How do you decide what marketing idea is worth your time to work on? When working in a team, ideas seem to come from everywhere: Your sales team, product engineers, customer success folks, and yourself!
My guest today is CEO and Founder of Baremetrics, Josh Pigford, and he’s here to answer that question. Baremetrics is a revenue and subscription analytics tool that enables companies and marketers to make informed decisions about their marketing strategies. Josh has developed a unique ranking system to score marketing ideas based on project qualities, and his team uses that to decide which projects the company should focus on.
Today, Josh teaches us how to prioritize marketing ideas and shares the process Baremetrics uses behind the scenes that helps them focus on the most effective projects. Some of the topics on today’s episode include:
- Prioritizing marketing projects with limited resources
- Josh’s process for coming up with marketing ideas
- The “Bulls-Eye framework” for idea prioritization
- Scoring ideas based on project qualities
- Josh’s method for testing ideas
Quotes by Josh:
- “Don’t throw out ideas by default, write them down by default.”
- “Think of score as a sliding scale of potential impact and effort.”
- “Figure out: What’s the least I can spend in money or time to get the biggest amount of impact?”
Nathan: Sometimes it feels that there are never ending amounts of marketing ideas, they come from everywhere. Your sales team, your product engineers, your customer success folks, and of course, the shower. But what if those ideas are actually worth your time to work on? That’s the question that Josh Pigford, founder of Baremetrics, answers in this episode of the Actionable Content Marketing podcast.
Hey, I’m Nathan from CoSchedule and today you’re going to learn how to prioritize your marketing ideas. Josh is sharing the process he use behind the scenes at Baremetrics with you so you can spend your limited time working on what should be your most effective projects. Okay. Let’s listen in.
Hey Josh, thanks a lot for being on the podcast today. I think today’s topic is super exciting for me because I’m one of those guys who comes up with an idea and I just start doing it. But you’ve come up with this method to help people like me or marketers like me prioritize the best projects instead of just spreading ourselves too thin. Anyway, I’m excited to geek out with this marketing prioritization process.
Josh: Cool. Thanks for having me, Nathan.
Nathan: Awesome. Josh, can you just give me the lowdown on what is Baremetrics?
Josh: Baremetrics is revenue analytics, subscription analytics, analytics around money ultimately. We get businesses insights and help them figure out what to do based around the revenue starting point or the base point for those analytics.
Nathan: Yeah and we use Baremetrics at CoSchedule. One of the things that I like the most as far as it goes is understanding customer lifetime value because as a marketer it’s really important for me to know how much money we’re willing to spend on a project to acquire new customers and knowing that customer lifetime value to begin with in a really easy way to understand is really important.
Josh: It’s a great starting point.
Nathan: Josh, I’m wondering what are some of the things that you do at Baremetrics?
Josh: All the things? CEO ultimately and all of that includes everything from certainly business stuff to marketing to some designs stuff, customer support, the mix of stuff. As far as on the bulk of my time doing the marketing stuff and a lot of that revolves around content.
Nathan: Today, we’re really talking about marketing and specifically we’re going to talk about that process you use at Baremetrics to prioritize those kind of projects that you take on. Just to lay down some foundation for me, why do you think prioritization for any kind of project is a big deal?
Josh: Sure. Really, any size company, but especially early on when you are kind of strapped for resources, you might be strapped for resources but that doesn’t mean strapped for ideas for things. Figuring out how to properly use those resources and ends up being a pretty big deal because you can have an idea and especially, the thing that what your role is but I know as a founder, it’s easy for me to have this idea and then convince myself that it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever thought of and then spend the next days or weeks chasing that rabbit only to realize that was probably one of the worst ideas I’ve ever had.
Figuring out a way to prioritize my ideas and anybody’s ideas within a company and make sure that it aligns with where we’re at as a company, that it won’t waste any time, is kind of something that ends up paying off, a lot.
