10 Strategies for Selling Art Tutorials (That Can Work for Any Product)

Jessica Jalsevac on September 25th, 2014

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Art tutorials are so hot right now, with creators from Dominic Qwek to Will Terrell inspiring thousands of budding artists to create their own work.

Naturally, we needed to take a closer look into the art of selling them as well, so we enlisted the help of James Gurney, author and illustrator of the New York Times best selling Dinotopia book series.

James has produced three art tutorial videos: How I Paint Dinosaurs, Australia’s Age of Dinosaurs, and Watercolor in the Wild. Each tutorial follows paintings all the way through from start to finish, with every step thoroughly documented and the author’s voiceover explaining the thinking behind the paint brush.

"’How I Paint Dinosaurs’ by James Gurney is a superb adventure into the world of hands-on professional illustration; using dinosaurs as the vehicle, it packs an entire art school into one engaging, thoroughly entertaining package."

—Terryl Whitlatch, creature designer and concept artist

In this case study, we focused on the launch of his most recent tutorial, Watercolor in the Wild, so you can see, step-by-step, how he got the word out. Enjoy! 


What are the main tools/networks you use to reach your audience?

Although as a painter I use traditional, hand-made media like watercolor and oil, I have eagerly embraced some digital tools, such as blogging. I’ve written over 3,000 posts on a daily basis since for my blog, GurneyJourney.blogspot.com.  On Facebook, I have 4800 friends on my personal FB and 10,700 likes on the public page, but I only use Facebook promotionally to echo blog posts.

On YouTube I’ve posted 118 videos, with 770,358 Views and 10,016 Subscribers. I regard YouTube mainly as a promotional ecosystem and as a testing ground for new ideas. I don’t do Twitter, Instagram, or any other social channels, and haven’t yet set up an email marketing system.

audience at a glance


What were your main promotional strategies?

1. The build-up

I tried out Nathan Barry’s suggestion to announce early and build awareness over time. However, I’m starting at a bit of a disadvantage because I don’t have an email marketing account in place—I’m more of a MailChump than a MailChimp.

But thanks to Gumroad’s Customer Update system, I was able contact the 400+ people who had purchased my two previous videos. About two weeks before release, I sent an email to my Gumroad gang telling them what was coming. On my daily art blog GurneyJourney, I did a detailed blog post about a week ahead describing the upcoming release.

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 2. Launch day

The launch day was a Monday, a day that Google Analytics told me that my blog gets quite a bit of traffic. On Monday I released the two-minute trailer, which introduces the video and gives some excerpts. The Gumroad sales page actually went live the night before for my Gumroad customers with a 10% launch day discount.

3. A week of blog posts

I scheduled a “Watercolor Week" on the blog, set to kick off on the day of the launch. I created a week’s worth of posts that went deeper into each segment of the video. The purpose of each day’s post was to entice new customers, but I didn’t want to pitch too hard. I also wanted to deepen the experience of the paying customers and foster a sense of community among them.

On the day before Watercolor Week began, I showed a stack of all the YouTube thumbnail designs so people could see what was coming up. People said stuff like I’m so psyched for this! I can’t wait to place my order! and Really looking forward to the videos on Youtube :D (poor art student, so free is good right now :) ) That last person who can’t afford the download at the moment is just as important to me as the paying customers.

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4. Blurbs and reviews

I produced a physical DVD to be ready when the Gumroad download launched. That gave me something physical to send to potential reviewers and blurb-writers. I had advance copies of the DVD in hand a couple weeks ahead of launch day.

I sent some out to a few artist friends, inviting their feedback. Fortunately, the first review came out a day before the launch, so I was able to include a link to that along with the kickoff announcement.

I also used Gumroad’s offer code feature to distribute about five digital review copies to magazine reviewers in other countries.

5. Value-rich content for free

On Tuesday I released a video excerpt about suggested art supplies. I embedded that video at the head of a long, information-rich blog post about the materials. Blog posts are better than videos for conveying such detailed information. I wanted people who had bought the video to be able find this information, so I captioned that section of the video with a search suggestion so that they could find it.

I released two other five-minute excerpts of the video, totaling about 25% of the for-sale content. Each video ended with links back to the Gumroad sales page. I also put live links in the YouTube description panel. Within two weeks of release, these videos have racked up a total of over 20,000 views. 

Each sample clip has intrinsic value as a stand-alone video, but it also serves as a promotion for the full video. While it’s hard to make any income directly from YouTube, even if you create viral videos, it’s a great promotional tool for Gumroad creators, referring 11% of my sales, more than Facebook generated.

I also ran a poll asking blog readers to vote for their favorite watercolor pigments. I shared the results of the poll later in the week. This involved people in the blog, and they kept coming back to learn more, plus I learned something from my readers.

6. A bonus product

In addition to the main 72-minute feature, I produced a second video for sale on Gumroad that was a “Bonus Features” collection. It had some exclusive new material, and some remastered YouTube shorts with added voiceover. It was a fun collection of extras that I called “bite-size inspiration” for people to own in HD video.

As with the main feature, I let people download the MP4 video file, knowing that some people will copy the video without paying. But I’m not worried about that. As long as I keep my prices fair, the non-paying customer today will likely decide to become a paying customer tomorrow. At the head of each video, instead of a threatening FBI warning, I put a little a message thanking people for buying the video, and reminding them that their support allows me to keep creating more cool stuff.

I used Gumroad’s helpful feature of permitting multiple files in a single offering by uploading PDFs of additional articles to add value to the Bonus Features offering. Even though the sales volume of the Bonus Features was only 15% as large as the main feature, it was well worth doing, and it added a bump to the sales six days after the release. 

7. Focus on the customer’s creativity

Something spontaneous happened late in Watercolor Week. After I published a blog post and a Facebook update where I talked about ultra compact watercolor kits, people started sending me images of the custom compact watercolor kits that they created. I jettisoned my planned content and put the spotlight on their achievements instead. The blog became a forum for a lively exchange of ideas against the backdrop of the Gumroad release.  

8. Reinforce in print

I wrote an article for an art magazine called International Artist scheduled to come out a month after release. The article zeroed in on the same artwork that’s in the video. Captions with little play buttons directed readers to watch the free excerpts and the trailer on YouTube. Gumroad’s custom titling feature allowed me to rename the URL as “gum.co/watercolor” making it easier for a print exposure to bring in potential customers.

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9. A thank-you video

I shot an exclusive thank-you video for Gumroad customers in my workshop. In the video, I showed some updates to the painting gear I had talked about on the main video, and I told them about some of the projects that are coming up, with news that I haven’t announced publicly elsewhere. 

I also sent individual thank-you emails to customers who chose to add $10 or more to the “Pay What You Want” base cost of $15.

Here’s the text of that email, which I customized for each person:

“Dear ________. I just want to take a minute to thank you for your generous donation above and beyond the asking price of my new Gumroad video. When I chose the “price-plus” option, I never anticipated that so many people would extend a hand so givingly. I’m really touched by your gift, and will invest the funds in the tools I’ll need for making more and better videos in the future. Enjoy the video, James Gurney”

10. Demo the methods

At the end of the week, after talking so much about techniques and materials, and answering lots of questions from people who had bought the download, I thought I should practice what I preached. So I took my watercolor kit to the county fair and did an impromptu portrait of the oldest carnival worker, and posted about it on the blog and Facebook.


