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Over the last 12 months, Learnworld’s have grown pretty rapidly to become one of the leading online education platforms.

In this interview, they share with us the exact strategies that have helped 4x their trial signup volume as a result of PPC.

Enjoy!

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Our guest for this show:

Nick Malekos from LearnWorlds

Nick Malekos, Senior Marketer at LearnWorlds

Nick joined LearnWorlds at the early stages in January 2017. Since then he’s seen them cross the $1million ARR mark in early 2019, raise their first round with Marathon Ventures and build out their team.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Use your content strategy to inform your PPC strategy and your PPC strategy to inform your content strategy.
  2. When LearnWorlds stopped their Facebook remarketing campaigns for one month as a test, they noticed a dramatic drop in direct conversions.
  3. Use PPC as part of your onboarding. It can be a great channel to educate your trial users.
  4. Nick recommends a plugin called Gaconnector – this helped them improve attribution by 20%.

How LearnWorlds 4x’d Trial Signups with PPC Podcast Transcript

Please note: We edit the transcript below for a better reading experience.

Dylan: [00:00:00] Hello everybody. I’m excited that you’re here today listening to The SaaS Marketing Show. Today I’m joined with Nick from LearnWorlds. LearnWorlds is an online course platform for creating, selling, and promoting your online courses. Nick, thank you for joining us on the show today.

Nick: [00:01:46] Hi, Dylan. Thank you for having me. I’m very happy to be on your podcast. It’s a very exciting opportunity.

Dylan: [00:01:52] Thank you for jumping on. Today we’re going to deep dive into some of the success that you guys at LearnWorlds have seen specifically as a result of some of the PPC marketing that you’ve been doing.

Anyone watching, listening or reading to this, will have seen that the title of this episode is centered around how you’ve managed to 4x your trial volume recently as a result of PPC, which is an awesome result. I am super excited to deep dive into that, but before we do that. Maybe, you can tell us a little bit more about LearnWorlds and what you do in the team as well.

Nick: [00:02:24] We offer a platform, that is not just for courses, it’s for training is for people who do coaching. It’s for people who do e-learning in general. Our main focus is self-paced courses, but with third-party software, Zoom that we’re using right now. You can do live webinars through our platform, and you can actually have a community behind it.

You can have a learning community and you can have a membership site. It’s a very customized platform.

What we do is that we serve three kinds of customers. It’s the customer who wants to just sell courses. They might have an idea, they have a skew. I could be good at golf or I could be teaching marketing, depending on what I want to do, and this could be a side business or my food business, or just a way to have a side income.

Then it’s the more professional trainers, and we see a lot of people, and that’s the people who are affected right now by the Covid-19 so a lot of worship trainers, they go, they do training to companies, but talking with a few of them, they got tired of traveling. They are being called from one side of the US to the other.

I was talking with a trainer in Germany. She had to go from her village to the main cities to do the training, and she found us and she had more than 10 courses and she was moving her training online. She still goes for a physical, but it’s an upsell for her.

In this crisis, we are seeing two things that are very interesting, especially for SaaS. You can either do internal onboarding of employees during the employee’s compliance training or some companies are selling these to their customers or they train their customers to onboard them. This is an interesting case for SaaS. We use our academies and onboarding tool.

We see that everyone who has joined the Academy before buying, it’s actually four times more likely to buy compared to people who did not join the Academy.

Dylan: Wow. I think that’s a really valuable insight that you’ve shared already before we get to some of the other stuff. I know you’re talking about the Academy that you have on the site, which is your own, like learning resources and support that you give to the other people, course creators, whatever it might be.
You just said that people who complete that or go through that Academy, they are, four times as likely to purchase versus someone that doesn’t go through that and just signs up self-service without going through that.

Nick: [00:04:54] Exactly.

Because, in our case, it’s also the best example of our product. In other cases it’s also onboarding and having an educational sequence, having more engaged people. The more engaged someone is with your brand, the more likely they are going to come back and we teach them how to use our product.

