How can a small business dominate digital lead gen in the most competitive industry when it comes to online marketing?


Brian J. Greenberg

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, entrepreneur and author Brian J. Greenberg shares the digital marketing formula he used to take on the giants of the life insurance industry and drive growth for his small insurance startup. 

Brian has documented his process in his book, “The Salesman Who Doesn’t Sell,” but you can learn all about them in today’s episode.

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Click here to get your free audio copy of “The Salesman Who Doesn’t Sell”

Some highlights from our discussion include:

 The life insurance industry is one of the top four most competitive industries to rank for in Google, but Brian has successfully grown traffic and leads to his website, often outranking major brand name competitors.
Inspired by a talk given by Will Reynolds of Seer Interactive, Brian focuses on doing “really company stuff” in his internet marketing (basically, he doesn’t try and game the system).
He starts by building his website’s link profile through high quality back links.
Using freelancers he finds through, Brian writes keyword-rich articles that he gets placed on third party websites through his online PR efforts.
He then shares those articles by linking to them on his website press page.
Brian doesn’t mind paying outsourced writers or PR experts because he knows the value of a high quality backlink (which he measures using SEMRush).
He has a very thorough process for vetting outsourced writers that he uses to help with content creation.
Brian is a contributor to online publications like Entrepreneur and Forbes and those sites have given him very high quality backlinks.
He also writes long form answers on Quora and has found that these gain the attention of publications that then request to republish them.
Brian uses cash incentives to encourage his staff to solicit online reviews and testimonials as a way of establishing site authority and boosting lead conversions.
Brian measures ROI by determining the exact dollar value of a new backlink or online review.
His marketing system has resulted in True Blue Life Insurance having a lead to customer conversion rate that is 10x that of its competitors.

Listen to the podcast to learn, step-by-step, how to get killer inbound marketing results just like Brian has.


Kathleen Booth (Host):Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast. My name’s Kathleen Booth and I am your host and today my guest is Brian Greenberg, who is the CEO and founder at True Blue Life Insurance and the author of, “The Salesman Who Doesn’t Sell.” Welcome, Brian.

Brian Greenberg (Guest): Hey, thanks for having me, Kathleen.

Brian Greenberg and Kathleen BoothBrian and Kathleen recording this episode

Kathleen: Yeah, my pleasure. I got a little tongue tied there around saying True Blue. I think if I said it six times fast it would be a big jumble.

Brian, I was excited to have you because I’ve been an agency owner for many years prior to joining Impact, and in that time I’ve worked with a number of insurance agencies and brokerages. I really came to appreciate that from an Inbound marketing and even just a broader digital marketing standpoint, it’s one of, if not the most competitive industries. Because so much money is poured into digital marketing in insurance. There’s so many 800 pound gorillas in the industry, and especially for independent brokerages, it can be very, very difficult to rank and to succeed with digital.

You’re somebody whose kind of figured it out, so much so that you’ve now written a book about what you’re doing. So, before we dive too far into that, let’s start by having you tell our audience a little bit about yourself and your background and what brought you here today.

About Brian Greenberg

Brian: Sure. I started in the internet marketing business back in 2003, so I’d kind of seen a lot of the evolution.

Now I’ve always earned my money, been a business owner and passive income, by bringing in traffic through Google and Yahoo and MSN. I’ve always been able to rank real well in any of the main key words I’ve been able to do in the past.

I have owned an organic internet marketing agency. I’ve owned several e-commerce agencies, there was one point where I owned about 8 different businesses at the same time. Kind of cut down on that, Kathleen.

Kathleen: I was going to say

Brian: Right now, I went into…

Kathleen: You had eight businesses at once? I had one and that was enough to keep me up at night.

About True Blue Life Insurance

Brian: Yeah. Then I decided to go into True Blue life insurance – the life insurance industry, which is very profitable. It’s one of the top four most competitive industries on the internet and it was a big challenge.

I started a website a long time ago that had success and now I focus on it 100%. I am competing against a lot of big guys with a lot of deep pockets and knock on wood, I’ve been able to it very successfully for a long time now.

Kathleen: That’s amazing. You know, I think what’s interesting to me is there are so many other business owners out there. I have a lot of listeners who are business owners. Who are naturally interested in marketing, either because they have to be, or because their businesses are a size where they can’t afford not to be. There’s a lot of marketing folks who are helping to grow smaller businesses.

So, for somebody who’s in a competitive industry, and looking at trying to get found online and to carve out a niche in the digital world, where do you start these days? You did it in life insurance, but again if you can do it there, I feel like you can do it anywhere. So walk me through what your approach is.

Brian’s Approach to Inbound Marketing

Brian: Sure. The first thing I want to say you know, it was back in 2012 when Google came out with this penguin update and it kind of wiped out so many people that were doing too much organic SEO marketing.

So Will Reynolds, he’s the owner of Seer Interactive, he did this beautiful presentation, where he said from now on you have to do real company stuff. He had the abbreviation RCS. He had a profanity at the end of it, but it’s RCS and what it means is that you should only be doing things that a real company would do.

So, if you get offered somebody who is just going to do excessive log commenting or they’re going to be spinning articles or they’re going to put you in a private log network. You have to think, is that something a real company would do? So that’s the first thing.

Kathleen: Its seems like an obvious one right but it’s surprising how many people don’t get that one.

Brian: Because people are contacted so often by SEO agencies that don’t do things white hat. These days if you do things wrong you could actually end up hurting yourself, which is a terrible thing that I don’t want people to do.

So what I like to do is kind of build a website’s link profile. Alright, so you’re kind of building a foundation. You know, obviously you have content but below that I believe you have links and I’m trying to build up an authority website.

So the first thing you should do is, you should go after all the easy links, all the directories in your markets, try to hit all the competitors. I don’t know, get a listing on the better business bureau. Hit all the local directories and start getting known. And start getting those basic links and I think that’s the good beginning of a link profile.

Kathleen: Yeah, you know I had the CMO of Yext, Jeff Rohrs on the podcast a few months back. They’re such a great service for doing exactly what you just described, which is getting started, getting your directory links set up, doing it right, making sure they’re clean and all the information is consistent across them. And it’s so reasonable. So, easy way to get started.

So, let’s say you’ve tackled that stage in the process, then what?

Building Site Authority Through Back Links

Brian: You want to start going after more authority links. High quality links. Now these days you don’t need that many.

So, you want to pose yourself as an expert. I am a big fan of doing online PR these days. Now online PR, you kind of gotta put yourself out there a little bit, but what I like doing is writing articles. Articles that I basically have a PR person, or I got on to Upwork and I have them release it to all the blogs, all the media outlets, and do my best to get those published.

Now, there’s a couple tricks on how to write these articles, to make them attractive to a lot of editors. Number one, you should always use a number in them if you can. It’s definitely very helpful. “The Seven Ways This,”… “The Eight Ways This.”

I’m writing an article right now, “The Five Life Insurance Game Changers for 2019.”

I also recommend you use a catchy headline. I use a site called It is a free website, I have no idea why it’s free, Kathleen. It’s that good. You just kind of put your headline in there and it will give you a score, and it will also make suggestions on how to make it better. I’ve had great success with that.

But if you give that to a PR person who has a good Rolodex, they have a good list, and you shop the around, it’s wonderful to see it get picked up. And sometimes you’ll get some interviews coming in as well. That’s a great basis to put yourself out there.

But you do as a business owner have to put yourself out there. It takes a little Chutzpah, to go after these types of links.

Using Online PR to Get Back Links

Kathleen: Now, you’re writing these articles, do you have to already have published on your own site? Do you need to have examples of your work or are you really getting these articles published based purely on the merit of the article itself?

Brian: Primarily based on the merit of the article to start. You know, once you start getting these published, you start building up a press page.

I think that’s a very important thing. I see so many people they’ll get a great listing on Entrepreneur, or they’ll do an interview at their local news station, but they won’t put it on their website, which is a huge mistake.

Those things are worth a lot of money. Because look, people see that on your website, it builds credibility and it lasts for such a long time. Especially if you can get it in some sort of interview on video, it’s nice. 

I just want to stress the importance of putting up a press page and listing all the placements you’ve got. It is not a form of bragging, it is an absolute must, to make it easier to get more pick ups.

Kathleen: Yeah. You mentioned using either a PR firm or even going on Upwork and finding somebody who can distribute this kind of thing for you. I think for some small businesses, certainly working with PR firms can seem intimidating or it might seem too expensive.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you’ve done it, what has the cost been to get placements? What should someone expect to spend and are there reasonably priced ways to go about doing this?

Brian: The answer is yes. I think so many people who go to a big PR firm and people will charge you know at least $10,000.00 a month to take you on. You don’t have to do that. There’s so many people on free lancer websites, and that’s a great way to find people. A lot of these people do have their own kind of websites that they do PR.

Although, I can do a release for about $2,000.00. But more importantly, I get the people to guarantee me a certain amount of pick ups.

So, I’ll do a release, I use a company that’s really good but I pay them $5,000.00, but they guarantee me at least 15 pickups, from authority websites that are real links back. Not just pickups that are a copy of a press release. They’re real pickups.

So, if you do that you can value how much those links are.

Now in my book, a good link from a press release from an authority place is worth about $1,000.00 dollars to me. So I know how much I’m willing to pay for the links, and if you can get a PR firm to guarantee you a certain amount of links and they’ll keep going until they get them, it’s very hard to lose on that Kathleen.

Kathleen: Now, how are you measuring authority of these links?

Measuring Link Authority

Brian: I’m not too strict on them. I like to use SEMrush. I have one of the toolbars that I keep open. As long as the website has basically organic traffic cost. I love this statistic.

I use SEMrush and you know what they do? They take the keywords that you rank for and they convert it to if you were to pay for it on paper click, how much it’s worth. So I know if the website is getting some traffic, if they’re indexed, it’s a valuable link. But more importantly Kathleen, it’s an organic link, okay?

So, even if it’s not on that great of a website or that much of an authority of a website, it’s a natural link and starts building up that link profile and it’s worth actually a lot.

Even these podcasts that I’m doing, Kathleen, is a way to build links. So you know a lot of people that run podcasts, they post the article and they’ll link to my websites. Those are extremely valuable links that real companies do.

Kathleen: Alright, I’m so glad you brought that up because, it’s interesting, the push back that I often hear from business owners, when you say things like you need to write an article and get it published out there, a lot of times what I hear is, but I’m not a great writer. Or I don’t like to write, or I can’t write. And you know, I think it’s great to know that there are options.

Using Outsourced Writers

Kathleen: You don’t have to always write. You could go on podcasts and be a guest, if you find the right podcast with the right fit. And that’s another way of doing this, so. Good point that you made there.

Brian: I also want to say this. As a business owner you maybe a great writer, you may not. You don’t have to write all your own articles. You know I have to have a knowledge of how to write articles. I read some books on writing and I practiced it. I love the book by Stephen King on writing well. Great book. But I hire free lancers to write articles. I do. Alright.

You know it’s very hard to keep generating these articles and run a business. I like to find freelancers. I do it on You hire these people very similar to hiring normal employees.

I like to get them on the phone. I interview them. When I give them an article, I’ll actually have a phone call with them, for about a half an hour or an hour, and I’ll go over all the content, and they’ll provide it back to me. We’ll massage it and make sure it’s great, and then release it, because they’re writing in your voice. You have to make sure you can edit it.

But yes, you don’t have to write them yourself, Kathleen. You can hire free lancers. There’s a lot of firms that do so. So I definitely encourage people to do that.

Kathleen: I’m glad you brought that up as well, because I think there’s different ways of outsourcing article creation, and I’ve certainly had my experience with most of them.

What I’ve seen is that where business owners outsource and they say, for example your article, Seven Insurance Game Changers for 2019. You know, if you just put something on Upwork and said I want somebody to write something on this, and you said go and write it, what you would get back would probably be, forgive my language, but total crap.

Whereas, if you’re outsourcing writing and you’re willing to either write an outline with your key points, you are after all the subject matter expert, or if you’re willing to be interviewed and find a writer who has a journalism background, often they can tease it out of you. I think taking a completely hands off approach is a tremendous, tremendous mistake.

Brian: Yeah. You know it’s about quality, not quantity. Absolutely.

And yeah, I’ve made those mistakes too, Kathleen. I’ve hired people on a lot of these platforms iwriter, I don’t know a bunch of them. You can’t really just give somebody a topic and let them run with it. It’s just not a good practice.

What I’ve learned is that you want to find somebody you have a rapport with. And absolutely speak with them. If you’re not going to be speaking with them verbally over the telephone, it’s not really worth doing. You have to treat them almost like they’re an employee.

I like to find people that are quality writers, and I stick with them. Right. All these freelancers want long term relationships, and I find a couple and I stick with them.

And absolutely keep having phone calls, get them on video, get them on zoom, and build a relationship with a writer because its so important if they write in your voice.

And again, it’s not about quantity. You don’t want to pump these out. They have to be quality. Not little short blog posts, either. I like to write actual pages between 800 words and 1500 words.

Kathleen: Yeah. Amen, on sticking with the writers, because it’s like hiring anybody. Having that ramp up period can be painful and expensive and once you’ve gotten somebody to the point where they’re doing the job you need them to do, hold on to them.

