Sometimes it’s rough to visualize your monthly goal. Think about it, 3500 WAUs for a goal in one month might have been difficult to hit, but with 20% MoM growth, that jumps to 4200 in the second month.
However, if you are using a blueprint for growth you are building marketing assets that compound on each other over time, so each month you are capable of bigger goals.
For instance, in my monthly marketing growth calendar post, I showed how each month you add marketing activities and improve or optimize on the activities you are already using to increase efficiency and better position yourself to meet goals. So 4200 WAUs this month sounds much easier than 4200 without a framework.
Which brings me to the gap goal. If last month you hit 3500 WAUs, this month your goal of 4200 is only 700 more, thus 700 is your gap goal. Assuming you can depend on your past marketing to continue working, and you’ll make appropriate tweaks to increase how effective it was, you should be able to plan more activities to reach that 700 gap goal, and let’s face it 700 sounds much easier than 4200.
Over time, 3-6 months, you’ll notice that each marketing activity is capable of providing a certain amount of leads. For example, when I was at Inbound we started out with around 200 visits a day from social media, I knew going forward that meant I could depend on that level of visits for the amount of effort I was already investing.
The gap goal is one of the 7 steps of my growth blueprint to consistently meet your goals, month over month. Get a copy for free, here. And please let me know what you think about it.
As we know, growth doesn’t just happen on its own. Sure, some companies hit the lottery but you can’t leave your success up to the fates by waiting for that to happen.
So you have to plan, week by week, month by month, to achieve steady, scalable growth.
Set Your Goals
The first step will always be to decide what your goal is. Paul Graham has mentioned that growth of 5-7% per week is a good rate. Some startups I’ve worked with are happy with 10-15% per month. Choose your most important metric and an increase that seems plausible based on past months but a bit of a stretch as well so you have to hustle.
No doubt, your growth schedule for the next month looks something like the following for a 15% month over month (MoM) weekly active user (WAU) goal, starting with 2500 weekly active members.
Now, this is great information to put into a goal tracker, like HubSpot or Chart Mogul. But, you need a drawn out plan that details how you expect to hit these goals, at least a few months planned out at a time.
Growth Marketing Calendar Month 1
For example, in Month 1 you have a gap goal (my saying for the increase from what you have to what you need) of 375 weekly active users. Now, what can you brainstorm to help you reach that goal?
Let’s look at your marketing options:
Facebook Ads– optimized, more specific campaigns and target audiences, like audiences, geographical audiences, campaigns for different offers.
Social media– Organic, with images, without images, paid ads on Twitter or Linkedin, subscribe cards, with links, without links, more replies and conversations, giveaways, referrals, contests
Email– onboarding, activation, reactivation, engagement, education, cold email, campaigns per offer, improved subjects, better format for click through rates, build a list, newsletters, swap campaigns.
Content– blogging, downloads, 10x content, guest posting, accepting guest posts, SEO, podcast, book.
In-app– messaging, ads, chat, support.
There are dozens of ideas for marketing, and there are always ways to improve what you are already doing in marketing, so coming up with a plan depends on identifying what you are doing, where you can improve, and choosing and implementing new methods.
Email Marketing Tactic #1
Assuming you are already using a bit of email, let’s fill out Month 1 with additionally weekly emails that engage the audience. We will call this “Email Engagement”- helping all members grasp deeper feature usage.
Example: For a SaaS metrics or analytics tool this could mean sharing dashboard templates, specific report links, or offering the ability to sign up for daily emails to your entire team.
I suggest sending 2 emails in the first week to see how well they are received if it goes well stick with that schedule for the month. If you receive a lot of complaints or unsubscribes cut back to 1 email a week and make sure it is of high value.
You could use MixPanel to identify features used by your most successful users, then share more about these features.
Facebook Ads Tactic #1
Now I always recommend having more than one idea to reach your monthly goals, so let’s add to this plan by slowing starting a couple of Facebook ads campaigns.
I would choose these for the first month because you’ll want to test and move slowly and you have a small gap goal this month so there is time to deal with setbacks if they happen.
And since you already know that SEO and content can take some time in showing results, let’s also add a 10x piece of content to use in next month’s newsletter, and on social media to get leads now. If possible add a download to the content to collect leads for email marketing.
Monthly Analysis & Adjustment
At the end of each month, you want to analyze your results and adjust the upcoming month based on what has worked, and what results you can expect going forward. I recommend using a spreadsheet to keep track of all experiments, adjustments, and tactics for future reference, in my experience growth teams are constantly growing and changing.
I suggest planning at least 3 months ahead when possible. This will give you time to handle larger goals as they come about. During Month 1, you’ll want to keep track of what worked as far as the email engagement and Facebook ads. Did you see an opportunity for improvement? Did you need it? Did you use it? If not, now is a great time to try. Add more?
It’s a good idea towards the end of the month to hold a team meeting to discuss results and how they affect future goals. If everything went well, discuss what your needs are for next month, how the calendar should change, whether it’s time to add a new marketing method, or if you have plans to improve on the methods you are using.
During this time I also suggest brainstorming for what to do if and when you come up short to meet a goal. It’s always best to stay on top of your goals with a goal tracker, if you have one so that you will know right away if you fall behind your growth goals.
If this happens, I suggest using an ace in the hole, which is basically my fall back plan for making sure I hit a goal when things don’t go as they should.
Let’s say you get to the 20th of the month and you’ve only gotten 200 WAU, clearly something is wrong and you need to come up with a plan to hit that goal of 431. This is when you use the aforementioned ideas from your meeting to close that gap. An ace in the hole is basically a trusty growth method that you can pull out when needed to hit your goals.
Growth Marketing Month 2
Based on a successful Month 1, the analysis of Month 1 and brainstorming for Month 2 we are going to plan the following for Month 2 where we need to get another 431 weekly active users.
We will assume Month 2 looks like this:
- Email Engagement
- Facebook Ads
- Another 10x Content Piece
- Cold Emails
- Work on product based on survey
You’ll notice that only cold emails are new because there are a lot of opportunities to improve your emails, ads, and content. Let’s add the following specifications for Month 2, brainstormed after Month 1.
Improvements for Month 2
Email- target subsets of users and funnel them into their own reactivation campaigns, test 3 new campaigns, and be sure to take these users out of the pool of general users who get the first campaign. Additionally, try a few email subjects, and add a link call to action to the emails to increase CTR.
Ads- What campaigns did well? Can you test or improve the copy of the landing page or ad copy? Supplement newer images and ads in new campaigns to catch the eye of users who have now overlooked your ads. If you have time, add retargeting to your new campaigns for users who have been inactive for 14 days.
Content- How did the content do last month on social media? Remember to send it in the newsletter in Month 2. We should also plan some content promotion. Start with the bookmarking sites, multiple social media updates, and asking people on the team to share on social as well (no demanding it though), then consider adding the content to Quuu for promotion, or spending $30 on Facebook ads for the piece.
Cold Email Tactic #1
Cold Emails– With these, we’ll want to encourage people to join your free service, as they count as weekly active users as well. But, it’s not as easy as sending one email and forgetting it.
Today you have to send a drip email to make cold email effective. It must be clever, people are probably well aware that you offer a free trial (if you do) and just haven’t felt the need to sign up, so it’s your job to make them feel the FOMO, or at least understand how valuable it will be to their team to sign up.
I go over this extensively in a post on Crazy Egg, grab a pdf copy here.
Growth Marketing Month 3
Now we will plan Month 3. Email Engagement, Facebook Ads, 10x Content Piece, Cold Emails, Social Media, Event with CEO or CMO, and product update based on survey
This month we need almost 500 more WAU, the goals are starting to get bigger and heavier, but we have plans and can make this work.
We’ve been optimizing email, starting new campaigns in email and Facebook and should do the same this month. We might even try a like audience on Facebook to see if that will bring results.
The content we’ve written is getting picked up by Google so we are seeing some SEO improvement, let’s schedule more SEO tweaks for Month 4, Cold emails haven’t been doing great so we will shelf that for now and instead work on guest blogging to get exposure, we have a few sites willing to take our content.
We are going to put a special focus on social media this month and see if we can turn our likes and followers into more users, and last but not least the CEO or CMO will be a host on a podcast, or hold an AMA somewhere to help us meet our goals. Schedule this event early in the month to get exposure and have time to use an ace in the hole if things aren’t going well.
During Month 3 you should take time to schedule months 4-6, what new methods do you think you should include, how many appearances for your CEO? What has worked and what hasn’t? What needs to be improved to make it work? Have you had a hard time hitting your goals? Are you confident you can keep hitting them as each month gets harder?
A lot of thought and energy goes into your monthly marketing calendar, and it will no doubt change over time, but it’s still good to plan it out, have an idea of what you are doing, and stay up to date on where your metrics currently are.
If you need help hitting your goals, I can help, send me a message and we’ll talk soon. I look forward to helping your team build a growth goal streak.
As I say, growth doesn’t happen on its own, you have to plan it for it to happen. Hopefully, this post will help you jog your mind to come up with some marketing activities that will help you meet your goals.
Want to make sure you never miss a monthly growth goal? Perhaps you need a boost right now to get the month moving in the right direction?
Then you’ve come to the right place. Big companies like Facebook and HubSpot have lofty growth goals and continue to meet them every month.
But how do they do it exactly?
Planning of course!
That is, consistently planning ahead to meet their goals and then planning for the occasional situation when they need to scrape together their resources and make ends meet.
There are so many factors that contribute to the confusion around choosing a strategy for growth.
After working with multiple startups, I’ve noticed 5 issues that specifically prevent companies from meeting their goals. Here, I’ll explain what each roadblock is, how it affects results, and how it can be remedied.
1) Your Biggest Roadblock Is a Lack of Planning & Strategy
You don’t just select a goal and expect you’ll make it happen. It won’t. Like anything else in life, it needs to be planned out, you need a strategy and a framework to ensure you meet your goal every month.
This planning, should include experimenting, and keeping easy access to tactics to help you meet goals.
The major indication of needing to plan is when you get close to goal deadlines and are still lacking in results.
Many startups use HubSpot for their website and the reporting is awesome. The ability to set goals is very useful because it lets you see when you are off track to meet your goal, Chart Mogul is another company with this feature in their toolset.
Examples of Needing A Growth Plan:
- For instance, if you are in the middle of the month and your goal is for 3,000 visitors (very small number) but you’ve only gotten 1,000 visits, you’ll see that you are off by 500 visits which means you have a bit to make up for.
- On the other hand, the goal tool in HubSpot also tells you if you are ahead, say it is the 20th and you have 2,800 visits. You are over by 800 visits and might not need all of the tactics you’ve planned for the month.
The Many Benefits of Having a Growth Plan
Having a dashboard for goals is immensely helpful. When you are falling short, it’s time to plan an additional activity to make up the difference by the end of the month. You’ll want to do it quickly to get back on track and leave yourself time in case it doesn’t work to plan another tactic.
In the case of being on track to meet goals early, you should hold off on planned tactics/events until the next goal period (if possible) so that the results aren’t wasted on a month where you are already meeting goals.
More Opportunities to Experiment
Being ahead of goals gives another opportunity, one to experiment with things that might work. Say you normally get 25% of your monthly conversions from Social Media but you want to try to improve those conversions by setting up 2 landing pages specifically for organic social traffic.
Since you are already ahead with your goals, you can take the time to try this and see if it moves the needle.
Keep Track of Experiments & Successes
I suggest making lists, perhaps in Trello, of what you do regularly to meet your goals, where you’d like to experiment, and what you’ve tried in the past that will contribute to your goals in a pinch.