Especially in high touch software. You see that you have a learning curve. If this learning curve is not 10 minutes or 15 minutes and someone has to spend a couple of hours or a few days, you need to educate them. This is accompanied by remarketing, emails, but it’s also happening by educational and my Academy resources, courses and on the courses is the opportunity to have it structured.

You have the support document, you have the technical documents along with the video, and this is much stronger than just sending them 2-3 messages in download the CBU. Go to the support and go take the video. It’s all in a structure and you can see the video, and then you see the technical documents. Then maybe you have a technical exam and assignment until they answer, get feedback. Talk with our support. It’s more interactive.

Dylan: [00:05:59] Yeah, this is great. One thing that I always naturally think of is when I think about online course platforms or learning platforms, I often just think about the, let’s say influencers that have their $997 a month product, or they’re programs. I’m not throwing any hate towards those because I know how valuable they can be as well.

Until I was communicating with you ahead of this podcast interview, and before I did any research on you guys, I never really thought about the approach of actually just using this as e-learning, like you said, right? Being able to use it for onboarding, within businesses, and within SaaS companies.

Nick: [00:06:40] In our industry, in marketing in general, you can see HubSpot, they are doing it perfectly. Hubspot has certificates and they teach you about marketing, but what they do, they give certificates on how to use HubSpot.

The same goes with Hootsuite. The same goes with a lot of other companies, and we have big software customers that are teaching people how to use their software because it’s so complex. They need to onboard and educate them.

I was talking with a friend about AWS, Amazon Web Services. What they do is offer free training and they give credits for people to educate their employees. Your team is more tightly connected with AWS, and if your managers are thinking of moving, you have a whole team or 10 or a 100 people so close to AWS that they will object to moving.

You have the people who will force you to buy that product. It’s like your own micro-influencer inside the company for B2B sales.

Dylan: [00:07:48] I think that’s some really good advice that you’re giving and that you’ve clearly worked on with your Academy and all the education that you guys put out there.

As a SaaS founder or marketer, if you can try and make your whole product as sticky as possible, as well as the whole experience, then people are going to be less likely to leave. Then, you’re going to build your own brand evangelists and so many other bits and pieces.

An example from my side, as an agency we’re a Drift Partner and we were so bought into the Drift ecosystem because of the trainings that they provide us with the learnings that we go through with them, but then also just the way that they treat us versus the way that some other companies may treat us from that perspective.

I think that’s a really interesting point. Let’s just talk quickly to set some expectations for everyone listening to this so they can find out a bit more about where you’re at as a business as well. Maybe you could share with us some of the numbers about where you guys are at in terms of revenue would be a good starting point.

Nick: [00:08:50] As a privately held company, we cannot share many of the numbers so I can share with you what we have already publicly. I said through press releases, then most of the data is from last year, but I think you will understand the size from there. Around last year, around this time, we surpassed 1 million ARR and we have been growing.

In the summer, we passed a 1,000 customers. This is the death pit of a startups between a hundred and thousand customers. Usually, if you surpass 1,000 customers, you’re a growing company that is more stable than most.

I joined the company early in 2017. I was the fourth employee with three co-founders. Now, we’re almost 40 people and just this month alone, before our recent growth, we’re going to talk about this period. We are already planning to hire a lot of people and we had five people joining our team just this month.

Dylan: [00:09:50] Congratulations on those people joining the team too and that growth that you guys have seen. I know that there’s a lot of people who aren’t hiring right now or putting things off like that right now.

As I said to you before we started recording this, I’ve just made a hire for our team too. For me, I think this is the time where we have the opportunity to really, really become like great leaders with our people and with our teams. Going through that commitment says a lot about you guys, so yeah, congratulations on that.

