How Conversion Barriers Can Actually Improve Customer Retention

Joanna Prospect needs a solution.

After Googling some pertinent keywords, she comes across your site.

The first thing she sees is a CTA pushing her to sign up for a free trial that promises to address her every need.

“This could be the answer to all my problems,” she thinks. She signs up. Fantastic, right?

Actually, you and Joanna might both benefit from slowing things down a little.

If your site is set up to convert prospects from their first visit, Joanna Prospect may miss key bits of knowledge to make the most of your product, or she may try to use your product to solve the wrong problem.

Your website should focus instead on educating prospects, leading them gradually down a path of increasing knowledge.

By taking more time to move a visitor toward conversion in their purchasing journey, companies can decrease customer churn and protect their brand’s image. Let Joanna understand who you are and where she’s headed before asking her to convert.

Hold on. Am I really telling you to put barriers between potential customers and a sale?

Absolutely. Because there’s solid evidence that backs me up.

Mom was Right: Patience Pays

Rand Fishkin of Moz wrote an intriguing post examining how converting a customer too early actually ended up losing Moz some business.

Fishkin found customers who convert on the first few visits to the website had a tendency to leave the solution “early and often,” while customers who visited at least 10 times were more loyal.

Further, those loyalty rates actually increased with the number of times a customer visited the site before converting.

This suggests that developing a brand relationship – largely by educating customers – creates longer-lasting relationships and reduces the costs of churn.

Those initial customers who converted on the first or second visit to the site weren’t properly educated on what Moz’s solution could do for them and how to use it, so they ended up quitting the free trial after a month of mediocre experiences with the product.

Those who had a better understanding of why they had converted were the ones who stuck around.

So, how do you keep your own leads and prospects from converting too early?

Map Those CTAs to Your Funnel Stages

To keep your CTAs thoughtfully and effectively placed, map out each piece of educational content to a stage of your customer’s journey. Then optimize your CTAs with a focus on moving each prospect organically down that pipeline. Let me explain.

The first time a visitor lands on your site, the CTA they experience should be to learn more, not to sign up for a free trial. Airbnb’s front page has an excellent example of a CTA for potential hosts, leading them to a page that answers “how does this work” questions.

airbnb-what-you-can-earn

Identify pieces of your educational content aimed at the top of the funnel, and then design them to answer initial questions and lead the prospect to educate themselves further (with, for example, CTAs to learn more or read additional content).

As a prospect moves through the funnel and seeks more informational content, they’ll begin to trust and rely on your brand’s expertise.

CTAs for middle-of-the-funnel, often before they have signed up for a trial or a sale, content should offer prospective customers substantial ways to cement that reliance. Give them a chance to:

  • sign up for a webinar
  • take a free online course
  • download a white paper
  • read some case studies

On their Sales Cloud page, Salesforce includes video case studies and white paper downloads:

salesforce-case-studies

At the bottom of the funnel, customers will finally encounter your lead generation content. At that point, they should be well educated and primed to convert.

This is where those CTAs for free trials and pricing packages should go.

Remember These Cs: Content Creates Confident Customers

Of course, these CTAs will only be effective if your educational content genuinely answers the questions prospects have along their journey.

To identify what your ideal customers need to know before making a purchase, consider these factors:

  • What do they need to know about your product to get the most benefit out of a free trial or other initial offer? Target your educational content to those topics and keywords.
  • If you run a third-party seller platform, what skills do your providers need to optimize their listings and have success on your platform?
  • If you run a sales CRM, what knowledge do your customers need about forecasting and sales pipelines in order to benefit from your free trial? If you’re not sure, try surveying current satisfied customers.

Great educational content clearly conveys that if prospects have questions, you will reliably provide the answers. This gives them the confidence that when it comes time to try your product, they’ll have support. In the meantime, your educational content is building up the skills and mindset they need to properly use your product.

The website of the sales CRM software Pipedrive is a good example of that. Along with a comprehensive support center, they publish a ton of content to help people become better at sales.

what-is-a-sales-pipeline

In the eyes of your prospects, you’re now head and shoulders over other untested brands.

If you already have a good customer training and onboarding program in place, then you already know the value of educating customers after the purchase.

And once you begin to educate prospects before the sale, you’ll reap the results of conversions who are already loyal to your brand.

About the Author: Becky Krill heads up marketing at SchoolKeep, a modern platform for optimizing full-funnel training operations. You can follow Becky on Twitter @RabeckaKrill.

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Which Matters More: Traffic or Testing?

In recent years, there has been a shift in attention from traffic to testing.

It makes sense, it’s becoming increasingly hard to win at online marketing. In many ways, it seems like the easiest way to get more out of your traffic is by improving site performance.

As exciting as the idea of conversion rate optimization is, though, the question remains:

Which affects your marketing campaign success more-traffic quality or site quality?

It’s an important question to consider. For most marketers, time and resources are limited, which means you need to spend the majority of your time in the areas that produce the best results.

So, if you have to choose between refining your traffic and perfecting your site, which optimization will give you the best bang for your buck?

Running the Numbers

To evaluate how testing and traffic affect your marketing success, let’s run a quick hypothetical.

Traffic

In this scenario, let’s suppose that you are running paid search ads for your business. You’ve got a decent site/landing pages and-on average-you pay $4 per click.

Recently, you spent $20,000 on a new campaign that produced 5,000 clicks.

5k-visitors

That’s a lot of traffic, right?

Unfortunately, there’s a problem. Most of that traffic isn’t actually interested in what you’re selling.

As it turns out, the average paid search account wastes 76% of it’s budget on search terms that never convert. In other words, 76% of paid search ad spend goes towards the wrong traffic.

For you, that means you spent about $15,000 on clicks that have no chance of converting.

Ouch.

They may have accidentally clicked on your ad…or they thought you were selling something different than you actually sell. Maybe you were simply bidding on the wrong keywords.

