By now most savvy inbound marketers know that high quality content can turn a website into a magnet for potential customers. Blogging, video, webinars — do these things well, and your future customers will find you.
Here’s what many inbound marketers forget: A great free web application can also be a giant magnet for customers.
At HubSpot we’ve been benefiting from such a web application for the last four years. Website Grader, our free tool to measure the inbound marketing effectiveness of a website, is as valuable a marketing asset as our blog.
What’s that mean? Consider this:
20,000 people a month find HubSpot via Website Grader
1,500 HubSpot leads (people interested in HubSpot software) come from Website Grader every month
400 new additions to our email list (people interested in content updates from HubSpot) come from Website Grader every month
You can pick those numbers apart in a lot of different ways, but the bottom line is simple: Website Grader is a great marketing tool for our business. And unlike many of our other great marketing tools, Website Grader doesn’t require a significant daily investment of time.
So what can your business learn from Website Grader? Here are seven keys to Website Grader’s success:
Chance are your first web application won’t be a smashing success. Instead of investing tons of time and money in a single application, try lots of simple tools. At HubSpot, we’ve created a lot of different Grader applications. Some have succeeded, many haven’t.
2. Make the purpose of your application clear and simple.
Nobody has the patience to figure out a web application. It has to be clear from the get-go. Nobody has to figure out what Website Grader does. It’s clear that it grades your website.
3. Make it useful.
At HubSpot we have a simple test to determine if a blog post is worth publishing: We ask, “will this be useful or interesting for our target customers?” If the answer is yes, then the post runs. The same test applies to web applications. If the application will be useful to our target customers, then it’s worth building. That may seem like an obvious test, but it’s very easy to get sucked into a huge project that is neither interesting nor useful to the people you’re trying to attract.
4. Focus on users, then conversion.
Every business needs to focus on conversion rates as a metric, but you can’t start with conversion rates if you’re building a web application. Instead, focus on generating active users for your tool. Then, as you begin to see consistent use, figure out ways to offer additional value that will help convert users to paying customers or leads.
5. Make sure your app is open.
If you’re creating an application for marketing purposes, it needs to be easy to share. Website Grader reports are not hidden behind a login — they’re on a public,indexed, sharable URL. That means anybody can run a report, then link to it, email it, or post it on a social site like Facebook. Whatever you do, make sure the best parts of your free application are easy to share.
6. Maximize the wow-to-work ratio.
Your users shouldn’t have to do much to get value out of your application. This is one of the reasons Website Grader is so popular. You don’t have to do much to get real value out of the tool: Just go to websitegrader.com, enter your URL, and a few seconds later you’ll get a page full of feedback.
7. Give your users a reason to return.
Don’t build a one-and-done experience. Give your users a reason to interact with your tool over time. For example, Website Grader users are drawn back to the site regularly to check for updates to their score and new marketing recommendations. This is great for HubSpot. The more they interact with the application, the more they spread it, and the more powerful a marketing tool it becomes.
So what do you do if you’re new to the world of web applications? Do you need to learn a whole new way of doing business?
Not at all. Web applications may be a new channel for many marketers, but they function like any core inbound marketing channel: Create something useful for your target customers and you won’t need to find them — they’ll find you.]]>