How do successful inbound marketers drive growth in the hyper-competitive SaaS space?
This week’s episode of The Inbound Success Podcast features Ferdinand Goetzen, Head of Growth at Recruitee, one of the fastest growing SaaS companies in The Netherlands. In our interview, Ferdinand shares the strategies and tactics he has used to achieve results with his inbound marketing campaigns.
While Ferdinand isn’t a fan of the term “growth hacking,” there is no better way to sum up his approach.
Listen to the podcast to hear what Ferdinand is doing to drive Recruitee’s growth, or read the show notes below for a quick summary.
Kathleen Booth (host): Welcome to The Inbound Success Podcast. This is your host, Kathleen Booth, and this week, I’m excited to welcome my guest, Ferdinand Goetzen. Ferdinand, it’s great to have you here.
Ferdinand Goetzen (guest): Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure.
Kathleen: Yeah, I’m excited to talk to you because for those who don’t know, Ferdinand is the head of growth at Recruitee, which is one of the fastest-growing SaaS startups in the Netherlands. Tell us a little bit more about yourself and about Recruitee.
Ferdinand: Yes, so I’ve been doing various forms of digital and technical marketing for almost a decade now. I started really early with black hat SEO, and then I kind of moved more into the formal stuff as I worked with more and more complex products and projects. And yeah, now I work at Recruitee. We basically offer an all-in-one software solution for people who want to supercharge and manage their hiring process. It’s an applicant tracking system, so essentially, from sourcing your talent, to organizing your hiring pipeline, to managing all the ins and outs of your recruiting process, we give recruiters superpowers, so they can essentially level up their performance by automating and working with a tool that makes their work more efficient.
We’re one of the fastest-growing SaaS startups in the Netherlands. We work a lot with quite high-level growth strategies, and we like to say that the pillars of our growth strategy are a great product, a really user-focused, user-centric approach to marketing, and a really important reliance on data and inbound marketing.
Kathleen: Great, and I loved checking out your product because here at IMPACT, we use Agile to run our agency, and so it’s something that I’m interested in, and one of the tenets of Agile is the idea of a Kanban board, and when I looked at the video on the home page of Recruitee, it reminded me of a Kanban board. You know, it kind of has that … It almost looks like a little bit Trello-esque, with cards that you can move from column to column, and I love that interface. I just think it’s so user-friendly and simple, and any time you make something that’s user-friendly and simple, adoption always follows from that.
Ferdinand: Yeah, absolutely.
Kathleen: Definitely worth checking out for anybody out there who’s in an HR capacity, or who’s going to be doing a lot of hiring; seems like a really seamless solution. That being said, you all are growing fast, as you mentioned, and you come from a growth hacking background. Tell us a little bit about what you guys have been doing. As far as your marketing is concerned, what’s working well, what is generating particularly good results for you?
Ferdinand: Like you say, I have kind of a growth hacking background. I’m not crazy about that word, because a lot of people associate that with just black hat tactics and short-term goals. I like to think of it as kind of growth as a whole, like one discipline being growth, which is kind of a full-funnel approach to marketing. Yeah, what kind of drives us is this data-drivenness, so we’re always testing new things, we’re testing new approaches, new content, new copy, new angles, thinking about who are our users, what are our users looking for, what are their pain points, and we’re always using the data to validate our assumptions and the experiments that we run.
We do a whole range of different things, but I think almost any major tactic that we deploy revolves in some way or another around inbound. We really believe that marketing needs to be a synonym for creating value and that the days of just pushing out spammy content and hope for clicks, that doesn’t work. Especially when you’re a B2B SaaS company like we are, it’s not just a quick touchpoint with a B2C-style user, so you really need to push out a lot of valuable content, and you really need to create a lot of value for potential users.
The strategies that we’ve seen work most successfully are when we really show that we have an understanding for the user, and we cater to their needs. One example would, for example, be the new regulations that are coming out in the European Union under the GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulations, which is something that a lot of corporations, a lot of clients in general are quite worried about, and it’s a very complex subject, and there’s a lot to say about it, and we really thought that that would be a great way for us to position ourselves and really help people with really practical information. So that’s one angle that we played in our content, and we saw it pay off really well, because we really did try to provide as much value to the users as possible.
Kathleen: I love that. It sort of picks up on what David Meerman Scott talks about a lot, which is newsjacking, and so, you know, not just being helpful, but finding topics that are trending and creating content around that, so that you can ride the wave a bit of what the discussion is that’s already happening out there. Let’s take a step back for a second, and you talked about marketing as a synonym for being useful, and I absolutely love that. So, to understand what’s going to be useful for your audience, I would say step one is always, of course, understanding your audience. Tell me a little bit more about who Recruitee is targeting. What does a great lead for your company look like, and how does that play into the kind of content you’re creating?