My Trello Board:
I’ve been asked, “If you keep these goals for when you are in a pinch why not just always use them?” One of the reasons is it would get tiresome for the market to constantly use these as a way to get people to convert. It would stop being effective. Instead you keep these activities as aces in the hole that you can pull out to make sure you succeed in meeting goals.
Fix This Roadblock- Get The 7 Step Growth Plan
Each month write up your marketing calendar, compare the results you expect with your goal and plan enough that you will hit the goal. You can do this by using the 7 Step Growth Plan I’ve written for you, it’s free to download.
Now, use a goal dashboard and if you see you are falling behind brainstorm on how to fix it immediately, schedule more activities to make up the difference, and pull in an ace in the hole to hit your goal.
This might take some time to perfect, and growth is a process so it requires regular configuring and strategizing, but when you take the time to plan you’ll be far less likely to miss your goal.
2) You Aren’t Focused on Sustainable, Long-Term Growth ie: Stop Chasing The Silver Bullet
Brian Balfour wrote in one of his blog posts about how the lack of focus and the search for the silver bullet were two ways that growth could be stunted. I’ve seen this myself, w n you are trying to handle 30 different activities, it’s a lot harder than handling 3-4 of them well.
Are you distracted by silver objects?
- Trying to make too many activities work at one time, without the team to handle it
- Trying growth hacks that seem easy and doable just because you have the budget
- Aren’t fully vetting an idea by testing it out on a small segment of their users
- Implementing, hoping it works, and moving to the next experiment
- A hurried team, lack of focus and scaling on activities that could work better
There should be a balance between experimenting and focus.
There should be time available and planned for where you can actively work on the things that contribute well to your growth, and then time to play/experiment with ideas and ways to improve growth even more. In my plan for growth, I call this the core to experiment ratio.
The average startup will grow slowly and incrementally over time.
They don’t go to bed one night and wake up a month later to find success. They keep pushing for it, every day, and once in awhile they strike gold that makes a major impact, then it’s back to the slow improvements until it happens again.
Stories about using 500 t-shirts to catapult a startup to success are outliers that break rather than prove the rule.
A Ratio of Incremental to Experimental Growth That Works
Try to focus on incremental growth 80% of the time and experimental hacks 20% of the time. What you can do will be based on your resources, the team size you have, the budget you have, and the goals you are trying to prove. This ratio works for me for 10%-25% MoM growth.
3) You Need To Investigate Your Analytics
There are now mountains of data available for SaaS companies specifically and no one should overlook the possibilities of understanding the information they are privy to, but many do.
Metrics like MRR, WAU, and CLV are some of the most common to track, but they are far from the only metrics that matter. In fact, other metrics will impact the above numbers quite heavily, and you’ll notice that an increase in Search Traffic might increase MRR, or a higher number of emails leads to higher CLV.
This is why you need to spend abundant amount of times understanding and analyzing your analytics regularly. A tool like Chart Mogul is perfect for this as they know exactly what SaaS and startup companies need to see.
Here is a screenshot of their custom dashboard: (you’d make your own)
Are You Spending Enough Time in Analytics?:
- Do you have analytics and activity tracking installed?
- Do you check the data daily?
- Do you understand the data AND implement changes based on the information?
- Does your team understand the data they have or how to access it?
- Does the team struggle to understand what the data means?
It’s easy to identify if your company isn’t making proper use of your data. And the only way to fix this issue is to get educated about possibilities in data, understanding data, and making decisions with data.
This is one area where I can help, I’m offering monthly growth mentorship that includes data and decision making. Please email me to learn more, [email protected]
Additionally, here are several resources to help you understand and improve your approach to data:
4) Your Marketing Lacks Motivation
Photo by Gonzalo Arnaiz on Unsplash
Marketers of all types run into poor conversions and it can be difficult to diagnose the problem because there can be so many factors at play.
Lack of Motivation = Lack of Conversions
Simply put, you aren’t connecting with your audience. Prospects can’t see the value in your product from the words you are using, the copy lacks motivating evidence to drive a conversion, you are missing certain elements from your site, or you don’t present a trusting business.
You Aren’t Speaking Your Market’s Language & Acknowledging Their Pains
For starters, not knowing, understanding, and using what you know about your target market (potential buyers) is one of the biggest issues I see in all marketing today. Companies don’t always take the time to investigate their market well enough to understand what they need and how to convince them they can deliver.
This lack of understanding the target market is a major cause of low conversions. If you can’t speak to your market in a way that helps them solve a problem, you can’t convert them to buyers.
To solve this, start thinking about what the visitor needs to see to convert.
What buyers need to know to convert:
- What makes your product better than competitors
- What it costs
- How they’ll benefit from using your product
- How long it takes to get started and become successful
- How easy it is to integrate into their lives
- What the dashboard looks like
This information should be on your site instead of content that simply explains what you want to say.
You Are Missing Site Elements That Encourage Conversions
When the content on your site doesn’t encourage the visitor to take action, you are losing conversions due to poor copy. You might be sharing the information the buyer needs but you aren’t convincing them to do something NOW to fix their problem.
Now this could be related to not knowing your buyer well enough and therefore not writing content they find motivating, but it could also mean you didn’t hire the right person to ‘sell’ your product (a copywriter).
What your site needs to convert buyers:
- A benefit driven headline
- Supporting sub headline that explains what you do and how
- Call to action buttons that tell the reader to take action
- Social proof that shows how others feel about having purchased
- A look at the product dashboard or other screenshots
Both ‘lack of understanding’ and ‘lack of copy’ can be easily fixed. You can survey colleagues to get their opinions, or survey others in your industry. You could also ask me, you can call me on Clarity and I’ll help you figure it out.
Here are a few links to help you fix both of these problems:
5) People Don’t Love Your Product
It’s easy to ignore churn, if you aren’t careful. The startup world rewards high growth and blames churn when things go bad. But, experts agree that churn should be prioritized above growth, one of the reasons being that growth will only feed a leaky bucket leaving nothing solid behind.
Chances are you know your churn rate, and you know if it is problematic. If not, you should know that something as ‘low’ as 10% is still quite high depending on the time period. But the biggest indicators of churn are poor reviews and high unsubscribes by paid users.
Unlike the other items on this list churn has a different affect on growth. It doesn’t seem to hurt it the same way because it happens after growth has happened, people simply stop using the product after they’ve converted. But it affects word of mouth, PR, partnerships, and other aspects you might not consider.
No matter how you slice churn, it is a company killer and needs to be contained and fixed immediately, before you focus on growing more.
To do that, you need identify the reason for high churn via extensive user surveys.
Churn can be caused by several factors such as:
- Marketing that over promises
- A product that doesn’t deliver
- Difficult user interface
- Poor customer support experience
- Better options with competitors
The only way to know for sure is post churn surveys. There are many tools out there that can help you with this. But, if you struggle with understanding the answers you get, or fashioning the survey at all, give me a call through Clarity and I will help. You can find the link at www.mary-green.com/contact I also offer a free 20 minute consultation to help diagnose your problem.
Drift, the site sales messaging tool, is everywhere. They are kicking ass in SaaS marketing their product, and their chat boxes pop up on a vast majority of the saas sites I visit.
So, today I’m taking a look at their marketing to see what we can all learn from their approach.
I’ll be honest, from the get go I’m expecting it to be top-notch. David and Dave know what they are doing and at least one of them worked at HubSpot, who is also fantastic with marketing.
Let’s dig in…
SaaS Marketing Lessons From The Drift Website
I’m not at all surprised to see how much I like their website. While researching for this post this was my first visit, so I got the full first-time awe.
1. Using a simple and clean design gives visitors a more enjoyable experience.
Customers can easily get to the point of what Drift does for them without worrying about ‘pretty’ design options getting in their way.
2. Using a benefit driven headline helps readers identify what’s in it for them.
I cannot stress how much I love this, I write about doing this in several of my posts. The headline means is massively important.
3. A supportive subheadline should be indicative of what the software does.
This is another example of what I try to tell companies. I did wonder after reading the subheadline what Drift’s secret sauce is. There are so many messaging tools, what makes theirs better? I think it would be worth it to get that answered in the subhead, but if they are doing things right they’ve already tested this.
4. Start gathering leads immediately.
“Let’s Go” Finally a CTA that isn’t “Sign Up, Register, Submit”. The email field is nice and simple, with a green CTA that draws attention, wonderful job here. I wonder if they’ve used “Start Selling” as their sign up CTA in testing.
5. Calming signup fears before they are an issue.
“Free Forever. Set up in minutes. No cc required.” They just took care of all of my objections in 3 super short sentences. Why wouldn’t I sign up?
6. Show people what they are buying.
Normally I encourage companies to show a screenshot of their product but Drift does even better with an actual conversation with their tool.
This image shows Drift engaging customers, which is amazingly powerful. So few SaaS tools have actually been able to portray the success of using their tool. This picture is perfect. I’d be amazed if they didn’t put a ton of thought into this image.
7. Show off your popularity with social proof.
“Powering Millions of Messages for Over 10k Businesses”- That statement quickly says people trust and depend on Drift to help them succeed, you can too.
8. Use social proof people can recognize.
These are companies that Drift customers recognize, an important part of using social proof, if I don’t recognize the companies you brag about using your software it virtually does nothing for your brand.
9. Use benefit-driven headlines throughout your entire site.
Almost all headlines on the site are benefit driven because they wrote the copy for the prospect. This is a perfect example of what I say in my teardown/analysis of product marketing, it isn’t about what you want to say to users, it’s about what they need/want to hear.
10. Show more visual evidence.
The images throughout the rest of the homepage help you envision what it’s like to use Drift, and how easy and effective it can be.
11. Restate your Calls To Action.
The last section on the homepage invites you again to get started. “Let’s Go”. It’s important to make it super simple of your visitors to take action. Restate your call to action every 3-4 sections, simply having it in the navigation isn’t enough.
12. Use simple navigation options.
With few options in navigation, eaders can easily find their destination. Simple language makes it even easier for people to use the site, double win!
- Sign In
13. How to Write A Great Feature Page
I’m used to feature pages packed with features and conveniently forgetting to continue using copywriting and conversion practices, but not at Drift, of course.
Right at the top of the features Bot page, they explain with a subhead what Driftbot is all about. Then again, they hit you with the email field to get started, brilliant.
Again you see copy and imagery that makes it easy to want to sign up. They’ve left no opportunity untouched. The images show you exactly what can be done, and make you want to play with it. Their conversion rates must be high.
14. How to write a pricing page
When I got to the pricing page I was so happy to see a headline other than “Pricing”. “Find a plan that’s right for you.” Perfect. Then another description/subheadline that motivates you to take action- Choose a plan.
There is an easy option to choose annual or monthly billing although once you’ve clicked there is no real indication of what length of plan you are looking at. I’d prefer to see paid annually under the two prices when I’m on the annual option.
I love that they remembered to add more social proof on the pricing page.
I did find it odd that the Team column says “Contact us”, then “Upgrade Now” underneath. But, this could just be a fluke.
15. Adding FAQ’s Helps Pricing Pages
In addition to the well designed and written price prage, they include FAQ’s underneath the pricing. This is something I’ve seen more companies doing and I love it. It helps take care of any questions or concerns and makes it super easy to sign up.
16. Blogging still works.
It’s common for startups to have a blog to share news of their features, and other important information from the company. Drift goes even further though adding content that educates the startup world. Everything they are doing in their company can be turned into content, and because they are willing to share it, companies are eating it up.
There are several posts on the site that are specifically written to help other startups. From describing the publishing of their book, to the new Drift brand book, they deliver quality.
17. How Important It Is For the CEO to Play A Role in Marketing the Company.
Another aspect of their marketing that I really enjoy is the close relationship the CEO plays with the marketing team. You can tell he takes marketing seriously and is willing to make contributions through the book, the blog, the podcast, and more. He can clearly see the connection between being active in SaaS marketing and the success of the startup.
