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Self-made marketing phenomena Neil Patel says that there is an alternative to buying Google Ads to grow your company. The answer he says is creating a free leader product or service that drive customers to your site for you to later upsell. Patel sees this alternative solution as a less expensive and more sustainable “growth hacking” strategy.

Neil Patel discussed this growth hacking strategy in a recent video:

You Don’t Have to Buy Google Ads to Create a Big Company

Google Ads are continually rising in cost. What if I told you I have a really cool solution that’ll give you a much better ROI in the long run than Google Ads. Today, I’m going to share with you the best alternative to Google Ads. What most people don’t realize is, you don’t have to spend money on Google Ads to create a multibillion-dollar company.

Have you heard of Dropbox? Of course, you have and the chances are it’s on your computer. Did you know that when Dropbox first came out they tried to grow by doing Google advertising? And what they found is, even though they had a product that costs around $5 a month, which is around $60 a year per customer, they were spending roughly $200 to $300 to acquire a customer from Google Ads.

Can you see how those numbers don’t work out? Not only are they spending more to acquire a customer than what they’re paying in the first year, but just because someone’s paying you $5 a month, doesn’t mean that $5 is pure profit either.

How to Leverage a Growth Hacking Strategy

So, what did Dropbox do? They leveraged growth hacking. They figured out a way to get users to come to their site and generate more customers. They did this by creating a free product or a service, and that’s a better alternative to Google Ads. If you look at Dropbox, you look at Slack, even look at Amazon, although Amazon’s not really doing free with Prime buy you get free two-day shipping.

By creating something that’s free or such an amazing offer, think of it as your carrot that you’re dangling, you’re going to get so many people over to your website that then when you upsell them into your paid products or services, it’s so much easier because they’re already using your product or service, you’ve already built that brand loyalty, that connection, that rapport with them. It’s much easier to get that upsell.

It Does Cost a Lot to Offer a Free Product or Service

And here’s what most people don’t understand; they’re like, “Whoa Nellie, if I spent all this money getting people over to my website by having a ‘free’ product or service, it’s going to cost me a lot of money,” and it does. I recently released a tool called Ubersuggest. If you look at Uber suggest, I’m spending $150,000 a month releasing a lot of the features you see in tools like BuzzSumo or SEMrush, for free; 150 grand a month, that’s my cost. My cost isn’t going down, it’s continually rising too.

But you know what, if I had to do paid advertising on Google to get those visitors, my estimation shows that I would be spending a bit more than $600,000. Do you see how giving something away for free that costs me $150,000 a month is much better than spending $600,000 a month on paid ads?

Get Creative with Your Marketing

You do not have to spend money on Google Ads to create a big business, just look at Dropbox. Leverage growth hacking, and then as you have these free tools, these free products, these free services, and it may not be the best ones out there but something that people are used to paying for, what you can do is do things like creating invite flows. Dropbox has it: you want more free space, invite more users. I can do the same thing with Ubersuggest; I don’t, but I can say “Want more free usage? Invite more members.”

You can get creative with your marketing, leverage growth hacking. Just don’t put all your money into Google Ads, and the reason I say that is not because I don’t like Google Ads. Ideally, you should be doing both. But the reason I say this is, the moment you stop Google Ads you don’t have any more traffic.

By creating something that’s free, and it doesn’t have to continually cost a ton of money, like HubSpot, they have this free email signature generator. It doesn’t cost them much money; they only spent a few thousand dollars creating it. They don’t even spend any money maintaining it each and every single month. But they found that it can drive over seven figures worth of revenue to their business per year; not too bad from one free tool.

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