What’s your background?
I’ve always had a strong passion for marketing technology and SaaS, so I was excited to join Liftoff as the 13th person in the company and the 1st marketer. It was a great opportunity to build inbound marketing for a SaaS company from the ground up.
Back then, Liftoff was very early stage in a highly competitive space. Mobile apps were a hot space at the time.The opportunity was clearly enormous with people spending 90% of their phone time using apps. Yet the field was still new and innovative back then.
At the time, we were doing about $3 million in annual revenue. Today we’re the industry leader, doing north of $300 million in revenue, and our inbound marketing either drives or assists 85% of all new business.
What does Liftoff do?
Liftoff helps mobile app marketers acquire app users who actively engage and spend money in their apps. Our platform uses machine learning to target ads more precisely, drive more in-app purchases, optimize conversion rates, and scale against a set of KPIs.
So if you’re a marketer for a mobile app and find it challenging to organically attract new app users, or if you’ve reached the potential of Facebook, you would use Liftoff to run mobile programmatic advertising to attract high quality users to your app who convert and ultimately become paid customers. Then retarget them with re-engagement ads to keep them coming back to your app until it’s a normal habit for them. This is what Liftoff does.
What’s Liftoff’s inbound marketing origin story?
I’ve always been a huge believer in inbound marketing. I happen to think inbound marketing is relevant to every B2B tech company.
So we didn’t spend any time struggling to figure out that we wanted to take an inbound approach to marketing.
First I started out using our proprietary data as the wellspring for all our content.
Our system is sitting on a huge amount of valuable data, since we track so much data about ad campaigns, audiences, conversion rates, cost data, and so on.
So I started generating 1 report per quarter that made all sorts of useful data available to mobile marketers. I then hired a freelancer to help get media coverage for some of the more newsworthy findings in each report.
I was able to expand our content quickly by repurposing the data from the report. With the help of just a few freelancers, we used the report data to drive our social media content and webinars that talked about the results from our reports.
As we grew, we continued to leverage data from our quarterly reports into speaking engagements and a quarterly event we hosted.
Eventually we were able to hire more of a full time team to help with content creation. That’s when we were able to introduce even more types of content to drive our inbound marketing beyond the quarterly reports.
What were your greatest challenges?
Our biggest challenge in the early days was just a lack of resources, which is something I think most early-stage startups can relate to.
When I look back, it’s amazing how much content we produced with just a few freelancers with me as the only full time marketer.
The only way we could possibly have produced so much content to drive our inbound marketing was by leveraging our highly valuable data into a quarterly report and then repurposing that content in all sorts of ways.
We got tremendous leverage from that approach to content repurposing.
What’s your inbound customer journey?
We have a unique perspective on inbound marketing.
Many startups I know have a customer journey that starts off with organic search traffic from SEO. Then they drive that traffic to their website where they convert site visitors into email subscribers. Then they drive leads from a combination of email nurturing and organic site traffic.
We take a very different approach that leads to a very different inbound customer journey.
We focus more on building a community for our market. So many of our future customers discover us for the first time through word of mouth, referrals, or other means, rather than through SEO.
When a mobile marketer gets involved in our community, they can network with other mobile marketers, learn from each other, and help each other. They might attend one of our events or read about other mobile marketers featured on our Mobile Heroes microsite.
Eventually, when a mobile marketer realizes they need help, they already know and trust Liftoff, so they reach out and become an inbound lead.
We never actively promote Liftoff to the community we’ve built. Instead, all of our efforts with the community are focused on educating, entertaining, and connecting people with each other.
What makes this approach so unique is that inbound leads are generated naturally without the need for hard CTAs. We don’t “push” prospects from one stage of the inbound customer journey to the next. Instead, we cultivate a community. After establishing trust and delivering value to that community, we naturally get a warm response and high conversion rates when we offer a soft CTA, like a free consultation at the end of an event.
What are your most successful inbound marketing practices?
Our Mobile Heroes program has been enormously successful for us. This is a website where we highlight mobile marketers who have interesting stories and lessons to share with the community. Today, we typically highlight a new mobile hero every 2 weeks.
At first, Mobile Heroes was a great way for us to get the testimonials and case studies we needed as an early-stage startup.
But as time went on, Mobile Heroes started to drive many of our other content efforts. After highlighting a marketer on Mobile Heroes, we found we could easily do webinars and speaking engagements with them, too.
Now it’s a career-advancing opportunity for a mobile marketer to be featured on Mobile Heroes. Mobile marketers we feature now get raises, promotions, and speaking opportunities after we feature them on Mobile Heroes.
We’ve also found that we retain customers 3X longer when we feature them on Mobile Heroes. Now whether that’s correlation or causation, we don’t really know. But it’s an interesting observation.
