Hey there! Welcome to the Marketer Of The Month blog!
We recently interviewed Corey Haines for our monthly podcast – ‘Marketer of the Month’! We had some amazing insightful conversations with Corey and here’s what we discussed –
1. How Swipe File is helping copywriters by serving as a source of project inspiration
2. Changing behaviors and meeting the ever-evolving demand for the relevant content
3. Solving lower funnel challenges with 5 Stages of Awareness
4. Creating a foundationally strong marketing strategy in order to survive constant algorithm updates
5. Building a balance between in-house and outsourced content
6. Standing out as a SaaS brand in a competitive market
About our host:
Dr. Saksham Sharda is the Chief Information Officer at Outgrow.co He specializes in data collection, analysis, filtering, and transfer by the means of widgets and applets. Interactive, cultural, and trending widgets designed by him have been featured on TrendHunter, Alibaba, ProductHunt, New York Marketing Association, FactoryBerlin, Digimarcon Silicon Valley, and at The European Affiliate Summit.
About our guest:
Swipe Files – founded by Corey Haines – is a membership website that offers courses, a community, and content to help you become an expert marketer. Through his newsletter, membership community, podcast, and other platforms, Corey curates marketing examples, copywriting assistance, and more. In this episode, we discuss Corey’s five stages of awareness in the customer journey, how he got Swipe Files off the ground, why he went full-time, and a comprehensive plan for succeeding in the SaaS industry.
Swipe File Founder’s Tactical Manual for Achieving Stellar SaaS Success
Saksham Sharda: Hi, everyone, welcome to another episode of Outgrow’s Marketer of the Month. I’m your host, Dr. Saksham Sharda and I’m the creative director at Outgrow.co. And for this episode, we will be speaking with Corey Haines who is the founder of swipefiles.com. Thanks for joining us, Corey.
Corey Haines: Yeah, thanks for having me. It’s an honor.
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The Rapid Fire Round!
Saksham Sharda: So Corey, we’re going to start with a rapid-fire round just to break the ice you get three passes in case you don’t want to answer a question, you can just say pass. But try to keep your answers to one word or one sentence only. Okay?
Corey Haines: Sure.
Saksham Sharda: All right. So the first one, give us a film that you love.
Corey Haines: Jurassic Park.
Saksham Sharda: A concert you’ll never forget?
Corey Haines: I’ve only been to a few. So I’d have to say my first one seeing “One Republic.”
Saksham Sharda: What’s your favorite meal?
Corey Haines: Man, I love a good ravioli.
Saksham Sharda: What’s on your nightstand right now?
Corey Haines: My Kindle.
Saksham Sharda: Give us a snapshot of an ordinary moment in your life that brings you great joy.
Corey Haines: My wife and I have a little kind of habit and routine with our dog where we go and grab coffee together. We live sort of near the downtown area. So we’d like to go and grab a coffee, and take the dog for a walk and it’s always a good part of our day.
Saksham Sharda: What’s your favorite carb: bread, pasta, rice, or potatoes?
Corey Haines: Definitely pasta.
Saksham Sharda: What do the acronyms scuba stands for?
Corey Haines: Scuba?
Saksham Sharda: Like in scuba diver.
Corey Haines: Sometimes coming under ties? Yeah.
Saksham Sharda: That was a great try. How many cups of coffee do you drink per day?
Corey Haines: One.
Saksham Sharda: If everyone in the world had to get married when they reached a certain age, what would that age be?
Corey Haines: 23.
Saksham Sharda: Favourite type of muffin?
Corey Haines: Blueberry.
Saksham Sharda: And the last question is your favorite Netflix show?
Corey Haines: That’s difficult because Netflix changes the shows all the time. But right now my wife and I are loving, ‘Love on the Spectrum’.
Saksham Sharda: Alright!
The Big Questions!
