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    Have you ever gotten a bill that—inexplicably—is two or three times more than usual? What was your reaction? Probably something like this:

    [A SaaS vendor] pulled a massive price increase on us (over 300%!) and that was it. I don’t care how much I like their product, I’m gone. We use Drift now.

    I got that from a user who junked her paid account after a vendor jacked up their price by 300%. Stories like this might terrify you if you’re thinking about increasing prices for your SaaS product. You might annoy them or, worse, lose them outright to a cheaper competitor. 

    Your fear is reasonable. As CrazyEgg’s co-founder, Hiten Shah, puts it: “When customers have countless choices available to them in the market, they are prone to shop around for the best price.”

    But there’s hope: Churn isn’t the only outcome of a SaaS pricing increase. You will anger some users. Some will churn. But, if done right, a net revenue boost is entirely possible.

    Need proof? The SaaS brand I mentioned at the start is Intercom. And, as of now, they still boast 30,000+ paying customers (each of whom is paying more than before).

    intercom homepage showing 30000 customers.

    Much of the outcome depends on what you do before you announce the price increase. This post will help you get that (and a few other things) right:

    • Identify if the time is right to raise SaaS prices;
    • Know your strategic options for increasing SaaS prices;
    • Communicate a price increase to existing users effectively.

    Is it time to raise prices for your SaaS product?

    Justifying a price increase is almost always about creating more value—making your product better. But what’s the definition of “better”? And who defines it? An email from Seth Godin’s “The Marketing Seminar” has a profound definition of what “better” really means: 

    When your better aligns with the better of those you seek to serve, you’ll have found an internal compass that can guide your work…” 

    You may think your product is better, but users must agree before you can hike your prices. “Better’s not up to us. It’s up to those we seek to serve,” wrote Godin in another post. 

    So how do you determine whether those value judgments align?

    Talk to users to find out if your “better” is also their “better.”

    Survey users about the features they find most useful, or the ones they’d like to see in your product. Neil Napier of Kyvio shared with me how they could’ve improved their price increase process if they’d found out what their users really wanted first: 

    In the past, we messed up and raised prices too quickly because we “promised” certain people we would. Now, we are taking a more calculated approach, which involves running surveys and interviews to learn what people want and value. 

    Have unstructured, in-person conversations with your users. In an interview with Hotjar, Drift’s founder David Cancel shared how he and his team would get on a plane and have lunch with their users—big and small—so they could chat with them like normal people and get quality product feedback:

    Every week, we do things like meeting up with small groups of customers. We’ll fly out to a city, one or two of us, and meet up with some prospective customers, some people in the industry, some existing customers, and I’ll do a lunch with them. I’ll do a dinner with five of them. I do it a lot.

    We want to have a mix of successful customers, unsuccessful customers, new customers, old customers. So, we try to mix it up.

    And this is not a product pitch for Drift. We just let everyone talk. Let’s just be real people and have a conversation.

    And it’s amazing that in every one of these cases, without coaxing them, the conversation naturally goes into Drift.

    And we just sit back and mostly listen to them.

    But discovering your users’ definition of “better” isn’t the only factor to consider before raising SaaS prices for existing customers.

    Other factors to consider before you raise prices

    In addition to aligning on value with your users, there are three other things to keep in mind.

    Slow vs super-active periods 

    There may be times (e.g. Black Friday, Christmas, summer, etc.) when your users are inactive or significantly less active. Those are not ideal periods to increase your prices.

    If, according to your data, paid users seldom engage with your product over the summer, it’s best to wait until they’re more active before you introduce a price change. 

    If users aren’t engaged when you increase prices, you won’t get an accurate reaction to the price change. CEO at KlipFolio, Allan Wille, recounted his experience with seasonal fluctuations in his SaaS business:

    With more data to compare, I can see evidence that there are seasonal fluctuations in our business. For example, this summer, organic traffic to our website was flat. And perhaps most telling, the percentage of daily active users (%DAU) of our dashboard was down.

    It makes sense … people are on vacation. Likewise, seasonality is evident at Christmas and New Year’s. There is a precipitous drop in activity on both those days. It’s clear almost nobody’s working.

    Similarly, Better Proposals’ founder Adam Hemphy shared how raising prices around a Black Friday deal wasn’t a good decision:

    My advice would be to do a price increase when you don’t have anything else affecting it. In our case, doing it in February or March would have been a better immediate test for whether the price increase was a good move or not.

    When users are active, you may even get unsolicited feedback that it’s time for a price increase.  

    Buyer confessions

    If you’re getting comments from paid users like, “You could really charge more for this,” then it might confirm that your prices should go up—especially because they may be speaking for many paid users.

    But does that ever really happen? It does. A paid user once told the Appcues team:

    You guys should find a way to charge us more $$$. $450 isn’t enough—we should be paying you well over $1k.

    They raised their prices soon after. Sarah Hum of Canny had the same experience:

    live chat customer telling company they should raise prices.

    If you’re getting comments like these from your users, it’s probably time to lift your SaaS prices. 

    However, if you never hear from ready-to-pay-more buyers, take a more methodical approach with a competitor pricing analysis.

    Competitor pricing

    Competitor pricing and the Van Westendorp Price Sensitivity Meter (PSM) are two market-research strategies that can give your price increase a safe landing.

    Your competitors’ prices help establish expectations. You don’t want to price your SaaS product far outside the established range—unless you’re sure that your product justifies the premium.

    The PSM approach to SaaS pricing asks four key questions to determine viable price points:

    1. At what price would you consider the product to be so expensive that you would not consider buying it? (Too expensive)
    2. At what price would you consider the product to be priced so low that you would feel the quality couldn’t be very good? (Too cheap)
    3. At what price would you consider the product starting to get expensive, so that it is not out of the question, but you would have to give some thought to buying it? (Expensive/High Side)
    4. At what price would you consider the product to be a bargain—a great buy for the money? (Cheap/Good Value)

    The CMO of Paubox, Rick Kuwahara, recommended the PSM approach for finding ideal price ranges:

    After you survey enough people (through the PSM approach), you usually get a range of prices where you can see how elastic pricing is between the answers for each question (in the PSM). Like too cheap may be between $10 and $20, and too expensive between $50 and $75. 

    Additionally, you can then do some market research and see how that would bear out in the marketplace. While I don’t like competitor-based pricing too much, you also don’t want to be way out of the range that the market has set.

    If your research suggests that a price increase is justified, you may be able to move on to execution. But, as Alexa Hubley, Head of Marketing at CXL cautions, there are other factors to keep in mind:

    “Research” should include more than just determining acceptable price ranges. It’s also important to do projections/predictions of churn and retention related to new pricing, as well as business impact analyses, etc.

    Once you’ve completed all relevant research, you can choose any of three strategies to execute on it.

    3 strategies to increase prices for SaaS users

    1. Create a more expensive pricing tier with more features.

    Time and again, subscription businesses take heat from users because they increase prices. Many (or even most) businesses weather it out.

    Take Netflix. In the spring of 2011, they hiked their price, and many (800,000) of their subscribers deactivated their accounts. The company’s stock price dropped 77% in four months, battering its management’s reputation. 

    But did Netflix survive? Actually, they did better:

    graph showing netflixs revenue growth even after raising prices.

    Zendesk had a similar experience—a poorly executed increase from which they recovered, even thrived. (After their debacle, they apologized.)

    Still, these companies could have avoided the painful process of trying to explain their price hike after the fact. One way they could have improved their execution? Creating a new, more expensive tier with added features for interested users. 

    Avoid angering users by introducing a new pricing tier

    Pricing experts at Price Intelligently say it like this: “Pricing changes don’t always mean higher prices. It could be [. . .] shifting features within tiers.”

    In other words, instead of raising prices for all users, you can announce new features (or shift existing ones) into a more expensive tier. 

    example of higher-priced tier for saas platform.
    (Image source)

    But will existing users switch to the new tier? It depends on two previously covered topics: value and the market: 

    • Which features offer users more value?
    • Do competitors provide this value? Could they start providing this value quickly?

    If your new pricing tier provides exceptional value and is protected from competitor challenges (i.e. is an economic moat), you may compel users to upgrade.

    Growth expert Ammo Singh shared a success story from a client:

    I created a new tier that included some features I knew users wanted as they requested them. (I can’t share specifics due to an NDA.) Users liked it and understood that if they wanted more advanced features, they had to pay extra.

    If, however, you’re convinced that existing paid users won’t fuss if you increase the price of their current plan, you don’t need a new tier. Here’s what to do instead.

    2. Increase the price of plans for existing customers.

    Not all SaaS businesses that raise their prices end up regretting it. Appcues increased their price, and sales grew by 263%. ChartMogul’s customer base and revenue kept increasing as their minimum price did. Since 2014, Netflix has increased their price by about $1 each year:

    netflix history of price increases.
    (Image source)

    It is possible to thrive after a price increase for existing users. Companies that have done so usually share three characteristics:

    1. They have the size to take the heat. Losing a few hundred (or several thousand) customers won’t crater their revenue.

    2. They notify customers well in advance. Appcues talks about how they did it:

    We tried to write the email to be clear and upfront, and dispel any concerns around our motivations behind the increase. Most importantly: we thanked our customers and gave them sufficient notice to change their plan before the price adjustment. 85% of our customers opened our email and not a single one churned :)

    Kuwahara seconded the importance of clear communication:

    It’s just communication, over-communication if you can. Do it ahead of time and often enough so it’s not a shock when someone receives their bill.

    3. They increase pricing significantly only for bigger customers. Some SaaS brands roll out large price increases only for customers with deeper pockets who may not feel the effects of the price increase as significantly (and who, in theory, should be getting far more value from the product).

    Alternatively, an across-the-board increase could work if you’re willing to let smaller clients churn and, instead, focus on more valuable enterprise accounts. The former product manager at Yotpo, Adi Ben Mayor, shared a story with me:

    I was working for Yotpo, which started as a product for SMBs and now serves enterprises (Staples, for example). The prices went up significantly, way out of reach of SMBs, and some did churn. But it allowed the company to focus on our Enterprise features.

    But what about grandfathering people in?

    3. Grandfather existing users into their old pricing.

    One way to avoid trouble from a price increase is to grandfather paid users into old pricing, taking out much of the risk (and some of the profit) from a price increase.

    You can inform existing users that prices are increasing for new customers but that pricing won’t change for them. It shows loyalty and can strengthen their bond with your brand and product.

    But how long should you grandfather them in? A few months? A year? Forever? I put the question on some SaaS groups on Facebook. Most SaaS marketers and founders in the group say they’d rather grandfather old customers forever. 

    question to saas facebook group about grandfathering customers into current prices.

    And it makes sense. The trust you build by grandfathering in current users may even spawn word-of-mouth marketing (and more revenue). 

    One response also highlighted the similarity between time-limited grandfathering and simple advance notice:

    I would give like a 3- to 6-month email of why the increase and the date that the customer can plan ahead…sort of how Amazon did with their Prime increase.

    So how should you explain your price increase?

    How to communicate a SaaS price increase

    Emails are a primary method of communicating a price increase. Here are two price-increase emails you can borrow ideas from—especially when grandfathering users in:

    1. Appcues

    These emails were sent to Appcues’ current customers (left) and free-trial users (right):

    appcues emails sent to customers about price increases.
    (Image source)

    If, like Appcues, you’re increasing prices primarily for power users, that can have benefits. Wes Bush, the author of Product-Led Growth, explains:

    If you’re charging based on value metrics (i.e. the number of users, videos uploaded, or MAUs), your new pricing plan will charge your power users more while limiting the price increase for accounts that are not getting a lot of value from your solution. All in all, this reduces your churn with a price increase.

    2. Close.io 

    Here’s an email that Close.io sent, which increased their average customer lifetime value by over 10%. As their CEO Steli Efti noted, “When we increased prices, our conversion rates stayed the same, our customers stayed happy, we had a huge bump in paid seats.”

    email to customer about a pending price increase.

    In a previous article CXL published on raising prices, they identified one theme for successful communication (email or otherwise) that stood out more than any other: transparency.

    If you feel compelled to obscure the reason—or if it takes thousand-word essays and charts to justify it—that’s a sign you don’t have a strong case.

    Still, focusing on key points can help justify an increase:

    • The length of time since the last price increase;
    • The value you’ve added to your product or service during that time;
    • If you have service limitations (e.g. consulting hours), the increase in demand.

    Conclusion

    While price changes are often “one off” events, few experts recommend treating them as such. Price Intelligently, for example, recommends reviewing your pricing every few months. Pricing, like a website redesign, may be best understood as an iterative, not radical, process.

    Regardless of your cadence, remember these four points:

    1. Make sure your “high value” features are high value for users, not just your product team.
    2. Consider the PSM model to find out how a proposed price fits into the broader market.
    3. Grandfather paid users into their old pricing plan or create a new, more expensive tier they can opt into.
    4. Give users plenty of time to make a decision, and give yourself plenty of time to remind them of your value.

    The post How to Increase SaaS Prices the Right (and Profitable) Way appeared first on CXL.


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    Influencer marketing has been around long enough to generate great case studies—and skepticism. That’s especially true for B2B marketers. An Instagram model gushing over a new fashion product seems infinitely remote from strategies they might deploy.

    Still, about 65% of brands planned to increase their investment in influencer marketing in 2018, which puts the strategy on track to top $10 billion by 2020. Yet, according to another study, only 11% of B2B companies have ongoing influencer marketing programs, compared to 48% of B2C brands.

    B2B brands shouldn’t feel left out, even if they lag behind. Professional communities on social media are strong. We’ve all given and received one-off recommendations in Slack groups or via email. Those under-the-radar endorsements can influence purchasing decisions for cloud-based CRMs as much as cleansing teas.

    But too many case studies tout the strategies of SAP, Salesforce, and other behemoths who have resources and networks that dwarf most companies. This post offers four B2B influencer marketing strategies that move the needle in any industry and for companies of all sizes. 

    1. Partner with industry experts to co-create content.

    • What this strategy achieves: Adds instant credibility to your content and provides a natural distribution network.

    Like every good influencer strategy, this one is a win-win. Ross Simmonds, Digital Strategist at Foundation, explains why:

    When you collaborate with an expert in your field [. . .] the expert/influencer has a chance to connect with a new audience and you have the opportunity to bring new value/perspective to your existing audience.

    This strategy is also flexible: You can select the right type of content based on your resources.

    Here are several ways to co-create content with B2B influencers:

    Brand endorsements

    Even if you don’t have a roster of influencer-users, reach out for a quote about your product or brand. Co-created “content” can be as simple as a few lines to add social proof to your offer.

    A pop-up on the cognitiveSEO blog has a quote from Bill Sebald:

    use of an influencer quote to provide social proof.

    Start with influencers who are already connected to your brand; the chances of getting a reply are much higher. Who follows your brand account on Twitter? Who shared your content in the past?

    If manually culling a list is too much effort, use a tool like Followerwonk. With just a few clicks, you can identify the most influential users among your followers. (You can learn more about this strategy on my recent post on Moz.)

    how to identify your most influential followers on social media.

    Similarly, Buzzsumo allows you to see who on Twitter shared your content:

    example of how to find influential people who have shared your content.

    Case studies

    Involving experts in case studies can help win more likes and shares—promoting the content is in influencers’ self-interest because they get to share their success stories.

    You can catalyze that sharing, something Ann Smarty of Viral Content Bee does regularly:

    Any time I feature influencers in my content, I tag them on Twitter, not just in my own tweets but also in updates from everyone else. This gets my influencers back to my site with every tweet.

    We add the project to Viral Content Bee and include the influencers’ usernames in the project name. This way, every time the article is tweeted from the dashboard, the influencers are tagged on Twitter, driving them back to the content.

    example of call-outs to influencers in article tweets.
    Twitter is the easiest social media network for tagging. Tagging on Facebook is trickier but still worthwhile.

    Matthew Barby, along with other well-known HubSpot employees, shared how Accuranker helped them double their traffic. Those names (and that brand) added credibility to Accuranker’s case study.

    But, of course, there’s a limitation to these collaborations: The targeted influencers have to be your clients—for long enough to have gotten great value from your product and liberated from a self-imposed NDA that keeps them from sharing their story.

    Video content 

    Video has won marketers’ hearts and minds: 83% believe that video content grows sales. But it may require some penny-pinching since videos need a generous budget (compared to, say, a blog post or whitepaper). 

    Justin Champion, author of Inbound Content and contributor to HubSpot Academy’s video marketing course, explains the potential of optimized video content:

    When Google offers video search results, they’re generally near the top of the search engine results page (SERP), even before the coveted #1 website listing.

    Mots of those video results are YouTube videos, making them another opportunity to claim real estate atop a SERP.

    If you’re on a shoe-string budget but still want to produce content featuring experts:

    • Record a short webinar-like Q&A. I use Zoom for its ease-of-use and decent video quality.
    • Live stream on Facebook or YouTube. Pick your brand channel that has the most engaged community (i.e. most followers, subscribers). After the live stream, promote the video across other social media platforms.

    While production may be more demanding, it may also make it easier to find experts who will collaborate with you. Videos are among the most expensive content types to produce, so the perceived value of collaborating is often higher.

    Ross Hudgens at Siege Media has successfully uses this formula. His “Content and Conversation” video series features a veritable “Who’s Who” of the digital marketing world:

    example of youtube channel that interviews lots of influencers.

    There are ways to reduce production costs, too, like shooting videos at company-sponsored conferences and events. The experts are already there, so just start rolling.

    Research collaborations

    Want to co-create content that will really stick with readers? Already have a cache of data? Share it with a B2B influencer to publish on their site.

    In the digital marketing space, Brian Dean does this often. Most of his research is based on data provided by other companies. Here are a few examples from his recent posts:

    If you need ideas of what kind of content you could create with your data, check out the post on B2B content marketing strategies, or use a tool like BuzzSumo or Ahrefs to surface popular topics.

    using ahrefs to surface popular topics for content collaborations.

    Partnering up with experts in your field is a great way to create new and interesting content while also building relationships. But influencers aren’t the only people who can help you promote your brand. 

    2. Turn loyal, influential clients into brand ambassadors.

    • What this strategy achieves: Builds word-of-mouth referrals and cultivates a community of user-advocates.

    If someone tells you that building relationships with influencers is a piece of cake, they’re either: 

    1. From a well-known company that influencers are eager to work with;
    2. Have never never done it themselves. 

    Persuading influencers to collaborate is anything but easy. Get ready to be ignored by hundreds of them. It’s just a part of the process—if you thought to reach out to them, so did dozens (or hundreds) of others. 

    Loyal clients may be an easier target, especially since you don’t need to “sell” your brand; they’re already sold. So how do you get them to share their experience with your business?

