The answer is yes, and in this week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast, I'm interviewing Databox CEO, Pete Caputa about the strategies he used to grow the company's website traffic by 600% and inbound leads by 400% in just 9 months.
He's got some simple, actionable takeaways anyone can use right away to boost traffic, so you won't want to miss this episode!
Here’s what Pete and I discussed on this week’s show:
Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome to the Inbound Success Podcast. My name is Kathleen Booth and today my guest is Pete Caputa, CEO of Databox. Welcome, Pete.
Pete Caputa (Guest): Thanks, Kathleen. It's good to be here.
Kathleen Booth: I am excited to have you. I would love to just start things up by having you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself because you have an interesting background having transitioned from a very large, enterprise-level organization to a startup. Let's hear more about that.
Pete Caputa: I joined HubSpot in 2007 when it was just 15 people. That was pretty much a startup as well although it just raised a series A round. I stuck with HubSpot for a little over nine years. I was in sales initially, and I started the partner program for marketing agencies, which you know very well, and then built that up.
After the IPO, I was looking for my next challenge, and ended up blogging for HubSpot for a year, so that was fun and very stress-free and I had a huge audience and freedom and flexibility to just write. So I did that for about a year and then I started looking for something a little more entrepreneurial. I knew I wanted to be part of a nimble team again, and ended up joining Databox in January of this past year, and have been there now for nine months.
Kathleen Booth: Tell us a little bit about Databox for those who haven't heard of it.
Pete Caputa: Databox helps marketers and marketing agencies to consolidate all the data that's important to performance. We pull in data from Google Analytics and HubSpot and Adwords and Facebook ads and so on. We have 50 plus connectors that allow marketers to build dashboards that they can use to monitor that data. They can set goals in there, set alerts in case they want to monitor numbers and really pay attention to their data so they can fine tune their marketing processes in real time.
Kathleen Booth: A lot of the agencies that you are working with have, or work with clients that have, some kind of marketing automation software, whether it's HubSpot or Marketo or Pardot. Tell me a little bit about what Databox does that those platforms aren't capable of doing on their own because presumably, you are adding some value there.
Pete Caputa: I think the number one thing is the consolidation of data. Most marketers use multiple tools. You might use HubSpot or Marketo, but you're also going to need Google Analytics for more fine-tuned analytics, and you're most likely going to run ads on multiple platforms. Then, you might do stuff organically in the social platforms and you want to pay attention to that.
There are all kinds of data that are all over the place and what most companies do is spend time at the end of the month cutting and pasting graphs into PowerPoint or Keynote or maybe even typing numbers into columns in a spreadsheet and then using that to communicate either with their team, up the organization, down the organization, et cetera.
With agencies, specifically, they're using those PowerPoints or spreadsheets to communicate to clients. It's very time-consuming, first of all, and prone to error, second. Third, it's for internal communication and marketers have to log in to multiple tools to just get the information. Databox enables marketers - especially ones that practice agile marketing - to pay attention in real time against their goals so that everybody can see performance.
Kathleen Booth: It's funny listening to you talk about cutting and pasting graphs and things. I have to laugh because, as you know, I owned my own marketing agency for ten years and every month, at the end of the month, when it would come time for my staff to do client reports, people would get this look on their faces that reminds me of when I ask my 11-year-old son to make his bed. Like, "Do we really have to do it? I'll get around to it in an hour"...that kind of thing. It's super tedious and it's not value-added work when all you're doing is copying and pasting, so the struggle is real.
Pete Caputa: I hate communication for communication's sake. HubSpot went from 15 to 1500 employees and obviously, communication is critical and all that, but my job ended up being almost all communication and a lot less innovation, and I think the more processes that can be automated for any size organization, the more value-add and more interesting work that people can do.
Kathleen Booth: The one last thing I would add that I think your product does really well, is help marketers who need to communicate results to a fairly diverse audience. You probably have somebody who wants to see the nuts and bolts of the results you're getting, like what are your email open rates and your click-through rates, but then at some level that information needs to go to the CEO who honestly doesn't care about that. They want to know how many leads the company is getting and what the ROI of their marketing spend is. I like that with Databox, you're able to have different dashboards for different audiences because people don't care about the same things.
