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The biggest determinant of whether a blog post will convert is not the call-to-action (CTA) that you place inside of a post, but rather the idea behind the blog post itself.

Devesh has an example about this that he frequently shares. When he was doing conversion optimization for a SaaS products blog, they had a post that was ranking for a very high volume keyword, but it barely converted. They ran test after test, putting CTAs in different places, trying different messages, popups, sliders, you name it. Nothing worked.

The topic simply did not attract customers.

This fact — that the topic is more important than traffic for conversions — dramatically changes the way you do content marketing for any business that’s selling a product or service.

In our post on pain-point SEO, we outlined how this concept dramatically changes your SEO-based content strategy — specifically that you should not prioritize keywords by volume, but rather by pain points of your target customers.

But how do you identify those pain points? How do you know what your target customers are searching for? How do you get ideas beyond the first few, very obvious keywords?

In this post, I want to share some of the specific tactics we’ve used to identify pain points, learn customer questions, and more that give us a list of blog post ideas to go after. This is a tactical post that will teach our method of how to do content ideation from a conversion and customer pain point perspective.

Let’s dive in.

Ways to Identify Content Topics That Will Convert

In our post on pain-point SEO, we argued that instead of taking a volume-first approach to content marketing, you should focus on understanding pain points, and then back into your topics that way.

The easiest way to determine what challenges your customers have is to talk to them directly. But there are a lot of marketers and companies that don’t have the ability to do this for one reason or another.

You may not have the ability to talk to your customers if:

  1. You’re an agency like us — and sometimes don’t have direct access to your client’s customer base.
  2. You’re in a company that’s very protective about customer communication.
  3. You don’t feel comfortable talking to them.
  4. You don’t have many customers yet (in this case, that linked post should help you, along with some of the ideas below).

Here are some of the ways we combat these challenges to determine pain point topics that will drive conversions.

Hold a Meeting with Different Departments That Communicate with the Customer Directly

When we start a new engagement with a client, we don’t have the ability to talk to a ton of customers beforehand. So one way around this is that we hold a half-day customer research session with the client where we chat with members on the team that have direct interaction with the customers.

We’ll bring in people from the sales team, customer success/support team, the CEO, and people on the delivery side that talk to customers, etc.

We ask the sales team questions such as:

  • Tell me about a recent conversation you had with a prospect, what was the challenge they were trying to solve?
  • What was the last prospect/company that you had a really easy time closing? What was the problem that person was trying to solve for? Why do you think that person signed with you?
  • What alternative products/services have prospects compared you to?
  • Tell me about the competition… what do you think your competitive advantage is over the rest of the companies that you compete with?
  • Are there specific industries or types of customers that you’ve noticed are a great fit for the product/service?

We ask the customer service team/support team questions such as:

  • Can you give me some examples of some of your best customers? Who are they and why do you feel like they’re the best for you?
  • Can you tell me the most common use cases that people use your products/service for?
  • What do you feel like your competitive advantage is compared to all of the other alternatives out there?
  • What are some of the top questions that you get asked on customer phone calls?

We ask the CEO or members of the founding team questions such as:

  • Tell me about your background. What’s the story behind the company?
  • What led to the idea behind the company?

We ask the delivery side or product side of the business questions such as:

  • What feature set and/or part of the service do customers use most?
  • What are the most common use cases of the product/service?

Then we take notes about all of the answers to these questions and look for commonalities and disconnects in the responses. When we have disconnects from different departments, we push them to see why they think differently than others in the company.

We translate the most common use cases, questions, and problems that customers are trying to solve for into content ideas.

For example, if we were to run through this exercise on our own business, some of the common problems our clients are trying to solve for are:

  1. Prospects feel like their blog post ideas don’t attract the right customer (the idea behind this post).
  2. Prospects feel like they aren’t driving enough traffic or don’t have any strategy to drive traffic.
  3. Prospects feel like their blog doesn’t convert anyone to signups/leads.

Much of the content on our site aims to educate people around how to solve these problems. We either answer specific questions that we get and/or search for a keyword that ties into the these pain points.

If we were to use our pain point SEO strategy here, we might want to target a term like “blog post ideas,” which the Keywords Everywhere tool shows has an estimated monthly search volume of 4,400 searches per month.

However, the reason I didn’t target that term for this post is because looking at the top ranking posts that show up under that keyword ends up being just lists of blog post ideas.

When people search for “blog post ideas,” their intent behind that term is just to generate ideas for blog posts, not to learn the strategy behind how to do this.

So I felt that it was better to target the term “content ideation” because if you’re searching for that term, you’re likely more interested in learning the strategy behind how to do this.

Even though “content ideation” has way less search volume, I think it’s a better term for us to target because people searching “blog post ideas” are looking for quick solutions. This indicates that they are likely beginners, likely starting a personal blog, and not blogging for a business (and therefore not serious about investing in content marketing either via our agency or our course).

See the difference? We will happily exchange search volume for search intent because our business model is not based on pageviews, it’s based on providing a few specific products (a service, and a course) to a specific audience.

Create an Email Autoresponder That Provides a Feedback Loop That Lets You Know Your Customer’s Biggest Challenges

Another way we get a constant flow of blog post ideas is that we ask anyone who subscribes to our email list what their #1 marketing challenge is at this moment.

Since starting our site over 3 years ago, we’ve had somewhere between 500-1,000+ people respond telling us the challenges they face in their role.

Think about that. That’s an incredible amount of feedback from barely any effort.

Just from these two emails, we’ve identified 5+ different topics that we can write on:

  1. How to generate more traffic from content marketing
  2. How to get more leads from content
  3. How to build a content marketing operation from scratch
  4. How to build an audience from scratch
  5. How to generate awareness for your product

The key in getting this feedback loop to work is that we actually take the time to respond to each and every person that emails us. People are often surprised when they get an email back because most blogs and companies don’t take the time to interact with their readers.

Join Communities Where Your Customers Would Hang out and Pay Attention to the Questions and Challenges They Have

Beyond using communities to drive traffic, they are also a great way to source content ideas. I’m a member of around 20 different Facebook groups and constantly monitor the feeds to see if there’s any questions or challenges that stick out to me that I can write about.

I took a look through a couple of Facebook groups this morning and found these two questions that we could turn into full blog posts.

The content idea that sticks out from this one: Should you blog on Medium or use WordPress or another CMS?

This is a common question companies have when they first start blogging. And a quick search in Google shows that many other people have this same question.

In another group, I came across this question: “Curious to know in what phase of the business lifecycle you started your blog?” The content ideas that pop out from this one is:

  1. “When should a startup start blogging?”
  2. Content marketing ROI  (which we’ve written a post about already)

Look at how much engagement this one question has in this group — it’s a good indicator that it’s a hot topic and something that many people are wondering about.

Another good community to do some content ideation research in is Reddit. You can run a keyword search, sort by top threads, and look for questions and/or challenges that stick out to you.

In this case, I had a call with someone in the e-commerce space last week that said around 50% of e-commerce sites are custom built — so if you’re using content to attract e-commerce companies for your product or service, this could be a great controversial topic to write about.

For example, reasons why building a custom e-commerce site isn’t a good idea.

Once again, continue to apply the filter of: who is asking this question? In this case it seems to be people on Reddit starting e-commerce companies.

If you’re targeting large $50 million+ e-commerce brands, for example, you may discover they are long past asking this question and thus this may not be a good topic for you.

Look Inside of Your Google Adwords Account and See What Keywords Are Converting — Create Blog Posts Around Those Keywords

If you’re already advertising on Google Adwords, then this is one of my favorite strategies because you can leverage data from something that’s already showing results.

For other content consultants and agency owners, you should for sure use this to come up with high converting content topics.

If you go into your Google Analytics account, and you have conversion goals set up, you can open up the model comparison tool, and click into the paid search category to discover keywords that are already bringing in conversions for your product or service.

Once you’ve clicked into the paid search category, use the secondary dimension tab and search for the keyword button to get a list of keywords that are bringing in conversions.

