Don’t Say It Unless You Mean It: 7 Marketing Fails to Avoid in 2020

We’ve all had some experience with great advertising or marketing. 

That TV commercial that lights you up with wonder and anticipation. 

The email that seems to have the power to read your mind.

What is difficult in marketing is figuring out how to create that reaction. 

Most marketers start every project knowing their target audience receives hundreds of messages a day from brands. Many businesses put themselves out there in hopes of gaining some lasting attention and market share. This leads to some spectacular marketing fails.

In this article, we’ll walk through the seven most common marketing fails, why they happen, and what you can do to avoid them and succeed with your content marketing

1. Don’t make your customers uncomfortable

The number one job of a marketer is to make your customers feel comfortable. 

This idea isn’t where most campaigns start. Sales numbers and other business goals are all important, but they shouldn’t form the foundation of your marketing. 

To get started, ask yourself- how do you build trust in your day to day relationships? You compliment people. Ask them in and offer them a chair. See if they need a snack or a glass of water. 

Great marketing needs to build trust, so make people feel comfortable.

It is easy to develop a marketing strategy that appeals to you, but that’s just internal bias. 

It’s far harder to reach the audience you’re hoping to engage while simultaneously delivering a compelling message. 

Sometimes marketers create great campaigns. And this often happens when messaging matches the audience that’s listening.  

Several notable ad campaigns have reaped the negative rewards of missing this critical element because they offended part or all of their audience. 

Case in point: Heineken and Dove.  

Before you put a campaign out into the world, pretend you didn’t make it. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers. Look at your campaign from the perspective of someone who grew up in a different place than you did. 

To avoid the dangerous edits that can creep in during the approval process, build target audience research into your marketing reviews. 

Find friendly ways to educate clients and leadership on the target audience. Netflix was stellar at this with their “Make Room” campaign:

It’s easy for the wrong words and images to creep into campaigns and these steps can help your business avoid costly marketing errors.

2. Don’t overestimate your brand’s importance

You know your brand inside and out. You believe in it. Your closeness to your marketing can sometimes make it feel like your brand is ubiquitous and that all you need to do as a marketer is to shake things up.

But the average person sees thousands of ads a day. You may be familiar with your brand and products, but your marketing needs to introduce and reinforce your messaging to your customers. 

Find a way to show that your business is trying hard and believes in what they do. Create marketing that is exciting, but mostly earnest. Stay humble and show what your product can do

Have your marketing take an important stand, but don’t overstep your boundaries. 

For example, TOMS is known worldwide for their shoes and charitable campaigns: 

In fact, the entire brand was built upon this foundation of charitable giving. 

So, when they do conduct large campaigns, it resonates with their audience authentically. 

But, consumers aren’t stupid. If your brand isn’t known or founded on principles like this, don’t jump on the bandwagon for extra publicity.

3. Don’t overpromise 

Your product probably can’t usher in world peace. Don’t promise a customer more than you can deliver, or offer them something that will cost them more in the long run. Keep your market promises within reason if you want to avoid big marketing fails and sustain growth. 

If you’re honest about your product and what it can do your customers will respond. Shoppers respond to authenticity and it builds trust. 

Talk to your current customers and staff and use those conversations to find some interesting stories. Those conversations might lead to some big ideas, or provide material that you can weave into your content marketing. Either way, it’s a win.

A great example of this is Apple’s Think Different campaign from 1997:

(Image Source)

Strategically broad and open-ended in messaging, it can hold different meanings for different bases of consumers, providing endless inspiration. 

4. Don’t let design derail your marketing

We all know design is important. A sleek design makes the value of your marketing visual and easy to understand. But great website design is nothing without a good user experience. Don’t let design take over your marketing message. 

Again, it’s about making your customers feel at home. If your customers like your traditional serif font don’t shift to sans serif in your newsletter. Have you been using red as a dominant color since your company’s first day? Don’t change it to living coral just because it’s Pantone’s latest color of the year. 

To avoid this marketing fail, involve your designers in the marketing process from the beginning. This will help you keep your design on brand and in harmony with the thinking behind any campaign.

Read more: The 30 Best and Worst Rebrands of All Time [Infographic]

5. Don’t compromise brand integrity for publicity

We’ve all seen that sexy commercial or zany ad that got our attention. Crazy campaigns win awards, they make us laugh, and we see them every day.

But this tactic may not be right for your brand. In fact, it’s only often right for major brands with major market sizes. 

Marketing statistics show that while people remember these ads they often don’t always remember the business, and they don’t end up buying. 

A brand can easily do themselves more harm than good with a campaign that goes too far. For example, brands like Burger King have been in hot water in the past for racy ad campaigns.

To push boundaries just enough, really get to know your customer before you get wild. Think about what crazy humor makes your target audience comfortable and appeal to your niche.

For example, Lianna Patch of Punchline Copy is a prime example of balancing both humor and brand integrity: 

6. Don’t neglect context and user intent

Context is a tricky thing, especially in digital marketing. 

Whether you’re evaluating the pop culture moment for campaign release or choosing the right hashtag, timing is everything. 

There have been some huge blunders in the last few years that are easy to avoid.

Mostly, it’s about slowing down and paying attention. 

There are a lot of great social listening tools that can help you understand the meaning behind certain hashtags or pop culture taglines. 

In addition to context, user intent is just as important. 

Depending on what keywords or niches you are targeting, you can’t just market your product blindly and expect good reception. 

User intent involves assessing what an audience is looking for from your ads or content and delivering exactly that.

Any mismatch can result in wasted money and potentially negative brand awareness. 

7. Don’t use emotional triggers the wrong way

Emotions are powerful. Grief. Sorrow. Love. It’s understandable to want to tap into that power, and to tie your products to significant moments in life. 

But remember, when you do, it’s important to be thoughtful. Using emotion in a way that feels artificial or forced can backfire on your business’ credibility.

Consider how the emotion you’re triggering relates to your brand and what your products do. 

Was your product made to help with an emotional problem or a sensitive moment? If not, you may want to try another direction for your marketing campaign.


At the end of the day, every campaign has a goal- brand awareness, more web traffic, higher conversions. 

Step back and look at the big picture. Pay attention to your customers if you’re going to take risks in your marketing while avoiding these marketing fails.

101 Blogging Statistics for 2019

Look, we get it.

It sucks searching for blogging statistics and data when you’re writing your next hit content marketing piece.

And you need some statistics to back up those otherwise erronious claims.

Everything from headline tips to repurposing blog content and copywriting techniques has a data-point that you can use to add value to your next blog post.

That’s why we’ve compiled and updated a list of 101 blogging statistics in 2019 for you to use in your next content piece:

Jump To a Section

✅  Blogging Statistics and Trends in 2019

✅  Content Marketing Statistics 

✅  How Marketers Use Social Media With Content Marketing

✅  Most Popular Blogging / Content Marketing Tactics

Latest Blogging Statistics and Trends in 2019: 

1. The average blog post length is 1,050 words (Source: Orbit Media)

2. The average word count of top ranked content in Google is between 1,140-1285 words (Source: SearchMetrics)

3. On average, only 18% of companies’ blog posts are over 750 words (Source: Curata)

4. Longer, in-depth blog posts generate 9x more leads than short ones (Source: Curata)

5. The average blog post takes 3 hours 16 minutes to write (Source: OrbitMedia)

6. The median average time spent reading an article is 37 seconds (Source: NewsCred)

7. Marketers who prioritize blogging efforts are 13x more likely to see positive ROI (Source: HubSpot)

8. Companies that publish 16+ blog posts per month get nearly 3.5x more traffic than those that publish 0-4 monthly (Source: HubSpot)

9. Companies that publish 16+ blog posts per month generated 4.5x more leads than companies publishing 0-4 monthly. (Source: HubSpot)

10. Blog titles with 6-13 words get the most consistent amount of traffic and hits (Source: HubSpot)

11. On average, companies with blogs produce 67% more leads per month than those without (Source: DemandMetric)

12. 43% of readers skim blog posts (Source: HubSpot)

13. 36% of people prefer list-based headlines (Source: ConversionXL)

14. Odd numbered listicle headlines outperform even ones by 20% (Source: CMI)

15. Including a colon or hyphen in your title can result in a 9% improvement (Source: CMI)

16. The “How-To” headline is a close cousin to the listicle, which is the third most popular headline preference at around 17% (Source: ConversionXL)

17. 60% of consumers feel engaged/positive with a brand or company after reading custom content on their blog (Source: ContentPlus)

18. Blogging is responsible for 434% more indexed pages and 97% more indexed links (Source: DemandMetric)

19. 47% of B2B buyers read 3-5 blog posts or content pieces prior to talking with a salesperson (Source: DemandGenReport)

20. 55% of bloggers check analytics very often (Source: OrbitMedia)

21. The top 3 blogging success metrics today are page views, shares/likes, and time spent on page (Source: Curata)

22. 1 in 10 blog posts are “compounding”, meaning that organic search steadily increases their traffic over time (Source: HubSpot)

23. 1 compounding blog post generates as much traffic as 6 regular posts combined (Source: HubSpot)

24. Compounding blog posts generate 38% of all blog traffic (Source: HubSpot)

25. 29% of leading marketing professionals reuse and repurpose blog content (Source: Curata)

26. 64% of B2B marketers outsource blog copywriting (Source: TopRank)

27. Top content marketing leaders (B2C & B2B) outsource 24% of their blog post writing (Source: Curata)

28. 25% of marketers don’t outsource any content marketing creation (Source: MarketingBuddy)

29. Writing content is the most commonly outsourced content marketing activity (Source: MarketingBuddy)

30. 57% of business bloggers outsourced blog posts from contributed or guest posts (Source: Curata)

31. 81% of marketers plan to increase use of original written content for blog posts (Source: Social Media Examiner)

32. 52% of bloggers do not use a formal editor (Source: OrbitMedia)

33. 69% of companies use an editorial calendar for blog posts (Source: Curata)

34. 69% of marketers say they plan to increase their blogging frequency in 2016-17 (Source: Social Media Examiner)

35. 60% of all marketers believe blog creation to be their top inbound marketing priority (Source: State of Inbound)

36. 59% of B2B marketers consider blogs the most valuable channel (Source: DemandMetric)

37. 76% of B2B marketers blog often, and 73% publish case studies often (Source: Content Marketing Institute)

38. 82% of marketers who blog consistently see positive ROI from inbound efforts (Source: State of Inbound)

39. 82% of marketers curate blog content (Source: IMN)

40. 16% of marketers curate content daily, 48% curate at least once a week (Source: Curata)

41. Over 50% of marketers that curate content say it has increased brand visibility, thought leadership, SEO and web traffic (Source: Curata)

42. 41% of marketers that curate content say it has increased the quality of their leads (Source: Curata)

43. Headline changes have the power to provide a 10% increase in clicks (Source: MarketingExperiments)

44. Editing down your headline or title to eight words can result in a 21% CTR increase (Source: CMI)

45. Negative messaging can result in a 63% click through rate lift over more positive ones (Source: OutBrain)

46. 44% of marketers say producing quality blog content is their biggest challenge (Source: Inc)

47. Nearly 60% of marketers reuse blog content 2-5 times (Source: OzContent)

48. 24.5% of blogger report getting “strong results” from their blogs (Source: OrbitMedia)

Related Reading

➊  Content Farm Olympics: We Bought & Tested 5 Content Writing Services. Here are the Results.