Pete Caputa: That's a really good point. Most of our customers don't realize that value and that benefit until after they've automated. But once you do automate the crap work, it makes it easy to create different views for different stakeholders, so that you can have that simpler view for the CEO or just the smaller business that doesn't care about the details, and then have the much more detailed view for the VP of Marketing or the VP of Sales.
Kathleen Booth: You've gone from working in what became a very large company to a scrappy, smaller startup, and in the very beginning when you joined, even though you were CEO, you were very involved in the marketing of the company. Having gone through the evolution of HubSpot from startup to publicly-traded company, I'd love to hear what you saw that worked well for HubSpot from a marketing standpoint. I have to imagine you can't do those same things in a small startup. The world of marketing is changing and what might've worked when HubSpot first started does not necessarily work for a startup now in the same position.
Pete Caputa: When I joined HubSpot back in the day, internet marketing was still pretty uncommonly practiced by most companies. We were able to just blog a few times a week, and do a lot of webinars and eBooks. That relatively simple playbook early on allowed HubSpot to generate thousands, ultimately tens of thousands of leads per month. Over time, HubSpot just doubled down or 100x-ed their effort around those activities. I think I heard Matthew Barby who is the SEO and Growth Manager there at HubSpot talk about how they publish 250 to 300 blog articles per month now. They have three blogs. They also have the blog on Medium - Think Growth I think it's called - so they have four blogs technically. Then, they're obviously publishing stuff that makes content native for social now.
Kathleen Booth: Plus two podcasts.
Pete Caputa: Right, multiple podcasts. The woman I worked with on the sales blog when I was writing there now runs the whole content team and I think she has 30 people just writing content. Obviously, this went from one or two marketers up to probably several hundred marketers at the company total, but 30 people just churning out content, so it's a massive team. At this point, they are still growing traffic. They've really aggressively went into the freemium model with the free CRM and free marketing tool and I don't know the numbers and they don't share them, but my guess is that they're getting tens of thousands of new users from those free tools. They have this massive machine that's going. I still think it's largely a lot of the same stuff that they did back in the day. Obviously, they got more sophisticated with their content, more sophisticated with paid ads and ...
Kathleen Booth: I was going to say that's something a lot of people don't realize. They do supplement their inbound with paid ads. It's not a totally purist inbound marketing approach.
Pete Caputa: The paid ads budget was really small even up until 2014, maybe it was a million a year and for a company that was doing a hundred million plus. It's pretty small and growing 30 percent year-over-year is still a pretty small amount. But I imagine that it's a bigger budget these days.
Kathleen Booth: Leaving that and walking into Databox, where do you even start?
Pete Caputa: Yeah. We're spending about $5 a day.
Kathleen Booth: So where do you begin?
Pete Caputa: The company has been around since 2012 and I joined in January - nine months ago. They had a go-to-market team a few years back, but it didn't work and they pivoted more to a freemium model so they built it to be very simple to set up so that users would come in from the marketing side and try the product and some percentage would buy. That was really small numbers, though. I think they had 4,000 to 5,000 visitors a month to the website, so obviously, that's not producing a lot of revenue. The first thing I wanted to figure out is, could we apply some content marketing hustle to this and increase both the traffic and the sign-up rate? Then, assuming we could do that, we knew that a certain percentage of people bought based on some reactive support efforts, so I knew if I could grow traffic and sign-ups, then we'd be in a good shape to be able to scale the business.
I spent three months doing that myself and getting the numbers moving in the right direction. We had raised a little bit of money, so I could afford to hire people. The first person I hired was a marketer. Second was somebody to help actually build out an agency partner program and then a sales manager that used to work for me at HubSpot knocked on my door and said, "Hey, I'm looking for something new," so he ended up joining. Then just this past month we hired one more marketer. We have a pretty lean team. Everybody contributes to content. We do webinars for our partners to train them and educate them on stuff. Then, on the marketing side, we do bunch of collaborative stuff to really pump up the content volume, and I think we're probably averaging about five articles a week, 20 to 25 articles a month, and we'll try to double that over the next few months.
Kathleen Booth: That's fantastic for such a small team. I'm really curious. How many people total do you have in the company right now?
Pete Caputa: 16 people total, 10 on the product side.
