Bright & Early Podcast
Growth Marketing Doesn't Have to Be Gross with Margaret Kelsey of Appcues
Brian: Hey everyone and welcome to bright and early the podcast for people building early-stage startups.
I'm your host Brian Rhea.
I talk to entrepreneurs, product people, designers, and marketing pros to learn what works, what doesn't, and why; giving you at least one thing to apply to your business first thing tomorrow.
today on the show I'll be talking to Margaret Kelsey Margaret heads up the brand and content team at @qs where she helped to triple blog traffic in just nine months she's also worked for envision in content marketing and community management and done a ton of other amazing things Margaret welcome to the show thank you so much for having me I'm happy to be here I'm thrilled to have you I saw the workshop that you did recently for forget the funnel and it was absolutely fantastic and can't wait to hear you share a bunch of that with our audience as well oh thank you so much it was really fun to be on there and I'm sure we can have equally as the same amount of fun yeah well it was it was fun to watch and there was a ton to learn okay before we before we dig in can't wait to hear all of your thoughts about marketing and content marketing but first I have to ask what TV show or book not named Game of Thrones are you obsessed with right now so do you have any that you would like that you'd like to share sure and don't get me started on Game of Thrones because I've been very frustrated over the last couple episodes but well not going to I think my favorite recently is Julie so has written a book called the making of a man and what to do when everyone looks to you where she sort of profiles her early work as a manager and helps answer a lot of questions or for new time managers I've recently over the last year or so inherited a team of folks and so I have a lot questions and I've been consuming a lot of managerial books and that one has been absolutely stellar and and isn't written in some like oh you know 30 year manager that's looking back on their career it's really she's sort of in it and working through it herself so very very insightful yeah that sound that sounds great to get the perspective of someone who's like thick in it right yeah so the other thing is if we were to go to Margaret Kelsey calm we could learn about your marketing expertise and that's fantastic we would also see some of your paintings I I used to be an art teacher my degrees in art education so I was so excited to see your artwork it's beautiful will you tell us a little bit about it and thank you thank you so much I think that's so cool that you have the background as well it makes sense for a creative career to sort of have that other dabble in creativity in terms of my painting I think the thing why I continue to do it and why I continue to I think loved it is we all work on screens all day long I work on the laptop and at the end of the day I shut my laptop and everything that I did that day is completely gone it's not visible it's you know out sort of in the ether and unless you have a screen open you know it kind of disappears so I think when I paint there's at the end of it this sort of physical embodiment this this craft embodied that it's the struggle that you worked on it's the the process is all right there and then you get to if it's good enough hang it on a wall if it's bad enough you know shove it underneath your bed for no-one to see ever again but what you like yeah you get to hold it in and see it and then sort of seeing how those things change over time as well I think another thing that I find really interesting about it is I like to paint both figure painting portrait painting and also landscape painting and I realized that there's so much that you think that you see around in your day-to-day life that when you're painting and you have to double check that like do I actually see that you know there's a nose visible or two eyes that they're the same size or you know foreshortening and that sort of thing it's sort of meditative in that way where you really have to second-guess what you're seeing yeah and forces you to to analyze your perception and your perspective exactly yeah it's it it really sort of humbles you in that way of the fact that we're probably walking around looking at the world and not seeing it as it truly is right right okay deep do you do you try to bring lessons that in observations that you make about yourself while you're painting do you try to bring that into your professional life or do you prefer to allow them to be completely independent of one another and just to be their own thing oh that's a great question I don't know if I actively try to bring them together but I but I think it's impossible to not bring that along with you I think this idea that there are some sort of separation between work and life is in and of itself sort of sort of incorrect I think that you're living at work and anything that you're learning at work you can transfer to your life and and anything that you transfer from your life can easily transfer into work I think it's really hard to sort of separate those two I tend yeah I tend to agree and think that we're when we're our whole selves either you know doing some creative pursuit or a hobby or when we're our whole self at work when you can just embody who we actually are we end up doing end up doing better anyway mm-hmm so can we can you talk a bit about what you're working on these days leading brand and content marketing over at app queues sure so a ques I guess we can start off with what that is as we are a product led growth platform you can think of us as an experience layer that product folks can add onto their product and we're non-technical people can create and deliver experiences really quickly without bothering their engineering team to do so so that's onboarding walkthroughs feature announcements anything to really increase product activation product engagement retention all of those