Rethink Your Marketing
I know a lot of you are working in solopreneurs or smaller businesses that are still on the growth path to that size. So I wanted to bring in someone who works in content marketing right now as growing business. I'm bringing up my friend and partner, Joanna Li, who is the director of marketing for Abide Christian meditation app. So let's talk, we're gonna talk about how to rethink your marketing. Let's talk about Abide.
(laughs) And what you do there. Tell me about what the app is, and then tell me about your role there.
Yeah, so Abide is a mobile app, and it's a Christian meditation. We offer audio guide and meditations. If you have heard of Calm or Headspace, it's in that vane and we cater to a faith based audience. My role there is director of marketing, so I lead content marketing there, and all the other marketing channels too. Our team is really small, it's six people. So if you're a solo entrepreneur on a really small team, I definitely understand the challenges you ...
face in not having that many resources. So yeah, our team, a lot of us, we used to work at Google and we just want to use our business and technology skills to build something that's more aligned with our values.
How do you define the customer use? You said, "Faith based audience," how else do you talk about or think about who your customer is?
Yeah, so at Abide our mission is to help people experience peace through meditation, so our audience is really anyone who can use the product, and do that, but what we've noticed in terms of our target audience and who our app gravitates towards, a lot of it is female. It's, I would say 70% female, 30% male, ages 35 to 54, lives in the flower states or the south. We really delved into the analytics and looked at that, and honestly a lot of the issues or the challenges they encounter, are stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and that's why they are coming to our app. We as a company, we really want to create a product, and service that helps address those pained ways. That's the most important thing.
That's kinda what I wanted to ask is, so it's nice you've said your mission is to sort of create peace in these people's lives, is the way you think about the problem you exist to solve, through that lens like depression, all of the end peace, peaceful emotions?
Yeah, I think, really our boss is the customer. We are there to service the customer. So we take any insights that they give us, and for example, if we create a suite of different meditational content, it's like, well which one is getting the most click throughs? Like which content is resinating the most? We definitely put the customer first. We look at their problems and we do surveys, or just do any analysis, whether it's running a email, like a AB test, and we say, "Which topic are you most interested in?" You present two options and then they tell us that, so what the customer tells us they have challenges with, we create products for that.
Because ultimately we're there to serve them.
How do you think about the transformation that you exit to help them solve? Like what is that process or journey look like in your experience with people?
So a lot of times when they come to us, I'll take one example, a lot of people they have problems with sleep and insomnia, and that's actually pretty common with a lot of people, (laughs) and they come to us and they can't sleep, and we're like alright we need to create content then, or audio guided meditations that can help them fall asleep at night. Hearing that transformation from them and being like, "All right you're having issues with this, "how can we package our content in such a way, "that would resonate with you?" We get feedback from them too, so we'll put out something and then they'll say, "Oh that was too much talking, "or there was not enough talking. "We actually don't wanna think that heavily "before we go to bed (laughing) so don't like "put up all these very deep questions." Sometimes people just want a story, or they just wanna listen to declaratives over you, that are like, "Oh you're doing well." Or, "Here is something to think about." That's really the transformation that we lead them through. It's really gratifying actually and I really enjoy it because when you can change people's lives, and we just hear testimonies on the app reviews, or people email us and just say like, "Oh your app is like the one thing "I listen to in the morning "and it helps get me on the right page." Or like, "Without your app I can't fall asleep. "I play it for two hours at night." I'm like, that's great to be able to work on a product and solve an actual pain point that people deal with.
It's interesting that you're in a situation where your content is where the product is actually.
It's actually very media driven.
So how do you think about the difference between product content and content marketing?
It's really interesting-
Or is there a difference?
