What is Marketing Hell Week?
MHW is Growth Marketing 101 Bootcamp 500Startups puts together for every one of their seed stage cohorts. The event is also livestreamed free.
Join us for Sales Hell on March 1-2, 2017 here: http://www.growth.500.co/
Below are notes on what’s in the talks and some key takeaways written by Tyler Tate, founder of Crema. If you found the talks useful we would appreciate it if you shared them with your friends!
Top of Funnel with David Quiec
David Quiec, Customer Acquisition & Demand Gen. Distribution Hacker in Residence for 500 Startups talks about:
- The 5 Guardrails to follow
- How to achieve Business-Channel Fit
- Creating operations for scale
David Quiec, a paid-acquisition pro, gave us five guardrails to follow for finding the right growth channel and making the most of it.
You only need one channel, for now
Ad networks are huge; you’re tiny. You could easily spend $100,000 on just one channel. So rather than spread yourself thin across many channels, focus on just one and become an expert in it. You might want to start out by testing out two or three channels, but try to quickly figure out which one works best and throw all your weight behind it.
Usually, channel matches business
There is typically a “right” channel for your particular business model. For example:
- Display ads work well for entertainment or novel inventions that are fun, but have low mindshare. (Google Display Network)
- Organic search is best for sites with lots of content such as directories and news sites (Google, Yahoo, Bing)
- Native ads (e.g. those paid ads at the bottom of news articles) work for companies that have a strong educational component, like health and beauty or home improvement (e.g. RevContent, Taboola, Outbrain)
- Paid search works well for e-commerce and other transactional businesses (Google, Yahoo, Bing)
Understand your acceptable CPA
As a general rule, you want your customer acquisition (CAC) cost to be no more than a third of your customer lifetime value (LTV). So first figure out your LTV (or at least estimate it); then divide by 3 to know what your acceptable CAC is. From there, look at the conversion rates your seeing to figure out what your CPC bid should be.
For example, if your LTV is $60, then you can probably afford to spend $20 to acquire a new customer. And if your conversion rate for a given channel is, say, 5%, then you know that you can afford to bid $1 per click. ($20 * .05 = $1.00)
Track to optimize
Even when you’re focused on a single channel, there’s plenty to keep you busy. Split your channel into numerous sub-channels, whether that’s by keyword, audiences, etc., and then double down on the ones that are cheapest and pull back on the ones that are more expensive.
Operationalize campaigns for scale
Look for ways to scale up your growth operations that don’t require a lot of hands-on effort. David gave the example of automating the bids on thousands of search ad keywords by exporting to a spreadsheet, using a plugin to calculate the best bid, and then uploading the spreadsheet back to Google/Bing Ads. (I think this is the plugin he was talking about.)
Run Growth Like A Hedge Fund with Gaurav Agarwal
Gaurav Agarwal, VP Growth at Molekule talks about:
- Creating a growth engine that’s repeatable and scalable
- Channels and Risks for every startup
- Test and Scale the Portfolio theory around Risk vs Upside
SEO 101 w/ Bernard Huang
– SEO in 2016, Is SEO right for me?
– Keyword research, on-site content, on-site technical set up, off-site hacks
Bernard Huang, cofounder at Mushi Labs, gave us a great intro to search engine optimization.
State of SEO in 2016
In 2016, SEO is all about quality content, which is evaluated by keyword co-occurrence (e.g. if your post is about “Hillary Clinton”, Google knows that “Bill Clinton” is closely related, so using both terms would be a positive signal).
Google uses machine learning to measure how users engage with a given result. Do they click on a result but then immediately hit the back button? Or do they click on a result and stay there. Pages that are good at engaging users will move up the ranks.
Should you SEO?
Here are three things to think about before you SEO: * Make sure people are looking for what you offer. No one is searching for self-warming socks, so you can’t SEO that. * SEO takes a LONG time. You should probably only work on it post product-market fit. * SEO success is NOT guaranteed. Beware.
How to setup your SEO account
You definitely want to familiarize yourself with the Google Search Console.
