He shares the groundwork they put in place, including how they came up with the Kickofflabs name, how they defined their target market, and how they used Twitter for research.
Josh also tells how they actually generated all those customers – getting the word out through Quora, directories & lists; reaching out to other people’s audiences; and buying traffic.
For details on exactly how they did all this, as well as what they did for lead conversion and nurturing, you’ll definitely want to give this podcast a listen.
(If you want to learn from other software founders as well, check out all our posts on software development.)
Listen now and you’ll hear Josh and I talk about:
- (05:10) Introduction
- (05:10) Overview of a launch and results they’ve achieved
- (07:10) Overview of how they came up with the company name
- (10:30) Why didn’t they let competition deter them from moving forward
- (15:10) How they used Twitter to do research
- (18:10) How they defined their target market and defined their MVP
- (25:40) Overview of the developments leading to the very first sale
- (28:40) Overview of marketing mistakes they made and lessons learned
- (31:10) How to leverage other people’s audiences
- (33:40) How posting on Quora has impacted their traffic and sales
- (35:40) Some refinements they made for lead generation
- (37:40) How being in directories and lists impacted their revenue
- (39:25) Overview of how they are nurturing their leads to become customers
- (45:00) Explanation of how they are using subject lines in their free 30 day landing page course
- (48:10) How they follow up with costumers that leave and what they learn as a result
- (51:40) How outsourcing has played a role in their organization
- (55:40) Overview of how they are buying traffic
More About This Episode
The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.
It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.
Trent: Hey there, bright idea hunters, welcome back to yet another
episode of the Bright Ideas podcast. I’m your host, Trent
Dyrsmid, and this is the podcast for marketing agencies,
marketing consultants, and entrepreneurs who want to discover
how to use content marketing and marketing automation to
massively boost their business without massively boosting the
amount of time that they have to work every single week. And the
way that we do that is we bring proven experts onto the show to
share what’s been working for them, and this episode is no
different.I am very, very happy to welcome to the show a fellow by the
name of Josh Ledgard. Josh is the cofounder of a software
company called KickoffLabs, and you get to it at
kickofflabs.com. It’s a software services company, kind of as
everyone’s software company is these days, that specializes in
creating effortless landing pages plus smart email marketing and
social referrals, all with one goal: to get you more leads. They
are serving so far over 24,000 customers, and have generated
over two million leads. And the company is just two years old at
this point in time, and very nicely profitable as Josh is going
to share with us very early in the episode.So in this episode, first of all there is one of almost my
record of golden nuggets. I recorded six golden nuggets in this
episode, so you’re going to be learning how to use Twitter to
talk to the customers of your competitors so early on in the
lifespan of your company that you can find out exactly the
problems you need to focus on solving. How to keep in touch with
your early adopters using surveys, and Josh explains how he did
that and how it made a very, very big impact on their company
when it was very young and just getting going. And then how he
also makes personal connections with those same early adopters.
He talked about where he guest blogged, and in particular, he
describes how he chooses where to guest blog so that the
probability of the traffic of the people that are going to read
those posts becoming customers is the highest. So you’ll
definitely want to tune in and hear how he does that.And then he says he works in the library a lot, and there’s
something unique about sitting across from the magazine rack
that has really helped him with his copywriting skills. So there
is a whole bunch more that we talk about throughout this
episode, and I’m really excited to get it going, and in just a
moment we’re going to welcome Josh to the show.Before I do that, I want to tell you about two quick things that
Bright Ideas has going. Number one is that I am writing a book,
and it is on content marketing and marketing automation, and it
will be all the lessons that I have learned, as well as the many
lessons that I have extracted here from the guests on the show.
And you can become an early bird for that book at
brightideas.co/book. And if you run a marketing agency or you
are a marketing consultant, and you are looking for a mastermind
group to join, so that you can hang out with likeminded people
who are in the same business as you, who are looking to become
more successful than they are today, head over to
brightideas.co/mastermind and you’ll be able to get all the info
there.So with that said, thanks very much for tuning in, and please
join me in welcoming Josh to the show. Hey Josh, welcome to the
show.Josh: Hey Trent, great to be here.Trent: Thank you so much for making the time to come onto the Bright
Ideas podcast and share the story of how you have launched and
made KickoffLabs a success. Before we get into all of those
details, I’m sure there are plenty of people in my audience who
aren’t yet familiar with you, or your company, so please take a
moment and just introduce yourself.Josh: Yeah, so I’m one of the two founders of KickoffLabs, and we do
landing pages and email marketing. So our goal is setting up a
campaign that involves a landing page that somebody might get to
via an advertisement or some other promotion, and then the email
capture and promotion delivery via that service are relatively
easy. So our customers range from people starting new
businesses, like a cupcake stand in a mall that opened last week
using our product, all the way to a company like [Kalem]
Airlines, running a contest to get people to register for their
newsletter, register for their deals flying [Kalem] Airlines.Trent: Wow, from cupcakes to airlines, that is a broad spectrum of
target customers to say the least.Josh: Absolutely.Trent: So we’ll get into that, I do want to talk about how you go to
market and how you pick your niche and so forth. How long have
you been in business, and let’s talk about recent revenue, just
so we can give the listeners a bit of an idea of what it is that
you’ve accomplished, so that will make the rest of the story
more compelling for them.Josh: We’re kind of a typical good growth curve. We launched in the middle
of 2011, and we made what I describe as next to nothing that
year, if you look at tax returns. And then 2012 saw us grow into
a business that was paying its two founders, myself and Scott
Watermasysk, decent salaries, and this year has seen us so far
grow to hire a support engineer, a designer, a marketing person,
and also pay ourselves much better salaries that are much more
similar to what we were making in past jobs. So we’re making it
very worthwhile for us.Trent: So that sounds like it’s probably between 500,000 and a million
year run rate at this point?Josh: We’re heading towards that, yeah.Trent: Terrific. And this is a business that you created with or
without any outside funding?Josh: Yes, absolutely.Trent: Without.Josh: Without, sorry, yes.Trent: So that’s why I found this story so interesting, because that’s
what I thought that it was. And there are so many people out
there, I’ve had many of them on my show in the past, Sam Ovens
and Brandon Dunn, two other fellows who have created very
successful software as a service businesses. Neither of them,
like yourself, took outside funding, so I think that there is a
really good story here, so let’s kind of dive into it. The first
thing that I’m really curious about is the name, KickoffLabs. I
think I read on your blog that you had ten product ideas when
you were first starting off. Is that it?Josh: You definitely did your research. When Scott and I got together, we
knew that we wanted to work together to build something, and to
build a business, we had close to 25 one-sentence or one-
paragraph ideas that we were throwing out there as things we
could do. We kind of vetted all those against what we had
personal experience in, and what we did not. What could we
contribute the greatest to? Some ideas even had us selling
physical products, but neither of us had experience with
manufacturing or doing a physical product, so we kind of ruled
that out.We narrowed it down to five or six that we wrote what I would
call mini business plans for, anywhere between five and ten
pages, talking about competitors, talking about the opportunity.
