Side Project Marketing: How to Make it Work For You

 In Digital Marketing, Uncategorized
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You might have recently started hearing the term “Side Project Marketing” floating around some of the bigger name blogs in the last year.

If you haven’t seen it before, let’s start there. Here’s a definition:

In it’s most basic sense, side project marketing is basically a hybrid between content marketing and advertising. Brands are starting to do this as an interesting additional alternative (not instead of) to their conventional marketing plans to provide something that adds additional value to consumers.

In other words, brands are creating side projects that are actually giving away lots of valuable content for free, with the goal that later on they will be able to sell a related product or service to these very same to potential customers.

In this post, we’re going to look at a number of brands that created side projects that not only became pretty successful on their own but also helped drive a ton of traffic and customers to their products and services. Plus, we’ll look at some of the major lessons that they learned. Finally, we’ll cover a few tips you can use to start featuring your own project .


Let’s look at a very good example to highlight this in action.

Lots of people today need photos for their websites, social media, and brochures (just to name a few). But, the old standby of using stock photos has become less and less appealing. People and brands wanted free high-quality photos that they could use in marketing, without the stodgy and posed feeling of stock photos.

Enter, Unsplash:unsplash side project marketing

The idea was incredibly simple. Create a Tumblr page that featured extra un-used quality photos for free.

It wasn’t long before Unsplash took off. Now, it gets over 11 million visitors a month and has become an incredible brand in its own right.

Now, what most people don’t know is Unsplash started as a side marketing project for a brand called Crew, a startup for people looking to create their own products and wanted design and development help.

Crew credit’s the creation of Unsplash with saving their startup, pretty impressive, right? But the biggest takeaway we can learn from this is that a side project can be quite small and low maintenance and still be incredibly successful.


One of the most popular sites out there for brands looking to gain knowledge in SEO and its impact on the digital marketing space is Moz. They’ve built a number of high-quality and extensive tools around SEO for companies to use, but they’ve also created a couple of side projects as well aiming to provide tons of value to potential customers.

In fact, if you check their website, under “free tools” you’ll see a ton of different side projects at work.

moz side project marketingAll of the tools here are completely free. Not only that, this plays right into the concept of the side project.

They add tons of real value to potential customers and, according to this post from CrazyEgg, the Open Site Explorer tool “has generated over 14,000 backlinks and generates over 8,000 visitors each month from organic search alone.”

So here’s another takeaway: top side projects keep the needs and wants of the customers in mind. All of the free tools that Moz provides offer nothing but value and usefulness to the exact people Moz would love to be their paying customers.

More Ideas

The two examples above are just a couple of side project marketing ideas that have worked. There are tons more out there.

Having a ‘grader’ is one big example. Hubspot’s own side project is a super simple tool that helps grade your website.

hubspot website grader

Here are a few more ideas you can try for your own brand:

  • Courses
  • Quizzes
  • Roundups
  • Podcast
  • Newsletters
  • Blogs
  • Physical products
  • Info products
  • Forums

As you can see, pretty much anything can become a side project. It doesn’t have to be conventional, expensive, or mind blowing, it just has to be something that really speaks to your specific audience.

Next, we’ll take a look at a few of the best tips we can offer for success when it comes to side project marketing.

What About Creating Your Side Project?

So, if you want to create a side project, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind.

Create Something of Value

We already covered the idea of creating value for your potential customers. That’s really the key to this, don’t waste your time creating something that your ideal customers aren’t going to be interested.

Try to create something that actually solves a real problem. That’s where your side project marketing plan is going to really stand out. Because when you have something that is really valuable, it will likely last far longer than a blog post.

Find the Right Tools to Make it Easy

One of the big reasons why side project marketing has begun to blow up in the last year or two is because the time devoted to creating these projects has been really reduced because of available tools.

Just as Unsplash used a free platform, Tumblr, to get started, you can use things like Gumroad, SquareSpace and even Thinkfic to create simple sites, products, and courses.

Don’t Get Overwhelmed

The last thing you want to do, and the trap a lot of brands fall into, is take a ton of time, effort, and energy away from your actual brand and put it into the side project.

Remember, the side project is something that should be done on the side, that means it needs to be something that is relatively quick and easy to get done.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there’s a ton of potential out there when it comes to side project marketing.

The brands that spend a bit of time brainstorming something that is relatively quick and easy to come up with that relates to their product or service and provides extra value to customers are going to see positive results.

In a world where attention is waning and the competition is growing more and more complex, creating a project like this might just be a golden ticket.

Has your brand created a side project? Share it in the comments!

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