Helping to solve people’s most painful problems is the marketer’s job. In this episode, Dan Levy and I are describing how to to go about it using content marketing. Dan Levy is the Content Director of Unbounce, a software product that allows us to build landing pages fast with no coding required.
We are talking about content marketing and Dan’s love-hate relationship. We are also going to discuss the difference between copy and content and how to come up with content ideas that people will actually like. This is a topic that I find very interesting. Then we are going to go through a step by step run through of how to come up with blog posts from start to finish. Dan also shares the best advice that he learned from his mentor.
Topics Discussed in this Episode:
- Whether it’s better to be a content marketer or a sexual health director
- Dan has always been drawn to writing even in his early school days
- Dan’s father would engage dinner table discussion about current events
- His background gave Dan a wide variety of interests which drew him to writing
- Cynicism in content marketing and Dan’s love-hate relationship with content
- The democratization of content marketing through the Internet
- Content marketing as branded storytelling not copy
- Quality beats quantity when it comes to results
- Best practices always come down to testing and data
- Listen to what your customers say to build copy that converts
- Putting out content that is already out there is not contributing
— Unbounce (@unbounce) July 28, 2017
- 5 Content Marketing Promotion Tactics You Should Try Today
- Dan Levy LinkedIn
- @danjl on Twitter
- Call to Action Podcast
- Oli Gardner Unbounce Blog
- Google Analytics
- Contently Content Strategist Blog
- MEL Magazine by Dollar Shave Club
Louis: Bonjour! Bonjour! Welcome to everyonehatesmarketers.com. I’m your host, Louis Grenier. everyonehatesmarketers.com is a podcast for digital marketers who are sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I interview no nonsense marketers who are not afraid to cut through the bullshit and say things as they are.
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In episode 14 of Everyone Hates Marketers, I’m talking to Dan Levy. Dan is the content director for Unbounce. You’ve probably heard of Unbounce before. It’s a software to help you build landing pages very easily. You don’t even need to know anything about coding or developmental web. You can really build some landing pages very quickly with their software and I’ve been using it in the past.
Today with Dan, we’re going to talk about content and content marketing. Dan has a love-hate relationship with content and he’s going to explain why. We’re also going to go through the difference between copy and content and we’re also going to explain how to come up with content ideas and ideas that people will actually like which I think is something that’s really interesting.
Finally, we’re going to go through step by step to come up with blog posts from start to finish, from finding ideas to writing it, to reviewing it, to publishing it, promoting it, which is really interesting. The last thing as well, he’s going to share with you his best career advice that he’s learned from his mentor, which is pretty interesting as well. As usual, have a listen and let me know what you think.
Hi Dan, welcome to the show.
Dan: Hello, good to be here.
Louis: Thank you so much for your time. I’m going to ask you the first question and it’s a format that I’ve used in the last few episodes. What’s better, to be a sexual health instructor in Vancouver or to work as a content director for Unbounce?
Dan: That’s a good question. It’s funny because I was only living in Vancouver for a very brief time when I was a sexual health instructor. Then somehow, I found myself, years later, again working for a Vancouver-based company but out of Montreal. I would say that being a sexual health instructor was really, really fun when I was 19, teaching 14 year olds. I think doing that in my 30s would feel a little bit out of touch. I think I’ve outgrown that at this point.
Louis: How does one become one? What’s the path? Did you qualify in anything? Did you follow any courses?
Dan: I was a student at that time in Vancouver. The opportunity came about and they were very big. I think it was a really smart approach that at that time, they insisted that you have to be under the age of 20 to be a sexual health instructor because they really wanted youth educators to educate youth. We had some training and some workshops, then we’re just thrown into it. I think that made for a very honest approach to sexual health education which sadly, I think in most parts of the world, even in most of Canada isn’t nearly as progressive now as it was 10, 15 years ago.
Louis: Really, you’re saying it’s less progressive now than 15 years ago?
Dan: I think worldwide, for sure. I can’t speak to Vancouver because I don’t live there anymore but I know that there’s some staggering statistic, a tiny percentage of high school students these days get any sexual health education whatsoever. I think most of it, certainly in the States, is abstinence only education and even here in Quebec, which is a pretty progressive province. I don’t think we have mandated sexual education in our public high schools. It’s definitely an area that I’m passionate about but I haven’t thought about it for a while. Thanks for digging that one up.
