Visual website scraping tool: AnyPicker

This is a relatively new but pretty neat tool if you want to occasionally scrape website data, but aren’t technical. It makes scraping data relatively easy through a Chrome plugin you can use to visually identify the data you want to scrape from a website.

There’s a free version that will suffice for many marketers that only occasionally need to scrape website data, a full-featured 7-day free trial, and a monthly and annual premium plan.

Try AnyPicker or learn more here.

(I discovered it through ProductHunt, where it became the #1 Product of the Day recently. If you’re curious what other founders, marketers and makers think about the tool, check out the comments on PH.)

INK – AI-powered text editor with SEO optimization tips

If you’re writing a lot of content and have a firm grip on SEO fundamentals, this won’t be a game-changer, but it still can be a useful tool to streamline your content creation process a bit.

INK is basically a SEO-friendly text editor with a distraction-free mode. (And btw, it also checks your grammar and spelling.)

If you’ve been toying around with a few SEO-writing tools in the past and they all failed to impress you, this is one tool worth checking out, because it definitely is above and beyond any of the text editors with built-in SEO features that have been available on the market so far.

Here’s how INK works:

  1. You write content.
  2. You enter the main keyword phrase you’re going for.
  3. INK analyses the best-performing content piece for that keyword phrase and reverse-engineers what’s working.
  4. It then uses the analysis to score your content and provide suggestions on how to improve your score, thus improving your chances for ranking in the SERPs
  5. You can even integrate it with your publishing platform (e.g. WordPress), and publish straight from INK.

It’s clear that the makers of this tool intent to solve a problem that is worth solving: if you’re creating web content that aims to rank in Google and capture organic search traffic, currently you’re probably using different tools for different parts of the process. INK aims to create one unified platform for you, so you don’t have to switch between different tools to get the job done anymore.

It definitely has a beautiful UI/UX, which is great to see as well, since tools in the SEO space oftentimes are pretty atrociously designed.

Is INK the right tool for you?

If you have an advanced understanding of SEO, and tools like AHREFs, SEMrush, and others in that category already at your disposal, this tool won’t be able to replace your current toolset. At best, it’ll be an option to consider when you just want to crank out some quick content without having to go through the entire laborious process of researching and optimizing a piece of content from scratch. If you’re not going after a hyper-competitive keyword phrase, INK could be a valid option to say goodbye to hours of SEO research and optimization, and just keep things simple.

But if you’d self-identify as beginner or intermediate level SEO-writer, then this is definitely worth a try—not just because it’s free to use.

And if you have a team of content writers that aren’t SEO wizards, INK could be a great option to elevate the work product your team delivers.

krisp – Mute background noise during calls (great tool for remote marketers!)

If you’re a remote marketer, and you’re oftentimes working in environments that have a lot of background noise—coffee shops, co-working spaces, bars—but occasionally need to make calls, krisp is an amazing tool to make sure your voice gets transmitted clearly, but not the background noise.

Remember the first time you tried on really good noise-cancelling headphones?

Well, the first time you try out krisp on a call, and there’s background noise—whether it’s a constant ambient noise or an unforeseen dog bark—you’ll have that same delightful experience. You’ll notice that it won’t distract the other person anymore.

They’ve got a 14-day free trial, and their pro plan is very reasonable priced. Definitely check it out!

Don’t become attached to processes. Instead, adapt fast.

If you’re part of a fast-growing startup, there’s one thing that’ll be inevitable: change.

In the very early days, you can pretty much get shit done any way you like. It’s find to do things your way. Everyone on the team is wearing many hats, and oftentimes one person is basically “3 departments”. You figure things out as you go.

As your company grows, you’ll find that there are certain things you keep figuring out again, and again, and again. And it dawns on you that you could be a lot more efficient if you deliberately design a process. You do so, and while it’s mostly not fun, you’re glad some of the more mundane and repetitive things become more efficient and overall output increases.