So, alright. You’re working on your back links, you’re producing these articles, you’re getting somebody to help distribute them out, so that you can get published elsewhere. What comes next?

Contributing Guest Articles as a Back Linking Strategy

Brian: Once you start building up that press page, there’s a few different things you can do.

I like to apply to become an editor, or a contributor. So right now I’m a contributor at And I am also on There’s a couple industry magazines that kind of come to me as well.

I like to join organizations. If you can qualify for an organization, do it. I’m a member of the Million Dollar Roundtable of Insurance. Top 1% of financial advisors in the world. They keep coming to me and I write articles for them or they interview me for articles.

I’m a member of the Young Entrepreneurship Council. They also have the Forbes Council. On those they have questions you can answer and you can get them published all over the web.

So join organizations.

I think sponsoring people is another great thing that you can do. You can just do a Google search for sponsors and find something locally, but make sure that they give you a link.

One of the main things is I want to see if they’re giving me a back link. I’ll write testimonials for all the companies I do business with and I’ll value them higher if they’ll give me a link. I’m always after them.

Now, some people say, “Oh, don’t go after no follow links.” I’m kind of from the thinking of that I’m fine with no follow links.

Do they help? I think they do. I think they build up your overall link profile. If you don’t have a certain amount of no follow links, you’re going to stand out in the Google algorithm as an unnatural link profile. No follow, follow, doesn’t matter.

Redirects, you’ll want redirects. If you hover over that link, you want it to go to your website not a redirect. But every link that you build, everything you do, all I can say is everything I do, I’m looking for those link backs.

Participating in Contributor Programs

Kathleen: So let’s go back to the beginning of what you just said, which was that you apply to be a contributor. And you talked about Entrepreneur and Forbes and those are two very well known, well regarded publications. I would imagine most business owners would be really excited to be able to contribute articles there.

How hard is that to do? What’s involved in that process?

Brian: You have to have a little body of work. Again, it’s so much as the press page. All these places they actually have a forum you’d be so surprised that you can apply to become a contributor. They don’t hide it. You can say what your expertise is if you have an expertise in a certain niche, all the better. And if you have a body of work, these people want content.

The other thing they’re looking for Kathleen is what kind of following do you have? If you write an article they want people to come to the website.

So if I’m building up a social media profile or my email list, I have 30,000 Twitter followers and 4,000 Facebook followers and I have an email list of 40,000, let these guys know then in the application. Huge.

So those are the kinds of things that they’re looking for to become a contributor. I do want to say, well a couple of other things, but I just want to make sure that I give you a chance in case you have questions.

Kathleen: I’m curious about this because I’ve looked into these contributor programs before and what has stopped me from digging further is, well number one, I’m not sure that I could generate enough articles with enough frequency on top of doing my podcast.

So I’m curious is there an expectation for how often you contribute? Is it however often you want to? How does the program work once you’re in? And is it different from publication?

Brian: I think they do want to a regular contributor, I would definitely say you’re willing to do it for a month to begin. Use a freelancer to get started. What I found is though they don’t really hold you to it.

So if you give them a couple of articles, you can take a break for three months. Once you’re in, you’re in. They give you access to their admin console and you can submit articles whenever you want. So let them know that you want to do it for a month to begin. I just want to let people know that I’ve never had anyone holds me to it.

Kathleen: That’s good to know. So you said you had a few more things you wanted to add and I kind of interrupted you there. Let’s go with what you were going to say.

Other Back Linking Shortcuts 

Brian: All right. There’s a couple of shortcuts that I’ve been using lately.

One is Quora. Quora is becoming a wonderful place to submit and contribute content. If you can write a really nice answer and format it a certain way, it actually gets picked up. I’ve had pick ups across the board on Forbes and sometimes you get picked up on Time, you get picked up on AOL. It’s amazing how many people pick up Quora articles.

You could also publish them on Medium and then you can build up a profile that way. So you don’t really necessarily have to be a contributor to build up your kind of portfolio of work.

When you’re going on Quora, it’s worth learning and you can see the people that are getting picked up, see the format that they’re using and you put a link in those and you put a link back to your website and they let you have that.

So I’ve gotten so many articles also published using Quora. Huge. I think it’s kind of a secret that not many people talk about, but I’d like to share it with your listeners.

The other is, I know it’s kind of an old thing, but Help A Reporter Out (HARO), you can get a lot of pickups from that. It’s such a pain to keep up with it. Although if you outsource it to a freelancer that really speaks in your voice and at least let them run with it, you can get pickups that way.

Kathleen: Yeah, I get those HARO emails several times a day and they are gold mines and I have definitely gotten written up in some pretty big publications, but man, is it like drinking from the firehose?

So now we can’t keep going without stopping for a minute and I got to ask you to go into a little bit more detail on this Quora stuff because you are actually the first person who’s talked about this on my podcast and I am always a sucker for these new channels and new strategies.

So when you say you got to look at the way they format it, can you get detailed for a minute there and talk through that?

Brian: Yeah, you have to format it. It’s coming from you, so it has to be I and pose yourself as the expert. Those are huge.

So right when the beginning you can say, look I’ve been doing this for 15 years. I’ve earned $50 million in revenue. Pose yourself as the expert and then organize it like a very good article.

Now, there’s a limit. You never want to go over a thousand words. The sweet spot is about 800 words.

You want to give specifics, you want to organize it kind of with the headings on there and then they have kind of like internal blogs on Quora and you can submit it there as well.

So that’s the secondary thing you should do. They kind of have industry specific blogs in core that you can post your stuff.

And then I just got to tell you, you’d be so surprised of how many editors and online publications are just monitoring Quora. It’s so surprising, but go through some of these people that are contributing quite a bit and you can look in their profile and you can see what articles were picked up. They let you see it. And not only that Kathleen, I mean the traffic they can come from it is immense.

It is kind of a lot of people may answer a question and you may not get the top spot but sometimes you will and when you do it it’s so worth it.

Yeah, go through there, find a question that you could answer, do your best. Have a freelancer help you with it and it’s a great way to get those very elusive links without having to become a contributor.

Now, you’re not going to get published every time, but I’d say for me it’s been about 50% of the time.

Kathleen: Wow. Now, are you always creating original content for Quora or are you ever taking content you’ve published on your own website, for example, and repurposing it?

Brian: I like to do original content and what I’ll also do is I’ll edit the article a little bit and also post it on Medium and that seems to be the formula.

There’s a few internet marketing firms, SEO firms that are kind of doing this under the radar and this is the ingredients to do so. Quora, then Medium, and then you also publish on your LinkedIn.

All right, that’s another group I think. Connect with all the editors. It’s a simple thing. Very few people turn people down on LinkedIn and then you post it on your LinkedIn and that’s a good thing. Also post it on your Twitter and Facebook and boom, let it run from there.

Kathleen: Yeah, that’s just so interesting. I’m going to have to test this out now because I have answered questions on Quora, but I’ve never really written them up like an article, so I’m curious to see what’s going to happen if I try that. All right, what’s the next step? We got our guest posts, we got our our back links, our press page. What comes next?

Brian: You’re starting to build up an authority website and most people are not in that competitive industry like I am. So just a few of those links and you’re going to be way ahead of your competitors. You put a little bit of work and then you hired some writers, maybe hired some PR people to distribute.

The next thing is working on your website and conversion rate optimization. I like building up reviews, that’s my thing. I’m in the insurance industry and people stereotypically have a terrible reputation.

Using Online Reviews to Drive Conversions

Brian: I want to be the good guy in the industry. So I’ve always gone after reviews and the more I get the better.

I value a review that on my own website at about $100 a piece and once I get a good review on my website I give them that exact same comment and I ask them to put it on Google Business or the Better Business Bureau. Those are my two, sometimes Facebook. Same comment, just give it to them and overwhelmingly people will give me additional reviews.

Kathleen: Now you’ve mentioned about Better Business Bureau twice and I have to ask you, why the BBB? And I think I might know the answer, but I’m curious to see what you say.

Brian: Well people have done studies and I’ve actually done a study myself. I paid 1500 people to do a survey and I asked them what is the most credible source that you would go to? Which one has the most weight? And I did Yelp, then I did a Google Business, the Better Business Bureau, Facebook.

Better Business Bureau wins overwhelmingly. Not only that, it’s inexpensive to get in. It’s like $550 to get a membership, although they give you a seal. A beautiful seal on your website and that seal is one of the best seals you can get to increase conversion rates. So it’s a double pop there.

And then if you can start getting reviews on the Better Business Bureau and an A plus rating, which you kind of get automatically at start, when people look your business up and overwhelmingly people will, they’ll still look up your name followed by reviews or complaints.

I’ve done studies on this and they do do that and the Better Business Bureau comes up number one and two and they’ll also display the stars. And usually that’s the tipping point.

They’ll read your website, they’ll read your services, they’ll look you up. And then boom, Better Business Bureau wonderful. I trust this company.

Kathleen: Yeah, it’s interesting. There’s been a lot of chatter in search engine optimization forums lately about whether Google is factoring in particularly Better Business Bureau reviews into its ranking algorithm. And I just read recently that they said they’re not, but then there’s all these SEOs who are saying, well, they might say that, but the data shows that they are. And so it’s something that’s been on my radar of, Oh, I kind of need to keep watching this because it’s an interesting area that not a lot of companies focus, which if it is a ranking factor, it could be a major opportunity.

Brian: I don’t want to speculate on that Kathleen. I do believe so. I know the Better Business Bureau gives a link back and I do believe that that link back is very valuable.

I’d be surprised if they didn’t look at the ratings and I’d be surprised if they didn’t look at the report, whether it’s an A, B or C company and how many complaints. It’d be smart for them to do so. I

also have the beliefs that Google actually ranks websites higher on the website statistics of how many people come to your website and stay on your website and how many page views and whether they go back and do another search for another company.

Back in the day and Google I think it was called In The Plex, where they Google would measure what is a successful search? A successful search is when people type something into Google, go to a website and don’t do another search. They found what they were looking for. And I’ve had pages on my website that I’ve had great statistics on into how many pages and time and those pages for me rank the best, they just do.

Kathleen: Yeah. I always like to say that Google’s in the business of delivering the best answer the fastest and that’s why page load times and quality of information, which you spoke to and that they measure quality of information, exactly by what you said, which is how many people bounce, how long do they spend on the page, that sort of thing.

Those are really key metrics for them because they’re in a competitive business just like we are even though they’re completely killing it, but that’s the reason they’re killing it, is that they look at that stuff.

Brian: I agree. I think in the past so many people were thinking about technical SEO and in this one bothers me to do technical SEO, although I think Google keeps moving away from it a little bit. They’re looking more at those statistics and how it serves the user.

So I like to do a link profile and then the quality content that I want to answer the user’s question, I want them to stay on my website. And the more I do that, the higher rank.

I’m ranking against big companies, MetLife and State Farm and then also companies that have been getting funding, getting $180 million in funding, one of my competitors got. The other one got $50 million and I’m able to compete with them.

So it’s an even playing field on the internet and you could have a lot of fun if you put a little bit of work in it.

Kathleen: Yeah, and I think time and time again, the data shows and the results show that if you solve for the user, you get better results than if you try and solve for the search engine. Because search engines change their rules all the time.

You talked about testimonials. Do you have a process for getting testimonials because I know lots of companies like the idea of getting them, but then they freeze and sort of fall into paralysis at the thought of how they’re going to get them.

Brian: I touched on them a little bit. I value a review that comes into my website at $100 and these are reviews that I control. If someone gives me a bad review, I can fix it. I can contact the customer or I can choose not to display it on my website.

I think that’s something that everyone should do. I think so many people are scared to go out and ask them to review on my Google Business, to the Better Business Bureau because the fear of getting a bad review.

Now, I also want to say I value a review on the Better Business Bureau or Google or any of these third party websites at $250 a piece plus maybe $50 each additional year because they stay on there.

So I like to incentivize my team, my employees. I bonus them on the reviews that they get. I do believe that if you have a business that you focus on getting reviews, you’re almost kind of like required to do a great ethical, honest and transparent business focused on customer service and I love that. So I like it when the more people that focus on reviews.

I let my customers ask for the reviews. I have an automated process, but it comes from my sales team. I use ActiveCampaign. After I’ve delivered the service, I send them an email on the fourth, the eighth, and the twelfth day, and I make it very easy in the email.

I have little stars, and if they click a star, they go to the review page. Alright? I have them enter in a comment. I like the stars and the comment, that way on my website I can include schema, or rich snippets, that show up in the search engines.

And if they give me a five star review, I give them that exact comment in another email from the agent, automated, Kathleen. And it has the exact link for them enter in the review. Don’t send them to your main Better Business Bureau page or just do a Google search.

There’s particular URLs that you can give so it gives them the pop-up right then and there, so they can put the star and the comment. Don’t make people click around. The easier it is, the better.

And if you deliver great service, it invokes the theory of reciprocity and people want to help you. And especially if it comes from the person that helped them, and it’s a personal thing, and they built a relationship, they’re worth so much, Kathleen.

I have seen my conversion rates, and I have seen so many customers call me and say they chose me, they chose our company, because of all the great reviews.

