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Hey GH! So, I'm the founder of Sparta (http://spartasales.com), a SaaS product that helps sales managers drive sales performance via web based sales contests. Anyway, we've got off to a great start here in our Swedish home market, are nearly at ramen-profitability and are getting great feedback from our customers who are telling us that they receive real ROI from the product. Today, our primary acquisition channel is outbound sales (phone + email). I'm starting to think more about content (http://blog.spartasales.com) and have tested the waters with some initial blog posts, infographics and whitepapers. I believe the content is fairly strong, but I'm really looking for ways for boost the reach and distribution of our content. Some examples of content: If anyone has any feedback/ideas/thoughts, I'd love to hear it. Would even consider a small contract for someone to help with overall strategy. PS. To get a clearer idea of what we do, read about us on TechCrunch here: http://techcrunch.com/2014/07/21/all-your-sales-are-belong-to-us/ Cheers! James.
  • VV

    Visakan Veerasamy

    over 4 years ago #

    Love the logo. Here's some stream of consciousness feedback that may be completely wrong/irrelevant:

    - "Why CRMs are holding your sales team back"... I think "How" would be a more compelling title

    - "Check out our free guide" -> could you figure out a way to describe what's in the guide? "The 6 Essentials", etc. Something that compells a click.

    - "Winning isn't everything"- why should I click that? What is, if not winning? I clicked through to see what it is, and I see you talk about progress vs winning. You also talk about dangers in the post, which is a better leading point. The dangers of winning at sales, or something like that, maybe?

    I sense that you/your writers have the fundamental ability to write, but haven't yet figured out how to 'channel' it effectively. You need to seek out specific pain points and really attack those, hard. Better content is the most important step. If you had to condense your entire blog into a single really good blogpost, what would that look like? What's the biggest problem people are facing?

    Also, do some reading about headline optimization- Buffer has a great guide on it. I used to be very supicious of those, but I think essentially, great headlines help you craft good promises. Your next job is to deliver on those promises. Distribution gets easier after that, because people will be sharing your stuff on their own.

    Just my ignorant $0.02

  • BP

    Brandon Pindulic

    over 4 years ago #

    Best advice I can give you when starting from scratch, is to build distribution into your content...what I mean by this is ask yourself, 'who will share this & why?'. Some reasons people share content: it has their name in it (maybe honoring them, quoting them, using them as a positive example of something, etc), it mentions their company, blog, product and so forth positively, it's a really helpful 'how to' post, shows them things they didn't previously know of (tools, blogs, resources etc), has an interesting stat or starts (clicktotweet.com works great for those), and many, many other reasons.

    Find content that did well using BuzzSumo and regular Google searches. Also, read Brian Dean's 'Skyscraper Technique' post: http://backlinko.com/skyscraper-technique to get more info on that.

    Submitting to niche communities (i.e GrowthHackers, Inbound, subreddits) is a good kick starter as well.

    Everyone says 'write great content', and they're right, but a list post with XX best (insert topic, tools, influencers, etc) will bring in some serious traffic if the outreach is done properly, which really just consists of emailing the people / companies. That's great content as well, but it's not an academic whitepaper that so many 'content marketers', who think content marketing is JUST writing, solely rely on. Content amplification, for me at least, usually takes *more* time than writing the post, but without it your efforts will have gone to waste.

    This isn't a hack or a gimmick. It's just letting people know you linked to them & acknowledge their work. When someone links to something I did or said, I'm grateful and I share it. I usually check out their company or blog as well.

    Just stay away from junk & make sure you create stuff people want to read / share.

    Also, image, videos, and other visuals help a ton as well

    • SH

      Skyler Hair

      over 4 years ago #

      Great answer, I totally agree :)

    • JP

      James Pember

      over 4 years ago #

      Great answer thank you!

      • RG

        Robert Graham

        over 4 years ago #

        You can also find the titles that do well for competitors in terms of social shares and then put your own spin on those. Usually the biggest influencers that shared the old one will share the new one...it's similar to the Skyscraper Technique mentioned above.

