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Stop wasting your marketing dollars and convert your sales leads with a strong conversion funnel. Whether your breaking even each month, or your funnel is leaking money, Ewa Wysocka, CEO at Tribe47, shares how to identify issues with your conversion funnel, and how to fix those issues.

Ewa explains the five stages of a conversion funnel, and why measuring ALL of your marketing platforms assures you are optimizing your ROI. She also identifies the most common mistakes she sees when performing an audit of a business’s funnel and the first steps a business should take to fix a faulty funnel.

Listen to this episode:

We covered:

  • What are the signs of a broken conversion funnel
  • Three situations that businesses face when identifying conversion funnel problems
  • Why tweaking your products pricing can fix your conversion funnel
  • Where to start when your conversion funnel is broken
  • How a business can evaluate their conversion funnel on their own
  • The five unique aspects of a conversion funnel
  • Why it is so difficult to measure sales conversions
  • The most important aspect to look at when auditing your funnel
  • The most common mistakes are when analyzing conversion funnels
  • What marketers should be learning today to prepare them for the future
  • Ewa’s top three marketing resource recommendations


Full Transcript:

Louis: Bonjour, bonjour, and welcome to another episode of everyonehatesmarketers.com, no-fluff, actionable marketing podcasts for marketers, founders and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing.

I’m your host Louis Grenier. In today’s episode, you’ll learn how to build end to end conversion funnels, in particular in the online education industry, in the subscription industry and even for physical products.

My guest today is the founder at Tribe47, an end to end digital marketing agency delivering services at the early stage of the journey, and they specialize in end to end conversion funnels. We’ll talk about that in more detail in the next few minutes.

My guest is an online marketing expert with over 10 years of experience and she specializes, as you guessed it, in digital marketing.

She’s also the founder of the biggest Polish online community for Yoga lovers, PortalYogi, and also the initiative called traffic and conversion meetup, where she speaks and teaches about digital marketing. Ewa Wysocka, welcome aboard.

Ewa: Thank you so much for the invitation.

Louis: You’re very welcome.

Ewa: I’m excited to be here.

Louis: Yeah, me too. Let’s do this.

So conversion funnels, right, a term that has been thrown around forever by marketing experts, and I think very few really understand what it even means, or how to build one, so this is what we’ll discuss together today.

The first few questions I want to ask you are more around the problems that occur when you don’t have a proper funnel. Maybe let’s talk a bit about the importance of a conversion funnel in the first place.

Why is it important to have a conversion funnel, or an end to end conversion funnel in your business?

Ewa: You needed to acquire clients as just, and term conversion funnel, it’s nothing else than just the journey that you use to convert someone from just an online internet user into your customer.

You needed, but I also must say that every business has it, even if you don’t realize it, you have it. The fact that you have like your Facebook page or you know, your website with a phone number on it, or even a placement on Google means that you have a conversion funnel, it just might to be a little bit under developed and that’s it.

Now, to build it up means really building your digital marketing and tapping into different solutions and tactics that internet offers.

I think like, you ask the questions like what are the problems may be of having or not having a conversion funnel. I think the problem of not having a conversion funnel means you’re not generating customers through the internet if you don’t have it.

I would say if you’re a startup and you’re not doing anything, you probably don’t have a conversion funnel. I think the problems and what starts to be interesting is when you actually have something, and this something that you have is slightly broken, then it gets interesting. It’s like my favorite type of customers that I like to, I work with.

Obviously, at Tribe47, we work with customers who either don’t have anything yet or they have built something and the something is slightly broken.

The second case is my favorite, not my team’s favorite always because it’s usually a harder thing, because it often happens and I guess a lot of maybe listeners can relate to it. Once you’re starting out, you might not have so much knowledge, but I don’t know, you read an article or maybe you listened to a podcast, or you go through some online course and you put out whatever you heard, it’s a good solution.

You use platform that someone recommended to you, like, I don’t know, click funnels or mail chimp or something, whatever that you heard is good and maybe someone sold it to you in a good. You put it out, you put the site on it, you install some emails and maybe you go on Facebook and put some ad, and then after you put out everything, you start analyzing what it really brought you.

In many cases, it actually took a lot of time, you spent some little money and you still don’t see any results. Then the frustration starts, but the fun part is you already have your conversion funnel and we can start having some fun with it.

Louis: What are the signs a funnel is broken as you mentioned? You used the word broken quite a lot, what is a broken funnel?

Ewa: Basically the sign of a broken funnel means that, I invested x amount of money, for example, in online advertising or in the production of my marketing materials, or in the production of some blog article, or in a production of some video, and I put it out there and then what I get in return is less than I have invested.

That means that your funnel is broken. It also might mean in some cases, which makes it even more exciting, that your product is not the market fit. This is where it gets even more exciting because once you’re a startup or your new out there, that might be also the case that there’s not just a matter of your marketing and it might be actually a matter of your product and your offering, and there just might be no need for it, or no one might be interested in that.

Louis: Right, because you can have a beautiful funnel that is well engineered with all the steps properly done, but if your initial offer, if your product is shit, if, you know, the funnel itself might not be broken, right?

Ewa: Exactly. What I usually, because we work a lot with companies in this very early stage of business, so what I always say, in the very beginning, go and do a type of guerrilla sale. Just go out there and try to sell your product.

Don’t build like some funnels, just go out there and show me that you can sell your product. I mean, hell sell it to your friends, but make sure that actually they pay you money for it, not just take it for free to make you feel good about it. Once you have some proof of concept and you’re confident that your product is sellable, then start building the funnel. Obviously a lot of people do it opposite way.

Ewa: This is also like, I would say, fine, maybe someone put some money on it, maybe it was not you, you got some investors go in and they put some cash just to test your idea, that’s also fine. I would say, if you have this investment and you’re ready to do something with that pile of cash, I would say find someone who knows how to do it and build for you a funnel that has a chance to convert.

Once this is built, then what I always recommend is to start measuring investment against the results. There are three cases that can happen, and I always say based on that, you can make a lot of decisions.

Ewa: Let’s say you’re not 100% sure about your product offering, but you got some money or you’re very hardworking and you invested into building a sensible funnel, which means you have some source of traffic, this traffic goes to your website or your landing page.

You have some leads that are generated through this and some of these needs you’re trying to convert into sales, and you have it built by someone who knows what they’re doing. You put some money on it, the traffic is going and we’re analyzing the results. There can be three cases really, three situations that can happen.

Ewa: Number one, the amount of money you spend is less than amount of money that you’ve got, so that’s the worst one. That means you actually put out more than you’re getting. At this point you should analyze really, okay, maybe I spend a lot of money on the website production.

Okay, let’s see, we don’t take this cost into consideration because it’s more of an investment, but we also spent some money on, I don’t know, production of some ads, we spent some money on Facebook just to generate traffic. This money, after adding it up, is still more than the money that you have gained through the whole campaign, so we’re in case number one. I spent money and I made less than I spent.

In this situation, if the funnel is kind of properly built, I would always say the problem is bigger than your marketing. The problem is elsewhere, and it can be in three places. Number one, it can be your product, so your market doesn’t really want your product.

This is a little bit hard to change, especially if you spend the last year on developing your product. I would say, be careful before you start touching the product because there are other things that you can do.

Second thing that you can try to do, try to really look into who you’re trying to market this product to, because if the situation is so bad that you spent more money than you’re making, maybe you’re just trying to offer your product to the wrong audience, that’s like the first golden rule of marketing, try to understand who you’re selling to, and a lot of people at this early stage make this mistake.

They actually have a product that they think they’re going to sell to the particular client, but it might end up that, okay, this is not the best match, but someone who I didn’t think about, might be more interested in this particular product than the client that I initially had in mind. Dig in and try to see if there might be a different type of audience.

For example, you thought this is a product for entrepreneurs, but actually it’s not for entrepreneurs, but for people in the corporate who are interested to switch from the corporate job to the entrepreneurship, and you didn’t think about it, you were targeting business owners, but you should actually target people who are inside of the corporation and just thinking about an entrepreneurial experience.

The third thing you can do, which is the easiest, and I always say, every good digital marketing consultants should give it to you as the first good advice in this situation where you’re spending much more money on your funnel then you’re making, it’s play with your price. I have multiple cases when just this little advice helped someone who was in the very early stage to start seeing some positive results.

We worked with one business who was producing an APP for seniors. It was an app that was helping senior people just to use mobile phone better because it was just an application that made interface simpler.

They started with this vision that they’re going to become a next WhatsApp, which obviously became a little bit unrealistic because to get million of customers paying $1 a month for using a service, it’s realistic if you have a mass product, but if you’re talking to the very limited audience, which is seniors who I have a trouble with using your phone, this might be unrealistic.

The only thing we did, we just change a subscription from $1 to 10 a month, which is still a realistic money, it’s not very high, it’s something affordable, but at the same time, it became evident that by just changing this price, the conversion stay the same, but the business started to make some progress in terms of just making return on the investment they were putting on their digital marketing, so play with the price first.

Louis: Right. Let me cut you there and summarize what you said so far, because it’s super interesting. The first scenario where you said that if your funnel is leaking money, not making money, it could be it’s the bad products, the wrong market or the wrong price.

Ewa: Right.

Louis: I would say even for the wrong market, it seems like it’s the wrong positioning, right? It seems like you’re picking the wrong messaging towards maybe the wrong market or is it only the one market?

Ewa: Yeah. I would say wrong positioning is I think a little bit higher level. I would say it’s always, it’s like it’s combined, but to me, it starts with the persona, because persona will actually provoke you to change both messaging and, for example, the way you’re going to target and the places where you’re going to gather traffic.

Of course, it’s combined, but I would say think persona, this will make it easier and will make basically the methodology simpler because once you’re going to change the persona, that’s going to actually force you to change the messaging as well.

Louis: Got you.

Ewa: You will need to change it to anyways.

Louis: And so to talk about, for example, about pricing as well, it might be a bit for people listening, but as you said, it’s not because you increase your price 10 fold that your conversion rate will decrease 10 fold, right.

Ewa: No. Very often it doesn’t happen.

Louis: Yeah, which is in the psychology of people, which is, people trust others when they charge more, like no one would trust a cheap expert or a cheap consultant, right, and there’s this aspect of it’s not because you increase your price that people are less likely to buy, sometimes it’s the opposite.

They see the price is higher, therefore they have more trust in the product, therefore they’re more willing to pay, and so the example you mentioned, the one to 10 is a classic example. You said that the conversion rate didn’t budge.

Ewa: No, it didn’t. It didn’t change because the difference between, for example, paying $1 and $10 amount for someone, it’s really nothing. It’s still quite a low price point, but from the perspective of the business, it makes a big change, because now I have some money, I can spend or actually marketing and promoting the product and reaching out to people who might be interested.

Very often businesses don’t think about it, they think about, oh, I have this exciting idea about bringing this new product to the market, but you also have to think about the fact that part of your job is also to reach people with the message about your product, right. Because the fact that are going to produce something great, doesn’t really make this product reach the right people. That’s a part of the job and you have to leave the space and the money to make it happen, and that’s often actually the more expensive part than what you invested in the product so far, so just take it into consideration.

Louis: Let’s dive into this scenario because I suspect that you mentioned the two other scenario, the funnel, I suspect another scenario is you’re making as much as you’re invested, and the other one is you’re making more. I feel like the most interesting is the first one, which is okay, you’re leaking money, you’re not making enough.

Let’s deep dive together into like, taking the example of a company coming to you and saying this exact thing, “Listen, we are well losing money with our marketing, our funnel is all over the place, we don’t know where to begin. Can you help?” What is the process you use to go from, our funnel is broken, we’re fucked to wow, marketing is really working great for us using the end to end conversion funnel. What is the first step? Where do you start to help this company?

Ewa: They just started with, as a part of my, it’s part of my, let’s say kickoff process, so first thing I do, I try to calculate. I start with the numbers, so I try to understand, first of all, how much money was spent so far on marketing?

What’s the product, how much was made, what’s the proportion? But I’m also diving into the fundamentals of marketing, which are important for me. These fundamentals is, of course, the persona, who is really that person that you’re trying to help?

The second one is the market, so how does the market look like? What are the competitors? How many similar products out there are marketing to the same audience? What are their price points? What are their messaging? The third one, it’s what you mentioned that before is this unique selling proposition, so like positioning, how are you positioning your product to that market?

Once I understand these three and I see like okay, kind of makes sense, then I look into the funnel. I try to see if there are some no obvious mistakes, meaning obvious mistake, I mean for example, your website doesn’t work on mobile at all, okay. If something like that is there, and I see it sometimes, okay, well let’s first fix it, continue doing what you were doing and see if it’s still the same bad.

Or other situation can be like some other very broken obvious thing, like someone who had this situation, like we digged into the Facebook advertising that was rolled, and then we noticed that there’s like 30,000 monthly being spent by a person who has one month experience in Facebook advertising, so I’m like, okay.

This thing has to be corrected before we make any conclusions, because clearly that someone is more playing versus really setting up things because they had zero clue about how it should be done.

I’m trying to correct the obvious mistakes on the process that was executed so far. I’m looking into persona, unique selling proposition in the market, and I’m calculating the proportion between the money spent and the money gained. Once this is done, then I’m really trying to put this company into one of these three brackets that you said.

First one is like the funnel, which is totally leaking money, and then if there’s no obvious mistakes in the digital marketing approach, then I play with the price or with the persona or I try to play with the product if this is any possible, or I move to this two other scenarios. My most common one that I’m helping is this second scenario where someone that’s actually breaking even on their digital marketing activities.

And that’s very often really the case of companies at the early stage, and that’s actually good, so I want to kind of reach out to everyone who’s listening and doing something online, and if you guys actually are making back your investment, I would say it’s good. If you’re starting out, you’re new in the market, your brand is still quite unknown and you are actually breaking even, that’s a good sign.

That means that there’s a lot of things that can be done and if you’re going to start expanding your digital marketing wisdom, or maybe, I don’t know, you started working with someone who is more experienced or maybe you hire or partner with someone, there’s a lot of potential to improve on that situation.

That’s usually where, when our company comes in, that’s usually the case, because the final scenario where you’re making significantly more than your spending, and your digital marketing is quite a profitable, then the optimization should be done on the elements.

That’s when you are optimizing the ads, that when you’re optimizing your website, changing the bottoms of your … Colors of your bottoms, or optimizing particular emails in your sequence, or exchanging video with the image in particular campaign. But this is when you’re doing more like the cosmetics, just to see improvements that are on different levels.

But the second scenario where you’re kind of breaking even, but you don’t know really what to do to move further, that’s the most fun case. That’s when, what I usually do, I still dig into persona, I still dig into market and competitors, I still dig into unique selling proposition of that company.

Sometimes I help them to maybe improve on this unique selling proposition because maybe they are not exposing perfectly what’s different about their product, or maybe it’s not standing out enough against the competitors. But what we’re trying to do here as the first thing, I’m really sitting down and trying to draw in detail the funnel that they’re using right now.

Louis: Right.

Ewa: And you might be very surprised how difficult it is.

Louis: Let me stop you right here, because I think we’re starting at step two now, the mapping on the funnel, and I think it’s going to be quite fun to talk about that. Just to summarize what you said earlier on, and why I’m not diving into that many details. You mentioned the persona, you mentioned the pricing, you mentioned looking at the unique selling point and all of that.

We talked about that a few times in the podcast and from different guests, and so I don’t want to dive into a lot of details with you, because I feel like what you’re going to mention right now, for the mapping and the rest is really valuable and we haven’t talked about that before. For persona is an episode, for unique selling..

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It’s time to stop viewing your business as a funnel. If you want your business to grow more efficiently, it’s time to start implementing growth loops into your business’s growth model.

Brian Balfour, Founder/CEO of Reforge, and previously VP of Growth at HubSpot, joins the show to discuss how businesses can identify impactful growth loops and the first few steps of implementation.

Listen to this episode:

We covered:

  • Why not all companies function as a traditional sales funnel
  • The 2 biggest mistakes you can make when looking at your “word of mouth” growth loop
  • Why it is important to continue to layer new growth loops into your business model
  • Examples of commonly used growth loops
  • The 3 major factors that create a successful growth loop
  • The easy first step companies should take when analyzing growth loop models
  • Choosing between highly diversified growth loops or expertise in one growth loop
  • How to identify your growth loop’s most impactful point of leverage
  • Some insightful career path advice for marketers


Full Transcript:

Louis: Bonjour, bonjour and welcome to another episode of EveryoneHatesMarketers.com, the no fluff actionable marketing podcast for marketers, founders and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing, I’m your host, Louis Grenier. In today’s episode, you learn why traditional funnels suck and how to leverage growth loops instead.

My guest today is the founder and CEO of Reforge which is a suite of selective programs for experienced professionals in marketing product data and engineering and he previously led growth at HubSpot.

He started multiple VC backed companies, grown user bases to millions of daily active users, he writes daily, not daily, detailed essays, nearly daily, essays on growth and user acquisition, has been featured on Forbes, Hacker Monthly, On Startups, is quite known in the growth world and so that’s why I’m super happy to have Brian Balfour on board.

Brian, welcome.

Brian: Hey, thanks for having me.

Louis: So why … I just started by saying the traditional, you know, funnel sucks. And that’s really not me saying that, I just merely repeated what you wrote in one of your brilliant essays. So why do traditional funnels suck? And perhaps you can tell me more about what you mean by the traditional funnels out there?

Brian: Yeah, so I think you know, a great framework that was created and kind of popularized a number of years ago by an excellent marketer, Dave McClure, was kind of this whole pirate metrics, kind of the (AARRR) acquisition, activation, retention, referral, revenue.

I thought that was, obviously was a great starting point and very useful, but I think what we’ve realized kind of as we learned a lot more about, especially how software and technology companies grow, that you need to be careful of to not too kind of view your whole business as a funnel.

The reason is, is that if you look at kind of the, some of the fastest growing companies at the center of how they grow is more of a loop dynamic, meaning in a traditional funnel, you’re really thinking about, “Well, I put so much, a certain amount in at the top and a certain amount comes out the bottom.”

So you kind of get into this mindset of like, “Okay well I need to like, either just keep putting more in the top, or by the bottom, get more out of like for every unit I put in at the top, I get more out at the bottom.”

But a loop construct is much more about … zooming out a little bit, in saying, well how do I view my business as a loop in the sense that, whatever comes out at the bottom, I can sort of reinvest to generate more at the top.

And what it ends up looking like is more of a self-sustaining system, so I’m sure everybody’s kind of heard the quote that you know, Einstein said like, “One of man’s greatest inventions is compound interest” and it’s kind of true in this case too right?

In the sense that when you think about it from a loop construct and you kind of get this self sustaining system, you get this compound interest effect.

And so for every kind of thing that you put in at the top, you actually kind of get more out over time and so you know, some very easy examples like on the consumer side of the business right, would be a product that I’m sure everybody’s familiar with, like Pinterest where they take a new and returning user, a certain percentage of them kind of create new content or-re pin new content on their platform.

And then they use that content to create all these pages that are indexed in Google and people stumble across this page and that creates more new and returning users. And this is kind of a self sustaining system, right? And in continuing that front.

But it also works on the B2B side whether you’re thinking about bottoms up companies like SurveyMonkey as people kind of create surveys and then send them out to people, get people to be exposed to their surveys and they end up becoming survey creators themselves.

Or even you should be thinking about sales as a loop as well because sales is all about basically how do you add people to the sales team, there’s salespeople kind of work a number of leads, generate customers and then you take the revenue generated from those customers to hire more salespeople.

And so you don’t really have a scalable sales team in a scalable sales growth model unless you’re able to get that loop dynamic, you’re able to take that money that’s generated and reinvest it more into the thing that’s helping you create new customers.

And so as a result, you know, something that we just like teach at Reforge, and kind of how I viewed all of my projects is just very much, kind of looking at this and constructing all different types of growth loops, right?

And within those growth loops there’s a set of funnels that you can optimize, but you need to be very careful about viewing your entire business as a funnel, because once again you just kind of get into this endless mindset, of “I just need to pump more into it at the top to get more at the bottom” and that ultimately kind of hits a ceiling and is not super scalable.

