All posts by Amanda Durepos

Mitch Joel on Why Agencies Should Care About Finding Their Unique Voice [INTERVIEW]

Move over Don Draper, the modern day agency marketer needs to be more of a Renaissance (wo)man.

Sure, they need to be creative enough to craft a compelling pitch.

But they also need to be data-driven. They need to be well versed in analytics and the latest MarTech trends. And when budgets get tight, agency marketers need to be able to convince their clients to not cut out conversion rate optimization.

Few people know this better than Mitch Joel, president of Mirum, a global digital marketing agency operating in 20 different countries. Mitch is a best-selling business author, international speaker and agency thought leader. But he’s also a full-stack marketer who has been doing display advertising for longer than Google itself.

Mitch Joel, president of global digital agency Mirum and author of Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT Delete.Image source.

Since Mitch entered the digital marketing world, a helluvalot has changed — and not just in agencyland. As technology evolves, so too are consumers and the way they interact with our brands. At the Call to Action Conference in June, Mitch’s keynote, Algorhythm: How Technology Connects Consumers To Brands Like Never Before, will dive into how to future-proof your brand and embrace disruption to become a digital leader.

Ugh, why can’t it be June already?

To tide you over, here’s a fascinating interview with Mitch from the Call to Action Podcast. Unbounce Director of Content Dan Levy sat down with Mitch to discuss:

  • How the agency world has evolved over the past 15 years.
  • Mitch’s experience selling his independent agency to WPP, the largest advertising company in the world.
  • How everything from search results to PPC and even the talent you hire for your agency are all extensions of your brand.

Check out some highlights from the interview below. (This transcript has been edited for length. Listen to the full episode on iTunes.)

Dan Levy: You’re known as a bestselling business author, speaker and agency thought leader, but you got your start in the online marketing trenches doing ad sales and even PPC marketing for a site called Mamma.com. Can you take us back to that time? What did the online marketing landscape look like and what did you learn from that experience?

Mitch Joel: Actually, yes, I did do that. But my start in digital came much earlier when I was publishing music magazines in the late 80s and early 90s. I actually was tangentially at the same time very engaged in digital media: first web browser, BBSs, stuff like that. And I actually put those magazines on the “internet” — like air quote internet — because back then, there wasn’t even really an internet.

I remember one of the cover stories for my alternative, cool, fun publication was called, “The Net.” The innovation at that time was hyperlinks. I literally was posting things on the internet from the magazine that couldn’t have hyperlinks. You couldn’t link from one page to the other. That really kept me on the trajectory where eventually I helped launch the sales channel of what at the time was one of the largest meta search engines on the internet. And again, it’s hard to imagine a world before Google. But this was pre-Google. And so the meta search engine would basically grab search results from engines like Yahoo, AOL, Lycos, and create a meta — or a better — search result that we could actually aggregate faster.

My role back then was selling sponsorships on the homepage, it was selling banner advertising. And it was also very early days of selling — literally the first time of being able to take a search result and having a banner that’s related to the search show up in the search result. And to tell you how early and nascent it was, I had to physically go into the code of the search engine to code the banner in. I don’t recommend that in this day in age. Like I don’t think anyone at Google is going into the master code to embed a search result. But that’s how early the times were back then.

DL: Wow. What did you learn from that experience that you brought forth?

MJ: Well I learned to take chances. I can tell you that when they approached me about the opportunity, my first question was, “What’s online advertising?” I mean, we are talking about a time when that first banner ad on HotWired — which became Wired — had just run.

The first banner ad, ever. Image source: Wired.

I didn’t even know what it looked like, what it felt like, what it could be. I think my pedigree in selling traditional print ads and having a construct of what it means to run a media company is what pushed me there. So it was — to this day, it was a great move. And I’m so grateful, I still have a lot of friends in my life now who came from there. A lot of people who’ve become — who’ve ascended in this industry to run major, major web initiatives are people that I hired. People that I brought into the industry. So I have a lot of pride in that.

And I also learned that — again, when I think about it, I don’t know why I took the job. All logic would dictate that at the time, I should not have taken that job. But I took the job and it wound up being great for me because it brought together what I was doing professionally on one side. And on the other side, it brought together my passion for digital. I often say that I was very early into many things. And when we started Mirum, which back then was Twist Image in 2000 (I joined in 2002). At that point in my career I said, even though I might be a little early in this space, I’m going to ride it out.

DL: Performance marketing and brand marketing are often seen as being on different sides of the digital marketing spectrum. Do you think that’s true? Do you see those two disciplines as coming closer together in an age where Facebook has gone from a social media network to just another performance marketing channel?

MJ: I think you’re right. The evolution — and by the way, Google structured themselves — for a long while, and they may still — around brand and performance. And that’s common. Where I think the confusion comes from is that within real behavioral performance-based marketing, there are heavy and hefty lifting around brand and experience that we often dismiss because we think that performance is still about getting the right search word, getting them to the right page.

But actually if you step back from that, the meta message is that it has to be a very relevant and cohesive brand experience. And I was somebody who wasn’t just buying generic brand keywords back in the day, to just keep that going. I actually believe that — a saying I’ve used since the early 2000s is that the first page of search results is a brand experience.


You can’t separate PPC & brand marketing. The 1st page of search is part of your brand…
Click To Tweet


So there’s that. That sort of dismisses the idea that performance is not about branding. And you’re right — fast forwarding to today, a lot of my clients and a lot of people I meet when I do speaking events will say that social media is primarily a paid channel, because of what Facebook has done to throttle the content and have you pay against reach. Which I think by the way is a great model and clearly the market would agree with that idea.

But you can’t have any results — whether you’re paying for it or it’s organic — unless it’s a really good experience.

Whether or not that’s through a search result, an email marketing initiative, a great landing page *hint hint wink wink* to you guys, or a good old piece of content. I really don’t care. I’m actually agnostic to that.

DL: Where do performance channels like PPC and landing page optimization and conversion rate optimization come into the picture with the kinds of big brands that you work with? Are those things part of your offer? Do you factor them into how you pitch and bill clients?

MJ: Well it depends on whether someone’s going full bore with us or not. Like any other agency, we work on specific campaigns, specific projects, longer initiatives and then full-on mandates. And even the full-on mandates have sort of splits and fits and starts.

The way we started our company, we only wanted to work with large national and multinational brands and we’ve stuck to that model for what’s coming up onto 17 years. Because of that, being of startup size back in the early 2000s, most brands already had large media companies at play. And those media companies even back then were feeling very threatened by digital and would make those offerings.

So we would come in and grab pieces and parts of it and really focus on the behavioral side. Let us handle the drive to optimization, landing page, unique spaces, unique experience while the media companies were really checking boxes around “online video,” “search,” affiliate marketing” and stuff like that. So from my pedigree, I stand very firmly and aligned with what performance can do in terms of optimizations and moving things forward. I feel like I’m banging against the wall when everyone says, “Well we do that.” I think people do do that, but they don’t really do it.

I still really believe that a lot of the work we see is what I call “rearview mirror.” You know, we did it, we’re running these keywords to a landing page, and let’s see how it did. Post. I believe, and I know that Mirum as an agency believes it, all of that optimization, all of that data, all of that opportunity is now in the passenger seat. When you do it well and you actually are optimizing and driving and creating unique experiences on landing pages and stuff like that, you’ve moved it from the rearview mirror to the passenger’s seat and you can fix it and go so that there always is a positive result, not a result that says, “Oh, that campaign just didn’t work.” I can’t believe we still use that language in business today!

DL: Right, as if a campaign or an experience is a success or a failure — only if it meets your hypothesis. And the learnings aren’t a factor or don’t have anything to do with it at all.

MJ: Right and it’s frustrating for me because I feel like we often lose business or can’t grab the business because there’s a sentiment that we already have someone doing that work. But when you dig into what that work is, you see that there actually isn’t a lot of that stuff that we’re really talking about. They say they do that, it’s on their decks, and it’s on their site. But — and I don’t know if it’s a failure of the brand or a failure of the agency. I’m not sure where it happens. But there is a vast majority of very powerful brands really not doing enough.

DL: Do you think the problem is that optimization is seen as a discipline or a branch of marketing instead of just a mindset?

MJ: Yeah. One of my close friends is Bryan Eisenberg, who I really believe is one of the forefathers of this optimization space. He’s written books about it, “Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?” and intent and scent and all that.

My relationship with Bryan is going on for close to 20 years at this point. And he would often say things like, “You know, here we are talking about all this stuff. And the first thing a brand will cut on a budget is the optimization. Hands down.

And it’s mind-numbing and it’s mind-blowing to both of us — and years later it still remains the same — because that’s actually where you make money. And I don’t know why brands, agencies don’t get it. I don’t get how they don’t get it.

DL: Can you talk about the role content played in getting Twist on the map? I imagine that your book and your blog and your podcast were all part of ultimately attracting the attention of WPP and making that acquisition happen.

MJ: It’s a yes and no story.

It’s a yes story in the sense that it’s very interesting when they’re doing financial and product assessments to see an agency that has been so consistent for a decade. Creating the blog, the podcast, Six Pixels of Separation, that lead to 50-60 paid speaking events a year. That lead to two best selling books — and I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but represented by a major New York literary agent, onto a major — largest book publisher in the world, onto the global deal. And other things that come from media appearances and stuff like that.

DL: Yeah, I think that from my perspective, Twist Image and Mitch Joel were kind of one and the same.

MJ: Totally. And we built it that way. We always saw from day one, back in 2003ish, when we started the blog, that Twist Image (at the time — now Mirum) would be managing three brands:

  1. that Mirum brand,
  2. Six Pixels of Separation (which we sort of considered the sort of “content engine” — so blog, podcast, articles, speaking, books)
  3. and then Mitch Joel, this media face. This warm, hopefully friendly and personable face to an agency, which again, now seems very obvious.

But if you go back 10+ years, nobody was really doing that. They didn’t really have that. So the fact that we were sharing content, having conversations with people who just didn’t have a voice before — you know, we were having hour-long conversations with business or marketing thought leaders. That you didn’t get an hour with. You’d be lucky if you had one famous enough to get 10 minutes on Charlie Rose. Suddenly, someone is spending an hour with them, having a conversation like they would over a coffee, and publishing it to the world.

