New Prepare.io Content


Happy new year everyone. It’s 2016 and it’s time to get things rolling.

I’m still in the process of building Prepare.io. Yes, it’s been a long time and if you signed up for the early access list, it’s probably been months at this point. I apologize for the delay.

Building a software product isn’t easy and I’m learning this first-hand. As I figure this out how to bring you a great product, what I can do is bring you great content.

That’s something that I know how to do. But this blog probably hasn’t seen the best content since its inception.

That’s due in part I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about, or what you’d find valuable. But that part of the content journey any SaaS company takes. I probably didn’t write for this blog a lot because I was pushing content I didn’t love writing about. I like marketing and writing, but I felt like I was trying to write a variation of something else that’s already out there. I was trying to compete with blogs like Buffer, Moz, and Hubspot and that’s just not something I want to do.

I thought long and hard about what I like, what Prepare.io is, and what I know to come up with a new direction for Prepare.io blog content.

What I came up with is a blog about process. I’ve determined that process is what separates the successful people and those who are figuring it out.

I want to interview successful people, of all walks of life, to learn about their process. That means it’s not just going to be writers or tech professionals. I’m going to interview people from different industries. That’s where the TalkAnything podcast comes into play.

For the past year I’ve been working on a podcast, independently of Prepare.io. I was interviewing people about how they got to where they are today. It was interesting and I’m sure I’ll still touch on parts of that story in future episodes, but I didn’t give anyone any actionable items to walk away with. Now I’m going to combine Prepare.io’s new content with the TalkAnything podcast.

I love podcasts and I want to incorporate podcasting into Prepare.io content. Therefore, moving forward, the TalkAnyting podcast is going to be a part of Prepare.io’s content strategy. The focus of the podcast and the blog will be process and the stories behind successful people’s process.

The above podcast is a free-flowing stream of my thoughts on this subject. The podcast will be much more structured, but it’s still going to be a work in progress. I’m excited to share new interviews with you and I hope you are too. If there is anyone you’d like me to interview, drop me a line at jesse at prepare dot io.

Why Your Blog Needs a Clear Process


hedgehog-concept

via Buffer Blog

The most successful people and businesses all have something in common. It’s a clear process. Process is what separates mediocre professionals to successful titans of industry.

If you don’t have a process that’s ok. Everyone starts without a process. A process comes through experience. Even if you take the blueprint someone of someone else’s process, that doesn’t necessarily it means it’s perfect for you.

I have been blogging since 2006 and for 80% of the time, I would say I didn’t have a process. I had an idea of a process, but it was never a concrete process. I never formalized my “process” as a process. This lack of formal process affected my results and left me with noticeable growth, but nothing staggering.

I find writing down ideas helps you better solidify your ideas into true opinions and thoughts. So writing your process down is key.

In this post I’m going to review why your blog needs a clear process and how you can create a fluid process that helps your team blog more efficiently and more effectively.

Why Your Blog Needs a Clear Process

There are two primary reasons why you need a process. It’s more efficient and it helps you track performance. In turn, a better defined process will help achieve better results in the long-term.

If you are training to be a world class runner in the mile run, you’re not just going to go out to the track everyday and guess what you should run that day, would you? No. You have no idea how to track progress. That’s why professional runners have strict training programs. Among other things, they can carefully monitor progression and how their process affects final performance.

It’s clear that you need a process, but how do you exactly come up with your process? I can’t help you become a faster miler (even though I held the record in 6th grade!) but I can help you start to assemble a process for your company’s blog.

Where To Start?

We’re going to break up this up into two major parts. First, we’ll look over your content framework, then we’ll look at your team’s blogging process and how that plays a role in your team’s blogging success.

Your Content Marketing Framework

skyscraper

via Jen Oliver Meiert

I discussed one aspect of a content framework in the “Understanding Tofu-Mofu-Bofu” blog post. But let’s take a step back and look at it from a higher level.

When you’re starting a blog, you’re never quit sure what to write about. You’re unsure of who your audience is, what you should be writing about, and what you want to write about. My advice has always been to just start writing (it still is), but there comes to a point where you have to formalize your process and framework.

Buffer wrote a really good blog post on 4 Content Marketing Frameworks. I think this is a really important post every blogger should read. Let’s briefly break down the four frameworks.

Spaghetti Framwork

The first framework Buffer discusses is called the, “Spaghetti Framework.” This framework is named after something my dad always did while we were making spaghetti. In order to test if the spaghetti is ready to eat, he’d throw a piece on the refrigerator. If it would stick, it was ready to eat. If it didn’t stick, we’d have to let it cook some more. The same concept applies to your blog content.

In the beginning, you just write. You have an idea of who your audience is and what they want to read, so you start there. You write a post and “throw it at the refrigerator” to see if it sticks. If it doesn’t, you try something else. This is fine in the early stages, but it’s not a sustainable strategy. Therefore you should move onto one of the next three content marketing frameworks Buffer lays out.

Skyscraper Technique 

Skyscraper is the next most popular strategy, even though I’d venture a guess that many people who use it don’t call it the Skyscraper technique.

The Skyscraper technique is simple. Take a successful piece of content and make it better and longer. If it’s 1300 words, make it 2500 words. Add more links to more related articles. Answer lingering questions the original author (or authors if you’re looking at more than on article as source material) failed to answer. Inject steroids into the existing piece of content so it’s not an entire copy of the original.

The idea is that you already know that this type of content is valuable to readers (you can use BuzzSumo to search the most shared posts based on topics/keywords). They’ve already demonstrated that they’re interested in this type of content. But people don’t want to read the same article twice. But if you include more information, new information, people will be willing to read your article and share it.

The Skyscraper technique is great if you don’t have a lot of expertise in an area but need great content. You don’t necessarily need to know what you’re writing about, you jut have to find enough sources to make it better than what’s out there. That’s why this technique is so popular.

Hedgehog Concept 

The Hedgehog framework is the one framework I haven’t used in the past, but will in the future. It’s a concept from Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great. The Hedgehog framework is the answer to three questions, which overlap in a venn diagram.

Question 1: What Are You Passionate About?
Question 2: What Can You Be the Best In the World At?
Question 3: What Drives Your Economic Engine?

By answering these three questions, you should come up with a very unique value proposition for your company’s content. Create content that aligns with this theme and you’ll have a competitive advantage over your competitors. Which is really important as content becomes more saturated. I mean, how many posts about increasing blog traffic do we need?

Tofu-Mofu-Bofu

Tofu-Mofu-Bofu is short for Top of Funnel, Middle of Funnel, and Bottom of Funnel. These represent the three stages of content your company needs to create during a buyer’s journey.