Ferdinand: We’re active in over 50 countries, we have over 2,000 companies using us, and to be honest, the range of the types of companies that use Recruitee is really big, so, for example, Greenpeace uses Recruitee, which is more an environmental NGO, but then we’ve also got Hudson’s Bay, Hotjar, which is your quintessential innovative startup, so we have a big range of users. What we do see is, as we grow and as we scale the business, we do see more and more interest for more corporate clients as well, bigger companies. In their very early days, of course, it was more startups as well, because you work more through your network, you work more with less scalable tactics, it’s kind of a consequence of that. But yeah, our ideal user is essentially any person who works in recruitment who, rather than outsource their whole recruitment process to some other company or an agency, would rather do it themselves, have all the data internally, and work with a tool that allows them to do things which usually they couldn’t do themselves. That’s a great lead for us.
Kathleen: Great. So you have a really varied audience that ranges from very enterprise-level clients to potentially some smaller clients because the price point of the product makes it accessible for smaller companies. How do you tackle creating content for such a diverse audience with, really, very different needs?
Ferdinand: When I think about inbound marketing, especially content marketing, there’s always two sides to it, which is the kind of content you create — so, creating amazing content that’s really relevant — and the other thing is how you distribute it or how you target it. So we try to do very unique things on both fronts, but essentially, it’s all down to segmentation. We really try to think about who are all our users; we talk to our users all the time, so our customer support is very active, our customer success team’s very active. We regularly do UX research, we send out surveys to get to know the users better, and essentially, we try to categorize our users into different groups based on what their interests are, based on what their goals are with using Recruitee.
Some companies might have chosen us because of the innovation aspect; we’re an innovative, UX-centric product. Some of us choose it maybe because of the data protection aspect, which is, you know, they want to have a fully GDPR-compliant solution before the regulations come into effect, because the GDPR is also something that affects every company in the world, if they have any European users, even if they’re based in the States. So there are different angles. We really try to group our users together in these angles, and we try to create … First of all, we’ve tried to create content that’s relevant for everyone, but then when we really do very niche and theme-specific topics, then we do try to have a very clear idea of who’s going to be interested in this, and how do we get it to them in the most effective way possible, without then polluting other people’s feeds who might not be interested in that angle, for example.
Kathleen: So that all makes a lot of sense, and it’s very strategic, but in order to use that type of approach, you have to: a) have a really solid way of collecting that data so that you can do that segmentation that you talked about; and then b) you have to have some kind of platform or system for deploying that really targeted content and those nurturing streams to your different segments. So I guess my question is, what does your technology stack look like? Do you have certain tools you’re using that are helping you to do this efficiently?
Ferdinand: Yeah, we use a lot of tools. I think one or two, maybe, I can’t reveal, because it’s something that we’re still building, and it remains to be seen how effective it is, and kind of like a “magician doesn’t share his tricks” kind of thing. But yeah, definitely email is always going to be a very relevant channel, especially if you’re creating a lot of value. Email has been seen as this channel that’s just been declining over the years because of spam, because of irrelevant content, because of people kind of abusing the channel or abusing the tools. We really believe in creating a lot of value, and then we also see that email can be a very relevant channel. We also do content distribution through Messenger, so when you build a chatbot of sorts, or any kind of Messenger-based technology, it allows people to become part of your database, and you can share that content with them quite effectively through social channels.
So those are two ways that we try to do this. We also have an online community, where we have a lot of like-minded people. It’s called Hack Your Hiring. Anyone can find it on Facebook and join, and it’s really all about how do you apply the principles of growth hacking to recruitment, how do you think about recruitment in this kind of modern, out-of-the-box way, which is already being done in sales, it’s already being done in marketing. In recruitment, it hasn’t quite become so popularized. So we have our online community and various channels that we really built just for that, and as a result, we don’t just use one email provider, we use MailChimp, we use Active Campaign, we use Intercom as well, we even use TinyLetter.
So we use a lot of different tools that have the same goal. They kind of work in the same way; They do the same thing, but it’s also to help with the segmentation, and we have different campaigns for different people. We usually have a general flow, and then we also have these kind of segmented flows where we’re targeting people based on their interests. And, of course, all of this is GDPR-compliant, it’s all based on opt-in, essentially that they are very open to the fact, or we’re very open about what we’re going to share with them.
Kathleen: It’s really interesting to me that you’re using different email platforms for different segments. Do you have one central database or customer relationship management platform where you can see all the different touchpoints with everybody? Because I can only imagine that the risk, obviously, that’s inherent in using different platforms is all of a sudden, you’re working at odds with yourself, because you have … Unless you have the ability to see it all in one place, it would be easy for those silos to kind of compete with each other.
Ferdinand: Yeah, absolutely. We use HubSpot as our CRM, and between HubSpot, Intercom, we also have our own solution, an internal solution that we created, and we have a database of all our users, and we have a very clear idea of who’s part of which segment. But there are also various ways to segment people, especially based on the content that they view. If you know that people have viewed a very specific article or a very specific set of articles within one theme, you know that that is a relevant theme for them. And then we have special sign-up forms, which go to special lists.
