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50 Creative Ideas Your Marketing Team Can Use to Improve SaaS Product Adoption & Awareness

It’s Day 2 of Product Marketing Month. Today’s post is all about accelerating your marketing teams productivity with some creative new SaaS product adoption ideas. — Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner

You don’t need a big budget or a six-week-long strategic planning session to get started with product marketing. Sure, you’ll need to do this eventually, but it shouldn’t put on hold your product adoption and awareness tasks. Educating customers and prospects about the power and utility of what you’ve worked so hard to build is easier than you think, and today I’ll show you exactly how we think about SaaS product adoption and awareness at Unbounce.

Back in 2012 we launched The Landing Page Conversion Course (LPCC for short), and as part of the rollout, I sat down and rattled off 25 quick and easy things we could do to create awareness. It took me less than ten minutes. I then grabbed Cody and Dan, and headed to a local bar to continue the session. Between the three of us, we notched it up to sixty before our first pint was done.

Getting scrappy is a great way to mobilize your team. These impromptu brainstorms not only created over 50 ideas we could implement really quickly, but it uncovered some that would become part of a larger strategic vision. Also, one of our dogs is called Scrappy, and he’s very cute.

Last week I sat down and repeated this exercise for the new products Unbounce: popups and sticky bars. Even though my focus was our own products (you can check them out via the 3 orange buttons in the nav ^^^), the majority of this list can be applied to any business, SaaS in particular.

You can create your own list like this too

I’d encourage you to repeat this exercise, starting by yourself, and then with some team members. Encourage them to come up with crazy and ridiculous ideas, as this will help expand your minds into ideas you’d typically consider off limits. After all, setting up a stall outside a conference (not your own), handing out bacon to tired hungover attendees as they arrive in the morning, might seem bizarre, but I guarantee you’ll be the favorite sponsor of the event.

Help us out by sharing your best ideas

With the collective wisdom of all of you reading this, we should easily be able to come up with 50 or 100 more ideas, so please drop them in the comments below and if they’re awesome I’ll add them to the master list with your name/company/product listed beside them.

Below are 50 ideas you can get started on today, broken into two parts, SaaS product adoption, and SaaS product awareness.

Part One: SaaS Product Adoption Tips

Click on the ideas to show the full description and instructions.

Take a first pass at it yourself, then run a brainstorm with a shared Google doc. Take a different approach from a conventional brainstorm (where you plaster a wall with sticky notes). Instead, have everyone bring their laptop to the session. Have the team verbalize their ideas, and then enter them into the shared doc. It’ll make the process much faster.

The primary technique for content marketing is to provide educational content that helps people become better at their job – in the hopes that they will eventually end up buying your product. This is great, except for when they don’t know what your product is or why they should care.

To enhance the impact of your content, try showcasing it directly in your content. This won’t apply to every business, but if you offer any kind of website tech you can try it. If you do it right, you can create an experience that is better than the content alone.

For example click here to see a sticky bar appear at the top of the page.

I just demoed our sticky bar product by asking for your participation.

The on-click trigger is one of many options available in Unbounce, including scroll down, scroll up, entrance, exit, and timed delay.

Brainstorm ways that you might be able to show your product in the context of your content.

If your software involves building something, a great way to help with onboarding and adoption is to drive first-time evaluators into a self-guided experience within a template. That way you can show them exactly how to use the product, inside the product! #inception

Here’s the “Builder Basics” template we created for this purpose. You can use it to get the full builder experience in less than 10 minutes or less, which is perfect for showcasing initial value and improving your Time to Value (TTV) metric.

This concept allows people to try your tool without needing to already have an idea they want to build and launch. You can also use it to specifically guide people to using the features you’ve identified as having the ability to create those all-important ah ha moments.

This is something we’ve wanted to do at Unbounce for years, and it finally became a reality in December. Essentially it’s a live session inside the Unbounce builder so people can get a hands-on experience without signing up.

With an interactive sandbox experience like this, the only barrier to entry is the complexity of the product or the clarity of how you communicate its use. And because we’ll be linking to ours from tens of different campaigns and contexts, we’re using entrance popups to speak directly to the message and source that led people to the demo, as well as introduce how the demo works.

You can check out the try-before-you-buy demo here.

Entry popups are a brilliant way of scaling this idea as we can use referrer or URL or cookie targeting to show the right message to the right people.

We gave some of the top brands that use Unbounce beta access to the popups release, which was a great way to source a high-profile testimonial, like this one from Campaign Monitor.

Not everyone likes to consume content the same way. To combat this, on our demo page we offer three lengths of video: 2 mins, 10 mins, 30 mins, and live 1-on-1 sessions.