things can be affected with a queues and the experience is that that folks can sort of quickly create and iterate on with the product so right now I am leading our branded content team we have a content marketer of video producer and a marketing designer on that team so we're really sort of the creative folks on the marketing team which is really exciting we're doing a lot of video work we are we have two ongoing sort of content programs that were in charge of our applicants blog and also really good UX and a bunch of other exciting things in the work as well yeah yeah and if somebody were to follow you on LinkedIn there's a chance that they might see a video of you without very really giant ears oh no yes yeah so that is that is our new series called overheard and product that we are translating into video as well that is all due to Merrill who is our new senior video producer that just joined us and she ordered those on Amazon and and I trusted and hoped that it would stop people in their tracks to watch it so yes I can tell you from personal experience it at least stopped me in my tracks oh okay no go ahead please oh I was gonna say I left all sense of coolness in my 20 so I totally embrace the fact that I get to that I have the ability to come to work and put on some ridiculous figures and myself yeah you got it you got to have fun and you have to be willing to make a fool of yourself something I learn turned in when I was teaching is that to be an effective teacher sometimes you just have to be willing to be the biggest fool in the room and nobody thinks that a good teacher is a fool when they get on the other side of the lesson so I like that it's it's great really I can't wait to see more hey everyone its Brian and we'll get back to the interview in just a bit but I wanted to let you know that bright and early is brought to you by text our studio text our studio enables you to rapidly envision validate and launch disruptive new startups partner with the tech stars worldwide network to access entrepreneurial talent and a proven track record of helping the most promising startups succeed for more information visit techstars comm slash studio and if you decide to reach out let him know Brian's insha [Music] something Margaret that I heard you say on that workshop that I had mentioned and everybody should totally go and check that out as well that's what's really compelling you you called some growth marketing gross marketing I I love that super pithy it like resonates rings true I get what you mean but as founders we we want growths and some of the you know some of the methods that are you know might be a little bit abrasive sometimes the metrics actually work so can you just kind of talk us through that like get us between a balance of you know effective growth marketing on the analytics side but we also don't want to be gross people so what are the things that we can keep in mind to do great content marketing that isn't growth gross and leads to growth yeah so I'm glad that you clarified that too that it's it's some growth marketing it's not all growth marketing but I have I do have a serious aversion towards that sort of growth side of marketing and and what I think it comes down to is that I think folks forget that on the other side of the screen or real human beings we often times look at analytics dashboards and think if I could just move that two percent you know what would that mean for the entire funnel or or you know if these pops are working and getting us you know let's say you know they're converting at five percent if I just added another couple pop-ups you know I could bump that conversion rate and I think we try to move the needle like that it's really easy as marketers to want to hack it as it were but I really think the core of true growth comes from remembering that they're human beings on the other side and creating experiences that those human beings want to interact with and want to consume and that grab their attention in a good way not saying my those that video with the big ears is a good way of grabbing attention but really was it's a different way of grabbing it other than you know throwing up a pop-up or a screen takeover or something like that so I think as a whole without getting into lots of different tactics or sort of you know frameworks of thinking of about how to stay away from gross marketing which we can totally do I think the biggest thing is just to remember that there are human beings on the other side and to think of yourself as when you're getting marketed to and and how those experiences often play out and how frustrated you yourself are with those so kind of the golden rule of marketing right do not market to others how you would not want it to be but I think I think that's a great way to think about it and also I lost my train of thought but there's more there yes so I like what you're saying there you know remember that on the other side of this campaign is a is a human being even if they're in the largest enterprise you know in business it's still a person that is the liar and you hear that advice a lot of times from from writers you know to think about you know think about a friend or think about somebody that you have in mind that you're writing to and it can sometimes be like less salesy or you know full of buzzwords and whatever is that is that something that you when you say you know remember that there's a human on the other side how do you and how does AB coos think through do you have customer personas do you have avatars that you're thinking about what's what's that look like practically yeah I think we we do use customer personas sparingly though cuz I think it's easy to think that everyone falls into these sort of neat little boxes which which oftentimes they don't a lot of times you're you'll find out that your audience or your consumer base tends to be more edge cases than the near customer personas sort of allow for so we definitely think of it like that I think of it mostly as thinking