How it all came together…

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Let’s take a look at some results…

traffic by channel

conversion by channel

James’s main channels - his blog and YouTube - both performed well in terms of views and sales of his products. His strategy of reaching out to friends and influencers in the art world paid off too. While he didn’t get as many views from these reviews as he did with his owned properties, the conversion rate was very high, showing that people trust a recommendation!recommended products

In addition to the promotion strategies shared above, James also turned on Recommended Products in his Gumroad account. This allowed Gumroad to suggest his products to people who bought similar items from other creators. Recommendations had an extremely high conversion rate of 36.8%pay what you want and offer code results

James’s experiment with allowing people to pay $15+ instead of a flat fee worked out quite well, with 14.5% of people paying more than $15. His launch day offer code also effectively introduced a sense of urgency, and encouraged many people to purchase on the first day. 


Any final thoughts to share?

My background is as a painter and a writer, not a marketer or a sales guy, so all this is kind of new to me, and it’s fun. Instead of working with a big publisher that keeps all this info to itself, I get to work all the levers.

I’m grateful to Gumroad and its community of artist-publishers for sharing information to help me succeed with self-publishing.

What I come away with is that the new digital arts economy is different in several fundamental ways compared to the old one. These differences are suggested by the following four paradoxes:

  • You have to give something away in order to sell it.
  • People will pay more if you let them set their own price.
  • Promote others if you want to advance your career.
  • Share your trade secrets and you will benefit.

These principles seem counterintuitive to someone like me raised in the pre-digital arts economy. The differences arise because people buying digital content understand that they’re directly supporting the personal vision of the artist. They’re not just buying a product; they’re buying into a relationship.

7 Ways to Engage Your Audience on Instagram

Emmiliese von Clemm on September 18th, 2014

Did you know that entrepreneurs in Kuwait use Instagram to sell sheep? Or that a vintage clothing store in Vancouver sells out of items on Instagram before they even hit the shelves?

Since its release in 2010, Instagram has been growing and evolving in wonderful (and sometimes strange) ways. Today, with more than 200 million monthly active users, Instagram has become a viable business tool for many creative entrepreneurs.

We talked to Dan Luvisi and Victoria Ying, artists who have both used Instagram to promote their painting tutorials to their audiences. Here’s what they had to say about Instagram:

“The response [to my efforts to promote my painting tutorials on Instagram] has been very positive and I feel Instagram is a fantastic platform to advertise off of… It’s a wonderful way to connect and share, let alone build your identity.” 

Dan Luvisi

“I think that a lot of my followers wouldn’t have seen my process painting available on Gumroad if I hadn’t posted it on Instagram…Instagram is such a fast and visual medium that putting links to Gumroad tutorials is only natural and welcome.”

- Victoria Ying

To help you make the most of Instagram, we’ve compiled 7 best practices for engaging your customers on the platform. These strategies and tips range from building your Instagram audience to promoting your work in the platform. Read on to learn how Dan, Victoria, and five other Gumroad creators use Instagram to connect with their audiences and to promote their work.

1) Post often 

Post photos regularly to grab the attention of new and existing followers. Posting a photo daily is a good place to start. Just remember that Instagram is built around beautiful and creative photos. When in doubt, “quality over quantity” is a good guideline to keep in mind.

If you’re in need of inspiration for what to post, try having fun with a project based series of photos. For example, Victoria Ying started 7 Days of Color. Every day for four weeks, she posted a painting that was a different color of the rainbow. The project was a great way for Victoria to stay motivated and it gave her audience a story to follow.

“Project based posts are always a great way to get attention and build participation amongst your community! With #7daysofcolor I was shocked at how many other people started to participate in the project with me! It was so much fun and I felt like it was a great way to get connected to other artists.” 

Victoria Ying

2) Post consistent content 

Develop defining elements of your account. If you’re consistent with the content of your photos, the filters you use, and how you caption your photos, you’ll start to be seen as a leader in a particular area. Use hashtags to help users interested in your content focus discover your Instagram feed.

The Instagram feed of professional wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas consists entirely of breathtaking photos of wild animals, making it a great account to follow for anyone interested in wildlife or photography. To help users discover his photos, Will uses popular hashtags such as #nature and #safariphotos in his captions.

How to Sell on Instagram

3) Deliver value to your followers through your posts

This value can be delivered in the form of inspiration or education. If you’re an athlete, post photos of your progress towards a fitness goal or post a video showing proper push-up form. If you’re an artist, give followers a glimpse of your artistic process or post a short how-to video.

Lina Saber, the creator behind bysaber (an Instagram account dedicated to all things health, skin, and nutrition), has gained a massive following by using photo captions and videos to share delicious recipes with her audience. Plus, because Lina’s followers see her account as a place to learn, she was able to very successfully launch a product, The 40-Day Skin Clearing Detox, on Instagram.

4) Post relevant content leading up to launch

Let your followers know about what you’re working on before it launches. Use Instagram posts to get your audience excited about what you’re working on. The goal is to convince your followers they want to buy your work ahead of time.

Blogger Abby Lewis used Instagram to periodically updated her followers on the status of her book Building a Framework: Everything I Learned My First Year of Blogging. A month before launch, Abby started by announcing a “secret project”. Throughout the following weeks, Abby shared additional information and posted progress photos. By launch day, Abby’s followers were excited to finally be able to purchase her book — and knew exactly when and how to do so.

5) Use descriptive photos and captions

Use pictures that highlight exactly what followers will get from your product. If you’re an author, show your book’s cover or use a photo of someone reading your book. If you’re a chef, post a photo of the cake that follower’s can bake if they buy your recipes. If you’re a filmmaker, use a still from a scene in your film. In your photo’s caption, be sure to include the essential details: product name, product price, and where to buy the product.

When sharing his painting tutorials on Instagram, Dan Luvisi uses Gumroad product page cover images. Dan’s photo captions include each tutorial’s name and price, as well as the URL of the product page.

6) Link directly to your work in your Instagram bio

Because the majority of Instagram traffic occurs on mobile devices, it’s especially important to make it as easy as possible for your followers to get from the Instagram post promoting your work to a page where they can actually buy your product. A great way to do this is by linking directly to your product page in your Instagram bio (since your bio is the only place where hyperlinks are allowed). If you choose to link to your website instead of directly to a product page, keep in mind that minimizing clicks is the best way to maximize conversion rates.

Krista Stryker, creator of the 12 Minute Athlete, added a direct link in her bio to make it really easy for her followers to access her new training program, Pull Up Mastery.

How to Sell on Instagram

7) Use limited-time offers

Setting up offer codes can be a great way to thank your Instagram followers for their support of your work. They can also serve to encourage your followers to go through with a purchase on launch day, or be used to market your work and boost sales post launch.

Brandan Schieppati, founder of Rise Above Fitness, periodically sets up offer codes to give his followers discounts on particular training programs. Rather than promoting offers on launch day, Brandan uses offers to drive sales months after releasing his training programs.

That’s it for today. We hope to see you putting these strategies into practice on Instagram soon! 


Looking for more advice on how to make the most of Instagram? Stay posted for an upcoming interview with creator Lina Saber, who has grown her Instagram audience to more than 220 thousand followers.

Thinking about promoting your work on Instagram? Already using Instagram in ways we didn’t mention here? We’d love to hear from you.

