I’ve Studied Over 300 Real Estate Listing Copy And This Is What Sells

Personally, I’m a huge real estate junkie. I like to look at properties on my own time to find potential investments. Over the last few weeks, I’ve started to pay more attention to real estate listing copy and then I would check back on the listings to see if the property has been sold.

I’m a content writer, marketer, and copywriter at heart, so I’m always exploring and learning new things.

In this article, I’m going to cover what the best real estate listing and ads look like and what sells in terms of their copy.

The best real estate listing copy stands out..

Ok I know, I know, writing real estate listing copy isn’t easy. It requires a lot of thinking, but the truth is that the ones that sell are the ones that stand out.

What does that mean? It means stop making your real estate listing copy the same as everyone else’s.

Most of them are pretty generic. The ones that stand out are the ones that are extremely detailed, use strong words, and they’re quite creative.

Start with a good structure

One thing that all killer real estate listing copy have is a strong structure.

Headline

Just like content writing, the most important factor is the headline. Get people in the door first with an attractive headline.

The ones that suck are the ones with a really generic headline like an address as the title. Most people don’t care for the address and it won’t make your real estate listing copy to stand out.

Opening Statement

Then comes a powerful opening statement. What makes the opening statement stand out is usually a good story or description of who the home is for.

Something like this would work really well as an intro

“This home is a investor’s dream! Warmly located in convenient & SF’s trendy Excelsior neighborhood, this property is ideal for someone who wants to create a new home for themselves or for someone looking for an investment.”

I’m pretty sure, you would continue to read after reading that introduction.

Another thing you could do is include a mini story. At the end of the day, stories sell.

Give home buyers a sense of what it would be like if they owned the home and use real life stories within the copy. For example: “The backyard pool will change your life. Summer is right around the corner, so imagine hanging out in the backyard with the kids.”

Who wouldn’t want to buy that property?

Context is king. Don’t make it too long, just like cold emails, keep it short and simple.

Be specific about the features

You’re selling a house here. This is where you want to insert key features that make your property stand out.

You’ll be surprised, but some of the best real estate listing copy include bullet points. I’ve seen so many listings on generic sites like Zillow where everything is stuffed in a paragraph.

That’s not what we want, we want the ideal buyer to quickly glance at it and know exactly what they’re getting for their dollar.

Something like this would work really well:

  • The master suite has a huge walk-in closet, separate dual vanities, a large custom tile shower, and a soaking tub.
  • Two more bedrooms with walk-in closets and a second full bathroom are on the upper level. The fourth bedroom, a full bathroom, and a laundry room with washer/dryer hookups are located on the main level.
  • All three bathrooms have granite countertops and custom mirrors. This gorgeous home features custom paint, upgraded carpets, and wide-plank tile flooring.
  • There is an attached 3-car garage. The 13,871 sq. ft. lot (per tax records) has a very large backyard, great for entertaining.

Notice how the visitor can figure out exactly what they’re getting in this home before paying a visit.

You don’t have to get too detailed, just enough to attract them to pick up that phone!

Promotion offer and call to action

Part of having a good real estate listing copy is to get the visitor to pick up the phone and give you a call or submit their contact info. Then you can ring the bell and say “Cha Ching!”

Create a sense of urgency at the end of the copy. By this, I don’t mean an offer or discount even though that MAY work.

What I mean is use facts to your advantage.

For example if this was a home for an ideal investor to purchase, say something like, “The rent with similar homes in the area rose by 35% over the last 6 months”

Sell facts!

A photo tells a thousand words

Attractive photos sell. That’s the truth. I find myself skipping past listings that don’t have at least 7-8 quality photos. By quality photos, I mean REAL photos and not one of those that are heavily edited in photoshop.

Let’s take a quick look at the example photos below.

realestatelistingcopy

Both of these two houses are located in the same location. They’re actually for sale right next to each other, but the first photo looks way too fake. It’s too heavily edited.

You want the potential buyer to get a good feel for the home.

Check out this one:

This looks VERY realistic. Yes, most of it is probably some sort of staging, but it looks realistic and gives a really warm feel.

I’m not a photography expert, but as an average consumer that’s looking for good real estate properties all the time, I’m someone that looks for realistic photography and video.

Do your darn research

Whether you are a real estate agent or a copywriter helping real estate agents, make sure you do your research on the market and include the top key features in the real estate copy listing.

What are some things to do research on?

  • Crime rate
  • Surrounding schools
  • Malls
  • Transportation
  • Average rental cost

There’s a lot of things that people care about when purchasing a property. It won’t be the same for everyone that’s in the market, but those are the bread and butter.

Find something interesting and unique when you’re doing your research? Make sure to jot it down and add it to your real estate listing copy.

Conclusion

Don’t copy other agent’s listings simply because their copy seems interesting. Make your listings different from the rest by adding your own original take on the details of each property. Consider hiring a copywriter or marketer that has a good amount of experience in real estate writing and marketing. This can save you a ton of time especially if you’re publishing your listing to multiple platforms and printing them out.

Need help with copywriting? Just reach out to me anytime at wilsonpeng23@gmail.com or on Twitter @itswilson8

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The Most Simple Guide To Must-Have Vs. Nice-to-Have

One of the hardest things in marketing and sales is knowing how to sell must have vs nice to have.

Here’s a mini story for ya’ll.

I’m someone that’s super passionate about digital health and healthcare. A while back I tried to build a startup in the mental health space that would allow companies to request mental health therapist to their workplace as an employee perk.

Well…that startup didn’t do too well. Matter of fact I failed.

I did a ton of cold emailing to CEOs and most of them would respond with, “Not interested. It’s not a must have right now.”

That sucks..

From that day on, I studied and learned the difference between a must-have solution vs a nice to have solution.

Let’s talk about what’s considered a must have:

A must-have product is something essential to the customer’s life or business. A computer is a must-have product in our everyday lives.

For most consumers, a mobile phone is a must-have product.

For a taxi driver, a reliable taxi is a must-have product.

I think you get it..

A nice-to-have product is something the consumer might enjoy but does not need.

It is a luxury, a frill.

Collectibles are a nice-to-have product.

Subscriptions to consumer magazines, membership in a book or record club and jewelry are all nice-to-have products.

You can sell nice-to-have

Does this mean that it is impossible to sell something that is nice-to-have?

Absolutely not. Matter of fact, you can turn ANY nice-to-have product into a must have by selling its benefits.

Let’s take a look at an example that we’re all familiar with – Apple Ipods

Apple understood the appeal of outcomes when they released the first iPod. MP3 players were nothing new, and the technology trounced CDs.

The problem was marketing; the right pitch hadn’t been made to explain just how much better customers’ lives were going to be once they owned an iPod.

So this became a nice to have and not a must have.

The picture below explains Apple’s approach quite well:

ipodcopywriting

Storage for 1gb of MP3s vs 1000 songs in your pocket..

Which one sounds better? You get it..

Gigs of data have nothing to do with me, but a pocket full of my favorite songs certainly does.

Stop focusing on yourself and start thinking from the ideal customer’s shoes. What will benefit them? It’s not all about me, me, and me.

There’s a natural inclination for copywriters to want to talk about their own success and craft.

But remember, customers generally won’t care about the cogs that make your product turn.

A benefit that you offer that the competition doesn’t is a unique benefit and a competitive advantage.

Creating an advantage that’s difficult to duplicate is the ultimate competitive advantage.

A benefit is a competitive advantage when it:

  • Gets the attention of prospects
  • Sells your product or service
  • Keeps customers coming back
  • Causes prospects to talk about your product to other potential buyers
  • Stands out in terms of competition

A feature is a factual statement about a product or service. Factual statements aren’t why customers buy; benefits are.

Many factual statements are often referred to as benefits:

  • Self-cleaning oven
  • 200-CD jukebox
  • One-click buying on Amazon
  • Live operator on duty 24/7
  • 125-page owner’s manual included
  • In business since 1910
  • We have the biggest widget maker
  • Award-winning
  • Made with 100 percent recycled product

The latest and greatest equipment means nothing to a prospective buyer unless that feature translates into lower costs, quicker delivery or something else of value. Being established 100 years ago means nothing to a prospective buyer unless that feature can be translated into a benefit of reliability and a guarantee of being in business in the future.

Now let’s translate the factual feature statements above into benefits:

  • Convenience
  • Time savings
  • Organization
  • Easy access
  • Immediacy
  • Quicker answers
  • Immediate access to information
  • Fewer resources required
  • Reliability

Benefits sell. Benefits clearly answer the customer questions “What’s in it for me?” or “What results will I get that will improve my current situation?” or “Will it make me healthier, wealthier or wiser?”

So what did I learn from my experience?

The key takeaway from my learnings is that you can reword your product/service’s description and highlight the key points that make your product/service stand out in order to close the deal.

I also learned that it doesn’t matter if the product is only a nice to have. You can still sell it. Write down a list of the benefits and re-word them based on the key points mentioned above.

Feel free to share your thoughts below in the comments or follow me on Twitter @itswilson8

The Most Straight Forward Marketing Stack For Every Stage of Your Funnel

One of the topics that frequently comes up in my conversations with other founders, marketers, and sales peeps are the tools that we use to help us with our marketing/sales efforts.

There’s no shortage of articles out there related to marketing and sales tools that can help you grow your startup. But there isn’t a detailed list of marketing tools that work across all parts of your funnel. Until now, that is.

For example, let’s say my main responsibility this month is user retention. And I wanted to explore a list of tools that I can try out to make my life easier. It would take a massive amount of research just to find one or two tools to test. If there was a list for me to quickly scan through the tools for user retention, I could easily navigate straight to the site and read about it. This would save me a lot of time and would let me get my marketing test started. The same goes to user acquisition, cold emailing, list building and many more.

I’ve explored a lot of marketing tools over time, but here’s an updated list of tools that will fit well with any stage of your marketing funnel. In this article, I will break down the list of tools based on the different stages of the funnel. The stages that I will go through will include:

  • Acquisition
  • Activation
  • Retention
  • Referrals
  • Revenue

Yep, that’s the typical “pirate metrics” of growth hacking. But we all know that marketers need to dedicate at least some time to every stage of it. Tools provide an enormous benefit for this. Tools allow you to quickly run tests with the lowest cost instead of having to build everything in-house that will take resources and, perhaps, months of time. With the correct tools, you can create a stack that will help you automate and put your startup’s growth on autopilot. Let’s begin!

Acquisition

I’m usually a big fan of user acquisition tools that contribute to long term sustainable growth. Not the one shot one “growth hacks”. The difference is that with a long term user acquisition tool, you can create a repeatable growthprocess behind it that will help you build a foundation in the long term.

Whereas if I go for something quick like Google Adwords or Facebook ads, I might acquire a few sign ups, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will help me gain customers in the long term. With that said, here’s my list of go-to tools for acquisition.

Moz — Moz is the bread and butter to any SEO tool, but my favorite out of all their tools is their open site explorer. The tool is free and it’s powerful enough to match with a lot of the higher end paid options out there.

SEO isn’t something that acquires a user right away, but it’s a foundation that you need to lay if you want sustainable growth in the long run. Moz is a great free tool for checking your domain and page authority and checking how many links you are getting and from which source. You can also check your competition. But the free version only gives you 3 reports per day. It’s still a very good tool with simple UX that any marketer can just hop on and see results.

When you’re ready to start investing into SEO, you can use Moz’s paid version to find relevant backlinks, blogger outreach, and many more. It’s a complete system. Check em out!

Builtwith — Builtwith is a great way to see which sites your competitors are using. In the beginning days, it’s necessary to do tasks that don’t scale. This includes reaching out to your competitor’s customers and either interviewing them to learn more about how they’re using your competitor or simply for pitching your new product.

Builtwith can save you a lot of time because it can provide you with a list of websites that are already using that tool. In addition to that, you can always use their free chrome extension to see what stack any website is using.

Now with that said Builtwith’s data isn’t as accurate as you think. You’ll be able to buy a big list of companies for cheap, but I would say that 60%+ of their data is outdated. In addition to things being outdated, half of their emails that they give to you are “info@company.com” which is no good for email outreach, facebook targeting or anything along the lines of that.

GrowthOKThis brings us to GrowthOK. Think of GrowthOK as builtwith on steroids. All the sales and lead data provided by GrowthOK is highly accurate, targeted and qualified. You can request any amount of custom data points and GrowthOK will find it for you. Companies that use GrowthOK to find their sales leads convert their customers at at least 20% higher than other competitors in this space.

