Are you getting more out of your marketing than you’re putting into it? Nathan Ellering is the head of demand generation at CoSchedule, and he wants you to be able to say that you’re getting the results you want from your marketing, your content, and your social media. Nathan is also the author of The Ultimate Guide to Marketing Strategy, so he’s a bit of an expert on the topic! We’re going to be talking to him today about how you can generate quality leads, get the traffic and traction that you want, and make your marketing strategy a success.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- What Nathan does at CoSchedule as the head of demand generation.
- The story behind the launch of the Ultimate Guide to Marketing Strategy: what it includes, why it was necessary to write it, how it’s different, and why you should check it out. Nathan also shares why he created it as a microsite as opposed to a blog.
- The importance of following the acronym SMART when you’re setting your goals.
- An explanation of what 10x content is and how Nathan makes it work for him.
- How Nathan recommends tracking marketing ROI to be sure that your content is doing what it’s supposed to do.
- How to prioritize within your marketing strategy.
- The concept of goals-driven budgeting.
- Nathan’s best advice for someone just starting a marketing strategy.
Jordan: Are you getting the results you want from your marketing? Is your content generating enough qualified leads? Are your social media messages gaining you traffic and traction? Simply put, are you getting more out of your marketing than you’re putting into it? I’m excited to share this episode with you because I’m talking to our own Nathan Ellering about how you can honestly yes to each of those questions. Nathan is CoSchedule’s head of demand generation and he recently published The Ultimate Guide to Marketing Strategy. It’s an incredible microsite, it’s an A-Z guide to crafting a marketing strategy that works. It’s broken into 10 super actionable chapters, includes free templates and other resources so you can have a working marketing strategy in as little as five days.
Nathan is not just a CoSchedule commodity either, his work has been featured of publications like Fast Company, Content Marketing Institute, Convince and Convert. He’s on podcasts all of the time, and of course, he’s the host of this podcast. I’m Jordan with CoSchedule. Here is my conversation with Nathan.
Hey Nathan, thank you for being on the show.
Nathan: Thanks for having me, Jordan.
Jordan: It’s always fun to get to flip the mic on you. Now, to kick us off, why don’t you fill us in on CoSchedule and what you are up to here these days?
Nathan: CoSchedule, for those people who might not know, is a marketing management calendar. Essentially the problem that we’re trying to solve is to help out every marketer or organize every project in one place. What we really want CoSchedule to be is that go to hub to begin every single marketing project and then to use our integrations with WordPress, to create that content there, or maybe you go to CoSchedule first and you plan something out on your calendar and then you use Google Docs to actually create that content. We want CoSchedule to be that place to organize everything. What I do here is, as you know, I work with this podcast, I work with our demand gen team, and a lot of different projects. Basically head of the demand generation team here are CoSchedule.
Jordan: Awesome. Now, I know but a lot of our listeners may not know, you’ve recently been working on a big, huge project, the marketing strategy ultimate guide. Could you just quick give us the story behind the strategy guide and then give us a rundown of what we’ll find in it?
Nathan: This is a brand new project that we just launched here at CoSchedule. It’s super actionable, comprehensive guide to go from no marketing strategy to having one. Essentially what we found through a study you did actually Jordan, it was that of the 1600 marketers who we talked to, we found out that marketers who document their strategy are 538% more likely to report success than those who don’t. We wanted to create this marketing strategy guide to provide a template to help you document your strategy, to get that success that some of your peers are having. Basically, this guide walks you through everything you could possibly think about around marketing strategy in 10 comprehensive yet digestible chapters. Those chapters on goal setting, ROI, SWOT Analysis, personas, brand voice, marketing tactics, budgeting, and all of the prioritization and planning processes that you could possibly want.
Jordan: Can you walk us through why you decided that this guide was necessary with everything else out there? Why is this different, how is it better and why should people care about this guide more than everybody else’s?