➋  Original Content Marketing Case Study: How We Increased Average Session Duration by 281.05% & Reduced Post Promotion CPC by 70%

➌  Why ‘Good’ Content Isn’t Good Enough Anymore

This Blog Post Has No Keywords. Here’s Why.

➎  When (And When NOT) to Hire Freelance Blog Writers [Pros vs. Cons]

➏  You’re Measuring the Wrong Blog KPIs. Here’s What to Track Instead.

➐  I <3 U. But I Don’t Want 2 Chat w/ U.

Content Marketing Statistics: 

49. Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing endeavors yet generates 3x the amount of leads (Source: DemandMetric)

50. 74.2% of companies say content marketing increased their lead quality and quantity (Source: Curata)

51. The median annual spend on content marketing in 2015 was 1.75 million for large companies (Source: Content Marketing Institute)

52. Content marketing will be a 300 billion dollar industry by 2019 (Source: MarketingProfs)

53. There are over 2 million blog posts published daily (Source: MarketingProfs)

54. 93% of B2B marketing professionals use content marketing (Source: CMI + MarketingProfs)

55. B2B marketers spend 39% of their budget on content marketing (Source: TopRank)

56. 61% of the most effective B2B content marketing professionals meet with their content teams daily or weekly (Source: CMI)

57. Companies that implement content marketing strategies see 6x higher conversion rates than those who don’t (Source: CMI)

58. Content marketing produces 3x the amount of leads as traditional marketing (Source: Marketeer)

59. Companies that put their primary focus on content marketing generate more than 5x more conversions (Source: Kapost)

60. 28% of marketers have reduced their advertising spend to allocate more funds towards content marketing (Source: Gartner

61. 70% of B2B marketers plan to create more content in 2018 as compared to 2016 (Source: CMI)

62. 78% of Chief Marketing Officers believe that custom content is the future of marketing (Souce: Demand Metric)

63.73% of organizations have someone in place to oversee their content marketing strategy (Source: CMI + Marketing Profs)

64. 86% of very effective organizations have a head of content strategy (Source: CMI + Marketing Profs)

65. 48% of small companies have a documented content marketing strategy, whereas 41% of larger organizations have one (Source: CMI + Marketing Profs)

66. 69% of marketing professionals say content marketing is superior to direct mail and PR (Source: Writtent)

67. 76% of B2B marketers prioritize delivering high-quality content over quantity (Source: MarketingProfs)

68.71% of B2B marketers consider how their content impacts the user experience (Source: MarketingProfs)

69.Nearly 49% of marketers are trying to align content marketing with the buyer’s journey (Source: Contently)

70.The top three content marketing strategy objectives are: sales/leads, engage with customers, brand awareness (Source: Curata)

71. 90% of consumers believe that companies producing custom content are interested in building long-term relationships with them (Source: TMG)

72. Year-to-year growth in new site traffic is 7.8 times higher for content marketing thought leaders than it is followers (Source: Kapost)

73. 30% of marketers feel they are able to measure content marketing’s impact on the bottom of the funnel (Source: Curata)

74. 50% of people will leave if your website doesn’t load in under 3 seconds (Source: MontParnas)

How Marketers Use Social Media with Content Marketing: 

75. The most common content marketing sharing platform is social media, used by 87% of content marketers (Source: CMI & Marketing Profs)

76. B2B marketers use an average of 5 social media platforms to share content (Source: DemandMetric)

77. 91% of B2B marketers use Linkedin to share content (Source: TopRank)

78. 73% of B2B marketers use Youtube to share content (Source: TopRank)

79. There are billions of content pieces shared daily on Snapchat (Source: Yahoo Finance)

80. 81% of marketers found that website traffic increases rose with just 6 hours a week spent on social media marketing (Source: Social Media Examiner)

81. Emailing content marketing pieces generates a 38x return for every 1$ spent (Source: Campaign Monitor)

82. Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened (Source: Experian

83. Whitepapers, infographics, and webinars are the top content pieces shared by B2B buyers (Source: DemandGen)

Most Popular Blogging / Content Marketing Tactics: 

84. B2B marketers use an average of 13 different content marketing tactics (Source: TopRank)

85. The demand and use of infographics has increased 800% in the last year (Source: Unbounce)

86. Infographics are shared 3x more on social media than any other content type (Source: MassPlanner)

87. B2C marketers use infographics more than any other content strategy (Source: Content Marketing Institute)

88. 53% of content marketers use interactive content. For example, omni-channel content that transcends platforms. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)

89. 69% of marketing professionals say their video marketing budget is increasing, for both direct to consumer marketing and in-house video conferencing. (Source: Ascend2)

90. 46% of marketers say photography is critical to their content marketing strategy (Source: MarketingProfs)

91. 71% of marketers say visual assets are a part of their content marketing strategy (Source: Social Media Examiner)

92. Using people in real photos (instead of stock ones) can result in a 35% conversion increase (Source: Marketing Experiments

93. Mobile video advertising spending already hit $2.62 billion last year – which is expected to be around 72% of total digital ad spend by 2019 (Source: eMarketer)

94. 56% of marketers use content marketing software to manage their workflow and distribution (Source: Curata)

95. 95% of B2B buyers consider vendor-related content as trustworthy (Source: DemandGen)

96. There are now 198 million active adblock users around the world (Source: PageFair)

97. 86% of consumers today are banner / ad blind (Source: Adotas)

98. 70% of consumers prefer learning about a company through custom content than through paid advertisements (Source: ContentPlus)

99. 78% of consumers trust your brand if you create more customized content (Source: KDM)

100. 70% of B2B marketing professionals say in-person events and conferences are effective (Source: TopRank)

101. 60% of marketers create at least one blog or content piece per day (Source: eMarketer)


Your next content marketing ‘home run’ needs to be..well, literally a home run.

And you can’t do that without some factual data to back up those claims and convince people that what you’re saying matters, and that you know what the heck you’re talking about.

Throw in some of these latest blogging statistics from 2019 to make your next piece a grand slam.

Codeless - SaaS Content Creators

Can We Please Stop the Bullshit Marketing Content? We’re Better than This.

Some days, it wears on you. It’s been slowly building for awhile.

Douchey LinkedIn vlogs. The same-old, obvious links on Twitter.

Decades-old, appropriated tactics, but New and Improved 2.0 with some catchy North Star Name. 🤮

Can. We. Just. Please. Stop?

We’re better than that. Or, at least, we should try to be. Here’s why.

❌ Not this: Hype

Let’s begin at the beginning.

This is the big one. The main crux.

Apparently, you can’t publish marketing content today without stuffing it chock-full of brown-nosing puffery, Trump-like exaggerations, or National Enquirer-sensationalism.

Like, The Branded Marketing Tactic.™️

Yes, the Skyscraper Technique is legit. A shitty metaphor, but a nice tactic.

Except, here’s the issue:

Really? 500 visits? That’s what we’re all lusting over?

Yeah, I know – long-tail variations. Yeah, I know – they’ll pick up another ~500 or so for that. Yeah, I know – coining a brand-able category term can transform into INBOUND.

But here’s the thing:

INBOUND ain’t inbound unless Permission Marketing, which predated inbound by a decade.

Ok. What about Topic Clusters? The “Next Evolution of SEO,” according to this guide published in 2017?


Now, where have we seen this before? Hmmm.

Oh, like hub pages? The internal topic + linking structure that old-skool, Emeritus SEOs were raving about nearly a decade before 2017.

Keep going. It’s everywhere you look. And it’s time to drain the swamp.

Some “1XX+-point guide” that contains zero numbers or defined points.

Some make-money, LinkedIn dbag who’s both “the global leader in B2B marketing,” and “the King of B2B marketing.” Despite the fact that nobody knows this fool.

Take this exact topic: content marketing.

Did growth hackers growth hack it? Did HubSpot invent it? Did Coca-Cola perfect it?

No, nope, and not.

The Furrow was introduced in 1895 by John Deere.

1895. By a tractor company.

So get off your high horse. Get over yourself.

The loudest person in the room, or on the internet, isn’t right.

(Unless you’re running for president, apparently.)

✅ But that: Thorough

This should be the ideal.

Years of reporting. Engrossing narrative. Interactive elements.

“Thorough” doesn’t always have to mean length. But it can. When there’s a point to be made.

Our content creation services guide is over 13,000 words. It probably didn’t need to be. But now, you can’t possibly argue with the results. Try to poke holes in it. The facts are the facts.

Blog Writing Services Comparison

The initial idea came up over a year ago in 2017, but we didn’t have the time or resources to pull it off right. When we finally did, it took weeks to produce and thousands of dollars internally. (Multiply those costs 2-10x if we did it for a client.)

The point is that thoroughness should, in theory, hopefully, one day, shine through all the other puffed-up bullshit out there. Content is, or should be, in theory, hopefully, be an asset — not an expense.

❌ Not this: Obvious

Marketing content production is getting good. Sexy UX, high-res assets, interactive elements, and more.

All amazing things.

The problem?

What the F happened to the angle? Or, the writing? You know, content creation 101?

Take this marketing statistics post. (We’re not going to touch on statistics posts in general, because my blood pressure can’t take anymore stress.)

It’s a beautiful piece overall. The title draws you in with “538% more” productive or something. They surveyed 1,597 marketers to compile this data. It all sounds super promising.

Until you read the very first takeaway:

“Marketers who document strategy are 538% more likely to report success than those who don’t.”

Um. Thanks?

The very next graphic says:

“4 keys to successful marketing: strategy, research, process, goals.”

You’re really going to go to all the trouble to run a 1500+ person survey, and prepare all of this amazing design, to tell us an obvious point that businesses have been following for centuries?

No kidding. Like, B.C. centuries.

It’s believed that ancient Egyptians used paid laborers, not slaves, to add water to the sand in front of sleds to increase production:

“It turns out that wetting Egyptian desert sand can reduce the friction by quite a bit, which implies you need only half of the people to pull a sledge on wet sand, compared to dry sand.”

A processes improvement to cut costs in half without decreasing production? Sounds a whole helluva lot like “strategy, research, process, goals” to me! ‘Cept, ~4,000 years before this survey was even a twinkle in some marketer’s eye.

Do you really need another stat to tell you that goals are important? Images make content more engaging? People want to watch video, not read? We’re talkin’ basic, common sense.

I <3 tech peeps. Y’all are smart. But also, pretty naive.

Re-read the section above. None of this stuff is new. Or particularly earth-shattering. Growth hackers didn’t invent distribution. Marketing’s had that under control since the 60s.

Strive to provide insight. The world doesn’t need anymore info.

✅ But that: Original

What is the definition of “good” content?

It’s tough. It’s tricky. Because content is subjective.

To some, it means “written well.” It means “grammatically flawless.”

To me? It means you have something interesting to say. Something that stands out from your screen that’s already overflowing with the bile and vomit of pseudo influencers everywhere.

The mere mentions of “bile” and “vomit” probably made you retract. The shot at ‘influencers’ (heavy, heavy air quotes) probably rubbed you the wrong way.

Guess what? It was supposed to.

