I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years from “doing,” from first-time successes to lessons learned through trial-and-error. But some of the best things I’ve picked up along the way have come from time spent listening to others, reading articles, and having dinners with some amazing people.
A lot of the growth in our industry has come from the contributions of influencers big and small, and I’ve compiled a list of some of the best articles I’ve found (or that have been shared with me) so far this year.
Author: Shanelle Mullin
What I love about this post on ConversionXL is that it breaks down a common problem when talking about growth hacking, where the term is often being used to talk about marketing efforts such as inbound marketing. From that, many myths have developed. They’re firmly debunked in this piece, with citations and examples from expert influencers. Finally, it breaks down what a real growth hacking process should look like, rather than just trying to latch onto inspirational case studies.
Author: Kevin Ho
This article isn’t just a long list of tips; it actually paints a tremendous picture about the timeline and ramp-up time for getting things done. From these tips shared by Kevin Ho, you can see how growth is an ongoing process, and it doesn’t just come from one or two deployments: it’s a lot of small measurable tactics working together in order to achieve your desired results.
Author: Mark Suster
It’s easy to throw money at paid channels, but if you don’t fully understand core metrics and how they impact your business, then you could hurt your growth more than you’re helping it. Mark Suster’s post serves as a great reality check for marketers who want to leverage paid acquisition.
Author: Sean Bestor
People complain about pop-ups on websites, but there’s no debating their effectiveness. If you’re doing anything on your site to capture emails (and you should be), then this is a must-read. It’s a well-vetted guide that takes the best examples from the business to help you significantly grow your list and boost conversions.
Author: Brian Balfour
When Wilson Hung of FounderOrigins shared this piece with me, his statement provoked me to read it immediately. “Prior to reading this article, my focus was on completing high quantities of growth experiments, just so I could ‘learn’ which ‘ideas’ were most effective,” said Wilson. “This was the WRONG approach. I was doing more, but I was NOT learning more. The points covered in this article helped me develop a framework to identify the biggest problems or area of opportunities. This ultimately helped me achieve the highest return for each unit of my time.”
Author: Erik Devaney
This is a great piece about the story behind Slack’s growth, highlighting the four key reasons it was able to grow without having a traditional sales team or sales process. A lot of the success came from how Slack leveraged PR, providing insight into how you can use traditional methods to grow.
Author: Tyler Hayes
Your customers and your audience are gathering because you have a solution they want. They’re coming to you to solve their problem. Tyler Hayes makes a great point about growing and building a startup by removing the friction between your business and the customers so growth comes as easily and as quickly as possible.
Author: Benjamin Brandall
“Seeing how easy it was to improve old posts that aren’t ranking well encouraged me to pay more attention in general to how we can be making our old content and projects work harder for us,” wrote Mention’s PR & Content Head Brittany Berger, when she shared this article with me. “Updating old posts, email workflows, landing pages, etc. are now a top priority for me.”
Author: Jacob McMillen
Growth isn’t easy, especially for a small or midsize business battling the major incumbents in an industry. Jacob does a great job of laying out simple practices that any business can employ to give its growth a surge when there are limitations on resources.
Author: Jacob McMillen
This is another piece Jacob shared with me that I felt was worthy of listing. Just getting an opt-in on your site and creating a basic offer isn’t enough to grow a list. For web-based businesses, especially Ecommerce stores, a list can make a huge difference in revenue and profit. According to Campaign Monitor, a well-leveraged email list can generate a 3800% ROI for each $1 spent.
Author: Zach Grove
The best-of-the-best email marketers share their #1 email hack in this post. Noah Kagan from SumoMe reveals a fast way to get 30%-plus more opens per email. John Rampton shares how sending Ecommerce emails on Thursday night drives 4X more sales than at other times, because Friday is payday. This post is packed with gold for any business owner who uses email to grow their business.
12. You Don’t Know Your Customers and It’s Crippling Your Growth – Lessons on Conducting User Research
Author: Benji Hyam
Simply put, the most important part of marketing and growth is understanding who your customers are, how to speak to them, what they need, and how to present the solution they’re looking for.
Author: Benji Hyam
This post is the perfect lesson in how to learn to think about visitors in terms of the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel, and use Google Suggested Search to figure out content opportunities to strategically attract people at different stages of the buying process. You can see tremendous results when content is mapped appropriately.
Author: Andy Crestodina
“There are two types of content that win more than others,” writes Andy Crestodina, co-founder of Orbit Media. “Strong opinion and original research. Consistently publishing strong opinion is tough. But research? That’s doable. Conduct surveys. Tests. Experiments. Anything that produces data and a soundbite. This is how to win at content. Do research and give yourself an almost unfair advantage.”
Author: Ross Hudgens
There are thousands of “How to rank and increase traffic” posts. Ross’ article isn’t just massive – it’s an easy-to-follow, step-by-step method from front to back with tools and templates to download immediately. His examination of Keyword Opposition to Benefit (KOB) cuts through run-of-the-mill advice. Plus, it walks through the exact growth numerical (i.e., data) their investments earned at every stage.
Author: Rand Fishkin
Not all of us have the luxury of deciding exactly when and how growth happens. Some of us have to deal with the C-Suite, and get the approval of the suits in order to move things forward. I’ve always been a fan of Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Fridays, and this is a terrific piece on how to communicate the data to the executive level to improve your chances of getting things done.
