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Mark was a social entrepreneur first, starting ecommerce company, BeGood, in 2012.

After acting as CEO for four years, he became the first marketer at RealtyShares, where he grew into Head of Marketing over a nearly three-year tenure.

Today, Mark is the Head of Marketing at GGV and Lightspeed-backed healthcare startup, PlushCare.

He is also the cofounder of Growth Marketing Pro, a blog where he writes about only one thing: how to grow your business.

The blog has grown to tens of thousands of unique visitors monthly.

  • MK

    Mariana Klober

    7 months ago #

    Hi Mark!

    Thanks for taking the time for doing this! It's great to have you here :)

    I have a few questions for you:
    1) What were the 2 most important things learned during your time at BeGood?
    2) How many people do you currently have on your marketing team at PlushCare? I'm guessing you probably have a lean team that has to focus in order to reach your goals - how do you currently decide on what initiatives you should invest your time and budget?
    3) Your blog has grown in an impressive way, what has been key to that growth?

    Thanks again!

    • MS

      Mark Spera

      7 months ago #

      Hi @mariana_klober

      BeGood: So many learnings. I could write a book. Being a founder is truly the most difficult and taxing thing I've ever done. But I think the biggest ones are 1) Be different. BeGood took a little while to ramp up -- it wasn't nearly as fast as either PlushCare or my blog. In ecommerce, it pays to be different and have a unique perspective. In the beginning, we were selling a lot of basics -- tees, sweatshirts, etc. Once we started pushing the fashion envelope more, we grew faster. The internet is super visual -- Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, etc. If you're selling online, be different. 2) Be current. Pinterest was relatively new at the time. This meant there was plenty of opportunity to score cheap acquisitions. We hired an intern to spend hours on Pinterest -- commenting, following, posting, etc. This lead to a really consistent flow of free acquisitions that lasted for 1-2 years (before Pinterest became much more interested in advertising... which squeezed out the "organic" pins) 3) If you want to be a venture-backed company, raise enough money (and even more than you need) to grow, hire the right people and spend on marketing. We were only ever to raise a few hundred thousand dollars. By the end, we were nearly profitable, but cash was always super tight. It's tough to make the right decisions when cash is tight. Either start a business profitably from day 1 or raise enough money to get there.

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      • MS

        Mark Spera

        7 months ago #

        My team at PlushCare is 4. We have a number of contractors -- designers, writers, etc. who play huge support roles, though. When figuring out which growth experiments take precedence, we take these things into account -- 1) scale of opportunity 2) do we have any existing data that this experiment will work? i.e. have we tried this same thing in another channel or does our Google Analytics tell us we're already getting users from this channel 3) ease of execution and cost -- free and cheap is always better and should always come before expensive/big lift items

    • MS

      Mark Spera

      7 months ago #

      The blog: all organic. Writing great content that our audience loves. That's it.

  • TS

    Tonya Sims

    7 months ago #

    Hi Mark! Thank you for your time today. My question is about your blog Growth Marketing Pro or any related work you’ve done as a Marketing Guru. My questions are:

    - How do you differentiate yourself from other blogs?
    - What makes your standout?
    - Which growth hacking methods did you use to grow your viewership?

    Lastly, did you have a plan or strategy when you started your blog?

    Thank you!

    • MS

      Mark Spera

      7 months ago #

      Hi @tonyasims

      I'll answer each of your questions separately. So here it goes!

      Differentiation from other blogs:
      The internet is crowded. You do need to differentiate if you're going to blog or build a business on the internet. When @hailey_friedman and I started Growth Marketing Pro we did it to fill a void -- most of the blogs we were reading and seeing were not very well written and the tips weren't actionable. We believe that people searching the web for marketing advice want actionable tips, rather than fluffy pontification. So we try and make every post stupid simple and/or super actionable. We don't leave any details out and we explain step-by-step how to do everything.

