From New Zealand to Mexico to South Africa - and everywhere between - Repsly is quickly becoming a company with a noted global presence in the consumer goods space. With this in mind, I'll be putting together a bi-weekly series of blog posts focusing on our marketing efforts.
Each post will focus on five major areas:
- Reporting & Measuring
Each of these stages will be presented in a case-study format, with a previous Repsly campaign being the subject. Through this series, I'm hoping to inform your marketing strategies, to shrink the communication gap between Repsly offices around the world, and to hopefully have a bit of fun letting everyone know what we're working on.
We've run many successful marketing campaigns over the last few years - otherwise we wouldn't be where we are today. It should be noted though, that for every successful campaign we've run, there have been many, many, failures.
We've found that repeated failure is more useful than fluke success: fine-tuning your process and knowing why you failed allows for the creation of a scalable, repeatable, process (pretty important for a startup). A fluke success is only as useful as it's initial payoff.
With all this in mind, I'd ask that you make yourself comfortable, pour the drink of your choice, and read about the riveting world of Repsly Marketing - the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Repsly Marketing #1: Content Marketing & SEO
If we're going to talk about content marketing, it's important that I tell you upfront - I hate content. "But Cam!" you might be saying to yourself in your respective language "How can you build a marketing strategy centered on content creation while hating content?"
The thing is, everyone hates content, including you.
When's the last time you left a movie and said "Wow, that was some great content!"
When's the last time someone reminisced about Jimi Hendrix's Woodstock performance and referred to Jimi's "quality content"?
Jimi shows the world some quality content at Woodstock (1969)
Content sucks because everything is content and nothing is content. We need one word that buckets all of the things we create, but that word doesn't do any of the individual pieces justice. Although everything we create is content, our mindset during the creation process must be that we are creating something unique and of value, something that communicates a message to the appropriate person, in the appropriate way, at the appropriate time.
At the same time, we aren't delusional. We aren't here to create art. But we're also not here to swindle people. We're here to help people in two ways. The first is by giving them the information they need to be successful. The second is by giving them the tools they need to succeed. When we give someone useful information and Repsly proves to be the right tool for their problem, then we've got a match!
Ok. Enough about content, now let's talk about content.
I'll try to keep this part shorter than me. Interruption marketing is what people think of when they watch Mad Men on Netflix. It's TV ads, billboards, full-bleed magazine inserts, that guy in the suit who comes to your house with a script and a vacuum and shows you how it can solve all the world's problems.
Interruption marketing is someone talking to you in a place you didn't want them to be, at a time when you didn't want them to be there.
Does it work? Sometimes.
Is it expensive? Yes.
Is it annoying? Always.
Inbound marketing is showing your neighbor a video of your trip to Nebraska after they told you they were thinking about taking a trip somewhere boring and uneventful. It's delivering something useful to a person, after they've expressed some interest in being shown that thing. It doesn't directly promote a brand or products, it just answers the questions or addresses the concerns that people have about a subject.
When you give people the information they want, when they want it, you start to build a relationship of trust with those people. If you can genuinely solve the problems that person is having with their business, and you've built a relationship of trust with that person, then there's a mutually beneficial arrangement that can be made.
Repsly does inbound marketing, and we do it pretty well.
SEO for the Uninterested
SEO (search engine optimization) is not an interesting subject for most sane people. Spending hours reading over the fine print of Google's patent documents is not a night well-spent for many, and yet here we are. At it's most basic level, SEO's purpose is to get your stuff as high up on search engine rankings as possible. The higher up you are, the more likely it is that people will click on your stuff. If more people click your stuff, and your stuff doesn't suck, then more people will read your stuff and buy your things.
When you're trying to build a business through inbound marketing, this kind of stuff becomes pretty important.