You’ll be taken to a page that shows the list of keywords and the amount of conversions that have been brought in for each search term. It looks something like this…

Then take those keywords and either run them through a tool like Ahrefs, Moz, or SEMrush to see the difficulty level of going after that term, and then prioritize your posts by the ideas that are easiest to rank for and that have the highest conversion volume.

Over time, the goal should be to have organic blog posts that rank for the terms you’re paying for so that you can slowly be less reliant on ad spend and obtain leads from organic search results.

This technique is so powerful because you already know these keywords convert. Once your post starts ranking, you simply start getting some of those leads for free.

Get a List of Commonly Asked Questions That Your Sales Team Receives on Phone Calls

When I was at ThinkApps, on top of doing marketing, I also answered every inbound phone call so that I could learn more about the prospects that I was generating.

The benefit of doing that was getting to hear the challenges and pain points directly from the customers themselves and then coming up with blog post ideas that we should write about.

For example, one of the best converting blog posts that we produced came from a prospect that said, “I’m trying to build an app, but I’m not sure if I should develop it on iOS or Android.”

I wrote down that question, then looked it up in Google Suggested search and saw that there were a lot of people searching for iOS vs. android development.

We ended up creating a blog post on that topic and it was one of our highest converting blog posts.

Most marketers won’t have the ability to hop on the phone and directly talk to customers, but one way around that is to work with your sales team — have them write down a list of questions that they tend to receive on sales calls.

It’s also important for the sales team to distinguish if the questions are from a first call with a prospect, a second call with a prospect, or if the prospect is further down the funnel. This will help you map the..

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Back in early 2016, we coined the term “community content promotion”. The linked article above shared how we grew our traffic from 0 – 32,977 users in 5 months with this promotion strategy.

Here’s a very simplified version of the strategy outlined in the article:

  1. You learn about your customer.
  2. You figure out what communities your target audience hangs out in (FB groups, LinkedIn groups, Reddit, industry specific forums, newsletters, what websites they read, etc.).
  3. You engage and build a rapport in those communities.
  4. You share your content in those places.

There is an important, fundamental shift in how content marketing works when you apply this community content promotion strategy: instead of just waiting for SEO traffic to “kick in,” you’re strategically attracting targeted traffic immediately.

You drive results in the short term while building towards longer-term sustainable growth from SEO and referral links.

This immediate spike in traffic has significant benefits and alters the way content is viewed and utilized in your business:

  • It helps build links so SEO traffic builds faster. (This strategy completely replaces traditional spam-a-bunch-of-people-with-link-begging-emails for us)
  • It gives you immediate feedback on how your content is doing. The time scale above could be months or longer. For many pieces, there may not be an SEO ‘tail’ so all your traffic has to come from something else.
  • It often attracts a different (and possibly more strategic) audience. If you can get in front of the right communities, this could be amazing for your business.
  • You oftentimes generate leads immediately vs. waiting months for traffic to pick up before you start seeing conversions.

This is the strategy I used to grow traffic for ThinkApps and Everwise, it’s the strategy we used to grow our own site, and it’s the strategy that we’ve been using to grow traffic for the seven clients we work with.

However, over the last 6 months, we’re starting to see a larger shift in the landscape, and we are unsure if this method will continue to be successful in the long term.

For example, here’s an image showing the traffic we generated from posting in groups on LinkedIn and Facebook for articles we published for a client last October, 2017:

For the first article we published, we got 864 sessions just from Facebook and LinkedIn in the first ~10 days of promotion. The second article we created got a little over 100 sessions.

In contrast, recently, using the same or very similar FB, LinkedIn groups and Reddit communities, we’re seeing far less traffic:

Article #2 got the highest traffic from communities with 44 sessions. Article #1 came in second with 38 sessions.

This graph pretty much sums up the trend we’re seeing across many clients. This graph shows monthly sessions driven from social compared to all sessions. They’re inversely correlated.

This doesn’t mean you can’t find success doing community content promotion — especially for niche industries. However, this is largely what we’re seeing in marketing, sales, tech, and larger industries that compete heavily with content.

So, I want to share some thoughts on where we go from here.

In this article, I’ll share some of the shifts that I’m seeing and why I think we’ll need to rethink the way we do content promotion. Then, I’ll share some of the various channels that we’ve been testing and some of the ideas to solve the content promotion challenge moving forward.

Why is the way we do content promotion changing?

When it comes to content promotion, I find that most content marketers / companies doing content marketing fall into two camps:

  1. They publish content and wait for keyword terms to start ranking.
  2. They do “active content promotion” which largely consists of sharing the blog posts you publish on your personal and company social media accounts — then call it a day.

While the former is a tried and true method, it takes a long time to see results come from it. For most companies, it takes 1-3 years before you really start seeing significant traffic gains and lead growth.

The latter just isn’t effective unless you have a significant, highly-engaged following on social media.

The idea behind community content promotion was that you could drive traffic in the short term by leveraging communities that have already been built with your target audience in them, sharing the content in those places– thus, attracting visitors to your site. The community content promotion method gets traffic, it helps build links, and gets your content in front of the right target audience, while simultaneously building towards the long-term growth of your blog (SEO).

However, with the recent shift, many of the platforms we use to do community content promotion are seeing diminishing rates of return and declining organic reach. To put it in another way, the results that we’re seeing from this method are becoming less and less.

It used to be that if LinkedIn group promotion started to slow down, we could shift our focus on driving results in the newsfeed. Or if the results from Facebook groups slowed down, we could shift our focus to independent industry specific communities (think Indiehackers, GrowthHackers, DesignerNews, etc.).

The macro shift is that all major platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, and Twitter) are starting to limit the amount of links that you can share to content or they’re limiting distribution of links that are shared organically.

For example, on LinkedIn we used to be able to share a link and get 3,000+ impressions, now we’re getting the reach of under 1,000. On Facebook, group posts aren’t showing up in the newsfeed as much as they used to. On Reddit, more and more of the subreddits don’t allow you to share links. So on and so on.

For industry specific platforms, the engagement is slowing, people are gaming the voting system and bad content is rising to the top- thus driving away many of the engaged users who went there for a highly curated resource, or the channels that used to drive much of the results are dying completely (inbound.org RIP).

Rand Fishkin summed up a lot of my thoughts on what’s changing in his article called The Powerhouses of the Internet Are Turning Hostile to Websites (highly recommend reading it to get another perspective on a larger shift that we’re seeing), but I think the larger shift we’re seeing is that the platforms (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) are moving from an obsessive focus on user engagement and user experience, to an obsessive focus on turning a profit. Therefore, the algorithms are changing to prioritize paid distribution and organic reach is reducing.

The way we think about content promotion has to and will change.

But I’m not okay with saying that the only answer to our content promotion challenges is SEO. In other words, I’m not okay with settling for the “wait it out” grey graph at the top. Nor am I going to settle for the answer being that you have to build a massive social following so you have people to share your content with.

I think there are other ways to attack this challenge. I still think to do content marketing well, we need to think about driving short term results through some sort of “active promotion,” while simultaneously working on the long-term goal of sustainable SEO traffic that drives leads.

Content promotion and the path forward

While we haven’t figured out exactly which channels or what the mix of channels will be going forward, I want to share some things that we’ve been testing and where I think some opportunities are.

Paid Content Promotion – What We’ve Already Tested Facebook:

For the last 6 or so months, we’ve been testing some paid content promotion using Facebook advertising.

-Hypotheses-

  1. Since Facebook is limiting the organic reach, we can pay to get in front of the right audience.
  2. Paid scales much more than community content promotion.
  3. We can strategically target content towards where the customer is in the funnel.

-Results-

We’ve been seeing CPCs anywhere from $.11 – $.88 per click, $.18-$1.40 per landing page view. For this to really scale, we’d need to see costs on the lower end, but costs can come down the more we test audiences and iterate on creative. We’ve started to see conversions come in directly from promoting our content at fairly low costs (however, direct attribution has been somewhat of a nightmare). At this point, the results are promising, and we’ll continue testing this channel.

