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2 strategies for creating top-of-funnel marketing content

Even when you’re excellent at making the sale, you still need people to know you exist in the first place.

Content is excellent at making the case for your product or service, but it also excels at providing value to potential customers in a more tangential way, introducing them to your brand and building awareness and authority.

Here’s how utilizing content marketing and digital PR can make huge strides in getting your brand name out there.

Ranking on-site content for awareness keywords

When on-site content you created ranks well in the search engine results pages (SERPs), that doesn’t just mean you get more traffic (although that’s certainly a major benefit).

You’re also getting your brand name in front of searchers because you’re appearing in the results. You’re building authority because Google appears to believe you have the best answer for their query. You’re giving the searcher and answer to their question and beginning to build trust.

So how do you know which keywords/topics to target and what kind of content to create? You perform keyword research, which basically means examining what keywords people are searching for, how many people search for them per month and how hard it’ll be to rank for them.

Google Ads Keyword Planner provides this information, but you can also use Chrome plugins like Keywords Everywhere and Keyword Surfer or free tools like Ubersuggest.

When your goal is to build awareness, it’s important that the keywords and topics you target have high volume. In other words, they’re searched a lot. Awareness objectives mean reaching as many people as possible so more people know that your brand exists and begin to understand what it’s about.

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Red Antler’s Emily Heyward explains how to get people obsessed with your brand

If you’re currently building a startup, you know what product you want to build. But do you know if people are actually going to notice you? That’s the question I asked of Red Antler co-founder Emily Heyward during our virtual TechCrunch Early Stage event.

In case you’re not familiar with Red Antler, Heyward’s branding company has worked with some of the most iconic startups of the past decade, such as Casper, Allbirds, Brandless and Prose. She knows her topic so well that she just wrote a book on branding called “Obsessed.”

Let me break down the key takeaways of her presentation and responses to questions from our virtual audience — we’ve embedded a video below with our entire conversation.

Branding matters — anybody can launch a startup

It has never been easier to launch a startup. If it’s a software company, your infrastructure will be managed by a cloud hosting company. If you’re selling consumer goods, you can find manufacturing partners more easily than ever before.

“There are fewer traditional gatekeepers standing in your way. You don’t need to be able to afford a national TV campaign to get people to notice you and to hear about you. It’s a lot easier to get it out there and start selling directly to people,” Heyward said.

The result is that there are many companies competing in the same space, launching around the same time. Casper isn’t the only online mattress company anymore for instance. Brand obsession can set you apart from the rest of the crowd.

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Facebook’s former PR chief explains why no one is paying attention to your startup

At TechCrunch Early Stage, I spoke with Coatue Management GP Caryn Marooney about startup branding and how founders can get people to pay attention to what they’re building.

Marooney recently made the jump into venture capital; previously she was co-founder and CEO of The Outcast Agency, one of Silicon Valley’s best-regarded public relations firms, which she left to become VP of Global Communications at Facebook, where she led comms for eight years.

While founders often may think of PR as a way to get messaging across to reporters, Marooney says that making someone care about what you’re working on — whether that’s customers, investors or journalists — requires many of the same skills.

One of the biggest insights she shared: at a base level, no one really cares about what you have to say.

Describing something as newsworthy or a great value isn’t the same as demonstrating it, and while big companies like Amazon can get people to pay attention to anything they say, smaller startups have to be even more strategic with their messaging, Marooney says. “People just fundamentally aren’t walking around caring about this new startup — actually, nobody does.”

Getting someone to care first depends on proving your relevance. When founders are forming their messaging to address this, they should ask themselves three questions about their strategy, she recommends:

  • Why should anyone care?
  • Is there a purchase order existing for this?
  • Who loses if you win?

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When you need content to build links, use social proof of concept

Before tackling a new content idea, it’s comforting to have evidence that it’ll go off without a hitch.

Of course, that’s not possible.

You can never know 100% that a piece of content will meet your objectives. But you can get a better sense of whether it’s likely to succeed.

We call it “social proof of concept.” This strategy is often used by marketers as a way to gauge the promotional viability of what they’re going to create.

Let’s examine what it is and how to use it to create compelling content.

What is “social proof of concept”?

“Social proof of concept” is one of the many ways you can come up with content ideas.

It essentially means a similar piece of content has performed well in the past, meaning it’s likely that something in the same vein that’s better will perform even more impressively now.

