3 strategies for elevating brand authority in 2021

A lot of clients come to us saying they want to be more respected in their space. They know their competitors are trusted and they want the same recognition, if not more.

This feels even more important now after the absolute disaster that was 2020. Consumers and clients alike just want to be able to count on brands and not stress over whether they’re making the right decision.

Marketers seem to know this. When we teamed up with Semrush to explore keyword search data in 2020 related to marketing goals, brand awareness and authority showed steady upward trends.

If you’re one of these marketers, I have some strategies you can use to improve your brand’s authority this year. It can’t happen overnight, but you can start implementing these strategies now to see results over time.

I have some strategies you can use to improve your brand’s authority this year.

Strategy #1: Get media coverage

Media coverage can build the authority of your brand in a few ways.

For one, it’s hard for people to trust you if they don’t know you exist. Of course, you can pay for ads or kill it on social to get your name out there, but media coverage has other benefits, as well.

When reputable publications and websites reference your brand and link to your site, they’re sending a signal that they trust what you have to say. It’s third-party confirmation that you know what you’re talking about and/or have something to offer.

For example, for our client Stoneside, we surveyed folks to see how many purchased and cared for houseplants in 2020.

The report got coverage on TreeHugger and Simplemost, but it also served as great context for other articles, like HelloGiggles and The Weather Network.

hello giggles article headere

Image Credits: Fractl

having a houseplant article screenshot

Image Credits: Fractl

weather network screen shoit

Image Credits: Fractl

Of course, getting media coverage isn’t easy. You need newsworthy content or an expert opinion to contribute, and you need to know how to pitch it to writers.

Small budget options

Are there industry blogs you can write a guest post for? Are there peers in your industry who are looking for quotes for their content? Start building connections with other industry experts. Cite their work in your content and build a rapport.

For example, I sometimes work with marketing tool brands like Semrush and BuzzSumo because those brands align well with Fractl, as we all work in the same industry.

You can also sign up for HARO, in which journalists post requests to speak to particular types of experts. However, it’s not often you’ll see relevant requests, and even then it’s a toss up whether they’ll reach out to you specifically.

Larger budget options

If you can afford it, a combination of content marketing and digital PR is the way to go. If you have resources internally — marketing folks who are savvy with data analysis and content creation — you can start by seeing if you have any internal data that would be interesting to a wider audience.

#column, #ec-column, #ec-how-to, #growth-marketing, #social, #startups

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Customer advisory boards are a gold mine for startup brand champions

As a 20-year CIO and advisor to multiple startups, I sat on many customer advisory boards (CABs) and saw how they were formed. Some companies have highly functioning CABs, others merely serve as feedback loops. Any startup striving to connect directly with their customers would benefit from establishing one.

Here are some considerations to make certain your customer advisory board is a success.

Why CABs matter

For those unfamiliar, a customer advisory board is a group of customers who come together to share their experiences, insights and advice with an organization. First and foremost, the CAB functions to recognize and include the voice of the customer, an essential part of your company’s journey since customers interact closer than anyone with your product or service.

It’s best to designate early adopters to be on the board — those who took a chance on you and have been on the frontlines as your company evolved — as well as some newer customers.

While establishing this group signals appreciation and respect for your customers, it also provides an opportunity for you to formalize and structure the feedback you are requesting from them. You can seek validation for product ideas or guidance on roadmap development, test out marketing messaging and even tap into market intelligence.

The greatest benefit of a CAB, however, is the creation of champions for your brand. These loyal partners will ultimately offer testimonials, references and referrals. Key to this partnership is a shared sense of playing a small part in building the future of your company.

The greatest benefit of a CAB is the creation of champions for your brand.

Assembling your CAB superteam

The best route to assembling your CAB is to start with a very small group and expand slowly. There’s quite a bit of nuance in the selection of who to include. Do you go after the executive who sponsored you, the one who saw a vision and thought your solution would fit?

Perhaps. But that individual may not be using your product every day, be involved deeply in its operational aspects and/or have their finger on the pulse of the end-user’s experience.

#column, #community-management, #ec-column, #growth-marketing, #product-development, #startups, #tc

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How and when to build marketing teams at deep tech companies

Deep tech startups develop cutting-edge innovations with the power to truly revolutionize society. The founding team members at these companies often come from deeply technical backgrounds, which powers rapid product progress but can create bottlenecks on the go-to-market side.

In this post, I outline the answers to four key questions around marketing at early-stage deep tech companies that are post-revenue:

  • What marketing teams at deep tech companies do.
  • When to hire the marketing team.
  • Whether the marketing team needs industry experience.
  • How to source and evaluate talent for the marketing team.

From this post, deep tech startups can formulate their marketing hiring strategy and attract and cultivate top talent to drive their go-to-market plan. Without business execution, even the most groundbreaking innovations do not achieve their intended impact.

What do marketing teams at deep tech companies do?

To set the context, I share below the typical projects of deep tech marketing teams, which look different from marketing in other industries given the greater product focus and complexity, regulatory oversight and longer time to market.

Go-to-market

Marketers leverage the strength of the IP to establish collaborations with large companies, such as pharma companies and institutions, such as the government, universities or hospitals. To this end, marketers develop creative ways to gather lists of, and information on, key contacts at these potential partners. They also build sales collateral, such as demo videos, pitch decks and one-pagers, to more effectively reach and build long-term relationships with these prospects.

More broadly, marketers also develop the go-to-market strategy beyond partnerships. To this end, marketers conduct in-depth market research on business models, monetization strategies and reimbursement channels.

Communications

Marketers create original content to establish the company as a thought leader, build the company’s brand credibility through social media and apply for awards and honors to validate the potential of the company’s solution.

Forecasting

Marketers work with finance and product teams to formulate projections as the company moves into the clinical phase.

When should deep tech companies hire marketers?

The CEO and other members of the founding team take on marketing work in the formation stage to better understand and empathize with the needs, capabilities and opportunities in the department before bringing someone on full time.

Once the product shows signs of repeatable revenue, a marketing lead is needed. Specifically, this is ahead of a large Series A round, after a small Series A round or when a commercial partner has expressed interest in larger, long-term contracts. Instead of the typical chief marketing officer or chief revenue officer title, deep tech startups call this person a chief commercial officer or chief partnerships officer.

For additional support in the formation stage, companies bring on MBA interns and work with their investors. Prior to the Series A, platform teams at deep tech venture-capital funds are hands-on in helping with marketing through actually doing marketing projects for their portfolio companies, ideating on long-term marketing strategy with the founders through regular feedback sessions and connecting founders with vetted marketing contractors or agencies.

For companies that require FDA approval, commercial advisors, consultants and board members fully take on the partnership strategy work (which represents the bulk of the marketing needs) prior to the Series A round. Similarly, external consultants, such as marketing agencies, can take over major projects like launch strategy. External consultants can then join the team should their performance be strong.

For drug-development companies, the marketing leader is most crucial when the company enters the clinical phase and prepares for trials, regardless of funding stage.

Do marketing hires need industry experience?

Of course, it is ideal to hire someone with experience selling into the space and someone who is comfortable with the complex supply chains and long sales cycles. However, if the choice is between someone with functional expertise but no industry expertise and someone with industry experience but limited or no functional expertise, it is better to hire the former candidate and leverage the rest of the team for domain expertise. Deep tech is a niche area, so the other team members can support the marketer in developing industry expertise.

#deep-tech, #ec-entrepreneurship, #ec-marketing, #growth-marketing, #labor, #marketing, #product-management, #product-marketing, #startups, #tc

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Bottom-up SaaS: A framework for mapping pricing to customer value

A few years ago, building a bottom-up SaaS company – defined as a firm where the average purchasing decision is made without ever speaking to a salesperson – was a novel concept. Today, by our count, at least 30% of the Cloud 100 are now bottom-up.

For the first time, individual employees are influencing the tooling decisions of their companies versus having these decisions mandated by senior executives. Self-serve businesses thrive on this momentum, leveraging individuals as their evangelists, to grow from a single use-case to small teams, and ultimately into whole company deployments.

In a truly self-service model, individual users can sign up and try the product on their own. There is no need to get compliance approval for sensitive data or to get IT support for integrations — everything can be managed by the line-level users themselves. Then that person becomes an internal champion, driving adoption across the organization.

Today, some of the most well-known software companies such as Datadog, MongoDB, Slack and Zoom, to name a few, are built with a primarily bottom-up product-led sales approach.

