B2B Influencer Marketing: 4 Strategies that Move the Needle

Influencer marketing has been around long enough to generate great case studies—and skepticism. That’s especially true for B2B marketers. An Instagram model gushing over a new fashion product seems infinitely remote from strategies they might deploy. Still, about 65% of brands planned to increase their investment in influencer marketing in 2018, which puts the strategy […]

The post B2B Influencer Marketing: 4 Strategies that Move the Needle appeared first on CXL.

Influencer marketing has been around long enough to generate great case studies—and skepticism. That’s especially true for B2B marketers. An Instagram model gushing over a new fashion product seems infinitely remote from strategies they might deploy.

Still, about 65% of brands planned to increase their investment in influencer marketing in 2018, which puts the strategy on track to top $10 billion by 2020. Yet, according to another study, only 11% of B2B companies have ongoing influencer marketing programs, compared to 48% of B2C brands.

B2B brands shouldn’t feel left out, even if they lag behind. Professional communities on social media are strong. We’ve all given and received one-off recommendations in Slack groups or via email. Those under-the-radar endorsements can influence purchasing decisions for cloud-based CRMs as much as cleansing teas.

But too many case studies tout the strategies of SAP, Salesforce, and other behemoths who have resources and networks that dwarf most companies. This post offers four B2B influencer marketing strategies that move the needle in any industry and for companies of all sizes. 

1. Partner with industry experts to co-create content.

  • What this strategy achieves: Adds instant credibility to your content and provides a natural distribution network.

Like every good influencer strategy, this one is a win-win. Ross Simmonds, Digital Strategist at Foundation, explains why:

When you collaborate with an expert in your field [. . .] the expert/influencer has a chance to connect with a new audience and you have the opportunity to bring new value/perspective to your existing audience.

This strategy is also flexible: You can select the right type of content based on your resources.

Here are several ways to co-create content with B2B influencers:

Brand endorsements

Even if you don’t have a roster of influencer-users, reach out for a quote about your product or brand. Co-created “content” can be as simple as a few lines to add social proof to your offer.

A pop-up on the cognitiveSEO blog has a quote from Bill Sebald:

use of an influencer quote to provide social proof.

Start with influencers who are already connected to your brand; the chances of getting a reply are much higher. Who follows your brand account on Twitter? Who shared your content in the past?

If manually culling a list is too much effort, use a tool like Followerwonk. With just a few clicks, you can identify the most influential users among your followers. (You can learn more about this strategy on my recent post on Moz.)

how to identify your most influential followers on social media.

Similarly, Buzzsumo allows you to see who on Twitter shared your content:

example of how to find influential people who have shared your content.

Case studies

Involving experts in case studies can help win more likes and shares—promoting the content is in influencers’ self-interest because they get to share their success stories.

You can catalyze that sharing, something Ann Smarty of Viral Content Bee does regularly:

Any time I feature influencers in my content, I tag them on Twitter, not just in my own tweets but also in updates from everyone else. This gets my influencers back to my site with every tweet.

We add the project to Viral Content Bee and include the influencers’ usernames in the project name. This way, every time the article is tweeted from the dashboard, the influencers are tagged on Twitter, driving them back to the content.

example of call-outs to influencers in article tweets.
Twitter is the easiest social media network for tagging. Tagging on Facebook is trickier but still worthwhile.

Matthew Barby, along with other well-known HubSpot employees, shared how Accuranker helped them double their traffic. Those names (and that brand) added credibility to Accuranker’s case study.

But, of course, there’s a limitation to these collaborations: The targeted influencers have to be your clients—for long enough to have gotten great value from your product and liberated from a self-imposed NDA that keeps them from sharing their story.

Video content 

Video has won marketers’ hearts and minds: 83% believe that video content grows sales. But it may require some penny-pinching since videos need a generous budget (compared to, say, a blog post or whitepaper). 

If you’re on a shoe-string budget but still want to produce content featuring experts:

  • Record a short webinar-like Q&A. I use Zoom for its ease-of-use and decent video quality.
  • Live stream on Facebook or YouTube. Pick your brand channel that has the most engaged community (i.e. most followers, subscribers). After the live stream, promote the video across other social media platforms.

While production may be more demanding, it may also make it easier to find experts who will collaborate with you. Videos are among the most expensive content types to produce, so the perceived value of collaborating is often higher.

Ross Hudgens at Siege Media has successfully uses this formula. His “Content and Conversation” video series features a veritable “Who’s Who” of the digital marketing world:

example of youtube channel that interviews lots of influencers.