I don’t write this way because of misfiring synapses. (At least, not only that.) I do it because it stands out. It’s different. Un-copy-able. I’m trying to get a point across, loud and clear, differently than you’ve ever heard (or read) it before.

You can hate it, but it works. The portfolio speaks for itself, so…

The other way to be original is to stop talking about things and start doing them.

We’re not an advertising company. Far from it. Yet, we’re doing advertising content better than advertisers because we’re actually doing the hard work. (See: “Thorough” above.)

The best part is that this isn’t exclusive to anyone. You just need to stop living by influencer gospel, use your brain to come up with your own ideas, go test them, then talk (and write) about them.

❌ Not this: Tactical

The vast majority of marketing content online is tactical. Like, “click here,” “change that.”

There are a few issues with this. (Not the least of which, is that the ‘doers’ who consume tactical stuff aren’t the ‘payers’ in an org who sign the checks.)

No, the problem with overly-tactical content is that it’s almost never gonna work, as prescribed, for any of the readers.

Usually, the tactics suck. They’re desperately clinging on to stuff that’s well past its sell-by date, like all those “XX copy and paste email templates” for your cold outreach. (No seriously, good luck with that.)

Or, more worryingly, is the (lack of) context.

What works for one won’t work the same for another. Leaving you with varying degrees of crap.

Even the Holy Trinity of Content Marketing, the aforementioned Skyscraper Technique, is prone to bombing.

Context matters.

It matters what industry you’re in, how long you’ve been around, how many people know you and you know, how well you’re capitalized, how well you’ve timed the trend, and of course, a little bit of luck.

✅ But that: Better

Small-time affiliates make me chuckle. So secretive about their sites and niches and programs and ideas.

They’re afraid of copying. Mimicking. Reverse engineering.

You know why? Because their stuff is probably not that good. So it’d be easy to rip off. Generic content, with a generic link profile, can (and will) be copied ASAP.

Paying crap prices for content or links or whatever is only going to get you crap. Which means it’s only a matter of time until someone better swoops in and knocks you off your perch.

The only sustainable strategy, in my view, is to be so good they can’t ignore you. Produce content, and promotion, that others can’t copy.

There are different ways to do this. Different avenues to “be better.”

Tim Ferriss is a smart dude. Not an excellent investor, but an investor with an excellent track record. There’s a distinction there.

He developed an unfair advantage that meant (almost) nobody could compete against him. Not head-on, anyway.

Therefore, his investing philosophy will work (and has worked) brilliantly for him. And it’ll completely fail for pretty much anyone else who lacks the same advantages he honed over time.

Call him what you want. Deride him if you wish. Just don’t copy his tactics. ‘Cause you’re lacking the principles, strategy, and context that make it all work in the end.

❌ Not this: Vapid

Step 1. Peep this: 15 Words and Phrases Millennials Use but No One Else Understands.

Step 2. Recognize that it’s on Inc. You know, the ‘tech-savvy’ publication.

Step 3. Read suggestions like “phubbing,” “dipset,” and “it me” (as a shorter version — by two characters — of “it’s me”).

Step 4. Notice that this dude is a contributing editor of this ‘tech-savvy publication.’

Step 5. Now, go ask all of the millennials in your office how many times they used “phubbing” or “dipset” this week. Don’t bother bringing a pen or paper, because the answer will be zero.

#Sorrynotsorry, John, but this shit is garbage.

✅ But that: Valuable

There’s enough shit online already.

Let’s just be better

The point of this wasn’t to piss people off.

I don’t really care if it did. But that wasn’t the catalyst for the rant.

We all mess up. We’re all guilty of the above. Especially me.

But let’s try to be better.

Because, otherwise, we’ll just keep circling the drain.

And 50 years from now, all of our customers will tune us out.

And we’ll have to figure out something else to do all day.

When (and When NOT) to Hire a Content Writing Agency [Pros vs. Cons]

Content writing agency pricing seems expensive.

Sticker shock might take a few minutes to wear off.

But working with a content writing agency can be a blessing. Or a curse.

Just like freelance blog writers are ideal in some scenarios, so too is a content writing agency.

The trick, again, is to know where they excel and where they fall short.

Here are the pros and cons of working with a content writing agency. From someone who’s been on both sides of the table.


✅ Pros: Agencies should have more, better writers on staff.

The best blog writers for hire usually either come from top-notch freelancers or a content writing agency.

Take this very post as an example.

I’m personally writing it, rather than assigning it to one of our awesome SaaS writers.


Our writers are good marketing writers. But what do they know about (a) hiring writers, (b) scaling content teams, (c) generating marketing ROI, or (d) working with a content writing agency?

Not much.

That’s not their fault. They simply lack the experience. So assigning them a topic they know nothing about would (1) set them up to fail and (2) result in bad content.

And that’s the problem:

There’s already too much shitty content in the world.

Blog Writing Services Comparison

That’s a problem when content is a zero-sum game. It means if you hope to get anything — views, awareness, clicks, leads, sales, links, etc. — you need the best stuff possible.

“The best stuff” comes from subject-matter experts. Most (good) agencies look for them, recruit them, and train them. And if they don’t currently already have that talent in-house or their network, they have the means to go out and bring them in for you.

❌ Cons: But only if they actually specialize in your vertical and/or content style.

SEO has at least 5+ disciplines.

You’ve got technical, analytics, on-page, content, and links/PR. With the way it’s going, there will soon be a few more (anything from multilingual to voice search to AI and more).

That means even the best T-shaped marketer today can’t do it all. Can’t be a 9/10 at every aspect of SEO.

It’s simply too broad, too difficult, too complex, and too competitive.

So the next time you see ‘full-service’ digital agency, peep their headcount.

‘Cause when you multiply the fracturing of one discipline across a bunch (like design, dev, CRO, ad buying, email, etc.), you’ll quickly realize that they’ll need ~40+ people to successfully pull any of this off.

'full-service' digital marketing agencies

(image source)

And that brings us to our first con.

Make sure the agency in question actually specializes in content creation — not just distribution. (Preferably, the specific kind of content you’re interested in.)

Second, make sure they specialize (or at least can provide) vertical-specific samples. OR, at least, stuff that shows the same underlying principles that could be applied to your vertical.

Otherwise? They won’t have the ability to scale content, and the team won’t be experienced enough to justify the higher rates.

Good agencies aren’t cheap. So if they do a bunch of things, and “oh yeah, we can do content, too,” you’re probably not going to get the ROI you desire.

If you come across an agency that does content and SEO and website design and email marketing for the construction industry and accountants and retail and banking and mortgage brokers and personal finance…

Run and hide.


✅ Pros: A content writing agency should be able to out-produce any other alternative.

Agencies build upon what writing services do well, while also raising quality with more experienced and better trained writers.

(That’s how it should work in theory, anyway. But it doesn’t always in reality. Read the Cons below to find out why.)

An individual writer can produce ~1-4 pieces a week for you. That’s good enough for some. But not for others.

A content writing agency is able to bring a team of writers to scale to infinite heights. All while producing higher-quality work, more consistently, in the same style and tone.

A few months ago, we had a new client start with five articles. When that went well, we bumped up to 15/month. Month three? 50+ — all 2,500 words and up, with a dedicated team of three experienced writers and an editor.

Working with freelancers, as an alternative, means you’re getting several different styles with several different tones. Getting them all to speak the same brand voice is a challenge.

But there’s one last pro tip to keep in mind with content agencies: Find out if they work with in-house or contract writers.

Here’s why.

❌ Cons: But only if they’re using in-house writers to control mark-up costs.

In-house writers typically receive better training and produce faster turnarounds, so the agency (should) have more time to review internally for quality before it gets to you.

Awesome contractors are great. But the problem with scaling content through them comes down to simple math.

Most good freelance blog writers rightfully charge as much per piece as possible, so they can reduce their overall workload to make a certain amount each year.

But the agency needs to markup their cost to account for all the editing, project management, and other costs associated with each client.

Content writing agency math

That usually results in agencies having to find the cheapest writers possible, instead of the best ones for the job. Otherwise, they won’t make any money.

I’ve personally made this mistake and regret it to this day. But it’s also a reason why I don’t think clients should try to get the cheapest possible price for something (an article for another day).

ClearVoice’s excellent survey found a correlation between the following experience and writing rates:

  1. Beginner: $0.10 per word ($200 for a 2,000 word post)
  2. Pro: $0.25 per word ($500 for a 2,000 word post)
  3. Expert: $0.75 per word ($1500 for a 2,000 word post)

Notice those costs. It means the agency is ONLY able to use beginners. Even though you, the client, might be paying for Expert-level rates. Otherwise, they’ll never, ever break even.

And the problem is that those in the Beginner category also have the most issues, mistakes, and plagiarism.

Clearvoice tech writer study
(image source)

So, once again, the extra cost isn’t worth it.

Working with in-house writers, on the other hand, means you can give out a bigger annual salary, plus benefits, etc., while still reducing the internal cost per piece, so that clients get better work, faster.


✅ Pros: Agencies should be able to turn content around faster.

Turnaround time is a direct result of capacity.

If a freelancer has too much work, your stuff gets pushed to the bottom of the queue. The better they are, the more work they have, and the less they need your new work.

If capacity is overloaded, because they’re taking on more work than they can handle, it also affects quality.

So now you’re fighting a battle on two fronts.

We work on a ~7-day production scheduled internally, for instance. But we tell clients to expect content within ~10-14 days.

That gives us a few extra days, if needed, to cycle the content back and forth, from editor to writer, to make sure what we’re producing is top notch.

You don’t often get that luxury with contractors, because (1) quality is less consistent and (2) turnarounds are much slower.

Many contractors we’ve worked with require at least 7-14 days notice on any new work. Those long turnarounds are understandable from their point of view. But it means we’d need to get at least ~30+ days of content ideas from clients to be able to schedule everything out in time.

I <3 our clients, but most don’t have content calendars or topics planned 60-90 days out. Whereas with in-house writers, we can juggle their assignments and give them something new same-day if needed.

❌ Cons: But only if they’ve done a good job balancing capacity, and if you’re a nice paying client.

How, exactly, do we give in-house writers new assignments on the same day?

What happened to their old, existing assignments?

We bump them back.

Usually, because:

  1. We like the client more, or
  2. They pay more.

Simple as that.

Otherwise, turnaround times start to break down when someone’s trying to fix old work, and start new work at the same time.

Writing, as a verb, is a finite resource. You can do it a few hours a day. But not all day, every day.

So it’s not as simple as telling a writer to work 100-hours a week. Instead, it’s usually a question of prioritization. One vs. the other.

Agencies (should) have the internal capacity to move things around last minute without the client experiencing a major delay. Like this Slack message I posted a few weeks ago:

Slack message about writing capacity

We can pump out a new article in 48 hours if needed. But it means we need to move stuff off someone’s desk, assign it to another, and update the turnarounds accordingly.

Individual writers, or teams of freelancers, don’t have this luxury. They don’t have this coordination or ability to move things, accommodating faster turnarounds or last-second requests, without jeopardizing future work.


✅ Pros: Your end result should be better because you’re working with a team.

You’re not just paying for a writer to write with an agency.

You’re not just getting a single contractor with one skill set.