Discover Meteor Case Study: Making $300,000 From a Single Programming Book

Jessica Jalsevac on September 10th, 2014

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In May, 2013, authors/developers Sacha Grief and Tom Coleman released their book, Discover Meteor.

Like many products, they had a pretty big launch day, but we’ve been keeping an eye on them and noticed something pretty cool. They’ve figured out a way to sustain high sales for more than a year and a half.

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We wanted to know how they did it, and luckily they were willing to share their strategies. We’ve put their exact methods in an in-depth case study, which we’re excited to share with you. 

Download the Case Study

We hope you gain some insights into creating your own sustainable sales strategy. Let us know what you think, and enjoy!

How to Use Webinars to Build Your Audience

Jessica Jalsevac on September 5th, 2014

You have a lot of options when it comes to producing content: blog posts, videos, infographics, podcasts, newsletters…the list goes on. Sometimes it can be difficult to decide which ones to focus on.

We’ve noticed an interesting trend among several successful creators lately: they’ve been prioritizing live webinars as one of the cornerstones of their content marketing strategy.

Why webinars? We asked Brennan Dunn, author of Double Your Freelancing Rate to help us get to the bottom of it.

Brennan has hosted several successful webinars recently with partners such as WooThemes and Clients from Hell. On average, 20-30% of the people who attend one of Brennan’s webinars end up buying a product from him - not bad!

In this video, Brennan walks us through:

  • Why hosting a webinar is a great way to engage with your audience.
  • How to structure the webinar.
  • What tools to use to put it all together.
  • How to follow up after the event.
  • How to work with partners to widen your audience.
  • What goals you should focus on.
  • How to get started if this is your first product and/or you don’t have a large audience.

 

Episode Resources:

Tools for Getting to Know Your Audience (Part 2 - Social)

Jessica Jalsevac on August 29th, 2014

This post is part two in the “Tools for Getting to Know Your Audience” series, where we look at how to access and interpret data on your customers (and potential customers).  In part one we dove into keywords and search trends, and today we turn towards the information gold mine that is social media. 

market research tools


1. Facebook

Questions to ask:

What is the approximate overall market size for my area? What is the demographic makeup of my target market? What other things do they like? Who are the predominant groups, brands, and individuals in the space?

How to use it:

Facebook’s graph search is a powerful tool that lives right within your Facebook search bar. A quick search for “ukulele” on Facebook validates that its a good niche interest, with 283,122 likes and growing.

facebook research

Facebook also shows related pages and groups as part of its graph search. Joining and participating in these groups is a great way to continue getting to know your audience. For brands, Ukulele Underground has one of the most popular ukulele pages, with 21,759 likes. With 12,833 members, the public Ukulele Tabs group is one of the largest communities of ukulele players, and so is a must-join. 

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Looking at the content of posts reveals a lot about what people are interested in and what types of content do well. In addition to this guy playing death metal (below), I saw pictures of ukuleles decorated in weird and wonderful ways, individuals posting videos of their journey to learn the tiny instrument, kids playing the ukulele (aww), people playing cats like ukuleles (wha?), and tough punk bands showing their soft side with uke songs.  

You can go deeper with Facebook Graph Search to see related interests of people in your target market. For instance, by searching “Pages liked by people who like Ukulele”, I can see that they’re also fans of Humans of New York, Photography, and NPR.

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Get even more specific by searching for movies or music liked by people who like the ukulele. These two searches generate some great ideas for potential tabs/songs to teach!

If you’re thinking of holding live events as part of your marketing strategy, Facebook can help you with its location filter. For example, you could search for:

  • “Posts about “Ukulele” from San Francisco, California”

  • “People who like “Ukulele” and live in San Francisco, California”

You can also see which of your friends are already interested in your topic. They would be great people to give you feedback on your project and help you spread the word. Search for things like:

  • “Posts about “Ukulele” by my friends”

  • “Pages about “Ukulele” that are liked by my friends.”

Finally, if you want to get even more fancy you can dive into Facebook ads. Select “Clicks to Website” and enter any URL (we’re not going to actually create an ad). Under the Audience section, play around with different demographic filters to see how that affects the potential reach of your audience.

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You’ll notice that if you just search for “ukulele” as an interest, the potential reach is much greater than the number of people who have ukulele as an interest in their profiles. This is because it also includes people who like related pages.

After conducting a few different searches, I noticed some interesting facts about the American ukulele target market on Facebook:

  • Potential reach for various age ranges:

  • 13-20 years old: 72,000

  • 20-30 years old: 100,000

  • 30-40 years old: 50,000

  • 40-50 years old: 46,000

  • 50-60 years old: 44,000

  • 60+: 34,000

Interest in Ukulele by gender:

  • Female: 150,000

  • Male: 160,000

20-30 year olds are the biggest age group interested in the uke, and there seems to be about equal interest between men and women.

Takeaways:

  • Pages and groups related to your area are great places to start listening to and engaging with your target market.

  • Most posts about ukuleles are fun and lighthearted, and many contain videos. An extremely popular post features a musician playing death metal on a Ukulele.

  • Related interests/music/movies include NPR, photography, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Radiohead.

  • Location filters are a big help if you’re looking to host live events or meetups.

  • Your friends who have similar interests to you are good first people to tell about your project.

  • Key demographics for ukulele-lovers is 20-30 years old, both male and female.


2. Twitter (+ Followerwonk)

Questions to ask:

Who are the most influential people/brands in my field? What are they talking about? What vocabulary do they use to describe themselves and what they’re interested in? Who are your competitors?

How to use it:

Twitter contains a wealth of information, but because its not as pervasive as Facebook, it can better for some niches rather than others.

Following hashtags is probably the easiest way to see what people are talking about right now. By searching for #ukulele in Twitter’s search, I can see all the latest posts about the instrument, from people learning how to play, to people attending ukulele festivals, to people sharing cool music. I found out that the Grammy Museum was hosting a ukulele event the night I wrote this! 

I can also do a search for Twitter bios containing ukulele. A quick glance at these bios gives me a ton of great insight into the ukulele audience. I see words like…

  • whimsical

  • play

  • geeky

  • pop

  • lover

And jobs like…

  • editor in chief at Cosmopolitan Greece

  • marathon runner

  • youtube musician

  • actor, director

  • serial entrepreneur

  • journalist

  • singer/songwriter

  • brand strategy

Because Twitter can be such a barrage of information, there are several tools out there that try to help you make sense of it. One of my favorites is Followerwonk, which lets you easily analyze your own followers or those of your competitors. Just click on the Analyze Followers tab, type in a handle, and select “analyze their followers.” Followerwork gives you a beautiful report with a map displaying where the followers are located, their most active hours, and much more.

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One of the coolest features of this report is the word cloud of the most common terms in their followers’ bios. This can be extremely useful in figuring out marketing copy down the line. Here’s a word cloud from analyzing a competitor’s followers.

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It can also be very helpful to create a private Twitter list of key influencers to follow so that your content is more curated. Followerwonk can help find those influencers by using the Search Twitter Bios tab. Plug in a competitor, similar brand, or keyword and you’ll get a list of Twitter users. Sort by social authority (which is based off their number of retweets), and simply add some of the top folks to your influencers list!

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Takeaways:

  • Follow hashtags to stay on top of current posts, trends, and events.