Louis: And you also have this feeling if you look at it from a funnel perspective that you just put a lot of money out and what’s in and what you get out doesn’t really matter in a sense that the one at the bottom, do they end up paying? And then that’s the end of the funnel, right? They just pay and then that’s it, you forgot about them.

That’s something I’ve been dying to ask you actually for the last while since I read your essay a long time ago now, is the, surely the simplest growth loop out there that probably works for any business if you think about it is, I buy your product, I like it because it’s a great product on it’s own therefore I talk about it to others, those that are, speak about it use it, et cetera, right?

It feels like, it’s something I’ve been talking about the podcast a lot, which is the best marketing possible is to have a great fucking product in the first place, right? It seems like this is the simplest growth loop out there.

Brian: Yeah, it’s probably the one that’s been around for the longest which is this, like, word of mouth basically. And so like, one of the keys that we talk about is, well once you identify the steps, the loop, then one of the questions is, “Well, how do I, what are the pieces of the loop that I can control or I can influence, right? And help improve and increase?”

And so while almost every great product starts with a phenomenal word of mouth loop, I think one of … and every loop kind of has pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, and so one of the cons of looking at a word of mouth loop is that you don’t … the leverage you have to pull on that, the things that you can control, are either a more ambiguous or just a little bit outside of your influence.

But to take the … but I think the biggest mistake with the word of mouth loop is just like saying one of two things, right? Either one, I have no control over it, that’s just definitely not true. In the second thing is that, don’t make the mistake in the first one of saying that you don’t have control over it, but I’m blanking on the second thing, but it’ll come around to me-So let me actually start with the first one.

Louis: Exactly.

Brian: So the first one is like, well we need to actually think about, well what can you control in that word of mouth loop, what you can control is basically, it’s the careful balancing game between who you’re building the product for and who you’re exposing it to.

So for example, I see a lot of these product launches, for example, it’s just like, “Oh let me get a TechCrunch article, let me get it on Product Hunt, let me game Hacker News” and like all of that kind of stuff, and what you’re saying there is actually, well, “I’m just going to like release this product that you hopefully have built for a specific person in mind.

We’re just going to let everybody and anybody in and sort of kick the tires,” and the problem with that is what you end up happening is this massive spread of people that you haven’t built the product for coming into the product and having a bad experience, not because you built a shitty product, but because you’ve exposed it to the wrong people.

And so all of a sudden you have more people having a worse experience than the people that are having a good experience. And as a result that has a bunch of negative impacts.

It actually decreases this word of mouth loop, it increases the number of people who aren’t promoting your product over the people who are. And a lot of people look at that and say, “Well people will know that like the product just isn’t for them, I didn’t build the product for them, or that whatever,” that’s not how people think, right?

Like that’s not how consumers think they just kind of go in and try, they get frustrated, and they’re like, “Ah this thing sucks.” Right?

And so that’s kind of ultimately what you’re creating when you kind of do those types of product launches, but it has a bunch of other negative effects in the sense that you just kind of like, really kind of muddy the waters on your data and your qualitative feedback. And all of a sudden it becomes a little bit more, less clear about like how do you, who do you listen to, who do you not listen to? Things of that nature.

And that’s some of the most important stuff in the early days of a new feature or a new product, or a new business because, like, the more mud that you kind of have to sift through, it’s just like, the longer the learning cycle, the longer a time, it just decreases your chances of building and growing something truly great.

Circling back, the second big thing that I was sort of blanking on before is, also looking at word of mouth and just saying like, “Well, all I have to do is build a great product, and like word of mouth will happen.”

And that’s not necessarily true, I think like what we just talked about is that, well the other side of that equation is kind of like who you’re exposing it to, when you’re exposing it to them, like how you’re exposing it, these are the types of levers that you have control over.

And the other part of that is some products kind of lend themselves to word of mouth more than other types of products.

So this is the other thing about growth loops is that some growth loops work with some products and some don’t, right? And so you need to identify those things and so a product that lends itself … you know there tends to be this pull or this push model, in the sense of like, this thing is just, has this 10x experience and as a result I want to go tell everybody in the world, but then some products also have a pull experience on word of mouth.

Things like, big purchase … consider purchases in our life, think about things around having babies and weddings, and real estate, right?

You always tend to have those few friends who are your like go to people that you go to talk about this and it’s just some products have that pull strategy where it just, people to naturally have conversation about their product in their life, right?

And so you need to understand these social dynamics so you can understand, well what can you play to, what do you need to play to and how do you, what do you have influence over and what can you control and so, but absolutely, that’s the foundation, but it more than just like hey people are telling about other product, you just kind of need to understand it at a slightly deeper level.

Louis: And the product should be visible as well. So I guess one of those would be higher if it’s a product you buy, you wear all day, every day. You won’t necessarily talk about your … the fact that that’s the worst example possible, but I have to say it, let’s say you bought a sex toy, you’re not going to necessarily talk about it to your family, like word of mouth or this type of product would be more difficult, right?

So I’m trying to think the worst example, so you’re absolutely right in putting a lot of nuances into this one, but it sounds like from what you mentioned, that you can have multiple growth loop in one business, right? And it’s absolutely okay to leverage a few, right?

Brian: Oh, yeah, I mean for sure, I mean I think like, I mean you look at the most powerful businesses over time, then the ones that, like Facebook and stuff, they’re the ones that have mastered kind of laying on new growth loops over time because any growth loop you have has some sort of ceiling.

We call it the maximum scope in Reforge. So you can think about it like an S curve, right? And so as that loop kind of hits exhaustion there’s a bunch of reasons why it might exhaust.

Things like audience saturation, like competition depending on the loop, there’s different levers that just tend to get worse over time than better. And so as it kind of hits that top of that S curve, right, you need to start to think about, “Well what are the new, what are the things that I need to layer on over time.”

And so if we thought about HubSpot as an example, right? They very much started with this dynamic of, they had an inside sales loop paired with like a content loop that sort of generated leads. What they then did overtime is that they layered on what a lot of people would call a VAR program, a value added reseller, we call it our partner program.

And so it was a new type of sales loop rather than like a salesperson generating new customers, salesperson generated new partners and those partners would get to go out and sell new customers and that was like a very powerful mechanism for HubSpot.

We then over time started layering on new products that enabled new types of like viral loops, like that was one of the big things that I worked on and so that product expansion the new loops that those new products have sort of enabled, have really fueled the next stage of HubSpot’s growth.

And so the biggest companies are the ones that figure out how to layer these things on over time. The mistake is like at the beginning. I think the two mistakes are one is like, either not having a hypothesis about what your growth loop is and taking more of a like, “Well I’m just going to test everything and see what works,” right?

But that’s not really how it works because when you think about a growth loop you have to think about your product, your business model and a bunch of other factors and how they all kind of seamlessly fit together. And so that’s the first mistake, is like just not having a hypothesis.

But the second mistake is to kind of go on the other end of the spectrum and say, “Well like I have these five growth loops,” right?

And typically if you’re like at a starting point where you’re like, “Well to get growth I need all of these six things to line up”, that’s a really tough position to be in because typically teams can only really execute and start with like one to two at a time, really nail it, get a ton of growth out of it and start to layer these things on over time.

Louis: So from your experience, let’s … you mentioned a few, but I’d like to maybe list them and maybe we can pick one or two and tie them into it and give folks a way to do that themselves. So we mentioned a few, we mentioned the word of mouth growth loop that is one, it seems to be the basic one, you mentioned viral growth loop, can you give me a few more examples of the typical one you see happening over and over again?

Brian: Well the other one I mentioned earlier was kind of Pinterest’s user generated content loop. And so that would be another one. There’s multiple types of other loops, so basically word of mouth is just another type of viral loop.

It’s just that the spreading mechanism and the reason why people are spreading it are a little bit different, like if you think about something like, you know Ubers or Lyfts, you know, instead of viral loop which is like a give, get sort of campaign. Or you think about that, it’s the same exact dynamics except the motivation in the flow around how that’s spreading is a little bit different.

Right so, I mean of course we’ve also mentioned other ones, I just mentioned in HubSpot right? Like just like a core sales loop, a lot of people call it content marketing, but basically we call it like a company generated content loop and I think a big here is like there’s a difference between having content marketing and a content marketing that works as a loop.

So you can write a bunch of blog posts, whatever, that doesn’t mean it’s a loop. The thing that had worked for HubSpot was that they really figured out that the distribution mechanisms were either social or SEO, they really hammered down on like SEO, and then like as new visitors would come in, really get people to subscribe and so like every new piece of content that they generated would basically get spread out to more people, bring in more new visitors per average piece of content, generate more subscribers and so that’s the compounding effect that you have.

You know, that’s not necessarily the case for everybody company right? Like just because you have a blog doesn’t mean it’s like a compounding loop. So those are some of the general ones, but like, in Reforge our program, we actually … we’ve identified like over 20 of them and we kind of go down and break them down and I don’t think they’re actually that’s all it. Right?

I think like there’s probably more and really understanding the dynamics behind these things? Like that’s the powerful thing because then you can kind of create new ones that are custom to your business.

Like I said, in some businesses a dynamic works as a loop and in some businesses it’s not really a loop, it’s more of like a, kind of like a linear funnel. It just kind of depends on your product context.

Louis: And that’s … the main difference between in some businesses it’s a funnel and in some businesses it’s a loop, is it the fact that companies stand to engineer and optimize those loops on purpose? Or is it because just as you said, the context is different and you can’t make a loop happen even if you would like to?

Brian: Both actually. So I think like, you know, in some context it’s like, they’re just not thinking about it this way so they’re not actually like connecting the dots between how … and the simplest questions is like, “How can I take this thing, user money, or a piece of content that’s being generated and like what are the steps in reinvesting that back into you know, generating more at you know, the beginning steps of the loop.”

And so there’s like a lot of people that, like some of the products that I’ve invested in and advised, they’ve already had some of the dynamics in place, they just weren’t necessarily what I would call, “Closing the loop,” Right? And so just kind of building the pathway for users to, you know, it’s just like anything, right you’ve got to pave the path for them if you want them to do it, right?

And so, just kind of figuring out how you kind of close the system as part of it. But the second reason is just like, it’s different dynamic. So let’s go back to that HubSpot example.

So the reason that you know content really worked for them as a really powerful compounding loop is due to a number of factors in terms of their timing in their target audience, in their business model. So let’s go through each one of those individually.

Timing, they entered the market where actually like, it was pretty … content marketing was pretty cream filled, right? And so getting ranked on Google and part of that was easier you know, 12 years ago when they just started versus today, now you have to go up against HubSpot and their domain authority of 98 and their page authority of 92, right?

And so there’s a question there of like, well how do you compete in like a saturated environment like that? Well you’ve got to take a totally different approach or look at a totally different distribution channel, right. So that might be like doubling down on something like video and YouTube, or something in that nature. So that timing was part of..

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Most marketing gurus will advise you to market your business everywhere, on every channel possible. Not Perry Marshall.

Perry, a best-selling author, speaker, and world-renowned business consultant, joins the show to explain the 80/20 marketing rule and why you should apply its principles to help simplify your marketing approach.

We discuss why you should identify your customers through a disqualification process and how this approach will save you time, improve customer satisfaction, and increase your profits.

Listen to this episode:

We covered:

  • How to identify your customers by using John Paul Mendocha’s 5 Power Disqualifiers
  • Why sales should be a disqualification process rather than a convincing process
  • The five elements that identify whether a customer will buy your product
  • How to begin implementing the 80/20 Marketing rules into your sales approach
  • The importance of categorizing your customers into groups and identifying their commonalities
  • Why you must speak with your customers face to face or on the phone
  • The top three qualifying questions you can ask any of your customers
  • The key characteristic that separates amateur marketers from professional marketers
  • The framework of direct-response marketing
  • How to “agitate” your customer’s problems in an honest and ethical method
  • The formula to guarantee your customer’s satisfaction
  • Why customer disqualification will increase customer satisfaction


Full Transcript:

Louis: Bonjour, bonjour, and welcome to another episode of everyonehatesmarketers.com, the no-fluff, actionable marketing podcast for marketers, founders, and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I’m your host, Louis Grenier.

In today’s episode, you will learn how to use the 80/20 rule to work less and make more in marketing. My guest today is Perry Marshall, a best-selling author, speaker, engineer, and world-renowned business consultant based in Chicago. He wrote the Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords and the 80/20 Sales and Marketing marketing books.

So, marketing maverick, Dan Kennedy, said about Perry that, “If you don’t know who he is, it’s unforgivable. He’s an honest man in a field rife with charlatans,” which I think is a good quote that links very well with the topic of the podcast.

So, Perry, welcome aboard.

Perry: Thank you. Great to be here and a fun topic. Why people hate marketers.

Louis: So, why do they hate us?

Perry: I don’t think people hate marketers as much as they used to, or maybe they don’t disrespect marketers as much as they used to. I think that my observation over 20 years is that marketers have actually become perceived as being more important in the world than they were 20 years ago.

And the reason I say that is, well, I know a lot of scientists, and even when I have a conversation with scientists and we’re talking about science stuff, they eventually ask me a marketing question because they have to market, too. I mean, they might not market the same way that somebody with an ecommerce website does, but they have ideas.

And I’m not just talking about scientists either. All kinds of people, anybody who deals with changing people’s thoughts or behaviors or opinions or politics or religion or anything like that. Everybody knows, well, if you don’t get eyeballs, if you don’t have any fans, everybody knows if you put a book out, and you don’t have any fans, then nobody reads your book.

Right? And so, anyway, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t have quite a bit of disdain for marketers nonetheless and for good reason. So, that’s what we’re here to talk about.

Louis: What are the good reasons according to you?

Perry: Well, Dan Kennedy has this saying, “Anything that works in marketing eventually becomes illegal.” And so, like fax broadcasting, it used to be legal, and then it became illegal. Right? Telemarketing was legal, and then it became illegal, at least if you got on the Do Not Call list, they can’t call you. Right? Well, it’s because marketers always push the envelope until people are sick of it. Right?

And so, back in the day, fax broadcasting was a really effective, really profitable thing. You just send out 10,000 faxes, and it only cost like, I don’t know, two cents apiece or something to send them out.

It was 1/10 the price of sending mail or maybe even cheaper. Right? But then, you’d get all these angry people. But if you got one person to sign up for your Caribbean cruise from that fax, right, you made all your money back.

So, what marketers tend to do is poop in the swimming pool. Now, you have turds floating around in the swimming pool, and everybody is like, “Well, who did that?” Right? “Well, if we make marketing illegal, then we won’t have to deal with that anymore, and it will go away.”

And so, it’s always the case, well, you’re running into 80/20 at this point. 20% of the offenders create 80% of the problems.

It’s always a small percentage of people that do that. A really, really famous marketer from 10 or 20 years ago was Kevin Trudeau, and this guy just … he had a sixth sense for how to sell, and he sold millions and millions and millions of dollars of stuff. He’s in prison now.

I don’t even remember exactly for what, but almost everything he sold, it was like barely on the edge of legitimacy, and maybe it was past the edge of legitimacy, where he wasn’t really exactly telling you the truth.

And so, these things catch up to people, and I feel like part of my job as a marketer and as a teacher of marketing is that the way I conduct myself, I should be trying to restore people’s faith in humanity or faith in at least part of humanity, that there are honest, straight-shooting people out there.

There are people who will not sell you something if it’s not a good fit for you, and in fact, that gets into a whole 80/20 philosophy about marketing. 80/20 really turns marketing itself upside down, so I think 80/20 is actually a perfect topic to be talking about in this particular context.

Louis: So, it’s strange for a marketing expert like yourself to advocate to do less because it seems like a lot of … I’m being sarcastic here, but it seems a lot of gurus out there would advocate for you to be in everywhere, in all, every channel, and go in into this new channel that just appeared because you’d be the first in line. Yet the 80/20 rule is pretty much the opposite.

You focus on the 20% that leads to the 80%. Even more than that, you focus on the … because you had explained that in more detail. You can dive in into it way more than just 80/20. So, why do you think do we still have those so-called experts that advocate for the complete opposite, this kind of shotgun approach as you like to call it?

Perry: Well, it’s the prevalent approach, okay? It’s the way most people think. It’s the norm, and in most fields, whatever most people think is the right way to do something is in some sense the wrong way to do it. I think if you’re talking about making real progress, most people are wrong about most things.

My friend, John Paul Mendocha, is a very interesting character. He dropped out of high school at age 17, and he moved to Las Vegas to be a professional gambler. He did that for three and a half years, and towards the end of his gambling career, which he was involved in organized crime and all kinds of crazy stuff, okay?

He’s sitting in a restaurant booth, and these two guys are having an argument like, “Yes, you will.” “No, I won’t.” “Yes, you will.” “No, I won’t,” and out comes a Glock.

And the guy puts a gun on the other guy’s head, and he’s like, “Yes, you will.” John is watching this, and he’s like, “Dude. If I don’t get out of here, it’s going to be me with a gun on my head, and it’s not going to be pretty.” And he just left. He’s like, “Okay. I am done with this.”

He went, and he got himself a regular job. And so, he’s selling some kind of a computer equipment, and his boss puts 206 sales leads on his desk. He goes, “John, I want you to go see all these people and close them.” Now, John was a pretty young sales guy.

He’s probably only 21, but four years in Vegas had taught him some street smarts. And he looks at this stack of leads, and he’s like, “There’s no way 206 of these 206 people are worth going to see let alone ever going to buy from me.” Like, “I got to figure out how to chop this down and save myself some time because I’m not driving to 206 appointments.”

And so, he came up with something called The 5 Power Disqualifiers, and they’re the five things that are true anytime anybody buys anything. Okay, and that’s pretty smart if you think about it. So, here’s what they are:

Number one: They have the money. Now, as obvious as it might sound, there’s a lot of salespeople, myself included, who have spent hours, days, weeks, and months trying to sell something to somebody who didn’t actually have the money. And you can sing Kumbaya, and you can like them and everything else all you want, but if they don’t have the money, they’re not buying the stuff, okay?

Number two: They have a bleeding neck. If you go to the hospital with a broken arm, you think you’re having the world’s worst emergency. You get there, and the lady in the emergency room hands you a clipboard and a pen and says, “Here. Go fill this out and come back and see me.” And then, you sit for two hours, right? And you think you have an emergency, but she doesn’t, right?

And then, some guy comes with a gunshot wound, and blood is squirting on the ceiling. They don’t make him fill out the clipboard, right? They see him right away, and it’s urgency.

People buy things when there’s an urgent need to buy something, right? I mean, they might buy a candy bar in the grocery store because they’re really, really hungry, but I mean that’s the bleeding neck, right?

Number three: They buy into your unique selling proposition, whatever that is. Number four: They have the ability to say, “Yes.” There’s lots of people that you try to sell to. They can tell you, “No,” but they can’t tell you, “Yes.” You go see the engineer, and he can say, “No,” but he can’t write a purchase order.

He has to go to a purchasing agent. He has to go to his boss, right? I’ve spent lots of time trying to sell to people that could only say, “No.” Okay? And the fifth one is it fits their overall plans.

Now, if you have all five of those things, you have somebody who’s pretty likely to buy from you, and if any of those things aren’t true, they’re not going to buy. And so, John calls these 206 people, and he asks them a bunch of questions.

He narrows it down to 12 he should meet with, and he sold six. Okay? That is how sales should be done. That is the 80/20 approach to sales. So, 80/20 says sales is not a convincing people process.

Sales is a disqualification process. It actually starts with who do I not sell to, and I’ve used this quite a bit. So, for example, author of the book Ultimate Guide for Facebook Advertising, it’s in its third edition now, and when we wrote that book, when it first came out, it was 2011.

And at that time, Facebook advertising was not that good. I mean, it is really powerful now, but it was pretty shaky at that point. And basically, what that meant was probably 15% of the businesses in the world were a good fit for Facebook advertising, and 85 were not. And so, when we put that book out, I thought, “All right. I could make it sound like this is really easy to do, and I could sell lots of books.

But if I do that, I will get a bunch of disappointed customers, and I’ll get a bunch of two- and three-star reviews on Amazon.” Okay? Because they really shouldn’t have been using it in the first place. So, who is shooting fish in a barrel with Facebook? And we identified certain kind of businesses, and we came up with a quiz.

