10 Critical Customer Questions MarketMuse Should Answer to Accelerate Growth

Auditing MarketMuse's Growth Strategy

Jason Quey
Last updated: Jan 07, 2020
Originally published: Oct 18, 2019

There are 10 questions nearly every customer asks before they will buy from you. Those questions are:

  1. What does your product do?
  2. Who is your product for?
  3. How does your product work?
  4. How will it help me?
  5. What specific results can I expect?
  6. Has anyone got these results before, preferably someone like me?
  7. Do I trust you to help me get these results?
  8. How is your product different from the competition’s product?
  9. How much does the product cost?
  10. How do I start using your product?

Your customer wants an answer to each question. She may still buy in spite of you not answering all 10 questions as well as she would like. But the better you answer these 10 questions, the easier it will become to get a new customer.

In my last article, Aki Balogh shared how MarketMuse got its first 1,000 customers. But even with their success, MarketMuse does not answer these 10 questions as well as they should.

Let’s dive into the 10 questions, shall we?

1. What does MarketMuse do? Rating: Bad.

The first question a customer wants to learn is what your product can do for her. After all, if your product doesn’t solve her problem, why should she stick around?

If your answer to this question is not clear, you need to improve your positioning strategy. More specifically, you need to talk to your customers. This will allow you to create a positioning statement that resonates with your customers.

The two most common places a customer will look for this information is: 

  1. Your meta title.
  2. The main headline on your website.

MarketMuse’s meta title is, “MarketMuse: AI Content Planning and Optimization Software.”

common customer questions

“Content planning” helps me know what it does. “AI” (artificial intelligence) isn’t particularly useful, but given its current popularity, it’s likely a selling point.

The problem is with “optimization software.” Some customers might read the meta title as the tool doing two different tasks: “AI Content Planning” and “Optimization.” 

Even if a customer reads “Content Optimization,” it’s possible someone may incorrectly assume MarketMuse is a content A/B testing tool. No one outside of a handful of content marketers understands what this term means.

The second-place customers look at is the headline on the website. MarketMuse’s headline states, “Make Content Your Competitive Advantage.”

common customer questions

As a content creator, I already believe content is my competitive advantage. So how will this tool improve my content beyond what I already do?

I don’t care if it uses “AI Content Intelligence,” and neither does the customer. This only tells a customer how it works, not what it does to make me more money. Labeling it a “Strategy Platform” doesn’t add clarity either.

What I’d Do Next

MarketMuse needs to talk to their customers and find out what they consider the main benefit of using MarketMuse. If I were talking to their customers, I’d ask, “What is the main benefit you receive using MarketMuse?”

Asking this question will reveal at least three things:

  1. What do customers believe is the primary benefit of MarketMuse?
  2. How do customers describe this primary benefit?
  3. Do customers get additional benefits from using MarketMuse which the co-founders are not aware of?

As a secondary point, MarketMuse only helps teams with written content. Podcast hosts, YouTube creators, and even some social media marketers would state they create content. If MarketMuse gets bad leads from these customer personas, I would change the wording to reduce these leads.

2. Who is MarketMuse product for? Rating: Bad.

Customers want to know your product solves their current problem.

Let’s say you and I both want to work out. You want to join a gym to lose 10 pounds. For me, it’s more important to stay fit while having fun. Although we both will look for gyms, what gym we choose will likely be different because we have two different outcomes. The same is true with your startup.

Even if two customers want the same outcome, those customers may have different obstacles to overcome. 

I’m a 6’0”, 190-pound male. More than likely, I’ll need to work out more than you to lose 10 pounds because I do not have much fat to lose. You may have different dietary restrictions that I don’t.

Now let’s say you and I are selling a nutrition program. You need to help both of us reach the outcome of losing 10 pounds. To do this, you will want different diet plans and exercise routines to overcome our obstacles.

This is why you need to be clear about who your product is for. Just as important, you need to clarify who your product is not for. These are also known as your anti-personas. 

Anti-personas reduce costs supporting customers who aren’t the right fit for your product. Clarifying anti-personas also helps your most profitable personas know this product is for them.

MarketMuse does not give much clarity about who MarketMuse is for, aside from one indirect assumption. A content marketer is likely to assume content should be their competitive advantage. 

But as I mentioned before, podcast hosts, YouTube creators, and some social media marketers would say they create content. And from what I know about MarketMuse, these are not profitable customer personas.

