6 Things You Can Do Right Now to Increase Email Signups

Moran is a marketing advisor with the Techstars accelerator in Tel Aviv and the founder of Marketing Ramen, marketing strategies for startups on a budget. She’s building marketing strategies and helping startups grow. For full bio – moranbarnea.com, connect with her @moran_barnea.

It’s no secret that maintaining a blog on your website takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Doing research, writing high quality content and sticking to the publishing schedule does not come easy.

But if you stay creative and think like your readers, your efforts can become highly beneficial.

People often forget that the objectives of having a blog is to engage your community of readers, advance your website’s SEO efforts and generate more leads. Therefore, if you have a blog that no one reads, you may just as well not have one at all.

Improving your blog’s ranking in Google’s SERP will dramatically increase your chances of being discovered by your target audience, which is only half the job. It is also very important to establish a community of returning readers whom you will later be able to convert into clients.

Therefore, if you decide to commit to launching a blog, make sure that as many potential clients as possible know about it.  

If you feel that your “muse” left you, your analytics keep showing low traffic and your content is rarely shared, here are six things you can do right now to increase your email sign-ups (for free):

Twitter Lead Generation

If you have a Twitter account, you can pin a tweet encouraging people to sign-up to your blog. If you are using Twitter Ads, instead of pinning a regular tweet with a link to your blog, use Twitter’s Lead Generation Card to pin a tweet that includes a signup form from your Twitter account page. Having people sign up directly from Twitter will increase the signup rate (more clicks = more drop offs).

See below how Justin Wu (AKA Hackapreneur) did it on his Twitter page:

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Facebook Sign-up Button

If you have a Facebook page for your business, you can add a sign-up button to your page as I did below on Marketing Ramen’s Facebook page; Additionally, you can pin a post that encourages people to sign up to your mailing list, to the top of your page’s Timeline. The post will remain on top until it is removed or unpinned. Since I use MailChimp for my email marketing, I created a dedicated list on my Mailchimp account and linked it to the button in order to track the leads that came from my Facebook page.

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Visible Blog Tab in Website Navigation

If you launched a website for your startup, keep the blog tab visible in your navigation menu. How will this increase sign ups to your email list, you ask? Well, the more visitors see that there is a blog on your website, the higher the chance that they will visit the blog and eventually sign up for it. Using “pop-ups” that encourage people to sign up for your blog on different pages of your website such as “Technology” or “Products” will not do the job as the pop-up will be out of context.

Here are 2 examples of a good placement of the blog tab in navigation bars, and 2 not so great ones:

#Good: blog tab is in the top menu:

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Another good example:

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#Bad: blog tab is hiding in submenu:

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Another not so great example:

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Subscription Popup

Add a popup that will invite your visitors to sign up for the blog when they visit your website.

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If your website is based on WordPress, there are several free plugins you can use to add a popup to your website. My all-time favorite and highly popular is SumoMe but you can also check out HelloBar or the MailChimp plugin if you use Mailchimp for your email marketing.

If your website is not WordPress based, you can also add a popup, just need a programmer to help you with it ;-).

Gated Content

One additional thing you can do to increase the signup rate on your website, is to use any piece of gated marketing content you may have in your possession. It can be a white paper, a case study or whatever you think would be beneficial to your visitors.

Add a check box field to the gated content form, allowing visitors to automatically subscribe to your blog after filling out the form in order to download the gated content

Here’s a great example from Hubspot. The field at the bottom of the form allows the users to check the box in order to subscribe to Hubspot’s blog.

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Recruit External Websites

Lastly, you can recruit other websites to promote your blog. Search for websites that publish lists of best blogs in your niche or industry and reach out to them to include you in their future posts.

Let’s say you are running a cyber security blog for your company and you are interested in promoting your blog among your target audience.

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The top organic results of a quick Google search for “best cyber security blogs” will bring you links to articles that list the most popular cyber security blogs.