Just the one other thing to note too, in terms of numbers before we start talking and going deep on marketing and this PPC experiments you’ve been running, I know that last year you also completed a round of investment from Marathon VCs, so maybe you could tell us a little bit about that as well.

Nick: [00:10:31] We had been talking for about a year before the investment, and this is $1.1 million dollars. It’s 1 million euros investment for Marathon. They’re investing in a lot of startups, mostly in Greece or from Greek founders, and they have a pool of investment to offer, and they’re still investing.

They can help us in a lot of ways to grow, like, introductions, partnerships, advice and a lot of small things. This investment has gone through our product to hire a lot more people much faster. We’re planning to hire quite a few people and, this has allowed us to hire, almost doubled the number and much faster than we expected.

One of the most important hires, in my opinion, is our PPC manager. We’ll be talking a bit more, later on, because I was managing the PPC. We are also managing the organic part. I was not giving enough time to PPC and now I have someone full time working. We’re seeing incredible changes and increases, that you need a full-time person to manage.

Dylan: [00:11:38] I would love to find out from you, from a marketing perspective, PPC aside, what else has been the biggest driver of success for you guys? Then, what’s one experiment that you tried that really didn’t work out what you expected it to. I think those would be two cool things that we can chat about really quick.

Nick: [00:11:56] I actually have a PPC experiment that didn’t work out that comes to the top of my mind. Our first landing pages didn’t really work out. We tried a landing page for a specific country and a couple of landing pages for specific industries that we believe that we’ll see growth. We actually got a lot of traffic from there, but it was not very good traffic. We converted some of the people who were partially successful. It was not great and, but we still experience with landing pages. That’s not something we stopped and we’ll see better results in other campaigns on their landing pages. You have to expect that you’ll have a lot of experience, especially in PPC that will fail in order for other succeeds.

Dylan: [00:12:38] Obviously, we try and make sure that those successes come more frequently than the failures. The thing that usually happens is often, there’s probably, there are more small failures than there are successes, but the value of the successes are higher than the failures.

One thing that we see with SaaS companies that we work with and the conversations that I have when people are thinking about either starting PPC or now going to an agency or trying to hire someone to help them with their PPC is often, they’ll do an experiment, so they’ll do what you did.

They’ll go, okay, we think we think it makes sense to make these landing pages for these countries or these landing pages for these industries, and then something just won’t work and then they’ll stop everything else, right? Because they’d be like, Oh, this, this didn’t work and they weren’t carrying on.

And that I can understand earlier stage businesses maybe why that happens. Because of course, no one likes to waste money or burn money or whatever it might be. But, these are the points that you have to take to really then go ahead and learn from.

One quick tip off the back of that. With one of our current customers who we’ve been running campaigns for a while now, just making, sometimes it’s like the smallest changes can make the biggest differences. Usually, I would go a lot more in-depth with things. I’m not the kind of person that likes someone to say, “Oh, just change the button color” and this will happen or change this and that will happen.

But we were seeing that with one of the customers, the landing pages that were driving the traffic to, similar to what you said by the time that someone had either gone through and completed the sign up to start the trial, or they’d requested to get onto a call with the sales team. They were still not quite sure about, the kind of value of this product or the price point of this product.

That was because on the landing page, we removed all of the header navigation and all of the footer navigation, and we were very focused on the landing page, but when it came to talking about pricing, the only thing that we had was like what the pricing started from on the landing page. So then we introduced a new test, and the only thing that we changed was we introduced more of a pricing widget and instead of fully breaking down all of the pricing, we just broke down two or three of the different brackets with some of the core areas. It’s like a minimal pricing page, but within the landing page that people weren’t going elsewhere and the conversion increased by like 6% and that was literally the only change that we made on the page. If somebody is printing these small things and things that you can try and figure out from the data that you collect that can actually make those tests, even though they seem like a failure, they can actually make them a win for you guys.

With that change, we now know that, okay, whenever we create a landing page, let’s always start with that small pricing angle that we have in there.

