Springboard is a professional development platform offering online courses and mentorship in data, design, coding, and cybersecurity. They have a boot camp that provides training for technical topics like data science with 1:1 mentorship from industry experts.
They wanted to create a sustainable source of leads in particular verticals such as data science and UX design by tracking them with lead magnets like e-books and guides.
My work involved creating, marketing, and distributing that content for data science. The ultimate goal was to accumulate a list of highly qualified leads in data science education and increase enrollments.
Having self-taught a lot of data science, I was in a position to empathize with our target audience and apply a nuanced understanding of what they needed.
I'd written for TechCrunch, Forbes, and Entrepreneur magazine in the past and thrive on technical content in particular. But I’m also an experienced digital marketer, having worked both full-time and as a consultant, often as head of marketing or digital. Combining my knowledge of content creation and distribution channels, I was able to bring a dual focus to this project.
Developing that all-important user empathy, I started by building user personas for Springboard. I was learning exactly what the company was trying to accomplish and what its users wanted.
Research takes several forms but sometimes, as in this case, what I like the most is to interview people. I sourced many interviewees on LinkedIn and GitHub — people looking for resources in the data science space. After a while, people began to recommend others. The idea was to get a sense of what I could create to solve the pain points and fill the gaps.
Many sections of the guide were informed by this research. Once I had an idea of those users and what they wanted, I could take the next step.
For this kind of project, it’s typical to create a physical. We chose an 80-page guide that we wanted to put behind a landing page.
First, we constructed an outline anchored around the pain points I gathered from data science communities. What kind of content would be helpful for them to get a job? The most commonly sought-after topics included what a data scientist does, what a hiring manager looks for, and how to ace technical interview questions.
Some topics, like ‘the day-to-day of a hiring manager’, required more research, which I also took on. I leaned heavily on the Springboard mentors for this kind of information, particularly about the real challenges data scientists face.
I then proceeded to write a series of interrelated chapters. This approach ensured a clean organizational structure and Springboard used it going forward when hiring writers for other guides.
I presented the outline, then the sections themselves for feedback. This feedback didn’t need to be granular but it had to be comprehensive; I wanted to know that the client had reviewed everything. Then came a back and forth to hammer out revisions.
I went through line edits from the founders and project managed and compiled everything. My goal was for them to give them the level of detail they needed to feel comfortable with the product, support it, and approve each aspect of the content.
It took me about a month to write everything and put it all together, then another month to get client feedback and approvals, including on the marketing and branding side.
Though I sometimes subcontract graphic design to somebody I’ve chosen myself, for this project, I worked with the client’s in-house designer.
I had a rough idea of what I wanted for a cover and images to break up the text, so I passed these along to the designer. I sourced another designer on Upwork to create images for us, comparing several styles before settling on one who produced cartoon-like images, as this kind of visual was working well for the company's paid ads at the time.
In order to put the guide out there, we needed a distribution infrastructure. We built a landing page, set up automated emails, and so on. We made sure potential leads could find the site and sign up with no glitches. The landing page variant required some troubleshooting, which we handled.
Then we constructed a replicable template and framework that could be used for further guides, populated with relevant descriptions and creative assets, including a cutout of the ebook title page. This template (linked below) is still used for all Springboard's guide landing pages.
Finally, it was time to decide which distribution channels to use.
We talked to key influencers such as KDNuggets. These are technical publications well-known for serving the data science community. I had generated the e-book with excerpts in mind for these influencers, and when it launched, I talked to them right away about featuring these guest posts along with a link to the book itself. We got a lot of uptake, backlinks, and signups as a result.
We also sent emails around these excerpts to key mailing lists such as Data Elixir, Data Science Weekly, and O'Reilly, who oftentimes included the articles and posts in their newsletters.
The guide generated hundreds of thousands of dollars, a large portion of the revenue from our Data Science Career Track, and around 50,000 leads.
It continues to generate leads and revenue for the company years later. Many of the supporting pieces I wrote around the guide are still up and generating SEO traffic. The work led to sustainable revenue that paid for itself many times over.
I managed to tackle content creation and content distribution all at once on lean resourcing, and in the process, the client learned how the two needed to interrelate.
Since this project was so profitable, with extensive earned media, organic spread, and conversions earned, I've subsequently been hired in various full-time and part-time roles at Springboard over the years. And the approach we took has since been replicated in multiple other course launches.