How can you reduce your Facebook ads cost per click by 90% and increase lead conversion rates?

Moby Siddique

Moby Siddique

This week onThe Inbound Success Podcast I spoke with Moby Siddique of RedPandas Digital, a Sydney, Australia-based inbound marketing agency and HubSpot partner, about some innovative Facebook ads approaches he’s taken that have dramatically improved his return on ad spend (ROAS).

Some of Moby’s most successful Facebook ads campaigns actually connect Facebook users to a Facebook Messenger bot, which can then offer them discount codes or other offers and opportunities for conversion. The cost per click on these campaigns is 10x lower than it is for others, and the conversion rates average 30% or more.

This week’s episode of The Inbound Success Podcast is brought to you by our sponsor, IMPACT Live,  the most immersive and high energy learning experience for marketers and business leaders. IMPACT Live takes place August 6-7, 2019 in Hartford Connecticut and is headlined by Marcus Sheridan along with keynote speakers including world-renowned Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith and Drift CEO and Co-Founder David Cancel.

Inbound Success Podcast listeners can save 10% off the price of tickets with the code “SUCCESS”. 

Click here to learn more or purchase tickets for IMPACT Live

Some highlights from my conversation with Moby include:

Moby Siddique is the Head Strategy Panda with RedPandas Digital, an inbound marketing agency and HubSpot partner based in Sydney, Australia.
Some of Moby’s most successful campaigns have run over Facebooks ads connected with Facebook Messenger bots.
Facebook Messages have a 90%+ open rate.
For one restaurant ad campaign that Moby and his team developed, Facebook users see an ad with a picture of a pavlova (pastry) on it. The ad tells them to type the word that describes what they feel when they see the picture, and when they do this, it triggers a messenger bot (via Facebook Messages) that offers them a discount code.
Moby uses MobileMonkey to build his Facebook Messenger bots.
Encouraging users to comment on the ad serves another purpose of improving the ad’s quality score.
Once a user is engaged via Facebook Messenger, the business can then continue to nurture them through subsequent Facebook messages.
Moby’s Facebook ads to messenger bot combination has resulted in a cost per click that is 10% of what is was with more traditional Facebook ads.
The coupons that he offers via the messenger bot have a 30% redemption rate, on average.

Resources from this episode:

Save 10% off the price of tickets to IMPACT Live with promo code “SUCCESS”
Connect with Moby Siddique on LinkedIn
Follow Moby on Twitter
RedPandas Digital website
Listen to Moby’s Inbound Buzz podcast
MobileMonkey website
View IMPACT’s webinar with Larry Kim on “10 Hacks to Master Chatbot Marketing to Stay Ahead of Your Competitors”

Listen to the podcast to learn exactly how Moby structures his Facebook ads campaigns, how they’re connected to Facebook Messenger, how he’s building his messenger bots and more.


Kathleen Booth (Host):Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast. I’m your host, Kathleen Booth and today my guest is Moby Siddique, who is the Head Strategy Panda at Redpandas. Welcome, Moby.

Moby Siddique (Guest): Thank you, Kathleen. It’s great to be here.

Moby Siddique and Kathleen BoothMoby and Kathleen recording this episode

Kathleen: Yeah, you know, I occasionally have guests that I get particularly excited to interview because I always ask people at the end of my podcast who’s doing inbound marketing really well. And it is the people that get mentioned in the answers to those questions that I then think immediately, “I need to interview that person.”

Your name has come up a few times both in the podcast as well as with people that I am friends or colleagues with. I’ve heard your name so many times. People say, “You have to interview Moby,” and was finally like “Alright. I’m just gonna reach out to him and see if he’s game.” So I’m super excited that you’re here today.

Moby: Oh no, pressure. All good, all good. It’s great to be here, Kathleen.

Kathleen: And not only are you here today, you’re actually here tomorrow because you are across the world in the next day. It is Wednesday my time and it is Thursday your time. Even better, I think you’re the guest I’ve had from the furthest away, so you get the badge for that.

Moby: Sweet, just don’t interview anyone from New Zealand. No, I’m kidding!

Kathleen: There you go.

Moby: We have a good rivalry with them.

About Moby and RedPandas

Kathleen: Tell my listeners a little bit more about yourself and your company and where you’re from. Paint the picture for us.

Moby: Yeah, awesome. I’ll try to say something a little bit different from, ’cause at the end of the day inbound marketing agencies, how different are we really? We all try to achieve the same problem.

Three, four years ago I was working at an agency. I didn’t like how it was being done and I thought, “Hey I can do this.”

Then fast forward a year or two I ate some humble pie. I realized it’s a lot harder than you think it is, and that was actually a really good awakening for us because it’s like, “Okay cool. We really have to get back to inbound marketing.”

At the end of the day marketing is all about trust. We built our agency on a lot of trust and on giving away a lot of information. That’s really where my speaking passion came from, as well, so I do a little bit of speaking. I just started breaking the international, I guess got my first paid international gig this year which is cool. Didn’t have to do them for free anymore.

Kathleen: Congratulations.

Moby: Thank you, thank you. That was really cool. But yeah, so I guess my day job is essentially Head Strategy Panda at Redpandas Digital. Clients come in and our job is to translate their offline problems into digital solutions. We’re a HubSpot partner, as well, and yeah. I guess we do the best we can.

Kathleen: Based in what city?

Moby: Sydney, Australia.

Kathleen: Alright, excellent. I’ve never been to Australia. So if you need a speaker at your next HUG and you can pay travel fees, you know who to call.

Moby: Yeah, awesome.

Kathleen: That would be a nice world that we would live in if the HUGs would pay travel fees transatlantically or transpacifically, I guess in this case.

Moby: Oh yeah, we also run Sydney HUG, too, by the way. I know you guys.

Kathleen: Yeah, so I have heard so much about you guys and you must be doing inbound well because you seem to be one of the more well liked agency owners within the community of agency owners. The nice things about the HubSpot community, at least in my experience, is it’s not super competitive. But still to be the most well liked guy within a group of guys and girls who are about likeability and trust is a high honor.

I’d love to know some of what you’re working on with your clients and what you’re doing to find success with them.

Moby: Yeah, really at the end of the day the inbound playbook has been so, I guess, just cookie cutter. And that’s been fine for a number of years.

It depends on what type of client we have. Often when we have a client for the very first time, there’s some very basic fundamentals that are missing. Sure, they’re not really looking at personas and their messaging. Even their value proposition, so in terms of what makes them different? You only really know that once you know your personas, know what they care about. You have a whole augmented package of value so you can actually say, “Yeah, this is our value proposition. This is where we stand in the market.”

We do these two or three things very, very well for you. Often in the start, clients are … When we meet clients that have maybe grown organically that had a lot of referrals, but now they’ve kind of hit a plateau. For them it’s actually quite easy.

But then you have clients on the other spectrum who’ve been doing things for a while or clients we’ve been working with for a long time, and then we’ve just gotta think about at a channel level, what do we do to get them to that authority level?

On one side it’s like how do we actually … What are our basics? What do we actually stand for? And then let’s think about the type of content and videos we need.

Usually they don’t have that stuff, it’s very simple. But on the other side, once they’re actually quite mature, how do we take them to a real authority level? ‘Cause it’s easy to say that at any level, but it’s really the brands that are a little bit mature and have the ability to do things like podcast, to do things like webinars. Things that are hard.

So really it really is that. And then of course you have things that are a little bit kind of left field. So trying to combine different technologies together.

I know you guys do a lot of bot marketing on your side. We do a lot of that, as well, but one thing that very few people, particularly in our market, are doing anyway is using Facebook ads to go to bots and then use bots as forms and for filling their funnel that way. As opposed to taking them, let’s take them to a landing page that takes three seconds to load and then take them to something else and then pay for another ad to keep them in the funnel.

So always just trying to shorten the funnel. I don’t know if that answers your question but I guess it depends on where they are in their life cycle, and we can act accordingly.

Kathleen: Yeah, that’s interesting that you brought up working with clients on their value proposition because I don’t think that there’s many inbound marketing agencies particularly that do that. Part of that is symptomatic of this cookie cutter approach that HubSpot espoused for so many years of attract, convert, close, delight. Their methodology was the playbook and it didn’t have a piece that was about positioning or value proposition or differentiation.

I know we’ve run into the same thing where we’ll have clients come to us and if we just ran the traditional inbound playbook, we’d probably be very successful at generating leads for them. And this has even happened, but they would be the wrong kind of leads.

We actually got into doing messaging for clients for the same reason because if you wanna deliver the right kinds of leads, you really have to understand not only the personas but how to message to those personas so that it resonates with the right people. Not just any person. So that’s so important.

Facebook Messenger Ads + Bots

Kathleen: I’m so intrigued by what you just said about Facebook ads. I would love to dive a little deeper into that. You talked about using Facebook ads to drive people to a bot. Tell me more.

Moby: Yeah, so that’s … And there’s very clever ways to do it now and the thing about Facebook is almost any channel, but very specifically on Facebook, you’ve gotta do it before they change and they make it hard for you.

All marketers, I’m sure you’ve had this conversation with others, all marketers we lament the fact how Facebook at first is like, “Hey, use Facebook for your brand.” This is seven, eight years ago. Then people start putting their logo on bus boards – Literally advertising for Facebook on TV and billboards and whatever – and they’re like, “Oh we’re gonna take that away from you now.”

I guess anything we talk about, if you’re listening to this a year later, it might not even be around anymore. You have to be very fast.

To that point really quickly, I know with subscriptions, so with Facebook you can treat it like a form of email blasting and they call them chat blasting, bot blasting or whatever. Where once you get people, I guess, subscribed to your messenger, you can blast them with messages like gifs and videos and really cool stuff.

At the moment I think they have open rate, I don’t … This might be a month or two old now, but I think their open rates are 90% plus.

Marketers haven’t ruined Messenger messages yet, or Facebook Messenger yet. So if you send them one, they’re more likely to open it. It’s very, very close to text messaging and a lot of users don’t really differentiate between text … The way they react to text messages or Messenger messages because it’s so ubiquitous. We’re just personal messaging.

That’s one thing to keep in mind. But in terms of what Facebook is doing with that technology, they are looking at tightening what you can do. So that’s definitely one thing to keep in mind.

Just to give a quick example, because I know if you kind of talk in theory, people really don’t get what I’m talking about. But there’s an example we’re running at the moment with a bunch of restaurants.

How that works is it’s a nice image of a pavlova or something. It’s targeted right, which is a separate discussion. Essentially all it says is, I think “In 10 words or less, describe the first thing that comes to your mind.”

Obviously the image is good. It’s not on an iPhone, it’s shot with an SLR.

As soon as a person types, I don’t know, “scrumptious” or “delicious” or whatever it is, it takes their Messenger opens … Sorry their Facebook Messenger opens and they get an automated message that says, “We’re really glad you like what you see. There is a coupon code available. Simply click on discount or type the word ‘discount’ and you’ll get that coupon code.”

Then they type that and they can redeem this code. Then they can save it or whatever. Then after that it actually, it’s almost like a mini, it’s almost like a micro site within Messenger. You can almost build full scale websites in Messenger now.

After that, let’s go back to this example. I’ve typed in “discount,” awesome. I may use that discount, I may not, but as a marketer if I’ve done my job right I’ll probably remind this person to use it again.

Then they’ll almost get a “while you wait,” or “before you come in, check out our menu.”

Then you get the cards, like the carousels, and then you can actually swipe and you can see what else …

Kathleen: In Messenger?

Moby: In Messenger. Yeah?

Kathleen: Okay, I have a million questions that I wanna ask you before we get too much further. The first being, when you talk about Facebook Messenger, let’s walk through this from the standpoint of the actual user experience.

So I’m a person and I’m on my Facebook. I could be on my mobile phone, I could be on my desktop, wherever I am. Where do I first come across this? What is my first touch point with this experience?

Moby: Yeah, good point actually. You may … In many, many ways, but one example.

Say in this example that I mentioned, it could be an ad. It might be an ad in your newsfeed. You’re scrolling. It could be carousel ad, it could be a newsfeed ad, video ad, doesn’t really matter. Any format.

You’re scrolling, we targeted you because you’re a particular demographic, you live in a certain radius within say that restaurant and you see this image.

What normally happens is, so many things can happen. Either you can just have the image and just leave it there. But the thing is we want a call to action, right? We don’t want to just friend zone our people all the time.

Not that boosting content on Facebook is bad. When people first get into Facebook advertising, they just boost posts. Not that it’s bad, and it should be part of your mix, it needs to be, but you can’t only do that because where are they gonna go? Are they gonna go to your website? Are you gonna give them the link? What are you going to do?

So with Facebook, you can send people to destinations. For those of you, I’m sure your listeners know this already, but for those you don’t you can send them either to a landing page and you can just send them to a Messenger conversation.

Kathleen: So I see the ad, in this case the picture of the pavlova that you talked about, and the ad is coming from the actual Facebook page of the company or the restaurant in this case.

Moby: Yes.

Kathleen: I see that ad. In this case it’s telling me to click on something to say what words I would use to describe it. Is there a button on it and the button then opens up Messenger?

Moby: Yeah, good question. So this is where, when you said what are some hacks and stuff, this is where my mind went to right away. It is a little bit of an advanced tactic that I’m talking about, and not many advertisers are using it.

To break it right down, your first step, say you wanna give this a go, would probably be just to try to run an ad to Messenger. Then you click on yep, open conversation and then it opens the user’s Messenger. It opens the brand’s Messenger. Obviously that relies on a human going there and interacting with the person.

Kathleen: Right.

Moby: That’s normally the first thing.

Kathleen: A human on the brand’s side, you mean?

Moby: A human on the brand’s side, yeah.

Kathleen: Okay.

Moby: The next sort of, I guess, evolve from that would be to send someone to … There’s still a button. There’s still absolutely a button. You click on the button to start a conversation and then that goes into Messenger and then you use MobileMonkey, which is the tool we can talk about a little bit later. You can use a whole bunch of tools out there that are tools that will help you build a Messenger bot.

Kathleen: Okay.

Moby: And you know, if someone says yes give them this, if they say no give them that and they can design the flow.

The example I gave is actually a level even above that in terms of advancement, if I can call it that. How that works is you just put in a word in the post. I only know of one other person who’s doing this who is a friend of mine. That’s why I stole the idea and I started doing it with our clients. But I haven’t seen this anywhere else.

If we understand that logic, currently cool most people understand I can click on a button in Messenger and it will take me to a Messenger conversation. But what you can now do is you can actually ask them to comment.

Kathleen: Comment on the post itself.

Moby: Yes, comment on the post itself. And that opens up … We have the ability now … It is a little bit advanced but know that it is possible that if you comment, that’ll do the same thing. That’ll trigger the bot to open. You don’t have to click on a button.

Now, this is great and I probably didn’t even mention why you’d want to do this. There’s a couple of reasons.

Firstly, one of the, as we can talk about a little bit later, one of the things that determines how much you pay in Facebook ads is your quality score or relevancy score, sorry.