Lead attribution is set to 28-day click

-Strategy-

We’ve been testing 3 things on the audience side:

  • Testing detailed audience segments– ie. targeting attributes of our customers such as job titles, interests, etc.
  • Creating lookalike audiences off of qualified traffic– ie. lookalikes off of highly qualified pages such as pricing pages, signup pages, etc. and then advertising to 1% lookalikes of that audience.
  • Doing straight retargeting to visitors of a website.

On the creative side, we’ve been testing:

  • Advertising high converting articles (mid/bottom of funnel) to lookalike and retargeting segments to see if we can drive direct conversions.
  • Advertising top of funnel articles to detailed audience and lookalike segments to build our retargeting pool with qualified traffic and lower costs.
Reddit Ads:

We tested Reddit ads earlier in the year. While they were cheap to run (if I remember correctly we were getting clicks in the $.10 range), Reddit’s platform posted much higher click numbers than what we actually saw go to any of the sites on GA.

We felt like we were getting charged for clicks that didn’t actually show up in our analytics as visitors – so we stopped advertising here.

Paid Content Promotion – Opportunities for Us to Explore LinkedIn Ads:

Being that we’re largely focused on doing content promotion for B2B companies, we want to start testing LinkedIn ads to see if we can drive highly qualified traffic and conversions directly from this channel.

Hypothesis: LinkedIn can drive higher quality traffic than FB because we can target directly by job title, company size and a lot of other defining attributes that we know about the customers we’re targeting.

Concern: The CPC is much higher than Facebook, so we’re not sure if this will be profitable or if we’ll get the results we’ll need for the spend amount.

Twitter Ads:

We’re in the infancy of testing Twitter ads again. I tested Twitter ads a couple years back, but the problem was there weren’t too many targeting options to define our audience and the costs were high relative to the amount of people that we were able to target.

That being said, it’s always good to retest things because these platforms are always changing, and their ad products are improving.

Hypothesis: We know we get a lot of highly qualified traffic from Twitter, so we think we can get this to scale by using paid.

Concern: Do we have the targeting we need to drive targeted traffic to the content we promote? Are we able to get the clicks at a low enough cost?

Quora Ads:

This is the platform I’ve done the least amount of research on/ have the least amount of experience on. However, I’ve had a lot of success posting organically on Quora before.

Hypothesis: If answering questions can drive qualified organic traffic and conversions, paid should be able to get similar results.

Concern: Their ad platform is newer so not sure how good it is yet. Haven’t heard of anyone else seeing results from this yet – however, sometimes that’s a massive opportunity.

Organic Promotion Ideas Buying Newsletters/Growing Industry Specific Newsletters

Email has always been a great channel for content promotion. The biggest source of short term traffic for our website, and many others, has been building a list and emailing blog posts to that list.

We have two hypotheses for this idea:

  1. There are many people who’ve built industry specific newsletters who don’t want to keep it up, or that switch businesses. Could we buy one and see faster results this way?
  2. Could we build a few industry specific newsletters to share posts for our clients there?

If you are doing content for yourself or a single company, in our minds, growing an email list of your target customers and keeping that list happy and engaged should be an essential part of your marketing. Despite how many people like to report email as old fashioned, it continues to work, and most importantly, it is not owned by someone else, your list is yours.

Build Our Own Community

For those that have seen me tweet about declining results on communities, many people have reached out pitching us on the idea of starting our own community.

While I like the idea in theory, I don’t like the idea of building a FB group, LinkedIn group, or any group that lives on another platform. Mainly because I think it’s important to own your own platform so that you’re not affected by a platform changing the rules, losing engagement or completely dying.

Hypothesis: We could build our own community like Inbound.org, or a few niche communities for various verticals that our clients are in.

Concern: The time investment it would take to get this off the ground.

In summary/ what’s next?

As the above screenshots showed, traffic from the larger social platforms has significantly declined. We’re still seeing a decent amount of traffic come from some of the niche communities though. It’s not to say that community content promotion is dead or that it doesn’t work, because it still does for certain niches, but we’re heavily focused on finding new promotion tactics because we do see it becoming more and more challenging over the coming years.

If you have any additional ideas that you’ve been working on or that have been working for you, feel free to share them in the comments below.

We’ve already started testing some of the ideas that we’ve talked about here, and we’ll continue to test a lot more. Once we figure out what works or what we’ll do going forward, we’ll write about it, and share our learnings with you.

The post Content promotion is changing. My thoughts on where we go from here appeared first on Grow and Convert.

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This article is not about content marketing. It’s about a key learning we’ve acquired after years of doing marketing:

If your positioning is wrong, your marketing will fail.

…including content marketing.

And if your marketing fails, you’ll fail in general, because you won’t have a repeatable, scalable acquisition channel.

We’ve learned this lesson time and time again, with our own businesses, and with clients’ businesses. So we wanted to finally share our thoughts on this.

First we need to define what the heck we mean by positioning.

Bonus: Benji and I discussed this article and debated details about positioning, problems we see companies make, our own positioning and more in a 22 minute recorded podcast. The recording is available to subscribers of our email list. Subscribe to get this bonus podcast here.
What Is Positioning in Marketing?

Here is our definition of positioning with respect to product market fit:

In other words, positioning is the “market fit” part of “product market fit” and it’s likely the part you are ignoring.

Most people when searching for product market fit, focus on the product:

  • Let’s release an MVP (product) to see if people are interested
  • Not enough people are signing up? Let’s add features to the product!
  • Still not enough signups? Let’s pivot and change the product.

Then, for the “market fit” part, they just state a high level overview of their target customer and call it a day:

  • Our new CRM targets sales managers
  • Our dev shop targets series A and B startups
  • Our ecommerce store caters to millennial women
  • My consulting practice offers copywriting services to small businesses that need copywriting

This is not good enough. The above statements are just general target markets. But what about how your offering is perceived by the market?

  • Who do customers think your product/service is for?
  • What do customers think makes you unique?
  • What pain points do they think you solve?
  • How credible do they perceive you to be?

That’s positioning.

And there’s a lot of detail involved in getting it right that, if ignored, will lead you to throw your hands up and blame the product if you don’t get enough sales (interpreted as not achieving product-market fit).

But the problem may not be in the product itself, but the subtleties of positioning the product that you get wrong.

Many companies ignore this positioning mistake, and as a result, end up tweaking the product over and over again and spinning their wheels.

To explain this, we’ll first go over our own case study of a positioning “fail”, where by simply changing the sales copy and not touching the product at all, we were able to increase sales 300% for our product.

We’ll then go over the 4 aspects of positioning you need to get right.

Positioning Failure Example: Our Content Marketing Course

You can find a link to our content marketing course in our nav bar. We love this product and genuinely think it’s one of the best content marketing resources around.

But the first time we released it, it was a failure.

We wrote all about that here, but in short, out of roughly 6000 people on our email list, around 10 bought. That’s an 0.16% conversion rate.

Typically online courses released to an email list should sell around 1% – 2% in this space (we know this from just talking to folks in the space and from what happened when we fixed our positioning mistake).

Aside: In the end this was a wonderful failure, as it led to the launch of our agency, which is doing really well, despite it being a hell of a lot more work than a course business, but that’s a debate for another time. 

Fast forward one year and we re-released our course via the landing page linked to in the nav bar and, with only a slight increase in email list size, we sold over 65 seats, for roughly a 1% conversion rate from our list.

Our Positioning Strategy Change

We did not change the product at all. It’s literally the exact same product. We just changed its positioning. Literally speaking, we changed how we positioned what the product is, who its for, and why it’s unique.

We flipped the diagram above to this:

There were 2 key changes in positioning.

(1) We changed from “for the company” to “for the person”

This was the single biggest change in positioning. Our previous sales page headline was this:

What do you notice about how this product is positioned?

It’s all about benefits to a company, not a person.

