“Growth hacker” might be overrated as a professional designation, but many businesses are becoming increasingly aware that traditional marketing alone isn’t enough to stay competitive in today’s changing business landscape. As a result, the terms “growth marketing” and “growth team” are being thrown around more and more frequently as business goals – even though many […]
“Growth hacker” might be overrated as a professional designation, but many businesses are becoming increasingly aware that traditional marketing alone isn’t enough to stay competitive in today’s changing business landscape. As a result, the terms “growth marketing” and “growth team” are being thrown around more and more frequently as business goals – even though many of the people using them have no idea what a growth team is or how to build one. In this article, I’ll break down the difference between growth and marketing, as well as describe what growth teams look like and how to plan for one based on your company’s unique needs.
Growth vs. Marketing
Before we get too far into this discussion, it’s important that we define what the difference between growth and marketing is:
Marketing is top-of-the-funnel, and typically involves looking at the impact individual promotional channels have on performance metrics like leads, traffic, email opt-ins and sales.
Growth involves a broader scope, encompassing the product or service itself. Sometimes that means changing the offering to better align with what’s needed for effective marketing. It might also involve adjusting the positioning, onboarding or activation workflows, or business structure at a high level to increase the odds of success.
Basically, growth is company-wide and encompasses the full funnel. Marketing is more tactical. As Alex Birkett notes on the ConversionXL blog: “In the past, marketing teams focused primarily on the very top-of-the-funnel, measuring impressions, mind share, leads, etc. A growth team, however, is largely overlapped with product, engineering, and design as well. A growth team is made up of many different skill sets and can more easily push through ideas and experimentation that crosses traditional silos and boundaries.”
Who’s Who on a Growth Team
Knowing that a growth team should be more cross-departmental in nature than a marketing team gives you some insight into the kinds of roles you’ll find on each. I’ve written about this on the Web Profits blog, but a few of the roles that may be involved in growth teams include:
Social Media & Community Manager
Full Stack Developer
Each of these seven roles is discussed in more detail in the original article, but beyond them, your growth team might also involve those in business intelligence, sales, customer service, customer success, design, engineering and UX/UI. Having said that, not all of these roles need to be filled at once – and they don’t necessarily need to be filled by full-time, traditional hires. One of the things I like to do is work with contractors first. Not only can you let go of contractors more easily if they aren’t working out for you, but there are plenty of situations where contractors can get you faster results (or where long-term employees aren’t really needed). For example, suppose you’re a Fortune 500 company, and you realize that you need to double-down on your SEO to facilitate growth. You’re going to be doing things like optimizing pages, writing new content and building links. Working with multiple contractors lets you tap into specialized skillsets much faster than you could with traditional employees. And, if you get the channel working eventually, you can always move it in-house. Another thing I like to do is borrow team members from other departments. If I’m just starting the process of shifting from tactical marketing to broader growth, I might go to my product manager and say, “Hey, can I grab eight hours from you this month?” Or maybe it’s, “Hey designer, I need 10 hours of your time.” This creates a growth mentality internally and gets people to understand and buy into their role in supporting growth (all without adding extra unnecessary cost up front). One thing you’ll need in all situations is a growth champion. This might be a VP of Growth, a VP of Marketing or even the CEO at a small startup. Regardless of the title, you need someone to lead the team who has more product experience, and who – ideally – has worked with designers and engineers before. You need someone who can explain the intricacies of growth, as well as get ideas actioned. Once you understand the different roles you may want to consider, as well as your options for filling them, you can plan your specific growth team based on highest impact or biggest bottlenecks.
Finding Your Bottlenecks and Highest Priorities
When it comes to building a team, a lot of people focus on where they want to be. They don’t look at where they are right now, where they want to go, and what kind of people they actually need to get there. Pierre Lechelle notes that looking at growth may not even be appropriate until you’ve proved that your company has reached product-market fit: “Being in business is all about focusing on the right thing at the right moment. Before Growth, you should be focusing on understanding the needs of your customers. If you don’t know (yet) if you reached Product / Market Fit, chances are that you need to work a little more on your product before experimenting on Growth.” So when I’m building a growth team, the first thing I try to understand are the bottlenecks in a business and its funnels. That tells me which growth roles I need to fill first, as well as what it’ll take to create an effective team. Let me give you an example. At my company Narrow.io, our goal this year is to double growth. Knowing where we want to go, we have a lot of levers we can play with. We have churn, our traffic numbers, our conversion rate, our activation rate and more. Those are all things we’ve been monitoring monthly year after year. Looking at this data, we realized we don’t really have a conversion problem. Because we don’t offer a free trial and people have to pay to access our tool, our conversion rates have always been pretty high. But what we did discover was that, if new subscribers failed to set up our system correctly within the first 90 days, they were going to churn. And since word of mouth is such a big channel for us, any churn also means a corresponding decrease in referrals. To figure out where we could make changes, our team started looking at support logs and talking to customers. We offered to look at hundreds of their campaigns for free, which took us about 20 minutes each. But we quickly found a few weaknesses, like a toggle button subscribers were missing or mistakes in the way they were entering search criteria. Changing our onboarding and activation workflows had an immediate impact on churn and referrals. But let’s say you don’t have this kind of data. Let’s say you’re just starting out, and you need more traffic before you can do anything else. Maybe, where we needed to focus on filling more of a customer success role at Narrow.io, you need to hire a traditional marketing team. You might want to hire a PPC person, an SEO specialist, a social media manager or a marketing generalist. Once you get more traffic, you’ll discover the other problems you need to solve with new members of your growth team.
Using Experimental Frameworks to Prioritize Your Bottlenecks
In a perfect world, your company’s bottlenecks – as well as their solutions – would be obvious. You’d crunch some numbers, spot the challenges immediately, and either pull internal resources or hire out to resolve them. Actually prioritizing your bottlenecks and taking action on them is rarely that straightforward in the real world. Instead, you’re likely to face:
Multiple bottlenecks, without a clear understanding of what should be resolved first
Limited resources to put into product development or new hires
Internal team members who are already overburdened and unable to take on new growth responsibilities
Deciding how to move forward can be made easier with an experimental framework like “ICE” (which stands for impact, confidence, ease). I generally focus on achieving the highest impact with the least amount of work, which often means making non-technical changes. In the case of Narrow.io, after listening to feedback from our customers, we asked ourselves, “What’s the minimal engineering involved?” If customers are stuck in activation, for example, we could have solved it by either reworking the UX to be clearer or investing in better process documentation and support. But one of those options was a lot less expensive and required less time, resources and specialized knowledge to achieve – so we went with better training. Crunch the numbers to the extent you’re able to. Estimate what the impact on your business metrics will be for each proposed solution to your bottlenecks, as well as what the full costs will be to implement each. Your estimates won’t always be right, but as you gather performance data, you’ll be able to iterate continually by revisiting your experimental framework.
Putting It All Together
Ultimately, building a growth team comes down to understanding where your company is strong, where it’s weak, and which of these disconnects must be overcome in order to facilitate sustained growth. It’s not about doing as many experiments as you can or filling spots on a team because some guy on the internet said you should. It’s about talking to customers, figuring out your bottlenecks, and understanding what it’ll take to fix them. It’s about making the biggest impact possible with the fewest resources possible, tapping into internal or external talent as needed to achieve your goals. Once you begin operating from that mindset, the ideal structure for your growth team will become obvious. Have you built a growth team before? If so, what other tips would you add to mine? Leave me a comment below with your thoughts:
How HubSpot Ranked a Competitive Product Page in 3 Months (for a Product That Didn’t Exist Yet)
SEO is hard. SEO for product pages is even harder. SEO for product pages for products that don’t exist? Seemingly impossible. However, with the right approach, it’s really not much harder than ranking top-of-the-funnel blog content. In fact, the process can be scalable across multiple product pages and you can leverage quality content creation to […]
SEO is hard. SEO for product pages is even harder. SEO for product pages for products that don’t exist? Seemingly impossible. However, with the right approach, it’s really not much harder than ranking top-of-the-funnel blog content. In fact, the process can be scalable across multiple product pages and you can leverage quality content creation to do so (not just a high domain authority or thousands of pages and user generated content). At HubSpot, Scott Tousley and I took on the challenge of ranking product pages for products that are yet to exist. We did it through a traditional HubSpot content-heavy approach, and leveraged what is known as our Pillar & Cluster model (more details on this in a minute) to feed product page SEO (more details on the model in a bit). We also heavily invested in content promotion and link building tactics, which anyone can do, regardless of resources or company size. The results in only 3 months (October through December 2017) were solid. Here’s an example of our customer feedback software page ranking at number 3 (above companies with live products): In this article, I’ll walk through the higher level strategy of why we chose the approach we did, and then I’ll also dive into tactical tips to apply this knowledge at whatever business scale you’re operating.
Product Page SEO: An Indirect Content-Based Approach
It’s really hard to build links to product pages. For obvious reasons, those writing content are not jumping in excitement to write promotional pieces with product links. Some opportunities exist, but not enough to outrank product pages that have been around for years and that have acquired natural editorial links with time. Similarly, it’s not feasible to create massive content-heavy product pages. We needed something simple, because as I mentioned, the product wasn’t actually live yet. So to get past those hurdles, we leveraged link equity and site architecture. Specifically, we followed HubSpot’s Pillar and Cluster model and relied heavily on internal linking and external link building on our massive “Pillar” content. Let’s step back and define some of those terms, because there’s a bit of jargon here that’s necessary to understand.
Link Equity: Also known as “link juice,” it’s the idea that certain links pass value and authority from one page to another.
Site Architecture: The planning and structuring of website content.
Internal Linking: Hyperlinking content within your own site.
Pillar & Cluster model: A model created by HubSpot that values topics over keywords to boost SEO as well as UX.
While some of it is speculative, there are some general heuristics when it comes to link equity that come in handy when it comes to ranking product or transactional pages. According to an episode of Whiteboard Friday, here are three principles for link equity:
External links generally give more ranking value and potential ranking boosts than internal links.
Well-linked-to pages, both internal and external, pass more link equity than those that are poorly linked to.
Pages with fewer links tend to pass more equity to their targets than pages with more links.
With that in mind, we created massive guides for topics with lots of search traffic volume. These are our “pillar pages,” or in other words, our 10X content. We expected these to attract the most links, and we directed all of our link building efforts towards these pieces. We complemented these pillar pages with “cluster” content, articles with similar topic themes that focus on longer tail keywords. These linked back to our pillar pages as well as to each other. Finally, on all of our pillar pages and our cluster content, we linked as high on the page as possible to our product pages. Again, this is based on the HubSpot Pillar & Cluster framework, which looks like this, structurally: Image Source Or to get super specific, here’s the actual visualization we used to show our particular efforts: As a specific illustration, here are three pieces of content we created that actually correspond to this strategic architecture:
This video does a good job explaining the general gist of the idea. Essentially it’s an architectural view of content creation, particularly for blogging and SEO: This process of content planning is an iteration of website architecture, which is basically the “planning and design of the technical, functional and visual components of a website – before it is designed, developed and deployed.” It’s also a strategic method of content planning that helps build authority on specific topics. Image Source Organizing your site in a logical way isn’t just good for SEO, it’s good for user experience and navigation in general. With that in mind, here’s how the specific process looked when it came to content creation.