Author: Aaron Orendorff
It’s a sizable read clocking in at some 10,000 words, but Aaron Orendorff shared with me the most valuable lessons he learned while researching and producing this post:
“First, don’t neglect the follow up; just because someone signs up on your landing page does not mean your growth work is done,” writes Orendorff, founder at iconiContent. “Second, copy on landing pages shouldn’t be invented. It should be discovered by “stealing” from your audience’s own words through user-generated content.”
Author: Cyrus Shepard
Google can’t leave well enough alone, which means a constant train of algorithm updates. Despite the changes, though, it always comes back to creating better content for an audience. Cyrus Shepard has compiled a fantastic piece on how to improve the freshness of content by clearly defining how Google ranks it using simple-to-understand visualizations.
Author: Steve Rayson
In this short but impactful piece, BuzzSumo shares the most simple and easy to execute method for improving your link profile and search visibility naturally – a tactic every business should aim for as part of its growth strategy. That organic visibility is just as important today as it was 10 years ago.
Author: Andrea Vahl
There’s a lot you can do to grow your reach on Facebook, but the expansion of its ad platform has led to a drop in organic reach for many marketers. Andrea Vahl provides solid strategies to grow a presence on Facebook and get the most out of the services ad platform.
Author: Silvio Porcellana
Ecommerce continues to integrate more intimately with social platforms like Instagram and Facebook, and it’s extending to other social channels as well. Smart marketers, especially those involved in Ecommerce, should pay close attention to this post and learn how to leverage the marriage between social and digital commerce.
Author: Alex Birkett
The latest report from ConversionXL comes after a survey of over 700 professionals and businesses who work in the optimization space. There’s tremendous insight here including the fact that many still don’t have an optimization budget, and a lot of companies are attempting optimization without a structured process in place, and with very little experience. Check out the report and see where you fit in.
Author: Gary Vaynerchuk
We scour the web every day for content that can help us launch, grow, and create sustainable businesses. What I love about this piece from Gary Vaynerchuk is that it’s a stark reminder of how easy it is to get caught up in chasing the success of others by burying ourselves in inspirational content.
In his words: “Stop being a student, and start being an entrepreneur.”
Author: Neil Patel
Neil produces a tremendous volume of content across a number of websites on a near-daily basis. Part of that is because he has built a tremendous support team, but he also has a toolkit that makes production and deployment that much easier. I highly recommend checking out his list of suggested tools for streamlining your content marketing. The best way to grow is to make your processes more efficient.
Author: Courtney Feairheller
You hear a lot about the importance of storytelling in marketing to make a stronger connection with your audience, but a lot of those recommendations don’t often come with actionable tips. How exactly do you craft a customer-centric story? This great HubSpot piece tells you how to do just that.
Author: Brian Dean
This is a fantastic and highly-actionable list from Backlinko. Whether you handle your SEO in-house or through an agency, treat it like a checklist of everything you should be doing to boost your organic visibility for maximum growth.
Author: Kevan Lee
One of the things I like about the team at Buffer is that they’re not afraid to rock the boat and churn the water. Kevan Lee shares why they stopped building their email list (with virtually the same number of subscribers since 2015) and how they turned the lessons they learned over to focusing on member sign-ups for their service. The growth they saw as a result was amazing.
Author: Anna Johansson
I love writing about everything that has to do with growth, business, and marketing. My audience loves to consume that content. Not all industries and businesses are as interesting, though. How do you create content for sensitive industries like funeral homes, or content for something like lawn care? You have to think outside of the box, and this post from ProBlogger provides great tips for putting compelling content together – no matter how sensitive or yawn-inducing an industry might seem.
Author: Brittany Berger
This is not the first post I’ve seen on how to come up with content ideas when you’re coming up short, but Brittany Berger nails the subject with this long-form and super in-depth post. Read it and keep this one handy, and you’ll never fall short on post ideas ever again.
As an entrepreneur, I’ve got a number of SaaS products that I’m involved with, on top of running a content agency and handling the marketing for When I Work. One thing I love about the SaaS industry is the sheer variety of tools and services available that work well individually (and even more so when combined).
This article lists some of the best tools to help make different teams within your organization more efficient and productive as a single unit – and as part of the overall organization. Every startup founder should be using tools from this list.
Author: Kevan Lee
I, and many other marketers, could list on one hand 5 ways you can get more followers on social media. What you won’t often see are tips backed by actual science and study, making this a must-read list from Kevan Lee. It’s just one more piece of gold from the team over at Buffer.
Author: Alexa Matia
This article is the perfect example of why marketers need to keep an open mind. Technology continues to change around us, much of which offers previously unseen or unconsidered benefits for marketing and outreach. Whether it’s Snapchat or Virtual Reality gear like the Oculus Rift, watch for new ways to engage your audience.
Author: Brian Lang
Producing content is only part of the battle. Engagement is one of the biggest struggles among marketers, as they try to find out what works and what doesn’t. After looking at the most highly-shared content from top names in the industry, Brian Lang provides great advice to help you step up your content promotion and boost engagement.
Author: Jeff Bullas
Jeff Bullas has a way with words, drawing comparisons between Cortez burning the boats so no one could leave, to how startup founders commit to a new endeavor. This post provides simple, actionable tips for improving growth in a startup, backing them up with case studies to show how other companies took similar approaches with great success.
Author: Aaron Agius
I’m cheating a touch with this one. It was posted on New Year’s Eve, but Aaron Agius wrote such a tremendous piece on building organic reach in social media that I couldn’t not share it. Earlier I mentioned an article about using paid promotion to expand reach. Combine those tips with what Aaron has shared here, and you’ll see explosive growth in the social channels you’re targeting.
Do you have any good reads on marketing and growth? Share your favorites with me in the comments below and let me know what you learned.