Kathleen Booth: 10 on the product side and then the six on the marketing and sales team. A lot of the people that listen to this are from the SMB market - they're smaller and medium-sized businesses. When I talk to those people, they are the chief cook and bottle washer, they kind of have to be ready to do a little bit of everything, but then as they start to get some budget, the question becomes, "Who is the first, the second, the third hire?" It seems like the majority of the people that I talk to lean towards hiring on the sales side and it sounds like you really went hard on hiring on the marketing side. I would love to have you talk just a little bit about the reasoning for that.
Pete Caputa: I think it depends a lot on the average sales price and industries are very different. If you're selling high-touch services, I'd probably hire a sales person first, too. The first thing that I did was get on the phone with people trying to figure out how to sell the product and how to identify the value. I think you can't hire one or the other and expect it to work. I kind of filled both of those shoes in the beginning and then when I hired the marketer, I was still doing the sales.
To a degree, I really invested in both at the same time, but because our average sale price is so low, there's really no way to scale it with the right unit economics. If I only invested in sales, if my sales person had to cold call all day and close deals, that wouldn't work out too well. The reason I invested in marketing is because I knew that if I could get the right people signing up for the product, I could create opportunities for the sales person to get on a call with a semi-closed deal. I got a call the other day from a prospect who no one had ever talked to from Databox saying, "I love Databox. I'm about to roll it out to all my clients." Those are literally his first two sentences. I don't even think we said, "Hello." That's the kind of selling that can be done through marketing.
Pete Caputa: And product design, right? Product design is key.
Kathleen Booth: It sounds like I'm hearing two different things. One is you have to really understand the economics, and if your average sale price is on the lower side, you have to make sure that the cost of that sale makes sense within the context of the revenue you're going to bring in. Lowering the cost of sale as much as you can is critical. In your case, that meant driving a lot of the sales process through marketing. But it sounds like the other half of that equation is really understanding your audience and how they buy because if they need their hand held through the process, that changes things a little bit.
Let's shift from big picture down to specifics on this campaign. Tell me about who your audience is for Databox.
Pete Caputa: We're straddling a little bit. Our long-term goal is to serve any business, which I know every company says that. It's part of the reason we're keeping the price point low - because we want to be able to serve small businesses. We have a pretty generous free plan that a lot of solopreneurs use. Our audience is pretty broad. We're about to relaunch our home page and it'll be pretty broad; however, we create funnels within there and we have two focuses where both sales and marketing are very focused. One is marketing agencies in general, or I should say, smaller marketing agencies who are one to a hundred employee type firms. Then, HubSpot partners specifically.
I started the HubSpot partner program so I have a lot of relationships and it was a great place for us to start. We then spent a lot of time building out an integration with HubSpot, which was no small feat given the volume of data and the variety of ways in which people want to view it. We built a very in-depth integration with HubSpot, which allows us to really serve a HubSpot partner very efficiently and effectively. Like I said, like that example phone call I mentioned earlier, if a HubSpot partner gets into our product and spends just a little bit of time in it, they'll realize - assuming they're doing some version of reporting on HubSpot now - they'll realize that it can save them a lot of time.
Our proactive selling efforts and proactive prospecting efforts and a lot of our marketing efforts are focused just on HubSpot partners. There's 4,000 of them in the world, so it's a big enough audience for us to get what I call a beachhead from which we can then expand. About a little more than, I think, two-thirds of our agency partners are HubSpot partners, so we're still able to appeal to smaller agencies that aren't HubSpot partners. I sometimes call them "pre-HubSpot partners", but for the most part, we're zeroed in on the HubSpot partners.
Kathleen Booth: You can't boil the ocean. If your ultimate goal is to serve every business, you have to start by going deep in one vertical and it sounds like not only did that enable you to effectively leverage the limited resources you have from a marketing standpoint, but it also almost sounds like I'm hearing some elements of agile in there, where you really are getting to know your customer base and using that as an opportunity to iterate on the product and learn before you start to roll it out to the whole world.
Pete Caputa: My co-founder and I'd say the main guy at Databox, is named Davorin Gabrovec, and he and the team are actually from Slovenia and he's here now, but the rest of the team is still in Slovenia, central Europe. But he's a product guy true and true, and they run off of Agile very well. So initially, we started building out an integration and then as we started getting a bunch of HubSpot partners using it, we got lots of requests. I know you were one of our early users, you and Stacy. We had lots of requests from your team and we accommodated most of those, I think.
Kathleen Booth: We're very good at being the squeaky wheel.
