"How Quality Content Fueled Growth at Unbounce Ft. Oli Gardner" (Inbound Success Ep. 26)

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What’s the secret behind the rapid growth of Unbounce?

In this week’s episode of The Inbound Success Podcast, Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner gives us a peak behind the curtain at the company’s marketing. From what helped them gain traction as a start up, to what they’re doing now to continue fueling leads and customer acquisition, Oli shares his experiences and person lessons learned, as well as what he’s working on right now that he thinks will be a game changer.

Listen to the podcast to hear more about the marketing approaches that produced results for Unbounce.


Kathleen Booth (host): Welcome back to The Inbound Success PodcastThis is Kathleen Booth. I’m your host, and today I’m very excited that my guest is Oli Gardner. He is a co-founder of Unbounce, and someone I’ve seen speak at quite a few conferences. I’m just really excited to have an opportunity to pick your brain today, Oli.

Oli Gardner (guest): That’s awesome. Thank you for having me on.

Kathleen: Tell the audience a little bit about yourself, what you’ve been working on and your background, and also about Unbounce.

Oli: Sure. Like you said, I’m one of the co-founders. We have six, which is weird and awesome. We’re based in Vancouver, Canada. I actually grew up in Scotland, but moved here in 2000. I was the marketing founder. Now, most of what I do is, it is about half-and-half. I do public speaking, and then the rest of the time I’m advising the marketing team or just creating new content. I just got off probably the most intense month of my career. In January, I tried to do 30 posts in 30 days about product awareness and product marketing. And I managed to do 20. It was a little insane, but it was definitely one of the best experiments I’ve ever done. I learned a ton by going through that.

Kathleen: Well, I find it amazing that you did that given that right after that, you were going on your honeymoon. So, it was sandwiched between the holidays and the honeymoon. I feel like you couldn’t have picked a crazier time to commit to that. What were you thinking?

Oli: Yeah, I mean, it was born in December. I was frustrated by our adoption numbers for our new products that we launched, and I was having it out with the co-founders, and I was complaining. Carter, our chief product officer was like, “Oh, what are you gonna do about it?”

He gets his camera out and I said, “I’m gonna write 30 posts in 30 days,” and yeah, from the 2nd to the 31st. Didn’t want to post on the first, because no one’s gonna pay attention. Then, on the second, I got the flu, so the first 10 days of that, I was deadly sick and working 16-hour days. Then, yeah, the final epic recap-post that went through all my learnings and all the data, that got published on the second of February, at midnight, and we got on the plane for our honeymoon ten hours later.

Kathleen: Oh my gosh. Now, I have to ask you, did it get easier as you went along? Did you go faster with each post?

Oli: It was kind of really up and down, I think at the beginning. There were epic posts. It was not like I was writing a 300-word fiddle piece of thought each day. They ranged from 700 to 7,000 words in the post. I wrote 37,000 words total.

Kathleen: Oh my gosh.

Oli: In the beginning, it was hard, because I was just working so much. But then, we realized there’s no point in posting on the weekends. I was doing it, because I liked the number 30 and 30. So, I stopped doing weekends, and that allowed me to slow down. Then, as I was learning, I was changing the topics that were gonna come up, so it didn’t really slow down at all in terms of how much effort it was. I just did fewer so I could focus more on quality.

Kathleen: Yeah, I feel like you should have maybe just taken a page out of Seth Godin’s book, and you could have written a few sentences to a paragraph, and as long as it was a deep thought, you would have checked the box.

Oli: Yeah. I wanted to make it because it was about product awareness. I wanted to make a really deep, interactive dive, showcasing the products in an interactive way in the posts, so there was quite a lot of coding and hacking involved, trying to do some new ways of using our product that people haven’t thought about before, so it was pretty intense.

Kathleen: That’s great. It doesn’t sound like you’re somebody who takes the easy path when confronted with a challenge.

Oli: No, I’m a little obsessive.

Kathleen: Well, it’s probably what makes you good at what you do. I would love to back up and have you talk a little bit about Unbounce. I don’t think I realized that you had six co-founders, total. I used to have my own company, and I had one co-founder, who happened to be my husband, and that had its own set of challenges. I can’t imagine having five and making it work, so I would love to hear more about how that came to be, and how that has evolved over the years.

Oli: Rick, our CEO … Way back in 2009, he had two ideas. We chose the right one. A big group of us, probably 10, 12 people were just hanging out, discussing who was interested in maybe starting a company. That got smaller and smaller over time. It got down to six of us. Then we were like, okay, let’s do this. Three of us weren’t working, we were in-between jobs, as it’s called. The others had a little agency together. They had to wrap that up, and then we started it with no money, with friends and family, we raised 50k at the beginning. It was tiny little bit of money, and we all just kinda said … it was pretty clear who was gonna do what, for the most part.