Thanks to all those irrelevant clicks, only 1,250 of your 5,000 site visitors are actually potential customers.

So, in terms of your relevant traffic, here’s what your ad spend really paid for:

actual-visitors

Hm, that’s not nearly as exciting. You might be paying $4 per click, but you’re actually paying $16 per relevant click.

But still, that’s nothing a little testing can’t take care of, right?

Testing

Now, as a best practice sort of marketer, you ran an A/B test on all of that traffic.

Unfortunately, what you didn’t realize was that you weren’t testing 5,000 visitors. Remember, only 25% of your traffic is actually interested enough to potentially convert.

As a result, you thought you were testing this:

5k-test

When in reality, you were testing this:

relevant-test

That’s unfortunate, but you’ve still got enough traffic to run an effective test.

During your test, you get 100 conversions in your control (variant A in your A/B test) and 120 conversions from your variant (variant B).

relevant-test-results

Sweet! Clearly, your interested traffic responded much better (20% better, to be precise) to your variant.

At $5 per click, you just dropped your cost-per-conversion from $25 to $20.83. The results are statistically significant, so that’s a win, right?

But wait, before you start throwing confetti, remember, you didn’t pay for 1,250 relevant clicks.

You paid for 5,000 clicks.

Here’s what your test population actually looks like:

actual-traffic

All of a sudden, your results don’t seem nearly as exciting:

actual-test-results-1

Your test is still a success. Your conversion rate went up by 20%. However, all the “wrong” traffic you paid for has diluted your conversion rates to 4% and 4.8%.

And here’s the real problem-your shiny, new, optimized cost-per-conversion is $83.33.

$83.33?

But wait a minute, when we were only looking at relevant traffic, the cost-per-conversion for your control was only $25!

That means your “optimized” cost-per-conversion is over 3x what you would have paid if you were only paying for the right traffic-even without testing.

Sure, your test helped reduce your cost-per-conversion, but you can’t fix your traffic by testing your website.

What Happens When You Stop Paying for the Wrong Traffic?

So, if you can’t test your way out of the wrong traffic, what if you stopped paying for those irrelevant clicks?

Well, over the years, we’ve used this tactic countless times for clients.

Here’s what happens:

cost-per-conversion-vs-wasted-ad-spend-570-px

 

As you can see, as you waste less money on the wrong traffic, your cost-per-conversion drops…exponentially.

For this particular client, reducing their wasted ad spend from 91% to 68% cut their cost-per-conversion from $160 to $39.

And it happened in a matter of weeks.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a big believer in the power of testing. However, every successful test starts with the right traffic.

And the Winner Is?

So, traffic or testing…where should you be focusing your efforts?

To be honest, it really depends on where your campaigns are at. If your online marketing is putting the right traffic on your site, a great testing strategy can help you squeeze every last conversion out of your clicks.

However, if you’re like most business, you’re probably wasting most of your budget on the wrong traffic. In this case, dialing in your marketing campaigns will deliver the biggest and fastest results.

Here are 3 things to start with:

  1. Define your audience. Who is the “right” audience? What are their pain points? Do your ads speak to the right pain points?
  2. Review your targeting. Does your targeting match your audience profile? Are you targeting the right demographics?
  3. Use your analytics. Are your clicks producing conversions and sales? Which marketing channels are producing the best results? Do your results justify your spend?

Once your marketing is primarily driving the right traffic to your site, you can then use testing to really optimize your campaign performance.

And, since you’ll be testing the right traffic, your results will be truly meaningful to your business.

Conclusion

Obviously, in a perfect world, you would have the time and resources to work on both traffic and testing. In the real world, though, sometimes you have to prioritize.

Having used both testing and traffic optimization for years to improve marketing performance, I’m definitely a big fan of both. However, testing works best when you are optimizing for the right traffic.

So, if you can only pick one, it makes the most sense to tighten up your traffic…and then start testing.

Traffic or testing-which would you pick? Where do you spend your time and why?

About the Author: Jacob Baadsgaard is the CEO and fearless leader of Disruptive Advertising, an online marketing agency dedicated to using PPC advertising and website optimization to drive sales. His face is as big as his heart and he loves to help businesses achieve their online potential. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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3 Landing Page Mistakes Sabotaging Your ROI

Headlines are critically important.

They’re one of the easiest things to change, and yet they have one of the biggest impacts on whether your landing pages gets read (or converts).

But here’s the problem.

They can’t do it all on their own. And there’s a few things that need to happen properly BEFORE people even get a chance to read your headline.

Otherwise, people aren’t even clicking to your page in the first place.

Here are three of the most common landing page mistakes and how you can fix them.

Mistake #1. Yawn-Worthy Offers

The elements on your landing page are important. They have a direct impact on conversions.

But what’s compelling people to even visit that landing page in the first place?

Another basic free trial, or boring free consultation?

Not likely.

Wordstream analyzed $3 billion in advertising spend to understand what separated the top performers – those cranking out 10%+ conversion rates – from everyone else struggling with an average 1-2% (or less).

It wasn’t because they used green buttons instead of an orange ones.

Instead, it was because they all used a “massively differentiated offer”.

Their initial value proposition was so unique, so interesting, that the same old free trial or consultation couldn’t keep up.

What’s an example?

How about this unexpectedly awesome one from hardware store Lowes:

lowes-landing-page

They provide a complete lawn care maintenance plan with a few clicks of your finger.

By entering only the most basic information, you get customized results for your lawn type and climate in order to maintain a beautiful looking year-round with minimal hassle.

lowes-content

This is a perfect example of a “massively differentiated offer”, because it provides extreme utility (or usefulness) to a customer by solving a pain point in an unexpected but enjoyable way.

Let’s be honest: nobody cares about hardware store tools. (Except depressing old suburban white dudes.)