Nathan: That is a really good question because there is too much out there about marketing strategy, right? I’m sure there is just thousands and thousands, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of search results returning for this keyword. The reason why I wanted to do this and why the team here at CoSchedule wanted to do this, is that there’s a lot of content marketing out there that covers the topic of creating a marketing strategy. The thing is, a lot of those sources benefit only when you pay them to create that strategy for you. What you’re getting out there, what I saw when I started looking the stuff up, was that it’s vague advice, it’s good advice but that’s just where it ends, it’s just advice, it doesn’t actually teach you how to do this stuff yourself. Just to be bluntly honest, I think a lot of it is really bad. How can you only write 500 words and expect to actually teach people comprehensively how to do their own marketing strategy?
Jordan: Right, exactly.
Nathan: Honestly, again, I think there are a lot of those marketers who’ve created content on this topic purely to rank in Google for that term because it does get lots and lots of search results or monthly searches. It’s just noisy out there. Here’s the thing though, if you haven’t been the one to actually create a marketing strategy, how can you possibly teach it to someone or write about it when you’ve had like zero experience with what works and what doesn’t?
The reason for this guide is that I’ve read all of those posts, I’ve listened to all those podcasts, I have gone to every webinar that I possibly could. When I started at CoSchedule, I had to do this stuff. I’ve picked up little pieces here and there and this guide is better than that stuff; it’s tested, it’s proven, it’s iterated upon. I’ve read all this stuff, I’ve watched all the videos, I’ve taken courses even; that’s the difference here, I’m actually sharing with you guys what works and not what doesn’t and it’s very actionable, step by step stuff. My whole goal was to publish the best guide on marketing strategy in the world or else we don’t ship. If you guys haven’t been following anything from CoSchedule, that mentality is reflecting everything we do so why would this be any different?
Jordan: Let’s talk about the form a little bit. Because I know you brought quite a few different people to the table to actually bring the ultimate guide together and it’s published as a microsite, instead of just a blogpost or a PDF download or something like that. Could you talk through why did we publish this as a microsite instead of a blogpost, for instance? Why did we put all the time and effort into the design and the coding and such?
Nathan: Yeah, that is absolutely the case here. We decided to package this very uniquely different than just something like a blogpost or something just like a PDF. We did that because when I approached this project, I didn’t really care how long it would be, what mattered most was comprehensiveness and actually teaching people how to do this stuff rather than just providing good advice. For that, I thought it might need some word count. When I started writing this thing, I didn’t even pay attention to length, it was more about how do I tell this story in a way that helps people actually do a comprehensive marketing strategy. It actually ended up being about 75 written pages. Right away, I knew it was going to be really hard to digest especially if we just did it as like a single blog post, it will be like 14,000-20,000 words, something like that. I don’t know what it end up being. What I found was that I though the concept of splitting this into chapters would make it much more digestible. It just made sense.
If you wanted to read it over course of a couple of days, you could read one chapter at a time and maybe since it’s 10 chapters long, or the course of two business weeks, if you read just one chapter a day and implement that advice, you could literally within two weeks have a marketing strategy in your hands. Or if you were a little bit more selling, if you did two chapters a day, you could have your marketing strategy done within a week. That’s very CoSchedule of us to do that, to be able to think like yes, you can have a marketing strategy within a week. This whole strategy guide, the reason why we want to do this podcast episode on it, is because it’s completely free. You guys can go out there and take this advice and put it into practice immediately, we don’t ask anything from you guys to go do that. Definitely go check it out, it’s at coschedule.com/marketing-strategy. Like I said, 10 chapters there, microsite, it’ll definitely help you move fast on creating that strategy of yours and get it documented too.
Jordan: Okay. Let’s dive into some of the chapters of the marketing strategy guide. How do you recommend marketers set goals to begin with?
Nathan: This chapter is really all about the basics, but if you build your house on solid ground, you’re well set and well equipped for all the rest that’s going to follow. I really like SMART goals here, I change it up just a little bit. SMART goals stand for Specific, Measurable, Aspirational, Realistic, and Time Bound, and you probably notice that the A there is different than Achievable which most people think of it as. I can talk about that throughout this too.
Specific means you just have one clearly defined metric. At CoSchedule, you’ve probably heard us talk about focusing only at one thing, doing one thing well, focusing at one metric, all of your resources focused to that single thing, what could you do if you weren’t spread too thin? I really like the idea behind specificity.
