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Content Marketing, Diversity

Influencer Marketing: I’ve got a bone to pick with you – wanna meet me outside? by @NikkiElizDeMere

influencermarketing

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Joanna Wiebe has this great formula for writing compelling posts. As she puts it, “pick a fight.” Well, there’s been a battle brewing between me and one marketing idea for a very long time: Influencer marketing. It’s hotter than a June bug in July right now. Everyone’s talking about it, and almost everyone’s doing it.

The idea behind influencer marketing isn’t a bad one altogether.

Some have described it as “the opposite of authority marketing” – instead of you being the one drawing people in with your charm and expertise, you’re instead courting others who have already built up their authorities in your niche (or related niche) and asking them to introduce you to their audiences (preferably with a glowing review, or an anchor-text heavy guest post).

A more succinct definition from VisionCritical: Influencer marketing is the practice of “engaging and partnering with people deemed to have online clout.” Bloggers, internet personalities, celebrities and industry experts are all fair game.

The promise?

“Companies expect that influencer marketing will drive sales because bloggers are able to expose the brand to a captive audience and increase brand awareness.” – Elspeth Shek, “Influencer marketing’s big, bad problem, and what companies can do about it,” VisionCritical

So, best case scenario: Your influencer has a large, highly engaged, niche-specific audience that will listen to *anything* s/he says, and buy whatever s/he recommends.

Some influencers have that much power. If you’re a new perfumer and you get Dita Von Teese’s public endorsement? You’ve got it made in the shade. Why? Because her audience is devoted to the point of being fanatical, and she has won their trust through her own integrity of only supporting brands (and scents) she genuinely loves.

But, most influencers don’t have that much sway. They may have large followings, but maybe half are active, and the other half are “lurkers” (and at least one technology researcher and strategist, Alexandra Samuel, contends that “lurkers” are not only less likely to comment and engage, but also less likely to follow recommendations).

Still, the potential benefits of winning an influencer over to your cause are big, juicy, and understandably tempting, spawning a million-and-one articles about how to do influencer marketing. This article  isn’t one of them.

This article is about whether you should use influencer marketing at all, and if you do, how you can benefit other people in addition to your brand. Yes, I could have titled this article “How you can use influencer marketing to make the world a better place,” but I’m not running for Miss America anytime soon.

Big Picture: How Ethical – not to mention effective – is Influencer Marketing?

“The voice of the customer has always been one of the most powerful concepts in marketing, and today’s social media platforms act as one giant megaphone for that voice.” – Kyle Wong, “The Explosive Growth of Influence Marketing and What it Means for You,” Forbes

The theory is that by choosing the right influencers with whom to partner, you’ll get an all-access pass into the minds and hearts of their audience (who is also your target audience). But first, you have to choose your influencer, and there’s a scientific approach to this called “influencer targeting.”

According to Forbes, the winning influencer targeting equation is:

“Influencer = Audience Reach (# of followers) X Brand Affinity (expertise and credibility) X Strength of Relationship with Followers”

I’ve written about The Problem with Influencer Marketing before. My biggest beef is that because of the way influencers are chosen, only the voices that are already the loudest get amplified. Brands who pick influencers based solely on numbers ensure the people who already dominate the conversations continue to do so.

This is problematic when, as I found:

Of the “50 Online Marketing Influencers to Watch in 2016,” published by Entrepreneur magazine, you’ll find that:

74% are male

86% are white

This isn’t only an issue of diversity in sex and ethnicity; it’s an issue of differentiation. When the same voices are retweeted by every brand’s social media, every brand starts to sound the same. And that means that, pretty soon, your brand’s social media will have all the impact of white noise. (Get it? White noise? Ha!)

But what if brands chose their influencers differently, and with a weather eye towards diversity?

What if we could change the way brands and influencers and audiences interact altogether?

Mirror, mirror on the wall – who’s the cloutiest of them all?

My theory: Truly effective and impactful influencer marketing can only be built on a foundation of trust, mutual respect, and mutual benefit. And, if you’re building your influencer “network” based on a formula, rather than making genuine person-to-person connections, you won’t have that.

Here are my new and improved formulas for your consideration:

influencer

influencer2The only kind of brand/influencer relationship that works in the long-term is one that is not just mutually beneficial, but mutually supportive. I’d like to see brands, marketers and entrepreneurs create circles of authentic relationships that support each other – which is actually far easier than cold-Tweeting influencers with variations on “Hey, can I use you to sell our product to your audience? KThanks!”

In short, Building trust with influencers requires not having the attitude of “What can you do for me?”

Let me share with you one of the nicer requests I’ve received. She starts out great, with lots of compliments (compliments will get you almost anywhere), but her message missed a vital component. Can you guess what it is?

Hi Nichole,

I’ve read your article on “Truly Awesome Tactics to Gain Traffic from Twitter” on Moz and found it very interesting and inspiring.

I especially like your point about storytelling and writing clickbait headlines.
We operate in the Tech/Business space as well, so I’m sure we’ll be able to collaborate.

We’re currently looking to increase our brand awareness, and I really like the quality of your article, I thought I’d reach out to you personally.  Do you think it would be possible to mention [company] on one of your articles on Moz?

We’re a business software directory specializing in the software reviews and deals. You can check out blog to get an idea about the type of topics we cover, here.

I’d be happy to hop on a call for a quick introduction. 🙂

Thank you so much in advance!

Honestly, I get so many similar requests that my responses have become downright terse.

Hi [Marketer], thanks for reaching out, but that doesn’t really sound like a collaboration, and I can’t think of any articles that I’m writing soon for Moz in which “software reviews and deals” fit.

Regards,

Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré

I love to collaborate with great brands, but let’s check that dictionary definition: “to work jointly on an activity, especially to produce or create something. Synonyms: Join forces, band together, ally.”

Essentially, help each other. This marketer had a firm grasp on how I could help her, but had nothing more meaningful to offer me that a little sweet talk. I like compliments as much as the next human being, but c’mon. And I’m not talking about financial remuneration, though offers are always appreciated. I’m much more interested in forming real partnerships with genuinely good, customer-centric businesses.

And that typically doesn’t result from an unsolicited private message from a marketing department.

Yet this is what influencer marketing encourages: People reach out to influencers without building real relationships, without any real connection, and asking for a one-way exchange.

“The best way to approach someone in demand is to not approach them! In general, this feels like a shortcut, but it’s not. The opportunity is to create your own sphere of influence, curate your own content, lead your own tribe… it might take longer, but it doesn’t put you at the mercy of the delete key.” – Seth Godin

What I would like to see instead is this:

Brands increasing their brand awareness the right way, by practicing customer success, creating delight, and building an army of brand advocates who will spread the message for them.

Essentially, we’re turning the idea of an influencer on its head.

Instead of reaching out to an established “influencer” – brands can make their own through empowering their most enthusiastic users. Then it’s not based on numbers; it’s based on passion, existing trust, and an existing relationship that will only continue to strengthen and grow.

And if you must have influencers, I recommend this:

  • Choose people based on who you, personally, would love to get to know;
  • Look for voices that are outside of the mainstream (but who still have passionate, engaged audiences);
  • And forge a genuine relationship with them.

Their audience and yours will respond far more positively to authentic relationship-building than a clearly transactional plug. Trust me on this.


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Curation, Diversity

The Problem with Influencer Marketing by @NikkiElizDeMere

The-Problem-with-Influencer-Marketing-

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Influencer marketing works. How? Influencers are people who are highly active on social media and blogs. They can be brand advocates and niche promoters. Most importantly though, they are people with loud online voices who other people listen to.

Influencer marketing leverages the loud-speaker like qualities of this group to, essentially, create word-of-mouth buzz about a business or product online. But it’s not all about buzz – as Jay Baer says: “True influence drives action, not just awareness.”

