People like free stuff

People like free stuff.

So, SaaS marketing people are always looking for good ways to give stuff away for free to potential customers. If done well, this can be good for brand building, boosting SEO/traffic, and generally getting new users in the door to hear about the main product.

What everyone else does - Give away info

On the tactical side, there are a few ways to approach this.  The most common is to give away information.

This is usually done in the form of an ebook or a whitepaper on some relevant topic. It’s common because it’s cheap and easy to produce. But it's also often ineffective because - and let’s be honest - who wants another dead-boring whitepaper?

Me neither.

And this is why companies are finding other kinds of “free stuff” to give away. Stuff that’s more interesting, more valuable, and more effective.

Here are my quick notes on 4 alternative (mini) playbooks to giving away free stuff (with examples), that real companies are using today:

Playbook #1 - Offer a one-time, niche utility

This is a tactic that Hubspot has made popular. They’ve built a suite of (off-platform)  free tools such as an email signature generator, an invoice template generator, and a marketing plan template. While not that exciting, these tools come in handy and they help a big company such as Hubspot with qualified traffic and search rankings.


  • Good for SEO
  • Get qualified traffic in the door
  • Underscores the brand identity
  • (Relatively) inexpensive to set up


  • Probably boring (harder to promote)
  • Doesn't promote recurring traffic

Playbook #2 - Offer something fun

I’ve seen a few companies do this. A recent example is what the team at Firebolt did with their “Big Data Game”. It might not be an everyday resource, but it stands out and it's a fun way to present a brand to a wider audience.


  • VERY different and attention grabbing (if done well)
  • Fun way to illustrate one of the pillars of the brand without promoting it in explicitly


  • (Potentially) expensive
  • Probably boring (harder to promote)
  • One-time gimmik. No recurring traffic

Playbook #3 - Offer a utility that people will use frequently

A great example of this is what the team at Algolia did with “Search Hacker News”. Hacker News is a valuable resource but it’s not built for search. Algolia created an HN search engine so that anyone can easily sort, filter, and search all content and comments in HN. It's a very useful tool that's hosted on an Algolia subdomain, bringing them domain authority and recurring traffic.


  • Encorages recurring engagement with the site. Useful on an ongoing basis
  • Effective way to establish the brand as a household, helpful name to the target audience


  • (Potentially) expensive
  • Risk having the side-hustle service outshine the core offering (for example, I use Search Hacker News often. I've never considered using Algolia's product.

Playbook #4 - Offer something that’s shareable with others

The most recent example of this that I’ve seen is what the MyHeritage team just rolled out with their "AI Time Machine". You upload a bunch of pictures of yourself, and it sends you a collection of AI-generated images of what you'd look like at different points and settings in world history. The need to sign up for a (free) MyHeritage account and the strong likelihood of sharing these images with your network is what makes this approach an effective one.


  • Potentially viral effect of affiliate sharing
  • Encourages engagement with the site.
  • Opens an engagement/upsell channel with emails and notifications
  • Creative way to promote the brand and the value proposition


  • (Potentially) expensive.
  • Can appear overly gimmiky. Need to make sure this fits with the overall tone of the brand and will resonate with the target audience.

The bottom line

The bottom line is - giving away free stuff can be a good top-of-funnel tactic, but only if you're clear on what it is that you're trying to acheive and you can balane the cost involved with your other priorities.