I discovered Ryan Serhant a few months ago through his
YouTube channel. His approach to productivity, schedules, routines, and zest
for life and work caught my attention. Of course, it also helps that Ryan is based
in New York City. More than anywhere else, I love New York City – it’s my
favorite city in the USA. I’ve been there three times, and that’s where I
proposed to my wife. Now, let’s get back to Ryan’s book.
Lesson 1: Your College Education Is Not Your Destiny
Did you study business in college or university? If
so, you can skip ahead to the next lesson. For the rest of you, pay attention.
I studied history and political science. It was wonderful, and it helps me to
understand myself and the world. However, these fields have limited direct application
to the business world. Ryan was just the same. In fact, he studied theater in
college and hustled for two years in New York in pursuit of acting. After that
time, he decided it was time to switch gears into real estate.
Lesson 2: Follow Up Forever
Buying real estate is a major decision. For 99% of us,
it is probably the largest single purchase we will ever make. So it should come
as no surprise that buyers and sellers in real estate are demanding. It should
also come as no surprise that deals fall through all the time. Like any large
sale, there are multiple stakeholders involved: your spouse, the mortgage
lender, and so on.
To keep deals going, you need to follow up. How long?
In cold email, it is standard to do 3-5 follow up attempts and then call it a day.
In Ryan’s real estate world? He has done follow up with prospects for several
years and then closed a multi-million dollar deals. Do more follow up work with
Lesson 3: The FKD System
A few years ago, I read a classic business book “The
E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber. He makes the point that it is essential to
work on your business (e.g., building systems) as well as doing technical work
(e.g., coding, writing, or serving customers). I agreed with Gerber’s point,
but I didn’t do much with it.
Ryan’s approach to systems is much more accessible,
especially if you want to approach this mentality to your day to day work. His
system is simple: FKD (Finder, Keeper, Doer). Let’s break down each part.
Finder. Dedicate time every day to finding new
business — cold outreach, networking, and anything else that helps you to meet
Keeper. Manage your business’s money. Decide how much
to reinvest into the business and how much to keep in your pocket.
Doer. Deliver on the technical work that you’re paid
Lesson 4: Take An Improv Class
I’ve attended a few improv shows at Second City in Toronto and have enjoyed them. However, I never thought about attending a class myself. Then, two things changed. First, I read about how Ryan makes everybody on his team take an improv class and how it helped him to improve his sales ability. I also had the opportunity to participate in a half-day Second City improv-inspired business communication workshop. It was a stimulating combination of light stress (“ah! I’m doing something new and strange!”) and fun.
Lesson 5: You Can Learn Lessons From People Outside
Since I help technology companies to grow with
marketing, I studied that industry regularly. I listen to interviews, read
books like “The Upstarts” and go to events. However, reflecting on Ryan’s book
has got me thinking that I should read a bit more widely to get new ideas and
What’s A Book You’ve Read From A Different Industry That You
Do you really know the numbers behind your SaaS business? No, I’m not talking about monthly P&L statements. I’m talking about business metrics like customer lifetime value, churn and monthly recurring revenue. You don’t have to hire an analyst to crunch the numbers. Just use Baremetrics. Hat tip to Ryan Robinson (see his interview about growing Close.io with content marketing) for introducing me to Baremetrics.
Josh Pigford, founder of BareMetrics, shared his insights about growing the company, content marketing and more.
What is Baremetrics and how does it help customers?
Baremetrics is a revenue analytics product. We help businesses get insights on the money that’s coming in. For subscription-based companies, we would track metrics like monthly recurring revenue, lifetime value of a customer, churn rates, and other data points. The metrics themselves are not necessarily new to the industry, but they are traditionally really hard to calculate on your own. Without a tool like this, you would need to do lots of spreadsheet calculations or build internal tools. Baremetrics completely replaces all that. You can get up and running a few minutes.
What do you find most challenging in marketing Baremetrics?
There are two challenges. One, finding a channel that’s scalable from a cost standpoint, especially for paid acquisition. Two, finding a channel that is easy to track or attribute performance. It is difficult for us to say, “This is the channel. This is how much it costs to acquire through that channel, and here’s how we scale it up.”
When it comes to content, you can make some guesses about things, or even have some high-level data points. Knowing for sure is a different story. Connecting the dots between a prospect reading article A and becoming a customer is difficult to track.
What is your thought process around content marketing for Baremetrics? In a recent blog post, you mentioned that past efforts at content marketing at other companies did not generate results. It sounds like you are taking a different approach today.
In the early days of content marketing days, say five years ago, SEO considerations were at the top of the agenda. The approach was let’s produce much content to rank for a specific keyword. Recently, my approach to content marketing has shifted to focus on how we create the content, in and of itself, really valuable. Search engine optimization can be a part of that, but first and foremost, you need to be writing for humans.