There are ways to reduce production costs, too, like shooting videos at company-sponsored conferences and events. The experts are already there, so just start rolling.

Research collaborations

Want to co-create content that will really stick with readers? Already have a cache of data? Share it with a B2B influencer to publish on their site.

In the digital marketing space, Brian Dean does this often. Most of his research is based on data provided by other companies. Here are a few examples from his recent posts:

If you need ideas of what kind of content you could create with your data, check out the post on B2B content marketing strategies, or use a tool like BuzzSumo or Ahrefs to surface popular topics.

using ahrefs to surface popular topics for content collaborations.

Partnering up with experts in your field is a great way to create new and interesting content while also building relationships. But influencers aren’t the only people who can help you promote your brand. 

2. Turn loyal, influential clients into brand ambassadors.

  • What this strategy achieves: Builds word-of-mouth referrals and cultivates a community of user-advocates.

If someone tells you that building relationships with influencers is a piece of cake, they’re either: 

  1. From a well-known company that influencers are eager to work with;
  2. Have never never done it themselves. 

Persuading influencers to collaborate is anything but easy. Get ready to be ignored by hundreds of them. It’s just a part of the process—if you thought to reach out to them, so did dozens (or hundreds) of others. 

Loyal clients may be an easier target, especially since you don’t need to “sell” your brand; they’re already sold. So how do you get them to share their experience with your business?

Here are options to turn happy clients into vocal supporters:

Special community programs 

Moz was among the first digital marketing companies to create a bonus system (“MozPoints”). For various activities—like a “thumbs up” for your blog post comment—you receive a certain number of points.

example of point system to motivate participation by users.
I have just over 900 points and rank #97 in the Moz community. (Wow, I had no idea before writing this post. LOL!)

SEMrush has also invested in their community, building something similar to motivate people to participate and engage with their brand:

example of loyalty/gamified participation in company programs.

The gamification can motivate users to engage with your content or to help other users on your product forum. That engagement, in turn, may help you create and identify your champions.

Nick Dimitriou, Head of Growth at Moosend, highlights other benefits of loyalty-type programs:

  • Stay ahead of the competition;
  • Reduce your advertising spend;
  • Increase customer retention;
  • Move existing customers further down the funnel;
  • Identify brand evangelists;
  • Find customers who have influencer potential for your brand.

Closed groups

Make your customers feel truly special by adding them to an exclusive group. Many companies have closed Facebook groups to help clients feel more connected to their brand. However, you can go a step further and create a VIP group accessible only to hand-picked clients. (A community feature can also be added quite easily to your site.)

This will streamline conversations about your product/service, help you collect feedback, and—most importantly—allow you to share special offers (e.g. beta access, company swag) and invite influencers to your community meet-ups. 

Engaging with loyal customers is an affordable strategy to earn endorsements from clients whose opinions carry weight in the industry. But clients may not be your only die-hard fans. Your brand might already have loyal influencers.

3. Organize offline events to develop relationships.

  • What this strategy achieves: Builds brand awareness by celebrating others and creates the personal connections you need to execute influencer strategies.

I know tons of people that I’ve never met in person (but would love to meet one day!). Thanks to digital marketing conferences, I have been able to grow many of those digital-first relationships. 

An old-school, face-to-face chat can’t be beaten, even by video calls. My team knows this, which is the number-one reason we host our own annual event, Digital Olympus. Even if you’re not in a position to run a conference, there are some options to consider:

Closed VIP events

For instance, SEMrush Summer Jams brings together the very best digital marketers. Being a part of this event is a big deal. Or take SEOktoberfest, organized by Marcus Tandler from Ryte. Even though it costs quite a lot to attend, it remains an invitation-only event with a feeling of exclusivity.

event landing page promoting experts.
You know it’s exclusive when the site promoting an SEO event is a single page of basic HTML!

Awards

If there’s no award in your niche, it could be your chance to start one! Recruit a group of trustworthy experts to act as judges (Influencer Engagement Opportunity #1). Then, promote submissions for Best XYZ and celebrate the winners digitally or, if you have the budget, with a one-night award ceremony (Influencer Engagement Opportunity #2). 

Existing award programs highlight best practices. For example, Search Awards are well-known in the digital marketing niche. I was a part of Search Awards a few times, and I think they’re so popular because:

  • Even being shortlisted is a huge benefit to brand awareness.
  • It’s a great opportunity to meet experts that you’ve known on the web for ages.
  • Shortlisted companies invite friends and influencers to their tables to build stronger bonds.

If experts see that your award benefits them, they’ll be more willing to participate and maybe even help organize or sponsor the program.