Yeah, so I do marketing but then there's actually a director of content on our team. So he focuses on actually creating the meditations but then as a marketer I think of, how can I create content that gives people a taste of what's inside the app? What's challenging is because it is an audio app, sometimes I need to give them that experience, so I realize that maybe blogging, or doing things like that, it wasn't as effective because unless you experience listening to something, you're not gonna know. So it's really creating the content and finding channels where people are looking for that, that you can distribute it on. So I'll give an example, YouTube. A lot of people go onto YouTube to search for meditational or mindfulness content. So we created videos, and I did this on a very low string budget so I would just outsource this, and you know I don't have video skills, but I would ask someone to put something together, and then I would launch it on our YouTube channel, and initially drive a lot of traffic through our own audience. The great thing about YouTube is it's very SEO oriented, and just organic and you can drive traffic there. So I would put meditation videos on YouTube because people were already searching for that, and that was also a good way to test of what topics are people looking for. And by far our insomnia sleep video, it's gotten the most views. Our YouTube channel within a few months had over a million views, and insomnia was over half of those. So for me I view content as how can I package something that can give them a taste of what's in the app. Then we also, in addition to YouTube, we'll create web players, where you can just go to your Internet Explorer or Chrome and type in a link and then experience the meditation. So it's creating a similar experience which can be challenging.
But also giving people like a little bit of relief.
So they can see if this thing would actually help my sleep journey or whatever.
Yeah, for sure.
How did you first learn that sleep was the problem for people? I'm interested in, were you doing customer research, was it just feedback that people gave in the app reviews?
Yeah, so I think a lot of it is feedback from the surveys, but we can also view when people use the app. You look at those analytics. So sleep is one, so you see a spike in the evenings, and we'd also see a spike in the mornings. So a lot of times people use it in the mornings and in the evenings. Then you also look at, so I know you mentioned competitors, but Calm that app, it's very focused on sleep. Just looking at the landscape as well, and you just view user behavior and their trends. Whether it's through surveys or looking at analytics.
How do you know what's working? What are the metrics that you pay attention to a lot? So it's like views on a YouTube thing?
Yeah, actually it's interesting because as a marketer for an app, I do care about growth and app installs, but more than that our company metric is time spent meditating. That is what we care about because who cares if you have a product, and you're able to get someone to download it or sign up, if they aren't actually using it. You want to be able to engage with them. So across our company we say like, "Okay they're in the product but how much time "have they spent using it?" We want to create a usable product that actually engages the people. Yeah, that's our company wide metric.
We'll talk in a minute about how I'm constantly beating the drum of marketers get your metrics to be around growth of engaged customer not just growth because growth by itself actually doesn't get you anywhere.
You can get there and you can hack those numbers and still end up in a really bad place. And if you as a marketer can drive the growth of engaged customers metric, you're in really good shape. That is like some real job security. (laughs)
That's really fun.
And influence within an organization
Yeah, to see how marketing can influence the content. It's really exciting.
Yeah. Anything else you would say to a solopreneur or a really small business as a piece of advice for starting a content marketing program?
Yeah, I would say to first just don't let perfection get in the way and just to put yourself out there. That's my advice for anything in general if you're a solopreneur because sometimes, for me, I would just spend 10 hours writing a blog or something, but is there a quick version that you can get out? And don't spend so much time on content if you're not even sure if your audience really needs that. Run a quick AB test, quickly. So for example, instead of writing a book about a topic, send the email to your list and say, like two copies of two potential book titles, and see which ones get the higher click through rates, and then have that drive your content. Like have the audience insights drive your content and just launch really quick experiments. So you're not spending so much time creating something that you're not even sure the customer really wants.
Yeah, yeah, awesome.
Thanks so much.