Quality score is an AdWords term, relevancy score is the Facebook one. How they determine that is a number of things like are you getting engagements? Are people liking it? But one of the biggest factors, to cut it short, one of the biggest factors is comments, as well.

So if you put out an ad and you’re going to garner a lot of comments, Facebook is gonna say, this isn’t salesy, this is facilitating conversation and momentum. This is what we want. This is what we like. I’m gonna make your cost low advertiser.

So that’s one of the biggest things that’s done, Kathleen. Sure the results have been good, but one of the first things that impressed me before the results even started rolling in were the costs per click because it took me back to yesteryear.

I remember when we started doing Facebook ads, when I started doing Facebook ads, they were 20 cents, 15 cents, they were so low, and I saw those numbers again.

I’m like, “Oh my God. How are we getting these numbers?” It’s because Facebook sees the comments. We’re driving the comments, obviously because we’re incentivizing the comments. We’re saying comment on this and you can get a coupon code. So you have to offer them something.

You don’t have to depending on what you’re showing them, but it’s nice to offer them something. That drove down our scores.

The next thought that I had when I was impressed by that was, “Oh crap. Facebook is going to stop this soon.” You know what I mean? They’re not gonna let us get away with this for too much longer, because they weren’t.

If the average of cost per click is a lot higher, depending on what industry a dollar or 80 cents or two dollars, three dollars, even five dollars we’ve seen it in some industries now, they’re not gonna let us get away with this loophole for too much longer.

Yeah, I guess that’s the difference in the example I said as opposed to a button which is very easy to do. The comment triggers the Messenger app to open up or the Messenger interface to open up and then you can have a bot have an automated conversation with that person.

Kathleen: And is that functionality native to Facebook or are you using some kind of a third party tool to bridge the gap between the comment and opening Messenger?

Moby: Yeah, so the last part, that more advanced example, we are using some more advanced third party tools.

Kathleen: Can you say which one?

Moby: Actually I don’t know because I am not the technical guy. I’m just the talker strategy guy and then I have other people do that stuff. But I can find out with our team and see if there’s anything we can share.

Kathleen: Yeah, if you can share it, send it to me after we talk and I’ll put it in the show notes. So there’s a good reason to go visit the show notes. This is the “I don’t know if the answer will be there or not right now, but I’m gonna try.”

Moby: Yeah, at bare minimum, at bare minimum, we’ll share some screenshots in terms of what this flow looks like. It’s just so new. There’s no actual tools that do these out of the box. You may have to use a tool and then get a code or do stuff on top.

But I don’t want that to scare people or turn people off. The fact is that if you’re not even running Messenger ads to send to a bot, that’s what you should be worried about.

Kathleen: Right, right, right.

Moby: That should be your premier concern. It may not even be worth your time and investment to develop the stuff that I’m talking about. I think it will be, but I want people to prove that to themselves.

Kathleen: Yeah, and by the time this airs, Facebook may have already shut this functionality down. You do never know, especially given all the drama with Facebook these days.

Moby: That’s right.

Kathleen: So somebody comments, that triggers Messenger to open, and then they begin interacting with the bot. And you’re using Larry Kim’s MobileMonkey, you said?

Moby: Yeah, for most cases, with the coupon, with this example that we mentioned for the comments to Messenger, no.

But for 95% of the cases, we do use MobileMonkey because I don’t think MobileMonkey can do what we wanna do from a comments to Messenger point of view. It may, by the time this airs that may change, as well. But we like Mobile … If I’m honest with you, because I’m a little bit, do you have the word “stingy” in the States, which means you don’t like to spend money?

Kathleen: Yes we do. Yeah.

Moby: Stingy, I got MobileMonkey purely because they had an Appsumo lifetime code. That’s why I jumped on it in the start. We went down that sort of path and it’s good, it’s easy.

It’s very easy to build and speaking about trust, Larry Kim comes from obviously founder of WordStream. I knew whatever this guy touches he’s going to invest time and money and get it right. It’s a very good first start for people looking to get into bots.

And mind you with mobile Messenger you don’t just use it for what I’m saying for ad context. You can use it just as your bots on your Facebook page. It’s not new anymore but people also take their Facebook messenger and they install it on their website as well. The benefits of that are reducing over time as Facebook is gonna start restricting what you do with it. But you can still do that sort of stuff.

Kathleen: Yeah, Larry Kim is very passionate about what he’s doing with MobileMonkey. He did a webinar for us last spring and we got, at that point obviously the product wasn’t as far along as it is now, but I just love his passion for what he does. I would agree with you. If you’re gonna place your bets on a great platform to build this on, that’s a good bet ’cause he’s done this kind of thing before and he’s really smart.

View our on-demand webinar on “10 Hacks to Master Chatbot Marketing to Stay Ahead of Your Competitors” featuring Larry Kim

Moby: Absolutely.

Kathleen: Alright. So somebody clicks on this, they go to Messenger, the bot appears. What kind of a bot flow … You talked about offering a coupon. Is this a short interaction where they get the coupon and then they’re done? Are you using this to then continue to nurture these folks over time?

Moby: Initially, and it depends on the context as well, like B2C examples are going to be very different to B2B examples in an example of a restaurant. It is a short interaction because people just want what they want.

If the hook was a coupon code, for example, then cool let’s make it easy. Let’s make it automated, let’s give it to them. The system will generate it, they’ll get a screenshot, they can do whatever they want with it. We can track that, as well. Cool.

But then after that, the beauty of using Messenger or Facebook Messenger bots or whatever, is they’re in your Messenger now. So they’re just like another friend, the brand is just like another friend.

You know how we all have friends on Messenger and then they’re in your … Once you connect with them, they’re there. They’re on the left hand side or on the mobile they’re wherever, and you can message them anytime.

That’s the same thing. It’s kind of like permission marketing in a way, ’cause now that they’re in you can then chat blast. Yeah, you can chat blast them.

You can actually send them almost little mini coms, it’s like mini newsletters where you can send them. HubSpot does a lot of this over, I don’t know, I find it’ll be annoying because it’s always the same things. It’s like a gif or something, but you can send them gifs, you can send them images, you can send them video, you can send them special offers.

You can gently sometimes maybe nudge them to your website, and then at the same time you have to allow them to opt out. So if you want to stop receiving this from us, type “no,” for example. Yeah.

One last thing I’ll say before I forget. I think the beauty of this whole thing is, is a human can jump in at any time.

Just like bots on a website, chat bots on websites that aren’t Facebook related, a human can jump in and take over anytime.

Someone’s noticing a lot of interest or and you find this, even when bots are … You won’t find a perfect Facebook bot. You’re just not gonna find it. We’ve had ones for four or five months now and even just yesterday there was a flow … I was chatting to one of our account managers and some poor prospect who was chatting to the clients Facebook bot kept getting the same auto responder all the time. And they were just getting so frustrated. It was like six, seven things that they said and the bot just kept saying the same thing again and again. I’m like, “Oh my God, this poor person.”

You can jump in and the thing is you’re going to have to jump in – either because the bot makes a mistake which is probably our mistake because we probably didn’t think about our flow – or you notice someone’s very, very interested like that person who bothered to message five, six times isn’t just doing it for the fun of it.

They’re interested, so let a human jump in and take over, as well. So sorry, side note but I think that’s important to mention for people thinking about doing it this way are hesitant about doing this sort of stuff.

Kathleen: Yeah, this is something I’m really interested in because I am on the receiving end of some of these. I do get Larry Kim’s Facebook messages, I get Growth Bot from HubSpot, I get a couple of different things.

You definitely see a wide variety of approaches that organizations take when they Facebook Message people, and my feeling about it has been that this is like a tightrope that you have to walk. It’s an incredible opportunity but you also have to really be careful because until now, until very recently Facebook Messenger was an entirely private domain. It has been open to organizational messages for awhile but so few are taking advantage of it that I think for most Facebook users, they still haven’t mentally made the adjustment that that’s a different kind of a space now.

Kathleen: I think if you’re not careful as a brand, you could easily tip the scales and really annoy somebody who’s used to having Messenger only be the domain of their friends or family et cetera.

So I’d love to get your thoughts on that. How do you strike that balance so that you’re not annoying people?

Moby: Yeah, I think you gotta be careful. It’s funny, even though Larry Kim MobileMonkey killing at what they do, they get it wrong too.

To give you an example, they have ’cause you can follow Larry Kim and you can also follow MobileMonkey. I think they’ve actually learned actually, I’ve probably made a mistake but I think they’ve learned. But I remember up until recently, I’m following both of those properties so I would get a chat blast from Larry Kim and then I’d get a chat blast from MobileMonkey three seconds later. It was so annoying.

Kathleen: You’re like, “Guys, I heard you the first time.”

Moby: Exactly, right? And when you say it out loud it’s like, “Oh my God, we’re so petty. How petty am I, I get annoyed?” But we do. That’s how we are.

I heard an analogy a couple of years ago online, and this sounds crude but it’s kind of true. Online we are dumb, stupid idiots, so by that we mean we’re impatient, we want things right away. Even the little petty things annoy us.

I’m like, “Guys, I know it’s automated but at least have a different message or at least wait a week and send it on the other platform.”

But I think the tightrope thing I know we can’t ignore the fact that if you have a brand and if you’re a bigger client, there is a lot more brand protectionism you need to think about. Smaller brands can kind of get away with it. You can almost get away with almost anything because you’re not gonna have a huge backlash. Someone’s not gonna put up a post that I don’t know, Jim’s Fishing Supplies sent two messages a week as opposed to one message a week.

Kathleen: Right.

Moby: Right? In terms of striking that balance, the offer that you put out, because you may need to advertise to get them on board, should dictate what type of content you need to send.

Then the frequency thing is something you just need to test. I’d probably say maybe once a month is too far, but once every two days is probably too often. And I think it is just a matter of testing things as well, and also asking them.

Because with Messenger you can ask them. If we’ve been on the receiving end, you would have noticed that with Messenger little menus will come up where it will say, “Okay, what size company are you?” For example. One to five, six to 10, 50 plus or whatever.

You can ask them periodically as well, what types of content do you value from us? And of course you always have to have that opt out.

Testing different content, like whatever content that seems to be working with your audience on Facebook already in your normal coms already, is probably a good bet to talk about. Then the frequency is just a trial and error thing.

Kathleen: I feel like there’s also something to this that relates to the type of organization you are and the reason your audience wanted to connect with you on Messenger in the first place.

So like when you first said you’re using this with restaurants, I used to have some restaurant clients here where I lived in Annapolis, Maryland. I think that’s actually a really interesting use case because restaurants run specials. Some of the restaurants I worked with had events. One of them actually had a venue space where they would have bands or they would have a poetry reading night.

I think if you have things like that and you have somebody who’s local and close by and interested, that’s a great use case for somebody who wants to stay up to date on what’s happening in your business.

Or I can imagine if you’re a B2B brand and you’ve got somebody who’s interested in your webinar series and they wanna be notified if a new one comes up.

I think where I’ve seen it poorly used at least from a user standpoint is for what I would call lead nurturing for a single product. Where you’re constantly getting reminders of, “Hey, schedule a demo. Check out our product.”

After a while, you’re like “It’s been four months and I haven’t checked your product out. If you don’t have anything new to say to me, stop.”

That’s just something that has struck me as a user, but I’d be curious to hear from you. What types of businesses do you think this is right for?

Moby: Yeah, so it’s kind of funny because when you think back to even a couple of years ago people used to say Facebook isn’t for B2B. There’s so many user cases that proved that’s wrong, so I know there is a context for B2B.

But to be completely honest with you, Kathleen – and it’s funny most of our clients are actually B2B – but we’ve only done this so far with our B2C clients. We’ve done this with restaurants, we’ve done this with childcare, we did this with a martial arts company. A company that is kind of like a little bit of MMA where you can sign up to these programs.

They’re the ones that we don’t, so if I’m completely honest with you I don’t know.

We found it worked very well with all those consumer type brands and I think with B2B, if we look at examples that have been marketed to us with, it’s like you sort of said. Why do people connect with us in the first place?

There’s hockey examples where … There’s bad examples where people were just sort of saying schedule a demo. That’s probably also indicative of a bad content marketing strategy as well because if you’re always going for the sale, particularly in the B2B world, you’re not gonna get anything.

I think there is a context for everyone on the B2B side. What did they actually sign up with you for? What’s working? If you don’t know what’s working that means maybe you don’t have a content strategy. Maybe you don’t have lead nurturing magnets already or you’re not putting out content, you know?

You guys put out a lot of content, so you have a very good indication of what’s resonating relative to other stuff. In your context or your industry rather, some of those things are gonna work quite well in Messenger.

And then I think another guideline to keep in mind is where you can be careful of sending them away from Messenger too much. Don’t always be blasting things like “Here’s a link to our eBook, here’s a link to our eBook, here’s a link to our eBook.”

They’re in Messenger so they’re used to a conversational flow. If you wanna give them the eBook, firstly don’t do it every month or every week. Spread it out with your other types of content.

But if you do want to give it to them with Messenger you can have forms. So what’s your name? Can I get your name? That’s … The user can’t tell but that’s a form fill. That’s saving somewhere in a database somewhere as a name.

Okay, awesome. Can I get your email address? Cool. Oh by the way, do you mind me asking now that I’ve got your email address, I don’t care if you don’t answer the next part, do you mind asking me what your budget is? For example, if you want. If you’re feeling really brave. That’s all saved somewhere now.

So the other mistake, and I see these one of the first mistakes that brands will make with the bot, and I don’t blame them because we’re just all learning this stuff, is I’ll say, “Can’t we just send them to a landing page?”

This happened to us just yesterday where a client said, “We’ve got these programs,” so this martial arts company, we’ve got 10 launching across the world, “Can’t we just give 10 links depending on what they give?”

I’m like, “You could, but why are we doing this in the first place? We have those links. We have ads that run to those links and those landing pages anyway. They’re working in the one capacity.

This is a different strategy, so ask them for their name, email address, whatever. Try to kind of keep them there as much as you can.” I think that’s another, I guess, good little pro tip as well, if you’re trying to use this stuff.

Kathleen: Yeah, I feel like so much of the decisions that marketers make are driven by our inherent desire to make everything so trackable, right? And if there’s a way to … We’re thinking first, “Oh well if I send them to a landing page, then I get them to convert. Then I can track the conversion rate and the this and the that.”

It’s so clean for us but we’re solving for ourselves and not necessarily for the user.

Tracking Results of the Facebook Ad + Messenger Bot Campaign

Kathleen: To that point of trackability, I’m curious, how you are measuring the results of these campaigns? Because it sounds like you’ve got a couple of them running, and I’d love to hear just all the way through like you talked about you’ve seen cost per click go down.

Have you seen … What other metrics are you looking at that you’re using to judge success?

Moby: In the Messenger context?

Kathleen: Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Moby: Yeah, with the restaurant example it’s fairly simple because the codes obviously are aligned to a particular … They’re at least aligned to a channel. They’re probably even aligned to an actual ad creative as well, if we really wanna get to that level. So that’s definitely the case there.