  • AL

    Angelo Lirazan

    over 4 years ago #

    Email marketing may be a way to start. Do your best to drive email collection. The email collection field on your blog page does not stand out, in my opinion. You already have your customer base as an email list! On signup online, you can have them double opt-in to an email newsletter as well. Also, segmentation of your email list may also be a good idea to separate those who are 'just interested' from 'already purchased', so you can send content to those groups as required.

    Finding niche communities that discuss sales might be another place to start. When people are having issues that one of your articles/whitepapers discuss, then share it! Better yet, create content for common problems you see people have. That would increase likelihood for sharing. I already shared the blog post you linked on here about CRMs, even if im not in sales. hehe

    Guest blogging may be another route to take. Maybe you can find some sales blogs to try and get that done. I recently read the following article, which helps you effectively gather email subscribers through guest posting.
    http://growthhackers.com/how-to-get-over-400-email-subscribers-from-one-article/

    Have you tried remarketing ads on social media sites or even gmail? I don't know if they would work for this, but considering it might not be a bad idea.

    You said your primary acquisition channel is outbound sales. Have you tried drip campaigns? You can use the content you generated for this. Here's a post on here for that.
    http://growthhackers.com/the-basics-of-drip-campaigns-infographic/

    The thing about your product is that you are targeting a small group of people; sales managers. If you can find out where they frequent and talk, you can target them accordingly. Best of luck and hope to hear back! :)

    • JP

      James Pember

      over 4 years ago #

      Thanks so much for a really thoughtful answer Angelo! I tend to agree with you and think that our Email list, Retargeting and Guest Posts might be a solid three-pronged approach to start with!

      I'll make sure to keep you guys informed of how it goes!

      • AL

        Angelo Lirazan

        over 4 years ago #

        Was hoping to add you on LinkedIn to possibly continue the discussion down the line, but it looks like you don't have one posted. :(

        You're welcome and best of luck to you!

    • ET

      Everette Taylor

      over 4 years ago #

      @angelolireezy touched on a lot of points that I would have made. Email collection is essential, you can use survey tools like Qualaroo that are non-obtrusive pop ups or you can go big with an overlay like Bounce Exchange (except I would use a way cheaper option like Marketizator - there's also a free one that I can't think of the name).

      Also on social, utilize Twitter Cards to collect emails which can be used for free or can be promoted to your audience through various keywords if you want to pay.

      Webscraping really helps when it comes to finding niche communities to distribute your content or blogs which would be great to guest post.

      One last thing, stay organized. Have a set of steps you take for each article or piece of content you publish with a checklist. Stay consistent with distribution of content on social, blogs/communities/ and emails.

      • JP

        James Pember

        over 4 years ago #

        Spot on, I think a repeatable distribution workflow for each piece of content is one of the key's, working on it as we speak!

  • AJ

    Ali Jetha

    over 4 years ago #

    You should definitely focus on capturing emails alongside your content strategy.
    If I were you, I'd scout Linkedin for potential customers and try to crossreference their twitter accounts. I'd then engage with them.

    • JP

      James Pember

      over 4 years ago #

      Thanks! I'm definitely getting the vibe that email capture is one of the key leaks in our strategy today. Will work on fixing that up.

      Any tips on how we could improve it?

      1. Better subscribe CTA in blog?
      2. Exit modals etc?

      • RL

        Rob Lennon

        over 4 years ago #

        You can use MailChimp or Aweber for email capture. Add an email subscribe to the right rail of the blog, and also a "scroll box" that comes up when someone scrolls 80% down the page. If you're using Wordpress, I'd recommend the Scroll Triggered Boxes plugin. Then email your best blog posts to those folks as you create them.

  • JP

    James Pember

    over 4 years ago #

    Just thought I'd update everyone here!

    I recently added a couple of basic things to our blog using the great SumoMe tools (http://sumome.com/).

    Added the "slide in subscribe", floating share buttons and the modal email list builder.

