Product Marketing Strategy: How to Double Revenue in 6 Months (A Case Study)

Jason Quey
Last updated: Apr 07, 2023
Originally published: Jan 09, 2020

Does marketing feel like a crushing weight on your shoulders?

You are not alone.

New products have a high chance of failure.

According to a 2018 report by CBInsights, 70% of companies failed to exit through an IPO or merger and acquisition (source).

This failure-rate is similar to stats from older studies too:

  • 72% of new products introduced in 2009 to 2014 failed to meet their revenue goals or failed entirely (source).
  • The rate of product failure cost U.S. companies $260 billion in 2010 (source).
  • Roughly 75% of venture capital-funded startups launched from 2004 to 2010 failed (source).

You may have a great product. But without a repeatable marketing channel, your great product could die in silence.

This is where a product marketing strategy comes into play.

Growth Ramp is a product marketing agency with a mission to help 1,000 entrepreneurs from idea to scale. From the beginning, people like you told me getting customers for early-stage startups would be a challenge. And it is. Especially in a cost-effective style.

As cheesy as it sounds, most things worth doing aren't easy. (Otherwise, we'd all be billionaires).

Though early-stage marketing is challenging, success leaves clues.

Today, I’m taking you behind-the-scenes with the product marketing strategy I used to help Decibite:

  1. Double their annualized revenue (+127%).
  2. Triple their monthly traffic (+241%).
  3. Quadruple their organic traffic (+331%).

This strategy is ideal for entrepreneurs with products without a scalable business model.

A clear product strategy will do more than increase your annualized revenue. As Ben Leavitt, the CEO of Decibite, put it:

ben leavitt ceo decibite
BenLeavitt, CEO of Decibite

“Marketing has been a frustrating process. Before I started, I had no idea who our target customers were and how to approach our growth goals.
Growth Ramp interviewed our customers, did market research, showed us where we were, and who I wanted to help. You then helped execute the strategy to capitalize and appeal to that market. This was a huge game-changer. You did everything that we were wanting to do. This was a huge weight off my shoulders and helped me avoid burnout.

In this actionable guide, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look of the product market strategy I used to grow Decibite.

Here are the seven steps I took to double Decibite’s annualized revenue:

Step 1: Creating The Synthesis to Prepare for Growth

Step 2: Use Market Research to Verify The Brand Messaging

Step 3: Analyzing the Competition

Step 4: Getting Decibite’s Team Excited About The New Mission

Step 5: Positioning Decibite, Crafting a Value Proposition, and Fine-Tuning the USP

Step 6: Updating the Messaging

Step 7: Testing the Go-To-Market Strategy

Let's dive in.

Step 1: Creating The Roadmap to Prepare for Growth

For some, doing research is about as fun as doing taxes. It’s not like the adrenaline rush you get when you make your first dollar online. 

But if you want to convert passive readers into paying customers, customer research is critical.

Why is customer research important to increasing sales?

Because in the end, your goal is to serve your customers’ problems. Not simply to deliver a product or a service.

Consider the brand messaging hierarchy:

brand messaging hierarchy

If you know what messaging resonates with your customers, you can use that information in your marketing channels. 

To improve your messaging, the progression should go something like this:

  1. Talking to your customers provides voice of the customer (VOC) data. 
  2. You can then take the exact words your customers use to create your brand messaging.
  3. Look for patterns in the brand messaging until you find how to position your brand.
  4. Once you’ve positioned your brand, you will want to communicate it with a strong value proposition. If possible, I recommend you refine your value prop into a unique selling proposition (USP).
  5. With your value proposition in place, you can then share that value proposition using the 12 core marketing channels.

If this doesn’t make sense, keep reading. You'll understand each step as you see how this worked for Decibite.

There were five questions to get answers to improve Decibite’s strategy:

  1. Who are Decibite’s customers?
  2. How have Decibite acquired customers?
  3. How should Decibite be different than its competitors?
  4. How should Decibite price their product?
  5. To improve their product, where should Decibite focus moving forward?

To get this information, I created a list of questions to ask Decibite’s customers. Then I set up customer interviews to capture the voice of the customer.

Here are the answers I found to each question...

Who are Decibite’s customers?

Main article: Customer personas

Yes, customer personas are fictional representations of your customers. But personas cannot help you grow if the information does not represent your customers.

Rather than guessing what I feel I know about Decibite’s customers, I wanted data. To get this data, I asked eight Decibite’s customers questions during the customer interviews:

  1. What is your age?
  2. What is your gender?
  3. Where do you live?
  4. How would you describe yourself?
  5. What industry do you work in?
  6. What are your hobbies and interests?
  7. What pricing tier are you paying for?
  8. Who do you think would most benefit from using Decibite?