Planning Content for SEO Volume and Easier Link Acquisition
To start, we aligned our content from the bottom up, meaning we knew which products we were attempting to rank and had to work from bottom-of-the-funnel up to the top. So, let’s go back to our example, Customer Feedback Software. We knew we’d have a product page for this where people could actually sign up. But from there, we worked backwards to research which terms commanded the most search traffic around that theme. In this case, both Customer Feedback and Customer Satisfaction drove a ton of demand, so we created pillar pages for both of those that both linked back to the feedback software product page. Here are the specific pillar pages we ended up creating:
SEO research for the pillar pages also included comprehensive long tail keyword research based on questions we could answer on the broader topic. These longer tail keywords would eventually be spun out into individual cluster posts (i.e. blog posts), but also incorporated into the pillar content itself. Some of these posts included:
…and many, many more of course. These were more specific and lower search volume posts that complemented the larger themes of customer satisfaction and feedback. So, for a post on Customer Satisfaction, we included sections on things like customer satisfaction software and how to improve customer satisfaction scores: In addition, we aligned with our content team to create tons and tons of cluster blog posts that linked to and supported the themes set up by the pillar pages. An example is this blog post we published on customer feedback survey mistakes: Finally, all of these posts – whether pillar or cluster – included product page links, and cluster blog posts also included links to our pillar pages (with exact match anchor text, as you can see above). We also included CTAs on our pillar pages that lead to our product landing pages: In all cases, no matter what type of content we were created, we sought to create 10x content, the kind you’d actually want to link to. Particularly with our pillar pages, this meant included linkable content “hooks,” such as:
Original data & stats
Charts and Graphs
Quotes from influencers
Pros and Cons Tables
We tried to include anything we could that was outside the typical Wikipedia-style me-too content. We didn’t want to rehash what was already out there, we wanted to be better and different. So, for example, we designed our own survey examples, like this one for NPS: Or, for example, for our Customer Feedback page, we included pros and cons tables to help visitors decide which type of feedback surveys to use: Now that we had a solid base of quality content, we built out a distribution and link building process to make sure we rose in the rankings and got some eyes on the pages.
Building Links and Distributing Content
Link building is its own monster, and to do it true justice would require its own multi-thousand word blog post. To summarize, however, we tried all the major link building tactics and some worked better than others. Generally speaking, the ones that worked the best were the least scalable: they involved relationships that had been built over months and years. On a similar point, the ones that were the least effective were the ones that are the most popular and overused: Skyscraper Technique link building, HARO pitches, roundup posts, etc. The most important part, in fact, was the process of discovering influencers and link targets to begin with. Since we wanted both high relevance and high authority links, we created a “bullseye” framework to distinguish between Tier 1, 2, and 3 targets.
Tier 1 – Blogs and influencers directly related to the Service Hub. These include bloggers who write about customer success and customer success practitioner. It may also include direct competitors to our tools.
Tier 2 – Blogs and influencers who are semi-related to customer success. Includes customer experience, survey tools, and user experience software & experts. It may also include other products that don’t directly compete, but they are still kind of related to customer success/support.
Tier 3 – Larger blogs and influencers who focus on broader marketing and business topics. Not super related, but due to high domain authority, still opportune link building opportunities (plus, there’s no competitive nature to these sites, so they’re more willing to link to us).
There existed an inverse correlation between our Tiers and the ease of link acquisition. Tier 1 was the most difficult, mainly because most of the sites and influencers were competing for the same keywords. On the other end of the spectrum, large blogs that write on broad marketing topics generally weren’t too concerned about competing, so it was much easier to work with them.
Measuring, Optimizing, and Beyond
Measurement is important in SEO, and in marketing in general. You need to know if you’re moving in the right direction, and if not, how you can possibly remedy that or optimize your efforts. To do that without going too crazy watching too many keywords, we followed only the spearheads topics of our content strategy using Accuranker. We figured that if we ranked these, the longer tail keywords and most specific cluster posts would easily follow (and if they didn’t, it would be easy enough to optimize them later on). Here’s what a typical Accuranker report looked like earlier on in our efforts: Which is much better than where we started, which is from scratch: You can use other tools for this, such as Ahrefs and I’m sure a dozen more, as well. If you’re operating at large scale and want to customize your reports more, you can build a homebrew tool, though if you’re just beginning in your SEO and measurement efforts, it might not hurt to start with a software solution so you can focus on your actual SEO execution. Hopefully, you can choose a solution that allows you to get a weekly email report with your rankings. Peaking too often can be tempting but ultimately unhelpful due to natural fluctuations in SERP rankings (especially in the first few months of publishing content). When you know your weekly ranking trends, you can spot early ineffectiveness and course correct. For instance, our knowledge base guide wasn’t moving at all into the top 500, but all our other content was. So, we 1) added about 1000 words and more influencers quotes to our pillar page 2) changed the title and the H2 subtitles and 3) went super hard on link building to our pillar page. As of today it’s sitting at position 5. Similarly, I saw that we weren’t ranking for the cluster article we wrote on “customer satisfaction surveys,” even though it was a few thousand words, and in my mind, quality content. We simply changed the title and the following week it was ranking. Finally, we tracked user acquisition as well. You can and should be doing this anyway through your tool of choice (Google Analytics, Amplitude, etc.). As a result of our SEO efforts, our beta requests saw a sharp increase:
Good SEO is rarely the result of sporadic hacks and luck, rather, at scale and for acquisition, it’s the result of a solid process and playbook (just like any other aspect of growth marketing). This playbook should have multiple components, ranging from content strategy and architecture to differentiated and compelling content creation and all the way to promotion and link building. All the pieces matter, some more than others depending on your specific situation. For instance, a smaller authority site may have to put a lot more effort into content creation and link building that a large site like HubSpot or Shopify. It all depends on where your competitive advantage lies. However, with a bit of strategy and content architecture, no matter the size or scale of your company, you can get product pages to rank and actually acquire users from SEO, not just top-of-funnel vanity traffic.
Why Product Marketing is the Growth Secret Weapon You Absolutely Must Have
If you’re not investing in product marketing, you’re probably not growing as quickly or as efficiently as you could be. We’ll talk more about that later, but for now, let’s answer this: What is product marketing? Product marketing is basically defined as the process of promoting and selling a product to an audience, to drive […]
If you’re not investing in product marketing, you’re probably not growing as quickly or as efficiently as you could be. We’ll talk more about that later, but for now, let’s answer this: What is product marketing? Product marketing is basically defined as the process of promoting and selling a product to an audience, to drive demand and usage of that product. There’s nothing wrong with that definition, but it massively oversimplifies what a product marketer does. A product marketer’s role revolves around the product, obviously, but the product is as much a tool that helps the marketer to market more effectively, as it is the thing the marketer’s trying to market. Confused yet? Stick with me, and, with the help of this presentation from Hana Abaza, Head of Marketing for Shopify Plus, we’ll show you what product marketing is, and why it’s the growth secret weapon you absolutely must have.
How Does Product Marketing Differ from Marketing-Marketing?
To really understand product marketing, it helps to learn how it differs from more general marketing.
Marketing is concerned with growing a brand as a whole. To do this, your average marketing manager will be involved in everything from brand awareness and website traffic, to brand messaging and public relations. They’re also likely to look at the whole sales funnel and launching campaigns that target potential customers at each stage of it.
Product marketers, on the other hand, use the product as the catalyst for growing the brand. They must have a deep understanding of the markets surrounding the product or products in question (including competitor products). They also need to have an in-depth understanding of their audience – in particular, why they use the product (or products), where the product fails them, and how to talk to them in a voice they understand. Product marketers also, unlike more general marketers, focus predominantly on the bottom of the funnel (although their insights should be fed back up the funnel). They typically think about customers more than they do prospects or leads. These are the sorts of questions a product marketer needs to be answering: “What are we building?” “Who are we building it for?” “How do we talk about it?” “How do we go to market?” They need to know:
What the product does
Who their customers are and why they would use this product
What language their customers will understand
How they get the product in front of the people that will use it
If they can do that, they’re not only in a far stronger position for marketing the product or products they’re assigned to, but they can actually enable the company as a whole to operate more effectively. “Product marketing lives at the intersection of all these functions. It’s probably one of the most cross-functional roles you’ll see in an organization.” – Hana Abaza
But What Does a Product Marketer Actually Do?
We already know that the product is central to the product marketer’s role, and that they assist in growing a brand primarily by developing, improving, and promoting the product. Despite this very specific focus, product marketers really do a bit of everything. All of this: And this: And this: Let’s talk about some of this in more detail. Product marketers:
Position the Product
They figure out where the product sits in the market. “If marketing is about making it easy for people to find, evaluate and buy your products, then positioning is about figuring out what your product is in the first place.” – Hana Abaza To do this, you have to understand the context that frames your product. Do that and you can define all of these things:
That will help you figure out things like this… …which will help you target the right people, at the right price point, with the right messaging. And on that note…
…They Figure Out Messaging
Product marketers figure out the language people use when they talk about the product. They then use this to create messages that are easy for their target audience to understand. In her presentation, Hana used Dropbox as an example – specifically, Dropbox as it looked in 2010: Hana spoke about the fact that her mother uses Dropbox, and that her mother is representative of a not-insignificant segment of Dropbox’s user base. Back in 2010 however, Dropbox alienated that portion of their audience with the language they were using. I’m talking specifically about this phrase: It’s unlikely that Hana’s mother, and others like her, would have understood what it meant to sync files, let alone how to do it. As a result, Dropbox was limiting its target market to people with a certain level of technical knowledge. Dropbox today looks very different. To help target users more effectively, Dropbox split their welcome page in two – one page for businesses, and one page for individuals. Select the ‘individual’ tab, and you’re presented with this – simple, direct, jargon-free copy that describes exactly what Dropbox does and how it will benefit the user, in language anyone can understand: This is the sort of thing a product marketer can help execute.
They Create Spec Sheets
Creating a spec sheet is essentially a data collection exercise, in which information like that shown in the diagram below is collated into a single, easy-to-digest document. Spec sheets might not look that interesting, but they play a key part in enabling a product marketer to perform their role more effectively.
They Consider Internal Communications
When adding a new product to a company’s existing portfolio, product marketers will be responsible for deciding how internal communications will play out – namely, when other departments and staff members will be told about the product, what they will be told, and how it will be told to them (including the method of delivery – i.e. email or in person, who will deliver the message, and the language that will be used).
They Help Plan the Launch
Product marketers will figure out what kind of launch your product necessitates. While I’m generalizing a little here, “types” of launches can typically be placed in one of three tiers:
Tier 1 – tell the world
Tier 2 – tell customers and prospects
Tier 3 – you probably should have had it anyway so just quietly add it in
They’ll then help formulate a plan for executing it.
And They Help Grow the Product Post-Launch
A lot of companies put all of their time, effort, and resources into developing and launching a product, and forget about the growth part afterwards. A product marketer will help bridge that gap. They’ll experiment with how to grow the product’s user base, and how the product itself can be leveraged to drive even more customers.
How Do You Know When You Should Invest in Product Marketing?
So far, we’ve offered up multiple reasons why investing in growth marketing is a good idea. That’s because, generally, it is. But it’s not for everyone – at least right now. In fact, get it wrong, and product marketing could actually do your business more harm than good. “Bad product marketing can kill your company.” – Hana Abaza So how do you know whether product marketing is a fit for you right now, and in what form? You’re probably not quite ready for product marketing if:
People don’t understand what you do
Your employees don’t know how to explain what you do
Your current marketing isn’t working
Thankfully, those are all things you can change pretty easily (once you understand that they’re an issue, anyway). If these things don’t apply to you, then you’re probably ready to adopt product marketing. To what extent, however, depends largely on the circumstances surrounding your product and company. More specifically, the size of your company, the complexity of your product, and the landscape it’s part of.
If your company is still very small, and your product or products are very simple, you probably don’t need to hire someone to work on product marketing specifically, but you should still consider the concept and what elements of it you can adopt using your existing resources.
If you have a really simple product but your company is growing, it’s probably a good idea to hire someone to work specifically on product marketing.
If your company is still really small but your product is really complex, again, it’s probably a good idea to hire a product marketer.
If you’re a big company with a complicated product, product marketing becomes an entire function that necessitates not just hiring a product marketer, but a team of people that can support them.
You also need a product marketer – or at the very least, a knowledge of product marketing – if:
You’re about to launch or start shipping something, but you don’t know how much to charge for it.
Your product’s about to ship but you have no way of telling customers about it.
Your sales team doesn’t understand the product they’re supposed to sell.
Your customer support team is getting calls about a new product on your website but they have no idea what it is.
So, Should You Be Using Product Marketing?