So we don’t just have this kind of one standard approach, because the way that advertising and marketing has worked in the past is what we call broadcasting, which is one message to a large mass, and for that message to be relevant to that large mass, it has to be quite diluted, and it has to be quite vague or ambiguous, because otherwise, it’s not relevant for everyone. And instead of really broadcasting, we’re really trying to target people very specifically. Technically speaking, our blog, for example, or our hiring resource page, they’re two separate websites. They’re all integrated on our core domain, but technically speaking, they function separately from one another, so it’s very easy for us to parse the analytics and segment the audiences.
Kathleen: Interesting. That’s a fairly sophisticated framework that you’re running for your marketing. How many people are on your marketing team, and managing all of this?
Ferdinand: We have a marketing department, which is usually six or seven people. I mean, we do still have that kind of startup mindset, everyone does a bit of everything, so we all have a lot of cross-coordination across departments. And then we have a growth team, which does the experimentation, so we come up with ideas, we prioritize those ideas, we execute on those ideas. And the growth team is four to five people, and then the marketing department is about eight people, although we’re growing very quickly, and this year, we’re really going to probably double the numbers in marketing and growth. On the content side, we actually have only two, three people building the content, but they’re incredibly efficient and really, really talented, so we’re very lucky in that sense.
Kathleen: Are you doing all of your writing in-house?
Ferdinand: We do all of our writing in-house at the moment, yes.
Ferdinand: Because it’s also very niche.
Kathleen: Yeah, and I know from prior conversations with you that you actually developed something … You call it a content prioritization framework … that you use for yourself to help you figure out, “With all of the different topics that we could be creating content on, where should we start, and what’s the order of priority?” Tell us a little bit more about that.
Ferdinand: Yes, so when you look at different kind of growth processes for experimentation and prioritizing experiment ideas, there are a lot of frameworks out there that are already quite popularized, things like the BRASS framework and the PIE framework, which are made for prioritizing growth ideas or marketing tactics, and I was just thinking that there is nothing really that similar to that that is only for content. So it’s really inspired from the BRASS framework, which was created by David Arnoux from Growth Tribe — which is a company I used to work for, actually — and I just adapted that to really think about what is relevant for content. So you have originality, relevance, ease, usefulness, and shareability, because I also wanted to think about not just what is the goal of the format of the content you use — do you choose video, do you choose written content, do you choose audio or a podcast, maybe — but also the topics and the themes within that content itself. So I tried to come up with a framework that was relevant for both those angles.
Kathleen: Great. I think you shared a link with me, which I can definitely put in the show notes, of an article about the framework, and it looks pretty simple to use, so if anybody’s listening and wants to learn more about this, and thinks that they might benefit from having a similar framework, definitely check out the show notes and click through on that link, because it’s a nice format, very easy to implement. So, you have this, the framework, you’ve got your audience fairly well defined, and you’ve come up with all these potential topics you can talk about. I would love it if you could tell us a little bit more about specific pieces of content, whether those are blogs or offers that you created that have performed really well for the company.
Ferdinand: There are a couple that have performed particularly well. GDPR is one of them. We were really early, we kind of … You have a lot of people who are jumping on the bandwagon now, but we were already looking into GDPR before it became popularized. Even in Europe, where people were talking about it a little bit more than outside, it’s something that we were really early, and we then started consulting with legal experts. And this is also what building great content is about. Of course, it’s fine to sit at home, do a lot of research, and write great content. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you want to go to the next level, we really sat down with people who had the tech expertise, people who had the legal expertise, who really thought about, not only what is the GDPR, but how is it relevant to our niche in particular?
Because in our case, you have the company that’s using Recruitee, you have Recruitee, you have the users — who are the employees of the company, usually in the recruitment or HR department, who are using the tool — and then you also have the candidates, who are the people who are applying for those companies. So you have a lot of different actors, and it becomes very complicated when you start thinking of these different actors. It’s different if you’re just one person who’s gathering an email list, because then it’s just you and the email subscribers, but in our case, it was this complex situation. Nobody had really been very clear about it, and even now, I can still see pieces of content where I kind of roll my eyes, because I can see that it’s not really that in-depth, it’s not really that effective or that clear. So we really try to get a head start on that, and it accounts for, I think, 15% of our monthly traffic, that article alone on the blog.
Kathleen: Wow. One article.
Ferdinand: It’s the GDPR, it’s called “The GDPR: Putting candidates in the driver’s seat,” I think-
Kathleen: And how long ago did you publish it?
Ferdinand: It was three or four months ago.
Kathleen: Wow, and how much, roughly, traffic, how much has it generated since that time?
Ferdinand: At the moment, since that time, the total number … At the moment, it’s generating around 2 to 3K a month visitors, that article alone, so, yeah, 12K since then, more or less.