Measuring ROI

Kathleen: Now, one thing that I find really interesting is that a couple of times now, you’ve referenced whether it’s what a review is worth to you, or what an article or a backlink is worth to you. How important is it to your process, to understand the value of those things?

Brian: It’s so important. I think it’s hard to measure ROI on these things, right? There’s a lot of studies. Let’s say you get a few five star reviews on Yelp, it’ll increase the reservations of a restaurant by 10%. Look at Amazon, people are just scurrying to get reviews for their products to increase their sales.

I like putting a value in there so people know the value of it. For me, look, if I’m getting a hundred dollars for each review, and 250 dollars for another review, I measure on the increased conversion rate, but I also know how much I can bonus my employees for it.

I’ll run a special for my employees that equates to about 50 dollars per review that they get from their clients. Normally, it’s 25 dollars. But it’s a great bonus for my team, and I track it, and I let people know who’s winning.

It’s definitely an initiative and a main thing in my business. And if you know the value, I think that you can encourage your team to do so and make it more of an initiative for your company.

Kathleen: Yeah. I see, very often, companies that offer customers some sort of bonus, whether it’s a gift card or what have you, for leaving a review. But I really like the approach of offering that to your employees. Because ultimately if your customer is giving the review and not getting paid, it certainly is more authentic.

You’re going to probably get better reviews because they’ll be from people who actually really care about your business, and it’s great to have your team really invested.

Brian: Absolutely. Look, I’ve tried the incentives, and it’s a tricky path. I’ll offer the incentives for an honest review, but I’ll only do it for the review on my own website. But yeah, you’re exactly right. I found so much more value in bonusing my team, rather than incentivizing the customer.

I don’t know the logic behind it, I think has to do a lot with the reciprocity principle. But yeah, boy, it’s a great way to do it.

And also, you want to bonus your team so they have the focus of giving great customer service, and that’s what builds the relationship, and it builds lifetime value to the customers, and it starts building and growing your business for the longterm.

Brian’s Results

Kathleen: You’ve talked about so many different and really interesting ways that you’ve built up your website’s authority, and that’s really how you get the traffic to the site, and then building up your credibility through reviews and testimonials.

Can you talk a little bit about the results you’ve gotten from this? When did you start doing this for True Blue? How long did it take for you to start to see results in, and what do those results look like today in your very competitive industry?

Brian: Look, I’ve seen growth every year, right? I think a few years ago, I was doing a million dollars in revenue. Now I’m doing five, six million dollars in revenue, and it’s very profitable. Every time it goes up.

Now one of the ways to keep it going up is increased conversion rates. Kathleen, my conversion rate compared to my competitor’s is about 10 times more.

Kathleen: Wow.

Brian: A lot of my competitors are lead generators, and they’ll just collect someone’s name, email, and phone, to run an insurance quote and those leads aren’t worth very much. They’ll close maybe 7% of those.

In my business, I collect application requests. I let people run a quote, I give them all the information, I let them view all the reviews. Not only from the customers, but I have people review the actual insurance companies that they buy from.

They’re able to do a lot of the research, similar to how they would do it on Amazon when picking a product. So when I get somebody apply, I’m closing about 25 to 30% of them.

Kathleen: You’re talking about, now, lead to customer conversion?

Brian: Lead to customer, yes. Exactly. While my competitors are closing seven, I’m closing close to 30, which means I don’t have to have that many salespeople. My competitors need to have four or five times more salespeople just to handle that volume.

I got happier employees, my employees love working for us. We’re dealing with customers that want to buy from us, too. We’re not chasing down customers. They’re happy with us, and they’ve chosen us. So it’s a great way to do business.

Kathleen: Now, you’ve got this really high lead to customer conversion rate, and it sounds like a good part of what’s contributing to that is the way you’ve built out your site and the fact that you’ve really turned it into a resource center for them to do their research, and you’re keeping them on your site while they’re doing it which is always a great thing.

How much of that conversion rate is being influenced by any sort of automated lead nurturing you’re doing, and how much is being influenced by direct sales with your team?

Brian: It’s a little cyclical in my company. Sometimes they have insurance products that are agent-less. Those are great, Kathleen. People go online and they’ll do it. It’s an easy sale. You don’t really have to pay commissions to anybody, you get them all.

Most of the leads that come in, I have one of my sales team collect all the information, just because there’s private information that we collect; social security number, and drivers license, and health histories, certain things we don’t really want to ask online.

As far as nurturing, yeah, look, we’re asking for a lot of personal information for insurance so we let people save their quotes. We’ll have them enter their email but not their phone.

We want to be the good guys, and we’ll send them a series of emails. We have a series of emails that goes out to everybody, even the people that applied that we couldn’t contact. The more emails, the better. The more honest they are, the better. The more personable they are, the better.

I like to assign an agent to somebody, I like to give them a picture of the agent. I like to give them the agent’s LinkedIn profile. I like to let them see all the reviews that that agent has gotten, and I’ll also include links to the Better Business Bureau and Google.

But yeah, you have to have an automated system to chase down those customers. I’m constantly surprised at how many people respond to the tenth email or the eighth call.

Kathleen: Yeah, persistence pays off, as long as it’s done in a way that’s not really annoying. Well, fascinating. And you’ve actually written about a lot of what you’re talking about now in your book, correct?

The Salesman Who Doesn’t Sell

Brian: Absolutely. I’ve leveraged the book to do a lot of marketing for my businesses. My goal necessarily wasn’t to make a lot of money selling the book. I just wanted to give out the information. I’ve been very generous and liberal in giving out all the secrets. I don’t want people to say, “Oh, he was too general.” So I’ve given away as much as I can.

I want to give your listeners a free copy of the audiobook, my website

Kathleen: Awesome.

Brian: For anybody that wants to go in there, download the book, I hope they find value from it.

Kathleen: Well, I’ll download it because I love audiobooks. I listen to everything on Audible at 2x speeds. I’ll hear what you sound like talking very fast.

The book is The Salesman Who Doesn’t Sell. So if anybody is really curious about an actionable way to do some of what Brian’s doing, that’s a great thing to check out, and I will put the link that you just mentioned in the show notes.

Get your free audio copy of “The Salesman Who Doesn’t Sell” at

Kathleen’s Two Questions

Kathleen: Before we wrap up, I’ve got two questions for you that I always ask everyone I interview. And I’m interested to hear what you have to say as somebody who’s come from an insurance background, even though it sounds like you’re a better marketer than a lot of marketers.

The first one is, a company or individual, who do you think is doing, in non-marketing, really well right now?

Brian: In my business, there’s a company called NerdWallet, and they started doing commercials right now. They’re giving away such customer-friendly content. I love it when people give tables, and graphs, and they give recommendations. And they’ve been doing such a good job with it and building up so much of a link profile, and they get picked up so often from great publications, and they’re ranking so well. It’s almost bothersome to me. They’ve got a great team of content writers, and I have a lot of respect for them.

Kathleen: So check out NerdWallet if you want to see a really good example.

And then the next question is … And this one’s going to be really interesting, for me at least. The thing that I’ve observed is that the world of digital marketing just changes so fast. As soon as you figure out how to do SEO, the rules of the game change, et cetera. And I’m in marketing, so it’s my job to be on top of it all day every day, and I still find it challenging.

So for a guy whose business is not in marketing, although you certainly have mastered it, how do you make sure that you stay up to date and on top of all the latest thinking in the world of digital marketing?

Brian: Good question. I watch Barry Schwartz’s weekly video recaps on Fridays. I think he does a great job. I like seeing everything that’s coming out, and I get most of my news that way, Kathleen. What I like to do is, I like to do everything per Google’s guidelines and do everything on the up and up. That way, every time Google comes out with an algorithm update … knock on wood … The majority of time, I’ll see my website go up.

I don’t want the stress of having these Google updates and having myself be penalized. I don’t want it. So I play the longterm game, and I think as long as you’re doing everything that real companies do, real company stuff, you’re going to be alright. I don’t follow too many people, I’m not on everything all the time. But I like to do a general swipe of it, and I get most of it from Barry Schwartz.

Kathleen: Yeah. I follow Barry Schwartz as well, and he is with, if I’m remembering correctly … Is it Search Engine Roundtable?

Brian: Yeah, Search Engine Roundtable.

Kathleen: He has a phenomenal email newsletter, and I definitely follow him on Twitter. Because if you want the breaking SEO news, that guy manages to somehow be everywhere at once, and he knows everything that’s going on with Google, at least it feels like.

Brian: Yeah, he knows everybody there.

Kathleen: He does, he does. He also posts some really cool pictures of different Google offices around the world, which I always think are fun to see.

Brian: I think Moz’s Whiteboard Friday is really good. I’ve kind of stopped watching those since Rand left, a little bit.

Kathleen: I know. But do you follow him at his new website, SparkToro?

Brian: I do. Yeah, he has some great posts. I definitely am on his newsletter, and I don’t miss those. He’s such an honest guy.

Kathleen: Oh, he is.

Brian: Such inside info.

Kathleen: He’s writing some of the best thought leadership on no-click searches right now, or what he likes to call usurp SEO. It’s so good.

Brian: Interesting.

Kathleen: I could geek-out over this for hours, but we must wrap up.

How to Reach Brian

Kathleen: So if someone wants to talk to you, learn more about what you’ve done, you’ve shared the URL. I’m going to ask you to say it again, and then any other information you want to share about the best way for people to find you online.

Brian: Sure, and my main website, You can see what we’re doing over there and how we’re leveraging the reviews and putting people in the sales funnel.

Kathleen: Thank you, that’s great, and this has been a lot of fun. I’ve definitely learned a few new things that I’m going to try out, including Quora for sure. I appreciate it, Brian.

Kathleen: If you’re listening, and you found this valuable, you know what to do. Please leave the podcast a review on Apple Podcasts or the platform of your choice. And as always, if you know someone else doing kick-ass inbound marketing work, Tweet me @workmommywork, because I would love to interview them. That’s it for this week. Thanks, Brian.

Brian: Thank you.

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How does one of the world’s top email conversion strategists help clients improve conversion rates and reduce churn?

Val Geisler

Val Geisler

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, email conversion expert Val Geisler shares how she approaches working with clients to revamp their email workflows, boost conversion rates and reduce customer churn through email. 

From the discovery process she uses to craft email strategies, to how she determines who the sender should be and how to format emails, Val digs into the details that enable her to deliver impactful results for the clients she works with.

Listen to the podcast to learn more about Val’s approach to email conversion strategy and how you can use it to improve conversion rates and reduce churn at your business.


Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast. My name is Kathleen Booth, and I’m your host. This week my guest is Val Geisler, who is an email conversion strategist. Val came to the podcast because one of our previous guests mentioned her as someone who was doing inbound marketing really well. So I’m very excited to have you here Val!

Val Geisler (Guest): I’m excited to be here, thank you so much.

Val Geisler and Kathleen BoothVal and Kathleen recording this episode

Kathleen: I ask my guests every week in the podcast, “Company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well?” Because I’m always curious to see best practice examples and also to discover new people to follow and new companies to watch. And when your name came up, it immediately piqued my interest and I thought “ooh, I really need to interview her.” I’ve been looking forward to it.

Val: That’s awesome, I love having these conversations, so it’s my favorite part of my day. Actually, I just realized I have my space heater on, I’m gonna turn it off.

Kathleen: Go for it, yeah. And while you’re doing that, it’s funny, Val and I were talking before we started the podcast about how I really like to do these interviews in a very organic way. So sometimes the dog barks and sometimes the space heater needs to get turned off. And today, I can guarantee you that I will be coughing throughout this podcast because I’m on the tail end of a late fall head cold. So for everyone who’s listening, bear with me as I cough in your ear for the next hour.

Val: Yeah, for the people who are listening like to old recordings next summer, they’ll be like “head colds and space heaters, what’s going on?”

Kathleen: Right, it’s the week before Thanksgiving, November 2018, and it’s definitely fall turning into winter.

Val: No kidding, yeah we have snow today.

Kathleen: Ugggh. Yeah, we had nasty freezing, sleeting, grossness yesterday. So I’m glad the sun is out!

Well before we dig into our topic for today, I wonder if you could tell my listeners a little bit about yourself because I think you have an interesting story and you focus on such a fascinating niche.

Meet Val Geisler

Val: Oh, sure. Like you said, I’m an email conversion strategist. And what that means is that I work mostly with software companies and eCommerce companies on their lifecycle emails.

So that is the onboarding emails, ongoing retention emails, anything that’s campaign-driven. You know, I’m just wrapping up a few Black Friday / Cyber Monday campaigns. Those kind of things where you can really see a start, a middle, and an end.

Not the ongoing email marketing that brands do. But when it’s really about that overall customer journey.

And they always like to say that it’s like a Trojan Horse really, because what you come to me for and what you get is emails, but what you really get is a better idea of who your customers are and what they need and the kind of journey they want to go on with your brand and what’s gonna keep them around long term.

Kathleen: That makes a ton of sense.

I’ve worked with all range of different types of businesses. I was an agency owner for 11 years before I joined IMPACT. So I’ve worked with B2B, B2C, small, medium, enterprise. And one of the things that I find fascinating is how much the sales process really changes so fundamentally based on industry and company size, particularly in software and SaaS.

