About Ed Fry
Ed Fry runs Growth at Hull.io, and was previously employee #1 at inbound.org. He is based in London. Ed’s focus area is on managing customer data for sales and marketing automation, personalisation, segmentation and lifecycle marketing.
In his Learn Inbound talk, Ed shares stories and tactical lessons of content that can really stand out and engage. You don’t have to be a desperate content marketer anymore.
- Personalization is more than using someone first name. It’s best to use the personalization framework which looks at what (message), who (segment) and why (action).
- You should concentrate on retention by focusing on what works already, content onboarding, notifications, publishing regularly and building a community through user generated content.
- Back and fourth interaction trumps over broadcast messages. It fosters relationships and generates repeat visitors.
I come from London. I want to start by going back in time and stealing Simon's slides.
He used this example as well. This is one of the earliest examples we might recognize of content marketing, the Michelin Guide, first published in 1900. But whilst it's easy to rock this concept and people doing it back then, it was incredibly hard to distribute. Like, print out copies and ship them all over the country, hard to distribute. And then along came mass media, TV, newspapers, radio, and they gave us a way we could distribute.
We didn't have control over the content, but they gave us a way we could distribute. And so, we sort of did that for a while, we paid our way through that, and along came the internet. And at last, through content, search, social, ad networks, we had both control of the content and this means of distribution, which is why a load of people are talking about content today and why most of the talks here have talked about content, which is why we have this graph up and to the right.
It's very, very powerful what we can do now. Doug Kessler nails it in this slide deck, which I'll include in the notes or at the end. The point here is crap content can look like good content. And because of that, we are constantly underwhelming people with all our work. Constantly underwhelming people means worse and worse results over time.
And so you might notice things like this, these kinds of desperate tactics. But the funny thing is, is when you get bored of this talk, the answer might just stare you in the face. And I'm not saying you need to write a crazy algorithm, raise a bunch of money, hire some developers and build Facebook. But Facebook has this sort of fundamentally addictive content, right?
It feels very relevant to me. It's got my friends there, it's got all my cat GIFs there, it's got more and more articles, and I visit it very regularly. This is us, our blog posts, our content, our webinars. You might be on Facebook in this talk. You're probably not on a webinar in this talk, I hope. And so, what I want to talk about today is how we can solve this problem, this problem of crap.
Not just producing more, not producing more desperation, but how we can be more like Facebook in the way we structure our content, doing all that creation we talked about earlier, all that promotion tactics, all this ideation. So let's talk about habit building. As marketers, we think about marketing funnels and pushing people down, external triggers. Product people think about getting the whole cycle. How do you get action? How do you get reward?
How do you get people back to the site? How do you get that loop? This, from Brian Balfour, formally VP of Growth at HubSpot, plain and simple, your eye should be on retention. If your product does not retain users, there is no point in growing the top of the funnel. But isn't content our product? If your content does not retain users, there is no point in growing the top of the funnel.
How can we use this to our advantage? How can we use this to engage people? So five retention tactics for content. We're going to move quick. Number one, what works already? Go into Google Analytics, look at your returning traffic. This data from Inbound.org, it thinks of things like the homepage, the jobs board groups, things people come back to all the time.
You can look at what's working for you already very quickly. Similarly, look at your direct traffic. We talk a lot about SEO, we talk a lot about social media, we talk a lot about email, all these external triggers. But what's working for us already? You might be surprised. Number two, content on-boarding. So I stole these slides from one of the HubSpot teams, but it's because I really like them.
When someone signed up to their new sales blog, they didn't get the next sales blog post. Instead, they got a drip of their most engaging posts over time and then were subscribed to the latest ones. The point of this was to train habit, to train the behavior. And by doing this, they could double the click-through rate on those cohorts of users, on those cohorts of subscribers.
This is product-side thinking. Similarly, they didn't measure total numbers of subscribers. That means nothing in the product world. What matters are the number of subscribers who are actively engaged, who are actively using your product, your content. Number three, notifications. So this is relatively new, this sort of in-browser notifications.
Is anyone trying this? Hands up. Cool, interesting. So I think, partly because it's a new tactic, it's performing quite well. These sort of numbers are being thrown around. I left Inbound.org a couple of months ago but they've just implemented it, so I didn't get my own data. This is sort of interesting.