Lowe’s understands this intimately. So instead, they sell the solution – like a yard in this case, or a hole that you’ll use to hang your family’s picture – and not the tools themselves.

sell-solution-not-tool

PayScale is another one of my favorite examples because on the face of it, their business isn’t very sexy (they provide salary profile database and software). Yet that doesn’t hold them back from pumping out tons of interesting interactive content pieces.

One example includes a guide to compensation plans; a beautifully designed walkthrough that informs while also somehow managing to entertain with a light, casual, friendly tone.

payscale-landing-page

Two very different examples so far, but they share a lot in common. Specifically, they’re both:

  • Useful: Alleviating customer problems with a quick and simple guide or tool.
  • Timeless: The offer isn’t tied to an expiration date, or trending topic that will die out.
  • Mass appeal: Both offers are insanely easy to promote. In other words, people actually care.

Marketing agency IMPACT has created another excellent example with their inbound marketing ROI calculator.

People reading this blog already know all about inbound marketing. However compared to the real world (you know, like the other 95% of the world’s population that doesn’t work in software or marketing), MOST people have no idea what it is (or why it’s beneficial).

That’s why IMPACT’s ROI calculator is so powerful. It instantly distills the primary benefits of all that content work down to few important numbers.

impact-roi-calculator

Pricing with Confidence says the key to getting the price you want, is to sell value through its quantitative benefits. That means showing a positive change in conversions, traffic and potential sales, which should outweigh the costs of your services.

impact-roi-calculator-results

A final example comes from my agency’s client, United Material Handling. On the face of it, they’re another ‘boring’, unspectacular case.

However what they did already have in store was an internal system that scanned every single piece of equipment arriving and leaving their location. That means they knew what they had on hand.

On-hand product availability is one of the primary purchasing motivations for their clients. So we wanted to give that visibility to customers, too.

Directly from their website, customers can now search a real-time inventory system to get an idea of (1) if they have their product sizing, (2) if it’s in stock, and (3) what a cost estimate might look like – based on quality.

united-material-handling-landing-page

The common thread throughout all of these examples is to:

  1. Identify what makes the company truly unique. What do you have that no one else does? Whether that’s data, creative resources, technology, or whatever.
  2. How can you package that in an interactive way that enhances the experience and usefulness. For example, using data to create beautiful infographics like PayScale does is a much better use than just expecting people to wade through endless Excel workbooks.

An interesting offer, while the first step towards giving people a reason to care, is just the beginning.

The next mistake is another that’s all-too-common, yet rarely talked about.

And that’s a shame, considering it’s one of the primary reasons 74% of people leave your website within five seconds.

Mistake #2. Sluggish Page Loading Times

It doesn’t matter how good your headline is, if people don’t stick around long enough to read it.

People equate page loads with usability in most cases.

And they’re right. But it affects much more than just people’s opinions.

It’s one of the primary reasons people leave your website, with an estimated 50% leaving if it’s not up within only three seconds.

It negatively affects conversions. Meaning lost revenue.

And it negatively affects SEO. Meaning less visibility.

The first step is always acceptance.

If you’re relatively tech-savvy, you can pull up Pingdom to get a complete reading of your site.

If you’re less so, Google also provides an excellent, easy to use option that will give you a breakdown of speed issues holding you back (along with a few simple tips to fix each one).

pagespeed-insights

Many times you’ll experience poor page loading due to bad code. ‘Bloated code‘ full of extra (or simply bad) stuff can require significantly more resources.

In any case, fire your developer.

Just kidding. In fact, it might not be their fault. Remember that awesome slider (sarcasm) you and the other department heads LOVED. They’re notoriously terrible for usability, conversions, and you guessed it – speed.

rotating-homepage-slider-memeImage Source

One of the most common speed issues we see deals with images.

They’re too big. There’s too many of them. Their file size is 3GB each even though it’s only being used for a 150x150px box.

In theory, you should crop and scale each and every single photo for the exact space it’s going to fit on your website. But at the very least, you should also compress them with a tool like Compressio.io or a WordPress plugin like WP Smush.

wp-smush-wordpress-plugin

(Don’t even get me started on video. Just use Wistia already.)

Last but definitely not least, get off Bluehost. Seriously. It sucks.

No matter what all those hippy self-help bloggers try to tell you. (It ain’t a surprise that they also pay out $5 million to affiliates in a year.)

The best optimized website on a terrible server will still be slow. Which means saving a few bucks on cheap hosting will almost definitely cost you more in the long run due to lost search visibility or lost sales.

Especially if you’re running on WordPress, which while awesome, still needs some tweaks. If you aren’t a server admin black belt, just let someone else manage it like Pagely or WPengine.

Mistake #3. Cluttered, Confusing Design

50 milliseconds.

That’s the time it takes for a Lamborghini Aventador to switch gears (fun fact!).

It’s also the time it takes for people to form a first impression of your website, leading to them staying or bouncing.

The bulk of that split-second decision is decided on, you guessed it, your design (a whopping 94% of the time).

The key to providing a happy first experience in those first few critical moments is to not make people think. Each landing page should be clean, simple, and clearly organized to help visitors immediately understand where everything else and how to navigate around.

Start with the experts to get those creative juices flowing. Go check out Unbounce’s landing page templates to get some basic layout inspirations for how yours should look.

For example, here’s a random one that follows this clean and simple approach.

hommse-landing-page

There’s no navigation listed to distract users from navigating to additional pages. There’s only one primary CTA button that’s big and bold. There’s also a simple, clean services section to help support whatever the page is about.

Another place to get ideas is Themeforest’s landing page section. Look up the best sellers in the last 12 months to see the cream of the crop.

For example, under their RGen landing page product is this event page:

rgenesis-landing-page

Again you see some good design principles in action. The CTA form has a different colored background to help draw your eye line. There’s a big, bold headline section with a countdown timer underneath to create urgency. And there’s a logo section at the bottom where you could add credibility-boosting partners, or highlight sponsors of the event.

