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How To Get Started With Enterprise Marketing Workflow Automation

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How To Get Started With Enterprise Marketing Workflow Automation

If you’re at a mid-level agency moving into the enterprise-client space – whether gradually or at warp speed – you have probably realized that you’ll need as many automated workflow processes as you can get.

You can even look at automated sales tools such as Zendesk that take 45% of tedious tasks away from humans.

Performing SEO or PPC for a handful of smaller clients can be challenging enough, especially if you’re performing many of their tasks manually.

With enterprise-level clients, though, you just can’t afford to approach things too manually anymore. You’ll need to automate your workflows.

This post is for beginners and not an exhaustive post on the best digital marketing automated workflow tools out there.

I’m going to help you get started.

My goal here is to get you thinking about the best ways to approach workflow automation as you start picking up enterprise clients.

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There are plenty of areas in digital marketing where you can automate a process and free up time for other things.

Thinking About Workflow Automation: Your Goals

Like so many processes in agency life, the best starting point with workflow automation is knowing what you’re trying to achieve: Your goals.

The point of automating anything is to save time and money for the most part.

Everyone wants to save time and money, and automating a process will make that process more efficient.

However, the goals for enterprise-level workflow automation are still going to be different in the particulars for each agency.

For instance, maybe your agency focuses more on link building than any on-site SEO tasks.

In that case, you would need more of an infrastructure for monitoring and examining your clients’ backlinks and domain authority than anything else.

If backlinks are your meat and potatoes, and you need to make that process as efficient as possible, then maybe consider upping (or getting for the first time) your plan with a useful backlink tool such as Majestic, Semrush, or Ahrefs.

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Sure, you’re almost always going to pay more for the increased ability to automate something like monitoring, but what do you save in employee time and company resources?

Let’s say your agency is breaking into the enterprise space and considers itself weak on the reporting end. You just don’t like the infrastructure and feel your enterprise clients deserve more.

You have to ask yourself, “Do I feel that an automation tool such as Google Data Studio can help me here?”

From experience, Data Studio is one of my go-to reporting dashboards, but don’t just take my word for it.

There are other reporting dashboard products out there for this, such as Databox or Geckoboard.

Whatever you’re working on, my overall advice to the folks just getting started with enterprise workflow automation is first to define your goals.

Whether it’s a more efficient process of site monitoring, keyword clustering, or content reporting, you need to know what you’re after.

Those goals should lead you in the right direction, i.e., to the selection of tools that offer just what you need.

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What do those things usually include?

  • Accurate representation of data.
  • Tasks (with assignees and reset abilities).
  • Team member communication.
  • Scaling capabilities.
  • Customizable features.

Trust me when I tell you that once you have these automated features in your workflow, you won’t want to be without them.

Proceeding With Caution: Introducing Automation Internally

If your agency has been chugging along, doing things mostly manually for the last few years, I can tell you that wholesale process changes can be hard to swallow for some teams.

You’re taking a process that worked and introducing cell-level changes to it.

The argument is that the change was necessary because you’re in the enterprise space now.

The data is more numerous, the workflow more complex, and the requests more demanding.

But there are a few things to consider here:

  • The automation tool you ultimately select should be the best for your agency out of all the options; don’t compromise here.
  • The whole team must learn a new tool or process, which takes time and invites errors.
  • You may encounter actual resistance from some team members who prefer the old ways.

First of all, it’s always good to make changes like this gradually.

Watch product demos, get free trials, and compare all the automated workflow tools you’re considering.

On the other two points – relating to team errors and personal resistance – you can just about expect those obstacles to arise.

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The solution?

Don’t make those wholesale changes all in one go.

Figure out a way to participate in your current process and automate it using the new software. Test some things in a low-stakes environment, maybe even for your own agency’s website.

What better place for your team to learn the basics and make all their mistakes?

Once your team clears a new hurdle by figuring something out and making it efficient, introduce that automated process more widely in your agency.

This process may be slower than you like, but your enterprise clients deserve optimized procedures around their SEO, paid media, or whatever other large-scale service they’re getting from you.

Also, it’s good to look at this introductory time as an investment more than anything else.

You’re putting in the time and money now to acquire this workflow automation tool and train your team in its use.

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The result will be an agency using an automation tool to deliver a more streamlined product to its enterprise clients.

I can’t imagine what else you could want!

Self-Monitoring In Progress: Tracking Your Savings

Ideally, you’re going to start reaping the savings from any automated workflow tool you get.

Those savings won’t just be what you can deliver for your enterprise-level clients and how much more satisfied you’ll make them.

The savings are also in how you benefit as an agency.

Having seen multiple agency transitions from mid-level to enterprise-level, I can tell you that introducing an automated workflow tool doesn’t guarantee you’ll save resources.

You have to be smart about it and audit every expense related to your work output. Compare the data from before the tool and after it.

It might not always be as simple as you think.

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For instance, you might assume that introducing an automated process into your workflow would allow you to maintain fewer employees to oversee those parts of the work.