Tools like PushCrew can allow you to do this quite easily and allow you to segment and schedule those notifications. These are very interesting numbers, very favorable numbers, especially compared with email. But you don't necessarily need tools like that. I tested fake notification emails from Inbound.org. This, when implemented, did something interesting. We'd send a fake notification email sort of styled like our other transactional emails, and they had about an 85% improvement in click rate compared with our regular digest emails.
So that's sort of something which is quick and easy to do, especially if you have a template ready to go. Number four, publish regularly. PandoMonthly is a monthly video series of someone in the start-up world. theSkim is a daily summary of the world's news, opened by millions. Whiteboard Friday is a weekly video series with a guy talking about SEO.
If you can publish stuff regularly, name it around that cycle, publish at that cycle, what this does is it trains a habit. Even if people don't come back every week, every day, it triggers something called the Zeigarnik effect. This is the feeling, you remember stuff which is incomplete, unfinished.
Incidentally, side note, if you haven't looked at Wikipedia's page on the list of cognitive biases, this is one of the most valuable things for marketers. I highly encourage you to go and have a look. And whilst I might be saying, "Publish regularly," doesn't that just mean create a crap-ton of content? Well, if you want to create a daily habit, a weekly habit, yeah, you need a crap-ton of content, but before you despair, look at Facebook.
Facebook doesn't have a billion cat GIF creators. They've got us, which is why, number five, community content, user-generated content is one of the most powerful ways to retain people in the community, retain the people that matter to you. One of the really cool reasons for this is there's more ways for them to engage than just your blog posts and just your emails.
I can create content. Other people can interact with that content. They can read it, they can browse it and you get this wonderful blooming effect. To show you some numbers...so, running some regression analysis at Inbound.org, what's the effect of one additional discussion each week? Well, one additional discussion each week will give us another 2.7 unique contributors, people commenting on the site or sharing new discussions.
And the effect of this was that if, for every contributor we get four times the number of weekly active users, people logged into the site and using the site. So you can see how quickly, by optimizing discussion and optimizing for that kind of engagement, we can quickly get that kind of blooming effect. The regressions here were incredibly strong. Yeah, continuing with this, when we first hired a full-time community manager we gave them one job, and that was to grow discussion on-site.
And you sort of see the step change. We had a 150% increase in site-wide comments, and that led to a 75% increase in direct traffic, people coming back to the site at their own accord. And this is interesting because it tied with the qualitative data. People wanted more and better discussion, and this is because conversation is fundamentally great content.
It's not me just broadcasting to you, it's that back and forth. And that's very engaging for two reasons. Cortisol, it releases a hormone which forces you to focus. And oxytocin, people trust people, and that breeds trust and a feel-good feeling. Feeling good feeling? You don't need fancy software to do this. My friend, Tom Critchlow, put this post together, "This entire blog post is written in discuss comments.Enjoy."
You don't need fancy software to do this. What you need is to take what you're doing already and know how to structure all that content, or rather, how to structure that conversation. Three types of conversation. There's one-to-one, just between you and me. Very personal but not so interesting for mass marketing. And then, there's one-to-many, which is mass marketing, sort of like on the stage, or like in your blog posts or like in your email newsletter.
And then, there's many-to-many, which doesn't really work offline, that doesn't really work in real life, but this is killer online. And that's looks something like this, "We run marketing agencies, ask us anything." So this was a thread where we got a whole bunch of marketing agency owners and let our community ask them all a bunch of questions.
And over the course of an afternoon, we had 364 comments where a bunch of these replies were like epic blog posts in themselves. It was about 50,000 in total. Would take about four hours to read, which is about the length of The Great Gatsby. This was pretty engaging stuff. This is not like your blog post. This is not like your newsletters. This is engagement.
So I want to show you four of the most engaging content types we found at Inbound.org, things which would get a large amount of engagement and could repeat over and over again. Caveat being this is a sort of B2B community, but take this and try this anyway. Engagement based on what threads are most likely to get comments from early views, so the kind of stuff we can have take off quickly.
So number one, process sharing. How should I, how do you? If you encourage people to share actual information, that's very helpful within the community. For instance, "Frustrated by trying to find good freelance writers, where are they hiding?" Or, "How do you find inspiration as a writer and content marketer?" Actionable information. Number two, opinions, polls, closed questions.
The content here is reason. If you can have people reason out why something, especially if you can divide them with a poll or a closed question... Hannah talked earlier about divisive content, "Is blog commenting dead?" "Why do you use Twitter?" A tactical thing to use here, if you can move fast, is to monitor social for negative keywords, negative phrases, from influences of your niche.