  • “Drive qualified leads”
  • “Specifically to help B2B companies”

This was not an accident. We did this extremely intentionally. In fact, we thought we were geniuses for doing it.

But we were dead wrong.

How do we know? After our failure, we emailed a survey out to folks as well as got on the phone with a few people we knew and asked them why they didn’t buy.

A theme emerged where more than one person told us this: “I don’t really care about taking a course so I can help my company. I want to take a course to help myself.”

Woah. What the heck does that mean?

We dug in deeper.

It turns out marketers wanted to learn so that they could be awesome content marketers and drive traffic to any business. Not the business they happen to work for (or be working on) right at that moment.

In other words, they didn’t actually care about driving leads to the business they work for. Strange at is sounds, that’s what we learned. What they cared about is being great content marketers.

Things like “driving leads” was just some tactic along the way that would get them to their goal: be great.

But the sales page didn’t position the product like that.

Look at the opening sentence:

It’s literally written to the company.

This absolutely didn’t resonate with our readers. One person told us on the phone he just started skimming instead of reading.

(2) B2B vs any business

Compounding the “for the company” positioning, was our failed hypothesis that we could create uniqueness in the market place by positioning our product as “B2B” only.

This was another a total miss.

Readers told us that they wanted to buy our course really badly but when they saw this page they immediately ruled themselves out because they didn’t want to only learn B2B content marketing.

In fact one content marketer who worked at a B2B company said they didn’t buy because they wanted the option to apply it any company in the future. Wow.

Another reader bought the course, said she absolutely loved it, but told us on the phone she almost didn’t buy because she was going to use it for B2C but decided screw it, and wanted it bad enough to just buy anyways. Wow again.

B2B only was a totally unnecessary and forced positioning failure. Our strategies can totally apply to B2C companies, but we thought B2B would give us an edge, and we were wrong.

In Contrast, Here Is Our New Positioning (That Nearly 10X-ed Our Conversion Rate)

In two of our conversations (shout out to Tam Pham and Dave Peralta), we were told “Guys, what I want the course for is to become the Michael Jordan of content marketing.”

From that line, the phrase “Become a Top 1% Content Marketer” was born:

When I used that phrase on the phone with one of the other people who gave negative feedback, he got excited and said “YES! That sounds amazing.”

And if you read our new sales page, you’ll see it’s now all focused on the individual, how to gain this knowledge for yourself, for your career growth, to give yourself options, etc.

As we mentioned we didn’t change the product at all, we just changed the positioning.

More specifically we fixed 2 positioning mistakes:

  1. Who we were targeting: We were positioned to businesses, we changed to positing to individuals
  2. What are their pain points: We were listing things like “lead generation” and “traffic quality” we changed to “grow any business” and “stop guessing with random tactics”

In our experience these are only 2 of the 4 types of positioning mistakes we see companies make.

Let’s look at all 4 mistakes. Knowing these 4 positioning mistakes can serve as a checklist for getting positioning right.

  1. Market: Who are you targeting?
  2. Pain Points: What do they care about? (And how do you help?)
  3. Advantage: How are you unique?
  4. Proof: Can you actually deliver?
Positioning Criteria #1: Who Are You Targeting?

This is clearly the most obvious of our positioning criteria. And to be fair, this is the one least likely to be “ignored” like we said at the start of the article.

But there is a lot more to this than just “We target sales managers at companies with 50+ employees”.

Namely, you need to answer this question:

How specific should your targeting be?

The Wide vs. Narrow Problem: How Specific Should Your Targeting Be?

Let’s look at two hypotheticals to understand this.

First, a development agency. Say you have an agency that is great at product development of all kinds. Well, that’s damn broad.

Should you just say “We are a product development agency?”

Should you narrow down and say “We are a mobile app development agency?”

Should you go even more specific and say “We are a mobile app development agency focusing on android firmware?”

We call this the Wide vs. Narrow positioning problem:

This is a really important question and we know companies struggle with it. We know this because when we take on new clients, about 50% – 75% of the time we end up exploring this question with them in the first month of our engagement.

And they openly tell us they don’t know the answer.

Second, a customer support app. Take the battle between Drift and Intercom for example.

Drift decided (and it’s working for them), to go after marketers and salespeople. Instead of building a product for multiple segments– sales, marketing, product, customer support, etc., they went all in on building the best product for these two customers.

They coined the phrase conversational marketing:

…and they position their entire product around customer acquisition, a uniquely marketing issue:

On the other hand Intercom, with — let’s be honest — an almost the identical product, has positioned it to a wider target audience (marketing, sales, support):

Note how important messaging is to this positioning criteria. You can use both Drift and Intercom for the same thing. But they position their products differently.

It’s a matter of emphasis.

This is exactly like the lesson from our course launch fail.

First, we positioned to B2B only (narrow) — this didn’t work. Then we switched positioning to any business tpe (wide) — it worked.

You may find more success going in the opposite direction: Wide to Narrow.

It’s not a matter of which is correct, it’s a matter of knowing that this is an axis you can play with.

You may get this wrong at first (we did), that’s okay, just know that you can play with this lever. You don’t have to go trying to change the product for no reason (and spend weeks/months of wasted time and money doing so).

Positioning Criteria #2: What Pain Points Are You Solving?

Once you decide on your wide vs. narrow targeting, the question to answer is:

What pain points should we position our product as solving?

You might think this is kind of obvious. For example, you build some SaaS tool like accounting software so you’re thinking, “Of course it solves usual accounting pain points”.

But it’s not so simple. Two problems can happen:

  1. You get the pain point wrong – This is what happened with our course and it happens with countless SaaS startups. You build software for pain point ‘X’, but users end up using it for pain point ‘Y’.
  2. Your product solves a bunch of pain points – Which do you pick?

Problem 1 is more of an obvious problem. Our course story above is an example of that, and you need to do the user research we discuss below to figure this out.

But Problem 2 is more subtle but still could really hurt you if you get it wrong.

Let’s look at an example.

Here are the first 3 sections on Quickbooks’ marketing homepage:

Seems normal, but here’s why getting pain point positioning down is more difficult than you think: These are only 3 of many pain points that Quickbooks could have listed.

Most (I’m tempted to say all…) products and services alleviate a lot of pain points, but you can’t reasonably emphasize all of them. By definition you have to choose which ones to emphasize.

Even if you have a giant marketing site with pages and pages of benefits, you only have one homepage, and on the homepage you only have one “hero unit” above the fold.

Which pain points (or inversely, value props) will you put on that hero unit?

That’s the pain point challenge.

For example, we’re a customer of Quickbooks, and if you asked me to list out what pain points of mine (yes mine, Benji runs from accounting like I run from recurring meetings), I wouldn’t list out any of the ones in their homepage above.

Instead I’d say:

  1. Taxes – God bless Quickbooks for making it so easy to know revenue/expenses come tax time.
  2. Understanding – It’s let us know P&L’s from a client to client basis.
  3. Planning – This understanding let’s us project into the future and plan growth.

You could argue that “organize” and “keep more” in their screenshot touch on my 2 and my 3, but the point is, they — for whatever reason — chose those three pain points to mention first.

That’s fine, that’s their decision based on whatever user research they did.

You need to make the same decision.

Example: Our Agency…Picking the Biggest Pain Point

Our main business is our content marketing agency.

It solves a lot of pain points for clients:

  • Content quality
  • Content production (writing)
  • Hiring (writers)
  • Driving traffic (promotion)
  • Getting leads (conversion)
  • And more…

But here’s what our homepage says:

We’ve talked to many clients, they all have some mixture of the pain points above.

But we know there’s one overarching theme in their pain points: Content marketing has a lot of moving pieces and getting them to all work together is really hard.

We uniquely have a service that does everything for them, start to finish. We have writers, an editor, we promote content, we source stories, drive leads, measure and report on ROI, and more.

They can’t find that elsewhere. Most other agencies don’t do all of that and it’s almost impossible for single employee to.

So that’s the pain point and message we choose to emphasize.