Ferdinand: And yeah, I mean, of course, there are months where we see it spike a lot because there’s been a news development relevant to the GDPR. But then we also back that up, so it’s never just one piece of content. That’s not how it really works. We have the GDPR article, and then when you go on that article, you’ll also be prompted to download our ebook, which is a much more in-depth look into the GDPR, much more based on how do you practically apply that to your own business. So we have these different levels, and then, of course, if you are then part of that segment, you will get a lot more content that is relevant to that segment. And not just content that we produce; we also rely a lot on content from other sources that we think is valuable, that we think our users should read.
Kathleen: It sounds like you’re using the pillar content strategy, the notion of finding a topic and creating topic clusters. Last week, my guest talked about LSI keywords, latent semantic indexing, so, you know, providing the search engines with that context around your main topic so that they can really figure out what it’s about and who it’s going to be right for. Is that a part of your strategy?
Ferdinand: It is, absolutely. I wouldn’t say it’s a completely deliberate choice, using this kind of pillar strategy. It’s more that we just try to figure out what works, and when we figure out that something works, we double down on it, because if we put out an article on GDPR, and we have this disproportionately big reception, we know that people care about it, and it’s … You know, there’s the practical side, which is, you know, “It works for us, so let’s double down on what works,” but it’s also the personal side that’s involved, which is knowing that our users care about this, so we also want to talk about this more.
We’ve had this with a few different topics. About 30% of all the blog’s traffic comes from three articles. One of them is the GDPR article. One of them is an article about job boards for software engineers, which is something that’s quite niche towards a specific group of … Yeah, specific job role in this case. And then the third one is an ultimate guide to recruitment emails, so if you’re a recruiter, how do you reach out? So this is also really important, which is that I see a lot of companies that do what we do, and they often write about recruitment, but they often think about it from the candidate’s perspective, which … I think it’s great, but … Generally speaking … But our clients are not the candidates; our clients are the companies that want to use the software to process the applications of the candidates. So we always try to think about who is our user, and what do they care about, and how do we write from their point of view?
Kathleen: It’s clear that you and your team are very focused on the user. Do you have particular strategies that you use to unearth insights on what your users are really interested in? I mean, is it really just watching their behavior on the site, or are you doing other things like interviews or surveys, that kind of thing?
Ferdinand: Well, like you say, we observe what they do on the site, we look at Hotjar recordings and this sort of stuff, we look at their behavior, we look at just the hard data, the quantitative metrics, to see what they’re clicking, what they’re spending the most time on. Then, of course, we also send out surveys quite regularly. These are usually surveys that have a number of questions, which we then use for very different things. It’s never one survey to optimize our content; it’ll be a general survey to maybe see, “How do our users think about our brand?” So it could have questions as general as “Name one famous person that you think about when you hear the word ‘Recruitee,'” just to see what they associate with us, how they think about us. Because there’s the way that they think about us, there’s also the way that we would like them to think about us, so we can then also emphasize content that is centered around the kind of brand identity we want to create.
If you have a SaaS product with a really intricate or well-built support system, you’re constantly talking to your users anyways, so you get a really good idea of who they are. We have a group of people who we know use our product, who we trust, who we meet with regularly. We have our own little brain trust community online, which is a selection of 20 to 30 users, founders and recruiters and HR professionals who use Recruitee, who we are quite close with, who … They also get access, they get to tell us about features, and about the product, about UX, but then, of course, we use that information to also optimize our content.
Kathleen: What kind of internal feedback loops do you have in place within the company? Because you talked about SaaS companies, and getting that feedback in the course of customer success, but I would imagine also, your sales team probably gets some feedback as well, so how do you internally handle making sure that the marketing and the growth teams are getting the kind of feedback they need from your customer success folks and your sales team?
Ferdinand: I could probably spend three hours talking about the role that growth teams play within companies. Basically, the way that I view it is that everyone in the company is contributing to growth. It’s not like the growth team wants to grow the company, and everyone else doesn’t want to grow the company. Everything you do, whether it’s selling, whether it’s building a great product, whether it’s building great customer success, the goal is to scale the business and improve the business in a number of different ways. So, for me, what the growth team does is it has to think about everything that the company does from a growth perspective, so if I’m a software engineer or developer working on a feature, I have multiple considerations, including security, including the quality of the infrastructure and stability. These are the kind of things I’m thinking about. How clean is the code? Whereas, as a growth person, my job is to think about it all with, how much friction is there? How likely are they to click? Is this button big and shiny enough? These kind of things.
And really, the way that we do that is that the growth department owns the metrics. So, you have your customer journey from the second before they ever heard about you until the day they decide to stop using your product, after which we still want to be close with them, if possible. We own the metrics throughout this entire customer journey, which means that, of course, sales does sales; customer support influences activation and retention, of course; you have all these different departments, all these different roles involved in different aspects, but I, as the head of growth, have to own these metrics.
So I need to be fully aware of where do these metrics stand now, and what is contributing to these metrics, who is contributing to them, and how is that being done? So I don’t really tell customer success what to do, I’m not involved in deciding on how they do their job because obviously, they’re the experts, they do their part, but I’m aware of what they’re doing, and I think that’s really important. We also have, for example, we have our growth team; we have a sales person on our growth team, which is quite unusual.