The important thing to note here is that they’ve expertly used the colors and layout to give you a visual hierarchy of where your attention should go first: (1) CTA first, (2) then headline with countdown before (3) finally the logos on the bottom.

Designers who excel at print, even big-budget ad campaigns or magazines, are average web designers at best.

The reason being? The web is an interactive medium, where design = function, not art.

Here’s another example from the aforementioned United Material Handling, this time with an emphasis on how design tells the user what to do next.

hilti-landing-page

Breadcrumbs help visitors figure out how they got here (in other words, where in the website’s organization they’re at currently). The product option dropdowns feature different shading that’s more subtle than the CTA’s. And even though there are two CTA’s with the same color, the size, style and placement help you tell which is the primary and which is the secondary.

If website visitors make up their minds about your site within 50 milliseconds of landing on page, they literally don’t even have time to think, analyze, or hunt for information. Because if it takes much longer than that, they’re gone.

Conclusion

The individual elements on a landing page can influence conversions.

But A/B testing the color of a button is irrelevant if visitors aren’t even getting to your page or leaving after just a few fractions of a second.

You need a differentiated offer to compel people to click in the first place. Your page loading times need to be instant so people stick around. And your overall page layout needs to be cleanly organized so that visitors immediately know what they’re supposed to do.

Fix those things first, making sure that you’re getting visitors coming in droves and sticking around long enough to read what’s on each page, before obsessing too much over your headlines, hero images, or CTAs.

About the Author: Brad Smith is a founding partner at Codeless Interactive, a digital agency specializing in creating personalized customer experiences. Brad’s blog also features more marketing thoughts, opinions and the occasional insight.

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Which Marketing Channels Deliver the Biggest Impact on ROI?

A new report released by eConsultancy, in collaboration with Oracle Marketing Cloud, has revealed precisely which channels marketers feel deliver the biggest impacts on their return on investment, and how they bring those priorities to light within their respective teams and companies.

If your efforts to squeeze relevance out of marketing initiatives leaves you feeling frustrated and confused – it turns out you are not alone.  So which channels were the most worthwhile, and what efforts should you be investing more time and money into?  Let’s take a closer look:

The Big ROI Catch-22

Not surprisingly, the report noted that the biggest roadblock to bigger investments in digital marketing was, simply, budget constraints.  Staff constraints followed second, as did company culture and an inability to measure ROI. The report itself asked the question, “Is the culture of ROI stifling innovation?”

This creates an interesting catch-22 in that if you cannot accurately measure your ROI, you can’t provide the proof management wants.  And without proof, you don’t get an increased budget to work with.  So which channels deliver the kind of proof you need? Here are the results:

Marketing With Confidence

ROI-channels

Marketers rate their confidence in measuring ROI from different types of digital channels

Looking carefully at this chart, you’ll see why there’s such a disconnect between marketing investment and marketing results:  paid search was the only channel where at least 50% of respondents noted that they felt “good” about ROI measurement. Other channels, including email marketing for acquisition, and email marketing for engagement and retention came close, but as the report notes, only a handful of companies would rate their confidence as “good” in these areas.

Note the considerable drop-off after this point – automation, analytics, even content marketing takes a notable hit here.

What’s Causing the Drop?

confidence

As much as we embrace and encourage the use of many of these marketing channels, it’s clear that marketers are struggling to take the information they collect and turn it into actionable insights that have marked results in their campaigns.  According to the report, there are three main factors contributing to such a steep decline in measuring ROI confidence:

Budget Plans

If you’re thinking budget woes stem from a tight squeeze on marketing spending (on account of a lack of provable, measurable results), that’s not quite the whole picture. Nearly 75% of respondents on both the client and supply sides expected their digital marketing technology spending to increase.

However, a little over half of those same respondents acknowledged that it was easier to get executive buy-in and support to increase those budgets. This means there’s still quite a bit of work to do to convince the board room that these efforts are simply stepping stones toward the bigger picture of measurable results that they’re seeking.

The Customer Experience

There’s a lot of talk in marketing circles about “the customer experience” – but just how much of an impact does it have on spending? As it turns out – a lot.  Making sure the customer experience is seamless across all channels is an area of significant focus for marketing, sales and customer service teams alike, and having consistent, measurable results are at the core of marketing technology investments.

Because so much is being funneled into measuring and realizing the customer experience, precious little of the budget can be afforded to try more innovative and untested strategies.  More money is going toward acquisition efforts than engagement and retention, although as other studies have shown, this may very well be an exercise in focusing too much on quantity versus quality.

Company Culture and a Focus on ROI

And with so much of a focus on only measurable strategies with quantifiable results, innovation is hurting as well.  Only 35% of those surveyed agreed that they reserved a portion of their marketing budgets for more maverick, untested strategies – a sharp downturn from the 46-37% range from previous few years.

That being said, budgets are increasing not only in customer acquisition and lead generation, but also in other areas as well – namely email engagement and retention, acquisition over social media and data management.

And speaking of year-to-year differences, if you think they don’t matter much in the long term – I have some surprising news.  There were quite a few significant changes from 2015’s ROI confidence metrics compared to now:

What a Difference a Year Makes

EconsultancyOracle-Change-in-Ability-to-Measure-Digital-ROI-May2016

Marketers had a very different view of ROI confidence among specific channels in 2015

Look at the marked decrease in organic SEO.  With paid search as one of the consistent ROI confidence forerunners, it makes sense that natural search is slipping. Considering that search engine algorithms and updates become more and more complex, creating tools and platforms to accurately measure them has become harder and harder.

But also note the increases in areas such as email marketing, affiliate marketing and automation.  Our tools for measuring the “people side” (as opposed to the algorithm side) of things are becoming more intuitive.  The focus goes back to the customer experience, coming full circle in giving managers and other top level executives the measurability they crave while investing in a marketing plan built for consumers, not robots.