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I can almost guarantee that you don’t know your customer as well as you think you do.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking with marketers and business owners recently.

When I ask them if they know their customer, they typically say “of course we do, I mean we’re selling our products (or services), how could we not know who our customer is?”

“They’re the Director or VP of Marketing, in the retail industry, and 35-45 years old. They have a team of 2-5 people, and have x challenge that we help them with. That’s the person that buys from us.”

…I hate to break it to you, but that’s not knowing your customer.

You’re not conducting user research the way you should be, and it’s hurting your ability to grow and scale your business.

Free Take-Action-Now Bonus: Looking for questions to ask users that will help your company develop highly a specific content marketing strategy? Get an email template that you can use to send to the survey to your customers + additional survey questions specific to content marketing.

Knowing your customer means:

  1. Knowing what your customer’s biggest challenge is in regards to your product or service.
  2. Knowing what questions potential customers will have before they even know they need your product or service.
  3. Knowing what they’ll research when they have a need for your product or service.
  4. Knowing what sites they read to educate themselves about the industry you’re in.
  5. Knowing who they go to for advice about products or services related to what you’re selling? Google? A Friend? And Influencer? A magazine? A book? Television?
  6. Knowing the objections they’re going to have to your product or service.
  7. Knowing who your competition is. And not just your direct competition, but your indirect competition.

So many people get obsessed with finding that one “Growth Hack,” “tactic” or “idea” that will help them grow to a $1M or $1B company. But if that’s what you obsess over, you’ll never find the answer to how to grow your company.

What you should obsess over is knowing your customer so well that you can predict their next move.

When you know your customer inside and out, that’s when you’re able to come up with ideas, messaging and tactics that will change the growth trajectory of your business.

Knowing your customer means knowing how to capture your customer’s attention by serving them the right messaging at the right time.

Knowing your customer means knowing what growth channels to test because you know where they’ll be and how to get in front of them.

Knowing your customer means knowing how to build trust and a relationship with them by adding value instead of selling them.

In this post, we’re going to show you how to conduct user research that will tell you what will make your customer purchase from you. I’ll share my experience as well as stories from other businesses, share specific survey questions and their reasoning, and how to modify these techniques for B2C SaaS and B2B enterprise sales businesses.

How User Research Changed The Trajectory of a Business I Worked For

I still remember the first time I was turned onto user research (well, at least the proper way of doing it).

I was a few months into my time in San Francisco, working at ThinkApps, and I decided to go to a GrowthChats event to listen to Hiten Shah give a presentation on Product/Market Fit.

Hiten’s presentation was eye-opening, it went into detail about how he used qualitative feedback to determine if a company had achieved product/market fit, using various tools like Survey Monkey and Qualaroo.

I remember coming back to ThinkApps the day after this presentation with a new mindset. I was determined to see if we had achieved product/market fit and get qualitative data back from our prospects and customers to figure out where we should focus as a company moving forward.

I started meeting with past customers in person and by phone to ask open ended questions. I started surveying past customers through Survey Monkey. I implemented Qualaroo on our site, and lo and behold, I started finding out tons of information that informed all of our decision making going forward.

I started seeing patterns in people’s answers to our questions, I learned about the pains people had with software development, the problems with the industry, who they trusted and didn’t trust, and learned how we could position ourselves in the market to one-up our competition.

ThinkApps is an app development company, and the outcome of this extensive user research included insights about our customers and competitors such as:

  1. When it came to software development, there was a lack of trust in the industry. Many people had been screwed over by development firms, developers on sites like UpWork, and outsourced developers. Sometimes people had spent $60k-$100k to only be left with an uncompleted project.
  2. Many development companies didn’t provide visibility into the development process. Developers were known to not give access to source code and sometimes even let clients see the product until it was finished.
  3. Many people complained about a lack of communication. Sometimes clients would contact their developers for several weeks before getting a response.
  4. Companies were concerned about their IP and development firms stealing their ideas.
  5. Project timelines by development companies were typically over promised and under delivered – this sometimes greatly impacted clients as they had pre-planned launches.

Essentially, we had figured out all of the pains and concerns people had about building apps, and then set out on a path to alleviate these concerns.

Here’s a page on the site that speaks directly to concerns people would have.

We then alleviated pains points and concerns in our business model, our content, our messaging, our ad copy, our landing pages, and our sales approach. And within a year, our business grew by 4x revenue.

That’s the power of knowing your customer inside and out.

If you’re a marketer, or even “just” a content marketer, note how powerful this process is. This user research can be used for much more than figuring out what blog posts to write (although it will help with that as well), it can change your entire company. The outcome of the following the process below is on point marketing messages, on point sales conversations, and even on point product features.
User Research Is The First, And Most Important Step, A Marketer or Growth Hacker Needs To Employ for Growth

Over the last couple of years, I’ve taken the concept that Hiten shared at his presentation and have modified it to get the information that I need to do my job.

When I enter a new role at a company, researching the customer is always the most important step needed to be effective in my role.

The questions that I use might slightly change depending on the knowledge that I’m trying to gain.

The same process works to determine what messaging will be most effective in ads and on my website, what marketing channels I should test, and what content I should write to attract the right audience.

User Research Questions to Ask Your Customers and Prospects Conducting a User Feedback Survey Online

The base template that I always use is this sample survey from survey.io. I typically take this template and recreate it in Survey Monkey, or you could use a tool like TypeForm to send the survey out to your audience.

Again, the survey questions below would change depending on the information I’m trying to gain.

Let’s go into the purpose behind these questions and how they can be used to extract the information you need:

Question 1: How did you discover (Product or Company Name)?

This question is meant to figure out how a majority of your users found you. The information here can be used to determine what channels have been effective for user acquisition. Also, if you wanted to take this a step further, you could also use data from your CRM to determine which channels have driven the best customers in terms of deal size, time to close, etc.

Question 2: How would you feel if you could no longer use (Product or Company Name)?

This question is meant to determine product/market fit. 40+% of respondents should answer that they would be very disappointed if they could no longer use your product or service.

The open ended box below is to try to get people to explain why they feel that way. If you haven’t achieved product market fit yet, use the feedback from the survey to improve your product or service and retest after implementing changes.

Question 3: What would you likely use as an alternative to (Product or Company Name) if it were no longer available?

This question is meant to determine what your users consider to be your competition. Hint: It’s not always what you’d think.

A great example of this comes from when Sujan Patel ran Growth at When I Work – a SaaS company for online employee scheduling. I remember hearing the story from him, that when they conducted user research, they found that instead of customers mentioning a competing SaaS scheduling platform, the largest competition was actually using an Excel spreadsheet to schedule your employees. They used this information to come up with an onboarding program to take people off of Excel and into the When I Work product. That’s the kind of value this type of information can provide.

In fact, “Excel” as the primary competitor became so well known, that they were able to use this to collect leads for their app by offering Excel templates for scheduling in exchange for email addresses.

Question 4: What is the primary benefit that you have received from (Product or Company Name)?

This question determines the main benefit that your customer received from your product or service.

Again, a lot of the times you think your product or service helps your customers in one way, and through this question you uncover that the main value that they got from your product or service is way different than what you thought.

You should look for commonalities amongst respondents’ answers and then test using the learnings in things such as messaging or ad copy.

Question 5: Have You Recommended (Product or Company Name) to anyone?

This question will determine two different things:

  1. If people are recommending your product or service to others
  2. How they described it to others***

The second part of the question is important to help narrow in on compelling company messaging. A lot of times companies come up with really lengthy and confusing way to describe what they do – hearing how your customers describe what you do to others can help you learn how other people think of your company.

For example, here is how one company describes their CRM:

It’s hard to imagine that prospects actually say they are desperate to “optimize customer interactions to return maximum value”.

On the other hand, here’s messaging from Base, another CRM platform:

Not only does that make immediate sense to a human, there is something more subtle in their messaging: it’s clear they’ve learned that there are two distinct users they need to satisfy: salespeople, and sales managers. And, importantly, those two groups have different wants.