    Over the next period, I'm going to really go all-in on collecting emails and delivering great content.

    Thanks for all the tips and ideas GH!

  • SC

    Shana Carp

    over 4 years ago #

    None of the above:

    You should do a mass buy to stimulate searches at the top of the funnel. The mass buy needs to be crafted to match your content message. Furthermore, part of the budget for the mass buy should be used to support the content inside content ad networks (ie: Taboola)

    Basically, the larger problem has to do with effective frequency. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_frequency You don't have enough to start with to have the content marketing create enough inbound lift by itself (People don't go looking for your stuff as a brand to just read). In order to do so, you either need to treat your content as if you were a publisher (and be brutal about the process) or treat your content as just extra validation/a potential/priceable source of lift compared to your natural sales (aka sales with no marketing, people just wandering around the internet)

    Futhermore, (last part) As a SAAS, you need to think a multipart sales cycle.

    :)

    • SC

      Shana Carp

      over 4 years ago #

      fyi, i stole this strategy from no less than buzzfeed.

      • ET

        Everette Taylor

        over 4 years ago #

        =) appreciate your honesty @shanac

        • SC

          Shana Carp

          over 4 years ago #

          *shrug* I also knew that what I was going to say was completely counterintutive.

          Email helps, and is a support mechanism, but you have to use it carefully*, and doesn't really solve the essential problem.

          Pretty much the above is fairly well researched and works most the time. (in fact, followups to the original buzzfeed research is in this quarter's Journal of Advertising Research) The times it doesn't work the messaging seems to not work or the product doesn't have fit, not because the basics underneath don't work. And I really need to finish that post I'm writing about my shoes and effective frequency, since it asks a great question about buying ads.

          *popups drive many many many people crazy. And can cause negative seo, and do lots of crazy things, and I've seen data going back and forth about popups for email capture.

    • JP

      James Pember

      over 4 years ago #

      Thank you! Will look into Taboola now.

    • JG

      Jane Guleski

      over 4 years ago #

      have you used taboola previously? can you provide any rough info on the pricing

      • SC

        Shana Carp

        over 4 years ago #

        Me personally, no. Taboola, Outbrain, and also Disqus all have platforms to spread content. The floor for outbrain are about $10/day as a minimum budget, and they are charged CPC basis (i think auction, and you can do targeting. Disqus I can get information about, but the program is limited, and minimum spend is 5k in theory(https://help.disqus.com/customer/portal/articles/1388608-advertiser-faq ). Taboola is hiding that information on their site.

        The other nifty thing is you could do matching targeting if this is done right. Outbrain appears to be the cheapest, but may not push the target audience/high quality lead necessary. It's worth putting this to a spreadsheet to figure out exactly how the numbers need to break down.

        This also is just one component of "do they have enough exposures to drive sales" It sounds like, no, otherwise the content would be doing well on its own.

      • MJ

        manuel Jaffrin

        over 4 years ago #

        yes we did try it but results were really not good for our market segment (SaaS solutions) We have had better experience with outbrain although you need to spend quite a bit of time to make it work

  • RF

    Ryan Farrell

    over 4 years ago #

    Dig the blog post execution, could use a few more visual call-outs.

    Anytime you have data points in a post (A study by the Incentive Research Foundation found that 50% fewer reps are motivated by money *source*) you should have a visual call out. Helps with the on page time... and... well people just like graphs

    Just gonna touch on the infographic and sort of stay in the vein of what an earlier commenter said "treat your content as if you were a publisher"

    This is beyond true. In a world where the New York Times pushes out some of the most marvelous data visualizations the world has ever seen (and on a daily basis) unless you're going to do at least one of the below three (or ALL of the below three, even better)

    A. Find a unique spin on your topic that can be represented visually
    B. Utilize discreet data that very people have been exposed to
    C. Commit to an almost draconian data, design, and editorial integrity

    Then you're better off staying away from infographics as they draw precious attention from your internal processes.

