The Side Project Marketing Checklist is a comprehensive, chronologically ordered list of marketing tactics and ideas that you can try with your next side project. The list is free and open source so feel free to suggest your own tips anytime.

Pre-Launch

Market Research

If we knew what were doing it wouldn’t be called research. - Albert Einstein

Competitive Landscape

  • [ ] Make a list of competitive/alternative services.

    Finding competitors
    Competitor data to collect
    • [ ] Link to their website.
    • [ ] “One-liners” and taglines competitors use.
    • [ ] Pricing and business model.
    • [ ] Blog/RSS link.
    • [ ] Social media links.
    • [ ] Key employees on social media.
  • [ ] Subscribe to RSS feeds of your competitors’ blogs.
  • [ ] Follow your competitors and their key employees on social media.
  • [ ] Set up Google News alerts for competitors.
  • [ ] Monitor competitors’ websites for changes.

    Site monitoring tools
  • [ ] Subscribe to industry newsletters, magazines, trade journals etc.
  • [ ] Use Google Trends to do initial demand and search volume research (check out this article for specific tips)

Customer Research

  • [ ] Find people in your contact list who might be future customers. Get their feedback on your idea.
  • [ ] Attend meetups or conferences for your target market.
  • [ ] Meet another entrepreneur who has a similar or competitive product.
  • [ ] Make a list of your competitors’ customers:

    Finding competitors’ customers
    • [ ] Check their Twitter followers, mentions.
    • [ ] Look through their Facebook fans.
    • [ ] Find people who follow them on Linkedin.
    • [ ] Check their website. Some companies list customer stories on their websites.
  • [ ] Reach out to your competitors’ customers, find out what they like/don’t like.
  • [ ] Create an “early access” list for potential future customers.

PR Preparations

  • [ ] Create list of tech, startup, and industry blogs.
  • [ ] Create list of local small business journals (eg: Crain’s Chicago).
  • [ ] Create list of local bloggers and journalists in your industry.
  • [ ] Create a “Media Kit” page (check out this example).

Landing Page

See this list of landing page tools for services that make creating landing pages easier.

  • [ ] Come up with a name and domain name.
  • [ ] Write a site tagline and elevator pitch.
  • [ ] Create a logo.
  • [ ] Set up a landing page.
  • [ ] Create “About” and “Contact” pages.
  • [ ] Create Pricing page:

    Pricing ideas
    • [ ] Create a free or trial tier for your paid product.
    • [ ] Offer a 100% satisfaction/money-back guarantee.
    • [ ] Make product invite-only to start.
    • [ ] Offer free/discounted access for early adopters/beta testers.
  • [ ] Add social media follow links to landing page.
  • [ ] Set up analytics to learn about who signs up, bounces, etc.

    Analytics platforms
  • [ ] Set up on-site messaging to capture leads and engage customers as they land on your site.

    On-site Messaging Platforms

Email Setup

See this list of email marketing tools for services that make managing email easier.

  • [ ] Set up email address to send and receive emails.
  • [ ] Set up email list and signup form.
  • [ ] Create a standard email template for your brand.
  • [ ] Create transactional emails for when users sign up/purchase.

Blog Setup

Content Marketing is all the marketing that’s left. - Seth Godin

  • [ ] Choose a blogging platform:

    Blogging platforms
  • [ ] Research keywords that you’d like your site/blog to rank for.

    Keyword research tools
  • [ ] Create anchor posts or pages for keywords you’d like to rank for.
  • [ ] Have a blog post brainstorming session:

    Blog post ideas
    • Little known features of your product.
    • Highlight use cases for your product.
    • Highlight customers who are using your product.
    • Interview industry specialists.
    • List of popular sites in your industry (be sure to notify them after you publish it!)
    • See these lists of ideas from Buffer and Hubspot.
  • [ ] Add email signup form or link to all blog posts.
  • [ ] Add social media follow links to all blog posts.

Social Media Setup

  • [ ] Search for availability of names on social networks using KnowEm.
  • [ ] Choose the social media accounts you’ll use:

    Social media platforms
    • [ ] Facebook
    • [ ] Twitter
    • [ ] Linkedin
    • [ ] Pinterest
    • [ ] Instagram
    • [ ] Snapchat
    • [ ] YouTube
  • [ ] Standardize profile image, background photo, links and call to action across social channels.
  • [ ] Join Triberr.
  • [ ] Put premium content behind “pay with a tweet”.

Post-Launch

Customer Outreach

You should be talking to a small number of users who are seriously interested in what you’re making, not a broad audience who are on the whole indifferent. - Jessica Livingston, Founding Partner at Y Combinator

  • [ ] Send a coupon code to close friends and family members to let them try your product.
  • [ ] Send early access notification to customers identified in research.
  • [ ] Reach out to your social media followers, ask them to try your product.
  • [ ] Cold call ~20 people who might be good customers.
  • [ ] Connect with potential customers on Linkedin, reach out when they accept.
  • [ ] Watch a first time user use your product.
  • [ ] Ask your customers for feedback directly (individual outreach).
  • [ ] Run an early-stage cold email campaign.