There were these assets there that were built over time, and again, I do know that when it came to the opportunity for us to be acquired, one of the metrics was the fact that there is revenue generation that comes out of the content engine. That doesn’t just create media attention and a level of fame, whatever that might be. But that there actually was revenue behind this thing. And that was very surprising and shocking to them.

DL: Meaning what? It gets clients in the door?

MJ: I mean, yeah, think about it. You pitch for business development, you spend weeks, months pitching. And business development is a cost center. It costs every agency a lot of money to business develop. You don’t win every pitch. It’s a very small percentage. And you hope that the ones you win make up for all the money you spent. When you’re offsetting that cost with speaking gigs, book deals, article writing and stuff like that, it’s really interesting that you’re creating this voice and building a platform and it actually is driving business, it’s driving revenue — both in terms of client and raw revenue. We get dollars to speak and write books. It’s not vanity.

It was always about creating equity in the brand, that would have one of two roles. That one day, we would be acquired. Or if we’re never acquired, we’re running this business in a way where all of the top players would want to acquire it. And there would be extreme value in the brand.

I like building businesses that build equity as they grow. And this channel of speaking, writing, etc — it wasn’t a core component of what we were acquired for, but it was definitely on the list.

DL: It reminds me of the Rolling Stones model, where you’re the front man, but ultimately, you share those profits evenly. I know they’ve credited that for their longevity as a band. It sounds like the same thing for the longevity of Twist, and now Mirum.

MJ: Yeah, and I try to not have it be ego-driven. I look at it like — my job, as a media entity, is to be extremely personable. And to know that I’m managing Mirum, Six Pixels and Mitch Joel. And I conduct myself accordingly. If you look me up on Facebook, there isn’t a ton of personal stuff. There’s a ton of personable stuff.

DL: If you had to give agencies who are looking to set themselves apart from the crowd and spur growth for both their clients and their own business one piece of advice, what would it be?

MJ: I really think it is much like a great book. A great book works not because the topic is unique. I feel like more often than not you’re reading a topic that somebody else covered in one shape or form.

It’s the voice. I don’t see that much in terms of agencies having that unique voice. Do I think we achieved it? Partially. And I think it’s because it’s a journey — you’re constantly changing it, moving it along. But if I were to go across — and we did this exercise when we were trying to figure out the branding for Mirum, Twist Image — I would jokingly tell people, “You could take the website of all our biggest competitors, take off the logos, throw them in the air, and whatever website they fall on, you’d still be pretty much right.” The services, types of case studies, type of work we do. And still to this day, I think that story rings true.

The ones that stand out, though, are the ones that have a unique voice. It could be a unique individual — I’m thinking of people like Bob Greenberg at R/GA. It could just be a unique story to tell. So if you look at an agency like WK, the fact that they’ve been large and independent, the type of work that they’ve done it’s like the voice of the agency is the work that they do. That type of thing is the only component of your business that you can have that is the defendable against a competitor. It’s how you express yourself, tell your stories, the type of team members you bring in, the type of work that you do, the stories you tell in the marketplace, where you network, what you attend. That’s the big one.

The secondary one is get involved in your industry. What  drove this business at Mirum was the fact that we got involved in places like Shop.org, the National Retail Federation, Canadian Marketing Association, Interactive Advertising — I could go on and on. And we didn’t just join and become members. We got involved. In fact, we just had a conversation at lunch about an association that I’m super interested in. And the answer we all came to was: “Not unless we can get deeply involved.” So, what you find out is that by giving (because you love this industry and you want it to be better), you do wind up in some way receiving. We don’t get involved to get results. By getting involved and being active, it just happens.

DL: Well Mitch, it’s always a real treat to talk shop with you. Thank you so much for taking the time.

MJ: My pleasure! Thanks for having me.

This transcript has been edited for length. Listen to more interviews with digital marketing experts on iTunes.

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Mitch Joel on Why Agencies Should Care About Finding Their Unique Voice [INTERVIEW]

Mitch Joel on Why Agencies Should Care About Should Care About Finding Their Unique Voice [INTERVIEW]

Move over Don Draper, the modern day agency marketer needs to be more of a Renaissance (wo)man.

Sure, they need to be creative enough to craft a compelling pitch.

But they also need to be data-driven. They need to be well versed in analytics and the latest MarTech trends. And when budgets get tight, agency marketers need to be able to convince their clients to not cut out conversion rate optimization.

Few people know this better than Mitch Joel, president of Mirum, a global digital marketing agency operating in 20 different countries. Mitch is a best-selling business author, international speaker and agency thought leader. But he’s also a full-stack marketer who has been doing display advertising for longer than Google itself.

Mitch Joel, president of global digital agency Mirum and author of Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT Delete.Image source.

Since Mitch entered the digital marketing world, a helluvalot has changed — and not just in agencyland. As technology evolves, so too are consumers and the way they interact with our brands. At the Call to Action Conference in June, Mitch’s keynote, Algorhythm: How Technology Connects Consumers To Brands Like Never Before, will dive into how to future-proof your brand and embrace disruption to become a digital leader.

Ugh, why can’t it be June already?

To tide you over, here’s a fascinating interview with Mitch from the Call to Action Podcast. Unbounce Director of Content Dan Levy sat down with Mitch to discuss:

  • How the agency world has evolved over the past 15 years.
  • Mitch’s experience selling his independent agency to WPP, the largest advertising company in the world.
  • How everything from search results to PPC and even the talent you hire for your agency are all extensions of your brand.

Check out some highlights from the interview below. (This transcript has been edited for length. Listen to the full episode on iTunes.)

Dan Levy: You’re known as a bestselling business author, speaker and agency thought leader, but you got your start in the online marketing trenches doing ad sales and even PPC marketing for a site called Mamma.com. Can you take us back to that time? What did the online marketing landscape look like and what did you learn from that experience?

Mitch Joel: Actually, yes, I did do that. But my start in digital came much earlier when I was publishing music magazines in the late 80s and early 90s. I actually was tangentially at the same time very engaged in digital media: first web browser, BBSs, stuff like that. And I actually put those magazines on the “internet” — like air quote internet — because back then, there wasn’t even really an internet.

I remember one of the cover stories for my alternative, cool, fun publication was called, “The Net.” The innovation at that time was hyperlinks. I literally was posting things on the internet from the magazine that couldn’t have hyperlinks. You couldn’t link from one page to the other. That really kept me on the trajectory where eventually I helped launch the sales channel of what at the time was one of the largest meta search engines on the internet. And again, it’s hard to imagine a world before Google. But this was pre-Google. And so the meta search engine would basically grab search results from engines like Yahoo, AOL, Lycos, and create a meta — or a better — search result that we could actually aggregate faster.

My role back then was selling sponsorships on the homepage, it was selling banner advertising. And it was also very early days of selling — literally the first time of being able to take a search result and having a banner that’s related to the search show up in the search result. And to tell you how early and nascent it was, I had to physically go into the code of the search engine to code the banner in. I don’t recommend that in this day in age. Like I don’t think anyone at Google is going into the master code to embed a search result. But that’s how early the times were back then.

DL: Wow. What did you learn from that experience that you brought forth?

MJ: Well I learned to take chances. I can tell you that when they approached me about the opportunity, my first question was, “What’s online advertising?” I mean, we are talking about a time when that first banner ad on HotWired — which became Wired — had just run.

The first banner ad, ever. Image source: Wired.

I didn’t even know what it looked like, what it felt like, what it could be. I think my pedigree in selling traditional print ads and having a construct of what it means to run a media company is what pushed me there. So it was — to this day, it was a great move. And I’m so grateful, I still have a lot of friends in my life now who came from there. A lot of people who’ve become — who’ve ascended in this industry to run major, major web initiatives are people that I hired. People that I brought into the industry. So I have a lot of pride in that.

And I also learned that — again, when I think about it, I don’t know why I took the job. All logic would dictate that at the time, I should not have taken that job. But I took the job and it wound up being great for me because it brought together what I was doing professionally on one side. And on the other side, it brought together my passion for digital. I often say that I was very early into many things. And when we started Mirum, which back then was Twist Image in 2000 (I joined in 2002). At that point in my career I said, even though I might be a little early in this space, I’m going to ride it out.

DL: Performance marketing and brand marketing are often seen as being on different sides of the digital marketing spectrum. Do you think that’s true? Do you see those two disciplines as coming closer together in an age where Facebook has gone from a social media network to just another performance marketing channel?

MJ: I think you’re right. The evolution — and by the way, Google structured themselves — for a long while, and they may still — around brand and performance. And that’s common. Where I think the confusion comes from is that within real behavioral performance-based marketing, there are heavy and hefty lifting around brand and experience that we often dismiss because we think that performance is still about getting the right search word, getting them to the right page.

But actually if you step back from that, the meta message is that it has to be a very relevant and cohesive brand experience. And I was somebody who wasn’t just buying generic brand keywords back in the day, to just keep that going. I actually believe that — a saying I’ve used since the early 2000s is that the first page of search results is a brand experience.


You can’t separate PPC & brand marketing. The 1st page of search is part of your brand experience.
Click To Tweet


So there’s that. That sort of dismisses the idea that performance is not about branding. And you’re right — fast forwarding to today, a lot of my clients and a lot of people I meet when I do speaking events will say that social media is primarily a paid channel, because of what Facebook has done to throttle the content and have you pay against reach. Which I think by the way is a great model and clearly the market would agree with that idea.

But you can’t have any results — whether you’re paying for it or it’s organic — unless it’s a really good experience.

Whether or not that’s through a search result, an email marketing initiative, a great landing page *hint hint wink wink* to you guys, or a good old piece of content. I really don’t care. I’m actually agnostic to that.

DL: Where do performance channels like PPC and landing page optimization and conversion rate optimization come into the picture with the kinds of big brands that you work with? Are those things part of your offer? Do you factor them into how you pitch and bill clients?

MJ: Well it depends on whether someone’s going full bore with us or not. Like any other agency, we work on specific campaigns, specific projects, longer initiatives and then full-on mandates. And even the full-on mandates have sort of splits and fits and starts.

