All posts by Stephanie Saretsky

Producer’s Pick: 5 Call to Action Podcast Episodes to Put in Your Queue

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Our five fav episodes of the Call to Action podcast — so you don’t have to sort through ’em all. Image via Shutterstock.

Hey everyone! I’m Stephanie Saretsky, Unbounce’s Multimedia Producer. I’m also the host of the Call to Action podcast. It’s our weekly marketing podcast that has been running for just over a year and a half, and has featured some of the brightest minds in the marketing field.

If you’re new to the show and want to start listening but aren’t sure where to start, then I’ve got you covered. And if you’re a long-time listener looking for a refresh, well, I’ve also got you covered.

These are my favorite episodes that we’ve done over the last year in a half. I think you’ll like them too. They strike a really good balance of educational and entertaining.

Let’s walk through each episode.

1. Retargeting, As Explained by Nerf Guns


In this episode of the Call to Action podcast, we interview Johnathan Dane, CEO of KlientBoost (who is absolutely hilarious, by the way). PPC gets a bad rap as a discipline that is pretty, well, boring. But Johnathan is able to talk about it in a super engaging way (Nerf guns, c’mon!).

We discuss how to retarget without weirding out prospective customers, and how an IRS company increased ROI 20 times over with retargeting. Plus, listen through to the end of the episode for a wonderful Beyonce/Taylor Swift/Aaliyah mix-up. In a PPC episode? Yep!

2. Ginny Soskey on HubSpot’s Epic Blog Publishing Experiment


In this episode, we chat with Ginny Soskey, Content Marketing Manager at HubSpot, about a fascinating publishing experiment that changed the way Ginny manages the editorial calendar and the content HubSpot creates.

I really like this episode not only because Ginny is incredibly smart and a real pleasure to interview, but also because it’s chock full of interesting analysis and discoveries they made when they decided to tackle the age-old question: publish more often or publish better content?

Content marketers can learn a lot from their experience (heck, we just did our own two-week publishing experiment!)

3. Lessons Learned from Year 1 of the Call to Action Podcast


In this episode, we took a look back on the first year of the podcast from launch to calculating ROI. This episode is probably my favorite that we’ve done. It was cool to switch up the podcast format and have an actual conversation with Dan (Dan Levy that is, Unbounce’s Director of Content).

I come from a radio background, so I find chatting like this super engaging because its conversational nature allows for more improvisation. Scripted is good, but sometimes a friendly chat to switch things up goes a long way! Plus, we give you so many podcast tips and secrets, like the struggles we’ve had with reporting, and how a launch actually works. It was a lot of fun to look back on the podcast’s history and see how far we’d come.

4. Why Dungeons & Dragons Can Make You a Better Marketer


In this episode, we interviewed Ian Lurie, CEO of Portent, Inc. on his realization that the marketing journey is actually quite a bit like — wait for it — Dungeons & Dragons.

This was a really fun episode to produce, as Ian gave listeners an extremely novel way of looking at the marketing funnel. I don’t know how many of you have likened your jobs to playing Dungeons & Dragons, but it makes for a pretty powerful comparison.

Along with his explanation for why marketers are not storytellers but world builders, Ian also gives you tips on how to get your friends to play D&D with you. So many things to learn!

5. The No-Shortcut Approach to Building a Credible Content Marketing Strategy


This episode was a really engaging interview with Jay Acunzo, VP of Platform at NextView Ventures. Rather than focusing on tactics or step-by-step campaign optimization, this was one of our first episodes that looked at team structure, specifically how to grow a high-performing content team.

Jay really gets to the bottom of why you shouldn’t cut corners in your marketing, and shares a really interesting anecdote about how one of his posts went viral — which may sound like every marketer’s dream, but he had mixed feelings about it.

What about you?

So there are five episodes of the Call to Action podcast to get you started. Those are my favorites, but what are yours? Let us know in the comments.

Also, let us know what you’d like to hear about next on the show.

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Producer’s Pick: 5 Call to Action Podcast Episodes to Put in Your Queue

Julien Smith of Breather: I Was a Thought Leader Before a CEO [PODCAST]

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One of Breather’s many breath-taking spaces. Image via Breather.com.

A lot of marketers become thought leaders by honing their skills in the trenches of their startup. Only once they’ve done their time and learned from their mistakes do they go on to secure speaking gigs and publish books.

But Julien Smith has had a bit of an unconventional marketing career. He flipped the above trajectory on its head, making a seemingly backwards transition from marketing thought leader to real-world marketer and CEO.

After many years of writing and speaking, Julien decided to stop telling marketers what to do and started showing them by founding a company of his own. Today, he is the CEO of Breather, a company that rents out private (and oh-so-very-zen) spaces.

In this episode of the Call to Action podcast, you’ll learn:

  • Why Julien initially made his book, The Flinch, available for free.
  • The single word that changed the way Breather was marketed, allowing the company to flourish and raise $1.5 million in funding.
  • What we can all learn from affiliate marketers, even though they’ve got a bit of a bad rap.

Listen to the podcast

Mentioned in the podcast

Read the transcript

Dan: You’ve done things a little bit differently than most people or most marketing thought leaders out there. Most people start out by building a company, if it’s successful maybe they start speaking about it, and maybe they write a book. But you did the complete opposite.

Julien: Yeah.

Dan: How did that happen?

Julien: Yeah, what happens is that there was a brief period around 2004, 2005 where I think there were like no internet celebrities of any kind. So there was a vacuum of internet celebrities and because of that…

Dan: Imagine we had that problem right now. What a beautiful problem to have.

Julien: Yeah, it’d be the exact opposite problem. Yeah, because there was a vacuum of internet celebrities you could basically do anything and kind of get an audience. Even if you had an awful blog or an awful podcast it didn’t matter because there was nothing to listen to and nothing to read on the internet. So that helped me get an audience. And the audience actually propelled everything because then you have an audience, so then when you have a blog it just gets read by a lot of people. Then you have an ebook, you have all the audience that you could send it to, and then that got published — sent over to Wiley and then Wiley was like, “Well, there’s no book on social media. We should get someone to write a book on social media.” And we got tapped to do that. So then I realized — started realizing what business was and then eventually I actually started one, yeah.

Dan: You were looking at our studio setup and I actually had forgotten that you had a podcast in the beginning, when we first decided to do this interview. Can you tell us a little bit about that show and what podcasting was like back in, what was it? 2005?

Julien: 2004. I started in November of 2004. It was the first podcast in the world. It’s very strange to say that, but it’s true. And because there were — all the shows were bad on the internet, I was sort of chosen, one of six people, to get my show on Sirius Satellite Radio. So a year in, because everyone else was like a 35-year-old dude from New England talking about beer probably, you know, and I was talking about — I had a completely different voice than most people. So, yeah, and just started propelling itself. It was really about being at the right place at the right time with the right, I guess, idea or something.

Dan: I wanna ask you about your book Trust Agents with Chris Brogan. I think it’s been like more than five years since that was published and that’s been really influential. I remember when I started out in this digital marketing space that was one of the books, along with maybe a couple others, that everybody was talking about. When you look back at that now, would you think it holds up?

Julien: I haven’t read it in a long time so I don’t know. But I could tell you that the things that we take for granted now — like it’s funny. I used to — I would read the book now and probably be like, “Oh, my god. This is so 101 and embarrassing.” But reality is, is that many of the tactics that we talked about in the book, this was the first time that they were ever talking about it. And now social media marketing is done that way, not just that way, but it’s very foundational things that we talked about for the first time are now done everywhere. So I think I would be pretty proud of that. But talking about how to tweet would probably be — I would probably cringe at things that I said that maybe I was very inspired to say back then, but now not so much.

Dan: Yeah, fair enough. Yeah, what seems obvious now actually was pretty mind-blowing at the time that you could build an audience, which you’ve done by creating relationships and leveraging those. I don’t know if that’s the thesis of the book, but I feel like that’s pretty close.

Julien: It’s true and it is something that really tells you a lot about how — when a new channel, or a platform, or a network is starting, you actually have enormous power during that time, right? So I was in the first 10,000 users of Twitter, right? As was Chris Brogan, my co-author on those two books, and…

Dan: Right, that’s why you have your first name as your handle.

Julien: That’s right, yeah. Yeah, @Julien. So then it was like, “Yeah, sure, fuck it. We’ll follow all these people.” And again, it’s a huge vacuum. So the same thing happened on medium, right, and may be probably still happening on medium. And new networks, when you join, if they’re gonna win, those networks, then you get an incredible cumulative advantage by starting early. And so if I was gonna propose that anyone start a business I would say find a place where it is super easy to gather the first 100 people. Another way of saying that is start with a place with low competition.

Dan: And for the networks that don’t pan out, there are some like Google Plus, thought leaders who bet on the wrong horse.

Julien: Yeah, I think it’s not about social media per se, it’s just like any place where you feel like there’s a trend coming, get in front of that trend way before it’s popular, get ridiculed for six months and then laugh your way all the way to the bank maybe.

Dan: I wanna ask you about your first — I think it was the first book that you wrote on your own, The Flinch. And you first made that available for free on Amazon. Thanks for that because that’s when I read it and it was a great book. What was the thinking behind just putting that out there for free and why did you ultimately decide to charge for it?

Julien: Yeah, so what started is — that book was written by basically me and edited by Seth Godin, who’s a pretty well-known marketing writer. And so he said a few things to me which were super pivotal. It was a super short book, it was like 10,000 words, right? And so he said, “1) I want you to know that you’re never gonna be able to write anything this visceral ever again. You’re never gonna have that opportunity.” And so he goes, “I want you to…” — he would send me edits back and those edits, he would be like, “Is this really the best you can do?” And I’d be like, “Fuck, it isn’t, shit.”

Dan: And Seth Godin saying that to you is powerful.

Julien: Yeah, it’s murder, yeah. And I remember screaming at a friend of mine just about, “I don’t know what to do! I don’t know how to make this better!” But the result is a super sharable book. So the natural thing to do then, as Godin said, “I can’t make you a millions bucks but I can probably get you a million people that will look at it.” And so there’s actually no free books on Amazon that are perpetually free. It almost never happens. So he did a deal with some early dude at Amazon and said, “We’d like to make this book perpetually free, like free forever.” So it was free for years. So every year when people would open their Kindle on Christmas they would be like, “Oh, where are the books that we’re gonna get?” And they’d find my free book.

Dan: Right. Next to all of the like Socrates and…

Julien: Yeah, literally. Yeah, and The Bible, you know. And mine is a faster read than that. So again, it was about a unique opportunity to create enormous distribution very quickly. And so when I did that, I mean in the first day it was read by — or downloaded at least, by something like 50,000 to 75,000 people. And eventually it was actually not about us. I would keep it free and it stayed free for years. And if you still “Google Flinch PDF” right now, you can get it in PDF form for free. But at some point, I don’t know, the rules changed at Amazon or something and it ended up being $2.00. So now you pay $2.00 to get it on Kindle. But it definitely — making it free was a tactic to create audience and advantage and get, what I thought to be pretty important work, and certainly the best work that I’d ever written, to be seen by as many people as possible.

Dan: Well, it’s a tactic that’s really familiar to conversion centered marketers and people who are doing lead gen, certainly a lot of our customers that use landing pages to promote free ebooks, you just don’t usually see that at the Amazon like 10,000 word book level. But same principle so it makes sense. And as a discovery tool for you it sounds like.

Julien: For sure. Yeah, and that’s actually what you’re saying is like at the core you’re the product, you the person that’s writing. Or maybe you’re the initial product and then behind you there’s like a company or something. And so you’re — what are you doing? You’re gathering links maybe. And so, okay, so then your game is gathering links, or your game is gathering page views and trying to optimize your front page to get subscribers or whatever the game is, but you need a pretty massive funnel. And for me the massive funnel was being there really early and giving stuff away for free when it was seldom done.

Dan: Well, I do wanna ask you about your company. But first I want to… I guess bring up your past a little bit more, make you flinch so to speak. Rumor has it that you had a stint running affiliate marketing campaigns for clients at some point. And I know affiliate marketing gets a bad rap among marketing circles, but I do recognize that a lot of the techniques that have started, or who have found their way to more mainstream marketers and bigger companies and bigger agencies have started in the affiliate world. What did that experience teach you?

Julien: As I think back on it now, I learnt an important lesson about kind of winner-take-all markets. All internet markets are basically winner take all and as you begin to accumulate attention or capital or whatever, it begins to get more and more powerful over time and it becomes really undefeatable, or very difficult to beat. So I’ve definitely used that to help me at Breather, my current company. But at the time, basically, I just ran giant amounts of SEO plays in different verticals and I became really dominant in a bunch of them. And actually, it’s pretty interesting. Psychologically when you’re an entrepreneur, a big thing that you kind of want to do because you’ve worked so hard is really pat yourself on the back. And I remember patting myself on the back and being like, “I won.” And in actuality, even though I was doing really well, I had not won and I had made a crucial error of thinking that the game was over or something. And so for years I ran really successful, kind of like performance marketing in the background of everything I was doing, podcasting and writing books and other things like that, and it was definitely super influential and it created the initial investment for Breather, actually, before it was ever venture capital backed. But it was amazing experience and way to learn about how to run something and make it work.

Dan: So when you say that you feel like you had won, what do you mean by that?

Julien: I was ranking No. 1 for everything. And when you’re ranking No. 1 for everything the next thing you wanna do is you wanna make another website and rank two for everything as well, right?

Dan: Right.

Julien: And then you’re like, “Okay, well, now I’m gonna rank No. 3.” But it’s actually pretty interesting because you can see your competitors literally coming up in the search rankings as well. And this is true just — you can watch… we watch our competitors at Breather and we’re like, “How many units do they have? Okay.” And it’s kind of a gauge. And in search marketing it would be like, how ranked are they compared to me? And I saw people kind of progressively coming up and I was like, “Oh, they’re never gonna beat me.” I was wrong. And actually it shows you that most of the game, a lot of the game in entrepreneurship, is actually a psychological game that you play with yourself.

Dan: Sounds like you were winning, for a while at least, at SEO game and you were doing really well on the speaker circuit and you had these bestselling books and you were working with Seth Godin as an editor, which actually I wanna ask you a lot more about, but maybe another time. What made you decide to start your own company?

Julien: Yeah, so after you write three books, I was noticing — all your friends become the other guys who write books because we’re all on the road all the time. And so we’d be in the same hotels, maybe in adjacent hotel rooms or something, and being like, “Where are you going now? Oh, Nashville, okay, what’s there?” You know? So I would notice these people that had these careers that were essentially kind of writing the same book over and over and over again. And I think if you look at your marketing library — anyone who’s listening to this can probably do this. They could look over their marketing library, and I hope that you see my books there, but even if not, you’ll notice that the authors tend to produce essentially one idea and then produce an iteration on that idea. And they’ll do that over and over and over again, right? Good to great, great to last, whatever the next one is. Too big to fail, whatever it is. And at some point I was like, “Is this really the best that I can do?” And maybe it’s Godin talking back to me and being really interested in space and in trends of how cities were getting denser and all these things. And at one point I just kind of combined software and physical locations and it occurred to me that I could build something that was really meaningful. And it was kind of a longshot when I started, but it turned out pretty well so far.

Dan: What was the hardest part of that transition from marketing thought leader to real world marketer and CEO?

Julien: The fact that I had never really done anything or gotten my hands dirty at all. And so you actually…

Dan: Had you realized that before you started doing it?

Julien: I knew that there was a chance that I was just a talker and not a doer. And so I was like, “Okay, well, I just wrote a book…” like we just talked about, I wrote a book, i.e. The Flinch which is a book about doing hard things. And I was like, “If I see this opportunity and I’m not willing to do it, then what kind of low level hypocrite am I that I am not willing to take my own advice?” So I knew that what I was doing was hard and there was a high chance that I would fail and that I’d never actually succeeded or be in what they call an operator before. And so that was definitely — it was a very comfortable life to write a book a year and then get flown places and get paid speaking fees to talk for 45 minutes.

Dan: Did that prepare you in any way, though, for the challenges of heading up a fast growing company?

Julien: The part that it prepared me for most is that I became much more experienced at the high level aspects of being a leader. Because you have to say things with authority, you have to lead groups of people, you have to talk to them compellingly, you have to be able to detect trends and be able to talk about trends. The communication aspects of being a CEO take over, over time. And now I have 100 employees, right? So communicating is one of the largest parts of my job. So from fundraising to knowing all the investors because I was on the circuit with them and all these things, it was definitely helpful early on and still continues to be helpful today.

Dan: Right. I guess as the company gets bigger and bigger, you find yourself a little bit going back into that leadership role or big picture thought leader role in the company. And now you have people that do a lot of the doing so it’s back to motivating and…

Julien: Yeah, but at least I proved to myself that I could do.

Dan: Yeah, well, we’ve been talking kind of high level and I wanna get a little more tactical for a moment. Because I read that in the early days of Breather, we’re copyrighting junkies here and thought this was really cool, that one simple word changed the way that Breather was marketed early on. I thought that was actually a huge pivot point in your business. Can you tell us what that word is and why you think it was so effective?

Julien: Yeah, the word was private, right? And so, just to give you a sense of context, for many of you I’m sure that don’t know what my company does, Breather is a network of rooms. The same way that Uber is a network of cars and Airbnb is a network of homes, we’re a network of basically office spaces, or meeting spaces. And it became really clear early on that it’s basically impossible to sell privacy as a service. This room, if it was not in your office, would be as impossible to find, impossible to book, and impossible to get reliably. And so I was like, “Oh, but there’s these electronic locks.” And it was about the technology and the technology enabled people to get in, but what it was really about is a core value and a core need that people have, which is just to get away from people and to be able to get quiet. And it was weird to be able to say that I sell privacy and I sell quiet, but I do. In a really loud world and in really dense cities I sell quiet and private space.

Dan: That is a big risk, taking that bet on privacy though, because I feel like so many other companies are banking on the fact that people don’t care about privacy anymore.

Julien: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, and so sometimes — because it’s a private room, of course, and it’s bookable by the hour, you come to the conclusion which I’ve heard like a million times, “Come on. But what is really happening, wink, wink, in these rooms?” And the reality is, is when you are really behind something and you say, “We’re selling privacy,” you actually have to say that and you have to be like, “The reality is, is it’s none of your business what happens in people’s rooms, just like it’s probably none of your business what happens in people’s phones,” you know? And so selling that is very valuable to us and we really treasure it and it’s something that we think is very important to human beings, you know?

Dan: Yeah, and also you don’t create something out of fear that they’re gonna use it the wrong way.

Julien: Right. You don’t jump — you don’t not create the subway because someone might jump in front of it.

Dan: Right.

Julien: You create the subway and then you deal with the consequences afterwards.

Dan: Right. Just to provide context, what was that switch that — what was the original tagline and how did the word private replace it?

Julien: It actually was the key for us. We didn’t even know how to pitch ourselves up until the day of our launch, which was in — we’d launched the company at a conference in London and then I asked one of my developers at the time, “What is the tagline for this thing?” And he was like, “Dude, it’s just peace and quiet on demand. It’s peace and quiet on demand.” And we’ve been using peace and quiet on demand like it was an accidental phrase. I find…

Dan: You asked one of your developers what your tagline was?

Julien: Yeah, I don’t know why I did that, but it turned out — and it was very plain spoken, which is really important, right?

Dan: Yeah, true.

Julien: So to me the most important thing is that something be memorable and be able to be plain spoken so that anyone can go, “Oh, yeah.” Just like when I write I go, “I want to write the way people talk so that it’s very digestible.” We discovered that privacy was the core value proposition, like literally at the last minute.

Dan: As opposed to…?

Julien: We were just like, “These are great rooms. You should use them.” Before you have the simplicity of an idea, you actually, usually, are gonna say it in a super complex, annoying way. And that’s what we did. We said it in a super complex, annoying way until we discovered that the key value was probably privacy.

Dan: That probably circled back to why you had the idea in the first place and why you thought it was valuable for yourself, right?

Julien: Yeah, exactly.

Dan: And…

Julien: And yet, even though it’s right in front of you, it’s very hard to distill somehow. So then when we got to it, we’ve never gone back since then.

Dan: Right. You have to have this spark of an idea then once you start doing the doing and raising capital and put together a company, it’s easy to get away from that original…

Julien: And the other part of that is actually the name Breather, is actually a flash of insight that I happened to have. Because this name — the company could be going terribly just because the name was different. The name really defines what it is, which is a short breath or a short rest. And the word is really only ever used in that circumstance, right? And so it’s a very unique word that really quite accurately, and yet kind of like obliquely, describes what we do and that is very memorable and easy for people to know and say.

Dan: Right. And becomes a noun, like I’m booking an Uber, I’m booking an Airbnb, I’m booking a Breather.

Julien: That’s right.

Dan: So Breather is hiring like crazy these days and obviously that goes beyond the marketing team, but I’m curious what your vision was for scaling up that marketing team. As a marketer I’m sure it’s something that you’ve thought, particularly about and how’s that going so far?

Julien: Yeah, so we have — we must have 10 people on our marketing team or something, right now. And the vision for it that I said before we ever had any marketing team members was that it should act like an agency. And so because we have different cities and the cities open different units and they have to serve different populations, let’s say therapists use it a lot in New York, but actors use it a lot in L.A. or something like that. Then you’re gonna have segments that you’re speaking to in different demographics. So we created an agency with the purpose of being able to really work as an agency for a number of different clients. And then these clients essentially send briefs into the marketing department and say like, “Okay, so here’s what’s happening. We have this unit, it’s in SoHo. The unit in SoHo is like this. It’s interesting because these things. Build us something around that.” And then they’ll gather together, we get a creative team, we get digital people, we get design people, and they gather together and they do a sprint or they work on the creative to get it right. And we’ve been able to build a good team from great companies based on this principle.

Dan: So your clients in this case would be like city managers and operations people?

