October 12, 2022
Case Study

Organic Marketing Strategy: 3 marketing experiments on organic marketing tactics (get ideas for when your paid marketing gets pricey)


You can buy happiness. At least in the short term. If I bought a Lucid Air Dream Edition today, I’d be pretty darn happy tomorrow.

But over time it would dawn on me that I work from home and could probably find better uses for $169,000 of my money than a luxury electric super sedan.

Your marketing is much the same way. Paid methods can get you results in the short term. But if your long-term strategy relies solely on paid advertising and sponsored posts, then someone else determines your brand’s cost per acquisition, profit margins and, really, its long-term success.

So in this article we report on organic marketing campaigns from your peers to spark your own best thinking for integrating more unpaid tactics into your digital marketing strategy. Read on for marketing experiments from an education company, skincare company, and edtech company.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Organic Marketing Strategy: 3 marketing experiments on organic marketing tactics (get ideas for when your paid marketing gets pricey)

This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

“Focus on the prospect’s ‘want to know,’” Flint McGlaughlin teaches in Call to Action Principles: Four keys to achieving maximum conversion.

This is true for creating an effective CTA. And the lesson is equally true for digital marketing tactics like organic social media marketing, inbound marketing, and other non-paid tactics.

Since these tactics are unpaid (monetarily), information is the currency for generating traffic, brand awareness, and conversions for your business. And information is only a valuable currency when it attracts customers by tapping into their “want to know.”

To give you ideas for growing your audience and conversion with nonpaid efforts, today we bring you three marketing experiments from your peers.

First, an education company that increased conversion with a personalized quiz lead magnet. Then, a skincare company that outperformed Instagram and Facebook advertising with word-of-mouth-marketing. And finally, an education technology company that reduced its reliance on PPC ads by offering free content to naturally generate traffic over time…even though that free content could cannibalize its paid offering.

Quick Case Study #1: Education company increases conversion rate 31% with a personalized quiz lead magnet

The team at EntryLevel generates interest in its courses with lead magnets. For example, its free five-day email courses had a 3.6% conversion rate from free to paid.

Creative Sample #1: Free email course lead magnet for education company

Creative Sample #1: Free email course lead magnet for education company

Its free job search workbooks had a 4.7% conversion rate from free to paid.

Creative Sample #2: Free job search workbook lead magnet for education company

Creative Sample #2: Free job search workbook lead magnet for education company

The team noticed something that gave them an idea for a new type of lead magnet – many users were asking the support team “which course should I take?” So they created a tech career quiz called “Which Tech Career is Right for You?”

The team hypothesized that sending prospects this quiz would save the support team some time and prevent choice paralysis, leading to an increase in conversions.

Quiz logic creation process

Since this quiz is meant to help people decide which of EntryLevel’s tech courses to take, it was designed around the education company’s courses. So the results only included non-coding tech fields: growth marketing, UX design, product management, VC analyst, data analyst, Scrum master, and financial analyst.

“I built out the quiz on Figjam with those results in mind,” said Jennifer Chou, Growth Associate, EntryLevel.

Creative Sample #3: Quiz draft on Figjam

Creative Sample #3: Quiz draft on Figjam

“After getting feedback from my team, I set up the Typeform with conditional logic,” she said.

Creative Sample #4: Conditional logic for quiz in Typeform

Creative Sample #4: Conditional logic for quiz in Typeform

The team wanted to collect additional information about which courses prospective students were interested in, so they used the opportunity to ask people which courses they’d want to take. They also asked for the person’s email and set up an email funnel after the quiz was submitted.

Additionally, there was an optional short-answer question for people to let the education company know anything else they felt was relevant.

Quiz design

The quiz dove right in with the first question – there was no title page or requirement to enter an email address. “We wanted to bring people value immediately, and it was more compelling to quickly answer the question,” Chou said.

Creative Sample #5: Personalized quiz lead magnet, first question

Creative Sample #5: Personalized quiz lead magnet

On the results page, the team ensured the description matched every choice they selected previously on the quiz. This made the experience more personalized.

“Also, due to the Barnum effect, vague descriptions were likely seen as more accurate, leading to a higher chance of signing up for the recommended program,” Chou said.

For example, here is the description for people who were determined to be a best fit for Growth Marketer:

Growth Marketer

Growth Marketers plan, design and run creative growth strategies to make a company grow with new customers and reduce churn.

Your responsibilities include:
- Market and competitor research
- Conducting experiments to help the company grow
- Creating and analyzing effectiveness of marketing funnels (ex. Pirate Metrics framework).

This is a good fit for you because you can be detail-oriented, experimental, and creative. Your curiosity makes you the perfect person to run growth experiments - and analyze how the experiments went

 Learn about Pirate Metrics and more with the EntryLevel Growth Marketing program!

[Button] Become a Growth Marketer

The results specifically mention key terms from the course curriculum to pique curiosity.

The team chose the CTA “Become a Growth Marketer” because it speaks to the audience’s goals – they want to become someone who works in tech, rather than just learn about a topic.

Quiz lead magnet results

The quiz had a 6.2% conversion rate – 31.9% better than the company’s best-performing lead magnet.

Over 6,000 people completed the quiz, all through organic promotion. The completion rate was 78.9%, higher than any other form the team has sent out and they continue to promote it when people ask which course they should take.

“Quizzes are great lead magnets because they feel personalized,” Chou said. “Once someone invests time into answering the questions and identifies with the result, they are more likely to convert. The quiz was a way to show the value of EntryLevel, and how we can help our audience upskill into a tech career they’re passionate about.”