    Here are options to turn happy clients into vocal supporters:

    Special community programs 

    Moz was among the first digital marketing companies to create a bonus system (“MozPoints”). For various activities—like a “thumbs up” for your blog post comment—you receive a certain number of points.

    example of point system to motivate participation by users.
    I have just over 900 points and rank #97 in the Moz community. (Wow, I had no idea before writing this post. LOL!)

    SEMrush has also invested in their community, building something similar to motivate people to participate and engage with their brand:

    example of loyalty/gamified participation in company programs.

    The gamification can motivate users to engage with your content or to help other users on your product forum. That engagement, in turn, may help you create and identify your champions.

    Nick Dimitriou, Head of Growth at Moosend, highlights other benefits of loyalty-type programs:

    • Stay ahead of the competition;
    • Reduce your advertising spend;
    • Increase customer retention;
    • Move existing customers further down the funnel;
    • Identify brand evangelists;
    • Find customers who have influencer potential for your brand.

    Closed groups

    Make your customers feel truly special by adding them to an exclusive group. Many companies have closed Facebook groups to help clients feel more connected to their brand. However, you can go a step further and create a VIP group accessible only to hand-picked clients. (A community feature can also be added quite easily to your site.)

    This will streamline conversations about your product/service, help you collect feedback, and—most importantly—allow you to share special offers (e.g. beta access, company swag) and invite influencers to your community meet-ups. 

    Engaging with loyal customers is an affordable strategy to earn endorsements from clients whose opinions carry weight in the industry. But clients may not be your only die-hard fans. Your brand might already have loyal influencers.

    3. Organize offline events to develop relationships.

    • What this strategy achieves: Builds brand awareness by celebrating others and creates the personal connections you need to execute influencer strategies.

    Establishing personal connections at offline events is key to building out your influencer network. But it’s also important to give your new contacts an easy way to get in touch with you after the event, which is where branded links come in handy. Distributing a short, memorable link (e.g. YourBrand.is/Better) at the event can continue the conversation long after it’s over.

    Davide De Guz, Founder of Rebrandly

    I know tons of people that I’ve never met in person (but would love to meet one day!). Thanks to digital marketing conferences, I have been able to grow many of those digital-first relationships. 

    An old-school, face-to-face chat can’t be beaten, even by video calls. My team knows this, which is the number-one reason we host our own annual event, Digital Olympus. Even if you’re not in a position to run a conference, there are some options to consider:

    Closed VIP events

    For instance, SEMrush Summer Jams brings together the very best digital marketers. Being a part of this event is a big deal. Or take SEOktoberfest, organized by Marcus Tandler from Ryte. Even though it costs quite a lot to attend, it remains an invitation-only event with a feeling of exclusivity.

    event landing page promoting experts.
    You know it’s exclusive when the site promoting an SEO event is a single page of basic HTML!

    Awards

    If there’s no award in your niche, it could be your chance to start one! Recruit a group of trustworthy experts to act as judges (Influencer Engagement Opportunity #1). Then, promote submissions for Best XYZ and celebrate the winners digitally or, if you have the budget, with a one-night award ceremony (Influencer Engagement Opportunity #2). 

    Existing award programs highlight best practices. For example, Search Awards are well-known in the digital marketing niche. I was a part of Search Awards a few times, and I think they’re so popular because:

    • Even being shortlisted is a huge benefit to brand awareness.
    • It’s a great opportunity to meet experts that you’ve known on the web for ages.
    • Shortlisted companies invite friends and influencers to their tables to build stronger bonds.

    If experts see that your award benefits them, they’ll be more willing to participate and maybe even help organize or sponsor the program.

    Parties before or after big events 

    This is a shortcut if you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford VIP events or awards. Search for an existing event and announce that you’re running a pre- or post-party for it. (Lots of companies, for example, run BrightonSEO pre-parties; some are “official” parties, sponsored through the conference.)

    Face-to-face communication will always be the best way to catch up with loyal influencers, whether they’re clients or experts. Now, let’s see how to identify more of those people for future collaborations.

    4. Keep hunting for new influencers.

    • What this strategy achieves: Grows your network of potential influencers and opens the door to new or expanded strategies.

    The game never stops. As with other marketing strategies, a one-off approach is least likely to work. Keep in touch with people you already know (through, for example, the aforementioned VIP groups), but always seek out new connections.

    At any point, your most vocal influencers might move on to collaborate with other brands. There are many ways to find new potential influencers:

    Round-ups

    (Too) many round-ups are average at best; there are exceptions. For example, Robbie Richards’ round-ups are valuable and rank well. His article on the best keyword research tools earns more than 600 organic visitors a month:

    example of successful round-up posts.

    Richards’ round-ups are successful because of their structure and those involved—the experts he includes help him promote round-ups effectively and win links back to the posts.

    For your next round-up post, start with a question that’s likely to yield insightful answers. Here are some that I’ve used in the past:

    • What’s an outdated strategy in [industry]?
    • What’s the best thing you’ve ever done to improve [topic]?
    • What’s the best tip you’ve ever received about [topic]?
    • What’s your favorite piece of software for [task]?
    • What’s a new strategy you’ve uncovered recently to improve [topic]?

    Any question that tackles an area of expertise and asks for an actionable tip will generate meaningful answers. That said, avoid topics that are overused in your industry. (In digital marketing, for example, no one needs another round-up on “how to write a blog post.”)

    This post can help you find motivated influencers who are eager to participate in a round-up.

    Top XX experts posts 

    These posts are, essentially, a type of round-up (a round-up of names rather than ideas). However, I strongly recommend that you connect with the experts you want to feature in your post beforehand. That will help ensure they promote your piece once it goes live.

    Here are a few examples to inspire you:

    Link to experts’ content

    Pick who you want to build a relationship with and link to an article on their site, not a guest post they’ve published elsewhere. You might want to connect with your potential influencer to see if it’s okay to share a link to their new post. (The answer is almost certainly “yes,” but it’s a frictionless way to break the ice.)

    A modest amount of personalization can go a long way, as Right Inbox co-founder Sujan Patel notes:

    As someone who has received plenty of the generic, “I linked to your article” emails, I’m much more likely to connect with you if you’ve taken the time to check out my content and link to it.

    To be more strategic about it, see who links to your competitors. The authors of those posts likely contribute to many sites, which makes them valuable targets for your outreach. Here’s a great post that shares how to find them.  

    Support influencers on your social media channels

    Promote content that needs (and deserves) promotion. Obviously, if an expert writes a new post for Moz, it will do well regardless—the author isn’t likely to notice if you share it. That story may be different when they publish on their personal blog. 

    Take the time to make a custom, visually appealing social media shoutout for the influencer’s content. People love visuals, and the 10 minutes you spend to make a nice image on Canva or Venngage—especially if the influencer didn’t do the same for their work—may earn their attention.

    Invite guest hosts to Twitter chats and webinars

    You’ll have better luck convincing an influencer to host if they have some history with you. Spend time warming them up—include them in a round-up or ask for a quote—then move on to webinars and chats. 

    Send company swag

    You don’t even need to know the person to do this. Just send some swag to their company, with the package addressed to them. (Still, sending gifts to people you know is better—they’re more likely to share their excitement on social media.)

    This works well for event promotion. For Digital Olympus, we made cookies with the logo and sent t-shirts to our friends. That campaign was a definite success.

    example of customized swag on instagram.

    Congratulate influencers on life events

    The life events of influencers provide opportunities, too. Catalog personal details in a CRM-type system (in a non-creepy way) and set reminders.

    Small but memorable gifts work well. For example, Deepcrawl sends the cutest onesies for newborns: 

    Conclusion

    B2B influencer marketing has carved its own path. Success is less about the one-and-done “viral” efforts common in B2C marketing and more about generating a regular undercurrent of interactions with industry influencers.

    The biggest benefit of that strategic bent? It makes influencer marketing accessible to nearly every business. You may not crash your servers with a successful campaign, but you can build credibility for your content, product, and brand.

    As Michael Sadowski, founder and CEO of Brand24, summarizes it:

    B2B Influencer Marketing has become one of the most effective customer acquisition channels. However, it’s not easy to implement. Building relationships with the industry’s most influential voices takes time and skills.

    In our humble experience, the best solution is to give maximum value to these power users, ask for nothing in return, and let karma do the rest.

    This way, we managed to build a lasting connection with dozens of influencers that brought hundreds of thousands of users to our product.

    There are so many ways to get started:

    • Working with established clients;
    • Organizing events;
    • Networking with respected industry figures;
    • Co-creating content, and so on.

    Ideally, you’ll implement multiple strategies to reach more people. Pick those you like most, but go out of your comfort zone and try something new, too. 

    The post B2B Influencer Marketing: 4 Strategies that Move the Needle appeared first on CXL.


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    When a prospect downloads your lead magnet, their journey to paying customer has only just begun—it may never finish. 

    Most B2B leads don’t become customers. Benchmarks for download-to-customer conversion rates are scarce. But Salesforce revealed that less than 0.5% of webinar leads ever convert to customers. That’s a grim portrait, even if conversion rates for other lead magnets are multiples higher.

    Still, there’s hope. Email automation lets you nurture leads at scale, so you can compensate for lower conversion rates with volume at virtually no cost. Additionally, most B2B marketers aren’t nurturing lead-magnet downloaders properly. Or at all.

    I downloaded 25+ B2B lead magnets and discovered an array of shortcomings:

    • Sending one or no follow-up emails, even when I opted-in to learn more.
    • Emails arrived far too infrequently to capitalize on my interest.
    • Sequences did little to nurture my awareness before asking for a sales call.

    All this means that the statistic—a 0.5% lead-to-customer conversion rate—doesn’t have to be your statistic. Here’s how to address those common issues, and many more.

    Begin with an end in mind: How to choose a primary KPI

    What’s this campaign for? It’s great to get your content read, watched, or shared. But don’t lose sight of your campaign’s primary purpose: turning leads into customers. Choose a single metric to help you measure your campaign’s ROI.

    This post from CXL includes some good examples of meaningful KPIs for an email sequence:

    • Gross customer adds;
    • Marketing-qualified leads;
    • Time-to-close;
    • Revenue.

    Companies with a product-led growth strategy may focus on:

    • Free-trial starts;
    • New users.

    Some of these metrics are easier to track than others, but the point is to set a goal that accurately reflects the business outcome you’re after.

    Once you’ve picked your KPI, it’s time to…

    Choose the “Big Ask” to drive your KPI

    An email sequence can include several offers, such as webinar invitations, blog posts, case studies, and more. But somewhere in that sequence, you need one offer that drives your primary KPI. I call this offer the “Big Ask.”

    For example, if your primary KPI is revenue, your Big Ask may be to make a purchase. Other Big Asks may include:

    • Start a free trial.
    • Schedule a call with sales.
    • Watch a product demo.

    The nature of your Big Ask is one of three factors that determine how long you need to nurture leads.

    How long does your sequence need to be? 

    After someone downloads your lead magnet, couldn’t you simply invite them to take a sales call, watch your video demo, or sign up for a free trial? Shouldn’t you strike while the iron’s hot?

    At the outset, to estimate how much nurturing you’ll need, consider:

    1. Friction. Is your Big Ask easy for prospects to accept?
    2. Proximity to value. How soon will leads get value from your Big Ask?
    3. Awareness gap. How much do leads need to know before they’ll sign up, talk to a sales rep, or make a purchase?

    Let’s look at these one by one.

    Factor 1: Higher friction requires more nurturing.

    Which sounds easier to you?

    • Start a 7-day free trial (no credit card required).
    • Get on a 15-minute sales call.

    If you’re like most B2B buyers, the perceived effort of getting on a call is much higher. Friction comes from other sources, too: 

    • Leads may need to switch from a competitor.
    • Your product may be expensive.
    • Your product may have a steep learning curve.

    In general, high-friction Big Asks require more nurturing.

    Factor 2: Proximity to value

    Another quick test: Which of these Big Asks gets you closer to value?

    • Start your 14-day free trial.
    • Schedule a demo.

    If I start a free trial now, there’s a chance I can get value from the product today. If I schedule a demo, any value will exist only in my mind’s eye.

    Behavioral economists use the term temporal discounting to describe the human tendency to prefer rewards that come sooner rather than later. If your Big Ask has low proximity to value—such as booking a demo—you may need to nurture leads a little more.

    Examples

    Let’s contrast two confirmation emails I received after downloading lead magnets:

    Ebook download confirmation from Litmus

    confirmation email from litmus.
    • Big ask: Start your free trial.
    • Perceived effort: Low. Starting a free trial seems easy.
    • Proximity to value: Close. Starting a free trial might mean that I can get value immediately (though the copy could do a better job of telling me how close I am to those benefits).

    Guide download confirmation from Iterable

    • Big ask: Schedule a demo.
    • Perceived effort: High. Scheduling a demo sounds like work. After I click on the link, I see a form with six required fields.
    • Proximity to value: Far. Scheduling a demo doesn’t really feel like I’m close to any benefits.

    Due to the high perceived effort and low proximity to value, Iterable will likely need a longer sequence than Litmus.

    Factor 3: Awareness gap

    When a prospect downloads your lead magnet, they’re either trying to solve a problem or get a desired outcome. For example, if I download your ebook about “How to Generate More Leads,” the outcome I want is obvious.

    While some prospects may be ready to jump on a sales call right after downloading, many won’t. Before prospects are ready to try your product or speak to sales, they’ll need to reach a certain level of awareness.

    This means they need to know what your product is, how it solves their problem, and why they should trust you. Eugene Schwartz’s five stages of awareness can help identify the start and end for your sequence.

    Since most lead-nurture sequences exist somewhere between solution and product awareness, let’s look at the middle three stages. See if you can identify where your leads are mostly likely to be when they download your lead magnet:

    • Problem Aware. Your prospect senses a problem but doesn’t know there’s a solution.
    • Solution Aware. Your prospect knows the desired result but not that your product provides it.
    • Product Aware. Your prospect knows what you sell but isn’t sure if it’s right for them.

    Let’s contrast the awareness gap in these two download confirmation emails:

    Confirmation email from SharpSpring

    • Lead’s starting awareness: Solution-aware. Since this is a vendor-comparison guide, we know that downloaders are aware that solutions to their problems exist. But leads might not know anything else about SharpSpring.
    • Big Ask: Schedule a demo.
    • Awareness gap: Small. Since leads who download this guide are already evaluating solutions, SharpSpring relies on social proof and desire-building copy to bridge the awareness gap before presenting the Big Ask.
    • Summary: While one email may not be enough, this email does a good job of bridging the gap between solution-awareness and product-awareness by communicating benefits, using social proof, and handling objections.

    Confirmation email from Iterable

    • Lead’s starting awareness: Pain-aware. This guide is for marketers who are struggling with a marketing platform migration. There’s no evidence that leads would be aware of solutions for this problem.
    • Big Ask: Schedule a demo.
    • Awareness gap: Large. At this point, the lead knows almost nothing about how the product works, why they should trust it, or how it differs from competitors. While the lead magnet itself includes some awareness-building content on the last page, it’s risky to assume that prospects read that far.
    • Summary: Iterable may need to build more awareness before prospects are ready to schedule a demo. 

    A longer sequence isn’t inherently worse—nurturing leads builds liking, familiarity, and reciprocity. Busy sales teams also benefit from the sequence’s ability to build awareness and screen unqualified prospects.

    On the other hand, companies with product-led growth strategies and lead-hungry sales teams may not care as much about qualifying leads. If qualifying your leads is important, consider adding more emails to your sequence before going for the Big Ask.

    Now that we’ve reviewed the three main factors that determine how much you need to nurture your leads, it’s time to discuss what your sequence needs to address.

    What does your sequence need to do?

    We know that we need to build awareness before leads will accept our Big Ask. The next step is to identify which of your prospects’ beliefs need to change during the sequence.

    For this section, I’ll use an example from a lead-nurture sequence I worked on for a B2B SaaS company, Culture Amp.

    Case study: Culture Amp

    • Audience: HR professionals who want to improve diversity and inclusion at their company;
    • Lead magnet: Diversity, Inclusion, and Intersectionality Report;
    • Big Ask: Watch a 3-minute platform demo video;
    • Primary KPI: MQLs;
    • Product: Culture Amp’s Engagement product, which includes the Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit;
    • Starting stage of awareness: Pain-aware;
    • Friction: Low (watch a 3-minute video);
    • Proximity to value: Far. They’ll get the information they want immediately, but their pain points and desires won’t be solved for some time.
    • Qualification/Sales readiness: N/A. We’re using the Big Ask to qualify leads for targeted sales outreach. In other words, the Big Ask is what qualifies leads.
    • Awareness gap: High.

    To figure out what our sequence needed to include:

    1. I brainstormed a list of beliefs that our leads would likely have at the beginning of the sequence. (Do this after you’ve completed lots of customer research so your list is based on reality.)
    2. Then, I made another list of how those beliefs would need to change, and what new beliefs they would need to have before accepting the Big Ask.

    Here’s a small sample of what I came up with:

    Leads’ beliefs, thoughts, or feelings at the time of download: Beliefs, thoughts, and feelings that would make leads more likely to accept the Big Ask:
    “Our company should be more diverse and inclusive.” “If I want to make my company more diverse and inclusive, I need to know how to collect, measure, and act on feedback from my employees.”
    “I’m not really sure what Culture Amp does or how it works.” “Culture Amp is a People & Culture platform that includes a Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit.”

    “Prominent companies have solved the same problem I have with Culture Amp.”

    When you’re brainstorming your list, you’ll want to think through the following:

    • Pain points;
    • Desires;
    • Objections;
    • Priorities.

    Here are other questions to get you started:

    Do your leads know…

    • That you understand their problem?
    • What your product is?
    • How your solution solves their problem?
    • That your product can give them an outcome they desire?
    • That your solution has been proven to do what you claim it will?
    • That companies they trust get results with your solution?
    • That your solution might be better than the alternatives?
    • That your company aligns with their values?
    • Why their current solution might be falling short?
    • What will happen if they don’t take action soon?

    You can provide answers throughout the emails and offers that make up your sequence.

    Emails to include in your sequence

    The confirmation email

    What belongs in your first email will vary based on the three factors affecting sequence length discussed above. That said, your confirmation email should include:

    • A statement that reinforces your lead’s progress towards solving their problem or getting what they want;
    • A link to the content they requested (even if they received a direct download);
    • A reminder of the value inside your content (for those who may forget to read it).

    This example from TravelPerk includes each of these nicely:

    The offer and call to action you include in that first email also varies based on your strategy. 

    From the dozens of nurture sequences I reviewed, here are the most common confirmation email offers B2B marketers are using:

    Present the Big Ask

    As we’ve already seen, some companies present their Big Ask in the first email. The three factors that affect sequence length determine if this is appropriate. As with all best practices, they’re a starting point—testing will tell you whether this works for you.

    Email marketing expert Samar Owais cautions against presenting your Big Ask too early:

    Samar Owais

    Samar Owais:

    Think of your offer and nurture sequence as a package deal. That first email may be the most opened and clicked but it’s also a terrible place to make a sales pitch.

