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How Cirrus Insight brings automation to sales teams and grows referrals with giftcards

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 follow Jason Lemkin; he is a leading authority on building SaaS companies and runs the SaaStr website and conference. Most importantly, in-person conversations with other SaaS founders are always the most helpful..

How Woodpecker’s Blog Teaches Cold Email And The Journey To 2,000+ Customers

Cathy Patalas, Head of Marketing at Woodpecker, shared her experience marketing Woodpecker, a leading SaaS product for cold emailing automation.

Cathy Patalas – Head of Marketing at Woodpecker

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.

Editor’s Note: For more insight on what works in cold email, check out Woodpecker’s blog post “5 Key Takeaways From Sending Over 20+M Outbound Sales Emails.”

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? 

Automate Cold Email Outreach With Woodpecker

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.

 

How To Use Content Curation As Growth Channel With Sharey

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.

Content Curation Example From Twitter

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’s Call To Action

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.

Doing the podcast circuit has been a good way to get customers. [Editor’s Note: I first heard about Joe through his interview on the Growth Toolbox podcast: Growth Marketing Toolbox 106: Email Outreach and Content Marketing Tools]. All of my customer acquisition is earned right now.

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?

There are multiple private Facebook groups (https://www.facebook.com/groups/SaaSgrowthhacking/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/startupproductlaunches/) I’m in that relate to SaaS products. I like the Indie Hackers website. I also like “ForEntrepreneurs.com” which is created by a VC investor.

11) For readers who want to get in touch with you, where should they go online?

You can follow me on Twitter. For more information on Sharey, go to the Sharey website.

 

From $0 to $70 Million: Inside The ClickFunnels Marketing Machine

ClickFunnels is one of the most popular marketing platforms on the market. How did it grow from scratch in 2014 to become $70+ million company by 2018? The company relies on a few strategies to attract and retain customers but there’s no VCs picking up the tab here.

In this interview, you will find out:

  • how the company attracts customers by marketing books
  • the two marketing metrics the company constantly track (hint: it’s not pageviews)
  • how the company leverages partnerships with other SaaS companies to grow
  • the company’s blog and podcast marketing strategies.

Thanks to Dave Woodward, chief business development officer at ClickFunnels, for generously sharing his insights in this interview. I can’t wait to read “Dot Com Secrets” and “Expert Secrets” later this month.  

Dave Woodward, Chief Business Development Officer at ClickFunnels

1) How does ClickFunnels help its customers?

ClickFunnels is a marketing platform that helps companies generate leads and convert customers through a series of steps.

We have helped a wide variety of customers achieve marketing success. Over 250 companies have generated over $1 million in revenue using our platform. One customer has used ClickFunnels to promote his Big Foot tourism service. We have another company that uses ClickFunnels to generate leads for a franchise company. Ecommerce companies have used the platform to sell more products.

Note: Like other sales and marketing SaaS companies, ClickFunnels has a consultant program of marketers who can help you with implementing the product in your business.

2) What is your role in the company?

I am a partner in the company with a focus on business development. In addition, I run the FunnelHacker Radio podcast at the company. Arranging integrations with other companies has been a focus for me lately.

3) How does ClickFunnels grow through integrations with other SaaS products?

ClickFunnels has integrations with multiple other software products. For example, we have an integration with Go To Webinar so customers can easily use webinars as part of their marketing process. We also have an integration with Shopify – a great option for companies who want a direct relationship with their customers. That direct customer connection isn’t available if you sell via the Amazon platform.

Other integrations include Salesforce, Zapier, dropshipping and payment processors like Stripe. Overall, we operate as the front end for many different tools. We also have a white label relationship with SendGrid for email.

Software integrations are important to our growth because it increases customer stickiness. When a customer can do webinars, CRM and payments through integrations, they are more likely to stay. Integrations help us to provide more value to customers without having to build out those features.

4) The company’s founder has published two books: Dot Com Secrets and Expert Secrets. How have these books contributed to the company’s success?

The Expert Secrets Funnel

 

Books have tremendous value because authors put years of experience and research into a book. In our marketing, we have used several free plus shipping offers. Through that approach, we have given away over 100,000 copies of each of the books. In turn, a percentage of the book recipients become customers for ClickFunnels.

