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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.

__

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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It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in the span of a year.

We started off last year with this site — except it made no money.

Yes, we had tested a few ideas that brought in trickles of revenue, but we didn’t have a business model that could support either Devesh or me full-time.

On top of that, we had started a SaaS business, Wordable, that was only making around $400/month in recurring revenue.

Needless to say, the year started off somewhat challenging.

Devesh was supporting himself from his other agency Growth Rock, and I was taking consulting projects to get by.

This image pretty much sums up the beginning of last year for me:

But in the span of a year, our business changed drastically.

I share this personal information because oftentimes Devesh and I would get messages that said “congrats on all of your success.” That phrase became a running joke between us because everyone thought we were “successful” but we were barely keeping the lights on in this business.

That being said, I truly believe the reward is in the journey, not the end goal, and it’s been rewarding and humbling realizing how much we don’t know over the past year – and how much we’ve learned along the way.

I wanted to share some of our learnings and accomplishments with you, because as our business has grown, we haven’t been able to spend as much time sharing them with you. Hopefully this will change in the coming year.

But more than anything, I want to thank all of you for your support. Seriously.

We wouldn’t be where we are today without you. You stuck with us through all of our pivots, tests and mistakes, and still continued to support us, and share our articles with your friends and colleagues. And without this blog and community, none of this would’ve been possible.

Reflecting on 2017: Year in review and learnings

In January of last year, we started working on our Customers From Content course. It took us four months to build out all of the material for it. We filmed the entire thing and then scrapped it and did it over again, because we weren’t happy with the quality the first time around. Then we were super proud of our end product and thought we’d be the next online course millionaires (semi-kidding here) only to launch our course and have it flop.

Devesh teaching the module on content conversions

If you’re interested in learning why it didn’t do as well as we had hoped, we wrote this full post on our learnings here. But in short we positioned our course to companies instead of individuals who wanted to learn content marketing, and the latter are the people who wanted the course from us! Big mistake, but we learned from it.

In May of last year, Devesh called me after the course launch and told me he was throwing in the towel on Grow and Convert. We had been working at this business for 18 months and didn’t have a business model that worked. After about ~2 weeks of not talking, he called me and pitched me the idea of doing a content marketing service because after reflecting on our failed course launch, that’s what people wanted.

In June of last year, we launched our content marketing agency with a single landing page (that very page we just linked to, albeit an earlier version) and landed our first 2 clients in 2 weeks. Then once we landed those clients, we had to figure out our operations as we went… At that time, it was only us, we had no writing team, no employees, etc.

June-August, we worked with those two clients, and achieved some pretty amazing results. Here’s a case study about how we drove over 10,000 visitors in 3 weeks for one of them. Here’s a case study about how we created a mega project for another and got them in Small Business Trends.

In September, ​we brought on another 2 clients and this is where we pretty much had to shut down and focus exclusively on running content marketing for these four companies. Hence why we haven’t written many posts towards the latter half of 2017. 

We also randomly received an email from someone interested in buying Wordable, so that started the process of us figuring out how to sell it.

On top of that, I wrote a guest post for GrowthLab entitled How we turned a failed product business into a $34k/month service business and our leads exploded (Note: When I wrote that we had 5 clients committed, but one fell through shortly thereafter). After that, we had more leads than we could handle, so we decided to pause taking on new clients and focus on improving our operations and delivering results for the clients we had.

In November, after two months of contracts and legal stuff, we sold Wordable. For many of you that have asked why we sold it, the simple answer is that we were spread too thin and couldn’t dedicate the time and focus that it needed to become what we thought it could. We sold it to another marketer that we’ve enjoyed working with and respect, and that can give it the love that it needs to grow.

The Wordable team (Matt, Benji, Devesh) in San Jose

In December, Devesh had his first baby, so we spent the last part of 2017 getting our operations in line so we could continue delivering results for our clients without him (just incase he was out for a month or two).

“Sup girl. Who’s cuter? Me or my baby?” Here are some of the learnings we had in streamlining our agency operations:

First off, ​hiring is the biggest challenge that any company will have. It took us months to assemble a solid team, but we’ve been fortunate enough to surround ourselves with great people. Shoutout to Nathan Collier, Dave Peralta, Sandy Cao, Jera Brown, Olivia Seitz, Cody Slingerland, and Alyse Phillips for all their hard work.