The way we started our company, we only wanted to work with large national and multinational brands and we’ve stuck to that model for what’s coming up onto 17 years. Because of that, being of startup size back in the early 2000s, most brands already had large media companies at play. And those media companies even back then were feeling very threatened by digital and would make those offerings.

So we would come in and grab pieces and parts of it and really focus on the behavioral side. Let us handle the drive to optimization, landing page, unique spaces, unique experience while the media companies were really checking boxes around “online video,” “search,” affiliate marketing” and stuff like that. So from my pedigree, I stand very firmly and aligned with what performance can do in terms of optimizations and moving things forward. I feel like I’m banging against the wall when everyone says, “Well we do that.” I think people do do that, but they don’t really do it.

I still really believe that a lot of the work we see is what I call “rearview mirror.” You know, we did it, we’re running these keywords to a landing page, and let’s see how it did. Post. I believe, and I know that Mirum as an agency believes it, all of that optimization, all of that data, all of that opportunity is now in the passenger seat. When you do it well and you actually are optimizing and driving and creating unique experiences on landing pages and stuff like that, you’ve moved it from the rearview mirror to the passenger’s seat and you can fix it and go so that there always is a positive result, not a result that says, “Oh, that campaign just didn’t work.” I can’t believe we still use that language in business today!

DL: Right, as if a campaign or an experience is a success or a failure — only if it meets your hypothesis. And the learnings aren’t a factor or don’t have anything to do with it at all.

MJ: Right and it’s frustrating for me because I feel like we often lose business or can’t grab the business because there’s a sentiment that we already have someone doing that work. But when you dig into what that work is, you see that there actually isn’t a lot of that stuff that we’re really talking about. They say they do that, it’s on their decks, and it’s on their site. But — and I don’t know if it’s a failure of the brand or a failure of the agency. I’m not sure where it happens. But there is a vast majority of very powerful brands really not doing enough.

DL: Do you think the problem is that optimization is seen as a discipline or a branch of marketing instead of just a mindset?

MJ: Yeah. One of my close friends is Bryan Eisenberg, who I really believe is one of the forefathers of this optimization space. He’s written books about it, “Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?” and intent and scent and all that.

My relationship with Bryan is going on for close to 20 years at this point. And he would often say things like, “You know, here we are talking about all this stuff. And the first thing a brand will cut on a budget is the optimization. Hands down.

And it’s mind-numbing and it’s mind-blowing to both of us — and years later it still remains the same — because that’s actually where you make money. And I don’t know why brands, agencies don’t get it. I don’t get how they don’t get it.

DL: Can you talk about the role content played in getting Twist on the map? I imagine that your book and your blog and your podcast were all part of ultimately attracting the attention of WPP and making that acquisition happen.

MJ: It’s a yes and no story.

It’s a yes story in the sense that it’s very interesting when they’re doing financial and product assessments to see an agency that has been so consistent for a decade. Creating the blog, the podcast, Six Pixels of Separation, that lead to 50-60 paid speaking events a year. That lead to two best selling books — and I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but represented by a major New York literary agent, onto a major — largest book publisher in the world, onto the global deal. And other things that come from media appearances and stuff like that.

DL: Yeah, I think that from my perspective, Twist Image and Mitch Joel were kind of one and the same.

MJ: Totally. And we built it that way. We always saw from day one, back in 2003ish, when we started the blog, that Twist Image (at the time — now Mirum) would be managing three brands:

  1. that Mirum brand,
  2. Six Pixels of Separation (which we sort of considered the sort of “content engine” — so blog, podcast, articles, speaking, books)
  3. and then Mitch Joel, this media face. This warm, hopefully friendly and personable face to an agency, which again, now seems very obvious.

But if you go back 10+ years, nobody was really doing that. They didn’t really have that. So the fact that we were sharing content, having conversations with people who just didn’t have a voice before — you know, we were having hour-long conversations with business or marketing thought leaders. That you didn’t get an hour with. You’d be lucky if you had one famous enough to get 10 minutes on Charlie Rose. Suddenly, someone is spending an hour with them, having a conversation like they would over a coffee, and publishing it to the world.

There were these assets there that were built over time, and again, I do know that when it came to the opportunity for us to be acquired, one of the metrics was the fact that there is revenue generation that comes out of the content engine. That doesn’t just create media attention and a level of fame, whatever that might be. But that there actually was revenue behind this thing. And that was very surprising and shocking to them.

DL: Meaning what? It gets clients in the door?

MJ: I mean, yeah, think about it. You pitch for business development, you spend weeks, months pitching. And business development is a cost center. It costs every agency a lot of money to business develop. You don’t win every pitch. It’s a very small percentage. And you hope that the ones you win make up for all the money you spent. When you’re offsetting that cost with speaking gigs, book deals, article writing and stuff like that, it’s really interesting that you’re creating this voice and building a platform and it actually is driving business, it’s driving revenue — both in terms of client and raw revenue. We get dollars to speak and write books. It’s not vanity.

It was always about creating equity in the brand, that would have one of two roles. That one day, we would be acquired. Or if we’re never acquired, we’re running this business in a way where all of the top players would want to acquire it. And there would be extreme value in the brand.

I like building businesses that build equity as they grow. And this channel of speaking, writing, etc — it wasn’t a core component of what we were acquired for, but it was definitely on the list.

DL: It reminds me of the Rolling Stones model, where you’re the front man, but ultimately, you share those profits evenly. I know they’ve credited that for their longevity as a band. It sounds like the same thing for the longevity of Twist, and now Mirum.

MJ: Yeah, and I try to not have it be ego-driven. I look at it like — my job, as a media entity, is to be extremely personable. And to know that I’m managing Mirum, Six Pixels and Mitch Joel. And I conduct myself accordingly. If you look me up on Facebook, there isn’t a ton of personal stuff. There’s a ton of personable stuff.

DL: If you had to give agencies who are looking to set themselves apart from the crowd and spur growth for both their clients and their own business one piece of advice, what would it be?

MJ: I really think it is much like a great book. A great book works not because the topic is unique. I feel like more often than not you’re reading a topic that somebody else covered in one shape or form.

It’s the voice. I don’t see that much in terms of agencies having that unique voice. Do I think we achieved it? Partially. And I think it’s because it’s a journey — you’re constantly changing it, moving it along. But if I were to go across — and we did this exercise when we were trying to figure out the branding for Mirum, Twist Image — I would jokingly tell people, “You could take the website of all our biggest competitors, take off the logos, throw them in the air, and whatever website they fall on, you’d still be pretty much right.” The services, types of case studies, type of work we do. And still to this day, I think that story rings true.

The ones that stand out, though, are the ones that have a unique voice. It could be a unique individual — I’m thinking of people like Bob Greenberg at R/GA. It could just be a unique story to tell. So if you look at an agency like WK, the fact that they’ve been large and independent, the type of work that they’ve done it’s like the voice of the agency is the work that they do. That type of thing is the only component of your business that you can have that is the defendable against a competitor. It’s how you express yourself, tell your stories, the type of team members you bring in, the type of work that you do, the stories you tell in the marketplace, where you network, what you attend. That’s the big one.

The secondary one is get involved in your industry. What  drove this business at Mirum was the fact that we got involved in places like Shop.org, the National Retail Federation, Canadian Marketing Association, Interactive Advertising — I could go on and on. And we didn’t just join and become members. We got involved. In fact, we just had a conversation at lunch about an association that I’m super interested in. And the answer we all came to was: “Not unless we can get deeply involved.” So, what you find out is that by giving (because you love this industry and you want it to be better), you do wind up in some way receiving. We don’t get involved to get results. By getting involved and being active, it just happens.

DL: Well Mitch, it’s always a real treat to talk shop with you. Thank you so much for taking the time.

MJ: My pleasure! Thanks for having me.

This transcript has been edited for length. Listen to more interviews with digital marketing experts on iTunes.

Link: 

Mitch Joel on Why Agencies Should Care About Should Care About Finding Their Unique Voice [INTERVIEW]

Mitch Joel on Why Agencies Should Care About Conversion Rate Optimization [INTERVIEW]

Move over Don Draper, the modern day agency marketer needs to be more of a Renaissance (wo)man.

Sure, they need to be creative enough to craft a compelling pitch.

But they also need to be data-driven. They need to be well versed in analytics and the latest MarTech trends. And when budgets get tight, agency marketers need to be able to convince their clients to not cut out conversion rate optimization.

Few people know this better than Mitch Joel, president of Mirum, a global digital marketing agency operating in 20 different countries. Mitch is a best-selling business author, international speaker and agency thought leader. But he’s also a full-stack marketer who has been doing display advertising for longer than Google itself.

Mitch Joel, president of global digital agency Mirum and author of Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT Delete.Image source.

Since Mitch entered the digital marketing world, a helluvalot has changed — and not just in agencyland. As technology evolves, so too are consumers and the way they interact with our brands. At the Call to Action Conference in June, Mitch’s keynote, Algorhythm: How Technology Connects Consumers To Brands Like Never Before, will dive into how to future-proof your brand and embrace disruption to become a digital leader.

PSST. Hey blog reader, we like the cut of your jib. Get 15% off Call to Action Conference tickets by using discount code “blogsentme” at checkout. Offer expires May 12th.

Ugh, why can’t it be June already?

To tide you over, here’s a fascinating interview with Mitch from the Call to Action Podcast. Unbounce Director of Content Dan Levy sat down with Mitch to discuss:

  • How the agency world has evolved over the past 15 years.
  • Mitch’s experience selling his independent agency to the largest holding company in the world.
  • How everything from search results to PPC and even the talent you hire for your agency are all extensions of your brand.

Check out some highlights from the interview below. (This transcript has been edited for length. Listen to the full episode on iTunes.)

Dan Levy: You’re known as a bestselling business author, speaker and agency thought leader, but you got your start in the online marketing trenches doing ad sales and even PPC marketing for a site called Mamma.com. Can you take us back to that time? What did the online marketing landscape look like and what did you learn from that experience?

Mitch Joel: Actually, yes, I did do that. But my start in digital came much earlier when I was publishing music magazines in the late 80s and early 90s. I actually was tangentially at the same time very engaged in digital media: first web browser, BBSs, stuff like that. And I actually put those magazines on the “internet” — like air quote internet — because back then, there wasn’t even really an internet.

