It's day 174 of the Transparent Marketing Project…I'm getting close to the 6th month mark on this project.

How is that possible?!?

Time flies when you're having fun.

Or you could say, time flies when you're running a side hustle on top of your normal day job. ☺

Last you heard from me was on Day 91 (unless you've been getting some special behind-the-scenes updates in our free Facebook community.)

Either way, that was a while ago!

So what the heck has been going on since then?

Before I dive into the details, let's recap what my goals and projects are for days 90-180 (the current 90 days):

Goals

  • Good goal: 500 total subscribers (2.22 subscribers per day)
  • Better goal: 700 total subscribers (3.33 subscribers per day)
  • Best goal: 1,000 total subscribers (7.77 subscribers per day)

Projects

  1. Create a compelling lead magnet to convert more website traffic into email subscribers.
  2. Publish and promote content that attracts new subscribers.
  3. Create regular marketing emails to nurture these new subscribers and build loyalty.
  4. Run a second giveaway to attract new subscribers.

In this report, I'm going to talk about each project's progress and how it's impacted the overall subscriber growth.

Shall we get started?

Project #1: Create a compelling lead magnet

Why would I take this project on?

Good question.

The purpose of a lead magnet is to convert more of your existing website traffic (and eventually new traffic) into email subscribers.

In essence, a compelling lead magnet, especially one that is evergreen, will positively impact my subscriber growth.

So what lead magnet did I create and how did it perform?

That's an even better question.

I started out with some really ambitious plans for this lead magnet. After doing some serious research, I noticed a lot of popular travel content was related to “undiscovered locations” or “hidden gems”. This type of content certainly has universal appeal, especially if it's not specific to one location. (Think nationwide or global vs. city or state specific.)

However, this turned out to be a massive undertaking…especially if I wanted to create something high-quality that stood out in a mass of lackluster travel content.

And the reality was, that with everything I had committed to for Project #2 (creating and promoting my second piece of content), this just wasn't going to be possible.

Likewise, I had to go back to the drawing board.

 


Fortunately, in this case, there were some alternative options.
 

And instead, I decided to create a lead magnet that was specific to the second piece of content I was creating…so I could repurpose what I was already working on and leverage that asset in multiple ways.

What did that look like concretely?

Well, my second piece of content was city guide (to Newport Beach). The lead magnet I created for that article was a printable version of that guide.

Here's why it is a compelling lead magnet:

  1. It is highly relevant to the topic at hand. Anyone interested in a city-specific guide is likely planning on visiting that area and having access to a printed version would make their life easier.
  2. The lead magnet is, for the most part, evergreen. While bi-annual or annual updates may need to be made, the guide is NOT only applicable to certain seasons (like Christmas).
  3. This lead magnet is formulaic and can be replicated in the future. From an internal point of view, if successful, I knew I could recreate similar lead magnets for other city guides in the future. From a content creation point of view, this would make my life easier.

How did the lead magnet actually do?

Now that we've covered the theoretical, let's get down to brass tacks.

How did the lead magnet actually perform?

In my opinion, pretty darn well…especially given my small audience and a limited amount of traffic.

Let me break it down for you:

Overall, the lead magnet converted approximately 2.05% of website traffic into email subscribers.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 5, Day 24 • Bixa Media

That's a pretty decent conversion rate, especially for an article.

(I'd expect a much higher conversion rate from a landing page solely focused on promoting the lead magnet, with no article).

It indicates to me that, if I continue to drive qualified traffic to the article, around 2.05% of that traffic should convert into emails subscribers. (By the way, if this sounds like a terrible conversion rate…it isn't. Average conversion rates are around 1%, with many being far below that.)

That being said, there is definitely room for improvement when it comes to overall traffic + subscriber volume…which I'm going to address in a second.

This means that, while the conversion rate is great, the overall number of subscribers received is still pretty low, because overall traffic is low.

Out of 928 visits to that article, 19 converted into email subscribers.

Do you see the challenge here?

By creating the lead magnet (and related article), I solved Problem #1 and #2: (1) create something people want to read and are interested in and (2) convert a percentage of those readers into email subscribers.

But, I've also created Problem #3: I need more qualified traffic.

 


Perhaps the only time in the world you actually want more traffic…
 

Now, I want to be clear, solving these first two problems is no mean feat.

In fact, this is where I see most clients and prospects go awry. They start to tackle Problem #3 without first solving Problems #1 and #2.

Here's the rub: if you don't create something people want to read AND can't convert those readers into subscribers, it doesn't really matter how much traffic you send to your site. Why? Because you won't be able to grow an audience of people who know, like and trust you…which is the foundation for creating buyers.

So hear me out! If there's anything you take away from this TMP report, it's that you NEED to solve Problems #1 and #2 first. Once you do that, the rest can be figured out through a strategic traffic plan.