And I loved all those ideas that we had, and we started
discussing them after writing that up. We realized that any
further discussion was just circling around imaginary numbers.
We could have made any of those ideas look good on paper, and
probably they were all good on paper, and had potential in
reality. But what mattered to us was could we get people to pay
with their attention for the idea.So we were like, we should put up some pages and see if we can
get some people to subscribe to email. And then we kind of joked
and said, why don’t we just build a product that does that, and
then in the worst case we’ll have a product that puts up landing
pages. And so that wasn’t actually one of the five ideas at
first, and so that kind of stuck. And there are probably a lot
of people in our position. So the product was built with
ourselves in mind at first, to solve this problem-that would
eventually be called the Lean Startup Movement-had, which was
trying to build an audience for something.I think my answer in terms of why KickoffLabs would be, we’re
terrible at naming. We’d like to have a really catchy name like
Yahoo or Google or something, but I don’t necessarily think it
matters. To me, I think it came from thinking about all of this
as an experiment. It was an experiment for ourselves, and all
businesses are inherently experiments until proven otherwise.And even as we’ve expanded our market, our campaign is
experimenting. You as a marketer might run a contest or a
promotion, and you are betting that you’re going to get more
customers than you’re putting into it, but it’s an experiment.
And the idea that we could make those experiments and those
campaigns quicker and easier to set up and either quicker to
fail or quicker to succeed, there was going to be a market for
that kind of thing, for helping people to experiment more
quickly.Trent: You know, that’s such a profound and important concept that I
think a lot of especially new entrepreneurs don’t have a strong
understanding of. I see people, they put all this time into
putting up a full website, and they write all the copy, and they
do all this stuff before they’ve done any validation whatsoever.
So tip of the hat to you, and I think the KickoffLabs name is a
great name to be honest with you, because it is very
representative of what you guys are doing.So when you first started, there’s things that get in peoples
way from taking action and moving forward, and one of those
things is competition. I see people, they find an idea, and they
go, “Oh, somebody’s already done that. I can’t do it.” And you
came into a space that there’s an 800-pound gorilla, called
Unbounce, which they have a super well-developed product. They
have tons and tons of customers. There are a number of other
ones that are around. Were they there when you guys started, and
were you aware of them? And if that was the case, why didn’t you
let that deter you?
Josh: Unbounce was around when we started, and so were about 20 other
companies doing not just general, because there are categories
of website development. There’s actual website development,
something like [Wicks], something like WordPress. We didn’t put
ourselves in the category of competing with that, we’re more
complimentary. So something specifically around landing pages,
we’ve captured probably 20 to 30 different larger to smaller
players in the space, so it wasn’t just them although like you
said, they certainly had the most professional looking offering
at the time.
But two things, one, it felt like our niche, going after the
basic, just email collection and idea validation market at
first, was being underserved by their product. We knew that from
talking to people that were using their product on Twitter, on
forums, online, so we knew that there were people that felt like
they were being underserved and weren’t necessarily the target
of what Unbounce is going after. The other piece of the puzzle
is when you look at something like keyword trends on Google, and
you start looking at what is your business targeting as landing
pages, and just seeing the number of searches that people were
doing for marketing automation, landing pages, those kind of
search trends have more than doubled every year for the last
And so that tells me that there’s a market that’s not only
large, but growing, and although a company may look like a 900-
pound gorilla, I’m sure that Unbounce feels that they’ve only
captured one percent of their potential market. So there’s a
huge potential market out there, and I think this is true with
any idea, until you get to Facebook size and you can say, “Wow,
half of the U.S. is on Facebook,” most businesses that will
start out, if you’re looking at competition, there’s not
somebody who truly has 90 or 99 percent of the market share.
Now, if you said your business was going to be a search engine,
I might tell you that there is an 800-pound gorilla in the room,
but if you said your business was going to be a search engine
that specialized in finding gluten-free menu options and scanned
the menus of every gluten free location and went ahead of Yelp
in that sense of doing far more than they did, and you took that
niche and that was going to be your product, I’d have a lot more
faith that you stood a chance of making some money in that
niche. I’d still have some questions if your longer term goal
was to become Google. But in the space that we’re in and the
size of competitors, I never viewed anyone as an 800-pound
gorilla, and I think that the market is healthy, and there is
room for competition.
Josh: And personally, I’ll add one more thing. I’ve met the guys from
Unbounce, they’re in Vancouver, and actually I really like them.
We’ve sent customers their way, and vice versa. I have no
problem if someone is met better by some of their product
offerings, then I have no problem telling people that they’ll
have a good experience, because I know that they share some of
our same values around customer support and experience.
Trent: And I’ve used both products, and when I say used, I’ve used
theirs for a landing page, and yours, you were kind enough to
give me a trial so I could get in and play around with it, and
they’re different. Yours is definitely easier to use. Unbounce I
think does more, but it’s more complicated, and as you
accurately put it beforehand, there was a portion of the market
that they weren’t doing a good job of serving. And I think
that’s another very valuable lesson for people too.