    That’s like opening your door and finding a sleazy salesman who just wants to sell you a vacuum cleaner—not help your house stay clean.

    If you take this approach, build awareness, show social proof, and address objections before presenting the Big Ask, like SharpSpring did here:

    Ask a question

    In the nurture sequences I reviewed, many companies asked me to reply to a question.

    Here’s an example from TravelPerk:

    I asked Owais about this approach:

    Asking a question has a few benefits. First, it allows you to collect voice-of-customer data, which you can use to optimize the sequence. Second, it humanizes the brand a little bit.

    B2B copywriter Dayana Mayfield told me that, in her experience, “people who engage, even in a small way, are more likely to hop on a demo later.” If you’re scoring leads for MQLs, a reply could be a powerful indicator of sales-readiness.

    Ask them to share

    Some companies invite subscribers to share the lead magnet, either through social media or email:

    This approach was common with companies like Intercom and HubSpot, which suggests that it may work better for marketers who are playing the (very) long game with their nurture efforts.

    Intercom knows this isn’t their last chance to connect with you, and they’re betting that they’ll continue to grow most effectively by asking you to spread a little brand awareness.

    How many people actually share the content? Who knows. But adding the option to share your content is unlikely to hurt you.

    Build anticipation for the rest of the sequence

    Instead of (or in addition to) your call to action, you may want to include some anticipation-building copy to get leads excited about subsequent emails.

    Market8 does this well in their confirmation email:

    Emails for the rest of the sequence

    The rest of your emails focus on the following:

    1. Training prospects to open and read your emails by providing relevant, valuable content;
    2. Building awareness, demonstrating value, and proving your claims to prepare leads for your Big Ask;
    3. Offering other ways for leads to stay engaged with you once the sequence is over.

    Ideally, you’ll tackle Points 1 and 2 (and possibly 3) at the same time.

    For example, we designed the third email in the Culture Amp sequence to do the following:

    • Provide relevant, valuable content—we used a case study about improving workplace diversity and inclusion.
    • Connect their problem (“How do I make sense of my survey results?”) to the product.
    • Prove that prominent companies got results from working with Culture Amp.

    Here’s the email:

    Here’s another example in which we offered value freely and built awareness at the same time:

    This time, we wanted to build awareness around the idea of taking action on survey results—one of Culture Amp’s key differentiators. At the same time, we provided valuable content and offered proof that the solution works.

    If you don’t have lots of relevant content to link to, you can always deliver valuable content within the email.

    The Big Ask email

    You can go for the conversion multiple times throughout your sequence. Different subscribers will be ready at different times.

    Owais estimated that, in a 12-email sequence, she’s likely to present the Big Ask three times. Some of those offers may be softer, added in the postscript rather than the email body.

    But since the point of your sequence is to get leads to take your Big Ask, you’ll want at least one email dedicated solely to that goal.

    So how should you write that email? All the usual principles of effective copywriting apply. But let’s look at some of the nuances of B2B email copywriting:

    Lead with pain.

    Copyhackers’ email specialist, Nikki Elbaz, points out that, in B2C, some products are solutions to problems, while others exist for sheer delight (or amusement). On the other hand, B2B is all about solutions.

    For this reason, Elbaz says, “the Problem-Agitation-Solution (PAS) framework can be particularly effective for B2B sales emails.”

    Here’s another example from the Culture Amp sequence:

    This is how the PAS framework works in this email:

    • Problem: “You want to become a champion of diversity and inclusion, but there are obstacles in your way.”
    • Agitation: “Specifically, you’re probably struggling with these three challenges.”
    • Solution: “Culture Amp helps solve these problems. See how (plus social proof).”

    Empower your content consumer.

    Seth Godin reminds us that, unless you’re communicating with the final decision-maker, B2B sales is all about the story your lead gets to tell their boss.

    As Elbaz explains,

    In B2B, your consumer isn’t usually the customer. You’re often selling to someone who isn’t the final decision-maker. How can you help prospects get buy-in from their bosses? Offer content that speaks to this need. A PDF sales sheet, a comparison blog post—what do they need to see to convince their boss?

    In your sequence, see what you can share that might help your prospect sell your product to their superiors.

    Stand out in their inbox.

    There’s a good chance your leads are getting emails on the same topic from other companies. It can be really helpful to know what else is in their inbox so that your most important emails—like Big Asks—stand out.

    In the Culture Amp sequence, the open rate of one subject line outperformed the average of all others by nearly 60%: “Diversity ≠ Inclusion.”

    Why did it work? I have a couple of hypotheses:

    1. Our audience is used to seeing “diversity and inclusion” and was surprised to see a new spin on the relationship between the two terms.
    2. Our audience may have been excited to see a company finally talking about the topic in a way that aligned with their existing beliefs.

    Regardless, the subject line stood out from emails that leads were receiving from other companies on the same topic. How can you make sure your subject lines do, too? Subscribe to other lists and sequences your leads may get in their inboxes.

    A full nurture sequence plan

    Here’s a (simplified) breakdown of the strategy behind the Culture Amp nurture sequence:

    Day Subject line Strategy Offer/CTA
    1 Here’s your Diversity, Inclusion, and Intersectionality Report Reinforce their decision to interact with us. Remind them of the value in the lead magnet.
    A link to make it easy for them to share with someone else
    2 Making an impact on D&I starts with this Build awareness and empathy. Offer value freely to train them to expect benefits from reading our emails. A link to relevant blog post
    5 How [prominent tech company] builds a culture of belonging Gain trust through powerful social proof. Build awareness. A link to [prominent tech company] case study
    8 “We’ve been talking about this for a while, but what exactly are we doing about it?” Build awareness and empathy. Gain trust through powerful social proof. Offer value freely. A link to relevant long-form content; soft offer: Watch a platform demo video (Big Ask)
    9 This is how you become a champion of diversity & inclusion Use PAS framework to drive to the platform demo video. Big Ask (watch demo)
    12 Join 7,015 other People Geeks on Slack Offer a way to stay connected long-term. Join our Slack community
    14 Diversity ≠ Inclusion Offer value. Build awareness. Watch a relevant, recorded webinar
    18 What’s next for <first name>? Get them to stay connected after the sequence ends. See webinars and live events; get a free guide on another topic (triggers new sequence); subscribe to our newsletter; Watch the demo video.

    Leads who engaged with higher-intent content, particularly the platform demo video and case studies, became MQLs. That status triggered direct outreach from a sales representative to get the lead on the phone.

    Of course, some leads will make it all the way through the sequence without ever graduating to MQLs. What should you do with those prospects?

    Beyond the Big Ask: Nurturing leads for the future

    Some leads won’t convert during your nurture sequence. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be ready for your solution later.

    To keep your audience connected, consider offering:

    • Free, relevant content that trains prospects to expect value from opening your emails;
    • Invitations to future events, like webinars or conferences;
    • Other email lists they can join, such as your newsletter;
    • Invitations to join your group or community.

    You can test which offers generate the most engagement. In general, I limit the number of offers per email since more options tend to lead to analysis paralysis.

    You can use engagement data to allow subscribers to “self-segment,” which, in turn, will help you deliver more relevant content via email.

    There’s one more option: a follow-up offer that triggers another nurture sequence. At Culture Amp, we did this with a guide to workplace well-being.

    Conclusion

    Turning lead magnet prospects into customers is tricky, but email nurturing can help grow your campaign’s ROI. As with everything in marketing, there is no substitute for testing strategies and techniques with your own audience.

    That said, if you need to plan and write an email nurture sequence, start with these principles:

    • Choose a meaningful KPI.
    • Choose a Big Ask to drive your KPI.
    • Plan longer sequences for
      • high-friction Big Asks;
      • low proximity-to-value Big Asks;
      • leads with larger awareness gaps between the lead magnet and the Big Ask;
    • Build awareness, demonstrate value, and prove your claims.
    • Keep not-quite-ready leads engaged with other offers.
    • Test, test, test.

    The post After the Lead Magnet: How to Nurture B2B Leads appeared first on CXL.


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    Humans are value-rating machines. Every day, all day long, we size up different decisions by appraising the value proposition of that action.

    Should I buy this product? Sure, that’s the obvious one. But also:

    • Should I go to lunch with this person?
    • Should I open this email?
    • Should I even spend the time to ponder this decision?

    When most marketers think about a value proposition, they’re thinking of the 10,000-foot-view—an overall company value proposition. This can make them feel powerless, especially in a large organization. The CEO controls the company value prop. What can you do?

    But there are multiple levels of the value proposition. And understanding the value prop at each level will make you a more effective—and perhaps more fulfilled—marketer. Not convinced? Here’s why you should care.

    Why care about the value proposition?

    Organizations create value. If they don’t, most are not long for this world.

    However, value created is not the same thing as value perceived by the customer. The marketplace is rife with hidden value. The core job of marketing is to discover and articulate that value.

    What’s hidden value look like in real life? My wife’s scale stopped working recently, and she tasked me with fixing it. I searched for Taylor scales online, and found an FAQ with a reset protocol. It also said, “If this doesn’t work, email us.” It didn’t work, so I emailed.

    Customer service replied but couldn’t help, so they said they would replace it under warranty. I replied and said it’s too old—I don’t even remember when we bought it. They told me to send a picture. Turns out it was from 2013, and they’re sending me a new one!

    scale
    If you have great customer service and warranties, make sure you communicate it (or risk losing all that value).

    And yet, I don’t see anything on their homepage or landing pages about their outstanding customer service and warranty. This is a product in the $20–35 range. They didn’t even make me pay to ship the old scale back.

    When my daughter broke her JLab Audio headphones, JLab insisted I pay to ship the broken ones back. For $20 headphones, it’s not worth the cost and effort. And JLab promotes its lifetime warranty heavily.

    Despite how phenomenal Taylor scales is, you’d never know that hidden value by looking at its website. And there’s the rub: a company providing great value, doing great things. But to potential customers, that value doesn’t exist because they don’t perceive it.

    Value props: Challenging? Yes. Fun? Yes.

    While discovering and articulating a company’s value proposition is hard, it is fun. It’s what I love about marketing. There are many inventors, researchers, craftsmen, educators, and other value creators in the world who just can’t put the value they create into the right words. You can see the struggle on their face as they try to get their creation out into the world.

    Apple is an overused and abused example, but it’s so widely known, let’s trot it out again. Coming up in the advertising industry, I always loved Apple computers. But if you told your friends and family about them, you got a skeptical response. Apple was different, and that was bad.

    And then the beautiful brilliance that is Lee Clow collaborated with creatives like Craig Tanimoto and Rob Siltanen and (yes, of course) Steve Jobs to write an ode: “Here’s to the crazy ones [. . .] and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius…”

    And now they’re the most valuable public company in the world. Before, they were on the brink of bankruptcy. Sure, they made all sorts of great products when Steve Jobs came back. But Apples were better than PCs even before then. Ask anyone who worked in the advertising industry in the 1990s.

    When I was a copywriting intern, I remember an art director who bought stock in pre-Jobs Apple because he loved the product so much. Seemed foolish back then. Today, he probably has a yacht that shuttless him to his bigger yacht. That’s the power of value discovery and clear articulation.

    Depending on your political views, modern capitalism is:

    • An unbiased innovation machine;
    • Unforgiving hellscape;
    • Other.

    And, in this environment, value-creators will perish (like Apple almost did) without the ability to communicate value.

    Personally, as a marketer, I’m rarely good at creating “the thing” myself. So helping these makers communicate the real value they’re adding to the marketplace is fulfilling. My colleague Paul Cheney has even gone so far as to argue that the value proposition makes marketing a morally “good” and worthwhile endeavor.

    Harrison McCann said that advertising is “Truth well told.” A value proposition helps you get to that truth, so you can tell it well. These are all the places you should tell it.

    The value proposition spectrum: primary, prospects, products, and process

    chart showing the different types of value propositions.

    The primary value proposition

    The primary value proposition is the one you’re familiar with. It’s the value proposition of the brand itself. It’s the explanation of the value the organization is creating in the world. And when communicated credibly and clearly, the value proposition enables the company to meet its business objectives.

    Here’s a great example of the impact of a credibly and clearly articulated value proposition. Before working with MECLABS Institute, a database company was using the page below.

    Take a look at the headline. Does it express a powerful value proposition? Perhaps it has appeal, but there’s no credibility. And you can’t clearly understand how it’s exclusive compared to the competition.

    Now look beyond the headline. This page actually had some pretty significant hidden value, buried in small print.

    example of landing page without clear value proposition

    Here’s the treatment we created:

    example of updated landing page with clearer value proposition.

    The fact that the company made 26 million phone calls a year to verify the accuracy of its mailing lists was on the control page. But it was hard to find. (It’s the first line in the second-to-last paragraph.)

    By credibly and clearly communicating the value proposition, the treatment generated a 201% increase in lead capture.

    Surf around the web, and you’ll find many definitions of a value proposition. We describe a value proposition as the answer to the question, “If I am your ideal customer, why should I buy from you instead of any of your competitors?”

    For the above example, the value proposition would be:

    Because we have the most comprehensive1 and accurate2 lead database.

    • 1Includes access to over 210 million U.S. consumers, 14 million U.S. businesses, and 13 million executives.
    • 2We have a team of 600 researchers that verify the data daily and make over 26 million verification calls a year—80,000 calls a day.

    I won’t go too deep into the primary value proposition in this article since there are many other good resources out there. (CXL has one here.) 

    Or, you can check out this video in which Flint McGlaughlin, CEO and Managing Director of MECLABS Institute, shows how to amplify the power of your value proposition:

    Beyond the primary value prop 

    Branching out from that primary value proposition are derivative value propositions. They should pull from the main value prop and show how it relates to other elements of the company experience.

    For an analogy, let’s look at The Wu-Tang Clan. The group has a primary value proposition. But out of that overall value prop, Method Man has a value prop of his own. The album “Ironman” by Ghostface Killah has a value prop of its own.

    While these value propositions are unique in their own way, they draw their power from the group’s main value prop. This quote from the RZA sums up the primary value prop’s effect:

    I strive to be like the sun sitting in the middle of the solar system with all the planets spinning around it—millions of things going on. It’s just sitting there being the sun, but exerting gravitational effect on everything.

    A good primary value prop has gravity. But it’s not the only thing that matters to the customer. They also need to understand what’s right in front of them. Marketers overlook that at their peril.

    Prospect-level value proposition

    Unless your company is very small and very targeted, you likely have different types of prospects with different motivations. If we communicate to all of them in the same way, our conversions will suffer.

    Many tools can help you. Segmentation. Targeted advertising. Personas. But before doing any of them, you should clearly answer (and distribute to your team or agency, if necessary) the fundamental prospect-level value proposition question:

    If I am Prospect [A, B, C, etc.], why should I buy from you rather than any of your competitors?

    Sometimes, companies confuse a primary value proposition with a prospect-level value proposition. I recently came across an example. I was helping lead a value proposition workshop, and one of the hypotheses a company had for a primary value proposition was “payment flexibility.”

    point of sale payment system.

    At a surface level, it seemed sensible. They were the only company in their marketplace that offered this flexibility. Uniqueness is important. But it’s not the only factor in a powerful value proposition.

    As I came to understand the payment flexibility, I discovered that only 25% of customers selected that option—the one that was truly unique. The rest choose payment options shared by competitors. An overall value proposition that focused on payment flexibility wouldn’t appeal to three-quarters of their customer base.

    However, they hit on something valuable. For the prospect group interested in that payment option, this company was the only place they could get it. That brought up the opportunity to test targeted advertising and messaging around the unique payment offer to attract customers interested in those specific payment terms (not just overall payment flexibility).

    They could send that traffic to a unique landing page that highlighted the specific payment option along with other elements of value.

    Product-level value proposition

    Should you create a new brand when launching a new product? The product-level value proposition can help your organization make that decision.

    Get key leaders and stakeholders together, and answer this question:

    If I am your ideal customer, why should I buy Product [A, B, C, etc.] instead of any other product?

    If the answer doesn’t include elements of the brand’s primary value proposition—if it isn’t influenced by the top-level value prop—consider launching a new brand with a value prop more in line with this product.

    It’s always fun to notice when a product-level value proposition doesn’t quite tie into the brand’s primary value proposition. I was shopping for eyeglasses with my daughter, and I noticed some of the glasses were made by Wrangler. 

    Yes, that Wrangler. Cowboys. Rodeos. Brett Favre being “comfortable in jeans that are tough.” Real. Comfortable. Jeans.

    I don’t have data to say they’re wrong. But I will say that when I think of Wrangler’s value proposition, I think of this:

    Not this:

    pair of glasses.

    On the other hand, I drive a Nissan LEAF. Nissan could’ve launched a new brand for its electric car. It rebranded the entire company from Datsun back in the 1980s, so it’s no stranger to the possibility.

    But while certain elements of LEAF’s product-level proposition are distinct from Nissan’s primary value prop (e.g., zero emissions), the model still connects to the company’s overall value prop. In fact, you might argue that it enhances Nissan’s primary value prop. After all, their tagline is “Innovation that excites.”

    nissan logo and tagline.

    There’s one important point that marketers overlook when it comes to the product-level value proposition: Products are more than just cars and toasters and haircuts. Email is a product. Content is a product. A website is a product. Recycling, eating healthy, getting out to vote. Product, product, product.

    Marketers have a blind spot for their own products. We focus intensely on our products and are financially rewarded for their success. But customers couldn’t care less about our products. If you tell a marketer that, they logically know it.

    However, when we’re in the heat of creating a campaign or a website, it’s all too easy to forget. Creating a product-level value prop forces you to overcome that blind spot.

    Process-level value proposition

    Some 45% of consumer behavior is habitual. The rest requires a process-level value prop. At this level, you need a value proposition for every action you’re asking someone to take:

    • Open an email.
    • Follow your brand on social media.
    • Go out with you on Friday night.

    You need to answer the question,

    If I am your ideal customer, why should I [click this PPC ad, read this blog post, listen to your phone call] rather than [click on any other PPC ad, consume any other content, hang up the phone]?

    The process-level value proposition is a micro value prop and, as such, can easily be overlooked. It’s unlikely to necessitate a value proposition workshop with key decision-makers (unlike the primary value proposition).

    Where are there opportunities for improvement? Buttons are a great place to start. Think, for example, of how many buttons on the Internet simply use the word “Submit.” What is the perceived value of that click?

    Here’s an example from a recent experiment for a publisher that encouraged professors to get a physical copy of a textbook mailed to them:

    • Treatment 1 button copy: “SIGN IN AND ORDER A SAMPLE.”
    • Treatment 2 button copy: “REQUEST A FREE COPY.”

    Treatment 2 generated a 132% increase in click-through rate at a 99% level of confidence. For users, the value was hidden behind that button. Our hypothesis was that “copy” (the thing) conveyed a higher perceived value than “sample” (a portion of “the thing”). That, in turn, would persuade more customers to provide information and click the button.   