You could be right about that in many or most cases.

But what if the enterprise client getting the work is so large and complex that it requires more hires?

And what if those hires end up costing more than what you saved from automating your workflow?

Of course, you’re still earning an enterprise-level retainer, so maybe things work out in the end anyway.

Consider these issues as you prepare for and eventually implement an automated workflow for your enterprise clients.

There are also blips you’ll run into that no one can predict.

For example, if you implement a backlink-tracking automation tool for a client with 60,000 backlinks, maybe it works just fine for a while, but then you discover you can make the monitoring still more efficient.

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You’re going to have those opportunities and choices down the road.

Learning As You Go

Since my goal in writing this was to help out those who are just getting started with workflow automation in the enterprise space, I wanted to cover every possible scenario you could run into as you go.

However, you will run into issues as you progress down this road. Enterprise clients demand a lot of you.

You can’t plan for it all.

I think the little-by-little approach should work wonders for you, though.

Try something out before scaling it.

That has often been the road to success for me, and it could be for you, too.

More resources:

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How We Used a Video Course to Promote Ahrefs (And Got 500K+ Views)

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How We Used a Video Course to Promote Ahrefs (And Got 500K+ Views)

Creating and selling educational courses can be a lucrative business. But if you already have a product to sell, you can actually use courses as a marketing tool.

Back in 2017, about two years after joining Ahrefs, I decided to create a course on content marketing.

I had a very clear understanding of how an educational course would help me promote Ahrefs.

  • People like courses – Folks like Brian Dean and Glen Allsopp were selling theirs for $500 to $2,000 a pop (and rather successfully). So a free course of comparable quality was sure to get attention.
  • Courses allow for a deeper connection – You would basically be spending a few hours one on one with your students. And if you managed to win their trust, you’d get an opportunity to promote your product to them.

That was my raw thought process going into this venture.

And I absolutely didn’t expect that the lifespan of my course would be as interesting and nuanced as it turned out to be.

The lessons of my course have generated over 500K+ in total views, brought in mid-five-figures in revenue (without even trying), and turned out to be a very helpful resource for our various marketing purposes.

So here goes the story of my “Blogging for Business” course.

1. The creation

I won’t give you any tips on how to create a successful course (well, maybe just one). There are plenty of resources (courses?) on that topic already.

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All I want to say is that my own experience was quite grueling.

The 10 lessons of my course span some 40K words. I have never attempted the feat of writing a book, but I imagine creating such a lengthy course is as close as it gets.

Scripts of the course in Google Docs.

I spent a tremendous amount of time polishing each lesson. The course was going to be free, so it was critical that my content was riveting. If not, people would just bounce from it.

Paid courses are quite different in that sense. You pay money to watch them. So even if the content is boring at times, you’ll persevere anyway to ensure a return on your investment.

When I showed the draft version of the course to my friend, Ali Mese, he gave me a simple yet invaluable tip: “Break your lessons into smaller ones. Make each just three to four minutes long.”

How did I not think of this myself? 

Short, “snackable” lessons provide a better sense of completion and progress. You’re also more likely to finish a short lesson without getting distracted by something. 

I’m pretty sure that it is because of this simple tip that my course landed this Netflix comparison (i.e., best compliment ever):

2. The strategy

With the prices of similar courses ranging from $500 to $2,000, it was really tempting to make some profit with ours.

I think we had around 15,000 paying customers at Ahrefs at that time (and many more on the free plan). So if just 1% of them bought that course for $1K, that would be an easy $150K to pocket. And then we could keep upselling it to our future customers.

Alternatively, we thought about giving access to the course to our paying customers only. 

This might have boosted our sales, since the course was a cool addition to the Ahrefs subscription. 

And it could also improve user retention. The course was a great training resource for new employees, which our customers would lose access to if they canceled their Ahrefs subscription.

And yet, releasing it for free as a lead acquisition and lead nurturing play seemed to make a lot more sense than the other two options. So we stuck to that.

3. The waitlist

Teasing something to people before you let them get it seems like one of the fundamental rules of marketing.

  • Apple announces new products way before they’re available in stores. 
  • Movie studios publish trailers of upcoming movies months (sometimes years) before they hit the theaters. 
  • When you have a surprise for your significant other (or your kids), you can’t help but give them some hints before the reveal.

There’s something about “the wait” and the anticipation that we humans just love to experience.

So while I was toiling away and putting lessons of my course together, we launched a landing page to announce it and collect people’s emails.

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The landing page of the course.

In case someone hesitated to leave their email, we had two cool bonuses to nudge them:

  1. Access to the private Slack community
  2. Free two-week trial of Ahrefs

The latter appealed to freebie lovers so much that it soon “leaked” to Reddit and BlackHatWorld. In hindsight, this leak was actually a nice (unplanned) promo for the course.

4. The promotion

I don’t remember our exact promotion strategy. But I’m pretty sure it went something like this:

I also added a little “sharing loop” to the welcome email. I asked people to tell their friends about the course, justifying it with the fact that taking the course with others was more fun than doing it alone.