Looking for competitor data such as companies using your competitor’s software or maybe looking for companies using softwares that your product integrates with? Then GrowthOK will be a perfect fit because GrowthOK can find it.

FullContact — I mentioned Builtwith above, but I know people will ask how do I find the company’s email? The best and easiest way is by guessing the email with FullContact. FullContact is a chrome extension that works directly in your Gmail and it will display their social profile if you guess the email correctly. I use to use Rapportive, but it’s not as good as FullContact anymore. FullContact is free and most of the time you can guess the email correctly with just their firstname@company.com. It’s a great start for emailing potential customers.

This still isn’t a full suite tool, so GrowthOK might be a better solution for those who need highly accurate and targeted data.

Sidekick — is a free Chrome plugin alternative to a Tout, PersistIQ, and YesWare to give you open and click through rates on outbound email to show you how your outreach is going. The extension is a free tool created by Hubspot and it is super effective for seeing who’s opening your emails. That way you can keep track of what’s going on and if the prospect missed your email or simply ignored it. It can also help you build a strong follow-up strategy for following up with potential customers. My favorite feature is the real time notifications, but it does get buggy at times.

WordPress — Content marketing is king and it’s a great way to start building the early acquisition channel that will work in the long run. Blogging won’t get you new customers right away, but if you look at companies like Kissmetrics, we can see that blogging pays off in the long term and will drive you a lot of traffic and branding. I chose WordPress because of how easy it is to set up with reliable hosting from companies like WPEngine (we use it!). It also comes with a ton of plugins that will make your life easier such as SEO Yoast for you to automate your SEO and see what’s working. Oh, and WordPress currently powers 28% of the internet!

Buffer — Perhaps our best time-saving tip for social media marketing is scheduling posts ahead of time for your social profiles. You can batch the social media marketing process: Do all your curating and composing all in one go, then spread those updates out across the next day or week. The forever free plan at Buffer lets you connect a profile from each network (one from Facebook, one from Twitter, etc.) and to schedule ahead 10 posts for each network. If you share three posts per day, that means you can stay three days ahead all the time. You can use Hootsuite as another free alternative, but I prefer Buffer because of the chrome extension and how easy it is to schedule everything across all accounts.

Teachable — While we don’t use Teachable at GrowthOK, I still believe that Teachable is one of the best tools for creating any online course. It’s a great way to grow your brand through offering your expertise. Teachable isn’t cheap. But if you’re offering free courses to grow your audience, then teachable provides a robust free platform for you to create a free course that you can use to collect your potential customers’ emails and market your knowledge to them. We will be using Teachable in the near future for some of our free upcoming sales courses.

Related: Learn 10 sales hacks in 10 days — HERE

Live Chat Software — I’m not going to go into what’s the best live chat software because there’s a ton out there, but my all time favorite is Drift and Intercom.

It’s super important to respond to your inbound leads ASAP. Because of this the most efficient way is to use a live chat software to answer all of your visitors questions.

If you’re on a budget, then go for Drift since it’s free. If you have some money to spend and need more features, Intercom is the way to go.

Activation

This an important part of the marketing funnel. Acquiring a user and making them interested is a great start! But activating them and having them sign up for an account is no easy job. This is the part where the user will sign up for a trial or become a registered user. Now it’s up for your onboarding effort and nurturing process in order to continue to push them down the funnel and become an active paying user. Get ready for some fun tools

Retargeting — I’m not a “huge fan” of running too much acquisition ads, but if there’s one type of ad that I will run it will be retargeting. You might capture an email from your blog or capture a lot of visits from cold visitors. But the hard truth is that most people will forget about your product even if they find it useful. They might say, “ahh I’ll try it out tomorrow!”, but end up forgetting. Or they’re on mobile, ready to sign up, and get distracted by a call. Retargeting allows you to bring people back and remind them that your company still exist! You can use Perfect Audience or Adroll for this and can set it up across multiple platforms (FB, Google, web, etc.).

If you don’t want to use a 3rd party app for retargeting, then drop the Facebook pexel on your site as early as possible and take advantage of their audience network.

GoToWebinar — Webinar is one of the best ways to nurture activated sign ups that are on trial. Buzzsumo does an excellent job of sending out webinar invites for discounts during your trial phase so you can learn about their product and the value that you get out of it. I’ve tried a lot of different webinar platforms in the past, but kept coming back to GoToWebinar due to how easy it is to set up.

FullStory — FullStory lets your company easily record, replay, search, and analyze each user’s actual experience with your website. Think of it as your team’s super-searchable DVR for all customer interactions. A major part of activating new users is by improving your onboarding process. Fullstory makes that much easier. UX designers gain a visceral sense of how users experience their design while avoiding the Hawthorne effect of formal usability studies. Web developers see bugs as they happened in the wild, with play/pause/rewind access to the full DOM across time and even the JavaScript console. I like to consider this as the full stack onboarding tool to improve your onboarding process to build a product that people love.

Crazy Egg — I mention Crazy Egg quite often because it’s a powerful and budget friendly tool for viewing heatmaps to see what users are doing on your site. Let’s say you’re driving a lot of traffic to your site, but the users aren’t converting. You want to know why they’re not. Maybe your landing page’s copy is too long and people are missing your trial button. Maybe people aren’t even scrolling or reading your content. Crazy Egg lets you see recordings and heatmaps to figure out what’s going on. Then you can A/B test it to see how you can increase your activation rate.

HelloBar — I’ve used Hellobar at most of my side projects and previous startups. It’s a great way to capture an email and then nuture the crap out of them 🙂 We try to send them to webinars to nurture them through Hellobar’s overlays that are super user-friendly and nurture leads on our list to get them to sign up for our free trial. Hellobar comes with a free branded version, but we upgraded to the premium version for a budget friendly price. An alternative would be SumoMe, but it’s buggy for us and we don’t need the heatmap or analytic because we’re using other tools for that.

Instapage — We use this for all of our landing pages. Creating a landing page with Instapage is super easy. And you can integrate this with any email service provider to capture leads and see conversion rates. Content is king when it comes to nurturing and activating. It’s an important part of the marketing strategy and if you’re looking for an elegant tool for this process then Instapage is the way to go. If you need a more advanced flow such as Salesforce mapping, then look into Unbounce. But personally, we love the templates on Instapage, especially for webinar and webinar replays.

Appcues — Appcues gives you the power to take user onboarding into your own hands. Build and iterate on your onboarding experience without bugging your dev team. New users often have different motivations for using your product. Get them to their first WOW experience faster by giving each persona a unique experience. Appcues really helps with user onboarding and can be used for user retention as well. It’s a really well-rounded product. You can use it for pointing out important UI elements to ensure new users don’t get frustrated or lost. And you can also use it to run A/B testing on user onboardings.

Retention

Now we’re moving down the funnel towards the R’s!! Once you move the user forward down the funnel towards retention, you should give you and your team a high five. But you cannot stop there! This is the hard part. Acquiring a user is hard, but retaining them is even harder. These tools focus on the goal of either retaining users or doing customer development to figure out ways to keep them coming back. Let’s do this!

Mixpanel — A big chunk of user retention is about understanding your users, where they are falling off in the funnel, what they’re doing on the site, and what they’re struggling with. Mixpanel is like Google Analytics on steroids. It comes with a detailed funnel and cohort analysis that can help you map out exactly what’s going on within your app. Most amazing Mixpanel feature? You can look into every single user to see their action as well as their engagement rate and where they are coming from.

If you’re running a SaaS product or something along the lines of that then Mixpanel is a must. A tip I have for the founders out there is to learn how to use it early and then train your staffs to learn it. It’ll help a lot in the long run because there’s a lot of hidden features.

User Testing — UserTesting.com is a website dedicated to finding your website’s biggest problems in a short amount of time, and then providing you with the information and feedback you need to improve your site’s usability. UserTesting.com gives you the ability to create a test for your website and then have real people take the test. Then they can give you feedback via video recording while they are using the site. You can also ask them for follow-up questions for further information.

What’s great about UserTesting is that you can actually see an actual personusing your product. The tester doesn’t only use the product, but they actually talk about it throughout their process and share their thoughts. This is a gold mine for all product managers, UX designers, and founders.

Let’s say you notice that two testers are struggling to understand a certain part of your product. You can work closely with your team to fix that issue. Another great thing is that you can test both web apps and mobile apps, which is huge as mobile becomes more and more dominant.

Pricing: Starts at $99 per video.

Net Promoter Score Tool — An NPS tool is a must at this stage of the funnel for you to quickly run customer satisfaction surveys. NPS surveys allow you to create a system of measuring overall satisfaction. You can harness their power once you determine your Net Promotor Score.

We use NPS to segment and find unhappy customers, then we personally reach out to them to see how we can improve our product. Also, we use NPS on our advocates (those giving us a 9 or 10) to ask for referrals, testimonials, and additional features that they would like to see being built next.

Referrals

This is the most powerful part of the marketing funnel. Word of mouth marketing is the best performing ROI you will ever have. With referrals, you literally have customers bringing you new customers without you having to spend money on user acquisition. Getting users into the referral stages means that they not only love your product, but they think that their contacts and friends could also benefit from that value.

LeadDyno — There’s a lot of referral tools out there, but most of them are geared for enterprises with expensive pricing. LeadDyno was one of those that provided an all in one robust referral system with reasonable prices. It allows you to easily create an affiliate program with your own custom landing page and backend system so that all you have to do is send a link to the people that want to sign up for your referral program. LeadDyno will handle everything from the payments to affiliate tracking. You can also schedule recurring payments to your affiliates. It’s a great tool for SaaS.

Ambassador — Ambassador is one of the most complete referral/affiliate programs out there. We didn’t go with Ambassador at YesInsights due to the expensive pricing, but our parent company, Design Pickle, uses Ambassador. They provide more features than a lot of the other referral tools out there. Here are some of their best features:

  • An easy-to-use visual editor
  • Automated workflows
  • Pre-built designs and templates
  • Robust customer and affiliate portals
  • Seamless integrations
  • A/B test copy, rewards, and on-page placement
  • Identify and segment affiliates, influencers, customers, partners, employees, and other advocates
  • Customize reporting and analytics
  • Native mobile app experience
  • Multi-language functionality
  • International currency
  • Proven offline tracking processes

With all the features mentioned above, it’s the perfect affiliate program for marketers. They also support recurring payments, which is perfect for SaaS companies.

Revenue

Revenue is the bread and butter of any company and business. It’s what keeps the business alive and it’s what pays the bills. Keeping track of revenue is super crucial to any business. It doesn’t matter if your company is well funded or not. One of the biggest mistakes that founders make is that they only track overall revenue. So they don’t track other important revenue metrics such as user churn, cost per acquisition, and etc. Luckily, we have tools to help us out.

Baremetrics — If you’re running a SaaS company, then you absolutely need Baremetrics or some sort of SaaS metric tracker. With Baremetrics you can learn more about each and every customer. Find out their LTV, MRR and more, as well as their entire history with you! The UX is super simple and you can connect your Stripe, Braintree or Recurly account in seconds. One of the features that I love the most about Baremetrics is how you can dive into each customer profile and see everything. They also come with email notifications and reports.

Churn Buster — Churn Buster’s air-tight, scalable process automatically solves payment problems in Stripe caused by insufficient funds, expiration dates, card re-issuing, and etc. These are common problems that lead to SaaS churn. If your users are loving your product, there should be no reason why they will churn. Yet unfortunately, simple errors like these occur and that’s where Churn Buster can help you fix these problems.

Some of my most favorite features about Churn Buster include the white label dunning emails, automatic subscription renewals, and their real time reporting (my personal favorite). I’m a huge analytic guy and the reporting really helps me analyze my churn.

ChartMogul — Chartmogul is similar to Baremetrics where you can analyze your revenue, MRR, and everything along the lines of that. What I love about Chartmogul is how it integrates with everything not just stripe.

If you’re using reccurly, braintree, or another payment processor, then Chartmogul is a great fit for you. Their data visualisation is amazing too.

ProfitWell — ProfitWell combines world-class subscription analytics and tools that fuel your growth. Profitwell is similar to Baremetrics and First Officer. It allows you to view all your analytics in one place and the data is pretty accurate. One of the best things about ProfitWell is that they provide actionable analytics and not just stats. This allows you to narrow down every little thing including cohorts and segmented users.