    Beyond optimizing the wording of your calls to action, a good understanding of process-level value propositions can help you optimize for conversion in general.

    For example, HealthSpire was trying to get Americans 65 and over to call its TeleAgents to choose the right Medicare plan. The original landing page took a familiar approach—focus on the primary value proposition and keep it short. (Rationale: People don’t want to read a long landing page.)

    When they tested an approach focused on the process-level value proposition, which used a longer landing page to communicate that value, the team generated 638% more leads for its call center.

    Why? It was attuned to the customer’s thought sequence. Nobody wants to be on a sales call, so HealthSpire had to communicate the process-level value proposition of making that call. And they needed a longer landing page to do that. They used the space to add:

    • A tip from a real TeleAgent with a picture of the agent;
    • A Q&A with a real TeleAgent with a picture of the agent;
    • “Our Pledge to You” of what would happen on the call.

    Conclusion

    If your company has formulated and communicated a clear, credible value proposition to all employees, agencies, vendors, consultants, and partners—congratulations! That is a great first step to effective marketing. (And you’ve nailed an important component of positioning.)

    But don’t stop there. As a marketer, you need to understand and use value propositions at every level of customer decision-making.

    I’ve separated different levels of value propositions to communicate their differences clearly. But they’re most powerful when used together. In tandem, the biggest question you’re trying to answer—the one that will earn you the most conversions and revenue—is this one:

    If I am Prospect [A, B, C, etc.], why should I take [Action A, Action B, Action C, etc.] toward buying Product [A, B, C, etc.] from your company instead of anything else I can do?

    The post The 4 Types of Value Propositions Every Business Needs appeared first on CXL.


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    Webinars can establish a relationship with leads and teach them how your product can improve their lives. Some 75% of marketing and sales leaders say webinars are one of the most effective methods to generate high-quality brand awareness.

    But not every webinar is a success—78% of webinars have 50 or fewer attendees. A major reason? Poor promotion. If you can promote your webinar the right way, you can gobble up more viewers and increase conversions. 

    Email is the primary promotion channel for most webinars—not just for initial sign-up but for pre- and post-webinar reminders, and everything in between. 

    This article shows you the step-by-step process to promote your webinar via email. First, of course, you must set your goals.

    Set goals for your webinar

    Webinars can work throughout the customer journey, gauging how qualified your prospects are and nurturing them throughout the buying process.

    That wide-ranging potential risks broad goal-setting (or none at all). Before you start promoting your webinar—or even choosing a topic—decide if you want to:

    • Build your email list;
    • Be seen as a thought leader in your niche;
    • Gain customer feedback;
    • Boost sales from existing customers;
    • Increase your customer base;
    • Build stronger relationships with your customers;
    • Create how-to tutorials;
    • Launch a product or service.

    That decision, in turn, defines how you measure success: the number of registrants, attendees, views, post-webinar sales, etc.

    Once you know your goal, you can figure out which type of webinar will best help you achieve it.

    4 types of webinars for any stage in the funnel

    Webinars can work at all stages of the funnel. All you have to do is adjust your webinar topic to match the buying stage of your prospects.

    From initial discovery and education to conversion and retention, you can build a stronger relationship with your audience.

    1. The educational webinar (discovery stage) 

    In the discovery stage, you’ve got just one goal in mind: to educate your audience. What you educate them about depends on your product or service.

    Potential topics for educational webinars include:

    • Best practices;
    • Industry trends;
    • Expert panels;
    • Interviews with single experts.

    Whatever topic you choose, focus on value—how can you share your deepest expertise? Some 88% of technology buyers said thought leadership was important or critical to short list vendors.

    2. The nurturing webinar (consideration stage) 

    A nurturing webinar begins to bridge the gap between industry-relevant content and product-relevant content.

    Think of things like workshop webinars that address a real-life problem of your prospects. Focus on solutions—and the consequences of not addressing the problem that your product solves.

    Case studies work well. They show your prospects how a customer just like them used your product to solve a problem.

    Another option is a one-on-one, personalized webinar. This approach, of course, doesn’t scale well—and shouldn’t used as a way to sucker unsuspecting prospects into a sales pitch—but it does have potential for account-based marketing strategies.

    3. The onboarding webinar (conversion stage) 

    Customer onboarding sets new users up for success. A better onboarding experience can double trial conversion rates

    A customer onboarding webinar helps shorten the time between when a user signs up and when they receive value from your product. It demonstrates features and shows your product’s use cases.

    webinar promotion email for onboarding.

    Keep in mind, however, that lectures on product features can come off as overly promotional. As Val Geisler points out:

    If you must talk features, do it from a value-based perspective. What benefit will the customer get from using this feature? Make it about them and their goals.

    4. The upcoming releases webinar (retention stage) 

    Some 40–60% of free-trial users will use your product once and never come back. 

    “Upcoming releases” webinars can keep paying customers excited and encourage free-trial users to jump back in. 

    As mentioned at the outset, choosing a goal and webinar type is often the easiest work. The quality of promotion ultimately affects the success—or failure—of your webinar.  

    The six-part email series to promote your webinar successfully 

    Why email? Email drives 57% of webinar registrations, nearly four times that of any other channel:

    This section walks through a series of emails that cover the promotion process, from initial awareness to registration to building excitement and post-webinar follow-up. It also offers templates—starting points, not endpoints—for your webinar email series.  

    If you want to supplement these ideas and templates with those of other (really smart) people, check out:

    The email series begins with the webinar invitation email.

    Note: If you’re running the webinar on your own, you’ll send it to your email list. If you partner with another organization, you may get to send it to their list, too. That can mean exponential audience growth.

    1. The webinar invitation email 

    You don’t need to include much information. A compelling subject line, the date and time of the webinar, and a few short sentences or paragraphs about the benefits will do.

    Skubana kept things simple with bullet points and direct language: 

    initial webinar invitation email.

    They also include photos of the hosts and finish with a strong call to action

    There are, of course, other routes. Tarzan Kays told a story to her subscribers to motivate them to take action (i.e. register for the event):

    Her copy is narrative, full of paragraph breaks, and generally a breeze to read. So which route is better? One way may be obviously on (or off) brand. If either might work, you’ll have to test to find out.

    As you consider what to include (or exclude) in your invitation email, here are some options to keep in mind:

    • Social proof. If past webinars were a hit (and you have the comments to prove it), use that social proof in your webinar invitation email.
    • Magnetic headline. If your headline doesn’t stand out, your email won’t get read. Find tips on creating a strong headline here.
    • Conversational tone. Your body copy needs to be engaging, light, and personable. Speak to your prospects as though you’re already hosting the webinar. Include a photo of the host(s). 
    • Storytelling. Stories are emotional, and emotions are persuasive. The stories you tell should lead your readers to your call of action. Joanna Wiebe, the original conversion copywriter, explains how:
    Joanna Wiebe

    Joanna Wiebe:

    Narrative-style, rather literal storytelling in emails…a great story (joined at the exact-right moment) can be a fantastic hook for emails.

    If you can drop your reader into the middle of the story and move them swiftly from there to the point of action, storytelling can be very useful in emails!”

    • Urgency. Phrases like “last chance” and “one time only” trigger fear. If authentic, create a sense of urgency in your initial email.

    To expedite, you can riff off this template:

    SEND TO: Everyone

    SUBJECT: you’re [concern your webinar will solve], so I’m holding a masterclass about it

    BODY:

    Hey [subscriber first name],

    You want your [topic of webinar] to perform better.

    If you don’t, your [topic of webinar] may [concern of target market] over time…

    Even if it is meeting your goals right now, you know it can do better…

    Tomorrow’s free, live masterclass is for you. You’ll walk away with everything I know about how to [solve pain point webinar is addressing]. Not just the basics, but a masterclass on how to [topic of what webinar will be teaching].

    Just some of what you’ll take away:

    ● [takeaway #1]

    ● [takeaway #2]

    ● [takeaway #3]

    ● [takeaway #4] 

    The masterclass will kick off on [Date] at [Time].

    Save your spot: [insert link to webinar registration]

    Speak soon,

    [Your name]

    P.S I’ll also be hanging around after to answer your questions.

    2. The confirmation email 

    The primary purpose of the confirmation email is to:

    • Thank prospects for signing up;
    • Remind them of the date and time of the webinar;
    • Reiterate the benefits they’ll get by joining the webinar;
    • Link to any supporting resources.

    It should also include a link to the webinar and, perhaps, a call to action to add it to their Google Calendar.

    User Testing created a stellar, no-nonsense confirmation email:

    webinar thank you for registering email.

    Here’s a template to get you started:

    SEND TO: Everyone that registers

    SUBJECT: You’re in! Just one more step

    BODY:

    Hey [subscriber first name],

    Thanks for saving your seat for [name of webinar].

    Here are the details of the live masterclass you registered for:

    Date: [insert date]

    Time: [insert multiple time zones]

    Link: Click here to join using your personal masterclass link [insert link]

    And one last thing: Be sure to add this date and time to your calendar.

    You’re going to learn how to solve:

    ● [problem #1]

    ● [problem #2] 

    ● [problem #3]

    ● [problem #4]

    The goal? To help YOU ACHIEVE [POSITIVE RESULT].

    I’m also going to send you a reminder before the masterclass starts.

    Speak soon,

    [Your name]

    P.S: We are going to cover A LOT of information. Download our worksheet to take notes during the webinar. [link to worksheet]

    3.  The reminder email 

    There are a couple of types of reminder emails based on previous behavior of recipients.

    The first webinar reminder emails go to anyone on your email list who hasn’t registered and didn’t open the first email. This email should remind your subscribers of your previous email and use the pending webinar to up the urgency. 

    Take a look at how Foundr did this below. They reminded the prospect of their earlier email, outlined the benefits of their webinar, then tapped into FOMO:

    webinar second invitation email

    The email doubles down on the call to action to register and includes another link to the webinar. 

    Template for you to adapt:

    SEND TO: Send to subscribers who didn’t open the first email

    SUBJECT: [target market’s biggest pain point]

    BODY:

    Hey [subscriber first name],

    Ever wish you could ignore the whole [topic of the webinar] thing?

    If you’re not 100% happy about the results from the time you’ve spent on [topic of webinar], you are not alone.

    The biggest struggle I see [target market] obsessing over is always related to the details of [pain point webinar will address].

    This is why I’ve set aside [X hours] to work with you LIVE and focus on ONE THING: [pain point webinar will solve]. 

    During this time, you’ll find out everything I’ve learned over the past [X years] about [topic of webinar]. It doesn’t matter if:

    [3–5 core objections your target audience may feel is holding them back from registering] 

    You WILL come away from this masterclass armed with the skills to resolve [pain point].

    Speak soon,

    [Your name]

    You can send a different email to subscribers who opened the first one but didn’t register. For this email, you can assume that the prospect has some baseline awareness of the webinar. That, in turn, lets you reduce the copy and focus on getting them to register.

    CoSchedule reiterates the benefits with bullet points, adds two links to the webinar registration page, reminds prospects of their problem, and finishes with a lovely picture of the host:

    Template to get you started:

    SEND TO: Send to subscribers who opened the first email but didn’t register.

    SUBJECT: I never thought it was possible

    BODY:

    Hey [subscriber first name],

    There was a time when I endured bad [topic of webinar] many times. I wasted time trying to fix [problem webinar will solve] until I felt completely lost.

    [subscriber first name], I don’t want you to waste your time like I did trying to solve [pain point your webinar will address].

    You don’t have to struggle to [goal prospects want to achieve related to the webinar] and [second goal].

    I’ve been putting together an amazing masterclass about [topic of webinar] for the past 6 weeks for [target audience] just like you.

    I will share my exact X step [topic of webinar] strategy that I have been using to [grow/increase/etc.] my [topic of webinar].

    But you will not get it if you don’t register. 

    Click this link to register now and save your seat: [insert link][Your name]

    4. The “It’s happening now!” email 

    Registrants will forget that they registered for your webinar. The super-simple “It’s happening now!” email can save the day. 

    Take a look at how Mindvalley lays out this email. They keep the email short and use a familiar cue—a play button overlaying an image—to encourage recipients to watch.

    (They also include a regular link for recipients whose browsers may block images by default.)

    Template for you:

    SEND TO: Everyone

    SUBJECT: It’s happening—time to grab your seat.

    BODY:

    Hey [subscriber first name],

    It’s time to roll up our sleeves and start producing [desired results they will achieve after attending webinar].

    Time: Right now!

    Link: [insert webinar link]

    See you there,

    [Your name]

    5. The post-webinar email 

    After the webinar, there’s still work to be done. The post-webinar email is your chance to

    • Catch the attention of prospects who missed the webinar (by offering a replay).
    • Thank those who showed up.
    • Solicit feedback from attendees.

    Here’s what Lianna Patch of Punchline Copy did:

    post-webinar email offering a replay of the webinar.

    Template for you to use:

    SEND TO: Everyone

    SUBJECT: [REPLAY] time sensitive

    BODY:

    Hey [subscriber first name],

    Thanks so much for hanging out with me at the masterclass [webinar name].

    The [length of webinar] webinar was chocked full of practical, proven tactics and strategies for ramping up your [pain point webinar addresses], and I hope you enjoyed it.

    I wanted to hook you up with the temporary replay. Here’s the link: [insert link to webinar replay]

    I’m adding a cool new bonus. For the next X hours only, we’ll offer [insert promotion/offer] of our [product/service]. 

    Click this link to gain access to the [your offer].

    Speak soon,

    [Your name]

    P.S. Remember, this offer is available only until [insert time and date]. This special deal will not be repeated.

    6. The “X hours left” email

    Okay, so you’ve already reached out to prospects who missed the webinar. You’ve offered a link to the replay. There’s one last thing to do—send them an “X hours left” email to remind them that the replay won’t be available much longer.

    Remind prospects of the knowledge they’ll miss out on. Include a bit of social proof if you already have some feedback from attendees. Highlight the burning questions your host answered. (And if the webinar included a special offer, you can tease that benefit, too.)

    Here’s what teachable did:

    Template for you to use:

    SEND TO: Everyone

    SUBJECT: there’s still time…

    BODY:

    Hey [subscriber first name],

    As someone who works with a lot of people in [target audience field of expertise], I know how challenging it can be to make progress on [pain point webinar addresses].

    It’s easy to get discouraged and frustrated. 

    That’s why I want to ask you…did you find the masterclass helpful?

    If you did, then stop what you’re doing and grab [your offer]. Don’t wait—it’s not going to be up for long.

    When the masterclass replay is gone, the opportunity to get [your offer] will be gone for good.

    Here’s your link: [insert link]

    If you didn’t find the masterclass helpful, let me know why. I read every response.

    Speak soon,

    [Your name]

    Conclusion 

    Templates are templates. You’ll need to test copy, design, etc., to figure out what works for your audience.

    Measure the results after a campaign is over. Did you achieve your goals? If not, where did you struggle? Signups? Attendance? Offer acceptance? Triage which emails in the series you should review first.

    Also, remember that email can catalyze other marketing campaigns for your webinar. An initial open can grow a list for an email remarketing campaign on Facebook, for example. It’s one more way to promote your webinar.

    Iterate on this outline to get more sign-ups, more show-ups, and a higher ROI for your efforts.

    The post Webinar Emails: A Start-to-Finish Promotion Process appeared first on CXL.


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    Customer personas are often talked about in marketing and product design, but they’re almost never done well.

    [This post contains video, click to play]

    There are certainly companies doing them well, but not a lot of detail goes into instruction, and the blog posts out there on how to build personas are generally pretty bad.

    I recently created robust user personas for CXL Institute (on inspiration from a course in our CRO certification program taught by Stefania Mereu and Eric Taylor), and it went well.

    This post will outline the entire process, giving code examples, data analysis examples, survey questions—the whole thing. You should be able to replicate this process after reading it (or at least follow the resources in the article to learn more about specific parts).

    Table of contents

    A quick primer on user personas

    What’s a user persona? A research-based archetypal representative of your customer based on various attributes, attitudes, and characteristics.

    One of the best definitions I’ve found, which expounds a bit more, comes from Tony Zambito circa 2002:

    tony

    Tony Zambito:

    “Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions. (Today, I now include where they buy as well as when buyers decide to buy.)”

    The first mention of personas was in Alan Cooper’s 1991 book, The Inmates are Running the Asylum. Cooper framed personas as a way of avoiding designing for an “elastic” user, and thus cementing some sort of common properties across segments to aid cohesive design strategy. The alternative, an “elastic user,” would be a design target that stretches to the whims of the design team.

    They’re also known as buyer personas, customer personas, customer profiles, or just personas depending who is selling the idea to you. They all mean the same thing, though.

    Personas are essentially fictional representations of segments of buyers based on real data reflecting their behaviors. You use them to make better marketing, product, and business decisions and to keep your customer top-of-mind when doing so.

    They can be utilized across teams—UX, CRO, social media, SEM, SEO, etc., can all benefit from a better idea of the customer.

    Where marketers tend to go wrong with user personas

    Not everyone believes user personas to be valuable.

    They launched to much applause, but a few trends wore down their appeal with time. The first, according to Dr. David Travis at UserFocus, was agile development:

    david

    Dr. David Travis:

    “‘Development’ teams morphed into ‘design’ teams. Engaging with users became more of a norm and less of an exception. This is good for user experience, but it’s bad news for ‘traditional’ personas.

    Traditional personas began to look too finished, too final. Teams were savvy enough to know that fully formed, completed descriptions of users are an impossibility at the early stages of design. Instead, they wanted conversation starters.

    To use the agile terminology, design teams wanted to get a ‘shared understanding’ of their users and they were suspicious of any attempt to set requirements in concrete.”

    Another reason is a common one: marketers ruined it for everyone. Essentially, personas were largely a parody of themselves, with made up data (or irrelevant data like the eye color of a persona). They took on cheesy stock photos and cringey names like Big Spender Billy.

    Alex as a cheesy persona example.
    Artistic and Aspirational Alex…?

    In addition, the adoption of personas by marketers led to distrust in the validity of the methodology by designers and developers. As Dr. David Travis put it:

    david

    Dr. David Travis:

    “Marketing teams created versions of personas to represent market segments. Because they used the magic term ‘personas,‘ development teams were discouraged from developing their own, not realising that a market segment might contain multiple personas.

    More cynically, the purpose of marketing personas is primarily to sell more stuff, whereas design personas need to reveal the user behaviours relevant for a product. Development teams couldn’t use marketing personas to make design decisions, so they decided personas weren’t that useful.

    (It wasn’t helped by the fact that marketers seem fond of giving their personas silly names, such as “Social Butterfly Brenda” or “Value Hunter Valerie,” that attempt to collapse nuanced research into a single concept. This trivializes the research, resulting in designers rolling their eyes and shaking their heads.)”

