What is Passive Marketing? Channels, Examples, and Benefits

Emanuel Skrobonja - Founder and CEO of Ammmigo
Emanuel Skrobonja
March 21, 2024
 minute read
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Passive Marketing Definition

Passive marketing is a low-maintenance marketing strategy that involves initial time or financial investment but requires little upkeep afterward. Passive marketing operates on the "set it and forget it" model.

In other words, with passive marketing, you gain long-term marketing benefits without much maintenance.

Pretty cool!

Passive marketing efforts compounding - money overflowing the frame

The of opposite passive marketing is active marketing.

Active marketing involves promoting your products or services directly to customers, like ads, sales calls, tweeting, or email outreach, where you reach out to people instead of waiting for them to find you.

In my experience, I found that the best results come from a combination of active, and passive marketing. But more on that later.

Key Characteristics of Passive Marketing:

Key characteristics of passive marketing: Long-term focus, and low-mainetnance
  • Low maintenance: Once set up, these strategies do not require frequent updates or active management to continue working effectively.
  • Long-term focus: They are designed with a long-term perspective, aiming to provide sustainable results over time.

With these characteristics in mind, imagine the following example.

Example: A local business

Amina is a local business owner.

She has the best acai bowls in town, but since she just opened, very few people know about her store.

She needs to find ways to get more customers without spending a ton of time on marketing.

What are some marketing activities that she could perform that have a long shelf life?

Here are a few passive marketing ideas for a local business

Amina could:

  • Place a durable, eye-catching banner with her business info at a busy intersection, attracting attention 24/7 with no further effort.
Durable sign for acai bowls
  • Create a Google Business Profile — She could hire a photographer to help her take beautiful photos of the food, and the ambiance, and add it to her profile. This would take only a couple of hours of her time, but it could bring customers in for years to come.
Google Business Profile for Amina's Acai place
  • Partner up — Amina lives in a touristy city. She could talk to tourist guides, and offer them a commission or a free meal for every group they bring. She could also partner up with local fitness, and wellness centers.

Let’s look at a few more examples.

Passive Marketing Channels

Here are a few more examples of passive marketing strategies that can help you grow your business.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is one of my favorite passive marketing channels of all time.

Of course, SEO can also be an active channel.

It's active when targeting current industry news and trends, but becomes passive with a focus on evergreen content, requiring minimal ongoing maintenance.

Here are a few examples:

Local SEO

Local SEO - Google search results

Remember the example above, where I said that Amina could create a Google Business Profile? That’s a great example of local SEO in action, and it’s 100% passive marketing.

Here’s another more personal example.


Search console metrics for Eatcrickster

With my first startup, Crickster, even after closing doors in 2019, our 32 blog posts continue to secure top Google rankings, and in the last 16 months, it brought 100K visitors.

Crickster ranking number 1 on google for cricket farming

That’s due to our emphasis on high-quality, timeless content.

Of course, there are also other ways of creating search-engine-optimized content, such as building landing pages, knowledge hubs, programmatic SEO, User Generated Content, and more.

Engineering as Marketing — Free Apps and Tools

Compound interest calculator by NerdWallet is a great example of Engineering as marketing

Building free tools such as calculators or apps is a great way to get traction. The best part is that you don’t even need to be an engineer to pull this off.

Nowadays, if you have an idea for a simple calculator, you can ask ChatGPT to write the code for you, and with a little nudging, you can get it to work.

Here are some of my favorite examples of engineering as marketing in Action:


ChatGPT screenshot

ChatGPT is a perfect example of engineering as marketing.

OpenAI launched ChatGPT as a "research preview" without expecting its viral success. It aimed to refine the technology by gathering public feedback, improving safety, and aligning the model with human preferences.

Little did they know, that this free tool would become a viral sensation. The chatbot attracted over 1 million users within 5 days, and it became a major traction channel for OpenAI.


Finsweet homepage on mobile

Finsweet is a Webflow agency known for offering innovative solutions. Finsweet creates free apps and tools for Webflow users, which is a huge driver of traffic.