When I started Baremetrics, I tried the SEO focused content marketing. That approach did not work well for us. Going forward, I wanted to produce content that was genuinely helpful for other businesses. If there was an SEO impact, fantastic. If not, I am sort of indifferent about that. Ultimately, I wanted something that people could read and get much use out of.
What makes a piece of content “genuinely helpful” in your view?
I want something that’s actionable – you can do something with the thing that you just read. That may be a resource or downloads such as a spreadsheet you can use or a marketing how-to. Alternatively, I want you to be sitting and thinking about it for a while. So, I want it to be something that a week later, you are still chewing on it in your head. Like, “Oh, I had not thought of something that way.”
In other posts, it is more a case of sharing the struggles of running a business such as burnout (e.g.,The Impossibility of Separating Work & Life). If you are thinking about one of these articles later that day or a few days later, that is a sign of a successful article.
How do you organize and publish your content assets?
We have two different silos of our content. First, we have got the main blog with articles aimed aim founders, business owners, and people who are work at startups can get much use out of. Second, there’s the academy which has more a SEO focus. There’s content related to keywords like monthly recurring revenue such as glossary article onmonthly recurring revenue. The Academy is about answering questions people are searching for on Google.
For the Founders blog, I produce nine out of ten articles. For the academy, most of our production is outsourced to freelancers. In many cases, academy content references and repurposes articles I have written.
Are you using paid customer acquisition methods?
We have tested these methods, but nothing has made sense from a scaling perspective.
What would you say has been your most successful marketing channel so far?
The content we produce is by far the most successful channel.
Your content includes publishing revenue figures (e.g.,open benchmarks). How did that come about?
After we had made our metrics public, other companies contacted us and asked to be listed.
What does your free trial to paid customer process look like?
You start by signing up for a 14-day trial. During the trial, it is a self-serve process with automated emails that guide you through onboarding and getting value from the product quickly. At the end of the 14 days, you either upgrade to a paid account or stop using the product.
What kind of touch points do you have with prospects and customers during this process?
I try to hop on a call with most new trials, or someone on our customer success team will try to hop on a call. At the very least, we reach out via email. So, it is not high touch, but it is not any touch, either. Sometimes this will involve doing a video chat, a screen share and walking them through their dashboard.
Why do have a 14-day free trial?
You can do 30 days instead, but our view is that we want you to start paying soon after you start getting some business value out of it.
Contrast our product to other software where you start with a blank slate – Google Apps, or Dropbox, or Slack for example. All of these tools require you to start using them, slowly getting data put in, and then you begin to see the value.
With Baremetrics, depending on how much data you have with your payment processor, you can start to see value in minutes or a few hours. That is how long it takes to see a whole dashboard full of data. So, the time between when you sign up and when you start getting value is extremely short compared to most SaaS products.
The 14 day period gives us a little bit more time to help you see the benefits, or to show you all that’s there. It is not just the single page that shows you some numbers that there’s a lot more depth to it.
What conversion rates do you see from free to paid?
Currently, we are around 14% from free to pay.
If you sign up, but it turns out you do not use a data source that we support, you will probably not convert to paid. Our conversion rate of people who have a data source that we support would be a lot higher, but it is difficult to track and report that separately. We support payment processors like Stripe, Braintree, and Recurly.
Is there a demand for people to use something like a QuickBooks or an accounting app as a data source?
There are certainly people who have asked for it. The problem is, we need a particular type of data, or format of data, to provide our metrics and subscription numbers. The problem with QuickBooks or Xero is the nature of the data. It is flat data. We could certainly see, “Oh, in this category you brought in $10,000,” but we would not be able to get any insight into that. It would require us to reformat your accounting books to process it. We are trying hard not to be accounting app. Our goal is not to give you accounting insights but rather higher level business metrics instead.
What business metrics have the greatest predictive value for your customers?
It depends on the stage of the business. One of the more consistent indicators would be churn (see “How Churn Prediction Can Improve Your Business” on Baremetrics.com). Put it another way: at what pace are people canceling? That is a good indicator of the health of the business. It is one of the more actionable metrics. If it is in the double digits or over 20%, you have a big problem on your hands. In that case, you should focus on nothing else except fixing that and figuring out why customers are canceled in such large numbers.
What is a marketing experiment from the past year that you are proud of?
Our sort transparency journey has been the gift that keeps on giving. It has been almost four years, but at the same time, it consistently keeps working for us, and new opportunities come from that. We continue to see other people reference Baremetrics regarding transparency for our numbers and how that helps other businesses.
What kind of new opportunities has that brought to Baremetrics recently?