In addition to exploring the opportunity of being featured on those blogs, you may also improve your SEO rankings for “best X blogs” or similar keywords by posting an article on your website listing the best blogs in your industry.

Promoting your website on third party websites may require payment, but from my experience, these organic lists are a great source of traffic because usually their readers have a strong intent to search for your product or have interest in the industry in place.

Do you have other tips to increase blog signups? Comment below 🙂








5 Things to Think About Before Creating a Marketing Plan

Moran is a marketing advisor with the Techstars accelerator in Tel Aviv and the founder of Marketing Ramen, marketing strategies for startups on a budget. She’s building marketing strategies and helping startups grow. For full bio – moranbarnea.com, connect with her @moran_barnea.

Setting a marketing budget before defining a marketing plan is like putting the cart before the horse. Although there are plenty of online resources that can help you get a general idea of how much your marketing budget should be (depending on the number of years your startup exists, the industry in which it operates, etc.), preparing a marketing road map should come first.

Your marketing budget may change during the budget year, but to make it feasible, it should be built together with a plan that fits the goals of the company and one you could work with on a daily / weekly / monthly basis.

Before creating a detailed marketing plan including budget allocation to the various channels, deadlines, owner and more, there are 5 things to consider:

1. Audience

Startups are agile, and the answer to the question “who is your target audience” may change over the lifetime of the start-up. However, when you initiate your marketing efforts and build a plan and budget, there must be a clear answer to this question. For example, is your product an innovative a/b testing widget aimed at marketing executives in Fortune 500 companies? Is it an app targeted at teenagers ages 12-17 who live in English-speaking countries? Generic marketing targeting e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e (or “anyone who would want to buy the product”) is bad marketing. Even if you want to target multiple audiences, you must define them and often will need to narrow the list of audiences down, depending on your available capital and human resources.

Some would choose to build a persona (or persons) of the potential audience, to better understand who the potential client is and which pain they have that your product can solve. There are several excellent guides online to help build persona and a free Persona builder by Xtensio.

2. Objectives

Once you defined who your target audience is, set your goals for the period of the marketing plan. One goal, for example, can be positioning yourself as an expert in the industry (thought leadership). This can be done by guest columns written by the founder/CEO in relevant blogs (for example, Bessemer Partners mapped Israeli cyber security startups for TechCrunch to position themselves as experienced investors in this industry). Another goal can be increasing sales. This may lead to focusing your budget on paid advertising.

A goal can also be recruiting new employees, and for that you may want to reach out to tech blogs who cover cool office spaces like this article in Fortune. There are additional goals you can have, and the answer to the question what are your goals could be “all of the above.” But, in order to prepare an effective and executable marketing plan, I recommend prioritizing these goals.

3. Marketing Channels

After you set your audience and goals, the next question is where can you find the audience. Going back to the example of targeting marketing execs in Fortune 500 companies, the chance of them reading an article mentioning your company at AdAge or AdWeek is higher than them reading such an article on Mashable. If you target the 12-17 age group, are they on Facebook, or like all of us, moved to Snapchat? Try to understand where your target audience spends most of its time online. Often, the chances of finding good and targeted leads will be higher in niche industry blogs. I worked with a company that targeted c-level executives in the hospitality business. The best leads we got was from an article on a small blog, but one that all c-levels in this industry are subscribed to. Sometimes, being featured in a large publication is a matter of ego more than ROI.

4. Team

While building the marketing plan, ask yourself if there is currently someone on the team that will be able to carry the plan out. If not, is there a need (and budget) to hire a full-time marketing person? If you have an existing team, do you need to hire more people or would outsourcing services like Fiverr and UpWork make do? There are opinions supporting and opposing hiring freelancers, but from my experience, it depends on the person. You can hire an employee with zero dedication and a contractor who gives 120 percent into the project.