Pete Caputa: Exactly. We built that into the product. We also built a lot of agency-specific features since I joined that are more applicable to any marketing agency that has multiple clients and they do lots of reporting for each of those clients. We've got a lot of features based on feedback from customers. We'll record things, we'll send it to the team, they'll get on calls, ask questions with our customers to figure out exactly how we can make lives easier there and help them more effectively communicate value in the reporting process. Definitely very agile. I just hired a guy named John Bonini who I think you might know, he was actually at IMPACT for a few years. He was most recently at Litmus managing their growth marketing. One of the things he'll be doing is implementing Agile for our sales and marketing and the service projects as well. Things that we do to improve our processes there.
Kathleen Booth: You have this big network with HubSpot partners that you've built over the years, and that network plays into how you are working at building traffic at Databox. Let's go into the campaign itself. Tell me a little bit about what you've been doing. We talked about the audience and I'd love to hear the mechanics of how you've been working on building traffic for the company.
Pete Caputa: I'm a very collaborative guy, mostly because I don't like to do things repetitively myself, so if I can figure out ways that other people can do pieces of my work and join my mission, I'm all for it. The campaigns that we've been running are very similar to stuff that I've done at HubSpot in the past, and other companies do it as well, although I don't think anyone's doing it at the level of scale or repetition that we're doing it. We crowdsource a lot of our content by running quick surveys. I'm sure people have reached out to you and ask you, "Can I interview you for a blog post?" Or, "Could you answer a few questions? I'm writing an article. Would you like to contribute to it?" What we do is we brainstorm topics, we pop up a quickSurveyMonkey for each of those topics, and then we send that out both to a list and also to individuals that we think might be able to contribute.
We've done this over and over again. At this point, probably two of our articles a week are sourced in this way. They end up being great list posts, so we'll have like "21 HubSpot Integrations Top Users Swear By" would be an example of an article. We have "18 Tips to Help Increase Your Sales Team's Activity," and so those are obviously 18 people or 16 people or 22 people, whatever it is, contributing a paragraph or two to the article. It helps us write the articles a lot quicker, right? If I sat down and tried to write 18 sales tips, I'd probably not make it to 18.
Kathleen Booth: Right. It would be more like 5.
Pete Caputa: Exactly, because I don't think I know 18. Then, it would probably take me two to three days to do it, right? Then, copyrighting and editing and all that with somebody else's help. With this approach, we can get these things written without spending more than an hour or two on it because basically what we're doing is curating and compiling it.
Kathleen Booth: You save a lot of time, which is great. Now, that kind of helps put some context around how you're able to produce as much content as you do with a small team. But, talk about some of the other benefits of that approach because I have to imagine you're involving other people in it. Does that then expand your audience to their audience?
Pete Caputa: There's two benefits we've realized by doing it at a certain frequency. One is that the people that contribute frequently share it, so our social traffic has gone up as a result. Occasionally we'll get links to it as well from some of those people, which certainly helps with organic traffic. Organic traffic is really our main driver of traffic and sign-ups. That's a big deal. It's that sharing and linking that we get from the participants. The people that contribute to it also really like it, right? It's very targeted. If they have a sales tip to increase activity, chances are they don't have 18 in their repertoire and so they learn something from it. I was surprised with the one we did on the HubSpot features. There's a lot of features in HubSpot, and so there's no way for anyone to be an expert at all of them. Some of the people that contributed to that one had some really interesting ways of deploying HubSpot that they shared and so I got comments from a bunch of contributors saying, "Wow. That's a really great list. I just learned something from it."
I think, in a way, we're pulling out lessons that otherwise would never be shared or published. A lot of people aren't gonna sit down and write out a hundred and fifty-word blog post with one tip in it. Therefore, maybe it never gets shared or never gets seen by people that could appreciate and value it. I think, in a way, a second benefit really is creating a little bit of a community around it where people feel like they're a part of it and they're learning from it. The third thing that we use it for is targeting our prospecting, and this is the one I wasn't gonna share with people until I realized not many people take me up on it after I share the idea anyway. A lot of sales people I think reach out and their first message sucks. It's like, "We're awesome at this and we can help you with that and would you like to spend 30 minutes on a call with me even though I'm a stranger?" Obviously, they don't say that in an e-mail, but that's pretty much what they're trying to do is they're trying to come in. It's like somebody walking up to you and saying, "I'm awesome. You should go out with me."