“In essence, it demonstrated how we can help our audience solve a problem they have. We showed them the possibilities and benefits, rather than just talking about it in our landing page copy,” she said.

Quick Case Study #2: Actually being social generates $17k more gross income than paid social media for new and unknown service from a skincare company

Board-licensed esthetician Emily Trampetti has long been looking for ways to help customers achieve their skin goals on their own terms. When she owned her skincare spa in Chicago, she was often frustrated with the limited reach of having a local brick and mortar, but also with the fact that she usually only had 60 minutes with her clients once a month or quarter. This hardly gave her enough time to educate and provide long-term skin guidance and support to her clients.

“There was an opportunity to reach more people and help them achieve their skin goals, but also to help educate them more and guide them on a more consistent schedule and timeline – with better results!” said Emily Trampetti, Founder, Skin Property Virtual Esthetics.

There was also the need from clients she often treated to find more efficient, convenient, and economically valuable ways to maintain their skin over time. So with her expertise, experience and data in hand, she developed a virtual skin coaching program that has now grown to 20 states, Puerto Rico, and Europe.

Before growth started to happen for Tramppeti, the challenge was introducing this new “skin coaching” concept to customers, who are not familiar with the value or experience of this new offering. Usually, awareness tactics like advertising and paid media spots can help with getting the word out, but Trampetti knew that blind advertising may not be worth the money since it was such an unfamiliar space.

However, she felt that once people experienced her program, they would be hooked since it is very much tailored to each individual client and solely focused on customer experience.

So she ran an experiment – pitting paid advertising against a word-of-mouth campaign with her friends, family and network. She theorized that referral would be the most powerful awareness strategy as it offered customers a way to explore new offerings in a trusted way and also helped to better refine value propositions over time as referral customers would help define the program.

Experiment – paid social media versus referral strategy

To test her theory, Trampetti worked with a PR firm to use paid social media ads on Facebook and Instagram to target her key audience demographics over the course of two months. She used two different messaging ads and received over 540 click-throughs and about 40,000 views.

Instagram paid ads:

  • Spent: $100
  • New clients gained: 0
  • Clients retained: 0
  • YTD revenue from referred clients: $0

Facebook Ads:

  • Spent: ~$500
  • New clients gained: 0
  • Clients retained: 0
  • YTD revenue from referred clients: $0

She received no inquiries, subscribers, or new clients from these ads.

On the referral front, Trampetti talked openly about her new offering to many friends and family and even offered a free consultation and membership to a few people so they could experience her new offering through a voucher. She decided to also offer a referral bonus of $25 to $50 in product credit to anyone that referred a new client.

Creative Sample #6: Voucher front

Creative Sample #6: Voucher front

Creative Sample #7: Voucher back

Creative Sample #7: Voucher back

Amount of money spent on referral marketing:

  • Voucher printing $25
  • Voucher shipping $100
  • Referral bonuses: $580
  • Extra time and attention to customers: $0
  • Free consultation fees covered: $0

Trampetti gained 29 new clients from the referral strategy and retained 25 of those clients (86%). Year-to-date gross income from referred clients is $17,048.86.

She also created organic content on Instagram to build awareness – educating about her new offering. From July through September 2022, she reached about 20,000 to 30,000 people each month, and gained seven clients from this Instagram engagement.

Quick Case Study #3: EdTech firm doubles organic traffic in a month through release of free content lessons for students

Sherpa Online (no relation to MarketingSherpa) sells online tutoring from UK teachers and tutors.

As a start-up that is transitioning into SME (small- and medium-size enterprises) territory, Sherpa Online wanted to reduce its reliance on pay-per-click advertising (PPC) to bring new users to its site. The team brainstormed typical content ideas such as backlink outreach, longer-form articles, etc., that could help boost the site’s organic ranking. They worked okay and the site saw improvement, growing organic new users by 3,000 between September 2021 and January 2022.

However, they eventually reached a ceiling due to staff/time constraints and began to plateau over crucial months in the industry.

Upon review in the summer, the team decided to take a different approach and compete with their product offering. They created free lessons for students that students could take on their own schedule as opposed to a paid lesson with a tutor that would act as a loss leader. The team hoped the free lessons would draw new users back to its main site, increase brand awareness, and generate good backlinks.

“The idea had grown from a previous marketing initiative in which we live-streamed free lessons weekly on social media and YouTube,” said James Gurnett, Marketing and Operations Lead, Sherpa Online.

Creative Sample #8: Example of previous live-streamed free lessons for EdTech company

Creative Sample #6: Example of previous live-streamed free lessons for EdTech company

The team created a test project for the GCSE Maths curriculum (General Certificate of Secondary Education…and yes, Maths is supposed to be plural). They created 48 video lessons on 46 topics with the content made by several of the company’s tutors. “[We] hosted each video on YouTube and created a dedicated section of our site to the lessons so we could track interest,” Gurnett said.

Creative Sample #9: Lesson resources page

Creative Sample #7: Lesson resources page

The initial concern was that creating free content students could use as an alternative to their paid offering would drive consumers away from their landing pages, so they added CTAs to each lesson for students to book lessons and contact the tutor for their own session.

The results were better than the team expected. “Two videos broke 10,000 views on YouTube within the first two days,” Gurnett said.

The tutors that created the content saw their number of lesson inquiries grow by 38%. Organic traffic doubled from 7,300 in August 2022 to 14,233 in September 2022.

Related resources

Social Media Marketing: Online organic retailer grows following 600% in 18 months

Inbound Marketing: 15 tactics to help you earn attention organically

Viral Marketing: 7 quick case studies to help you get word-of-mouth and organic attention for your brand

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