Then, ask your community, ask your followers, do they agree or disagree. Little tactical piece. Number three, lists, recommendations, ideas. "Which CRO conferences are you thinking of going to in 2016?" which also had the flip side of a whole bunch of social activity, "Oh, you're going to this conference as well?Okay, let's meet up. Blah, blah, blah."
Similarly, "What courses in data and analytics would you recommend to marketers and content strategists?" And finally, stories. Humans are hardwired for stories. If you'd encourage people to share their experiences and background like, "What is the most creative content distribution tactic you've found success with?" Or, "How did you get started with SEM or SEO?" Everyone here has a story for that.
Everyone here has a unique story for that. Two discussion types which are harder to scale in public, partly because I think there's not a common outcome, critiques. It's easier to be a critic than a creator. It's easier to critique this talk, or any of these talks, than it is to create them. But you can use this to your advantage with content.
And two, collaboration. If people have a common outcome, then the engagement between them can drive a lot of traffic. So I'll finish talking about community with two golden rules. One, the conversation is the content. If you ask a question, the interesting part is in the answer. And two, the comment is the conversion, not anything else. When you're trying to get someone to sign up, subscribe, buy something, what you're really trying to do is shut down the conversation, shut down questions.
With community, you're trying to do the opposite. You're trying to open conversation, open questions. So these forces kind of work against each other, so bear that in mind if you're trying to work community into campaigns. And finally, a sort of gut check for content. The sort of content that will work well on Inbound.org and a marketing community is the sort of content that'll work well in a bar tonight. So we talked about building habits and five techniques for doing that.
Now, we want to talk about personalization. And talking about personalization, some of you might think this, "Hi [Firstname]," dynamic content. We've got to nip that in the bud right away. This is not personalization. This is just yelling someone's name. Think of banks. The banks, when they write to us with these meaningless, dreary letters, no amount of, "Dear [your name]," rather than "Dear Sir or Madam," or the "To Whom It May Concern," is going to make it better.
It is not about using merge tags, it's more about what you aim. Rather, where you aim. The thing about personalization is our tools make this really hard. If I want to be personal to you, I'm thinking of you, I'm thinking of you as a person.
Tools like this, this is a bunch of form fields. This is nothing like a human interaction. This is. And so, when you think about personalization, I want to give you a framework for thinking about this stuff. So, I want to send what message to who? The segment, the list, the group of people. Why?
For whatever action, to move them down the funnel, to get them to sign up. For instance, I want to send what message? Buy early bird Learn Inbound tickets for January 2017. To who? Repeat Learn Inbound attendees. Why? To sell early bird tickets.
Using this framework, which we're going to come back to again and again, I want to start with the bottom, the who and the why. And really, this boils down to data. Your marketing is only as good as your data. People have talked today about personas, people have talked today about reaching those individuals in a really meaningful way. The way you can do this at scale, the way you can do this with tools, is with your data.
To describe this, we need a trusted video marketer. Some say he was an extra in Pirates of theCaribbean, and he has a hidden talent for being able to lick his elbow, which he's definitely going to be able to demonstrate in his talk next. But whilst all the kind of trivia is sort of fun and interesting, it's not useful to us as a business.
The first way we want to think about this is sort of, how does he describe himself? How does she describe himself? So things like a situation like this, "Job title. Hi, I'm Phil.I love video marketing at Wistia." These sorts of things which you want to build this data profile on individuals. So two sources for thinking about this, Facebook and Clearbit. Hands up if you've played around with a Facebook Ads platform recently?
Those with your hands down, you must go, business.facebook.com, go play around with just the kind of targeting options. It is insane. It is so cool. It's just this treasure trove of ways to think about people and target people. It's awesome. It's really good for BC, of course, but actually, increasingly good for B2B.
That's awesome. For B2B, especially Clearbit, clear bit.com, it's a database of all the companies and all the people at the companies, and then you can query it in different ways, including this Google Sheets add on. So this is me drilling down into Wistia and finding all the marketers there, writing Google Sheets. One quick query, you see the blue button?
All this comes back in a couple of seconds. This is really awesome. And then, once I've got that, I can enrich that and get absolutely everything on all these people. It's kind of like a porn stash for marketers. It's like the best thing for B2B. And the, once you have all this data, both the ideas and then the sources for giving this data, you want to match this with how your business describes these people.