So how does Google determine who goes to the top of the results and who rots away in obscurity on Page 2? Turns out the answer isn't so simple. Thanks to machine learning and Voodoo magic, no single person fully understands how Google's ranking algorithm works. What we do understand is that there are a number of weighted criteria that determines where a search result ranks after a user enters a query. If we do our best to meet those criterion, we can feel semi-confident that our content will be higher than others.
V1 of Google's algorithm, circa 1998
The success of your SEO efforts is dependent on two areas: On-Page SEO, and Off-Page SEO.
This is the easier part of SEO, and is quite literally just the stuff that's on the page. Let's start with the most important two things:
Keyword: This is the word or phrase that is a match for or is very close to the user query in the search engine. Your content should be centered around this keyword, but that doesn't mean you should just write the same phrase 1,000 times. Here are the things that matter when writing for a keyword:
- Intent: What was the user really looking for? Let's say a user types "Buffalo facts". They may be looking for facts about Buffalo New York, Bison, Buffalo Sauce, Buffalo Bill, or facts told by Buffalo (these don't exist). Determining user intent is mostly Google's job, not the writer. Google knows user search history, location, time, and language, giving them a much better chance to correctly guess intent than you. Because of this, it becomes more valuable for content marketers to write about Long-tail keywords than general keywords. These terms are searched for far less than general keywords, but they let us guess at user intent and deliver our message accordingly.
A Buffalo in Buffalo plots his next lie.
- Volume: Usually presented in searches/month, keyword volume is a good indicator of how many people are actively searching for a specific thing in a given area at any time.
Topical Relevancy: It's not enough to match a user's query. When creating content to rank, you need to take into account what other things the user query is related to. Here's the often-cited abstract from the paper that breaks down Google's page-ranking algorithm.
Google’s success derives in large part from its PageRank algorithm, which ranks the importance of webpages according to an eigenvector of a weighted link matrix.
Basically, here's the thought process Google goes through:
It's not enough to have information on just the subject the user is directly asking about. You need to provide topical information, covering a topic with greath breadth, in order to rank.
Other important on-page SEO factors:
- Page load speed
- Mobile responsiveness
- User time on page on average
- Page title
- Content length
- Content format
- Image alt-text
- Relevant links to other pages
- Anchor text on outbound links
- ...much more
This is where it gets weird. Google doesn't just care about what you write or create. They also care about other people who care about what you create. I'm talking about links. Links are huge for SEO. Google sees links (unless they're marked as "nofollow" in the HTML) as endorsements of another URL. Here's the stuff that matters with links:
- Domain Authority: How credible a domain is in Google's eyes. Ex/ Repsly.com
- Page Authority: How credible a page is in Google's eyes. Ex/ Repsly.com/blog/resellers/repsly-marketing-1-content-marketing-seo
- Anchor text: What the actual text of the link is. In this sentence the anchor text is "actual text".
- How close a linking page's parent topic is to the parent topic of the linked-to page.
How do you get links? Write good stuff. Share it on social. Email it to the right people, etc etc. That's a subject for another day...
Deciding what content to create
Now we know a whole lot about making stuff that ranks in Google - sweet! Now how do we know what exactly to create? We follow a 9-step process.
- Choose a persona: Carefully define the person you want to receive your message. Ex/ "Food and Beverage sales managers on the west coast who have at least 3 pets and make $90,000 a year or more."
- Develop a mission: “Campaign #1 should educate modern west-coast food and beverage sales managers with thought-provoking, digestible, actionable, shareable content that empowers them to manage their stores and relationships effectively and maximize sales opportunities.”
- Diagnose problems and pains: Problem: "I need to increase my bottom-line sales." Pain: "I missed my sales quota for new accounts"
- Develop messaging topics around those pains: Ex/ "Getting secondary placements at retail locations"
- Choose mediums for message delivery: Blog, Video, Infographic, etc..
- Choose vehicle for promotion: Facebook Ads, email blast, posters at your local grocery store, etc...
- Map timeline for content creation and promotion: 3 days for blog #1, 4 days for video #5, etc...
- Set up reporting infrastructure and routine: Ex/ Google analytics api to Google sheets...