I’ve always found it interesting, in some respects, for a lot of those companies, that your email marketing is your sales. A lot of those companies, especially the lower priced SaaS solutions, you’re not getting on the phone with a salesperson to go through a long and considered sales process, so if you’re email marketing strategy is not tight, you’re essentially gonna lose the sale. That’s always how I’ve looked at it.

It plays such a fundamental role and so I’m fascinated by what you do because so much is riding on it.

Val: Yeah, the software example is an interesting one because in most cases, you’re coming up against a free trial. So the industry standard is to have some kind of free trial, or a you know, first month, 30 day money back guarantee, kind of something like that. Which is essentially a free trial, right? You’re going to refund them if they ask for it that time frame.

So you’re doing everything that you can to go from, they’re no longer at the top of your funnel. They’re much more mid funnel or they haven’t quite yet made the decision to absolutely become a customer of yours. You’re still on tenuous grounds, as it were.

But you know you do have this opportunity where you are still selling to them and you want to treat them as though they already are a customer. And I think that is what’s the most magical thing about email is that you have this really personal way to connect with somebody. If you think about it, our inboxes are like our virtual living rooms.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Val: You don’t let just anybody in your inbox these days. So how do you treat your customers like they gave you that free pass to their living room that you can come by anytime?

How are you going to respect that and then also treat them like the customers they already are and help them see themselves as a customer of yours?

Kathleen: That’s so funny. I love your analogy about the living room. All I can think of in my head as I hear you say that is that my living room has a lot of people in it that have overstayed their welcome, because my inbox is so full!

Val: Oh yeah. Mine is not a good example because I actually collect emails for my blog on a regular basis. I write onboarding tear downs and retention tear downs and so I collect a lot of emails in my inbox. So mine is not a great example either.

Developing Email Conversion Strategies

Kathleen: Now if a company is coming to you for help with this, walk me through your first conversations.

Where do you start when someone says “I want you to help me with my email strategy”.

Val: The first place I start in every instance is the customers. And this is a non-negotiable really of working with me is that we need to interview your customers. We need to talk to them, find our more about them, about them and not abut the product, right?

So the typical conversation with potential clients of mine goes something like “hey, so the first thing we’re gonna do is talk. I’m gonna talk to your customers” and they say “we already do that, we talk to our customers every single day”.

I say “yeah, I hear you and I know you talk to your customers about product and maybe there’s a little bit of conversation about them or their business in those conversations. But the conversations are by and large about the product.

What I’m gonna talk to your customers about is them. What they need. Why they came to you in the first place. How they’re growing their business or what they’re using your product for. How they make decisions. Who influences them?

All of those things go into the buying process. To know that is pure gold. I have taken those customer interviews in the past and copied and pasted real sentences customers have said from the transcripts I get straight into onboarding emails that have an incredible conversion rate because of those exact words the customer’s were using. And there’s not way that we could get those from, you know help tickets or conversations that really are about the product.

Kathleen: Yeah, I also think, I was having this conversation with somebody recently about buyer persona research in general. And I also, in my experience, found that your customers are never gonna be as honest with you as they will be with somebody from outside of your organization.

Val: Yes.

Kathleen: So even if you’re diligently doing customer research and really working on those buyer personas, you’re still never gonna quite get the same story as someone who’s considered to be impartial or third party will get.

Val: 100 percent. The answers that I get from the customers. Most of the conversations, my clients will introduce me to their customers as someone they’re bringing in to do these interviews and this is the why behind the project. Then I get on the calls and the customers talk to me like “well you know, you guys do this, and I found you” they always say “you guys” you know like I’m part of the brand.

In almost every single interview I’ve done I remind them that I’m actually not part of the company, I’m an outside perspective. Sometimes they joke and they say “well in that case, let me give you some feedback”

Kathleen: Right, “Here’s the straight scoop.”

Val: No, they do. They tell you what they’re often afraid to tell somebody who works at the company. Kind of like, you don’t want to tell the waitress something about your order in case the kitchen might spit in your food.

I think of that as a very similar feeling in software and especially for smaller software companies. A lot of times the founder, CEO, is the original product builder as well. Customers don’t want to offend you by saying something that, even if it’s not directly about the product, that could hurt your feelings about how your marketing or who you’re talking to.

Kathleen: Right, it’s like telling you “you have an ugly baby”

Val: Exactly, so they’ll tell me. There’s an inherent promise that I make to all of the customers that I’ll get testimonials. Sorry, not testimonials, I’ll get transcripts which we can turn into testimonials with their permission.

So I get transcripts of all the conversations, so I have their exact words. But my clients never know who said those words unless the customer gives me explicit permission for that.

Kathleen: You know, it’s so fascinating to hear you talk about this because you’re touching on something that came up in another interview I did a couple of months back with a woman named Kristin Zhivago, who’s written a book on buyer persona research and she talked about how, even if you’re doing this research in-house, like as a marketer, if you’re doing it in part to try and convince the C-suite of a change that needs to be made or a particular strategy that needs to be followed. What she talks about is how important it is to pull actual quotes from the research so that it’s not you as the marketer saying “well here’s what I see as the takeaway from the research”.

It’s literally like “We asked five people this question” and here are quotes from five of them coming right from their mouth, what they said. It’s really hard to argue with that.

I think it’s fascinating because not only is it hard to argue with that, when you go back to a software company or a client or your boss. But it’s also interesting that the buyer themselves, you know you described a process where you put a quote in an email, and I think it’s like the buyer themself is reading that and thinking “wow, it’s like they read my mind”.

Val: When in fact we interviewed you, you know?

The quotes come in handy not just in that onboarding process, but I used them a lot in long term retention sequences.

So, after I work with a client on onboarding and we have that really nailed, then we dive into long term retention. So what kind of communication are your customers getting beyond that first like 30 days and is it regular newsletters, cadence, and that’s it.

They only hear about product announcements and new blog posts on your blog? Or are they getting other targeted communications about their use of the account, about things that will matter to them as they grow their business.

Those comments that they make, those quotes that we have from the onboarding process, using them throughout the retention sequence to remind people why they made the decision that they did six months ago, twelve months ago, just putting those words back in their head that they were using about their buying decision.

There is a period of time where we start to reflect on hopefully everyone is going through their expenses and seeing like “hey, what am I spending money on that I’m not using?” How could I be using that better or do I want to stop using it. It’s a smart business move to do that.

So you can’t hold your customers at fault for canceling a subscription that they aren’t using. If anyone’s at fault, it’s you for not talking to them about why they aren’t using it, helping them get the most out of it while they’re still there. Don’t try and win them back as soon as they want to cancel. Stop it before it starts.

Kathleen: It’s so funny, because I literally just did that this morning in my role as a buyer of martech. I have a budget that I have to, that my team needs to stick with for marketing tools, which is essentially all the software that we use. That’s one of our biggest line item expenses for my team and I literally this morning, before I got on with you, was going through that and thinking “What is the fat that I can cut from this?”

There’s a new product I want and in order to get it, I have to cut something else. You’re 100% right. If there’s something we’re not using, or we’re only using it casually, and it’s not delivering full value, it’s gone.

Val: Yep. So, we need to continually remind them of the value and that values-based conversation is how everything should be positioned, moving forward. So, the product announcements are about the value that those new features are providing the customer.

It’s not about, “Hey, we spent three months building this feature,” and, “We did all this,” and, “We, we, we.” It’s about you. “Here’s what you said you needed, so we put it into action, and we heard you, and wanted to create this for you, where you can learn more about it.”

I remember, as a kid, my mom taught me that if you use, “I” statements, you get a lot more convincing done when you’re arguing with your brother and sister. Right? So, I think, “Man, everything you need to know about business, you learn as a parent,” because all those things that you tell your kids are things you can use as your clients and customers do.

Kathleen: So true. You know, I think what you just talked about with the “You” statements, can be applied even beyond emails.

We do that when we look at customer websites. If you go to the home page of the website, and it’s saying, like, “We, we, we,” like, “We do this the best,” and “We created this product,” instead of, “Our customers have this problem and come to us for X.” It’s almost like you can count the pronouns on the page, and if the number of “I” and “We” statements exceeds the number of “You” and “They” statements, there’s a mismatch.

Val: Yeah, absolutely, and it’s also an indicator of the working relationship, long-term. As a buyer, thinking about investing in a product or a service, you want it to be about you because you’re spending the money, and you’re deciding to hit that “Buy” button and sign up for that product.

It just makes sense to put the statement back on the buyer and take it away from you.

Kathleen: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. True. Now, you begin with that persona research, the buyer research, learning more about the needs they have, the challenges they have, the problems they’re trying to solve through the product.

If I’m hearing you correctly, you get certain takeaways from that. The value that they’re searching for becomes a little bit clearer.

What’s the next step, then? Is it to really, then, look at the product and the customer journey through the product and marry the value statements to that so that you can, kind of, map out a sequence? How do you, then, take it forward?

Val: That’s exactly it. If I’m working with a company that’s been around for a while and has data collected, where they can say, “Hey, here are the things that our most successful customers do.” It’s usually a combination of several different events, but our successful customers do these five things in the first 30 days.

Then, you wanna make sure that your messaging is around … and maybe not even all five things, but what three things are the absolutely most important? Building a framework of emails around that, so that you’re not throwing every single feature, under the hood, at your customers from day one, but how are you helping them become the most successful customer you have in those early days?

How are you helping them see the value that they wanted out from your product through those email communications?

Val: Most of the time, email isn’t actually about getting them to use the product, but it’s about building a relationship, staying top of mind for them, and reminding them of the value that they have at their fingertips.

We know that most of us are reading emails on our phone, and we’re not in front of a computer, or we’re checking our email in between calls, and we don’t have a dedicated hour to sit down and do something.

So, use those emails to provide value, to teach them what’s possible. The call to action on the email can certainly be to login to their account, but just know that, that’s not necessarily what they’re gonna do, maybe, the first time they read the email.

You’re there simply to stay top of mind with them, because people often sign up for software and then hop onto a call, or go into a meeting, or go grab lunch.

You know, they signed up, but they don’t remember that they did it, even an hour later. So your job is to remind them that they did it, remind them why they did it, and remind them, what you provide for them … what value you can give them because of the decision that they made.

Kathleen: Now I have a million questions that are really detailed, nitty-gritty things that I want to go into.

I guess I will start with … You talk about reaching out to customers through email to remind them that you’re there, to stay top of mind. When you work with software companies, how do you advise them about who the email should come from?

Do you suggest that the email should come from, like, a specific person, like a Customer Success Manager? Should it come from the company? The sender … How important is that?

Val: It’s important that it’s personal because, again, your base emails, especially these initial onboarding emails, are building relationships.

So, I like an initial welcome email to come from a CEO or a Founder. I like the following-on onboarding emails to come from a mix of that same Founder or CEO and a head of Customer Success or, if it’s a more technical email, maybe, a Director of Engineering chimes in on those.

I do like to introduce other people on the team, because they’re people that your customers are building relationships with, inherently, over time. If they send in the support ticket, who might they hear back from?

Who is leading the helm in this particular area of the products? That’s the person you want to introduce … one, because it shows a buyer, a customer, that there’s more than just you behind the brand. When every single email comes from Founder and CEO, it’s like, “Okay, but are you the entire team?”

Kathleen: Right. Smoke and mirrors.

Val: Right.

Kathleen: Is there just one guy back there?

Val: Right, ’cause we all know there are plenty of software companies that are, like, the Founder and CEO is also the Director of Engineering and the Head of Marketing. S

o, it’s really important that they know that there are other people behind the brand, and it is super simple to turn around from a piece of software, from this inanimate object you have no relationship with.

When you start to build relationships with other people and, even if that’s a one-sided relationship where they’re just emailing you and you’re not necessarily interacting with them, you’re reading their name. You’re seeing their words.

There is a little bit of a relationship that gets built, and it’s so much harder to turn away from a person, and it’s even harder to turn away from multiple people, to tell you, “Hey, Kathleen, I’m sorry. I’m not really using this software that I signed up for. I know I made the choice to sign up for it. I’m not really using it.” That’s a harder statement, for me, than to go into a piece of software and click cancel.

Kathleen: I could not agree with you more. I use a lot of different software products, and I sign up for a lot ’cause I like to trial things and, kind of, understand if there’s something better out there.

I find, first of all, that not a lot of software companies do this well, and the small number that do do it well, where, from the beginning, I establish a relationship with a person or a group of people, you totally hit the nail on the head. It’s almost like I feel like I’m letting them down if I cancel.

Val: Yeah.

Kathleen: There’s, like, a sense of guilt almost.

Val: Yeah, and even though we’re marketers. We know those emails are automated. We know that there isn’t somebody on the other end personally typing it out to us, but it’s a little tougher decision to make.

So, there’s lots of reasons for making it from a person. I do always like it to be the person’s name and, then, from …

I was just using Drift as an example, yesterday. So, I’ll use Drift. So, instead of it saying, “The Drift team,” it would say, “Dave from Drift,” and it also wouldn’t say, “Dave Gerhardt,” as the only name because, then, it’s confusing.