I remember one of the cover stories for my alternative, cool, fun publication was called, “The Net.” The innovation at that time was hyperlinks. I literally was posting things on the internet from the magazine that couldn’t have hyperlinks. You couldn’t link from one page to the other. That really kept me on the trajectory where eventually I helped launch the sales channel of what at the time was one of the largest meta search engines on the internet. And again, it’s hard to imagine a world before Google. But this was pre-Google. And so the meta search engine would basically grab search results from engines like Yahoo, AOL, Lycos, and create a meta — or a better — search result that we could actually aggregate faster.

My role back then was selling sponsorships on the homepage, it was selling banner advertising. And it was also very early days of selling — literally the first time of being able to take a search result and having a banner that’s related to the search show up in the search result. And to tell you how early and nascent it was, I had to physically go into the code of the search engine to code the banner in. I don’t recommend that in this day in age. Like I don’t think anyone at Google is going into the master code to embed a search result. But that’s how early the times were back then.

DL: Wow. What did you learn from that experience that you brought forth?

MJ: Well I learned to take chances. I can tell you that when they approached me about the opportunity, my first question was, “What’s online advertising?” I mean, we are talking about a time when that first banner ad on HotWired — which became Wired — had just run.

The first banner ad, ever. Image source: Wired.

I didn’t even know what it looked like, what it felt like, what it could be. I think my pedigree in selling traditional print ads and having a construct of what it means to run a media company is what pushed me there. So it was — to this day, it was a great move. And I’m so grateful, I still have a lot of friends in my life now who came from there. A lot of people who’ve become — who’ve ascended in this industry to run major, major web initiatives are people that I hired. People that I brought into the industry. So I have a lot of pride in that.

And I also learned that — again, when I think about it, I don’t know why I took the job. All logic would dictate that at the time, I should not have taken that job. But I took the job and it wound up being great for me because it brought together what I was doing professionally on one side. And on the other side, it brought together my passion for digital. I often say that I was very early into many things. And when we started Mirum, which back then was Twist Image in 2000 (I joined in 2002). At that point in my career I said, even though I might be a little early in this space, I’m going to ride it out.

DL: Performance marketing and brand marketing are often seen as being on different sides of the digital marketing spectrum. Do you think that’s true? Do you see those two disciplines as coming closer together in an age where Facebook has gone from a social media network to just another performance marketing channel?

MJ: I think you’re right. The evolution — and by the way, Google structured themselves — for a long while, and they may still — around brand and performance. And that’s common. Where I think the confusion comes from is that within real behavioral performance-based marketing, there are heavy and hefty living around brand and experience that we often dismiss because we think that performance is still about getting the right search word, getting them to the right page.

But actually if you step back from that, the meta message is that it has to be a very relevant and cohesive brand experience. And I was somebody who wasn’t just buying generic brand keywords back in the day, to just keep that going. I actually believe that — a saying I’ve used since the early 2000s is that the first page of search results is a brand experience.


You can’t separate PPC & brand marketing. The 1st page of search is part of your brand experience.
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So there’s that. That sort of dismisses the idea that performance is not about branding. And you’re right — fast forwarding to today, a lot of my clients and a lot of people I meet when I do speaking events will say that social media is primarily a paid channel, because of what Facebook has done to throttle the content and have you pay against reach. Which I think by the way is a great model and clearly the market would agree with that idea.

But you can’t have any results — whether you’re paying for it or it’s organic — unless it’s a really good experience.

Whether or not that’s through a search result, an email marketing initiative, a great landing page *hint hint wink wink* to you guys, or a good old piece of content. I really don’t care. I’m actually agnostic to that.

DL: Where do performance channels like PPC and landing page optimization and conversion rate optimization come into the picture with the kinds of big brands that you work with? Are those things part of your offer? Do you factor them into how you pitch and bill clients?

MJ: Well it depends on whether someone’s going full bore with us or not. Like any other agency, we work on specific campaigns, specific projects, longer initiatives and then full-on mandates. And even the full-on mandates have sort of splits and fits and starts.

The way we started our company, we only wanted to work with large national and multinational brands and we’ve stuck to that model for what’s coming up onto 17 years. Because of that, being of startup size back in the early 2000s, most brands already had large media companies at play. And those media companies even back then were feeling very threatened by digital and would make those offerings.

So we would come in and grab pieces and parts of it and really focus on the behavioral side. Let us handle the drive to optimization, landing page, unique spaces, unique experience while the media companies were really checking boxes around “online video,” “search,” affiliate marketing” and stuff like that. So from my pedigree, I stand very firmly and aligned with what performance can do in terms of optimizations and moving things forward. I feel like I’m banging against the wall when everyone says, “Well we do that.” I think people do do that, but they don’t really do it.

I still really believe that a lot of the work we see is what I call “rearview mirror.” You know, we did it, we’re running these keywords to a landing page, and let’s see how it did. Post. I believe, and I know that Mirum as an agency believes it, all of that optimization, all of that data, all of that opportunity is now in the passenger seat. When you do it well and you actually are optimizing and driving and creating unique experiences on landing pages and stuff like that, you’ve moved it from the rearview mirror to the passenger’s seat and you can fix it and go so that there always is a positive result, not a result that says, “Oh, that campaign just didn’t work.” I can’t believe we still use that language in business today!

DL: Right, as if a campaign or an experience is a success or a failure — only if it meets your hypothesis. And the learnings aren’t a factor or don’t have anything to do with it at all.

MJ: Right and it’s frustrating for me because I feel like we often lose business or can’t grab the business because there’s a sentiment that we already have someone doing that work. But when you dig into what that work is, you see that there actually isn’t a lot of that stuff that we’re really talking about. They say they do that, it’s on their decks, and it’s on their site. But — and I don’t know if it’s a failure of the brand or a failure of the agency. I’m not sure where it happens. But there is a vast majority of very powerful brands really not doing enough.

DL: Do you think the problem is that optimization is seen as a discipline or a branch of marketing instead of just a mindset?

MJ: Yeah. One of my close friends is Bryan Eisenberg, who I really believe is one of the forefathers of this optimization space. He’s written books about it, “Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?” and intent and scent and all that.

My relationship with Bryan is going on for close to 20 years at this point. And he would often say things like, “You know, here we are talking about all this stuff. And the first thing a brand will cut on a budget is the optimization. Hands down.

And it’s mind-numbing and it’s mind-blowing to both of us — and years later it still remains the same — because that’s actually where you make money. And I don’t know why brands, agencies don’t get it. I don’t get how they don’t get it.

DL: Can you talk about the role content played in getting Twist on the map? I imagine that your book and your blog and your podcast were all part of ultimately attracting the attention of WPP and making that acquisition happen.

MJ: It’s a yes and no story.

It’s a yes story in the sense that it’s very interesting when they’re doing financial and product assessments to see an agency that has been so consistent for a decade. Creating the blog, the podcast, Six Pixels of Separation, that lead to 50-60 paid speaking events a year. That lead to two best selling books — and I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but represented by a major New York literary agent, onto a major — largest book publisher in the world, onto the global deal. And other things that come from media appearances and stuff like that.

DL: Yeah, I think that from my perspective, Twist Image and Mitch Joel were kind of one and the same.

MJ: Totally. And we built it that way. We always saw from day one, back in 2003ish, when we started the blog, that Twist Image (at the time — now Mirum) would be managing three brands:

  1. that Mirum brand,
  2. Six Pixels of Separation (which we sort of considered the sort of “content engine” — so blog, podcast, articles, speaking, books)
  3. and then Mitch Joel, this media face. This warm, hopefully friendly and personable face to an agency, which again, now seems very obvious.

But if you go back 10+ years, nobody was really doing that. They didn’t really have that. So the fact that we were sharing content, having conversations with people who just didn’t have a voice before — you know, we were having hour-long conversations with business or marketing thought leaders. That you didn’t get an hour with. You’d be lucky if you had one famous enough to get 10 minutes on Charlie Rose. Suddenly, someone is spending an hour with them, having a conversation like they would over a coffee, and publishing it to the world.

There were these assets there that were built over time, and again, I do know that when it came to the opportunity for us to be acquired, one of the metrics was the fact that there is revenue generation that comes out of the content engine. That doesn’t just create media attention and a level of fame, whatever that might be. But that there actually was revenue behind this thing. And that was very surprising and shocking to them.

DL: Meaning what? It gets clients in the door?

MJ: I mean, yeah, think about it. You pitch for business development, you spend weeks, months pitching. And business development is a cost center. It costs every agency a lot of money to business develop. You don’t win every pitch. It’s a very small percentage. And you hope that the ones you win make up for all the money you spent. When you’re offsetting that cost with speaking gigs, book deals, article writing and stuff like that, it’s really interesting that you’re creating this voice and building a platform and it actually is driving business, it’s driving revenue — both in terms of client and raw revenue. We get dollars to speak and write books. It’s not vanity.

It was always about creating equity in the brand, that would have one of two roles. That one day, we would be acquired. Or if we’re never acquired, we’re running this business in a way where all of the top players would want to acquire it. And there would be extreme value in the brand.

I like building businesses that build equity as they grow. And this channel of speaking, writing, etc — it wasn’t a core component of what we were acquired for, but it was definitely on the list.

DL: It reminds me of the Rolling Stones model, where you’re the front man, but ultimately, you share those profits evenly. I know they’ve credited that as their longevity for them as a band. It sounds like the same thing for the longevity of Twist, and now Mirum.

MJ: Yeah, and I try to not have it be ego-driven. I look at it like — my job, as a media entity, is to be extremely personable. And to know that I’m managing Mirum, Six Pixels and Mitch Joel. And I conduct myself accordingly. If you look me up on Facebook, there isn’t a ton of personal stuff. There’s a ton of personable stuff.

DL: If you had to give agencies who are looking to set themselves apart from the crowd and spur growth for both their clients and their own business one piece of advice, what would it be?

MJ: I really think it is much like a great book. A great book works not because the topic is unique. I feel like more often than not you’re reading a topic that somebody else covered in one shape or form.