When you align with an influencer, you’re entering into a mutually beneficial relationship. You amplify their voice even more by promoting their blog or social media presence; they talk about your company or product. Consumers trust recommendations from them, more than from you, because they’re third parties. They have enough distance from your company to maintain objectivity, and they have enough cache with their audiences to where their recommendations are trusted.

You don’t have to adopt an official influencer spokesperson – the relationship is usually not that formal. Rather, influencer marketing often takes the simple form of trading guest posts, or even “you retweet me, I retweet you.”

It’s surprisingly effective.

But when you look at influencer marketing from a perspective of diversity, it’s not working so well.

Of the “50 Online Marketing Influencers to Watch in 2016,” published by Entrepreneur magazine, you’ll find that:

74% are male

86% are white

As far as non-race diversity factors go for this group, they’re anyone’s guess, but I would venture to say that even this remarkably diverse list (you should see some of the other ones), is lacking in a diversity of perspective.

So what happens when brands embrace the same group of influencers, whose voices are already loud and out there, who come from relatively privileged backgrounds?

We get a whole lot of the same.

In the influencer version of “the rich get richer,” the loud and privileged are even more amplified, to the point where they saturate the conversation and drown out voices from marginalized groups.

Pretty soon, everyone’s Twitter feed in the same niche looks identical, because they’re all re-tweeting the same influencers, over and over again. Is there an echo on here?

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 3.25.54 PM

A suggestion for a simple solution

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I would suggest that if you’re using influencer marketing, consider sharing content by marginalized people along with your regularly scheduled programming. Then, you’re not leaving them entirely out of the conversation. Stumped for where to begin? I’ve got you covered – try these:

@AlterConf – “An evening of critical culture discussions in tech and gaming. We’re moving the diversity conversation beyond 101. Coming to a city near you!”

@FundBetterTech – “Pledge $100/month to fund tech projects by and for marginalized people.”

@ModelViewMedia – “A magazine about tech + culture + diversity. We tweet articles and news.”

@TransH4CK – “Creating tech for the transgender community & visibility for trans technologists and entrepreneurs.”

Ensuring people who already have massive followings get their messages out there is fine, but it’s not going to add any new insights into the conversation. When you include the intelligent, savvy voices of people we don’t traditionally hear from, you allow the conversation to reach its full potential, creating a richer experience for everyone.

But honestly, just connect with people whose work you love. And if some happen to be influencers, and some don’t, that’s fine.

Curation as a power-tool

My style of Twitter using is curation. It’s what I do. It’s what I love. I’ve also found it to be a powerful tool for supporting, promoting, and amplifying marginalized influencers who deserve far more retweets than they get. For me, curation is a form of self-expression, which is why I share what I love – not what I think others will love.

Ultimately, diversity is so much more beautiful and interesting. Just check out some of the latest tweets by @Odyism, a fantasy illustrator who posted art for Black History Month on his feed.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 3.31.54 PM

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 3.33.20 PM


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Acquisition, B2B, Customer Development, Customer Experience, Customer Success, SaaS, Storytelling

B2B SaaS Marketing Strategies That Work: (Hint: The right words, the right people, & the right mindset)

B2B SaaS Marketing Strategies

Here’s what we know: Effective customer acquisition tactics for B2B SaaS marketing are based in understanding the customer, their jobs-to-be-done, and making your value proposition crystal clear.

That hasn’t changed.

What has changed:

Business audiences are getting harder to impress. There’s a glut in products, content, ads and emails that’s trained them to stop paying attention, unless they’re confronted with something truly unexpected.

Which means, B2B SaaS marketers like me, like you, need to find more creative ways to stand out, even when your product serves an important need.

I consulted some of the best B2B SaaS marketers in the biz, who’ve shared some of their best B2B SaaS acquisition strategies that are both timely and timeless.

These are strategies you can start implementing right now to acquire more customers.

Part 1: Finding the right words

Content and copy work hand-in-hand to lift up early-stage SaaS businesses; the first to bring target audiences in and win their trust, the second to hook them with a strong value proposition and buyer psychology. For some companies, their content strategy is their acquisition strategy.

Finding the right words, for me, is really about finding market-language fit: Identify your ideal customers, talk to them, create a value proposition based on those customer conversations, and use their exact words to inform the rest of your marketing. In fact, I’d say there’s no better ‘growth hack’ than just talking to your customers.

But what does talking to your customer really mean?

It’s not like you’re inviting them out for tea and cookies every week for a casual catch-up (that would be cool though). 

Tea and Cookies with Pusheen

Tea and cookies?


When we say “talk to your customers,” we usually mean sending surveys that include long-form free-response fields, building quick in-app surveys to uncover moments of friction, and maybe (hopefully) getting some of your ideal customers on the phone or in person for more in-depth interviews. These are all valid ways of talking to your customers. But I’d like to see companies going several steps further and including genuine conversations with their customers. Getting to know your customers as human beings and building real relationships with them that power positive customer experience. 

In this section, we’re talking about how B2B SaaS companies use words – their words, and their customers’ words – to make marketing more effective at kickstarting those relationships.

These experts have not only found the right words, but use the right strategies to bring in people, convert them into customers, and retain them.

Storytelling

“I swear we’ve tried almost everything and, the only thing that always, always, always works – in any situation – is storytelling.

Other things work well (or not) depending on the buyer, situation and cost.

And by storytelling I mean telling our story… like this:

Our mission is…

We started Vervoe because we want to…

We do this by…

Now let’s talk about you…”

Omer Molad
Co-Founder & CEO
Vervoe
Omer
I swear we’ve tried almost everything and, the only thing that always, always, always works - in any situation - is storytelling. Other things work well (or not) depending on the buyer, situation and cost. Click To Tweet

“I find that the magic place of storytelling is where your company’s story intersects with your customer’s story. So, if you can define your story identifying your values, your passion, your history, and your greatest skills you can find where that intersects.

That particular pain you are trying to solve with your product is the same pain your customer feels. When they hear your story, they recall their own story. There is an immediate connection. It’s magic.”

Todd E. Jones
Helping tech entrepreneurs resurrect flatlined content
Copyflight
The magic place of storytelling is where your company's story intersects with your customer's story. Define your story identifying your values, your passion, your history, and your greatest skills. Click To Tweet

There is a place of magic in storytelling.

Brand

“Ostensibly, B2B buyers are purchasing software based on hard facts that words and numbers convey. But emotional connection plays an important role in how people make decisions–and B2B buyers are people. I have a background in B2C marketing, so I know first-hand the power of brand to elicit a positive emotional response such as trust.
So, one of the first things I did in the early days at Wootric was to establish a strong brand identity. Remember the old adage about dressing for the job you want, not the job you have? It can be tempting to choose a logo that reflects a fun startup culture. You are better off creating an identity that embodies where the company will be in three to five years. Our roadmap had Wootric quickly expanding from an NPS survey tool to a end-to-end customer experience management solution, and our brand identity needed to take us there.

Approaching brand this way gives you a competitive edge. You will enhance the credibility of the messaging and content you’ve worked so hard to create. When Wootric acquired one of its first marquee customers, the sales team shared this post-sale customer comment with me: ‘Wow, I thought Wootric was much bigger!’

That is the power of brand. “

Lisa Abbott
VP of Marketing
Wootric
Lisa
Ostensibly, B2B buyers are purchasing software based on hard facts that words and numbers convey. But emotional connection plays an important role in how people make decisions--and B2B buyers are people. Click To Tweet

“For almost five years now, I’ve been focusing on content marketing for cybersecurity and privacy companies. A big challenge is that the usual topics are stark and complex to the point of being overwhelming for the target audience.

It also doesn’t help that most content in the industry relies heavily on FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) to make a point or persuade readers to become customers.

I’ve found storytelling to be the most effective way to build an emotional connection that can nudge readers to reconsider their online security habits.

