Alternative/Addition to Content Marketing - Free Utility or Service

I’m curious if anyone here has had any success in driving more relevant traffic to their sites by offering “free tools or services” rather than just content marketing. I can think of a couple of fairly straight-forward databases/catalogs and utilities my company could offer prospects in our space that would provide some value to them - and ideally drive more traffic to the business.

I know the current thinking is that content-is-king, but I think many small tech companies lack the time and resources for a sustained and disciplined content marketing campaign. It seems that spending a little bit of time building small utilities/services of value that can be offered for free, might be more efficient in terms of time/effort and result in a better outcome (both in the short and long-term).

Any thoughts or experiences are appreciated.

1 Like

I’m planning for this now so I don’t have any hard numbers to share, but I say get your message in front of potential customers any way you can.

If anything, a tool creates more “engagement,” since it’s interactive, and if immediately useful then it’s as sharable as content, if not more so.

And if you can’t think of a novel concept for a utility, why not carve a teensy slice off of your existing app?

Make it sticky and unwitting prospects may find themselves ensnared in your marketing web!

Free tools and plugins are HUGE in the internet marketing space and so it’s only a matter of time til other markets catch on.

Also, WordPress plugins are a huge potential free thing you can give away to get leads and sales. Think about the Yoast SEO plugin. It’s been downloaded over 11,000,000 times. I’m sure that’s generated thousands of leads and sales for Yoast’s SEO services and other tools.

Another good example os Open Site Explorer: That is a free tool that does a lot of lead gen for MOZ’s other tools and services.

Free things get links, attention, and if done right can help get leads and sales.

Yeah, I really like this idea. I’ve been trying to think of a good way to do it forever for our stuff.

Snappy was originally conceived as something like this, but the realities of running a support tool and the number of features to provide made it too prohibitive.

On the other hand, running a SaaS app is a huge pain in the ass :slight_smile: so running one for free now that I have more experience sounds even less appealing!

1 Like

Not sure there is a huge difference between content and free tool really. With both the idea is to get targeted traffic to your [free thing] that may be interested in your [thing people pay for].

For it to be genuinely useful (rather than typical content farm regurgitated space filler) it requires a fair bit of work - don’t see why a utility/tool would be necessarily easier that doing content.

Having said that I think its a great idea if you have something that fits your market and have the expertise to do it - SEOMoz, Hubspot Content Grader (off the top of my head) seem to do well with them.

A tool is an application. Application means support. Are you ready to provide a free support for it?

Note if you’re not ready, and your support for the free tool sucks, you’d get the opposite effect – less conversion for the commercial offerings.

Thanks for all the great feedback. I was definitely not thinking about an offering that would require much, if any support - +1 to running a SaaS app being a “pain in the ass” (or should we just coin new term: Pain in the SaaS ;)).

I was thinking more along the lines of what Rhino mentioned and HubSpot does with Web Site Grader as well as Brian’s example of Open Site Explorer - where it’s sort of a “drive by” experience with no real expectation of support or maintaining of customer/client specific data.

It would be nice if it was feasible to do a “light” version of RecDesk, but it would quickly run into the realities Ian mentions above in regard to Snappy.

I’ll share back here any experiences I have around this should I move forward with it - good or bad.