It’s the voice. I don’t see that much in terms of agencies having that unique voice. Do I think we achieved it? Partially. And I think it’s because it’s a journey — you’re constantly changing it, moving it along. But if I were to go across — and we did this exercise when we were trying to figure out the branding for Mirum, Twist Image — I would jokingly tell people, “You could take the website of all our biggest competitors, take off the logos, throw them in the air, and whatever website they fall on, you’d still be pretty much right.” The services, types of case studies, type of work we do. And still to this day, I think that story rings true.

The ones that stand out, though, are the ones that have a unique voice. It could be a unique individual — I’m thinking of people like Bob Greenberg at R/GA. It could just be a unique story to tell. So if you look at an agency like WK, the fact that they’ve been large and independent, the type of work that they’ve done it’s like the voice of the agency is the work that they do. That type of thing is the only component of your business that you can have that is the defendable against a competitor. It’s how you express yourself, tell your stories, the type of team members you bring in, the type of work that you do, the stories you tell in the marketplace, where you network, what you attend. That’s the big one.

The secondary one is get involved in your industry. What  drove this business at Mirum was the fact that we got involved in places like Shop.org, the National Retail Federation, Canadian Marketing Association, Interactive Advertising — I could go on and on. And we didn’t just join and become members. We got involved. In fact, we just had a conversation at lunch about an association that I’m super interested in. And the answer we all came to was: “Not unless we can get deeply involved.” So, what you find out is that by giving (because you love this industry and you want it to be better), you do wind up in some way receiving. We don’t get involved to get results. By getting involved and being active, it just happens.

DL: Well Mitch, it’s always a real treat to talk shop with you. Thank you so much for taking the time.

MJ: My pleasure! Thanks for having me.

This transcript has been edited for length. Listen to the full episode on iTunes.

Read this article:

Mitch Joel on Why Agencies Should Care About Conversion Rate Optimization [INTERVIEW]

The Unbounce Conversion Benchmark Report – Average Conversion Rates by Industry and Expert Recommendations

Benchmark conversion rates by industry
The Unbounce Conversion Benchmark Report is filled with industry-specific data, graphs and actionable takeaways.

What is a good conversion rate for my landing page?

If you knew the answer to this question, you could get more out of every optimization dollar you spend. Armed with this one “little” data point, you could double down on pages with lots of growth potential or confidently switch gears to focus on other projects because you know your page is performing well.

But here’s the problem:

  • Companies in different industries use a wide range of landing page copy, traffic generation strategies and product offers. Because of this, average conversion rates across industries vary dramatically.
  • This one “little” data point isn’t really so “little.” Conversion rate benchmarks are the function of a ton of variables, requiring access to hordes of data (not to mention people with the skills to mine and interpret that data).

Scientifically grounded answers to, “What is a good conversion rate?” just haven’t been available… until now.

We created the Unbounce Conversion Benchmark Report by analyzing the behavior of 74,551,421 visitors to 64,284 lead generation landing pages created in the Unbounce platform over the last quarter, using a rigorous scientific methodology and our proprietary machine learning technology.

How do your landing page conversion rates compare against your industry competitors?

Get the Unbounce Conversion Benchmark Report and find out.
By entering your email you’ll receive other resources to help you improve your conversion rates.

For 10 popular industries, we’ll share:

  1. An overview of average conversion rates per industry (the graph on the left).
  2. A summary of how marketers in that industry are performing (right):
real-estate-industry-specific-example-benhcmark-page
The Unbounce Conversion Benchmark Report is filled with charts, graphs and actionable takeaways for 10 of our customers’ most popular industries.
  1. Industry-specific copy recommendations from our team of data scientists and conversion marketing experts (who have interpreted the data in the report for you). For each industry, we explore how the following factors could be impacting your conversion rates:

    • Reading ease
    • Page length
    • Emotion and sentiment

Our goal isn’t just to help you answer the question, “What is a good conversion rate for my landing page?”

Our goal is to eliminate some of the guesswork so you can build higher-converting landing pages, better prioritize your work and get back to the strategy and creativity that drives your business.

Download the Unbounce Conversion Benchmark Report (FREE)

Data-driven insights on average conversion rates per industry (+ expert copywriting advice)
By entering your email you’ll receive other resources to help you improve your conversion rates.

Taken from:  

The Unbounce Conversion Benchmark Report – Average Conversion Rates by Industry and Expert Recommendations

Wow Your Clients, Grow Your Agency – Register for Digital Agency Day 2017

If you could get in a room with digital marketing experts from Google, AdRoll and LinkedIn, what would you ask them? Better yet, what if you could rub shoulders with them without having to leave your desk?

We’re not trying to torture you with hypotheticals. For the second year in a row, Unbounce and HubSpot have teamed up to cregisurate Digital Agency Day: a full day of virtual and in-person events dedicated to the digital agency professional.

And it’s happening very soon: on March 16th, 2017. Completely free.

Register for Digital Agency Day here.

Join expert speakers from the world’s top agencies and agency partners as they share actionable, agency-tailored advice on analytics, reporting, growing retainers, new business strategy, content marketing, conversion rate optimization and much more.

Here’s just a taste of some of the presentations you can expect:

  • Rethinking Retainers & Other Pricing Issues
  • What Your Agency Needs to Execute Content Marketing the Right Way
  • Grow Your Agency With LinkedIn Sponsored Content
  • Extreme Growth with Google AdWords: For Agencies
  • Unifying your Customer Journey: Unlocking the Power of Cross-Device Marketing

Here’s what some of our attendees from last year had to say:

See you then? Click here to register.

Taken from:  

Wow Your Clients, Grow Your Agency – Register for Digital Agency Day 2017

If It’s Painful, It’s Broken: Unbounce Blog Team Takeaways from 2016

Since I joined the Unbounce family three years ago, our marketing team has grown from seven to 35. The content team alone has grown from two to 12.

That kind of growth comes with a lot of potential to do exciting things.

But scaling a team quickly also uncovers inefficiencies, and results in a helluvalotta growing pains.

Which is fine, really. I’m not much of a jock, but I know that without pain there is no gain.

giphy

2016 in particular was a really productive year for the content team at Unbounce. We were able to fix a lot of inefficiencies in our processes, and experiment with things that we just didn’t have the bandwidth for before.

In short, we pulled the plug on what wasn’t working and doubled down on what was working.

If you’ll allow me to, I want to share some of our biggest takeaways with you. In part because I wanna show off our gains (#humblebrag), but also because I wanna prevent your pains.

(P.S. Much of this progress can be attributed to an improvement methodology we started using called the Improvement Kata, which could be the subject of its own 10,000-word post. …But you can learn all about it in this 60-minute webinar.)

Process improvements: If something is painful, it’s because it’s broken

When I began work at Unbounce in 2014, I was the main person dedicated to the blog. I spent my days writing, editing and making sure that we maintained our historically high editorial standards.

But I was doing this in a silo, so when we began onboarding more team members who were to contribute to the blog, things started to feel a little painful.

Suddenly, it was evident that we needed new processes. And the only way to fix inefficiencies was to first diagnose them:

  • I was spending too much of my time working with external contributors and responding to queries that I couldn’t focus on content that contributed to big picture business objectives
  • I was used to being a lone wolf, but now my team members needed visibility into which posts were in the pipeline (and at what stage)
  • With more team members, prioritization of content pieces was becoming more difficult

After listing all the pains, we started looking for solutions as a team.

What did the doctor(s) order? You can read about all our process improvements in this post, but here are some of my personal favorites:

  • We killed our “Write For Us” page.
  • We refused to take on any post that didn’t first have a fully fleshed-out pitch (you can steal the template for it below).

Produce better content by getting off on the right foot

Download Unbounce’s blog pitch framework and ensure all your content is 10x content.
By entering your email you’ll receive weekly Unbounce Blog updates and other resources to help you become a marketing genius.

But my favorite change was one that alleviated a ton of pain…

Treat blog posts like campaigns

When I started blogging in 2008, the #1 piece of advice I was given was to establish a posting frequency and then stick to it.

But last year, at marketing conferences and across the web, I began to hear whispers of something different: publish less, but publish deeper.

This suggestion was attractive to me because I’d been working hard for two years to make sure that our editorial calendar was filled with back-to-back actionable articles. I was able to maintain a frequent publishing schedule, but this resulted in me neglecting something far more important: a sound distribution strategy.

We were working hard to create awesome content, but weren’t making the time to be sure that people would take notice.

So in 2016, we started experimenting with treating blog posts like campaigns.

What do I mean by this? Taking the time to plan, write and promote epic posts — the kind of stuff that makes your CMO drop their work and share the post in a department-wide email — even if it means dialing back on publishing frequency.

More specifically, “campaign” posts go through five phases (read about them in detail in this post):

  1. Determine the goal of your post so you can determine later whether or not it was successful (and guide the content of the post).
  2. Do keyword research if appropriate so your post will continue to get organic traffic.
  3. Loop in influencers who can help you amplify your content after you hit publish. Include quotes — as Andy Crestodina said in his keynote at Content Marketing World, “An ally in content production is an ally in content distribution.” Beyond that, start thinking about distribution strategy before you write a single word.
  4. Create custom blog assets that you’d like to see in your own social media feeds. Think of how you can create a consistent design experience across all channels.
  5. Distribute according to a predetermined plan. Milk all your channels for everything they’re worth.

We get so much more out of posts when we take this well-rounded approach — we feel happier and more strategic (instead of feeling like we’re on a content farm). It feels less painful and it actually feels like less work. Here’s another great bit I heard at Content Marketing World:

More of a spirit of experimentation

Optimization is such a core part of our business — we preach it in our webinars, on our podcast, on the blog. “Always be testing” echoes through the hallways to the extent that it’s become a bit of a cliché.

Yet, when it came to actually conducting tests on our blog and other content, we were quicker to make excuses than make time for optimization. Not because we were slackers — quite the opposite — but because we were too focused on furiously pumping out content to take a step back and take a look at the bigger picture.

Until we decided to just do it ✔️️ and were inspired to launch a two week optimization experiment. For the experiment, we halted publishing and focused entirely on optimizing evergreen content. In a nutshell we:

  1. Researched top traffic posts
  2. Freshened up the content of the post to keep them evergreen
  3. Optimized those posts for lead generation (this part was key)

You can read all about our experiment (and how it resulted in 700 new leads for us) in this post. Or just grab the checklist below and get started.