The pricing tier question (#7) allowed me to segment Decibite’s customers. I do not recommend early-stage products should segment customers in their marketing strategy. Focusing on one customer persona will maximize your return on investment (ROI). Why? Because you can speak more specifically to that one customer’s needs.

However, segmenting customers is necessary to get the right data for your pricing and product strategy.

Why do I make this distinction?

Let me use an example to help you understand.

An enterprise customer often has similar problems to your regular customers. Both customer personas might say in customer interviews “I want faster web hosting.”

But the two customers have vastly different expectations. An enterprise customer might say, “I need a dedicated server and are willing to pay $400/month”. A regular customer might say, “I’m willing to pay $10/month for you to take care of my hosting problems.”

If you have different pricing tiers, I recommend asking your customers for this information. If you do not, don’t sweat this detail.

How have Decibite acquired customers?

Main article: Marketing channels

Often the easiest way to get new customers is to double down on what’s already working. To do this, I asked Decibite’s customers, “How did you first hear about Decibite?”

What’s important is to get as many details as possible.

When someone told me they heard about Decibite through a Facebook group, I would ask what was the name of the group. If they say they first heard about Decibite from a blog, I would ask if they can remember which one.

This information reduces the amount of time needed to find Decibite’s first scalable marketing channel.

How should Decibite be different than its competitors?

Main articles: Positioning strategy, brand positioning, brand messaging

It’s difficult to market a “me-too” product that looks the same as your competitors. While you can do it, your marketing campaigns will likely cost more without differentiating your product.

From my observation, positioning a startup also helps put wind in the team’s sails and overcome burnout. Why? 

A clear positioning strategy gives people a renewed sense of purpose. Decibite offers “15% or faster web hosting, guaranteed.” As a result, a customer knows it’s worth switching to Decibite if she wants faster hosting speed.

To find out how Decibite should rise above the noise, I asked their customers these 10 questions:

  1. What is the main benefit you receive from Decibite?
  2. If you were to run Decibite, what is ONE thing you would do differently?
  3. What web hosting providers have you used in the past?
  4. What did you like most about them?
  5. What was your biggest complaint?
  6. What was it like before using Decibite? 
  7. What was it like after switching to Decibite?
  8. What made you start looking for web hosting providers?
  9. How do you feel Decibite is different than other web hosting providers out there?
  10. What are the top three reasons you chose Decibite instead of another web-hosting provider?

Later in this article, you’ll learn how I created Decibite’s unique selling proposition (USP) of 15% or faster hosting speeds, guaranteed.

How should Decibite price their product?

Main articles: Customer validation, pricing strategy

Most products are in the same boat Decibite was in: they looked at the competition and guessed a “reasonable” price.

Rather than guessing the optimal price, I asked Decibite’s customers four questions:

  1. At what price would you consider Decibite to be so expensive that you would not consider buying it? (I.e. it's too expensive, you would NOT buy it. This should be the highest price.)
  2. At what price would you consider Decibite to be priced so low that you would feel the quality couldn’t be very good? (I.e. it's too cheap, you would NOT buy it. This should be the lowest price.)
  3. At what price would you consider Decibite starting to get expensive, so that it is not out of the question, but you would have to give some thought to buying it? (I.e. it's expensive, but you WOULD buy it.)
  4. At what price would you consider Decibite to be a bargain, a great buy for the money? (I.e. it's inexpensive, but you WOULD buy it.)

After talking to Decibite’s customers, I learned Decibite was underpricing its products.

The business hosting plan was $5 CAD per month (about $3.75 USD). The data showed I could bump this up to $10 USD per month without losing growth, an increase of 167%.

The VPS hosting plan was $10 CAD per month (about $7.50 USD). The data showed I could increase this to $25 USD per month without losing growth, an increase of 233%.

After finding out the customer’s willingness to pay, I then got to work crafting a pricing strategy with Decibite’s team.

This included diving into topics like: 

  1. Determining discounts (they shouldn’t).
  2. When to increase the price (once they reach product-market fit).
  3. How the price endings should look to reflect their brand (a clean number without cents, such as $10).

By improving the pricing strategy, Decibite could confidently charge a higher price. This allows them to invest more in improving their product, marketing strategy, and customer service at no added cost.

To improve their product, where should Decibite focus moving forward?

Main article: Product-market fit

A product customers love is also a product customers will tell their friends about. How do you know if customers will spread the word about your product?

Sean Ellis, CEO of GrowthHackers, came up with this question to find the answer: “How would you feel if you could no longer use $PRODUCT?” (source). There are three responses a customer can give:

  1. Very disappointed 
  2. Somewhat disappointed 
  3. Not disappointed

Your goal is to find out if you have product-market fit is to have 40% of customers respond “Very disappointed” if your product did not exist.

To get a better understanding of their answer, I also asked Decibite’s customers, “Why do feel this way?” This information gave me clarity on how to improve Decibite’s product roadmap.