about somebody specifically space and how much context do they need and how much can we imagine for our product specifically accuses is for a fairly technical person it's for you know product teams and or even growth marketers and so it's somebody that has been around product for a while they speak a certain language and so we try to make sure that we're using the same words the same language speaking in the same tone as they would do so part of that is really just being embedded within the community that you're trying to serve I'm a big proponent of learning people's languages I think as a marketer it's really important to consume and read and be active in those communities and and brilliantly understand what the broader community is talking about and thinking about and and that will only help you sort of clarify that rating and understand what to include and what you can probably skip out on to make it not super redundant or super bore and as it works right yeah I mean speed getting the tone and the word choice right is is so important I'm sure that that's something that a lot of people struggle with something that I that I can relate to personally and from talking to other folks in the same situation I know that something that early stage companies struggle with is that early on they don't have you just don't have that many followers you don't have that audience built up yet over time and so it feels like it can feel scary or discouraging maybe to plan and launch a campaign like we're gonna do this nobody will notice us those and the fear that those who do will feel like they're at a dead party which is like which can be even worse so what do you say to companies who are still building their audience or don't have an audience yet what mindset thought they'd be in as they design their campaigns I think that's a great question I think my initial thought would be embrace it I was on a podcast recently with Jo Kenzo about content marketing and specifically there's an agency called animals swift as E and J was likening them to sort of a speakeasy brand and that's because they didn't do a lot of loud or showy marketing and as a marketing agency you would think that would be sort of sort of rare or or an interesting choice but it was really based on the word of mouth of the agency itself and I really love that idea I think a lot of marketers trying to build a community or build the brand we do think of those sort of vanity metrics like oh if we could just have you know if this could go number one on product ton or if this could be you know if everyone in the world could know about this but but honestly you don't need that you need to have a small amount of people that really really love you and are really passionate so I think what I would recommend doing is really focusing on figuring out how to enable the small group that you have even if it's only a couple folks five folks ten folks whoever it is focus on enabling them to be able to share your message easily and with passion I guess what I mean by that is first is like kind of removing that friction of sharing that message so envision we used to when I was there and sort of setting up the blog and getting it toured it's sort of to be the flywheel that it is today we really focused on having these beautiful click to tweet images or click to tweet quotes that would say something super insightful so people could just click on them and and tweet them out and this was back in the day before that was I think a common practice too so it felt maybe a little bit more special there but but people would do it all the time if we picked the right quotes because it was easy to to just you know click on it and then seem insightful so that was like a quick little frictionless frictionless way to have that sort of naturally grow they're part of those sort of with make it easy and then the other one is is with passion and I think that is really focusing on taking care of that small group of folks that you do have like how can you make them so in love with your brand or your product that they're talking about you to everyone else they know like how do you make it so easy for them to be brand ambassadors or to be sort of your first evangelizers I think of I have another story of when Casper first started they were I think brand new bringing and the mattress brand and we had bought my husband I had bought a mattress and we are moving to a new place and we had bought a king but it wasn't gonna fit into the new place and it was we were just over that sort of return period of time I think or a month or two over and my husband called up and said hey you know is there anything that we can do and they were like oh yeah sure and they had us donate the mattress and they sent it as a queen no charge to our new address and I have told that story probably like 200 times to a million different people because I was so floored with like that experience and I mean the mattress is comfortable but like that experience in and of itself I wanted to tell the world about it so I think those are two things that even if you have a small small audience focus on on making sure that the people you do have are absolutely obsessed with your product or your company and then figure out how to make it as easy as possible for them to share it out and - and - and to do that with these Thanks yeah that's that's also so good and I like what you're saying about just just embrace that you're small don't try to you know don't try to hide that or appear larger than you are if you have a small audience then speak to them in a way that's like you're in the know like everybody else doesn't get it yet you all are the early ones and and this is really cool really well like there they're gonna be the folks that that when you're big they they're gonna be the folks pain like oh I knew them way back then and bragging about that so so you might as well encourage not behavior - yeah exactly they're the hipsters of your brand yeah so I mean so you mentioned a couple