Ready to optimize your high-traffic posts for lead gen?

Steal the exact process that Unbounce used during their two week optimization experiment.
By entering your email you’ll receive weekly Unbounce Blog updates and other resources to help you become a marketing genius.

Our main takeaway? Optimization isn’t just for conversion rate optimizers and performance marketers. Content marketers stand to gain a lot by taking a step back, too. Even if it means temporarily forgetting about your editorial calendar.

More accountability

Everyone is aware of certain inefficiencies and pains within their organization or on their team, but seldom do we make the time to take ownership of these and actually resolve to fix them.

I’d encourage you to take a step back and think about what hurts and what bandaids you have at your disposal. It may seem daunting or like a lot of work at first, but I think you’ll find that it pays off in the long run.

Read this article: 

If It’s Painful, It’s Broken: Unbounce Blog Team Takeaways from 2016

16 Overlay Examples Critiqued for Conversion

overlay-teardown-650
When it comes to overlays, everyone’s a critic — especially your prospects. Image via Shutterstock.

These days, cyberspace is about as cluttered as my closet.

And in that deep sea of endless streams and notifications and other dopamine-releasing distractions, getting your offer seen can be challenging to say the least.

Luckily, overlays can help mute some of that background noise by focusing your visitor’s attention on one (hopefully) compelling offer.

But your job doesn’t end there.

Once you get your prospect’s attention with an overlay, it’s your job to use design and copywriting best practices to keep their interest.

What are these best practices I speak of? Let’s take a look at some overlay examples we spotted in the wild for some concrete examples of what you should — and shouldn’t — do.

Be immediately clear on the value of your offer

I have to admit that when I first saw this overlay, I found the tongue-in-cheek copywriting delightful.

The headline was clever and had me nodding my head:

1-copy

And while the self-aware overlay is a cute idea, you know what’s less cute? Just how quickly your prospect will look for that “x” button if the value of the offer isn’t abundantly clear.

Don’t make readers work to find out what your offer is. It’s fine to be cutesy, as long as you’re explaining what’s in it for them. See how Groove clearly explains the benefit of signing up for their newsletter?

2-copy

The transparency of this offer makes it appealing, and the specificity of Groove’s current monthly revenue adds credibility.

Pro tip: When you’re pushing a subscription, your copy has to do a lot of work because there’s no immediate value. Test including a tangible offer like a free ebook.

It’s not about you!

This overlay by the Chive has personality, but not much persuasive power:

3-copy

The headline – “the best newsletter in the world”  – is playful (if a little cocky), but it fails to communicate what makes the newsletter great and why readers should care.

They’re so caught up in self-praise that they forget to explain what’s in it for the reader. How will signing up for this newsletter impact the reader’s life?

This overlay by GetResponse is guilty of a similar infraction, and to be frank, the tone is a little despie:

4-copy

This overlay uses “I” and “us” language without ever explaining the benefits of the offering — not to mention it never really explains what GetResponse is.

This is problematic, because the overlay appears on a page giving away an ebook only marginally related to their core offering — so it’s safe to assume that not everyone will know what GetResponse is.

I’d test an overlay that includes a compelling, customer-focused unique value proposition and a clear hero shot so people can quickly understand what they’re dealing with at a glance.

Want more overlay best practices?

Download Unbounce’s free guide: Best Practices for Creating High-Converting Overlays
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Lead with what’s in it for them

So what does customer-focused copy look like? Preneur Marketing’s overlay leads with a headline that explains in detail what the reader will get when they sign up:

5-copy
So much specificity!

But Preneur Marketing doesn’t stop there. They lay the persuasion on thick using a number of trusted devices, such as a UVP, a hero shot, a list of benefits, social proof and a single conversion goal (do these elements sound familiar?).

A great thing to test would be a hero shot representative of the actual offering, like the one in this overlay by Acquire Convert:

6-copy

Use overlays to counter objections

No matter which stage of the buyer journey your prospect is at, their inner monologue will include some objections to your offer. Overlays are a great way to counter them.

For example, have a look at this overlay by Gr8fires, which appeared for visitors to their ecommerce store. They knew visitors to that page were likely shopping around for the best deals and were likely already thinking, “I don’t know how much stove installation is going to cost.”

To counter that objection, Gr8fires created an overlay with an “installation calculator” that detailed the costs associated with installing their product. See how the headline mirrors the conversation in the prospect’s head?

7-copy
The results of Gr8fires’ overlay campaign were incredible: 300% increase in monthly sales leads and a 48.54% lift in sales. Image source.

This example is particularly wonderful because it accomplishes something for both the marketer and the prospect. On the prospect’s end, it delivers great value in exchange for a very small commitment (entering name and email). On the marketer’s end, it helps to educate prospects on a larger-ticket item that typically requires more convincing.

A real win-win scenario. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Don’t be a negative Nelly

If you’ve seen overlays across the web, you’ve likely noticed that “yes” button text is often juxtaposed with “no” hyperlink text in close proximity. And you’ve likely noticed that the “no” hyperlink text is often sassy.

I see this everywhere online — marketers resorting to language like:

8-copy
Nobody thinks this.

Or this one:

9-copy
Come on.

Don’t forget this one:

10-copy
Really?

Or finally, this example, which borders on offensive:

11-copy
This is getting out of hand.

It should go without saying, but you should never talk down to prospects simply because they might not want your offering.

Not only does that create friction to completing the form, it can also damage your brand’s image and credibility.

This example by Narcity misses the mark for a different reason:

12-copy

This overlay forces a lie in order to opt-out: “I’m already subscribed.”

This is problematic for two reasons:

  1. If people are subscribed then they shouldn’t be seeing this to begin with
  2. It creates cognitive dissonance, forcing prospects to stop and think.

In short, it creates a jarring experience that doesn’t make you wanna fill in the form.

So what should you be doing?

Mirror the voice in your prospect’s head

Don’t talk down to your visitors with “I can’t stand exclusive offers” opt-out copy.

Stop and reflect on what they’re likely thinking when they click that “no” button. The folks at TVLiftCabinet.com keep it classy:

13-copy

When at a loss, stick with a straightforward, “No thanks, I’m not interested.”

Make it easy to say yes

There are tons of other things you can test to make your overlay offers irresistible to visitors.

  • Test fewer form fields to reduce perceived friction on your forms:
14-copy
Adding too many form fields can have a negative impact on conversion rates.
  • Make visitors feel like they’re being offered something exclusive:
15-copy
16-copy

Whatever you do, never forget that your prospect’s attention is a valuable commodity.

And once you have it, you should respect it by doing everything you can to deliver meaningful value.

Taken from:

16 Overlay Examples Critiqued for Conversion

Strategies You Need To Try in 2017, According to 13 Digital Marketing Experts

marketing-resolutions-2017-650
Image via Shutterstock.

Has anyone in the history of the world ever kept a New Year’s resolution?

I know I haven’t. But that doesn’t stop me from making them year after year and convincing myself that this will be the year for life-altering change. And then my credit card gets charged for my monthly gym membership and I realize I haven’t been in three months… (Where did the time go?)

The problem is, New Year’s resolutions are frequently impulse decisions — we take on ambitious goals without considering how they fit into our day to day lives.

Similarly, it’s easy to walk away from a marketing article with the intention of implementing X tactic. But without taking a step back and seeing how it fits into your overall strategy, you’re about as likely to actually do the work as I am to actually do my workout.

When we spoke to 13 of North America’s most influential digital marketing experts about their plans for 2017, a lot of them shared plans to take a step back and rethink their marketing strategy from a new perspective — rather than take on more tactics.

Here’s some of what they shared.

Scrutinize then optimize your current channels

You may be open to experimenting with new channels, but how often do you take stock of the ones you’ve been using forever? Why did you start using them in the first place?

The answer may be that you’re using them simply because you always have and don’t know anything else…

When we spoke to our digital marketing experts, many of them shared their plans to pull the plug completely on certain channels so they could focus on experimenting with new ones.

Larry Kim, Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Wordstream and Inc columnist, spoke of his experiments with using LinkedIn Ads for lead generation:

larry-kimUnfortunately it didn’t work because the cost per click was around $10 and very limited ad targeting options (e.g., no remarketing or custom list support).

But there were other channels that worked well:

There were many new channels that we tried out or doubled down on that worked spectacularly well for us – and I wrote them all up, including our approach and the results – the new channels included the use of RLSA, Facebook and Twitter Ads, posting content to Medium, changing our SEO tactics, and experimenting with off-topic content.

John Rampton, CEO of Due, was disappointed in the results from Facebook advertising campaigns, but it’s worth noting that he suspects it may have had more to do with targeting oversights:

john-ramptonIn 2016, the most underwhelming marketing tactic we tried were Facebook ads, but I think this was because our target audience of small businesses was not on Facebook searching for business solutions.

Similarly, Moz last year experimented with pumping more money into paid advertising, according to co-founder Rand Fishkin. Moz nearly tripled its advertising budget with Facebook, AdWords and retargeting on various platforms.

Rand’s big takeaway from it all?

rand-fishkinBroad targeted advertising is nearly useless. Unless someone has already been to our website, is familiar with our brand and/or is specifically searching for us or a handful of tightly connected search phrases, digital ads produce very little lift in new signups.

Moz has since cut back spend massively and is focused on optimizing its targeting instead.

Jay Baer of Convince and Convert experimented with some free marketing channels in 2016 – notably, cross-posting from his blog to Medium. And while the effort for posting to Medium is minimal, so too have been the returns:

jay-baerSo far, the readership just hasn’t been there. Curiously, I have 53,000+ followers on Medium now, but generate just 3,000-4,000 views across four different posts per month.

These channels may or may not be effective for your audience, but the lesson here is to survey what’s working for you and what’s not.

And then don’t be afraid to kill your darlings (the channels that just aren’t working).

Out with the old, in with the new.

Build genuine relationships with a small group of influencers

It’s easy to get caught up in the dozens of tasks you have to do each day, but if you’re not currently making time to network and build relationships with your peers, 2017 is a great time to start.

