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How to Convert 85% of Your Trial Users: Why Humanistic Automation Is Your Secret to Success

It's not easy to convert trial users to paid users - we all know that - but it is possible. Even at scale. Even to the tune of 85% (sounds unbelievable, I know, but it's been done before)! Tune into this podcast for a masterclass in conversion from Haseeb Tariq himself, currently leading marketing at Universal Music Group (with successful stints at Fox and Disney behind him). His 3-pronged strategy - from intelligently onboarding to cleverly segmenting - will revolutionize your bottom line.

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JS: What was one unconventional growth tactic that works surprisingly well?

Haseeb Tariq: Okay. So there is something which I call humanistic automation. I came up with this thing a few years ago, and I talked about it in detail and wrote about it on Forbes. You just Google Humanistic Automation, you will find the article and the top of the search results. 

AO: I’m sorry to interrupt, but I just want to make sure we get the spelling right, so we can find that on Forbes.

Haseeb Tariq: Sure. Humanistic, H U M A N I S T I C and then Automation. So, the whole idea behind Humanistic Automation is that you have to understand your customers and make sure that whatever you are sending them, whatever messaging, wherever you’re collecting them, which channel you have for trying to connect with your customers you’re being human.  I know that Automation is something all the growth marketers out there, they’re using growth someway or another. And for me, I have been a huge fan of marketing automation.

And so when I started working, especially at Guess, I saw that they were sending an email every single day to their whole list, without understanding who is interested in what kind of product. And then over there, I heard something where I tried to understand the customer by asking them first priority data. If they are signing up for the mobile app, we ask them who you are buying for. So out of those two options, there was like a man or a woman, rather than asking who you are. You’re asking who you are buying for, because I remember my wife’s you buy this stuff from Guess all the time. And she, you know, or by anything for herself, but I love Guess jeans.

So she goes out there, and then buys a new pair of jeans for me. She’s doing the same thing on the mobile app. So by asking that, we segment our customers into different big buckets and now we understand better and use that data. And then when we send something after that, they will understand that they have provided their own information. So we are not using any third party data to send them automated messages.

JS: (3m 12s): Got it. So it’s learning a little bit more about them and being able to customize the messaging around that. I love that. What were some of the other approaches that you had as well? 

Haseeb Tariq: (3m 20s): So for subscription businesses, because I started working at Fox and then later on moved from to Disney, after the 71.3 billion dollars acquisition. I have seen all of the different subscriptions. Obviously I worked in Silicon Valley, I worked with a lot of SaaS businesses also. So, the problem is always how you can retain those subscribers, a lot of people are focused on growth and they bring in a lot of customers. But then after that, when they started using their products, there is no way to retain them. And then when they start thinking about it, it’s too late. So, for that reason I have created something where I focus on three major things.

One is onboarding, onboarding for the trial customers. So,most of the SaaS or subscription businesses are focusing and bringing in new trial customers all the time. So, how you can understand this better is use activation data. So, try to figure out where they’re coming in from, which channel they’re coming in from, so you understand the different channels. And then when they are already signed up for their trial, you provide them an onboarding journey based on where they’re coming in from. So, you’re personalizing it over time.

AO:(4m 20s): Got it. Real quick. How many different options are you doing for onboarding? Like how many different variations according to where they’re coming from? Are we talking like three or are we talking like a three hundred?

Haseeb Tariq: (4m 30s):It is completely based on what kind of product you have. So, if you have three different plans, then obviously you have to focus on those three to start with, and then if it’s more than that, it’s what kind of brand you are focused on. So, if you’re focused on small businesses versus enterprise and you have different plans for them, the onboarding journey should be personalized based on that. And when they sign up and they’re part of the trial, the focus should be to convert those trials to paying customers. At Fox like I mentioned, 85% of them converted. 

I’m not sharing it from my own dashboards when I was working there, this is being shared by Fox News CEO and shared with a variety of writers who wrote a complete article about it. If you want to read more on how Fox First Nation achieved that, you can go read that too.

AO: (5m 12s): No, this is good. Could you give us more about how many different options you had for the onboarding experience at Fox?

Haseeb Tariq: (5m 18s): Yes. I think it’s important, like when someone is coming inside, like I mentioned the first priority, data is the second most important thing. And third one is to make sure you segment those customers, in a way that you put them in different buckets. The way I do it is, if someone is coming to sign up for our trial account or they’re already paying customers and they’re using your product, but versus you have enough data for people who have already churn and left your product. You compare those and then try to figure out what are the similarities and what are the differences between those. The reason behind using all those different data points is that you are not focusing on creating one or two segments, you can create a 150. Based on how much data you have, you can create multiple segments, using those different segments you can personalize their experience over time.

And obviously the major one is which of your segments are more likely to churn. You can create churn based on what kind of features and product they’re using inside the product and use it to upsell too. So it’s not only to minimize churn, it can also increase your revenue.

JS:(6m 14s): What kind of tools do you use to be able to understand these different points and understand attribution? People talk about attributional all the time, but it’s really like something that a lot of people struggle with and they don’t really know how to cobble these things together and unify the data and understand it. Do you have any tips around, and how many tools and what tools and then how do we actually make sense of it and understand what is moving the needle and what is not?

Haseeb Tariq: (6m 48s): I think to start with, the tools you already have, there enough to do some of the basic parts of what is here. And if they’re not, then I heard a product called the Retention app, which empowers success teams with actionable insights and humanistic automation obviously to increase trial conversion and customer retention. But going back to the tools you’re using already, you must be using, if you’re a mobile app you were using our fstar, if you’re a web app you’re using segment, all those different roles, they have some kind of segmentation built in which you can use. But if you’re planning to do something with much more and using the data and a way that you automate most of those journeys, then you can use a tool like Retention app.

AO: (7m 25s): Got it. So tell me what were some of the attributes that you’re looking at when you’re comparing someone who does churn to someone who it is succeeding? I’m just curious if you could dive into that.

Haseeb Tariq: (7m 35s): So you have to be super specific. I think it’s so important that you understand and find reasons that your customers are coming back for. So, at Fox we are focused on watch time, people who are spending the most time inside the app. At Guess, we were focused on trying to figure out okay, if someone is purchasing a product they will not be coming back for the next three, four months. So understanding different behavior and overtime understanding which customers are staying with you. What are the sticky features of your product? So you can push those. 

Another one I can share is that we edited a few features inside our Fox Sports app, where you can favorite the team that you are interested in, and whenever the game is on send them a push notification to bring the customers back. So, focus on making sure that you understand your customer better and then providing them value so they can come back. And understand what are those sticky parts of your product, which is making the lifetime of your customer longer.

AO: (8m 28s): Yeah, no, that’s good. Well, thank you for that. Are there any other parts that if someone was trying to get this 85% trial to paid conversion increase, what other things can consider that you found that work?

Haseeb Tariq: (8m 40s): I think for big brands, like this number is never heard of before. So, when I talk about it and share, everyone is like, Oh, how’s it possible? I don’t think it’s possible. But I think for like a big, big companies out there Fox and Disney and all the others. I think they have enough product users of their own. Disney for example, Disney Plus launched their product, and now they have 27 million subscribers. Obviously, they invested a lot of money on the growth side, but they already had loyal fans and people who have been part of the brand for a long, long time. That if you’d launch something, you will get all of those people coming in using your products. 

So, focus on those first. Focus on your loyal customers first. Focus on people you already know. If you’re a subscription business, a software subscription business, a SaaS, then you can go talk to the people who you have already worked with, individuals you have worked with in your previous companies and then use them. And those people are the ones who will stay with you longer. And that’s how you, for example, for Fox we do the exact same thing.  We’ve worked on Fox News super fans and tried to target them. We knew that they’re already committed to the brand. They will be more likely to stay with us for a long time.

AO: (9m 43s): I love it. What kind of questions were you asking them? I would love to be able to start doing these right away with our company. I’m curious. Any suggestions, like question one, two, three in those interviews?

Haseeb Tariq: (9m 54s): I think it’s completely based on the product you’re using. I’m not sure if I can share exactly what the questions were, but I think a good example is Guess. I think we did a complete onboarding journey where we were asking them what kind of style they are interested in, what kind of clothes they wear. Also, I think the big thing is don’t ask them to write a long paragraph and just give them options, four different options. Then after that, using those four different options, you have three different questions, which are digging much deeper into that specific answer they have already given. So creating those onboarding journeys where you are making it super quick and then also giving them power to provide you the right data. And that is super powerful. Okay.

JS (10m 33s): So, not asking them super open-ended questions, but really being able to provide them with values that are just easy to select and dig deeper into unfolding the insights based off of their answers. So, that makes total sense,  it makes it a lot easier for them to provide data.

Haseeb Tariq: (10m 53s): Yeah. I think that’s the whole idea behind it, gather as much data as you can from the customer. And obviously, there are a lot of tools out there which will provide you a lot of third party data, but problem with now like GDPR and all of those privacy issues, I think a lot of people get completely spooked when they see something that they haven’t given you that data themselves, and then you are targeting them based on that. So, I think it’s kind of a balance. Obviously you have to understand that gen Z and the newer generation, they are more focused and they are more aware of all those tactics, which you are using as a Growth marketer.

So be aware of that and then mix, obviously we have all those different tactics and strategies in our pocket, but be more aware of where to use them and where not to use them.

AO: (11m 34s): Got it. Are there any roadblocks that you would share with someone who’s looking to do this?

Haseeb Tariq: (11m 39s): I think that it takes time, and obviously when you put something like this together to start with, I think you may not have enough data to work with. But if you’re working with any of the big brands out there, I think it’s much easier for you to do a simple task. A good example is at Guess, I was using Mixpanel as a tool, super simple tool. We were using Airship for a push notification and I created a simple campaign, which took me literally 30 minutes to figure out and another 30 minutes to implement. And that one single campaign generated Guess 1.8 million. And the campaign was to anyone who was adding products to a cart and not checking out.

We were sending out a push notification within 30 minutes and then bringing them back and just doing that brought in an increment of revenue. So that was huge. And for big organizations and individuals are out there and listeners who are listening right now. I think they can do these small little tests and have a huge impact with the tools they are already using. They don’t have to bring in any external vendors to do all of that.

AO: (12m 36s): I love it! Because there’s a lot of options in that, you can already go for it, but the point is take what you already have and just work with that. I love it. That’s all I got. Thank you so much, man. I learned so much from this in terms of just how we can help move in this direction. And a lot of it, you just have to apply to your own business, but just understanding the onboarding piece, really understanding your customers and in comparing the customers. And this is huge. So thank you so much.

Haseeb Tariq: (13m 0s): Thank you very much. Thank you for having me and any of the listeners they wanted no more and learn more. Go to, and I have a much deeper training over there, which gives you much more ideas.

AO: Awesome. Thank you so much. Have a great day. 

Haseeb Tariq: Thank you very much.

JS: Awesome. Have a great one.

AO: That’s it. Another great episode of The One Growth Show , the official podcast of growth marketing conference to learn more about upcoming events, visit and subscribe to the newsletter. If you enjoy this episode, let us know. We’d really appreciate it if you’d give us a five star rating, super easy, just click the last star on iTunes, and also share this episode on social media. After all you want your network to know you’re the person they can always turn to for the best growth and marketing content, don’t you?

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Making the Press Work for You: The Growth Strategy Everybody Forgets

After you’ve been working in the digital world for so long, it's easy to forget about the traditional one. The truth is, the press is still key to driving brand awareness (and success)! Dmitry Dragilev, the founder of, knows this all too well. He's leveraged the press to promote his businesses - without hiring a PR firm, too! - to great effect. Tune into this podcast to catch a glimpse of his personal playbook - from scouring Twitter for relevant hashtags, to what times of the day are best for pitching journalists.

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JS: What was one unconventional growth tactic that works surprisingly well?

Dmitry Dragilev: Well, I’d say fishing journalists and getting featured in the press on your own. This tactic surprisingly worked so well and you don’t need to have any PR firms or anybody else. 

JS: Gotcha. So what exactly should folks do if they want to actually engage in the strategy? What are the steps that you would recommend that they follow to actually get that done?

Dmitry Dragilev: So I would do two things. If you don’t have a story that you want to pitch, I would go and subscribe to help a reporter out or another free newsletter as well as go to Twitter and type in journal requests or hash PR requests. So, whether you’re at or or PR requests or journal request hashtag, what you will get is a bunch of journalists submitting inquiries and questions about a very specific thing that they need.

So for example, I need an entrepreneur to interview for my podcast. There are tons of these newsletters out there too. There’s radio guest list and spotaguest and all these other platforms out there. So whether you’re on Twitter, looking for the stuff, or whether you’re on a specific newsletter, we index that stuff on our platform, but you can subscribe for these things for free to find people who need someone to interview for a podcast. Maybe there’s a journalist on New York Times who needs somebody in New York City who is starting a startup or somebody who’s running a restaurant.

You know, you type in your keywords. You will find the people that are journalists, podcasters, bloggers, who are looking for someone to speak with and just connect with them and answer their questions. And that’s all you gotta do. It’s not that tough.

JS: Awesome. Are there any kind of roadblocks or difficulties that you run into or that you would give people a heads up around that they might run into when deploying the strategy?

Dmitry Dragilev: Absolutely , anything that is worthwhile in terms of getting a press mention, a feature, and anything that you’re going to be impressed with as an outcome is going to be hard for you. It’s going to have roadblocks and it’s not going to be one shot and done type of a deal. What I’m saying, what I was mentioning earlier is this is one of the lowest hanging fruits for you. Now, roadblocks are going to be your legitimacy and how relevant you are to that person’s query, that person’s ask.

As well as how fast you are in terms of responding to them. Chances are the person that submitted something a day ago has gotten maybe five responses already, right? Say I’m a reporter. I’m at Forbes. And I’m looking for a restaurant in New York City to talk to me about their business. Now I have submitted this 24 hours ago. This is usually submitted to a Hairo (help a reporter out), or it’s submitted to ProfNet or submitted on Twitter, hashtag PR requests, hashtag journal request, or some other source.