It’s funny like with the martial arts company, we just launched … They have HubSpot already but we just launched it. We just wanted to get it out there, and then it actually started doing so well we’re like, “Okay there’s two problems there.”

Now, because MobileMonkey I love these tools. They will just send you notifications, they just send you a notification. Then you rely on the client or us to go in and add it manually and say “Okay the lead source was Facebook Messenger.” Which is okay but if this thing starts doing well becomes very problematic. So we ran into this problem recently.

Now we’re like, “Okay, cool.” Now we need to integrated with Zapier or whatever it is.

So we just kind of launched it. We didn’t worry about the tracking at first and the attribution. Then we’re figuring that out with the client.

But yeah, you can if you send them to a link you can use UTM parameters. That’s one thing you can do, but that kind of defies the logic of why you’d wanna do this thing in the first place.

So I think there’s two ways to think about it. Firstly, if we’re especially in a B2B context, if we’re using Messenger to give them a little bit of value, a little bit of value and maybe a little bit of value three times and then start a conversation, that becomes like a sales reps conversation.

Then I guess it’s up to the sales rep to see “Okay cool if this is now an actual real lead, I’m gonna flag it and mark it as a lead in my CRM and I can track it back.”

You’re always gonna have human error. I’m not gonna lie Kathleen. That works because you always have like 15% of the time, it’s like, “Guys, you gotta get your sales reps to use the CRM, use the leads.” That’s always gonna be persistent, that issue.

And on the other side, it’s how you’re going to be integrating with it. So with the ads if you use … We use a tool called AdEspresso to run our Facebook ads, which is a very, very good tool. We’ve been using it now for about a year and a half.

With Ad Espresso, you can link up, you can install the Facebook pixel on your website and then you can link that up with your ad. And eventually if they convert, you’ll be able to tell.

So it is a little bit tricky now. At this point if you’re gonna be using a bot, if you’re gonna be using a Messenger bot, you will need to use some sort of integration piece or rely on the sales reps who have that conversation to attribute it.

The other thing, too, to mention, Kathleen, is often these people will end up converting anyway. They say it takes six to eight touch points for someone to convert, so they may not actually convert with that ad with the coupon code for example. They may actually then go to your website on their second visit and convert that way.

If that happens, if you’ve set up your Facebook pixel properly, then you’ll see that in your tracking and your reporting anyway. So there are a couple of holes.

I think we’re all still trying to figure that out how we do that in automated fashion. But it is possible.

Kathleen: What kind of … With the approach that you’re using with the bakery, or the restaurant rather, what kinds of savings and cost per click are you realizing like on a percentage basis? You mentioned you’re getting down to like 20 cents or something.

What fraction of the previous cost per click does that represent?

Moby: I would say honestly, so I’d probably say about 10% of what we were getting before.

Kathleen: Wow.

Moby: It depends on what context and what country you’re in, but it used to be that if you sent someone to a link, that was very expensive. And it’s still expensive.

Then it was like, “Okay, cool.” If you give them coupon codes and offers, that was a little bit cheaper, but even that’s getting expensive now. Like $1.80, $2 cost per click, you know, just to send someone to a landing page to get them to download a coupon code. It really sounds uncomfortable, you know what I mean?

Kathleen: Yeah.

Moby: So Facebook doesn’t want you to take people off their ecosystem anyway, and the user wants things now and fast and right away.

I think the little hack of trying to use comments to drive the Facebook Messenger really worked as well because Facebook is noticing … Some of these posts have hundreds of comments on them. Hundreds of comments, so we’re running the same posts again and again because there’s all this perceived virality and conversation there. We don’t need to, and only if we really have to or if it’s a new offer or something or a new campaign we’ll create a new post. But we try to actually use the older post for a little while anyway.

And if you don’t have tools like this or you can’t do something that advanced yet, then trying to instill some sort of, even the old school stuff like “Comment in 10 words or less” or “Tag someone who might be interested” or whatever. That’s still going to help, although it’s getting harder and harder to use ads to tag people unless they’re familiar with your brand already.

Kathleen: Yeah, that’s true.

Now any results that you can share in terms of the business impact this has had for your customers?

Moby: I mean, early days yeah. I mean, I can tell you in terms of redemption the cost per click is like 10% of what it was before.

In terms of redemption, in B2C the redemption is always going to be a little bit lower but we know that roughly, and also you have to look at the time as well, the time period when you offer this to someone.

But we’re looking at around 30%, 25 to about 30% redemption on these codes.

We have noticed the redemption is higher than it was before, as well. So if we sent someone to a landing page, I’m almost embarrassed to say we used to send them to a landing page to get a code because it sounds so dumb …

Kathleen: So 1980s.

Moby: Yeah, right? But that was probably around 15% so they’re a little bit higher and I think that’s because they get it higher. And if the average order value of, I don’t know, I guess a meal is $30/$40, that does represent a significant windfall for this client who’s able to get the cost per click down by 10% so you can get 10 times more leads in.

Kathleen: For less money.

Moby: They’re getting … Yeah so whatever the difference between 15% and … So 10% more redemption as well. That’s significant. In terms of how many, I don’t know because I don’t have that value.

Kathleen: I was gonna say, I can’t do that math. I understand it but I can’t do the math ’cause I’m a marketer. But it’s definitely meaningful.

That’s so interesting and it sounds like it’s a fairly not super complicated thing to implement if you have something like a MobileMonkey.

Moby: Yes, yeah. Exactly. Exactly.

Kathleen: Very, very interesting, definitely something that I would like to test out. I’m gonna be pursuing you for more information on how you’re doing the comment to Messenger, so we’ll see what we can find out there.

Kathleen’s Two Questions

Kathleen: Before we have to wrap up, I have two questions I always ask all of my guests, and I would love to know your answer to each of them.

The first one is company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?

Moby: Company or individual who’s doing inbound marketing really well, okay.

What I do … What I have noticed is companies and individuals who don’t have anything to offer or sell are doing it the best. To give you a quick example, with our childcare client … In every industry there’s an aggregator or a directory or whatever and there’s one in our particular industry.

People can Google it, it’s not a big deal. It’s called ’cause we’re in Australia. They don’t have anything to offer, they’re an aggregator, they’re a directory. They don’t have childcare centers or any centers at all.

Because they don’t have anything to offer, all they can offer is content. Like I always … People who are still skeptical of investing in content … Everyone knows that they need to do it, but they’re skeptical to investing to content.

I always point them to these aggregators. I’m like, “Look, they’re doing so well and you know they’re doing well because they’re trying to sell you leads. Alright? And the only thing they have to offer is the ultimate guide to childcare or an onboarding process or they’ve invested three months and $10000 to do a 40 page document. Which probably people don’t read. You’re right Mr. or Miss client. They probably don’t read but look at the authority that they’ve actually built.”

So it’s a boring example, Kathleen, but I think it’s a good example because in every industry you’ll notice these aggregators. They’re doing the best job at content marketing ’cause they have nothing else to offer.

But the proof is in the pudding. They’re selling leads back to our clients and us brands out there. So I think they’re doing a pretty good job. Sorry I don’t have an actual example.

Kathleen: So they’re basically monetizing …. No that is a good one.

Moby: Yeah, I don’t wanna say HubSpot and MobileMonkey. They all do great stuff, right? They’re putting stuff out in webinars and give, give, give et cetera without being friend zoned. But I think in every industry you’ll find aggregators and directories are doing a great marketing job.

Kathleen: No, I think that’s a really interesting observation because essentially those types of businesses are monetizing their audiences, not a product. Their audience is the product.

Moby: That’s right.

Kathleen: So to do well they have to build a big audience, and that’s basically a publisher model. That’s what publishers do, they monetize their audience. It’s just that it’s a different flavor of publisher, if you will. So I think that’s really interesting that that’s what you pointed to. That’s something that we believe in very much at IMPACT because we’ve really shifted our strategy to be more like a publisher for that very reason. I think products almost follow.

Kathleen: Joe Pulizzi wrote about this in Killing Marketing. He talked about how the best way to start a business is to actually grow an audience first and your audience will naturally tell you what the product is that they want. So that when you finally create the product, you already have the audience for it and you already have the demand for it. It’s a no brainer to make it successful.

It’s totally flipping the model on its head, but it’s kind of a fascinating idea.

Moby: Yeah, absolutely. You’re not wrong there.

Kathleen: So my second question is, and this conversation is the perfect example of it. Digital marketing changes so quickly. We just talked about bots and comment to Messenger, all this really interesting stuff that’s very kind of current. With everything changing so fast, how do you stay up to date? How do you educate yourself to make sure that you’re on top of all these latest best practices and new emerging things that you can do?

Moby: Yeah, I mean if you’re in the digital marketing sector or sphere, you have no choice. I only know this not because I’m smart but because we have a client in this space. I don’t just know these stats off the top of my head, but the world economic forum estimated by 2021, all of us, all of us, will need to do 101 days extra training. You can roughly equate that to 25 days training or learning rather, a year, right? So roughly all of us, doesn’t matter if you’re in … Forget digital marketing. That’s probably 45 days a year, right?

But all of us should be investing in 25 days per year in learning. Otherwise I think 52% of our roles are going to be obsolete. They’re saying you need to invest here because 52% of roles are going to require the skills.

Forget about what the skills are. That’s a conversation for another topic. But the point is we need to do this and the way to do it is to do something …

There’s two things. Conducive to the way you learn. So if you’re a social learner then go to events and say, “You know what? I can’t do programmatic learning, sorry programmed learning. I can’t do courses. I’m a social learner. I’m gonna try to do one every three months and learn by conversations.” Maybe audio books are good for you. Maybe videos are good for you, whatever, right? And then do it in a consistent fashion.

Now that’s the answer for people if you just wanna be okay. But to answer your question directly and sorry, Kathleen I’m going …

Kathleen: No, no, no, this is so true.

Moby: I love to blab. But if you truly wanna be the best, and this isn’t for everyone. This actually isn’t for everyone. Not everyone has the desire first or the gumption to do this, is I truly believe you have to be a content creator in digital marketing.

And I think you know this as good as I do, Kathleen. I’ve got a podcast, as well. Inbound Buzz, we’ve been running for two and a half years or so. I noticed at one point there was no more degrees I could do in my field and the podcast is my degree now. It is my “university” now. That is my …

Because everyone sees an article that they like or a something that they like on the web and they save it or they email it to themselves and they never read it. But when you have a podcast you save that at the end of the week and then you create your own commentary around it, for example.

Whether it’s a podcast or you’re more of a writer or whatever, but I think truly, truly to be … If you want to be actually world class and in the top two to five percent of your field in terms of authority and knowledge, forget authority. Knowledge. You have to be a content creator.

“If you want to be actually world class and in the top two to five percent of your field in terms of authority and knowledge, you have to be a content creator” ~ Moby Siddique

Click to Tweet this quote

Moby: For me, I took a couple of months off because some health reasons but I’m gonna get back into the swing of it in 2019.

But for me, that is it. And honestly, Kathleen, now that I haven’t done it for a couple of months after doing it consistently for two and a half years, I feel it. I feel dumber. You know what I mean?

Kathleen: It’s like when you stop exercising and you’re like, “Oh my gosh. I’m out of breath.” Yeah.

Moby: That’s right. I just feel it. I just don’t feel as sharp, you know what I mean? But when I’m doing it and I’m in flow, there’s not a conversation I can have where I feel like I can’t contribute if it’s in the world of digital marketing. Any topic, you know?

But yeah, that’s the way to do it in my opinion.

Kathleen: Absolutely could not agree more. Anyone who listens to this podcast with any degree of regularity knows that I always say I would do it even if nobody listened, which I hope that’s not the case that nobody listens. I don’t think it is.

But I would because I learn so much and I selfishly seek out guests that I think I have something to learn from. In fact one of my recent guests, Val Geisler who’s amazing, she’s this awesome email onboarding expert. She joked on the interview, she was like, “Is this a free consultation in disguise?” And I was like, “Why yes it is.”

Moby: That’s right, absolutely.

Kathleen: You know, it sort of is. It’s great, and these are all people that I would otherwise probably have no excuse to talk to unless I stalked them or something.

So I really do agree with what you said. That’s two thumbs up for podcasting.

Moby: There you go.

Kathleen: Great, well I feel like I could talk to you all day, but I know it’s getting late my time, it’s early in the day your time. You have a whole day ahead of you.

Moby: Yeah. We are in the future. We’re in the future.

Kathleen: Yeah, as we’re recording this it’s only like two days before I take off for Christmas break. So I’m feeling more stressed by the day, that I have so many presents left to buy for my family. I appreciate you taking the time at this time of year to stop and spend some time and talk with me about this. So, so interesting.

Moby: It’s been fun, Kathleen. And yeah, I think we’ll have you on, as well.

How to Contact Moby Siddique

Kathleen: Fun. I would love that. Well I appreciate it. If somebody wants to learn more about what you’re doing or even get in touch with you and ask questions about what you just talked about, what’s the best way for them to find you online?

Moby: Probably LinkedIn. All the other channels, a lot of them are automated. Half the time it’s not even me putting out content. Probably the best place is LinkedIn. I’m very … I interact there a lot and yeah, most of my stuff I do on LinkedIn.

Kathleen: Great. And I’ll put a link to your LinkedIn in the show notes for anyone who’s curious about that.

You Know What To Do Next…

Kathleen: If you’re listening and you found this conversation to be valuable or if you learned something new, please leave a review for the podcast in Apple Podcasts or the platform of your choice.

If you know somebody else, as always, doing kick ass inbound marketing work, tweet me at Work Mommy Work because they could be the next person I interview.

Thanks so much, Moby.

Moby: Thank you, Kathleen, love what you’re doing. Cheers.

Kathleen: Thanks. So much fun.

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Read more:

How does a small, 25 person SaaS company regularly attract 700+ registrants to its webinars?

Andre van den Assum

Andre van den Assum

This week onThe Inbound Success Podcast my guest is Andre van den Assum, the Marketing and Partnerships Manager for Wipster, a cloud-based a video workflow collaboration review platform. I had heard from a colleague that Wipster was absolutely killing it with its webinars and was excited to talk with Andre about how he consistently generates such large numbers of attendees.

Our conversation gets super detailed, with specifics on how much Wipster spends on paid media (TL;DR – not much), what the click-through rate is on their email newsletter, how long their promotional timeline is for each webinar, and the percent of leads they get from each marketing channel.  

This week’s episode of The Inbound Success Podcast is brought to you by our sponsor, IMPACT Live,  the most immersive and high energy learning experience for marketers and business leaders. IMPACT Live takes place August 6-7, 2019 in Hartford Connecticut and is headlined by Marcus Sheridan along with keynote speakers including world-renowned Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith and Drift CEO and Co-Founder David Cancel.

Inbound Success Podcast listeners can save 10% off the price of tickets with the code “SUCCESS”. 