Getting the Proof You Need

So the question then becomes “how do we get measurable proof of ROI in campaigns if we don’t have tools to measure it?” After all, everything from investments to innovation hinges on those numbers. So even if the campaign platform itself falls short in giving you the tools you need to dig deeper, you still have a secret weapon on your side: Kissmetrics.

By using Kissmetrics, you can track multiple types of marketing campaigns and gauge their effectiveness accordingly. Kissmetrics intelligently segments customers into different channels,  which tracks visitors based on where they came from (social campaigns, pay-per-click channels, organic search and more). Not only does this show you which areas are worth your attention and spending, but also distinguishes between where traffic is coming from versus where customers are coming from – and that’s an important distinction. What’s more, you can track these same users across the customer journey – from the moment they become acquainted to your service until they complete checkout – and beyond.

ecommerce-funnel-channel-segmentation-kissmetrics-1024x730

This way, you get a clearer view of which type of marketing results in the greatest impact on revenues and conversion rates.  But that’s only scratching the surface. You need to know which campaigns, not just referrers, deliver the biggest bang for the buck.  By using UTM codes in your URL tracking, Kissmetrics can show you that too. You’ll be able to see, for example:

  • Which paid campaigns (right down to the keywords used) bright you the most sales
  • The LTV (lifetime value) of a customer coming from a paid campaign versus an organic search
  • Which products get the most shares on social media versus ones which result in sales (the two can have widely different results!)
  • Whether or not your PDF lead generation campaign leads to a sale (yes, UTMs can be used to track referrals that have downloaded a PDF too)

revenue-report-seven-campaigns-kissmetrics

Gauging the total revenue, average revenue/customer and the lifetime value of customers from the Kissmetrics channel property dashboard

So if you’ve been struggling to wring measurable ROI out of things like social media campaigns, these kind of reports can deliver the insights you’ve been looking for, along with the concrete numbers beloved by the boardroom.

Moving Forward with Confidence

With all this talk of marketing investment, return-in-investment, budget buy-in and confidence, you could say that a great deal of stress in trying to “prove” the best outlets for spending is putting increased pressure on today’s marketing teams.  That being said, however, our focus is shifting more toward measurable results as they relate to people, not programs – paving the way for more insightful tools that help us unlock a bit more of buyer behavior as we continue to map the customer journey.

But as marketers reading about marketing spending and measurement, we’d like to hear what you think.  In your own experience, have you found the findings noted here to be true for your own work? Or do you feel that the end goal as to what constitutes “measurable” is constantly being moved? We’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts, so why not share with us in the comments below?

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today! Follow @sherice on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ for more articles like this!

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Use These Four Pillars to Earn Your Customers’ Loyalty

Everybody wants loyalty, but not everybody is willing to do what it takes to get it.

Many business owners forget that behind the computer screen is a real, living (and selfish) human being who thinks he or she deserves all the attention in the world and, if you don’t provide it, they’ll bury your brand in the “forgotten businesses graveyard” in less than a New York minute.

There’s way too much competition out there to think your customers will remain loyal forever. Forget it. If you neglect them, they’ll throw you away.

As a die-hard online shopper, here’s the very first piece of advice I can give you:

Customer loyalty isn’t a purchasable commodity. It’s a present – you can’t force it, but only earn it. That said, here are four psychological triggers that will help you earn that loyalty.

1. Stand For Something

Did you know that people aren’t loyal to companies at all?

No. They’re loyal to what the company stands for.

A popular example is TOMS – also known as “The One For One Company.” They built their entire organization based on the mantra “What if your shoes can make someone better?” which means that, for every purchase you make on their store, TOMS will help a person in need.

toms-shoes-homepage

One for one – they say.

Tell me. What kind of person would resist to that kind of message? This perfectly explains TOMS’ insanely fast growth.

And TOMS isn’t alone, mention a popular brand, and I’ll see a good positioning strategy behind it. Take Apple as another example. If you read between the lines, you’ll find that they stand for simplicity, innovation, and perfection.

Every single successful company STANDS FOR SOMETHING.

If you want to ingrain in your customers’ minds and stick in there, you need to find something to stand for…or better said…something your audience will want to stand for, too.

Now the question is: How can YOU find what your brand stands for?

To help you start off on the right foot, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • What do you do? – every single company on the planet knows what they do. If you’re a Marketing agency, you help businesses make more money; if you run a pet supplies store, you help people keep their pets clean and healthy; if you offer a CRM solution, you help companies organize and manage their customer relationships. To find what your brand stands for, you need to know exactly what your brand’s mission is, first.
  • How do you do it? – What do you do different from other companies? What differentiates your brand from your competitors? What’s your Unique Selling Proposition?
  • Why do you do it? – this is the crucial question. And I’m not talking about money. I mean, why do you do what you do? What’s your purpose? What are your values as an organization? Why does your brand EXIST in the first place? And more importantly, why should anyone care? By answering these questions, you’ll find what your company stands for.

Note: These questions are based on Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. I highly recommend that you watch his TED talk to understand this concept. It’s vital for your business.

2. Understand the Human Element

As I mentioned in the opening, every visitor you get is a real human, not just a number in your Analytics software. Understand this concept, and you won’t go far wrong.

This is the BIG advantage brick-and-mortar businesses have over online companies – they can interact with their buyers face to face. And this kind of interaction increases loyalty.

Just think about the reasons you come back to your favorite restaurant or store over and over again. Having dozens of different options, why do you choose the same places?

The answer is very simple: It’s because the experience you have when visiting them. You feel very human, don’t you?

Well, online experiences shouldn’t be different.

Although you can’t literally provide that face-to-face interaction to your visitors, you can make them feel very human.

For example, Trunk Club – a premium clothing online store – has improved their unboxing experience in a very clever way.