What I’d Do Next

MarketMuse can improve their positioning by clearly defining the customers they serve. Further, they also need to define the customers they do not serve: their anti-personas.

Once done, I would include this messaging on their home page and other product pages to increase qualified leads.

3. How will MarketMuse help me? Rating: Bad.

Often a customer visiting your site wants answers to how your product will help her. When she asks what your product does (question #1), she’s also asking what your product will do for her.

This is why a powerful positioning statement is: “I help [my audience] solve [this problem] by [our unique solution].”

If you look again at the meta title in question one, the answer is clear. “MarketMuse helps content marketers plan and optimize content through AI.”

Looking at the meta description, it also says MarketMuse helps me, “Build content strategies, accelerate content creation, and inform content decisions.”

That’s a solid benefit!

I’ll assume speed is MarketMuse’s main value. They could say, “Build content strategies faster, accelerate content creation, and reduce time on content decisions.” 

The value would be even better if they made a specific claim. For example, “Save 12 hours or more a month on content strategy.” Then they would want to back up this claim on their website.

Unfortunately, their homepage lacks any of these wonderful words. 

In the second statement, I find, “research, plan and craft your content.” Here’s the problem. This statement doesn’t tell me how to do content marketing different than what I’m already doing.

It’s not until I scroll two pages down do I find a case study how MarketMuse helped Tomorrow Sleep grow traffic from 4,000 to 400,000 visitors a year. There is also some information on their product page. Unfortunately, many customers are likely to leave their website before finding these answers.

Note: MarketMuse removed the Tomorrow Sleep case study since writing this article.

There are some questions on MarketMuse’s homepage to simulate questions a customer might have which MarketMuse solves. These questions include:

  1. What should I write about?
  2. What questions are my readers asking?
  3. What topics should I use?

However, some customers will miss reading these questions because they blend into the background.

MarketMuse also has several product feature pages. The problem is these pages are hard to find.

  1. A customer has to click the word “Product” in the navigator menu. Few people go to MarketMuse with the question, “What is MarketMuse’s product?” Your customer assumes you will explain this answer throughout your website. Instead, MarketMuse should label this “Why MarketMuse?” 
  2. A customer has to scroll down to find the product feature pages and click on them. This would be easier if they use a drop-down menu with all features listed instead.
  3. Each feature is not fully descriptive of what it does. What comes to your mind when I say the word “Inventory?” Was it something related to product inventory? Or as MarketMuse hopes for, your content inventory? 

What I’d Do Next

If MarketMuse knows their position, they need to better communicate this on the homepage. I’d make a specific claim, then back it up with testimonials, case studies, and other social proof.

I’d also improve the messaging as I described above. Effective marketing should increase clarity, not confusion.

4. How does MarketMuse’s product work? Rating: Good.

What’s the fastest way to win a customer? The same way Costco gets you to buy more food.

Get a customer to try before they buy.

MarketMuse allows customers to analyze an article before they buy it.

common customer questions

I ran two articles through MarketMuse to see my results. 

If you’d like to follow along, click each link below, type in the topic (“Spencer Fry” and “positioning strategy”), and enter an email address.

  1. My interview with Spencer Fry on how he got Podia’s first 1,000 customers (see results here, targeting “Spencer Fry”).
  2. My article on creating a positioning strategy (see results here, targeting “positioning strategy”).

Here’s a quick breakdown of each section I am given:

  1. Content Score: This is a relative score of how well I cover a topic compared to the top 20 search results for that keyword phrase. My first article has the highest score of 42 and my second article has the third-highest score of 35. Unfortunately, I have no clear direction on what my next step should be. How do I improve my score? Since my score is at the top, is there anything else I need to do?
  2. Word Count: MarketMuse now shows the word count of the top 20 results. My first article is in first place with 2,304 words and my second article is second with 2,980 words. While thoroughness is valuable, smart content marketers know word count doesn’t always determine one’s position in Google. I’d assume the next step is to write more words for the positioning strategy article, but this isn’t clear.
  3. Research Application: MarketMuse claims it has found over 50 potential subtopics to include in my article. I get a preview of five words. With the five words listed, it doesn’t sell me much on its value.
  4. Relevant Questions: The next section lists questions customers may have that my article should answer. I only see four questions, which again doesn’t give me much value. The questions are helpful for my second article. But none of the questions for my first article are relevant. For example, the first question for the first article is, “Who is Stephen Fry’s husband Elliott Spencer and how old is he?” If you did not know, Stephen Fry is a British actor and comedian.
  5. External Linking: Some content marketers believe pages rank higher in Google when linking to relevant resources. So this feature will drastically reduce your time researching articles. MarketMuse provides two potential links for me to check out. Which isn’t much.