GeckoBoard — What I love about Geckoboard is that it tracks more than just revenue. Geckoboard allows you to add “widgets” to a dashboard that’s highly customizable. You can add anything you want to from Stripe to your daily visitor count. It’s the best app for keeping track of everything in one place. Display it in your office’s TV for the best results.

Cyfe — This is one of the most underused apps by founders, sales people, and marketers. It’s super affordable and can integrate with over 100+ apps out there. It’s a central dashboard where you can see everything from social media growth to email list growth and revenue. Must have.

That’s it for this list! Are there any tools that you use at your company that I didn’t mention here? Feel free to leave it in the comments.

How To Network And Close Deals Rapidly At Conferences And Events

Attending a conference could be a heavy investment for a bootstrapped startup. Just think about the price of a conference ticket, plus travel, and accommodation cost. I’ve personally attended over 15 conferences in the last year and I’m starting to gain more and more value out of each and every single one.

Just like everything else in life, it takes time and practice. Time is the best experience gainer.

In this article, I’m going to show you actual examples of exactly how I do my preparation before any conference that I attend and how I cold email everyone I want to meet prior to attending the actual conference. I’ll also share some tips on how I maximize the value I get out of the conference and take advantage of every single opportunity that I come across.

Do your research and prepare ahead of time for every conference

By doing your research, I don’t mean just navigating around their homepage and looking at the speaker’s profiles. You want to get involved with the community as much as possible weeks if not months ahead of time.

Let’s take a recent conference I attended as an example. A few months back, I attended SaaStr. Saastr is a conference held annually, hosted by Jason Lemkin, for people in the Software as a software space. Some of the biggest startups and most successful tech companies along with over 5000+ tech founders will be attending, so I knew for sure that I needed to be there as well.

For every single conference of this size, there’s almost always always a dedicated mobile app for people to network ahead of time. I’ve noticed that most conferences use a company called DoubleDutch to help them put together this app.

Here was the landing page for the SaaStr app by DoubleDutch. Anyone could download this app. You did not need to buy a ticket to the event in order to get access to this app. This is why it helps to Google around, read some blog post, and most importantly get involved with the community ahead of time.

Here’s another screenshot of what you can do with the app:

As you can see, the app allows you to view speakers, the agenda, photo feed, map, surveys and many more. The most important feature that you want to take advantage of in this app is their attendee feature. This allows you to view every single attendee that will be attending SaaStr.

The activity feed is extremely important too because the activity feed is similar to the Facebook newsfeed where people can post photos, ask for coffee meetings, and start conversations with each other.

Take Notes

Run through the list of attendees and check through the activity feed. Start to jot down a list of people that you want to meet and network with during the conference. If you’ve read my other blog post, I like to keep it simple with Google spreadsheets. I’ll create a column for their first name, last name, company, email, and any other necessary information I need to include.

Keep it simple and put things on a spreadsheet on Google Drive.

Facebook group

Every big conference will usually have a dedicated community expert that is in charge of answering community questions, creating Facebook groups, Slack groups etc. Doing a simple search on Facebook will usually bring up some results.

SaaStr has a Facebook group that you can join where people ask for coffee meets prior to the event. Join this group and see who you want to network with, respond to them or even message them directly. This is the time to add more contacts to your current spreadsheet that you just created. Again, start this as early as possible.

Slack Groups

Slack is one of the best modern platform for team communication, but people have been using it for different reasons. Buffer has an active Slack group for people to engage with other Buffer users.

I’m apart of Sales Stack’s slack group where there are a lot of startup founders in the sales and lead generation space. They have a dedicated channel for events and during SaaStr, the Slack group had a channel dedicated for people who were going to attend the SaaStr event. I went through the channel and found people I wanted to connect with and added them to my spreadsheet.

Reddit and other communities is a great place to start searching for people who will be attending SaaStr as well, so I took advantage of that as well. Another great site you can use is Lanyrd. Lanyrd will have every conference from big to small. It shows all the speakers and some attendees. It’s another place to start sourcing potential targets.

Reaching out via cold email

I live and breath cold emails, so with a big list of people that I created. What I like to do at this point is connect with them and send them a cold email. The main goal of this cold email is to make a quick introduction of myself, make it personalize, and try to connect with them either prior, during, or after the conference. This could be lunch or a quick coffee, but I want to grab some time with them.

For example, a while back I attended a conference in Seattle called Seattle Interactive Conference. I did my research and looked through the speaker’s list. I wanted to connect with Joanna, who was one of the speakers that was going to be giving a talk at the event. I heard about her through a few podcast and loved the way she approached growth, so I decided to send her a cold email a few weeks ahead of time.

She responded a day later saying:

That is exactly what I did. I attended her talk, took down some notes, and approached her after her talk was finished. I told her who I was and that I sent her an email ahead of time. She said that she remembers me and we were able to connect afterwards! Score!!! Connected with someone new and got to briefly learn more about each other. Meeting with someone in person face to face is much more valuable than any Skype or message, but you have to start this off with a cold email introduction to warm things up 🙂

At the same event, I wanted to connect with Rand from Moz. He was going to be speaking there and everyone wants to meet Rand. I was actually thinking about doing a podcast at that time and I wanted to interview him for sure, but I knew he receives a ton of those request daily, so I had to stand out of the crowd in order to get some time on his calendar.

Again, cold email outreach time!

I blurred out some part because it was really personal. It was about personal issues in life, so I decided to leave that out, but as you can see. I gave my introduction and ended it with a strong call to action by asking him for a quick coffee. I made the email as personalized as possible.

I structured my cold email pretty well and received a response in less than a day.

This was the typical response that I was expecting from someone as busy as Rand, but that was all that I needed because I knew I could approach him once I have a chance and tell him that I already connected with him ahead of time.

So what did I do? I attended his talk, asked questions to stand out, and then approached him. With that, I was able to connect with him and send him more emails afterwards for the podcast interview as well as to connect with him again in-person in Seattle. It worked!!! I was able to network with some of the best people in their space because of this.

Again my goal was to stay in contact with him after multiple connections and get him on a podcast interview. Here was his response through email:

I used the exact same method to network with 12+ other people prior to the event. Most of them were targeted leads and ideal customers for my company GrowthOK.

Since those people were less swamped, I was able to grab lunch, dinner, coffee with them easily, but it was all thanks for my early research, taking the advantage of the app, and sending a cold email at least a week ahead of time.

From that conference itself, I was able to close 6 medium sized deals which makes my ROI for all my travel and ticket cost worthit!

Skipping out on the talks

When I first started attending conferences, I use to attend at least 40% of the talks, but then I realize that I was just randomly walking into rooms and listening to hours worth of talks without gaining too much value out of it. So, nowadays I tend to skip out of most talks. I look at the agenda ahead of time and only attend the talks that I actually want to sit in. This is usually nomore than 2 or 3 talks.

For an action packed conference like SaaStr, I like to spend my time walking around and visiting every single booth where I feel that I can get a customer out of. I try to spend less than 5–10 minutes at every single booth to maximize my time. Here’s what I do when I visit the booth. A great way to start finding booth is to look under the sponsor list. Every company that sponsors an event will usually have a booth at the event.

  1. Visit the booth (avoid the ones that are overpacked)
  2. Ask them what their company does, let them give their pitch, and then give them a quick introduction on what you do and how you can help them.
  3. Exchange business cards (too many of them will stack up).
  4. Ask them for their Linkedin on the spot.
  5. Connect with them immediately on Linkedin with a personalized message. This makes you stand out of all the Linkedin request they get.
  6. Send a quick tweet to them. (Nice meeting you at the conference, I’ll send you an email).
  7. Send a short and personalized email to schedule a time.
  8. IF they are interested in what you do, book a demo call immediately on the spot.
  9. Send an email as soon as possible. Find a seat at the event, use the wifi and start catching up on the emails.

Events and dinners at conference

This is one of the most important part of maximizing your value at any conference that you attend. For every conference, there are almost ALWAYS a few events for people who get in a few days early prior to the actual conference. Usually these are drink parties or dinners.

The good thing about events prior to the conference is that the amount of people attending is rather small. Not everyone has arrived yet, and this is the best time to cold network with people who arrived early. Go to every single one of these event and be one of the first ones there. Being the first one there will allow you meet anyone that comes in the door right after you. This is the best way to build one on one connections. In addition to that, there’s almost always a 30 min — 1 hour networking session before the panels or dinner actually start.

For example after the first day of SaaStr, there were over 10 after party events with topics ranging from “How to sell to developers” to “Customer success”. If your company is one of those space, you want to be at those event because your ideal customers are there.

Being the first one there allowed me to greet everyone that was walking in the door and I was able to exchange contact information using the same method I did at the booth. This allowed me to close over 6 deals at just one event. It’s all about the cold email and follow up emails afterwards. It’s your job to make sure you connect with them afterwards in order to get the most value out of it.

I hope this helps all the sales peeps looking to attend conferences. Remember, conferences are short, so the ones that succeed the most are the ones that do their homework ahead of time!

Feel free to share your thoughts below or hit me up on Twitter @itswilson8

Use This Simple Trick To Re-Engage With All Your Inactive Email Subscribers

You’ve worked hard to build that email list and you’re able to convert a lot of users into paying customers, but one of the hardest things to do is to keep them engaged. The truth is that most people tend to stop checking your emails regardless on how many offers you send them. Whether you believe it or not, your contact database is full of leads who are ready to get back in touch with you. A big email list doesn’t mean anything if half of your subscribers are inactive.

According to HubSpot, the average email marketing list loses 22.5 percent of its contacts every year. So what can we do about it? In this guide, I’ll be sharing a simple trick that you can use that will help you re-engage your list of inactive subscribers.

Segmenting

This is the hard and tedious part of re-engaging with your email list of inactive subscribers. You have segment out the users on your list that haven’t been active. There isn’t a “correct” way to do this. Every company does it differently depending on your product. Let’s say you’re a SaaS company and you’re using Intercom. You can segment out your list based on their activeness. Intercom has a segment for users that are “slipping away”. You want to tag the users that are slipping away and export a list for your re-engagement email campaign.

If you have a huge email list built within Aweber/Mailchimp or another email service provider, you might want to look at the date that they’ve subscribed to the list. There are a couple ways you can segment your list of inactive subscribers if you’re using a service like Mailchimp.

One of the best ways would be segmenting your list by campaign activity. When you segment by campaign activity, you identify subscribers who received recent campaigns, but didn’t engage with them. You can choose to show subscribers who didn’t open or click all of the last five campaigns, any of the last five campaigns, or all recent campaigns. For a detailed guide on how to do it within Mailchimp, check out this article.

Most email service provider platforms will have a way for you to create a new list based on the segments that you tagged your subscribers as. Regardless on the method you choose, just make sure you create a new list of inactive subscribers so that you can start the re-engagement campaign.

The 9 Word Email Method

Perfect! Now that you’ve set up your list of inactive subscribers, it’s time to re-engage with them. In this guide, we’ll be using the 9 word email method. The 9-word email is a fast and easy way to re-engage your email list of inactive subscribers while also testing the quality of your contact database. It is a successful quick and effective tactic for turning your list of inactive email subscribers into active ones again!

The process is quite simple and it works like a charm. Here’s how it works. You’re going to send a simple email to them that looks something like this:

  • Are you still looking for a customer feedback tool?
  • Are you still looking to convert more paying users?
  • Are you still looking to improve your onboarding experience?
  • Are you looking for a better way to re-engage your leads?

This does not need to necessary 9 words. It can be 8 or it can be 10, but 9 words is the rule of thumb. The whole goal of this “9 Word Email” trick is to re-engage with your user with the simplest way possible.

In our case, we generated this simple 9 word email by using our own one-click survey feature. The whole process took me less than 2 minutes to set up. All I did was log into YesInsights and created a regular survey. I also used our “auto follow up” feature, which I’ll be explaining a little later in the article. After creating the survey, I just simply paste the survey into my email service and YesInsights will track all the responses as well as their email address and name. If you’re using YesInsights, you can embed this within Intercom, Mailchimp, Infusionsoft, Convertkit, Drip, and many more.

You can use this for any type of business you are running. It doesn’t matter if it’s an e-commerce business, SaaS product, or digital products. If you’re running an e-commerce site, make sure you apply this to all your emails that you send out for everyone that abandon your cart.