Parties before or after big events 

This is a shortcut if you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford VIP events or awards. Search for an existing event and announce that you’re running a pre- or post-party for it. (Lots of companies, for example, run BrightonSEO pre-parties; some are “official” parties, sponsored through the conference.)

Face-to-face communication will always be the best way to catch up with loyal influencers, whether they’re clients or experts. Now, let’s see how to identify more of those people for future collaborations.

4. Keep hunting for new influencers.

  • What this strategy achieves: Grows your network of potential influencers and opens the door to new or expanded strategies.

The game never stops. As with other marketing strategies, a one-off approach is least likely to work. Keep in touch with people you already know (through, for example, the aforementioned VIP groups), but always seek out new connections.

At any point, your most vocal influencers might move on to collaborate with other brands. There are many ways to find new potential influencers:

Round-ups

(Too) many round-ups are average at best; there are exceptions. For example, Robbie Richards’ round-ups are valuable and rank well. His article on the best keyword research tools earns more than 600 organic visitors a month:

example of successful round-up posts.

Richards’ round-ups are successful because of their structure and those involved—the experts he includes help him promote round-ups effectively and win links back to the posts.

For your next round-up post, start with a question that’s likely to yield insightful answers. Here are some that I’ve used in the past:

  • What’s an outdated strategy in [industry]?
  • What’s the best thing you’ve ever done to improve [topic]?
  • What’s the best tip you’ve ever received about [topic]?
  • What’s your favorite piece of software for [task]?
  • What’s a new strategy you’ve uncovered recently to improve [topic]?

Any question that tackles an area of expertise and asks for an actionable tip will generate meaningful answers. That said, avoid topics that are overused in your industry. (In digital marketing, for example, no one needs another round-up on “how to write a blog post.”)

This post can help you find motivated influencers who are eager to participate in a round-up.

Top XX experts posts 

These posts are, essentially, a type of round-up (a round-up of names rather than ideas). However, I strongly recommend that you connect with the experts you want to feature in your post beforehand. That will help ensure they promote your piece once it goes live.

Here are a few examples to inspire you:

Link to experts’ content

Pick who you want to build a relationship with and link to an article on their site, not a guest post they’ve published elsewhere. You might want to connect with your potential influencer to see if it’s okay to share a link to their new post. (The answer is almost certainly “yes,” but it’s a frictionless way to break the ice.)

To be more strategic about it, see who links to your competitors. The authors of those posts likely contribute to many sites, which makes them valuable targets for your outreach. Here’s a great post that shares how to find them.  

Support influencers on your social media channels

Promote content that needs (and deserves) promotion. Obviously, if an expert writes a new post for Moz, it will do well regardless—the author isn’t likely to notice if you share it. That story may be different when they publish on their personal blog. 

Take the time to make a custom, visually appealing social media shoutout for the influencer’s content. People love visuals, and the 10 minutes you spend to make a nice image on Canva or Vengagge—especially if the influencer didn’t do the same for their work—may earn their attention.

Invite guest hosts to Twitter chats and webinars

You’ll have better luck convincing an influencer to host if they have some history with you. Spend time warming them up—include them in a round-up or ask for a quote—then move on to webinars and chats. 

Send company swag

You don’t even need to know the person to do this. Just send some swag to their company, with the package addressed to them. (Still, sending gifts to people you know is better—they’re more likely to share their excitement on social media.)

This works well for event promotion. For Digital Olympus, we made cookies with the logo and sent t-shirts to our friends. That campaign was a definite success.

example of customized swag on instagram.

Congratulate influencers on life events

The life events of influencers provide opportunities, too. Catalog personal details in a CRM-type system (in a non-creepy way) and set reminders.

Small but memorable gifts work well. For example, Deepcrawl sends the cutest onesies for newborns: 

Conclusion

B2B influencer marketing has carved its own path. Success is less about the one-and-done “viral” efforts common in B2C marketing and more about generating a regular undercurrent of interactions with industry influencers.

The biggest benefit of that strategic bent? It makes influencer marketing accessible to nearly every business. You may not crash your servers with a successful campaign, but you can build credibility for your content, product, and brand.

There are so many ways to do it:

  • Working with established clients;
  • Organizing events;
  • Networking with respected industry figures;
  • Co-creating content, and so on.

Ideally, you’ll implement multiple strategies to reach more people. Pick those you like most, but go out of your comfort zone and try something new, too. 

The post B2B Influencer Marketing: 4 Strategies that Move the Needle appeared first on CXL.