Google Search Console.
- Set it up (here’s the link). Add all the variations of your URL (http, https, subdomains, etc.), but set a default (such as https).
- Send a sitemap to the search console. Includes a URL for each page, only submit unique pages, and don’t submit any pages that link to a different canonical URL.
- Use a robots.txt file to tell crawlers what to index/not to index. You can also link to the sitemap from here.
- Use “fetch as google” to preview how Google crawls a page, and also to force it to re-index a page.
Google my business
Set it up, get some reviews. This will enable your business to show up in a right side panel for Google searches about your brand.
Bing Webmaster Tools
Has more advanced tools than the Google Search Console, but hopefully you want need them.
Understanding keywords is the foundation of SEO. How are people searching for your keywords? How many searches are those keywords getting? Brainstorm ideas, analyze current search traffic (using the Google Search Console for your site), look at what competitors are targeting (try Semrush), see what Google autosuggests (try Ubersuggest), use the Adwords Keyword Planner. Categorize keywords by intent to figure out content topics you could target.
On-site Content Considerations
There’s a lot you can on your own website to help with SEO. In a word, it’s all about intent — matching the user’s intent with on-target content.
So how do you craft content people (aka “Google”) want? By copying what already works in the SERPs and making it better! Look at the top five results for a given keyword. Their formula is working! As a general rule comprehensive content works best. So, can you take the current top results and make something more comprehensive?
User engagement metrics
Staying on your site longer before backing to SERPs is good. Appealing hero images, user generated content and photos, well formatted readable text, engaging text and video are all things that could help keep users on your site longer. Again, copy the types of content that are already working in Google and make your content 10x better.
Top on-site technical considerations
Technical SEO is becoming less relevant, but here’s what to watch out for: * Crawlability. Crawl it yourself (try screaming frog) and look for any problems. Or check the Google Search Console. * Title tag. This is what will show up on SERPs, so it should be unique, interesting, and relevant. Make it between 30 and 65 characters (or 512px long, max). One of the great tips Bernard shared was to use Adwords to a/b test what titles and descriptions will drive the most clicks. * Meta description tag. This is a suggestion for what Google could use as the description in the SERP, but of course Google will extract whatever snippet it thinks is most relevant. Should be less than 160 characters. Pages with great content may not even need a meta description tag though (and making big changes to an existing meta description tag can actually reset what Google thinks is the most relevant snippet). * Internal linking. Internal links are like internal votes to important content on your site. Another good tip from Bernard is to use contextual nav bars to get a bunch of links above the fold on your website. Three things are important to internal linking: * Total number of links to a given page. * Internal link depth. Links from high-ranking pages carry much more weight than links for low-ranking pages on Google. * Make sure all your pages are linked to from within the website *
Have a good mobile UX and fast page load speed to be considered “mobile friendly” by Google. This will give you a boost for searches coming from mobile devices. You can test it here.
Off-site SEO hacks
Backlinks are other sites linking to your content, and they are considered external votes to your website. Citations, on the other hand, are local directories citing your local business. It’s hard work, but here’s a few ways to build backlinks: * Generate PR by doing something noteworthy or hustling journalists * Find sympathetic bloggers, or trade guest blog posts * Pay for sponsored content (market rate somewhere between $50 and $500 for a post) * Be creative. For example, Mixpanel gave free access to their software for companies who put a badge on their website. Their badge had a link with the keyword “mobile analytics”, giving them tons of backlinks for that term.
Affiliate Marketing with David Quiec
David Quiec, Customer Acquisition & Demand Gen, Distribution Hacker in Residence for 500 Startups talks about:
- Affiliate Marketing Foundations (Pay for Performance, Types of Affiliates, Types of Programs, Pros & Cons)
- What Success Looks Like
- Best Practices for Affiliate Programs
Email Marketing for Startups with Susan Su
– The 7 golden rules of email marketing, easy as a checklist
– 10+ email components you can / MUST test
– The email mistakes that MOST startups are making that permanently turn off perfectly good leads
Susan Su, Head of Marketing at Reforge, talked about how to make content marketing work for startups. What is it? Content marketing is a way to communicate with and convert interested people into customers.
