There are many tools in the marketer’s toolbox, but should we be putting more emphasis on owned assets? Casey Hill from Active Campaign helps us dig into how to use our owned assets to optimize our consumer behavioral data, control our narrative, capture attention, and ultimately build authentic customer relationships.
Maximizing Your “Owned Assets” Summary
- Owned Assets Offer Control and Longevity: Unlike platforms governed by changing algorithms, owned assets like newsletters and podcasts provide greater autonomy and a long-term growth trajectory.
- Effective Email Strategies: Set clear goals, expectations, and engaging content in email marketing. Driving up reply rates is a key to improving email deliverability.
- Importance of Segmentation: Tailor email content to segmented lists based on engagement levels to boost relevance and effectiveness.
- Utilizing Dynamic Content: In email and SMS marketing, use dynamic content to help in personalizing campaigns without overwhelming effort.
Maximizing Your “Owned Assets” Episode Transcript
Rich: My guest today is a growth veteran with over a decade of experience in helping software companies scale fast. Whether it’s garnering millions of views on Quora and LinkedIn, or pioneering new growth levers like booking his team on hundreds of podcasts, he’s always looking for creative and value-led ways to grab attention and break from the mold.
In his current role leading growth at Active Campaign, he is building organic growth engines to propel the team to $1 billion in ARR. Today we’re going to be talking about the value of said owned assets when it comes to your marketing with Casey Hill. Casey, welcome to the podcast.
Casey: Thanks so much for having me, Rich.
Rich: So before we get into the benefits of owned assets, tell me a little bit about your time and focus on Quora. That’s a bit of an outlier when it comes to marketing platforms. So what drew you there and what did you get out of it?
Casey: Yeah, great question. So I started on Quora back in, I think, 2019. And at the time I was actually working in sales. So I started writing on Quora and talking essentially about everything involved in the journey of an SDR and AE and going through that scope and that kind of day to day, what I was learning, what I was testing. And it was one of the first experiences where I really learned the importance of that storytelling component with social media channels in general. It’s much of what informed my strategy on LinkedIn and Reddit in the years to come.
But I found that versus our marketing team, which was kind of taking blog content and repurposing it and trying to fit questions like that, those firsthand stories that included data,, that included a unique perspective that included things I was testing firsthand started to perform way better. So in a short period of time, within six months, I accrued I want to say it was somewhere around 800,000-900,000 views on that content, versus our marketing team doing a fraction of that. And then they brought me more into the fray and was like, what else can we do with this? And we started playing around with advertising on Quora, promoting posts on Quora, and ultimately it was a good engine for us.
I used Quora for about maybe two to three years pretty extensively. And not only just purely as a lead generation mechanism, but also I think when you look at a channel, there’s this idea of competition versus potential reach. And so at the time, I think Quora was a really good, sweet spot for that. It had a lot of audience, but it didn’t have a ton of competition. And that manifested in a couple ways. That wasn’t only about impressions, but you could actually DM and reach out to people.
So I started making relationships, connecting with folks like Jason Lemkin from SaaStr, and all these individuals who I wouldn’t have likely been able to connect on LinkedIn with, because those people are just inundated constantly. But there was less competition. There was less noise in that Quora environment. Now, over the last couple of years still, my legacy answers still bring in 40,000- 50,000 a month just passively. But I found that the ability for it to actually generate quality leads has declined a bit. And so I’ve become less active on a day-to-day basis. But that was a little bit of the journey with Quora, and definitely glad to have the experience with it.
Rich: Yeah, that’s fascinating. But we are talking about owned assets today. So can you just define for us what ‘owned assets’ are, and maybe give some examples of what is owned and what isn’t?
Casey: Yeah, for sure. So an owned asset essentially can refer to a lot of different things, but it means something that you have full autonomy or control over. So an example would be running your own podcast. An example would be running your own newsletter. Something where you basically construct this thing and you’re less beholden to the algorithms, like you might be if you build all your brand on LinkedIn or on X or on some sort of social platform, where some big change happens and basically suddenly overnight, you start to get dramatically less reach.