Finsweet Attributes website

These offerings have established Finsweet as a top development agency within the Webflow community, attracting thousands of clients over the years.


JWT homepage by Okta is a free tool for developers.

It is used for decoding, and validating JSON web tokens (Authentication tokens). debugger

It was created by Auth0 (Okta), and according to, it receives over 1M visitors per month. belongs to Okta, and the main call to action leads to their freemium product Auth0

The main call to action is this button, for creating a free Auth0 account.


Referral Programs

Deel's referral program - screenshot

This is one of the most cost-effective marketing channels.

Referral marketing incentivizes existing customers to recommend your brand to their personal network.

In most cases, both the referrer and the new customer receive a reward.

Referral marketing is effective because your customers already know, like, and trust you (unless you’re doing something wrong). And if you offer a good incentive, they’ll likely help spread the word about your product.

Referral marketing is passive because it operates on the “set it and forget it” model.

Once you launch your referral program, you don’t have to do much maintenance later on.

Let’s look at two of my favorite referral marketing examples:


Dropbox Referral Program

Dropbox offers extra storage space to users who refer friends to sign up for their service. Both the referrer and the new user receive additional storage, incentivizing users to invite others.

For Dropbox, this strategy was incredibly successful.

Dropbox became the fastest-growing SaaS business ever, reaching a $1B revenue run rate in record time.

Let’s have a look into Dropbox’s metrics history:

  • September 2008: 100K users
  • December 2009: 4M users 🤯
  • September 2017: 33.9M users

Between 2008 and 2010, Dropbox doubled its user base every three months, resulting in 2.8M referral invites in April 2010.

That’s 3900% growth in 15 months!

Of course, Dropbox also ran other growth experiments, and a whole company culture focused on growth.

But their referral program was one of the main drivers of traffic, which is still being used today.


Wise referral program

Wise, formerly known as TransferWise, has a highly effective referral program that has contributed significantly to its growth.

There’s a talk on YouTube by Nilan Peiris, the Chief Product Officer at Wise, where he mentioned that 60-70% of their users find out about Wise from a friend.

I asked Nilan if he’d like to share what percentage of that traffic comes from their referral program, and here’s what he had to say:

“Out of these historic presentations, I have shared say around 20-30% is incentivized Word of mouth (WOM), and 30-40% pure WOM.”


Historically, roughly 20-30% of their customers came from referral and affiliate marketing. Not bad for a marketing channel that requires minimal maintenance.

What I find even more impressive are their numbers for non-incentivized Word of mouth.

If you’re interested in creating a product that customers will rave about, check out Nilan’s content.

It’s a free masterclass in branding and leadership. I can highly recommend watching it, and taking notes👌

Affiliate Programs

Ammmigo affiliate links

Affiliate programs are very similar to referral programs, and many marketers confuse these terms.

The major distinction between the two is who’s being targeted, and how.

In short:

  • Affiliate marketing: a broader range of partners > targeting their audience
  • Referral marketing: existing customers > targeting their personal network

Both programs incentivize participants through rewards or commissions; however, referral programs specifically incentivize existing customers to promote within their personal networks.

Affiliate programs, on the other hand, offer incentives to a broader range of partners (affiliates) for leveraging their audiences.

The term "partner" in the context of affiliate programs can be broadened to include not just individuals but also companies, influencers, content creators, and other entities capable of driving traffic or sales.

Affiliate marketing is also a passive marketing channel

You create your program, and the necessary marketing pages, and affiliates can find your program by themselves.

Shameless plug:

If you want to get started with affiliate marketing, check out, it takes only a few minutes to get started, and we have guides to help you make the most out of your efforts.

YouTube Videos

YouTube Homepage

YouTube videos can be both active and passive marketing. The same logic applies as it did with SEO. If you’re focused on breaking down trending topics, your views might flop as soon as you stop posting.

On the other hand, if your focus is on creating evergreen content, your videos can continue generating traffic for years.

Here’s an example of an evergreen video that I created for Finsweet.

Youtube Analytics

Aside from the initial spike in the first week, the growth has been pretty consistent for over 800 days.