In 2017, we launched “Expert Secrets” in April/May 2017. We ended up giving away 35,000 copies of the books in a few weeks. A lot of our current customers have become raving fans. Part of that success is due to our founder, Russell Brunson. His personality and style resonates with a  lot of people.

We come from the direct response marketing world and that background has informed our approach. For example, in promoting the books, we had a contest with awards for affiliates who helped to promote the book.

Generally speaking, we are finding that it costs around $120-$130 cost to acquire a customer. In terms of the dollars and cents, our approach is to break even on the book funnels. After the person picks up the book, there are additional offers however. As a result, we often make $30 or more on the offer where  the cost to give away the book is around $22 per copy.

5) What is your approach to the ClickFunnels blog?

Our blog marketing approach has evolved over time. In the past, we had a couple of strong writers internally. In 2018, we have established an “internal agency” For more information on the creation of the internal agency, take a look at Russell’s YouTube video – Returning And Reporting Back On Week One Of Our New Agency.

Thematically, we have two core themes. First, we want to give hope to business owners that they can succeed. Second, we want readers to come away with practical ideas and ways to grow their business. A few of our most popular blog posts include The Ultimate Marketer’s Blueprint To Funnel Hacking [A to Z] and  Hacks to Becoming The Fastest Funnel Builder in the World.

6) How do you find guests for the podcast Funnel Hacker Radio?

Our guest selection tends to fall into two categories. A lot of the people I’m interviewing are from the two comma club success stories – customers who have generated millions of dollars in revenue. These interviews provide hope as well as tips, tricks and tools to help other people to achieve success.

When looking for guests, I am looking for a few qualities. First, is the person successful? Second, does the interviewee have a roadmap that they can share with the audience? Finally, does the guest have some other practical value they can share? For example, I sometimes interview an integration partner (e.g. How Zapier and ClickFunnels Make You More Productive) so they can explain how to grow using that partner’s service.

In addition to guests, I’m starting to add in my own words of wisdom through my travels. For example, I’m planning episodes with some of my learnings from attending conferences and the relationships at Traffic & Conversion and Social Media Marketing World.

7) What is a content marketing technique or strategy that the company has stopped using in the past year?

Today, we have focused on three primary channels: Facebook, Youtube and Instagram are the top channels.

We have moved away from attempting to do all of our marketing ourselves. To achieve that, we have built an “internal agency” which has eight people.  The team includes a project manager, copywriters, graphic artists, funnel builders, traffic specialists and social media experts on the team. Russell generates the ideas and gets things started. Everyone else jumps in to focus on their specialty. 

On the stop doing list, there are a few items. We stopped using Snapchat and Periscope. We also paused producing the “Drop The Mic” show.

8) What marketing metrics do you consider most helpful to track in the business?

There are two related metrics critical to our business:

  • cost to acquire a customer
  • average cart value.

Our goal is to get our average cart value metric equal to or higher than the cost to acquire a customer metric. If the average cart value was $100 and cost was $99, then that would be attractive. At

present, we have six break even funnels that relate to our front end offers including the books. It is important periodically to change the advertising approach. You get ad fatigue so we need to continue trying to use different ad creative.

9)  What websites, communities and other places do you use to stay informed on industry news?

For websites, there are a few that stand out for me. I frequently check TechCrunch, MarTech Today, and SaaStr. My favorite podcasts include Andrew Warner’s Mixergy and the Nathan Latka’s The Top Podcast.

10) Where should readers go to learn more about you and the company?

Clickfunnels.com is the best place to go to learn about the company. To find out more about the books and see our funnels in action, visit DotComSecrets and ExpertSecrets.

How Close.io Wins In The Crowded CRM Industry With Content Marketing

Sales automation and customer relationship management (CRM) tools are popular. How does a new company stand out and attract new customers? Let’s answer that question by looking at Close.io – a CRM founded by sales expert Steli Efti.

Ryan Robinson, Close’s content strategist, shared his approach to growing Close through content marketing. If you are in the sales automation or CRM space, this interview is for you.

1) What problems does Close.io solve for its customers?

Our tagline says it all: inside sales CRM for startups and SMBs.