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    • MS

      Mark Spera

      7 months ago #

      Growth hacking methods: The only way GMP has grown is through organic traffic (SEO). Search engine optimization is about creating the best content for Google to appreciate and index. One of my theories is that nearly anyone can start a blog and grow it if they have a unique perspective and are writing about a vertical that is highly searched (being a pretty good writer doesn't hurt). Truly, writing good content is the best (and sometimes the only) thing you can do to grow a blog readership. Neil Patel actually writes quite a bit about exactly that.

    • MS

      Mark Spera

      7 months ago #

      Plan in the beginning: No, it was to write. I always loved writing and I felt that I had some unique insights to share. So at first, I did it as a hobby and for professional development.

  • 7 months ago #

    Hey Mark, my questions circle around the management side of things.

    1) Which tools do you use to manage your content initiatives?
    1.1 Are they all integrated?
    1.2 Do they create a log of learnings?
    2) Last but not least, how do you improve your performance over time?
    2.1 Do you spend time looking at your analytics?
    2.2 are they specific metrics you are always looking at?
    2.3 how do you convert data into actionable insights.

    Sorry for the number of questions and thank you for your availability, Mark.

    • MS

      Mark Spera

      7 months ago #

      @pedrocli
      Thanks, these are great questions.

      Content:

      I'll be honest, we're not terribly sophisticated in terms of our process for SEO @ PlushCare or my blog. Again, I've found time and time again that SEO success is about producing great content.

      As far as learnings: we definitely label every single post we write in terms of: topic, length, month written, etc. We then look at cohorts of articles. Did our January'18 articles crush it? Did articles about "flu" crush it? This directional information leads us to understand what content to write and prioritize.

      • MS

        Mark Spera

        7 months ago #

        In terms of analytics: yes. I love to use SEMRush to understand what our competitors are ranking for. But more than that, I use Google Ad's keyword tool. The keyword tool is "straight from the horse's mouth." Google tells you what keywords have large volume and also tells you how competitive those terms are. I start there. Then I look at Google Analytics -- both the query report and landing page report to understand what topics/terms we're ranking for already. In general, doubling down on keywords you already rank for is easier than focusing on new verticals.

  • TO

    Tiago Otani

    7 months ago #

    Hi Mark, thank you for sharing your insights and experience with us!

    PlushCare facilitates access to health services and products and here in Brazil we're witnessing similar companies growing fast. How do you see this global market in terms of room for improving people's lives and in terms of business opportunities for PlushCare and others? How challenging can be an expansion to other continents and countries?

    • MS

      Mark Spera

      7 months ago #

      Hi @tiago_otani1

      Very cool! I need to read up on some of the companies abroad doing similar things to PlushCare. I think the reason I don't know much about the companies abroad is because expansion to other countries is so difficult. Healthcare is one of those things that is so unique to every country and is very political, visceral and legally nuanced. So what works in one country may not necessarily work in another -- both from a legal perspective and from a business/economics perspective. So to answer, I think healthcare companies are not ones that translate especially well to international expansion. The good news of course is that healthcare is a massive industry, so Brazil and the U.S. -- with our massive populations provide more than enough "room to run" and build a game-changing business.

      In terms of improving lives, there's no question telemedicine plays a big role. One of the treatments we provide @ PlushCare that I'm most proud of is PrEP. PrEP is an HIV prophylaxis medication (prevents HIV). In rural parts of the U.S. and in some more conservative parts of the U.S., access to PrEP is not good. PlushCare is enabling so many people to access PrEP and stay on the drug, who might otherwise not have access from their primary care provider because of ethos or distance to the closest provider. So yes, telemedicine is here to stay and it will continue to change the way people get care.

  • BP

    Bhavesh Patel

    7 months ago #

    Hi Mark,

    My question to you is,
    1) What are the problems you face in day to day at the workplace?
    2) What blogs are you reading to update with your marketing knowledge?

    Thanks in advance.

