SaaS Breakthrough – Featuring Gaetano DiNardi

demio saas breakthrough featuring gaetano dinardiAbout Gaetano DiNardi:
Gaetano DiNardi is the Director of Demand Generation at Nextiva – a cloud communications company – and has a track record of success working with brands like Major League Baseball, Pipedrive, Sales Hacker and Outreach.io.

Outside of marketing, Gaetano is an accomplished music producer and songwriter – he’s worked with major artists like Fat Joe, Shaggy and loves making music to stay turbocharged.



Show Notes:
02:50
Disrupting Business Communication For Businesses Of All Sizes
04:25
Joining To Lead The Demand Generation Marketing
05:50
Dealing With A Huge Wide Range Of ICPCs
09:00
Mapping Out An SEO Plan From Scratch
"The first part of any SEO strategy that I would recommend for any new person taking on a new SEO strategy for any company is to start there and look at where you can improve existing content that's in rank positions four through 10."
"When it comes down to step two, you have to start looking at things like traffic opportunity and commercial viability as well."
15:55
How To Determine Keywords' Commercial Intent
18:00
The Middleman Strategy
"What you actually have to do is not just look at CPC but also look at the landscape of what that result page looks like."
20:30
A Not To-Do List For SEO
"I think the biggest no-no I see now is this idea that content comprehensiveness and long form content is always going to win, which is just simply not true."
24:45
Gaetano's SEO Toolkit
26:45
Verticalized Marketing And Keywords
"You need to build topical authority in something. And if you're new, like you can't just, you can't just go into verticalized marketing like off the bat because you're, even though the difficulty of going that route is lower, you still need to build up some kind of topical depth."
"Then once you start building up that topical depth, then I think it's a good time to start going verticalized, start testing a few different things and seeing what works and what doesn't."
28:15
You Need Content To Support A Verticalized Marketing Approach
29:45
Doing B2B Content Marketing Through LinkedIn
"The LinkedIn company page has long been dead. A lot of people, you know, when they see brand pages now they're just like, all right, like I see it, I get it, it's there, but I'm not really going to engage with it cause I don't know who's going to write back. It's just a faceless, it's a brand. What does work is having people from the company become sort of the quote unquote face of the brand."
31:05
Maintaining A Signal To Noise Ratio And Always Be Sharing Value
"It's kind of a stay top of mind strategy, give a lot of value, optimize for engagement, connection and conversation and yeah, just don't be salesy. That's basically it."
33:25
The Habit Of Doing It And Keep A Running List Of Ideas
35:00
The Formula To Drive Engagement With A Post
38:05
Missed Opportunity: Redesigning The Blog For Better User Experience
40:00
Marketing Challenges For 2020: Getting Harder And Finding New Growth Channels
43:00
Lightning Questions
Transcript:

DA (02:50):
Hey Gaetano, how are you doing today? Thanks for joining me on the SaaS breakthrough podcast. What's going on?

GD (02:55):
Thanks David. Appreciate you having me. It's great to be here with you. I've been, checking you out following all your stuff and it's been awesome. So I appreciate you having me here.

DA (03:05):
Yeah, no, it's seriously our pleasure. I love having great companies on like Nextiva. Just an amazing, amazing company. You guys are doing a lot of great stuff. We'll talk about some of that stuff as well as some of the marketing experiments and initiatives that you've been doing over the past few years. But before we jump in there, why don't you explain a bit about the company Nextiva, when it was founded, who the customers are and what you guys are doing uniquely in the marketplace.

GD (03:29):
Sure. so the company has been around since 2008, and, we're a cloud communications company and essentially what we're doing, is kind of disrupting business communication for businesses of all sizes. We really, our sweet spot is SMB and mid market companies, but we do dabble in the enterprise as well. And the flagship product is business phone service or voiceover IP software. And we couple that, together with other cloud communication tools such as live chat, video as well. And, we also have a CRM software so you can bundle it all together with CRM. And it's, it's a nice, kind of package for businesses looking to just streamline their tech stack a little bit, consolidate and, really kind of get a whole picture of, of the customer journey. So that in a nutshell is Nextiva and what we're about.

DA (04:27):
That's awesome. A very big robust product serving a big pain point. When did you actually join the team?

GD (04:33):
Yeah. One year and a half ago. Exactly. So that's all.

DA (04:38):
Congratulations. That's awesome. Yeah.

GD (04:40):
Thanks man.

DA (04:41):
What were you initially brought in for?

GD (04:43):
Yeah, so really, I lead the demand generation marketing. I have a team of eight highly skilled marketers, that I work with every day. It's, we're a great unit and, you know, we do all things growth. So everything from brand marketing with growth mindset, we don't kind of do that, that stale, boring, corporate brand marketing if you will. We do a lot of SEO, a lot of paid acquisition, a lot of testing, a lot of conversion rate optimization, email, email nurturing, marketing automation as well. We work really closely with sales. We have a daily and monthly quota. So, you know, we gotta, we gotta get results. We can't just, do marketing for the sake of marketing. And, yeah, it's, it's, it's been really fun and, you know, in the last year and a half we've seen some really good results both on the organic and paid acquisition side. We're, we're also hyping up the brand kind of taking that brand presence to the next level. So yeah, all things that, influence the sale, if you will. And that's, that's how we're doing it.