How to Increase SaaS Prices the Right (and Profitable) Way

Have you ever gotten a bill that—inexplicably—is two or three times more than usual? What was your reaction? Probably something like this: [A SaaS vendor] pulled a massive price increase on us (over 300%!) and that was it. I don’t care how much I like their product, I’m gone. We use Drift now. I got […]

The post How to Increase SaaS Prices the Right (and Profitable) Way appeared first on CXL.

Have you ever gotten a bill that—inexplicably—is two or three times more than usual? What was your reaction? Probably something like this:

[A SaaS vendor] pulled a massive price increase on us (over 300%!) and that was it. I don’t care how much I like their product, I’m gone. We use Drift now.

I got that from a user who junked her paid account after a vendor jacked up their price by 300%. Stories like this might terrify you if you’re thinking about increasing prices for your SaaS product. You might annoy them or, worse, lose them outright to a cheaper competitor. 

Your fear is reasonable. As CrazyEgg’s co-founder, Hiten Shah, puts it: “When customers have countless choices available to them in the market, they are prone to shop around for the best price.”

But there’s hope: Churn isn’t the only outcome of a SaaS pricing increase. You will anger some users. Some will churn. But, if done right, a net revenue boost is entirely possible.

Need proof? The SaaS brand I mentioned at the start is Intercom. And, as of now, they still boast 30,000+ paying customers (each of whom is paying more than before).

intercom homepage showing 30000 customers.

Much of the outcome depends on what you do before you announce the price increase. This post will help you get that (and a few other things) right:

  • Identify if the time is right to raise SaaS prices;
  • Know your strategic options for increasing SaaS prices;
  • Communicate a price increase to existing users effectively.

Is it time to raise prices for your SaaS product?

Justifying a price increase is almost always about creating more value—making your product better. But what’s the definition of “better”? And who defines it? An email from Seth Godin’s “The Marketing Seminar” has a profound definition of what “better” really means: 

When your better aligns with the better of those you seek to serve, you’ll have found an internal compass that can guide your work…” 

You may think your product is better, but users must agree before you can hike your prices. “Better’s not up to us. It’s up to those we seek to serve,” wrote Godin in another post. 

So how do you determine whether those value judgments align?

Talk to users to find out if your “better” is also their “better.”

Survey users about the features they find most useful, or the ones they’d like to see in your product. Neil Napier of Kyvio shared with me how they could’ve improved their price increase process if they’d found out what their users really wanted first: 

In the past, we messed up and raised prices too quickly because we “promised” certain people we would. Now, we are taking a more calculated approach, which involves running surveys and interviews to learn what people want and value. 

Have unstructured, in-person conversations with your users. In an interview with Hotjar, Drift’s founder David Cancel shared how he and his team would get on a plane and have lunch with their users—big and small—so they could chat with them like normal people and get quality product feedback:

Every week, we do things like meeting up with small groups of customers. We’ll fly out to a city, one or two of us, and meet up with some prospective customers, some people in the industry, some existing customers, and I’ll do a lunch with them. I’ll do a dinner with five of them. I do it a lot.

We want to have a mix of successful customers, unsuccessful customers, new customers, old customers. So, we try to mix it up.

And this is not a product pitch for Drift. We just let everyone talk. Let’s just be real people and have a conversation.

And it’s amazing that in every one of these cases, without coaxing them, the conversation naturally goes into Drift.

And we just sit back and mostly listen to them.

But discovering your users’ definition of “better” isn’t the only factor to consider before raising SaaS prices for existing customers.

Other factors to consider before you raise prices

In addition to aligning on value with your users, there are three other things to keep in mind.

Slow vs super-active periods 

There may be times (e.g. Black Friday, Christmas, summer, etc.) when your users are inactive or significantly less active. Those are not ideal periods to increase your prices.

If, according to your data, paid users seldom engage with your product over the summer, it’s best to wait until they’re more active before you introduce a price change. 

If users aren’t engaged when you increase prices, you won’t get an accurate reaction to the price change. CEO at KlipFolio, Allan Wille, recounted his experience with seasonal fluctuations in his SaaS business:

With more data to compare, I can see evidence that there are seasonal fluctuations in our business. For example, this summer, organic traffic to our website was flat. And perhaps most telling, the percentage of daily active users (%DAU) of our dashboard was down.

It makes sense … people are on vacation. Likewise, seasonality is evident at Christmas and New Year’s. There is a precipitous drop in activity on both those days. It’s clear almost nobody’s working.

Similarly, Better Proposals’ founder Adam Hemphy shared how raising prices around a Black Friday deal wasn’t a good decision:

My advice would be to do a price increase when you don’t have anything else affecting it. In our case, doing it in February or March would have been a better immediate test for whether the price increase was a good move or not.

