Why do You Run a Startup? Here’s My Why

Finding one's way

I met Anders in MicroConf Europe.

When he introduces himself, he says something like this: “Hi, I’m Anders. My goal is happiness. I want to be happy and make people happy… and I run a software agency.”

I appreciate happiness, so I felt this immediate connection – I knew this was a fellow who I should listen to: “Awesome! I’m The Happy Bootstrapper! So nice to meet you.”

When I did listen, his advice was to find my “Why” – the root cause that drives me. He recommended a book for that: Simon Sinek’s Start With Why.

People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it

If you’ve sold anything, you’ll know that purchase decisions aren’t logical.

The easiest way to sell a product is to tell people something that could be out of their own diary. Something that resonates with them so much that they immediately feel the connection.

It’s not just “knowing who your customers are” either, it’s a connection deeper than that. It’s your customer’s brain recognizing something that aligns with its values and beliefs.

To pull that through, you must be aligned to those same values – or you’re faking it and people can see it.

Do things that match your why, and likeminded people will love what you sell

Anders said he was doing a time tracking app. He sent me a link to the landing page and asked my feedback. But I didn’t see a time tracking app, not really. What I saw was a method – something like Agile, but that can actually make both managers and developers happy. It could be huge.

Happiness + getting things done. Anders’ why made this innovation and product possible.

Back when I was taking 30×500, Amy and Alex introduced me to worldviews. We all have one – and when a product matches our worldview, we love it. When a product does not match our worldview, we hate it.

If a product tries to be everything for everyone, people may use it, but no-one loves it.

Can you see the opportunity this presents?

At the end of the day, it’s not the features and benefits that sell – because there is no perfect feature set. Different people want different tools. Different worldviews drive people to create different products – even when the feature set seems to be the same.

My Why: to amplify the creativity of people who make things better

There are people who want to create things to make the world better – I can amplify their creativity and chances of succeeding.

Do you want to revolutionize something? Do you want to make people’s lives better through what you create? I’m here to serve you. That’s what makes me happy.

I believe that creative minds are happiest when they create something that people love and actually use. I love to support creatives to succeed.

There are lovely apps, things that can make people’s life better. I want to be a part of those successes – I want to help people to have their software used. Make products reach more hands. Art that no-one sees is art wastes. Software that no-one uses is software wasted.

FirstOfficer is a product that aligns with my why. I believe people can feel that and that’s why they love it.

What? Your why is to serve others?

Yes. I want to do something meaningful, big, yet I’ve never had the drive.

I’ve always enjoyed spending time with creative people who understand that they can change lives. They can change their own life, and they can change other people’s lives through what they create.

And I’ve always known that I’m not the person who will actually change the world. Not at a scale. Still, I’ve also felt that I was missing something, that I wasn’t working on my full potential.

I’m a creative myself, but I’m not truly happy unless I create something that empowers others.

When I see my customers become more confident and reach their goals, it’s like crack to me. I’m so proud of them, even if I contributed just a little.

Getting the actual fame isn’t my thing. Personally, I feel that I’ve achieved what I want to achieve. I’ve been following my guts for several years already, doing the right things. Now I just know WHY this makes me happy and I can leverage on it.

I can also stop feeling bad for turning down interviews and talking opportunities. They don’t align with my why. I’m not the star who should take the stage – my customers are.

Finding the why is like finding a key to a locked door

A single why can translate into thousand products and things to do – all of which can make you feel that you are doing what you were born to do. That gives a lot more opportunities for you to make a living doing something that you love.

Simon Sinek’s why is “to inspire people to do the things that inspire them”.

What makes the why’s so powerful is that your why isn’t attached to a single product or product type. Sinek sells books, courses and even canvas bags.

Whatever he can make to inspire people, he does. People who believe and want to be inspired – they buy the products.

How to find one’s why?

Sinek’s process for finding your why (not in the book) goes through your past experiences and picks both best and worst moments. Your internal why doesn’t really change, so all you need to do is to find the big pattern in your history.

Finding your why is a great investment – happiness guaranteed. Go for it!

The post Why do You Run a Startup? Here’s My Why appeared first on Happy Bootstrapper.

The power of the side project and creativity

Your business depends on your creativity. And as much as we might not like to admit it, sometimes it needs a little TLC. You get out what you put in, and that’s where side projects come in. If you don’t already have one to help you keep those creative juices flowing, I hope by the end of this post you’ll be convinced enough to start one! Why you need a side project Side projects keep you sane. The daily grind of finding leads, writing contracts, marketing, and all the other areas that are part of the freelance world can leave you...

La entrada The power of the side project and creativity aparece primero en Nusii: Proposal software for creative professionals..

[66] Decision Making to Move Your Startup Forward

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In this episode Brian and Jordan talk about the decision making process they go through when deciding whether to move a new business idea forward.

After a couple of weeks of interviews this is a show where we catch up on the latest happenings in our businesses and talk about some plans for the future.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Amy Porterfield’s podcast, Online Marketing Made Easy – Episode #47

TropicalMBA Podcast – Episode 286 a response to Alex Blumberg’s “Startup” Podcast

Age and the Entrepreneur – Part 1: Some data

Brian’s blog post this week – Break Out of Decision Paralysis

If you’re enjoying the show, please head over to iTunes and leave us a review.  Just takes a minute, but we would sure appreciate it.  Thanks!

 

The post [66] Decision Making to Move Your Startup Forward appeared first on Bootstrapped Web.

Two Ways BuzzFeed’s Design Team Collaborates. (The Second One Will Blow Your Mind.)

Cap Watkins, VP of Design at BuzzFeed, talks with us about how they're trying to bridge the design and communication gap between the many departments of BuzzFeed, from the editorial side to marketing, branding, social, and more.

Show Notes:

  • Cap Watkins
  • BuzzFeed
  • Cap's Blog
  • Etsy
  • Intro Song by Alex Koch of Digital Dust Studios
  • Outro Song: Joni Fatora - "Blueless Bird"
  • 7 deadly content marketing challenges you will face in 2015

    Kyle’s note: Many marketers are starting to feel the pressure of increased competition in content marketing. Ross has put together an incredible detailed list of the challenges that will come with that increased competition. Over to Ross.

    Let’s all just stop and take a breath of fresh air. As marketers, we love jumping on bandwagons and last year, boy did we jump on the content-marketing wagon.

    To help explain just how big of a bandwagon we’re all in, let’s take a look at the numbers. Google Trends shows the total search volume for content marketing almost doubled from January 2013 to January 2014!

    These numbers really don’t surprise me. Marketing in the digital world is less about long-term strategy and more about taking advantage of short-term opportunities.

    I mentioned earlier how marketers love jumping on bandwagons. Who else jumped on AdWords, SEO and Facebook advertising when they were hot?

    I’m not saying content marketing is a fad or a short-term strategy; it definitely is a viable long-term strategy. But what I am predicting is that content marketing needs to get better in order to remain relevant.

    You can no longer write content just for content’s sake. Edmund Pelgen summed this up really well in a comment on my last post for WP Curve. He said, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across brands publishing insane 300 word blog posts simply so they can say they’ve invested their Content Marketing Budget.

    This seems to be the mindset for many business owners who are exploring content marketing. It’s another channel that can be allocated a budget and put in the marketing plan.

    Well, a word of warning. This will not work in 2015.

    Content has gotten hard – real hard.

    Why? Because every marketer on the bandwagon is using content marketing to grow their business. This is making it very hard to stand out and has led me to make some big changes in the way I use content marketing for my clients.

    So with that in mind, I’ve put together a list of seven content marketing challenges you will face in 2015. Accompanying these challenges are my thoughts on how you can overcome them. I’ve also reached out to my favorite content marketers to get their insights as well.

    1. Getting engagement

    We want more visits, more shares and more comments.

    I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Content engagement is a big challenge for marketers this year. There is increased competition for your audience’s attention. Heck, CMI research found that 69% of marketers say they are creating more content now than they did a year ago.

    Remember back in the day when you were the thought leader because you were the only one doing content marketing?

    Those days are well and truly over.

    Getting engagement in the past meant writing a great article, optimizing it for search and social, and sending it to your email database. This was literally all you needed to do to make content marketing work.

    Related: 15 essential elements of our most engaging content

    Nowadays, you need to do more. To succeed in 2015, you need 3 things:

    Exceptionable ideas and concepts

    Regurgitating top 10 lists isn’t effective. You need to come up with your own unique ideas and concepts that are forward thinking and challenge existing opinions. The best marketers are using content to influence behavior. They are combining research and their own opinions to form new concepts that help their audience like never before.

    Gregory Ciotti, marketer at Help Scout, is one of the best. He delivers new ideas that push his audience to think about topics on a deeper level. Gregory even coins these new ideas and references them throughout his writing.