Julien: That’s right. Yeah, yeah, so our operations are like Uber. We have operations in every city led by general managers that are really focused on just getting supply and getting demand. And that’s very on the ground, very much like Uber and not at all like Airbnb, right? So then those people have needs and they don’t have the specialization that marketing has. They wouldn’t know how to sell their own space necessarily, they just know how to go out and get it and then make it nice and so on.

Dan: So you’re not necessarily organizing the marketing team geographically, it’s based around these different personas and user types?

Julien: Yeah, personas, user types, and they are helped by the fact that localization is really important. So it’s…you would not wanna confuse Long Island and Long Island City, right? Anyone who’s a New Yorker knows that. Anyone who’s not in New York does not know what the difference is. So the localization and that part of it is super important and the general skill set that you gather by being able to sell, basically 100 times, 100 different units, hopefully 100 cities, is very valuable, too.

Dan: And I guess the personas are informed by geography because you don’t have a lot of surfers in New York and bankers in L.A.

Julien: Right.

Dan: What advice would you have for other fast growing companies looking to scale their marketing teams really, really quickly?

Julien: Yeah, the irony is that in fact you must be extremely slow or you’re probably gonna fuck it up. The hiring is — I think you guys know this. Like at Unbounce you have a great team, talent knows talent and knows when it’s absent, and the gravity of a team produces more and more gravity as more team members come in. This happened with my data science team. It’s like one good guy led to a second amazing guy and then when you have two amazing guys then the third guy is much easier to grab and so on. So ironically, I think my marketing team is actually the slowest hiring of any of them, but the consequence of that is that they have tremendous gravity and respect and they build an amazing camaraderie because they really respect each other and are respected by everyone else and every other department.

Dan: So your advice for growing a marketing team quickly is don’t.

Julien: Well, I mean, you — choose things that scale. And continuously experiment as time goes on, right? And so, yeah, we’re still a series B company. We’re still super early in learning about everything that we do, but we have a very good start and it’s led by people that really are profoundly motivated about working on this problem.

Dan: What do you think your marketing team’s gonna look like a year from now?

Julien: I suspect it’s gonna be way, way larger. So it spans many geos, it…but we’re at the core. I think what you’re gonna do is you’re just gonna have to develop over time a reputation for good work. And if you have a reputation for good work, then people will wanna work with you.

Dan: Well, I think that’s an inspiring note to end on. Thanks so much, Julien, for coming in and chatting.

Julien: Well, thanks for having me.


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Julien Smith of Breather: I Was a Thought Leader Before a CEO [PODCAST]

How Unbounce’s Marketing Team Grew From 1 to 31 [PODCAST]

Hey podcast listeners! You can listen to all previous episodes of the Call to Action podcast on our brand-spankin’ new episode hub here.

Imagine being one of the only marketers on the team at a budding startup.

You need to know the best practices for all sorts of campaigns: paid, content, social, email, partnerships… the list goes on. What’s more, you’re responsible for both strategy and execution (no matter how brilliant you are, there are only 24 hours in a day… and fewer if you want to, y’know, sleep).

full-stack-marketing-650
That’s a lot of hats to wear. Image source.

Sound like a nightmare? Well, it was the reality for Georgiana Laudi back when Unbounce was just a baby company. Today, she is the VP of Marketing and has watched the department grow to have more than 30 employees.

And while the role was surely stressful (wearing a lot of hats can make you look goofy), Gia’s hands-in-everything position taught her a lot about being a marketer and a manager.

In this episode of the Call to Action podcast, Gia gives her take on:

  • The ideal time for teams to start moving away from hiring “full-stack” marketers and toward creating a larger team of specialists
  • Why Unbounce held off on performance marketing for so long in favor of an inbound marketing strategy
  • How marketing teams can do a better job empowering women on their team to start a family without feeling like they’re compromising their careers

Listen to the podcast

Mentioned in the podcast

  • Call to Action theme music brought to you by the great folks at Wistia.

Read the transcript

Gia: Hi, I’m Georgiana Laudi and I’m the VP Marketing at Unbounce.

Dan: I believe today is actually your fourth Unniversary, as we like to say at Unbounce. So I was thinking, let’s start at the very beginning just to provide some context. What were you doing before you started at Unbounce?

Gia: I was consulting, actually. I was doing web marketing for some startups and some mid-sized businesses in Montreal. I had been doing that for about two years. I was also running a couple of tech events in the city and was pretty active in the technology community and startup community in Montreal, which helped, obviously, to sort of feed my freelance gigs and keep me very, very busy.

Dan: What enticed you to move all the way across the country and join a young, fledgling startup?

Gia: It’s funny because I actually didn’t think of Unbounce as that young then because I was working with a lot of startups that were significantly younger and smaller. I saw a job posting that was shared on Twitter, and the job posting was just so compelling. And I had been wanting to try Unbounce for clients for a while. I had already heard about it and was considering using it. I wasn’t using landing pages at the time. And then basically what I did was I worked from Montreal for four months before moving. So I did do a little bit of due diligence there.

And then I went out to visit the office. There were only about 15 people in the office at the time and everybody there was super enthusiastic, super smart, super in love with the product. Unbounce’s customers also really sold me on joining because they were super vocal about how amazing their experience had been with both customer success and how much they loved the product. So it was just those two things combined. I felt like there was actually a ton of momentum already.

And I kind of regretted not getting on board sooner, to be honest — like I was late to the party, a bit. Yeah, that was when there were 15 people and obviously, there are a lot more than that now.

Dan: I guess the company was already a couple years old, though, wasn’t it?

Gia: It was almost two years but they hadn’t actually –my understanding is they didn’t actually make their first hire until a year in. So many of the employees – there was an early developer, and Ryan (Engley) and Jacquelyn (Ma) were actually one of the first three employees, and they only started about six months before me. So it actually hadn’t been that long that they’d been hiring.

Dan: One of the benefits of having six cofounders is they’re able to be independent for a while.

Gia: For much longer, yes.

Dan: There’s a story floating around about one of our cofounders driving your car across the country. Do you know what I’m getting at, here?

Gia: I do.

Dan: So it’s true.

Gia: It is true. And actually, the part of that story that you’re missing is that he actually crashed my car. I don’t even know if a lot of people know about this. It was basically – I mentioned my early-on visit to Vancouver and to HQ. And during the negotiation process of discussing whether or not I was going to join the team, I raised the big issue: all my stuff and my car are on the other side of the country. We didn’t have these hiring and relocation budgets back then so yeah, Oli basically offered to drive my car from Montreal to Vancouver.

And I think just as he hit the Ontario border… did he roll it? No, I don’t think he rolled it but it spun out. Anyway, it was pretty bad and he was delayed – I was already in Vancouver. So it actually took him a month longer to get my car fixed.

Dan: What? He didn’t get very far if he was just at the Ontario border.

Gia: No, he had only been driving like 45 minutes. It was pretty bad.

Dan: That’s funny. Well, it probably wasn’t funny at the time but it’s pretty funny now.

Gia: No, it wasn’t funny. It took about a couple of weeks to be funny. It was funny to everyone shortly thereafter, but at the moment, no. It wasn’t funny at all.

Dan: Fair enough. So what was it like being the first full-time, full-stack marketer on the team?

Gia: Busy. Really, really busy. Like I said, when I had first visited and first met the team — everybody being so in love with what they were doing and so dedicated to what they were doing — it was just sort of par for the course that we all just worked like crazy and we loved it. So I did a lot of evenings and a lot of weekends for the first year and a half, two years. I remember it being surprising to me when people would leave the office at 5. When that started to happen, that was a moment in the history of the company. Like wow, people are going home for dinner. What a concept! Or I should say 5 or 6.

But yeah, it was really intense but it was great because the stakes were really high. There was a ton of ownership. If we did really well, it directly reflected the work you were doing. If we did poorly, well, you had to own up to that, too. It was sort of this environment of learning. It was really, really cool actually, and super rewarding. The immediate results of hard work were the best reward for that.

Dan: Do you remember the moment when it became clear that you needed to hire more staff?

Gia: Yeah. That was sort of baked in just because of the nature of the company and how quickly we were growing. We knew that within not a very long time, we would be growing out this team. That was always sort of the plan. It was just a matter of articulating a job posting, to be honest. I think I made the first hire in marketing within nine months of joining the company. The blog was – and still is – a large percentage of the efforts being made within the marketing department were focused on the blog, and big marketing, big content stuff.

What we were posting at the time was two or three times a week. I wanted to amp it up to five because what I had seen was a lot of our acquisition was largely coming from our content marketing and largely from the blog itself. So I wanted to amp it up to sort of run a test. I started doing that, Oli and myself, we went up to about five. So I started inviting a lot of contributing authors to the blog. But you know as well as I do, that is like almost more work than it does save it.

So yeah, we put a job posting up and that was actually the role that Stefanie Grieser was hired for. I brought her on to help with social and the blog management. So the three of us sort of went nuts on blog.

Dan: She’s now our International Marketing Manager, Stef.

Gia: Yeah, exactly. Stef’s been around since the early days, too. And so has Corey because actually, Corey was hired only a few months after Stef was and that was mainly because it became so obvious that our analytics were suffering. I don’t even know that we had GA properly installed on our website. That’s how chicken-with-my-head-cut-off it was. That’s how we were operating the department: just like one campaign after the next.

It was all about getting people to try Unbounce so even the foundational stuff hadn’t really happened yet. So that’s when we brought on Corey, too, to start thinking more about performance and funnel-type driven marketing. Yeah, that actually was three years ago at the end of this month.

Dan: Do you remember what your vision was for how you would build out the team from there?

Gia: Yeah, I remember early on looking to Moz and Rand (Fishkin), actually. The Moz blog — then SEO Moz — had a couple of posts about how to build to a marketing team and I remember one that sort of resonated with me, which was – I don’t remember what the post said, exactly. But what I got out of it was I had sort of imagined a marketing team broken into four. And so strategic partnerships and business development was a huge, huge part of our success for marketing in the marketing team at the time, as was our content marketing, as was our performance type marketing (so like funnel-focused stuff), which we were sorely lacking, like I mentioned why we hired Corey.

And then also social and PR; I saw a big opportunity for that, too. And so those were going to be sort of the four pillars that I had planned to build out on. I sort of went with okay, let’s find the team leads for these four areas to build out and those were my first four hires, including yourself, Dan.

Dan: Yeah. That was just a little more than two years ago. Now we have more than 30 people on our marketing team.

Gia: Yeah, like 32 or something.

Dan: Oh, man. When you think back to that original vision, how different does it look?

Gia: So yeah, it looks very different than it did. The vision that I’m describing is super early days and now – when the company was like 30 people. Now, at like 130 people, nearly, obviously with the addition of people comes the addition of ideas. And I don’t mean just within the marketing department but the whole organization has really changed in terms of direction and recognizing different opportunities. And so actually, what we’ve recently done, actually as of just this year but it’s been in talks for obviously the past couple months. We’ve actually turned towards a more tribe approach.

And what I mean by tribe is squads and chapters. I won’t get into the details of obviously how tribes work, but the organization itself made the decision a while ago that we would attempt a more tribe structure for our department. So the product team, engineering teams – obviously, it’s sort of an engineering approach, this tribe structure. And the marketing team has adopted this, as well, recently. And what we’ve done is we’ve laid it on top of our customer journey. So we now have teams dedicated to different parts of our customer journey.

So as opposed to those four areas of focus that I was describing, we actually have teams dedicated to the different phases that our customer would go through when adopting our tool.

Dan: Right, from awareness to evaluation to growth and expansion.

Gia: Yes, exactly.

Dan: What’s been the biggest challenge for you going from a full-stack marketer team of one who was intimately involved in everything from strategy to execution for pretty much all our marketing campaigns and content, to a managerial VP role?

Gia: Wow, there have been a lot of challenges. The most obvious, though, is communicating that larger strategy and vision when you’re one person, really only comes down to – for instance for me it was, “Can I get Rick (Perreault) on board and can I get Oli on board?” And they were the only two founders that I really needed to get full alignment with on my strategy. Other departments too, of course but only at the highest level. I only had to worry about myself. Obviously communicating a vision and strategy to a larger and growing team becomes increasingly difficult, especially as you add new members.

There was a certain point where we were adding new members on a biweekly and monthly basis. So aligning everyone, obviously, can be pretty challenging. I think that’s challenging for any growing team. Brainstorms were a great way, early on, to determine whether or not everybody was on the same page. So we would often run campaign brainstorms. And after those — I was rarely even the one running them — but I would attend with great benefit to know, “We’re way out of whack on this. We need to do a better job of communicating our strategy” or “Hey, great, we’re all on board.”

Because it would come out at the tactical level — it became obvious whether or not we were all on the same page or not. One of the things that’s been to my advantage is that I’m the type to provide feedback really early and often and immediately, which I think has been really useful for – I mean at the individual level. But also, because I did basically all of these jobs at some point, I have context that I think paired with relying on people’s specialties, which now the people on the team know way, way more about their individual areas than I will ever hope to know.

So pairing that context — that historical context — I think is of a huge advantage now, too. Because I can sort of get into the nitty gritty with everybody as I need to and I’m super happy to back out and let people lead the way. But I have a lot of that early sort of context. So I don’t know. It’s been hard to let go but it’s been so rewarding to let go at the same time.

Dan: Right. It’s got to be tricky to do sometimes to give that feedback, to be that involved and that direct with your communications at every step without coming off and feeling like a backseat driver, I would think.

Gia: Yeah, for sure. Earlier days, I had a way harder time with that for sure. But when it’s a smaller team, it’s an easier process. When you’re like five or six or 10, then everybody is sort of on the same path. But as you’re out to 30 or so, everybody’s got their own goals and their own focuses so I have a way easier time now than I did. Earlier days, I was way, more intimately involved, obviously. And now, I’m super content to let people – you know, you tell me how this should be done. Everybody’s been so, so amazing and enthusiastic and self motivated that it’s been easy.

Dan: One of the great advantages that I see — just to remove the fourth wall for a moment – within this new structure where I’ve also found myself in a bit more of a holistic role rather than in the weeds, is to make sure that you’re there. And we know that you’re there as a resource. Not necessarily as a bottleneck but that you have that expertise and that institutional knowledge. And I think that’s a really unique, valuable role to have within a team.

Gia: Yeah, totally. I’m totally down to get into the weeds whenever needed, and totally happy to stay out of them when it’s appropriate. So it’s just removing the lockers is really satisfying, too, to be in a position where I can remove those bottlenecks or help get things out of the way so people can move forward. That’s also a really rewarding part of being in this more holistic position as opposed to execution.

Dan: Do you think there’s an opportunity to keep growing within a team without giving up the full-stack marketer, have-your-hands-in-everything role, even as you get more senior?

Gia: That has actually probably been my biggest struggle, I’d say. Two of my four years was exactly that. I was struggling with management track versus individual contributor track. And as a generalist, you tend to end up on the management track. Unless you’re going to specialize, that’s just sort of the natural thing you end up in. There are like the Michael Aagaards of the world, who are senior, individual contributors. They’re masters of their craft. So as a full-stack marketer, I think it’s pretty tough to end up as an individual contributor doing executional sort of work like that.

As opposed to if you’re full stack and you have a wider, reaching perspective on your goals and your team’s goals, let’s say. You’d have to stay on a small team and begin the type of role where you get to wear lots of hats. But as soon as you get into a department of 20, 30 people, no, you need to start hiring more of those specialists, individual contributors. That level of expertise is just required at that stage. So yeah, I think it does come down to those two different professional tracks: management versus individual contribution.

Dan: At the same time, you wouldn’t want a Michael Aagaard to stop doing CRO and start managing a team. So I think to provide that path, yeah, you could keep growing your expertise, you could become more senior, your salary could evolve with you without feeling like you’re being taken away from what you’re good at. I think that’s really important.

Gia: Yeah, totally. And that’s the big struggle. We’re picking on Michael Aagaard, here, but it wouldn’t be unheard of for Michael to have a team. But that’s a decision that he has to make at a certain point: am I going to focus more on the management and professional development of my team and less on the actual fun, conversion rate optimization work? That’s a decision you have to make at some point.

It might be something he’s absolutely looking to do, and it might be: no, I don’t want to get into management; I’m not into the operational side of things. A lot of developers end up at this point in their professional careers and the same is true in any marketing department.

Dan: Yeah, I think it’s true almost anywhere. I think of the amazing teacher in school who gets promoted to principal and doesn’t make a particularly good principal, and then you lose that amazing, inspiring teacher. I think at any institution or organization, it’s important to think about these things and to map out those different paths. So you went on maternity leave about a year and a half ago, and you’re expecting your second child in the next few months. Any advice for other marketing teams on – first of all, congratulations! I should say that. I’ve told you before, but now that it’s on record…

So any advice for other marketing teams on how to plan for and manage a smooth transition when a senior member of the team, particularly the marketing director, goes on leave?

Gia: Yeah. I was gone for eight months, and I knew that I wouldn’t be gone for the full year. And I remember these early discussions with Rick and Oli and Corey trying to distribute responsibilities. And we made a lot of mistakes, to be honest. One of which was relying on somebody within the team with their own responsibilities to take over mine, as well, with the expectation that people outside the department would lend a hand when needed. But in retrospect, that was a really bad idea because especially in a company growing as quickly as Unbounce, people are very, very busy.

They’ve got their own problems to solve and depending on three people to fill in on one person’s role was a big mistake and we know that now. Advice? Now I’m in a position again where I’m trying to do sort of the same thing. One of the things that Leslie in HR has been really helpful with driving home and insisting that a very clear role is defined and that there’s a person in place to represent you in your absence. So there’s one person who is responsible for the entirety of your role and responsibilities.

And so they sort of operate as your stand-in in your absence. In the absence of having somebody doing that, you run the risk of causing a lot of confusion when you return, causing a lot of confusion around where your roles and responsibilities fall when you come back. To be honest with you, we didn’t get it right necessarily the first time. I’m hoping we get closer this time. As I talk to a lot of women who have gone on maternity leave, this is a much larger issue, obviously, and I could probably do a podcast about this topic on its own.

But roles will always change in your absence, especially with a growing company. So there’s no surefire way to assure you’re going to come back to the exact, same role, and that you’re going to

Dan: Yeah, and a company where roles change so quickly anyway.

Gia: Yeah, exactly. And you’re trying to take care of your team in your absence, especially when you’re in a management role. But yeah, we do the best we can and I don’t have a ton more to add to that, to be honest.

Dan: Fair enough. How do you think marketing teams could do better in empowering the women on their team to dive into family life without feeling like they’re letting their team down or compromising their career somehow?

Gia: Yeah, that’s a great question. There are a lot of things organizations can do in order to make it a little bit less scary for people to exit their roles. And it’s not just women. Some men decide to go on parental leave just as often as women. I know lots of cases where the guy will leave for months at a time. It remains true; any type of leave is something to contend with and manage, particularly though when we’re talking about gender. There are some biases that have worked into the way businesses are run.

And so there are a lot of things that can be done to remove those biases. Like there are standardization approaches to performance reviews. Again, this is not my area of expertise; I am not HR by any means. You’d be way better off talking to somebody like Leslie (Collin) for something like this. But I think standardizing the approach can help because it does aid in removing bias. And then yeah, what I was talking about before, making sure someone is representing you in your absence is another really important piece to it, whether you’re a guy or a girl or whatever.

Gender doesn’t really come into it. It’s just anybody who is on leave — there are lots of reasons to go on leave. So having yourself represented when you’re not there I think relieves a lot of reintegration problems when you return.

Dan: Right. There’s the question of reintegration but there’s also, I think, feeling confident about going on leave without feeling guilty about it. It sounds like it’s a problem when these things aren’t clearly defined ahead of time.

Gia: Yeah, it’s inevitable that feeling guilty would be a problem for certain types of individuals, particularly at a company where people love their team as much as we do at Unbounce. We believe so heavily in the company and what it stands for, and the founders and our coworkers and our work that anybody leaving that environment will inevitably feel some sort of guilt for – not abandoning ship, but you know what I mean.

Dan: It’s almost like a negative symptom of a really positive culture.

Gia: Yeah, exactly. I can speak for myself that, yeah, it was really hard to leave. When I was on leave, I was like, yeah, nothing fell apart. Everybody’s still there and still happy and still operating, which was so amazing from the outside to look back in for those eight months and know that everything was running along. Of course it wasn’t running 100 percent smoothly, but things aren’t running 100 percent smoothly now, either. But it was really rewarding to know that everything didn’t fall apart in your absence, kind of thing.

Dan: We’re glad to have you back and we have your back when you go away again, so don’t you worry.

Gia: Thanks, Dan.

Dan: Thank you, Gia. This was great to chat.

Gia: Yeah, for sure.

 


View post:

How Unbounce’s Marketing Team Grew From 1 to 31 [PODCAST]

Dear Abby: I Need (Marketing) Relationship Advice [PODCAST]

marketing-relationship-advice-650

We all have that friend we go to when we need relationship advice.

But it’s not always about heartache or that roommate who won’t do their dishes. Sometimes it’s your leads who are breaking your heart. You thought you made a great first impression, so why don’t they want a second date?

When your lead gen opportunities are resulting in the marketing equivalent of a one-night stand, let Mike King of digital marketing agency iPullRank be that friend.

In this episode of the Call to Action podcast, Mike tells you how you can create long-lasting relationships with leads – the kind that keeps them coming back for more.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • The dangers of focusing too closely on conversions and what you should be focusing on instead.
  • How data-driven personas can help you get to know your leads before you ask for their number (or email address).
  • Why unqualifying leads is sometimes better than qualifying them.

Listen to the podcast

Mentioned in the podcast

Read the transcript

Dan: You said in your talk at Call to Action Conference last year that you appreciated having your landing page brutally critiqued on the Unbounce blog. First off, thanks for being a good sport about that. You then went on to justly critique our own Call to Action Conference landing page for being less than optimal. Thanks for that, too. Is it me, or are marketers a bit like rappers? They love dissing their competitors and peers, but they can’t really take the heat when it’s directed at them.

