Recently, we’ve had a lot of news to share here at Wistia. Between launching our first video docuseries, One, Ten, One Hundred and announcing its availability for streaming on Amazon, there’s been no shortage of exciting news.
By now you hopefully know about One, Ten, One Hundred, but for those of you who don’t, Wistia worked with Sandwich Video to come up with a creative concept and produce three video ads to promote Soapbox with a production budget of $1k, $10k and $100k. Wistia’s video team then shot behind-the-scenes coverage and made it into a four-part video docuseries. The goal of the project was to explore the complicated relationship between creativity and money.
We’ve been talking a lot about the creative side of the project, and how much budget can impact video production, but you haven’t heard much about what we actually did with the video ads that promoted Soapbox, our free webcam and screen-recording tool. That’s because we’ve been busy running an experimental advertising campaign that used all three video ads — and we’re excited to finally share the results!
We just released an extensive report called “Does Production Quality Matter in Advertising” that includes our methodology and results, along with actionable insights to use in your next ad campaign. As a marketer, I crave this kind of transparency from companies. Very rarely do I find such detailed results when searching for case studies or benchmarks. So, if you’re anything like me, I highly encourage you to find yourself a comfy seat and read the full report! Oh, and make sure you bookmark it (and share it with co-workers, nudge-nudge!), because there are a lot of juicy results in there worth sharing.
But, let’s take a step back. You may be thinking “That’s great and all, but what did you actually do to end up with those results?” At the end of the day, we had three amazing video ads to work with. We wanted to use the video ads to actually drive awareness and installs for Soapbox, and were also super eager to see how each ad performed against one another.
Wistia took a huge risk even just producing the video ads (we spent $111,000 to do so!), so the pressure was on to come up with a well-thought out, strategic media plan that would produce revenue-driving results for Wistia. With this media plan we wanted to achieve three things:
- Generate awareness of Soapbox as the best and simplest video presentation tool, and establish Soapbox as a product leader.
- Capture demand for Soapbox through installs of the Chrome extension.
- Learn from the media in-market and use those learnings to create content and share with other marketers.
Before we could start building the media plan, the first step was to set our goals. We had never done something like this before, but we knew the goals needed to be based on a desired end result, and also give us an indication of interest in Soapbox. We wanted to keep it simple, so we chose a primary and secondary KPI. These KPIs, or key performance indicators, would ultimately help us evaluate the performance of the video ads, and media partners.
- Cost Per Install
- Cost Per 25% Watched
For the primary KPI, we chose a metric that was closely tied to our revenue, which was Cost Per Install. That being said, Soapbox installs and CPIs were only a piece of the puzzle. Being a video company with an eye on video metrics, we wanted to know if users were engaged with the video content as well. For us, we defined engagement as 25% watched, and used cost per 25% watched as a proxy for a meaningful brand impression. Whenever there was a question on messaging, ad formats, targeting, or budget, we always went back to the KPIs to be our guiding light in the decision-making process.
“Whenever there was a question on messaging, ad formats, targeting, or budget, we always went back to the KPIs to be our guiding light in the decision-making process.”
One piece of advice after running these campaigns? Try not to fall victim to data overload. We know from experience that it can be easy to get lost in the plethora of data available in digital marketing. There are metrics available in the media platforms themselves like Facebook and Adwords, there’s also Google Analytics for tracking all sources, and you likely have your own internal database for tracking incoming visits and actions taken on your site and in your product.
So, what did we choose? For this campaign, we chose a combination tools which included the media platforms themselves for real-time optimizations, and our internal database to track all sources and activities down funnel.
When putting together the media plan, we looked at the goals, and built a media plan to best achieve those goals. At the highest level, we wanted to generate interest in Soapbox and acquire new customers (installs of the Soapbox Chrome extension). At the end of the day, we wanted to answer this question …
“If we ran the video ads with 3 very different production budgets in a head-to-head test, which video ad would be the most effective (and efficient) at driving product installs and engagement?”