Now I want to be clear that it’s not as if there is no existential threats for owned assets, right? Like inboxes can change their algorithms and there can be all sorts of things that can impact owned assets as well. But the idea is you have a lot more autonomy, you have a lot more control. And I think that as we look at just a constant barrage of changes that are happening on a lot of the major platforms that people utilize, more and more I think teams are starting to look at what kind of owned assets do we have and how do those feed into kind of long-term place?
So I think the other big benefit of owned assets is that kind of long tail effect. When you’re looking at growth, you want something that’s accretive, you want something that continues to build and stack up over time, which I think owned assets fit that bill really well.
Rich: And I think that’s interesting. And I would also suggest that it may not be an all or nothing. It’s not like you’re suggesting do everything in owned assets and don’t think about assets that you don’t own. Because there are benefits to Facebook or LinkedIn or Quora whether it’s for a period of time or whether it’s ongoing. But probably a mix would be best. Because with the unowned assets, you’re not trying to drive traffic or subscribers to that platform, they’re taking care of that for you, and you’re just joining the fray. Would you agree with that?
Casey: Yeah, 100%. When I look at a content strategy, I think a lot about distribution. And so when I build, when I write, when I do research or I’m talking about some sort of firsthand lesson that I’ve learned. Going into that content strategy I’m thinking this is going to be a newsletter episode highlighting this specific aspect, but I’m also going to try to talk about this topic on a webinar or a podcast. I’m also going to post about this on LinkedIn, and I’m going to post about it on these specific subreddits, say, forward slash /SaaS or /entrepreneurship, et cetera, on Reddit.
So absolutely. I think you want to take good quality content and then try to utilize it across as many channels as you can. And I think that owned assets is one manifestation of that. But in order to maximize the number of eyes and ultimately the impact of it, I think you definitely want an omni channel approach, a hundred percent.
Rich: Very good. All right. Let’s focus though on these owned assets. What are some general recommendations you have to make these more effective as part of our overall marketing campaigns?
Casey: Yeah, for sure. So I’ll talk maybe about newsletters. I’ve done a lot of work over email, and it’s a field that’s changed dramatically over the last 10 years. And so I think that the newsletter, when it started, was this very multifaceted kind of team updates, it’s product releases, it’s a whole bunch of different things stuffed into a monthly update. And I think now the space is so crowded that ultimately that type of content just doesn’t get engagement. It doesn’t drive action. It doesn’t serve a fundamental purpose oftentimes now because the engagement on it is so low.
So through the hierarchy of needs when you’re looking at building an asset, I think the first thing is to set a very specific goal. And this could be whether it’s a newsletter when you start, is it for customers? Is it for leads or prospects? Are you trying to build some sort of topical authority in a specific area? Have a goal coming into it. That is the first fundamental thing I think you want to do. And that way you won’t have the problem of having content that either doesn’t really make sense to your core customers or doesn’t really make sense to your prospects. So I think you start there.
The second thing is, I think you want to set really clear expectations. One of the first optimizations I do when I’m sitting down with teams is I tell them, say exactly what you’re sending, when you are sending it, when you plan to send it – each Friday, at 8am.
I’m going to send you a use case about how a company went from zero to one million ARR. As an example, and that person has a very keen idea, not only of the content, but when they’re going to receive it. Because a major issue you have with email marketing in general is so much of the content gets put into alternative folders today. It gets shoved straight into promos, it’s not whitelisted. So that’s one of the first huge barriers and I think one of the major keys from algorithms today that people maybe don’t focus on as much as they should is actually reply rate.
So one of the major ways that it knows that this is an automated message is that the reply rate when you’re just talking casually with colleagues or some sort of personal family conversation, is like 80 plus percent. Whereas the reply rate for email marketing varies by industry, but extremely low, right? Like a couple of percentage points. And one of the things you can do by setting expectation, you already have people that are tuning in more, and then in those first couple of correspondence, try to create some engagement by asking very specific questions.
And another kind of component of this is, I always encourage folks to not ask generic questions. Don’t come in and just say, “if you have any questions, let us know.” That’s the example of a very bad question, right? Versus asking them, for example, “what is your major hurdle right now with activation or conversion of your leads?” Something that’s very specific will tend to get a much higher response rate going in.
So you start at the top, you set a goal. You now, underneath that goal, have set expectations of when they’re going to receive content. And you’ve asked for replies, you’ve tried to generate some initial engagement around that. I think the next thing is to be really cognizant of when you’re laying out this content to have it be very digestible in terms of its format and also to have a compelling hook.