While there are some exceptions, as a general rule, yes, you should be using product marketing. Having someone (or a team of people) who have a deep understanding of your customers and their relationship to your product is, for many businesses, the secret to growth – and not just growth for growth’s sake. A product marketer can assist in driving growth that’s sustainable and that maximizes profit. The key to using product marketing as a growth lever most effectively, however, is to understand that it’s never “done.” Even once your product has become a success, product marketing should be something that remains in the background and that feeds into a culture of continuous learning, improvement, and growth. Do you have any insights to add on why companies should be using product marketing, or how they can use it most effectively? If you have a moment to share your thoughts, you’ll find the comments just below:
How to Drive Bottom-of-Funnel Results From Your Blog
Note: This article was written based on content and ideas shared by James Scherer from Wishpond in a webinar hosted on the Growth Marketing Conference webinar series. Before we make the decision to buy, we all go through a particular process. Marketers call that process the “sales funnel,” and it looks something like this: Image Credit It’s […]
Note: This article was written based on content and ideas shared by James Scherer from Wishpond in a webinar hosted on the Growth Marketing Conference webinar series. Before we make the decision to buy, we all go through a particular process. Marketers call that process the “sales funnel,” and it looks something like this: Image Credit It’s essentially a simplified customer journey: the steps consumers take while deciding what to buy and from whom. At the top of the funnel are people who are yet to be exposed to your brand. At the bottom are people who are ready to buy; they just need convincing that they should buy from you. Every stage of the funnel is important, but it’s towards the bottom of the funnel where things get really interesting. To maximize leads we need to target the top stages of the funnel, but our end goal – generating sales and revenue – only happens when we get those leads to the bottom of the funnel. To do this, we have to nurture those leads. There are a number of ways you could do this but arguably the easiest, most effective, and most cost-effective is email. Email sequences, to be exact. In fact, according to stats reported by HubSpot, leads nurtured with targeted content result in more than a 20% uplift in sales opportunities. In a moment, we’re going to go through a tried-and-tested process for nurturing leads and driving bottom-of-funnel results from your blog; but first, let’s touch on one of the most important factors in creating blog content that converts:
Creating Better Content
Your ability to generate and nurture leads is dependent in large part on the quality of your content. After all, if your readers aren’t getting value from your content, why would they want anything else from you? This means that if your content isn’t up to scratch, improving it is the first step in driving bottom-of-funnel results from your blog. So what constitutes “better content”?
It should be long-form
Long-form content is more detailed than short-form, and, consequently, offers more value to the reader. There’s also more content for search engines to read and analyze, which typically translates to better rankings and more traffic. While there’s no hard-and-fast rule as to what constitutes long-form content, most marketers agree that 1500 words and up is a good figure to aim for.
It should include images
They help illustrate points and break up text, making it easier to read. Use them.
It should feature examples
Simplify difficult processes with screenshots, or, failing that, easy-to-follow bullet point or numbered lists.
It should be actionable
Explain to readers how they can put the suggestions you make into practice.
It should feature new ideas
Be as original as you can. Try to avoid focusing on ideas and strategies that your target audience has heard 1000 times already.
The points it includes should be proven
Legitimize your points and arguments with real-world examples and case studies.
It should be personal and tell a story
Why have you written this content? Why should people listen to what you have to say on this subject? Personalize your content by framing it in the context of your story. Once your content’s ticking all the boxes above, you should be ready to start using it to drive bottom-of-funnel results from your blog. Let’s talk about how.
Using Your Blog as a Lead Generation Tool
Before you can nurture a lead, you have to capture it. Your blog is doing the grunt work for you – it’s either driving people to the site, or engaging those that are already on it. Your next challenge is to learn a little bit more about those visitors by getting them to hand over their details.
This tool is designed specifically to drive leads from bottom-of-funnel blog content. By this I mean content aimed at potential customers that are seriously considering buying from you. To capture those bottom-of-funnel visitors, you need to enhance your content with CTAs (which might sit above, below or in the sidebar of the content, or in a pop-up) that invite the visitor to sign up for a one-on-one VIP product demo. This CTA should take the user to a short form. Exactly what that form contains is up to you but in this context it makes sense to ask for the prospect’s name, email address, and industry. Anyone who completes that form gets placed in a segmented email list which will trigger an email sequence designed to set up a date and time for the demo.
This tool can be used to drive leads at all stages of the funnel, although its effectiveness increases as prospects move down the funnel and become more familiar with your company and content. Simply put, offering blog subscriptions as a lead generation tool works because readers will subscribe to get more of what they want. As with the VIP demo tool, place CTAs above, below, in the sidebar of the content, or in a popup (or a combination of all four). Image Credit A short signup form should be contained within that CTA. All you really need is the subscriber’s email address, but for the purpose of lead nurturing it helps to get their first name, too. That said, if in doubt remember that shorter is always better. “Every field you ask them to fill increases friction. The best thing you can do to improve conversions is to get rid of as many fields as possible.” Peep Laja, ConversionXL Again, once a visitor completes the form they will be placed in a segmented email list and a sequence of targeted emails will follow. 3.Content upgrades Content upgrades are an article-specific lead generation tool. By that I mean that each content upgrade is tied to the article it appears on. It’s especially effective when tied to in-depth content (or 10x content) and listicles. Brian Dean explains in detail what a content upgrade is and how they work here; however, in short, they are a piece of paywall-hidden content that accompanies and enhances the article it’s linked to. The upgrade itself could simply be the article in a downloadable PDF. Alternatively, it might be a downloadable checklist or “bonus” points or tips. Image Source Exactly what the upgrade is doesn’t really matter, so long as it genuinely adds value to the user. What does matter is that it’s being used correctly to capture that user’s details so they can be placed in the relevant email list, and the email sequence can begin. The CTA itself is best placed within the article itself, like so: Alternatively (or additionally) it can be placed below or in the sidebar of the content, or in a pop-up (just make sure to give the user a chance to read a good chunk of the content before pushing the upgrade on them). Once again, limit the barrier to entry by asking only for the prospect’s first name and email address.
Nurturing Leads through Segmented Email Campaigns
Using your blog as a lead-generation tool is only the first step in driving bottom-of-funnel results from it. Very few of those leads will be ready to buy, so you need to nurture them until they’re ready to make a purchase.
We already know that new leads should get placed in segmented email lists. There are lots of ways you might segment your email lists, but there are two we’re going to focus on here. Leads segmented according to interest, and leads segmented according to industry.Leads segmented by interest The majority of leads will be segmented by interest only. How do we know what a lead’s interested in? We could ask them, but we know we need to keep our sign-up forms as short as possible. With this in mind, their “interest” would be dictated by the subject of the content they converted on. For example, we can assume that someone who converted on an article about using Facebook in marketing is interested in social media marketing. They would then be placed in a list that ensures they are exclusively (at least initially) sent emails and content about social media. Leads segmented by industry When a prospect converts on a bottom-of-funnel content piece – like the VIP demo mentioned just above – we’re ideally going to want to segment them according to their industry. This is because you’re going to want to nurture them with emails that align the features of your product with pain points that are typical of their industry. It will also help your sales team understand the prospect’s needs, so they can sell to them more effectively. Unfortunately, to get this information, you’re going to have to ask for it. That probably means adding a third box to the signup form.
Once you’re successfully segmenting leads into appropriate email lists, you’re going to want to create the email sequences that will nurture them, and push them towards converting. Let’s run through the email sequences you might create to nurture leads coming from each of the lead generation tools discussed just above.
VIP demo leads
Anyone who’s filled out a form asking for a product demo is either very near to, or at the bottom of the sales funnel. In this case specifically, the lead has stated outright that they would like a product demo. This means your first email would ask the prospect when they would like the demo to take place (you can see a template for this and all email subject lines in the sequence just below). Bonus tip: you can streamline the booking process by providing a link to a calendar that they book themselves straight into. Needless to say, if the prospect converts as a result of that email, the sequence ends. If they don’t, they should receive a follow-up email a few days later. You may want to personalize the follow up, in accordance with the prospect’s interests or industry. Again, if the prospect converts, the sequence ends. If they don’t, a third and final email should be received, again a few days later. You’ll probably want to personalize this one, too, with the prospect’s interest or industry. Another good trick is to begin the subject line “Re:” as a reminder that they have initiated the conversation by asking to arrange the demo.
Blog subscription leads
The first email a blog subscription lead should receive is a simple “thank you for subscribing” email. That’s all the subject line of this email needs to be, but again, you can see the template for this and subsequent email subject lines in the sequence just below. Bonus tip: ensure whoever sends this email sends all of the emails.The sequence might be automated, but this goes a long way toward personalizing the interaction. Email two sends the subscriber a piece of content that’s relevant to their interest, and that also demonstrates your product’s link to this and how it can help resolve the prospect’s (assumed) pain points. This will subtly help funnel subscribers towards your product. Email three should be a sales email, similar to the first email you might send to a VIP demo lead. You’re simply asking if they have time to talk that week about their subject of interest. If they convert at this point, the sequence ends. If they don’t, they receive a fourth email. Email four should be a case study that highlights the value your business can add to them. Email five is sent regardless of whether or not the lead clicked through to the case study. This email should offer a discount. It should also offer a demo or call of some kind. If the lead converts, then great. If not, they get sent to the general newsletter segment.
Content upgrade leads
The first email a content upgrade lead should receive is the content upgrade itself. This should be delivered the moment they request it (once again, you can see subject line templates for all emails in the sequence just below). Email two should be an example article – similar to what you would send a blog subscription lead. Email three should be a sales email – again similar to what you would send a demo or blog subscriber lead. If they convert at this point, the sequence ends. If not, they receive a fourth email. Email four should be a case study. It needs to demonstrate how your business might add value to the lead. Email five should offer the subscriber free access to an on-demand resource like a webinar, video, or podcast – something with your voice on it, or better yet, your face. The idea here is to further the relationship the lead has with you before they receive the next sales email. Email six should be another resource that helps educate the customer on your product’s link to their interests and pain points – for example, something like “proven strategies for success in [their interest].” Bonus tip: the resource should highlight your product’s features and benefits through product pictures or (if it’s a tool) screenshots of it in action. Email seven is a sales email – a discount or coupon. Add urgency with a time limit (seven days is fair). It’s also a good idea to send a reminder email 24 hours or so before the discount or coupon expires (assuming, of course, that the lead hasn’t converted). Once again, if the lead converts, great. If not, they get sent to the general newsletter segment. Bear in mind that all the suggestions above are just that – suggestions. Use this strategy as a guide for effective email nurturing, but remember that what you include in your email sequences, and how many emails you send, is totally up to you. Do you already nurture leads using email sequences? Does your strategy differ from what we’ve outlined here? It’d be great if you could share your secrets and let us know how effective they’ve been – comments are below:
25 B2B Marketing Strategies You Probably Haven’t Tried
There are plenty of articles touting the importance of lead generation and building up your pipeline for your B2B marketing. It’s easy to get in a rut in your business and assume every strategy has already been done. But there are still lots of B2B marketing strategies out there that you probably haven’t heard of. […]
There are plenty of articles touting the importance of lead generation and building up your pipeline for your B2B marketing. It’s easy to get in a rut in your business and assume every strategy has already been done. But there are still lots of B2B marketing strategies out there that you probably haven’t heard of. If you’re one of the 78% of businesses that aren’t satisfied with their conversion rates, try mixing up your B2B marketing strategy with something different. Here are 25 ideas to get you started.
