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Boosting Organic Growth, Mastering Content Calendars & Crushing Sales Emails

Abby Thompson

Unlocking organic growth, managing huge content calendars, mastering sales emails. 

Meet the incredible Aja Frost.

Aja is a Sr. SEO Strategist for HubSpot. Before that, she edited HubSpot's Sales Blog. In her spare time Aja loves to read, watch whatever the latest HBO show is (it's bound to be good), and listen to podcasts. 
Q: Hey, Aja! -- Tell us about yourself. Who are you and what do you do for HubSpot? 

A: I’m an SEO strategist. That means I spend roughly 40% of my day helping our blogging team figuring out what to write about and how to capture as much search traffic as possible, 20% working with other teams (like Acquisition and Academy) on their organic strategy, and 40% on special projects.

Q: Can you speak to a few challenges you’ve seen arise during the marketing and sales hand-off? Are these mostly around cultural barriers between the two teams or is it more about unrefined processes? 

Quantity versus quality is always a huge challenge. Marketing is typically playing the quantity game -- as many leads as possible. Understandably, this frustrates the Sales team, since they have to spend a lot of time on prospects that aren’t good fits or are unlikely to buy. I think that’s an organizational failure; the company’s leaders have to set goals that align the two departments rather than (unintentionally) pitting them against each other.

I’ve also seen a lack of interest -- on both sides -- on what the other department is actually doing. Many marketers have no idea what the day-to-day of a salesperson looks like, and vice versa. Simply knowing how the other team spends their time and what their challenges are makes it a lot easier to collaborate.
Q: For most of the world, inbound marketing approaches are changing as a result of market saturation and constantly evolving technologies. What new trends are you seeing take shape in the space?

The latest trend is conversational marketing and selling. If you’ve seen those little chat boxes pop up on the right-hand corner of your screen when you go to a website (usually B2B), you’ve experienced conversational marketing. Instead of scrolling through the site and finding information by themselves, or filling out a form and waiting to get a call or email, the customer gets their questions answered right then and there. Usually they’re talking to a chatbot who routes them to a sales or service rep. It’s more efficient, and it’s also more human.

Q: On HubSpot’s Sales blog, you’ve written extensively about sales communications via email outreach. What are your top 3 tips for writing an amazing sales email?
1. Give the person a reason to respond. That’s easier said than done when you’re reaching out to a near or total stranger, but it’s critical. Most emails go something like this:

“Hi John Doe, I’m Sales Rep X, and I work at Company Y. Our product does A, B, and C for businesses like yours. We have more than 150 customers and are getting great reviews in places like TechCrunch and Product Hunt. Would you be interested in learning more?”

eye roll

I don't know about you, but I'm probably never responding to an email like that. An effective message focuses 100% on the recipient and the value they'll derive from the relationship.

“Hi John Doe, I saw your company just passed X milestone -- congrats. You’re probably starting to think about solving Y problem or taking advantage of Z opportunity. Would you be interested in a quick call next week to discuss how Competitor #1 and Competitor #2 successfully overcame similar challenges?”

  1. Keep it short. No one ever complained a sales email wasn’t long enough. Not only will you be forced to include only the most relevant information, but you’ll also save some information for the next email in your sequence.
  1. Figure out how much personalization you truly need. Customization is essential (otherwise you’re basically spamming), but that doesn’t mean you can afford to spend 20 minutes on every email. Use trial and error to identify the personalization sweet spot. That’s probably 2-3 minutes per prospect but of course it varies on the product, industry, and buyer.
Q: When you first started at HubSpot, you managed a pretty huge content calendar. Tell me one lesson that you learned through this process?

Organization is key. We use Google Calendar to organize our editorial calendar; each blog post is saved as an “event” with the date and time it’s going live. I’d update the event with the post status (IDEA, DRAFT, IN COS, SCHEDULED), which let me quickly review the upcoming days and make sure the content was ready to go. 

I also created events for our daily emails, using similar tags (DRAFT, SCHEDULED) to ensure every email went out on time.

Google Cal
Without an airtight process, things definitely would’ve slipped through the cracks.
Heck, even
with an airtight process, there were days that blog posts went out late because I’d forgotten to schedule them.
At that point, you have to shrug your shoulders and move on, because you have tomorrow’s deadline to deal with.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Q: Through organic means alone, you grew HubSpot’s sales blog from 420K visits per month to 548K per month in one year. Without giving away any “special sauce”, how did you go about creating a strategy for such impressive, unpaid growth?
 First, I had to break out of what we call the “month-to-month” mindset. The blogging team used to be hyper-focused on our monthly traffic goal. This encouraged less-than-ideal tactics, like publishing a post that was bound to perform well over social media and email, but wouldn’t rank for any keywords and thus didn’t have any value beyond its first few weeks on the site.

We decided to ignore the monthly traffic numbers and only publish content that had an organic angle. The first few months were scary, since we were getting less traffic than before, but the organic flywheel slowly started turning. Once our traffic was rising again, I could say, “Okay, we know this works, let’s keep doubling down on search.”

 Learn more about Aja and read her fantastic sales content on the HubSpot blog!  

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