So oftentimes we hear all of this conversation in social about a compelling hook, but people often don’t talk about it in the course of email. But it’s the same thing, right? You have a very crowded space. You have lots of emails coming in. And you’re looking at what is going to catch that person’s attention. So I think that’s something to give some thought to. What is the preview text? In most email clients today, you’ll be able to see what that is. Use that as an opportunity to grab attention around a story.
But I also encourage folks to not get too fancy with the subject lines. What you don’t want to do is drive a bunch of opens and then not meet expectations. And so then people basically tune out and you don’t drive the actual action. So while it’s important to have that preview text with some compelling copy, I always push for folks to have subject lines that focus on clarity and meet expectations.
So like in the case we were talking about before with a use case, like how Calendly went from zero to 1 million using LinkedIn or something, that’s going to appeal to a very specific audience, but they also know exactly what they’re going to get coming into that. And I’ve done dozens and dozens of audits over the years of companies, and time again the best performing content from an ROI perspective continually comes back to that content that has a very clear subject line that then brings them into the body of it.
Next, I think below that, this is something that’s probably talked about quite a bit, and yet many teams still do very poorly on it. It’s just the skimability of content. When you set up an email are you using bolding? Do you have headers? Is there an ability for someone within a couple moments to skim through and get a sense of, is this going to be fundamentally valuable for me? Because again, so much content today you’re inundated with, people are taking that lens to your email content. And so going through auditing. If you have a newsletter, if you have a flow right now, go back and make sure that it can pass that skimmability test, I think is an important one. And connected with that, you want to be focused in terms of at the very top, we had an expectation. You want an expectation, and also a focus on the individual email level as well. So what that means is don’t have five CTAs. Don’t have a ton of different ways you can send someone. Otherwise you’re going to drive less actual output from that message.
So those are some very broad guidelines, and we can get into the minutiae of what specific types of content tends to be most resonant by industry and other pieces at a high level. I find that the majority of companies that I work with, besides working in the SaaS space for the last 10 years, I’ve done a lot of institutional consulting specifically with pre-seed and early series companies, and we find these same problems again and again, just on a fundamentals level. So I think it’s always important to have people run that initial audit as a step one.
Rich: Awesome. There was a lot of stuff in there. I took a lot of notes while you were talking. One thing I wanted to circle back around is you mentioned ask specific questions, to get people to hit the reply button and engage with you. Which, I want to make sure I understand this. I have heard this before from other people, is you want people to reply to you obviously, because now you’re having a one-on-one conversation with them. But also because it’s a signal to the ISPs or the email service providers that there’s a lot of value in this.
So is that part of the reason that we’re impacting the algorithm for the chances of showing up whitelisted… not necessarily whitelisted, but more likely to show up in an inbox rather than having spam attached to us?
Casey: Yeah, there’s a couple of reasons. I think it’s super valuable. The first thing you said is yes, it does affect the algorithms and makes it more likely that your content will be placed in primary. So when you have people that follow these best practices, another great resource for this is Pat Flynn, who’s produced a ton of content on this topic specifically in terms of how to increase reply rate. But I have found this true for a lot of our clients, that if they’re trying to get out of alternative folders, promotions, updates, spam, etc, driving up that response rate is one way you can do it.
Usually, it’s like a diagnostic. When I walk in and a company is like, “I have an 18% open rate”, we start trying to control for as many variables. We start with their very best, most engaged leads, and we’ll often start communicating way less with the majority of their list. Just start communicating with that small pocket, and really trying to encourage those people to respond, asking them questions, getting them engaging.
Take that pocket, it might be 15%, 20% percent of their list only. Some people freak out. They’re like, we’re not going to message to 80% of our list? And I’m like, if you want to solve this problem, if you have a reputation issue, it takes time. It’s a snowball in a positive and a negative way.
So we’ll start with that pocket, we’ll drive incredible engagement. Obviously these are their best leads. So they’ll go from almost no reply rate, to suddenly they’re getting a 20-25% reply rate. Not open rate, reply rate. And over time, we can then start to continually expand.