Saksham Sharda: Now going on to the bigger questions, the first one is so would it be safe to say a swipe file is a digital or physical folder in which you keep all of the brilliant marketing ideas you’ve come across over the years?
Corey Haines: Yeah, you hit it right in the head. It’s sort of this industry jargon. You know, this word we use is made up to describe what designers would call a mood board or what no takers would call a commonplace book or zettelkasten. But yeah, a swipe file is a sort of our innate desire to imitate and to learn by seeing what other people do and basically to follow by example. And so in marketing, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, all you need to do is sort of infer and do so based on what’s already working out there. So by collecting a swipe file, and by looking at all these different examples, you can speed up your workflow, you can work from best practices, and you can get better results quicker, just by not having to reinvent everything yourself from scratch and trying to kind of come from first principles. Just use what’s already out there and remix it. It’s an old quote, “everything’s a remix and there’s nothing new under the sun”. Right? And so it’s the same for marketing. Well, why should we always try to be original and authentic? It doesn’t exist.
Saksham Sharda: And how did you come up with this idea? And when did you come up with it? And what are the competitors you look like?
Corey Haines: Yeah, the idea came from my struggles trying to keep a swipe file. So SwipeFile was the SaaS that we created, I also have a site called swipe files. That was originally what I was doing was I was reading this kind of in-depth commentary tear-downs on good marketing sales that I would see out there. So basically break down, step by step. Here’s what I like about this marketing sample, and what you can learn from it. So when I first started swipe files, I think I wrote about 40 in a row every week. And so I was just looking at different landing pages, ads, and emails, breaking them down and publishing the teardowns. And what people kept asking me for was, “Hey, do you just have like a swipe file that I can subscribe to, or that you can share with me that has all these examples?” And so because I became known for being like the swipe file guy, all the time people are like, “Hey, I’m coming with a reactivation email from my eCommerce store. Do you have any good examples that you’ve seen?” And I’m like, let me go through my swipe file, oops, it’s like impossible to find things because it’s just like a Google Drive, or it’s a folder on my desktop, and or there’s a label on my Gmail. So everything’s in different places. And it’s really hard to search and filter. So when I started swipe file, the thought was just to have a single place for your swipe file. Has all the different components that you’d need across saving landing pages, ads, emails, screenshots, billboards, whatever, you can pull a file, and you can save it into your swipe file there. And then you can tag it and organize it in a way that you can find it. So you can use your swipe file later because myself included, but a lot of people I’ve talked to say, “Yeah, I have a swipe file, but I don’t use it or reference it because it’s impossible to find anything useful based on what I’m looking for”. So anyway, that kind of validated the idea for the software, which ended up helping us build a swipe file, which is going very well. We’re seeing in the data, people are using the swipe file finally.
Saksham Sharda: So what all this implies also is that inbound marketing itself necessitates ongoing maintenance to ensure that content is always relevant to customers changing wants and needs. So is there a holistic strategy that can assist in meeting this evolving demand?
