All good things must come to an end.
After 8 months of working at Receiptful working as a Growth Marketer, Adii (my boss) and I decided that the best would be that I should step down of my position. There are many reasons why this happened, but I prefer to keep those in private.`
Even though this is sad news, there are many things I got out from that experience. Given 5 months ago I shared with you how I got my job as a Growth Hacker, today I would like to share what I did in the last 8 months working as a Growth Marketer.
Table of Contents
From all the things I did for Receiptful, the biggest one that took the most amount of time and effort was working and growing the company’s blog. Most of the tasks I did were:
- Defining content articles to write;
- Give them to our writer to develop them;
- Edit them;
- Paste them into our blogging platform;
- Publish them;
- Send the newsletter; and
- Promote it on our Twitter feed.
The most important part of all of it was defining the topics, which had to follow our blog’s goal, which was:
To empower ecommerce store owners succeed by helping them increase their Customer Lifetime Value.
Even though at first we didn’t developed articles that relevant to our main idea, we ended up developing some highly actionable articles. The most successful ones we developed traffic-wise were:
- 75 eCommerce Facts, Quotes & Statistics that Will Blow Your Mind
- How to Design an Ecommerce Store in 2015
- Receiptful Raises $500k to Supercharge eCommerce Marketing
- 6 Ways To Engage Your Customers Via Their Receipts
- 6 Key Insights from 100K Email Receipts Sent [Infographic]
All these articles together attracted over almost a quarter of our total blog’s traffic.
Unfortunately, most of those readers didn’t convert to users. That was expected, as content marketing isn’t about acquiring users. The main goal of content marketing is to create a top-of-the-mind presence in our reader’s mind. Also, it’s not a matter of quantity, but quality. One user that signs up and ends up paying for our paid products will probably justify all the costs of creating and promoting that content in the long-term.
We were able, however, to convert many of those users to newsletter subscribers. We ended up getting a conversion rate of over 1%. Even this this is small for most people, it’s common for email newsletters to have a smaller conversion rate, usually around half a percent.
Lesson Learned: Content marketing is about creating a top-of-the-mind presence in our readers heads. After that, it’s all about making them sign up for your newsletter. And from there, you need to nurture that relationship.
One of the first things I decided to do when I started working was guest posting on high-authority ecommerce blogs. My goal was twofold:
- Increase our domain authority, something guest posting would have help us to achieve
- Attract high-quality referral traffic
After a long research, I discovered four things that surprised me:
- There aren’t that many high-authority ecommerce blogs
- Most of them are run by companies
- Most of them don’t accept guest posts
- Those that do accept guest posts, don’t actually care, as they never respond (even to say no)
Even though it took me ages to finish my guest posts, as they were huge, I ended up publishing my articles in four high-quality ecommerce blogs: KISSmetrics, Shopify, 60 Second Marketer and Hongkiat. These are the articles I wrote, respectively:
- How to Design Product Pages that Convert Like A Boss
- The Art of eCommerce Upselling
- 5 Simple Ways to Boost Your Online Sales Revenue
- Three eCommerce Growth Hacks that Will Boost Your Sales and Revenues
Most of those guest posts didn’t have a big impact in our growth. They did help us get high-quality links, but they didn’t attract help us attract almost any traffic. The biggest reason for this has to do with the fact our blog wasn’t mentioned in the article, but only in the bio.
Ironically, one interview Adii got from WooThemes had much more impact than writing a +3000 words article for KISSmetrics.
Lesson Learned: Don’t expect to get lots of traffic from bio links. One contextual link, as the one we got from Adii’s interview, can have 10 times the impact of a bio link. However, those bio links can help increase the domain authority.
Another activity I did to promote our blog’s content and create relationships with influencers was outreach. My goal was to make the ecommerce’s influencers aware of our existence, so they’d eventually follow us on Twitter and organically share our content. I don’t like being pushy nor annoying, so the more they like our content, the better it’d be for everybody.
Similar to what happened with the ecommerce blog, I was surprised to find there aren’t that many ecommerce influencers. For instance, Topsy barely showed any influencers for the keyword “ecommerce”. Still, I got as many people as I could find, and based on that I built a list in our Buzzstream account. Then I segmented them based on different needs: some of them were for our infographic promotion, other ones were simply to connect, others were to promote our “75 Ecommerce Facts..” article, and so on.
From the four outreach campaigns I created, three of them were successful, and one wasn’t:
- The campaign I created to promote the “15 Ecommerce Experts to Follow on Twitter” article got us over +50 social shares, which lead to hundreds of Twitter visitors who represent around a quarter of the total traffic the article has got so far.
- The campaign for the article “How to Increase Your Ecommerce Revenue: 10 Ecommerce Experts Share Their Insights” got us 151 social shares, which got us almost a quarter of the total article’s traffic.
- The campaign for the “75 Ecommerce Facts..” article got us over 900 social shares, which lead to almost 500 Twitter visitors, a quarter of the total article’s traffic.