The next stage is new team members joining, and roles becoming a bit more specialized. You make some tweaks to your beautiful processes to allow for these new people to add value, and to reflect for the new realities.

The more your company grows, the more new team members join, the more change you’ll be faced with. And the more flexible you’ll have to become with adapting your beautifully established processes.

At times this can be painful—because whenever you have designed and defined an efficient process, it’s normal for you to want to keep doing things this way. Even if you’re someone who embraces and even craves change—process change is typically not the kind of change that’s fun. Launching a new initiative, experimenting with a new marketing channel, going after a new vertical—all of these things can be exciting and fun. But process change—where it’s basically about doing the same thing you’ve been doing so far, just differently, that’s rarely ever fun.

And if you allow yourself to get attached to processes, not only will it be not fun, it will be actually painful and exhausting.

I’ve seen this to be true for many marketers. And while we probably all nod our heads in agreement and say: Yes, yes, of course. The reality is that many of us struggle with this if we don’t intentionally cultivate a mindset that embraces change around our processes.

This typically becomes really important when you’re in the messy middle—a term Scott Belsky used to define the stage when a company is no longer a fledgling startup, but not yet a big established player in the industry.

SaaS marketing strategy

It wasn’t too long ago that you didn’t really need a SaaS marketing strategy as long as you had a good enough product and put in some hustle. Nowadays however, SaaS is already a crowded space, and the competition is only getting more and more fierce. 

It’s not enough to do some keyword research, publish a couple hundred blog posts, and sprinkle in some link building outreach. Paid ads are getting prohibitively expensive if you’re not either venture-funded or have a genius-level performance marketer on your team. (And most likely, you won’t find that kind of person, because they’d be able to earn a very cushy 6-figure income working for someone else, or just do their own thing.)

So how do you go about creating your SaaS marketing strategy?

Start with your ideal customer

You need absolute clarity on who you’re marketing to, who you’re building your product for. This requires a lot of mental and emotional discipline, because as a member of an early-stage SaaS company, you probably are able to see so many different ways how your product could benefit all kinds of people. But you need what I call ruthless focus until you’ve reached product market fit.

Your sales and marketing efforts have to be focused on the customers who are most likely to buy from you. Your positioning needs to clearly identify who those folks are. And simply put, they are the customers who care the most about the value your product delivers. You need to identify what sets these folks apart. What is it about these customers that makes them love your product more than others? How can we identify them?

Your target market is the customers who buy quickly, rarely ask for discounts and tell their friends about your offerings.

April Dunford, Obviously Awesome

In her must-read book for any serious SaaS marketer Obviously Awesome, she also shares this great thought experiment:

Suppose your company was running out of cash and if the team didn’t close a certain amount of business by the end of the month, very bad things were going to happen. What types of customers would you focus on and why? What are the characteristics of those customers that make them more likely to buy?

Who specifically would you market and sell to if you had a very limited amount of time and resources to get revenue if the survival of your company depended on it?

That’s the level of focus you want to have in the early stages of your SaaS business.

Begin […] with the smallest viable market. What’s the minimum number of people you would need to influence to make it worth the effort?

Godin, Seth. This Is Marketing

A common trap is to try to appeal to too big of an audience in the early stages of your startup.

The challenge for most people who seek to make an impact isn’t winning over the mass market. It’s the micro market. They bend themselves into a pretzel trying to please the anonymous masses before they have fifty or one hundred people who would miss them if they were gone.

Seth Godin

Hyper-focus is the big, unfair advantage you have when you enter the market as a tiny startup with large established players. It’s what the sling was to David when he faced Goliath.

SaaS distribution channels

Once you know who your ideal customer is, you got to figure out how to reach them. How can you get your message in front of the person that’s most likely to give your product a shot, and then actually gain enough value out of it to become a paying customer?