Kathleen Booth: That's a great and very effective approach. Not!
Pete Caputa: Yeah, yeah. Right. No. Maybe if he or she is very attractive or something, who knows? Or famous.
Kathleen Booth: You'd have to be really attractive.
Pete Caputa: Yeah.
Kathleen Booth: And the other person would have to be very single and somewhat desperate.
Pete Caputa: Exactly. Totally ignores the person's situation. Sales people do that, right? They have no idea whether this person is a good fit or the timing is right, but they do it in pitching nonetheless and asking for time. This kind of flips that model a little bit to more of a, "Hey, I like what you're doing. I checked out your website, Mr. Prospect," and obviously they're not calling them, "Mr. Prospect," but they're a prospect. "I checked out your website. I like the content you're writing. You wrote an article on this topic, it seems, that did really well. I enjoyed it. I learned X, Y from it. We're writing an article on a similar topic. Would you be interested in contributing to it?" The response rate on that, especially if that outreach message is customized, is very high.
Kathleen Booth: What do you mean by "high"?
Pete Caputa: Well, we do a lot of it on social sites, so I don't have great tracking. My guess is that it's above 50 percent. Very quick response rate.
Kathleen Booth: That's actually very high. How much are you asking them to write when they respond? What does that survey look like?
Pete Caputa: Not much. One, we're picking a topic we already know they have some expertise on, and maybe even published a full article on themselves, so it should be relatively quick. It should take them five, ten minutes to form a few sentences. All we're asking for is a handful of sentences. If they've written something about it, we ask them for that, too, and we'll link to it as well.
Kathleen Booth: Okay. That's great.
Pete Caputa: We're targeting agencies. We're targeting HubSpot partners. We're targeting the better HubSpot partners. This kind of approach works really well for them. The pushback I've gotten from people on this is like, "Well, not everybody lives online. Not everybody cares about a link. Not everybody is focused on marketing their business." I think we get a good hit rate because the technique or the tactic, whatever, works well with the audience.
Kathleen Booth: Well, they already understand the value of getting mentioned and hopefully getting a link back to their website. I imagine if you were in a different industry doing this, you probably have to do a little bit more messaging up front on, "Here's why it's worth your time to do this."
Pete Caputa: Exactly. We get a good response rate there, and then everything else works its way through because we're targeting someone we know we can help with our products and services. Then, our mentioning them in our post and linking to them and they share it and it's on our domain, most of them at that point say, "What do you do?", or they check out what we do, or they just sign up for what we do, and we have a free plan that they can start using. That really helps us to get the right people into the funnel at a pretty high rate. Obviously, not everybody needs what we have, the timing might not be right, and all that, but because we're so targeted with that approach and our messaging generally matches what they need, it helps us really fill the top of the funnel.
Kathleen Booth: You're doing these surveys, you're getting responses from people, and then you take that raw data. What do those blogs look like? Structurally, you want to do this in a way that's time-saving, so how do you use that information?
Pete Caputa: They're pretty simple. My content marketing manager, Kevin Kononenko, does these. He takes the raw input from the surveys. We always ask one open-ended question so that we get a paragraph or two from somebody and then we started to ask more close-ended, multiple choice type questions so that we can actually have some data in the article as well, but it's pretty simple. He looks at the themes of the responses, comes up with an opener, comes up with a conclusion, usually figures out some way to organize it. I think if you looked at the "21 HubSpot Integrations" article, you'd see the features that are designed for growing traffic, generating leads, turning leads into sales, et cetera. You'd see it broken out and organized that way so that the quotes are organized in some fashion. Then, we give it a title that is either SEO optimized or optimized for sharing, or both if possible, and then push it out. It's pretty simple.
Kathleen Booth: I'll link back to at least one of those articles in the show notes for anybody who wants to see what they look like. You're putting the post together, you're publishing them on your blog and then do you have some kind of post-publication or even pre-publication plan where you reach out to the people that contributed and you tell them, "Here's when it's gonna go live." Do you give them any guidance or suggestions on how they can promote it? What do you do to squeeze as much juice out of that orange as you can?
