Technology democratizes consumption but consolidates production. The best person in the world at anything gets to do it for everyone. -Naval Ravikant
Wait, someone actually likes to read my weekly ramblings about marketing and tech?
A little over 10 weeks ago, I had an idea "what if I do a weekly recap on all the marketing and technology news I seem to read way too much of, would anyone read it?" With this hypothesis, I set out to validate it. TMW started literally as a Linkedin post with a bunch of comments and I even asked my boss to comment and like it. Well, 10 weeks has felt like 10 years as since then I've reached more than 10,000 people with what has become The Martech Weekly. It's been shared by senior leaders across the globe at companies like Forbes, Deloitte and Adnews, WPP and I even landed my first partnership deal, picked up two awesome team members along the way with an ever-growing list of email subscribers and people joining the TMW on slack.
Who would have thought that people would actually like my writing? And more so, that people would actually share it with their colleagues and managers? That's the biggest surprise for me. Over the past 10 weeks, the most rewarding thing about The Martech Weekly project is how much I've learned about building a product and validating it. So read on to see how some of my lessons could help any startup or really anyone who want's to productise their specific knowledge, skills sets or unique perspectives for the betterment of others and your industry.
Lesson #1 - If the goal is validation, you get there through iteration
The Martech Weekly has really not posted 10 newsletters. Hear me out. It's actually truer to say that instead of newsletters, TMW has been through 10 iteration cycles. One of the things I appreciate the most about writing every week is the ability to get near-instant market feedback on your writing, designs, user experience, and tactical distributions. The most important aspect of starting a product business (and yes I consider a weekly newsletter a product business, more on this below), is the ability to get feedback quickly.
The first iteration of The Martech Weekly was a LinkedIn Post with a bunch of comments. I got feedback after my first two posts that the comments section is a little too confusing and so after chatting to a few people in the space I levelled up into a LinkedIn article, that got me more traction, however, my reach online was significantly reduced, why? Because LinkedIn doesn't like you posting articles with at least a dozen outbound links. So I iterated again into building my own $0 hosted CMS all within Notion, even with Google Analytics integrated, which has gotten me to this point. What I've discovered is that the goal is not to find success in the thing you launch tomorrow, but the thing you launch 5 months or 5 years from now and the way you do that is by embracing feedback as fuel to your iteration machine.
Lesson #2 - Give, give, give, give and then ask
One of the core principles behind TMW is "give, give, give and then ask." I had literally ten people ask me - "why don't you just set up a Substack and start collecting email addresses right away" and my response every time was "why would I ask anyone to give me something when I haven't given them anything first?" That's why the first ten editions of The Martech Weekly have been free to read without signing up, and I will always offer a version of TMW that anyone can access. The principle behind this is that in any negotiation you want to be the first to provide value. This generates goodwill and trust, which will eventually lead to an exchange of value on both sides.
I've already received so much from people as I've published TMW's every week in the form of advice, mentorship, web development work, design, proofreading and strategic recommendations and I've lost count of the number of people who have shared TMW with their networks. After spending 10 weeks publishing TMW without asking for subscriptions, when I decided to ask for subscriptions it exploded. Many senior editors, agency leaders and technology company heads subscribed right away. This is because I already had traction, a voice and a community forming around it, and mostly because I decided to "give before I ask."
Lesson #3 - Leverage network effects
How can you build in network effects into your product? That was one of my questions going into the TMW. Everyone now have the ability to reach literally millions of people for free through social media platforms like Linkedin and Twitter. But how is that possible? Through network effects. My newsletter product can be easily amplified into new networks of like-minded people at low cost and effort, and at scale.
But how does that work? The premise of The Martech Weekly is to amplify the great thinking, news, and ideas of creators in the marketing and technology industry, so naturally sharing other creator's content will lead to those people sharing TMW as well, increasing my reach in the process and knowing that every time those creators engage with TMW, their network will also see it. This allows for scalability in a way that honours the work of creators while getting in front of new and interesting people. You know when network effects are happening when people start reaching out to learn more and when a community starts forming around your product, it's because other people also enjoy it. And that's the core of a network effect: Enjoy-ability at scale.
Lesson #4 - Enjoy what you're doing
The TMW wouldn't be possible if I wasn't someone who is fervently curious about how technology is changing the world through business strategies. In so many areas of life, technology has programmed people to think differently, work differently and live differently. My work is in marketing technology in a strategic capacity for some of Australia's largest brands and so my natural curiosity lends itself to reading a lot of news in this space, the overflow of which became The Martech Weekly.
Every week I write more than a thousand words and I love every single minute spent on it, mostly because I know that I will get better at writing by doing it every week but also because I get to read awesome articles, groundbreaking research, and interact with leaders all across the world. It's important to enjoy the projects you build because it leverages passion, energy, and ensures longevity. Besides, if I wanted to do something I don't enjoy then I'd go back to delivering coffee beans, life is too short and too long to not do things that you genuinely enjoy.