And the quiz is … it still exists, and we’ve updated it with as the times, isfbforme.com, I-S-F-B stands for is Facebook for me. And you go there, and in effect, it was like page one of the book said, “Go to isfbforme.com and take this little quiz.

It will tell you on a scale of one to 10 how good of a fit this is for you.” And it was like, “Okay. If you got eight to 10, then you should dive into this book right away. And if you got like a six or higher, then it’s definitely workable. And if you got less than a five, see if you can get your money back from buying this book.”

And it worked, okay? And they would take the thing, and they would get an 8.7, or they would get a 6.1, or whatever the score was, and that worked really well.

When you sell that way, and when people can clearly see that you are pushing some people away, so if you’re pushing away the five-and-a-half or the four-and-a-half, and saying, “Hey. You’ve probably got a lot of better priorities that you could [inaudible 00:15:01], so go do them.”

And when people see you doing that, then the guy that got an 8.7, you say, “Dude. You need to buy this course. You need to study this book. You need to go whole hog into this thing,” and it increases your credibility. It increases your trust.

And even two weeks later, that customer might be having some trouble, and they might be doubting you. If they remember, “Hey, wait a minute. That guy pushed away other people that were willing to give him money, but he took mine because I had an 8.7.

Maybe that means I need to try a little more elbow grease on this thing before I just give up and write him a two-star review or a one-star review.” Right? That is really how you should do marketing, and if you do marketing that way, you’re almost guaranteed not to be perceived as sleazy.

Louis: So, let’s repeat what you said earlier which is super powerful. The five elements that tell you whether someone should buy from you. So, first, they have money. Two, they have a problem like bleeding neck problem.

Perry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Louis: Three, I’m going to forget. What did you say is-

Perry: They agree with your USP.

Louis: They agree with your unique selling prop. Number four is-

Perry: They have the ability to say, “Yes.”

Louis: And number five, they … I’m going to forget as well. I’m very bad at this today.

Perry: It fits their overall plans.

Right. So, if you’re selling kitchen remodeling, and you’ve got the husband, but the wife isn’t there, he can say, “No,” but he’s not going to say, “Yes,” right? And if they’re getting ready to move to Albuquerque in two weeks, you’re not going to sell them a kitchen remodel today, right?

Even if they like everything else that you’re doing, right? And so, I mean, it’s a brilliant, brilliant list of five things, and furthermore, you can take those five things and use them to dial in.

So, where are the people with the money, okay? Do they live in certain postal codes, or are they on certain lists? Do they live in certain neighborhoods? Do they drive certain cars, right? What exactly is the bleeding neck that we’re going after? There’s all kinds of bleeding necks in the world, right?

You could just take those five things, and you can dial them in with such precision then now everybody that you’re talking to is a reasonable candidate for buying what you’ve got. And then, your life just becomes so much easier, and that’s the hard part about being new in sales is you don’t know what you don’t know.

You don’t know where the bones are buried. You don’t know what kind of customers to pursue, and you just waste all this time. It’s painful. It’s hideous.

Louis: So, talking to a lot of listeners most weeks, and I know that one pain point is like bleeding neck to flip that around is the fact that they know that.

They can feel that they need to focus on the tiny amount of people, like the 20% or even like the 4% of the people they could serve, but they really struggle with taking the decision to do so, right? It’s like taking the leap to say, “Actually I’m not going to serve you,” and saying, “No,” to someone who comes to you because, and when you need money, is incredibly difficult, especially at the start.

So, how do you convince people to do that, and forget about the fact that you could serve everyone and just focus on the tiniest amount of people possible, the ones that are worth the money?

Perry: Well, in 80/20 Sales and Marketing, I show how we could be talking about almost anything, and 80/20 is true, okay? So, 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers, and 80% of the 80% of your sales comes from 20% of the 20% of your customers. So, 64% of your sales is from 4% of your customers.

That’s almost always true in any company, and 80% of the people have 20% of the wealth. 80% of the cars are driving on 20% of the roads, and 80% of the dirt on your carpet is in 20% of the carpet because it’s a law of nature.

I’ve got an appendix in the book 80/20 Sales and Marketing, and we put it on a graph. The graph, it looks like an exponential curve, except the end of it goes even sharper, and it goes almost straight up in the air.

Perfectly vertical and it just goes higher and higher and higher, and it shows how as you get to that tippy top, the responsiveness, or the ability to spend money just goes incredibly high.

By the way, this is why there’s eight billion people in the world, and the richest one is worth $150 billion, Jeff Bezos, okay? 80/20 guarantees you that somebody’s going to worth $100 billion, and that one person is going to have more money than the bottom 10% of the entire world. It’s a law of nature, okay?

And when I start showing people, “Hey, this is everywhere, and you can’t avoid it,” here’s what usually happens. They go, “Oh. Yes. I’ve seen this before, I just never heard it explained this way.

Oh, my goodness, yeah, you’re right.” Like, “80% of our support tickets do come from 20% of our product defects and customers and what packaging problems or whatever,” and so usually it’s when you can get people to see the high upside of serving that narrow segment, they can see what a waste of time it is serving the bottom, where the leverage is literally 1/100 as much.

And so, it’s just incredibly powerful when you see it in action. I could open almost any spreadsheet or financial report in your business, and I can show you, “Okay. There’s an 80/20, and there’s an 80/20, and there’s an 80/20.” So, that means there’s these tiny, little levers that just make huge, huge differences.

Louis: So, let’s dive in into an example, right? Like a practical case of a company that would need to implement this kind of rule in their marketing to become more effective to sell more. How do you typically tell them to start? What are the steps?

And correct me if I’m wrong, it sounds like the first step is to actually look at, as you just mentioned, maybe your revenue data, your customer data, and actually audit it to understand where are those top 20% of customers. Who are they, right? Or, I might be wrong, so please tell me, what is step one?

Perry: Well, the first time that 80/20 was explained to me in a business context, I was reading some book. I was a sales manager at this software company, and I thought, “Wow. Is that really true? 80% of my sales are from 20% of my customer?” And so, I went to QuickBooks, and I printed out a report.

It ranked the highest-transaction customers first, and then it trailed down. I just took a calculator, and I went down through it. Like, “I’ll be darned.” When I got about 20% down through that report, I had 80% of the money that we had collected in the previous month. I’m like, “Wow, okay.”

So, if you do that, anybody could do that, you will see patterns. So, the easiest thing to do is you draw a line between the top 20 and the bottom 80, and you say, “Okay. What are the common set of things that the 20 have in common that the 80 don’t?” And maybe even, “What do the 80 have in common that the 20 don’t?” And you will see patterns.

You could see any number of things. It could be, “Wow. Almost all of our best customers are Fortune 100 companies.” Now, that might be like a really obvious one, let’s say, or, “You know what? We sell in 20 different industries, but most of our best customers are in automotive and semi-conductor.”

Okay? And then if I look at the 80%, most of those are these little, tiny system integrators, and they buy like one thing at a time.

You start separating them into groups, and you go, “Oh, okay. I can actually see some commonalities.”

You take The 5 Power Disqualifiers, and you go, “Well, if I look at my top 20% of customers, how much money do those people usually have, and what bleeding neck do they usually have? How is their bleeding neck different than everybody else?”

If you actually talk to these customers, which I hope you do, what part of the USP do they actually like? Your USP usually has a bunch of different things. Well, what is it that’s actually making them buy, right?

Or, within that firm, which of the people were actually saying, “Yes,” to us? Because not everybody was. Not everybody wanted to go with us as a vendor,..

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Does your sales process line up with your buyer’s journey?

In this episode, you’ll learn why addressing your customer’s concerns during the buying experience can reduce friction and boost conversions.

Tune in as I chat with Barron Caster, the Director of Growth at Rev. He reveals the methods his team used to triple Rev’s conversion rates over the last three years—and how you can become a better marketer by applying these principles to your business.

Listen to this Episode:

We covered:

  • Why inexperienced marketers focus on selling the product features
  • Where to get started with identifying your customers’ concerns
  • Barron’s favorite place to find out how to improve conversion rates
  • What happens when you only focus on the leads who don’t convert
  • The surprising reason why you can’t rely on accurate tracking data
  • Exactly what type of questions you should ask customers over the phone
  • How to sort through your research data (and create a hypothesis)
  • The pros and cons of running A/B tests individually vs. group testing


Full Transcript:

Louis: Bonjour, bonjour! And welcome to another episode of EveryoneHatesMarketers.com, the no-fluff, actionable marketing podcast for marketers, founders, and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I’m your host, Louis Grenier.

In today’s episode, you will learn how to reduce friction within your buying experience by addressing customer concerns and customer objections. My guest today is the Director of Growth at Rev.com, which is an amazing transcription service I use.I’ve been using with Everyone Hates Marketers at least for the last year and a half. When I say it’s amazing, I genuinely mean it. And I’m not endorsed in any way, shape, or form by Rev.

My guest has been with Rev.com for three years now at the time we are recording, we’re going to publish this episode. He moved from Associate Product Manager to Product Manager to Senior Product Manager in Charge of Growth to Director of Growth—managing the entire growth and marketing team at Rev. So he knows a few things about product and marketing.

In the past two years, he and his team have more than tripled the conversion rate for three different products that Rev owns. They learned nice things that I talk about a lot on the podcast, which is they moved from the shitty growth hacks to a clear process to truly improve the buying experience of users.

Barron Caster, welcome aboard.

Barron: Thank you, pleasure to be here.

Louis: Part of my experience in the past in my career, I used to do a lot of conversion rate optimization. I even had my own agency. One of the things that keep coming back as, not necessarily a quick-win, but something that works really, really well is to genuinely just answer people’s objections or concerns on the page.

Knowing what question they have, answering that before they even start thinking of it and just going for it. That usually increased conversion quite a lot, because it’s as if you’re reading their mind.

I’ve answered a bit of the question I wanted to ask you first. From your perspective, why is it important to answer customer concerns throughout the buying experience?

Barron: Yeah, it’s incredibly important, because you’re trying to reach someone and let them know that you have a solution to their problem.

What inexperienced marketers do is tell them why your product is amazing. They just want to talk about all of the features they have, or how incredible they think their product is—and no one cares. You have to appeal to people where they are and solve their problem with your product.

By figuring out what questions people have, what they’re looking for, and by proactively answering that you relieve them of that stress. It’s not someone hawking something to me. It’s me finding something that will make my life better.

Louis: Yeah, and stress is an important word here. It’s searching for a solution, like searching for a solution to your problem could be quite painful or stressful for people. That makes sense as well, answering the objection this way, with this state of mind.

Why do you think marketers tend not to do this? Why do you think they keep talking about how amazing their product is instead?

Barron: Because it’s a lot easier. A lot of people know their product. They know the company they work for. They know all the features they have, and they’re embedded in an organization that talks a lot about their service.

It’s a lot harder to get out of the building and learn from your customers. To talk to your customers, figure out their concerns, what they’re looking for, how your product or service fits into their life in a seamless way, and how you solve their problems. It requires a lot of work, and it’s not intuitive up front. At first, you think, “My widget is better. Everyone should use it.” Then, you evolve to figuring out, why should people care about this at all?

Louis: Let’s play a little game together, and I think this game is going to last 40 minutes or so, which is imagining that we work for a company. We are consulting for a company that have conversion issues or growth issues.

You can use obviously the experience you have with Rev, and the way you’ve done it. But they struggle with that. They struggle with growth. They struggle with conversions, and they probably do what you used to do at Rev.

Which is playing with growth hacks a bit that were not necessarily linked to each other or whatever. Let’s teach them to identify concerns and answer them in a coherent manner. What will be step number one? Where do you actually get started from in this process?

Barron: Great question, and I’m going to give you an abbreviated answer now. I’ve done a little bit of writing about it on Medium to go into details. But I always start with learning. You have to learn everything about your customers, your traffic, if you’re worried about conversion. How are people getting to your site? Why are they coming to your site?

I would implement a number of learning tools. In addition to just reaching out to customers you already have, I would add things like tracking to the page that you care about, your product or service page.

Like Mixpanel that tracks very granular clicks, so you can see what is actually happening as people come to your site. There are tools like FullStory to see how people interact with your site, what they stop and look at.

There are tools like HotJar to see where are people scrolling over, and what information is most relevant to them. There are tools like Intercom and Drift, where you can talk with people in real time while they’re on your website and answer questions.

My favorite place to go to find out how to improve conversion is the people who have already converted into customers. Figuring out why are they customers, what appealed to them about your service, what do they love most about your service?

And then, taking those words from your existing customers and using them to explain your service to new customers. You’re nodding, so I hope you agree with me.

Louis: Yes, if I was disagreeing, it would be a very, very weird way to do that. Yes, especially, to your last point, and we’re going to drill deeper into what you just said and try to deconstruct it.

Barron: Yeah!

Louis: But what you said at the end is critical. That’s something that I used to do when I was in conversion rate optimization—which was bad—which is people tend to focus on, why are all those people not converting?

They overly focus on those people who are not converting, obsessing over those ones, instead of obsessing over the ones who convert. Because, as you said, those are the ones who end up paying your salary and the bills.

They know why they converted, and they also know why or what almost stopped them from converting.

Barron: Yeah, and they’re more resilient. They really needed your service. If your conversion flow is horrible, and they still jump through all of those hurdles, they have a burning need.

Whereas for a conversion, you’re trying to optimize for the people on the margin. Figuring out what that core need is and relating it to the people who may not be as sure will really help improve.

Louis: Yeah, that’s a nice way to put it. Let’s deconstruct what you said. You said the first thing is you learn. You learn more about your customers, and because we are marketing we do market stuff. We learn about our market, which is the number one thing that marketers should be doing.

Let’s deconstruct those things together. You talked about a few tools. You talked about tracking. You talked about heatmap, session recordings, understanding what people do on your website. You talked about talking to customers.

Let’s bring that down to another level. What would be the steps required to learn more about that, about those customers?

Barron: In terms of the actual steps I would take?

Louis: Yeah.

Barron: I would, first, fully define what conversion means in this scenario. Wether it’s someone buying something off of my website or downloading a paper or installing a podcast, downloading a podcast.

And I would track every step possible that I know someone would take to get to that. Define your funnel as granular as possible. I mean, tracking clicks and form fills, every single step and finding out, where is the biggest drop off?

Why are people leaving? Where are people leaving? Then digging in with the qualitative and figuring out, why are they leaving from that step?

I usually start with the quantitative to assess where is the biggest area of opportunity and then hit it with qualitative tools. Whether it be the session viewing, where I’ve watched over 100 hours of people using our website on FullStory to HotJar.

Where it bubbles up a lot of those insights to a higher level. You can see where the heatmaps are, and where people are spending most of their time.

Louis: First thing, you define your funnel. As a service company, it’s traditionally homepage, product or pricing, sign-up, onboarding, and then up to this aha moment, the first value point.

For Rev, it could be when they upload their first audio file maybe, and so you map that out. In this podcast, I’m not trying to go too much into the actual tool, because I believe that tools come and go. And that’s fine.

Barron: Yeah.

Louis: But processes and the ideas behind them are super important. Yeah, Mixpanel, Google Analytics; you have plenty of tools that can do funnel mapping, but what you are saying is super critical.

Which is, how are you supposed to optimize anything or to grow anything without you having the full picture in front of you? That’s what you’re doing as step one. You would map that out, making sure that your tracking is in place, because a lot of times tracking is a bitch.

Barron: Laughs. We’ve all been there, yeah. I’ve made so many tracking mistakes. It’s incredible. I just want to say one key point. No tracking solution is perfect. Never expect that you’re going find the holy grail of tracking and everything will work out.

Know that your tracking solutions will be directionally correct, but the numbers are not perfect. I just want to throw that out there, because I’ve seen so many people make critical mistakes through trusting the tracking entirely.

Louis: No, no, give me an example. That’s interesting.

Barron: Mixpanel, for example, doesn’t work on some older browsers or browsers that have ad blockers. You think that you have a certain volume of traffic, and that they’re taking a certain action, but that’s not the case. It doesn’t capture the full story.

What we use as our source of truth is our revenue numbers, and then we work backwards from there. We use multiple tracking and analytics tools and bounce them off of each other. We use Google Analytics, and we use Mixpanel.

I know you don’t want to get too much into the weeds on those, but the idea is to have multiple sources that you can triangulate what the real answer is.

Louis: That’s an excellent point. Because I believe those technologies come and go, as I said, but the principles still are relevant. The key thing here that I completely agree with you on, is also the fact that digital marketers or people in tech and growth tend to overly obsess about numbers.

To the digits, like we know we have a 9.4 conversion rate. We need to increase to 9.6. While they forget a bit about the people responsible for those numbers, which are the actual customers behind their screen.

Most of the time what I’ve figured is, yes, you can look at numbers all day, every day. And get granular. But unless you talk to people, unless you really observe them, see what they’re actually doing and ask them—you’re never going to get to this level of insight that truly enables you to grow exponentially like you’ve done.

Not exponentially, because I think that would be a lie mathematically, but at least growing significantly.

Okay, so go back to your steps. You map out the full funnel, make sure that your tracking is in place, nothing is perfect when it comes to tracking. You’ll have at least a decent idea of where your biggest drop-offs is, and this is the second step for you?

Barron: Yup, yup.

Louis: How do you select the drop-off area, the area, the step in the funnel that is the one that you need to prioritize?

Barron: I’d love to say I have some magic formula for it, but the truth is that generally everyone’s biggest drop-off is at the first step of the funnel. It gets smaller as you go deeper on, because people have more intent as they move throughout the steps.

Every funnel I’ve ever seen has the biggest drop-off at the first step. I would start there. That’s usually where people are most unfamiliar with your product.

It’s their first impression of what you do, and where you have to speak to their questions and help solve their problem as quickly as possible. It’s the toughest to do, because you’ve built no trust with them. They really need to understand what you do in a quick amount of time, because people make decisions fast.

I always start at the top and then work my way down the funnel. Unless there’s something drastically broken somewhere, in which case the data points that out, and you jump there, fix that, and then move to the top.

Louis: Usually, in the main funnel for any company; it could be e-commerce, SaaS, or any other, it seems like the homepage is usually the hub, the start of the funnel, right?

Barron: Yeah, it’s either the homepage or a specific product or service page/

Louis: Right.

Barron: Depending on what they sell.

Louis: You said it very well. That’s because people in the first step, everyone can start in this first step. It could be a student researching for their thesis about all the competitors in the space. It could be a competitor looking at what you do, it could be just someone who landed on it by mistake, or it could be someone interested.

As you said, after the next few steps, once you go from the homepage to a product page, you start to show that you’re not a bot. That you are real. That you’re actually, your intent is to look into the product. So you start to have a bit more skin in the game, shall I say, to move down.

Okay, so you select the top, usually the area with the highest percentage of drop-off compared to the step after and with the highest volume. As you said, it’s the first step.

Now, we know we need to work on this homepage. We’ve worked with this client. We know this is absolutely, this place, this page, we need to fix it. What do you do then? When do you start talking to customers or starting to look at session recordings or heatmaps, or whatever it is?

Barron: When I know what the issue is, and it’s where I want to spend all of my time, that’s when I dig into the qualitative.

I normally start not watching session maps or talking to customers yet. I usually just start by reading every review of the service out there today, because it is the people that are willing to be very vocal about the service.

They either love it or hate it usually, and they tell you exactly why. Either it did fill their need, and they’re so elated that they decided to go to a public forum and tell everyone about how great it is. Or they hate you, because you didn’t fill a need when you promised to.

That’s also a huge concern. You only want customers that you served their need, that are good revenue. You don’t want to trick people into using your service who would not be a good fit.

Louis: Yes, absolutely. Let’s say we are looking at a review site like G2 Crowd for the B2B sector, or I don’t know, if you work in travel it could be Trip Advisor, whatever.

Barron: Yeah.

Louis: You read those, and I know you have a lot of experience in that. You read those quite a lot, so you probably have a natural extinct for what you’re looking for.

But for people listening who might not have done that in the past, how do you actually digest those reviews to make sense of them? So that it’s actionable; you can take away something and do something with it?

Barron: I honestly start by reading all of them every time. I don’t start by trying to immediately cut into insights. Because for a lot of services I’ve worked on, they’ve been very different at Rev. I think starting with a beginner’s mindset every time is very helpful.

Read everything. Then you’ll start to see some common themes. If people allude to the same topic multiple times, you take a note of it.

