Cool new blog series

I’m starting to think that Alex from Groove is a pretty savvy guerrilla marketer… he’s just started a cool new series of blog posts about his journey to $100k in recurring monthly revenue. And he’s got a ton of high quality comments already on the piece. Check out the blog series, it looks like it will be a good one!

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Startup marketing is about purchase intent

I’ve been thinking about channels a lot recently – where potential buyers/users come from, what were they doing when the ‘showed up’ and how did they even start thinking about making a purchase? When it comes to practical execution I find that understanding about purchase intent is a great way to cut the chase and efficiently decide on marketing actions that will result in either sales or learnings with data on what didn’t work.

By purchase intent, I mean the moment when a potential customer expresses interest in paying for a solution to a problem.

For a startup, there are at least two critical moments when you want to ‘exploit’ a potential customer’s purchase intent: a) when the person is forming purchase intent and b) when a person is expressing purchase intent. (I don’t like the word exploit, but it gets the point across.)

The funny thing is that now that I’ve run marketing at two different startups, I’ve found that the exact same channel could be in the formation phase for one company and at the expression phase for another.

For example, at my last company national press would drive a large number of new users into our purchasing funnel. Small business owners would read about us on a respected news site and decide to give the service a try, with many of them putting down their credit cards to begin using the service. Choosing to read an article about, say scanning receipts, shows that a person is already interested in the solution; nobody reads articles on b2b solutions for fun! Formation is triggered when the title the of the article is read “hey I have this problem,” and leads to purchase expression when the reader clicks to OfficeDrop’s website “this sounds like a great solution!”

At Boundless, national press does drive a lot of visits, but doesn’t covert in the same way. This is because students don’t make textbook buying decisions based off of news articles; students express intent during specific times of the school year. While they may be intrigued by an article on a way to save money with Boundless textbook alternatives, reading the article only helps them form purchase intent. It doesn’t directly lead to the expression of purchase. Instead, they (hopefully) remember to check out Boundless at the start of the next semester when they are looking for books. So news articles help the potential user form the desire to try out our solution when the time is right, but won’t directly lead to purchasing.

Supporting both sides of purchase intent is important. The Boundless press helps with branding (hard to measure) but also drives increased on page and in funnel conversion (by providing third party proof of quality.) So we can quantify the benefit beyond the hard to measure branding and awareness. However, my main point is that the exact same channel influenced different parts of purchase intent for two different startups. And if you don’t measure your channels you’ll never know if you are positively impacting anything, so careful tracking is critical to success.

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Signs that a PR strategy is paying off

It’s a lot of work to keep your startup in the news. One of my primary press goals is this fall was to make sure Boundless appeared in important press pieces about saving money on textbooks. This means, beyond having some complicated google alerts set up, I am measuring how well we are doing with the important outlets – basically an on base percentage of how often we make it into mentions that cover or list ways college students can save money on their books.

ss 2013-09-03 at 4.31.05 PMI’m really pleased with how we are doing with this now. For example, we were in a TechCrunch piece called “If You’re Buying Textbooks This Week, Get Educated, Not Schooled.” While we know the reporter, we didn’t actually pitch this piece – but she knew about us from previous conversations and pieces. So she decided to write a post on our industry, in a way that actually drove visits for people who were customers, and this all happened because we built a relationship with her.

There have been other recent articles on saving money in textbooks where we’ve experienced similar success, such as this piece on Kiplinger, one on a radio station and a great on on PC Mag on how to buy textbooks.

Besides the relationships we’ve developed with reporters, which drove several of these other articles, we have also been releasing a steady stream of news over the past few weeks (keep in mind this is our busy season, so all B2C marketing we do has to really be compressed.) Besides our big back to school push from a few weeks ago, we announced a big update to the Boundless iOS app and are in the process of getting ready to put out an infographic that we hope will keep us front and center with various reporters.

Anyway, press is a lot of work, and keeping score of how my startup is performing in general, customer-centric industry pieces is a way to bring some measurement to a aspect of marketing that is pretty hard to track.

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On campus marketing

One of the big perks of my new marketing position with Boundless is that I get to work with amazing undergraduate students across the nation. These students are charged with letting people on their campuses know about Boundless and free textbooks. We recently had a great on campus competition, where we motivated our on campus student managers to hit aggressive sign up goals – and a lot of them really did an amazing job! Below is a cool post on the “campus battle” with some great pictures of the action.

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Email subject line tips

I came across some great tips on crafting the best email subject lines on the Litmus blog here. Of course, testing testing testing is the best way to get good results with any email campaign, but starting with these ideas is a good way to begin the tests from a good place.

And I’m always struggling with subject line length, and found the open rate vs. email subject line length to be cool:

“Subject line lengths and their corresponding open and click rates:

  • 4–15 characters: 15.2% open; 3.1% click
  • 16–27 characters: 11.6% open; 3.8% click
  • 28–39 characters: 12.2% open; 4% click
  • 40–50 characters: 11.9% open; 2.8% click
  • 51+ characters: 10.4% open; 1.8% click”


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Some great marketing and mobile links

Lots of good content all of a sudden on both mobile and online marketing. Here are some good ones:

  • Triggered emails have HUGE open and click throughs: Online Media Daily reports on a study that shows that triggered emails (emails that are sent when a user takes a specific action, such as abandons a shopping cart, have a much higher click through than ordinary marketing emails.”Triggered open rates performed at 75.1% higher”
  • I recently posted about email marketing subject line performance. Here are the subject lines email marketers should avoid, and which ones drive good open rates.
  • The best email marketing frequency depends on your industry & users, but in general the more you can do the better.
  • Yup, people are really opening emails on mobile devices these days; Returnpath “reports that mobile open share has increased 300% since 2010, and shows no sign of slowing, with four out of 10 emails sent being read on a mobile device.” Read more.
  • “The iPhone and Android smartphones remain the most popular smartphone platforms for messaging. iOS users account for more than half of those opting into MMS and text-messaging campaigns, compared to 34% coming through Android phones. Those levels are up from 23.6%, and 16%, respectively, in April. BlackBerry accounted for 7% of opt-in messaging.” Read more.
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