We all have a pretty big overlap of technical and creative, so we just portioned it up. CTO, the full back-end kind of stuff, then two people on the product, one the landing page builder, and then the second is kind of the apps surrounding that. Then, I did marketing, interestingly, because Jason, who was our COO, had a creative background, too. He’s an artist and he was a creative director, or art director, the very first place that the four of us met in 2000. I was like, how is this gonna work? Is this gonna overlap when I tread on his toes? Then he goes, can I be legal and finance? I was like, “F yeah!” Take that!

Kathleen: Yeah

Oli: So that made it a very clear and easy path. So it was an amazing time. Scary, risky, but … I mean, we had some angel investment, and they had an office in Gastown, Vancouver, so they let us have that for free for six months. So that was amazing. That really helped us kinda … Cause before that, the first month or so, we were working in our homes. The only time we spent much time together was every Friday. Someone would cook breakfast, so everybody would go to one person’s house.

Kathleen: That’s nice.

Oli: And they’d make a lot of bacon. And then we’d revolve that. But yeah, a couple month in we got this little tiny office space, which was cool.

Kathleen: That’s great. I love hearing that story, because I will say, my husband and I had our company for 11 years and we actually started it right before we got married. So, we exited last June, and the last seven months have been the only time in our 12-year marriage that we haven’t worked together, so it’s been an interesting journey.
People always say to me, “I can’t believe your marriage survived that.” And honestly, the secret to it, was having very distinct areas of responsibility that did not overlap. Wherever we overlapped was where the problems happened. And we positioned our offices at opposite ends of the building, and had as little contact as possible, so that we could also come home at night and say, “How was your day?” and have something left to talk about.

Oli: Yeah, totally. Instead of like, “Well, I know exactly what you did,” cause you were right there.

Kathleen: Right. “Let’s just continue that discussion that we had in the kitchen.” Yeah, so, that’s great.

Unbounce was founded in 2009, and it has really grown considerably. How big is the company now?

Oli: We’re around 165 people. Yeah. Most in Vancouver, and then about 10 or 12 are in Berlin. We opened a Berlin officer fairly recently.

Kathleen: Tell me a little more about what fueled that growth, from a marketing standpoint? That’s what you focused on, as a co-founder. That’s obviously what we focus on as a podcast. I’d love to know what got you early traction? And then, what are you working on now based on these last years?

Oli: So we are fully content marketing and inbound since day one. And back then, there weren’t many companies doing that. So it was easier then than it is now to start out using content, for sure. Everybody does it now, so it’s just a lot more difficult. So we paved the way in some areas.

In terms of early traction, we launched the product in April, I believe, 2010, but I started to blog five days into starting the company. So, put a website together, bare bones …

Kathleen: Before you had a product?

Oli: Yep. Six months before.

Kathleen: That’s so smart.

Oli: Yeah, and then we wrote an ebook, the first thing I did, which is 101 Landing Page Optimization Tips. Which, again, speaks to the crazy part of my brain cause I was like, “Okay! We need an ebook! So we can leach in before we launch, then we have an audience to launch to.” And our CTO, Carl, he sent it to Rick, not to me. He’s like, “Really? Oli’s gonna take two weeks writing an ebook? We have more important things to do.”

So Rick told me this because he knows I’m competitive. So I was like, “Ah. Screw that.” So I held a brainstorm for two hours with everybody. And I wracked up all these stickies, and everyone went home, pulled an all-nighter, came back the next day, BOOM! There’s your ebook. Didn’t take two weeks, it took one day. And that was our leach, and piece of content for the first six months.

And then, after that, I started writing on the Moz Blog, because they had such a great model that you can do a lot of guest posts. We did a lot of that back then. But it’s a lot of work finding places that have a similar audience, finding places that will accept your pitch. Cause when you don’t have a record, it’s hard to get into big publications.
So Moz is great because they have the YouMoz Blog that anyone can contribute to, and if it’s successful then they put it to the main blog, and it blows up.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Oli: So I wrote a post called, “The 12-Step Landing Page Rehab Program” which was the beginning of my foray into entertaining content. And that did hugely well. It blew up. So then Rand said, “Okay, you gonna come back and write again?” And I’m like, “Yeah! And this time it’s gonna be epic!” Cause I like to put peer pressure on myself.

Kathleen: I’m seeing a pattern here.

Oli: So then I wrote a 1500 word, 15 million pixel, infographic. It was The Newb’s Guide to Online Marketing.

Kathleen: Today, we would call that “Pillar content.”

Oli: Right, exactly. Which was a self-referential six month journey to become a market expert. I had never done it before. I had never done marketing. So, it was basically, how do you become a full-stack marketer … Every single aspect of marketing … Kind of a zero to hero journey.

