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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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:
Those are the 12 tactics we ran with. Before we get to the major problem, let’s briefly chat implementation and results for each:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Result: Inconclusive. Had to turn off this test early (see below for details).
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.
Result: Low-quality traffic with a low time on page. Not much of value here for the spend.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The moment we published our marketing plan, I also ran a quick ad with some relevant copy to a broad C-level audience.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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: https://blog.ladder.io/marketing-metrics/
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.
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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