If you’re interested in learning more about the hiring process we used to build our team, read our writers hiring guide and a variation of that guide that I published on the Drift blog to hire other marketing employees.

Bottleneck #1: Sourcing story ideas for our clients, at scale.

We had a ton of content ideas but had to do lots of manual outreach to source stories. The process is super effective but it’s challenging when you’re trying to do it across multiple clients.

I decided to test an idea codenamed “Exposure” to see if we could flip the sourcing stories model on it’s head. If you remember, a few emails ago, we asked some of you to submit your case studies for us to review so we could write a story about you, get your story out there, get you a link from a reputable site and help you gain more brand recognition.

Since doing that, we shared stories such as:

We have tons more coming in the near future.

If you’d like us to write a story about you or your company, ​submit your pitch here.

Bottleneck #2: Editing

Devesh and I were editing all of the articles from our writers, managing clients, trying to promote articles, etc. – essentially running around like chickens with our heads cut off. Then one of our writers, Nathan Collier, flew out to San Jose to meet with us, stepped up and took over editing and managing our writing team.

We added processes around using a worksheet to help our team outline the most important parts to a story – since doing that, we’ve been able to scale our content production while improving the quality across the board. We’ll hopefully share this template in another post and how we’ve used it to scale.

Bottleneck #3: Content promotion

This is our current bottleneck, and to be honest, it’s a bear to solve.

We promise all of our clients 1,000 pageviews per post, averaged across all posts, in the first month after publishing. I know that’s kind of confusing, so to give a little more clarity, if we publish 3 posts per month, that’s at least 3000 visitors.

But this is the bare minimum, as the case studies linked to above show, we’ve generated a lot more traffic than that.

How have we been driving traffic to their articles?

By using our own community content promotion process.

But as we’ve added clients, it’s become harder and harder to promote at scale.

So we’ve been beta testing some paid promotion.

Our strategy has been to drive traffic using community content promotion that way we know we’re driving quality traffic, then use a FB pixel to collect audience information, segment off the traffic that we’re driving to our articles, create a 1% lookalike audience based off of that traffic, and then advertise to that lookalike to drive more volume with less manual efforts. The results have shown promising so far.

So that’s the next big challenge going into early 2018, to solve this issue.

So what’s next for 2018? The Agency

Well hopefully we’ll get our head out of water so we can start sharing all of the learnings that we’ve had running content marketing for multiple companies. I can assure you that the agency has put all of the strategies we’ve written about to the test and that the strategies all still work. The only difference is, when you’re using these strategies across multiple clients at the same time, you have to tweak the approach a bit.

For example, right now we average about 12 posts a month that we publish for all of our clients. Say we have one “content promoter”. They are supposed to single handedly drive 12,000 visitors (12 * 1000 each) every month by posting in various communities and groups?

And then what if we want to double our client base? Then what? Yes people can solve some of these problems, but there are trickier challenges than that. In general though, this is all a lot easier if you’re doing it for just one company.

Overall, we’ve been able to show increases in site traffic, leads, and customers across multiple clients from our approach, and I look forward to sharing more of the details with you this year.

The Course

Since we wrote that GrowthLab article outlining the details of our course, we’ve had a number of you reach out asking us if we could purchase the course from us that teaches content marketing. The answer is yes, we’ve been thinking about it a lot, and we’ll be releasing our course again sometime in Q1 of this year. If this is something that you’re interested in, let us know in the comments– because I have to admit, I’m a bit nervous about course launches after the last one :).

Other Cool Projects

We’re working on some secret projects behind the scenes that we hope to release this year. We always have to try to stay ahead of the curve to stay competitive and will be sharing the details of those projects with you shortly.

Again, appreciate all of you who’ve taken the time to read this, and look forward to continued growth in 2018.

The post Reflecting On 2017: From A “Business” That Made No Money to A Real One appeared first on Grow and Convert.

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From Devesh:

We’ve written previously about how using subject matter experts is essential to producing high-quality blog articles.

Why?