Mike: I don’t know if that’s relegated to marketers or rappers. I think that’s just people not really liking criticism. Me, I enjoy it because those are always opportunities for me to improve, so when you guys had written that post, my team was crying about it. I was like, “Yo, they’re right. Let’s take this as an opportunity to fix that landing page.” But whenever I can return the favor on something like that, I always love to do so.

Dan: Yeah, fair enough.

Mike: I figured it was gonna be a fun little intro. I like to start out by getting people involved or make them laugh a little bit or something like that because a lot of my stuff gets pretty technical, so I like to start pretty lighthearted, and it was just a really good way to get into the spirit of the things that you guys do and give you a taste of your own medicine.

Dan: Yeah, no, that’s totally fair, and I think it’s a good thing for marketers to look inward sometimes. At the same time you said that lead generation isn’t about us. It isn’t necessarily how marketers feel about it. It’s about how our audience reacts to it. Why was that something that you thought was important to put out there?

Mike: Yeah, I thought there was a lot of discussion around how brands are supposed to be or things that brands are supposed to do. It’s more about how do we do things that people are gonna react the way that we want them to? It’s not about how we feel about what it is that’s being created or how things are being positioned. It’s all about doing the things that work for the audiences that we’re going after, so one of the subjects of contention throughout the conference was things like pop-ups.

Dan: Right.

Mike: Well, yeah, I hate pop-ups, but we all know that pop-ups work, so what’s the point in even making an issue about, “Oh, don’t do this because that makes your brand look bad”? No, it doesn’t necessarily make your brand look bad because they work for people. So I think it’s really important to remember that we as marketers are in this marketing echo chamber where people are just saying things. They have opinions, and they let their personal opinions offset what data is telling them. This isn’t me specifically dissing any one person. I’m just saying that we as marketers just need to be aware of our own biases and remember that it’s about our audiences, not about us.

Dan: Yeah, that’s definitely good to keep in mind. You were kind enough to give some relationship advice in your talk as well. You pointed out that we do a lot of one-night stands in lead gen, but not enough long-term relationships. What did you mean by that?

Mike: Yeah, I think one of the things in marketing, especially digital marketing, is we’re very much focused on that last click, that last action of the user. So many of us work on things that are just completely low funnel, and then they forget about creating this relationship with the user. So what I’m saying is think about more of the funnel rather than just focusing on that last part where you’re just trying to get the prospect in bed with you rather than thinking about taking them out on a date.

Dan: Right, so once you fill that funnel, not forgetting about those people and continuing to serve them with relevant content that eventually gets them to convert.

Mike: Yeah, and I think you guys, or Unbounce rather, is a great example of that. You guys aren’t just doing things that are like oh, get people to sign up right away. You have tons of content that’s educating people, that’s showing the value of what you guys do and the industry in general. It creates a better relationship that you guys have with your customers. Looking at CTAConf as an example, I imagine there’s a lot of people that go there that aren’t Unbounce customers, but they respect what you guys do, and because of that you’re nurturing those relationships, and then they become a long-term customer because of those efforts.

Dan: Yeah, you suggest a model of lead gen that involves spending a lot more time getting to know people before they close the deal.

Mike: Yes.

Dan: What are some of the benefits of that approach?

Mike: Yeah, and I think it goes back to the last point in that the more that you understand who you’re talking to and how you can show value to those people, the more they’re gonna stick around and understand that you get them. Again, this is not about us. It’s about the people that are in these audiences, so how do we position the things that we want these people to do in that it becomes more valuable to them aside from just the actual transaction? So understanding your audience is gonna allow you to be really hyper-focused on the things that they want, and then you’ll be able to create those things and ultimately win based on the goals that you’re going after.

Dan: To get into brass tacks a little bit, what do you mean when you say that personas should inform qualification of leads?

Mike: So when it comes to qualification of leads, I mean typically everyone’s like, “Oh, this person spent five minutes on the site, and they looked at this page, and they looked at that page.” Well, that’s very vague. I mean, any person could do those things and then also not convert, so having a better understanding of who this person is or who these people are as they’re going throughout the process of conversion helps you 1) put the right messages in front of them and 2) makes sure that you’re getting people that are actually valuable to you.

So rather than going after millions of people and then just filtering people out, it would be better to filter people out in the beginning so that people at the back end of the process are only dealing with quality. I think a good example of this is the difference between marketing-qualified leads and sales-qualified leads. A lot of times salespeople get upset at the leads that they’re getting from marketing because they feel like they’re not as valuable yet. They’re not as qualified or not as hot of a lead, so if everybody is thinking the same way like the sales team is thinking — that we only want the most qualified people — then you’re not wasting anybody’s time. What you’re doing is only giving people valuable stuff, so I’m saying if you qualify earlier and get more aggressive about that, then you’re only dealing with quality on the back end.

Dan: Right, I think sometimes it might be hard for people to have that perspective, especially if a marketing team is broken up in a way where the people driving awareness and generating those leads, their KPIs are all about more leads whereas the salespeople, they’re worried about qualification, so if you don’t make that connection to kinda take that holistic approach, then I can see how in a siloed structure you might run into some problems there.

Mike: Absolutely.

Dan: You make the connection between creating data-driven personas and something that I think not enough marketers talk or even think about, which is readability. Why is readability something that not just content marketers, but conversion-oriented marketers should care about?

Mike: Yeah, and we’ve made this connection kinda by accident just playing around with data. I’ve always understood what readability is because I’m a developer myself, and understanding content we’ve always played around with those metrics, but then what we did is we ended up comparing it with that page value metric in Google Analytics, and more often than not we’re seeing that things that are more confusing to read are way lower in page value. So ultimately they’re not converting, and that should be kind of an axiom, an obvious thing, but being that we can look at a specific metric, which is readability, and determine that changing that score for content has a direct impact on conversion. I think that that’s incredibly important, and it’s a very easy way to make more money out of your content.

As far as connecting that to data-driven personas, well, one of the outputs from demographic data is people’s reading level, so if you have an audience that has a very low reading level and your content has very low readability, then there’s a clear disconnect there. So one of the things that people don’t like about personas is that typically they’re just the output of some sort of qualitative group setting affinity mapping session, and then a lot of data-driven marketers just don’t believe in them. They don’t believe that there are ways to make personas measurable, and I counter that that’s absolutely false. There’s so much data now that allows us to do that even for free, so why not leverage that data to make this whole process measurable and then use that as a key component of determining how to convert or make people convert more?

Dan: Yeah, I think that’s another really good example of how using data helps inform the whole funnel and helps kinda break down those silos because content marketers may be looking at KPIs like time on page whereas the performance marketers are looking at things like conversion rate, but here you’re making the connection between those two things, and I think that empowers marketing teams to move forward much more collaboratively and confidently.

Mike: Yeah, and then the other component is we think of all these channels in very different ways, and obviously search is the one where we’re getting intent, and users have a very specific thing that they’re looking for, so generally speaking it’s gonna convert more, but the thing is if you’re able to measure these audience sites based on those different channels, you see that the impact isn’t as dramatic between channels when you see the audience as another data point.

So what you might end up seeing is that certain audience types still convert very well from social media or just as well as they do from search, but because the focus is so broad and you’re getting all types of people, you might see that generally speaking search is your best channel. So when you’re able to segment by audience and channel as multiple dimensions, you get to a point where you understand that it’s not just the channel itself, it’s also the type of person coming from that channel.

Dan: Yeah, I mean I think it goes back to what you said before — like we’re not just talking about rappers and marketers and leads. We’re ultimately talking about people here, and that’s important to keep in mind at every step.

Mike: Right, right.

Dan: You mentioned another model in your talk that involves unqualifying leads instead of qualifying them.

Mike: Sure.

Dan: What does that look like?

Mike: Yeah, and that’s kinda something that I noticed just looking around at people’s different conversion pages or their “Contact Us” pages, and I know that Wil Reynolds — who also spoke at CTAConf — their company actually has recently shifted to an unqualifying contact page as well. So the exemplar that I showed in my talk was from an agency – well, not an agency – it’s hard to describe because it’s like a distributed type of thing where this guy named Dan Mall – his company’s called SuperFriendly – he has no employees. He just pulls together a group of people to work on a given project at any time, and on his page there is no contact form. There’s a bunch of text that you have to read to then figure out how to reach out to them, and I think that’s a very interesting model in that it only brings the people that really wanna work with you.

So I think it’s a very interesting model, but at the same time I think it can also be a turnoff. Like, there are those people that would be very interested in working with you, but they may be turned off by your attitude because you’re kinda coming across as, I don’t know, what’s the word for how startup people act where they’re all condescending towards everyone and then just making some mediocre product? Whatever the word is for that, that’s how you come across when you have copy like that or a process like that, so it’s a double-edged sword. Ultimately it’s about: what do you want to be in the marketplace? How do you wanna be perceived? And it goes back to branding and things of that nature, but I think you need to be very careful with that because you may end up scaring off a lot of people that would be good quality leads, prospects, clients, partners for you.

Dan: Right, yeah. Oli Gardner, Unbounce’s co-founder, talks about good and bad friction and how if you want somebody to fill out a form, then typically you wanna reduce friction, but sometimes when you’re really trying to qualify people, adding a little bit more friction — another field or two — could be a good thing, but of course there are good and bad ways of doing that, and I think thinking about your brand is something that is an important consideration.

Mike: Exactly, exactly.

Dan: You make another distinction between low-effort and high-effort lead gen. Can you break that down for us?

Mike: Yeah, sure. So what we’re in the middle of doing, and it’s still ongoing, is a comparison of things that don’t take much work to do. So for example if you just wanna go after some keywords on paid search, you make a landing page, and you’re just capturing leads that way versus doing something that’s very content-driven and has some components to it that we have to custom build from scratch. And there’s a lot of analysis that went with that content that we created. In this case, what I’m comparing is what we did is we pulled a list of sites from Searchmetrics’s list of winners and losers, and we made landing pages that had messages to go for the winners and the losers, and this is specifically a list that they have of people who had the biggest negative and positive changes in visibility in organic search based on how they tracked things in their system.

So we just created a landing page for that, and then we also did this really in-depth study of the Inc. 500 where we took all 500 of the domains and did some analysis, put together predictive models around their propensity to be penalized by Google based on a variety of metrics that are available, and then we did this entire study. We did very in-depth prospecting of people at all those companies and really put together this concerted effort to reach very specific people through our marketing effort. We just wanted to see what yields the best results, so is it the thing that took a day to do or the thing that took a month to do just to see what impact it has on that target audience to get an indication of which of those is gonna be more valuable like is it even worth doing all the analysis that we did?

Dan: That’s such an interesting and important question, low versus high effort, and it’s something that I know that we talk about constantly. Often there’s a perception that more effort is gonna yield more results. You work hard, and it’ll pay off in the results, but often what it comes down to is working smarter instead of harder, and I think actually setting that up as an experiment is a pretty worthwhile thing.

Mike: It’s interesting because we do so much testing within the guess and check, but we don’t test our guess and check, if that makes sense.

Dan: Right.

Mike: Like rather than having two strategies and thinking like, “Okay, well, let’s try this one and then see what the other one does,” there isn’t as much of that. There’s more like, “Okay, well, I’m just gonna do my landing page, and I have my offer and my ad copy and leave it at that and just test within that.” Not whether different, more valuable – or not necessarily valuable – more high-effort approach might be worth testing against the low-effort approach.

Dan: How has this changed the way you guys approach things in your team?

Mike: I think generally speaking we’re always trying to think about how can we strategically do things differently. I think it’s largely because that’s just the way I am — like I like to question a lot of the status quo. I like to see if things can’t be done the other way, and maybe I’m just a stubborn person or what have you, but if people tell me this is the best practice, I’m like, “Well, why don’t we try the opposite of that and see what happens?” I think everything is based on who you are, how you did things, what have you, but more often than not I see that taking the other approach yields something different. It may not necessarily be better results, but whatever it is, I end up learning something from it, and then we apply it to other things.

Dan: Yeah, that’s a good point: that we as marketers talk about experimenting with and testing our campaigns and our marketing, but we rarely take a step back and put our own processes under the same amount of scrutiny.

Mike: Yeah, absolutely, and I think that being that the agencies I’ve worked in the past have been so strategy-focused, it’s been very easy for me to take that high-level look, but also because my background is in development and computer science and stuff, it’s very easy for me to look at the minutia and be like okay, how do we then turn this into something, like how do we execute on it? To that point, that’s something that we’re really trying to get better at is how do we turn this great strategic focus into equally great execution focus as well.

Dan: Okay, so before I let you go, I wanna ask you about pop-ups. You mentioned them a little bit earlier, and as you said, it’s one of these things that everybody says they hate, but the data shows that conversion tools like exit overlays and welcome mats usually work. Do you think it’s time for marketers to stop worrying about this stuff, or do you see these tactics working right now, but is that bubble gonna burst eventually?

Mike: Yeah, I think it’s interesting. In my talk I was kinda making fun of Neil Patel because of – well, I wasn’t kind of. I was definitely making fun of Neil Patel.

Dan: No doubt about that.

Mike: Because of the number of pop-ups he uses. But the reality of it is that a guy like Neil Patel does not care what I think. That guy is very focused on the data, and the data is telling him that he can do that, and it works very well, and despite whoever’s gonna talk shit about him – I don’t know if I can say that, but I guess I just did.

Dan: You did.

Mike: Whoever’s gonna talk about him in a negative way, he’s still gonna focus on the things that make him money, and I think the way that he works is kind of an indication of what really works rather than what any other marketers like, “Oh, well, I feel like that’s not good for your brand,” like whether it’s me, whether it’s whoever, so I think that we just have to continue to have a culture of testing things and see what works for our audiences. Generally speaking it’s to be expected that pop-ups, welcome mats and such are going to yield great results. It’s just what do you wanna do as a brand? What does your audience tell you you should focus on? And then use that as your true north rather than, “Oh, I feel like pop-ups are bad.”

Dan: Yeah, that’s a good point. Neil knows his brand, and he knows his audience, and that might work for them. He might not be speaking to the same audience that you are or that you were speaking to at the Call to Action Conference, but he’s made that decision, and it works.

Mike: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely.

Dan: Yeah, and I think on the other hand just because it works for Neil Patel and on his properties doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gonna work for other marketers.

Mike: Right, and I think, again, generally speaking best practices always need to be questioned. Again, I think they need to be ran through the lens of your audience to determine what’s gonna work for you, but it’s very difficult for me, and it should be for anyone, to really just take these “best practices” at face value. You need to always be testing. I guess that’s my sound bite.

Dan: All right, well, let’s end with that one. It’s a good one. Thanks so much, Mike, for taking the time to chat. This was great.

Mike: Yeah, thanks for having me.


Continued here:  

Dear Abby: I Need (Marketing) Relationship Advice [PODCAST]

Lessons Learned from Year 1 of the Call to Action Podcast [PODCAST]

Birthday cake
Image by Morrowlight via Shutterstock.

The first year of becoming a parent is a rollercoaster of emotions, from terror to pure joy and everything in between. You can’t sleep, you don’t have time to eat and you go from laughing to crying in mere seconds. But in the end it’s all worth it, because like every proud parent, your podcast’s achievements become your own.

Nope, that wasn’t a typo. We’re talking about a different kind of baby — one you can download on iTunes.

That’s right, folks, the Call to Action podcast just turned one, and we’re celebrating as many others have celebrated their first birthday: by diving headfirst into a volleyball-sized cupcake. (I wish!)

Join me, Unbounce’s Multimedia Producer, Stephanie Saretsky (a.k.a. Beansie), and Content Strategist Dan Levy as we chat about the lessons learned during the podcast’s first year, including how dang tricky it is to measure the value of a podcast and why not all ideas are good ideas. On top of that, we chat about what’s to come for season two, and how you can get involved.

Season 1 highlights:

  • Cracking the iTunes ranking algorithm — ranking first in Marketing, first in Business and fourth in the entire iTunes store.
  • Learning that it was Aaliyah and not Destiny’s Child that taught us to “…dust [ourselves] off and try again.”
  • Answering the big question: Are you more of a Tom Haverford or a Ron Swanson?

Listen to the podcast

Mentioned in the podcast

Read the transcript

Stephanie: This is kind of a special episode. As you know, I’m Stephanie Saretsky. I’m the host of Call to Action. But with me, I have our content strategist, Dan Levy.

Dan: Hey, Stephanie.

Stephanie: How’s it going, Dan?

Dan: It’s going pretty well. We don’t usually talk to each other, do we?

Stephanie: No, I usually kind of just introduce you and then let you interview all of our awesome guests.

Dan: Of course, the secret is that you are in the room next to me when I interview those guests, so it’s not like we don’t actually talk in real life.

Stephanie: It’s true. Behind the scenes, we’re actually always together.

Dan: Crazy.

Stephanie: So today, we thought it would be fun because it’s been one whole year since we launched the Call to Action podcast. It first went live last January 28, which was a Wednesday. So we thought it would be fun to get together and chat about what went well, what didn’t go so well and what we’re excited about doing for this year.

Dan: Yeah, it’s a good opportunity to take a step back and to also look ahead. And of course, a big part of that is to get your feedback on what you’ve enjoyed and what you think we could do better, and what you’d like to see for the rest of the year and beyond that. So we hope that you’ll enjoy this walk down memory lane. We hope there will also be some valuable lessons and insights for you in how to launch a podcast and everything from ranking on iTunes, to how to get guests, to how to treat your guests.

One thing that’s been I think a huge success so far is that we’ve had a lot of guests on, who’ve come to us later and said that they really enjoyed the experience and asking us how we manage things on our end so that they could make sure to give their guests as good an experience on their podcast. So that’s been a huge win for us and we hope to share some of that love.

Stephanie: Yeah, it’s definitely something that we’ve been trying to spread awareness of since podcasting kind of exploded in the marketing world last year. So from posts on our blog to just well-crafted episodes every week, it’s something that Dan and I are trying to really bring, an excellent product. So again, any feedback would be appreciated. You can always contact us at podcast.unbounce.com.

Dan: So talking about when we launched, bring me back. Why did we launch a podcast again?

Stephanie: So this is kind of funny. Something that Unbounce does every quarter is a ShipIt Day. And I’m sure if you work at a tech startup, you’re probably somewhat familiar with the concept. So it’s two days, and one day you spend planning what projects you’re going to work on, and then the second day you ship it. So the marketing team decided that we were going to do our own ShipIt Day because at that point in the company’s history, we weren’t really involved and ShipIt Day was something that the dev teams more did on their own, which has since changed. But our marketing manager at the time thought it would be fun for us to try and do it ourselves.

Dan: It’s funny you mention our marketing manager at the time. That’s Corey, and he actually plays a pretty important part in the genesis of the podcast. I might be skipping ahead here, but one of the reasons we did launch a podcast, before we get to the actual KPIs and everything, one of the reasons, to be totally honest, was because Corey told us that he didn’t have time to read our blog, and that he didn’t really like to read. And so if somebody could just speak our blog post to him into his ear every morning, he’d be a happy camper. And that was actually the seed of the Call to Action podcast.

Stephanie: Yeah, because the Unbounce blog is something that’s been like a flagship at Unbounce since it was started. I came from the radio world so I had a background in audio. And since I started at Unbounce, I was like, okay, a podcast would be something that I would really like to do and kind of throwing around ideas. And then Dan, when we had this ShipIt Day idea, he was like: “Hey, okay, so Corey doesn’t like to read. Why don’t we try to put together a podcast where we’re actually synthesizing popular blog posts of ours?” And I was like: “Sweet, that’s awesome; that’s a super concise idea.”

We have a huge bank of really awesome posts that we can pull from and it should be fairly easy editing-wise because there’s not a lot of post production that needs to be done. So Dan called up Elizabeth Martsen, who at the time was at Portent, Inc. as their PPC manager. And she had written a really awesome post for us about comparing PPC to online dating, which was really fun. So she was super awesome. She was like: “Yeah, I’ll totally do it.” She was able to do it within the next three days. So it was super fast. We got the interview done, cut and edited.

And then we presented the episode to our team, and it went really well. So we were like, okay, I think this needs to be an actual thing. So this was in October, I believe. And then we proceeded to interview six other people. We did that in a span of two weeks.

Dan: And that was one of my faults. I proceeded to go on my honeymoon for a month to Thailand. And so I was like, yeah, let’s do this podcast thing, and I’m leaving for a month. So we rushed to do six interviews really quickly, and then I said to Stephanie: “Have fun.” And when I got back, like a little, nicely wrapped present, they were all edited and ready to go, which was awesome.

Stephanie: Yeah. So that was really – yeah, fast paced but it was really good. We had some really awesome first contributors. And then at the same time, I spent the time putting together the launch brief. So at this time in Unbounce, we had about eight of us on the marketing team so we were still in the instance where I would put together a brief, and I would send it to our marketing manager. And then we would have a meeting and talk about all the strategies, whether we hit the key points and then he would send it back to me, and then I would iterate on it. And then we would finally get to the last iteration of the brief.

Initially, we had wanted to launch at the beginning of January as like a new year, new podcast thing. However, it became clear, because of the pace that we had to record a bunch so that we could launch with a certain amount, and we’ll get to that later. And just the size of the launch that this project was going to entail, that the first of January wasn’t going to be feasible for us. So we ended up moving it to January 28 and the rest is history.

Dan: Yeah, of course when we launch any piece of content marketing at Unbounce, we try to not start – in this case, we did notably want to do a podcast but we do try to start with a goal. And besides getting Corey to listen to our blog, remind me what was the goal on that brief that we set out to accomplish?

Stephanie: The initial goal had two goals. The primary goal was awareness. We really wanted this podcast to reach a new audience. And the way that we saw this happening was through the iTunes store. So right away, the biggest thing for us was to get into the New and Noteworthy section in iTunes and to rank in the top 10 in iTunes. So that was huge. So I spent an entire month researching on how to do that.

And I will let you in on a little secret: it was so hard – or at least a year ago, it was so hard – to find any definitive points on how to do well in iTunes. There’s so much conflicting information. iTunes is notorious for having that stuff on lockdown. Like you can’t do keywords anymore, there’s no –

Dan: You thought the Google algorithm and something like Google quality score was hard to unpack; wait ’til you encounter the mystery of iTunes.