    The power of user personas fades when people don’t trust them or they aren’t based in reality. Generally, the big mistake marketers make with personas is treating them as a subjective projection of values on some useless canvas. More specifically, that tends to fall within five categories of mistakes:

    • Making up data;
    • Using too much irrelevant data;
    • Using only qualitative data;
    • Using only quantitative data;
    • Believing your personas to be perfectly representative of reality, or that they never change.

    You can also create too many personas (three or four is the recommended amount), but I don’t see that problem often. What I see more often is a persona created with no attempt to fit that model to reality, or no use case in actual business decisions.

    Remember: your personas are only as good as the research behind them.

    A better way to build data-driven personas

    So how do we move past those mistakes and create trustworthy and actionable user personas?

    There are many methodologies out there. I want to note now that the way I did it is not the only valid way. It might not even be (and probably isn’t) the most sophisticated way. But it’s fast, effective, and data-backed.

    Even better, anyone can do it—and usually in under four weeks. That allows us to move quickly and maintain an agile product design strategy as well as an agile marketing strategy. We’re not rendered complacent by too much research.

    It’s based on a combination of qualitative and quantitative data, of exploration and analysis. You’ll walk away with personas you can use for marketing decisions, as well as data to further explore for copy ideas, design guidance, and marketing experiments.

    Step 1: Outline your goals and plan your approach

    What do you want to know? Plan your audience in this step. Who will you survey and how will you reach them?

    This also presupposes that you have a certain level of user knowledge, i.e. you’re not starting totally from scratch.

    We did an analysis quite a long time before in Excel to find our most valuable customer segments, and we use Intercom to trace their common behaviors. We never did a full structured analysis on behavioral correlations (e.g., running regression analyses against success metrics), but we knew what our “ideal customer profile” looked like for the most part, and we knew which customer profiles were worth the most money to us generally.

    Step 2: Write your survey and send it to your audience

    Writing the survey was one of the hardest parts for me. It involved thinking about what my goals were with the project and tying those into questions that would produce actionable answers. Not only that, I wanted to remove bias from the questions and also keep the survey short enough that people would actually take it.

    If I could go back, I’d actually improve my survey questions a bit. That’s where the data comes from, it’s the part you should focus on most. Measure twice, cut once here, and get your team involved if you can.

    We used Typeform to send the survey. Here’s a section of the actual questions:

    Some were categorical questions like “Which best describes your company?”

    Others were scale questions like “When purchasing digital marketing training, how important are the following factors?” followed by a series of factors like “cost,” “reputation of instructors,” and “interactivity.”

    And we also asked a few open-ended questions like “What’s the most challenging skill used in your job?” and “What blogs do you read regularly?” These ended up being the most valuable, in my opinion, for actionable marketing campaign ideas.

    Small note on incentivization: We also wanted to incentivize people to take it, and did so by offering a free gift. Our specific play ended up being a logistical headache, so long story short, do what you can to get people take it without a one-for-one gift. The data is valuable, though, so find a way to get quality data.

    Step 3: Explore the data (Part 1: EDA in R)

    Let the data roll in.

    Once you get about 300 responses, you can think about analyzing the data. You did plan ahead on your sample size, though, so that’s arbitrary. Again, 300-1,000 respondents makes for good data. You can do it with 150, probably. There’s no magic number here, as there are many moving pieces (survey quality, audience targeting, your own data analysis skills) that matter more than pure sample size.

    You data will look something like this when it all comes in:

    Screenshot of what your survey data will look like.

    It needs to be organized the right way, with columns as survey variables and rows as responses (or observations) to analyze correctly. You can’t have blank cells (NA values). There are ways to remove or fill these cells within Excel or in R, or whatever statistical tool you use.

    For this part, we’ll break into exploratory data analysis in R. If you use a different statistical programming tool, that’s fine. If you don’t use any of these, you’ll miss out on this level of analysis, but you can still use the data you’ve collected to build pretty accurate personas (more accurate than most companies build).

    Note: the following gets into the weeds a bit. Everything I’m about to discuss is done in R and is for the purpose of analyzing the data and hopefully breaking it into “chunks” that help to find distinct personas. PCA and factor analysis do this by analyzing variables/columns, and clustering does this by analyzing rows (or responses). It’s not possible to go over these subjects in depth in one article, but I’ve provided links if you want to learn more about them.

    First thing we’ll do is exploratory factor analysis. The goal here is to identify the underlying relationships between variables (specifically, columns/survey questions). Basically, can we find factors that predict how people will answer certain questions?

    There are many ways to do this in R, most commonly the out-the-box factanal() function. Another popular way is “psych” package, as outlined in this blog post.

    I didn’t get much out of factor analysis, but I did find some patterns in three factors, though they didn’t explain much of the data’s variance. So I explored principal component analysis, which is similar and often confused with factor analysis but conceptually different.

    I wanted to see if plotting it would clear things up. Here’s the code in R for that (where x is your data frame):

    pcanalysis <- prcomp(x, scale = TRUE, center = TRUE)
    plot(pcanalysis)

    Graph of pcanalysis.

    What this means is there’s one component that explains a decent amount of the variance in the data but it sort of fizzles out after that.

    There’s more to talk about with PCA (and factor analysis), but I’ll keep it concise for the practical purposes of this post. Here’s a good explanation article if you want to read more.

    After this, I went into clustering, which is like PCA or factoring but attempts to group data according to observations (the survey responses, or rows in your spreadsheet). This is the bread and butter for us when we want to find distinct user personas, as it separates our respondents into chunks based on how they answer things.

    First thing’s first, make sure you scale and center your data if you have certain variables that are much larger than others (we have answers on a scale of one to five, but also employee counts that go into 50,000+). Here’s basically how I created scaled and centered data and did hierarchical clustering:

    scaledpersonas <- scale(personas123, scale = TRUE, center = TRUE)
    d <-dist(scaledpersonas)
    c <- hclust(d)
    plot(c)

    This produces a dendrogram, which is a tree diagram used to illustrate the arrangement of the clusters produced by hierarchical clustering.

    Cluster dendrogram.

    This was pretty messy, though it showed a few high level clusters, and one a few levels down that had many common values.

    I moved onto a k-means cluster technique, which allows you to pick the number of clusters you’d like before you do the analysis. We wanted to explore what our clusters looked like with three to five personas. Here’s with three:

    A three-persona cluster.

    Looks pretty decent. Lots of overlap in the middle (due to common responses to what now seem like obvious variables like the importance of the reputation of instructors), but some uniqueness as well. Much better than with four clusters:

    A four-persona cluster.

    Here’s how I created that data by the way:

    kmscaled <- kmeans(scaledpersonas, 4)
    km <- kmeans(personas, 3)
    kmscaled

    And the visualizations:

    require(cluster)
    clusplot(personas,
    kmscaled$cluster,
    color = TRUE,
    shade = TRUE,
    lines = 3,
    labels = 2)

    Clustering was more fun. There were pretty clear cut clusters, and at the very least I could explore some of the observations individually to see what set them apart (in Excel).

    Doing that allowed me to open up a whole new area of data analysis because I knew that the personas were largely segmented based on a couple variables (mainly company revenue, yearly training spend, and the importance of two to three variables when it comes to training). I could throw down some pivot tables to explore the rest and see where clusters differed in terms of the attitudinal questions, and if there were any variables I was missing.

    Step 4: Explore the data (Part 2: Pivot tables and Excel)

    You know how to work a pivot table, right?

    Pivot tables are a stupidly simple yet incredibly powerful feature in Excel, and totally invaluable for data exploration. They’re a bit hard to explain without actually seeing one in action, but they essentially let you interactively explore data from different angles by placing different variables in columns/rows and analyzing averages, standard deviation, sums, etc.

    For this project, they were wonderful, because I was able to set up different worksheets with respondents that fell into each cluster from the analysis above, and see how they answered various survey questions.

    Screenshot of a pivot table with our research data.

    As you can see, then we could compare the means of different variables as a function of things like job title, job experience, company size, or even whether someone has an allotted and planned training budget.

    I did this across personas (from clustering) and compared the means of different variables to find key differences. I also explored other factors, such as the those in the top 15% of reported yearly training spend, or those with allotted budgets vs. those without, to find common and different data between them.

    It’s hard to really give a step-by-step here because it’s just part of the “insight generation” process. You have an idea of data you’d like to explore, a hunch of where you might find some interesting information, and you explore those factors. As I’d mentioned, we already had a lot to look at with our statistical clusters and a pretty good idea of our current customer makeup (and which ones were the best customers generally), so it wasn’t a hard process of building reports and pivot tables.

    In fact, it was fun!

    You can also make pivot tables that contain more than one row variable. Here’s one I just made that shows the average rating of how important cost is by 1) type of company and 2) seniority of employee:

    A pivot table with our research data that contains two row variables.

    Some of them turn out not to be incredibly valuable (the above being an example of that), but there’s not really such thing as wasted time here, especially if you’re just learning. Spend a lot of time exploring the data. Look for surprises, things you didn’t expect. This isn’t a clear “do this in the following order” process, unfortunately.

    Step 5: Explore the data (Part 3: Qualitative)

    As part of our survey, we also asked some open-ended questions:

    • What blogs do you read?
    • What is the most challenging skill you use at your job?
    • What software do you use on a daily basis?
    • What’s the last training you completed for digital marketing?

    These ended up being the most valuable for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the actionability inherent in the questions we asked.

    For example, if we can segment by personas and find common blogs that each persona consumes regularly, we know where to guest post, advertise, or build partnerships.

    If we know what software they use, we know who to partner with for events, webinars, and content, we know which tool-specific courses to teach, and we can even do some sales development campaigns based on software segmentation.

    More than that, what blogs they read and what they consider their most challenging task tells a lot about who they are.

    To start with, the data will likely be a mess. People will write “Google Analytics” where others will write “GA” and there will be a lot of discrepancies like this.

    So do what you can to clean up this qualitative data. If you’d like to quantify the information, you can codify the answers (Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics both go under “analytics” category, etc.).

    There’s a whole body of literature out there on qualitative data analysis. If you’re curious, look into it (we have a course on it in our CRO certificate program). If not, be scrappy and use the data to inform your personas.

    We used the same persona segmentations we’d discovered via the last two (quantitative) steps, cleaned up the data (as best as we could), and built word clouds to get a high level view of what people were saying:

    Word cloud from our persona segmentations.

    This step will help you cement the qualitative differences between your personas. It’s actually not a bad thing if they all read the same blogs, or they all fall under similar job titles, or whatever your open-ended questions produced. But if they’re different, you can infer different information about them.

    One of our personas was incredibly interested in CRO blogs like ours, Unbounce, and Optimizely. Another was filled with general marketing content like Fast Company, HubSpot, and Inc. Another was a hybrid of CRO stuff and analytics-focused stuff like Occam’s Razor. Easy for us, these lightly corresponded with the quantitative segmentation we found as well, and sure enough, this information will help us with marketing and advertising in the future.

    Step 6: Organize the data into rough but distinct personas

    At this point, you know your data like the back of your hand. You go to bed thinking about which pivot tables you can create to pull new insights, and you’ve got an idea of how your personas break down in reality, not just how you wish they would look.

    It’s at this point that you start to crystallize them into distinct personas. Find their core values. Maybe you found one persona clusters around survey components that emphasize value (over quality and whatever else), they read X blogs, and they make more money than the average respondent, but spend far less. These details begin to form a distinct persona.

    What you have here is almost finished. In fact, if you’re really lazy and don’t want to do one-on-one interviews, you can be finished (you should do one-on-one interviews, though). At this point, you can fully segment your users based on any information you asked for on your survey (see why early I said the survey creation is the most important part of the process?).

    We had three pretty clear personas at this point. I won’t go into too much detail, but the loose personas were those who wanted to grow their business and have an edge on the competition, those who were ambitious self-learners and were determined to be top 1% T-shaped marketers, and those who managed teams and wanted structured education (and clear ROI and progress tracking).

    From there, we found some prototypical customers who very closely resembled the fictional personas we’d created and asked them to spare 15-20 minutes for a one-one-one phone interview.

    Step 7: Conduct one-on-one interviews

    I’m a marketer, so I’m primarily interested in insights I can use for growth and advertising. However, I had also done a behavioral analysis (in-app) of our customers previous to setting up the user persona research, and I work closely with our product team. They also conduct customer interviews, so I roped them into this to kill two birds with one stone and share data across teams.

    We planned a series of questions that could aid both product and marketing. They’re deliberately open-ended and designed to spur emotion and depth:

    • What’s your role at your company? Explain at high level and day to day.
    • Career background?
    • How big is your marketing team? How are they organized and distributed? Who do you work with on a daily basis?
    • How does your company organize training and ongoing education?
    • Is training individually motivated or assigned to you?
    • Who in your company found CXL Institute? How did you find it?
    • What makes you feel successful when using the Institute?
    • What made you sign up?
    • What’s the single biggest challenge at your job?
    • What are you motivated by? What keeps you up at night?
    • Say you have a genie, and you could magically develop one skill in the next few years, what would you wish for?
    • Do you use, or have you ever used, a training tool like the Institute? If so, which ones?
    • IF you have used similar tools, how did they compare in quality and style to the institute?
    • Whose advice do you trust? Who do you follow or ask when you have a challenge?

    These questions represent a template. In other words, this isn’t a checklist, it’s a conversation. Take a journalist’s attitude and go into the conversation with a sense of curiosity and exploration. The point is to make it feel unlike an interview and more like a conversation with a close friend.

    You don’t want surface level answers, shit you can look up in your product analytics.

    You want soul-baring answers about their fears of looking inferior in front of their coworkers, their motivations about growing their business to $100M a year in revenue, or their assertions of the thought leaders they trust and why they think most of the industry is full of hucksters, but not you.

    If you do this right—and there’s a whole art to it—it should be one of the most insightful parts of the process. It’s really the ornamentation on the foundation; you’ve already got the basic personas segmented on attitudinal and behavioral data, and now you want to find emotional triggers to help you with messaging strategy, emotional targeting, and design.

    This stage should take a few days to a week, depending on how quickly you can organize and conduct these interviews (we did ours in a week). Try to get two to five interviews for each distinct persona.

    Step 8: Put it all together and share with your team

    That’s it. You’re done. Quick and dirty user personas, in only three to four weeks. And you can actually use them.

    Design them and communicate them so they actually get shared with the team and used for decision making. This is where you can get creative (there’s no one way to do this and certainly no prototypical template). Here’s an example template I really like from buyerpersona.com:

    I think this example provides the most granularity and actionable information, while also segmenting the information with tabs.

    Here’s one from Smart Insights:

    I don’t think there’s necessarily a right or wrong way to do it, so long as you concisely include actionable information and communicate it effectively. These things should live on their own and not need further questions from teammates who haven’t seen all the raw persona data

    You can also map them out on GE/McKinsey’s Matrix. This shows you how ideal the customer persona is vs. how strong your business case is for them, allowing you to visualize where the best opportunities are for future marketing efforts:

    A GE/McKinsey customer persona matrix.

    The top left (Persona 3) means they’re our most ideal customer but we are executing the least effectively on selling to them, and the bottom right (Persona 1) means we’re selling to these people the best but they’re not the most ideal for our business. The opportunity then is in Persona 2 and Persona 3.

    After this is the fun part: execution. Just because you have a pretty poster on the wall with your hard fought and researched user personas doesn’t mean you’ve actually done anything. All of that research is wasted if you don’t use it. If it doesn’t aid design and product decisions, you’re doing it wrong. If you don’t change a thing about your marketing, you’re doing it wrong.

    Important caveats

    A few notes:

    • This is not the only way to make user personas. There are tons of ways. There’s also not a lot of research on which method is more effective, but I tend to side with the one with more objectivity, less conjecture, and more rigor/structure. That’s why I like this approach.
    • This approach also still leaves some factors up to subjectivity. In ours, we knew that while persona 3 represented a smaller portion of our current audience, they represent the highest value customer segment. So we wanted to keep them as a persona, regardless of their lower representation in this set of data.
    • Just because you make them doesn’t mean they’ll be effective. You have to first decide your goals in making them. What will this information let you do differently?
    • This is a fluid process. As you learn more about your customers, you can tweak or change your personas. You should. A static persona isn’t just lazy, it’s almost certainly unrepresentative of your customer because 1) you never have all the data you need at one time, and 2) your customer profile changes with time.

    I’ve heard it recommended that you should update your personas once every six to eight months or so. We’ll do it once a year. You do what works best for your organization, but keep it evolving and improving.

    Conclusion

    This is a lot of information, but if you take it step-by-step, building accurate data-driven personas isn’t hard (and it can be accomplished in under a month).

    Realistically, you don’t need to do everything I outlined. Especially if you’re just starting out and haven’t really discovered Product/Market Fit, you shouldn’t be investing this much into personas because they won’t mean anything.

    We’ve hit a point of traction and have defined customer profiles. Adding user personas that are backed by quantitative and qualitative data helps us produce landing pages, design, and messaging, as well as product development roadmaps and targeting and partnership ideas. It truly adds a level of depth to our marketing and adds value.

    Even if you’re at the level where building personas will help your marketing, you can likely skip clustering and PCA if you don’t have an analyst willing to do that. Plus, those methods tend to be less clean than they seem on paper, so you can likely pull easier insights with pivot tables and a few customer interviews.

    I realize this article went through a lot of different subjects relatively quickly, so if you still have questions or want help doing your own customer personas, comment below and I’ll answer to the best of my ability.

    The post How to Build Robust User Personas in Under a Month appeared first on CXL.


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    Video marketing is booming. It’s no longer news. Cisco predicts that, globally, video traffic will be more than 80% of all web traffic by 2022 (up from a prediction of 75% made in 2017).

    Other recent reports claim a 17% leap in video content usage in 2018, with the average person watching more than 90 minutes of online video every day. In the same report, 85% of surveyed consumers said they would like to see more videos from brands.

    However, simply creating videos isn’t enough. Content marketing in general—and video marketing in particular—needs strategic planning to work.

    For B2B marketing, the primary goal of content, video included, is often lead generation. That’s why, when it comes to B2B video marketing, a great strategy weaves individual videos into a “hub”—a long-term asset that can attract and nurture leads.

    Let me explain…

    From “videos” to “asset”: Planning your B2B video marketing strategy

    When it comes to B2B video content, two potential long-term assets make sense:

    1. On-site knowledge base. Possibly gated, since the focus is lead generation.
    2. On-site and/or off-site video course. Your own video-on-demand channel for potential customers to join and stay engaged with.

    Of course, there’s nothing preventing you from creating both. For example, Yoast offers a free gated knowledge base on their site as well as a repackaged version as a free video course on Udemy:

    example of yoast knowledge base and video course.

    Planning your video marketing strategy around a lead-generating asset has two main benefits:

    1. It allows you (and your whole company) to understand how video creation efforts should come together.
    2. It helps create content for both the top and middle of your sales funnel, turning your site into a destination. People find videos more memorable and more useful than text content or pictures (e.g., infographics slideshows), which makes video a perfect fit for the purpose.