You mentioned that you did research on Twitter, so I’m curious
about that. Did you go and find people? Did you set up a Twitter
search, for example? Just talk about how you used Twitter to do
that research and connect with those people?
Josh: Literally, we took a few of the competitors, Unbounce, Lander App, in
the startup space there’s a company called Launch Rock that
opened shortly after we started doing what we were doing, and
had a lot of fame. And we just started looking for mentions of
those services. And I just wouldn’t look for mentions, I would
look for the really positive or the really negative mentions. So
the really positive mentions, like “Oh, I love the product,” I’d
just follow up with them and say what do you love about
Unbounce, what do you like about it? I wouldn’t say, “Come use
our product,” that’s obviously in my bio and some people
probably clicked over, but my goal wasn’t to get people to use
our product, my goal was to learn where there was room to
improve or not to improve.
And once I’d asked what they loved about it, I’d say what do you
hate about it, what do you wish was better? And then obviously
the inverse questions for people who said I’m frustrated by
this, or I can’t figure out how to accomplish this with that
product. So you just sort of have conversations with people
online, and at one point, I was probably sending out 35 to 40
tweet replies to people that were using a potentially
competitive service to ours, to grill them on what we could do
and what paths would be best for us.
Trent: I think that’s an absolutely brilliant idea, using Twitter to
talk to the customers of a competitor. You know, the guy that I
interviewed earlier this morning, we were talking about books,
and he has a particularly good idea that’s been shared with me
now a couple of times, and I just want to pass it along. When
writing a book, or researching any kind of product, he goes to
Amazon, looks at the competitive products, and looks at the one-
star reviews. Because those are the people who aren’t happy, who
are saying it’s missing this, it’s missing that, and it’s
missing the other thing. And I thought that was an equally
brilliant way of getting insights into ways that you could add
value that didn’t currently exist.
Josh: And it helps, because you sort of see where you’re going. You just
have to be careful, because the trap I see some people fall into
is, like if somebody came to us and say, “I don’t like Unbounce
because I can’t do these 50 others features.” And I’m thinking
to myself, Unbounce is pretty fully featured. You want these 50
other things, is not to then add to my work item list, do those
50 things, because then person is not our customer as well,
given that we’re trying to go after the quicker, easier market.
Trent: Absolutely. The next two things I want to talk about are one,
how you defined that market, how you really figured out who your
customer was, and then how you developed an MVP, a minimal
viable product for them? So can you walk us through that?
Josh: So there was some of that research at first, there was looking at the
cross section of what’s the same about all these services and
the competition, that we would say to compete in the space we
absolutely have to have. And we took that list, and we said this
could be our MVP, and then we didn’t do some things that we
probably should have done at that point. We did put up our own
landing page, and eventually moved it over to our platform when
it was ready.
There are some things we didn’t do, like we could have taken
advantage of the people that we signing up to our list, and
sending them surveys and questions along the way. And that’s
what some of our better customers do today that have success,
they’re actually using our tools and emailing people every week
and saying, “Hey, check this screen shot of our product out,
what do you think about this versus that?” And so it was a lot
of what do we need to launch that we could be using as a
customer to get the very first thing out the door? Since we were
Once we got the very first thing out the door, and when I say
out the door, we did a really limited beta. We invited maybe 10
people, most of which were friends that we could trust would
give us honest, good feedback, and then we launched it and put
up a “Pay for this” button. We didn’t have an interest in doing
a free beta for very long, because to be honest people who don’t
pay any money give terrible feedback. Once someone is paying
money, they tend to tell you what they really need.
So then we had a free plan signup and a paid plan signup, and
literally everybody that signed up, because when we launched we
weren’t doing tons of business in the first couple of months, I
just connected with them personally. Because what else was I
going to do? I could just spend time writing a feature I didn’t
know if anybody wanted, I could spend time trying to market,
which I did with the rest of my time, or I could start having
conversations with the people we were grabbing and say, what do
you need next?
For example, the first thing that we launched had an email
capture, but there was no automatic reply or follow-up. We
didn’t have that as a feature, and when about the fifth person
who paid us money just for doing the email capture said, “Boy,
you know this great, but what I hate is that now I’ve got to go
get these emails and put them in Mail Chimp or put them in
AWeber, and then I’ve got to go set up an auto responder. Could
you just make email as simple as setting up your landing page?”
And that fit right in with this value that we try to have of
keep things easy and simple. And so we said, obviously, it’s a
one stop shop, why should you have to go to a Mail Chimp to do
email? If you’re doing a quick campaign, why shouldn’t it just
be automatically set up for you that there’s an autoreply?
It seems like a fairly obvious feature, I’ll grant you, and we
waited until a few people who paid us money repeated it, and
said, “If you had that, I’d pay you twice as much.” And we said
fine, pay us twice as much and we’ll do that, and they did. And
so we raised prices, and those people were okay with paying
more, and we added the foundations of some email marketing to
That was a good example, because we talked to the customers
personally. I emailed everyone who created an account with us
personally. I looked at their landing pages, I’d give them tips
for their page, and say your copy might be better if you do this
instead of that, and build the trust a little bit, and then get
their feedback personally.
When we got the feedback, we’d separate it into feedback from
people who were paying us, and feedback from people who weren’t
paying us, and it became pretty obvious what things people who
were paying us valued. And we evolved the product along those
lines and values since that time, keeping our core value
proposition in mind, but as people have suggestions along those
lines, if it comes up consistently from people who are paying us
something, then we’ve evolved the product in that direction.
Trent: Very smart. If you can come up with enough of an idea to get
early adoption and paying customers, and then listen to your
tribe, they’ll take you in the direction you need to go.
