Marketing Plan Execution – Budgeting
Marketing Experiments
Business Planning

Marketing Plan Execution – Budgeting

Stefan MancevskiStefan Mancevski

July 15, 2021

Welcome to Month #2 of Ladder’s 2017 Marketing Plan Execution series — a diary of our monthly marketing activity featuring all of the successes and failures of the month.

We started off by open-sourcing our 2017 marketing plan, which you can read about here:

From there, we went on to diary our weekly January marketing plan execution.

You can read each entry here:

February is a bit of a special case, and you’ll find out why below. It featured a mistake that forced us to be much more conservative with our strategy than we would have liked. That’s why the month will be covered in one major post, focused in on that central mistake.

But first, let’s talk February 2017 strategy.

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February Strategy: 12 Tests

Our February strategy followed on from what worked well in January, and naturally also included some new tests to further expand our keyword and audience options.

Here’s what we went with:

  • Work Email Filter Script: Historically, we’ve never seen Gmail or other personal email addresses turn into real and valuable calls for potential clients. It’s usually individuals who can’t afford our service. A filter script that requires work emails is a great way to fix this issue.
  • Indie Hackers Newsletter Sponsorship: Our relationship with Indie Hackers has gone well and we’ve gotten a lot of high quality leads through people who’ve found Ladder there. We can double down on this with a newsletter sponsorship. It costs $200, so as long as we get 2 leads we’ll be at our normal cost per lead.
  • Shorter Landing Page: A landing page version of our homepage that is shorter might end up performing better. There is a concern — one that’s backed up by heatmap data — that our below-the-fold isn’t performing well. Maybe a shorter landing page built in Unbounce can help.
  • Blog Dynamic Ads: This is a fun one — we can create a “product catalog” out of our blog posts in Facebook and run dynamic ads that show different blog posts to different people based on their prior visits to our blog. It’s pretty straightforward – we just need to set up some scripts in GTM for “View Product”; “Add to Cart”; and “Checkout”, let them gather some data, then run ads.
  • Growth Strategies Promoted Post: We should be running more traffic to our high-value blog posts, and our growth strategies post is a great candidate for that. Low-budget, no need for major spend. Just optimizing for clicks and driving traffic to the post.
  • A/B Test Blog Popup Design: To double down on last month’s test of popup copy refresh, let’s also refresh design with a new and unique popup, internally designed rather than using Sumo’s templates.
  • LinkedIn Marketing Manager Audience: Marketer callout — marketing manager + audience. 2 creatives. Let’s see if we can take the success of our first LinkedIn test and try it on a marketing manager plus audience. Expecting 3 conversions at $115 per, running for 7 days.
  • Marketing Plan Promoted Post: February is the month when we have our Marketing Plan post go live, so let’s put some money behind it to increase its’ firepower. Promoting to a broad C-level / founder level marketing + CEO audience on Facebook.
  • Sumo Click Triggers: Popping in more click triggers in our blog posts should increase email list growth, as we’ve seen click triggers have extremely high conversion rates.
  • Homepage Copy: Old vs. New: A major finding last month was that our hero copy changes performed well. But we also realized that our OLD hero copy from mid-2016 might perform even better, but was never tested against the copy we implemented in November 2016. Worth re-testing so we’re not making a mistake in believing our new copy truly is better.
  • Playbook SEO: New Published Tactics: New published tactics may give us a strong SEO boost — 20 new published tactics, track SEO impact over a couple months.
  • Product Landing Page: Our Planner is an important tool that we use mostly internally, but we can test it as a SaaS tool as well. So we’ll create a landing page and see how it does.

Those are the 12 tactics we ran with. Before we get to the major problem, let’s briefly chat implementation and results for each:

Work Email Filter Script (POSITIVE)

This one was easier than I expected. All I had to do was resurface an old Asana task that we’d had lying around but never got around to. Our CTO, Adrian, quickly completed the task and the script was fully functional.

asana task

Results: Tremendous. We’ve had higher-quality leads ever since, and we’re no longer getting any Gmail addresses in our lead system. We’re also no longer getting on calls with potential clients that just can’t afford our services, which means that we’re more focused on growth partners that we can actually work with. That leaves more time for a personalized sales approach.

Indie Hackers Newsletter Sponsorship (POSITIVE)

This one was also easy to implement. We have a long-standing relationship with Courtland, the founder of Indie Hackers so we were able to get the sponsorship set quickly.

indie hackers

Results: Wow. We got 4 leads (more over the next month as well) in February off of the $200 spent on this promotion. That’s half what we expected. Stunning success.

Shorter Landing Page (NEGATIVE)

This one took some time – our design director, Natalie, put together the new landing page, and I then proceeded to create an experiment in AdWords where half the traffic to our highest-volume campaign (Marketing Strategy keyword) went to the new landing page.

shorter landing page

Result: This one was a failure. It seems like we’re not getting a lot of leads out of landing pages, and chances are it’s because of the premium design and feel of our homepage. There are technical issues with our homepage, but at 2 leads generated for over double our average cost per lead, this landing page resulted in negative ROI.

