10 Best Distraction Free Writing Apps for Bloggers, Writers & Authors

Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

In the digital age, basically everyone is a writer of some description – whether it’s social media content, company blogs, business proposals or something a little more traditional like news stories or screenplays.

Businesses and individuals of all kinds are writing more content than ever.

The biggest challenge for today’s writers is getting everything done in the most productive way. Demands are high and deadlines are short in the modern age, which means there’s no space for unwanted distractions getting in the way of your workflow.

In this article, we’re looking at the 10 best distraction-free writing apps that will help you produce a higher volume without compromising on quality.

The 10 best distraction-free writing apps

First, we’re going to introduce the best distraction-free writing apps with a quick overview of what they have to offer. Then, we’re going to focus the rest of this article on helping you choose the right app(s) for you, based on their strengths and weaknesses.

One thing I’ll make clear now is that there are two general types of writing apps here. First, you have WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) word processors, which are similar to Microsoft Word and Google Docs, where you can highlight text and change formatting by selecting buttons or using keyboard shortcuts – all of which is visible within the document.

Then you have markdown editors, where you pretty much do everything from the keyboard – placing hashtags in front of headings and asterisks in front of bullet point items.

Markdown editors like Ulysses use special characters to format and style text

These markdown editors tend to be the more distraction-free writing experiences but that’s an oversimplification – and you’ll see what I mean once you’ve looked at the following apps.

Here are the 10 distraction-free writing apps you need to know about.

#1: Ulysses (Mac, iOS)

£4.49/mo or £35.99/year

Ulysses is a powerful writing app for Mac and iOS that allows you to write content without ever taking your fingers away from the keyboard. Its markdown-based text editor means you’re no longer clicking settings with the mouse; instead, you’ll style things like headings by placing hashtags in-front of your text.

In terms of removing distractions, Ulysses packs a number of features to help you focus on the task at hand.

Key features:

  • Distraction-free interface: Feels like you’re writing on a clean sheet of paper without any of the usual distractions found with word processors.
  • Markdown-based writing: Ulysses’ text-only editor means you can write and style your content without lifting your fingers away from the keyboard.
  • Keyboard navigation: Navigate the Ulysses dashboard from the keyboard.
  • Typewriter mode: Only shows the line you’re currently working on to remove all possible distractions.
  • Publishing: Publish to WordPress and Medium from within the Ulysses app or schedule them at the push of a button.

Despite all the emphasis on simplicity, Ulysses allows you to create rich documents with images, links, footnotes, blockquotes and everything else you would expect from a word processor. While there’s also a live preview feature to show you what your output is going to look like and built-in export styles for you choose from.

#2: Storyist (Mac, iOS)

£48.50 one-time fee

As the name suggests, Storyist is designed for writers who need to tell a story. Aside from providing a distraction-free writing experience, the app makes it easy to pen out your plot, characters, settings and everything else you need to convey in your story.

While the app is designed for screenwriters, novelists and creative storytellers, Storyist’s features are just as important for today’s content marketers and journalists who need to craft stories around their publishing objectives.

Key features:

  • Minimal interface: Not as distraction-free as Ulysses but a minimal interface that keeps your focus on what you’re writing.
  • WYSIWYG: With Storyist, you’ll be setting fonts, highlighting text and clicking buttons to style it – more like Microsoft Word than Ulysses.
  • Outliner: A tool for outlining your plot, objectives, quotes and other core elements to keep your writing on track at all times.
  • Story development tools: Put images to character names or places to give you a visual cue for descriptive writing.
  • Word count tracking: Tracks daily and project word count goals to help you stay on track – especially useful for longer pirces/projects.

This app is clearly designed with screenwriters in mind and storytelling writers are going to get the best out of it. If you’re strictly inot bloggin or article writing, then there are probably better choices for you in this article but don’t forget the importance of storytelling in marketing content such as videos and webinars.

#3: iA Writer (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android)

£28.89 one-off fee

iA Writer is another markdown text editor, which allows it ditch all of those buttons and setting for a truly distraction-free interface. Much like Ulysses, you can create documents without your fingers leaving the keyboard.

Key features:

  • Distraction-free interface: iA Writer’s interface is one of the most distraction-free editors you’ll come across.
    Markdown-based writing: Create documents entirely from keyboard commands.
  • Typewriter mode: Fades everything except the sentence or paragraph yuo’re currently typing to boost your focus.
  • Cross-platform: Use iA Writer across Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices.

This cross-platform functionality is great if you want to use a distraction-free writing app across different devices types and operating systems, especially if you’re jumping between Windows and iOS or Mac and Android. That said, if you’re an Apple loyalist, Ulysses still offers the slightly better set of features – namely its publishing and file management system.

#4: Hemingway (Windows, Mac, web)

$19.99 for desktop, free online app

Hemingway is different from the other writing apps we’re looking at in this article. Aside from providing a distraction-free writing experience, Hemingway aims to make you a better writer by highlighting sentences and paragraphs that are too long, as well as any use of adverbs and the passive voice – three of the most common and serious writing mistakes used by untrained writers.

You can download the Hemingway app for Mac and Windows or use the online app for free.

Key Features:

  • Distraction-free writing: Despite the intelligent technology powering Hemingway, it still serves as a great distraction-free writing tool.
  • WIZYWIG: Hemingway is still a WIZYWIG editor but this is implemented in a far more simplistic way than apps like Microsoft Word.
  • Improve your writing: Hemingway scores the readability of your writing and highlights areas that can be improved to help you become a better writer.
  • Free online app: Use Hemingway on any device with an internet connecting by simply typing its URL into your brwoser.

Hemingway is designed to make you a better writer and it also happens to be one of the best distraction-free tools out there. Not to mention the fact you can use the online app for free with the only downside being you can’t save your work (although you can copy and paste into another app or download the full Hemingway app for Windows or Mac).

#5: Byword (Mac, iOS)

£10.99 for Mac, £5.99 for iOS

Byword is an incredibly simple markdown text editor for Mac and iOS. If you’re after the minimalist approach, this is about as distraction-free as it gets and everything you create is fully synced between your Mac and iOS devices.

You can also publish directly to Medium, WordPress, Blogger, Tumbler and Evernote from within the app.

Key Features:

  • Distraction-free interface: Super-minimal interface and with a truly distraction-free experience.
  • Markdown writing: Format and style your text as you type.
  • Sync: All your documents are synced with iCloud and Dropbox so you can access and edit them from all of your Mac and iOS devices.
  • Publishing: Publish directly to Medium, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr and Evernote.

If you’re strictly an Apple user and you’re looking for the truly distraction-free writing experience, Byword is one of the best options available.

#6: Grammarly (Windows, Mac, web)

Free, $11.66/mo or $15/mo

Grammarly isn’t actually a distraction-free writing app; it’s an intelligent spelling and grammar checker that does a pretty good job of spotting basic writing errors – far better than you’ll be used to with spell checkers in apps like Microsoft Word.

What many Grammarly users don’t know is that you can also use it for writing with its ultra-simple document app. You can’t style or format text with the editor – all you can do is type out your title and then just write.

That certainly counts as distraction-free writing in my book.

Key features:

  • Grammar & spelling checker: Genuinely useful grammar and spelling checker that works in real-time or after you’ve finished writing if you prefer.
  • Distraction-free writing: Grammarly’s document app basically has no features at all but it’s definitely a minimal, distraction-free experience.
  • Chrome extension: You can use Grammarly to check your writing as you type online with the Chrome extension.

Grammarly isn’t a word processor or text editor in anyway at all – so don’t expect those kind of features. It’s document app is more like an online notepad without any settings or features to get distracted with.

#7: Evernote (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, web)

Free, $5.83/mo or $12.50/mo

Evernote’s document app is far more sophisticated than Grammarly – almost to the point where it can replace a fully-featured word processor like Microsoft Word with something far more minimal.

You also get all of the other Evernote features as part of the package: cloud storage, file sharing, web clipper, notes and a whole bunch of things to help you create content.

Key features:

  • Minimal writing app: Maybe not quite distraction-free writing but far more minimal than typical word processors with all of the same features and more.
  • WYSIWYG: Style your document and see your changes as you make them.
  • Cross-platform: Apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and a web app mean you can use Evernote everywhere you need to.

Evernote’s document writer isn’t exactly topping the list of its features but if you’re looking for a balance between distraction-free writing and all the functionality of a word processor (and then some), this is a strong option.

#8: Medium (web)

Free, $5/mo or $50/year

Medium is one of the most popular publishing and content discovery platforms around these days. Its online story interface is as minimal as any distraction-free writing and you only have basic formatting options for titles, links, quotes and basic styles (bold and italic).

That’s it

Of course, the main attraction of Medium is its user base, who are constantly looking for great content to engage with, making this a powerful social/content marketing tool in its own right.

Key features:

  • Distraction-free writing: Very minimal writing experience with basic formatting options.
  • WYSIWYG: Medium’s story interface doesn’t give you a lot of formatting options but they are WYSIWYG so you can easily see what you’re going.
  • Cross-platform: The web app nature of Medium means you can pretty much access it from any device with an internet connection.
  • Publishing: The added bonus of using Medium as a content publishing and discovery tool.

Medium’s interface provides a great distraction-free writing experience and this is precisely why it has made onto our list. This, plus the fact it’s essentially a cross-platform option thanks to its web app. The only real downside is you’re limited to publishing to Medium or copy and pasting into another app if you want to publish elsewhere.

Dealbreaker? Well, that’s entirely up to you and it costs nothing to try it out.

#9: Typora (Windows, Mac, Linux)


Typora is another free option that’s technically a markdown editor but it’s worked the whole WYSIWYG experience into things. So you type your hashtags for headings, asterisks for bullet points, etc. and Typora shows you what it’s all going to look like in its interface – all in real-time.

It’s a fully-featured markdown editor, too, which means you can import images by typing file paths, create tables and diagrams, do mathematics and pull off all sorts of magic – all from your keyboard and see the visual results, thanks to that WYSIWYG implementation.

Key features:

  • Distraction-free interface: Typora is nothing more than a text editor (like Notepad++) until you start typing – it doesn’t get more distraction-free than this.
  • Markdown writing: Format your text, import images and do everything from the keyboard.
  • WYSIWYG: Typora is very much a markdown editor but it implements that WYSIWYG experience to give you a better visual idea of what your documents look like in rendered HTML.


#10: Google Docs (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, web)


Okay, so I’m really pushing it here by trying to call Google Docs a distraction-free writing app but it’s certainly a more minimal experience than Microsoft Word or similar word processors.

That’s not why I’m recommending it, though. The reason Google Docs makes it onto this list is because it’s one of the best writing apps for teams that want to collaborate and it still offers a fairly minimal writing experience, despite all of the features packed into the platform.

Aside from its collaborative prowess, Google Docs is a truly cross-platform application with apps for just about every OS out there. While the writing app itself isn’t as distraction-free as the other options in this article, you can create, save, edit and share your documents from anywhere and collaborate remotely.

In this sense, the file creation, management and editing processes are where Google Docs kills distractions most effectively.

Key features:

  • WYSIWYG: Think a stripped down version of Microsoft Word with all of the same functionality and more.
  • Cross-platform: Google Docs kills it in this regard.
  • Collaboration: Teams can collaborate on the same documents in the same location or remotely anywhere – all in real-time.

If you’re looking for a truly distraction-free writing experience, Google Docs isn’t going to top your list. In terms of a collaborative tools that accessible from anywhere, on any device, though – this is the one.

Which is the distraction-free writing app for you?

It all comes down to what need from a writing app, which platforms you need to use and how important the distraction-free experience is over other features.

To help you make this choice, we’re going to focus the rest of this article on narrowing your options by looking at the following criteria and recommending the best apps for each of them:

  1. Platform availability: First, you need an app that’s supported on all the devices you need to use it on, whether you’re a Windows, Mac, iPhone or Android user.
  2. Cross-platformability: How good is the app for using across all of your devices and platforms so you can start work on one machine, finish on another and collaborate with others as you go?
  3. Writing features: All of these apps offer a different range of writing features – so which are the ones you really need?
  4. Cost & Value: There’s always a budget to work with and you want to know you’re getting the best value for your money.
  5. Usability: There’s nothing more distracting than an app that’s difficult to use and this defeats the whole point of what we’re trying to do here. So let’s take at the most usable of the apps mentioned in this list.

Once we’re done with this lot, you should be ready to choose the writing app for you with confidence.

Best apps for your devices and platforms

It doesn’t matter how good a writing app is if it’s not available on the platforms you need it on. So, let’s start by comparing the platforms each of these tools are available on.

ToolDesktopMobileWeb app
iA WriterWindows, MaciOS, Android 
HemmingwayWindows, Mac Yes
GrammarlyWindows, Mac*Yes
EvernoteWindows, MaciOS, AndroidYes
Medium *Yes
TyporaWindows, Mac, Linux Sites & apps
Google DocsWindows, MaciOS, AndroidYes

While Grammarly and Medium both have mobile apps available, they don’t contribute to the distraction-free experience we’re focusing on in this article, which is why we’ve marked those cells with asterisks.

Best apps for using cross-platform

Now that we’ve compared the platforms each of these tools are available on, it’s not difficult to recommend the best options for cross-platformability. If you need to be moving between devices, operating systems and browsers, these are the first apps you want to consider:

  1. Google Docs
  2. Evernote
  3. iA Writer

The funny thing is, the top two in this category aren’t even distraction-free writing apps in themselves but they nail it when it comes to cross-platformability.

If this is important to you, then these are the top three choices for you.

Best for writing features

The downside with distraction-free writing apps is you tend to sacrifice a lot of writing features for the sake of simplicity. If you only want to type plain text then a regular text editor will do the trick for you – but this isn’t why you’r reading this article.

You want to find a certain balance between distraction-free writing and the features you need to get the job done. Feature-wise, here are your best options:

  1. Google Docs
  2. Evernote
  3. Typora

None of these apps offer the most distraction-free writing experience (although Typora comes close), but you can simply do more with them.

What’s amazing is all of these are available for free, despite packing more features into their tools than the other options.

Best for cost & value

In order to determine how much you’re getting for your money with these apps, we’ve graded them in three categories:

  1. Freedom: How distraction-free the writing experience is.
  2. Features: What you get in terms of writing, publishing and document management features.
  3. Cost: The relative price of each app.

We’ve compared the pricing of each tool and converted these into scores out of ten (eg: free = 10/10) and then calculated an overall score based on the mean average.

Ulysses 9/10 7/10£4.49/mo 6/10
Storyist 7/10 6/10£49.50 6/10
iA Writer 9/10 6/10£29.89 7/10
Hemingway 10/10 3/10Free 7/10
Byword 10/10 7/10£10.99 8/10
Grammarly 10/103/10Free 7/10
Evernote 6/109/10Free 9/10
Medium 9/101/10Free 7/10
Typora 6/108/10Free 8/10
Google Docs 5/1010/10Free 8/10

Obviously, price factors heavily in this category and the apps that are available for free have a big advantage in this section.

Best for usability

As I said earlier, there’s nothing more distracting than a app that’s difficult to use and all of the tools in this article score well when it comes to usability.

This already makes it difficult to select winners in this category and usability is a fairly subjective thing, too. If you’re coming from Microsoft Word, for example, Google Docs is always going to be easier to get used to than a markdown editor which switches the writing process on its head.

With this in mind, I’m recommending these three options as the most usable for different types of users:

  1. Evernote: For users who want the distraction-free writing experience with all the features and WYSIWYG you expect from a traditional word processor.
  2. Ulysses: For a truly distraction-free writing experience that makes it easy to make the transition from WYSIWYG to markdown writing.
  3. Byword: For the most usable, distraction-free writing experience for people comfortable with markdown editors.

Whichever of these writing apps you choose to work with, usability won’t be a major issue, though. They’re all great in this regard and the ultimate choice will come down to personal preference and the features you need.

Best of all, many of these are free so you can try them out to get a better idea of what you want from a distraction-free writing app.

Don’t let distractions kill your content efforts

Your readers will never fully know the time and effort that goes into producing all of your content and all that matters to them is the end product. In terms of ROI, this is all that matters to your content marketing strategy, too, and every distraction that holds you back reduces the return you get from your content investment.

Finding the tools that to help you hit targets faster are invaluable and among these 10 distraction-free writing apps, I’m sure you’ll find the tool that makes all the difference.

All that’s left now is for you to choose the right app for your needs.

10 Actionable Inbound Marketing Statistics for 2019

Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

Inbound marketing continues to be the lead generation priority of modern brands but the nature of this broad strategy is constantly changing. New platforms are always emerging, the technology powering them is advancing at an increasing rate and the way your target audience interacts and buys from brands like you is evolving every year.

In this article, we’ve got 10 actionable inbound marketing statistics for you that are going to impact your success in 2018 and beyond. We’re not talking about superficial numbers here, but key findings and what this means for your inbound marketing efforts over the coming years.

#1: Search has overtaken social as the main source of referral traffic (34.8% vs 25.6%) – Shareaholic

Image source: Shareaholic

This is a big one. In 2017, search overtook social media as the main source of traffic for the first time since 2014. This is a major reversal of priorities for inbound marketers who have been focusing on social media as their main source of traffic – something that needs to change in 2018.

According to research from Shareaholic, 34.8% of traffic came from search in 2017, compared to 25.6% from social.

Pinpointing why this has happened will take time but one reason could be Google’s move to include social content in search results and the drive of AMP content as a news source. Either way, it’s important for marketers to keep on top of their traffic sources and adjust their strategy to maximise incoming traffic.

Always aim to publish your content where it’s most effective and in the format that gets the best results on each platform.

#2: 65% of marketers say link building is the most difficult SEO strategy – Advanced Web Ranking

With search driving more traffic than social, there’s going to be a natural shift back towards search engine optimisation in 2018. One thing that hasn’t changed over the past four years is the importance of link building for SEO and 65% of marketers say this is the most difficult strategy in organic SEO, according to Advanced Web Ranking’s SEO stats report 2017.

If anything, link building has become more difficult over the years but the idea of building links (so to speak) doesn’t really cut it in 2018. Now, you have to earn links with content that people actually want to, you know… link to.

It’s not the quantity of links you have that really matters, either. It’s the quality of your link profile that tells search engines you’re a publisher that should be ranking highly. So focus your attention on producing content that has real value to offer and promote in the places where people are going to engage with it most – across search and social.

#3: 55% of marketers say blog content is their top inbound marketing priority – HubSpot

According to HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2018 report, 55% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority. This reinforces the previous point about creating content that earns links (as well as likes and shares) to maximise your reach and bring in the volume of inbound leads you’re looking for.

#4: However, 75% of blog posts get zero links from other domains – Moz

Image source: Moz

At the same time, research from Moz tells us that that vast majority of blog posts get zero links from other domains. A quick look at the kind of content your competitors are producing and it won’t be a surprise to hear most of it isn’t earning any links from external sources.

Not a single link; nothing.

You need to make sure your content is good enough to be in the significant minority of stuff that’s earning multiple quality links from sites with a strong search presence and relevance to your brand.

#5: Which might be because 70% of marketers lack a consistent or integrated content strategy – Altimeter

There are a lot of reasons content might not generate the required number of links to add value but one thing that certainly won’t help is the fact that 70% of marketers lack a consistent or integrated content strategy – according to Altimeter.

#6: 87% of B2B buyers trust industry influencer content more – DemandGen Report

This is a big one: B2B overwhelmingly favour influencer content and this is a major trend for marketers in 2018. We also know this is applicable to B2C marketers as well, as proven by the rise and sustained success of influencer marketing on social media.

So, if you want your content to make an impact, get the influencers on board and feature them in your content. DemandGen’s 2017 Content Preferences Survey Report reveals a massive 87% of B2B buyers trust industry influencer content more than anything else. The study also shows, once again, that buyers (68%) give more credence to peer reviews, third-party publications, and user-generated feedback while 66% trust content authored by a third-party publication or analyst.

#7: LinkedIn is still the favourite network of B2B marketers (93%) – Smart Insights & Clutch

Image source: Smart Insights; Clutch

In terms of social marketing, LinkedIn is still the top choice for B2B marketers with 93% saying it’s the most valuable social platform, according to research from Smart Insights and Clutch. LinkedIn isn’t any slouch when it comes to B2C marketing with 74% of B2c marketers saying the platform is a valuable part of their social efforts.

#8: But Facebook isn’t far behind with 82% of B2B marketers choosing the network – Smart Insights & Clutch

According to the same study, 82% of B2B marketers say Facebook is an important platform for their inbound strategies. However, the network is still considered more valuable by B2C marketers with a massive 96% saying it’s a valuable source for lead generation.

These figures also suggest that social media marketing is valued more hight by B2C marketers than their B2B counterparts – make of that what you will.

#9: Only 5% of adults strongly trust the content they see on social media – Pew Research Center

Public trust in the content they see published on social media isn’t particularly high right now, largely thanks to fake news scandals and increased awareness of people being targeted with content based on political, ethnic and all kinds of other questionable content.

According to research by Pre Research Center, only 5% of adults strongly trust the content they see on social media. This isn’t only a political issue either; it’s a symptom of platforms emerging where brands and individuals can say or claim anything without needing to back it up.

People are becoming wiser to this and simply telling buyers that your products or services are great doesn’t cut it. You need to earn their trust by showing them the quality and this largely brings us back to the topics of influencer content, third-party reviews, user-generated content and other crucial trust signals.

#10: 84% of marketers say they will launch at least one influencer campaign in 2018 – Smart Insights

Given the increased need to earn buyer trust and the success of influencer content across B2B and B2C niches, it shouldn’t surprise us to hear that 84% of marketers say they will launch at least one influencer campaign in 2018. This is according to research from Smart Insights.

Influencer marketing isn’t necessarily as crude as paying some Instagram star to showcase your products or vouch for your services. It can be much bigger than that and the B2B arena, in particular, has a lot of room to develop this. Normally, it’s not the celebrities of social media icons that command attention in the business sector – it’s trusted industry voices and genuine business advice people want to hear.