Stephanie: Yeah, and there’s so much conflicting information. So one thing that people say is huge is rating velocity; so how many stars or reviews you get. So that’s one thing. So try and get as many reviews and as many stars as you can. Try and get as many people downloading as many episodes on the same day as possible. So download speed, so launching with more than three. Some people say one is fine; some people say you need at least five.

Some people say that you should be posting your podcast once a day; some people are like once a week. Initially, we had thought we would do biweekly but then we decided to go for a week just in case this download velocity was a huge deal. And we found that at the time, we did have enough in our bank and enough capacity to produce once a week.

Dan: That’s one of the reasons we both recorded a bunch of episodes right off the bat was so that we could launch with several episodes. And also one of the reasons that we did go for the MVP — the minimum viable product — we decided that it was important to keep it as lean as possible. So we interviewed blog authors and limited the scope of the podcast initially to people who we had interviewed on the blog, who we had a relationship with, and that there was a post that we could easily write some questions around and jump right into the content. Rather than creating totally fresh content, doing fresh reporting, for example. That would have added to our workload.

Stephanie: And so this is where something that kind of comes in stats-wise is interesting and something that we’ll unpack a little bit later on is because we were so concerned with our ratings velocity, our download speed and just getting as many people to listen to it as possible, when it came time to launch, we put a lot of effort into an email campaign, a social campaign. And really, even though the main goal was awareness and getting it to a new audience in retrospect we were actually launching to our current audience, and we were really banking on also hooking the people that were reading our blog and being like: “Hey, this is a post that you liked; here is an episode.”

We’re going to go more in-depth on this post. You’re going to hear a little bit of new information from the author’s mouth. And so that was something that we were banking on so that we could have a really awesome launch.

Dan: It’s a bit of the chicken and the egg scenario because we needed that critical mass of people listening to our podcast right away in order to rank in the iTunes store and reach that new audience. And in order to do that, we had to leverage our existing audience. So it wasn’t perfect because we were marketing to existing leads, but we did get our podcast ranking really quickly, which we hoped and we think did reach a whole slew of Coreys out there who don’t read the blog but who like to listen to podcasts.

Stephanie: And launch day was amazing. We quickly went to number one in marketing. We went to number one in business, and we were at number four in the entire iTunes store after This American Life, Serial and –

Dan: Radio Lab.

Stephanie: No, it was Invisibilia, the new NPR podcast. Which is, if you’re a podcast fan – and I’m sure you are if you’re listening to this episode right now, like that is huge. Dan and I were freaking out.

Dan: Those are the three biggest podcasts in the world –

Stephanie: Ever.

Dan: – and number four was us.

Stephanie: It was awesome. I still have that screenshot and I just look at it when I feel sad. Yeah. So that was great. We had an amazing launch and yeah.

Dan: Yeah, the launch was really exciting. Of course, we wanted to then keep our momentum going, and we soon realized that the format that we had originally launched with was limiting in some ways, right?

Stephanie: Yes. Because even though we launched with this MVP, because it meant that it was consistent, it was narrow and we could do a lot of it quickly, which is important if you’re doing a weekly show; it has to be somewhat easy for the producer, which is myself, to actually edit it and be able to do all my other work. It soon became apparent that it was limiting in what we could actually think about. And also, initially, like the very, very first iteration of the podcast, we were trying to promote another core piece of content that we had just published, which was our marketing glossary. So we were starting every episode with a definition, read by our cofounder, Oli Gardner, of a marketing term that would then be featured in the actual interview itself.

Dan: Yeah. So we were excited about that idea. Some of the feedback that we got was that people didn’t necessarily see the connection between that word and then the interview afterwards. They thought that it was filler, or it was just a roadblock on the way to the interview, which is what they really wanted to get at. And so we quickly – I don’t know, how long were we doing that for?

Stephanie: We did that for at least two to three months, actually. I think we moved onto our second format change in about May.

Dan: Yeah, I think once we realized that it was even a stress for us to find words that connected to the interview, that it was time to stop. That yeah, it was convenient in the sense that we were leveraging existing content and that we were promoting it, but it didn’t quite work so we moved away from that.

Stephanie: And we just got so much feedback being like this seems like it’s just thrown in here. So we were like, okay, let’s try and give it more of a story because Dan and I both are super interested in podcasts that have a lot of story content. So we were kind of like, okay, how can we make this more podcast-y, which sounds a little weird but like how do we make this sound like it’s not your typical marketing podcast?

Dan: The podcasters that we were looking up to were those three other podcasts, This American Life, Serial and Invisibilia, Radio Lab — lofty goals because these are radio professionals who this is their full-time job. But there’s also other podcasts that are lower production but that really connect with their listeners in maybe a more personal way and a more informal way. And so we wanted to make sure that we were honoring the tradition. As new as it is, there is a podcasting tradition already and expectations of podcast audience; we wanted to make sure we were honoring those.

Stephanie: But the challenge was then also making sure that the interview was actionable at the time.

Dan: Exactly. Because something that we’ve always talked about is that Unbounce content needs to be actionable. And if you read our blog posts, they’re super tactical, they’re really in depth. We really break down a marketing problem and how to solve it. And that’s great in blog form. In podcast form, I think there are limits to it because people listen to podcasts at the gym, washing dishes, in the car; they don’t necessarily have a pen and paper.

They’re not in deep learning mode. They want to learn something, they want to get something out of it for sure but it’s not necessarily the same type of – they’re not looking for the same type of content that a blog reader would. So the challenge was how to keep it actionable without getting too bogged down into tactics and details.

Stephanie: And that was something that we noticed when we were able to suss out what made a really good episode last year, was we had a few episodes that were super technical; topics like PPC come to mind, where it’s a lot of great information but pulling that out and making that interesting to listen to was difficult.

Dan: And interesting for us.

Stephanie: Yeah. I won’t – never mind.

Dan: Yeah.

Stephanie: Whereas, say, some of our really awesome episodes last year, and one that comes to mind for me is an episode that we did with HubSpot’s Ginny Soskey, which is one of my favorite episodes today. Was that it was actionable but it also was very conversational and you guys were actually discussing the state of content marketing and the thought of publishing a lot of blog posts, or publishing a little blog posts. But it went beyond here was our experiment and this is what we saw.

Dan: That’s it. Because Ginny posted this amazing, in-depth report on this blog publishing experiment that they’d run. And the numbers were there, and the charts were there, and it’s just a really great post, but just recounting that is not nearly as interesting as the way she impacts it in the post itself. So we realized that this wasn’t just about talking blog posts, but it was talking around them and getting a little bit deeper into the bigger ideas and the bigger issues behind the posts. So there might be a post about a blog publishing experiment, but what’s the interview about?

Well, maybe it’s actually more about what is this content marketing stuff about?  How do you stay on goal while still providing value to the audience?  That’s a much more interesting conversation, I think, to have than charts and numbers, which could get a little bit tedious in the verbal form.

Stephanie: Yeah. So it’s just not as fun, and then it wasn’t as fun for Dan and I. So we found that they were received better by our audience, but then also more enjoyable for us to actually work on.

Dan: Yeah, and the other thing that you hint at there is that we moved beyond just talking about our own blog posts; just talking to authors who had written for our own blog. We realized that there’s a whole ecosystem of really smart, amazing marketing content out there and we wanted to speak to those authors, as well. So we started to talk to the HubSpots and the Buffers and really great marketing thought leaders who may have published elsewhere to bring those insights to our audience.

Stephanie: Actually, what are some of your favorite moments from the last year?

Dan: Good question. Somehow Parks and Recreation keeps coming up, and I actually didn’t even watch that show until really recently. One of my favorite moments was when Allison Otting from Disruptive Advertising asked me if I was more of a Tom Haverford or a Ron Swanson. And I kind of like played along for a little bit and then I was like, I don’t actually know who these characters are. I thought that was pretty funny.

Stephanie: Yeah, that was a really good episode. I actually had forgotten about that at this point.

Dan: How about you?

Stephanie: I think one of my favorites… that’s a hard question. Actually –

Dan: If at first you don’t succeed…

Stephanie: Oh, yeah. Oh, my gosh, yeah. This was the best. Jonathan Dane was on and actually, at this point, this has been one of our most popular podcasts because he really – he can take something like PPC and make it sound like the most fun thing in the entire world. Actually in that title was a huge come around for us. It was something like why PPC is just like Nerf guns or something?

Dan: Right, PPC as explained through Nerf guns.

Stephanie: Yes, that was it. It was awesome. And so at the very end, we ended off on this kind of inspirational note of like if at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again. And then –

Dan: I think I said – what did I say?  I said something like in the wise words of Destiny’s Child?

Stephanie: Yeah, Destiny’s Child. And then Jonathan was like no, no, I think that’s Taylor Swift. And then – oh, no. Did you say Taylor Swift and then he said Destiny’s Child?  Anyway –

Dan: You know what he said – I’ll tell you what happened. I got this.

Stephanie: Tell me, Dan.

Dan: So he said something about shaking it off, which is a Taylor Swift reference. What I heard was dust yourself off, which of course is Destiny’s Child reference. However, Stephanie kept her mouth shut, you know, like a good professional, until she couldn’t take it anymore and she set that straight.

Stephanie: Yeah, so it was actually Aaliyah.

Dan: We were both wrong.

Stephanie: Which was hilarious, and then we actually put the song into the end of the episode and it was, yeah, really funny and a really excellent way to end it. But then I also think that one of just the more enjoyable interviews that we had was when we had our own Haley Mullen, who is our community manager on the show. And Haley’s hilarious, if you’ve interacted with the Unbounce Twitter, ever. She’s so funny and it was just a really awesome interview to produce because listening to you and her talk was just fun.

Dan: Yeah, and I realized talking to somebody that you do have a previous relationship with, but you don’t necessarily have these specific conversations, they go in really interesting, unexpected places.

Stephanie: Also another good one that we did for us, we did our April Fool’s episode.

Dan: We did, yes.

Stephanie: Which was pretty funny, actually. So usually how a Call to Action episode gets started is that I’ll pull questions from a post and then Dan will edit them to be in his own voice. And then we’ll actually interview the guest, usually on a Thursday. And so what we actually did for this one is we did a full script with read-throughs and everything, and then we went in and actually recorded it like a radio play.

Dan: Yeah, and that actually went through several iterations because the first time we played it for some people and they were like: we don’t get the joke. We thought it was hilarious. But then we realized that – I think we played it a little bit too straight. And we rerecorded it where I was a bit more of a proxy for the audience in asking – being a bit more skeptical myself and slowly getting irritated by this character I was interviewing, who was like this total, arrogant blowhard marketer. And we think that the result was a lot better in the end.

Stephanie: Yeah, which is actually a really important content lesson. That something that you might think is really funny, or even really just awesome, it may just be you. Just run it past some people and be like, how does this sound?  And they’ll tell you: “We don’t get it. Is this actually a thing that’s happening?” And we’re like: “No, obviously we’re not developing landing pages to infinity or the Uber for landing pages; that’s silly.” They’re like: “No, it sounds real.”

Dan: Well, that’s it. And it goes to show how far off the rails digital marketing sometimes can get when something that’s so absurd could actually sound plausible to people.

Another episode, on a more serious note, that I really, really liked was my interview with Kevin Lee from Buffer. Where suddenly, the tables turned. I forget what we were talking about exactly but I asked him a question and he got, like, really quiet. He’s a really thoughtful guy, Kevin, and he’s the kind of person that doesn’t say anything without really thinking it through.

And if he doesn’t know the answer, then he’s really, in true Buffer style, kind of transparent about it and really humble. And so he said something like: I don’t know, what do you think?  And I got really quiet because, you know, I’m the interviewer; I’m not really used to being asked that. And then suddenly, I started kind of pouring out my guts to him and it became this back and forth; it was almost like content marketing therapy.

Stephanie: Yeah, I think you guys were talking about how do you tell people what you do.

Dan: Right.

Stephanie: And what is content market, basically.

Dan: Yeah, it got super existential.

Stephanie: Which, as we were talking about before, is a place that we actually do want to take the podcast to. Because you know, we want to be actionable but at the same time, the podcast is really one of the mediums at Unbounce that we can address these existential questions that we maybe can’t really do on the blog or we can’t really do in, say, like a video marketing or any other content form that we have.

Dan: Yeah, I think we’re always – as marketers, we’re often moving really quickly; we’re in campaign mode. There isn’t always the time to take a step back and reflect on what we do as a profession and on the craft of marketing. And I think that’s an area that we really enjoy exploring. We’re marketers talking to marketers. We have a tool for marketers, which helps them with their marketing. It’s all very meta and we think this is a good forum to take a step back to sort of share best practices, to be open about where we maybe have made mistakes, about things that we’re not quite sure of yet and to be able to talk those things through with each other in what we hope is a safe space.

Stephanie: Yeah, which actually brings up something that I addressed earlier that I kind of want to go into a little bit more, is the stats problem with podcasts. Because that’s actually something that we’re at right now, is we’re kind of evaluating how the podcast is performing as a company tool. And it’s really hard if you are familiar with podcasts, or if you have one yourself, you know what I’m talking about. Because podcasts are almost impossible to track as a KPI. Like you can get download rates; if you have awesome analytics, you can get download rates.

You can see what country they’re from, what device they’re on but it’s just a download. You don’t know if they listened to it. You can’t see how many subscribers you have. So basically, my rule of thumb would be to just track the numbers for the first couple of days and if they’re standard, I assume that’s how many subscribers that we have, which is very nebulous; it’s not an actual –

Dan: By subscribers on iTunes, right?

Stephanie: Exactly. So in my head, I’m like, okay, say, the morning of, like two hours after it launches we have 300 downloads every week. I can assume that at least 30 people are downloading this podcast automatically, meaning that they’re a subscriber. But iTunes isn’t telling me this. There’s no stat that says how many subscribers you have. So it’s not really – you can’t tag an individual listener and you can’t tell if they’ve actually listened to the episode; you can only just see that they’ve actually downloaded it onto their device.

Dan: Yeah, and that’s just like the most high-level KPI: how many people are subscribing and listening to your podcast. Once you get further down into the funnel, into like generating leads and even to tracking conversions down the line, it gets really, really dicey. And I’m not saying it’s impossible but I think we’ve made a decision here that we’re going to treat the podcast very much as a top of the funnel discovery channel. And so it really is about speaking to a fresh, new audience; getting them aware of all these marketing problems that we talk about and, of course, how Unbounce might help them find that solution.

But for us, it’s not a direct conversion channel. And I think that’s okay. We’re conversion centered marketers but we’re also inbound marketers who really trust and believe in our overall strategy. And we know that we have tons of pieces of content: we’ve got PPC, we’ve got email marketing, we’ve got lead nurturing, we’ve got much more conversion centered content that we create that’s doing that job for us. And so that frees us up to treat the podcast at what we think a podcast is good at, which is just communicating with people, engaging them and making these new relationships that hopefully we could then nurture further down the line.

Stephanie: So we’re kind of entering into this brave new world of not relying on our email list, as we had talked about was a big thing for us, at lunch. And distribution, trying to figure out where we need to be posting this to, who we need to get onto the podcast so that they can share it with our audience – tactics like that. But then internally, as well, now we’re just trying to figure out if our KPI is awareness, how do we actually move the needle on that?  So, say, if we’re getting 2,000 downloads on an episode, does that provide as much value as, say, 200 hits does on the blog post?  How much more engaged is a podcast listener compared to a blog reader?

So we’re really trying to make sure that we’re measuring the podcast against our awareness blog posts because those are the posts that are more in line with what the podcast goal is, and so we’re going to have a better chance of figuring out whether or not the podcast is providing value.

Dan: Right. In that case, we’re comparing apples to apples, right?  We’re not comparing a podcast against something like a webinar, which is much more conversion centric; but to compare it against a piece of awareness content that lives on the blog, for example, or a guest post does make sense. And so we’re trying to make sure that we’re still data driven and that we’re still measuring results, but that we’re measuring the right things and not getting distracted by: hey, we’re not able to track this to sales and conversions. Well, that’s not necessarily the point but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be tracking it at all.

Stephanie: Yeah, because that’s the thing. Because there’s always this knee-jerk reaction to be like: oh, if you can’t track something definitively, we should cut it, or it’s probably not valuable. But when you have something that’s purely an awareness channel, and something that is unable to be tracked exactly like podcast, that’s where it becomes a little bit more grey and where, say, we’re kind of campaigning to be like: no, we swear that this has value. We’ve gotten feedback and we believe in it. Podcasting blew up last year and so obviously there is something there. And so it just comes down to actually figuring it out; how to show that.

Dan: Exactly, yeah. There’s a reason so many brands are tripping over themselves to advertise on podcasts like Serial or This American Life. I heard a film ad on Serial the other week.

Stephanie: Really?

Dan: So like a major motion picture, Hollywood studio.

Stephanie: Like a trailer?

Dan: Yeah.

Stephanie: Cool.

Dan: Yeah, I think it was the Coen brothers, the new Coen brothers’ movie. And I was like: holy shit, like that’s entering –

Stephanie: That’s new.

Dan: Yeah, that’s new. And that’s like, to me, podcast entering the big time when they have Hollywood studios advertising. So the value of a podcast listener from a human standpoint, first, we don’t take that for granted because we realize how valuable your time is and how tenuous – how much content is out there and how we want to make sure to never break that trust. But I think that also bears out in business value, that we’re seeing in the industry that the value of a podcast listener compared to, let’s say, a blog post reader; if you compare podcast advertising rates to banner ads or even native advertising, that there’s a huge difference there.

And so we do not underestimate the value of this podcast. Just like anything else; a matter of figuring out how to measure that in a way that makes sense to the medium.

Stephanie: So along with figuring out the way that we want to evaluate it, we’re also having discussions on where we want to see the podcast going this year. So Dan, would you want to share some thoughts that you’ve had around where you’d like to take the podcast?

Dan: Yeah. I would love to talk to even broaden up the scope even more in terms of who we’ve talked to. So we’ve talked to the writers and editors of some of our favorite marketing blogs; some of our favorite SaaS blogs in particular. I’d love to talk to all sorts of thought leaders in the agency world, in the design world, brand marketers, also people in very specific industries like law and real estate. I want to know how they approach marketing differently. I just want to talk to as many marketers as possible to I think just broaden the scope of our understanding of things.

I think that, like anything else, the marketing, the digital marketing world, it could sometimes feel a little bit small, a little bit like an echo chamber. Everybody’s reading the same blog posts and looking to the same stuff. But I think that there are connections to be drawn to other industries. I think the world is actually a lot bigger than sometimes a cursory glance at like your Twitter feed or your Facebook feed would make it seem. And so we really want to make connections throughout the marketing world to help marketers do better and try new things that haven’t just been blogged about over and over again.

Stephanie: Yeah, and speaking on new things, too, just even playing with the format a little bit is something that I’m excited about. Like this episode is something we’ve never done before; just having an actual conversation and not like a standard interview, like actually –

Dan: I’d like to talk to you more.

Stephanie: Yeah. So from now on, we’re not having guests. It’s just gonna be Dan and I.

Dan: Just – you know, just chilling.

Stephanie: Just shooting, you know, the stuff. That was me censoring myself for iTunes.

Dan: I was gonna say and then I stopped myself so I said just chilling.

Stephanie: Because that’s something. If you swear on iTunes, you will have to have an adult rating. The more you know.

Dan: You know what?  We should test that. I wonder if having an adult rating would actually increase our listens. Maybe there’s a certain cache to that.

Stephanie: Because people would be like, wow, that is a naughty marketing podcast.

Dan: I feel like a naughty marketing podcast would be something else, but…

Stephanie: Yeah, so like aside from just a standard interview format, having more chats, more discussions. Something I’ve even kind of toyed with is having debates or just really having more actual kind of documentary style, journalism style, reporting, potentially.

Dan: One thing I’d like to do more of is share our experiences here at Unbounce. Because I think we’re very wary of being too self reflective or too self centered, which is I think why even this episode, talking about ourselves, feels like a little bit weird or against our nature. But you know, in the last two years since I’ve been here, our marketing team has gone from five people to 35. And there have been so many lessons along the way. There’s been some pain, there have been some triumphs. We’re constantly trying to improve on our structure, on our processes. And so I think that there probably are a lot of lessons that we could share.

And one of our values as a company is to be transparent and generous in terms of what we share with the world. And I think there’s an opportunity in this podcast to do that, as well. Plus, like we have all these amazing thought leaders within the company that we never had before. Like we never had a PPC specialist, an email marketing specialist, a CRO – the fifth top ranked CRO works for our company, now, Michael Aagaard. So I think we should be tapping that expertise more than we have been.

Stephanie: Yeah, and it’s something that we toyed a little bit at one point when we moved from definitions. We did a little, quick Unbounce employee story, which I actually really liked and I thought it was kind of an interesting way to segue into the interview. But we got some feedback that it kind of seemed a bit more like filler, again. So I think there is something to be said from talking about the kind of roadblocks and solutions that we have experienced as a company.

Because it is – again, we get that more intimate feel in the interview itself, and it’s something that we also know intimately which can allow for fun format changes. We’ve experienced all these issues that people are writing blog posts about so we may as well just talk about it in a real situation.

Dan: Yeah, and we also want to know what you guys want to hear more of. Like, does that sound like insufferable to you, to hear us go on about ourselves?  Is that something that you’re interested in hearing more of?  Is there anybody in particular you’d like us to have on the podcast?  Would you like to be on the podcast?  Let us know because we’re obviously doing this for business value but, like any good piece of content marketing, we’re doing this for our audience, first. And if it doesn’t resonate with you, then there’s just no point in doing it.

The feedback that we’ve gotten so far has been amazing. The reviews and the ratings have been great. We’re so appreciative of all the downloads every week. But we want to, like true conversion centered marketers, we want to keep optimizing and keep improving. And so please let us know how we could do better.

Stephanie: Yeah, so you can do that by either emailing us at podcast@unbounce.com. If you’re not a super big fan of email, you can tweet at us. I am @msbeansie, that’s M-S-B-E-A-N-S-I-E.