Top of the Funnel

It starts at the top of the funnel. This is where people come to your website, where they first hear about you. People have no idea who you are or what you do. But you’ve created some very generic content that has attracted them to your site. Top of the funnel is broad. An example would be, Grandma’s Cookie Shop (GCS). Grandma creates a blog post that lists the 10 best chocolate chip cookie recipes. This is something people are interested in. They don’t know who Grandma’s Cookie Shop is, but they end up on her site and consume her content because it answers their question.

The people who find this article are looking for cookie recipes and are probably not in the market to buy Grandma’s Cookies. This is an example of Top of Funnel content.

Middle of the Funnel

The Middle of the Funnel is the next phase. This is also where many marketers stop. The middle of the funnel is where you teach people how to choose the right solution for the problem they have and you are solving.

Grandma’s Cookie Shop might create a post titled, “How to Balance Chocolate and Peanut Butter In Your Cookies.” Grandma is teaching the reader how to do something specific when it comes to baking cookies. It’s helpful, but it still doesn’t separate GCS from its competitors.

Bottom of the Funnel

Bottom funnel content (like blogs/newsletters) might actually be similar to the top or middle funnel. The only difference is that it’s much, much more niche. You know exactly who the customer is, their problems, and their intent. You’re looking to close the last 10% of doubt the prospective buyer has.

Your bottom of the funnel content should focus on how you’re different from competitors and how you specifically solve your customer’s problem. Grandma’s Cookie Shop could create a blog post that states she’s won the last five state cookie titles and why the judges continuously choose her cookies over the competitors.

Once you have determined what framework your blogging team will follow for its blog content, you can now focus on the actual process of creating the blog content.

Content Creation Process

sketching

via Jean-Pierre Brungs

The content creation process will differ from team to team. Part of this depends on the tools you use, other parts rely on team member preferences. While there is no universal process, it’s important to outline a process so that your team understands what’s going on.

1. Identify Key Stakeholders

First step is to identify who are the key stakeholders in your content creation process. Do you have a dedicated editor? Do you have a designer? Are your writers dedicated writers? Or are you hiring freelancers? Or are you having team members from different departments (like an engineer) write a blog post? This needs to be clearly outlined at the start, otherwise you’ll run into workflow issues down the road.

2. Choose Your Communication Tools

When you’re dealing with several moving parts, you need to have a clear communication method. If your team is entirely internal, you might like using Slack. If you’re working with several outside vendors and freelancers, you might want a more structured system than Slack and email.

Prepare.io helps blogging teams communicate through our visual dashboard. Editors and writers are notified when posts have been assigned and completed. Edits and publishing to WordPress are all done through the dashboard as well. This eliminates the need to email back and forth about a Google Doc or Spreadsheet. No more cutting and pasting into WordPress.

Whatever your desired communication tool is, identify it at the start.

3. Outline Your Workflow Process

I’ve worked with many different content teams over the years and I’ve been a part of just as many different workflow processes. Whoever is in charge of your content product, should clearly outline the workflow process and expectations.

If you’re looking for an example, here’s a good internal process. Here’s a few different examples from content teams I’ve worked with.

  1. Writers Pitch Ideas and Deadlines
  2. CEO Approves Pitches
  3. Writers Write Posts in Google Docs, Share with Editor and CEO
  4. Editor and CEO Make Notes in Google Docs
  5. Writer Updates Post
  6. Editor and CEO Make Final Review
  7. Blog Post is Shared With a Designer
  8. Blog Published with Custom Image.

Here’s another workflow process I’ve been a part of.

  1. Editors Create a List of Blog Topics
  2. Writers Claim Which Articles They’d Like to Write
  3. Writers Write Posts (with image), Emails Word Doc to Editor
  4. Editor Makes Notes and Sends Back via Email
  5. Writer Makes Updates
  6. Editor Makes Final Review
  7. Editor Schedules Post

It doesn’t necessarily matter what your process is, just that you have one. Like I said, I’ve worked on numerous teams that had some variation of these two processes. A clear process makes it easier for your team to keep track of tasks and where in the process the post is.

Process is something that we’re going to talk about more on the Prepare.io blog. Process is the foundation to success and we want to learn more about it. Different industries, different teams, have different processes. But they’re all focused on making the process more transparent and efficient.

If you’re a content team, it’s important that you outline what your content framework is first and then what your workflow process is. Answering these two questions will make creating content more efficient and effective.

Featured Image Courtesy of Buffer

How To Handle Criticism of Your Writing


bad-teacher-grading-papers

via Sony Pictures / Bad Teacher

Remember when you were in elementary school and you patiently sat in your desk, waiting for your teacher to return your latest written assignment? Your excitement quickly dissipated as your teacher presented your assignment and you see all the red marks scratched across your words.  The sight of all the red felt like a thousand tiny paper cuts. Your heart sank, feeling like you failed.

But if you were to take a closer look at your paper, it would reveal that despite the bloody mess, it was still a highly graded paper. How on Earth could a paper with so many corrections still be considered good?

This scenario is a learning experience that every writer has gone through. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but writing critiques, as painful as it is to see, doesn’t mean you’ve done a poor job. It just means that there are areas to improve and make your writing even better.

How can you as the writer, learn how to handle criticism of your writing so that you learn from it without hurting future performance? How as an editor can you offer criticism without alienating your writing team?

It’s Not Criticism, It’s Feedback

First of all, let’s clear up a semantic hurdle. What we’re actually dealing with is feedback. Criticism is painful, because it’s meant to be painful. People who criticize are purposefully devaluing you and your work. They’re trying to be negative. But more often than not, the critical person has convinced themselves they’re not being critical, but rather helpful. Criticism is not helpful, feedback is.

According to Psychology Today, here’s a few ways to tell the difference between criticism and feedback:

  • Criticism focuses on what’ s wrong: Why can’t you pay attention to the bills?
  • Feedback focuses on how to improve: Let’s go over the bills together.
  • Criticism implies the worst about the other’s personality: You’re stubborn and lazy.
  • Feedback is about behavior, not personality: Can we start by sorting the bills according to due date?
  • Criticism devalues: I guess you’re just not smart enough to do this.
  • Feedback encourages: I know you have a lot on your plate, but I’m pretty sure we can do this together.
  • Criticism implies blame: It’s your fault we’re in this financial mess.
  • Feedback focuses on the future: We can get out of this mess if we both give up a few things. What do you think?
  • Criticism attempts to control: I know what’s best. I’m smarter and better educated.
  • Feedback respects autonomy: I respect your right to make that choice, even though I don’t agree with it.
  • Criticism is coercive: You’re going to do what I want, or else I. . . (won’t connect with you or will punish you in some way).
  • Feedback is not coercive: I know we can find a solution that works for both of us.