The other thing that I also like to do based on that is, I think it’s super important to actually take actions based on those inputs. And so I do that on two levels on intake forms. I usually ask one specific question. So I ran a newsletter called The Growth Corner, talking about organic growth insights. And right there, I asked, “What is your major growth? What area of growth are you most concerned? Are you talking about acquisition? Are you talking about expansion? Are you talking about retention based on how someone filled out that form?” I already started to personalize their journey. Oh, you care about retention?
That’s a totally different, that churn conversation and churn tactics and all those pieces is totally different from the acquisition conversation. So I start to serve it up on that level. But then when people reply back to specific follow up questions I also start tagging them within my system. And based on those tags, I can then send tailored content that I know is going to be relevant to that cohort of people. So I think it serves from an algorithm standpoint, but also just to create more relevant content for your audience.
And I always tell people, don’t you see all these companies, they post what the averages are. Campaign monitor and all these others will come out and they’ll say, “Oh, average is 21% in this industry and 22% if you follow best practice.”
I work with a lot of teams, and my own personal experience consistently getting 60, 70 percent open rates and very high engagement. I think my last Growth Corner was a 7% click through rate average across those emails. And so it is definitely possible to dramatically outperform those, but you have to be somewhat militant in some of these best practices. And also get okay with saying, I’m going to continue to trim down my list, I’m going to encourage folks to unsubscribe. I’m going to really just focus on people getting the content they most want to read. And that being your central lens, I think will really benefit you in that context.
Rich: So originally when I was asking about the idea of ask specific questions, I was thinking like, okay, we probably want to do that early on. So is that part of a drip campaign? Which it may be, and you can speak to that.
But what you’re also saying is, take that segment of people who have been clicking at a higher rate, have been opening those emails at a higher rate, and start creating more content specifically for them. Because then you’re training whatever algorithm it is that you have a much higher open rate. So then at that point, would we then open it up to a bigger part of the list, or we just continue to focus most of our attention on that most engaged segment of our list?
Casey: Yeah. So I do gradually try to incorporate more folks in, depending on the company. So really there’s a lot of different situations depending on what data we have. So in the example of, say, a software company, we might have data from their usage patterns. So I might say, okay, these are our most engaged list, we’re going to start there, because these are the people engaging on email. But I actually see that these people are very engaged users, and so I’m going to start to contact them next. I know there’s at least engagement on a platform level, even if not on an email level. So I’m going to naturally grow into that.
Same thing for an e-commerce or other industries. If you can study, are these people visiting the site? Are they taking other actions? Okay, they’re not engaging in emails, but they’re buying products. They’re visiting the blog. That would be my next extension. I would encourage people to use tracking and have some visibility to understand those behaviors and slowly expand into those leads as the next cohort. If I have no visibility, they’re not engaging in any emails. If there are no site indicators, no outside platform usage in the case of a B2B company.
At that point, I would pause. I would pause on those people, and sometimes I’ll do a breakup email. Which is essentially the idea of hey, we’re going to stop communicating with you. And usually what I recommend in those emails is have specific options. So if you can break down, like this is another, topic is you can have three newsletters, each of them on a very specific topic.
So one of the things I just did this with the university, a very prominent university, and it was very effective. Which is that they had one newsletter that was trying to do 10 different things. And so we just broke it down and they started running, I think we ultimately landed on six newsletters. And someone could come and opt into the specific ones they cared about and the specific information. So in those breakup letters, that can also be an effective mechanism. Do you just want product updates? Do you just want to hear when there’s discounts or promo periods? Do you want educational content, et cetera, et cetera?
Rich: All right. You had mentioned in passing something about do we have a deliverability issue. And so if I’m understanding you correctly, like my company might not be getting my emails delivered regardless of what platform we’re using. Maybe we’re using Active Campaign, maybe we’re using another one, but my particular company emails are having a very low delivery rate. Is there a way for me to know this?
Because generally, when I look at the metrics from an email service provider, it’ll tell me my open rate or my click rate, but it’s not telling my deliverability rate almost because maybe it has a negative. It looks bad for the ESP more than it looks bad for me. I think that’s at least people’s thought and idea. So how can we tell if our deliverability is poor and needs to be addressed?