5. Budget

This point is derived from the four points above. Only when you set your target audience, objectives, optimal marketing channels and structure of the team will you be able to better understand what budget is needed. The marketing budget should be consistent with the growth to which you aspire. If you decide on a fixed monthly marketing budget throughout the year, it will be difficult to expect that it will support a growth. Start with a realistic budget – both in terms of available resources and also you in terms of your goals (it’s difficult to demand a 10 percent MoM growth with a fixed monthly marketing budget of $1,000). Consider long-term and short-term factors. For example, investing in content and SEO is a long term investment (Google will kill any tricks you try ;-)). In contrast, a PR campaign can and should be limited in time, so you can allocate only a few months out of the budget to it. If you decide to work with a PR agency, you can limit the work to 3-4 months. In addition, as the company’s general budget may vary due to external factors (drop in revenues, declining recruitment, etc.), the marketing budget will vary too, and that should be taken into account as well.








4 Startup Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Moran is a marketing advisor with the Techstars accelerator in Tel Aviv and the co-founder of No CMO, online marketing strategies for founders and companies without a CMO. She is a full-stack marketer, building marketing and business strategies for successful startups. For full bio – moranbarnea.com, connect with her @moran_barnea.

There are many things on your plate while growing your company. You have a team to manage, a product to develop and deals to close. You may or may not have already hired a marketing manager, but you know marketing is crucial for your company’s growth.

You also want to make sure you don’t throw away valuable marketing money.

Making mistakes is normal and as Joseph Conrad said, “it’s only those who do nothing that make no mistakes.” Working with entrepreneurs and startups, I’ve learned you can’t avoid all mistakes. But you can avoid some.

Here are the top 4 growth-stage startup marketing mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. You don’t have a fixed marketing budget – Just like your general budget planning, you should work with a detailed marketing plan. Creating such a plan makes it easier to understand where your marketing money is going and when. For example, if you’re looking to launch your blog mid-year, your marketing plan should take into consideration the time and budget needed to build the blog and create the initial content. Growing your company and showing growth in your forecasts is nice and all but it has to be backed with a growing marketing budget. SEO work is another example for a marketing initiative that spans through a period of time and needs allocation of funds throughout the budget timeframe (there’s no such a thing as an “SEO campaign”). Setting a fixed marketing budget can be ok for the first couple of months, but if you want to grow, you need to take into consideration a growing budget.   

2. You don’t keep track of the competition – Some startups mistakenly operate thinking that they don’t have competitors. Even if you don’t have direct ones, it’s crucial to look at the nearest ones. Being an entrepreneur, it’s impossible to operate in a bubble (on a side note – telling potential investors you don’t have competitors is probably in their top 3 things they hate to hear). Knowing who your competitors are and following their work can help your business and marketing strategies as well. By signing up to your competitors’ newsletters, and using alert tools such as Mention or IFTTT, you can stay on top of what’s going on in your field.

3. Your tracking tools are not in place – Having tracking tools, such as Google Analytics in place is crucial, as otherwise you’ll be operating like a blind person. Google Analytics is the most popular tracking tool, 100% free, well-known, and reliable. If you don’t like using Google for tracking, there are other tools such as Piwik or Clicky that are just as good (and free) as well, or for both a web and mobile presence, Mixpanel. If you haven’t done so already, set your tracking and make sure that you know how to create goals, funnels and read reports. Having the majority of your traffic marked as “unknown” in Analytics is terrible as you’re spending money on marketing but cannot calculate the ROI. If you are unsure of how to set analytics and connect them correctly yourself, hire a freelancer to do this small project for you.

4. You’re not where your audience is – If your product is an innovative baby sensor that is sold directly to customers on your site, a LinkedIn campaign may not be the best use of your marketing money. Plan your marketing according to where your audience is. If you are a B2B cyber startup and your target audience are CIOs and CISOs of large enterprises, meet them in industry events, publish in blogs and newspapers they read, and re-target them on LinkedIn. If your product on the other hand targets millennials, you have to be very active on social media and mostly these days, Snapchat.