    Help Scout doesn’t create content on overdone topics like the top 10 customer service tips. They create content on how to use data to build a happy team and why a style guide is needed for customer support.

    Visual content

    The WP Curve guys love visual content – and for good reason. We are all visual creatures by nature, so accompanying your words with visuals can be a powerful way to explain ideas.

    Screenshots, graphs and custom images work really well. My new personal favorite for visual content – which I stole from Kyle Gray – involves sharing quotes inside images. I grab a quote from a respected leader that my audience trusts and pop it in a visually appealing image. Like this:

    dan norris visual content

    It’s engaging! People love it. They’ll also share it if you ask!

    Related: How to increase engagement through visual content

    Personalization and hyper-focus

    Your audience wants content that is applicable to them. Why should a consumer read a B2B-focused article? There is so much content to choose from, your audience will go to the content that relates most to them. To get more engagement, you need to narrow down who your audience is and write specifically to them. Address personal problems they are experiencing, and use content to add value and help them with solutions.

    Engagement is a constant focus for WP Curve. Dan Norris tells me that they face the same challenge every content marketer faces: how to “consistently create content that people care about.”

    “We’ve gone from hitting 1 post out of 20 or so a year ago to every second or third post being a hit,” he says.

    WP Curve invests a lot of time and money in their content. They need every post to be a hit.

    Here are 5 ways WP Curve increases content engagement:

    Listen to your readers and use strict topic guidelines

    WP Curve engages their audience and listens to their problems, questions and challenges. If Dan gets multiple emails from customers asking how they tackle content promotion, they’ll write an article on it.

    Similarly, if Kyle notices that certain blog posts are really popular (i.e., How to use Trello for project management), he knows his audience might like similar content in the future.

    Use visual content wherever possible

    Screenshots, charts, Slideshares, custom illustrations, headers, Tweets, quotable images, interactive visuals, data visualization, quizzes and more!

    visual content challenges

    Wherever you can add visual content that will enhance the experience for your audience, do it.

    But a word of caution – don’t overdo it! Only use visual content where it adds to the conversation.

    Promote, promote, promote

    Content engagement takes its fair share of hustle. You need to promote your content to get it in front of your audience.

    To get you started, here are my 3 promotion tips:

    • Promote it to your audience: Email list, social media channels, customers and friends
    • Promote it to your influencers: Eeach out via email and Twitter to people who have an audience that may find your content useful
    • Promote it via paid ads: Twitter ads, Facebook ads and LinkedIn ads can be very effective at getting your content in front of new prospective readers

    Related: WP Curve’s content promotion strategy and process

    Write headlines that catch the eye

    Did you know that 8 out of 10 people read headlines but only 2 out of 10 will continue reading?

    To increase engagement, you need a catchy headline that accurately describes your content.

    Top-performing headlines start with understanding the purpose of your article and why your audience will want to read it. Only then can you start brainstorming different headline types that you can A/B test to determine a winner.

    Related: A simple formula for writing great headlines

    Use online quizzes to stand out

    quiz

    Did you know the most popular article on NY Times in 2013 was a quiz?

    See? Creating engaging content can be as simple as using quizzes to interact with your audience.

    Related: Learn how to create quizzes in our viral quiz guide.

    2. Creating useful content consistently

    Finding the time to create content is still going to be a challenge for most marketers. You’re likely pressed for time, being dragged from one task to the next.

    Allocating a solid full day to content can be hard. But if you fail to keep a consistent schedule of useful content, you risk losing your audience’s attention. By simply missing a couple of weeks, your audience might start looking elsewhere for advice.

    To help you meet your content production targets, I challenge you to stop taking sole responsibility for the content your business creates and find some help.

    Help may come from inside your organization (colleagues) or outside (hired help).

    Getting help from colleagues

    Involving your team can really help you meet your content production targets. As content becomes more of a priority inside your organization, you’ll notice that colleagues will want to contribute.

    I remember when I debuted my content initiative at a previous company I worked for. It was seen as a marketing play and I couldn’t get anyone else to contribute.

    Over time, we positioned content as an integral part of the entire business and that opened up the door for others to get involved.

    Here are some ideas to help you get started.

    • Start small: Invite your team to share their ideas via email. An email is a lot less intimidating than an entire article. Then you can take the ideas and polish them up into an article.
    • Q&A: Ask three team members a question and pull the answers into an article that reflects your company’s opinions. Need inspiration? Start with a 2015 trends about XYZ article.
    • Ask questions: Ask your team members questions via email or instant chat. Keep it simple so it only takes them a couple of minutes to answer. Use these as quotes inside your content to expand on your ideas and concepts.

    Hiring/finding outside help

    Don’t be afraid to hire writers. Provided you hire writers with domain expertise and a similar writing style, you can certainly scale up content production and maintain high-quality content.

    Instead of hiring writers from marketplaces like Zerys, you should source writers directly. Browse popular publications within your industry and find writers that demonstrate domain expertise and have a great style that fits your brand.

    Here are some ways you can hire top writers:

    • Post a job on Problogger. You’ll get a bunch of bad applications, but persist through these and you’ll find some great people. Remember that remuneration reflects quality. If you’re only paying $100/article, you’ll get the bottom feeders. Pay $300 and you’ll get the cream of the crop.
    • Visit top publications and blogs in your niche. Search through the contributors and find the freelance writers.
    • Search Google. Type in <your industry> writer to find writers in your industry. Check out their work to see if they’re a good fit.
    • Search Twitter using a tool like Socialbro. Type in <your industry> writer to find writers in your industry.

    As an example, I needed to hire some help for a client who is in the IT services industry. Finding IT writers that are experienced and know how to write is hard.

    jobs hire writers

    I hunted down writers by posting a job on Problogger. In the job description I specifically asked for people who had prior experience working in the IT industry. Domain expertise is essential to ensure they can draw on personal experiences. I got plenty of applications and found some great writers.

    WP Curve is a great example of a business that uses hired help. There are a number of contributors who have domain expertise and a great writing style that WP Curve uses to scale their content production.

    Here are 3 ways WP Curve creates useful content consistently:

    • Use Problogger to hire guest writers
    • Keep strict content guidelines to maintain quality and style
    • Don’t find writers; find experts with writing skills

    3. Keeping content marketing organized

    When you start scaling content and hiring outside help, your organization can suffer. Staying on top of your content efforts is essential to your success. If you get unorganized, you risk missing deadlines and publishing sub-par content – both of which can kill readership fast.

    Managing your content in your brain – or on a piece of paper – isn’t going to help you stay organized. Instead, you should look to use smart, collaborative tools that can keep you on track.

    The best content marketers use tools like Trello and CoSchedule to manage their content production.

    Trello

    Trello has been getting a good plug on the WP Curve blog lately. And rightly so! It is powerful, particularly if you want to manage content marketing. I use Trello, Kyle at WP Curve uses Trello, and Kevan at Buffer uses Trello.

    Why? Because Trello has 4 important features that you need:

    • Lists that can act as workflows
    • User collaboration so you can assign tasks to writers
    • Handy integrations with Google docs and other apps
    • Due dates and notifications

    Related: How to use Trello for project management

    CoSchedule

    CoSchedule puts your blog and your social media on the same drag-and-drop calendar, right from inside WordPress.

    To get started, you can add your new blog post onto the calendar on the proposed date…

    CoSchedule-1

    … then schedule your social media posts in relation to the blog post.

    Set it up like this:

    coschedule-2

    Now from one screen, inside WordPress, you can see your content calendar and content promotion schedule.

    coschedule-3

    With CoSchedule, you can manage your content calendar and your team so you can stay organized and never miss a deadline.

    Related: Trello vs CoSchedule: Editorial calendar review for content marketers

    I’m a big fan of how WP Curve manages their content production. They have seamlessly scaled production from 4 blog posts per month to up to 10.

    How did they do this?

    Hire a content marketing manager

    Towards the end of 2014, Dan stepped back from head content creator and WP Curve hired Kyle to head up their content initiatives. Instead of Dan juggling content with his other commitments, WP Curve now has one person solely focused on content.

    Kyle has a full 40 hours a week to look after the content strategy. When it comes to content, time is everything. The more time you have to create and promote content, the more success you will have.

    Use Trello to manage guest contributors

    Kyle manages his team of writers using Trello. A typical guest contribution works like this:

    • WP Curve team adds content idea to the “open ideas” list
    • Guest contributor picks idea he or she wants
    • Kyle and guest collaborate on the core ideas to expand the topic
    • Kyle sets deadline in Trello
    • Writer completes the article draft and uploads Google doc via Trello
    • Writer follows publishing checklist
    • Kyle collaborates on doc and gets article ready for publishing.