Louis: You’re very welcome. I guess we can spend the entire episode talking about this topic but I think people are expecting stuff around marketing. Let’s move on to a little bit more about marketing. But first of all, I want to know a little bit more about you. For the listeners who don’t know who Dan is, I think he’s the perfect example of a journalist who became a content marketer. Somebody who has a very good way with words and who can turn its keys into the new business models online, which is great. You studied International Relations with a minor in World Religions, which is also something that I like to talk about but I think we need to record a second episode for that. Then, you did Journalism, right?
Dan: That’s right.
Louis: What was your first job?
Dan: My first job out of journalism school or in general?
Dan: My first job out of journalism school, it was an internship of sorts but basically, I was working in the Washington Bureau of The Globe and Mail which is one of the international newspapers here in Canada covering the 2008 presidential election, which happens to coincide with the 2008 financial crisis. It was a very intense period in Washington and a very exciting period and so I was sort of thrown into journalism at a very important time right away. That was a great sort of baptism by fire.
Louis: You did a few other jobs, you worked for a marketing magazine after for four years and then you moved on to Unbounce, four years ago now, because we’re in 2017. Sorry again, just reminding you of stuff you don’t want to know.
Dan: Reminding me how old I am.
Louis: The listeners as well don’t have the luxury to look at your beard, what we’ll do in the show notes is put a picture because it’s a good beard. We’ll try to compare it with mine and we’ll see who wins. Okay, let’s move on more seriously though. When did you know you were made to write?
Dan: I think pretty early on, in elementary school. I remember in grade five, I won some sort of writing competition. It was an essay competition. We’re supposed to write why—it was mandated by the Quebec government—and it was ‘Why Quebec is important to me.’ I remember, I sat down and I wrote pretty honestly about myself, my family, history, and I submitted it and I won the competition. All of a sudden, I was getting all this attention.
I was a middle child. I was a very shy kid. I wasn’t somebody who was used to getting attention or who was eager to acquire attention. I’d say that the first way that I ever got attention was through writing and it was something that came pretty naturally to me. I think because of that, because it came so naturally, for a while, I wasn’t eager to make a career out of it. I always knew that it would come in handy but I didn’t necessarily want to be a writer or want to be a journalist until a little bit later. I think sometimes the things that come to us naturally are the things that we resist for some reason.
Louis: That’s actually pretty much the same thing that happened to me. I had this experience with internet from a young age, remember the modem 66k, sounds, I bet you probably do as well. I was always on my computer and I wasn’t playing games, I was just installing softwares and stuff. It took me a while to realize how important this new technology was to me. I can completely relate to what you said.
I’m tempted to ask you why Quebec is important to you but I’ve got to move on to the next question because we have a lot of stuff to talk about. I’m interested about your personality and why you’re doing what you’re doing today. Apart from this episode you just talked about, is there any particular event that made you who you are today?
Dan: Wow, who I am as a person? Who I am as a content professional marketer?
Louis: I think it’s the same thing.
Dan: Interesting. I think that I’m somebody who has always been interested in a lot of different things. Why that is, I’m not sure. My parents were pretty well-rounded people who are really into culture and the arts. Around the dinner table, my father used to like to put out a question, maybe a controversial question just for debates, encourage that culture of argument and engaging with current events and popular culture. I think because of that, I just developed a wide range of interests and passions.
That’s why I studied Humanities and Religion, and Politics and lots of interdisciplinary arts in university. That’s why I ended up going to Journalism. It wasn’t necessarily because of writing, it was because it was an opportunity to engage in lots of different disciplines and areas, to dabble a little bit, and to explore.
I think that ultimately that’s what sustained me as I made my way into the marketing world, into the content marketing world, is that I’ve been able to engage with people who frankly know a lot more than I do about this stuff, like real marketing experts in their disciplines, CRO experts and data experts and really help them by asking questions and by working with them and by telling their stories.
I’d like to think, first of all, it’s interesting for me and it’s interesting for the audience but I think also in that process, I’ve helped people hone their own thoughts and ideas and approaches. That’s been really rewarding.
Louis: Your dad at the dinner table will literally pick a question and make you talk about it? Was that the format?