What Joanna is talking about right now is something that I kind of call lean marketing strategy, where you're actually just doing a lot of tests by putting content in front of customers and seeing how they react to it. The best story that I remember about this comes from Tim Ferriss, I'm sure you guys know who he is. His way back book, Before our Work Week, he talks about the original title for that book was something like, Selling Cocaine for Fun and Profit. (laughs) Something like totally out there, but the publisher was like, "We are not publishing that book with that title." So he talks about how he actually ran a test by just running a bunch of Google AdSense ads that clicked through to nothing, he didn't even have a site built or anything. He just ran a bunch of ads and spent 30 or 50 bucks or something to see who clicked on which most, and that's how he got the title, The 4-Hour Workweek. So I'm not suggesting that you should have tests that click through to nothing, (laughs) but I am suggesting, like Joanna says, you can use subject lines and people's reaction to them as sort of an indicator of customer interest in a content program that's a deeper investment, or a product feature. So again, we're talking about rethinking your marketing, and it not being big beautiful stories about your brand, instead the rethink is that your content and marketing should be high value content that fuels your customers journey. So the rethink is, should not be beautiful stories about your brand, it should be high value content that fuels your customers journey. When I say high value and when I say content that fuels your customers journey, I'm not intending to communicate that the content has to be strictly like utilitarian how-to, that is not the case. They can be soaringly inspirational, beautiful customer success stories. They can be just super creative like mini movies. Actually the HeadSpace app has a bunch of really powerful little animations that are just little movie that teach you lessons about meditation basics. The whole point of it is that the content needs to help drive the transformation your customer is trying to get at by working with you. It is not that it can't be beautiful, right? But it does have to be transformational. All right, so the first thing that we're gonna do is the first step of making this rethink of your marketing is to try to shift your focus and your metrics from growth to engagement. So this is the thing I was just talking about. This is really like a career development point for marketers in particular. When it comes time to set KPI's, when it comes time to set your quarterly or yearly goals, when you're pitching a program, you should be arguing for a set of goals that maybe there's one growth goal, like one goal about follower building, or how many people you'll reach with something, but you should be making sure that you are measured for your success on engagement. Either on the growth of engaged customers, on how many people actually like it, watch it, read it, share it. If you're handed a set of goals that only include growth, this is the moment in time where you should learn how to make the business case. (laughs) You have to get to a place, I see so much frustration on the point of marketers who are like, "Well you know we're just not doing "the right things." Right, but the people who are telling you to do those things often won't know that things are not the right things if you're not telling them that back. So you can use a lot of the data that we've talked about today, and just the fundamental truth that a business that fails to engage its customers over and over again, is not a sustainable business. To start arguing for your metrics to include, your success metrics and your KPIs, to include growth of engaged customers or engagement on your content. And yes, this take practice, but if you can do it and start to show how your marketing and content programs drive customer engagement with the product, you actually gain so much more influence and so much more access to resources than if you're just the marketer that who makes sure that you get a big Twitter following, but never is, you know, is not driving engagement on that following. All right, rethink your marketing step number two is to shift your stories and your content from being about you to being for them and for their journey. I wanna give a couple of examples around success stories, and we're gonna drill down into how to translate customer journey into the success story strategy in just a bit, but take a look at REI's stories. They just have a bunch of features where they just made little mini movies about a bunch of people, not even people who fit their capital C customer definition. Not necessarily people who buy from REI, I don't know maybe they do maybe they don't, but they're people who enjoy the outdoors deeply, and they're different kinds of people than we've seen enjoy the outdoors. There's one guy who's like 70 and runs ultra marathons, and there's like a really round person who just runs a lot, and you're like, "Wow that girl is gettin' it." You know what I mean? (laughs) So there are these really soaring inspirational customer stories that do help facilitate their customer journey. Remember we talked about earlier, is about getting people to enjoy the great outdoors. So it does help remove some of the intimidation and "That's not for me.", type obstacles and objections that people have to getting into the great outdoors. The third step is to use, and this is a step we're gonna drill way down into, use your customer journey insights that we just distilled out of customer research for content, for marketing, and for product, via some rules of engagement I'm going to share with you now. So I hope I'm being super clear that the entire point of this conversation is to engage your customers with content that makes their transformational journey easier. Right? That's context. This was a Fogg