Instead, you’re paying for an entire infrastructure to make sure your stuff is consistently better.

We have 4-5 people touch every single article before it goes to a client.

That means from beginning to end, we have an operations manager, writer, senior editor, copy editor, and director of operations overseeing the entire process.

we have multiple people involved in one article

It might take a few weeks to get on the same page with each client’s style. Content is subjective after all. But after a bedding-in period, they should be able to produce more, better, faster content because there’s no single point of failure.

You also get internal Quality Control to make sure everything you receive is consistent with your style guidelines and free of errors or plagiarism.

Plus, they can help with strategy and any other related service to make sure you get publish-ready stuff, significantly bringing down your time to manage the process.

❌ Cons: But only if you can agree on a balance between production and ancillary services.

What you see is what you get with most content creators.

You pay $500 for a post. And you get a post.

Nothing less, nothing more.

That’s great if you can handle the rest. If you can handle the keyword research, topic creation, CMS upload, on-site optimization, and more.

However, with agencies, make sure to double-check production vs. ‘stuff.’

If the starting price is $5k+/month, but the number of monthly content pieces you’re getting equals only two, it means your budget is being eaten up by strategy, research, optimization, distribution, and reporting.

That good be good if you need the help. Or it could be bad if you already have those things taken care of internally, or with another vendor.

It’s like HubSpot. Awesome company. Cool software. But if you’re not using half the features, is it still worth the $10k+ annual price tag?

How a content writing agency pricing works

To someone? Yeah, of course. To you? Perhaps not.


A content writing agency should be able to produce more content, of a higher-quality, faster, for far less than it’d cost bringing it all in-house.

That’s how it should work in theory, anyway.

But it’s not always what plays out in reality.

The key is to hire a content writing agency for all the pros listed above, after carefully navigating all the cons that can come with it.

Codeless - SaaS Content Creators

Your Data-Driven Marketing is Bullshit. Here’s Why.

Traditional marketers don’t rely enough on data.

Newbies fall in the same boat.

But the more advanced, technical ones?

They rely on it too much.

Here’s why.

Why your data-driven marketing is lying to your face

Growth hacking growth hacks sounds smart. Sounds sophisticated. Sounds edgy.

Sounds like a fundable idea in an Emerald City that’s home to the most advanced companies in the world, yet can’t figure out how to keep human feces off the street or build a skyscraper that doesn’t sink. (Ahh, paradise.)

Trouble is that your data is bullshit. Not some of the time. But most of the time.

Statistics lie. Data lies.

Which means all those ‘data-driven’ marketing campaigns are simply best guesses. Hunches. And gut feelings. All of the things most digital marketers supposedly despise.

Because lurking beneath the dozens of dashboards gaudily flaunting KPI porn, there’s a plethora of problems infecting your underlying assumptions.

Marketers are spending more and more and more on data. Despite the fact that less and less and less is known.

“[Analytics-based spending] increases are expected [over the next three years] despite the fact that top marketers report that the effect of analytics on company-wide performance remains modest, with an average performance score of 4.1 on a seven-point scale, where 1=not at all effective and 7=highly effective. More importantly, this performance impact has shown little increase over the last five years, when it was rated 3.8 on the same scale,” according to a CMO survey organized by Duke, Deloitte, and the American Marketing Association.

Marketing analytics spending hasn't produced better performance.
(image source)

And we ain’t just talkin’ TOFU or BOFU here.

But, like, the entire damn funnel.

Here, take a look for yourself.

❌ Years ago, Google stole all of your keyword referral data. Poof. Gone. 100% not provided.

(image source)

❌ Leaving you to stammer and cajole clients and bosses. Or point to inane things like keyword rankings. Which, oh shucks, are also becoming irrelevant right before your vary eyes.

Ok, well, hmmmm.

How about traffic? Yes! We’ll look at traffic data! That’ll show ’em.

❌ Except, it doesn’t. Because “Direct” consumes everything in its sight, as much as 60% of all your hard-earned SEO skillz.

(image source)

The problem?

SEO ain’t the only casualty in this bloodbath.

❌ So, too, are email and social.

Dark social eats away your referral traffic
(image source)

Pretty much all organic (read: not paid) sources are F-d up. For everyone. Everywhere.

Leaving you with…


Ok, so let’s just pay.

Yeah, we can pay.

At least that way, good ol’ Google will have our backs. In this case, the traffic data will be legit.

Except, oh shoot, the conversions aren’t.

Because you know that ringing phone in your office? The one that brings in the high-ticket leads?

❌ Yeah, those. They’re coming from digital channels. ‘Cept, you’re not tracking them properly. So you won’t get the credit for that, either.

Digital channels are driving business phone calls.
(image source)

❌ Ok, sure. Call extensions can track calls made directly from the ad.

But come the F on. Who does that?

Our tech-illiterate parents, perhaps? Not real people. With real money to spend. (OR, only people who’re already brand-aware. See #7 below.)

❌ How about those web-based forms, though?

Surely, the data on those are legit. That’s the logical conclusion at first pass, anyway.

Except for one teeny, tiny issue.

Those are leads, not purchases. Who cares if one campaign drives 5x leads, if none of them hand over some sticky icky green. 💰

And who cares if some buy, but buy small. Or buy once, instead of recurring. LTV is the aspiration.

So you’ll need some sort of closed-loop analysis. One that shows you everything from first click to last purchase.

❌ Too bad that also just so happens to go against Google Analytics’ Terms of Service. They will literally delete your account if they find you collecting personally identifiable information (PII).

And the less said about GDPR here, the better.

❌ Your attribution models are flawed.

❌ Your statistically significant tests aren’t anywhere close to statistically significant because your sample size is too statistically insignificant.

❌ Your conversion rates are wrong.

❌ And even your purchase data is wrong. OR, at least, flawed. Pointing you in the wrong direction to what’s actually working or what’s actually succeeding.

That’s what you’re up against. It ain’t pretty. But it’s reality.

Too often, marketers and influencers and gurus hit Publish on some amazing piece of wisdom. But when you boil everything down, stripping away the layers of faux authority, you realize that it’s either (a) incorrect, (b) misguided, or (c) utter horse shit. 🐎 💩

The silver lining is that there are a few tricks. You can do some of these things. It won’t solve all of these problems. But it will get you a little closer to accurate data you can actually use.

7 data-driven marketing tips to reclaim your data

1. Segment or filter your dark traffic.

“Direct” traffic is supposed to actually be, you know, direct. Like, someone types in your homepage.

You can also apply this same logic to other big pages, like Pricing or Contact or About.

But anything else? All those long, hard-to-remember URL strings?

No chance those are direct visits.

So create a segment of visitors from “Direct,” to any landing page (entrance) that’s not a simple, obvious URL:

direct traffic conditions

Seer provides much more on the topic, showing you how to isolate these cases in the Multi-Channel Funnels report.

segment direct traffic for data-driven marketing
(image source)

2. Segment your inbound funnel.

Create unique pages for each unique traffic source.

(image source)

This especially applies to paid campaign ad groups or individual keywords. But inbound ones, too.

Yes, this is time consuming. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass. But yes, it’s worth it.

Then, keep track of each URL in a single campaign so you can do the next recommendation below.

inbound funnel segmentation spreadsheet

3. Tag everything.

Every marketer worth their salt knows UTM tags.

The problem isn’t knowing it, but doing it.

Maybe it’s not your fault. Maybe there are too many things outside your control, like another department owning the site or publishing the email.

But excuses don’t get you paid more.

So help them. Give them the URL, complete with tracking code, to completely idiot-proof your campaign tracking.

add tracking tokens to make data-driven marketing accurate

4. Add call tracking.

Visit Whip out your corporate card. Sign up. Read this. Implement each step.

Thank me later when you get a raise because all of a sudden, “marketing is just generating so many more leads these days.” The same ones that were already coming in, but you weren’t previously getting the credit.


5. Integrate traffic and campaign data with a (good) CRM.

This is where begrudgingly spending a small fortune on something like HubSpot is worth it. Especially, if you have a high cost per lead that you’re trying to bring down.

Because you’ll finally be able to see how many actual paying customers Campaign A drives vs. B. And not just clicks. Or not just leads.

And you’ll get to see exactly how much money John Smith spends over the course of the year, further increasing the ROI on Campaign A.

HubSpot performance dashboard for paying customer data.

6. Benchmark against yourself.

What’s the industry average CPC? Who cares.

If your data is wrong (or inaccurate), measuring against some random third-party data point is useless. It’s also misleading, because your business model might be different. You might be able to willingly spend more to acquire each lead because your LTV is through the roof.

So compare against yourself. Prior period, and prior year.

Use this data-driven marketing funnel to compare prior results.

7. Do things that don’t scale. That you can’t track.

Branding seems vague. Seems intangible and fluffy.

Except it’s also the one thing standing in between you and more sales.

Brands get you more clicks and more purchases.

Quick. Which one of these would you choose?

sej brand example

No question. You recognize one. The other, not so much.

The problem with branding, however, is that it doesn’t convert. Will never convert. The stuff you do for branding to generate eyeballs will always look like a total failure on paper.

Unfortunately, that’s just how it works.

You think Red Bull was looking for a Google Analytics report after spending $65 million on dropping a human from space?

Not a chance. They were too busy trying to figure out how many hundreds of millions of people were going to see that and remember it forever.

With a big, shiny, bright, Red Bull logo plastered all over it.

That’s why they’re Red Bull, selling tiny cans at a higher margin while everyone else just competes for a distant second place.


Data lies. All the time. Right to your face.

At any given moment, your traffic source data is wrong. Your conversions are wrong. And therefore, your understanding of marketing ROI is wrong, too.

The first step is acceptance. The second includes a few of these low-hanging-fruit tips.

But the last is the most important. Don’t fool yourself. You need eyeballs and visibility and awareness to drive anything.

You won’t be able to track it all. You might not be able to justify the ROI in the short term. However, it’s the only shot you’ve got in the long run.

That’s ok, though. Because the underlying data you have trouble justifying is probably wrong, anyway.

Your Design is Killing Your Content. Here’s Why.

In a perfect internet, there’d be no marketing.

Customers would just know, as if by divine gift, when and where to find us when the time was right. No banners needed. No lead magnets or SEO.

It’d be a beautiful world with user experiences (UX) so natural they’re almost thoughtless.

Obviously, this isn’t the internet we live in.

The one we live in requires marketers to put on their promotional caps and wrangle leads in like bulls in the pasture. And it means, more often than not, that the UX has to get trampled a bit.

It’s the only way, right? Give up a bit of the user’s convenience for the sake of your sales. You have to balance usability against profitability. It just can’t work any other way.

(Image Source)

Yeah, no.

That’s a lazy ass way to look at things.

Usability Is Not a Choice. But Your Business Is.

Notice that I say usability and not UX. They’re not interchangeable, despite what every blog-certified joke with a copy of Photoshop tells you. They’re distinct entities.

Related, yes. Linked on a fundamental, cosmic level of correlation.

(Image Source)

But not the same thing. UX is a subjective matter of preference and what you — necessarily — have to sacrifice and tweak for profitability.

Usability is objective. It’s even directly visible on tools like heatmaps. Usability can’t be thrown under the bus for the sake of ticket sales, because it’s the damn road the bus needs to be on.