Sharing experiences that people like themselves lived through changes their opinion from “this can’t happen to me” to “I wouldn’t want to walk a mile in their shoes.”

Focusing on storytelling in building content for information security companies is an essential way of turning the reader’s attention from someone else’s problem to their potential problem.”

Andra Zaharia
Freelance Content Marketer
How do you know?
Focusing on storytelling in building content is an essential way of turning the reader's attention from someone else's problem to their potential problem. Click To Tweet

Content Mapping

“At Skuid, we start with a strong foundation and define our message map. This document can be used across all teams at Skuid to ensure that we are fully in sync with our message to the market.

For us marketing must be omni-channel – we call our approach a flywheel. Each facet of marketing—content, product marketing, demand gen, PR and communications—plays an integral role in the overall strategy.

 

Flywheel

The Flywheel effect is a concept developed in the book Good to Great. No matter how dramatic the end result, good-to-great transformations never happen in one fell swoop. In building a great company or social sector enterprise, there is no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no miracle moment. Rather, the process resembles relentlessly pushing a giant, heavy flywheel, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.


Once the flywheel is built out, each facet propels the other forward, creating momentum in acquiring customers.

We create content to celebrate our customers’ successes and educate prospects and customer about our product through webinars, blogs, case studies, at in person events and virtually. We also use a combination of paid advertising (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn) and organic search to promote our content to our target audience.

At Skuid, we’ve seen success in taking a land and expand approach to sales and marketing. Once a customer uses our product and understands the versatility of the platform, they want find additional uses cases across their organization. This has been the case in some of our largest customers, including BHGE, Intuit, HPE, RedHat, and others.”

Karie Lepito
VP of Marketing
Skuid
We’ve seen success in taking a land and expand approach to sales and marketing. Once a customer uses our product and understands the versatility of the platform, they want find additional uses cases across their organization. Click To Tweet

The Inbound – Outbound One-Two Punch

“I’m with Text Request, a 4-year-old B2B SaaS startup in Chattanooga, TN. We hit $1M in revenue earlier this year, and have not taken any funding/investment. Here’s how we’ve acquired customers.

If you already know who your target customer is and how to take care of them once they’ve signed up, then all you have to do is find more of your targets. Right? But that’s easier said than done. We’ve split our approach between inbound and outbound (pretty evenly).

For inbound, we use a combination of SEO best practices for keywords related to business texting, a high quality blog, and Google Ads. The concept is to be the resource people are looking for.

They go to Google with a question. Our content, ads, and website answer that question well, so we show up at the top of search results. Once they make it to our website, we have various calls-to-action to get them to take a next step. (E.g. Let us show you how it works. Schedule a demo!) In fact, almost all of our enterprise-level customers found us via Google search.

For outbound, we take an ideal target (let’s say pest control companies). We Google search for those companies in a particular town, and then we send them an email. We’ll say “Here’s the problem other exterminators are having, and here’s how we fix it. Here’s a link to more info. Schedule a demo to see how it works.” It’s a numbers game, but that process works very well for us.

In my experience, it’s not difficult to find more customers if you know who your targets are and where they spend their time. You also don’t need fancy marketing tech. A CRM is good for keeping up with everyone, and a CMS is good for regularly updating your website, but you don’t need to spend thousands a month on software just to build an effective sales funnel.”

Kenneth Burke
Director of Marketing
Text Request
It's not difficult to find more customers if you know who your targets are and where they spend their time. A CRM is good for keeping up with everyone, and a CMS is good for regularly updating your website. Click To Tweet

Email Segmentation

“Email segmentation is one the best B2B SaaS marketing strategies. I can’t stress enough the importance of targeting the right people with the right message at the right time.

I helped one of my clients increase their sales from email by 10% with a solid segmentation strategy. So, experiment with segmenting subscribers by purchasing history, opt-in form submissions, contact with support team, and in-app behavior.”

Shayla Price
Marketer
Stories by Shayla
Email segmentation is one the best B2B SaaS marketing strategies. Experiment with segmenting subscribers by purchasing history, opt-in form submissions, contact with support team, and in-app behavior. Click To Tweet

Segment!

Build Content for People, Not Users

“At a meta level, one thing that worked for us is to keep in mind that even though we’re a B2B startup, at the end of the day we’re in business to help people achieve their goals. That means looking at our customers as people and not as businesses or users. It’s a small shift in the way we think, but goes a long way in terms of how we approach our marketing.

An example of how we approach this – Since we’re (Zepel.io) an early-stage startup, we reach out to our users as soon as they create their first project (we’re project management tool) and walk them through how they can get maximum bang for their buck quickly.

We believe this is important for any B2B SaaS company, but it’s even more important if you’re in your early days.

Earlier this year, we decided to write about a topic that people who might buy our product have problems with. Something they constantly think and worry about. And we knew one thing every product manager worried about is feature prioritization. So, we wrote about it and it was well received – generating plenty of shares (nearly 500!), eyeballs, and more importantly, conversions.

Naturally, we were excited. People were moving from our blog post to our website and converting! What marketer wouldn’t?!

But we didn’t have a good enough process to reach out to our new users and understand more about them. And that left us in the dark when it came to understanding why someone didn’t take a key action on our product. Fortunately, we were quick enough to realize and act fast. Today, we reach out to new users and guide them through our product.

Sure, everyone does that with onboarding emails.

But when we took a step back and looked at users as people, we saw them similar to tourists in a new city who knew what places to go and see (our features), but didn’t know how to get there. The more we treated them as people by having genuine conversations, the more they trusted us.

This has not only helped us improve key areas within marketing and improve our engagement in the app, but also find areas we can improve within the product itself.”

Vikash Koushik
Product Marketer
Zepel.io
When we took a step back and looked at users as people, we saw them similar to tourists in a new city who knew what places to go and see (our features), but didn’t know how to get there. Click To Tweet

Stealing Words from Your Customers’ Mouths

“Marketing will often struggle going from a blank page —not knowing what to say— to having so much to talk about that it’s impossible to find focus. Both problems can be solved by going to the source: your customers.

It’s your customers you’re trying to connect with. So why not spend quality time talking to them and understanding more about their businesses?

Whenever I work with a new client, I always start by doing research. That includes a handful of one-on-one calls with their best customers. After you’re done talking to them, you’ll notice important trends around how they speak, what words they use, how they refer to themselves, how they describe their pains, challenges and your product.

Once you discover the common threads and what your customers describe as their biggest pains and benefits, you’ll find focus. You’ll know exactly what needs to go on the page, and what to leave out.

Now you are ready to open a new text doc and write a quick outline of what the page should say. Then, start copy-pasting actual quotes from your interviews to fill in the gaps. Part of the creative work is editing the quotes to increase impact and adding your own flavor to it. But you’ll be amazed at how much gold you’ll find in these recordings. Use that to write headlines, tag lines, product descriptions and even testimonials. No more fear of the blank page.

Follow this process to get the most out of your customer interviews:

  1. Email your top customers and ask them to join you on a quick 20-min call
  2. Record your conversation with them —ask them questions and let them do the talking
  3. Transcribe the recordings using Temi.com or Rev.com (for human-made transcripts)
  4. Organize the feedback into usable buckets: pains, objections, fears, benefits
  5. Start over for continuous marketing research”
Federico Jorge
SaaS LeadGen Copywriter
FedericoJorge.com
Once you discover the common threads and what your customers describe as their biggest pains and benefits, you’ll find focus. You’ll know exactly what needs to go on the blank page, and what to leave out. Click To Tweet
Pusheen on the Phone

Listen to your ideal customers and “steal” their words.

Part 2: Reaching Out to the Right People


Do Things That Don’t Scale

“When my co-founder, Elias Torres and I started Drift, there were over 5,000 other products in the marketing technology space. So we knew that the only way we stood a chance in such a crowded market was to do things that don’t scale.