And then Measurable, you have to have a way to measure that. This guide teaches you how to do that in Google Analytics, which everyone should have, it’s freely available to any marketer who wants to use it. We wanted to teach you how to do that with setting up goals, they call it goals in Google Analytics, along with a custom report. That chapter of the guide will actually help you set all of that up, step by step. Even if it sounds really hard to you right now, which it did for me too at the beginning, trust me.
Aspirational is my most favorite part of SMART goals and I changed Achievable to Aspirational because the goal needs to push you beyond results your content would naturally or organically generate toward that metric. This is where you push yourself, this is where we get in the CoSchedule 10x versus 10% framework where you’re pushing yourself to get above average results constantly. When that average gets pumped up, you’re pushing again for above average results. Realistic means that you should try to keep some of that aspiration in check, you want it to be realistically doable, needs to be reasonable if you want to use that word. Time Bound, you have to have a date that you will have this stuff done by, that makes sense.
If I take all of that into account, Specific, Aspirational, Realistic, Time Bound, something that we do at CoSchedule is we write that up in the form of a goal and for just a little more context at CoSchedule for the demand gen team, our goal looks something like this: By December 31st 2018, the CoSchedule demand generation team will generate 6000 marketing qualified leads every single month. That’s how you can take that and make that work for your organization too.
Jordan: You mentioned the 10x versus 10% framework that we use here at CoSchedule, could you tell me more about that? And also explain why that’s so important to this guide as a whole?
Nathan: Something that we do at CoSchedule is that we want to generate 10 times the results in our future efforts versus what we’re doing today. That’s definitely part of that aspirational goal. If you’re thinking about a formula or rethink of things in frameworks all the time at CoSchedule, what that might look like for you is taking that average currently monthly contribution to that metric, what you’re getting today and literally Xing it by 10 to get your marketing goal.
For an example, what that might look like in practice, it might be if we’re getting 600 marketing qualified leads in an average month here at CoSchedule, we literally just times that by 10 to get our goal of 6000 marketing qualified leads per month. Now, for some marketers, it’s just increasing your goal that much, 10 times over may be unrealistic, so you have to take that R into account in the SMART goals too. If you fall into that category, you can change that 10 to a different number that still makes that goal aspirational yet realistic. The point there really is define an n number that is aspirational but within your practical means of achievement.
What it really means there is that this is a framework to help you communicate that number so that you influence the right behavior and something that we talked about all the time at CoSchedule and something that our CEO and co-founder Garrett Moon talks about is that often having a number to influence the right behavior produces the right results.
Jordan: If you are ready to create a marketing strategy that actually grows revenue, out performs competitors and makes use of even the tightest budgets that go and over to the ultimate marketing strategy guide Nathan and the team have created, this guide is going to show you the exact principles we use to grow our marketing results by 9360%. Yes, I know that’s an incredibly big number but you’re going to see that that claim is well backed up because it happen and we’re going to show you how you can make it happen for yourself as well. You can find it at coschedule.com/marketing-strategy. The chapters are fluff-free, you get right into the nitty gritty and you don’t even have to trade an email address to read it. It’s 100% free. Dig in at coschedule.com/marketing-strategy. Now, let’s get back to my conversation with Nathan.
Alright, thanks for that answer. I love the operative word at the very end. You said we’re producing the right results. That’s absolutely what 10x is about; driving behavior that drives results. Let’s connect that to return on investment. This is an acronym we hear all the time in marketing, is ROI. How do you recommend that we track marketing ROI?
Nathan: Essentially, what we want to do is connect the dots from the content that you’re shipping to actual dollar value earned from that content. This is obviously something I’ve been tasked with dealing at CoSchedule, is we publish all these blog posts, we publish these podcasts, we publish these courses, and what we want to do is make sure that the time and resources that we’re investing into creating this content is actually generating a return.
I’ve found that Google Analytics is a really great place to get started with this, what you can do is ultimately setup what they call goals in Google Analytics, that’s a feature in there. What you can do is just say I want to track a conversion, when someone does this action, it gives us this much dollar value. Basically what you can do is if someone does an action and is directed to a specific URL for example, you track that as conversion opportunity. Someone signs up for your email list and they go to a page as coschedule.com/thankyou, every time that someone visits that page, we know that they converted into an email subscriber. If I can know the value of that email subscriber, I know how much money I just made from that email.