So it’s a fantastic win/win for everyone.
But what really makes Mobile Heroes a key success story for us is that it represents the pivot point where content became community.
Mobile Heroes started out as a way to get more content. It’s a microsite after all.
But by keeping its focus on people, we were building relationships at the same time as we were creating content.
And ultimately, we built an entire community from those relationships.
And it’s that community that drives our inbound marketing engine today.
What’s your advice for startups just beginning their inbound marketing?
Find a way to do “extreme content repurposing” so you get the leverage you need so just 1 or 2 marketers can produce a whole marketing team’s worth of content, both in terms of quantity and quality.
What’s your advice for startups taking their inbound marketing from intermediate to advanced?
Create a high-performance content team that’s laser focused on quality.
To do this, I recommend a few core principles….
First, have just 1 “Architect.” This is the person who owns the vision for all content, guides all the decisions, and ensures the quality of all content that gets produced.
The Architect is a lot like a movie director. Everyone from the special effects department to the makeup artists and the actors are there to realize the director’s vision. Likewise, everyone producing content should be there to enable the Architect’s content vision for the company.
It’s also critically important to create a culture of learning among content creators. And you can only do this if everyone values and gives honest feedback at all times. No sugar coating to avoid hurt feelings.
Process is another key ingredient in a high-performance content team. Each person on the content team needs to know exactly how the company produces a webinar or a case study or any other form of content. And every person on the team must also know what they’re good at and what others are good at, so that everyone’s strengths are leveraged throughout the process.
One other problem you’re likely to face when you’re taking your inbound content marketing from intermediate to advanced is “content fatigue.” Creating the same type of content over and over again can get boring. And your top performers will start to underperform if they’re not challenged enough.
So, to avoid what I call “content fatigue,” I try to mix things up every 6 to 9 months. I challenge the team to do something completely different from anything they’ve done before. It forces us as a company to continually push the boundaries, but it also puts wind back in the sails of our highly creative team.
One great example of a very successful project that came out of a content fatigue challenge is our Mobile Hero Comics. This is literally a comic book about superheroes in the mobile app marketing world, featuring heroes like Professor Portal, Andreas Fraudnaut, and Captain Peng, and villains like Dr. Data, Dr. Blackbox, and Miss Attribution.
When we originally discussed creating a comics, I didn’t expect it to be particularly successful as a marketing piece. I was mostly interested in giving the team something fun and creative to work on to avoid content fatigue.
But it turned out that mobile marketers really loved Mobile Hero Comics, and it continues to be a highly successful content project to this day.
So don’t be afraid to challenge your team with fun, creative projects that might seem a little crazy at first. You might be surprised.
Where Is the future of inbound marketing going?
With COVID-19 and the shift from offline marketing to 100% digital marketing, I expect that inbound marketing is that it’s going to become even more competitive.
I also think that many inbound marketers are going to start focusing much more on smaller, more highly targeted segments of the market that is more likely to convert to marketing qualified leads.
If you had asked me a year ago, I probably would have given a very different answer. But COVID-19 has changed the trajectory of inbound marketing quite a bit in just the last few months.
COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated the shift from traditional marketing to inbound marketing. Marketers hosting offline events and programs suddenly had to shift to digital marketing. And those of us who have been focused on digital marketing for a long time already found ourselves facing a lot more competition for attention at the top of the funnel.
For example, when the COVID-19 crisis first took hold, everyone shifted from hosting offline events to webinars and virtual events.
At first that was great. People suddenly working remotely were signing up for webinars in droves.
But then they started to experience “webinar fatigue.” With all the new webinars flooding the market, there were just too many. So it got a lot tougher for any one webinar to attract a sizable audience.
This prompted us to focus even more on our mid funnel, and I suspect many other inbound marketers are going to make a similar strategic shift if they haven’t already. I also suspect that this shift toward focusing on smaller, more targeted audiences will not just be a temporary trend, but a permanent shift in the industry.
To give you an example, at the start of quarantine we lauched the Mobile Heroes Lunch Club to focus more of our energy on a smaller, more targeted audience. These clubs bring together a small group of marketers once per week for 4 weeks in a virtual group discussion. Liftoff pays for lunch or dinner via a delivery service. The sessions are moderated by a fellow mobile marketer. Everyone talks shop and gets to learn from one another. And a Liftoff person is there as a host to offer event support.
Through these lunch clubs, we’re spending more time, effort and resources on a smaller, more targeted group of people who are more likely to do business with Liftoff at some point in the future.
I think this is a sign of the direction that many inbound marketers will be taking in the not-so-distant future.
Where can people learn more about You & Liftoff ?
Dennis Mink on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/drmink/