To my delight, all except one customer said they would be very disappointed if Decibite did not exist.

I know the customers I surveyed is not a large sample size to represent the total market. And my sample has some self-selection bias too. But this is a fantastic early signal Decibite was ready to grow faster.

Setting up customer interviews.

Main articles: Voice of the customer, email outreach program

With the preparation in place, I was ready to collect the voice of the customer data.

voice of the customer interviews

After adding all the questions into a Word doc, I ended with a final question: “Is there any other feedback you would like to give to us?”

I’ve found this question helpful for two reasons:

  1. Customers often summarize what’s most important to them.
  2. Customers may tell you something new which you did not ask them about.

Decibite gave me their customer list to set up customer interviews. If you want to do these customer interviews, here are the tools I used:

  1. Web Camera - Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920, 1080p
  2. Microphone - Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB + Foam Ball
  3. Video Conference Room - Whereby
  4. Scheduling Tool - Calendly
  5. Email Outreach - Mailshake

With the questions complete, I sent an email outreach sequence to line up customer interviews. After finishing the interviews, I put together the Gap Analysis™ to the Decibite team.

What Went Well:

  1. I cannot stress this enough. Learning why Decibite customers went with them over the competition was critical. It gave me insight into their unique selling proposition (guaranteed 15% or faster hosting speeds). Further, it gave Decibite and I a “sixth sense” messaging would resonate the most with potential customers.
  2. Decibite got clarity on their customers they are serving: non-technical entrepreneurs.
  3. Finding out where Decibite got its customers helped informed their go-to-market strategy. Learn more about this in step seven.
  4. Decibite’s customers gave the data I needed to better price the product. I increased the business hosting package price (+166%) and VPS hosting package price (+233%).
  5. Since many of Decibite’s customers loved the product, there was little mentioned on how to improve it. My recommendation to Decibite was to double down on ways to improve load times.

What Didn’t Go Well + Will Do Differently Going Forward:

The customer list I received was not as well-curated as I thought. As a result, one customer was a little upset when reaching out to them. I solved the problem with Decibite’s help, but it did slow down the customer research.

Step 2: Use Market Research to Verify The Brand Messaging

brand messaing

Next, I wanted to verify what I had learned during customer interviews. Customer interviews are an excellent source of qualitative data. But market research gives you necessary quantitative data.

Before the go-to-market strategy, you can only learn what customers say they have done in the past. This means doing customer interviews and market research.

To collect this market research, I used Pollfish.

And to get to statistical significance, I wanted 664 responses. This means my test would be statistically significant at a 99% confidence level with a 5% margin of error.

As an early-stage startup, paying $1,328 for the survey results was a tough pill for Decibite to swallow. But I knew Decibite needed the market research to make sure it was positioned right the first time.

Further, I knew I could take the survey data and turn it into an article for their blog. Original research is a proven opportunity to get ongoing links (source).

Yes, a survey won’t convert new customers. But the links would improve organic traffic on all pages. This includes bottom-of-the-funnel pages that do convert. (More about this tactic in step seven).

I did not want any random person to answer this survey. Here’s how I qualified those who responded.

The first qualifying question I asked was, “How do you earn a living?”

There were five possible responses:

  1. I have a job that requires me to work online.
  2. I have a job that I do NOT work online.
  3. I have a business OR website which makes money online.
  4. I have a business OR website, which does NOT make money.
  5. None of the above.

To move to the next step, a person had to respond with answer #1 or #3. 

While this question would reduce the number of bad answers, it wasn’t enough. For example, some freelancers use places like Upwork and do not need hosting. 

So for the second qualifying question, I wanted to reach a smaller market. I asked, “How important is a blog to making you money?”

Again, there were five responses:

  1. A blog has no importance in making me money.
  2. A blog has low importance in making me money.
  3. A blog has medium importance in making me money.
  4. A blog has high importance in making me money.
  5. A blog has very high importance in making me money.

To qualify, a person needed to answer #2-#5.

Most of the questions I asked were the same questions during the customer interviews in step one. 

I also asked five new questions which I used in my go-to-market strategy:

  1. Why is content marketing important for your business?
  2. How do you most often measure content marketing effectiveness?
  3. What's your biggest content marketing challenge?
  4. Please rank these content marketing skills to what is most important to you. (I provided a list of skills to rank).
  5. Please rank these SEO factors based on what you believe is its impact is to your Google rankings. (I provided a list of SEO factors to rank).

It was clear going through the survey responses that some results were duds. About 14% to be exact. Thankfully, Pollfish allowed me to replace these survey responses for free.

What Went Well:

  1. The survey confirmed my hypothesis to position Decibite by offering fast web hosting. This gave Decibite’s team the confidence to not be like every other web host out there.
  2. I re-used the survey data for an article. This survey received five backlinks in 30 days, including one from Diginomica and another from eMarketer. More about this in step seven.