    Here’s a quick look at WP Curve’s guest content Trello board:

    WP_Curve_Guest_Content

    Use an editorial calendar

    I asked Kyle from WP Curve to provide some insight on how they use an editorial calendar.

    “The WP Curve calendar is a pretty lightweight system. We use the calendar add-on and lay out cards across the calendar to represent days when we want to publish the post. I try to plan content out around a month in advance.”

    wpcurve calendar

    WP Curve uses colored labels to mark the status of each post. This gives Kyle a good idea about where the posts are and what needs attention. These are the labels they use.

    • Published
    • Ready to publish
    • Awaiting feedback
    • Drafting
    • Ideation

    Related: How to use Trello as an editorial calendar

    4. Writing content with a strategy, purpose and goal

    Content with no purpose is useless. You’ll waste time and not reap the rewards you are looking for.

    I saw this time and time again in 2014. Marketers were writing content, but not understanding why they are writing content.

    Before you pick up a pen – or keyword – ask yourself why you are writing and why you are using content marketing inside your business.

    These two questions will guide your entire content marketing strategy.

    Instead of just allocating part of the marketing budget to content and winging it, I challenge you to clearly develop a content strategy that is tightly linked to your broader marketing strategy.

    The best marketers use a strategy to keep their content focused on working towards their end goals.

    Here’s a quick 3-step approach to setting a clear content strategy.

    Step 1. Determine the end goal for your content

    • Do you want to attract new visitors, leads and sales?
    • Do you want to build brand awareness and trust?
    • Do you want to increase customer loyalty and grow advocacy?

    Step 2. Define your purpose by answering these three questions:

    • Why are you investing in content marketing?
    • Why does your audience want to read your content?
    • What value does your audience get out of your content?

    Step 3. Use metrics to measure content marketing success

    • Track the number of visitors, subscribers, customer inquiries and closed deals.
    • Track visitor-to-customer conversion rate, number of engagements per content piece and sales cycle length.
    • Track the number of return visitors, number of customers who came from referrals and the number of positive brand mentions online.

    5. Focusing too much on content and neglecting other channels

    content marketing focus

    What if I told you that you’re focusing too much on content marketing?

    What if too much is actually your downfall?

    Focusing solely on content marketing can be detrimental to your business. Why? Because content by itself may not drive sales.

    Related: 6 things you should do right now instead of creating more content

    Content marketing should be used in conjunction with other marketing channels. Your content needs to support your search marketing. Your content also needs to support your sales team.

    Some content marketers have the problem of looking at marketing through content goggles. They neglect other marketing channels, which, in turn, reduces the effectiveness of their content marketing.

    This proved a challenge for Gregory Ciotti and Help Scout in 2014.

    Gregory says, “When you have a content hammer, everything can start to look like a content nail. Our biggest challenges in 2014 were perhaps spawned from over-estimating what content can do. It can do a whole lot, but even a huge piece of the puzzle is still just a piece.”

    Help Scout relied too heavily on content and neglected other channels like paid search. To overcome this, Help Scout has hired a growth marketer in 2015.

    “In 2015, we now have a growth marketer and plans to hire more talented people on the marketing front. Getting data-driven about what we publish and seeing what gaps our content is leaving (which can be filled with paid marketing, amplification, etc.) will be the big thing on our plate this year,” he said.

    I know this won’t be the case for everyone. For example, WP Curve focuses nearly 100% of their marketing budget on content marketing. The only paid marketing they do is retargeting with Adroll (very small budget).

    But in the grand scheme of things, your content is really there to assist your existing marketing initiatives.

    Let me show you 3 examples of how content assists your other marketing channels.

    Content is used to convert paid search traffic

    Not all search traffic is ready to buy. Most visitors are researching and evaluating your product. Content must be used to help visitors who aren’t quite ready to buy yet.

    Best practice guides, comparison guides and checklists all act as great resources to help search visitors learn more about you before they are ready to buy. By offering content, you can capture prospect information and add value at the same time.

    Content is used by sales to close deals

    Sales needs content! Let me say that again. Your sales team needs your content!

    If your marketing and sales teams are not working together, you’re doing content marketing wrong. These two departments need to be integrated and you need to work with sales to produce content that they need to close deals.

    If sales needs a PDF that compares your products against your competitors products, produce it and give it to them.

    Content is used to educate customers

    Content educates customers in 2 ways:

    • It helps you show customers how to use your product.
    • It helps you show customers use your product can help them make more money or save more money.

    For instance, Help Scout uses content to help thier customers deliver better customer experiences. Yes, their customers might buy Help Scout’s Help Desk software, but Gregory and the team want to help their customers use the help desk better in order to grow their business.

    This is where content can add value beyond the sale.

    But why bother? I can hear you asking…

    Well, guess what this translates into. It translates into increased advocacy, higher satisfaction and improved retention.

    Here are 3 marketing channels you should try. All 3 will compliment your content marketing.

    • Paid search: This is an easy win. Use content as a secondary call to action on your landing pages.
    • Social media ads: Stop using social media ads just to sell products. Experiment with promoting your content to reach more people.
    • Offline events: Run local events, sponsor events and speak at conferences. All of these offline initiatives present great opportunities to bring printed-out copies of your content. For example, put together a short book with your 10 most popular articles. Reuse your awesome content to start building relationships with your audience in real life (scary, right).

    6. Driving ROI from content marketing

    The greatest pressure facing your content marketing is ROI. You need to know how much revenue content is adding to your bottom line.

    Unfortunately, many businesses still consider content marketing to be merely a tactic. You want to know how much revenue is directly generated by your articles, webinars, eBooks and infographics.

    This is a sticky situation to be in because, quite frankly, you’re never going to be able to produce remarkable ROI if you’re only considering new business from content.

    Content plays a far bigger role than simply being the final touch point for closing a deal.

    Instead of measuring ROI of content based solely off leads and sales generated from content, we need to consider the other areas where content adds value.

    Here are 3 additional ways content contributes to ROI:

    Multi-channel attribution

    If a customer reads a blog post or eBook, then returns via a Google paid ad, who gets the conversion? Is it content or paid search?

    If you’re not adding assisted conversions to your ROI, you’re missing out on revenue from content.

    Nurturing through buyer’s journey

    Content can be used to influence all prospects in your funnel. Content can influence leads from paid search, direct mail and even trade shows.

    This value needs to be attributed to content.

    Customer happiness and advocacy

    Content has a job to do after the sale, yet most companies aren’t attributing the retention revenue to content. If you increase customer happiness by 20% because your content helps, educates and informs your customers, that needs to be attributed to content ROI.

    How much is a 20% increase in customer happiness worth to your company?

    Advocacy is an even bigger story. If your content influences customer advocacy, is it getting credit for all those word-of-mouth referrals? Probably not, but it should!

    WP Curve, Baremetrics and Groove HQ have built their companies through content and word of mouth. Content and advocacy go hand in hand.

    How important is ROI for Campaign Monitor?

    campaign monitor blog

    Campaign Monitor is one company that realizes the pressure of generating ROI from content. Aaron Beashel, content and community manager at Campaign Monitor, tells me that their biggest challenge is converting visitors into leads and signups.

    “We pull in a great amount of traffic to our content, but we provide no real next step for visitors. They can either sign up for our product (which is a big ask for a person who’s just read 1 article) or they simply leave. So to overcome this, we’re working on building out a set of offers (guides, templates, etc) that we can begin to offer people once they’ve read a blog post or content piece on the site.”

    This is certainly a must do for all marketers. You need to have a system in place to capture lead information and nurture those leads through the buying process.

    Aaron knows that content alone isn’t going to convert visitors into sales. He needs to take them through a personalized buying journey.

    “[We are] building out some really targeted lead nurturing email campaigns that drip feed leads the right information depending on the stage of the buying cycle they are in.”

    How to measure content ROI

    Attributing ROI to content is easy. Use a lead tracking system to track all leads and tag them whenever they visit content on your website. Make sure you track how many content pieces are used before a prospect turns into a sale.

    Measure content ROI using these 2 metrics:

    • Number of pages viewed before deal closed (e.g., customer visits 5 blog posts through buyer’s journey)
    • Number of content pages sales used to convert (e.g., sales sends customer link to eBook or blog post for more information)

    Measuring the impact content has on customer satisfaction and advocacy is much harder. The best way to do this is to include a question specifically related to content in your customer satisfaction surveys.

    For example, at Client Heartbeat, one of the 6 questions they use to measure satisfaction is about content:

    How happy are you with the educational content we provide? (scale 1-10)

    This gives Client Heartbeat a great indication of how content is contributing to customer happiness. If they are getting 10s for education but overall satisfaction is 8, it’s safe to assume content is playing a big part in bringing up overall satisfaction. But if content is 6 and overall satisfaction is 8, then content is likely playing no part at all.