Kathleen: Okay, that was going to be my next question, is do you have people from those different departments on your team?
Ferdinand: Yes, I do. We cross-coordinate, we collaborate quite a lot, and we have … Kind of like some companies have guilds, which is these groupings of people based on certain points of interest or topics or themes, we kind of have that as well, so different people from different departments meet up, talk about the challenges, talk about potential solutions, and keep each other up to date on what’s happening.
Kathleen: And how many employees total does the company have?
Ferdinand: At the moment, we’re just 28, so this is quite manageable, although by the end of the year, we’re going to be over 50.
Kathleen: Wow, that’s really fast growth. That’s a whole ‘nother subject, I feel like. How do you manage that? I’m curious, you know, you obviously have a good system for prioritizing content, for really understanding user needs, and for getting the feedback internally. Once you create your content, it’s either going to live on your blog or on your website, do you then engage in really proactive content promotion? And if you do, what does that look like? What channels do you use, and what do you find performs well for you?
Ferdinand: That’s the most important part, I think. Creating amazing content is incredibly important, and a lot of content people aren’t going to like hearing this, but great content alone is not usually enough because people need to find it, they need to become aware of it. You have a lot of people creating amazing content and not pushing it out well, and you have a lot of people creating terrible content and pushing it out a lot, and very well.
Kathleen: That’s so true.
Ferdinand: And if you combine the two together, that’s essentially the formula. So I don’t believe in just targeting ads to get people to buy your stuff. I think that’s something that was very popular in the past, it still is today; I think it’s something that’s going to disappear in the next years. Already, with the recent updates to the Facebook algorithm, for example, you see everyone’s freaking out, “How is this going to affect me?” But the truth is, if you have an ad which is essentially “Buy my product,” then you’re going to feel the burn of that algorithm change, but I don’t really put ads behind … I don’t just put a call to action ad out there. I put a piece of content out.
Kathleen: So you’re doing essentially native advertising.
Ferdinand: Well, kind of. We’re just promoting our own content through our existing ad channels.
Kathleen: Got it.
Ferdinand: So we’re not really advertising anyone else’s product; we’re just sharing our content, and then people become aware of us, and they start seeing that we know what we’re doing, we know what we’re talking about, and that we have a number of really skilled people on the team, which often makes the difference in a product like ours. And by putting out all this content, and we do use … We have a social media manager, we put it through social channels, we push it through online communities, we do ads, we do Messenger content distribution, we really try to use every possible channel that’s available to us. And then, of course, the fact that inbound is more than just content, it’s also all the other things around it, so we also try to do as many events as possible, we try to network with people as much as possible, we try to bring the value to them, rather than have them come to us. And then, of course, we have a really extensive SEO strategy, which is also one of the ways that we generate traffic.
Kathleen: Going back to content promotion for a second, which specific channels are giving you the best results?
Ferdinand: At the moment, we’re seeing Facebook is really effective. It’s working really well for us. LinkedIn works really well if you know how to kind of hack the algorithm. Anyone who’s on LinkedIn and works in tech or marketing or anything like that probably has seen all these posts where you have every sentence spaced out from one another. That’s just because it fits better with the algorithm because it gets people to click that “See More” button, and that increases the reach of your post.
Kathleen: Oh, tell me a little bit more about this. Can we take 30 seconds and dive into this?
Kathleen: Because I think this is something that people will really be interested in, and I know I’ve had some discussions online lately about Linked In and its evolution. They just came out recently with the announcement saying that they’re renewing their focus on groups, which I found very interesting because groups, for the last couple of years, have been like a wasteland of value. There hasn’t been a lot of great stuff going on because people are just dumping a lot of spammy links into them, and it’s very self-serving, but apparently, that’s supposedly going to change. I know with the clients that we serve, a lot of them are interested in LinkedIn but haven’t really seen the results they were hoping for, and we, too, see great results from Facebook. So tell me a little bit more about what you find works on LinkedIn.
Ferdinand: I found that it depends a lot on your industry, and on the kind of product and the kind of content you push out. So if you’re putting out terrible content, I can’t guarantee that any of this works, but I assume that most people listening to this podcast probably don’t put out terrible content, so-
Kathleen: I’ll tell them that.
Ferdinand: … if you have good content, and if everything else is figured out, then hacking the — “hacking” in quotation marks — the algorithm, LinkedIn is not that hard, actually. So you need to think about what LinkedIn really cares about, or what their indicators of interest are. For example, whenever you have a longer post, longer than one line, it actually gets condensed in a status, and it says “See More,” so when you click “See More,” LinkedIn assumes that that is an indication of interest. So one of the reasons you see people, rather than putting a bulk of the text, they do one line, space, paragraph, another line, space … And sometimes there’s 40 lines, 50-line essays, 100-line essays, but they space it out, because they know that when you write one line, which is kind of clickbaity and catchy, and you then space it, that’s where the “See More” button will appear and cut off the sentence, and then lots of people are going to click it. So that’s one thing that you can do, and that’s really effective.