Nathan: That sound exactly the kind of person I am. I get this idea in my head that it’s going to be awesome and then I spend some time on it and then I realize that’s not really going to work.
This method is really about sifting through the ideas that you might have to make sure that you only work on those that are, for the lack of a better word, the 10x growth.
Nathan: Excellent. It seems like the first step that you have to do for this process before you can prioritize anything is to come up with those awesome ideas. I’m wondering if you can just explain your process for coming up with brilliant marketing ideas.
Josh: It’s got a lot to do with not filtering yourself at the start. What could happen is it’s easy to quickly write off something that pops into your head. I would say anybody that’s working on any company has random ideas or little thoughts that pop into their head just about every day. The tendency is to convince ourselves that those are bad ideas or to figure out why they won’t work and so we don’t do anything about it.
I think the first step is to not throw out ideas by default and instead write them down by default. Maybe that idea initially isn’t all that great but some idea you have later… Especially if you can get some co-workers to jump in and figure out some stuff. The big deal for this to take any idea that you have and throw it into some sort of list, this marketing idea thing or prioritization system thing that we have, we throw it all there and that’s where the starting point, I think. But the book Traction has all these different channels and I think you can actually sit down and just have this brainstorming session. You might do that once a month or something but just think about all these different channels that exist for marketing and just try to come up with random ideas even if they sound dumb, write them down.
Nathan: You don’t limit yourself. If it’s a really big idea, if you don’t even have the resources to do it right now, you still throw it out to make sure that it’s there?
Josh: Right. Totally. I actually thought a Super Bowl ad would be a good fit for our business. Okay, let’s write it down. The scoring system that we have in place ultimately indicated that’s not a priority at the moment. If you thought that it would be a good idea, then okay, write it down.
Nathan: I mean you just mentioned this book, Traction. I was reading up on it just a little bit, this prioritization method that you’re talking about is based on this book Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares, I hope I’m saying those right. And specifically there’s a framework in there that they call the bullseye framework. Could you explain that a little bit?
Josh: Sure. I may butcher it a little bit because it’s been awhile since I read the book and then I don’t follow the framework exactly. We morphed it into this system that we use. But then the basic idea here is you start with your three best ideas, what you think will be your best channels. There’s 19 different channels which is everything from like traditional PR to search engine marketing to blog post, traditional sales, all these things. You pick what you think will be your top three, that’s sort of the bull’s eye, and then you move out a layer and write a thing, like your next six, and then you start testing those middle ones that work your way out. You start with hypothesis, I think this will be the next channel for us to go after, and then work your way out from it.
Nathan: Nice. Just to help me understand this a little bit more, is there a difference between the ideas that you come up with and the channels and how did those connect?
Josh: A channel could have many ideas. In our own marketing idea board, we might have, say for instance I’m looking at right now. Social display ads is a channel but I’ve got five or six under here. That would include Facebook ads as one of those, Twitter ads is a separate one. Because they’re different platforms and different audiences. Same with public relations, that would include getting coverage in one particular blog versus another. One channel can have many ideas or strategies.
Nathan: Nice. It makes sense. You’re saying with this bull’s eye framework, you’re looking at those channels and obviously then multiple ideas would go into a channel and you can kind of figure out your best one from there.
Josh: Correct, yup.
Nathan: That’s really smart.
Tying this a little bit back to your prioritization methods at Baremetrics, you’ve talked about project qualities, I’m wondering what kind of project qualities do you look for as you score those ideas?
Josh: There’s four main qualities that they create but fantastically would be called the LICE score. That’s lead quality, impact, cost and effort. Lead quality, you think all leads are not equal, think of this in terms of web traffic from one website, probably would not send you the same type of leads is another one. This source would have really high lead qualities score. For instance, business development for us, we have direct integrations with Stripe, Braintree and Recurly which is payment processors. If we do some biz dev thing with them, some sort of partnership, say that they would announce this Baremetric integration to their entire customer base, we could not have a higher quality lead from them, that’s exactly what we’d want. That gives the highest possible lead quality score for that particular quality.