It’s the secret sauce of Aaron Orendorff, prolific blogger and Forbes Top 25 Marketing Influencer. Here’s what he told us:

aaron-orendoorfMarketing is not a single player sport. I dug deep on collaboration this year and combined it with unique story angles. This approach created Unbounce’s [highest traffic] post of the year: Clinton vs. Trump: 18 CROs Tear Down the Highest Stakes Marketing Campaigns in US History.

The key to this approach, Aaron explained, is twofold:

First, you have to have killer idea (and, no, “What’s the best blogging tip?” doesn’t count). Second, roll contributions into each other. What I mean is, start with who you know and once you get initial buy-in use their name to get the next one… or just ask if they’ll connect you.

While this personalized approach has worked for Aaron, many marketers are still taking a cold approach, without much success.

Peep Laja of ConversionXL explained that reaching out cold won’t cut it:

1v26cpfbI myself get bombarded many times a day with all kinds of requests (“we linked to you/we mentioned you/give me feedback”), and I totally ignore them.

How do you avoid getting ignored? For starters, quit it with the canned messages.

Sujan Patel of digital marketing agency Web Profits explained that if you’re going to reach out to influencers, you should be doing it for the right reasons — to start relationships:

sujan-patelBegin with just five to ten people… choose people who appeal to you on a personal level – people you think you will genuinely get along with. Look for signs that you share the same interests (outside of your work) and sense of humor.

In other words, reach out only if your intention is to build genuine relationships. You wouldn’t ignore an email from an actual friend, would you?

Pair great content with great (dynamic) visuals

Since 2015, the content marketing world has been abuzz with Rand Fishkin’s concept of 10x content — the idea that you pick a topic and set out to create something 10x better than anything currently out there on the subject.

But with marketers everywhere striving to create 10x content, how then can you continue to stand out from the crowd?

For Sujan Patel, the marketers who will stand out in 2017 are those who pay special mind to design:

10x content isn’t new, but what will differentiate content in 2017 and beyond is content that directly incorporates design and formatting, instead of relying on great content in a long-form blog post.

As an example, Sujan shared a piece of content he created for a client: a guide to building a personal brand, where the content is inextricable from the design. He’s found that the time they spent on visuals is really paying off:

We see email optin rates over 25% and huge share numbers and backlinks from this type of content.

Ian Lurie of digital marketing agency Portent has similar plans to emphasize aesthetics in the New Year:

ian-lurieIn 2017, I’ll be leaning more towards complex layouts and a greater emphasis on graphics. I’ll also be segmenting by screen resolution.

If the prospect of dialling up your visual content production feels daunting, Nadya Khoja of Venngage has some advice:

nadya-khojaI recommend starting out by visiting your top performing content and repurposing it into engaging visuals. You can do this by pinpointing the main takeaways and tips that are highlighted in that content. Use a tool to create the animated graphics or finding a freelancer on a site like Upwork who can quickly transform that information into a compelling video or motion graphic.

Devote more time and tools to understanding your customers’ motives

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the ax.”

Abe wasn’t a marketer, but he would have been an excellent one — in this blog post, Michael Aagaard, Senior Conversion Optimizer at Unbounce, explained why: you should never start a marketing campaign (chop down a tree) without doing your research (sharpening your axe).

That’s why Michael spends so much of his time conducting customer research and understanding the psychology of decision making. But this year, he took it a step further by socializing his findings to the team:

vubr6m3I spent a good deal of time sharing the insights and results internally so more of our employees could see the value in conducting real customer research rather than relying on assumptions or trends.

And Aagaard can’t stop, won’t stop:

In 2017, I’m going to ramp this up even more – both in terms of the hands-on CRO work I do at Unbounce and in relation to educating our employees and our customers.

Steve Olenski, Sr. Content Strategist at Oracle Marketing Cloud, urged marketers to look into mobile data management platforms (DMPs). He explained that they’re a critical part of the modern marketer’s stack because they enable us to better understand customer behavior:

steve-olenskiWith a mobile DMP, brands can harness and analyze the massive amount of customer data generated by mobile devices — including intent, geolocation, and purchase behavior to better target ads across multiple mobile devices and platforms, from in-app ads on smartphones to mobile web ads and tablet-specific campaigns.

In 2017, commit to collecting more customer information. Because at the end of the day, understanding your audience empowers you to give them more of what they want.

And that keeps them coming back for more.

Be part of the AI and AR conversations

Okay, this one’s a tall order, but it’s one that can’t be ignored for much longer.

Some of the digital marketing experts we spoke to emphasized the importance of keeping your finger on the pulse of cutting edge technology — notably, artificial intelligence and augmented reality.

Today, machine learning systems are being applied to everything from filtering spam emails, to making recommendations for what you should buy or watch (or who you should date).

Unbounce has been investing in applying machine learning to our product — here’s what CEO Rick Perrault had to say:

rick-perrault2016 marked the launch of our effort to apply machine learning to improving conversion results.  We’ve now built machine learning models that can predict conversion rates with reasonable accuracy, and our efforts to create models that provide actionable advice on improving conversion rates are coming along.

Jayson DeMers, CEO of AudienceBloom, has been keeping a close watch on augmented reality, especially after the breakout success of Pokemon Go this year:

jayson-demersxqAR print ads are starting to catch on, with Macallan Whiskey in Esquire Magazine, and Vespa Scooter ads being standout examples here. Axe/Lynx even took things a step further with an interactive “fallen angel” ad in a busy public location. This is a technology in its infancy that’s finally starting to take off.

Whoever innovates here – and does so quickly, early in 2017 – stands to win big.

While you may not necessarily be able to invest in this cutting edge stuff, the least you can do is keep your finger on the pulse of what others are doing. As these technologies progress, they become increasingly affordable and accessible — and you don’t want to be playing catch up when they become ubiquitous.

Down with New Year’s resolutions

I’d like to encourage you to not make a New Year’s resolution this year.

In 2017, make strategic decisions that will actually bring you results.

Over to you — what new things will you test at work in the New Year?

See the article here:  

Strategies You Need To Try in 2017, According to 13 Digital Marketing Experts

12 Proven Ways to Convert With Overlays [FREE EBOOK]

90-97% of visitors to your website won’t convert.

I know… a little piece of my soul dies every time I think about it, too.

[Queue Morgan Freeman narrator voice] But not all hope is lost.

Marketers everywhere are using overlays to get more conversions from their existing website traffic — without running more campaigns, increasing their budget or redesigning their site.

And in our latest ebook, 12 Proven Ways to Convert With Overlays, we spill all their juicy secrets. (Okay, maybe not the one about what happened in Vegas.)

Get more conversions from your website traffic

This ebook will teach you how real companies are using overlays to score more subscribers, sales leads and sales — and how you can start planning your own overlay campaigns today.
By entering your email you’ll receive weekly Unbounce Blog updates and other resources to help you become a marketing genius.

In 12 Proven Ways to Convert with Overlays by Angus Lynch and Amanda Durepos (oh hi), you’ll learn:

  • What overlays are and why you should care
  • Real-world examples and case studies of companies using overlays to score more subscribers, sales leads and sales
  • Tried-and-true best practices to help you plan your own overlay campaigns

In short, it’s 40 pages of overlay inspiration and guidance to help you score more conversions from your existing traffic. Ya dig?

Original post: 

12 Proven Ways to Convert With Overlays [FREE EBOOK]

15 Ways Marketers Use Overlays to Get More Conversions

Let me paint an ugly picture for you.

The end of the month is approaching. In one week, you have to report to your boss about marketing metrics… and you’re not even halfway to your targets.

Maybe you call an emergency brainstorm meeting with your team:

giphy
Are there any last-minute email or social campaigns we can run? Image source.

Maybe you pump more money into your PPC campaigns. Or maybe you do nothing at all and start a mental list of excuses reasons you couldn’t meet your targets.

At the end of the day, you didn’t meet your goals because you’re lacking something — resources, know-how, money or bandwidth.

You need more conversions without the overhead of running a major campaign or redesigning your entire website, regardless of how you define a “conversion”:

  1. Driving immediate sales
  2. Building email subscriber lists
  3. Reducing shopping cart abandonment
  4. Generating sales leads
  5. Moving traffic to high-converting pages (to get more conversions)

Let’s see how marketers are using overlays — modal lightboxes that launch within a web page and focus attention on a single offer — to get more conversions without more overhead.

Part I: Drive immediate sales

Research indicates that an average of 68.8% of shoppers will abandon their carts — that’s well over the majority. What then can you do to secure a sale before users ever leave your site to begin with?

You offer something irresistible at the moment prospects are ready to give up.

Note that the key word here is irresistible. You’re asking for a lot (for prospects to whip out their wallets), so you need to over-deliver in value. Your offer must be generous.

Here are five high-value approaches to securing a last-second purchase from abandoning users.

1. Offer a coupon or immediate discount

A coupon or discount is the most popular way to secure last-second purchases with overlays.

Below is an example from Neil Patel of Quick Sprout, who uses an overlay to offer a massive discount on his consulting services.

overlay-ideas-quicksprout-discount

Test different discounts values, but be careful not to downplay the value of your offering with a super-steep discount, which could hurt your credibility.

Target this offer at: First-time visitors, paid traffic

Place this offer on: Pricing or sign-up pages, product pages, landing pages

2. Offer a shipping discount

Shipping is a pain point for many online shoppers. No matter how well the costs are disclosed throughout the shopping process, many will leave once they see the final price with shipping included.

For that reason, a discount on shipping can often make the difference between a new customer and a lost sale.

overlay-ideas-canvas-prints-free-shipping

In the example above, Easy Canvas Prints uses an overlay to not only offer a last-second discount on shipping, but also capture an email address in the process. More on that later!

Target this offer at: First-time or repeat visitors, paid traffic

Place this offer on: Product pages, pricing or sign-up pages, shopping cart pages

3. Offer a free gift

Free giveaways have been a standard marketing tactic for decades.

They work well on the web because a free giveaway often comes at no cost to the vendor (you), especially if you offer subscription tools or services.

overlay-ideas-crazyegg-heatmap-offer

In the above example, Crazy Egg attempts to capture abandoning users by offering a free heatmap — one of its most popular tools.

Other ideas for free giveaways include ebooks, whitepapers, estimates/quotes or consultations.