Another thing that you can think about is, of course, the more engagements, the better, so LinkedIn loves when people engage with your product, even if … I can’t verify if this is true, but apparently, even if you like your own status, that counts as an engagement. So the more-
Kathleen: Can’t hurt, right?
Ferdinand: Yeah. It looks a little bit strange when you do, but it can’t hurt.
Kathleen: Like, “I have great posts. My posts are so great.”
Ferdinand: Exactly, exactly. It works for some people, I guess. So essentially, this is also where we mobilize the whole company, so, for example, if we put out a piece of content, every single person at Recruitee will have liked it on LinkedIn. That’s it, and it’s really hard to get to that point, because you … I’ve been in companies where you need to chase everyone, “Please upvote my Quora answer,” and you’ve got like two upvotes after three days. But if everybody has this growth-minded way of thinking, then it goes a lot faster. So, as many engagements as possible, the spacing out works … For example, LinkedIn doesn’t like links in its statuses, because LinkedIn doesn’t want anything that takes you away from LinkedIn. They want to keep you-
Kathleen: That’s very similar to Facebook, yeah.
Ferdinand: Yeah, but it’s even … It has an even bigger negative impact on your reach if you have a link in your post on LinkedIn. So, put the link in your first comment, a lot of people are doing that. Another thing that’s worked really well for us is … So, LinkedIn loves anything that is internal to LinkedIn — this is why they want to emphasize the groups — so one thing that’s worked really well for us is, for example, when we have articles that we know work, and that people are really excited about, we will then create an article within LinkedIn.
Kathleen: On Pulse?
Ferdinand: Yeah, you can just publish a post on LinkedIn itself, as your personal profile. We’ll just pick the person who has the most followers. We create this personal … This post, and then we just copy-paste the first two, three sentences, and then we just put a link to the article. And that has sometimes 50 to 100 times bigger reach than if you’d share the link in a status.
Kathleen: That’s really interesting.
Ferdinand: So these kind of little tactics, they work quite well. And then, of course, if you have quality content behind that, one thing that we’ve found works really nicely is, if you create something that’s really valuable — let’s say, a special slide deck about a niche topic, or an ebook — what you can do is, if you have a relatively big network on LinkedIn, is you say, “Comment this word,” for example, “Comment ‘hack your hiring’ on my status, and I will send you this.” But it has to be something that’s really valuable, something where somebody is going to say, “Well, you know what, I’m going to write, I’m going to comment.” And then when people start commenting, every single comment is … I mean, comments are some of the most valuable engagements you can have, from the point of view of LinkedIn’s algorithm, so you can then have people comment whatever words you ask them to comment, and it’ll then push out your reach to … And this is how I’ve seen people who, when they usually post, they have a 2,000 to 3,000 reach, get to 250,000 reach.
Kathleen: Wow, that’s really interesting. All right, Facebook and LinkedIn have worked well for you. Anything new that you’re doing in response to Facebook’s latest announcement about reprioritizing what they show in feeds?
Ferdinand: Yes, basically, we’re going to focus a lot more on getting people to share our content, so the priority won’t just be clicks on the content and engagement, it’ll also be shares, so that it’s also coming through that personal avenue, so that’s one thing that we’re going to focus on. So, maybe incentivizing shares, so the same thing you do on LinkedIn, but maybe “Share this and get a free ebook,” or something. Something like that. This isn’t something we’ve done yet, but it’s something that we thought about.
And really working more on boosting posts. People talk about these giant ad budgets that fly around, but you sometimes have companies spending, I don’t know, 50 grand on Facebook ads a month, but they don’t boost any of their organic content, and even just boosting $1 or $2 can already get you out to your entire audience. So, boosting content a lot more, and really, the biggest thing we’re doing is focusing on video. We just hired a video and design creative who’s going to head up our video efforts, and we really want to build … Create a lot of beautiful video content, a lot of visual content.
Kathleen: Now, are you planning to build up a YouTube channel as well, or are you just planning to natively post the video to Facebook?
Ferdinand: No, we’re going to build a YouTube channel as well, and we’re going to combine more live video, we’re going to do all kinds of … But this is where the experimental team comes into play, so this is where we’re going to come up with a hundred ideas, we’re going to test all of them, and then we have the growth team, which will think about the ways of spreading the content, and then we have the content team, which is an informal team, who will decide which content we … Which themes we push first.
Kathleen: We’re also really focusing on YouTube and video. Any thoughts on how you’re going to balance building your YouTube audience and subscriber base with uploading video content natively to Facebook? Sometimes those two can cannibalize each other. How do you plan to manage that, or have you given much thought to that yet?
Ferdinand: Yes, to be honest, my main priority with YouTube is getting 5,000 subscribers.
Kathleen: That’s exactly our goal too.
Ferdinand: It’s the Noah Kagan benchmark, right?
Kathleen: The Holy Grail, yup.