If you don't solve Problems #1 and #2 first, and instead focus all your efforts on Problem #3, you WILL waste a lot of time, money and effort in the process. And no marketer, no matter how good they are, is going to be able to resurrect that dead body. #truth

Where did I place the lead magnet?

In fact, I placed this lead magnet in only one place…on The BEST Guide To Newport Beach, CA [Created By Locals].

But, I included it the article in a couple different ways.

First, as a Welcome Mat (an opt-in that takes over the entire screen when opening the article.)

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 5, Day 24 • Bixa MediaWhat the Welcome Mat looks like on a desktop device…

However, note that I did make a few adjustments to the Welcome Mat when displayed on mobile devices, so the site was NOT penalized by Google for their intrusive interstitials policy.

You can see how well each of these Welcome Mats converted below.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 5, Day 24 • Bixa MediaThe stats for the Desktop Welcome Mat

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 5, Day 24 • Bixa MediaThe stats for the Mobile Welcome Mat

I also embedded the lead magnet within the article…as a content upgrade.

What is a content upgrade? Just another fancy way of including a lead magnet in your content.

Here, you can see I use Sumo to embed a clickable popup within the content.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 5, Day 24 • Bixa Media

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 5, Day 24 • Bixa Media

And here's how it converted…

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 5, Day 24 • Bixa MediaThe stats for the embedded Content Upgrade

Wowza! Now that is a solid conversion rate.

Moral of the story? Always promote your lead magnet a few different ways on your content…and make sure to include it as an embedded content upgrade.

Hint: These type of conversion rates for content upgrades are not unique to the TMP. I see similar boosts in results for all my clients…so much so that I encourage them to embed their primary lead magnet as a content upgrade in their most popular content (if not all of their content.)

Project #2: Publish and promote content

Now, this, my dear friend, was a beast of a job.

Not only did I task myself with some content creation and promotion, but whatever I authored needed to be so incredibly awesome, that it would attract new email subscribers.

How? By knocking the socks off the readers, so much so that they'd want to download the presumably equally-as-compelling lead magnet.

This kind of content creation is no small project.

In fact, creating the second article for the TMP took me over 40 hours.

Yes, seriously.

So what was involved exactly?

Let me tell you.

Step #1: Coming up with the article idea

This was actually one of the easiest parts of the project.

During my research, I found that location-specific content was very popular.

And, I knew it would likely be easier to rank in search engines than location-generic content.

I'll explain more about this later.

Furthermore, in all the conversations I had been having with my new subscribers, everyone was sharing with me how they valued local opinions above all else.

And so the city-specific local's guide idea was born. (Yes, this means you can expect similar guides in the future.)

I decided I wanted to start with an area I knew well, where I could again, leverage my local network.

Why? Because this would give me a solid example when creating future guides, that I could reference when reaching out to strangers I didn't know to help contribute.

Step #2: Creating the content for the article

Fortunately, I had some semblance of the guide already created, in a past venture with Airbnb. I had gotten some solid feedback from Airbnb guests + other friends I sent the guide to; it had been a hit.

But, I knew it needed to be beefed up significantly, and I wanted to crowdsource input from locals…because my opinion is only so valuable.

So what did I do?

First, I took to Facebook. And that generated far more engagement than I expected. (Click on the post below to see all the comments.)

 

 

 

 

Then, I sent an email out to my list and got even more awesome feedback. The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 5, Day 24 • Bixa Media Those two activities alone (outreach over Facebook + email) gave me enough input to craft an awesome guide to Newport Beach. And I can confidently say that I now have one of the best guides online, if not THE BEST guide, to Newport.

Step #3: Compiling imagery for the article

But then came the hard part….

…compiling imagery for each establishment / location / event mentioned in the guide (100+).

Now, why on earth would I take on such a monumental task?

Because I wanted to start building relationships with those mentioned in the article because hopefully a few would share the final piece on social media and/or link to it from their site.

Both activities are important for growing your audience, building your search engine rankings and gaining additional visibility.

So I started out this endeavor by looking for email addresses on websites using a nifty tool called SellHack. Then I'd reach out to the contact over email and ask for some photos.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 5, Day 24 • Bixa MediaAn example of the email I sent out

I got some responses, but not a ton. Plus, I wasn't able to find as many email addresses as I would have liked.

So I tried a new tactic…reaching out over Facebook and Instagram.

But that ultimately got my messages blocked. Due to the sheer volume, both social media platforms thought I was a spammer.

Total fail.

I had to go back to the drawing board again.

Which was actually a blessing in disguise, because all this manual stuff was turning out to be super time-consuming and delaying my publication date.

This time around, I turned to an awesome tool called BuzzStream.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 5, Day 24 • Bixa Media

What does this software help you do? In a nutshell:

  1. find contacts,
  2. manage your relationships with these contacts, and
  3. conduct outreach that is both efficient and personalized.

Sign me up baby!

Here are some of the cool things I was able to do with BuzzStream.