Question 6: What Type Of Person Do You Think Would Benefit from (Product or Service Name)?

Many times we assume that we know our audience inside and out – that we know the perfect use case for our product or service. A lot of the time, when using this question, you’ll be turned onto an audience that could be a great use case for your product that you were completely unaware of.

Question 7: How Could We Improve (Product or Company Name) To Better Meet Customer Needs?

This is often times the most important question, second to the primary benefit people find from using your product or service.

This will give you a good indicator of where your product or service is falling short, and how you can fix this to help reduce churn, get closer to product/market fit, or improve relationships amongst your customer base.

For marketing (or growth) to be successful in an organization, they typically need to be working with, or tied directly to, the product team. While the product team would typically take ownership of this type of feedback surveying, I think it’s important for this responsibility to lie under marketing. A good marketer should not only be concerned with acquisition, but should be concerned with retention and LTV as well. Knowing where your product or service falls short is important knowledge for a marketer to have.

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Companies often assume that they know their customers in depth, but surveying in this way helps you gain a different perspective on your customers – hearing how customers think of you in their own words.

The insights gained from running surveys like this are key to making informed decisions about how to improve your product or service, where to focus company resources, how to best catch your potential prospects’ attention, etc.

Here’s a great resource, if you’re looking for more survey questions to ask your customers.

How and Why You Need To Modify This Approach For SaaS Companies

For consumer SaaS companies, I’d recommend using the same survey technique but segmented amongst three audiences:

  1. Your most active and loyal users
  2. Your infrequent users
  3. People who’ve signed up for a trial and/or your service but have never used it

If you run the survey across your entire customer base, and don’t segment by these types of customers, then the data will be skewed and you’ll be unable to make informed decisions.

What’s interesting if you break out responses in this way is that you’ll be able to determine why some of your users are more active than others, why some people only log in or user your service less than others, and why people churn.

By collecting this type of insight, you’ll be able to make company or product changes that should help you scale.

How and Why You Need To Modify This Approach For B2B Companies

For B2B companies, a slight modification on this technique: you could run this survey amongst your highest contract value (or best customers) – the top 20% and then the other 80% of your customers to see the difference amongst respondents answers.

A Note on Statistical Significance and How to Interpret the Qualitative Data

Some people might argue that they don’t have enough customers or that segmenting data in the ways above would lead to data that is of non statistical significant value. Yes, that is correct, but what’s important to note here, is this is just supposed to give you indicators on areas to explore.

By using the process outlined above, it should give you ideas for things to test – feature improvements, product improvements, messaging, marketing channels, etc.

Take all of the responses to questions and start looking for patterns amongst answers. Pull out those ideas, right down things that stick out to you in each question asked and start coming up with ideas for tests to run.

Questions? Comments? Leave them below.

Want us to write an in depth case study or story like this about you or your company? We’ll also drive traffic to it. Apply here.

Like this article? We produce stories like these for our clients, learn more here.

The post Conducting User Research to Grow A Business: Our Method and Questions appeared first on Grow and Convert.

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Back in the day, we wrote this post on an “extremely simple way” to attribute leads (or sales, or “conversions” depending on your business model) to content marketing.

It outlines a simple way to set up goals in Google Analytics to track visits to unique thank you pages that are only accessible by signing up.

Then, it outlines a series of built in reports in GA that can help you understand conversion rates from different angles.

I still think 75% of businesses doing content marketing could benefit from it.

From my anecdotal evidence, most businesses just aren’t measuring conversion rates at all. They just don’t care.

Aside: If you meet Benji in person, ask him why he thinks that is. He has an interesting argument about that being related to mis-aligned incentives between content marketers and the company (CEO, etc.). Specifically, getting leads from content is hard. It’s harder than just getting traffic. So it’s not in the content marketers interest to set this up or report on it. They’d rather people focus on vanity metrics, such as whether they’re publishing “on time”, which of course, from the company’s perspective is a nonsensical metric.

But for those of you that do care about measuring conversions, this article is going to outline a more advanced (and more accurate) way of measuring lead generation or conversion rates from content.

This method accounts for the fact that most blog readers don’t convert on their first encounter with a post. They may convert later that day, a few days later, or months later, so you’ll need to be able to account for that.

We’ll also discuss how we think about multi-touch attribution in general, that is, how do you attribute a conversion if a user touches multiple pages or parts of your business before they convert (and a blog post is only one of those touch points).

It turns out Google Analytics has built in reports that can answer these questions.

Finally, we’ll look at examples of actual conversion numbers from different types of companies and see how they compare using different attribution models.

Why First Click Attribution is Important for Measuring the ROI of Content Marketing

In working with companies over the past few years, we’ve noticed that companies have varying ways that they measure the ROI from their content marketing efforts.

To be fair to both marketers and company executives, it is very difficult to measure the true ROI of content marketing.

We like to say that the reports we share below are a lower limit of the ROI your company is receiving from content – ie. the lowest numbers of leads we can report on.

This is because it’s hard to measure the effects that content has on brand, word of mouth, branded search, etc. So the number of leads your content produces, is usually much higher than what any marketer can actually report on.

Let’s look at last click versus first click attribution briefly to understand this better.

Last Click Attribution: A Really Low Estimate

Last-click attribution, for our purposes, measures a user converting in the same session as landing on the page. It is what most companies use to measure their performance.

In Google Analytics, this is typically done by looking at goal conversion percentage in the landing page report (as outlined in our previous blog conversion article).

But this isn’t great for measuring ROI from content marketing is because it doesn’t align with the buyer’s journey. It’s rare that someone would read one piece of content – especially if it’s top or middle of the funnel – and then convert in the same session.

If you’re measuring success only by last click attribution, then you likely have a warped view about what’s working from a content marketing perspective. There are likely only a few posts on your site that are driving “leads” or “conversions.” Or in many cases, there may be none at all.

To get a better picture, you have to look at first click attribution.

First-Click Attribution: A Better Measure of Content Conversions

First-click attribution means a conversion is attributed to the first interaction a user has with your site. It gets us closer to measuring success from how a customer would interact with your content.

In large part, most of the content you create is top or middle of the funnel. Thus, content fits in the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey.

A prospect might find out about your company from reading a piece of content, and come back at a later point to convert. If you were just measuring success by last-click attribution, you’d never know that your content influenced the conversion.

First-click attribution gives us a broader picture of how content plays a role in acquisition.

Let’s take a look at how to measure first-click attribution in analytics and some examples of how this helps us measure success below.

What the Model Comparison Tool in Google Analytics Let’s You See (That You Can’t See Now)

You can get last click conversion numbers in Google’s Landing Pages report, but to get first click (and other) conversion stats, you’ll need to use GA’s Model Comparison Tool.

With that tool, you can do some advanced ninja conversion analysis like this:

This is showing three different numbers for leads generated from a particular blog post.

  1. Last Interaction: means 5 users converted in the exact same session where they landed on this post. So it was the “last interaction” before they signed up.
  2. First Interaction: means in a 90 day window (we can adjust this to look from 0 to 90 days), there were 13 conversions for which this blog post was the first time the converting user landed on the site.
  3. Linear: means that for each conversion where this blog post was one of the touchpoints, it got equal credit as all the other touchpoints. So, if the converting user came to the site 4 times, and the blog post was one of those times, it got 0.25 of a conversion attributed to it. That’s why this one can have decimal values.

Think about how much of a better understanding you can have about how your content plays into conversions for your business with this tool.

Namely, you can answer this question:

Are people signing up immediately or are they coming back multiple times and signing up later? And you can do this on a post by post basis.

With this report, you can answer which posts are converting versus which aren’t, so you can think through what type of content you should be focusing on in the future.

In the example above, there are 8 extra conversions in the first click model. That means more than double the people that sign up immediately (5) are signing up in a later session.

You can get even more ninja by combining this with the “Time Lag” report that shows you how many days it typically takes people to convert:

Looks like the majority, above, sign up in a couple of days but there are also a decent number that wait over 2 weeks.

