Chapter 24

Outbound Marketing

The web has brought about major shifts in buying behaviour. It has given us a convenient way of purchasing what we want, whenever we want, from the comfort of our homes or on the move. In the last three months of 2010, 84% of internet users in the US conducted an online transaction1.

Perhaps more importantly, we now enjoy greater control over buying decisions, thanks to the ease of access to product information, retailers, consumer reviews and peer recommendations. In 2010, 58% of Americans researched potential purchases online, and 24% posted an online comment or review of a purchased item2.

These behaviours drive two types of online marketing:

  1. People go online to buy items. Before they make their purchases, you need to find them and tell them that you sell what they’re looking for. This is achieved mostly through outbound marketing, the subject of this chapter.
  2. People go online to research their options. You need your app to be found and considered positively during their research. This is achieved mostly through inbound marketing, which we’ll look at in detail in the next chapter.
Outbound (traditional) marketing Inbound marketing
Adverts and sales pitches Build trust, credibility and goodwill
You find customers Customers find you
Broadcast or scattergun approach Customers self-qualify
Buy customers (you invest cash) Earn customers (you invest time)
Short bursts and campaigns Long-term incoming links and referrals

Differences between outbound and inbound marketing

Outbound marketing is principally based on attracting attention, typically through interruptions or disruptions in the regular daily activity of potential customers: email in their inbox, adverts on a webpage or unexpected sales phone calls.

The average urbanite is faced with thousands of such advertising messages every day, about twice as many as they would have seen thirty years ago3. As the amount of marketing noise has increased, people have become more accustomed to mentally blocking it out and removing it from their browser windows. Internet banner ads that once averaged a click-through rate of 2–3% are now down to around a tenth of that figure, at 0.1–0.3%4.

Another negative impact on outbound marketing opportunities is the current shift away from mainstream broadcast media. The once captive audiences of television, radio and newspapers subsidised through advertising are in steady decline5 as consumers find more convenient or user-friendly sources online. Even email use among younger age groups is in decline6 as tech-savvy consumers switch their communications to social network messaging systems and mobile messages.

You shouldn’t form a long-term marketing strategy solely on outbound techniques, but there are still compelling reasons to try them, especially as a new entrant to the market:

Online advertising

For most web apps with identifiable markets, creating online ads is a perfect starting point. They are quick to set up, you can start with a small fixed budget, you only pay for leads, and you might already have some validated learning from testing minimum viable product features with adverts: language people respond to, effective calls to action, and so on.

Online ads come in a range of formats (text, image, Flash, video), sizes (banner, leaderboard, square, skyscraper) and payment models:

Text-based CPC adverts are the most practical option for start-ups with little cash or time to dedicate to marketing. Google AdWords8 and Facebook Ads9 are two of the largest networks offering text CPC ads, each with distinct features:

Google AdWords (Text) Facebook Ads
Customer targetting Implicit location and behavioural data from search terms and sites visited. Explicit demographic, geographic and psychographic data from profiles
Ad format A title (25 characters), two sentences (35 characters each) and a display URL (35 characters). A title (25 characters), description (135 characters) and optional image (110×80 pixels).
Ad location Above and in a dedicated right column of search results pages In the right column of most Facebook screens, often under or above other Facebook interface elements
Ad Typical CTR10 0.1% 0.05%
Social Proof11 Google +1 button next to ads Facebook like button next to ads
Example img-24_t1 img-24_t2

Functional differences between Google AdWords and Facebook Ads

Both networks use the bid model, where the more you’re willing to pay per click, the more prominence your ad will be given. If there’s little competition for your advert it might only cost you a few cents per click. This can increase to many dollars per click for competitive keywords on Google or competitive demographics and interests on Facebook.

Anecdotally, Facebook Ads are cheaper than Google AdWords12, at around a third of the equivalent cost per click, but the networks are difficult to compare directly because of their dissimilar targeting features. The benefit of cheaper Facebook Ads is balanced against a higher ongoing time cost for maintenance: a 2011 report13 found that Facebook ads are only effective for the first three to five days, compared to many months for AdWords ads.

The difference in targeting methods – behavioural versus demographic – stems from the inherent purpose of each platform and the visitors’ intentions: people use Google to find information, and Facebook to socialise. Consequently, we can identify a general target market segment for each ad platform:

Google AdWords (Text) Facebook Ads
Customer targetting Business to business (B2B) Business to consumer (B2C)
Ad format Known needs Unmet or unknown needs
Ad location Direct responses and actions Branding and awareness

Differences in use of Google AdWords and Facebook Ads

It’s worth trying both to test the waters; after all, you’ll only pay for results (clicks).

