What is Engineering as Marketing and How Can It Help You Drive Product Growth

What is Engineering as Marketing and How Can It Help You Drive Product Growth cover

What is engineering as marketing and how can it help you drive product growth and boost your authority in your industry?

In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about engineering as marketing, including:

  • What is engineering as marketing?
  • Best practices for implementing it.
  • Real-world examples to inspire you.

Let’s get started.


  • Engineering as marketing is an inbound marketing strategy that involves creating free useful tools for your target audience. These tools are complimentary to your product or service meant to draw in potential customers.
  • While it can be expensive and difficult to build these free tools, it pays back in many ways. It helps you raise brand awareness with potential customers, generate leads, improve SEO and build customer love.
  • Engineering as marketing is an effective traction channel, but only when done well. One key element to keep in mind: the tool should be complementary and highly relevant to your core product or service. It should also be free to access, provide added value, and should focus on doing one thing well.
  • In the marketing funnel, engineering as marketing fights right in between the top of the funnel and middle of the funnel stages. Users are usually problem-aware but don’t yet know they need a solution like yours. Your tool can help them realize that.
  • We built a useful free tool here at Userpilot. Our NPS calculator makes it quick and easy to plug in your survey responses and find your NPS score. You can then use that score to make product improvements, find patterns in user behavior, and send relevant in-app messages to specific segments.
  • One of the most well-known (and original) examples of engineering as marketing is HubSpot’s Website Grader. It’s a free tool that HubSpot launched in 2007 that scores your website based on factors like speed, SEO, mobile-friendliness, and security.
  • The Website Grader intends to show users personalized recommendations on how to improve their site while weaving in HubSpot’s products as a solution.
  • Moz, one of the more well-known SEO software, also uses engineering as marketing to grow its customer base. They offer free SEO tools that help with link analysis, competitive analysis, keyword research, and more. These tools are helpful, but just limited enough that they encourage users to buy one of Moz’s premium products.
  • Shutterfly is an e-commerce platform that sells personalized photography products, like photo albums, cards, and invitations. One of their biggest target markets is weddings.
  • They attract future brides and grooms to their site with their free wedding hashtag generator that helps them find personalized hashtag they can share on social media on their wedding day. They also feature some of their most popular wedding-related products on this page to promote sales.
  • Wix, a website builder platform, is also a huge fan of engineering as marketing. They built a free business name generator that business owners can use to find an available company name. It’s safe to assume that if you don’t have a company name yet, you don’t have a website (and need to build one). This is a genius marketing tactic that’s likely driving potential customers to use Wix in the future.

What is engineering as marketing?

Engineering as marketing is the practice of using your engineering time to develop complementary free tools that provide value to your target audience and generate leads for your main product.  It’s also one of the marketing traction channels that Justin Mares highlights in his book, Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers.

Among the examples are evaluation tools, pricing calculators, embeddable widgets, simple apps, and microsites.


Why is engineering as marketing important?

Offering extremely relevant tools that benefit your audience pays back in multitudes:

  • You’ll generate leads, especially if you’re email-gating the content.
  • It boosts your SEO (search engine optimization) efforts by attracting backlinks from high-authority sites. Free tools are usually the biggest link magnets.
  • It helps you stand apart from competitors, boosting your brand awareness.
  • It helps you gain traction, especially if you’re a new business just starting.
  • Helpful tools build customer love and improve overall customer satisfaction.

Building these tools is typically an expensive and difficult process. You have to get both the engineering team and marketing team involved. That being said, if you have the engineering resources available, engineering as marketing is an excellent strategy for lead generation since competition is lower than in traditional marketing channels.

What are the key elements of engineering as marketing?

Engineering as marketing is a superpower for growth, but the strategy must be right to be effective. If you don’t nail the key elements, you risk not getting a positive ROI from your investment.

Here are some key elements of engineering as marketing:

  • Ensure that what you develop is complementary to your core product.
  • It should focus on doing one thing well. The tool should be low friction and simple to understand.
  • It should provide some sort of added value to your target user.
  • It should be free for the user to use, but can also require an exchange for their contact details.

Where does engineering as marketing fit in the marketing funnel?

When looking at the marketing funnel as a whole, engineering as marketing fits between the Top of the Funnel (TOFU) and the Middle of the Funnel (MOFU) stages.

Users that fall under the TOFU stage are generally looking for information about how to solve a particular problem or even trying to figure out what the exact problem is.

This is a dicovery phase.

They then progress to the MOFU stage where they are considering potential ways or solutions to solving the problem.

That’s why these are the best stages to apply engineering as marketing as it will allow you to introduce your brand to potential customers and it will make it easier to attract them when they reach the Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU) stage when they are ready to buy.