DA (05:52):
Oh, that's awesome. Yeah. And obviously big product, a massive pain that you're solving in the marketplace. And from the growth team perspective, how are you guys looking at product market fit? How are you dealing with your ICP? Obviously with a very wide ranging product that serves a lot of industries and niches. How do you guys kind of whittle that down to maybe a single ICP or multiple ICPs? How does it all work?

GD (06:17):
Yeah, it's really, really, really hard. I'm not gonna sugar coat it. It's probably the hardest thing, that we, we have to deal with on a daily basis. You know, like some companies just serve one market. There are many software out there that are made specifically for maybe real estate or maybe for a specific vertical or maybe just purely SaaS, right? Like, you know, there's some competitors in our space that have said, we don't really want the middle of America customer that is running a mechanic shop or maybe a pizzeria or a flower shop. All we care about are businesses that are venture backed, that have a recurring revenue model and we're going to go target those businesses only. With us, we have many different ICPCs. And you know, we ranked number one in Google for, for the keyword, small business VoIP for example, right?

GD (07:10):
Or we rank also very highly for business phone service. Those are some of the money terms that we optimize around. And if you think about those terms, it's like, dude, like the, the, the range of the spectrum of the businesses that could be searching for that are endless. You know, it could be like I kind of mentioned before a Joe's pizza shop, Sally's flower shop. You know, we have some really big customers though that are kinda in that, that that heart of America sort of brand tier if you will. Like Shelby American motors is a big one. Eagle Rider is a, is a motorcycle kind of, a business, right? Netflix with a portion of their company uses us. So we have some huge brands under us, but we also serve a lot of the, you know, the upcoming businesses that make America run.

GD (07:56):
So, with that being said, we have those. And then we do have kind of a way to narrow this down a little bit by going into verticals. So we may do like a vertical marketing campaign. Our sales team will let us know like, Hey, we're having a lot of traction with, for example, financial services companies. So what we'll do is we'll plan a, you know, maybe a six month campaign targeting, financial services companies and we'll do market research. We'll do something called jobs-to-be-done research and find out what job are they hiring our software to do for them. And we'll put together, you know, product marketing collateral, acquisition collateral, collateral for our sales teams. And then, you know, we'll see really good results around that because it's more narrow, more focused. So in short, we have a huge wide range of ICPs, but we do try to narrow it down by doing verticals, but we also have to continue casting that wide net and, you know, fishing for shrimp so to speak.

DA (08:56):
Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. I think we'll talk a little bit more about the verticalized marketing in the SEO plan. And I know you've had a great deal of experience with SEO. You have a case study up on Moz, how you used SEO to, to grow Sales Hacker over 400%, which led it to being acquired. So you're, you know, really, knowledgeable in SEO. But it sounds like because of that knowledge you guys have been able to attack kind of the bigger keywords, which companies like us, like Demio we're not targeting web conferencing. We're going very, very niche because I just don't think we have the SEO expertise or really know how to compete in that very, very large market there. So it sounds like you guys are doing that in an incredible way and then you also have the sub verticalized marketing, which we'll talk about. But you know, because of that experience, I think a big portion of what I wanted to talk about today was the SEO plan. I would love to know what it's like when you're coming into a company or when you're starting your company. When you're looking at the SEO plan from scratch, how are you mapping this out? I mean, I would just love to get in your mind and kind of see how you're thinking of an SEO plan when you're building it out.

GD (10:05):
Yeah. Oh we could probably just have a whole episode on this cause it's, you know, it's, it's so in depth. I guess I'll try to break it down, systematically, if I could, but all right. So assuming like you're me and you're coming into Nextiva for the first day, first week, and you know, the boss is like, Hey, we, our SEO is top priority. We've got to turn this around. We need to grow this ASAP. You know, most people are going to tell you that you need to establish baselines and you need to do a lot of strategy and you need to do a deep dive audit of the website and find all these technical glitches. There's a million places you can start. And I, you know, my take on it now is that you kind of actually, you can't get away with the, the old adage, that says like, you know, SEO takes around six months to get good results.

GD (10:55):
While some, while some of that may be true, you got to do, as much as you can to show fast results. And there are many ways to do that. And the first thing I usually do is I go into our existing, traffic and results and rankings and content. And I just try to, I hate to use this phrase low hanging fruit, but I do try to find out where are there some quick wins available, where can you get quick traction going? So usually what I would do next is kind of have a breakdown of traffic, rank zone. So how I classify this is anything that's in position, organic position one to three would be considered like really high value. Anything that's in position, like four to 10, I would focus there. I call that the strike zone or a striking distance zone.