Josh: Exactly. And it was just looking at how people were using it. We
didn’t used to have a section of themes and templates and
features for people who were running contests, but then we
quickly discovered that people were using our platform to run
contests. It was kind of shocking to me, I hadn’t noticed, and
then one day I looked at the sites that were getting the most
subscribers. At first you have to deal a lot with informal data,
conversational data, but when you start getting more usage, and
you start running some queries, and you say what were the top
viewed pages across our landing system for the last month?
And then those top viewed, what are getting the most
subscriptions, and then of those, what pages are those? And a
third of the subscriptions were coming to contest pages, and
we’d never even marketed for people doing contests before. So I
reached out to a couple of those customers, and they said, “Oh
yeah, I just love it. We just set up simple contests all the
time, and we run them with your system. We love your system,
it’s great.” And I was like, we’ve got to get a case study out
there and actually market and do some features for you guys, and
evolve the product that way too.
Because it’s the same thing, it’s a campaign, it’s something
that people want to be able to set up and close really quickly.
We had some features like the referral feature we do, we have a
built in refer a friend feature that works really well for
contests. It made sense after we saw that data, but it was not
something we thought of before.
Trent: Talk about being able to extract the most valuable insights
having access to all that data, that’s absolutely just a gold
mine of brilliant, or I guess I should say bright, ideas.
Josh: It’s definitely a gold mine of ideas. You have to have a question
that you’re asking first. The question that I was trying to
answer was, what are people using our product for today? What
are the usages for it? That’s why I had to start digging the
data, and dumping it all into a spreadsheet, and categorizing
things, and really scrubbing it to figure out how we could
Trent: So I know there are people who are listening to this now who
would probably love to create their own software as a service
business. And maybe there are some limiting beliefs standing in
their way, and I’d like to see if we can knock a few of those
down. So first of all, are you and your cofounder, are you guys
Josh: We both come from the technical background, so I was the VP of
Engineering at the last company. If I remember, Scott was the VP
of Architecture, so he was much more technical than I was, so he
led the overall design and architecture of the product, whereas
the rest of the engineering staff, the testers, the designers,
the product managers reported through me.
Trent: How much time did it take you from no code to when you were
able to put up that very, very first buy button?
Josh: About four and half to five months of time. We started toward the end
of February and we launched at the end of June in 2011.
Trent: Okay, so that’s actually quite a bit longer than I thought.
Josh: It took us longer. I think we got caught up in some traps that people
get caught up in for building the first version of a product.
And I think both of us, until we started to see some results,
were maybe not necessarily 100-percent committed at the time.
Trent: So during those four and five months, this wasn’t your full-
Josh: I was doing a couple of things on the side at the time, and it wasn’t
necessarily full time for me during that period.
Trent: Okay. So what advice would you give to someone who wants to
start their own software as a service business? They want to
tackle one problem, so we’re not talking about building another
InfusionSoft or anything like that. Do you think that if they
don’t know how to write code, they shouldn’t do it?
Josh: It’s really hard for me to answer that question, because I want to
just say no, because especially lately has we’ve hired people
and outsourced some development work of features and parts of
the product, we’ve realized that the coding part is some of the
least valuable pieces of what we can do for the product. But at
the same time, we would have eaten through a lot more of the
savings we had to fund it if we had to pay for that stuff
So the approach I see working now for some people is going about
building a related information product, selling that to get some
funds that you can then use to fund the development. I can’t say
that you don’t have to. I think it’s been really helpful, but at
the same time it’s held us back, because we didn’t know how to
market a product at first. We had no marketing experience. And
so we would have gotten to success a lot more quickly after we
had the product had we understood how to properly market it. And
not necessarily wasted the second half of 2011 making very
Trent: I want to talk about that, but before I do, I want to give a
link out. So I had a fellow on my show by the name of Sam Evans,
you can get to him at brightideas.co/69, and Sam did pretty much
what Josh just said, although he didn’t use an information
product. He did consulting work, and he used the profits from
that work to fund his software business which is Snap Inspect,
and it has taken off big time, Sam is now doing very well. But
definitely go and check out that interview. So Josh, you’ve
mentioned that you made some marketing mistakes. Can you talk
about the mistakes that you’ve made?
Josh: They’re so numerous.
Trent: Well, this is where the best lessons are, so this is why I want
to get into this.
Josh: When it comes to KickoffLabs, there were lots of mistakes going into
- We got hung up on typical stuff like logo design, and design
of the marketing site aspects of the product. And none of that
stuff really mattered, and we focused so much on those kind of
designs, and not enough on the copy and writing down compelling
reasons for people to buy or use the product or sell the
And even when we did focus on copy, we did the classic mistake
that an engineering focused team will make. We focused on the
features, and not the benefits. So we would say, we’ve got this
feature, and that feature, and we’ve got referrals, and we’ve
got easy put up pages, and great templates, but not putting up
the why or the benefit that people would get. We weren’t
speaking to customers, and that’s just the stuff we learned
after we launched.
Before we launched, we didn’t do enough to build an audience.
We’d had a few hundred people sign up for our list, but the way
we’d gone about building the audience was trying to leverage
people we knew in our own networks in a poor way. So we would
just say, tell your friends about our idea, or check this out,
like us on Facebook, and sign up at our page if you like it. We
were trying to use our own megaphones, as opposed to finding
other people’s audiences and megaphones.
And I see this mistake with some of our customers as well, we
set up a blog and started blogging. We said, you’ve got to have
a blog, you’ve got to post on your blog, but if no one comes by
to read your blog, what value is that post doing you? Especially
in the short term? Now, in the long term, a blog post can have
some great long tail, SEO effects, but in the short run, where
you’re just trying to get a burst, and get an audience, and do
that initial launch, and make more than 10 dollars in your first
month, I don’t think a blog is very helpful for that. Because
you don’t have an audience to start with.
So what is more helpful is leveraging other people’s audiences.