Now, all the people that have seen it in the last 24 hours, I’m sure some of them started responding. So now 24 hours later, you are priority number six, because they already have five submissions from that time onwards. So you want to be on top of it. You want to be looking at these constantly. You want to respond to them fast and to the point. And at the same time, you want to make sure that you’re the best sort of qualified customer for them, because they’re looking for an expert to quote in their writings, or maybe an expert to interview.

So you want to make sure that you deliver the goods and that you’ll have a sample legitimacy on your profile. So you can say, Hey, I’ve been published here. I’d done an interview there. And as you’re starting out, that’s a tough thing to do, right? And this is where you gotta go lower tier first, people that are not requiring that as much. And then you build up your profile and then you kind of move up market, with going after Forbes of the world. Yeah, it’s certainly a challenge to get featured out there.

So during this is not one shot and dont type of thing, but it certainly is easier than pitching journalists specific stories cold.

JS: Gotcha. And what are some of the sources out there that folks can, who are looking to deploy the strategy, start to kind of look through to find these types of requests?

Dmitry Dragilev: So I’m going to mention a few of these. So if you’re listening, just jot these down really quick, and then you can go and look through other ones. So help a reporter out is a very famous one. A lot of people know what it is. It’s a newsletter subscribe. It’s free. ProfNet is a paid one that costs thousands of dollars a year. Sometimes, it depends, but take a look at their pricing. It’s a much more vetted list, a little bit more exclusive ProfNet.

There is journal requests. So like journalists, but journal requests. This is a hashtag on Twitter. And it’s also a, a newsletter that comes out absolutely free. Again, really good quality. There’s a platform called Qwoted, but it’s with a ‘w’. So if you’re listening to this, not whether you quote, but  Qwoted, there’s a company I run out of New York city actually and it’s fantastic Twitter stream.

So on Twitter, you’ll see the actual publications and the reporters you’ll see daily, everything that’s going on, but if you sign up for their service, there’s a free version of it. But the paid version you’ll get through faster as a source, as an expert. And you’ll get the ability to build relationships with journalists. Those are some of them, there’s a ton of them. For example, if you’re looking for a podcast interview, there’s one called radio guest list, which is a decent one.

There are so many out there. We index all of them with JustReachOut, that’s our platform that kind of indexes all of them, but there are a handful of them out there. Those are just some examples.

JS: Awesome. And let’s say you’re getting featured, what are some of the strategies now? Like what do you do now to sort of optimize that content for growth after the fact? So you got in contact with one of these journalists, they ended up mentioning you, what are some of those tactics now that you can use to leverage the fact that it worked?

Dmitry Dragilev: Absolutely. So when you first asked me the question, I said, I would do one of two things. First is go after people who are asking questions, people, podcasters, journalists, and so forth. So the second thing I would do is actually go after journalists themselves, but find journalists who are talking about something that you know about, but they’re not mentioning something that you know about. Right? So as an example, there’s a relevance gap, the idea of being, Hey, you’re an expert in, and I’m going to use a very boring example because I have a customer in this space.

I like to use very boring examples in terms of PR, because if they work, sexier examples will work for sure. So they’re in solar panel installation and they’re experts in installing solar panels. Now they know this one thing about solar panel installation, the way to install them so that squirrels don’t go underneath them and chew the wires up. The major companies out there that do this. They kind of omit this and they forget about this.

And anybody who’s writing about installation of solar panels is forgetting the fact that squirrels are gonna eat up those wires and disconnect them and it’s going to cost you thousands of dollars. And so what they’re doing is, they’re going after every journalist who is writing about installation of solar panels, and they’re mentioning this one little fact, they said, Hey, by the way, we have this study on how squirrels impact all of solar panels across the country. And we know a way to kind of counteract this problem, and this is what you need to do.

And so, because they have a study around this and because they have a weight specific thing that they know how to fix, a lot of people are responding to this because they covered solar panels. They covered solar panels and benefits and installation, but they didn’t cover this one little tiny bit. That sounds very interesting. And so your job when you’re starting to pitch is to think of what that one little bit is. It’s tough. I know, but this is where your job will be as a person pitching journalists.

And so as you’re starting to get mentions and you’re getting these people saying, all right, I love your answer. I’m going to feature you here. I’m going to put a mention here and there. You need to move into a better story idea in terms of outgoing pitch. What’s the thing that you’re going to be actually known for, remembered for. And that’s where you’re going to look for that relevance gap between what’s being covered in your industry and what it is that you know a lot about. That’s not being mentioned.

JS: Awesome. This is totally awesome. Dmitry, thank you so much for your time, if folks want to learn more about you or the content that you share, or your company, what are some good URLs or social handles to reach you?

Dmitry Dragilev: Yeah. So just go to and you’ll be able to find pretty much all the information. There’s a blog. There’s an about page, there’s a contact. And then I have my personal blog called So prolific that it’s criminal. That’s why it’s called And I share basically all the PR and SEO material that I talk about publicly on there.

JS: Well, thanks again and have a great day.

Dmitry Dragilev: Awesome. Thanks for having me.

AO: That’s it. Another great episode of The One Growth Show , the official podcast of growth marketing conference to learn more about upcoming events, visit and subscribe to the newsletter. If you enjoy this episode, let us know. We’d really appreciate it if you’d give us a five star rating, super easy, just click the last star on iTunes, and also share this episode on social media. After all you want your network to know you’re the person they can always turn to for the best growth and marketing content, don’t you?

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Uber’s Scaling Secret: How Uber Drove Incredible Driver Recruitment Through Craigslist

There’s more than one way to drive recruitment - and sometimes, the most unlikely channels are the most effective. Just ask Amy Sun, partner at Sequoia Capital. Years ago, she worked on the growth marketing team at Uber and was tasked with bringing in more drivers - a lot more drivers (in a very short period of time, no less!) - to get the company off the ground. And through Craigslist, she was able to 10x the number of Uber drivers in just the first week! Tune into this actionable podcast to learn exactly how she did it.

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AO: What was one unconventional growth tactic that you ran that did support surprisingly well?

Amy Sun: So when I first joined Uber, I joined the growth marketing team and we were tasked with the nebulous sort of job of how do we scalably grow Uber drivers without manually onboarding them in person. Cause at the time that I joined, it was the end of 2013, early 2014, Uber was just launching peer to peer rideshare. So before that it was all licensed drivers, part of limo companies. It was kind of a sales process where folks that do call up limo companies and onboard drivers that way.

And now with peer to peer ride sharing, anyone can be a driver, right? And it could be driving their personal cars around. I know it sounds like everyone knows this at this point, but it was a very novel concept at the time. And driving strangers around your car was a new behavior for most people. So we were kind of tasked with, how do we scale this across all cities, all over the world. And it was also the first time that Uber was doing any sort of scalable growth marketing practice. A story that I wanted to share is how we leveraged Craigslist and job boards, like a performance channel in order to scale the driver growth globally without necessarily needing to do all the onboarding in every single city.

AO: That sounds amazing! Before we get to the tactical part of what you actually did, can you just give us some like highlight metrics of the performance, like the results of it?

Amy Sun: Yeah. In the first week that we started testing, we actually 10x the volume of drivers that were coming through the paid marketing channels across all channels. And we had like a crazy aggressive goal for growth that quarter. And we blew through the quarterly goals in a few weeks, which was pretty amazing. 

AO: That is amazing.

JS: Yeah. What were you doing tactically?  How’d you come up with this idea? What was the brainstorming process? Like that’s what we’re going to do. How’d you decide on that?

Amy Sun: Yeah. So the story is the growth marketing team was really new. So I was one of the first members of this small team that had just been formed a couple of months ago. And at the time we had been experimenting with adwords and Facebook for the first time in order to onboard drivers, and those were performing okay. But it was still quite expensive to get folks on the platform because people didn’t really know exactly what they were signing up for.

It was kind of hard to optimize at the time with a pretty complex funnel. And growth marketing was still a new channel. It was still an experiment and we weren’t sure if it was something that Uber wanted to invest in the long term, but at the same time, the growth of the company was constrained by the ability to onboard more drivers on the platform. It was what we called supply constraint in a marketplace. And so that’s the context and the team success was like, sort of goaled on how many additional drivers, how many additional drivers can we get onto the platform?

And we had heard that local teams, the folks that are on the ground, actually like in every single city, that they were seeing some success with posting on local classified sites, like Craigslist. But it was really hard to manage locally cause they were doing it on their own credit cards and trying to expense it. And then all the accounts were getting flagged, and it didn’t make sense that a local operations team would be spending hours every single day manually posting to Craigslist.

So at one of our weekly growth meetings with the CEO of Uber at the time, Travis, he was like this is not something that the local team should be spending time on. This is something the growth team should be doing. Why aren’t you already doing it? This is why this team exists. And we were like, great we’ll take it on. We’ll figure this out. And we started talking to local teams, talking to drivers, to understand what their mindset was, how they came across the opportunity to drive? What were the mental barriers?

Okay we’ll just take over this entire workflow from the local teams and optimize it, like a growth channel. And I think in that meeting with Travis, I was like, okay, yeah, we’ll do it next week with no plan whatsoever on how we would do this.We sent an email out to the whole company being like, Hey, like if you’re posting to Craigslist, just stop. Like, we’ll do it for you. And we’ll take this time off of your hands and we’ll make sure that the flow is optimized for your city. 

We had no plans at the time. So I literally came Monday morning. I set my alarm for five o’clock in the morning because I was on the West coast and we need to start in the morning on the East coast, you know, lock myself into a conference room and got a whole bunch of credit cards and accounts and just started manually doing it, just to see what would happen. We did it with tracking links so we could understand how many signups are coming in through the platform. And I did that for a whole day. Like straight probably 10 or 12 hours of posting to Craigslist calling Craigslist, trying to figure it out and just to see what the results would be. 

Then the next day, signups were through the roof, more than we had ever had. And in terms of attribution, we didn’t have an attribution model or anything like that. We just knew that there were a lot more signups today than there were last Monday because of what we were doing. And then slowly over time we got it to be, I didn’t do it manually for the rest of time, but we did it manually for a while. And then we figured out from there,  how we can optimize and make the process better.

JS: Gotcha. Did you have any sort of roadblocks or anything like that regarding operating on Craigslist? A lot of times platforms will, you know, particularly if you were having the scale that you would need to make an impact with Uber, did you have any of those and what were some of the roadblocks there?

Amy Sun: Yes. So immediately, yes. Even the first day, all of our posts got flagged. All our accounts

 got flagged. Because of the volume that we were doing it in every city and at the time we’re in 62 cities. And so in every single city we were posting we tried to get a paid posting account. I didn’t have to be through credit cards and things like that. So I got my posts flagged, and got them removed. I had to figure out how to call Craigslist, which is actually possible. You can set up a page of the same account through Craigslist.

It’s possible to talk to them to speak to another  human there. And also my credit cards got declined because like, what are all these charges I actually had to get my boss’s credit card. And he was like, yeah, you can just use mine. It’s my personal card in case like your credit card gets declined, you need to make a new account. So all sorts of different roadblocks, but you kind of just figure it out as you, as you go along.

AO: That is amazing. I just feel the energy right now. Like anyone is just listening, like just seeing your excitement. I can just imagine that experience just being in there, just going forward and making this massive difference. Can you talk to anymore in terms of just the impact or the company, cause it sounds like the beginning of it supply constraint relief that happened. If you could talk any more about that?

Amy Sun: Yeah. Craigslist actually became the top channel for new drivers and I think the impact is actually great. And that was directly attributable. Like they signed up through that link. I think that the impact was actually greater than that. If you think about it like just people who see the ad, think about it, and then they signed up later. So it was a pretty big relief. And then there were actually some cities that went from being supply constrained, I think when we started all cities were supply constrained, and a lot of cities got balanced out after that.

And it allowed us to focus on marketing towards riders for the first time ever, because all of a sudden we had enough supply. And I think that the interesting thing too was because the post had a lot of opportunity for a lot of text. You can explain much better, why it’s safe? How does insurance work? What is this thing? What is this company? What is this thing? How do I even make money I’m driving?

And a story around that, just overcoming that barrier of understanding in one batch of posts, I accidentally auto-filled my cell phone number into the Craigslist post for all the cities. Cause you know, sometimes you have form fills. And at the time it was just me and the one other person. And we were just like text expanders, typing all the posts manually. And I accidentally had an autofill turned on in one of my browsers and then the drivers would call me, they’d be like, Hey, I’m trying to sign up. There’s this field social security is this safe? Is this a scam? And I would have to explain the whole process. And as a result, you learn so much about what people’s concerns are and how they’re feeling throughout the process. And then you can design the content in a way that helps overcome those mental barriers. And it led us to creating the whole landing page experience as well. Because at the time we only had this really simple form with no information, we ended up adjusting that and the whole onboarding flow in order to address people’s concerns.

AO: That is amazing. I can only imagine the frustration of like, I just put my number in there. I’m getting blown up. The blessing of the silver lining is that now you’re getting to talk with the people that you’re actually trying to get to be drivers. It’s so funny how sometimes our biggest mistakes can be the best things that help us move forward.

Amy Sun: People called me for like a year, I would say, like drivers that became active drivers. They would be like, Hey, I’m having this issue with my insurance. And I’m like, I don’t know, but here’s someone you can email.

AO: Oh, that is a great story. Amy,This has been incredible. That’s all I got in terms of questions. Jorge, you got anything else?

JS: No, I think I’m good. It’s such a real and raw and in the trenches experience. We very much appreciate your time.

Amy Sun: Of course, happy to share it. And I guess the takeaway here for me about the whole experience and what I learned from it was that a lot of growth is about being creative and being scrappy and  just figuring things out on the fly. If you look at now, every single gig economy company is doing the sort of Craigslist playbook sort of pioneered by Uber and it is not polished right away. Right. It starts from a place of let’s listen to what our customers are telling us.

Let’s try to meet their demand. However we can, even if it means like doing something extremely manually and unskillfully in the early days just to learn and then you slowly can make optimizations, you do something over and over and over again. And you’re like, if I make this not just the block of text, but if I make it a picture and if I make this a button and if I add some keywords or some certain languages in certain areas, if I post at this time in the morning, if I use this text for this group of people use this, all the texts with this other group of people, it becomes like a better experience overall and more efficient and you do it over and over again.