What makes it different from other products? Our product is mostly geared toward to sales teams that do many calls. If you do not make many calls, it might not be a good fit for you. There are built-in features for calls. If you are interested in cold calling, we have a free B2B cold-calling crash course.

In the sales world, productivity is a significant question. If you are only contacting a handful of people per day, your sales will reflect that reality. Close.io helps sales reps make more calls. To find out more on that, take a look at our blog post: Sales productivity: How to make 300+ calls per day without a power dialer.

2) How do you become involved in Close.io’s content marketing?

I initially reached out to Stelli in 2016. I asked him for a quote for a blog post on the best business advice I could collect from top entrepreneurs that I was putting together on my website. He responded to give me a quote. About a month after the article went up, I got a few thousand shares. After that success, I reached out back to the people who had been quoted.

I was not using outreach tools or templates. I went to each quoted person to ask them if they wanted to see their content achieve thousands of shares and pageviews. We started the relationship with a few test pieces. Gradually, Close.io became my largest client. In late 2017, I decided to join the company full time.

3) How do you develop content topics for Close.io?

This has evolved over years of work. Everything starts with keyword opportunities: how much monthly search volume do we see for sales related keywords. As a bare minimum, I want to see 1,000 monthly searches. I prefer to target topics that have 5,000 to 20,000 monthly searches. For example, I identified an opportunity related to “sales strategies.” It was my first piece of content for the company, and I went all out to achieve excellent results.

Over the course of a week, I outlined the blog post and reached out 10-15 influencers I already knew. I made sure that the keyword phrase “sales strategy” or “sales strategies” was frequently used throughout the post. For example, Robert Herjavec (of Shark Tank fame) provided an excellent observation about the value of giving a strong elevator pitch.

For SEO research, my go-to tool is Ahrefs. Occasionally, I use Moz as well.

4) What tools and services do you use to promote and publicize Close.io content?

It always starts with an email to our audience. We send out Monday and Wednesday emails, and we have about 200,000 subscribers. The Monday email tends to feature Steli videos and posts like What to do when your customers ask for a discount (and why you shouldn’t give them one). The Wednesday email email tend to focus more SEO oriented posts such as Ultimate guide to business networking (to grow your sales pipeline).  

We want to get a strong positive social signal right away.The business networking post mentioned above has 16,000 Facebook shares. Achieving that success involves tools like Quuu Promote and paid Facebook promotion. In addition, we spend a fair amount of time promoting the posts.

We typically schedule posts about one week in advance. To promote the posts, we usually will do a paid Facebook boost. I will then look for relevant online communities such as Inbound, Hacker News and other points. We also share the articles on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

I like to pitch my publications on shorter form articles that draw inspiration from the main article I write first. I maintain relationships with other high authority (and somewhat sales-related) blogs like SalesHacker, Predictable Revenue, Mailshake, and others that are receptive to guest posts from us. By linking back to Close content, I can obtain high authority backlinks for our content. Linking back from authority websites is helpful, but it is difficult to do. Editors don’t want you to be overly promotional. I approach it by looking at an opportunity to write something original that still references back to the main site.

5) How do you demonstrate the ROI of content marketing for Close?

We have not done an in-depth analysis comparing PPC to content marketing for Close. My view is that we get an outsized return on our content marketing investment. Every content piece – a blog post, a podcast interview, a Steli YouTube video – does bring in results. Our entire business is supported by content marketing and the leads we get from that content.

6) What are the most important metrics you use in evaluating the success or failure of content marketing at Close?

Our number one metric is the number of product trial sign-ups. We look at what is driving the most signups. Other measures – like the number of website visitors – are helpful but that is not the focus. I have not seen that single clear focus in other organizations. Other organizations have had a variety of metrics in place, and that has been difficult to manage.

7) What is a content marketing practice you have stopped using at Close and why?

We went heavy on participating heavily on Quora. For a time, there was a good return. Then, the return slowed down and changed our focus to our blog. That said, we are looking at using Quora again and testing it out.

We are also looking at getting into podcasting again. Steli co-hosts The Startup Chat podcast with Hiten Shah, but the focus is not on sales per se. Past efforts to run a sales oriented podcast did not have a good result. However, we are looking at starting another sales podcast and seeing what we can achieve from that.

8) What other SaaS companies do you consider successful with content marketing?