In your inbox, you’re immediately like, “Who is this? Who’s spamming me? Who’s this person?” If you have some kind of reference point, “Dave from Drift,” “Oh, okay. It’s Dave from Drift. Got it,” then, I’m more likely to open that email.

Kathleen: You know? That’s interesting, too, because we are not a software company at IMPACT. We have a very large readership for our content, and we A/B tested the difference in open rates if we send an email from Ramona, who is our head of editorial content. If it says, “Ramona from IMPACT,” or if it’s just her email address and her name …

It was funny going into it ’cause my theory was that her email address and the name would get opened more because it more closely approximates if it was a person you knew emailing you, that’s what it would look like, but you’re right. When we A/B tested it, I found out I was wrong and, “Ramona from IMPACT,” actually got better results.

Val: It does. Yeah. It’s, like, friendly and familiar. It’s comforting in knowing there’s a point of reference because, also, you have to remember that this is a new relationship.

This is, kind of like, when you are talking to a friend about somebody else, and you, kind of, always have to mention their last name until that friend gets used to you talking about that person. Then you can just use their first name.

You know what I mean? It’s like you need to mention the company name as a point of reference for who you are and why you’re in their inbox.

Kathleen: It’s not pretending to be something that it isn’t, like, if you don’t have a really deep relationship, it’s not pretending and trying to come into your inbox in disguise as though you do.

Val: Yeah, totally.

Kathleen: My next question … These are all, by the way, totally selfishly motivated because we spend a lot of time in my team talking about email. So, I’m really psyched to see if you can, maybe, help clear up some questions that we have.

Val: Oh, okay. So, this is a consult call.

Kathleen: In disguise, it’s a podcast interview. No, no, no. This is why I was so excited to talk to you, because email is a topic that is so top of mind and there aren’t a lot of really concrete black and white, right or wrong answers. It’s different depending upon industry, depending upon what you’re emailing about, but-

Val: A hundred percent.

Kathleen: Yeah, the other thing that we debate all the time is the format that emails should take, meaning, when should you use a more traditional designed email with, like, a banner header and-

Val: HTML.

Kathleen: … Yeah, and when should you use something that — I mean, let’s be honest, it’s not plain text, it’s like, plain HTML — something that looks like it came out of your Gmail inbox-

Val: Yeah, text-based.

Kathleen: … What are the use cases?

Val: The way I like to think about that is transactional emails, HTML all the way. Put all your images in, put your header and your logo and all that stuff. So that is like monthly invoices, anything about the product, anything that is future releases, your regular blog post newsletter, that kind of thing. Those are all pretty transactional emails. Those are great for HTML, templated, beautiful, whatever, kind of emails.

Relationship-building emails are where I love to use text-based emails. Relationship-building emails are the ones that I write for my customers. They’re the onboarding, the retention emails. They’re the campaigns about something really specific going on. That’s where you wanna, again, really hone in on that customer journey and the personal aspect.

So, if it feels like it’s relationship-building, stick to relationship-building, stick to text-based. If it feels more transactional, then, template it up.

When I say, “text-based,” it’s really important to know that I don’t mean text only. You can certainly have images. You can even use a header if you want. Add your logo at the bottom. Whatever you wanna do. Text-based means at least 60% of the email is text.

Kathleen: Now, does that actually improve deliverability as well?

Val: It does.

Kathleen: Have you noticed any particular … Is there X percent more … How impactful is that from a deliverability standpoint?

Val: Deliverability varies by inbox since you have to think about where your customers are receiving your emails. If a lot of your customers are on Outlook, then good luck to you. Truly, if most of your customers are on Outlook, then, … Outlook is, like, tons of corporate customers. Right?

So, if that’s the case, then you really do wanna stick with text-based emails because Outlook does not like a lot of HTML emails. They just look horrible, and email developers and designers will tell you that Outlook is like the bane of their existence It’s their kryptonite.

So, if that’s the case, stick with text-based as much as possible, even for those transactional emails.

Kathleen: Yeah. There’s just so much potential for things to go wrong. We ran into this all the time when I had my agency. You would design what you thought was the most beautiful newsletter and it looked great, and you preview it in some of the different email clients, and then, it goes to an Outlook, or something, and all of a sudden, it’s just a disaster.

Val: Yes. It’s a total mess. Again, on mobile. What’s it gonna look like on mobile? Are they gonna have to scroll around on mobile ’cause nobody likes to do that. So, just considering that, as well, but as far as deliverability goes, it really depends on the inbox.

I’m in this community of email geeks, and we all talk about this a lot. The deliverability experts there have told me that, really, the more text in a email, the more it looks like an email from a friend, even if it’s being sent through an email service provider.

The more an inbox can read text, it thinks that … because, again, it’s AI. It’s not a real person making a decision. It’s an algorithm, and so it’s saying, “Okay, this is a lot of text. This person probably really wants to see this email,” versus, “This is a ton of images. It’s probably more promotional, or even SPAM.”

I want to be certain to say that the Promotions folder in Gmail is not the SPAM folder. That Promotions folder is, often, a good place to be. I know a lot of consumers who get really upset if a brand is trying to sneak into the main inbox, because they rely on that Promotions folder.

They go to it to look at what deals they have available to them … especially in the world of eCommerce. What’s the next offer in their inbox? They’ll drag those emails over to Promotions, left and right, when they land in their main inbox.

So, be really careful about your industry, but also know that the Promotions folder is not like a garbage can. It’s a place people actually really enjoy going to.

Kathleen: Amen. You know, in my case, it’s interesting. I subscribe to a lot of email newsletters just to, sort of, stay up to date on what’s happening in the world of marketing, the world of technology, and also because I like to see what best practice email newsletters look like because we just launched a new one.

You collect emails, I collect email newsletters, and they all go to my Promotions tab, or the vast majority of them do. The few that don’t, I do move over because I have an hour blocked out in my day just for going to the promotions tab and reading everything in there because I really wanna see that information, but I want it categorized in such a way that I’m able to use my time efficiently.

So, I couldn’t agree with you more.

Val: Right, and if you’re an eCommerce brand, and your emails aren’t in the Promotions folder, and somebody goes to the Promotions before they make their buying choices, and if your competitors are there, but you aren’t, guess who they’re gonna choose?

Kathleen: Right. That’s a very good point. That’s a very good point.

Yeah, the issue of images and text-based emails is interesting to me. I’ve really been looking at that closely lately because we’re trying to make some decisions about the newsletter that we send out.

I’ve noticed, even in Gmail, watching my own habits, I have Gmail set up so that it doesn’t automatically download images. So when I go into these newsletters, if they’re very image-heavy, they look really messy because, by default, those images are not opening, and I don’t always click that little Gmail link that says, “Display images below.”

So I find myself gravitating more towards emails that don’t have a lot because they’re easier to read and digest without having to load the images. And if an image looks like it’s gonna be really relevant I’ll hit that button but there’s something to that, you know to making something easy to read and cohesive without having to rely on a bunch of particularly decorative images as opposed to useful ones.

Val: There’s so many use cases that you just have to consider the majority of your customers and then do the best that you can by the rest of them. Use the alt text, uses few images as possible, you know all those things.

Kathleen: Yeah the alt text … we had a conversation yesterday because somebody on my team did a text based email that had a video in it and the video didn’t show up in it by default. The alt text did and the alt text was like ‘webinar promo’ and we talked about how there’s a real opportunity with alt text to change it to say ‘click here to see a special message from,’ you know? Just not something that you normally think about but I think it’s those little details that can really improve results.

Val: Yeah, absolutely. And the alt text has an opportunity to give more information. Like it shouldn’t be a repeat of the heading on the sentence below the image. It should be its own stand alone piece of information.

Kathleen: Yeah. That’s so interesting. I love those little details. I must be a huge email geek as well.

Val: You are. You’re a secret email geek.

Kathleen: I am. I’m letting my freak flag fly today.

So we’ve talked about formatting and what these emails should look like. Where do you generally see — in the SaaS customer onboarding and retention funnel — where do you generally see the most leakage from the funnel and how do you use email to shore that up?

Val: In the world of SaaS — we’ve talked a lot about eCommerce I’m gonna transition back to SaaS — the biggest concern is churn. And churn looks like revenue churn for most SaaS companies.

The leak in the funnel is really around right when somebody converts to being a paid customer. Those first 30, 60 I’d say even as far as 90 days are absolutely crucial to nail the customer experience.

There are too many software companies that are getting to conversion, so maybe they have an onboarding sequence set up and they’re getting to conversion once their customer becomes a paid customer. That’s it.

They hear nothing else from the company until, you know, they get their monthly invoice and they get added to the newsletter segment and that’s it. There’s no other communication.

That is a huge problem for battling churn because they’re still a new customer, they’re still trying to figure things out.

Just because they’ve decided to go ahead and pay for month one doesn’t mean that they’re sticking around long term. I think once you get past month three, definitely past month six you have a dedicated customer at that point.

But you know the biggest problem for SaaS is getting through those first couple months as a paid customer. And if you aren’t paying attention to your customers in that time then you’re gonna see pretty high churn numbers.

You can drop your churn numbers just by paying attention to your existing customers. Stop trying to battle churn by bringing in new customers and increasing your conversions on new customers; everybody tries to battle churn by doing webinars and adding sales people to the team and going out and getting new customers because we have to get two customers for every one who churns, or you know whatever math they work out.

If you just focus on the customers you’ve already attracted then you don’t have to get any new customers. You can just keep the ones you have.

Kathleen: Right. Plug the leaks in the bucket as opposed to pouring more water in the leaky bucket.

Val: Exactly. Yeah. And you know, especially if your pricing model is based around the growth of your customers. So you know if you have something where they have some kind of tiered plan based on their usage or based on the number of subscribers or website hits, any of those things, if you educate your customers and help them grow their business then they’re gonna move up your pricing plans and the more you educate them, the more you help them grow the business while they’re moving up the pricing plans they are also seeing you as a valuable resource in their business in general, right?

You become a trusted advisor as a brand and then they’re not going anywhere and now you have them not going anywhere, loving your brand, probably evangelizing your brand and they’re at one of your higher price points so that’s a win for everybody.

Kathleen: Now during those crucial first few months, if I were a software company that decided, “Okay I’m really gonna double down and make sure I’m treating these new customers well. I’m nurturing them so I’m encouraging product usage and adoption,” I imagine it would be very easy to kind of tip the scales in the other direction and overwhelm them with email communications.

So how much is too much and how often should these companies be having a touchpoint with their customers?

Val: Well you definitely wanna make sure the left hand talks to the right. What I see often happening is that the product team will send out emails about the product while the marketing team is sending out emails about the blog or the newsletter and they’re overlapping one another, they’re creating this weird cadence or they’re just crowding up an inbox.

So you definitely wanna make sure that things are consolidated.

And I’m not saying put everything in one email. I’m just saying make sure that you understand the send cycles in the calendar. There should be kind of one master calendar for all emails going out to your customers.

And then there’s segments inside of there too. So customers who aren’t actively using your product but are paying for it you wanna talk to them a lot.

You wanna know why that’s happening. Because it’s way better to … honestly it’s way better to let them churn out early than to have them on for months and months and months and then come back and say, “Hey I really haven’t been using the product for six months can you refund me at least three of those?” Like that sucks.

So you know I think a lot of founders are afraid of talking to people who aren’t using their product because maybe they have a whole bunch of customers who aren’t using the product and it’s like, “Well then I won’t have any customers left-“

Kathleen: It’s like there’s something very, very wrong with that entire mindset.

Val: Yeah, yeah. And also you don’t really have any customers right now. Like you have people who are paying you. But they aren’t your customers, they aren’t using your product, they’re not doing what you intended to have done with what you built. So they’re just people who happen to be paying you money and probably forgot about it.

Kathleen: Right, they’re like zombie customers.

Val: Yeah, yeah. I actually have an article that I wrote about the customers, those zombie customers.

There are vampire customers who are the ones that like suck your customer support team dry of everything, they’re not great customers.

There’s ghost customers who are customers who maybe sign up for a trial, never converted but have experienced your brand before.

And there are zombies that are like out there in the wild running around trying to figure out how to use your product and maybe even forgetting that it’s available to them.

So yeah those are two great areas of opportunities to focus on is those ghosts, those customers who were around at one time and then vanished because there’s a level of familiarity with the product and especially if you’ve done some major feature releases making sure you’re reaching those customers in that process.

And then yeah the customers who aren’t actively using your product — get them on board and talk to them a lot. If they are actively using the product, that’s where the cadence changes.

They maybe get less emails, but the emails they get are more of a congratulatory and a support from a level of, “We see you, we see you out there working hard. We wanna support you however you need it, here are the ways that we can do that.”

Versus someone who’s not using it at all like, “Hey, we wanna help you be successful, whatever that means. Here’s some of the opportunities that are available to you we’d love to hop on a call with you.”

Get your customer support team on board with really supporting those people in doing one on one calls or setting up group Q&A hours, webinars or whatever you need to do. Try out different tactics because what works for one business won’t necessarily work for another.

Kathleen: That makes sense. Now you’ve worked with a lot of different companies on these types of email strategies. For companies that do it well, what kinds of results can they see in terms of reduced churn or increased trial to customer conversions?

Val: Well the results … results may vary. They really do vary depending on what area the company’s focusing on. And this is the one thing I caution people on is trying to do too much at once.