Then there’s impact. Impact is this higher level thing. What’s impact to me is not necessarily impact to you and your business.For us, that impact could be that increases revenue or brand awareness was a big deal for us, that would have a big impact on that. It’s sort of what needs impacting right now, and will this particular strategy have a high impact or low impact.
Then there’s cost. That’s your best estimate for how much it will cost to make this thing happen. Going back to that biz dev strategy or channel, the cost of that’s pretty low because it emails back and forth and a couple of phone conversations. Whereas something as say a sponsorship of a big conference, that can have a really, really high cost. The other side of that can have a really high cost and a really low lead quality. Cost there, you’re just sort of rough estimate.
Finally would be effort. Maybe that’s how much it was on your part maybe it’s something that requires you entire engineering team to jump on board and build something out to make it work, that will be really high effort. All these things combine to create the ultimate score.
Nathan: Josh has a lot of advice to help you prioritize your marketing projects and there’s more to come. After you prioritize your projects, you can organize all of them and your entire process with CoSchedule. Start with 30 free days of the number one best-selling marketing counter by signing up at coschedule.com/actionable. Alright, let’s learn more about prioritizing your marketing projects with Josh.
I love the different qualities and especially if you can pick out which quality’s most important to you and justify across the four different lines. If you want leads but it costs a lot, is it worth it for your business?
Josh: There’s a multiplier variable in the formula that if for us, right now cost is a big deal for us. We want to keep costs down. If something has a really high cost and it needs to have sort of exponentially weightier spot in the formula, and need to more negatively impact that score because cost is a big deal for us right now.
Nathan: Yeah. To continue on with this, I like this idea, the multiplier, and I’m wondering about the actual process behind scoring. We have ideas, we know the qualities that will make successful projects. How do you actually score an idea?
Josh: I start off by you’ve got an idea, just some random idea, you’ve categorized it in the channel. A lot of it is sort of a gut reaction thing which I think is important there. You can overthink this and you can try to say okay for each cost option, I’m going to assign an actual dollar value. This is $100, that’s $500. You’re estimating here and going with what your initial gut would be and then you just go through each of those four items and it instantly generates a score for you. The lower the score, the better. You can think of scores as the sliding scale of potential impact and effort, ultimately. The lower the score if it’s one for instance, that probably means that you should go check out that idea first. And then if it’s really high, for us the max is 15, I think. That’s something you should probably do last.
Nathan: Nice. That makes sense. For each quality, is there a range that you do? It sounds like it’s qualitative.
Josh: Yeah. The quality has one to five, and then the others have one to three. There’s five for the lead quality and three for the others.
Nathan: Which makes sense. I think by keeping it to just these four different qualities that you’re looking at and keeping those ranges small, you hinted at this, but keeping it simple makes it practical.
Josh: Right. We could add a dozen more variables here. You could score this thing into oblivion. The idea here is not to guarantee that it’s somehow to predict the outcome of this. It’s to prioritize what you should try next. We can’t guarantee that a biz dev thing is actually going to work or that you’ll be able to come to some sort of agreement or that the content that you’re going to put out will actually get the traction that you thought it would or the event that you sponsored that anyone will turn into a leader. None of that’s guaranteed. The purpose here is just to help you figure out what you should try next.
Nathan: We know the process behind the scenes and the idea of the channel’s ideas and rating or scoring. What’s the best way for a marketer like me to put something like this into practice?
Josh: Start using the spreadsheet, there’s that. It’s just start knocking stuff out. I generally suggest doing a few testing out each idea multiple ones at a time. Some things take a little bit longer runway to actually pull off, just really start doing it and start testing out ideas and give yourself some sort of goal. Say I’m going to test out two ideas a week or five ideas a week or something like that.