In order to do this, we turned to Facebook and YouTube as our primary paid media partners. Utilizing these partners made it possible for us to test at scale, and also provided us with the flexibility to allocate budgets and optimize in real-time. The campaign duration was only 3-weeks (a short campaign in the world of digital media), so we needed an to keep an eye on the data daily and shift budgets to the volume-driving placements and ad formats. To sum up our media strategy, we decided to…
- Allocate the majority of the budget to Facebook for reach at scale and put the remaining budget on YouTube, optimizing throughout the campaign flight for peak performance
- Leverage targeting technology to reach relevant audiences through lookalike, engagement, and contextual targeting
- Use this as a testing vehicle for promoting each video, as standalone ads, and as carousel and sequential ads on Facebook
We worked with a total test budget of $60,000 to run over a 3-week period. We also knew we needed a plan that would meet our campaign goals and drive enough impressions, views, and engagement metrics to actually learn from in the process. With so many ad formats and targeting options now available, how did we choose ad combinations that best supported our goals? Well, luckily there was a method to our madness, so let’s dig into the nitty gritty details of the media plan itself, starting with the ad formats and the targeting!
When evaluating the ad types on Facebook and YouTube, we kept going back to the creative itself — we wanted to make sure that the ad formats we chose were best suited for the video themselves. We felt it was also important that we had the ability to tell the story a bit with each ad, so we also looked at formats that provided us with additional copy for more context.
In order to limit the testing variables, the copy used to support each video was kept the same, knowing that if we changed the copy, we would never know if the test result was because of the copy or the video. On both Facebook and YouTube, we ran identical copy to support all three video ads, with the CTA (call to action) being “Sign Up” on Facebook and “Install” on YouTube.
Running the videos head-to-head in this way gave us the opportunity to set up a simple test, keeping budgets, ad copy, and targeting all the same. By doing this, we knew that we would have the most insightful (and cleanest test data) to evaluate the performance.
Now, since we had a straightforward test set up, we also wanted to look into other types of targeting and ad formats to mix things up a little. Even though the primary KPI was Cost Per Install, we wanted to learn from this experience and share those insights with our audience on other content properties (like this!).
We experimented with sequential advertising on Facebook, with a reach and frequency objective. This allowed us to deliver the three ads consecutively based on engagement. Those who engaged with the $1K version then got served the $10K version. And those who watch the $10K version got to see the $100K version.
To keep our viewer’s attention throughout the entire ad sequence, the copy in each ad hinted at the fact that there was a larger campaign at play. For example, the Facebook headline and description supported each video, but the text copy above the video referenced the larger production budget at stake, ie. “We spent $111k on three ads to show you why you’re going to love Soapbox, our free video creation tool for business.“
To keep testing on Facebook, we decided to also use the Facebook Video Carousel ad format to display the three video ads in a row. We had seen success in the past when using single image carousel ads to drive engagement and conversions, but we had never tried running a video in a carousel ad. Most companies use this format to tell a linear story with three, simple, short ads. But few had created three standalone ads for the same product that all work together to tell a more complex narrative — so we were eager to be one of the few!
If your ad targeting isn’t tailored to a specific audience, then you’re basically just throwing perfectly good creative (and money!) out the door — and who wants that? Knowing your audience and the targeting capabilities of the media platforms you’re displaying ads on is crucial to the success of your campaign. Facebook and YouTube offer a multitude of ways to target distinct prospects using customer matches (or lookalike targeting) contextual and interest-based targeting.
“Knowing your audience and the targeting capabilities of the media platforms you’re displaying ads on is crucial to the success of your campaign.”
There are pros and cons to each media platform when it comes to targeting, so it’s rare that you’ll apply the same formula on each platform. For example, since you need to be logged into Facebook to view your newsfeed, their ability to target audiences based on their profile is really strong. This also helps fuel lookalike targeting based off custom audiences you create. We pulled a customer list for people with the words “sales” and “marketing” in their titles, uploaded the list into Facebook, and then Facebook created a list of people who “looked like” the customers we were trying to reach, while suppressing those who are actual customers.
