As the host of The Inbound Success Podcast, how am I applying all of the many lessons learned in these podcast interviews to the marketing work I do at IMPACT?
This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, I'm flipping the script and sharing the top seven things I'm focused on for IMPACT's marketing.
I spend a lot of time on this show interviewing other marketers about what's working and how they're getting great results. I wish there were enough hours in the day to try all of the incredible strategies and tactics that my guests share but alas, time is limited so we are forced to prioritize.
Listen to the podcast to learn about the top seven things I and the marketing team here at IMPACT are focused on now.
This podcast has now reached an important milestone, at least for me. We've been going for a little over a year. I haven't missed a week yet, including Christmas and New Year's of 2017, which both fell on a Monday, which is the day I publish. So, I was really excited to reach that year milestone.
Now that we're 60 plus episodes in, I wanted to take a pause and do something a little different. By that, I mean every week on the podcast, I interview somebody who's getting great results with their marketing, and I try to pick apart what they're doing that is working and make it actionable.
That's always my goal. I know that's what I want out of podcasts. I really want things that are actionable that I can apply, that I can use to change my marketing, and get better results. So, I thought it would be interesting if this week, instead of doing an interview, I shared with you what I'm doing to my own marketing as a result of what I've learned hosting the podcast.
If you listen at all regularly, you know that I love doing the podcast. I always say I would do it even if nobody listened because there's just so much great information and lessons learned out there from these practicing marketers who are doing this every day. I've gotten a lot out of it, and there are a couple of things that I'm pretty passionate about.
You may know from listening that I work at IMPACT. I'm the Vice President of Marketing, and I have an awesome team of marketers that I work with. Our job is actually to do the marketing for the agency as opposed to the marketing for our clients.
A lot of the work that we do in our team trickles down to our clients because we like to think of ourselves as a laboratory, and we definitely like to test the unproven theories on ourselves first so that we can make those mistakes on us and roll things out to clients when they're working really well for us.
So in no particular order, I want to share with you a few things that I'm really passionate about that we're testing that seem to be working well for us.
1. On-SERP CRO
The first thing that I want to talk about is something that I'm calling On-SERP CRO.
That's a lot of acronyms. So, on search engine results page (SERP) conversion rate optimization (CRO). Most of you know what CRO is, conversion rate optimization, and most CROs talk about how to improve conversions on their websites. That's actually not something that we spend a lot of time on at IMPACT because we have a fairly healthy conversion rate. We get a lot of leads. But honestly, we don't really work a lot of our leads. We work our bottom of the funnel requests, which are the people that reach out and say, "I want to talk to you."
We're lucky that we can do that, and so we don't focus too heavily on the conversion rate on our website. Instead, we're focused on the conversion rate within the search engines themselves. The reason for that is that organic traffic is really important to us.
I'll get into that why that's the case in a minute. But, we've been testing out a really cool tool called Click Flow, which I discovered after interviewing Eric Siu of the Marketing School Podcast and Single Grain earlier this year. You may have listened to that episode. It's from earlier in January. Eric started the company Click Flow to create a tool to makes it easier to do conversion rate optimization on search engines.
So, we actually use Click Flow to test out the impact that changing article titles and meta descriptions can have on our click-through rates from the search engines. It's been really fun and really interesting to work with them and their tool to test this out.
We've gotten some great results. We're definitely seeing improved click-throughs, and it's really taught us an important lesson in how critical title is. I mean, the title, if you think about it, of your content, your page, your article is really the equivalent of the subject line in an email. It's the deal breaker if you're getting traffic organically. So, that's one of the things that we've been working a lot on.
Christine Austin, who's on my team, is our On-SERP CRO guru. She's been doing some really interesting experiments, and we're definitely seeing improved traffic. That's number one.
This is something that has been a major game changer for us. So if you've seen my article or if you heard me speak, you might know that earlier this year, back in March, we saw a real kind of significant dip in our organic traffic to IMPACT's website.
It was really a big challenge trying to figure out what was causing it. There was nothing immediately apparent to blame. The SEO on our site is fantastic. We've really optimized the site for speed and page load times, and we couldn't figure it out on the first pass.