Pete Caputa: We don't ask for much. I think I contributed to an article the other day that ended up being 48 Experts Share Their Top SEO Predictions for 2018. He did a very formal process, sent three e-mails to us, "Here's your sharing link. I created this image for you with your photo in it." We haven't gone to that level. I think we probably could, but we do get a decent amount of sharing from people that contribute without that much effort. Kevin always reaches out with a link to the article, asks them to share it, and we kinda leave it at that. We don't send multiple e-mails or anything; we're not really hounding them for it. A lot of this is really designed for search traffic; that's our main driver of sign-ups. The social's nice, good validation, obviously it might lead to a link here and there, but we don't want to abuse people with asking them because we do have some people that contribute to our articles once a week, so we don't want to be hitting them over the head with eight e-mails a week asking them for something.
Kathleen Booth: Tell me a little bit about the results you've gotten. How has your overall traffic grown since you've started this approach? Also, are there any particular blogs that have been real star performers for you, and what does that look like?
Pete Caputa: I will bring up my Databox dashboard, so I can give you accurate data. Our traffic when I started in January was 4,000 sessions a month, so we're up to 24,000 sessions over the last 30 days.
Kathleen Booth: Wow. That's a 600 percent increase?
Pete Caputa: Sounds about right. It's a big one. Then, we track website sign-ups. When I started, a lot of the sign-ups were actually from mobile. The company was very focused on being a mobile-first dashboard and the mobile app, it is amazing, but we've shifted a little more towards all devices. You can put your data on mobile, desktop, of course, TV, and even Apple Watch, Slack, and all that. We knew if we were doing content, marketing sign-ups would shift, so I think we probably had about 300 sign ups from the web and about a thousand overall in January. Most of them were coming from mobile. Our mobile sign-ups have gone down because we haven't focused on it, and we're up around 1,400 sign ups a month at this point, so most of them are coming from the web at this point.
Kathleen Booth: 1,400 from a thousand? Or from 300?
Pete Caputa: If I just look at web sign-ups, probably about 300 to close to a thousand from the website, but overall it's around 1,400.
Kathleen Booth: 600 percent growth in visits and about between a 3- and a 500 percent growth in leads depending upon how you measure that?
Pete Caputa: From the website, yes.
Kathleen Booth: That's fantastic.
Pete Caputa: We saw that the mobile sign-ups weren't all that qualified. It was a lot of individuals just like, "Oh, I want to check my stats on my phone." They'd be happy with their free plan or not even continue using it and then the website sign-ups turn into customers at a high rate, so we shifted effort towards that.
Kathleen Booth: Well, that's all within about nine months.
Pete Caputa: Yep.
Kathleen Booth: That's amazing. I think that's really the challenge that most people come to us as agencies with is, "I know I want to build this funnel. How do I do it especially in this day and age when content marketing is not the new, shiny penny?" Everybody's doing it and so how do you stand out from the pack? What's an inexpensive way without paying your way in front of an audience to do it? It sounds like you've tapped into a little vain of gold here.
Pete Caputa: It's not the only thing we do to produce content. We write a lot ourselves. Kevin or I actually interview individuals that we think have an interesting message, so we'll write an article. We just wrote an article with Mark Long, he's an Agile consultant for marketing agencies; it's up on the blog now. For that article, Kevin literally interviewed it and co-wrote most of it for him based on the interview, and he of course blessed it and all that. We also are getting a lot more guest posts now. We're up around 21,000 subscribers to the blog. Our Moz rank is I think around in the mid-40's now, so people are more willing to write for us at this point. A lot of it comes from our partners who not only are willing to write for us, but also know kind of who our persona is. We share a persona, in a way. About two-thirds of our customers are not agencies, but they're pretty self-service and so we're able to go out to our partners and say, "Hey, you want to reach these customers? Here's a really easy way for you to do it." So our partners can write as many guest posts as they want on our blog. They have to conform to editorial standards, but other than that there's no gate to it.
Kathleen Booth: You have all these different types of blogs. You have the crowdsourced ones that we talked about, you have the guest posts, you have the interview ones. Do you notice any difference in traffic to those posts depending upon the type of post that it is?
Pete Caputa: Yeah, so obviously they have data on this as well. We primarily use Google Analytics for this. It's funny, I'm looking at the blog posts with the highest page views for the year, and pretty much every one of them starts with a number.
Kathleen Booth: It's those listicles.
Pete Caputa: But when I look at it, only three out of the top seven are crowdsourced; the rest we wrote internally. I think the list posts help, but they're not always our top performers.
