Two of my favourite areas in Digital Marketing converged in this week’s CXL Institute Growth Marketing mini degree. The first was Course 5 of Track 5 titled Content Strategy and SEO for Lead Generation by Andy Crestodina. His lessons were packed with crystal clear concepts and strategies, pragmatic examples, and recommendations for implementations and processes.
Then I moved onto Retention: The Most Underrated Growth Channel by Val Geisler, which successfully depicted the power of retaining existing customers. She particularly centred her teachings around SaaS, which is my the industry I particularly enjoy working in. I discovered great value in this lesson, and look forward to applying these learnings.
How to Win at Writing
Andy Crestodina’s course on SEO and Content Strategy was truly insightful on multiple levels. As I mentioned earlier, he did an outstanding job at painting a holistic view of what SEO and Content are comprised of, going even deeper than I thought I already knew — hence why I’m taking this mini degree. Ultimately, he unlocked the powerful potential of these two practices not only in engaging your audience but also communicating your brand value in the most effective and efficient way.
He defined an editorial mission statement as a key pillar in every successful content strategy. He underscored this by sharing that research has shown that companies who have successfully adopted and communicated one are three times more likely to succeed.
An editorial mission statement goes as follows: Audience X gets Information Y for Benefit Z. He provided his own company’s statement as an example: “Where digital marketers find practical advice on content, analytics and web design to get better results from their websites.”
Having worked for multiple companies, I can safely say that this is an element that has not been widely adopted, yet upon discovering how indispensable it is, I will be making it a point to adhere to one should I be in a Content leadership position.
Andy also emphasised that there isn’t just good or bad content out there, it’s either amazing or horrible. One per cent of people on the Internet actually create the content within it, leaving 99% as sole consumers of what is spewed out. Being in the 1% gives us a duty as marketers to communicate in the most valuable way possible. The focus then becomes creating authoritative content or opinion forming pieces that ultimately have a true influence.
He also explained tactical ways of optimising your content for SEO through keyword research, on-page SEO and link-building. He placed great emphasis on the power of authority, not only for your own site but also those linking to you. The authority your content holds then gets passed down to your conversion pages, and ultimately your service.
Other teachings included Influencer marketing and networking, and how to amplify your voice and boost content quality through collaboration. As well, he discussed the importance of formatting, and delivering the right format to the right audience. He noted that users on Social are bored, while users on Search are busy — so their content type should be tailored to their navigation intent and behaviour.
As a Digital Marketer who is significantly tied to Content among other various branches in which I operate, I noticed the overlap in what he recommended and what I already do. I’m pleased as this demonstrates my foundational and operative understanding of Content and SEO, going beyond writing and publishing. However, the lessons on best practices and productivity, delegation and efficiency were superb and I found great takeaways on how to make the most of my time.
Andy discussed key reports and analytical questions to apply when measuring results. While this was very useful, the Analytics section in this course was a bit too elementary for me. He also discussed how to completely delegate collaborative content such as podcasts and roundups, which frees you up to investigate new avenues.
Retention for the Win
“Retention is greater than acquisition. It’s faster and 5x cheaper.” This is the first sentence in my set of notes for Val Geisler’s course titled Retention: The Most Underrated Growth Channel, and a great way to sum up the entire course. So, why is it so underrated? Digital marketing has placed so much value on lead-generation, that we may be overlooking our existing customers just a little too much.
For this practice to be significantly cheaper and more effective makes it a no-brainer. However, it’s evident that you need the right systems and research in place to action a powerful retention strategy. Val’s SaaS focus throughout the lessons were invaluable as this is the industry I enjoy working in most, and had many “aha” moments of my own throughout the course.
“Bending the curve happens via activation, not notification spam.” — Andrew Chen
Val shared this quote to drive home the fact that we don’t need to think of retention as a point of attraction, but rather a point of activation. If we consider lead-gen’s purpose, it’s ultimately to communicate the benefits to the lead in the most effective way possible to get that conversion,
On the other hand, retention’s activation focus highlights the need to get an existing or churned customer to simply start.
Val explained that Plato and Socrates “invented” procrastination when they coined the term “akrasia” which is the state of acting against your better judgment. This relates to Gartner’s Hype Cycle, which provides a visual representation of how a product will evolve over time and insight to manage how that product plays into your own business goals.
Akrasia is the point at which you fall into that trough of disillusionment, which loosely translates to procrastination. In behavioural economics, the term “time inconsistency” means that the brain wants immediate rewards over future rewards
Therefore, since beginning doing the work is harder than actually doing it, it’s important to focus on getting our customers to start rather than do. This loops back to how activation is the foundation for retention.
Zappos’s CEO Tony Hsieh quite literally wrote the book on customer success, titled Delivering Happiness. Any customer support follows a similar journey, where the disgruntled customer puts in a ticket, and the CS team helps them solve the problem. That’s a wrap.
Zappos, the customer success gurus, do it differently. They deepen their connection to the customer by following up with them 2 weeks later, and checking in to make sure everything is ok. This creates an emotional connection, which is purposefully triggered by the brand to provide real value to the experience, through heightened quality and completeness.
Val went onto explain user research’s central role in a retention strategy. This includes jobs to be done interviews as well as surveys. She also shared key tactics for feature refinement, which is the process of achieving the greatest impact with the lowest effort when it comes to product features.
Feature refinement involves data-driven empathy through the analysis of user stories, ongoing backlog clean-up and story mapping. She stated that the ultimate goal for feature refinement is for it to be valuable, usable and feasible. Here is where she broke down the difference between MMF and MVP.
MMF is Minimum Marketable Product, and MVP is Minimum Viable Product. She explained that the “viable product” piece is already there, and the next step is always to achieve an MMF. Val illustrated how important it is to simply get something out the door and iterate on it. .
Once it’s out, you can then expand upon it based on the customer’s usage and feedback, and then adjust it accordingly. This keeps the customer engaged as you continuously invite them to re-discover your product.
I know I say this every week, but this course really resonated with me. I took an Inbound Marketing certification through Hubspot a couple of years ago, which heavily emphasised the importance of closing a feedback loop with the customer, and retaining them. This is an approach I always aim to apply in my job, as it allows us to create a better product while simultaneously developing more valuable relationships with our customers.