And that just exploded. It smashed every record on their blog, for years and years. I think it’s been overtaken now, but for many years it was number one. So that got us a ton of exposure. Rand was like, “You want to give that to us?” I’m like, “Yeah! Cause if we put it on our blog, 20 people will see it.”

Kathleen: Right. Exactly.

Oli: If it’s on yours, 5,000 people. So that was kinda one of the big things in terms of getting the Unbounce name out there. Yeah. It also paved the way for how I approached content marketing. It was always big and bold. It takes a lot of courage to do that because when you know that that post took me, on and off, not full-time, three months.

Kathleen: It’s like you wrote a book.

Oli: Yeah. It’s a massive commitment. You just have to believe it’s gonna work. Trust that it’s gonna have the impact you hoped for. And it did. Some people say that big content doesn’t work as well anymore. I think that’s true in a certain respect, but if you do it right, it still does. You just have to be even more special than it was back then. There’s still a way of standing out.

Kathleen: That’s really interesting to me because at the agency I used to own, we started going down the path of inbound/content marketing around the same time. It was 2008, 2009. I think it correlated with the economy falling apart, because I was like, “I’ve got all this time, and no money. So here’s something I can do with lots of time and no money.”

But what I observed, in those early days, as you said, very few people were doing it, so you really didn’t have to try very hard to plant your flag and gain your share of the online real estate.

And so that birthed a lot of “Five Ways to Make Your Subject Line Better,” and “Three Things You Can Do to Get Followers on Facebook,” and listicles in the worst sense of the word. Your first piece of content was a listicle but it was different. What’s interesting to me is that, now that inbound and content marketing have been so widely adopted, it is forcing people who want to have success with it to create really thorough, robust, detailed, well-researched content. But you’ve been doing that from the beginning, and I think that speaks volumes. And in many respects it goes back to solving for the user, right? I mean, if you’re just checking the box to get good SEO it doesn’t help the reader, but …

Oli: Yeah. I think it comes down to generosity, as well. You know? You have to want to help people. I want people to be better marketers. I mean, a few years in, we started doing a lot of webinars. We’d do one every month. And they were massive. Back then we’d have 3,000 registrants for each one. That was so long ago.

And then we started educating other companies, other marketers, on how you run an epic webinar. So then other people started doing it. And then everybody is running a webinar. And then, two years later, they don’t work. Well, they work, but not to the same level. You have to keep evolving, especially when you’re being transparent and generous with how you operate as a marketer, other people catch up.

Kathleen: It’s so funny to hear you tell that story about the webinars because I don’t know if you ever saw it, but Kipp Bodnar, over at HubSpot, wrote a great post sometime in the last year, and the title was something along the lines of: “Why Marketers Can’t Have Nice Things.” And it was literally about how every time someone hears that something works, we then all go in, and overdo it, and ruin it.

Oli: So true.

Kathleen: Guilty as charged, right?

Oli: Also, at the time, I remember … I have to give a shout-out … Because one of the things that we did that was really successful was at the end of the webinar, we did a product demo. And we made sure the aspect of the product that we demoed was related to the content of the webinar. So we’d have 3,000 people registered for the webinar and about 500 of them would stick around for the demo. So, that was an amazing way of exposing the product. It doesn’t work quite as well now. Or we’re just not doing it, and we should still be doing it. I don’t know. But that was really effective for us back then.

Kathleen: I think in a lot of ways, with Webinars, that all you have to do is register and they’re gonna eventually send you the recording. So you can watch it at your leisure, which has affected, I think, live participation.

Oli: Definitely. Cause you want lots of signups. We experimented with this. We ran lots of A/B tests with the impact of saying: “Can’t make it? Sign up anyway. We’ll send you the recording.” That increased conversions. You get more registrants. But, like you said, they’re not there. So they’re not going to attend the demo at the end of it.

Kathleen: And you can’t measure whether they ever watched it. So you know they registered, but you don’t know if they actually engaged with the content.

Oli: Yeah.

Kathleen: Unless you’re using something like a Wistia or another platform like that where you can really capture that data.

Oli: For the videos, yeah. You can take that stuff out and say, “We will not be recording this. You have to show up.” That can be an effective tactic too, but then you risk not having as many leads, and da, da, da, da, da …

Kathleen: Yeah. That’s interesting. So are the pieces of content that got you success in the early days, your 101 Landing Page Optimization Tips ebook, your massive 1500 word blog you did for Moz, are those things still live today?