What stage of the life cycle are they at? What events have they triggered? What lists are they on? When were they last seen? And once you've got all this data, you can leave it in all different places, your analytics, your email, your ads, whatever, but what you really want to do is get this all into one place. So this is everything i've got on Phil in Hull. And once I've got all this data in one place, I can use all of that data to build really advanced segments, all that data to build my ultimation, all that data to reach them in a really personal way.
So looking again at this framework, this all boils down to data. Your marketing is only as good as your data. I want to show you how we use this. So this is an example list. I just want to show you the naming convention because we can get everything from this. It's an interest-based list. This is targeting content strategists, people who identify as as interest or skill, job title to do with content and strategy.
They are in EMEA, Europe, Middle East and Africa. This is very important in community for time zones, getting questions answered quickly, which is the purpose of the list, "Q&A outreach." And they're available for outreach. We haven't emailed them in the past 10 days asking them to chip in. So using this framework, I want to answer this question. To available European content strategists.
Why? To reactivity churning contributors. You see how this framework works? So another one. This is a Facebook campaign audience. So it starts in the experiment ID, this ties back to the bunch of documentation on how this campaign's performing. People in the United States who are HubSpot Academy graduates and it's a 1% lookalike audience.
You see how we got all that information all in one? So using our framework, I want to send what message? "Get your Inbound Certification badge," to HubSpot Academy graduates in the United States. To encourage profile completion. So you can use this framework. This is really the one thing you should snap and take away.
I want to send what message to who? If you want to be really hardcore and interesting, when and where? The tool. Why? The action. And remember these two. These two tie down to data.
You need to have your data in one place. And once you've got your data in place, then you can define your segmentation plan once. Rather than your ads guy building a whole bunch of segments, your email guy building a whole bunch of segments, these guys never talking to each other because their datas are stuck in those two tools, build one common segmentation plan. Use tools like Zapier and Hull, spit them out once, share your best data.
Because once you have all this data, now you can get onto the fun bit, the messaging. I want to send what message? Joanna talked about identity, it's the first name part. What you really want to do when you're doing personalization is write to these identities, who people really are. I've put personas in brackets here because there's a bit of a poison chalice for marketers.
Personas mean something different to a lot of us. It doesn't mean this, "Here's an individual. Here's everything I know about this individual." So I was working on a reactivation campaign at Inbound.org, and one of the interesting things I found was people are a lot more responsive to their location than things like their topic or skills. For instance, people who are in Austin or Dublin.
So I put together an email campaign, sort of, "Okay, how can we get people like that to come back to the site?" Meet up with people near you, here are interesting events near you. These were stone-dead lists, stone-cold lists. This was a reactivation campaign. So we sent emails out to that effect and this was sort of interesting. The Austin campaign, so one in nine people clicked it through, back to the site.
Dublin, 27%. Like I said, this was a stone-cold list. What do you think I did? What would you do if you wanted to reach a bunch of people in Dublin, in this city? How would you get them to take action? Invite them to the pub. So this was in January.
This was for Learn Inbound January, where Patty, Lexi and Kirsty were speaking, and using the combination of a promotion for that, together with a few other things, I put together this email. Two-thirds of them opened it, a bunch clicked through. Yeah, we all went to the pub and it was a great time. It was a great way to get people back, write to their identities. That's sort of stereotyping. Like, if you need to do the, "These are the work to get in there," you need to do what Mack was talking about earlier, but it illustrates the point.
You write to people's identities, those numbers sing. Similarly, profile completion campaign. So targeting SEOs, the sorts of people who are going to be interested in Google and the people who don't have their profiles completed, profiles which show up on Google. So messaging that cohort, "What would I see if I Google you?"
Then the variation, "What would I see if I Google Phil Nottingham?" as in, I'm going to put in the link here, google.com/yourfirstnameyourlastname. And this sort of 50% lift in the click-rate. Why? I knew who I was writing to, I knew the identity I was writing to, then I could use the merge tags. Merge tags in isolation, that is bullshit. That is not personalization.
And this really is it. Like, this couldn't be simpler. Personalization is writing first to identities, and then using your merge tags. All of this needs data. And from here, you can start to do some really cool stuff, scaling totally individual messages. This, to our job-seekers, where every email would go out different, based on your location, your profile.
Was it complete? Was it recently updated? Are you looking for remote jobs? And we got a 30% click rate, i.e. 2 in 5 people who we sent this to would come back to the site. We can only do this because you have all the data in place. We can only do this because you've done all the hard work on the back-end.