GD (11:44):
And then anything that's in position like 11 to 20, you know, you have that as kind of like the next zone of priority. And then anything that's in position 20 beyond is stuff you can't really think about right now. But usually, you know, there's been some kind of content creation happening at every company at some level. And, you know, there's always ways to find little quick improvements. So the first part of any SEO strategy that I would recommend for any new person taking on a new SEO strategy for any company is to start there and look at where you can improve existing content that's in rank positions four through 10. Whether it's updating the content, tweaking the title tags, aligning URL structures to target keywords, right? All these sorts of things. Adding internal links, finding those quick wins is the first thing that I do. If you don't have anything there, that, you know, that's a different story, but usually starting at that point you can start to get a sense of what needs to happen.

DA (12:44):
That is super, super helpful. I love that. So kind of looking and auditing what you have and then trying to make the best plan of attack based on that. So the fourth to 10, once you kind of have that in mind, what are the next steps? What are you doing next is about, you know, building more backlinks to that content to rank that higher? Is it about making more content and then linking it, like how do you then execute the following steps, right?

GD (13:15):
So yeah, so that's only step one is identifying what needs to happen. Step two is actually doing it, right? And then so here's, when it comes down to step two, you have to start looking at things like traffic opportunity and commercial viability as well. So for example, if you have something that's like in position like five, that's like really top funnel and you know that if you get ranking like let's say, let's just use for example, customer service tips, right? That is a pretty good term for, you know, discoverability to the brand. It's top funnel. People may read that and maybe subscribe to the email newsletter, but it's not going to drive like leads, right? Like people are not going to search customer service tips and sign up for Nextiva. So I probably wouldn't prioritize that one over something like say, voiceover IP troubleshooting.

GD (14:13):
Okay. If someone's trying to troubleshoot their phone system, there's probably something wrong with their existing system, which means that they may be looking to switch soon. Right? So if I see that at position like five, even though it has far less search volume, the cost per click I can guarantee you is, is higher than that, right? So you need to be looking at all these different metrics when it comes to keywords, not just volume. I think a lot of marketers kind of get blinded by the whole volume thing. Like, Oh, we can get a lot more volume. Yeah. But who cares? It's not going to be volume that is gonna drive sales success. So I always start by looking at where can I make an impact with the commercial terms. Once I have, once I've identified those, then I start looking at, okay, now it's time to update this content.

GD (14:56):
It's, when I look at it, it's really thin. it's not as comprehensive as the other content that's out there right now. It looks shitty. tThe links are stale. There's broken outbound links in it. The feature image is, is a stock image, right? Image alt text is, is not correct. The URL structure is too long. It has too many things in there that shouldn't be there. It should just be a nice clean URL structure. Then once you take care of all the foundational things such as everything I just said, then that's when you start thinking about backlinks. I think that's another big misconception. Everyone's just like, Oh, it just needs more links. When I, when I put this URL into the Ahrefs and I compare it to the top ranking results, the top ranking results, it just has far more links. So we just need to start building links to it. Well guess what? You can't build links to shitty content. No one wants to link to it. So you got to do that first, then start building links and that's how you attack it.

DA (15:54):
I want to circle back real fast in a piece you said there about kind of the buyer intent or maybe even level of awareness on those keywords. How are you grading those keywords? Like you mentioned a couple of examples that seem pretty obvious, but there are often those keywords as long tail keywords that are like kind of right in the middle. Do you know if they have buyer intent, do you not? How do you judge those? Are you putting them into a system and then looking at like CPC costs? What's the determining factor there?

GD (16:24):
Yeah, that's, that's a good one. So first and foremost, Adwords data. Export everything that we're doing in Adwords, seeing what converts well there and starting from that frame of reference because Adwords data is going to tell you, you know, if like let's say for example we're bidding on like hosted PBX, the paid results there could, could be high commercial intent, but then when you look in the organic listings, it's all what is hosted PBX, what is, what is, what is what is. So you have these informational results there, but the paid listings are very commercial. That's, that's a sign that even though the organic listings are showing, informational intent, that there is buying intent there. That they want to understand it better so that they can buy it. So you want to look in areas where you can have kind of alignment with paid and organic listings and it can be really powerful actually if you do capture a snippet and you are ranking in position zero or now position one and then you can bid on that SERP as well and be in paid listing three or four so that you have two results kind of next to each other with the same brand and you're able to just kinda capture more eyeball real estate by doing that and you already know that, since you've been bidding on it, you've been doing some testing and the paid acquisition side, you know it's converting.

GD (17:58):
So then you can know for sure that if you have this, what is organic page ranking high and you internally link to your product page from there, you can do the middleman strategy where you have a, what is top of funnel page because that's what Google is favoring for that SERP. You know, they're not favoring, product pages for organic listings in that SERP. You, you basically do the middleman strategy where you rank with the top of funnel page you internally linked to the product page and then boom, that's how you start building the flywheel. So that's, that's the way that I look at it.

DA (18:34):
That's awesome. Yeah. And I guess if you're not running AdWords themselves, you're just looking at like average CPC cost.

GD (18:45):
Yes and no. I think CPC, yeah. So CPC is a great way to look at it. And it's not necessarily the only way, because there are cases where you have to, look in the search results and just see what's there. So like for example, like, any query now that has the word software in it. Like, let's say you want to rank for like SEO software for, real estate companies. You're not going to rank for that because review sites and affiliate sites have been favored in that result. So what you actually have to do is not just look at CPC but also look at the landscape of what that result page looks like. Because if there's too much noise there, even though it's high CPC and you feel like you can be competitive for it, it's not going to be worth your time because Google just doesn't want vendor sites, being listed for certain SERPs.