Ferdinand: And that’s the point at which you start seeing a lot of virality and a lot of organic movements. Yeah, we haven’t really tested to what extent this cannibalization can happen, so it’s something we still need to test, but I think what we’re going to try and do is we’re going to try and do very different types of content on different channels. I think that the live content we’re going to do is going to be more kind of sneak peek insights into what we’re doing in the company, so even if that’s, I don’t know, filming the designer give a little, mini workshop on how to design something, from a recruitment perspective, of course. So we’re going to try and change the type of content we push out a lot, so that there isn’t so much overlap.
Kathleen: Great, and how do you plan to try and get to 5,000 subscribers on YouTube?
Ferdinand: That is still something that we need to sit down and discuss and think about, but, I mean, it starts with quality content. Then it goes to leveraging our existing audience, so, I mean, we have thousands of people, we have well over 5,000 people that we can try and get onto our content, try to get onto our YouTube channel. And we’re going to essentially see, once we’ve tapped out our personal networks, the company’s network, and essentially everything that is already in motion, then we’re going to have to start thinking about different tactics. But really, I’m a strong believer in the fact that your ad money should be spent on promoting your content. I really-
Kathleen: Yeah. I would agree with you. Well, this has all been so interesting. Any other takeaways? You know, we’ve really focused on the content creation and promotion, and we haven’t touched so much on the rest of the funnel and how you nurture it, and really pull people down that funnel to incentivize them to take that purchasing action. Any key takeaways from that that you think are worth sharing, that have worked particularly well?
Ferdinand: Yeah, well, I think it’s all about the segmentation. If you have good segmentation, if you have a really clear idea of who your different groups of users are and what they’re interested in, what their priorities are, you can then share the content in a very effective way, and then you’re not giving them … Once you stop doing this kind of broadcasting approach, you already see that the nurturing becomes easier. Nearly everything else becomes easier, and especially, even on the sales level, that once you have these leads … Sometimes you have these clueless leads, they don’t even know what they want, and that’s 45 minutes to an hour of a sales guy’s time, and now they’re coming in having read all these different pieces of content, they know the industry, they know our product, they know the challenges, they know what their pain is, they know how we can solve it, and they’re already coming in much better educated from the market perspective.
So that already makes a big difference, and then we also really try to balance the kind of general content, which is relevant to everyone, which is really product-centric — what are our features, how can you use these different features, what are the unique selling points of our product — we really try to balance that with just content from the general sphere which we think is really valuable and kind of enriches the user experience, whether it’s directly or indirectly related. So we have our email drip flows, which are really optimized; we’re constantly playing around in A/B testing. But alongside our email drip flows, we also have something like … We have a weekly newsletter called the Midweek Read, which we send out every Wednesday, which is kind of … It’s very short, it’s five different points, it’s what we’re excited about that week, which is usually a personal update about the company; an article that we’ve been reading, which is usually not by us, it’s an external article that we think is relevant; and a quote of the week, an interview question we’re thinking about using, and our most popular social media post.
And we put these five things in one email every Wednesday. It’s kind of a quick update, quick recap. We send that out to everyone who has ever signed up to Recruitee, including people who’ve churned and are still signed up to our lists, so it’s a way to also … And every month, we get signups from people who used to use the product, and now are reading this email list, because we can then update them on all the cool features we’re bringing out, and we’re releasing some really major, game-changing features this year. So it’s a really nice avenue to kind of tie together the people who use your product, the people who don’t use your product, the people who are recruiters or who are CEOs, so it’s something that ties everything together. So we really try to balance that, this really hyper-targeted segmented content and the more general content that is fun and relevant for everyone, and then we try to mix up the formats.
Kathleen: Great. So, you started talking about the newsletter by saying it begins with what you’re excited about, and I want to pick up on that theme and ask you, with the trajectory of growth that you all have, and what you’ve been working on, what are you personally most excited about, with respect to the marketing and growth strategies that you have planned for 2018?
Ferdinand: We’re working a lot on some exciting automation. We’re doing some really exciting stuff with retargeting, which is also one of the reasons that I couldn’t maybe give the most satisfying, full view of how we’re actually going to get people locked in, and how we segment that on a technical level. There’s some very technical internal things we’re working on, which we’re going to keep secret for now. And essentially, we’ve developed a whole new SEO strategy. We’ve taken every single piece of content that we’ve created, and every single piece of content that even mentions us, and we’ve put it in one sheet, where we’ve based it on “What pain point does it address?” Is it a pain trigger, is it a pain solver, is it social proof for the company? So we have this gigantic document with every single piece of content even related to us, so that anyone in the company can take one look, and they can use that content effectively.
I think one thing that’s really important is just to say that content isn’t a channel. And I know that earlier, I called email a channel; email isn’t a channel either. You’re not finding new people that … You know, with content, the channel is either organic search or social media, or wherever else it’s being represented. So for me, content is really a tool, it’s a way to create as much value as possible, and I think this is going to be the year where more and more people are going to shift to understanding that these kind of spammy short-term tactics, they don’t work. It’s all about creating value, and I think that we’ve been doing this for a while, so we’re really going to see that pay off. And video, video is something I’m super excited about.
