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Hi, I'm the VP of Marketing at Litmus! When I joined Litmus as their first marketing hire in 2010, "content marketing" and "growth hacking" weren't things yet, but we started doing them anyway. And it worked. Content marketing has propelled Litmus to $49M in first round funding from completely bootstrapped (and profitable) beginnings. And we did it all without a sales team or a single cold outreach campaign. 

I've worn just about every hat you can wear at a small B2B software company. I've put my design degree to use by laying out brochures and flyers, answered customer support tickets, led product strategy, organized six profitable conferences, and written more blog posts than I care to count. Content marketing continues to propel Litmus’ growth and is the primary focus of my team of 7 today, driving nearly 2.2 million page views to the Litmus blog in 2015. Not only does our content help raise awareness of our brand and sell out our conferences, but it also fuels customer retention. We retain 70% of the customers who find Litmus via our blog, vs only 50% of the customers whose first contact is through other channels.

In 2015 I was named "Email Marketing Thought Leader of the Year" by the Direct Marketing Association, and can humbly boast that I've been quoted in publications like Fast Company, MarketingSherpa, ClickZ, and Smart Insights. 

Prior to Litmus, I led the design services team at ExactTarget (now part of Salesforce.com). It was there that I first fell in love with the unruly art of email design.

Ask me anything, but especially anything about email marketing, content, growing a B2B business without cold outreach or traditional sales, creating community, scuba diving, or the care and keeping of cats. 

Follow me on Twitter (I'm @meladorri) and learn how to make email awesome by subscribing to the Litmus newsletter at litmus.com/subscribe.

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Justine will be live on Feb 9 from 1130 AM PT for one and half hours during which she will answer as many questions as possible.

  • LS

    Logan Stoneman

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Justine!

    Thanks for joining us here on the AMA. What do you think makes your content marketing so powerful? Is there a certain way you craft each piece of content?

    Thanks!

    • JJ

      Justine Jordan

      over 3 years ago #

      Hey Logan! Thanks for asking my first-ever Growth Hacker AMA question!

      I think what makes our content marketing—but really any content marketing—so powerful is a genuine desire to help others.

      People are smart, and they can smell a marketing gimmick a mile a way. The thing that makes the content team at Litmus so unique is that several of us have walked a mile in our audience's shoes. We're living their challenges right there alongside them. So when we create content, we're not only helping our customers and prospects, but we're also scratching our own itch.

      To sum up, powerful content is genuinely helpful, and not only serves the user but also serves the marketer. Our growth director John Bonini calls this "Servant Marketing" and I couldn't agree more.

      9 Share
      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 3 years ago #

        "Servant Marketing" - I love this.
        It seems that despite the maturity of this channel a lot of people don't get this - contributing the "content shock" we keep hearing about.

      • LS

        Logan Stoneman

        over 3 years ago #

        Thanks Justine. This is some great advice for those starting in the industry, but also a great reminder for old-timers in the industry as well!

      • SM

        Shanelle Mullin

        over 3 years ago #

        Agreed. I can't tell you how many times I've read a thorough, in-depth article that was completely unhelpful.

  • JJ

    Justine Jordan

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey y'all! I'm really excited to dive in and answer your questions tomorrow. I'll admit, I'm a bit nervous, too. As much as I love the limelight when it comes to public speaking about email best practices, I don't often talk about our successes here at Litmus. Hopefully I can share something valuable!

  • JT

    James Turner

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Justine, thanks for doing this today.

    I saw you speak at CTA Conf last year, and have been keeping up with you and Litmus since.

    I have two questions, one vague and open, the other more specific (and multi-armed).

    1. Do you have any insights or test-based metrics supporting when (if) to use design-free, narrative emails (like letters) vs. heavily designed non-narrative emails (more like flyers)?

    2. You implied an aversion to cold outreach twice in your bio. So I feel like it is something you dislike. Do you feel that cold email campaigns are without merit? Are there any cases where you would support one? If so, do you or litmus have any numbers on what works or doesn’t?

    Thanks again!

    • JJ

      Justine Jordan

      over 3 years ago #

      Hi James! Thanks for coming out to CTA Conf. It was my first time in Vancouver and frankly it wasn't long enough. What a beautiful city! I'm going to answer your questions in two parts.

      Here's part one!

      As you can probably imagine, I get asked a TON of questions similar to this one, but generally they are all framed the same: "Does x work better than y?"