Luckily, I was able to sit down with one of the SEOs from HubSpot's in-house SEO team when we went up there for partner day. He looked at some of our data and pointed something out to me that I might have otherwise missed, which was that our rankings had continued to grow, and all the other kind of signs of have good SEO were looking great, but our click-through rates from the search engines were going down.
There were a few other indicators involved there, too. But basically, what he concluded was that we were losing traffic to the featured snippet, which is essentially Google's position zero.
So, you've seen these featured snippets. Some people call them the answer box. It kind of goes by a lot of names, but it's that box at the top of the Google results page that actually gives you the answer to whatever you were searching for right on the page.
Google's moving more and more in this direction of just trying to answer your question on the page, and it makes sense if you think about it. Because for search engines, their ultimate goal is to give you the best answer as fast as possible. That's how they stay in business. That's what keeps Google at the top. So, it makes sense.
Not great for those of us who are trying to get traffic to our sites through search engines, but an opportunity.
So, we've been working all year to really try and optimize our content for featured snippets, and we've seen a payoff. We began going back and adding little modules to our articles in June or May, I think it was, to try and optimize for the featured snippets.
We really started to get traction later in the summer. I think it was in August we had something like 280 featured snippets, which is great. And we really saw that reflected in our traffic.
Interestingly, recently, we started to lose a few of those. So now, I'm digging into what's changing with how Google's optimizing or how Google's selecting what winds up in the featured snippet. Stay tuned, and I'm sure we'll talk a lot more about that. But, that's been a game changer. Definitely still works, and definitely something we'll continue to focus on.
3. Shifting to a Publisher-First Business Model
Now, a few other things that are really top of mind for us here at impact. First, I guess would be really taking a step back and looking at this from a 50,000-foot view. We've really made this shift, and we're operating as a publisher first, meaning we used to be an agency that published a lot. Now, we are a publisher that has an agency inside of it.
This is very much reflected in our homepage and what our website looks like. You know, we don't look like an agency site if you go to impactplus.com. In fact, you have to go to agency.impactplus.com to really see our marketing agency site, and that's by design.
So, we've very much pursued a publisher strategy inspired by Joe's writings.
So, as part of that strategy, we've really changed the way we're approaching the content on our site. We continue to publish longer form articles, but we've added a new category of article to our site, which you may have noticed if you visit at all frequently, and that is the news reaction category.
We're never going to be, at least that I can imagine, breaking news. We don't have the staff or the newsroom to support that, but we are really committed to covering the breaking news once it has broken and putting a layer of added value on it and really trying to help marketers understand why it matters to them and what they might want to be thinking about or doing as a result of that breaking news.
You'll see a lot more of those types of articles on our site. They're fun to write. They're quick. They're really interesting, at least to me. And they're fantastically helpful for marketers who want to stay on top of this incredible fire hose of information that is our industry.
I mean, I know that's one of the challenges I face in my role, and I've heard a lot of other marketers say they face it, too. So, our hope is that we're really solving for that need on the part of the marketer.
4. A New Newsletter, The Latest
In addition to really moving in this direction of covering more news, we've changed the entire way that we email our audience. This has been a really interesting evolution for me to be a part of.
When I first joined the team, we really were focused on blog subscribers. So, a lot of the email we sent out was automatic digests, either daily, weekly, or monthly to people who subscribed to our blog. We had a lot of blog subscribers, over 20,000. But, we wound up doing a lot more that required us to email people in the time since I've been with the company, things like regular webinars, events and conferences, you know, other kinds of transactional events, like website throw downs or our presence at INBOUND.
What wound up happening was we were emailing our audience a lot. It really did get to be a lot. We knew it was happening. We knew the volume was going up, but there didn't seem to be a great solution to address it until September when we really changed gears and we did away with all of our blog digest emails.
We did away with the majority of those transactional emails to promote events, and we shifted gears and focused on a newsletter. That's something that IMPACT hadn't done in a long time. We had one a while ago, and we decided to bring it back but in a different way.
We really didn't want to do your traditional agency newsletter where it's just kind of like, "Here's a few articles we've published, and here's an offer for an ebook." We wanted to do something much more personal.