People are always looking for the quick shortcut, the growth hack that is going to make you an immediate success. But building a business is all about building relationships. So from day one, we focused on that. We replied to every email, tweet and message. And it made all the difference because people knew that real people were out there listening.”

David Cancel
CEO
Drift
David Cancel
People are always looking for the quick shortcut, the growth hack that is going to make you an immediate success. But building a business is all about building relationships. Click To Tweet

If content marketing is inbound, and cold-calling and traditional advertising is outbound, what’s in between? Is that an odd question? It’s not one very many people ask. But when I think of my favorite way of reaching out to ideal customers and getting to know them in a meaningful way, neither of those more traditional avenues fill the bill.

My ‘hack’? It’s not a hack. It’s building a community around your product.

(Check out this 30-min. workshop on Forget The Funnel in which I talk about building SaaS communities.)

Your ideal customers have so much in common – their challenges, their pain points, their goals. When you can bring people with so many of the same interests together, everyone benefits. And, when it’s in a more social setting, like Slack or Facebook groups, you learn a lot more about what your customers need, and what delights them.

For B2B especially, I think Slack communities are an incredible, untapped resource. Subscription-based businesses require strong customer relationships to prevent churn and increase customer lifetime value, and Slack is remarkably well-suited to creating exactly the kind of communities that sustain that high level of engagement.

Of course, nobody will join your community unless it’s A) useful, B) fun, and C) has a beneficial and enjoyable group of people. It’s your job to set the tone. Here are three steps you can take the lay the foundation of a community that gets you and your ideal clients together.

  • Define a ‘value proposition’ for your community. Why should people join? Don’t make it about you or your product – nobody wants to sign up for a sales channel. Maybe you’ll offer customer success how-to videos, guest experts, access to thought leaders, access to your own CEO, etc.
  • Ask what ‘experience’ you would like to build for your community. How do you want them to feel. What makes it enjoyable and rewarding for them?
  • Reach out to thought leaders in your industry and ask them to join your group and be active participants (either because they can benefit from sharing the same audience, or because you’re incentivizing them for their time – or both).
  • Make it clear to community members that, in addition to all the other benefits of joining the community, they can also get immediate, relevant help from the company as well as other users, and – this is where they can influence how the product evolves (making them feel heard and valued).

From a platform this strong, you can promote your content (within reason), get early feedback from highly-engaged customers to tailor product-market fit, collect qualitative data galore, and announce new features and opportunities to an enthusiastic audience.

That’s my preferred way to reach out to the right people. But there are so many other ways to build genuine, human-to-human relationships as a growth strategy.

Here are how these companies are doing it.

Strategic Partnerships

“One of the biggest hurdles to overcome as a start-up is that you don’t yet have a reputable name, or portfolio of impressive clients to show prospective customers. Word of mouth is incredible powerful in the B2B world and we knew we had to align ourselves with credible names quickly to get us off the ground. To do so, we asked ourselves a question: who is already selling to our perspective customers? Can we work with them to sell our solution? We formed partnerships with resellers and distributors who have many existing customer relationships in place already, so by working with them we were able to quickly access customers who were difficult to reach directly.

Alongside partners, we also focused on marketing and outbound sales strategies too. Digital marketing is vital for B2B success, and a tip for start-ups is to focus your SEO on your niche, rather than broad terms which will always be won over by big names. Even a couple of simple, focused pages will help you to be found by people looking for your solution.

And finally, sometimes you can’t beat some old fashioned prospecting. Whether it’s through calls, emails, letters, LinkedIn messages, make sure you use any and all means to proactively reach out to your customers! It may not be glamorous, but it works!”

Patsy Nearkhou
Digital Marketing
Talkative
We knew we had to align ourselves with credible names quickly to get us off the ground. To do so, we asked ourselves a question: who is already selling to our perspective customers? Can we work with them to sell our solution? Click To Tweet
6 reasons you should consider being a dog

Form partnerships to help sell your solution.

Expert Programs

“One of the first things I look at when I’m auditing a business is if they have an opportunity for an expert program. Experts are those ‘power-users’ who can help setup new customers on your platform. It’s a no-brainer in B2C SaaS and yet so few companies are doing it.

The fact is your new customers LOVE your product and want to get setup as quickly as possible. They want to make the most of their monthly investment. And they’re telling your customer support team about it.

The problem is that your team can’t do that kind of deep support and keep up with the growing number of customers. You want to do real customer SUCCESS… but how do you and your teams stay focused on your core competencies while scaling customer success without bursting at the seams?

When you have an expert program in place that scales easily, supports your CS team, and benefits your customers long term, that’s where the growth happens. Customer satisfaction goes up and tickets in your queue go down.

Leads are generated on a rolling basis and they easily become paying accounts. Monthly accounts turn into totally satisfied annual accounts and retention is increased.”

Val Geisler
Conversion and Churn Strategist
valgeisler.com
When you have an expert program in place that scales easily, supports your CS team, and benefits your customers long term, that’s where the growth happens. Customer satisfaction goes up and tickets in your queue go down. Click To Tweet

Promoters

“One of my favorite B2B SaaS marketing strategies is one of the most straightforward, easily implemented and overlooked.

It’s super simple: Reach out to your happiest customers (promotors) and ask them to review your product on Capterra, G2crowd or the review sites where your best-fit customers are.

The most recent “real-world” example I’ve seen of this is Appcues (full disclosure, Appcues is a client of mine). Senior Product Marketing Manager, Ali Haris, set out to get 10 reviews last quarter. Just by asking their happiest customers, found that more than expected were happy to share their experience. With little effort they received 30 reviews with just a couple of hours spent per week.

It’s easy to overlook the amount of value these reviews will yield over time. Not only with they help potential customers discover Appcues, but they’ll help those who are already well into their evaluation of the tool, tip over the fence to buy. It’s one of those marketing strategies that has the potential to positively impact customers at every phase of your customer journey; Mobilizing your engaged and loyal customers to become one of the most effective drivers of growth.”

Georgiana Laudi
SaaS Marketing & Growth Advisor
A Better CX
Reach out to your happiest customers (promotors) and ask them to review your product on Capterra, G2crowd or the review sites where your best-fit customers are. Click To Tweet

Success Stories

“As marketers, we can tell people about the potential benefits of a product or service all day long—or, we can actually show them the good we helped others build by leveraging our customers and their success stories.

Customers know what the value of our product/service is better than we do, because they are the ones putting it to work. At Hotjar, we like to run informal interviews with our customers to find out as many details as we can about how our tool fits in their everyday work schedule. And each time we invariably discover at least one interesting story that would make for enjoyable and useful reading—for example, we wrote an entire guide to market research after an in-depth conversation with one of our customers who shared their step-by-step process so other people can simply follow it.

Warning: you need to practice your empathy muscles and facilitate the conversation so it’s not self-serving, and then translate it into broader terms that can inspire and help others. Our mission should be to educate, be helpful, and make sure that people leave each piece of content with the inspiration and/or ability to do something they couldn’t before.”

Dr. Fio Dossetto
Content Marketer
Hotjar
As marketers, we can tell people about the potential benefits of a product or service all day long—or, we can actually show them the good we helped others build by leveraging our customers and their success stories. Click To Tweet

Success! Going up!

Building Genuine Relationships

“I’ve been lucky enough to interview some of the world’s top B2B marketers for Quuu’s podcast and they all say that the best marketing strategy is to build genuine relationships.

I’ve seen this work firsthand at Quuu. When Daniel Kempe and Matthew Spurr started Quuu, they knew that one of the most effective ways to get people using it was through word of mouth. So they gave influential figures in the marketing / tech industries free access to both Quuu and Quuu Promote, in exchange for supporting and mentioning Quuu when appropriate.