And lest there be any ambiguity: this piece is specifically for you, marketers. Because your websites are hands-down the worst offenders against usability.

Despite the fact that several of the top ranking factors for your pages relate back to usability.

(Image Source)

So let’s put this out in the open:

Usability is not a choice. When your marketing efforts impede the usability of your site, you’re undermining your business. Because you know what is a choice?

Shopping with you. Subscribing to you.

You are a choice. And if your marketing is killing your usability, you’re a bad one.

Don’t Make Me Click. It’s Exhausting.

“OK, cool, you’re throwing a fit,” you’re probably thinking, “But you haven’t actually told me what the hell I’m doing wrong.”

For one, you’re making me click. A-effing-ton. Before I ever get to see the content I came for.

Let’s walk through an example.


I’m not going to include links and, whenever possible, I’m going to blur brand names and identifying features because I don’t want to tear down other marketers.

I respect the hustle. I don’t think they deserve to be highlighted for this behavior when, honestly, they probably don’t know what they’re doing wrong.

If you have a problem with that, go back to high school.

/end note.

I searched for updated SEO tricks in Google. Opened a page. Scrolled a millimeter.

And this lightbox pops up.

I haven’t even seen the page beneath.

Now I’m being treated like a child and forced to click on a condescending “No, I don’t like traffic” option before I’ve read a single word of the content that I came here for.

So I’m going to bounce. This approach doesn’t work on Tinder, and it doesn’t work on searchers. Quit shoving your lead magnet in my face. I’m not interested.

Let’s check another example.

I didn’t even have to scroll. Both of these were taking over my entire screen within two seconds of landing.

Boy, bye.

Sadly, neither of these are even close to the worst I’ve seen.

The worst offenders set me up on a path like this:

  1. I click on their link from the SERP.
  2. I click past their lead magnet modal.
  3. I deny their request for desktop notification access.
  4. I click out of the “live chat” window I never asked for.
  5. I hit accept or decline on the cookie notification.
  6. I finally see the content! Probably with another email subscription box. Oh, joy.

(Image Source)

It’s too much. You aren’t nurturing me as a lead. You’re putting me in a new, thus far undiscovered sales funnel that skips straight from awareness to annoyance.

Yes, You Can Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too

Look. I like marketing. If it didn’t exist, I’d be out of a job.

What I’m against is lazy marketing. Marketing that isn’t user-conscious.

It’s not hard to do it better. It doesn’t require you to scale your market budget by 5000%.

It just needs you to take a little time and apply some empathy for the audience you’re trying to persuade.

And to look at what they hate and then not do that.

(Image Source)

In the context of this study, a modal refers to any ad that appears on top of the content and prevents users from interacting with the material beneath before they close it.

I.e., a lightbox.

And yes, your subscription boxes and lead magnets count as an ad in this frame, monetary reward notwithstanding. They’re advertising something (you) to the visitors.

So where does that leave you? What are some steps you can take to improve your usability without sacrificing your marketing?

You can try:

  • Making the offer when it’s relevant. Not when I first land. I didn’t come here for your ebook. Chill.
  • Showing me content that doesn’t suck before you ask for my digits.
  • Giving me non-intrusive — but clear — CTAs. If you’ve followed the above advice and your content is engaging, you won’t need a bullhorn to make me sign up.

Kinsta does this really well. They stick their subscription boxes in the middle of their articles, like so:

(Image Source)

Why this works:

  • The user has gotten a chance to browse the content they came looking for.
  • The writer has had a chance to make a case about the value of their copy (i.e., they’ve probably been read, or at least skimmed, by the time someone gets to the ask box).
  • You’re less likely to lose users by having it in the middle than at the bottom. 3,000-word articles are a lot to get through, even if they’re well-written.

Which isn’t to say that you can’t put your content upgrades, subscription boxes, and whatever sign-up you’re running at the bottom of your articles.

In fact, it’s probably a smart idea to have your sign-ups in multiple locations.

CodeinWP grew their email list up to 450-500 new sign-ups a month by leveraging content upgrades and adding multiple sign-up forms to their user flow.

You can spy their growth trajectory below. That’s a nice slope.

(Image Source)

The key to copying CodeinWP is to leverage these techniques without getting in users’ way. You can spy it on their blog, or check out Invesp for inspiration.

Look how they position their multiple lead magnets and subscription boxes on their blog without preventing the user from, you know, actually using the blog.

Here they are in a side panel configuration:

(Image Source)

And again at the bottom of the same piece of content:

(Image Source)

Tons of opportunities for me to convert. None of which act as barricades to my goals or prevent me from completing my tasks efficiently.

Be like CodeinWP and Invesp.

No, This Isn’t the Designer’s Job Alone

So far, I’ve talked a lot about being user-conscious with your marketing. Enough so that you might think, “Great, I’ll tell my designer.”

And you should. But it isn’t just their job. It’s yours, too. At least, if you give a damn about CRO, which is increasingly becoming intertwined with usability and UX.

(Image Source)

I’d argue that they’re the same process, even. Just with different end goals.

I’m not alone in this perspective, either.

Per Axbom, a UX designer with the coolest name ever, explains his thoughts:

“I myself see conversion optimization as a subset of actionable UX.”

And in a more perfect internet, it is.


Let’s create that internet, marketers. Let’s make it a place where we aren’t sacrificing users for profitability and conversions aren’t an either/or equation with usability.

Just remember:

  • Usability isn’t a choice. It’s a requirement.
  • The more barriers and clicks you put in someone’s way, the more likely they are to bounce. I.e., say goodbye to your SEO juice.
  • You can market and utilize lead magnets. You should do it in multiple places, even. Just as long as none of those places impede the user’s goals.
  • Your designers should be in on this conversation, but it’s not a conversation for them alone. If you’re down for CRO, you need to be down for user-conscious marketing.

This isn’t a manifesto, but it is a CTA. One where we, as marketers, take responsibility for our customers and help create a better internet by putting users’ needs alongside business needs.

It won’t always be easy. But nothing worth doing ever is.

5 Promoted Content Lessons from Spending $4,008.13 in 4 Weeks

We don’t just talk about marketing.

We do it.

In the past few weeks, we spent $4,008.13 on content promotion, testing how our new add-on services significantly improve content performance.

Promoted Content Facebook Spend

The goal was to put our money where our mouth is and prove that better content not only drives more traffic and leads, but also can decrease promotional costs, too.

I’m going to show you countless ways to bring down costs and increase performance in this post.

Optimizing for relevance score & CTR drops costs.

Think of audience building as an investment in future sales.

Reach vs. frequency – automatically promote posts for engagement, not clicks.

Prioritize placements by funnel stage and ad type to optimize spend.

Routinely split test (not A/B test) ad creatives to scale results.

But first, you’re going to discover why we’re talking about promoted content in the first place, instead of other ‘free’ organic alternatives.

Continue reading “5 Promoted Content Lessons from Spending $4,008.13 in 4 Weeks”

How to Do SaaS Content Marketing (Without Boring Prospective Customers)

Virtually every SaaS brand in existence now uses content as part of their marketing strategy.

A quick scan of any standard SaaS website will reveal a “Resources” section with at least a handful of blog posts, possibly a “Knowledge Base,” and maybe even an ebook or two for good measure.

But let’s be honest: Most of this content isn’t very exciting.

A lot of it is downright boring. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

So if you’re a SaaS marketer, please accept this blog post as my formal request that you step up your content game.

Why SaaS Brands Need Content Marketing

If you’re not yet using content (or if your existing content doesn’t seem to be doing much for your marketing or sales), you might be wondering if it’s even worth the investment.

In short, the answer is yes.

That said, I’m willing to acknowledge the fact that as a content writer myself, I might be biased.

So with that in mind, here’s a basic rundown of the role content can play in your marketing strategy:


(Image Source)

Essentially, content allows you to take a less overtly “sales-y” approach to reach new customers and positions your brand as part of the research process.

This way, when a potential customer is ready to invest, your product will be the obvious choice.

Now, you might be wondering whether your target audience really spends time reading content from the brands they’re considering buying from.

But considering that 47% of B2B buyers read 3-5 blog posts or content pieces before speaking with a salesperson, there’s a very strong chance that they do.

And this is true for your target audience whether your company is publishing content or not — meaning that if you aren’t, they’re likely getting the content they want from your competitors.

I don’t think I need to go into too much detail as to how this puts you at a competitive disadvantage.

But beyond helping you keep up with others in your industry, content can also have an extremely high ROI for your business.

That’s because, unlike other digital marketing strategies, it doesn’t involve paying for space.

Now, to be clear, creating great content can involve significant initial investments.

These investments can either come in the form of money if you opt for content writing services, or in time (and possibly blood, sweat, and tears) if you choose to write it yourself.

But once you publish it on your company’s site, it costs nothing to keep it there.

And as long as you’re creating “evergreen” content that won’t cease to be relevant within a few months, it can continue to generate leads and revenue for years to come.

For example, Francois Lanthier of Snipcart credits content for turning organic traffic into the company’s main acquisition channel.

By building a blog around the brand’s conversion funnel, Snipcart was able to create an extensive library of content tailored to their audience, and steadily increase the amount of qualified traffic they earned as a result.


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Compare that to standard advertising channels, which stop producing results the second you stop paying for ad space, and the advantage is clear.

BUT — and this is a major but — getting these kinds of results requires making content that your audience wants to read.

At this point, most SaaS companies are well aware that buyers are doing research before committing to a product.

They know that they need to be targeting information-based keywords, and reaching users early in the process.

Unfortunately, most of their efforts come in the form of boring, “listicle”-style articles.

Worse yet, some brands simply add keywords with informational intent to their AdWords strategies.

For example, consider the query “how to keep track of business expenses.”

It’s relatively safe to assume that a user searching for this phrase wants to learn… how to keep track of their business expenses. (Duh.)

More importantly, the fact that they’re looking for this information likely makes them a potential customer for accounting software — meaning that this could be an excellent topic for any SaaS company in the finance space to target in their content marketing strategy.

So, what would that searcher find?

As of this writing, the top four results are all PPC ads from well-known brands.


Now, as a searcher, you might expect that because these results showed up for your question, clicking on them would provide an answer.

So let’s see if that’s the case.

Here’s what Zoho has to offer:


… and Xero:


… and Concur:


… and, finally, Netspend:


Not a single one of these pages teaches readers how to keep track of their business expenses.

Unless, of course, you count “Sign up for a free trial of our product!” as an answer.

Now, to be clear, that could be a valid call to action if any of these companies took the time to explain how their platform helped users track expenses.

Instead, they all expect visitors to jump straight to a conversion, even before they address their question.

That’s not helpful to anyone.

So if your idea of content looks anything like those examples, please don’t waste your (or your audience’s) time.

But if you’re willing to put in the time it takes to create resources that actually help prospective buyers, content can absolutely be a beneficial addition to your marketing strategy.

A 5-Step Process for Content That Won’t Put Readers to Sleep

Most SaaS marketers have great intentions when they first launch their content marketing strategies.

But those intentions mean very little to readers when they’re struggling to keep their eyes open through the first paragraph of a blog post.

So before you open up WordPress and start drafting the internet’s one millionth “how-to” guide for a basic task related to your industry, you need to figure out how to create content your audience actually wants to read.