Dan: Pretty much. He still does it. We’re just coming off the holidays, I spent some time with my family and he’ll put up some controversial subjects, sometimes he’ll share an article and he’ll sort of push our buttons a little bit, it’s sort of informal but he’ll put it up there and let us have it.
Louis: It probably sounds normal to you but it sounds amazing to me. I would love to have my parents doing that because I’ve done that with my teachers and they don’t like that so much. “It’s not a question you need to answer. I’m just asking this question for the class so Louis, stop talking.” But I guess it’s a good advice for parents out there. If you want to develop critical thinking with your kids, that could be a good way at the dinner table.
Dan: As long as it doesn’t seem like homework. I think he would do it in a way that genuinely got under our skin. He would say something controversial, he would give us no choice but to argue and debate, which I think is a really smart and crafty approach.
Louis: I love it. I really love it. Let’s move on to marketing and more particularly no BS marketing and more particularly, actionable things that people could take away from this episode. Why do you think we talk about content so much at the minute? There’s been a huge increase in interest in this particular content marketing field.
Dan: It’s a tough one. I really have a love-hate relationship with the word content. I think that we’re going through an awkward teenage phase right now in the content world where there is a lot of cynicism and a lot of insecurity, and a lot of pimples around the idea of content marketing and this word content. What does it mean? Does it mean anything? Is it just a synonym for stuff? Are we talking about writing? Are we talking about a certain strategy? Are we talking about storytelling?
We were just talking about, recently we had on our podcast somebody who wrote an article—there’s several articles around us about content marketing isn’t really a thing, it’s just another way to talk about marketing as it’s done before. It’s like yes and no. Yes like people have been telling stories forever and marketing has been based on content, on ideas, on writing, and stories forever. However, there certainly is something unique about this time, the internet, frankly. Let’s put it out there. The elephant in the room is the internet and the internet has just made these distribution channels so accessible.
You mentioned my previous job, I wrote for a custom publishing company that created branded magazines for brands, InFly magazine and stuff like that. That’s something that’s been around forever. That’s really content marketing. That was a very niche thing before. It was niche, it was expensive, it involved printing. You don’t see it happen as much now, that the tools of publishing and writing are so accessible and the distribution handles are so accessible. We’re seeing a proliferation of this stuff.
Yes, I think it’s an old art, it’s something that’s been done for a while but it’s been democratized and because of that, you have so many more people doing, so many more people thinking about it and the industry is just accelerating right now. That’s why we’re seeing both a lot of chatter but a lot of backlashing inside as well.
Louis: I agree with you on that. I did listen to your episode on the Call to Action Podcast that you guys have in Unbounce. What I’m thinking right now is that the first principles of marketing will and have always been the same. It’s always about understanding people, telling them a story, providing them with what they need and moving onto there. But, exactly as you said, the internet is new, something that is still, if I’m not mistaken, 40 years-ish old or even less maybe. I don’t know. I’m bulllshitting right now, I think. I’ll come up with the right date now.
Dan: Well, the internet as we know it is 15 years.
Louis: Landing pages, email series, forms, and call to actions are pretty much new. It makes sense to create a specific field within marketing to specialize in it.
Dan: I think part of it is the confusion over what we mean when we talk about content, when we talk about content marketing. Content gets confused with copy a lot of times, the words, the stuff on the page. That’s its own thing, but when people are talking about content marketing, most of the time, I think what they’re talking about is really this branded storytelling which is again, it’s been going on for a while but it’s proliferated and it’s very new in its digital form.
Louis: There is something that bugs me about in the content field. In any field, a lot of people are obviously doing things the right way and respecting people, and caring about them, and not trying to manipulate them or anything. But there’s also always this breed of people who think that they will make more money by lying or manipulating or spamming. How do we convince those people to stop doing that?
Dan: There’s certainly people like that. I guess the best advice I have there is ignore them. I actually think that the vast majority of people aren’t trying to lie or trying to be manipulative, even if some of their content, some of their copy comes out that way. I think what it comes down to is that writing is actually really hard and copywriting for conversion is even harder. When we don’t have these skills as writers, we often tend to reach for the most cliché term, the jargon, world class, award-winning, super awesome, guaranteed, amazeballs. This has the effect of exaggerating our offer without actually saying anything meaningful.