of great a couple of great campaigns and one that like something that always strikes me is the the kind of content marketing campaigns that just nail it and it's you know it when you see it it's just perfect and one that I think continues to kind of get acknowledged even just won an award is Wistia and the 110 100 campaign it's like they show you what you could get done for 1,000 10,000 or a hundred thousand dollars for like a video shoot and it's it's perfect because they are speaking in the medium of their customers or like the way that you know are you following Justin Jackson on train of transistor and like the build your sass oh well yeah it's okay it's super cool so Justin Jackson and his co-founder John Buddha they are starting a podcast hosting SAS company and so they have a podcast about building the podcasting host company I guess hosting company so it's like that just makes so much sense and it's in you know from the outside it seems super obvious but sometimes like when you're you know when your nose is three inches away from the painting so to speak it's a little bit harder to see it so how do you do you have any advice or for how you know a finder or somebody who's like in the thick of their business how to kind of take a step back and observe here is this is the medium that we should speak with or speak through this is the topic we should think about how do you how do you think about that yeah so I think I think about it in a couple different ways I think that first there's this idea of Marketing markets it which is is what you're touching on I think right now is sort of how is your I love that term yeah I can't can't claim it as my own unfortunately I thought I I thought I was making it up and then I and it has been used before if I could lay claim but so yeah this idea marketing markets it so I think we've already hit peak content like I know people I've been saying that for for years and years and years but I would tend to agree like we have content marketing is saying everyone agrees in that and and so everyone's making content and everyone's putting stuff out there so I think the way that you break through the noise is with marketing market it and thinking through what is your community thinking about so that in terms of topic how are they consuming the content are they are they were a shis podcast folks are they you know do they like to sort of binge videos do they prefer to sort of read long-form content do they prefer to actually read like paper content and and mark it up and that sort of thing I think back to I was talking with a restaurant SAS like a SAS platform for restaurant companies and they were thinking about their content marketing and I I just point like asked him I'm like are your folks even like online reading blogs about you know about restaurant life and they're like no and I'm like well then don't have a restaurant blog exactly another way to reach them and so I think I think we as marketers have to be thinking about those things if we really want to resonate and if we really want to to expand those things so I think marketing market fit is one I also think like in terms of brainstorming I have I have a lot of thoughts about creativity and brainstorming I think one of the biggest recommendations I have and this is whether you're brainstorming solo or with a team is to be the first person to throw bad ideas but like write those bad ideas and have them in like a shareable place right so if you're even brainstorming yourself in a doc don't just like think through your bad ideas like write those bad ideas down are the CEO of ambition Clark albergue used to do this all the time he'd be the first one in the meeting he'd be like I had this idea this is my bad first idea and I think throwing that on the table shows yourself though that in this forming part like none of these ideas are precious like let's just like think about him let's just like let your mind put two things that are absolutely ridiculous together and let's see where that takes us and I almost like I kind of personify good ideas as like little shy like creatures right like and they're they're rarely the first show up like your good idea it's never gonna be like oh I need to brainstorm an idea and then the good idea is never gonna be like I'm here but I think sometimes they'll come out of hiding especially if they're in a list of bad ideas so those bad ideas are actually very necessary and a really important part of the process and your good idea will not come out without those bad ideas so like embrace the fact that there's gonna be you know a ton of bad ideas as well I love that idea of thinking that that bad ideas are nests are they're necessary to kind of give good idea as a place to a place to emerge from that's really great yeah I've never had a good idea that's not like a like not like a like 20 to 1 bad idea - yeah like it's never been I've never had more good ideas than sort of that ratio of adjectives yes yes now that is really well set the ratio is as always in the in favor the bad ideas but you got to get them out there um okay Margaret let's let's say that I had zero budget to invest in content marketing I'm an early stage founder I'm in the early stages so I know no budget to invest but I've got some time so how would you recommend that I spend my time yeah so I think going back to what we talked about a little bit earlier I would recommend embedding into whatever community you're trying to serve whether that's your product or your service business whatever whatever you're trying what do you want your customers to be I would get into select communities or start following a bunch of people on Twitter or showing up to in real life community events and ask a lot of questions and make friends and and like we said before figure out figure out sort of the language what they're talking about what they're worrying about and then try to create content where that sort of marketing market fit to answer those questions and and using that language that