My impression is the demo is too limiting for customers to find it valuable. MarketMuse’s primary customer is a content team creating several articles a month. As a result, I would not worry about “giving away the farm.” By showing everything MarketMuse will do, the teams will understand the efficiency it provides.

Another downside is the demo is slow. It took me 2 minutes and 20 seconds to get my results. In Internet time, that’s way too long. At that point, a customer may open a new tab and abandon the demo altogether.

Sure, this may reduce the number of tire kickers. But it also poorly reflects on the product experience. Perhaps MarketMuse is more efficient for customers, especially doing many articles at once. But that’s not my current experience.

It helps MarketMuse sends an email with my results too. However, at this point, the prospect’s burning desire has begun to fade. It may be better for them to tell the prospect to check their email for the results.

What I’d Do Next

MarketMuse should give a full preview with the demo.

If it worries MarketMuse about people abusing the free trial, I’d have customers create a free account and connect each account with a phone number. Then I’d limit each account to something like five free analyses.

Alternatively, they could expand the free offer and give clearer information about MarketMuse’s full suite.

5. What specific results can I expect with MarketMuse? Rating: Ugly.

Customers want to know how your product will help them with their day-to-day problems.

MarketMuse’s website features a case study that tells me what results I might expect with MarketMuse. I’ll discuss the benefits and issues with case study in the next section.

MarketMuse is missing a lot of valuable information in this category, including: 

  1. A clear claim of how MarketMuse will benefit my business. For example, “In the next 12 months, MarketMuse will increase organic traffic by 30% or more.”
  2. Case studies for different customer personas.
  3. Testimonials from customers that support the positioning or any claims made.

Yes, when I dig deep enough I find testimonials on their product pages. This involves:

  1. Going to the website.
  2. Clicking on “Product” in the menu (which isn’t the best term, I’d suggest “Why MarketMuse?”).
  3. Scrolling down to click on one of the product pages.
  4. Scrolling down the product page to find a testimonial.

Unless someone goes directly to the product page, those testimonials are almost useless.

What I’d Do Next

When the MarketMuse team talks to their customers, they will hear stories of how MarketMuse helped them. With the customer’s permission, they can include these as testimonials throughout their website.

I’d get permission to do a second interview to write up a case study. Someone on the content team can interview the customer to write up an article on the blog. They can then repurpose the article into a lead magnet.

I’d also look at the reviews on G2 Crowd and Capterra and use those reviews on the website.

6. Has anyone got these results before, preferably someone like me? Rating: Ugly.

“When faced with uncertainty or fear, we are most persuaded by those who are like us.”

Angie Schottmuller, CRO consultant.

You can promise a customer the moon. But they are less likely to believe you without evidence it has worked for someone else

Let’s take a look at MarketMuse’s testimonials and case study on their inventory product page.

Here are MarketMuse’s testimonials:

common customer questions

To make testimonials more valuable to the customer, MarketMuse should consider the following:

Give specific information on how MarketMuse helped each customer.

Steven W.’s testimonial about 30% growth in leads is more persuasive than Nathaniel B’s non-specific testimonial. Even if the customer who reads the testimonials does not care about leads, they know someone got meaningful results.

Have a picture of the person, so we feel the human connection.

According to a report by ConversionXL, testimonials with photos were significantly more effective at increasing viewer recall. If someone recalls your benefit, they are more likely to buy from you.

Include the person’s title.

So anyone who works in that job position better identifies with the person.

Include the person’s company.

So anyone who works at a similar organization better identifies with the person.

Get a photo featuring the customer using the product.

In this case, they’re in front of a computer screen on the MarketMuse page. This is a nice-to-have as it’s rare someone has any professional photo, much less one in the right context. But if you are asking for a photo, it won’t hurt to ask. Since this is rare to get, you may want to use this photo for your home screen hero image.

What about MarketMuse’s case study?

Note: MarketMuse removed the Tomorrow Sleep case study since writing this article.