    7. Understanding technical SEO and growing organic traffic

    Website-Visitors

    Organic search traffic is super important for content marketers. It provides a steady stream of targeted visitors that have problems your content solves.

    But ranking at the top of Google for specific search terms isn’t easy. In fact, Jimmy Daly, marketer at Vero, listed technical SEO as their biggest content marketing challenge in 2014.

    The team struggled to get traction with organic search. I reached out to Jimmy to get his thoughts:

    “Organic search, in my opinion, is the single most reliable indicator of site health. If it’s not growing month over month, we have a serious problem. So while we were getting some organic traffic, it wasn’t reliable and it wasn’t growing much.”

    I wholeheartedly agree with Jimmy here. Organic traffic is essential to your content marketing success. If you aren’t increasing your organic numbers, you’re either producing content that people don’t care about or you’re not optimizing it to be found in Google’s search results.

    Jimmy says, “In mid-2014, we got very aggressive about keyword strategy and link building. In the last 6 months, we’ve doubled organic traffic and it’s growing at 15% month over month.”

    Here are some technical SEO tips to boost organic traffic:

    Optimize the basics

    • H1, H2, title, description, image alt tags
    • Mobile-friendly site
    • Sitemap, internal links to relevant pages

    Related: Technical SEO basics (Moz)

    Think about the searchers and what they want

    • Before you write content, target one specific keyword theme and ask yourself what the searchers typing into Google want to read
    • This will help you create content that speaks to the searcher and helps them.
    • In turn, by providing relevant content, your bounce rates will be great and Google will reward you with a ride up the rankings.

    Related: How user intent informs successful keyword strategies

    Make it better and bigger

    • Research the current content that’s winning for the keyword you’re targeting. Your goal should be to make your content bigger and better.
    • Focus on more ideas, more valuable advice and more links to additional resources.

    Related: Backlinko’s Skyscraper technique for a detailed strategy.

    jimmy daly technical seo

    Jimmy recently attended SMX West, a big SEO conference in San Jose, where he learned a ton about technical SEO.

    Most importantly:

    • Keep an eye on spammy links and disavow them. This is important for every site. LinkResearchTools can help you run a link audit to find and disavow bad links.
    • As of April 21, Google is going to prioritize mobile-friendly sites in mobile search. Make sure your site is compliant using their mobile testing tool.
    • Schema markup makes your site easier to index and allows you to tap into the Knowledge Graph. Prioritize getting it implemented.

    The content marketing bandwagon is full. Are you going to fall off or take the driver’s seat?

    Content marketing is going to change a lot in 2015. With more businesses investing more money, it’s going to be very competitive. If you can foresee these content marketing challenges and put initiatives in place to overcome them, you will have a great year.

    But if you fail to realize the changing dynamics, I predict you will scale back your content marketing this year. Or even worse, you’ll stop it completely (which would be a shame).

    This is a scary predicament because, in reality, content marketing complements all your marketing.

    Your turn: What do you think of my predictions? How are you going to overcome these content marketing challenges?

    The post 7 deadly content marketing challenges you will face in 2015 appeared first on WP Curve.

    Lies Your Designer Told You (or Data vs Design)

    Designers versus data more than ever deserves its place in the pantheon of great conflicts: the Hatfields vs. McCoys, Android vs. iOS, Social Media Marketing vs. Results, Athens vs. Sparta, the Doctor vs. Daleks, Auburn vs. Alabama, and Fox News vs. reality.

    We make this out to be some great collision of disciplines when in fact they are not opposites and they can and should work together.

    To do so requires the dropping of a lot of false constraints that we place them in. Its all the lies that we tell others and especially the ones we tell ourselves that stop us from doing the very simple tasks needed to really drive performance. Figure out the lies and figure out what really matters and so much noise simply floats away.

    What is data and what is design?

    Data is simply a rational way to make rational decisions which are best for the business. Design is about creating different useful experiences, so in concept they should be best friends and work together to simply do what is best for the business. So why then do they constantly fail to do so?

    Why are so many designers adamantly opposed to testing and data in a rational sense? Why does so much time get wasted on heuristics, storytelling, and well – nonsense?

    We’re all wrong

    The truth is that both sides of the debate are guilty of many sins. Analysts often confuse using data to further their opinion for actually improving business. “Creatives” do not want anyone to interrupt their vision of the way things should work. Both sides often fail to stand up to voices from up high and both are often swayed to change their work to match the current prevailing winds, be it from executives or from the industry as a whole.

    Both sides tend to be extremely mentally lazy and rely on what feels good or makes others happy instead of diving deeper and forcing rational decision making. Because of this I want to investigate many of the common “lies”, things that are said to defend a point or to push an agenda that have no basis in a rational decision making world, in order to show just how much of the common talk and knowledge about user experiences is just complete BS.

    The Many Lies of Design

    Here we go.

    It’s About Good User Experience

    No phrase has less meaning and yet is used to defend so much as doing something in the name of a good user experience. Just for once, I would love to get 5 people in a room and have them individually define this concept with detail and get them to all agree. It is just a cotton candy saying, one full of air and that rots your teeth, and yet no phrase acts as a shield quite like it.

    I am not here to say build an awful experience, I am saying that using empty jargon that you feel justifies opinion is a waste of everyone’s time. What is a good user experience? My answer is always one that allows the most people to do the thing that is best for them and for the business. It isn’t one that gets them to look at a specific thing or gets them to look at an interesting picture, it is the one that accomplishes the most for both parties.

    This goes back to why a single success metric is so important. It allows you to frame the discussion away from empty jargon or what people think will happen and instead focus solely on the real purpose of the site and of the action you are taking, to generate more revenue. If the “good user experience” that they are arguing about is better for the user, then more of them will do what they need to do to make your site money. If it isn’t, then empty debating just wastes time and finding that out generates more revenue.

    user_experience

    This doesn’t mean go out of your way to piss off your users, but it does mean that you need to challenge every part of what you think makes a user experience “good”. The more rules you put in place, the more you are artificially limiting the results that your optimization and organization can drive.

    We Need to Provide a Consistent User Experience

    From an optimization perspective, this one comes up the most often. You are by definition changing small or large parts of the whole, and the fear and that this will create an inconsistent user experience gets brought up all the time. You need to have a consistent look and feel to your user’s journey… why is this a thing? Why do you care? This is the definition of a rule for the sake of a rule.

    Sometimes a consistent user experience matters. Sometimes it is counter-productive. There is nothing easier than testing to figure out the answer. In almost all cases you will be testing the “inconsistent” experience, so if they are really worried about the impact, it is the worst case scenario that you are testing, not the best.

    If you find something you can test and see if the same concept applied elsewhere does improve outcomes or is just a waste of time. Arguing about it before the fact is the same as having a heated debate over whose turn it is to clean the bathroom when the entire house is being flooded. It is a debate, but it is very low on the things that matter and you should probably worry more about fixing the leak instead of who gets to do what later on.

    You Should/Shouldn’t Copy Competitors Designs

    I think by now all have heard the idiom, “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” Too much time gets caught up on focusing on your competitors designs and websites, leading to many to have a visceral reaction to the concept of using parts or all of their designs. The truth is that it is not the copying that is the problem, its the competitors part that is where all the failure takes place.

    copying_quote_stevejobs

    Why does it matter if a design is your competitors or if it is a completely different industry? The only thing that should matter is getting results and figuring out where to apply resources. This means that you need to look everywhere for things that can add to a test by increasing the beta of your options. Look at Google, look at Amazon, look at small lead gen start-ups and eCommerce and ticket platforms and NPOs and everywhere to find concepts that you can leverage or copy directly to including in a range of outcomes.

    In the end it doesn’t matter if an idea is new or a direct copy, it doesn’t matter if your arch rival or a company you never heard of came up with what ended up winning. In fact what ended up winning DOES NOT MATTER at all, the only thing that matters is managing the input and acting on the data to maximize outcomes.

    This reminds me of a story of when I was consulting. At one point I was working with 5 of the largest travel sites and airlines at the same time. Without knowing it, all 5 wanted to focus solely on the quick selector item on their front doors, what most called their “cannonball”. At some point all 5 of them brought up at least 2 of the others, and months were spent focusing on that one item.

    Once they were done, I was able to get them to test other places and to focus far more on discovery instead of pointless internal debate and you know what happened? Not a single one of the sites ended up with a design like the other and not 1 had the front door – let alone that part of the front door – end up being the most influential page on their site. So much time wasted, and so much energy spent debating what their competitors were doing, all for nominal gains.

