Growth Report – February 2014
I made a new year’s resolution this year.
I vowed to focus more of my time on marketing and sharpening my communication skills.
Afterall this is what I believe I can be the best at.
It’s been 3 years since I founded AutoGrow and it’s been a great success thus far. However, for all that time there have been two things missing:
Both are inter-related, almost one in the same I’d say. The business hasn’t grown in a predictable way because I haven’t been consistent in our marketing efforts. For a while, frankly, I wasn’t consistently focused the business. Instead I would start new side projects, many of which were speculative or would simply take a while to build up a customer base around.
I know now that focus is really the key to our success because whenever I was focused as we grew. We developed our web presence, attracted great talent, great clients, and revenue and profit increased.
And I also know this because when I wasn’t focused, the business stagnated. At times this up and down was disheartening, discouraging. But I only had myself to blame.
So this year, to change that trend and to take responsibility for the lack of consistent results I started blogging on January 23rd of this year.
I decided I would write one quality article per week, every Thursday. Anything else (like this report) would be a bonus. But every Thursday I would be consistent and we would publish something that people would benefit from reading.
Why write this report?
The point of this report is to review (for your benefit and mine) what I’m learning and what kind of progress we’re making as we build out our marketing system.
I believe in the long term our content marketing efforts will extend beyond a once weekly article, so part of this report will serve as a time marker for when upgrades like that occur.
I’m going to be very transparent in these reports. Part of me is apprehensive to do so, but I believe the benefits will outweigh any negatives.
Another benefit is that many marketers and entrepreneurs who might be skeptical (as I was initially) that content marketing, email marketing, or online marketing in general can work for them can learn from my efforts. In turn they can test out different tactics, strategies, and improve their overall marketing.
My expectation is that better marketing as a result of what I write here and on the blog will mean I am able to build a positive reputation for AutoGrow which will result in more goodwill, referrals, client inquiries, and people purchasing our ebooks and products. Plus, the world will be a slightly better place: after all, people prefer to read articles to find answers to their questions rather than get spammed. So that’s a nice bonus.
This month’s progress report
Last 30 days:
- Actions taken
- 5 blog articles published
- Emails sent every Thursday to subscriber list
- Also, promotion through our social media channels
- Landing page for AutoGrow’s services added about half-way though (Feb. 6th)
- 4 email collection forms added to the blog and website (including 1 popup and 1 sidebar email course banner ad “Double Your Leads in 30 Days”)
- 2 ads added to the sidebar (for Saber Blast and AutoGrow)
- 351% increase in traffic (from about 800 visits to 3800 visits)
- 423% pageviews increase
- Returning visitors went from 8.5% to 23.2%
- About a 1% of visitors converted into email subscribers
- Total we collected 40 new email subscribers
- Web services landing page converted about 0.5% of visitors into client leads
- 3 leads generated for the month (+3 from last month since we didn’t even have this landing page)
- Our business is already generating revenue and making sales since we’ve been around for 3+ years. But I want this monthly report to show revenue that is a direct result of our online marketing efforts. For that reason I’m not yet recording any for this month.
Reflection and Lessons Learned
In addition to writing, I’ve been researching and gradually becoming more and more scientific with how our articles are written and the way we promote them to maximize exposure.
- For example I learned one neat “trick” from the Pat Flynn on how to add a little extra something to a title that entices people to click. You can see plenty of examples of this one of the web’s most popular sites, ViralNova.com. All of their titles are engineered to maximize click-throughs.
- People (at least in my audience) seem to prefer specific online marketing articles, and how to’s are the most popular. Of the 5 articles I wrote in the last month, the least popular was the one on person-to-person sales.
- My most popular article was a complete how to guide for creating a high converting landing page. This was largely because it blew up on Reddit receiving 96 upvotes. My most popular post based on shares on Twitter and Facebook was our article on how to write an FAQ to drive more sales. This one surprised me a little bit since I thought the topic was too focused, but apparently not.
- So I learned from this that people like focused, how-to articles about online marketing which can help improve sales.
- The article that I spent the most time writing (about 15 hours, mainly because research took so long) ended up being the second least popular.
- Although no sales have closed yet as a direct result of our inbound marketing efforts, I was very pleased to see that we were almost immediately generating leads after our landing page was launched halfway through the month. Part of this was the result of mentioning it in the emails, and simply the fact that we’re staying top of mind by creating relevant content once per week.
Planned action for next month
An observation I made while pouring over some other popular blogs in our space was that their top priority when someone comes to their website or blog is education. This is who we are and here are some free resources for you to check out as you browse around.
Nothing is being overtly sold or offered for you to buy at first. This is done purposefully because they one to build trust and first get you on their email list. Then, nurture the relationship over time, and eventually send you some offers.
I think this is a high quality, well-thought out approach to marketing because it’s about deferring getting a quick result today from 1% of visitors to getting an even better result (because trust has been built and subscribers have been educated) with much more than 1%.
- Action step: Remove the Saber Blast direct offer ad, maybe the custom web services ad as well. Focus on offering free email courses or a free report to non-subscribed visitors.
Second, I’ve observed that a simplified design around the blog and these key offers maximize the likelihood that someone will read and subscribe. This is best shown on sites like Derek Halpern’s Social Triggers blog. Check out the stark color contrast between his blog’s sidebar offers and the white background. I would suspect from studying my own behavior on this website that it attracts more attention, drives more clicks, and therefore more email subscribers.
- Action step: simplify blog design, create short, bold offers to increase the contrast between the page content and the offer.
In my interview this week with Brennan Dunn, I learned that by providing a link from blog posts directly to your website is an impractical idea. Why? The alternative is to link directly to your newsletter or free course offer page. This is more practical since the goal is so build an audience.
- Action step: test out this idea of guest blogging and linking to a dedicated email sign-up landing page.
I would say that right now my two top priorities are (1) driving more exposure for each article I write (after all 10 hours is a good amount of work for something if lots of people aren’t going to read it) (2) capturing more emails, and (3) automating my email follow-up.
Saber Blast is helping me with 3 but I need to make some improvements there to the course material.
- Action step: To drive more exposure (via tweets and facebook shares etc.) I’m going to have to do a better job of reaching out to websites and people I mention or link to in each article. The hope there is that either that results in a linkback or a share on their part.
- Action step: I’m doing a good deal already in the way of capturing emails. One thing I can do next month to increase our capture rate is to change the side bar and create those dedicated landing pages as I mentioned above.
I intend to steer this blog away from being any kind of “make money online” type of message. That’s the exact opposite of what I want to convey.
My final thought is that I need to come up with a short, simple way to describe what our blog is all about. I think was makes the most sense is to describe it as “How to Build a Sales Engine.”
Every article I write covers some element of creating or optimizing your online sales engine. Plus, it’s related perfectly to the services we provide (custom sales funnel + custom landing pages with professional copy).
That’s all for now. If you liked this growth report or have ideas for how it could be better, let me know in the comments, thanks!