What you can do is assign the value to that conversion in Google Analytics. For example, if every marketing qualified lead at CoSchedule produced $50 in revenue, you can assign that in value to literally track that marketing ROI from that goal conversion.
What we do after you have that goal setup in Google Analytics, is that you can setup a custom report to see the content, the specific URLs that are leading to those goal conversions. Again, I know that’s a very complicated topic to understand, especially maybe just like listening to it, but I just want you to know that it’s 100% within your means to set that up and you can set that up today. There’s a whole chapter in that marketing strategy guide that will help you do it if you’re more of a visual person, I have tons of screenshots in there to walk you through step by step and take out some of that ambiguity of setting up stuff in Google Analytics.
Jordan: As marketers ourselves, we know that we’re doing a million things all the time. We were just even talking before we started recording this episode that there’s so much to do and that’s always the case. When there are so many different things to do, how do we take a marketing strategy and prioritize which projects actually make the cut into our strategy?
Nathan: I love this idea because by this point, we’ve set up our goal, and we know how to measure it. We need to be choosing projects that are most likely to influence that goal in metric the most. The way that I think about that is with a marketing project backlog, we’ve borrowed that term from the agile terminology from our software team. Essentially, what you’re doing is building a prioritize list of projects that you’re going to take on from first to last. The easiest way to do that is set aside some time to ask yourself one simple question, what projects are going to help us reach our marketing goal most effectively?
CoSchedule loves frameworks, and questions serve as really great framework. Again, that’s what projects will help us reach our marketing goal most effectively? What I recommend doing at that point is literally just writing down all of your ideas, just one at a time per sticky note. Get yourself a stack of post it notes and just jot down one idea per sticky note. Afterward, what you’re going to do is you’re going to look for the 10x ideas. Again, we’re going back to that 10x versus 10% framework.
If you’re thinking about 10x ideas, those are the ones that provide the most value for the largest amount of your target audience. 10% ideas on the other hand are the ones that provide a little value to a little number of your target audience. What we do at CoSchedule is we draw a very simple XY chart and we label the vertical Y axis with value so we know that up into the right would be the most value for the largest number of audience, the X axis is for the audience. What you’re looking for there is 10x projects will be up into the right like I mentioned. It’s a very simple visual and a very easy way to map out those sticky notes. You just take those ideas and you’ll breathe them out loud to yourself one at a time and you say, hey, this idea, is it a lot of value to a lot of audience? Is it a lot of value to a little bit of audience? Essentially, what you’ll do is stick those sticky notes on this XY chart and at the end, all you’re going to do is pick the ones that are highest and to the right.
I found that that’s like a very simple but effective way to choose projects that are most likely to impact your goals. At this point, you’re really looking for those 10x opportunities, those things that are going to really move the needle, so to say. Those are the ones that provide repeatable long term growth toward that marketing goal. These are the ideas that have potential to boost those results 10 times over. Definitely give that a try, it works for us at CoSchedule, not only for marketing, but for the product team too. That’s how we actually choose the features that we built in CoSchedule.
Jordan: Can you tell us about this concept of goals driven budgeting and how to do it best?
Nathan: This is another one of those topics that people talk about all the time but it’s done really weirdly for some reason. A lot of times marketers are handed a budget and said, hey, this is how much money you can spend. But we just defined goals for our marketing and sometimes you need to spend money to make those goals a reality. We, at CoSchedule, do what we call goals driven budgeting for our marketing. By this point, we know our goals, we know the metrics that we want to hit every month, we know the projects that we want to do, now we need a budget to do that. The goals driven budgeting methodology requires you to set your goals first, then plan your budget to make the goals a reality. This is unlike a lot of marketers who are just handed that stuff.
That formula looks something like this. The monthly marketing budget equals your marketing goal acquisition cost, times your marketing goal number or the amount that you want to hit, plus your marketing operational cost. Let’s break that down.