And eventually, you know, you can give access to the API and you can do it automatically, you get paid posting accounts, you’re posting at five all the time. And it becomes this nice process. But I think almost everything that looks polished, started off with this sort of scrappy experimentation, creativity sort of place. So those are the things that I learned and, and just never be afraid to get your hands dirty and to just try something out, listen to your customers.

JS: Totally. You know, obviously Uber ended up becoming a hugely successful business. So kudos to you. I ran a startup that was a marketplace model as well. And we used to call it Uber for video production. And we used Craigslist also to recruit videographers. And we just went at it. We would go city by city posting ads. It was costing us five bucks, not at first, ant then they implemented it at some point.

I think they started to figure out people were for the gig stuff. Right. Because the gig stuff was always free. So yeah, I get it at a much smaller scale. Awesome stuff. Thank you so much for your time, Amy. I really appreciate it by the way, how is venture life now coming from a deep operator and now you’re at like Sequoia.

Amy Sun: It’s great. I think having that perspective of what it’s like to be in the trenches is really helpful. And helping companies grow, which is what we want to work with them. Not everything is perfect. Yes, we look at the numbers of your business. But I know intimately that for every percentage point of gross margin is a battle that happened, right? And it’s like a war that trenches to create the wonderful growth curves. They don’t just happen.

Product market fit isn’t something that you can wake up and you have it right. It’s something that you kind of have to fight for. So that’s definitely helped me a lot there and, but there’s a lot to learn too. In terms of getting to interact with and meet and learn about so many different industries that as an operator, I probably would have never been able to learn about everything from robotics, self-driving cars, space, to enterprise, data infrastructure.

So it’s, it’s been a wonderful experience to be on the investing side, but I’m really thankful that I have that certain baseline of having worked in growth at various different companies and in product at various different companies, just to remember how hard it was in order to achieve that kind of growth. 

JS: Awesome. Well thank you so much. And speaking of space, maybe you can share some insights. I do think that’s the next frontier. 

AO: You’re already there, Jorge. You’re ahead of all of us. Oh my gosh. Amy, thank you so much. This is incredible. 

Amy Sun: Thank you.

AO: That’s it. Another great episode of The One Growth Show , the official podcast of growth marketing conference to learn more about upcoming events, visit and subscribe to the newsletter. If you enjoy this episode, let us know. We’d really appreciate it if you’d give us a five star rating, super easy, just click the last star on iTunes, and also share this episode on social media. After all you want your network to know you’re the person they can always turn to for the best growth and marketing content, don’t you?

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Community-Building Through Publishing: Your Key to Securing Funding, Converting Customers, & Establishing Thought Leadership

It’s not easy to discover, engage, and convert your first users. But it doesn’t have to be hard either. Just ask Ben Parr, co-founder & president at Octane AI. He publishes magazines targeting the verticals he’s interested in selling to, interviews leading executives, and builds relationships with them. From helping him raise 1.5MM+ in funding to securing his most profitable customers, publishing has really been the key to his success. Tune into this podcast to learn how you can work the same growth miracle!

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AO: What was one unconventional growth tactic that you ran that did support surprisingly well?

Ben Parr: So even before my co-founders, Matt, Lisa, and I started Octane AI, Matt, my best friend, of a decade and co-founder CEO, we started a publication called Chatbots Magazine. And Chatbots Magazine was started right after Facebook opened up the messenger platform. And it was more of a way for us to understand what was happening. We didn’t have an idea quite yet, but we were starting to form some of the concepts. It was clear we wanted to build community and we started this publication and it really took off.

Matt wrote a landmark piece article that still ranks in the top in Google for chatbots. It’s the guide to chatbots. We put it on Medium and we got lots of people to write content for it. And one of the big things that happened was, you know, nowadays Chatbots Magazine gets over a million readers per year. And the strategy was so effective for us to not just get our attention and get attention out there, but to start generating leads. 

So we did it again. We started a new publication Ecommerce Magazine right around the time when we knew that we were going to focus on the e-commerce vertical for our software. And we were able to replicate some of the same things we did with Chatbots Magazine for Ecommerce Magazine. So, the super short, unique strategy that we have is creating publications around the areas in which we’re going to enter. And there’s lots of benefits that happen as a result. I can dive deeper into it.

AO: This is so good. It’s the concept of having a podcast or a marketing arm, but you’re specifically doing this publication and it makes a lot of sense. So tell us, is there any more detail you can give us about the impact of this strategy?

Ben Parr: I mean, there’s a couple of different levels of impact. So one, Chatbots magazine was a big part of why we got our first funding round when we raised one and a half million from general catalyst and a bunch of other investors was because before launch, we showed we had traction with the community we were building. And when you’re raising money, you need to show some kind of traction. And our traction wasn’t necessarily like here’s the product and here’s the customers. It was here’s the community we’ve built. We have a captive audience. We can sell them. And that helped us raise our first round.

So this is like a different thing than say, the standard SaaS style, like here’s the sales you got, but that actually helped us a ton with getting the company launch. We’ve gotten dozens of customers out of both Chatbots magazine, E-commerce magazine from a couple of different factors. One is yes, we have embedded different kinds of advertisements for Octane AI in both publications. And yes, we collect email addresses for newsletters and for promoting our playbooks and things. And we’ve definitely gotten hundreds of downloads of our playbooks and have people go through our sales process as a results.

But also for example, when we started E-commerce magazine, we actually reached out and interviewed about a hundred different e-commerce leaders. A lot of them are potential customers, the CEOs and presidents and founders of big e-commerce brands. We were going to target and we became friends with them by interviewing them and putting up interviews on the site. And that helped us build a relationship with them. And in fact, helped us get some of our very first customers and some of our key logos that helped us launch in the Shopify ecosystem in 2018.

AO: I love it. Say, we want to do it. Say, we’re good friends. I just called you. I’m trying to get the marketing arm moving. And maybe even before we have a product, like give us a step by step playbook on creating one of these.

Ben Parr: So, there’s two paths you can take. One, you want to collect a lot of user generated content and second, you want to hire a lot of people to make content, or get a lot of partners to write content, both ways work. They require different strategies. And we use both strategies for each publication. If you want to go the user generated route, you go with medium, medium that when you go request articles that are on the subject, you have people start writing about it for E-commerce magazine. The other method, you’re writing the method, you’re going to hire some part-time writers as well, and pay him per article. 

In addition to having your partners who may be looking for exposure, you may be agency partners or tech partners or customers who write and co-create content in that way. So, that’s one step. Another step is you have to write a landmark article. That’s like a centerpiece. The reason Chatbots magazine took off in part was because Matt wrote this super long detailed guide on chat bots. And he interviewed over 50 people, experts in the area who were all quoted, who all shared the article.

So you want to write a really detailed piece, that’s really very valuable to your audience. Really long, really thought out, an interview or quote people from your vertical or industry, your customers, your partners, your prospects, because there’s a viral effect that happens. They all share the article when they’re quoted in it. And that helps spread the word. And then if you’ve done this phase and you’re starting to build some traction, you’ve gotta have a system to consistently get new content up and edit it and put out there and create new content that targets the names and areas you’re going for.

And then lastly, you need to start building up the email list and start building up the affinity between that brand and your brand, and then your main brand. So, we eventually started adding some of the calls to action for Octane AI and Chatbots Magazine, or we might, you know, we started sending emails about our playbooks to the Ecommerce Magazine audience, not directly like buy Octane AI, but, we came out with this 250 page, Facebook messenger and SMS marketing playbook, you know, go get it here.

And they would go though, they’d give more information. We would figure out which of them were qualified. They go through our sales process. And that’s the quick step by step process. There’s obviously more things to building a publication. It’s not necessarily an easy path, but it really builds a really strong community and something that’s not really replicable, and it’s pretty defensible when you build that community. 

JS: Thank you for this. This is awesome. How do you balance between optimizing the publication too much, running too many ads, putting too many lead capture forms and the right balance?How do you actually determine that? 

Ben Parr: There’s no simple way to determine that. I think it’s going to be less than what you’re doing with your own company’s blog. And again, another optimization is how much goes into the publication, which is your own company blog. You don’t want to neglect that direct SEO way. Determine what kind of content goes on one versus the other. And again, more user generated content is better for the publication. You know, it doesn’t dilute your company’s main brand in terms of how many there’s no real good answer. I think it’s just, don’t be too in people’s faces and make sure that if you’re offering content from the main brand it’s really relevant and, or helpful, like a playbook, a guide, more than just get our stuff. 

AO: Oh, that’s so good. The next question I have is, if we’re trying to create that landmark article, can you help us with topic selection besides just the obvious? Are you doing keyword research?

Ben Parr: Yeah. I mean your always doing keyword research.  The nice thing is there’s certain topics that you couldn’t write about on your blog because it doesn’t quite make sense, but maybe you want to target in a more broad sense. Say you’re writing, like in our case e-commerce, our blog might have more messenger and SMS related things, but maybe there’s some e-commerce related topics that don’t necessarily make sense for the Octane AI blog, but they’re perfect for the Ecommerce Magazine. Yeah. We’ll definitely pick our topics, and people will propose topics too. I think a big thing is if we’re thinking about a topic and we really want to rank it for it, we’re going to write the most detailed article we can, put as many people as we can and put a lot of time in it.

AO: Got it. So, the partner strategy, you talked about getting people to guest blog, what does that email look like? So you’re going to medium, and you’re asking people who are writing about the topic to write an article on your publication as well. Is that right?

Ben Parr: Well, Medium. So there’s two methods. If you’re doing the Medium method, you don’t need to write a thing. Medium has a system for just requesting an article be added to a publication. So, they probably already wrote hundreds of articles and people wrote hundreds of articles on the subject, in the area that you’re like business is in. And so it may be, you’re just requesting the articles to begin. And then you get their email address and you can start building the list of like a community just for the writers of the publication. Like Chatbots Magazine has 700 writers, emails go out to those writers, topics, ideas, things like that. They start writing new articles.

You don’t need to write anything super fancy in Medium. If you’re gonna hire your own writers and all that. And like your guest writers, like I think it’s the last like, look, it’s just like, if you’re built up an audience, then it’s super easy for people to be like we want to give you some exposure. We want you to write about what you already know, something super valuable, something super simple. You’d be surprised how many people are very well ready and willing to write interesting content.

AO: Man. That’s so good. The only other question I have is any roadblocks that you would mention that as someone starting to do this same strategy?

Ben Parr: I mean, it’s not an easy strategy and it does take time. You’re not gonna see results immediately. And I think we were able to accomplish it, because we have media experience. I used to be the editor Mashable and we have community experience. My co-founder CEO, Matt, founded several companies around community for music artists, and was the first Product Head at Ustream. And so I think the big roadblock is getting content and writing really great content and just sticking with it for a little bit.

And the only other roadblock is making sure that you have resources to do this and the content you need for your main blog. So it’s an advanced strategy, but it does work if it’s done correctly. One other bonus too, is as a publication, you could go to a lot of conferences as press, which opens up not just free press passes, but opens up interesting introductions and opportunities. You wouldn’t get otherwise,

AO: Man, that is so good. George, you got anything else? 

JS: No, it makes total sense. I think the roadblocks, or as you said, you have this background in content. And yeah, we’ve known each other for a while. I remember when you were over at Mashable. So you have a sort of secret weapon in terms of knowledge and having done it, but you know, if you can nail this man that it sounds like it can really, really drive a lot of value and not just from a branding perspective and community, but really driving leads for the sales team. So that sounds awesome. Thank you so much. 

AO: Thank you so much, man. This is amazing, man. 

Ben Parr: Yeah. Thank you for having me.

AO: That’s it. Another great episode of The One Growth Show , the official podcast of growth marketing conference to learn more about upcoming events, visit and subscribe to the newsletter. If you enjoy this episode, let us know. We’d really appreciate it if you’d give us a five star rating, super easy, just click the last star on iTunes, and also share this episode on social media. After all you want your network to know you’re the person they can always turn to for the best growth and marketing content, don’t you?

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Relationships Matter: How to Get Links the Easy Way

We all know cold outreach is rough; you usually get ignored. Thankfully, there’s a better way. Just ask Nadya Khoja, Chief Growth Officer at Venngage. She invested in building personal relationships to get high-quality links from companies already ranking well in the categories she was interested in. Through developing reciprocal, give-and-take partnerships, she was able to build up Venngage's online presence - despite having little-to-no SEO experience when she started! - into the powerhouse it is today.

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AO: What was one unconventional growth tactic that you ran that did support surprisingly well?

Nadya Khoja: When I started out at Venngage, this is something I often talk about, but I didn’t really know anything about marketing. And when I joined, the CEO was like, let’s focus on SEO, go get links. So I googled, you know, what is SEO and what are links and how do I get them? And there was obviously a lot of different content and I didn’t understand any of it. So, then I just started like emailing people or messaging them on Twitter. You know, like what somebody would do when you need to get a link, you start asking people.

And obviously people were like, no, like why should I help you. Also, I have no authority in this space. So it became really difficult for anybody to even want to trust me or open my emails or anything like that. And I didn’t really know any of the tools. So, what I started doing was try to give them a value prop. So, I would start reaching out to people and say, hey, you talk to me and give me a link to this. I need a link, but what I can do for you is I can create a free custom visual, whatever you want.

If it’s like for your blog, whether it’s an infographic or brochure or just something that summarizes it in a nice visual way. And all I want an exchange is for you to say that we worked together on this and that Venngage and their company collaborated. So, I started co-branding this and I would just do this myself because we only had one designer at the time. So, I started just using our own product. One of our internal company things is we eat our own dog food. I figured I might as well use our product to get the results we need.

I started reaching out to people initially. And then eventually that started working really well and not getting as much rejection. And the response rate was really good. And so we started to scale it up. I would hire freelance designers who would be able to use our tool and spit things out really, really fast so that we were able to push out between me and one other marketer on my team, we were getting probably somewhere between like 10 links each a week, just from this approach. And they were usually good quality and very anchor specific links, which are something that a lot of marketers are going for.