So stuff we learned along the way includes going to public
communities, like Quora or the Internet Marketing Forum, going
to inbound.org, and participating in those communities, and
building a reputation with just a minor link back to your site,
those are much more valuable, because you’re leveraging other
people’s megaphones . . . or going to other people’s blogs and
writing a guest post. You’re leveraging somebody else’s
megaphone to get attention on what you’re doing. Where can you
play up somebody who has a bigger but related audience to yours,
is a lesson that turned out to be really valuable for us that I
wish I’d known sooner.
And a lot of our customers do this much better than us. They go
out and they just set up the landing page, they don’t even have
their own blog, and they go out and they market the landing page
in these kind of communities and forums, and other people’s
newsletters, and instantly they’re able to get few thousand
people in the course of a few months sign up. And then they have
their own audience, then they can start email marketing, then
they can start promoting their own blog posts. But that initial
building of new audiences by leveraging other people was
something that we didn’t do very well at all.
Trent: Have you ever heard of a fellow by the name of James Clear?
Trent: It’s very relevant to this; I’m going to bring it up. I spoke
to James; I did not record this interview I had with him this
morning. I was referred to him by another fellow that has been
on my show, and it’s just so timely I want to share it.
So James has a blog at jamesclear.com, that at the beginning of
2012 had 500 subscribers, and I think he had about 11,000
visitors in that month. He now has 20,000 subscribers and he’ll
do over 100,000 visitors this month, and what he did was
literally reposted his content on medium.com, on [Quora]. He
hounded the hell out of the Huffington Post until they published
one of his articles. He hounded the hell out of Life Hacker. And
he said, much to my surprise, that he’s been getting great
results from using Google Plus.
And I asked him, has there been any negative impact on your
traffic from SEO as a result of literally cutting and pasting
the HTML of the entire blog post onto one of these other
platforms. He has his little byline at the bottom. Everything
leads back to one very simple landing page, which causes his
subscribers to grow. And he said, “No, not at all.” No negative
impact on SEO, no penalties for “duplicate content,” and as a
result of warming up that content on, we’ll call them these
outposts, his lead capture page, which is incredibly simple,
converts at over 80 percent. It’s mind blowing.
Josh: It’s lower now in the last few months, but going through 2012, a
third of our revenue came from posts on Quora that we’d made,
and so people that I could track back, their original referral,
where they heard about us from, a third of our revenue was
coming from some questions that we’d answered on Quora about
landing page best practices, launching a new campaign, launching
a business. We answered all sorts of those questions, and that
was leading to a significant amount of our revenue. I’ll go and
post stuff as answers and use that as inspiration for our own
blog. And the ones that get popular, where I can probably write
this up, do a better job of it, and put it on our own blog, and
so I’ll take some of the better answers and repost them to our
site as well, so we get the long-term effect.
Trent: It was a big eye opener for me, and something I have not been
doing a good job of, so you can bet that like you I’ll probably
be making some experiments very soon.
So what should we talk about next? In terms of lead generation,
we’ve talked about a fair amount already. Is there anything that
has worked very well for you Josh that we have not yet
Josh: It’s some refinements of things that we’ve talked about, in terms of
lead generation. For example, when people look at guest
blogging, I think it works best not to just look for this person
is an influence or in marketing, but does this person have an
audience that’s willing to pay money? So some of our best guest
blog posts have been with complementary products. We’ve done a
few guest blog posts on the User Voice blog, on the Kissmetrics
blog, for example. Those are complementary products that our
customers are also using, that charge money for something. So
the audience there is already familiar with the concept of
paying money for a service online, and although those blogs have
a smaller audience than some what I would call influencers in
the marketing space, the conversion results are much better from
So when you’re looking for places to post content, thinking
about where there are people that spend money, hanging out and
reading, and going for it that way. So we’re participating with
Joanna from Copy Hackers, who is doing a 30-day boot camp course
with videos, and we’re contributing one of the videos, because
we know that when we do a promotion with Joanna, she’s got a
segment of customers that are already willing to pay for copy
and marketing services. So I know that while that video might
not get a million views, the views that it does get are going to
be really valuable for us.
The things I didn’t expect to convert at first, the things I
kind of ran a checklist that I went and did, because we tried a
little bit of everything, we’re about experimenting, being in
directories and lists related-whenever anyone would make a list
of the best landing page tools, trying to email the author and
get into that directory. And even just straight up directories,
like editing our entry in Crunchbase, editing our entry in other
places where there are just tools you can use. There are all
sorts of these directories and list building services, and as
long as you write up a couple of standard answers to questions,
and have a couple of standard screen shots you use, you can even
outsource that and have people submit you to 25, 50 directories.
And there are a couple of these directories that I would have
never guessed would drive us traffic and referrals. But for the
cost of having someone push promote us to a couple of those
directories, we get a good amount of revenue every month, and a
good amount of conversions every month form those locations.
Trent: Which were the top three, the best three locations for you?
Josh: I’d have to look that up. We do get a lot, in terms of directories,
from Crunchbase because in our market, people do look for a
competitor too, and they’ll type in a product. And Crunchbase
has a good tagging of competitors, so we made sure to tag all
the competitors, that we are a competitor to them. Which then
adds them to our listing, but then we get the vice versa listing
as well. And that’s been probably the biggest. To go beyond
that, it’s a lot of onesies and twosies that add up over time.
So I’d have to go back and look at the data to tell you. I don’t
have that in front of me.
Trent: Fair enough. So capturing leads is one thing, but as anyone who
has done that will know, not all leads are created equal. Some
people are ready to buy, some people aren’t, so there is a
process of nurturing those leads to lead them towards a
conversion. Can you talk a little bit about how, I’m assuming
you have an automated funnel that’s doing that for you?
Trent: Can you talk about it?
Josh: Yes. So what we do if somebody comes, and they’re not signed into our
website today, they’ll see a pop-up that comes up that says,
“Sign up for a 30-day email course.” And so the email course is
all about how to design and write landing pages, so it’s called
Landing Pages 107. The point is, we’ll send anywhere from eight
to twelve emails throughout the course, we’re constantly
refining and playing around with it, but basically walking
people through researching for a landing page, designing the
landing page, writing the copy for the landing page. We’ve got
some downloadable worksheets that go with it.