User-generated Content (USG)

Webflow forum
Webflow's Forum is an example of user-generated content

There are many strategies to encourage user-generated content that ranks well on Google.

Examples include using bio links, public forums, and platforms like Airbnb and Craigslist where users can create listings and reviews.

Aibnb - home screen
Airbnb is another great example of UGC driving traffic

Content Marketing

Content marketing can also be passive marketing. The goal is to put your efforts into evergreen content.

Here are a few examples of passive content marketing:


Crickster - Infographic

If your infographics revolve around evergreen content, or if they provide valuable insight, they can serve you for years.

The best part is that good infographics often attract lots of backlinks, which is super important for SEO.


Once published, e-books can be promoted through various channels for a long time. Helping you generate leads, attract backlinks, and establish authority on a particular subject.

Example: Flavio Copes

One of my favorite examples is Flavio Copes who writes e-books that teach you how to code.

Flavio Copes Books

His books are short and extremely helpful.

You can get access to 15+ free e-books in exchange for your email, which he uses as a lead magnet to promote his paid community and boot camp.

Whitepapers and Reports

Similar to e-books, in-depth whitepapers and reports can be a valuable asset for attracting leads, collecting emails, and establishing thought leadership over time.

You can use these to address industry trends, research findings or propose solutions to a common challenge.

Example: HubSpots’ State of Marketing Report 2024
Hubspot- state of marketing report

This report provides insights into inbound marketing trends, strategies, and challenges based on surveys and data analysis.

It’s a highly valued report, that receives a lot of backlinks, and it helps establish HubSpot as an industry leader.

While you might not have the resources to create such a comprehensive report, you can still benefit from this strategy. If you have an audience, you can collect data through interviews, and surveys, and share your findings with the world.


Audio track cover

Podcasts are another compounding asset. Whether you’re focusing on entertainment, education, or a combination of both, podcasts can be a great way to place you on people’s radar.

If your focus is on creating timeless content, your efforts will continue to compound over time.

Podcasting can be used to:

  • Establish thought leadership
  • Grow your audience
  • Create brand awareness

It’s also a great opportunity to connect with people!

You get to interview interesting people in your niche, and your audience learns about you, and your story.

Here are a few of my favorite podcasts:

Arvid Kahl — The Bootstrapped Founder
Deep Dive with Ali Abdaal
Huberman Lab by Andrew Huberman

Though The Bootstrapped Founder might not be as well-known, it's included because it has a very dedicated community. Even though it's smaller, its audience is genuinely engaged, showing it's better to have a few devoted fans than many uninterested viewers.

The message here is this: prioritize engagement over vanity metrics like views.

Engagement > Views

Case Studies

Evergreen case studies can be great for SEO, and long-term engagement.

Showcasing how your product or service solves a problem for your target audience doesn’t have an expiry date.

A good case study can be shared on your website and social media.

Case studies are a fantastic tool for establishing trust and authority.

Built-in Virality

Built-in virality means designing products or content to make people naturally want to share them with others, spreading the word without needing extra marketing efforts.

Sounds very simple, but you need to do some thinking to implement this effectively within your business.

Here are some examples to help spark your imagination:

Sharing Features

Duolingo - streak sharing screen

A great example of embedded sharing features is Duolingo.

Whenever you get to a milestone, whether that’s a 50 day learning streak, or finishing a chapter, Duolingo prompts you to share it with the world.

When you get to such a milestone, you feel proud, and are inclined to share your progress… or at least that’s how I feel 😅


Messaging apps are a great example of built-in invite features.

When you install WhatsApp or Viber, you get a prompt to invite your friends to the platform. This strategy helped WhatsApp grow to 2.78 billion users, and Viber to roughly half of that. invite friend

Another cool example is, where you’re prompted to invite friends, so that you can play against them. I’m not sure how many users came this way, but I know that I did 😅

Unlocking Content, and Features

If you’re a gamer, I’m sure that you’re familiar with this.

You get prompted to invite friends, and in return, you unlock in-game rewards, such as skins, gear, or new missions.