Fortunately, you don’t need to rely solely on your creative thinking abilities to make this happen.

Instead, you can use the following five-step content marketing guide to select worthwhile topics and create the kind of resources that will move you closer to your marketing goals.

1. Do Your Research

Every content marketing strategy needs to begin with research.

Now, if you’re more of a creative type, you might be inclined to brush off this suggestion. You might think that your imagination is a better resource for original ideas.

And even if you don’t exactly consider yourself creative, you might be thinking that as the founder (or marketer, or whatever) of your product, you know what kinds of information should go along with it better than anyone else.

And that might be true.

But it doesn’t matter.

You could create the best, most comprehensive resources your industry has ever seen — but if no one wants to read them, they’re useless.

You can avoid this by using data to select topics that your audience has already shown interest in.

And this is an approach that works.

Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes calls the brand’s commitment to consumer insights, “the secret sauce to measuring content,” and says that data helps their marketing team determine the best ways to engage with customers.

And it would be hard to argue that Adobe isn’t a creative brand.

In fact, the company’s publication has been cited as an excellent example of SaaS content marketing by several top marketing blogs — and that’s all thanks to data.

So this isn’t a step you want to skip.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be all that complicated.

First, you can start with Google’s Suggest feature.

Search for a keyword or phrase related to your product, then scroll down to the bottom of the page. Here, you’ll see a list of similar searches, based on real user data.

For example, sticking with that same expense tracking example, let’s say you’re an accounting software provider and want to help your target audience accomplish this goal.

A quick search for the phrase shows the following related topics:


Of course, you’ll want to consider the intent behind each of these searches before adding them to your list of content ideas.

But as long as they’re relevant to your target audience, you can create content around them with confidence that there’s interest in these topics.

And as you scope out the search results for potential content topics, you’ll also want to take a look at the “People also ask” box.

For example, let’s say you’re considering targeting the keyword “how to create a professional invoice,” and see the following suggestions:


While these questions often aren’t different enough from the original search to warrant an entirely separate piece of content, many of them will be perfect secondary keywords.

This means that including them as subheaders on the page could not only help you more thoroughly address searchers’ needs, but also improve your chances of ranking for the primary keyword.

Then, once you’ve thoroughly exhausted Google’s suggestions for your content, it’s time to take a look at what your competitors are doing.

If you’re not already doing this, you’re about to be pleasantly surprised by the value of getting content ideas from your competitors.

Using a tool like SEMrush, search for a competitor’s domain name, and take a look at their organic keyword report.

This will show you all of the keywords they’re currently ranking for, as well as how much traffic each of those keywords bring to their website.


Again, you’ll want to do a quick relevance check before adding any of these to your list.

After all, if one of your competitors offers a feature that you don’t (and you have no intention of adding), targeting a keyword related to that feature ultimately isn’t going to earn you any customers.

But if you’re able to create high-ranking content for the keywords that are relevant to your product, this is an excellent way to take a more competitive approach to content.

Finally, one of the most effective strategies for finding great content ideas is also one of the simplest: Talk to your customers.

Your existing customers are one of your most valuable marketing resources because they know firsthand what the research process looks like for your target audience.

Ask them what kinds of information they sought during the buying process, what problems led them to seek your product, and what questions they had prior to using it.

Each of these questions and problems plays a role in your target audience’s research — meaning that content addressing them is a prime opportunity to connect with prospective buyers.

2. Consider All Stages of the Buying Process

So, you have an extensive list of content ideas.

It’s time to start working your way through them — right?

Not so fast.

Once you’ve compiled a list of topics, you’ll need to spend some time developing a content strategy.

I realize that this might not sound fun. And I’m sorry.

But you don’t want to skip this step.

While tackling your list of ideas without a strategy might bring in some traffic and leads, it’s basically the equivalent of throwing handfuls of spaghetti at the wall and hoping that something sticks.

(In this scenario, the spaghetti is your content, and the wall is your audience’s informational needs. In case that wasn’t clear.)

You’ll get much better results if you structure your approach around your target audience.

Consider what their intent is when they search for each of your target keywords, and where they might be in the buying process as they search for that information.

Then, think about what they might need next.

Now, I’m not asking you to be a mind reader (although that could help).

Instead, take a look at your content ideas in terms of where they fit into the sales funnel.


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For example, a visitor who’s interested in a technical, in-depth article on the advantages of a specific feature you offer is likely much farther along in the process than one who’s reading a blog post with a basic overview of your industry.

And your strategy needs to include content for both of them.

If your content only targets awareness-level keywords, you might see lots of traffic. But you’ll likely have trouble retaining those visitors once they have more complex informational needs.

And if your content only targets keywords with purchase intent, you might achieve fairly high conversion rates. But if you only attract a dozen or so visitors per month, your sales numbers will remain low.

So before you begin creating (or hire someone else to do so), make sure that your strategy includes topics for your audience at every stage.

And depending on the nature of your product, you might also need to take different segments within your target audience into account.

For example, as a meeting / project management tool, it makes sense that Calendar focuses a lot of their content on productivity:

But because their audience is made up of both personal and professional users, their content strategy involves different resources for each.

Trello follows a similiar path. This personal productivity guide is likely beneficial to readers who are considering using the platform to manage their day-to-day lives better:


This team productivity guide, on the other hand, is likely much more valuable to a manager or business owner looking to improve communication and efficiency within their organization:


These resources each serve different, but equally important, roles within the brand’s strategy.

So as you fill up your editorial calendar, make sure that you’re doing so strategically, and in a way that addresses all of your target audience’s needs.

And as you look for ways to build out your resources, you can even take a page out of Credo’s book and organize your content by persona.

The brand makes sure that all of their visitors can find the right information by asking who they are right from the start.


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This simple question makes it easy for users within each segment of their target audience to find information tailored to their needs.

Plus, this organizational structure can help you build out your content in a more strategic way.

As Credo founder John Doherty explains, you can begin by conducting a survey or using a data analytics tool to identify three or four of your users’ most common issues or needs.

Then build out separate pages addressing those issues, tailored to each segment of your audience.

So, going back to the accounting software example, let’s say your target audience is a combination of local retailers, ecommerce retailers, and startups, and you know that keeping track of expenses is a common issue for all of them.

You could create three separate pages addressing the topic, each tailored to the unique challenges within each of those business models.

This way, you’re creating content that’s not only helpful but hyper-targeted to individual segments of your target audience — so they’ll never have to wonder whether your product is equipped to meet their needs.

3. Create Something Unique

Once you’ve developed a strategy, it’s time to start creating.

And this is where the real work starts.

Although a thousand or so words of copy would’ve been enough to earn you a top spot in search results for most keywords a few years ago, that’s no longer the case.

And thank all of our lucky stars for that.

Today, searchers no longer have to dig through pages of poorly-written results to find one that adequately addresses their question.

Of course, from a content creator standpoint, this means that you’ll need to put in more work to achieve any level of visibility.

But when it comes down to it, earning the kind of response you want from your content requires creating something that’s not only high in quality but offers something different from all of the other resources already out there.

In simpler terms: Go big or go home.

That said, it’s important not to confuse quality with word count.

While it’s true that the average first-page result is over 2,000 words long, writing a lengthy post certainly doesn’t guarantee you a top spot in search results.

In fact, many brands have seen excellent results from content formats other than written copy.

Just take a look at Shutterstock’s 2018 Creative Trends Report.


The company analyzed user search data to identify trends in design, then created a report of the top 11 for 2018.

The final product is an interactive infographic, complete with data for each trend, as well as a unique video for each, along with links to images and footage that readers can use in their own projects.


All told, the report clocks in at just over 1,700 words.

There are other pieces of content on creative trends with higher word counts than this. But I’d be willing to bet that none of them are even close to being this engaging.

So while thoroughly covering a topic tends to require high word counts, and it’s certainly not a bad idea to aim for a few thousand words, remember that ultimately, quality > quantity.

And even if you don’t have access to a wealth of user data like Shutterstock (or, you know, the marketing budget of a $760 million company), you can still find ways to take a more exciting approach to content.

This is true even if the basic concept behind a piece of content isn’t all that original.

For example, lots of SaaS companies publish customer success stories in some form. But MailChimp takes a more interesting approach than most by compiling customer examples into an interactive resource called “Look What You Can Do.”


Readers can filter by category, then browse real email content from other companies using MailChimp. And if any of these examples inspire them, the signup button in the left sidebar makes it easy for them to join the platform and create their own version.

And if your product doesn’t typically produce results that are visually interesting or fun to scroll through?

Not a problem.

Just take a look at Xero’s Accountant and Bookkeeper Stories:


I think most of us can agree that accounting software isn’t exactly the most exciting subject.

If you disagree with this statement, well… more power to you. Your finances are probably in excellent shape.

But for the rest of us, content like Xero’s that adds a personal element to a topic that could otherwise be dull makes for a much more interesting read.

And if an accounting platform can find a way to write content that’s this fun to read, there’s no excuse for your brand to be publishing boring blog posts — even if you don’t have the resources to be publishing the same volume of content.

Many content marketers make the mistake of believing that volume is the key to building a steady flow of traffic, but that’s not the case.

For example, when Karola Karlson of Aggregate started blogging about growth marketing, she aimed to publish two short posts every week, each featuring one tip, trick, or hack.

Then, she decided to experiment with a different approach by writing a long-form post on building an audience and driving long-term traffic. As expected, it took considerably longer to create — but drove more traffic than ten of her shorter posts combined.

After this revelation, she completely changed her strategy and started writing just one post every other week.

The result was significant traffic growth, as well as increased site engagement.

So if you’re worried that creating unique, in-depth content will take up a lot of your time and slow down production, you’re absolutely right.

But as long as the quality increases as the quantity decreases, less can certainly be more.

4. Show Some Personality

The early stages of a content marketing strategy are an excellent time to find a unique writing style and tone that work for your brand.

Consider what kind of personality you want your brand to have, and how that personality is different from that of your competitors.

And as you do this, just know that “professional” doesn’t count as a unique attribute.

In fact, if that’s the only descriptor you can use to explain your content’s style, I have bad news for you: Your content is probably boring.

This is especially true now that an increasing number of brands are becoming more comfortable expressing their real opinions on issues within their industries.

Basecamp, for example, does an excellent job of this on their Signal v. Noise blog. If you’re unfamiliar with the brand, check out a quick excerpt from their most recent post:


Controversial? Maybe.

But there’s no arguing that it’s memorable — and much more so than the standard listicle-style “X Tips for Being an Awesome Leader!!” posts that other brands seem to favor.

So before you start writing your next piece of content, think beyond what information you want readers to take away from it.

Think about what kind of impression you want to make for your brand, and what types of traits you want readers to associate with it. Then, look for ways to incorporate those traits into your writing.

This way, you can create something that not only conveys information but plays a role in establishing the reputation you want for your company — and sets you apart from prospective buyers’ other options.

5. Repurpose Your Content

Consumers now have more options than ever for engaging with content online. As a result, many of them have developed preferences for specific mediums and formats.

Some still prefer written content, while others learn better from video tutorials. Some look for brief posts that focus on a specific task, while others want comprehensive, start-to-finish guides for everything they’re hoping to accomplish.