Right after the user answers a survey, I trigger an automatic follow up email offering them a discount code to thank them for answering my survey. Here’s how the email look:

This creates what I call a “Double win”. I was able to successfully re-engage with the lead as well as offer him a free discount. This makes the customer feel good and they’ll be more willing to apply the discount code. You can get creative with this by triggering a free e-book or a referral code for them to refer their friends onto your platform.

Why does this work?

The reason the 9-word email works is because it’s short, personal, and expects a reply. It jumps right to the decision making step for your recipient by honing in on your ultimate value proposition.

Another reason why this works so well is because it creates curiosity for your prospects. They wonder why you are asking and this and if they are still remotely interested in what you have to offer there is a good chance they will reply. Psychology comes a long way 😀

Another strong reason why this works is because it is a one-click survey that usually receives 4–6x higher response rate compared to traditional long form surveys.

When Kapost sent a survey to 23,310 marketers, only 1.1% of people completed it.

That’s a horribly low response rate, but it’s actually very common. Most surveys are blasted to everyone on a huge list with little context. Customers don’t care enough to respond.

There are 3 big advantages of using inline email surveys:

  1. It feels like a natural part of your email content
  2. Customers can respond painlessly with one click
  3. You don’t have to send extra emails asking leads to take a survey

It’s literally the most scalable, yet non-intrusive way to get customer intel.

And if you ask the right questions, you can actually get people to recommend your product even if they never convert to a paid customer. It’s very powerful.

Take one of our customers Ben as an example. He runs a car tuning education site that teaches car enthusiast how to tune their vehicles. Originally Ben had a list of 40,000 inactive subscribers. After using this simple trick, Ben was able to re-engage 10,000 of them. That is huge! Here’s the exact survey that Ben used in his funnel to re-engage his inactive subscribers:

It’s so simple that it works!

Want another case study of this 9 word email trick? Check out this podcast interview on how a woman received 750 responses after emailing 1,200 people on an inactive list (a 62.5% response rate!). To drive home the point, a listener sent the 9 word email question to his audience and reported back:

Okay so I took the 9 word email question, sent it out to my main market. I started freaking out when I received 300 responses before the show was over. I had failed to think the process all the way through. I hadn’t thought about what they hell I was going to say to them when they responded. lol. Wasn’t expecting that quick of a response. Especially since I sent the message out on Thursday morning at 1:10am EST. Thanks for the info.

This is the most effective 9 words you’ll send!

But I’m afraid to send an email

A lot of people tell me that they don’t want to bug their customers with questions, but you shouldn’t fear this.

When you send this email 3 possible things can happen:

  1. They don’t respond — Which is fine! At least you tried.
  2. They reply and say no or not interested — You might be able to reply to them to figure out why they’re not interested and narrow down their pain point somemore.
  3. They say Yes I’m interested — Jackpot? Double win!

A key when sending emails to prospects is to take things slowly and not try to force everything in at once. This 9 word email trick keeps things simple and it’s worth a try. Just make sure that you track all your results and talk to your customers as much as possible.

I hope this article helps! 🙂

Hit me up on Twitter @itswilson8 Cheers!

Building A Content Strategy That Works In 2018

Content marketing has become very popular in the last decade. But for all that growth, there seems to be more noise and lower quality than ever. What we’re seeing is an influx of spending and a massive increase in content creation, but a lack of content marketing strategy.

Content is a significant investment in your marketing. It also takes time to pay off, which is where many SaaS companies get into trouble. Unlike paid acquisition channels, you can’t turn content on and off. It takes months, even years, to build momentum. If you’re going to spend that much time working on a blog, you better have a content marketing strategy.

How to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy

A blog is only as good as the content marketing strategy behind it. Here are the questions you must answer before and during—these are essential to earning traffic and proving that your company’s investment is getting them a return.

  1. Who Will You Write For?
  2. What Will You Write About?
  3. When Will You Publish?
  4. How Will You Earn Traffic?
  5. How Will You Support the Business?
  6. Content Marketing Tools

1. Who Will You Write For?

Your target readers should be living, breathing people, not fictitious personas. Target readers should be people you know and trust, people that you’d be honored to have reading your blog.

It’s important to use real people and not fictitious personas because it affects your approach to creating content. Creating content for “SaaS Sally” is very different than writing for your friend Ty Magnin who runs marketing at Appcues. You’ll hold yourself to a higher standard if you’re writing for real people. Fictitious personas also tend to reflect the average, not the median. This means you risk writing for a person well outside the stated demographics.

Be thoughtful about the personas you create. “Reaching decision-makers” is a trope. Every content marketing strategy aspires to reach the C-suite. But consider that software is often adopted by a collection of people:

  • Leader: sets the strategic vision, holds team accountable
  • Implementor: the people using and setting up SaaS tools
  • Researcher: the person tasked with learning about various tools and capabilities

Reaching readers in the C-suite is hard, but it’s actually not good enough. This is why you need to create content for the entire payscale—anyone who could be involved in the research, buying or using of your tool needs to be addressed. We think of this on a spectrum from very tactical to very strategic.

Tactical readers need information, comparisons, instructions and best practices. Strategic readers need models, frameworks and principles. Your blog needs a variety of tactical and strategic content to be comprehensive. For a more complete breakdown of writing tactical and strategic content, check out our guide to creating reader personas.

Remember that your ideal reader is the one who buys your product. It’s easy to get distracted by pageviews and newsletter subscribers, but the goal of a SaaS blog is to drive business growth. Identify your ideal reader and serve them well.

Resources:

2. What Will You Write About?

Topic ideation is something to be systematized. But first, let’s layout a framework to help you understand the best way to choose topics.

Your blog is not a publication, it’s a growing library of information. There are many reasons you need to adopt this mindset, but here’s one guiding principle that should be enough reason on its own.

  • Blogs that act like publications create series of standalone posts on different topics. They are hesitant to cover the same topic more than once.
  • Blogs that act like libraries create hubs of related posts. They have the freedom to cover the same core topics over and over again.

This strategy pairs nicely with another content marketing strategy essential, which is that people should primarily discover you via search. Since readers aren’t checking your site each time you post something new, you can write about the same thing for weeks in a row. No one will care since they are finding what they need, when they need it via search engines.

Most of your topics should be driven by 1) keyword research and 2) sales and support feedback. Use keyword research to identify entry points for new readers. Keywords should be top and middle of the funnel, meaning they serve searchers who are looking for information and education. Create content for the bottom of the funnel by talking to your sales and support teams about what prospects and customers are having trouble with. This process helps you address the entire lifecycle, from awareness through purchase.

  • Top of Funnel: Use keyword research to address high-level topics, introduce new readers to your brand.
  • Middle of Funnel: Use keyword research in addition to sales and support feedback to tie problems to your specific solution.
  • Bottom of Funnel: Use sales and support feedback to write directly about your product.

Here are examples of each from Wistia:

Top of the Funnel: Shooting Video with an iPhone

This post introduces anyone interested in shooting better video with an iPhone to some really useful tips. Many of the people who find this post won’t be ready to buy Wistia, but some will be doing research for a work project and will remember this resource.

Middle of the Funnel: Using Video with Marketing Automation

This post is textbook middle of the funnel content. It inserts the product directly into a conversation about a broader and highly relevant topic (marketing automation). It’s thorough and insightful, with just the right amount of sales pitch.

Bottom of the Funnel: Get Better Organized and More Productive with the New Wistia Trello Power-Up

Product updates are a great way to educate existing customers and nudge prospects. When you’re targeting the bottom of the funnel, don’t be shy about addressing your product.

To wrap up, don’t forget these two rules about topic ideation:

  • Write about the same core topics from every angle.
  • Serve the entire lifecycle, from top to bottom.

Resources:

3. When Will You Publish?

It’s impossible to write too much, but it’s easy to publish too much.

“A lot of content marketers worry about not publishing enough,” says Podia CMO Len Markidan, “but the truth is that publishing too much is a more dangerous mistake. Write something that your readers will love, and then give them time to enjoy it, share it and hunger for more. This lands at the very top of the list of ‘things I wish someone told me when I started.’”

Remember the publication vs. library framework? Well, publications also sometimes get into the habit of publishing too often. The result is typically shorter, less valuable pieces of content. This is not ideal.

The ideal publishing schedule is relative to your budgetary constraints. Still, it’s difficult to scale publishing volume without sacrificing quality no matter how much money you can afford to spend. As a general rule, publish as often as you can without dropping your quality standards. There’s no use publishing content that won’t get read.

Here’s are publishing schedule templates you can use depending on your budget:

Level 1:

1 article/week
1 ebook/quarter

Level 2:

2 articles/week
1 ebook/month

Level 3:

3 articles/week
2 ebooks/month

Remember that a good content marketing strategy is all about compounding growth. Level 1 may not seem like much, but will result in 52 articles per year. Brian Dean grew Backlinko to 100,000 monthly uniques with just 35 posts. Level 3 will get you 153 posts in a year, but it doesn’t guarantee traffic. Don’t publish more if that time or money compromises time spent doing solid keyword research and great promotion and distribution.

Resources:

4. How Will You Earn Traffic?

Here’s the golden rule of content marketing strategy: compounding growth is the only growth.

Don’t invest significant time in non-recurring acquisition channels. When it comes down to it, organic search and your own email list are the only channels you can count on.

Organic Search

You should be thinking about organic search from day one and everyday thereafter. It’s essential that you gain traction in search engines if you want to grow your audience. Here are a few things to think about:

  • Internal linking: Go on Wikipedia and observe how they link all of their entries together. Apply the same strategy to your own site by linking to and from related posts. This helps search engines contextualize your site and reduces bounce rate.
  • Technical SEO: Your site structure, navigation, meta descriptions, canonical links—it all plays into your rankings. If you don’t have an internal SEO resource, hire a consultant to make sure you aren’t working harder than you need to.
  • Content Saturation: If you’ve been in the habit of publishing too much, consider deleting or refreshing old content. Pages that live on your site and don’t get traffic can hurt your rankings. And if you do decide to remove pages, do so carefully.
  • Content Length and Depth: Most research says that longer posts rank better. That fits nicely with the idea of publishing less often but does require plenty of writing. Brian Dean recommends a minimum of 1,900 words per post.

Email

Organic traffic compounds faster than email, meaning it should be the primary source of growth. But email is a medium that you have complete control over. It’s not a channel for new reader acquisition, but it is an excellent way to drive traffic to middle and bottom of the funnel content. Here’s a template for email that most SaaS companies can use:

  • Weekly Content Newsletter: Get readers in the habit of hearing from you each week.
  • Regular Product Updates: Let people know about product updates. This is a good way to tie education to your solution.
  • Free Email Course: This is an underrated way to capture email addresses on top of funnel posts. These can be short—three to five emails in a series—but should be comprehensive.
  • New Subscriber Welcome Series: Let new readers know about your product, what it does and how it can help them.
  • Free Trial Onboarding Series: Use a blend of help docs and content to get people going. They should feel well-equipped and inspired.
  • Recurring Emails: Weekly or monthly usage emails. These are a great opportunity to use content to help people make progress in areas where they are lacking. (Example: “You haven’t created a new campaign in a while, here’s some inspiration from our blog.”)
  • Retention Email Series: Highly targeted emails for users who aren’t engaging in the product. Use a blend of content, questions and help docs to get them going again. Test these emails early and often.

There are, of course, other ways to get traffic but they tend to be fickle and temporary. Should you invest at least some time in things like social media, communities and guest posting? Yes, but never take your eye off organic search.

Resources:

5. How Will You Support the Business?

Content marketers need to get very used to the phrase business objectives. Traffic is great. Email subscribers are great. But those things cost you money. The only thing that makes you money is recruiting more paying customers.

There are plenty of popular blogs out there that don’t drive business growth. A comprehensive content marketing strategy includes monetization. Here are four things that absolutely cannot be overlooked as you start, grow and run a blog.

Let Readers Know About Your Product

You have to assume that readers do not know there is a software product behind your content. It’s likely that they have 10 tabs open, Twitter notifications coming in and a meeting that starts in five minutes. Make it abundantly clear that they are on a SaaS product site, not just a blog. To do this:

  • Consider using a conversational messaging tool like Drift or Intercom to ask questions of readers while they are on your site. (Example: “Is there something about [topic] that we can help you with?”)
  • Keep your blog in a sub-folder, not a sub-domain and definitely not on Medium. You want your main site navigation menu on all blog pages. The ideal URL is saasinc.com/blog, not blog.saasinc.com.
  • Use author bios to let people know who they are hearing from. A post from “Jessica, head of marketing at SaaS Inc.” inspires more confidence than “Tom, freelance writer.”
  • Use product language in the header, footer and sidebar. Don’t be shy about offering free trials, showing testimonials or using social proof to show that people love the product.
  • Use contextual calls to action. If a post is about push notifications, use a CTA about push notifications.