Not only did this ensure us a bank of high quality content, since these influencers submitted their blog posts to Quuu Promote for our Quuu users to share, but it also meant we were able to reach the right audience for our product. We’ve kept on nurturing these relationships and I would say it’s been essential to Quuu’s growth.

What’s really important is that this publicity doesn’t feel forced – our ‘Quuurators’ actually use our product and see the value of it, so it’s natural for them to mention us if, for example, they’re writing a roundup of content marketing tools for a big publication.

In B2B, you can’t lose sight of the fact that you’re still selling to humans – people with emotions, fears, doubts, etc. You need to build trust, and having people your customers admire recommending your product is a really effective way to do this.”

Lucia Fontaina-Powell
Community Marketing Manager & Freelance Copywriter
Quuu
In B2B, you can't lose sight of the fact that you're still selling to humans - people with emotions, fears, doubts, etc. You need to build trust, and having customers recommending your product is a an effective way to do this. Click To Tweet

Integrations

“When doing your customer research, ask your customers what kinds of tools they use. What’s in their stack? What do they open everyday? What other tools do they live in?

The reason I always add this question during my customer research and development process is because integrations (along with partnerships and business development) are an incredible growth channel, and it’s one not many marketers think about.

It’s definitely a conversation for both marketing and product, but if there’s clear demand and fit for an integration between your product and another, you might find that growth improves across the entire funnel — from acquisition to activation to retention.

Plus, when building integrations or even exploring the possibility of an integration with another company, you can build and form relationships with their teams. This opens the door for co-marketing opportunities like guest blogging, featuring each other on your integrations and strategic partnership pages, hosting virtual events together, attending conferences together, and so much more.

If it fits your product’s model and makes sense for your market, I’d definitely consider it — especially if your prospects are a little harder to reach.”

Asia Matos
Go-to-Market Strategist for Startups
DemandMaven
If there’s clear demand and fit for an integration between your product and another, you might find that growth improves across the entire funnel — from acquisition to activation to retention. Click To Tweet

Part 3: Growth Culture & Mindset

So much of successful B2B SaaS Marketing is the result of cultivating a culture of growth and a mindset that makes testing and optimizing integral to every process.

One roadblock to achieving a Growth Culture that I see far too often is when teams dig out their trenches and never cross over to see what the other side is doing. I’m not just talking about data silos, where information that should be shared is kept by a chosen few. I’m also talking about a sort of territorial unwillingness to collaborate freely. This is my turf, that’s your turf, stay on your side and don’t bother me!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Growth depends on a free flow of information, especially between Customer Success, Customer Service and Product Development. This is a lot harder to achieve than it sounds, because each of these departments usually has its own set of KPIs to meet. And, sometimes they conflict.

Consider the onboarding user flow.

From a Product perspective, there are milestone actions customers need to complete to finish the onboarding process.

From a Customer Success perspective, there are success milestones, like “time to first value” (when the customer sees real-world value from using the product) that are vital to retention.

From a Customer Service perspective, they’re on the line to bridge the (often unnecessary) success gaps, when the customer can’t figure out how to achieve success with the product.

When you bring these three groups of people together – the ones who build the product, the ones who ensure customers succeed with the product, and the ones who troubleshoot when the process breaks down – in one room, magic happens.

They can solve problems. They can build an onboarding flow that bridges success gaps, and gets the customer from point A to point Z.

Of course, I don’t mean that collaboration should only happen for user onboarding! Collaboration between teams should be a daily, ongoing part of the process. Everyone should have access to user stats (and know what they mean). Insights, not just ‘fix-it’ tickets, should flow from Customer Service to Product and Customer Success. And, all parties need to be aware of putting undue burden on the other teams (yes, product tends to get buried in requests – let’s lighten their load, okay?).

Team work shouldn’t just happen within teams, but between teams.

And with that, let’s look at how other companies are cultivating growth cultures.

Smarter Tracking + Clearer Focus = Better Growth

“Most businesses start marketing right away, only later to begin to setup their sales and marketing dashboards, sign up for tools like Mixpanel or Amplitude and start to narrow in on what to they could be tracking better.

The idea of wanting to make smarter business decisions based on data insights is the right approach. However, without first defining the metrics that matter most, how are you going to know if your marketing activities are actually contributing to growth vs have you constantly juggle marketing activities and spinning in place?

One of the best ways to implement a more focused, and strategic, marketing approach is to know what you want to track before kicking things off.

When working with clients we [Inturact] start with a simple framework called SaaS actionable metrics, or AARRRR metrics. They consist of:

  • Acquisition
  • Activation
  • Retention
  • Referral
  • Revenue

These actionable metrics help you to clearly define the most important metrics and better understand your customers, so you can market (and build) your product more effectively.

With this approach you will properly define the most important growth metrics BEFORE kicking off your next marketing campaign. Hone in on what matters most and start focusing your efforts on strategies that actually contribute to growth.”

Trevor Hatfield
B2B SaaS Consultant & Founder
Inturact
SaaS actionable metrics help you to clearly define the most important metrics and better understand your customers, so you can market (and build) your product more effectively. Click To Tweet

Build a Company Growth Culture

“SaaS business is all about the customer experience and directly depends on information. The faster you’re able to discover what does and doesn’t work, the faster you’ll grow your business.

At SEMrush, we test everything. Headline ideas, images, advertising targeting models, pricing algorithms and more. We want to figure out which of these ideas work for us and which don’t.

For example, say we want to determine which marketing efforts are really paying off for our SaaS company. So, we experiment to determine the variables that drive more customers, to understand what content is the most relevant or how to convert visitors into buyers. We know that the real magic happens while we’re learning from each test. Such data allows us to determine the baseline, our winning ideas, and losers.

Experimentation is our engine to move forward and accelerate growth.”

Elena Korotkova
Product Marketing
SEMrush
Elena
SaaS business is all about the customer experience and directly depends on information. The faster you’re able to discover what does and doesn’t work, the faster you’ll grow your business. Click To Tweet

Make Experimentation Your Operating System

“I never want to lead with any specific tactics, because I think context is almost everything, and what works really well for one company is often not optimal for another (even in the same industry). In addition, we’re all at different stages of growth, so some tactics in the beginning stages may be impactful but costly in time, whereas with scale we can focus on shifting resource costs to money rather than time.

In any case, I don’t think you can go wrong if you make experimentation your operating system. If you start by asking questions rather than applying “best practices” or even well-thought-out theories, I think you’ll find the answers are more effective than the stock answers given by most blog posts and conference talks. Instead of closing ourselves off from potential ideas and trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, we can design experiments to unlock innovative solutions, and we can use data to inform our tactical endeavors.

I think this is becoming a more approach with B2B marketers today, and it’s definitely popular in the B2C startup space. But we can move beyond A/B tests and treat almost everything we do as some sort of experiment, and then the learnings and results compound over time (plus, we don’t have to constantly rely on copying competitors, chasing stale tactics, or implementing best practices as a default). “

Alex Birkett
Growth
HubSpot
Make experimentation your operating system. Start by asking questions rather than applying best practices. The answers are more effective than the stock answers given by most blog posts and conference talks. Click To Tweet
Pusheen as Sherlock Holmes

Make experimentation your operating system.

Part 4: In the end, it’s all about knowing your customer

Several responses for this round-up were along the lines of “understand your customer really really well.” I did not include them here, because that’s not a strategy. Rather, it’s the foundation of every strategy. Everything I do begins with substantial customer research.

So I want to end with my own favorite strategy of creating accurate personas that can effectively form the backbone of every marketing strategy and tactic you employ, from your value prop to your content calendar, and everything in between.

An accurate buyer persona helps in a few ways:

  • It provides an easily identifiable reference that helps teams align and stay focused on what really matters to the target customer.
  • For individual content creators, having a ‘one reader’ (who represents all the readers) makes it simpler to choose which content to produce, how to write it, and how/where to distribute it.