6 Signs You Shouldn’t Have Your Own Startup

Who hasn’t told themselves at least once (or twice) – “I’ve got a great idea and it’ll be worth millions…It’s time to launch my startup.”
That’s good and all, but launching a startup takes far more than a solid idea and a lofty goal. The hard truth is that some people probably shouldn’t become founders.

With every dream comes a reality. It’s not for the faint of heart, and while a healthy dose of delusion will get you through the excruciating pain of your first years as an entrepreneur, you do owe it to yourself to really understand what you’re about to get into. We hear the great success stories and watch the whirlwind humor of Silicon Valley on TV, but rarely talk about the failures.

The statistics alone are revealing. The most recent reveals that  about 9 out of 10 startups fail, and that’s a generous calculation (“not fail” has a broad meaning and can be interpreted in many ways. It doesn’t mean that the 1 out of 10 startups had successful exits or IPOs).Sure, there may be incredible moments of success and accomplishment, but for most, the reality of success is slim to none. Becoming an entrepreneur and launching your own startup takes nerve.

I’d go so far as to say it also requires a certain character and attitude, something that goes as deep as your DNA. If you don’t have it, the dream will quickly be shattered.

Here are 6 things to be cautious of when you first go all-in:

1. You’re perpetually stressed out –  Some people are calm by nature and some are stressed out all the time. Yes, being a successful entrepreneur means you have to be alert and sharp, but it doesn’t mean a constant sense of tension. Planning and launching your startup entails many stressful situations but to be an accomplished entrepreneur, you need to know how to control it. Making decisions and functioning under constant pressure will cause you to make mistakes and eventually fail. The stakes only get higher when you’re tasked with easing a team. Your first 10 employees will develop and carry your company culture to your next 100, and if that culture is riddled with anxiety and worry about the unknown, you simply won’t make it. That kind of mentality creates a toxic work environment, and the only time your team will feel relief is when you take a sick day.

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2. You’re indecisive – Making decisions and taking risks on an hourly basis are what startups are all about. You need to be strong with your decisions or risk going into a tailspin.. Successful entrepreneurs know to make decisions quickly, and also stand behind those decisions. We’re not talking about being stubborn and not or refusing to be flexible in changing conditions. Rather, when you’re are unable to make a decision, whether it’s about who to hire or what your product roadmap should look like, you’re letting your self-doubt take over.

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3. You have awful budget and forecast planning skills 
You don’t plan your budget right and it seems like you’re always down to your last three months. This could be an extra stressful situation when you have to pay suppliers or employees. A good entrepreneur thinks long-term and also knows to strike the iron while it’s hot. Investors are looking first and foremost at growth and growth opportunities. If you had a period of terrific growth in your startup that’s recently slowed down, it may be too late to get new funding.

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4. You spend too much money on useless advisors – You don’t have time to hire staff for all the positions you wish you could fill, so you retain advisors for one-time projects. The devotion and dedication of an advisor is not like the devotion of an employee, and that sometimes makes all the difference. You may also be under the false impression that it saves you money (but it actually doesn’t). A good advisor is costly, and usually not less than what a good hiree would take. A bad advisor will help you with nothing, and happily cash your check all the same.

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5. Your interpersonal skills suck – overall, you are not the nicest person. You also like to gossip and talk behind people’s back. Unfortunately, that didn’t change when you launched your own company and hired employees. It’s also extremely difficult for you to say something nice, let alone compliment someone on a job well done and overall, be appreciative of others.

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6. You’re not a role model – Your employees and peers don’t look up to you and you expect of them to perform a certain way and do certain things that you are not doing yourself. As an entrepreneur, any person that first meets you will label you a leader and you will immediately sense their respect. But, this leader reputation can fade fast when you are not acting on it. It can start by coming to the office at noon and leaving at 4 to just not caring at staff meetings. Remember that you are at the top of the pyramid, and everyone is noticing you. If you don’t deliver leadership, you will not be perceived as one.

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Originally published on Tech In Asia








How To Grow Your Startup With No Budget

Moran is an advisor in the Techstars accelerator in Tel Aviv and the co-founder of MarketingRamen.