  • Look at Twitter bios to understand your customers vocabulary, jobs, interests, etc. For example, many Ukulele lovers on Twitter work in creative industries.

  • A follower analysis (your own or your competitor’s) on Followerwonk can reveal location, active hours, common vocabulary, and more.

  • Creating private Twitter lists can be extremely useful for listening to and engaging with influencers.


3. Buzzsumo

Questions to ask:

What is the most shared content for your industry? What content is working really well for my competitors? What networks have the most traction? What format is most successful - infographics, how-to posts, videos, etc.? Who are the influencers in my industry?

How to use it:

Buzzsumo is incredibly straightforward platform that manages to deliver a ton of insight about social content and influencers.

Type a term or website into the search box, and take a look at the type of content. Let’s start with “ukulele.”

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Of the 10 most shared things about ukuleles, 8 were videos. This isn’t surprising, as music lends itself well to video content. As you can see, Facebook gets the most shares by far, with Google+ a close second. You can also filter out certain types of content. Its interesting to note that if we remove videos, Google+ gets nearly no shares at all.

Again, we see a lot of lighthearted content (such as “Ukuleles make everything awesome”), and people playing unexpected songs (like Slayer).

You can also use Buzzsumo to analyze competitors by plugging in their domain or the search parameter “author:name”. This is a great way to see at a glance what type of content your competitor is putting out there and which posts are getting the most shares.

Now lets head over to the “Influencers” tab to see who the big players in this space are. The results are based off of Twitter, and including rankings for Page Authority (taken from MOZ), Followers, Retweet Ratio, etc.

Buzzsumo conveniently tags your results as companies, bloggers, influencers journalists, or regular people. You can filter by any of these tags as well.

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From this dashboard you can follow or add influencers to a list, so that you can stat engaging with them more regularly.

To get an idea of the common themes and sources of links shared by these influencers, click on “View Links Shared”. Buzzsumo gives you a nice list of common words, and a pie chart displaying the percentage of shares from different domains.

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Takeaways:

  • Video is the most popular medium for content about ukuleles

  • The top videos are people playing unique, novel songs.

  • Around 20% of the top content were tutorials.

  • Facebook gets by far the most shares for ukulele content. Google+ is also quite popular, but only for video. If you’re going to be sharing a lot of video tutorials, you might want to consider Google+ as one of your main channels.

  • Don’t waste your time on Pinterest or LinkedIn for this particular niche.

  • Use a search of your competitor to see their most shared social content.


A couple concluding points on the tools and tactics mentioned here.

  • The purpose of these exercises is to get you out of your own head and into your audience’s, and to challenge your assumptions about who your customers are. However, these are only strategies for conducting secondary research. You should also take some time to actually chat, first hand, with your potential customers.
  • There is a lot of information to be found using each of these tools, and its easy to get lost in a black hole of online research. I encourage you to give yourself a time limit of a couple hours for doing this work. Take a look at a few of the tools mentioned here, write down your key takeaways, and move on to actually building your thing.

  • Its important to actually implement what you’ve learned with this research. Use it to keep on track with creating a product that there’s demonstrated interest in, use the vocabulary in your marketing copy, engage with the influencers you discovered, and focus your content on the channels and formats that you’ve seen work best.

Thanks for reading! Let us know what you thought of this article, and request more tips and tricks at support@gumroad.com.

Tools for Getting to Know Your Audience (Part 1)

Jessica Jalsevac on August 21st, 2014

This post is part one of Getting to Know Your Audience, where we focus on three free Google tools to kickstart your research. Stay tuned for more tools and tactics!

 market research toolbox

Who cares?

No really, its a serious question. Who are the people you’re making your product for? What do they talk about? Where do they hang out? What matters to them?

Luckily we have a plethora of tools at our disposal these days to uncover this information and test our assumptions with real data.

When and where do you use this information?

Knowing your audience helps you validate your idea and determine if you’ll be able to achieve your goals before you even create your product. Do you want to write the definitive how-to guide to making ukuleles out of cardboard? While a super cool idea, this might not be the best move if your goal is to actually make some cash. Sadly, there are just not enough people who care about making their own ukulele for this to be a hugely profitable business idea. Also, good luck getting people who want to make instruments out of cardboard to pay for your book.

Knowing your audience also keeps you in check throughout the creation process. With each decision you should refer back to your research and ask if this is something that people want, need, and are going to get excited about. Say you’re creating a fitness course for pregnant women. Each segment should be informed by the most pressing concerns expecting mothers have - is it safety, nutrition, weight management, relieving joint pain, or none of the above?

Finally, knowing your audience will help you - big time - with marketing and selling your product. The vocabulary you unearth during your research should get recycled back into your sales copy for your landing page and emails to potential buyers. Knowledge of where your target market hangs out online should guide your outreach strategy and help you decide how to target ads.

Basically, knowing your customers is the foundation of everything else that you do.

So now, let’s get creepin…er…researching!

 


1. Google AdWords Keyword Planner

Questions to ask:

Which keywords are more relevant to my content? What is the popularity and competition score for each of my potential keywords? What would be the cost of running an ad campaign for these terms? What websites already rank for my keywords? What related keywords might be a better fit for me?

How to use it:

To access the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, you’ll have to have a Google account and sign up for AdWords, but its a completely free tool.

From the Keyword Planner home page, click “Search for new keyword and ad group ideas.”

 search for new keyword

Enter your product or service idea into the top box. You can also adjust the targeting filters for location, language, etc., in the fields below.

enter product keywords

Click “Get Ideas”. Once on the results page, click on the “Keyword ideas” tab. You’ll see results for average monthly searches, relative competition for ad placement (low, medium, or high), and suggested bids for your exact search team as well as related keywords.

As you can see, things aren’t looking too good for “make a ukulele,” with only 50 average monthly searches. Some similar keywords are more relevant, such as “how to make a ukulele”, and “how to build a ukulele”, but these are still quite low.

“Cigar box ukulele” is a surprising search term, but unfortunately ad placement is highly competitive.

 

keyword ideas

I ran another few searches about ukuleles, and came across one that seemed a lot more promising: 

keyword ideas

“How to play the ukulele” has 3,600 average monthly searches, and relatively low competition. This might be a better topic to write about than building a ukulele from scratch.

A quick Google search for this same phrase reveals the major competition in this area.

 google search

Takeaways:

  • Making a ukulele from scratch is not a common thing people are looking for. :(

  • A much more popular interest (with 3,600 monthly searches), is in learning to play the ukulele - might this be better entry point for a product?

  • There is still relatively low competition in all the keywords pertaining to learning the ukulele, which bodes well for this type of content.

  • With the top search result being from Wikihow and the second from YouTube, no one website is really dominating the search for learning to play the ukulele.

 


2. Google Trends

Questions to ask:

Is my topic increasing or decreasing in popularity over time? How does interest in my topic compare to related topics? What key news pieces have come up over the last few years? Where in the world are the people that are most interested in my topic? What are some related search terms that are trending upwards?

How to use it:

Google Trends allows you to see stats for your keywords over time. Below is the interest over time for the search term “ukulele.” The letters indicate large press pieces on this topic. Here we see that interest in ukuleles spiked due to  stories about Warren Buffet giving ukulele lessons, a world-record attempt for most ukuleles playing simultaneously in Oregon, and musical prodigy Jake Shimabukuro playing a show in San Francisco.

google trends interest over time

The interest in ukuleles is rising over time, which bodes well for our product idea. We can also compare the popularity of ukuleles to other small stringed instruments, such as the mandolin and the banjo. 

google trends interest over time comparison

Interest in both the mandolin and the banjo is declining, so it definitely looks like ukuleles are the place to be when it comes to small stringed instruments.