- Measure, Improve, Repeat
Most of these steps could be a post on their own, so I'll leave them all for another day. Once you have all of these things mapped out, your campaign will look a bit like this:
Now you need to find out what keywords are relevant to each of these topics so that you can write about them.
The Tools of the Trade
Backlink research: aHrefs, Screaming Frog
Audience Research: Facebook Audience Insights, Analytics In-Market Segments, User Surveys
Content Creation and Circulation: Hubspot, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Email
Audience Information: Zoominfo, Linkedin, Hubspot Insights
Wait, why the hell did we do all this?
Oh right, there's a purpose to all of this stuff! Remember that chart above showing your content planning? That chart maps users to what we call an "intent funnel". See, people aren't always ready to buy your stuff. In fact, most of the time they don't care about you or your stuff at all. People want answers and they want them now. Although it is not so black-and-white as this, here is what a typical user intent journey might look like:
- Pain - I just missed my sales quota and my boss yelled at me
- Problem - My sales are weaker than they should be this quarter
- Search - User Googles "How to improve beverage sales by field reps"
- Repsly's blog comes up in search results and offers helpful advice
- There's a CTA (call-to-action, or button) on the blog that points to another relevant piece of information. (Ex/The Ultimate guide to communicating with your beverage field team)
- The user submits the information we ask them for in exchange for that other relevant piece of information.
- Now that we have their email, we follow-up with the user and offer them advice and content specific to their problem (which we know because of the initial content that brought them in).
- As we help the user identify the root of their problem, we also begin to show them how Repsly can be deployed to help them solve their problem.
- User signs up for a trial or demo of Repsly and starts to solve their problem.
- User subscribes to Repsly. We get MRR, they grow their brand more quickly!
Now - That's a criminally simplistic view of the entire process, but to go more in-depth than that would complicate everything else we've talked about up to this point.
One last thing - Lifecycle stages
Lifecycle stages are how we denote that someone is in a specific stage of the funnel. At Repsly, we use the following lifecycle stages to denote the following situations:
- Visitor - Someone who came to our site but has not yet given us any information. We get ~40,000 of these every month right now.
- Lead - Someone who came to our site and gave us at least their emal address, and maybe more.
- MQL (Marketing qualified lead) One of three things:
- Signed up for a Trial
- Signed up for a Demo
- Has a very high lead score (our lead scoring system is made up of two variables)
- Implicit score: What interest has a user shown in Repsly? (Visiting our site, downloading things, opening emails, etc.)
- Explicit score: What traits does the visitor or their company have and how good of a fit do we think they might be for Repsly?
- Opportunity: An MQL that the sales team has screened over the phone or by email and has determined to be a good fit - someone who should eventually buy Repsly.
- Customer: They bought Repsly!
If that was the most exciting thing you read all day then I'm very sorry, but I hope it helps give some insight into what we do on a day by day basis here in Boston! I'll give the TLDR here in the form of the list (I love these if you can't tell by now).
- Inbound marketing means delivering the right message to the right person when they ask for it.
- We create content as a vehicle for communicating that message to the right person.
- We carefully choose the topics and keywords we write about so that we show up in the right spot when the right person searches for the right thing. We also reach out to relevant sites and ask them to link to our content so that Google realizes we're the experts on the subject.
- We map out that person's problems and pains so that our message resonates with them and prompts them to take further action on our site, eventually giving us their information.
- We follow-up with that person, giving them info and assets relevant to the problem they're trying to solve, building a relationship of trust.
- When that person decides it's time to get a tool that solves their problem, they turn to Repsly first.
Alright, that's it from me for now. If you loved this or hated it just let me know, either by email or in the comments below. This blog isn't visible to anyone I don't send it to, so don't worry about other readers seeing it!
Cam Garrant is the marketing manager at Repsly. Passionate about delivering quality content and data-driven insights, Cam's interests include SEO, basketball, and bad jokes.