Corey Haines: I think for rebuilding a swipe file, and just for keeping up with marketing in general it’s really important to keep tabs on yourself. First and foremost, how do you see yourself changing behaviors? What do you see yourself gravitating towards? What do you see yourself responding to? What catches your attention? What do you find interesting? What are you noticing in the trends that other people are responding to? The really difficult thing about marketing is that no one wants to share the secrets about what works until about a year later. And then you have all the thought leaders and all these people publishing these case studies about a new innovative tactic. But if you want to be cutting edge, you want to be on the frontier of what’s working, you have to be doing it yourself, you have to be inventing it. Otherwise, you’re just waiting for everyone else to publish the case study and then you adopt it and try it for yourself. So you’ll always be behind. And so for me, I always try to keep tabs on, how are the algorithms changing, how are people using their social networks differently, which ones are gaining popularity, and which ones are losing popularity. Whether different strategies that seem to be working or which ones are now just table stakes. Because you take any channel, you take something like Google and SEO, and people have been talking about links are dead, links don’t matter anymore. And for a while you are sort of like, you put that off and I’ll just accept that and push that to the side. And then you realize, no actually Google still uses this. And they probably always will use this as some sort of ranking factor. But what’s cutting edge is maybe something like dynamically testing the search titles that pop up in search results. To get a better click-through rate. If you’re on the first page, if you get a better click-through rate, then you’ll jump from maybe spot five to spot two, or spot number one, right? That’s cutting edge. But that takes someone to go and experiment and try that and then again publish the case study. But you can do that, you can be the one sort of inventing that new tactic they can push the boundaries for it. Or we say channels like TikTok, right? I think a lot of people kind of just put it off that TikTok is for kids. Isn’t that where people make videos of themselves dancing? No, it’s evolved a lot. It has one of the most engaged and largest user bases in the world now. And there are a lot of people using it for a lot of other ways besides just dancing. You’ll pretty much never see that if you create a TikTok account, you start scrolling through things because their discovery feed is amazing and I started learning from you. But you’ll never see people dancing. Now, it’s a lot more storytelling, it’s a lot more business advice, a lot more cool things people find, and a lot of funny stuff. But it’s a lot of really interesting things as well. So always keeping tabs on, have I downloaded TikTok right now, I should look at this, right? Or, you know, what’s up with the searches? I thought it looked different last week when I was looking at the same thing. Interesting! Maybe go look and see if I can look in a trap and see the history of changes in the search results, things like that. If you’re just paying attention to what you see in your own life that can help you keep tabs on changing customer needs and dynamics and just where the industry is going as a whole.
Saksham Sharda: Speaking of secrets that work that people don’t reveal until a year later. What kind of content in your opinion do you think would solve lower funnel challenges?
Corey Haines: So when we’re talking about the lower funnel, what we’re talking about is I like to break it down to the five stages of awareness, which is the customer journey kind of broken down into a couple of different stages of milestones that they hit with new information that they have to work with. And so at first, you start with unaware, which is someone doesn’t know that they have a problem, they have no idea about your product and they’re not even remotely thinking about what your product does. And then you have problem aware, solution aware, product aware and then sort of fully aware, they’ve bought the product, etc, etc. So when we’re talking about the lower funnel, what we’re thinking about is solution awareness and product awareness kind of stages in the customer journey. And at those stages, let’s just take product awareness now. They have a good lay of the land, they looked at competitors, they’ve been doing their research, and they know the things that they’re supposed to be solving pretty intimately well. And they know the potential solutions as well. They’re just not sure which solution is going to be the winner, which one is going to most efficiently or check most of the boxes that they need, depending on their budget, their timeline, their use cases, etc, etc. So that type of content is inherently very product related, it’s actually to be very sales related, because you’re going to be saying, “Hey, here’s how we compare to our competitor. Here’s how we compare to this alternative way of doing things. Instead of building yourself, hiring someone to do this, instead of working with an agency, use our tool”, right? So a lot of that content usually ends up being competitor comparison posts on other publicly available or your website, and ends up being even things like a sales call and a sales deck, maybe a webinar, a free trial for a product, or even just like a free version of a product that you can use on a freemium plan. It depends right, on the industry, on the product, on what the customer is trying to do. But it’s always related to the product and helping the customer make a decision on your product versus another product or alternative.
Saksham Sharda: So what would you think would be the key to standing out as a SaaS brand in particular in a competitive market?