I think you’ll get no results if you try to do too much at once.

But you will see results and they might be incremental, but a one percent decrease in churn can have a massive impact on your bottom line revenue.

So if you focus on one segment of customers and maybe you focus on churn reduction for those zero to three month customers and really hone in on that instead of trying to cover all the way from new trial onboarding all the way through 12 plus month retention, just focus on a small segment of that and see how that can move the needle for you. And then replicate it.

Everything about email is testing. Like if you aren’t testing things … like I love when my clients say, “Hey we wanna work with you and understand that these emails might not have the best results immediately so it’s all about testing and we wanna have AB tests and we wanna run different segments through various email campaigns. And we wanna see what doesn’t work because then we know what will work.”

Those are my favorite clients. The ones who say kind of like, “Let’s break it and make it messy …” because usually they come to me with a, “It can’t get any worse from here” kind of mindset.

So yeah, you can see a significant change if you focus on one segment at a time. If you’re trying to do too much at once you really aren’t gonna see much improvement.

Kathleen: That makes a lot of sense. Well I feel like I could continue asking you questions forever and picking your brain and having my free consultation-

Val: Yeah, let’s do that. Any time.

Kathleen: But you know as I said earlier you came to the podcast because one of my guests mentioned you as somebody who was doing inbound marketing really well so I wanna ask you my two questions that I always ask and see what you have to say.

Kathleen’s Two Questions

Kathleen: So company or individual who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?

Val: I love Tara Robertson at Sprout Social. So Sprout Social’s a really special company, they do social media distribution I suppose — she probably knows a better word for it. But Tara’s really focused on that customer retention piece and talking to customers. She does it so beautifully and is an advocate for customer relationships in her company. And she’s really made a big change internally and also with their customers.

So I love … I got to spend a little bit of time with Tara recently and I wanted it to be days and days and days. So I love her, yeah.

That’s a great one and it’s funny that it hasn’t come up yet. I know Tara pretty well. She’s also a friend of IMPACT’s so it’s great to hear her name come up on this podcast.

Val: Yeah, for sure.

Kathleen: Now my second question is digital marketing changes so quickly, how do you stay up to date and keep yourself abreast of the latest developments?

Val: So my biggest resource in the world of email is Litmus. So they’re kind of like the email mecca I suppose. So Litmus is both a tool and they kind of aggregate all the email marketing news and really stay on top of things in the world of what’s happening from an email design development strategy distribution. All categories of email they are covering on their blog, in their community and at their conference.

And so I’m a huge part of the Litmus community and I don’t know where I’d be in email without them.

Kathleen: Oh I will definitely be checking them out as soon as I get off of this conversation.

Val: Yeah and they have a really powerful tool too for email testing. You can see what your emails will look like in various inboxes. There’s a one simple button that you can see what it’ll look like without those images displayed so it’s really handy, yeah.

Kathleen: That’s neat, I’ll have to check that out.

Well thank you! This has been so interesting, I’ve learned a lot. You’ve definitely cleared up some sources of, I don’t know if confusion’s the right word, but you’ve helped to resolve some of the debates we’ve been having on our team about emails so that’s awesome.

Connect With Val

Kathleen: If somebody’s listening or has a question or wants to reach out to you what’s the best way to get in touch?

Val: So my website is a good place to start, it’s I’m also pretty active on Twitter and I’m at @LoveValGeisler. It’s So come say hi to me on Twitter, tell me you listened to the podcast I would love to meet you.

And if you LinkedIn request me I’ll get back to it in like three months, my quarterly checkup with LinkedIn.

But Twitter is where I am on a daily basis.

And then come join my own email newsletter. I send out my regular blog post, I write onboarding tear downs. In 2019 I’m writing more on retention and the overall customer journey and I would love to see you over there as well.

Kathleen: So I do subscribe, it’s great. That’s a little plug for anybody who’s thinking of that. I love your writing style — it’s really different but it’s really kind of authentic so it’s a great example. Well and I also love your Twitter handle by the way.

Val: Oh thank you.

Kathleen: Well speaking of Twitter if you’re listening and you liked what you heard here consider tweeting me at @WorkMommyWork to give me some feedback. I’d love to know what you think about the podcast, if there are more topics you’d like to see covered or if you know somebody who’s doing kick ass inbound marketing work I’d love to hear about that because I want to interview them.

And if you like the podcast, give it a review on the platform of your choice. I would really appreciate it.

That’s all we have for today, thank you so much, Val, this was a lot of fun.

Val: Thanks for having me, Kathleen.

Kathleen: Thanks.

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What does a full-time Facebook Ads expert do to get great results for her clients?

Ali Parmelee

Ali Parmelee

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, IMPACT’s Lead Facebook Ads Strategist Ali Parmelee shares the exact process she uses to develop Facebook ad campaigns and track and measure the performance of ads. 

This isn’t Facebook ads 101. Ali is sharing advanced tips, in detail, for marketers that understand the basics of Facebook advertising but want to up their game and improve their return on ad spend (ROAS).

Listen to the podcast for step-by-step instructions on building Facebook ad campaigns like the pros do.


Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to The Inbound Success podcast. My name’s Kathleen Booth and I’m your host and this week my guest is Ali Parmelee who is the Lead Facebook Ads strategist for IMPACT. Welcome Ali.

Ali Parmelee (Guest): Thank you very much. Glad to be here.

Ali Parmelee and Kathleen BoothAli and Kathleen recording this episode

Kathleen: Yeah I’m excited to have you here. It’s not often that I get to interview my own colleagues for this podcast so this is kind of a special treat. Why don’t you tell the listeners a little bit about yourself and about your background?

Ali: Sure. So I am newer to the IMPACT team. I used to be a co-owner of THINK Creative group out of Connecticut and we merged into IMPACT over the summer. So I’ve been with IMPACT for about five-ish months and trying to bring all of our Facebook and inbound methodologies over with us. So my team came over with us and I am focusing on driving Facebook and Instagram ads for IMPACT now.

Kathleen: Yeah the first time that I saw you, met you, heard of you was at a HubSpot Partner day event a few years ago when you were actually up on stage with someone from HubSpot talking about how to do Facebook ads right. I was really impressed by everything you were doing and how deep you were going specifically into Facebook ads. So we were really excited to have you guys be a part of the team because it’s given us some capabilities we didn’t have before.

Ali: Thank you. Thank you. That was fun. That was two years ago. I spoke with Daria and my previous co-founder of THINK and it was a great time. I love talking there.

Kathleen: Yeah. Well we’re gonna pick your brain on Facebook ads here today. So you know you are very specialized in terms of what you work on. And while you, I think you have in the past, you have done broader marketing strategy, you’ve worked with clients across the range of their different marketing needs but you’ve gone really deep specifically with Facebook ads. And what I find interesting about that and one of the reasons I really wanted to have you on is that it seems to me like everybody’s either doing Facebook ads or talking about doing them these days. It’s become kind of ubiquitous which is funny to me because when I first got into Inbound marketing I remember actually HubSpot used to say, “Inbound marketing is about attracting buyers and not spending them with ads,” and they were very kind of anti-advertising and that’s really changed. It seems like they recognize that ads have an important place in the inbound marketing methodology. But I’d love to hear your take on that.

Ali: No, absolutely. I definitely have a varied past were over the years I won’t say my age but I’ve been doing this for quite awhile and I’ve done everything from writing copy, doing PR, to running full inbound campaigns. My previous company we were HubSpot patterns as well so I used to run social media campaigns and everything. And one of the things that I think has ended itself to me having the successes that I have with Facebook ads is I really think you have to be a strong utility player to do Facebook ads right. Because there’s so many different elements with it.

A lot of people think that Facebook ads is boosting of that you’re simply just taking an idea and doing a pretty general ad but you have to think about the strategy behind it. It’s just as strategic as everything else that you do with inbound marketing.

And that’s why why I talk about Facebook ads and doing it the inbound way it is … to go back to your question here it is something that totally works together with inbound marketing because you don’t wanna feel like you are spamming people but you’re helping to get it in front of them. Because at this point people’s feeds are so over-saturated and flooded you have to make sure that they have the opportunity to see it which they don’t get to with how low the normal reach is now anyway.

Kathleen: I will say done well they for sure work because I mean I’m a marketer, I know what’s happening when I go into Facebook. But there have definitely been times when I have purchased things because I’m like, “Okay I have seen this ad so many times I need to click through and see what it’s all about.” A great example is I think I’m a devotee now of Aaptiv which is an exercise app and it literally was just that it showed up enough in my feed. And I was like, “Alright, darn you Aaptiv I’m gonna check it out.”

Ali: That’s funny.

Kathleen: It does work, for sure if it’s done well.

Ali: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Kathleen: But it sounds like if I’m hearing you correctly what you’re saying, at least in my mind the way I’m seeing this, is it’s almost like there’s the iceberg and the little bit of the iceberg that you see above the surface is the things people see that is, “Hey do you wanna boost your post?” But that there’s this giant iceberg under the water of additional knowledge and expertise and methodology that you can take advantage of to do it really well.

Ali: Absolutely.

Ali’s Process for Building Facebook Ads Campaigns

Kathleen: I’d love to have you talk about that a little bit more. So when you work with a client, and somebody comes to you and says, “I wanna do Facebook ads,” walk me through what that initial conversation is like from the 50,000 foot kind of strategic view.

Ali: Yeah, absolutely. And if I keep talking too much just yell at me because I can talk forever about this, I get so excited. So it’s honestly very similar to onboarding and talking to people about inbound marketing. You have to understand the goals. Like I was starting to say before it’s not just about saying, “I have this lead generation tool that I want to put out there,” or, “I wanna get more sales.” We need to understand what the KPI, the key performance indicators, are that we’re going after. Are you trying to increase your overall brand awareness? Do you need more unique site visitors? Are you trying to get leads and more email addresses? Are you trying to get sales? Do you have old inventory that you’re trying to move? We have to understand what the overall goals are. And then we come up with strategies.

So it’s very similar to an inbound method strategy that way. So once we start understanding what your goals are we can start to put together a blueprint of what that means. So we have some clients who in the past have wanted to start blogging. As we all know blogging is fantastic but it’s not a silver bullet that happens overnight, we have to get more people coming to the blog. So we have clients where they had been running, they had been posting blogs now weekly multiple times a week for six months, they were not seeing really any traction with it. Through our strategy of not boosting but we call it amplifying because we do it through Facebook ads manager and I’d written a blog that’s on IMPACT’s site, we can-

Kathleen: We’ll link to that in the show notes.

Click here to read Ali’s blog on Facebook Ads v. Boosted Posts – Which Is More Effective?

Ali: Yeah. So there’s a big difference between that because this is where you’re making sure that you’re using the pixels, you’re creating segmented audiences that you’re going after for this. And instantly from the first week where we went from not having any amplification going to actually having amplification going for it they went from maybe 50 views to over 800 views for the blog. And that was with a very minimal spend.

Ali: That was about $15 a day. So again when we get started we wanna know what the goals are. We want to talk about budgets and timelines for how quickly we want to reach those goals because they all play a factor with each other.

Kathleen: So you’re having that conversation big picture about goals and timelines and budgets. Is there ever a situation where you say Facebook ads are not right for this?

Ali: Yes. Yes. Absolutely. If it is … so a couple of those scenarios would be I particularly love e-commerce and I focus on e-commerce. If a product their average order value is under $50 you are going to have to have a big budget and do a big volume to make your money back on it. So doesn’t mean you can’t do it but what I’ve done in scenarios like that is we look at how can we group or bundle products so it can get the average order value up instead of just saying, “Nope, sorry it won’t work for you.” So I’ve talked with say coffee drop shippers where it’s $20 for the average order value but if we sell subscriptions for them instead now that makes that a guaranteed three months $60 and it makes more sense for them to do it. So there’s ways around that.

Ali: So we look at average order value. We also look at are their goals realistic with their budgets. Because I have audited accounts where people say, “It’s just not working.” I’ll go in, I’ll look at their targeting and they’re targeting four million people at a dollar a day and it’s going to take them two years to see any results. So it’s also setting realistic expectations with people too. And also for people to know that this is not just … while you get very quick results it is not a silver bullet, you have to continue to work at it and it’s not something that you start and stop. They have to be willing to understanding that this is part of your overall marketing strategy, your digital marketing strategy because you have to stick with it for a minimum of three months to make sure that it’s working properly for you because it’s a lot of split testing. A lot of theorizing and then going back and tweaking to get it running smoothly.

Kathleen: What about on the B to B side? Are there situations when it’s not a good fit on that side as well?

Ali: You know it can be harder on B to B but not necessarily. There are so many tips and hacks that you can do. If you have a good size email list part of what we’ll do is we’ll start to audit first and see, “Can we find enough of these people in here,” or, “Can we find enough look alikes, is it at least a 200 person seed audience that we can work off of to start trying to build look alike audiences?” You know one of my mentors actually sold an MRI machine through Facebook ads. So you can sell anything. It’s a matter of can you get the targeting right which is super critical and can you build a campaign structure the right way to make sure that your messaging gets across.