How to make a persona for better content (and better decisions in general) using predictive personas

Here’s the thing: you can do your research, talk to your customers, find out their goals, dreams, ideal outcomes, current challenges, and which parts of their ‘jobs to be done’ make them want to pull out their hair.

And you can compile all of that research, slap a stock photo on top, and give it a name.

What you’ll have, really, is just a description of your current customers, which is still very useful for giving your entire company a solid understanding of your customer. But it’s not an actionable persona for marketing unless you can do this:

Can you use your customer description to find 10 people, 9 of whom will absolutely buy your product?

If you can, then you have a predictive persona you can use to align your teams AND use for product dev and marketing decisions. Including content marketing and distribution.

In her article on persona creation, Laura Klein, Principal at Users Know describes it perfectly:

If you can create a predictive persona, it means you truly know not just what your users are like, but the exact factors that make it likely that a person will become and remain a happy customer.

Predictive Personas

Use predictive personas.

If you can create a predictive persona, it means you truly know not just what your users are like, but the exact factors that make it likely that a person will become and remain a happy customer. Click To Tweet

How can you elevate your persona from a descriptor to a predictor?

Research, describe – then verify.

It’s the step most marketers miss: to go out and find people who you think fit your customer description and check your work.

Take the information you’ve already gathered about your customer and create a hypothetical persona. Then test it in real life. Here’s how:

  1. Consolidate your user research into a customer description that matches the majority of your *best* users/customers. (Who are your best customers? Look at your NPS scores, qualitative data, etc. They’re not necessarily the ones that have been around the longest but the ones who *love* your product and advocate it to their friends.)
  2. Make a shorter list of key characteristics to go for that include what problems your users most frequently (and urgently) need to solve. Think behaviors, needs and goals, not just demographics.
  3. Recruit 10 people who fit that description, who are not your users, to help you with your research.
  4. Try to get them to buy your product. For real. If it works, then you’ve proven that you have a clear understanding of your users’ needs, goals, wants and problems – and that is information you can act on. If it doesn’t, revise your hypothesis and try again.

Have we missed an acquisition strategy that’s succeeded for you?

I’d love to hear your best tips and real-world experiences! Tell me your story in the comments, especially if you’ve got a case study.


Work with Nichole for your B2B SaaS startup

Content Distribution & Promotion

Rise above the noise and get noticed by your target audience with content distribution & promotion

Competition is fierce and loud and… everywhere. To get noticed by early adopters, tech buffs, investors, thought leaders and Silicon Valley insiders, you need a way to reach them that isn’t over-saturated. You need a way to blink onto their radar and stay there so your product can gain the enthusiastic following it deserves.

I’ve been building relationships and growing my social media following in the startup space for years. I spend hours every day interacting, conversing, advising and connecting with the startup-obsessed communities you’d like to reach. I’m a Moderator at Product Hunt and a top 15 contributor; I’m also a Moderator at Growth Hackers, helped grow Inbound.org (now Growth.org), helped grow Zest.is, and am a co-creator of SaaS Invaders Community (previously SaaS.Community).

In short, I’ve built cred.

And when I post something on one, some, or all of these communities, I not only get looks, likes and shares, I get engagement.

Tapping into an engaged audience who is primed and ready for the latest SaaS products – it’s like hitting a gold vein instead of chasing itty-bitty nuggets.

Would you rather spend months sifting through a box of rocks, or go straight to chipping out chunks of paydirt?

But let’s not mix metaphors.

Case Study: Check out how I helped Autopilot attract relevant influencers, and improve both engagement metrics and conversions in this case study.

How does this work?

You create content, I share it.

I will get your product, launch or content…

  • In front of an engaged audience of thousands of startup enthusiasts in articles, blog posts, conversations, newsletters – everywhere it’s appropriate (I have a network of over 100,000 connections across social media)
  • Shared on cutting-edge tech communities like Growth Hackers, Product Hunt, Zest.is, SaaS Community and more (so long as it meets their guidelines)
  • A quickly growing reputation as a thought leader in your niche

This isn’t about getting more traffic – this is about getting more qualified traffic. The people who are more likely to convert into customers, investors and vocal advocates.

“In just 2 months, [Nichole’s] influence drove 359 new users to our blog, attracted the attention of relevant influencers, and landed our content in an industry newsletter with over 135K subscribers. Better yet, she sparked meaningful conversations with our target audience. If you want to reach and engage SaaS marketers, I highly recommend partnering with Nichole.” – Jes Kirkwood, SaaS marketer & growth strategist at Autopilot

When we work together you can expect:

  • Several shares a month per new article on my Twitter account, which has ~ 71K followers
  • Several shares per month per new article on my my LinkedIn account, which has ~ 11,000 connections

Most of my Twitter and LinkedIn followers are highly interested in startups as customers or even investors

  • Write a piece on Medium? I’ll clap for it. I have ~ 30,000 followers.
  • Submissions of your high-quality articles to communities including Growth Hackers, Zest.isSaaS Community and more, when and where relevant
  • Working together to determine how to track your success – an option is to use UTM codes for each channel

Think of me as an extension of your content marketing team.

Hey listen – there’s a caveat

Your content has to be original, high-quality, actionable, and relevant.

That means blog posts, articles and other assets are written by you or your team (or by a spectacular content writer who has access to you and your team to get insights that can’t be found elsewhere).

I don’t partner with just any startup. I won’t distribute just any content either. All of this only works because I’ve built a reputation for working with great companies and only sharing valuable, high-quality content.

In short: I only work with the best.

Is that you?

If you have a great product, care deeply about your customers, and are committed to creating the best possible experience for them, then I would love to help you get in front of all the right people.

Fill out the form to work with me:

Read everything below and then fill out the form.

If this service isn’t what you’re looking for, but you still want to contact me, please fill out a different form.

As a contractor, I charge 100% up front. 

Name of your startup:

Who is your content for? (Target audience.) Please be as specific as possible.

For me to promote and distribute your content, it must be original, high-quality, actionable, and relevant to startups. Please share three examples of your published content:

URL #1:

URL #2

URL #3

How many pieces of content would you like to promote and distribute each month - including both new and previous content?

What is your monthly budget for my Content Promotion & Distribution services?

Check out these articles featuring my involvement with these communities:

Case Studies, Content Marketing, SaaS, Testimonials

[Case Study]: Autopilot (@autopilotus) + Content Promotion & Distribution

How Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré helped Autopilot attract relevant influencers, improve engagement metrics, and improve conversions with her content promotion and distribution package.

“In 2017, I hired Nichole to help promote Autopilot’s content. Not only did she get our content in front of the right people, but she also saved us time and money along the way.” – Jes Kirkwood, SaaS marketer & growth strategist

The Challenge

SaaS marketer and growth strategist Jes Kirkwood was tasked with helping Autopilot improve their content following, but not just by boosting page views and engagement metrics. Autopilot, a marketing automation software company, needed to reach their target audience of SaaS marketers – specifically.

Kirkwood signed up for Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré’s content promotion and distribution package in July, 2017.

The package is designed for this precise purpose: To help companies gain brand recognition among their ideal audiences by sharing their high quality, original content on Nichole’s personal social media accounts, as well as Growth Hackers, Zest.is, SaaS.Community and additional distribution to specialized outlets.

Over the course of two months, Nichole promoted 36 pieces of content. The results?