Casey: Yeah, for sure. So I think that the first thing is, you look for a abnormal signal. And so generally what happens when people start to have deliverability, like if you get blacklisted. And there’s a couple tools like MX toolkit and others, where you can look up to see whether you specifically are blacklisted on some sort of area. It’s usually a fairly dramatic note.
Now, there’s different things that can happen with deliverability. There’s some more gradual signals, which we can get into. But if you become suddenly blacklisted based on a campaign, it’s usually like someone will say, “I was doing 40% and now I’m doing 18%.” And so that’s a dramatic signal. There’s also tools that do things like seed testing, where they’ll test you across very specific inboxes. So they can tell you, hey, you’re doing amazing on Gmail. You’re getting a hundred percent deliverability, but you are struggling. You’re getting blocked out on Yahoo or Hotmail or something. So there is tech out there where you can look into.
The first thing is, do I notice something dramatic that has changed that can’t be just boiled down to best practices. Because your sending reputation is a combination of a couple of variables. You have a pool of shared IP’s. That’s how almost all of the ESPs work. I work at Active Campaign, that’s how we work. And that’s how most of the industry players work. Which means that you have all of these IP’s and they’re shared by, say, 1000, 10,000 companies who are all sending through those shared pools. And then connected to that, you have your personal sending reputation.
A common misconception is people think that sending reputation is just the actual send from email. That’s actually incorrect. It looks at what the root domain is sending people to. So what it means is they basically found out, the people who make these inbox algorithms are smart, and they said spammers can just change their send from easily. They can just rotate through a ton of send froms. It’s much harder for them to change the actual domain they’re sending people to. So it’s looking at that root domain that you’re directing folks to and it’s creating that signal around that.
There are certain, what I call ‘catch all domains’, that I would be cautious to use. So if you’re using support @sales, those types of things, that can have an adverse effect. But in general, it’s really what is connected to that root domain. And nine times out of ten, if someone changes from rbrooks to rich.brooks @ domain, it’s going to have zero difference, right? So just as a note for people when they’re thinking about that on a tactical level.
But to get to your question, the first thing I would usually do in situations is try the tactical strategic things before I went down the technical route. There are a lot of technical diagnostics that you can do and tools that can help you. But first you want to see if I isolate this group, if I do some of these best practices, can I start to reverse those trends and see that change. If so, then you probably don’t have some sort of technical block or blacklist or something like that on your domain. It’s probably more just an atrophy of the attention of your list over time through these people that just become disengaged, they’re old leads, et cetera, et cetera.
Rich: Yeah. And we’ve all seen that. I have many emails that I used to love getting and now I never even look at them. I just think that there’s a certain point where you get nothing else out of a newsletter, it’s time to move on.
You had mentioned about that university and moving them to six different newsletters, which is segmentation. I wonder how small businesses, this sounds like a prestigious university with probably tens of thousands or even more people on their mailing list, but how can a small to medium sized business approach segmentation?
Like I know that it’s a best practice. But I know that a lot of people who promote segmentation, when I ask them specifically about their own lists, they sheepishly admit that they don’t actually segment their own lists. They just pass that on as a best practice. Is segmentation just for lists of tens of thousands of people, or can we be using it for significantly smaller lists and still benefit from it?
Casey: Yeah, I definitely think that segmentation is for companies of all size. I think one of the things you want to ask is when you segment, people will often ask me because I say I encourage you to ask one specific question, at least one. It’s one of the battles I fought over the years with marketers, people that say an opt in needs to only be name and email. And I said, no, I think you should ask a specific question. Even if you get slightly less opt ins, the ultimate output, which you care about which is business, will be better.
But when you ask those questions, you have to ask what is the actual user benefit, benefit to the customer of the information they gather? So industry, for example, that maybe will allow you to send tailored use cases. But maybe you find that it’s actually company size that’s actually much more relevant. Your 10,000-person e-commerce company is more similar to your 10,000 person SaaS company, right? Then company size is the better question because when you send content, you send use cases, you’re actually going to be able to provide something that’s more relevant.
So I think the first step is when you ask segmentation questions. Have some lens to what you’re going to do with it. First off, if you’re not going to do anything with it, then don’t waste your time, right? Don’t ask the question, that’s just an unnecessary block. If you do ask it, make sure you take some sort of specific action.