Kathleen: Great. Well, you are obviously really in touch with what’s happening in the world of marketing, a lot of the technological changes, a lot of the trends in terms of what search engines are rewarding. I’m really curious how you stay educated yourself. Are there certain sources that you turn to when you want to make sure you’re up to date on all of this?
Ferdinand: Yes. I follow so many different things, because, again, content and inbound is just one part of what I do. There is all the technical marketing, side project marketing, tool-based marketing, all these different approaches that we use as lead magnets and to bring in leads. And I think from an inbound perspective, anything that HubSpot publishes is really relevant. I think HubSpot is kind of the company that I would like to emulate in terms of inbound marketing. I think they might have even been the ones who coined the term, back in the day.
Ferdinand: Yeah, so HubSpot is really one company I like to follow. I like what Hotjar does a lot, and then it really depends. If you’re interested in, for example, community hacking, building online communities, hacking algorithms, then people like Dennis Yu from BlitzMetrics, and Josh Fechter, especially watch what they do. They share a lot of the stuff, but the real secrets, it’s often in watching what they do, rather than listening to what they say. For SEO, I think Brian Dean is great. He’s the most famous guy, but he’s also one of the best. I really love the idea that he gets over 100K traffic from 30 pieces of content.
Ferdinand: Because that means he does SEO right. And yeah, I think there’s just a lot of resources. One thing I would recommend is Zest.is, so Z-E-S-T, kind of like lemon zest, dot I-S. It’s … Do you know Momentum?
Kathleen: Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Ferdinand: It’s an extension that replaces your new tab page on Google Chrome.
Kathleen: I actually have it, so every day, when I open a new tab, it opens up and it says what I need to accomplish for that day.
Ferdinand: Yeah, exactly, so I would say get rid of Momentum. No offense to Momentum as a company; I think it’s a beautiful product. I have two different accounts on Google Chrome, so one of them has Momentum, which is my personal one; my work one has Zest.is. Zest essentially curates content related to marketing, growth, and tech from everywhere, and it centralizes it in one place, and you can also choose how to segment it, and what themes you care about if you care about UX, if you care about content or inbound. And as somebody who spent a year teaching growth hacking and growth marketing, I’m surrounded by people who share almost everything that gets published. Somehow, I see it somewhere, and Zest.is continuously has stuff that I haven’t seen anywhere else, and it’s really valuable.
Kathleen: I love that. As soon as I get off the phone with you, I’m putting that in my browser. That sounds like a really good one.
Ferdinand: Yeah. And you can promote content there. You can actually submit your content to Zest, and then lots of relevant people see it, so …
Kathleen: Oh, that’s a great tip. So, who do you think is doing marketing and inbound marketing really well? A company, individual? Who’s your role model when you look at success in that area?
Ferdinand: Oh yeah, HubSpot, definitely. For me, HubSpot all the way. They’re really a company that I try to emulate. I think the way they think about content, the way that they share content, and kind of someone … I’m someone who’s aware of a lot of the tactics, and I know what’s going on, and still, I get caught in the illusion, so … And I think that’s something that’s really clever, that I’ll be … I find myself submitting my email to the email list, even though I know exactly what’s happening, and I know everything around it, but HubSpot just creates great content that … I think that’s great, and then yeah, like I said, for social media marketing, definitely Dennis Yu. He shares a lot of things, a lot of insights into the algorithms. Community hacking, again, Josh Fechter; SEO, Brian Dean.
Ferdinand: So those are my go-to’s.
Kathleen: Well, these are fantastic, all of these are fantastic suggestions, and there’s a lot of really good new stuff in there. Zest is on the top of my list, for sure, of things I want to get. You’ve shared so much, I really appreciate it, and I have a feeling there are going to be people that have questions. So if somebody wants to reach out to you and dive into some of this a little bit more, what’s the best way for them to get in touch?
Kathleen: I’ll link to all those in the show notes, yup.
Ferdinand: So, the blog is definitely where I’m writing more and more. I have a whole list of things lined up. I also have an email list which people can subscribe to through the blog, where I share also ideas every week. And yeah, just check out recruitee.com, and from there, you can pretty much find everything. I always recommend people to, rather than listen to what I say, just watch what I do, because we live in a world where there are pseudo-influencers everywhere, and so many people who have a lot of inspirational things to say, and very often, the reason they’re successful is not because of what they say, but what they do. And often, what they say is part of what they do, but if you look at what people do from strategic kind of mindset, then you can learn a lot of things.
Kathleen: That’s great. Well, thank you so much for sharing all of your insights.
Ferdinand: Thank you.
Kathleen: And for our listeners, if you enjoyed this, please do subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher. Give us a review, I would love that. And if you know somebody else who’s doing really kick-ass inbound marketing work, tweet me at @WorkMommyWork and let me know. I’d love to interview them. That’s it for this week.
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