    A video hub can attract traffic through search (if you come up with a searchable topic) and create new traffic via third-party sources. If you put a free course on LinkedIn Learning or Udemy, for example, you tap into those platforms’ user bases, discoverable through their internal search function.

    Further, all sources are lead-nurturing mediums to engage with students or email subscribers on a regular basis—and get them closer to the final conversion:

    • With a video course, you can engage your students by providing updates, hosting Q&A sessions, sending out a survey, etc.
    • With an on-site knowledge base, email automation can reach out to leads to invite them to access new videos, provide feedback, etc.
    diagram showing how three videos fit together into a course to attract and nurture leads.

    Let’s look at the component parts of this overarching asset—individual video types that generate leads. 

    Choosing video types for lead generation

    The first step is to come up with the “final asset” topic, which, ideally, combines all of the following criteria:

    • Be based on a popular search query to rank and generate traffic on its own. Selecting keywords for your content is a huge topic that deserves a separate article, but you can refer to my detailed keyword research guide here as well as this quick exercise to see the process in action.
    • Complement the products or services you sell. Videos should cover problems your product or service solves.
    • Not be too specific. You’ll want to add fresh videos on a regular basis to re-engage your current viewers or email subscribers. A super-specific topic is a hub without spokes.
    • Be on brand. Yes, determining what’s “on brand’ is a huge and complex topic. This thread from Wistia’s Phil Nottingham is an excellent summary (and justification) for creating videos for “brand affinity” not just “brand awareness.”

    Moz has repackaged their popular Whiteboard Friday videos into a free standalone course on Udemy that ranks third on Google for “SEO training.” The course walks you through SEO basics—while also mentioning Moz’s tools as solutions to solve common SEO issues.

    Plus, the topic of “SEO training” is broad enough to give limitless possibilities to add new videos as they’re created.

    example of how to repurpose videos into a course to engage with students via Q&A and announcements.

    Once you have an idea of the topic for your video hub, create a video editorial calendar to align with it. You can mix and match video types to diversify your content:

    1. Influencer-driven videos (e.g., live videos, webinars, etc.);
    2. Demos and product walk-throughs;
    3. Customer-generated videos (e.g., live Q&A, video reviews, etc.).
    example of video types within a video course.

    All of these video types can address (and solve) relevant problems while suggesting your product as the solution. Let’s look at some examples of each.

    1. Influencer-driven videos

    To see a brand-owned, webinar-driven channel in action, check out SEMrush. They continue to grow their library of on-demand webinars featuring industry experts. You don’t have to opt in to watch a webinar, but you can put your questions or comments through a lead-generation form.

    example of b2b company with large group of webinars.
    Take note of that “Discover SEMrush” label on the right. Some influencer-driven webinars mention the platform as solution to the discussed problem, funneling participants into trying the platform.

    The beauty of collaborating with influencers for creating videos is that you can use their authority and existing community to generate leads before and after the webinar or live-video session:

    Webinar marketing is multifaceted: Webinars educate, engage, automate, and convert, and each process supports the other in a cycle. That makes webinars a perfect medium for building a long-term video marketing strategy.

    ClickMeeting refers to this strategy as the Webinar Flywheel,” showing how you can use webinar marketing at every stage of the sales funnel and—at the same time—how it transforms the idea of the linear funnel into a cycle:

    flywheel marketing concept applied to webinars.

    There’s no beginning or end here: Every part supports the other, similar to Hubspot’s Flywheel and, earlier, Jeff Bezos’s “virtuous cycle.”

    As you’ll see later, the concept of “the whole drives the parts, and every part supports others as well as builds the whole” is exactly what a lead-generating video content marketing strategy should be.

    2. Demos and product walk-throughs

    If you’re selling a SaaS product, you’re likely doing product demos on a regular basis. There’s no reason why you can’t reuse some of those demo recordings to give your audience a glimpse inside your platform.

    Product demos make great content assets. For example, Salesforce uses demos as gated content. And Coschedule uses them for blog content, even ranking some for pretty generic (i.e. high-volume) terms:

    example of product demo video that ranks well for high-volume search term.

    You can use your webinar solution to create product demos, or any of the many tools out there.

    3. Customer-generated videos

    Encourage (satisfied) customers to create video reviews of your tool. It can even be a contest to reward the best video creators. Depending on what you’re selling, you could also set up regular live video meetings with brand advocates to address audience questions.

    It can be as simple as inviting your customers to ask questions through a branded hashtag for you to respond to in a (live) video. Google’s #AskGoogleWebmasters video series is a good example of this tactic in action. 

    Or, it can be a more advanced approach: Invite customers to make a video for you or join you in the video. For example, back when it was called “Google Hangouts,” we invited our community brand advocates to join a monthly video chat to discuss the best ways to use our platform.

    Later, over at Viral Content Bee, we invited our current users to submit video tutorials of how they use the platform to include in our official Udemy course:

    example of udemy course based on user-generated content.

    Seeing how established users use the platform helps our new or soon-to-be leads better understand all the possibilities. It also adds credibility—it’s not just us claiming what can be done; it’s real users showing how they’re getting value from it. 

    4 ways to repackage video content

    One video may take plenty of time to create and edit. There’s no reason to use it only once. The beauty of video marketing is that it’s highly repackagable: You can come up with lots of alternative formats to use across channels:

    1. Use the full video on your blog. Wistia offers custom branding as well as clickable calls to action and even opt-in forms inside the video—you could generate leads right from inside your video. Read about other video platforms here, or review this guide on how to embed videos on your site.

    2. Create a text summary or put together a full transcript. This makes great content to go on your blog together with the video. You can also re-use screenshots or other images from the video to make the content more useful for people who choose not to watch the video.

    This makes your page search-friendlier and more accessible to people with visual or hearing disabilities. Obviously, use best SEO practices as well as structured markup to ensure visibility in organic search.

    Other options:

    • Convert each article into a PDF and offer it as a bonus download through your course or knowledge base as an alternative way to review the content.
    • Collect all those articles and combine them into an ebook. This one can also be a free download for your students/subscribers.

    3. Create annotated video takeaways to publish on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. for brand visibility. Releasing shorter versions of your video using third-party platforms prompts users to look for the full videos, which can be found only on your site.

    Tools like Placeit help you put together annotated videos and slideshows in seconds. Link everywhere you can to your blog post to try and build some traffic:

    • YouTube: Link from the video description and (possibly) pinned comment.
    • Facebook and LinkedIn: Link from the update or comment.
    • Instagram: Link from Instagram stories.

    4. Extract audio from your video, especially if it’s an interview or Q&A, and upload it to SoundCloud and iTunes. You could end up getting known as a podcaster if you do it regularly enough.

    • The audio files can then be turned into an audiobook and offered as a bonus download through your course or knowledge base as an alternative way to consume the content (e.g., while driving).

    To give you a better picture, this is what your final strategy may look like:

    diagram of how all pieces of a b2b video marketing strategy fit together.

    That’s exactly what I did when putting together my own video courses, including one on reputation management:

    • Each chapter was based on a public article.
    • Each chapter offers downloadable materials (ebook, audio version, and sometimes cheatsheet).
    • Each audio file was reused as a podcast chapter on Soundcloud and iTunes.
    • I market the ebook on my site as well as Slideshare.
    how to create bonus materials as resources within a video course.

    This strategy generates multiple, complementary assets that increase brand awareness, generate traffic, and bring in leads:

    the components of a b2b video marketing strategy that act as top-of-funnel content.
    I didn’t visualize the strategy as a cycle, but you can see how it works like one: You use the idea of a whole—what you’re working toward—to drive the creation and marketing of all the parts, and each part helps create and promote the whole.

    When your course or knowledge base is live (i.e. fully formed), you can use all those channels to promote it, too.

    Promote your asset via collaboration

    To plan the whole strategy more effectively, use an editorial calendar like ContentCal. With ContentCal, you can:

    • Schedule content campaigns and create content briefs.
    • Add your whole team and manage permissions.
    • Get your whole team working on promotional assets to support each channel effectively.
    example of how contentcal tool helps manage content publication.

    Finally, the influencers you included when creating videos (via interviews or webinars) can help you promote your video course or knowledge base. All you need is to ask!

    • Email them with pre-made tweets to make it easier for them to share.
    • Create custom images for your participating influencers to use when promoting your content.
    • Tag them in tweets and Instagram updates whenever you share their video, or even the whole course.

    You can also reach out to their friends by creating a follower targeting ad on Twitter or via Facebook remarketing.

    Conclusion

    B2B video marketing can be much more effective if you focus on creating a long-term asset that consolidates all your video creation and promotion efforts.

    Embracing this approach also grows the number of channels that can increase brand visibility, providing new avenues to acquire and nurture your leads.

    The post B2B Video Marketing: A Strategy for Lead Generation appeared first on CXL.


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    A 1,983% boost in annual revenue and 1,000% user-base growth within six months—all with no upfront costs. Can this be true? These are actual results that startup Ringadoc got from their channel partner program.

    In today’s environment, if B2B organizations are going to make it, they need to grow sales. Partnerships can be a big help.

    As Chris Samila, Partnerships Manager at Optimizely shares:

    We saw building and supporting a partner ecosystem as a massive opportunity. Early on, the agencies kept getting in contact, wanting to engage, and there was no clear way to do that. So we started building out the partner program.

    Today, Optimizely has a rich partner ecosystem consisting of 150+ solution partners and 60+ technology partners. The benefits are significant:

    • accelerated growth;
    • higher brand awareness;
    • increased revenue;
    • presence in new markets and verticals.

    It does take work, so is it worth the effort? The answer is a resounding, “Yes.” However, to reach this level of success, you need a sound partner strategy that takes technological and consumer changes into account.

    3 factors that affect B2B partner programs

    In a nutshell, there are three forces that influence B2B partnerships:

    1. Technological factors

    As companies look to digitally transform their businesses, their focus is shifting toward solutions that deliver complete business outcomes. This creates a unique window of opportunity for strategic partnerships.

    2. Social factors

    With the buyer’s journey becoming digital, partners are increasingly offering a mix of services that cross cloud platforms and apps. This brings to the forefront the importance of winning partner mindshare and loyalty.

    3. Economic factors

    B2B tech partners are now targeting business leaders instead of IT. In this light, high-quality business training becomes as critical as product training.

    These three forces are important for a successful partner strategy. Go against them, and you will struggle. Go with them, and you will win.

    This post takes you step-by-step through the process of building lasting and profitable relationships with channel partners.

    Step 1: Select partners

    It all starts with choosing the right partners.

    According to Tai Rattigan, Head of Partnerships at Amplitude:

    The most important thing is to be able to qualify an opportunity—inevitably, there are going to be a lot of people who will want to partner with you, but you have a limited amount of time.

    To focus on cultivating the right relationships, create an ideal partner profile.

    Who is your ideal channel partner?

    Customer success guru Lincoln Murphy talks about the ideal customer profile. We can use Lincoln’s framework to select the best partners. For each partner candidate, ask these questions:

    • Are they ready? Do they have the resources to invest in the partnership?
    • Are they willing? Will the partnership help them reach their goals?
    • Are they able? Is there a technical fit? A competence fit?
    • Do we have similar values? Is there a culture fit?

    This is where research comes into play.

    Marj Koppelaar, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Mirakl, explains her process:

    I do a lot of research into the company to find out what they are trying to achieve. Are their clients matching up with ours? Are their goals aligned with ours? Do they have the skill set they need to for a successful implementation?

    These are the questions that Rattigan tries to answer:

    What are the potential partner’s key objectives? Where is the company trying to go? Will the partnership help them get there?

    Rattigan succeeded in finding an ideal partner for Amplitude. Will Mahony from Five Agency talks about their partnership:

    Will Mahony:

    “We decided to partner with Amplitude because we view them as the leader in the product analytics space.

    A few of our clients were already using their platform or had expressed interest, so we were familiar with the value they bring to the table. More importantly, Amplitude’s mission really aligns well with Five’s, which is that we want to deliver measurable value through everything we build.

    Being metric- and business-outcome focused throughout a product’s lifecycle is important to us, and using Amplitude allows us to measure and achieve our goals in that regard.”

    To track down partner candidates with the highest success potential, look for agencies that are comparable to your current best partners, or ask existing customers who they work with. Then match your requirements against partner teams and prioritize partners who check the most boxes.

    Note: Your ideal partner profile isn’t set in stone. Chris Samila from Optimizely shares his experience:

    As the product matures, ideal partner profiles may change. For us, it used to be independent consultants, then teams, and it keeps evolving.

    Step 2: Discovery

    At this step we’re looking at what the potential partner is already providing and the customer’s ideal outcome. If there is a gap, can a partnership help fill it?

    Talk to your potential (and existing) partners to get a feel for what matters most to them. Some questions to ask are:

    • What is important to you in a partnership?
    • What are the major growth drivers of your business?
    • What is your unique value proposition?
    • What are you struggling with?
    • Who are your best customers?

    Helen Curtis from Coterie Marketing recommends getting a potential partner on a phone call and evaluating the big picture together:

    1. What will our biggest hurdle be?
    2. Is there market appetite for our joint offer?
    3. Can we really stand out in the market?
    4. Do we have the right information and skills to deliver this?

    The result of this conversation should be complete clarity regarding the opportunities and challenges the partnership will bring.

    Before Hotjar launched their Agency Partner Program, they sent out a survey to their email list:

    • What are your biggest challenges, frustrations, or problems using Hotjar with clients?
    • What are some agency partnerships that you’ve found to be valuable? Please be specific in what delivered value.
    • What are some common frustrations or challenges you’ve encountered in past partnerships?
    • What is the single most important benefit you’d like to see in a Hotjar Agency Partner Program?

    A little prep work like this can go a long way, especially for a new channel partner program.

    Step 3: Set goals and outline commitment

    I asked 10 executives from digital marketing agencies what, in their opinion, are the most critical pieces of a successful partnership. The top response was clear and measurable goals. Here are a few quotes from my interviews:

    It’s understood that, in a partnership, each side has their own vested interests. Good partnerships are transparent about those interests and are built upon the understanding (and reality) that the success of one partner contributes to the success of the other.

    Echoing that:

    Both parties need to know what the expectations are, how you are defining success, and what contributions (on both sides) will help you get there.

    On the flip side, their biggest frustrations with partnerships were the following:

    • “Partnerships by handshake only, with no formal plan and nothing formalized to track success ”;
    • “one-sided relationships”;
    • “partnerships that go just one way.”

    Curtis recommends creating, in collaboration with the partner, a clear written plan—a one-page document with:

    • A set of objectives;
    • Specific view of the target market;
    • Strategies and tactics;
    • Who’s going to do what;
    • Resources both parties have committed;
    • Realistic view of the ROI.

    Once everyone is on the same page, the next step is to outline the commitment for both parties 12 weeks out:

    • What is the partner going to do?
    • What are you going to do?
    • Are the commitments realistic?
    • Do you have everything to deliver them?
    • Are there any potential barriers?

    Lastly, you agree on how—and how often—you’ll communicate, and how you’ll track what’s getting done. A collaboration tool like Basecamp, Trello, or Huddle can be helpful.

    Step 4: Facilitate introductions

    The partnership is under way. Now it’s time to invest in relationships. Ideally, there would be a dedicated resource (i.e. Partner Manager) to facilitate introductions between teams and foster relationships.

    Chris Neumann:

    “Getting to know the Optimizely salespeople personally was critical to our success.

    We work together closely to close deals, so knowing them has allowed me to build trust with them that we will deliver for the customers.”

    Partners can be a source of valuable product feedback. Connect them with product managers and engineers for feedback from the front lines.

    Often, you’ll find that a lot of internal negotiation and positioning of the partner program is needed to make sure your organization is willing to work with the partners.

    Jeffrey McInnis:

    “When you’re getting your partner program off the ground, it can be challenging to get your own organization to work well with partners.

    Your company needs to consider partners when making decisions.

    Advocate for your partners so your colleagues understand their point of view.”

    Step 5: Enablement

    “If you don’t put it in, you don’t get it out,” applies in partnerships.

    Companies can empower channel partners in three key areas: technical training, building industry expertise, and sales training.

    Technical training

    Partners need to be experts in your products.

    Chris Neumann:

    “You need to make sure the partners are able to use the product for free so they know what they have to sell.

    Lots of companies mess this up—people call me and ask me to help them sell to my customers, but then they don’t allow me to use the product.

    How can I help them sell something that I don’t understand how it even works?”

    Bob Ruffolo, CEO of Impact, shares his experience of partnering with HubSpot:

    Bob Ruffalo:

    “We received a lot of support when we were starting out.

    It took a long time to get fully up to speed, but we were willing to put the time in, learning about the inbound marketing methodology, of how to actually do it, learning how to sell it.

    The hardest part was finding the right people who can do the work.”

    Once the partners are trained, keep them up to date with the products and give them access to new functionality early. That way, when it hits the market, they’re experts from Day 1.

    Industry Expertise

    Timely and relevant industry information shared with partners consistently can put them at a sizable advantage over the competition.

    Chris Samila:
    “I look at content through the lens of the partner—what would be useful for them that they can take and brand for themselves?

    An example of a useful piece of content for our solution partners would be a report like, “What leads to a winning experiment?”

    This is a great place for the “Challenger Sales” approach: Know more about the market than the partners do and help them grow. Educate them on what they don’t know they don’t know.

    To do that, you have to be on the cusp of what’s happening in different industries, keep your eyes open, and inform partners about the trends.

    Jeffrey McInnis:

    “I read a lot of content on LinkedIn. If it’s relevant for your industry, chances are one of your contacts is sharing it.

    You can also set up Google Alerts for certain terms.”

    Sales Training

    Since B2B tech partners are now selling to business leaders, a partner enablement program needs to include strong business training.

    Tai Rattigan:

    “You almost become their sales manager.

    You are consulting the company on how to improve their business, helping them set up new service offerings on top of your platform. Often, account managers who don’t have much sales or business development experience end up doing sales.

    If they don’t know how to manage the pipeline, you need to guide them through it.”

    Many companies are struggling to figure it out: How much should we handhold? How much should we invest in bringing partners up to speed?

    The 80–20 rule says that a few of your partners will provide most of the revenue. Some vendors take this rule too far and focus only on the larger players, providing no support to their mid-tier and smaller partners.

    They don’t realize that enablement of smaller partners doesn’t have to be messy and time-consuming. This is where the same 80–20 rule can come in handy—we focus on the most valuable and effective content, and offer it in a structured way.

    Marj Koppelaar:
    “Aim for an enablement process that is standard and add custom layers as needed. The partner’s sales team needs to have a clear understanding of what you do, value points, pain points.

    Make a cheat sheet for them—one page with all the information. Follow up with the partners and ask them what has worked very well, what we should be doing more of, what we should avoid, success stories, etc.”