1. Use Autopilot for LinkedIn
“A tactic I’ve seen work is using Autopilot for LinkedIn to crawl mass numbers of profiles of your target audience. You put a click-baity headline in your profile, along with a call to action. Then, you can track clickthroughs and see who viewed your profile, and reach back out to them.” – Ryan Farley, co-founder of LawnStarter
2. Send Gifts
“Sending gifts is an incredible way to get on someone’s radar. It also plays on psychology and reciprocity – they’ll feel like they owe you something in exchange. Of course, I’m not saying send them something to try and get them indebted to you. That’s just being a ****. Don’t expect anything in return – just build that relationship, and it can naturally open up to greater opportunities, higher CLV, and juicy referrals. Everyone loves getting gifts in a world of junk mail and hiding behind screens.” – Bill Widmer, Ecommerce Content Marketing expert
3. Handwritten Notes
“Sending handwritten notes to team members and clients goes further today than at any other point in history. There was a day not too long ago when receiving an email was exciting: Your computer would announce ‘You’ve got mail’ and you would run to see what had arrived. Today, a handwritten note cuts through the digital clutter and is received with a similar anticipation.” – Christopher Kelly, writing for Tech.co
4. Use Geo-Targeted Ads During Events
“I haven’t seen many companies running geo-targeted ads when events happen in their industry. I’ve had huge wins targeting conference hashtags and combining that targeting with geofencing that only hits people who are actually there, at the event. You can be hyper-relevant across multiple platforms, with just-in-time personalized offers and deals.” – Joel Klettke, Founder of Case Study Buddy
Hans van Gent
5. Empower Your Customers and Start a Dialogue
“A significant trend in content marketing has been the rise of audio in 2016 (podcast listening grew by 23% over 2015). With the release of Anchor 2.0 in March this year, it opens up a whole new way of empowering your customers and starting that dialogue with them in a unique way. And the beauty of it? The app is mostly still undiscovered territory for a lot of marketers so you can have the first mover advantage.” – Hans van Gent, Founder @ Inbound Rocket
6. Upgrade and Update Your Marketing Funnel
“Upgrade and update your top/middle of the funnel content to build your email list. With this strategy, you take existing content that is ranking well and update or upgrade it in some fashion (add visuals, video, interactives, etc.) to breathe new life into the content and further improve or solidify rankings in a competitive space. Along with updating, add relevant CTAs and/or downloadables to drive email signups and build your marketing list.” – Andrew Dennis, Senior Content Marketing Specialist @ Siege Media
7. Start with a Survey
“Instead of soliciting business through cold email, start with a survey. The benefits of this are two-fold. First, you get to collect data on your industry which you can publish as a content piece. Second, you essentially warm up those cold leads and you can move forward with a sales conversation without coming across as the spammy sales person.” – Sid Bharath, VP of Growth @ Thinkific
8. Do Things That Don’t Scale
“Trying to get your foot in the door? Go old school with direct mail. While everyone else is getting ~1% spamming people on LinkedIn, direct mail recipients visit a promoted website 60% of the time (https://www.usps.com/business/pdf/FY08_DM%20Onl_Sales%20WP.pdf). And also visited the promoted website according to a USPS study (with first-time shoppers being the most influenced). “And one company has seen 25% response rates with companies making over $30 million a year. So no, it doesn’t scale. Not at first anyway. But prove it on a small scale, and then get some free interns to hand-write mailing addresses for you. Make the unscalable, scalable.” – Brad Smith, Founder of Codeless
9. Leverage Niche Communities
“One of the more unique B2B marketing tactics is leveraging niche communities like Reddit to build trust and credibility. Far too many marketers think that B2B marketers can only be reached on LinkedIn or at a conference – in reality, many C-suite executives are browsing Reddit just like the rest of us. If you can create content that relevant subreddits find interesting and valuable – opportunities await.” – Ross Simmonds, Digital Strategist @ Foundation Marketing
10. Host an Awards Ceremony
“One of the most unique marketing strategies entails making people feel valued and giving them credit for the work they do. Most people don’t realize the value of people’s work in the company because they are so focused on task over humanity. Most workplaces require more out of individuals in this revenue and data-driven world. Sometimes it’s best to create a strategy that recognizes “rising stars” with their hard work. This is one way of winning credibility with them. “One tactic is to put on a special awards night event that recognizes your prospects. This way you will win their trust. You can give them ‘special trophies’ and awards that acknowledges their expertise. The nominees can invite their fans and this will help you increase the reach in your business. For example, nominate your top 50 rising prospects and invite them to the award show to collect their prize and trophy with a speech at hand. Tell them to invite their fans for their big ‘spotlight’ ceremony. Make it a sophisticated event.” – Sweta Patel, Director of Demand Generation @ Cognoa
11. Create Standalone Products
“I love seeing standalone products from companies trying to bring new users into their ecosystems. Followerwonk (by Moz) and the Headline Analyzer (by CoSchedule) are great examples. These are products that help people separate from these companies’ main offerings, but help to build awareness and recognition about the parent company. And they’re great for lead generation.” – Patrick Whatman, Head of Content @ Mention
12. Send People a Value-Packed Slide Deck
“I’ve come to love Andy Crestodina’s conference-based approach. When he speaks he packs so much valuable content into his slides, too much to possibly cover during the talk, and he asks people to get him their business card after the talk so he can send them the slide deck immediately after the conference. I’ve watched hundreds of people wait in line just to give him their card. “Then, in the email he sends, he mentions his blog and asks attendees, alongside the amazing deck he’s giving them, if they’d also like to subscribe. I don’t subscribe to many blogs, but I subscribed to his. When somebody completely over delivers like this it makes you trust that they will continue to provide relevant and valuable content.” – Cameron Conaway, Content Marketing Manager @ Klipfolio
13. Interview an Expert from a Target Account
“I got really creative in integrating expert interviews into an Account Based Marketing (ABM) strategy. Rather than just interviewing an expert in your field, interview an expert from an identified target account. “For example, if you’re selling to a mid-size startup, interview their CEO, VP of Marketing, or even one of the VCs who is a primary investor. Then, when sales approaches the decision maker for that account, they can send them a link to the interview you’ve done, giving your brand immediate credibility and clout. It makes every sales conversation immediately easier and more likely to end in a closed deal.” – Cara Hogan, Content Strategist @ Zaius
14. Use Live Video to Sell Products in Real-Time
“Using live video to build awareness, connect with more prospects, and actually sell products in real-time. We’re doing it with Climb and making it possible for retailers, brands, and influencers to make sales in real-time on Facebook Live. The future of selling online is all about engagement, entertainment, and experience.” – Rob Wormley, CMO & Co-Founder @ Climb
15. Create Interactive Content
“Use interactive content as part of a larger lead gen strategy, so the convo doesn’t stop after the quiz, but is further personalized based on responses.” – Kaleigh Moore, freelance SaaS writer
16. Sell to Human Beings
“I strongly believe in 2 content marketing that is personalized and has a real business purpose. Don’t just create content because it’s trendy or cool, but create content because your audience needs it and wants it. Behind every “B” is a “H” from human. And we are not selling to businesses and brands, we are selling to human beings. And people buy from people!” – Robert Katai, Visual Marketer and Content Strategist @ Bannersnack
17. Meet in Person
“It’s not unique, but it’s definitely underutilized… With a large chunk of B2B organizations obsessing over ‘inbound’ and content, we have forgotten about how effective a phone call or face-to-face meeting can be for building trust and closing deals. Use your content to build a base level of trust and credibility for you and your business. “Then use your team to research and identify a short-list of your perfect clients (the information is all available online). Create a personalized profile of each them. Interact, engage and build a meaningful ‘online’ relationship. When the time is right, get that person into a meeting room or on a video call. Close the deal, be friends forever.” – Will Blunt, Founder of Blogger Sidekick
18. Send Retargeting Emails
“We send what I call ‘retargeting emails’ to people at companies who hit our site and don’t convert. It’s a nice way to engage a passive audience from their inbox.” – Ty Magnin, Director of Marketing @ Appcues
19. Show Leads You’re Sending Them Traffic
“Brian Swichkow of Ghost Influence taught me this one. If you’re investing in content marketing and want to get the attention of a company, include a link in the post to the company and add campaign tracking to the URL with your site name in it. For example: growandconvert.com/?utm_source=growandconvert&utm_medium=blogpostname “That way, when readers of your post click the link, the company you’re trying to get in contact with will see traffic being sent to their site by your site. The company is more likely to have a conversation with you when they’re aware of you because you’ve sent a good amount of traffic to their site.” – Benji Hyam, co-founder @ Grow & Convert and Wordable.io
20. Create In-Depth Data Analysis
“Consolidate data relevant to your industry, analyze it, and publish an in-depth data analysis article or study. Very few companies are doing this. Most are doing the same old ebooks and whitepapers. This is evergreen content that is linked to like crazy and shared easily. It’s content that turns you into a thought leader.” – Devesh Khanal, Founder, Grow and Convert
21. Use the Tools Your Ideal Customers Are Using
“Add a Chrome extension like Ghostery or use a tool like BuiltWith. You’ll then be able to see what tools your ideal customers are using. Build a list of those tools and begin reaching out to their content teams. Can you co-host a webinar together? Publish a new guide together? It’s an easy way to get in front of their highly aligned audience (often, by email), especially if you’re going to be producing a lot of content anyway.” – Shanelle Mullin, Content & Growth at Shopify
Kylie Ora Lobell
22. Write White Papers Around Pain Points
“White papers are excellent for the beginning stages of the sales funnel. They convince potential customers that your company is worth looking into, and can push them from being marketing-qualified leads to sales-qualified leads.” – Kylie Ora Lobell, writing for Directive Consulting
23. Say Thanks in a Creative Way
“TD Canada Trust shared over 300,000 $20 gift certificates for their ‘TD Thanks You’ campaign. You don’t have to go that big, but thanking someone by giving something back to them resonates in a special way with consumers. It can be as simple as a gift-code, which you’ll see small niche sites like dog treat site BestBullySticks do, or Opentable’s VIP program that gives points per reservation that eventually convert into gift certificates.” – Ed Zitron, CEO of EZ-PR.com, writing for Inc.
24. Introduce Your Employees
“Giving a face to your brand helps to engage your customers and give them a greater sense of trust in you and your services. We all like to see that there’s a real person behind the company image. This doesn’t mean showing everyone working studiously at their desks nor letting it all hang out at the office party. Create a friendly and approachable video revealing a day in the work life of one of your employees or get them to talk about what it is they do and what your customers can expect from them. And then do some good editing; a static talking head video is unlikely to hold anyone’s attention for long.” -Margaret Austin, writing for B2B News Network
25. Use Dynamic and Behavioral Lead Scoring
“Knowing how prospects are likely to behave is as important, if not more so, than understanding ‘who they are’ as people. The two don’t always go together. By using information aside from the standard demographics (age, gender, pay bracket etc.), you’ll be able to make lead qualification work better for you. “You’ll get a better understanding of where the lead came from, how they found your website, and the actions they’ve taken while on the site. This important information gives you an insight on what is involved with the journey of the buyer and what motivates your prospects. As an example, did they find your website through a backlink and go through every page on the site? Or did they enter the site from a search engine and go directly to your product page? Armed with behavioural data, you can set up a targeted email marketing programme that sends them relevant content based on behavioural triggers.” – Will Williamson, writing for JDR Group
Growth Hacking Instagram for Beginners
Are you using Instagram as a traction channel for your business? Whether most businesses realize it or not, Instagram is proving to be a great platform for such organizations to brand themselves. However, tapping into a large (and growing) number of Instagrammers can take time and tremendous effort. But, once you do manage to achieve […]
Are you using Instagram as a traction channel for your business? Whether most businesses realize it or not, Instagram is proving to be a great platform for such organizations to brand themselves. However, tapping into a large (and growing) number of Instagrammers can take time and tremendous effort. But, once you do manage to achieve a robust following on this platform, you will realize that all of you hard work was worth it. This is where growth hacking Instagram comes into play. According to Statista, as of June 2016, Instagram “had reached 500 million monthly active users, up from 400 million in September 2015.” In 2015, there were approximately more than 77.6 million active Instagram users in the United States alone, and is projected to surpass 111 million by 2019… And that’s not all! Expandedramblings has a few interesting Instagram-related statistics as well:
The average number of monthly follower growth for Instagram users is estimated to be 16%
The percentage of all U.S. adult Instagram users that use it daily is 49%
The percentage of American millennials that have an Instagram account is 46%
The percentage of Instagram users in the U.S. that access it on their smartphones is 47%
The percentage of Instagram users in the U.S. that access it on their tablets is 53%
I probably don’t need to tell you this, but that’s a lot of people. The question is, how are you going to grow your following in order to reach these people? That’s where growth hacking comes in.