Another targeting method we used in this campaign was engagement audience. This is when you target users who have engaged with an ad from another campaign. In our case, we wanted to target those who have watched >75% of another Wistia video on Facebook. Since most people go to Facebook to check out their newsfeed and catch up on their friends’ activities, Facebook can be considered a somewhat passive channel. So, when users engage with your brand by watching more than 75% of another video of yours, it’s a strong indication that they’re interested and want to learn more!
This may seem complicated, but our targeting boiled down to the following:
- Lookalike audience based on a customer match
- Engagement audience targeting those who watched >75% of another video
Luckily, when it comes to targeting on YouTube, you already have a captive audience who expects to consume video (whether it’s on their own terms by searching, or as pre-roll or mid-roll video ads). YouTube has lots of great targeting options that pull in search and browsing behaviors on and off the YouTube platform that can be used for targeting video ads.
In this case, we used targeting that captured in-market shopper interest, custom intent based on terms users have previously searched for in Google, topical targeting, and remarketing based on viewing behavior on certain videos or video interactions. This coupled with YouTube’s TrueView for Action ad functionality (which forces users to watch at least 5 seconds of the video, and only charges you if a users watches at least 30 seconds) made for a winning combination in this campaign. To sum up the targeting on YouTube, we used 4 different types to reach relevant sales and marketing professionals.
- In-market: Advertising, marketing series and/or video software
- Custom intent: Based on terms users have previously searched for in Google
- Topics: Marketing, sales, video software
- Remarketing: Viewed certain videos and video interactions on YouTube
Throughout our three-week campaign, we optimized on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis, shifting dollars between Facebook and YouTube. As a marketer, you wouldn’t be doing your job if the media plan you started with was the one you ended up with. So, even though we decided to allocate a majority of the budget to Facebook and a small portion of it to YouTube, it became clear early on that while Facebook was driving volume, but less efficiently compared to YouTube.
“As a marketer, you wouldn’t be doing your job if the media plan you started with was the one you ended up with.”
Instead of completely pausing Facebook, we decided to dial back the spend and focus our dollars on the top performing ads on Facebook, and then turned up the spend on the top performing YouTube placements. We wanted to make sure we included both of these media partners as part of the marketing mix in order to capture prospect’s attention at different points throughout their buyer’s journey. Having some overlap between two media platforms is actually a good thing, as it leads to more brand touch points and further re-enforces the brand with prospects for future recognition!
So, at the end of the day (and campaign), how did the ads perform? Do businesses need to spend $100k on a video ad, or is $1k enough to get the job done? Or, is it actually somewhere in between?
Across the board, the video we created for $10K performed the best based on our goals. To do this, we circled back to our KPIs (key performance indicators) to evaluate the success of the video ads across the media partners and ad types.
I mentioned earlier that our primary KPI was Cost Per Install. In the spirit of full transparency, we had a target Cost Per Install goal of $8. Since we had never run a video ad longer than 45 seconds (this video ad was a full 2 minutes long!), we didn’t know how people would respond. The $8 cost per install was admittedly a bit arbitrary and based on previous direct-response focused campaigns.
So, how did we do against our goal? Here are the results:
- YouTube was the most efficient media partner, coming in at a $11 CPI. The average watch time was also longer at 25 seconds vs Facebook at 8 seconds. This wasn’t surprising given that people are on YouTube to consume video, and may be more receptive to watching video ads.
- Facebook provided product install volume as well as valuable learnings about long-form video ads, however it didn’t come close to our $8 CPI goal — it clocked in at a $40 CPI. The sequential ad, which was effective in driving impressions and views, failed at capturing product installs. The CPI for this ad format was $281, which brought up the overall cost per install. We actually wound up pausing sequential advertising halfway through the media flight to focus more on the efficient volume drivers.
- The most efficient ad on YouTube and Facebook was the direct-response focused $10k video ad, which had a CPI of $7 and $24 respectively. This was around half the cost per install that the other ads ($1k and $100k) had on Facebook and YouTube.