    You Need to Speak to Your User

    I for one am all for removing the need to have your users hear voices in their head. That is exactly what I think of every time someone throws this jewel out – be it a designer, a copywriter, or anyone else. You need to create the most efficient and valuable experience, period. If it involves lots of text or creating a dialogue – great. If it involves a single entry bar and two buttons, then also great.

    bag-and-hands

     

    You know what you should do? Test both and other points in between and let the data tell you. And when you get a larger design that works, then you should test to figure out what influence your single behavior and then optimize that.

    I would also add the second meaning of that phrase which is how much you put value into user feedback and qualitative data. While it may inform or give you 1 or 2 new variants that you would not have gone with before, the question is how much you can trust their feedback (perhaps not at all) and what the cost/benefit ration is of that exploration (hint: It is awful). You need to generate as many different and high quality ideas as possible, and so if you need to go that route it is not the end of the world, but it is hands down one of the most misleading and one of the least efficient ways to generate variants.

    Good Design is Long-Lasting

    Not to throw Dieter Rams under the bus, but why is it long lasting? Why does it matter that we come up with something that will be a static thing that we need to stay with for years?

    You have to think of every part of the experience as an ever changing amorphous design that allows your users to change and your site to adapt to them. Getting caught up on what worked in the past, or trying to create something that will work 10 years from now is completely pointless. It matters in what it accomplishes, how much cost it was to create it, and how much you can exploit it. This does mean that the longer you can exploit something does weigh in, but not as much as how fast you can adapt and how large the beta is in the concepts that you test.

    This is also why adaptive decisioning agents are going to continue to become more and more powerful. Creating a system that automatically can adapt and change based on the current data, and feeding that system with a large array of quality options helps maximize the long term performance while minimizing the value and consistency of any one idea. The larger the array of concepts and the less rules you put on that system, then the better the outcome.

    Make a Design for Each [Persona/Market Segment/Target/Geography]

    Persona’s and personalization, the bain of my existence. If it helps you come up with a different design that is part of a larger series of testing, then great and you should allow that type of mental model and concept creation. What makes it irrational is when you get stuck on that concept, or when you refuse to discover if your concept works like you think or just maybe works for an entirely different segment of users.

    Should you have multiple experiences? Probably, but not always and only when it is far more efficient to do so. What should the division be? I have no clue and I guarantee you do not either. It may be the persona you spent hours building (just kidding, it won’t be) or it may be based on geography, or referrer, or mobile, or time of day, or browser, or user behavior or the weather or any other way of dividing users.

    louis-wain-cats

    You know what the beauty of testing is? You get to serve all experiences to everyone and then let the data tell you where to go. You can’t lay your hands on what goes where or to whom and you most definitely can not limit yourself to just one type of experience in a rational and high performing environment.

    A great goal for a site should be 4 defined user experiences on their site after a year.

    This means two rules that change the user experience based on actual results that proved it was worthwhile and consistent to do so. It is hard to find large meaningful exploitable experiences, implement them, maintain them, and then continue to optimize them. They are extremely valuable when done right, but in all other cases it is just a waste of time and energy and almost always results in lower results than just doing nothing.

    Good Design Looks Good

    It has become a running joke at my current and last job that whatever people like the most or think looks the most appealing is doomed to complete failure during the test. Time and time again the ugly stepchild option wins, yet there are still people caught up on how much they like the visuals of a specific design. Even worse when the one they like actually does win you get comments like “of course it won, it was the only good looking one.”

    Good design is about its ability to do work. It is not art, it doesn’t need to create an emotional response, it just needs to do its job. That means that you can’t look at something and know that it is going to work or not with any certainty. The very act of looking at something and making a judgement is subjective, whereas comparative measured data evaluation should be rational. While you can pick up some patterns about things that have a slightly higher chance to work, the reality is if you cut off what you test or what can possibly test then you are by definition limiting the possible outcomes of a test.

    You don’t have to like what wins, you just have to like getting results.

    What is the truth about Design and Data?

    The simple truth is that data is the best thing that has ever happened for designers. Where before they were stuck with fighting for a vision, for doing everything in their power to push their concepts past reviews and executive feedback.

    Where they had to design for what impresses people, now they can free themselves from the shackles that have plagued their discipline for so long.

    5413356401_9e751bc3c5_z

     

    Designers may not like it, it will definitely be uncomfortable, but if they can embrace it then they can stop worrying about vision and feedback and all of the lies mentioned above, as well as just about every other rule of “good design”.

    In many ways the real job of the optimizer is to disprove everyone of these rules as often as possible. In order to do that they have to constantly creating a system that enables many inputs and influencing the range of inputs to maximize the chance for that very thing to happen. Optimization is about building a rational decision system and then not allowing any person or bias to knock it off its tracks.

    The key of a great designer is to come up with as many different feasible high quality designs and then hand them off to the users. They don’t have to understand all the users or especially what wins, they just have to be open to many different ways of tackling a problem or even about what problems really matter. The better they can feed a system with quality and quantity of ideas and the less they get stuck on what comes out of the system, the better for all concerned and especially their organization.

    Conclusion

    One of my favorite descriptions about the difference between art and design is that design is art that does work. As an optimizer and as someone trying to enforce data rationality, the key is that I do not care about the art, I care about measuring just how much work it does. It is not good enough that it does work, it is about picking what does the most work. To do that both sides have to be open to going wherever that data tells them and to go against just about everything that is wired into their brains.

    Opinions are nice, results are better.

    The post Lies Your Designer Told You (or Data vs Design) appeared first on ConversionXL.

    7 Ways We’ve Harnessed the Power of Multipliers to Accelerate Our Growth

    A few tactics have delivered disproportionally big returns for us. Here’s how you can put multipliers to work for you.

    A couple of weeks ago, something pretty explosive happened at Groove.

    We finally launched our Zapier integration, and a lot of things changed right away.

    All of a sudden, we could stay saying “yes” to a lot of things that we’d been saying “not quite yet” to in the past.

    Overnight, Groove customers could integrate – without any code – with hundreds of other popular apps.

    It was a game-changer, and it got me thinking about the power of “multipliers” in business.

    We do a lot of things that don’t scale. That will never scale. And we’re going to keep doing them, because they’re that valuable.

    But we’ve also gotten tremendous value from multipliers: those tactics and wins that deliver ridiculously outsized returns for the effort involved in executing on them.

    Now, that doesn’t mean that they’re easy. Multipliers aren’t a lazy way out, and many of them require a lot of upfront effort. But the returns can be exponential.

    Some people might call them growth hacks, but I don’t really see them that way. Aside from the fact that the term “growth hack” has been muddled and diluted over the last couple of years to mean just about any marketing tactic, multipliers don’t necessarily have to do directly with user acquisition (you’ll see what I mean below).

    I started thinking about which multipliers have been most useful for us in our own journey, and realized that they come in all types and sizes. Below are a few that I think any business can benefit from:

    7 Multipliers That Have Helped Us Grow Our Business Faster

    1) Automated Emails

    There are two places where automated email drips have helped us dramatically: new trial signups, and new blog subscriber signups.

    For new trial signups, we send a short sequence of emails (which differ based on user behavior) that help trial users get more value out of Groove, and help them develop a habit of logging in.

    New User Drip New User Drip

    For blog subscribers, we send them a few emails highlighting our most useful content (including some that has never appeared on this blog), as well as a final email explaining what Groove is and how it can help them:

    New Subscriber Drip New Subscriber Drip

    Both of these automated drips have made a big impact on our business (more on that in a future post), but the important thing here is the multiplier effect: once we set these emails up once – with just a bit of optimizing along the way – the drip “passively” works to reach thousands and thousands of people.

    And every single person, from the first to the thousandth, has the same experience, with no additional work on our end.

    2) Evergreen Blog Content

    When we first launched this blog, my hope was that it would be the blog that I would’ve wanted to read the first time I started a business.

    The challenges we’ve faced might be driven by the times we live in (who knows whether or not businesses in 20 years will be debating whether or not they need a Facebook page), but at their core, they’re the same problems that thousands of businesses had before us, and that millions of businesses will have in the future.

    We work hard to ensure two things:

    First, that we take the extra time and put in the extra effort to make our content as useful, actionable and interesting as possible.

    And second, that the usefulness of our content isn’t always determined by its recency.

    That’s why posts that are months (or even more than a year) old are still some of our most shared today:

    Evergreen Content Evergreen Content

    3) Referral Links

    This is probably the tactic on here that most closely resembles a “growth hack.”

    A lot of our customers use Groove’s support widget on their sites and apps. It gives their customers an easy to way to get help or contact the business.

    Last year, we added a “Powered by Groove” link to the bottom of these widgets.

    I wrote at length in an earlier post about the internal debate we had on this, and the fear of making our customers angry (none of that ended up happening, and our customers were overwhelmingly fine with it).