A new company will want to make their data public on our website. When that happens, we tend to see a new influx of customers or at least visitors to the site.
At Baremetrics, who is responsible for marketing activities?
I am responsible for marketing. To do that, I have support from freelancers in content creation, administrative support, and engineers helping with data to inform the content.
For readers that would like to connect with you and find out more about Baremetrics, where should they go?
Start with baremetrics.com. If you want to reach out or have any questions about anything, email me at josh AT baremetrics.com or on Twitter.
Building an email list is a critical marketing asset. How can you translate email marketing into low stress added revenue? Once you have your offer and copy dialed in, the next step is email marketing automation!
The problem with marketing automation? It is too difficult to implement for most of us. Sendlane is here to help you achieve results-driven email marketing.
When I heard about Sendlane’s success onNathan Latka’s podcast, I simply had to feature them in the interview series. Jimmy Kim, the CEO of Sendlane, sat down with me to share a few insights on how he built the business.
Who is a good customer for Sendlane and how does the product help them?
Sendlane was built for digital marketers, specifically info product owners, affiliate marketers, SaaS owners, and eCommerce owners. We are more than your basic email automation tool. We are an advanced email automation tool focusing on features designed to help track and sell with email marketing and automation.
How do landing pages and personalization features fit into the product?
To stay competitive, I see these features as essential. We do not say that we are the best in landing pages, but we provide you with a solution that you can use. We focus on behavior-based automation, or email automation, or personalization automation. You can customize and tailor every experience for every customer or subscriber that you get on your email list.
How do you provide this personalization for email marketing?
You can personalize your messages based on the user’s actions, whatever that may be. For example: if the user opened a specific email or clicked a link in an email. Further, you can look at higher level automation such as how much they have spent with you, if they have visited a certain page, if they are from a particular country, the device they use, time of use and so forth. Anything that you can think of, we allow you to segment your emails based on that. Furthermore, you can create custom fields and such so that you can collect information in addition to name and email. You can obtain other information like phone number and segment based on that.
Would this email marketing personalization help a SaaS company convert a free trial user to a paid user?
We use Sendlane to market our service. We do multiple touch points on follow-ups, depending on their actions (e.g., did the user click “add to cart,” did they stop during the sign-up process). The personalization varies depending on their activity. Other SaaS companies can use a similar approach to marketing based on the user’s actions. This process continues when the user makes a purchase – they will get put into a different sequence.
We are proud that we have built a profile-centric platform, not a subscriber-centric one. With Sendlane, you do not are on multiple lists; the user profile has various tags. You can then do customization based on the tags.
What are some of the important marketing channels you use at Sendlane?
Initially, we focused on influencer marketing, finding great users to find, and then asking for referrals. Furthermore, we did some integrations and content marketing. We have started to get into paid marketing. We make sure that we are sharing great content out there so that we can advertise it via Facebook, and Google, and YouTube, and other places to stay visible.
Are there particular integrations that stand out regarding helping with growth?
It is difficult to track if new customers come from integrations. For example, ClickFunnels integrates with us, via our API, so, unfortunately, we cannot see who is using that connection. On the other hand, Shopify uses a native connection so that we can see the users. I am not sure if they drove the customers, or we drove the customers. That is the only part we cannot see.
As a SaaS company, integrations support our brand and puts us next to other leading companies. Considering we are in such a crowded space in what we do, we knew that it was critical to get your name in front of our name next to the other companies. Putting our name next to MailChimp, a leader in the email marketing space, helps possible customers to know that we exist and that we are an option.
What does your paid traffic marketing look like?
We spend the majority of our time in Google and AdRoll right now, and we spend a lot less time on Facebook. We look at two paid media methods. With Facebook ads, it is a more disruptive marketing approach – you are showing up when the user is doing something else. With Google, you have users who are actively searching for information. We find that Google AdWords is providing better results than Facebook. There are significant costs regarding cost per click, but the result is always dramatically better for us. We have been testing this process for the last six months, and we continue to see this result over, and over again.
What does the funnel look like after they click?
We have been testing multiple approaches. We do have a free white paper available, and we have been testing that as well. It seems that the white paper does a decent job. The best top-of-the-funnel action is driving the user to our homepage which is optimized for conversions.
How does the Sendlane blog contribute to your marketing? Is the objective to get email signups, demos?
The primary purpose of the blog is to support our branding. You need to expose prospects to the brand multiple times through different channels. Some blog posts are written in-house, and we also hire third parties as well. We are always looking for people who have written in the technology space who have some level of clout. At the same time, we try not to credit too many outside writers as well. Ideally, we are interested in ghostwriters that have written for major publications.
How do you approach segmentation in your marketing?
