Engineering as Marketing-Traction Channel #10

Customer Development

Developing Definition  Jason Mares of Traction explains,”We call this traction channel engineering as marketing: using engineering time to create useful tools like calculators, widgets, and educational micro-sites to get your company in front of potential customers. These tools then generate leads and expand your customer base.  HubSpot, a marketing automation software company, has reached tens of millions in revenue in a few short years. One key to their success is a free marketing review tool they created called Marketing Grader.”

In the article, Your Marketing Job is about to Become an Engineering Job. Get Use to It, the focus on how marketing is changing. “Marketing is largely becoming about algorithms, instead of catchy jingles. How it’s become about optimization instead of “grand openings” or “launch dates.” Data instead of instinct.”

Great Examples of Companies using Engineering as Marketing from Traction book.

  • HubSpot using Marketing Grader-free marketing review tool to gather new customers found the key was to automate process that they found were effective.

Dharmesh of Hubspot says:

“At HubSpot, we really believe in marketing channels that have high leverage (i.e. write it or build it once – and get value forever). As such, we take a very geeky and analytical approach to marketing. We think of each piece of content (blog article, app, video, whatever) as a marketing asset. This asset creates a return – often indefinitely.” 

“We contrast that to buying an ad which does not scale as well. When you advertise , the money you’re spending is what drives how much attention you get. Want more clicks? Spend more money. Contrast this to inbound marketing whereby the cost of producing a piece of content is relatively constant. But, if it generates 10x more leads in a month, your marginal cost for those extra leads is almost zero. Further, with advertising (outbound marketing), the traffic you get generally stops when you stop paying. With inbound marketing, even *after* you stop producing new content, the old content can still drive ongoing visitors and leads.”

  • Moz  the leader in SEO software uses two free SEO tools, Followerwonk and Open Site Explorer, have driven tens of thousands of leads for them.  Followerwonk allows users to analyze their Twitter followers and get tips on growing their audience. Open Site Explorer allows users to see where sites are getting links, which is valuable competitive intelligence for any SEO campaign.
    • A key feature of these tools is their ease of use: prospects simply go to the site and enter a domain name or Twitter handle.
    • Once someone uses the tools, companies can begin to engage these potential customers through other traction channels like sales and email marketing.
  • WP Engine a WordPress hosting provider, is another prime example of a company using this channel successfully . The hosting market is saturated with hundreds of hosting companies, yet WP Engine has cornered the market on high-end WordPress hosting. This is due to their free tool that checks how fast your WordPress site loads.
    • The WP Engine speed testing tool asks for only an email address in exchange for a detailed report about your site’s speed.
    • It also gives you the option to opt in for a free mini-course about improving the speed of your blog.
    • Once they have a user’s email, they send them tips about improving their site speed and end with a sales pitch, as described in the email marketing chapter.

Value of Engineering as Marketing  The case for spending engineering resources on marketing becomes much stronger when you think about the resulting tools as assets. These tools have the potential to become a continual source of leads that make up the majority of your traction.

Tactics for Engineering as Marketing (from Traction by Weinberg and Mares)

Annual Promotions  One way to boost your efforts in this traction channel is to take advantage of cyclical behavior.

  • Example: Code Year addressed that issue of the cyclical behavior of people annually wanting to learn more about coding. So they asked users to enter their email address to receive a free lesson about programming each week during 2012. Over 450,000 individuals signed up on CodeYear.com, nearly doubling Codecademy’s userbase at the time.

Micro-Sites  One tactic to really maximize impact is to put your tools on their own website. This simple technique does two things. First, it makes them much easier to share. Second, you can do well with SEO by picking a name that people search often so your tool is more naturally discoverable

  • Example Weinberg of DuckDuckG0 built a micro-site, DontTrack.us, which showed how Google tracks your searches and why that can harm you. The site raised awareness about these practices and spread virally. At the same time, readers learned that his main site DuckDuckGo.com does not track users or store their personal information. This provided great marketing exposure.

Widgets  How many times have you seen Facebook, Twitter and other sharing buttons on a site? For each of those widgets (e.g. Facebook, StumbleUpon, Google +, and Twitter buttons), a company used engineering resources to create a marketing tool that was embeddable on sites. These widgets drive engagement, traffic and traction for these social platforms and the sites that use these tools.

  • Example: Chris Fralic (former head of business development at Delicious and Half.com) tells us that creating a Delicious bookmark widget more than tripled the adoption of their social bookmarking product.

Conclusion  Zack Linford, the founder of Conversion Voodoo, tells about how building tools can help with PR and SEO, while also nailing down the core value proposition for your product.

“Building noteworthy tools that your target audience finds useful is a solid way to gain traction that also pays dividends down the road by helping build your SEO. A simple roadmap to executing this technical strategy includes: Providing something of true value for free, with no strings attached. Making that offering extremely relevant to your core business. Demonstrating that value as quickly as possible.”

Resources