Writing a book is a great way to showcase your expertise. And, since they wrote about a topic that is so popular this book will probably give back to the company for years to come. What’s great is that in addition to writing a book, they use a post to teach you all about what they learned in self-publishing it.
19. Share the importance of your employees.
By showing how much your company values employees and welcomes them, you build loyalty and a long list of possible people to hire from. Customers think “if they value their employees, they’ll value their customers.”
Another time I saw Drift taking public notice of their employees was when someone posted on Linkedin asking “Who are some of the best demand marketers?” And, David Cancel tagged in Dave Gerhardt (the CEO took notice of the CMO).
20. Being socially active can be good for your business.
Don’t say you can’t help your business grow from social media. These guys are all over Twitter and LinkedIn, as themselves, David and Dave, and as the company itself. They tweet, respond, converse, reply to retweets, etc. They truly understand the exponential affect of things that don’t scale.
21. Startup people love podcasts.
I’m not a podcast listener, but you can’t ignore how many people are talking about this podcast, and the vast amount of information they share. Drift is showing us all, even in a crowded space, you can stand out.
22. Interviewing guests brings on more exposure…
Through the podcast, whenever Drift interviews someone new they are setting up another opportunity for exposure. Since they have so many listeners guests want to appear, and many probably share the experience with their followers giving Drift exposure to new sets of followers, and helping them grow their listening and email lists even more.
23. When you add new features, market them.
For SaaS companies, the road to product success is never ending. Drift seems to constantly be working on new features, like Driftbot. When you have a new tool or feature, you have more to value to offer. Each time you release a new feature like this, work out a marketing plan for it.
24. Guest blogging and appearance still work.
Look at blog posts in the industry, other podcasts, interview opportunities, they are on new sites, shows, and blogs regularly. That exposure gives right back to their company.
This just reminds us that we shouldn’t over-analyze what any one opportunity will do for you. Just keep giving to the people you are trying to help, and success will come of it. Each piece of their SaaS marketing plan adds a piece to the puzzle, and over time the picture all comes together.
25. Have a personality, already.
When you talk to anyone that represents Drift you’ll notice one thing: It’s a real person. When Dave G responds to a tweet, he simply chats. When you finally sign up for Drift, you get simple emails from Dave G welcoming you, and asking you to have a conversation with him. Anyone I’ve talked to there is personable, approachable, and wants to build relationships.
26. There is money in the list.
In addition to all of the content marketing they are doing, they also have an email newsletter. We all know, the money is in the list, this may or may not be why they are doing it, but if you pay attention to social media, people like this newsletter and have a lot to say about it.
27. How to use testimonials intelligently.
Sprinkled throughout Drift’s marketing you’ll find testimonials and quotes from clients. These are used in retweets and on the site. It’s a simple way to show off how much people like a product without sounding boastful. People are far more likely to listen to a recommendation from someone else than to the company trying to sell them something, use your testimonials wisely.
28. Making Videos People Love to Watch
In all honesty, they probably learned a lot about making fun videos by watching Rand at Moz, but that doesn’t mean they don’t pull them off nicely. As part of their content marketing strategy Drift includes videos, and in the one screenshot above they are discussing the Lead Response Survey they ran, lots of great information.
29. Onboarding & Retention
As you can see in the bottom right corner of my screen I signed up for Drift. I wanted to see how easy it was to use, and figured why not since it’s free to start with? It really was incredibly easy to use, and to set up with Slack (still free). I actually enjoyed the emails I received from Dave welcoming me to Drift, they were short, simple, and looked like personal messages.
I want to thank Drift for being such a great example of SaaS marketing. I hope people learn a lot from watching them. If you enjoyed this teardown/analysis of their marketing get my conversion and homepage checklists by signing up for my newsletter, or contact me to get a teardown for your company.
I am a tool addict, I want to play with every SaaS tool out there and I try as many as possible (seriously, I’ll demo anything).
I inspect the features, see what is possible, look for use cases and check out integration opportunities for business processes.
What does it take to build a thriving community?
How do you get people to come back on a regular basis?
And what mishaps are there you can learn from?
Perhaps my time as a community manager with Inbound.org will give you some insight.
There are dozens of guides for startups to reference when they are researching different aspects of growth. But, it isn’t always easy to find them.
I searched with multiple tools to find as many as I could, for this post. As I find more I’ll add them in.
I’ve found calculators, tools, spreadsheets, and more, with the following topics covered; onboarding, bootstrapping, customer success, churn, retention, pricing, business model, user experience, blog, growth, marketing, sales, and various. I hope you find this useful.
For starters let’s talk about the Growth specific guides:
Rational Growth by Andrew Chen – Free, No signup- Here, Andrew Chen talks about the frameworks, questions, and thought processes you need to build a product with millions of users. The visuals are helpful, the focus on using spreadsheets is refreshing, and you walk away with a real feel of what is needed to make growth happen.
The Scientific Method: How to Design & Track Viral Growth Experiments by Brian Balfour– Slideshare- Why would you care if you are designing and tracking growth experiments correctly? Well, because the human brain has a limit to how much it can remember accurately. So, follow Brian’s suggestions and always have a resource to refer to with future teams and employees.
The Data-Driven Guide to Growing Your SaaS Company by HubSpot– This guide is about establishing sustainable and measurable growth. It includes the initial information a new SaaS founder or marketer would need, and talks about finding growth and scaling it for success.
Ultimate Guide to Growth Stage Pricing By Open View Partners– These guys know pricing and will help you understand the nuances of a pricing strategy in the growth stage. This is powerful information that will help you optimize your MRR while figuring out what your users will pay and how to get them to pay the highest prices.
SaaS Marketing Essentials 3 Chapters by Ryan Battles– If you are at all new to SaaS marketing and growth, Ryan Battles book is a foundational piece that will help you take off running with your newest project. Here you can get the first 3 chapters for free.
The Definitive Guide to SaaS Marketing by New Breed Marketing– This lengthy guide was written to help you get growth moving through your marketing efforts. It includes the basics of metrics, goals, and budgeting while discussing tactics, templates, and techniques for marketing your SaaS company.
Essential Guide to Customer Journey and Lifecycle by Gainsight– Full Guide On Site- An often overlooked aspect of growth, though not by majorly successful companies, is Customer Success. In this guide by Gainsight, the customer journey and lifecycle is discussed. While it seems this sort of thing is for corporations, these are exactly the types of things that Andrew Chen considers when working on growth, as you’ll see in the guide at the top of this list.
Strategic Marketing Tactics for SaaS Companies by Inturact– This guide by Katy Katz focuses specifically on content marketing for SaaS companies, but it doesn’t stop there, it includes the information you need to target customers and promote content, then follow up by keeping your users happy. Very useful for content marketers.
Scaling Personalization for Behavior-Based Trigger Marketing by BlueShift– In this guide by BlueShift you’ll learn about marketing based on behavior. As technology continues to impact marketing we are able to get minutely specific about who and when we share a message. Learn how to use your trigger marketing opportunities to get the highest number of conversions.
Lifecycle Marketing by Retention Science– Lifecyle marketing might sound like a highly specific, almost boring approach to marketing but it has several implications for growth. One of the things I’ve focused on for years is lifecycle marketing, and you’ll find numerous points of interest in this guide, that will impact your growth.
Growth Marketer’s Guide to Customer Engagement by BlueShift– Another guide by BlueShift, this one helps you focus on your relationship with your clients and using it to engage them, market to them, and increase revenue.
SaaS Grader by New Breed Marketing– This tool helps you figure out some of your more difficult metrics and explains the implications of each KPI. You do have to enter your information, but it’s very helpful if you aren’t already tracking on a tool like Chart Mogul.
Free Trial Conversion Rate & Cohort Analysis Template by New Breed Marketing– A spreadsheet template that analyzes your free trial conversion rate, and provides cohort analysis. Your cohort analysis will reveal what audiences you can provide better marketing experiences for, and help you further understand your personas’ needs.
The Epic Guide to Bootstrapping A SaaS From Scratch– Perhaps one of my favorite topics around growth is bootstrapping. I just have to respect someone who wants to build their startup and product on their own terms. This is a blog post, and the creator is writing a book right now for others who want to do this. I love the sense of traditional entrepreneurship in bootstrapping, I hope you enjoy the post.
You can’t talk about growth without also including sales, a major path to growth, though one that can be more difficult to scale. Either way, these guides are a couple of my favorites for advice to startups and SaaS companies looking to optimize their sales processes.
Ultimate Guide SaaS Sales– 31 things you need to know about selling SaaS by Steli Efti at Close.io. First of all, Close.io is a top blog for SaaS Sales, and Steli knows what he is talking about. Read through their backlog of blog posts and this guide to find pieces of information that will no doubt help your company grow.
My Favorite Startup & Growth Blogs
ProfitWell Blog– Let’s talk about your churn and MRR optimization. ProfitWell runs experiments, works with clients, and shares what they learn about improving profits at startups and SaaS companies. You’ll love Why Annual Plans Are Crucial for Reducing Churn.
What Users Do & Why Blog– I like this blog because it talks about user experience, something that is still a relatively new topic. Similar to my blog post on Inbound.org 9 Reasons I Won’t Buy Your SaaS Tool, the posts on What Users Do help you understand your market better so you can optimize their experience and revenue.
Tomasz Tunguz– A partner at Redpoint and the co-author of ‘Winning With Data’. Tomasz is a venture capitalist that writes blog posts every day about startups and does a great job of using data.
Brian Balfour– formerly Growth at HubSpot, Brian has years of experience and writes monthly essays teaching about growth frameworks and the other processes needed to see extensive user success.
Jason Cohen– A Smart Bear might be my newest and most favorite startup blog. While I’ve heard of him before, I didn’t take the time to go back through his old posts and fall in love with how he shares. This is a great blog and I look forward to new posts.
First Round Review– If you go through the posts here you’ll find a lot of interviews and stories of founders and startups and their successes and failures. It’s a treasure trove of education from some of the biggest companies to some of the fastest growing.
Alex Turnbull on Groove’s Journey to 100k- Think of these posts as over-the-shoulder pieces that fully explain what it’s like to grow a SaaS startup. Great content by a dedicated team who really wants to help others be successful.
Cohort Analysis – A collection of tools that explain cohort analysis and how to use the information obtained to improve marketing and churn.
Understanding and Managing Subscription Businesses by Recurly– An informative guide that gives founders a look at the metrics they need to track and a great deal of information on identifying and fixing churn.
The SaaS CEO’s Guide to Happier Customers by Drift– Drift is killing growth and one of the reasons why is their focus on keeping customers happy. This is customer success and growth at its best and something we can all learn from. Check out my piece to 29 Growth Lessons from Drift.
SaaStr Academy- Learn anything you need to about running a SaaS startup at SaaStr Academy, but this link will take you straight to their growth stage section where you can learn about founder mistakes, raising funds, and tips to growth 10-20% faster.
How to Nail Your SaaS Trial by Autopilot– Once you already have people in a trial, it’s much easier to convert them to a paying customer, right? Not so fast! In this guide by Autopilot they take you through the necessary steps to make sure you convert as many of your trial users as possible. Having gone through a trial with them I can attest to their helpfulness and passion to convert.
Creating Successful SaaS Products by Ramen– Many people launch their product or service without considering whether it will sell. Here the team at Ramen help you consider successful SaaS products and how you can emulate their achievements.
The Essential SaaS Metrics Guide by SaaS Metrics– An analytics guide to the metrics of importance at any SaaS company, this has been put together by a highly knowledgeable expert in SaaS analytics and we can all learn a thing or two about SaaS metrics here.
