by: Ali Mese
Blogging is an interesting journey. At the beginning, hitting the publish button seems to be the most difficult step. Once you are finally over it, you are likely to struggle with the next hurdle: hitting that publish button on a consistent basis.
“Abbey Ryan has painted a new painting every day for 8 years. Isaac Asimov published 400 books, by typing every day. This is post #6000 on this blog. Writer’s block is a myth, a recent invention, a cultural malady.”
But enough with this writer’s block. What if you really need a shortcut?
What if publishing content regularly is not for you?
What if your business urgently needs quick traction in order to survive?
Advertising immediately pops up in your mind as an alternative method to buy your way through. Renting the short-term attention of your target audience by interrupting them in the middle of what they were busydoing isn’t always the best idea, however.
It turns out 95 percent of people don’t like being interrupted and the other 5 percent hate it. “We hate advertising so much, we’ve trained ourselves not to look at the top or right sidebar on most sites,” Jeffrey put it recently.
“Of course, people have been blocking ads forever. By ignoring them,” addedGodin, suggesting once again that the best way to contact your users is by earning the privilege to contact them, over time.
OK, but wait:
If blogging takes ages and ads don’t work, is there an alternative that doesn’t cost money or annoy people? An alternative that brings quick traction and results?
The answer is YES. Indeed, this alternative has been bringing millions of website visitors to those who were quick enough to get the hang of it.
Welcome to the world of side project marketing, an underrated alternative between advertising and content marketing that is just starting to take over the world.
Side Project Marketing Is the New King
“We had no money. We changed our business model and had 3 months worth of cash left to turn things around. If we didn’t we were toast. Done. We needed to find customers. But no one knew who we were. A marketing budget? Please. We were just trying to keep the lights on,” starts Mikael, founder of Crew, explaining how side projects saved their startup.
They decided to give away for free all the extra photos they didn’t use that they had shot for their website redesign.
A Tumblr theme and three hours later, they launched Unsplash — a side project which not only saved their startup, but turned into a standalone product that generates a mind-blowing 11 million unique visitors/month.
“Things like blogging work but can take months before they have a big impact. Building a great product to generate word-of-mouth is a must but that takes time too,” adds Mikael.
Wait. Aren’t we supposed to do one thing and do it well? Doesn’t a side project distract us?
The interesting thing is how some side projects can be way less distracting than other marketing methods you use to create value for your business.
In other words, launching a side project may take less time and effort than writing a blog post, while returning an outcome that is equal to dozens of blog posts in most cases. More on that in a minute.
But first, we need to understand how side projects should link to our core business.
“Give Something Valuable Away in Order to Sell Something Related.”
At a glance, this rule might sound a little too honest to some people. But we need to be careful that the intention here is not to find a sneaky shortcut to make a sale.
Instead, it is to create value for others by creating tools, apps, websites, or a software — a value that is related to our core business that we build on the side without losing our main focus.
And some of those people who like what we create on the side end up willing to learn more about us, so they check out what our core business is about.
It is not a surprise that Unsplash is the number-one referral source to Crew with just a simple link back to their website on the header menu.
So, how do I launch a side project?
Let’s try to answer this question by taking a closer look at real-world examples: Crew and Buffer, two startups that absolutely nail side project marketing.
Two questions play a vital role when understanding the success that lies behind these startups:
Q1. What is their core product/business?
Q2. What kinds of problems do people who buy their product face every day? (Using the golden rule: what valuable things do Buffer and Crew give away that is related to their core product?)
Case Study #1: Crew
Q1. Crew’s core business matches people who have a project that needs high-quality creative work with a pool of handpicked freelance designers and developers.
So, they need to attract/target both sides of their marketplace: 1- Clients who have projects to be done. 2- Creatives or freelancers who will get those projects done.
Q2. What valuable things can Crew give away to help those people that are related to their core business?
When I scrolled down on their website, I found a footer section they call Labs — apparently that’s what they call their side projects.
Here are some of their side projects — six tools Crew gives away for free. Take a second to read their tag lines and you will quickly notice that each side project solves a unique problem Crew’s target audience faces:
For instance, ‘App vs. Website’ helps clients (demand side of their marketplace) understand whether they should build an app or a website for their project, while ‘Coffee & Power’ is perfect for creatives and freelancers (supply side of their marketplace) who work remotely.
ROI of these side projects? They generate over 40 percent of Crew’s revenue. They also bring over 100K email subscribers and three of these projects are among the top five referring sites to Crew.
Case Study #2: Buffer
Q1. Buffer’s core business is their social media management software that helps you to schedule posts to networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
So, they need to attract people who are looking to maximize their ROI from social media marketing efforts.
Q2. What valuable things does Buffer give away to help those people that is related to their core business?
Buffer has plenty of tools. Here are a few of them: