Larry Kim discusses validating WordStream, his content marketing strategies, and how the company grew to manage over $1 billion in ad revenue.
Today’s guest, Larry Kim, is Founder and Chief Technology Officer of WordStream, a marketing software company managing over a half-billion dollars in annual ad spend for over ten thousand customers, and he shares marketing insights to over a million visitors every month at his WordStream Blog.
Larry also developed free tools for Facebook ads & AdWords used by over a million marketers worldwide; is a leading contributor to Inc. Magazine and Search Engine Land; keynoted dozens of marketing events; was named “Most Influential PPC Expert” for 2015, 2014 and 2013 by PPC Hero; and won the 2015 Top Search Marketer of the Year awards from both the US Search Awards & Search Engine Land.
We’re going to learn how Larry validated WordStream, how he built an offer that gets new customers in the door, and how an expert approaches content marketing.
- 2:30 – Larry pitched a bunch of venture firms the idea that eventually became WordStream, but they all said no. “They don’t invest in ideas, they invest in companies.” He started to build a company, and a year later he received a few offers to invest in WordStream
- 3:45 – Today, WordStream employs more than 200 people and manages over $1 billion in ad spends for tends of thousands of customers worldwide – that’s almost 2% of Google’s ad revenues.
- 4:30 – “WordStream is almost like Turbo Tax. It’s AdWords for people who just need to make it work.”
- 5:30 – How did Larry test and validate the WordStream platform?
- 8:00 – Larry ran into challenges because the original version of WordStream didn’t retain a lot of customers. It was really heavy on keyword research and other task-oriented tools, like a toolbox, and those services didn’t keep customers. “We had to go through a pivot, which is kind of a startup euphemism for saying, ‘Oops.'”
- 10:00 – The biggest change Larry made was pivoting away from keyword research and towards Pay Per Click (PPC) management.
- 14:00 – How does a SaaS company get customers in the door? Larry realized people didn’t want to try his software – they wanted to know how their AdWords campaigns were doing. He developed a tool that scores your campaign and gives you tips on how to improve. After changing the offer, the conversion rate went from 2-3% to 20-30%.
- 18:20 – Every time someone runs that tool, the data collected helps improve the tool and provides the WordStream team with targeted data about who to engage.
- 19:40 – Larry has published on Medium about once a day since January 2016. It’s a content marketing experiment to get the WordStream brand into the minds of a slightly different audience, and it generates nearly 1 million additional page views every month. Larry’s tips for content marketing:
- include at least one image that will be displayed when the article is shared
- promote posts on Facebook or Twitter to point them to your content , so that the algorithm on Medium “notices” that people are reading the content and prioritizes it
- quality content leads to engagement, which leads to people seeing your content more often in their news feed
- 27:35 – Larry includes cartoon donkeys and unicorns in his posts, which serve as a metaphor for your worst and best content marketing campaigns. “You would not believe how important it is to have some kind of overarching theme. People can look at the headline or the image and they can identify it as a Larry story. There’s strong branding within the copy itself.”
- 29:15 – Larry has been investing a lot in data, which gives him a competitive advantage over opinion pieces.
- 33:30 – Quickfire Q&A
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Resources mentioned in this episode:
Answers to Quickfire Q&A:
- If you could chat with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
- One of the founding fathers – like John Hancock, just to try to get in their head and see what they were thinking about.
- Name a tool, app, or website that you can’t live without and why.
- Tell us something unique and interesting about you that not many may know.
- Larry is an expert drone pilot with hundreds of flights, and he has never crashed it
- What is your favorite business book and why?
- Larry doesn’t read a lot of books, but he reads a lot of business blogs. One of his favorite bloggers is Jeff Haden, Larry’s favorite columnist at Inc Magazine.
- What is the top characteristic or trait that you look for in people you work with?
- Domain expertise – Larry likes specialists
- What is something you believe, but few others agree with you?
- Larry considers himself a contrarian. “I believe in the value of adversity … it’s that adversity that creates an impetus for great things later down the road.”
How to contact Larry:
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