The two best forms of marketing are great products and customer service.
If you make great products then people come back to see what else you have. They trust you when you claim your next product is great. They use your products all the time so your name is constantly in front of them. Their friends see them using your products and are impressed.
The true test of a friend or a business is when something goes wrong. Is it easy to get in touch with them? Are they there for you or do they weasel out of helping? Do they concentrate on fixing the problem or on placing blame? Are they competent enough to fix the problem? If a business gets me through a hard time then I am more ready to buy their products than ever. I’ll probably tell my friends too.
In our 18 year history we tried every type of marketing we could think of. We spent a lot of time and money on projects that did not pay for themselves or were impossible to measure. For many marketing activities, the only thing I know for sure is that they were horribly distracting. It’s the distraction I care about more than the money.
Of course you have to do some traditional marketing or no one will know about you. We do some print advertising and put a lot of effort into our web site, tutorials, newsletter, blog, and press relations. We keep the communication simple and honest. Other than those activities, I try to keep a lid on marketing so it doesn’t distract and suck resources away from product creation and support.
I don’t see companies like Amazon and Google advertising a lot, at least not as much as companies like Budweiser and McDonald’s. They are all successes, but I’d rather achieve it like the first group.