What Didn’t Go Well + Will Do Differently Going Forward:

  1. As I learned in step one, Decibite serves non-technical entrepreneurs. As such, I should not have included the results of those who answered, “A blog has low importance to making me money.” Some of these responses were hobby bloggers who would rather not pay $10/month for hosting.
  2. I may have only needed the second qualifying question. Using one qualifying question would have allowed Decibite to invest the $332 in another area of marketing.
  3. It took time to manually go through the responses to find duds. Until I find a better survey tool, I’ll outsource this to a VA.

Step 3: Analyzing the Competition

Main articles: Competitive intelligence

brand positioning

Before you position your company, you need to know how your competitors position their companies.

This information will let you know what customers expect when buying your product. This is also known as points of parity. Further, you will also learn what areas of the market would allow you to differentiate.

To analyze Decibite’s competition, there were three steps:

  1. Start by listing all competitors.
  2. Look at how each competitor positioned their company.
  3. Pick what product category to focus on dominating first.

Start by listing all competitors.

With several web hosting competitors, I grouped Decibite’s competitors into three categories:

  1. Generic, self-serve web hosting. This includes companies like GoDaddy, BlueHost, and 1&1 (Ionos).
  2. Cloud hosting. This includes companies like Amazon AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, Digital Ocean, and Heroku.
  3. WordPress hosting. This includes companies like WPEngine, Kinsta, and SiteGround.

Yes, there is an overlap between these product categories. For example, GoDaddy has a cloud and WordPress hosting packages.

The goal isn’t to perfectly place each competitor in one category. Instead, the goal is to understand the competitive landscape to position your company.

Look at how each competitor positioned their company.

A simple way to see how each competitor positions their company is to write down:

  1. What each competitor lists on their homepage title tag.
  2. What each competitor has as their main header on the homepage (typically their H1).

Pick what category to focus on dominating first.

Are you competing in a big product category? If so, you may want to know where you should wedge yourself into the market first.

To choose which market to focus on Decibite’s marketing, I answered three questions:

  1. Where did satisfied Decibite customers come from?
  2. Which product category did current customers have the highest dissatisfaction with?
  3. What benefit(s) did customers and potential customers want Decibite to offer?

Answering the first question was simple. I looked at the Gap Analysis from step one and looked at what web host each customer switched from. (Note: Customers who said they would be very dissatisfied if Decibite did not exist took the highest priority).

The second question was simple to find answers but took time. I looked at the market research from step two. I also went on Reddit to find people dissatisfied with their current web host.

What should you look for to find out which category has the highest dissatisfied customers?

You want to look for people who use words such as: hate, afraid, anxious, overwhelmed, feeling stupid, feeling stuck, or wasting time.

Finally, I looked at what benefits the market wanted Decibite to provide.

This came from the 10 positioning questions I gave earlier:

  1. What is the main benefit you receive from Decibite?
  2. If you were to run Decibite, what is ONE thing you would do differently?
  3. What web hosting providers have you used in the past?
  4. What did you like most about them?
  5. What was your biggest complaint?
  6. What was it like before using Decibite? 
  7. What was it like after switching to Decibite?
  8. What made you start looking for web hosting providers?
  9. How do you feel Decibite is different than other web hosting providers out there?
  10. What are the top three reasons you chose Decibite instead of another web-hosting provider?

With this data in hand, I went to Decibite’s team to share how I planned to transform Decibite.

What Went Well:

In this step, there isn’t anything that goes wrong. For example, you won’t know the product category and position is incorrect until you pick one. What’s important is getting an agreement with the team about what product category you should focus on first.

Step 4: Getting Decibite’s Team Excited About The New Mission

I got on a one hour call with Decibite’s team to catch them up on everything I had learned so far.

It was most important to confirm what I learned with what Decibite’s understanding of the market. Further, I wanted to make sure the team was on the same page.

Here’s what I discussed with Decibite:

  1. Who are your customers?
  2. What product category should Decibite focus on?
  3. How should Decibite position itself to be different than the competitors?
  4. Do you agree with the price analysis and strategy?
  5. Do you agree with the product category and position Decibite should focus on first?

This step is especially valuable if you have employees doing sales and marketing. If they are not aligned with your new position, they’ll waste more time and lose sales using old information.

Step 5: Positioning Decibite, Crafting a Value Proposition, and Fine-Tuning the USP

Main articles: Positioning strategy, brand positioning, brand messaging, value proposition, unique selling proposition.

value proposition

There are several ways to position a company. 

The three most common ways to do so are by:

  1. Serving a specific customer persona. Facebook began by only allowing Harvard students to use their platform.
  2. Serving customers in a certain city or country. Retail stores like REI often start positioning themselves by location.
  3. Serving customers with a specific benefit. FedEx started as the go-to shipping company when you “absolutely needed it next-day.”