I always have a running doc open where I put the best reviews, the worst reviews, and then, over time, the themes that I’m seeing. What are people talking about the most? What is the most frequent praise or criticism of this company, and why?

After bubbling it up into themes around what the customers speak, then you can develop ideas for, why they love it, or why they don’t love it. And how you are accurately or inaccurately addressing that on your top of funnel today.

Louis: Right, and so what do you use? You use a Google Doc or Trello board or… ?

Barron: Yeah, I just use a Google Doc. I share it with the team entirely. I think that a lot of this learning should not be done in a silo.

That’s a whole different conversation we can have. But I believe in sharing within the org as much as possible, because other people will have insights or ideas and see things that you don’t.

Louis: Yeah, and so the thing to say here is that humans are amazing at identifying patterns. We’re very good at reading conversations and starting to see patterns emerging.

Now, we’re not as a good as artificial intelligence. It does that way better than we do. But we are much better than artificial intelligence, at least as of 2019, to extract insight and to make changes and to make connection between things.

Yes, I would concur with what you said. Reading reviews, you start to build up the empathy. You start to understand and get people. As you said, after 10 or 20 reviews, it feels like people are repeating the same thing. Even if they’ve never talked to each other. Which is amazing, so you know you’re onto something.

You said the most common criticisms and why, and the most common praises and why. Those are the two main things you’re looking into, yeah?

Barron: Exactly.

Louis: Then you share that with the team. You spread the empathy. You make sure people care and focus on people who matter which are the customers and not investors and other people like that, right?

Barron: Laughs. Exactly.

Louis: You have this Google Doc, and then what do you do?

Barron: You try to turn those insights—and the disparity between what customers are talking about and what your landing page speaks to today—into hypotheses for how you can improve your site.

Louis: Right.

Barron: I always like grounding any changes I do in this thinking first and developing a hypothesis before just making changes to the page.

Even if you don’t have enough data to make statistically significant A/B test changes, you can see if all the changes you’re making are along one vein and one idea, and it’s not working, then you test a different idea overall.

Because a lot of early stage people that probably listen to this show, don’t have the troves of data that Facebook has. where they can snap their fingers and an A/B test is finished.

For a lot of us, we have to work off of qualitative feedback and can be searching around for things that work. We won’t know immediately if something’s working or not.

Yes, start with a hypothesis, a main idea that you have for why people are not buying today, and why they should be.

Louis: When do you start talking to customers like you said or looking at session recordings or heatmaps or something, surveys, maybe? Do you do that after? So you only look at reviews, or when does that come into the mix?

Barron: Oh, yeah, after looking at reviews. I start doing all of those in concert after reading reviews, which I think are the most vocal customers. Then I reach out to customers. Customers don’t always want to talk to you all the time, so it may take a little bit of hounding, a little bit of incentive.

And those get scheduled out and then start digging deep into any qualitative data possible. Including, heatmaps and session tracking and those kinds of things.

Louis: Let’s dive into talking to customers. I’m interested in the way you do it. And perhaps, I can share a bit of how I did it in the past. How do you reach out to them? And more importantly, once you have them, what do you like to ask them?

Barron: That is the great question. How do I like to reach out to them? I usually reach out by email.

Someone who I really respect in the growth world is Hiten Shah. He’s done a ton of writing on the subject. Usually, people are very, very open if you ask them something about their opinion of your service or ask for their help. People usually want to help.

Not a high percentage of people have time to help, but they’d like to think that they’re helpful people. Don’t say, “Give me..

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Building a marketing team is hard—especially when you’re in the early growth stages of your business.

In the beginning, you’re still identifying which marketing activities work while you’re building a team at the same time. But there a few common mistakes you can avoid with your team that we’re going to discuss today.

We’re joined by Jake Stainer, the former Head of Growth at Typeform and current Head of Digital Growth for TravelPerk. In this episode, Jake shares the biggest lessons he learned about growing a marketing team during his time at Typeform.

Listen to this Episode:

We covered:

  • The biggest mistake you can make while building a team
  • How to handle massive change (and why you should take it slow)
  • Why it’s important to hire for generalist roles vs. specialists
  • The power of social proof on your landing pages for conversions
  • What marketing principle Jake follows to ensure a company’s success
  • How to identify a metric to go after so you can move the needle
  • The one key metric where the conversion rate to revenue is stable
  • When to draw the line and focus on a different marketing initiative


Full Transcript:

Louis: Bonjour, bonjour! And welcome to another episode of EveryoneHatesMarketers.com, the no-fluff actionable marketing podcast for marketers, funders, and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I’m your host, Louis Grenier.

In today’s episode, you will learn how to get customers from scratch, using a combination of SEO, paid, and conversion rate optimization.

My guest today is the former Head of Growth at Typeform, and is now the Head of Digital Growth for TravelPerk. And you’ve probably have heard of Typeform; you know it’s the survey company based in Barcelona.

TravelPerk is something, a company that is helping you to book travels, as a company, for your employees. I hope I’m not saying a lie there. Jake, you’ll tell me if I did.

So, my guest knows a things or two about getting more customers. You helped Typeform to scale from 0 to 60,000 product sign-ups, and 0 to 11 people in his team. And today we are really gonna talk about what he learned through his experience at Typeform.

He stayed there for four years, and the mistakes he made, the lessons he learned, so that you listening to this podcast can avoid making the same and learn from it. So, Jake Stainer, welcome aboard.

Jake: Welcome, hello. Thanks for having me on your podcast.

Louis: Yeah. Well, you emailed me. So there you go.

Jake: That is very true, that is very true.

Louis: You hear all of the famous growth stories about company reaching amazing numbers. And they’re like, “Yeah, we skyrocketed from 0 to like 60,000,000 in recurring revenue and everything was so beautiful.”

There’s a lot of survivorship bias in this type of environment. You tend to really focus on the good things and forget about the bad things.

So together, I want to challenge you to think more about your time at Typeform as what you’ve learned, the mistake you’ve made, the things that went well, and how you would do things differently. How does that sound?

Jake: Yeah, that sounds great. Sounds good.

Louis: Why don’t you give us an overview of your journey at Typeform from start to finish? Without spending a lot of time on the details, but more as a full kind of story, the last four years.

Jake: I started at Typeform back in June 2015. Number 29, so the team was quite small. To give some context, there’s now like 200 people working at Typeform. I joined back then as a performance marketer; and my job was to validate paid search.

Because back then Typeform’s growth had all came from its viral loop. So when you make a Typeform and when you share it you have the power buy button, and that creates the virality rate. And Typeform managed to grow from 0 to 10 million just from this viral loop.

I came in to see if I could try and grow more linear channels, such as paid, SEO, etc. And in the beginning I was doing build everything, as you do, because I was one of the first people in the marketing team.

Whether it was like answering emails, partnerships, coupon, fraud kind of things. Because we had this referral scheme right. Even data requests like, “How many questions does a Typeform have on average?” So, loads of different things.

Then I started to really focus on different channels. I managed to scale paid search to an extent, which enabled me to make a full time hire, to take paid search and paid marketing in general to the next level.

And then I then also grew SEO, because what happens with Typeform is we’ve got so many different use cases. It’s not just like forms. We’ve got surveys, quizzes, etc. Then you’ve got sub-use cases like job application form, contact form.

We found the easiest way to grow Typeform was through its use cases, both paying for it in paid search and also ranking for it organically. So, then we grew these channels to quite a large extent.

One thing I tried, which failed, was having decentralized conversion rate optimization, in terms of landing page optimization, so all of the channel managers were able to A/B test landing pages themselves.

But what happened is… it didn’t really actually happen at all. They spent a lot of time in the actual channel, so to speak.

The SEO strategists spent a lot of time trying to optimize for keywords, content plans, models etc. And in paid marketing we spent a lot of time doing Google Ads, but we didn’t really find enough of the time to re-focus on the landing page optimization.

Because of that I decided to centralize the conversion rate optimization side, stuff like landing pages, etc. And we had a full time CRO strategist to take on this, to centralize it in one place, and we now centralize all of it in air table across the company.

All of the insights are in one place and shared, so that we can learn from what other departments are doing. Because at Typeform, the product growth team was split from the marketing kind of growth team.

Now we’ve been working a lot closer together and having this one central insights hub. It’s super important to draw on different insights and ideas to really grow your channels a lot faster, because you can take those insights.

The team is 10 people now and it’s cross-functional. I decided to implement Scrum — two week sprints into the team — and we have designers who copyright those all within the team, so we can move a lot faster.

Because historically it was an agency model. Where we would make requests, but then we would prioritize the requests and they would prioritize their requests. So double prioritization.

In the end, we moved a lot slower, because we had to re-explain the same thing we’d already explained before. So having those embedded resources, it worked wonders. That was one of the big things I learned at Typeform, and this is kind of where we are now.

Louis: Thanks for painting this picture. So 10 people in the team with you, so 11. As you said, when you joined, Typeform was already a 10,000,000 AR. Is that what you said?

Jake: When I joined it was 1,000,000 AR. But a lot of the things I was doing was like small tests and we were doing a lot of optimization within the products.

We were looking at heat maps, click maps, etc, trying to optimize the actual product growth side, like more the funnel. Because we were trying to see how could be improve the K factor, so like the viral multiplier at Typeform. And a lot of other stuff that you encounter when you first join a smaller startup.

Louis: Let me stop you there. The K factor was meaning the number of people that you recommend, right? It’s like how many people you recommend.

Jake: Yeah, so for every sign up how many more people do you get? If one person refers one other person, then your K factor is 1, cause one person refers one person.

And if you can get a K factor of more than 1, then your product’s truly viral because you can create that exponential growth rate.

Louis: That’s like the dream, right? The dream of all the people listening. If you have a 1.01 it means that if you multiply that with one another, it’s gonna start to grow exponentially, which is the actual definition of it.

I mean, the curve is going to really start to have an exponential shape to it. Thanks for talking me through all of that.

Now if you had to select, in retrospect, the biggest mistake you’ve made. The things like the biggest failure, the things that you really learned the hard way that you felt, “Okay the next time I join another company I would do that differently.” What are those? Starting maybe with the biggest one.

Jake: Okay, so I guess I’ll give you guys the biggest one, which is in just like my team wide, it’s a bigger one. I think it’s when you hire a lot of people, you tend to like silo your teams quite a lot.

So we try to paint the perfect picture of what each team could do, and within two months we silo-ed the teams in marketing. We all focused on a metric. One team was focused more on the top of the funnel, brand awareness, PR, etc.

Another team more on content marketing, another team more on direct response, but because we silo-ed the teams then we had finite resources. It made it a lot harder to get the resources you needed to do the different initiatives.

Then, basically, it took us a whole year to get the teams back working together. From a one month decision, a whole year to get back together working again, and it was quite painful to be so silo-ed.

Because, of course, without resources everyone’s trying to solve the problem but in their own way. And that causes a lot of problems because it’s lack of focus, we have lack of resources.

I guess whenever you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have enough resources for something, a lot of the time it’s because you lack focus. And if you have less things you’re doing, and you’re working together as like a more holistic team, you’re likely to get bigger successes. So that’s one of the biggest.

Louis: Let me dive into this. Thanks for sharing that, by the way. I appreciate it.

So to rephrase it, to make sure I understand, you basically built a team quite fast and you compartmentalized the team in term of expertise. One of them would be, not expertise, but also objective.

One of the team will be top of the funnel, so bringing people so that they are aware of Typeform. Another one would be direct response, which would be AdWords and whatnot, or like … So you have teams that are like specializing in each area. Correct?

Jake: Yeah, it’s like the awareness funnel. If people like sloosh the well, they like form maker that’s more like the direct response side. Then more like they’re problem-aware, like how to grow my business or this kind of thing was like, high on top of the awareness funnel, so it’s how we decided to split it.

Louis: Let’s dive into why this is a terrible idea. Because even when you said you have silos, lack of focus and all of that… to me from an outside perspective, doesn’t sound like a massive deal.

But it’s clear that it’s quite painful in your mind. I can see it in your eyes that there were a lot of consequences to this decision. So, in this year where you had to reverse back to that. Can you explain in more detail then the consequences of this. What issues did it actually bring up on a day to day?

Jake: A lot of different … there’s like a lot of overlap, in terms of what we wanted to achieve. Every team wanted to do paid advertising to try and promote their content or try and reach their cause, and first of all we didn’t have three paid marketers to distribute between the three teams.

Typeform, back then, was say 150 people. We couldn’t hire three paid marketers for that, so in the end, we had paid marketers for that.

We have paid marketing that we direct and we’re using an agency for the other teams. And then, if things get more complicated; the more different things you add on, the more complex it gets.

Like managing an agency, managing in-house, and then trying to sync it up. Then you increase the number of meetings you have.

Like, we just had another meeting with the agency, and you have agency fees you have to calculate in your cut costs and everything you add on just increases the complexity a lot.

And then communication too. How do you sync up what everyone’s doing? How do you make sure everyone’s aligned and they’re not making the same content or initiative? Because everyone can interpret things in different ways?

It’s where do lines blur — and where don’t they blur? So, that alignment was difficult as well. Also, the naming of the teams. One team was called Awareness, one team was called Acquisition. The direct response team, and then people identify themselves with the name brand, so Awareness and Acquisition.

But then when we were sending briefs to this creative team, because we do have embedded resources, which are like the internal creative teams work on cross channel creative campaigns What do they interpret the word “acquisition” and the word “awareness”? Because after all, your every team is creating awareness, right?

The Acquisition team creates awareness for Typeform’s brand and so does this Awareness team. The Awareness team is acquiring customers, but from a longer convergence of the funnel stage as well. That creates confusion as well. Then we build a Product Growth team around the metrics funnel.

So, the AARR. Our last funnel, and one of their teams was called Product Acquisition team as well, so then … The more you silo things and the more things you add on, the more complicated it gets; and then the more time we spent in alignment meetings, and then we had OQR try and join OKR.

Louis: Sorry, just to define a few thing. You said the ARR framework which stands for Awareness … what?

Jake: Acquisition Activation Revenue Referral.

Louis: And then you said OKR, which stands for … Objective and Key Results, right?

Jake: Exactly.

Louis: So, main objective and then you have the keyword you have to attach to it. So, let’s say your main objective is to increase sales by 10%, then you have keywords that are related to that, which might be to bring 200 new signups/

So, what is it such a big deal that you had misalignment issues? Or you had to stay in alignment meetings? Did it prevent the team to do their job, basically?

Was there a lot of overlaps of teams who were doing the same thing, ultimately, and so waste of time? What was the biggest consequence of this?

Jake: I think one thing is, you waste a lot of time in meetings. Because we weren’t just having these alignment meetings, were also running the Scrum ceremonies. So, the spring planning, the refinement, the stand ups, etc.

But then people have meetings between themselves to work on projects, and then suddenly, half your week is just meetings, right?

I think the main thing is more using resources. In one team you could have PR, where other teams don’t have that resource.

One team has paid marketing, the other teams don’t. One team has SEO, the other teams don’t. We try and swallow ourselves so early on, it’s impossible because we just don’t have the resources to do it properly.

Because we all wanted to try and be cross-functional; but then it never really worked and then in the Product Growth team. We had engineering teams, but then in these growth marketing teams we didn’t have any engineers; but then if you’re working on SEO, for example, you need these engineering resources too.

Because the growth acquisition team for the product side was working optimizing, so we’re all trying to do so many different things. In the end, we don’t really have a big impact.

But since then, we’ve learned a lot. Now we have a cross-functional SEO team with engineers, designers, there’s scientists; everyone in that one team with that one goal; and it’s working much, much better.

Louis: Okay. First, thanks so much for being so transparent with the lesson you learned and the mistake you made. So, the biggest mistake that you would say that you made was the fact that you didn’t organize the team. The team did not organize around one co-objective, they were all organized in term of their own little ways and their own little expertise. How did you turn things around?

What did you do to switch things around? Like this one month’s decision that turned into a one year struggle to go back to something else?

Jake: I guess everyone hates change. No one likes to have these big changes in the team, because if the company keeps changing the team structures or what people do, where they live, etc.

It’s a big piece of havoc, right? I was working with my colleague and we said we’ve got a work closer together. Let’s take baby steps to get that. We don’t wanna do some big change overnight because we don’t wanna have this huge change.

We start to make baby steps to start working together, so we even have separate team drives on google drive and then people can’t even access the documents. It was crazy.

What we did is that we started to consolidate the teams and we looked to find the similarities, right? So, the two teams looking at more the top of the funnel, they start to work a lot closer together because they realize that one team had more people writing content, etc.

And the other team was more strategic. So, we had product marketers in that team, so they merged together to create one team. Then we had two teams.

Then we had from two teams now we came into one team. So, it’s kinda like we didn’t just do the whole thing overnight. It was a process where every month, we made a change and then we slowly got back to where we were before.

Because when we made the change, it was quite a drastic change. If I could go back in time I would be yelling, “Don’t do it, stop. You don’t know what you’re gonna get yourselves into.”

Louis: At the time people will be listen to this recording, you will have left Typeform. How is it organized now and how do you advise companies to organize themselves when they are this stage?

Jake: That’s a very good question, I guess when you’re a small marketing group team. Let’s say you’re 10 people, then you’re gonna work together anyway. I guess the main thing happens when you try and scale. So I think the most important thing is to align the whole team over a key metric, or a few metrics which all the teams go after.

For example, at Typeform. When I was there, we were looking into, “What is our leading indicator of revenue?” So the whole team could go after that metric. I would say, “Try find that common metric to align everyone through that common goal to begin with”

Also, I would try and do less things. But do them a lot better, right? Because I guess in the digital world, or in general, there’s so many different things that you can do. Like, the shiny objects happen all the time. You read an online article or you listen to a podcast like this one and you might have new idea that you wanna do straightaway.

I would say, the key to being successful is to do fewer things, but do them much much better. Keep a backlog of all your ideas and different things you wanna do. And then try and plan these big inflection steps in what you want to achieve.

Instead of trying to have SEO, paid search, Bing, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter all up and running. Instead, of taking this more extensive approach where you can have like mediocre in all the channels, just choose one or two channels max and be really good at them.

Because at the end of the day, the resources are finite. You don’t have all of these copywriters to make all of these ads, all of these designers, all of these different formats. How are you gonna aggregate all of the data from all the channels do the analysis?

It’s just really complicated. Find one or two channels that work, or initiatives,and really work and stir them. Really go deep on them. I think that would be my best advice and my biggest learning.

Louis: I guess it works better once you have a key objective. Let’s say, increase monthly recurring revenue by 50%. And then the marketing team, one of the key results they need to achieve is, increase conversion rate by 20%. Everyone in the team works towards that, right? It’s easier to select the things that you should double down on, and it’s easier to let go of the things that are not.

Jake: Yeah, exactly. It’s not always as simple as having one metric, so sometimes you may wanna focus more on retention or acquisition. You can even theme a quarter, a year, or half a year on one specific metric.

And then everyone works towards that goal. You can always switch to a slightly different metric at a different time. I guess that’s the concept of the OKRs. The OKRs is where you wanna create that focus for the team to get that big inflection.

And a change or a result. At the same time, you always have your ongoing things, which usually is called “business as usual” that you’re always doing.

Then these OKRs are for having that big focus in a quarterly or half a year. To create that big depth in your strategy and really go all in, and make it a big success.

Louis: Thanks for sharing these first big mistakes. So, you’re saying that this is the biggest one by far, right?

Jake: Yeah, definitely.

Louis: The biggest lesson, not necessarily. I don’t wanna frame it in a negative manner; let’s not say that you fucked up all the way. Everyone in this type of situation would have done similar mistakes or even worse; and I think you did pretty well for yourself, so kudos on that.

I don’t wanna frame it in a negative way, more in term of what you learned and what you would do differently. Which you did, thanks for that. If you had to say the second one, the second biggest mistake, the biggest thing that you’ve done or decision made that you would do differently next time. What would it be?

Jake: I think another one was, when hiring people, we tried to be too specific on what their job role would be. Instead of being more generalist. I guess you always jump to a conclusion. So we were trying to find someone who, for example, could manage the US market for paid.

Which is super granular thing to do. When I left, in the team, we had two people focusing on SEM. So Google ads and Bing. And then one person focuses on paid social. In hindsight, instead of..