Blog Dynamic Ads (INCONCLUSIVE)

This one was really fun to implement. I first created a spreadsheet with all of our blog posts in Facebook’s dynamic product feed formatting. From there, I ran retargeting ads.

blog dynamic ads

Result: Inconclusive. Had to turn off this test early (see below for details).

Growth Strategies Promoted Post (NEGATIVE)

This one was also easy to run. Just took a bit of copy from our blog post and ran Facebook ads targeted at US and UK 1% lookalike audiences based on blog and homepage visitors.

growth strategies

Result: Low-quality traffic with a low time on page. Not much of value here for the spend.

A/B Test Blog Popup Design (POSITIVE)

Our new blog popup design was created by our designer, Natalie, and was quickly implemented on both our blog and our homepage. It was based off a few prior graphics we’d done for the blog, but edited to look good as a popup.

exit intent

Result: This actually doubled conversion rates over the original (2% vs. 1%) but has since tapered off. For the month, it’s a positive test, and continues to be positive but not as stunning as before. Probably due to creative fatigue, and worth re-testing with a new design in the summertime.

LinkedIn Marketing Manager Audience (NEGATIVE)

This one was straightforward: an audience of marketing managers, marketing directors, VPs of marketing, and CMOs at companies from 1 to 200 employees. We used prior creative that performed well and copy that included “Marketers:” as a callout.

linkedin audience

Result: Negative. Very low clickthrough rate (0.18%), even by LinkedIn standards, and no leads generated. Things weren’t looking too good for the test and we ended it early due to issues that I’ll discuss below.

Marketing Plan Promoted Post (POSITIVE)

The moment we published our marketing plan, I also ran a quick ad with some relevant copy to a broad C-level audience.

marketing plan

Result: Small spend. 200+ clicks. Started off with low quality traffic to the Marketing Plan post, but improved over time. 300+ sessions. Not the worst way to spend $100.

Sumo Click Triggers (POSITIVE)

Also easy to implement as we’d already set up click triggers in the past. You can actually see one at the top & bottom of this post. Here’s how they looked:

click trigger popup
click trigger

Result: This has actually become a staple of every marketing plan post we’ve done since. It’s a huge performance booster for email signups. And it has a 72.58% conversion rate after click. 124 clicks, 90 conversions. Now we need to figure out how to get more clicks!

Homepage Copy: Old vs. New (POSITIVE)

This was a test we implemented using Google Optimize. It was simple and straightforward to run. You can read about how we use Google Optimize here.

hero copy

Result: Well, this is what happens when you don’t follow your own process. Back in November, we implemented new copy that we thought would work better than our old copy. Then, in January, we tested other copy against that “new and improved” copy. But we ignored the fact that our pre-November hero copy was both performing well and was never tested against either version of the new copy.

That copy was: “Test and scale marketing tactics that increase ROI across every channel”

And it crushed performance over our new copy. 3.36% conversion rate vs. 2.12%.

Lesson learned: Don’t fix what ain’t broken, especially not without testing first.

Playbook SEO: New Published Tactics (STILL RUNNING)

Not much to talk about here. We published and are still tracking the SEO performance of 20 new tactics published to our Playbook.


Results: To be determined.

Product Landing Page (POSITIVE)

This was easy. Just rearranged and did some quality of life fixes on an old landing page, and edited copy so that it solely talked about our product, the Ladder Planner. You can see that landing page here:

ladder planner

Result: This one’s actually been a surprising standout. It’s resulted in 3 new SaaS clients at $100/month, 40+ new leads, and an 8% conversion rate. Quite impressive, showing SaaS might be a good source of additional revenue for Ladder in the future. Exciting!



That was it for our 12 test execution diary, but now it’s on to the most important part — budgeting.

Budgeting was the issue that I alluded to earlier and throughout this post. It was the one mistake that forced me to scale back spend and activity halfway through the month.

I’ll admit: I’m a relatively new marketer by trade. I started my career in politics, then went on to co-found a startup. I’ve made my name at ladder with consistent performance, both on the marketing and content fronts. But there are intricacies that I’m still learning to this day, and I failed to follow one key lesson that our founder, Michael, had put down in one of our prior blog posts.

ALWAYS run daily marketing checks.

His post is here:

I failed to run daily checks, and as a combined result of that plus a spike in performance on AdWords, we ended up blowing through $4000 of our $5000 budget for the month in just 2 weeks.

In situations like these, any marketer will panic, but I kept my cool, talked to Michael and our CEO, Jon, and worked through a plan of attack to decrease spend while not hampering our marketing efforts too much.

In the end, we overspent our budget by $1000, but not at a huge detriment. It was a mistake I owned up to that forced some hard decisions, but we got through February with enough data to create a plan of attack for March and continue spending on our best performers.

In these cases, it’s important to be extremely clear and straightforward: This is what happened, this is why it happened. Here’s what I’m going to do in the interim to mitigate further damage. And here’s what I’m going to do so that never happens again.

And as for budget since then? We’ve held to the $5000 mark every month since, and will continue to do so, all because of daily marketing checks.

Lesson learned.

That’s it for February! 7 positive, 3 negative, and 2 inconclusive tests. That’s a really solid success rate, despite the issues above.

More to come on March strategy and execution, so stay tuned.

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