In June 2022 I decided to focus more on marketing for Alpe Audio. I put a plan into place and started to execute. It’s now two months later and time evaluate how it’s gone, lessons learned and change what needs changing.
As Simon Sinek says in his great book, it’s always important to start with why. The TL:DR of why I decided to focus on marketing was that as a solo founder I needed to work on what would drive sales and move the needle. Time is pressing.
If you’re curious about the full story of why marketing, why now and how I became a solo founder, you can watch this video.
Alpe Audio is a great product, with fantastic, in depth audio courses – but not enough people know about them. I know this is true because the data shows it: our conversion from free to paid is good, our user retention has been excellent and learners finish courses anywhere from 200-300% more than regular online courses. It’s the top of the funnel that’s problematic.
Which is why I need to get the word out there more = marketing!
The plan was simple: Alpe has great content, it’s time to leverage it, use the existing content to create more marketable content and distribute through my existing channels.
Alpe Audio has a few core pieces of content:
All of these exist already, since they’re part of our core product – why not leverage them into other pieces of content? They could be used as the basis for all kinds of content:
In addition to these assets I had a few large constraints:
With those strengths and weaknesses in mind, I got to work!
Over the weekend I’d create content, starting with Twitter threads sharing lessons from some of our courses. I chose two of our recent courses that are both excellent and relevant to a Twitter audience: Building in Public with authenticity by Kevon Cheung and How to go from consuming to creating by Jessie Van Breugel.
Over the next weekend, I’d turn those 3-4 threads into blog posts. Using automation tools (Zapier, WordPress and Clickup) I’d schedule the blog posts to be published on our website and then shared on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter).
Each social media post was also automatically rescheduled to republish after two weeks, six months and twelve months. The idea was to leverage the written summary we’ve already created for each Alpe Audio lesson into a Twitter thread and from there into a blog post that would be shared on social media four times over the course of the next 12 months on three different social media networks. And the best part – all of this would be automated and the only work I’d need to put in was that original transformation into a thread and blog post.
Our content is really good, but most of it is inside the Alpe Audio app, which isn’t easily discoverable (you have to download the app first), so I wanted to get it out more. Every week I took one of our lessons and released it in a dedicated podcast feed that was publicly available to all: The Lifelong Learners podcast. I also released the same episode on our YouTube channel. Together with our weekly publishing of the Ethereum Audible podcast, this gave our YouTube channel a steady twice per week video publication schedule which I hoped would appease the algorithm gods who rule over us.
Taken together, all of this work took around four hours a week and resulted in:
I analyzed results across four buckets:
Social media impressions grew significantly but off a low low base – as I’d never invested significant effort into either platform.
I published once a week and shared posts about different episodes on social media, but results were abysmal. While the Alpe Audio YouTube channel has some decent monthly viewership, the Lifelong Learner podcast episodes both on YouTube and podcast players got less than 10 plays.
The new blogs drove ~30 new users from organic SEO and a few more from direct linking. While SEO takes time to play out it doesn’t seem like it’s picking up.
I had three key lessons learned:
The marketing strategy didn’t work. It didn’t show any significant uplift in app installs – which was the main metric I needed to move. In retrospect, reviewing my strategy there were a few problems with it:
Most of my initiatives were long term focused, while I wanted short term results.
SEO, content distribution, social media marketing are all long term growth playbooks. None of the content I was creating was focused on making a splash or going viral. I was counting on long term consistency and long tail keywords to get noticed by the algorithm. Notice the word ‘long’. What I wanted in terms of business results were short term: increasing monthly app installs.
I didn’t have enough organic distribution to make an impact.
Automating content and getting it out on social media is great, but if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did you even post that thread on Twitter? Or in mathematical terms: 50 posts * 0 viewers = 0 viewers! Distribution matters A LOT and without having a large enough initial audience to distribute to (social media/podcast/YouTube), no matter how good content is, it’s going to flop on deaf ears.
Passive, ‘easy lift’, marketing can be easy, but not necessarily impactful.
My marketing initiatives were focused on easy lifts: repurposing content that I already had and leveraging it. The reason made sense. I didn’t have time to focus on a lot of active marketing initiatives. The reality though is that passive marketing at my scale and distribution doesn’t work. Without actively pushing content, it goes nowhere. Since I didn’t have distribution, the combination of passive content distribution without a built in audience was a clear mistake.
Not going to extremes on quality content or high volume content.
Unlike Billy Joel, I found myself in the valley of dead content of the SEO smiling curve. I was putting out a decent amount of content (14 blogs in one month is pretty good) but not enough to really get to the long tail of content. On the other hand, most of the blogs weren’t high quality blogs that were focused on answering user questions and targeted on keywords that mattered.
All is not lost! Conducting an in depth post mortem and learning from mistakes is part of the journey. Despite making a bunch of obvious ones, like not focusing enough on distribution or aligning goals and time horizons, there were a few things that worked really well. Automations and repurposing content mainly. Overall, Alpe Audio continues to grow, because of the high user retention, and now I’m back to work on a new marketing plan. Wish me luck!