      My answer is almost always "it depends," which I realize can be frustrating to hear. But time after time I'm surprised by test results that either invalidate things I used to believe we true, or that others told me were foolproof. Especially in email, you MUST test and find out what works with your audience. For an audience like Litmus', which has a deep appreciation for well-designed emails, I would put my money on option 2. But I'd probably be wrong :)

      The other part of that equation is the goal of the campaign, and the context with which a user would expect to see it. My hypothesis and general experience tells me that a personal letter would work better for a campaign of personal nature: a request for feedback, apology, or announcement. On the other hand, a heavily designed flyer-like email would work beautifully for richer content like an infographic.

      At the end of the day, I'd make a call based on the context, goals, and audience for the campaign.

      7 Share
      • JT

        James Turner

        over 3 years ago #

        Agree on all points re: Vancouver. Perhaps I’ll see you there again this year.

        I imagined that you did get asked that a lot, and am not surprised by “it depends” as an answer. I wondered if, in your deeper than normal email experience, you might have come closer to seeing one pull ahead, over time.

        Thanks for the answer, and the use-case delineations. Context, goals and audience...a solid trio. Thanks.

    • JJ

      Justine Jordan

      over 3 years ago #

      Here's part two!

      I'm laughing to myself because you definitely hit the nail on the head! I do have a personal aversion to cold outreach, and it's actually something that's "against the rules" here at Litmus, at least when it comes to emails and phone calls.

      We're inbound-only for those channels, meaning that you'll never hear from us unless you started the conversation.

      There are very few cases where I personally feel like a cold outreach campaign would have merit. There's nothing people hate more in their inboxes than email from someone they've never heard of. I liken it to walking into the front door of someone's house. That's plain rude! The inbox is a personal place and should be respected as such.

      Exceptions are paid media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and more traditional advertising mediums where people expect to be marketed to.

      (Obviously) I have pretty strong feelings about this, and I realize that my approach won't be popular with everyone :) But there's got to be a better way than buying our way into people's inboxes. If we're providing real value as marketers that shouldn't be necessary.

      3 Share
      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 3 years ago #

        "You'll never hear from us unless you started the conversation" - wow!
        Could you talk more about tactics/strategies to prompt more people to start the conversation?

      • JT

        James Turner

        over 3 years ago #

        Against the rules! Now that’s drawing the line in the sand - I like it.

        I’m working quite closely with someone right now who has made cold outreach (B2B, C-suite) her life’s work. I started out feeling very similar to you (and still do to a large extent), but have come around to seeing a few merits to the cold world (ha!).

        It’s something I’m pondering a lot at the moment, so thanks for weighing in.

  • LL

    Lindsey LaManna

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Justine,

    I'm considering building a new content hub on WordPress for the large enterprise I work for to help us reach a new audience of small business buyers with a new suite of products. We have several web properties already but none of them are tailored to this niche audience.

    1. What is your best advice for building an audience with a new content hub? How do we stand out among all of the other content hubs?
    2. We're considering creating an unbranded hub. What are your thoughts on unbranded vs branded hubs?

    Thanks!

    Lindsey

    • JJ

      Justine Jordan

      over 3 years ago #

      Hi Lindsey! Your question is quite timely as we're just starting to address this "content hub" challenge here at Litmus. Since we started creating content many years ago, we've amassed a large library of resources, but at the moment they are poorly organized. The concept of a "content hub" is a great way to address that!

      1. As far as building an audience goes, I'll refer back to my answer to Ayoola's question, where I recommended something that seems simple/obvious, but it seems like goes often overlooked: answer questions your customers and prospects are asking. It's really surprising how often content is really a thinly veiled marketing pitch, and people pick up on it right away. In the beginning when you're building out your hub, you'll need to earn trust, build a brand, and become a destination. The best way to do that is by being genuinely helpful.

      2. Hmmm... I have to admit, this isn't something I've considered before! To me, brand is SO IMPORTANT, as it serves as a foundation of trust. It's also an opportunity to differentiate one brand from another. Come to think of it, I'm having a hard time coming up with any reasons why you'd want unbranded content, unless the content was of poor quality, in which case I wouldn't want my brand associated with that type of content! I'd love to hear from others on the subject!

      3 Share
      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 3 years ago #

        "answer questions your customers and prospects are asking"
        What if the audience isn't asking the question yet but you know/feel is something they should be asking?
        How might someone think about addressing such a challenge?

      • DM

        David Milberg

        over 3 years ago #

        Great tips Justine thank you so much for sharing your insights!

  • SJ

    Sebastian Johansson

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Justine.