I think that the bigger problem is not people who are willfully trying to manipulate and lie because again, those are bad people that exist everywhere. I think it’s the people who would want to do this stuff well and do this stuff honestly, and helping to give them the tools to do that and to show them and to lead by example by showing that it actually works, doing this stuff right and doing this stuff honestly and transparently actually works.
Louis: Your solution to this, I like it. I guess I’m not trying to blame those people because as you said, it’s tough. Writing copy is incredibly tough, writing good content is incredibly tough so we can’t really blame them. I guess, during this episode, we’ll go into details in how to actually create content that converts. Outside of this one thing, you talk about jargon which is really a good point, are there any best practices or so called best practices in the field of content marketing that you think are just plain wrong?
Dan: One that comes to mind is the idea that you just pump out a ton of content on a consistent basis. I think we’re hearing that a lot when I started covering this space in 2009. Have an editorial calendar, stick to that calendar and display lots and lots of content and see what sticks. That may still be true to a certain extent if you’re just starting to get a new blog off the ground or trying to get your podcast ranking in iTunes, frequency is a factor in that. But again and again, what we’ve seen is that quality beats quantity when it comes to results.
Last year for instance, our blog team decided to stop publishing new content for a full two weeks in order to focus on optimizing our older content. In most cases, just doing a little bit of housekeeping, making sure that links still worked and CTAs were still relevant and maybe moving them up from the bottom of an article to half way up. Just doing little tweaks like that, updating the content so it’s still relevant, fixing the headlines. We actually saw something like a 250% increase in leads generated from those posts, without creating anything new whatsoever.
That’s just one example of where sometimes it actually makes sense to not just pump things out just for the sake of it, to put your editorial calendar aside and to focus on quality rather than just production.
Louis: The first quick tip would be to look at your top performing blog post, the highest, the most visited one, look at whether they’re relevant or not still today and try to tweak them so that the visitor would be inclined to do something, to leave their email for something valuable to them.
Dan: I think the easiest place to start when it comes to optimization is number one, like you said, look at your top traffic getting posts and see how you could optimize them for conversion. In this case, that was a lead generation. That could also be sending somebody to your pricing page or whatever it is. The second thing is looking at your top converting posts and then figuring out maybe how you could give them a little bit extra traffic. I think if you’re just doing just those two things, it doesn’t take much time and you might see huge results without again, actually creating anything new.
Louis: Yeah, that sounds good. I’d like to dig into funnel and creating proper tips to create good content that converts. As you said, this is one of the toughest things to do, right? Let’s take the example of a landing page because you guys, Unbounce, you’re known to be the best landing page builder out there and you know your stuff around landing pages. What would be the methodology, step by step, to create a landing page that converts? We have time to go through the steps. I don’t expect you to go through all of the steps right now but we can discuss it. We’re a SaaS startup or SaaS business, we need to create a new landing page for a particular campaign. Where do we start?
Dan: I guess my first caveat here is that I’m not the landing page expert at Unbounce. Everything that I’ve learned about landing pages I’ve learned from again, people at the company who have been thinking about and analyzing this stuff a little bit more closely than I have.
Oli Gardner, for instance, our co-founder has seen more landing pages than just about anybody on the planet. He’s written tons of ebooks and blog posts, step by step stuff, going through what he calls the five elements of a very effective landing page, tips for optimizing it for conversion. I think I’ll probably defer to his expertise on this one.
The one thing that I would add is as with any best practice, it really always comes down to testing. Best practices are benchmarks but they’re not guidelines. We’ve featured lots of case studies on the blog and we’ve written about other ones. We’ve done case studies with our customers on this stuff but we want to be really clear that you need to look at your own data, you need to know your own business, really get to know your customers and what resonates with them, and start there. Once you try something, use AB testing software that’s built on Unbounce or elsewhere in order to test different versions of your page.
It’s a bit of a cop out but I guess the takeaway there would be I think you need to start by talking to and listening to your customers. That’s where I would start. That means both having conversations with them but also looking at how they’re talking about you by not even looking. Are they reviewing you on Amazon, are they giving feedback through your customer’s success channels, and are you documenting that? I think that as long as you are using the language that they’re using, then you could create great copy because as a content person, I do believe that it starts with the copy. You could start a copy that really speaks to their own pain points and go from there.