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Picture this.

You’ve just accept a new role as the head of marketing with a company. Your ultimate job is to get them noticed. What steps to do you take to attract attention and interest?

In today’s episode, you’ll learn how to stand out and break through using the principles behind Drift’s success. Listen in for a special episode, as we welcome Dave Gerdhardt back to the show. 

Listen to this Episode:

We covered:

  • Why your potential customers are more skeptical than ever
  • How to define your dream 100 customers (and why it matters)
  • What it means to find the gap in your competitors’ marketing strategy
  • The surprising reason why marketing is easy to test quickly
  • How to persuade people to take a risk on your counterintuitive idea
  • The simple tip for coming up with ideas faster than your competition
  • How to create better marketing by observing what you react to
  • Why you can’t win without taking a chance on an unconventional idea


Full Transcript:

Louis: Bonjour, bonjour! And welcome to another episode of EveryoneHatesMarketers.com, the no-fluff, actionable marketing podcast for marketers, founders, and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I’m your host, Louis Grenier.

In today’s episode, you’ll learn how to stand out and break through using the principles behind Drift’s success. I’ll explain what Drift is in a second, if you don’t know. My guest today has been on the show before, a year and a half ago, and he’s now the VP of marketing at Drift. The last time we talked, he was actually only director.

Dave: That was immediately after. Once I was on your podcast they were like, “you know what, we need to make you VP.” I think.

Louis: Exactly, that’s the power. So, since he joined Drift a few years ago, 150,000 businesses have used it. They have been profiling so many publications, I don’t even wanna name them. Their popular podcast Seeking Wisdom with David Cancel, the founder, is getting 50,000 downloads a month or plus, which is even almost as close as mine.

So that’s good, well done. They created the category of conversational marketing, as you might know. They have this massive conference called HYPERGROWTH. They also wrote and published a book. So, Dave Gerhardt, super happy to have you on board again.

Dave: Really, I’m happy to do it. As you would say, bonjour, bonjour. I love the whole concept of your show. I think it says a lot about marketing, and you ask the real questions so I’m glad that you would let me come back. And, really, the only reason I’m doing this is so I could get another promotion after.

Louis: Yeah, but what’s next then, as VP?

Dave: I don’t know, I don’t know. No, I want one of those Chief Evangelist Officer, you know like one of those, he just goes on podcasts and tweets and stuff. I want one of those titles.

Louis: That’s what you do, basically, anyway.

Dave: Yeah, it is.

Louis: Yeah, and then the acronym for chief evangelist officer would be CEO as well, so that’s your next step anyway.

Dave: That’s pretty good.

Louis: So, it seems to get harder and harder to get noticed for companies, right? To stand out and break through, so why is that?

Dave: Oh man, there’s a bunch of different reasons, but I think there’s just more noise than ever today in every channel. Everybody has a podcast, everybody has a blog, everybody’s doing video, everybody’s on social media. That’s part one.

Part two is, there’s a million different companies in any single industry, like cars, technology, shoes, clothes, doesn’t matter, right? But because technology’s gotten so wide spread, it’s easier than ever to start a business, to start a company, to start a product.

And so it’s kinda these two forces of, it’s easier than ever to create information, and it’s easier than ever to create businesses and products. People are just drowning in the amount of stuff that’s out there, and the real challenge is not that there’s a lot of noise.

The challenge is, if you’re a marketer, you can’t rely on the crutches of we have the best product anymore. Which is a bummer, because you should. The best product should win.

But that’s not how it works. And the reason why is because buyers, your potential customers, are more skeptical than ever. Every marketer in the world, every sales rep in the world, is gonna tell you something like this. “I’m selling this thing, it’s faster, it’s easier to use, it’s better, it integrates with all the things you work with.”

Everybody says that same stuff. So even if it is true — even if you did make the best, fastest, easy to use product in the world, people just aren’t gonna believe it.

I think marketing is harder than ever. People who’ve been in the marketing industry for like 30-40 years, they don’t like when I say this. But I think marketing is harder than it’s ever been because we’ve kind of rode this wave.

10 years ago was amazing. Marketers started to use technology and it became easier because you get to track and measure everything. Funnels and campaigns, blah, blah, blah. But now, there’s too much that you have to go back to the fundamentals of marketing to be able to get people’s attention. And then earn the right to have a conversation with somebody.

Louis: Right. Let’s have a little scenario, a little game, together, shall we? Let’s say Drift doesn’t exist anymore, for whatever reason. Right?

Dave: Okay.

Louis: You have all this knowledge. All the stuff you’ve made, all the mistake made, all the lesson learned in the last four years. And you join a company that is not at the stage that Drift is now, which is maybe early stage.

They have a product that is good enough, they have some team members, but they are bootstrapped, they don’t have a lot of money. Right? They don’t have a lot of VC funds behind them and whatnot. Let’s say you join them as Director of Marketing. You’re in charge of marketing there, and your job is to get them noticed. You know? Get them to stand out.

How would you go about it, step by step? What would be your process, based on all of the stuff you’ve learned? And I know I’m gonna add a few more complexities cause you’re way to good with just that, your gonna say something that is gonna be quite easy for you.

Let’s say you have only $10,000 to play with to start with, you know? Let’s say you can’t really use your name either, you can’t use your network, because it’s too easy, you have a lot of people on LinkedIn, right?

You’ll have to use your knowledge, you have to use your expertise, the lesson you learned, to stand out. How would you go about it? What first principle do you start to go back to? What fundamentals do you look into?

Dave: This is why I love your show. This is a great question. Most people would say, “David, next question. How did you, blah.” This is great.

By the way, this would be a great show. Which is like you give marketers $10,000, you can’t use your name, you can’t use your network, you have to do something. I would make a video, light the $10,000 on fire, and then tell people to go to my landing page.

No, that’s not what I would do. Somebody’s done that. To me, marketing, whether you have money or not, marketing is all about understanding people. I hate that when I say that, most people listening to this, and most people in life, will be like, “yeah, obviously.”

But I don’t think that very many people actually live that in their business and in their marketing, and so I’m talking about what really motivates people. Social psychology, understanding human behavior, all of the principles, and Robert Cialdini’s great book from 1984, Influence, right? What actually motivates people?

To me, everything that I have learned that has actually helped me in my career in marketing relates back to that. So what I would do. I don’t even know if I would need the $10,000, first of all, so I don’t know if I would spend it.

What I would do is I would spend a little bit of time analyzing my potential customers and competitors. Really, the only goal of the exercise is to try to find the gaps. And so, let’s say that I am making a new… I love hooded sweatshirts, right? I would go and figure out, okay, who are the people that I want? Where are my dream customers, where are they hanging out online?

There’s a great book called The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes, and he talks about, this is before ABM was a thing, he says, “Who are your dream 100? Who are your dream 100 customers?” So, where do they hang out? So, where are my dream 100 customers that I want to buy my hoodies, where do they hang out in person and online? And I’d just make a whole list.

They go to these conferences, they read these blogs, they listen to these podcasts, they listen to these people, these influencers, these people in the market, they typically live in these areas. Then, that’s one thing okay?

That would start to get me list of channels that might be interesting. Maybe this group doesn’t actually care about podcasts at all, but they’re huge on YouTube. Okay, we’re starting to narrow down the channels that I would focus on.

Then I would look at the competitors in that industry. Who’s already making hooded sweatshirts? How did they go to market? Oh, they’re running ads. What keywords are they using? Okay, what content are they creating? Oh really, interesting, nobody in this industry has a podcast. Okay, then that’s a huge gap. That might be an area.

I’m always trying to find the gaps because everybody’s doing the same things in marketing. For me, it’s really about finding the channels that I can have a competitive advantage on by being the first person there.

Maybe that’s, everybody has a podcast but nobody has a podcast in your industry. I’d start the first podcast in that industry. Nobody’s vlogging or creating video content in that industry, I would do that.

Nobody’s running ads, maybe I start googling stuff and there’s no search terms being bid on, on AdWords. It’s all about finding those opportunities first, and then you can start to get creative and figure out how you’re gonna stand out in those channels.

Louis: Alright, so let’s break down what you just said there. So, understanding people. I know both of us say the same stuff and I repeat that on the podcast all the time. I know it sounds very cliché but, you have a very practical view on it.

Let’s break that down first of all. How do you actually get to know who your ideal customers, your top 100, are in the first place? How do you define those people?

Dave: I mean, there’s usually like, especially if you’re joining the company as a marketer, you’re very rarely the first person who’s ever thought about your business. Most companies start with product and engineering first, and so there’s gotta be some thought about who this ideal customer is.

Maybe your product manager is out there doing customer development and interviewing early customers. I want all those notes, cause those notes are money, they’re great for marketing content.

But, honestly, the non-sexy answer is you’ve gotta open your eyes. And I think the biggest thing that has changes for me, as a marketer, is I am not just a marketer at work from 9 to 5.

It’s just who I am as a person. I’m just super curious about, “Why did they run that ad? Why does Starbucks have that billboard over there? Okay, interesting. Oh, I saw that commercial.”

I’m just super curious, and it’s a gift and a curse because I can’t turn my mind off sometimes. But it’s being curious about what people are doing and what people are saying. And so, you can find so many things out by doing something like find a related product on Amazon and read the reviews, read what people are saying.

Find a related product on YouTube and go. Here’s an example, about a year ago we launched a product at Drift that lets you book meetings, like a calendering product, right? The first the that I did when we launched that product was, I went to everybody on YouTube to see who was using Calendly.

And there was a couple other products like that, I don’t know, there’s like, TimeTrade is another one. I just wanted to see who was reviewing those products. Not because I wanted to reach them, but I wanted to see how they talked about it. And then you start to get into that world, and, especially today, this is 2019, this is so easy because everybody’s creating this stuff.

It’s not like 20 years ago where, you know, I just finished watching Mad Men. In the Mad Men days, you had to hire a group of people to come to your office and be a focus group. Focus groups are happening everywhere online, on Instagram, on LinkedIn, on Facebook groups, on YouTube, on Amazon.

I would start to really dig into, what are related products in my world? For example, we just wrote a book, Conversational Marketing, right? I was plugging in all books related to that in Amazon.

Behind the Cloud, Marc Benioff’s book about the story of Salesforce, what are people saying about that book? Who reviewed that book, what words are they using? You can start to kind of reverse engineer that stuff without ever having to leave your computer.

Louis: What type of things are you looking into? Let’s say, to understand customers, to understand those people, you will start by just looking online at those reviews, competitor products and whatnot.

But what are you looking at in the reviews exactly? What type of things do you wanna know? The words they use, but that’s not enough right?

Dave: Yeah, the words they use are very good for writing copy, right? But if you’re talking about channels to acquire customers, I’m thinking about I’m trying to understand what conferences they go to.

I’m trying to understand which blogs they read, which newsletters they subscribe to, which podcasts they listen to, which videos they watch, which magazines they watch, which TV shows they watch.

Because there might be opportunities to do something, maybe with your money, maybe with that $10,000, maybe to create a show, maybe to go out and interview people. There isn’t one perfect answer based on the scenario.

But I could see how you doing that, you come up with kinda 10 or 20 different options and you could think about what might be really powerful to make. Nobody has made a movie in this space, nobody has done a documentary. Okay, why? Is it because there isn’t a market for that, or because just nobody’s done it?

I think you have the opportunity to, you have to stand out, and so imagine that new company comes on the scene in an industry where nobody’s made a movie about hooded sweatshirts before.

That would be amazing. That would get a ton of attention just because of the fact that you did something completely different as opposed to, “We set up landing pages. We’re running ads. We’re sponsoring some events.”

I care so much about getting your attention because I think time is the most precious resource for a marketer, and it always has been, right? This is why, you go back and read any of the old school copyrighted books, they were not afraid of writing long copy because the mindset was, who reads long copy?

Buyers. The people who make it to the bottom are the people that you want. Man, there’s so many things in there, but I just ultimately am trying to find, where can we be successful quickly?

I would rather do one thing that’s gonna get a lot of attention than 15 things that are gonna maybe add up over time.

Louis: Right. Let’s go back to the understanding people bit, because you said, looking at reviews, understanding what they say about competitor’s products, so maybe you can identify the things that they don’t like about the competitors?

You might identify words that they use that you can use in your copy. You might identify the jobs to be done, or the things that they actually want to achieve with this product. So, you can start to understand then. What other sources would you look into to truly understand people?

Dave: How many more are there?

Louis: Thousands.

Dave: I don’t know. There’s thousands.

Louis: Which one do we focus on? Because you don’t have a lot of time right. You look at reviews on Amazon, fine, YouTube and whatnot, but do you think it’s enough to truly understand people?

Dave: No, but I don’t think you ever will. I don’t think you ever, even if you’ve got 10 people and you talk to them in person, those 10 might say something different than 10 other people.

I think you’ve gotta make a best guess. I think, marketing today, there’s enough ways to find indicators of success, that something’s going to be successful.

Something that I do a lot now is I will write something, or I’ll make a video or write something on LinkedIn and Twitter, and then really quickly I’ll know, man, that’s a good idea for my next speaking deck, or, that’s the next great article that I think I might be able to write.

Because you can get 100 comments on it quickly. Or maybe you can’t get 100 cause you don’t have a big network, but you can get three, and most of your posts get none. Okay, I’m gonna double click on that, and that’s a topic that we should create.

And then you can also do it really cheaply by testing ads. Putting $100 on some Facebook ads and test offer copy and headlines, and then figure out what you’re gonna create.

I think marketing is very easy to test really quickly and get ideas about what might be successful, versus I’m gonna launch this campaign and I don’t know what’s gonna happen. If I think back to some of the more successful marketing campaigns that I’ve run at Drift, almost all of them I knew were gonna be successful before they were.

And that’s not to say I have some magical skill of predicting success, but it’s because, we did a podcast episode on that and everybody, like 10 people, asked questions, and we usually get no questions.

Okay, I’m gonna make a webinar about that topic and I guarantee it’s gonna be successful. Right? That’s not that I predicted it, It’s just marketing can be related. Or, I gave a presentation and everybody, like 10 people, came up to me and they all asked this one question.

Well, shoot, I just figured out the next podcast I’m gonna record. Why most people ask about blank, right? It’s just about trying to put together all these pieces of the puzzle.

Louis: Right. Going back to understanding people side, you mentioned, “I’ll get to know where they hang out, I’ll get to know who influenced them, I’ll get to know the channel they are on,” and whatever. How do you find that out?

Dave: How do you find what?

Louis: How do you find that out? How do you find the channels that they are on? How do you find the people that influence them?

Dave: You gotta search. Honestly, there’s not much more science to it than Googling. Seriously. And I think most people would be like, “Yeah, this guy’s telling me to Google something,” but you can go on sites like Quora and Reddit, they’re amazing sites to figure out.

Reddit has subreddits, right? I don’t need to tell your audience this but if you are somebody that, let’s talk about CrossFit, if you’re on Reddit posting about CrossFit, you are the deepest of the deep people who love CrossFit.

If you are on Quora, and on Quora you’re asking questions, Quora’s a question and answer site, you’re literally gonna get a million ideas just based on what people are asking the site, right? Same thing on Amazon.

The way you find the right people is you gotta go find something related to your thing. So, if I was trying to figure out, should we write a book about conversational marketing? I would go look at what did people say about Behind the Cloud? What did people say about Inbound Marketing?

What did people say about From Impossible to Inevitable, Jason Lemkin’s book? And start to get in the ballpark of, I think these are gonna be related.

Especially, you are rarely creating something brand new from scratch. There’s always some customer or competitor, or some pattern that you can learn from.

Everything’s already been invented, and so one of the biggest principles that’s been kinda beaten into my head by David Cancel, who’s the CEO and Founder at Drift, is “innovate, don’t invent.”

We could be working on a new pricing page with the Drift website, I would be looking at Stripe, Slack, LinkedIn. How do their pricing pages work? Some of the best companies in our industry, that are kinda related, to understand what things can we kinda copy and innovate on, on top of them?

Louis: Right. Looking at Reddit, looking at communities online where people like to submit content, they ask questions, they basically share their worries in the world. They ask questions, they share concerns, and whatnot, so you can start reading their mind a bit more.

Now, let’s say you have a better understanding of that. Let’s say you know who they are, you know where they hang out, you know who influenced them, then you said, “I look at the gaps,” right?

Between them and what my competitors are not doing. It sounds like it’s not something you can really do just in an afternoon, or whatnot. Do you have a process for that? To truly see the gaps between the two things, to identify opportunities?

Dave: The other thing I just thought of is, back to your question about, if you can’t find where your people are hanging out then your product’s not gonna be successful. You’re at the wrong company. You should be, as a marketer, there should already be some demand, or interest, or reason to build your product and to market your product.

Number one is, if you’re like, “I just can’t find where potential customers might be,” then you better go get another job, cause that’s not gonna work. Marketing is not magic, it’s..

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You want to make an impact, right?

Imagine you’ve just been hired in a new marketing role. What’s the first thing you should do to get your foot in the door? In today’s episode, you’ll learn how to build trust and prove yourself in the first 90 days as a marketer.

Join us in welcoming Claire Suellentrop back to the podcast. Claire is a SaaS marketing strategy consultant and the co-founder of Forget the Funnel, where she teaches tech marketers how to build high-growth SaaS companies.

Listen to this Episode:

We covered:

  • Why marketers and their leaders often struggle to align themselves
  • The first step you must take when you’re starting with a new company
  • Two ways to develop true empathy for the founder or CEO
  • How to build strong relationships with leaders of other departments
  • What type of questions you must ask during those first conversations
  • Why your first 90 days as a marketer are a critical period of time
  • The simple (but effective) tip for nailing communication with your boss
  • How to balance customer research with making your first major impact


Full Transcript:

Louis: Bonjour, bonjour! And welcome, to another episode of EveryoneHatesMarketers.com, the no-fluff actionable marketing podcast for marketers, founders and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I’m your host, Louis Grenier.In today’s episode, you will learn how to make an impact and build trust in the first 90 days as a marketer–and obviously after that. But as we’ll show in this episode, the first 90 days are quite important.

My guest today has been on the show before, it’s actually the first time I’m having someone for the second time. Remember, she talked about Jobs to be Done and if I remember well, you loved this episode. I say you, listening to this podcast. That’s the power of creating content, you can equate good people and you make friends.

So, my guest today is helping SaaS companies figure out the next marketing move and create growth, she’s the co-founder of Forget the Funnel, a weekly series of free 30-minute workshops to help marketers get out of the weeds, think strategically, and be more effective leaders. My guest today has a lot of knowledge to prove yourself as a marketer, how to talk to your CEO, and to your boss and leaders. I’m super happy to have Claire Suellentrop on board again. Claire, welcome.

Claire: Louis, it is so nice to be here. Especially for a second time, quite an honor.

Louis: Let’s be honest with people listening right now. We actually came up with the theme of this episode literally five minutes ago. We were planning on talking about something completely different, but we like to improvise.

Before going into the topic, which is to prove yourself as a marketer, especially when you get started. And build trust with CEOs, that usually believe marketing is full of fluff and a lot of bullshit. How does it feel to be famous since your first appearance on Everyone Hates Marketers?

Claire: Laughs. Well, I think fame is really subjective if you can consider me micro, micro, micro niche famous. But even that is nice. I think what you said a moment ago really applies, when you create content you happen to make friends. And that’s really what this feels like, more than anything like true fame.

Louis: Thanks, you’re way too kind. Going back to the problem there, I started a marketing role two years ago–and I started a marketing role five years ago where I completely fucked up on multiple occasions. I know this is a problem that listeners suffer from.

Recently, I received a LinkedIn message from a listener in Australia who said, “I use your podcasts to prove to my CEO that all of the surface trying to do is bullshit and it needs to go back to the basics-”

Claire: Amazing.

Louis: “He’s into the get-rich-quick type of growth acts.” This is exactly how she wrote it. Why do you think there is such a problem between marketers — and their CEOs or their leaders — when it comes to aligning themselves?

Claire: Of course, it’s going to be different within every company. But there are a couple of themes that I see over and over. And my co-founder in Forget the Funnel, Georgiana Laudi, also has seen.