There are many ways to do that:

  • content marketing
  • paid ads
  • social media marketing
  • community engagement
  • cold outreach referrals
  • podcast guest tour
  • podcast sponsorships
  • email sponsorships
  • partnership marketing
  • integration marketing
  • events
  • and many more

It also very much depends on how you turn website visitors into customers. Most likely, you’ll offer a free trial or have a freemium product. If you have freemium offer that’s actually generating value for prospective customers, it’s a lot easier to actually gain some traction in your space—but you need to make sure that your freemium product won’t be too much of a distraction at your early-stage SaaS company from the main product you’re actually building.

Whatever distribution channels you choose, again, be very clear who your audience is, how you’re gonna get their attention, and how you’re going to earn their interest and trust.

Goals and KPIs

It’s also important that you have clearly defined goals and KPIs when you’re developing your SaaS marketing strategy. 

Some common KPIs:

  • website visitors
  • time on page
  • social shares
  • email subscribers
  • leads trial signups
  • trial-to-paid conversion rate
  • paying customers
  • revenue generated
  • MRR
  • ARR
  • CLTV
  • CAC
  • churn
  • expansion revenue growth %

Some of these are much substantial and meaningful for a business than others. E.g. social shares, time on page, website visitors—these are mostly vanity metrics. In the early days, this might be all you can go with, but you want to evolve to keeping track of more meaningful metrics as soon as possible.

Email subscribers and trial signups for example are a much better indicator of how your marketing is performing.

And ultimately, the number of paying customers, the amount of revenue you generate, the average customer lifetime value, etc are much more crucial for your business.

Pick one main KPI!

You can easily end up with an overwhelming spreadsheet that keeps track of all kinds of metrics. And in general, the closer you monitor your metrics, the better. But it can also create a lot of confusion and lead your efforts in different directions.

So it’s best to focus on ONE METRIC THAT TRULY MATTERS, and make sure that everyone who works with you knows what that one metric is at all times. 

Your goals and KPIs can change.

They aren’t set in stone, and you should re-evaluate and question them on a quarterly basis. Are these still the right goals? Are we still tracking the right KPIs? Is this really the most meaningful think for us to be focused on as far as marketing is concerned?

In the very early stages focusing on paying customers might not be the best choice. Instead, you want to focus on generating learnings and insights.

Actually generating revenue can be a secondary goal, as long as you have enough runway to stay afloat.

But there’s a caveat here too: If you generate insights just based on people who aren’t willing to pay you money, you can go astray. Ultimately, the person you should care about more than anyone else is the type of user that would get so much value out of using your product that they’d be happy to pay you money.

WhatRuns – Technographic research tool to reveal the software stack of a company

Tools like BuiltWith, Whappalizer, and Datanyze have been around for a long time and are great for identifying technologies that companies are using.

Now, there’s also WhatRuns, a free browser extension (supporting Chrome and Firefox), that tells you at the click of a button which technologies a website is running:

  • What apps are they paying for?
  • What CDN are they hosted on?
  • What analytics tools are they using?
  • Which WordPress plugins?
  • Which ad networks run on the site?
  • Which developer tools are used?
  • Which fonts?
  • It also tracks much smaller tools which aren’t on the radar of BuiltWith, Whappalizer, etc. which can be beneficial if you’re a smaller startup.
  • And more!

What’s more, you can even subscribe to a website and then you’ll get notified when they adapt a new tool, or stop using a tool.

What’s more, you don’t even need to register to use it. The only downside is really that it’s yet another browser extension you install, and if you’re anything like me, you already are suffering from browser extension overload. But for this, it’s definitely worth it!

Content marketing costs: How much should a blog post cost?

When it comes to content marketing, there’s really this huge range of offerings that you’re dealing with. So let’s say you are an actual company and not just a solopreneur, you have paying customers or solid funding, and a working business model.