Time to get your 2019 content strategies in order

We’re way past the halfway mark for 2018 but the inbound marketing statistics and trends we’ve highlighted are going to shape content marketing well into 2019 and beyond. So now is the time to get your strategy in place for next year and make any adjustments you need to adapt to the latest developments.

With search taking the lead in referral traffic once again, you’re going to want to pay extra attention to the changes happening in search right now – looking at ways to monetise the opportunities of voice search, the changing roles of publishing and advertising, plus the impact these have on user behaviour.

10 Ways to Get More Inbound Leads For Your Agency or Consultancy

Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

Last year we had to turn away 300+ qualified leads.

After four years of trial and error, Venture Harbour reached full-capacity, with 100’s of leads on a waiting list. I say this not to brag, but to provide some credibility before I share any advice.

In this article, I’ll outline five of the most effective strategies I’m aware of for generating a steady stream of ‘bread and butter’ leads for your agency, followed by five tactics to attract big accounts.

Whether you’re an established creative agency, a leading management consultancy firm, or a startup SEO consultant, I encourage you take action on this information to build a scalable lead generation machine that takes your business to the next level.

#1 Scrap your generic enquiry forms

Most agencies and consultancies use dull, out-dated forms on their websites.

These cost agencies a lot of leads (we were no exception). Your form is the final step in the lead generation marathon – it literally separates your leads from your non-leads, and therefore has significant influence over how many leads you receive. Simply put, the better your lead capture forms, the more leads you receive.

At Venture Harbour, I continually optimised our form using Leadformly, ultimately increasing the conversion rate of the site from 0.96% to 8.1%. Not only did this skyrocket our leads, but our cost of acquiring a lead was now much lower, opening doors to new acquisition channels.

Leadformly form on Venture Harbour

So, how do you improve your form?

Give people what they want

Your leads want to know four things:

1. What will you do for them?
2. How much will it cost?
3. How are you different from everyone else?
4. Do you know what you’re talking about?

So give it to them.

Instead of using a dull contact form like every other agency, offer your visitors a free proposal, a 60-minute introductory consultation, or a personalised audit. You could even use a tool like Leadformly to build an interactive form that gives each lead a personalised response, like what Hubspot do with their marketing grader form:


#2 Speak at small, industry-specific events

Between 2012 and 2015 I spoke at almost any conference, meetup, or event that would let me step on a stage. Anything from a 20-person meetup in London, to a TED conference in Australia.

Here’s what I learned about generating leads from public speaking:


Speaking at big marketing conferences is mostly ineffective

While speaking at established marketing events is great for credibility, they’re often ineffective for generating leads.

First of all, there are too many competitors pitching for the prospect’s attention. It’s like trying to promote your book in a book store: Unless you have something truly exceptional to say, you’re soon forgotten.

The bigger problem, though, is that most of the audience assumes that you’ll be busy after your talk – so relatively few people come up to speak to you.

In contrast, at a small event with 50-100 people you’re seen as more accessible. As a result you have more (and deeper) conversations that turn into better leads, and more clients.

Industry-specific events are a goldmine

Last year, I spoke at a forex conference in Cyprus. We had just started working with a client in the forex niche, so I flew to this event to meet them and learn about their industry. To make the most of my time there, I offered to give a keynote on marketing automation.

I came away with more leads than I’ve ever received from any event I’ve spoken at.


How? I was one of the only digital marketers at the event. The audience was full of CMOs and marketing directors from banks and other financial institutions, but no other agencies or marketing consultants were competing for their attention.

People quickly assumed that I was an expert in forex digital marketing, which led to more financial speaking events and opportunities to write for financial publications.

I observed a similar phenomenon speaking at conferences in the music industry. When you attend or speak at industry-specific verticals, you’re seen as the expert in that field.

My advice? If you want to get leads from speaking, zig where everyone else is zagging.

#3 Use webinars to out-teach the competition

No company wants to hire an agency or consultant that isn’t an expert in their field. Our BS radars have become so good that as an agency you must show, not tell, that you’re the authority.

The most scalable way of doing this online is through webinars, which have a few bonuses:

    • Reciprocityaccording to Dr. Robert Cialdini, people are hard-wired to want to repay favours, even when it’s totally irrational. It was found, for example, that people are more like to buy a car at a dealership if the sales person gave them a free coffee. By giving a free webinar, your leads are more likely to reciprocate by signing the contract.
    • Authority – your webinar positions you as the authority on your topic.
    • Likability – we’re more likely to buy from people we like. A webinar is an opportunity to spend an hour with a prospect where they’re listening to your voice, developing a relationship, and building rapport.
    • Scarcity – Many webinars end with an offer such as ‘The first X companies get started with our agency from this webinar will get a free Y’. This scarcity increases the likelihood of your leads taking action.


At Venture Harbour, we use WebinarJam to run webinars. This tool allows you to run polls, display timed offers, and even pre-record your webinar and have it play once a week, and much more.

If you’re interested in watching one of my webinars, I host a free webinar for Leadformly on ‘How to acquire 300% more leads without increasing your traffic’, which you can secure your spot for here. In it, I share even more techniques that can be used by agencies and consultants to capture more leads.

#4 Low-frequency content marketing

If we apply the 80/20 principle to content marketing, 80% of your leads will come from 20% of your content. If you can identify what 20% of content would be most effective, you can get 80% of the rewards for only 20% of the effort.

This is where low-frequency content marketing comes in.

Instead of creating content on a daily or weekly basis, slow down. Spend at least 40 hours on every piece of content you product, and make it exceptional.

If your dream clients are film companies, create the ultimate guide to digital marketing for film companies. Continually refine this piece of content to make it 10X better than the next best piece of content on the topic.

From my experience, this approach to content marketing and blogging yields significantly higher quantity and quality of leads.

#5 Automate prospecting & outbound sales

Lets be clear, outbound sales does not mean cold-calling.

I’m talking about building an automated system that:

  • Builds a qualified prospect list for you – by pulling in public data on company financials, technology used on their website, and other public data that can be found online. If your clients typically have over £10m in annual revenue, are based within 100 miles of London, and use a premium CRM like Pardot or Marketo, you can automatically build a list of all of the companies that meet this criteria (I’ll explain how in a moment).
  • Automatically reach out to these companies – You can then automatically trigger a personalised introductory email to all of the prospects that meet your ‘typical client profile’. The ones that respond are then handed over to your sales team.


This means that your team no longer needs to spend time prospecting, and can focus 100% of their time and effort on the leads that have the highest likelihood of closing.

The best tools for this are Datanyze and Growbots. They’re not cheap – but if you’re spending a lot of time finding prospects for outbound sales, this will save you a lot of time.

#6 Build your referral network

If you want to attract clients with big budgets, you either need a referral network, or to create word of mouth. Ideally both. As word of mouth is slightly more elusive, I’ll focus on how to build a referral network.

There are three kinds of partners that I recommend developing partnerships with:

  • Upstream services – If you’re an SEO agency, an upstream service might be a web design agency, a PR agency, a venture capital firm, or a marketing training company. These companies will typically have influence into which SEO agency their clients choose.
  • Other agencies – While it may seem counter-intuitive, other agencies are a great source of leads. First of all, another agency’s bad-fit client may be a dream client for you. Also, when an agency (like ours) is at full-capacity, they need other agencies to recommend.
  • Niche partners – If your agency specialises in consulting to hotels, it makes sense to partner with organisations and associations that are well-connected within the hotel industry.

#7 Build complimentary tools and software

The majority of Venture Harbour’s best leads come from our ventures, such as MarketingAutomationInsider.com (a site we built to help marketers find the right marketing software).

I’ve noticed that more and more agencies are combining the agency model with either SaaS or information products. By building complementary tools or products, you can not only cross-sell and create new revenue streams, but you can also market your agency services to the people who’re signing up for these products.


Screaming Frog is a fantastic example of this. With their software widely loved by the SEO community, many people don’t even realise that Screaming Frog is actually an agency.

#8 Run your own shows

While conferences and events (including meetups, dinners, and award ceremonies) may not be the best standalone business model, they are a great way to boost your influence in your industry or niche.

When you run the events in your niche you become a de-facto authority. This attracts publicity opportunities, enables high-potential networking opportunities, while insulating your agency from the competition as you’re able to somewhat control who can access your event’s audience.

Above all else, though, it gets you out of the office and into a room full of potential clients. Combined with a steady flow of beers, and valuable insights on who’s attending, it’s a clever and underused strategy for topping up the top of your sales funnel.

#9 Write the book in your niche

For similar reasons as above, authors are widely perceived as authorities. Sending a copy of your book to leads is a great way to differentiate your agency, while putting your agency’s brand front and center in your leads’ day-to-day lives for a few weeks.

If you’re able to secure a publisher it can also be an effective way to reach an even larger audience of potential leads. Just remember that most (reputable) publishers require you to put in a lot of public speaking work to more or less guarantee at least 10k-20k book sales within the first year.

A great example of this is Blue Ocean Strategy, which has sold 3.5 million copies promoting The Boston Consulting Group’s infamous strategic principles.


#10 Ask

One of the best ways to get more business is to simply ask for it.

Try this: Create a list of no less than ten companies that would be your ideal leads. These must be companies that you can genuinely offer transformational results to. Once you have your list, use email hunter to find relevant contacts at each of these companies, and then reach out.

Your email needs to sincerely explain why you want to help them and what you believe you can do for them. Be specific, and don’t copy and paste the same email.

I guarantee that you’ll receive at least one very high quality lead from this, and most likely a new client.

Summary: Take action

As I mentioned in the introduction, this information is only valuable when acted on. Whether you decide to improve your lead capture forms, test webinars, or start a referral network, or all of the above, the key is to make changes. Because…

If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got – Henry Ford

5 Best B2B Lead Generation Strategies (That’ll Work in 2019)

Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

When it comes to B2B lead generation, what really impacts the bottom line?

In this post, we’re going to talk about how one health-tech company generated a 5,100% ROI from a $1 million integrated online marketing campaign. We’ll also look at how a major accounting firm generated $1.3 billion in pipeline revenue from content marketing.

But before we jump into the case studies and discuss specific strategies, it’s important that you get the foundations right and ensure that you’re able to capture and convert a large percentage of leads from your campaigns.

Avoiding the leaky bucket effect

Many B2B marketers spend a lot of time, metaphorically, pouring water into leaky buckets. Rather than fixing the bucket (the marketing funnel), they pour more water (traffic) into the bucket to keep it full.

This is a recipe for inflated acquisition costs and below-average results.

The biggest culprit here are landing pages and, in particular, your forms. Forms separate your leads from non-leads, and have a huge impact on your conversion rates and overall lead generation results. If you haven’t already, I’d recommend optimising your forms – or using a tool like Leadformly to ensure that you’re not leaving leads behind from your marketing campaigns.

Let’s say you send 1,000 visits to your landing page at a cost of $3 per visit. If your form converts at 1% you’ll get 10 leads at a cost per lead of $300. If, on the other hand, your form converted at 3%, you’d receive 30 leads at a cost per lead of $100.

That’s 3X more leads for one third of the cost per leads without spending a penny extra – just by improving your lead generation form.


Once your funnel is well-optimised and you’re confident that there’s no more opportunity to improve your landing pages / funnels, it’s time to acquire traffic – but which channels or lead generation strategies should you use?

Which B2B lead generation strategies work?

The answer to this question depends on who you ask.

If we were to go by Hubspot’s study of the best B2B lead sources, we’d conclude that SEO is the best (identifiable) lead generation channel.

B2B lead sources

If, on the other hand, we used Chief Marketer’s data on the same question, we’d conclude that email marketing is the most effective channel for B2B lead generation. Needless to say, there are similar surveys reporting that social media and content marketing are also the most effective forms of B2B lead generation.

B2B chief marketer stats

Why so much variation?

The likely answer is to do with audience biases. A survey conducted by an email marketing provider is almost certainly going to have different results to one conducted by PPC management tool, as their audiences have different skillsets and biases, skewing the results of their sample. As such, we should take the specific ranking of different strategies in these studies with a pinch of salt.

Inconsistencies aside, the online strategies that consistently come out at the top are:

  • Email marketing
  • Search marketing
  • Social marketing
  • Content marketing

We’ll look at each these in more depth in a moment, but bear in mind that how you use a lead generation channel is more important than what lead channel you choose.

Twitter can be used to close a $250,000 lead for a B2B business, or it can be used to spam potential leads and tarnish a brand. So, while the channel/strategy you choose will play a large role in how effective your lead generation is, how you execute your campaign will play an even bigger role.

With this caveat out the way, let’s look at some of the ways that B2B companies are using the four strategies listed above to generate impressive results.

5 Ways to Generate B2B Leads Online

In this section, we’ll cover the four strategies outlined above, as well as a strategy that hasn’t been mentioned in any of the studies, yet it enabled one B2B company to generate a 5,100% ROI from a $1 million investment.

First though, let’s talk about one of the oldest strategies in online marketing: email marketing.

1. Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the few online marketing channels that has stood the test of time. In fact, email is 23 years old this year, and it still trumps the top spot on many B2B marketer’s lists of B2B lead generation strategies.

One of the biggest trends in email marketing at the moment, that has generated great results for many B2B businesses, is marketing automation.

Not sure what the fuss about marketing automation is? Read this. In short, marketing automation tools are effectively hybrid email marketing tools that connect with your CRM to enable you to automatically send highly targeted emails to leads that are personalised specifically to them.

When Thomson Reuters upgraded to a marketing automation solution, their revenue increased by 172%. Another company increased their revenue by 832% (going from $80,000 in debt to $2 million in revenue) in just three years.

While traditional newsletters and email marketing are still important, the ability to capture more data on users and use behavioural-triggers has enabled B2B marketers to get a lot smarter with how they target users in the inbox.

2. Content Marketing: From Blogging to Microsites

By creating a total of 48 infographics, videos, and Q&A blog posts targeting C-level prospects of large market cap financial institutions, the public accounting firm Crowe Horwath generated $250,000 in revenue attributed to content marketing.

If 6-figure growth doesn’t get you excited, perhaps 10-figures (a billion) will.

In 2012, Xerox created a microsite offering relevant tips to business owners. The result? 70% of the companies targeted interacted with the microsite, adding 20,000 new contacts to their pipeline, 1,000+ of which scheduled appointments. The value of those appointments exceeded $1.3 billion in pipeline revenue.

Given the broad scope of content marketing, a good question to ask is what type of content should B2B companies be focusing on to generate leads?

Well, you could go by which tactics are most commonly used by other B2B companies (displayed below). The risk of this approach is that, by definition, you’ll be doing what everyone else is doing.

B2B content marketing

While there is some wisdom in following trends, there’s a good argument to do exactly the opposite of what other marketers are focusing on.

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

Whether you’re a contrarian marketer or prefer to stick to what’s working for others, a good content marketing strategy requires a degree of diversity and experimentation to understand where the biggest growth opportunities are for your business.

So, by all means, experiment with the common and uncommon tactics. Whether you use microsites, blogging, research reports, or infographics, the important thing is to test what does and doesn’t work so that you can gradually refine your lead generation over time.

3. Search Marketing

Organic search marketing is arguably one of the most valuable long-term strategies for generating B2B leads.

About 5-6 years ago, I was working on the SEO campaign for a major business stationery brand. It was one of my first ‘big campaigns’ that I was allowed to manage in my previous job.

While I can’t take the credit (their in-house SEO team and previous agencies had laid a great foundation for us), I watched the site’s revenue from SEO increase by over £4 million, just from a handful of keywords reaching #1 on Google.

Getting to #1 in Google is a lot harder today than it was five or ten years ago, and it can barely be summarised in a few sentences.

If I were to attempt it, though, I’d probably say that good SEO in 2015 is largely a bi-product of doing things well in other areas e.g. design, conversion rate optimisation, content marketing, and social. While there are exceptions, this is increasingly looking like the rule.

4. Social Media

Calling social media an effective B2B lead generation strategy is a controversial discussion to be starting.

While social media scored very well on both of the aforementioned ‘studies’, we can just as easily find reports where social media channels are regarded as the least effective lead generation strategies.

B2B lead generation

The bottom line is, social media isn’t inherently a poor channel for B2B lead generation. The reason social media is sometimes rated poorly on these aggregate studies is because most B2B companies have an ill-fitting social media strategy, to put it politely.

While tens of thousands of companies blast out self-promotional drivel, a minority of businesses use it generate and nurture millions of dollars worth of leads. In this instance, it’s best to learn from the minority rather than the majority.

One of the most obvious ways to generate B2B leads from social media is using LinkedIn. An commodity risk management company managed to generate over $2 million in pipeline value through their lead generation strategy.

Another consideration is that social media is an integral part of content marketing, and to some extent, search marketing. How successful will your blogging or infographics be if no one’s following your company’s updates on social media?

5. Integrating it all together

It’s said that success leaves clues. Well, when a $37 billion company generates a 5,100% return on investment on a million-dollar marketing campaign, it might be a pretty good clue.

From a $1 million investment in an integrated marketing campaign that included display ads, email marketing, campaign websites and content marketing, the healthcare technology company Optum generated $52 million in new business.

So, what’s the clue?

I believe it’s this: exceptional lead generation results come from a relentless willingness to experiment with different tactics, and to combine tactics across multiple channels.

Only by experimenting, can you truly know what does and doesn’t work, and when you know this, you can use your time and budget more effectively to generate higher returns on your investment, and better lead generation results overall.

I hope this post has given you some inspiration on what’s possible with B2B lead generation, and which areas are best to focus on. As always if you have any questions, or are interested in getting touch, feel free to comment below or drop me an email here.

7 Ways To Earn A Living Selling Ebooks, Courses & Information Products Online

Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

Whether you sell eBooks in the fitness niche, or online courses on personal finance, there are a lot of valuable lessons that can be learnt and applied from observing what’s working for information product businesses outside of your niche.

In this post, I’m going to explore some of the scaling strategies that allowed one guy to make $11 million per year from Clickbank affiliates, to how Mindvalley have grown to make over $40 million per year selling information products in the personal development niche.

1. Use marketing automation to increase CLV, optimise your sales funnel, and improve contact with customers

While researching this post, I looked at 14 separate information product businesses that were generate close to or more than $1 million in annual revenue. Interestingly, there was one thing they all had in common:

They all used either Ontraport or Infusionsoft.

Marketing automation for information products

So why is marketing automation software so valuable to information product businesses? Ultimately, it comes down to the ability to create birds-eye view sequences that target subscribers based on specific actions they take. In a nutshell, it enables personalised targeting on a mass-scale.

Let’s say you run a website about gardening and someone signs up for your free eBook on a beginner landscape gardening. Using automation software, that person can automatically be ‘funneled’ into receiving a sequence of emails that educate them on the more advanced landscape gardening techniques.

If they clicked through on an email upselling a premium product of yours, but they didn’t buy it within 7 days, you could automatically send them a time-limited discount or an email asking what prevented them from buying.

Infusionsoft sequence

This hyper-segmentation is extremely powerful for information product companies, and can have a huge impact on increasing customer lifetime value and product conversion rates when implemented correctly.

If you run an already profitable information product business and aren’t using marketing automation software, I’d strongly recommend looking into Ontraport or Infusionsoft.

2. How setting up a generous affiliate program on Clickbank made TruthAboutAbs.com $11,000,000 per year

In 2011, Mike Geary was interviewed by Tim Ferriss on how he makes $11 million per year from selling information products in the fitness industry.

While the article contains lots of great advice on niche selection, investing in SEO, and various other aspects that contributed to his website’s growth, one of the most interesting points is how he leveraged the power of affiliate marketing.

Mike explains that a major tipping point for his business was adding his TruthAboutAbs.com product to Clickbank and offering affiliates 75% of the profit for any products that they sell. As a side note, 75% is the maximum amount that a publisher can offer an affiliate on the Clickbank network.

While it’s common for publishers to offer these kinds of commissions for information products now, Mike was among the first to offer a commission this generous. Needless to say, his generosity to affiliates paid off – hundreds of affiliates diverted traffic to his site, generating millions of dollars and making his product one of the most popular products on the Clickbank marketplace.

Do you have an army of affiliate marketers promoting your products? If not, it might be worth experimenting with various affiliate networks.

3. Increase the effectiveness of your email campaigns by 22% by combining them with social advertising

Across all of the information product sites that I’ve run and consulted to at Venture Harbour, the two most effective channels for acquiring customers are Facebook Advertising and email marketing.

Where it gets interesting is when you combine the two.

In a study where a leading retailer in the US targeted 925,000 email subscribers with both its regular emails and coordinated Facebook ads, they found that subscribers who received both were 22% more likely to make purchases than those who only received emails.

Harv Eker has a great example of this. The majority of his email campaigns are also set up as Facebook Ads using Facebook’s custom audience feature (which allows you to target people with Facebook Ads based on their email address).

Harv Eker Facebook Ad

In other words, if someone downloads a free eBook on your site, you can run ads to them on Facebook upselling a paid course. By combining this with a corresponding email campaign, you’ll likely see a higher uptake rate than if you just ran a Facebook ad or sent an email campaign.

An easier, yet less-targeted, approach to achieve this is to use Facebook Exchange retargeting, which allows you to run Facebook Ads to anyone who visits specific pages on your website.

4. What ProBlogger learnt from selling $30 million worth of eBooks

In 2013, Shayne Tilley wrote a great post on ProBlogger entitled ‘30 Lessons Learned From Selling $30 Million Worth of eBooks’. One of his points was to consider evergreen products vs. timely products.

“If you want your eBook to live a long life then evergreen content is the way to go. If you want a big win now, a timely eBook is an option as long as you remember that the clock on the longevity of your sales is already ticking.”

From a scalability perspective, I’d strongly recommend going down the evergreen route.

When you look at the exponential success of companies like Mindvalley, who’ve gone from $1m to $40m annual revenue in several years it’s clear that the reason they’ve been able to achieve this is by building on the success gained from previous years.


If you currently rely on creating information products that have a shelf life of several months or years, perhaps it’s worth experimenting with producing timeless content that will generate revenue for the next 5-10 years.