More Resources for Startups:
Over the years I’ve analyzed hundreds of tools to see how they will help businesses. From this experience, I’ve developed a sense of what B2B buyers need to be successful with a product.
I hope you’ll see these things from a customer’s point of view and they will help you preemptively reduce churn.
Let’s get started…
Help Me Succeed Quickly (Time to WOW)
I purchased your tool to solve a problem I have. You should do this as quickly as possible. I’ll accept that you need details to personalize my account if you present a profile form, but this should feed into providing me with a better experience, not just helping your additional business goals. When I reach success with your tool, I’ll be satisfied with my purchase and likely to be a loyal customer. Appcues did a post about shortening your time to WOW where they also talked about the importance of this idea. How to do this: Answer these two questions and then work with your developers to make success a primary goal in your tool.
- What is the goal?
- How quickly can we help the user accomplish the first steps to this goal?
For a CRM I need to be organized. I need to import all of my information quickly, and if your platform automates any features such as highlighting opportunities for sales, that should be accessible on my dashboard. A SaaS Doing This Right: Contentmarketer.io (a former tool by Sujan Patel) immediately lets you enter a blog post to see who has shared a link. Very quickly I see how the tool works and what it does for me, now I can use this information for my business.
Concise & Immediate Onboarding
Layovers or onboarding wizards should be simple and point out the few things I need to know to get started. Onboarding should be short, the user wants to get started. At most offer 2-4 slides in a wizard and let them be done.
Do not give me a walkthrough of every feature you offer, this is not the time for that. A new user needs to see the promise you’ve offered in action as quickly as possible to seed their interest for future usage.
A SaaS Doing This Right: Ramen.is
Ramen quickly surveys the new user and directs them to the important aspects of their product. I would recommend using a wizard from Chameleon and making a slide of each section of the onboarding process.
Simple and Thoughtful Navigation
While onboarding should offer the initial information a user needs to get started, navigation also plays a major role.
For instance, don’t use fancy descriptions (like you see in Contactually’s teardown) for starting a project or task, use language that makes sense.
A SaaS Doing This Well: Close.io
Close brings users to an initial/example message from CEO Steli Efti and they immediately understand what they are looking at.
By looking at the screen a user quickly acclimates to the language on the platform and gets to work, because it makes sense. You can learn more about Close in my site teardown of their marketing.
Delayed and Useful Onboarding
Instead use in-app tools like Ramen or Pendo.io (whose marketing I recently analyzed) to share those features with me through in-app messaging.
It’s great if the user can easily make their way around the tool, but let’s be honest, they will also need messages about not-so-obvious features.
Onboarding should last up to a couple of weeks. This doesn’t necessarily require a daily email but keep reminding people of the opportunities to fix their pain by using your tool, especially if there is a free trial.
Regularly, over several weeks of time, you can also offer features that haven’t used or optimized. A decent installation of Mixpanel with an integration of Intercom will make this easy. However, keep personas in mind when arranging these workflows so that users get highly personalized and relevant information.
A SaaS Doing This Right: Quuu.co Is a tool that automatically shares hand curated content to your social media accounts, helping you stay relevant without a lot of time invested into finding pieces to read.
Three days after signing up the following email is sent. This is a great example of timely email onboarding where they include tips on the best way to use Buffer with Quuu’s curation.
Reliability, Uptime & Speed
As a customer of paid tools, features should work flawlessly (unless you are in beta). When problems do arise users expect an apology and estimate of downtime so they can schedule accordingly.
In general, paid beta users are a bit more patient but a product should always offer realistic uptimes. A post by StatusCast helps you see how this can cause reputation damage with customers.
Updates mean more value for users so they are usually acceptable, but it’s good to offer a heads-up about upcoming maintenance. Additionally, give people in-depth information about how to use new features, so they can optimize their performance.
A SaaS Doing This Right: Trello does this beautifully on their blog with an in-app tool tip. The notification is easy to see, yet non-intrusive and adequate information is always available.
Another Example: Hotjar
Below is an email from the VP of Marketing at Hotjar. This shows how they are improving their product to continually help users understand their customers (a goal of the product).
Accessible Tutorials & Knowledgebase
Users should have access to a library of tool resources. This includes videos, guides, tutorials, and a knowledge base. It’s best to have access to everything but feel free to remind me of the popular reasons to visit. Interestingly, Nuance study revealed that 67% of the people surveyed would rather use self-support options instead of talking to someone to get help.
They have a support knowledge base with several topics to help you get started.
People are on the go and need access to the tool everywhere. During email onboaring remind users about apps for other devices.
It’s nice to offer integrations they can use with the tool, as well. And if you have a browser extension make that known so people can get the most of their investment.
Buffer almost immediately introduces a new user to their browser extension. Installing the extension makes people more likely to become long time users of an app, and initiates the Hook model by Nir Eyal.
While they do this via email, an in-app message could be more effective. Here is their email about the extension.
Customer Support & Success
Highly important in today’s Customer Success Era you’ll want to ensure the success and useful support of every user. Obviously, a paid user should get preference in the support queue.
You should also have a system in place that allows for quick support answers, like Groove. Realistically, people want responses in minutes, but it is understandable to take up to a business day.
HubSpot does a great job of responding to support very quickly. At inbound.org many community members shared their support expectations from HubSpot. They put the bar high, and their users definitely appreciate it.
By better understanding what is expected of SaaS users you can provide solutions for their biggest pain points and offer customer success that surpasses others on the market.
Let me analyze your tool and marketing to help you better align your product and message with buyers’ needs and expectations, order your analysis today.
Interested in your whether your onboarding is sufficient? Check out this analysis to see how yours compares and then get your free analysis here.
I’ll start with their homepage because the customer experience begins with your marketing, or however the to-be user finds your company.
In the first clip of the homepage we have 4 elements; headline, features list, screenshot image, and calls to action.
The headline doesn’t portray anything unique as there are many tools that can handle online booking. “The beautifully simple, yet powerful, way to accept online bookings from your website” leaves something to be desired from the copy aspect. I recommend: Automate Online Bookings With The Hottest Features Available.
The features list included has the potential to be a helpful component of conversions, but we must remember that benefits sell, not features, so all of these features should be converted to benefits of the product.
- Allow visitors to reserve slots from your site.
- Collect payments as they book their slot.
- Automatically send appointment reminders.
Calls To Action
“30 day Free Trial” isn’t actually a call to action, it isn’t telling the visitor to sign up now. Every intricacy in your webpage can make a difference in the number of people who follow through. A call to action must encourage people to do something.
Generic but acceptable calls to action include:
- Get Your Free 30 Day Trial
- Get A Free 30-Day Trial
- Sign up for your 30 day trial
- Sign up now
- Get started
Even these I like to see improved to include the benefits users get from the product, such as:
- Automate Your Bookings
- Increase Reservations with a 30 Day Trial
I’m confused in this next section why Flexbooker needed yet another CTA button so soon after the previous two. This is a great place to include social proof, a testimonial, or another benefit. They might have moved the section down the page to place the CTA before the blue section below, however, the following image shows they might not need the additional CTA at all.
This sign-up form feels premature. I’m used to seeing it after clicking a call to action. I feel the homepage is lacking a lot of information and copy and adding this is too early.
The call to action/headline is acceptable though could be written better to increase conversions.
I initially thought the blue section was an FAQ area, but it isn’t. The “Why Choose Flexbooker?” section should be more prominent and more than that, it should be a benefit. If you look at my article on the most important aspects of the homepage, you’ll see where I talk about all headlines and subheadlines being benefit driven.
In this blue section, we also see Social Proof. This is arguably some of the most important information on the homepage and it is buried and designed to be glazed over easily by the visitor.
I encourage companies to put their social proof near the top of the site, above the fold if space allows. It should be designed with quotes if possible, and images or logos, to stand out.
I signed up on the homepage to get a free trial of Flexbooker. This image above and the one below were on the next page. I thought this was actually a nice, quick, way of getting more information.
I honestly don’t understand the point of this FAQ after the sign-up forms. Most of this information could easily be displayed above the first onboarding form as part of the headline description.
Next, we have a welcome screen. I think this should come before the additional form above. Additionally, this makes me feel like I’m done with onboarding, and as you’ll see below that isn’t the case.
Now I am being asked to go through a wizard, of course, I will follow along with it, but I don’t fully understand why Flexbooker is following this confusing roadmap for onboarding.
The next screen (above) is asking me to fill in my services. I think they could have done a better job of explaining how the software works and what was going to happen during onboarding to help me know what to expect.
I ran into a problem with this form, it wouldn’t allow me to have 0 for the minutes field, so I had to add 5 to the field, which can mess up other reservations.
I had no staff to add so that was skipped, however it just asked for a name and type of account- owner or user.
Last I was asked to decide on my appointment times, I could pick days and open time frames to choose the reservations from.
After this, I was left with an empty schedule and there was nothing else to do. No code to add this to my website, no calendar link to share for my site, nothing. Just the following image:
I feel there is a lot that should be added to Flexbooker’s onboarding and their homepage. But, I have received multiple messages since signing up to help with further retention. I believe that with the same care on the site, they could improve their user acquisition and experience.
The more you know about your buyer and the steps they take before making a purchase, the better right? Then you’ll likely find it useful to read this story about how I found the best email marketing product for my latest client.
The Problem: Client Needed A New Email Marketing SaaS Product
I was asked by a client to help them improve their email marketing efforts. They have several thousand members on their email list but have put very little effort into using email to meet their business goals.
They were interested in the ability to easily segment sends based on existing data in addition to anything else the tool could collect to help them segment with even more specificity.
Since I had done similar work at Inbound.org I was approached for help. Today email marketing tools can segment based on a wide variety of information:
- Pages visited
- Number of visits
- Past event attendance
- Profile information
- Source visited from
- Last visit by date, and more.
The client’s situation was such that they already had Act-on. It could handle some of what they wanted to do, but the cost was around $2,000 a month and other important features were missing.
Having analyzed and used hundreds of tools over the years, I knew the features here were introductory at best.
The user experience was poor, it was difficult to navigate, and the analytics reports didn’t offer adequate email reporting.
Additionally, they had heard about other tools they could use with more advanced features for segmentation, any they wanted to know what would work for their budget, and hopes for a more sophisticated email strategy.
The Contenders: HubSpot, Autopilot, Act-on, and Hatchbuck
From our discussion, I had two tools they wanted me to research, one of which was HubSpot. They wanted to know if they should make the jump to HubSpot for the site, email, reporting, etc. It’s a major product with many features and it integrates with several tools.
I decided to investigate whether HubSpot would be the right fit because the client had mentioned it multiple times and wondered if they should migrate to the all in one solution. I already have an extensive history of using HubSpot with many clients so I decided to check this first.
I also knew the introductory price for the main package started at $800 a month, and the client seemed comfortable with that. I also knew the email feature was packed with advanced options for segmentation. It seemed like an obvious win.
But, when I went to HubSpot’s site I realized the tool would be at least $2,200 a month due to the size of the client’s list. I then checked the client’s website to see what technology it was run on.
They were already using WordPress, and as I actually prefer that over HubSpot’s content management system, so I began to doubt whether it was the best solution unless we could only get those advanced segmentation email features there.
Investigating Autopilot for Email Marketing
I had actually heard of Autopilot before, so when the client mentioned the tool, I put it on the short list to research.
At first, I realized the price was close to $700 a month, or $1200 a month with A/B testing, it sounded close to HubSpot until I realized their price was $2,200 for the current list size. Now, $700-$1200 wasn’t too high.
I had signed up for a free trial to see what the tool does and didn’t ‘get’ it from the onboarding. I’ll be honest, I’m very particular about onboarding and I want it to be extremely easy for me to get started.