Welcome email with a "sharing loop."

I have no idea how effective that “growth hack” was, but there was no reason not to encourage sharing.

In total, we managed to get some 16,000 people on our waitlist by the day of the course launch.

5. The launch

On a set date, the following email went out to our waitlist:

Course launch email.

Did you notice the “note” saying that the videos were only available for free for 30 days? We did that to nudge people to watch them as soon as possible and not save them to the “Watch later” folder.

In retrospect, I wish we had used this angle from the very beginning: “FREE for 30 days. Then $799.”

This would’ve killed two birds with one stone: 

  1. Added an urgency to complete the course as soon as possible
  2. Made the course more desirable by assigning a specific (and rather high) monetary value to it

(If only we could be as smart about predicting the future as we are about reflecting on the past.) 

Once it was live, the course started to promote itself. I was seeing many super flattering tweets:

We then took the most prominent of those tweets and featured them on the course landing page for some social proof. (They’re still there, by the way.)

6. The paywall

Once the 30 days of free access ran out, we added a $799 paywall. And it didn’t take long for the first sale to arrive:

This early luck didn’t push us to focus on selling this course, though. We didn’t invest any effort into promoting it. It was just sitting passively in our Academy with a $799 price tag, and that was it.

And yet, despite the lack of promotion, that course was generating 8-10 sales every month—which were mostly coming from word of mouth.

A comment in TrafficThinkTank.
Eric Siu giving a shout-out about my course in TTT Slack.

Thanks to its hefty price, my course soon appeared on some popular websites with pirated courses. And we were actually glad that it did. Because that meant more people would learn about our content and product.

Then some people who were “late to the party” started asking me if I was ever going to reopen the course for free again. This actually seemed like a perfectly reasonable strategy at the time:

7. The giveaways

That $799 price tag also turned my free course into a pretty useful marketing tool. It was a perfect gift for all sorts of giveaways on Twitter, on podcasts, during live talks, and so on.

Giving away the course during a live talk.
Me giving away the course during a live talk.

And whenever we partnered with someone, they were super happy to get a few licenses of the course, which they could give out to their audience.

8. The relaunch

Despite my original plan to update and relaunch this course once a year, I got buried under other work and didn’t manage to find time for it.

And then the pandemic hit. 

That’s when we noticed a cool trend. Many companies were providing free access to their premium educational materials. This was done to support the “stay at home” narrative and help people learn new skills.

I think it was SQ who suggested that we should jump on that train with my “Blogging for Business” course. And so we did:

We couldn’t have hoped for a better timing for that relaunch. The buzz was absolutely insane. The announcement tweet alone has generated a staggering 278K+ impressions (not without some paid boosts, of course).

The statistics of the course announcement tweet.

We also went ahead and reposted that course on ProductHunt once again (because why not?).

All in all, that relaunch turned out to be even more successful than the original launch itself. 

In the course of their lifespan on Wistia, the 40 video lessons of my course generated a total of 372K plays.

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Play count from Wistia.

And this isn’t even the end of it.

9. The launch on YouTube

Because the course was now free, it no longer made sense to host it at Wistia. So we uploaded all lessons to YouTube and made them public.

To date, the 41 videos of my course have generated about 187K views on YouTube.

"Blogging for Business" course playlist.

It’s fair to mention that we had around 200,000 subscribers on our channel at the time of publishing my course there. A brand-new channel with no existing subscribers will likely generate fewer views.

10. The relaunch on YouTube [coming soon]

Here’s an interesting observation that both Sam and I made at around the same time. 

Many people were publishing their courses on YouTube as a single video spanning a few hours rather than cutting them into individual lessons like we did. And those long videos were generating millions of views!

Like these two, ranking at the top for “learn Python course,” which have 33M and 27M views, respectively:

"Learn python course" search on YouTube.

So we decided to run a test with Sam’s “SEO for Beginners” course. It was originally published on YouTube as 14 standalone video lessons and generated a total of 140K views.

Well, the “single video” version of that same course has blown it out of the water with over 1M views as of today.

I’m sure you can already tell where I’m going with this.

We’re soon going to republish my “Blogging for Business” course on YouTube as a single video. And hopefully, it will perform just as well.

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The end

So that’s the story of my “Blogging for Business” course. From the very beginning, it was planned as a promotional tool for Ahrefs. And judging by its performance, I guess it fulfilled its purpose rather successfully.

A screenshot of a Slack message.

Don’t get me wrong, though. 

The fact that my course was conceived as a promotional tool doesn’t mean that I didn’t pour my heart and soul into it. It was a perfectly genuine and honest attempt to create a super useful educational resource for content marketing newbies.

And I’m still hoping to work on the 2.0 version of it someday. In the past four years, I have accrued quite a bit more content marketing knowledge that I’m keen to share with everyone. So follow me on Twitter, and stay tuned.



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