    High return, high productivity of the channel—that’s what we want. However “As you sow, so shall you reap.”

    Investing in partner enablement pays handsome dividends. Ideally, you’re able to scale it using resources you already have. For instance, product marketing assets and internal sales enablement assets make great partner toolkits.

    Step 6: Sales support and account management

    Here’s the worst-case scenario in the partner’s’ eyes: “lack of transparency and lack of deal flow and lukewarm leads that never turn into anything.”

    The best-case scenario? “The company is bringing us leads and keeping us up to date with the product. We have forged real win-win partnerships with us, where we do business development together. They send us referrals and we do pitches together.”

    A few key things guide our partners’ experience toward the best-case scenario:

    • Always give the partners a heads up; share information about the prospective customer; and help tailor the pitch to that customer.
    • Identify roadblocks partners face and provide strategic recommendations; make sure that the company is providing the required support.
    • Work hand-in-hand with the partner to make customer success a continuous process.

    Now comes the million-dollar question: How do you keep bringing in partner-influenced revenue when so much is out of your control? Partner managers have unique approaches.

    Jeffrey McInnis:

    “Focus on what is in your control.

    Do the right behaviors with the right frequency and, if the strategy is sound, you will hit your goals.”

    Katrina Razavi, Director of Business Development at Shippo:

    Katrina Razavi:

    “This is the fun of partnering up with folks—you have to think outside the box and try new initiatives you haven’t done before.

    Look at others in the space who are successful—what are they doing? How are they gaining traction?

    Do those things, talk to executives at those companies, figure out how to replicate it.”

    Chris Samila:

    “Create your own luck, pay attention to the trends, be in constant communication with partners, always touching base.

    Keep a large network if you can. If you come across something really cool, share it.”

    Tai Rattigan:

    “Be entrepreneurial when running a portfolio of customers. Be ready to switch hats, not just doing sales.

    One day, a marketing event; the next day, a pitch; next, a demo.”

    Marj Koppelaar:

    “It’s important to have a commercial mind.

    You need to get the training right, but the goal should always be revenue.

    Keep the eye on the bottom line, not just logistics and administration.”

    Step 7: Evolving the partner program

    By taking ownership of the program and making an honest commitment to never-ending improvement, we can take things to the next level.

    Valuable ideas can come from partner feedback. Surveys, 1-on-1 interviews via phone or Skype, and in-person chats at events can help evaluate the health of a relationship and tease out process optimization opportunities.

    We can enrich our research by collecting feedback from everyone involved in the partner program—partners, customers, and our own teams.

    Federico Menapace, Director of Partnerships at Segment:

    Federico Menapace:

    “When challenges with partnerships come up, we need to look at the root cause, not the symptoms.

    The root cause is usually the absence of a human relationship.”

    Menapace is planning to conduct Partner NPS surveys to measure partner satisfaction across the entire relationship.

    When it comes to process improvement, Tanusri Jammalamadaka, Global Technology Partner Program Manager at Adobe, advocates constant iteration.

    Tanusri Jammalamadaka:

    “I create a product canvas and see what the loopholes are.

    Some of them are related to partner onboarding process, providing access to resources, etc. I have been working on creating a totally new experience for partners via the partner portal.

    These partners are all developers, and they don’t have the time to call support or help desk. Even finding marketing guides should be simple.”

    Pilot new tools and processes for one channel partner, incorporate feedback and learning, then roll it out to other partners.

    The best practices you learn from your most successful partners can prove invaluable to all the partners in your ecosystem. A word of caution here—in partnerships, trust is everything, so share with other partners only what’s ethical to share.

    At every stage of the partner program evolution, keep working to raise awareness internally of the value partners bring to the company. Share stories of how the partners are helping customers realize the value of company solutions.

    Be a champion and evangelist for the partners; be their voice in discussions with product and engineering teams.

    Conclusion

    You will get maximum juice out of your partner program and your partner development resources if you avoid the most common mistakes:

    Mistake 1: The Partnership goes one way.

    Instead: Have a written plan with a set of goals, resources committed by both parties, and a realistic ROI. Define who is going to do what in the next 12 weeks and track progress.

    Mistake 2: No Buy-in.

    Instead: Facilitate introductions and help the partners build relationships with internal teams. Consider the partners when making business decisions.

    Mistake 3: Poor training.

    Instead: Offer comprehensive product training combined with business training. Keep the partners up-to-date with the product and industry trends.

    The bottom line: To cement good partnerships, be willing to invest in them.

    The post Channel Partner Strategy: 7 Steps to a Successful Program appeared first on CXL.


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    Eric Ries once described the minimum viable product (MVP) as a version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort:

    Instead of spending years perfecting our technology, we build a minimum viable product, an early product that is terrible, full of bugs, and crash-your-computer-yes-really stability problems. Then we ship it to customers way before it’s ready. And we charge money for it.

    The reasoning behind releasing an MVP is simple: The longer companies wait to release it—and the more money they spend building it—the riskier their product becomes.

    An MVP released at the right time that’s had just enough money spent on it will also reduce a company’s return-on-risk and help with cash flow down the line. 

    For this article, we asked 14 SaaS CEOs a simple question: “How much did you spend on your MVP before you had your first dollar of revenue?”

    The answers ranged from $0 to $1 million. Let’s take a look at who spent what. 

    1. Rejoiner spent $0 on their MVP.

    rejoiner dashboard.

    Rejoiner, an email platform for ecommerce sites, began as a side project. Mike Arsenault and his two co-founders—all with technical backgrounds—built their MVP while working full time for other SaaS companies.

    “We didn’t spend any real cash prior to getting our first paying customer,” recounts Arsenault. “I’ll actually never forget it. It was Govacuum.com, and they paid us $199 per month.”

    “We also got lucky and qualified for some startup benefits with companies like Rackspace, who covered our infrastructure costs for the first year,” continues Arsenault.

    “We did spend a lot of nights and weekends over the course of six months getting the first version of the product working, so there was definitely an opportunity cost there.”

    Running comparative calculations, Arsenault figures that “two senior engineers plus a product manager/marketer for 40 hours per month, times 6 months, would be 720 hours to get to our MVP. At $150 per hour, that’s a little over $100K we would have had to invest if we had outsourced.”

    Presently, Rejoiner serves about 150 direct-to-consumer brands, including well-known companies like Hydroflask and Titleist. Their typical client spends between $2k and $5k per month.

    2. Envoy spent $0 on their MVP.

    Envoy builds “workplace experience products,” including a visitor management tool for iPad-based check-in, and delivery management to organize the onslaught of personal packages coming into the office.

    envoy dashboard.

    An engineer by training, Founder and CEO Larry Gadea built the MVP of Envoy’s first product, Visitors, by himself using only free versions of software. “I was fortunate that the first product I built proved to be successful,” Gadea concedes.

    The MVP took around four months to build, during which time the company earned no revenue. Gadea leveraged his connections in Silicon Valley to seed viral distribution of the product, which, in turn, generated the revenue to hire engineers and scale the company.

    Today, more than 100,000 people use Envoy’s Visitors product at over 13,000 workplaces in 72 countries.

    3. Qualified.io spent $1k on their MVP.

    Qualified.io is a SaaS tool that companies can use to assess engineers before they hire them. 

    qualified.io saas tool.

    It’s now used by companies like Apple, Vimeo, and GE in their recruitment processes. The company’s CEO, Nathan Doctor, says Qualified.io’s MVP was built over a single weekend. It cost less than $1k to build, and they released it in 2016. 

    Doctor says the company had its first customer on the Monday after their MVP was released. They then spent the first year qualifying the product and testing out their revenue model. 

    Their growth since their MVP release in 2016? Qualified.io now has 350+ customers who spend between $6k to $17k a year to use their software, depending on the size of the company. A $1k MVP built over a weekend now brings in $2.5 million in revenue a year. 

    4. Socio spent $9k on their MVP.

    Socio is an event-management platform that helps companies launch custom apps for their events.

    screenshots from socio.

    Now, companies like Google, Microsoft, and ICAO are among Socio’s growing base of 400+ customers. The company’s co-founder and CEO, Yarkin Sakucoglu, says Socio’s MVP was built for just $9k.

    Sakucoglu says he got Socio’s first 10 customers by cold emailing event planners he found on LinkedIn. He searched and pitched planners who worked at companies with 500+ people and closed $200k himself before he made his first sales hire. 

    And what about Socio’s numbers after its $9k MVP? With a growth rate of 225%, Socio is now making $133k+ in monthly revenue. 

    5. Vested Technology spent $17k on their MVP.

    Vested Technology is a recruiting-automation platform that works alongside teams to identify, engage, and hire passive candidates. 

    bested technology saas demo.

    Prior to his role at Vested Technology, co-founder and CEO Akash Srivastava worked on Wall Street. He spent $17k to launch Vested Technology’s MVP. 

    With just 30 customers, the SaaS product is now pulling in $36k a month, and each customer has an average revenue of $1,200. 

    6. Justcall.io spent $20k on their MVP.

    Justcall is a cloud phone system that sales teams can use to make calls using local numbers.

    justcall.io interface.

    Justcall’s Founder and CEO, Guarav Sharma, is a chemical engineer by trade who just happens to love writing code. He already had two exits before he created Justcall, selling his last business to The New York Times.

    His latest company was launched on Product Hunt at the end of 2016. They landed their first customer the following March. Sharma says the first line of Justcall’s code was written about four months before the MVP, which was launched for roughly $20k. 

    Now, the fully bootstrapped company is turning 60% of its demos into paid customers and hitting $2.5 million in revenue a year. 

    7. Pixlee spent $40k on their MVP.

    Pixlee is a visual-marketing platform that helps companies connect with influencers. 

    pixlee interface.

    Co-founder and CEO Kyle Wong, who was featured on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 List, says the company’s MVP was built using “sweat equity.” It was launched in 2014 for $40–50k, and Wong says that he and his co-founders paid themselves only minimal stipends in the beginning. 

    Now, 500+ brands use Pixlee, and the company pulls in monthly revenue figures of $1.5 million. They’ve spurred growth, in part, by charging for usage—not seats. 

    8. Wigzo spent $80k on their MVP.

    Wigzo is an AI cloud automation tool that ecommerce merchants can use for personalization, analytics, and advertising.

    wigzo demo interface of saas tool.

    The company started coding the first version of their MVP in August 2014, which cost Wigzo $80k. For seven months, they didn’t have a single customer; the company brought in their first dollar of revenue in March 2015. 

    Since their launch, the company has focused on two core audiences: Small businesses earning between $2 million and $20 million in revenue, and enterprise customers earning more than $20 million.

    Wigzo’s customer payback period is on the higher end of the scale (18 months), and each customer costs $7k to acquire, due mainly to the company’s focus on acquiring enterprise customers.

    Wigzo’s CEO, Mohd Umair, says that since their launch just over four years ago, the SaaS now has more than 600 customers and is making $240k in revenue a month. 

    9. Hotjar spent $140k on their MVP.

    Hotjar is a suite of tools that offer “behavior analytics” on site users—mouse tracking, scroll tracking, etc.

    CEO David Darmanin shared a breakdown of costs during the company’s first year, when it rolled out a public beta. Most of the money went to employee wages and, to a lesser extent, advertising:

    hotjar breakdown of first-year expenditures.

    Since Hotjar released that beta in late 2014, the Malta-based company has grown: It now has nearly 100 team members and is used by over 350,000 organizations in 184 countries.

    In addition to a freemium version, its paid tiers range from $29 to $589 per month, based on the number of pageviews tracked per day.

    10. CXL Institute spent $200k on their MVP.

    CXL Institute offers online training for digital marketers from top industry practitioners.

    “CXL started as just a blog—and just me—in 2011,” recounts CEO Peep Laja. “That same year, I started a web development and CRO-focused design agency. In 2013, we stopped doing all web development work and focused 100% on conversion optimization.”

    With the company already in the business of expertise, building a training platform was a logical next step to scale revenue. In early 2016, Laja put together a new team, and the CXL Institute MVP launched in May 2016. “I think my cost—office, salaries, and everything else—was about $40,000 or $50,000 a month.”

    screenshot from course on google tag manager.

    “The start was rough, and we almost went out of business,” notes Laja. “We made only about $25,000 in the first month.” The revenue kept dropping each month after that, for four months in a row. “One month before running out of money—we’re bootstrapped and were using agency profits—we managed to turn the sinking ship around with constant user research and nimble action.”

    By 2017, CXL Institute was profitable but unstable—monthly income levels varied by as much as 2x. The following year was more predictable, with about $1.4 million in revenue, and, this year, the company is approaching $2 million in annual sales.

    (Laja currently has another product, Copytesting, in beta. So far, he estimates that they’ve spent about $65k on the MVP.)

    11. Ambit spent $250k on their MVP.

    Ambit provides companies with conversational chatbots, which they refer to as “digital employees.”

    sample chat from ambit.

    The product was developed three years ago by CEO John Comrie, and Ambit’s MVP was built at the end of 2016 for $250k. Comrie said the main cost behind the MVP was developer talent; the founder’s time was also factored into the cost. 

    The product morphed from a coaching bot to the platform offering it is today. The reason for the pivot? Ambit decided that the bot space was too constrained, so they opted for a platform-based product instead. 

    Now, the product serves 18 customers, each of which cost $50k to bring on board. However, Ambit’s monthly revenue numbers are now $250k, matching the cost of their MVP.

    12. UberFlip spent $300k on their MVP.

    Uberflip is a “content-experience platform” to help companies create content for every stage of the buyer’s journey

    uberflip demo.

    When the company morphed an earlier product and built Uberflip’s MVP in 2011, it cost them $300k, with no capital—and a lot of sweat equity.

    The company started bringing in revenue in 2012. CMO Randy Frisch says Uberflip was initially selling to content-marketing managers. The company later changed its focus to sell a “content experience” to higher-level marketers instead.

    Fast forward to 2019, and the company has raised $32 million in capital, with monthly revenue numbers of $1.3 million from 500+ customers. 

    13. Rallyware spent $500k on their MVP.

    Rallyware is a performance-enablement platform that embeds workforce training in daily workflows. 

    rallyware homepage.

    The company wrote its first line of code for their MVP at the end of 2012. By the time it launched, the investment had risen to $500k. Rallyware CEO George Elfond says the company hit $3 million in annual revenue in 2018, and they’re on track to double that this year, with a customer base of just 50.

    Elfond anticipates that, next year, the company’s annual revenue will crack $12 million. Oh, and they wouldn’t sell to Salesforce for $10 million. 

    14. Loop Email spent $1 million on their MVP.

    Loop Email offers to “transform your email into a powerful business hub.”

    loop email interface.

    Before the company earned their first $1 of revenue, they had spent $1 million building their MVP. Despite raising $5 million to date, the company’s CEO, Bostjan Bregar, says the company is burning $130k a month. 

    At the time of my interview with Bregar in July, the company was making $40k a month, with a customer base of 100. 

    Conclusion

    When it comes to MVPs, there is no one way. 

    Spending more isn’t always better. Qualified.io built their MVP in a weekend for under $1k, and now they’re earning more than the company that spent $1 million.

    Wherever you’re starting, success or failure hinges on something other than your MVP budget. 

    The post How Much Do SaaS Companies Spend on Their MVPs? appeared first on CXL.


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    I asked more than a dozen successful agency CEOs to share how they’ve navigated critical moments—getting started, landing (and keeping) clients, scaling teams, and marketing their agency.

    Spoiler alert: It all comes down to people.

    • Professional networks are the starting point (and growth engine).
    • The familiar name of an agency CEO is a proxy for trust.
    • Scaling a people-intensive business requires hiring and retaining exceptional talent.
    • Client retention hinges on relationships—and the people who maintain them.

    Here’s how they’ve done it—and what they’re still working on.

    From individual contributor to agency owner

    “I’m your stereotypical great independent contributor who was fantastic at the work and then ended up running a business,” recounts Michael King, founder of iPullRank. He isn’t the only CEO whose individual consultancy grew into an agency.

    For many, that transition was possible not just because of quality work but because of a network built over a career. Bill Sebald of Greenlane Marketing explains:

    bill sebald.

    Bill Sebald, Greenlane Marketing:

    “I had a network of people I built through previous jobs. I spent many hours building those relationships by being kind and helpful.

    But I always let people know what my special powers were. In this case, I was a pretty good SEO. So when I went solo, and people in my network needed SEO, they naturally thought of me.”

    WiderFunnel’s Chris Goward had a similar experience:

    chris goward.

    Chris Goward, WiderFunnel:

    “Before I started WiderFunnel, I had worked for many large enterprise brands in my ad agency days. I had actually won an innovation award for planning a hugely complex, digitally printed, dynamically personalized direct mail catalog campaign for Tourism British Columbia as a client.

    When starting WiderFunnel, I parlayed the experience, insights, and connections at that brand to bring them in as WiderFunnel’s first client.”

    Those nascent networks—nurtured through speaking events, writing, and social media engagement—can grow into a personal brand capable of bringing in not just a client but that first whale of an account.

    “I got my first big client simply by announcing I was starting an agency,” recalls Siege Media’s Ross Hudgens. “I was only able to pull this off by putting in work to build a personal brand, though—that made the risk lower for them.”

    The formula has worked for others.

    Landing that first big client

    In 2011, “I was speaking at Mozcon in Seattle,” remembers Conversion.com’s Stephen Pavlovich.

    I noticed that Facebook’s director of growth was speaking at the same event. So I quickly changed my deck the night before to use some examples from Facebook. Long story short…

    If that experience seems serendipitous, only a slightly more structured approach worked for others, like Distilled’s Will Critchlow:

    will critchlow.

    Will Critchlow, Distilled:

    “We got a referral to a pan-European hotel chain back in about 2007 after doing some highly visible and reference-able work in partnership with Moz (SEOmoz as they were back then).

    It was a retained piece of work where each month was worth about as much as our biggest projects had been in total up to that point.

    I remember finally closing them in an hour-long call on a Sunday afternoon. I remember it because I made that call from my mobile phone internationally to Spain, and I’m very glad it was successful because it cost a fortune.”

    It doesn’t take a prominent speaking gig or compelling research study to land big accounts. The common thread? A genuine interest in helping marketers. 

    Samantha Noble of Biddable Moments used a training course:

    samantha noble.

    Samantha Noble, Biddable Moments:

    “My biggest client has come off the back of a PPC training course that I run.

    The marketing manager of the company attended the course and then got in touch to ask me to audit their Google Ads account. Following on from the audit, they asked me to take over the management of the campaigns.”

    André Morys of konversionsKRAFT offered companies a free experiment:

    andre morys.

    André Morys , konversionsKRAFT:

    “In the early days of A/B testing, we made the first experiment free.

    One of those was a 12% uplift for an insurance company. Out of that result, we created a client with more than €5 million in revenue.”

    Sebald developed tools:

    bill sebald.

