This week I’m in Dublin with the Enhancv team to attend one of the leading events for SaaS business growth in Europe – SaaStock. Everyone who’s anyone in product, marketing, sales, and business development in the SaaS industry attends this awesome event. Which means there’s a lot to learn and a lot to see.
I’ll be sharing some of my notes with you here – if some of them sound out of context or aren’t fleshed out, drop me a line in the comments below and I’ll try to elaborate. And if you’re at SaaStock, I’d love to meet up and talk about marketing, growth, and maybe even our open positions at Enhancv.
This post covers the Growth Marketing Bootcamp that was part of SaaS.City. If you want to read more, check out my key lessons learned from the two main conference days.
Eric Siu from Single Grain is a growth marketer I’ve been following for quite some time and it strikes me how much stuff his team tries on a daily basis. In this presentation, he shared some specific ways to expand your growth. Here are a couple of his ideas:
Improve your signup rate
Attribute success gaps and use them for creating content
Ask yourself “what does success look like for our customers?” Based on that, decide what types of broader content you can create in order to widen the funnel and bring in more people from your target audience – even if this means creating content that’s not directly related to your product. This works for expanding beyond 100,000+ visits/month. For example, if you’re creating an email opt-in product, you may need to tell your users how to build their website. Hubspot does that with great success.
Improve your organic results’ click rate
Go to Search Console and sort pages by Impressions. Find the content pieces with high Impression count, but low CTR. This means Google is already giving you credit for the content, but you’re not enticing people to click with the meta title and description. Optimize them in order to get more clicks.
Test out “going blind” vs “going direct” in content
Depending on the audience, a more indirect title that creates a curiosity gap may work better. Test it out by creating titles that have a specific benefit visible, but don’t divulge the answer: “Here’s how I acquired 20,000 paying customers in less than a month” vs “Here’s how I acquired 20,000 paying customers with content marketing”
Follow the UPSYD framework
UPSYD is pronounced “upside” for easy memorizing. Coming from the book Breakthrough Advertising, UPSYD stands for the process a user goes through: Unaware > Problem Aware > Solution Aware > Your Solution Aware > Deal. You can either build separate pieces of content that move a person through the stages or use one piece of content that does all the work – here’s an example:
Hubspot’s VP of Growth Kieran went into all different aspects of growth – from product-channel fit team development.
Your growth is a series of waves. In order to be successful, you need to find ways to break through the growth ceilings.
Build your Growth framework
Kieran started with the team, which is interesting in itself.
Hire the right people
The right people will have deep channel expertise in 1-2 channels, should be curious for new channels. And they need to be fans of pugs (but I guess that’s a specific requirement of Hubspot).
In order to find these guys, you can use Followerwonk – identify 3 influential growth people on Twitter and check out the people who follow all three. These guys are passionate about growth! You can also use BuzzSumo to find people who share impactful articles or are influencers in the niche.
Kieran shared the prioritization matrix they use when developing new growth ideas. Here it is, with effort on the X axis vs return on the Y axis:
- Scalable Growth – those are the traditional channels we use;
- Incubator – treat it like a startup that has a dedicated resource to try to build up these ideas and move them to the Scalable Growth quadrant;
- The Gold – a rare occurrence, these one-hit wonders are something we should do, but can’t rely on;
- Black Hole – stop investing efforts ASAP, it’s not worth it.
To prioritize well, you need to be able to assess the potential of the idea – and this is the most difficult thing in the ICE framework. To decide on the potential impact, you need to reverse-engineer from your North Star metric back to the basic metrics. Then you can get a clear idea of how much an experiment can bring in.
Going for product-channel fit
Build the teams
They will form a “growth pod” or mini-team focused on a specific funnel stage, even if they work in different functional roles, have the same metrics for success. Reporting can still happen in departments, but the pods work together and collaborate to boost their metrics. When getting developers or designers on the team, you can allocate a certain percentage of their time, so you know how much allocation each team gets and plan accordingly.
Build products for marketing
Product-led growth or engineering as marketing is a great way to attract links and organic traffic. As a growth team, you need to identify search demand and build around it. Here’s an example: Transferwise built a SWIFT/BIC code directory and a foreign exchange rate directory. This adds more than 2 million pages to their index – and a lot of opportunities for traffic. Take note that this isn’t just one major keyword you hunt for, rather a laundry list of small volume keywords whose compounding effect is great.
And this is what growth is all about.
Turning the product into a revenue machine
Finally, Kieran went through some rules of thumb for making your product stickier and bringing more value to users. Here they are, in bullet form:
- Do you know your audience? Ask them after signup what value they want to get from the product and personalize their experience based on that.
- Show people immediate value – make sure they get your product right away. For example, using templates can be great for showing right away what the end result would look like.
- Show people they’re making progress. Gamify the first steps of your product in order to hook people in. Think about coffee shop loyalty stamp cards – when you get one that already has 2 pre-stamped spots, you are much more likely to convert than if they give you a completely blank card.
- Set gentle nudges based on the user’s behavior – e.g. Google Inbox tells you can set a reminder when you start emailing yourself. They don’t direct you to this functionality unless you’re likely to need it. That’s especially useful if you have a lot of features and you don’t want to overwhelm users.
April is a Toronto-based branding specialist and she shared with us some lessons about positioning. She gave a lot of examples from businesses she’s worked with, but I’ll here distill only a couple of her lessons.