As an entrepreneur, you master a wide range of skills: you are resilient, passionate, a leader, and always focused on your company’s success. The vast majority of entrepreneurs also come from a technical background, and the core team they build around them is often comprised of people with similar skills. 

This may often lead to the startup’s marketing efforts being kept on the back burner in the initial stages of the company, and later being outsourced; however, marketing is a crucial aspect of a company and should be treated as such from the start. It defines the positioning of your company in the market, your brand, and the packaging of the product you’re selling. 

The role of CMO has grown dramatically over the past several years as the function of marketing evolved. Marketing is not about just selling the product; it’s about engaging customers and driving growth. Marketers are no longer simply the broadcasters of communications, but rather, they’ve become much more involved in the customer’s journey with the product and the company.

A good CMO needs to be equal parts creative and analytical, thinking outside the box and having a deep understanding of the full picture in terms of what’s going on in the market and within the company. As not all startups can afford to hire a seasoned CMO or even have a marketing budget to begin with, you as an entrepreneur should know that you can grow your startup under a small or even non-existent budget and be your own CMO. Combining your entrepreneurial skills and passion with the right guidance and tools is key to avoiding mistakes and burning a lot of money on ineffective marketing.

During my work with startups and entrepreneurs, I was sometimes amazed at how important decisions like company name, branding, website and the like were made with a seemingly devil-may-care attitude. Entrepreneurs would often latch onto their latest whims and get carried away with them, without considering crucial elements like target audience and fit.

One of the most important things in marketing is planning and strategizing. Instead of diving directly into media buying and testing various channels, think first of your goals. Who your potential clients are, where they are located, and even which devices they are likely to use when visiting your site or trying your product are all important pieces of information you need to have. Understanding who you are selling to and what you are selling does not necessarily require a marketing budget. 

Here are 4 things you can do right now to grow your startup without a CMO or budget:

1. Use existing free resources to spread the word about your startup: There are some high-quality blogs and forums with a large and relevant audience that can be your content distributor and promote your startup. Popular blogs like ProductHuntBetalist and startupli.st are ones that are being visited often by potential customers, tech industry members (including possible future investors or employees) and reporters. Promoting the launch of your startup in one of these blogs can generate massive traffic to your site and even spark interest in tech reporters who can later on cover your startup in large tech news outlets.

2. Reach out to bloggers and reporters yourself: Having a small or zero dollar marketing budget probably means you won’t be able to afford a good PR agency. Don’t be tempted to work with cheap agencies that can’t deliver (for reference, good PR agencies in the U.S charge somewhere between $5K-$10K/month), but rather do the outreach yourself. Whenever you are ready to spread the word about your company, prepare a pitch or a press release and send it to reporters who you know cover your field. Like anything in marketing, the best results are the targeted ones. Most media outlets publish their reporters’ emails, and there are some great templates you can use to draft a release. Before sending, do your homework on what a reporter is interested in. Influential reporters and bloggers receive hundreds of pitches a day, so the major part of your work is to plan and create a great pitch. To make sure it’s appealing and interesting, run it by your friends first to solicit feedback.

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3. Use your personal network: Not all marketing and growth has to do with SEO, conferences and buying media. Your personal network is valuable and can lead to even more valuable second and third degree connections. Maintaining a strong personal network is important for any entrepreneur, as it can be tapped into from the brainstorming stage – advising with friends on aspects of the product, name, etc. – all the way through to the launch stage and future partnerships.

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4. Use A/B testing methods to increase conversion: A/B testing is something that can really help you grow, without investing a lot of money. By using tools such as Optimizely and Unbounce, you can maximize the potential of users who are already visiting your site. A/B testing can be tricky if not done right, as you don’t want to be overwhelmed by numerous variables. Simplify the tests, and each time, check one variable or two. You will be surprised how a small change in the color of a button or the size of your header image can boost your conversion rate, sometimes by 20%-30% or even more.

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Originally published on TheNextWeb.