It’s my belief that the best ads are educational in nature. Even
if you think about some of the best Apple ads, for example, that
talk about the iPhone, they’re showing people how to use it.
They’re showing people, here is an app you can download, and
here’s a finger actually using that app, to show you how simple
it is to do it. I think that’s genius, because it’s not just an
emotional play in the ad. They’re great, because they combine
the emotional play as well as this educational play, but what’s
often overlooked about great ads is the educational value of
them. The better we can do through this nurturing process of
helping people with education, and getting a better
understanding, then the more trust they’ll have for us, and the
more they’ll come back and spend money.
We get anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of conversions from people
who only ever signed up for the email course, and then decided
later to come back later and sign up for a free product, and
then maybe upgraded down the line to a paid product. The numbers
are potentially higher, but it’s sometimes hard to measure when
people go back and search. I ask people all the time, I have
kind of a vague how you found us, and they’ll say, “Oh, I took
your course,” and I’ve got no way to see that they did. I’ll go
back and look them up, and I can’t tell that they did, but
they’ll say, “Oh, the course was great. Somebody told me about
it, and so I signed up for the product,” but then they used a
different email address.
So you just have to ask constantly how people heard about your
product, because the best tracking and automation online doesn’t
always capture what’s bringing you leads. But I can tell you it
was 15 percent last month, people signing up for this course. So
we do that, and then after the 30 days are up, we have them on
our continuing education newsletter list, so every other week we
send out a tip or an article to promote something that we’re
doing. And we also sign people up for newsletters on
KickoffLabs, when they sign up for a free account, then they’ll
start getting alternating every other week between that
continuing education email and a new feature or announcement or
promotion with KickoffLabs that goes into it. In terms of
marketing automation, I call it human automation. I also wanted
to keep that concept of having a personal touch with customers
and following up with them.
So we have an email that comes out every day to the support
person, and it shows them new customers, new landing pages
they’ve created, whether they’ve paid or not, and some
information about the landing page, with a link to the page
they’ve created. And we’ve got essentially almost a sales script
developed, where, depending upon the stage that that customer is
at in their lifecycle, we’ll have him follow up, give them some
tips, and ask them some questions.
Now, you could say, why don’t you automate that, because
obviously the product knows roughly what the person has done,
what they’ve accomplished, whether they’ve published the page or
they haven’t? That script could be automated, and over time we
may do it, but there’s a huge value in personally reaching out
and saying, it looks like you’re setting up a contest, because
that’s a determination probably only a human can make on a
landing page, it looks like you’ve got about all the copy in,
but it doesn’t look like you’ve got a video in yet. Or it looks
like you haven’t set up the follow up email yet. Can I help you
with that? Here’s a link to a resource that helps you with that.
And so that is semi-automated, in the sense that there’s a
script and a path that people go through, but we get a lot of
follow-ups from customers that say, “Wow, great, thanks for the
tip. I don’t have anything right now,” but I can tell from the
follow ups that we’re getting that it’s creating a positive
impression and people are more likely to buy, or continue to be
customers from month to month, because they know that not only
are we available via support, but that we’re already helping
them proactively. And so there are those two things, being very
automated on the email side, and then the semi-automated
scripted human side of the follow up are the two big marketing
automation tools that we use.
Trent: So while you were talking about the free sequence, I made a
little not to myself, subject lines. And what I meant by that
is, that everybody gets a ton of email. So there’s always this
huge challenge of writing a subject line that’s going to get the
email opened. And there’s a fine line between too much hype and
not enough. In your educational series that goes over the 30
days, what style do you have with your subject lines, as I have
not opted in and seen your subject lines?
Josh: It’s a mix. I tend to believe that although headlines grab people in,
the headlines should match the style of the content, so the
content is very varied. Because I believe when you are doing one
catch-all for marketing, like this 30 days course that gets
thousands of people to go through it, there’s not necessarily
one email that’s going to drive them all to sign up. You never
know what will drive that particular person, so we try to vary
So within that course, there’s one that’s learning about the
design of landing pages, so the style is very much a play on see
how Apple designs the best landing pages. So that subject line
works really well, because people associate Apple with design,
and we do have a case study that walks through some Apple
developed landing pages, and why they’re tremendous landing
pages. So people love that follow up, but then we have another
one that’s a list later on, so in the measurement section, the
classic ten things you should be measuring, and that tends to
work really well, but it pairs with the email, because the email
really is ten things you should be measuring.
I go to the library a lot, and I work from there, and sometimes
I’ll sit across from the magazine section. They’ve got a huge
magazine section at the library, and I see all these headlines,
and it’s just great fodder, because you can see the Cosmo
headline, right next to the Economist headline, which is a weird
mix. I don’t know how they order the magazines, but you get on
one end “The 10 Secrets your Boyfriend is going to Love in Bed,”
and on the other side of it, you see “The Cause of the Economic
Collapse and what So and So does to Prevent It.”
This great mix of headlines is an inspiration. I recommend
anyone go to a magazine stand and just borrow from those
headlines, and then create the emails that really map to that
headline. Because there’s nothing I hate worse than a bait email
that then doesn’t match up with the article. Not one style per
se, but we’ve leveraged all these classic headline formulas to
improve the open rate of the course over time.
Trent: And what open rate do you have, overall? And I realize that’s a
really hard question, so it’s more of an opinion.
Josh: Yeah, because it varies. And so the different tools you use give you
different answers, but I’m pretty confident in saying that we go
anywhere from 25 to 35 percent open rates, depending upon the
email that goes out.
Trent: That’s pretty good. Is there anything on nurturing that we have
not yet talked about?