Dan: I am @DanJL, D-A-N-J-L.

Stephanie: So email, Twitter, you can – well, you can’t really phone us because we don’t really have phone numbers but yeah, just –

Dan: Look us up on Skype. There’s a lot of Dan Levys but you could find me.

Stephanie: If you find the right one. Yeah, please reach out to us. We’d love to hear your feedback. It’s super important for us. And like we said, this is the year that we really want to play around with the format and get a lot of new people on, so we would love to hear what you want to listen to.

Dan: Hey, Stephanie?

Stephanie: Yes, Dan?

Dan: Is that your call to action?

Stephanie: I think that was my call to action.

Dan: All right, then. Play the music. Thanks so –

Stephanie: Thanks for listening.

Stephanie: One, two, three.

Both: Thanks for listening.


View this article: 

Lessons Learned from Year 1 of the Call to Action Podcast [PODCAST]

Beating Copywriter’s Block [PODCAST]

beating-copywriters-block-650

We’ve all experienced that feeling of dread.

You’ve got your pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), but your mind is as blank as your Google doc. And your landing page copy isn’t going to write itself.

Before you throw up your arms and abandon your work, listen to the latest episode of the Call to Action podcast. Unbounce’s Content Strategist Dan Levy interviews Grant Lingel, Content Manager of professional service provider Bunny Inc. about tricks he’s used to break free of the prison that is writer’s block.

You will learn:

  • How you can find the happy medium between landing page copy that delights and landing page copy that converts.
  • What mirror neurons are and how they can help you get out of your copywriting rut.
  • Why you don’t have to feel guilty about the hour a day you spend browsing your Facebook newsfeed (turn your procrastination into productivity!).

Listen to the podcast

Download via iTunes.
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Mentioned in the podcast

Read the transcript

Dan Levy: So writer’s block is something anyone who writes can relate to, but you usually hear more about it in literary circles rather than in the context of online marketing. Why do you think that is?

Grant Lingel: That’s a great question because it’s definitely true. And as a writer, you know, writer’s block can definitely happen to anybody at any time. But in my eyes, I think writer’s block typically occurs more in the world of fictional writing as opposed to nonfictional.

Dan Levy: Right.

Grant Lingel: Now, as a writer, I’ve worked with both fictional and nonfictional. With online marketing and copywriting, usually the writer’s pretty well versed in the topic or at least very well briefed about what they’re working on, and not just that, who the audience is gonna be. So they have a much better idea of what they’re getting into as opposed to somebody who’s in the literary world where they’re usually creating characters, building a whole new world, developing storylines, trying to connect everything in an engaging, fun way that’s gonna keep the reader turning the pages. I think that’s why writer’s block affects fictional writers more so than copywriters and online marketers. So, with that said, writer’s block can definitely happen to people that work with copywriting and people who work in online marketing and content marketing worlds. But at least in my opinion, I think it’s a lot more short-winded and it deals usually more with struggling to find the right wording and not so much being lost altogether and unable to continue or needing to take a few days off or −

Dan Levy: Yeah, that makes sense. They have to wait for those moments of inspiration where you’re obviously working within a preexisting constraint, which is to persuade people to do something. At the same time, copywriters don’t just have to worry about their writing being really great; they also have to make sure it converts. So do you think that variable makes your job easier or harder?

Grant Lingel: I think both. First of all, I’ll say why I think it makes it easier. So going along the lines of what I was just talking about with writer’s block, writing copy entails not only knowing the topic but understanding the audience and understanding the business you might be working for or the product or the service that you’re writing about. Because the writer needs to do a lot of research to craft the copy in the right way, to drive conversions and to a very highly targeted reader, they’re able to focus on building up the content to make the call to action essentially the climax of the story. I mean, this’ll keep the writer focused on the task at hand, which is to create engaging copy. And that will ultimately drive conversions. So I think that makes it easier because it keeps the writer focused. I think focusing on conversions can make it harder as well. I know it’s kind of saying one thing and then saying the other, but because it’s harder because if you’re writing just a blog post, for example, about your favorite restaurant, you don’t really need too much research. You don’t really need to think too hard about it. You went there, you had a meal, you enjoyed it, fantastic, you can write about it. You still wanna do a good job because you wanna drive people to that restaurant. But instead of just understanding the topic that’s being covered, a copywriter also needs to understand who they’re working for, the product in question, the audience, trying to do it all in a specific word count that contains the right amount of keywords and is polished for SEO purposes. All these factors make the process a lot more intensive. So you can’t really take shortcuts, and if you do, you’re gonna pay for it down the road.

Dan Levy: Yeah, I think sometimes having those constraints is helpful creatively when you know you’re constrained or at least you’re focused on a particular goal and a particular business goal. It gives you a context for your writing that you don’t have when you’re just writing fiction or writing for some other reason. At the same time, you’re definitely more accountable to your words, aren’t you?

Grant Lingel: Absolutely, yeah, absolutely. But at least for me, and I know a lot of writers who think the same way, that added pressure is fantastic for productivity. I mean, being under the gun when it comes to deadlines and knowing that you need to get it done in that certain amount of words or in that certain timeframe, it’s like cramming for an exam. You have to do it or else you’re gonna lose that client; you’re gonna lose that project. And obviously, that is not at all what you wanna do. So having that added pressure, I think, is a fantastic motivator to get it done and do it in a great way.

Dan Levy: Yeah. Also, there actually is such thing as right and wrong when it comes to copywriting.

Grant Lingel: Definitely, yeah.

Dan Levy: If it’s persuading people and making people convert, then you’re doing it right. If not, it doesn’t matter how pretty the words are — you’re ultimately doing it wrong by definition.

Grant Lingel: Yeah, you might have a way with words and tell a beautiful story, but if it’s not doing the end goal of converting readers into buyers or users of certain services, you need to go back to the beginning and figure out what you did wrong and focus on what’s gonna drive those conversions.

Dan Levy: All right. So your post outlines nine ways to dig yourself out of those kinds of ruts and find inspiration for crafting your landing page copy. Can you talk about how something called mirror neurons can help?

Grant Lingel: The whole idea of mirror neurons is really interesting because essentially not until long ago in the 1990s, humanity had no idea why we cringe if we see somebody take a sip of rotten milk or why we get warm and fuzzy inside if we see a family embracing at the airport. It makes me feel good. The answer? It’s because of mirror neurons. When you witness an event like this, you put yourself in the place of the person to whom it’s happening. So when you see somebody coming home and embracing their children, it makes you feel warm and fuzzy because you can feel that. You don’t need to be in that hug. It doesn’t need to happen. It might never have happened to you. But you can put yourself there, and that’s because of mirror neurons. So, although it may not seem like it if you watch the news a lot, humans are actually very empathetic creatures. So mirror neurons let you connect your own experiences to experiences that are currently happening around you. So because you know that, for example, rotten milk is absolutely disgusting, you’re gonna gag if you see your sister unknowingly take a sip from a cup of funky milk. So by digging deep into your own past and using your own experiences for inspiration, you’re already gonna have an idea of what kind of content that you wanna write and what kind of reactions you’re gonna receive from the people who are reading them. So if you can put yourself into the eyes — or the mind rather — of the reader, you can already draw certain emotions and certain conclusions while you’re writing, before it’s even published. It’s a great way to connect with your reader on a very emotional level without even having to talk to them, without even having to know them, because they’re gonna be able to experience what you’re writing just from reading it. They don’t even need to be in the room. They don’t need to be with you. The mirror neurons in their brain are gonna relate their own past experiences to the words that they’re reading on the screen. It’s a very interesting concept, and I think it can really help a writer because you can honestly put yourself into the position of the reader without doing anything but digging into your own experiences.

Dan Levy: I love it because we’ve talked about empathy on the show before in the context of copywriting and just great marketing in general, and it’s always felt genuine, but it’s also felt a little bit touchy-feely and a bit of a squishy concept, especially for more conversion-centered marketers. But what you’re saying here is that, no, this is actually rooted in science.

Grant Lingel: Yeah, absolutely.

Dan Levy: And I think that’s a language that a lot of data-centered marketers understand maybe a lot better, so I love how we’re kind of bridging the science with the human emotion here.

Grant Lingel: Yeah, it’s great, because emotion drives everything. People wanna hear a great story. So even if you’re talking about copywriting or creating a landing page for a product or some service, you can sell it based on telling a beautiful story and making the people relate. Touching on those emotions is one of the most important things there is when it comes to selling a product or hooking a reader, making them feel like they’re more connected to a company instead of just a wallet waiting to buy something at the other end.

Dan Levy: Well, talking about good stories, no pressure, but can you maybe give an example of how you’ve used your own experiences and memories and empathy to inspire your landing page copy?

Grant Lingel: Well, that’s tough, what’s the −

Dan Levy: So a good story.

Grant Lingel: − I mean, one specific story? I mean, it’s not a fantastic story, but it’s something that’s stuck in my mind every time when I’m writing for a landing page. Writing copy for landing pages needs to be done in a way that drives action. Otherwise, there aren’t going to be any conversions. So, if there are no conversions, what’s the point? You’ve got to start over. So when creating the right copy, I think back to all the experiences I’ve had reading copy on other sites to see what piques my interest and what leaves me uninterested or bouncing away quickly. So this one time, I saw an ad on Facebook that I thought looked fantastic. It was about a skateboard company. I’ve been a skater for ages. And the company made handcrafted longboards, and the photo was beautiful. The text was simple in the ad, and it was effective. I clicked. I went to the landing page. And when I got there, I was just knocked over. I was completely bombarded by just so much information. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing because it was the opposite of what the ad looked like. Their colors clashed. There were images everywhere. Some were black and white; some were in color. There were multiple headlines, big, chunky paragraphs that just rambled on and on. It took me way too long to find the call to action because it was buried below mountains of random text, reviews, images. It was just a mess. By the time I was able to find the call to action, I had to actually scroll down to get to it, which is a big no-no right there, and I left. But I did like the page on Facebook. A few months down the road, they posted something on their Facebook page, and I was like, all right, I’m gonna check it out because it looks great, and it was different. It was a much different experience. Somebody must have gotten on the horn and was like, “Yo, you guys really need to change this because it looks terrible. It’s not working. You’re not selling these boards.” So when I got there, the new page was crisp; it was beautiful, and I ended up buying a board. I use that experience every time I write landing page copy. I always think about that skateboard company and how awful the experience was the first time, and then a couple months later, it was completely different, and it worked. It’s funny because the board didn’t change. It was still the same fantastic product that I use to this day, but the sales experience, the whole experience between me and the company changed and that’s what made the difference.

Dan Levy: That’s a great example because it shows you the opportunity there and the opportunity that’s lost when you do succeed in making that emotional connection and speaking to somebody’s lived experience and their sense of anticipation and then you completely crush their hopes when you show them the landing page that just doesn’t speak to that at all.

Grant Lingel: Yeah, it was really surprising. And I felt fantastic when I went back a couple months later and saw that that was resolved, just gotta keep it crisp and to the point. You don’t wanna go crazy and lose people before they get to the call to action.

Dan Levy: You also recommend looking to books and TV shows and movies and even tabloids for copywriting inspiration. In a sense, it sounds like you’re just enabling my bad habits here. But can you paint a picture of how you’ve applied something you’ve seen in a book or on screen to your landing page?

Grant Lingel: A lot of different things that I’ve done with inspiration that I’ve seen from TV, but it’s not like a specific show. It’s more of a specific technique actually. I’ve always been a big fan of standup comedy. Standup has always been huge in my life. Comedians like George Carlin, Mitch Hedberg, Louis CK, Dave Chappelle, they’ve always influenced me because they take the obvious and they shed this brilliant light from a totally different angle that really makes you think, obviously makes you laugh as well, but it makes you think. And you’re gonna hear something that they say, and you’re gonna say, “Wow, why didn’t I think of that?” or maybe you had thought of it. Why didn’t you say it? Why didn’t you go on stage and tell that obvious joke? And it’s because what they’re pointing out are things that are not only true but they’re things that are relevant to almost everyone. I mean, they’re things that almost anyone can relate to. So when I’m thinking of the right one-liner or the right title or the right slogan, I think of these comedians and I think of different ways to grab people’s attention by pointing out something obvious but in a way that might be hidden. I mean, I’m obviously not doing it for laughs. I have a terrible delivery when it comes to comedy. I’m doing it to leave people thinking. I want them to think what I think when I hear a great joke from one of the best comedians. You know, “Wow, that’s so true. Why didn’t I think of that?” When you do that, whether you’re writing subheads for a listicle post or a catchy title for a landing page, you’re instantly gonna leave the reader wanting to read on and learn more about whatever the content is about because you’re gonna catch them with just a few words and I think that, especially now today, people don’t have amazing patience. People are just surrounded by endless information. So if you really don’t catch them right off the bat, you’re gonna lose them. So you need to figure out ways that’s gonna make people think because if they’re thinking or smiling or laughing or whatever, they’re gonna wanna see what else is coming.

Dan Levy: It’s funny because, on one hand, we’re marketers and we’re reading these case studies and blog posts and a lot of these best practices that are floating around. But we also all watch Netflix, I’m sure, and we read either books or trashy magazines and go to the movies. And I don’t think a lot of people are necessarily making that connection. They think that these are two separate worlds, but a lot of these storytelling techniques and even these persuasion techniques and these ways to connect with you emotionally exist in these other media as well. So I think that’s a great piece of advice to pay attention.

Grant Lingel: Absolutely. It’s all connected. I mean, storytelling is everywhere. It’s on a box of cereal. It’s not just in the literary world or movies or TV. Everything is telling a story. So if you can connect with who’s listening, that’s it. You win.

Dan Levy: Yeah. Actually, another thing you suggest in your post is Facebook and Twitter −

Grant Lingel: Oh, yeah.

Dan Levy: − which I think again sometimes feels like a bad habit and like a total time suck.

Grant Lingel: Oh, absolutely.

Dan Levy: But there are also ways to turn that social media procrastination into productivity, right?

Grant Lingel: Oh, for sure. I mean, I try and keep my time scrolling endlessly and mindlessly on my Facebook newsfeed to a minimum because, like you said, it can absolutely be a time suck. And when you’re just browsing through endless photos of friends’ babies and cats and what they had for lunch, you can just feel like, “What am I doing? I should be productive right now. This is awful.” But when it comes to finding inspiration for what to write, especially for something specific like a landing page, Facebook can be a great source of inspiration and productivity. When I go to Facebook or Twitter for inspiration, it’s to look at current trends and to see what people are sharing and not just what they’re talking about, but how they’re saying it. Most of the things that are popping up on newsfeeds these days are links to blog posts and product pages as well, so that’s another excellent way to see what people are sharing and to discover what it is about the copy in these posts that is so sharable. Why are they sharing this and not the 5 billion other posts that are going live that same day? It’s astonishing how much is out there. So to see what people are sharing is a peak into what it is that makes something sharable and therefore valuable. So when you start browsing through posts on Twitter and posts on Facebook and landing pages that are shared across social media, you begin to recognize patterns. You see what style of storytelling is being used and how it’s being displayed. And if you look really closely over a period of time, you can see the transition from one trend to another. If one major site or influential post by somebody with 5 million, 10 million followers, if they do one little thing differently, the next day you’re gonna see everybody doing that one little thing differently and then that becomes the new trend. Soon enough, that becomes the norm. And until the next makeover comes along and leaves posts looking a little bit different again, you need to follow those trends. So it’s not good to just sit around on Facebook and do nothing. It’s great to catch up with friends; it’s great to see every once in a while what’s going on. But to be productive with it, to find inspiration with it, it’s good to follow the trends and to see why and how people are talking about certain things because trends change pretty quickly now, so you’ve got to stay on top of things.

Dan Levy: Yeah. You also recommend looking at your competitors for copywriting ideas, right?

Grant Lingel: Oh, for sure.

Dan Levy: How do you do that though without, you know, like, stealing?

Grant Lingel: You never wanna steal, ever obviously. But you should definitely take into account what your competitors are doing. The reason is to check out the competition because you wanna see what they’re missing out on. You wanna see what they’re doing but you wanna see what’s not there as well. You don’t just check out their landing page as the competition, looking for ideas and then jacking those ideas. You wanna look at their landing pages, not as a competing writer business or landing page creator. You wanna look at their landing page as a potential customer. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who was interested enough to click over from an ad and who may wanna buy what the landing pages are offering. And then you look at it. You think, “Okay, this looks great, but is there something missing? Are the colors off? Does the text say too much? Does it say too little? Are there any emotional connections being made from the copy?” If you break down the competition, you can craft a landing page that fills in the missing pieces from the competition.

Dan Levy: Right. It sort of goes back to what you were saying earlier about clicking through that Facebook ad and being disappointed by the skateboarding landing page.

Grant Lingel: Definitely.

Dan Levy: You could learn a lot by clicking, just clicking around and seeing the opportunities that your competitors and your peers and just other marketers are missing out on.

Grant Lingel: Oh, for sure.

Dan Levy: And of course, often it’s as simple as that, right? Follow up with a landing page that actually matches what you offered in the ad. It’s so basic, but so many people are missing that opportunity.

Grant Lingel: Yeah, constantly. I mean, with that skateboarding company, I wanted to just email them, be, like, “Hey, guys, let me help you out. I mean, I wanted −”

Dan Levy: “I’m trying to buy from you. I’m trying, but −”

Grant Lingel: Yeah, “Please stop ruining my purchasing experience with your loud landing page. Please let me help you.” But luckily, they figured it out on their own.

Dan Levy: Well, not to bring back any painful memories, but to circle back to what we were talking about before in terms of maybe being faced with that writer’s block or not knowing exactly how to start writing your landing page copy, can you recall a time in your career when you’ve been in that situation and you were able to dig your way out of that hole by using some of these tactics?

Grant Lingel: Oh, yeah, for sure. There’s always gonna be writer’s block. There’s always gonna be a time where you have no idea how to get started or how to continue where you left off. I wouldn’t call it a painful memory because a lot of time, writing itself can be very painful.

Dan Levy: True that.

Grant Lingel: But every writer has been hit by writer’s block. It happened to me while writing my books. It happens to me all the time writing blog posts, outlines for future blog posts, landing pages. Heck, even sometimes I get writer’s block with emails because I want to word an email properly, but sometimes I’m like, oh, man, I’ve got to just − I’ve got to get out of here, and it happens.

Dan Levy: Oh, for sure. I think of all the copywriters and content marketers that we have in house, and I know that just hearing you say that is gonna provide so much comfort and reassurance because everybody’s in that boat sometimes.

Grant Lingel: Yeah, of course, because writing is intensive. It’s hard on the brain. It’s a lot of mental work and stimulation because you’re not just trying to create something out of nothing. You’re trying to use everything in your brain to get to that creation point. You’re reading, you’re studying, you’re researching, you’re pulling from your own experiences, you’re trying to create something out of thin air. So sometimes your brain just gets really tired and doesn’t want to write. It just wants to chill. And I’ve found for me, getting outside and getting as far from technology as possible is the best way to dig myself out of the hole. And being in nature has and it’s always been the answer to my problems. Even when I lived in New York City, a quick walk in the park would help just destroy my writer’s block because I was able to reconnect with a setting where I feel more comfortable. I know New York City’s not like the ideal place to experience nature, but just getting outside and feeling some sunshine on your face and watching the clouds breeze by and feel the wind and listen to the birds, and while you’re doing this, you’re gonna be putting a smile on your face. And if you’re putting a smile on your face, you’re gonna feel better. And when you feel good, you feel motivated, you feel inspired, and when you’re inspired and happy, writer’s block is not going to affect you.

Dan Levy: All right. Well, I’m feeling inspired. I think I’m gonna go outside −

Grant Lingel: Nice.

Dan Levy: − even though it’s snowy and cold, I think it’s time for a walk.

Grant Lingel: Yeah.

Dan Levy: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat, Grant. This was great.

Grant Lingel: Yeah, of course, yeah, it was great chatting, and thank you very much for talking with me.

Dan Levy: Thank you.

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Beating Copywriter’s Block [PODCAST]

Why Branding and PPC Go Together Like PB&J [PODCAST]

branding-and-ppc-ads-650
If your brand voice and PPC ad copy don’t go together like peanut butter and jelly, your marketing dollars are going to waste. Image source.

Branding and performance are typically seen as being on opposite ends of the marketing spectrum — the PPC specialists run their campaigns while the branding experts concern themselves with more high-level strategy. But as Dana DiTomaso, Partner at digital marketing agency Kick Point explains in the latest episode of the Call to Action podcast, if you don’t see how the two relate, you’re likely cheating yourself out of a higher conversion rate.

You will learn:

  • The four elements that every brand voice needs to feel complete.
  • The most important question marketers need to ask themselves before they write a word of PPC ad copy.
  • Tricks for condensing your brand voice into the 70 characters that AdWords allows.

Listen to the podcast

Download via iTunes.
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Mentioned in the podcast

Read the transcript

Dan: Your talk at the Call to Action Conference last year was about what you call brand-infused PPC. Aren’t branding and performance typically considered to be on opposite sides of the marketing spectrum?

Dana: I think traditionally they are. I would disagree with that categorization but we’re often of the mind that the brand and the performance go together hand in hand. And I think a lot of the work that’s happening now with brands is really bringing that together, where people realize that every brand engagement — not just the sales or the marketing or whatever people might see — really does impact that customer experience. And that’s where I think brands are going.

Dan: It was a bit of a leading question, because of course your talk is all about how you could bring brand back into the performance conversation. Before we dive a little bit further into that branding stuff, can you tell us how searching for Ford dealerships on Google is the best way to learn what not to do when it comes to aligning your PPC ads with your overall brand messaging?

Dana: Yeah, you could do this for any dealership, too. It doesn’t have to be Ford’s — you know, Chevy, GM. The problem is that there’s usually a lot of dealerships in a town and what differentiates them? If you Google them and you see the ads that come up, they’re all saying the same thing. You know, “Great deals on F150” or, “Come check out the new Silverado.” We’re in Alberta so it’s truck country so they all see truck ads. But I imagine in a city, you might see things like the Ford Focus and the Chevy Aveo, that kind of thing.

