Marketing is compound interest

watching Mad Men would have one believe that marketing, better defined as “anything that attracts customers,” is the byproduct of marketing campaigns.

these campaigns are large-scale, strategically planned, brilliantly executed, “bet the farm” type maneuvers.


a business that grows predictably and sustainably owes its formidability to 100s of tiny tactics that compound.

following are just a few examples from my own portfolio of companies, in the style of Christopher Nolan’s Memento (reverse chronological).

100s of SEO backlinks

every month we see thousands of hits from small blogs, YouTube videos, and social media posts about our products. for years i commented on dozens of these posts with a quick “hey, thanks for featuring us! i’m Ryan, founder of X.” i wrote these comments after receiving a Google Alert. i set up the alerts in ~5 minutes in 2016.

weekly podcast interview requests

i say no to 50% of interview offers. i’ve been on dozens of shows, from EOFire to lifestyle, sales and marketing, technology, micro PE, whatever. got the gigs through friends’ warm referrals. interesting people make interesting podcast guests. i used to drink a lot with friends in the city (SF, NYC) and have a fun personality.

winning “comparison shopping” bakeoffs

one of our growth channels is disenfranchised ex-customers of our competitors. we’re highly visible in “alternative to” search queries. asking for inclusion in a roundup list takes 30 seconds. i believe the best type of customer is a savvy one who does research before buying.

100s of 5-star customer reviews

we’re overflowing with 100s of gushing testimonials. one blog alone has 94 case studies. we publish ~1 case study per week. the system is automated and predictable. a team member learned SQL to find good candidates. a trigger email asks customers for reviews on day ~85 of their subscription. we tested various review-request messages and timing. we paid ~$99 for BetaList to create a bunch of 3rd party review app profiles. we didn’t have time to create profiles on launch day, August 9 2016. i knew customer reviews are important.

free word of mouth

daily signups from people who don’t remember how exactly they heard about us, except “somewhere, maybe a friend idk.” built buzz by sponsoring and hosting Meetup events, even buying pizza in exchange for logo placement in a speaker’s PDF deck. going to startup events with guys from New Jersey instead of relaxing at home. networking from a single dedicated desk at a coworking space. not being afraid to say “hi i’m Ryan, and i work on X. it’s if you want to check us out,” 1,000s of times.

launching in the Korean market

potentially (crossing fingers) speaking [in Korean] at the 2020 digital content marketing summit in Seoul. experimenting with dedicated country partners. our product being taught in a popular marketing course. our product being used by a Udemy competitor in Korea. having dinner with the partner. sending customer a sticker (brand swag). deciding in 2018, “let’s write a blog post and send random people free, Honest Marketer stickers.”

managing a team of autonomous, remote, killers

our VP Engineering, Chris, is incredibly talented and my business partner on ventures outside our “day jobs.” i hired Chris 3.5 years ago. i liked Chris because he submitted a PR on my 2016 open source side project, Pushup Metrics (acquired). Chris found the side project on reddit. i saw a “share your side project” mod post late one evening and pasted the link.

11x-ing a sales channel

our Ecwid integration monthly revenue jumped from $38 to $419. Ecwid is just 1 of ~90 Fomo integrations with 10-2,000 customers /each. got featured on the Ecwid marketplace for a full month. scored a single five-star review by personally emailing ~7 customers. asked Ecwid marketing team via 1 sentence email, “how can we get more exposure, we integrated 2 years ago.” one day in August 2017 i was bored; assigned a developer to build Ecwid “just to have it.”

$54k sales while partying on a yacht

offered a lifetime plan daily deal with a private Facebook group that sold ~350 licenses ($54k) while partying with my team on a yacht, racing in the Adriatic’s Barcolana 50. our signed deal with AppSumo got cancelled. built new subscription technology solely to support a daily deal. wanted to raise money for a team retreat. AppSumo was always back of mind. years ago i wrote my first book and submitted it to AppSumo; never heard back.

ranking page 1 for our keyword

around July 2018 we jumped from 10k to 300k monthly impressions for one of our brand names, Fomo, as we moved from Page 2 to Page 1 on Google. a month prior, acquired domain for an undisclosed amount. previous owners rebranded their company. nagged previous domain owners for 2 years. before launching in 2016 we bought “” because it was $10, determined to one day score the real thing.


today our brands generate ~$1.5mm in annual sales, investor-free. we count dozens of daily customer signups and spend just ~$450 /month on search ads, ~$100 /month on retargeting, across 6 projects.

we invest profits into new ventures, open source, social commentary, and experiments. i do not know how to execute a large scale campaign.

the so-called butterfly effect is not so much a phenomenon but the observation of compound tactics’ outcomes. my 10 examples above barely scratch the surface; i could easily point to 30 more.

in marketing there is no sword. there is a 4″ blade. start stabbing.