And as a content creator, this might make you want to chuck your laptop out the window.

After all, shouldn’t mastering one format be enough?

Shouldn’t your audience be willing to read, watch, or listen to your content in whatever form it takes, as long as it answers their questions or provides the information they need?



But this doesn’t mean you need to start from scratch to start using additional mediums. In fact, I recommend that you don’t.

Instead, you can maximize the value of the work you’ve already done by repurposing your content.

If you’ve already written helpful blog posts, turn them into email newsletters.

If you’ve published long-form articles, convert them into video scripts.

If you’ve created original graphics, upload them as slide decks.

You get the picture.

And if you’re wondering if this strategy will help your content marketing efforts, I strongly encourage you to check out Buffer’s blog post on their “No new content” experiment.

Though the brand typically has a steady editorial calendar, they decided to see what would happen if they stopped publishing original content altogether for 30 days.

During that time, they focused solely on repurposing old content into new formats. This included:

  • Creating drip email campaigns from old blog posts
  • Republishing content to Medium
  • Creating audio and video content from blog posts
  • Compiling shorter content into ebooks

For example, they took this already-popular blog post on hashtags:


… and recorded it, word-for-word, as an audio clip:


So, how did it go?

Even after publishing no new content for 30 days (after normally publishing multiple blog posts per week), their overall traffic remained relatively steady, and their organic traffic actually increased by 4%.

Of course, this example comes from a brand that was already publishing content in multiple formats.

But even if you’re currently only creating one type of content for your audience, you can still repurpose each resource into several other formats.

For example, AdEspresso first explained social proof marketing with an “Ultimate Guide” blog post.


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This post performed well with their target audience — but the brand decided not to stop there.

Instead, they got more value out of the content they’d already created by repurposing it as a SlideShare…


… and again as an ebook.


And as the company clearly states in their post on this strategy, all three resources contain the same material.

But did their audience mind?

Not at all.

The Slideshare generated an additional 3,900 visits in the first ten days, and the ebook earned 253 leads in the first few hours.

In total, these three pieces of content drove 11,376 visits in the first 30 days of their publication — a much higher number than any of them would have earned on their own.

So if you’re already putting in the time and effort it takes to create a valuable resource for your audience, there’s no reason not to maximize the value you get from it by publishing it in multiple formats.

You can improve your overall content ROI, while simultaneously giving all of your potential customers information in the formats they prefer.


Doing SaaS content marketing well isn’t easy.

But it also isn’t impossible.

Find out what your audience wants to know, and figure out how each of those topics fit into the buying process.

Then, create resources that uniquely address those topics, and sprinkle in some personality where you can.

And if you don’t have the time to do all of that yourself?

Well, …we’d love to hear from you.


How to Take Your Content Growth Strategy from Zero to 100

Blogging is hard enough.

But creating a content growth strategy that works these days is just that – work. Painstaking, hair-pulling, nap-inducing work.

The kind of work that makes you want to start drinking at 3 PM on a Tuesday.

But don’t crack open that bottle just yet.

There are a few shortcuts out there to help your process suck less and take your content growth strategy from zero to 100 real quick.


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When you think about what a content marketing strategy is, a few generic “best practices” probably come to mind.

You might think about building personas, writing tons of long-form content, or doing so much keyword research that your head spins.

But all of that stuff doesn’t matter unless you change the way you think about content marketing in the first place.

Your content growth journey will start to get easier as soon as you flip the script in your mind about what one actually is. Or rather, should be.

What Is a Content Marketing Strategy, Actually?

A content marketing strategy isn’t just about marketing all of the products you sell or the content you create.

The real point is to stimulate ongoing interest in your brand.

Sure, your content will get tons of attention if you play your cards right. But that’s not the actual end game. Or the main point.

The point is to draw in an audience that’s interested in what you have to say. One that trusts you.

Because those readers are the ones with the best potential for becoming lifelong customers. In fact, 62% of millennials say that they think online content often encourages brand loyalty.


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Think about brands like Stanley. Sure, they create awesome products (like their vacuum bottle thermos).

But the content they create is designed to draw in a broad audience and get those readers on their site time and time again.

Like this blog post about how to host a football watch party, for example.


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The post isn’t focused around the Stanley brand at all. It’s all about helping readers throw a great football get together.

But then, at the end of the article, the brand subtly ties one of their products in with the post.


That’s how you do it.

Some brands use influencers to help them with their content growth strategy, like this sponsored YouTube video from Water Underground Project by Michelle Khare.


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The video revolves around Michelle Khare trying to haul five gallons of water through the wilderness for two miles.

At first, it seems like yet another internet challenge, until Michelle explains that most women in poverty-stricken countries carried five gallons of water or more for huge distances each day.

She attempts to carry the water to prove a point: most people are spoiled a** rotten because they have running water.

So if you want to help those who don’t, you can donate to Water Underground Project, a non-profit business who also sponsored the video.


If I’m honest, this video successfully guilt-tripped me into donating. So it clearly did its job.

According to the email I received a few weeks after donating, the video helped raise more than $30,000 for a Water Underground project — more than seven times the amount of the original $4,000 goal.


While the business behind this content is a nonprofit, they’re using the same content marketing strategies that for-profit companies could and should be using.

They’re indirectly promoting their company to gain more trusting “customers.”

To create your content marketing strategy, you’ll need some sort of framework.

Content Marketing Strategy Framework: How to Create a Content Strategy

The folks at InfusionSoft have a pretty mind-blowing way of outlining a content marketing strategy framework.

It’s essentially a five-step strategy for “How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy for Dummies.”

First, evaluate your objectives. Why do you want to do content marketing? Is it just because someone told you that you should?

Light some incense, put on “Only Time” by Enya, and evaluate why you actually want to create a content growth strategy.


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Second, figure out how you plan to measure your success.

Are you going to base it on how many views or shares you get on each piece of content? Or how your content correlates with sales? Maybe both?

There’s no right or wrong way to measure success because the way you measure it will depend on what success specifically looks like for you and your brand.

Third, outline your audience. Who do you want to reach? Who is your target demographic?

Once you’ve figured that out, you can move on to the fourth step: deciding which channels to place your content on. Where can you best reach your target audience?

Finally, it’s time for the fifth step, which is choosing your tactics. How do you plan to meet all of your objectives?

This might take a bit of time and collaboration with your team, but you should have a solid framework outlined by the time you’ve completed each step.

If you still need some help or you’re lazy (like me) and want a more guided option, use this free content marketing framework workbook from Content Marketing Institute.


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Instead of five steps or areas, this workbook covers seven:

  1. Plan
  2. Audience
  3. Story
  4. Channels
  5. Process
  6. Conversations
  7. Measurement

Now that you have a framework laid out, we need to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly. You don’t want your content to be a pair of Crocs in a world full of Louboutins.


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What works in the world of content marketing? What doesn’t?

Content Marketing Strategy Examples: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

When it comes to content marketing, there are a few things you should avoid.

Sure, a good old blog post is pretty safe. But even that could go wrong.

For example, if you pretend to write something that’s groundbreaking or life-changing when it just isn’t, you’ll probably get some eye rolls.

I’m looking at you, generic post called “Eat Less to Lose Weight.”

Avoid writing about obvious or well-known topics. Instead, focus on something a bit more niche or tell your audience something they don’t already know.

That said, you don’t want to get too technical.

Technical posts are part of what was holding back ModernWeb before Grow & Convert helped them gain 10,000 hyper-targeted visitors in just three weeks with a content strategy makeover.


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If your industry is highly technical, break down complex topics into layman’s terms so that even beginners can understand what you’re saying.

And, if you decide to use infographics, keep it simple. No one wants to view an infographic that’s too heavy on the “graphics” and too light on the “info.”


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That said, there are some things you should do when crafting your content marketing strategy, like retarget your content to more than one segmented audience.


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And never forget to think outside of the box. Your content doesn’t have to be limited to the cookie cutter options like a blog post or a video.

Create a game instead, like SEMrush’s Easter Egg Hunt.


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The egg hunt challenges users to find 15 “Easter eggs,” which can only be discovered by navigating through certain SEMrush tools.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, the game, launched in April 2017, has earned more than 9,300 participants and more than eight million Twitter impressions.

Create your own game as a way to get users onto your site to explore.

Keep reading for similar content growth tips that will take your work from weak to chic.

Get Edgy to Go Viral

We’ve all dreamed about going viral at one point or another. But to do so, you have to set your content apart from everyone else’s.

And sometimes, that can be hard. But it’s also why being controversial might not be a bad thing.

Controversies get attention. Just look at the views that Childish Gambino racked up on his controversial music video for “This Is America.”


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It works. And it works because people have emotional reactions to controversy.

Don’t just take my word for it, though. Look at the PAD emotional state model, a psychological model created to measure and describe different emotional states.

PAD stands for:

  • Pleasure
  • Arousal
  • Dominance


In psychology, valence is a measurement for the strength of different emotional responses. And valence can either be positive or negative.

For example, psychologists consider anger a high-valence negative emotion while they regard happiness as a high-valence positive emotion. Indifference is a low-valence emotion.


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Viewing, seeing, or hearing about a controversial topic will elicit some response from your readers or viewers, whether it be a pleasure (positive high-valence) or displeasure (negative high-valence).

This response can have a significant impact on decision making.

TL;DR? Don’t piss off your audience with your controversial post unless the solution to their anger is something you can offer them.


Arousal is a measurement of how energized a person feels. This can be positive or negative, just like valence.

Anxiety, for example, constitutes negative arousal, while excitement constitutes positive arousal.

Since these are emotions, arousal (whether positive or negative) can also drive decisions.

Side note: I firmly believe this is why dog videos rack up so many views.


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They cause the perfect combination of positive arousal and high-valence positive emotions in viewers unless you’re heartless.


Dominance/submissiveness refers to how “in control” a person feels about the current state of their emotions, regardless of whether or not they’re positive or negative.

For example, psychologists consider fear as a submissive emotion, while anger is a dominant one.

The more dominant a person is feeling, the faster they will be able to make a decision.

This means that people are more likely to purchase, share, or talk about something if they feel that it gives them some control.

Keep the PAD model in mind when creating controversial content that pushes boundaries and elicits a response from your audience.

If you hit the nail on the head and cause readers or viewers to feel the perfect levels of pleasure, arousal, and dominance, your content will have the potential to see huge numbers.

But you have to get the headline right.

Quit Writing S#*! Headlines

“Good” content isn’t good enough anymore. Neither is a “good” headline.

Format your headlines based on the primary and secondary keywords you plan to use. That way, you can kill two birds with one stone: optimize your headline and knock out some SEO.

Before you give a headline the green light, run it through a tool like the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer.

This tool will tell you your headline type, give it an overall score, and complete an analysis of its structure, grammar, and readability.


If you get a “high score” headline, the color of the “score” will turn from red or yellow to green.


The tool also breaks down what percentage of the words used are common, uncommon, emotional, or power words.

You’ll also be able to see which keywords you are using in your headline, as well as the overall “sentiment” of the words.


If you want to get really crazy, build your own free tools and use those to market your brand.

Build a Free Tool

Most people might not think that tools count as content, but I disagree.

Creating free tools like WordStream’s Adwords Grader can help you generate tons of leads, get in touch with your target market, and prove yourself as a valuable player in your industry.