The very first thing that you need to do is understand your marketing goal acquisition cost, and there are two ways to do that. The first is the average piece method, you may opt for understanding how much it costs you to create an average piece of content then simply divide it by the results it produces.
The second is the overtime method and it’s the simpler goal conversion cost calculation method, to be honest. It looks a little bit like this, your marketing goal acquisition cost equals the cost of marketing, divided by the number of goal conversions. For example, let’s say you spent $27,600 in salaries and paid ads last month. In that same month you get 1400 goal conversions, you simply divide $27,600 by $1,400 to find that your marketing goal acquisition cost is $13.80. You spent $13.80 to get that conversion.
As a reminder, the goals driven formula for managing your marketing budget is your marketing budget equals marketing goal acquisition cost, which we just figured out, times marketing goal number, plus marketing operation cost. We just figured out the first part, the marketing goal acquisition cost, the second part is the marketing goal number, which is what you want to influence in a specific month. For example, you got 1400 goal conversions last month, let’s say next month you want 1500 goal conversions. We’ll figure out the budget next month based on this number.
The third part of that equation is factoring in marketing operational cost. That stuff’s like the overhead that you pay every single month for tools, maybe it’s domain names hosting, that sort of stuff. Let’s just say for this example that you spent $500 on a typical month in marketing overhead cost. Let’s just run through this example with that formula. In this example for next month, you’d simply figure out that goals driven marketing budget by taking your marketing goal acquisition cost, which is $13.80 in our example, you multiply that by the goal which is 1500, then you add in the marketing operational cost of $500 which gives you a monthly budget of $21,200. That’s exactly how to do it. You can literally go up to your boss and say, hey, if you want me to influence 1500 based on what I know with customer acquisition and our overhead, we’re going to need a budget next month for marketing of $21,200. I totally get, once again, if this sounds really complicated which is why the marketing strategy guide walks you through how to do that exactly with all those formulas step by step in chapter eight, actually.
Something that is interesting too is if that sounds complicated, the strategy guide has an Excel template in it that if you write down a couple numbers at the beginning, we will auto calculate your entire marketing budget throughout the entire year for you so you don’t have to do that every time, you do it once and we’ll figure out 12 months, an entire annual years worth of budget for you. So you know what to request if you do annual budgeting or if you do month to month, you’ll know exactly how much to spend to make every goal a reality on your way up to reaching that goal. It’s really, really handy to do this stuff once. Jordan, you know Andrew on the team, he’s got a PhD in Math and I had him help me come up with these algorithms and I used them at CoSchedule for years before giving them away in a guide like this, I was just waiting for the right time.
Jordan: I’m going to do what you always like to do to other people, what is your best advice for someone just creating a marketing strategy?
Nathan: If you’re just starting with this, this is the best advice I’ve ever heard. It’s from Zig Ziglar, he said, “You don’t need to be great to start, but you need to start to be great.” I would forget about that polish right away, maybe if you decide in your strategy that you want to launch a blog, or an ad, or an new microsite like we did, afterward all you need to do is hone that process and get better at it. Ship something just good enough and then retro on it.
An analogy I like around this thought is thinking about your favorite musician and this is going to be no surprise to Jordan here, but mine’s Kirk Hammett from Metallica, he’s the lead guitarist of Metallica. The reason why I bring this up is that on the first day that he picked up a guitar, he probably sucked at it, but he picked up that guitar and he picked it up again, and again, and again, and after a while, he was playing some of those super fast solos. He honed that process and he learned how to play extremely well, despite probably feeling like he was really bad at it at first. As a marketer, your first blog post won’t be good, your first ad is probably going to suck, but you need to do it, you need to ship something and you need to continuously improve. Once you get something out there, what I would suggest is retro on everything. What went well, what went wrong, what can I improve the next time, iterate and ship again. That is the only way to learn new skills and that will help you boost your results.
Jordan: Alright. If you’re not pumped to get out there and rock a marketing strategy, I don’t know what will help you. Nathan, you are truly the marketing wizard of the Midwest. Thanks so much for being on, walking us through all of this. It was such a pleasure talking.
Nathan: Yeah. Thanks, Jordan, for having me and thanks again to everyone who listens in on this podcast, both of us sincerely appreciate you guys.