    Ive actually been looking for a service like litmus, so you probably got at least one new client from this AMA :)

    1. "When I joined Litmus as their first marketing hire in 2010, "content marketing" and "growth hacking" weren't things yet, but we started doing them anyway."

    Have you stumbled across any new marketing channels that the mass havent discovered yet?

    2. Do you ever think: "Wow, people are so dumb. Why cant they understand how powerful this hack is that ive been trying to explain to them"? If so, whats the hack?

    Thanks :)

    • JJ

      Justine Jordan

      over 3 years ago #

      Hi Sebastian! So happy to have you as a new customer :) Please let us know if there's anything we can do to help!

      1. Hmmmmm.... I don't think we've stumbled across anything particularly new that no one has heard of yet. As a smallish team with limited resources, we tend to stick with what we know, and experiment continuously within those mediums. Our own use of email is a great example of that. For years while the rest of digital marketing was trying to say that email was dying/dead, we were pushing for innovation in the space. The end result has been some really cool things that people didn't think were possible in email, like a live Twitter stream! https://litmus.com/blog/how-to-code-a-live-dynamic-twitter-feed-in-html-email

      2. If content marketing has taught me anything, it's that there's no such thing as a dumb person or question. Everyone is new at something at least once in their life, and that's one of the reasons why I love my job/industry–I am constantly learning, and frequently have "dumb" moments myself where I have no idea what I'm doing.

      That leads me to another observation about "growth hacking." There's actually very little actual hacking involved. A lot of what we're doing is stumbling around in the dark, trying to make the right decisions for our customers and our business, and having some fun with trying new things along the way.

      But if I had to give you "one simple powerful trick" for growth, it would be "be genuine."

      7 Share
  • A.

    AYOOLA .A Josephus™

    over 3 years ago #

    This is really awesome and I admire your profile and achievements. I have some few questions I would love your thoughts on.

    1. How do u think content marketing can drive growth for a non-profit organizations and what are some strategies you would recommend implementing?

    2. An organization with its target audience as millennials what are some key content marketing strategies you would recommend?

    Cheers and can't wait to hear from you !!! ;)

    • JJ

      Justine Jordan

      over 3 years ago #

      Thanks for participating today!

      1. Content marketing can help drive growth for any organization. My #1 strategy is advice that I got from Marcus Sheridan (@TheSalesLion on Twitter) years ago. He made millions in the pool industry by simply democratizing information about pools, making it accessible to anyone on the internet. So find out what questions your audience has, and start answering them! Interview your customers and prospects, ask your support/sales teams, walk a mile in your customer's shoes and find out what's important to them and what is challenging them. Help them solve it, and then write about it.

      2. Millennials are people, too! They use and consume content just as much, if not more than, older generations. The first place young people turn with questions is the internet, so my advice would be to make it accessible to them. My other suggestion would be to avoid falling into stereotypes and trends with this demographic—you can end up chasing "opportunities" with new apps/channels/mediums that might be old news to this group before you even get your campaign created and approved. Try to do some research about where your key customers and prospects find information, and meet them where they are with the information they need.

      3 Share
  • GK

    Gabe Kwakyi

    over 3 years ago #

    Thank you for joining AMA today, Justine! Sounds like some excellent content marketing success you and your team are driving!

    I have a couple questions:

    1. How you go about researching new topics and keywords to use in topics? Right now I'm looking at Quora questions and google keyword tool research but would love to hear your ideas :)

    2. Where do you distribute your blogs (social channels, email, medium/quora, content amplification like outbrain, external blog syndication, etc.) and where have you seen the best success for growing readsership?

    -Gabe

    • JJ

      Justine Jordan

      over 3 years ago #

      Hi Gabe! Thanks for joining the conversation today.

      1. We get content/topic ideas from a ton of different sources. At first, I mainly drew from my own pool of challenges. I was designing and coding emails in my role before Litmus, and was super frustrated by the lack of resources to help me do my job. So initially I was "scratching my own itch," so to speak—researching and finding answers to questions I'd had for a long time.

      Keyword research Quora have also been great sources for ideas. A HUGE source for us has been customer support and inbound sales inquiries. Our support and marketing teams use Help Scout and Trello to tag, sort, and categorize ideas so we can see which questions pop up frequently or what topics need to be re-addressed/updated. We're also not afraid to ask—on Twitter, on Facebook, in surveys, over email, etc. We're constantly asking how we can do better, and what types of resources our audience wants to see from us.

      Lastly, we keep up on trends in our industry. Every time a new email app or service comes out, there will generally be questions about how it works, what challenges it presents, how it renders email, etc. So that keeps us plenty busy, too!