But one of the things that as we started to scale, and as I started to think more about, you know, I don’t just want a back link. I want a good mention, I want a notable site and I want to drive some type of referral traffic, if possible from it. So, we would approach it more as a partnership and try to see and approach what their goal is. It’s like our SEO team acts as account managers with different partners.

And we try to keep that relationship as strong as possible by providing them with as much value  and the currency that we get paid in is links. So ,what I started doing is using tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush and going to different sites and kind of scraping different websites to see which blog content they already had that was ranking and driving a lot of traffic. So. I’d only go to sites that were already driving. A lot of traffic and look at their top three articles. And then as I would pitch them this idea, I would say, hey, do you want to work or collaborate on this?

And I would already know which articles to pitch them because I could see their profile and which ones were driving the most traffic. So I’d single those articles out and kind of give them a very personalized feel of why I thought that particular piece of content would benefit from a visual, where their current rankings were, and how we would help them. And then we started getting a lot of people who are really interested in this thing, because let’s say I pitched, you know, you guys have an article that’s driving 5,000 sessions a month or something.

And I get my backlink in there with a little shout out to Venngage. And I visualize that article for you. But on top of that, I’m helping you promote your article because it might be a keyword that I don’t rank for, or I probably won’t rank for, for a really long time, but I know you rank for it first or second. So using that as a process to drive referral traffic, and therefore it’s beneficial for me to help somebody else build links to their content because they’re already kind of ranking for it. And I want them to stay there because I know I’m going to drive the referral traffic from their article anyway.

So it was a really big value add and partners were kind of skeptical because they’re like, wait, you’re just going to give us a thing and then help us rank for this article with nothing aside from the link.

AO:  This is amazing. I don’t mean to stop you, but I’ve just got some questions cause I’m loving this. So, the first thing is, could you give us a little bit more tactics on the way that we can think about creatively doing this barter approach? Cause I mean, for you, it wasn’t just, well, this is what we can do. This is what our company actually does. So, we should just offer that. But is there any first creative thought process that you can go through on how you came up with offering your actual service for free?

Nadya Khoja: Yeah. So I’m inherently a lazy person and I don’t want to do a lot of work. So when I’m thinking about a goal, I try to think of what’s one thing I can do that will get as much stuff done as possible in the shortest period of time. So I don’t have to think about this again. And so obviously my role is to drive revenue, right? I know our channel is SEO. So I’m like, how do I get money and get people to actually come to our tool and use our tool and see the value of the tool and get links and create relationships and not have to do as much outreach because I hate doing that.

So it was really just the laziest path I could think of is, I just need one person to promote this product for me and they’re already ranking, so I don’t even need to do anything else. And I’m just driving all of this other traffic from other sites. And so that was what I wanted from it. And to backtrack a little bit, one of the things I often tell my team is, instead of trying to kill two birds with one stone, try to kill 10. And so trying to think of the range of impact that you can make and how does it actually help somebody else because ultimately like any channel that you’re trying to grow or any tactic that you’re trying to use, it really comes down to the relationships that you’re building with other people, right?

All marketing is relationship building, whether it’s with your user, whether it’s with another marketer. And so that’s kind of the mindset that me and my team keep going into whatever channel that we’re building in terms of the actual tactics. So yeah, they were really, really skeptical and they weren’t willing to take, to just accept what my offer was. So we frame it as what their value would be and what they would gain from it. And we kind of had to show them as we started to get more and better partners who we had worked with to build that credibility. I mean, yeah, it was pretty simple.

What we do is, I would reach out to somebody based on that process I talked about before, we’re going through Ahrefs looking at which articles were already ranking for terms that we weren’t ranking for and format the pitch. In the beginning, we actually created an outline for them. So we did all the work, but we didn’t want to make the design without their approval first because we didn’t want to do more work than necessary. And once we started doing that, we would pitch them and we would kind of keep hitting them up. And now what I’ll do is I’ll go on LinkedIn and try to find whoever is, I don’t go for the writer of that article. I’ll look for the content manager, the editor, at that website and go right to the top. Because I know that if they like the idea, and they probably don’t have as much context because they’re not, as in the weeds, as the person actually writing the article and falling all the metrics. They’re probably going to go to the person on their team and be like, do this thing. And that person’s going to be like, okay, fine. I have to do this now because my boss told me. So, I would just go straight to the top of who is the editor or the manager of the site and just get them to help me with myprocess.

AO: It was amazing by the way, I’m freaking loving this. Like this is gold, but Jorge, I know you had a question, right. 

Jorge: What were the objections that you were getting from the folks that you were reaching out to and how were you getting around them?

Nadya Khoja: So usually one of the biggest forms of rejection, I was just getting ignored, right? And especially with marketing sites like writers, but the process that people usually follow with link building is they’ll find an article, they’ll scrape it like a list. They’ll get somebody else to find the email address of whoever the writer is. And so that writer is getting pitched all the time with different requests and tons of different sites. I just know this because our team gets pitched all the time from other sites. And all of the pitches weren’t good or it seems scammy, or it didn’t seem legit.

So, when I’m thinking about a brand that I’m buying from, I obviously want to buy a credible brand. It needs to be positioned in the right way for me at the right time. So, instead of doing massive cold outreach first and trying to hit up the writers, I was like, can I get 20 links from one site with one email rather than having to email every single writer and getting rejected a bunch. And that’s when I started looking at who’s the editor of these big sites, whether they’re top ranking articles already earn traffic, can I get them to agree with three guests infographic right off the bat without having to do any more outreach?

So usually one email was suffice, but then I could really focus on nurturing that one person. And then, that person at the top was going to go to every writer on their team, like trust these guys or work with these guys. So then later on, if somebody else on my team is like, “Hey, remember that last time we worked together”, they’ll be much more likely to reply to the email because they recognize me or my team. So that was the way that we approached it and how we started doing it. But it really just came from being ignored too much and having to send too many emails and like email deliverability problems and redjections because cold outreach is the worst.

And I just don’t like getting ignored and I have some assumption problems.

AO: This is so good. Thanks for being so real on all this. I mean, I think this approach is amazing and it just makes a lot of sense. And it’s super simple. Could you give us any more, in terms of roadblocks that someone should consider as they’re trying an approach like this.

Nadya Khoja: The main roadblock is when it starts to scale or if you have competitor content that’s already in that article. Some people are just unwilling to, I remember there was one site that we worked with where they were ranking on a keyword that we really wanted to rank on. And we were actually competing heavily with them on that keyword, but they were not a site that was selling the same product. They were just selling like an ebook or a download for it.

So, that they were just ranking on that term with this site and ranking on a keyword that we really wanted, we were competing with them on, but they were not the same product and they were just selling this or they were promoting this ebook and it was a download. So I couldn’t get a link on that landing page because it didn’t make sense. So, we ended up partnering with them on other content. So, my end goal was to take over this page or I want to be involved in this page somehow, but I’m not going to go directly there yet.

So I kind of did this loop around thing where I approached them with other types of articles that could have used some value add. And we started that way. And then eventually when I built a really good relationship with the company, I was like, Hey, like, do you guys send an email when people download this ebook from this page? And they’re like, yeah. And I was like, since you guys, aren’t a product that offers this service and you’re just sending them a download. Do you think in the email you could promote Venngage and tell people to actually come to our site and make their own infographics or whatever posters or visuals that they wanted because they were selling downloadable, proposal or something.

So, they were like, yeah, sure why not? Because at that point, we’re friends and to this day, I think it’s still in that email. So, now anytime somebody goes to their site, even though we’re not ranking first and we’re ranking like second or third on that term, if they don’t click on us, any of the top mentions that they see will still be associated or affiliated with us. So that’s how to think about SEO. It’s not only about owning the first spot. It’s about influencing every spot on that page and taking like a chunk from everybody else. 

AO: That makes sense. This is really cool. This has been so enlightening. Thank you for taking the time to just share this approach. And I think a lot of people, a lot of our listeners are going to get  a lot from it. It’s just creative thinking overall. ‘Cause it’s not necessarily infographics for everyone. It’s about the approach of getting creative and the things that you have in your hand that you can offer an exchange and work in a team. And it’s not just about making it all to go to our site. I see so much sharing and, and other altruistic things here. It’s pretty neat.

Nadya Khoja: I think it’s like the same. It doesn’t matter what your software is, or what your company does. We are all trying to offer value to somebody, right. Or we’re giving a service or something. If you can give people a sample of what that is for free as a value add, and then make that like a trade. They’re not only going to see the value of your product first hand, because you’re just giving it to them. But you’re still gonna find the marketing, you’re going to get the amplification from it. Because they’re going to start talking about you, ‘cause they’re promoting you on their site.

Plus all their users are seeing you. So you start to get well known. And then of course they’re speaking highly of you as a person because you’re helping them and giving them something.

AO: This has been incredible. Thank you so much for your time. We’ve learned a lot and hope to have you on the show in the future as well. 

Nadya Khoja: Thanks.

AO: That’s it. Another great episode of The One Growth Show , the official podcast of growth marketing conference to learn more about upcoming events, visit and subscribe to the newsletter. If you enjoy this episode, let us know. We’d really appreciate it if you’d give us a five star rating, super easy, just click the last star on iTunes, and also share this episode on social media. After all you want your network to know you’re the person they can always turn to for the best growth and marketing content, don’t you?

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Doing More with Less: Why Only Investing in What You’re Really Good at Is the Key to Growth Success

Let’s face it: we can’t do everything. Not well, at least. Just ask Maria Pergolino, CMO at ActiveCampaign (with high-impact tours at Anaplan, Apttus, and Marketo). She discovered the trick to growing rapidly and reliably, and it’s actually very simple - discovering what differentiates you from everybody else and investing heavily in those channels and strategies. Tune in to learn how one of the best CMOs in the industry keeps her growth numbers strong, wherever she happens to work.

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AO: What was one unconventional growth tactic that you ran that did support surprisingly well?

Maria Pergolino: I love that question because it’s very similar to what my answer is, which is not trying to do everything, just do a few things and do them really well. Just like you saying, hey, what’s one question. I’ve gone into a number of organizations and we’ve had really big audacious goals. And if you try to, what I call peanut butter, everything. If you try to, you know, have three blog posts a week and 20 social media posts and tab a full webinar schedule and have a perfect event schedule that you end up taking all your resources and spreading them across every channel.

And every one of those channels need more content. And what you end up with is everybody doing kind of okay at a couple of things, instead of saying like, hey, I’m going to choose one or two things and we are going to be known for this and we’re going to blow it out of the park. And so that has been the only way I have known to really do great demand and great marketing.

AO: This is amazing. And it makes sense, cause we prioritize in areas of our lives naturally, but for marketing, it seems just like, no, no, we gotta be here. We gotta be here. We gotta be here. So like the first question is, how are you listing out these priorities? Because like I just imagine, it’s like, wait, you’re the head, you are running marketing. And we don’t have this one channel. Like how do you answer those kinds of questions? Cause I imagine it’s the fear that leads us to want to cover all of our bases.

Maria Pergolino: Yeah, I’ve done my grad and undergrad in marketing. I’ve been a marketer my whole life. And what you learn when you’re just looking at the basics of marketing. If you were to write down google marketing, what it would say is marketing is essentially brands plus selling. So, when you think about that, the reason it’s brand, is brand creates an efficiency out in the front, right? We know we want to buy something or we feel comfortable buying something because we know the brand, which makes it then easier to sell and selling sounds obvious. But a lot of times as marketers, we think that’s the salesperson’s job, but really it’s ours. And so when you start with those two things, when you really sit down and think about like, okay, what am I trying to brand and sell?

So when you think about whatever your company is trying to do, when you think about, okay, now I have to help this brand and you have to help them sell this. The answer is almost never okay, the way to do that is do everything. It’s really about, okay, what’s going to make a difference in this market and you start peeling apart at the top. What’s the message, who’s it going to, and what’s going to be important to them. And when you start that way, the approaches that you’re going to take become obvious. And it may not be the same at every company.

And I do think that one place we go a little bit wrong is taking a playbook with us instead of relying on just experience, we kind of want to take the one playbook and move it over. But what that does is it perpetuates that, let’s do everything or doesn’t let us get to the one thing that might be very special in this market, or may differentiate you from everybody else.

AO: That makes so much sense. I mean, I love it. So help me with how you visualize these priorities. What’s your process around making sure that we pick the right channels to focus on or just the one channel.

Maria Pergolino: Yeah. So, the companies that I have been to, so one, I specialize in, I don’t try to just say, okay, I’m going to do every job. And in fact, when I chose this amazing job at Active Campaign, I started with a very short list of companies because I feel like what I know is B2B technology, all SaaS companies. And I specialize right in the size, past product fit. So I’m not trying to figure out what the product is, the kind of past that product that through until IPO or public offering, or then it becomes more about that long-term scale.

And in that piece, what I’m looking for is a brand that has a unique category, something differentiated to say, maybe category creating, or it may be trying to take that leadership space. And what’s going to be key in that situation is differentiation. How are we going to be able to say something different from everybody else? And often when you find that thing, a channel will become, or a couple channels will come really important. So, if it is about category creation, it may be thought leadership. And where do you have to start with your content and really think about where that content is going to be useful.

Who’s going to hear it in previous companies. It’s been thinking about that executive and then, is anybody going to look at that blog post? And I was at Apttus, we had an amazing content leader. His name’s Zach. He was so good. And you think the first thing he would do is roll out a blog, but we were probably two years in before we rolled out a blog because we were so focused on getting the right thought leadership, the emails, the things that our readers we’re going to open, making sure that the content we were putting through on things like customer advisory board was going to be great.

And then once we had all of that, it was easy to roll it into a blog, but that was definitely not the first step. We didn’t start by optimizing every single thing on the website, because that’s not where their audience is going to be very different from Active Campaign, very digital business, more SMB focused here, whether it’s on the web is critical. It’s self serve, making sure that customers and companies can find the product, but not just that thought leadership in the front. In fact, people are often finding us. The thought leadership maybe even isn’t as important as giving them confidence to buy without talking to a rep.

