You may not have heard of the term "growth tool" but it's likely you have seen them before. Just to make sure we're all on the same page, I'll copy-paste the description from Trends.vc on the topic:
Growth tools allow companies to escape the marketing rat race with assets such as quizzes, calculators, games, directories, aggregators, checklists, apps and more. This is not freemium. These are independent tools that may or may not require users to sign up.
The idea with these tools is that they offer value, sometimes for free and sometimes in exchange for an email, with the hopes of either capturing leads or amplifying brand exposure through word of mouth. We've experimented in this space at Hugo recently. This is how I'm thinking about the idea vetting process.
Types of Growth Tools
Before we dive into growth tools and what enables them to be effective, it may be helpful to offer some examples. When I look around at other growth tools out there, they mostly fall into two categories:
- Pablo (Buffer)
- Product Wars (Phantombuster)
- Battle of the Brands (Mention)
- Business Name Generator (Shopify)
- Website Grader (Hubspot)
- Really Good UX (Appcues)
- Startup Gifs (Marketing Examples)
- Custom Slack Themes (Air)
- Hacker News (Y Combinator)
Attributes of Effective Growth Tools
So, what makes an effective growth tool? With questions like this, I find it's helpful to work backwards. We'll start by brainstorming some desired outcomes and then incrementally deconstruct to what goes into those outcomes:
- Be seen by a large or high-intent audience
- Be free to use and get value from
- Offer value to people that are aligned with customer persona
- Create some sort of buzz or word of mouth
- Generate signups or leads for Hugo
If you take these "attributes" and group them then you end up with a simplified list of what successful growth tools have to execute on:
- Value creation
These areas are listed roughly in order of importance based on my experience. As is often the case with any consumable, whether that's content or software, success is overwhelmingly dependent on distribution. If you can't get the right people in front of your tool, then do not pass go, and do not collect $200.
Author's note: When you are vetting your idea for a growth tool, keep this in mind. Start with distribution, then make sure you are creating value, then finally optimize conversion best your can.
Doubling Down on Distribution
There are a few potential avenues to consider when optimizing for distribution. Note that depending on the type of product, your approach might change:
- SEO: Are people already searching for a solution?
- Virality: Will people want to talk about and share?
- Paid ads: Can you ensure and track paid conversions?
- Partnerships: Do you have connections that will promote your idea?
- Direct outreach: Do you have an email list or following to tap into?
- Indirect outreach: Can you leverage ProductHunt/Social/Communities?
If you are thinking about growth tools, chances are that you already have an established product and acquisition strategy to some extent. If so, great! Start with what's already working and develop your growth tool ideas around those channels. If you already kick ass at search, double down there. If you have a big social following, think about getting the most out of those channels.
There are plenty more details to work out around positioning and more tactical things, but a lot of that is going to be dependent on the distribution channel. As the saying goes, the medium is the message. That is certainly the case with growth tools.
That's all for this post! I hope your found something helpful if you're looking into creating growth tools. Before you go, here's a list of resources on the topic I found helpful if you want to explore further:
- Growth Tools Intro
- Tool Marketing for B2B SaaS
- SEO Project Marketing
- Examples of Side Project Marketing
- Content-Driven Growth
- Side Project Idea List
- Where Great Product Roadmap Ideas Come From