Affordable Marketing Channels?

Hi all, about 6 months ago I launched my first side project (https://packtracker.io), and dumped around 500$ into small email newsletter sponsorships to get the wheels turning. This was fruitful, and I’ve currently built up just shy of 200$ in MRR, but at that level of revenue I’m finding it hard to find affordable marketing channels to get myself in front of the right audiences.

Support load is super low, and I’ve had about 90%+ trials convert to subscriptions and haven’t had but 1 or 2 customers churn so far, so I think the main area of impact I can have is in the marketing realm.

Email newsletter sponsorships seem to be the most cost effective I’ve found, but I’m running out of small newsletters to sponsor. My assumption is that repeated sponsorships of the same newsletters probably have a reduced rate of return eventually.

Any ideas for other types of marketing channels focused on front end developers specifically?

I’m a fan of content marketing and you’re in luck because dev-related content is in high demand, there are channels to promote such content (reddit, hackernews), and if you do it right, it won’t be spam.

For context, my last 3 blog posts (https://blog.kowalczyk.info/article/19f2fe97f06a47c3b1f118fd06851fad/lessons-learned-porting-50k-loc-from-java-to-go.html, https://blog.kowalczyk.info/article/fc9203f7c72a4532b1ae51d018fef7b3/trade-offs-in-designing-versatile-log-format.html, https://blog.kowalczyk.info/article/39a15945117440d99a9ef0f7de1b618a/the-things-we-do-to-ship-desktop-software.html) did get lots of reads from Reddit, HackerNews and as a result they also appeared on smaller sites like lobste.rs and featured in relevant newsletters (in my case Go-related newsletters).

Especially the “lessons learned porting 50k loc from Java to Go” blew up.

My formula is simple:

  • write an in-depth, technical post
  • post a link to it in the right place (sometimes it’s hacker news, most ofthen the right sub-reddit)
  • participate in the discussion. Here’s an example of me participitaing: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19589614 (kjksf). I use https://f5bot.com/ to be quickly notified about posts about “blog.kowalczyk.info” and projects

Here are some ideas for articles you could write:

  • "My journey building a tool for tracking webpack bundle size ". Promote on HN, reddit (r/webdev? r/javascript?, r/programming?). An in-depth account of why you did it and how you did it (technologies used, how you deploy etc.)
  • there’s an infinite number of articles related to webpack (there’s already plenty of content but there’s also almost infinite appetitie for new content, even if it says the same things as existing content)
  • a subset of previous: every time webpack is about to add some new, notable feature, write a blog post about it
  • “10 tips to reduce the size of webpack bundles”
  • “The least bloated markdown parsers for you web app” (i.e. take popular markdown-to-html libraries, see which one is the smallest, write an article about it)
  • if you have examples of someone finding surprising bloat using your tool, write “How packtracker help remove 300 kB of JavaScript fat for Foo”

Mention packtracker.io in every article. The best mention is organic e.g. “My business is to help people reduce bloat in their JavaScript applications with packtracker.io. I was wondering which markdown library is the smallest. Here’s what I found…”.

I’ve already said it twice, but I’ll say it 3rd time, for emphasis: in-depth content, long articles. Not fluffy-long but lots-of-information-long. Look at examples of my posts above. My writing style is “no fluff, just the facts” but even then those articles are long.

The best content is so-called evergreen like tutorials, books, cheat-sheets. They are the hardest to write but long term they provide the best ROI. An out-there idea: find an already popular, free book about webpack and offer to buy the rights from the author and add tasteful ads for your service.

It’s like buying an ad on a website by buying the whole website. This might not be in your budget (I have no idea if someone would be willing to sell and for how much but it doesn’t hurt to ask them).

Also, for SEO change product and domain name to webpacktracker.io, webpackbundletracker.io webpackbundleanalyzer.io or some such. You really want “webpack” in your domain name.

Another tactic I use is to participate in relevant discussions and plug my websites / projects when appropriate (see e.g. https://old.reddit.com/r/NotionSo/comments/bir18c/thoughts_on_notion_vs_evernote/em2k6tp/?context=0 for how I plugged my 2 website while not being spammy)

I’m sure on reddit people often talk about the bloat of websites and javascript applications which is a perfect opening for “I agree. I build a product packtracker.io that helps keep things under control by… blah, blah, your refined pitch”

6 Likes

Yes @kjk, thank you! Content marketing is definitely a big gap for me currently, probably because it’s time consuming and I’d rather be writing code (common technical founder pitfall I suppose) :smiley:

Maybe it is time I attack it from that angle, thoughts on posting to a personal blog vs company blog?

1 Like

Yes: don’t spend more than 1 minute deciding this. Post in both places (for SEO set a canonical source meta thingy in html so you don’t get dinged for duplicate content).