Capture Email Addresses

99% of readers won’t be ready to buy now, but many will need your product in the future. This creates an attribution problem that makes measuring content difficult, but it also means it’s vitally important to capture email addresses. You need to establish an ongoing relationship so that if and when the times comes to buy, every reader knows where to go.

  • Offer a course instead of a newsletter. People know that newsletters are eternal and that’s a big commitment. Courses have a clear start and end, which makes it easier for people to opt in. Once it’s over, you can transition them to an infrequent newsletter.
  • Or just send a newsletter. Courses are an easier entry point for new readers, but good old-fashioned newsletter can still work too. Just make sure you let them know the frequency of emails they can expect ahead of time.
  • Use content upgrades for contextual calls to action. Whitepapers, ebooks, case studies—these are great ways to market to readers interested in specific topics. Use them within articles on relevant topics.

Follow Up with Everyone

If you have a sales team, make sure there is a process in place to hand off email addresses. If you don’t, make sure you have good drip campaigns in place to nurture leads. Following up on every single lead is no longer a huge challenge thanks to behavioral email and marketing automation. Put these tools in place and don’t let anyone slip through the cracks.

Agree on Attribution

Measuring content marketing is hard and often a point of contention among stakeholders. Revenue growth from content is a lagging indicator of success since almost no readers will be ready to buy immediately. There isn’t a perfect way to attribute content to revenue, but here are a few things to think about:

  • Capturing email addresses makes it way easier to track a user’s path from reader to customer.
  • Running a site in a sub-folder as opposed to subdomain makes it easier to attribute signups in Google Analytics.
  • Don’t try to make a 1:1 connection between reading a single post and signing up. Shoot for something more holistic, like tracking all behavior in the 90 days leading to the signup.

Scrambling to prove the blog is working is something you want to avoid (and it happens all the time). Agree on the metrics you will measure ahead of time.

Resources:

6. Content Marketing Strategy Tools

With your content marketing strategy in place, you’re going to need tools make it all run smoothly. There are plenty of great options out there, but here are a few of our favorite content marketing tools.

SEO + Research

  • Ahrefs – An excellent tool for tracking links and doing keyword research.
  • Moz – Track your rankings for target keywords.
  • KeywordTool.io – Get tons of keyword ideas.
  • AnswerthePublic.com – Get keyword ideas in the form of questions.
  • Buzzsumo – Research successful posts with search and social metrics.
  • Clearbit – Add data to your existing email list for better segmentation.

Content Creation + Hosting

  • Quip – Our favorite tool for collaborative writing.
  • SketchDeck – Professional design resources on-demand.
  • DraftSend – Create simple presentations that you can embed in your posts.
  • WordPress – The best content management system for most SaaS blogs.
  • WPEngine – Our host of choice.
  • Wistia – The best video hosting platform out there.

Email

  • ConvertKit – A tool built specifically for bloggers to send emails and create courses.
  • Customer.io – An excellent tool for creating behavioral email campaigns.
  • CampaignMonitor – An easy-to-use email tool with beautiful templates.

Promotion + Conversion

  • Sumo – All kinds of tools for collecting email addresses on your site.
  • Drift – Simple live chat tool for having live conversations with readers.
  • Buffer – The industry standard social media sharing tool.

Workflow

  • Airtable – Create an insanely powerful content workflow.
  • CoSchedule – Build comprehensive marketing calendars.
  • Zapier – Connect all your apps and automate everything.
  • Trello – A popular and useful project management tool.
  • Teamwork – A robust and powerful project management app.

Analytics + Attribution

  • Google Analytics – Easy and free analytics. You can’t be that.
  • Amplitude – Tie your product data into your content data.
  • Segment – Centralize your event tracking for cleaner data.

Content marketing is an ongoing challenge, not a task to be checked off your list.

Wanna chat? Tweet me @itswilson8

A Full Marketing Tool Stack For Every Stage of Your Marketing Funnel

One of the topics that come up in my conversations with other founders and marketers all the time are the tools that we use to help us with our marketing efforts. There’s no shortage in articles out there related to marketing tools that can help you grow your startup, but there really isn’t a detailed list of marketing tools that work across all parts of your marketing funnel.

For example, if I was focused on user retention this month as my main responsibility and I wanted to explore a list of tools that I can try out to make my life easier, I would need to do a massive amount of research just to find one or two tools to test. If there was a list for me to quickly scan through the tools for user retention, I could easily navigate straight to the site and read about it which will save me a lot of time and I can get my marketing test started.

I’ve explored a lot of marketing tools over time, but here’s an updated list of tools that will fit well with any stage of your marketing funnel. In this article, I will break down the list of tools based on the different stages of the funnel. The stages that I will go through will include:

  • Acquisition
  • Activation
  • Retention
  • Referrals
  • Revenue

Yep, that’s the typical “pirate metrics” of growth hacking, but we all know that marketers need to at least dedicate some time to every stage of it and tools help out a lot. Tools allow you to quickly run test with the lowest cost instead of having to build stuff in house that might take up resources and months worth of time. With the correct tools, you can create a stack that will help you automate and put your startup’s growth on autopilot. Let’s begin!

Acquisition

I’m usually a big fan of user acquisition tools that contribute to long term sustainable growth and not the one shot ones. The difference is that with a long term user acquisition tool, you can create a repeatable growth process behind it that will help you build out a foundation in the long term, where as if I go for something quick like Google Adwords or Facebook ads, I might acquire a few sign ups, but that doesn’t necessary mean that it will help me gain customers in the long term. With that said, here’s my list of go-to tools for acquisition.

Moz — Moz is the bread and butter to any SEO tool, but my most favorite out of all their tools is their open site explorer. The tool is free and it’s powerful enough to match with a lot of the higher end paid options out there. SEO isn’t something that acquires a user right away, but it’s a foundation that you need to lay if you want sustainable growth in the long run. Moz is a great free tool for checking your domain and page authority and also for checking how many links you are getting and from which source. You can also check your competition. But the free version only gives you 3 reports per day. It’s still a very good tool with simple UX that any marketer can just hop on and see results.

Builtwith — Builtwith is a great way to see which sites your competitor is using. In the earlier days, it’s always necessary to do thing that don’t scale. This includes reaching out to your competitor’s customers and either interviewing them to learn more about how they’re using your competitor or simply for pitching your new product. Builtwith can save you a lot of time because it can provide you with a list of websites that’s already using that tool. In addition to that, you can always use their free chrome extension to see what stack any website is using.

YesInsights — Data and guessing is never enough. YesInsights is an all in one user/customer feedback tool that allows you to take the guesswork out of knowing what your customers want. There’s a lot of ways you can include YesInsights in all parts of your marketing stack, but for acquisition, you should look into the on-page website feedback widget/survey. With YesInsights’ website widget, you can trigger an on page user friendly survey to ask questions like, “What’s stopping you from buying right now?” or you can make the survey appear on your blog asking a question like, “Did you find this content helpful?” If the visitor clicks “Yes”, then you can have the next action set to collect their email address. That allows you to narrow down the focus and acquire more users.

FullContact — I mentioned Builtwith above, but I know people will ask how do I find the company’s email? The best and easiest way is by guessing the email with FullContact. FullContact is a chrome extension that works directly in your Gmail and it will display their social profile if you guess the email correctly. I use to use Rapportive, but it’s not as good as FullContact anymore. FullContact is free and most of the time you can guess the email correctly with just their firstname@company.com. It’s a great start for emailing potential customers.

Sidekick — is a free Chrome plugin alternative to a Tout, PersistIQ and YesWare to give you open and click through rates on outbound email to show you how your outreach is going. The extension is a free tool created by Hubspot and it is highly effective for seeing who’s opening your emails. That way you can keep track of what’s going on and if the prospect missed your email or simply ignored it. It can help you build a strong follow up strategy for following up with potential customers. The thing I love the most about it is the real time notifications, but it does get buggy at times.

WordPress — Content marketing is king and it’s a great way to start building the early acquisition channel that will work in the long run. Blogging doesn’t get you customers right away, but if you look at companies like Kissmetrics, we can see that blogging pays off in the long term and will drive you a lot of traffic and branding. The reason I choose WordPress is because of how easy it is to set up with reliable hosting from companies like WPEngine (we use it!). It also comes with a ton of plugins that will make your life easier such as SEO Yoast for you to automate your SEO and see what’s working.

Buffer — Perhaps our best time-saving tip for social media marketing is scheduling posts ahead of time for your social profiles. You can batch the social media marketing process: Do all your curating and composing all in one go, then spread those updates out across the next day or week. The forever free plan at Buffer lets you connect a profile from each network (one from Facebook, one from Twitter, etc.) and to schedule ahead 10 posts for each network. If you share three posts per day, that means you can stay three days ahead all the time. You can use Hootsuite as another free alternative, but I prefer Buffer because of the chrome extension and how easy it is to schedule everything across all accounts.

Teachable — While we don’t use Teachable at YesInsights, I still believe that Teachable is one of the best tools for creating any online course. It’s a great way to grow your brand through offering your expertise. Teachable isn’t cheap, but if you’re offering free courses to grow your audience, then teachable provides a robust free platform for you to create a free course that you can use to collect your potential’s customers emails and market your knowledge to them.

Intercom — Intercom is a must have for any startup to start acquiring and communicating with their customers. The live chat on the website will allow you to capture leads, answer their questions, and most importantly the platform can act as a CRM where you can send trigger emails. Most awesome thing? You can start to scale and gather feedback through surveys created through YesInsights and embed them within your triggered with ease in Intercom. Our integration makes it easy for you to embed anything in the onboarding email. We use it everyday and here’s a sample of our very own onboarding email that gets 50%+ response rate on all opens:

Activation

This an important part of the marketing funnel. Acquiring a user and making them interested in a great start, but activating them and having them sign up for an account is no easy job. This is the part where the user will sign up for a trial or become a registered user. Now it’s up for your onboarding effort and nurturing process in order to continue to push them down the funnel and become an active paying user. Get ready for some fun tools

YesInsights — Had to mention our own tool again because a big chunk of our customers use it in their onboarding and lifecycle emails to nurture their leads and do user research on how the customers are enjoying the product during the trial phase. What features are the users using the most? What are they enjoying the most? Which marketing channel are they coming from? Instead of guessing, you can simply automate this process and create a customer feedback loop that will give you all the necessary data needed to analyze your final goal with the customer. Piktochart uses us in their mid-trial emails to figure out what’s the main use case of their customer and then sends educational materials to them based on their responses. They get 75%+ response on all their surveys sent due to the native triggered embed. Their email looks like this with the survey:

Retargeting — I’m not a “huge fan” of running too much acquisition ads, but if there’s one type of ad that I will run it will be retargeting. You might capture an email from your blog or capture a lot of visits from cold visitors, but the truth is that most people tend to forget about your product even if they find it useful. They might say, “ahh I’ll try it out tomorrow!”, but end up forgetting. Retargeting allows you to bring people back and remind them that your company still exist! You can use Perfect Audience or Adroll for this and can set it up across multiple platforms (FB, Google, web) etc.

GoToWebinar — Webinar is one of the best ways to nurture activated sign ups that are on trial. Buzzsumo does an excellent job at sending out webinar invites for discounts during your trial phase so you can learn about their product and the value that you get out of it. I’ve tried a lot of different webinar platform in the past, but keep coming back to GoToWebinar due to how easy it is to set up.

FullStory — FullStory lets your company easily record, replay, search, and analyze each user’s actual experience with your website. Think of it as your team’s super-searchable DVR for all customer interactions. A big part of activating a new user is by improving your onboarding process and Fullstory makes things a lot easier. UX designers gain a visceral sense of how users experience their design while avoiding the Hawthorne effect of formal usability studies. Web developers see bugs as they happened in the wild, with play/pause/rewind access to the full DOM across time and even the JavaScript console. I like to consider this as the full stack onboarding tool to improve your onboarding process to build a product that people love.