Dan: Not a lot of hybrids out there, I guess.

Dana: No, not a lot of hybrids out here. But you see a lot of the same kinds of messaging. Because that’s the messaging that they get from the advertising agency that’s been hired by Ford at large. The individual dealership doesn’t necessarily have the resources to differentiate themselves. But the dealerships that are successful in the long run do take that time to make themselves successful and stand out. And they do put in that effort to have the really cheesy TV ads or the radio ads that you can’t escape from but you know their name and you know what their brand is.

Dan: But you’re not seeing that familiar messaging creep into your B2C ads, for some reason.

Dana: We don’t see it too often. Occasionally we do. Like there’s a dealership here in town that obviously has put some effort into their PPC. But we’ve seen situations where two dealerships have exactly the same ad copy because they’ve hired the same automotive marketing firm to deliver the messaging for them. And they’re literally recycling the same ad copy for two competing dealerships in the same geography.

Dan: Wow. On the other hand, you also looked at Geico ads and their PPC ads, and while of course they didn’t include a talking gecko because we’re still talking about PPC here, they were much more successful from a brand standpoint.

Dana: Could you imagine if you could put a talking gecko in a PPC ad? That would be kind of amazing.

Dan: Yeah, I think maybe that’s the next generation of PPC.

Dana: Yeah, on Google Now, PPC, that’s what it’ll be. But definitely when you – so I did this test at SearchLove Boston earlier last year, and I put up three TV ads from three different car insurance companies. And I put up three PPC ads from the same three car insurance companies. And people, by looking at a still – one still – from the insurance TV ads, they could tell what company it was. By looking at the PPC ads, they really couldn’t tell. Geico did stand out a little bit and a few people did guess the Geico one correctly. But the others were all about lowest rates. And I understand that that’s a big differentiator in the insurance space but you spend all this money on your brand. You’ve got like Flo, for example, with Progressive. She’s their brand spokesperson and she doesn’t come through in half of their messaging. Why is that? Why is that missed opportunity there?

Dan: Yeah, and on the one hand it seems like PPC marketers have it tough because they can’t put the talking gecko in the ad because you’re limited in terms of space and in terms of visuals. But at the same time, you say that brand actually makes it easier for PPC marketers to write copy. How so?

Dana: Because a lot of times people are thinking, “How do I write this ad so that it isn’t the same as everything else that’s out there in the search?” One of the first things that you do when you say, “Okay, I’m going to advertise with this keyword,” you Google that keyword and see who your competitors are. And if you’re able to have a strong brand voice to fall back on, you don’t necessarily have to say, “All right, I guess I can’t say that because that brand is saying that.” You’re already approaching it from a perspective of: “We know what makes us different. We know what makes us stand out from our competition. Now I’m going to turn that into a PPC ad.”

So instead of approaching it as a, well, “Everyone else is saying this so I guess I should too” or “Everyone else is saying this so I guess I need to find a slightly-different-yet-keyword-relevant term for it,” you can actually stand out a little bit in the PPC and make it interesting. And people are really glazing past the same old, boring ads that everyone else is writing that say nothing, essentially. And it doesn’t take much to stand out in that kind of crowded marketplace.

Dan: You suggest that before writing a PPC ad, people need to ask themselves, “Why should anybody click on this ad?” And it may seem obvious, but why is it so important for marketers to gut-check themselves with that question?

Dana: I think a lot of work kind of gets phoned in, sometimes. Because you say, “Okay, I’ve got to write 20 ads today.” I can guarantee that somebody writing a TV ad doesn’t have to write 20 TV ads in a single day. But the attention isn’t paid, even though the budgets are creeping and creeping similar to what we used to see in traditional advertising budgets. Really take the effort before you throw several thousand dollars at a piece of text. Think to yourself, “What is going to make that potential searcher click that ad?” And this is where that audience segmentation really comes in handy. “What is their pain and how are we going to solve it?” And then “How can I communicate that in 70 characters?”

Dan: You mentioned brand voice earlier. I want to delve into that a little bit. You say that brand voice is made up of four elements: persona, tone, language and purpose. Can you talk about some of the tradeoffs involved in choosing one brand voice over another?

Dana: Well, it’s like a personality. Ands so you have a person who has good traits and bad traits. And a lot of people say, “Oh, our brand is friendly.” We’ll put that aside for now because if your brand is rude — and absolutely there are some brands that are rude. For example, I have a great sample. Burger Baron — which is a chain of burger restaurants across Alberta — their Twitter persona is totally offensive but that’s their brand. And just go check out their Twitter; you’ll see what I mean. I kind of respect how gross they are because it means that they’re really standing for something.

Dan: Sounds like the Donald Trump of burger brands or something?

Dana: Yeah, I think it’s actually the oil field worker of burger brands but it’s the language that they’re choosing to use. And the language they’re choosing speaks to their audience, then, because that’s the language that their audience is using and it makes sense for them. Not everybody is going to get excited about this brand, but it means that the people who do get excited about it get really excited about it. Standing for something means something to your customers. And a lot of brands fall into this trap of “We want to make everybody happy” instead of “We’re only going to make a segment happy.” Think about another example, was that Target, the fake customer service guy who when Target went gender neutral with their toys, he was responding.

And Target was kind of like, “Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.” Well, I guess that’s okay. They didn’t explicitly say that they liked it, but they did. And again, that’s a brand that is standing for something and didn’t feel bad about it. It wasn’t like, “Oh, we’re going to change our mind because these people are upset.” So think about how that carries through to your brand voice. How do the decisions that you make about your brand reflect on the brand voice as a person? The brand voice is the extension of your brand when you’re using that voice to speak to people in PPC ads, in television, in social media.

Dan: Right, and you talk about how being super clear about your brand voice helps you obtain the right kind of customers or clients. And of course, that can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Dana: I think people are more devoted to a brand — more likely to become that customer who recommends that brand everywhere — if they’re able to make that kind of emotional connection. And a brand who stands for nothing and is just trying to make everybody happy all the time means that nobody gets that strong brand connection. They don’t get excited about it.

Dan: Maybe can you go into why it’s so important to target the right kind of customer? Because I think that some people think, “Why would we limit ourselves or limit our audience if ultimately, the more customers the better?” Because that’s not always the case, is it?

Dana: Yeah, we see that a lot in small businesses in particular, is you get worried and you think, “Oh, no, I have to say yes to everybody or else I’ll never be in business again.” But really, you’re doing yourself a disservice. And we talk about it — especially in B2B sales — as marketing debt. The marketing debt is the time that you spend dealing with bad leads that are ultimately wasted time, money that you’re losing off these people. It’s debt that you’re incurring. When really, you should be spending the time to bring in the kind of clients who are going to be the most excited to work with you or the most fun to work with. Why waste your time with these other people? And it’s trying to convince a client, “There’s plenty of fish in the sea; we’re going to find the right client for you.” And once those right clients start to come in, it really makes a difference for their business.

Dan: Yeah, and I think it’s hard to scale that way, too because eventually, those clients or leads that aren’t quite right for you or weren’t quite right from the beginning are going to be a drain on your customer support and on your sales team, and just on your resources in general.

Dana: Yeah, it makes it really difficult to grow. And by taking a stand and saying, “Look, this is the kind of customer we’re going to help. This is the kind of customer that you should probably go look at this other product.” I think it’s important to do that or else you’re always trying to chase after those people who are marginally great. And as a result, you don’t necessarily have enough time to spend with the customers who are going to be great right out of the box.

Dan: One thing we haven’t really talked about yet is conversion, and where that comes into play, here. You suggest that marketers ask themselves what elements of their brand will ultimately drive sales. Can you paint a picture of how you can take what you’ve established and articulate it about your brand voice, and carry it into you planning pages in a way that converts?

Dana: Yeah, I think it’s important to say that question that you asked: “What elements of your brand drive sales?” So really plot that out for yourself. Figure out what those elements are and then what that means to your overall customer lifecycle. So doing a customer lifecycle is something that’s really important. I don’t know if you’ve had anybody on the podcast before who’s talked about customer lifecycles. But I reckon –

Dan: We’ve been thinking a lot about it internally, lately, but I don’t think we’ve talked about it on the podcast yet, no.

Dana: Okay. So Carrie Bodine, she spoke at MOZcon I think two years ago. And she does customer journeys and she was fantastic and presented a sample. And really, it’s just figuring out all the different touch points that happen not just in the sales cycle but during the lifetime the customer engages with you, and then where they end up at the end of that customer journey, if there is an endpoint. For a product like yours, for example, a customer could be with you for years but what’s that endpoint that makes them stop working with you, right?

Dan: Right.

Dana: And figuring out how your brand really infuses each step and each touchpoint of that customer lifecycle. And then you can identify points where your brand voice or your brand attributes can make parts of it stronger or weaker, and that can also help figure out that customer journey for you. And in terms of conversion in particular, I mean isn’t it easier to convert customers who are the right kind of customers in the door? I know personally I’ve had phone calls with customers who don’t necessarily have enough budget but their thing sounds really cool, and it’s like, “Well, I’d like to work with you but you don’t have enough money.” And it’s like, “Why are you trying to make this happen?” Just refer to somebody who will be really happy to have this customer instead of fighting to change who you are in order to get a customer who’s only marginally right for you.

Dan: That’s a really good point. If you’ve done your job segmenting through your ads and your ad copy, then by the time they get to your landing page, they’re going to be way more qualified. And regardless of even the copy or the images on your page, the conversion rates are going to be higher because you’re already working with a much more qualified sample.

Dana: Think about Facebook ads, for example. So besides Kick Point, I am the co-lead of Ladies Learning Code here in Edmonton, which has chapters across Canada. And we run workshops for women to learn how to code. And we do a lot of Facebook ads to try to bring women to our workshops. And there’s a ton of segmentation that happens in those ads. And so for example, if I’m running a workshop on Ruby, I’m going to try to find people who are already interested in programming, right? It would be different than if I said, “Okay, all women in Edmonton between the ages of 18 to 65 plus, period.” Now, that’s not a great segment, right?

But then if I say, “Okay, so this age range may be a little bit narrower and the age range may be between 25 and 45, who are early technology adopters or who are already interested in WordPress,” for example. Then I’m getting a much smaller segment and yeah, maybe it doesn’t look that great for my impressions but boy, my conversion rate really goes up. So don’t necessarily – and people get tied up in impressions a lot, right? And especially senior leadership. They’re used to seeing — especially if they’ve been in marketing a long time — they’re used to seeing: “300,000 people saw your ad.” And if you say, “Hey, we targeted 2,000 people and 1,000 people bought,” that’s way better than “300,000 people saw your ad and we got ten phone calls.”

Dan: And it’s the same thing with click-through rate, isn’t it?

Dana: Yes, absolutely. I would much rather see a tiny, tiny impression share and a ridiculous click-through rate. It just makes sense mathematically.

Dan: Yeah, although at the same time, you also talk about how click-through rate is in the deal and all, and sometimes a lower CTR actually has payoff down the line. If you could maybe talk a little bit about that, as well?

Dana: Yeah, for sure I’d also like to see – and this is particular in AdWords. So when you’re doing social ads, of course you can segment really closely and so you want to get that higher click-through rate. But with AdWords, it’s hard to tell. Sometimes you can match up the different types of phrases that people use with the different types of intent and customer grouping and make a change there. But if you’re advertising on things like Current Search, for example, that’s a lot of searches which are not super segmented. But what I would like to see is you write an ad that’s interesting, maybe it gets a slightly less-than-awesome click-through rate but then your landing page conversion rate is much higher than when you write a generic ad. You get more clicks but you have a really low conversion rate. And that’s where you need to look at both sets of stats, not just the click-through rate in a vacuum.

Dan: Right. Yeah, we talk so much about how your landing page reinforces the message of your ad and could be a great support to your ad in terms of conversion and Quality Score and all of that. But it goes the other way around, as well. If your ad does a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of segmenting and qualifying those leads, then your landing page doesn’t have to do quite as much work.

Dana: Yeah, and you know, you don’t necessarily want to make your landing pages work too hard, right? I mean it’s that click is really that piece of work and then you’ve got them. And then it should be an easier process instead of the hard sell.

Dan: Then it’s just a matter of not screwing it up, which is sometimes easier said than done.

Dana: Yeah, please don’t send them to your homepage. Not that anybody listening to this podcast, I hope, sends anybody to their homepage after clicking on a PPC ad but yeah, you never know.

Dan: I hope not. Right. All right, well, since we’re data-driven marketers, here, I can’t really let you go without asking: what does brand-focused reporting look like?

Dana: So a lot of what we do with brand-focused reporting is really – it isn’t necessarily that monthly report that you get that talks about the number of visits that you got. It’s more looking at it qualitatively and saying, “Is this message aligning with your overall brand message?” And also looking at the quality of the leads that you’re getting in. So if you’re in a B2B business, that means things like lead scoring. It means communicating with the sales team and saying, “How are the leads that are coming, and please use lead scoring stuff in the CRM.” But additionally, ask the team and say, “How are the leads that are coming in? Are they good?” Often we’ll recommend to clients (when we work with clients that have an in-house marketing staff) like — go and hang out in a sales meeting and see how it’s going.

And over time, “Is it improving? Are they happier with the quality of leads that they’re getting?” Because this is your job and this is also the salespeople’s job to report back to you. And if you’re a business — let’s say bricks and mortar — look at the in-store conversion rate. Are the number of people walking in the door compared to the number of people buying, is that going up? Does that mean that we’re driving the right kind of people to the store? So if before we started doing this PPC ad to get more people to come to your store, and let’s say the percentage of people who walked into the store and bought is, say, 40 percent, and then after we do these ads now it’s 50 percent, that’s really improved your in-store conversion rate.

Dan: I love how it always seems to come down to the fact that this stuff is both an art and a science. That you know, we need to look at our data and trust our data and reap insights from that, but we also need understanding and buy-in across the organization about what our brand stands for, what our brand voice is so we can check that against the numbers.

Dana: Yes, absolutely. And I would also recommend, too, if you are interested in reporting, let’s see. At MOZcon 2014, I gave a talk there that was all about reporting. If you look up the MOZcon 2014 video bundle, and I imagine you can include a link in the podcast description as well, my video was the free video that year and I talk about reporting for 45 minutes. I just watched it again last week, actually, just to refresh my memory on some of the topics that I covered in that talk. But if you are struggling with figuring out the right stuff to report on, I would really recommend that talk. It doesn’t talk about brand specifically but you’ll find that a lot of it is applicable.

Dan: All right. Well, yeah, we will definitely link to that on our show page as well as of course your talk at Call to Action last year. Thank you so much, Dana, for taking the time to chat. This was great.

Dana: Yeah, thanks for having me.

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Why Branding and PPC Go Together Like PB&J [PODCAST]

Product Marketing is the New Content Marketing [PODCAST]

product-marketing-is-the-new-content-marketing-650
Are you serving up yummy, educational content or are you shoving your product down prospects’ throats? Image source.

Your customers don’t care that you think your product is better than the competition.

But they do care about consuming delightful, in-depth content that will make them better at their jobs… which raises the question: is it possible to educate your audience with highly useful content without tiptoeing around what you actually sell?

Gregory Ciotti, Content Strategist at customer support software Help Scout, thinks so.

In this episode of the Call to Action podcast, our Content Strategist Dan Levy speaks with Gregory about how product marketing is the new content marketing.

You will learn:

  • What the 9x effect is and why it’s stopping your audience from converting.
  • How to integrate your product into content without alienating your audience.
  • How excellent customer success can support your marketing initiatives.

Listen to the podcast

Download via iTunes.
Prefer Stitcher? We got your back.

Mentioned in the podcast

Read the transcript

Gregory: I’m Gregory Ciotti, the Content Strategist at Help Scout.

Dan: You start your post with a great line: “Marketing is not something that you do to people, it’s something that you do for people.” Can you explain what the difference is?

Gregory: Sure. So the simple truth is that it doesn’t really make sense to attract customers who aren’t a fit for your product. It doesn’t really take a marketing saint to kind of want to do that for your own purposes, to do the right thing. But it also doesn’t make business sense to attract people who are just not a right fit. They’re going to add burn to your support team and then they’re going to churn anyway. So I’m not sure in what universe it really makes sense to trick people. It’s really all about truth telling. So doing marketing for people is providing them with the information that they need to make a decision. A big part of marketing is communication. I often think of communication as a mix of vision and conversation. So seeing things – seeing the truth, rather, or seeing real outcomes they might not understand yet, and then communicating those clearly and coherently.

Dan: Interesting. And I guess communicating it in a way that’s empathetic or takes the person you’re communicating with’s own perspective in mind, right?

Gregory: Absolutely. One of the things I’ll tell you is that the inertia that you have to overcome is – they’re just real situations that people deal with. It’s not even necessarily convincing them; it’s kind of just addressing concerns. Especially in B2B. I’ve had so many support managers message us saying that they’re very interested in Help Scout but they need to make the pitch to the rest of their team. There’s a lot of work involved in switching over the software that they’re using. So the job of marketing there is to just give them – actually help them build their own argument. Give clear, coherent reasons that the switch is worth it, that their current solution isn’t as compelling as they think it is, and that they can get real results by taking the effort to try something else.

Dan: That’s interesting. So you’re not just communicating to your customers but you’re also giving your customers the tools to communicate to whatever stakeholders they need to buy into your product, right?

Gregory: Right. And if they’re the decision maker, they’re making their own presentation to themselves anyway, right? They’ve got to build their own pitch for, hey look, I know this might actually take a little bit of work but here are the reasons why it’s worth it. And on top of that, I would add that sometimes they don’t have an accurate representation of what maybe the workload would be like to switch. Or they just don’t necessarily have a full grip on the truth because maybe they had an experience that kind of tinted the way they see things. A quick example to kind of give a reality to this is we’ve improved our ability to import from other help desks. And every time somebody comments on – let’s say there’s a Zendesk import or something like that. They never really say, “That was easy.” I don’t hear that language.

I actually hear, “That was much easier than I expected.” There was a perception in the beginning that didn’t reflect reality. They kind of assumed up front that it was going to be very difficult and there’s a lot of ways that – especially the copy and really everything else that you do to communicate what this process is gonna be like — it’s just about truth telling and kind of getting people back to reality.

Dan: So people often bring lots of baggage to the table by the time they get to to you.

Gregory: Who isn’t, right?

Dan: True that. One of the things that you say customers need to overcome is what you call the 9x effect. Can you talk about what that is and why it’s something marketers need to be aware of?

Gregory: Sure. So the general concept, it’s originally from Harvard Business Review. Customers kind of perceive their current solution as three times better than it really is. And of course as marketers, we kind of end up perceiving our solution as kind of three times better than it is. This is all about perception, of how people perceive it to be.

Dan: Right.

Gregory: So that creates this gap between us, between the business and the buyer that we kind of don’t really realize. Like we’re not understanding as marketers why people don’t see the value. And it’s because of this push and pull. We’re over valuing what we’re positioning and what we’re putting out to the world. And customers are over valuing their current solution. I can’t really say this for certainty but I believe the old 10x product kind of mindset came from it: there’s a 9x product to overcome — it really takes a 10x product to get people to see the value in switching. The big light bulb moment for me with this 9x gap is that most people do not start in a neutral place. They don’t actually start in a reality.

We’re both actually kind of starting a little bit distance from reality. And a funny way I think – I’ve always seen it this way but I’m not sure everyone agrees, but I actually think marketing brings us back to reality. Marketing actually brings us back to the truth that this is how things are going to go down. And I think great marketers really adhere to that because it doesn’t make sense to do otherwise.

Dan: That’s a hell of a perception to overcome, right? I think a lot of people would say the opposite about marketers that were manufacturing reality rather than speaking truth.

Gregory: Right. And then, you know, it’s particularly true for SaaS but really true for all businesses. It doesn’t make sense to burden yourself with customers who aren’t a fit. Especially in SaaS, though, which is where most of my experience lies. All we’re really adding is burden to the entire team, burden to the customer and they’re going to churn anyway. So we’re not helping either ourselves or the customer there… so who are we really helping? Why would we bother to do something like that?

Dan: Okay, so the 9x effect tells us that customers are more likely to want to stick with the status quo and be suspicious of any new product, whereas companies tend to overestimate the value of their own product. As a marketer, how can you bring yourself back down to earth and put yourself into that customer mindset?

Gregory: Sure. I mean I think that comes down to just understanding the objections all along the way. And like I said, the objections aren’t always obvious; hence the over valuing our own product.

Dan: Right.

Gregory: I would like to think that it’s obvious why you should switch to Help Scout from something else but I’m not dealing with a support team of 50 people who have a workflow embedded in something else. So I can’t get to reality either, as a marketer, unless I truly understand the objections that you would have and really give value to those objections, not kind of brush them away, like “That shouldn’t be a problem.” Like, of course it’s a problem! If you perceive it to be a problem, then it is a problem. Perception is reality, right?

So I think it starts on our end really to – the only way we can get back to a neutral place is to just understand objections and give credence to every objection a customer might have, and to structure our language around that. I often think of copywriting as a game of word search where the answer key is what the customer needs to hear. You can’t pick the wrong word ever because if it’s a wrong word, it’s not going to speak to them and in doing so, you’re not really projecting reality.

Dan: I feel like a lot of marketers see those objections as something to overcome, rather than — what you’re saying — as an opportunity to use their words and to craft your copy and your marketing in a way that speaks directly to those objections and those concerns.

Gregory: We work with really everyone on the team — growth is everyone’s job. Words alone won’t always fix the problem. If people feel that the import process is too difficult, then you make it easier. So marketers are not alone in their ability to reduce friction, but we are responsible for communicating things accurately. You should be able to – I keep coming back to the same example but hopefully it makes for a better case. That if you’re going to import something, it needs to be crystal clear on how much effort is expended. And people should have their previous concerns kind of alleviated. If they think it’s going to take a really long time or they think it’s gonna be complex, get them to reality. Tell them how it really is gonna be.