In the Regional Interest section we can see which cities have the highest search volume for ukuleles. The place with the highest search volume is always 100, and the other cities are ranked relative to that.

google trends regional interest

This map clearly shows Hawaii’s dominance in terms of ukulele popularity. In the contiguous US, west coast cities show more interest than other areas.

The third category displays related searches, which is interesting in validating our idea. By clicking on “Rising” in the Queries column, I get a few terms that are rapidly increasing in popularity, such as the musical instrument brand “Kala”, “uke”, the short hand for ukulele, and “youtube”, hinting that many people are searching for ukulele videos on YouTube. Perhaps these YouTube searches are for lessons, or perhaps they’re to watch prolific players.

google trends related searches

 Takeaways:

  • Ukuleles have been gaining in popularity since 2009  - yay!

  • A key person on this topic is Jake Shimabukoru, whose been described as a “ukulele pioneer/prodigy.”

  • Searches for ukulele songs on YouTube in particular are rising fast.

  • Ukuleles are very popular internationally, especially in Southeast Asia.

  • In the US, Hawaii is by far the most popular area, with west coast cities such as San Diego and Portland showing the most interest in the contiguous US.

  • Ukuleles are also called “ukes” for short.

  • "Over the Rainbow" is one of the most popular ukulele songs.

3. Google Alerts

Questions to ask:

What are the most current things people are talking about on my topic? How can I use this news as part of my content strategy? What types of publications contribute to my topic? What patterns are there in the words used to describe my topic?

How to use it:

Google Alerts couldn’t be easier. Simply type in your topic and click Create Alert to get emails sent to you with trending new content. You can adjust the frequency of results, and tweak other filters by clicking “Show options.”

I quickly set up an alert for “ukulele”, and got the following results:

google alerts ukulele

Takeaways:

  • Local news outlets come a up a few times in the results, announcing performances featuring a ukulele.

  • When the ukulele appears in serious news publications, it tends to be in a playful piece, such as this one in the Washington Post about baseball player Bryce Harper surprising high school students with a renovated locker room, or this one from Air & Space Magazine about a pilot who entertains passengers by playing the ukulele.

There you have three quick and easy tools for getting you started with your audience research. Next time we’ll look at how to use some social networks and other free services to do an even deeper dive into your audience’s psyche. See you then!

Disclaimer: If you really, really, really just want to write a book about making a ukulele out of cardboard, then you should absolutely do that. Don’t give up on your dream just because some Google tools told you not to. But be realistic about the potential demand (and thus potential returns) you can expect for your project.

The 5-Step Countdown to Launching Your Product

Jessica Jalsevac on August 15th, 2014

You know you need a launch plan. You’ve heard time and time again that you need to build buzz and warm up your audience before asking them to hand over their money. But you’re overwhelmed with what to do and in what order. Should you throw a launch party? Reach out to press? Should you be posting on ten different social media sites? Oh gosh, should you have started two months ago? UGH.

Take a deep breath. Don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s a simple 5-step countdown to a great launch.

5. Assemble the minions!

Prepare the assets that are going to represent your product. Invest some time and resources to make sure these look professional because you want to make a strong first impression. Your assets will likely include:

  • Landing page/website
  • Trailer and/or pictures
  • Synopsis/description
  • Bio

For tips on preparing your assets, check out our Anatomy of an Effective Product Page post.

Ok, that was pretty self-explanatory, right? Onward!

4. Find the nerds

Instead of shouting to the masses, focus your efforts on people who geek out on what you do. For country rap (aka “hick-hop”) musicians like Lenny Cooper and Colt Ford, whose music focuses on themes such as hunting, fishing, and driving big trucks through the mud, this means that instead of going after the typical country music radio listener, they’re specifically targeting people who have an interest in off-road vehicles and attend mud bogging events (yes, this is a thing).

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You also want to find the supernerd influencers in your space and reach out to them directly. Send them copies of your work to tweet or blog about if they like it. Keep it friendly and give them a way to say no. No one likes to feel pressured to do something - make them feel good about supporting you and your work.

Artist Kyle T Webster sends free brush sets to influential digital artists and designers, many of whom create artwork using his brushes and share them with their following. Kyle then reposts their illustrations on his own social media - what could be a better endorsement?

3. Build momentum with content

Focusing on one or two main content channels (which should be dictated by where your core fans tend to hang out online), drip out free content such as songs, tutorials, sketches, or a sample chapter. Try to build to a cadence, releasing progressively more special content over time (i.e. first a single, then a music video).

Note: Its a good idea to start an email list no matter what, as its the most personal way to send followers updates on your project.

Filmmaker Emily Diana Ruth focused the marketing of her film, The Water’s Fine, on YouTube. She made a 14-episode video series on the making of her film, where she talked about everything from screen writing and casting to location scouting and budgeting. The content was not only educational but it also told high a highly personal and entertaining story of Emily’s journey to produce the film, making the viewer feel invested in her project.

The cadence built naturally as she moved from prep work through to shooting and editing. The 13th episode revealed the film’s trailer, and the final episode announced that the film was ready for purchase on Gumroad with a YouTube annotation linking to the product page.

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Nathan Barry recently wrote about a 5 week sequence that you could use to deliver educational content via email:

  • Week 1: Educational email, mention the product so they know it exists.
  • Week 2: Educational email, with a quick update on the product.
  • Week 3: Educational email, with more details on the product launch date.
  • Week 4: Short educational email, lots of product details including price and what is included. Reminder of the launch date.
  • Week 5, Monday: Provide every detail the customer needs in order to make a decision of whether or not to buy.
  • Week 5, Tuesday: A short email with link to purchase the product and a couple testimonials.

Both examples focus on providing valuable content rather than being purely promotional.

2. Incentivize

Encourage people to buy by providing some sort of limited time bonus for doing so. This could be a discount for the first week of sales, extra content for early buyers, or limiting the quantity of one tier of your product.

The Eminem team did this extremely well for Eminem’s MMLP2 launch. They released limited bundles of signed merchandise such as lithographs and deluxe albums that created a sense of urgency amongst fans and sold out within minutes.

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1. Announce!

Coordinate across all your channels on launch day, including any testimonials from your outreach. Its a good idea to make a list of all your channels and the exact copy/images/videos you’ll be using for each, so that all you have to do is pull the trigger on launch day.

That’s it. Five simple steps. Now get out there and prepare for launch!

How to Use Email to Sell More Products

Travis Nichols on July 31st, 2014

We’re pleased to have designer, writer, and teacher Nathan Barry back for another guest post. Six months ago, he talked about his Lessons Learned Selling $355,759 on Gumroad. By the way, that number’s definitely higher now. The third lesson he shared in that post was “Build a relationship through email”. This time, he’s going to expand on that to help you sell more. Here’s Nathan.


Why Email?

Why did you click this article? It probably wasn’t because you want to send more emails. I’m guessing the part that got you interested was “sell more.” After all, who doesn’t want to sell more?