Crazy Egg — I mention Crazy Egg quite often because it’s a powerful and budget friendly tool for viewing heatmaps to see what users are doing on your site. Let’s say you’re driving a lot of traffic to your site, but the users aren’t converting. You want to know why they’re not. Maybe your landing page’s copy is too long and people are missing your trial button. Maybe people aren’t even scrolling or reading your content, with Crazy Egg, you can see recordings as well as heatmaps to figure out what’s going on. Then you can A/B test it to see how you can increase your activation rate. Combine this with YesInsightswebsite widget on pricing pages etc. to figure out both the quantitative and qualitative side of things to see why customers aren’t converting.

HelloBar — We use Hellobar on our blog (this one) and we use it collect emails and activate users. We try to send them to webinars to nurture them through Hellobar’s overlays that are super user friendly and nurture leads on our list to get them to sign up for our free trial. Hellobar comes with a free branded version, but we upgraded to the premium version for a budget friendly price. An alternative would be SumoMe, but it’s buggy for us and we don’t need the heatmap or analytic because we’re using other tools for that.

Instapage — We use this for all our landing page. Creating a landing page with Instapage is super easy and you can integrate this with any email service provider to capture lead and see the conversion rates. Content is king when it comes to nurturing and activating. It’s an important part of the marketing strategy and if you’re looking for an elegant tool for this process then Instapage is the way to go. If you need more advance flow such as Salesforce mapping, then look into Unbounce but we love the templates on Instapage especially for webinar and webinar replays.

Appcues — Appcues gives you the power to take user onboarding into your own hands. Build and iterate on your onboarding experience without bugging your dev team. New users often have different motivations for using your product. Get them to their first WOW experience faster by giving each persona a unique experience. Appcues really helps with user onboarding and can be used for user retention as well. It’s a really well rounded product. You can use it for pointing out important UI elements to ensure new users don’t get frustrated or lost. You can also use it to run A/B testing on user onboarding which is very powerful.

Retention

Now we’re moving down the funnel towards the Rs!! Once you move the user forward down the funnel towards retention, you should give you and your team a high five, but this is the hard part. Acquiring a user is hard, but retaining them is even harder. These tools focus on the goal of either retaining users or doing customer development to figure out ways to keep them coming back. Let’s do this!

Mixpanel — A big chunk of user retention is about understanding your users, where they are falling off in the funnel, what they’re doing on the site, and what they’re struggling with. Mixpanel is like Google Analytics on steroids. It comes with detailed funnel and cohort analysis that can help you map out exactly what’s going on within your app. What’s even more amazing about Mixpanel is how you can look into every single user to see their action as well as their engagement rate and where they are coming from.

User Testing — UserTesting.com is a website dedicated to finding your website’s biggest problems in a short amount of time, and then providing you with the information and feedback you need to improve your site’s usability. UserTesting.com gives you the ability to create a test for your website and then have real people take the test and give you feedback via video recording, while they are using the site. You can also ask them follow up questions for further information.

What’s amazing about UserTesting is that you can actually see an actual person using your product. The tester doesn’t only use the product, but they actually talk about it throughout their process and share their thoughts. This is a gold mine for all product managers, UX designers, and founders.

Let’s say you notice that two testers are struggling to understand a certain part of your product, you can work closely with your team to fix that issue. Another great thing is that you can test both web apps and mobile apps.

Pricing: Starts at $99 per video.

Net Promoter Score Tool — A NPS tool is a must at this stage of the funnel for you to quickly run customer satisfaction surveys. NPS is actually a very powerful tool not only for measuring the score, but as well as creating a referral engine and asking for testimonials. We use NPS to segment and find unhappy customers, then we personally reach out to them to see how we can improve our product. We use NPS on our advocates to ask for referrals and additional features that they would like to see being built next. At the end of the day, NPS is not only powerful, but can give you a lot of inside data on what your overall customers think about your product and if you’re heading towards product market fit. If you want a list of strategies that you can use with NPS to create sustainable growth, check out this article.

There are a lot of robust tools out there that you can create a NPS survey with. Check out Promoter.io for a good one. If you’re already using YesInsights for our one-click survey and website survey widget, you can easily create a NPS survey within our platform as well.

Referrals

This is the most powerful part of the marketing funnel. Word of mouth marketing is the best performing ROI you will ever have. With referrals, you literally have customers bringing you new customers without you having to spend money on acquisition. Getting users into the referral stages means they not only like your product, but they think that their contacts and friends could also benefit from that value.

At YesInsights, we only started looking into referrals when customers started asking for it. We wanted to ensure that we build a good enough product that solves a problem before even looking into tools for referrals. These are the tools that we’ve tried.

LeadDyno — There’s a lot of referral tools out there, but most of them are geared for enterprise with heavy pricing. LeadDyno was one of those that provided an all in one robust referral system with a reasonable pricing. LeadDyno allows you to easily create an affiliate program with your own custom landing page and backend system so that all you have to do is send a link to the people that want to sign up for your referral program and have them sign up. LeadDyno will handle everything from the payments to affiliate tracking. You can also schedule recurring payments to your affiliates. It’s a great tool for SaaS.

Ambassador — Ambassador is one of the most complete referral/affiliate programs out there. We didn’t go with Ambassador at YesInsights due to the heavy pricing, but they provide more features than a lot of the other referral tools out there. Here’s some of their best features:

  • An easy-to-use visual editor
  • Automated workflows
  • Pre-built designs and templates
  • Robust customer and affiliate portals
  • Seamless integrations
  • A/B test copy, rewards, and on-page placement
  • Identify and segment affiliates, influencers, customers, partners, employees, and other advocates
  • Customize reporting and analytics
  • Native mobile app experience
  • Multi-language functionality
  • International currency
  • Proven offline tracking processes

With all the features mentioned above, it’s the perfect affiliate program for marketers. They also support recurring payments, which is perfect for SaaS.

Revenue

Revenue is the bread and butter to any company and business. It’s what keeps the business alive and it’s what pays the bills. It doesn’t matter if your company is well funded or not, keeping track of revenue is super crucial to any business. One of the biggest mistake that founders make is that they only track overall revenue, but they aren’t keeping track of other important revenue metrics such as user churn, cost per acquisition etc. Luckily, we have tools to help us out.

Baremetrics — If you’re running a SaaS company, then you absolutely need Baremetrics or some sort of SaaS metric tracker. With Baremetrics you can learn more about each and every customer. Find out their LTV, MRR and more along with their entire history with you! The UX is super simple and you can connect your stripe, braintree or recurly account in seconds. One of the things that I love the most about Baremetrics is how you can dive into each customer profile and see everything. They also come with email notifications and reports.

Churn Buster — Churn Buster’s air-tight, scalable process automatically solves payment problems in Stripe caused by insufficient funds, expiration dates, card re-issuing and many more. These are common problems that lead to SaaS churn. If your users are loving your product, there should be no reason why they will churn, but unfortunately simple errors like these occur and that’s where Churn Buster can help you fix these problems.

Some of my most favorite features about Churn Buster is the white label dunning emails, automatic subscription renewals, and most importantly their real time reporting. I’m a huge analytic guy and the reporting really helps me analyze my churn.

First Officer — First Officer is a stripe monitoring tool that reports in depth metrics ranging from MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) to cohort analysis and most importantly to churn as well.

Are new customers happier than the old ones?

The behavior of a small group isn’t visible in total churn, but it shows in monthly cohort charts.

MRR is the no 1 SaaS metric and it isn’t just a single figure. To really conquer it — you must divide it as First Officer might say. With First Officer you can see the trends and compare performance between plans. View just one metric or compare them all in one place.

Their pricing is pretty straight forward. There is a hobby package for 29$/month that allows you to have up to 250 customers. This works pretty well with bootstrapping SaaS companies. You can then upgrade to the 79$/month package if you grow.

ProfitWell — ProfitWell combines world-class subscription analytics and tools that fuel your growth. Profitwell is similar to Baremetrics and FirstOfficer. It allows you to view all your analytics in one place and the data is pretty accurate. One of the best things about ProfitWell is that they provide actionable analytics and not just stats. This allows you to narrow down every little thing including cohorts and segmented users.

GeckoBoard — What I love about Geckoboard is that it tracks more than just revenue. Geckoboard allows you to add “widgets” to a dashboard that’s highly customizable. You can add anything you want to it from stripe to your daily visitor count. It’s the best app for keeping track of everything in one place. Display it in your office’s TV for the best results

That’s it for this list! Is there any tool that you use at your company that I didn’t mention here? Feel free to leave it in the comments.

The Most Straight Forward Guide To Customer Feedback (mini ebook)

Chapter 1: Introduction To User Feedback Surveys

As a founder, marketer or product manager, you spend a lot of time looking at your analytics and heatmaps, but that never tells the whole story. Analytics and data can only tell you what the user is doing, but never why the user is doing it. You can see through data where your users are falling off in the funnel and you can see through data how the user is engaging with your product/service, but talking to your customers will help you understand why they are doing it or what they love about it.

For this specific guide, we’ll be focusing on using user feedback surveys in order to obtain actionable customer feedback that will help you improve the growth of your business.

We all came across some form of survey online before. Usually surveys receive a bad rep due to long form surveys that take a long time to complete. Most feedback surveys that we see nowadays are surveys that you receive after you’ve used a service or purchase a product. It’s usually through an email that leads to some sort of long form survey that takes a lot of time to complete at some external link. These surveys usually feel annoying and most people aren’t willing to fill them out. User feedback surveys on the other hand are short form surveys that ask simple questions which leads to a much higher response rate.

Collecting data for data’s sake is not the end goal of user surveys. Rather, it’s the ability to analyze the responses and find new areas of opportunity to improve the performance of your business that counts.

We’ll be covering a lot in this detailed guide ranging from the importance of user feedback, different types of surveys, finding that AHA! Moment, analyzing survey data, getting your team involved and most importantly the type of tools that you can use to get those data.

Let’s start by talking about the importance of user/customer feedback and why it is important to your business.

Figure out what to build next (product roadmap)

One of the hardest things about building a software company is knowing what product features to build next. If you’re constantly asking your customers for feedback, you will notice that every customer expects something different. Some want “Feature X” and some want “Feature Y”. As an entrepreneur, product manager, or marketer, it’s extremely hard to please every single customer.

So, how can we decide on which product features to build next? With user feedback surveys, you can slowly narrow down the focus and take away the guesswork of developing a good product roadmap. Product teams often make a simple mistake – make decisions based on a few answers and not take into account all answers they don’t receive reasons. Lack of a different feature can cause people not to become your customers but they won’t contact support to talk about it – they will simply leave your website and look for a more suitable alternative. We don’t want that. We want to create WOW experience for the customers.

In order to do that, we must know their thoughts and feature expectations for your product. User feedback surveys can help with this. There’s a lot of ways you can collect valuable feedback from your customers, but we will go into those details in the future chapters. If you’re looking for an in depth article on prioritizing product features, check out our guide here.

Increase User Retention

Too many founders and marketers focus on user acquisition, but they forgot the importance of user retention. User retention is the best way to ensure that you have a sustainable growth. A good Product Hunt launch can land you a lot of sign ups, but that does not ensure that it will last forever and it does not ensure that you will have paid advocates.

With user feedback surveys, you can slowly narrow down your customer’s true needs. With this in mind, you’re able to structure a sustainable growth strategy for the long term that will help you with user retention.

Increasing user retention starts with an awesome product as well as an awesome customer experience. In order to achieve both, you need to gain feedback and know how to improve your product. The most scalable way to do this is through user feedback surveys.

Know what content to create next

A good content strategy is a great way to boost your company’s brand exposure as well as bring back customers that haven’t converted yet. The pain is that it’s not easy and it’s a super competitive space. Your content manager might be stuck with knowing what to write next or what type of content to create next (ebooks, white paper, infographics etc.) Instead of guessing, you can use user feedback surveys to dig your audience’s brain and only write articles that your users would want to read. This will result in a much higher engagement rate, lower bounce rate, as well as make a bigger impact on influencer marketing.

“It’s critical to get as much knowledge about your customers as you can in order for you to understand who these people are and what they loved, liked and disliked about your content. The only way to do that is to go right to the source. You need to talk directly to your customers to learn what quality content means to them. Not just at the outset of your content strategy, but on an ongoing basis.” – Hiten Shah

Improve conversion rate

Converting trial users to paid users isn’t an easy task. It requires a lot of nurturing. Conversion rate optimization is a constant process of optimizing your website to increase the number of conversions (signups, completed orders, collected leads etc.) from any given amount of traffic.