Facebook Ads

Take the relaxed environment of Facebook into account when you’re planning your advert copy. Don’t write in a formal style and try to include social phrasing, such as a question in the title. As with other marketing messages, concentrate on benefits rather than features.

An uncomplicated image will attract attention. Choose something slightly provocative, or a relevant image with a human or animal face.


Informal Facebook Ad14

To target your Facebook Ads, first enter up to twenty-five countries in the Location field. If your app is only available in English, you can still target countries where English isn’t the primary language: just specify that you only want to show the ad to English speakers in the Languages field.

Age, Sex, Relationship and Education targets depend on your app market. The default broadest options are adequate for most apps, but I often increase the minimum age from 18 to 21+ for higher-priced B2B apps that are more likely to appeal to experienced or senior professionals. However, be wary of making too many assumptions about the age, sex or education of your market unless you have market research to back it up.

You can really pinpoint your target audience with Interests: activities and hobbies that users have added to their profile, job titles, Facebook pages they like and Facebook groups they belong to. Most popular websites and apps have a corresponding Facebook page or group, which enables you to easily target fans of apps that are similar to yours.

Don’t ignore smaller interests that only add a few hundred people to your advert reach. They often identify the most relevant users, who may be more likely to click through. Conversely, generic interests such as reading or music don’t make great targets. Your ads will display to millions of uninterested users, your click through rate will plummet and your bid price will increase.

Slice and dice the demographics and interests into individual personalised adverts: instead of targeting an interest in reading, create separate adverts for Terry Pratchett and other popular authors; personalised adverts for fans of TechCrunch and Hacker News will perform better than ads aimed at people with a general interest in computers. As a rule of thumb, if the estimated reach of your advert is more than a few hundred thousand, it’s too broad.


Facebook Ad targeting

Writing compelling adverts is difficult. The easiest way to improve your chance of success is to use the Create a Similar Ad feature to create variations of your initial advert, each with a different image, title or tweak to the main copy. After a week or so, you should have a better idea of what your audience does and doesn’t respond to. This method of identifying the best solution through the measurement of discrete changes is called split or A/B testing.

Google ads

Choose target keywords for your Google ads based on the same qualities as the SEO keywords you researched in Chapter 23: high volume, stable trend, low competition, high relevance and high commercial intent. Use the same keyword selection process as for SEO, except to gauge the competition for each keyword use the Google Keyword Tool15.


Analysing keyword competition with the Google Keyword Tool

Stick to keywords with low competition when you start out, as these offer the lowest cost per click. Remember that only about 10% of people who click the ad will convert to a paying customer, so a $2 CPC will translate to roughly $20 in acquisition costs per customer.

In the medium term, once dozens of customers referred from AdWords have come and gone, you can calculate a more accurate conversion rate and return on investment over their lifetime (see chapter 22). This enables you to expand your keyword selection with confidence. If customers from AdWords average a profit of $73 over their lifetime and convert (from an advert click to a paying customer) at 16%, any relevant keywords that cost less than $73×0.16 = $11.68 per click are likely to return a profitable result.

As with Facebook Ads, your Google ads should be as focused as possible. Adverts with higher click-through rates are assigned more prominence and have lower costs16. Create a list of negative keywords at the campaign level, so that you don’t have to redefine them for each advert group. Negative keywords are words or phrases that, if present in the search query, prevent your advert from being displayed. Choose negative keywords that suggest that the searcher is not looking for a commercial solution to a problem: for example, if they are seeking purely informational or free resources.

Job Seekers Reference and do-it-yourself Cheap and open source
career about bargain
careers definition cheap
cv diagram crack
employment example cracks
hiring examples discount
job what are free
jobs what is code
recruiter book hack
recruiting books hacks
resume magazine library
resumes magazines libraries
salary open source
salaries password

Examples of negative keywords for Google AdWords

Be specific with the text in your ads. Create an Ad group for every set of closely related keywords, with multiple adverts inside each ad group. Focus on one benefit for each ad and use the results to iterate and improve the effectiveness of the adverts.


Ads that test two benefits (speed and accuracy) across multiple ad (keyword) groups

The restrictive format of AdWords makes every word choice important. How can you influence potential customers to notice and click your advert in less than one hundred characters?