A delightful and unexpected postcard can be a lovely touch, and if people have signed up for your product or products, you’ll most likely have their mailing address. It’s important to remember that your product marketing should be focused on your customers as much as those who are prospects. Your goal here for a single product is getting dormant accounts to adopt the product. For multiple products your goal is awareness and adoption or ones that people haven’t used yet.

Something else we’ve learned is that, beyond email onboarding, those handy product tours in app can be a great way of guiding someone through new additions to a SaaS product (or otherwise). You can try out something like Appcues to add a guided tour when you go from one product to two to ensure 1) people notice something’s new, and 2) they can discover its features in a quick, interactive way.

Largely we’ve talked about awareness in this post, but product marketing needs to go beyond this, too. It’s all about who can successfully use your product, fulfilling its initial promise of value. As legendary onboarding expert Samuel Hulick advises, you need to determine all the ah-ha moments leading up to where customers find value. I.e. in a journey, what exact tasks do people need to complete before they’ll see even the smallest amount of value you advertised?

As an example, for Unbounce popups and sticky bars, we identified that for evaluators to be successful in their trial using these, they must a) build b) publish c) add the line of javascript to their site d) collect 10+ conversions. (Ten or more helps us ensure they aren’t 1-2 from simply testing the product themselves).

It’s key once you outline your product’s ah ha moments that whatever they are, they’re trackable from inside your product. This ensures you can truly measure adoption and understand where people get stuck.

Taking Sam’s advice above, when we identified our ah-ha moments to product adoption, we started tracking them, made our dashboards, and then began creating educational content designed to help people over tricky steps. You can do the same for your products, too. Either via emails, or something like a skip ahead guide for product setup, similar to the one we made:

The resource above was delivered to those who started a trial within their onboarding emails. They could skip through the progress bar of ah-ha moments or must-do tasks to see value quickly.

Part Two: SaaS Product Awareness Tips

Click on the ideas to show the full description and instructions.

Get everyone on the marketing and customer success/support team to write one letter per day for 30 days. Cap the time at 15 minutes per letter. If possible take a look at how they use your product: “I loved your landing page for the blah blah” etc. (check with your boss or legal as to whether it’s okay to mention their work – in my experience as long as you’re not making it public it’s very cool).

Here’s the product marketing kicker: don’t sell or mention the product in the letter – keep it personal and thankful – but follow your signature with a fun and made up job title that mentions the new product or feature.

For example: Oli Gardner, Chief Unbounce Sticky-Bar-with-Geo-Targeting Champion

I just mentioned the new product, and one of its features. In a delightful manner.

Bonus points if you create some content (like a custom landing page) that ranks for the keywords in that job title (and has your face on it).

Side benefit bonus: your coworkers get to rewrite their own job title every day for a month.

Ask your entire company to change their email signature to promote your new products. This can gain some exposure to different segments of potential customers. For example, your developers run in different circles than marketing, so their email conversations might connect with a different functional buyer persona. This also has the benefit of mobilizing the whole company with the same message, which is beneficial in its own right. Here’s an example email that our events manager sent to the company to help increase awareness for an event we were hosting at Hubspot’s INBOUND conference.

(Click for full-size image)

We like to have fun with our Out Of Office email autoresponders at Unbounce. Something funny or different can be a delightful way to respond to your customers and prospects when there might be a delay in responding. From a product marketing perspective, you can use this opportunity to talk about your new products or features. Try emailing me at oli@unbounce.com to see my current OOO autoresponder.

Try running a 5-second test using UsabilityHub.com to see what percentage of people can determine what your product(s) is in five seconds. Not only will you get a sense of how many can figure it out quickly, but you’ll get insights about how people might be misinterpreting your value prop. To turn this experiment into a product marketing effort, you can recruit free test participants via social media or an email list, effectively getting your product’s UVP in front of people.

If you look at the top of this page and scroll, you’ll see how the navigation bar sticks to the top (and gets slimmer to maximize the viewport). Our web developer made this. You can use a sticky bar to do something similar. If you click here, you’ll see a sticky bar with the same content appear, and because it was created in the Unbounce builder, a developer would never have been needed.

Note: I made it appear at the bottom because if it appeared at the top you wouldn’t really see it because it’s so similar to the header.

Add a link to your Twitter bio that leads to a product landing page. Double down by asking your employees/coworkers to change their Twitter header image for a period of time. You can’t add links in the main body of the bio, but you can add one below.

With a “Did you know that we have this product/feature?” to gauge awareness and create it at the same time. Have Yes/No/Tell me more options, with a link out to a landing page or product page if they say “Tell me more” or “No”. The product marketing gold in this one is that if they say “No”, you’ve made them aware of the product by simple virtue of asking the question. BOOM.