Ultimately, it’s not the intent of an editor when they’re offering remarks about a writing assignment to be critical. The editor is focused on making the writing better for the publication and that will require feedback. No one gets it right on the first try. As Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

What Feedback Actually Looks Like

If you’re adverse to any kind of criticism/feedback, the two can blend together in your eyes. So even if your’e getting constructive feedback in a respectful manner, it might feel like criticism. This will cause unnecessary duress.

The next time you get feedback on a piece of writing, check to see if the feedback follows these guidelines:

  • Focuses on how to improve.
  • Focus on the behavior the editor would like to see, not on the personality of you, the writer.
  • Encourages change, instead of undermining your confidence.
  • Sincerely offers help.

If it does, then you know you have a good editor who is looking out for everyone’s best interest. By making the necessary edits, you’ll have a stronger piece of writing in your portfolio. The publication will be pleased with the results and want more writing from you.

How To Deal with The Sting of Feedback

We’ve established that feedback isn’t bad, but that doesn’t reduce the sting you feel when you see the comments on your writing. I’ve turned in 1,000 word assignments and received 500-600 words of feedback on the piece. At first, I was shocked, hurt, embarrassed, and ashamed. I hadn’t read any of the feedback, yet, but just by looking at the sheer volume of the feedback, I was taken aback. I’ve learned not to do that. This is how I’ve learned to deal with the sting of feedback.

  1. Calm Down Before Diving Into The Notes

Don’t get hot and bothered if your writing gets feedback. You should assume it’s never going to be perfect the first time around. It might not be perfect the second time either. Writing is a process, accept it. So before you read your editor’s feedback, take a couple of deep breathes and relax. Remind yourself that this is to help you, not a critique of who you are.

2. Don’t Get Defensive

I still do this on occasion, but it doesn’t do me any good. I’ll defend my writing in my head, based on the notes the editor has left me. What good does that anyone? The editor doesn’t hear my defense and it doesn’t actually make me feel any better. Being defensive just clouds your judgement and ability to listen. Stop being defensive and instead focus on what is actually being said.

3. Is the Feedback Accurate?

If you’re too busy being defensive, you’ll overlook the accuracy of the feedback. A common piece of feedback I’ll get is that I’m not being clear enough on my point. In my head, my argument is perfectly valid. But what I’ve written lacks a few key details to the reader. So when I read it, it makes sense, but to a new reader, something is missing.

I’ve learned to just read the feedback and then go back and re-read that paragraph. I almost always realize that I haven’t been descriptive enough. When I take the time to really assess the accuracy of the feedback, I usually discover that my writing is much stronger when I take the editor’s advice.

4. Fix the Problem

In the rare case I don’t agree with my editor, arguing about it doesn’t help anyone. Chances are, if your editor is confused, so will your reader. So fix the problem. How can you make your writing better based on the feedback? If you need better adjectives or more supporting data, make the necessary edits. Resisting feedback will only hinder your writing.

Dealing with criticism can be really difficult. You’re not alone, everyone hates it. But you must remember that criticism is not the same as feedback. Feedback is constructive and meant to make you a better writer. Get over the pain feedback may cause your ego and improve your writing with these steps.

Screenshot Courtesy of Bad Teacher

Understanding TOFU-MOFU-BOFU


via Buffer Blog

via Buffer Blog

I have been a professional marketer for nearly ten years. I’ve failed a lot. My failures have taught me a lot about marketing, how to think about it, and how to adapt it to new products and solutions.

One thing that I’ve learned during my years as a marketer and blogger is that there are two types of marketers. The first type of marketers are what I call “top-funnel” marketers. The second type are “full-funnel” marketers. These marketers think about marketing and sales in two different ways.

Top Funnel vs. Full Funnel Marketers

Top-funnel marketers are much more focused on using different marketing channels to get visitors to the top of the marketing funnel. That’s typically where their job ends. They like to focus on content creation, awareness and engagement. Early in my career, I was definitely a top-funnel marketer. Part of that was due to my inexperience and part of it was due to the fact I worked on the agency side, so the scope of my worked was limited and clearly defined.

Social media marketers are infamous for being top-funnel marketers. If you ever get pitched by a social media marketing services company, they’re going to tell you that they can increase the awareness of your company online. They will increase engagement, which will increase brand loyalty. But that’s just part of the story. You can get people to the wheatgrass stand, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can get them to take a wheatgrass shot, right?

A full-funnel marketer’s job is just beginning once visitors hit the top of the funnel. It’s their job to get the visitor to work its way down the funnel, ultimately to a sale. It’s their job to get a visitor to ultimately take that wheatgrass shot. Full-funnel marketers are more concerned with conversion rates at different stages of the funnel and ultimately sales.

Guiding someone down the marketing funnel takes a greater understanding of the customer. It means knowing who they are, not just making broad generalizations. Understand their problems is vital. Your content should become more and more focused closer to the bottom of the funnel, to the point that you’re answering every last question the potential buyer has that’s preventing them from making a purchase.

How Full-Funnel Marketers Use Content

Tornado-Funnel

via NSSL

There are three primary stages in the marketing funnel (TOFU-MOFU-BOFU):

Top Funnel – Building awareness around you and your problem you are solving.

Middle of the Funnel – Teaching people how to choose the right solution for your problem.

Bottom of the Funnel – Explaining why your solution is the best solution.

Some marketers graduate to the middle of the funnel. Others are content just focusing on the top (there’s nothing wrong with that). At the point when you start to think deeper than top-level website visitors, marketers create content that helps website visitors get closer to making a purchase. This can be content like email campaigns, case studies, product guides, and in-depth blog posts (and more!). Full-funnel marketers make the move from just generating general awareness to teaching people how to make the proper decision when making a product decision.

Far too often, marketers end at the top or the middle of the funnel. That’s a big mistake. You’ve taken the time to get the visitor to your site, now they know about you. Then you’ve informed the visitor what to consider when you’re going through the decision-making process. But you haven’t closed the deal yet! You know who will? Your competitor.

The bottom of the funnel is neglected far too often by marketers. Perhaps it’s because it seemingly bleeds into sales? It’s harder than top funnel content? Whatever the reason, your team can’t neglect the bottom of the funnel.

What Exactly Is Bottom Funnel Content?

bottom-funnel

Alright, so we know that your team needs to create more bottom funnel content. But what does that actually mean? Is that blog posts? Is it drip email campaigns? Webinars? Ebooks? What is it?

Bottom funnel content (like blogs/newsletters) might actually be similar to the top or middle funnel. The only difference is that it’s much, much more niche. You know exactly who the customer is, their problems, and their intent. You’re looking to close the last 10% of doubt the prospective buyer has.

A product demo is a good example of bottom funnel content. Casual site visitors won’t waste their time with a demo. But someone who has read a blog post, gotten a few emails, and finally come back to the site to request a demo is at the bottom of the funnel. They’re ready to buy something…but they’re still not sure if your product is the one for them. A full demo allows them to go through all their questions and any materials you send them after the demo should not only give them all the information they need to buy, but make them want to buy your product.