      Most of the folks on my team have spent, or still spend, time building, designing, and writing for email, so we're still living a lot of the same challenges our customers do. If you're in a position to get out and try doing your customer's job, that's likely to be a huge source of inspiration as well.

      2. This would be a great question for my content marketing manager, Lauren! I probably am going to miss something here, but I'll do my best. For each blog post, we typically cross-post to our social properties (we focus on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. Occasionally Pinterest for visual-heavy content).

      Depending on the exact topic and audience, we've also been known to share on Bostinno (website for Boston tech/startup news), Mashable, Reddit, Inbound.org, Designer News, Digg.com, and Visual.ly.

      Lastly, we'll either send a stand-alone email (for big pieces, like our State of Email Report), or include smaller pieces (a blog post) in our monthly newsletter, which is essentially a digest of all our blog content.

      As you might imagine, success depends quite a bit on the content, audience, and where it's posted. We've experimented with services like Outbrain and seen some initial success, but so far most of our growth has been organic. People share content they find helpful!

      3 Share
      • GK

        Gabe Kwakyi

        over 3 years ago #

        Gotchya - thank you very much for the tips and information Justine!

        Got some good tasks for my own Trello board ;)

  • BW

    Brand Winnie

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Justine!

    Thanks for doing this AMA.

    What are the biggest challenges you’ve encountered with growing Litmus?

    • JJ

      Justine Jordan

      over 3 years ago #

      Oh gosh! Speaking honestly, I'd probably say feeling like I don't know what I'm doing most of the time :)

      A more useful answer would be finding that line between growth that solely benefits the company vs. growth that is mutually beneficial for the customer and the company. It's a delicate balance, and one of the biggest challenges any marketer will face. You'll be faced with decisions where you can opt to benefit the company as the expense of the user, or dial back your expectations for growth and err on the side of building brand trust. My instincts have always been to err in favor of the customer, and that seems to have paid off in the long term.

      5 Share
      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 3 years ago #

        This!

      • BW

        Brand Winnie

        over 3 years ago #

        I love your answer and appreciate the honesty. So many times I think we get caught up into thinking we all know what we are doing but this industry is a baby and we are ALL learning continually. Thanks!

    • JJ

      Justine Jordan

      over 3 years ago #

      No one is an expert! That's why I love my job—every day is a new challenge and solving some unsolved problem. Sometimes it seems like a mountain I'll never summit, but it's all about the journey and not the prize, right?

  • AS

    Alex Sherstinsky

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Justine, thanks for doing the AMA with us! Question: How is your growth team structured and why is it that way? Thank you!

    • JJ

      Justine Jordan

      over 3 years ago #

      Hey Alex! Rather than having a separate growth team, the content and growth functions at Litmus are simply known as "the marketing team" and report into me. And interestingly enough, a formal "growth" role was a recent hire (just in the last year). This was designed this way on purpose—I believe quite strongly that you can't have one without the other. In order to maintain a strong brand and balance between growth and value, we combined the functions into one team. That team takes a holistic point of view—looking at how we can impact the entire funnel with our content to increase awareness, improve conversions, and drive retention.

      Here's a lineup of the (amazing) Litmus marketing team:

      Lauren Smith - Content Marketing Manager
      Jason Rodriguez - Community Manager
      Chad White - Research Director
      Kristen Luongo - Events Manager
      John Bonini - Growth Director
      Amir Hamdi - Content Designer
      Erin King - Email Marketing Manager
      Kevin Mandeville - Email Hacker/Designer

      2 Share
  • ES

    Edward Stephens

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Justine,

    Amazing to have you on!

    I recently saw a really amazing camping by Burberry. They used 'kinetic email'.

    What do you think the potential for kinetic email is and how much functionality do you think it's reasonable to build in to an email marketing campaign?

    • JJ

      Justine Jordan

      over 3 years ago #

      Hi Edward! Great to see a fellow email geek in our midst here!

      Ah! Kinetic email. For those unfamiliar, this a debated term (because we can never agree on standards or naming conventions for anything in email!) Personally, I prefer the term "interactive", but I digress :) In a nutshell, kinetic/interactive emails are those that behave much more like websites—integrating things like carousels, interactive tours, games, Twitter feeds, and even shopping carts directly inside an email.

      I think the potential for kinetic/interactive email is HUGE! This was actually the topic of the FastCompany article mentioned in my bio above: http://www.fastcompany.com/3050017/elasticity/the-shopping-cart-that-fits-in-your-inbox

      Email has a reputation for being "old school" and "behind the curve" (or even dead!), but this type of interactivity in email is ushering in a new generation of marketers, designers, and developers that are getting excited about what's possible in email again.