She and I have both served as marketing leaders within SaaS companies. Then we both left our in-house roles around the same time, and have continued to work with SaaS companies on a consulting basis. Some of the things we see over and over are, first, it’s very rare that the founder or founders of a SaaS company have much a marketing background.

Typically, they are a product-focused founder, so they’re really good at building product or they’re a subject matter expert in a particular industry.

Either of those things — or having a founder who is either of those things — is really useful, but that lack of understanding of the importance of marketing typically leads those early teams to de-prioritize marketing.

All the focus is on, let’s build a great product and it’ll be so amazing that once we launch it everyone will just immediately flock to it. So, it’s a build-it-and-they-will-come mindset.

What they do is they build the product, they build the product, they build the product. Maybe they take funding, whatever the financial situation is. Eventually, the founders realize through pressure of investors — or simply if they’re bootstrapping the product and they’re running out of cash.

Either way, acquiring customers suddenly become this emergency and they’re like, “Okay, we’ve got this product but nobody’s using it and we need to get some money in here pretty quickly.”

So, it’s at that point that they turn their attention to marketing. And suddenly, marketing is this big emergency. By the way, at any point jump in if you have seen similar or different scenarios.

But then they’re ready to hire this marketer, they don’t know a lot about hiring a marketer, it’ll be like if you or I needed to hire an engineer. We think we know what makes someone a talented engineer, but there’s so many details that we just aren’t familiar with because that’s not our day-to-day work.

The founding team will bring on a marketer who no matter what level their experience, whether they’re a junior level, whether they’re mid-level, whatever it may be. They bring this person on and this person is under some major, major expectations. They have all this pressure to suddenly turn marketing into this acquisition machine.

They’re under pressure, but the executive team who has brought them on may not be always granting them… They may be giving them accountability, they’re held accountable to hitting goals, but maybe they don’t have the level of authority they need to make decisions and act really as a leader of a department.

I would say that’s where a lot of the friction comes from, and the particular listener you mentioned who said, “Hey, I’m using the podcast to convince my boss that all these shady growth hacks are a bad idea.” It sounds like a similar scenario, maybe where the founders are like, “Shit …” Oh, sorry can I say that?

Louis: Keep cursing.

Claire: Is it good? Can I swear on this podcast? The founders are probably like, “Shit, we need to get some people in this product.” They’ve read about growth hacks, it seems like a good way to acquire customers quickly, but they don’t realize the complexity and the long-term work involved in marketing.

Now the marketer is not only responsible for numbers, they’re also responsible for educating the founding team on what good marketing even looks like. So, I would say that’s a major theme in how marketers end up in that tricky situation.

Louis: Do you feel this is similar in other industries? I know you specialize in SaaS but I’m thinking ecommerce, for example, or services.

Do you feel like this is a typical scenario that the CEO doesn’t have a lot of marketing knowledge or a lot of subject matter expertise in one thing but not necessarily marketing?

Claire: Definitely. And while you’re right that my focus is on the SaaS space or SaaS products, Gia and I, in our Forget the Funnel Workshop series, we have a welcome email, of course. So when someone sings up and wants to receive future workshops, they receive a little email that introduces them to us, points them to some past really successful workshops.

One of them is yours, by the way, people love your workshop. Of course, asks a question because we want to learn from our subscribers who they are and what their scenario is. So, we ask them to tell us a little bit about what’s going on that led them to sign up and multiple subscribers have replied and said, “Hey, I don’t work in SaaS but everything that you teach is still really relevant.”

Maybe they work at eCommerce, maybe they work at an agency, it could be another style of business. But that lack of shared understanding about what marketing is, between the marketing employee and the founders, I think spans many many different types of business models.

Louis: Let’s consider the scenario. That is, I’m going to be hired as a marketer in the next few weeks. I want to prepare the best possible, so then when I get hired and when I get into the first few days, first few weeks, I can make an impact and I can be trusted.

By just thinking of this scenario right now, I can think that actually your job doesn’t start when you start the job, it seems like you need to prepare stuff.

It’s actually funny because I had the person who’s now head of growth for Baremetrics, who actually reached out to me before he started to ask about, how he should do stuff and whatever. When I compared to my role, when I started that whole journey and before in a previous startup, I remember how, in hindsight, I did so poorly in so many ways.

Let’s take the scenario that we are starting or we are about to start in a new job as a marketer, doesn’t really matter if we’re first, the first marketer or not. Although it could make a difference for you.

How would we advise people to get started step by step? What would be the first thing you would do to really get your foot in the door and make an impact, be trusted and all that?

Claire: Well, as a side note, there’s 15 things that come to mind but I’ll try to prioritize to make this a bit more actionable. The first thing I would do is step back and look at the health of the business, not just in terms of standard metrics that marketing is usually responsible for. Like traffic, leads generated, and content receiving, like the highest numbers of paid views or conversion rates.

I would look at the health of the business overall. I would try to put myself in the founder’s shoes and think, if I were the founder and I were responsible for growing this business, where are the gaps that I’m seeing?

“Whether they’re related to marketing …” I say that in quotations, marketing metrics or not … I’m really trying to, honestly, pretend or empathize with the founder as if I was that person. One of the best quotes I’ve ever seen in relation to marketing and being a career marketer is, “Operate not as a marketer, but as a business owner who happens to know how to do marketing.”

I think that speaks to not only how you should view that plans that you make, if you’re leading marketing at a company or leading a particular type of marketing within a larger department. But it also helps you frame the conversations that you have with non-marketing team members.

Like the CEO, or the founder, or whoever it may be. Because then you can speak with them about what the business’ goals are versus, “Hey, marketing needs more leads and so I need more advertising budget to drive those leads.”

Pretending for a moment that you are a founder who’s in charge of growing the business, instead of a marketer who’s in charge of increasing traffic, increasing leads, or whatever it may be, is a really really good first step. And something I wish I had learned a long, long, long time ago. But it’s just-

Louis: How do you do that though? How do you build empathy for the founder?

Claire: I think the first I would do — and this might be the most challenging if you are already in your role and you’re listening to this and trying to work backwards.

But if you’re in that perfect sweet spot scenario where you’re just getting hired, the first thing I would do is sit down with the founder or the CEO and have a conversation about how the business is performing at every stage of the customer’s journey. What I mean by that is, sometimes, this is going to be dependent on how your organization is set up. Some organizations track their key metrics using like a pirate metrics model like acquisition, activation, revenue, retention, referral.

My favorite scenario, and one that Gia, my Forget the Funnel co-founder and I talk about a lot, is actually focusing your metrics on how your customer succeeds at every stage. So, awareness and then interest and then engagement and so on.

But either way, whatever the setup your company is, I would sit down with the founder and I would ask, “Hey, how are we doing at every one of these stages? Where do you think we’re doing well and where do you think we’re not doing well and why is that?”

Almost pretend you’re coming on board as a co-founder, even if your title is head of marketing or marketing manager or even marketing coordinator. Your ultimate job is to help the company make more money.

Pretend for a moment that you’re a co-founder and feel comfortable having that high-level conversation with the person who hired you. Because what they’re ultimately looking for is someone who’s thinking about the greater objective to the business, not just marketing metrics.

So, having that conversation and then really understanding. I’m sure you’ve got some follow up questions. But having that conversation as early as possible in your tenure as an employee will help build your boss’s trust, and help them feel confident that you’re focusing, not just on your little isolated metric, but on where the company is trying to go.

Louis: Yeah, I concur. The other thing I would say as well, is really concentrate on the context behind the company and even the story. That’s what I’ve learned as well in the past. There are small details and decisions — or even big decisions — that were taken in the past that might have an impact on your day-to-day.

There might be, for example, a company that have just always decided they were against SEO because they always felt it was tricking the focus on people rather than tricking Google or tricking you know.

Based on their story, you might have some small snippets of knowledge like that that you can only infer by asking about the story. Why did you actually found the business? How did it start? How did you get started? What was the story behind it?

Ideally, you ask that before you get hired. I wanted to add something else to what you said. Let’s say you’re hired and you talk to the founder, I don’t think there’s any reason why you can’t do that before.

So, if you really want to be hired as marketer, head of marketing, the CEO should probably spend a bit of time with you. Maybe you can do that before, which could help you to pick that right job if you get along with the founder.

The other thing I hinted about as well at the start was, I think if I’m starting with a new company again as a marketer, the thing I would do is ask all the marketers in similar roles like, how do they think I should get started? But that’s basically what I’m asking you.

Okay, step one. You talk to the founder, talk to the CEO. You get the story, you get the context and you also try to think like them as a founder. As a founder who is responsible for paying people wages and all of that, right?

Claire: Mm-hmm.

Louis: What would you do then?

Claire: You bring up a really good point. In an even better scenario, these are things you would be doing during the interview process to figure out whether you want to really be a part of this company.

And whether the skills that you have match with what the company needs and what the expectations are. The next thing that I would do, beyond forming that relationship with the founder or the CEO, is seek to understand, how do other leaders within the company think of marketing?

A good example is, if we speak in SaaS terms again, there are low-touch or self-serve SaaS products in which marketers are much more responsible for revenue in those scenarios. They’re responsible for driving traffic, they’re responsible for getting traffic to sign up for the product, they’re responsible for getting new trials to convert.

On the other hand, you have more enterprise software products, where marketing’s real role is kind of a relationship management role with sales. The sales team is really who “your client is” — or the person you have to make happy at the end of the day.

So, a marketing leader who’s a self serve SaaS company versus a marketing leader at a more enterprise SaaS company is going to be beholden to different expectations and metrics. There’s an article somewhere out.

I can’t remember who wrote it now, I’ll have to go find it and share it in the notes. But there’s a good article about this wherein an enterprise SaaS company, if you’re the head of marketing, your metrics are not as related to revenue.

They sort of are, but at the end of the day, your success is really determined really but whether sales likes you or whether sales feels that you’re helping them out on the right way.

So, how you will conduct yourself and your goals will be totally different in that organization than a self serve organization. I say all that to say, having built a relationship with a founder, your next task is to build really strong relationships with leaders of other departments.

Louis, I’m sure you’re familiar with the really unhealthy scenario in which every department kind of works in a silo.

Marketing is responsible for these metrics at the top of the funnel, and then product is responsible for these metrics, and then customer success is responsible for these metrics. But in a healthy company, everybody in every department should be working toward the same goal.

To avoid being stuck in silos, to avoid any potential tense relationships with other department heads, my next step after building a relationship with the founder would be to establish rapport with those other leaders.

What that looks like in real life is, first, just once you’ve come on board or while you’re in the interview process, go out to get coffee or lunch or a drink or something with the head of sales and the head of product and the head of engineering, the head of customer success.

Ask them about their day. Ask them about what they’re working on, what are they responsible for? It doesn’t have to be an interview, it’s not a grilling session. Really, what you’re seeking to do is build empathy with these people and understand what they’re worried about, what makes them tick.

Figure out how you can be of help to them so that in the future, when you’re trying to pitch a big marketing project and you need other people’s buy-in, you can lead on them.

So, building a relationship with the founder or the CEO would be my first step. And my immediate step after that, or maybe in tandem, would be to build those relationships with other leaders at the company and then manage those on an ongoing basis.

Everybody’s busy. You don’t want to put too much of a burden on people’s calendars, or your own, but at least try to establish a biweekly or a monthly one-on-one with each of those department leaders.

So you can stay in sync about what they’re working on, they can understand what you’re working on — and you can kind of avoid that really unfortunate scenario of accidentally working at a silo. Where marketing’s off over here, and then product’s over there, and they launch a new feature, and they expect you to have a go-to-market strategy ready by tomorrow.

Louis: What question do you like to ask people when you have this first call or this first meeting with other department leaders? You mentioned that you just ask them about their day and whatnot, but are there any other things you like to know?

Like maybe, out of the blue I would think something maybe like, what’s your view on our marketing department right now? What do you think of marketing as a whole? Engineers tend to and developers tend to think marketing is bullshit.

I know, because this is the podcast and I receive a lot of emails about this. What else do you like to, or do you think, we should ask when we have those first conversations? What else should we bring up?

Claire: I think you’re right on the money that it’s really important to ask, what do you think of our company’s marketing right now? What do you think is working well and what’s not and why? I would also be asking things like, what matters to you? What are the metrics you’re driving toward?

An engineering department, for example, or a product team is often responsible for metrics related to output. Our job as the product team is to ship features as quickly as possible.

Personally, I don’t believe that’s the metric that a product team should be driven by but that’s another podcast episode entirely. Once you have that information as a marketer, then when you’re trying to get a buy-in in a marketing project, now you know what to leverage.

Now you know how to pitch it to the product team to say, “Hey, product team, I think that we should no longer have a website that is custom built, that the engineering department is in charge of. I think we should go to Web Flow or WordPress or some other platform that the marketing team can manage so that you can be responsible for shipping features and not maintaining a marketing website.”

I just kind of came up with a random example there, but you’d be shocked. Or maybe those..

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Wouldn’t you love to get more value out of customer surveys?

As we all know, talking to customers is the best way to learn more about your audience. We’ve covered surveys and how to get inside your prospects’ head on the show before. But in this episode, we cover an unconventional approach to using surveys inside your sales funnel.

This is a special interview because I’m speaking to not one, but two guests. Rob and Kennedy are the co-founders of ResponseSuites. And they’re here to reveal how you can use surveys to sell more… without pissing your customers off.

Listen to this Episode:

We discussed:

  • How Rob and Kennedy transitioned from entertainment into marketing

  • Why typical customer surveys are where useful data goes to die

  • How to create a personalized sales process at the end of your funnel

  • The best way to ask key questions (and instantly define your customers’ needs)

  • What happens next in the funnel after someone completes your survey

  • Why sending email blasts to your entire list alienates 60% of your audience

  • The simplest place in your funnel to start asking subscribers to fill out a survey

  • Two practical techniques for increasing your survey response rates

  • What four critical questions will generate the most useful answers


Full Transcript:

Louis: Bonjour, bonjour and welcome to another episode of EveryoneHatesmMrketers.com, the no-fluff actionable marketing podcast for marketers, founders and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I’m your host, Louis Grenier.

In today’s episode, you will learn how you can use surveys to sell better. And for the first time ever you will be hearing from two guests. Yes, the first time I am actually interviewing two guests at once. One is a hypnotist, the other one is a mind reader for the last 17 years.

So it’s kind of a crazy couple of guests to get for the first time I’m interviewing two people, but anyway we’ll do our best, right? Both are actually the co-founders of the service that were ResponseSuites. It’s a shame actually it’s an audio podcast because they have terrific haircuts. Anyway, Rob and Kennedy, welcome aboard.

Rob: Hello.

Kennedy: Bonjour.

Louis: Wow, they are picking up fast.

Kennedy: That’s the best I’ve got I’m afraid.

Louis: You’re co-founders of Response Suites but as I said in the intro you also do quite some interesting stuff in the entertainment world including mind reading and hypnosis. The first question I have for you, is mind reading or hypnosis not paying enough?

Kennedy: Do you know what it is, it’s a funny old thing, Rob and I have both been individually doing our entertainment thing. The problem with entertainment and actually, funnily enough, the reason I got into selling any kind of information or doing anything that was outside of just being on stage and being mildly humorous was because the thing that you spend the most time doing is traveling and waiting for gigs.

Because Rob and I individually both travel to London a lot, away from home or further abroad. Stuff in Dubai, stuff throughout Europe, stuff in the States and Canada. We do a lot of international stuff for our clients. It means we spend a lot of time either in departure lounges, or on trains, or in hotels, waiting to go and do our show, or in a hotel having done our show waiting for the next day to fly home.

It basically means, as I teach my students who I help with their entertainment businesses which is my first foray into doing something other than entertaining, as I actually set up a business helping other entertainers, is that we actually waste a lot of time.

Kennedy: Our maximum capacity for doing any kind of gig in the corporate entertainment world, which is the world that I’m in, is probably three events a week because that’s when there are corporate conferences. In Rob’s world theater, you are talking about maximum amount of five or six nights a week?

Rob: Yeah, and in a very condensed space of time for me. Probably 40 to 60 shows over the course of two months, but then I’m not performing for the rest of that time. I do all my shows, get them out the way, and then I just do a handful spread throughout the year. In that case, I’ve got months and months of time. Apart from writing a new show, I’ve got months of time sitting around, really.

Kennedy: And one of the things I do, you sit around going, “This seems like a lot of wasted time, I can’t take another gig. I can’t be anywhere else. How else can I use this time productively, what can I do?”

If you are single you can chase women or whatever, if that’s your thing. But then when you’re not single anymore that puts an end to that, doesn’t it? You have to do something else.

For me, that’s when I started writing stuff for fellow performers, writing material for other people, helping, and coaching other performers, and doing that kind of thing. Rob did something similar, because I know you went into helping people and doing self-help.

Rob: Exactly. Self-improvement and helping hypnotists who wanted to learn stage hypnosis. The other thing for you, of course, is that what you do now came about through demand, I guess.

So people started to see that you were so busy, posting pictures on cruise ships, or corporate events on the other side of the world and saying, “Wow, How is Kennedy getting all of this work. I’ve put my ad in the Yellow Pages why aren’t the cruise ships calling me?”

And then saying how do I get a better business as an entertainer, that pays me more money, etc. That evolved into coaching, but then coaching is very time intensive so that evolved into a membership site. I guess it also came from doing a thing, being noticed for people who wanted to do that thing, and then they came for help.

Kennedy: Yeah, I never woke up one day and thought I know what I want to do with my spare time. I’m gonna teach other entertainers how to build their businesses or how to run more efficient businesses and get the gigs they wanna get. I wish I was smart enough to have thought about, I’m just not that smart.

What I did instead was I got lots of bloody messages from people and emails and Facebook messages saying, “Hey, how did you get those gigs?” And “What shall I do with this advert good? Should I be doing this?” And I thought I’ve got to at some point leverage this time.

Rob: What I like is we both fell into the entertainment world because we got hooked on it at a very young age…

Kennedy: Yeah

Rob: …and then led into that. But then everything else we’ve done, everything we’ve done online, has very much been borne from a need. Somebody wanted something, and we’ve thought well, we can fulfill that. And we’ve got the time and the knowledge to do it.

Kennedy: Because we are not like business visionaries, not like, “I have diagnosed the markets and there’s a real strong need for this thing.” No, I’ve just gone, “I’ve got a problem with this,” or I’m being offered this opportunity, let’s do that. It’s more like a gut instinct thing.

Rob: We have this thing about being the most unlikely entrepreneurs, because the truth is I wasn’t selling sweets to kids at school when I was 12. I wasn’t on a market stand by the age of 18 and all the typical entrepreneurial stories.

Kennedy: Well, I kind of was.

Rob: You did have a weird experience.

Kennedy: Do you want me to tell you my first entrepreneurial story?

Louis: Go on.

Kennedy: Alright, so I remember I was at school I used to get dinner at school. My mum used to give me my dinner money, every day, every morning, leave it on the kitchen table before I went to school. Then one evening she was doing the laundry, she was doing the washing, and she said, “Kennedy, what’s all of this?”

She had a hand full of change and I was like damn it. She’s like: “Have you not been eating your school dinner? Is everything okay?” She was concerned about me and I had to confess what I’d been doing.

From quite a young age I had pretty neat handwriting. My handwriting is pretty good, mostly. What I was doing, as an entrepreneur (we’ll call it entrepreneur, that’s the word we’ll use) is I was offering to write excuse notes for my fellow kids for 50p.

If you were off school for the day because you skived off school I could write you a note for 50p. If you wanted get out of PE, didn’t want to do it, I would write you a note for 50p. I had this pocket full of 50ps that I would just use to buy sweets and crap like that and swapsie cards or whatever they were, Wrestling Federation card. It was my first foray into entrepreneurship.

Rob: But apart from that-

Kennedy: But that was due to demand.

Rob:I suppose we created stuff to fulfill a demand.

Louis: If I had to summarize what you just said, its sounds like you are so experienced in the field of the entertainment side. It seems like you are well known, you get gigs, you know your stuff, you know how to write new shows and how to prepare for shows. It sounds like you needed something else to do, something new, something exciting.

Rob: For me, I always had this thing. It’s funny when you do a gig, people come up to you and they insult you without realizing they are insulting you because they say to you, “So, what do you do for a job?”