Offer early access to your product (or a free account) to influencers in your industry. If they get value from using it, ask for some social sharing love, and ask them for a testimonial you can use as social proof on upcoming campaigns and your website. We recently released an amazing Landing Page Analyzer and asked Rand Fishkin if he’d try it out and provide a testimonial. Here’s what he sent back to me:


As I mentioned above, we called our new products by an umbrella term “Convertables”, including in the Unbounce app sidebar. We’ve now removed that and replaced with “Popups & Sticky Bars”. Sometimes you gotta get out of your own way, and call a spade a flippin’ spade.

Note that this was a fairly simple interface change, but there is still a massive amount of code that our engineering team had built based on the previous hierarchy. That will remain for now as we run these experiments, but it was a substantial barrier in getting buy-in to make these changes.

Overall, if you’re not being 100% clear about the context of use in the naming of your products, don’t stick with a name because you came up with it, be prepared to pivot for the sake of both awareness and adoption.

Reach out to your favourite podcasts to get on them as a guest. It helps if you have an influencer on your team. Typically, most interviewers will give you at least a small window to give your product a shout out.

Position yourself as an expert (I’d say thought leader but that term is kinda gross), by hosting or giving big-time participation to a Twitter chat session. If one exists related to what you do, join in, and offer to co-host or just help out. If there isn’t one, just f#**** make one. Start something. It’s not that hard. If it fails, so what?! Try things. Try things all the time. You’ll become a better marketer if you try.

You heard me. Get a plane flying over your city writing a romantic red script-style message in the sky. This tip comes courtesy of my wife Nicole, cos she’s hilarious.

Another gem from Nicole. Clarity is the most important part of your product’s value proposition, and as you will find out if you follow my advice with a 5-second test, not everyone gets it. I can’t imagine a more fun way to get your team describing what you do. Have them all mime it, then make a video and share it with the world. I guarantee a great time, and you’ll probably also have a team more aligned on your value prop – and perhaps some ideas for a better headline.

Wistia does a great job of this (after all they are a professional video hosting company with amazing viewer analytics, HD video delivery, and marketing tools to help understand your visitors.) << See how I did some product marketing for them there? At many conferences, you’ll see some fun and useful videos in every break where they share video production tips and some light hearted comic relief.

This is something we tried at CTA Conf in 2017 and it was awesome. In the “Product” tent, we had a bunch of workstations set up with gamified tasks which exposed the best product features. Two of the best were:

Drag & Drop Match
For this challenge, we had two screens: one showing a completed landing page and the other where the Unbounce app was open and you had to replicate the completed page from jumbled components. You had to match the two pages by dragging elements, changing widths, colors and page sections.

Lock Box
There was a locked box with sweet sweet swag inside, and to get the combination, you had to trigger a popup or sticky bar using all of the available triggering settings: click, entrance, exit, scroll down, scroll up, and timed delay. Each one had a number on it that made up the combination for the lock.

So good.

We also had some quiz questions that people could answer to get more tokens. It’s a wonderful way of marketing your products while also giving people some cool swag to remind them of you often. Your swag does need to be legit, otherwise people won’t really care enough to participate.

This is really simple and obvious, yet hardly anyone does it. Take the content you write for your blog and repurpose it in as many other formats and places as possible. For Medium write a more personal and transparent version, for LinkedIn create a shorter version and link back to the main article. Stick some slides containing visual highlights on Slideshare.

Have you talking to the camera and/or showing the coolest features of the product – and tailor them for specific search terms. For instance, we have a feature called Dynamic Text Replacement, that allows you to pass keywords from your AdWords campaigns to your landing page, increasing the relevance and often your Quality Score too. So for that we’d want to create a video called “How to use Dynamic Text Replacement to increase AdWords Quality Score”, and another called “How to use Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) to increase AdWords Quality Score”, as that’s an industry term for the same thing. And always have a CTA at the end of the video, driving people to a landing page.

If you have any email drip campaigns running, add a p.s. at the bottom of each email with a mention of your new product. As always, send it to a dedicated landing page if you can.

Update your Twitter profile header image, and include a text bit.ly link (or similar). This will let you track its impact. You can see mine here.

If you have any content or tools that are in Google Sheets you can add a Google Analytics event pixel to know how many times it’s opened and which tabs are being viewed. This could help you understand what’s drawing people’s attention.

Here’s how to do it. Choose (and protect) a cell somewhere in your sheet(s), and paste this code into it:

=image(googleanalytics(“UA-xxxxxxxx-1″,”Doc Name”,”Sheet Name”))

Obviously replace the xxxxxxxx with your GA account ID, and the doc and sheet names.

When customers are on our free plan, there is a small “Built with Unbounce” strip at the bottom of the page. Link this to your best product demo.

Here’s what mine looks like currently. It talks directly about Product Marketing Month, and this now appears at the end of the 300 blog posts I’ve written!