Nathan: Nice. We have the spreadsheet that basically calculates our score so that we have this list of awesome projects that will give us really huge growth. You were just talking about testing, how do you actually test your ideas, you just try two a week, do you have a timeframe of how long you test them or it all depends?
Josh: Yes. It depends on the channel. Some things are not repeatable. Again, a partnership with a company, you’re not going to necessarily repeat the partnership. It’s just either there might be some time frame on that but you can test that over and over and then potentially repeat it with even another company.
But something like social and display ads, you can test those channels in small little bits, say I’ll spend $20 on Facebook ads and see what the cost of acquisition is for that channel. You would test that for a week or two to give yourself some good data and then if that works, if it’s cost efficient, then ramp it up. Double your spend and then test that for a couple of weeks and then double that and keep doing that as long as it makes economic sense. Certain things lend themselves to be on a repeatable process and something that you can even attach an actual value to and other things you can’t. A lot of it is what your gut feeling is on that channel after you started trying it out.
Nathan: I know that you’re a startup guy, it sounds like you’re applying that theory of the minimum viable product to a marketing project.
Josh: Right. Exactly. You’re trying to figure out what’s the least I can spend, whether that’s money or time, to get the biggest amount of impact, to prove something. And then if it works, we’ll keep iterating on that. And then if it stops working, this really just doesn’t work at all for us, then you move on to something else.
Nathan: Right. And all of that is super smart. I’m wondering then, we have our entire game plan now. Could you give me an example of how did you use this at Baremetrics?
Josh: Sure. For instance a couple of weeks ago, we launched what would be a small medium size business benchmarking page for SAAS companies. It’s baremetrics.com/benchmarks. That was an initial marketing idea where we say we got all this data across thousands of companies, what if we anonymize it, navigate it and then create this landing page to make this a free resource for the industry.
That was something that internally had the lead quality of goods right next to high. Almost as high as it could be because the people that are looking at this are other SAAS companies which is our market. Effort is low in that we got the data already. The cost is low, again. We don’t have to pay for this data, it’s just really kind of a time thing. And then impact was one under high, medium. That ultimately gave us a score of a 3.25. It’s pretty close to being as easy as it gets. We put that into practice and built a page and now has driven tons of traffic, probably doubled or tripled our daily trial sign ups. That was one of those things where the score there implies that it could be a pretty great strategy to go after and turned out to be correct.
Nathan: Now that you have something out there, maybe that’s not something you can completely test like you were talking about one-time projects. If something like that would come up again, an idea around that sort of a page, you have something out there, you shift something to now it’s probably going to be successful again if you do it again.
Josh: Correct. In reality, that’s one of those things where, okay, this benchmarking page was great and that leads to other ideas. Like oh, okay, can we turn this benchmark data into a webinar, can we do a webinar with someone else based on this data. Can we produce a bunch of content around the benchmarking data? Those are all separate ideas to try and to score. Maybe when something is repeatable in the way that advertising is, it’s repeatable and that it leads to new ideas. It has a long tail on the idea itself.
Nathan: I think that’s really smart and I have one last question then for you. I’m wondering about just tying this back to the channel to know how to get more ideas in the channel that works for you. Do you just throw out these tests and test first these ideas and then afterward look at it and say it looks like that channel is good for us then we should ramp up?
Josh: Correct. In the spreadsheet that we’ve got, there’s a status column which has a few different styles all the way from just the idea all the way to abandoned or focusing. What you can do is after you’ve tested something, after you’ve tried something or launched something, go through and say we’re going to focus on this or we’ll abandon this. And then you can actually sort the spreadsheet by that either focused or abandoned status. From that, you could say okay, tons of these strategies, these ideas that we’re focusing on are largely in the content marketing channel. That looks like that’s probably one of our best channels to focus on and to try to come up with new ideas in that channel because that works well for us.
Nathan: All of that is super smart advice. I really love how simple it is but so practically useful too to make sure that we use the most effective use of our time.