Nick: [00:15:15] We also saw bigger conversions instead of changing designs, like a changing from an older version to a newer one, and it was a small increase or change in the conventions.

But the huge changes happen when we change the text. It’s more the text because we have a lot of different segments and they are under defined differently. Changing that had a bigger impact than changing designs.

Dylan: [00:15:40] That’s interesting cause people sometimes always go straight to the design.

Design can really aid in conversion, but ultimately, you can’t polish a turd right? If something’s not good, if the messaging is no good, but you have a great design. It’s still not going to help.

I know that you had a PPC expert join the team internally in December, you said last year. From that point forward you’ve been seeing some really good growth across PPC specifically.

If you could share with us and some of the listeners, what are some of the things that you have changed since this person’s come in that’s seeing such good growth for you guys from that channel?

A lot of SaaS companies that we speak with and a lot of people listening to this sometimes really do struggle to get PPC working for them and that’s why they come to us.

Tell us a little bit about what you have introduced and what you have been doing.

Nick: [00:16:53] Our new PPC hire, she’s the one who is taking care of all the PPC. I manage the data from our CRM in the organic.

How it works is that content informs the PPC and PPC informs the content because we see a lot of trends, especially right now, everything changed in the last 2/3 weeks with the Covid-19 crisis. We see everything about online courses going up. We see video going up. We see a lot of other trends showing up every day. I’m not just talking about the recent trend coming up, the trends changing almost every day and we’re changing our content strategy, our SEO strategy, and our PPC strategy together at all the time.

One of the things that is changing right now, because it’s slower to create a new landing page with our developer team, and it’s faster to write an article.

A lot of my articles from the content side on the blog are being tested on the PPC and we test the conversion rates. In most cases, a landing page will convert much better. But, we see that it depends a lot on their funnel stage. If they are on the top of top-funnel, the awareness stage, the article will have a similar impact as the landing page. If they’re on the bottom of the funnel, that means they’re ready to buy. They have researched and it’s easier to convert them through a landing page, which is more focused.

Dylan: [00:18:29] That’s a really interesting point. I have a couple of questions to ask you off the back of that as well. With a lot of the companies that we work with, from a PPC perspective, I’m talking purely Google search here. I’m interested to see what other platforms you’re testing if any.

From a PPC perspective, depending on the size of the business, top of funnel marketing is something that we aren’t actually doing too often. We’re very conversion-focused with the ads that we’re running for our customers. Often we’ve just found that top of the funnel from a conversion perspective, it’s very expensive, versus the bottom of the funnel, which makes sense. Of course, we still do top of funnel marketing where it makes sense and we just try and get creative with how we do that.

But what you just said about the using the articles instead of a landing page in cases where it’s just faster to do that and for more like top and mid-funnel awareness search terms, that makes sense to me. But one thing that I wanted to ask you, one thing that I can add also.

In this current situation, we have a customer called ProcurementFlow. They are procurement software and this time right now, they can really help a lot of businesses. What they’ve done is they’ve put together a specific page all about like the impacts of Covid-19 and how they can support their team. The page isn’t overly salesy. It’s not super, super product-focused. It is a blog post. It reads like a blog post, but there’s CTA’s threaded throughout that and that is working very well at the moment for bottom of funnel conversion from PPC.

Are you doing that solely for top of funnel and awareness campaigns?

Nick: [00:20:12] We have a lot of different stages of the funnel and we’re testing it. It just shows that the bottom of the funnel doesn’t work very well. It’s better to send it to the landing page. Our previous manager is still testing the new trends on the new articles.

We actually copied it because we liked the Ahrefs blog tactics. What happens is that you have the content and in the content where you are teaching someone to do something, you input your product inside it. It doesn’t matter if you mentioned other products, other ways of doing it, but you need a few sections, screenshots of your product, how to do this. People are getting this as a guide and we see this is converting much better in organic and performs better in organic and actually converts better in PPC too.