Creating a touch-free marketing website for your software product is great. It allows you to generate sales without having to pay for a huge sales team. But getting people to buy your software product isn’t as simple as getting someone to your site. Using content to guide buyers down the marketing funnel, resulting in a sale is vital. Understanding TOFU-MOFU-BOFU and how that relates to content will be most beneficial to your company.

Why Was OKCupid’s Blog So Successful?


okcupid

I’ve repeatedly touted how important blogging is for companies. In my last post, I outlined 7 stats that your boss needs to know about blogging. It’s easy to point to company blogs like Kissmetrics, Hubspot, and Moz as catalysts for blogging success. But these companies are in the online marketing field. Their audiences understands the value of blog content and actively seek it out. But what about a company that isn’t catering to marketing professionals?

OKCupid is one of the world’s most popular online dating sites. It was founded in 2003 and acquired by IAC (parent company of Match.com) for $50 million in 2011. An important component to OKCupid’s success was its widely popular blog.

OKCupid’s blog was different than many other company blogs. Instead of shorter, more frequent posts, OKCupid spent considerable time on one post. But these posts generated millions of views to the site. OKCupid’s blog posts fast became a tentpole to its top-funnel marketing strategy and eventual new user acquisition.

via Wired. (Coynes on left)

via Wired. (Coyne on left)

Chris Coyne, OKCupid co-founder, offered Quora users a unique look as to why was the OKCupid’s blog so successful.

How Important was Blogging to OKCupid’s Success?

Very important. We think. OkCupid’s most popular blogs posts were read by millions of people, and that was excluding existing OkCupid users.  Still, we don’t really have any way of measuring the effects, since direct signups from the blog posts were just a few thousand people each.

But over the long run, we just kept hearing how everyone *loved* the posts so much, and that it was one of the big reasons they loved the site.

All that said, I get this question a lot from startups who are hoping to fill in the “how do we grow?” blank by saying “Well, we’ll just write a blog, like OkCupid did.”  Maybe hire a “data scientist.”  And unfortunately, I have to advise against it in almost all cases. Some bullets:

  • OkCupid’s blog worked because we had sexy data. If you’re doing a real estate startup, or a housing thing, or an ad network, or even some social/photo/sharing tool, odds are you don’t have the wealth of personal information to produce lots of great posts. Maybe 1 or 2 posts. In contrast, on a whim at OkCupid, if we wanted to know whether our users had ever done thing X with a Y on hand while thinking about Z, we could get a few hundred thousand answers in a couple days.  Further, we had pretty deep demo data.
  • We had Christian Rudder writing the blog.  Yes, he studied math at Harvard, but the math on OkTrends was high school level. And with a lot of statistical hand-waving and over-simplification. His posts were great because he’s such an amazing writer, not because he’s awesome at math. (He’s certainly the best writer I know.)
  • The posts each took 4-8 weeks of full-time work for him to write. Plus another 2-4 weeks of dedicated programming time from someone else on the team.  It’s easy to look at an OkTrends post, with all its simple graphs and casual writing style and think someone just threw it together, but it probably had 50 serious revisions. And we threw out a lot of research that didn’t turn into good posts.  Your startup probably can’t afford to do this. It shouldn’t waste like 10 man weeks of effort/focus/money on writing a blog post. 

Three Key Takeaways

via OKCupid Trends

Sample Graphic via OKCupid Trends

There are three major lessons that I think bloggers should take from Coyne’s answer. The first is that they had in-depth, proprietary data. OKCupid had numbers that no one else had access to. These were the cornerstone to the blog posts. Had they used data that was publicly known, like from a Harvard study, there would have been dozens (if not more) of other blogs that would have written about the data in some variation. This gave them a distinct advantage.

The second takeaway is great storytelling. Data is only part of the battle. A million different stories and blog posts could have been made with the data OKCupid had access to. But OKCupid knew who its audience was, what problems/fears/thoughts they had when it came to online dating. That enabled Christian Rudder, the co-founder/author of the blog posts, to draft compelling stories.

OKCupid posts ranged from “The Best Questions for a First Date” to “The Mathematics of Beauty.” The titles alone are compelling enough to get someone who is actively dating or struggling with dating. But once the reader clicked to the actual article, they were greeted with colorful images, charts, and graphs that broke up long posts. Christian Rudder’s greatest strengths was deconstructing the data into simple parts that everyone could understand.

The last key takeaway is the most important one in my eyes. It’s time. These posts were not created overnight. Let me just reiterate how much time OKCupid spent on a SINGLE blog post.

The posts each took 4-8 weeks of full-time work for him (Christian Rudder) to write. Plus another 2-4 weeks of dedicated programming time from someone else on the team.

That’s a tremendous amount of time. It takes real dedication to put that much time and resources into a single post. Not many teams have the resources to do this. My point being, if you want to try and emulate OKCupid’s blogging success, remember how much time they actually spent on it.

How Can You Emulate OKCupid’s Blogging Success?

Even if you don’t have the time and resources to completely replicate OKCupid’s blog, you can learn from its content framework. OKCupid leveraged a strategy from Jim Collins’ book, “Good to Great,” called the Hedgehog Concept.

You can read about the Hedgehog Concept in-depth on the Buffer blog. But the basic gist of the concept is this; hedgehogs know how to do one thing and do it exceptionally well. According to Collins, “Hedgehogs see what is essential and ignore the rest.” That’s exactly what OKCupid took advantage of.

via Buffer Blog

via Buffer Blog

OKCupid took what they’re passionate about (dating), what they’re the best in the world at (in-depth dating data), and what drove their growth (increased account sign ups) to create content that drove millions of views.

OKCupid was one of the best business blogging stories I can think of. The only weakness I can think of is that they were too reliant on Christian Rudder to write the content. Post-acquisition, his duties expanded and he did not have time to dedicate to the blog. Subsequently, the blog essentially died. Learn from OKCupid’s successful blogging strategy and help your company blog stand out from the rest.

7 Blogging Stats Your Boss Needs to Know


via Giphy

via Giphy

Blogging is ubiquitous when it comes to inbound marketing. It’s easy to get started and can be a staple of your overall strategy. But blogging is hard. It’s time consuming and when done improperly, it can yield few results. It’s easy for decision makers to reject blogging for other tactics. But you know how valuable blogging is…don’t you? You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t. The only problem here is convincing your boss how valuable blogging is. Let’s fix that.

Your boss is going to want to see numbers. Numbers always get people excited and more comfortable with a decision. So let’s give her what she needs to approve resources for your company’s blog. Here are 7 blogging stats you can use to demonstrate why your company needs to be dedicating time and energy into building your company’s blog.