    That resulted in a boost of signups for us, but it wasn’t nearly as effective as adding a referral link to the “Rate My Reply” page that Groove customers’ support emails link to.

    We also get a handful of signups each week from the same link in Groove's Knowledge Base app.

    Together, those three referral links bring us hundreds of new trial signups that might’ve otherwise never found us.

    4) Reading Books and Blogs

    In Len’s post about his favorite customer service books, he said:

    When it comes to improving ourselves and our lives, there’s no single better investment of your time and money than books.

    What other investment gives you access to an expert’s knowledge that took them years — and sometimes, a lifetime — to gather and distill for you? All for less than $15 and a few hours (or days).

    To a smaller extent, blogs are much the same: many of the posts we write distill weeks, months or years of testing and learning into a piece that takes just a few minutes to read.

    Books and blogs are perhaps the ultimate multiplier for personal development.

    5) A Basic Understanding of SEO

    I’m not an SEO expert.

    In fact, for the longest time, I avoided SEO, because I had a lot of (wrong) assumptions about it.

    But when we finally took the time to get a basic understanding of SEO principles, and that good SEO was simply figuring out what your audience wanted (and then giving that to them), a lot changed for us.

    We don’t do much guesswork when it comes to developing site copy or content anymore. On top of our customer development efforts, we now make keyword research a key part of our process.

    That’s how we ended up building some of the most highly trafficked (and highest-converting) pages on our site, like this one, which appears as the #1 result on several popular Google searches:

    #1 Search Result #1 Search Result

    6) Guest Blogging

    Building a relationship with your readers is incredibly important, and we work hard to do that.

    But to grow a business through content marketing, finding new readers is really important, too, and guest blogging has been one of the most effective ways we’ve done that.

    Every single time our content appears on another blog, we get exposure to many thousands of readers who aren’t regular visitors here.

    That’s a big multiplier, and it compounds over time, as future visitors to our partners’ blogs may also stumble upon our content.

    All in all, guest posting has helped us reach more than 1 million people; I wrote about that – along with our strategy for pitching guest posts – here.

    Some of our most popular posts have been:

    Along with the content on our own blog, guest blogging has been one of the top two multipliers when it comes to driving traffic and new signups for Groove.

    7) Partner Integrations

    The Zapier example at the beginning of this post is a great example of how one integration can expose you to massive new opportunities.

    Not every integration will let you hook your product up into 350+ other apps, but that’s okay: native partner integrations have also been huge for us.

    Our integrations with partners like Slack, MailChimp, Campaign Monitor and others have yielded a lot of value for our existing customers, but also introduced us to new audiences that we didn’t have access to before.

    Today, when we ask new customers why they signed up, many of them learned about us through one of our partner integrations.

    How to Apply This to Your Business

    I’ve been a loud advocate of doing things that don’t scale.

    And I always will be.

    I think that the painstaking effort in stuff like customer development, manual content promotion and one-on-one relationship building is undoubtedly worth it.

    But there are also a lot of tactics that any business can use that deliver a ton of value for relatively little effort.

    Some of those tactics will be unique to your business, but many aren’t. I hope that this post has given you some new ideas to get started with.

    How to Build a Growth Machine

    There’s one important thing we have to get out of the way:

    Growth has nothing to do with tactics; it has everything to do with process.

    So says Brian Balfour, VP of Growth at Hubspot.

    You hear all the time about X company tripled their growth by doing X hack. The fact is that it worked for them, and it’s unlikely to work for you.

    Balfour spoke at 500 Distro, where he outlined the process he uses for growing companies. Below are the notes from that talk.

    The Four Reasons to Focus on Process Before Tactics

    Balfour is asked all the time what tactics or hacks work best. This is the wrong question to focus on. Why?

    1. What Works For Others Is Not Going to Work For You

    You hear all the time about how this one tactic worked for this one particular company. You go apply it in your business and don’t get nearly the same results. Would you expect anything else?

    Your audience, product, business model, customer journey, and business are different. When you hear others speak on growth and what worked for them, take that as inspiration and not a prescription.

    You need a process to find the unique combination of things that will work for you.

    2. Growth Is The Sum of A Lot of Small Parts

    We’ve all seen impressive growth charts, like this one from Slack:

    slack-growth

    It’s not one thing that Slack did that led to this growth. It’s all the little things they did to get to where they are now.

    Just like in your business, it’s not going to be one thing that changes the growth curve of your business. There is no silver bullet.

    3. The Rate of Change Is Accelerating

    The foundation of every channel is changing.

    channels-change-brian-balfour-growth

    Viral channels come and go. Things are constantly changing, and you need to be constantly changing. You need a way of continuously finding the new things that will move the needle.

    4. You Need a Machine

    Your machine needs to be scalable, somewhat predictable, and repeatable. It must be repeatable.

    Machines produce something. In our case, they produce tactics. This is the output. The inputs to the machine are the process that you drive to discover and test all the tactics.

    There are four goals of the process:

    1. Rhythm: You need momentum. To do this, you establish a regular cadence of experimentation to fight through failures, find the successes, and find the momentum that keeps carrying you forward.
    2. Learning: This is probably the most important goal. It’s constant learning about your customer, product, and channels. Feed that back into the process to build off that base of knowledge. This will keep you moving forward towards success.
    3. Autonomy: If you have a growth team, it’s key to let them be autonomous. Individuals decide what to work on to achieve team goals. The team leader doesn’t provide specific directions.
    4. Accountability: People on the growth team don’t always have to be successful. They don’t have to hit 100% success on experiments. But, the expectation is that they improve overtime in terms of their knowledge of customer, product, and channels. Building a stronger base of knowledge means you’ll have more successful experiments.

    How to Set Goals

    Before beginning, you first need to know where you’re going. Part of this is setting goals. Balfour and his team use the Ojective and Key Results framework.

    Using this framework, they first ask themselves a question to form their objective. They want to know the one thing they can achieve that will drive the biggest impact on the growth curve. This requires them to take a step back and examine things before they dive into experiments. Once they have this, they form their qualitative statement.

    After they have their statement, they set a time frame, which is 30-90 days. Anything shorter than 30 days means they’re not being aggressive enough. Over 90 days and they’re biting off too big of a chunk. It needs to be something they feel they can make reasonable progress on in 30-90 days.

    Once they have their objective and time frame, they set three key results. These are quantitative measurements that indicate if they’re achieving an objective. The results are ordered by difficulty.

    In KR1 (Key Result 1), Balfour and his team hit these about 90% of the time.

    KR2 signals that they go above and beyond; they usually hit this about half the time.

    If they hit KR3, it’s party time. These are rare, only hitting about 10% of the time, and call for a celebration. They’re typically hit about once a year. If they’re hit more often, their goals aren’t aggressive enough. If they’re not hitting KR1 nearly every time, then they’re too aggressive.

    Once they figure all this out, they get to work as quickly as they can.

    The Cycle After OKR Is Set

    Once the OKR is figured out, they move into this cycle:
    growth-machine-cycle-brian-balfour

    Under each phase, you’ll see the names of documents they create. These documents help drive the process.

    four-key-documents-growth-brian-balfour

    1. Backlog: This is where all the ideas are dumped. This doc is a spreadsheet, and contains the experiment name, status, category (area you’re trying to improve), metric, prediction, and a resource estimate of how much time it will take marketing, engineering, design, and anybody else.

      Anybody on the team can contribute ideas to the backlog, it’s a public document within the company. This document allows them to empty their head space and focus on the idea they’re currently executing.

    2. Pipeline: This is the list of experiments past, present, and future. All past experiments have their results documented. This allows new team members a chance to go back and look at every experiment to show how they got to where they are today.
    3. Experiment Docs: This is the most important document out of the four. Every experiment gets one of these. This document forces the team to think through the important elements of the experiment. When going through this document, they have to think about why they’re doing this experiment vs the others, what they expect from the experiment, how they’re going to design and implement the experiment, and record the learnings.
    4. Playbooks: If an experiment is successful, they try to figure out ways to systematize them. They’re step-by-step guides for things they want to repeat.

    Starting to get a little confused at the process and all the docs? That’s okay. Head over here and have a look at some sample docs and a Trello board that outlines the process.

    A Breakdown of Each Phase

    Let’s elaborate on each phase in the process.


    Brainstorm

    In this phase, focus on brainstorming on the inputs, not the outputs.

    Let’s say your OKR is set on improving an activation rate. Don’t sit there and try to figure out how to improve activation rate. There are probably thousands of ways to improve it, and focusing on this makes it difficult to come up with growth ideas. Instead, focus on breaking it down into very small pieces.

