Jeremy Boudinet and Ambition

Last week we wrote about what “going viral” typically means and we suggested you ask yourself, “Does my startup really need it?”  We also queried a few entrepreneurs what going viral means to them. We asked two questions:

  1. What is your secret sauce to getting something to go viral?
  1. What did you do to get your product/service noticed when you launched?

We received some terrific responses, but the one we got from from Jeremy Boudinet Director of Marketing at Ambition was off the chart!

It wasn’t just fabulous, but detailed enough that we believe it will really shine a light on the effort it takes to pull it off, not to mention that it is from a peer, whose company is fighting the same fights you are.

We have others to share next week, including advice from NTR’s own head of marketing, so send along your thoughts if you want to be included.

Here is Jeremy’s answer

  1. Virality

The best, most viral content we’ve ever done has combined boldness, risk and a higher level of interactivity for the audience.

I’ll give you two specific examples:

  1.  The most successful blog post we’ve ever done is “10 Epic Videos to Inspire Your Salesforce”. Wrote it over a year ago and still leads all 200+ posts we’ve written in terms of traffic, reader feedback and virality. Quick background on it – I wrote the post in January 2015, followed up with a sequel a few months later – and within a week of the sequel had multiple requests to reprint both posts and an email from Inc. magazine asking to do a feature on the posts themselves. The Inc. article goes a long way in explaining what gave the post its stickiness in the first place.

Number one: We used video.

Number two: We went big – 10 videos, 10 full write-ups.

Number three: We had fun with the post.

You can write stuff that has utility for your target audience AND have fun with it at the same time. Blog posts shouldn’t be book reports, it’s okay to show some personality.

Plus, the post was a ton of fun to write. Here’s a hint – the posts that go viral tend to have two things in common – if you work your ass off during the writing process AND have fun writing it, you’re doing something that has a chance of going viral. A couple of our competitors copied the premise but clearly didn’t put the time or thought into their post that we did. Never skimp and don’t bore yourself, as the writer.

  1. If I’ve done one thing right as a Marketing Director here at Ambition, it was the March SaaSness Tournament we ran last March. Literally came up with it overnight – March Madness was around the corner and I wanted to do something that could use that as a launching pad. (One of our software’s core features is a competition-builder that lets companies run epic sales competitions).

We had just had a ton of success with our first Inside Sales Software Guide, an eBook that featured 50 different SaaS products and got a ton of promotion from the companies we featured. So I thought to myself, why not try setting up our own version of March Madness, put 64 SaaS companies on a bracket and have each match-up be decided by popular vote, so as to incentivize promotion? Going into it, I knew that a ton of the participants, especially the bigger companies, would at best, altogether ignore the competition.

But I was betting on at least, maybe 25% of the companies getting into it and doing some form of promotion. We did some big write-ups previewing all the match-ups, hyping the companies involved and then set up Google Forms where people could vote.

Once the tournament began, I spent 3 weeks on the days we had match-ups relentlessly promoting the tournament on social media, providing hourly voting updates for each match-up, etc., basically turning the Ambition twitter feed into SportsCenter for March SaaSness. The amazing thing was – it worked beyond our wildest dreams.

Over half of the companies involved got into promoting it, some had their employees sending out a 100+ tweets for each match-up and our site visitation, social media following and general industry awareness/appreciation skyrocketed. Plus, as exhausting as it was to run, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had at work. I’m actually doing the final prep this week for this year’s tournament — it’s crazy, a month ago someone tweeted us asking if we’d be doing the tournament again this year, and since then, we’ve had dozens and dozens of people from all different companies — even those who didn’t promote it last year, reach out asking whether we’d be doing it again, if they were included, etc.

Key things here: March SaaSness was by far the biggest, boldest, riskiest thing we’ve ever done. Huge potential for embarrassment and a massive undertaking/commitment, in general. But — we banked on the tournament providing strong entertainment value, other SaaS companies seeing it, rightfully, as an opportunity/excuse to promote themselves (rather than Ambition) and something people could interact with, rather than passively take in.

So for virality: My secret recipe would be boldness, risk, clear and present value, delivered in a way that lets the public interact with the content/initiative on a higher level.

  1. Getting Ambition noticed.

To be fair, we had built-in publicity at Ambition, coming out of Y Combinator’s Winter 2014 class. We had two TechCrunch articles in print and a WSJ article in the works when I came on in May 2014. Even still, I did a ton of press outreach my first 9 months at Ambition. Took some time but finally landed a few features in Business Insider, Inc. and the Sporting News. I also wrote a ton of guest editorials for trade and mid-sized publications. Combined, all of that got us some good exposure/validation we could really build on.

Thinking back, the common threads amongst all the pitches that worked were a) avoiding naked self-hype, b) showing Ambition’s unique value to the journalist/publication (example subject line: How [big-name companies] are using a new software to run “fantasy sales” competitions), c) offering an editorial that took a controversial/unique stance (example: I wrote into Information Age with the following pitch: “I want to write a criticism of gamification as an industry insider.”) and so forth.

A non-press example:  We “gamified” the AA-ISP Leadership Summit in Chicago last April. Premise: Same thing as March SaaSness, we wanted to create an interactive competition that incentivized conference attendees to promote us and get people to stop by our booth. We ponied up for a huge prize, set up a scoring system for referrals and booth visits and actually ran the competition on our own software.

During the conference, we screenshot real-time leaderboards and sent updates over social media with the conference hashtag. People took notice and it was far and away the best event we’ve ever sponsored in terms of ROI. Something we’ll definitely be doing again this year.

Jeremy Boudinet  is a passionate marketing leader, writer and full-time hustler. You can find his advocacy for workplace transparency, data-driven performance management and millennial professional growth in Inc., Time, Entrepreneur and the Daily Muse. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.

Ambition is a sales management platform that delivers connectivity, transparency and recognition to drive sales activities & grow revenue.

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