I’m not one to give myself titles, but right now I am calling myself a CMO – Chief Marketing Officer.
This means I’m in charge of growing our customer base at InboxDone.com, the company I co-founded.
This marketing role is not new to me. I’ve been the marketer for every project I’ve had going all the way back to 1998.
Over twenty years ago with my first website, to grow traffic and thus attract new customers, I published content online.
Strangely enough, that’s very much the same thing I am doing now, and it still works.
However, content marketing can come in many shapes and forms today.
With my first website, we just published articles and sent out a newsletter. There was no Google or YouTube or Podcasts or Social Media back then.
Today, content marketing means using all kinds of different platforms.
I thought you might find it helpful if I shared some of the techniques I have tested in the last few years to grow my newest company.
These traffic techniques can work for any kind of business, including a coaching/education business, selling services, e-commerce – pretty much anything you are working on.
The Traffic Techniques I Tested
Here is a list of each traffic experiment I have conducted in the last year or two to market InboxDone.
I’ll keep this succinct. I could write an article about each of these experiments, but for now I’ll give you the overview.
Email marketing works, has always worked, and continues to work.
We got our first few customers for InboxDone from my email newsletter (this one you are reading right now).
That being said, a newsletter doesn’t work without subscribers. You typically need to use other marketing tactics to grow the email list.
Blog Articles/Google Organic Search
My blog articles are why I have subscribers to my newsletter.
The blog-to-newsletter strategy has been huge for my education/coaching business, but for InboxDone, while the newsletter started us up, blog posts have kept us growing.
Why? — Google.
For the last few years we’ve continued to produce detailed guides focused on specific keywords.
These keywords are what people type into Google when looking for a service like ours.
This is called an intent-based search. People have a problem and the intention to solve it, then go to Google to search for solutions.
My three most profitable companies — BetterEdit (2001-2007), BlogMastermind (2007-present) and now InboxDone (2017-present) — all grew thanks to articles that attracted customers from Google search.
Paid Google Ads
This is new for me.
While I had limited success with Google ads many years ago with my other companies, currently with InboxDone, paid search is our second best source of new customers.
I say this is new for me because I set up the ads myself.
I did keyword research to find search terms to target, set up ad groups, configured negative keywords and monitored results over several months of testing.
Google Ads, like organic search, is intent-based, so works really well for a specific problem solving service like we offer at InboxDone (replying to your emails for you).
In the past ads have also worked during launch campaigns for my flagship course Blog Mastermind, but these were limited campaigns I outsourced to a consultant to manage for me.
Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn Paid Ads
While everyone is teaching and talking about Facebook and Instagram ads, I decided to try Twitter first.
I liked the simplicity of Twitter, plus I felt the right target audience was there (working professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, etc).
Twitter is super easy. Choose a target audience based on member profiles, create a tweet as your ad, then publish (there are more settings than this, but by far Twitter was the easiest to set up for me).
Twitter is the only social platform to deliver us a customer. In fact, one customer led to a second referral, so Twitter is the best paid social media campaign so far.
I say so far, because despite briefly testing a Facebook/Instagram ad campaign, with no conversions, we are about to start a retargeting campaign on these platforms, so the experiment continues.
LinkedIn Ads, to put it simply, are too expensive. I was paying $4 per click on a test campaign.
While LinkedIn does seem like a great network for us to find our target audience due to the professional nature of the community, I fear it could take spending thousands of dollars in testing to reach a meaningful conclusion.
I would love to run more LinkedIn tests, but for now given Twitter costs $1 per click and has made sales, it makes more sense to put money there.
Of course, my results with these platforms should not be indicative of what your results would be. What you sell, who you sell it to and how you sell it all make a huge impact on the effectiveness of a campaign.
Cold Outreach Via Email And Direct Message
Honestly, I never thought I would try this method because I hated the idea of sending messages without people asking for content from me (opt-in).
That being said, I also realize that many connections are made when someone sends a DM or email to a stranger where the context matches.
A cold email or DM, if you actually have something to say that is relevant and interesting to the receiver, can work.