    If the activation rate had three steps, you’d break down each and brainstorm ideas around each step. Keeping it focused on each step makes it easier to come up with specific ideas about how to improve the inputs, which leads to an improved output. Balfour and his team use four ways to generate growth ideas (taken from the book Innovator’s Solution):

    growth-ideas-brian-balfour-innovator's-solution

    • Observe: Look at how others are doing it, both in your competitive and non-competitive space. If you have the goal of optimizing your referral program, look at other companies referral programs. Every member on your growth team should select a couple programs they like, and the team can walk through each program. You’ll develop a ton of new ideas with this process. When seeing what other companies do, take it as inspiration, not a prescription. Take inspiration from them, and figure out how to apply it with your product and audience.
    • Question: A common exercise in this category is called “question brainstorming”. This is an hour long meeting that consists of nothing but questions. Team members write questions on notes, announce the question, and put it on the board. They ask as many questions as possible during this time period. This does two things. First, it helps reveal things they don’t know. Second, good answers start with good questions. The questions allow members of the team to start digging for answers. As they learn the answers to the questions, a ton of ideas on how to play off those answers tend to pop out of this process.
    • Associate: There’s a technique called smashing, where you take what you’re trying to improve and smash it with something completely unrelated. You learn from other processes and try to apply it to your experiment.
    • Network: Find a network of good growth people. Go to conferences, attend meetups, chat with others on the phone, etc. Exchange ideas with them – what you’ve been working on, what did or didn’t work, what you learned, etc. You’ll get ideas from others too, and will be able to feed it back into the process at your company. Once again, you get inspiration from others, not a prescription.

    Once you have gone through this process, you create the backlog doc.


    Prioritize


    This is where you prioritize what to first work on in the backlog.

    Before we (humans) dive into a new idea, we tend to overestimate that probably of success. We inflate the impact of a success. And we underestimate the amount of time it’s going to take to test and implement. Because of these realities, it’s important to be brutally honest with three elements.

    The probability that it will be successful, the impact it will have if it is successful, and the resources required to test and implement.

    Probability is low, medium, and high. A high probability is usually an iteration that comes from a previous learning on an older experiment. If it’s low probability, it’s something that’s new that no one on the team knows anything about. Impact is the most important one.

    Every experiment idea has a hypothesis that looks something like this:

    hypothesis-brian-balfour-growth

    This format is great because it forces you to think through how it will work. If you look at this and say “I have no idea”, then you haven’t done your homework on the experiment.

    There are three areas to look for when justifying your assumptions.

    The first is quantitative data. This mostly comes from previous experiments and some data collection in your product. For example, if you know testimonials increase conversions on your invite page, maybe adding it to other relevant areas will improve conversions.

    The second is qualitative data. This comes from things like surveys and support emails. If patterns are detected, that should be enough to justify an assumption.

    The third is secondary data with things like networking, blogs, competitor observation, etc. If someone else saw a lift doing this experiment, it provides a data point because it has worked before.

    Start with low resource projects first. They’ll go faster, which allow you to get more experiments in. This will help you find the wins quicker, which accelerates your growth curve.

    Once you have all this (assumptions and hypothesis), you create your experiment doc. Once you have a few, you can sit down and compare them to find which experiment to start.


    Test


    Once it’s all prioritized, it’s time to create a Minimum Viable Test. It’s the minimum thing you can do to get data around your hypothesis. Outline the test in the experiment doc.


    Implement

    Not much to talk about here; just get the implementation done as quickly as possible.


    Analyze

    Once a test is done, it’s time to analyze. This is the most important step.

    analyze-test-results-brian-balfour-growth

    Answering the ‘why’ is key. Why did it succeed, or why did it fail? Why were we close or way off from our hypothesis? Digging into why will help you understand things about your customer, channel, and product. This will lead to iterations and new ideas of experiments you should run next. Skipping this question means you’re blindly running experiments; you’re not taking what you learned into the next experiment.

    Extract as many learnings as you can out of every experiment. List the iterations/action items and throw them into the backlog. Take the learnings, look at your backlog, and look at your prioritization and adjust accordingly based on your learnings.


    Systemize


    Once you find experiments that are successful, productize them with technology and engineering. If you can’t do it with technology and engineering, build into playbooks. As you hire and scale the team, you can point them to the playbooks so they know what’s going on and can repeat with minimal effort.

    systemize-brian-balfour-growth

    What a Week Looks Like

    Balfour and his team hold one growth meeting every week:

    work-week-brian-balfour-growth-team

    It’s a 60-90 minute meeting. They start off by discussing personal learnings, where every team members states one thing they learned about the customer, product, or channel last week. Something is seriously wrong if everybody is not learning at least one thing.

    Then they review the OKRs and the progress for each of them. If they’re not on track they’ll talk about how they can get back on track.

    Then comes experiment review, where they pick out the key experiments that led to the most analysis. The people who owned the experiments share what they learned. Based off those learnings they discuss what experiments they’re going to implement for this week.

    The rest of the week is dedicated to all the other steps. They try to repeat the cycle as much as possible.

    The team is always zooming out and zooming in. They zoom out and look at the big picture when setting OKRs and zoom in for 30-90 days when they run experiments. They ask themselves if they’re working on the right things when zoomed out. In the zoom in phase they’re just cranking through the cycle as fast as possible.

    After they go through a few experimentation cycles (typically done once every quarter) they take a step back and look at the macro optimization:

    macro-optimization-growth-brian-balfour

    The more you know a channel, the more accurate you should get

    You can optimize these in three ways. You can get better at process, get better with your team, or you can get better with tools and instrumentation.

    Video, Slides, and Templates

    To help you get started with your growth machine, check out this post that includes templates for Google Docs and a Trello board. Click here to see an example experiment doc.

    Don’t start from scratch

    We all want to leverage our time and effort. That’s why ideas like the 80/20 rule are so popular. Work on something until it’s good enough, then move on. But our work just isn’t good enough? What if you want to go beyond 80%?

    That’s what I want to talk about today.

    A couple weeks ago I was up in the mountains of North Carolina with a few of close friends for a mastermind retreat. During one of our feedback sessions James Clear asked for feedback on his wildly popular blog. That gave me a chance to mention something that I’d been thinking about for a while: I felt his site design didn’t live up to the quality of his content.

    It wasn’t that the site was bad—in fact, I liked the minimal style—but a better design would have more attention to quality and typography.

    James thought for a second and said, “I guess I could get it redesigned.”

    The peril of starting from scratch

    That’s something I’ve heard a lot: if something isn’t good enough, it’s time to redo it. Sometimes that’s necessary, but more often you should use the foundation you already have to get closer to perfect.

    James didn’t need a site redesign. He just needed to spend a little time to add the final level of polish to make his design truly stellar.

    So that’s what we did. After dinner that night James opened up the styles on his site and started making changes. I’d point out little things like: “Let’s find a new font for that title” or “let’s change the navigation color.” But for the most part the next two hours were spent with James making small tweaks and asking the group, “What do you think?”

    Instead of starting from scratch and having to spend days designing and building a new design James was able to take his site design from “good enough” to “great!” in a couple hours.

    Had he hired a designer or created an entirely new design it probably would have only reached 80% before it was declared “good enough” and everyone moved on to the other aspects of running a popular blog.

    scratch

    Fix the little things

    At ConvertKit I’ve prioritized growing the business and designing a solid user experience over adding little bits of polish to the interface. That means ConvertKit is powerful, easy to use software, but it lacks the nice icons, illustrations, and animations that really complete the experience.

    There were a handful of little quirks that were really bothering me, so the other day I opened up my code editor and started fixing them one-by-one.

    I changed the hover state on a button, organized form fields on a page, made it so you could link to a specific tab on the settings page, and reworked the success and error messages.

    What surprised me is just how little time these took to fix. Some of these issues had been bothering me for months, but I’d never had time to take care of them. Or at least I felt like it was a big deal so I put it off till when I could make it a priority.

    That time never came (surprise!).

    But when I just set aside an hour and fixed the little things, it was amazing how quickly everything came together.

    James noticed the same thing. His site didn’t take weeks to redesign. Instead the process took about two or three hours.

    The old design:

    The redesign:james-clear-new

    Redesign vs. Realign.

    Years ago I heard Cameron Moll talk about how good designers redesign, but great designers realign. Meaning great designers take what’s already good and add the last bit of polish to take it to the next level. Rather than starting from scratch and spending all their time trying to get back to 80%.

    One caveat

    James finally went to bed at 2:00 AM. Though when I walked passed his room 30 minutes later I could see that instead of sleeping, he’d got his laptop back out and was making tiny tweaks to his site.

    When I made the ConvertKit changes the other night I didn’t want to stop. Seeing small bits of progress on things that have been bothering you for months can be addicting.