      From a marketer's perspective, you have to know your audience when it comes to using this technology in a campaign. Email is famously standards-adverse, and what works in one email program or app might not work somewhere else. In a B2B environment where everyone is opening in Outlook, the functionality in a kinetic email simply won't work, and will be overlooked. However, for users on webkit-powered email apps, like Apple Mail, these campaigns can offer a new level of engagement and interactivity opportunity for marketers. For example, when we embedded a live Twitter stream in our email, we saw off-the-charts engagement in that email and on the event hashtag. https://litmus.com/blog/how-to-code-a-live-dynamic-twitter-feed-in-html-email

      With any kind of campaign like this, it's important to know your audience (so you can determine if they'll see the neat bells and whistles you add in) and plan for fallbacks for the inboxes that won't support the advanced functionality. And if possible, link all users to a working version in a web browser so everyone has an opportunity to join the fun.

      2 Share
  • LX

    leon xia

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Justine!

    I am starting a service platform with targeted audience being millennials. There will be plenty of social aspect to it to promote sharing and advocacy. What would be your "growth hack" advice to gain the initial traction when the content is still low?

    Thanks!

    Leon

    • JJ

      Justine Jordan

      over 3 years ago #

      Learn where your audience hangs out online. Observe them, get to know them, understand their challenges, and then create content that will help them. One of the values Millennials care most about is collaboration. Ask them for their feedback, and how you can improve. Earn their trust and respect. Improve, rinse and repeat.

  • HQ

    Hila Qu

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Justine,

    Very excited to have you here.

    I have an email marketing 101 question here if you don't mind:) For someone who is relatively new and want to start to use email marketing to engage with users, what is your recommended places to get started, in term of
    1) Email marketing & marketing automation tool set.
    2) Different kinds of email campaigns to start with, such as drip campaigns
    3) How to generate content for email
    4) How to measure the result of email campaign

    Thank You!

  • GL

    George LaRochelle

    over 3 years ago #

    What is your deadlift up to now? What gets you most excited when talking about email currently?

    • JJ

      Justine Jordan

      over 3 years ago #

      Haha! For context, George recently discovered a video from my Friday-morning weightlifting sessions (for the record, I was deadlifting 210lbs in the video). I haven't deadlifted in a while, I'll have to get back to you on my latest max!

      I get most excited when talking about the potential for email to connect brands to their audiences. It's such a personal medium, and when you combine the gobs of data marketers have at their fingertips with the powerful features in email platforms today, you can make some serious magic happen!

      • GL

        George LaRochelle

        over 3 years ago #

        Thanks for doing this Justine, these are all great answers. I love the idea about taking all your data and applying it to your email to make that experience so much more personal. Huge potential for a lot of brands to do this more.

  • DL

    Dylan La Com

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Justine - thanks for doing this AMA!

    How do you think email marketing will change in the next 5 and 10 years? I'd love to hear your thoughts from the perspectives of both a sender of email marketing and a receiver of email marketing.

    Thanks!

    • JJ

      Justine Jordan

      over 3 years ago #

      Hey Dylan! Funnily enough, this is a question that Chad White, our research director, has asked 20 industry leaders—and compiled all their responses into a report due to be released the week of Feb. 22nd.

      I won't give it all away, but suffice to say the experts in this report have quite a range of opinions on how sending and receiving email will change.

      Personally, I'm quite optimistic about it all. Better access to data has meant that the opportunity to make email personal and relevant is unprecedented, and integrations between platforms and channels are making the role that email plays in our lives ever more seamless. That's great news for both senders and receivers—because email that benefits the people receiving it will ultimately be more valuable and deliver a higher ROI to the people sending it.

      If you'd like to get your hands on that report (appropriately titled, "Email Marketing in 2020"), sign up for the Litmus newsletter: https://litmus.com/subscribe

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Justine - thanks so much for taking the time for this!

    In your opinion who is(are) really rocking email marketing like no other in terms of list building and/or have super high engagement (other than you, of course :))?
    I get that at some level it's all about relevance but beyond that what specifically do you think they doing that's so different from everyone else that separates them from the crowd?

  • KD

    Kalpesh Darji

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Justine, thank you for all Information. learnt new things and going to implement it soon. I want to know which type of mail is better for a country wise email list.

  • RT

    Roman Temkin

    over 3 years ago #

    Powerful content is very helpful, no doubt about it.

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