What Is Growth Hacking Instagram?
Growth hacking is a relatively new concept in the world of social media. In case you’re wondering what it is, Wikipedia describes it as, “a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business.” People who do this are called growth hackers. Growth hackers are essentially marketers who are equipped with a specific set of skills related to growth. They deal with a different set of problems and provide solutions using digital tools. The word ‘hacker’ can be interpreted differently by different people, but with respect to marketing, it mainly refers to someone who can extend certain characteristics to a product that enable it to go viral and grow. In order to achieve this, a growth hacker may:
Have various perspectives on the product
Not be afraid to deviate from the norms to market it
Come up with new, interesting solutions to customer’s problems
Know how be creative and methodical, as and when required
We’re talking about the kind of growth that makes startups successful and takes them from zero to millions of followers and customers in a span of a couple of years. Growth hackers work towards boosting the primary metrics for a company/brand and keep the number of followers growing with time. If you’re looking to be your own Instagram growth marketing hacker, but wondering what it takes to successfully take the number northwards, I have a few helpful tips for you.
1. Valuable Content Works Like a Charm
Content is king. End of story. If you get this part right, you can make things happen. Given the number of users Instagram boasts, you can rest assured that almost every business worth its salt is present on this platform. In order to make a mark, you will need to find a way to set your account apart from the noise. This is where unique, original and valuable content can be of tremendous help! The content should not only have a great flow to it, but also be in accordance with your audience’s expectation. Posting brilliant and impactful images that resonate with your audience will keep them engaged to your account like nothing else will. You can use a mix of content to ensure that your Instagram posts hit the nail on the head. A few examples of successful business that have made the most of Instagram include Intel, Virgin America, Nike, Bonobos, Taco Bell, and American Express. The best brands on Instagram have a few things in common:
They make the person on the other end feel like they’re a part of a community.
Fabulous photos. You may need to invest in a new camera if you want to make it big on Instagram.
All of their images are on-point with branding. Instagram is a visual platform, so having a brand style guide is important when creating posts or taking photos for your account.
Another important thing to consider is taking the time to research the kind of content that reverberates most with your target audience. Look for accounts of competing or similar companies in your industry and see what’s working for them. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel in order to come up with a great content strategy. Just take a look at what other successful accounts are doing, and adapt their ideas to fit your company and specific audience.
2. Regular Posts are Well-Received
Churning out great content isn’t enough to get your audiences hooked. We live in the age of instant gratification and with audiences being bombarded with information from all quarters, you need to do what needs to be done to grab and keep their mindshare. Posting content consistently and without delays is a great way to do so. According to findings by quintly.com, accounts that posted content up to two to three times in a day were the ones with the most followers. You may want to use this data to your advantage and watch the number of your faithful followers multiply. Another important aspect of posting includes following a fixed schedule. This is critical to achieve success when it come to Instagram growth hacks. Small business owners tend to be extremely busy, which is why posting regularly and consistently may seem difficult. You can use online scheduling programs such as those offered by Hootsuite, ScheduGram, Latergramme, Grum and Instapult to make things easier for yourself. Doing so will help you ensure that you always have fresh content to share online.
3. Let Hashtags Work Their Magic
A lot of people tend to undermine the power of hashtags, but they are an integral part of growth hacking Instagram. Thanks to hashtags, content gains more visibility among thousands of users who may have not stumbled upon it otherwise. Typically, Twitter and Facebook allow you to post links. However, Instagram does not allow linking URLs in comments and descriptions. Instead, it promotes the use of hashtags, which is why they’re extremely instrumental in connecting you with your followers. If you want to learn more about using hashtags, you will do well to explore well-known hashtags on Instagram and observe how they’ve been used to brands to customers. Instagram allows for a maximum of thirty hashtags per post. Instagram recommends keeping the following in mind when picking your hashtags:
Using hashtags properly works. They can boost your reach radically, especially if you crack the code on the perfect mix of hashtags to use for your audience. When choosing your hashtags, it’s best to use a combination of popular, trending, and topic-related hashtags. Since hashtags are a search tool, think about what someone might be searching for and make sure to include those keywords in your hashtag mix.
4. Provide a Strong Call to Action
When you create content for your Instagram account, make sure that all posts include a strong call to action. More often than not, getting your followers to do what you want can boil down to just asking them to do it. Some of the popular calls to action on Instagram for businesses include “Tag a friend in the comments,” “Double tap if you like the post,” and “Sign up for free” to receive emails/newsletters about your products. If you are blogging regularly, make sure you promote your blog posts on Instagram and ask your followers to “Click the link” in your bio to read the full post. Incorporating a call to action reminds your followers that they can take steps that go beyond just looking at your content. It also plays a role in enhancing user engagement while catching their attention.
5. Contests Can Do the Trick
Growth hacks for Instagram always include increasing engagement, so you may want to consider running a contest. A well-executed contest can result in you gaining numerous new followers without putting in much effort. You can run several kinds of contests on Instagram. Simply ask your followers to like your post, follow your account, tag a friend, or get them to do something that will expose you to a wider audience. Contests work by increasing your account’s virality factor. By doing one or all of these, you get the benefit of increased exposure, and they can participate in your contest and stand to win amazing prizes. Just make sure the prizes you choose are relevant to your business offering. Having a large audience of people who are not interested in your business is not better than having a smaller audience of engaged, interested followers.
6. Enable User Follow-Back
Growth hacking Instagram is about growing your business, and when it comes to business, there is no harm in capturing your competitors’ followers. After all, it will help your business grow quickly. Also, doing so is easy because it takes the guess work out of the game as you’re already aware of the kind of content they’re looking for (they’re probably following accounts similar to yours). For best results, consider going beyond just liking and/or following users posts. You can follow a user, like a picture of theirs, and leave a comment on the same or another image. This will encourage more follow-backs, thereby augmenting your follower count. Don’t just comment generic phrases like “nice post” or “love this” though. In order to really make this process worth your time, provide value in your comments. Ask questions from the people who posted the original picture. Offer advice or ideas if appropriate. You want to be representing your brand and building authority, not creating more noise. Be original, authentic and genuinely helpful, and others will return the favor.
7. Harness the Power of Instagram Shout-outs
If you haven’t tried Instagram shout-out already, then it’s high time you did. It entails a user mentioning your account in one of their posts either through a caption or on an image. Growth hacking Instagram using shout-outs make for one of the most effective ways of establishing your online presence and increasing your following. Sometimes, these can be refereed to as “share-4-share” or s4s. It exposes your account to thousands of new users who you probably didn’t have access to before. Skim through some of the most active Instagram accounts in your industry/niche that have a similar audience base to get an insight on the right kind of shout-outs. The next step is to contact them to check if they’d be interested in doing a shout-out for you and their fees. This isn’t usually a free tactic, but if you can find the right influencers to partner with, it can be completely worth the money if Instagram is turning out to be a high-value channel for your business (meaning, the bulk of your audience is hanging out on there). You can do a hashtag search to find accounts who are interested in doing shout outs by searching #s4s or #share4share.
8. Automate the Process
Did you know that you can use specially-designed software to manage your likes, comments and follows on your Instagram account? Instagress and Autogrambot are a couple of programs that can help you engage with other Instagram users as per to the parameters set by you. Instagram growth hacks like this can help you grow your business’s followers in no time. However, make sure that you do not misuse these programs by engaging too many users too quickly. Failure to do so will get your account barred, which will prevent you from reaping the benefits of growing your follower-base through automation. While automation can help minimize the amount of time required to build an account organically, automate with caution. Users can sniff out a robot pretty easily, and most people don’t want to follow brands that don’t feel authentic.
The influence of social media platforms such as Instagram is rising by the day. It is only natural for progressive startups to invest their time and resources to establish their presence and authority on these networks. If you’re not already tapping into the potential of growth hacking Instagram, then you should do so without further ado. Of course, having a huge number of followers will work in your favor, and getting them on-board may be time consuming, but it’s not impossible. The growth hacking instagram tips above should go a long way in helping you amass an army of followers to ascertain your market leadership and multiply you revenue. Implement them and you will have exactly what your business needs.
The Best Growth Hack That Works For Every Company? Experimentation
“We should have a higher overall cancel rate.” – Reed Hastings, Co-Founder & CEO Netflix June 2017. While his company is enjoying unparalleled subscriber success, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is worried that his widely loved streaming service is having too many hit shows. “It’s a sign we’re not trying enough crazy things. We should take […]
“We should have a higher overall cancel rate.”
– Reed Hastings, Co-Founder & CEO Netflix
June 2017. While his company is enjoying unparalleled subscriber success, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is worried that his widely loved streaming service is having too many hit shows. “It’s a sign we’re not trying enough crazy things. We should take more risks.” Was Hastings trying to hedge his company’s position towards investors in the sight of more cancellations? That’s a way of looking at it. The other way is that he’s willing to sacrifice a fraction of today’s profits to ensure Netflix’s growth tomorrow. Or should we call it survival? After all, Netflix’ rise coincided with the fall of Blockbuster as the latter neglected the future to make more money in the present. “Why would we care about you mailing DVDs if we’re making billions of dollars a year with our physical stores,” is what I imagine Blockbuster CEO John Antioco replied to Hastings when he proposed to join forces in 2000. Blockbuster declared for bankruptcy in 2010. Hastings could’ve also gotten his inspiration from Netflix’ current rival, Amazon and its charismatic founder Jeff Bezos. Bezos, soon-to-be wealthiest man in the world, doesn’t make a secret of what his secret sauce is. “Our success at Amazon is a function of how many experiments we do per year, per month, per week, per day.” Bezos likes to compare business to baseball. If you swing for the fences, you’re going to strike out a lot, but you’ll also hit a couple of home runs. The difference between business and baseball however, is that in baseball the outcome is at most four runs – no matter how well you hit the ball. In business, you can get up to 1,000 runs and more. Image Credit: Nassim Nicholas Taleb So even if you miss nine times out of ten, the massive potential return justifies being bold. If you want to win, you need to experiment. No need to look further than Amazon Web Services (AWS) to understand that Bezos is right on the money. Starting off as an experiment totally unrelated to Amazon’s core e-commerce business, AWS became the fastest growing B2B company in history and has given Amazon the kind of digital infrastructure no other e-commerce business can ever catch up with. The same can be said about Amazon Prime, Echo and Kindle – all multi-billion dollar experiments that paid off. Are you learning as fast as the world is changing? Startups often pride themselves on out-hustling their competition. I too wake up every morning with the mindset that nothing is off-limits if you put in the work, but just putting your muscles to work isn’t going to cut it. More than ever, the one question leadership should be able to answer is: how do we learn as fast as the world is changing? Rather than ‘what’ you think, the crucial skill today is ‘how’ you think. Netflix doesn’t care as much as having hit shows today as it does about having hit shows tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. They want to able to out-think the competition, to develop a privileged point of view of what the future will look like and get there before anyone else does. Their vehicle to get there? Experimentation. The same vehicle Amazon, Facebook, Google, Uber and many others are riding. There’s a reason experiment-fuelled companies have been emerging as the best of the class in short span of time: they’ve developed better mechanisms to grasp reality and internalize the learnings into their strategies. The closer to reality you stand, the better decisions you make. Experimentation used to be considered something a company could do on the side, while the other 99% could focus on the ‘core business’. Today it’s a prerequisite to play the game and the players compete on the quality, volume and pace of experimentation.
Growth hacking is nothing but figuring out the fastest ways for growth through rapid experimentation across marketing channels. Netflix making crazy shows to see how their subscribers react to it and gauge their changing consumer preferences is no different from me throwing up a landing page for a crazy new product feature. As a growth marketer, I too am looking to learn more about reality by throwing something at it and see how it reacts. Is the marketing message I’m sending viable, does it resonate with target audience and does it have ROI potential for the business? Once I know, I can use that learning – whatever it might be – to revisit my ideas or generate new ones to then design new experiments to test those ideas. Slowly but surely I’ll iterate my way to the formula that determines growth for my business.
“What’s the number one growth hack for my company?”
