does any marketing around it, yet EACH week (just Google it) there are blogs mentioning it, there are loads of people naming it their favorite plugin, and there are even videos on YouTube talking about it.
Let me emphasize on this again; we aren’t doing anything to promote this plugin directly at the time of writing this, it seems to promote itself.
Just like with the transparency reports, the idea and the way of approaching it is unique. It was the first plugin of its kind, it helps people, and it does it all for FREE.
Building a product that is unique and helpful, or that’s 10x better than anything else on the market isn’t easy, certainly.
However, if you don’t consider yourself a genius marketer then this is what you should absolutely do! And I assure you that it will work.
4. What makes blog posts viral these days
The last and the best example to illustrate what I’m trying to convey here is actually my previous post on this blog – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Remote Work (After 5 Years of Experience).
Let’s look at some facts:
- It was my very first article on remote work or anything even slightly related, so there was no pre-existing audience.
- My “usual traffic day” prior to that post was 10-20 views / day, and I had 10 subscribers.
- I did no promotion at all except submitting the post to Hacker News (through an account close to 0 in reputation). Plus, I shared it on Facebook with my friends.
- That post reached the front page of Hacker News and got 20,000 views in 3 days.
- It got translated into Russian and Japanese by some really big sites, for which it generated 20,000+ views.
- It got really popular on DesignerNews, Pocket, /r/freelancer.
- Quartz contacted me and asked if they could republish it.
The time we’re living in today is both awesome and scary. On the one hand, there’s so much noise that it’s really hard to surface with a new product/thing. But at the same time, if you build something that people consider amazing, almost no marketing is required, or the marketing work will become super easy.
If a guy who hasn’t written more than 20 articles in his lifetime can get his post viewed by 100,000+ people and with 0 marketing, then probably you can do it too.
Just focus on producing something awesome. And do it before you devote endless nights to promoting the thing.
First, question your product/article/whatever in an honest way. Ask yourself and ask your potential users/readers whether what you’ve built really is that awesome. If so, then comes the marketing.
There indeed are people out there who are marketing geniuses, or who have loads of resources that they are willing to invest even if the return isn’t coming for a while. But if you aren’t one of them, your best chance is to focus on your product first. And second. And third.