How Aweber turned its blog into a continuous source of high-quality leads
See how this content strategist and her team built a successful blog, doubled lead generation and increased conversions without depending on busy designers and developers.
When she was at college studying English and communications, Liz Willits never imagined she’d end up working in the tech industry.
But in 2013, by a curious twist of fate, Liz was hired by an up and coming SaaS company located on a quiet, tree-lined street in the Philly suburbs. “That’s where I fell in love with technology,” she recalls, “I love the way the tech industry is always changing, growing, and evolving.”
“I started as a marketing generalist, but began moving into content towards the end of my time at that company,” says Liz, “Looking back, I realize it was the perfect way to transition into my new position at AWeber.”
At AWeber, Liz’s ever-evolving role has taken her from being someone who just wrote blog content to that of renowned marketing expert. An expert who’s invited to speak at industry conferences throughout North America.
In her current position as Senior Content Strategist, not only does Liz create email content, web content, and blog content, she also does lots of webinars, podcasts and events. All of which involve speaking. Lots of speaking. As someone who truly loves to communicate, Liz couldn’t be happier!
“I get to create great content and have become obsessed with the art and science of email marketing!” she says passionately, “Little did I know when I started in content that I'd become this sort of email marketing nerd.”
Of course, a love of email marketing comes in handy when you’re in charge of demand generation for a company like AWeber.
With it’s powerful, feature-packed email marketing platform, Aweber provides over 100,000 customers with the tools and education they need to market, grow, and scale their businesses successfully.
Overcoming an ever-growing challenge for content teams
It goes without saying that growing a SaaS company to 100,000+ paying users comes with its fair share of hurdles. Even for a team of expert marketers like Aweber’s.
“A big challenge content marketers are facing right now is that everyone is doing content,” explains Liz, “I mean, there can be 50, even hundreds of resources about the same topic.” This, of course, can make it difficult for companies to rank their content and breakthrough all the noise.”
“A big challenge content marketers are facing right now is that everyone is doing content. I mean, there can be 50, even hundreds of resources about the same topic.”
Liz Willits - Senior Content Strategist at Aweber
Liz continued, “So one of the ways we've found we can add value in the midst of all the noise is by giving people tools that can do part of the work for them. I think that's one of the keys to getting higher conversions.”
For example, a visitor coming to AWeber’s company blog can sign up for free email templates, which make it easier for people to launch an email marketing campaign, especially beginners.
Below, you can see how Aweber is using a ConvertFlow slide-up form that appears when someone visits almost any page of their blog.
Their offer is compelling and offers instant gratification, “Download 45+ Free Email Writing Templates. 100% Free!”. They also added a quick drop-down survey that helps to qualify inbound leads by asking how many email subscribers they have.
Crafting high-value lead magnets
As you can see in the example above, templates can be compelling lead magnets that help users take action and do their work better. This is why free templates are currently performing so well for lead generation. They have immediate, practical value, because they save time and help people complete their projects faster.
Although Liz and her team at Aweber understood that promoting templates and other resources that help people work better can be effective, they realized that they needed to make sure their sign-up forms appeared more prominently across their company’s website and blog.
“In the past, we had only two embedded forms on our blog,” explains Liz, “Embedded forms are great, but ours were not not very visible. We had placed them at the bottom of blog posts and on the homepage of our blog. Not very visible locations.”
And then there’s the offer. Liz continued, “In the past, you could just write a quick call-to-action like, "Sign Up For My Newsletter," and people would subscribe to your list. But these days, you have to sell them on the benefits they're going to get when they sign up.”
“Now that we’re using ConvertFlow to promote lead magnets to the people visiting our site, we don’t just offer them something like, “Get My One-Page PDF to Learn X," she says, “We offer lots of value in exchange for their contact data. That's why we create lead magnets that provide valuable, deep-dive content people can't find with a simple Google search.”
To achieve this aim, Aweber’s content team has developed a number of practical marketing guides which they use to attract new leads and educate existing customers.
Other examples of deep-dive content they’ve developed include long-form case studies, on-demand webinars, split tests, cheatsheets, infographics and video courses. While they gate a lot of their content for list building, they leave blog posts and other resources ungated for SEO and other purposes.