And the “Path Length” report shows how many interactions with the site it typically takes for someone to convert:

Being able to navigate these reports isn’t hard, and in my opinion, successfully utilizing this information will make you a better marketer.

How to Set Up the Model Comparison Tool to Get Multi-Touch Conversion Numbers

First things first, make sure you have Google Analytics (GA) goals set up to track some conversion metrics, whether that be contact us form fills, trial signups, email opt-ins, or whatever. Again, the post I referenced above explains how.

The model comparison tool lives in Conversions > Attribution.

First, pick the goal you want to analyze on the top left:

It rarely makes sense to keep all goals highlighted. Pick one and analyze that.

Next set your “Lookback Window”.

This represents how far back GA will look when computing the first click number. So “30 days” means for a conversion that happened in the date window you had set, it’ll look 30 days back to see what was the first touchpoint for that user.

We see no reason not to max this out at 90 days.

Next pick your attribution models (this is why it’s called the model comparison tool).

This part is up to you, but we always compare First, Last, and Linear, because those are the most telling in terms of how content leads to conversions. (Honestly, you could just stop at First and Last and you’d be fine.)

First and Last tell you about the extremes:

  1. First: How many people landed on a blog post first, then eventually convert?
  2. Last: How many people landed on a blog post, and convert in that same session?

Linear then gives you a look into what the conversion number would be if you included middle interactions.

Note: the conversion numbers are not additive. You don’t add first click and last click. They are just different models by which you can get a single conversion number.

Read the data this way: “If I count only last click conversions, what would the number be?” “If I count only first click conversions, what would the number be?”

Finally, set the Primary Dimension to be “Landing Page URL”.

To do that, click on “other” on the far right and search for “Landing Page URL”.

Note: you can do this same analysis across other dimensions, like acquisition channels. So you could see, for example, how many conversions are attributable to social, direct, organic, and paid traffic depending on first, last, and other attribution models.

That’s largely it.

Now, you can filter the landing pages down to your blog posts. If your URL’s have “blog” in it, just type blog into the search field, or search for a particular post by its URL.

Examples of Conversion Data for Blog Posts from Different Companies First vs. Last Example #1: Email Opt-ins to a Blog

Here’s an example of 5 posts where we’re looking at first and last click conversions for the goal of signing up for our email list:

What do you notice?

The numbers are almost the same. First click is slightly higher for some posts, but barely. That means the majority of conversions to our email list happen on the same session they land on a post.

That actually makes sense.

Most people make a decision to join a blog’s email list immediately, they don’t need to think about it or talk to their boss and come back later.

How does this affect your content strategy? If you’re looking for email opt-ins, you’ll want to set up conversion CTA’s like content upgrades to get people to opt-in immediately. Don’t count on anyone coming back multiple times before opting in.

First vs. Last Example #2: Sales Form Fills for a High Value B2B Service

In contrast, look at form fills for our content marketing service in our “Work with Us” page:

There are multiple posts where someone read it, and came back in a later session and filled out our work with us form.

That makes sense for a high priced B2B service. People need time to think about it and make that decision. The “Lookback Window” is set to 90 days, so perhaps some people even had to discuss with others at their company and come back over a month later to fill out our form.

But this is not true for every agency!

That’s why it’s important you analyze this yourself. Look at the conversions from various blog posts for one of our agency clients:

There are multiple blog posts for which there are more last click conversion than first. But no blog posts where there are the opposite (ignore the first line, which is their homepage).

What does that mean?

It means that for whatever reason, most people tend to signup to talk to them about working together in the same session where they are reading a post. And for the four posts highlighted above, those people first landed somewhere else (could be another blog post, but we don’t know).

This affects your content strategy in that you may want to focus on writing bottom of the funnel posts that qualify and attract hot prospects, as you know they are willing to fill out the contact form immediately upon reading the post.

First vs. Last Example #3: SaaS Free Trial Conversions

Here are first vs. last click conversions for one of our SaaS clients.

You can see it’s sort of a mix. There are certainly a lot of last click sign ups, but there are also several posts where there are a lot more (sometimes double) the signups when you use a first click model.

That’s expected for a self-serve SaaS free trial sign up. It’s not as flippant of a decision of “should I join this email list” but it’s not as involved of a decision as “should I contact this agency about working with them?”

Limitations of All Attribution Models (Including First Click!)

I hope the examples showed how important it is to measure content marketing conversions with more than just last click attribution, and how first click attribution can give a more accurate picture.

But even first click attribution has its limitations.

You will still underestimate lead generation from content marketing. Here’s why:

Limitation 1: Cross Device

How does GA know that you came to a site 2 months ago and converted today? It knows by putting a cookie in your browser. When you come back to a site, even if you close your browser, and weeks or months pass, the cookie tells GA, “Hey, it’s that user again.” That’s how the first click report above works.

But GA won’t be able to track a converting user in this scenario:

  • User reads a blog post on their phone
  • User likes your company
  • User gets to work
  • User goes to your homepage and fills in a form, starts a trial, or in some way converts

They used two separate devices! GA’s cookie has no idea that phone session and that desktop session were from the same user.

So what landing page will the conversion above be attributed to? You guessed it, the homepage.

This is one of the reasons why if you do enough content marketing, you’ll see a ton of conversions from the homepage.

Limitation #2: Time Gaps Greater than 90 Days

If you’re using GA, you’ll notice above the “Lookback Window” maxes out at 90 days. That means anyone who visits your site from a blog post and converts more than 90 days later will not be attributed to that blog post. Again, when they come back to sign up, where are they likely to land?

You guessed it, the homepage.

We personally experience this all the time. In every sales call we start by asking “How did you hear about us?” Many have said “I’ve been following you guys since the beginning” or “I joined your email list a year ago”.

If we looked at our “work with us thank you page” goal, we’d likely see the conversion attributed to..

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When a company wants to work with us, we have them fill out a form on our work with us page asking a few questions about their content strategy, traffic, and more.

The most important question, bar none, is this one:

“What are your 6 month content marketing goals?”

Here’s why this question is the most important: Your goals determine your content strategy.

And, we’ve learned over the years that all content marketing goals more or less can be boiled down to variations of the same two things:

  • Goal 1: More traffic (i.e. traffic volume)
  • Goal 2: More conversions (i.e. traffic quality)

That’s it.

Yes people articulate their goals in different ways, but what they mean is really just Goal 1 or Goal 2. For example:

  • “We want to build more links/DA/[insert SEO thing]” = Goal 1, Volume
  • “We want to produce more content, we’re not publishing enough = Goal 1, Volume
  • “We get a lot of traffic, but it’s not driving leads/signups/sales” = Goal 2, Quality
  • “We just released this new product/service, so we need to pivot our content” = Goal 2, Quality  (It just means the current traffic isn’t the right kind)

So, your content goals are either a (1) volume issue or (2) quality issue, or most likely some mix of the two.

Now, based on this, you can outline your content strategy.

That’s because the types of content you should publish are a function of whether you’re focused on more volume, or more conversions.

The rest of this article will serve to:

  • Back up this claim with 4 examples from 4 clients
  • Present a framework for content types that help with these goals

This is one of our long, foundational pieces on content marketing, so if you want to skip ahead (e.g. to our 4 client examples), here’s a full table of contents:

1. The Funnel Framework

2. Content Strategy for a Pre-Launch Startup 

3. Content Strategy for a B2B SaaS Company

4. Content Strategy for a Venture-Backed Platform

5. Content Strategy for an eCommerce Marketing Agency

6. How to Incorporate Funnel Thinking Into Your Own Strategy

The Funnel Framework: How to Determine Your Content Strategy

We can only go into this in so much detail in a blog post. We go into frameworks in much more depth in our course (you can join our email list to know when it launches), but here’s the simple marketing framework we use for ourselves and our clients in relation to content:

Top of the Funnel

This is content that generally appeals to your target audience, but is not directly related to your product or service. This type of content usually helps drive the most traffic because it appeals to a wider audience of people (Goal 1), but doesn’t usually drive the most leads (Goal 2).