Looking back there wasn’t anything awful about their onboarding, I just didn’t enjoy it.
I’ll give you a free analysis of your onboarding, here.
I got a short list of emails from the client and uploaded it to Autopilot to test the platform. I started a journey, which is their name for workflow, and began designing a simple email send for the client.
Within a few minutes, I realized it was very simple to segment the main list, build journeys, schedule emails, etc. Many of the features are very similar to HubSpot’s email features, with several options to segment your list. What I liked, even more, was that Autopilot offered a 30-day trial.
I could only send 100 emails but in this case, I didn’t need to send any I just needed to see if it would work for the client. So after a couple of attempts with the tool, I realized this was a great contender for the client’s needs.
Side Note: While I didn’t love Autopilot’s onboarding I enjoyed their free trial and thought it was a perfect example of when and how companies should use free trials. They allow a user to design an entire journey that includes multiple email sends based on actions, time, visits, etc.
By only allowing 100 emails to be sent they give users a taste of deliverability without giving free access to excessive usage that can cost the company a lot of money.
Could Hatchbuck Be The Right Tool?
There was another company I researched during this time. I googled “email marketing segmentation” and this company showed as a comparable tool to HubSpot, in the ads section.
They market themselves as a lower cost HubSpot option, and their pricing starts under $100 a month so I was surprised that I would need a demo and walkthrough to even SEE the software.
Very disappointing. From a marketing point of view, I think they should at least let people set up a free account to see what if any features work the way I need them to. From a SaaS business point of view, I found it crazy such a low-cost product makes you work with sales on a demo before you can use it.
I emailed their support to see if they had a demo account because I had very specific needs, and if this could work for my client it would save them a lot of money. I told them I did not want or need a demo with a salesperson because I had specific needs and I spelled them out.
I needed a tool that allowed me to work from one database of leads to segment the leads into smaller lists, to be able to segment based on pages visited, actions taken on the account, scheduled emails, etc. I got a response to watch a recorded demo and that, of course, I could segment my leads into smaller lists, but nothing in regards to the specifics about how leads could be segmented.
I felt I had clearly wasted my time investigating their company if I couldn’t get an answer to my questions. At that point, I went back to work on a trial project in Autopilot for the client. A couple of business days later I was sent an email from Hatchbuck pointing out that I hadn’t yet watched their demo and they were following up to see if I was still interested.
Now, I know sales can be pushy, but to actually point out that they were ‘Big Brothering’ me?! And in all fairness I found their demo on Youtube before I contacted them, it didn’t answer my question, I didn’t need to watch it again.
The Tool That Meets My Client’s Requirements
As you can probably tell, I chose to go with Autopilot. It’s a very powerful tool for email marketing and I was happily surprised that it was incredibly easy to use once I put in some effort. I still think they could use a little help with onboarding. I do want to point out that the search was never about price alone. Had I suggested to the client that HubSpot would be best for their needs, I know they would have taken my recommendation.
How SaaS Companies Can Use This Experience to Grow
What I think SaaS companies need to understand from this is how I researched each product. I went to each site as someone ready to buy, and ready to spend a lot of money in doing so. I wanted to know what worked, how it worked, if it did what my client needed, and what the price would be. Here is a quick track of how everything unfolded:
- Client emailed about email marketing needs
- Discussion with client about needs and current solution
- Investigated current solution to see what was missing
- Investigated 2 tools the client was interested in using
- Looked at price
- Analyzed features and compared to needs
- Investigated 1 additional tool found through search/ads
- Watched demo video
- Proceeded with trial at lowest cost/best features company
- Presented trial project and tool of choice to client
Why is all of this important to your SaaS company? The more you understand your buyer’s motivations and needs, the better you can deliver a solution that works for them.
Today people know that one email tool can work very differently from another, so we try multiple tools to see what we like, what awesome features there are, and what has a price that is comfortable. Especially in the marketing world, SaaS companies need to meet industry expectations.
Additionally, the SaaS world isn’t a place that can easily ignore their competitors. I understand companies that don’t want to give their competitors a lot of thought because they are too busy innovating, but when you don’t know what your competitor is up to you can’t be sure you have the best options for your target market.
So pay attention to what other tools are doing, keep new technologies and features in mind, and give prospects (like me) the information, time, and path to success with your tool.
You have a website where people come together. You might not think of it as a community because users don’t interact in forums and discussions, but make no mistake, if you are providing the place for buyers and sellers/renters/etc to come together it is a community.
I’m talking about sites like eBay, Outdoorsy, Airbnb, Inbound.org, Cloudpeeps, Remote.com, Uber, Upwork, and many more dual sided marketplaces. There are hundreds of them, and more are started every day.
I’ve seen several that have the innovation to offer a great marketplace, but fall short and the world loses the opportunity to grow from them.
There are a variety of reasons why this happens so I won’t assume that it is only about how sites work with members. But I’m going to share my experience in hopes it helps founders build more successful platforms.
Offer A Better Outcome Than Any Competitor
You are competing with Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist and virtually anyone can offer anything on these sites for free and reach thousands of others, so you have to offer a better option.
You have to be one of these options:
How does eBay do this? They have millions of users, it feels certain that if I put a popular item on eBay someone will be searching for it, and they will find it. They have the categories and intuitive search that directly connects my product with people who want to buy.
Getting Sellers For Your Market
It is often easier to get sellers than it is to find buyers because they are happy to list on a site where someone else is working to get the ad in front of likely buyers. But this is only when they know the site exists. Additionally, this needs to be very easy, think of how Airbnb made it easy to post listings on Craigslist in addition to having them on Airbnb.
What you can do is find related ads on Facebook and Craigslist and message them to let them know you have buyers on your site. Be sure to follow terms of service when messaging.
Getting Buyers For Your Market
Why would a buyer come to your site? They can easily search for similar items on their favorite sites. So your marketplace needs to offer something better, it needs to have cheaper options, it needs to offer them a discount for trying the market, it needs to have a wider selection, offer protections for the purchase, etc.
Make Members Feel Important to Real People
This goes beyond a sales call after someone signs up for a software, it goes beyond an automated email saying how happy you are they joined. People want interaction with people.
At Inbound.org people liked me because I responded to their comments, I went out of my way to talk to them and I often asked for their thoughts.
I wasn’t a bot that was fake and made them feel like someone was pretending to care. I was a real person taking a minute of my day to say Hello, I care that you are here and I want you to know that.
How can you do this efficiently? You can hire people for $10 an hour to send personal messages. You can easily set up your company email to work with Groove, and possibly integrate other tools so that there is an efficient way for people to email members and say:
Hello Greg, I just saw that you posted your RV on our site for rent. I noticed you didn’t post many pictures, can I help you with that? I’m available on the site in chat right now to assist…
A Tool To Help- With a tool like Intercom you can easily integrate chat messaging with people and start conversations. Intercom has in-app messaging as well, that will initiate conversations with visitors. If you need help with these, please contact me, I will get you set up.
Nurture Both Sides of the Marketplace
You have to spend time building both sides of the market. You can’t just provide things to buy if you don’t have people who will buy, and you can’t just have people with money and no products to buy.
Marketing/Business efforts need to be split and that can be a new and difficult obstacle for your team. You are doing double the work.
For example: Cloudpeeps is a relatively new site for contractors to get work with cool companies who pay decent rates, etc. As a ‘peep’ I can see 10-15 jobs that are available and I often see marketing efforts for people to join and find work.
I rarely see anything for companies to join or buy a package to offer work. Perhaps they have a sales team for this, but it’s something that needs to be considered to keep the jobs coming in.
Personal experience: When I worked at Inbound the job board needed both jobs listed and people applying. If jobs didn’t get applicants we couldn’t convince them to pay to post for jobs in the future, and if people couldn’t find positions they could apply for, they wouldn’t visit again.
I would seek out companies with job positions on their sites and ask them to add their job to our site (usually for free the first time). Then, I would advertise the position on social media and in email newsletters, as well as seeking out people in our community that were listed as open to opportunities.
Help People Get Quick Wins
We live in a NOW economy, people want results now, they want money now, they don’t want to wait to see what will happen. Basically, they don’t want to take the time to figure out how they can be successful on your site, they just want the success.
They don’t want to wade through onboarding that annoys them, they want a thoughtful wizard that concisely explains what is going on, what it means to them, and what they need to provide.
Make your platform stupid simple to use. Make it easy to understand what’s going on, and constantly test your interface with new users to see what their feedback is.
Chameleon is one option for improving the onboarding experience. They offer an easy-to-use template that allows you to optimize the process.
For example, eBay sometimes offers money for items without making users wait for a sale. This is a great approach to helping people be quickly successful. Image how Upwork could use this to help people who want to hire RIGHT NOW.
In your marketplace, this means helping people sell quickly and helping buyers find items quickly.
For job sites or other communities, it means helping people making connections with new people quickly, such as getting an interview or getting expert advice.
Stay In Touch & Build A Relationship
One of the easiest ways to stay in touch is email. And you should definitely use it. But let’s talk about how often your users need to hear from you because a lot of companies go overboard and write EVERY SINGLE DAY when it isn’t necessary.
Certainly, if the person is listing their RV for rent, they don’t need to come back often, and if a family goes on vacation 2x a summer they don’t need weekly emails after renting an RV on Outdoorsy.
Your industry and the customer’s needs should indicate the best schedule for the contact. I recommend 1x a month at the minimum, and weekly at max unless you are offering a course that requires daily notifications.
Again, Intercom has the functionality to see all of your customer-facing messages in one platform. Consider using their service for a full view of your messaging efforts.
For marketplaces, here are some ideas for messaging both sides of the market.
Emails for Marketplace Sellers:
- Tips for Selling: How to take better pictures, How to write the best descriptions.
- Tips for managing rentals of vehicles, RVs, home, rooms: Adding amenities, Buying products in bulk for stock, Getting someone to clean in between rentals.
- Tips for pricing their rentals: What the average charge is per room or sleeping/seating space in a vehicle in their area, What the average charge is for the age of the home, vehicle.
- Tips for getting reviews: Sending follow up emails, leaving notes at the residence, being available for communication.
Emails for Marketplace Buyers:
- Seasonal Vacations: It’s summer here are the hottest destinations, Spring break reservations, Offseason destinations. Winter vacations.
- Saving for vacations, where to take kids on vacation, where you can take pets on vacation.
- Camping with kids, seniors, or pets.
- Promotions for off season sales.
For job sites, here are a few ideas that will help with messaging your users:
Companies who post jobs:
- Tips for going through applications
- Underused features on your platform
- Tips for hiring local or remote
- Ways to lower turnover
- How to improve onboarding
- How recruiters can help
- Other places to promote job ads
Applicants applying for jobs:
- Similar positions just posted
- Lists of other job boards
- Free dashboard to see all applications through your platform
- Jobs in your area that are open
- Remote jobs all over the country in an industry
- Articles about how to write cover letters
- Articles for better interviewing
More than anything, your members are the most important part of your marketplace. Listen to them, make them feel important, make them feel heard, and do your best to make them successful. If you need help, send me a message http://mary-green.com/start
Even though a startup can have hundreds to thousands of free and beta users, there is no guarantee any of them pay. And realistically, you need to generate revenue, at some point.
There are many ways to get out there and find your first paid users, one of the most common is Facebook ads.
But, not every startup wants to rack up the bill that comes with FB ads, and quite frankly many can’t. So, here are multiple ways content will help you get paid users. And, if you can write yourself this will be a lot easier on your finances.
Be The Linchpin/ Necessity of Success
No matter what your product or solution offers, you want to create a piece of content that positions it as the linchpin to success. For example, if you own a CRM product, you’ll want to position your product as the solution that brought a team together, that solidified sales and made sure nothing got lost in the shuffle.