I think where people can sometimes also get lost is that it doesn’t mean that all of your core flow has to be different. Sometimes it can be a supplementary message or correspondence that comes in, meaning that Someone ops in I still have everyone say getting on newsletter a which is has some specific purpose They came in but now I’m also touching base with some additional case study or some additional industry specific, or size specific, title specific content as relevant. So I mean I’m a big data driven person. I think the biggest way to look at this is to run these tests if you can. If you’re like, is this worth the sweat? Go in and run the tests and make those comparisons.
So one of the things I’ve spent a lot of time on is around activation and onboarding and early-stage kind of email drips and correspondences. And so when you’re doing that, it should be fairly straightforward for you to run a split test and say, hey, if I ask them the industry and I give them very industry specific pathways, does that increase conversions? Just compare that before and after. And that’s a good way for you to see the value in that personalization and the value in that segmentation as you’re going through.
Rich: All right. So personalization is also a promise of email marketing and SMS. How do you recommend we maximize the effect of personalization in our email or SMS marketing campaigns?
Casey: Yeah, so there’s a couple of ways that you could do it. Number one is, I’m a really big fan of dynamic content whenever you can do it. I know that not every platform does provide that. At Active Campaign, that is one of the functionalities of the platform. Dynamic content basically means, let’s say that you have one standardized piece of copy, but you have an actual block within that, that based on 20 different tags can pull up different content. So you’re not having to duplicate an email 20 different times in order to do that segmentation.
So one of the things is to try to make the lift of personalization not so Herculean that the company just fundamentally can’t do it because it’s just too much of a hassle. So I think that’s one component of personalization that is very important when you’re lining up or you’re thinking about it whenever possible, try to put into place things like that.
I think also another important thing when you’re thinking about personalization, this kind of touches a little bit on the activation journey. But make sure that you don’t lose core essential content. So one of the mistakes that a lot of people make is they say, “I’m going to personalize this.” That’s great. And then they make this personalized journey and it’s all case studies and industry specific. Then they come back to me and they say, “Casey, my conversion rates went down. I don’t understand. I tried to do everything.” And when we unpack it, what we find is the reason it went down is there are certain essential things that someone was supposed to do that they have now taken out.
Their ‘a-ha’ moment was you need to set up a template and they’ve removed that because it’s now all this industry specific. So you need to make sure that those kind of play together, I think, as part of that journey. But personalization is a broad topic, but I think those are just some starting points when you’re first starting to implement it.
Rich: Okay. Walk before you run. We talked a lot about how to improve things once people are on the list, but I know that everybody’s always concerned about, how do I get more people on the list? And these kind of tactics tend to evolve and change over time. What’s working these days when it comes to list building, from what you’re seeing out there?
Casey: Yeah, there’s a lot of different ways you can do it. I can tell you that what I did, because I was very present on a lot of social platforms, I actually started to add CTAs to LinkedIn posts. And now a word of caution here for people that might attempt this. There’s two things you absolutely do not want to do when adding a CTA to a LinkedIn post.
Number one, do not add a link ever to the actual core body of a LinkedIn post. It will reduce your views by 80%. LinkedIn wants to keep people on the platform. They do not want you linking external. So don’t do that.
They also, in response to that, what a lot of influencers started to do was post without a link. And then the first comment was them with the link. LinkedIn also cracks down on that as well. So you’re going to notice something if you pay close attention to a lot of the top profiles, influential people on LinkedIn, they do something tricky now. And I’ve talked with a lot of them and I’ve tested this myself, and I’ve found it to be effective. Which is they wait until four or five comments come in and then they pop their comment in with the link. They get the benefit of still having that CTA link because the comment comes from them. It tends to get a lot of likes and engagements which elevates it to the top, and they’re still able to take that attention and convert it.
One of my top performing posts about churn, they got about I want to say 400,000 something views on LinkedIn, drove 800 opt ins. Just that one post drove 800 opt ins to Growth Corner. So if you are producing content in different areas, I think that’s one great way to try to translate, “Hey, you’re interested in this topic. I’m going to be exploring more of that topic.” So you’re taking that topical authority that you set up, and you’re then finding ways to translate it.