    • MS

      Mark Spera

      7 months ago #

      Hi @bhavesh612

      I don't face problems per se, but challenges, sure. IMO, the job of a marketer with a team at a startup is three-fold:
      1. Set goals -- ones for the individuals and ones that roll up to achieve company objectives.
      2. Most importantly, hire, retain and bring out the best in your reports. If you hire well, you're going to have some damn smart people working for you/with you -- who probably know how to do a lot of things better than you. I'm lucky enough to have this situation @ PlushCare. In most cases, I find that my role with direct reports is mostly in helping prioritize (there's always a million things to do) and making sure they are asking the right questions. If you have a fully empowered team, they will do the right thing 99% of the time.
      3. Grow the business. I think my strongest suit is in finding ways to grow a business fast. If you're aware of all the ways to grow a business, it's simply a process of prioritizing growth experiments, testing those experiments and then iterating. At a startup, there's not much room for fluff. IMO, a good startup marketer is looking for growth opportunities all the time.

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      • MS

        Mark Spera

        7 months ago #

        The best blogs to read:
        I'm real biased on this one -- but I really do think my blog, Growth Marketing Pro has a lot of information. If you're looking for growth ideas/hacks and stories, read that section of our site.

        Neil Patel's blog: he's been doing it for a long time. Get on his email list and just stay up to date. The reason I like it is because he has a whole team writing and researching and staying current. Google algorithm changes, new hacks and channels, etc. Staying current is a lot of what makes a good marketer. He has that in spades.

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      • MS

        Mark Spera

        7 months ago #

        Also read things by Josh Fechter. He's a smart guy.

  • DS

    Douglas Schneider

    7 months ago #

    Hi Mark, First of all thank you for your time and willingness to come here to share your knowledge.

    I have some questions for you now:

    -If you were starting now to work with marketing what would you do to stand out?

    -What 3 advices you would give to your younger self at the start of your career if you could?

    -What were the best books you read that changed the way you approached your work-life balance?

    Thanks.

    • MS

      Mark Spera

      7 months ago #

      Hi @doug.schneider

      I really think that the key to any career is to always learn and stay current. I think that's where I really separate myself from other marketers. It's not all about Google Ads and Facebook ads. There's so much more. If you stay current, you're going to find channels and opportunities others won't. A great example is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a GOLDMINE. If you do it right (read some Josh Fechter stuff about it), you can really get a lot of reach on LinkedIn for pretty cheap.

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      • MS

        Mark Spera

        7 months ago #

        Dang -- advice for young Mark.

        1) Don't be afraid of new opportunities. BeGood wasn't a success in a venture-backed startup sorta way, but it literally made my career. I was a finance major and was working in inventory management/company planning at Gap Inc. I took a leap and I haven't regretted it for one second. Take smart leaps, but take leaps.

        2. Start a blog. I don't care what industry you're in. If you're committed to writing for a year, you can build a following. The blog has been a boon to my career and more recently, provides some extra income. Humans are lazy. It's tough. But do it, young Mark!

        3. For the little, little me: math and English are important. My life at PlushCare is very analytical. Finance set me up nicely in this way. Honing my writing over the years has been hugely beneficial. Write more!

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    • MS

      Mark Spera

      7 months ago #

      Books:

      Haha I really don't read too much. I read blogs and the news non-stop. But I'm a little too distractible to read full books. The one I like the most is Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard's book, Let My People Go Surfing. Patagonia built the perfect brand and corporate culture based on an obsession with the environment and letting employees enjoy life. Unsurprisingly, happy employees are productive ones.

      I also really like The Lean Startup. While it's not so much about work-life balance, a lot of the learnings have helped me achieve work-life balance. "Focus on small tests and iterate" fast is basically the summary. Don't spend days perfecting some marketing initiative that only MIGHT work. Rather, get a minimum viable product out the door. Who cares if it's not perfect.

      1 Share

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