Dylan: [00:21:11] You’re putting paid spend behind those articles as well. Aside from Google, which other channels are you for your advertising?

Nick: [00:21:22] We use Facebook and Linkedin but Linkedin wasn’t very successful. We’re planning to choose more channels later on, but right now Google is very big and we didn’t even get into the bottom of the bucket yet. We’re investing more and more budget into Google. That’s the primary one. Facebook, we are investing quite a lot of money too. We see that there is still potential in both channels. We don’t need to go anywhere else yet.

Dylan: [00:21:53] Those articles that you just talked about, the how-to and the helpful ones where then you mentioned, your product in there, of course, using that strategy from Ahrefs. If anyone hasn’t heard about that before Ahrefs have a post all about how they do this and I’d recommend people check that out too.

You’re putting paid spend behind each of those on Facebook, just boosting them out to audiences, right?

Nick: [00:22:14] Think about your onboarding sequence. How do you do onboarding? You send traffic through different channels. For us, it’s both organic and PPC, and then we do remarketing and we have these different articles depending on the stage and different stages, and this helps pull the people from the top to the bottom.

Dylan: [00:22:32] Awesome. I love that. I love that thing you said about, think about PPC like onboarding or as part of your onboarding because I think that’s, sometimes that’s a mistake that people make or just don’t think about. Right? They see it as it’s another channel instead of, it’s part of the.entire experience.

Nick: [00:22:54] We’re very lucky to have a very understanding CEO. There is a challenge on how you report these to your managers. When you have to have lead captures and these lead captures and you have to track. Are they converting from money, book to trial, and then to a customer? Are they not converting? I saw that these people come from other channels later on. It’s a multitouch approach. You cannot cut something back.

One interesting thing is that at some point we saw that Facebook remarketing marketing was bringing a lot of trial leads which were higher quality, but they were not converting, paying customers. We stopped this for the next month and the next month all the conversions fell down. Facebook remarketing is bringing in direct conversions. The other challenge, the people who are coming at that moment of the time on the trial, they were not committed to converting in the next month. They were converting later or it was pushing other channels to convert. The remarketing is essential and we should not have stopped it.

Dylan: [00:24:04] I’m just making a note in my Google doc because we have this conversation with our customers and with our potential customers and we say something similar and of course they listen to me. But, hearing that from somebody else would be very useful. There’s one customer I think of in particular who, we would see whenever we were running Google display network or Facebook remarketing campaigns, the conversion rate would always increase. There would always be an increase in direct trial signup.

Nick: [00:24:48] We are moving a bit faster because, with Covid-19, we saw a trend going on and we actually increased or tripled the budget of advertising right now. We see that this affects directly the direct organic traffic. We see that the branded traffic is growing at a rate that corresponds to the pace of the paid advertisement.
How do you guys tackle that? I know you said you have a very understanding CEO, which of course is very helpful, but one of the challenges within SaaS and paid media specifically, is that in a buyer journey, in a customer journey for a new SaaS product, if I sign up for LearnWorlds and end up purchasing, there’s going to have been such a multitude of touchpoints?

Dylan: [00:25:44] We always look at the attribution map within Google analytics, and we can see, this signup that was generated, they came from a paid ad, then they saw blog content, then they left and then they got hit with a remarketing ad and then they signed up and there’s like, there’s always so many different journeys, so we always get asked by customers and by potential new customers too, how do we figure this out?

I know that there’s not one straight answer because everyone has a different attribution. How do you tackle that in your team?

Nick: [00:26:15] We are using a lot of tools and for example, Mixpanel. Who is coming from where and how do they act. One challenge we had is that you have to have connected the Mixpanel of your website with a Mixpanel of your paid accounts because where you were using single accounts per customer.