We are looking for someone who makes a purchase or looking at someone who may have come to a site, added to cart, but then stopped. Therefore, we know we need to do follow-up and make sure they are in the right automation flow.
Whether you are in eCommerce, SaaS, information products, marketing to someone who has got to the checkout process is robust. That is why segmentation based on cart or checkout behaviors is powerful.
How does the affiliate program contribute to your marketing?
We offer a 30% commission for the life of the customer to our affiliates. Affiliates make up less than 5% of our monthly revenue. We built this affiliate platform just to have it, but we do not rely on it at any level. I think that it is good to have it as a way to help your current users spread their message and spread their word and get paid to do so. At the same time, I believe that building a business, or a SaaS on affiliate traffic is not the best way to make a long-term profitable company.
Do you use offline marketing methods?
We were recently at Traffic & Conversion event, and we have a couple more coming up this year. When you have face-time with customers and potential customers, it helps our marketing research. When you attend these events, it is important to ask people about what they want and what they are looking for. You would be surprised at the different answers. You should build your SaaS based on what the market wants not what you think would be a good feature.
What does influencer marketing look like for Sendlane?
When I say, “influencer marketing,” it is different from the traditional definition. Influencer marketing is focused on finding a person with a big audience, and you are asking them to promote your product.
In our case, we focus on finding people with a following in our market. Instead of asking them to directly promote the product, we invite them with an offer like: “Come try us out. We will give you a special deal because you are an influencer and you are doing great work.” Furthermore, we encourage happy influencers to share the message that they are happy with our platform.
For example, we had a charity that was a great customer. They loved our customer service and told their other friends in charities. We try to encourage that activity. For our influencer marketing, we are focused on people using the platform, not celebrities promoting the product for a payday. Instead, we like to reach out to our top users and our power users. We ask them for referrals and encourage them to spread the word.
What marketing metrics and indicators are important for Sendlane to engage free trial users?
Engagement with the platform is important. I look at how many times they have logged in and how often they are logging in. Every day during the free trial, we connect with them. It might be sharing a story or providing advice and we make sure to tell them when they are about to be billed.
The traditional marketing advice would say that you should not remind me that you are about to charge them for the first time when the free trial is about to end. In our case, we reach out three days before, two days before, the day before and the day they are charged. In fact, we make it a celebration, an event that people are joining and finally signing up for a paid account.
Here is an examples of our celebration style email:
What conversion rate do you see from free trial to paid users?
Our free trial to paid customer conversion is 65%. So we have a very high conversion rate in the industry. We are currently working on our onboarding system to make it an even better user experience.
When did the company’s first marketing hire come in and why?
In December 2015, we hired our first marketing person. Our decision came about because we were overloaded. We wanted to devote more time and attention to our content marketing and social media strategy. It was essential to bring in an expert who could maximize our marketing. They also handle other channels of marketing as well. As we continue to grow, we have recognized that we have to increase each person’s focus.
It looks like you do not have any sales staff. Did you decide to focus on marketing over sales?
Not necessarily. We never really focused on building a marketing or sales department in the same way other companies would do. Our focus has been growing based on warm leads and our network for the first few years. We are now just getting to the point where we are putting resources into paid marketing. We are a bootstrap company, and we have focused on building a great product that people would love and use.
Personally, my focus in the company is in sales and marketing. That includes demos and calls with the larger clients. If it looks like a prospect is going to spend $1,000 or more per month with us, it needs a more of a human touch. Working directly with me gives the prospect more comfort about the company, how we work and the customer service experience. I am also involved in the marketing we do with Facebook, Bing, AdRoll and other platforms.
Sendlane has a three-minute customer service guarantee with US-based support. How does that contribute to the company’s success?
Yes, I built a customer support team here in San Diego with a three minute response time 24 hours a day. A few years ago, I read “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh. He talked about the importance of customer service in building Zappos. I have also spent time and money on customer service because a happy paying customer will continue to pay you over and over again.
Where do you go online to stay up-to-date on SaaS marketing, connect with other people in the industry?
There are some Facebook Groups like SaaS Growth Hacks (https://www.facebook.com/groups/SaaSgrowthhacking/). My number one resource to better understand my company’s performance is a tool calledProfitWell. I use it to check what our churn rates are, what our ARPU (average revenue per user), LTV (customer lifetime value) as well as other measures. For more information on Sendlane, go toSendlane.com.
Miss one follow-up and your deal may go up in smoke. How can sales professionals stay on top of their opportunities? How can they track their efforts and find out where to improve?
Enter Flight Plans from Cirrus Insight. Best known as the first product to integrate Gmail with Salesforce.com, Cirrus Insight has brought automation capabilities to the sales force.
Brandon Bruce, Co-Founder of Cirrus Insight, shared his marketing lessons learned in growing the company and launching a new product.