So here making sure customer reviews are in a strong place and that your customers are sharing and doing great advocacy becomes much more important than maybe a customer advisory board or account based marketing. And it frees you from feeling like, Oh, I’m going to have to do these 50 things. You say, hey, how do we do one or two? And I think it can be really powerful. I just sent over to our sales leader, hey, this is what we’re going to do in April and May. And it started with those financial targets, but then was quickly followed by the priorities, which was just four bullet points and they weren’t channels.

They weren’t tactics. They were, this is what we’re trying to achieve. We want to try to keep our current customers engaged. We’re going to try to expand what our customers are currently using within our base. Right. Being super clear on what we’re going to try to do over that month and a half, and then having all the tactics underneath that. But I think that that has really helped and letting us just, you do less.

AO: Oh, I love it. And it just like you said, it frees us, that resonates so much that, cause it almost seems trapping in any business. I’ve been more on the zero to one side of startups and it just seems like we gotta be everywhere. And we got to do all of these different things and you just can’t especially at a small company, but I love how even at a big company as you’re scaling, like, no, maybe we’re still doing some things there, but like we’re really focusing on these one or two initiatives and just doubling down. I think that’s incredible. Could you give us some metrics on how well this has worked maybe an example or two in the past?

Maria Pergolino: Yeah. So if we look at Active Campaign, I’ve been here six months, but we have drastically increased our number of trials. So different from your traditional funnel with MQL (Marketing Qualified Leads) and SQL (Sales Qualified Leads) tier. We’re really looking to get people to try out the product. One thing I would encourage enterprise tech marketers to do is, I think that while something like free trials or freemiums or whatever you want to call it, or whatever kind of approach in that area, you want to take, I think that has been more reserved for smaller businesses, but I think that’s going to become the path for enterprise.

People just want to get in and they want to try it. I am seeing brands like Slack and DocuSign and all just getting the product into people’s hands. Zoom would be a great example of that. I know those are the tech brands that have taken off. And so really embracing that and saying, okay, instead of trying to worry about how many white papers and how many webinars and all that, how many people are we getting to our trial and are they participating in it meaningfully? And then very tightly watching how many of those we bring to our sales team. And then how many of those become either self-serve deals or sell through the sales group?

So, conversion rates obviously matter all the way through it, but not getting so myopic that like it is, you know, okay, well we have to get out three white papers. Some weeks we get out a couple blog posts, it’s one and half just, okay. We’re going to focus in on that trial. Very different though from what we did at Apttus, which I was at previously, a company that I was about a hundred employees.  I was there through over a thousand, and a billion and a half acquisitions.

There we only routed the leads to sales that were from their name to count. We said, okay, let’s get out of the volume game. This is a true enterprise play. It’s all account based marketing. Let’s only look at the engagement that we have within those target accounts and only bring those things, those people forward. And those are the MCLs (Marketing Captured Leads) we’re going to count. This isn’t going to be all about just anybody. It’s really going to be about the right people. And again, really allows for focus then on the thing that’s going to matter to the company.

AO: We know the successes and what you’ve done. And I trust this. The question I was going to ask is, say the CEO comes to you and says, Hey, why is it this one channel or this other potential strategy? Why isn’t that working as well? My point is say you’ve determined that it’s the second or third priority, but it’s still something you’re covering. How do you have that conversation?

Maria Pergolino: Yeah. And we have this conversation all the time. I can tell you the way first not to go. I once sat in a conference with a group of other CMOs and a CMO came up and said, you know, as the CMO, you really have to be the CM-No because you’re constantly saying no to all these things. And I was like, I did not like this advice because, that’s not who you want to be. I just do not want my personal self in an organization to be aligned to the like answer bell, right. That the answer is, yes, I wouldn’t be the CM-Yes.

Yes. But the way that you do that and not get bogged down with a billion requests is to say, you know, three comes with an idea. This happens every day. People believe the success in marketing is the idea, but it’s really about the execution strategy. And so getting them up, talking about the strategy and what they’re really trying to achieve as a way to get around that. So somebody comes,  let’s imagine this situation say, Oh my goodness. You know, did you see this company? They did this campaign. It was a survey. I love the survey. What are we doing with the survey?

We need to do a survey. Oh, this is the greatest, right? I say, okay, tell me why you love the survey. What is that going to do for their business? What are you trying to get to? And they’ll say, well, you know what? I liked it because it was a survey of their customers. So what I’m trying to do is I would think if we could engage our customers more and then I can get into, okay, so what you’re asking for is not lead gen. What you’re asking for is customer nurturing. What are you trying to do there? Do you think we’re losing customers or do you think we’re trying to upset our current base? Our biggest opportunity? I don’t need more leads.

Our team has plenty of leads. I think where we really need to focus is upsell to our current base. And now I can say yes, because what I can commit to is if they’re on the right track, if you know, we should be agreeing as business leaders. Okay? Yes, this is a priority. So if that’s right, I can say, listen, I hear you on the survey. But what I’m going to do is I’m going to commit to you that we are going to help grow upsells to those customers. I’m going to come back to you with a couple of ideas. And so instead of being stuck in their tactic, I’m going to bring it up. I’m going to understand what they’re trying to achieve. I’m going to make sure it’s aligned to the company’s goals.

It’s not to educate them about what the priorities are, but if it is, then I’m going to, I’m already doing these things that are going to help that I come back and I say, Hey, look, I know this, isn’t a survey. Let’s put that in the plan in the future. But here’s the three things we’re doing right now to help with that upsell effort. Do you think they’re going to get to help? Do you think they’re going to be useful? And if they say no, then there’s an important conversation that needs to happen, right. Then maybe I’m doing the wrong stuff and I should pivot. But if they say yes, I’ just give them that. Yes. And I never had to do that survey. And so it’s just getting people out of the tactics and the ideation and into are we trying to achieve the same thing that I think has made the biggest difference?

AO: It’s getting to the why? Like, why are we ultimately coming up with it. Solving for that and then judging it based on that. Ah, this has been amazing. I know we’re coming close to our time. Last question. Any roadblocks that you would just see that you could help someone who’s about to go execute on this kind of hyper focus?

Maria Pergolino: Yeah. I know sometimes it just feels like somebody is saying, hey, I noticed we haven’t updated this or we haven’t done that. And you know, once you start doing something you’re kind of stuck, keeping it maintained, or you have to find a way to educate people and say, hey, this is what we’re doing. Do you agree that this is what we’re doing? I think that can get really hard. So don’t, if you then start that blog, you have to either make sure everybody knows, hey, this is we’re going to get one post up a week. And set the expectations so that there’s not this like trailing, what about this? What about that? 

I think the other thing is, be particularly when you’re hiring, I have been very fortunate. The best part of my career has been the awesome people that I have worked with. I stand probably by every one of them. And that comes from any leader, job. Number one is in hiring. If you know the things that you need to do and then just hire the people that are best at them. We just did this, I just hired like someone incredible for revenue marketing and somebody incredible for product marketing and we’re going to let them do their thing.

And of course it takes time in the beginning to let people kind of come together and align to the culture of the company. But I think the most important thing any of us can do is think about hiring. I know that sounds so simple, but it’s probably under talked about. 

AO: Thank you so much. It seems like when I talked to leaders like yourself, it’s always about going back to the basic principles that people think are just part of it, but they’re just skipping by it. And you’re like, no, no, no. We’re going back to these basic core things: prioritization, don’t put all your resources everywhere, put it in one or two really good things and then hiring great people. This has been amazing. Thank you so much for your time. 

Maria Pergolino: That’s awesome.Thank you.

AO: That’s it. Another great episode of The One Growth Show , the official podcast of growth marketing conference to learn more about upcoming events, visit and subscribe to the newsletter. If you enjoy this episode, let us know. We’d really appreciate it if you’d give us a five star rating, super easy, just click the last star on iTunes, and also share this episode on social media. After all you want your network to know you’re the person they can always turn to for the best growth and marketing content, don’t you?

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Why Product-Led SEO Puts Everything Else to Shame

Let’s face it: most SEO revolves around the usual keyword researching + keyword stuffing + landing page building model. It’s not as effective as you’d think - especially these days. Thankfully, there’s another, better way. Join this actionable podcast with Eli Schwartz, growth advisor and SEO strategic consultant to many of the world's top-performing companies, to learn why a product-led search strategy will drive your rankings - and revenue! - higher than you ever thought possible.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

AO: What was one unconventional growth tactic that you ran that did support surprisingly well?

Eli Schwartz: So, I feel like this is unconventional, but it really shouldn’t be considered unconventional. It’s what I call product led SEO. It’s the idea of focusing on what the product is, building an amazing product and doing SEO around the product. The reason why it’s unconventional is because the way most people do things around SEO is what I would consider to be content marketing, which is they go into a keyword research tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush or Google Keyword Planner.

They research some keywords. They come up with some content, they write content around it. They build some links to it and then they wait for it to rise in rankings. I’m doing the complete opposite. I’m building something that’s really useful for users. They’re going to love it when they find it. I’m not focusing on keywords, but I’m building tens of thousands of pages around that product. They all rank and they all drive traffic and they create a great user experience. When the competitors notice, there’s a huge moat because you now have all of these pages indexed and it’s all growing and all driving tons of traffic.

AO: Tell us like any quantitative results that you’ve seen versus a traditional strategy.

Eli Schwartz: I just got a client that I worked with early last year that allowed me to write a case study around them. So, I can talk about specific examples. The company name is Drops, so they were voted to be Google Plays number one app of 2018. And what they are is a visual language learning tool. So, you go into the app, and it’s a premium model, where you play around with learning words. The reason it’s called Drops is you drop a word down, you learn something else about a word.

The app was hugely successful. They wanted to build a website to help people learn languages. That they could use to drive app downloads where they make most of their money. So, it’s a huge language database that has about 30 different languages, no website, the website was just a marketing page built around the app. So, we built out a product around the words, which if you think about that, we’re competing with Google translate. We’re competing with like dictionaries that have been around forever, by creating a great product experience and figuring out what it is that people might want in a language.

Here are the numbers around that. We launched that product in late June, and between late June and the end of last year, they generated 81.2 million impressions on Google, 860,000 clicks, and keep in mind that they started at zero. So, if you think about that from a content marketing standpoint to get to numbers like that would be absolutely impossible. You’d have to find the most popular search item, write content around it, build links to it. And then wait two years for it to rank. Here, we launched thousands of pages and we’re getting results like that.

And, of course like organic is their only way of driving any acquisition for their business. So, their business has really taken off as a result of that.

AO: Man. That’s exciting. That is so quick. We just don’t see that with SEO from our experience. That’s amazing. So, how can we apply this ourselves if we’re starting out in this similar situation?

Eli Schwartz: So, in any company I’m working with, in my role as a product consultant, I help companies build out strategies around building a product for acquiring organic users. I like to think about what is the organic way that users might want to discover them and how are they going to interact with the product? And by the way, I’m not inventing this at all. This is like TripAdvisor, they didn’t set out to say, let’s create a blog and review the most popular hotels in the world. They would have reviewed, like Boulder from New York, I don’t know the Ritz in London, and then would have created content around that. But instead, TripAdvisor was like, okay, let’s review every single hotel in the world and what’s the template we need and how would we structure such a website?

As a result, they’ve built a moat, and the competitors are still clawing at their ankles, but they’re never going to catch them because they have years and years of doing this. Once they were done doing that, more hotels were added to the platform as more hotels grew in the world. And then they can multiply by every language. So, like really around the product. And they’re not saying like, Oh, how do we build great content for again, the Waldorf in New York? Or how do we build great links for the Waldorf in New York? It’s really the product. Amazon’s the exact same thing. Amazon didn’t set out to say, in the early in the days when it was just books, like what’s the most popular book and how do we build a page for that book?

Amazon said, we want books, all books. We’re going to create a great user experience and eCommerce experience. It didn’t exist. So from there, they multiply that into, I think the next category was clothing and then electronics, and look at what Amazon is today from an SEO standpoint. Everyone has tried to knock Amazon off of SEO, but that’s like a self fulfilling cycle. You go to Google to find Amazon and even Google with Google shopping, can’t beat Amazon. So, what they have done, what TripAdvisor has done, and many other sites. Zillow is another great example. There was no search volume around my home, my address, but Zillow said, well, we’re going to put every address on the web and then we’re going to build pages around it. And they’re all going to rank. We’re not going to, just try to rank for, I don’t know, Bill Gates house from our executive Brooke’s house, they’re going to rank everyone’s house. So that’s what I like to consider product blend SEO. And that’s what people should be thinking about. It’s like, what’s the product we built that people would want to find us and search and potentially convert, instead of what’s the word, what’s the blog post,

JS: Actually, that’s what I was going to ask if, if I’m sitting there and I’m trying to figure out what that product is, what process do you recommend that we follow, as product leaders out there, to determine a) what is that product that we should build that essentially exists in parallel to our core product and b) how far do we go down that road of building out that product when we have, let’s say a core product to support?

Eli Schwartz: So, the first thing is really, instead of thinking outside the box, just kick the box over, just blow up the whole box. If you’re thinking inside the box, once you’re doing keyword research, everyone is doing keyword research. There’s no competitive advantage. You can create a site and in any single category, come up with an idea, look at what the competitors are ranking on, build the exact same content. I like to go where there’s no keyword research. It does not exist. Like when Zillow did what they did, there was no keyword research that they can say how much search volume is around Eli’s house, Adam’s house. Like, it doesn’t exist. Right.

So, when they’re doing and you’re doing something like that, you want to go, I know that there is search volume here. I think there’s product market fit. It helps to validate that, before you go spend a ton of money on it. But like, I’m going to build something. And as a result, I’m going to create my search volume around it. And then there will be search find, like early on. This is probably like eight years ago. I worked at Zapier. What they’ve done is they’ve created combinations between things that shouldn’t necessarily be combined like Salesforce and Gmail.