Compile a list of contacts for the Newport Beach guide all in one place. Similar to SellHack, Buzzstream has a handy dandy little tool to help you find all emails, contact pages and social media profiles for each website. Such a time saver!

While it couldn't find everyone, it did find a lot more contact info than SellHack did.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 5, Day 24 • Bixa Media

 

Create outreach templates that could be personalized using merge tags. This was an even bigger time saver. Instead of manually sending each email, I could send the same email to many contacts with just a few clicks. Plus, the personalization allows for better response rates.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 5, Day 24 • Bixa Media

 

Measure the effectiveness of each outreach effort, so I could adjust as needed. Look at these numbers! The open and reply rates on what I sent through Buzzstream was heads above what I was able to accomplish on my own manually.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 5, Day 24 • Bixa Media

 

Last but not least, I can keep track of all correspondence with a contact in one place. This helps me with follow-up and nurturing, so important if I want to be able to maintain a solid relationship with these contacts.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 5, Day 24 • Bixa Media

 

Long story short, Buzzstream allowed me to (1) be more effective and (2) save more time. In what world is that anything but a major win?

Plus, it helped me land A TON of great imagery for the article.

Now, there's one really awesome individual I owe a big shoutout to, that I haven't mentioned yet. And that is Mr. Dominic Rubino.

A close friend of mine and a really talented photographer, I also reached out to Dom to see if he had any imagery I could use with the article. And man, he went above and beyond, supplying me with so many great shots, including the main image you see in the guide.

Again, it pays to ask for favors (when you really need them). Of course, you should also want and intend to return the favor.

 

Use this script to promote all your blog posts to your email list. (And never again get stumped on what to say.) Click here to get the free cheatsheet now.

Step #4: Promoting the article

By far the most difficult part about content publication is its promotion.

Man oh man, if I do say so myself, it's a buttload of tireless work.

But it's also where you'll see the most impact on audience growth, search engine rankings and visibility.

And quite frankly, it's where I'm still spending most of my effort on this article. (Yes, that means I'm not done with it yet.)

So what's involved in content promotion?

The basics involve emailing your list and posting on social media. Multiple times.

The harder stuff includes manual outreach to strangers, asking for social shares + links.

If that just gave you the heebie-jeebies, you're not alone. It has that effect on most people.

All I can say is the more you do it, the better results you'll see. And the more you'll get used to that anxiety that goes along with putting yourself out there to people you don't know.

Keeping in mind that I'm still in the midst of working on manual outreach, I wanted to show you a closer look at the marketing channels that drove traffic to this article.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 5, Day 24 • Bixa Media

You might notice that I also did some paid advertising on Facebook (titled “Paid Search” in Google Analytics).

This, in fact, drove a majority of the traffic to the article as well as contributed to much of the new subscriber growth.

But…and this is a big but. I didn't invest a ton of money into Facebook ads as I currently have no paid product or service to sell that can help me justify the ROI.

Rather, my purpose was to use a small amount of money and see if I could capture the interest of cold traffic with this guide. And in that sense, the test was successful.

However, I did not continue to run Facebook ads as I currently want to focus on free (albeit time-consuming) marketing channels.

Instead, I've been focusing my efforts on link building and social shares…with the aim of starting to build long-term, search engine traffic.

Why? Because if I can start to rank for location-specific terms, with that 2.05% conversion rate, I'm confident I can (1) get a steady stream of qualified traffic and (2) convert that traffic into subscribers.

Think about it.

People looking for search terms related to “Newport Beach” are likely to be my exact target audience…who want the content I'm creating.

With very minimal effort, I'm already starting to rank in the top 10 pages for relevant search queries.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 5, Day 24 • Bixa Media

Now, I'm not generating a ton of clicks, but that's not surprising given that my average ranking is 53 (Page 6 of Google). If I want to start to see more traffic from organic search, I'll need higher rankings.

And how do you increase your rankings? By building high-quality links…through cold outreach.

It's a slow process but a steady effort will have a major impact down the road.

All this being said, organic search traffic is a long-term strategy and overnight results should not be expected. Especially at volume.

I mean, as you've seen, my promotional efforts thus far have only generated 19 new subscribers.

So where the heck have those 2,400+ new subscribers come from?

Very astute question, you smart cookie you.

And that, I'll be saving for the next TMP Report coming mid-December.

Stay patient my friend. I promise you'll get the full scoop.

Use this script to promote all your blog posts to your email list. (And never again get stumped on what to say.) Click here to get the free cheatsheet now.

In the spirit of total transparency, some of the links included in this article are affiliate links. What does this mean? If you click on an affiliate link and ultimately decide to use the product or service I recommended, I may receive a small commission on the purchase you make. However, I do not include affiliate links for any product or service I do not use and love personally. So, you can rest assured that I only recommend tools that I feel deliver great value to you. Please note that I have not been given any free products, services or anything else by the companies I recommend. The only compensation I receive is in the form of affiliate commissions. If you have any questions about this, don't hesitate to reach out to me via our contact page.