1) What is the Flight Plans product and how does it help customers?
It’s like a travel itinerary for salespeople and sales teams. For years, it’s been popular to talk about the customer journey. Flight Plans is our way of organizing each step of the journey. Flight Plans takes marketing automation, adds more personalization and control, and brings it to the sales team.
Cirrus Insight’s Flight Plans continues to send out customized emails according to your sales playbook until you see a response. If there’s a reply, great – you engage in that conversation. If there is no reply, there is a follow-up message ready to go, or a call script for a phone call, or a social step like reaching out on LinkedIn. Unlike purely email-focused products, Flight Plans also brings in phone and social follow-up. Ultimately, we are making sure sales people never let opportunities fall through the cracks.
For the individual sales professional with a steady volume of prospects and opportunities, Flight Plans enables you to keep track of your progress in each relationship. From a sales manager’s standpoint, the product helps the team and the organization track activities and align them with target outcomes. We also have teams of users in customer support, account management, and related customer-facing fields like customer success.
Instead of focusing exclusively on traditional metrics, like email opens, number of calls, and emails sent, Flight Plans focuses on the outcome. We want to track the sales results that matter like the number of people who schedule a call, attend a demo, start a trial, or make a purchase. Once you understand what activities are working, you can focus on those activities.
2) How did you acquire the first 100 paying customers for Flight Plans product?
We had an existing customer base from the core Cirrus Insight product which was the first application to connect Gmail with Salesforce. In serving those customers, we saw high customer demand for a sales enablement solution that was a force-multiplier for sales teams. We started getting more and more demand from non-marketing groups – specifically sales, account management, and customer success seeking the automation and systems that marketing departments have had for a decade.
These non-marketing departments wanted to control the cadence and the content of their messaging. We’ve found that marketing emails tend to be designed and focus on company-level messages. In contrast, sales emails tend to be shorter, be in plain text, and be highly personalized to the recipient. Plus, by sending the emails from the salesperson’s own email address (rather than through a third party server like marketing automation platforms), the deliverability rate is much higher. Consequently, engagement rates (replies, forwards, hyperlink clicks) are much higher as well.
3) Cirrus Insight has an extensive resource library (e.g., ebooks, case studies, infographics). Which type of marketing asset are you focused on publishing more of this year and why?
We’ve seen content marketing approaches ebb and flow in popularity over the years. For a time, webinars were popular, and then they went out of fashion, and then they came back. We have seen the same pattern occur with event marketing, infographics, social outreach – you name it
This year, we are getting more into podcasts – we enjoy telling our story and learning from hosts and other guests. So far, We’ve also been guests on dozens of podcasts that focus on sales and entrepreneurship. Last year, we also launched our own podcast with about 50 episodes. This year, we’re also focusing on influencer marketing: connecting with people who can spread the word about Cirrus Insight to folks who make a living in their inbox and calendars where we can save time and add value.
Note: The podcast concept is a good take on the business podcast genre:
About “Love/Hate Sales”
We love sales (the money, obviously, and the hustle). But we also hate sales (awkward cold calls, pushy tactics). Join us (Kenneth Herring, James Buckley and special guests) for each episode as we talk about one thing we love and one thing we hate about sales.
4) At the time of this interview, the homepage has a referral offer: “Refer your colleagues and friends and earn a $5 Amazon gift card!” Can you share details about the results of this campaign?
Over the years, we have tried a variety of different referral campaigns. We have had successful “point in time” referral campaigns with Amazon gift cards and Starbucks customers. Our goal is to get that flywheel going with that referral. So far, we’re happy with the return on investment with this campaign. We’ve sent out many thousands of Starbucks and Amazon gift cards.
Through this process, we’ve observed that referrals exist on a spectrum. The best referral is a direct recommendation from a customer who understands the product to a prospect (in-person is best followed by phone and email). In the middle of the spectrum, we send out personalized messages from our company with something valuable (a useful piece of content or invitation to an event) along with a coupon code. And then you have people sharing our offer to get Amazon and Starbucks codes. Many of these referrals are to friends and colleagues which are top tier referrals while others are sharing out to the wide world – casting a wide net that helps boost brand awareness and drive demos and trial starts. We want the whole spectrum of referrals – each type has value.
5) What role did the Salesforce AppExchange play in your marketing?
Cirrus Insight was the first application to integrate Gmail with Salesforce in 2011. We’ve had a very positive symbiotic relationship with Salesforce from our early days on the Salesforce AppExchange to direct referrals from Account Executives and Account Managers. . More recently, we’ve also expanded beyond the Salesforce platform. Cirrus Insight is now available to anybody who uses Gmail and wants email open tracking, personalized templates, Flight Plans drip campaigns, our meeting scheduler (my favorite feature), and follow-up reminders..