Because unless your customers are truly beginners on a topic, it’s unrealistic to expect a writer, freelancer, or even a marketer to do Google research for a couple of hours and produce a piece that is actually useful or interesting to those that have been knee-deep in their field for years (i.e. your customers).

Yet everyone produces content this way.

As a way around this issue, we use subject matter experts and industry influencers to get the information needed for stories on various topics.

But since we’ve first discussed our process, we keep getting asked this question: how do you consistently source subject matter experts and get them to agree to spend their time being interviewed?

To help answer that, here is a case study by one of our content strategists, David Peralta, on how he’s been able to land interviews with 60% of the experts he’s reached out to.

Here’s Dave….

When I first started out as a content marketer, I was terrified of doing influencer outreach.

I knew it would be a great way to drive traffic and recognition to our blog, but I was always too scared that they would say no. I was anxious that they’d say they were too busy or that our blog would be too small for it to be worth their effort.

Basically, I let my fear of rejection get in the way of even trying to reach out.

So I never did.

But once I saw how easily Benji landed an interview with Rand Fishkin with just a tweet, I realized I had nothing to lose.

So I started reaching out and within 3 days I began landing interviews with founders and CEOs of successful startups.

And guess what? They were all more than happy to take an hour of their time to share their knowledge.

After a little polishing, I’ve developed a simple, 7-step outreach process that’s gotten me a 60% positive response rate from the experts I reach out to.

Here’s the entire process from start to finish:

Step 1: Understanding my target audience’s pain points (to decide who to interview)

Before I start my outreach, I have to make sure I understand who my target audience is. That may sound obvious, but unfortunately a lot of content marketers fail to do this step right.

Benji and Devesh have done a great job of outlining how to figure out who you are writing for, so I won’t go into detail here.

Once I know my audience and their pain points, I can start to figure out who it is that they would want to learn from.

Usually it’s pretty straightforward. Your target audience wants to learn from people who have overcome the same challenges they are currently facing. In other words, a more successful version of themselves.

So when our client Codementor.io wanted to attract founders and CEOs from seed stage startups, the natural place to look was to founders and CEOs of more successful startups that had made it past their Series A round (or were succeeding without any venture capital at all).

After making a list of 134 well-known startups, I whittled that down to 10-15 companies that I was more interested in learning about. I figured that the more interested I was in learning about the company, the better the final piece would be.

I listed the founders I would be reaching to in a simple spreadsheet like this one, and started hunting for their contact info.

Step 1a: I find their contact info

I do my outreach mostly via Twitter and email, so that’s what I’m interested in finding.

For Twitter, I just google the expert’s name + Twitter (same for LinkedIn).

For email, I use a combination of Voila Norbert and . These two tools get me 90-95% of the email’s I’m looking for.

Once I know who I want to reach out to, I have to find a topic that will spark their interest.

Note: This is the most critical step, if you read nothing else, read this, it is essentially the answer to “How do you get experts to agree to be interviewed?”.

Step 2: I find a unique angle that would spark their interest (and make for a great story)

Finding a unique angle is important because it help to:

  1. Get their interest in the first place
  2. Create a truly interesting piece that will stand out in a sea of beginner level fluff content

It’s not as complicated as it might sound, and can be done in as little as 5 minutes.

Note from Devesh: This is the coolest part. Read slowly. Implement frequently!

The way I do it is just by googling the expert’s company for existing stories, then looking for interesting details that stand out to me but aren’t the focus of the main story.

For example, when I was researching Amplitude Analytics, I googled techcrunch.com (a well known startup news site) + Amplitude, and opened up the first few pieces I found.

Right away, I found out that they had some crazy-talented engineers on their team, but the article didn’t go into any more detail:

Knowing our client’s audience, I knew that learning more about how Amplitude built a top-tier engineering team would resonate. And because there wasn’t anything out there about how they did it, I knew I had found my unique angle and was ready to reach out.

Now the main question we get is “So what’s in it for the expert? Why would they respond?” Our best answer is that they agree because of two reasons:

  1. They actually like sharing their advice and experience, if it’s done in a unique and interesting way.
  2. They also get some publicity for their company and a link to their site, plus they get build to their brand a little more. After all, their target audience should be similar if not the same to yours.