Your post might talk about a realtor office in L.A. that was always dropping potential sales, with realtors who often missed important phone calls, and texts went to the wrong buyer and messed up a potential deal, other mistakes. Then you’ll explain how your tool saved the agency from their mess.
You were able to get them set up on your program, with smartphone access, and a simple set up so easy a 65-year-old about-to-retire grandma could do it. After the setup, and brief training, everything was on schedule, no one got the wrong messages, realtors always had pertinent information, and the agency was able to increase sales 15% in just 2 months.
Of course, you’ll want this story to be real, unfabricated, so you’ll need someone as a case study. Be sure to leverage that opportunity when it comes along. And use the case study as a blog post, the story that centers around how successful people will be with your product will receive more exposure this way.
Live example; blog post for 5,000 shots a day.
Go Deep Niche For Revenue Results
It’s common for a content marketer to write general blog posts. They want to appeal to the mass audience, get the biggest bang for the buck, and impress the company they represent.
Of course, this means appealing to a lot of people that simply aren’t part of the startup’s audience. So while viral posts reach a lot of individuals, few of them will be funneled into sales.
On the other hand, deeply niche articles produce leads that are ready to buy, eager to learn more, and at the perfect stage of the buyer’s journey.
As an example, a company called Processd is a SaaS platform that allows businesses to keep track of their processes, what should be done by who and when in a dashboard where they can easily be edited and used. The tool is free to set up the first few processes, so people can use it without paying unless they become a heavy user.
How can Processd get paid users?
By targeting small niches of companies who need this software. Small startups that need to keep track of their employee onboarding, teams that have high turnover and want to jump the learning curve, or teams that have a highly specific compliance process such as government, security, or even HR teams.
By drilling down, Processd could write about:
- employee onboarding for HR teams
- safety clearance processes
- technology failure processes for tech companies
While these pieces might seem boring or off topic for a lot of people, they are so niche they will immediately show the value to readers who need this solution.
For example: Slack with developers
Stay In Touch With Potential Customers
Every piece of content stands on its own as an opportunity to make an impression or get attention for your company. When you write a blog post, or a new email you have something to share, a way to reach out and say “Hey, I thought of you, hope you find this useful.” For this reason, using content as a means of staying in touch will help you generate paid users.
Think of tools like Craigslist, Facebook, Remember the Milk, these are all products that just about anyone uses, meaning millions of people are your target market. By staying in touch through email, you will be front of mind when the need for your product arises.
You’ll need to stay relevant in the messages you do send. Emails have to provide value. You can do this by sharing articles you find online- curation, but a lot of companies do this. What you want to do is find something very specific and segment your list accordingly. Do people like
What you want to do is find something very specific and segment your list accordingly. Do people like humorous content? Do they want tips on parenting? How about life hacks? Whatever it is, it has to be interesting.
Show Massive Value & Results Anyone Can Achieve
If you guaranteed results of $10,000 for each $1 invested into using your product how many people would sign up?
Now just make the promise to the right people who can achieve these results.
This does mean you have to get specific about who you are helping but don’t go running scared at that idea. It’s not difficult, you can easily send people to different landing pages based on what they do, but you should have headlines and benefits that motivate people to take action based on their needs.
Let’s say you sell a lot of contracts to realtors and they are almost a third of your users. You want to make sure your site talks to them, but you are also nervous that you’ll scare others away.
However, you also know that you help realtors increase their sales by 33% within the first two months. Guess what? That’s impressive to everyone, not just realtors. Now you have a better headline.
Get User Generated Content Will Increase Revenue
Now it’s time to get the help of the paid users you already have. You want to hear their stories of success. We aren’t just interested in their increased revenue; people want to hear about how people use tools creatively.
- How exactly did they avoid headaches at work?
- What was the conversation they had with their boss when they were able to close more sales?
Collect these stories, and get the rights from your users to publish the stories on your site. Videos will improve conversions at the highest rate, testimonials with images are next, and quotes after that. Put these on your site, in your case studies, and in front of your potential buyers ASAP.
Content can and should produce measurable results in terms of revenue. These are just 5 ways you can make this happen. Let’s talk about your content marketing goals and make a plan to achieve them, contact me now.
I’m back with a new conversion analysis for Up Automation. While this company is not a SaaS, they help their clients by putting SaaS products to work for them, hence the automation. Let’s have a look at UA.
Like many companies, Up Automation has created a website that portrays what they want to share about themselves with their visitors.
This is very common; I would say 80% or more of the sites I visit have similar messages. It’s perfectly natural since we all want to tell people how great our company is and what we can do for them.
Unfortunately, the visitor is also ‘me’ oriented and wants to understand how you are going to help them. So there is a bit of a disconnect between what the messaging on the site is doing, and what we want it to do; help people understand how you can help them. Keep this in mind when performing your own conversion analysis.
I always start with the headline, here: We take you from tech hell to tech heaven by automating the systems that help keep your small business in motion.
As an aside here, I want to point out that when I land on the site, I’m confused about where to read first. Since there appears to be two big sections of text, I would suggest choosing one major headline and making the other text smaller as to not confuse or overwhelm the visitor.
“We take you from tech hell to tech heaven by automating the systems that help keep your small business in motion.”
Let’s take this headline apart.
‘We’ to start a sentence puts the company as the most important aspect here, it isn’t about me the reader it’s about the company. That might seem to pick too much, but this is how you are starting your conversation with the person, and you want to drill down when you are doing a conversion analysis.
‘tech hell’ what exactly is tech hell? Am I in tech hell? How do I know?
‘tech heaven’ same thoughts; what is this suppose to mean to the visitor? This phrase causes more confusion.
‘automating the systems’ now this starts to help me understand what’s going on, automation is supposed to help me, and make my life easier, that’s good.
‘keep your small business in motion’ I want my business to be in motion, but now what?
From the reader’s point of view, the headline leaves a lot of questions. So, I jump to the next section of text to help me get some answers (if I’m still interested and not too confused).
‘Are you stuck in TECH HELL?’ To be honest, I don’t know what tech hell is. Perhaps it refers to the overwhelming feeling I get from managing all of these tools and trying to understand what is going on???
‘Discover the secret weapon that coaches, authors, and speakers are using to go from TECH HELL to TECH HEAVEN in 90 days or less.’ Arguably, this is the headline of the site, after three tries I’ve found it. It finally explains to me what this company is trying to do for me, FINALLY.
Still not sure how I feel about TECH HELL and TECH HEAVEN, it seems like too much, especially since it is mentioned 3x now.
Call to Action:
‘Free yourself from tech hell now’ I like that this is a different/unique CTA, but I’m still caught up in the tech hell bit, I believe there is another way to address the feelings readers are experiencing without coining this term.
Overall, my conversion analysis of this site suggests it needs help. It needs copy that is focused on explaining the benefits of working with Up Automation to the visitor. Let’s give it a shot.
Up Automation Conversion Analysis Makeover
You’ll see here that I’ve turned the beginning of the homepage into basically a landing page. My goal is to grab the reader’s attention with the information that means the most to them and encourages them to take action.
Like it or not, this is the most seen section of your website, it must lead visitors to take action.
I started by changing the preheadline, I’m not entirely sure it is necessary but since it is part of the design I left it for now. This sentence ‘Say Goodby to Frustrating Technology Challenges.’ is about setting the tone.
Next, I dig into the main headline of the site. This is a super important aspect of your site, it is the line that every visitor will read, and it leads them to stay on the site or leave.
I admit this isn’t the best headline it could be. I usually do 5-10 hours of research into the company, industry, and client before rewriting a headline, this was written after an hour.
‘Start embracing the opportunity of digital marketing with the hassle of technology.’ This statement is saying you (the reader) can use digital marketing and you don’t have to deal with all of the crap that comes along with technology.
I like this because it doesn’t leave any questions about Tech Hell or Tech Heaven, it uses words the reader understands; embracing and hassle.
The subheadline is the next section of the site; it should further explain what your company does, leaving no question as to how the buyer will benefit from working with you. (Yes, I realize I spelled technology wrong in the photo.)
I included a bit about the target market (coaches, authors, and speakers) and eluded to how the buyer can focus on their business because that is one of the benefits of working with a company like Up Automation.
Then, I got specific with how they won’t have to deal with technology, by not needing to understand it.
Knowing the company, industry, and buyer on a deeper level would allow me to write even better copy for the Up Automation homepage, but this is a good start to bring the message back to being about the reader vs. the company.
Finally, we finish with the CTA (call to action).
I noticed that when I clicked on the original CTA, it was connected to a Calendly account to allow people to schedule an appointment.
Generally, visitors expect to be taken to another page of your website, usually a landing page to fill out a form, so I was surprised to be taken off site for the CTA.
For this reason, I changed the CTA to ‘Schedule your free consult now!’ It accurately sets up expectations for when someone clicks on it.
Like many companies, the message on the Up Automation website is about what the company can do, not what the buyer needs to hear to make a purchasing decision. Further, it would be beneficial to keep the reader’s experience in mind when designing your site and writing copy.
Get your own conversion analysis by ordering here, or subscribe anywhere on this site www.mary-green.com and get access to my homepage checklist to improve conversions 20% or more.
Every now and then I like to put out a post of my favorite tools. It gives me a place to reference tools if I change devices or want to share with others. Enjoy!
Paid Freelance Marketing Tools I Use
Buffer $- I happily pay for Buffer every year because I use it to share to Twitter and Linkedin.
Quuu $- I paid $25 for a lifetime subscription through AppSumo, best $25 spend ever. Curates content for your Twitter & Linkedin, or whatever social media accounts you want.
Quuu Promote $- Pay to have one of your articles shared on the Quuu network, there are thousands of members, and probably a hundred categories, you can’t beat the cost per click for sharing here.
Dropbox $- I pay for personal photos to be uploaded to my Dropbox, but I use it for business, too. I choose Dropbox because I’ve tried many others, and the speed is better with Dropbox. Can’t sit around all day waiting for uploads.
Lastpass $- $12 a year and I don’t have to remember my passwords. I can see my passwords when I’m out and about, on the app, and my husband can use my accounts on our other computers.
Nimble– I tried at least 20 CRMs when coming back to freelancing. I wanted to make sure I stayed in touch with the right people, could see email from within the CRM, could keep track of work, could add tasks, and could get data from social. $25 a month.
Franz– Cool tool for Macs, you can add all of your messengers and they are in one tool on your computer. It works by bringing in each messenger through the web version, so it’s similar to a browser, but it’s a lot nicer than scattered programs, and it unifies your notifications.
Slack– I have my own channel, some pretty cool people are there, and I get free advice from other experts, what could be better?
Hip Chat– Use it for work, one of the companies I’ve recently joined uses HipChat.
Zoom– Video chats with the team. Use it through multiple companies because I’m remote!
Skype– Yes, I can’t believe people still use this either. But they do, and for vide0 (ick) meetings. Otherwise I leave it off because it makes my computer run slower than any other program I’ve ever tried.
Hangouts– People use this for video too, but it’s free, has chat and works seemlessly with Google Calendar.
Calendar Google– Because eventually we are all run by the clock and this is the most used calendar I’ve ever come across.
Organization & Task Management
Trello– Keep my thoughts organized, brainstorm. Work with a company who takes all of their guest blogging through Trello, so I follow that board as well.
Asana– Once I figured out the best way to use Asana, I can’t leave. I will never leave. Even when the company I work for the most right now uses another tool, I am using Asana for freelance writing and Home tasks.
Basecamp– It’s a nice tool, keeps you organized. One thing I don’t like when compared to Asana, is every time you want to look at something else (a task, discussion, etc) you have to load a new page. Time consuming.