    A vendor is an option, but a good graphic and proper distribution is not exactly cheap.

    There's nothing implicitly wrong with your graphic, but it's not going to serve the function it intended.

    Whereas your blog content has the dual benefit of developing subject matter expertise in the space if composed properly (which it is) and also drawing in long tailed organic searches if an SEO strategy is set in place.

    Just my two cents.

  • JP

    James Pember

    over 4 years ago #

    Thank you everyone for all the great, actionable feedback. I'm truly impressed by the quality of this community so far.

    This does get me thinking though - perhaps we should start off with a remote marketeer! :)

  • AG

    Adrijus Guscia

    over 4 years ago #

    In addition to email marketing (recommending www.activecampaign.com which dwarfs MailChimp or Aweber with it's functionality and still has more free subs allowed than MC) I'd say add better visuals for your content. Make branded blog post images, share quotes related to the topic and come up with your own quotes that help people. If you have data from your current customers, try coming up with an infographic. All these should be branded with your brand colors and always have your website address etc. Countless of companies share great graphics online (esp. quotes) but they end up promoting other brand that made the quote, instead of promoting themselves.

  • KW

    Krystian Wlodarczyk

    over 4 years ago #

    Hey James,

    As for the content distribution it's a tough thing to do in the beginning.
    You could start with gathering some emails and trying to grow your user base.

    The second idea could be automation. You could try onlywire.com at the beginning.

  • BD

    Brad Dubs

    over 4 years ago #

    Expanding on what others have said about email capture, take a look at http://blog.bufferapp.com/ and http://www.appsumo.com/what-i-learned-mcdonalds-manager/. They put email capture forms before content and clearly explain the benefits of signing up. Also, note the multiple placements (top hat, sidebar, pre-content, slide out after certain scroll depth). For any slide-outs and pop-ups, I'd recommend delaying their appearance by a time that seems appropriate, based on your avg time on page. For example, if your avg time on page is 30 seconds, set the delay for 20 seconds. That way you're asking people to sign up (almost) after they've obtained value from the blog post. One of the dumbest things I see people do is pop up the window as soon as the page loads, before the reader has a chance to read the post.

    Also, prominent floating social buttons make it super easy for readers to easily share your content, rather than scroll back to the top or bottom of a post and hunt for the share button of their choice.

    In terms of content distribution: I'd suggest testing the following channels, picking one with the highest ROI and then doubling down.

    1) The fastest way to accelerate distribution is to pay for it. The content ad networks that were mentioned (Taboola, Outbrain, Zemanta, etc) are a good starting point because they're CPC. LinkedIn Ads and Facebook Ads are also worth testing. Inbound marketers might call this approach "lazy", but I'm willing to bet you'll see a better ROI from $1,000 in ad spend vs $1,000 in man-power.

    2) Guest posting for mid-level business pubs or becoming a contributor to a major business pub's (Forbes, BusinessWeek, etc) blog can get your content out in front of a highly targeted audience as well. Buffer's Leo Widrich did a lot of this in the earlier days of Buffer.

    And as is the recommendation with anything on the interwebz these days, A/B test the shit out of every change you make. From personal experience, following best practices doesn't always net the best results.

  • DF

    David Fallarme

    over 4 years ago #

    Assuming you've got your bases covered as far as social sharing, personal outreach and distributing to communities -- I would focus on SEO. Making sure that your content is covered for important keywords and phrases is important in making sure you not only have reach, but also high-quality, "warm" reach that is likely interested in your service.