So before Zapier made a combination between Salesforce and Gmail, it didn’t exist if you searched for it, like how do I combine Salesforce and Gmail, no results, but then Zapier does it. And now you find Zapier and you find other people imitating Zapier and there is search volume. So, when you’re thinking about creating a strategy, you’re really thinking like, what is it that people would want? Like, what are they looking for on search? Like how could we help them? What could we provide them with? And then how do we scale a product around it, completely user centric and product centric.

So, it’s hard to be specific with that answer without having a business to drive, to dive into, but absolutely blow up the box. Don’t think inside the box at all. Like there’s so much out there that. Let’s dig into an example, we’re working with a client in the healthcare space. There’s so much healthcare content that could be created. It’s like, when people think healthcare, they think web MD, they think maybe finding insurance companies, but when you dive into it, like anyone that has ever done any medical research online, there’s so much data out there, how can you expose it?

Provide a great experience for users like drug search. When people search around a prescription drug, do they really want to read the side effects? Or do they want to read something else around it? What can we provide? And all that data is put out there by the government, put up there by the drug makers. How do you make something good out of it?

AO: This is, this is incredible. Can we take a B2B SaaS example? Let’s just say Zoom, as an example. So, we can articulate it. I’m able to see these other examples you’ve given real like Expedia, Zillow, stuff like that. But could you take something that’s harder for me right now, just say a B2B, SaaS, like Zoom?

Eli Schwartz: So, Zoom may be the only one. I can’t think of something around.

AO: I feel better, but maybe something similar.

Eli Schwartz: Okay. So I worked at a number of SaaS companies. SaaS can be a little bit harder to do because, SaaS in general for SEO, is a little bit harder because there’s only so much search volume that will be for the core product. I worked at SurveyMonkey for a number of years and I led the growth there and focused on SEO. So think about serving like SurveyMonkey, it’s a Swiss army knife of like data, but there’s only so many ways that people are going to look for a survey. So, that if you break out a little bit into what does a survey do for you? A survey helps you to make decisions.

Then I can create a bunch of content programmatically around the decisions you are making, like how much the product costs, use a survey for it. What should my packaging look like, use a survey for it. I’m creating content around answering that. The ultimate question you want with the data, and then I’m leading you into the SaaS part which is the survey.  Going into another vertical, like say, you have an analytics product, SaaS analytics product. So, there’s only so many ways you’re going to look for what that analytics product is. And then, we’ve got a bunch of search volume around that analytics, maybe tail off a little bit, but then if you think about what do people want from the analytics? I want to know what my benchmarks are. I want to know how do I identify users. So, now you can create a bunch of content, think about personas, all the effort people do on personas. What if you could infinitely create personas by cross sectoring a bunch of data that you pull out of analytics. And now, no matter what anybody looks for, they have that ultimate persona, which says like, this is a persona. These are analytics product too great for personas. 

AO: Got it. Jorge, do you have any other big questions to apply to this? 

JS: I think that makes sense. I know it’s hard to determine how deep that would go. What would be some of the first steps that you would take, let’s say after kicking over the box and advice that you would give a product leader or growth marketing leader to  know that, hey, we’re going down the right track here? We’re not sort of going out on some random limb and, you know, building a product to show that. I know it’s such a hard thing to figure out what features, you know, the whole nine.

Eli Schwartz: Yeah. I really want to say, understand the user as much as possible. So, what is it that you can create where the user, and this part is unconventional, but it shouldn’t be unconventional, but why would the user search for something, too often product leaders and marketing leaders, we’re all guilty of this, where we forget that 99.9% of the day we’re users. We’re going on Google and we’re looking for stuff. But when we go into our roles and our product marketing, we’re creating stuff that people aren’t really going to do just because it’s around.

There’s a keyword, a product because we think it makes sense. And we forget that like people go to search and they go to products because they want to solve a problem. So if you get into the user’s head, be the user yourself, you understand what is that you should be creating. And will someone really, really want to do something like that? Like going back to Zillow as an example, like their hypothesis was essentially monetizing all the volume around housing search, they want to create a new realtor, which again, didn’t exist.

They upset the entire Realty market and they were, they said there’s so much information that’s locked up in our various databases. What if we exposed all that information, think about what they’ve done. Right? They took MLS data, that’s public. They took government data, which are tax records, that’s public. And then they built a really good user experience around it with not unique data. Oh. And they took map data and they took images of houses. So, unless a house is actually listed on Zillow, none of that was theirs. They just built a product around it. Believing hopefully that they talked to users, knowing that people would want to look for this.

AO: Man, this is good. It’s challenging because you gotta get creative. There’s a way that you can look at this and apply this, but you gotta sit for a little bit and think of a creative way that you can do it. And I know that there’s so many examples that B2B SaaS companies can apply, as well as just all sorts of companies.

Eli Schwartz: Yeah, you are so right that you have to be creative. And I just got off a call with a client where we talked about what our roadmap was going to look like. And I explained to them that I don’t want to build anything for three months because if we could build something tomorrow, like if I could give them an SEO audit and say, hey, here’s the things that are wrong on your site, anybody can do that. But, if you sit down and you say, what’s the product, I need engineers, I’m going to build something. That’s you taking your venture money, or in this case, it’s a public company using their investors money to build something sustainable that no one else can do.

Because again, like I said earlier, anyone can go on a Ahrefs or Keyword Planner or SEMrush and come up with searches and keyword ideas and then create content around it. There’s no competitive advantage. Everyone’s going, using the same freelancer on Upwork. They’re using the same keyword database, but it’s being creative. That’s how you build something new. That’s how you build something sustainable that competitors can’t get close to touching. So like, I wish there was an easy answer, but if you’re not being creative, anybody can do it. If you are being creative and you’re building something of real value, that’s where you really extract like an incredible amount of potential from it.

AO: I love it. I think you said it best when you said go where there is no keyword research. This, this is incredible. Thank you so much for this.

Eli Schwartz: Oh, absolutely. I hope you can use this and make a ton of money. If you come up with a way to do this for Zoom, then you can beat Zoom too

JS: Look at what like inbound marketing companies did with like for example, HubSpot did the content marketing stuff, but then they started to also create these products, but these free products that would drive demand and drive in essentially the needs for their target audience, which then drove people to sign up to the main product.So, you saw a lot of that kind of stuff that makes total sense. Thank you so much. 

Eli Schwartz: Yeah. And that’s the hard thing. And again, like HubSpot’s a great example of a SaaS. Like there’s only so many ways people are going to look for their inbound tool and then how many different pieces of the content and create it. But like HubSpot, they blew up the whole box and they created a whole marketing suite around the content, which it tangentially sells people, sells their audience and the target market, and then they can sell them HubSpot.So they’re not selling HubSpot with that product, they’re selling the product, then getting them into HubSpot.

AO: This is amazing. Well, thank you so much for your time. This has been incredible.

Eli Schwartz: It was great to be here. Thanks for having me!

AO: That’s it. Another great episode of The One Growth Show , the official podcast of growth marketing conference to learn more about upcoming events, visit and subscribe to the newsletter. If you enjoy this episode, let us know. We’d really appreciate it if you’d give us a five star rating, super easy, just click the last star on iTunes, and also share this episode on social media. After all you want your network to know you’re the person they can always turn to for the best growth and marketing content, don’t you?

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How to Build & Scale Communities Successfully: What You Absolutely Need to Know

Community-building is one of the highest ROI-driving investments you can make. Just ask Emily Lonetto, Head of Growth, Voiceflow. From Tilt and Clio, to her current role at Voiceflow, she's been building and scaling communities like nobody else before - and in this actionable, best-practices-packed podcast, she's going to spill her secrets. From more regular and effective evangelism, to instant product feedback and forgiveness for glitches ("startup buffer"), you're going to reap some very real benefits.

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AO: What was one unconventional growth tactic that you ran that did support surprisingly well?

Emily Lonetto: I think one unconventional growth factor that I tend to lean on a lot is trying to build and scale communities. So taking the product that you make, that in most cases, is a single person experience and trying to connect those users with each other to continuously grow the business outside of the product itself.

AO: That’s awesome. Can we dive into a specific case around that and maybe talk about the impact?

AO: That’s awesome. Can we dive into a specific case around that and maybe talk about the impact?

Emily Lonetto: Yeah, absolutely. I have so many use cases and examples of those, but I’ll walk you through a few and I’ll go deep on the most recent one. But for context, in my past working in growth, I’ve always tried to figure out ways that we can better connect our users with each other so that we can number one, get early product feedback. Number two, ideally leverage more evangelism, more communication or content if we’re low on that, or don’t have the people for it as well as trying to centralize and create that almost like a startup buffer is what I like to call it. When you’re in that sort of phase and you’re building a lot of things quickly, building that buffer is basically patience when things break and an immediate feedback loop. If things are going awry and we leverage that a ton, not only for referrals, but also just for overall groundswell back when I was in the growth team at tilts, we used and mimicked set university campuses against each other to try to get friend groups, social centers, even like class, let’s say like departments on board at the same time.

So, we used that as one way of leveraging community. And even now, one of the ways that we do that at Voiceflow, which is the company that I currently head growth at, is we invite every single person that comes on and joins the platform into our community group, which is hosted on Facebook. And there we’re able to not only leverage and do more exclusive style events, get closer to them, but also see them interact with each other and help each other activate on the platform even without our help.

AO: Well, let’s talk about the Tilt. I’m interested in the university example. Can you lay that out for us?

Emily Lonetto: Yeah, absolutely. So for context, Tilt, formerly known as Crowdtilt, was a company that was huge in the micro-crowdfunding space. So, we made it easy for people to send requests or split payments between friends. It went crazy viral, starting in the USA and then going internationally into Canada and abroad, before getting acquired by Airbnb rip. When we were trying to grow, especially internationally, we started to really go after existing communities, communities that had the behaviors of large social circles, huge amounts of cash that were kind of small transactions going back and forth.

So friend groups, sororities, or fraternities in the States specifically, and in Canada. Thinking more on even capitalizing on university rivalries, where we would go after one business school, let’s say a school called Queens and then go after a university business school and a university called Western. And the two of them were both extremely, extremely competitive with each other. So we would leverage that all the time. That became a really interesting way that we were basically mirroring or kind of putting our platform in the face of communities that were pre-existing, where we weren’t asking them to do something entirely new, that the product was influencing them to do.

But instead we’re trying to find ways that we can make it easier for them to do the things that they were already doing. So in that case, if you are a club head and you spend a ton of your time in your university community center collecting like $20 bills from people who are passing by versus you creating a link where anybody could send $20 and sign up for the event, we didn’t ask you to make a brand new event or do something totally different, but we made it easier for you to facilitate that one action. So, that behavior itself became a really interesting way that we used to tackle acquisition.

And then we also put those people in localized groups where we had a Tilt ambassador group, which helped us grow very, very rapidly, where we put a bunch of power users in one group where they could talk with each other and even sub groups within that. So, more universities as well.

AO: Very, very cool. Can you tell me about the competitive piece? How you’re leveraging that to make the group go more viral? 

Emily Lonetto: Yeah, so leveraging natural competitiveness is always an interesting one. And you see that even like outside of the examples of Tilt, where for instance, during March madness you see hoards of people who are jumping on their favorite teams, and you see gambling sites who are going crazy over that and capitalizing on that, or even in the early days of Dropbox, when they did the referral challenge space race, where they had different universities on a leaderboard. And based on the number of university signups, the universities in the top few spots got the most storage.

And similarly with tilts, we capitalize on natural rivalries that pre-existed. So, I’m not as familiar. So excuse me, I’m Canadian. So I don’t know, as, as many of the rivalries in the States in terms of universities or colleges, as you guys say, but one of the things that we did was we very quickly latched on to some of those competitive spirits and would launch challenges against each other, or we’d use leaderboards to kind of influence how many people they invited on or how many people or who had the largest parties that were hosted on to did X action the amount of times, who ordered the most coffees, things like that. That just got people riled up because they wanted to represent their school. And it didn’t feel like an individual user behavior. Instead it became something that was much grander than that.

AO: That’s amazing. Are there any kind of metrics that you can cite in terms of the impact for Tilt’s business at that time based on that? Cause, it sounds like you would work.

Emily Lonetto: Yeah, I mean absolutely our ambassador program started off as like a tiny little test at the time. I think there were 10 when it first began and then went to 50. Then we were sitting at 200 for a while and got this quota to get 10,000 as an example. 

If there’s any small example of what exponential growth looks like, experiments work. Like those numbers alone really showcase what that looks like. For context, it took us about a year and a half to get to 200 and about half a year to get to a couple thousand.

So, it quickly became a very, very engaging and very positive way of us achieving growth beyond that, in terms of numbers. We were getting like applications in like dozens per day at one point. When we peaked maybe like 50 or 60, and we had to find ways to automate how we interviewed. And we created a separate onboarding for ambassadors, they knew how to talk about our product.

So when they were in communities, by themselves or in the field or wherever it was they felt that they weren’t just a user of the platform, they were part of something bigger. And so that became very big in terms of numbers and even changed our roadmap.

AO: That is really, really cool. So, if we can stick with this one, how can we replicate this? I mean, yeah, nothing we can do exactly. But, it just seems like there’s a lot here that we can learn from. Did you do all this from communities, all of these ambassadors that were coming, was that all just a result of the impact of the way you were targeting communities?

Emily Lonetto: I think it’s a little bit of both. You can always approach communities in a sense of do I target existing communities as a way of acquiring users of a certain personality type or have a certain behavior. And the other is how do you create communities from people who may not have been targeted that way? So, we kind of did a little bit of both where, when we were thinking about, okay, who do we target at what time. We almost, at one point, had like a war map of what universities were going after. And what similarities that they had, did they have rivalries?

Like what was the difference between a city school versus a campus school? Things like that, down to the pact of outside of that university. Let’s talk about the actual individual user, is this your quintessential, party kegger thrower student, who’s going to be throwing large parties all the time. So, a 100 to 200 person tilts or payment processing campaigns, or is it going to be someone who’s more of like your head of household type, that one organized friend that does all of your bills and always pays for everything and is trying to get you guys to do like a camping trip.

