How Backstage Uses Parse.ly’s Conversions to Drive Growth

January 03, 2022

Results:

  • 20% Increase in conversions
  • 25% Increase in revenue growth attributable to content marketing
  • 10% savings on ad spend

Before Al Pacino was Al Pacino, he delivered newspapers on Thursdays along Broadway from 42nd Street to 57th Street in New York City, his only real source of income. As a struggling 21-year-old actor looking for his big break, he read the Backstage magazine for tips, advice, and potential roles.

Founded in December 1960 as a weekly tabloid-size newspaper, Backstage became the bible for New York City theater actors navigating the industry. Their editorial content was second-to-none: full of acting secrets, the latest news about the biggest stars, and—most importantly—casting calls and open opportunities.

Fast forward to 2011. A group of entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to make it even easier for modern creative professionals to find open jobs, and to help a rapidly scaling content industry with finding the right talent to staff their projects. What was once solely a print magazine would become a fully-featured online staffing platform for the entire creative industry, from actors and lighting crews to brands and marketing agencies. 

Challenge: Entering a crowded new market

Backstage kept its magazine after expanding to also be an online staffing marketplace, but their ambitions led them to compete on additional fronts. They didn’t want to connect creative professionals for just the media and entertainment industry (where they had industry notoriety). They were thinking bigger. 

From digital trends and consumer behavior, Backstage understood that corporations across all industries needed to accelerate content creation. That meant creating hundreds of touchpoints, for dozens of customer segments, at all stages of the customer lifecycle. 

Backstage’s goal? To become the go-to channel for finding the actors, models, creators, camera operators, production specialists, voiceover artists, and the hundreds of other professionals involved in helping companies (not just studios) create content. 

At the time, corporate America instinctively turned to platforms like Indeed, LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, Upwork, or Fiverr to connect with employees or gig workers. Backstage aimed to change those instincts. 

Al Pacino trusted Backstage—but would the corporate world follow suit?

Backstage's killer advantage: its publishing roots

Backstage had one killer advantage for its push into the new market—content would be crucial to their success, and the brand had five decades of experience making it.

Content serves two main purposes for Backstage. It serves the common purpose that comes to mind when most people think of content, such as blogs, emails, web pages, and other content that is designed to market products, build brand authority, and attract customers.

But content also serves another purpose for Backstage. Because Backstage is a marketplace, content also is their product. This is because of how marketplaces work.

Whether it's houses on Airbnb, meals on Doordash, or video games on Steam, each listing is a collection of words, images, and information—in other words, listings on marketplaces are content. Marketplace users choose from thousands of options based on what they find compelling. And for providing the software and community that forged the connection, the marketplace takes its fee.

For Backstage’s marketplace, a job posting is a piece of content—just as much as Oscars coverage, or how Lin-Manuel Miranda decided to enter film after succeeding on Broadway.

This meant Backstage could take its 50 years of experience creating compelling content and apply the same strategies to its new technology platform.

Is there a gig that’s receiving lots of applications? Maybe that content should appear on the front page. Is there an article blowing up on social media? Maybe that piece gets carefully placed in between the job listings.

By taking a “both” approach, Backstage’s team could maximize the platform’s attention and create a content-driven flywheel where jobs feed editorial and vice versa. Now, all Backstage needed to do was scale its reach to more industries and locations beyond New York City and Los Angeles.

Solution: Scripting the Backstage team to win with content

To succeed, Backstage needed to be able to: 

  • Quickly create, test, measure, and iterate content.
  • Discover what mattered to new customers in different locations and industries. 
  • Systematically try new tactics, promote the winners, and pull funding from the underperformers. 

The sheer requirements for Backstage’s content program in terms of volume, velocity, and results meant that the entire team—not just a few individuals—had to be numbers-driven. They couldn’t be divided into the typical “left-brained, right-brained” camps, with imaginative types handling creativity and analysts handling numbers. It needed to be easy for their creative marketers to become obsessed with outcomes.

This brought the Backstage team to Parse.ly.

Parse.ly Conversions: Key to outcomes-based content marketing

The success of Backstage’s new business model depended on driving key customer actions: job applications, job postings, subscriber signups, checkouts, and employer registrations. Whether it was a new article, an email, or a job posted on their platform, Backstage needed to know which content contributed to those conversion events.

Before signing up for Parse.ly’s Conversions, Backstage’s marketers and creatives struggled to source this critical information. While they could access page views and engaged time fairly easily, those were indirect proxies for the real results they cared about. Unfortunately, tools that went beyond page views and engaged time were tedious to use. It’s no surprise that the marketers defaulted to relying on the data team for answers—a time-consuming, inefficient process.

Critically, Backstage content marketers were blind to what content contributed to conversions before the last touch. They could find out the last content a customer read just before clicking the crucial button, but they didn’t know if the customers also read other jobs or a few articles along the way.

Parse.ly’s Conversions solved all these issues for Backstage and democratized the usage of conversions data from only a couple of analysts to the 30-strong creative team, who could now easily and immediately access data.

Backstage set up reports and alerts to notify the marketing team when particular content made a significant impact. They would then promote that content more heavily—putting more ad dollars behind it, including it in email marketing, creating “round-ups” of the most compelling content, and via on-platform repurposing. Because they were able to identify winners more quickly, and also identify when content became stale, they could nimbly increase and decrease promotional investments for both maximum impact and savings.

Perhaps best of all, because they had proof of what was actually working, the marketers were able to discover which topics to write about for Backstage’s target audiences.

Content marketing driving the business forward

One of the most attractive aspects of Parse.ly’s Conversions is how easy it makes proving the value of content to your business. 

Since Backstage has begun using Parse.ly Conversions, they have seen a 50% increase in new projects year over year. Not only have they added more than 100,000 voice actors to the platform, but they’ve also added production and post-production job opportunities. This makes Backstage the only place you can hire on-camera talent, voiceover talent, production, and post-production—all in the same place and at the same time.

Backstage has also acquired five companies in the last six months and entered new markets, becoming the largest creative staffing platform in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, with continental Europe up next.

Backstage CMO David Grossman attributes much of his team’s success to their ability to make data an essential part of their daily practice through Parse.ly Conversions.

“Data-phobia is a real problem for a lot of teams,” says Grossman. “You need the tool that really will eliminate that fear and make data-driven insights accessible for everyone. The fact is, most analytics platforms are not made for writers, and they’re intimidating. Parse.ly is the tool that makes it fun, simple, easy, and not scary to get data—you want to start using it on a daily basis.”

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