The most frequently asked question prospects ask me in sales meetings is also the one I love most. As soon as it pops, a trace of a smile plays across my lips. It’s the perfect opportunity for me take control of the conversation and enlighten the prospect on what makes our agency different from others. “Science.” They look at me with big eyes. They expected a magic formula, a silver bullet, a stroke of genius. I give them a methodology, a process. And explain why they’ve been reading too many ‘how to increase your traffic with 350% in two weeks’ – blog posts.
“I am the wisest man alive. For I know one thing and that is that I know nothing.”
This quote is by the famous Greek philosopher Socrates and I live it religiously as a growth marketer. When I get into a sales meeting with a prospect, I know nothing. I don’t know their product, I don’t know their audience and I don’t know their business model. That may sound like a disadvantage, but it isn’t. It means I’m 100% free of assumptions: things I think I know but don’t actually have proof for. Every such an assumption is essentially a risk to your business because you don’t know if it aligns with reality or not. And boy do entrepreneurs have a knack for thinking they have their companies figured out. Their business models are swamped with risks disguised as assumptions. The worst kind of risks: risks of which you don’t know that they’re risks. As an outsider, I am in a better position to assess the assumptions that lay at the grounds of the business and turn them into experiments to find out whether they’re true or not. If an experiment proves an assumption to be truthful, I now have data to back it up and have stripped the business model of a risk. If an assumption proves to be wrong, I’ll have learned something new – putting me in the position to turn a risk into an asset. Whichever one of the two it is – right or wrong – strategic decisions for growth today can be made from evidence and not gut feeling. Marketing used to be about big bombastic campaigns that would take months and millions of dollars to set up without a valid way to track actual ROI. Those days are over. With the tools and tracking possibilities we have at our disposal today, there’s no more excuse to make decisions purely based on gut feeling. Let alone complain about the outcomes after. You can know the exact return of each marketing dollar you spend.
A quest for truth
Marketing is about understanding and influencing customers behaviours. We aim to make people react to stimuli in predictable ways. For every action, there is a reaction and we want to be able to anticipate those reactions as much as possible. That makes marketing a never-ending quest for truth. Never-ending because the idea of truth itself is an illusion. As human beings, there’s only so much we can grasp from reality. It is too vast and complex for our brains to fully make sense of, and changes at unprecedented speeds. Experiments are our gateway to reality. One experiment will tell you which subject line gets more opens, which image converts better and which copy gets clicked more. A series of experiments will gradually make you understand what your customers need, what moves them, where they hang out, how they like to be talked about. And how all of that can come together in a brand and marketing strategy. The pitch I make to prospects pretty much comes down to this. When it doesn’t do the trick, I give them the link to Ladder.io’s Playbook with 849 growth tactics and propose they guess which ones might work for them instead of actively finding out what will work. What we call a ‘growth hack’ is the result of a thorough understanding of your target audience and its relation to your business. You find one by slowly making sense of the complex reality that is a business.
Dropbox’s growth hack wasn’t the referral program
From September 2008 to January 2010, Dropbox grew from 100,000 to 4,000,000 users. I’m guessing you heard this story over and over again. What I’m not sure about is whether they’ve told it to you the right way. Sean Ellis drove virality by inventing the modern referral program: users who got their friends to sign up for Dropbox received 500MB of extra storage, an enormity at the time. Businesses from industries all over the world were quick to ‘steal’ the referral program, only to find out it wasn’t performing for them as it was for Dropbox. They copied the wrong strategy. Dropbox’s success isn’t built on the referral program, it’s built on the process that gave rise to their referral program: experimentation. Before doubling-down on the referral program, Dropbox conducted small experiments to find out how far users were willing to go for free storage space. Experiments like these taught Dropbox users were willing to perform certain actions to gain extra storage. They went from connecting social media accounts to inviting friends and eventually mass-inviting friends through a clever integration with Gmail. They didn’t discover the referral program as a growth hack overnight. It was the logical consequence of an ongoing loop of small-scale experiments. Experiments that gradually revealed the referral program as a major growth lever for Dropbox. First they discovered they were getting a lot of referral signups for enthusiastic early adopter users by looking at the data, then they ran experiments to find out whether people would perform certain actions to get free storage – the logical consequence was the referral program The simple reason this referral program doesn’t work for you the same way it works for Dropbox is that your customers aren’t the same as Dropbox’s. It sounds obvious and yet every day again people ask me if I can give them plug-and-play growth hacks for their businesses. This obsession with tactics over process is the number one thing people get wrong about growth hacking. Your growth hack isn’t someone else’s. To quote growth hacking godfather Sean Ellis:
“Sustainable growth comes from understanding best customers and figuring out how to find and acquire more of them.”
– Sean Ellis, Growth Hacking Godfather
Similarly to how Dropbox learned its users would be willing to refer friends to get more storage, Twitter found out all of its active users followed at least thirty people and Airbnb found out its target audience was looking for vacation rentals on Craigslist. Both then turned those learnings into effective tactics. Twitter started showing users interesting people to follow in the signup process to boost activation. Airbnb built an integration to cross-post listings on Craigslist to drive awareness. The rest, as they say, is history. These examples come to show that growth comes from relentlessly pursuing the truth about your customers through an iterative process of experimentation: test, measure results, internalize learnings, rinse and repeat.
Embrace failure as a tool to make better decisions
I can’t tell you how many entrepreneurs I meet that hold the flag of creativity and innovation up high, yet fail to act on it because of fear of mistake and disappointment. They’re afraid to be wrong. Which in turn is why they lack both innovation and creativity and get outmanoeuvred by competitors who are willing to experiment and fail. Rather than being afraid of being wrong, you should strive to be less wrong. Experiments and failure are inherently connected with one another. No matter how well-designed, 9 out of 10 experiments will fail, for the simple reason that as human beings we’re way worse at understanding reality than we think we are. Which is exactly why we need failure: it teaches us reality.
“I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
– Thomas Edison
Failure as a teacher is a liberating idea, because it implies you can’t lose. Losing would be not knowing, staying stuck in the dark guessing why your traffic isn’t converting. What most companies don’t get is that failure is a feature of learning, not a bug. If you’re not prepared to fail, you’re not prepared to learn. In fact, most breakthrough ideas are hidden within ‘failed’ experiments. There is no such thing as failed experiments – only unexpected outcomes. If the demographic you expected to click isn’t clicking that means you need to adjust your message. Or adjust your focus to target the demographic that is clicking, often with substantial implications for your initial value proposition altogether. Consider the case of ‘Circle Of Friends’, a sort of Facebook Groups before there were Facebook Groups: people could organise themselves in self-managing communities. KPIs for activation and retention weren’t met, except with one target audience: moms. Moms were using it intensively to connect with one another and share best practices on parenting. The then startup realigned its value proposition, rebranded to ‘Circle Of Moms’ and was acquired by PopSugar four years later. Reality is too complex for us humans to predict. Experiments are what enables us to test our ideas in reality. Failure is reality’s way of getting back to us and show us what’s real and what’s not. Whatever happens, there’s always a learning you can take with you.
The Minimum Viable Experiment
If you’re going to double the number of experiments you do per year, you’re going to double your inventiveness.
– Jeff Bezos
The best part about this Jeff Bezos quote is that it’s actually inaccurate. If you double the number of experiments you do per year, you’re going to more than double your inventiveness. Think about it. Every experiment widen and deepens you knowledge. New knowledge allows for better experiments, better experiments allow for richer insights and richer insights again allow for better experiments. Rather than double, your inventiveness will grow exponentially. This is the idea of the compound effect. Speed of execution is key here. The goal of experimentation is to learn and stack up knowledge quickly, not to be perfect and look pretty. If you have a new idea to acquire customers, you should test it in the real world as quickly as possible before designing a whole strategy around it. This also has to do with resources: why spend huge amounts of time and money on Instagram ads or a new product feature if you have no clue if it will appeal to your target audience? As soon as an idea hits you, you find a way to put it out in the real world as a fast as possible and see what happens. You test with a small target audience to avoid a big budget gamble. It doesn’t have to be good, it has to be good enough to validate or dismiss your assumption underlying the idea: a Minimum Viable Experiment. I can hear you thinking already: “yeah yeah, build an MVP before going all-in.” But do you stick to that idea through thick and thin? My experience is that aggressive growth KPIs often drive teams to forget about the minimum part of their MVE. Apart from the learning, they also strive to drive KPIs and, without realising it, end up with blown-up failed experiments, expensive in terms of budget and time. Take the example of a startup that believed introducing a subscription model would be huge growth opportunity. Instead of testing that assumption in an MVE, they went on to change their payment system and onboarded existing users in the subscription model. To then, after about two months come to the conclusion a subscription model didn’t appeal to their target audience at all. They could have easily tested this without risk by putting up a landing page for a subscription signup, driving traffic to it and compare conversion on it against the current pricing model. Fake it if you have to. One hour, a computer and an internet connection are sufficient to put together a mockup of two, a landing page and a Facebook Ad to drive traffic and see how your idea, be it marketing or product, stands the test of reality. If you can’t think of a way to fake a product experience in order to get your hands to validating data, you’re not trying hard enough.
Growth Hacking, demystified
To its core, growth hacking is an amazingly simple concept. First, you pick a metric that you would like to see go up or down. This can be number of signups, number of returning users, CTR on Facebook Ads, email opens or the number of coffees you drink per day. Then, you look for other factors you believe influence that particular metric. You may believe signups go up if you remove a step from the signup process, think gamification will spike retention, assume emojis in copy will make people click more, be convinced emails sent in the morning will get opened more and trust you’ll drink less coffee if you sleep one hour a night more. Ideally, you base this influencing relationship on data – data you already have or data you have seen elsewhere. Something that tells you there is a correlation between the two factors. If you don’t have any data, because your idea is particularly new and/or you’re just starting out, you go by gut feeling. You may have found research that sleeping more reduces coffee consumption or you just believe it to be true. Once you’ve identified the two factors that are correlated – the one you want to change and the one you think will change along with it – you’re going to figure out a way – an experiment – to test if that correlational relationship is also a causal one: does the one factor’s change determines the other factor’s change? Translated: if I send my emails in the morning and the open rate goes up, is it because I sent them in the morning? To know this for sure, you can for example send the exact same email with the exact same subject line to half of your email list in the morning and the other one in the evening. That way you exclude the possibility of other factors being the causal drivers of the metric change. When you’ve found causality between two factors, backed up by nice and unambiguous data with every other possibility excluded – you can optimize the causal factor to drive the metric you picked in the very begin up to the point where you want it to be.
Your Most Powerful Growth Hack: The Scientific Process
Time to get our hands dirty and practice some science. You don’t need to be Einstein to do this. Science is about pursuing curiosity, embracing ignorance and relentlessly bridging the gap between the two. The scientific process will remove the guesswork from your marketing and turn your company’s growth into something scalable, predictable and repeatable. It goes something like this:
Ideate on how to reach goals
Design experiments to test ideas
Execute experiments to see how reality reacts
Study data & document relentlessly
Rinse and repeat
Step 1: Set Goals
Always start with the end in mind. Are you looking to drive more traffic to your website, reactivate idle users or increase revenue from upselling? Simply ‘drive more traffic’ isn’t going to cut it. To design effective experiments, you want to break down your objective in more manageable parts following the SMART criteria: Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related. Let’s assume you run an e-commerce business with 14,000 monthly unique website visitors and an average spend of $7.3, resulting in $1,226,400 annual revenue. To get to $2,000,000 by the end of next year, you’ll need to either grow your website traffic to 22,832 monthly unique visitors or increase average spend per visitor to $11.7. Your goal could look like this: We want to increase website traffic to 23,000 monthly unique visitors within 90 days — weekly growth rate of 13%. Here’s how that aligns with the S.M.A.R.T. dimensions.
Specific: increase website to 23,000 monthly unique website visitors
Measurable: 13% per week
Assignable: the marketing team
Realistic: Up to you to decide what is ‘realistic’.
Time-related: Good goals are set between 30 and 90 days.