Before I critique the case study, it is valuable for customers to see Tomorrow Sleep’s traffic improved from 4,000 to 400,000. But here are some reasons why customers might remain skeptical:

1. The headline is not consistent.

The promise on the home page is a case study of “how Tomorrow Sleep traffic grew from 4K to 400K in a year.” When the customer goes to the case study landing page, the headline reads “How Tomorrow Sleep’s Traffic Rose Nearly 10,000% within One Year.”

As odd as it may sound, some readers will question if this page is about the same case study and leave. Yes, the headline refers to the same numbers. But a 10,000% increase looks like a different claim than growing from 4K to 400K.

Using consistent headlines is known as "message match." Message match is a key to high conversions.

Yes, 4K to 400K is in the text under the headline. But this text is not as easy to read. I would also write out the numbers like 4,000 and 400,000. Your brain is able to process these numbers easier, which improves your desire to keep reading.

Further, I would place a 5-to-1 bet some customers may disbelieve 10,000% because it is too precise. This is part of the error of false precision and precision bias.

I’d use 9,900% because this is the exact percentage of increase. But if the growth were 4K to 404K, I’d still write it as “over 9,900%” because the number is more realistic to the customer.

2. There is only one case study, which does not help different customer personas.

Smart content marketers and co-founders know B2C blogs have more traffic potential than B2B. As a result, B2B content marketers may also disbelieve this case study.

3. No clear explanation of what they may have done differently.

Growing traffic from 4,000 to 400,000 in a year is no small accomplishment. If the only change Tomorrow Sleep made was using MarketMuse, this case study becomes a near slam-dunk!

But that’s a big “if.”

There are a lot of questions that come to my mind when reading the case study:

  1. How often did Tomorrow Sleep publish articles before MarketMuse? 
  2. Did the number of articles they publish change? If so, was this change because MarketMuse saved them time to write articles?
  3. How much content promotion and link building did Tomorrow Sleep do before and after?

The more unanswered questions a customer has, the more likely they will not buy from you.

What I’d Do Next

MarketMuse should reach out to their customers. Once they find out who has benefitted from using their product, they can turn this into different forms of social proof.

7. Do I trust MarketMuse to help me get these results? Rating: Bad.

If a customer does not know, like, and trust you can help them get the results they want, they won’t do business with you.

For this question, you should look at all social proof your website has. In addition to one case study and a few testimonials, MarketMuse has:

  1. Brand logos of famous companies using MarketMuse.
  2. The number of times the product gets used.
  3. A collection of awards.

Here are the brand logos MarketMuse displays on their website:

Ideally, the best logos to show are those most respected by each customer persona. For example, MarketMuse might have logos of notable marketing agencies, publishers, and startups.

Here is how MarketMuse currently shows social proof of product usage:

common customer questicommon customer questionsons

It’s a novel way to show social proof, but my impression is it misses the mark for two reasons:

  1. The numbers have almost no little context. What’s the value of the total content pieces analyzed? Or the number of opportunities found or topics placed? Showing customer testimonials about benefiting from each feature would be more valuable.
  2. The numbers are so big, they’re almost meaningless. Most people are “illiterate with numbers.” In other words, it’s hard to grasp the impact of 2 billion compared to 3 billion content pieces analyzed.

For potential customers who know what these numbers mean, it would be impressive.

Finally, here are MarketMuse’s awards:

common customer questions

I’m probably more cynical than the average MarketMuse customer. But I put little value on any of these awards. And it wouldn’t shock me if MarketMuse’s customers do not either. Here’s why:

  1. I have no context for what MarketMuse did to deserve these awards. What does it take to be a “fan favorite” of the Content Marketing Institute?
  2. I only recognize two companies: G2 Crowd and the Content Marketing Institute. Though I occasionally visit these sites, I do not have much respect for either of those two companies as a content marketer. And content marketers are a core customer persona for MarketMuse.
  3. These awards take up a lot of homepage real estate. While it may impress some customers, it will also distract other customers from signing up for a demo. Especially since these awards link to websites that take the reader off their homepage.

Again, I may be more critical of these awards than you are of them. But since these awards do not say how MarketMuse helps the customer, I would put them on an About page.

What I’d Do Next

MarketMuse should list out each major profitable customer persona. Then they will need to go through their customer’s brands and find the most trustworthy logos. This requires either knowing the industry (which you should if you are a co-founder) or asking customers.

I’d delete the product usage numbers and replace them with customer testimonials. And I’d move the awards from the home page to the about page.

8. How is MarketMuse’s product different from the competition’s product? Rating: Ugly.

Here’s a fun test for you.

