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The Inbound Playbook

Men’s Style Lab Up for HubSpot Impact Award at 2015 Inbound Conference

Christmas comes in September for us inbound marketers. It’s time for Inbound 2015––the conference where we celebrate our wins, analyze our losses, and get fired up about another year of making marketing remarkable.

As a part of our learning week (and to feed our competitive sides), inbound agencies submit their work to the Impact Awards. To showcase our work with one of our most successful clients, Men’s Style Lab, we’re submitting these aspects of our partnership: graphic design, blog design, growth story, and eBook content/design. See how Men’s Style Lab took its marketing by the horns in a year of working with SparkReaction.

 

Best Client Blog Design

At the beginning of our partnership in October 2014, Men’s Style Lab was booming. So much so that blogging and organic search was completely overshadowed by the need to take orders, pack boxes, and grow the startup in its rapidly growing infancy. Its team sporadically posted short blog posts on a monthly basis, and the blog design itself was simply another page of the website. It had no personality, intrigue, or features to drive conversions and lead generation.

Our goal in designing The Lab Report was to make this aspect of the website an attraction and conversion powerhouse. Because MSL had no point of conversion for its Awareness Stage customers besides immediately signing up for a box, it was our first priority to build the blog with conversion (subscription) and lead education as the main goals.

Based on the industry, we designed this blog without a text-heavy listing page. Content in this industry is more visual, so the blog design needed to reflect that with a graphic-heavy format. We created more emphasis on the photos and the headlines than on preview text. Based on MSL’s industry and buyer persona analysis, we broke out the blog into the specific topics. The audience wasn’t interested in the history or technical aspects of a blazer––they were interested in the way it would look on a guy like them. They wanted examples, how-tos, and A’s to their Q’s.

The Lab Report has seen great growth in both the Attract and Convert stages:

  • Blogging views have increased around 35-45% each month and account for about 7% of the total website traffic. On average, the blog receives about 4,000 views per month.
  • Subscriptions have increased 25-40% each month, with a current subscriber base of almost 2,000. 200-400 new subscribers are added each month. If a visitor views the landing page to ‘subscribe to the blog,’ the conversion rate is 18.3%. All lead generation efforts have a checkbox to subscribe, as well.

So, how did it really help?

The design of this blog is so successful because it has not only allowed Men’s Style Lab to reach its goals of creating a conversion point for Awareness Stage customers and building a large, loyal subscriber base. The Lab Report has established a place for MSL to engage with its customers in a way that shows its expertise––building trust in the industry. And this doesn’t end with customers. MSL has also created Q&A and “brand spotlight” spaces to establish relationships with retailers and other industry experts. Overall, though, each of these posts is displayed in a visually engaging, photo-focused layout that highlights the bold simplicity it wants customers to embrace in their own personal styles. The blog subscription helped MSL keep the database engaged so that they would purchase again and again in a way that B2C companies can do.

 

Client Growth Story of the Year

“For me it was a combination of not being able to quantify our marketing activities with a specific ROI and wanting to be able to have a system in place to help customers take steps closer to making a purchase. SparkReaction laid out a solid plan and was able to customize a solution specific to my industry and business model. We could clearly see the funnel and put things in place to nurture our leads and help them become customers. This was down to the specific persona, so we know every step of the way how much we're making and what's working or not working.” -Derian Baugh, CEO of Men’s Style Lab

MSL’s main marketing challenges were understanding and using real analytics to inform decisions and generating Awareness Stage leads. The first step we took in helping them conquer analytics was to introduce them to the HubSpot COS. We developed in-depth buyer personas, nurture workflows and emails, and set SMART goals in their dashboard so that they could see exactly what the daily progress was. We set monthly analytics reporting and discussion to talk about the data we had gathered and how to move forward with it.

To help MSL grow its lead and customer generation with such a large amount of traffic (around 50,000 visits per month), we developed the Style Guide premium content offer.

The Results

MSL has seen incredible growth during the time of our partnership. This section of the company’s growth story reflects the first 5 months of our full-time marketing work, as our engagement has recently shifted to a sales partnership.

From October 2014 to April 2015:

Visits: up 125%

Leads: up 109%

Customers: up 72.8%

Blog views: accounts for 8% of total monthly traffic and increasing 30-40% per month, on average

Organic traffic: up 150.6%

Social media reach growth: up 113.5%

ROI: 89.1%

Simple annualized ROI: 135%


The overall traffic to lead conversion averages 10-15% per month, while the average rate across all industries is between 1 and 3%:

The Style Guide also helped to identify spending habits of specific buyer personas (and increase their willingness to become a customers). For example:

MSL’s marketing strategy, itself, has expanded greatly since utilizing HubSpot and our marketing team: using nurture workflows, segmentation, expansive persona spending data, and landing pages.