    An early-stage cold email campaign
    • [ ] Make a list of 30 prospective early customers’ email addresses.
    • [ ] Send three cold emails per day for ten days. Experiment with messaging, take note of what works.
    • [ ] Send three follow up emails per day for ten days. Experiment with messaging, take note of what works.
    • [ ] Scale it up. Find more prospects, set up an automated drip campaign, rinse and repeat every month.

Free Promotional Channels

I don’t care how much money you have, free stuff is always a good thing. - Queen Latifah

Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it, and others do just the same with their time. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Recurring

Blogging

Blogging is like work, but without coworkers thwarting you at every turn. - Scott Adams

  • [ ] Build/update publishing calendar for your blog.
  • [ ] Regularly post blog posts on your blog(s).
  • [ ] Solicit guest posts from early customers and fans of your product.
  • [ ] Repurpose existing blog posts:

    Repurposing blog posts
    • [ ] Record/post video of you reading the post on YouTube.
    • [ ] Turn posts into a podcast.
    • [ ] Create an infographic based on the post.
    • [ ] Create a Slideshare or Prezi of your post.
  • [ ] Promote your blog content:

    Blog promotion techniques
    • [ ] Send post to your email list.
    • [ ] Promote on your social media.
    • [ ] Email friends and relatives, ask them to share if relevant.
    • [ ] Send to other bloggers for feedback, ask to share if they like it.
    • [ ] Add your latest blog post or landing page to your email signature.

Email

Email is the Jason Bourne of online: somebody’s always trying to kill it. It can’t be done. - Unknown

  • [ ] Send a regular email newsletter with blog posts, use cases, customer stories, etc.
  • [ ] Promote email list on social media.
  • [ ] Send 20 cold emails per week to connect with early customers and get direct feedback.
  • [ ] Send new users a personal email introducing yourself.

Social Media

We have technology, finally, that for the first time in human history allows people to really maintain rich connections with much larger numbers of people. – Pierre Omidyar

  • [ ] Set up automated regular social media posts.

    Social media automation tools
  • [ ] Join Facebook and Linkedin groups where your product might be beneficial.
  • [ ] Send exclusive offers to LinkedIn/Facebook Group owners.
  • [ ] Join Twitter chats related to your industry/product.
  • [ ] Show what happening “behind the scenes” at your project on social media (eg: pictures of your workspace, in-development features, etc.).
  • [ ] Build/update publishing calendar for social media.
  • [ ] Post blog posts from your blog (or partners’ blogs).
  • [ ] Give early users discounts for taking pics with your product.

Public Relations

The art of publicity is a black art; but it has come to stay, and every year adds to its potency. – Thomas Paine

  • [ ] Ask bloggers with list articles to add your site to their content.
  • [ ] Reach out to small business journals, reporters, bloggers. Inform and ask for coverage.
  • [ ] Find professors and students with .edu sites to link to your content (good for SEO).
  • [ ] Find reviews or lists of similar products. Ask to be added or leave a comment about your product.
  • [ ] Guest post on other blogs.

    Guest posting
    • [ ] Build a list of blogs that are a good fit for your product and accept guest posts. Save their contact form/information.
    • [ ] Write a few posts on your own blog first (to use as a demonstration).
    • [ ] Create a list of “pitches,” blog post ideas with a title and one paragraph summary that might grab bloggers.
    • [ ] Pitch the blogs one idea each. See what they respond to.
    • [ ] Help promote your posts via social media, email lists, etc.
    • [ ] Reach back out in a month and try another pitch. Try to become a “regular”
  • [ ] Leave non-spammy comments on blog posts related to your industry or product.
  • [ ] Join and participate in forums related to your product or industry.

External Sites

  • [ ] Answer relevant questions on Q&A community sites (check back regularly)

    Q&A Communities
  • [ ] Leave comments on Slideshare presentations.
  • [ ] Review industry-related books on Amazon, Goodreads.

Optimizations

  • [ ] Run a customer poll (can also generate content for your blog or social media channels).
  • [ ] Create another side project to promote your product (read more).
  • [ ] A/B test your landing/payment pages (check out Optimizely).
  • [ ] A/B test email newsletters and promotions.
  • [ ] Implement Twitter cards on your blog posts.
  • [ ] Implement rich snippets in Google search results.
  • [ ] Collect and show testimonials from your happy users.
  • [ ] Analyze user signup flow (check out the teardowns here).
  • [ ] Test your website on multiple platforms, make sure speed is good.
  • [ ] Use Website Grader to pinpoint website improvements.
  • [ ] Create and track weekly traffic and growth goals.
  • [ ] Time social media posts and email newsletters to when your audience is most likely to respond.
  • [ ] Make sure each page on your site has a clear call-to-action.
  • [ ] Audit and improve your conversion rate (see this checklist for detailed steps you can take)
  • [ ] Set up automatic analytics reports to be emailed to you each week.
  • [ ] Experiment with various signup form locations, colors, and sizes.
  • [ ] Add “Exit Intent” popup to your blog/site.
  • [ ] Create an FAQs page.
  • [ ] Experiment with various proactive on-site messages to promote engagement and conversions.
  • [ ] Verify your website’s tags are correct with Google Tag Assistant.