Finding this unique, super-specific angle is a critical part of fulfilling these reasons and giving us credibility. For example, from the Amplitude founders’ perspective:

  • They feel the angle is unique so they don’t just say “yeah, I talked about that already a million times.”
  • They get to shine a very positive light on their company and employees
  • They have confidence the interview will be solid since we clearly did research and approached them an angle that sparks their interest
Step 3: First, I reach out via Twitter

Twitter is great for outreach. People tend to respond quickly, and it doesn’t require much effort.

I start by checking to see if the person is active on Twitter. If they are posting regularly once a day or every few days, then Twitter is the right place to start. If they are posting once a week or less, I move on to the next step.

Note from Benji: I like Twitter because a tweet is such a lightweight ask and less intrusive than an email. I also like it because it makes the ask public, which in my opinion, leads to a higher response rate.

Just go to their profile, click the “Tweet to” button, and send them a message that includes your unique angle.

If you need more than one tweet, make sure to “reply” to your first tweet so that they see your second one as well.

That’s how I landed an interview with David Darmanin, the founder and CEO of Hotjar:

This article ended up being published on our client Codementor’s blog and led to over 6,800 pageviews in less than two weeks. Interested in learning how we got so much traffic so quickly? Read our article on community content promotion.

Step 4: I reach out via Email (or LinkedIn)

If they don’t respond on Twitter (or if they aren’t active to begin with), then I wait 3-4 days and move on to email or LinkedIn.

Personally, I prefer email because it’s easier to track. But Benji has had success using LinkedIn’s InMail, so it’s up to you. Either way, the process is more or less the same.

Here’s an example of a typical outreach I email that I send out:

I lead with the unique angle I found, and mention any interviews, articles, or podcasts of theirs that I found.

Other key elements I include are:

  1. Who the target audience will be (which they should want exposure to)
  2. Credibility boosters (such as impressive blog stats or other well known experts I’ve interviewed for the blog).
  3. A simple ask (with a small note that I’ll be doing the heavy lifting on creating and promoting the piece)

That’s it.

Note: If your blog is still new or unknown, you can skip the credibility boosters, or just mention what it is that your company does.
Step 5: The “No-Open” Follow Up

If the expert doesn’t open the email at all (I use Mixmax to track opens), I send it again after 3-4 days using a new subject line.

I tend to alternate between two subject lines:

  1. Open for an interview?
  2. Putting together a story about THEIR COMPANY NAME

I know their inbox is probably pretty full, so it doesn’t hurt to give them a second chance to see your email.

(This was how I got the CEO of Buffer to open up my email. He missed it the first time, but opened the 2nd one).

Step 6: The “They-opened-but-didn’t-reply” Follow Up

If they did open your initial email but haven’t responded, I usually wait 4-5 days and send a polite “I’m sure you’ve got a lot on your plate…” reminder email.

That’s how I landed an interview with Asana’s Head of Customer Journey for this in-depth piece.

I started by reaching out to their Head of Product Management. I sent her a follow up a few days after she opened the first email (but didn’t reply). She ended up recommending Michael Nguyen from Asana who ended up being the perfect person to interview:

This article ended up getting over 3,400 pageviews in just under 4 weeks.

Step 7: I get an insider to set up the interview

If after all these steps I still haven’t gotten a response, I don’t give up.

I figure if they’re not open to a complete stranger asking them for an interview, they might be open if someone inside their company asks them instead.

How?

Easy. I just reach out to the content marketer on their team (or the head of publicity or PR), and ask them to set up the interview.

I know they’ve got an interest in getting the word out about their company, so it’s a good bet that they’ll be willing to help (again, if the angle is right).

That’s how I ended up landing the interview with the CEO and CTO of Amplitude Analytics for this piece.

After not hearing back from the CEO, I reached out to Amplitude’s Content Marketing Manager. My email tracker showed me that the email had been forwarded and opened 35 times in 3 days, so I knew they were interested.

I followed up a few days later and landed the interview:

This piece resulted to more than 2,300 pageviews in just 2 weeks.