Web hosting is a large market, estimated at $32 billion (source). So I decided Decibite should focus on two of these three categories:

  1. Serving a specific customer persona: Decibite would serve non-technical entrepreneurs and professional bloggers.
  2. Serving customers with a specific benefit: Decibite would guarantee 15% or faster hosting speeds.

To come up with Decibite’s position, I took three steps:

  1. Look at what Decibite’s customers love about Decibite.
  2. Look at the competition to focus on one benefit.
  3. Craft Decibite’s unique selling proposition (USP).

Let’s look at each of the three steps.

1. Look at what Decibite’s customers love about Decibite.

Time and again, Decibite had customers thanking them for being like a tech partner on their team. 

Some customer responses included:

  1. “Ben has been an outstanding guy to work with. He feels like an unofficial member of our startup team because of his responsiveness to any [tech] needs I have had.”
  2. “...Always having (sic) a personal person on hand for technical issues.”
  3. “Instead of having to browse online for tech support, you can get it all with Decibite.”
  4. “I don't even know the technical side. I don't have the patience to learn the technical side. I’d rather do face-to-face work with the client. I'm all for outsourcing parts of the business you don't like, to do more of what you do like to do.”
  5. “Many [customers] who want to create a website know very little about the technical stuff...”

I summarized this by stating Decibite serves non-technical entrepreneurs. Specifically by outsourcing their technical headache.

Now “outsourcing the technical headache” would be great to keep customers. 

But I wanted a stronger reason for customers to switch to Decibite now. So I looked at providing a specific benefit.

2. Look at the competition to focus on one benefit.

Web hosts typically focus on one of four benefits:

  1. Security - Can your web host keep threats and vulnerabilities out while not excluding customers? If not, you need to improve your security.
  2. Scalability - If your website lands on the front page of Reddit or gets a tidal wave of traffic from the press, can your host survive the surge? If not, you want to improve your scalability.
  3. Speed - Customers want fast load times when visiting your website. 57% of visitors will abandon a page that takes 3 seconds or more to load (source). And Google stated in 2010 that site speed is one factor to rank higher in Google (source). If that’s important to you, you want a web host with faster speeds.
  4. Service - Nothing in life is 100% perfect. So when chaos ensues and crap hits the fan, how will your host help you? This is where service comes in.

After looking at: 

  1. What customers liked about Decibite,
  2. What the market research revealed,
  3. What the founders specialized in...

...“speed” was the benefit Decibite would focus on.

It’s one thing for Decibite to tell people they’re the fastest web hosting startup. And Decibite might very well be the fastest. But it’s quite another statement to back this claim up with a concrete benefit. Then offer a guarantee if you don’t deliver on the promise.

To further improve Decibite’s position, I crafted a unique selling position (USP).

This became, “Decibite offers 15% or faster hosting, guaranteed” to further improve its position.

Here’s how I crafted Decibite’s USP.

3. Craft Decibite’s unique selling proposition (USP).

Main article: Unique selling proposition

unique selling proposition

Take a look at these USPs:

  1. Domino’s: “Fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it's free.”
  2. FedEx’s: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
  3. GEICO: 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on your car insurance

Can you see what each USP has in common?

Each of these company’s USPs has two characteristics:

  1. A benefit that their customer finds valuable. This alone is valuable, but it would only be a strong value proposition, not a USP. “Fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door” could apply to Domino’s or any pizza joint. Further, the customer takes on the risk if the company fails to deliver on the value proposition.
  2. A specific claim which a customer can test to see if it is true. “ 30 minutes or less or it's free” becomes a guarantee where Domino’s takes on the risk. Yes, using a specific claim could be stolen by a competitor. Yet a USP often requires a change to the product or the company’s operations.

To craft Decibite’s USP, I began by brainstorming specific USPs related to fast web hosting. I came up with “15% or faster web hosting speeds, guaranteed.”

Next, I did some research to find out if Decibite could fulfill this promise. To do this, I read several articles, asked a few experts in the field, and talked to Decibite.

Finally, I worked with Decibite to offer a guarantee. A guarantee means Decibite would take the risk for fulfilling the USP rather than the customer.

If Decibite failed to deliver on their USP, a customer could choose one or all three of these options:

  1. We’ll pay to transfer you back to your old host.
  2. We’ll refund your money.
  3. We’ll give you six months free at Decibite.

With the positioning and USP complete, it was now time to update the messaging to match the positioning.

What Went Well:

Decibite’s USP proved to be rock solid when I did the go-to-market strategy. When I helped Decibite get 50% more customers, 85% came with the new USP.