Oli: Mm-hmm (affirmative). We did republish them on our blog a couple of years later. I asked around, I’m like, “Hey, can we do this?” He was like, “Yeah, of course.” Yeah, so they live on. But the thing is, though, “The Noob Guide,” it was epic for exposure for us, but it is not the kind of content that will attract the customer we want. Because it’s designed for “noobs,” people who are on their learning journey. We want professional marketers with a PPC budget. That’s who we want.  So we couldn’t do the same type of thing now. We have to really focus a lot more strictly on our identified, perfect, regular customer.

Kathleen: So one of the things that Unbounce does is help its users create better, more effective, more highly-converting landing pages. And I know, from hearing you speak at conferences, that you’ve learned a lot through both what you’ve done with customers, as well as, the experiments you’ve run with your own marketing about what works and what doesn’t.  I was wondering if you could share some of those lessons?

Oli: I came up with the framework called “Conversion Center Design” a few years ago. It’s a seven-principle framework for effective landing pages. So it’s attention, context, clarity, congruence, credibility, closing, and continuance. All of them have a “C” apart from the first one. I couldn’t find a way of doing that. I tried for a long time.

But the first one, attention. So that comes down to attention-ratio. The ratio of the number of things you can do, and the things you should be doing. Basically, use a landing page of one CTA, compared to sending your paid traffic to your homepage, which is a crazy stupid idea. But even now, I’m sick of describing those kinds of things, because I did it for so long, but there are still so many companies, marketers, in 2018, still doing it wrong.

And then, context. That’s message match of your ad to your page.

Then clarity, it’s probably one of the most important ones, which is the ability to communicate your value prop in, like, a few seconds. And that’s what most companies really fail at.

Kathleen: Yeah. The messaging is tough. It’s much easier to say, “Your button should be red, because that’s what works,” or, “Your button should be green,” than it is to say, “Just write better about what you do!”

Oli: Yeah, recently, like in the last few weeks, I’ve really gotten into trying to teach myself different styles of visual communication. So, while I was away on honeymoon …

Kathleen: No. You’re not gonna say you did a bunch of work on your honeymoon.

Oli: Only reading! Only relaxed, kind of inspire myself, kind of reading. So I bought a whole bunch of books about sketching and doodling. So like, “The Sketchnote Handbook“, “Draw to Win“, and “The Doodle Revolution.” They’re amazing. The comprehension you get from looking at, and creating, sketches of what you’re trying to communicate, it’s way far-above what you get by writing or just listening.

So my talk is coming up this year. The next big project I’m working on, I’m gonna be sketching everything. I’m gonna make it all about visual learning.

Kathleen: Is it like story boarding? Is that what you’re getting at?

Oli: No. Diagrammatic illustrations of concepts.  So one might be why sending traffic to a landing page instead of a homepage, or it could be just explaining the value prop of your software. I think it’s really interesting and I think it’s changing, already, the way I think and the way I work.  And I have whiteboards all over the house, and I’ve got some crazy sketches up there now, cartoony things. It’s really fun because the time it takes, and the care to do it, you’re thinking so in-depth about your subject, because you’re trying to communicate it in the right way, that you slow down, you learn a lot more about what you’re trying to say. So I’m kind of excited to get some of that in front of people.

Kathleen: There’s so much data about the large percentage of people that learn visually that it makes sense. It’s logical. I think it’s very hard to find that person who’s able to take complex ideas, and concepts, and translate it into the right visual format. That’s like the melding of two different disciplines, almost.

Oli: Yeah but the good thing about these books, and this approach, is that it’s not hard. Everyone says they can’t draw. That’s not true. We did it as kids. That’s the message in all of these books. We had it pushed out of us as we grew up.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Oli: “That’s a childish behavior,” or “You shouldn’t do that,” or “You’re not paying attention in class cause you’re doodling.” Well, the person doing that is comprehending what you’re saying 10x better – I’m making up that stat – than everybody else because they’re in deep though as they’re doing that.

I was reading about Einstein, he’s a musical doodler. When he was trying to form a complex thought, he’d play violin, and that would allow his brain to work through the problem. Lots of different people have different ways of doing that.

And the truth behind some of this is that anyone can do it. There’s some simple techniques that allow you to create these things. With seven … five or seven, depends on who you listen to, shapes: a square, a triangle, a circle, a dot and a line, you can draw anything, anything. And when you learn that, and a few techniques, all of a sudden, you can create excellent diagrammatic things. Like, flow charts or graphs or things about people, whatever it is. It’s surprisingly easy to get started, and impactful. I love it.

Kathleen: So I’m going to have you say the names of those two books again because I have a feeling, after hearing that, people are going to be really interested in those.

Oli: Yeah. “Draw to Win” …

The first one I read, I think it was called “The Sketchnote Handbook“. And that was a great way of just getting into the concept and learning some of these basics. But the second one was “Draw to Win” which had a much more business-focus. And I read that in two hours in a hot tub in Mexico.