Click here to learn more or purchase tickets for IMPACT Live

Some highlights from my conversation with Andre include:

Wipster is a video workflow collaboration review platform. The company currently has 25 employees with offices in New Zealand and Portland, Oregon.
They have thousands of customers around the world, including big brands like Disney, Red Bull, Shopify and Delta Airlines, and many smaller brands as well. 
Wipster regularly gets hundreds of registrants for its webinars, which it typically produces with partners.
They get many of their webinar leads from email marketing, and typically include a promotional video about the webinar in their emails.
One channel they use for email promotion is their newsletter, which goes out to 40,000 people that has a 25% open rate.
Their webinar marketing campaigns typically last two weeks.
For a recent webinar on which Wipster partnered with Brightcove Deloitte, 50% of the registrations came from email marketing (12% were from promotions in Wipster’s email newsletter), and out of 1100 total webinar registrations, Wipster drove 700 of those (with the remaining 400 from Brightcove).
10% of their webinar leads come from social media.
For one webinar, Wipster advertised in Marketing Profs’ email newsletter. The cost for that campaign was $3,000 and the newsletter went to a list of 13,000. That yielded 120 leads at $24 a lead.  
Wipster posts all of its webinars to its YouTube channel, where they typically attract 600+ views each.

Resources from this episode:

Save 10% off the price of tickets to IMPACT Live with promo code “SUCCESS”
Register for IMPACT’s upcoming webinar with Wipster on Make Better Videos In-House: How to Create Consistent Video Production
Visit Wipster’s website
Subscribe to the Wipster Weekly newsletter
Wipster’s YouTube channel
Wipster Stars Facebook Group
Connect with Andre van den Assum on LinkedIn

Listen to the podcast to learn all about the marketing campaigns and tactics that regularly attract 700+ attendees to Wipster’s webinars.


Kathleen Booth (Host):Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast. I’m your host, Kathleen Booth, and today my guest is Andre van den Assum, who is the marketing and partnerships manager at Wipster. Welcome, Andre.Andre van den Assum (Guest): Welcome. Yes. Hello. How’s it going?

Kathleen: Good. I feel like it’s hello from tomorrow because you are across the other side of the world, and it is the next day and sunny and beautiful where you are, and it is yesterday and freezing cold where I am.

Andre: You got it. We’re a little bit in the future here in New Zealand and it is the middle of summer for us so we’re kind of on the back of a nice middle of summer Christmas holiday break and just cracking 2019, so yeah, nice to be on your show. We’ve got some fun things coming up with IMPACT actually so this is nice to compliment that as well.

Kathleen: Yeah, it’s great and I’m excited to have you here and for anybody who’s listening, you can’t see, I’m looking at Andre through the video and he’s sitting outside and the trees are blowing in the warm New Zealand breeze and there’s like, water in the background, it’s really stunning. And I’m sitting in the 20 degree weather in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States thinking, “What am I doing here?” So if you’re listening you can always go to the show notes and I have a picture in there of the two of us recording so you can see-

Andre: If it makes you feel better the roles reverse in June, July and we have a team in Portland and the same thing happens, you know?

Kathleen: We all have our turn.

Andre: They’re all off to festivals and beaches and we’re freezing down in New Zealand at the bottom of the South Pacific so don’t worry.

Kathleen: Well it still sounds like a great place to be.

About Wipster

Kathleen: So for anyone who’s not familiar with Wipster who doesn’t know who you are could you tell my listeners a little bit more about yourself and about the company?

Andre: Absolutely! So I’ve been with Wipster for almost five years now, I was employee number five and we’ve got about 25 of us now.

We’re a video workflow collaboration review platform. Born from the idea of a video producer/director who was kinda sick of chasing feedback with his clients and wondered why people can’t just comment directly on top of the video, so click on top of the frame, make your comment, kinda Google Docs for video, and so he went looking for that solution and it didn’t exist.

So we were the first people to kind of create a product where you could literally click on top of the frame. There’s a couple of others that do it now but we’re first to market about five years ago and it’s been an interesting journey over that time you know, going from kind of an idea, a spec, into a kind of fully fledged company.

I guess we’re still a start-up with 25 or so employees but we’ve got thousands of active users, thousands of customers. Some of the biggest brands around, you know, the Disneys of the world and the Red Bulls and Shopify and Delta Airlines and yeah, we’ve got a ton of big users but we’ve also got a bunch of small users, a bunch of agencies that use it for review and approval.

Something we’re seeing a lot of is some of that capability moving in-house so you know, we’re talking to more and more brands who are wanting to kind of scale their video and we can help them do that, you know, by speeding up their workflow, making it easier to pump out the video ’cause we’re not talking about kind of one video a month, we’re talking about you know, three or four or five videos a week ideally, and some of them even more than that.

So yeah, it’s been a fun journey and been kind of … Selling software as a service means you can do it from New Zealand at the bottom of the world but obviously we needed some people on the ground in the US so our founder moved over there and has built a team over there as well so yeah, it’s been quite a fun few years, you know, a bit of a rollercoaster but yeah, definitely very rewarding in trying a bunch of different digital marketing tactics along the way to kinda get our name out, you know, being from the bottom of the world to kind of getting that presence, you know, we’re in 150 countries or something like that as well, so it’s a pretty interesting time to be doing marketing and kinda trying to do this kind of thing I think.

Kathleen: Yeah, and as far as the product is concerned … So we use it, full disclosure for everybody listening, we’re a Wipster customer, and we have a video team at IMPACT, it’s a couple of people, and we do a ton of video. In fact, I was just up in our office last week and we must’ve shot, I mean, it’s close to a hundred videos in one week because we had a lot of people in from out of town so we wanted to maximize the time.

I first was exposed to Wipster really as somebody who provides feedback so our video team was like, “We have to use this platform,” and whenever we do a video they send it over to me and I get the link, I go into Wipster, and I’m able to just like, as you said, it is very much like Google Docs for video. I can just pop my comments in there and I’m not a technical person so it’s really nice because it makes it very, very easy for me to provide my input.

Andre: Yeah. Well, that’s how we got traction from the get-go was kind of making a tool that was just very easy to use.

The editors are kinda used to these big, complicated editing suites, Premiere Pro and stuff like that with a lot of buttons, but you know, when they’re sending it to their clients or their team members or the legal team or the exec team to get approval or feedback, they just wanna be able to click a link, watch the video in a very kind of simple, enjoyable kind of experience, just click on top, make videos.

And there’s quite a few things going on behind the scenes, you know, like we’ve got integrations with Adobe, with Slack, with all the publishing platforms, so we can kind of help the more technical people as well but in terms of the end user we try and make it as simple as possible and I think that’s what made us so successful so early on was just, it kind of just worked, you know?

Kathleen: Yeah. The simpler the better.

Andre: Yeah, that’s what software’s gotta be like these days, you know? I think there editing some big shifts and you know, you used to have to get a software team into the company carrying massive servers on their backs and all this hardware and the IT guys have gotta do all this year-long onboarding and all that kinda stuff. But that’s changed, the price point has changed, the experience has changed.

So yeah, so it’s nice to be part of that movement.

Wipster + Webinars

Kathleen: Now, one of the reasons I was looking forward to talking with you for this podcast is that you were chatting with a colleague of mine about us doing a webinar together, which we are going to do, so stay tuned if you’re listening, and I remember it was my colleague Vin and he said, “You know, you should talk to these guys at Wipster because they get a ton of people coming to their webinars.”

Webinars are so interesting to me, I’ll have to preface our conversation with this. In some respects they’re a dying marketing form because so many companies do them and I think people have become so used to webinars and so used to webinars especially that are recorded and they send you the recording afterwards and so people might sign up for them but then they never watch them ’cause they’re like, “Eh, it’ll come to my email inbox and I’ll watch it someday.” You know? And so there’s this element of folks being jaded by webinars and you know, having said that I think there are some people doing them really well.

You’re not a huge company as you mentioned. You’re 25 people, but you’re getting large numbers of people to your webinars. So I wanna dive in and learn more about what you’re doing and what’s the secret sauce behind these great results you’re getting.

Andre: It’s interesting because you’ve got all these different things that you can be doing as a digital marketer and you know, for us, you know, we’ve been doing webinars for a few years now and you know, it’s among other things managing all the social channels, doing all these big kind of product campaigns, doing events, doing more tactical campaigns, you know, ad words, all the rest of it, so you know, where do webinars fit in?

I think there was a point where we were kind of, you know, we wanted to kind of partner with more people in our ecosystem, other brands, other product services, and so when we called up these people we kinda went to the table with a bunch of ideas and were open to doing whatever with them. You know, might be events, might be, you know, we could do some blogging, you know, guest blogging on each other sites, you know, good for back links, good for awareness, maybe getting them to share some stuff in their newsletter.

So you know, we tried to think about all these things that we could do, even create some content for YouTube and stuff like that or you know, data content.

So there’s actually quite a few things you can do with someone but it was funny because it almost always would just keep coming back to webinars, that was the thing that kind of ticked all the boxes for both sides.

A webinar is something that when you approach someone, they already have their audience, they’re very protective of the community of the audience, they’re not gonna just be kind of sending anything you send them on to their audience, they’re the gatekeepers and when it comes to webinars, you know, the key is coming up with a really good topic, a topic that kind of speaks to both the audiences.

So I think the first thing we do is kind of figure out what the overlap is for both of us. You know, what are we both standing for and in the case of doing something with IMPACT, you guys are doing some amazing kind of consultancy work around helping brands scale their video.

You know, we happen to make a tool that helps them do that so let’s kind of talk about that.

It should never be salesy, so you know, I think part of the secret sauce is just coming up with something that people wanna click on that’s really, truly valuable when they click on it and learn something. So that actually can take a little bit of back and fro. I’ve even had to kind of can a webinar late in the planning phase because we just couldn’t quite come up with that … And that was a tough decision for me to say, “Look, you know, we’re just not quite aligned. You wanna talk more about this but that’s not really interesting to our audience. We wanna talk more about this but you don’t have enough leadership in that.”

So kind of to answer your question, the reason why we do things in the first place is because they’re really easy to share to both your communities, they both provide a lot of value to both those audiences, and they provide leads and bound leads, you know?

A lot of these other pieces of content doesn’t have a gate and a form like webinars do and it’s just natural to enter your email and sign up for these things. So therefore when you’re looking at kind of what the outcome is for both these companies, you know, you both get a nice list of leads and you both provide a lot of value to your audience and it’s very easy to share.

And then so once you’ve got a really good topic and once it kind of … You know, that’s gonna help massively and then there’s a few other things you can do to help drive them and one of ours is to have quite an active community, to have quite a big email database, you know, a good open rate, so that’s kind of some of the work we’ve done over the years to build that up that we can now go to with good content.

It’s quite traditional marketing really. We still get a big chunk of our leads through email.

Another one, which is kind of obvious for us, but make a video to promote that webinar. 

When you look at the click through rates on the emails or even with our partners, we really tend to always overshoot their goals on what they kind of expect. And even when we have at times kind of brought less, you know, having not done a partnership and having to drive all the traffic ourselves, you know, gone through things like MarketingProfs and kind of sending out email blasts to 15,000 users, for them, you know, they come back, it has a thumbnail, so we create a GIF thumbnail with a play button on top and they’re like, “Oh, this is some of the best results we’ve had!” And that’s good topic, good copyrighting, and a video thumbnail to help drive it.

But yeah, we use our social channels. We have audiences across different social channels. 

We have an in-app kind of pop-up that lets people know.

We have a newsletter that goes out to 40,000 people that has like a 25% open rate.

So it’s a combination of all these things, you know? Probably there’s no secret sauce on it – it’s a combination of value and you know, and finding something that kind of works for both you and some potential partners.

Kathleen: So taking a step back, you mentioned you start with really trying to figure out topics that will resonate with your audience. Tell me a little bit more about who your audience is.

Andre: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So we stand for video, you know? We’re born out of video, out of making the video workflow easier, about helping people speed up their video workflow. So that’s the kind of things that we like to talk about.

The topics that come under that are kind of, you know, video marketing, or video ideas, creative ideas, you know, making videos for your clients, things like that.

Our audience is a few different types but our main audience is the video creative themselves, so the video editor, video producer, video director. They can be a freelancer, they can be working for a small production company or an agency, they can be in a brand, you know, be an in-house team for a brand, you know, so that’s pretty much the mix. They can also work for big media companies as well.

And so they’re all slightly different, you know? We have actually done quite a bit of content targeted as well, at kind of marketers, marketing managers, marketing execs, to help them scale their video strategy and the reasons why they need to do that.

So that’s kind of our audience, but I think that the large chunk of that is video creatives.

Kathleen: And assuming you’re able to really nail down a topic that’s gonna be relevant and useful to that audience, you then talked about working with your partner that you’re doing the webinar with to really refine the topics, make sure the presentation is not gonna be too salesy, and that sort of thing.

How long does that process generally take for you guys?

Andre: I mean, sometimes you just come up with that topic and it’s just real obvious and you kind of nail it. It’s one of those … Kind of that creative writing part of it is hard to … You always think, “Oh, I’ve got a couple of hours, I’m just gonna smash this out.”

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, you know? It’s a bit of wordsmithing.

I think one of the key steps to this – and this wasn’t, you know, we didn’t have this from day one– was having that kind of, that one page, well, not one page, just that one document, that collaborative document that starts with a time and a place and a kind of general theme. You kind of flesh that out, you come up with an abstract … a title, abstract and a few bullet points. It’s actually not a ton of words but you kinda wanna kinda get it quite synced and really kind of interesting.

I think part of that process as you’re doing this, you know, you actually list all the kind of requirements for your partner and it kind of helps to show what you’re gonna commit to. Especially around promotion, you know? 

We’ve kind of been burnt in the past by kind of our partner not living up to what we’d expect for them because I’ve got other things going on. That’s fine, but you know, when you’ve got in writing that’s saying, you know, “We’re gonna send it out to our email list of this size twice,” you know, “and on these dates. We’re putting it out to our social channels. WE’re gonna throw 500 bucks behind it to boost it.”

Once you’re kind of quite transparent about what your expectations are and then relaying how many registrations have come in as it happens, put the heat on a bit more, but it gets fun, you know, you share in that success.

So I think, you know, it does take time and I know some companies do a webinar a week or something like that. You know, I do too many other things to be trying to take on that. Even a webinar a month is pretty … I’ve done that for a few months in a row, you know, four or five months in a row and that’s like, you do at least two months promotion time for each of them.

Especially if they’re using customers, customers are really good if you have a shared customer with your partner. That’s ideal, but you’re also adding another person who’s busy into the mix and so, yeah, be a little bit realistic about the times and it does take a bit of time, you know, and I wish it took less time.

There are actually other models or other styles that can take less time. You know, AMAs on Twitter or you know, we’re thinking about starting kind of a live video kind of creative chat, monthly chat. That actually requires less of our customers and more people that we want to highlight and less of us in terms of kind of planning the content and stuff, but when it comes to webinars it does take us a little bit of time to get all that stuff together. A few moving parts.