What Didn’t Go Well + Will Do Differently Going Forward:

  1. I’ve gone back-and-forth whether Decibite should have a single guarantee. Three guarantees are easier to test with customers. Whichever guarantee customers use the most, that’s the one Decibite uses. However, a single guarantee becomes easier for customers to refer Decibite to other customers.
  2. After getting some press later in the campaign, I worked with a PR specialist to promote Decibite’s USP. Both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal turned the pitch down. This is because they wanted to release the story first. The press world calls this a press embargo. Going forward, I plan to set up a press embargo before publishing the USP.

Step 6: Updating the Messaging

Main articles: Comparative advertising, product keywords

Now that Decibite knows their position in the market, it’s time to update their website copy.

During the customer interviews in step one, I wrote down almost word-for-word what every customer said.

This is a key element of a successful voice-of-the-customer program. After all, what better way is there to speak the customer’s language than to use, well, the customer’s language?

I had a lot of pages to build. Some of these pages would become key to Decibite’s go-to-market strategy. For Decibite, I created over 120 pages. This included:

  1. A home page.
  2. A pricing page.
  3. Two checkout pages.
  4. 26 feature pages.
  5. 93 comparison pages.
  6. “Why Decibite” page.

To create these bottom-of-the-funnel pages at scale, I used templates for the comparison pages and feature pages. I then customized them to fit Decibite’s needs.

At the time, Decibite did not have its go-to-market strategy established. As such, I did not want to invest too much time on a specific feature page or comparative landing page. This allowed me to apply the 80-20 principle. 

In practice, this meant finding out which 20% of pages would bring in 80% of the traffic.

Related Article: The best landing page builders for startups

What Went Well:

  1. Blitzscaling the bottom-of-the-funnel pages went exceptionally well. For Decibite, the top 20% of pages brought in 70% of the traffic.
  2. When doing press outreach, one reporter wanted to know the differences between Decibite and a competitor. Having the comparison landing page made it easier to pitch the reporter.

What Didn’t Go Well + Will Do Differently Going Forward:

  1. Given what I know now, I’d put Decibite’s USP (Get 15% or faster web hosting, guaranteed) as the main header. Decibite doesn’t have enough traffic to do an A/B test. As such, where each message gets placed comes from copywriting best practices.
  2. I would save more of Decibite’s marketing budget to invest in blog articles targeting the top 20% of comparison keywords. Landing pages often convert better than articles. But because articles are less “sales-y,” it’s easier to promote articles to get more traffic.

Step 7: Testing the Go-To-Market Strategy

Main articles: Go-to-market strategy, marketing channels

go-to-market strategy

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don't know which half.” - John Wanamaker, founder of one of the first department stores in the United States.

Creating a marketing strategy for a new product is energizing and challenging. What works for one product may not work for another.

Now that I had Decibite’s USP in place (15% or faster hosting), it was time to distribute that message by testing a handful of the 12 core marketing channels.

Here’s what Decibite gave Growth Ramp to work with:

  1. Marketing budget ($1,500/month USD).
  2. Founding team (some design experience, almost no marketing experience).
  3. Competition.
  4. Estimated customer lifetime value.
  5. Customer persona.

Here’s what marketing channels I tested and lessons learned.

Google Ads (What I Did):

With Google Ads, I used Decibite’s USP in the headline and body copy. For each competitor, the ad looked something like this:

Google ads

Decibite offered a lot of value for free what their competitors charge for. So I included the potential savings in some versions of the ad copy as well.

ppc ads

I used single keyword ad groups (SKAGs) to send traffic to landing pages with the exact comparison. This creates a near-perfect message match because:

  1. The keyword matches the headline.
  2. The headline matches the intent to switch from GoDaddy.
  3. The landing page matches the intent of the landing page.

In practice, it looks like this:

  1. An ad group targets a single keyword. So the keyword phrase “GoDaddy alternative” becomes three keywords: +GoDaddy +Alternative, [GoDaddy Alternative], “GoDaddy Alternative”.
  2. The ad copy includes the keyword. Potential customers won’t know why they’re seeing your ad. Including the keyword phrase in the ad will help customers understand the relevance.
  3. The ads send traffic to a landing page written on that exact topic. Instead of sending traffic to a random product page, customers go to a dedicated landing page. In this case, comparing GoDaddy and Decibite.

Google Ads (What Went Well):

  1. Clickthrough rates (CTR) were phenomenal. Decibite’s CTRs ranged between 1.16-8.33%. Compare that to the average CTR, which is about 2% (source)
  2. Continuing to scale this channel in time would mean a lower cost for Decibite. This happens when your Google AdWord quality score would improve (source).
  3. I came across a new comparison keyword in these campaigns. I created landing pages around this keyword set, making it easier to scale organic search traffic faster.

Google Ads (What Didn’t Go Well + Will Do Differently Going Forward):

  1. Given their budget, I should have created fewer ads to get more data for each ad.
  2. After projecting Decibite’s numbers, I noticed link building would be more cost-effective. The immediate referral traffic and long-term search traffic would likely outperform PPC.