Instead of sending your order in a typical carton box, they send it in a beautifully-crafted, personalized package – and, when you see it, you feel very special; you feel that the company actually cares about you.

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This kind of actions give Trunk Club the “human touch” every brand needs to increase loyalty. Just look at their loyal customers singing their praises on Twitter:

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The bottom line is this:

Instead of just following the crowd and all the boring, recommended business practices, you need to remember that your customers are human, and, therefore, your brand needs to be human, too.

3. Desire to Belong

Let me ask you a question:

Why do people own a Mercedes?

Do you think it’s because its amazing hydraulic suspension system, the premium painting, or even its leather seats?

No way! Cheaper cars offer very competitive features. Why would people spend thousands of extra dollars to buy something that’s just slightly better than other cars? Well, it’s simple. They want status. Believe me, people will do crazy things to keep their status “intact” – like spending their hard-earned money on expensive, yet unnecessary items.

This behavior is called “Conspicuous Consumption,” which refers to the display of wealth for the purpose of acquiring or maintaining status or prestige.

Now you might be thinking:

“Great! But, how can I apply this into my business?”

I’m glad you asked. By labeling your audience, you’re able to trigger this strange, yet powerful desire and use it to your advantage.

Here’s what I mean:

A few years ago, an experiment revealed that people do like being labeled as long as it implies some kind of superior characteristic.

For example, when Volvo discovered that its customer base had one of the highest educational levels within the car manufacturing industry, they immediately publicized the fact. Surprisingly, a few years later, when Volvo conducted the survey again, that percentage increased.

This was caused because other highly educated people wanted to be part of the group of “smart Volvo owners.”

Copyblogger applies something similar on its famous “Internet Marketing For Smart People” Ebook. The simple fact they include the word “smart” entices more people to download it.

internet-marketing-for-smart-people

Remember, people do like to be labeled and, as a marketer, your task is to awaken that inner desire of belonging in your audience.

Do it, and they’ll remain loyal for a long time.

4. Keep It Simple

The other day, I stumbled upon two astonishing facts:

  • 81% of consumers admit that it is frustrating dealing with a company that does not make it easy to do business with them.
  • 86% of potential buyers are more likely to make a purchase with brands that simplify the customer journey, according to Harvard Business Review.

Said simpler: Nobody likes complicated stuff. Period.

Sadly, most companies do just that. In hopes of “impressing” their audience, they complicate everything – they use fancy verbiage, complicated business concepts, and even tricky products.

On the other hand, savvier brands ALWAYS simplify the path.

Dollar Shave Club is the perfect example – they simplified the annoying, tedious task of getting out of your comfortable house to buy a new razor. For only $1 per month, they’ll ship 2 stainless steel blades and 5 cartridges to your home every 30 days.

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Simple, don’t you think?

Kissmetrics itself applies this principle, too. They understand that managing and interpreting data in Google Analytics can be complicated. So they simplified the process by allowing our users to track people, not only pageviews. Also, Kissmetrics allows you to segment your audience based on users behavior. This way, you can track and retain your best customers.

As a matter of fact (and in case you didn’t know it), the “kiss” in the Kissmetrics name stands for “Keep it simple software.”

We’re all about simplicity.

Remember, NOBODY will ever complain about that your brand, product, or process is too simple.

Over to you…

Here’s one last stat:

According to the authors of Loyalty Myths, it costs five times more to acquire a customer than to retain a customer.

The bottom line?

Loyalty pays off. And now you have four ways to get it from your customers.

But it’s over to you.

Anyways, what are some other tips you can share about the topic? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

About the Author: Josue Valles is a content marketing evangelist, strategist and die-hard entrepreneur. He constantly blogs about Inbound Marketing, SEO and Social Media Marketing at Engagebit. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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How to Structure Content Marketing Campaigns That Actually Increase Demand

We’ve all been there. Crafting more and more content, but not seeing the return that we imagined after reading all of those “Content is King!” posts that seem to spam our marketing resource sites.

Create more landing pages, post more blogs, share more on social, write an eBook (or two), host a webinar, do some co-marketing-trust me when I say, my team and I have tried it all. And want to know a secret? None of it worked, at least not the way that we needed it to.

That’s when we realized that we needed to re-evaluate what content marketing meant to us, and how we could warp that definition to help increase our demand and drive higher-quality leads.

Here’s what we found, what worked, and how you can start to make changes that will take your strategies to the same place.

Not All Markets Are Created Equal

This may seem self-explanatory, but it’s true. Not all markets are created equal-so why would all strategies be identical? That’s where market research comes into play.

When we first began utilizing content marketing strategies, we were honestly just throwing assets at the wall, hoping something would stick. Obviously, that doesn’t work well, and it didn’t work well for us. That’s when we decided to take a step back and actually ask ourselves who is our audience, and what do we expect them to do.

First, who is our audience?

To answer this question, we did one thing: we looked at the data. This is marketing, right? We have to be data-driven in order to be successful, so this was a natural place to begin our content marketing campaign.

survey-formWe used a form to create and distribute a survey to a number of active customers and prospects in order to gather persona data.

As a web form and data collection solution, we had the perfect tools at our disposal to do just that. So, we created some forms-and used data previously collected from pre-existing forms.

We were looking for a few things. First, what types of organizations were reaching out to us organically? Meaning, which types of organizations were naturally finding and pursuing us, without much “effort” on our end. Answering this question showed us our natural strengths, and began to illuminate the markets that we were thriving in, which ultimately showed us the markets that we were failing in as well.

Second, we looked at who from those organizations was our primary contact. As a SaaS organization, it is critical to us to reach team members at certain levels in target organizations. So, by reviewing the titles of the contacts we had acquired, we were able to see how effectively we were reaching the right people, rather than simply focusing on whether we were reaching the right organizations.