Kathleen: Yeah. I love that idea that you mentioned about having that collaborative document. I almost think of it as like a creative brief for the webinar and getting both parties in it and aligning around it because I do think that it’s easy to say, “Hey! We’re gonna do a webinar on X,” and the two parties have very different visions of what X means and should represent and you certainly don’t wanna be surprised the day of with slides that are not, you know, that are not along the lines of what you were hoping to see. Time-wise-

Andre: Yeah, you do wanna control, not control some of that but yeah, you wanna avoid surprises, have those timelines, have the dry run. You know, do all that stuff, have all those steps in place, and once you’ve kind of got a document that kind of outlines that stuff you can copy the document, pull out some stuff depending on what the next one is, and at least it kind of puts that up front very early on in that kind of conversation.

Kathleen: You were talking about timelines earlier and it sounds like, if I understood correctly, you leave yourself about two months to promote a webinar. Is that accurate?

Andre: No, two weeks.

Kathleen: Two weeks, oh, I thought you said two months. I was gonna say, “Man, you’re really good about planning ahead!”

Andre: Well actually we’re gonna be doing one with IMPACT in just over three weeks, and they do three weeks promotion so I was quite impressed with that.

As long as we’ve got a solid two weeks of promotion time we find that’s plenty to kind of include it in some of these letters that we send out, you know, pop-up in-app, put it across the social. So yeah, as long as we’ve got two weeks we’re pretty good at pulling a bunch of registrations for sure.

Wipster’s Webinar Promotion Campaigns

Kathleen: So let’s break down your promotion process. You’ve got these two weeks, you just mentioned a few things you do, let’s start with email.

Am I correct that you have a weekly email newsletter?

Andre: Yep, every Thursday, US time, we send out a Wipster Weekly and this has been something that’s been really successful for us. We’ve had it around for ages, and we curate a bunch of content, you know.

We kind of scour the interwebs and find all the best kind of video production, video marketing tips and tricks and you know, educational stuff, so we pool all that together. There’s like five articles and then inspirational video of the week. One of those blogs is our blog. We put out a new blog every week, and so that’s kind of pretty value-driven and people love it.

We get a lot of responses from it saying how much they look forward to watching the weekly and the different articles and pieces in it and it also provides us a pretty good regular promotional tool.

We’ve got a little banner at the bottom that we can use and also the intro to the newsletter is personalized so we can kind of let everyone know that there’s a webinar.

Kathleen: And that’s going out weekly. Do you do then on top of that separate like, email blasts if you will, to your list?

Andre: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, and we don’t send a ton of emails to our users, you know? So I know even for us we’re quite sensitive about kind of sending too many emails but actually we don’t send that many.

For a webinar we typically send either two or three. You know, one kind of a week or week and a half out or two weeks out from the webinar. I think, you know, because people get that Wipster Weekly every Thursday they also might not have time that day and kind of know what’s in it but when you send a dedicated email and the subject line is all about that webinar, it’s a bit more focused so it’s gonna get some different types of people clicking on it. And so that’s an important tool, you know.

I was just looking at some numbers earlier … Let me just have a quick look here. But to give you an idea-

Kathleen: As you’re looking at those numbers I’m curious, and I don’t know if you can get this specific, but you’ve got a two week time period. Is it one email newsletter mention and then one email blast or … What does that cadence look like?

Andre: Yeah, it depends on what day it falls on but usually it would be like one email kind of a couple of weeks out, a week and a half out, and then a kind of reminder one day away email.

We might sometimes send two emails with different subject lines and different content with that big thumbnail as well, ideally a thumbnail. Then send that kind of one day away, just last chance to catch it, and if we get clever on it, if we’ve got other promotional stuff going on and we don’t … ‘Cause it kind of depends if we’ve got other things going on whether we send two or three emails and sometimes, you know, if people have clicked on the email but haven’t registered then we might only just send those guys the one day reminder.

So we play around with it a little bit but they’ll always get at least two dedicated emails you know, about the webinar and then also one to two mentions in the newsletter because it can just be as short as a little intro in the newsletter just reminding them.

So it’s just, you know, you’re actually letting people know something that they like to be kept informed with, you know. Especially if it’s good content highlighting some amazing customers at Deloitte, a video team of three making video for a company of 280,000, you know, learned how that’s successful with internal video, et cetera.

So that’s stuff that you’re proud to share and I think that’s a real key part of it.

And just to kind of talk about you know, where some of our leads come from. We did one with … We did a webinar with Brightcove and Deloitte, as our customer, someone I just mentioned, and 50% of our registrations came from our email. You know, that was dedicated email, from the newsletter, that was like 12%. So out of 1100 registrations we drove 700 of those ourselves and yeah, so 50% came from emails. So email is really powerful and then … Yeah.

Kathleen: So then I have a really specific question and you may or may not have an answer for this. With email I know my team spends a lot of time, because we’re all total marketing geeks, talking about subject lines. And you’re obviously getting great results from your email blasts and we’ve debated back and forth, especially for webinars.

Does it make sense to have the word “webinar” in the subject line or like … Have you found any lessons learned from how you craft your email subject lines for your webinars that seem to work well for you?

Andre: We do typically use the word webinar, but in saying that, we sometimes don’t and you know, it kind of depends because we’re only doing these every couple of months. You know, we have those conversations at the time, “What are some good subject lines?”

We’re also sending probably two emails plus a reminder so “webinar” is gonna be in there somewhere. But nothing really stands out for us in terms of you know, in terms of what works more than others. It doesn’t vary hugely, you know, as long as it’s a good topic, you know?

I don’t think things like that make a massive difference for us. Definitely not something we’ve noted, but we’re all so busy that it’s kind of hard to get too down in the details.

But you know, I think it’s good to let people know that it’s a webinar. I think people still enjoy webinars and you’re saying that they are kind of old-fashioned and we’ve had those same conversations.

We go to the table with these partners with you know, “Let’s do a video series on … We can create a landing page, do an educational series about how our brands are turning into media companies,” you know, “Put a topic outline,” and then it’s kind of like, “Well what’s the goal here? Are we looking for leads? ‘Cause where do they enter their details? This is quite a lot of work to do, you know, where is it gonna live?”

And it just starts getting quite complicated so you know, it just keeps coming back to webinars being really successful for us.

Kathleen: Yeah. And in the emails themselves, are you putting … You mentioned that you make like, a promo video for your webinar. Are you putting that video with your animated GIF into the email?

Andre: Yeah. So yeah, like, if you can’t do a GIF – they’re pretty easy to make as much tools – you can just do like a screenshot of your video, so a thumbnail with a big play button. The play button is one of the most recognizable, recognized logos there is. You know, everyone knows what that means and people just wanna watch that video so that’s something that really increases your engagement or the click through rate of that email.

So yeah, definitely recommend doing that.

What we’ve been doing recently is kind of taking a few frames and making a little GIF with a play button over top ’cause GIFs play inside the email. Thumbnails don’t. Videos don’t. 

And then everything drives to a landing page which is optimized and that’s something we’ve kind of … There’s a few steps we’ve taken over the years and we’ve actually been using a site called Instapage, you know, where it kind of takes away your navigation at the top and really kind of makes it clear what the offer is on that page.

It’s got a form above the fold. It’s got the video kind of above the fold. It’s got the description so kind of, you know, making that as nice and as optimized as possible, not a ton of ticks, you know, really clear what they need to do to sign up.

So that’s something that has helped our conversion rate on that end.


Kathleen: So you talked about how you use Instapage and your emails and things. You also discussed that when you’re doing these promotional workflows for the webinars you have a couple of other channels you use and one of them was social. Can you walk me through what you do on social to promote your webinars?

Andre: Yeah, for sure. Social, you know, surprisingly social will only get us about 10% of our sign ups but you know, it’s all about … For me, I think social channels are really good for brand awareness, showing that you’re active, that you’re in the conversation, that you have an opinion, that you’re coming up with thought leadership.

So we kind of throw around $500, if we’re doing something with a partner we might throw $500 or so dollars just to kinda get that topic and webinar in front of a bunch of different people and you know, our target audience, showing that we’re just leading thought leadership, we’re talking about the things they care about.

It often doesn’t result in a ton of registrations, as I said maybe 10%. We have used, on Facebook, we have used the forms before so people can … So the form is actually embedded in Facebook, it auto-populates some of the details on there because Facebook has already got that information.

And so that has worked out for us, you know. They’re like $10 a lead or $10 a registration, which is actually lower than almost anything else we put money towards.

To give you an idea, you know we, for that MarketingProfs, email blast, that cost us $3,000 and that’s a list of 13,000 and I think that got us like … What was it? That got us … Let me see, that got us like 120 leads, so that was $24 a lead. So $10 with $24 …

Yeah, so social typically doesn’t work out to be an amazing return on getting leads. Plus you know, with something like Facebook, for $10 for using that form, we have to integrate that form with our content management system that integrates with our webinar thing so it takes a little bit of back and forth work.

We’ve tried it, it’s a pretty good cost per lead, but we don’t think the quality there is really very high.

So yeah, I mean, the videos are great because honestly I think the video is the key on a lot of this stuff because video looks great on all these social channels. It shows what you’re doing. It does drive registrations, but about 10%.

I think it’s a collective, kind of, you’re using all these channels and if you’re building them all up I think it all really helps.

You know, 10% is nothing to kind of scoff at, that’s really important, plus it’s quite low cost. But yeah, it’s not super efficient in terms of driving leads and it just provides us really good content to share and shows that we’re kind of active and talking about the topics our customers care about.

Kathleen: That’s interesting to hear how … Some of the different paid media channels that you’ve used. Have you done any other promoted newsletter placements like you did with MarketingProfs or was that the only one?

Andre: That’s the only email blast that we’ve done and the reason we had to pay for that one, because we ended up throwing like five grand at that webinar, we got like 550 registrations.

It was really good content but it was a little bit more targeted towards marketing strategy and marketing teams so it’s not gonna be quite as attractive to all our freelancers and production companies-

Kathleen: Got it.

Andre: So I think that’s why we didn’t get quite as many. But however, you know, we also … It was something that we ran completely ourselves and we didn’t have a partner to leverage their audience so then without putting a bit of money …

I mean, at the end of the day we all want new leads or new eyeballs on our product or service, on our thought leadership, we wanna attract people that are outside of what we already have, which is pretty much our primary KPI.

There’s still a lot of benefits to be had about engaging people in your database, you know? People that aren’t quite customers yet or even customers. To reengage them with how other companies have been successful and et cetera, et cetera.

But you know, when we’re working with a partner we really wanna kind of get in front of a new audience and so when we’ve done webinars that highlight our customers, and we haven’t done this with a partner, then we’ve gotta look at new ways to kind of top that up.

Andre: I mean, so we got 130-odd registrations, you know, through that channel with $25 each so you know, that was quite interesting.

But then if we look at a webinar we did with Lemonlight we got like 1200 registrations. The topic was kind of, 24 inspirational video ideas or something like that, so a little bit more generic, a little bit more kind of collective for quite a wider audience. And we spent $500 on that, you know, so 10% of what we spent and we got a bunch more leads.

But you know, you’ve gotta consider what you’re looking for, what the cost of your product is, how much you’re willing to spend to get someone into your, kind of into your world and educate them about what you’re offering.

We’re a business-to-business product, we have kind of a varied list of what we charge our clients so it depends.

When we did the webinar with Brightcove and we highlighted Deloitte that was a bit more of an enterprise play and Deloitte, I mean Brightcove, you know, by and large their customers are bigger companies, bigger media companies, bigger brands. So they’re a real enterprise solution.

So even though we attracted 700 versus their 400, you know, we got some really top quality brands that came along to that. You know, like an amazing list of brands that tuned in for that one.

So it also isn’t always about quantity, you know, there’s also a quality argument to that as well.

Kathleen: Absolutely. It sounds like especially if it’s maybe an audience that isn’t in your core of the video editor, the producer, et cetera – like when you did the MarketingProfs thing – it sounded to me like you’re looking to maybe expand into and get more leads in a segment where you didn’t traditionally have a ton, so that makes sense.

Andre: No, absolutely. When we started this business all those years ago, you know, our bread-and-butter customer was video producers and agencies and freelancers dealing with that client feedback process. And so we saw a big opportunity in these brands because things were starting to move a little bit more in-house. So we really wanted to get in front of brands as well and help them along that journey.

So then you start to do some kind of more tactical plays in terms of getting in front of those decision makers, their brands, the marketers, and whatnot. So that influenced our content strategy last year when we really made some kind of conscious plays targeting marketers, video marketers, marketers in general, making sure they’re aware of tools like ours to help them scale their video.

And then, so part of that is creating the topic and the ideas that are really valuable to them.

That was highlighting Xero’s journey, you know. They have an amazing in-house video production team. They use video across their kind of content strategy so it’s not all actually just marketing, it’s about all the education and kind of onboarding and all that kind of stuff as well.

They are a global company with an awesome in-house team and the guy that runs their team kinda walked us through how they went from you know, 10 videos a year to 1,000.

So that was really targeted at these brands who have started their video journey but wanna kinda scale it up. So it wasn’t really targeted at those freelancers necessarily.

And then that was just part of our overall kind of marketing strategy in terms of building awareness in that segment and kind of trying to drive some business in that area.

So yeah, I think getting new eyeballs and getting new leads, you know, based off what your kind of strategic objectives are as a company, but getting some new leads I think is one of the big outcomes of webinars, especially when you’re doing it with partners ’cause there’s already …

Kathleen: Definitely. Yeah, definitely. Now, going back to your data on where your webinar leads are coming from. We talked through email which is 50%, talked through social which is 10%. What were some of the other significant sources for you?

Andre: Well actually … I was actually looking at the Xero webinar numbers so I’ve kind of got that a little bit wrong. The numbers are still correct but this was for the Xero, not the Deloitte one.

So this was the time where we had to drive all the registrations ourselves. So 50% email, 22% came from that email blast that we paid three grand for, 12% was the newsletter, and then like eight or nine percent was across our social channels. We also have a pop-up in the app and that kind of drove a couple of percent and also our website as well. So on our homepage we have a little banner at the top of our homepage and that drove another two and a half percent. So that’s our 100% there.

You know, if you look at when we do something with Brightcove, you know, we pull 700 and they pull 400 so they’re bringing in … I don’t know what that is, 30-odd percent themselves.

Kathleen: I love that you’re pulling in more leads than Brightcove.

Andre: Well you know, that was-

Kathleen: I mean, they’re a decent sized company, you know?

Andre: That was fun because they said to us, you know, they were like … I was like, “Okay, what’s our goals?” ‘Cause I already had this kind of, you know as I said, the documentation to help drive the process, and usually I always put a goal here and I kind of put, “What is our goal and what is our stretch goal?”

And so they were driving this one a little bit and they said, “Well, our goal was 300 registrations,” and I was like, “is that each?” And they’re like, “Oh no, total.” I was like, “We’ll get that ourselves, no problem. I think we should aim higher.”