A cool example is Fortnite:

Fortnite's refer-a-friend 3.0

Note that this gamified marketing strategy can also be deployed in mobile apps, web apps or even e-commerce stores.

Imagine giving users access to special feature only if they invite someone.

That’s pretty clever!

Email and Automation

Envelope with a letter

Email Marketing

Email marketing can be both an active, and passive. If you’re manually sending an email every time, that’s active marketing. But if you’re leveraging email automation, you created a passive marketing machine!

Setting up an email marketing campaign is probably the best thing you can do for your business. Email marketing typically has a significantly higher ROI than many other marketing channels (like social media).

But, does email marketing still work in 2024?

I have some stats here that will blow your mind.

The average email subscriber is worth $48.87 (DMA).

And the ROI for Email Marketing is 36:1. (Constant Contact)

That’s insane!

Imagine investing $10k to make $360k.

No wonder that so many marketers are saying:

“The money is in the list!”

Other Automation Examples

Graph with Conditional logic for email automation

Aside from email marketing, several automation strategies serve as effective passive marketing tools.

Here are some examples:

  1. Social Media Scheduling
  2. Content recommendations
  3. Chatbots
  4. Programmatic SEO
  5. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tools
  6. Post-purchase review requests

All of these examples can be used to create valuable touchpoints for your brand

Passive Marketing Benefits

The main benefit is that passive marketing keeps your brand visible, and attracts new business 24/7, without chasing after customers.

It's like setting up a net that catches fish while you're sleeping.

Pretty neat!

But aside from that, there are a couple of other important benefits.

Passive marketing:

  • Builds trust: Consider choosing a social media scheduling tool. You're likely to trust a brand you know from blog posts, social media engagement, and a bunch of positive reviews over a new brand with just a landing page and two screenshots.
  • Is cost-effective: Compared to active marketing strategies, like paid ads or direct sales efforts, passive marketing can be more budget-friendly in the long run. Once you've set up your content or SEO strategy, it requires less day-to-day spending to maintain.
  • Enhances brand awareness: Even if someone doesn't need your product or service right now, passive marketing ensures they know who you are. When they're ready to make a decision, your brand will be top of mind.
  • Complements active marketing: Passive marketing doesn't exist in a vacuum. It supports and amplifies your active marketing efforts. For instance, a strong SEO foundation can make your paid ads more effective by increasing your visibility online.
  • Works 24/7, 365 days a year: As I mentioned, passive marketing works for you day in and day out, with almost zero maintenance.

Passive vs Active Marketing

Active vs Passive Marketing

You heard me talk a lot about the benefits of passive marketing. Does this mean that you should just ditch active marketing?

Absolutely not!

Both active and passive marketing have their pros and cons. And by knowing the differences, you can eliminate the downside of each approach.

But before we get into the pros and cons, let’s first look at a few examples of active marketing:

  • Engaging directly with customers through social media comments and messages.
  • Conducting live webinars.
  • Sending personalized email campaigns.
  • Participating in trade shows and networking events.
  • Running pay-per-click advertising campaigns.

Active Marketing

The Pros:

  • Quick results
  • Stronger personal connection
  • Short feedback loop

The Cons:

  • Requires constant effort

Passive Marketing

The Pros:

  • Higher ROI (in most cases)
  • Stable flow of leads
  • Long shelf-life
  • Easier to outsource

The Cons:

  • Slower progress

The 80/20 Rule of Marketing

Donut chart showing 80% Passive marketing, and 20% active marketing

In my opinion, you get the best results by combining active and passive marketing.

In Ammmigo, I plan to spend 80% of my time on passive marketing; writing blog posts, making videos, setting up a referral program, etc.

And 20% of my time tweeting, commenting, DMing, and sharing.

This way, I get immediate results from active marketing, while building a compounding machine that works day, and night with passive marketing.

Written by
Emanuel Skrobonja - Founder and CEO of Ammmigo
Emanuel Skrobonja
Founder and CEO
I'm excited by online businesses, macchiatos, and design. When not working, you'll likely find me hiking or reading a book.

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