Marketing Skills that Matter

The tech community is in love with “growth hacking.” I’m not.

Marketing has never been more important for early stage tech companies – with enormous competition online from every angle there’s a massive need for talented marketers to use online channels to build businesses and make money, but instead marketers are focused on growth.

I’m trying to level-up as an online marketer – so in this post I’m going to dive into the specific skills that I’m trying to learn. It’s not growth hacking tactics, but instead skills that have been around for decades, and will be around for decades to come (even when Facebook viral sharing is gone).


I’ve written about this before, but I firmly believe marketers should understand how to write code. I’m not saying marketers need to have the skill level of an experienced engineer, but there’s so many marketing activities that need technical expertise. The “stack” of marketing tools in an average startup most likely contains the following tools:

  1. Google Analytics/Kissmetrics/Mixpanel
  2. Optimizely
  3. Qualaroo
  4. Mailchimp
  5. CrazyEgg
  6. Moz (formerly SEOMoz)

I strongly believe a modern-day marketer should be able to work autonomously without significant engineering oversight. If a marketer knows how to setup tracking events/code, create landing pages, and rework product flows, it allows the engineering team to focus on writing code. There’s little blockage, less frustration, and faster iteration when testing.



Copywriting is often overlooked by marketers, but correct messaging is critical for your company to stand out in the eyes of your customers and can eliminate misconceptions about your product.

I’ve been reading the great content Copyhackers releases, and I highly suggest taking some time to read their ebooks.

Also, there’s a great Quora thread on landing page design and what headlines/page structure work.

Content Marketing

The majority of companies that have a content marketing strategy are terrible. The blog posts are stale, and there’s a focus on quantity over quality. I believe in the exact opposite. Marketers should learn how to write insightful articles that provide value to customers. Write for users, not search engines. If you don’t know what to write about, just find a subreddit/forum on your industry, and see what people are talking about. Craft your content around topics people are interested in. Find demand first.

P.S. – high quality content can make $$ and shorten your sales cycle too.

Looking past Worthless Metrics

People love talking about growth hacking, but what about the cost of acquiring new customers? Better yet, how quickly will you recoup the money you spent acquiring them (life-time value)?

The tech community is too focused on the glory of the instagram acquisitions, while failing to realize that most of the companies that make significant amounts of money are playing in the B2B space. In B2B, the number of users is nearly meaningless, while sales/revenue/profit reigns supreme. There are very few B2B organizations that have a product that relies on “growth”, but they also make their money off business/enterprise-level packages (Dropbox, Hall, Box, etc).

In short, numbers matter. Revenue matters. It’s highly unlikely that the number of users is the most important metric for the majority of web-tech companies.


The aspect that I despise most about this growth hacking phenomenon is how quickly people jump on the bandwagon for the sake of “building a personal brand.” It feels like an ego trip.

The best marketers are humble. They’re confident in their abilities, yet know that customers come first and matter most.

I’m shocked everyday at how bad my assumptions are when running marketing experiments. I can convince myself that “users will want XYZ”, when in reality, no one cares! For extra viewing, I highly recommend the following video by Chamath Palihapitiya. He was responsible for growth at Facebook, and I love how he avoids the buzzwords and focuses on simple truths.


This last part is very self-explanatory, but creativity is critical to gaining the edge over your competition. It’s also not easy to be creative. Many of the growth hacks you read about are the direct result of a creative idea “that just might work.” Modern-day marketers must think outside the box.

There’s numerous resources that teach you how to be more creative, but I’ve noticed that company culture is a major piece. If you as an employee fear presenting new ideas to coworkers, opportunities are lost. Sure, most of your ideas won’t work, but oftentimes your idea can be a jumping off point for other coworkers.

In short, be the person that listens when coworkers come to you with ideas.