Content Marketing + SEO (What I Did):

Related articles: Content comparative advertising, product keywords, consumer psychology, link bait

To attract customers faster, I created over 120 bottom-of-the-funnel (BoFU) pages for Decibite.

Affiliate content marketers are fanatic about finding high buyer-intent keyword phrases. (Or in simple terms, they want to find phrases customers lookup in a search engine right before they buy a product).

Two common types of high buyer-intent keywords affiliate marketers use are comparison keywords and product keywords.

Why should you consider creating BoFU pages for these keywords?

After creating these pages, I wrote an article on Reddit why entrepreneurs should avoid GoDaddy. (I’ll share more about that story in the Reddit section). After a handful of new customers came to Decibite, I talked to Ben, Decibite’s CEO. 

From what I pieced together with Ben, the buyer journey went something like this:

  1. Go to Reddit’s entrepreneur community.
  2. Read Jason’s article on why they should avoid GoDaddy like the plague.
  3. See Jason’s suggestion to consider Decibite, among a few other web hosts.
  4. Went to Google and looked up “Decibite vs. GoDaddy.”
  5. Read the information on Decibite’s landing page.
  6. Go to Decibite’s pricing page.
  7. Went to Decibite’s live chat to get answers for any remaining questions.
  8. Switched from GoDaddy to Decibite.

So these pages assisted in the buying process. Let’s look at these two types of BoFU pages.

Comparison keywords focus on customers looking to compare your product to a competitor’s product.

The copywriter Eugene Schwartz describes these customers as product-aware. These are customers who know what you sell and often what the competition sells. So at this stage, you need to position your product against the competition. (Hence the USP in step 5).

For Decibite, this meant creating pages that target keyword phrases like “GoDaddy Alternative,” “Inonos Alternative,” and “BlueHost Alternative.”

A common mistake I see startups using comparison keywords make is to target only their known competitors. But when a customer has a problem, they aren’t always using a known competitor. 

For example, you could do email outreach using Mailshake. Alternatively, you could use Gmail’s Schedule feature. If I worked at Mailshake, I would create a landing page targeting this alternate solution.

To reduce competitors doing this against Decibite, I created a comparison between Decibite and their competitors. This page targeted the phrase “Decibite alternatives”:

decibite alternati

(Image source)

Product keywords are another set of keywords with high buyer intent. These keywords focus on features related to your product.

Using Schwartz’s five stages of consumer psychology, these keywords target solution-aware customers. In this stage, your customer knows the result he wants. But he may not know of your product, or that it provides the results he’s looking for.

For Decibite, this meant creating pages that target keyword phrases like “Free SSL Certificates,” “Page Caching,” and “Website Backup.”

After creating these pages, I did zero link building to increase organic traffic. Yet these pages got a lot of organic traffic right away without any links. Why did this work? And why did I not build links right away?

When I evaluated the keywords’ search results in Google, most were easy to rank in one of the top 10 positions. By creating in-depth content, the pages brought in traffic without needing links.

This allowed me to watch what 20% of pages would give 80% of Decibite’s traffic.

Once I saw what pages were bringing in the most traffic, it was time to build some links. To do this, I worked with two agencies to see which would produce better results.

The first agency wrote some articles on SEO-focused blogs with links to Decibite. While some SEOs believe these links work well, Decibite and I had mixed feelings about them.

uSERP was the second agency I approached. uSERP’s price per mention was higher, but their link quality was terrific. Consider this mention on BigCommerce:

product marketing link building

(Image source)

BigCommerce is a respected brand.

The anchor text also briefly shares our positioning: a faster GoDaddy alternative.

Further, the page likely gets ongoing organic traffic as the page ranks for a few keywords:

product marketing seo

Finally, I turned the market research data from step 2 into a report about content marketing.

Original research is an excellent way to attract ongoing links.

In a 2015 survey by BuzzSumo and Moz, the team found research-backed articles get a lot of traffic and links (source). This is also how I helped Orbit Media get over 430 links in six months.

After creating the study, I reached out to a few content marketers who wrote on similar topics. I asked them if they would like to check out Decibite’s report. Some of them did, which led to a link on Diginomica (source) and a resource link on eMarketer (source).

Content Marketing + SEO (What Went Well):

  1. As mentioned earlier, blitzscaling 120 bottom-of-the-funnel pages went exceptionally well. Traffic came in with zero link building.
  2. Using market research, I created an article on the original research. This report landed Decibite five new links on four domains in a month.
  3. uSERP helped Decibite get links on BigCommerce (source), ShipBob (source), and (source).
  4. When reaching out to journalists, Decibite got a reference in Diginomica (source) and a resource link on eMarketer (source). Journalist outreach is something I plan to double down on.