Similarly, I want to talk about scaling personal email. So in a community with lots of Q&A, we tried to reach out to experts who can help answer these questions. And when we do this from our own Gmail accounts, people would more often than not respond and chime in, but it was a very manual process. We talked earlier about using tools and how that can be a hindrance more than a help sometimes, but could we use tools cleverly here because we had all their data in place, because we knew how we could reach people?
And so, by sending plain text emails through HubSpot, from Ed Fry at [email protected], our team were sending messages like this, "Hi, Matt. I suspect you'll have a fair few opinions in this thread here, agency pricing. Costin here asks how much to charge for his new agency. Link. If you've got a moment today, love to hear your thoughts in the comments there. Many thanks, Ed Fry."
You don't have to be a genius copywriter to put together messages like this if you know exactly who you're asking, if you follow this simple framework. And these sorts of emails were cool because you got about four times the response of our weekly digest, on average, but that was with a huge range of results. There's a lot of caveats to this technique, though. What you're trying to do is scale being a human.
I've got a long blog post on this with all the embarrassing mistakes we've made. If you want to try doing this at-scale, please read that post because, otherwise, you'll irritate a lot of people. But using our framework, I want to send what message? Comment here. To who? Which segment? Senior agency marketers.
Why? To encourage community contribution. I want to show you another example. So Talia showed Banana Splash earlier. So using this framework. The before and after, you can see on the left-hand side, no splash, on the right-hand side, the splash. Using this framework, I want to send what message?
Watch Barcelona live. To who? Repeat mobile visitors searching for Barcelona. When? After three-plus scrolls. Where? Via Banana Splash.
Why? To encourage inbound calls. On-boarding emails. So Joanna talked about this as well. This, from segment.com. Has anyone heard of Segment? Interesting.
So segment.com is a tool for piping your analytics data around everywhere. So rather than having Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Kissmetrics, every other tool installed on your site, you can put Segment on there, one click, add Google Analytics, one click, add Mixpanel. It sends that data everywhere.
So what it's trying to do is solve a lot of problems for your developer team and your marketing team, but it still involves some input on both sides to get started. From this, we talk about the on-boarding. So this targeted at marketers, "It caught my eye you're in a marketing role. As a former Segment customer in charge of marketing, I've been exactly in your shoes, blah, blah, blah."
So go ahead and invite your dev. But what they did is they sent different emails based on job role, using this kind of data. This, "It caught my eye that you're in an engineering role. Here's all the documentation." Or, "It caught my eye you're in a product role.Here's the bunch of use cases you can think of for this." And using our framework, "Welcome to Segment" for new sign-ups by job title. Why?
To encourage user activation. User activation, which would mean accounts which gain value over time and a 30% increase in activation, just by segmenting by job title. It's very easy to do. Another example, Optimizely. Optimizely is going after big corporate accounts at the moment, "Hello, Sony. Let's optimize digital experiences for your customers." Picture of a Playstation, blah, blah, blah.
I want to send, "Hello, Sony," to Sony employees, and they were using IP address for this. And they had 117% increase in account starts. You see how this is effective, you see how this framework sort of breaks down how you can do personalization. But if you can do this once, and remember we talked about having your data in one place and sending out multiple times, then why can't you just sent it to somewhere else?
Optimizely, add audiences, email. And this is where I want to leave you. If you do all this back-end work, if you get all your data in the right place, marketing is only as good as your data, then you can define all these powerful segments using all that data, and then send it to all your tools where you're messaging people. And this is really how you do personalization, this is how you can build incredible levels of engagement.
So to wrap up, we talked about how Facebook can build this fundamentally addictive content and how we can build habits, and personalization. So one of my favorite things to do is a quick summary. I like it when other speakers do this. We talked about five tactics to build habits with content. The fifth was community.
In particular, the process, opinion, list, stories content, and remember the two golden rules. Personalization is not first name. It is not that. Your marketing is only as good as your data. Do the work there, get it all in one place. Your personalization framework. You want to send what message to who, and why?
Write to identities first, what you might call personas but you want to make in terms of data, and then use merge tags. Pub. And then, finally, create your segments once and then distribute them everywhere. Don't silo your teams away in their own different tools.
Do it once and you'll get full funnel personalisation. If anyone's taking notes, I'd love to see them if you could either take a quick photo or send a copy. And you can find my notes for this talk at hull.ao/get/learninbound. And really, that's it. Thank you very much, first name, for listening.