Heading into this campaign, I searched around to find cost per view metrics from other advertisers who have run similar video ads. I found a wide array of metrics depending on the industry, ad format, creative, targeting — there were so many variables to consider, which made it nearly impossible to use industry-wide data as our benchmarks.
What’s the next best thing to use as comparison? Well, if you’ve been running Facebook or YouTube ads for a while (or even for a few short months), you’ll likely have some performance data you can use to compare your campaign against.
For this campaign, we used historical data from previous video ads to see if the cost per 25% viewed was … well, “good!” Since we had never run a 2 minute video ad, we had to look at the “video played to 50%” metric for the 1 minute video ads we had run previously. For this, we were now comparing 30 seconds watched on a 2 minute video, and 30 seconds watched on a 1 minute video. On Facebook, this turned out to be $1.08, and for YouTube it was $0.10.
Let’s see how the campaign stacked up:
- On Facebook, the $10k video ad recorded a cost per 25% watched of $0.65. As you can imagine, we were excited to see that this campaign achieved a cost per engaged view that was 40% less than our own benchmark!
- On YouTube, the $10k video ad recorded a cost per 25% watched of $0.37, which was higher than our historical benchmark. However, over 20% of users watched at least one-fourth of the video, so we were still pretty happy to see that level of interest. If we want to run more longer form video ads, now we have a new benchmark to work with.
Even though some of our metrics fell short of our goals, it was important for us to look at the big picture and understand each media partner’s performance. It’s tempting to compare Facebook and YouTube against each other, but there can (and should be) a place in your media plan that includes both. Each serves a different purpose and should be evaluated against their own set of KPIs.
“It’s tempting to compare Facebook and YouTube against each other, but there can (and should be) a place in your media plan that includes both.”
At the end of the day, we achieved all the objectives we set out to at the beginning of this campaign! We generated awareness of Soapbox, drove product installs, and came up with a bunch of learnings that we could apply to future campaigns (and also share with you all).
As a marketer, that last point is one that sticks with me the most. Naturally, I want the ad campaigns to drive awareness and conversions, but the learning and sharing aspect of running campaigns like this is what I find the most fulfilling! This was a complex campaign with various ad creative, ad types, and targeting, and it could have ended up being a headache if I hadn’t set a clear campaign strategy and media planning process right from the start. Doing so actually made this a fairly simple campaign to evaluate, execute, and share results on.
If you’re still hungry for more details on the results of our $111,000 video ad campaign, fill out the form below and download the full report!
Building a Podcast Promo Kit: See How Wistia Promotes New Shows
Trying to build an audience for your brand new podcast? If so — we’ve got you covered. We present to you the perfect podcast promotion kit! This “promo kit” consists of items you can give to guests on your podcast or share internally with team members that’ll help them spread the good word about your show across their own networks.
We thought it’d be helpful to give you a full breakdown of the essential items we include in our promo kit here at Wistia. This kit is created and shared with guests and Wistians whenever we release a new episode for our latest podcast, Talking Too Loud. Keep reading for an inside look at our favorite promotional assets and best practices for sharing!
For an interview-style show like Talking Too Loud, sending a thank you email along with a promo kit to your podcast’s guest is an excellent opportunity to get your show in front of their audience.
Here’s a peek at some marketing assets we created for the fourth episode of Talking Too Loud with Nick Francis, the CEO and co-founder of Help Scout, a customer service software company.
Pull quotes and episode graphics
Grabbing notable pull quotes from your podcast episode is a great way to give people an idea of what your show is all about and entice them to want to hear more. Here are a few graphics with pull quotes from Nick’s episode, which focused on Help Scout’s remote-friendly environment and building purpose-driven companies:
When creating these assets, it’s best to provide multiple image sizes compatible with each major social platform. For us, we promote our show on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Audiograms for social
Creating audiograms is another unique way to engage folks on social media. These attention-grabbing assets are audio clips with captions that are played over an image as an MP4. Again, you should provide multiple sizes so your guests can easily post these to various social platforms.