With the data in hand, we were able to create target personas. We based these personas on the examples of our target market that we were effectively reaching, as well as those that we knew we needed to begin to reach more effectively. We gave these personas a face, name, background, and title.

buyer-persona-profileThis is a sampling of a portion of the persona profiles we created. Our complete personas also included a name, needs, interests and more.

Quality over Quantity

Once we understood who we were targeting (and who we needed to be targeting more effectively), we started to talk about the content.

What’s funny is that content marketing carries a misnomer that the content is the shining star-but it’s not. At least not if you want to create a campaign that actually increases your demand and adds to your bottom line.

The first thing we, as a team, had to do to change the trajectory of our content marketing campaigns was to re-learn the meaning of “content marketing.”

Historically, we (like many others) had seen content marketing as a modge-podge of different content-oriented assets all thrown together to keep our readers or casual visitors busy and engaged. But, we were missing the strategy.

Our content was confusing-and not to mention all over the place. And our user experience and content-assisted conversions were suffering greatly.

This is where the personas came back into play. Armed with tangible understandings of who we were trying to reach, we re-imagined the content that they would each, independently and jointly, find useful and valuable.

We took a look at our analytics and noted the types of topics that were receiving the highest traffic, and then referenced that with our automation platform’s data regarding our prospect behaviors.

page-path-levels-google-analyticsBy looking at our traffic, we found that our enterprise audience was particularly interested in web form design and best practices.

And then we started chopping. Topics that didn’t make sense to our target’s agenda, assets that were seeing little to no traffic, and posts that seemed to come and go like ships in the night were all cut. Because why spend time and money creating assets that don’t drive demand?

From here, we started building our new strategy, using only the specific verticals and assets that we had identified as valuable to our personified targets.

Revisit the Data

At this point, we had a new strategy, specifically targeting our unique personas, and only utilizing assets that we had determined as valuable to these individuals.

Now, six months ago I would have told you that we were done, and that-in a nutshell- that was how to build a content marketing campaign. But today, we know better. After all of that research, testing, and deployment, it was time to revisit the data.

In order to have any successful campaign across any organizational vertical, you have to revisit the data to truly understand your strategy’s effectiveness. In this case, the most telling analytics for most content marketing campaigns are traffic, form conversion, conversation, and download history.

traffic-conversion-metricsDuring our testing, we saw a 90% increase in traffic, 80% increase in form conversion, 85% increase in downloads, and 95% increase in content driven conversions.

Build From the Foundation

Once we had pulled all of the relevant analytics, we determined which assets were performing best. We did this by reviewing the data points discussed above (traffic, form conversion, download history, and social conversation), and hand picking the assets that stood out above the rest.

For instance, we saw an increase of traffic and social sharing around certain web form tips and best practices. This told us that this topics was especially relevant to our audience, and allowed us to narrow our focus and strategically target this vertical moving forward.

This testing and evaluating process reaffirmed our original findings, and helped us to craft a complete story for our audience, all surrounding the topics, assets, and conversations that they had told us they were interested in.

We found that our enterprise-level customers were highly influenced by these best practices and integration conversations. So, when seeking to create campaigns specific to that personified target, we elevated those topics to create numerous assets that helped draw that consumer into our funnel.

Which, needless to say, led to a higher demand for our content, and ultimately our product.

Conclusion

Here is where we are today. We understand our target, we know what they like, what helps them to make an informed buying decision, and what keeps them engaged with our brand online.

We are constantly re-evaluating our assets, and testing our strategies to ensure that we don’t lose track of the foundation for our growth. And most importantly? We aren’t afraid to stop it all and start over again-and you shouldn’t be either.

By taking your content marketing strategies and ripping them to their core, you will find that you are creating a stronger, more effective foundation of content that will not only increase your demand, but also strengthen your brand online.

So there you have it. That’s how our team changed the way we looked at content, and ultimately increased our demand through strategically targeting our consumers. What about you? Has your team tried any data-driven content marketing tactics? I’d love to hear about them below!

About the author: Ashley McAlpin is the Demand Marketing Manager for FormAssembly, a web form and data collection solution. Ashley specializes in content marketing, conversion optimization and demand generation. Join the conversation by following her at @FormAssembly and @McAlpinCreative.

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Analytics Anxiety? Never Again with this Simple Framework

Pouring over big data isn’t the goal.

Instead, analytics are supposed to give us a way to find out where the bottlenecks or gaps are occurring, and how to best prioritize our next move (allocating resources appropriately to get the job done).

Data, by itself, is meaningless.

It gets worse with added complexity, in a world where there’s no shortage of datavomiting dashboards in most startups and executive HIPPO offices.

Problem is, tracking hundreds of KPI’s can quickly become overwhelming (at best) or completely baffling (at worst).

You can’t figure out where to start, or what to prioritize when faced with analysis paralysis.

Here’s how to keep things simple, with the help of an old school copywriting framework, to keep the focus on action (instead of reporting).

The Pernicious Problem with Analytics

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Data lies.

Not always intentionally, but it can be bent or molded to offer up compelling narratives.

Any hockey-stick looking graph can plucked from obscurity to be used to WOW clients, impress bosses, and even silence your own inner chatter.

If that inherent bias ain’t bad enough, raw data doesn’t always give you the full picture of an activity.

For example, what’s the value of this very blog you’re reading?

Is it ‘thought leadership’? ‘Brand awareness’?

Cool. How can you justify it, put a value on it, and sell it to said bosses or clients?

Compare it to say, AdWords. THAT’S easy to sell. People look for something specific. They click and convert. Almost immediately.

What’s the ROI of responding to angry customers on Facebook? Good luck.

Point is, data doesn’t always provide the full picture.

Not taking into account these things, while over prioritizing others, can be a recipe for disaster.

Fortunately, there’s a simple way you can start solving this problem. And it comes from an unlikely source: copywriting.

What Copywriting Can Teach You About Analytics

Good, old fashioned direct response copywriting has been around since the 60s.