“In just 2 months, her influence drove 359 new users to our blog, attracted the attention of relevant influencers, and landed our content in an industry newsletter with over 135K subscribers. Better yet, she sparked meaningful conversations with our target audience. If you want to reach and engage SaaS marketers, I highly recommend partnering with Nichole.” – Jes Kirkwood, SaaS marketer & growth strategist

The Numbers

Results:

  • 857 website sessions (average time on site: 0:43 seconds + average 1.33 pages per visit)
  • 359 new users (website visitors)

Top three channels:

  • Twitter (most sessions)
  • Quuu (most new users, i.e., website visitors)
  • LinkedIn (highest quality traffic)

Other benefits:

  • Time savings (approx. 5 hours) syndicating each article to GrowthHackers.com and Inbound
  • Started a meaningful conversation in the Inbound community (attracting influencer attention): (23 upvotes, 29 comments)
  • Landed Autopilot in the Growth Hackers newsletter for Flight School lesson (135K+ subscribers, 3.9K views, 20 upvotes)

In the client’s words:

“Nikki’s content promotion efforts helped drive brand awareness for Autopilot to a highly qualified audience across relevant social media channels and active online communities. Not only did she attract traffic that spent 38% more time on our site compared to our average visitor, she went the extra mile to start meaningful conversations with our target audience.” – Anne Fleshman, Director of Marketing at Autopilot

 

Customer Experience, Customer Success, Emotion

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Emotion to Drive Customer Loyalty ft. @Wootric

dont-underestimate-the-power

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Emotion is coming to the forefront of Customer Experience (CX) management, not because it’s warm and fuzzy, and not because leveraging feelings is devilishly manipulative, but because when you use emotion to drive your CX efforts, it becomes a powerful differentiator.

More companies are getting better at the functional basics of customer experience, like responding in a timely manner to questions, streamlining the purchase process, and smoothing out onboarding (not to mention creating a decent product) – which means they need something unique to offer that separates them from their competition.

What is the most unique, even unforgettable thing you can offer? The way you make your customers feel. It’s for this reason the bar for CX is inching up.

The fact that understanding and influencing emotion is a vital ingredient for business success is not surprising — it has been the heart and soul of brand efforts. It is also the foundation of the emotion-recognition techniques (measuring physiological responses) currently in pilot for some retailers and old-school ethnographic research. Forrester 2017 Predictions: Dynamics That Will Shape The Future In The Age Of The Customer

 
Emotion not only carries the ability to define your company in a sea of competitors, it can also inspire viral word of mouth marketing from people who love you and want to express that to a large audience, whether because they’re influencers with their own followers, or reviewers.

Read More on Wootric


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Visual Communication

5 Ways You Can Use Visual Content to Increase Conversion Rates by @NikkiElizDeMere

5-ways-you-can-use-visual-content-to-increase-conversion-rates

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).
[x-posted on HubSpot]

I was ready to buy. My finger hovered over the “Add to Cart” button. But I still wasn’t sure.

While all the images on the site were professional and inspiring, not one of them was user-generated or showed an outfit on an average-sized human being. If I’m spending a couple hundred dollars on a dress, I want to know it will be flattering on my body (and I’m not a size zero — who is?). That conversion didn’t happen. I’m shopping elsewhere.

The wrong visual content can kill conversions as quickly as the right visual content can increase them.

In fact, conversion rates for brands that use custom visual content are seven times higher than those that don’t. And there are so many ways visual content can increase conversion rates. Since they’re so sharable, you can use them as social proof, and you can use them to quickly explain your product’s benefits and features. Essentially, all the functions you’d like your content to offer can be done — often better — with images.

Download 195+ visual marketing design templates to use for social media posts, infographics, and more. 

It’s no wonder that the right visual content increases conversions, but only when used the right way. We compiled five of our favorite methods of doing just that.

5 Ways You Can Use Visual Content to Increase Conversion Rates

1) Experiment with video.

Videos & Product Pages

Product videos have been shown to improve conversion rates — 73% of U.S. adults, for example, are more likely to purchase a product or service after watching a video that explains it. That’s way up from the 20% conversion increase reported on Unbounce in 2012, and there’s a reason for that — the internet has gotten faster. Loading these videos used to be a pain in the router, if you will, but with faster speeds, it’s quickly becoming the favorite way to get information. After all, Google didn’t acquire YouTube for fun.

But it’s not as simple as “Video = Conversions.” Videos only work this well when placed in the hottest areas of your product page, like next to product images or “Buy” buttons. When you give your videos prominent positions — above the fold, top and center — visitors stay longer, engage more, and buy more.

But what should these videos be about? Consider what your customers (don’t) want. They probably don’t want to read a lengthy product description — most web visitors only read 25% of text. Instead, show how the product works and how real people are using it. And remember, features are nice, but what they really need to know is how your product will improve their lives.

Make sure these videos are accurate and will lead to more realistic expectations. That way, it can help reduce product returns, since a video shows how products are used day-to-day. It’s worked for Zappos — and other brands, like ASOS, have estimated that a 1% fall in returnswould add $16 million in profit.

Videos & Landing Pages

When Dropbox first put a video on their homepage six years ago, conversions went up by 33%. That impact has only increased over time, especially since there have been a few improvements and innovations in video marketing that can improve those digits.

Now, we have access to user data, which marketers can use to personalize experiences at scale. Below, Lowe’s leverages user data to customize its video based on:

  • Whether the viewer had purchased from Lowe’s in the past.
  • Location of the nearest Lowe’s store to viewer.
  • On-sale items that were most relevant to the viewer based on their location and past purchases.
  • Weather conditions, and weekday vs. weekend timing.

Lowe’s ultimately had more than 180,000 variations on the video, each of which was personalized to the individual viewer.

On the lower-tech end of the spectrum, you can improve conversion rates by simply placing the video you use front and center, above the fold. We also recommend using a text call-to-action, like “click to play.”

2) Show people how to use your product or service.

Pre-Purchase Product Tours

There are a number of ways to show how a product works — even without video. Virtual product tours can serve the same function, but if done incorrectly, they can be clunky, boring, and overwhelming.

Most product tours become available after a product has been purchased, as part of the onboarding process. But pre-purchase product tours can act as powerful conversion enhancers, too. Take Visme’s product tour, for example. It’s cleverly designed for the early stages of the buyer’s journey, the visuals are large and simple, and the copy is concise. Not to mention, benefits are stated front and center, with “here’s how it works” displayed with an arrow below the top image, acting as a CTA to scroll down.

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From there, you can see templates for infographics, presentations, and other visual content. With a couple of clicks, you can also see how to use Visme for social and web graphics. But what really makes it work is the “What others are creating” section, which shows the product in action.

3) Use Pinterest to your advantage.

It might not work for everybody, but if your target client is female, listen up — Pinterest is where they are.

SmartMarketer Founder Ezra Firestone knew that, which might be how he managed to generate over $40,000 in ecommerce sales from a $775 Pinterest ad spend.

“At that point, I’d already had my eye on [Pinterest] for quite some time,” he explained. “With warp-speed growth, a user base of 70% women, and an average user household income of over $100,000, Pinterest was shaping up to be an ecommerce marketer’s dream.”

But here’s the thing — you don’t need a visually appealing product to get attention on Pinterest. You just need visually appealing, genuinely useful marketing. Depending on your product and audience, Pinterest could be a game changer for your conversion — about 19% of active users say they make a Pinterest-inspired purchase monthly (or more). But that doesn’t mean that you have to restrict your pins to visuals of products only.

Have a strategic look at the most popular category — in the U.S. and Canada, for example, that’s Food & Drink. So, if your product is, say, a grocery store list app, you have an amazing opportunity here to post something like a link to a recipe on your site. If the recipe has a call-to-action to download your app and add the ingredients to your grocery list — see how that works? — you have your conversion.

Yes, you have to think a little outside of the box with Pinterest, but you will be rewarded.

4) Integrate your social content with the rest of it.

Curate Social Proof with Twitter & Instagram

Few marketing tools are as persuasive as social proof – other consumers talking about your product or service. It’s why almost 40% of Twitter users say they’ve made a purchase because of a tweet from an influencer.

