Sometimes the biggest opportunities are those in “boring” industries. For PurchaseControl, putting this growth strategy into place could make them $1,112,000/year.
In my last article, I interviewed Michael Higgins to learn how he grew PurchaseControl from 0 to 1,000 customers.
PurchaseControl provides procurement management software for enterprise companies. Or in simpler terms, they automate accounting processes to reduce spending and financial fraud.
But even if PurchaseControl is in a boring industry, their marketing doesn’t have to be boring.
Today I am going to audit their growth strategy so you can get a better idea of how to improve your startup.
Most articles you’ll find on the PurchaseControl blog look like this article on Sustainable Procurement.
Nothing about this article is all that spectacular. When you study the PurchaseControl blog, it might surprise you that I rated content marketing as “good.” I’ll get to my reason in a moment.
Want to learn the reasons why these articles are so boring?
1. The article doesn’t begin with a story to engage the reader.
GrooveHQ A/B tested an article. One test began with the “meat” of the content. The other started with a story. The result?
The story increased the number of people who read to the bottom of the article by 296%. Using a story also increased their average time on page by 520%.
PurchaseControl’s article lacks a story to engage their readers.
2. There is no dialogue between the reader and the author.
Glance through this article you’re reading. Now read the PurchaseControl article again.
Since you read the point I’m making, you probably caught where I’m going. PurchaseControl’s article lacks a connection between the writer and the reader.
How do you create a dialogue with your reader?
You use second-person words, such as “you.” Or you can use “y’all” if your ideal customer likes to keep it casual. And from time-to-time, you can spice up the narrative with first-person words like “me” or “I.”
No matter how many people read an article, it has to engage each reader on a personal level. This is why I rarely use “we” or “let us” in my writing. The only exception is when I want you to do something with me. For example, earlier I wrote, “Let’s look at PurchaseControl’s blog.”
This is why professional bloggers and copywriters use “you.” And PurchaseControl should, too.
3. The articles lack personality.
First, those stock images gotta go. No one looks excessively happy talking about sustainable procurement. It makes the blog feel stiff, plastic, and dare I say it, in-authentic.
I’m not opposed to stock images in principle. Some content marketers use sites like Pexels, which offer quality stock photos for free. On Pexels you will find photos in more natural environments.
Here’s a stock photo from Pexels PurchaseControl could use on their blog:
Keep in mind your reader relates to what you show them. So the moment you use a cheesy business image they cannot relate with, you’ve put a barrier between you and the reader.
Second, their writing lacks personality. If your article sounds like it was pulled from a Wikipedia page, you need to inject your voice into your writing.
The simplest way to add personality to your writing is to write as you speak. For example, I’ll use slang words like “gotta” in my writing.
Or I might throw in emotional words like “stiff,” “plastic,” and “cheesy.” Using emotional words enhances the dialogue between you and your reader. These words help the reader connect with you as a fellow human being.
I could go on about how drab PurchaseControl’s blog is, but you get the point.
So with all these glaring problems, why did I put PurchaseControl’s content in the “good” category?
Almost all of these articles have no competition in Google’s search results. Yet there is a high demand of people wanting more information.
Look at PurchaseControl’s top organic keywords:
Several keywords have over 1,000 searches per month. And all keywords have a KD (keyword difficulty score) of 30 or less, according to Ahrefs. And of the 10,531 keywords they rank for, only 400 have a KD score higher than 40 (or 3.9%). That’s a blue ocean for ranking content.
Yes, their blog lacks personality. But what will make PurchaseControl more money? I’d take content with no personality and no competition over content with personality and high competition any day. Worse case, they can pay a writer to redo the articles when the competition in search results heat up.
If I was the content strategist at PurchaseControl, there are two areas I would test:
When you find a working marketing channel, you should keep doubling down on its success. For content, this often means doubling the promotion or doubling the content created.
When doing a pure SEO play, more relevant content is an excellent way to bring in more organic traffic. There are some content strategists I know post five articles a day. Some business news sites do 10 to 20 articles a day!
