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How to get customers with free tool marketing

Grow your micro SaaS or AI tool, and fulfill your inner builder

I never enjoyed marketing.

But I’d never earn $50K/month without doing some kind of marketing.

I found a better alternative by making free tools that fulfill my inner builder.

Estimated reading time: 4 min 13 sec

Build-in-public update

My free logo maker —LogoFast— was nominated for the Product Hunt Golden Kitty Awards 2023 🎉

If you liked it, I’d love your support!

Free tool marketing 

I am a developer and I love building apps. But I also need marketing to pay the bills.

Free tool marketing is symbiosis.

It consists of launching free and viral mini-apps to promote your main startup.

AI Tweet Generator (free) by Tweet Hunter (paid)

Free tool marketing works because:

  • It expands your audience to a wider market.

  • You rank for new SEO keywords.

  • It’s sharable so people spread the word on TikTok, for instance.

  • You grow an audience by launching often.

  • It creates a good first impression to warm up potential customers.

  • Your inner builder is motivated to work.

User Persona went viral on TikTok adding 226% revenue for MakerBox

Some guidelines for the best results:

  • The app must be free, that’s how you create a viral loop.

  • One feature is enough. It must be super simple.

  • The name should tell exactly what the app does. That’s how people remember and search on Google.

  • The experience must start on the homepage. Visitors shouldn’t sign up or click links. 

  • The app can be hosted on your main website, but it’s best to give it a dedicated domain.

LogoFa.st is also hosted on ShipFa.st/tools/logo-fast. The canonical URL points to the latter to boost the main site’s domain authority.

Other marketing channels to get customers and grow your micro startup:

How to find ideas

Take a standalone feature of your main startup and make a free version of it. 

This works well if you already have traction because you know people need that feature.

It’s also a good strategy to validate potential features. Instead of cluttering your main product, launch a standalone feature as a free tool.

You’ll get more traffic, and you can still add the feature later if the market validates it.

Ahrefs’s domain authority checker feature is also available in their paid plan

Another strategy consists of getting into your customer’s journey and thinking about what they’ll need before using your product.

After realizing it’s possible to read 19 books a year with a 15-minute daily habit, people might want to sign up for a habit tracker

2 key factors to get paying users

#1 — Promote your startup in a seamless way

The simplest way to convert traffic from your free tools is to advertise your startup. A simple ad placement can get up to 10% Click-Through-Rate.

You can pump these numbers up when the free tool seamlessly embeds into your customer’s journey, so the promotion feels like an extension of your free tool.

This is a free tool to show how much can be achieved in a year with tiny habits. It automatically imports the habits when the user signs up for the habit tracker. The conversion rate is 30% (traffic on the free tool to traffic on the habit tracker)

Alternatively, you can collect emails and market through a follow-up sequence.

#2 — Launch, profit, repeat.

With free tools marketing, it’s common to get media coverage and go viral on TikTok thanks to the embedded virality. 

Launch everywhere. Hacker News, Reddit, Twitter, Product Hunt. The more noise you make, the higher the revenue.

I launched 7 free tools in a year. Thanks to viral launch videos, each product goes viral on 𝕏, gets a Product Hunt badge, and is reshared on other social media.

Once you’ve launched, move on to the next free tool.

Each launch will make more noise, increase your daily traffic, and grow your startup — while keeping your inner builder satisfied.

Whenever you're ready, there are 5 ways I can help you:

  1. ShipFast: Ship startups in days, not weeks with the NextJS boilerplate loved by 1,500+ developers.

  2. LaunchViral: Grow your startup with viral launch videos.

  3. IndiePage: Showcase your startups and get more customers. Join 3,000+ solopreneurs!

  4. ByeDispute: Don't let a dispute get you banned from Stripe.

  5. ZenVoice: Stripe invoices without the fee

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