Here’s an example of an audiogram:
Check out Audiogram or Headliner for these quick and affordable promo assets.
Along with all of these great assets, we provide copy examples for Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn written as if they were posted from the guest’s personal account and their company’s official account. We include relevant callouts for Wistia’s social handles, the podcast hashtag, and the episode URL. As a best practice, we try to write social posts that match their voice and tone to put together a promo kit that truly feels personalized for each guest.
Of course, you can tell your guest they can tweak the messages however they see fit.
Here’s an example of a social post for Nick’s Twitter:
Here’s an example of a social post for Help Scout’s Instagram:
When you have all of your assets ready to go, we like to package it all nicely into a PDF to send in an email to our guest. The PDF includes links to Wistia’s social handles, the podcast hashtag, the episode URL, links to Google Drive folders with all of the creative assets, and copy for posts by the guest and the company. Having all of these materials in one place makes it effortless for your guests to help spread the word about their interview.
As you can see, providing a promotion kit filled with awesome assets makes it effortless for your guests to talk about your podcast on their own social channels. Now that you’ve seen some of our favorite assets to include in a promo kit for Talking Too Loud, we hope you have some ideas when it’s time to start building your own. If you have any promo materials you’ve created for podcasts you’d like to share, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
The First 3 Videos Your Small Business Should Make
How can a small business with a small budget get started with video marketing? The answer is actually pretty simple: start with the videos that will have the biggest impact on your business. With that framework in mind, let’s take a look at the first three videos your business should start making today!
If you’re a small business, you might not be able to tout the big brand names that make people say to themselves, “Wow, impressive company X uses them? They must be good!” But lucky for us, the rise of online video in recent years has made establishing trust much easier for businesses of all sizes. And of course, the demand for video isn’t going anywhere. According to research from the folks at HubSpot, 54% of consumers want to see more video from marketers in the future. So if you haven’t started investing in video, now’s the time!
How can a small business with a small budget get started with video marketing? The answer is actually pretty simple: start with the videos that will have the biggest impact on your business. With that framework in mind, let’s take a look at the first three videos your business should start making today!
If you don’t make any other video this year (though we’re confident you’ve got what it takes), start with a product explainer video. Think about the last time you surfed around a company’s website and thought to yourself, “Is this business even legit? What the heck do they do?” This is the last impression you want to leave on a site visitor or potential customer, which is why a product explainer video is the first video you should make.
Remember that the content of your video is far more important than how shiny or professional it looks. You don’t need to break the bank to make an effective product explainer video — in fact, before you invest in a big production, try making a video that’s a little more on the DIY side and see how it works for your business. You can always upgrade your video later or even test other versions against it to see which one resonates most with your audience.
“Remember that the content of your video is far more important than how shiny or professional it looks”
Take a look at this product explainer video from Basecamp, a project management and team communication software. Small budget? No problem.
This video doesn’t simply showcase all the best features Basecamp has to offer. Instead, it paints a picture (or in this case, draws one) that clearly points to a problem the software can solve (if you’re a busy project manager, use this tool to make your job easier).
It’s easy to focus on your product’s features, but what you really want to do is hone in on the problem your business solves. Appeal to viewers’ emotions and explain how your solution can help make their lives easier, better, more fulfilling — whatever the case may be — and you’re on your way to seeing success with video.
Types of explainer videos you can make
Now that you’ve hopefully seen the value of product explainer videos, let’s dive into a few different types of videos your small business can start investing in. Depending on what resources are currently available to you, not to mention how much time you want to put in to the final product, there are a number of avenues you can take.
Arguably one of the most popular types of explainer videos a business can make, animated videos are easy to outsource thanks to services like Yum Yum Videos, Powtoon, or even freelancers on Fiverr who can turn your script into an imaginative video.