6) What marketing metrics are most helpful to marketing Cirrus Insight?
The top two most important metrics for us are the number of free trials and demos. In the past, we had a 30-day trial. We found that most purchases happened in the first two weeks of the trial. If they tried the product and liked it, they would purchase, so we switched to a focused 14-day trial a few years ago which has been good for us and our customers.
7) What online publications and communities do you regularly visit for insights on the SaaS industry?
I read anything and everything by Seth Godin. I also followJason Lemkin; he is a leading authority on building SaaS companies and runs theSaaStr website and conference. Most importantly, in-person conversations with other SaaS founders are always the most helpful..
Cathy Patalas, Head of Marketing at Woodpecker, shared her experience marketing Woodpecker, a leading SaaS product for cold emailing automation.
In this interview, you will discover:
How a CRM product idea became a cold email automation tool
How Woodpecker chooses topics for its blog
The transition point from free user to paid customer
The 3 SaaS companies that inspires Cathy
Where to find out more about Cathy and Woodpecker
1) What’s the origin story of Woodpecker?
Woodpecker was a cure for our pain. We were developing a completely different product at that time – a CRM app for personal fitness trainers. We were a team of four, a bootstrapped startup, with no fancy website or cash for ads. Carefully targeted cold emails allowed us to win our first customers.
We needed follow-up automation because follow-ups were bringing us the most replies. We noticed that we had almost three times more replies to the 3rd message in the sequence in comparison to the first email. Our CTO created an email automation program with a minimum interface that only he, Matt (CEO) and I knew how to use – it did not look well (actually I would say it did not look at all), but it worked!
A few months later, at the beginning of 2015, we decided to pivot and make the email automation software our main product. That is how Woodpecker was born. Now we have on board almost 2,000 B2B companies (mainly lead generation agencies, consultants and SaaS companies) from 55 countries as our premium customers.
2) What is your role at the company?
I started as a blog writer, and now I am Head of Marketing, The Woodpecker blog played a significant role in our marketing strategy from the very beginning. It still does. However, now it is one of the marketing activities we run at Woodpecker.
An email newsletter is a vital means we use to reinforce the power of our content. We also promote the product and the blog on social media platforms – mostly on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter – and to some extent by pay-per-click campaigns on Google. I am doing my best to keep up and coordinate all the efforts and keep our marketing consistent with our product at all times.
3) How do marketers send “COLD EMAILS & FOLLOW-UPS automatically from their mailbox” while honoring applicable laws and expectations relating to spam?
I would say our cold email & follow-up automation is most often used by sales teams to reach out to potential customers, but marketers can also use it to look for partners at other companies and start relations with influencers. Regardless of its final purpose, though, I have always seen email automation as a powerful tool which works only if you use it wisely and you care about your recipients.
The laws regulating the use of business email outreach were all created to protect email recipients from too many emails of poor quality. Reasonable email senders are aware of that, and they always respect their recipients.
A well-prepared cold email campaign is not a bunch of self-centered leaflets sent to thousands of random people. Careful targeting combined with personalization based on research is a necessary part of every successful cold email campaign. The analysis of campaigns (source) sent from Woodpecker, in general, confirms that cold email is all about quality.
As soon as you adopt this approach, you will not see the anti-spam laws as a concern, but as regulations that make sense.
We educate our users and blog readers about the applicable laws related to email outreach, and we develop the product in a way that allows them to create campaigns compliant with the regulations like the CAN-SPAM Act and GDPR.
4) When did Woodpecker hire its first marketing employee? What were that person’s main goals?
I would say I was Woodpecker’s first marketing employee. Matt Tarczynski, the CEO at Woodpecker, also has a background in marketing and I have learned a lot from him. My #1 objective was also to keep the blog alive with at least one new blog post a week full of useful insights about cold emails based on experience. One new blog post a week was the goal. After three years, I can tell you that regularity and listen to your audience are key for content marketing that works.
Growing a newsletter list in MailChimp was one of the goals, too. I remember my goal was to collect a list of 5K subscribers to the blog, and it did sound very challenging to me at the time, but I got there after about a year and a half. Now we have got almost 8000 blog subscribers on the list, and it is still growing organically every day.
I would say we always focused on providing useful content in the first place. SEO and the numbers of visits were not our main focus. They have gained importance with time. In the beginning, we wanted to attract the right people who could benefit from our product. Moreover, we did that by choosing a specific, narrow subject matter to our blog, logically connected to our product, and by providing valuable articles on a regular basis.