I’d also look to improve content quality. Doing so should increase social traffic, returning visitors, and email subscribers.
When I look at a startup’s positioning, I ask myself three questions:
To answer these three questions, I like to look at:
Here’s why. You are making your first impression on people learning about your business. And it’s hard to change the first impression.
PurchaseControl’s meta title is “Procurement Management Software | PurchaseControl Software.
And here’s their main home page headline:
“Manage Your Business Spend... It's Easy!”
Let’s look at PurchaseControl’s positioning from these three questions.
1. Is the benefit to the customer clear?
When looking at PurchaseControl’s meta title, I give it a “D” grade.
First, the meta title is not clear what the specific benefit a customer gets using their tool. A better example would be, “PurchaseControl: Automate Your Procurement in Minutes.” Then in the meta description, they state “Find cost-saving opportunities and create a cost reduction analysis in 10 minutes or less.”
Now, how about PurchaseControl’s main headline on the homepage? I give it a “B” grade.
I know PurchaseControl helps me manage my business spend. And the benefit is: “It’s easy.” But I’d love to see more details about how it makes my life easier. Does the average PurchaseControl customer save 314 hours a month? Or does it cut down my work by 34%?
The second home page headline isn’t helpful. “Create POs, manage approvals and understand spending in seconds. Quick to set up, easy to use cloud app.”
First, using an abbreviation is bad unless every customer knows what the abbreviation is. Perhaps all PurchaseControl readers know PO refers to “purchase order” and not “pissed off,” “police officer,” or “phone order.” So this critique might be unfair. But anyone who doesn’t know what PO stands for will immediately feel disconnected.
Second, very little in this statement supports the main statement. “Quick to set up” is good, but it’s buried near the end. “Easy to use cloud app” sounds good, but “cloud app” is likely to confuse customers.
Looking at the blog, nothing communicates a specific benefit beyond talking about the topic of procurement. So I’d give the blog a “C”.
2. Is the benefit different from what their competitors emphasize? And is the difference something their customers care about?
To answer this question, let’s look at one of PurchaseControl’s competitors, Ariba.
Ariba vs PurchaseControl
Ariba’s meta title is, “SAP Ariba: Procurement & Supply Chain Solutions for Spend…” Oops! Ariba failed to check to make sure their meta title wasn’t too long.
Nothing is different between PurchaseControl and Ariba’s meta title. That’s not a good sign for PurchaseControl’s differentiation.
Here’s Ariba’s home page:
“Achieve digital transformation from source to pay” is Ariba’s position. This is different than PurchaseControl’s focus on making it easier to manage business spend. That’s good news for PurchaseControl.
Now on to the blog. I’m not sure how Ariba managed to do this, but their content is even more plain-Jane than PurchaseControl’s articles.
Neither Ariba nor PurchaseControl have blog content which matches their position.
If Ariba was PurchaseControl’s only competitor, the value of making their customer’s life easier is a position I would consider. But both definitely could use a positioning strategy overhaul.
Is the benefit consistently shared throughout all marketing and sales materials?
People are forgetful. That’s because there is a ton of information thrown at us every day. In 60 seconds on the Internet, there are:
At its core, branding is helping people remember your company and what you do. This is why you must share the same core message in different ways.
When I look at PurchaseControl’s website, the closest to a consistent theme is “ease.” But most of their website doesn’t focus on this benefit. This includes everything from their home page copy to blog articles and testimonials.
Let’s assume PurchaseControl’s customers see ease as the main benefit. PurchaseControl should change their copy to reflect this market position. None of the competitors focused on this benefit either (I checked).
Before they do so, they should talk to their customers. As valuable as it is to be different, it’s the customer who buys your product. This is why I constantly bang my drum about your need to talk to your customers!
Are customers confused about how your product works? Then you need to look at creating product feature pages.
The beautiful part about product pages is that they can convert customers and get more traffic by targeting product keywords.