1. 46% of People Read Blogs More Than Once a Day

Go where your audience is. People love to read and discover new content. That’s why curated newsletters like Jason Hirschhorn’s MediaREDEF is so popular. People want to read good content so give them something good to read.

2. 70% of People Learn About a Company From Blog Posts, Not Ads

This point piggy backs off #2. People don’t trust ads. They hate them. They’re annoying and pushed on you. Blog posts discovered through your social network (i.e. Twitter feed) have more meaning to you. It’s already qualified. If you want more people to come to the top of your sales funnel, a blog will help.

3. Companies With Active Blogs Generate 97% More Links to its Website

If your website is an island, out in the middle of the internet, with no attachment to anyone else, it’s going to be a pretty lonely existence. You need links! Links are what bring traffic to your site and indicates to search engines that this site is important!

4. Companies with Active Blogs Generate 55% More Site Visits

Your boss doesn’t want big traffic numbers for vanity sake. More visits to the top of the funnel will result in more leads later one. Companies that blog on a regular basis have 55% more website visits than companies who don’t.

5. Blogs Are the 4th Most Trustworthy Source For Information on the Internet

Trust between company and a potential customer is HUGE! Unknown companies aren’t going to get the sale. But an unknown company that has a blog, giving the potential customer more information about the company can close the deal.

6. B2B Companies That Blog Regularly Generate 67% More Leads Every Month

Do you want qualified traffic? Well, a blog is a great way to do that. Especially with evergreen content that uses long-tail keywords. Optimize your blog posts with the right keywords with the intent and it won’t just be your traffic numbers that go up. Regular blogging results in more leads for your business.

7. 82% of Marketers Who Blog Daily Acquired a Customer Through the Blog

Bottomline, blogging will generate in sales. 82% of marketers who blog daily have acquired a customer from the company blog. That’s 25% more than marketers who blog monthly (which is still really good!). A successful blog can not only bring awareness to your company, generate leads, but it can also be the reason why you made the sale.

Don’t let anyone tell you that a blog is a waste of time. Companies that neglect their blog or use it for company updates/press releases are doing themselves a disservice. There is no reason your company shouldn’t be taking advantage of a blog’s benefits. If your boss is on the fence, present these seven facts to back up your pitch to blog more.

35 Amazing Resources To Improve Your Blog


via Business2Community and nclurbandesign.org

via Business2Community and nclurbandesign.org

If you ever follow Prepare.io on Twitter, we tend to share lots of articles about blogging. Writing a successful and valuable blog doesn’t just happen. The Prepare.io software is meant to help your team with the blogging process, but there are still many different skills, tactics, and frameworks that marketers need to be aware of to be effective bloggers.

With so much content out there, sometimes it’s hard to parse through it all and find the best resources. To help you out, here’s a list of 35 curated resources to improve your blog.

1. How to Use Gmail to Grow Your Blog Traffic

2. 13 Warnings Your Blog Design Stinks

3. Segment Your Blog Content to Drive More Leads and Sales

4. Fix Your Blog’s Conversion Rate, Starting with Low Hanging Fruit

5. Lessons Learned From Scaling Your Blog

6. 5 Ways to Extend Your Blog’s Reach and Grow Your Audience

7. 11 Things To Do After You Publish a Blog Post

8. 8 Ways to Improve Social Shares For Your Blog

9. 15 Pro Blogging Tips Every Marketer Needs to Know

10. 11 Tips to Breaking Bloggers Blog Through Solving Reader Problems

11. 20 Quick Tips on Writing Great Blog Posts

12. What To Do When You Have a Hot Post on Your Blog

13. One Trap That Could Destroy Your Blog

14. 7 Ways to Stay Inspired and Avoid Bloggers Burn Out

15. 6 Tips for Hosting an Interview Series on Your Blog

16. Using Neuroscience to Design a Better Blog

17. An In-Depth Look at The Science of Blog Timing

18. Your Company Blog is Floundering: Now What?

19. 6 Tips for Wooing Customers with an Enchanting Business Blog

20. 11 Words That Enhance Trust in a Blog Post

21. Blog Editor’s Cheat Sheet: What To Do Before, During, and After Your Post Goes Live

22. Blog Post Volume Experiment

23. How to Generate Content Ideas Using Buzzsumo (and APIs)

24. Quality vs. Quantity: 6-Month Analysis of Age-Old Blogging Debate

25. 4 Simple Ways to Choose the Best Blog Topics for Your Audience

26. How to Use Excel to Run a Blog Content Analysis

27. How to Blog Consistently Without Burning Out

28. 36 Tried and True Way to Promote Your Blog Posts

29. 13 Types of Blog Headlines That Will Get You More Traffic

30. How to Write a Blog Post: A Simple Formula

31. How Much Does it Cost to Run a Successful Blog

32. How to Eliminate The Passive Voice

33. Pitch the Perfect Guest Blog Post Part I

34. Pitch the Perfect Guest Blog Post Part II

35. 6 Stats You Should Know About Business Blogging in 2015

 

51 Distrosnacks by 500 Startups


Image via Coindesk

Image via Coindesk

Distrosnacks are “daily bite-sized” tips on distribution and growth from the 500 Startups Distribution Team. I’ve been subscribed to this newsletter for a few months now. I decided to round up all the tips I’ve been sent during this time. I’m sure there are more, but this is what I have.

Subscribe to 500 Startups’ Distrosnacks Email Here

(Note, all unusual spelling/slang come directly from 500 Startups, not me.)

1. Product Vs. Growth
Use a Smoke Test to validate “new ideas” & prove them out BEFORE building moar product — because that way u don’t stunt growth.
Don’t let product roadmap hi-jack growth — use growth 2 drive ur product roadmap.

2. One Metric That Matters
While measuring overall conversion or close rate is important, it alone won’t help u drill down on drop-offs in ur funnel.
Watch CTR on each specific call to action in ur funnel 2 see whether weaknesses in your close rate are coming from content & marketing, or from ur sales process.

3. Press Hack
Big press outlets on the web are BUSY and rely HEAVILY on other sources 4 credible content to syndicate.
Contacting ppl from best-known news sites can be a long-shot.
Instead, track who they’re linking out to / sourcing from (or scrape external links), pitch those outlets, and get featured thru syndication.

4. Slack Use Cases
OBVIOUS
– Team communications
– Freelancer workflow
LESS OBVIOUS

– Customer support (Step 1: get THEM to add YOU to their Slack)
– Customer insights / research / OUTREACH (Step 2: ping them on their Slack)
Don’t be boring / spammy, you’ll get deleted in 1 click 🙂

5. Call to Action Button
A great rule of thumb when determining a call to action is to make your button text complete this sentence:
“I want to ___.”
Your CTA in your customers’ words, not yours.

