Welcome to the first of our Weekly Update series of blog posts where we detail our full journey in strategizing and executing our 2017 Marketing Plan.
In this series, I’ll be going through our thought process, daily activities, big wins, and embarrassing mistakes. We’re not holding back here — our goal is to be as transparent as possible.
This series will read a lot like a stream of consciousness. That’s on purpose. I’m writing these posts as we run new marketing experiments, create new ads, run CRO tests, etc… So this is going to be less polished and more meant to show the thought process we go through each week.
With that in mind, let’s start with Week 1 of 52: January Strategy.
If you want to follow along each week for the next 52 weeks as we execute our 2017 Marketing Plan, sign up now:
Week 1: January Strategy (Jan. 2-6)
The first week of every month is dedicated to strategy. What are the 12 tactics we’re going to run this month? This is how we run strategy for all our clients at Ladder, so it only makes sense that we eat our own medicine.
Strategizing for month 1 of our marketing plan has to come from somewhere — we don’t do guesswork at Ladder. Instead we focus on data-driven strategy to pull the right growth levers for both ourselves and for our clients.
Luckily, we did a bunch of really useful marketing audits for Ladder in the run-up to kicking off our marketing plan, so we have a lot of data to work with.
You can read those audits here:
Our audits let us do a deep idea brainstorm in December 2016, where we came up with over 100 different tactics we could execute.
So my first step was to go through this idea backlog and add it to the Ladder Planner in the Icebox section.
From there, I listed out the 12 tactics that I considered to have the most potential impact for Ladder in January.
Why 12? Well, after a lot of testing at Ladder we’ve found a sweet spot at the 12 tactic mark. For some of our larger customers, we might test more than 12 tactics, and for some of our smaller ones focusing on one channel, we test fewer, but 12 gets the best results regardless of size or industry.
I wrote down the logic for choosing each tactic and presented this list to Ladder co-founder Michael Taylor.
Michael, who put together Ladder’s marketing plan, reviewed the 12 tactics I chose and made some quick suggestions and changes along the way. We had a quick meeting where he gave me his review of my one-month strategy and asked me to make a few small changes.
In particular, he wanted to run an AdWords keyword test (B2B Marketing), which I had not included, and a few SEO tactics, which I had considered too long-term in impact considering this was the first month of testing for the year.
For that, he also asked that we hold off on a few tactics (backlinks, exit intent design) that would not be as easy or valuable to execute for the first month.
I took Michael’s advice and ran with it to provide a newly updated list of 12 tactics for January.
Here are the 12 tactics we finally decided on, along with a quick explanation/hypothesis for each:
Emoji vs. No Emoji Subject Lines: We’re not yet sure whether emojis in subject lines actually work well with our newsletter audience, so this test will determine that (via Mailchimp A/B testing of subject lines).
Homepage SEO – Meta Title + Description: The idea for this tactic is that we had some wonky SEO problems on the homepage and playbook that needed fixing. This tactic is designed to help us better capture some long tail keywords we use in the Playbook and to have a more relevant meta description in Google searches.
Hero Copy – Current vs. New Meta Description“: We’re writing out a new meta description for Google search results for Ladder.io. Let’s test whether that copy change will drive higher conversion rates on our landing page if we place it as the hero copy. Testing it vs the current version via Google Optimize.
Scroll Box + List Builder Copy: Our SumoMe Scroll Box + List Builder copy needs a refresh. Let’s test a different approach at gathering emails with the popups across the blog and Ladder.io homepage against what’s currently running. Goal: 10% increase in conversions w/ new copy.
Port AdWords Campaigns to Bing: Our AdWords campaign perform well, so we should try to expand them over to a new ad platform – Bing. It’s easy to do – just import directly to Bing with one click. We’ll be using 20% of our AdWords daily cap as budget here as Bing gets 1/5 of the traffic Google does.
Playbook SEO – Image + Description Tags: The idea for this tactic is that we had some wonky SEO problems on the homepage and playbook that needed fixing. This tactic is designed to help us better capture some long tail keywords we use in the Playbook and to have a more relevant meta description and image alt tags in Google searches.
Quuu Content Promotion: We have 10 remaining Quuu Promote credits that we can use to drive traffic to different Ladder blog posts, social posts, etc… If we get at least 50 sessions per credit used, then Quuu will be worth exploring further.
Marketing Strategy Landing Page: Currently, our top-performing AdWords keyword is Marketing Strategy. Our ads lead people straight to the Ladder homepage, but we might get better performance with a more relevant landing page that’s specific to the keyword. If we get a higher CTR and CVR at a lower CPA than the original, we’ll know that the LP is effective and a better alternative to ladder.io.
Accelerator Interest Audience: Accelerator interest has worked well in growing Instagram via Instagress. Let’s try running actual ads on this audience in Facebook in the UK & US. If we can get 30 leads at a $30 cost per, we know this audience is worthwhile.
LinkedIn Startup Founder/CEO Audience: We’re testing out LinkedIn as a platform, and since most of our current clients are startups, targeting founders and C-level marketing execs is a good first stab at a LinkedIn audience. We should get 5 leads at $50 CPA for this test to be successful. We’ll run this test for 2 weeks.
“ROI-Driven” Vs “Data-Driven” Ad Copy: “Everybody is data-driven. That means nothing these days. Ladder is ROI-driven.” – common statement around the office. SO! Let’s see if ROI-driven actually performs well with our audience. We’ll test the two copy approaches against one another with the same audience, and we’ll run it on Facebook. We’ll optimize higher up the funnel to see which gets more clicks. If ROI-driven beats Data-Driven, we’ll know if we’re on to something.
B2B Marketing AdWords Keyword: We’re getting lots of B2B and SaaS leads and clients, and should try to run some ads on the B2B marketing keyword to see if we can reach this targeted audience.
Everything was in the Planner and ready to go.
The Ladder Planner
From here, my job becomes actually executing the above tactics. So I went into the Ladder Planner, where we’re managing our entire marketing plan workflow, and added in the tactics to our January plan.
I put a hypothesis, budget, and scheduled start + end time for each tactic so I could easily keep track of what it is I’m testing, when, and for what reasons.
My next step is to actually go ahead and implement each tactic over the course of the month.
The nice thing about managing this entire process with our internal tool, the Planner, is that I can track all performance based on different audiences, creatives, and tests entirely in one dashboard. And that lets me focus more of my time on strategy and execution and less of my time fiddling with different analytics platforms to find the right data.
Because each test I run is specially designed to have uploadable creative and audience assets, and that lets me see exactly which ads or copy I’m running at any give time.
So from here, it’s all about going into Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and running ads. It’s all about doing some clever SEO work. It’s all about building landing pages and promoting content.
But much more on that next week — Week 2 of the Ladder Marketing Plan. Stay tuned.
If you want to follow along, sign up now:
If you’re interested in getting us to run this very same process for you, sign up to talk to a strategist on our website.