By exploring content examples that got a ton of social engagement, you can ask yourself:

  • Are people talking about the topic?
  • What was it about this content that might have made it so successful?
  • Is there something missing that we can add/improve upon?
  • Is there something about the methodology/design we can learn from?
  • What conversation is happening around the topic that you can contribute to now?
  • Is there an idea that complements this content and contributes to the discussion?

When you can identify what’s been successfully engaging in the past, you can start with a much higher chance of creating something that really resonates with people.

Where do I find social proof of concept for my ideas?

My favorite places to look for social proof of concept is on Reddit, Twitter, YouTube and others. I’ll walk through my process for vetting potential topics and methods of finding inspiration for new, related ideas.

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Accessing social groups through referrals

We’ve aggregated many of the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Our community consists of startup founders and heads of growth. You can participate by joining Demand Curve’s marketing training program or its Slack group.

Without further ado, on to our community’s advice.


Accessing social groups through referrals

Excerpt from Demand Curve’s Growth Training.

A surprising benefit of referrals is how they often lead to social partnership opportunities.

Consider this process:

  1. Find your happiest users.
  2. Figure out what social groups they belong to. This could be anything from a female founders group, to university alumni networks, to a restaurant management trade association.
  3. How do you find out? Just ask them what groups they belong to. Don’t be afraid of conversation.
  4. Ask the happy user to connect you with the heads of those groups. Solve a problem they collectively have — even if it’s only tangentially related to your business. What matters is that more of these ideal customers know and trust you. You can also refer speakers, offer deals, write content for them or offer free office hours.
  5. Down the road, these people inevitably send you referrals.
  6. Reach out cold to people in other, similar groups. Reference the endorsement of the original group and provide a case study (with their permission).

Going through groups can be a high-leverage way to land and expand into ideal audiences.

Pixel-sharing tactics

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Conversational analytics are about to change customer experiences forever

Companies have long relied on web analytics data like click rates, page views and session lengths to gain customer behavior insights.This method looks at how customers react to what is presented to them, reactions driven by design and copy. But traditional web analytics fail to capture customers’ desires accurately. While marketers are pushing into predictive analytics, what about the way companies foster broader customer experience (CX)?

Leaders are increasingly adopting conversational analytics, a new paradigm for CX data. No longer will the emphasis be on how users react to what is presented to them, but rather what “intent” they convey through natural language. Companies able to capture intent data through conversational interfaces can be proactive in customer interactions, deliver hyper-personalized experiences, and position themselves more optimally in the marketplace.

Direct customer experiences based on customer disposition

Conversational AI, which powers these interfaces and automation systems and feeds data into conversational analytics engines, is a market predicted to grow from $4.2 billion in 2019 to $15.7 billion in 2024. As companies “conversationalize” their brands and open up new interfaces to customers, AI can inform CX decisions not only in how customer journeys are architected–such as curated buying experiences and paths to purchase–but also how to evolve overall product and service offerings. This insights edge could become a game-changer and competitive advantage for early adopters.

Today, there is wide variation in the degree of sophistication between conversational solutions from elementary, single-task chatbots to secure, user-centric, scalable AI. To unlock meaningful conversational analytics, companies need to ensure that they have deployed a few critical ingredients beyond the basics of parsing customer intent with natural language understanding (NLU).

While intent data is valuable, companies will up-level their engagements by collecting sentiment and tone data, including via emoji analysis. Such data can enable automation to adapt to a customer’s disposition, so if anger is detected regarding a bill that is overdue, a fast path to resolution can be provided. If a customer expresses joy after a product purchase, AI can respond with an upsell offer and collect more acute and actionable feedback for future customer journeys.

Tap into a multitude of conversational data points

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More thoughts on growing podcasts

We’ve aggregated many of the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Our community consists of startup founders and heads of growth. You can participate by joining Demand Curve’s marketing training program or its Slack group.

Without further ado, on to our community’s advice.


More thoughts on growing podcasts

Insights from Harry Morton of Lower Street.

Podcast growth is all about relationships. To increase your listenership, consider partnering with:

  1. Other podcasters. Do an episode swap where you play an episode of your show on theirs, and vice versa. Make sure the two podcasts share similarly minded audiences.
  2. Curators. Every podcast aggregator has someone responsible for curating their featured content. Look them up on LinkedIn. Reach out via email. Be their friend. Send them only your best stuff.
  3. Subscribers. You rise in Apple’s podcast charts (which account for 60% of podcast listenership) by having a subscriber growth spurt in a concentrated period of time (24-48 hours). So, when you release an episode, immediately run your audience promotions aggressively and all at once.

