How We Grow Our Business By Marketing To The “Wrong” People
Many people who read this blog will never become Groove customers. Here’s why we’re okay with that.
A few weeks ago at a friend’s party, I was talking to a small business owner who had never heard of Groove.
He asked me about how we find customers, and I told him about some of the things that we do, including this blog.
After thinking it over for a bit, he asked me a pretty pointed question:
But what does a blog about entrepreneurship have to do with customer support software? Why would your readers buy from you? Seems like you’re going after the wrong people.
It’s a great question. And one that I’ve heard thousands of times since we launched the blog.
The answer, I think, might be helpful for anyone trying to succeed with content marketing.
And it has to do with thinking ahead.
Understanding The User Acquisition Funnel
This part may be obvious to some, but it wasn’t always obvious to me, and if your background isn’t in marketing, it’s an important concept to learn.
Almost nobody reads this blog for the very first time, and signs up for a Groove account on the same day.
It happens, but it’s very rare.
Instead, when a reader converts into a Groove user, what typically happens looks more like this:
Day 1: They arrive on the blog via a referral or organic search, and read a post. They find the post valuable, so they sign up to get emails about new content.
Days 2–7: We send them an email drip sharing some of our most useful content. They continue to read our posts.
Day 8: We send them an email letting them know more about our customer service software product, and inviting them to give it a try for free. While some users do this, most who end up becoming customers don’t sign up at this step.
Days 9–90: The subscriber remains on our email list and continues to read—and get value from—our weekly posts.
Somewhere in that last 81-day window, that reader might begin to look more at Groove. They might also subscribe to our support blog. They might have an event that makes them reconsider how they handle customer support. And then, they might sign up to try Groove.
That’s just one example of how our user acquisition flow might play out. There are many more variations, depending on a number of factors, but the entire cycle from first visit to signup can last anywhere from a few minutes to several months (or more).
Found out about @Groove from their blog (which is awesome) - I'm a case study of content marketing leading to customer conversion— Justin Sterenberg (@citrusbison) June 26, 2015
Thinking about the signup process as a progressive one, like in the example above, versus a transactional one (e.g., “visitor either signs up or doesn’t sign up”), is key to understanding how a user acquisition funnel works.
I think of our funnel this way:
When a visitor signs up for our email list, they become a contact.
When a contact starts to look at customer support software or actively read our support blog, they become a prospect.
When a prospect signs up for Groove, they become a trial user.
And when a trial user upgrades to a paid account, they become a customer.
The goal of this blog is to drive visitors through the very top of the funnel.
The goal of the support blog, on the other hand, is to drive prospects into the middle of the funnel.
Both blogs serve pretty different purposes, and have a very different ideal reader.
This blog is written for anyone trying to grow a small business. The support blog is written for people looking to get better at customer service.
Now, looking at the graphics above, the obvious question—and the one implied by the founder in the beginning of this post, and by thousands of others—is: why bother with the very top of the funnel, when you can focus on getting people directly into the middle?
Why You Shouldn’t Ignore The Top Of The Funnel
Yes, you should try and target people who will enter your funnel right in the middle. That’s the reason we launched the support blog, and we’re very much focused on growing it.
But we have no plans to slow down or change direction on this blog, and here’s why:
1) It casts a wide net and delivers long-term results
Top-of-funnel marketing, by definition, casts a wider net than efforts aimed at the middle of the funnel.
It gets you in front of more people.
Ours is a crowded marketplace, and many thousands of businesses are using support software, the overwhelming majority of which are not (yet) using Groove.
Most of those companies have no interest in switching right now. And as our customer development research has shown, a lot of them also don’t really care too much about customer service content, which means that they’re unlikely to stumble upon the support blog.
One of our goals with this blog is to simply get on their radar.
To add value to their lives, even if they’re not considering becoming a customer today, next week or next month.
But one day, many of those readers will need new support software.
They’ll grow tired of the one they’re using. They’ll change jobs and need to set up something new. They’ll want a feature that their current solution doesn’t offer.
And when that day comes, they’ll think of Groove.
This isn’t conjecture; it’s a belief that’s been confirmed for me hundreds of times by emails like this one:
2) It fuels word-of-mouth referrals
Let’s say that there are 10,000 small businesses looking for customer support software like Groove’s.
Our support blog can certainly try to capture them all, but it’s unlikely that it will.
But the decision-makers at those 10,000 small businesses have social networks and trusted contacts that number exponentially higher than 10,000.
And by targeting the top of the funnel, we can reach plenty of those people.
So when they reach out to their networks and ask for tips on support software, readers of our blog will regularly join the chorus, as noted in Zapier’s write-up about our blog:
Yates co-founded Fitzii, an online recruiting software provider, and discovered one of Groove’s earlier blog entries through a catchy Tweet that was relevant to his startup’s journey at the time.
“I’m an avid reader of the blog mainly as the series combines aspirational and practical aspects of the entrepreneur’s journey, which I am also on,” he says. “I also really enjoy the honest and open approach to sharing the journey. It feels very authentic and credible, and the level of interaction in the discussions adds value for the reader, too.”
Fitzii isn’t a Groove customer mainly due to timing: they had just implemented a customer support tool when he discovered Groove, and as a fledgling start-up, they just couldn’t justify the time investment required to switch.
“Ironically, through the blog and my passion for customer service, I do feel a high degree of brand loyalty towards Groove and recommend other entrepreneurs to take a look when they’re in the market for support software,” Yates says. “Groove will be high on our list when we take another look at options for our own business.”
3) It builds legitimacy for your brand
“Brand awareness” is often dismissed as a vanity metric, but brand legitimacy is a concept that goes a bit deeper, and that I think is far more valuable.
By publishing useful content every week, we work hard to contribute value to the small business community, whether it turns into immediate sales or not.
This build legitimacy for the Groove brand, and this has a number of benefits (beyond the word-of-mouth referrals I mentioned above):
- It’s a lot easier to connect with highly sought-after advisors and mentors—or any influencer, really—when they’ve heard of the good work that you do.
- It gives us the clout to build partnerships with high-profile companies that they’re happy to promote.
- It makes getting guest blog posts accepted far easier, especially outside of the support community.
- It makes other bloggers a lot more likely to write about Groove (even if they’re not customers), further expanding the reach of our awareness
- It makes it easier for the support person who wants to switch to Groove to get the decision approved by their CEO, who had heard of us through our blog (or can quickly vet us with a Google search)
So while brand awareness might be a fluffy term, these are real benefits that have a very real positive impact on our business.
How To Apply This To Your Business
There’s a very good chance that someone who’s ready to buy your product looks quite different from someone who will be ready to buy your product in a matter of weeks, months or years.
And while it’s tempting to only focus on the low-hanging fruit (which you absolutely should do, too), don’t forget to play the long game.
You should focus on filling the top of your funnel with as many leads as you can, and then work on moving those leads down your funnel.
And you should also focus on driving people directly into the middle of your funnel, as they’ll likely convert much more quickly.
Ultimately, the strategy we chose for both approaches is the same: deliver as much value as possible, for free.
However, the questions we’re answering, the problems we’re solving and the personas we work hard to deeply understand are very, very different.
This will likely be the case for you as well.
But it’s worth it.
Together, these approaches will help you win the long game.