And I’m like, “You know this shit I just did on stage that’s what I do for a job.” That’s something I work really hard at, but the truth is the reason they say that is because you are one hundred percent exchanging time for money.

Rob: You can never as an entertainer build anything that’s bigger than you. I’ve got this strong sense, and I know this sounds a bit out there and a bit like BS-y, but I have this strong thing that I like to give back. I like to contribute. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m an entertainer because when I do my funny mind reading stuff and people react, that feeling that I get when they go, “Wow. That’s amazing.”

I love that feeling or when I give somebody a piece of advice which allows them to book the most expensive high-priced gig they’ve ever got, or if they use our survey platform, ReponseSuite, and they are able to transform and slicken up the way that they run their coaching program, or the way they engage people on webinars or whatever they do.

When I hear the response and the reaction they get that’s better than the money for me. Yes, I need the money to pay my bills. Yes, I wanna have success and be able to have freedom but actually I just like that feeling of people going, “That’s great.” So that for me is how can I leverage that thing.

Louis: It’s the same buzz, right? You have the same buzz when you-

Rob: Totally.

Louis: Entertain people as well as what you mention in response to it. So let me switch gears to something much more closely related to marketing, much more closely related to helping people to sell better as I said in the intro right, using surveys.

Briefly, from zero to ten, how do you think surveys, how trendy are they right now? Surveys, for most people in the business world?

Kennedy: I think the way that most people use it, it’s a zero. Most people it’s a thing, we get asked questions all the time. Does anyone even take surveys anymore?

Rob: Tell the story about the presentation.

Kennedy: I mean, for example, we were booked to do a presentation at a business exhibition type event and I was gonna do a presentation for about forty-five minutes about the power of surveys, etc. Now, what happened was, people would be attending this event.

I was speaking, there were a few other people doing other presentations about other things, like staff and HR and finance and all sorts of other things, and in advance the event organizers sent me a spreadsheet that had the names and email addresses of all the people who had registered interest in coming to my particular presentation.

Doesn’t mean they have to come. Sometimes, they might get there and get caught up in other things. Equally, you don’t have to register in advance you can just turn up on the day and come along but they had given their email address, they had registered their interest in coming to the presentation and they given explicit consent for their details to be given to us so that we could contact them.

Kennedy: So what happened was I knocked up a quick email, two days before the event, I sent the email out and that email basically said “hey, I can see you are coming to our masterclass session on whatever day it was.

It’s about email marketing, but just so I can tailor it best to suit you can you take this quick three question survey just so I know where you are at” and then I ask them what we call key questions. These are key defining questions to find out specifically where they’re at.

There were questions like, again it’s to do with email marketing and surveys, so I asked questions like “how many subscribers do you have right now,” that was question one. Question two, “do you mostly do broadcast emails or do you mostly do automated campaigns, or both?”, and C “what email marketing solution do you use?” if you are use Infusionsoft, etc.

I sent that email out and people took it, that was great, and then I turned up and I did the presentation and at the end, when I did the Q and A somebody said, “But does people even take surveys anymore?”

And I said well let’s just find out. Let’s take a gamble. If you received an email from me, that had a link to a survey in it, and you took the survey, put your hands up. And a hundred percent of the room put their hands up. Including the lady, incidentally, weirdly, who said, “Does anyone even take surveys anymore.”

Kennedy: So I think from a marketing perspective a lot of businesses think that, “Oh well, people don’t do surveys anymore. It’s a hassle and if I email them with a survey I can’t email them with an offer,” which is not true, we’ll talk about that in a minute, and therefore they get locked in this mindset.

Rob: The big problem, I think a lot of people have, is just the mindset of where a survey fits in your flow and this is the thing we broke and the reason we actually had to create ResponseSuite in the first place.

Because again, we didn’t come up with these great idea to make us rich one day, like ResponseSuite, actually we came up with ResponseSuite because we needed a solution to do this thing.

What we had the idea was, where a survey fits in most people’s minds is like this, step one of your process is you do some kind of lead generation, you build your list, and then you do some kind of indoctrination and you warm up those people and then you sell them a thing and they buy the thing.

Then a few days later, you might, sometimes, send them a survey to find out what they thought of that thing. Just as a courtesy, so you can find out how well your product is doing. And funnily enough a lot of people who sell online products don’t even do that.

But for everybody who’s running surveys, when you think of a survey, that’s where the survey goes. It goes at the very end of the process and that’s where it sits.

What happens with that survey data, well every now and again, maybe once a year, a couple of times a year, maybe even once a month if you are really keen, you might open that up and just see how well you’re doing. “Oh, that’s good.”

Or they didn’t like that or might improve the fact that they had to change their password three times to get into the online membership area. You use it to fix a few things with your business. But basically-

Kennedy: You can’t do a lot with that data.

Rob: No you just look at it and sort of react to it. That’s all you are doing you are reacting.

Rob: Surveys is where useful data goes to die. That’s what happens. It goes there and it rots until somebody can be arsed to go and actually check it out.

Rob: We had another idea which was, what if instead of at the end of the process, what we would call the cul-de-sac of the marketing world-

Louis: You are actually using French words.

Rob: I’m just making sure-

Kennedy: Bonjour and cul-de-sac by the way.

Rob: Le petit pois dans le chambre. I don’t know why the peas are in the bedroom but they are the only two words I know. I did GCSE French, I’ll have you know.

Kennedy: So did I.

Rob: I can’t remember any of it. Rather than the survey be that end, that cul-de-sac where all this useful information goes to die, what if it was the center of your marketing? What if when you move people from joining your list, nurture them, sell them a thing and then you survey them?

What if that was only, rather than that being the complete process, what if that was only the first half of your sales process? What if there was another half that nobody was really doing anything with but actually was more profitable?

Rob: So what if, one example, we’ll give you two, I’ll give you the first one. What if you asked people, okay you bought my program, let’s do a marketing example, which was about traffic generation using Facebook ads, because there are not enough courses about that out right now, right?

So you’ve just bought a fabulous new Facebook ads course mainly because the person selling it was an attractive woman on Facebook, she looked pretty, and you thought if I buy this off her I may be in with a chance. You buy that off her and you consume it, that’s great.

And then you receive a survey and that survey says, what did you think of the program? Was it awful, okay, amazing? You click it was amazing. You were very beautiful. That’s good. Question number two.

Now that you are really good with Facebook ads what do you need next to grow your business? Is it a template and a training on landing pages that convert for sales? Is it another traffic generation method that is google ads? Or is it search engine optimization? Just three things off the top of my head.

Rob: I click I could do with help with search engine optimization, that’s gonna be my bag. And the next question is something like, what is your budget? Or something like that, whatever other question. You click submit.

Immediately on the thank you page there’s a video of said attractive woman, just using this example, saying: “Thank you for taking my survey. That was lovely of you. You said you wanted some help with search engine optimization.

Good news, I’ve got a really good program which teaches search engine optimization and as a thank you for taking that survey I wanna give you 50% off and give you this bonus. Would you like it?”

Now what we’ve got is another sales process happening at moment of unique engagement. Because what would the alternative to that be? The alternative that most people are doing, most marketers are doing, is somebody buys a thing off us and then what do they do. They go email all the buyers and go, “Hey, wanna buy this other thing?”

And they either say yes or no. Most do say no, and you go, “Hey, what about this other thing?” And you keep beating them over the head with different offers until they spend money with you because we are told, over and over and over again, that the easiest people to sell to are current customers who have already spent money with us.

It’s true, but what if you break that pattern? What if you do something that the people are not expecting? Which is ask what they thought of your product, ask their opinion, show them that you are actually valued by saying, “Hey, what did you think of that thing?”

Rob: Suddenly, you look a lot more professional. Suddenly, you care about them. And suddenly, they go from being passively scrolling through their email inbox — while they open up your email and get shouted at with another offer. Instead of that, you cut through that bullshit. And instead you say, “What did you think of that thing?”

And I go, “Oh, he or she wants my opinion. That’s really nice”. They click to take your survey, and we can share with you some ideas on how to get people to click to take your survey because that’s one of the keys to this process, of getting people to fill them in, and then they ask you some questions.

Fill in the survey, great, and now they are actively involved ’cause they are thinking, “What did I think of that product? Oh, what do I need help with next?”

So now they are active. They are in an active state of mind. I’m using my psychology brain here from my mind reading world that I’ve spent the lasts 16 years or so using. It really applies right here. We’ve all got these skills we can pull in. Now on that thank you page they are no longer in a passive mode.

They’ve just told you what they need help with, not only what they need help with, but what they need help with right now and what they are most interested in, in this moment. That’s amazing, because how many of us wish we could read our customers minds? Well, you basically are.

They are telling you what they want and now on that next page you can offer them the thing they want and because they are in an active mental state they are much more likely to buy it because they are actively involved in completing the survey. It changes everything doesn’t it?

Louis: Thanks for giving me this example and for painting this super clear picture. It’s quite easy to talk to you to be honest because you are asking the questions and then answering them as well. I’ll just sit back and relax.

Rob: Sorry.

Louis: No, it’s great.

Rob: I just get excited.

Louis: I’m not being sarcastic, it’s actually very good. You painted this picture of the world where surveys, obviously to use at the end of the funnel, where the survey goes to die, the data goes to die.

No one really takes the time to read..

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Growing your audience faster, storytelling that informs your prospects, and moving your customers down the sales funnel — these are just a few benefits of video marketing. In this episode, Chris Savage from Wistia joins us to chat about building an audience with video (starting from zero).

Listen to this Episode:

We covered:

  • The truth behind the rise of video and its true power in marketing
  • What happens when you find the spot where customers get stuck in your funnel
  • How to create a compelling storyline that makes your audience problem-aware
  • Why you should turn to your best customers for help identifying your mission
  • The difference between what your product does and what your mission entails
  • Getting clear with your metrics up front when you’re building an audience with video
  • How to use metrics to help leadership understand the risks that you’re taking
  • Why you should pay attention to how media companies market their content


Full Transcript:

Louis: Bonjour, bonjour! And welcome to another episode of EveryoneHatesMarketers.com, the no fluff, actionable marketing podcast for marketers, founders, and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I’m your host, Louis Grenier.

In today’s episode, you will learn how to build an audience with video. My guest today is the founder and CEO of Wistia, which is the video software for businesses that you probably have heard of a few times before.

Recently, what I found to be super interesting is that Wistia turned down the offer to sell the company and instead, took $17 million of debt. You know why?

Because they want to run the business their way, so super happy to have my guest on board. He actually loves creative brands — which I do as well — but he also loves disaster movies, which is something I’m curious about.

Chris Savage, welcome aboard.

Chris: Laughs. Thanks for having me, excited to be here.

Louis: What’s your favorite disaster movie?

Chris: Right now, I would say it’s San Andreas with The Rock. When you’re watching a disaster movie, you know what you’re getting. It’s very, let’s see how terrible they can make this, how over the top they can make this. I just think that one, it’s got everything. It’s got helicopters. It’s got a giant fault line that tons of people are living on. It’s outrageous. But I think for what it was, it was well done. It was great.

Louis: The criteria for a good disaster movie is it has to be over the top. There has to be helicopters.

Chris: Has to be helicopters, yes, yes.

Louis: There has to be tanks.

Chris: Yes. It’s funny, my tastes have found that over time — I majored in film when I was in school, and I was really into the films that made you feel weird. Stuff that was totally disjointed storylines that required an enormous amount of analysis.

I do like that stuff, but I’ve found that sometimes — this would be an extreme way to say it — disaster movies are not meditation, but you know what you’re getting.

I find 2012 is another great one. The Day After Tomorrow is another great one. There’s not that many great disaster films, but the ones that are out there, I do enjoy.

Louis: We’ve all heard the same thing. Video is taking over the world. We talked about movies and moving on to videos. Is it actually true that video is actually taking over the world? That more and more people watch videos… or is it something that video marketers are telling us to sell their stuff?

Chris: It’s funny, as you’re saying that. Definitely, something video marketers will tell you is that video is taking over the world. I think that entertaining content that is specific to your interests is taking over the world.

That could end up being video. It also can be the right podcast. And also, could be the right book. But I feel like our culture has gone from, we used to have a culture where the internet was like a small part of it. Once the internet was formed, the internet was for nerds. On the internet, everyone was into something weird. But out of the internet, in our culture, you weren’t.

Now, our culture is the internet. Everyone’s into their weird thing, and everyone has these things that were tiny niches can be huge opportunities. They can become huge audiences.

For the right niche, yes. They expect content that is really engaging for them. They expect videos that are actually engaging, genuine, and authentic. They expect podcasts that are right on the money in terms of the alignment of their interests. They expect books, blogs.

I think people expect that the little niche that they’re interested in, they will get really engaging stuff within that. So video is important. But I think storytelling more than anything is more important. That lends itself really well to video.

Louis: Right.

Chris: And video’s gotten much easier to create. It’s gotten cheaper, tools have gotten better, much more democratized. Which is great, so we see a lot more video. But it’s not like everyone is just walking to work watching videos. They’re listening to podcasts, and they’re doing everything.

Louis: I’m glad you didn’t give me a bullshit answer. I wasn’t expecting you to, but there was a possibility you would say, “Absolutely, video is everything.” I agree with you. It’s only a format.

The things behind it. The first principles behind video, the engagement, the authenticity, the fact that you can do them cheaper. The fact that people have no time, and they need something that really is relevant to them. That all makes sense.

Today, together what we’ll try to do is trying to talk about how to build an audience using video. Hopefully, we can get into a step-by-step scenario where maybe we are taking a fictitious example of a company that is not using video that well.

And maybe doesn’t have massive audience, maybe trying to figure out how to build an audience this way. Why don’t we get started straight away then? Because you are the expert in video marketing, for sure.

Let’s say we are a business that has maybe a decent audience or some sort of an audience, and we want to use video. We realize that it might be a good thing. Or maybe that’s a step that you want to decide, whether it’s a good thing or not. How would you advise a business like this to start with video? What is the first step you envision?

Chris: I would say the first thing is, do we have a website?

Louis: Yes.

Chris: Okay, so I think website’s probably step one if you are transacting on the internet. Then I’d ask a question like, how many people are finding you? How are they finding you? What’s holding them back? I think the thing that video does well is you can tell a story, and you can tell it in a linear way that makes something complex more simple.

Five years ago was when we saw tons of explainer videos popping up. I think the reason that was the case is that so many companies have so much trouble explaining what it is they even do, how they differentiate from anybody else.

They hire an outside firm to come in and say, “From our perspective, from a 30,000-foot view, this is how we describe what you do. This is how we would make it clear to others.”

That’s still an opportunity if you’re hearing things like, “We don’t know what you do.”

If it is clear that people know what you’re doing, then I would look across your funnel and say, “Are there moments that people are getting stuck?” Where usually a human interjects, and they help them, someone get through that part of the funnel.

There might be something there, whether it’s a demo of your product, it’s onboarding, it’s education about the space. Whatever the thing is, I would look for opportunities like that.

Because if you haven’t been using video, it feels scary from a brand perspective. Often, what I hear is people say, “Well, I think we should try and make video. But if we don’t make a good one, will it actually just hurt us?”

The answer is if you make a really crappy video, it will hurt you. You have to be careful, or you have to find places where you really know what you’re talking about, and you can make something that is genuinely engaging that does help someone through the funnel.

That’s not really helping to optimize a funnel though. That’s not really building an audience. Yeah, so what are we marketing? What are we selling?

Louis: Let me go back a bit, what you said. First off, you said if you don’t know what really you’re selling, if people come back to you and say, “Seems super clear,” a video is good for that.

It’s funny because if you’re listening to this podcast right now, you probably can picture those explainer videos that Chris is mentioning about. Those drawings, cartoon-y type of thing that everyone used three or four years ago about explaining, with this stupid music in the background.

I remember actually I did do this exact thing in the first marketing role I had. I actually used Wistia to host it, and Powtoon to do it.

Chris: Okay, yeah.

Louis: Exactly this, the cliché of explainer video because we couldn’t write it properly on the website. That’s the proper, exact way.

Then the second thing you talked about the funnel is if you figure out there are steps that people struggle through. Usually, a person has to step up. Then it’s a good thing to answer that with a video, because it’s almost like a human on demand.

It’s someone helping you, but it’s not exactly what you like to chat about. It’s more how to build an audience from scratch, is it?

Chris: Yeah, we can chat about all of this. I would say building an audience from scratch or figuring how to go from renting other people’s audiences to having a larger audience which knows you, knows your company, knows what you do differently.

And they’re actually encouraging others to join your audience, versus encouraging people to buy your product is just a different thing. It’s higher in the funnel. It’s a little bit more fuzzy. It’s a little bit harder to do.

But when done, at least when I see it done really well, it can be the type of thing that lifts a business enormously. It’s not a 10% improvement on a page. It’s like, “Oh, wow, this can be what all of our marketing activities are around.”

Louis: Right.

Chris: I will say, it doesn’t have to be video. Obviously, we’re here on a podcast. Anybody listening to this has found this podcast, and if they like it, they tell other people about it. Then, other people find it, and you’ve built an audience with audio. The question I would say, is there a way that you can use video that’s going to help you grow your audience faster, or is that not something that you need to do?

For some people, they try to build a podcast, it doesn’t work, and they try to build an audience with video, and it does work. It’s figuring out the right match between your business, your values, what you think you’re going to be willing to work on for a long time, what you’re going to be persistent at.

If you can figure those things out and match them to what your company needs, then I think you can figure out a way to do it.

Louis: Let’s take a step back. I can see a lot of microphones in the background. Let’s take an example that we are selling microphones, those microphones that are super good for video. It’s a perfect match with Wistia. Wistia offers you the hosting, the analytics, and the tools to capture emails and all of that. Microphones for video, they’re portable, they’re all of that.

Let’s say we have that, and we want to build an audience, as you described, instead of renting other people’s audience. How would you go about it?

Chris: I would try to figure out, what angle do we have with these microphones that is unique that other people aren’t talking about or thinking about? Let’s say, it’s the microphone. They’re all like cardioid mics, so it’s very wide range of sound that they’re picking up.

People don’t realize that it’s much easier to use. And maybe we are automatically balancing the dynamic range when someone speaks so no one’s ever clipping out. There’s a few different things.

The question will be, how do we make people aware of the problems that exist? How do we give them interesting, creative solutions? Is there a storyline that aligns with the mission behind these microphones that we can really market?

I like to think about it as, what’s the mission that our product helps you accomplish? Now, we just need to market that mission. People who care about accomplishing that thing will care.

In the case of the microphones, it’s probably about getting really, really high-quality audio. Let’s say it’s about capturing great stories. What we want to do is produce a show that is about capturing the highest quality stories.

We go find storytellers, and we record it beautifully with beautiful audio editing. It just sounds crisp and amazing, and we encourage people to listen to it on their best headphones. Every episode is an auditory journey of really interesting sounds that were all recorded with our mics. But we never have to say that.

If people like it, they’re audio nerds, and they care about this particular thing — they’ll tell other people who care about it. Then hopefully, you just keep doing it.

Louis: You very naturally broke down this task into small steps and very naturally identified the mission and all that. Let’s take a step back then and try to understand, how can someone do that for their business?

How can someone identify a mission? Because you naturally pointed to that as a fictitious example. How do you advise people to truly understand the mission behind their product? Should they contact their best customers? Should they interview people internally?

Chris: Yes.

Louis: How they should they do it?

Chris: I think if you don’t know but you have customers, you should contact your best customers. You should say, “What do you think the mission of your business is? What is it we’re trying to do?”

That happened with us actually. We were making content to teach people how to use video better, but we weren’t really thinking about it. We were just doing it because it was working. We didn’t have a big strategic plan.

Then we started talking to our customers, they’re like, “Well, obviously, your mission is to try to make business more human with video and educate people about how to use video really well.” It was like, “I guess that is what we’re doing.”

We started doing that, which in our case had very little to do with video hosting. But it’s video related, but it’s not about delivering large files over the internet, encoding videos, and analytics has nothing to do with that. It’s very different, but it resonated with people who a small fraction of our audience who cared about that.

I often look for, what is the mission that your product helps somebody solve? Your product probably helps solve a very small percentage of the mission. If it’s done properly, like 5% of the mission.