So, in September, we launched The Latest, which is the name of our newsletter.
The Latest is really meant to be the one email that helps you get all the information you need as a marketer to have the most productive day. It's written by some folks on my team, mostly by Ramona Sukhraj, who is an incredible writer. She's our head of editorial content, and she's got a great point of view. She is the one that most frequently writes The Latest. You'll see it in your inbox coming from her.
Sometimes Liz Murphy, who is our director of web and interactive content, will chip in and write as well. You may start to see more of her in the coming weeks.
But really, it's from these two individuals, and that's by design. We wanted it to feel very personal. It doesn't come from a generic inbox email address. It comes from their personal emails. You can respond to this email, and they read every reply they get, and they answer most of them, if they're not complete spam.
There's always a personal spin, or an anecdote, or a story, and definitely a lot of personality. We do include some articles, but instead of just giving you an executive summary, we try and say why they matter, why you should care. We only pick the best articles. Then, there's usually links to a few relevant podcasts or shows, upcoming events that you might be interested in.
Sometimes we put in some funny things, especially on the weekends. We like to include throwbacks to old commercials or old videos that make us laugh. So, that's been a major change.
In fact, if you get The Latest, I would love to know what you think about it. It's been a big shift for us. We're really hoping ... Our goal with it is to eliminate all of the other email we send. So if you are interested in staying on top of the content that IMPACT is creating or sending out, or you want to know about our events, the best way to do that is to subscribe to The Latest, and hopefully you find it useful.
So, that was another big change. I hope this year we will be continuing to move in the direction of eliminating all email other than the newsletter.
5. Conversational Emails
Now, when we do send out email, here's another one for you, we are really trying to shift away from those classic marketing emails, the designed emails.
We use a template that we built that we call the "conversational" template. It looks just like something that came out of somebody's Gmail inbox. That's by design.
Now, it's not intended to fake out the recipient. What we're not trying to do is fool you into thinking you got an email from somebody that came from their personal email. It didn't go through a marketing system. We're just trying to strip away the unnecessary, and that means stripping away unnecessary design, and stripping away unnecessary formatting, and different spacing and fonts, and just boiling it down to what matters, which is the words, right?
Bob Ruffolo, again, who I mentioned earlier, who's the CEO, is very passionate about this. I wish I had him here to talk about it. But you know, the idea is to create a one-to-one experience. It's kind of the same idea that underlies what we're doing with the newsletter to make it feel like it's one person speaking to one person.
That means not only getting rid of fake formatting, which I would never use if I was just sending you individually an email from me to you, you know, I would just send it with text from my Gmail. But, it also means rethinking the wording, and the copy, and the subject lines, and getting rid of all that marketing speak, and that jargon, and really challenging ourselves, and asking the question, "If I, Kathleen, was writing this email to my friend Sally, how would I write it? Would I use the words that I otherwise use as a marketer?"
You know, I think we all fall victim to this. It's kind of ironic where we are, as individuals, very discerning consumers and we can spot a spammy email from a mile away. But as soon as we put on our marketing hat and we write a marketing email, we break all the rules that we dislike when marketers use them on us. So, we've really been challenging our team to do this, and to rethink it, and to try and make everything feel very one-on-one.
Our goal with these emails is to get a response, not a conversion per se, but a real reply. Because if you're sending an email one on one, that's usually your goal, is to get a reply, not for somebody to click through and get your ebook or register for something. It's to get a response.
So, we're very much thinking through whenever we communicate with our audience, what's the response we really want? How can we add value for them and engage in a conversation? So, that's been really interesting.
One of the ways we've tested this and challenged ourselves is by showing our work.
I thought that was brilliant, and my team now has a slack channel, which is really for this, where we, before we send anything out, we send it to each other and we critique it, and we ask that question, "Does this sound like you sending it to me?" And if not, it goes back to the drawing board. So, that's been a really interesting evolution.
It's been fun watching the team open themselves up to constructive criticism, to rethinking the way they do things. Sometimes that's a painful process. I'll be the first one to admit it, especially when you're the one writing something and maybe the rest of the team doesn't love it. But, we've all grown so much and learned so much this year by doing that.