I mention the number of Twitter visitors because our goal was to get Twitter shares from the influencers, which would lead to a snowball effect to the rest of the social networks. If I counted the amount of social visits in the total traffic, that’d probably be around half of our blog’s traffic. This means social visitors had a huge impact in our overall traffic.
The campaign that didn’t work was the one I created to promote our infographic. I think the main reason why it didn’t work it’s because the infographic was quite short, and there is still not much interest on email receipts. Also, tweeting is much easier than embedding an infographic in a site.
Lesson Learned: Outreaching works great as long as you treat the people you outreach to as people, and not as “someone who I want to get something from”. It’s a long-term game, but it can work to create awareness for your blog. Also, you need to know what you want from the outreach. In our case, it was social traffic and relationships.
The only social media account we had at Receiptful was our Twitter profile. The reason why we decided to have only a Twitter profile is because we didn’t want to lose focus. Having a Facebook profile is a time-consuming process that’s not very effective. Social traffic is usually not very valuable in user and monetary terms (ie. they don’t convert nor they end up paying). So why should I spend time and money on that channel? Alex Turnbull from Groove wrote an excellent article on this exact topic.
In the time I managed our Twitter account, I made it grew to 560 followers, and with a nice engagement rate (a high amount of retweets and favorites). I can’t tell you exactly the average amount of retweets and favorites we got per tweet, but it was pretty good considering how little I did.
My job consisted mostly on looking for interesting and relevant tweets to help our users become better ecommerce store owners, and just Buffer those with relevant hashtags. We tweeted four times per day, and always one of those articles was an article from our blog.
Lesson Learned: Even though it’s not a must thing to do, you should have at least one social account in which you connect with your followers and share relevant articles and ideas. If you do, focus on that, but don’t expect that it will move the needle because it won’t. Have your expectations in place and work around them.
Being a former SEO consultant, I know something about how to position a site in the search results. In our case, Receiptful didn’t need to do much, as we were really new and small, and our main keywords didn’t have a big amount of monthly searches. However, since I started working there, I decided I wanted to make Receiptful dominate the search results. That was the main purpose behind my reviews and guest posting initiatives.
Even though Receiptful doesn’t position in the first page of the search results for the “head” keywords, like “digital receipts” or “email receipts”, it does position in the top-5 for long-tail keywords such as “increase ecommerce revenue” and “ecommerce experts”.
That lead to organic search traffic to be the third biggest acquisition channel after direct and referral. Over a tenth of our website’s traffic comes from the search results, and half of that amount comes from there too, which is pretty good considering how little I’ve done. To improve our SEO, I did two things:
- Get high-quality inbound links from guest posts and reviews;
- Optimize the on-site by putting relevant keywords in the tags and enhancing the URLs.
Lesson Learned: SEO is highly effective, low-cost and in a way, not very time-consuming. If you think your company’s UVP has targets big to middle volume keywords, improve your SEO. Rand Fishkin said in an interview that SEO is something you have to start doing before you need it. He’s right.
Small caveat: Some of you won’t see the same results as me, as the search results vary from country to country.
The lifecycle email creation I did was meant to help with the activation of our users in their first 30 days after signing up.
This was the first time I created such a campaign, and it ended up being harder than I thought. Not only you need to write the emails and define the key events; you also have to think how those emails fit into the user lifecycle.
Our lifecycle emails changed as time went by. The first batch of lifecycle emails I created was mostly focused on time-based events, with very little segmentation. The only segmentation we did was based on whether they switched to live mode or not, which was the event that defined if someone activated their account.
The second batch we launched was almost identical to the first one. The only difference between the two was I took out some emails that weren’t having much impact, and added a few more relevant ones.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to finish the last batch of our emails, which was going to be 100% segment-based. That’s something I learned after reading this article from Vero’s blog. It made sense to make this change, as our user base changed a lot from the time I started working.
When I first started, we barely have one big feature, which was our email receipts. Then, in the last few months, we launched the recommendation widgets, the paid accounts, and recently, the follow-up emails. That means we started to have big different segments that needed different touch points.
If I had to change our current lifecycle emails, I’d segment our user base in six big groups, which would represent each pricing plan. I’d also take a look at the features use, as some people may be subscribed to one paid plan, but aren’t using some of the features.
Over a sixth of our user base came back to our site to activate their accounts from our lifecycle emails.
Lesson Learned: I ended up learning that the key to lifecycle emails is to segment your user base, and build different campaigns based on those segments. Still, I think it’s better to have a lifecycle email campaign that don’t have one.
We used our email marketing provider, Campaign Monitor, to reach two goals:
- Promote our newly released blog content
- Nurture the people who signed up to our newsletter
The first group was geared towards reading our new articles (duh) and, hopefully, promote it. That would lead to more readers, more new subscribers, and so on.
