Welcome! We are helping each other build remote careers. Are you looking to build one?
  1. 15

Sure, SEO, social media, etc. are extremely important. However, since they are highly contested channels, you need some trump cards to help you find regular spikes of growth in your early days. Using side projects to give consistent boosts to your startup is a great way to do it.

 

What is a side-project?

In a nutshell, it involves building small projects around what your potential customers will find useful and then marketing your startup subtly through them.

Side projects aren’t meant to replace the conventional marketing methods, but to supplement them. But how do you go about this?

 

I broadly breakdown the process into three steps:

 

  1. Finding the idea: Pick something relevant to your audience (not necessarily your industry), which can be built with the resources you already have.
  2. Packaging it into something marketable: Eye-catching stuff do better. So, you need to package your information. Amazing tools exist to convert even simple google sheets to beautiful products.
  3. Marketing your startup subtly: Of course, this is the main goal. But this is an art and doesn’t involve dumping loads of links.

Additional Context

I discuss all this in quite a bit of detail and also the tools to make this process easy for you, in this report. Do give it a read. Just 5 mins from your schedule — please :).

If you like the report, do support me on Twitter — I usually wait for you to give me a like :).

 



No-VC Report #9


Problem

I want to find new ways of marketing my startup and not be constrained with only the "conventional ways" of marketing.

 

Solution

Side projects are an underestimated and hence, underused method of marketing your startup. What is it? Build small projects around what your potential customers might find useful and market your startup subtly through it.

 

Why and when to worry about this?

a. Rationale

The "conventional ways" of marketing - SEO, social media, paid ads, etc. - are highly important. But these are also fiercely contested channels, so it helps to have some trump cards.

Side projects, therefore, aren't meant to be a replacement but a healthy addition to your marketing portfolio. Building useful projects for your potential customers and "launching" them like we discussed in this report, can give you a good spike in traffic. You can then subtly market your product to them and get some cool conversions going your way.

 

b. Timing

After you are done with your product launch, it is better to start with "conventional forms" of marketing. Once you've put in some processes for that, you can start exploring side projects.

The rationale is that the former takes time but also likely to give you more long-term results. So, use your side projects more as turbo chargers rather than the main engine of growth.

 

Tools

Implementation

a. Realistic expectation

Side projects typically only give a spike in traffic. There are chances that it does really well and gives you sustained traffic for a long time, but those cases are rare. So your goal needs to be to make the most of the one-time spike you get.

 

b. Process

We broadly breakdown the process of side-project marketing into three steps:

i. Finding the idea that you can build into a side project

ii. Packaging it into something marketable

iii. Marketing your startup subtly

 

i. Finding the idea that you can build into a side project

When deciding on an idea, you need to:

  • Choose something relevant to your target audience
    • Don't restrict it to your industry. Rather think from your target audience's perspective
    • For e.g. If your target audience is early-stage startups, you could:
      • Share a list of websites where their startups can be submitted, helping them with SEO & traffic. E.g. Link
      • Interesting case studies of how startups started, grew or the common mistakes made. E.g. Link
      • Free resources such as cold mail templates, investor pitches, illustrations, etc. E.g. Link
      • You get the point

  • Ideally, use resources (tangible or even, basic knowledge) you already possess
    • While you need to add value, the side project shouldn't sidetrack you from your core startup
    • Therefore, look at the resources you already have and see if a side project can be built around it. For e.g.
      • Let's assume your target audience is startups
      • Things you research for your own startup, information you collect, etc. is as useful to your audience as it is to you
      • So, just look at all the things you have already done for your startup first
      • Then all you have to do is to package that information in a marketable fashion
      • Here's how Flexiple packaged the information they had collected around remote products, to make Remote Tools: Link

 

ii. Packaging it into something marketable

  • The product can be in any format - a simple google sheet, a well organised document, a pdf, etc.
  • Though, making it pleasing to the eye increases its chance of success
  • Yet, it shouldn't:
    • Be costly or time consuming to build
    • Require constant maintenance
  • This can be achieved well using the following tools:
    • Sheet2Site: Convert your Google sheet into a website. For e.g. Link
    • Notion: Make text & tables beautiful & then convert that into a website For e.g. Link
    • Airtable: Your tables can now be more interactive and better looking For e.g. Link
    • Unicorn: Make a static website to collect mail ids that can host some great content you have (guides, lists, etc.). For e.g. Link

 

iii. Marketing your startup subtly

  • All of this is for naught if you aren't able to market your core startup
  • Place call-to-actions aesthetically even if prominently. For eg.:

image.png

 

  • Pro-tips:
    • Focus on primary conversion (for e.g. a free trial), but also keep backups such as collecting email ids for your newsletter, or a follow to your twitter account. For e.g.

 

image.png

 

  • The product should be free for access - don't force an email subscription
    • You could offer extra (a more detailed guide) that might require them to give their email id
  • Don't overload your page with popups

 

Related posts to read


  1.  


  2. 5

    Thanks a lot for sharing, Karthik! These are some really good insights!

    Personally, I was able to bootstrap One Word Domains to over 35K users & 150K pageviews through organic & word-of-mouth marketing on sites like Product Hunt, Hacker News, Reddit, Indiehackers and even Twitter - here's a Hackernoon article that I wrote where I documented my initial build process as well as my PH & HN launches.

    1. 3

      this is very valuable - thank you very much for sharing Karthik  

      I personally am a big fan of side project in startup marketing - sharing free content with one's audience or clients such as guides and playbooks for example is a very powerful tool and usually creates affinity with the startup. It's a sign of a cusotmer care culture within the startup

      1. 3

        Thanks for the kind words Hana.

        Absolutely - side projects can be super useful. There are certain smart ways of doing them too. With there being so many smart tools, it is easy to convert seemingly plain content into an interactable product. So, I think each startup should look inwards and think of some easy wins they can have by using what they already have :)