So I think socials is one channel that you can be driving opt ins to. You can also do it across other owned assets. If you have a podcast, if you have a YouTube channel, you have all of these different places that have show notes and you want that person who you captured their interes and then you’re like, and there’s more. We’re going to go more into these topics. We’re going to go deeper into XYZ. And you take that attention, and you pull people in from that perspective. So I think that that type of thing works well.
I’ll say very quickly, and I won’t go down a huge rabbit hole on this, but I think it’s an important thing to note. When you produce content, I like to say that there’s five degrees of content. So first degree content and secondary content tends to be very company specific. So you might think of first-degree content as like why someone should choose Active Campaign over MailChimp because of dynamic content. Like very, very granular.
Secondary content in my case might be talking about marketing automation. Third degree content, which is this sweet spot around topical authority is, we’re talking about email marketing. That’s what we’re doing right now. This conversation today, owned assets, is third degree content. It’s relevant, right? But it’s high enough level and it’s system agnostic that everyone can come into that and benefit. It doesn’t matter if you use Active Campaign or Hubspot, whatever. You can apply these practices and you can receive value. And so that third degree content, I think, is really the sweet spot that helps you drive leads because that’s where you build topical authority by and large.
And then above that, fourth degree content is what I would classify as business related general content. So if I said if I did a debate with two hosts where I was having them talk about should companies allow remote employees, what the pros and the cons are. That really has nothing to do with my company, but it’s still in the business domain.
And then fifth degree content is straight up just personal. You see people on these social channels, even on things like LinkedIn, some very successful people that are, like, “We just bought a house”, or “I just had a kid”, or important life milestones.
So when you’re thinking about content, they all play a role, right? One through five, depending on your personality, depending on your goals, it can be different. But when someone comes to me and they say, my focus is on lead generation, I’m going to push you to create more of that third-degree content. First and secondary content, that is about demand conversion. So versus demand capture, there’s going to be a core of people, and you want to focus on that demand conversion. And there’s a place for that.
I openly say, and I’ve gotten to see this now working. And Active Campaign is a very large company. Many of our highest ROI campaigns, like this campaign generated 250k, those are bottom of the funnel content. The people already have a ton of intent, and you’re just converting that. But if your focus is on demand generation, you want to go one step up and you want to focus on those topical authority areas.
Rich: Awesome. One of the benefits of owned assets is that juicy first-person data. So when we go into our email service provider reports, what should we be looking for? What are the KPIs that really drive business?
Casey: Yeah. Yeah. So I think that right now, when you’re looking at email as a channel, I think most of us are pretty aware that open rates is not the best metric, right? Open rates now, because the app auto opens, and a ton of other things is manipulated. So really looking at clicks and ideally response replies are some of your best indicators of overall engagement.
Now in the case of attribution, you can also obviously look at sales. That’s a major factor. If one of the intents around the asset is to drive actual business, we look at that metric all the time. What is the ROI from people that click through this email and take a subsequent action?
But if you’re trying to take a little bit of a step back and use it as a leading indicator of is this an asset that is going to ultimately be able to drive business, those would be some of the things I would be looking at. I’d be looking at click through rate. I’d be looking at lead scoring.
So one of the things that I think is important too, is once you send someone to a page, that’s often not the end of the journey. That person might go to that certain page, but they’re like, oh, that’s interesting, let me look more. They toggle around the website. They check out other pages. So what I do is I set up lead scoring. So I’m looking at those behaviors. Someone who clicks and goes to a page and leaves immediately is not going to be the same lead score as someone who clicks, goes to the website, checks out the pricing page, checks out the blog page, all these different things.
I’ll even assign weighted value based on the importance. Like pricing page is pretty important, that’s pretty high intent. They’re going to get more points for that than say visiting the blog page. But having a sense of that and using something like lead scoring, is a super easy quantifiable way to say, hey, these are your 20 opportunities from your newsletter who have the highest engagement who are the hottest leads. And then I can again, depending on the business, there can be a variety of next steps to help capture that and then convert those folks. But I think at a high level, that’s what I’d look at.
Rich: So we can obviously track clicks from an email newsletter to our website. We can use UTM codes to better track that in Google Analytics. But are you also saying that we would use a pixel from a company like Active Campaign, and that’s how you’re doing your lead scoring? I just want to make sure I understand how you do all that.