Kathleen: With a margarita, right?

Oli: Of course.

Kathleen: And I’m sure the drawings got better the more you had!

Oli: I just learned an incredible amount. And then the “Doodle Revolution,” I forget who that’s by but … Sunny something-or-other … Suni, Sunny, I’m not sure …  Again, they’re incredible. I taught myself an amazing amount of stuff in two weeks.

Kathleen: That’s great. Well, thanks for sharing that.

It’s interesting to hear you talk about the journey with Unbounce, because, clearly, what worked in the beginning does not necessarily work now. You talked about … I feel like it’s something every marketer runs into sooner or later … You have that very high-performing piece of content, and it’s producing a ton of leads, they’re just not the right leads.  So, building on the lessons that you’ve learned these past eight to nine years, what are you, at Unbounce, doing now to bring in the right types of leads for the business?

Oli: We have a strict focus this year. We have three bets that we’re focused on. One is increasing adoption of the new products, the popups and sticky bars that we just released.

The second one is focusing our content, our messaging, very strictly on one particular type of user, and I can’t give away the attributes of that person, because it would apply to every other one of our competitors.

And the third one is AI. So getting some of our machine learning, artificial intelligence, into the product. Which is super exciting. We’ve got some crazy stuff under the hood we’re working on.

So those three things, we’re really focused on. And I’ve been trying, last month, to tackle some of the adoption side of things. Really trying to get our product, in a non-salesy way, in a useful way, into our content. Cause I thought, naively, “Oh. I’m a product marketer,” which I’ve never done before, “I’ll just put our product in content and the adoption will go through the roof.”

It doesn’t work that way, I’ve learned, because product marketing is a multi-disciplined activity, and what I was doing was “product awareness.” Pure and simple. Because, after they saw the content, I wasn’t doing anything to move them. I wasn’t responsible for that. I wasn’t getting anyone … After a campaign, I wasn’t doing any onboarding, so it was pure awareness.

But some of the great learnings from that are that your blog content, typically, is not designed for customer acquisition. It’s awareness. It’s for list-building, all that kind of stuff, but you shouldn’t expect that to directly get people signing up for your software, because it just doesn’t work that way.

And the conversion rate of our content to a sign up is .3%, which was shocking to me, but then I reached out to some other people and they had similar, or worse. But the benefit of the content is, in a different way …

The presence of that content, and it’s ranking, and linking, all that stuff, elevates your website in the search results. So that when people are searching for what you do, the software, they’ll find you. They’re not doing that through your content, but your content plays that supporting role to get people to your website from other mechanisms. If you don’t have a blog, you don’t have that content, you’re not gonna rank as well, and your competitors will crush you. You have to understand that, and then believe in that, that it still has an impact.  

Kathleen: Yeah, I’ve learned, from the user standpoint, that’s actually how my experience was with HubSpot. I became a HubSpot partner a long time ago. It was like six years ago, seven years ago. And I was reading the HubSpot blog for a long time, not paying attention to the fact that it was HubSpot. It was just like, “Oh, there’s this great newsletter that I get. I don’t know where it came from. It’s really helpful.” I’m reading the blog, and it was probably a good year after reading it that it occurred to me, “Oh, this company sells software, and it might be helpful to me.” But it was a completely separate process from my consumption of the blog to how I adopted the product. Which I think is very interesting but it definitely, I think also, can foster a community, if it’s done right. Blogging can foster a community.

Oli: Definitely. Yeah. The attributions are the tough part. Maybe if they do come back, six months, or whatever, the cookies have expired or something, the attribution is not there anymore. So, it might be from that content, initially, or it could be they’re not the functional buyer. They’re the functional user, but then someone else signs up for the product and purchasing, or whatever, or their boss, or someone else. So the attribution is lost again, even though, maybe, that’s the person who will end up using your product, they didn’t sign up for it.
So there are many ways where the attribution falls apart, where you just have to believe, a little serendipitously, that your content is gonna help. I think now, hopefully, the knock-on effect of the content having been created recently with a product focus will have a more interesting impact. I’m gonna have to keep monitoring the cohorts that went through that content to see if there is. Cause, right now, it’s the same conversion rate as our old content, in general. But I’m hoping that if I keep watching that there’ll be some kind of change.

Kathleen: And what percentage of your new customer acquisitions are completely touch-less? Meaning no sales person involved.

Oli: Oh, right. The vast majority. We’ve only had a sales team for a little over a year.

Kathleen: That’s what I would’ve guessed. It’s interesting, I think, for companies that are not, like, a pure SaaS play, or maybe an enterprise SaaS, where there’s more high-touch sales. The other element that a blog is great for, is as a sales aid, really, and I don’t think people think about that a lot. I’ve been in sales roles in the past, and if you have a really good blog, sometimes the best way to get your point across as a sales person is to say, “Look. We’ve written about this. Here’s the link.” But it doesn’t work quite as well if you’re doing that for a touch-less sales process.