And when we launched our campaign we launched it a few days before them and we kind of got 300 out of the gate and so then that kind of lit a fire on them as well to really kind of drive registration.

So you know, if you think about it, they were aiming for 300 all up and they ended up driving 400 themselves. So that actually made them push harder. We got 700 of those and then we just kind of … I had a chat with the team on slack but the kind of brands that we attracted was Bank of America, Oracle, Cisco, Goodyear, McCafee, Oxford, Milwaukee Tools, Hallmark, you know, Sears, Walmart, SAP, Apple, Pixar, Canadian Tire, Baby Center, Airbnb, Visa, UNICEF, LinkedIn, Salesforce, Air New Zealand, LA Times, Whataburger.

So you know, when it came to big brands, and a lot of those we actually drive ourselves, but they pulled some big brands in there as well. It was a roaring success and you know, the guy that spoke for us was a great presenter as well so it was really a valuable webinar that everyone got a lot out of.

And then actually … You know, you talked about, what is it, about 15 or 20% of people turn up on the day, I think that’s roughly the number, maybe 25, 30% turn up to these webinars on the day.

But then of course we do share them and we even put them on YouTube and like, that webinar has got 600 or so views on YouTube, you know, for long form content of an hour long webinar, you know, you are getting people engaging with it, even if they don’t turn up on the day.

Kathleen: Yeah. Now, I’m super curious, you do an event with a company like Brightcove and you pull in 700 registrants, they pull in 400. I mean, both numbers are great, but to what do you attribute your ability to pull in such large numbers? I mean, you’re not a much larger company, I don’t know if you have a larger database than they do. Is there something that you’re doing differently that’s getting you those results or is it something about your relationship with your audience?

Andre: Yeah, I’m not sure because I guess we’re both using the same video and we’re both using the same kind of a topic so you know, so that stuff, you know, we take pride in getting that stuff up to standard.

Yeah, I think we do have an engaged audience, I think we do understand our audience. Yeah, I’m not sure what drives that kind of engagement.

I think from the get-go when this company started we were very kind of interactive with our audience, we did a lot of AMAs on Twitter, our social channels were quite active, we had a Facebook group.

You know, we’ve always been about thought leadership and sharing knowledge and trying to drive it through value-first based content, so maybe it has to do with our relationship with our audience. Our database is about 40,000 strong, which is pretty decent. Yeah, I’m not sure. You know, I know like for those guys …

Maybe it’s also because we’re quite agile and we can use all these different channels, you know. Like I’ll put up the banner on our homepage myself, I’ll set up the pop-up in that myself, I’ll create the landing page myself, I’ll schedule some ads myself.

So maybe that also means that we can kind of be more active on these different channels and leverage these different channels. If they were to do a pop-up on their landing page, or not a pop-up, just a little banner at the top, they might have a few more hoops to go through in a bigger company with other things going on so maybe that works top our advantage as well in terms of getting the message out.

Kathleen: That’s a good point. There are definitely some advantages to being small and agile.

So interesting, you know, and I appreciate you sharing so many details about this because it is … The devil is in the details with these things, so, fascinating to me.

Kathleen’s Two Questions

Kathleen: I wanna change gears for a second. I have two questions that I always ask everybody who comes on the podcast. You’re somebody who’s doing a good job with his inbound marketing, doing a great job really, with the results you’re getting.

When you look out in the world is there another company or an individual that you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now that you would hold up as an example?

Andre: Yeah, in the video space I always love what Wistia does. You know, in terms of like, you just go to their website and how they’ve separated their content and each product and the education center. It’s all really nice and all really value-driven and the content in the videos they create and the kind of brand personality that they’ve created is really good. And you know, if you wanna look at an engaged audience, they have one. Massively.

You know, people are part of the Wistia tribe, you know. They’ve got a Slack group that creates content on it’s own. They’re all sharing tips, discussing, critiquing, you know, providing value for each other. So they’re really good.

In fact actually, I’ve been on IMPACT’s list for years so it’s quite cool to be doing something with you guys ’cause you do some amazing content that’s definitely gone in front of me time and time again over the years so that would be a couple.

I really like what Wistia are doing for content-wise.

Kathleen: Yeah. They do have a great brand personality and I’ve actually spent dome time in their offices and got to be filmed for a little video they were making about their partner agencies and it’s just a fun group of people to work with and they know what they’re doing for sure.

Andre: Their office is in Boston, yeah?

Kathleen: Yeah.

Andre: Pretty cool office and they’ve got this like stadium set up. You probably saw all that. It’s like, “Stay Weird” on the walls and you know, kind of embracing that kind of diversity and just …

I don’t know, there’s definitely something they’re doing right and being good at video, you know, using video because video says so much more than a lot of other mediums so you know, they’ve been at …

If I just say one thing on a video you actually get a lot more because you might see where I am, what I’m doing, so they’ve really used that to their advantage and done a really good job, which they should be because they’re advocating for video.

Kathleen: Right. Agreed, agreed. And what about how you keep up to date? Digital marketing is changing really quickly, there’s always something new happening or you know, Facebook changes it’s rules, whatever.

How do you stay up-to-date and current with everything going on in the world of digital marketing?

Andre: It’s hard because, you know, I often don’t have time to click on even the most interesting subject lines but I do follow a couple of good newsletters that I get in my inbox and I click on those.

One of the things that I think keeps me quite up-to-date and inspired about marketing and particularly videos is just talking to some of our customers. You know, I’ve had some really good, in depth chats over the years with some really interesting people who are kind of … You know, I talked about Xero, this guy, Pat MacFie, he’s just like … I get off the phone and every time I get off the phone with him I’m just pumped, you know?

Sephora, you know how they’ve kind of grown, they were making 24 videos a year and now they make over 1000 and they’re talking about … And that just started with one. They brought in one video producer in-house, they were kind of renting a studio in San Fran once a month and just shooting a bunch of content once a month and now they’ve got their own studio in LA and all the brands come to them wanting to borrow their studio and they’ve got all these …

So just watching that, and that’s over a couple of years. You know, you talk to these guys about how they’ve kind of actually built that and the process, the steps that they’ve gone through and in two years to be so different and why they’re making educational content and how-tos on YouTube, you know, what is that trying to achieve, and the greater trends around kind of how brands now own …

You know, you don’t have the gate keeper of the big TV stations anymore. You’ve got all these different channels. You’ve got millions of people on YouTube and Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and there’s no gatekeeper. You can kind of …

So it’s all about audience building and engagement. So talking to the people that are doing it for some of these big companies. Shopify, the guys there make wildly high production video content that they’re trying to shop out to people like Netflix, you know, so they’re taking a different approach where they’re going super cinematic.

You know, if you talk about branded content, that makes them like, cringe, you know, it’s just like, disgusting, you know? We’re all about making the audience feel different, you know?

Kathleen: I’ll have to check those out, I wasn’t aware that Shopify was going in that direction.

Andre: They also do a ton of video for more technical purposes. You know, helping people use the platform, TVCs, little technical campaigns on Facebook promotions, so they still do that kind of video but they’ve actually got a department fully focused on you know, entertaining their audience.

So actually that’s probably where I get most of my inspiration – off talking to customers, specifically around video.

But I think it just depends on what I’m trying to focus on, you know? I talk to some peers around Wellington, kind of around what they’re doing on LinkedIn, what they’re doing with their blog around driving inbound traffic. So I think, yeah, talking to people has been quite useful to me.

How to Reach Andre

Kathleen: Great. Well, if somebody is interested in learning more about Wipster or wants to get in touch with you and ask a question, what’s the best way fro them to connect with you online?

Andre: Twitter might be an easy way to find me, you know, @Andre_VDA, but LinkedIn … I’m probably more active on LinkedIn. It’s got my full name in the description or something like that, just search me on LinkedIn and yeah, we can connect and chat marketing.

I am quite passionate about where it is and all the tools we all have to kind of use and kind of to tell our message, tell our stories and help each other out. So yeah, I’m open to any connections for sure.

Kathleen: And Wipster’s URL is?



Kathleen: Yeah, I’ll put links to all those things in the show notes so if you’re wanting to find that information just head to the IMPACT website and you’ll find it on there. Thank you Andre, it’s been-

Andre: We’ll be doing that webinar in a few weeks as well so make sure to look out for that and we’re talking with Zach, so he’s a video consultant for IMPACT and he goes to a bunch of different brands and actually helps teach them to make a video because he’s a firm believer that the only way you can actually make multiple videos a week that’s kind of affordable, scalable and kind of really effective and authentic, the only way you can actually do that is to start making it yourself because the agency model doesn’t quite work when it comes to making a handful of videos a week for these kind of different purposes.

You know, because you can’t really pay an agency a lot of money to do that and get the ROI so that’s gonna be all about kind of helping you guys make more video in-house so check that out.

It’ll be in a few weeks time, I’m sure you’ll find out about it through the various channels we have.

Kathleen: Well, and I’ll put the link for that in the show notes as well, so.

Click here to register for the webinar with Andre and Zach

Andre: Perfect.

Kathleen: So you can click that and register. If you’re listening and you found this to be helpful I would love it if you would give the podcast a review on Apple podcast or the platform of your choice and if you know someone else who’s doing kickass inbound marketing work, Tweet me @workmommywork because I would love to interview them. That’s it for this week, thank you so much Andre!

Andre: Thanks for having me. It’s been fun.

Want to stay updated when the podcast is released?

Drop us your name and email address below and we’ll send you the show notes every Monday!  

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The thought of combining two very successful websites into one would make most marketers quake in their boots. How did David Meerman Scott do it without interruption to his business AND see improvements in traffic and search engine rankings?

David Meerman Scott

David Meerman Scott

This week onThe Inbound Success Podcast I’m joined by famed marketing expert, best-selling author, entrepreneur and internationally-renowned keynote speaker David Meerman Scott, along with IMPACT’s own principal strategist Stacy Willis. 

The two recently worked together on a project to merge two of David’s websites into one. Both sites attracted a significant volume of traffic and were important drivers of business for David – something that made the notion of combining them very scary.

In our conversation, David and Stacy talk about why they combined the sites, how they did it, and the results they saw.

This week’s episode of The Inbound Success Podcast is brought to you by our sponsor, IMPACT Live,  the most immersive and high energy learning experience for marketers and business leaders. IMPACT Live takes place August 6-7, 2019 in Hartford Connecticut and is headlined by Marcus Sheridan along with keynote speakers including world-renowned Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith and Drift CEO and Co-Founder David Cancel.

Inbound Success Podcast listeners can save 10% off the price of tickets with the code “SUCCESS”. 

Click here to learn more or purchase tickets for IMPACT Live

Some highlights from my conversation with David and Stacy include:

David’s primary website is He had several other sites including webinknow, which had over 1,500 blog posts and a considerable number of valuable backlinks.
When David and Stacy worked together to design his main website, they made the decision to merge all of the content from webinknow into the main site. 
One of the main reasons they decided to combine the two sites was they were cannibalizing each other when it came to keyword rankings and traffic.
Stacy used tools like Screaming Frog and SEMRush to analyze how David’s sites ranked and for which keywords, and that is how she was able to determine that these two particular sites should be merged (while some of David’s other sites should not be folded into the main site).
Having a plan for putting 301 redirects in place for all of the pages that were going to be merged was essential to the success of the project.
Stacy also evaluated David’s website traffic to determine which blogs were getting the most traffic and used this as an opportunity to improve the way they were optimized.
Central to this process was the development of a topic cluster strategy for David’s news site.
Within weeks of launching the new site, Stacy was able to determine that all of David’s traffic and keyword rankings from the two separate sites were preserved with the move to the new site.
In the weeks that followed, they also saw that many of his keyword rankings actually improved further, and he has begun to see an increase in lead flow to the site.
David’s advice to anyone considering combining multiple websites is to take the project in stages.

Resources from this episode:

Save 10% off the price of tickets to IMPACT Live with promo code “SUCCESS”
David Meerman Scott’s website
David’s books
Stacy’s article on The SEO Implications of Changing Domains During a Website Redesign (& a Successful Example)
“Is SEO Dead in 2019?” (pillar content collaboration between Liz Murphy and Franco Valentino)

Listen to the podcast to get details of the exact process David and Stacy went through to merge David’s two websites and increase his search engine rankings.


Kathleen Booth (Host):Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast. I’m Kathleen Booth, and I’m your host. Today we have a special episode of the Inbound Success podcast.

I have two guests. The first is my colleague, Stacy Willis, who is a strategist here at IMPACT. The second is David Meerman Scott, who is the famed author, keynote speaker, entrepreneur, 10 books…

I’m sure I’m missing so much in how I’m describing you, David. For those people who’ve been living a rock for the last decade, can you tell my audience a little bit about you, who you are, and the kind of work you do?

David Meerman Scott (Guest): Sure, and thanks for having me on. This is so much fun. I really appreciate it.

David Meerman Scott Kathleen Booth and Stacy WillisDavid, Kathleen and Stacy recording this episode


About David Meerman Scott

David: I was a corporate marketing guy for many years. I worked in Asia for 10 years. I was the vice president of marketing of two different publicly traded technology companies.

I got fired in 2002, had to figure out what the heck I was going to do, so started to work with a few clients. Then I started to write, and had a book called The New Rules of Marketing and PR. It hit the international bestseller list. It went crazy, and just has sold to date over 400,000 copies. It’s in 29 different languages.

I’ve written nine other books besides that, and I also serve on advisory boards of companies, including HubSpot. I was the first Advisor to HubSpot when they had less than 10 people and no revenue.

Kathleen: Wow.

David: I’ve been with them ever since. I wrote a book with HubSpot CEO, Brian Halligan, called Marketing Lessons From the Grateful Dead.

I invented the concept of newsjacking that I know IMPACTers talked about a lot. It was my invention and it is now in the Oxford English Dictionary, which is an awesome thing.

I’ve been working with IMPACT now for a couple of years. As you well know, you’ve done my marketing work. You’ve built out four different websites for me, so I really appreciate the effort and work that you’ve done on my behalf. I can work with anyone on the planet – bestselling marketing author – but I choose to work with you, so I really appreciate that, and I’m really happy that we can have this discussion.

Kathleen: That is really very kind of you to say. We are very fortunate that we get to work with you.

I think this is such a fascinating conversation to me because you are clearly a man who has a lot going on. I don’t think the moss grows under you very often.

David: Yeah, when I start to get a little bored I book a speaking gig in a crazy country. I’ve actually spoken in 46 different countries, most recently last month in Romania.

Yeah, the moss doesn’t grow because I jump on an airplane so it doesn’t.

Kathleen: I love it. One of the things that’s so fascinating to me about your situation as you describe is you’ve published many books. You have all these very diverse initiatives you undertake as an entrepreneur, and that could become, as some marketers I know like to say, a “Frankenmonster” of a marketing undertaking. If you have a ton of websites, a lot of different marketing channels, that can quickly become very unmanageable.