Take the main headline on your website. Go to a competitor’s website and replace their headline with yours.

Can you tell the difference between your headline and your competitor’s headline? If not, neither can your customers. Therefore you need to improve your positioning.

Try this with MarketMuse’s main headline “Make Content Your Competitive Advantage.” Do you know what makes MarketMuse different from a competing product? I do not.

Not every customer will compare your product to the competition, even if they are aware of competing products. But it’s foolish to assume customers are not making a comparison. After all, product-aware customers are the second most likely customer to buy from you right now.

What I’d Do Next

First, MarketMuse needs to understand their positioning strategy and messaging. MarketMuse can do this by answering these five questions:

  1. What customers do you serve?
  2. Is this a niche that you can become either #1 or #2? If not, is there market demand to create a new niche?
  3. Who are all the competitors in your niche? This includes direct 1-for-1 product competitors, but also any solution which solves the customer’s problem.
  4. What is the position each competitor holds in the market? A simple way to find this is by listing each competitor’s meta tag in Google and its main headline.
  5. What unique benefits do we provide to customers that our competitors do not?

Next, they should build out their competitor comparison pages. These pages educate comparison shoppers about what makes them the best choice. 

It’s also common to get a ton of leads from these pages too as they rank for terms comparison shoppers use.

9. How much does MarketMuse cost? Rating: Ugly.

No matter what copywriters may tell you, price is always an objection and consideration when buying your product.

A high price may increase sales. Warren Buffet’s partner Charlie Munger recalls his friend Bill Ballhaus increasing prices 20%. And with the price increase, sales volume increased too. By the same token, lowering your prices may not increase sales.

But the price is always a part of the buying decision.

MarketMuse does not display pricing on their website. This is a typical move of enterprise software which prices based on the customer.

The downside is when someone doesn’t find this information, they may either:

  1. Google your startup’s name + pricing (e.g. “marketmuse pricing”).
  2. Leave your website in frustration.

Some customers will do a demo if their pain is high enough or your product’s messaging is captivating enough. But not including your price is why demo requests often have a lower conversion rate.

If someone Google’s your startup and pricing, then you are not in control of your information.

In this case, someone reviewed MarketMuse and said, “Based on my experience, you can expect to spend at least $1,000/month on this tool.”

Even if this number is accurate, the customer is no longer on MarketMuse’s website. As a result, they are likely to get distracted with whatever that website advertises.

What I’d Do Next

Typically, the reason entrepreneurs do not include a price is they want to customize their product’s pricing.

How can you increase conversions while customizing your pricing? One way is to give a starting price or a typical price range.

For example, on our copywriting service page, we mention our prices are often between $7,100 and $18,500 per month. And for select clients, we may consider a smaller project. On our client application form, we mention our projects are often between mid-five to six-figures.

This repetition helps customers know what to expect before taking the next step. After all, not everyone will read every word on your website

It’s possible MarketMuse does not plan on displaying their price. If this is true, then they need to answer the rest of these questions fast.

10. How do I start using MarketMuse? Rating: Bad.

This may seem obvious. But if someone is ready to buy your product, you need to help them know what to do next.

If someone wants to schedule a demo with MarketMuse, there are only two ways to do so from the home page:

  1. Click on “Contact” in the menu.
  2. Scroll down to the bottom of the home page and click the button, “Get Started.”

I’m sure MarketMuse uses other opportunities to funnel customers into demos. But if someone is ready to buy, you don’t want to waste their time. You need to strike while the iron is hot and act fast.

“Contact” is not an obvious place to request a demo, though it isn’t a terrible place to put a call to action. Consider three other customer intentions would land them to the contact page:

  1. Contacting the support team about a bug.
  2. Contacting the founders to praise the tool.
  3. Contacting the content team to do a guest post.

Forcing potential customers to scroll to the bottom of your home page to request a demo is also a big miss. When doing customer interviews, I’ve had customers say to me, “I keep expecting to see a BUY NOW type of button at the top...” If someone wants to buy now, don’t get in their way!

What I’d Do Next

At a minimum, MarketMuse should add a button to request a demo in the navigation menu and on the home page above the fold.

This is a behind-the-scenes look at our copywriting services.

For more articles like this, click here to check out our growth audit series.

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Jason Quey

I am the CEO and Founder of Growth Ramp. I enjoy serving early-stage startups and later-stage scale-ups on their journey from idea to scale.

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