So I could do another blog about sales and marketing in general. However, instead, I decided to focus on a very specific part of the sales process, which is cold emailing, and I wrote detailed posts about even smaller parts of this process, for instance:
5) What are the common customer success patterns you see in customers that convert from free trial to paid?
That is a question our customer success team would answer better than I would. We are still learning the patterns. We have noticed that the users who had some previous experience in outbound sales are much more likely to convert from free trial to paid. I think it is because they have already got a system worked out, and Woodpecker is just a reliable tool that fits well into that system.
To get to the “aha moment” with Woodpecker, the user needs to have a well-targeted prospect base and a draft of their email messages to set up the first campaign. There’s much work to be done before you are ready to use the tool effectively.
That is why on our blog I used to write a lot about how to define an ideal customer profile and how to find prospects, as well as about how to write a message that will get you a reply. Lately, I started also writing about technical issues related to deliverability, for instance: a list of email sending limits, or a deliverability checklist, to attract new users who already know the basics and are now interested in optimizing their outreach process.
6) Woodpecker has marketing aimed at agencies and B2B companies. How do you market to these different audiences?
We target companies that already have an outreach process in place. For example, lead generation agencies are the customers who know their work and that are learning a lot by testing and experience. They continuously look for fresh technical insights and inspiration for new campaigns.
B2B companies which have an outbound sales teams in-house look for practical examples and new ideas on how to make their outreach more effective and efficient. I believe that as long as we focus on the practical side of the outreach process – as long as we tell people how things can be done in practice, how some mechanisms work in the email industry, and why – we attract the right potential customers.
7) What marketing strategies is Woodpecker focusing on in 2018?
Content marketing is bringing us a lion share of our leads in general. The blog is the center of all our marketing activities. We promote our service using Google AdWords and Facebook Ads, but that is something we need to optimize yet.
Cold emailing is something our business growth team is using to start relations with new potential customers, but they have also been emailing people who might be interested in our content, e.g., webinars we started running lately.
We try to contribute to Quora as well, as that is where people look for answers to specific questions. We look for threads connected to cold emailing, lead generation, sales automation, and we try to provide answers that provide some additional value to the present discussion. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn presence is something that mostly helps us promote the blog content. We are also developing the Partner Program to establish a network of people who found Woodpecker valuable and are eager to recommend the product further.
8) Take us inside the Woodpecker blog. How do you pick and choose topics to blog about?
First of all, we keep listening to our present users and blog readers to discover what topics they would be most interested in. The blog is to attract new customers, but it is also to help the companies who already use Woodpecker.
Usually, the posts inspired by questions from the users are the most popular ones and gain the most positive feedback. On top of all that, they also attract new visitors who struggle with similar problems or look answers for the same questions.
Quora has been an inspiration for us as well. We look for questions about emailing that need answers, and we try to provide those answers on our blog. SEO analysis is not our primary source of topics. I treat it only as a set of guidelines on how to name things in our blog posts.
9) How does Woodpecker use outside consultants or agencies for marketing? What was the greatest win you have gained through leveraging an outside consultant?
We work with two agencies who help us handle the pay-per-click ads. I think the most valuable part of this cooperation is that they possess up-to-date information about how the online advertising platforms work, plus experience in how to test and optimize the ads to get the best possible results.
I think that you can become an expert in a limited number of fields. There’s so much you can do in marketing right now, but it does not mean you have to do everything on your own, especially if you have a small marketing team, as I do. That is when finding a consultant or hiring an agency can bring you much value.
10) What SaaS companies do you think are doing excellent marketing and why?
I admire content marketing of some other SaaS companies, and I am inspired by them – even if their software solves an entirely different problem than ours – because a standard business model provides a context to their blog posts, that is relevant to me.
Great examples of those are the blogs of the two helpdesk tools: Help Scout and Groove HQ. I enjoy them because they are practical and they have this unique personal touch to their content. I also admire the Baremetrics blog and the way they share their stories. Moreover, I love MailChimp for their light tone, yet a very professional approach and coherence of their brand.
11) What are your favorite places online to connect with others in the SaaS industry?
I sometimes look for inspiration in the GrowthHackers community, because lots of great content is shared there. I like the Startup Chat podcast with Steli Efti and Hiten Shah because they talk about marketing and sales issues from two different perspectives and share their experience in SaaS business.
12) What marketing metrics are most useful for your business and why?
My primary marketing KPI is the number of free trial signups, but that is not all, apparently. I also get updated by our sales team about the number of free trial users that turned out to be qualified leads and sales opportunities, then we analyze how many of them became paying customers, and for how long.
In SaaS, you have to remember that it is not just about getting a lead that you can turn into a one-time customer. You look for people who are going to be your clients for months and years. That is why we are always analyzing our client base, we keep updating our ideal customer profile, and keep adjusting our content strategy to this profile.
