If you are like us, you have recently created a kick-ass app, blog, portfolio, or another kind of a website. Now you are facing a challenging problem:
How to drive traffic to my website?
The common idea to do is to start creating content like you see everywhere else. But that is exactly the problem. Everybody is doing it. If it's just informative nobody cares. It has to give value for free, as I've mentioned in my previous article - Why your advertising sucks and what can you do about it.
The most effective way to give value to your audience and potential customers used to be a blog, ebook, infographic or webinar. But the time moves on and there are superb blogs on any topic. It’s overblogging out there. Thus, developing an audience and retaining it with quality content is very hard.
Is there another way?
Yes it is, and it's called - Side project marketing.
Side project marketing is all about creating something of a true value and giving it to the others for free. It can take many forms, but it works best when connected to the core of your project. It can be a spin-off, a special feature, or something else you can create to scratch your itch in a short time.
"The best marketing is when you don’t know it’s marketing.
I hate when I know I’m being sold to. I tune out. And so does everyone else.” Mikael Cho from Crew.
To start, choose a low-cost form of solving a problem for your target audience. Make it complementary to the solution you are selling.
If you were selling for e.g. cars, the side project could be a tool to help you choose between off-road, combi, pick-up, cabriolet, etc.
Example: App vs. Website
In need of transport, you could be thinking, if it would not be better to buy a bike, segway, motorcycle, …. Help the potential customers decide.
This is the brand differentiator - which car brand to choose. Should it be Toyota, BMW, Volvo or Ford?
Example: Hootsuite vs. Buffer
Talking about the transport, you could create a review, to consider pros and cons of GPS car navigation. Is it better to use Garmin, TomTom or maybe Sygic?
Example: Slack vs Hipchat
If you are selling cars, your customers are drivers. You could give them useful information about new traffic regulations. Or recommendations on how to deal with police in different situations.
The best idea here is to give out something you needed to do anyways and the others with the same problem don't have to do it themselves. With cars, it could be a list of best local driving schools or auto mechanics.
Example: Product Pages
Offer one or few features of your core product as a standalone product and give it away for free. You probably wouldn't do it with cars, but online? That's a whole other story.
Example: Open site explorer
You could be giving out free breathalyzers for the drivers, so they know when it is safe to get behind the wheel. Or maybe branded air fresheners.
Example: Website grader
With cars, the money is usually the biggest issue. You could give your customers an auto loan calculator - to figure out how much can they afford, how much they should borrow, etc.
Example: How much for an app
You can use one of the side project types mentioned above, or even incorporate more of them into one project.
As our promotion, we decided to give away a feature from our native macOS app Author and solve a micro problem at the same time. We developed a side project Markdown to Web, for creating online documents.
Markdown is a language with plain text formatting syntax used for writing and editing by many Mac users. So it is a perfect fit for our potential customers. We want everybody to experience the simplicity of the new way of independently sharing their content.
We already had the system for the conversion developed for Author app, but now we let it out as a standalone functionality with no need for any install.
Markdown to Web is a free online tool, converting markdown files / text into standalone online Author documents.
The whole experience with this free tool is pretty simple. And at the same time it refers to our complex writing and publishing solution:
We used several free online communities that might be interested in our free tool.
As a result, Markdown to Web was interesting for product hunters and even more for the online community of designers. Other platforms like Hacker news, Reddit etc. did not pick it up. Even so, these two channels were enough to create big traffic spikes, with over 5000 unique visitors in the first month.
The side project is still considerably more effective than any blog post we had created. This tool is still running with returning visitors and it's just a question of time and effort till it gets picked up by other online channels.
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Created with Author