Base your objectives on the pirate funnel to align your experiments to stages in the customer journey. Driving website traffic is just one example of how you could trigger growth. Every stage of the pirate funnel offers opportunities in this respect. Be smart about which stage of the funnel you’re going to grow first: it doesn’t make a lot of sense to double traffic to your webshop if 95% of your visitors leave without spending.
Step 2: Ideate on how to reach goals
After the ‘what’ comes the ‘how’. This is where you come up with ideas to reach your objectives. In this case: to increase traffic with 13% in a week. Try to find to find a balance between ideas you base off data from past experiments and totally new experiments. That way you’ll be able to improve existing tactics as well as maximise your odds to discover new ones. Let’s say past experiments have proven Instagram ads to be an effective traffic driver. You can try to improve those past experiments in terms of media, copy or targeting to gain a bigger increase in traffic. Another idea is to start following influencers on Pinterest because you’ve seen competitors doing it and want to find out if it would work for you too. More ideas:
team up with other e-commerce businesses for a big giveaway and share email lists and Facebook Audiences to cross-promote it
create a chatbot that helps people choosing the best gifts for their mother, father, sibling, friend etc. — write a blog post about it, share on social/in relevant communities and post on Product Hunt
start shipping stickers with orders to increase offline exposure
Come up with as many ideas as possible, then select the ones you want to focus on in the upcoming weeks and put the rest in your backlog to revisit later.
Step 3: Design experiments to test ideas
Turn ideas into experiments by identifying:
the hypothesis to validate
the variable to test
the metric to measure
the criteria to base success off
For the Pinterest-idea, that would look something like this: As soon as I’ve confirmed that following influencers on Pinterest works, I can run further tests to determine the characteristics of the influencers most likely to follow me back and pin my products. The more experiments I run, the more I’ll get to know Pinterest as a social platform and the more I’ll be able to eventually turn it into a traffic machine. Stay true to the idea of the Minimum Viable Experiment.
Don’t waste time on perfecting copy or design. Implement whatever is need to validate/dismiss your hypothesis.
Don’t burn your monthly budget on one ad campaign. Start with a fraction and scale up as it gains traction.
Don’t make ten changes at once: test one element at a time to learn its relative weight in relation to the other elements.
Don’t argue about which ad looks the best: A/B test all of them in the market and the best one will automatically emerge.
Step 4: Execute experiments to see how reality reacts
Time to unleash your experiments into the world. Work hard, but smart. Use tools to facilitate and automate non-creative work. You can draw inspiration from Google’s design sprints to schedule experiments, manage time and assign tasks.
Step 5: Study data & document relentlessly
The most important stage of the process is also the most overlooked one. About every marketing agency these days claims to be ‘data-driven’ but few of them really are. The whole point of the scientific process is to discover new knowledge and internalise it to gain power over your reality. There’s no sense in running experiments if that new knowledge is then ignored, overlooked and not captured. Take the time to look at the results of experiments and try to understand the surrounding ‘why’ by combining quantitative with qualitative data. Here are some guiding questions:
What were the results of the experiment?
How valid was the initial hypothesis?
Why are the results what they are? Try to understand the whole story, not just the occurrence.
Are there ways to segment or combine data to reveal new insights?
Remember: breakthrough insights are hidden within ‘failed’ experiments. Document your experiments relentlessly. As experiments are all about learning and the most powerful learnings are often hidden within the failed ones, it is crucial that you keep track of what you have been doing and internalize learnings to avoid spending time on finding out things you already know.
Step 6: Rinse and repeat
Congratulations, you’re smarter now. Now use that to become even smarter. Align goals, scale successful experiments, adjust failed experiments, come up with new ideas, design better experiments and harvest new learnings. To then do it all over again. There’s always more things to test, more experiments to run, more knowledge to gain. You can never win the game but the more you play, the better you’ll get.
Looking to fuel your experiment machine?
On June 7th of this year, my agency The Growth Revolution will be setting new standards for conferences on growth in Europe with The Growth Conference in Antwerp, Belgium. Trailblazing keynotes, hands-on workshop and turbocharged networking sessions to get you in powerful growth strategies used by thought leaders to move the needle with experiment design, content marketing, social media, personal branding, future technologies, data science, automation, behavioral psychology and more. The line-up of international marketing rockstars we have for you is unlike any event in Europe has ever seen. Early bird tickets are on sale until April 20th. Find out more here.
8 Hacks To Accelerate Your Growth in 2019
There are only two ways to go in business: up or down. You might think there’s a third option in doing neither, but that will eventually lead downward as your competition takes advantage of your complacency. Up or down. That’s it. A brand that isn’t actively pursuing growth is a slowly dying business. According to […]
There are only two ways to go in business: up or down. You might think there’s a third option in doing neither, but that will eventually lead downward as your competition takes advantage of your complacency. Up or down. That’s it. A brand that isn’t actively pursuing growth is a slowly dying business. According to TD Bank’s annual survey, 46% of American SMBs planned to grow in 2017, and 9% planned to add staff. Those figures rose to 53% and 22%, respectively, in 2018. Grow or shrink. Flourish or perish. Succeed or fail. And while the old adage that ‘slow and steady wins the race’ is generally true, the trend amongst start-ups and small businesses is to kick growth into overdrive. We’re in the growth marketing age, and if you’re not playing the game, you’re going to quickly be left behind.
What is Growth Marketing?
At its simplest, growth marketing is a focus on the entire sales funnel, whereas traditional marketing limits itself primarily to just the top of it (the acquisition stage). It recognizes that retaining existing customers while acquiring new ones not only accelerates true growth, but also saves you money. Image Source Gain five new users while losing three existing ones, and you’ve only grown by two. Gain those same five while losing none? You’ve grown by five. That might sound like an oversimplification, but if retention doesn’t factor into your marketing, you’re cutting your acquisition efforts off at the knees. Growth marketers aren’t afraid to experiment and get creative. They use concrete data and frequent A/B or split testing to optimize everything at every level and touch point. They track, monitor, and improve. They provide for and exceed consumer expectations to build rabid fans and advocates, not ‘just’ customers. They are 100% about customer acquisition, customer retention, and increasing profit. Sounds good, right? And best of all, growth marketing is perfect for companies of any size, but it’s especially well-suited to new businesses with limited budgets and resources. “For meaningful growth, startups must completely change the rules of traditional channels or innovate outside of those growth channels. They are too desperate and disadvantaged to adapt to the old rules of marketing. They have to dig deep creatively, and relentlessly test new ideas. If they don’t figure out quickly, they will go out of business.” ~Sean Ellis, Founder and CEO, GrowthHackers.com
Be More Pirate
To achieve this, growth marketers focus on five key metrics to measure their success:
These guiding pillars of growth have been dubbed the ‘pirate metrics’ because they create the acronym AARRR. Image Source You may also see AAARRR from the addition of awareness as the first step. Either way, the sentiment remains the same: acquire, retain, earn more. Ask yourself the questions. Hypothesize and test ways to improve each stage. If you identify issues, fix them. Grow, grow, grow. Looking to accelerate your growth in 2019? Try these 8 growth hacks.
1. Be ACTIVE on Social Media
This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are still people and businesses out there not taking advantage of social media beyond just having a Facebook page or Instagram profile. That’s not enough. An active presence on the platforms that matter to your audience is a surefire way to jumpstart growth, and there is perhaps no faster or more affordable way to spread awareness of your brand and products. To grow you need people, and social media has them by the billions. Facebook? 2.23 billion. Instagram? One billion. YouTube? 1.9 billion. No matter who your ideal buyers are, they’re on social, guaranteed. Every demographic is represented, from Gen Z to Baby Boomers and beyond. Image Source The worldwide number of social users is expected to grow from about 2.62 billion in 2018 to 3.02 billion by 2021. So get active. Follow the major personalities and brands in your industry. Engage with them and their followers. Share your best content. Comment on relevant posts from others. Thank people for a follow back. An often-overlooked hack is to answer relevant questions on Quora. It’s a thriving community of roughly 300 million monthly users looking for information from experts and peers like you. Build your brand, enhance your reputation, and generate traffic to your blog or website with a link in your answers. You can’t just ‘be’ on social media. You’ve got to be active. Use appropriate hashtags to be found more easily. Connect, engage, and grow.
This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: focus on customer experience (CX). CX is poised to become the main differentiator by 2020 if it’s not already. It’ll be more important than the price and the product. Are you ready? Consumers want personalization, ease, and speed. They want options. Actively work to improve their experience at every stage and touchpoint. Improve response times. Diversify your channels. Ask for feedback, and use what feedback you receive.
4. One Word: Contests
Everyone loves something for free. Use that to gain exposure, generate leads, and create positive sentiment via contests. Setting up a contest on social media is a breeze with services like WooBox, Shortstack, and Heyo. People are more than happy to provide you with their name and email address, as well as share your contest announcement with their network, if it means they may win something. A $50 gift card might generate thousands in new sales from the leads you collect. Contest, sweepstakes, or giveaway – it doesn’t matter what you call it. The results are the same: more names, bigger list.
5. Exit Intent Popup
Ever start moving your cursor towards the back or close button, only to have a pop-up stop you? You’ve just witnessed exit intent in action. Create an exit intent popup with a valuable, high-quality lead magnet for your website. It’s a last-ditch attempt to collect contact details before a prospect disappears forever, and they’re very effective. Wisepop customers, for example, report an average 300% increase in their email list efforts. Offer a downloadable resource (ebook, pdf, template, case study, white paper, report, or how-to guide), coupon, or special discount in exchange for their name and email address. As with contests, most consumers are willing – even excited – to trade those details if it means they get something useful back. Image Source Get the details. Build and harness your email list. Growth starts there.
6. Remember the Six Weapons of Influence
Human beings are complex creatures, but we’re also remarkably similar in a lot of ways. The more you know about how people think, feel, and make decisions, the better you’ll be able to gently nudge them towards a decision you want them to make. Enter Robert Cialdini and his weapons of influence:
Monitor and participate in relevant trending topics and hashtags on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever other platforms you use, to be seen and heard. Look to a service like Hastagify to find the hashtags that have people talking on Twitter and Instagram. Jump into those conversations that are relevant to you, your brand, and your products. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. There will always be someone else innovating, entering the marketplace, and expanding – or, in other words, growing – so you can’t be complacent about your position in your niche. Ever. These growth hacks should be stage one of your growth marketing strategy heading into the new year. Then try some other ones. And then try different hacks after that. Make growth a priority, and you’ll grow. It doesn’t get any easier than that. What’s your best growth hack? Leave your comments below:
15 Tips to Increase Your Brand’s Social Media Engagements
A 2018 report published by Hootsuite and We Are Social states that the number of internet users worldwide has passed the 4 billion mark, and roughly 3.2 billion of those are social media users. That means every minute, your brand’s social media content is competing with millions of Facebook posts, hundreds of thousands of tweets, […]
A 2018 report published by Hootsuite and We Are Social states that the number of internet users worldwide has passed the 4 billion mark, and roughly 3.2 billion of those are social media users. That means every minute, your brand’s social media content is competing with millions of Facebook posts, hundreds of thousands of tweets, and tens of thousands of Instagram photos. With those record-breaking numbers, you might be wondering how you can stand out in all that noise.Luckily, it’s very achievable. Here are 15 tips for strengthening your social media prowess and boosting your brand’s social media engagements:
1. Post Value-rich Content
It should be no surprise that posting more valuable content will result in higher engagement. Yet, most brands’ social media pages are filled with countless posts humblebragging about themselves and their products. But that’s the kind of content that pushes people away. Instead, your brand’s social media content should be useful and speak to the intended audience’s wants, needs, desires, fears, and pain points. Constantly focusing on your audience resonates, and shows that your brand is about more than profits. Try sharing surprising statistics, thoughtful quotes, or evergreen blog content. Before posting anything, ask yourself: “If I were the reader, how would this help me?”