In this piece, we will take a closer look at this trend — and specifically how it has fundamentally altered pricing — and at a framework for mapping pricing to customer value.

Aligning value with pricing

In a bottom-up SaaS world, pricing has to be transparent and standardized (at least for the most part, see below). It’s the only way your product can sell itself. In practice, this means you can no longer experiment as you go, with salespeople using their gut instinct to price each deal. You need a concrete strategy that aligns customer value with pricing.

To do this well, you need to deeply understand your customers and how they use your product. Once you do, you can “MAP” them to help align pricing with value.

The MAP customer value framework

The MAP customer value framework requires deeply understanding your customers in order to clearly identify and articulate their needs across Metrics, Activities and People.

Not all elements of MAP should determine your pricing, but chances are that one of them will be the right anchor for your pricing model:

Metrics: Metrics can include things like minutes, messages, meetings, data and storage. What are the key metrics your customers care about? Is there a threshold of value associated with these metrics? By tracking key metrics early on, you’ll be able to understand if growing a certain metric increases value for the customer. For example:

  • Zoom — Minutes: Free with a 40-minute time limit on group meetings.
  • Slack — Messages: Free until 10,000 total messages.
  • Airtable — Records: Free until 1,200 records.

Activity: How do your customers really use your product and how do they describe themselves? Are they creators? Are they editors? Do different customers use your product differently? Instead of metrics, a key anchor for pricing may be the different roles users have within an organization and what they want and need in your product. If you choose to anchor on activity, you will need to align feature sets and capabilities with usage patterns (e.g., creators get access to deeper tooling than viewers, or admins get high privileges versus line-level users). For example:

#asana, #column, #entrepreneurship, #growth-marketing, #marketing, #pricing, #saas, #startups, #verified-experts

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Founders seeking their first check need a fundraising sales funnel

Milana Lewis, CEO and co-founder of music tech startup Stem, started the fundraising process long before she actually asked any investors for money (dig the well before you’re thirsty — it’s the best way). She recommends that other founders do the same.

Ten years ago, Milana started working at United Talent Agency (UTA), one of the world’s leading talent agencies. When tasked with finding the best tools and technologies that UTA’s clients could use to self-distribute their work, she discovered a glaring gap.

“There were all these tools built for the distribution of content, monetization of content and audience development,” she says. “The last piece missing was the financial aspect.” The entertainment industry desperately needed a platform that would help artists manage the financial side of their business — and that’s how the idea for Stem was born.

Because UTA had its own investment branch, called UTA Ventures, Milana’s job also introduced her to some brilliant investors. Years later, when it was time to fundraise for Stem, those connections played a pretty big role.

In an episode of How I Raised It, Milana shared how Stem has landed some superstar investors and raised a little under $22 million.

1. Bring investors along for the ride — from the very start

Milana’s involvement with UTA Ventures exposed her to the investor experience and put her in the same room as people like Gary Vaynerchuk, Jonathon Triest from Ludlow Ventures, Anthony Saleh from Wndrco and Scooter Braun.

After meeting them the first time, she made sure to nurture those relationships, and she was “honest and vulnerable” about the fact that she wanted to be an entrepreneur one day.

“It’s amazing how much people will help and support you along in that journey,” Milana says. Investors “get excited about making early-stage investments because they want to identify that person before anyone else does.”

As her idea for Stem came together, she shared that with them, too. Over the course of a year, she provided regular updates on her vision, like how she was building out her team, and she also called them for occasional advice.

By the time she approached some of them for funding, she didn’t even need to present a full pitch. By then, they already knew enough about Stem, and about Milana as a businesswoman. Her pitch meeting with Gary Vaynerchuk — the first person to invest — ended up being just 15 minutes long.

“I brought people on my entrepreneurial journey in the beginning,” Milana says. “The biggest piece of advice I could give is to start raising a year before you start raising. Start building relationships and data points.”

2. Become best friends with systems and deadlines

For each round, Milana put together a lead list — a list of potential investors who she either met socially or through business. Each time, she wanted to have at least 100 names on this list.

#column, #entertainment, #entrepreneurship, #funding, #gary-vaynerchuk, #growth-marketing, #scooter-braun, #startups, #tc, #united-talent-agency, #venture-capital

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6 reasons why reporters aren’t interested in your content marketing

Digital PR is an excellent strategy to pair with content marketing, especially if your goals include increasing your brand awareness and improving your backlink portfolio.

When you create excellent content and pitch it to writers, you not only get great media coverage, but you get the link back to your project and the authority that comes with being mentioned in a trusted publication.

This earned media tactic is very effective — but it isn’t easy.

If you get any part of it wrong, your chances of success decrease dramatically. If you’ve run into roadblocks, make sure you’re not making any of these mistakes with your content or your pitching.

1. It’s not newsworthy

Sure, it’s easy to say the news only wants to cover material that is, well, news worthy.

But what does that actually mean?

For content marketers, it usually refers to three criteria: timeliness, relevance and significance.

But there’s a catch: Most content marketing programs don’t have journalists devoted to breaking news like actual media outlets do. So how can you create content that is truly newsworthy without the resources of a newsroom?

By creating and analyzing your own data.

If your brand provides a fresh data set or a new analysis of existing data, then you’re the sole owner of information, and you can offer it exclusively to publications. This makes your pitch much more interesting.

This tactic is a combination of original content marketing and digital PR.

But the content can’t just be timely. It also has to be relevant to the writer you’re pitching and that writer’s audience. I’ll explain more on that in #4.

Finally, significance, which refers to the impact it has on the audience. When you think of local news, this is why they report on things like traffic jams and school closures: It directly affects the daily lives of the people watching and listening.

Alternatively, your data can be significant to writers covering specific beats. For example, for our client ZenBusiness, we surveyed Americans and asked what they thought about the government’s relief packages for COVID-19.

While ZenBusiness operates in the office/work niches, this new insight into American perspective was appealing to the political publication The Hill.

Significance is tough criteria from a brand perspective, but if you’re able to offer brand-new insights, it’s certainly not impossible.

2. The significance isn’t clear

Imagine a stranger handing you a book with a blank cover and saying, “Here, you’ll find this interesting.” Would you read the whole book?

#column, #content-marketing, #entrepreneurship, #growth-marketing, #media, #pr, #startups, #verified-experts

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3 growth tactics that helped us surpass Noom and Weight Watchers

Many consumers might think Noom or Weight Watchers are industry leaders with their nonstop commercials, but neither is the fastest-growing weight management program.

Over the past year, nutrition app Lifesum has acquired users at nearly twice the rate of both Noom and Weight Watchers, according to statistics from Sensor Tower, the independent market intelligence for the mobile app economy.

Over this past summer, we surpassed Noom on the global scale with 45 million users. More impressively, we accomplished this without any TV buys. That’s right — no multimillion dollar ad campaigns, allowing us to redistribute precious marketing dollars to other growth projects.

Here’s a closer look at the three growth marketing tactics I credit with helping us scale Lifesum over the last 36 months. It’s a strategy any startup can use, regardless of size or budget.

Understand the different generational lenses

Generations approach products differently. It’s important for startups to understand the different generational approaches of their customers. Startups that spend time thinking and strategizing about where generational trends are going will scale faster.

Here’s a closer look at the three growth marketing tactics I credit with helping us scale Lifesum over the last 36 months. It’s a strategy any startup can use, regardless of size or budget.

Millennials and Generation Z are now the largest consumer market in the world, so you can’t ignore them if you want to scale. With Lifesum these generations have helped our brand surpass the older and well-established competitors. We achieved this by intimately understanding how they view health and fitness.

Gen Z and millennials are all about empowerment. They grew up with Google and Facebook, having information at their fingertips. They are far less likely to be moved by a TV commercial since they desire to discover the world on their own.

In our industry, we’ve learned millennials and Gen Z don’t want a one-size-fits-all weight loss program or to count calories like their parents did 20 years ago. As millennials and Gen Z started embracing keto, intermittent fasting and pescatarian diets, our nutrition team had already created tailored programs to help them stick with it.

Bypass traditional marketing methods

As a brand, it’s important to look ahead and anticipate what is coming next. This also applies to marketing your product. If you get in early with emerging marketing platforms, you will save money and potentially reach more early adopters.

#apps, #column, #entrepreneurship, #growth-marketing, #health, #noom, #startups, #tc, #weight-loss

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3 tips for SaaS founders hoping to join the $1 million ARR club

Building a SaaS company from the ground up is never easy. In fact, it’s generally a grueling, all-consuming process that strains every fiber in your being.

