Startup traction channel: Engineering as marketing

engg as mktg

This blog article is based on the 3 Things This Week’s edition dated 21st June 2018. The theme of this edition is “engineering as marketing”, one of the traction channels not used by many startups!

Your team’s engineering skills can get your startup traction directly by building tools and resources that reach more people. We call this traction channel engineering as marketing. You make useful tools like calculators, widgets, and educational micro-sites to get your company in front of potential customers. These tools generate leads and expand your customer base. In this chapter, we present examples of companies like HubSpot and RJ Metrics that have successfully used this.

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. When you enter your site’s web address into Marketing Grader, you get back a customized report about how well you’re doing with your online marketing (social media mentions, blog post shares, basic SEO). This tool is free and gives you valuable information. It also provides HubSpot with the information they use to qualify you as a potential prospect.

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 and demonstrating that value as quickly as possible. When you build valuable tools for prospective customers, you get more leads, a stronger brand, and increased awareness while also solving a problem for the individuals you want to target.

A cheap test for this traction channel is to develop and push out a small tool or site.  Another approach is to turn a popular blog post into a micro-site. A great way to keep tools low-friction is to make them as simple as possible. Single-purpose tools that solve obvious pain points are best. Put them on their own website and make them easy to find, particularly through search engines.

Here are this week’s 3 things:

Thing # 1: Engineering-as-marketing: how startups transform

When engineers start thinking about user growth, new forms of marketing emerge. You (or your team’s) engineering talents can get your startup traction directly by building tools and resources that reach more people. 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. Read in this article how HubSpot, a marketing automation software company,  reached tens of millions in revenue in a few short years using this traction channel.

Thing #2: Engineering as Marketing

This article gives a detailed account of how Gravitational, an early stage startup figured out a value for the technique: Engineering as Marketing.  There are a several reasons why they started on this: their team consisted mostly of engineers, it’s a relatively difficult channel to utilize (You need to allocate scarce engineering resources, so fewer people do it and thus it’s more valuable), while very expensive from a time perspective, it is virtually free from a cash outlay perspective (which helps keep burn rates low), it is more authentic and valuable to the recipient (You are actually delivering tangible value along with the messaging), it has the added benefit of helping recruit engineering talent and it establishes trust and brand identity with potential blockers. Read on to get a scoop on how Gravitational worked on this traction channel.

Thing #3: How we used Engineering As Marketing To Get More Sign-Ups

Here is another story on how a startup – Caspy — an AI Startup headquartered in Canada that uses Artificial Intelligence to make business communications suck less, used this traction channel. A year ago, Caspy was a mobile first, email-based CRM for Photographers. Since their primary goal all along was to create an A.I. app rather than a conventional, Caspy did a mini-pivot, ditched Photographers and chose Self-Employed Techies as their beachhead market. The hypothesis was that it will be much easier to lure techies into becoming early adopters by promoting the Machine Learning aspect of the product.   Read on how this pivot lea to Caspy effectively experimenting on this traction channel.

 

Has anyone used this traction channel? Share your experience in the comments.

 

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