Increasing referral incentives might not increase referrals

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Decrypted: How a teenager hacked Twitter, Garmin’s ransomware aftermath

A 17-year-old Florida teenager is accused of perpetrating one of the year’s biggest and most high-profile hacks: Twitter.

A federal 30-count indictment filed in Tampa said Graham Ivan Clark used a phone spearphishing attack to pivot through multiple layers of Twitter’s security and bypassed its two-factor authentication to gain access to an internal “admin” tool that let the hacker take over any account. With two accomplices named in a separate federal indictment, Clark — who went by the online handle “Kirk” — allegedly used the tool to hijack the accounts of dozens of celebrities and public figures, including Bill Gates, Elon Musk and former president Barack Obama, to post a cryptocurrency scam netting over $100,000 in bitcoin in just a few hours.

It was, by all accounts, a sophisticated attack that required technical skills and an ability to trick and deceive to pull off the scam. Some security professionals were impressed, comparing the attack to one that had the finesse and professionalism of a well-resourced nation-state attacker.

But a profile in The New York Times describes Clark was an “adept scammer with an explosive temper.”

In the teenager’s defense, the attack could have been much worse. Instead of pushing a scam that promised to “double your money,” Clark and his compatriots could have wreaked havoc. In 2013, hackers hijacked the Associated Press’ Twitter account and tweeted a fake bomb attack on the White House, sending the markets plummeting — only to quickly recover after the all-clear was given.

But with control of some of the world’s most popular Twitter accounts, Clark was for a few hours in July one of the most powerful people in the world. If found guilty, the teenager could spend his better years behind bars.

Here’s more from the past week.


THE BIG PICTURE

Garmin hobbles back after ransomware attack, but questions remain

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VC Garry Tan shares 3 ways founders screw up their startups

There are many painful ways for a startup to fail — including founders who ultimately throw in the towel and turn off the lights.

But assuming a founder intends to keeps moving forward, there are a few pitfalls that Garry Tan has seen during his career as a founder, Y Combinator partner and, lately, co-founder of venture firm Initialized Capital.

During a fun chat during last week’s TechCrunch Early Stage, he ran us through these avoidable mistakes; for those who couldn’t virtually attend, we’re sharing them with you here.

 1. Chasing the wrong problem

This sounds insane, right? How can you be blamed for wanting to solve a problem?

Tan says people choose the wrong problem for a wide variety of reasons: Founders sometimes choose a problem that isn’t problematic for enough people, he said, citing the example of a hypothetical 25-year-old San Francisco-based engineer who may be out of touch with the rest of the country. When founders target the wrong problem, it typically means that the market will be too small for a venture-like return.

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Building your startup’s customer advisory board

A customer advisory board (CAB) can be an invaluable resource for startups, but many founders struggle with putting together the right group of advisors and how to incentivize them. At our TechCrunch Early Stage event, Saam Motamedi, a general partner at Greylock Partners, talked about how he thinks about putting together the right CAB.

“We encourage all of our early-stage companies to put this in place,” Motamedi said. The goal here is to speed up the process to get to product/market fit since your CAB will provide you with regular feedback.

“The idea here is [that] you have this feedback loop from customers back to your product where you build, you go get feedback, you iterate — and the tighter this feedback loop is, the faster you’ll get to product-market fit. And you want to do things structurally to make this feedback loop tighter, starting with a CAB.”

Motamedi said a CAB should consist of about three to six customers. These should be “luminaries or forward thinkers” in the market you are serving. “You add them to the CAB — you might give them small advisory grants — and they become stakeholders and give you feedback as you work through the early stages of product development.”

Image Credits: Greylock Partners

As for the people who you put on the CAB, Motamedi suggests first setting the right expectations for the board.

“There are three components. Number one, the most valuable thing you can get from these customer advisors is their time. So the first piece is you want them to commit to a monthly cadence, that could be 60 minutes, it could be 90 minutes, where you’re going to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to come to the meeting, I’m going to bring two of my teammates, we’re going to show you the latest product demo, and you’re going to drill us with feedback. We’re going to do that once a month.’  […] And then piece two is this notion of customer days, you could do quarterly, you could also do twice a year.

“The idea is you want to bring the customers together. Because if you and I are both CIOs at Fortune 500 companies and we independently react to a product, that’s one thing, but if we sit in a room together, we all look at the product together, there’s going to be interesting data amongst us as customers and the founder is going to learn a lot from that.[…] And I think the third piece is just an expectation that as the company progresses and product maturity increases, that folks on the CAB are going to be advocates and evangelists for the company with their customer networks.”

Motamedi recommends outlining those expectations in a short document.

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