If you plan on shooting the video yourself (whether you have an in-house video producer or not), consider the following tips for making your video as effective as it can be:
- Start with a great script. As odd as it might seem, the written word is the foundation for any great explainer video.
- Keep it short and sweet — 60 seconds or less is perfect.
- Use simple, conversational language. No business jargon allowed!
- Incorporate some shots of what you’re actually selling in your video — show and tell.
Is your small business in the SaaS space? A simple screencast video works particularly well in this context; plus, it also happens to be super budget-friendly. Check out this example from the team at Slack, a business communication platform.
See how easy it is to understand how their product works? That’s exactly what you’re looking for.
If you want to simplify the screencast process as much as possible, we just happen to offer a nifty screen recording tool that lets you make high-quality product explainer videos in a snap. Try Soapbox for free today!
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Some businesses tend to shy away from collecting testimonials, and who can blame them? The task can feel scary and intimidating, and ROI is difficult to predict at the outset. But what’s so great about testimonial videos is that you only need one or two solid ones in your catalogue to see the difference they can make.
Start by interviewing some of your long-term customers that have seen tangible results thanks to your product, and share those videos on a prominent page on your site. Again, building trust can be a tricky part of marketing a small business. But with an effective testimonial video, you can go above and beyond that goal.
“Start by interviewing some of your long-term customers that have seen tangible results thanks to your product, and share those videos on a prominent page on your site.”
When it comes time to brainstorm who you might reach out to for these interviews, think about who your ideal customer is. Make sure the customers you feature in your testimonials are aligned with your target audience. Ideally, your prospects will be able to see themselves and their businesses in the testimonial videos you create.
Ultimately, video testimonials help visitors feel more confident in your business and the services you provide. And why wouldn’t they? Your most authentic subjects are your actual customers.
One company who does this really well is Mailchimp, a marketing automation platform and email marketing service company. Here’s an example of one of their customer success stories:
After watching this video, the viewer has a better understanding of how a boutique called Azalea San Francisco uses Mailchimp’s landing pages to drive their sales, promote events, and stay relevant.
Tips for making video testimonials
Ready to produce your very own video testimonials? Here are some of our favorite tips for making a compelling testimonial that builds trust and looks great:
- Before the interview, give your customer an idea of what topics you’ll cover, but don’t share all of your questions just yet! You want their responses to sound as natural and unrehearsed as possible.
- Shoot the video at the customer’s own workplace if possible, as it helps drive home the authenticity factor.
- Capture additional B-roll footage throughout the shoot, whether you think you’ll need the shots or not. These small moments can round out your video and make it more cohesive.
- Let the camera run, and edit the takes later. Ask your interviewee to repeat what they’ve said if they fumble over their words, but for the most part, try to keep your footage natural.
- Keep it conversational so your subject feels comfortable. This can often lead to more emotional, authentic responses.
If your small business has a particularly interesting background, company story videos are the way to go. How did your business get started? What was your motivation for starting the company? By featuring the friendly faces of your teammates, you can make your prospects feel right at home. After all, people are buying more products and services based on emotion rather than logic, which is one reason why appealing to a visitor’s psyche is so important.
A company story video lets you show off what makes your business so special and unique on a human level like no other medium can. When people are able to associate familiar faces and names with a business, they’re more likely to feel a strong connection to it — and ultimately have a positive experience with your brand.
“A company story video lets you show off what makes your business so special and unique on a human level like no other medium can.”
In this video, find out the history behind Redbarn Pet Products, a healthy, wholesome dog food company.
I don’t even have a dog and I’d give Redbarn my money! But in all seriousness, this two-minute video gives you a solid understanding of what matters most to Redbarn as a business. You learn how this family-owned dog food company got its start, what it believes in, and how it views running a business. An all-around success!
Types of company stories
What if your story isn’t as cute and wholesome as Redbarn’s? Not to worry, because there are some other types of videos you can make to achieve a similar goal. Your company’s culture and how team members feel about working there today are just as important as the story behind how you got your start. Here are a few ways to underline that:
- Crowdsource a simple video featuring current employees. Empower your peers to tell their own stories by submitting video clips that can be compiled into one video.