But it is much, much more difficult if you approach it without a tried and true process. After starting and scaling five successful companies, I can tell you that there absolutely is a repeatable process to building a successful SaaS business, one that can reliably guide you to product-market fit and then help you quickly scale.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it does mean that you won’t waste years of your life pursuing a solution that nobody wants.

Begin with finding the right problem

In the earliest stages, the process begins by finding the right problem to solve. At this point, you likely already have a few hypotheses about that problem. But no matter your conviction, you must test those hypotheses against a consistent set of criteria. For example, these are the questions that my co-founder and I used to evaluate the earliest concept of our current company, Drift:

  • Is the problem big enough?
  • Is the market big enough?
  • Does the problem have a recurring use case?
  • Can we build the solution for the problem?

If this sounds like a simple, straightforward exercise, it’s because it is. But not enough entrepreneurs ask themselves these questions at the beginning of their journey. We successfully avoided wasting months or even years of precious time building products that didn’t fit these criteria. This simple step will save you an incredible amount of pain and aggravation.

The only way to find product-market fit

Once you settle on a problem to solve, it’s time to build a barebones product that solves it and to then test that product against the market.

My co-founder Elias and I approached it this way: First, we personally spent hours each day in communities like LinkedIn, Twitter and Product Hunt, giving folks early access to our product and asking them for as much feedback as they could offer.

We were happy if they responded in the comments or to our direct messages, but we always went deeper by asking them to speak over the phone or on a video chat. We also hit the pavement by going to in-person Meetups and events around our hometown of Boston. We even took flights out to small events around the country so that we could interact with potential customers in-person.

If this sounds inordinate, it isn’t. This is the kind of attention that you need to devote to gathering intelligence from potential customers, so that you can relentlessly laser in on a product that they will actually use, value and pay for.

#column, #drift, #entrepreneurship, #growth-marketing, #product-marketing, #saas, #software-as-a-service, #startups, #tc

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Should your SaaS startup embrace a bottom-up GTM strategy?

Many of today’s most successful software companies, from Atlassian and Datadog to Zoom, subscribe to the bottom-up SaaS go-to-market model. In this model, the user purchases software directly from a website, without ever speaking to a sales person. The product essentially sells itself.

The bottom-up model has a few key benefits: Companies spend dramatically less on sales than their peers, allowing them to invest more in product; they can sustain hypergrowth for longer because they are not as reliant on raw sales headcount to win business; and they tend to be more profitable in the long run, leading to premium valuations.

For all these reasons, more and more SaaS startups are choosing to adopt the bottom-up go-to-market model. But for every Atlassian or Zoom, there are many more companies that fail — often because they don’t understand the hidden challenges and costs that come with the bottom-up model.

Before proceeding further, it’s important to note that bottom-up is not the right starting strategy for every company. A few quick ways to see if bottom-up is the right place to start for you:

  1. Product: People can easily try your product.
  2. Decision-maker: Your decision-maker is a line-level employee (not C-Suite).
  3. Users: Teams and individuals can get value from your product (doesn’t have to be full enterprise roll-out).
  4. Data: The data involved isn’t something that compliance would need to review.

For companies that meet these criteria, there are three important questions that you must be able to answer:

  1. Who needs to work together to make a bottom-up SaaS model work?
  2. What is the value you deliver to your customer and how do you determine pricing that matches that value?
  3. When do you hire a sales team? (Spoiler alert — it’s sooner than you think!)

In this piece, we will tackle each of those questions in turn and share some of the best answers we’ve seen from companies that are making it work.

Who needs to work together to make a bottom-up SaaS model work?

Unlike most traditional companies who rely on a head of sales to keep tabs on customers and how much each one is paying, most successful bottom-up companies rely on a combination of product, sales, customer support, marketing and community teams to manage revenue.

#coatue, #column, #customer-relationship-management, #customer-success, #entrepreneurship, #growth-marketing, #marketing, #saas, #sales, #startups, #tc

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Leverage public data to improve content marketing outcomes

Recently I’ve seen people mention the difficulty of generating content that can garner massive attention and links. They suggest that maybe it’s better to focus on content without such potential that can earn just a few links but do it more consistently and at higher volumes.

In some cases, this can be good advice. But I’d like to argue that it is very possible to create content that can consistently generate high volumes of high-authority links. I’ve found in practice there is one truly scalable way to build high-authority links, and it’s predicated on two tactics coming together:

  1. Creating newsworthy content that’s of interest to major online publishers (newspapers, major blogs or large niche publishers).
  2. Pitching publishers in a way that breaks through the noise of their inbox so that they see your content.

How can you use new techniques to generate consistent and predictable content marketing wins?

The key is data.

Techniques for generating press with data-focused stories

It’s my strong opinion that there’s no shortcut to earning press mentions and that only truly new, newsworthy and interesting content can be successful. Hands down, the simplest way to predictably achieve this is through a data journalism approach.

One of the best ways you can create press-earning, data-focused content is by using existing data sets to tell a story.

There are tens of thousands — perhaps hundreds of thousands — of existing public datasets that anyone can leverage for telling new and impactful data-focused stories that can easily garner massive press and high levels of authoritative links.

The last five years or so have seen huge transparency initiatives from the government, NGOs and public companies making their data more available and accessible.

Additionally, FOIA requests are very commonplace, freeing even more data and making it publicly available for journalistic investigation and storytelling.

Because this data usually comes from the government or another authoritative source, pitching these stories to publishers is often easier because you don’t face the same hurdles regarding proving accuracy and authoritativeness.

Potential roadblocks

The accessibility of data provided by the government especially can vary. There are little to no data standards in place, and each federal and local government office has varying amounts of resources in making the data they do have easy to consume for outside parties.

The result is that each dataset often has its own issues and complexities. Some are very straightforward and available in clean and well-documented CSVs or other standard formats.

Unfortunately, others are often difficult to decode, clean, validate or even download, sometimes being trapped inside of difficult to parse PDFs, fragmented reports or within antiquated querying search tools that spit out awkward tables.

Deeper knowledge of web scraping and programmatic data cleaning and reformatting are often required to be able to accurately acquire and utilize many datasets.

Tools to use

#column, #content-marketing, #growth-marketing, #pr, #public-relations, #seo, #tc, #verified-experts

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These 3 factors are holding back podcast monetization

Podcast advertising growth is inhibited by three major factors:

  • Lack of macro distribution, consumption and audience data.
  • Current methods of conversion tracking.
  • Idea of a “playbook” for podcast performance marketing.

Because of these limiting factors, it’s currently more of an art than a science to piece disparate data from multiple sources, firms, agencies and advertisers, into a somewhat conclusive argument to brands as to why they should invest in podcast advertising.

1. Lack of macro distribution, consumption and audience data

There were several resources that released updates based on what they saw in terms of consumption when COVID-19 hit. Hosting platforms, publishers and third-party tracking platforms all put out their best guesses as to what was happening. Advertisers’ own podcast listening habits had been upended due to lockdowns; they wanted to know how broader changes in listening habits were affecting their campaigns. Were downloads going up, down or staying the same? What was happening with sports podcasts, without sports?


Read part 1 of this article, Podcast advertising has a business intelligence gap, on TechCrunch.


At Right Side Up, we receive and analyze all of the available research from major publishers (Stitcher, aCast), to major platforms (Megaphone) and third-party research firms (Podtrac, IAB, Edison Research). However, no single entity encompasses the entire space or provides the kind of interactive, off-the-shelf customizable SaaS product we’d prefer, and that digitally native marketers expect. Plus, there isn’t anything published in real-time; most sources publish once or twice annually.

So what did we do? We reached out to trusted publishers and partners to gather data around shifting consumption due to COVID-19 ourselves, and determined that, though there was a drop in downloads in the short term, it was neither as precipitous nor as enduring as some had feared. This was confirmed by some early reports available, but how were we to evidence our own piecewise sample with another? Moreover, how could you invest 6-7 figures of marketing dollars if you didn’t have the firsthand intelligence we gathered and our subject matter experts on deck to make constant adjustments to your approach?

We were able to piece together trends we’re seeing that point to increased download activity in recent months that surpass February/March heights. We’ve determined that the industry is back on track for growth with a less steep, but still growing, listenership trajectory. But even though more recent reports have been published, a longitudinal, objective resource has not yet emerged to show a majority of the industry’s journey through one of the most disruptive media environments in recent history.