Note from Devesh: Check out her mention of “running it by the PR team”. This is reason #1 in the 2 reasons listed towards the beginning of this article on “Why would they agree to an interview?”
Additional Sources for Landing Interviews

Of course, it’s even better if you can land an interview without all the heavy lifting. Here are two more methods that are worth exploring:

Your Network

If someone in your network knows an expert, that’s the first place to start.

That’s how we landed an interview with David Cancel, the CEO of Drift. I had him on my outreach list, and it turned out that Benji knew Drift’s Director of Marketing David Gerhardt (even though Benji got his title wrong below).

Referrals

After I finish an interview with an expert, I ask them if they know of anyone who would be open for an interview. If they say yes, they typically will be happy to make a warm introduction to the new expert.

That’s how I landed an with the CEO of Receptive.io for this piece:

That’s the crux of the process.

Remember, it all hinges on Step 2: finding a unique angle. Without that your pitch will be generic and they are far less likely to agree. And even if you do land the interview, without a unique angle your story will be generic and less likely to be produce good results.

Do you guys have any outreach techniques that have worked for you? Let me know in the comments below.

The post How We Do Influencer Outreach and Get a 60% Response Rate appeared first on Grow and Convert.

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Reddit has a huge and active user base — which makes it ideal for Grow and Convert’s community content promotion technique.

Yet… most marketers are afraid of Reddit.

Despite its huge traffic potential, marketers stay away.

They rationalize with excuses:

“They’re going to roast me and I’ll get banned”

“The traffic quality must suck”

“Redditors aren’t the type of people who would buy”

“It’s too much time, the ROI is bad.”

I don’t blame them.

After all, Reddit is a site with a reputation of destroying self-serving marketers. Look at this simple chart of the journey of a marketer on Reddit:

Ok that was a joke. But like every joke, there is some truth to it. And the truth is, most marketers crash and burn even before they begin. That’s why they think Reddit is bad for traffic.

But I’ll say this: it IS entirely possible for you to get lots of high-quality traffic while adding tons of value to the Reddit community… if you do it right.

And I’ve done it. Not once, not twice, but multiple times for two different startups.

Here are some of the results I’ve achieved while posting on Reddit:

This was from my work at my previous startup, where I had to promote articles that talked about back health and ergonomics. It received a total of 620 upvotes.

I’ve recently used the same principles (which I’ll be sharing with you) to do the exact same for a new blog post about Instagram that I’ve written. Here are the results:

These upvote counts can be impressive to marketers that don’t know how to do this on Reddit. For example, here’s Devesh’s comment when I outlined this in a Google Doc:

In this post, I’ll first outline my Reddit approach: what I think is essential to being able to drive traffic from Reddit. Then, I’ll share a case study where I’ve put these principles into action.

How To Succeed On Reddit If you can’t be active, Reddit isn’t for you

This may be cliche advice — but the real key to success in using the community content promotion technique is adding value to the group wayyyyyyy before you even begin promoting.

And this is especially true if you want to succeed on Reddit.

There is no way around it. You can’t just be a casual user. You can’t lurk. You can’t pretend to like Reddit for the sake of it.

To see success, you have to become a Redditor. By that, I don’t mean you have to literally transform into Snoo. I mean — you would enjoy Reddit… even if you didn’t have something to promote. As the Reddit admins say:

“It’s perfectly fine to be a redditor with a website, it’s not okay to be a website with a reddit account.”

That’s rule #1, #2 and #3. You have to be active.

If you can’t dedicate time to be active, then stop here. Reddit isn’t for you.

(I’ll even venture to say that the community content promotion technique isn’t for you. You’re better off buying paid traffic.)

But… if you think you can do this, and you think you want to figure out Reddit, then keep on reading.

Reddit isn’t just for business. Reddit IS fun. And Redditors can be fun to hang out with. They are snarky, sarcastic, crack great jokes and come up with the craziest ideas.

Have fun with it. Let loose. Don’t always be “business-ey”.

(Me having fun)

That makes you boring.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about some guidelines you should remember.

Commit These Reddit Principles To Memory

1. Accumulate Karma Points

Before you even begin posting anything about your business, you need karma points. But how many do you need?

At least a few hundred karma points.

Now, I want to be clear. Karma points in itself mean nothing. It doesn’t work like Domain Authority, or Klout.