Content Marketing + SEO (What Didn’t Go Well + Will Do Differently Going Forward):

When you quadruple (+331%) organic traffic in four months, there’s no reason to complain. Still, there are always lessons to learn when reflecting.

  1. When creating Decibite’s landing pages, I had to work with a developer to create all redirects. Rather than “moving fast and breaking things,” it would have been better to use a CMS like WordPress.
  2. Some links from guest posts I got were so-so in quality. While some SEOs believe these work well, Decibite and I had mixed feelings about them. Going forward I plan to invest more in higher quality links with uSERP and journalist outreach.
  3. Decibite uses a checkout product which automatically creates pages in other languages. This created 500-1,000 redirect errors in Google Search Console. While this wasn’t a priority, Decibite may have grown faster if a technical SEO consultant fixed these errors.

Reddit (What I Did)

Given Decibite’s customer persona, I knew Decibite’s were active on /r/entrepreneur.

If you’re unfamiliar with Reddit, think of it as a giant forum. Reddit has several smaller forums or subreddits. As a result, there’s like a subreddit (or more) your customers hang out.

Each subreddit has different rules beside’s Reddit’s rules. Further, each subreddit has a different language which resonates with their users. (Just like every other type of marketing).

Reddit is also a challenge for many marketers to crack.

First, the subreddit moderators (or mods) have the right to ban any post. This can happen if you don’t read the rules carefully.

Second, users are able to vote on your post up or down. The more upvotes you get, the longer it stays visible. But too many downvotes and your post gets next-to-no visibility. (Zero downvotes aren't always bad, which I’ll explain why in a moment).

Third, tracking Reddit’s traffic isn’t perfect. If you believe Google Analytics, you might think Decibite got almost no traffic from Reddit:

product marketing reddit spike

With no other marketing campaigns running, the traffic bump only came from Reddit.

Here’s why Reddit’s tracking isn’t always accurate:

  1. Traffic coming from Reddit’s app shows up as direct traffic. (At least as of this writing).
  2. Some Redditors prefer being anonymous. They will go out of their way to appear invisible online.
  3. Some Redditors Googled Decibite or Decibite vs. GoDaddy. (Or a similar keyword phrase).

This also explains the spike in Decibite’s organic traffic…

product marketing reddit spike

Most of these subreddits have a low tolerance for direct marketing. So Decibite took the approach of content marketing and wrote a couple of articles for specific subreddits.

To increase Decibite’s odds of success, I looked for similar high-performing articles relevant to Decibite. You can do this by going to any subreddit, clicking on “top,” then filtering by “links from -> all time.”

For the first article, I worked with Decibite’s CEO, Ben, to announce his startup on /r/selfhosted. This is a community of people that host their own web servers. A do-it-yourself type, if you will.

My impression is this would not go over well. DIY folks often don’t want to spend money on a new solution. However, Ben had a connection with the /r/selfhosted community and wanted to give it a try. As you may know, sometimes the best results come from testing your assumptions.

Rather than becoming a popular article, the post became one of the top 5 most controversial of all time:

product marketing reddit

While Decibite did not get much traffic or sales, this post helped in other ways.

First, it confirmed this is not the type of customer Decibite should serve. An anti-persona, if you will.

Second, it gave me greater clarity on Decibite’s messaging. When reading through the comments, there were several detailed responses. So when I took these learnings and wrote an article on /r/entrepreneur, the community went crazy…

product marketing reddit

This second article on /r/entrepreneur received over 850 upvotes. Further, it led to Decibite getting 85% of the new customers during the six-month time frame.

Reddit (What Went Well)

At the beginning of 2019, I did marketing for a non-profit. I redesigned their website, improved their positioning, and increased traffic. They were also on GoDaddy, a competitor of Decibite. I knew Reddit hates this company with a passion, so I wrote about my experience with them. 

Even with the article getting pulled twice by the mods, this article got over 850 upvotes. This also landed a few new customers.

Reddit (What Didn’t Go Well + Will Do Differently Going Forward):

  1. Decibite’s CEO wanted to test the first Reddit article on the subreddit /r/selfhosted. The article became among the top five most controversial posts on the sub. This confirmed my hypothesis that I do not want to target DIY-type folks. Reading the comments, it also confirmed some of Decibite’s messaging was on-point.
  2. Promoting Decibite’s content report got stuck in Reddit’s filters a few times. This killed all timing, resulting in next-to-no traffic.

What You Should Do Next

The failure rate of startups and new products is high.

When entrepreneurs don’t talk to customers, they often lack empathy to get customers at scale. Perhaps that’s why Silicon Valley has upheld the mantra to “get out of the building and talk to your customers.”

This is why Growth Ramp’s product marketing services begin by talking to customers. Perhaps this case study has allowed you to see the value of a strategy rooted in talking to customers.

Do you want your startup to achieve product-market fit?

Then secure your copy of Scaling Startups by pre-ordering today.

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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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