There is a need for a new or existing entity to create cohesive data points; a third party that collects and reports listening across all major hosts and distribution points, or “podcatchers,” as they’re colloquially called. As a small example: Wouldn’t it be nice to objectively track seasonal listening of news/talk programming and schedule media planning and flighting around that? Or to know what the demographics of that audience look like compared to other verticals?

What percentage increase in efficiency and/or volume would you gain from your marketing efforts in the channel? Would that delta be profitable against paying a nominal or ongoing licensing or research fee for most brands?

These challenges aren’t just affecting advertisers. David Cohn, VP of Sales at Megaphone, agrees that “full transparency from the listening platforms would make our jobs easier, along with everyone else’s in the industry. We’d love to know how much of an episode is listened to, whether an ad is skipped, etc. Along the same lines, having a central source for [audience] measurement would be ideal — similar to what Nielsen has been for TV.” This would also enable us to understand cross-show ad frequency, another black box for advertisers and the industry at large.

#ad-technology, #advertising-tech, #audience-measurement, #column, #digital-marketing, #growth-marketing, #marketing, #online-advertising, #podcast-advertising, #podcasts, #tc, #verified-experts

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Podcast advertising has a business intelligence gap

There are sizable, meaningful gaps in the knowledge collection and publication of podcast listening and engagement statistics. Coupled with still-developing advertising technology because of the distributed nature of the medium, this causes uncertainty in user consumption and ad exposure and impact. There is also a lot of misinformation and misconception about the challenges marketers face in these channels.

All of this compounds to delay ad revenue growth for creators, publishers and networks by inhibiting new and scaling advertising investment, resulting in lost opportunity among all parties invested in the channel. There’s a viable opportunity for a collective of industry professionals to collaborate on a solution for unified, free reporting, or a new business venture that collects and publishes more comprehensive data that ultimately promotes growth for podcast advertising.

Podcasts have always had challenges when it comes to the analytics behind distribution, consumption and conversion. For an industry projected to exceed $1 billion in ad spend in 2021, it’s impressive that it’s built on RSS: A stable, but decades-old technology that literally means really simple syndication. Native to the technology is a one-way data flow, which democratizes the medium from a publishing perspective and makes it easy for creators to share content, but difficult for advertisers trying to measure performance and figure out where to invest ad dollars. This is compounded by a fractured creator, server and distribution/endpoint environment unique to the medium.

Because podcasts lag other media channels in business intelligence, it’s still an underinvested channel relative to its ability to reach consumers and impact purchasing behavior.

For creators, podcasting has begun to normalize distribution analytics through a rising consolidation of hosts like Art19, Megaphone, Simplecast and influence from the IAB. For advertisers, though, consumption and conversion analytics still lag far behind. For the high-growth tech companies we work with, and as performance marketers ourselves, measuring the return on investment of our ad spend is paramount.

Because podcasts lag other media channels in business intelligence, it’s still an underinvested channel relative to its ability to reach consumers and impact purchasing behavior. This was evidenced when COVID-19 hit this year, as advertisers that were highly invested or highly interested in investing in podcast advertising asked a very basic question: “Is COVID-19, and its associated lifestyle shifts, affecting podcast listening? If so, how?”

The challenges of decentralized podcast ad data

We reached out to trusted partners to ask them for insights specific to their shows.

Nick Southwell-Keely, U.S. director of Sales & Brand Partnerships at Acast, said: “We’re seeing our highest listens ever even amid the pandemic. Across our portfolio, which includes more than 10,000 podcasts, our highest listening days in Acast history have occurred in [July].” Most partners provided similar anecdotes, but without centralized data, there was no one, singular firm to go to for an answer, nor one report to read that would cover 100% of the space. Almost more importantly, there is no third-party perspective to validate any of the anecdotal information shared with us.

Publishers, agencies and firms all scrambled to answer the question. Even still, months later, we don’t have a substantial and unifying update on exactly what, if anything, happened, or if it’s still happening, channel-wide. Rather, we’re still checking in across a wide swath of partners to identify and capitalize on microtrends. Contrast this to native digital channels like paid search and paid social, and connected, yet formerly “traditional” media (e.g., TV, CTV/OTT) that provide consolidated reports that marketers use to make decisions about their media investments.

The lasting murkiness surrounding podcast media behavior during COVID-19 is just one recent case study on the challenges of a decentralized (or nonexistent) universal research vendor/firm, and how it can affect advertisers’ bottom lines. A more common illustration of this would be an advertiser pulling out of ads, for fear of underdelivery on a flat rate unit, missing out on incremental growth because they were worried about not being able to get download reporting and getting what they paid for. It’s these kinds of basic shortcomings that the ad industry needs to account for before we can hit and exceed the ad revenue heights projected for podcasting.

Advertisers may pull out of campaigns for fear of under-delivery, missing out on incremental growth because they were worried about not getting what they paid for.

If there’s a silver lining to the uncertainty in podcast advertising metrics and intelligence, it’s that supersavvy growth marketers have embraced the nascent medium and allowed it to do what it does best: personalized endorsements that drive conversions. While increased data will increase demand and corresponding ad premiums, for now, podcast advertising “veterans” are enjoying the relatively low profile of the space.

As Ariana Martin, senior manager, Offline Growth Marketing at Babbel notes, “On the other hand, podcast marketing, through host read ads, has something personal to it, which might change over time and across different podcasts. Because of this personal element, I am not sure if podcast marketing can ever be transformed into a pure data game. Once you get past the understanding that there is limited data in podcasting, it is actually very freeing as long as you’re seeing a certain baseline of good results, [such as] sales attributed to podcast [advertising] via [survey based methodology], for example.”

So how do we grow from the industry feeling like a secret game-changing channel for a select few brands, to widespread adoption across categories and industries?

Below, we’ve laid out the challenges of nonuniversal data within the podcast space, and how that hurts advertisers, publishers, third-party research/tracking organizations, and broadly speaking, the podcast ecosystem. We’ve also outlined the steps we’re taking to make incremental solutions, and our vision for the industry moving forward.

Lingering misconceptions about podcast measurement

1. Download standardization

In search of a rationale to how such a buzzworthy growth channel lags behind more established media types’ advertising revenue, many articles will point to “listener” or “download” numbers not being normalized. As far as we can tell at Right Side Up, where we power most of the scaled programs run by direct advertisers, making us a top three DR buying force in the industry, the majority of publishers have adopted the IAB Podcast Measurement Technical Guidelines Version 2.0.

This widespread adoption solved the “apples to apples” problem as it pertained to different networks/shows valuing a variable, nonstandard “download” as an underlying component to their CPM calculations. Previous to this widespread adoption, it simply wasn’t known whether a “download” from publisher X was equal to a “download” from publisher Y, making it difficult to aim for a particular CPM as a forecasting tool for performance marketing success.

However, the IAB 2.0 guidelines don’t completely solve the unique-user identification problem, as Dave Zohrob, CEO of Chartable points out. “Having some sort of anonymized user identifier to better calculate audience size would be fantastic —  the IAB guidelines offer a good approximation given the data we have but [it] would be great to actually know how many listeners are behind each IP/user-agent combo.”

2. Proof of ad delivery

A second area of business intelligence gaps that many articles point to as a cause of inhibited growth is a lack of “proof of delivery.” Ad impressions are unverifiable, and the channel doesn’t have post logs, so for podcast advertisers the analogous evidence of spots running is access to “airchecks,” or audio clippings of the podcast ads themselves.

Legacy podcast advertisers remember when a full-time team of entry-level staffers would hassle networks via phone or email for airchecks, sometimes not receiving verification that the spot had run until a week or more after the fact. This delay in the ability to accurately report spend hampered fast-moving performance marketers and gave the illusion of podcasts being a slow, stiff, immovable media type.

Systematic aircheck collection has been a huge advent and allowed for an increase in confidence in the space — not only for spend verification, but also for creative compliance and optimization. Interestingly, this feature has come up almost as a byproduct of other development, as the companies who offer these services actually have different core business focuses: Magellan AI, our preferred partner, is primarily a competitive intelligence platform, but pivoted to also offer airchecking services after realizing what a pain point it was for advertisers; Veritone, an AI company that’s tied this service to its ad agency, Veritone One; and Podsights, a pixel-based attribution modeling solution.

3. Competitive intelligence

Last, competitive intelligence and media research continue to be a challenge. Magellan AI and Podsights offer a variety of fee and free tiers and methods of reporting to show a subset of the industry’s activity. You can search a show, advertiser or category, and get a less-than-whole, but still directionally useful, picture of relevant podcast advertising activity. While not perfect, there are sufficient resources to at least see the tip of the industry iceberg as a consideration point to your business decision to enter podcasts or not.

