Many indie hackers I talk to (or hear on podcasts) struggle to find good marketing channels for their businesses.
It does feel like it's harder to do marketing today than it was 5-10 years ago.
With that said, here are some thoughts on "how to do indie marketing these days."
1. The better you understand your industry or category, the more you'll know the best channels.
With domain experience, you should have a good sense of the conferences, YouTube channels, Slack channels, podcasts, meetups, and newsletters folks engage with.
2. Have a strong presence wherever your potential customers are actively searching for products like yours.
Generally, for almost all products, this will mean Google search. However, there are also other search engines people don't think about: Apple Podcasts, Shopify Apps, WordPress plugin directory, Reddit, Twitter, ChatGPT apps, etc.Likewise, have a strong presence in communities, meetups, events, forums, Reddit, Slacks, where products like yours get recommended and discussed.
3. Experiment and adapt.
While exploring various channels, remember that some, like SEO and PPC, require months of effort before yielding results. For indie startups, limit yourself to focusing on 1-2 channels at a time.
4. Almost every sustainable marketing strategy is going to include some form of SEO, referrals, and brand building.For me, a marketing strategy begins with SEO, referrals, and brand building in mind.
As much as possible, it's worth investing in "snowball channels" vs. "slot machine channels."
Snowball channels: These channels include SEO, mailing lists, blogging, and YouTube. They take a considerable amount of initial investment, but those efforts typically snowball into something bigger that continues to attract leads. For example, if you publish an authoritative video on YouTube, it will often gain steam as more and more people find it.
Slot machine channels: This is typically PPC advertising, where you put money in and hope to get money out. Typically, these efforts don't snowball; they require a continued input of money to work. I'd also put "Product Hunt launch" in this category: you do the launch (pull the lever), hoping for a good result, but it's not repeatable.
5. “People like us use products like this.”
In certain categories, a handful of products become the “darlings” for that group. How do you become the “darling?”
Have a product that’s genuinely better than the competition.
Reach out to key people in the community and convince them to try it.
Try to create momentum: you want it to feel like everyone is switching to your product because of X, Y, and Z.
6. Exceptional customer service isn't just a value-add; it's a potent marketing tool.
Happy customers become brand ambassadors, driving organic word-of-mouth referrals.
7. Balance your content strategy between personal and corporate branding.
For example, my personal brand (blog, podcast interviews, Twitter, email newsletter, YouTube) still drives many leads for Transistor.
But we've also invested heavily in our company blog, YouTube channel, and email newsletter.
Having both gives you more surface area for people to hear about you.
8. Prioritize high-volume channels.
For 100 leads, you might need a traffic influx of 30,000 visitors. If you have a high trial-to-paid conversion (~70%), that will net you 70 customers. The point is that most channels need lots of top-of-funnel traffic to work.
Likewise, most channels need a high volume of content/ads/impressions to work.
The more content you publish and ads you run, the more impressions and clicks you'll get.
9. Marketing needs to be something you're constantly working on.
Remember: you have competitors competing for the same channels you are. Those search terms you own right now? Your competitors want those.
I treat marketing like this: every day, I've got to move the ball further down the field. Think of it as a game where every day, you have the opportunity to outpace the competition."