    So my only caveat is that once you get in the flow of fixing small things, you may enjoy it so much you stay up way too late.

    9 “Must Try” Marketing Tactics Used by the Biggest SaaS Companies

    I’m fascinated by marketing and by SaaS — two of the main things I spend my time on. Both SaaS and digital marketing are always changing, developing, and surprising me.

    What I’ve observed in some of the biggest SaaS companies is a lack of willingness to innovate their marketing. But at the same time, I’ve watched how their reliance on tried-and-true marketing techniques has helped them succeed.

    You’ve probably heard of the techniques in the list below. You may even be using some of them yourself. It’s worth taking a look and trying them out. What works for the giants may work for you too.

    1. Salesforce

    salesforce

    • Value: $25.5 billion
    • What they do: Salesforce basically invented SaaS, and they still dominate it. Their CRM software is the world’s most widely used.
    • Tactic: Prove it with numbers.

    There are plenty of things I can both praise and criticize regarding Salesforce’s marketing. They dominate the paid search listings. They publish a ton of content. They get talked about in virtually every business publication. But here’s something a bit more granular, yet still strategic.

    Look at their landing page. It is mind-numbingly bland. But it speaks directly to their bean-counting target audience. And it works! There are precious few persuasion techniques at play, but what they do have is perfect:

    grow-faster-salesforce

    Those four bulleted numbers say everything that they need to say. People who buy CRM care about little else than revenue, conversions, customer satisfaction, and speedy deployment. That’s exactly what Salesforce promises to do for you.

    What you can do

    First, you need to know your audience. Not everyone is persuaded by the promise of percentage upticks. If you do have a data-driven audience who loves proof by numbers, then this is a move that you probably want to copy. Prove success with the numbers.

    2. Concur

    concur-logo

    • Value: $4.7 billion
    • What they do: Concur Technologies has developed business travel and expense management software.
    • Tactic: Go where people do business (like Starbucks).

    Concur’s biggest marketing strategy is getting bought by SAP, but since that’s not a strategy that you can try, here’s something a bit more tactical.

    lets-meet-at-starbucks

    Concur has partnered with Starbucks. Sort of. The relationship seems complicated, but it’s also jumped up on caffeine. What’s more, it seems to be working.

    They help users connect their Concur and Starbucks accounts. Then, they draw expenses from the Starbucks and Concur cards. Brilliant.

    Their strategy is documented in this infographic:

    business-is-brewing

    What you can do.

    Find the swimming pool that your customers are playing in. Get a running start, and jump in with a cannonball. You will make a splash.

    To put it non-metaphorically, seek out places, physical or digital, where your customers gather. Ideally, this will be a place where your customers are discussing the very activity or service that your SaaS provides. It could be Quora. It could be LinkedIn. It might be Dunkin Donuts. (Looks like Starbucks is taken.)

    3. Netsuite

    netsuite-logo

    • Value: $7 billion
    • What they do: Business management software
    • Tactic: Customer testimonials matter.

    Netsuite has some kickass customers. And they know it. And they brag about it.

    netsuite-landing-page

    While most companies are content with dropping a few client logos on their homepage, Netsuite takes this a step further. They have full-on whitepapers on how their SaaS has made companies more profitable.

    Even the way they structure these customer features is smart: 1) Customer Success, 2) Challenges, 3) Solution.

    When you can brag about helping a company grow by 300% YoY, saving over a quarter of a million on IT development, and look cool while doing it — that’s the recipe for a winning testimonial model.

    What you can do

    Brag on yourself by boasting about your customers’ success. Use testimonials as a major component of your content marketing.

    4. Jive

    jive-logo

    • Value: $1.2 billion
    • What they do: Collaboration solutions.
    • Tactic: Keep things simple.

    Enterprise level CRMs are famous for making things needlessly complicated.

    Except Jive.

    Everything about Jive is intended to keep it simple. Even though the company is a gargantuan presence in the collaboration software space, they are also strikingly minimalist in their design, approach, and solution menu.

    Look. Even their homepage is simple.

    jive-homepage

    Jive knows that human interaction can be complex. Their goal is to simplify it. This intent leads their design style, their products, and even the product’s user interface.

    They have only three products, and you can understand what each of them does by simply glancing at the website.

    jive-our-products

    What you can do

    Simplicity wins. Simple websites. Simple design. Simple marketing. To make it better, make it simple.

    5. Demandware

    demandware-logo

    • Value: $1.4 billion
    • What they do: Ecommerce platform
    • Tactic: Visual motion

    DemandWare’s website puts aesthetics at the forefront. Their website uses innovative methods to create an interactive feel. Moving parts make the information engaging and experiential.

    demandware-arch

    unleash-your-potential

    It’s a pretty basic idea, but it’s also very engaging.

    I’ve used a similar technique — animated infographics, or “gifographics” — to make my marketing more appealing.

    What you can do

    Add visual panache to your marketing. Even better, make moving parts where possible. It makes things a whole lot more engaging. You’ll improve user’s dwell time and their memories of your page.

    6. Fleetmatics

    fleetmatics-logo

    • Value: $1.4 billion
    • What they do: Vehicle GPS tracking for corporate fleets
    • Tactic: Speaking their customer’s language.

    GPS tracking for fleets is a pretty complicated thing. When you decide to equip your corporate fleet with GPS tracking capabilities, you have to think about enterprise grouping, auto geofencing, GIS, RFID, WLAN, PSAP, CTIA, ANI, and other things that you don’t know about.

    Fleetmatics demystifies the entire universe of GPS tracking. Their target audience isn’t expected to unearth the mysteries of GPS technology, and they shouldn’t have to. That’s why they’re buying Fleetmatics.

    The content marketing on Fleetmatics’ evergreen pages is drop-dead straightforward, plain, and simple.

    No jargon. Just solutions.

    fleetmatics-landing-page

    I find pages like this very easy to understand, even if I know nothing about the technology that backs the system.

    fleetmatics-page-2

    A delivery professional knows what he’s supposed to do, and he doesn’t want to concern himself with the technical definition of “geofencing.”

    What you can do

    First, know your target audience. Then speak their language in your content marketing.

    7. Dealertrack

    dealertrack-tech-logo

    • Value: 1.7 billion
    • What they do: Auto industry software
    • Tactic: Free eBook and other content marketing resources

    It’s an old trick, but still a good one. DealerTrack provides free resources that their audience is interested in.

    get-the-ebook

    Obviously, it’s gated content. You give your email address; they give the book.

    please-provide-email

    DealerTrack understands the importance of harvesting email addresses, and leverages their content marketing approach to do exactly that.

    What you can do

    This is not a hard technique to imitate. Create your own downloadable resource, and offer it for free on your website. Potential customers come. You get email addresses.

    8. Ultimate Software Group

    ultimate-software-logo

    • Value: $3.7 billion
    • What they do: HR management solutions
    • Tactic: Short landing page forms

    Look at the powerful landing page below. In order to funnel customers into a product demo, Ultimate gives you four options: A radio button, a drop down menu, an email field, and another drop down. This requires very little brainpower, low cognitive load, and a powerful method of providing more product demonstrations.

    ultimate-software-landing-page

    The power of this landing page is in its few form options.

    The highest converting websites have short forms. The longer the form, the less likely people are to fill it out. When one company, Image Scape reduced their form fields from 11 to 4, they boosted their conversion rate by 120%.

    This is what happens when you reduce forms:

    reducing-number-of-contact-fields

    Image source

    What you can do

    Fewer fields in your forms will likely improve your conversion rates.

    9. Workday

    workday-logo

    • Value: $11.9 billion
    • What they do: Enterprise HR and financial management SaaS
    • Tactic: Videocasts bring in customers

    Workday knows that their audience — VPs of HR and their ilk — want the best information for advancing their workforce and companies. That’s why they bring together a force of industry leaders to share information.

    workday-landing-page

    Their target audience respects these figures, and are willing to invest the time to hear what they have to say. What does this mean for Workforce? Qualified leads.

    The crowded content marketing field needs less cheap content and more leadership in stuff that matters. Workday delivers just that level of content.

    What you can do

    It has become increasingly difficult to set yourself apart as a content marketing leader. The challenge is figuring out exactly what your customers want, and then giving it to them. Determine what it is your audience is craving, and then over deliver. And, to borrow from Workday’s playbook, videocasts are a pretty smart idea.

    Conclusion

    If you’re a small and agile SaaS, you can probably pull a few smart growth hacks that the big companies can’t or won’t.

    That being said, it’s often a great idea to see what how the big boys play the game. Stealing a few good marketing tactics is never a bad idea.

    What are your favorite SaaS marketing tricks?

    About the Author: is the Chief Evangelist of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.