But content takes at least 6 months before it starts showing results for your business.
You have to the planting the seed and nurture it for a long time to grow.
Problem: I wrote a blog post but it’s “still” not working.
Solution: Ask yo’self these questions
- WHO wants this content? Go niche — “tech people” or “moms” isn’t nearly precise enough. Think about demographics, psychographics, expertise level, monetisation potential. Susan recommended a blog post by Andrew Gierer called Everyone In SaaS Is Using Buyer Personas Incorrectly
- WHY should they ‘eat’ it? Content is only worth creating if it addresses a real customer painpoint. What curiosity is it answering for them? What does the content make them feel or think? (Emotion is crucial!) How can you make the content so compelling that people want to share it?
- WHAT content? Content is everything you can see, read, hear, feel, or experience — it’s far more than just blog posts. Susan recommended checking out her article 19 content marketing ideas that aren’t blog posts. Ipsy, for instance, didn’t write a single blog post, but saw massive growth through makeup tutorials on YouTube.
- HOW good does it need to be? Depends on the channel and audience. Quality is good, but velocity and regularity are crucial, so don’t gold plate it. Use the “waterfall effect” — create content one level above the the target persona, making it aspirational for them. For instance, there are probably 4 or 5 levels from newbie to elite.
Problem: I’m a poor / busy founder. What’s the ROI of content?
Cool ways that content can work for you
- Sell. Content marketing can give you a built-in database of leads.
- Save. Lower your CAC
- Grow. Nurturing strangers into well-acquainted friends can increase your LTV.
- Profit Center. Content is its own thing and can become profitable in its own right.
Brand Content vs Direct Response Content
Brand content is not meant to directly convert your audience into customers; it’s means to increase awareness. You can’t tie it to dollars in the short term. Direct Response content, on the other hand, is all about getting people to buy something. You’ll need a mix of both.
Problem: I released my content. Crickets chirped.
Crickets chirping is really just a distribution problem. There are three things you can do to drive distribution.
Thing 1: Relationships
Distribution is about relationships. It’s the depth of relationship that matters: if your link is weak, then go find someone whose link (to the audience) is strong.
Thing 2: Awareness lifecycle mismatch
Don’t try to sell shoes and sunglasses to an eyeless prehistoric fish. Think about where your customers are on the “customer awareness lifecycle,” which goes like this:
- Unaware: A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, brushing teeth wasn’t a “thing”
- Problem Aware: Then, people became aware that lack of dental hygiene was making their teeth rot.
- Solution Aware: After realizing the problem, people then realized that brushing their teeth would help prevent tooth rot.
- Product Aware: Once people know the problem and the solution, you can then make them aware of your product. Crest toothpaste!
Thing 3: Quality matters most
Distribution is double the journey. Content marketing is a slog, and there are very few shortcuts. You may be able to outsource some of the content creation, but you definitely need to take ownership of distribution. Creating the content only gets you half way there. Distribution takes just as much, if not more, effort.
Problem: I don’t know what content to do.
Solution 1: Map your funnel
No “content for content’s sake.”
Solution 2: Reverse engineer what works
Go back to WHO WHY WHAT HOW questions, and make sure you’re doing demand-driven content, and not too much vision-driven content. Don’t create stuff that people don’t want to eat or share. Here are some good tools to help you know what you should be creating content about:
- Buzzsumo.com – tells you top performing content for a given phrase
- Google Trends
- Google Suggest
Solution 3: Look at top content.
What does top content look like, from the topics and headlines to thumbnails and structure? Take what’s working and do it even better.
Solution 4: Find your right platform
Find the channel that best suites your audience and content. Ask yourself: are you more about communicating, or collecting?
What about process? AKA can I outsource this sh*t already??
- In-source and up-source. Do it yourself first and define the parameters before handing it off.
- Create templates and category buckets.
- Pick a calendar, and stick to it.
- Measure religiously, cut ruthlessly