Oli: Yeah, we are increasing our sales team, cause they’re great, and they’re doing really well. So doing more outbound … But the interesting thing … We were anti-sales in the beginning, many marketers are, I think. They eventually realize the need for it. We grew up a little bit. But the mission of the sales team was to be the most delightful sales team in the world, right?

They started off with that mission, so that they’re not being aggressive. They’re not being this sleazy-type of thing. And I remember, at one point, Jane, who runs that team … There was pressure for targets. And there are things they could have done to get more sales in that period.

Then she was talking with Rick, and he was like, “No. Don’t use those tactics to hit a short-term goal. Stick to your mission. You have permission … I’m empowering you to keep trying to be delightful, and do this the right way. Think long-term.” And she was like, “Wow. Okay. That’s great. I thought we were gonna have to start changing our behavior to hit some of these targets.”

And then, you see over time, it has a great impact. But you have to believe in allowing your employees to do it the right way.

Kathleen: Yeah, it’s the long game. We talk about that all the time here at IMPACT. What is “inbound” really? Because HubSpot came up with this word, however long ago, and it was very much to serve a product-sales objective. But it’s become something else, I think, in the time since. And we’ve been kicking around: what is it really? The working definition that I’ve been playing around with is along the lines of “going out of your way to help others be successful, and in turn, having done that, that is what makes you successful.” And I think that if you believe that, it’s sort of the pay-it-forward principle.

Oli: Yeah.

Kathleen: If you believe that works, then that fits right in with how you’re approaching sales.

Oli: Yeah, and I love that description because that brings it down to its essence rather than the constant debates of “Are paid ads inbound or outbound?” Like, it doesn’t matter!

Kathleen: Right. That’s not the point. Yeah.

And it actually goes beyond marketing, then. Because, in the way I just defined it, you don’t use the word “marketing.” So you can be an inbound leader. You could be an inbound sales person. You can be an inbound construction guy, I don’t know! But as long as you’re going out of your way to be helpful with the belief that making other people successful will make you successful, then you’re being “inboundy”.

Oli: Yeah. Totally.

Kathleen: I like it.

So you did introduce a new tool to the marketplace recently, which I checked out and thought was really cool, and that was “Landing Page Analyzer.

Oli: Yes.

Kathleen: Tell me a little bit about that.

Oli: Yeah. Something we wanted for a long time. HubSpot grew their business on their Website Grader. That was their leach-in machine for years. And we’d always wanted to do a landing page version of that.

We messed around with things, but it never happened, and then we have our growth-guy, technical marketer, he’s like, “Ah! I wanna do this!” And he’s just amazing at quickly building things. So he just pulled together every possible kind of API, calls, or whatever he needed to do, to do this thing.

So you put your URL in, couple of details, like: What sources are you using? Is it using page? Are you doing email? Are you doing organic, da da da da da … Bit of information. Are you doing leach-in? What’s the conversion rate? All this kind of stuff.

And then, it will just run through a ton of analysis. It’s amazing the amount of stuff it does. And it uses some of our machine learning portions for the readability of the text and the emotional analysis in there. And it also looks up benchmark reports for the performance of leach and conversion rates to see where you sit, based on your industry, if you selected one.

It’s just epically useful. It will analyze your page and go, “Oh! Look at all these images. They could be optimized for size.” But instead of just telling you that, it will actually optimize it for you and say, “Hey. You can download them here.”

So it’s super-actionable. It’s incredible. I’m not a sales person, so I don’t talk about things unless they’re really good. It’s really good. There’s nothing as good as it out there. It’s brilliant.

If you put your keywords in, if you’re doing paid, and it will analyze your page to see if this message matched, whether you have those keywords above the fold, you know, to match your ads. It’ll do some organic search research for you. It just does a ton. It’s really cool.

Kathleen: That’s incredible. And it seems like it’s really well-suited to the marketer who … maybe not, like you said, the “noob” … Because if you’re a noob, you’re not going to know your conversion rates, right? I noticed that when I tested it out. You’re not even gonna know some of the data it asks for. And you do have to have a certain amount of analytical chops. You either have to have Google Analytics in place, and have a goal set, or have a marketing automation platform that’s tracking things for you, or … Even if it’s a spreadsheet where you’re looking at results. You have to have some data, so it does seem to be a nice fit for what you described, as your ideal target.

I would agree that the information that came out of it was very useful, and, to me, it was so interesting because the whole topic of, what is going to be automated in marketing, in the next five years?