5. Create a highly segment Facebook Ad Campaign

As mentioned earlier in this post, Facebook Advertising is one of the most effective customer acquisition channels, thanks to the ability to reach highly targeted audiences.

One of the best strategies I’ve come across over years of running Facebook Ad campaigns is to split up your ads into tiny segmented ‘buckets’ and then distribute your budget towards the buckets that have the best performance.

Last year, I helped a music startup increase their ROI by 470% by splitting their Facebook campaign into 50+ individual campaigns that were split by gender, 4-year age brackets, and location. In other words, we had separate buckets for 18-22 year old Canadian males, and 23-27 year old Canadian males.

Facebook ad segmentation

While you might not think that there would be too much difference in the results of these campaigns, we found that 23-27 Canadian males were almost 3x more likely to convert than 18-22 year old Canadian males.

On top of segmenting your Facebook Ad campaigns by demographic targeting, it’s also valuable to split them up by ad type and placement. In a separate experiment, I found that changing nothing but the bid type of an ad increased the campaign’s performance by 400%.

The lesson? Facebook Ads are enormously powerful and scalable, but you’ve got to experiment and segment them to figure out what’s going to help you scale up.

6. How increasing your content output by one blog post week can increase traffic by 18.6%

Last year I analysed how six popular blogs, including ProBlogger, Mashable, and KISSmetrics reached millions of visitors. In almost all cases, they scaled their content output.

KISSMetrics, for example, found that for every extra article they published on their blog per week, their weekly traffic increased by 18.6%.

For information product businesses, traffic equals leads and leads equal sales.

By generating a large archive of valuable evergreen content, you’ll eventually hit a tipping point where your traffic (and sales) grow exponentially and passively – without having to increase your advertising budget.

Exponential content marketing

7. Create cross-promotable products to capture new customers and extend customer LTV

While researching this post, I read a post by Brennan Dunn that hit close to home for me. It was the story of how he gave up his $1 million consultancy to create products.

At the end of 2012, I made a similar tough decision to stop growing Venture Harbour’s consulting services and instead focus on building our own portfolio of online businesses. I still consult, but only to companies that I love working with, and only 2-3 companies per year.

The real lesson in Brennan’s article, though, is how creating products in the same niche enabled him to generate $234,433 in product sales in his first year.

By upselling your products to leads and customers captured from other product funnels, each product you create becomes easier to promote and monetise than the last. This is a recipe for exponential growth.

In a blog post by Vishen Lakhiani, the Founder of Mindvalley (who generated $40 million in information product sales last year), he said:

“Every new company I start – to some degree – is connected to an existing company I own. So each new project has multiple points of leverage with existing ideas. For example, our Omvana app was a big gamble, but worked because it was produced via a separate company I owned in publishing. I had a ready made list of hundreds of authors whose work we could bring to our app. That’s a powerful leverage point. Every company I run must have at least 2 leverage points to an existing idea. This allows me to filter the 300+ proposals I get every year into 8 – 12 new ideas to pursue.”

Is your next product going to increase the success of your last product, and vis versa?

I hope this post has been useful and has given you a few ideas on growing your business. If you need help finding the best web hosting company to get your idea off the ground check out our web hosting guide, otherwise if you have any other questions or tips feel free to post them in the comments below.

How Foundr Built a Digital Magazine With Over 100,000 Downloads in 15 Months

Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

Marcus’ intro: Earlier this year I read ‘Thick Face Black Heart’ by Chin-Ning Chu on Eastern business philosophies. One of the concepts from the book that’s stuck with me is the idea of leapfrogging.

In Western cultures, we subscribe to the idea of ‘climbing the ladder’ or ‘working our way to the top’. In some Eastern cultures, there’s an opposing belief – that you can leapfrog to the top.

A few months ago, I met Nathan Chan at an Elance/oDesk launch party in Melbourne. Nathan’s a young entrepreneur who has leapfrogged his way to interviewing some of the most influential entrepreneurs on the planet, while building a business that he loves.

I asked Nathan whether he’d be willing to share some lessons on how he did it with us, and being a good sport, he said yes.



In March 2013, I launched a project that would change my life forever.

If you would have told me back then that in 15 months I would be connecting with Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington, I would have seriously questioned your sobriety.

But that’s exactly what happened.Foundr first issue

The project is Foundr, a digital magazine for young entrepreneurs that has flourished into a fully fledged business that pays my bills, while allowing me to connect with some of the greatest minds in the business world.

That said, we had humble beginnings.

The picture to the right was the front cover for issue 1. It was a stock image that I ran with as I needed to ship the project. I was working on the first issue for 3 months straight and should’ve had something out there.

After the first day in the wild, here’s what our stats showed:


It wasn’t much, but it wasn’t bad for a first day of earnings.

So, how did I turn this passion project into something that’s allowed me to leave my day job and interview authorities all around the world?

Before I share examples of email templates that I used to interview the likes of Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington, let me first explain the theory.

In 2006, Robert Cialdini published a book called Influence. Robert suggested that human behaviour can be influenced by the following principles:

  • Reciprocity
  • Social Proof
  • Liking
  • Authority
  • Scarcity

Let me explain each of these in more detail, and how they relate to us.


“As humans, we generally aim to return favours, pay back debts and treat others as they treat us. According to the idea of reciprocity, this can lead us to feel obliged to offer concessions or discounts to others if they have offered them to us. This is the because we’re comfortable with feeling indebted to them.”

So how does this relate to us?

It all starts with finding out what people like Richard Branson want. You will not be able to get in contact with them if you have nothing to offer in return.

One of my mentors once taught me something very valuable that I use and apply everywhere:

“Serve first, ask later”

See how you can help that person, then you will receive something in return. In my case I created a digital magazine which interviews successful entrepreneurs.

If you randomly shoot someone an email asking for something, and they do not know you from a bar of soap, why is it in their best interest to respond?

It always come back to the value exchange. Typically, people get an ill feeling if someone asks for something when they don’t know them, and they do not feel inclined to help.

You also have to remember what people want. Generally it’s more sales, traffic, leads, and eyeballs. All of the above can be generated from press.

Ask yourself the question “Has this person launched a new startup? Have they just launched a new book they are trying to promote? Have they recently invested in a cool company?”

I quickly discovered that I can help influential entrepreneurs with press via Foundr.

Using search filters to find authors about to launch a book

One of the most powerful tricks I use to get Foundr interviews is using search filters on Amazon to find authors about to launch a book.

The first step in the process is finding authors/books that will fit the tone of the show.

A) You can do this by browsing the upcoming books category in Amazon.

B) Look on the left sidebar. You will see categories of all the books being released. Generally, we’ll stick to non-fiction. But if there is a fiction book that ties in with our audiences’ interests, or the author is a really big name, go for it.

Amazon search filters

From here, click ‘coming soon’ and you’ll find a list of upcoming books in that niche. You can then reach out to these authors and offer to help them promote their upcoming book.

Social Proof

This principle relies on people’s sense of safety in numbers.

“For example, we’re more likely to work late if others in your team are doing the same, put a tip in a jar if it already contains money, or eat in a restaurant if its busy. Here we’re assuming that if lots of people are doing something, then it must be OK. “Or, if you’re selling a service, highlight the number of people using it, use plenty of relevant testimonials, encourage people to talk about it using social media, and publish case studies with current customers to demonstrate its success.”

In my instance, I have a digital magazine that covers already-successful entrepreneurs. We have built a reasonable sized audience from simply, “doing the time” and growing.

Once we had a decent size audience, we pitched bigger and better influencers. There is a lot of power in having a magazine because, something about having a work book makes it so much more easier to pitch people on. If you say would you like to be interviewed for a front cover story on our magazine, who wouldn’t want to be on one? 

Social proof email

Just like with getting authorities to interview, we did the time, and built our readership one by one. To date, Foundr has been downloaded over 100,000 times.


Cialdini says that we’re more likely to be influenced by people we like. Likeability comes in many forms – people might be similar or familiar to us, they might give us compliments, or we may just simply trust them.

With Richard Branson, I used complements that played on his experiences as a season entrepreneur.



“If you’re marketing a product or service, highlight well-known and respected customers, use comments from industry experts, and talk about impressive research or statistics. Things like well-produced brochures, professional presentations, impressive offices, and smart clothing can also lend authority.”


There is no other way to put this. Building authority for Foundr was a case of working my way up, one influencer at at time, until we hit the top of the food chain.


“With this principle, people need to know that they’re missing out if they don’t act quickly. If you’re selling a product, limit the availability of stock, set a closing date for the offer, or create special editions of products.  

This principle can be trickier to apply within your organization if you’re trying to influence others to support your ideas or projects. You can, however, use urgency to get support for your ideas.”

In my case, the front cover is rare. We only have 12 a year, and lets be honest, who wouldn’t want to be on the cover of a magazine? It’s a status thing. Richard Branson has been on the cover of every business magazine in the world. So why not one more?

When it comes to pitching influencers to be featured on Foundr, it’s really a numbers game, and even today many people we contact still say no. However, we constantly do get massive guests always for the magazine. Think of it like sales, you have 100 leads, and of those 100, ten may be interested in what you have to sell.

What we did after Richard Branson said yes

After agreeing to be interviewed, we scheduled everything with his PR team, who’re responsible for everything press-related to Branson.

We scheduled in a date that we would send Branson our questions, as well as a go-live date with his cover story & feature. We themed the interview on ‘turning ideas into reality’ with a focus on all of the ideas that Branson has brought to life.

Here are some of the questions we sent him:

“How we bounce back from our set-backs and failures is often thought as critical to success. What is your advice for young entrepreneurs starting out and facing tough set-backs, and do you have any particularly memorable experiences that have come from failures?”

“Until Virgin Galactic, Virgin brands were usually an alternative to an existing category – offering everyday consumers more than they were accustomed to within the sector – a disruption to the status quo. But with Galactic, Virgin becomes the innovator. Is there a difference in approach to business when switching from ‘improver’ to ‘innovator’?”

“What question would you ask yourself, Sir Richard Branson in 2013, if you were a young entrepreneur starting out? Which question would you most value the answer to?”

Once we had his answers, we structured the feature story.

With the story, and the images, this was the result of the front cover:

Richard Branson Foundr

Voila! This was the end product. We were extremely happy with how this all turned out, and to the common eye, you would think that Foundr is a massive publication with a ton of staff. However, we’re just a small boot-strapped startup with a lean and global team of entrepreneurs around the world.


So there you have it, these are the principles I used to leapfrog my way up to getting in touch with some of the top influencers in my niche. Despite our focus on entrepreneurship, I believe these best practices can most certainly be applied to any niche.

Since applying these principles over the past 18 months, Foundr has become one of the top 10 ‘Business & Investing’ Magazines in the iTunes App Store. As you can see, we sit next to likes of Entrepreneur, Bloomberg, Fortune and many more big time publications.

Remember, you don’t have to create a magazine to be able to do this, you just need a voice, and an audience.

If you’d like to get in touch with me or check out the free issue of Foundr magazine featuring Richard Branson, you can visit here for iTunes or here for Google Play.