Casey: Yeah, correct. Yeah. So tools like Active Campaign, and there are obviously others that have the same thing will allow you to basically just have a code, a snippet that is a tracking pixel. You can put it if you’re like on WordPress, you can just put it in basically a universal block that applies it across pages, or you can have different ones that are customized in different spots.
And then based on people visiting that page, you can then have that provide points, score points, just in the same way that you can say an open is worth one point and a click is worth three points and you can set a reply to be worth 10 points. You can also do the same thing for web activity to give you that more holistic picture.
Whenever possible, the perfect situation is that you’re using both dynamic and static behaviors to inform lead scoring. Meaning that we’re talking right now about dynamic behaviors, they click, they open, they go to pages, they visit stuff. But it also is probably relevant for folks f or an intake process. If you ask them their company size, if you ask them certain key bits of data, that’s a static intake. But that also might affect your lead scoring.
You know that a large e-commerce company, for example, might be one of your best customer profiles. So you’re going to spend extra time, you’re going to prioritize that person as part of your flow.
Rich: So just to be a hundred percent clear. And we’re talking about Active Campaign in this case, this is the company you work for. So Active Campaign is a pixel similar to the way that Facebook or LinkedIn has a pixel. So we can track people on our website, and we would mix that data along with the emails that we’re sending and track that as well. So this gives us a more complete picture. Excellent. I just want to make sure people understand.
And then the last thing I wanted to ask you, and then I’m going to let you go, but you mentioned a couple of times about measuring replies. And in my mind, I was thinking that sure, I measure replies. If somebody replies to me, I make a mental note that they have replied, that sort of thing. But is there a tool within tools like Active Campaign that actually measure when somebody clicks reply, or is that something I need to measure on my own?
Casey: Yeah, so you’ll be able to see response rate as an aggregate stat. You can absolutely pull that and see it. Obviously, when people respond to an automated email, it all comes into your inbox. So you’ll manage those conversations as you normally would through correspondence. But that is a metric that you can look at and get kind of data around, get some visibility around, as you’re looking to understand.
And not only get data around, but the other important thing is trigger automations around. That’s one of the beauty of having a robust automation engine is say if someone replies, do X, right? Maybe you want to move them to a sales pipeline. And so you’re going to have your team touch base with them. Maybe you’re going to set a task to make sure that you follow up or an XYZ. There’s a lot of different things you can do, but I think it’s important to not only have the aggregate statistic, try to use that to drive intelligence. Lead scoring being one of them, but there’s a handful of different behaviors you take there.
Rich: Absolutely. So I use Gmail, that’s my default email program. So I click the reply button, which is part of Gmail. It’s not necessarily inside the email. Are you saying that’s also measured? If I was on your email list from Active Campaign, I click the Gmail reply button, but that actually is something that Active Campaign in this case would be able to measure, versus like a button at the bottom that says ‘reply’.
Casey: Yeah, correct. Exactly. So there’s something called IMAP/POP and IMAP/POP syncing between your email inbox and between your tool that you’re using. So as long as those tools are synced together, you’re going to be able to see the correspondence. When someone replies, that will show up in the history. You’ll be able to see that within an actual contact record. And you can drive automations and you can have visibility around it. So yes, a hundred percent.
Rich: Fascinating. I have learned tons today, Casey. I’m sure a lot of other people have, too. If they want to learn more about you, if they want to learn more about Active Campaign, where can we send them online?
Casey: Yeah. Two spots. So in terms of Active Campaign, that one’s simple, activecampaign.com. On our homepage you can hop in, you can get a trial, you can start testing and going through some of those motions.
For me personally, I always encourage people to check out my LinkedIn. I post five plus times a week. I’m talking about organic growth. I’m talking about things like owned assets. And I’m just sharing firsthand experiences of what I’m actively doing, what I’m testing, what’s working and what’s not. So people just go to Casey Hill, the one who works at Active Campaign. Find me there, and I have a ton of content around these topics specifically.
Rich: Awesome. Casey, this has been fantastic. Thanks so much for your time today.
Casey: Phenomenal. Thank you, Rich.
Casey Hill’s expertise lies in finding creative and effective ways for his clients and their messaging to stand out and scale fast. Check out the amazing things they’re doing over at Active Campaign, and be sure to connect with Casey on LinkedIn.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 25+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.