Then the cost of a great blog post should be in the $1,000 to $2,000 range. He explains why in the following video:

 

Email marketing swipefile: Marketing conference invite from Unbounce

marketing email for marketing conference from unbounce

What I do like is the single-track approach. They don’t put together an event where you have to pick and choose, but instead thoughtfully get the right speakers talk about the right things. It’s like the difference between going to a restaurant and having a huge menu to choose from, versus going to a restaurant with a set menu, where the chef can focus on creating ONE great experience. I’d rather go to a place where I trust the chef enough to put together a great meal than one who has a menu featuring Italian, French, Spanish, Indian, Thai and Japanese cuisine. Wouldn’t you?

Overall the email feels a bit cluttered at times, and I’m really not getting it visually. The big banner takes up a lot of attention-space, without really compelling me to learn more or take the next step, I’d either come up with something stronger here or just get rid of it.

The copy itself is also not my favorite: “Experience digital marketing in ways you never thought of”. Where’s the benefit in that for me? I’m not interested in “experiencing” digital marketing. What I am interested in is: will reading this email (instead of hitting the delete button), and eventually going to the conference help me become a better marketer, hit my numbers, achieve my desired outcome?

I do like however that they highlight the opportunity to network with 1500 marketers.

Why the Google Keyword Planner isn’t that useful for SEO research anymore

Google Keyword Planner used to be the go-to-tool for SEO 10 years ago. But they’ve been removing more and more data from the tool. It’s still a great tool, just not for SEO folks anymore. Now, it’s mostly of value to advertisers who want to run AdWords ads.

YouTube marketing case study: Full-time Mountain Biking YouTuber in 3 years

Noah Kagan just released a cool video of a guy who used to be a web developer, was bored with his job, started doing a YouTube channel on mountain biking… and is now making a (very solid) full-time income form it. Here’s it is:

Here’s the cheat-sheet:

  • initially these videos were just a fun hobby, and he thought he might make a few extra bucks from it
  • but soon (about 10-15 videos in) he realized this could be much more
  • timeline:
    • 4 months: 100 subscribers
    • 6 months: 500 subscribers
    • first year: not making any money from the channel, while still publishing 2 videos per week (this was still a side-hustle; he was running his web dev biz)
    • couple months later: 10,000 subscribers! big spike
  • videos were always concise. “every second of video is a chance to lose the viewer”
  • making videos is a ton of work:
  • sometimes takes a whole day just to write a script
  • “these thoughts don’t come out completely organized. they don’t. i have to write it out and read it over a bunch of times to get it right.”
  • “after i’m done with the voiceover, i edit all the clips to the voiceover”
  • “when i go out and ride and I create 8 minutes of riding footage, that’s a couple of days of riding, and i have to go through all that and pick out the parts that are relevant”
  • story telling formula:
  • 1: always start with a premise (establish a scene; explain what the rest of the video is going to be about)
  • 2: main details of the story
  • 3: conclusion
  • 4: include all details everyone needs to know for the story to make sense
  • 5: remove everything that’s non-essential
  • how long it takes to do 1 video:
  • a 10-minutes mountain biking gear hacks video takes about 1 day to 1,5 days of filming + 1,5 days of editing. BUT the long part is coming up with the hacks—that takes months.
  • a 10-minute video with riding footage: go out in the woods, spend a couple of days on the bike, and hope a story develops. takes about 1 work-week to do 1 video
  • thing that worked surprisingly well:
  • 10 mountain bike hacks. “I was almost embarrassed to post it, but I couldn’t produce the type of video I normally produced.” […] “was instantly most popular video”
  • how you monetize:
  • YouTube ads (Google Adsense)
  • affiliate marketing
  • Patreon (exclusive content for monthly fee, currently $2)
  • merchandise sales
  • 1-time sponsorship (Squarespice, Dollarshave, Skillshare, etc)
  • channel sponsors
  • tourism (getting invited to events and getting paid for it, e.g. by state tourism agencies)