    Bill Sebald, Greenlane Marketing:

    “We created some free tools that solved SEO problems. (Some are still online today.) These tools got mentions in all of the industry trades, at conferences, in SEO groups, and so on.

    The original intent was just to create some cool stuff to give back to a very generous industry. I assumed it would have some kind of branding halo effect, but the good press was really more than I expected.”

    Others, like Goward, won the attention of big brands not from industry inspiration but, rather, ignorance:

    chris goward.

    Chris Goward, WiderFunnel:

    “When I started WiderFunnel in 2007, I didn’t know of any other company doing what we were trying to do.

    That naivety saved me from blindly copying the model that everyone else was using at the time. I literally started with a blank piece of paper and designed the process and methodologies that would get the best outcome for our clients.

    Maybe that’s gotten me into trouble in some cases, where I’ve had to reinvent things that had already been figured out, but I think it netted out to be a benefit for our innovation.”

    John Ekman of Conversionista took a similarly contrarian approach:

    john ekman.

    John Ekman, Conversionista:

    “We chose to try to help everyone. So we created a range of services, ranging from free webinars and blog posts to consulting services costing millions. And for everyone who contacted us, we always had some way we could help.

    Let me give you an example. This one guy, let’s call him Lars, was an ecommerce manager at a small sports store. He had almost no budget and very little competence to be a buyer of our services. He came to a lot of our webinars; he read all our blog posts.

    He contacted me and wanted me to comment on questions and ideas he had. We spent a lot of time on this guy. And there was nothing we could sell him. By normal standards, this is stupidity.

    Guess what happens? Lars gets a new job. He becomes the CEO of a much bigger online sports retailer. And guess who he calls the first week on his job?”

    A similar investment paid off for Animalz and its founder, Walter Chen:

    walter chen.

    Walter Chen, Animalz:

    “We had done great work for a small but highly connected client. That person referred us to a former employee there who had just returned to big company life.

    We got a great reference, so the sales cycle was extremely short, maybe one call and one email. We kicked off as quickly as we could, and they became a marquee customer of ours and one of our biggest success stories.”

    There are traditional approaches, too, like the one King employed to win his first big client:  

    Michael King.

    Michael King, iPullRank:

    “I badgered them for a full year until they invited us to an RFP. Then once the RFP came out, we offered a more compelling take and won.”

    Or the simplest option, from Seer Interactive’s Wil Reynolds: “I knocked on their door.”

    Winning big accounts isn’t just to add a logo-trophy on the homepage. There are other benefits, as CXL’s Peep Laja explains:

    peep laja

    Peep Laja, CXL:

    “As an agency, it literally pays to work with larger companies. It’s the same amount of work but much more money.

    The impact for the client will be much bigger, too. A 10% relative increase in conversion rate for a large site makes them millions—but gets you fired with a small client (as that’s nothing for them in absolute dollars). Because the ROI will be better for larger companies, they will be happier with you and refer you more business.

    Larger companies also have budgets, so the people sending you money are removed from ownership. Paying your invoices is easy. In small companies, the owners often feel it’s their money and squeeze whatever they can out of you, resulting in scope creep.”

    Big success means a new challenge: scale.

    Scaling people, processes, and financial acumen

    There’s an old joke: How do porcupines mate? The answer: carefully. The same, it seems, applies to scaling.

    “If you try and scale too quickly,” cautions Noble, “all your processes and way of working gets left behind.” Scaling is a people challenge: hiring the right ones, getting them up to speed, building career paths for them, and keeping them around.

    It’s a challenge that’s difficult to anticipate, admits Goward:

    chris goward.

    Chris Goward, WiderFunnel:

    “In the early days, I knew everyone and had a really solid pulse on the mood, productivity, and challenges. As we’ve grown, I’ve had to implement different reporting and communication structures.

    The most important thing to never lose sight of when scaling, though, is hiring quality.”

    1. People

    “One of the hardest parts of building an agency is hiring,” agrees Talia Wolf of GetUplift:

    talia wolf.

    Talia Wolf, GetUplift:

    “Not doing the work itself, not even getting good clients—the most challenging part of building and scaling an agency is hiring valuable people.

    Skills and techniques can be taught, but passionate, dedicated people are extremely rare to find.”

    Nor, in most cases, is keeping those people around a financial issue. “It’s rarely about the money for people,” adds Wolf. “It’s mostly about continuous growth and a sense of achievement.”

    Defining “growth” can take several forms. Wolf has given every team member a niche to own:

    talia wolf.

    Talia Wolf, GetUplift:

    “Their job is to learn, read, experiment, and research the field and test it on their own clients. Then they need to present their findings to the team, and they become the go-to person on the matter for everyone else.

    The result: Each team member becomes the in-house expert in their own field; they can review their team member’s work; gather reports; and train others within the company, giving people a higher sense of responsibility and purpose.”

    The sense of purpose, Reynolds learned, may require explicit acknowledgement:

    wil reynolds.

    Wil Reynolds, Seer Interactive:

    “Giving people titles allows them to track progress in their career—that was a shift that I think helped a lot, maybe not with retention, but I underestimated its importance.”

    A team of expert analysts may also need development paths outside of management, something Brian Forrester of Workshop Digital discovered:

    brian forrester.

    Brian Forrester, Workshop Digital:

    “We learned the hard way by promoting team members who weren’t ready, not providing good training (for new leaders or teams), and not providing a clear path forward.

    I was so busy in the weeds doing the work in the early days, I didn’t have time (and perhaps enough experience) to look for natural leaders, provide training, and spell out what the future looks like for team members.”

    For Forrester, the solution was a process:

    1. Defining paths forward to identify necessary skills for each role.
    2. Using the list of skills to create Individual Development Plans for analysts to move from junior to senior roles.
    3. Adapting those plans to inform hiring and train new employees so they can take on client work as quickly as possible.

    A final component, adds Forrester, has helped spot analysts who might excel as managers:

    Building management pathways into career advancement for certain team members who are interested—and giving those team members exposure to some of the management concepts early—has been hugely successful.

    As Chen details, exceptional managers, in turn, are critical to agency profitability: 

    walter chen.

    Walter Chen, Animalz:

    “Most agencies generate profit based on leverage of labor. The ratio of, e.g., managers to people on the ground could be 1:5 or 1:8. The bigger the spread of the ratio, the more profitable you can be.

    The biggest mistake I’ve seen is trying to push this ratio too far. You try to do too much yourself, and you don’t trust the team with enough.

    A couple years ago, we hired three people and paid them $100k+ to build this management layer. They were experienced folks who had managed people, built teams, etc. It was a big risk at the time, and it wrecked havoc on our profitability.

    But with them, we’ve scaled revenue by several millions per year and set the stage to scale farther.”

    2. Processes

    Johnathan Dane of KlientBoost built his team’s processes by codifying then refining his workflow:

    I’ve made the infrastructure to have a system work before I hand it off.
    Then I audit the system over time to make sure it still produces the same or better results.

    And yet, notes Sebald, the temptation to scale quickly—often to meet demand—introduces potential problems:

    bill sebald.

    Bill Sebald, Greenlane Marketing:

    “Scaling is something I think about constantly. And, it’s something I’m not very successful with. But I’m fine with that.

    In my field, many agencies try to scale their company by giving clients the same thing. If you are a kitchen that only makes soup, and all your customers only get soup, then you can cut back on creation and training expenses. Thus, you are scaling your output.

    You can collect revenue on the ‘product’ and less on the service hours—things like putting a client on autopilot for PPC, or putting a client into a ‘maintenance mode’ for SEO.

    But I think that scale hits a point of diminishing returns much, much sooner.”

    Where’s the balance? King has experienced both sides—overbearing processes that restricted analysts and the flawed assumption that work would get done the right way without them:

    Michael King.

    Michael King, iPullRank:

    “I worked at five different agencies, and we only had process in one of them. In that one, I felt like process was more of a constraint to creative problem-solving, so I never respected the value of process.

    However, since everyone doesn’t care to take ownership the way you do, process is everything.”

    Another challenge? You can’t scale people and processes unless you scale financial management, too.

    3. Financial acumen

    “Before I started working for myself,” says Noble, “I understood bits about the financial and tax side of running a business, but flashing forward two years, I know so much more than I did previously.”

    Financial expertise is something agency founders, Sebald included, wished they had picked up earlier in their careers:

    bill sebald.

    Bill Sebald, Greenlane Marketing:

    “It’s incredibly valuable to get your head around the legal and tax items before you start focusing on clients. I knew there’d be a learning curve, but didn’t realize it was such a steep one. We jumped right into client work, which is already a ton of work.

    I would have been better suited choosing a business lawyer and accountant with startup experience and asking for more hand holding. We didn’t have a rocky start by any stretch, but we could have had a quicker start.”

    Good financial management may even slow company growth, as it did for Reynolds:

    wil reynolds.

    Wil Reynolds, Seer Interactive:

    “I turned away a lot of business to keep our team small, so once I decided to start hiring over that 10-person threshold, I knew I had a sustainable business because for two years I was turning away enough business to double my team.”

    Pavlovich echoed Reynold’s caution: 

    stephen pavlovich.

    Stephen Pavlovich, Conversion.com:

    “It’s easy for an agency to scale the team to match today’s workload without keeping a close eye on tomorrow. You can come unstuck and find yourself losing money quickly.

    Aim to build your business with retainer-based contracts (rather than one-off projects), and use freelance/overflow resources instead of hiring during the ‘peaks.'”

    The structure that helped Hudgens was a revenue-per-analyst calculation:

    ross hudgens.

    Ross Hudgens, Siege Media:

    “I was really profitable the first few years, then had a year where I wasn’t because I hadn’t thought this through.

    I was able to correct for it, but wish I had done more revenue-per-employee type adjustments earlier.”

    Those calculations can be complex. There are confounders: “The bigger the client, the lower the likelihood that they pay on time,” says King.

    The temptation to offer a full array of services can similarly undermine stability, King continues:

    Michael King.

    Michael King, iPullRank:

    “We, historically, focused on a more comprehensive series of services because I felt as though doing strong SEO required it. However, it required that we hire a FTE person for one project and then try to get more of those projects.

    That is far more difficult than limiting yourself to a small series of services with a small set of repeatable processes.”

    Ultimately, scaling requires greater financial stability—something referrals alone won’t bring you.

    Marketing an agency that’s lived off referrals

    “Doing great work for clients has been our single best strategy,” says Reynolds. “That builds trust and word of mouth.”

    The value of referrals isn’t news to agency owners—nor are the risks of a live-and-die-by-referrals strategy. As Laja explains:

    Referrals are great, but you don’t control the inputs or outputs. If there’s a slow month due to seasonality or whatever, you can do very little. You can’t wait harder for referrals. 

    Among the other options, what doesn’t work? Paid ads, apparently.

    • “We tried some boosting of our content on Facebook. I’m still not convinced that did too much for us.” (Hudgens)
    • “Ads for clients (haven’t really tried to be honest). We’ve done lots of paid on Facebook for our lead magnets, courses, etc., but not for ‘landing clients.'” (Wolf)

    To be fair, Dane argues that a half-hearted commitment to campaigns often explains their failure:

    johnthan dane.

    Johnathan Dane, KlientBoost:

    “So many agency owners go surface-level deep on referral marketing, content marketing, paid social ads, etc., for themselves and stop when results aren’t there.

    We decided to compete with agencies that offer SEO/content in that realm that have been at it 10 years more than us, but I wasn’t convinced their execution was correct.

    Four years later, we have stronger domain authority than them and get over 600 inbound leads per month.”

    As you go beyond word-of-mouth, says Hudgens, inbound marketing is a natural fit:

    In general, you are competing on knowledge in most areas, so by standing out with that you are, by default, showing you are worth hiring.

    Laja agrees: 

    peep laja

    Peep Laja, CXL:

    “Agencies are in the business of expertise. You need to demonstrate it, all day every day. Content marketing and social media are ideal for this, yet so few are gung ho about it.

    Yes, it’s hard. The competition is nuts. You need to stand out, be different, be bold, have a point of view. You need content volume and consistent quality. It’s tough. But your business depends on it.”

    Too often, Chen says, agencies get stuck:

    walter chen.

    Walter Chen, Animalz:

    “I’ve tended to see agencies follow a growth path that looks like this:

    1. The initial clients come from your professional network. You know some people who need help, and you help them.

    2. You do good work, and you start getting customers through your professional network and word of mouth. Your successful clients tell other people about you. You bring those folks on as clients.

    The problem with #1 and #2 is that they’re both based on the agency founder doing sales. I’ve seen many agencies stall because sales are so dependent on the founder that they don’t have time to think longer term about how to set up the agency for growth.

    They never get to #3, which is when a third-degree connection or beyond visits your website, talks to you, and then buys your service. That’s when the founder can really disconnect from sales and the business can scale.

    The best way I’ve seen for agencies to do #3 is to do content marketing. That’s because content marketing for agencies is basically an extension of #1 and #2—telling your success stories in a scalable form of media (i.e. blog post, video, etc.).”

    The long-term value of inbound marketing was a common refrain:

    • “The most effective thing for us has been content creation at the edge of thought leadership for our space and public speaking. We haven’t seen much measurable impact from anything else.” (King)
    • “We have two in-house, full-time writers and an outsourced team of writers. We also have an in-house, full-time person running our podcast (another form of content) and an in-house, full-time videographer (another form of content).” (Dane)
    • “Our business grows mostly from all the content we create, and I’m producing content nonstop.” (Wolf)

    The strength of inbound campaigns is a perfect fit for CEOs like Ekman, who love that work far more than the traditional wine-and-dine strategy of client acquisition:

    john ekman.

    John Ekman, Conversionista:

    “To be honest, I wasn’t really great at that.

    Instead, I focused my efforts on building thought leadership. I spent an insane amount of time pitching myself to conferences, writing blog posts, pitching to journalists, etc.—just to build the image and the idea that I was the top dog.

    If you build thought leadership in the category first, you can, more or less, build any business or service on that. But if you try to build the business and the consultancy service first (without the thought leadership), you are going to struggle—getting clients, closing sales, pitching new clients, etc.”

    Even if speaking isn’t a natural fit, contends Pavlovich, that doesn’t make it less important:

    If you’re the founder, you have to be out speaking and networking. That wasn’t a natural fit for me, and still makes me uncomfortable, but it’s been crucial to our growth.

    That’s not to say that a single speech will change your agency. “Speaking at events has rarely delivered clients for me,” says Wolf.

    The benefits, Noble explains, are often downstream:

    samantha noble.

    Samantha Noble, Biddable Moments:

    “Speaking at conferences and events is by far one of the best ways I have found to promote the agency, although it isn’t just about speaking at the event—the networking with other speakers, the organizers, and the attendees is what really matters.

    Conference speaking doesn’t necessarily drive immediate leads for a company; you tend to find people reach out months later who may have seen you speak.”

    Of course, once you’ve put in the effort to win clients, you want to keep them around.

    Keeping clients around (so you can step off the treadmill)

    “Agencies are hard to run,” concedes Pavlovich. “Without wanting to state the obvious, to grow you have to win/retain more clients and lose fewer clients than you did before. At times that can create a relentless treadmill.”

    The key to keeping clients around? It’s not results, says Wolf:

    talia wolf.

    Talia Wolf, GetUplift:

    “If you don’t know your client, connect with them, and understand their personal desired outcomes, you will lose the client.

    I’ve had cases where I’ve delivered 10X the results my clients were expecting, but something wasn’t working well in the relationship, and it just didn’t work out.”

    Pavlovich agrees: 

    I used to believe that our work and results would retain business. It does—to a degree—but it’s probably less important than your client relationship.

    While “building relationships” is a soft skill, there are tactical steps to support it, says Noble:

    Picking up the phone rather than emailing is one thing I try and do. You can build a relationship with your clients much easier over the phone or in person than you can on an email.

    As Goward notes, hiring good people—not just talented analysts—can go a long way:

    chris goward.

    Chris Goward, WiderFunnel:

    “As the leader of a services company, your quality of life is determined by the type of people you hire and the type of clients you bring on. We have such a smart, dedicated, friendly, driven, fun team that every day is an interesting adventure.

    That’s the feedback we hear from our clients, too. They tell us they look forward to their weekly meetings with our team—that it’s often their favorite meeting of the week.”

    It’s difficult to incentivize team members to build that rapport, Dane learned:  

    We gave higher commission percentages to our account managers, hoping that rising and falling with the company revenue would make them more aggressive to want to keep clients—still didn’t have the impact we hoped for.

    Not every client relationship will work. Indeed, it’s easy to fail at the outset. One of Wolf’s keys to retaining clients is to “only bring in clients that are a good fit for our service.”

    Part of “fit” includes a client’s ability to execute on recommendations. To help solve for that, King says, analysts at iPullRank now write “Jira tickets and include them in our SEO site audits. That way, we cut down on the time it takes to get into the dev queue.”

    It helps solve a problem that Hudgens has seen derail his agreements: “The thing that has hurt us has been saying yes to work we couldn’t properly fulfill.”

    In rare instances, Hudgens adds, they’ve given refunds or extra time and attention—a salve to retain clients while an agency improves client fit or strengthens existing relationships. 

    Conclusion

    There’s a final thread that’s gone unmentioned, though it was implicit in so many responses: humility.

    When I asked, “Compared to when you started your agency, which of your skill(s) have improved the most?”, the answers had a constant—there was so much room to improve:

    • “Financial acumen went way up, but I still suck at it :)” (Reynolds)
    • “Definitely management. I still feel like a beginner, but I also look back on some of the mistakes I made, or things I didn’t know to do in the early days and cringe. I hope to look back on today some day and cringe, too, because I have improved so much from where I am now.” (Critchlow)
    • “Leadership. Hands-down. But I’ll still be learning that for the rest of my life.” (Sebald)
    • “Self-awareness. I now know more than ever that I still have a lot to learn in all areas.” (Goward)
    • “I understand that the things that motivate me aren’t necessarily what motivates my team, and the whole thing is to identify what motivates them and leverage that to help them improve their performance. However, I still feel like there’s a lot for me to continue to learn in that area.” (King)

    For successful agency owners, humility sparks motivation, even though there are few quick fixes to look forward to:

    ross hudgens.

    Ross Hudgens, Siege Media:

    “Overall I think everything slowly levels up as you get more experience—’game reps.’ We’ve learned how to hire, how to fire, how to do sales, etc.

    It’s the 1% improvement every day over seven years that allows you to get to the next place.”

    If that sounds exhausting, it is. “You don’t ever switch off,” says Noble, “You are constantly working!”

    “Running your own business means you’re working 24/7,” confirms Wolf. “You sleep, eat, walk, and talk work—especially when you have employees and you’re paying monthly salaries. The stress is 10X stronger, and every dollar matters.”

    But then again, Wolf offers, “I can’t even imagine going back to working for someone.”

    The post What 15 CEOs Learned Building Top Agencies appeared first on CXL.


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