A/B testing

It’s important to test variations in title, copy, proposition and target keywords to get the best results from your ads. Facebook’s Create a Similar Ad feature is designed to expedite the process, and AdWords is configured by default to measure the relative success of adverts in an ad group and optimise their display accordingly. This A/B testing technique is useful for more than just ads, though. Calls to action, email campaigns, website marketing messages and even app features can be tested against similar variations to gauge their effectiveness.

Google Website Optimizer19 and Visual Website Optimizer20 are among an assortment of apps designed to ease the process of A/B testing, and they require no more than a JavaScript snippet to get up and running.

There are four important points to remember when you create and run your tests:

  1. Test one change at a time. You need to understand the specific cause as well as the effect, so keep the variation in each test to a single element, such as the image or title.
  2. Measure the appropriate goal. Many A/B tests for calls to action, adverts or sign up buttons tend to measure the click-through rate as the default goal. However, more clicks don’t necessarily translate into higher revenue, especially if the seemingly superior variation misrepresents the app features or price in order to elicit clicks. It is better to measure which variation produces the greatest profit, revenue or number of sign-ups.
  3. Only consider test results that are statistically significant21. It’s easy to misinterpret numbers. If variation A has ten clicks and variation B has fifteen clicks, how do we know if variation B is conclusively the better option? It may appear to be, but for all we know the next six people might click on variation A and drastically change the result. The solution comes in the statistical significance or confidence that is integrated into A/B test tools, which tells us how likely the result is to be valid and not the result of chance. Only accept test results with at least a 90% confidence, and preferably over 95%.
  4. Fix the test sample size. Unfortunately, statistical confidence will vary throughout the test: it might jump from 71% to 96% then back down to 77%. You shouldn’t simply watch your test results and wait for the confidence to reach 90% before calling the winner and ending the test. Instead, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, you need to fix the number of tests up-front and not peek at the statistical significance until the test has run its course. Most tools will suggest an appropriate test sample size or duration, or you can use the Google Test Duration Calculator22 to estimate a suitable fixed duration for your tests.

Google Test Duration Calculator

Remember that you can test more than just variations in words: images, colours, prices, sizes and positions are all attributes that can influence customer conversion and make valid test subjects.

A/B tests are powerful, but don’t let them rule every design decision. By their nature, they tend to measure the impact of a change on one immediate variable, and are therefore unable to detect any other subtle side-effects, some of which can’t be measured directly. A large flashing button may increase conversions and revenue in the short term, but it may also decrease the number of bloggers that link to your app as an example of good design, which in turn lowers your search engine ranking and incoming traffic. Don’t let data prevail over common sense.

Press releases

A press release is an announcement of newsworthy information, but differs from a news item published to your website. Press releases are written for journalists and the media rather than customers and the target market. They typically use established distribution networks to quickly push them to global news outlets.


Part of a WePay press release23

They may seem old-fashioned, but there are a number of benefits to distributing a press release. It increases the visibility of your app to journalists, with the potential for follow-up stories in publications trusted by your market. A press release also establishes credibility, especially for a new app. Potential customers researching your app online will likely find hundreds of mentions after a press release, whereas there may have been only a few results before. Finally, press releases improve your search engine optimisation, with potentially hundreds of new incoming links with targeted keywords from a diverse set of reputable sources.

The most effective way to circulate a press release is to use one of the many online distribution agencies, most of which follow a similar process.

  1. You draft a press release in the required format.
  2. You choose media outlets to send the release to, by geography and topic.
  3. The agency reviews your copy for clarity and mistakes.
  4. The agency distributes the press release via a number of channels, including dedicated news wire services, RSS feeds, websites and emails to journalists.
  5. You track the reach and success of your press release through reporting tools.

Online distribution services vary significantly in price. A higher price tends to get you a wider reach to more reputable news outlets.

Price Service Typical distribution and conditions
Free PRLog24 Limited online-only distribution, no hyperlinked phrases in copy, restricted length
$200+ PRWeb25 Wider online-only distribution, hyperlinked phrases, less restricted format
$800+ BusinessWire26
Comprehensive online and news wire distribution, hyperlinked phrases, highest reputation news outlets

The exact format of your press release is dictated by the distribution service you choose to use, but they tend follow an established structure.

