Charlie here 👋
All SaaS businesses inevitably go through periods of stagnated growth.
An awesome way to combat this is to build free tools into new growth channels.
Today I’m going to break down how and why this strategy works.
Plus I’ll show you the top SaaS platforms using it to grow.
This week in IdeaHub…
The free tool strategy: How free tools are amazing growth channels.
Best ways to use free tools: How to use free tools to test new ideas and create SEO goldmines.
Free tools in action: The OG in free tools and one solo founder having massive success.
Let’s jump in… 👇
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It’s important to understand we’re not talking about free trials here.
We’re talking about separate free versions of paid-for products that require no signup whatsoever.
You might be thinking to yourself:
“How can that be of any use to my business?”
Well, to answer that, you have to understand two big reasons customers resist buying your product:
They don’t trust you and/or your product to solve their problem.
They can’t see results quickly enough to make a buying decision.
Building a separate free tool instantly breaks down both of these barriers.
Firstly, a free tool is much easier to trust as there is ‘no harm done’ if it doesn’t work out.
Secondly, having no signup, payments or onboarding means customers can see the power of your product much more quickly.
All this means you have a better chance of customers trying out your free tool than your core product.
The trick is to heavily limit the feature set of the free tool and include a strong call to action to drive customers back to your paid-for product.
This naturally means more signups overall than if you had no free tool at all.
Free tools can provide more than just a growth channel.
They can be real assets in a few different ways:
Testing new ideas
Say you’re at a crossroads.
You’re trying to decide whether to expand your product into a new niche or stay put and double down on your efforts.
It’s a big decision to make and could have a huge impact on your future success.
Instead of choosing to go all-in on one or the other, you could spin off your core product into a free tool and use it to validate the new market.
If it shows promise, fold it back into your paid-for product, or simply ditch it if it doesn’t work out.
Free tools have huge search volumes.
We’ve all searched “free tool for [X]” when we know what we need, but we just don’t want to pay…
Launching a free tool therefore provides the perfect opportunity to match searcher intent and start driving organic traffic.
Plus, if it’s on a separate domain, you can start creating backlinks back and forth from your paid-for product in all of your blog posts.
The SaaS that made this strategy famous is Ahrefs.
It’s the number one platform for marketers to research new SEO opportunities.
Almost every vertical feature in their paid-for product is also available as a free tool.
It’s especially important as their products are aimed at users who aren’t usually the buying decision-makers in a business.
So when the free tools deliver value, marketers can evidence this to the real decision-makers.
And Ahrefs get the benefit of leveraging the existing trust circles of the organisation to close deals.
So far he’s built 9 (!) free tools each focusing on one feature of Pally.
But he’s also taking a unique approach:
He’s acquiring free tools as well as building them himself.
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