As Sean Creeley, founder of Podsights, aptly points out: “We give all Podsights research data, analysis, posts, etc. away for free because we want to help grow the space. If [a brand], as a DIY advertiser, desired to enter podcasting, it’s a downright daunting task. Research at least lets them understand what similar companies in their space are doing.”

There is also a nontech tool that publishers would find valuable. When we asked Shira Atkins, co-founder of Wonder Media Network, how she approaches research in the space, she had a not-at-all-surprising, but very refreshing response: “To be totally honest, the ‘research’ I do is texting and calling the 3-5 really smart sales people I know and love in the space. The folks who were doing radio sales when I was still in high school, and the podcast people who recognize the messiness of it all, but have been successful at scaling campaigns that work for both the publisher and the advertiser. I wish there was a true tracker of cross-industry inventory — how much is sold versus unsold. The way I track the space writ large is by listening to a sample set of shows from top publishers to get a sense for how they’re selling and what their ads are like.”

Even though podcast advertising is no longer limited by download standardization, spend verification and competitive research, there are still hurdles that the channel has not yet overcome.


The conclusion to this article, These 3 factors are holding back podcast monetization, is available exclusively to Extra Crunch subscribers.

#advertising-tech, #chartable, #column, #digital-marketing, #growth-marketing, #marketing, #media, #online-advertising, #podcasts, #tc, #verified-experts

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There’s a way to pick the absolute best images for your content: Apply AI

Most marketers believe there’s a lot of value in having relevant, engaging images featured in content.

But selecting the “right” images for blog posts, social media posts or video thumbnails has historically been a subjective process. Social media and SEO gurus have a slew of advice on picking the right images, but this advice typically lacks real empirical data.

This got me thinking: Is there a data-driven — or even better, an AI-driven — process for gaining deeper insight into which images are more likely to perform well (aka more likely to garner human attention and sharing behavior)?

The technique for finding optimal photos

In July of 2019, a fascinating new machine learning paper called “Intrinsic Image Popularity Assessment” was published. This new model has found a reliable way to predict an image’s likely “popularity” (estimation of likelihood the image will get a like on Instagram).

It also showed an ability to outperform humans, with a 76.65% accuracy on predicting how many likes an Instagram photo would garner versus a human accuracy of 72.40%.

I used the model and source code from this paper to come up with how marketers can improve their chances of selecting images that will have the best impact on their content.

Finding the best screen caps to use for a video

One of the most important aspects of video optimization is the choice of the video’s thumbnail.

According to Google, 90% of the top performing videos on the platform use a custom selected image. Click-through rates, and ultimately view counts, can be greatly influenced by how eye-catching a video title and thumbnail are to a searcher,

In recent years, Google has applied AI to automate video thumbnail extraction, attempting to help users find thumbnails from their videos that are more likely to attract attention and click-throughs.

Unfortunately, with only three provided options to choose from, it’s unlikely the thumbnails Google currently recommends are the best thumbnails for any given video.

That’s where AI comes in.

With some simple code, it’s possible to run the “intrinsic popularity score” (as derived by a model similar to the one discussed in this article) against all of the individual frames of a video, providing a much wider range of options.

The code to do this is available here. This script downloads a YouTube video, splits it into frames as .jpg images, and runs the model on each image, providing a predicted popularity score for each frame image.
Caveat: It is important to remember that this model was trained and tested on Instagram images. Given the similarity in behavior for clicking on an Instagram photo or a YouTube thumbnail, we feel it’s likely (though never tested) that if a thumbnail is predicted to do well as an Instagram photo, it will similarly do well as a YouTube video thumbnail.

Let’s look at an example of how this works.

 

thumbnail from youtube video with housebuilding couple

Current thumbnail. Image Credits: YouTube (opens in a new window)

 

We had the intrinsic popularity model look at three frames per second of this 23-minute video. It took about 20 minutes. The following were my favorites from the 20 images that had the highest overall scores.

#advertising-tech, #artificial-intelligence, #column, #computer-vision, #content-marketing, #growth-marketing, #machine-learning, #photography, #tc

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2 strategies for creating top-of-funnel marketing content

Even when you’re excellent at making the sale, you still need people to know you exist in the first place.

Content is excellent at making the case for your product or service, but it also excels at providing value to potential customers in a more tangential way, introducing them to your brand and building awareness and authority.

Here’s how utilizing content marketing and digital PR can make huge strides in getting your brand name out there.

Ranking on-site content for awareness keywords

When on-site content you created ranks well in the search engine results pages (SERPs), that doesn’t just mean you get more traffic (although that’s certainly a major benefit).

You’re also getting your brand name in front of searchers because you’re appearing in the results. You’re building authority because Google appears to believe you have the best answer for their query. You’re giving the searcher and answer to their question and beginning to build trust.

So how do you know which keywords/topics to target and what kind of content to create? You perform keyword research, which basically means examining what keywords people are searching for, how many people search for them per month and how hard it’ll be to rank for them.

Google Ads Keyword Planner provides this information, but you can also use Chrome plugins like Keywords Everywhere and Keyword Surfer or free tools like Ubersuggest.

When your goal is to build awareness, it’s important that the keywords and topics you target have high volume. In other words, they’re searched a lot. Awareness objectives mean reaching as many people as possible so more people know that your brand exists and begin to understand what it’s about.

#column, #content-marketing, #digital-marketing, #growth-marketing, #online-advertising, #pr, #search-engine-optimization, #startups, #tc, #verified-experts

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How to get the most branding bang out of your B2B IPO

There’s definitely a lot of talk about SPACs these days. But the tried-and-true IPO is still the long-term liquidity goal for most tech startups. CEOs dream of ringing the bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, or seeing their face splashed across Nasdaq’s giant video screen in Times Square. Late last month, five high-profile tech companies filed on the same day to go public through traditional IPOs, presumably gunning to get out before the November election.

There is obviously a ton of operational, financial and regulatory preparation that goes into a successful initial public offering. But one aspect of IPO planning that often gets short shrift, particularly at B2B-focused companies chasing relatively niche buyer audiences, is branding and communications. As the head of marketing and communications for a big investment firm, I see this all the time. I believe companies who skimp here are throwing away significant equity value.

Simply put, a highly public financing event like an IPO is an enormous branding opportunity for most companies. It’s a free pass for companies to tell their stories to a huge, global audience and rack up high-level press coverage — both at the time of the IPO and in the future, since many publications (like my former employer, the Wall Street Journal) often focus on coverage of larger, publicly traded companies.

Why do so many companies fall down in this area? I think a lot of it has to do with the broader shift toward data-driven, online marketing and away from branding at many companies. Because highly technical companies in areas like hybrid-cloud computing or DevSecOps (yes, that’s a thing) often struggle in their early days to get journalists interested in their stories, they never make communications a priority inside the company. This comes back to haunt them when, all of the sudden, they’ve filed an S-1 and their exec team has zero experience explaining the company’s story in clear, persuasive terms to a general audience.

But smart companies can avoid this trap. Here are five ways you can get the most branding bang out of your tech IPO, no matter how arcane your company’s business is.

Don’t procrastinate

This is honestly the most important point to take away here. Successful PR and communications around an IPO are a result of long-term planning that starts at least 12 to 18 months before you file your offering document with the SEC. Once you think an IPO is in the offing, take a hard look at both your (1) marketing/communications staffing and (2) your existing digital footprint.

#b2b, #business, #column, #entrepreneurship, #growth-marketing, #initial-public-offering, #marketing, #startups, #tc, #verified-experts

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What can growth marketers learn from lean product development?

Old-school approaches to marketing were often described as “spray and pray.” Marketers would launch a massive campaign in as many places as possible and hope that something worked.

More customers would show up, so it would appear that something had in fact worked.

But nobody could be sure exactly what that something was.

When we can’t predict what will have an impact, we need campaigns that cover all the bases, and those campaigns are consequently huge. They take a long time to create, are expensive to launch and come chock full of risk.

If a spray-and-pray campaign is a total failure (and we don’t have to go far to find examples of those), it’s quite possible an entire year’s worth of marketing budget has just been wasted.

Instead, marketers need to take a page from lean product development and begin creating Minimum Viable Campaigns (MVCs). Rather than wait until a massive multichannel launch is perfect, we can incrementally release a series of smaller, targeted, data-driven campaigns.

Over time these MVCs coalesce to look and act much like a Big Bang-style campaign from the spray-and-pray days, but they’ve done so in a much more data-driven and less risky way.