When users are active, you may even get unsolicited feedback that it’s time for a price increase.  

Buyer confessions

If you’re getting comments from paid users like, “You could really charge more for this,” then it might confirm that your prices should go up—especially because they may be speaking for many paid users.

But does that ever really happen? It does. A paid user once told the Appcues team:

You guys should find a way to charge us more $$$. $450 isn’t enough—we should be paying you well over $1k.

They raised their prices soon after. Sarah Hum of Canny had the same experience:

live chat customer telling company they should raise prices.

If you’re getting comments like these from your users, it’s probably time to lift your SaaS prices. 

However, if you never hear from ready-to-pay-more buyers, take a more methodical approach with a competitor pricing analysis.

Competitor pricing

Competitor pricing and the Van Westendorp Price Sensitivity Meter (PSM) are two market-research strategies that can give your price increase a safe landing.

Your competitors’ prices help establish expectations. You don’t want to price your SaaS product far outside the established range—unless you’re sure that your product justifies the premium.

The PSM approach to SaaS pricing asks four key questions to determine viable price points:

  1. At what price would you consider the product to be so expensive that you would not consider buying it? (Too expensive)
  2. At what price would you consider the product to be priced so low that you would feel the quality couldn’t be very good? (Too cheap)
  3. At what price would you consider the product starting to get expensive, so that it is not out of the question, but you would have to give some thought to buying it? (Expensive/High Side)
  4. At what price would you consider the product to be a bargain—a great buy for the money? (Cheap/Good Value)

The CMO of Paubox, Rick Kuwahara, recommended the PSM approach for finding ideal price ranges:

After you survey enough people (through the PSM approach), you usually get a range of prices where you can see how elastic pricing is between the answers for each question (in the PSM). Like too cheap may be between $10 and $20, and too expensive between $50 and $75. 

Additionally, you can then do some market research and see how that would bear out in the marketplace. While I don’t like competitor-based pricing too much, you also don’t want to be way out of the range that the market has set.

If your research suggests that a price increase is justified, you may be able to move on to execution. But, as Alexa Hubley, Head of Marketing at CXL cautions, there are other factors to keep in mind:

“Research” should include more than just determining acceptable price ranges. It’s also important to do projections/predictions of churn and retention related to new pricing, as well as business impact analyses, etc.

Once you’ve completed all relevant research, you can choose any of three strategies to execute on it.

3 strategies to increase prices for SaaS users

1. Create a more expensive pricing tier with more features.

Time and again, subscription businesses take heat from users because they increase prices. Many (or even most) businesses weather it out.

Take Netflix. In the spring of 2011, they hiked their price, and many (800,000) of their subscribers deactivated their accounts. The company’s stock price dropped 77% in four months, battering its management’s reputation. 

But did Netflix survive? Actually, they did better:

graph showing netflixs revenue growth even after raising prices.

Zendesk had a similar experience—a poorly executed increase from which they recovered, even thrived. (After their debacle, they apologized.)

Still, these companies could have avoided the painful process of trying to explain their price hike after the fact. One way they could have improved their execution? Creating a new, more expensive tier with added features for interested users. 

Avoid angering users by introducing a new pricing tier

Pricing experts at Price Intelligently say it like this: “Pricing changes don’t always mean higher prices. It could be [. . .] shifting features within tiers.”

In other words, instead of raising prices for all users, you can announce new features (or shift existing ones) into a more expensive tier. 

example of higher-priced tier for saas platform.
(Image source)

But will existing users switch to the new tier? It depends on two previously covered topics: value and the market: 

  • Which features offer users more value?
  • Do competitors provide this value? Could they start providing this value quickly?

If your new pricing tier provides exceptional value and is protected from competitor challenges (i.e. is an economic moat), you may compel users to upgrade.

Growth expert Ammo Singh shared a success story from a client:

I created a new tier that included some features I knew users wanted as they requested them. (I can’t share specifics due to an NDA.) Users liked it and understood that if they wanted more advanced features, they had to pay extra.

If, however, you’re convinced that existing paid users won’t fuss if you increase the price of their current plan, you don’t need a new tier. Here’s what to do instead.