For over 50 years since, your mailbox has been chock full of crap you don’t need wrapped in clever, hyperbolic language.

Despite that malicious use, there is a simple copywriting ethos useful for outlining a set of activities that lead strangers to become customers.

AIDA: or Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.

The idea is that you need to start by grabbing people’s attention, slowly build interest by developing trust, which creates an internal desire to obtain the solution your widget solves, before finally taking action to fix the problem or gain the solution.

When applied in the context of site analytics, it represents a simple sales funnel (or dare I say, customer journey), where the goal is to build brand awareness, keep people on-site longer to develop trust, leading to the small commitments that eventually lead to bigger ones.

Here’s how that looks in plain english:

  • Attention: People coming to your website, from first-time visitors to repeat ones.
  • Interest: People sticking around, reading blog posts, diving deeper into services pages, and more.
  • Desire: People converting on useful events or ‘micro-conversions’ that lead to sales.
  • Action: People giving you their credit card to become a customer, or giving you their information to become a sales-ready lead.

Now that you have a place to start, let’s see how to set this thing up.

How to Get Started Using AIDA Analytics

Dave McClure’s Startup Metrics for Pirates is an excellent framework that espouses selecting a few metrics (in favor of gigantic dashboards) to focus your attention.

Selecting one or two (read: a few) actionable metrics for each can give you a rough idea of how you’re doing, and where you’re falling short.

The focus is on the big picture, which should make it easier to know where to start or focus your limited resources for maximum effect.

And then from there, you can always dive deeper into the weeds too.

attention-interest-desire-action-analytics

For example:

  • Attention: Visits / Sources gives you an indication of how well your marketing channels stack up, and how well your promotional efforts are performing.
  • Interest: Repeat Visits or Pages/Visit lets you know if people are digging your stuff, interested to learn more. Or if they’re bouncing immediately after getting to your site.
  • Desire: Micro-conversions like subscribers are useful in obtaining small commitments from people, gaining permission to continue nurturing those leads over the long term.
  • Action: At the end of the day, you’re doing this for products purchased or sales ready leads.

Setting up a basic dashboard for these actionable metrics takes literally seconds.

In Google Analytics, create a new dashboard and get started by clicking Add a Widget.

Up pops a few options to choose from. For example, the basic metric option will show you just that: a number. While a timeline, table, or pie will give you a more complex figure that allows you to compare and contrast different elements.

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Adding up a few of these widgets should give you a simple dashboard so you can see actionable metrics at a glance. You can even kinda align them in funnel or journey format, from left to right, so that it logically makes sense when viewing from afar.

aida-google-analytics

Kissmetrics will obviously also do this (and much more), allowing you to instrument events based on your unique funnel steps. An additionally nice feature is that it will highlight conversion steps in between too, so that you can immediately see how many people might be progressing from one ‘stage’ (like Attention) to another (like Interest).

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Starting with a simple framework like AIDA can simplify your life. But the real value will be in digging deeper to glean insights over time.

Here’s how.

How to Glean Insights from Your Simple Analytics

A simple analytical framework, like the copywriting AIDA in this case, helps add context to raw data.

It also keeps your focus on the important things that affect your bottom line, like a few key Marketing KPI’s and the Business Metrics those influence. That way you don’t get sidetracked worrying about or overanalyzing vanity metrics like links, rankings or press mentions (which tend to be more Leading Indicators anyway).

Then, you can begin to glean insight from this data by comparing results over time.

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For example, look at your own historical trends over the past period or prior year to rule out seasonality for cyclical businesses.

What are the patterns? Is your performance in certain areas worthy of the budgeted resources? Or were your goals and objectives a little too ambitious to begin with?

Viewing data in context like this also helps you spot interesting tidbits of information that you weren’t previously privy to, and should explore further.

Like, “Oh hey, look at how much more engagement we get from Facebook users. Maybe Facebook doesn’t suck so bad after all”.

visits-sources-google-analytics

Expecting the same conversions from Facebook as Google AdWords may not be logical.

Facebook (and social media) is serendipitous, meaning people find stuff by luck, chance, or timing. Compare that to AdWords, where it’s more likely that people have intent to purchase (because after all, they’re typing in exactly what they’re looking for), and you can see where the error in logic happens.

But when you can see that Facebook visitors tend to be almost twice as engaged, you can adjust campaigns accordingly. Instead of expecting the same conversions from Facebook, let’s try using those seemingly interested and loyal visitors to help us amplify our message and reach more people.

Digging into channel comparisons like this, after viewing it in the context of a larger framework or funnel, gives you greater insight behind individual campaign performance.

When you stack them up against each other, assessing how results should dictate future budgets, you’re a little better prepared.

kissmetrics-funnel-report-with-segmentation

Sure, Campaign A might have delivered at a higher rate than Campaign B. But maybe it can’t scale as well or isn’t as cost effective, resulting in fewer (+ more expensive) total leads over time.

When you have a simple framework in place that prioritizes actionable metrics over vanity ones, you should be able to draw a straight line from your most profitable customers, through the campaigns that generated them, and how your website pages or traffic channels should adjust accordingly.

Conclusion

Raw data is meaningless.

There’s too much of it, and it quickly can become mind numbingly exhausting when you attempt to piece together all the clues.

Simplicity is, well, the simplest way to make sense of it all.

Applying a basic framework to your funnel, like copywriting’s age-old AIDA, quickly cuts through the clutter, adding context to help you figure out where to begin.

From there, a focus on fewer metrics that prioritize action over vanity will keep you (and your team) aligned on what really matters to move the needle for your organization.

Because you only have so much time, energy, attention and money to go around.

And the only thing worse than spending those on the wrong things, is to squander them going in circles without committing to anything at all.

About the Author: Brad Smith is a founding partner at Codeless Interactive, a digital agency specializing in creating personalized customer experiences. Brad’s blog also features more marketing thoughts, opinions and the occasional insight.

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