However, our second group was the most important one. As soon as they signed up to our e-book (which was the one that got the most subscribers, in comparison to our newsletter) they got a three-part email sequence in which they got our ebook, then another email promoting another email newsletter Adii managed, and finally an email that motivated our users to sign up to our tool.
This campaign ended up having a small but surprising impact. Even though the people who signed up to our tool from this campaign ended up representing less than 2% of our user base, these was still pretty good considering how little we did to nurture those users after developing this campaign.
Lesson Learned: Every time you get a newsletter sign up, focus on nurturing them. That doesn’t necessarily mean they must be pushed to sign up for your paid tool. Just think you’re building a relationship with themstep-by-step. First they find out about you, then they care about you so much they sign up for your newsletter, then they sign up for your free trial. And after all that, they will end up paying for your tool. Is it worth the time and effort? Definetly.
Another thing I had to do right when I started working was helping with the analytics implementation.
The first thing I did was to properly set up Google Analytics. Some of the things I had to do to were:
- Create different profiles for our specific subdomains
- Create filters to exclude ourselves from skewing our data
- Create dashboards
- Create segments
This work was pretty easy and straightforward in itself. The hardest part was organizing everything to work and look good.
Then, I started to help finishing with the set up of KISSmetrics. The API Stefano (one of the developers in our team) set up was good, but was lacking some important events. So I just created the rest of the events manually, which KISSmetrics lets you do easily.
However, I ended up realizing, while we were doing our Mixpanel switch, that I wasn’t tracking the right events; I was tracking them all. This isn’t bad per se, as I believe is better to track a little bit more than track less than you need. The main problem is that having too many events not only can lead to confusion, but it’s also a waste of money.
Even so, since I started working I felt KISSmetrics wasn’t doing a good job helping us analyze our user base. The worst problem we had was the cohort reports didn’t work. And as you may know, cohort reports are the key to understand user retention.
After 6 months of using KISSmetrics, Adii and I decided we had enough. We decided to leave KISSmetrics and switch to Mixpanel, which apparently offered better features than the former. I was responsible of talking with the Mixpanel people, first to understand if they could actually help us solve our problems, and second to coordinate the switch.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to use Mixpanel as much as I wanted to, but I appeared to work much better than KISSmetrics.
Lesson Learned: Tracking is as important as measuring and analyzing the data being tracked. To do it right, you need to know what you need to track, and most importantly, why.
What About Retention and Revenue?
Last but not least, I need to mention two very important aspects of the job of any growth marketer: retention and revenue. What happened? Did I get to do something about them?
Sadly, the answer is no. Let me explain you:
Our company was 100% free since the moment I started working for it until a few weeks before I finished my job. Adii made the right choice at the beginning of the company of making the email receipts 100% free, which ended up being one of our main competitive advantages. Not only we did something innovative; we also offered it for free.
More recently, the company started to offer bigger and more robust tools that were related to its value proposition of increasing customer lifetime value: the recommendation widgets and the follow-up emails, both features which are paid.
Because those features were launched very close to my departure, I didn’t have any time to do something about them. I did finished developing a very interesting SaaS dashboard I took from Christoph Janz, but that was all. If I did stay longer, I’d have definitely used it to understand our free-to-trial conversions and the behavior of our paid customers.
On the other hand, retention is a different topic. I did have time to analyze it and do something to improve it, right?
Well, the truth is it wasn’t necessary. As the genius of Brian Balfour says: focus wins. Given our activation metric was the number of users that switched to live mode, around half of our user base activated their accounts.
I decided to focus on acquisition, and later on activation (which ended up taking my focus away from my key activity, which was acquisition), and leave retention for later, when we had a more robust set of tools.
If I had to analyze the retention of Receiptful, I’d developed a growth model similar to the Sidekick’s one (something I started doing before departing, although I didn’t have the time to finish), and I’d see what was the most important input to improve.
Lesson Learned: Focus on one step of the funnel. Don’t try to improve different metrics in different parts of the funnel, as it will have a negative impact in your job. It’s better to excel in one thing and not to be mediocre at everything you do.
This is a really long article, so if you read so far, thank you. I highly appreciate your effort and caring.
This article was not easy to write. It felt as when one has to pick up their things after it’s being laid out. I also had to rediscover all the things I did, and think about the ones I couldn’t do. I also got to see the real impact of my job, which even if it makes me feel good, I still feel it wasn’t enough.
As you have been able to see, a Junior Growth Marketer (or Hacker) job not always is as you read in some blog articles. In my case, my job didn’t feel as a growth marketing one, but rather a mix of an internship and a content marketing manager. Still, I appreciate I have been able to do it, as I learned lots of things on growing a recently founded startup.
I just hope this article helps you, fellow growth marketer, to know what it really means to be a growth marketer in a early-stage startup. It’s also a way for you to learn from my mistakes, so you don’t have to make them.
If you liked this article, I’d be very grateful if you could tweet it. If you have any feedback or comment to make, please do it in the comments below.