2. Increase the price of plans for existing customers.

Not all SaaS businesses that raise their prices end up regretting it. Appcues increased their price, and sales grew by 263%. ChartMogul’s customer base and revenue kept increasing as their minimum price did. Since 2014, Netflix has increased their price by about $1 each year:

netflix history of price increases.
(Image source)

It is possible to thrive after a price increase for existing users. Companies that have done so usually share three characteristics:

1. They have the size to take the heat. Losing a few hundred (or several thousand) customers won’t crater their revenue.

2. They notify customers well in advance. Appcues talks about how they did it:

We tried to write the email to be clear and upfront, and dispel any concerns around our motivations behind the increase. Most importantly: we thanked our customers and gave them sufficient notice to change their plan before the price adjustment. 85% of our customers opened our email and not a single one churned :)

Kuwahara seconded the importance of clear communication:

It’s just communication, over-communication if you can. Do it ahead of time and often enough so it’s not a shock when someone receives their bill.

3. They increase pricing significantly only for bigger customers. Some SaaS brands roll out large price increases only for customers with deeper pockets who may not feel the effects of the price increase as significantly (and who, in theory, should be getting far more value from the product).

Alternatively, an across-the-board increase could work if you’re willing to let smaller clients churn and, instead, focus on more valuable enterprise accounts. The former product manager at Yotpo, Adi Ben Mayor, shared a story with me:

I was working for Yotpo, which started as a product for SMBs and now serves enterprises (Staples, for example). The prices went up significantly, way out of reach of SMBs, and some did churn. But it allowed the company to focus on our Enterprise features.

But what about grandfathering people in?

3. Grandfather existing users into their old pricing.

One way to avoid trouble from a price increase is to grandfather paid users into old pricing, taking out much of the risk (and some of the profit) from a price increase.

You can inform existing users that prices are increasing for new customers but that pricing won’t change for them. It shows loyalty and can strengthen their bond with your brand and product.

But how long should you grandfather them in? A few months? A year? Forever? I put the question on some SaaS groups on Facebook. Most SaaS marketers and founders in the group say they’d rather grandfather old customers forever. 

question to saas facebook group about grandfathering customers into current prices.

And it makes sense. The trust you build by grandfathering in current users may even spawn word-of-mouth marketing (and more revenue). 

One response also highlighted the similarity between time-limited grandfathering and simple advance notice:

I would give like a 3- to 6-month email of why the increase and the date that the customer can plan ahead…sort of how Amazon did with their Prime increase.

So how should you explain your price increase?

How to communicate a SaaS price increase

Emails are a primary method of communicating a price increase. Here are two price-increase emails you can borrow ideas from—especially when grandfathering users in:

1. Appcues

These emails were sent to Appcues’ current customers (left) and free-trial users (right):

appcues emails sent to customers about price increases.
(Image source)

2. Close.io 

Here’s an email that Close.io sent, which increased their average customer lifetime value by over 10%. As their CEO Steli Efti noted, “When we increased prices, our conversion rates stayed the same, our customers stayed happy, we had a huge bump in paid seats.”

email to customer about a pending price increase.

In a previous article CXL published on raising prices, they identified one theme for successful communication (email or otherwise) that stood out more than any other: transparency.

If you feel compelled to obscure the reason—or if it takes thousand-word essays and charts to justify it—that’s a sign you don’t have a strong case.

Still, focusing on key points can help justify an increase:

  • The length of time since the last price increase;
  • The value you’ve added to your product or service during that time;
  • If you have service limitations (e.g. consulting hours), the increase in demand.

Conclusion

While price changes are often “one off” events, few experts recommend treating them as such. Price Intelligently, for example, recommends reviewing your pricing every few months. Pricing, like a website redesign, may be best understood as an iterative, not radical, process.

Regardless of your cadence, remember these four points:

  1. Make sure your “high value” features are high value for users, not just your product team.
  2. Consider the PSM model to find out how a proposed price fits into the broader market.
  3. Grandfather paid users into their old pricing plan or create a new, more expensive tier they can opt into.
  4. Give users plenty of time to make a decision, and give yourself plenty of time to remind them of your value.

The post How to Increase SaaS Prices the Right (and Profitable) Way appeared first on CXL.

Marketing Project Management: A Reliable, Reusable Framework

Lurking beneath every goal are dangerous assumptions. The longer those assumptions remain unexamined, the greater the risk. – Jake Knapp, Sprint: How To Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just 5 days Imagine this scenario. You’re a marketer, and you’ve just launched a marketing campaign that you spent weeks or months building. You […]

The post Marketing Project Management: A Reliable, Reusable Framework appeared first on CXL.

Lurking beneath every goal are dangerous assumptions. The longer those assumptions remain unexamined, the greater the risk.

– Jake Knapp, Sprint: How To Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just 5 days

Imagine this scenario. You’re a marketer, and you’ve just launched a marketing campaign that you spent weeks or months building. You checked all your boxes:

  • You assigned roles and responsibilities.
  • You kept stakeholders informed along the way.
  • You activated all the right channels to reach your target segment.