What exactly is an MVC?

Just as with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), it can be easy to misunderstand the real definition of an MVC. It’s not something thrown together with no regard for brand standards or strategic goals, and it’s not a blind guess.

Instead, a good MVC represents the smallest amount of well-designed work that could still achieve some of the campaign’s goals. Before we have any chance of figuring out what that looks like, we need to know the ultimate goal of the bigger campaign or initiative. If we don’t know this, we can’t possibly measure the effectiveness of the MVC.

#column, #entrepreneurship, #growth-marketing, #lean-startups, #marketing, #product-management, #product-marketing, #social-media, #startups, #tc, #verified-experts

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Earn the best backlinks with high-quality content and digital PR

A lot is debated in the SEO world, but nearly everyone can agree that links are and will continue to be vitally important to the health and rankability of a website.

Luckily, link building and brand awareness goals can be built into your content marketing strategy, which can be vastly elevated by combining your efforts with digital PR.

I’ll walk through how creating high-quality content and pitching it correctly to top publishers can earn you the valuable backlinks you’ve always wanted (and if you employ this strategy on an ongoing basis, the increase in organic traffic you’ve always wanted, too).

Choosing the right content idea

I have to start by saying that the most important thing about being cited in news sources is that you have to be newsworthy. Now that might go without saying, but what we as marketers might consider newsworthy about our brands isn’t necessarily newsworthy to a writer or to the greater public.

Content ideation tip #1: The best way to ensure your newsworthiness is to gather and analyze data. Even if the data set already exists, if it hasn’t been analyzed and presented in a straightforward, applicable, easy-to-understand way, your illustration of the data could be considered new and valuable.

I’ll touch on this again in a moment. But first, let’s dive into the content example I’ll be using throughout this piece.

#column, #content-marketing, #growth-marketing, #pr, #public-relations, #search-engine-optimization, #seo, #startups, #tc, #verified-experts

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Red Antler’s Emily Heyward explains how to get people obsessed with your brand

If you’re currently building a startup, you know what product you want to build. But do you know if people are actually going to notice you? That’s the question I asked of Red Antler co-founder Emily Heyward during our virtual TechCrunch Early Stage event.

In case you’re not familiar with Red Antler, Heyward’s branding company has worked with some of the most iconic startups of the past decade, such as Casper, Allbirds, Brandless and Prose. She knows her topic so well that she just wrote a book on branding called “Obsessed.”

Let me break down the key takeaways of her presentation and responses to questions from our virtual audience — we’ve embedded a video below with our entire conversation.

Branding matters — anybody can launch a startup

It has never been easier to launch a startup. If it’s a software company, your infrastructure will be managed by a cloud hosting company. If you’re selling consumer goods, you can find manufacturing partners more easily than ever before.

“There are fewer traditional gatekeepers standing in your way. You don’t need to be able to afford a national TV campaign to get people to notice you and to hear about you. It’s a lot easier to get it out there and start selling directly to people,” Heyward said.

The result is that there are many companies competing in the same space, launching around the same time. Casper isn’t the only online mattress company anymore for instance. Brand obsession can set you apart from the rest of the crowd.

#airbnb, #brand-marketing, #casper, #emily-heyward, #graphic-design, #growth-marketing, #product-management, #red-antler, #startups, #tc

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Piggyback on popular Tweets to get brand awareness

We’ve aggregated many of the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Our community consists of startup founders and heads of growth. You can participate by joining Demand Curve’s marketing training program or its Slack group.

Without further ado, on to our community’s advice.


Analysis of YouTube trending videos

Insights from Ammar Alyousfi.
We reviewed an analysis of every trending YouTube video from 2019. Here are some of our learnings:
  • 95% of videos took less than 13 days to appear on the trending list. The minimum number of views needed for a video to trend was 53,796.
  • Videos stay on the trending list for ~5.6 days after publishing.
  • The top three categories for trending videos are entertainment (28.6%), music (14%) and sports (10.4%).
  • Videos posted on Saturday are the least likely to trend.
To dive deeper, check out the full report.

Don’t forget to transcribe podcasts

#column, #computing, #extra-crunch, #google, #growth-and-monetization, #growth-marketing, #microblogging, #operating-systems, #real-time-web, #social, #social-media-marketing, #software, #startups, #tc, #text-messaging, #tweet, #twitter

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Facebook’s former PR chief explains why no one is paying attention to your startup

At TechCrunch Early Stage, I spoke with Coatue Management GP Caryn Marooney about startup branding and how founders can get people to pay attention to what they’re building.

Marooney recently made the jump into venture capital; previously she was co-founder and CEO of The Outcast Agency, one of Silicon Valley’s best-regarded public relations firms, which she left to become VP of Global Communications at Facebook, where she led comms for eight years.

While founders often may think of PR as a way to get messaging across to reporters, Marooney says that making someone care about what you’re working on — whether that’s customers, investors or journalists — requires many of the same skills.

One of the biggest insights she shared: at a base level, no one really cares about what you have to say.

Describing something as newsworthy or a great value isn’t the same as demonstrating it, and while big companies like Amazon can get people to pay attention to anything they say, smaller startups have to be even more strategic with their messaging, Marooney says. “People just fundamentally aren’t walking around caring about this new startup — actually, nobody does.”

Getting someone to care first depends on proving your relevance. When founders are forming their messaging to address this, they should ask themselves three questions about their strategy, she recommends:

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When you need content to build links, use social proof of concept

Before tackling a new content idea, it’s comforting to have evidence that it’ll go off without a hitch.

Of course, that’s not possible.

You can never know 100% that a piece of content will meet your objectives. But you can get a better sense of whether it’s likely to succeed.

We call it “social proof of concept.” This strategy is often used by marketers as a way to gauge the promotional viability of what they’re going to create.

Let’s examine what it is and how to use it to create compelling content.

What is “social proof of concept”?

“Social proof of concept” is one of the many ways you can come up with content ideas.

It essentially means a similar piece of content has performed well in the past, meaning it’s likely that something in the same vein that’s better will perform even more impressively now.

By exploring content examples that got a ton of social engagement, you can ask yourself:

  • Are people talking about the topic?
  • What was it about this content that might have made it so successful?
  • Is there something missing that we can add/improve upon?
  • Is there something about the methodology/design we can learn from?
  • What conversation is happening around the topic that you can contribute to now?
  • Is there an idea that complements this content and contributes to the discussion?

When you can identify what’s been successfully engaging in the past, you can start with a much higher chance of creating something that really resonates with people.

Where do I find social proof of concept for my ideas?

My favorite places to look for social proof of concept is on Reddit, Twitter, YouTube and others. I’ll walk through my process for vetting potential topics and methods of finding inspiration for new, related ideas.

#buzzfeed, #collective-intelligence, #column, #content-marketing, #extra-crunch, #growth-and-monetization, #growth-marketing, #hashtag, #pinterest, #reddit, #search-engine-optimization, #seo, #social, #social-media, #social-media-marketing, #startups, #tc, #twitter, #verified-experts, #viral-marketing

0

Accessing social groups through referrals

We’ve aggregated many of the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Our community consists of startup founders and heads of growth. You can participate by joining Demand Curve’s marketing training program or its Slack group.

Without further ado, on to our community’s advice.


Accessing social groups through referrals

Excerpt from Demand Curve’s Growth Training.

A surprising benefit of referrals is how they often lead to social partnership opportunities.

Consider this process:

  1. Find your happiest users.
  2. Figure out what social groups they belong to. This could be anything from a female founders group, to university alumni networks, to a restaurant management trade association.
  3. How do you find out? Just ask them what groups they belong to. Don’t be afraid of conversation.
  4. Ask the happy user to connect you with the heads of those groups. Solve a problem they collectively have — even if it’s only tangentially related to your business. What matters is that more of these ideal customers know and trust you. You can also refer speakers, offer deals, write content for them or offer free office hours.
  5. Down the road, these people inevitably send you referrals.
  6. Reach out cold to people in other, similar groups. Reference the endorsement of the original group and provide a case study (with their permission).

Going through groups can be a high-leverage way to land and expand into ideal audiences.