Workflowy– For braindumps, make all the lists you want, so easy to use and there’s an app for your phone.
Writing & Data
Google Docs– Even when I try to use another program like Quip or Draft no one else uses them and I have to revert to G docs. I don’t love it, but it gets the job done, and it’s free (well, except the data Google collects about me, but who’s counting that?).
Sortmylist– Whenever I need to clean up, or sort a list quickly, this is my go-to tool. It adds numbers, cleans white space, and keeps a cache of what you’ve sorted unless you erase it.
Quip– My preferred way to write, use spreadsheets, and keep track of documents. G docs has an awful organizational system, Quip has a beautiful organizational system. If they just imported all of your G docs files, I could see a lot of people moving over.
Thesaurus.com– For copywriting and freelance writing.
Google Spreadsheets– I love the data sorting, making pretty graphs, and abililty to use spreadsheets for everything. Hack- once you name a spreadsheet, it goes in your history and you can just start typing the name to pull it back up. So easy.
Quibb- Usually startup news, but loads of smart people are active here. I follow Nir Eyal and look at whatever is on the home page.
Twitter– I don’t follow a lot of people, so I try to keep up with those I do follow. I also follow some great lists.
Medium– Love the stories and points of view you don’t find anywhere else. Wish I didn’t have to see sports related articles ever on Medium, 🙁
Linkedin- Been very active here. Once you find great people to connect with, and follow, like Ian Lurie, it’s a great platform to get news and network.
Facebook– Some of my friends from past clients are active in a chat group, so I visit with them there. Otherwise I only use it for personal relationships. I have secret settings for everyone I know professionally that I set on Facebook, it allows me to accept people as friends even if I don’t know them well, yet keep my personal info private. *Don’t be offended if we are friends there, or not, I have kids, have to be careful.
Inbound– Yes, I used to work here. I love the community, meet a lot of people here, and the networking opportunities are insane!!
Reddit– Joined some of the marketing subreddits, to start network there, especially after reading about how Sol Orwell turned his involvement on Reddit into a 7 figure business.
Colorzilla– Chrome extension that shows me the hex color of any point in my browser. I’ve used it for years, and while I’m not a designer it comes in handy for using on Canva and other sites.
Awesome Screenshot– Take screenshots in your browser, and edit them. Or, take images you already have and edit them, save them, and upload to share.
MixMax (Email)- I had issues with HubSpot’s tool that tracked emails, so I got this. I love it, it lets me add templates, groups, tracking, and has a lot of other features. I like that it works with your calendar to easily set up meetings. You can only use it in Gmail though. Most will appreciate that it integrates with Giphy.
One Tab– Chrome extension, collapses all or some of your tabs, to save you memory as you work through them. Easy to open the tabs back up.
Twitcher– Easily switch from one Twitter profile to another, through a drop down list. Super easy.
Buzzsumo– I use this to see what other great content is available on a topic before I write about it. Others use it to find great content to read and share. Love the tool. I use the extension to see how many shares a post has, when I want to pitch content promotion for someone.
Datanyze– Find anyone’s email address for free with Insider (ext), this is awesome for cold emailing.
Grammarly (Writing)- If you write and don’t want to look like an idiot, use Grammarly. Yes, others are nice, but this is the best I’ve found for what it corrects.
Zest (Reading)- A chrome extension where you can share GREAT (only the best is accepted) marketing content. I find a lot of phenomenal content here.
Highly.co (Reading)- Highlight what you read online, in Pocket too. Finally!!
Unrollme & Roll ups- Using Gmail you can unsubscribe to hundreds of newsletters and publications at once, it’s awesome. For those you want to keep, you can add to a rollup and the news comes in one email for each rollup.
Paying & Finance Applications
Paypal– I use this to get paid for a lot of gigs, it’s easy since it works with my bank account and a debit card. I hate the fees though. It’s nice that a lot of companies are starting to use Gusto so people can get paid right in their bank account.
Bill– Two of my clients use this to pay, it’s nice because there are no fees and it goes directly to my bank account. Their invoices suck, and the interface is pretty confusing.
Freshbooks– My preferred way to send invoices. I have a free account still since I don’t want to pay $120 a year, doesn’t that seem like a lot, to send 5–6 invoices a month?
Credit Karma– Buying a house, watching every little thing that happens on my credit. Learn how to improve your credit here, too, updates your scores from 2 bureaus once a week.
Credit Sesame– Updates your score once a month and sends a bazillion emails, but I like that it explains what the break down of your score is, the percentages of what matters, etc.
Blinkest– $60 a year to get loads of non-fiction books summarized for you to read in 15 minutes or so. I love this service.
TED– I like to expand my mind by watching videos of experts sharing their passion and new ideas. Brene Brown is here, Simon Sinek, and many others.
Kindle Cloud– Reading from my computer. I use the app on my phone. You can’t go wrong with the option to try the first chapter of nearly every book for free.
Notes- On my phone and Macbook air. Love how easy it stays updated.
Pocket– Whenever I want to check a link later, I use Pocket. I get to read from my phone, etc. I even put things in pocket specifically to read them without all of the distractions of a website. Some websites are really wide, too, and that makes it hard to read, not so on Pocket.
Feedly– To stay on top of all of the blogs I need to read. There are many, many, many blogs.
Devices- Computer, Tablets, Phone
iPhone- 6 plus, soon to be 7 plus once it’s available, 64 GB.
iPad- 2, regular size, nothing special, but nice to read on.
Macbook air- best computer I’ve ever had. Light, fast, enough space, and a mac, nothing better. (OK, so the screen is a little small, but the resolution makes it just fine).
Apple watch- it’s nice to have for a few things.
I’m an Apple addict. 🙂 apple.com/store
My Own Site
WordPress– My website is on WordPress, I don’t that will ever change, it’s my favorite platform.
Favorite plugin- Elementor, a page builder. I love it more than Visual Baker. It’s free and works amazingly well. The user interface is perfect.
Site5– For hosting
Entertainment At Work
Pandora– Because 80’s rock keeps me awake when my mind wants to sleep. I am NOT a morning person.
Youtube– I use this when I have a specific artist or song in mind and I know I like the video. Other times I use it to watch funny moments from The Office or Parks and Rec.
Coffitivity– I work at home, and we homeschool, we have thin walls, you can see where this is going. It’s loud here ALL OF THE TIME. I hate phone calls because of it, and I’m quick on the mute button. So to drown out some of the noise, this works really well. Also FREE!!
Product Hunt– Addicted. It’s not just the daily lists of products either, I use this to search for any tool I need. I wish I could search from my browser.
Smile at Amazon– Shop at Amazon and some of the proceeds get donated. You choose the charity that gets your proceeds. I’m all for animals, so I think it goes to the ASPCA.
I’ll try to update as I change tools. Looking forward to what you like about my list in the comments.
Have your startup been focused on sales? Is it time to jump into marketing, but you aren’t sure where to start? This post is for you…
How Do I Begin Marketing My Startup?
Secretly, for most companies, the answer is this: The founder(s) liked something they’ve seen elsewhere, or a competitor is beating them in a specific activity.
Few companies make this decision based on research, or any variables we will discuss below.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve met multiple companies who want to be the HubSpot of Cold Emailing, Big Data, Remote Work and more.
Instead, companies should base their marketing journey on the following variables.
Budget- It’s foolish to consider a plan without a budget. You simply must know how much you can spend in time or money, from the beginning.
- Entire department allocation
- Project number of team members and their costs
- Tools & technologies needed
- All expenditures you may incur
Write a Budget Estimate for Each Marketing Activity
There are two ways to do this. Take your entire budget allocation and start subtracting the most important expenses, and with the remainder choose activities based expected cost. OR add your expected costs together, while keeping your total budget in mind.
Timeline- How quickly do you need results?
Pay Per Click (Adwords, Facebook Ads) return results quickly, so adjustments can be made, and results scaled, while content and SEO take months to see results.
Talent- Who will work on your campaigns?
Do you already have team members who will contribute? Some CEOs create their own content, and happen to be very successful with it, like Steli Efti, Alex Turnbull, or Neil Patel.
With no in-house help, you’ll have to hire or outsource. Keep costs in mind, including posting the position, interviewing (it takes your time), on-boarding, and of course, replacing if necessary.
Market- What do you know about your potential buyers?
You want to know who exactly you are targeting, how much it costs to do that on different platforms, and how difficult it is to break into that market.
Check into prices for PPC, Facebook Ads, newsletter promotions, etc. Then check for content saturation, and the proposed difficulty of search keywords.
With those three things in mind, start considering the following activities or avenues of marketing.
Email marketing– Often combined with another activities email should always be a part of marketing’s role. Email can be costly to build a list, but with proper nurturing the list should provide ROI for years to come.
- Talent level- average
- Time investment- average
- Cost investment- medium
- ROI timeline- average
Social media– Considered free, social media is time intensive, but can deliver ROI if properly used for immediate traffic, research, and networking.
- Talent level- average
- Time investment- high
- Cost investment- low
- ROI timeline- varies but can be immediate
Content, Content, Content
Content marketing– will require thousands upfront for a complete system of blog posts, landing pages, downloads, emails, and content promotion.
Though blogging could be started on a shoestring budget, some assets need to already exist (landing pages, emails, etc).
Keep in mind that a content marketer for a full-time position will cost close to $100k for the first year with benefits, taxes, signing bonus, etc. If only one person is hired for all of the work of a content marketing system, it will take months to get everything in place, and then months to see a return (3–6).
- Talent level- high
- Time investment- extensive
- Cost investment- low
- ROI timeline- long
Blogging– If you don’t go with a full content marketing system, and you only work on blogging, your budget can be much lower, especially if someone on the existing team is doing the writing.
Consistency is an absolute must here, you will need content promotion, this is where earned media pays off.
As an aside, I charge $300 or $.25 per word for blog posts that are outsourced to me, so keep in mind the outsourcing budget when blogging.
- Talent level- average
- Time investment- high
- Cost investment- low
- ROI timeline- long
Search and Google
Search engine marketing– Adwords is still effective, if you have the budget to court your market. It can be an expensive investment though, even when it does return on investment quickly. To further your return be sure to collect email addresses, and nurture leads.
- Talent level- expert
- Time investment- average
- Cost investment- very high
- ROI timeline- immediate
Search optimization– search traffic from Google is often considered the top converting traffic. But, it is also some of the most difficult traffic to get. It can take months to start seeing a return from SEO investments, even with an expert on the team.
- Talent level- expert
- Time investment- high
- Cost investment- low (except for time)
- ROI timeline- long
Facebook advertising– A great selection because of the preciseness of targeting for demographics.
Facebook gives you complete control over showing your ad. At the same time though, it’s important to have additional tactics in place, to get the highest ROI possible (namely email).
- Talent level- average
- Time investment- very low
- Cost investment- high
- ROI timeline- immediate
Events– Another way to get leads and network with your industry is events.
Relationships can lead to life long business partnerships, streams of revenue, and referrals. On the other hand, events are very expensive (a write off) and require an impressive follow up system to reap the rewards.
- Talent level- average
- Time investment- low if you are not hosting
- Cost investment- very high
- ROI timeline- fast
Considerations for Every Marketing Budget
Measure Everything– you need analytics, metrics, and stats to know how well campaigns perform. Your marketing budget must include the tools, talent, and reporting time to show your team and the rest of the company.
Optimize for Growth– even if you start with all best practices, you’ll need to experiment to see if they work best for your startup. Include resources to make testing a part of your marketing plan, it will serve to improve ROI.
Go Mobile– our ever evolving world is using more mobile devices to access the Internet, and your company needs to deliver to these people too. This could mean responsive websites, mobile apps, or web apps. It also means a lot of cost.