13) What are your favorite marketing books and podcasts?
The book that changed my view on marketing was Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore. This book shows why it is crucial to focus on the right type of potential customers and keep all the company activities, not only the marketing ones, client-centric. An advocate of a similar approach is also Lincoln Murphy – I highly recommend his blog at sixteenventures.com, it is a must-read if you work in SaaS business. I would also mention Startup Chat podcast by Steli and Hiten.
14) For readers who want to connect with you and Woodpecker, where should they go?
Please visit our blog at blog.woodpecker.co; you are more than welcome to leave a comment there under a post that will be interesting to you. Come to our product website to learn more about our email automation solution. You can find me on LinkedIn or Twitter as well and reach out if you have some questions.
Content curation is a fascinating way to succeed in content marketing. It’s a way to show gratitude to authors and thought leaders. It’s also a way to network within your community. Sometimes, you might even grow your business with it.
Founded by Joe Cotellese, Sharey is a content marketing product that transforms content curation into a marketing channel. It’s a great way to leverage the content other people create to grow your business. Find out why Joe created the product and how it can help your business grow fasters.
1) Why did you decide to start Sharey?
When I was working in the email marketing space, I was thinking about how to traffic to my personal site – my product management blog. I considered the traditional content marketing approach because it does work. However, you have to constantly feed the beast. At the same time, I was regularly sharing content others created.
I started to think “is there a way that I can leverage content that I’m sharing with others?” I built a prototype of Sharey and it worked surprisingly well. It will take content that I’ve shared on Twitter and it will add a call to action to my website. First, I used it to send content back to my website. The original content authors got social shares and I got traffic back to my website.
2) Why is content curation valuable?
Content curation eases the burden of constantly creating your own content. There’s also a social benefit to sharing other content created by others. By regularly sharing, it demonstrates that you are connected with leaders in your space. I was already sharing product leadership. It helps to boost my credibility as somebody worth paying attention to.
3) What are some of the common mistakes people make when they get started with content curation?
There are a lot of examples of people doing content curation poorly. I often see people blindly share articles on social media without adding any value.
In contrast, when people do content curation well, it’s obvious that they read the content. I will generally cite a specific point from the content in my curation. You need to do more than share the title and the URL of the content. This distinction is apparent in the metrics. I see the highest engagement on content when I pulled ideas and snippets out of the article.
4) How does the Sharey blog fit into your marketing?
It took me a while to figure my content strategy. Today, my approach is looking at different marketing tools. I’m also on the lookout for new tools that can help me get my work done more efficiently.
Writing about these other tools gives me an opportunity to connect with other startup CEOs. If I tweet about the tool, they are likely to pick up on the tweet and share it as well. Fundamentally, this approach works for me because I’m passionate about new marketing products.
5) What kinds of calls to action perform well in Sharey?
See Sharey in action on Twitter
Sharey lets you customize your call to action that is added to content you share. At one point, I had written a job interview checklist for product managers. My call to action would be: download the checklist. For marketing Sharey, the call to action is “try it now” and variations on that theme.
6) How do approach converting free users to paid users?
During the 30 day trial period, there is an email campaign that goes out. I spent a lot of my time on the top of the funnel getting traffic to the website. Now that I have a steady stream of traffic coming in, I’m looking more into ways to boost convert
People are going to convert when they’ve seen value in the product. I want them to see value in the first week. If that occurs, they will likely sign up for the paid version faster. Ideally, you want them to see value as soon as possible because the user’s enthusiasm level tends to be highest at the beginning.
7) What marketing methods are most effective in driving sign ups for Sharey?
The biggest source of customer acquisition is using my own product personally. I curate content around digital marketing, social media marketing and related strategies. I’ve gotten customers through that approach.
8) Aside from Sharey, what are some of your favorite marketing tools?
Buffer is an essential tool. I leverage Buffer to queue up my shares. It is a good complementary service. I use Hunter.io and Clearbit in in my cold emailing outreach. Paul Graham talks about doing things that don’t scale. Customer acquisition by email is tough. The main reason I use cold email is to get on marketing podcasts. I have a specific strategy on how to get in front of podcasts. I use MixMax to schedule calls and appointments – I like how it ties in well with Gmail. I use Crisp as my chat platform. I use Full Story – a qualitative analytics (it does screen captures of user interactions).
9) What are your favorite marketing books?
Years ago, a mentor of mine introduced me to “Crossing the Chasm.” It has been an influential book about the gap between early adopters and everyone else. “Competitive Strategy” by Michael Porter: is a great book. It’s not just about marketing – it is a critical piece for business success. It’s about how to frame your business against competitors. I also love the book “Running Lean.”
10) Where do you go online for news and information about SaaS and marketing?