6. Facebook Lead Collector
Facebook Lead Ads (a NEW thing) lets people subscribe to you in 2 clicks / taps.
FB auto-fills key info:
their full name
email
street address
phone
zip
city
state
country
country
company
job title
Streamlined leadgen + many targeting possibilities = TEST NOW.

7. Traffic Leaks
Outbound links help SEO by signaling to Google what sites you’re associated with — ie, link to sites of brands whose products you’re selling or to media you’re mentioned in.
Contrary to being a traffic ‘leak’, relevant / high quality external links makes ur site more useful & authoritative.
Join the party, link OUT!

8. Untapped Channel
SMS is instant, short, direct.
– Average SMS response time is less than 5 min
– Average open rate >95%
– Only 160 characters to think about / optimize
– Other personal channels for outreach: FB Messenger, WeChat, Line, WhatsApp, MOAR

Be personalized & high touch, don’t blast.

9. Don’t Retarget This
Reverse-retarget to EXCLUDE people who’ve already signed up:
1. FB or Twitter Custom Audience of registered emails
2. EXCLUDE that audience
Don’t waste acquisition $ on people who are already your users — onboard them with an engagement campaign instead.

10. User Reviews 4 SEO
User reviews help ur SEO b/c comments = content, and reviews’ unique wording + long tail phrases are better than a bunch of pages with the same product or service descriptions.
1. Ask for reviews & make it easy
2. Respond
3. Filter

11. Buy On the Backend
Nobody gets married after the first date, and most customers don’t buy from your landing page.
Nurture ur leads:
– free or $1 trial
– email drip campaign
– bake into their routine / lifecycle / habits

12. Conversion Rate Levers
If u kill ur low quality traffic sources, conversion rate will go up.
If u go after bigger / new / emerging channels or leads, conversion rate will go down.
1. If you need to show off a higher CR (investor deck?), cull the low grade leads
2. If you’re focused on filling the top of your funnel, be ready for lower CR till u optimize further

13. Content Penalty
Syndication can be good 4 expanding your reach and authority,
BUT know that Google gives the higher authority site technical / SEO credit, even if you publish first.
Solutions:
– ask them to use rel=canonical
– ask them to use no index tag
– do it anyway if it’s high visibility + new audience

14. Pricing Strategy
Pricing = positioning, and can be ur competitive advantage in the market.
Use pricing to communicate to the market whether your product is a premium, mid-market or low cost alternative.
To be effective, a startup’s pricing strategy must align with its marketing case studies, website messaging, PR releases and sales pitches.
If all the arrows point in the same direction, then pricing becomes an asset to reinforce the company’s position in the market.

15. Facebook Scraping
Facebook scraping?
Facebook now checks whether you really have permission to target user IDs you upload, by requiring App ID.
Don’t get banned. Get leads the legit way: ebook, webinar, tool, freebie

16. Ad Leaderboard
Amazon books, Upworthy, Digg, and Reddit are headline & copy leaderboards.
1. Look at what’s winning
2. Test as ads

17. Scraped List
Mailing a cold / bought / scraped list?
Warm it up with email pre-targeting BEFORE u send:
1. Make re-targeting campaigns on FB / Twitter / Google
2. Focus campaigns on brand awareness; no “hard sell”
3. Mail to list, with CTA
4. Also retarget un-opens

18. Competitor Tracking
1. Google Alerts — monitor mentions of ur competitor’s name / branded keywords
2. Moz for your competitor’s site / keywords
3. http://sitealerts.com/
4. https://monitorbacklinks.com/

19. Own vs. Rent
OWN = ur site, ur app
RENT = ur FB, YouTube, Twitter etc
Use OWN 4 ur DO and THINK audiences. Use RENT b/c it’s where ur See and Care audiences already are (YouTube & Facebook each have over a billion actives).
But, if u only have money for one — own first, rent next, then rock both.

20. Flat Traffic
Traffic is all around you.
Give ppl a reason to click ur ad / subscribe 2 ur list / open ur welcome:
data map
toolkit / resource list
research report
white paper
survey results
video how-to
“steal-able” template
numbered guide
cheat sheet
blueprint
free product trial
quiz results

21. Reddit Keywords
Instead of / in addition to Google Keyword Tool, try Reddit:
1. search main keyword
2. scan threads
3. select highest frequency / recurring longtail phrases
4. check volume in GKT
5. GET MOAR TRAFFIC

22. Secret Account
Your public account = your brand marketing.
Set up secret social media accounts 2 follow competitors / peers / whoever you want to observe or monitor without your audience or customers knowing or judging.

23. Top Users
Top users can market your product better than any marketing campaign.
1. Sustain their enthusiasm
2. Take them to the next level of engagement w/in your product
3. Make an ask to amplify your brand

24. Google Relevance
There’s more to SEO than SERP position.
Higher organic CTR brings in more traffic and actually boosts your ranking for keywords b/c Google prioritizes RELEVANCE.
Optimize:
– page title
– description
– content-keyword relevance
– value prop / offer
– brand recognition
– how ur result looks compared to others on the same results page

25. Influencers
Good content marketing influences not just ur customer, but those who influence ur customer.
Influence the influencers:
Review them / list them / mention them / INTERVIEW them
And always link out.

26. Blog Traffic
Option #1: Grind away at ur blog, publish on a set schedule, and HOPE u get traffic (“Publish and Pray”)
Option #2: Create & promote a few pieces of irresistible, shareable content that higher authority bloggers want 2 share and ask 4 a link back to ur site. (Tip: INFOGRAPHICS)

27. BuzzSumo
BuzzSumo is good 4 more than just content marketing.
Use it to research keywords, topics, and demo / psychographics for paid acquisition, landing pages, email onboarding / user activation and MOAR.

28. Before U Retarget
Before u get fancy w/ email marketing or retargeting, you have to have a list.
Are you collecting user emails:
1. In your personal email footers — yours + all the people on your team
2. On your home page
3. On all your social profiles: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube channel
4. At all offline events & promotions
5. On your company / team About pages
6. Persistently throughout your site in the header AND/or footer
7. As part of content you publish on a blog, slideshare, infographic, YouTube descriptions and annotations, downloadable white paper or report
8. Via a Qualaroo widget (insights poll doubles as email collector)

29. Founder Press Kit
In most cases, ur professional image still matters. Doesn’t matter ur specific style, just keep it consistent:
– Professional (looking) headshot that’s uniform across channels (LinkedIn, Angelist, Crunchbase, Twitter, FB)
– Bio boilerplate — short, med, long
– Universal username
– Motto u can get known for (example: AARRR!)

30. Competitor’s Marketing
Ghostery lets u see what technologies ur competitors are using for their marketing campaigns so u can copy what is working for them.
It’s also useful when I size up a company. If they are big talkers and I go to their site and it’s not pixeled up, I know they’re not ponied up.