GD (19:37):
And also the, the amount of noise outside of the review sites such as like carousels and knowledge panels and you know, we're just, they're always testing and experimenting with the kinds of ads that are being shown. So like, let's say there's like a huge, you know, a huge amount of noise with, with, you know, the SERP features, if you will. And then you'll see a bunch of vendor websites and you realize that the best you can get is like position four. It's not going to be worth your time. So you gotta just, and that's why SEO is so tough because it's not a money thing that you're wasting is a time, it's an opportunity cost. So you're not burning money with SEO. If you make a bad decision, you're burning time, which you know, arguably could also be just as painful as burning money. But it depends on how you look at it.

DA (20:26):
If not, if not more painful, right? Like that's your most valuable asset is definitely the time, but that's super helpful. So those are your two steps. You're doing a lot of analysis. What do you have? What can I build on? What are my winning keywords? Where should I double down? You're really balancing the content and the backlinks, making sure your content is quality, everything is working well. You're looking at the page and auditing it and then you're looking at back links. What about things not to do? Are there things that could actually hurt your SEO rankings? Maybe like you said, backlinks to bad content, you know, bad images. non-optimized you know, keywords on the page that actually end up hurting your rankings, what could you do that might shoot you in the foot or shoot yourself in the foot if you do the wrong way?

GD (21:13):
Yeah. Oh yeah, this is a good one. So the biggest, I think the biggest no-no I see now is this idea that content comprehensiveness and long form content is always going to win, which is just simply not true. So for example, like in many cases it does win but not always. So like this idea that, you know what, the top ranking result has a 3000 word guide. We just need to do a 5,000 word guide and we'll have more content. It'll be more comprehensive and therefore it will rank. Actually what ends up happening with a lot of that is you have bloated content and you, and you end up seeing a lot of stuff that is just regurgitated or a lot of the same things said in a different way. And what you end up having, you end up have having is content that doesn't get as much engagement as you would want because it's just too, it's just too all over the place and it's too cluttered and it's too long.

GD (22:23):
So, don't think that necessarily, don't always think that more content comprehensiveness or I have to just build a bigger mega post is going to win cause that's not always the way to win. Sometimes you have to be more concise with what you're saying, but just include entities that are missing. So like, you know, if for example I'm talking about, I'm just going to Google something. Sales operations was a keyword that we optimize for when I was at Sales Hacker. And one of the things that we did was, include a table of contents in that content, which mapped out all the entities. So essentially, we had this table of contents that said we have sales operations strategy, we have sales operations technology, we have sales ops versus sales management, sales operations process, metrics, KPIs, sales ops versus sales enablement.

GD (23:16):
And then sales ops best practices. so the reason why we were able to rank was because we included all the most important entities. We did a lot of analysis on other results and said, well, this result doesn't, doesn't talk about the metrics or this result doesn't talk about sales ops versus sales enablement. This, this piece doesn't mention the kinds of technology that's needed to have a successful sales ops strategy. So the idea sometimes is to just do an analysis of all the competitive content, find what the missing gaps are, and then put together something that includes all the things that are missing from the other results. And then you will have the thing that matters the most, not necessarily because it's the longest, but it's just the most accurate.

DA (24:00):
I love the strategic approach of analyzing the other listings. What's missing? Is there like a checklist or some type of resource that outlines like here are the 30 things that are most important, here's where your competitors are missing to find that hole? Or is it more just like overall judgment calls of when you're looking like most these posts are long and there's no succinct answer, there's no table of contents. Like how are you finding those gaps?

GD (24:26):
Yeah, I would recommend referring to the on page SEO definitive guide by Backlinko, Brian Dean's website. That's the one that we use, to kind of keep us in check. He's got a really comprehensive list there. That's what I would recommend you do.

DA (24:45):
Love that. Great resource. We'll make sure to link to that in our show notes and with so many tools available, what do you use as the SEO master here in your SEO toolkit?

GD (24:55):
All right. Yeah, we've got a lot of good stuff. So Ahrefs, that's I don't think we can run SEO effectively without it. That's key. We're a Google shop, so, Google search console every day of course. We also, our Google analytics shop as well. We have our data online there, so we have Adwords, search console, analytics all working together. And then we are really big on Screaming Frog for that. That, to me, that's the best tool that lets, you know, kind of like the inner workings of a site. Let's you really understand like how a site is, is kinda composed and structured and lets you see quote unquote under the hood. And believe it or not, we also use Hotjar quite a bit and most people wouldn't think that Hotjar is valuable for SEO.

GD (25:53):
But actually what we're finding now is that user experience and engagement and you know, how long people stay on pages really matters a lot. So when we're, we obviously heat map everything we do and when we see like, you know, a certain landing page, that has like a huge section that no one reads or skips over, we just realize, well this may not be relevant or it may not be relevant in this part of the page hierarchy and we may need to switch it around or delete it. So those are some, some of the key tools that we use every day. I would say those are the most important ones.