2. Research and Emulate Popular Content
So many marketers simply guess at what content they think their audience would like – and then they’re surprised when it doesn’t perform well. Rather than playing guessing games, spend a little time researching what kind of content has worked in the past. Try browsing your competitors’ and industry-adjacent peers’ social media profiles to see what kind of content is working for them and driving the greatest engagement. Tools like Ahrefs and Buzzsumo can also be leveraged to see what kinds of headlines and blog posts perform best when shared via social media. You can find out total engagement, social media channel breakdown, and much more.
3. Use Relevant Hashtags
Hashtags are easy wins for connecting with like-minded people. It’s good practice to piggyback on popular, relevant hashtags in addition to making your own. Opt for hashtags that are on the shorter side with easy-to-spell words or phrases. They should give the intended audience a clear understanding of the topic of conversation, and be memorable as well.
4. Use Giveaways and Contests
It’s no secret that people adore cheap and free stuff. But you’ve got to make your giveaways worthwhile and your contests entertaining and rewarding. Nobody cares about 5% discount codes or free shipping on their next order. They want that 20% discount, free meals, free trips, or exclusive gear. And they also want their rewards now, not next month. Instant-use discount codes and fast and free shipping are win-wins. Lastly, don’t forget to acknowledge the winner publicly so people see that it isn’t a gimmick. Better yet, have the winner create a post or video that you can share so it has a more authentic touch.
5. Host Q&A or AMA Sessions
Question & Answer (Q&A) or Ask Me Anythings (AMAs) have long been a staple of traditional interviews and sites like Reddit, but they’re rapidly becoming more mainstream across social media. For example, Instagram recently released a new story sticker that allows followers to ask questions within their stories, that many are using in an AMA style. Because these formats have a live or recent quality to them, they’re alluring to audiences of all types. Naturally, the more time people spend interacting with your brand, the more trust and rapport you can build – which inevitably will lead to more attention and sales.
6. Share Influencer Content
Blogger and influencer outreach is all about finding relevant influencers to align with your brand. Start by leveraging marketing tools to find what content in your niche is getting the most engagement, and determine who’s creating it. Then, get noticed by sharing their content, engaging with it, or directly reaching out with a short pitch or offer. Once you’ve established an influencer is a fit for your brand and goals, then you can simply invite them to share your content.
7. Ask Questions and Utilize CTAs
If you want action, you’ve got to ask for it. It’s truly that easy. A properly-placed call-to-action (CTA) will encourage readers to engage with you further. First, show prospects how you can make their life better or address a pain point. Speak to their emotions, and you can’t go wrong. Then, hit them with a CTA that’s simple, specific, and a gradual next step. Typically, these steps involve moving them from your social media page to interacting with your content or taking them to a landing page on your site.To build engagement, ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. These questions usually start with “why,” and the best are thought-provoking or slightly controversial to encourage people to share their opinions. Create “fill in the blank” or “caption this photo” prompts to engage your audience on a creative level that makes them feel involved. Futurism, a science and technology news site, famously does this on their popular Instagram stories.
8. Engage With Others
How you interact with your audience is a critical component of how your brand is perceived. A positive perception is typically marked by lots of engagement and a dialogue that’s positive and lighthearted. Thank them, compliment them, or offer assistance in some way.Naturally, there will be some negative comments and engagement, but the best way to handle that is to pick your battles, keep your responses short and sweet, and point them toward an FAQ resource or bring the negative conversation out of the public eye.
9. Utilize Images, GIFs, and Videos
Adding visual elements to your content is one of the best ways to make your post stand out in social media feeds, partly because people are better at remembering visual content. For example, if you hear a piece of information, three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. But if you add a picture to it, it can boost retention up to 65%. Visual storytelling is best served by ditching stock visual content and creating your own instead. People gravitate toward original content, and usually perceive stock imagery as spammy and distasteful. Even just snapping your own photos, adding a light filter, and superimposing text over it can create highly-shareable content.
10. Share Surveys and Polls
Posting surveys and polls on Twitter and Facebook is easy, and it’s a great way to stoke engagement and learn meaningful info about your audience. Plus, with enough of a reach, you can generate original content by surveying your audience (and sharing the results later). Instagram even has a sticker layer that allows users or brands to get near-instant feedback from their audience on ideas for new products and features.
11. Post Frequently and at the Right Times
According to a 2018 industry research report from Sprout Social, the best times to post on Facebook are Wednesdays from 12-2 PM and Thursdays from 1-2 PM. Twitter’s sweet spot is Friday from 9-10 AM or between 10 AM and noon most days. To maximize these guidelines, automate your social media posts using a tool like Buffer, or at the very least schedule them out in advance with a tool like CoSchedule.
12. Ask For Feedback
A fast and easy way to get your followers talking is to simply ask their opinions. People have no shortage of opinions, and are usually quick to share their feedback and suggestions when asked. You can also pair this with giveaways to really get people talking. Free shipping, free dessert, or a hefty discount code can go a long way toward getting people to open up.
13. Don’t Discount Live Video
35% of marketers are now using live video to reach their intended audience, partly because they garner more engagement than non-live videos. On Facebook, live videos have an average engagement rate of 4.3%, compared to non-live video content at 2.2%. That’s nearly twice the engagement – and the best part is you don’t have to do any editing or add any graphics; just point and shoot.
14. Partner Up and Cross-promote
One of the quickest ways to generate more engagement and simultaneously reach a wider audience is to cross-promote by partnering up with another brand. Obviously, you’ll want to find someone who isn’t a direct competitor, but is still industry-adjacent enough to have a similar audience. Once you’ve found a partner, you’ve got a few options:
Post content supplied by your new partner
Co-produce a piece of content that you both share
Create a post on behalf of your new partner
Besides partnering with other companies, you can also cross-promote other social media channels. Tweet a picture of your Snapchat page, or remind people on Instagram to check out your Pinterest page.
15. Utilize Paid Promotion
If you want to reach a larger audience and drive more engagement, it doesn’t get much easier or faster than paid promotion. The hard part is finding the perfect combination of ad copy, landing pages, headlines, and offerings. Luckily, the internet is riddled with “how to” guides on successful paid promotion.While all this social media optimization seems like a lot of work, remember, a whopping 94% of prospects are active on some form of social media, making the juice absolutely worth the squeeze. You can’t afford not to have some form of social media presence – and if you’re going to do it at all, you’ve got to make sure you do it right.How are you winning the war for attention and engagement on social media?Share your story and tactics in the comments below:
Importance of Having Influencers Involved in Your Content
What did you want to be when you grew up? A doctor? A teacher? A lawyer? If you asked a child this question today, odds are you wouldn’t hear any of those responses. In a recent survey, 75% of children said that they want to grow up to be a vlogger – or in other […]
What did you want to be when you grew up? A doctor? A teacher? A lawyer? If you asked a child this question today, odds are you wouldn’t hear any of those responses. In a recent survey, 75% of children said that they want to grow up to be a vlogger – or in other words, an influencer. Of course, as with any career associated with fame and fortune, only a handful of those who dream of being the next big thing will ever make it. In fact, even now there are countless bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters who consider themselves influential, but aren’t. So what constitutes an influencer? And how can you make sure you’re picking the right influencer for your brand? There’s more to being an influencer than having thousands of followers (especially when those numbers are so easy to fake). Needless to say, influencers influence. Their followers actually engage with their content, listen to what they have to say, and take action as a result of their requests or recommendations. This means the right influencer for you – i.e. someone who not only has a decent-sized following, but who also has an engaged following that fits your brand – can be invaluable to your content. In fact, one in three consumers reportedly trust the words of an influencer over the brand itself. That said, that isn’t the only reason getting influencers involved in your content is so important. There are a number of ways they can be invaluable to its creation and distribution.
They Probably Know Things You Don’t
There’s no doubt that some influencers gain their fame by faking it, but those aren’t the influencers you want to be working with, regardless of how many followers they have or how engaged those followers are. When researching influencers, do some digging to find out whether they legitimately know their stuff. Read their blog. Watch their YouTube content. Listen to podcasts they’ve appeared on (or host themselves). This is vital, since influencers who are more knowledgeable than you can add value to your content by contributing tips or sharing information that’s brand new to you, or that you hadn’t considered including. This is great for you (it makes you look more authoritative, even if the information has clearly come from the influencer) and it adds value for your audience.
They’re Invaluable to Content Distribution
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the more people you reach with your content, the more effective it will be. More eyes means more brand awareness and more shares (which in turn leads to more shares and more visibility – a cycle that, all being well, will continue). Better yet, the more people who see your content, the greater the odds it will lead to other wins, like links, email subscribers, and sales. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for you to start that chain reaction if your brand is largely unknown and your social media accounts have only a handful of followers. This is where influencers come in. When we see an influencer sharing a piece of content, we’re far more likely to reshare it than if we see the content being shared by someone unknown, even if we don’t bother looking at the content ourselves (admit it – we’ve all done it)! This is primarily because if we trust the person sharing the content, we trust the content will be worth resharing. However, while influencers do typically share content they’re involved in, you can’t count on it. So what can you do to up the odds that influencers will play a part in content distribution? One option is to make sharing the content part of your initial arrangement. Unfortunately, this condition is only really fair if you’re paying an influencer for their involvement. If you’re asking them to help out of the goodness of their hearts, you can’t expect anything else from them.
Sure, you can ask if they would mind sharing it, but you can’t assume they’ll oblige. So, if you’re not compensating influencers, bear this in mind: the quality of your content will make a big difference in whether or not they’ll push it out to their following. Influencers are much less likely to share their contribution to “50 Growth Tips from 50 Marketers,” for example, than a quality ebook. Influencers only want to share great content, and if anything, they’ll be less likely to share something substandard because they won’t want to advertise their involvement.
They Increase Your Authority
Simply put, working with an influencer earns you a “seal of approval” and makes you more influential in the eyes of your target audience. In other words, it’s authority by association. If an influencer is seen to endorse you, their audience is more likely to buy into what you have to say, to follow you, and to (potentially) purchase from you.
It May Lead to Other Opportunities Down the Line
Don’t “use” an influencer to your advantage and then disappear. Use this initial partnership as an opportunity to build a genuine relationship with this person. Do that, and odds are it will lead to bigger and better things in the future – things like:
More detailed contributions to your content
Distribution of content (whether or not the influencer in question was involved)
The chance to collaborate 50/50 on content – i.e. create an ebook together, speak on a podcast, or appear in a YouTube video
How to Get Influencers Involved in Your Content
So you want to get an influencer involved in your content, and based on the number of followers they have, how engaged those followers are, and how relevant the influencer is to your target audience, you’ve drawn up a shortlist of who you’d like to work with … What happens next? While there are agencies that can organize campaigns for you, going down that road limits your options. It also, of course, entails paying for an influencer’s involvement and chances are, you’ll be paying more than necessary, compared to going direct. So what’s the alternative? Start by tracking down the email address of everyone on your shortlist (you can do this en-masse using a tool like Voila Norbert). Then, once you’re ready, send a personalized pitch to influencers you want to work with. You can also streamline the process of contacting influencers and manage campaigns more effectively with platforms such as Mailshake. In your pitch, briefly detail:
The project you want their involvement in
What you’d ideally like their involvement to consist of – this could mean contributing to a blog post you’re writing, but it could also entail things like writing a guest post for your blog or appearing on your podcast or YouTube channel
Why you think they’re a great match for this project (in other words, butter them up)
Any compensation you can offer (if applicable)
This approach is a little different than what I’d advocate using in most outreach emails. In the majority of outreach emails, it’s critical to highlight what’s in it for the recipient. However, unless you’re offering some sort of compensation, the influencer doesn’t get much from participating. They’re an influencer because their audience is bigger than yours – they don’t need to help you, and they have little to gain. You have to make them want to work with you because you’re a likeable person who follows what they do, and has a genuinely interesting project for them to be involved in. Your email should be about them, but it shouldn’t be about what’s in it for them (unless you’re offering actual compensation). Have you ever had influencers involved in your content? Do you have any tips for getting them involved, or getting more out of their contributions? It’d be great if you could share your tips in the comments below:
Sujan Patel is the co-founder of Web Profits, a growth marketing agency helping companies leverage the latest and greatest marketing strategy to fuel their businesses.