17 Inspiring Marketing Strategies For Your Film Or TV Show

Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a number of conversations with people involved in film & TV marketing about how best to use social media to virally promote movies and TV series online.

There are a few things unique about marketing films and TV shows. Timing is incredibly important – you must build up as much hype in the short space of time leading up to and around the launch as possible. Another unique factor is that films and TV shows, by their very nature, are content gold mines – a huge privilege when it comes to crafting a powerful content marketing strategy for an upcoming film or TV show launch.


Unfortunately, movie marketing is not a science, but there are a lot of lessons we can learn from those who have successfully (or unsuccessfully) marketed films & shows before us. Below are 17 strategies, tactics, case studies & ideas for creating an exceptional online marketing campaign for your next movie or TV show.

#1 Do Something Remarkable – The Publicity Stunt

Seth Godin, one of the brightest minds in the marketing world, summed it up perfectly when he said: “by definition, remarkable things get remarked upon”. I am a strong believer that word of mouth is the most powerful form of marketing. If you want to leverage viral marketing of any sorts, you must begin by doing something worth talking about.

When Game of Thrones marketed their latest series in the UK, they erected a bus-sized dragon’s head, appearing to have been washed up on a Dorset beach.

Dragon head

When these guys launched Chronicle, they flew remote controlled humans through New York City, scoring free publicity from hundreds of media outlets. Do something remarkable.

#2 Pre-Roll Video Advertising

Pre-roll video ads are an incredibly effective tool for drumming up interest and seeding your trailer online. They’re relatively inexpensive, and you aren’t charged if the viewer clicks ‘skip’ within the first five seconds. Using a service like TubeMogul you can easily have your trailer appearing before related videos on YouTube, as well as sites like IMDB, 4oD, Vimeo, and many other sites.

The important thing to remember with pre-roll advertising is to give the viewer a call to action i.e. something to do right now. This could be visiting the movie’s Facebook Page and engaging in a social game about the film, or entering a competition to win premiere tickets, or perhaps just going through to the movie’s official website to watch the full-length trailer. Of course, the more interesting you can make it for the viewer the better.

#3 Be Smart With Press Junkets

Press Junkets are one of the movie industry’s most powerful publicity tactics. Essentially, these events fly as many key journalists, critics, and reporters to a location where, over the course of a few days, the press can conduct interviews with all of the main actors and directors from the film.

Be smart with who you invite to your press junket. Don’t limit yourself to journalists – they’re not the only people who can create buzz around your film. While the main journalists and critics will be key, you may also want to experiment with inviting influential bloggers and fans to the event. One tactic may be to run a ‘mini press junket’ in all of the major cities that you’re planning to launch in. This will open up huge potential to run a social media competition for a number of fans in each city to attend their local press event and meet the cast.

#4 Let your viewers experience the story

The Hunger Games had one of the most forward-thinking digital marketing campaigns of the decade. I’ll touch on various aspects of their strategy throughout the post, but perhaps the most innovative aspect of their strategy was their ‘Virtual Hunger Games’, whereby users could join a district and compete against other districts, just like in the film.

This virtual game enabled viewers to experience what the characters in the film experienced while engaging with other fans of the film. What was incredibly smart, was how this game also tied in aspects of gamification and social integration to incentivise users to invite their friends, share updates, and ultimately spread the word about The Hunger Games virally.

#5 IMDB Listings & Advertising

They say that the hardest place to sell a book is in a bookstore, but with millions of people visiting IMDB on a daily basis in search of new films and TV shows to watch, it’d be ridiculous to ignore this site in your film or TV show’s digital marketing strategy.

There are some great posts explaining how to get your film listed on IMDB. My advice is to be as comprehensive as you possibly can when filling out the information required in the listing, and do whatever it takes to drive people to review the film. IMDB is a search engine, and much like Google or YouTube, their algorithm is driven largely by relevance and popularity, so you’ll want to make sure that your film page contains as much information as possible, and is well linked throughout the site.

IMDB also has an excellent range of advertising packages, which are worth looking into. Another tip is to leverage film lists. Try creating ‘top 10’ or ‘top 50’ lists for films of your genre, featuring your film or TV show somewhere in the list. It’s a bit sneaky, but providing your film is relevant and a valuable edition, no one’s getting hurt!

#6 Involve your audience in the making of the film

In the months leading up to the launch of The Dark Knight, Warner Brothers launched the award-winning “Why so Serious?” campaign, which brought Gotham City to life. The video below shows how the campaign encouraged over 10 million fans around the World to visit landmarks around the World in full Joker makeup, creating a huge amount of buzz for the film.

Involving your audience in the making of or promotion strategy of the film is a fantastic way to get some die-hard early fans. There are countless ways to do this, from running a competition to be featured as an extra, to crowdfunding your film or TV show using a platform like Kickstarter, where people are rewarded with exclusive gifts for helping to fund the making of the film.

#7 Go to Town With Your Video Marketing

We seldom buy things that we have not seen or tested in some capacity, which is why trailers are absolutely essential to marketing films & TV shows. In my experience, though, just ‘having’ a trailer is not enough. It must have a great seeding strategy, and be ultra shareable to produce great results. I’d advise that the lower your marketing budget, the more effort you put into the latter part.

For content to spread at a compound rate i.e. ‘go viral’, it must push the audience to experience an emotional extreme. This can be through humour, fear, sadness, enlightenment, anger, lust, or any other strong emotional trigger. Think about any video, meme, or infographic you know that went incredibly viral – what emotion did it heighten? If you can create your trailer in a way that genuinely alters the viewer’s emotional state, you’re onto a winner.

When you have a great video trailer, you need a seeding strategy. I recommend initially uploading your video onto your film’s landing page ONLY using something like Wistia. This will encourage people to share the URL of the film website, and not a YouTube link, for example. Because you control the design of your landing page, this gives you more control over the visual experience, while also raising awareness of your social competitions or other things you may want to promote on your official website. After a week or two, you can then seed your video trailer onto YouTube, promoting it further through pre-roll ads, YouTube playlists, AdWords etc.

#8 Create a visually compelling & functional sub-site

Despite being exceptionally well designed from a graphics perspective, most film landing pages tend to lack in functionality. Typically, film landing pages contain a countdown to the film’s premiere and a full-screen graphic from the film’s artwork. If you’re lucky, the film trailer may be embedded on there.

As mentioned before, I recommend initially seeding your video trailer via your official website, because you have the opportunity to make it visually exciting, while encouraging people to engage further with your social apps, competitions, virtual games, and other digital marketing initiatives.

If you’re not sure how to get a site up and running, I’d recommend reading our web hosting guide here, which explains how to get a website up and running for as little as $2.95.

#9 Make your Facebook Page Interactive

When you visit the Breaking Bad, Hunger Games, or World War Z Facebook Page, you’re presented with a huge variety of games, contests, and fun apps to use. On top of this, the updates are frequent and very engaging.

I could write a whole series of articles on Facebook Page marketing in itself, but I want to touch on three key areas: design, apps, and timeline marketing.

First of all, when it comes to designing your Facebook Page, make it visually compelling. So many films and TV show Facebook Pages don’t make use of the huge amount of space that Facebook offers you to brand your page and drive engagement. I’m a big fan of using the cover image in creative ways to attract attention to the app section of a page. Get creative with your design, but keep everything above the fold bold and in line with the film branding. When done well, it looks incredible.

In my opinion, Facebook Apps are what typically make or break a Facebook Page’s ability to prove significant ROI or not. Social apps are extremely powerful at driving engagement, as they can be hooked directly into the open graph to get users sharing and inviting their friends to the film’s page.

While I would advise developing a custom made app, If you’re on a budget there are plenty of affordable services out there, such as Heyo and WooBox, which enable you to run social contests on your Facebook Page for very little.

Finally, when it comes to posting timeline updates, keep it visual, balanced, and engaging. Photos and videos typically generate the most engagement on Facebook, so be sure to incorporate this into your strategy, while balancing the type of content you post. In terms of frequency, I usually find that a frequency of two posts per day works well on Facebook. If you’re struggling for time to keep posting updates, you can use a scheduling tool like Buffer or Hootsuite to manage this.

#10 Using Niche Social Networks – Vine, Instagram, Pinterest

While Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter will almost certainly be at the centre of your social media strategy, that doesn’t mean you should avoid the smaller platforms, such as Vine, Instagram, or Pinterest.

There have been some fantastically creative film marketing campaigns done using platforms like Vine. The trick is to understand these platforms and create a content strategy that fits the audience who use them. For example, Sundance Film Festival use Pinterest to highlight the best independent films. While they may only have 4,497 followers, many of these followers actively share Sundance’s pins on their own wall – enabling them to spread virally.

Similarly, Instagram is a photo-filtered image sharing platform. The Great Gatsby movie cleverly used Instagram filters to make photographs of the film, actors, and events have an old look, resonating both with the ‘Instagram style’ and the old theme of the movie.

Great Gatsby

#11 Auction props used in the film or TV show

This is perhaps one of my favourite examples of film companies utilising the content they already have in a creative way that markets the film.

I first heard about the Breaking Bad TV series through a friend who posted a link to this website on Facebook, saying that you could buy a teddy bear or pair of underpants used in the film for a five-figure sum. Auctioning these generated a huge amount of publicity for the TV series, gaining coverage on Mashable, The Verge, Gizmodo, CNN, and many others.

Breaking Bad Screen Bid

#12 Use social competitions & quizzes

It may not be the most innovative way of driving engagement online, but quizzes and competitions are a good balance of low risk and high reward. They virtually never fail to drum up buzz, and providing you get the reward or incentive right, they can work wonders in getting people to share your content with their friends.

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 19.06.14

When running competitions and incentivised quizzes, a trick that never seems to fail is offering a large incentive for people who invite more of their friends to join. An easy way of doing this is to set up a unique URL parameter system whereby they receive an extra 5 or 10 entries to the competition for every friend who enters via their unique link.

Here’s a list of some of the best social contest apps you can use to drum up some social virality for your film or TV show.

#13 Using Celebrity & Brand Partnerships

Whether you’re an independent film or a well-financed Hollywood movie, you will likely have some affiliation with various brands – be it through official partnerships, or unofficial endorsement of certain products. If the latter, make sure you contact the marketing directors of these brands and ask whether they’d be happy to help promote the film on social media – the worst they can do is say no, but as it’s in their best interest, they’ll probably say yes.

If you do have celebrity actors or major brand partnerships, make sure you’re utilising their audiences online. Coca Cola have 74.5m fans on Facebook and 2m on Twitter, which is 30x larger than the total audience of the 007 / James Bond social media accounts. When the two partnered on the launch of Skyfall, James Bond utilised Coke’s social media following to the max, enabling them to drive a huge amount of engagement in a short space of time.

#14 Persona Marketing

Your film or TV show will almost certainly have a character that the audience connect with in some way or another. Many film marketing campaigns have intelligently played on their audiences love (or hate) for certain characters by building a persona around those characters on social media.