DA (26:27):
I love that addition of Hotjar and just understanding the experience means so much learning from their heat maps as well as you know, their video content stuff. We utilize that too for mostly a lot of our website experience stuff. But if you're just talking about getting people to stay on page, it's an incredibly helpful tool. Now you mentioned at the beginning verticalized marketing basically going deeper on those keywords. So we talked about like this audit process, but when do you actually go very specific like into that vertical process. You mentioned before that some of your, your team will reach out and be like, Hey this, this niche is working really well. Let's, let's deep dive on this. But did you guys have to do your general keywords first before you could get there? Should you start verticalized for those short term results you talked about faster, like the low hanging fruit. How are you guys implementing those things in like if you are just coming into a company, how would you weigh it?

GD (27:20):
Yeah, that's a good one. So, so, you know, the thing there is that you have to have your, your basis covered first. Like you need to build topical authority in something. And if you're new, like you can't just, you can't just go into verticalized marketing like off the bat because you're, even though the difficulty of going that route is lower, you still need to build up some kind of topical depth. So I would, I would recommend just, you know, whatever it is around your product, whether it's project management or you know, whatever, start building like middle of the funnel to top funnel content around that. Because if you're brand new, it's going to be really impossible to rank for any like huge commercial terms unless you go really long tail first. And then once you start building up that topical depth, then I think it's a good time to start going verticalized, start testing a few different things and seeing what works and what doesn't.

GD (28:16):
But usually, yes, sales feedback is the best way to go. And, you know, the other thing too is like, you're going to need, content, to support the verticalized marketing approach. So it's going to take you a while to, to build some of this stuff. So what you're gonna need to do is have that pillar content that's already set and ready to go. And then you can repurpose a lot of it. And I'm not just saying that you can like copy it and just tweak like the headline to be like real estate and then there's nothing about real estate in the content, but you'll have a framework to work off of already. So, you know, kinda kinda, it kinda kinda depends on a company by company basis on when it's the right time to start going after verticals. I think a bad way to go about it would be to look at your competitors and say, Hey, our competitors are going after this, we should be doing that too. They may be far better equipped to do it at the stage that they're at. And you're not. So I wouldn't go that route. I would just kind of go by, you know, where are you at in your stage of your business? Are you seeing plateaus? Is it too difficult to get traction in the kind of the casting a wide net strategy? But you do kind of have to have a baseline of where you're at first before you go to vertical.

DA (29:29):
That's super helpful. That was an amazing discussion SEO by the way. Super thorough. Lots of good tips in there. You know, I like to ask a lot of these questions cause I'm trying to learn as much as I can to, so trying to steal some of your knowledge there, but, thanks for sharing that. I do want to touch on one other topic that you guys are crushing it with, specifically marketing to a B2B audience. And that's LinkedIn. You're doing LinkedIn marketing, you're not doing, specifically advertising, but I think you're doing content marketing through LinkedIn. Do you want to talk a little bit about, what you're doing that's working well and maybe the anatomy of your perfect LinkedIn post? I'm saying in quotes, that you use to optimize engagement.

GD (30:12):
Yeah. Yeah. Oh man, this is good. We can probably do a whole episode on this too, but I guess I just break down a few things. All right, so here's the deal. The company, the LinkedIn company page has long been dead. A lot of people, you know, when they see brand pages now they're just like, all right, like I see it, I get it, it's there, but I'm not really going to engage with it cause I don't know who's going to write back. It's just a faceless, it's a brand. What does work is having people from the company become sort of the quote unquote face of the brand. And you know, usually it's a high, a high kind of status person. Ideally it's the CEO. I think a lot of great companies have been built on the backs of, of CEOs with strong presences.

GD (31:04):
I think you need that now. But also people like myself, you know, demand generation, our, our CMO plays a big role in it. And really what it's about is, you know, maintaining a signal to noise ratio. And the one that I kind of always stick to is five to one. So for, so for every one thing that I want to promote, whether it's a webinar, podcast, interview, a downloadable, whatever the case is, even something that's very like product driven or story-driven about like the brand. I, I filter that with a mix of other non-brand and non-promotional content. It may just be stories from the trenches, you know, may just be marketing tips, quick trends that I'm seeing in hiring. It could be whatever, relatable stuff that, you know, I want to be perceived as a person that's always sharing value.

GD (32:01):
And because my, my company name is attached to my headline, you know, that's going to drive curiosity even if you haven't heard of the company before or myself because of the way the LinkedIn algorithm is kind of, pushing organic content and organic reach, you're able to see content from wide ranges of audiences. So, you know, that helps to get, get the word out. And really the goal is, is this, we tell our sales teams, look at any given time that you're doing cold outreach or you're trying to sell something, the buyer that you're doing the outreach to is not actively looking for your solution. They're not just, it could be personalized, it could be relevant, but the timeliness is the thing, the time, the timeliness is just so hard to predict unless you're buying intent data, you know, whatever like that. It's really hard to predict that. So, we have to do is just stay top of mind all the time. And then finally, when that day comes where they have a pain that they know your business can solve your product or service, they're gonna remember, okay, who's that guy that's always talking about project management pain or whatever? Like I'm going to hit that person up. So it's kind of a stay top of mind strategy, give a lot of value, optimize for engagement, connection and conversation and yeah, just don't be salesy. That's basically it.