- Interview some of your own employees. Think “customer testimonials” but from your employees. Ask them some questions about their day-to-day life at your company and record their responses.
- Use B-roll footage from a company event or party and record a voiceover after the fact. This is a super low-budget way to make a video that emphasizes what your company culture is all about, with virtually no pre-production effort involved.
Marketers know that testing new channels and tactics before going all-in on one is the best way to make informed decisions. And when you work at a small business where resources can run thin, you want to make sure you’re spending your time wisely. That’s why, as a video software company built by marketers, we recommend getting started with these three types of videos.
Easily build trust, establish credibility, and show the people who work at your company, and you’ll be on your way to building an even more reputable and buzzworthy business.
4 Businesses That Grew Through the Power of Creativity
When most businesses decide to scale, they usually channel all of their thoughts and energy on meeting the end result: growing their company by X percent. But, ironically, focusing on the results doesn’t always mean you’ll get them.
In a live interview at Goldman Sachs’ Technology and Internet Conference in 2015, Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, was asked to name some of Apple’s most significant accomplishments from the past year. Famously, he responded, “We’re not focused on the numbers. We’re focused on the things that produce the numbers.”
In essence, Cook was saying that focusing on the process rather than the results is the key to success. After all, to thrive in a world brimming with infinite options, you need to create a product or service worth purchasing — and not just purchasable.
Building something that can cut through the noise requires extraordinary creativity. To inspire your company’s creative process, we explore four companies that have leaned heavily on creativity to fuel their growth. Read on to get your own creative juices flowing.
When Nick Gray was asked to go on a date to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, he was a little disappointed. The Met was where you went when your parents were in town, not when you were going on a romantic date. But Nick liked the woman he was seeing. So, he accepted her invitation.
To his surprise, Nick and his date didn’t aimlessly meander through every exhibit that caught their eye. Instead, Nick’s date gave him a captivating tour of different art, sculptures, and artifacts. Enamored by the Met’s vast collection of humanity’s history, Nick realized just how special the museum actually was.
Nick became obsessed with the Met, visiting it all the time, voraciously researching exhibits that piqued his interest, and eventually giving his own tours to friends. His tours got so popular that he realized he could turn them into his own business. He called it Museum Hack.
Museum Hack’s mission is to shatter the common belief that museums are boring — just as the date at the Met had done for Nick. Leading themed tours, such as the one based on Game of Thrones, through some of the country’s top museums, Museum Hack takes customers on focused, energetic journeys that are chock-full of stories, games, and, most importantly, fun.
“Museum Hack’s mission is to shatter the common belief that museums are boring …”
Museum Hack knows that their guides can make or break tours, so the company hires expert storytellers who train for three months before leading a single tour. They also dig up the juiciest stories about historical figures, art, and artifacts that you’d never see on a museum plaque, ensuring that they entertain just as much as they educate.
Convincing the public that museums are the most remarkable institutions on earth is a tall order. But Museum Hack has done just that — and then some. Their tours have garnered over 5,400 five-star reviews on TripAdvisor, generated $2.8 million in revenue in 2018, and grown their business by 107% in the past three years.
One of the least appealing parts of marketing? Sourcing stock photos. Not only are most stock images cheesy, but they can also be costly. Fortunately, Mikael Cho, the former CEO of Crew, an online marketplace for creatives, harbored this same disdain for cheesy, expensive stock photos.
Back in 2013, Crew had only three months of cash left. No venture capitalists were biting either, so Cho tried to attract some attention by building a Tumblr website that offered free, professional-grade photos. His target market could probably use them.
Four hours and $19 later, Unsplash was born. And after posting Unsplash on Hacker News, Cho’s side project rocketed to the top of the discussion board and attracted 50,000 visitors in one day. Within a month, Unsplash had 20,000 email subscribers and even referred some customers over to Crew.