Behavior Model for how you create behavior change. In order to help remove resistance point and trigger progress on someones transformational journey, you do have to know a little bit about behavior change. The Fogg Behavior Model says that you can create behavior change by increasing motivation, which is super hard to do, really, really hard like maybe don't try, by increasing ability, which means you can help make something easier for them. Take a knowledge road block away, make something cheaper for them to do, or you can put a hot trigger in their path. You can give them a notification or push or email or a signal or something that says, "Do that thing you wanted to do already, now. "Now is the time to do it." An alarm. So I've come away from working with Fogg's Behavior Model on a number of digital products and working with content strategy on a bunch of different brands, and hearing customers say the same thing over and over about wanting their content to educate, and wanting their content to motivate. But before we get into the specific rules of content engagement, I wanna do a really basic, here's what your content can and should do (laughs) and here's what your content can't and should not do. And by doing this I kinda hope to eliminate like maybe a decade of trial and error (laughs) off of your life, okay? So here we go. The whole power, the whole power of understanding your customer's journey and understanding the micro moments, the moments in time at which they're asking questions, I wanna know, I wanna go, I wanna do, I wanna buy, where they're asking those questions, and of whom they're asking those questions. The whole power of that material and having done that work is that you know, you already equipped you to know where the people who are already motivated and the people who already want to do the thing that you're trying to help people do, are and what questions they're asking, at what time, so you can just place your problem-solving content right there for them. That is the whole point. You don't need to use content and marketing to try to tell people about how great you are, and educate them about how great you are, and educate them that you exist, or educate them that the problem is important. So I will tell you that in the health and wellness and finance industries I hear that a lot. We have to teach people that this problem is really important. You can do that if you want too (laughs) but people have a lot of problems in their lives already. It's really hard to get someone to realize that a new problem to them should rank on their scale of problems that they care about. On the other hand there's already a bunch of people out there that are probably trying to solve that, the problem that you exist to solve, so find them. Same with motivate, right? Motivation is such a challenging thing, the best way to get it is to let life bring it to you. Trying to create an x from the outside for people is almost impossible. If you could, there would be, I mean the whole industry of, remember we talked about the guy earlier who was diagnosed as pre-diabetic and then had desert that night? Like that would never happen if it was easy to motivate people. As a marketer you're never gonna have the motivational power that say, a doctor or a diagnosis of pre-diabetes does, and that doesn't even work. But again, there's already a bunch of people out there in the world that are motivated to solve the problem that you exist to solve. So like, let's find them, right? And put the right content in front of them. On the flip side, what content can do is increase their ability, remember ability from Fogg Behavior Model, can increase their ability to do something, can make it way easier for them to do something that they already wanna do. That's what I think of as facilitating. It can activate them. It can put a hot trigger in the path of people who are already motivated. In fact, many people think that's the easiest for digital products, in particular, they're like, "That's where the money is, "put a hot trigger in already motivated people's path." The reason we all have that instant reaction internally when we get a push notification on our phone, or a thing to text, that is a hot trigger in the path, that we've been trained (laughs) essentially, we've been conditioned to know that that means we should pay attention to something. That is a behavior change. Remember human beings didn't have these devices 20 years ago. So we've had a whole human species behavior change based on just putting a hot trigger in the path. Imagine what one might do with that if you were trying to trigger say a healthy behavior? (laughs) which people do, mini health apps have a push notification that says, "Hey you haven't meditated yet this morning. "Did you want to? "I think you might of wanted too." Right, like that. And then translating. Translating goes back to that Stewart Butterfield post about how it's our job to make sure that we're building products that actually do help people solve the problems they wanna solve, and that we're using marketing to translate the product into terms that they already care about. So that if people don't know they need a group chat solution we shouldn't be marketing them a group chat solution. What people do know is they wanna be more productive, or more collaborative, or more creative, or they wanna be more efficient with their work time. Here even I might imagine a creative live, right? People wanna be more creative. People wanna be more innovative, they wanna be more productive, they wanna be more fulfilled in their work. People want self expression. Those are all things that Creative Live actually does a pretty good job (laughs) of like messaging in their marketing. But that's translating, is instead of talking about your product the way you've been thinking about your product, putting it into words that click open your customers mental frames for things that they already care about.