Having more karma points doesn’t mean you’re a better Redditor. Having more karma points doesn’t mean you’re more respected. Having more karma points doesn’t mean your submissions automatically get more upvotes or weight than other people.

The only reason you’re accumulating karma points is simply to prove that you are an active Reddit user. That’s all.

That being said, most large subreddits require you to have a minimum amount of karma before you can begin posting anyway, so gather them.

(I’ll teach you how to do that in a short while.)

If you’re wondering, here’s my profile and how much karma I have:

(Fun Fact: some of my promotional posts have been given Reddit Gold.)

2. Age Your Account

If your account is too new, you will be barred from posting too regularly, as well as posting in larger subreddits. Get around this by creating your new Reddit account 2 weeks before you even begin your Reddit promotion strategy.

3. Keep Your History Clean

The #1 activity Redditors love the most once they discover you’re a self-promotional marketer is to dig through your entire Reddit history — and point out every single promotional posts you’ve ever done.

Yes, it is scary. Yes, they can be pretty vicious. But don’t let them deter you from promoting.

If you truly have great content, and all you desire is to help the community and add value, don’t let a few naysayers bring you down.

However, to help you with your cause, I’ll suggest you keep your history clean from promotional posts. Here are 2 rules of thumb that I personally follow:

  • I post maximally 1-biz related content per page of my Reddit history.

(Only one promotional post for the entire history.)

  • I delete any “promotional” submissions that do not get > 10 upvotes in 48 hours.

4. Don’t Spam

I know I’m being long-winded here, but it bears repeating. Don’t spam subreddits.

No matter how helpful you think your content is, Redditors will call you out for spam if you post about your site too often within a short span of time.

Post a promotional post in the same subreddit once every 2-3 weeks.

5. Preventing Spam Filters

Every subreddit has its own automated spam filter, and this may cause some of your posts to be “caught in it”. Prevent this from happening by participating in the subreddits you intend to promote in.

6. Reddit Participation Tips

Imagine yourself using Twitter. How do you look active? You don’t just hit ‘like’ on tweets – that doesn’t matter. You share articles, retweet interesting tweets, reply to people, start discussions and message other people.

Reddit isn’t all that different.

Just like “Likes”, upvoting doesn’t really matter. Upvoting contributes neither to your Reddit history (in which Redditors will dig through), nor does it allow you to accumulate karma.

If you want to look like an active Redditor, do it like how you would do Twitter. Comment. Ask questions. Start discussions. Post about interesting articles (not just yours.) Reply and message people.

That’s all there is to it.

Still think it’s too much hard work? Fret not.

In the next section, I’ll show you different ways of being active… in a fun, easy way without stressing with business-related posts every day.

How To Be Active on Reddit

1. Subscribe to subreddits of your interests

What is Reddit? Reddit is essentially a giant forum with multiple sub-forums spanning different interests. Which also means, there will be at least a few subreddits that cater to what you love. It can be anything – your hobby, your work, the country you live in, your favourite shows – there WILL be a subreddit for it.

Find those subreddits and subscribe to them. This makes it more fun when promoting on Reddit, as you’re simply participating in what you love anyway.

I personally subscribe to r/singapore (my country) and r/bboy (my hobby).

Note from Devesh: Please post a comment if you want Si Quan to share a video of him doing some of his bboy moves. I will be the first vote.

2. Participate in popular subreddits

There are a few general subreddits that talk about almost everything. These subreddits are super active, with hundreds of threads that generate thousands of upvotes and comments.

Participate in them to earn yourself quick karma points.

Here’s an example of what I did recently. I merely mentioned “bird-watching” as a cheap, obscure hobby, and received 909 upvotes:

(Karma points achieved instantly!)

Here are some of these subreddits you should participate in:

3. Submit links

Read an article you liked? Don’t just share it on Twitter and Facebook. Share that link in relevant subreddits too.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

How To Post on Reddit

Now that you’ve understood the general principles of participation in Reddit, I’m going to teach you how to post so that you stand a chance of getting attention, upvotes and the traffic you want.

Headlines on Reddit

Since Reddit is all about headlines, a good headline matters a lot.