Louis: For the listeners who don’t know Oli Gardner, I met him, I interviewed him when he was speaking at an event recently. He’s a very nice guy. His presentations are always topnotch, very well designed, very original and full of proper science and proper feedback. Yes, I think the best thing would be for the listeners to go to the show notes and check out the links we’ve put for people to read more about these tips.
To go back to what you just said, the last point which is very interesting, I’m a bad copywriter. I don’t think I can write copy at all, on my own. However, I have a secret weapon that is not secret whatsoever because you just said it, which is by listening to what your customers are saying, the way they’re saying it, the way they explain what your product does or what your service does, they’re going to use certain words, certain expressions that are going to come back over and over again. This is how we try to build in the business copy that actually works and converts, right?
Dan: Yeah. I think it’s [00:25:25] who is a great copywriter here in Canada said, “You don’t write copy, you swipe it. You swipe it from your customers.” I think that even if you’re not a great writer, if you have that as a starting point, you can hand it over maybe to somebody that polishes it, the wordsmithing of it. Really, the hard part is not the writing itself, it’s the research, and it’s getting those words and those pain points down on paper. From there, it’s the fun part, for me at least, which is the polishing but you don’t do that on your own.
Louis: Landing page, that’s Oli’s territory. Are you interested in talking about maybe a blog post or how to come up with a blog post that actually converts because you talked about it at the start where you’re saying that you’ve tried to optimize blog posts. How would one come up with a blog post that actually works well?
Dan: I’m happy to talk about content, that’s for sure. How do you come up with a blog post? The first thing that I would say, with any piece of content, before you even know what channel it’s going to live on, before you even know whether it’s a blog post or a podcast episode, or an ebook, or an infographic, whatever it is, is why, why are you creating it, what’s the goal?
Is the goal to drive awareness? Is it to get more people, more eyes on your brand and your product? Is the goal to actually get people who might be considering your product already to know more about your product and drive them further down the funnel, maybe collect their email address, maybe start nurturing them a little bit. Is your goal are they already a customer, you really want to make sure to retain them and to get them to try a new feature, get them on a higher level plan, etc.?
I would start there and then once you have a good idea of that, let’s say it’s a blog—again, the idea is that you want to attract qualified people who may not know about your brand but you want to get at the front of their door and you decide that the best way to do that is through a blog post.
Next thing I would do is say, “Okay, who is this for and what problems are they facing in their day to day?” Taking B2B for example. What problems are they struggling with at work? Is it trying to prove to their boss to get budget and buy in for a certain strategy? Is it the problem of getting a lot of traffic but not knowing how to actually optimize that traffic and convert that traffic, etc. Then ideally, it’s like, “What problems are they facing and what problems is no one else actually addressing?”
One of the things that I feel very strongly about is that there’s no point about putting out content that’s already out there. I don’t believe you just look at what your competitors are doing and even if you’re doing it better—I just don’t think you’re really contributing anything to the conversation or to the internet by just putting out more content that’s like same, same but different content.
Number one, what problems are people facing? Number two, what’s no one else addressing? What can you add to the conversation that no one else is actually addressing and putting out there? From there, solve that problem.
Louis: Just write it.
Dan: Create content and do what you need to do whether that’s interviewing experts, whether that’s research, whatever it is, create really good, thorough content that solves that problem.
Louis: Step one, know your goals. Step two, know your customers. Step three, know the channel you’re going to use, the format you’re going to use. Four, know their problems. And five, answer their problems in the best way possible.
Dan: Yeah. It sounds simple. It is simple. The hard part is the execution, like anything else. Ideas are cheap.
Louis: Ideas are cheap. You guys have a good content team. You have a few people on there working with you in the content for Unbounce. I’m more interested in trying to give actionable insights to people in the same situation. Let’s say a SaaS business that have quite a few employees now and they found a perfect market fit and they are starting to build a strong marketing team. They like to have this better content plan and a way to share that out. How would you say they should go about it?
Dan: Do you have a content plan already or they don’t?
Louis: Roughly. They publish once every week but they’re not really happy with it, they’d like to get more out of it.
Dan: I think I would ask a whole series of questions that are probably hard to answer with a hypothetical example but if they are already creating content, I would see what’s working and what’s not working. If 90% of what they’re doing has failed but one piece of content, one thing has really, really resonated, it doesn’t matter if that’s a blog post or a video or whatever it is. Let’s focus on that, let’s use that as a starting point.