The #1 reason people read my blog is to learn how better market and sell products. I’m guessing you fit into that category. Then I’ll share my #1 tactic for increasing sales: use email marketing.

Building an audience with email has worked amazingly well for me in book sales and courses, but what I find more interesting is how well it works across industries. I was talking to a very experienced marketing friend about marketing, and said “It’s amazing how well email subscribers convert to sales!”

His response? “Um, yeah… I’ve known that for over a decade.”

I was so caught up in the idea that Twitter, Facebook, and other trendy social media sites were the future of online marketing that I overlooked the workhorse of the entire marketing industry—at least those that were focused on making sales.

“Gumroad sellers who use email marketing make 3x as much in a product launch as those who don’t.”

- Ryan Delk, Gumroad

Why is email ignored?

If using email to promote your product will make you 3x more money, why aren’t more people talking about it?

I think that’s because email is boring.

Everyone, especially tech news site writers, want something new and fancy to take over. It’s exciting to think that a new social media site could change the way we do business online. A few things have changed, but decades after being introduced, email marketing is the the best way to sell products online.

Why do you think Amazon puts so much work into their promotional emails? Why do you think Groupon has “Enter your email address” as their entire home page?

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Because they know email works better than any other channel.

Drive-by visitors

For the first six months of writing for my blog, I really wanted a post to go viral. I’d heard all the stories of YouTube videos with millions of views and blog posts hitting #1 on Reddit or Digg. Forget how unlikely this was to happen—I still wanted it.

Then it happened.

My blog post, “How I made $19,000 on the App Store while learning to code” hit the #1 spot on Hacker News. While it didn’t get millions of views, I did receive 50,000 visitors in two days!

I thought I’d made it as a blogger.

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Unfortunately, when you get a huge spike in traffic like that, it usually isn’t sustainable.

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Since I didn’t have an opt-in form or any other way to get contact information from my visitors, all that traffic just disappeared. Months later, when traffic started to reliably increase, I had an email list so I could push content out to readers instead of hoping they came back to check if there was a new article.

Takeaway: using email will make you considerable more revenue.

Before Launch

Using an email list to test interest

Is your product going to be profitable? Do people actually want it? Do you know how to pitch it effectively?

These are all questions that you really want to have answered before you sink hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars building a new product. The most effective way to test for interest is to ask people individually to pre-order (which I highly recommend). In addition to asking for pre-orders from individuals (you’ll get so much good feedback), I recommend setting up a landing page to collect email addresses.

Not everyone who enters their email address will end up purchasing your product, but with a good product and marketing, it’s safe to assume one in ten will purchase. That means you can figure out if there is demand for your product based on the number of subscribers you get.

The idea is to build the email list of potential customers before you actually build the product. By doing that you avoid wasting time and money on a product no one is going to buy.

How to set up a landing page

The first step in building an email list is to set up a landing page for your product. You can use any number of off-the-shelf tools (LaunchRock, Unbounce, a WordPress plugin, etc), but of course I recommend using ConvertKit, which is the landing page and email marketing company I founded.

With ConvertKit you can design a beautiful, high converting landing page, add email opt-in forms, and manage all your email broadcasts and campaigns in one tool.

Here’s a landing page I created in ConvertKit for my book Authority before it launched:

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You can then use the ConvertKit WordPress plugin to dynamically pull this page into the rest of your WordPress site. Soon you’ll be ready to start driving traffic to your new landing page.

What Makes a Good Landing Page?

When crafting your landing page, there are four things that are critical to get right.

1. A single call to action

Should people share your landing page on Twitter, join your email list, or pre-order your product? So many landing pages try to get visitors to do too many things. The more options you give the visitor, the less likely they are to do any of them.

Instead, have a single call to action and ask them in a sequence. Have everything on the page direct the visitor towards signing up for the email list. Then on the confirmation page ask them to share the page on Twitter and Facebook. Finally, pitch them on the pre-order over email.

2. No extra fluff

That means removing the sidebar, any extra navigation link, and anything else that could distract from your one call to action. Generally the easiest way to improve a landing page is to remove content.

3. A strong headline

Your headline needs to instantly capture the visitor’s attention and get them to keep reading. Speaking to a pain is often the best way to do that. For my book Authority, my target is authors who want to make a living from their writing. So my page headline is “The idea that authors can’t make money is bull****.”

Anyone who is tired of being a poor, starving author or wants to profit from their writing is going to be drawn in by that.

4. A “What is this page about?” graphic

Finally, I like to include a graphic that visually explains what the page is about. Imagine you click a random link on Twitter and come to a landing page. Is it for a course? A book? An iPhone app? Without context it’s hard to know at a glance.

That’s why all my book landing pages have a prominent book graphic. My iOS apps have an iPhone showing an app screenshot. These give instant context that the visitor can use to understand the rest of the page.

Doing each of these will noticeably increase your conversion rates. Though always keep in mind that traffic source is more important than anything on page when it comes to converting more of your visitors.

Takeaway: capture email addresses to validate a product idea before launch.

The Launch Sequence

A long-term relationship

When someone visits your site you are in a mad rush to sell them a product. Because if you don’t, they’ll be gone in a moment and will probably never return.

My favorite thing about email is that you can build a relationship with each subscriber over time. Once you get that visitor to subscribe, you can educate them gradually until they know and trust you. No longer are you in a mad rush to make a sale. Instead, you have time to develop the relationship and gradually convince them that your product is a good fit.

The more you teach, the more they will trust you. The better your content, the faster you can build that trust.

Anticipation

In addition to trust, you can also build anticipation. Anticipation is a key ingredient in every good product launch. It starts with casual mentions of the upcoming product in the educational emails, then over time you share more and more about how the product will help the them.

If you only had five or six weeks for a product launch the sequence could look something like this:

  • Week 1: Educational email, mention the product so they know it exists.

  • Week 2: Educational email, with a quick update on the product.

  • Week 3: Educational email, with more details on the product launch date.

  • Week 4: Short educational email, lots of product details including price and what is included. Reminder of the launch date.

  • Week 5 — Monday: Provide every detail the customer needs in order to make a decision of whether or not to buy.

  • Week 5 — Tuesday: A short email with link to purchase the product and a couple testimonials.

Before purchase

Note that in that launch sequence you can’t buy the product before the launch email. That means all those emails are building anticipation without the ability to make a purchase. This is critical, because it is hard to sell a product that is available at any time.

The final launch email is just the release of all that built up anticipation. This is how even an email list of under 1,000 subscribers can drive $10,000 in sales in a single launch day.

Urgency

Though in order to have that successful of a launch, you need perfect pricing (that’s a big topic we’ll save for another article) and a reason they should purchase right now (urgency), instead of putting it off for later.

There are a few different ways to create urgency:

  1. Discount the price

  2. Add a bonus

  3. Limit sales

They all boil down to convincing customers who are (almost) ready to buy that right now is the best time to make a purchase or they will miss out. Let’s quickly cover these individually.

1. Discount the price

I find this is the easiest to implement and often the most effective. Running a 20% off sale for anyone who purchases in the first 24 hours has become my default way to motivate purchases. Not only does it reward people who have been on my list since the beginning, but it also gets everyone to purchase right away rather than waiting until some future date.

In order to make this compelling, you need to offer a decent discount (as a customer I would find just 5% or 10% off to be insulting), but you don’t want to offer too much (e.g. 50%) since many of your biggest fans will purchase right at launch anyway.