That helped us to form micro-communities within that, where we would connect some of these more evangelized types of users who are your student organizers together in one group, despite what their university was, and despite their acquisition channel. And we ended up forming our own bits of community and a lot of that boiled into the archetypes that we had in our ambassador program and eventually our like Tilt churn programs, our Tilt intern program and our lead program and so on and so forth.

AO: So, are you putting these similar users, say the head of a sorority at one university and trying to get them to go to the same group as someone who’s in a similar position at a different university, or are they all local group connections that you’re doing?

Emily Lonetto: All of that was a test like in, and I would say to anybody that it’s going to be totally dependent on the user behaviors of the actual audience that you’re building, but with Tilt as an example, like we had, for instance, a huge group of ambassadors who are, let’s say sorority socials or fraternity socials from all across America in one group, or we also had in similar States where in Canada, we had a bunch of, let’s say your student club organizer types, who are all in one group, and we’re always talking about those types of things or your party organizers. So that’s more based on use case. 

We also experimented with localized groups, where we had a group for tilts, like tilt X, university, another university, so on and so forth. And they were all boiled down and boiled up into one larger ambassador group. So it’s almost like creating a whole other sub-community, think about it almost as a more personal forum or another place for people to meet virtually.

AO: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. And then the common ground, the similarities, they connect on that. This is really good. Tell me about the outreach for getting people into those communities. Was that mainly done by the people, like by the ambassadors? Could you talk about that?

Emily Lonetto: Yeah. So it boiled down from a bunch of different things. At the beginning, it’s always gonna start with, you have to find your first follower or your first person. So typically via outreach you might go out and do word of mouth and try to figure out if someone knows somebody, or identify, let’s say a leader at a given community. So, that’s one way of thinking about it. After that you want to start to find referrals from those people. Ideally. 

So, how can you multiply that type of user that is going to become the general archetype of the community that you’re building? Because there’s additional factors that you have to think about when it comes to community that aren’t as black and white as data and your product would be, where you have to think about personalities, like language connotations, and about how you can bring them together that way. So, referrals were a big source of that as well. And a lot of it was kind of organic referrals through our original group of ambassadors. Then we started to put money into it where we were starting to run paid ads to get people to sign up and apply for the position. We started to use that as ways to activate users on the platform to learn about them, get product feedback, do group orientations and make them feel like they were part of the product team as well.

AO: This is really cool. I would think, you get that one person, they’ve got to be so bought in or this whole thing falls apart. If you’re doing that strategy. Right? Like, could you tell us about the rate at which people dropped off when you did that single influencer outreach and then referral method?

Emily Lonetto: Yeah. At the beginning, I always find that your first one’s always the hardest. And then you want to always try to get to like 10 or at least that’s how I’ve been trying to do it ever since. You’ll want to find like, who are your moderator type people, who are aligned based on what type of community, what the mission is that you’re trying to solve.  Most likely you’re trying to find non-transactional influence people. So, these are people that are not going to be motivated by you giving them like a thousand dollars to do something, but instead are motivated by let’s say other types of rewards, whether they be in kind, access to stuff, maybe even a greater connection with the company. In a lot of cases, we had those types of people. I would say like the drop-off was actually not that high in the early stages, because we were a lot pickier with who those people were. And we had a lot more time to build actual relationships with those early investors that we knew them by name, it wasn’t like, it was just user 72 who churned. It was like Renee from X university who loves to cook and also watches the same movies as you.

So in that case, it’s like when you’re almost projecting for churn. And that goes back into the buffer thing that I was talking about originally. And you kind of see more churn as you start to scale that program and it becomes less personal and that’s why you have to continue to find and replicate those moderator type people.

AO: This is incredible. Are you doing any moderating of the group themselves? Like once they’re up and running, how much time are you spending on trying to make sure that there’s still conversation and that bad things aren’t being said, and stuff like that?

Emily Lonetto: Yeah. I mean, the good and bad about community is that it’s a wild beast. Your job as a community builder or someone in growth, who’s trying to build this, as you’re kind of building like the pen, but you can’t control what the people inside are doing or what they’re saying really. You can kind of give them objects or give them cues on certain things that you might want them to do. So, I always call that, setting up rituals. And I do that even now with, for context, like Voiceflow uses community all the time for everything. We put all of our voice designers and developers into a group. Now we have one of the largest communities of people who are building for Alexa and Google in the world. They’re in that group not because they always want to just talk about Voiceflow, but instead, because they’re thought-sharing and trying to help each other. It’s a very cohesive and positive community, and that comes from some of the rituals we set up. So, on the first day of every week, we tag every single person that joins the community, in a long post and sometimes even do a video where we’re welcoming them to the community. And that’s like hundreds of people per week. So, it’s not a small feat anymore. And the same situation where we have those moderator types where we reward them. We know them by name. We add them to our Slack channel to make sure that they keep helping to moderate plans. We can’t always facilitate what’s going on in the group, it starts to kind of take on a life of its own. You can try to keep it into a certain thing, but it’s really more about making sure that you remain active in those groups and that you align yourself with those strong moderators.

AO: Wow. Emily, this has been amazing. Thank you so much for just helping us understand this, and the success has been really cool. Is there any more impact statement that you could have? Cause this sounds like it’s been amazing and you cited a little bit in terms of the growth, but like, is there any higher business impact that you can see? Potentially revenue or something like that?

Emily Lonetto: Yeah. Absolutely, one of the best things about community that I think often comes up as a lot of people aren’t sure about ROI when it comes to community. A lot of people will think about it as like, Oh, it’s a cool little experiment off the side of my desk, but I don’t know how to calculate that into revenue, into conversions, into actual business value. And what I always try to think about this is that building a community group like this, is basically building one of the most curated audience lists that you could ever do. And one that you can ask to multiply instead of running them through an algorithm to go and try to find lookalikes. You can tap into them when you need referrals, when you’re low on acquisitions. They will most likely be a higher percentage of conversion when you have new features that require upgrading. They will help blast things when you do new features. Often times even with Tilt, we used a product called Thunderclap where we would actually get our community and ambassador members to queue up new product features to post at the same time.

So, we could almost guarantee we’d go viral. Like all of those things directly impact your acquisition, your activation and your revenue. And so when it comes to ROI and community, it’s honestly a no brainer in that sense. And it’s data that we’ll keep talking back to you. I don’t know if you’ve ever spoken directly to a dashboard, who’s told you what it was feeling, but it’s very rare that that happens.

AO: Emily, thank you so much. I’ve really enjoyed this. I think our listeners are gonna love it and will be able to directly apply this right now. I’m just thinking to myself how we can apply that to our business. So thank you so much.

Emily Lonetto: Yeah, no problem. Thanks for having me.

That’s it. Another great episode The One Growth Show the official podcast of Growth Marketing Conference to learn more about upcoming events visit and subscribe to the newsletter. If you enjoy this episode, let us know. We’d really appreciate if you give us a 5-star rating, it’s super easy, just click the last star on iTunes and also share this episode on social media after all you want your network to know you’re the person they can always turn to for the best growth and marketing content, don’t you?

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LinkedIn Saved Searches: The Lead Gen Magnet You Never Knew You Had

Matt Heinz, president of Heinz Marketing, works lead generation miracles with LinkedIn saved searches. He just sets alerts for the right saved searches and then delivers a daily set of personalized messages to everyone who ran them - driving 15-20 quality leads (25% response rate!) per day. Tune into this podcast to learn exactly how he did it - and start adding more zeroes to your bottom line!

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Episode Summary Introduction:

MH: Taking LinkedIn “save searches” and converting that into a daily set of contextual qualified conversations with new leads. I’m adding at least 15-20 new contacts a day to our database. I’m getting replies from about 25% of those and in the last year that we are really going to ramp up doing now. We’re not given specific numbers. It’s been material, not just a new pipeline, but we’ve gotten a significant new deal from it as well.

Adam O’Donnell: Boom, welcome to The One Growth Show brought to you by Growth Marketing Conference. We are the only podcast in the world that breaks down a growth experiment or delivers an actionable growth strategy.
No fluff no nonsense so you can get back to your day and start making a real difference to your bottom line.

We’re your hosts. I’m Jorge Soto.

I’m Adam O’Donnell, here we go.

AO: Matt explains how he takes LinkedIn “save searches” and turns them into this daily set of personalized messages with new leads using a few simple tools. I was excited to hear about the

15 to 20 new contacts that he’s generating each day. And of course the 25% response rate, but most importantly he’s about to share exactly how he’s doing it, all the tools, all the details so you can start doing it with your business.

Here’s Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing.  

MH: We’ve got a bunch of them, sort of set up, in a different context. But I will give you a sort of ABM example. So a company that’s doing ABM is a good target for us, if they’re thinking about doing it they’re not doing it very well. They’re trying to figure out a scale it that context is usually pretty good for us.

So I set up a “saved search” on LinkedIn. It says “show me anybody that is a member of a LinkedIn group around ABM” and I’m not a huge fan of all LinkedIn groups. People don’t really use it very often, but people do join them. Any given day I can go back to that same search and say oh, there are six new people that have joined the ABM group. And so I can see that search result it will show me who’s in that, you know who newly joined the ABM group and then with a sidebar to my browser from LeadIQ, I can see which of those people I’m already connected to, I could see it which of them are already in my database, I can see which of them I have mail address for or don’t and if I don’t have them in my email address yet.

I’ll capture that contact and by capturing it with some filters on that LeadIQ dashboard I can immediately add them to an ABM Prospect warm-up sequence in Outreach. So now in one click, I found someone related to the topic. I’ve added them to my database and I’ve automatically put them onto a new sales engagement Outreach sequence.

AO: Very cool. So I want to start at the top. What made you realize that this was the right type of person? This is the right indication activity joining an ABM group. Is there anything you can tell us? Or was that just kind of obvious? I mean, obviously we know that that shows some kind of intent.

MH: Well it wasn’t, I mean, I wouldn’t say it was completely obvious. I think there are some associations people make that really aren’t, don’t mean that they are actively engaged in something. We found over time that people that were joining ABM groups tended to be those that were new to ABM and therefore ABM wasn’t something they really understood very well.

And these are big companies and small companies. This is people within a big company that was another group may be done ABM, but their group hasn’t so we just learned by trial and error that the context and quality of that audience were good and we were able to because we knew a lot of people that were doing that activity on LinkedIn weren’t very well versed in a company’s marketing yet.

The sequence in Outreach is all about giving them tools and messages and content that help make them better. So we offer them a copy of our “ABM getting started workbook”. We offer them access to our content around “why ABM programs stall” and so it’s all “give”, right? And then at the end of that sequence, we ask them if there’s other content they need or if they want to take advantage of our B2B office hours and talk about their program.

Of course, not everybody takes advantage of that. But by giving them something of value, you know holding hopefully building up a case that we’ve got some credibility and then offering some customized personalized feedback. We were able to get a pretty nice response rate.

AO: I love it. Can you help me with exactly how you select? How you’re doing the technical piece of the ABM group selection? Is that Sales Navigator?

MH: It is linked in Sales Navigator, right. We’ve got some sales enablement searches set up. We’ve got some searches just based on people that meet our target account and target contact criteria that are new in their role. And also if you’re looking for new CMOs, you can set up a search of “show me all the people in a certain market or certain category that are C-Level in marketing, who have had that job for less than a year”. And of course, the first set of criteria is going to be massive. But if you leave that search set up like every time someone new qualifies, it means that they literally just change their profile to CMO of a new company.

AO: Got it, but how are you knowing that they just added to a new group?

MH: Well, I mean this is basically what Linkedin search criteria lets you do that. What you do is say “show me in any given time”. So when I do the search today people that are in this, in that, these companies of certain size, it has this title that is in this role and shows me anybody that is a member of either specific LinkedIn groups or groups with names that include AMB. So in our case, we went and we found a bunch of ABM groups and just said, okay, we’ll just show us anyone that’s in those groups and then keep this search alive so that you can that anytime you go back to LinkedIn you can if you go to your search results, it will say it will have a little red number that red number it says 13. It means since the last time you were here thirteen new people qualify on this list, which means 13 people now have added themselves as contacts in those ABM groups.

AO: I love it. This is brilliant. It’s so basic but so good. You get those 13 people, now help us a little bit more with the LeadIQ. So I’m sure you’re not doing it but what is getting those searching people and then getting using LeadIQ. Can you paint a little bit more of a picture of that?

MH: Yeah. So there’s a LeadIQ the way we use there’s a sidebar on the side of our browser and it basically once we get into that list, so like I click on that 13, it’s going to show me in a sort of list view search results in LinkedIn who has 13 people are what lead IQ the sidebar it when it recognizes you’re looking at actual people within LeadIQ, it’s gonna go actually pull those people into the sidebar. So you’re looking at 13 people and in the LinkedIn search result and on the sidebar you’re looking at those same 13 people, in summary, so you can see their picture. You can see their name, you can see their title. And then we got something really crazy, really smart. They actually have it connected with my Salesforce. I have it connected with Outreach and I have it connected with Marketo. So it will actually hang all of those groups with an API and say do you recognize this person, is this person in your system? And these little icons will show up underneath their picture and so I can have those 13 people I can see. Okay, these people are having Salesforce, these people I don’t have in Outreach sequence these people I don’t and if there are no icons it means that they don’t recognize them at all.

And so I can click a little plus button then next to their profile in LeadIQ and add them to our database and at the top of that sidebar you can say Okay, add these people to certain LeadIQ lead lists, but then you can also say also add them to the ABM Prospect warm-up campaign within Outreach. And so if you click that plus it will add it to the LeadIQ list if you want it can automatically add it in Salesforce, but we’ll also initiate a sequence of your choosing within some. So one of the reasons I love the LeadIQ side of this is one click all that stuff just happens.

AO: That is so cool. So tell us about when it goes to Lead IQ, it goes into Outreach and using that to do the nurture? 