Don’t blog if you don’t have writers on board. Don’t try to make a video if you don’t have the equipment and you’re not a visual person. Start with what’s working. Start with what you’re good at. Try to do more of what’s already done and then optimize from there in really small incremental steps.
There’s nothing anymore that you need to do. I don’t even think you need a Twitter account necessarily anymore. You probably want to be on Facebook but maybe not. Maybe if you’re a yoga studio and all your customers are reading this one yoga magazine or this one lifestyle magazine, or they’re all really obsessed with this type of yoga mat, go to those channels. Go to the people who sell the yoga mats and see how you could partner with them maybe to create something. Go into that magazine. I don’t care if it’s a print magazine, print is dead, but if they’re all reading that magazine, see if you could create a really great think piece about yoga and become a trusted expert to them.
Basically, I guess it goes back to the idea that there are no best practices, you need to know your business, you need to know your customers, get to know them and solve a need for them, become a trusted expert to them.
Louis: I asked you this question, at the start you were saying that you wanted to ask a few questions first. I guess those questions that you have in your mind that popped up could be interesting to just say out loud for people to answer them, to ask themselves these questions and see whether it hits somewhere. I’m just curious, what kind of questions did you have in your mind when I asked you this question?
Dan: Things like why do you think you need a content strategy. Is it because somebody told you? Is it because you read something somewhere? Again, who are you trying to reach? Where do they hang out? What are the companies, people, and publications that they trust? Some of these question are more geared towards people who haven’t started at all. But I suspect that there are questions that maybe weren’t even asked in the first place.
I think if you ask somebody, “Why do you want to create content again?”You might get an answer, “I read this blogpost, or my boss told me to, or we have this young intern who was a hotshot writer and told us to start a blog.” You could sort of undo a lot of that stuff, a lot of those assumptions and start from the basics which is like, “Why does your brand exist and who does it exist for?”
To me, those are the fundamental questions because the best definition of content marketing that I’ve ever heard is creating stuff, stories, and information that solves the same problems for your audience that your product or brand does. Creating stuff that solves the same problems that your brand does and your product does. That’s where it starts.
First, you need to go back to the existential questions of why do you exist, who do you exist for, what problems you’re trying to solve for them. Then make a list of all the things that keep them up at night, make another list of the places where they hang out, and create content solving those problems in those places.
Louis: That sounds great. This is why I wanted to ask you this question because it’s coming back to what you said before, your goals, your actual real goals. Asking why marketing is not something that’s been done quite as much as it should be because there’s a lot of, “Me too. Oh, this guy said so, so I will do the same.” You’re right by asking all of those questions. That’s a great question that people should ask themselves.
Dan: The other thing is that, I think people often conflate why with how. You ask somebody, “Why are you creating this?” And they tell you, “To generate leads.” That’s not why. That’s how you’ve chosen to measure the activity that you’re doing. That’s your KPI, that’s not your objective. The ‘why’ might be because—again, we’re trying to get people who have never heard of us at all to know who we are and what we do.
Great, okay. That’s the ‘why.’ How do you measure that? Maybe you measure it by getting people’s’ email addresses but maybe there’s another way. Maybe you want to look at more top of the funnel metrics. Maybe you want to look at other ways to measure it. But I think people tend to go right to the metrics without actually asking the ‘why.’ I couldn’t agree more with you. ‘Why’ is such an underrated question in marketing and in life.
Louis: And life, especially. Why is Unbounce doing what they’re doing? What’s the big ‘why’?
Dan: I like that. Unbounce ultimately exists to empower every business to make better marketing experiences. Put briefly, we want to make the internet a better place for both businesses and their audiences. We want to give them tools that help them do that.
Louis: That sounds very similar to our vision and mission, which is great because the internet deserves to be a better place for people and businesses. Just going back to the metrics, we talked about the ‘why’, the ‘what’ and all of that. I’m just curious about what type metrics, the top metrics, do you guys use to measure success in your content?
Dan: It depends again on the ‘why’. We’ve chosen to structure our marketing team around what we call our Customer Journey. Right now, we’ve dedicated multidisciplinary squads within our department that are each responsible for different stages in that journey. That starts with our Awareness squad which is all about getting more people into our funnel and more people aware of our brand and what we do. Their main KPI right now is lead generation. But actually, what we’ve seen last year, discussions we’re having right now, is that that’s not always the right KPI in every case.