PurchaseControl has seven feature pages:
Before clicking on a page, I know these pages are under-performing.
Most of those phrases are not how a customer would describe a feature they are searching for. As a result, customers are less likely to click on those items on the menu.
Let’s pretend you want to buy a gaming keyboard for your nephew, but do not know the name for it. You might look up “light up keyboard” if that is a feature you want. But it would not make sense to look up the phrase “light up.”
Looking at their product page, the copy feels like their blog writing. It’s optimized well for SEO. But nothing in the copy captivates the reader.
Pro tip: You can use live chat software like LiveChat, Intercom, or Drift to find common customer questions. You can also get customer feedback with a tool like Survicate or HotJar. You can then ask visitors a question like, “Do you have any questions or concerns that are not answered on this website?” Whatever is missing, you can add this into your website copy.
The simple solution is for PurchaseControl’s copywriter to talk to their customers. I’d also recommend talking to sales reps, customer support, and the demo team because they talk with many customers. It’s in these conversations where you find your best copy.
Think about the last time you went grocery shopping. Did you know the exact brand you wanted to buy for every item on your grocery list?
No? So let me ask you another question. What helped you choose one brand over another brand?
Comparison shopping between two or more brands is a common part of the buying process. In fact, it is one of the five consumer mindsets Eugene Schwartz discovered in his book Breakthrough Advertising.
It’s easy for someone to compare software products online. A quick Google search will come up with a list of several product alternatives.
This is why I recommend early-stage startups create comparative advertising landing pages.
If a customer is comparing your product to a competitor’s product in Google, you want to be in the search results.
PurchaseControl has very little potential keyword traffic comparing competitors. Is it worthwhile to create these pages?
I’d give a resounding, “Yes!” and here’s why:
Comparison pages pick up a lot of long-tail keyword phrase variations. For example, a page targeting the phrase “Ariba alternatives” might pick up traffic from the phrase “Ariba competitors.”
But here’s a shocker you might not see coming.
Take a look at this picture:
Do you see what ranks #6, #7, #9, and #10 for someone who looks up “MeetEdgar” in Google?
Two are review articles. The other two are alternative pages.
And in case you think this is a fluke, take a look at what happens when someone Google’s Thinkific:
Yes, you usually won’t rank in the first five spots in Google. Those often go to the company and their social media accounts.
But if you can rank in position six, you can expect a click-through rate of 5.9% for branded keywords.
Let’s say PurchaseControl only brought in search traffic from their competitor’s brand keywords. I would expect they would make $1,112,000 from these comparison keywords alone.
I made 3 assumptions to get to this number:
According to Ahrefs, all the competitor branded keywords get 390,350 searches/month. This does not include other long-tail keywords or any other traffic it happens to get. This is 23,224 organic clicks/month at a 5.9% click-through rate (390,350 X 5.9% = 23,224 clicks/month).
The benchmark of traffic to demo requests conversion is 1-2%. I will use the more conservative number of 1%. With 23,224 clicks/month X 1% conversion to demos X 12 months, that’s 2,787 demos a year. Demo close numbers are not easy to find, especially as the traffic source will change results. I’ve seen numbers between 10-20%. Let’s say it’s 10%. 2,787 demos X 10% close = 279 new customers per year.
PurchaseControl’s pricing is not on their website. ITQlick says their competitor SAP Ariba starts at $8,000 per license. It’s likely PurchaseControl cannot command the same price as SAP, so I will cut the revenue to $4,000. This means the annual revenue would be $1,116,000 (279 customers/year X $4,000 = $1,116,000). This also doesn’t account for anyone who has a higher level plan or later upgrades.
The simple answer is to start building these competitor keyword pages.
That said, I recommend PurchaseControl first positions their product. Otherwise, there will be no compelling reason for a customer to make the switch.
To do this, they need to reach out to customers and talk to them about what they value.
This growth audit is a sample of our full Growth Ramp Gap Analysis™. Click here to learn about our Gap Analysis Procedure™.
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