The challenge is making sure you are contacting the right kind of people for what you offer and doing so in a natural, soft-touch way.
I’ve been working with a company that specializes in building the right kind of contact list and process for outbound email marketing.
So far the campaign has not delivered any meaningful results. We still have another month and a half to go, so it’s too soon to make a call on this one.
I’m also running a Twitter DM campaign with another specialist.
For this campaign, we are leading with a free report on how to delegate your email to an assistant, so we’re not asking for anything, just saying here is something that might help you. We’re also testing just a straight call to action to our website.
This campaign has delivered more interactions, but no meaningful leads. Again though we still have two more months to experiment, so it’s too soon to call.
Although these campaigns might both prove fruitless, these experiments have made me see cold outreach, especially on Twitter, as not as bad as I originally thought.
Podcasting, both as the host and as a guest on other shows, has been one of the top five methods of customer generation for me over the past 15 years.
For InboxDone, outside of Google, podcasts are the next most effective source of new customers.
I like podcasting because it’s easy. At least talking is easy. It’s not always easy to get yourself booked on to a show however.
I’ve had the advantage of my career as a niche-known blogger, which has opened the doors to many podcasts that might have otherwise ignored me.
That being said, I am frequently surprised how easy it can be to get on a show — sometimes you just need to ask, as long as you have a good story to share.
If you are interested in hosting your own Podcast, I have a short course teaching my Podcast system – Power Podcasting.
Social Media, Friends And Referrals
I’d group this category as people you know and who know you.
I’ve made many posts to my social networks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to promote InboxDone — and basically everything else I’ve ever sold online over the last decade.
Some of our earliest customers came from these networks, but they quickly dried up as a source of new customers.
It’s not surprising, because unless you are rapidly growing your audience on these platforms, you’re not reaching any new people, without spending money on ads of course.
Referrals on the other hand have over time become a better and better source of new customers.
This makes sense, since as we help more people, there is a better chance they will talk about InboxDone.
Over time I expect referrals to become our largest source of new customers. The more people we help, the more we can reach, and thus the more help… you can see the positive cycle here (a flywheel).
Most business that find product market fit will eventually benefit from referral-led growth. The challenge is reaching this point.
Organic reach on social media is terrible, plus if you don’t have a following already, it’s not going to magically send you customers.
That being said, the power of viral distribution on social media can’t be disregarded, so it can work for a new startup with the creative talent to produce content that is shared.
Content Is The Answer
As you can see in all the techniques I have listed here, content, in some shape or form, has helped me to reach an audience, source our first customers, and grow over time.
It’s not easy, but as you practice crafting content, you get better at it. Then results start coming in, which makes you want to produce more content.
I hope you too get to enjoy the experience of a new customer appearing ‘out of nowhere’ when they find you on Google, or hear you on a podcast, or are referred to you via a current customer.
For this to happen though, you need to learn how to sell with content. There’s no point just creating content for the sake of content.
There must be purpose and intention behind your content, it must line up with the needs of your audience and help to sell the product or service you are marketing.
I Wrote An E-Book On Content And Traffic Growth
Several years ago I wrote a new guide, this time sharing everything I knew about content marketing.
The ebook focuses on what I learned about content creation and traffic generation from all the experiments I conducted to grow my following and sell my digital products.
I called this book – Blog Traffic For Beginners.
Although I wrote this for beginners, I still apply the same ideas today with my current start up.
- I’m using content to grow my organic reach on Google.
- I’m using content shared on other platforms to bring in new audience and build incoming links (important for SEO).
- I’m focusing on just a few techniques, discarding what doesn’t work, going deeper with what does
I’m also heavily relying upon the ‘writing muscle’ I’ve built up, by practicing content marketing over and over again.
In the ebook I write about what good content is, what leads people to share your content, and why content by itself is not enough.
Of all the ebooks I’ve written, Blog Traffic For Beginners, continues to be by far the most practical.
If you need to build up your content muscle and need ideas for traffic techniques, my ebook will help.
For now, I’m back to my CMO job, looking for customers all over the world wide web.