Why we utilized the traction channel and how it paid off
It’s been one month since we published Access Medium Anytime, Anywhere, which marked the launch of Knowledge Officer’s first in-house tool, directed towards the general public. Since then, we’ve been studying the outcome closely and today we’re sharing some insights on why and how we did it.
What is “Engineering-as-Marketing”?
In his book Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers, the author Justin Mares talks about 19 traction channels a startup could implement to help bring in new users. One of those channels is Engineering-as-Marketing, which he defines as: “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.”
One of the examples Justin then dives to explain is HubSpot; the marketing automation software company, that managed to reach 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. When you enter your site’s web address into Marketing Grader (also known as Website Grader) it gives you back a report about your mobile responsiveness, analytics, email marketing campaigns, blog activity, social media presence, and the inner workings of your website. Since HubSpot launched Marketing Grader, over three million sites have used it. HubSpot’s founder, Dharmesh Shah says that this accounts for a large portion of the 50,000+ leads HubSpot gets each month.
Another company that nails engineering as marketing is Moz, the leader in SEO software. Two of their free SEO tools, Followerwonk and Open Site Explorer, have driven tens of thousands of leads for Moz. Like Marketing Grader, each solves a problem that an ideal Moz customer has. Followerwonkallows 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.
Zack Linford, the founder of Conversion Voodoo, says that 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 for executing this includes:
- Providing something of true value for free, with no strings attached.
- Making that offering extremely relevant to your core business.
- Demonstrating this value as quickly as possible.
It comes as no surprise that this one traction channel caught our attention at Knowledge Officer and so we decided to put it to the test.
In Access Medium Anytime, Anywhere, we went into great depth to explain the 3 main reasons why we decided to implement a tool that helps access Medium.com in locations where access has been blocked. The most important of which was the fact that our own Knowledge Officer team was facing difficulty accessing the website, which we consider as one of the main sources to get high-quality content.
We also knew that our target audience would be facing the same issue, and so it only made sense we leverage that, and use this tool to attract potential users.
We started with Research and Customer Development. We knew that when Medium was first blocked, users went to the internet asking for solutions and workarounds. We went to Quora, reddit and other websites listing the question and went through the recommendations and solutions people provided. These were mostly using a VPN service provider, which is exactly what we didn’t want to do and we listed our concerns in Access Medium Anytime, Anywhere.
We then shared a Facebook posts asking our intermediate network how they’re dealing with the blocked Medium site. Again, recommendations were all about VPN.
And so this validated our assumption; there’s indeed a real need for a different solution.
We went into “action mode”. Our Knowledge Officer engineering team estimated that building this tool should take between 1 to 2 days. We decided to invest these 2 days to develop and then launch the tool.
And then we went to the internet again! We referred our tool to those users asking for a solution on Quora or Reddit, and we shared it over our social media platforms.
The “Success Story”
In one short month and with a minimal budget, our tool has been used more than a thousand times. That’s 1000 users accessing 1000 articles that otherwise they’d have no access to. In addition, our responses and posts have been viewed more than 4000 times across different platforms. And that’s, in our book, is a success.
This is just the beginning of the journey. We’ve received lots of feedback on the tool, and many requests for improvements and additional features, and so we’re studying what we can do to make our tool even better.
And now, only one question remains: Would we use “Engineering-as-Marketing” as one of our main traction channels? Absolutely!
If you’ve given Engineering-as-Marketing a try, drop a comment with your story. We’d love to hear how it worked out for you!
Knowledge Officer is a learning platform for professionals. Our mission is to empower a generation of lifelong learners and to help people, however busy, learn something new and relevant every day and achieve their career goals.
And we’d love to hear your thoughts! So send us at firstname.lastname@example.org