Many people like to say top of funnel content doesn’t drive conversions. This isn’t true. We’ve created many pieces that would be considered “top of funnel” that have driven leads for our clients.

Here’s our agency’s editor, Nathan Collier, on what makes a top of the funnel piece and why they are useful:

“The mistake many marketers make is making their product or service the hero of everything.

Stories that get shared are stories about someone who has done something that the reader aspires to achieve himself or herself.

You’re appealing to people’s dreams and aspirations.

If you were a startup founder working 80-hour weeks trying to grow your business, would you read about story about features in a new software product? What about a listicle promising 5 ways to be more productive?

Maybe, but probably not.

What about a story that described how another startup founder found a way to grow his business without working 80-hour weeks or sacrificing his health or his family?

There’s a much better chance you will.

Top of the Funnel stories get shared because they’re about people, not about products. And they should be written as such – making a person or company the hero of the story.”

For example, for our agency, the stories we did about How Examine.com Founder Sol Orwell Built A 7-Figure Business Off Of Reddit or Growing a Digital Agency: How KlientBoost scaled from $0 to $1M in 12 months would be considered top of the funnel. The reason being: they’re not directly about content marketing or something we’ve done, but are still interesting stories that marketers and founders, our target audience, would read.

Middle of the Funnel

This is content that is somehow related to your product or service.

This type of content helps you build trust with your audience by showing thought leadership, results and expertise. It can help qualify, sell, or attract customers to your product or service but isn’t directly related to or aimed at customers who are actively making a buying decision right now.

For G&C, this is the majority of articles on our blog.

We produce so many of these articles for ourselves, and for our clients, because these articles do well at generating both traffic (Goal 1) and conversions (Goal 2). They’re broad enough to appeal to a majority of your target market but specific enough to attract the right buyers.

Unlike the top of the funnel story examples, our middle-funnel articles are about the core service we offer: content marketing. The type of people reading them are obviously thinking about, and have pain points around content marketing and are interested in advanced strategies. Thus a larger fraction of these articles’ readers are likely good customers.

For example, for our agency, we’d consider these ones middle of the funnel:

Reason being: these articles show that we know what we’re doing when it comes to content marketing and it helps us build trust with our readers.

Where do case studies fit in?

Case studies, articles that share detail or stories around what your product or service has done for customers (which you could argue includes this article), are somewhere in the middle/bottom category.

We thought about where case studies should fit in when writing this article and decided it doesn’t really matter whether you label them as middle or bottom. The point is, they serve to attract the right types of customers (if done properly), so they serve Goal 2 above more than Goal 1. So even though we’re arguing that this article is middle of the funnel, if you think it’s bottom, that’s fine.

Bottom of the Funnel

This is content that’s aimed directly at prospects that are about to buy.

We don’t have many articles on our site that we’d really qualify as bottom of the funnel, but if we produced them for ourselves, they’d be topics like “Grow and Convert vs. another agency” “How much does Grow and Convert charge?,” etc.

The closest we could find is this piece on whether to hire an in-house content marketer or an agency. Even then it’s not really aimed at selling our agency (and in fact it was produced months before we even had one), so even this may not qualify.

Good bottom of funnel examples from our clients are these comparison pieces that are meant to rank for search terms when prospects are comparing our options for products in our clients spaces:

The type of people comparing options and making the searches above are literally at the bottom of the purchase funnel, they are about to choose an option.

How We Formed a Content Strategy for a Pre-Launch Startup

Content mix: Top and Middle of the Funnel

Fieldboom came to us a few months back with the challenge of helping them build their brand, get awareness to their product prior to launch, and helping them drive pre-launch signups and subscribers.

Because we started working with them at such an early stage, it would be unrealistic for us to be able to produce a bunch of revenue for them right from the onset of our engagement, because their product was pre-launch and they didn’t have a proven sales channel yet.

Their founder said their 6 month content marketing goal was to drive 100,000 of visitors to their site. Traffic for a company at this stage is a realistic goal and a challenge that we ended up taking on.

After our customer research session with them, we learned that Fieldboom is targeting marketers, founders of startups, and entrepreneurs. The first iteration of the product is a survey tool and the positioning is that it has a better UX (user experience design) and it’s simpler to use than the other ones on the market.

We ideated on what would be the best approach to help them hit their goals, and we decided that we were going to primarily focus on narratives (in depth stories with primary source interviews on topics and challenges that their target customers have) because it would serve as a good way to drive traffic and build authority.

Narratives are in large part top-of-the-funnel content and are more shareable than other types of content that we could produce.

Because our main focus was traffic, these articles serve as a great way to build that quickly.

Here are some examples of narratives we’ve produced:

This EXACT Keyword Research Process Grew Mindvalley’s Organic Traffic From 14k to 122k Per Month (In 11 Months)
(1,300 visitors to date)

How Sarah Jones Grew SEO Traffic from 8k-30k in 4 Months by Binge Watching Rand Fishkin Videos
(3,700 visitors to date)

How PageCloud Did $1M in Sales Before Launching Their SaaS Product
(4,800 visitors to date)

Important:

Note the quality and tone of these articles. Just because they are top of the funnel, it does not mean they are beginner level or Mirage Content.

Top of the funnel doesn’t just mean “SEO head terms”, which for Fieldboom could include things like “surveys” or “web forms”.

Yes they are top of the funnel, but they are also, to be blunt, kind of nonsensical. Their target audience isn’t likely looking for a general article on “surveys” (who is? 6th graders doing a research paper?).

The above articles are still appealing to their target audience, but they just aren’t focused on addressing product related pain points.   

Mixing in Some Mid-Funnel into Their Content Strategy

Just because Fieldboom is pre-revenue, doesn’t mean that we can’t start planning for future conversions by producing content that doesn’t have as much traffic potential, but that will be a good piece for conversion down the road.

So we’ve also begun building more middle-of-the-funnel content for them too – this is content that might not get as much traffic, but content that proves that the company is an authority on their topic and proves the value of the product.

For example, we created this piece on survey questions that helps prove Fieldboom is an expert when it comes to survey creation.

Think about the difference between someone searching for “survey questions” (which a marketer or founder that’s looking for ideas on surveying their customers could search for) and the example I tore down above on someone searching for “surveys” (which, who knows what that means).

In the last ~4 months working with them, we’ve largely hit on that goal of driving traffic for them:

What you’re seeing above is pageviews to only the articles that we produced for them. In the first month (Nov) we immediately drove over 5,000 pageviews. Four months in (Feb) we got up to over 12,000 pageviews. Pretty nice, and that’s the power of community content promotion.

But as we’ll see in the following examples, you won’t always get that kind of traffic, and that’s okay.

How We Formed a Content Strategy for a B2B SaaS Company

Content Mix: Top, Mid, and Bottom

Yes, we do all three for Leadfeeder, let us explain.

When Leadfeeder came to us back in September, they told us that they had a blog that was driving traffic, and that they wanted to get more leads from content marketing, so Goal 2.

Leadfeeder has been around for a while, they have a proven marketing/sales channel, have clear positioning, and have proven numbers to show they knew how to convert free to paid signups.

Our approach for Leadfeeder was different than the approach we took for Fieldboom because of the stage they were at in their company. Leadfeeder was looking for an increase in traffic, but more importantly they were looking for content that would help them build their brand awareness amongst their target audience, and drive signups.

So in other words they wanted a somewhat equal mix of Goal 1 and Goal 2 (we’re not here to slice and dice whether it’s 50/50 or 60/40, the point is it’s largely both).

When we conducted our customer research session with them we learned that the buyer is predominately marketers however the user is predominately sales and marketers. So we formulated a strategy that would attack the top, middle and bottom of the funnel so that we could equally focus on traffic and conversions.

The first thing we did with Leadfeeder was create a comparison post (a really bottom of the funnel article) because one of our goals was around signups and we wanted to be able to have a pillar piece of content that could continue to drive signups long-term.

The strategy..

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