6. Video, Video, Video
Another big thing that we're doubling down on is video. We talk a lot about this at IMPACT, and we're passionate about it. We're putting our money where our mouth is because we have an entire video team in house, led by the incredible Zach Basner who is the video strategist behind our Film School for Marketers YouTube Channel. Check that out if you're interested in learning more about video.
But, Zach has assembled a team of editors, and producers, and on-air talent and trainers that is formidable. His passion, and the company's passion, is to teach other companies how to do video for themselves.
So while we do video production, you know, if you need a video made, we can do it, our real focus is more the teach-a-man-to-fish approach. So, Zach spends his time going into other companies and really training them on how to build their own in-house video departments and also training their subject matter experts, who will be the on air-talent, on how you get comfortable on camera and what makes a good video.
Interestingly, we had to go through this process ourselves. Because even though we're a marketing agency and we've done video, we really haven't had a completely bought-in culture of video in the past, you know, that permeated every corner of the organization.
So, Zach, in conjunction with Marcus Sheridan, who's one of the partners in the company, have really committed themselves to imbuing IMPACT with this culture of video.
Today, it's kind of fun to watch. We have a sales team that uses video in all aspects of their selling. One of the superstars on that team is Myriah Anderson, who's our customer success specialist. I have never met anybody who is naturally more comfortable on camera and so great on camera as her. She's really come into her own, both in terms of how she uses video in the sales process, but now she's starting to speak about it. That's something that's really exciting.
Now we're talking about, with Zach, you know, how can we really make ourselves the best example in the world of what it means to use video in your marketing? So, stay tuned because we're going to be working really hard on that in the months to come.
7. Telling IMPACT's Story
Then, I would say the last thing that I'm really focused on is telling our story. IMPACT has undergone a tremendous transformation in the last couple of years, and it's really remarkable to watch that happen. Even though I've been on the inside for part of it, it really started before I joined.
One of the things I noticed is that we haven't done a great job of completely telling our own story. So, that's going to be my goal going forward is to more effectively tell IMPACT's story, and our why, and what we're passionate about.
We started that earlier this year and rolled out, I would say, phase one of that at our event, IMPACT Live, when we introduced our Inbound Manifesto, which I'm going to link to in the show notes. If you haven't seen it, it's pretty cool. I'm really excited about it.
It is a strong statement about what we believe in and what we believe Inbound is and should be today. Underscoring that Inbound Manifesto are a couple of principles that we're very committed to of education, and community, and transparency. So, that's gonna be a big part of how we tell our story, but I think we have more work to do.
Who Should I Interview Next?
So, that's what my focus is going to be for the rest of the year. I'm sure there will be more things. I feel like every single time I interview someone for the podcast I add something new to my list of things that I want to test and try. It's been so much fun doing this podcast, and I'm always on the lookout for interesting new stories to tell.
So if you've been listening to this episode or if you've been listening to this podcast for any length of time, I have a challenge for you.
I really want to make this as useful to you as possible. So, my challenge to you is to get back to me -- to reply -- because as I said earlier, we're all about the replies, and tell me who I should be interviewing.
Give me one name of somebody that you think has a great story to tell. It could be you. And if it is, I'm fine with that. You can recommend yourself. But if it's not, tell me about somebody else who's doing great work with inbound marketing. I would love to surface more stories, and I would love to learn more from others.
Please, please reach out. I would love to hear from you. I've thrown down the challenge. I'd love it if you'd step up. Let me hear from you, and let me know who you'd like me to interview, and I'll do my best to get them on. That's it for this week.
If you've been listening, if you are a loyal listener, it would mean a lot to me if you would take a moment and visit Apple Podcasts, or whatever platform you listen to podcasts on, and review the Inbound Success Podcast.
This is just really a labor of love for me. I don't do a lot of work to promote the podcast. I probably should do more, but I'm a one-woman show, and I would just ... If it means something to you and if it's helpful to you, I'd love to hear more about it, and I'd love to know why it's helpful. Put that in your review. I would be so grateful.
Thank you so much for listening, and I'll see you next week.
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