Corey Haines: Well, the key to standing out, if you just think about what it means to stand out, it’s just positioning. And positioning is hard in SaaS. Particularly because software is a complex type of product, right? It’s not as simple as, this vacuum has this feature, and this other vacuum has that feature, or this car is powered by gas, this other car is powered by electric. Software is super complex. It’s about what’s the price per seat, or how much storage, and because I have SSO and all the different feature sets and use cases that you need, the ways that your team would use it. Permissions, and reports, like there’s almost an endless amount of features and different dynamics to the product. And so positioning becomes hard because how do you distill that? All that comparison, all that data, all those stories and things you can point to and say, we’re better in this way. How do you distill that down into a singular message that will first get someone interested in the first place and just give you the time of day to learn about yourself? But second, to decide to purchase your product and to subscribe or sign the contract depending on the pricing level. It’s really hard. I’m a really big fan of April Dunford and her book is awesome. She has a five-step positioning exercise where she takes you through all the different things you need in order to discover your positioning, essentially. But I think it comes down to two things, I think it comes down to first having a hook because you’re not going to be able to distill everything down into one message that just covers everything, that’s exhaustive, that just makes it like fully click, and people just hit subscribe right then and there. But you need something just to loop them to hook them in, that says, “Hey, we do this thing over here differently. And it’s not going to be the single thing that makes you go our way and choose our product. But it’s going to be the single thing that gets you to give us a chance, give us a look that leads you into all the other things that we can tell you about”. For example, some like Savvy Cal one of my consulting clients been with working with Derek for a long time, and we realized that the hook for the positioning of Savvy Cal was this idea of giving people a calendar to book off instead of a list of time slots. It’s a completely different scheduling and calendar paradigm. And people liked that both from the scheduler experience of what they’re handing to someone else to book a time with them, and on how you present it and how you organize your calendar as the schedule is.
Corey Haines: I’ll give another example. Another tool I’m a really big fan of is the user list, it is like an email automation tool for SaaS brands, they’ve gone through a couple of different positioning exercises. But lately, they found a lot of attraction with the hook of company-level data or account-level data, however, you want to describe that. Basically, like multi-user account level data that you can use for email automation. So a lot of email automation tools are stuck in this old world of like, one account one user one email address. But when companies subscribe to products, you might have 50 people on a single account. You don’t want to treat them all as different companies. And you also don’t want to just email one of those users and hope that it’s the right user or the billing user, right? So they have this idea of account level, company level data that you can use for your email automation. So that’s the hook. Right? But that’s not the entire thing. The second part of the equation is all the rest of it, that’s the full positioning story. And that’s going through who is this for? What are they trying to achieve? What are the ways that we can do things better than our competitors? And then how do we map those differentiators to value for the customer at the end of the day? And that’s a long kind of exhaustive exercise. That’s why I’m a really big fan of long exhaustive landing pages because that’s what you need. It’s a complex buying process, and you can’t distill it down into something that can be said in two or three sentences, it normally ends up being, 10, 20, 30 sentences, and even then that’s kind of just scratching the surface, then people are gonna want to start a trial, or get a demo, or see it for themselves, but you have to hook people in. And then you have to back it up with, “hey, they do these things this way and we do these things this other way”. And it’s better because you have something to say. I think a lot of people mess up on the positioning side of things is they talk about features all day long. And that ends up just kind of getting washed out with industry jargon and technical terms that don’t matter. Or people just overemphasize the benefits. And they say we help you make more money. Well, how, with what, right? Every tool and every business should help you either make more money, save more money, or save time. And so if everyone just used benefit-driven copy all the time, we’d all be saying the same things. And no one would have any idea what we did, right? So you have to map the features to the benefits you have to talk about. Here’s what we do and here’s how this helps you.
Saksham Sharda: And in that case, what would be your standpoint on positioning or marketing strategy surviving constant algorithm updates?
Corey Haines: I don’t think the two are related, to be honest. Maybe you can extrapolate a little bit more on what you need and what you mean.