2. Add a bonus

Many people say that you should never discount your products since that devalues them in the eyes of your customers. I agree that running sales all the time will encourage buyers to just wait for your next sale, but I don’t think a one-time discount at launch will hurt your reputation.

For those who don’t like to run sales, another method is to add extra content as a bonus. This can be an extra video or webinar, a bonus course thrown in for free, or code samples that are exclusive to just the early purchasers.

I have two problems with this method:

  1. I don’t think a bonus motivates sales as well as a discount. You will have to offer a very compelling bonus to match even what you would get from 20% off.

  2. Creating content is a lot of work. I want all the content I create to go out to all of my customers. The idea of creating something just for a few customers that won’t get used in the future really bothers me.

Take all that with a grain of salt since many people who are far smarter than I am swear by offering a bonus to add urgency.

3. Limit sales

If you don’t want to offer a discount or create additional content as a bonus, then another option is to limit sales. That can mean limiting for a set amount of time (the product is only available for 24 hours, then the sales page is taken down) or for a limited number of seats.

For ConvertKit Academy I limit each class to just 10 students. A small group means I can spend more time and attention on each student (a big win for them!). But it also adds urgency to everyone on the fence since they know the class will sell out and they might not get a seat.

On a time-based limitation you just take down the sales page and the product is unavailable until the next launch.

Sending reminders to drive more sales

It doesn’t matter which method you choose to add urgency if you don’t remind your customers about it. In fact, those reminder emails are what drive so many sales in a launch. That’s why it’s so important to add urgency in some way, you get to send emails saying “The sale ends in four hours.”

Those move sales. Take a look at this graph of sales by hour for the Authority launch. Can you guess when I sent the reminder email?

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Yep, sales were trailing off and the reminder email really kickstarted another wave of sales. If you don’t send at least one reminder email, you are really missing out on sales.

Driving Ongoing Sales

Email is especially good at driving ongoing sales after a launch. Instead of traffic disappearing entirely, you can continue to make sales off an email list. So how do you can you capture those subscribers? With a sample chapter.

Sample chapters and giveaways

On each of my book sales pages I give away a sample chapter. Just enter your email address and a minute later a PDF will be available in your inbox (which makes it easy to download onto your phone or tablet). This is great for growing my email list (about 5% of page visitors request the sample chapter), but visitors can also check a box to get a free course on designing better iPhone applications (or whatever is relevant to the book topic).

This course is timed to the date they subscribe, so it is customized to each individual and sends out automatically. In the first few emails I teach more about the topic with content related to the book, but then gradually work in a sales pitch for the book itself.

Many people go to the sales page and are interested in buying, but for some reason don’t make the purchase right then. If a visitor leaves without making a purchase, chances are they won’t come back. But, if they join the email course when they download the sample chapter, then you can gradually remind them about the product and overcome any objections that you didn’t have time for on the sales page, eventually making the sale.

Since all this is automated (once you write the email course) you can continue making sales so long as you continue adding leads to the top of the sales funnel.

Future launches

As your email list continues to grow, the new subscribers will have missed out on that initial launch. Which means that even though they may have heard of your product, they haven’t experienced the full sales pitch.

In fact, last fall I started asking for case studies for my book Authority. I got some great responses, but a large number of subscribers in my audience asked, “What’s Authority?”

That shocked me! I thought I was talking about my books and products too much! Instead there were people on my email list who had never even heard of the book. That means it is time for another launch. Turns out, you can launch the same product multiple times!

Once you have everyone on an email list those future launches become so much easier. Instead of scrambling to finish a product and grow your list, you can focus on just making a great product.

Never start from scratch

But the best part of building an audience is that you will never again start from scratch. So long as there is even a little bit of overlap between your current product and whatever venture you pursue in the future, that audience will help you kickstart future success.

If you play it smart by focusing your next product on the same audience as your first product, you can make so much more money without any more promotion effort. My second book launch was more than twice as big as my first one because I was able to target the same audience (designers).

Selling more digital products

In order to sell digital products (books, courses, Photoshop plugins, or anything else) you should start using email. In order to do that effectively you need an email marketing provider that handles a few things really well. Here’s the basic list:

  1. Allows you to give away an incentive (like a sample chapter or video course) to new subscribers. This is actually surprisingly difficult in many tools. Companies like MailChimp force you to hack around their system in order to implement this best practice that will noticeably increase your conversion rates.

  2. Allows you to combine subscribers from multiple incentives into a single list. If you do get it to work in another provider you’ll quickly find that it forces you to create multiple lists, which is really bad since you can’t segment your subscribers across lists. As you get more advanced with the promotions you run, this becomes very important.

  3. Makes it very easy to create email courses or autoresponders. Email courses are one of the most profitable ways to continue driving sales with minimal work. But unfortunately they are really painful to set up in most providers (especially MailChimp!). You can do it, but you’ll wish you chose a different tool.

Once I learned all these tactics for increasing revenue—and just how powerful email marketing can be—I was shocked that the major tools didn’t support these best practices. So I created my own company: ConvertKit.

I used my background in designing easy to use software to solve each of these pain points and build these best practices directly into ConvertKit. You should definitely check it out and start building your list with ConvertKit.

What’s Holding You Back?

After growing ConvertKit for over a year I was surprised to find out that even with the right tool, people weren’t growing their lists as they should. That’s when I realized that to be successful you need more than just a tool.

After interviewing customers I wrote a brand new course called ConvertKit Academy, designed to take you from zero to growing a successful email list in just over a week.

Then I started asking customers, “What’s holding you back?”

With each answer I built something into the process to account for it.

When working on a coming soon page for a new book, these up and coming authors would get stuck by not having a good book graphic. So we included eight different Photoshop book cover templates in with the Academy.

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And then we asked, “What’s holding you back?”

For some the answer was, “Well, I don’t have Photoshop.” Easy! We jumped on a quick call, helped them choose an icon, and then within 10 minutes had a finished book graphic. They wouldn’t win any cover design awards, but are still very clean and professional looking.

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Again, we’d ask, “What’s holding you back?”

Here the answers got a little more varied. From “I don’t know what to offer as an incentive” to more complicated questions about email marketing or high level tactics. So we added two live Google Hangout calls with each class of ConvertKit Academy (limited to just 10 people). In these calls we talk through any questions that come up, help each student put together a final direction, and then deal with any implementation details.

Focused on success

The success rate has been fantastic! The best students go from zero email subscribers to over 100 in under a week! And those first 100 subscribers are the hardest to get.

Instead of just signing you up for a great tool (ConvertKit’s the best) and giving you some help documentation, we add a full training course, live coaching, book templates, design help, all focused on making the customer successful. What other email marketing provider does that?

This entire course is just $300. And just to make the offer irresistible we throw in six months of ConvertKit for free! At $50/month that would normally be $300, so that alone pays for the entire course.

Taking action

The students who go through ConvertKit Academy say that it was absolutely critical to get them to take action. They knew generally what to do, but hadn’t set aside the time and energy to actually get it done. The Academy provided everything they needed to really make progress. And anytime they got stuck, we were right there to answer questions and help them get going again.

Do you want to grow an audience and sell more products over email?

If so, consider joining ConvertKit Academy. We open up a class of just 10 students once per month and you can join the waiting list here:

Join the waitlist for ConvertKit Academy.

