In today’s MarTech conversation, we chat with Emilia Korczynska, the head of marketing at Userpilot, a product growth platform that helps teams build product experiences with zero coding.
Korczynska explains why she has learned that content marketing is the most important approach. She also explains the need to write high-quality content that also ranks.
Tell us about Userpilot
Userpilot is a product growth platform designed to help product teams—mostly product marketers and managers—who want to build beautiful product experiences without coding. This can include onboarding experiences, tooltips, modals, slideouts, microsurveys, and so on.
Crucially, we also offer user analytics so that product teams can see what users are doing and where they are in their journey. This, in turn, can help our clients create experiences that nudge users in the right direction. It’s a big tool!
The company was created in 2017 by a group of colleagues who had been using a competing solution in their SaaS. When they realized that the solutions on the market couldn’t offer what they needed, they decided to build something better themselves.
I joined just over a year ago and was probably the fifth employee. Now, we’ve grown to over 50 people in just one year.
I met Aazar, the first head of marketing at Userpilot, at a conference in Paris in 2019. And I remember he had this T-shirt on that said, “Do you want to fix dropouts in your user journey?” At that point, I was working in marketing in another SaaS business. I was kind of curious what that actually meant, and we struck up a conversation and kept in touch. When I started getting antsy at my old job, I ended up coming to Userpilot.
So, I never applied for this job—it was all very kind of grassroots. And our head of product, for instance, used to be a customer success manager at another company that was using Userpilot, and he liked the tool so much that he reached out and we decided to meet up. Fast forward a year and he’s our head of product. So, it's quite interesting how these chance meetings led to what is now our revenue team.
What do you do in your day-to-day work as head of marketing at Userpilot?
I’m essentially the editor-in-chief and the chief cheerleader of the marketing team. I report directly to the CEO and I have four full-time team members reporting to me, along with a squad of 11 freelance writers. Our four full-time employees are a growth manager, who’s in charge of the page channels and technical SEO, a graphic designer, a content editor, and one full-time content writer.
My role consists of overseeing the execution of our strategy; hiring, coaching, and nurturing people; creating systems and documentation; and creating and measuring KPIs and OKRs. But I’m also not afraid of rolling up my sleeves and writing a blog post or scheduling a social media post.
We have team KPIs and we have individual KPIs as well on the team. My KPIs are very simple: I make sure that we get enough MQLs to hit our revenue targets for the year. And we have a rather conservative definition—we count people who are booking demos and signing up. We don’t really count newsletter signups or ebook downloads. When it comes to the team, there are the individual KPIs, such as how many conversions we are getting from Google ads, or how many deliverables have been completed. And then there are the KPIs for the content itself.
We differentiate between MPLs and SQLs based on how many deals we have actually created. But once someone is a potential lead, it’s in the hands of sales to convert them into a customer. So, the close rate is a metric that sales is tracking—that’s where the handover happens.
In terms of my day-to-day activities, no day is the same. But there are definitely bucket activities that I do. I am basically the chief editor of our blog, as our strategy relies largely on SEO content. I’m responsible for topic ideation, hiring, and managing the team members. So, I create all the systems and documentation that ensures that we know what we’re actually doing. And that also ensures we have high-quality output.
What are some of your goals and challenges at Userpilot?
We want to double our revenue by the end of the year.
My goal is to help the company move to the next level. In very low-level, quantifiable terms, success for me would be to achieve our financial goal by the end of this year.
In more high-level terms, I want to turn our blog into the hottest magazine for product people on the internet and rank on page one for all of our keywords so product people can’t Google anything without seeing Userpilot.
What has failed and why do you think those tactics failed?
I suppose for the first year as a marketing manager with Userpilot, we were exploring a lot of options—trying out a lot of channels and seeing what stuck. We tried webinars, which were successful to some degree in terms of building brand awareness and increasing our email list. But when you look at the direct ROI, it's very hard to capture the actual impact of these initiatives.
Another big flop in the first year was conference sponsorship. So, going out to big conferences, booking a booth, paying $15,000—and then . . . crickets. Nothing. I mean, people don't go to conferences to buy software; they go to network and make connections and have a bit of a change of scenery so they can get inspired.
Another one was trying to hire full-time content writers. Our product is so complex and our audience is also very sophisticated. And it's quite diverse: product marketers, product managers, and sometimes UX designers, all with different needs.
Working with freelancers was very hard because they didn't get the product, they didn't get the audience—they were writing something that looked like content, but that really brought no value.
When you combine that with a very sophisticated, very intelligent audience, it’s a recipe for disaster. I would spend a lot of time correcting freelancers’ content. We thought that the best way to approach it was to find a bunch of passionate writers and coach them as our full-time writers.
We hired a bunch of full-time writers and we found that people would be burning out double-time and we had a very low retention rate in these roles. Because it's so hard—it's really hard to produce high-quality content. And, unfortunately, content roles are considered entry roles.
We switched from hiring full-time writers to hiring full-time editors and just creating briefs—and making sure they are so detailed that any writer can basically paint by numbers. We're just launching this new approach, so we'll see how it works for us in a couple of months’ time. But I think it will be a lot more efficient because a good editor can write a couple of briefs per day, but they can’t write a couple of blogs per day.
What has been most effective and why?
I think we were spreading ourselves too thin and we kind of missed the memo that our organic SEO efforts are actually the main driver of leads and the main driver of revenue.
Once you hit the jackpot with ranking highly for certain bottom-of-the-funnel keywords, they keep driving consistent leads over time. We've had some blog posts that over a period of two years have driven 5% of all our leads. That’s crazy when you think about it. If a blog post costs $500, it's just an infinite return on investment.
What new trends are you noticing?
I would say the quality of SEO. It's probably not news that the skyscraper technique is not really working that much anymore. It's in Google's best interest to rank content that is most relevant to the query. So, it's constantly trying to understand the search intent behind the content. This should be your north star, not the keyword itself.
My favorite blog is Ahrefs’ blog because they are doing such a great job at content marketing. They are always showcasing how to use the products to solve problems and I don't personally feel that they are being salesy or they're pushing me.
How does content marketing fit into your strategy?
We rely heavily on keyword research. Ahrefs is a tool I use all the time. We look at what problems our product solves, then we try to understand how users are searching for solutions to these problems, which indicates a high level of interest.
The goal of our content strategy is to turn the Userpilot blog into a go-to editorial resource for our target audience. In other words, I don't believe in writing for SEO; we are writing for people and we're just using SEO as a delivery channel. So, it's important to optimize your great content so people can actually find it, but that doesn't mean that we're just playing the game to hack Google.