Kathleen: So let’s take it a layer deeper and let’s talk about targeting. I think it would be really interesting because these things change so quickly. Can you break down what are all the different targeting options and the ways that you can come at this?

Ali: Absolutely. So this is something that seems like such a very simple straightforward methodology but it’s something that when we go into audit accounts we don’t see people who aren’t working with tried and true Facebook advertisers that have a similar setup are doing. A lot of times we’ll go in and we’ll see people think of a campaign because of the naming conventions with Facebook. It’s campaign ad set ads. So they think of a campaign as, “Oh I want to promote this one idea, this one concept.” But that’s not how we approach it. We look at the campaign as the objective that you’re able to select from Facebook. So they give you about 10 to 12 objectives you can pick from: brand awareness, traffic, conversions, video views, product catalog sales. And so we will always build our campaign structure by objective. And then where you would normally … when you go into ad sets that’s where we do our targeting.

Ali: So for example when you go and look and audit any of the accounts that we’re running we really never have more than 10-ish campaigns at once ever going, and that’s a lot. It depends on what the ad buys have. There are some campaigns I’m running where I only have three active campaign objectives running right now but we’re still spending $40,000 a month. It’s just how we structure it. So for ad sets when we get in there … now this is where you start looking at the different target audiences that you’re going after.

Ali: So think of this like the buyer’s journey where you’ve got the top of funnel, you’ve got the middle of funnel, you’ve got the bottom of funnel. Top of funnel you are only ever going to target lookalike audiences, ice cold people, people who have never heard of your brand, never been touched by your brand, they just know a little bit about the concept and that’s how we’re targeting them. What we typically will do in there is this is where all lookalike audiences go and this is where interest and behaviors go.

Ali: Now a sort of micro-tip on that is we start out by breaking those all down separately, we don’t go and take a 100 different behaviors and put them all in, we’ll clump similar ones. So for example one beauty client that we have we’ll do retail stores, so Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Sephora, places like that will all be in there. But I’m not gonna put those with other interest categories because I wanna see what’s working, what’s resonating. So we’ll make sure that we split those out. Same thing with even the look alike audiences. I may do a look alike audience of the top five percent of time spent on site and that is one ad set. Then I do another ad set which is Facebook engagement for the last 180 days or 90 days and I build that custom audience to make a look alike and that’s it, that’s who I’m going after. And then I do the same for Instagram.

Ali: So we have a set list that we kind of start off with as the lowest hanging fruit and that’s always gonna be look alike for top of funnel. Then middle of funnel we take those same custom audiences that we built the look alikes off of and that’s who goes in middle of funnel. So now it’s not the look alike but it’s the actual top five percent of time spent on site, it’s the Facebook engagers for 90 days, it’s the Instagram engagers for 90 days. It’s people who have viewed content but not added to cart. That’s all middle of funnel.

Ali: And then bottom of funnel that’s where we’re going back and trying to get people across the finish line. So maybe it’s e-commerce and you’ve added to cart but you haven’t purchased. We’re gonna keep following you around. Maybe it’s an annual timeline download and you’ve landed on the landing page but you haven’t downloaded it. I’m gonna remind you it’s still there for you to download.

Kathleen: So talk to me more about why at the top of the funnel you’re only using look alike audiences?

Ali: So top of the funnel typically you’re going to use objectives that are cheaper. And so with that we want to make sure that when we’re casting the widest net we’re not spending the most amount of money. You’re gonna pay more for clicks and conversions when you start doing conversion objectives for middle and bottom of funnel. Top of funnel you might be doing video views, you might be doing traffic, brand awareness. You may even still be doing conversions but you’re going to have enough things going that you’re casting the widest net, we want to make sure that it is truly a cold audience that then you’re trying to help refine and build into a more interested audience for you.

Kathleen: So you want a cold audience or is there any reason … you know you talked about it being look alike, is there any reason you wouldn’t try to develop a cold audience based off of demographic targeting?

Ali: Yes. So we could absolutely do that too. We have some clients who specifically even have states that they target because they’re best performing states. So we might say this is our …

Ali: States, so we might say this is our women who are 35 to 65 in Texas, California, wherever. The one thing that I usually will say though is we start with a narrower top of funnel in these different micro niches because Facebook honestly is very good at helping to figure out who the audiences are for you to target. You … it also takes the emotion out of it because you have your own theories of who you think is right, but let’s let Facebook actually build the data for us and then see how can we then hone that down even more. So, for example, we have a newer client right now where we’ve started with all of the lookalikes and then we went back and added in as a second phase some of the behaviors and interests and more of the demographics because we were able to see, okay, this, these age groups are the core age groups who are engaging.

Ali: So let’s trim this back to these age groups and now let’s add in a layer of these behaviors, and this is a new ad set that we test.

Kathleen: And you’re, are you learning that from seeing the results of the lookalike audience?

Ali: Yes.

Kathleen: Okay.

Ali: Exactly. Data analysis is a huge part of Facebook ads. You have to understand what you’re seeing and reading and then how to react to it. It’s not just building these ads and a lot of times you’ll see with Facebook, there’s a lot of churn because people are great at getting things going, but they’re not necessarily great at the longer haul of keeping it going. So the better you are at data analysis, the better … and you’re going to have a, you’re … the better you’re going to be able to create results and the longer relationships you’re gonna have.

Kathleen: Now you begin with the KPIs and the targeting, and then really at some point you need to make decisions about budget.

Kathleen: Can you talk me through how you think about budget? You know, because having been in agencies for a long time, I know that the big question everyone says how much did I spend? And usually there’s some sort of an it depends answer in there. And then there are people who come and say this is what I’m prepared to spend and it’s completely arbitrary and has nothing to do with any kind of logical reasons. So I’m curious how you approach that conversation.

Ali: Yeah, absolutely. So as we’re going through KPIs, I get a good sense of approximately how much testing we’re going to have to do. And so this is something that’s really big and important for people to understand. Facebook ads is truly all about testing and so the more budget that you have to be able to test, because the way, as I was saying, I might only have a handful of objectives at the top level, but then when we get to ad sets, each of those ad sets need their own budget.

Ali: So say for example, I have a top of funnel conversion. So actually this is a good example, right now for one of our e-commerce clients, we’re prepping for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, we’re doing a lot of testing in there. And so we have eight ad sets in each of three top of funnel campaigns right now. So that’s 24 different ad sets I have to put budget to. And it has to be equal budget so that I can see what’s actually performing well with the different audiences and then be able to make proper decisions for Black Friday, Cyber Monday. So I have some clients where I can tell from the KPIs that they’re more of sort of a dipping the toe in the water starter level of what they’re looking to do. The base level that I tell people is you need to feel comfortable spending at least $3,000 a month just on the ad spend, not the implementation or the management or setup, but just on the ad spend alone. Because that gives you enough latitude to be able to scale up, scale down and get faster results.

Ali: Certainly, I’ve had clients who have said, well, I don’t know, I’d rather start with 1500. That’s fine, but you have to understand that everything is relative. So I’m going to need, if you want to cut the initial budget down to 1500, then where it would normally take me six to eight weeks to establish benchmarks for you, it’s now going to take 12 to 16 weeks to do that because we’re just prolonging everything. And the budget, the metrics might be slightly different depending on the time of year. Like I would not advise anyone just starting instantly right now because the cost per click is double what it normally is going to be right now. So …

Kathleen: Because of the kind of …

Ali: Black Friday, Cyber Monday. Yep.

Kathleen: Yeah, that’s interesting. Now, okay. We covered KPIs, we covered targeting, we covered budget. One of the things that I’m hearing you say is that there’s a lot of testing you … there’s a lot of data analysis, there’s a lot of like watching results. I’d love to learn more about, you know, how much time are you spending in a given week just looking at this stuff? How frequently are you looking at it? Is it daily, is it hourly, is it weekly, what does that cadence look like? And is it dependent upon spend?

Ali: It’s dependent upon spend and goals. So, I’m in there every single day for all of my clients. And then depending on the budgets and how many, how much testing we’re doing. So that example where we have the 24 live top of funnel ad sets right now I’m in there hourly checking to see what’s going on and do we need to make changes because we’re even testing the same exact copy, same exact image, but square versus vertical. To see because again, from reading the data we are seeing that, this is a crazy statistic, but 90 percent of their purchases are coming from mobile through Facebook and Instagram.

Ali: So with that being said, right now we’re testing a hack to be able to do a vertical image. It’s not something that you can typically just do straight up in Facebook ads. You actually have to create it as a, what we call a dark post. So it looks like it would if it was an organic post on your actual page, but it never hits your page. We just create it and then take it and run it as an ad. But the theory, what this is, the vertical images takes up more space on a phone. So I want to take up as much space as I can and right now those are converting really well for this client.

Kathleen: That’s interesting. For anyone who doesn’t know, can you explain more about the dark post thing? How do you create it? What is it?

Ali: Yeah. So basically in ads manager, when you go to create an ad, and I haven’t actually even gotten to this part of it. I’ve explained a little bit of how I set up the campaign structure and then the ad set structure.

Ali: But, so the idea is with this, sorry about that. The idea is with this, that what happens is you take the same creative. What we do is we build a master ad set, a master campaign, and then master ad set. So we will never ever turn these ads on in the set. And then we take that one ad and then we drop it into each of the different ad sets. So in those 24 different ad sets that I’ve been talking about, I’m running the same exact ad in every single one. 

Okay. So for creating a dark post, this is something that is never going to actually live on the page itself. It will just be an unpublished post. Which then we turn into an ad. Now we make the master ad campaign that is never turned on, but this is this one ad. So within the master ad campaign we will create this ad that then we take this singular ad and drop it in any ad set that we want.

Ali: So the difference with this is is I’m not going, in this example where I said we have 24 different active ad sets top of funnel. I’m not creating 24 ads over and over and over again. I’m taking this one ad that we created once and then I’m dropping it in each of the different ad sets. And here’s why this is so important. Have you ever seen those posts or Those ads where it’s got thousands of comments and likes and you think to yourself, oh my gosh, this is amazing? These people clearly have a lot of interactions, you’re getting … you might have some negative sentiment, you have positive sentiment. But that all happens because you’re taking one post ID, you’re creating this ad and you’re dropping it over and over. So all of those likes and comments and shares follow it around and are cumulative and instead of having to optimize it 24 separate times.

Kathleen: So you’re taking the one post, but you say you’re putting it in different ad sets.

Kathleen: Does that mean that the ad itself across all those ad sets appears identically, but you’re targeting is different in each of those cases?

Ali: Exactly. So this way I’m able to test does a testimonial ad perform better versus maybe an explanatory ad? Or does a video format versus a single image versus a slide show work better with the same copy? And I take that and the interesting thing is is I have examples where top of funnel I’ve split and tested single image versus slideshow where it’s the same exact copy and it’s a draw. It’s a 50/50 for one of my clients. However, that same client, middle of funnel, I’ve tested slideshow versus single image and I now know I would never waste my time or money on a slideshow again because it does not convert middle funnel, only a single image does. But this allows me to be able to see that.

Kathleen: Really then it sounds very similar to how we approach AB testing with other things. You know, the rule with any good AB test is you only change one variable. So that’s kinda what it sounds like we’re talking about here.

Ali: Exactly, exactly.

Kathleen: Yeah. Interesting. Once you have all of this setup, you then need to proceed with putting together the creative.

Ali: Yes.

Kathleen: Any takeaways or advice on how to approach that creative so that it’s gonna perform well?

Ali: Yes. So especially for top of funnel, people don’t want to feel like you’re spamming them. They don’t want to feel like, how did they figure out how to find me? This is an ad. I don’t want this. If they start to hide your ads, that counts as negative sentiment. People may not realize this, but the more negative sentiment you get, the worse your optimization is. So it’s gonna cost you more.

Ali: Facebook will ding you for it. If you continue to get lots of complaints, they’ll even shut down your account on you. So you have to be really careful. We call … we practice what we call ad camouflage. So what this means is, this is how … you may have heard me talk about doing Facebook ads that are inboundy. You wanna be helpful, you don’t want to sound like you are selling, you want it to seem conversational. So this is where we, first of all, Facebook does not allow you to put too much text on your images. We try to actually not put text on our images at all because we want it to feel organic. We’ll use hashtags in our body copy because we want it to look like an organic post. We will specifically not select the call to action button that you have the option to pick for Facebook ads, unless we’re forced to, it will force you to on videos and slideshows.

Ali: But otherwise we will not because we want it to feel as organic as possible.

Kathleen: Hm. And with images, I heard you earlier mention normally they need to be horizontal instead of vertical.

Ali: Yeah. So for single image ads you’re going to do, that’s a very horizontal format. Vertical you do in sort of the super duper hack of doing the page post itself. And so that’s where you can’t even pick a headline, you can’t pick a CTA, this, it looks and acts and breathes like a post that you would do normally. It just is dark, it’s unpublished.

Kathleen: And that’s really for mobile.

Ali: And that’s, yeah, that’s what we’re finding is working well for mobile where you have a lot of mobile conversions. And then there’s also square. So I have some clients where when I start auditing their assets that they’re giving me, they may have fantastic artwork that I can pick from but they’re all vertical.

Ali: So now that we’ve had this, this one option, if it works for them, that’s great, but sometimes it doesn’t. So what we do there is we’ll crop them down to squares, which then we can use those four slideshows and they’re also great for Instagram.