I know one of the things that we’ve been working on recently with you – and I shouldn’t say “we” because I’ve had nothing to do with it, it’s really Stacy and her team – is looking at how do we maybe combine some of those disparate marketing efforts into a more unified web presence.

You obviously have a unique situation, but there are a lot of companies out there that have different brands or different divisions that might have multiple web presences. One thing I do have a lot of experience with is talking to those companies and hearing the anxiety in their voice when they think about, “Oh my god, I’m afraid to touch it because I might break the internet,” right?

David: Hey, I have that fear too, right, Stacy? That was freaking me out. It was breaking my website. I think I probably said to Stacy and the team 30 or 40 times, “This is not going to break this, right? I’m going to be okay. I don’t have to sweat it.”

We’ll get into the details shortly, but I had a blog I started in 2004. There were over 1,500 blog posts. It’s so important to my business, and I’m like, “We’re not going to break it. We can’t break it.”

But you’re right, I do have a bit of that Frankenmonster that you described for a couple of reasons. I’ve tried to build out a basic website for some of the books that I’ve written because I try to choose a unique title for books. For example, World Wide Rave, there’s a website around World Wide Rave. There’s a website for a book I wrote called Marketing the Moon.

I’ve got some other websites out there. I have I got some junk out there too, but there’s some that are important.

Part of that is like I’m like a venture capitalist where I say, “Gee, I’ve got a new project coming up, and I think that it’s got some potential to perhaps be something that’s worth a standalone presence, so let’s create one.” That might be a new book for me or it might be a new concept.

In the case of a couple of my books, it wasn’t really that beneficial, and in fact now those sites are basically orphans. In some cases, I take the site down and redirect it somewhere else, typically to the book page on my main website, which is David Meerman Scott, but in other cases, it’s been incredibly powerful, for example, in the case of newsjacking.

Newsjacking is a concept that I pioneered. It must be about six or eight years ago now. When I first started to talk about newsjacking, nobody else was talking about it. It’s basically the idea that if you understand the news cycle, you can inject your ideas into that news cycle and generate tons of media attention and grow your business, get sales leads.

It’s a fabulous concept, and I bought the URL newsjacking as soon as I knew that I was going to be talking about this concept. Man, was that a smart move because every single day there are people who are writing about newsjacking. Every single day there are people who are using social networks with the hashtag newsjacking. All of that points back to me now because I have I have that URL.

I am the pioneer of newsjacking, but it’s made official because I have that URL. Then when the Oxford English Dictionary listed newsjacking in the dictionary, they wrote about me as the person who founded it, and that drove even more traffic to the site.

On one hand, I’ve got sites that are orphans and maybe they end up just being redirects. In other cases, they become standalone properties in their own right.

The Frankenmonster thing is like a VC. Sometimes it’s going to take off and do great; sometimes it’s not, and I never know which one is going to be which.

Combining Multiple Websites


Stacy Willis (Guest): It really made for an interesting challenge for your website.

Kathleen: Yeah.

David: Especially with one of the sites that we combined, I’ve had, gosh, 12 years, something like that, the other one since 2004. What’s that? 15 years. It’s a combined almost 30 years of those two websites with thousands and thousands of keywords, so you’re right. It was a challenge.

Kathleen: I think that’s what’s really interesting about this, because you have this very disparate set of sites – things like newsjacking, that have taken on a life of their own. Yeah, you wouldn’t want to touch that because, gosh, there’s no bigger holy grail for a search engine marketer than a back link from the Oxford English Dictionary. Talk about authority, right?

But then you have these little sites that were trial balloons you sent out that maybe didn’t go anywhere. It’s an easy thing to say, “Well, let’s take the trial balloon and merge it into the mothership,” but you were talking in this case about taking a site that had a substantial amount of content that was delivering results for you and merging it into another big one. There’s the potential to break both essentially.

So coming into this, David, can you talk a little bit about what your goals were for this whole undertaking?

David: Yeah, sure, of course. So I had two sites that your team – actually, Stacy and the team – recommended that we merge. It wasn’t my initial plan because frankly it scared the hell out of me to do it.

But the two sites are, which is my basic front page to the world. That’s the site where I typically will have people who are interested in having me speak will go to that website and learn about my speaking. There’s a bunch of videos on that site. That’s also where people will go to learn about my coaching services and my advisory work. When people want to quote me in a news article or story, that’s the place they’ll go. It’s basically the home base of David Meerman Scott.

Oh, and by the way, I just might add, my middle name is Meerman. I chose to use that 20 years ago when I built my first website because I’m the only David Meerman Scott on the entire planet. There’s a whole boatload of David Scotts, but there’s only one David Meerman Scott.

There’s a David Scott that walked on the moon as the commander of Apollo 15. There’s a David Scott who’s a multiple time Iron Man world triathlon champion. There’s a David Scott who’s a member of Congress from Georgia. That’s just a few of us. 

Kathleen: Very good company.

David: It’s good company, but when I first started my first website 20 years ago, I wasn’t going to be able to get any traction against those more famous David Scotts, but putting my middle name in, I was the only one. That was actually a very clever search engine marketing tactic I did a long time ago that I figured out myself.

But anyway, getting back to, that’s my home base on the web. That’s where people go to learn about me, maybe to book me to speak, to ask for a quote in an article, to pitch me something, to learn about my coaching services and to learn about my online learning programs and whatnot.

My other main web property is the horrifically named webinknow. Don’t ask me about that, but when I started it back in 2004, I was trying to come up with a name for my blog.

Why I didn’t just call it David Meerman Scott’s blog I have no idea, but I didn’t. I called it webinknow, W-E-B I-N-K N-O-W, which a lot of people didn’t know what it meant, so they said, “web in know,” which is actually spelled the same way, which makes no sense either.

I was trying to imply with webinknow, it’s web ink. It’s like you’re writing. It was a long time ago granted in the beginning of the internet, so it made sense at the time I suppose, but it was a very important property for me because that’s where I blogged at least once a week for 15 years. It was a lot of content there.

David: There are some blog posts that had millions of views, so there are some blog posts that had hundreds of inbound links. It is a very important property to me.

I’d love to have Stacy jump in, but as we were looking at these two properties that were so important to me, we realized that there might be benefit in combining them, which totally freaked me out, but I was talked down from the cliff, and we decided that, yes, this does make sense.

I don’t know, Stacy, do you want to jump in or do you have another question, Kathleen?

Kathleen: I’m going to frame the question for you, Stacy, because this is really interesting to me. As somebody who is a strategist who works with clients, I know you’ve had multiple situations where there have been companies that have said, “Should we or should we not combine these two web properties?”

From your standpoint as the outside strategist looking at this, when would you say, “Yes, you should combine these two,” versus when would you say, “These should stay separate”?

Stacy: This is actually a really interesting case because we said both to David, right? We said, “Don’t combine your newsjacking but do combine webinknow,” right?

Essentially what we looked at first and foremost was how much cannibalization was happening. Were we ranking for some of the same keywords? Was one site taking traffic away from the other site when it might make more sense to combine forces essentially and get even better rankings and drive all of the traffic to the same place?

Most importantly, David, for your site is, were we cannibalizing traffic that might ultimately want to hire us to speak? To look to us for coaching and sending it to the wrong website that doesn’t convert people down the right path for that?

Stacy: When we looked at the data, we found that it made sense for webinknow to come on to the David Meerman Scott domain, and it didn’t necessarily make sense for a newsjacking.

Newsjacking had its own really specific topic area. That even made for another layer of interesting keyword strategy because we wanted to be really careful about talking about the newsjacking book.

We definitely want that on your website, right? It’s really great credibility. It’s important to show the world what you’ve done, but if we talk about it too much, do we start cannibalizing traffic from the newsjacking site and bringing it over to yours? That put a lot of interesting thought process into this strategy that we put together for the book pages.

But really the big reason for combining webinknow was that big cannibalization factor, and the fact that we really wanted to drive up the domain credibility for the David Meerman Scott domain.

Kathleen: I want to make sure I understand. Let’s just focus for a second on webinknow and the David Meerman Scott main site. You were looking specifically at the various keyword sets that each was ranking for. Were you looking at where there was overlap or were you looking simply at like with webinknow, here are the keywords that rank really well, but we would very much like these to be what the David Meerman Scott site ranks for?

Stacy: It was a bit of both. The biggest thing that we really looked at was where there was overlap. If we have two websites that are ranking well for the same term, that means one of them is getting the traffic at the expense of the other, right? We wanted to find ways to stop that if we saw too many overlaps, and that was the case with this.

We saw enough overlap, and there wasn’t a strong enough reason from our perspective when we talked through it with David to keep webinknow separate, aside from that, because there’s always things that you can’t necessarily just look at data and have an answer to.

From a branding perspective, it may have still made sense to keep a website separate even if data tells you to do it. We looked up both sides, and it, just from both ends of the spectrum, made sense to move them together.

Kathleen: Stacy made this recommendation. You immediately, David, thought what?

David: The biggest thing was I was really worried about doing it because it’s such a big part of not just my business but my life because I actually go to my own blog and search on stories to remember things. I’ll say to myself, “When was I in Russia?” I’ll go to my blog and search “Russia” to see if I wrote a blog post about being in Russia because I can’t remember when I was there, that kind of thing, or I’ll remember that I did a post about a particular topic. As I’m doing work on, say, another book or whatever it is, I want to get information, so it’s not just even the business aspect. It’s the personal aspect of how important that blog was for me.

I was really, really worried that number one, something disastrous would happen, and it would disappear.

I guess that’s human nature. I was assured many times that there’s multiple backups of this and we can download it locally and we could do all this other stuff, so, okay, fine. Then I was worried because I’m not an expert in this stuff. I’m a marketing strategist, yes, but I’m not an under-the-covers SEO person.

I was worried that all of those fantastic inbound links – and I don’t know, Stacy, if you know how many we have, but it’s certainly thousands of inbounds link – would somehow break.

I was worried about that and my credibility would go down, so those things I needed to be reassured or under control, but I was really happy about losing the horrible name, webinknow, because even from the first year, it just didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

It would have been a very different discussion however if my blog name was really interesting. For example, if I had called it “The Marketing Blog,” or something like that, that had SEO in its own right, I’m not sure that combining them would have made as much sense. But when you have a URL for a blog and a name for a blog that’s so confusing, people don’t even know what it is, then that’s a good reason to combine.

The Process of Combining Two Websites

Kathleen: That’s a good point. You all took the decision to do this. Can you walk me through what the next steps were? Did you have to start by cataloging the content? How did you prepare for this undertaking?

Stacy: Yeah, so the biggest thing that we went through is the webinknow domain, since that was going to be the one that was going away and moving over the David Meerman Scott domain.

Internally, we used a tool called Screaming Frog for this. We went and did an audit of literally every single URL that existed over there to make sure that we weren’t going to miss anything when we moved everything over.

We migrated all of the blogs in draft form first, so nothing actually changed on the live site. Everything still looked the same to the outside world. We got everything set up and ready, and then we had to create this massive 301 redirect file essentially where we start pulling what were all of the old URLs that we need to make sure, redirect and move to new URLs on the new website.

David: There were over 1500 of them.

Stacy: Yeah.

Kathleen: I imagine that most of our listeners know what a 301 redirect is, but just for anyone who doesn’t, fair to say it’s like a change of address form for Google basically?

Stacy: Yes. It’s when you go to the post office and you give them your new address and do mail forwarding essentially.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Stacy: It moves everything over from your old URL to your new URL.

301 redirects tend to be less scary when they’re within a domain. They tend to get a lot scarier, and this is when you get people who get very nervous about moving from a completely different domain to another one. That’s when there’s a little bit more at stake and it’s a little bit easier for Google to get confused, and for traffic to get lost in that forwarding process.

We wanted to make sure that we were being really very careful about it. We made sure all those redirects were set up. In addition to that, we took the opportunity to say, “Do we have ways that we could adjust some of the URLs that used to exist and keyword optimize them as we move them to the new website?”

We’re going to be changing the URL anyway. Can we find ways to actually improve the keyword optimization of any of our existing content?

We looked at that, and then we also keyword optimized all of the new pages that we were creating as part of the redesign, so that they fit with the content and the structure and all of the topics that were coming across from webinknow. We took the opportunity to say, “We have all this old stuff that, oh my god, if we lose it, the world will end, but how can we take that and make it fresh and new and still combine it with an updated strategy for today?”

Kathleen: Now, for somebody outside of this, that sounds like a massive undertaking. How do you do this in a way that isn’t going to take months? This is 15 years’ worth of content.

David: Let me add a little bit of clarification that might help first, and then I’ll let Stacy talk about some of the details. When I first started working with IMPACT, I’m going to guess it was about two years ago or maybe even three years ago. I can’t remember. We did two projects together that were essentially setting this up to make this process easier.

The first thing that we did was we moved my DavidMeermanScott.come website from a WordPress site to a HubSpot site. That happened, again, I don’t remember the exact date, call it three years ago.

The second thing that we did was we created webinknow, which was in Typepad, and moved that over also to HubSpot. Again, I don’t know, let’s call it two or threes years ago that was done.

Those two projects were pretty significant undertakings in their own right that happened several years ago, so that now we’re sitting with both and under the same HubSpot account, which in my mind makes things easier.

I’m putting words in Stacy’s mouth, but in my mind makes things easier. I personally wasn’t as worried as if we had been moving from WordPress to HubSpot with and moving from Typepad to HubSpot with my blog, and then combining them all at the same time, which would have given me more sleepless nights.

Kathleen: Yeah, I can imagine.

Stacy: Yeah, and I’m definitely okay with people putting words in my mouth if they’re the right words, so I totally agree with that.

I would say the best way to help make this process more manageable, there’s going to be parts of the process that you can say, “Let’s focus on the best performing content,” and there’s going to be parts of this process that you would say, “Well, this is going to be tedious. I’m just going to have to put my big girl pants on and do it.”

The 301 redirects, there’s no shortcuts; there’s no turnarounds; there’s nothing. You have to make sure that you are moving things over appropriately. When you’re doing a blog migration this tends to be pretty easy because you can really move things over if you’re keeping the same URLs. Everything that’s after the slash, so it’s moving from to

Everything after the slash tends to stay the same if you’re a straight blog migration, so you can do those more simplified where you create a rule for your redirect where everything of this type of the structure, so everything that’s got the “/blog” in front of it all redirects to the same thing on the other website. They can be made easier in that way, but anything where you’re changing the URL completely-

Kathleen: Which you did.

Stacy: We did on a few cases, so we didn’t do it on all of them. This is where we focus on our highest performing content or the content that needs it the most.

What you would do is if you’re looking to improve your optimization, you might select the top 5% of converting blog posts, for example. Hey, these top 10% of our posts convert the most visitors. I want to make sure that we’re super extra keyword optimizing them to get the most out of them.

You might really say if you’re going to put in extra effort in any place, just focus on the ones that are going to drive you the most results, right? For the most part, we moved everything over with that same URL structure to keep it simple and safe and less scary.