31. Big Spenders
Women are everywhere:
– Ur customers: 70% of consumer spending worldwide
– Ur potential hires: 51% of workforce (in US)
If ur going to be gender-specific (ads, emails, landing pgs etc) BE SURE.
Otherwise, be inclusive.

32. Slack Hack
Decisions are being made in Slack. Measure the signal:
1. Go to Google Analytics
2. Acquisition > Referrals from side menu
3. Search for “slack”
4. See “whichcompanies.slack.com” are talking about your product
Bonus: even includes usernames (click on referring subdomain)

33. MOAR Mobile Downloads
Have a great product.

  1. Incentivize installs. Vendor list here.
  2. User reviews averaging 4+ stars – ask at the right time.
  3. WOM, press, partnerships
  4. Optimize ur app name, keywords, icon, description, tracking, and updates. App cheatsheet here.

34. Core Users

Core users can help u acquire new users better than any campaign.

  1. Sustain their enthusiasm: reward program.
  2. Level up their engagement: multi channel engagement / reactivation campaigns.
  3. INCENT THEM TO PROMOTE: referral program, social share via contests, sweepstakes

ENGAGE + MULTIPLY

35. Subdomains and SEO
Using a subdomain is not great for SEO…BUT, a lot of big co’s (good/big ones) still have blog.domain.com for content marketing purposes.

That said, a newer site – esp if SEO is part of acquisition – can’t afford to split their link juice to different subdomains:

Ecommerce.com/clothes > clothes.ecommerce.com

NOTE: If u want domain.com/blog, and are using WordPress, y need to install WP on ur server (use wordpress.org not .com), meaning build more from scratch.

36. Enable Domain Keys Now
Enabling domain keys authenticates the DNS of u as an email sender, verifies that ur message is good, and can increase open rates dramatically (more than 20x if u start out really bad 🙂

HOW depends on what tools ur using, so Google “Enable domain keys + [ur email tool here]” to get exact how-to.

37. Activation Rate Metrics
Activation rate matter at every size / type of business.

AR = # of ppl who complete ur 1 single activation event / # of visitors or prospects.

Some basic metrics to pay attention to around activation:

  • Activation by channel
  • Time-to-activation
  • Retention on activation users

38. Lifetime Value Calculator

Understanding customer lifetime value helps u understand:

  • Marketing: How much should I spend to acquire a customer?
  • Product: How can I offer products and services tailored for my best customers?
  • Customer Support: How much should I spend to service and retain a customer?
  • Sales: What types of customers should sales reps spend the most time on trying to acquire?

LTV Calculator: http://customerlifetimevalue.co

39. Reduce Involuntary Churn

Subscription billing?

In addition to voluntary churn i.e., users canceling the service, fix ur INVOLUNTARY churn (re-billing failure).

  1. Look into vendors/services that do re-billing optimization.
  2. Encourage users to switch away from pre-paid/debit.
  3. Use segmentation analysis to understand which acquisition channels are over-indexing for pre-paid/debit card users.

40. Instagram + Email
There’s more u can do in email besides social buttons that no one clicks:

  • Instagram content in email (drive traffic/engagement 2 Instagram – 300 MILLION USERS)
  • Show interesting / social proof tweets
  • Promote social contests and/or showcase results.

41. 3 Retargeting Ideas

Retargeting works for B2B too – IF u segment & target by funnel stage:

  1. Top of the funnel: Blog visitors -> retarget with ebook or webinar to capture lead.
  2. Mid-Funnel: Product info page visitors -> retarget to consideration materials like case studies & white papers.
  3. Bottom of funnel: Pricing page visitors -> retarget to demo page

42. 80 Percent of Your Revenue

80% of your $$ will come from previous customers.

  • REACTIVATE – look 4 key dropoffs, reactivate w/campaigns and/or promotions, don’t be afraid to go long.
  • RETAIN – keep ur users happy & paying attn with engagement campaigns, product improvements, community
  • REMARKET – upsells, new products
  • REFER – ask and incent

43. When 2 Discount

Discounting works in RETAIL b/c brands can limit supply and create impression of scarcity/urgency.

With software, supply is practically unlimited & non-physical, and we’re inundated with so many promotions and discounts every day that we know more are coming, even if you say “for 2 days only!!!”

DON’T DISCOUNT, instead:

  1. Create an entry-level tier
  2. Add value
  3. Improve ur segmentation

44. Moar Features, Moar Traffic

Moar features ≠moar customers, moar content ≠ more traffic.

Focus on distribution of what you already have:

  • authority + backlinks + influenctial shares (CONTENT)
  • paid acquisition + core users + referrals (PRODUCT)

45. Micro Optimizations

Increasing conversion rates from 0.9% to 1.1% doesn’t matter if only 100 people come to ur site every day.

Much more important is getting 1,000 people (OR TEN THOUSAND PEOPLE) in the top of ur funnel every day.

If ur early, aim to 3x ur One Metric That Matters. U can always micro-optimize later.

46. Ad Metrics

In FB Ads, “FREQUENCY” tells u how many times ur ad was viewed, on avg, by an individual.

If ur running a branding campaign, higher frequency (10+) = better recall.

If ur running a lead-gen campaign, research shows that a frequency of 9 increase the cost per click by up to 160%…

i.e. by the time someone sees ur ad 9 times they’ll either have clicked, or they definitely DON’T WANT TO.

Instead: improve ur targeting or creative at frequency = 5 to keep it fresh, & increase likelihood that ur target audience will clickthru on something new.

47. Push Notifications Working?

Basic response tracking (open rates, click-throughs) DOESN’T tell u if push notifications are working.

Instead, make sure PN metrics tie directly to onboarding goals.

Did the push notification drive users to take actions that matter:

Sign in, share, add 2 cart, purchase, REVENUE.

48. Subscriber Segments

U know more about ur subscribers than u think.

Even if u don’t have demographics or behavior targeting, u can always segment based on what channel / offer brought them in.

The better ur targeting, the HIGHER THE FREQUENCY of emails u can send, and the lower ur unsub rate will be.

49. Too Late 4 Marketing

The final stage just before ppl make a big purchase decision is when most companies amp up marketing 2 try to influence purchase.

But by then they’ve pretty much already decided & it’s too late.

Instead: market at the research stage, which is increasingly happening on MOBILE FIRST.

50. 3 Pinterest Optimizations 

72.8 MILLION users, 85% female.

  1. Don’t compare Pinterest CTRs to other platforms. Impressions are high, CTR may seem low, BUT clicks may be more qualified.
  2. Pick a CPA ur happy with, optimize pins & keywords for that CPA.
  3. Refresh your promoted pins every 2-5 months. Ads get stale, CTRs decrease, change it up.

