Nailing the Niche With Todoists Brenna Loury E05
In this episode, we talk to Brenna Loury about how Toidoist became such a runaway success in the incredibly crowded productivity space. We also talk about real practical manifestations of positioning and early-stage growth, all on a budget.
- Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore
- A Verge article highlighting how well-articulated positioning blows visibility out of the park
- The Todoist website
- A fabulous blog post by Doist founder Amir Salihefendic with lessons on Todoist’s growth after ten years
Eytan Buchman: My name is Eytan Buchman and I am tickled pink that you’re listening to the latest episode of Two-Minute Marketing. Today, I have two reveals. The first is that while I’m a pretty handy person, Ikea is my achilles heel. Practically every time I get half way through, I find out that something in step 2 or 3 was done backwards and my Kallax shelf shows it.
But sometimes, when you’re building an Ikea set, at some point 2/3 of the way through, it takes enough shape that you can almost build it without instructions. A solid enough foundation literally highlights the next step or task. And if I happened to have mention the word task, let me go ahead and introduce my guest. I tried literally dozens of to-do apps before landing on one that I love, Todoist. So, naturally, I spoke to their head of marketing to see how they’ve grown like bananas in such a competitive industry.
Brenna Loury: My name is Brenna Laurie and I am the head of marketing at Doist. Doist is the company behind Todoist, which is a popular personal productivity app, as well as Twist, which is a team collaboration software that we just launched last year.
Eytan Buchman: So here’s reveal number two. Todoist has millions of users worldwide…and Brenna estimates they’ve only spent about $10,000 on marketing. And speaking to her, it’s so clear that it’s because they’ve invested in building from their core, which spelled out their future steps. They started with a great product.
Brenna Loury: Todoist has, and actually always will have, a lot of competitors, which makes the industry both extremely dynamic and also pretty cutthroat. In the beginning, we’ve relied a lot on traditional PR just to get our name out there. PR was actually my professional background when I started working at Todoist back in 2012. Once we were able to get journalists talking about and using Todoist, they really started to recommend the app, which was able to give us a significant SEO push. In early days, this was really, really helpful for us.
To be honest, we’ve always been a really product-focused company so a lot of our marketing has come from word of mouth because people just really loved Todoist and I think the mindful human-centered way that our team has designed it.
Eytan Buchman: I love to hear about PR that comes with very clear direction – not generic brand visibility but actually driving installs. Doist has a similarly clear vision about positioning, with real functional implications on how they operate.
Brenna Loury: We really learned that to stand out, it’s important to actually take a stance on something. For Twist, that meant taking a stand against distracting work apps like Slack and email. For Todoist, this has meant positioning Todoist away from hardcore productivity and more towards using the app as a means to live a more balanced, healthy life.
Eytan Buchman: But the right messaging and coverage isn’t always going to be enough…so I thought back to how I found Todoist. And the answer was Word of Mouth, followed by some raving reviews on platforms I trust. How did Doist cultivate such a eager following?
Brenna Loury: I love this question mostly because I love a book called Crossing the Chasm, by Geoffrey Moore. I basically take any chance I can get to talk about it. In the very early days of Todoist, when it was just Amir working on the app from his college dorm room, people were finding out about the app from Amir’s blog, which actually covered a lot of really, really specific backend engineering topics. Naturally, Todoist began to grow in a very, very tech savvy niche. This is basically the premise of Crossing the Chasm. When you’re able to saturate a niche, you’re also able to rely heavily on word of mouth, which is exactly what happened with Todoist. When I read the book, I felt like I was reading a case study about Todoist. It was amazing.
As the app began to grow and become more mainstream, I think people got really, really enthusiastic about it because we often see that people try out a bunch of different productivity apps. When they finally find one that sticks, they throw all their weight behind it and become its number one fan.
Eytan Buchman: Like Steven Spielberg’s AI, marketing strategy evolution never ends. Your marketing mission, should you choose to accept it? Take a second and think about how well your targeting and acquisition channels fit with your core messaging. And if you’re looking for a better way for you to do your should do’s, take a look at Todoist.