It's not enough to ask "How did you hear about us?"

Steli’s recent post about determining the ROI of your marketing efforts struck a chord with me. I got the same advice from Noah Kagan when he spoke to the companies going through Techstars Austin last summer.

Like any other startup that hustles, my co-founders and I have done just about everything we can think of to get our name out there. Our efforts have been rewarded with people signing up on our website, but we weren’t always sure where they came from.

We had our assumptions. I’d periodically check our Google Analytics account to get answers, but all I find is the social network or marketing campaign they came from. You know, referral traffic. That only told us how they got to our website. But it doesn’t paint the full picture.

We still didn’t know the actual reason why they came to our website

Through analytics, it’s easy for us to see that a signup read an article about us and clicked on the link to our website. But how did they get to the article that referred them to our website?

For instance:

  • Do they usually read the website the article was on?
  • Did they Google us and find the article that way?
  • Did a friend send them the article?

As a new company, it was important to understand why they were interacting with the content. Were they looking for guidance or did they just want a tool to do a certain job for them?

These answers help you to better understand how your target audience discovers your content, and how you can improve your marketing ROI.

Context is king


Let’s use Close as an example. Steli and his team put out awesome content for sales professionals and founders on a consistent basis. They have their blog, Steli speaks at events, and he appears on relevant industry podcasts.

It’s important for them to understand why people react positively to their content to position the content in the best way possible through those channels. They may know that podcasts about sales are great for generating awareness, but which topics have the best reception?

Understanding the context of how people consume your marketing efforts will help you figure out what type of content to put out on each medium. Over time, you’ll get a good grasp on which content to marry with a certain medium.

While talking to your customers, ask them questions that will cause them to add context. Don’t settle for “I found you on Google."

Follow up and ask why they were Googling in the first place:

  • Did they search for a solution to their problem?
  • Are people in your industry talking about the services you provide?
  • Are they looking to learn a certain skill?
  • Are they trying to replace what they currently use with your product?
  • Is your product the first of it’s kind they’ll be using?

“How did you hear about us?"

So how do you get the context? You need to start asking your customers directly. Like Steli mentions in his Marketing ROI post, the answers will surprise you. To get some quick feedback, calling your customers is a good way to get a handle on what’s going on.

To continue the stream of information, implement the question “How did you hear about us?” into the top of your sales process. Consider it a qualifying question (download even more qualifying questions here).


For example, we got Noah’s advice a few months before Steli and implemented the question into the bottom of every first email we send to signups. The information we’ve received has been extremely helpful.

Since we started adding this line, email responses are up. Even better, we know that 26% of our signups initially heard about Smart Host from a friend. The interesting thing is that a portion of the 26% got to our website because of a Google search. That’s what the analytics software tells us. But in reality, their friend is what got them to do the Google search in the first place. It’s powerful to know that these conversations are happening, and led to someone signing up for our service.

With this knowledge, we can direct our energy to seeding relevant content to the conversation and use influencers in our industry to amplify it. This focus allows our marketing efforts to create more opportunities for these conversations to happen.


Further reading:

How to determine the ROI of your marketing (without analytics)

Want to find out which of your marketing efforts are most effective? Here's a simple hack. You don't need complex tracking software!

Noah Kagan's secrets to success in sales, marketing, hustling ... and life

A 2015 interview I did with Noah Kagan, one of my favorite hustlers on the world wide web. We talk about sales and marketing tactics, business strategies, regrets and most importantly: the inner game of hustling.

Watch people, not clicks

Many startup founders have this unhealthy fascination with data, metrics and analytics. They think all these numbers contain the answers to the mystery of business success. There's value in the data, but it can also be a dangerous distraction, if you don't also watch (by being in the same room) how people interact with your product.

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