The Ted character on Twitter is a fantastic example. With close to 700,000 followers, Ted continues to post funny comments that spread like wildfire. While this has obviously taken time to build up an audience of this size, it’s effectively free marketing for the film now – on any given day Ted can post a tweet reaching hundreds of thousands of people, and driving thousands of retweets.

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 08.18.07

Similarly, in the run up to the 2011 Muppets film, the marketing team behind the film decided to host Google+ Hangouts between fans and characters from The Muppets films. This campaign captured the attention of millions of people.

#15 Using Memes & Other Forms of UGC

Memes are becoming a great way of leveraging your audience’s creativity to build highly shareable content that subtly promotes your movie. The benefit of using memes are that they’re easily customisable, extremely shareable, and very quick to produce. To put their popularity into perspective, a search for “Breaking Bad Memes” in Google returns over 18 million results.

Using memes

Another similar tactic is to use caption contests, fan art, or other types of tongue-in-cheek user generated content to leverage the collective sharing power and creativity of your audience. The Muppets had a fantastic campaign in 2011 where fans could submit hilarious posters for other films with a Muppets twist – e.g. The Pig With the Froggy Tattoo, and Breaking Prawn.

#16 Using Google Adwords

Every day, there are millions of searches made in Google for film and TV show recommendations. One of the quickest ways of reaching this audience of potential viewers is through Google Adwords. It’s certainly not the most creative or cost effective way to market your film, but it is an option.

One option that could be particularly effective is using AdWords to bid on local cinema based terms e.g. when people search in Google for “Oxford cinema films”, you may want to run an advert promoting your film at that specific cinema. Alternatively, you could run ads on genre terms like “action film recommendations” or “good action films”.

#17 Facebook Advertising

Facebook Advertising can be very effective when done correctly. I’ve written about this topic extensively in a number of places, but the main point is that you must understand what does and doesn’t work on Facebook. First of all, Facebook Ads are a “one to many” form of advertising, where unlike Google Adwords (which is one-to-one), you can pay to show your advert in the timeline of one person, and their interaction with your ad can automatically drive free interaction from their friends. Basically, Facebook Ads are really effective if your adverts are genuinely shareable.

From a technical perspective, I’d recommend using predominantly page promoted posts targeted to appear in ‘news feed only’ on an oCPM for clicks or conversions setting. We’ve spent £10,000s on Facebook Ads and this combination of settings consistently outperform anything else.

Final Thoughts

Marketing films and TV shows is not an easy task. If you want to stand out from the crowd, do something remarkable, be ambitious with your marketing goals, work with experts, and don’t believe the myth that you need a large budget to achieve great results. Money helps, but creativity is the real currency in marketing.

If you have any questions, or would like to talk about your film / TV show’s digital marketing strategy, feel free to get in touch with me here.

4 Useful Sales Tools For Content Marketers

Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

We are now forever enveloped in the cloak of computerisation, and so the phrases “there’s a Tool, Plugin or App for that” are being used more and more frequently amongst us. Phrases so engrained in our collective psyche they’re undoubtedly being uttered between kids and co-workers alike thousands of times over throughout the world this very minute.

Using apps

But the fact is there are so many cleverly crafted applications out there built with the sole intention of assisting us in our day-to-day professional tasks. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to decipher good from bad, the laborious time wasters from the helpfully efficient, and recognise on face value the salt from the sugar, without tasting them first.

Coming from a sales background, I’ve carried over some habits and tools that I was using, into my day-to-day digital marketing activities. So whether you’re an old hand digital musketeer looking for new tools, or straight out of the blocks, here are a handful of sales tools that I personally find useful for SEO and content marketing:

PipeDrive CRM

I’ve never been an advocate of the term ‘sales CRM’ as this insinuates that they’re to be used purely for sales purposes. A CRM is simply a management resource that can be tailored to all manner of requirements. A combination of to-do-list, meets notepad, meets calendar, meets diary, meets accounting Excel spreadsheet.

In the analytical world of digital marketing, having a centralised CRM system can prove an invaluable information pool with quick and easy report functions for a number of different aspects of your business.

CRMs, such as Pipedrive, my preferred choice, can be used for managing outreach and lists of potential sites for infographic distribution, white papers, blog and so on.  And in so doing provides you with an overview of the progress you’re making securing the contacts at each of these sites. You can use them to create and save your own ‘wishlists’ of people you want to make contact with as you think of them, as inevitably, with ever increasing workloads, we’re not always able to react immediately when a good idea pops into your head.

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 16.07.30

You can then track the progress, but more importantly the demographics of all of these factors. So over time, as the lists grows, these can be filtered to fit specific criteria, making your life progressively easier as you grow older!


The Rapportive Gmail plug-in isn’t just for ‘nosy parkers’ who want to see a photo or know the location of the recipient they’re mailing. Although admittedly it’s a nice touch! It personalises an otherwise sterile form of communication, as emails so often are!

For example Marcus Taylor emailed me  this morning, and this is what I got aside his mail:

Screen Shot 2013-10-19 at 12.10.51

It can also be a useful tool for confirming the email addresses of people you’re not already in direct contact with which can be hugely helpful when trying to approach potential new customers.

This can be ascertained when you open a new mail and slide the cursor over the email address you’ve keyed, as the contact persons details and social feeds associated with their email address will pop up on the right hand side of the mail (provided the email address is currently valid of course!). Thus through trial and you can ‘work out’ unknown email addresses quite easily!

For example: if you know the email structure of a particular organisation, which with a little rummaging around online you can find for most companies, lets say you found ‘info@ventureharbour.com’ in the contact form of a website.

You now know more or less that the root domain for their email is ‘@ventureharbour.com’.

You can then search using different methods (Linkedin’s usually a good starting point) for the current person in charge of a department at the company you want to approach. Using me as an example, you find the name Andy Hoskin.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 11.41.42

Once you have the name, through a process of elimination try different combinations like ‘andy.hoskin@, andy-hoskin@, andyh@’ in an open mail. When you get to just ‘andy@ventureharbour.com’ and my profile appears…Viola! You know the mail you’re sending is going to my valid address and thus I’ll receive it.


Knowledge is power, right? This handy little email add-on keeps a running tally on the progress of your emails, or lack there of. It provides you with quick and non-invasive pop-ups regarding the status of emails you’ve sent or published and provides insightful read receipts, containing timings and recipient locations.

I use this predominately as a sales prospecting tool but it’s also useful for day-to-day activities too. For example if you’ve emailed some information across to a partner or colleague and want to discuss it with them further, it’s pointless calling 10mins after you’ve hit the send button if the intended recipient is tied up in a meeting and hasn’t read it yet. Yesware provides a simple notification once the email has been read and in so doing, effectively prompts you at the best time to call. Therefore cutting down on precious time spent waffling into an empty answer phone.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 11.44.30

It can also be used to create email templates and set reminders for follow ups along with a chunk of analytical report facilities. I won’t waffle on about these though as their use will very much depend on the user but there are a lot of additional functions which certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.


The most successful business development people are the ones that have intimate knowledge of their markets. Feedly has in many ways filled the void after the demise of Google Reader as a widely used RSS reader. While strictly speaking not a ‘sales tool’ per se, it allows you to display all the most useful feeds, blogs and social updates in easily digestible snippets making it a lot less time consuming to keep on top of the latest market updates and industry articles.  It offers a multitude of ways to personalise, by filtering feeds, and can be pretty smart with suggesting additional content too. Created to read like an online magazine, its easy to use and can be tuned as great source of real time industry information!

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 10.51.53

Final thoughts

I’m sure many of you will already have your own, or preferred, tools and plugins which you’ve cultivated over the years to suit individual needs. As I stated originally though, these are just a few that I personally find useful and so I thought I’d collate a short list of suggestions for anyone out there seeking some inspiration, or perhaps just a change of desktop scenery!


Image Credit: Worldbank

How To Market Your Whitepaper – 21 Tips To Get More Readers

Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

When it comes to B2B content marketing, case studies and white papers are usually one of the most effective ways of attracting interest from potential customers online. But how do you market them to drive more downloads?


Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on one of our whitepapers, and it’s prompted me to do a lot of digging around on what differentiates successful whitepapers from poor performing ones. Here are 21 tips, tactics, and strategies for marketing whitepapers & case studies.

Note: I’m currently running an experiment testing all of the methods below to see which drives the best volumes of downloads & CPAs. I’ll post the results on this blog when they’re ready. If you want to be notified, feel free to join our monthly newsletter (scroll down and the form will pop up on the right).

#1 Create an amazing landing page & A/B test it

Your landing page is arguably one of the most important areas to focus on when it comes to marketing your white paper. Without a well-converting landing page, all of your marketing efforts are worthless. Your landing page must clearly explain why your audience should hand over their details & give away how ever many minutes of their lives reading your white paper. What value does it add? It should also be accessible from all devices, look attractive, and minimize the barrier for someone to download.


I strongly advocate services like Concept Feedback and Dribbble for getting feedback from professional designers and conversion rate optimisation specialists on how to improve the conversion rate and design of your whitepaper landing page. Following on from this, you should be A/B split testing your landing page using a tool like Visual Website Optimizer or Optimizely to iterate and improve your rate of downloads.

#2 Leverage speaking opportunities

In my opinion, the best talks at conferences tend to be those based on case studies or research data, where the speaker shares something new. Speaking at conferences about the data and insights from your whitepaper can be a great way to promote your whitepaper – just make sure you don’t give it all away in your talk, and provide the audience with a reason to go and download the white paper.

#3 Facebook Promoted Posts & Sponsored Stories

When it comes to marketing content on Facebook, promoted page posts take the cake. I’ve written about Facebook advertising effectiveness in great depth elsewhere, but to keep things simple I recommend setting up promoted page posts targeted to your specific audience in their news feed with conversion pixel tracking and an oCPM (for conversions) bid type.

This means that Facebook will algorithmically optimise your advertising budget to drive more conversions (downloads) of your whitepaper. Remember to set up your Facebook ads using the power editor, as I don’t believe you can create promoted posts targeted to a specific audience in the standard ad manager. You also can’t specify that your ads ONLY appear in the news feed from the ad manager.

#4 Partner with industry associations & conferences

Virtually every industry has a major annual conference with thousands of participants. Due to the typical annual or bi-annual cycle of conferences, many conferences rely on content marketing in the form of white papers, blog posts, and video to keep their conference in the minds of potential participants. Because of this, there is usually some very valuable partnership opportunities to get your white paper in front of the audience of their participants.

Midem white paper

Similarly, look into teaming up with an industry association to partner on the promotion or research of your whitepaper. In the digital marketing world, there are associations and companies like Econsultancy, Content Marketing Institute, iAB, and IDM who regularly partner with digital marketing companies to produce and distribute relevant white papers.

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#5 Feature journalists in your whitepaper & send it out to bloggers

If possible, interview influential bloggers or journalists to be included in your whitepaper. When your whitepaper is released it’s highly likely that they will help to promote the paper, or even write about it. Once launched, create a list of ~50 or so relevant influential bloggers in your industry and work your way through the list sending a personalised message to each inviting them to cover the data from your whitepaper.