Kathleen: Okay. And same for video I would assume? That there are certain times when you want certain formats.

Ali: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. So, video and Instagram stories is a whole other beast that we haven’t even gotten into. But you’re gonna look for more vertical with some of those. Again, it’s testing because you might just have your own theory on it and that’s what I’m doing right now. I am testing vertical against horizontal for that same client, the beauty client.

Kathleen: Why do you think vertical works so well? Is it again the mobile?

Ali: Yup. Yeah, I mean and that’s why data analysis is so important. You know, not only am I in the accounts every single day, but I am running comprehensive reports every Monday. And then I’m meeting with my clients depending on how engaged we are, anywhere from multiple times a week to every other week to review the analytics together and hear what they have coming up and then make plans together about what makes sense moving forward.

Kathleen: Just out of curiosity, would you think that the guidance on vertical versus horizontal video would change if you were targeting a B to B customer? Like are they more likely to be looking at this on a computer, on a laptop or a desktop and therefore would horizontal make more sense for that kind of an audience?

Ali: You know what, you would think so, but there’s no rhyme or reason with it. So many people use their phones nowadays, even if they’re at their desktop. I know I have my phone right next to me and I have it open and I’m scrolling through things. Multitasking, you know, I’m a little different because I’m trying to be targeted by ads so I can see what everyone else is doing.

Kathleen: You’re the only person who’s like, please send me more ads.

Ali: Oh Kathleen, I’m not kidding. I have a Chrome plugin that allows me to strip out any organic posts from facebook so I can only see ads.

Kathleen: Oh my God, that’s just the opposite of everyone else’s reality. I love it.

Ali: So, you know, but mobile, I mean, it really is for me, even with some of the things that I’m targeted, think about it. Like I have two young kids and you know, as I’m putting them to sleep and I’m sitting there next to them in bed, I’m scrolling through while I’m just waiting for them to fall asleep. And that’s why there’s, it’s so important for all these best practices. You do want to test out vertical. You wanna make sure if you’re doing videos for that reason right there alone, that you have captions go like all, all in your video for you. So …

Kathleen: What’s the best way to do captions?

Ali: So, there are a couple of different services actually that I’m gonna start testing out. Facebook has an automatic translation for captions. It can almost be like a fun drinking game to see how bad they are when they come back. For the most part, it’s close enough that it makes it not that bad a job. However, if there’s any lengthier … If there’s any lengthier videos, that’s when I would absolutely go through a transcription process. If it’s three minutes or under, it’ll take 15 to 30 minutes to do it. So, it’s not that bad.

Kathleen: Any particular transcription services that you’ve used?

Ali: Actually I haven’t tested it yet. The one that everybody in my community keeps talking about is called

Kathleen: That’s what I use to transcribe my show.

Ali: Oh.

Kathleen: It’s great. It’s quick, and it’s very reasonably priced. And it’s pretty accurate.

Ali: Good to know. That’s good to know.

Kathleen: Two thumbs up on Rev for me.

Ali: Good to know. Thank you.

Kathleen: Yeah. Great. So, the other thing that you do that’s very interesting, and you kind of talked about it already. But, I wanna just circle back to it, is do you have a very particular way that you organize everything on the back end?

Ali: Yes.

Kathleen: Can you address that a little bit?

Ali: So, in terms of that, so I started to talk about how we will do top of funnel, middle of funnel, and bottom of funnel. And, we, again it sounds very basic. But, keep … so one tip I can say is keep your naming conventions the same. So, that it’s really easy to scan through. Because as you keep managing clients for a long time or managing your own campaigns, you need to be able to quickly go and see what is what and where it is. So …

Kathleen: Especially if there’s multiple people jumping into your account.

Ali: Exactly. So, we’ll always do a naming convention of what phase of the funnel it is. And, then we’ll say what objective it is. So, it’ll be like TOF-Conversions, TOF-Traffic, TOF-Videos.

Kathleen: TOF meaning, top of funnel.

Ali: Top of funnel. Exactly. And, so we keep a very, very streamlined way of doing that. And, then we follow the same naming conventions as you keep going down to access. So, it’ll be LLA-Look Like Audience. And it will be FB-90. So for us that means Lookalikes of Facebook engagers for 90 days. And, so come up with your own system that is going to make sense and try to stick with it as much as possible.

Kathleen: Great. This is so interesting. So, I’m curious to know. Do you have any good tales of like using all these systems that you have? What kind of an impact has that had for the accounts that you do Facebook ads for? What are the terms that people expect to see?

Ali: So, again, everybody is different. And, that’s part of the goal setting too, is understanding what your profit margin is, what your cost should be, what your normal threshold is. Here’s actually another tip that I would say, is also look at those goals for the different levels of the funnel as well. Because while you might have a blended cost per sale across for acquisition, you’re going to pay more top of funnel. Or, you need to look and see what that actually is. Is it because now you’re retargeting. You’re able to spend less, because you’re targeting such a micro niche of who you’re going after. So, when I’m setting up all my weekly reports, I actually have it so that I’m looking at what my sales are, my cost for acquisition, the average order value for top, and then for middle, and then for bottom. So, that I know am I on target? Or, am I not on target with this?

Kathleen: Yeah.

Ali: So, that’s really important. 

Okay so one example, like I was saying is a college advisor that we have worked with now for many years. And, she is fantastic. She shares so much good information. She is the epitome of what an inbound marketer should be because of all the great information she shares. So, she has this one piece of content that she gives away for free. It’s the annual timeline calendar. So, this is something that tells you for each month of the year, here are all the things that you need to have on your radar for everything from standardized tests to essays to getting any recommendations and referrals and visiting colleges.

Kathleen: I could’ve used that. I have three kids who’ve now gone through that process, and it would’ve been nice to have that.

Ali: She is amazing. Well, clearly I didn’t target you. But … so, anyway, what this is, is she does a full process with this. So, this is actually a great kind of multi-channel example too. Because we do the inbound marketing for her. My team does that. So, we do everything from having a landing page where they can go to get to get this. So, we’ve built that out for them. We do emails that go out to the database. Because this is refreshed information, she refreshes it every six months, it’s something that people want to re-download and re-engage with. So, she already has a great following for that.

Ali: Then, we do an organic social presence for her with it. And, then with the ads, now I’m amplifying everything that we’re doing. So, this is something where just looking back at August and the metrics. So, we launched it August 1st, and all of a sudden we jumped up for them because of doing ads and doing very, very strong presence, I can tell you looking at this we had … 3,821 people who downloaded it in August.

Kathleen: Wow.

Ali: Of those, 2,486 of them came from paid social.

Kathleen: Hm.

Ali: This is because we did not just say this is a campaign. This is a gated piece of content that we wanna put out there. We used our strategy where we did top of funnel. And, so we shared information about blogs that were relevant to not knowing what you need to be doing. And, then we also took … she does Facebook Lives every single month. And, so we took her Facebook Lives and we turned those into ads. And, so then we retarget anyone who’s watched at least 25% of the video to then be hit with the middle of funnel ad. And, that middle of funnel ad is the offer to download this annual timeline.

Ali: Then, if you’ve hit the page to download the annual timeline, but you didn’t actually download it, we hit you to remind you there’s still time to download it. So, that’s at bottom of funnel to try to convert and get them across the line.

Kathleen: Got it. Now, when you look at the ad efficacy and ROI, in terms of metrics, what are looking most closely at? Is is cost per click? Is it cost per acquisition? Is there some other metric? What are the KPIs that are most important there for you?

Ali: So, it depends on the different stages of the funnel, and again back to what the KPIs are that we set. But, I’m always going to be looking at a few different key areas. So, again, if it’s legion versus eCommerce, for eCommerce I’m looking at returns on ad spend. The purchase conversion value, the budget. How much of the budget is being spent that we’ve set? How many purchases? I’m also looking at link clicks. It’s really important to look at outbound link clicks and the CTR. So, the click through rate, CTR, is something that you always want to be a bare minimum of 1%. If it’s under 1%, this is where we have a CRO problem. And, you have to start working backwards to say I’m getting a lot of activity on the ad. But, I’m not getting enough people who are clicking through. Or, they’re bouncing. They’re not happy. They’re not staying there.

Ali: And so you have to start then becoming a sleuth in terms of what’s going on, on the site as well. So, I’m looking at those, as I mentioned, link clicks. And, relevance is also another one. So, relevance, you can get up to a 10 score. So, this client, the college advisor. She … we do the blog amplification for her. She has such a very strong presence through her ads campaign and her inbound marketing that I don’t have a single ad that’s running for her that’s under an eight relevance. She’s just phenomenal. Because we’ve honed the targeting so much. If you start to see that your relevance is three, four, something’s wrong. You have to either tweak that ad set or kill it.

Kathleen: And, relevance is a score that Facebook gives to you?

Ali: Yes. So, this is … that’s determined … there’s a couple of different things that go into it. But, I like to look at how many link clicks are you getting? Are you getting shares? Are you getting comments? Is it positive sentiment? Negative sentiment? All of that goes into the relevance.

Kathleen: Wow. It’s fascinating how much goes into this, because you know, going back to what we first talked about in the beginning. It’s so easy to just think, oh yeah. I’m gonna boost my post for $50.00 and just see what happens. Sure, I’m sure you can get some results there, but it really is such a science.

Ali: Absolutely.

Kathleen: No wonder people hire Facebook ads experts, because it’s a lot.

Ali: It really is. It is. And, that’s why even sometimes people say, well don’t you wanna learn other channels? And, yes. I’m interested in learning other channels. But, this changes all the time. There’s so much that you need to stay on top of that I have all I can to just keep working on clients and keep myself learning as well.

Kathleen: You are plenty busy.

Ali: Yes.

Kathleen’s Two Questions

Kathleen: Now there’s two questions I always ask my guests. And I’m gonna do a twist on one of them with you. I always ask, the first question is, company or individual. Who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now? But, you’re so deep in the Facebook ad space, I’m gonna amend that to be, company or individual. Who do you think is killing it with Facebook ads right now?

Ali: So, I am very privileged to have a great community. It’s a very similar community to the inbound community as well where we all support each other. We have our own Facebook groups that we participate in. We share the hacks and tips and tricks. So, there are a handful. I particularly love a few people. Scott Seward and Dee, they are Right Hook, and they’re out of Australia. And, they are just wonderful. They’re great with eCommerce. I love my mentors. I’ve learned from Kat Howell, who I would not know anything if it weren’t for Kat Howell.

Ali: And, then honestly, a lot of just my peers in the group. They’re wonderful. I work with them often, and we all have little bits of golden nuggets, I call them, that we share with each other, that helps. Because, like I said, some things do change. And, so we are constantly posting. But, there’s a really strong community out there. Kat Howell by far, has changed the way I approach Facebook ads.

Kathleen: Oh great. Now I think I know the answer to this, because I think you just said it. But, I’m gonna just double check anyway. With things changing so quickly, how do you stay up to date? Is it primarily through this group of … community of practice if you will?

Ali: Absolutely. So, there’s a couple of great groups out there. The Facebook ad hacks. So, Kat Howell has a couple of different varieties. I’m part of her mastermind group, and I could not imagine not being part of it. You can go through, she even has really great simple programs, Facebook ads that convert. I’ve gone through a lot of the different programs, but now I have this community. There’s other good communities out there too. So, actually, Scott and Dee, they started their own eCommerce heavyweights Facebook group. That’s another great one to be a part of.

Ali: Oh God. There’s some other really strong podcasts that are out there too. I can even help … I’ll grab a couple and give them to you if you want to post them.

Ali’s Favorite Podcasts and Facebook Groups:

The Ecommerce Influence Podcast eCommerce Heavyweights (Facebook Group) Facebook Ad Hacks (Facebook Group)

Kathleen: That would be great. I’m always on the hunt for more podcasts to listen to. I’m a total podcast junkie, which is probably why I have a podcast. Fantastic. Well, I’ll definitely include links to all of that in the show notes. But, if somebody is interested in learning more about this wants to ask you a question, wants to reach out to you, what is the best way for them to find you online?

Ali: They can find me on Facebook. I pretty much will become friends with everybody, because that’s what I do. I’m on LinkedIn as well. They can go through, I have some articles that are posted on the impact blog as well on Facebook ads. So, read through those as well. And, you can email me too.

Kathleen: Great. All right. Well, thank you so much, Ali. This has been super interesting. I mean, I still feel like my head spins every time we get to this level of depth of Facebook ads. But, every time I talk to you, I learn so much more. And, I’m sure that everybody listening feels the same. It’s really interesting.

Ali: Well, thank you for having me. I know I can go on and on. So, apologies if I rambled too much.

Kathleen: No. Don’t apologize. It was great.

Ali: Wonderful.

Kathleen: And, if you’re listening, and you liked what you heard, I would very much appreciate it if you would give the podcast a review. I know I say this every week, but it really does make a difference. So, if you go onto Apple Podcasts or whatever platform you listen on and leave a review that would be much appreciated. And, if you know somebody doing kick ass inbound marketing work, Tweet me @workmommywork, because I would love to interview them.

Kathleen: That’s it for this week. Thank you again for listening.

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