Tools will draw in more of your target audience by helping them accomplish tasks that would otherwise be time-consuming, just like link-worthy blog posts do by offering information, tips, and examples.

And it’s easy to gain conversions with free tools, because how else will users be able to receive that report you promised them?


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You should also use your own data to provide valuable research that can help take your brand to the next level.

Use Your Own Data

Original data is one of the best ways to prove yourself as an industry thought leader that people will trust (and want to buy from).

Think of a few commonly known best practices in your industry that need some more research to back up their effectiveness.

Then, conduct your own research to prove or disprove this belief.

Survey your current customer base or put it to the test yourself to see if it has any positive or negative effect on your content.

Then, compile all of your research and post it as an exclusive resource.

You can even make it an annual report and release your findings each year, like HubSpot’s State of Inbound reports.


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If you don’t want to go through the trouble of completing your own research, it’s pretty easy to use your existing numbers as examples.

Here’s a blog post we refer to about our MRR, for example.


Creating a content growth strategy isn’t the most fun way to spend your time.

But there are a few ways to take your content growth strategy from zero to 100 in no time.

For starters, you should throw out the idea that basic best practices work for everyone. Instead, think of content marketing as a way to stimulate interest in your brand, not promote it.

Create a content marketing strategy framework by deciding on your objectives, metrics, audience, channels, and tactics.

Then, avoid making rookie mistakes like writing hyper-technical posts that scare away most readers.

Instead, think outside of the box.

Get edgy and use the PAD emotional state model for a greater chance of going viral.

Analyze all of your headlines with the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer and include primary and secondary keywords in them for an added SEO bonus.

Remember that content doesn’t have to be limited to the norm. Create your own free tool to generate and capture leads.

Finally, use your own data in your content, whether it’s data from a case study you complete or your existing numbers.

Your content growth strategy doesn’t have to suffer any longer, and neither do you. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start creating the content that your audience deserves.


Want Customers to Open Your SaaS Emails? Send Better ones.

I have 2,689 unread emails in one of my inboxes.


I check this inbox every day. Sometimes, I even open an email.

But 99% of everything in it has the same appeal as getting a microdermabrasion facial with a ten-hour sunburn.

Painfully tedious, borderline scarring, and prone to inducing existential nihilism.

The worst offenders are the SaaS email marketing campaigns that borrow BuzzFeed’s headline tricks without any of the self-indulgent entertainment factors.

It’s a lose-lose scenario. They’re sending emails I don’t want to read, and if I do, I don’t click anything except my back button.

If your customers are feeling the same way and your open rates show it, here’s how to flip the script and get back on a win-win track with emails they want to read.

Why SaaS Email Marketing Matters More

Email (and live chat, if it’s applicable) is your primary communication channel as a SaaS company.

You might have other channels like social and SMS, but it’s not where your customers want to meet you — especially for marketing.

In fact, email is the safest channel for commercial outreach. Users are only 22% averse to receiving marketing messages through email.


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And since you should reserve aversion for distant family members and exes you once drunk dialed (sorry, Josh), that makes email a sweet spot of communication for SaaS companies.

It also means if you get said communication wrong, you may be cutting off the only avenue of contact you have with that customer.

In other words, you may be heading for the dreaded churn.

If you’re not familiar with what customer churn is — I seriously envy you, for one — but it’s basically the worst thing that can ever happen to your business.

It’s losing customers (and their money).

Unfortunately, it’s also natural. You’ll lose about half your customers every five years.


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Here’s another fast statistic for you, and it’s a big one:

Dropping your churn rate down by 5% can boost your profits by 125%.

So, now that we’ve covered how emails are your lifeline as a SaaS company and getting them wrong can spell financial ruin (or just no financial gain, which is pretty parallel), here’s what you can do about it.

You can send these six types of emails that customers want to receive.

Helpfully, we’ve sorted these into two categories — customer engagement and brand engagement — to make it easier for you to sound impressive in your next shareholder meeting.

Customer Engagement Emails

1. Welcome/Activation Emails

A warm welcome is a prerequisite for being Southern (which I am), and in the case of SaaS marketing, it’s an excellent opportunity to set expectations and offer a clear value proposition for your lead.

It also should be sent immediately with a snappier-than-frostbite subject line.


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Why should you rush the send (or automate it)?

Because there’s practically no email more well-received than the welcome email. They have an open rate of 50%, which puts these emails at an 86% overlordship above a garden variety newsletter.


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If you want your welcome email to go even further, add free, valuable content to back up your value propositions like InVision does here.


This is just a crop to show off my favorite feature of the email — in addition to a hella useful asset like a UI kit, this email included a link to a massive list of free plugins for one of design’s hottest programs and an inspiration swipe.

The headline wasn’t bad, either. Peep this:


So despite having to compete with 2,689 unreads (hey, at least it’s not 257,623), this one got me to click. Why? Because it offered me free stuff.

And, thanks to that free stuff being useful and audience-specific, it got me to partake in the content that they offered.

This lead? Nurtured.

Key Takeaway: Welcome emails are welcomed. Give them even more gravitas with clear value propositions and helpful content.

2. Thank You Emails

Saying “thank you” is another one of those Southern prerequisites that crossover with strong SaaS marketing.

You can say it after someone signs up as a subscriber as InVision did in the above example, after a purchase, or any other time, but bottom line: they’re a courteous — and engagement-boosting — touch.

And, like the welcome email, users are highly receptive to it. Check this out:

Thank you emails have an open rate of 61.73%.


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The psychology behind why these emails work is pretty simple:

It makes users happier when they read it.

This is similar to how I felt when Grammarly sent me this email to thank me for forking over a small kidney (for my budget).


It’s a small touch, but the excitement of the email helped offset my immediate soul-crushing despair as I stared down the receipt.

Plus, they used the opportunity to educate me more on the product and give me a lifeline to customer support.

Well done, disconcertingly intelligent AI.

Key Takeaway: Mind your manners and say thank you. It can go a long way toward engagement, and in turn, that goes a long way toward keeping your customers from churning.

3. Apology Emails

Speaking of manners…

Look: lousy customer experiences happen. But they don’t have to lead to churn if you’re fast and sincere in how you deal with them.

And you do need to be fast.

Just one negative experience can cost you over half your customers.


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But don’t just stop at fixing the issue and paying the disgruntled customer off like a low-grade mafia member.

Apologize and own up to the problem.

And then move on and start talking about solutions.

New research from interactions between customer service representatives and 111 of the most stressed-out customers — airline passengers with bags on their way to hyperspace and flights that connect twenty minutes before they land — finds that an extended apology can backfire.

If your apology takes more than a few seconds, they perceive it as a distraction. Customers want you to give them results, not platitudes.

Not many platitudes, anyway: it is true that customer satisfaction doubles when you combine an apology with compensation. So some platitudes are definitely a plus.

But at the risk of sounding new age and like I sell holistic aprons out of a minivan, it’s all about balance.

Check out this boss-level example of balance from ecommerce clothing retailer Everlane.


Quick to the apology, specific in its explanation, clear in its solution — and this is the most critical part, sincere in its execution — this is the kind of apology that could save a relationship.

(Brb, emailing Josh like I’m Everlane’s PR team.)

Key Takeaway: Mistakes happen. Apologize when they do and start talking solutions. To err is human; to correct divine.

Brand Engagement Emails

4. Newsletters

An excellent newsletter is one of my favorite things to find in my inbox.

Sometimes I find really, really good ones that resonate with me. And when I do? I click on the links and browse the site, hiding from my editors.

Which is in line with Greentech Media’s study that found users who read their newsletter spent 80% more time on the site.


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Typical content for a newsletter includes summaries of new blog posts, company announcements, and lead magnets.

Unfortunately, a lot of SaaS newsletters do their best to bore you into submission with “good enough” content.

One of my absolute favorites — as in, I remember this one and think about it when looking at every other newsletter — came from Copyblogger.


This is newsletter content done right. It starts off challenging — who’s ever heard of ethical marketing, right? — then pivots, repositioning itself and offering a unique value proposition for their upcoming workshop.

It also includes a ton of image-rich snippets that I haven’t included in the screenshot because it was holy-mother-of-spaghetti long, but you know what I did do?

I scrolled through and checked out a few of those snippets because the content at the top hooked me enough to make the case.

Is your newsletter doing the same?

Key Takeaway: Newsletters are the chance for your copy skills to shine, so let them. The better your copy, the better chance you have of getting a user to spend time on the site — and in the store.

5. Event Invitations (Webinars)

No industry loves a webinar quite like the software and technology sector.

Software and technology — in other words, SaaS — companies host 26% of all webinars.


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And if you’ve ever subscribed to a site that’s putting on a webinar, you know how damn needy companies get about advertising it.

It makes me hit the unsubscribe button like it’s made of my money.

Obnoxious email frequency is the number one cause behind unsubscriptions. The best number of emails to send for events?

About one. Once a week. Maybe two.


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Which is why I love Hootsuite’s elegant webinar invitation.


Beyond the fact that it’s hitting my subtle gradient aesthetic, it’s just that: a single email that tells me about an upcoming event I might be interested in.

Be like Hootsuite. Send a webinar email.

And then stop sending emails about the webinar. Please.

Key Takeaway: Telling customers about current events and webinars is a great way to get them to engage with your brand — but stop short of yelling at them over their inboxes. Just one email is fine. Really.

6. Inactive/Win-Back Emails

Remember talking about customer churn? Acquiring a new customer is a lot like trying to source a new car: expensive.

This is probably why 52% of SaaS companies have been doubling-down on their customer retention efforts.


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Enter the win-back email. It’s the email equivalent of a boombox outside of your customer’s window, except nowhere near as creepy or intrusive.

And, if done well, 12% of dead-as-a-doorknob subscribers will re-engage with your brand.

What makes a win-back email stand out?

Authenticity, in my experience, and an offer too good to resist.

DramaFever does this better than anyone I’ve ever seen.


Funny, catchy, and offering me the top-rated dramas I don’t have time to watch but would if I could, this is a stellar example of how to do the win-back.

Chiefly, by doing it in a way that’s uniquely on-brand and unlike anyone else.

Because let’s face it: the only thing you’ve got going for you is what your customers fell in love with in the first place, so don’t try to win them back by being someone else.

Key Takeaway: Win-backs are like email necromancers, and if you do them right — which means in a way that’s uniquely on brand — you can get back 12% of your subscribers and keep them from churning.


Email marketing is the heart and soul of your customer communication as a SaaS company.

Which means you really, really need to get it right.

Begin by sending emails people actually want to read.

Welcome emails are a good start. Thank you emails are even better.

And if you screw up? Say sorry. Then tell them how you’re going to make things right.

Sending a newsletter that’s anything less-than-amazing is a waste of everyone’s time. Make newsletters as tight and crisp as any other piece of copy you produce.

Got a webinar coming up? Cool. Great. Tell customers about it. They may be interested. But resist the urge to tell them about it repeatedly. Seriously. Don’t be that guy. They’ll unsubscribe.

Finally, if you want to keep your customers around, do your best to win them back. Win-back emails are a last-ditch effort that can actually revive 12% of them — as long as you’re on brand and making an offer worth their miraculous return.