The other 95% should be the things that are education, philosophy, other relevant tools, people, a treasure trove of stuff to talk about. If you figure that out, and you build around that whole 100, then the people who care about the 5% that is your product will find it. But you have an unlimited number of things that you can talk about.

Louis: This is a super important concept because I know from experience that marketers struggle with that. Because they’re afraid that if the mission is too big or doesn’t really contain the product, and the product doesn’t contain the mission, then it feels like we’re getting too far?

Are we diluting what the product does? We must talk about the product all the time. What you’re saying is from experience, what you’ve done with Wistia is the content that you produce — which I read quite often — could be something like how to set up a cheap video system to record super quality, high-quality videos from your office at home, right?

You don’t only teach them on, as you said how to host a video on your platform, how to check how many people viewed. You teach them to step beyond before that, which is how do you actually do a nice video to start with. That’s what you mean?

Chris: Yep. For us, one of the interesting things in our space is that everybody wants to use video, and everyone’s afraid of using it. We have to help people get confident getting on camera, and that’s hard.

But it turns out the fact that it’s hard is good. Good for us, because there’s so many different ways we can try to teach that. Help people get comfortable, help them use different gear, and help them think about storytelling and all these different things.

There’s just so much stuff that you can write about, make videos about, and do interviews about. It’s just an unlimited amount of things.

It was a weird moment for us because we were just marketing our product. It was working, but it wasn’t growing dramatically. It wasn’t until we figured out how to actually talk about the mission that our product helped solve, that was much bigger than our product could solve, that we actually had a shot of building an audience.

I see that a lot. It’s often those are the reasons you might have started your company in the first place or chose to sell a particular product or whatever. Yet we don’t talk about that stuff that much. Yeah, it’s finding it. It just makes everything easier.

You know where you want to go. There’s an unlimited number of things to talk about. You know what your audience is going to care about, and you have to understand their problems that are going to stop them from accomplishing the mission you want to accomplish.

Louis: Do you have another example of this difference between what the product does, and what your mission entails?

Chris: Just another product and mission?

Louis: Yeah, that you came across to illustrate the concept a bit more.

Chris: This is a funny one. But we did a conference for a few years that was really great, and we used to do workshops as a part of that. We had someone come who was trying to market helping people solve fertility issues.

He’s like, we have this fertility program, and it’s about timing of everything related to that and all these other things. It’s a system to use and software to track things. He was having trouble trying to figure out how to market it, because how many people were searching for this?

Eventually, what he realized was the reason he was doing this. And the reason he cared about it was helping people obviously have children, helping people build the lives they wanted to build.

Helping people emulate their own families, helping them with this very emotional, heady, bigger thing that his fertility software was a tiny piece of. It was helping people create their legacy, live on, live happier lives and reduce stress in marriages.

He ended up finding a way for a mission in terms of like helping, I think what he landed on was helping couples build more lasting relationships. Then solving fertility was a small part of that.

But when you start thinking about that, there are so many other things you can do. That was why he got into it in the first place. It was a very emotional thing, obviously.

I’ve even talked about things as simple as they have these little plastic bags that normally you get almonds in. There’s this company that sells these bags like that. Well, what’s their mission? To sell bags you could put almonds in seems like that’s not interesting.

But if you start going towards organizing your life, helping food be more sustainable, by making reusable things reducing the amount of plastics that are being created. Suddenly, you have something that everyone cares about. Or a subset of the world cares about, and they’re going to pick your product for that reason, and they’re going to pay attention for that reason.

It’s often just removing from a few steps of where you are to something bigger that people care about. Usually, that has an emotional element to it. Once you can do that, then I think you can find a mission.

Louis: I can hear listeners in my ear telling me, “That’s all well and good. This sounds like, on paper, a very good strategy. Wistia is doing that extremely successfully. But I’m going to have a tough time convincing myself or convincing my CEO or my manager to go after that, because it seems like a wishy-washy marketing type of thing. Is it actually the right to do?”

Chris: It depends on what kind of risks your business can sustain, and how long they can stay focused on a problem like this. I would say it shouldn’t be the only thing that you’re doing. Just like you were talking about before, it should be a balance.

I would look at this as more if you were to categorize some of your efforts as brand marketing efforts versus product marketing efforts, I would throw this more in the brand marketing side and help people see other ways that it can be beneficial.

One of the things that we’ve seen is when we actually layer on risk onto a project. If we have enough different ways that the project could work, it becomes incredibly easy to do. Even though it’s not particularly measurable.

We did a project last year which was called One, Ten, One Hundred where we had worked with this video agency in LA, Sandwich Video, and they created three ads for us. For Soapbox, which is one of our products that helps you make videos.

One with a $1,000 budget, one with a $10,000 budget, and one with a $100,000 budget...

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Wouldn’t you love to turn every blog post into an acquisition machine? In today’s episode, you’ll learn how you can use content to acquire users that will stick around.

Kieran Flanagan joins the podcast to share what it means to win the hearts and minds of your audience, why the cost of content has grown faster than any other medium in the last five years, and what brands must do to compete in content marketing today.

Listen to this Episode:

We covered:

  • The major difference between acquiring users vs. getting users to stick around
  • What the hearts and mind strategy means for content marketing
  • Why you must invest in every blog post as an acquisition engine
  • How great SEO transforms your content (and makes it better)
  • The surprising point in time when businesses should invest in branding  
  • How to identify the #1 topic your content should go after
  • Why intent is key when you start to establish your content design
  • The simple way to attract an audience who shares your beliefs


Full Transcript:

Louis: Bonjour, bonjour! And welcome to another episode of EveryoneHatesMarketers.com, the no fluff, actionable marketing podcast for marketers, founders, and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I’m your host, Louis Grenier.

In today’s episode, you’ll learn how to acquire users that will stick around. My guest today is the VP of marketing and growth at HubSpot. You might have heard of this company before. He has helped to add millions in additional traffic in users, in revenues to their bottom line.

He’s quite impressive. He’s responsible for managing all of HubSpot global demand. Acquiring new users, monetizing the freemium funnels, and leading the global marketing team, so he’s quite a big deal.

He also has a podcast called The Growth Too Long; Didn’t Read — or TL;DR in the Reddit world and all of that with Scott Tousley.

Kieran, I’m super happy to have you on board.

Kieran: Yeah, thanks for having me on the show where we just slag off marketers. It’s going to be fun.

Louis: It’s an interesting purpose, or an interesting kind of thing to say acquiring users that will stick around. I don’t want to influence your answer, but there’s a lot of people out there who tend to focus on getting new users and don’t really give a fuck about getting them to stick around.

What’s your view on that about the difference between actually acquiring users and actually acquiring users that will stick around? What’s the major difference, in your opinion?

Kieran: Yeah, I think that some of that comes from the evolution towards — if you think about what’s happening in tech today and tech companies — a lot of it is evolving towards these product-led companies.

Product-led companies are companies that allow you to use software prior to you ever having to pay them a dime or a euro or a pound, for all those people from different countries.

If you think about that you could just acquire users from Facebook, feel really good about yourself and then realize in a month or two months time all of those people have left. And no one is paying you any money.

Acquiring people that stick around basically means that we kind of call it, it’s pretty well-known within the growth, bullshit buzzwords space, the North Star Metric. Which basically means, what is the metric that tells you about the value your product is delivering to customers?

A good example of that, in HubSpot, when I moved from building out the international business to building out the freemium business, our North Star Metric was weekly active teams.

Because we knew that if you were a team of two or more people using our free software, you would stick around for a lot longer. Because you had seen enough value to invite someone into that product and more than one person was now using that product on an ongoing basis.

When you look at teams who would acquire from all of these different channels, the way we would measure them is, how many weekly active teams are coming from those channels? That actually meant we were acquiring people who actually stuck around and started to use our product.

Louis: I’m baffled by one thing though. I struggle to understand what else a company can be focused on but a good product and acquiring people. What are the type of -led companies, how else can you be led but by the product?

Kieran: How else would you be led into the product, or-

Louis: No, what I mean is, can you be something else but product-led as a company?

Kieran: Well, I think product-led is for companies that acquire through low-touch acquisition models. You could be a very sales-led company if you’re an enterprise company, and your first touch tends to be with that company through outreach, a salesperson.

The first time you interact with that person is through a very high-touch motion. You talk to a sales rep. That sales rep has reached out to you.

Product-led companies are differentiated in that they tend to have very low-touch models in that you can kind of go experience the whole product and learn about the product without ever having to talk to a human.

And only talk to a human when you maybe want to find out, why should I pay the additional money to unlock these features? It really just depends about how you discover the value of that company. That’s how I would differentiate between product-led, sales-led, and some other types of motions.

Louis: Yeah, that makes sense. As soon as you described that I visualized this chart that you’ve probably seen obviously from, I think it’s from Brian Balfour or another guy in the growth and VC industry.

This chart where you have the value of each customer that grows, and then you have the mouse, which is the small-value kind of user, and then you go up and up and up. Who is that from, do you remember?

Kieran: I don’t think that is from Brian, but I know the chart you’re talking about when you have all the way to the elephant, and the elephant is the Salesforce model. It’s actually a pretty great chart, and I’ve gone completely blank which isn’t a good thing to do when you’re trying to be a good guest on a podcast.

Louis: That’s okay. I’m blank all the time, don’t worry.

Kieran: Brian is, I call him the Growth Father. He has one of the best blogs, it’s Reforge, and he definitely has posted something around that chart, and so you could probably find out on his blog.

Louis: Let’s hope you’re not going to blank on this on the next few minutes, because this is actually your own thinking and methodology. You have something that is quite interesting that you call the Hearts and Minds Strategy.

Actually, I don’t know if you know that, but the Vietnamese during the conflicts that happened in the 1940s or ’50s used the same strategy. I don’t know if you knew that or not, but it’s a true fact. They used that against their own people to win their hearts and their minds so that they wouldn’t do a revolution. Just to let you know.

You’ve broken all traffic records over the last few months. You’ve done a lot of great stuff at HubSpot. I think what is interesting here is trying to deconstruct that, so that people listening to this podcast right now can take away and can do it themselves, right? We might not touch on all of the things you’ve done, but we might at least try on this.

Before we touch on how to acquire users that stick around, and how to apply this strategy, can you describe briefly what you mean by hearts and minds? Why is it important to have both?

Kieran: Yeah, I definitely do not mean that we are going to try to stop people in different countries revolting. We named it Hearts and Minds, and this is something that comes from our CMO, Kip. We evangelize this within the company in that if you think about content marketing today, where are we today?

Well, the cost of content marketing has never been higher. If you look at the past five years, actually, the cost to acquire through content marketing has grown faster than any other medium.

Albeit, that it’s still a lot cheaper to acquire through content than it is through something paid. But it’s actually growing faster, the costs to acquire customers has actually grown faster for content marketing.

That’s just because budgets have shifted into people publishing content. There’s a lot more competition, and people are upping their game. This is a really great example. That people have migrated to podcasts, and some people do well, and other people do not do well. That happens across all the kind of content you create.

What you’re going to start to see is a divergence in two buckets of content you can create. You can create content that wins the minds of business leaders. You think about your content strategy, it’s to win the hearts and minds of whatever that audience may be.

For HubSpot, we want to win the hearts and minds of business leaders within small, medium, and enterprise-type companies who need help with software marketing, customer service, or sales.

To do that, when you think about how do you win the minds of those people, it’s generally the content you create is very tactical. It teaches them how to do something. It’s informational. It answers your question, and it’s kind of created with promotion first.

As an example, for most companies, I would only create content if there is available traffic for certain keywords. I would map every single post to a key phrase, and I would only create that content if there was actually traffic available for that question that people are asking.

In that bucket of winning the minds of people, it’s very search-first. You are creating content with a very search-first approach.

Doing that means that you invest a lot more in every single post. You commit a lot more to the content you create. Every single post is its own acquisition engine.

And you create an entire promotion plan for that post to compete in the Google search pages with all of the other content that’s created on that topic. It might not be search. I think typically it is, but it could be other mediums or platforms that you want to acquire traffic from.

In that, an interesting thing, there’s a guy called Jimmy Daly who runs content marketing for an agency called Animalz, and he had a really good post about why your blog should not be a publication. You shouldn’t really care about if your blog stands out. You shouldn’t care if your blog’s memorable. You should just create this thing called silent traffic.

That is very similar to winning the minds in that each post itself is not trying to build your brand. It’s just trying to acquire people, grow an audience, and convert them into something. We parked that, and I can go into what we did in HubSpot, and that’s one of the things that’s helped us to grow traffic even faster than we were growing.

Then within the hearts is like, how do I create editorial content? How do I create content that helps to evangelize my brand to attract people towards me that feel the same way that I do, that share my mission, that are passionate about the problems that I’m solving?

I think what you’re going to start to see is a divergence between those two types of content. Because the people who are good at creating one type of those content are not necessarily the people who are very good at creating the other type of content.

Brands may start to pick and choose where they invest their money to be able to compete in content marketing today.

Louis: That’s a shift you are starting to anticipate. It’s something that you start to see. To summarize what you said, so there’s the minds and the hearts. The minds, we talked about it quite a lot on this podcast.

In the last few episodes, actually. In terms of, how do you pick what people are actually searching for? Therefore, how do you read their minds? So that when they search on Google, they have something, they have a problem, they’re actually searching for it. How do you answer that very quickly?

Kieran: Let’s say, I want to know more about how to create a podcast from scratch? I google that. If you’re the first result to talk exactly on a blog post how to solve this problem, how to do it step-by-step, then you’re winning their minds. Because that’s what they are looking for.

Louis: Winning their heart is where the science turns into an art, in a sense. Because for SEO-driven pieces, as you mentioned, driven by Google. It seems quite — I wouldn’t say easy — but there is a recipe for it.

You search for it. You select the right keywords. You prioritize them based on a few factors. You have a list, roughly. I know I’m oversimplifying, and you’ll be able to contradict me on this.

The heart seems to be more like an art or more journalism-driven, story-based, perhaps. Or things that are based more the emotional connection you can have with your reader. Such as, maybe admitting failure, so being very transparent about certain things, about saying this is how we work, showing the behind the scenes, right? Is that a good summary?

Kieran: Yeah, that’s a good summary. I think on the mind side of things, people have this feeling of complete revulsion for SEO and content.

They’re like, “Ugh, what he means is you have win the minds, you plaster keywords and content, and you do this weird voodoo magic. You get around a fire and start to cast black magic spells, and something happens, and you acquire traffic.”

Actually, good SEO today, the way it’s done today actually makes content better. There’s still creativity in the type of content you create to win minds. But you’re creating it in a very purposeful way, crafted around the thing that someone is actually searching for.

You’ve established what someone is searching for. If you actually think about what you should look at, typically people will look at volume of traffic available for a keyword. We can get into this as well. It’s a slight tangent.

But what you should look at is volume of search clicks available for that keyword. There’s no point looking at volume. Because with featured snippets today, the amount of volume available per keyword has actually gone down. Because most people can retrieve the answer to their query without ever having to click on your website.

Louis: Can you define what a featured snippet is briefly?

Kieran: Yeah, so a featured snippet is basically when you search through Google, and you search for, what is inbound marketing? You will see there’s a box at the top of the page that answers that query for you.

Google, in their hypocritical approach to everything, who would penalize people for scraping content and having it on their website. Because I used to do that and penalized all my sites.

What they do is they scrape other people’s content, put it on their website, and then tell you the answer without you needing to ever go to that website.

For example, if you search for, what is inbound marketing? It may not be like this today, you would see Google has scraped content from our website, and they have answered that question. You don’t need to actually click through to our website to learn more about inbound marketing.

However, I will say that the click-through rate of content that appears in that featured snippet box is way higher than anything else. It still does send you a lot of traffic.

Louis: Right. Let’s do a little exercise together because I think that’s what listeners care about the most. Let’s say, you are hired as a consultant for a company that has a decent product. Their NPS, their Net Promoter Score is quite high. Their product is good. The problem is not there.

They hire you to say, “Okay, we need more users. We need to find ways to acuire more users.” You’ve identified what you described here, the hearts and the minds is probably the right thing to go about for them.

What is the first step? How do you go about setting that up for them starting from step number one?

Kieran: If I’m in a smaller company, I think this is the trade-off you need to make. And it’s the conversation that a lot of people have today is, when do you invest in brand?

Hearts is quite brand-focused, and it’s a very long-term investment. A lot of smaller companies need to live quarter-by-quarter. It’s great to create a brand, but if you don’t see the impact of that until a longer period of time, you may not make your numbers.

You may not be able to actually stay in business. I think a lot of companies skew towards, how do we win the minds of people? How do we create instant traffic and conversions for our company?

I think if you were doing that, you would start to build out like what we have built out, which we call our search editorial calendar. Which is basically every topic that is relevant to our different personas — our buying personas.

And then we break each topic down into every single keyword variation that is related to that topic. Then we will look to see, how competitive are those different topics in aggregate? How much available traffic is available in aggregate? How relevant are they to our audience?

If you do some sort of scorecard from one to five, five being really relevant, one being, mm, kind of relevant but may not convert that high, you can start to prioritize the initial topics that you want to spend your time on.

Again, if you are a smaller company, you probably have less people to create content for you, so you need to invest in a couple of topics and expand from there.

Where most people go wrong is they try to peanut butter everything. They do a little bit of this, a little bit of that, a little bit of that, and they’re not really successful at any one thing.

They start to get frustrated and switch all their money back from content marketing into paid ads because they get a dopamine hit. It makes them feel really good, because I can put this 10 bucks in here and get a click here and get a conversion, and I’ve done my job.

That’s where I would start. I think you have to start with, how many resources ? Realistically, what can I do because of my available resources? What are the best things I want to invest my time in?

I probably want to invest time in things that I can show that there’s some level of success over a two to three month period. Because my CEO is going to start wondering why I’m tapping away on this keyboard or creating all this content — and he’s not seeing any type of meaningful demand for his product.

Louis: We talked about this exact method with Ryan Bonnici from G2 Crowd. I think, if I’m not mistaken, he worked for HubSpot before.

Kieran: Yeah, Ryan’s a good friend.

Louis: We talked to Nat Eliason, who also talked about this type of principle. Also, with the CMO of Ahrefs. Folks can listen to those episodes to get a lot of details. I’m also super interested in how you do the two, the hearts and the minds, and we’re going to go after that.

But briefly, can you describe when you create this search editor calendar? Beyond, as you said, the volume and difficulty and the relevance. Which are the three things that we also mentioned in the past.

Do you feel there is anything else that is absolutely necessary for people to understand when they do that

I think you started to mention that with the topics. You would look at things in aggregate and not row by row in Excel, right? You would look at the themes. If you get started at a company, you would probably pick one or two themes and just go for them.

Kieran: Exactly. Today, there is no point thinking at a keyword level. It’s too granular. You want to think of a topic, a topic level.

Google, for the most part, wants to surface up companies who have valuable content on a topic. Not just this one post that was about this one thing that’s not related to any of the other things you’ve created content on.

It puts more emphasis on the fact that hey, this website is an authority on all of these different things that are related to this topic.

Actually, one of the best examples of a company who did that that people will know is Pinterest. Pinterest is an interesting company because they’ve gone through many different channels that they’ve managed to grow from.

They used to grow through Facebook, and Facebook shut them down. But they actually pivoted to Google.

One of the things they’ve done, you will see Pinterest used to dominate the search pages, is they aggregated all of the user-generated content into these topics.

They have huge topic pages for different keywords, very, very competitive keywords. That’s because Google wants to understand that you are a site that is an authority on this actual topic, not just one part of it.

You want to aggregate everything into topics and even look at your data on a topic basis. How successful is this topic in helping us to acquire traffic? How successful is this topic in helping us to actually convert people into whatever the thing may be for your company.

Louis: You start with this business, you select two to three core topics. To go back to one example before I drill down a bit more, Pinterest does that. I know that Canva does that as well quite a lot.

Kieran: Yup.

Louis: If you search for resume templates, boom, they’ll appear number one. What they do is they, it’s a mix, I believe, of the user-generated content. Content that it was created by the users and content created by the company. They merged them to give you the top 50 resume templates you can use today.

The good thing about this as an acquisition strategy, as a loop is that you go, you search on that, you go on Google. You click on the resume template, and it basically makes you use the product already, and you sign up after. It’s kind of a loop that just keeps on fulfilling..

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