You cannot ask for something unless you’re willing to make an effort and provide something meaningful to your audience, even if you’ll have to do it for free. Side projects are beginning to gain terrain as a new, powerful marketing tool. This article is about the importance of side projects – building your offer around something meaningful, and how it can boost your business.

“Give Something Valuable Away in Order to Sell Something Related.”
– Brian Clark

Side projects are projects developed “on the side” from the core business, but without losing the main focus. It is a valuable thing that you’re giving away related to your core product, and that solves one or more of your customer’s pain points. The purpose of a side project is to create a community around a topic of interest and to solve/discuss a problem your customers have without having to buy your product immediately.

Take for example Crew – a Canadian community of freelance designers and development professionals. Besides the main platform, they’ve also developed several side projects, like Coffe&Power – is a collection of coffeeshops where freelancers can find free wifi and other tools to work remotely. Side projects like this are bringing 40% or their revenue and 100k email subscribers. This way, they bring relevant traffic and subscribers for the main website.

HubSpot’s Marketing Grader is another great example. There’s no need to introduce HubSpot – the popular marketing and sales platform. Marketing Grader started as Website Grader, an initial, manual assessment that was part of HubSpots sales process. The genius of it is that, instead of dropping it after automating the process, they rename it and used it as a tool for inbound leads. Now this free website assessment app is responsible for most of HubSpot’s 50,000 monthly leads.

InVision created a prototyping, collaboration & workflow platform. In order to attract the audience and build goodwill among designers community, they’ve also launched Do, a comprehensive and completely free UI kit. Because this is something of true value for developers, the tool soon got popular and drove awareness among the community.

These are only a few examples of how this simple, yet powerful tool can change the game of digital marketing. Why would you consider it too? Let’s see:

  • To build trust. You’re not only after profits, but you’re also willing to give back and to create something meaningful – this shows you’re true to your value proposition, your vision, and mission.
  • Establish expertise in a field – you know your audience’s needs, you are able to solve them, and you actually provide value.
  • Generate referral traffic, new users, and subscribers – ultimately valuable leads for your business.
  • Higher ROI – many leads attracted by your side project may turn into actual customers.
  • Test new ideas – a new feature for your product or an entirely new one? New geography, new audiences? You can test them all with a side project without having to change the core product.

What a side project is not:

  • meaning you are working for free – your core business will still have to generate revenue and to be your primary focus area
  • selling tons of your core product over night – you’re giving something away, remember?
  • guaranteed it’s working – you may have to test several side projects or even eventually drop the project at some point. That’s ok, just continue to be creative, and you’ll get there.

Now that we’ve made some light around side projects, in our next article, we’ll help you determine whether you need it or not, and figure out where to start.

Do you have any other examples or you have an idea to create your own side project? Leave us a comment.

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