Design for Users– an interface that is designed to help users reach success with your product is a foundational piece of your marketing plans. Word of mouth is still one of the most effective types of marketing today.
Branding/ Message– every person on your team should understand the message, mission, and image your brand wants to portray. Every marketing decision should reflect these branding elements.
Automation– tools like Zapier and HubSpot are moving marketing and entire businesses further ahead in productivity than any point in history. Continuously consider the opportunities available, and implement where you can.
Outsourcing– it’s rare to find a company that doesn’t need to outsource for some tasks, and it makes sense.
Outsourcing to experts helps cut costs by allowing you to pay for the work only, no on-boarding, benefits, lost time, etc. Until you can justify the costs of a full-time employee, use outsourcing for tasks like design, copy, etc.
Be Flexible & Stay Organized
Once you’ve considered all of your options, put together a few marketing plans that fit your budget. Make decisions based on research, talent, and affordability, not because you like what someone else is doing.
For what it’s worth, many startups begin with sales, move to Facebook ads for quick results, and then to content, for longer returns and results.
Disclaimer– This post is written based on my experience working with growth teams, in marketing positions, and as a freelancer for startups and SaaS companies. Hope it helps.
It doesn’t have to be difficult to squeeze more revenue and marketing qualified leads out of your business.
In fact, several changes can be made quickly, don’t require a lot of energy, and make a big difference.
I consider the following tweaks easy wins that add up to major results.
Increase Website Conversions With These Simple Tweaks
These are changes you can make on your site, either by having a developer do them or by logging in and making the changes yourself.
1- Write A Beneficial Headline
The most common mistake I see on SaaS websites is… a poor headline.
If your headline was written to tell people how great your product is, you are seriously missing the point.
The homepage headline should include a benefit for the visitor, then if there is room, talk about how great the product is.
Here is a beneficial headline.
This is a headline on Wootric and includes a subheadline underneath that helps explain what the software does.
You are trying to help them realize the benefits you have to offer and get them to buy.
Shouting from street corners about how great your product is, is not nearly as beneficial as saying “hey, this is what you get”.
2- Support Your Headline
The sub-headline comes right after the headline, and supports the headline.
Take a look at the following Headlines and Sub-Headlines to get an idea.
The subheadline is not yet another place to brag about your product.
Write for the visitor/buyer.
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3- Get Rid of Extra CTA’s
Every page on your site should encourage visitors to do ONE thing, with one call to action.
Product pages or other information should be accessible from the navigation, people expect that.
Why? Brian Lenney, shared a great article by Oli Gardner about attention ratio that points out how we have to make it easier for visitors to know exactly what to do.
I’ve tested this on several occasions and it simplifies the process for visitors while increasing conversions.
That’s a win-win!
4- Write Calls to Action That Get Clicks
Improve the calls to actions to tell people what they are getting. The best way to help you with this is to provide examples.
Poor CTAs and Way Better Replacements:
- Sign Up Now- Sign Up To Get Organized
- Get Demo- Get My Personalized Demo
- Subscribe- Get Daily Inspiration Emails
Please note, with all of these I would try to implement what people are actually getting, so these examples aren’t a perfect replacement, but you can see the direction I’m suggesting.
Think of these CTAs as the bonus that gets visitors even more excited about your company.
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5- Repeat CTA’s on Your Pages
IF you have more than 2 sections, you should have multiple CTA’s, don’t make people look for a place to sign up.
In these two pages you see one page without multiple CTA’s and one with them. Which do you think are more likely to convert?
Understand your buyer better than ever before!
Go to G2Crowd.com and read reviews on your product and similar products.
Specifically the last questions about the business benefits.
This isn’t as great as user interviews but a close second!!
Admittedly, knowing your buyer isn’t going to increase conversions alone, but by implementing that information with your messaging and marketing, you’ll definitely improve, and if you need help I’m here.
It Doesn’t Have to be So Hard
These tips should help you get an easy 20% out of your homepage. And I’d love to hear if you take the tips and get results, just send me a note to marygreencny on gmail.
Be sure to subscribe and get the homepage checklist and you’ll be the first to hear when my next post comes out about improving retention.
I recently did a teardown for Salsa Labs, a marketing software option for nonprofits. Please keep in mind that I have no knowledge of their previous tests, improvements, or business decisions, and it is always best to get your own teardown.
To make this easy for myself, Salsa Labs, and you, I take a screenshot and select different areas to discuss.
Let’s get started.
I always begin with the headline of the site. I think the headline is the most important copy on your website. It is the line that will either grab visitors’ attention and keep them around, OR
It is the line that will either grab visitors’ attention and keep them around, OR it is the line that will scare them away.
You only have 8 seconds to impress with your headline (source).
The headline should express the benefit a benefit to the audience.
The headline should express the benefit a benefit to the audience.
Salsa’s Headline: “Engage and Change The World”
My first thought after reading this headline is confusion…
- Engage and change the world, how?
- What is this site about?
- What do they do?
Yes, I quickly realize from the rest of the site that it is about Fundraising Software, but my point is, by this time, people have already left, you’ve lost your chance to catch their eye and earn their business.
*Tip*: The message of the headline should immediately hit on the one benefit that would mean the most to me, the nonprofit marketer or decision maker.
Salsa’s headline should express an idea that will motivate the visitor, for example:
- Motivate Supporters of Your Cause to Take Action
- Helping you inspire supporters to take action for your nonprofit
- Inspiring your supporters to make a change
- Helping you inspire movement around your cause
The headline should elicit any of these feelings: inspire, movement, cause, nonprofit, change, enablement.
As you can see, you’ll want to give visitors hope that your product (Salsalabs) will help them reach their goals. Please keep in mind these are off-the-cuff headlines. I suggest putting in several hours worth of time writing your headline.
Need help with your headline? Hire me to help, or check out this headline guide from Wordstream.
The subheadline should provide clarity that supports the headline.
The average company uses the subheadline to boast about themselves, however, there is little value there for the customer.
*Rule*: Stop talking about you, and help me!
Salsa’s subheadline is too long…………
It needs to be short, skimmable, and say what the readers need to hear.
Salsa’s subheadline: “Over 10,000 nonprofit professionals use Salsa’s nonprofit CRM software for donor management, fundraising, advocacy, and marketing to fuel great causes across the globe.”
My suggested subheadline: Join over 10,000 nonprofits using Salsa’s CRM to fundraise and connect with donors.
Adding ‘join’ to the subheadline makes it feel like users are a community, where the visitor can become part of this elite group.
Shortening the description about Salsa makes it easier to see how someone can clearly benefit from signing up.
Additionally, in mobile, the subheadline blends into the page, which leads me to another point, always test on multiple platforms/devices.
3: Calls to Action
The third most important section is the Call to Action (CTA).
Here, we have a couple of issues:
- Calls to action need to encourage action, not just label an option.
- There are too many options. Salsa offers multiple use cases, but too many options discourage action.
Suggestion: Look at analytics to see which of these options is most important and use it as one CTA, OR…
Get really edgy and just direct people to set up a demo call.
Let’s assume for this exercise the fundraising page gets the most traffic, here is a sample CTA for it:
“Explore Our Fundraising Software”
Oli Gardner of Unbounce discusses attention ratio in this article, it should help you write your own CTA’s for your site.
Supportive Features of the Homepage
The following sections are less important features for conversions, but are supportive and should exist to help visitors.
Interested in your own teardown, or optimization testing plan? I can help, check out my rates here.
Navigation is where people look when they are lost. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to look here at all, but if they need to contact you, want to learn more about the company, or get help, they look here.
Ideally, they wouldn’t have to look here at all, but if they need to contact you, want to learn more about the company, or get help, they look here.
I suggest the following be in your navigation:
People know what a blog is, Resources (as shown here) is indicative from the company’s point of view, of a blog, whitepapers, etc, but it is not clear to the visitor.
Pricing is in the Salsa navigation, but not on the first level. I recommend it on the first level for the visitor experience. Do you like searching for a price? No one else does either.
Looking Under “Our Products”
As I scrolled over Our Products, I began questioning what Salsa offers. Based on the subheadline I believed it to be a CRM with emailing options, as I investigated more thoroughly by looking at the additional product pages, I was still left wondering what exactly I could purchase.
Update* After talking with Salsa Labs, I can now say they are a CRM with additional modules, broken down into their own product pages, and pricing, which makes it difficult for visitors to understand.
This reminds me of HubSpot, it is marketing software, where other add-ons can be purchased as well. Although, HubSpot seems to have done more testing to establish a clear presentation of products and pricing.
In the navigation, I suggest listing “Features” as an option and listing out the other things the software does. Change the subheadline to marketing solution and list other functions as features.
This navigation unearths a hairball mess of features, pricing, and general confusion about the software. This needs to be simplified.
5: Sign In
In the top right corner, users are invited to Sign In, and visitors can Get A Demo.
I would recommend changing the Call to Action to Schedule A Demo, and giving visitors the opportunity to pick a time to be called back on the following landing page.
This should be tested to see if this leads to more demos, and the success of those scheduled demos.
The homepage has a beautiful background picture that represents success of using the product. It would be nicer to see the image more clearly but darkening it allows the headline and calls to action to stand out.
One issue with the design is section 2/ the subheadline, it is a bit difficult to see as it is gray and slightly blends in.
While the homepage on the site is short, there is another version I was invited to preview. The new version has multiple sections, that help the visitor visualize the software, and show off some testimonials for social proof, an important feature of the homepage.
I recommend all companies have social proof as the second section on the site.
It’s very important for users to recognize their influencers using your product.
Additionally, include an area that displays the benefits of using the software.
As a designer, or developer of the product, you get into a mindset of just assuming everyone knows as much about the product as you do, but that is almost never true.
One last section that is covered in the previewed home page I saw, included screenshots of what using the software is like. This is another important part of offering a SaaS product because there are so few ways to visualize the success of these products.
In the bottom left corner is a friendly chat box. In general, people expect an immediate response from something like this, but Salsa’s doesn’t always offer this.
Look to see how many people are actually using the chatbox, then run a survey there instead.
The form felt cluttered, and a visitor won’t like it asking for a phone number, just to get a response for help.
After the Teardown
Salsa has already let me know they are working on features on the site based on my suggestions. I can’t wait to share results if I’m allowed.
If you enjoyed this teardown, let me know. I’m marygreencny on gmail, twitter, linkedin, and skype. I would love the opportunity to do a teardown for you, just get in touch.
This week I’m looking at Pendo for the newest teardown.
Pendo is a tool that helps SaaS companies reach product success. They offer product analytics, surveys and polls, in-app messages, without the need for engineers.
It reminds me of Hotjar and Mixpanel, but since I haven’t used it, I can’t say for sure.
Now, let’s dive into the website, here is a screenshot of what the homepage looks like.
Looks good, right? Modern design, headline, product screenshot, navigation, modern feel.
Let’s dissect is and discuss each section.
Pendo headline: “A New Path To Product Success” (more…)
Feedback from Contentools about their teardown:
“Mary’s tear down helped us find improvements opportunities that we weren’t able to see just looking at conversion metrics.
Her experience in the marketing field, together with her passion for helping startups grow, were a game changer for our initial traction expanding our business internationally!” – Pedro Clivati
Contentools recently redesigned their website and asked me to review it (you can get your own teardown here)!!
If you haven’t heard of Contentools, it is a platform for managing content marketing. You can collaborate, track ideas, write, publish, and share- just about everything you’d need to do in one place.
Alright, let’s jump in to the website.
Home Above the Fold
I realize there is a lot of debate about the importance of having elements of your homepage above the fold. I talk about this more in my post on important elements of your SaaS homepage.