An example is our podcast. Our Call to Action Podcast, something that we launched last year has been a great channel for experimentation and for expanding our audience. But you can’t really measure the success of a podcast by lead generation. You’re not getting email addresses. We’ve tried a couple of things where we say, “Hey, we have this new ebook. Download it.” We give a URL or we offered a t-shirt in exchange for something that requires an email address. Ultimately, it’s not the right fit. It’s trying to put a square peg around a hole or whatever the expression is.
A podcast is really about getting more people to know about us and know about our product, it’s not about getting their information. In that case, a KPI is audience growth. We’ve decided that as long as we’re seeing a steady growth in our audience over time as measured by downloads, because as you know, iTunes makes it very hard and tricky to measure anything else except for downloads, but as long as we’re seeing that steady increase in our audience, and we’re confident that the content is geared at the right audience—a lot of that targeting happens with the content itself. It’s incumbent upon us to make sure that we’re targeting the right people by creating content that makes sense for them and makes sense for our brand. As long as we’re seeing audience growth, then that’s what we’re shooting for in this case.
As a squad, their KPI is lead gen. For different pieces of content, it might be something like listens, it might be something like traffic, in certain cases with blog posts, or it might be looking at the click through rate from our blog post to our product-centered pages like our pricing page for instance.
We wouldn’t expect them to click through our blog post, go to our pricing page, read the pricing page, sign up for a free trial, go through our 30-day trial process and call that conversion. That’s not, to me—that happens for sure, but I don’t think you can’t bank on that every time. To me, it’s all about the micro conversions. It’s the conversion on the way to the greater conversion. You think you have to set a KPI for each piece of content separately, it’s not enough to just have a KPI for one team.
Just real quickly, our awareness squad were looking at lead generation. Further down the funnel, we have an evaluation squad that right now is responsible for getting the leads that are generated by the awareness squad to start the free trial. From there, we have an adoption squad that’s all about helping to on board our trial customers and getting them to pay us twice.
Finally, we have what we call the expansion squad which is all about getting people to try new features and to stick with us and ultimately become evangelists. Each squad has its own KPI and of course, every single piece of content that they put out has its own KPI. Long answer but there you go.
Louis: Just a quick question, what tool do you use to measure that? Do you use many tools or do you use one main one?
Dan: Many tools. I would say Google Analytics is the pillar in many ways. We also use Kissmetrics. We also use Domo to help consolidate all our data and create dashboards. But you know what, we talk a lot about tools these days, marketing stack. Don’t get me wrong, we’re a marketing technology company. Tools could be very, very helpful but ultimately, what I found is that it doesn’t matter if you have a spreadsheet or a very sophisticated tool. Sometimes, it comes down to making the time and the space to actually have these conversations about data.
You can have all the tools in the world but if you’re not building that into your workflow where you use the data to form your content ideas and you have a retrospective where you look at the data and see what’s working and what’s not working, if you’re not doing that, then it doesn’t matter what tool you’re using. Very often you don’t need a fancy tool to do that. The free tools like GA are actually pretty good.
Louis: I’m glad you said that because I believe the same thing. It’s all about the ‘why’. It doesn’t really matter how you do it. Is there one marketing site that you would recommend people to look at because of their very good copy? Other than Unbounce of course.
Dan: I’d say that my go to as a content marketer is Contently Content Strategist Blog. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it. But they’ve taken I think a really cool approach to their content marketing, which is like a very journalistic approach. They’ve decided that they’re going to be the go to most comprehensive trusted source on content marketing.
In terms of content marketing news, examples, strategy, thought leadership, I think that they’re doing a better job than any publication and that includes non-branded publications like Ad Age and TechCrunch. I think they’re doing a better job than anybody covering this one space and the fact that it’s published by our content marketing technology company doesn’t do anything to me to diminish that.
Louis: Do you have an example of a non-marketing website that people should check out for their copy?
Dan: One that I came across recently, I guess by the non-marketing website, do you mean a website that’s not focused on marketing or one that doesn’t have a brand behind it?
Louis: That’s a good question. Outside of our world of marketing and selling marketing software and stuff.