Lesson #5 - Create win-wins
If your startup can create a series of win-wins then you already have traction and a solid business case. This is what I focused on early in the thinking behind The Martech Weekly. The question I wanted to answer was, how can I have people come to me to partner with The Martech Weekly instead of the other way around? The way I've gone about this is by looking at the incentive mix of the various roles within the space I play in. In my case, I can create win-wins between creators, consumers, and companies by offering specific value to each while leveraging each one into providing that value.
For example, I create a win for creators by amplifying their content to consumers, and by doing so I create another win for consumers by making the most important stories accessible to them. Ask yourself - how can I create value for my customers by connecting them with another party to create a win-win ecosystem that places you as the facilitator of value exchange.
Lesson #6 - Productise your specific knowledge
When you have specific knowledge, it's not just something you use for work, it's something you can productize at scale for the benefit of others and to drive value for your business. I live and breathe helping clients drive value out of their Martech investments in my 9 to 5. As I started writing TMW I realised that this kind of knowledge is not the norm for so many who work in this field, that my views on the shifts in marketing technology can be of value for others.
Products are more than just cars and toasters and haircuts. Email is a product. Content is a product. A website is a product. Recycling, eating healthy, getting out to vote. Product, product, product. - Daniel Burstein
It turns out that I'm really just productising and shipping my own intrinsic curiosity as something that others value. It took me by surprise but sometimes writing content highlights not only how much you know but also what those around you don't know. If you've spent time, effort and money building skills, it's likely that you can productise these skills and leverage them at close to zero cost and at limitless scale. This is what's so unique about the moment we're living in, we have Tiktokers racking up more than 80 million followers in months, and professionals in a niche generating hundreds of thousands of email subscribers by leveraging their own specific knowledge for another's value.
Lesson #7 - Take people with you
Simon Sinek famously said, "when you're trying to do something new, take someone on the journey with you." I've tried to take this advice to heart with TMW, and the result has been some great benefits and making some great friends. When I started out I started asking around my network for advice, feedback, and ideas, and naturally, some people came to the table and are now on the journey. There's an important lesson in this, many great companies start as a derivative of of specific context.
Take for example in the book "Shoe Dog" which tells the story of Nike's founding. Phil Knight the CEO and founder literally started by selling his shoes out of the trunk of his car during track meets. But what's important is that Phil already had a community in track sports and running. It was that community of people who made Nike what it is today, including the very first investor and key inventor of Nike shoes - Phil's track coach. When you have specific knowledge and work in the context of a specific community then you're startup is in fertile soil and poised to grow. Be open to taking people on the journey, it's likely you have an inbox filled with people already interested in helping. Start replying, and build your community first.
Lesson #8 - Build scalability into everything you do
Everything at The Martech Weekly must scale. If it doesn't then it won't work. Simple as that. The whole concept of a newsletter is that I can create some serious misalignment between the three hours of work it takes to write a TMW and the possibilities of reaching hundreds of thousands of marketers and technologists. There's really no limit to how many people TMW can influence through digital content. That's the real opportunity.
Most of us are taught to believe that we need to aim for a high flying career and get paid $250,000 a year. There's nothing wrong with that kind of aspiration, apart from having to turn up to work every day of your life. That's because it doesn't matter if you earn $10, $100, $1,000 or $10,000 an hour you still have to work for it and you will always know that you're going to get a set amount of value back for that hour of effort. The opportunity is that instead of getting $100 for that hour spent, I could get paid ten, twenty, thirty times that while I sleep.
lesson #9 - Reduce friction for yourself first
When starting out I tried to make everything as friction-less as possible. The process of writing the TMW itself, and the way I go about things is to make sure that I won't block myself or others. Speed is important and frictions will slow down the momentum, increase procrastination and introduce other distractions. Of course, not everything can be done without friction but starting with the question "what is the absolute minimum I need to know and do to get started" is a great way to get moving and create value out the gate. Just like my exercise routine, If I have to go through 10 steps just to start, then it's 10 too many. Make your life easier by removing obstacles to getting started as this will then naturally lend itself to how you solve problems for your customers.
Lesson # 10 - Make everything as simple as possible
The reason why I went with the name "The Martech Weekly" was how obvious it was. I mean it's about Martech and it's a weekly newsletter. I did consider some crazy names, but then I thought about how most fast growing companies make every single experience so easy to understand for customers and so I wanted to do the same. A simple experience driven by a complex product is the ultimate competitive advantage. And so delivering something simple and elegant can be a game-changer for your customers. In the same way, I thought about making TMW's easy to read with a top-three section so people can get the top stories of the week in a simple format, and I think that's part of the reason so many people enjoy reading. It makes their life easier because the experience is simple and easy to understand.
I truly believe that anyone with specific knowledge and a social media handle has an opportunity to build something that can be good for your industry and your audience. It's only been 10 newsletters, and I can't wait to share my lessons on 100 newsletters or a 1,000 newsletters from now.
If you would like a talk through my pitch deck or my product road map please get in contact below, or sign up to get The Martech Weekly in your inbox!
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