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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Email subject line performance

I came across a very interesting study showing email effectiveness, both by open rate and click through rate, by email subject line. Obviously I experiment a lot with email performance, varying subject line, content, design, etc. But it’s great to see data aggregated across a large number of campaigns.

The study was done by Adestra and is available here. Based on billions of sent messages from b2b companies, the looks at performance of different subject lines. I’m just going to quote from solid Marketingchart write up on the study, as it is very interesting data (the following is a direct quote):

  • Currency symbols: Subject lines containing the £ symbol had a far better-than-average (57.8%) click-to-open rate. Those with $ signs scored above-average in opens (15.7%) and clicks (14.7%), but slightly below-average in click-to-opens (-0.8%). Subject lines containing the € symbol were above-average in opens (2.9%) but below-average in clicks (-8.2%) and click-to-opens (-10.8%). Of course, targeting has a big effect on this – as some symbols may be irrelevant to the recipient.
  • Discount terms: These generally performed below-average. “Sale” was the outlier, above-average in opens (14.4%), clicks (76.5%), and click-to-opens (54.3%). Others such as “% off,” “discount,” “free,” “half price,” “save,” “voucher,” “early bird,” and “2 for 1″ all came in below-average in all 3 metrics, save for “voucher,” which had above-average opens (6.5%). “Early bird” was the worst performer in terms of clicks (-71.6%) and click-to-opens (-67.6%).
  • News terms: These had better success than discount terms. “News” (16.2%), “update” (4.9%), “breaking” (33.5%), “alert” (25.9%), and “bulletin” (12.5%) all saw better-than-average click-to-open rates (as well as clicks and opens), with “newsletter” being the only term to perform below-average in each metric. “Alert” saw the best differential for clicks (78.3%), while “news” did best for opens (30.9%).
  • Content terms: There were more discrepancies in this theme. “Issue” (8.5%) and “top stories” (5.9%) were the only to perform above-average in click-to-opens, although the latter saw slightly below-average open and click rates. “Forecast,” “report,” “whitepaper,” and “download” all saw below-average performance in each of the 3 metrics. “Research,” “interview,” and “video” scored above-average for opens, but below-average for clicks and click-to-opens.
  • Benefit terms: “Latest” was the only to see above-average clicks (8.8%) and click-to-opens (9%), while “special,” “exclusive,” and “innovate,” while performing about average in opens, fared far more poorly in clicks and click-to-opens.
  • Event terms: Each of these terms performed below-average in opens, clicks, and click-to-opens. The terms examined were: “exhibition,” “conference,” “webinar,” “seminar,” “training,” “expo,” “event,” “register,” and “registration.” The worst offender for click-to-opens was “webinar” (-63.5%).
  • Multichannel terms: Facebook (21.6%) and Pinterest (16.4%) were the only terms to score above-average in clicks and click-to-opens, though both showed below-average performance in opens. On the flip side, “app” and “iPad” were above-average in opens, and below-average in clicks and click-to-opens. Both “Twitter” and “LinkedIn” were below-average in all 3 metrics.

Some of the take aways are likely to be correct for many email marketers, regardless of industry. The low performance of words like “webinar” and discount terms is probably something most marketers will see with their email campaigns. But it’s pretty hard to say that currency symbols will perform for everyone.

I guess the usual summary is that it makes sense to aggressively test all of this!

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Lots of good press on OfficeDrop’s updated Android app

Ok, well here is my chance to brag a little bit. OfficeDrop recently released our updated Android scanner app, and included 7 inch tablet support. Well, we got some great press with this OfficeDrop Android Update. So I’m going to show off some of it here! As a reminder, I firmly believe that a solid PR strategy is imperatitive to any app marketing efforts. Users will need to remember your app’s name, head to the app store and actually type and then download the app. Even better, if you can get a reporter to link directly to the app in the store then the reader could go directly to the listing and get the app right away. Press does work for app marketing; our Android downloads are way, way up.