Dan: One thing you suggest for demonstrating the value of your offer is to contrast what people’s life might look like before and then after adopting your product. Can you give an example of what that might look like?

Gregory: Sure. So we have a lot of customers come from Gmail. And it’s no exaggeration to say that your world and support is entirely different when you first use a product like Help Scout or a help desk, right? It’s you’re in a whole new ballpark. I often think of going to a product as switching, no matter what you’re coming from. I kind of say that I switched to a tool like Evernote from a “genius scattered notebooks system.” It wasn’t really switching from an Evernote competitor, per se, but I had something I was using to get the job done, right? So you kind of have to get a sense of what their world is like at the moment and then contrast that with what their world looks like after they make the jump.

And I’ve always kind of believed that contrast gives the best context because it just creates a clear division between two things. It can be awfully muddy when you’re trying to envision what your workflow looks like by adding this thing, this widget, this tool. But when you create this clear contrast, it’s crystal clear. There was a then, there’s a now; I think it’s much easier for people to relate and to kind of understand what their world looks like when they make the jump.

Dan: I wonder if Evernote sees their competitor as like Moleskine notebook?

Gregory: Exactly. I’ve heard a lot of great examples in that space. I can’t remember who said this but one person was saying that newspapers ended up kind of looking at each other as like, “Who’s stealing my readers?” And they didn’t really realize that it ended up being sites like social media – developments, rather, like social media — and everything else that was really the challenger that came in that they didn’t see. They kind of thought it just has to be another newspaper that’s taking these people away.

Dan: True.

Gregory: So for us, we can’t necessarily think that the before and after for people is always another help desk. Sometimes people are coming from this very complex system and outlook and we need to understand what their journey looks like, too.

Dan: All right, well I think a lot of what we’re talking about here can be summed up as really good product marketing. It seems like we’re hearing companies talk about product marketing these days the way they used to talk about content marketing just a few years ago. Why do you think that’s happening?

Gregory: Sure. So the team at Drift released a great SlideShare a few weeks back with the simple title of “What is Product Marketing?” And I think the 40,000 views they later got kind of speaks to this increased interest of people who want to understand the field. I see product marketing as the go-to market strategy, owning the positioning, messaging and it’s really marketing to current customers and creating demand by making sure the word gets out, essentially, to current customers. I think the reason that I would say the popularity, so to speak, has increased is a lot of businesses – and especially online businesses – are moving to a subscription model.

It really makes sense to market to your current customers and to get more customers to use the features you already have, or to use the features they’re already using more frequently. That’s a big part of product development but just because you launch a feature doesn’t mean people will use it. And product marketing ensures that they understand the value, they understand what they would get not only by using the feature for the first time or potentially using it more often, but through that they kind of create demand. By then they’re of course going to tell others, like, “I got this great result with this new Help Scout feature, this new Unbounce feature. You should check it out.” So I do believe that at its core, it’s marketing to current customers but it creates demand by how it echoes out.

Gregory: Right, and then you could leverage that content and those customers who, in a sense, have become evangelists for your product, fire up in the funnel to create awareness and interest in your product.

Dan: Absolutely. And product marketing is really key to enable many parts of the business so I would say product marketers work closely with sales so there’s sales enablement. Product marketers probably understand objections best, which really trickle down to all marketing activities. So they’re a really key component in kind of getting the entire marketing team onboard with how customers see the product and how we could position and package the product better in everything we do when talking to customers.

Dan: It seems like a lot of the most successful companies — online companies — in the last five years have built their reputations and their audiences by creating really successful content marketing. And I’m wondering how you could transition into product marketing without alienating that audience.

Gregory: Sure. So one of the really exciting challenges I think content marketers can contribute to is pulling out the story of a new feature or a new workflow in the product. Some really handsome guy once said that content marketers can learn a lot from journalists. I’m not sure who that was.

Dan: I don’t know about the handsome part.

Gregory: But you know, there is a lot of truth to that. And to give you an example, when we released a feature in Help Scout called satisfaction ratings, which is a quick way to get a kind of happiness report, we brought on Dave Cole from Wistia to talk about the possible downside of using happiness ratings as a way to judge your support team unfairly. Now, it seems kind of strange to launch a feature with a blog post that says basically that there’s danger in looking at happiness ratings the wrong way. But that was the most interesting story to pull and the most honest story to pull from that whole space. This space of happiness ratings and evaluating happiness feedback from every support manager I talked to said that they’re absolutely a good way to get an overall grip on customer satisfaction.

But where I see them being used wrong is teams are essentially graded on their happiness rating. And that causes people to pursue the T-ball ticket questions; you know, they’re going after the easy ones. They’re avoiding anything that’s difficult. And Dave shared some really great experience with that. And that was a super successful post for that feature launch. And it was essentially storytelling and product marketing and content marketing all wrapped up into one. And certainly a much better approach than, “We have this new thing — check it out.” So I think what I see a lot of content marketers doing really well recently is that approach.

They find the story within the product, they tell it really well. They tell it in a use case sort of way so that even if you’re not currently using feature X, if you’re not currently using happiness ratings, you walk away with a much better understanding of how they could be used. So I’m really excited to kind of see that space open up. I don’t think it eliminates the charm of content marketing because again, it was all about advice; it’s all about kind of how people get benefits and it’s all about ideas and instruction. But it also includes the product.

Dan: For sure. We make these distinctions internally between content marketing and product marketing but I think from the customer perspective or from the audience perspective, all they are seeing is good or bad stories that do or don’t resonate and seem relevant to them. And if you could create stories that are speaking to their pain points and find a way to make your product and your customers part of that story, then it really doesn’t matter what you call it.

Gregory: Absolutely. Their distinction is far less severe, maybe, then the ones we create for ourselves. If it’s entertaining and useful, then it hits all the check marks, right? And that’s challenging enough.

Dan: Absolutely. Can you talk a little bit about the role that customer success plays in all of this? We often think of marketing and CS as different departments or different disciplines. But you suggest that they could actually fit into one another.

Gregory: Sure. So I think this really crystallized for me when I was looking at a customer’s site. Docs is our knowledge base product. And they had just read an article I had written on writing great knowledge base articles. And they had a follow up question about organizing your knowledge base. And as I was sitting there in the middle of the workday and looking at someone else’s knowledge base, taking notes to send him this advice-filled email, I was like, “Wait a minute. I do work in the marketing department, right?” And it kind of dawned on me that he had been using – he had been following the article I had written step-by-step. He had been using it for every knowledge base article that he had written so far. And there I was kind of following up with him with further advice over email.

And my point with all that is just that content doesn’t – it’s not necessarily limited to attracting people. It can keep people around. It helps them get more value out of the product when you’re doing it well. It helps them understand the proximity, the kind of like action points of the product. We have knowledge base software but writing a knowledge base article is an entirely different beast. It actually requires writing advice; just having the software is not enough. So I do feel that content is customer success and that a big part of content is planning what topics you can address that will help people after they’re already signed up and happy and have been using your product; how can you kind of take them to the next level.

Dan: Totally agree. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk shop, Greg. Always a pleasure.

Gregory: Yeah, it was great.

Transcript by GMR Transcription.


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Product Marketing is the New Content Marketing [PODCAST]

The No-Shortcut Approach to Building a Credible Content Marketing Strategy [PODCAST]

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Image by Jens Lelie via Unsplash.

“New year, new me” is a phrase I’m sure you’re all hearing lately. For those who actually need to restructure their content teams or strategies this year, that phrase might be ringing especially true. But how do you figure out which changes will bring about the biggest benefits?

Our content strategist, Dan Levy, nerded out with Jay Acunzo of NextView ventures about the different ways to grow a high-performing content team, and why developing a credible content strategy is hard work, but absolutely necessary. Plus, hear Jay talk about his issue with the growth hacking trend.

You will learn:

  • The pros and cons of different team structures
  • How to get the most mileage out of your best performing content
  • The issue that Jay has with terms like “growth hacking” and “the one secret to…”

Listen to the podcast

Download via iTunes.
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Mentioned in the podcast

Read the transcript

Stephanie Saretsky: Hey podcast listeners! Happy new year! I hope you had a good break and that you missed us here at the Call to Action podcast. We saved one of our favorite interviews for you so we could start 2016 off with a bang: If you’re concerned about growing a content team this year, then this is the episode to listen to.

Jay Acunzo: I’m Jay Acunzo, VP of Platform and Content and NextView Ventures.

Stephanie Saretsky: Our Content Strategist, Dan Levy spoke with Jay and they nerded out on the different ways you can grow a content team and how to customize your content strategy to your unique company or agency structure. Plus, hear Jay tell about Dan the issue he has with growth hacking. Check it out.

Dan Levy: So you’re an experienced content marketer who’s gone from traditional journalism over to Hubspot, the inbound marketing monster, to the world of start-ups and venture capital. What’s been the most surprising part of that transition so far?

Jay Acunzo: Probably that people keep paying me to create things for a living.

Dan Levy: Pretty awesome.

Jay Acunzo: Yeah, I’m incredibly thankful for it. It’s awesome that we live in this era where that’s actually a job function that people want and need and actually it’s a growing need for a lot of companies. So that’s great. I actually started my career — you didn’t mention it — but at Google doing ad sales. And I remember one day I went home and I was hyping this YouTube video to my friends as the greatest thing ever. And when I started to play it, after they were all leaning forward into my laptop, I hit play, and obviously what happened? A pre-roll ad hit.

And the thought I had was, “Damn it, Eric,” which is a weird thought to have when you see a pre-roll ad pop up. But I thought, “Damn it, Eric,” because I knew the colleague of mine at Google that had sold the ad campaign to make this terrible, frustrating experience possible. And then I had this really terrible thought after that which was, “I have the same job as Eric at Google.” So someone somewhere was cursing the name of the person responsible for this awful experience, and they didn’t know it, but that person was me. And obviously with Google’s scale, that wasn’t one person. That was thousands, if not millions and millions of people. So I’m very thankful that I’ve found my way into content marketing, and it’s a role that allows me to actually create stuff people want. I like to say, “It’s better to make stuff people want, not make people want stuff.”

Dan Levy: Cool. Well, can you talk about your role a little bit? I don’t know how many in-house content marketers there are at other VC firms. So would you describe yourself as a consultant whose job is to support the start-ups in your firm’s portfolio, or are you focused on building thought leadership for the firm itself through content marketing?

Jay Acunzo: Yeah, so my job, they call it Platform. It means a lot of different things at a lot of different VC firms, and it’s definitely an emerging trend. I’d say NextView was one of the first to move on it, especially in the early stage venture world on the east coast. My job is to help start-ups gain initial traction through scalable resources. So it’s very little consulting — although I do a lot with marketing one to one with our start-ups — but really, my job is to figure out what are the problems facing either the start-ups we’ve invested in, or communities like Boston, New York, San Francisco, nationally, here in the US. And what are those problems? What are all the steps that founders are currently moving through to solve those problems? And then how can we create something to take out some of those steps?

Dan Levy: Okay. So not to get too bogged down in semantics, but I notice the term content or content strategy seems to mean something different whether you’re in agency circles or in the start-up world, or even in inbound marketing tech companies like Hubspot or Unbounce. What would you say are the challenges of working on another company’s content strategy compared to being an in-house content marketer?

Jay Acunzo: Yeah. I mean I definitely help with the start-ups that we work with their content strategies, but I’ve really been in-house for the bulk of my career, including at NextView. I do a lot of content to further our brand.

Dan Levy: Right.

Jay Acunzo: But I think a lot of this is about having extreme empathy, which sounds kind of squishy, but I think it’s about acting like a vessel, almost like a journalist does when they first start. They’re not a topical expert in whatever field they’re reporting on. They just get really good at asking questions, listening, absorbing, picking up on the nuance of both the subjects that they’re talking to and then the audience they’re trying to reach. And so, I think that empathy idea is really, really important. And I think another is — and I’ve noticed this as people start to leave former start-ups that have gone public or exited some regardI think people that have had success doing something one way and then try to apply it elsewhere fail fast.

So I think another big part of this idea of helping someone else versus in-house is knowing how to approach problems and test for answers, but not being too prescriptive. So just because something worked for me when I was at Google or Hubspot doesn’t mean it’s gonna work exactly that way at exactly this moment with exactly this other company and their audience. So it’s more about the framework of testing hypotheses to find what works than actually tending you have the answers for another business right away.

Dan Levy: Okay. And those two things dove-tail, right? You need to start with the empathy, thinking about the end user, thinking about why they need this content, and then, of course, test that insight or that hypothesis to make sure that’s borne out through A/B testing and through more, I guess, more database means.

Jay Acunzo: Oh, totally, and I think, this thing happened to me at Hubspot that I’ve taken with me since then that’s really helped me work with our start-ups, which is we gave away a bunch of templates that acted very similarly to the product. And I realized we were basically giving away dumber, less effective versions of the software.

Dan Levy: Right.

Jay Acunzo: And they were wildly successful pieces for us, and all I could think of was, “Wow. Why do we do content? Why do we create a product or a service as a business? All of this is about solving a customer problem.” So I think if you frame content marketing as solving the same problem or fulfilling the same desire that your product or service has to offer. Your product is ostensibly built so solve some sort of problem, and start-ups, that’s why they start. It becomes a lot easier to go and advise somebody else, especially in the start-up world, because you sit down and you start talking to them about why did you start the business? Or what is your product great at?  Or why do customers love you?What problem is ailing your customer today?

And then it’s just matching that between the product and the content, and it aligns it so beautifully, too. That’s the other thing, is all this has to align and drive a business result. So that one definition of content marketing solving the same problem that your product solves I think can go a long way in helping someone who is a consultant be a very good one.

Dan Levy: Right. And of course your products could change; your company could pivot, if you start with that mission or that problem.  Then it’s easy to adapt your content and to pivot in the right direction.

Jay Acunzo: Totally. It also helps a lot of start-ups start blogging and creating content now to get results in the near term or maybe a few months down the road before they have a product, or before their product has product market fit. Because they know the problem they wanna solve. They know the advice they’d like to give to the world, or the things they’d like to say, or the answers that they might have. They don’t have the product built yet, or if they do, they’re still figuring out how to sell it to a lot of people. But they can start with the content piece very easily, and build an audience that they can test against and convert later.

So it’s a really nice way to frame your content marketing, because I think it actually lends itself to getting early results as a start-up. And if you’re a larger company and you haven’t been thinking this way, try giving away a little piece of that product that you have, like a template for example. Because you’ll start to see people downloading it in droves, and then every sell that you make to people who have downloaded that thing is like an up-sale. You’re already doing this thing, or you’re already trying to solve this problem. Well, oh by the way, we happen to have a product that’s way better at doing that. And that’s a much easier sell than ripping the cord and running over from what you’re using today as a customer to use my product.

Dan Levy: Um-hum. Yeah, here at Unbounce we launched our blog I think something like nine months before our product was even ready. So we can definitely relate to that.

Jay Acunzo: Yeah, that’s awesome.

Dan Levy: Okay, so I know you’ve done a lot of thinking around the organization and structure of content teams, which is something that we’ve been thinking a lot about here as well. And at risk of going down a rabbit hole, let me ask you this: Do you think content should be treated as a distinct channel within an organization, with its own producers and creatives and strategists who operate independently within a team or within an agency? Or is content more of a discipline whose tentacles should be spread throughout the organization?

Jay Acunzo: So I honestly, and this is a hugely important question, but I honestly think —

Dan Levy: It’s also a huge question, I realize.

Jay Acunzo: It’s a huge question, for sure, but it’s also hugely important. I honestly think there are many ways to handle this, and it depends on the company’s stage and culture and the specifics of that company. So also if you wind up with one right structure that every company tries to apply, and one general direction, I think we’re all screwed.

Dan Levy: And sandwiched in there, I had teams and agencies, and obviously those are totally different set-ups.

Jay Acunzo: Totally, yeah. So what you can do, actually, is talk about the pros and cons of each structure, and then make an informed decision. So, for instance, I gave a talk a few weeks ago to a large enterprise marketing team. And they dedicated meaningful time — this is an off-site to talk about big-picture things and what’s ailing them — and they dedicated meaningful time to talk about what tools that different areas of the department was buying and how they didn’t know what was going on, or how they could better interact with their in-house creative agency, which was centralized to do all the content.

So I think the pros of centralizing is you get this domain expertise group together, but then there are silos and frictions that emerge between departments or sub-teams. Then on the other end the pros of spreading throughout the organization is that you create this great content culture, you might get a swifter response to produce the content based on the goals you have team to team, you’re more integrated between teammates, and you can tailor that content accordingly. But you might have a Frankenstein monster of a brand if nobody’s looking out for the consistency of quality and feel and all that. Documentation could help, but I just don’t know anybody that truly pays attention to internal documentation, right?

So the solution might be somewhere in the middle. And I’m painting with massively broad strokes here. Again, I don’t think one prescribed structure is the answer. But something I saw work really well at Google on the sales team that I think could work with content teams was to have we called them product specialists at Google. — you could call them content specialists at your organization — where basically we had these large verticalized sales teams that were either generalists or owned a certain type of client, and we had a lot of products to sell:  YouTube, mobile, search, display, the list went on. And we had a few people that volunteered to go really deep on our teams in those products, and then they had a dotted line reporting back to a centralized product team, which would provide best practices, communication, suggested approaches, case studies, tools, mentorship, all that.

In content, it might be, for example, a centralized editorial board or creative unit. And then you have these individuals dispersed throughout the company to do the frontline work, and have the nuance of each individual team or case kind of grocked. So maybe something like that would actually work really well.

Dan Levy: Cool, yeah. There’s so many ways that you could approach it, but I think the key, like you said, is not to just read a case study and then try to apply that to your own organization and assume that it’s gonna work.

Jay Acunzo: Right, right. I think the major takeaway from all that is somebody has to do something centralized. It can’t just be all distributed. I think there has to be some kind of consistency, which is hard. But whether that’s a whole team doing all the content in one place and kind of being treated like an internal service bureau, or it’s just an editorial review board, or something like that, I think that’s gonna vary case by case.

Dan Levy: Yeah, and something that we’ve been looking at internally, which is based on what our developers actually I do, which I believe is based on the Agile framework, is to split the team into squads and chapters. So the squads would be organized around, let’s say, the customer life cycle, and it would go through marketing to sales to all the way to the customer’s success, but they would be self-contained, so they would include, let’s say, a strategist and a producer and a creative, and then maybe like a communications person. And they would all work together, maybe sit together, but all those creatives and all those producers and all those strategists would also be part of their own chapters.

So you could think of those as the disciplines, the editorial discipline, the creative discipline. And so you would have people overseeing those chapters through all the squads to make sure that the editorial voice is consistent, that creatively your brand is consistent. I thought that was kind of an interesting way to approach it.

Jay Acunzo: Yeah, I mean that’s awesome. That’s definitely — it kind of speaks to the same thing of you’re moving between both ideas of people who are very, very specialized or even centralized, and people that have to understand there’s nuance across lots of individuals’ work, and lots of goals and ways you’re measured, and you kinda have to account for both things.

Dan Levy: Yeah, plus these are disciplines. In terms of professional development, you wanna develop your creative skills. You wanna develop your editorial skills. And I think it’s important to have mentors and people whose job it is to oversee both the consistency from a brand perspective, but also to help develop those skills on an individual level.

Jay Acunzo: Yeah, you bring up a really good point. We talk a lot about organization of teams in content, but we very rarely think about well what is the individual gonna find most fulfilling and rewarding to create a vibrant and fulfilling career for themselves, right? Nobody in a creative field — and I’d argue that content marketing as a large creative component to it — nobody wants to be a short-order cook. And so I feel like if you put those content producers that you have or editors or writers, either outsourced to an agency or internally, if they’re centralized and they’re just taking, almost on a ticket system, they’re just reacting to the demands of your organization, that’s really unfulfilling, right? And so you have to do really, really strong communication. You have to make sure you’re meeting face to face, do all these things to smooth over on the communication side, things that you wouldn’t face if you were integrated across the company.

So you just gotta be cognizant. I think we have to stop talking about people like their little dots on an org chart when it comes to content marketing teams, and start figuring out how do we get the best possible results from our people, which is what a business wants. It’s also what the individual wants, right? And so talk to the people on your team. Figure out what’s gonna motivate them the most. Figure out what they wanna do in their careers. Maybe they don’t wanna be CMO. Maybe they do wanna be a creative agency. And then act accordingly.

Dan Levy: Yeah. Well I wanna get into a little bit more of that personal, professional development stuff later on. But first, switching gears a little bit, you had something kind of weird and cool happen to you a little while ago that you wrote about on your blog. I think you described it as both encouraging and discouraging. I think you know what I’m getting at here.

Jay Acunzo: Yeah, yeah. The worst — so I’ve been writing on the internet for years — the worst thing and the most pointless thing that I’ve ever written just became this viral post on Medium.

Dan Levy: Right.

Jay Acunzo: And you have people in the tech world, on the investment side, like Chris Sacca, who was recently on Shark Tank, early investor in Twitter and Uber and all these big guys, David Cancel here in Boston, former Chief Product Officer of Hubspot, now he’s founder of Drift and he’s a serial entrepreneur, Heaton Shaw, who everybody knows in the SaaS world, all these people were recommending this post. And I was like, “What is going on?” It was sitting on the top of the homepage of Medium for a week.

Dan Levy: It’s always the posts that you slave over, right, that go nowhere, and the ones that you think are toss-offs that all the sudden rack up the shares. It’s so heartbreaking.

Jay Acunzo: Well, what was heartbreaking about this — I can read you the whole post and take only a few seconds of your listeners’ time right now — the title was “The One Secret Thing All Successful People Do.” When you click the headline, the article was this. Number one: they don’t look for secrets to success in freaking blog posts. That was it. That was the whole post. That was the whole post. It was one sentence. It was like 5:30 on a Friday. I thought that would be a funny joke. I had just gotten my fill of links in my feed about promising all these secrets to success that are always full of crap, and I was just amazed that there’s this shortcut culture, and disheartened by it.