DA (33:26):
Two questions that come from that. One, are you putting together like a content calendar? Almost like you're treating this like a blog and you're coming up with content beforehand, or is it like every day on your calendar you have some segment of time blocked off? This is my LinkedIn time, I'm going to look around what's, what's people, what are people talking about, what should I talk about today kind of thing. And the second one is how do you actively drive engagement and conversation with a post?

GD (33:52):
All right. Yeah. So, a couple of things around that. So, so I, I think a content calendar is a horrible idea. It never, it just never works. It's too hard to stick to, you know, things come up. You know, sometimes I'm busy during the day and I have no time for LinkedIn. Other days I'm just like, you know, I haven't posted in a while. I know I've got to work it in and I, I just always post about things that happened to me in real life or just when I have a great idea. I just post about it. I do have a running list of, of random ideas, like sometimes like I'll just post something today and then another good idea will come and I know I can't post it right away, so I'll just jot it down in a notepad. But I don't treat it like a content calendar because I think it's too difficult to stick to, I've tried it before.

GD (34:37):
It just doesn't quite ever work the way you want it to. And also it's a lot of pressure to do it that way I feel. But you know, I generally post twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday if I can. So this is like a mental thing. Like I just know I got to get into the habit of doing it and, I have a list of running content. So I guess that satisfies the first part of the question. I think that the next part was around engagement. So, there is a formula to this. I guess I'll tell you what it is. So, first part of the formula is the opening line is the most important part. You've got to have a line that is gonna, you know, stop people in their feed. Thumb scrolling has to stop when they see that, that first line.

GD (35:26):
So it's gotta be something that addresses a specific audience group. Yeah, that usually works well. So I might say something like, Hey, VP's of marketing, I have something really important to share that's been on my mind lately. Dot, dot, dot. That's going to grab their attention. Or it might be, Hey, VP's of sales, this is why your reps, suck dot, dot, dot. Right. And then I'll just go into more about that. So, so you always start by addressing an audience group or even asking them a question. Like for example, I had a post that said, Hey, LinkedIn connection or whatever, LinkedIn community, how do you respond when people ask to pick your brain? Here's how I do it. And then I answer my own question. So ask a question, then answer your own question in the following line. And then after that, what you do is you list out all the benefits of that thing.

GD (36:26):
So for, for example, mine about the pick your brain thing was like, you know, when people asked me to pick my brain, here is how I handle it. And I say, I just tell them I'll make a video for you. So rather than jumping on a call, give me the things you want to pick my brain about, I'll make a video about it, I'll share it. And then some of the benefits are blah, blah, blah. So one of the examples was like, there'll be a huge thread of comments from other people that will also give their input and you'll get more value out of the pick of your brain session from the video content, that you wouldn't have got if you jumped on a call because it has wider reach, it gets seen by more people, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

GD (37:11):
And there are many other benefits. So that post blew up. It got like 200,000 views cause it was a widely relatable thing. It was a headline that kind of hooked people in. It changed their perspective on something. And then the final call to action was like, next time somebody asks you to pick your brain, don't get mad about it. Be happy because they're viewing you as someone they trust who's an expert. And that was it. Yeah. So that's kind of the formula.

GD (37:39):
Wow. That was super thorough. Thank you for sharing that. I love that. I'm going to make sure that we also, link to your LinkedIn and so that people can see exactly what you're doing, how you're formulating those, the results are getting, it's super interesting and you're utilizing it in such a smart way. I absolutely love it. And you know, those are two amazing strategies that you guys are killing with over at Nextiva, so I really appreciate you sharing that.

DA (38:05):
What about things that didn't work out well over the past, I don't know a year? Maybe 2019. Any opportunities you feel like you missed?

GD (38:15):
Hmm, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. No, there's definitely, there's definitely things that, that we missed. And you know, when it comes down to sometimes you just can't do it all. And I think, one of the, one of the things I really wanted to do that I didn't get around to doing was redesigning the blog. I just am not satisfied with current user experience. I think it's a little boring, a little dry. It's not well optimized for lead capture as well. You kinda got into this phase of like, damn, there's so much content that we know we have to create. There's a lot of valuable keywords out there that we've got to go after. A lot of long tail stuff.

GD (38:53):
And we've also got to build content that's going to support our email nurtures. Our drip campaigns. Our Verticalized approaches. So we've got, we've got a lot of content creation to do and there was also a crap ton of like old shitty content that we had to delete, prune, redirect, consolidate, just get, just cut a lot of fat off and kill a lot of the dead weight. So we got into this, to this rhythm of just like, you know, getting the content into really good shape, but then we kind of lost sight of UX a little bit. Just the way that the blog looks and feels and, and is optimized around capturing new contacts to the email list. We kind of lost sight of that a little bit. So if there's one thing I want to get back to soon, it's, it's going to be that.