Turning customer education into customer success
Creating deep-dive content comes naturally to Aweber’s team. That’s because there’s been a culture of customer education at the company since it was founded by Tom Kulzer in 1998.
“Our content team started off as an education team way back when, so the entire focus was on customer education,” recalls Liz, “Back then, we weren't thinking about how we could reach new audiences by putting out awesome educational content. We were thinking; how can we make our customers more successful by helping them grow their businesses?”
“And that's how our company blog developed,” she adds, “Since then, our blog has grown into a huge lead generation tool for us. It’s also a tool that our customers happily use on a regular basis.”
Meeting website visitors where they are
Although most companies would kill to have a successful blog like Aweber’s, having thousands of visitors landing on hundreds of different pages simultaneously creates a daunting challenge for marketers.
For example, how do you know at what stage of the buyer’s journey each visitor is at?
Consider this scenario: Someone does a Google search and clicks on one of your carefully-optimized blog posts. Great news, your SEO is working!
But what if the next visitor to that same post has already signed up for a free trial?
And the visitor after that is already a customer?
How do you meet these different people where they are?
How do you get different visitors to take the next step if you don’t know where they are in the buying process?
In early 2017, Aweber’s team was struggling with this exact problem. As Liz puts it, “We were looking for a way to target people differently depending on where they were in the buyer’s journey.”
“If visitors were customers, we wanted to show them something entirely different than if they were coming to our site for the first time.”
She continued, “We tried different signup form tools, but they didn't let us target website visitors the way we wanted to. They didn't have features that would allow us to do that. Another problem was how difficult it was to use those tools.”
“Looking back, I realize that our biggest problem was not traffic, it was customer journeys,” she remembers, “It was frustrating that we could only show one signup form across our site. If we wanted to show something different, it was so much extra work and not worth our time.”
Saying “goodbye” to custom coding
Every experienced digital marketer knows that having to custom code landing pages, calls-to-action and other website forms can be a major source of stress and loss of time.
Chances are you've personally experienced the frustration of going back and forth with designers and developers who don’t value your time. It can really throw off your game.
In the past, Liz and the Aweber team struggled with this same problem; “We had to custom code landing pages. Or we needed to turn something around really fast.”
“And at times, there were campaigns where we just needed to make a few tweaks to the page and didn't want to involve engineers or designers,” she recalls, “Having a landing page platform that didn't require us to have coding skills was another thing we were looking for.”
One day, a coworker was watching a webinar, and came to me and said, "Liz, we need to try ConvertFlow. It’s insane what it can do!"
“Of course, I was all ears because we were unhappy with our current provider. It just wasn’t working for us,” she says, “So that same day we got ConvertFlow. It was amazing! Like a night and day difference. So easy to use compared to other alternatives.”
"One day, a coworker was watching a webinar, and came to me and said, "Liz, we need to try ConvertFlow. It’s insane what it can do! So that same day we got ConvertFlow. It was amazing! Like a night and day difference. So easy to use compared to other alternatives.”
Liz Willits - Senior Content Strategist at Aweber
“ConvertFlow did way more than other tools we were using,” explains Liz, “And it was the same price. So it was almost a no-brainer for us.”
“It allowed us to build those customer journeys we wanted. We could finally target a lead at the top of the funnel when they first joined our site, then target someone differently depending on their interactions and actions.”
As Liz puts it, “Having the ability to target via customer journey totally changed everything for us. I’ve worked with lots of signup form and landing page tools, but I’ve never seen one that does what ConvertFlow does.”
How Aweber doubled their lead flow
Being able to target inbound visitors at the top of the funnel, and show specific calls-to-action across their website based on where people are in their buying journey has been a real game-changer for Aweber.
According to Liz, her team is pleased with the results they’ve been getting since adding ConvertFlow to their marketing stack, “It has probably doubled our lead generation. I don't have the exact number in front of me, but it has had a big impact on our lead generation. And part of that is how easy it lets you launch forms in different places.”
“It has probably doubled our lead generation. I don't have the exact number in front of me, but it has had a big impact on our lead generation. And part of that is how easy it lets you launch
forms in different places.”
Liz Willits - Senior Content Strategist at Aweber
“We use a mixture of embedded forms, slide-in forms, full-page forms. It's so easy, almost effortless to launch them,” she adds, “We've been able to increase our form placement and the way we highlight forms without annoying our audience and visitors.”