Josh: I think we covered the stuff that I meant to cover on nurturing
leads. I’d say that the piece of it that a lot of people
overlook is the following up. So there are two pieces. One is
following up when people leave the service. It’s not necessarily
nurturing a lead. Well, it is like nurturing a lead. There are
two categories of people who leave a service like ours. There
are people that are done with their specific campaign, and we
can tell that by looking at their page and the note they’ll
leave in the reason box. And so we’ll follow up personally with
everybody that leaves, and it says, “Did you have a great
experience? What can we do to make your next experience or
campaign better?” And just follow up with them to remind them
that we might be able to offer this for you in the future and do
an even better job of that in the future, and we see a lot of
those people come back for campaigns down the line.
The other category are people that leave because they don’t feel
like they’re getting the results that they wanted. So then you
can follow up in terms of why don’t you think you were getting
the results that you wanted? What could we have done better on
the product? And it turns out that we end up turning some of
those people around as well. And if somebody had good results,
we’ll say, “We noticed that you had good results. Do you mind
sharing them with people?”
So this is the second part of it, personally asking for
recommendations. And a lot of people don’t do it, so when people
do email support, and somebody says, “Wow, thank you, that
totally solved our problem,” a lot of times they’ll get a reply
back from us that says, “Don’t thank us, go on Twitter or
Facebook or your blog, and tell 5 to 500 of your closest friends
about us, and that will be thanks.” And people do, and it works
a lot better than just having like us on Facebook as a button.
When you have that as part of the process and the workflow, when
you’ve caught people at a time when they’re feeling great about
your service via a successfully resolved support case or a
question that you’ve answered for them, to actually say right
then and right there, “Don’t thank me. Go on Twitter, and
promote our service.” I’m not saying it that directly, but if
you see a lot of positive stuff about our service out there,
that’s where it started from.
And I’ll tell people, “Hey, did you know you can get your next
month free if you write a blog post about us? So if I see
somebody who’s got a blog, and someone who’s had a successful
support story, I’ll tell them, “Write a blog post about us, your
next month is free.” I’m not beyond bribery, it works. And we
get a blog post written about us. And even if the person doesn’t
have a big audience, you get enough of those over time, and the
onesies and twosies build up over time.
Trent: That’s a very good investment in marketing. I’m jotting that
one down too. I don’t know if you know this, but I always talk
about these golden nuggets in the episodes that I record, and
you have up to six golden nuggets so far.
Josh: Sweet. Don’t tell me what the record is, because I’ll try to beat it.
Trent: Actually I don’t know what the record is. I’ve not done a good
enough job of keeping track, but you’re close. You’re in the top
20 percent at this point, because I only have five lines on my
sheet, and so I’ve had to make extra space for yours. So folks,
if you want to be able to get to all of the show notes and so
forth for this episode, that’s going to be at brightideas.co/82.
All right, so continuing on then, and we’re going to wrap up
pretty quickly, I want to know if outsourcing has or does play a
role in your organization, and what your thoughts on using
overseas outsourcers are.
Josh: I haven’t had much success with overseas outsourcing. We’ve tried a
couple of small projects, we’ve tried a range. We’ve tried from
content creation through to some development projects, and have
not had much luck with those two categories of things. We’ve
ended up doing a much better job with onshore offshoring, if
that’s a term. Because I’m in Seattle, my cofounder is in New
Jersey, the marketing person is in New York, the support person
is somewhere else. Since we’ve done a great job hiring around,
it has been easy for us then to take on and give some projects
to people that live in the middle of nowhere, so they then have
a cheaper requirement for their rate than if I was to go hire
somebody in Seattle, to be honest because it’s not cheap to live
We’ve had more success in coding and content creation projects
looking for other people within the states. The area we’ve had
some success with outsourcing, and it ended up being overseas
outsourcing, has been in smaller design projects. So, if we need
to have a banner ad created, we did a banner for our WordPress
plugin, and I wanted it to look much nicer than anything I was
doing, and I didn’t want to take our designer and do it. I just
put up a mockup on freelancer.com and said “Do this as a
For banners, we’ve generally run contests or gone back to one or
two people, and gotten designs that have worked out well for us
in the past, and that seems to work well for an extremely
scoped, non-mission critical design thing. And there’s a lot of
those that you end up needing over time to have done. So that’s
where the offshore outsourcing works. For everything else, core
development, core design, core content and marketing, we haven’t
figured out how to make that work with the offshore labor yet.
Trent: Okay. Things that I’ve had a lot of success with offshore labor
are tasks that are checklist oriented, where you can really
detail step one, do this, do that, do that, do that, repeat.
Things like research, if I’m going to write a post, and I want
to be able to cite other examples, I can say, “Go Google these
terms, catalog these results,” that kind of thing. I think
that’s an area where it works really well.
And folks, there is a fellow who is going to be on my show
sometime in the near future, Chris Ducker, and if you go to
chrisducker.com/101, Chris is the founder of a company called
Virtual Staff Finders. They’ve had a lot of success and built a
great reputation for themselves, and in that post, you will see
an example of 101 things that Chris feels are very suitable to
Josh: You did remind me, I guess I did do that once. When I talked about
the research that I did on people using our service, to
categorize all the landing pages we had, I did like the first 10
or 15 or so, and then I realized it was going to take me
forever, so I used Task Rabbit, and wound up with somebody
offshore from Task Rabbit to go and categorize the rest of the
stuff on the spreadsheet.
Trent: I haven’t heard of Task Rabbit before, is that like an oDesk or
Freelancer kind of thing?
Josh: Yes, and it’s built more so around you have one single task to do.
Their UI is much more like, I’ve got this one job to do, not I’m
going to keep rehiring this person hourly to be like a virtual
assistant. But if you’ve got one specific job that you know is
going to take you a day, that somebody else could be doing
instead of you.
Trent: Cool, there’s another little golden nugget for us. Thank you
very much. That’ll be in the show notes as well. All right, so
let’s wrap up with this. Are you doing any paid media to drive
traffic to help boost the growth rate?
Josh: Yes. We do campaigns. We’ve done retargeting through Perfect
Audience. We’ve done standard Google AdWords, and we’ll run
Facebook campaigns as well. And we’ve run Twitter campaigns.