DA (39:39):
Yeah, I just took some time to look at it. Your website is so awesome. I absolutely love it. Love the menu and everything and I can see that differentiation on the blog there. But yeah, it's always good to have areas of improvement. That's, you know, if you guys are already doing so great with SEO and the content generation that optimizing the experience is going to be the cherry on top of the cake. So that's, that's awesome. And looking forward here in 2020, any new opportunities or challenges that you see ahead for you guys for the whole company maybe or maybe new SEO things that are coming in marketing that can be exciting?

GD (40:14):
Yeah, I mean like, you know, here, here's the deal man. Everything's getting harder.

DA (40:19):
Definitely.

GD (40:19):
Yeah. Like that's just what, that's just the reality of it you know. Marketing is getting a lot harder now than it was three, five years ago, even last year. Like with the changes now with Google. Really unfortunately, you know, they have prevailed as the monopolized leader in search and as a genius, you know, strategy, you know, they're, they've got the ultimate fire hose going with organic and paid and you know, everything's free. You know, their products are free, people love their products and they're capturing tons of data on people and then they're using it to market to advertisers. And it's just, you know, I, I don't necessarily think it's fair how, how, you know, they're taking away our traffic essentially. yYou know, they're favoring vendor sites and review sites now.

GD (41:08):
Excuse me, review sites and affiliate sites. So it's harder for, if you're a software vendor to rank for commercial terms, there's now a middleman in the way of every transaction. So, you know, cost of acquisition is just rising rapidly no matter how you look at it. Even on the AdWords side, you know, cost per click is, is through the roof for some of these terms. And that's exactly what Google wants, so, you know, competition is a natural thing that's going to fuel that. But as they're taking away your commercial organic listings, you're going to have no way to access those high intent audiences other than through affiliates review sites or ads. That's just the reality. You know, the only way to beat it is by going super long tail and by winning with brand and yeah. So, so, you know, now, companies now have to make really tough choices. It's like damn, you know, cost of acquisition is rising across the board. Outbound sales is getting harder if we're getting less inbound leads.

GD (42:19):
Brand is becoming a bigger factor how do we win in brand if we don't have a lot of money to win mindshare by doing like airport ads and events and, you know, the New York city subway ads, right? Billboards. Like, how are we going to do it? yYou got to win through customer experience and by doing really good branded content, reviews have to be positiv,e customer advocacy, all this stuff. So now you've got to find new growth channels because the ones that have historically always been great are the ones that unfortunately we've been addicted to for so long. But, it's, it's just beginning, it's becoming tougher and tougher and tougher to get the squeeze out of AdWords, to get the squeeze out of organic. And you know, now it's about finding new growth channels and yeah, it's just not easy. That's kind of how I would leave, leave things off.

DA (43:08):
Yeah, very, very wise points there. I think that's just kind of the nature of an evolving, maturing market, right? Like a huge B2B marketplace that's growing year over year and just so much competition is driving everything, to be harder and more expensive. So yeah, I mean, brand is so critically important. For those of you listeners who haven't heard Wistia's brand affinity episode, definitely go back and listen to that one. I think it's, a direct correlation to what you're saying right now and kind of a good idea of how to do that. It was a great episode. But awesome. Based on time what I want to do is I want to flip over to our lightning round questions. Just five quick questions that you can answer with the first best thought that comes to mind. You ready to get started?

GD (43:48):
All right. Yeah, sounds good.

DA (43:50):
Awesome. You're killing it already today. So this is going to be easy for you. What advice would you give for early stage SaaS companies starting marketing today?

GD (44:01):
Oh man. Well, I think, what I would do is probably two things. One is if you're early stage SaaS, you have to, you have to hire somebody that is going to align with like the way that like your business is best suited to grow. So, if you have like a lower cost, maybe higher velocity, higher transactional level product or sales process, you probably want growth marketers who can do inbound really well. If you're selling a really expensive product, that has a longer sales cycle and inbound is not going to be as big of a factor, you probably don't want to hire like a VP of marketing who has a background in SEO, PPC and a lot of inbound channels growth. You, you may want to consider someone who knows how to attack outbound, maybe someone who's great at events or a really strong product marketer, as as the first step.

GD (45:02):
So that that would be one part of the advice. The other part of the advice I would give is, I would say, you know, protect your, think about brand early and think about reputation management early. So, make sure that you're, you're really solidifying your results in search, like your brand reviews or your brand pricing. There's no worse feeling than some other company ranking for that and you're not. So you need to protect the brand by, by nailing all those important brand searches, build your branded content first and you know, build a relationship with these review sites and start building up your review site profiles early and quick. Because these are the places where people are going to start searching when they're ready to buy. So I would say nail those first.

DA (45:51):
Very, very good, thorough answer. Love that. What skill do you think is vital for marketing teams to improve and build on today?