And if you join the list, I’ll send you more free training on how to profit from email marketing.

In-Stream Buying with YouTube Annotated Links

Travis Nichols on July 24th, 2014

Instant gratification holds a special place in our frenzied hearts. That wonderful, addictive feeling of getting what we want, when we want it diminishes in the face of obstacles. That’s part of why we work to make buying on Gumroad as streamlined and simple as possible.

Now there’s a new way of doing that in the most shared and embedded website on the internet.

Annotations have long been a part of YouTube, but until recently, they have primarily been used to add background information or to link to other videos and channels. Now, Gumroad is on the short list of commerce platforms authorized by YouTube to be linked to via annotation directly within a video’s stream.

What does that mean for you? Viewers of your film/book/game trailer, music video, poetry reading, software patch, etc. can click an in-stream link and easily buy your product. It’s faster, it’s easier, and early evaluation is showing that this trimming of the fat can result in more product views and sales for you.

While logged in to YouTube and on your channel, click Edit on one of your videos. Then click the Annotations at the top. Choose the type of annotation you want, and what you would like the link to say (the Label box). Move it around to where you want the link to go. Then you can choose your colors and font size. The timeline at the bottom will help you find the place where you want to put your annotated link, as well as the Start and End boxes. Finally, enter the URL of your product on Gumroad or your Gumroad Gallery URL. The Link box will automatically check, and the default Video drop down will automatically change to Merch. Play back the video to make sure the link is where and when you want it, double-check your link, and you’re all set. Hit Publish and start sharing.

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Previously, using a video to share and promote your project meant embedding the video in your Facebook feed or blog and linking to it in a tweet along with a separate purchasing link. Suddenly that feels like sending a telegraph to place an order via Pony Express.

Your videos can now be a direct call to action. To learn other ways you can connect your audience with Gumroad, see our Integrations page in the Help Center.

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Google Analytics Campaign Tracking

Jessica Jalsevac on June 12th, 2014

Last week we looked at how to set up goals in Google Analytics to track conversions such as views and product purchases. 

This week we’ll learn how to track the performance of specific marketing campaigns by setting up custom campaign tracking in Google Analytics.

With custom campaigns, you’ll be able to see exactly how many conversions result from a given email blast, Twitter post, or Facebook ad, enabling you to make more informed marketing decisions.

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It’s important that you have goals already set up to make the most of campaign tracking. Check out last week’s post for a step-by-step guide on goals.

Disclaimer: Custom campaigns are extremely powerful. But, like your uncle always says, with great power comes great responsibility. If not done correctly, custom campaigns can mess up your analytics big time. So start simple with the guidelines we’ve provided here, and when in doubt, remember that its better to not tag at all than to tag incorrectly.

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What are custom campaigns?

The gist of custom campaigns is that you can add information (called “parameters”) to any URL you own that links to your site. This is known as “link tagging.”

The additional parameters tell Google Analytics more about your traffic, and help identify things that might not be reported properly. For example:

  • traffic coming from an email newsletter often shows up as “direct” because certain desktop mail apps and secure servers don’t pass referrer data.
  • banner ads get grouped in with your referral traffic, even through they’re ads.

You can overwrite this reporting with your own custom tags to ensure you’re capturing the correct information.

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There are five different types of information (parameters) that you can add to a URL:

Medium*: The type of marketing/advertising, in very broad terms. Examples: email, social, cpc, banner.

Source*: The specific site, publication, advertiser, etc. where the link lives. Examples: awaytogarden.com, newsletter, twitter.com.

Campaign Name*: The name of your campaign. Examples: small_gardening_launch, free_trial, thanksgiving_sale.

Term: Used for paid search campaigns to identify the keywords you bid on. Examples: small_space_gardening, urban_garden.

Content: Used to differentiate ads within the same campaign. Most useful for CPC campaigns. Example: logolink, textlink

* Medium, Source and Name are the only three required parameters. We suggest that you only use these three (plus Term when doing paid keyword searches) for now. Once you get more advanced you can add in the Content parameter.

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How to create custom campaigns

To illustrate, let’s enlist the help of the fictional Calvin Burns. Calvin recently published a product, “The Small Space Gardening Guide”, on his website. He’s ready for budding urban gardeners to buy it and create their own beautiful mini oases.

He’s decided to promote the guide in 5 different ways:

1. Newsletter emails
2. Twitter posts
3. Facebook ads
4. Google AdWords
5. Guest post on Awaytogarden.com

We’ll create some custom campaigns for Calvin so that he can analyze how well each of these promotions is working.

First we need to add parameters into our links. Google created a nifty tool to help with this called the URL builder. You simply plug in your parameters and voila! The link is created automatically for you. 

1. Newsletter emails

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As you can see, we entered Calvin’s website, plus his campaign Source, Medium, and Name. It isn’t necessary to include the campaign Term or Content here, so we’ll leave these blank.

Click Submit, and you’ll get a link that looks like this:

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Now Calvin can include this link in his email newsletter to get accurate tracking on the traffic and conversions its driving to his products.

Let’s run through the rest of Calvin’s promotions to see how we would tag the URLs for each of them.

2. Twitter Post

You’ll likely want to use a link shortener before posting this on Twitter.

3. Facebook ads

  • Website URL: http://calvinburns.weebly.com
  • Campaign Source: facebook.com
  • Campaign Medium: cpc
  • Campaign Content: planter_map
  • Campaign Name: small_gardening_launch

See how we included a Content parameter this time? This is useful if you are running different versions of ads. In this example, Calvin’s ad might feature a map of where to put your planter boxes. He might have another ad that features basil on a balcony, which he can call “basil+balcony”.

4. Google AdWords

Don’t tag AdWords URLs. Instead of creating custom campaigns, simply link your AdWords account to your Google Analytics account and enable auto-tagging. Auto-tagging provides more information than custom campaigns without you doing a thing.

5. Guest post on Awaytogarden.com

Don’t tag links back to your site in your guest blog posts. These links will show up in your referral reports, which give you more information than custom campaigns.

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Make a plan

To keep all your information organized, create a spreadsheet with columns for your original URL, all your parameters, and the tagged URL. You can see a great example spreadsheet here.

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Reading your data

You can slice and dice your campaign data in a number of different ways. The most common is to head over to Acquisition > Campaigns for an overview of all your campaigns.

Above is a screen shot showing Calvin’s Small Space Gardening campaign. As you can see, his Twitter post, newsletter, and Facebook ad campaign can all be compared against each other in terms of traffic, bounce rate, goal completions, etc.

By clicking on “Goal Set 1” at the top of the page under the Explorer, I can view how each source performed for various goals. For instance, we can see here that the conversion rate for purchasing the Small Space Gardening Guide from Calvin’s newsletter is 50%, vs. 33% for Twitter and Facebook. If this trend continues, Calvin might want to test different copy for his social media channels, or direct more effort towards getting people on his newsletter.

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A note on Medium vs Source

One of the most common mistakes we see is people mixing up medium and source. Medium is your largest bucket, so you should not use things like “twitter”, “weekly_newsletter” or “awaytogarden_banner” for it. These are Sources. Instead use “social”, “email” and “banner” for the Medium.

For more best practices and troubleshooting, plus a great video explanation of the parameters, see this fantastic post on Annielytics.com.

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