Marketers, Buy Your Own Products

Written on 15 August 2021

The most important marketing lesson I have learned is to understand my customers. "Understand your customers" has become a cliché, which is a pity.

When we understand our customers, we can create content and campaign around the things they care about. We can engage with them at places they hang out. We can use words they use themselves.

Be your own customer

The best way to understand our customers is to be them.

My favorite example is Ahrefs. Ahrefs CMO Tim Soulo and his team uses Ahrefs, an SEO tool, to do content marketing and SEO for their blog. They teach others how to use Ahrefs to get organic traffic while growing their organic traffic with Ahrefs. It doesn't get more meta than that.

Ahrefs is a unique example but they are not alone. Shopify employees are encouraged to run a Shopify store. Buffer gives everyone on the team a free subscription to use the tool for our social media. I now have a free subscription for ReferralCandy.

For marketers, the benefit is being able to put ourselves in our customers' shoes.

At Buffer, we understand social media managers well because we have been building our brand on social media for years. This allowed us to create content that resonates with social media managers, such as how the various social media algorithm work and how to use new social media features for marketing. We started a podcast because we know marketers listen to podcast to improve their skills. Being marketers ourselves also made our content more credible; we were sharing from actual experiences.

Before I joined ReferralCandy, I started an ecommerce store. Even though I have only sold about 100 notebooks, the experience has helped me understand ecommerce merchants and marketers better. I'm figuring out how to share such insights with the team so that we can make our marketing even better. (Ideas welcome!)

Shop like your customers

Sometimes, you can't be your customer. I once had an opportunity to market women's fashion. (With my fashion sense, I doubt I would have done a good job.)

But you can still go through your customers' shopping journey and understand what they experience.

When I was at Buffer, I would regularly sign up for a free trial and go through what new customers would. I often found things to improve or fix—onboarding messages were not showing, emails were not sent, or emails were sent wrongly. This is especially important for products with a free trial. Just because someone started a trial does not mean she would become a paying customer.

The practice also encouraged me to audit our marketing website.

  • Is our website title, which shows up on SERPs, updated?
  • Have we included our new features on our marketing website?
  • Have we added the new features to our pricing page?
  • Are the testimonials still relevant?

We often ignore these even though they influence whether a visitor would signs up for our product. It is made harder when marketing teams require engineering help to change the website. (And that's why I'm starting to think startups should use a tool like Webflow for their marketing site and not custom-code it.)

Don't wait for your customers to tell you the experience is broken. They will not. They would just leave.

Market to yourself

One of the most common pieces of advice for startups is to solve your own problem. When it is a problem you are experiencing yourself, you can more easily build something that solves the problem well. And you will know whether it is a good solution without having to ask others.

Being able to market to yourself is a cheat code for marketing. You worry less about whether your customers would resonate with your marketing—because you would know it yourself.

P.S. What are other marketing cheat codes that you know of?