On the trial account, it’s not on our website, it’s some domain, it’s a different distance. It’s a different software that has to be connected and you have to see the full journey. One thing that helped me, without going too deep into Mixpanel, which is the most technical part, is GA connector. We use this plugin for Google analytics. You need the developer to help you set it up. It gets the data of the first landing page and the last landing page into your CRM. It’s not perfectly accurate, but from having this we have increased attributed customers by 20%.

Don’t forget public relations. I have done public relations in one of my internships. It’s not something that I liked so much, but it’s something that I have a lot of respect for because if one brand mention in a big magazine, it’s going to blow up your business.

Dylan: [00:27:41] To recap some of the things that you said from the PPC perspective, some of the things that you’ve done to help you 4x that trial volume as a result of PPC. One major thing that you said right at the beginning is you actually use content and analytics around content to inform your PPC strategy, but then also PPC data to inform the content strategy.

I love that. You said that you’ve also been testing some blog content with PPC as opposed to traditional landing pages for everything, for more top and maybe mid-funnel.

Dylan: [00:28:27] You also mentioned when you stopped running Facebook remarketing for a month as a test, you then noticed that there was a drop in indirect conversions.

Nick: [00:28:44] You’ll see that while you’re increasing your budget for PPC, branded organic measures are going to increase.

If you are looking on search console like me, every day, I noticed that, let’s say you double the budget on PPC today, in the next week you have 20% more branded visits from organic, and you’ll see more organic trials in analytics.

Dylan: [00:29:07] Do you have one other core tip that you’ve been testing over the last few months that has helped drive that growth?

Nick: [00:29:20] We have seen low acquisition costs by splitting into countries. We see some countries having lower acquisition costs. Of course, the most valuable countries have a higher cost. If you don’t have someone spending their full time in analyzing the campaigns every day, then you might not want to break down country by country.

A good trick is to break it down into GDP. US, Canada, UK, Australia, they usually have a higher GDP than other countries. They can afford higher plans. They can afford to spend more on software. It’s better customers. If you can either break down these countries into more specific congressmen that will help in conversions. This is how you split the budgets better. You have to be careful if you have a shared budget on all of these campaigns. Are you going to assign specific budget in each country? This is also another thing that someone has to be very careful about.

Dylan: [00:30:26] Those are two really good points.

If you’re working with an agency like us or you have someone internally that has the time to do it, and then splitting it into individual countries is a really great idea. However, what we’ll do is we’ll split campaigns into what we would call tier one and tier two countries.

Nick: [00:30:48] Different countries pay different plans because they can’t afford to have not. It depends on a lot of things. If you’re in eCommerce or lower value costs, $5 or $10 and then us, we have a more premium price because e-learning is more complex and it’s most costly for both us and our customers and making more money out of it.

Dylan: [00:31:17] You’ve shared some really valuable advice and tips that people can go away and try and implement themselves within their own PPC strategies and also just general marketing too. You’ve said some really useful things, so I really appreciate you for coming on the show today and for sharing this with us.
Before we wrap things up, is there anything that you want to promote or anything exciting that you guys have got going on at the moment that people should be aware of?

Nick: [00:31:48] We have opened our Academy courses for free. We’ve had some premium courses that were only accessible to our customers because there is an actual high growth for e-learning right now. People are in their houses. Some people have more free time.

Some people are trying to learn and we see even our customers have been growing revenues from courses. Some of them are opening their courses for free. We have also opened our courses for free. It’s more about anyone who wants to do anything about the e-learning training, learn how to sell the courses, how to market them, how to do interactive videos.

You can join by going to LearnWorlds Academy.

Dylan: [00:32:53] Did you say it’s open till the end of April?

Nick: [00:32:58] Yes. We hope this situation will be over soon and if it goes on, we’ll probably leave it open for longer.

Dylan: [00:33:05] Nick, thank you so much for coming on the show. Speak to you again soon.

Nick: [00:33:08] Thank you for inviting me. It was great being here.