Here are some tips on how to write a good headline on Reddit:

1. Different subreddits prefer different types of headlines

Click the ‘Top’ section of the subreddits you want to promote to.

Look at the headlines that have gathered the most number of upvotes of all time. Reverse-engineer those headlines. What do members of this subreddit like? How is the structure? How can you emulate it?

2. No clickbait.

Throw away everything you’ve studied about blog headlines. Redditors abhor clickbait. So, as a general rule of thumb, no clickbait titles.

Instead, use personal and friendly headlines, something like this:

3. TWO of the best headlines formulas I’ve personally used

Here are 2 of the best headlines formulas that I’ve personally tested and used to great effect:

  • Need [x]? Here’s [y]

Example:

Tensed shoulders? Try these few stretches (very work-friendly!)

  • [specific time before] I [did something]. I will now [explain to you/share even more detail/teach you how/explain what happened].

Example:

3 months ago I posted the exact process on how I sold $150,000 selling T-shirt on Amazon. I will now explain the exact steps you can take to earn your first $1,000,000 selling on Amazon via the Shopify integration with ZERO inventory.

Body of your posts on Reddit

Writing the body is simple. Share 50% – 80% of your original blog post (formatted nicely) as a text-post. Then, leave a link back to your blog post and ask them to check out the rest of the content.

Make sure (I repeat: make sure) that whatever you’re sharing (i.e the 50% – 80%) is still valuable enough to stand on its own. Don’t half-ass it and pretend to share a “teaser” just to get people to click.

This isn’t your email list. If you’re going to do that, please go away. Reddit doesn’t want you.

If the subreddit allows, include a few internal links within the body of the content.

If you have images and gifs, consider using Reddit-approved sites to host it (e.g. Imgur, Gfycat).

Once you’ve published the post, stay around and reply to comments. This is social media. People expect you to respond. Don’t simply post and leave. That just makes you a spammer.

Engage, engage, engage.

One of the best ways I’ve discovered to make you look genuine and ready to help is to tell people you’re staying around and answering questions.

Here’s a brilliant example:

(This is my co-worker by the way.)

Cross Posting on Reddit

While it is important that you do not spam, here are two things you should understand:

  1. Not everyone will have seen your post.
  2. Your content will likely be useful for some other related subreddits (unless you’re in a really obscure niche.)

With that in mind, feel free to cross-post your original post to other subreddits.

Here’s an example where I cross-posted from r/fitness to r/DotA2:

To prevent “spamming-related” callouts from other Redditors, remember these few rules:

  • Change or tweak the headline
  • Add a [x-post from y-subreddit] like my above example
  • Cross-post to other subreddits every 1-2 weeks instead of immediately spamming other subreddits.
Reddit Case Study

This is not theoretical. This is not a process I regurgitated after reading the first 3 links on Google.

I religiously follow this process when it comes to promoting content from ReferralCandy, and our new product, CandyBar.

Here’s what I mean:

I recently interviewed several influencers on how they would build a following on Instagram from scratch. I decided to promote it on Reddit, following my own framework.

I posted it to r/startups, and this was what happened:

439 upvotes, and 80 comments. It stayed on the 1st page of r/startups for 2 days long. (It’s also now #10 on the all-time upvoted piece on r/startups. Coincidentally, #6 is also mine.)

I later cross-posted to r/webmarketing, which had these results:

Not the most number of upvotes I know, but considering the size of r/webmarketing, it’s quite remarkable. In fact, it is NOW the top most-upvoted post on..

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Grow and Convert

Content Marketing Service

A fully done-for-you service that drives targeted traffic

What You’ll Get

  • High quality content pieces created for you each month
    Benefit: No listicles, no high level fluff pieces
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    Benefit: Qualified traffic instead of un-targeted traffic
  • Exhaustive, customized content promotion
    Benefit: We’ll generate traffic, not just publish and send out a few tweets.
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    Benefit: Instead of just traffic, we’ll generate real leads to pass to sales

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    • Mobile app development service
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    • CEO peer mentoring service
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We completely replace a full time content marketing hire, for less than their cost, and deliver results faster. For inquiries email benji@growandconvert.com.

The post Content Marketing- Done For You by Grow and Convert appeared first on Grow and Convert.

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