Four months later, Unsplash helped Crew double their revenue, which enabled them to secure $10.6 million in funding. Unsplash had officially saved Crew.
Soon after, tech media outlets, like The Verge, Next Web, Fast Company, TechCrunch, and Forbes, ate the story up. Forbes even started using Unsplash’s photos and linked back to their website. Two years later, Unsplash became Crew’s top referral source.
The story of Unsplash is compelling proof that focusing on creativity can pluck you out of even the deepest financial abyss. By focusing on the artistic side of photography — not necessarily the business side — and the customer experience, Unsplash attracted a steady stream of users and publicity. This focus persuaded the best freelance photographers to publish photos on their website to market their art and, in turn, continually enhance Unsplash’s library of images.
“By focusing on the artistic side of photography — not necessarily the business side — and the customer experience, Unsplash attracted a steady stream of users and publicity.”
Since then, Crew spun off Unsplash as its own stand-alone company. The Tumblr website that initially offered ten free photos every ten days now boasts a network of 110,000 contributing photographers and a library of 1 million images that have been downloaded over 1 billion times.
What’s arguably even more impressive is that Cho sold Crew to Dribbble in 2017 and raised $7.25 million in funding for Unsplash. Not only did Unsplash save and spark Crew’s growth, but they also built themselves into something any entrepreneur would be proud of.
In 2008, Jack Conte and his wife, Nataly Dawn, started a band called Pomplamoose. But, unlike most new bands, they didn’t want to build their presence through live gigs; they wanted to build it online.
For the next five years, Pomplamoose created and posted original songs, experimental covers, and clever mash-ups on YouTube, attracting over 150,000 subscribers. Some of their videos even went viral and boasted millions of views. But the exhilarating high Conte felt watching the band’s loyal fan base grow would always crash when he checked their YouTube revenue each month. At most, they would make a few hundred dollars.
Fed up with the internet’s self-centered monetization model and the lack of respect and financial security artists received, Conte teamed up with entrepreneur Sam Yan to launch Patreon, a platform for artists to offer monthly subscriptions to their content and generate a reliable stream of income.
From podcasters to musicians to comedians, artists of all stripes can effectively monetize their creativity on Patreon, taking home an average of 90% of their subscription revenue. Conte and Yan specifically designed their business model this way because they wanted Patreon’s success to depend on their artists’ success. In other words, creativity is the only thing that can fuel their growth. And it’s working.
Today, Patreon has over 100,000 artists creating content on their platform and over 3 million patrons supporting them. Patreon is also expected to process $500 million in payments and generates $50 million in revenue in 2019 and has raised over $165 million in venture capital.
During the first half of the decade, most podcasts were cliché, talking-head interviews with little personality or flair. Most people listened to them to educate themselves on a specific topic — not necessarily to entertain themselves. But that all changed once Sarah Koenig’s iconic podcast, Serial), launched in 2014.
Serial was one of the first narrative-driven podcasts ever released, and it captured the imagination of the entire world, reaching 5 million downloads faster than any other podcast in history.
After binge-listening to Serial and witnessing everybody squabble over Adnan Syed’s innocence, Steve Pratt, the co-founder of Pacific Content, realized he could help businesses make the same mark in the working world.
Serial raised people’s podcasts expectations, but many brands didn’t have the expertise or resources to craft shows of that caliber. This market gap inspired Pratt to launch Pacific Content, a production agency that makes original podcasts with brands. He became an early adopter of narrative-driven podcasts and partnered with some of the world’s biggest brands, including Facebook, Slack, and T-Brand Studio, to craft shows that rival top podcasts like This American Life and even the agency’s own inspiration — Serial.
Blazing the trail for brands to tell stories through podcasts and winning numerous awards for their work, Pacific Content was acquired by Rogers Media, one of the largest and most influential Canadian media companies, in 2019.
To thrive in a world of infinite choice, building a product or service that can cut through the noise is crucial — but trying to manufacture the results won’t get you anywhere. Instead, focus on the process and channel your creativity, just like these four companies did.
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