Dan: One that I came across recently, a lot of people know about the Dollar Shave Club. The two of us with our beards obviously aren’t customers right now. They made a big splash a couple of years ago with a bunch of YouTube videos that were kind of fun and silly like how to videos. I knew them for that. I heard them come up a lot of times like content marketing example that I kind of started to tune out because you hear the same examples over and over again. However, I didn’t know that they had quietly launched a magazine, an online magazine, it’s called MEL.
It’s, to me, feeling a niche that I’ve thought [00:44:51] feeling ever since going back to my sexual educator days which is a really thoughtful men’s magazine. A magazine that’s for men but not just all boobs and butts and cars that basically engages with important style issues, body image, sexual harassment, and also culture, sports, and all the stuff that you may expect from a men’s magazine. They do it really well. They’ve got good writers. They’ve got really good art. It’s one of the better online men’s magazines that I’ve seen that happens to be published by Dollar Shave Club.
Louis: I too came across male magazines, and I think they use media as their way to host their posts.
Dan: Yes, they do.
Louis: They probably have to change that. That’s another story. I didn’t know what Dollar Shave Club behind is, it’s interesting.
Dan: It’s very, very subtle, almost too subtle maybe. Like I said, the content stands on its own.
Louis: What do you think marketers should learn today that will help them in 5 or 10 years?
Dan: I would say that the best piece of advice that I’ve ever gotten, career-wise, was from my former boss. This is when I was actually looking to potentially leave that company. I have a good enough relationship with my boss, I can have an open conversation about this. I have come to that company, which is the branded content agency from the journalism world. To me, coming to this agency was a step out of the journalism world but it wasn’t a full step because they’re still producing really high quality editorial content just on behalf of brands and I was worried that by taking the next step into the SaaS marketing world where I would be part of a marketing department, would be a bad move potentially for my career because I was sort of leaving the journalism behind.
Not really as I have come to discover because I’m still using a lot of the same skills. That was my fear. What my boss told me at that time was, he said, “Screw your career. Focus on your craft.” What I took that to mean was, “Are you going to be honing your craft? Are you going to be learning these stuff? Are you going to be taking your future career, are you going to be bettering yourself as an editor, as a person, as a leader, as a writer, potentially as a business person by taking this role?”
To me, that was such good advice. We talk a lot these days about what’s the best move for your career. Talking about millennials, particularly worried about career advancements, entitlements, and stuff. What I’ve learned is that it’s not about setting yourself up for the next promotion, it’s about developing the skills that you like to develop so that when those opportunities come up, you’ve developed them in a way that’s true to yourself and yes, you’re the obvious candidate for that job but it’s not really about the job, it’s actually about the self-improvement and the betterment.
Louis: It’s about the ‘why’ isn’t it?
Dan: There you go. It all comes back to the ‘why’.
Louis: I already found the title for this episode. Last question, where can listeners connect with you, find more about you, listen to the Call to Action Podcast?
Dan: Our Call to Action Podcast is one of my favorite things to do at Unbounce. We really engage with these big questions of ‘why’ in marketing and business. We also get into the nitty-gritty with actionable content about conversion rate optimization and copywriting and content marketing and all that good stuff.
That’s the Call to Action Podcast, you can find it on iTunes, you could find it on basically all the podcasting platforms that you might use. Check out our blog, unbounce.com/blog. That’s sort of our flagship content marketing channel where we put out all sorts of actionable content about digital marketing. Personally, I’m on Twitter, for what it’s worth. @danjl is my Twitter handle. You could also reach me directly. I’d love to chat content with you.
Louis: Awesome. Well done. You’ve been a pleasure to talk to. I learned a lot of things from you. Thank you so much once again for your time.
Dan: Thank you, Louis. It’s been great.
Louis: Take care.
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How to stand out: 9 bullshit-free lessons from world-class tech marketers
Insights from Seth Godin, Rand Fishkin, David Darmanin and 6 other world-class tech marketers.
I’m a no-fluff marketer living in Dublin, Ireland (but yeah, I’m French).
I believe you can treat people the way you’d like to be treated and still generate results without using sleazy, aggressive, hack-y marketing. This is why I’ve started Everyone Hates Marketers – a no-fluff, actionable marketing podcast – as a side project in April 2017.
I’m also the Content Lead at Hotjar – a powerful way to analyse people’s behaviour on your website or app and understand how you can improve their experience.