Target this offer at: First-time or repeat visitors, paid traffic, organic traffic

Place this offer on: Pricing or sign-up pages, product pages, landing pages

Never launch an overlay without this 24-point checklist

Do you have all your bases covered? Double-check your overlay design, copy and triggering with our 24-point checklist.


By entering your email you'll receive weekly Unbounce Blog updates and other resources to help you become a marketing genius.

4. Offer a time-based discount

Here’s where things get a bit risky. Time-based overlays can be effective because they add an element of urgency, but only if they are sincere.

overlay-ideas-time-based-discount-babyage

In the above example, BabyAge uses a countdown clock to promote a coupon, which (ideally) invokes a feeling of urgency in its users, pushing them toward the conversion.

This may be effective for some audiences, but I encourage you to test. And whatever you do, make sure your users only ever see it once. If you serve this offer on too many pages or put it in front of too broad a user segment, you risk losing credibility.

Target this offer at: First-time visitors only

Place this offer on: Pricing or sign-up pages, landing pages

5. Offer customer support

Some prospects might appreciate being able to talk to a human before they make up their minds about converting.

In the example below, Timesulin uses an overlay as a standin for a virtual salesperson, tapping you on the shoulder and asking if you have any questions:

overlay-ideas-timesulin-customer-support

Especially for more complicated or high-commitment offers, an overlay like this can help squash doubts and counter objections that your visitors have.

Target this offer at: First-time visitors, repeat visitors, paid traffic

Place this offer on: Pricing or sign-up pages, product pages, landing pages

Part II: Building email subscriber lists

If you need convincing that email marketing is an effective marketing channel, consider this eye-popping stat from the Direct Marketing Association:

Email marketing has an ROI of 3800%.

What have you done lately to ensure that your email list is continuously growing? And not a bunch of unqualified subs  — I’m talking about warm email leads that are familiar with your products and have recently interacted with your brand.

Overlays work well for building a subscriber base because it’s easy to offer value that outweighs the small ask of an email address.

Here are the four best approaches for building email subscriber lists with overlays:

6. Offer a discount in exchange for an email address

Offering deals in exchange for an email address has two benefits:

  1. It greatly increases your chances of securing an immediate sale
  2. You can establish a customer relationship through email

Have a look at this example by PetCare:

overlay-examples-petcare-discount

PetCare offers a substantial discount in exchange for an email address. It’s a win for your prospect, because they’ll save on their next order. And it’s a win-win for you, should you make a sale and snag and email.

Target this offer at: First time or repeat visitors, social media traffic, paid traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage, product pages, blog pages, company pages (ex: ‘About,’ ‘Contact’)

7. Collect newsletter subscribers

Though not as lucrative as they once were, newsletters can still drive revenue. The Chive uses an overlay to grab signups in the example below:

overlay-ideas-chive-newsletter

This type of overlay is especially effective when you’re reaching out to a user base that has already interacted with your content and likes what you have to say. It should be targeted only at repeat visitors and lower-converting segments like social media traffic.

Target this offer at: Repeat visitors, social media traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage, product pages, blog pages, company pages (e.g., ‘About,’ ‘Contact’)

8. Offer an ebook, case study or course

Ebook, case study or course offers generally convert at a higher rate than newsletters, because it’s easier to communicate the value to the reader.

Done right, this type of overlay will clearly communicate the benefit of reading, as in this stellar example from ContentVerve:

overlay-ideas-offer-ebook-content-verve

Offering a course has the advantage of securing multiple user interactions, as you can serve this offer piece-by-piece to keep users engaged.

Target this offer at: Repeat visitors, social media traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage, product pages, blog pages, company pages (e.g., ‘About,’ ‘Contact’)

Part III: Reduce cart abandonment

68.81% of online shopping carts are abandoned, according to the Baymard Institute.

People abandon shopping carts for a variety of reasons, and understanding these various behaviors can help you better optimize your sales funnel. Check out the top six reasons for cart abandonment according to Savvy Panda:

why-web-abandonners-abandon-shopping-carts

Two of the top six reasons have nothing to do with the cart itself, but rather the mindset of the shopper, who is expressing only interest in the product, not commitment.

So how do we engage cart abandoners who are only loosely committed to our products?

To extend the engagement — and build a mutually beneficial relationship — you must either:

  1. Get an email address and remarket through triggered emails
  2. Offer a discount or incentive that convinces the shopper to buy before abandoning the cart

With this in mind, here are four approaches to reduce shopping cart abandonment using overlays.

9. Collect an email (to follow up later)

Post-abandonment emails are a great way to continue telling the story you began telling cart abandoners. You can use them to build upon momentum established on your cart page, and nurture a customer relationship.

PetFlow uses this tactic well in the above example, though the “deal” is actually entry into a contest. But hey, it’s a win anytime you can have a kitten and a puppy sitting in your email form field:

overlay-ideas-petflow-reduce-cart-abandonment

Sending a cart-triggered email puts you a step ahead of most competition, as roughly 80% of retailers fail to send triggered emails after cart abandonment. Why not test following up with a free shipping discount?

Target this offer at: Cart abandoners from both paid and organic traffic sources

Place this offer on: Cart pages, checkout pages

10. Notify visitors that they’ve left something in their cart

This is a simple tactic for notifying cart abandoners they’ve left items behind at the checkout.

overlay-ideas-cart-notification-babyage

In this example, BabyAge links its overlay directly to the next step in the checkout process. This may not generate earth-shattering results, but it’s definitely something to test.

Target this offer at: Cart abandoners from both paid and organic traffic sources

Place this offer on: Cart pages, checkout pages

11. Offer telephone support

Many shoppers routinely struggle to complete online checkout processes without assistance.

For companies with complicated products or checkouts, using an overlay to offer help at checkout can significantly reduce cart abandonment.

overlay-ideas-telephone-support-massage-magazine

Massage Magazine’s example above shows how an overlay can used to help clarify the terms of complicated products or subscriptions. It also has the added benefit of grabbing a valuable email address.

Target this offer at: Cart abandoners from both paid and organic traffic sources

Place this offer on: Cart pages, checkout pages

Part IV: Generate sales leads

Generating sales leads with an overlay is closely related to our previous section on building email lists — but with a few subtle differences.

Sales leads don’t necessarily require collecting contact information in exchange for a free resource; reaching out to a visitor on your site can also produce a lead, and is often incentive enough.

Further, you can generate a sales lead by merely offering help — free advice, free quotes — on your product.

Finally, whereas marketing to email list prospects often requires multiple engagements, sales leads usually just a one-time engagement.

12. Offer a free quote or advice

Free quotes have long been used as a lead generation tactic in brick-and-mortar organizations. On the web, free quotes are a great way to offer value without actually giving anything away.

overlay-ideas-free-quote

The example above from YourMechanic uses a free quote offer to drive home the ease and convenience of using mobile mechanics.

I would generally advise against using this type of offer on paid traffic, as “paid” implies these users should already be strong leads. An offer that drives an immediate sale is better suited to this type of user.

Target this offer at: First-time or repeat visitors, organic traffic, social media traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage or any high-traffic/low-converting page, product pages, blog pages

13. Offer a resource that qualifies prospects

Offering a resource to prospects is a great way to demonstrate that you understand their pains — all while confirming that they’re a good fit for your solution.

Gr8fires created an overlay with an “installation calculator” that detailed the costs associated with installing a Gr8fires product:

overlay-ideas-estimate-calculator-gr8-fires

The results of Gr8fires’ overlay campaign were incredible: 300% increase in monthly sales leads and a 48.54% lift in sales.

As with any information resource offer, this works best if you have already established an audience. If you don’t already have a rapport with your visitors, this offer may go ignored.

Target this offer at: Repeat visitors, organic traffic, social media traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage or any high-traffic/low-converting page, product pages, blog pages

Part V: Traffic-shaping (driving traffic to high-converting pages)

As you look through your analytics, you may notice that there are certain pages on your site — like your blog homepage or ecommerce site — that don’t have particularly high conversion rates.

This is where traffic shaping overlays can come in handy.

Traffic shaping overlays allow you to direct users from a low-converting to a high-converting page, whether your conversion goal is lead generation or revenue generation.

For example, you could direct traffic from a well-performing blog post about watch reviews to a product page for the best-reviewed watch.

14. Cross-sell

Regular blog visitors likely already recognize your brand, but they could have blinders up when it comes to the calls to action you have embedded on your site.

A cross-sell overlay can help focus a user’s attention on a relevant offer.

For example, at Unbounce, our analytics showed that a roundup of the 16 Best Digital Marketing Conferences of 2016 was bringing in a lot of organic traffic.

Assuming that people who read about marketing conferences are also interested in attending marketing conferences, we served up this overlay (with a ticket discount to sweeten the pot) that directed people to our Call to Action conference microsite:

overlay-ideas-cross-sell-unbounce-cta-conf
Target this offer at: First-time and repeat visitors, social media traffic, organic traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage, blog pages, company pages (e.g.,: ‘About,’ ‘Contact’)

15. Re-engage with more content

Keeping visitors on your blog or resource library has a lot of advantages. The more they stick around, the more opportunities you have to:

  • Show visitors that you understand their pain and are uniquely qualified to help alleviate it
  • Educate visitors about your solution (ideally the solution to their problem)

A strategically placed exit or timed overlay on your blog can help keep visitors on site by recommending content similar to what they were reading previously:

overlay-ideas-content-re-engage

This type of overlay is most effective when targeted at first-time visitors.

These are the prospects that need a lil’ warming up before you ask them for their email address.

More conversions, less overhead

Next time the end of the month is rolling around and you haven’t met your targets, don’t scramble to run one-off campaigns to make up the difference.

Instead, pick one of these overlay campaigns and create a baseline of conversions every monththe type of campaign that keeps on giving without more overhead.

And when building your overlays, don’t forget the following:

The best marketing is mutually beneficial.

Conversions happen in that magical moment where your goals as a marketer align precisely with the goals of the user. You want the sale, they want the bargain. You want the email, they want the ebook.

If you focus on delivering relevant, timely offers that minimize intrusiveness and respect the user experience, your users will thank you — with their conversion.

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15 Ways Marketers Use Overlays to Get More Conversions