Baremetrics stands out to me. They are doing good work. They offer a metrics dashboard for startups. Many companies are publishing their metrics everything. For example, they have profiles such as ConvertKit: How to go from freelance to founder of a $10M company.

9) What websites, books and other resources have you found most helpful in learning content marketing?

I’m a big reader of blogs when it comes to keeping myself educated on content marketing—but not necessarily of reading articles that are actually about “content marketing.” Rather, I follow people like Noah Kagan, Sujan Patel, and Joel Gascoigne (and their brands Sumo, Mailshake, and Buffer) who are excellent content marketers & have built kickass teams of people who are equally as great. I learn more through observation and pick up on little tweaks, new strategies and tactics these people are regularly trying out. Couple that with constantly shifting up my own content marketing strategies, I’m often trying new little ideas to see what sticks.

10) Where do you go online to connect with other B2B SaaS marketers?

Most of the communities I used to frequent, like Inbound and GrowthHackers have declined in popularity quite a bit over the past couple of years. I’m a member of a few Slack channels, Facebook and LinkedIn groups with other B2B SaaS marketers, and that’s become my best way for connecting & building relationships with others in my space.

11) If readers want to find out more about you and Close, where should they go?

For more information on Close, visit Close.io or the Close blog. My website is ryrob.com on freelancing and content marketing. Ryan also runs an excellent podcast called The Side Hustle Project.

 

B2B SaaS Marketing Insight: How ProsperWorks Uses Software Review Websites

Quick: how do you prove your B2B SaaS product is worth using?

One answer: point to reviews by other users. Even better, show those reviews on a third party website that you do not own. That’s why software review websites like Capterra are so popular.

If you are looking for more users, leads and customers, paying attention to software review websites makes sense. Yet, you don’t want to leave it all to chance. It’s a sad fact: online reviews have a strong negative bias.

Don’t believe me?

Look up your favorite restaurant on Yelp. There’s probably more than a few complaints there. In fact, negative reviews may outnumber the positive reviews. Don’t let that happen to your B2B SaaS marketing. Just because you don’t own or control Capterra doesn’t mean you can’t influence it.

To find out how software review websites work in SaaS, I interviewed Morgan Norman, CMO at ProsperWorks for his perspective.

1) What process do you use to encourage positive reviews?

Start by understanding how end users tend to use reviews: Reviews are used for those who are in the educational stage of the buying cycle. They are going to be thinking “Why is your product different?” and “Will this work for me?” We have to give people evidence that these reviews feature customers like them and that they can drive the outcomes they are looking for. To gain more positive reviews, we ping heavy users of the product and ask them to review a review.

2) What is your perspective on managing negative reviews?

In our system, I regard any review of 3 stars or less as a negative review. [Editor’s Note: this is similar to using a Net Promoter Score approach.] The challenge with negative reviews is that you don’t know the whole story. For example, the user may have had a poor onboarding experience. Alternatively, they may have signed up for a trial and never went for an in-depth exploration of the product. In my experience, users find reviews most helpful when the reviewer is similar to them.

4) What is the ROI of paying for sponsorships on software review websites like Capterra?

Paying for sponsorship on a review website is valuable. For this technique to generate results, it is critical to have reviews in place.  In addition to Capterra, we are also active on G2 Crowd. Ultimately, it is valuable to get your customer voice out there.

Editor’s Note: Sponsorships generally focus at the category level. For example, a sponsorship on Capterra puts you at the top of a list. That’s worth considering in some categories. In the example below, ProsperWorks appears in a category with more than 500 products!

5) What is your take on the quantity and quality of leads from Capterra?

The quantity is good from a paid perspective. The audience – people who are actively researching software products – is strong. It is a delivering a steady flow of leads once you get the review program working. If you don’t incorporate this into your program, it may not be that effective.

6) Any other comments to share about using software review websites?

The main thing with review websites is for companies that have a self-serve or trial product. If you do not use that model, it will be more difficult to make use of reviews. The next consideration is whether the reviews and reviewers you’re getting match your goals. For example, if you are seeking large company clients and all of your reviewers are from small business users, those reviews will be less helpful. Ultimately, not all reviews are equal. A small business review probably will not influence an enterprise company.

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