MH: Yeah, so the nurture happening in Outreach, right and you can and LeadIQ works with both Outreach and Salesloft so you can sell it. You can create those sequences in your sales enablement tool for your sales engagement tool and just tell just LeadIQ which you want to set them up for. So I’ve got another one where you know, I can look at people that have liked my content on LinkedIn do the same kind of search and I’ve got a short sequence of content that goes out to people that have some time on LinkedIn to say, Hey, thanks for engaging with my content. Appreciate it. Let me know if it’s other stuff you’d like to see, us right moving forward. So, you know, there could be multiple sequences with different contexts of search results you use. They can ultimately turn into drip campaigns out to those prospects.

AO: Got it. What would you do when one of these 13 people were added to this new ABM group? They’re all new people to you. What happens is some of them don’t have the first connections to someone. How are you approaching that?  

MH: Well, LeadIQ is also getting us their contact information. So the drip campaign isn’t happening within LinkedIn. It’s going to them directly.  

AO: That’s amazing. This is so good. Could you tell us a little bit more about that first message for that specific one? I know you mentioned the other messages “I know you’re trying to learn in the community. We would love to help you.” Is there anything else you can tell us about that first message?

MH: Yeah. The key to making this work, it is not saying “hey, I noticed someone is potentially new trying ABM in the organization. Let me sell them something”, right? I think the key for us in our sequences is to intentionally don’t sell anything. We don’t offer anything. We don’t even talk about what our services are. If someone we think we believe is new to ABM it’s all about helping them discover content. We have things to make the program better. As I said, we’ve got an “ABM for beginners” workbook. It will offer them. No strings attached. We’ve got a handful of content. It really sorts of summarizes our experience for why AMBs fail and why AMB’s stall and how to get around. We’ve got one it talks about just the critical nature of sales and marketing alignment as it relates to sustainable account-based marketing and so basically the drip campaign just progressively offers and highlights access to these pieces of content and then it usually ends with what other ABM challenges you’re facing. We’ve got 11 years’ worth of content here. What else can we share or what else can we create for you that’s customized to your needs? So it still an offer but it’s still entirely focused on just helping make them smart.

JS: How are your response rates now compared to other campaigns. Are you seeing this as a consistent leader and how are you thinking in terms of omnichannel engagement here?  

MH: Well, yeah, I mean, so if we were to go out and just buy a list of people that may or may not be doing ABM or if I said, hey, here’re the companies that we think would be the good target was just in discriminately email them about ABM, email about sales enablement or whatever topic. I don’t think it would be as likely to hit the mark. I also think that it’s not just the context in which we found them but the way that we engage them across those campaigns. One thing we’ve been testing lately is going back to some of those individuals that haven’t yet engaged with the email campaign and sending them a LinkedIn request. And I felt like this was a little more aggressive. I see what happens, these people who clearly they’re opening an email, they’re not responding. So if I send them a LinkedIn request from me, because the emails are coming from me, they were responding initially to get content from me. Could I get them at least to accept an invite to start a conversation that way? And we’re at like 90% of acceptance rate on those LinkedIn invites.

So trying to think about how we do this across multiple channels. How do we do this with good content as the primary sort of offer and to a certain extent not really worried about getting them to convert it into a business or sales conversation until they’re ready, until today in this year?

AO: So the only other question I had, Jorge unless you have anything else which is roadblocks.

MH: Yeah. Um, so this is not a completely automated process. This is something that you have to do, once you find someone on LeadIQ and you have your settings set up and it can automate integration across those platforms.

But you know, you still have to manually go in and review those LinkedIn search results. There’s a manual effort required and I think you have to know enough about the subject matter. You have to know about the audience to know okay, occasionally, there are people you don’t want to add to that sequence. Occasionally, there are people doing the number of the right title or not throwing company or you know, maybe have other interests in mind.
So I think you know the roadblock is we’ve you know, we’ve talked to other companies by doing this is just creating a consistent habit of going in and setting up an optimizing and searching those search results. And I also think about the other roadblock for companies implementing this, I think has been trying to treat those prospects as sales-ready prospects too early just because they want the white paper doesn’t mean they’re ready for a demo. So I think continuing to engage people with value will keep them engaged, keep them wanting to hear more from you will make it so that when they are ready to engage when they’re ready to buy they’re coming back to you.

AO: Matt, thank you so much for your time. We learned so much

That’s it. Another great episode The One Growth Show the official podcast of Growth Marketing Conference to learn more about upcoming events visit and subscribe to the newsletter. If you enjoy this episode, let us know. We’d really appreciate if you give us a 5-star rating, it’s super easy, just click the last star on iTunes and also share this episode on social media after all you want your network to know you’re the person they can always turn to for the best growth and marketing content, don’t you?

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From $800K to 4M in 24 Months: Tony Yang’s Special Trade Association Strategy That Will 5X Your ARR.

Take it from Tony Yang, the high-flying VP of Marketing at Qordoba (the extraordinarily successful “Grammarly for Enterprise)! He researched accounting trade associations of every kind - studying how they operate, what they’re really looking for - to create affinity programs. He even gave their members free single-user accounts as a lead gen strategy. By sacrificing profit early, they raked in more than they ever thought possible later. Tune into this podcast to hear it all! Your bottom line will thank you!

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Episode Summary Introduction:

Tony Yang: I think a key part of it is really understanding what’s in it for them, the association as well as the accountants and the CPAs.

Obviously, we knew the value of proposition to accountants but understanding how the associations operate, the reasons why they exist, help us to understand “all right, how do we structure some sort of partnership program that benefits them?”

Adam O’Donnell: Boom, welcome to The One Growth Show brought to you by Growth Marketing Conference. We are the only podcast in the world that breaks down a growth experiment or delivers an actionable growth strategy.

No fluff no nonsense so you can get back to your day and start making a real difference to your bottom line.

We’re your hosts. I’m Jorge Soto.

I’m Adam O’Donnell, here we go.

AO: Tony explains how he partnered with trade associations, created an offering that was unique for their members, and then the association sent it out on their behalf. I love how this is literally little to no cost on there in the way that they set it up. They were able to grow their business from 800,000 ARR to 4 million in two years. And Tony said this is one of their primary strategies. I learned a lot from this episode. You’re going to love it.

Here’s Tony Yang, VP of Marketing at Qordoba.

TY: The one that comes to mind a company that I was at a start-up with an outgoing call to detail. It was a file transfer service. So we compete against companies as YouSendIt with Trent rebranded to high tail and then it was also in the early days of cloud storage. We competed against Dropbox and Box before, you know, they explode and got really big. And the company that I was with was his bootstraps startup so we had no money. We had to be very creative. So long story short, after talking to some of our customers and noticing weird usage patterns. I noticed that a lot of CPA firms use their service, but we’re sending small files because the valley probably time sent large files that you can’t email and attach your email and business users on a setup FTP server, right?

So anyway, I talked to them and found out that look they liked it for the security and audit trail capabilities because they’re sending client confidential documents.

It was like, duh, of course in hindsight it makes a lot of sense. So fast forward, a couple of months after we’ve really honed down understanding this new market that we weren’t specifically addressed.

We went and found that every single state has a state CPA Association.

What we did was we created an affinity program.

This was in the early days where we started using Drupal, you know, some web CMSs but really a database-driven website where we created a basic limp template and customize each of these websites specifically for the California CPA Association, Maryland CPA Association, we did all the work. I had at a time a great copy, compelling value proposition, call to action: for your remembers, we’re going to give you a free account.

We were offering a free trial at the time for businessmen market and businesses, but we were gaming them, single-user, free account and that was a benefit that they provided to their members who joined them based on the membership fee. For us it was a lead gen mechanism, right? And so we started to create all these reaching out to these people at these associations who ran partnership some of them didn’t even have partnership program, but we start to get a little traction in a CPA world because we start to get more visibility.

People started to use a product more because they got free access to this and say look I can use this for my firm across the board and that’s how we started getting more. You know, not quite enterprise because I think the average selling price was like $20-30K annual but you know, it was a great program that we just created, it didn’t really cost us anything other than our investment into the time.  

AO: That’s huge. You know, though. Could you give me something on in terms of the results? Could you give us any more specifics on the actual results?  

TY: When I join, we were a four-person startup, we had, I want to say $800K ARR as a business again, it was a bootstrap startup. And then I was with them for about two years. By the time I left, we were around $4 million. And again, I asked the CEO when I joined, what’s my marking budget and he looked at me and said you’re it, you are the budget.

I mean that’s kind of an exaggeration, but our budget was very small, right? So to grow to that point, I think required a lot of creativity and this was the early days when “growth hacking” wasn’t really an established term and also it wasn’t a misused term as it is today.

And we tried a lot of different things like that, didn’t really require a direct budget to buy ads. For example, now we ran marketing and we ran Google search ads and stuff like that.

But yeah, I can’t remember because we had like I want to say 7 to 10 or so of these established by the time I left and of course some of them had no bearing they all have degrees of success. 

AO: Can we zoom in if I was trying to go do the same approach and I wanted to go and start to select some associations to target, create a good outreach for them and then create this membership strategy that you had. Could you tell us step by step how you went about doing it?

TY: Okay. So what I would say is your mileage may vary, because obviously every business is different. And the main reason why we start to take that approach because we spent time understanding our customers when we started selling as I mentioned the product was focused on large file transfer, and we noticed this anomaly and we started seeing this trend of people using us not sending large files – why? And, really understand your customers is the first step. 

Because once we start to notice this trend we were able to understand a little bit what were the commonalities and obviously for this it was, CPA firms. Understanding the unique needs of accountants and how they handle files was really critical.  

And only then do we realize – Okay, what are interesting ways that can we reach out to this audience? Found out that we didn’t notice at a time every state has a CPA Association. You need to be a member in order to be a certified public accountant, right? And so we thought okay, there’s built-in audiences of people that we feel like we have a very strong story to tell, strong value proposition. How do we get in front of them and tell that story, right?

A key part of it is really understanding what’s in it for them – the association as well for the accountants, the CPAs, obviously, we knew the value proposition to the accountants, but understanding how the associations operate and the reasons why they exist helps us to understand – All right, how do we structure some sort of partnership program that benefits them?

For them, they want to be able to provide benefits to their members that may be paying them an annual fee, right? And you know, some of these benefits can include things like 10% discount to your local Staples to buy office supplies and not a lot of them had access to new at the time software like this to enable them to help them do their jobs.  

And a lot of times they didn’t understand, you know, the technical aspect of setting up an online web portal for file transfer and services and all that stuff.

So, you know, I think the benefit for the association was you can provide this additional benefit to you and your members, we’re going to do it for free. We’re going to give it to you for free. No cost it’s cool-branded with your logo and our site and all you have to do is you know work with us to promote this benefit for your members and we’re upfront, the benefit to us is to be able to get in front of your members so that we can build a business.

AO: Two more questions just before you go. First, what was the title of the person you are reaching out to at the association?

TY: The title is varied and a lot of times these associations are run by very small groups of people and so it wasn’t very difficult. Generally speaking, if you go to these websites you could find contact information for members benefits, someone who manages member benefits or member programs. In some associations, they did have partnership types of business development people and so we would reach out to those people and say, hey, look we’ve already built this site for your association, that was key. We did all the leg work all the hard work ahead of time and said, look, here’s it, these are all ready for you, all you guys need to do is let your members know that this is available to them.

It’s co-branded and all that stuff, right? So now that pointer like wow, this is great. There’s no cost or anything for us? We said, no. And you know, that’s how we began setting up that type of affinity program.

AO: I love it. So who’s in charge of the membership offer? And then what was this offer split for y’all, for your company? Like were you giving them 20% or something like that?

TY: No. No. So for people who actually signed up for the service, it was a free service. We didn’t offer that free service on our own website. It wasn’t widely available at that time.

We were offering a free trial and then business and you know, quote-unquote, enterprise type of subscription plans. And when we reached out and set up this affinity program, we created a special subscription plan, essentially it was a single user and we structure the products so that a single person, individual CPA could use it and find value and gets it aha moment.  

Because there’s plenty of individual CPAs out there, plenty of accountant centers operate their own business and that’s fine. We want them to utilize the product because there’s also that referral built into it.

But again, CPA firms and organizations, they all have to be a part of these member associations as well.

So it was a way for us to really tap into that market. But yeah to answer your question. We basically created a whole new product subscription. The product itself was essentially the same. Of course, it was paired down in terms of features and functionality. But you know, it was made specifically for this type of program and then you know, obviously there’s upsell opportunities.

We got our sales team involved and say hey look, you know this CPA company from this organization signed up, you can proactively try to do some outreach to them.  

Really uncovering a new market that we didn’t know we needed to address or that we had a strong story to tell and certainly that was one area where are also local regional associations that a lot of you know firms were part of that had a different approach, you know more of a traditional approach where we sponsor, you know, a half-day workshop.

You know, we saw because of uncovering that new market and understanding how they operate we did this campaign with the Southern Association, that’s not part of the state. The numbers that I do remember were I spent about $10K to sponsor, which basically meant I sent a couple of sales guys, we had a tabletop booth out there, half-day workshop that they have every once in a while. But we also had the ability to run a webinar where we invited one of their members that were a customer to co-present with me to talk about the business case to talk about how they’re using it and the value, and then we followed up with some, you know, quote-unquote nurture email programs and sales follow-up week.  

I remember specifically $10,000 and direct investment. We won about $150K in terms of annual deals from that one program. And so that was like a 10x ROI for us.

So, you know, obviously, we would try to find other ways to replicate that it’s not always successful.

But you know, I think the key for me was really uncovering, listening to how or understanding how product users use your product perhaps in ways that you didn’t understand or foresee and

figure out there is a new market that you haven’t been addressing before and that would lead you to the different perhaps new marketing strategy that you haven’t thought of previously.

AO: That’s it. Another great episode The One Grow shows the official podcast of growth marketing conference to learn more about upcoming events.

That’s it. Another great episode The One Growth Show the official podcast of Growth Marketing Conference to learn more about upcoming events visit and subscribe to the newsletter. If you enjoy this episode, let us know. We’d really appreciate if you give us a 5-star rating, it’s super easy, just click the last star on iTunes and also share this episode on social media after all you want your network to know you’re the person they can always turn to for the best growth and marketing content, don’t you?

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