Kathleen Booth: I want to rewind for a second. One of the things you said earlier that I thought was really interesting was that at first, you didn't talk about this approach a lot - the crowdsourced blogging - because it was kind of like your secret sauce. I spoke at a conference the other day about content marketing and one of the examples I always give is why people don't talk about their pricing, their processes, and their approaches. Everybody inevitably says, "Well, because of the competition. Because that's our secret sauce." I always like saying, "Well, you know who really has secret sauce? McDonald's." McDonald's actually has a micro site that they've put up called "Our food. Your questions." People on the site ask, "What's in the secret sauce?" and they not only give you the recipe, but they're like, "Here's a video of our chef making it if you want to know how to do it." That went up in 2012 and I always like to say, "Has anybody noticed since 2012 that Burger King has introduced a secret sauce?" No, they haven't. It's not happening. Wendy's doesn't have it, nobody else has it. It's funny how we all seem to think that we have to guard these...
Pete Caputa: Keep everything secret. Yeah.
Kathleen Booth: Good competitors are not going to copy us because then they just look like us.
Pete Caputa: It's interesting, my sales guy says that whenever I do a podcast, people call him - agencies, especially HubSpot partners, call him - and say, "Hey, I'm ready to sign up." I think by sharing that we're doing this and the benefits to our partners specifically, it goes a long way. We're starting to do some of the surveys together with some of our partners, so they promote the survey to their lists, we promote it to ours, and it helps us to cross-pollinate a little bit.
Kathleen Booth: That's a great idea. I would say we're not normally really product-focused and we don't really push anything on this podcast, but I will say that it's worth noting that I did not tell you in advance of this interview the specific stats and data I was going to ask you to share, but because you run a company that builds a BI dashboard, literally I could fire these at you and you could just sit there and look at your dashboard and answer every single question. There's probably no better commercial for Databox than that if you're a marketer and you're walking into a meeting with your boss or the CEO of the company or you're at an agency and you're going into a meeting with a client, that's what you want to be able to do. They're going to come up with things that you don't anticipate and you want to be able to answer them, so I thought that was pretty awesome. It's like a little test. You passed it with flying colors.
Pete Caputa: I hate nothing more than putting together decks, so this company was perfect for me. I used to have to put together decks at HubSpot and present them to the management team and it would be the first time most of them were seeing the actual data and the first time they were even thinking about the problem, and the first time, of course, they're hearing me pitch a solution. Then, of course, everybody's got a freaking opinion about it. Meanwhile, I spent months/years thinking about it, obsessing over it, experimenting with different things, and everybody in the room is an expert. I love using Databox because I can truly be an expert at all the numbers, I don't have to put together decks, my team doesn't have to put together decks, we communicate through it, so yeah. It's nice having data at your fingertips when you're running a company.
Kathleen Booth: That's great. Well, a couple of quick closing questions for you. In terms of people listening to this podcast, who want to be able to get better results from their inbound marketing, what are some lessons you've learned through this experience that somebody could easily walk away and apply to their own campaigns?
Pete Caputa: I think everybody has industry peers or customers or prospects that are trying to learn something, and I think by collaborating on what those topics should be and then sharing amongst each other to find the answer, I think the world needs more of that in all realms. Maybe you don't need to 5x your traffic, but by having that dialogue open on social and your blog and sharing what you learned from other people, I think it goes a long way at engendering an audience and your customers to you. I'd highly recommend people be more collaborative in their marketing with anyone that's willing.
Kathleen Booth: You're somebody who's worked with a lot of really bright marketers, people who know a lot about how to do these things. I'm curious when you are trying to stay educated and on top of trends in marketing and looking for ideas of things to apply to your business, where do you go for inspiration, for cutting-edge ideas, sources of good marketing knowledge?
Pete Caputa: I will admit that I don't read a lot religiously. I also have impatience for it, I literally probably have 30 business books that I've started and not finished. My wife really hates the stacks everywhere. I'm reading a book on white America, which is all about how America has become pretty segregated in a socioeconomic way. I'm reading a book from Andrew McAfee, "Machine, Crowd, Platform", right now, which I really like; it's actually one of the few books that I think I'll finish this year. I do like to pick up books that I think they have complete thoughts and help introduce complete frameworks. As far as online, I probably don't read much religiously other than my Twitter feed. I've built up a Twitter feed over the years of marketers and marketing agencies. I do it as much to support them as I do to learn, but I'll read a lot there, I'll share a lot on my Twitter feed that I find interesting.