you sort of picked up and learned in those phrases and that sort of thing you can easily kind of quickly create helpful content marketing or other marketing programs based on those learnings that you're having with that community yeah get get into the community give first teach first yes and then yeah it'll come from that I love it I think that's my favorite part about content marketing is it's really sort of tapping into this human reciprocity and I think that obviously there's a business goal tied to content marketing I mean there should be I'm a firm believer that there should be business goals guy tied to the marketing but there's a good appreciation somewhere down the road yes that there should always be this sort of this sort of selfless you know helpful answering questions and furthering people's careers and like I would create those tech kind of content programs all day long and then know that there will be a business case because of the fact that human beings are sort of this yeah believe in and reciprocity but you don't have to worry about it as much of your if your programs are really as useful as you want them to be so if I if I had a budget let's say I'm getting some traction and so I have less time to spend but now I've got some money if I had a budget I'd say thousand bucks to invest in content marketing in the early stages so how would you recommend that I spend that budget yeah and I'm gonna give that like the worst answer you can ever give and it depends on the product that you're creating the market that you're entering the community you're trying to serve I'm never going to be like oh spend 10 K to hire a freelance writer to write for SEO that might work if your product you know if people are are gonna Google you're sort of your problem that your product solves more often and they're gonna like find about outs about you in the wild like there is a case for writing SEO rich content and being raffles today there's also a case for like creating super creating a community of your own there's like on slack or whatever it might be I could make a case for spending that 10k budget in a plethora of ways depending on the product you have the market you're entering the community are trying to serve and actually I mean since we got a little money I would probably use that money to just continue that community work that we were doing before when we didn't have any money of like making friends and embedding yourself in those free communities and like building those relationships like taking those people out to coffee or to dinner to learn more about that and then when you build those relationships with like maybe the community influencers or the folks that you would hope would one day user product then you can sort of spin that into this kind of community source content marketing programs where they could be writing articles for you or creating videos for you or at least whispering in your ear about about the things that they're dealing with in their day to day life that you can then create content out of and I think one of the sneaky things about that kind of community source content marketing is that you start to inherit their own credibility into your marketing program so like if you're featuring if you're creating content with XYZ community influencer by its they're very proximity or association with you you're going to be seeing more credible without or within that further community so I would probably spend that money on those types of people rather than trying to hire a freelancer and spin out some you know some chief blog articles there's doing like that yeah I'm not I love it no no your audience is the right answer in always answer to all of these questions no that's great it's actionable to anybody anybody can do that okay final thought here as you know working on a start-up can make you feel a little nuts are crazy Wow yes and sometimes especially if you don't actively work on maintaining you know some calm peace of mind some sanity so are there any practices that you found helpful that you'd like to share with our audience yes I have so many thoughts on this and always happy folks want to tweet at me and open up this conversation I am very very in tuned with this and it's something that I'm always working on as well I think my biggest recommendation is something that I found super useful for me is is taking time for whatever kind of thing makes you feel like your brain shuts off for me that's painting for my husband that's golfing for some people is working out meditation whatever it might be whenever you can get into that headspace where you kind of feel like your brain turns off prioritize that time and I think something that I've learned as well is that nobody on earth will protect my time more than I can and and should so this is in terms of like if you're a company rather than if you're just a but if you're a solar worker as well or a solo founder but I really think that if you're at a company and especially early stage there's always going to be demands of your time there's always going to be folks like trying to get one more meeting in or one more thing or slip this in and I think that if you have strong boundaries of knowing what things you need in your life to keep you energize and to keep you away from burnout like you are the only one that can prioritize those things in your life there's I mean you might have a great manager that will like see you already starting to burn out and try to pull you back from it but like nobody will do that at the stage that you can do it yourself right right that's really great oh I do have another super nerdy yeah um yes please so this is I'm sort of even embarrassed to be giving this piece of advice but this is something that's really helped me throughout the year when I have good things happen to me or people say nice things to me or you know I have a metrics win or you know we have a best day on the blog or somebody's like good work on XYZ I screenshot it and I save it to my desktop