51. Make YouTube Ads Work

YouTube ads WORK. But to be able to reach people (again) outside of YouTube, u gotta get’em to ur website.

4 destinations for in-stream / True View ads:

  • lead magnet / free gift / free download to drive opt-in
  • send them addnl content
  • surveys (work really well)
  • another youtube video to get new subscribers to ur channel

and way MOAR.

 

Treat Your Blog Like a TV Show


friends

Storytelling. Marketers preach the importance of brand storytelling from every possible soap box. I agree, but sometimes it falls on deaf ears. What does story telling for your brand mean? How can you create content that really resonates with readers?

Well, it’s not easy. If you scroll through this blog, it’s filled with posts that are fine. They’re informative and can help you with your career. But does anyone love them? My guess is no. This is a problem that so many bloggers deal with (probably silently out of shame). There’s no reason to get down. Your blog content can get better.

Now you’ll probably take this advice with a grain of salt, but moving forward, I’m going to follow this same advice with this blog. We’ll see how it works out!

Treat Your Blog Like a TV Show

Television continues to grow in popularity. Audiences love their “stories.” I know it’s uncouth to admit, but I love television. Some television is crap and is best used for background noise. But other shows transcend time. The characters are loved by millions for years, long after the show has been removed from the regular broadcast schedule. The stories keep us coming back week-to-week, but it’s the characters that we love forever.

How can we re-create that same love for your blog? How can we write a blog that’s more like Seinfeld, Friends, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad and less like Cavemen or Kath and Kim?

1. Let it Evolve

Remember her on Psych?  Probably not.

Remember her on Psych? Probably not. She was only in the pilot.

Have you ever watched the pilot episode of your favorite TV show? Chances are, it’s much different than the show today (or how it ended). In many cases, the original cast isn’t even the same. Your first blog posts don’t have to dictate your entire blog’s future.

The reason why shows change lead characters is usually because the overall theme of the show worked, but something wasn’t quite right. The on-camera chemistry, the audience feedback, whatever it may be, a change had to be made in order for the show to improve.

This blog has been constantly changing. It’s gone from writing tips, to client relations, to growth hacking…it’s always changing. Six months from now, it might change again. Start with what you know and what works. Listen to your audience and make adjustments to improve and evolve your blog’s content.

2. Find Something People Can Connect With

Unlike movies, people watch TV shows because they connect with the characters. People connect with different characters for different reasons. Perhaps it’s because the protagonist is a reflection of the person they wish they were. Or they connect with a main character’s personality/storylines. Regardless, every person has their favorite character for their own reasons.

Your blog’s content can connect with readers several different ways. Problogger, Darren Rowse, recently tweeted a graphic with fourteen potential voices bloggers can assume. These voices are methods a blogger can use to connect with their desire reader.

via Problogger

via Problogger

3. Be Real

If you bleed, they read. I was taught that early in my blogging career. Many shows incorporate an emotional hook from time-to-time. Scrubs is one of my favorite sitcoms, but even Scrubs has moments where the storylines get real. They get emotional and cause everyone to think/feel.

YouTube Preview Image

Blogging and television is all about storytelling. If you want to improve your blog, think of your favorite television shows. Think about these three points. How does your favorite show incorporate them and how can you translate that to your blog? Like everything in life, it’s not easy. But remember point one, let your blog evolve. You don’t have to get all of it right, right away. You just have to get some of it to get started.

What Weight Loss Can Teach Us About Growth Hacking


sauna belt

In our last post about growth hacking, I compared it to Wisconsin basketball. Today I compare it to losing weight.

Losing weight is something most everyone has tried at some point in their life. The diet and fitness industry is a multi-billion dollar industry because it’s something people struggle with all the time. Losing weight is not easy. While there are genuinely helpful programs out there, everyone wants the silver bullet. They want the magic pill that will help them lose the desired amount of weight almost instantly. The same logic applies to growth hacking. What’s the magic bullet tactic that will get me the desired growth?

The short, sad answer to both questions: there is no such thing as a silver-bullet solution.

We live in an on-demand economy. We can have cars, groceries, alcohol, massages all sent to our door on-demand. We crave the immediate satisfaction. Yet when it comes to things like weight-loss and growth hacking, we have to be patient. We have to work hard, stay consistent, and find what works for us.

Uber-App

Lesson 1: Successful Tactics Are Not Universal

There are tons of blogs and forums that are teaching people how to be better growth hackers. Most of them are great. I’m on them everyday, learning just like everyone else. But if I’ve learned anything from these blogs, it’s that what works for Company X doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for me. Same with my fitness routine.

Individuals and companies are different. We are unique and respond to different tactics differently. Don’t assume that because you read that Company Y increased sign ups by 3,000% by adding a green call to action button on the home screen, it will work for you.

There are a myriad of reasons why tactics won’t work for everyone. Different products, different markets, different demographics. If you’re counting on a new tactic that you just read about to be your saving grace, you’re going to be disappointed. Which brings us to lesson two.

Lesson 2: Always Be Testing

Since you can’t assume that a new tactic will work for you, you must always be testing. Even if you have your growth channels established, you shouldn’t rest on your laurels. Keep testing!

If you read the numerous growth hacking case studies, you’ll start to realize that these companies weren’t necessarily copying other companies. They were testing to see what works for them, based on the data they have.

Growth marketing is constantly evolving. As is your product and customer. Make sure your growth hacking tactics are improving. You don’t want to be caught in a situation where what worked today doesn’t tomorrow and you’re now left with no viable growth channels. Keep the pipeline fresh.

pour-gas

Lesson 3: Pour On The Gas

When you do find the growth channels that work for you. Pour on the gas! You should continue to test, but when you know something works, put as much energy in it as possible.

I had a client a little over a year ago. After a few months, I discovered that the best channel for mobile downloads was mobile Facebook advertising. I took my limited budget and put it all in Facebook. Then I would continue to refine the ads and found out that my money would go even further by advertising to Android only users. Cost per acquisition went from $4 to $1.50 once I went Facebook only. I took that CPA down to around $1.15 once I stopped iOS user ads altogether.

Each of these three lessons apply to your weight-loss battle. Remember that just because a fitness blogger lost 40 pounds in a month on a diet/exercise plan, it doesn’t mean it will work for you. You should constantly test out new exercises. At the very least it will keep things from getting boring. But it you might also find a new exercise that’s really successful for you. Most importantly, when you do find what works for you, pour on the gas. If you discover running is your best weight-loss exercise, run! Add in a yoga/pilates class to see how those work, but most of your time should be spent running.

If you are looking to lose weight and grow your business, these three lessons will help you in both endeavors. Just keep in mind there is no silver-bullet. It takes hard work and persistence to lose weight and grow your company. Short cuts will ultimately waste your time.