Let’s imagine a simple example: you sell a digital course for $100. If your conversion rate is 2%, you need to attract 50 users to your website to sell a unit. Now let’s increase conversion rate from 2 to 3%. You need just 34 visitors to sell a unit or you will sell 50% more products with the same amount of traffic. With this in mind, now you can spend more money on other aspects of the business such as hiring better talents to help you grow and scale your business.

The powerful thing about user feedback surveys is that you can use a website widget or post email one-click surveys to figure out what the user thinks about your check out page or app. Now you can narrow down the correct changes to make in order to improve your conversions.

Discover new marketing channels

One of the biggest struggle with marketers is coming up with new growth hacks that work. Marketers and entrepreneurs spend their entire workday coming up with new ideas to test. Unfortunately, most of these test just don’t provide the results that the companies want to see. You read about a growth hack that works for another company, but the truth is that the same growth hack might not work for your business.

So instead of wasting time and resources coming up with new growth hacks and testing them, why not talk to your customers to figure out the next marketing strategy that you can try? The truth is that too many entrepreneurs and marketers are stuck in their own world and spend too much time analyzing data. Data is awesome and it can give you a powerful insights on what your customers are doing, but data…well..it’s data. It’s almost like we’ve focused so much on being data-driven that we’ve forgotten about being customer-driven and the importance of actually talking to our customers.

In order to really understand what your customers want, you need to actually hear their pain, see their frustrations, their challenges, and use their voice/feedback as a data to come up with your next growth hacks.

Improving customer development

Customer development is a term popularized by Steve Blank. It refers to a constant process of getting to know your customers better and validating your assumptions about your them, their needs, and your product. It has been used mostly by startups, but bigger companies are starting adapting it as well to decrease costs and risk associated with new product launches.

A problem we ran into at YesInsights was that every user that signed up for our product had a different use case. Some of them didn’t know what the use cases were suppose to be or how they can use our product, but wanted to try us out.

In order for us to help them, we had to narrow down their pain points and find out exactly what they are looking for. Using one-click surveys allowed us to understand their roles and responsibilities.

Customer development process is not complete without collecting and analyzing feedback from your potential and actual customers.

Improving your user onboarding process

One of the most discussed topics in product development these days is onboarding, otherwise known as the very first encounter a user has with your product. If you nail your onboarding experience, you’ll be well on your way to positive engagement and retention. If your onboarding sucks, you’ll quickly leave your users feeling cold, helpless, confused and eventually churning.

Using user feedback surveys along with a tool like Intercom will allow you to end out triggered emails and engage with your new user sign ups which will help you improve your onboarding process.

Lenny, one of our co-founders, put together a detailed webinar on “How you can improve your user onboarding with surveys”

Figuring out whether or not your product has hit product/market fit

You can use user feedback surveys to determine what your customers are thinking about your product to see if your product is getting towards the product/market fit. One of the best ways to do this would be through Net Promoter Score surveys or asking a simple question such as, “How disappointed will you be if we no longer have “feature XYZ”

I will go more in detail about this in the later chapters.

There’s a lot more tricks and things that you can do such as generate more customer referrals through user feedback surveys, but this introduction lesson should cover up most of the main points and purposes of a user feedback survey.

It’s also important to keep in mind that while a user survey plan provides almost immediate feedback, it’s most definitely not a quick fix. After you feel you’ve thoroughly addressed one concern, it’s smart to survey users again to determine if you’ve really solved the problem. Once you’re sure you have, you can safely move on to the next problematic or lackluster aspect of your user experience.

See you in Chapter 2! 

Chapter 2: The Different Types of User Feedback Surveys

We sure covered a lot about the importance of user/customer feedback in chapter 1. In this chapter, I will be briefly covering the different types of user feedback surveys that you can start using today. It’s always a good practice to start implementing surveys within your marketing funnel as early as possible to lay out the initial foundation. It shouldn’t end there. Running user feedback surveys is like optimizing your website. You have to tweak and test constantly, so that you can get the most out of every single survey you send.

With that said, let’s cover the different type of user feedback surveys that you can start setting up today.

Long Form Surveys

Long form surveys are the type of surveys that you receive in your email from companies that require you to go to an external link to answer a series of long questions. We see these in our inboxes every single day. Companies of all size use them to conduct user research. These type of surveys tend to work best when there is some sort of incentive involved. For example, a lot of companies like WeWork will ask you to complete a long survey in exchange for a free $100 Amazon gift card.

Neil Patel does the same with his HelloBar. When you log into HelloBar’s dashboard, you will see a modal pop up that ask you to go through a 60 minute survey interview in exchange for an Amazon gift card.

The good thing about traditional long form surveys is that you can get a lot of valuable information out of one individual. Instead of just asking a few questions, you can go in depth and the user will most likely answer all the questions because there is a reward involved. It’s a great way of conducting a long form of research for you to gain the most insights for solving the problem. Another advantage of long form surveys is that you can obtain a broad range of data (e.g., attitudes, opinions, beliefs, values, behavior, factual). With long form surveys, you can drill down the main piece of puzzle you are trying to solve.

Now, there’s also a lot of downside of long traditional surveys. Most of these surveys receive a very low response rate. When Kapost sent a survey to 23,310 marketers, only 1.1% of people completed it. That’s a horribly low response rate, but it’s actually very common. Most surveys are blasted to everyone on a huge list with little context. Customers don’t care enough to respond.

Short Form Surveys (One-Click)

The alternative to long traditional surveys are short one-click surveys. One-click surveys also known as in-line surveys receives a 4-6x higher response rate compared to traditional surveys.

At YesInsights, we send a one-click survey to everyone that signs up for our free trial in the initial onboarding email. Out of everyone that opens the email, 50% of them will click on a response.

There are 5 big advantages of using inline email surveys:

– It feels like a natural part of your email content

– Customers can respond painlessly with one click

– You don’t have to send extra emails asking leads to take a survey

– It’s straightforward and gets to the point.

– It’s literally the most scalable, yet non-intrusive way to get customer intel.

And if you ask the right questions, you can actually get people to recommend your product even if they never convert to a paid customer. It’s very powerful. Another trick that you can use that is also used by a lot of our customers is by embedding this survey within your drip email or onboarding email campaigns to nurture the customer throughout their lifetime.

Another strong use case for one-click surveys is using it in your post transaction emails. You can use this to figure out what other products that your customers might want to purchase next. A good question would be, “Which of the following products might you be interested in purchasing next?” Once the customer selects a product, you can trigger an email with a discount code for those specific type of products. This will help you increase sales and revenue.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) Surveys

Net Promoter Score surveys are considered to be a short form survey because it is still based on the one-click survey theory. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) was established by Bain & Company in 2003 to help companies measure and evaluate customer loyalty. Fred Reichheld, a partner at Bain & Company, created a new way of measuring how well an organization treated the people whose lives it affected.

The NPS works by sending a quick, one question survey to your customers that asks them:

“How likely is it that you would recommend *Company name* to a friend or colleague?”

The question has a 1-10 rating scale for respondents to answer. With 10 being extremely likely to recommend and 1 being not at all likely. See the picture below to see a sample of a NPS survey looks like. Here are a few advantages to using a NPS survey:

Easy to use – A NPS survey is easy to send and easy to receive quick feedback. It’s similar to our one-click survey where your customers can easily select a response and it will be logged. This results in a much higher survey completion rate because it reduces the barrier to completing a survey. A traditional survey requires people to click on a link, then go to another site, and complete a long survey. With one-click surveys and NPS survey, the customer can just select an option and not have to worry about hitting reply and typing up an email to give customer feedback.

Easy to follow up and plan ahead – NPS practitioners typically share customer feedback very quickly after it is received. They quickly ask managers or frontline employees to contact every customer who gives an unfavorable score (a detractor), to identify the customer’s concerns, and to fix the problem whenever possible. Frontline managers and senior leaders use NPS data and customer comments to inform decisions about process changes, new products and other innovations.

Simple and Straightforward – The Net Promoter Score is a single number that can be tracked from week to week and month to month, just like net profit. As with net profit, of course, a company’s Net Promoter Scores can be broken down however you wish—by business line, by store, by product, even by individual customer-service rep. Customers usually don’t have to think too much. It’s soooo easy that even a 10 year old can understand it 🙂

Website Widget Feedback Surveys

Website widget feedback surveys are the little sliders that slide in with a simple survey when you visit a website or an app. This is one of the most powerful survey tools out there. It appears in the form of a one-click survey where only one question is displayed.

Usually with a good website feedback widget tool, you’re able to only have the survey appear on certain pages of your website. This is important because it will help you gain actionable feedback for those specific page.

Another thing to look for is a website widget feedback tool is the ability to segment and perform certain actions based on the response of the survey. For example, you might have a website feedback widget appear on a specific blog post. The question might ask, “Did you find this content helpful?” If the user selects “YES”, you should be able to prompt them to entering their email. That way you can collect emails as well as gain actionable feedback.

Another great place to use website widget feedback surveys would be in your e-commerce post check out pages or certain PPC advertising landing page that your potential customers might be landing on. If used correctly, website widget feedback surveys is one of the most powerful ways to run A/B testing and getting the most out of your user feedback results.

SMS Surveys

I’m pretty sure most of us have their phones with us everywhere we go (even in the shower). Text message is something that people check regularly. There aren’t too many companies out there that are offering or applying SMS surveys, but it can be another way for you to gain actionable user feedback.

I’ve seen enterprise companies like AT&T send out regular Net Promoter Score SMS surveys, and I did reply to it. It can be a powerful tool for the near future.

Which survey type you decide to implement depends on several factors, including what you’re trying to learn and who you’re hoping to learn from. We’ll cover this more thoroughly in the later chapters. While each type has its strengths and weaknesses, context is really the key here. You want to ensure that you’re asking the right questions and planning ahead of time before sending out your first survey. There isn’t a right or wrong survey, but there’s most definitely a right or wrong survey for a specific data point that you are trying to gather.

See you in Chapter 3!

Chapter 3: Planning Out Your Very First Survey

In the previous chapters you learned why user/customer feedback is important and the different types of surveys that you can send out. In this chapter, I will cover exactly how you can plan out your very first user feedback survey. While it might be tempting to go out and blast a few surveys to your list right now, it is important to brainstorm with your team to come up with the best questions to ask in order to achieve the maximum results and get the actual data that your team is seeking.

Have a strong hypothesis

Here’s Hiten Shah’s advice on building a hypothesis for customer feedback questions,

When creating a problem hypothesis start by describing the group of people you are targeting and what problem you think they have. It’s a simple format:

“[Group of people] have a problem [their problem]”

“At KISSmetrics, we built a mobile app for people that use Google Analytics. Here’s our hypothesis:”

Google Analytics users have a problem monitoring key business metrics on their mobile phone. You can take the idea for a new feature or a product iteration and create a hypothesis out of it. When we wanted to improve our real-time view in the KISSmetrics product, we started with a hypothesis: New and existing KISSmetrics customers have a problem debuging their implementation and viewing their users in real-time.

From that, we can learn that it is extremely vital to have a hypothesis in place before sending out any customer feedback survey.

Have a strong goal/end result

The point of a user feedback survey is for you to gain actionable feedback and to gain insights on data that you cannot get from just using analytical tools. Before coming up with a question, you need to know the end goal of the question.

For example, if you are sending out a survey question regarding the best product feature for your company to build next, you should know that your goal is to narrow down a list most requested feature and only work on the features that the majority of your users want. The best approach for this would be to brainstorm the survey questions ahead of time with your team.

Ideally, your survey should be built around accomplishing a single goal. What’s the main thing that your company is trying to figure out now? A laser-focused set of questions will produce higher quality results that are easier to analyze and put into action. Think of the survey questions as an unsolved puzzle set. You want to be able to fill in and complete the puzzle by asking customers the correct questions that will help you plug in the holes.

Do we need to segment our list to survey?

You might have a large customer database or a large email list. It is vital at this point that you and your team figure out whether or not you need to narrow down the list by segmenting them. For example, if you are sending a NPS survey, you might only want to target the users who have been using your product for at least 3 months.

Another reason why you should segment your list for different surveys is because there are a lot of different type of respondents. There are a lot of what we call, “unqualified users”. You can’t really avoid this. As your list grows bigger and your trial sign ups goes higher, you will get a lot of people that sign up for your app, but never use it or never convert. Using user feedback surveys is a great way to segment these people out, but in the beginning you should segment your current list of subscribers and customers for your first survey.