“This really improved lead generation for us,” explains Liz, “We've seen more people engaging with our mid-funnel content because we’re promoting targeted content to specific people instead of just showing them the same top-of-the-funnel lead magnet, over and over again.”
Using email marketing automation to boost conversions
While getting more people to engage with lead magnets and sign-up forms will definitely improve your lead generation results, using email automation to engage those same people at different stages in their journey can help drive more conversions and grow revenue significantly.
Being that Liz is an expert in email marketing, we were curious to hear how she and her team use email to get people to take the next step.
Here’s what she told us, “First of all, if someone just signed up for our email list, we send them a welcome series. The welcome series does the typical things that any welcome series should do. It welcomes them to our list, and tries to get them to whitelist us so we can enhance our email deliverability, or how often we reach their inbox.”
Liz continued, “These emails are mostly education-focused. I believe a great welcome series should give a ton of value to the reader that helps establish a relationship with them, so they want to open your emails. So they want to click on them. In other words, when someone first joins, we send them a welcome series that's value-packed.”
“Then, as they continue to take interactions on our site, we send them more middle-of-the-funnel, and bottom-of-the-funnel content that encourages them to start a free trial, or try out a different feature within AWeber.”
Although most of the content Aweber sends new subscribers is educational, Liz’s team doesn’t let opportunities to convert highly-qualified leads into paying customers slip through their fingers. This is why they combine email automation and proactive sales methods to engage these prospects.
“We also have a sales team, who depending on a certain interaction, might get a lead instead of us using email automation,” she says, “They might follow up with a lead directly depending on their level of engagement.”
“If we have a lead who's very hot and engaged. Someone who’s showing a lot of interest in the product, we might pass them directly to our sales team. On the other hand, if it's someone who is less interested, we'll have subtle calls-to-action in our emails to help them to buy. Without being pushy.”
“We take a really light approach and try to be mostly educational,” explains Liz, “If you're trying to sell people all the time, and they're not interested yet, they're just going to unsubscribe.”
To increase conversions, “We use a mix of our website, email automation and our sales team,” says Liz, “For example, if someone visits a feature page, our cart page, or anything like that, we're definitely going to be using retargeting to try to get them to take the action they’ve expressed interest in.”
Dissolving bottlenecks to drive faster results
For most marketers, generating more leads and conversions is a top priority. Unfortunately, they frequently run into annoying bottlenecks when trying to implement their campaigns.
This is why ConvertFlow’s dev team prioritizes helping marketing teams streamline their workflow, so they can quickly launch and optimize campaigns in a matter of minutes, not hours, or days.
As Liz puts it, “I love ConvertFlow’s landing page templates and the different types of form templates. They’re easy to edit and easy to implement. On top of that, you have pretty much every form we could need.”
“I also like that you don't need to code to create a form in ConvertFlow, 'cause I have very limited coding knowledge,” Liz says with a smile, “It's nice to be able to launch a form all by myself without having to get developers or designers involved.”
Doing more of what they do best
By using no-code solutions like ConvertFlow to streamline the process of launching campaigns, marketers can free up the time, energy and other critical resources they need to do more of what they do best.
Now that everyone seems to be doing content marketing, having the extra bandwidth to create authentic, customer-centric content can really help companies differentiate themselves from an ocean of competitors vying for people’s attention.
That’s why at Aweber, they obsessively focus on educating their audience and customers in ways that help them grow their brands and businesses. Not only do they produce top-notch educational content, they also have a 24/7 in-house customer success team.
Aweber’s subscribers have around-the-clock access to a team of email marketing experts who are ready, willing and able to help them implement their email marketing campaigns, quickly and effectively.
As Liz puts it, “I think what helps us most is our team genuinely wants to help people. Anytime we do a virtual summit, a webinar, or we put out a great piece of educational content and get positive feedback about that, you can see how our team is all smiles and all excited.”
“That has been a big advantage for us and it seems like something you wouldn't normally think of, but it's really helped us out,” she says.
“For us, the most gratifying thing is helping people. It gives us a competitive advantage because when we meet people within our market, they recognize that, and say things like, "Hey your team is the most helpful, cool team we've ever met. And that's why we love and use AWeber."
This story was written and published in collaboration with StoryOps