  • PC

    Pascal Clarysse

    over 4 years ago #

    Besides the advice from ShanaCarp, which is solid because it goes straight for the throat of your fundamental challenge, I'd also consider two things that make sense for SaaS inmho:
    1) LinkedIn Ads
    2) Guest post everywhere they will take your content -- there are many media with high traffic that will take guest blog posts from outsiders if a) they don't have to pay anything for it; b) you are not too up front and salesy about your product/service and stay as factual and informative as possible; c) you always re-tailor the content a tiny bit to fit with the specifics of their editorial line. If you need to look into a good case study for this, search for "how Buffer got to the first 100K" or something along those lines and you shall eventually find something. Buffer applied this technique impeccably and is well documented. Bottom line: if you content is strong, until you got traffic yourself, go spread it on places that already got the traffic and where your content is relevant (note: once you're done with all possible english targets, think of all the german, russian, french or spanish web sites you can target if you pay a professional translator to localize your content for a small fee [or better yet, contact Gengo and tick all the languages you need -- they're excellent]).

  • GG

    Gail Gardner

    over 4 years ago #

    Two easy ways to increase social media traffic and sharing are:

    Viral Content Buzz
    http://growmap.com/get-stumbles-pins-tweets-likes/

    Just Retweet
    http://growmap.com/justretweet/

    Building lists and using them well (autoresponders, emailing new content)

    Create downloadable assets and autoresponder series that people want to use and share to grow your list and increase sharing.

    Build relationships - the fast way is by joining relevant groups on LinkedIn, G+, Facebook, and niche sites. Some make the mistake of only networking with their peers; you do need to network with peers to share experience and learn best practices, but you also want to join groups that are not your competitors. For that, you want to identify your target customer audience and network with them, sharing your experience without being overly promotional.

    • GG

      Gail Gardner

      over 4 years ago #

      Consider reaching out to someone with many contacts in the communities in which you want to raise visibility to request their assistance in expediting blog outreach. It is much easier to get content published on major sites through their existing writers than it is to get them to take your desire to guest post seriously.

  • RS

    Ross Simmonds

    over 4 years ago #

    There are two sides of any effective content marketing strategy. The actual content you're creating and the distribution channels you leverage to tell your story. I'll be the first to tell you that content isn't king and that distribution is increasingly more important than ever in a world filled with clutter and noise. That said, I'll also be the first to tell you that the quality and relevance of your content is also important.

    I've looked at the content you're looking to distribute and feel that this is where your first problem lies. You're creating content that is specifically about your product and content that tackles a subject that is still pretty new in the area of sales. Instead of creating content that has the sole intent of pushing your product forward, create content that has the intent of pushing an industry forward. The blog post was the right idea and does a great job at accomplishing this!

    A few ideas that would likely resonate better with your audience:

    1. The Ultimate Guide To Technology For The Modern Sales Pro
    2. Flowchart: How To Deal With A Prospect Going Cold
    3. How The Best Sales Leaders Spark Competition In Their Teams
    4. STUDY: 4/5 Managers Believe Sales Competition Is Good For Business

    These are some high level thoughts and of course, these ideas would need to be looked at a bit closer to confirm whether or not they're aligned with your audiences interest. That said, once you've clearly identified these kinds of opportunities - It's time to start figuring out how you can distribute this content effectively. Here are some of the best approaches for increasing content distribution:

    1. Leverage LinkedIn Publishing - It's a great opportunity to share your content with people you're connected to and those following relevant topics for your content.
    2. Write blogs on Quora & share use quoras promoted post Functionality to have it placed in front of more eyeballs. (Free when you add lots of answers and questions).
    3. Seed content in relevant communities - Think Inbound.org or Growthhackers.com but for Sales professionals. They exist, you just have to do some digging to find them.
    4. Syndicate your content to blogs that have a large following.
    5. Reach out to sales leaders and ask to guest blog.

    For more info on distribution, check out this deck I put together a few weeks ago: www.slideshare.net/rosssimmonds/why-content-really-isnt-king-and-what-is

  • SD

    Sweeney Daniel

    over 4 years ago #

    Quick Thoughts:

    1. Dedicated 'cover' images for each post.
    2. Much stronger focus on collecting emails.
    3. Guest blogging is definitely a great channel.
    4. Pay to play. If your content is good and your strategy sound, don't be afraid to pay to get your content out there a bit more. Facebook ads, Twitter and Native Advertising (Taboola, Outbrain, etc).

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