Yet by definition, there’s nothing you can do to convert unqualified visitors because they aren’t looking to buy what you’re selling. So, unless you’re testing out a new market, it doesn’t benefit you to survey someone who doesn’t need, want, or use your service. Not only would their answers offer no valuable data, but obtaining them would be a waste of resources that could be better spent elsewhere.

So this goes back to segmenting your list of qualified users based on the goals that you set. Let’s go back to the example where you want to send a customer feedback survey out in order to figure out the best feature to add to your product roadmap. For this specific case, it would not make any sense that you send out this survey to users who are subscribed to your blog, but not an active customer. A qualified user in that case will be someone that’s already paying for your product and getting value of it. Those feedback are the ones that matter and make an impact.

In that situation, another good segment of users will be people who churned. The ones that stopped using your app or did not come back to purchase again after 60-90 days. Asking them what features or products that they want to see next and then actually offering those products in the near future will delight them and reactivate them.

More things to consider before sending out your initial survey is to actually come up with a long term survey plan. How often will you be sending out these surveys? A mix of open ended questions in combination with NPS and website feedback widget is the best way to get the best out of everything. Tweaking the survey questions and sending different follow up surveys based on the respondent’s response is another great approach. Discuss with your team internally on the best practices.

In summary, what you want to find out and who you survey are inextricable—it’s critical you receive feedback from those who are directly affected by whatever issue you’re trying to solve or question you’re trying to answer. I know you might be asking, what questions should I be asking my customers? Don’t worry about that for now. In the later chapters, I will cover all of those in detail. For now, you can just start planning with your team ahead of time and prepare to blast those surveys.

See you in Chapter 4!

Chapter 4: Creating Your Very First Survey Question

Now that you have the fundamentals down and you’ve finished brainstorming with the team, it’s time to move onto creating your very first survey question. While at first this part may seem pretty straightforward, asking the wrong questions can actually make things a lot more difficult for you and your team. On the other hand, asking the right questions will allow you to gain more accurate insight on the ideal research you are trying to gain insights for. Let’s briefly start by going over the two types of user feedback survey questions.

The two types of user feedback survey questions

Open ended questions – When it comes to creating a user feedback survey question, it is quite important that we create “high value questions.” A high-value question is one that creates a learning experience for either the questioner and the person being questioned. Naturally, the best high-value questions provide insight for all parties concerned.

One characteristic of most high-value questions is that they are open-ended instead of closed-ended. An open-ended question is designed to encourage a full, meaningful answer using the subject’s own knowledge and/or feelings. It is the opposite of a closed-ended question, which encourages a short or single-word answer.

Let’s go through a quick example. Let’s say you just finished attending a conference and one of the conference host walks up to you and ask, “What did you learn most from this conference?” That is considered as an open-ended question. The most powerful thing about this question is that not only does it allow the person who is asking you the question to gain actual feedback from the attendee but it also helps the attendee reinforce it in their own minds. People are more willing to give more actionable feedback and go through more thoughts along in the process.

Open-ended questions are also great ways to begin a conversation with a potential customer and develop that initial relationship building. Here are a few examples of open ended questions:

What are the top priorities in your business at the moment?

What do you love most about feature XYZ?

Where did you hear about us?

Close ended questions – The second type of question that you can ask in your user feedback surveys are close ended questions. Close ended questions should result in shorter Yes/No, True/False, Agree/Disagree questions.

There are a wide variety of closed-ended question types for survey creators to choose from, including: Multiple choice, semantic differential, drop down, check boxes, ranking, and many more. Some examples include:

Did you enjoy the event?

Will you attend the event again?

Do you like my service/product?

It is a good practice to include both open ended as well as close ended questions when creating your survey questions. Some product managers like to start with a series of open ended questions to lead the user into the survey funnel and then narrow down their actual needs with close ended questions.

Marketers might want to start with a close ended question to get the respondent to micro-commit first and then follow up with another trigger action such as collecting a lead’s email address.

Marketers also like to segment and place different respondents into different list and buckets depending on their response. This is apart of creating a survey question with trigger logics. With that said, let’s move onto some of the best survey questions that you can start off with.

Survey questions to ask

Question 1: Where exactly did you first hear about us?

Goal: This question will help you find out what your most effective marketing channel is. You can see your customer’s referral path with any analytic tool, but that only tells you the LAST site they visited prior to yours. By asking this question instead, you may discover that your customer heard about your product from a podcast they listened to last month, or that a speaker at a popular conference mentioned you.

Best practice: Send this in your welcome email or in an another email 1-2 days after sign up so their memory is still fresh.

Question 2: What are you hoping to accomplish with us?

Goal: This question is used to discover your customer’s use-case as well as find out how they perceive your value. This is highly helpful to guide product on which features to prioritize, improve your marketing message, or help you sell to your customer by understanding their intentions.

Best practice: Send this with your welcome email or on the second email in your campaign. Asking in your welcome email will give better answers on the marketing messaging, while on a later email will be better for product insights.

 

Question 3: What persuaded you to upgrade your account?

 

Goal: Once a customer has upgraded their account, it’s important to discover what the levers were. Which features were most useful to them?

 

Best practice: Ask this question in the congratulatory or confirmation email your customer receives when they upgrade.

 

Question 4: Why did you decide not to buy/subscribe?

Goal: When someone decided not to use your product, wouldn’t you want to find out why? You may discover that they found another product, your prices were too high, your product was poorly designed, or perhaps they were just kicking the tires around. Armed with this knowledge, you can make changes to win future customers.

Best practice: Send this 30-90 days after a customer trial period has ended. If you don’t have a trial period, you can use another event that signals a customer is not going to convert.

Question 5: What would you miss most if you could not use us?

Goal: This question will help you discover your most useful features or product strengths. Your customers are likely using a lot of features, but there is probably one they find more useful than the others, and tell their friends about. By discovering your ‘killer’ feature you improve both your product offering and marketing message.

Best practice: This is best sent to your engaged users. I would send this email to users 1-3 months after they upgraded their account.

Question 6: How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?

Goal: This is a standard Net Promoter Score question and is highly correlated with customer satisfaction. Use this as an opportunity to reach out and help customers who are dissatisfied, or encourage customers who are very happy to promote your product.

Best practice: You should send this to all converted customers bi-annually or quarterly and try to improve the score over time. Another smart idea is segmenting your customers to discover which subset is the most satisfied. You can then market heavily to those customers.

Now you know the two different types of survey questions, the best practices for preparing for a survey questions, and some examples of good user feedback survey questions that you can start asking your customers today!

See you in Chapter 5!

Chapter 5: Best Tools For Surveying and Getting User Feedback

Welcome to Chapter 5 of The Most Straightforward Guide To User Feedback Surveys. In this chapter, I will be going through the best tools for collecting user feedback through surveys and some of the questions you need to ask yourself before choosing a tool.

There’s no shortage in tools when it comes to user feedback surveys. Matter of fact, if you run a quick Google search for user feedback survey tools, you might be overwhelmed by the results. The most important thing is that you have to narrow down these tools based on your needs and the goals you and your team set.

Here are some questions that you must consider before choosing a user feedback survey tool.

Questions to ask before choosing a user feedback survey tool

Do I want to send long form or short form surveys? – In the previous chapter, I went over the differences between long form and short form surveys, their disadvantages/advantages and many more. It is important to consider how much data does your company really need before choosing a tool.

 

Do I need a website feedback widget? – At YesInsights, our ultimate goal is to create the most robust all in one user feedback platform for you to gain accurate feedback in all ways possible. This is why we have one-click and NPS surveys along with a website feedback widget. Is your company only going to be sending out surveys through email to your existing list of users or are you looking into a quantitative and qualitative solution to analyze your funnel as well? If you are looking for feedback for your blog’s content, then it might be necessary to choose a user feedback survey tool that has a website feedback widget.

Does the tool have good analytical data? – At the end of the day, you’re surveying so that you can gain more insights and data. Does this tool that you are selecting have a good live feed along with a good analytical dashboard where you can track every respondent as well as export results? You have to also consider if the tool has the ability to segment users and place them in different bucket list based on their responses. Most tools that integrate with a 3rd party app like Zapier will have this built in.

Will the tool look good on mobile? – Most of us already know that the majority of the people out there are on mobile nowadays. We carry our phones in our showers, text on it on the bus, read articles while riding the elevator and many more. You want a tool that is mobile friendly, so that respondents can answer your feedback survey questions even on the go.

Does the tool come with a free trial? – Pricing does play an important role when it comes to selecting a user feedback tool, but what’s even more important is whether or not the tool comes with a free trial. In order to know if the tool is the right fit for your company, you should select a user feedback survey tool that offers a free trial, so you can see if it’s a good fit.

Does it allow customization, auto follow up emails, landing pages, and more? – You can do a lot more with a user feedback survey tool than just collecting actionable feedback. A good user feedback tool will allow you to explore new growth channels, come up with referral marketing strategies, upsell, trigger repurchases, and many more. Ensure that you select a tool that is robust and can perform all of the above.

Does it integrate with your current tools? – Integration is a major key factor when it comes to deciding on a user feedback tool. For example, a good chunk of our users sign up for YesInsights because of our Intercom integration. The intercom integration is a must for SaaS companies looking to get user feedback to improve their user onboarding experience. We also integrate with Drip, ConvertKit, Hubspot, Zapier, and many more which helps our customers a lot.

User feedback survey tools

With those questions in mind, now you can start to look into user feedback tools and narrow your list down based on the answers.

YesInsights – YesInsights is an all in one feedback platform for you to take the guesswork out of knowing what your customers want through one-click/Net Promoter Score surveys and a website feedback widget. With YesInsights, you can send surveys through any email service provider without the need of complex code and gain actionable feedback in minutes.

You can also trigger a website feedback widget to appear on certain pages of your application to gain actionable feedback from users that aren’t on your existing list. Most users experience a 80%+ response rate on all surveys sent and YesInsights integrates with Zapier, Drip, Mailchimp, Aweber, Constant Contact, Sendgrid, Intercom and many more. Also comes with a free trial.

SurveyMonkey – SurveyMonkey is one of the biggest players in the survey market, but it’s mainly geared towards long form surveys. It allows you to create external surveys with pre-built templates for most use cases and comes with a free plan. You can set custom URLs, redirects and many more.

GetFeedback – GetFeedback allows you to send mobile-friendly elegant looking surveys. This is more of an enterprise solution, but has one of the best survey creator UIs out there. One of the most powerful things about Getfeedback is the Salesforce integration that allows you to update your sales leads based on the survey response directly within Salesforce. Other features include personalized branding and customized html backgrounds.

Qualtrics – Another well known enterprise survey solution. An extremely fully robust survey platform for market research and user feedback. Qualtrics offers advanced survey logic, research, and logistics, plus a handful of services based on what your business might need. If you don’t have an established customer base, Qualtrics Panels management finds your target audience, builds and monitors your sample, and then delivers the results to you.

SurveyGizmo – If you’re seeking a solution that includes an API and custom templates, then you should look into SurveyGizmo. In addition to the powerful API, SurveyGizmo allows you to send feedback surveys in different languages, so if you’re running a company that targets the international scene, SurveyGizmo might be a good option for you.

There are a lot more user feedback survey tools that you can choose from, but those are the ones that came to my mind when I was putting together this guide. At the end of the day, you should select a tool that is easy to use and that you and your team can get comfortable with learning. Some of the tools are over complex due to it’s features and that might not be what you need depending on the stage of your company.

 

See you in Chapter 6!

Chapter 6: Conclusion

We’ve learned a lot about creating user feedback surveys and the value behind user feedback surveys. Regardless on the tool or method you choose to create user feedback surveys, it’s important to lay out a foundation as early as possible and start implementing it right away. Don’t wait until last minute before you start collecting user feedback.

 

Alex Turnbull from Groove says, “Learning the reasons why your customers cancel is painful, but it’s unquestionably valuable. I did nothing to systematically collect and measure the feedback I was getting. There’s no way around it, it still sucks when people point out where you’ve failed them. But actively collecting and leveraging that feedback has become one of the most important drivers for continuous improvement at Groove.”

From that, we can learn that we should actively collect feedback from the customer before they even think about cancelling their account with you.

It has already been mentioned in the previous chapters, but a continuous process of improvement, based on the feedback from your users, is the key to sustainable growth for your startup or business.I hope you learned a lot from this guide and if you found this useful, please share this guide with your friends or download the e-book copy and keep it for references.