But something is wrong. Hardly any prospects are opening your emails. Almost none are engaging with your ads. The only feedback you are getting is that certain elements on your landing page are broken and, worse, don’t load properly across devices and browsers. 

Your boss calls you into their office and asks: “What happened?”

The wrong answers would be:

  • “I just assumed prospects would open my emails.” 
  • “I assumed the team QA’ed the landing page.” 

Instead, the right answer is: “I’m going to find out where my assumptions led me wrong.”

In this post, I’ll walk you through a rigorous project management process to help you optimize your campaign strategy. Taking lessons from agile project management (specifically: sprints), I’ll show you how to build more effective, less assumptive, marketing campaigns.

Adapting sprints for marketing

sprint framework for project management.
(Image source)

Brands like 23andme and Slack have adopted the Google Venture design sprint because it works. For businesses aligned with the whole “lean startup” movement, the sprint offers a formula to quickly build, launch, and test products before committing too much time and effort to something that might not resonate in the market.

It can be easily applied to marketing because it’s built around making data-driven, research-backed decisions, which are critical to creating winning campaigns.

And even though Jake Knapp explicitly advises not to adapt the Sprint—I’ve done it anyway. Over the years, I’ve made small tweaks to suit the specific goals and needs of a marketing team and marketing campaigns. 

Here’s what my sprint looks like:

adaption of sprint framework for marketing campaigns.
This slide comes straight from my upcoming course on marketing project management.

Sprints traditionally happen during a five-day timeframe, when product teams set aside everything else they’re working on. 

In my world, I don’t do that. Sometimes, our team will spend one week on a marketing sprint; other times it might take six. That’s the nature of shipping marketing campaigns—the sprint is a framework, not a mandate, for guiding our work.

Marketing sprint phases and goals:

Although I’ve adapted the framework and timeframe, the goals during each phase of the sprint remain true to the process:

  1. Map. Set your targets and objectives for what you want to accomplish based on feedback and research.
  2. Sketch. Ideate and pitch ideas for achieving your marketing goal.
  3. Decide. Vote and decide on your campaign content, channels, and tactics based on ideas pitched in Phase 2.
  4. Prototype. Build just enough of the campaign to get it ready for testing.
  5. Test. Get feedback on every aspect of the campaign so you can go back, make changes, and launch.

Now let’s look at what’s done in each phase to achieve those goals.

Phase 1: Map

The Map phase is all about research, collecting data, and understanding the problem to set clear, measurable, marketing targets. 

The first thing you need to know is your objective. Is this a lead-gen campaign or a campaign to push a new affiliate program? Is it a nurture track to convert leads into paying customers or a brand play to increase awareness?

Once you understand the goal, you can move on to the research—how you’ll achieve it and the specific targets and metrics that indicate “success.”

There are so many ways you can collect data and do research. (In fact, CXL Agency has their own rigorous research process.) As a guide, I’d recommend a mix of primary and secondary research to inform how you set your targets, such as:

For example, for a recent campaign to launch new pricing at CXL Institute, we conducted a series of industry interviews with pricing experts, ran an average revenue per user (ARPU) projection analysis for new plans, and went through a suite of usability tests on pricing mockup designs and copy.

One piece of feedback from usability tests was that users were confused by the “Pay once” option in our pricing. Users didn’t understand if it was an annual payment or if they would keep the product for life.

example of pricing page.

The feedback triggered us to add a small disclaimer to our pricing block that made it clear that they would keep the course forever:

example of updated pricing page based on user feedback.

Phase 2: Sketch

Once you’ve collected all your research and set your targets, you’re ready to jump into the Sketch phase. This is where you put all your creative marketing ideas to work.

The first portion of this phase analyzes the research and comes prepped to an “ideation” pitch meeting with a fully baked campaign plan. Channels, content, messaging—it should all be there (or at least a skeleton of it).

A fully baked campaign prevents the meeting from turning into a mishmash of half-baked ideas that sound cool but might not make sense for the project. Often, asking for a full campaign plan leads team members to think of more complex, interesting ways of solving the problem.

It also helps marketers think more about connecting the dots across channels and assets since they’ve had to plan for it upfront. Here’s an example of what a campaign ideation pitch looks like, from a campaign I ran in my previous role at Unbounce:

sketch of marketing campaign ideas using miro.
Mocked up using Miro.

Each person explains their campaign to the team, and each person votes on individual ideas, concepts, or tactics from each campaign.