Anyways, here is the press that our Android app has gotten recently:

OfficeDrop Android App Press Reviews

August 13th, 2012

OfficeDrop – a Top 25 Business App for Android - Network World

July 30th, 2012

OfficeDrop, Escanea y guarda tus documentos en la nube - Lo Nuevo de Hoy

July 24th, 2012

OfficeDrop Review - Android Rundown

July 16th, 2012

OfficeDrop: Turn Your Android Into a Scanner - App for Android

July 16th, 2012

OfficeDrop Android Review - Android Authority

July 11th, 2012

How Mobile Apps are Changing Software - PC World

July 10th, 2012

Scan Your Receipts for Safe Keeping - Lifehacker

July 6th, 2012

OfficeDrop Releases its First Android Tablet App - BSDB Blog

July 6th, 2012

OfficeDrop Android, iOS Cloud Apps Help SMBs Improve Workflow - Mobile Enterprises

July 5th, 2012

Scan Documents From Mobile Devices Faster, Easier with OfficeDrop - CMSWire


If you actually want to get the OfficeDrop Android app, you can get it for free by clicking on the following button from your device:

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Does Branding Still Matter

Does branding still matter?

I’d like to think so. This video of a 5 year old giving her impressions of different companies’ logos is very cute, and reinforces the idea that having an identifiable brand does (probably) still make a big difference for most companies.

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Using a pricing decoy

One of my sysadmins pointed out a great post from yesterday on using a decoy on your pricing page. If done well this can be a great strategy.

I’ve used this decoy pricing tactic on OfficeDrop’s pricing pages for a while. In particular, our digital filing pricing page has an expensive plan that has nicely increased overall conversion on the page.

The main result of this decoy is increased conversion on the page. In otherwords, a higher number & percent of visitors to the page pick a plan and become an OfficeDrop user. It hasn’t really changed the MIX of plans (very few people pick the expensive plan and the same % of people pick the other plans). But I consider the decoy plan a success because it’s getting more people into our funnel.


decoy pricing
Conversion Rate w/Decoy Pricing

You can see the pop here when we added a decoy pricing plan to our standard digital filing pricing page. This chart is the % of visitors who visited the page and then signed up for a plan. I.e. the conversion rate of the page. Note that there is a little dip in the beginning that has nothing to do with pricing; it’s a data error. The way to look at this w/o the data error is the two little peaks on the left are close to the pre-decoy conversion rate average; the hump on the rigth is the new average post addition of the decoy pricing plan.

What the Decoy Pricing Plan Looks Like

The decoy pricing is the “ScanPro” “ScanFive” plan on the right. (Thanks for the typo catch Pete!)


decoy pricing plan

Decoy Pricing Plan

It’s designed to be expensive and to make clear that we’ve got the ability to support additional users in the plans… it’s not really clicked that often.

Anyways, check out the post I linked to above. You’ll find it very solid, and it explains why a decoy plan works.

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Freemium – what is it?

Lincoln Murphy, the well known SaaS Marketing guy, got pretty upset at a recent TechCrunch piece on the freemium pricing strategy that posted this weekend. Lincoln says (I’m on his email newsletter list; it’s pretty good): “In a nutshell the Complete Guide to Freemium on TechCrunch is a post by someone who got lucky enough to get their post accepted so he can get a backlink to his site from TechCrunch and where he takes the results of studies and some words from high-profile VCs and weaves it together into a post for the TMZ of the tech industry.”

Ouch. That’s a little harsh. The article isn’t bad at all. The conclusion is 100% great, actually.

What is Freemium?

However, I don’t think it’s the Ultimate Guide to what is a actually a pretty complicated pricing strategy. I happen to disagree with the author’s ideas that a time based free trial = freemium. I can’t tell if my disagreement is a big deal or not – his company, FutureSimple, has a free trial offer, so it’s hard to know how much of the piece is using that as the basis for the post vs. a couple of professors he references. I disagree with the idea that a free trial is freemium so much because OfficeDrop recently made the switch from a free trial to having a free forever plan and we called it “going freemium.”

My definition of freemium is that a user will have the opportunity to use the service/software/whatever forever without having to pay for it. It may be a limited plan or limited features, it may be ad supported; whatever. It just means you can use it for as long as you’d like without paying. FreshBooks has a freemium model, but you run out of “free” pretty quickly. You can jump through hoops to keep it free, but most likely you’ll upgrade. A free trial that expires after a set number of days doesn’t meet my definition of freemium.

OfficeDrop’s free plan is driven by our mobile distribution strategy. I write a little bit about why we think apps are taking over here. But you should listen to my conversation with Lincoln – I call it “Healy Jones on Freemium.” Our free plan is a free forever plan, with some upgrade triggers baked in – search limits, storage limits, OCR limits. But it’s a pretty good product for free; we are the only company offering free high quality OCR for scanned images coupled with storage. People seem to like the plan… and they also seem to like to upgrade to paid plans. We like that part for sure!

Lincoln is putting on a webinar on kicking butt with your company’s free trials model. I think he’s got some good stuff, so I’d suggest you register!

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