Facebook and Twitter straight up campaigns that are not
retargeting campaigns have not worked out as well as the AdWords
and retargeting campaigns have done for us.
Retargeting, I like it, it makes a lot of sense. You did the
work to get them to a page, and no matter how good your initial
conversion rate is, the vast majority of people are going to
leave your page once they got there, so reminding them that you
exist for the case a month down the road where they’ve got an
actual need for you, and it’s more dire at that point, seems to
work really well for retargeting. And then for straight up ads
to draw in a new audience, using AdWords it took us a long time
and a lot of wasted money, but we’ve got a few campaigns that
seem to work really well now, in terms of refining it. Maybe it
was just not knowing enough about AdWords at first.
I wound up contracting a couple AdWords experts to teach us how
to do AdWords better, and through the lessons that they taught
us, some of the stuff they set up on our campaigns, they’re now
profitable campaigns on AdWords as opposed to audience building
campaigns, which is my nice word for unprofitable AdWords
campaigns. At least they’re helping to get the name out there,
even if they’re not profitable. But it’s better if you can say I
make money on this ad, rather than I’m just getting my name out
Trent: So you used the term retargeting, and I think there’s a lot of
people who don’t know what that is, so just quickly explain it
if you would.
Josh: Retargeting in a lot of services, and Google offers it now, is just
the concept that you have somebody that may have heard about
your product or your service or what you do. They visit your
website, and they visit it once, and they may click around a
little bit, but they don’t do anything to give you their email
address or sign up or give you any information. Retargeting
systems in advertisements let you essentially stalk that person,
for lack of a better word, across the Internet, wherever there
are banner ads or other places. Wherever there are retargeting
spots that I end up seeing, I’ll go to a news website and it has
banner ads, all of a sudden I’m seeing these banner ads for
other [SaaS] products I’ve seen recently fill up my screen.
And it actually is good, because it reminds me that I did mean
to go try out this new service, I did mean to go try out this
new support tool that I visited and checked out. And also
through Facebook. Perfect Audience is a product that allows you,
when somebody visits your website, then serve up Facebook ads to
that person from within Facebook. And that seems to work pretty
well as well, getting into their social feed. I wouldn’t have
thought that it worked well, because at least in my case I’m
interjecting business into what I would think would be a
personal thing, but it tends to get people to sign up for our
course and it gets people to sign up for the product. They come
back to your site when they’re ready to take action, and then
they sign up.
Trent: Does Perfect Audience work only with Facebook, or is it like Ad
Roll, where you can retarget anywhere?
Josh: It’s primarily Facebook. We used AdRoll as well, and had a little bit
less success. I honestly didn’t like the fact that I had to come
up with as many fancy banners that I had to for AdRoll. It was a
little heavier weight than I was looking for, whereas Perfect
Audience is a little lighter weight, and easier to get started
Trent: Okay, that’s one for me. I’ll have to check that one out too.
All right, well with that said, I think I’m going to wrap this
up here. If anyone wants to get ahold of you Josh, or they want
to try out your stuff, what is the best way for them to do that?
Josh: They can try out our stuff at kickofflabs.com. Our email course that
we talked about a couple of times is at landingpages107.com, and
then if you want to email me directly, it’s
email@example.com. And I’m Josh A. Ledgard on Twitter.
Someday I’ll hold the person who has Josh Ledgard at Twitter for
ransom, but so far they have not given me my name.
Trent: Why landingpages107? Everyone does 101, you did 107. What’s the
Josh: Because everybody does 101. Because we want to look different. It was
a tip I learned from a [Mixergy] interview about using odd
numbers to promote things. We found out that on our homepage,
instead of saying we’ve served 20,000 customers, to actually say
over 21,582 customers, that tends to convert better on our
homepage. And I’ve been applying that to other things. I did a
presentation I’ve done a few times on getting your first 989
customers, as opposed to saying your first 1,000, because
everybody does your first 1,000 customers, this is just your
first 989. And it leaves people wondering, how do I get the next
11 customers to get to 1,000? And when people ask the question,
they’re a little bit more engaged. So that was just the reason
we did landingpages107, because ours is better and it’s a higher
number, and it’s different.
Trent: Absolutely. Well thank you so much Josh for making the time to
be on the show, it has been a pleasure to have you on board.
Josh: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. Thank you.
Trent: Okay, so that wraps up this episode. To get to the show notes,
go to brightideas.co/82. After we stopped recording, Josh was
kind enough to extend to me an explanation of a contest he wants
to run, and here’s what we’re going to do. He’s going to give
away three promo codes, so in other words three free licenses
for his landing page software, to the best comments that are
left on the post, and you’ll get to that at brightideas.co/82.
Now this post will be going live on November 12th, and this
contest will run for a full 30 days after November 12th. So make
sure you go and leave your comment, because number one you’re
going to get an answer to the question that you ask, but number
two you stand a decent chance of getting a free license to
Now the other thing that I’d like you to do if you would is to
please head over to brightideas.co/love. When you are there,
you’ll see a prepopulated tweet to help spread the word about
the episode, and as well there is a link and a video to show you
how to go to iTunes and leave a rating, hopefully a five star
rating if you’ve enjoyed this episode for the show. And it
really means a lot to me when you do that, because it helps to
get more exposure in the iTunes store, and whenever that
happens, more entrepreneurs discover all the bright ideas that
are shared with them by the guests here on the show, and it just
helps a whole bunch of people, self included obviously.
So thank you very much in advance for doing that. So that’s it
for this episode, I am your host, Trent Dyrsmid. I look forward
to having you tune in on the next episode, which will be number
- We’ll see you soon. Take care, bye-bye.
About Josh Ledgard
Josh Ledgard is the co-founder of KickoffLabs – subscription software for landing pages, online forms, and email marketing – and the author of My Toddler Perfects Your Sales Pitch and Landing Pages 107.
Follow Josh on Twitter @joshaledgard.