But there was this encouraging and discouraging piece to it. So it was encouraging that lots of people read something I wrote on the internet. That was nice. But it was one sentence long, literally one sentence long. The encouraging part, again — this is me debating in my own head and having this existential crisis as a writer — I was sort of like well maybe a good writer can even convey meaning in one sentence, and it doesn’t matter that all my longer form things didn’t go viral.

Dan Levy: Right.

Jay Acunzo: But then I was like, wait. Oh. Hold on. That doesn’t matter, because people actually believed there was one secret to success that they didn’t know. Like it was gonna solve all their problems. They clicked the headline because they’re like, “Oh, one secret? Yeah, sign me up.”

Dan Levy: Well, hey, you identified a problem. People are — a need — people looking for that one solution, that magic bullet. And then you broke their hearts.

Jay Acunzo: Well I was kind of like trying to hold up a mirror to the internet, in some way. And what was actually encouraging — and this is where I ended my reflection post that you’re talking about where I just had to make sense of this in another article — the last thing I landed on was it was encouraging because a ton of people got the joke and shared it and laughed at it, and it was awesome.  There were some people that totally got upset. They wanted the secret, and they were mad that it was a joke. And the analogy I use is if you’re a Family Guy fan, Lois says to Peter in one episode, “Well, Peter, I bet you learned a valuable lesson today.” And Peter just goes, “Nope!” And it’s like, it was the same thing. It was like, “Well, internet, I bet you learned a valuable lesson today about seeking shortcuts.” And the people that were angry, all they were saying back to me was like, “Nope!” So it was quite the experience.

Dan Levy: Yeah, I think trying to teach the internet a lesson is like a path to ruin.

Jay Acunzo: Yes, says someone who would know. I feel like you honor the right path of creating great work whether you’re from Sparksheet to Unbounce. You clearly care about your craft of writing, so I think you understand the agony and the dichotomy that I had in my own brain of this is positive but it’s also negative.

Dan Levy: Yeah. No. 100 percent. That really resonated with me. You wrote another short post on your blog recently, though not quite as short as that, where you asked marketers whether they’re creating content for the delivery or for the response. What did you mean by that?

Jay Acunzo: Yeah. So to me this is the idea between reaching someone and resonating with someone. And the analogy I use — actually a story that really happened — a buddy of mine who works for Hubspot, his name’s Eric Devaney, he’s one of the greatest content minds that I know. I’ve hired him twice. I would hire him a million more times. The guy’s great. He was getting married a few months ago, and I was catching up with him and his now wife. And they were talking to me about their process of writing their vows.

And Juliette, his wife is a product manager, and Eric is a writer and a creator, like in the truest sense. And he was making fun of how she kind of used her approach to product, very logical, very systematic, to write the vows. As soon as they decided they were gonna write their own vows, she wrote on a bulleted list. And Eric was kind of making fun of her for that. He was like, “I love you Er-ic.” is how he framed it to me. But Juliette started with: I have to write vows. How does one write vows in a vacuum?Whereas Eric was starting with: I have to write vows, but what are vows for?What do I want out of this reading?I wanna trigger the best possible emotion from Juliette, from those listening, and how do I do that?

And I think in marketing, we talk a lot about tools and workflow and tips for publishing something faster, more efficiently, getting to the end basically to ship it out the door better, faster, quicker, whatever, more. And we should totally talk about that stuff, but also we have to consider why are we doing this in the first place? It’s not actually to publish something. That is not the reason we do this. It is to get some kind of intellectual or emotional response from people to have them click, spend time with us, share it, act in some kinda way that benefits our business. And I think too many of us think about just simply delivering the thing into the world, and then we stop. We seek things like ideal word counts for blog posts, shortcuts and ideas that we can put on repeat over and over again, and we kind of corporatize and optimize, because we’re just so damn busy trying to reach people that we sorta forget that this is actually about resonance.

Dan Levy: Well another aphorism of yours, and I feel like you’re a content marketing Buddha or something, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Jay Acunzo: I’m an English major, and if I don’t speak in a certain number of isms per week, I don’t get an ROI on my English degree. I think that’s really it.

Dan Levy: Okay, yeah. That make sense. So you say that when you stumble upon something that works, you shouldn’t do more of it. You should do more with it. Can you untangle that one for us?

Jay Acunzo: I feel like when something works, when your audience tells you, even if it’s a small qualitative response that you get, when your audience tells you that they like something, you should lean into that harder. Don’t drop it and say, “Good job us,” and then go run away and go do something else. And this happens across the board in marketing, whether you do an ebook and you assume, okay, that one ebook worked. Let’s do more ebooks, rather than try to get mileage out of the one ebook. Or, you’re just spread across too many channels. And when one starts to work, it’s a relief, because now you can focus on the ones that are not working, when I think you should pursue these moments of success, and then just drive into it as hard as you can.

So one example is I published a slideshare on the NextView Venture’s account that did a roundup of podcasts, because I wanted to promote our own podcast that we were launching.  And it didn’t do that well. So I immediately dropped it. I didn’t try to put it on other channels. I didn’t try to do a blog post out of it. Then I published a board deck template on slideshare, something you would download and use practically as an entrepreneur, and it killed it. It did a lot of really good things for our audience. But initially it was just lots of people saying lots of nice things. And I thought, okay, what else can I do with this thing? Should I take excerpts out of it for the blog? Should I re-promote it through different social channels? Should I talk to the partners here at NextView about — they sit in board meetings every week. What would they rethink if they were starting from scratch about how board meetings with start-ups are run?

What else can I do with the stuff inside the container that our audience is clearly telling us they love? And so that’s kinda what I mean. When something works, don’t do more like it. Don’t do another slideshare. Do more with it. Do more with the thing that’s working — the topic, the stuff, the material. And by the way, this is how you get really efficient with your publishing, because if you see any of the great thought leaders in our industry, and you see some thoughts that they publish across channels, right? Because they identify something that resonates with their audience, and then they repackage it, and repurpose it, and put it in different places in a way that’s native to each channel. But they get mileage out of what works.

Dan Levy: Yeah, I could totally relate to that, and I think one of the reasons, at least, that so many of us are guilty of spending so much time on the content creation and not enough on the promotion and the leveraging of that content is that we — time’s a limited resource. Any suggestions and — I don’t wanna go into quick and easy tip territory here — but what can we do to finally prioritize that component of content marketing? Is it about scaling back on the other stuff, scaling back on the content creation?

Jay Acunzo: So I appreciate that you’re saying that you don’t wanna get into kind of tips and tricks and hacks territory. Because I think if — I mean, to be completely blunt — if anyone tells you, “Oh, don’t worry. This content marketing stuff can be simple,” they’re lying to you. It’s hard. It’s super rewarding. It can be really fun. But it’s really difficult.

When you’re selling a software product or a service as an agency, in the content marketing space you can’t say this, but if I were selling to a marketer today and I was being completely honest, I’d say, “Look. Over here you have content marketing. It’s gonna take you more effort. It’s gonna take you more time. And it’s gonna take a very specific type of person and skillset to do it well. However, it’s gonna get you really good results. It’s gonna play into how modern marketing in the modern world works. And it can do lots and lots of good for your business in a scalable way that gets you lots of ROI.” And then I’d say, “Over on the other end, you have things like buying an email list, or even less spammy, just paying for audience and renting that audience like banner ads and PPC and things like that. That’s more efficient. It’s gonna be dollars in, dollars out. That’s how it’s gonna work. You can’t really get return for free down the road like you can from a blog post, but it’s gonna be a lot more of a timesaver to do it that way.”

And that’s really how to think of it. So the more we do shortcuts for content marketing, the worse our results get. I’d rather, if someone is really pressed for time, think about other ways to do marketing, because the people that are gonna win, especially as our industry gets more mature, are the ones that actually honor the craft of what we’re doing. They have to produce content that matters. All this shortcut stuff makes my BS detector go crazy.

All that said, I don’t wanna leave everybody high and dry. The best thing I can say is to find a weekly process and cadence, and stick to it like it’s gospel. I love this quote from John Cleese from Monty Python fame, who says that creativity’s not a talent, it’s a way of operating.

The other thing, too, is I feel like there’s a need for clear direction. That helps your process, right? If you’re — this is a leadership thing — if you have guardrails and goalposts and you know why you exist and you know how you’re being measured, that really does help you do a lot of a lot.

That’s kind of how I’ve approached this world of content. And you shouldn’t look for the shortcut, I guess is what I’m trying to say. I feel like we have to start saying this. Stop looking for shortcuts.

Dan Levy: No, no, I hear you. And to go back to what you were saying about that you have two options, to nurture a content marketing strategy or to look to paid marketing and PPC and things like that. I have to say where we’re at right now is a bit of a privileged position in that we’ve put the time and we started off with a content strategy because it wasn’t easy, but it was relatively cheap to get started on, and to start nurturing that market with. And now we have these internal experts — PPC experts, CROs, SEOs, to help us layer in that testing, that experimentation to optimize what we’re doing. So that mix between the craft and then the performance side of things, and the optimization side of things is, once you get your team to that level, then the opportunities there are huge.

Jay Acunzo: Totally, and I think you understand this moment of like — because you love to write — where you wanna improve something. It doesn’t sit right with you when you’re reading it. And you’re like, “I gotta go home,” or “I gotta ship it soon.” But you wanna spend that extra hour agonizing over it. And it’s really for yourself that you’re doing it, to feel pride in your work as a writer. I feel like that mentality would fit well across any marketing function, where you just have to have this insane pride in what you do. And when I hear people talk about finding an ideal word count, I just think of people putting their brains on auto pilot. I think our industry’s too saturated. There’s too much content out there for any of that to even be effective. So it’s also a bad use of your time. It’s a bad use of your company’s time to think that way. And that’s what causes all the shortcut culture out there that causes me to write a one-sentence post and have this existential crisis. But that’s a problem for another podcast.

Dan Levy: Yeah. And not to minimize the craft — content marketing is a craft, and I think it’s very clear that you and I are really passionate about that, but so is conversion rate optimization, right? So is PPC done right. So I think it’s about hiring people and surrounding yourself with people that are as passionate and methodical about the way they do that stuff as you are with content, rather than trying to, again, look for a quick and easy tips and hacks to layer on top of what you’re doing.

Jay Acunzo: Right. And let’s take craft out of the world of frolicking in the field creativity, and put it into a business setting too. I think people that are craft-driven, they think a lot about the process. And so, part of thinking about the process is finding pockets of being efficient. Part of it is thinking about things you can outright steal that inspire you from other industries outside the echo chamber. Part of it is understanding pockets of time you’re not using well.

So people that are craft-driven are not like the artists that are painting one thing every year, or the marketer that gives a great keynote but can’t go execute. I think it’s about figuring out: I need an end result, but rather than just trying to skip all the way to the end result, let me figure out this process. I’m gonna write a blog, and I need to figure out a way to do more blog posts without skimping on quality. So if I can dive into the paragraphs, how do you write a great intro, how do you write a great hook, how do you do different things for SEO quickly and easily? If you study the process itself, the end result goes us and the process gets easier over time.

I call this creating ugly. You wanna do little things to poke down an avenue and put something quality out in the world. But it’s not a pretty process. You’re not searching for the best practice. You’re just launching, learning, operating a little bit like a start-up internally. I’m gonna learn, I’m gonna grow, I’m gonna improve. Oh, we were running right? Let’s run left a little bit more. And eventually you find this repeatable path for quality. You wanna find the easiest repeatable path to quality.

Dan Levy: So where content marketing, I think, differs from traditional publishing is that it does, ultimately, exist to serve measurable business objectives. I think we could both agree with that. But in your latest blog post, you argue that it’s time for companies to lend more credibility to things like creativity and craft and editorial excellence in content marketing. Obviously you’re preaching to the choir here, but how do you make the case for why that’s not just a vanity thing, why that’s not just a squishy thing, but actually crucial to the success of content as marketing?

Jay Acunzo: So in terms of quality, when I started doing content marketing, it wasn’t called content marketing. I was Director of Content at a start-up, and we never tacked on the word marketing to it, but it was clearly that. I heard all kinds of stuff flying around me in the industry, doing my research as to how to do my job, and I heard things like, “What is the ideal word count of a blog post?” I heard chatter around buying tools to make your publishing easier, questions around curation and hacks and shortcuts and SEO tricks versus original content. And I was just new to it, having left Google and left sales, and I thought well, I don’t know about all that, but I’m just gonna try to write really well and do right by my audience, and hopefully doing that will help me avoid needing to panic about all that other noise. And I think it’s served me decently well so far. Part of me wonders what kind of business or leader is actively avoiding things like quality? Like who really wants to be living that life or working for that company?

Dan Levy: Well that’s it.

Jay Acunzo: And I know it’s much more nuanced than that, by the way. But the fact that we have this debate of quality versus quantity is really disheartening, because they aren’t actually opposites, right? A journalist has to do both. So I think it’s all about taking a long-term view. If you’re better at the craft, if you’re better at the process, if you’re better at creating, if you’re better at getting more stuff or more effective stuff out the door, and more importantly, more memorable stuff, things that people actually like it sticks in their brain and causes an action. That will by definition get you better results. And I said long-term view. It’s not even long-term view. It’s just order of operations. Create the content, distribute it, measure the results, etc. So I think we just need to give more credence to the creation part as part of our overall process today.

But for a sea change to happen, I look at the individual content marketer. So it’s so interesting to see businesses take the mentalities of scale and programmatic, and apply those to content marketing, because this is a profoundly human endeavor. Imagine if the staff of Grantland, RIP, was now suddenly working at a content marketing organization or a marketing team. They would crush everyone else out there because of the people, because they’re such great writers, because they think about the craft and they’re able to do things with ease that we think are totally unthinkable, like quality and quantity together.

Dan Levy: But would they ever wanna be part of a content marketing team?

Jay Acunzo: That’s the problem, is like brands lack this historical credibility, this historical care for editorial that lends itself to that credibility needed to attract a team like at Grantland. But I do know that thousands are kind of like me, and you’ve kind of heard my tilt in the interview here. I want a meaningful career creating quality work, and I know there are thousands and thousands more like me in the industry, and I think they’ll flock to organizations that allow for that. In this style of marketing, the talent matters. It’s very human. It’s not programmatic.

You can do some things on the periphery to make it efficient and programmatic, and you can disagree with me, and you can chest-beat, and you can growth hack all you want. But all I know is I know tons and tons of marketers that showed up to this industry because they wanna create things that people really like and react to, and they wanna focus on resonance, not just empty reach. And for me, if marketing switched to becoming purely ad buys again, which I don’t think it ever will, but if it did, I would go work in another industry.  I’m here to write cool stuff. That’s what I like.

Dan Levy: Yeah, I think you get at it right there. It’s actually not a luxury, it’s an existential issue for companies, for agencies that if they wanna attract the best, whether it’s the best content marketers or the best conversation rate optimizers, of the best strategists, then they need to put that emphasis in their culture on quality, or else nobody’s gonna wanna work there.

Jay Acunzo: Absolutely. And I think there’s this dialogue that we’ve been having for a while that we’re all in this arms race for attention. I think it’s actually the byproduct of what we’re actually in the arms race for, which is the best talent. I think we’re now all in the business of trying to act like a publisher not in a figurative sense, but in a literal sense. How do we create an environment that cultivates and also attracts truly prolific individuals? People that, again, who we all assume in marketing is unthinkable. They’re multimedia creators. They black out and have all these great ideas while we’re all agonizing and slogging through this idea of quality versus quantity. They don’t need the tools that we need to be efficient, to be quality, to understand an audience, and do something that resonates with them. Those people do exist and we either need to attract them from outside of our industry or groom them from within.

But I think either way you look at it, it’s all about people. And if I look back, personally, and say I had a fulfilling career someday, I think it’s gonna be because I’m trying to be loud about that right now. I’m trying to support people and celebrate people who get results not by taking shortcuts and churning out more crap into the world, by bolting on technology to a human process. I’m trying to help and defend and support and learn from people that get real business results by being brilliant at delivering what audiences actually love, the people that agonize over their craft, the people that are creative. And if you spend that extra moment down that mental rabbit hole on a piece before publishing it, you’re so caught up with making it great when no one around you knows why the hell you’re doing that and not just shipping it, man, you’re gonna be the most important part of our industry the next few years. If you have that mentality, if you’re that type of person, we need you so bad.

Dan Levy: Amen, brother.

Jay Acunzo: Awesome.

Dan Levy: This is awesome, thank you. It’s so good to talk shop with you about this stuff, so thanks so much for taking the time to chat.

Jay Acunzo: Yeah. My pleasure.

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The No-Shortcut Approach to Building a Credible Content Marketing Strategy [PODCAST]

The 12 Best Marketing Podcasts to Subscribe to in 2016

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So, the haze of the holidays is slowly wearing off, and you’re looking over the list of resolutions you made half-sober the night after your office Christmas party.

If being a better marketer is on that list, then we have a quick and easy way to expand your marketing  knowledge — for free! I’m talking marketing podcasts. The genius of these marketing podcasts is that they blend the actionable advice you need to be better at your job, along with some slick production and enjoyable banter.

Even better? You can listen to them anywhere. Is shedding the obligatory holiday 15 (like the freshman 15, only shortbread-induced) on your resolution list? Listen to them as you’re hitting the elliptical, like our content strategist, Dan. Or, if you’re like me, you can put one on while you cook (something that’s on the top of my resolution list).

So, without further ado, here are the best marketing podcasts as picked by Unbounce (in no particular order).

1. Marketing Over Coffee

Marketing Over Coffee podcast cover art

If you want to know what the latest news is in the marketing world, Marketing Over Coffee is the podcast for you. It’s a weekly discussion of what’s new in marketing, hosted by John Wall and Christopher Penn. It’s one of the few marketing podcasts out there that is news-based rather than topic-based (most of the time). Plus, episodes are under half an hour, so pop one on during your morning commute to start your day off informed and inspired.

2. Louder Than Words

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Louder Than Words is a podcast that wants you to be more successful at your craft. Focusing on creative leaders, the show tries to get to the bottom of what has made each interviewee successful in the creative space. Host John Bonini has a casual way of introducing all of the interviews, and talks to a diverse group of individuals making a substantial impact — from designers to writers to entrepreneurs.

3. Call to Action

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This podcast was born from a minimum viable product (MVP) project and has since become a staple in the Unbounce marketing mix. You can expect actionable interviews with leading authors in the marketing blogosphere that dissect what truly makes a good marketer, and a successful marketing campaign (if we do say so ourselves!).

4. Copyblogger FM (formerly The Lede)

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The pros over at Copyblogger recently expanded their podcast selection this year, creating a fleet of podcasts with The Lede being their longest running production. Join hosts Demian Farnworth and Jerod Morris as they talk (and joke) about what’s going on in the copywriting (and marketing) world. Expect to have your burning marketing questions answered!

5. Growth Byte

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This is probably the shortest podcast you could put in your arsenal. If you’re running out the door and don’t have time to listen to a 30-minute show, Growth Byte will give you the “best startup growth content online” and summarize it for you in two- to three-minute clips.

6. HBR IdeaCast

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When you think of the Harvard Business Review, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t podcasting, but it’s actually on the cutting edge of media production. Host Sarah Green Carmichael sounds like your favorite NPR hosts, and she doesn’t beat around the bush — she goes straight into the interview. Expect experts ranging from professors to CEOs… even Katie Couric. As you can imagine, episode topics will center on many topics including marketing, aerospace and design. Look for their condensed episodes in the HBR print issue each month.

7. StartUp

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The flagship podcast of Gimlet Media, StartUp provides an incredibly transparent look into what it’s really like starting a business. Host and Gimlet Media CEO Alex Blumberg is no podcast novice, with roots in the This American Life family — and he doesn’t disappoint with StartUp. The first season chronicles the founding of Gimlet Media, from incorporation to funding to its first employee disagreement. The second season features a new startup, but with the same delightful style you’ve come to love.

8. #AskGaryVee

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This one is a little bit different in both content and format. The brainchild of self-described marketing hustler Gary Vaynerchuck, #AskGaryVee is a podcast that’s not actually a podcast. Rather, it’s a YouTube show that has been repurposed into a podcast, which is pretty clever. Gary spends 15 to 30 minutes intensely answering your most burning marketing questions. Have a question you need answered? Simply tweet him with #AskGaryVee and you may be on the next show!

9. On The Media

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Coming at you from WNYC, On The Media is a podcast on the next level. Since 2001, it has been one of NPR’s fastest growing programs, heard on more than 300 public radio stations. You can expect creative interview transitions as the podcast “casts an incisive eye on fluctuations in the marketplace of ideas.” If you’ve gotten a little bit bored of marketing-only podcasts, listen to this one as a breath of fresh air, and then dive right back in.

10. Social Media Marketing Happy Hour

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Aimed at entrepreneurs of all types, this 15-minute podcast (usually) comes out five days a week and will give you the inside info on how to leverage social media marketing sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more from the social experts at Happy Hour Hangouts. If you like professionally produced, banter-style podcasts, give this one a listen. Plus, it’s hosted by women!

11. Traction

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Traction podcast provides an inside look into the nitty-gritty details of launching a startup… you know, the things that get glossed over in the media when you read about those other successful startups. Hosted by Jay Acunzo from NextView Ventures, this podcast boasts expertly produced interviews from founders, startup execs, media members and investors.

12. Freakonomics

Freakonomics podcast cover art

Although not technically a marketing podcast, the Freakonomics podcast is filled with delightful stories that take a lot of data into account. Hosted by Stephen Dubner, with co-author Steve Levitt as a regular guest, it’s produced in partnership with WNYC so you can expect a high-quality product that will entertain, concern and baffle you (sometimes all at once!).

You can find all of the podcasts that are on our list of best marketing podcasts in the iTunes store. Do you have any other marketing podcasts that you absolutely can’t live without? Let us know in the comments.


Originally from:

The 12 Best Marketing Podcasts to Subscribe to in 2016