Saksham Sharda: Some marketing strategies on how to survive algorithm updates,
Corey Haines: Yeah, sure. I’m a believer that most of the kind of tried and true marketing strategies like if you have a foundationally, sound marketing strategy, the tactics that you’re using are all sort of what we call white hat. They’re all ethical, they’re all based on first principles and they’re all using basic marketing psychology about hooks and copywriting and ways to convert people. A good risk reversal, calls to action, urgency, you’re showing all the right things, then it should be in theory pretty algorithm change resistant. I think what you see a lot of times in any algorithm change that messes someone’s business up like Google core update, or Twitter algorithm, Facebook algorithm, etc, is that people end up leaning too heavily on one tactic that either built a bunch of illegitimate backlinks, just to kind of game the system. Or they were using a certain type of post and Facebook just decided one day that they didn’t like it anymore. Maybe it was like a video, or maybe it was a podcast, and they just killed it overnight. So I think the key is just to have a foundationally strong marketing strategy. And if you do that, you might kind of get dinged by an algorithm update, or you might not get the same reach, but it’s not just going to plummet overnight because you’re diversified. And because what you’re doing isn’t over-optimizing on something that could change at the whim of just an algorithm update or some sort of change in the way that the social network works. So yeah, I’m a fan of just the basics, the fundamentals, keeping it simple, keeping a white hat. I’ve never known anyone personally who just did things basically and had success, I get hit with some sort of massive downfall and reach engagement, etc. It’s always the kind of like grey hat/ growth hacky kind of tactics that get dinged the most.
Saksham Sharda: So when it does come to like producing content, what kind of a balance do you think a company should maintain between in-house and outsourced content?
Corey Haines: It’s a little bit more of like, whatever your business needs at the moment, and whatever best fits your strategy to get the right content that you want. In some cases, you need to build out a big in-house team that has a lot of expertise that can lean on thought leaders within the company internally to kind of extract data points, opinions, case studies, things like that, maybe it’d be hard for an outside team to do in other cases, and the outside team might be a lot better at gathering quotes, interviewing influencers and thought leaders in the space going out and just being thorough, hiring people who have expertise or authority in the space that you don’t, and that the company can’t provide themselves. And so it’s a little bit more about what is the content need, what’s the best way to get the best content that we possibly can. I’m a fan of hiring in-house, hiring freelancers, and hiring agencies, and a lot of great agencies and great freelancers. And I know lots of great in-house content marketers and directors or content, they’ll have a little bit different strategies, depending on the companies that they work for in the industry needs. For example, I think that kind of businesses that sell to other businesses, especially startups to sell to other startups, it’s a little bit easier to hire any one of those three, because you’re going to be doing a lot of like scraping and gathering, curating, and usually don’t need a lot of industry expertise. So anyone can do it right in-house, freelance or agency, they’re all going through the same thing. But let’s just say you’re working for a company like UiPath, that works in robotics automation, in manufacturing, like, you’re not just going to be able to go and hire a freelancer or hire an in-house marketer to go and write that themselves. The Freelancer would have to hire someone within the company, and the in-house person would have to interview someone within the company or the agency, we need to go and hire a writer who has expertise in robotics, and manufacturing automation, right? I don’t know which one of those passes, gets you the fastest and the best content, but one of those probably will, might not be the one that you thought originally, right? So it’s more just about the industry, the needs, and what gets you the best content.
Saksham Sharda: Okay, the last question for you is what would you be doing in your life if not this?
Corey Haines: I’d probably go in one of two different directions if it wasn’t in software and marketing. I’ve always loved fighter jets. And this is not just because the top came out. But I’ve always thought I would go if I had to go in the military, I would have no problem with the military. I’d want to go into the Air Force, and I want to either fly fighter jets or helicopters. If I wasn’t doing that, I think that I would probably go into something like real estate and do something like flipping, investing, selling something like that.
Saksham Sharda: So real estate or fighter pilot tank, okay.
Corey Haines: Yep.
Saksham Sharda: All right. Thanks, everyone, for joining us for this month’s episode of Outgrow’s Market of the Month. That was Corey Haines who’s the founder of swipefiles.com Thanks for joining us, Corey.
Corey Haines: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Saksham Sharda: Check out their website for more details. And we’ll see you once again next month with another marketer.