GD (46:00):
Yeah. You know, I think, there's two things to it. One is, you've, you've got to get people with like kind of like a get shit done mindset. I think the worst thing is stagnant in marketing. If you're just not doing anything, you're, you're, you're losing. So it's better to just ship and go collect data, learn, iterate, and just keep things moving rather than stagnant. So I think if you can get a marketing team to have that mentality of like, they're really good at balancing quality with speed, I think you're going to be really in a strong place. So, so balancing speed with quality is a key skill. probably the second part of that is just having everybody oriented around growth. Whether it's PR, there's, you've got to have a growth mentality to PR. It's not just, Hey, we got a placement in Forbes. Yay. Right? Like now what, how do we distribute it? Where can we use this content in the sales process? What are maybe some, some PR metrics and KPIs you want to, you want to keep aware of, not just, Hey, we, we committed to our 12 placement quota for the, for the month or for the year, whatever. Right? So just having everybody, no matter what position they're in on the field, having that growth mindset is going to be key.

DA (47:18):
I love that both of those things being kind of mindset alignment ideas in the marketing channel to help your marketing teams improve. But I absolutely love that. And I agree. What about a best educational resource you'd recommend for learning about marketing or growth?

GD (47:33):
Yeah. I think, the best place to start is, so I'm, I'm a little biased, so you know, take this with a grain of salt, but I think if you learn SEO first, if like, if there's anything you learn first about marketing and it's SEO, you're going to be in a great place to kind of evolve and expand because SEO is kind of this mix now of copywriting, of technical, of content, of understanding audiences, of user experience, of offsite channels like link building and PR and social. You've got to know how all of that impacts SEO. you gotta be analytical, you gotta be data-driven, right? So if you learn SEO and you've got to know a little bit about design too, right? If you're going to be mocking up landing pages and stuff like that. So development, you got to work with devs in order to get shit done sometimes. So, if you learn SEO first, you're gonna be in a great place and some educational resources I would recommend for learning about SEO and growth marketing are, of course Backlinko, huge fan of Brian Dean. Ahrefs, big fan, big fan of what they're doing there. I would subscribe to Growth Hackers newsletter. That's a really good one. I also would recommend Conversion XL. That's a great one for all things kind of, optimizing your website around conversion in, in many different areas. So those are probably some resources I would recommend.

DA (49:01):
We'll make sure we link to those as well. Those are all great resources and Ahrefs has been mentioned numerous times on here for their content. It's great. What about a favorite tool you can't live without?

GD (49:12):
Oh, man. I hate to say Ahrefs, but I think I gotta give it to them. They're pretty damn good, I would say. Ahrefs. I'm also a big fan of SEMrush. They kind of do the same things. They have different datasets, but I'm a huge fan of both. I probably couldn't live without either of those. I, I definitely couldn't live without, Google search console. That's key. It's screaming frog. It'd be tough to operate without that. I think I mentioned all these before, Hotjar huge fan. So I think that that stack is just pretty essential and, I don't think I'd be able to do our day to day growth without those.

DA (49:53):
Yeah, definitely critically important tools for your SEO work there. Definitely. What about a brand business or a team that you admire today?

GD (50:04):
Yeah. There's definitely, there's definitely a few. I like what Zapier is doing around remote work. I think that's super cool. A big fan of Asana. Oh, that's another tool I can't live it out. It's more on the project management side, but yeah, big fan of Asana. I like what they're doing around kind of this, one thing they're preaching is like we're an email list less company, we don't do email. Everything we do is in our own tool. So I, I'm really a big fan of that. Yeah, those are probably two that, that, that come to mind. I'm sure there are many others. But those are, those are definitely two that I think are getting it right.

DA (50:44):
They definitely are two great companies. Asana it's just obviously a huge leader too in the SaaS space especially, you know with they're bootstrapping in the beginning there. So thank you so much for coming on. I just want to say thank you. You were incredibly thorough, really strategic and tactical along the way. I learned a ton about both SEO, LinkedIn, the content plans, how you're rocking with that. So truly appreciate your time today. Thanks so much for coming on. It was a real pleasure.

GD (51:12):
Yeah, David my pleasure and you know, appreciate you having me on. It's been great. Thank you so much.

DA (51:17):
It was, and hopefully we'll get back with you soon. I would love to hear how things are going later this year in 2020. So what changes kind of happened with the SEO and the changes this year, but thanks again and we'll talk to you soon.

GD (51:29):
Alright. Sounds like a plan. Appreciate you.

DA (51:33):
Well, that was an incredible episode. A big shout out to Gaetano and the entire Nextiva team. They're doing some incredible things in a very large, wide SaaS and I think it's just absolutely incredible to see what they're doing and how they're doing it in the competitive space. I want to thank you as well for listening (…)

Resources:
On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide By Backlinko:
https://backlinko.com/on-page-seo
The Ahrefs Blog:
https://ahrefs.com/blog/
Growth Hackers Newsletter:
https://growthhackers.com/posts
Conversion XL Resources:
https://cxl.com/first-time-start-here/
Learn About Nextiva's Cloud Phone Systems:
https://www.nextiva.com/products/cloud-phone-system.html
Connect With Gaetano:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/officialg/
Follow along on Our Journey to $100k MRR
A shaky start? No doubt. Yet, three years later, we've got our eyes set on $100k MRR. We'll be sharing everything along the way.