Kathleen Booth: I feel like I want to have a separate interview with you about Twitter because so many people I talk to are getting off of Twitter, seeing declining results from Twitter, and I know from prior conversations that you actually have a lot of luck with it, so I may call you again for another interview on that because that's a whole separate topic.
Pete Caputa: Yeah, my quick two cents on that is I think too many people are thinking about it as a traffic source. It is our largest traffic source, mostly because I spend a decent amount of time on it.
Kathleen Booth: Your largest social traffic source?
Pete Caputa: Yes. I imagine if I shifted my attention to LinkedIn it would be similar there. I like Twitter because it's easy to reach out to someone. You don't have any limits like LinkedIn does. Most of the time, if you just ask someone to follow you, they will if they're paying attention to Twitter and you can direct message them. I find that a lot of people pay attention to their direct messages in real time whereas e-mail is swamped, and so I get a lot of responses on direct messages. I think if you use it more as a networking platform and a learning platform versus a promotional platform, it's actually very effective.
Kathleen Booth: All right. Last question. Who do you think, company or individual, is doing inbound marketing really well?
Pete Caputa: Interesting. There's a lot of tech companies out there that I think have really started doing a good job with their inbound. HubSpot obviously continues to crush it. I like the guys at Drift, they're edgy, they're not afraid to mix it up. It's a reflection, I think, of them. They're innovators and boundary breakers. I think their messaging, combined with their content marketing is really effective. They're challenging the status quo with their "no lead forms" thing, and at the same time, providing educational and thought-provoking content that's even instructional. I think they're doing a good job there.
At Databox, we launched a report template tool that allows our users to very quickly visualize data once they connect specific tools. We have a bunch of HubSpot ones where you can quickly see your full funnel. That's actually hard to see inside HubSpot. Then, we have a Google Analytics one that I was looking at earlier that shows me my top-performing blog posts across six different metrics. Those report templates were inspired by the success I know PandaDoc had with their templates. I think they did an amazing job there of providing something that previously people thought of as proprietary, but they're giving it away and it's really helped them get sign-ups, so our templates are modeled after that.
Kathleen Booth: Your answers were great because Drift, for example, is not only doing the actual inbound marketing, but they just had Hypergrowth, a conference, and I heard fantastic things about that, too. So they're mixing in events and I think the plain, vanilla approach to inbound marketing, "if you build it they will come" blog, et cetera, there's definitely still some value there, but what I'm seeing is you need to branch out and get more creative and layer things on top of that.
Pete Caputa: The other mistake I see most marketers make is they sit down and write a "how to" article based on something they know and I can guarantee you it's the fiftieth "how to" article on that subject. I think marketers need to take a little bit of a step back and figure out how do they top that, how do they tell true stories. Two agencies that I follow closely, and we work with closely, you guys at IMPACT and Revenue River, I think you do things differently, but both really doing their content marketing well. You guys are obviously doing an amazing amount of volume, you've got different people in the team really contributing. I know that Bob has made it a true goal inside the organization to grow traffic aggressively. I think that's good. It sets you guys apart. I know it helps with the funnel in terms of bringing in lots of prospects that are a good fit and so you're not relying on it; it's enabled you guys to grow fast. Then, with Revenue River, I like their approach. There's some autobiographical stuff to it, especially from Eric Pratt there. In a way, his personality really shines, he tells his journey of figuring things out, and he's not just the plain, vanilla, "Here's how I did it," it's got some personality to it.
I think blogging still works. I started my first blog in 2001 and realized it was a way to meet people and a way to influence people, a way to learn and so I think if you approach it that way and it's not just a mouthpiece for your company, there's a lot to be gained in an organization.
Kathleen Booth: Those are all great examples. Thanks for sharing those. If people want to find you online in case they have further questions, is Twitter a good place?
Pete Caputa: They can e-mail me too, it's fine. My online persona is PC4Media, so that's my Twitter account, my LinkedIn account, and my Gmail, pc4media@gmail, so those are my personal accounts. It all goes into the same spot, my work accounts as well. But then that's email@example.com, which is a little easier to remember, I think.
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