Pixel-sharing tactics

#column, #extra-crunch, #growth-and-monetization, #growth-marketing, #marketing, #online-advertising, #social-media, #social-media-marketing, #startups, #targeted-advertising, #tc, #verified-experts

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Three growth marketing experts share their best tools and strategies for 2020

At last month’s Early Stage virtual event, channel growth experts joined TechCrunch reporters and editors for a series of conversations covering the best tools and strategies for building startups in 2020. For this post, I’ve recapped highlights of talks with:

  • Ethan Smith, founder and CEO, Graphite
  • Susan Su, startup growth advisor, executive-in-residence, Sound Ventures
  • Asher King-Abramson, founder, Got Users

If you’d like to hear or watch these conversations in their entirety, we’ve embedded the videos below.


Ethan Smith: How to build a high-performance SEO engine

Relying on internet searches to learn about growth topics like search engine optimization leads to a rabbit hole of LinkedIn thinkfluencer musings and decade-old Quora posts. Insights are few and far between, because SEO has changed dramatically as Google has squashed spammy techniques “specialists” have pushed for years.

Ethan Smith, owner of growth agency Graphite, says Google didn’t kill SEO, but the channel has evolved. “SEO has built a negative reputation over time of being spammy,” Smith says. “The typical flow of an SEO historically has been: I need to find every single keyword I possibly can find and auto-generate a mediocre page for each of those keywords, the user experience doesn’t really matter, content can be automated and spun, the key is fooling the bot.”

Artificial intelligence has disrupted this flow as algorithms have abandoned hard-coded rules for more flexible designs that are less vulnerable to being gamed. What SEO looks like today, Smith says, is all about trying to “figure out what the algorithm is trying to accomplish and try to accomplish the same thing.” Google’s algorithms aren’t looking for buckets of keywords, they’re looking to distill a user’s intent.

The key to building a strategy around SEO as a company breaks down into six steps surrounding intent, says Smith:

  1. Target by intent

    #advertising-tech, #artificial-intelligence, #brand-marketing, #digital-marketing, #email, #ethan-smith, #events, #extra-crunch, #growth-and-monetization, #growth-marketing, #marketing, #online-advertising, #search-engine-optimization, #startups, #susan-su, #tc, #techcrunch-early-stage, #verified-experts

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Conversational analytics are about to change customer experiences forever

Companies have long relied on web analytics data like click rates, page views and session lengths to gain customer behavior insights.This method looks at how customers react to what is presented to them, reactions driven by design and copy. But traditional web analytics fail to capture customers’ desires accurately. While marketers are pushing into predictive analytics, what about the way companies foster broader customer experience (CX)?

Leaders are increasingly adopting conversational analytics, a new paradigm for CX data. No longer will the emphasis be on how users react to what is presented to them, but rather what “intent” they convey through natural language. Companies able to capture intent data through conversational interfaces can be proactive in customer interactions, deliver hyper-personalized experiences, and position themselves more optimally in the marketplace.

Direct customer experiences based on customer disposition

Conversational AI, which powers these interfaces and automation systems and feeds data into conversational analytics engines, is a market predicted to grow from $4.2 billion in 2019 to $15.7 billion in 2024. As companies “conversationalize” their brands and open up new interfaces to customers, AI can inform CX decisions not only in how customer journeys are architected–such as curated buying experiences and paths to purchase–but also how to evolve overall product and service offerings. This insights edge could become a game-changer and competitive advantage for early adopters.

Today, there is wide variation in the degree of sophistication between conversational solutions from elementary, single-task chatbots to secure, user-centric, scalable AI. To unlock meaningful conversational analytics, companies need to ensure that they have deployed a few critical ingredients beyond the basics of parsing customer intent with natural language understanding (NLU).

While intent data is valuable, companies will up-level their engagements by collecting sentiment and tone data, including via emoji analysis. Such data can enable automation to adapt to a customer’s disposition, so if anger is detected regarding a bill that is overdue, a fast path to resolution can be provided. If a customer expresses joy after a product purchase, AI can respond with an upsell offer and collect more acute and actionable feedback for future customer journeys.

Tap into a multitude of conversational data points

#artificial-intelligence, #automation, #cloud, #column, #customer-experience, #cx, #ecommerce, #extra-crunch, #growth-marketing, #machine-learning, #market-analysis, #natural-language-understanding, #saas, #sales, #startups, #tc, #user-experience

0

More thoughts on growing podcasts

We’ve aggregated many of the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Our community consists of startup founders and heads of growth. You can participate by joining Demand Curve’s marketing training program or its Slack group.

Without further ado, on to our community’s advice.


More thoughts on growing podcasts

Insights from Harry Morton of Lower Street.

Podcast growth is all about relationships. To increase your listenership, consider partnering with:

  1. Other podcasters. Do an episode swap where you play an episode of your show on theirs, and vice versa. Make sure the two podcasts share similarly minded audiences.
  2. Curators. Every podcast aggregator has someone responsible for curating their featured content. Look them up on LinkedIn. Reach out via email. Be their friend. Send them only your best stuff.
  3. Subscribers. You rise in Apple’s podcast charts (which account for 60% of podcast listenership) by having a subscriber growth spurt in a concentrated period of time (24-48 hours). So, when you release an episode, immediately run your audience promotions aggressively and all at once.

Increasing referral incentives might not increase referrals

#column, #extra-crunch, #facebook, #growth-and-monetization, #growth-marketing, #podcasts, #social-media-marketing, #startups, #tc, #verified-experts

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Decrypted: How a teenager hacked Twitter, Garmin’s ransomware aftermath

A 17-year-old Florida teenager is accused of perpetrating one of the year’s biggest and most high-profile hacks: Twitter.

A federal 30-count indictment filed in Tampa said Graham Ivan Clark used a phone spearphishing attack to pivot through multiple layers of Twitter’s security and bypassed its two-factor authentication to gain access to an internal “admin” tool that let the hacker take over any account. With two accomplices named in a separate federal indictment, Clark — who went by the online handle “Kirk” — allegedly used the tool to hijack the accounts of dozens of celebrities and public figures, including Bill Gates, Elon Musk and former president Barack Obama, to post a cryptocurrency scam netting over $100,000 in bitcoin in just a few hours.

It was, by all accounts, a sophisticated attack that required technical skills and an ability to trick and deceive to pull off the scam. Some security professionals were impressed, comparing the attack to one that had the finesse and professionalism of a well-resourced nation-state attacker.

But a profile in The New York Times describes Clark was an “adept scammer with an explosive temper.”

In the teenager’s defense, the attack could have been much worse. Instead of pushing a scam that promised to “double your money,” Clark and his compatriots could have wreaked havoc. In 2013, hackers hijacked the Associated Press’ Twitter account and tweeted a fake bomb attack on the White House, sending the markets plummeting — only to quickly recover after the all-clear was given.

But with control of some of the world’s most popular Twitter accounts, Clark was for a few hours in July one of the most powerful people in the world. If found guilty, the teenager could spend his better years behind bars.

Here’s more from the past week.


THE BIG PICTURE

Garmin hobbles back after ransomware attack, but questions remain

#accel, #amazon-web-services, #cloud-computing, #computer-security, #crime, #cybercrime, #data-breach, #decrypted, #elon-musk, #extra-crunch, #garmin, #google-cloud, #growth-marketing, #law-enforcement, #market-analysis, #phishing, #privacy, #ransomware, #security, #security-breaches, #series-a, #social, #startups, #tc, #twitter, #u-s-treasury, #venture-capital

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VC Garry Tan shares 3 ways founders screw up their startups

There are many painful ways for a startup to fail — including founders who ultimately throw in the towel and turn off the lights.

But assuming a founder intends to keeps moving forward, there are a few pitfalls that Garry Tan has seen during his career as a founder, Y Combinator partner and, lately, co-founder of venture firm Initialized Capital.

During a fun chat during last week’s TechCrunch Early Stage, he ran us through these avoidable mistakes; for those who couldn’t virtually attend, we’re sharing them with you here.

 1. Chasing the wrong problem

This sounds insane, right? How can you be blamed for wanting to solve a problem?

Tan says people choose the wrong problem for a wide variety of reasons: Founders sometimes choose a problem that isn’t problematic for enough people, he said, citing the example of a hypothetical 25-year-old San Francisco-based engineer who may be out of touch with the rest of the country. When founders target the wrong problem, it typically means that the market will be too small for a venture-like return.

#entrepreneur, #entrepreneurship, #events, #extra-crunch, #facebook, #garry-tan, #growth-and-monetization, #growth-marketing, #initialized-capital, #john-sculley, #private-equity, #startups, #tc, #techcrunch-early-stage, #venture-capital, #verified-experts, #y-combinator

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Crisis management tips from startup whisperer Margit Wennmachers

When it comes to building a company, lots of things can and do go wrong. Margit Wennmachers — an operating partner at Andreessen Horowitz and long one of the most powerful public relations pros in the startup world — knows this firsthand.