I saw an email this morning from Paul Roetzer, who founded the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute. And he was saying, in the next five years, he thinks 80% of what we do as marketers is going to be done by machines. This is just an example of a lot of the manual work … I work for an agency, and we have people in our agency who … Some part of their day would normally be to do what that just did …

Oli: Yeah.

Kathleen: … without having that all-in-one tool. They’re analyzing the page. They’re checking that report, and cross-checking it. So, it’s amazing that now, with just a few pieces of data and the click of a button, all that work can be done for you.

Oli: Yeah, totally. As much as anything, it’s an amazing QA tool because it’ll also look at social graph and it will see, “Oh. If you share this on Twitter, or Linkedin, or Facebook, this is what it’s gonna look like. Because you don’t have your open-graph tags in there, it’s gonna look wrong.” A lot of the things it will find allow you to go, “Whew. Here’s some quick wins we can get before we publish this, before we start putting traffic and paid-spend towards out pages, because it just told us bunch of stuff we can optimize or fix.”

It’s a QA step. And QA is, I think, one of, if not the most important, part of marketing. Totally overlooked, but so many people throw money at things that are broken.

Kathleen: And that’s one of the steps that marketers can tend to be very bad at.

Oli: Yes. Definitely.

Kathleen: So, to clarify, you do not have to be a paying Unbounce customer to use this tool. This is something that anybody can go on and test out, and I will absolutely include the link in the show notes. I know it hasn’t been live for very long. Early results, how is it performing for you as a trip wire?

Oli: I don’t know. I haven’t gotten much detail.

I did see something after the first few weeks, there had been like 10,000 pages run through it. But the great thing about that is the data we gather there is incredibly insightful. Things like … What is it? … I forget. But 61% of people doing something had something incorrect. I forget what it is, but … It’s not selfish data. It’s data that we can use to then be more helpful, again, cause we can go, “Oh!”

You know, we could do outreach with these people and say, “hey you’ve got … There’s a big opportunity here if you fix this one thing.” Maybe they didn’t see or … But also, we can just make it smarter because of the data we’re collecting.

So yeah, the conversion rate is pretty high on it. Interesting, though, experimentation, when we put it out … Because the form is fairly long, because it wants some extra data. But what we had to begin with was: name, email, size of your company, blah, blah, blah, and then all of the landing page information. It didn’t convert very well. So we just switched it, to put the landing page, the data part, first, cause that’s what you want. You put your URL and “I wanna do that!” I wanna say, “Oh yeah! I’m in this business vertical. I’m doing this. This is my conversion rate.” And then put in your details. Increased the conversion rate by, I don’t know, like 25% or something.

Kathleen: Yeah, I imagine if people took the time to put all that information in the form and then got to the part that said “name” and “email”, they’re probably like, “Well, I can’t stop now!”

Oli: Yeah, yeah. And also, the first thing you expect when you click the CTA to say analyze my page, is that you’re gonna put a URL in.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Oli: If you’re not faced with that first, you’re like, “Hm … C’mon.”

Kathleen: It’s more obviously a lead-generator than a helpful tool. So, that makes sense.

Oli: Yeah, but it’s totally free. And you know you’ve done it right when lots and lots of people say, “Why are you not charging for this?”

Kathleen: Will you ever charge for it?

Oli: No.

Kathleen: Alright. We have you on record.

Interesting. So I feel like now you’re gonna have to do another “30 Posts in 30 Days” but this time it’s going to be on things you learned from analyzing thousands and thousands of landing pages.

Oli: Right. Yeah. I need to dig into that cause there’s probably a ton of insights that have come out now that it’s been live for a longer …

Kathleen: Looking into the future, you talked about the three big things that Unbounce is focused on. What do you think will present the greatest opportunities for inbound marketers, in terms of getting results from their campaigns? What should somebody listening be thinking about as they strategize for the year to come?

Oli: I think, as far as content is concerned, I think we just need to become more visual. Even if you do write amazing, in-depth, long posts, if you look at the scroll maps, you know how many people are getting to the end, very few. Now they may be your ideal customer and that’s why they got to the end. Or it could be that they’re just a sponge, and certain people like to read a lot. There’s a lot of wasted opportunity there.

So I think that’s why I’m trying to get into all this visual communication, because it’s a lot easier to digest. It’s more enjoyable. And it has better potential for owning different parts of the service, right? You can have meaningful stuff in the image search, or video, or whatever. Because a lot of people, let’s say you have a great blog post, great content, but then you have a stupid image you got off Google image search, that some element of context there makes sense, but if you see it in a Google image search, it’s like, “Well, okay. I can see where, maybe, it’s gonna go, but it’s not useful to me. I don’t want that.” If you can make this diagram stuff I’m gonna work on, if you can make that stuff appear then people will go, “That answers my question. That’s exactly what I’m looking for. I’m gonna take that. I’m gonna share that. I’m gonna put that on our blog. I’m gonna give that to our team, da da da da da …” So, I think that type of approach is going to be a lot more beneficial.