under a folder called kudos oh my gosh I love this and then every so often go through and read all of the kudos that I've gotten and it's very nerdy but it really makes me feel better because know that that is that is not nerdy at all that is awesome there's I don't I don't have to be exact I don't know the exact number but there's some like there's some study or something that's basically like you know it takes you know 10 positive affirmations to equal one negative and I mean that just kind of like resonates that kind of just feels like truth II like you definitely forget your winds faster than you'll forget like I hurt that's so okay so you you get an email or like that that you that really mean something to use screenshot it throw it into your kudos folder the folks on my team to do that too and some of them probably are like I you know I have you know a silly person for my manager but I really do think that looking back periodically on what you've already accomplished can give you the strength to then keep working at it I think like you said often times we we ruminate on the negative thing or we think like we're never gonna get past this stage or this feels like it's forever and so going back and seeing like when the things that you take for granted right now maybe just came to fruition for the first time or or somebody complimented you on something that you had never heard before but now you like have accepted into part of your psyche or whatever it might be those things I think can really be inspirational I'm also very inspired by carrots and not by sticks at all like I am like you know don't hold something over to me of like something hold something over me and be like oh like that's that doesn't motivate me I'm motivated by like nice things yeah so anytime like also I guess know your motivation strategy I know there's some people that that would get complacent by looking through all their kudos but to me that just gives me gives me more fire to kind of go the distance totally I mean it seems like it key it reminds you of when that affirmation or when that success was fresh to you and like you you relive it there's a great quote that I'm terrible at living but but I love I love the quote and it is remember when all you ever wanted is what you currently have and like like what you were saying is that you know as those things become normal to you you kind of forget what it felt like when when you first achieved it I love that so Margaret kudos to you if you're encouraging your team it definitely sounds like you are a great manager to have if you're encouraging your team to to do that so thanks thanks for sharing that I love it and I hope our listeners do too so Margaret thanks so much for your time so finally how can listeners find and follow you online where can we send them yeah sure um so you can follow me on twitter at marker and kay it looks like margaret tank which yes so it's actually Margaret NK but you can follow me on Twitter or find me on you says he said before my websites Margaret Kelsey calm and yeah always open to chat and to to brainstorm things and to work through problems with any other sort of fellow early stages here so so get in touches if you want to chat my guest today has been Margaret Kelsey Margaret you are a wealth of information and insights thank you so much for taking some time to talk to me thank you so much for having me this is really fun couple of closing thoughts from me after that interview which I hope you enjoyed that conversation as much as I did I really appreciated Margaret's answer to the question of what if you're super early and you don't have much of an audience yet and you're kind of afraid about you know launching to a stud or worse and the her answer was will it just embrace who you are and talk to your audience and take care of them sort of as if as if they are your as if your you are their pet band like they're in on it early I really liked that idea you know and and it kind of made give me that thought of you know the metaphor of you know a band that doesn't have much that doesn't have any following yet never playing any shows until they're certain that you know 300 people are going to show up that just doesn't work you you you have to release a first thing and start taking care of and loving your audience early even when only four people are showing up to the show at a time and talk to those people as if hey yeah look we we aren't we get it there's there are only a handful of folks in the crowd right now but we so appreciate you being in on this journey and listening to our story from day one I love that as a concept it's like as a way of thinking about where you're at the other thing I liked was the idea that that good ideas are are shy can be shy that like they need they need a crowd of bad ideas around them to emerge from that and the the idea that yeah you got a share you got to share all your ideas knowing that some of them are gonna be bad and the ratio is always you know tilt it in the like the scales are tipped on the side of bad ideas or you know whatever whatever analogy is better there I like that idea of good ideas being shy and needing a place to live and emerge from it something I want to continue to think about and that's the final thing I love this idea of a kudos folder I'm definitely going to start one of those just as simple as a folder on your desktop that you drop screenshots into you and revisit it from time to time I love that if you create a kudos folder or if you've got other thoughts on how I can make this show better for you topics you'd love for me to cover guess you think that I should reach out to please let me know this show is yours and I want to make it great you can find me on Twitter I am the Ray that is let's do colors this time B is in beige r is in red HSN honeydew II as an emerald and a as an aqua I would love to hear from you there let me know what you think and until next time thanks for listening
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