  1. Release timing
    This is normally ‘FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE’ (in all caps) but use ‘HOLD FOR RELEASE UNTIL [DATE]’ if the announcement should be withheld from publication until a particular date.
  2. Headline
    As the main attention grabber, the headline is the most important part of the release. Write a short, compelling summary of the main story, preferably in twenty words or less. Avoid jokes, jargon, superlatives (best, fastest, biggest), industry clichés (innovative, disruptive, next generation) and vague statements. Use the present tense with strong action words (will, does) and include your SEO target keywords.
  3. Dateline
    The first paragraph starts with the location from where the release was distributed and the date.
  4. Introductory paragraph
    Like the headline, the opening paragraph summarises the story. Include all the factual information that a journalist needs: who (it is about), what (the story is), when, where, why, and how. Embed a link to your app, preferably with some target keywords in the anchor text for the best SEO results.
  5. Second paragraph
    Expand on the importance and benefits of your app with supporting research, statistics and facts. An attributed quote from an industry expert or company representative can add a valuable human touch to the story.
  6. Additional paragraphs
    Your main copy should run to no more than about four hundred words. Use additional short paragraphs to cover pricing, other minor features and benefits, and supporting information that provides context or background to the story.
  7. Boilerplate
    The last paragraph tells the journalist about your company in one or two sentences: who you are, how long you’ve been in business, what you do and why you do it. The text should be re-usable and independent of the main press release.
  8. Contact information
    A press release essentially invites a journalist to contact you to elaborate on the story. Include your contact name, company name, telephone number and email.
  9. Close
    Signal the end of the press release with ‘###’ centred on a new line.

Remember that you’re not selling a customer the software, you’re sharing information with a journalist. The press release needs to be matter of fact, without hyperbole or jargon, though you still need to build an appealing story around the facts to convey the importance of your app. A journalist is looking for something newsworthy28 to cover in your press release.

Email marketing

Email is a low cost marketing medium that encourages direct action and has consequently suffered from much abuse. To comply with the ensuing anti-spam legislation29, it’s best to follow three golden rules:

  1. Never buy an email list. They frequently contain irrelevant, incorrect, outdated and spamtrap30 addresses, and are not worth the money.
  2. Always ask permission to send emails, either with an opt-in process or, preferably, a double opt-in where the subscriber verifies their action by responding to a confirmation email.
  3. Include a prominent, unambiguous one-click unsubscribe link in every email.
  4. Your initial mailing list will originate from your teaser website, and can be supplemented by asking people to register via social media. If you’re building a minimum viable product, your first email will coincide with the launch. A build lasting more than a couple of months should include a mid-development email to remind subscribers about your app.

Of the emails you send, 95–99% will be delivered, 20–30% of those opened, 6–10% of those readers will click through to the website and 10–20% of those will convert31. That comes out at a best-case conversion rate of 1%, so you need to maximise the percentage at every step.

The easiest way to ensure a high delivery rate is to use an established mailing app to send your emails. Choose from MailChimp32, Campaign Monitor33, Constant Contact34 and many others. MailChimp offers a free solution if your mailing list is under 2,000 addresses.

Avoid using trigger words that can consign your email to spam filters: free, urgent, congratulations, important, notice, investment, help, reminder and so on. Check your own spam filter to get an idea for other words to avoid.

As email opening rates are dictated almost solely by the subject line, you really need consider how the recipient will interpret it. Your subscribers have specifically asked to be emailed about your app, so make sure you include the app name in the subject, and for a launch email remind them what the app does. MailChimp research35 suggests that the best subject lines tell rather than sell – don’t be too creative or playful with your copy, and stay under fifty characters36.

Subject: PageRadius Site Audit Tool Launches Today, Sep 14

Keep the body of the email brief. Expand on the subject with benefits and value to the recipient, followed by an unambiguous call to action that is linked to a relevant landing page on your website. If you’re sending a plain text email, the call to action should be a full, human-readable URL (including http://) to give it the best chance of being clickable in an email client. The footer should contain a postal address and contact details to enhance the reputation of the email, along with the all-important unsubscribe link.

Always send the email to yourself before sending it to the list, to see how it displays in an email client and to verify that it passes your spam filter.

The best time to send email depends on your market, and with research offering no definitive answer on the subject37, it’s up to you to test different chunks of your mailing list on different days to see what works. Nonetheless, there is some agreement38 that Tuesday and Wednesday mornings offer the best response for business-to-business emails.


Outbound marketing techniques typically cost money but are quick, measurable and often scalable.

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