Our current sales partnership (starting with a re-engagement in June) has focused on converting leads to customers via email nurture workflows and segmentation. SparkReaction generated 567 customers over the course of 1 month with 4 workflows meant to reengage the existing database of “quiet” leads.

This partnership has helped MSL see the great benefits and results that come with dedicated, focused inbound marketing efforts. MSL saw an 89.1% ROI on its inbound marketing spends, which is 135% in simple annualized ROI.

 

Best Client eBook and Best Client Graphic Design

Not only did the spring Style Guide prove to be one of our most engaging pieces of content, but it also pushed the limits of graphic design in the men’s concierge style industry. We are submitting the spring Style Guide to both of these categories, as we feel it transcends both areas by serving every purpose of an eBook, while also becoming a template for graphic design that could transform with every season. Competitors like Trunk Club and Frank and Oak didn’t have a piece like this to give to potential customers––teaching them how to develop a sense of personal style and harness the brands and products out there.

We’ve stated why the Style Guide came to be: MSL had no content offer to act as a point of conversion for Awareness Stage leads. If someone visited the site, the only way for the company to gather information about how to best serve them was to ask them to sign-up. It was a rushed process that ignored the needs of leads in the early stages of the buyer’s journey. Graphically, MSL had simple brand standards with interesting details, but no downloadable piece to be remembered by. The brand needed a graphically iconic offer––a thing that no other competitor was offering. It needed to be a unique piece of content with layouts, spreads, and photographs that displayed clothing in a way that each reader could picture himself wearing everyday. Because of the nature of the style industry, this thing had to be beautiful. It had to be engaging. And it had to make every reader say, “I want to wear that,” simply because of the way the design showed off products and content.

To address these goals, we developed the 30-page style guide in place of a traditional eBook. It served all of the same purposes––to convert and nurture leads, inform the audience, and move qualified leads down the marketing funnel. But it needed to take the form of a fashion magazine to compete with other content like it: style blogs, catalogues, and publications like Men’s Health and Esquire on a smaller scale. In order to attract attention as an offer on the website and represent the forward-thinking of MSL, it needed an engaging cover, a table of contents, contributing writers to bring ideas to life, and beautiful photos and graphics to make it a visual grab. It really became a mix of eBook and innovative graphic design in the industry.

The Numbers

Not only did the spring issue of the Style Guide generate a great amount of revenue via first-touch contacts, it gave us incredible insight into the buying habits of the individual personas of MSL (see graphic in previous section). It performed even better than the winter issue it succeeded.

The spring Style Guide had 1,823 downloads, with a landing page conversion rate of 33.3%. Through our metrics, we can see it generated 163 new customers (and at least $23,000 in revenue from these new customers). With an integration with Uberflip, we were able to see in-depth performance metrics to better see how readers behaved while in the actual eBook:

We were able to see that sections like “Box Breakdown” and “Spring Essentials” performed very well––even though the latter was toward the end of the book. We were also able to see that the way some of the sections were designed, like the lengthy spreads of “Spring Essentials,” were often skipped through. This affected the way that we designed future issues. But with 55% of readers spending less than 15 seconds on any given web page (according to Tony Haile of Chartbeat), our readers spent an average of 20 seconds––on each page of the guide. They were finding the right content at the right time, and they wanted to stay to learn more.

This project, both as an eBook and as a branded piece of graphic design, was successful not only because it met the goals established in our planning. It generated customers––but it also developed a noticeable difference in the way readers saw themselves. As indicated by the 26% increase in spending after reading a Style Guide, the reader felt empowered to better their self through personal style. They were more willing to step outside their comfort zones with MSL. The way it displays the content in a magazine format made it easily scannable, but it also delivered this information to the reader in a way that no other company in this vertical was doing. The Guide, itself, has become a tool for the company to use not only in nurturing leads, but in delighting customers to return and evangelize their experiences. And because it’s a visually captivating, inspiring piece of design, it also became something that MSL customers sat down to enjoy and share with friends.

 

Stay tuned for an update on our Inbound 2015 experience after the conference dates of September 8-11 in Boston!

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Sami Brenner

Sami Brenner

Inbound Marketing Strategist at SparkReaction, Sami is a seasoned writer and a motivated multi-tasker. With a strong magazine editorial background, she’s a big believer in work hard, travel often—inspiration is anywhere. Making genuine connections with clients and producing effective, true-to-brand content and strategy are her top priorities.