Thankfully for all of you, Wennmachers was able to join us for our recent Early Stage event, where she shared some of her tips and tricks for dealing with everything from fast-ballooning crises that reporters catch wind of, to laying off people during a pandemic, to why lawsuits can actually fuel some companies’ growth.

It’s advice you might save for future reference. As she noted, how a crisis is handled can make or break a startup, and the list of things that can go wrong at even the smallest outfit is “long,” including a product needing to be recalled, a site going down, a cyber breach, a founding team that doesn’t get along, inappropriate behavior, lawsuits and cultural issues.

Some of her most actionable advice included:

How founders can prepare for the inevitable crisis

First, said Wennmachers, spend time modeling out the scenarios, and “let your imagination run wild” as you do. Spend a month on this if necessary. As you’re thinking of worst-case scenarios, also figure out the team that would be involved in a crisis response. Legal will always have to be involved but also, often, HR, outside counsel, and, if a startup can afford it, the help of an outside crisis communications team. If it’s a product failure, you’ll also need the product lead, too, she noted.

#andreessen-horowitz, #crisis-communications, #entrepreneurship, #events, #extra-crunch, #growth-and-monetization, #growth-marketing, #hiring, #margit-wennmachers, #startups, #talent, #tc, #techcrunch-early-stage, #verified-experts

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Building your startup’s customer advisory board

A customer advisory board (CAB) can be an invaluable resource for startups, but many founders struggle with putting together the right group of advisors and how to incentivize them. At our TechCrunch Early Stage event, Saam Motamedi, a general partner at Greylock Partners, talked about how he thinks about putting together the right CAB.

“We encourage all of our early-stage companies to put this in place,” Motamedi said. The goal here is to speed up the process to get to product/market fit since your CAB will provide you with regular feedback.

“The idea here is [that] you have this feedback loop from customers back to your product where you build, you go get feedback, you iterate — and the tighter this feedback loop is, the faster you’ll get to product-market fit. And you want to do things structurally to make this feedback loop tighter, starting with a CAB.”

Motamedi said a CAB should consist of about three to six customers. These should be “luminaries or forward thinkers” in the market you are serving. “You add them to the CAB — you might give them small advisory grants — and they become stakeholders and give you feedback as you work through the early stages of product development.”

Image Credits: Greylock Partners

As for the people who you put on the CAB, Motamedi suggests first setting the right expectations for the board.

“There are three components. Number one, the most valuable thing you can get from these customer advisors is their time. So the first piece is you want them to commit to a monthly cadence, that could be 60 minutes, it could be 90 minutes, where you’re going to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to come to the meeting, I’m going to bring two of my teammates, we’re going to show you the latest product demo, and you’re going to drill us with feedback. We’re going to do that once a month.’  […] And then piece two is this notion of customer days, you could do quarterly, you could also do twice a year.

“The idea is you want to bring the customers together. Because if you and I are both CIOs at Fortune 500 companies and we independently react to a product, that’s one thing, but if we sit in a room together, we all look at the product together, there’s going to be interesting data amongst us as customers and the founder is going to learn a lot from that.[…] And I think the third piece is just an expectation that as the company progresses and product maturity increases, that folks on the CAB are going to be advocates and evangelists for the company with their customer networks.”

Motamedi recommends outlining those expectations in a short document.

#entrepreneurship, #events, #extra-crunch, #greylock-partners, #growth-and-monetization, #growth-marketing, #marketing, #product-development, #product-management, #saam-motamedi, #startups, #tc, #techcrunch-early-stage, #verified-experts

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Messenger tools can help you recover millions in lost revenue

We’ve all had annoyingly memorable experiences with websites — websites that invite you to subscribe to browser notifications or bombard you with pop-ups that ask for your email before you’ve even had a chance to look around. That’s no way to do customer service. Yet many brands still use these lead capture tactics, ones that often permanently turn off would-be customers.

The principle that underlies these tactics makes sense; brands want the chance to communicate with those visitors more personally on a channel like email. But a gap most brands never bridge is the one between how personal they want to get with a website visitor and how personal they are in their initial interaction with that visitor.

In my experience as a marketer, there are few better ways to bridge that gap than a thoughtful implementation of messenger tools, those chat bubbles many big brands use to offer real-time customer support.

Implementing this strategy alone has allowed me to help my clients recover millions of dollars in what would have been lost revenue — more than $5 million for a local dentistry I’ve worked with. Here’s how it works, starting with where to deploy it.

Picking candidate pages through observing user flow and bounce rates

When picking pages for where to deploy messenger tools, the one principle to keep in mind is that you don’t want to offer customer support to those who don’t need it. So every time I implement messenger tools, I think about four key customer segments:

  1. A recurring website visitor — potentially an existing customer.
  2. Website visitors who have no interest in the product or service.
  3. Website visitors who have feature-related questions.
  4. Website visitors who are on the fence about buying a product or service offering.

Sometimes it’s obvious which category a website visitor falls into; for instance, someone who clicks on your client login portal is obviously already a customer and someone who rapidly clicks off your site is obviously not interested in your offering. But for most other users, it’s a lot less clear. That’s where heat map software used in tandem with Google Analytics could be tremendously helpful in mapping user behavior to a profile.

#analytics, #column, #customer-service, #ecommerce, #extra-crunch, #google-analytics, #growth-and-monetization, #growth-marketing, #live-chat, #messenger, #startups, #web-analytics, #windows-live-messenger

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Creating a robust churn-reversal system

We’ve aggregated many of the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Our community consists of startup founders and heads of growth. You can participate by joining Demand Curve’s marketing training program or its Slack group.

Without further ado, on to our community’s advice.


Creating a robust churn-reversal system

Insights from Matthew Morley of Savvy

Generally, it’s far more efficient to keep a current client than it is to close a new one. You’ll want a system to help you identify which users are at risk of churning. This way, you can proactively reach out to them before they leave.

Start by identifying your high-value customers at risk of churning:

Who is:

  • Spending within the top 10% of time using your app?
  • Has a substantial number of seats of your product?
  • Or, say, has a company size of at least 50 people — reflecting their upselling potential?

But also:

  • Is using the product 30% less in a given month
  • Has submitted at least one non-trivial support ticket in the last month
  • And has their subscription renew in less than 90 days

And so on.

You can stitch this information together from multiple sources like Stripe, Mixpanel, Crunchbase and Intercom. Then, set up an alert to notify your team once someone falls into these buckets.

Then reach out with something personal to win back their enthusiasm. It can be high leverage to get them on the phone to uncover what’s keeping them around.

#column, #extra-crunch, #growth-and-monetization, #growth-marketing, #slack, #social, #social-media-marketing, #startups, #video-ads

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TikTok is a marketers’ shiny new toy, but how do you optimize campaigns?

TikTok is a rising star in the social media category. Since its launch three years ago, the company has secured 800 million active users worldwide. That makes TikTok ninth in terms of social network sites, ahead of LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat. As more people start using the platform and remain engaged, it goes without saying that TikTok is an increasingly desirable destination for marketers.

But outside the sheer numbers, is there any real sustenance to the platform from a marketing perspective, or is this just a temporary fad brands are flocking to? Here’s a look into what makes TikTok unique through a marketer’s lens, and a few things the platform can improve on to make it a permanent option for brands looking to explore mobile.

Better user experiences lead to more unique advertising

Digital advertising is only as effective as a platform’s user experience — that fact presents a unique differentiator for TikTok. Being in 2020, where content creators continue to blossom, TikTok provides an opportunity for literally anyone to reach millions of people with their content. It is a “platform for the people,” as the algorithm sends user content to groups of 5-10 people, and based on the engagement, it will continue sending it out to the masses. What’s interesting here is that it resembles an early era of Instagram, where all content was user-generated.

Additionally, unlike other leading social media channels, a user is focused on one piece of content at a time. TikTok videos take up the entire screen, which leads to more engagement and genuine interest from the viewer. That said, creative plays an incredibly important role in every campaign you run on the platform, especially when trying to grab the user amid a mass of alternative entertainment options. The TikTok audience is hyperfocused on viewing organic, visually stimulating content that could be the next big meme or viral sensation.

Creative is the key

#apps, #bytedance, #column, #extra-crunch, #growth-and-monetization, #growth-marketing, #marketing, #mobile, #online-advertising, #targeted-advertising, #tc, #tiktok, #verified-experts

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