You can write a decent blog post in 2 hrs. What I wrote above is half a decent blog post and it took me 15 mins.

The biggest issue is procrastination. Procrastination has many faces and one if them is debating things like that instead of writing a blog post.

Here’s my advice: get a https://notion.so account (if you’re not already using it) and write a first draft of a “My journey building…” blog post by end of today.

I’ll review it and give feedback if you want (when you have it, send me a link to notion page).

Then publish it.

2 Likes

What is afforable changes.
https://andrewchen.co/the-law-of-shitty-clickthroughs/

In the early days of Adwords it was very affordable (believe it or not).

So you might have to be a bit creative and avoid established channels such as Adwords, Facebook ads etc.

1 Like

@jondavidjohn This is a generous offer. I hope you use it!

I agree that content marketing is what you should consider now. As far as I could see, there’s barely any content on your website. Early-stage founders should prioritize the effort to get a dozen or so pages of quality content on their site. The content should be useful for readers and optimised for Google.

If I were you, I’d change the price tiers ASAP:

  • Sub-$10 price points just don’t work from a business point of view, unless you can get massive scale.
  • Consider $19/$39/$99. Call them “Standard / Growth / Enterprise”

This might raise your MRR substantially over the coming months, and then you’d have more to put into marketing.

@SteveMcLeod Thanks for the input!

I have gone back and forth on the pricing thing, might be time to experiment with it.

Early when I had beta users I did a survey asking about pricing, I’m not a statistician or pollster so I’m sure there were flaws in how it was executed. But, I did get a pretty clear sense that most people weren’t willing to start at 19$. The main problem I see (which I could be incorrect about) is that it’s such a niche thing that I’m not sure it sells at 19$…

I have considered making the 9$ plan more of an entry level plan by giving only a single private project. As of today, I have maybe 2 or 3 accounts that would need to upgrade if I made that change.

In any case you’ve given me something to think about, appreciate the input.

I’ll pitch in about pricing. Unless you anticipate a really wide audience for your SaaS, I think anything below $40/month is unsustainable.

I know there are many $19/month plans out there, but most (if not all) of those are from VC-funded companies that are in the process of burning money to get signups, and will eventually go bankrupt or get acquired.

It’s worth carefully looking at all the costs: acquiring users, developing and maintaining the software, providing support, and not forget about all the supporting infrastructure: the cost of computers, desks, office space (even if it’s a home office), etc. Then look back at your plans and consider: how many subscriptions will you need at $9 or $19/month to pay for all that and still make a good profit? I realize that every case is different, but I see lots of people underestimate costs and overestimate the number of expected subscriptions.

If your application doesn’t provide enough value for a $40/month subscription, I’d suggest looking at how to provide more value.

1 Like

It depends on what your product is. $19/month is not insignificant if a customer buys it for multiple users, sites, servers, whatever applies.
I’m not running a SaaS but sell old fashion licenses, mostly to other companies. My average order is 3 licenses. So when I calculate on a napkin how much a customer is worth, I multiply license price by 3.

I think we agree, and I should have explicitly said “$40/month ARPS” (average revenue per subscriber). My point was that a single business entity you are dealing with should be paying you more than $40/month, otherwise it’s really difficult to make ends meet.

Amazing point. I agree 100%.

SaaS is getting pretty competitive and getting predictable channels working with such low prices is downright impossible :man_facepalming:

+1 For providing more value and charging more :slight_smile:

This is an amazing question!

One that’s way too cheap is Youtube sponsorships. If you find a targeted enough channel that has an audience that could benefit from your product then it might work really well.

The highly targeted channels only have a few thousand subscribers so their shootouts should be pretty cheap!

Just search for “[TOPIC], channel” the “,channel” only searches for channels and you can then make a list.

I once suggested this to a guy that had a pretty niche SaaS and was charging $99/month. He got 20 customers from 1 shoutout… It was way too easy for him :stuck_out_tongue:

Let me know if you try it!

Best of luck!
Pedro

1 Like

Hi,

  1. https://www.eggradients.com/startup-directory. You could go through all the directories there. It will probably not bring you a lot of targeted traffic but at least a little some awareness that could lead to more business.

  2. https://makerads.xyz/ Haven’t tried it, but maybe this could be something for you.

  3. If you go for content marketing https://codeburst.io/ or https://hackernoon.com/ could be interesting for you.

  4. Probably direct mailing or any kind of building a direct relationship would work best for you because your product is more interesting for larger businesses that are interested in building really scalable software than small startups or programmers who work on side projects. That’s why you need to find a direct way to reach the right people in those companies and to make them understand why your product matters for them. And then, if you have found out how to do that manually, you need to find a way how to scale that.

I hope that helps a little bit.