I usually give people three votes and one “super vote” (worth two votes). After voting, you’re ready to move into Phase 3.

Phase 3: Decide

In this phase, you collect all the top-voted ideas, organize them, and come up with your campaign plan.

Here’s where a decision-making framework like DACI comes in handy. In the DACI framework, you assign specific roles:

  • Driver. The person(s) responsible for leading the project and corralling all stakeholders.
  • Approver. The person who ultimately makes the decision.
  • Contributor. The person(s) with subject-matter expertise.
  • Informed. The person(s) who’ll be kept in the loop on how decisions are made.

In this phase, the DACI framework is especially handy because you need one person—the Approver—to decide how all the voted ideas come together into a plan. 

The Approver then comes back to the team and presents the plan to move forward, assigns roles to the Drivers, and pushes the campaign into the next phase.

Phase 4: Prototype

If you remember one thing about the Prototype phase, it should be this: Build just enough. Knapp outlines a four-step list of what he calls the “Prototype Mindset” in his book, and it goes as follows:

  1. You can prototype anything.
  2. Prototypes are disposable.
  3. Build just enough to learn, but not more.
  4. The prototype must appear real.
prototyping example from sprint book.
The prototype mindset from Sprint: How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just 5 days.

As a (self-aware) perfectionist, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the Prototype phase and wanted to just spend a little extra time polishing a landing page, ad, or email. Resist the urge.

example of facebook post for unbounce campaign.
Prototype of a fake ad for launching Unbounce popups, created with stock imagery and quickly mocked up in Photoshop.

The whole point of this phase is to build only what you need to get an authentic answer from a potential user in the next phase: Test.

Your aim is to move through the Prototype phase quickly so that you can actually learn (and improve) based on real feedback. Plus, the more time you waste making something perfect, the more frustrating it’s going to be if when you have to change it later.

Phase 5: Test

Congrats! You’ve made it to the final phase—where the real magic happens. During the test phase, you get user feedback on the prototypes you’ve built.

First, conduct a series of interviews (ideally with your customers). According to Knapp, conducting at least five interviews during a sprint is enough to get real insight. Any less and you might be operating on false information.

screenshots of user testing for prototypes.
Real screenshot of prototype testing.

Ask all interviewees the same questions. You’re looking to discover:

  • Are they interacting with the prototype the way you intend? For example, if you want them to hover over a tool-tip on your landing page to discover more info, are they doing that?
  • Is their reaction positive or negative? For example, is your messaging resonating with them? If you added a joke to your email copy, did they get it? Did they laugh?
  • Are they motivated to complete the action? For example, are they finding and clicking the call to action? Is the offer something they seem enticed by?

After you conduct interviews, transform feedback into “How might we” statements. Originally an idea defined by Proctor and Gamble in the 1970s, the basis of “How might we” is to rephrase every piece of feedback (positive, negative, neutral) into a question that incites action.

For example, say you’re testing an email in a nurture campaign to convert leads into customers. A piece of feedback you might receive is: “Get to the point faster, I skim emails.”

Your role is to transform that feedback into a question: “How might we accommodate people who skim emails?”

The benefit of this technique is that it doesn’t immediately present a solution, empowering you and your team to come up with the best answer. For example, you could solve for skim readers in a few ways:

  • Reduce the amount of copy in the email. 
  • Use bolding and bulleting to break it up and call attention to the main points.
  • Reorder copy so the main call to action and thesis is at the top.

Once you’ve transformed your feedback into action items, you need to prioritize. Often, you’ll get a ton of feedback, and you need to decide which feedback to put into action. Sometimes, you might not have enough time to do it all, and that’s okay. 

Prioritizing feedback should be based on:

  1. How important it is to the campaign’s success. If something’s broken, you need to fix it.
  2. How often that piece of feedback came up. If everyone said they didn’t understand the headline, you probably need to rewrite it.
prioritization framework for marketing campaign ideas.
An example feedback prioritization sheet from an Unbounce campaign.

From there, you’re armed and ready with a tested campaign that you can remix, fix, and—most importantly—launch! 

Conclusion

Sprints are an effective and helpful project management process that you can apply to any and every marketing campaign. They ensure your work is data-driven and research-backed.

Ideally, sprints aren’t a one-and-done experience, either. A sprint lets you observe a campaign in the wild and, if it’s not hitting your targets, make tweaks and changes until it does.

If you want to learn more project management tools, techniques, and processes, check out my course at CXL Institute on project management for marketers, launching August 5. I’ll be covering the sprint process further, as well as walking you through how to iterate from annual to quarterly, monthly, and weekly planning so that your marketing team is set up for success.

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