Kathleen: It’s almost like appearing in Google’s answer box, but with a picture instead of words.

Oli: Right! And if you can get both, because they’re usually together. We’ve owned the keyword “landing page” since day one. Like, we’re number one in the search results, and I just redid the page because it hadn’t changed since 2010, and it was awful. And it gets tons of traffic, so I redid it. And I’ve been watching it, and we get in the answer box, and then we’re not, and then it’s back to Wikipedia. And then HubSpot has got it …

Kathleen: That darn Wikipedia!

Oli: Right? Or Dictionary. It’s from Dictionary.com’s definition of what is a landing page. I’m like, “That’s not useful for us.”

Kathleen: I can’t get made at Dictionary.com, though, because whoever runs their Twitter account makes my entire experience on Twitter worthwhile. I don’t know if you follow them.

Oli: No.

Kathleen: They are the funniest, most pithy, Twitter social media manager that exists. So that’s my recommendation, is follow Dictionary.com on Twitter, it is amazing.

Oli: I will do that.

Kathleen: And you wouldn’t think that the dictionary would be the funniest thing on Twitter, but it’s good.

Well, we are close to the end of our hour. SO I have two questions for you. One is, who do you think, company or individual, is doing inbound marketing really well right now?

Oli: I would say, my favorite … Cause there aren’t many that make me go, “Oh yeah, them.” Like, I struggled with this question. My favorite, who I respect the most, is Andy Crestodina from Orbit Media. They’re a web design and development agency in Chicago. Just a wonderful, wonderful, man. Incredibly talented. If you ever get the chance to see him speak, you have to. He’s an incredible … He does it right. What I was saying before, about the content-raising and the service, that people find you through that content, that was his description of …. I didn’t mention his name, then, cause I wanted to mention it now … In my big round up post reached out to him, and that’s how he explained it, cause their conversion rate, ours is .3%, theirs is .03%. But they don’t get any leads from that at all, really. But it raises their profile, so when people search for “webdesign development Chicago” they’re right up there. He’s just the nicest man I’ve ever met, I think.

Kathleen: The second question is, how do you educate yourself? You already talked about the books you read on your honeymoon …

Oli: She was reading too!

Kathleen: How do you stay current? Because the world of marketing and especially digital marketing is changing so fast, what are your favorite sources of information, on the cutting edge?

Oli: That’s interesting, that question, because I read business books, but I read virtually no content online. I don’t know if I’m a narcissist, or whether I just … I’m just not that interested … Where I get my information, my new knowledge, is through creating things myself, based primarily on my talks as a public speaker. I have to come up with new things like “thought leadership,” which is original thought.

Kathleen: Which he just said in air quotes, by the way. You can’t see that when you’re listening to the podcast, but “thought leadership” was in air quotes.

Oli: A lot of people try to throw out that term, but they’re not doing it, because it’s original thought, which is why I mentioned I get it from creating things.

As part of that, I’ll do research. Is anybody else talking about this? Or how can I explain this part better? So some of it happens there. But other than that, it’s what I create, but also because I’m speaking, it’s what I hear other speakers talk about.

So that would be the chief, external influence is I get to hang out with the smartest people in the world, in marketing, and listen to what they have to say. So, that’s where I learn externally.

Kathleen: Great. Any particular people come to mind that you think are brilliant and worth following? Other than yourself, of course.

Oli: Andy, for sure. Talia Wolf. Amy Harrison. Talia Wolf is great in the conversion space for the emotional side of things. Amy Harrison is a hilarious writer. I love Paul Reynolds for his impassioned, “Ways to do marketing better,” and Rand for his transparency and his approach to things. That’s Rand Fishkin from Moz. Yeah, Peep Laja, from Conversion XL, you know, he’s still right up there in the conversion space. I think … Joanna Wiebe, from a copywriting perspective, as well. She’s amazing. Yeah. I don’t know, I have a lot of favorites. That’s what I love about speaking. I get to get on a plane and go hang out with my best friends.

Kathleen: That’s awesome. I’m jealous, I will admit it.

Well, great. That you so much for sharing all of this. It’s been really fascinating, to me, and I appreciate your time today.

Oli: My pleasure. Thank you for having me on.

Kathleen: Well thank you again, and to our listeners, thank you for following the podcast and for listening to today’s episode. If you enjoyed this episode please give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher. And if you know somebody else who’s doing really great inbound marketing work and getting awesome results, please tweet me at @WorkMommyWork and let me know. I’d love to interview them. That’s it for this week.

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