Real-world examples of engineering as marketing

Let’s take a look at five real-world examples of engineering as marketing at play.

Engineering as marketing example #1: Userpilot’s NPS calculator

Here at Userpilot, we’re big fans of engineering as a marketing strategy with our free NPS (net promoter score) calculator.

Want to learn more about NPS and best practices for measuring and acting on it? Book a Userpilot demo.

First, let’s understand what a Net Promoter Score is. NPS is a number that represents customer satisfaction and loyalty. It’s measured by asking users, “On a scale from 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our product to your network?”.

Then you can calculate the NPS score by taking the % of promoters (number of answers 9-10 / total number of answers) and deducting the % of detractors (number of scores 5 and below / total number of answers).

NPS scores range from -100 to 100. If your NPS score is negative, then you have more detractors than promoters, it is positive- the opposite. For SaaS, the average NPS score is 30.


With Userpilot’s NPS calculator, you can just enter the NPS scores your customers gave you and it’ll automatically calculate it for you. Moreover, you can even find best practices for conducting in-app NPS surveys and analyzing responses.

Engineering as marketing example #2: HubSpot’s Website Grader

HubSpot’s Website Grader is one of the most well-known engineering as marketing examples. It was launched back in 2007 and has been an active lead magnet ever since.


Website Grader is a free tool that scores your website based on factors like speed performance, SEO, mobile-friendliness, and security. It then offers tips on how to improve your website performance, weaving in call-to-actions that tie into HubSpot’s core offerings. For example, HubSpot encourages you to try their free CMS so you can build fast landing pages easily. They also promote their course content to enrich leads even further and work on moving them down the sales funnel.

HubSpot’s Website Grader is an amazing example of engineering as marketing done well since it checks all the boxes:

  • It delivers actual value to prospective customers.
  • It’s free to use, but email-gated so that HubSpot can enroll you in their email marketing campaigns.
  • It’s highly relevant to their core business offering – marketing automation and landing page design.
  • It focuses on doing one thing well – delivering actionable insights on how to improve your website (while showing how HubSpot can help you make those upgrades).

HubSpot’s Website Grader paved the way for future engineering as marketing tools to come.

Engineering as marketing example #3: Moz’s Free SEO Tools

Moz has multiple free tools available that do things like competitive link analysis, keyword research, domain analysis, and more. They also have a free Chrome extension called the MozBar. These tools are designed to provide considerable value for free, but they’re also meant to sell their paid products, like Moz Pro or Moz Local.

Especially two of their tools, Followerwonk and Open Site Explorer, have generated thousands of leads for Moz. Similar to Marketing Grader, each solution addresses a problem that an ideal Moz customer faces. With Followerwonk, users can analyze their Twitter followers and get tips for growing their audience. Using Open Site Explorer, users can see where sites are getting links, which is useful for analyzing SEO campaigns.

A key benefit of these tools is the ease of use: prospects simply enter their domain name or Twitter handle.

Moz leverages these free tools as a traction channel to acquire new paying customers. As soon as a potential customer uses the tools, companies can begin engaging them through other traction channels such as sales and email marketing.


Engineering as marketing example #4: Shutterfly’s wedding hashtag generator

The Shutterfly family of brands together make up the leading online retail and manufacturing platform for photography and personalized products. They sell personalized albums, photo books, invitations, cards, and more.

Naturally, one of their biggest markets is weddings.

Shutterfly leans on engineering as marketing to attract future brides and grooms to their website.

They do this with their free wedding hashtag generator tool. That way, wedding guests can share this hashtag on social media when posting pictures of the event.

Shutterfly delivers value with this free hashtag generator tool, and they also promote their most popular wedding-related products on the same page. It’s a solid way to boost sales.

Engineering as marketing example #5: Wix’s business name generator

Wix is an easy and quick website builder.

One of Wix’s target audiences is small business owners who want to create a website for their brand.

They also may be just starting and need to decide on a business name. They’ll likely turn to Google to find a business name and find a link to Wix’s free business name generator tool.

This is smart marketing because these businesses are so new they don’t even have a name yet – chances are, they don’t have a website either. Wix makes itself known to these business owners from day one. That way, they’ll be more likely to use Wix when they’re ready to start building their website – which is the natural next step after picking a name.

business name generator


Engineering as marketing is an excellent marketing strategy that delivers positive ROI in so many areas.

After reading this article, you now know:

  • The key takeaways of building free tools that add value for your audience.
  • Real-world examples that can inspire your building process.

Want to build product experiences code-free? Book a demo call with our team and get started!

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