When you start building a product, it develops over time and your context (competitors, pricing, etc.) changes. But we’re sometimes so focused on the next step that we don’t take into account how the context is changing. So you come to a point where you’re selling your product as one thing but people see it as something completely different. So you need to revise your positioning. To do that, April recommends these three steps:
Forget about your current market niche
Isolate your key differentiators
Position in a market where those unique values are obvious
The end goal is to get to a market where you don’t even need to explain your strengths as a business.
The three positioning types
If you’re going for a positioning change, you can do it in one of three ways:
Head to head – the market exists already, you go in and beat the leader in their own game. It works if the market is emerging and there’s still no clear leader. Everyone understands the category already, but the opportunity is obvious, so you need money and time to beat incoming competitors.
Big fish smaller pond – the market is there, so you carve off a submarket. It has distinct needs that are unmet by the current leader. You don’t need to go head on with the leader, but they can easily match your offering if the submarket is cool enough.
Change the game – invent a new market category. It works if the existing categories don’t highlight your strengths and if data indicates a category will emerge. If it does, you’ll be the leader because you created it. The risk is an adjacent category leader can get that category and swallow it or a fast follower can try and beat you before you’re established as a leader.
G2Crowd’s Ryan Bonnici shared not just the most beautiful, but also one of the most tactics-rich presentations of the day. You can find it here and you will actually get a lot of value from it even without someone guiding you through it.
Ryan focused on several steps to growth and shared specific tactics for each one – I’m sharing with you the coolest ones.
Here are a few slide screenshots from my https://t.co/nQtBKGPjQ7 workshop at 2.10pm today:— Ryan Bonnici 👉 CMO @G2Crowd #SaaStock18 (@ryanbonnici) October 15, 2018
PS: my slides alone are probably useless, but if you want to download them in advance so you can take notes as I talk, here they are 👉 https://t.co/CuVH25RPF2#SaaStock #SaaStock18 #SaaS pic.twitter.com/ZxVKt4CHBu
- You need outside of the funnel content for people who don’t even know they have the specific problem you’re selling a solution to. For example, if you’re selling glasses, you don’t start with content answering what type of glasses you need, but build content for reasons people might be having headaches.
- Advanced content marketing analysis: check organic visitors + leads created on your content pages, creating a visit-to-lead ratio. Label all the posts with a tag about the content category. Then you can combine the data per tag and uncover high potential content categories.
- Review your future potential by extracting data from Ahrefs and seeing how much traffic/leads you’re currently getting vs potential for first SERP position If you’re close to the maximum – 60-80% there – you would want to focus on some new opportunities.
Voice of the customer
- Make sure you’re transparent – in terms of pricing, in terms of content, and in terms of everything else.
- Respond to reviews and acknowledge the viewpoints of your users.
- Embrace negative reviews and try to learn from them.
- Proactively ask for reviews and make sure you’re nudging your users to share with the world.
In short, make sure you listen to your customers and also encourage them to speak up.
Strong personal brand
- Basics for a great personal brand: have a unique point-of-view, share your ideas freely, connect with others, be visible on social media. You can’t even get started without these.
- Build your reputation through content and being active in the community – giving high value will make you known.
- Do your research for guest post opportunities. Look for sites that you can guest blog for, send them requests with a ready post. The cool thing that Ryan shared is his most successful emails are a follow up that tells the journalist you will need a reply by end of the day or you’ll be posting the piece in another media. Deadlines help!
Beat your competition
Here are several ideas and tools to use when stalking your competitors and scoring wins against them:
- Share analysis: where is your competitors’ content resonating the most? Check out BuzzSumo’s reports to see shares by channel and focus only on the channels that bring in the most shares – that’s where your target audience lives.
- Link-click analysis: if they are using a link shortening service, you can easily see its results. Copy and paste the short-link and add a plus sign at the end to see the click analytics for that link. It requires a lot of manual work to track many links, but you can then build funnels and see which posts are generating actual clicks.
- Use Snip.ly to “borrow” other people’s content. You’ll be able to overlay a CTA and link to your own content on top of everything you share.
- Use Followerwonk to work out when your followers are online and share content according to their schedule.
- Use Email hunter or Hey press for finding the emails of journalists and pitch your stories.
Again, I highly recommend checking out Ryan’s slides.
A brand can be a mote for your business.
There are thousands of products like yours now. And the barrier of entry is very high – PPC is expensive, SEO is hard to enter because there are hundreds of businesses that have been creating optimized content for years. And when it comes to content marketing, everyone is publishing stuff on a daily basis. It is hard to differentiate.
In a world of unlimited demand, consumers have all the power. This is true both in the B2C and B2B world. When making a buying decision, people do preliminary research through online resources, asking friends and communities. By the time they come to your site, they already know who you are and what you do. Now buyers don’t want to be sold to – they decide on their own.
That’s why the brand is going to be the best revenue generator for you. If you do it right. To do it right, you need to be real, authentic and human – like Avis when they said: “We’re No.2, so we try harder.” This is also the way Drift does it:
- their automated emails acknowledge they are automated emails;
- their pricing page has a video with the guy who actually structured the pricing;
- they nudge their employees to share what Drift is all about – and they don’t review the content to make sure it’s “on brand”, because they believe employees make the brand.
These are some small, but impactful examples you can implement right away – if you dare!
Here are Dave’s slides:
What will you implement today?
This is something another speaker said in a completely different context – but I feel it’s absolutely true. We obsessively read blogs, listen to podcasts and attend conferences to learn The Next Big Thing. But success lies in the compound effect of showing up daily and implementing new stuff. No matter if you’re at SaaStock or not, take one idea off of this post and just test it out. You’ll then be farther ahead of your competition than you realize.