The trick is to curate the tweets about your brand. Save the good ones, and make sure to include the entire body of it — otherwise, it won’t seem authentic. That can be done by clicking on the three dots below a tweet, clicking “copy link to tweet,” and bookmarking that URL. You can retweet them, or if they’re product-specific, embed them on your site next to product photos of the “buy” button.

Why does social proof work? Consumers are more likely to believe the reports of other consumers, like themselves, rather than marketers — hence that fancy statistic above about influencers. Seeing other people report favorably on a product removes fears and doubts, leading to more conversions.

Similarly, adding user-generated Instagram photos to product pages can increase conversions thanks to social proof. Vanity Planet increased conversions by 24% by adding customers’ Instagram pictures to popular product pages, just above the reviews:

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Still not sure you should hop on the Instagram bandwagon? Here’s a fun Instagram fact for you: Engagement rates for brands on Instagram are more than 10X higher than those on Facebook. (Want more Instagram inspiration? Check out these accounts.)

5) Not Selling Sweaters or Makeup? This Still Applies to SaaS.

Your product may or may not live in the Cloud, but these rules still apply:

  1. Prominently-placed videos sell products. Make them fun and benefits-driven. Show people how your product works with a pre-purchase product tour early in the sales funnel — don’t wait for the demo.
  2. Use social media – but do it cleverly. (Check out how some unconventional brands use Twitter here.)
  3. Remember: Pinterest leads to your site pages, which can lead to conversions, as per the app download example above.
  4. Twitter and Instagram give you social proof, which reduces fears and — you guessed it — can also lead to conversions.
  5. Instagram produces much higher user engagement than Facebook, so make sure you’re investing the right amount of resources in each social network. Pew Research Center’s Demographics of Social Media Users might help, and once you know which networks to leverage, you can plan your social media posts with a calendar.
  6. All visual content should deliver real value for the user.

Picture This

Fundamentally, people want information, and they want it as fast and fun as possible. One of the most effective ways to give them what they want is through visual marketing. And when you give the people what they want, they’re more likely to give it right back to you, with increased conversions and positive feedback.


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Customer Success

Customer Success and The Age of the Customer by @NikkiElizDeMere

customer-success-and-the-age-of-the-customer

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Traditional sales channels are failing and even the efficacy of e-mail marketing is in question. And yet, companies are springing up and growing like wildflowers after a spring rain. What’s their secret?

  • Outstanding experiences.
  • Service.
  • Usability.
  • Appreciation.
  • Transparency.

These are the things customers not only want, but demand. The companies growing now not only deliver these in spades, they also cultivate, empower, and engage their customer base. When the customer is the most trusted source of information, why not leverage them? This is where the ideas of customer success merge with brand advocacy.

In fact, you could say that brand advocacy programs begin in customer success. A strong customer success program tracks usage of the product over time and maps it to the customers’ stated goals, ensuring that the product is doing what the customer needs, and that they are successful in their goals.

But the best companies double down on this by requesting a regular review between customers and their own executives. This is especially important in the B2B market, since having an executive show up on your side greatly increases the chances that executives and stakeholders will attend on the other side.

These meetings not only show you care, but also give your team a chance to show what has been achieved so far, and align their services with clients’ changing future goals. Taking this extra step may seem like a huge investment of time and energy, but consider: You are showing your customers exactly how much real value they’re getting from your services.

By keeping pace with their progress, working to ensure their success, and letting them know what you are helping them to achieve, you ensure returning revenue and the opportunity to up-sell and cross-sell, and most importantly, give them reasons to tell their friends about you.

From this foundation of Customer Success, some companies use formal Customer Advocacy Programs to build rewards and incentives that “organize the troops” around specific goals. For example, if you need to build user reviews on a new site, you can ask your registered brand advocates to contribute their reviews, while providing recognition and other incentives which fit their values.

Similar to Buyer Personas, you can create Advocate Personas to help categorize and target what your advocates do best. Some may be all about social media, while others may be bloggers or Yelpers or Angie’s Listers, and others might build out hundreds of connections on LinkedIn or in-person.

Their motivations generally fall into a few categories. They want to be perceived as experts, and sharing their knowledge about your business is part of that. They want to get their names out there, or they’re super-connectors eager to build their networks. Or, they genuinely want to help other people solve their problems and consider yours a great solution.

These are the most important, trusted, powerful influencers you have access to – so don’t mess it up. If you adopt an advocacy program, make it fun! Make it rewarding. Otherwise, you’ll turn enthusiastic, engaged customers into people too tired to deal with you.

The most popular tokens of appreciation are in the form of status (rather than freebies), like special badges, or a private cocktail reception at your next event. Cleverness and sincerity count more than a ubiquitous Amazon gift card, and nothing beats a personal touch like a handwritten note.

Businesses are quickly realizing that by empowering their customers to get out and talk about their positive experiences, they can tap into the oldest and most powerful form of marketing in history: word of mouth.

That’s right, all the technology in the world at our fingertips and I’m telling you to go back to word of mouth marketing. But, since we do have all the technology in the world, we have the ability to put a virtual loudspeaker to those words so they can carry farther, faster, and reach more ears.


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Curation, Social Media, Tools

Twitter Stack Used by @NikkiElizDeMere

twitter-stack

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

I have almost 60,000 followers on Twitter (as of February 2017), and while that might not be Lana Del Rey numbers (she’s in the millions), it’s enough for people to ask me which tools I use to manage my Twitter account. If you’re into Growth Marketing or Customer Success, and want to meet other people in your industry, find mentors, market your products and services, or just want in on the conversation, here’s how I do all that and more.


Grow with TribeBoost and FollowerWonk

TribeBoost helps you increase your Twitter followers by monitoring real-time hashtags and keywords that specifically relate to your niche. Then they go one step further by looking at biographical data, location and influence, and automatically follow the most promising leads. You know how it works – to gain followers, first you must follow. What I love about TribeBoost is that it doesn’t unfollow users who follow you back.

FollowerWonk lets me look at who my followers are, where they are, and what they’re talking about, which means I can find people with common interests that much faster. Hey, we might have even met that way.

Automate Twitter with Buffer and IFTTT (or Zapier)

I use Buffer to schedule my Tweets in advance, Start A FIRE to promote my brand and content, and IFTTT to, well… this takes some explaining. IFTTT is a semiacronym for “if this, then that.” You enter an if-then statement, like “If new Twitter follower, then send LinkedIn invitation.” It’s really amazing and can be used for everything from social media to getting alerts on your phone when the book you’ve been waiting for finally hits Kindle. Well worth your time to investigate its possibilities.

Chat with TweetChat and HashTracking

All the best conversations are happening in Twitter these days. It’s the best way to reach other people in your industry, like mentors, bloggers and thought-leaders. TweetChat makes it easy to chat by letting you just enter in a hashtag to follow a conversation. From there, you can save your favorite conversations on FavePages (sorted by date and hashtag) and even share FavePage Stories – all the Tweets in a conversation, curated by you (i.e. you can hide and re-order Tweets as needed).

HashTracking literally optimizes your conversation by telling you stats on the hashtag being used, lists of contributors and influencers, and giving you the ability to create shareable HashTracks™ infographics.

Make it Pretty with Canva and Pablo

I remember the days when 140-characters was all you got – now we’ve got a thousand words we have to come up with! In pictures, I mean. I use Canva and Pablo to create quick images that gain a little more attention for my Tweets.

Share Faster with Pullquote

Pullquote makes it easy for me to Tweet quotes or images from articles I find online. Just highlight the quote, select Tweet from the menu that pops up, enter your thought, tag it, and it’s Tweeted. A content curator’s dream.


Yes, I love my tools, but their sole purpose is this: To make it easier for me to share really interesting, useful content with you. That said, the one thing that I think you should never automate is engagement (I hate automated DMs), but everything else is fair game.

What are your favorite tools? Leave a comment and let me know.


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

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