But – we also at the same time that we did this – we put together a topic cluster keyword strategy, and made sure that anything that we could pull into that cluster that was fitting in terms of topic area or already talking about a similar keyword, and we pulled those pieces in and did things like update URLs or update the keywords on the page that we’re moving over in order to fit that new strategy.

We took the opportunity to do a hybrid, keep what was old and find a way to utilize and make new what we could improve.

Kathleen: I like that strategy of prioritization.

I want to make sure I understand what you said. You cherry picked, as you call them, the top performing posts. Was it based on conversion rate or based on traffic or was it a mix of the two?

Stacy: In this case, we really focused on the pieces that would fit within our topic cluster strategy. If you were doing this and you weren’t doing it at the same time as the topic cluster strategy, you may pick the top converting posts as an example, but we really focused on those that fit with the topic cluster.

The Results

Kathleen: Okay, great. I’d love to jump forward and talk about what happened. You undertook this process. You merged the two sites, and then what? Did everything break? Did David’s worst fears come true?

Stacy: It was very, very smooth. There’s always an expectation when you do something like this, when you move from one domain to another, that Google’s going to take a few weeks to catch up. What we do when we launch is we always make sure as soon as everything’s up running and looks good, we resubmit our site map to Google to make sure that they are starting to index it immediately, so shorten that process and have them understand those new redirects as fast as we can.

Kathleen: You’re doing that through Google Search Console?

Stacy: Correct, yes, my favorite tool. It’s basically like, “Let me talk to you, Google, directly about what you know about me instead of guessing.”

After that, we kept a really close eye on what was happening. Was traffic moving over?

Within the first two weeks after the site was launched, we were at the place where, if you looked at the traffic numbers for each individual domain before and you added them together, they now equaled on your traffic. We were getting almost all of the traffic across. The only difference would be that the traffic that we were cannibalizing now is all coming to one site, which is great. We weren’t splitting between the two.

Then the keywords that we were ranking for immediately rebounded as well. Each site, if you look individually at the number of keywords, that it had ranking in the top 20, the top 30, the top 50, whatever number or range you’re looking at and added those two numbers together. Within two weeks, we were summing up to that total on the new domain. We had everything move over and continue to keep the same ranking level through that move.

The exciting part was we actually even saw our rankings improve or new rankings appear for some of the pieces that we deemed appropriate and put as part of our cluster strategy.

Lessons Learned

Kathleen: Wow, that’s great. Any particular lessons learned or things that you would do differently or things that you would advise somebody listening who’s considering doing this to really watch out for if they want to undertake this for themselves?

Stacy: The most important thing I can say is make sure you understand if you are considering either changing a domain or combining multiple domains together.

Make sure you understand everything about how each of those domains is working today before you start making the decision about whether you should even undertake something like this because if you don’t actually know how things are working or if you don’t know if you’re cannibalizing traffic, you may make the wrong decision and go through this process needlessly or make it a little bit harder on yourself.

Just making sure that you know what your domain is doing, what keywords you’re ranking for, what kind of traffic you’re driving from search, and then use that to inform your decision, as opposed to waiting until you’ve already made the decision.

Must-Have Tools

Kathleen: You mentioned Screaming Frog, but you used that to catalog the URLs on the one site. Any other particular tools that you think are must-haves for this kind of a process?

Stacy: Absolutely, so in order to find out if we’re cannibalizing traffic, the tool that we use internally to do that is called SEMrush or S-E-Mrush. I think I’ve heard it pronounced both ways. But that one, it’s great.

It actually gives you a really easy visual of how big your overlap is, so it actually visualizes it as a Venn diagram. If you put like, “Here’s the keyword universe of site A and here’s the keyword universe of site B, and here’s how much they overlap,” you can really start to understand how that cannibalization is happening or if it’s even happening. If there’s no overlap, then you’re fine. The sites are probably not really causing problems for each other, but if you’re within the same topic area, there’s usually going to be a decent amount of overlap.

That’s what we used to decide if it made sense to combine the URLs or not.

The Owner’s Perspective

Kathleen: Great, and David, from your standpoint, obviously there was a lot of trepidation going into this process. Stacy has explained what happened from the technical side, the ranking side, but as the business owner, can you speak to your experience through the launch and post-launch? Was there an interruption to the business? How did that all play out?

David: For me, I think what was absolutely critical and made it happen really smoothly was that it was done in stages.

As I mentioned a couple of moments ago, the first stage, which happened several years ago, was to move the website from WordPress over to HubSpot and then we moved the blog from Typepad over to HubSpot. Those happened several years ago at two different times.

Then we did a redesign of the website, followed by a redesign of the blog, and finally the last step was combining them. For me, it wasn’t a massive “tear down the house and rebuild it.” It was more like what we did was we were still living in the old house, but we built a new foundation and then we built the new house, and then we painted the new house. Then we built a wall between homes and we tried out the new house for size and it seemed to fit. Then we moved in and we knocked down the old house.

It was a really, really staged process. For me, I found that to be a really thoughtful way to go through it that I was able to manage given all the other things that I’m doing. There’s many times that we’d be communicating and I’d be in some other country about to jump onto a stage to give a speech, for example. I really appreciated that it was done in those stages. For that reason, it wasn’t like, “Oh my god, we just did a redesign and combined everything, and I’ve got to learn a new tool and how to use it,” all at the same time, which would have been a problem.

From my perspective, it went really smoothly. I was really excited to see that for certain search terms, instead of being position five and position eight, we’d jump up to position two for the same keyword, things like that.

That was a real major part of the strategy, so it ended up working, although, I don’t have enough data yet to be able to say.

Ultimately the main goal is that I want to generate more leads particularly for my speaking business. I think it was just within the time that this project was finished I had quite a few more leads than I had been getting. It looks like tomorrow I’m going to close a nice speaking gig for an organization in Canada, which I’m excited about, who found me through search.

That was the ultimate goal, and it looks like that’s playing out.

This is not easy. Stacy and the team did the work, but even as the business owner who is involved in the process start to finish, it’s not an easy process. But once it’s done, it’s like moving into that new house. It’s all worth it because you live better and happier and healthier and with more prosperity, so it’s all worth it.

Kathleen: I think that’s really fascinating what you said about the stages. A lot of times I talk to companies who are sitting in that situation of, “Oh my god, I have these three websites, or these two websites that I need to combine or I’m thinking I might want to combine.” It can seem overwhelming.

What I’m hearing is that maybe the first thing isn’t to try to, as they say, eat the elephant all in one bite. It’s to say, “How can I get myself on a surer footing and maybe put these two websites on the same platform?”

It was funny. You used the analogy of the house renovation. In my head, what I was thinking is there’s some types of surgery, I feel like ACL replacement, where they tell you you have to get in shape in order to have the surgery. I feel like this is like that. We’re going to get in shape before we go into surgery.

David: No, and I think that’s right. I use the house metaphor because we actually did a massive renovation project on our house that finished up about two years ago. That’s exactly how we did it.

We not only renovated the original house, but we also created an addition to the house. It was a long three year process to do that, and we decided we wanted to live in the house during the process.

That’s the same as this project. The website cannot go away. The blog cannot go away, yet we’re trying to renovate it and combine it all while it’s still running.

I think that’s the best metaphor is that renovation and addition project that we did it while still living in the house. That’s what we did with this project, and I think it worked great.

It is hard, but I think so far it’s only been a couple of months since we’ve been completed, but so far it’s been totally worth it.

We haven’t talked about the design at all, but the design of the new combined website / blog is fabulous. It does a way better job at showcasing who I am than what we had originally, which was old and dusty. It was built quite a few years ago. A different company, not IMPACT, worked on it. It was adequate at the time. I wasn’t embarrassed by it, but what I’ve got now, I’m really proud of, so it’s really big, great change.

Kathleen: Stacy, do we have any before and after pictures of the site?

Stacy: We could definitely get some.

Kathleen: Yeah, I would love to put those in the show notes, so we could see the transformation. That’s always so much fun.

Stacy: Yeah. Before and After

This is David’s current website homepage (designed by Stacy and the team at IMPACT):


This was David’s homepage prior to the redesign (courtesy of the Wayback Machine):


Kathleen: Really interesting to hear about this process.

I know, Stacy, you’re writing an article on this that, by the time this interview goes live. It’s going to be up on our site, so I will link to that.

Click here to read Stacy’s article

Kathleen: David, I think you’re going to be posting some things on this from your perspective, so I’ll link to that as well.

If you’re listening and you want to learn more or dig in, get more details, head to the show notes on the IMPACT website, and you’ll find a link to David’s article, Stacy’s article, and some cool before and after pictures as well as some screen shots of the results that David got (check out his organic keyword rankings below!).

davidmeermanscott com   Organic Search Positions (1)-1

Kathleen’s Two Questions

Kathleen: Changing subjects for a minute, there are two questions I always like to ask my guests. I’m going to ask both of you. I’m going to start with David.

David, I’m really interested in this one because you were an advisor to HubSpot from way back in the beginning. I always like to ask every guest I have, company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?

David: That’s a very, very interesting question.

One of my favorite companies to talk about is a little tiny company in York, Maine, called Grain Surfboards. They make sustainable wooden surfboards. They’re a little company. I think there’s four or five people there. They run out of a barn in York, Maine.

They just do a fabulous job at their inbound marketing. They’re not marketers. They’re people who make surfboards for a living. I ran across them because I did a search on Google for wooden surfboards. I found them. Wow, they have a really cool website. This is really interesting. Then I found that not only can you buy a wooden surfboard, but you can actually go through a wooden surfboard course where you can make your own wooden surfboard, so I signed up. I did that, then I went back and I did it a second time.

Kathleen: That’s so cool.

David: Through one Google search, I think I’ve spent $4,000 to go through two wooden surfboard building courses at Grain Surfboards. I’m a really big fan of organizations like that that have either zero marketing dollars in their marketing budget or maybe there’s $150 and somebody’s brother-in-law, but they can still do a fabulous job.

Kathleen: I love that example, and I know a lot of my listeners are companies just like that. It’s great to hear an example of somebody successful doing this with a shortage of resources.

Stacy, how about you? Who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?

Stacy: This answer’s going to sound totally self-serving, but especially for the topic area as we’ve talked about, there’s two resources that I’ve relied on super heavily to learn about all of the pieces that built the way that we do keyword strategies, and then all of the technical SEO knowledge to make sure that we could pull something off like this without breaking David’s site.

That’s Liz Murphy internally at IMPACT is an incredible resource for understanding how to build topic clusters and pillar strategies.

Then Franco Valentino from Narrative SEO, which is a partner of IMPACT’s – those are my two go-to sources of information.

They have put out such great content. We just released a pillar page that was a collaboration between the two of them. If you really want the best of the best information on SEO. Exactly, but those the places that I’ve been going for, especially in this topic area.

Kathleen: Great. Yeah, I have to say I couldn’t do my job without the two of them, so I would agree with that.

Alright, for the second question, I’m going to start with Stacy and end with David. We’ll change up the order.

Second question I always ask is with the world of digital marketing changing at, it would sometimes can seem like, a lightning fast pace, how do you stay educated and up to date? Stacy, let’s start with you.

Stacy: I try and find a balance because you could really easily get just swept up in the tons and tons and tons of information that is out there and being produced day in and day out. It’s almost impossible to keep up and say you know everything about everything.

I’ve picked some topic areas that I try to make sure that I am constantly up to date on. I’ll tend to return back to really specific sources for those areas. For example, the SEMrush blog for SEO stuff specifically is topnotch. It’s where I learn a lot of what I do.

Then I try to, on occasion, google terms that fit with the topic area as well and find new sources that are maybe outside of what I know already because it’s really easy to get stuck in that little bubble of people who think and talk and act just like you, instead of looking out at people who are looking at things a different way.

Kathleen: Great. David, how do you stay current?

David: I do have some blog and other sources that I read on a regular basis.

I get the IMPACT content, which I love, of course.

I read Seth Godin.

I read a guy called Bob Lefsetz, who’s absolutely not a marketer. He writes about music, but he has a fascinating take on the music business, which I think, because I’m such a huge music fan, that I apply those ideas to marketing in general.

But the vast majority of the way I keep current is when I speak at conferences all over the world on a regular basis. I don’t just go do my speech and leave. I go, I listen to the other sessions. I meet people at lunch. I go out to the dinners or the cocktail receptions and find out what people are up to.

I serve on about a dozen advisory boards. I don’t do traditional consulting. I’m not a consultant. I’m not a marketing agency or anything like that, but I do serve as an advisor to about a dozen different companies, including HubSpot, who I’ve been with since 2007.

I try in every case, when I’m working with those advisory clients, to learn how they do their marketing. What’s working? What’s not working? How can we make this better? That’s really great because it’s almost like I’m not an employee of those companies, but I am essentially an insider, so I’m able to see what’s going on in their real world situation.

That combination keeps me to the point where I’m feeling like I’m current for what works for me, although there’s plenty of people who are way more on the cutting edge than I am.

Kathleen: I think it sounds like the common theme between both of you is knowing what you want your area of focus to be, and not trying to be an expert in all things. That’s a good take away.

David: Yeah, and in my case, working with IMPACT and working with Stacy and the team, it’s been great because I consider myself a marketing strategist. I love the strategy aspect. I am decidedly not an SEO expert, not a designer. I don’t know what’s going on. I know what a 301 redirect is, but that was about the extent of my knowledge of most of what Stacy just said over the last 45 minutes.

I’m fortunate to be able to be partnered with you guys on the project because I had a vision for what I wanted to accomplish, but I had no clue whatsoever how to get there.

Kathleen: It’s been really interesting for me to hear you guys talk about this experience because in my many years of first being an agency owner and then I was on the sales team at IMPACT, I’ve talked to so many different companies, and this kind of thing comes up a lot. The stress and worry and tension that always bubbles under the surface is really palpable. It’s interesting to hear a real example of this process having been carried through to its end and having gone well. Thank you for sharing that.

David: Oh yeah, and thank you for having me on, and thank you, Stacy, for all the hard work.

Stacy: Awesome. Thanks for letting us tinker with your site even though it was scary.

How to Reach David and Stacy

Kathleen: I know that you can find Stacy at David, if somebody wants to get in touch with you, learn more about what you do, maybe talk with you about coming to speak, can you tell them the best way to find you online?

David: The fabulously redesigned DavidMeermanScott is a great place. If you google my name as we spoke about earlier, David Meerman Scott, it will only pop me up, which is neat. On most social networks, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, I am DMScott, D-M-S-C-O-T-T.

You Know What To Do Next…

Kathleen: Great. Thank you both for being here today.

If you’re listening and you enjoyed what you heard or you learned something new, of course, as always, I would love it if you would give the podcast a review on Apple Podcast or the platform of your choice.

If you know someone who is doing kick ass inbound marketing work, please tweet me at Workmommywork because I would love to interview them. That’s it for this week. Thanks.

Want to stay updated when the podcast is released?

Drop us your name and email address below and we’ll send you the show notes every Monday!  

Read more:

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.

Special Offer for Inbound Success Podcast Listeners:

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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