#6 Google Adwords, The Display Network & Re-targeting

If there are specific terms that people search for in Google that would suggest that they’re of your target audience or searching for the information your whitepaper provides, a pay-per-click AdWords campaign could be very effective. If on the other hand, there are specific sites that capture your audience e.g. The FT, if you have a whitepaper on finance, then you could consider running a display network ad campaign to drive leads to your landing page. You may also want to try retargeting (or Facebook exchange) to try and bring back people who have visited your landing page but left without downloading the whitepaper.

#7 Distribute a press release on news wires

If there are specific niche news wires in your industry, now is the time to use them. I’m a big fan of services such as Game Newswire in the gaming industry and Mi2N in the music industry as they enable me to push a press release out to 50-100 music or game industry sites in one go – which is obviously great if you’re marketing a whitepaper in these industries.

press release distribution

Some of the niche-agnostic services like PRweb and 24/7 Press Release can also be good. If nothing else, these news release sites tend to rank quite well in search engines, so if you title your release properly, it can be a good workaround for ranking for terms in Google that will likely drive potential download leads.

#8 Promoting white papers on LinkedIn

If you’re a member of any relevant LinkedIn Groups, they can be a great place to share your white papers – although be sure not to come across as too self-promotional. I’ve personally not had much luck in the past with LinkedIn Advertising, so I can’t advocate that (although it’s been a year or so since I last played around with them). Groups, on the other hand, tend to get a good amount of engagement, and given the professional nature of LinkedIn, it’s a great place to reach a b2b audience.

#9 Leverage your existing newsletter & email list leads

If you have an email list of potential clients, existing clients, or anyone who may find your whitepaper relevant, consider sending the whitepaper out to them. Of course, if the purpose of your whitepaper is to generate new leads, then it may be worth re-thinking what you want your existing leads to do with the whitepaper. Instead of getting them to just download it, perhaps it would be more beneficial to send them to a landing page where they pay to download the whitepaper with a tweet or a share to unlock the whitepaper, to encourage some initial social sharing.

#10 White paper syndication services

There are a number of whitepaper syndication sites, such as Find Whitepapers, Tech Republic, Tech Target, and Knowledge Storm, which offer both free and pay-per-lead schemes for promoting your whitepapers. It probably depends largely on your niche as to whether this would likely drive leads or not, but as you can give them a shot for free it’s probably worth doing anyway.

#11 Using Promoted Tweets

While sending out tweets and incentivising them with ‘pay with a tweet’ schemes can work wonders, promoting tweets can be a safer way to ensure that your message is seen by the right people on Twitter, and doesn’t get buried in the news feed.

Promoted Tweets

There are a number of different ways to promote your content through Twitter’s self-service ad platform, but for driving whitepaper downloads promoted tweets is probably the most cost effective option.

#12 Keep your download forms short and sweet

One of the biggest mistakes companies make with their whitepaper landing pages is asking for too much information. Keep it short and sweet. If all your really need is name, company, email, and phone number, leave it at that. Asking for too much information often lowers the overall conversion rate, reducing the number of leads you drive.

#13 Use Whitepaper distribution services

There are several whitepaper distribution services, such as BitPipe, which for a fee will distribute your whitepaper to a variety of whitepaper syndication services and repositories.

#14 Have an attractive whitepaper cover design

While we’re taught not to judge a book by its cover, we do. It’s human nature to use our senses to predict whether something will likely cause us pain or pleasure, and because of this having a good cover design is important.

Screen Shot 2013-07-05 at 11.36.43

If you use Photoshop, you can download Cover Action Pro to get some nice PSD templates for creating whitepaper / book covers. Alternatively, you can always outsource this to a talented graphic designer – the cost of getting a nice cover designed will surely pay itself back in increased downloads.

#15 Keep the topic of your whitepaper focused & offer implied value

If your whitepaper is on ‘social media’, consider digging a bit deeper and offering something more specific. When I type ‘social media whitepaper’ into Google, over 68,300 phrase-matched results are returned. social-media-whitepaper

The more specific the topic and audience of your whitepaper, the more value it’s likely to add. If you create a whitepaper on “Using location-based social media services to grow retail businesses”, there is a very clearly defined audience and implied value.

#16 Upload it to Slideshare

Slideshare is a great place to upload a presentation version of your whitepaper, as there’s quite an active community of professional people using the platform to learn and find insights. The trick is to ensure that your presentation incentivises people to visit your landing page and download the full whitepaper.

#17 Host a related webinar

Similarly to hosting an event or meetup, running a related webinar and offering your whitepaper as related materials or a gift can be a good way of driving interest or downloads of your whitepaper. The benefit of webinars over events is that it eliminates the geographic boundaries of your audience. For a company like Venture Harbour (where our clients are from all over the globe) webinars work quite well, as it enables us to connect with people in countries who otherwise would struggle to attend our meetups and events.

#18 Create a video summarizing key points

There a few benefits to turning the insights from your whitepaper into a video. First of all, it’s great from a search perspective as Google is including more and more universal video results in search results. You can also drive a lot of views from within YouTube through related videos, and people searching for your topic on YouTube. While YouTube may not seem like a platform where business-related research & whitepaper data thrives it can generate a lot of views when done right. Take the social media revolution video for example, while it does have a B2C focus, it’s essentially whitepaper research turned into a video that’s generated close to 3 million views.


#19 Write guest blog posts

If you, or someone on your team, is an avid blogger, consider offering to write guest posts on related industry blogs sharing interesting insights and data from your whitepaper. Guest blogging is a great way of passively promoting content as the blog posts can end up referring traffic (and leads) for years to come. As you write more and more blog posts, the organic traffic driven to your landing page accumulates.

#20 Create a Facebook App Tab for your whitepaper

A tactic that I don’t see used particularly often, but can be very powerful when hooked in with the open graph is creating a Facebook Application & Page Tab to enable fans to download your whitepaper from Facebook. As Facebook Apps are essentially just HTML pages iFramed within Facebook, you don’t need to make any huge changes to your existing landing page to turn it into a Facebook App. You’ll just need to make sure it can be hosted on a secure HTTPS server.


If you want to go one step further, you can make it so that every time someone downloads your whitepaper, an update is posted on their timeline (promoting the whitepaper to their friends). You could even create an open graph ad (or app sponsored story) to ensure that this post gets maximum prominence in their friend’s news feeds.

#21 Host a meetup / conference / event and offer it as a gift

I’ve attended quite a few meetups and seminars where companies have offered their whitepapers as a gift to attendees. It’s a smart idea, but where most go wrong is in giving attendees a compelling reason to download it as soon as they go home – there must be an aspect of urgency (in my opinion), otherwise it gets forgotten. You could create a specific landing page for attendees of that event which expires in 48 hours, or perhaps include an offer such as ‘download our whitepaper and get 50% off our next event’.


There’s one point that I haven’t included in this list that I think is worth mentioning: SEO. Of course, if you have a whitepaper on entertainment industry statistics and your rank #1 for ‘entertainment statistics’, you’re likely to drive some great leads through organic search.

That said, if you do all of the above and promote your whitepaper on many different platforms all linking back to your landing page, this will happen naturally to some extent. Just make sure your landing page is well optimised and represents a valuable result for Google to rank #1 for related keywords.

Image Credit: Guillaum Ebrialon

The Anatomy of Creating a Great Infographic

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There are speculations that infographics are losing their effectiveness in content marketing. Despite making these speculations myself several years ago, I have to disagree and eat my words – infographics are here to stay.


As a means of visual communication, infographics have been around for centuries in the print press. But it’s arguable that the intentions have changed. Back then, infographics were an effective way of ‘conveying a thousand words’ and saving column inches, whereas today they’re more or less built for links, social shares, and other indirect signals that collectively increase one’s site traffic.

The big change over the past three years is that with so much competition the bar for creating a great infographic has been raised. You can no longer get away with slapping ten factoids into a PSD and expecting it to go viral. So how do you create a great infographic that stands out? Here are some of the lessons i’ve learned over the years.

Start at the end

When creating an infographic, I find it useful to start at the end goal and work backwards. If there were no limits, what would be amazing? What would get 1,000+ shares and drive links, traffic, and awareness for the next 2-3 years? What are our audience’s burning questions or confusions that we could solve?

When you have an idea of what could be amazing, you can then work backwards to what’s possible – or what it would take to create your great idea. The alternative (starting with the data & ideas you have) leads to less creative ideas that are more likely to flop.

What’s your story?

It’s cliché, but infographic design is about storytelling. Most mediocre infographics make the mistake of dumping a bunch of data into Photoshop and making it look like an infographic. The problem with this is that if the data doesn’t tell us anything new – or the story behind the data isn’t prominent – then it’s unlikely to entertain, inform, or have any emotional impact on the viewer.

If your story is how we’re approaching the end of the World, use data to tell me where we came from, what caused the downfall, where we are now, and where we’re going. I want a story – not a data overdose!

On this note, clients often ask “should we collect our own data or can you find existing data for us?” This is a tough one. The former is my preference as it often leads to new insights and sexy stories, but it has the downside of sometimes being time consuming and sensitive. I’d say as a rule of thumb, if your data is incredible and you think you have some fascinating insights, then it’s probably worth using your own dataset, otherwise it’s likely easier to use publicly available data.

Make them angry!

The best infographics are emotive. They enrage, entertain, and envoke strong emotions that make it hard not to share. The deluge of Mac vs. PC infographics are a great example of this. If your infographic is neutral or doesn’t envoke any strong emotions, it’s unlikely to sail far in the blogosphere.

Again, work backwards on this. What topics are making people angry at the moment? In the music industry you could illustrate major record label monopolies, live sector monopolies (and increasing live ticket prices), download piracy, minuscule revenues paid by streaming services etc. Anything that gets your audience’s blood boiling.

Go topical or evergreen

After years of creating all kinds of content, i’ve come to the conclusion that content should either be evergreen (be relevant forever) or topical (be relevant for the next few days / weeks).

When a news story breaks or a trend emerges, it can be tough for journalists to stand out amongst all of the other ‘breaking news’ posts. By creating an infographic around a topical story you offer them an alternative that’s very likely to garner a good response from their readers.

The alternative is to create evergreen content, which may not generate as much attention in the short-term, but because it never goes ‘out of date’ it will still be driving links and shares in years to come. This kind of content is like creating a glacier. You have to add a lot of evergreen content to get it going, but once it is going it’s unstoppable.

A recent trend in infographic development is to use live data feeds in order to keep your infographic constantly up to date. We tried this with a few recent interactive HTML5 infographics that we developed and we’ve found them to generally be very effective.

Unlike typical infographics, which due to their static nature tend to go ‘out of date’ live infographics are evergreen due to the data being constantly updated in real time. The only downside to creating live infographics is the time investment (it took us around 6-7 days of design & coding, opposed to 3-4 for a typical infographic).

the Build it and they will come mindset

There’s no such thing as ‘build it and they will come’ in content marketing, you have to have a smart distribution strategy. I’ve found that even spending just 30 minutes tweeting relevant journalists with your infographic can work wonders in getting you content placed.

Build up your profiles on relevant social networks like Reddit, StumbleUpon, Facebook, and Digg. Do plenty of outreach to relevant bloggers, and distribute them on infographic sites like Visual.ly.

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