If you put on events (meetups or a conference), bring out your inner child and write & sketch cute product references on the sidewalks around the event location. Pro tip: the curb beside a crosswalk traffic light is the best spot as people have to stand and wait. It really works, after all, the “Look Right” paint that we’re all use to seeing was created because British wartime prime minister Sir Winston Churchill was visiting New York City and got smoked by a cab because he was looking the wrong way (cars drive on the left in the UK).

If you segment your customer list by those who have adopted your product, a simple thank you card is a lovely surprise. Make sure you include a link to a landing page to ask them for feedback or a testimonial. You should always be sourcing fresh commentary to add to your marketing collateral. A bonus for this approach could be that you might get some love on social media which helps spread the word through your customer’s networks.

On mother’s day record videos of your coworkers’ moms describing what your product does. Gold, Jerry, gold. Dads for father’s day. A robot text-to-speech audio generator for cyber Monday. Spread that golden poop on social.

Look at Google Analytics for your top 20 highest traffic blog posts, then comb through them for opportunities to add a contextual explicit ask of the reader. Such as: “You can create a blah blah, like that blah blah in the photo, by using blah blah, click here to see it in action.” Pro tip: try to put this in the first two paragraphs, as older blog posts, even with high traffic, can often be bounce traps where people run at the slightest hint of a bygone expiry date.

Following on from the last one, if you show an old date, many people will leave. Remove it, and some people spend their time wondering when it was published. It’s a constant dilemma for marketing teams.

No harm in experimentation though, so throw in a single line of CSS to set the ID or class of the meta info (date etc.) to hidden. .blogMetaEtc: display:none !important; will most likely work.

Replace .blogMetaEtc with the actual class or ID. Then after a week/month (depending on traffic levels), look in GA to see if the bounce rate or time on page is different.

Note that both of those metrics can be a bit shady if it’s the only page they visit on your site, as GA can only produce a real number if you visit more than one page. But you might spot something. If you DO find that people spend more time on the “no date” version, you can focus on getting more product mentions on those posts.

Mind blown, amiright?! Might seem basic, but how often does your team Tweet about new products or product features, or customer case studies etc.

Probably very rarely.

So just ask them! But don’t waste people’s time with a long-winded and generic, “Can you Tweet this?” email.

That shit drives me bonkers, it’s total amateur hour.

Send them a three-line email that says, “Hey team, it would really help if you could give our new product launch/feature some love on social.

Here’s a Click-to-Tweet ready to go, and here’s one for LinkedIn.” etc. etc. for the social channels that matter for you.

Include a p.s. “p.s. I would like to bug you to help like this once per month, so expect emails with that frequency. Thank you!” << letting them know it’s a regular thing will A) make you do it regularly, which you should be, and B) stop you from having to grovel every time you send an email like that. You can even have a consistent “Product Marketing Tweet Request #23” in the subject line. Super clear, super simple, super respectful of people’s time.

Grab 20 people from your office and go do a dance outside the local art gallery. Choose some awesome 80s music and wear company t-shirts underneath a plain white/white/green one. Rip ‘em off and dance like tomorrow is a great day for signups.

Captions can really increase the number of times your video is watched as many people can’t or don’t want to turn up the volume. Facebook’s Power Editor can automatically caption your videos. Give it a try, and if it’s not an accurate enough translation you can still do it manually.

If you didn’t get a chance to read the first post in Product Marketing Month, you might not know that the blog design you’re looking at was a very rapid overhaul for this category only. It took one of our developers a days work to set up a different WordPress template that is way more product focused.

Start by doing a Google image search for your brand, company, products, founders, and see what shows up. I guarantee you’ll see a bunch of old logos and old product screenshots, not to mention some old hair (on the founders) :D Find those images and update them.

Wistia has shown that the default image on your videos is critical to optimizing for more plays. If your product marketing involves videos, then you need people to press play or what’s the point? This post has some great ideas.

This doesn’t have to be your core product. It can be anything that you’re releasing. We launched the Landing Page Analyzer there and managed to get to the #2 spot for the day, earning us a place in the PH newsletter.

Similar to how some ecommerce stores have a small notification appear when “Ashley from Minnesota just bought the Hawaiian Luau Shirt in Blue”, you too can share feedback from your customers and funnel this positive feedback directly onto your site via sticky bars designed to look like small push-style notifications.

In SaaS, for example, you can use a Hotjar poll to collect 2-month onboarding feedback, and then use sticky bars to funnel a the positive feedback onto your site using the on-scroll trigger. This can help address purchase anxiety by helping current prospects see who’s already starting trials and providing terrific feedback about their onboarding experience.

If you’ve got proper app security, it’s likely that your customers are automatically logged out after a given period, and will often see the login screen. This is a perfect opportunity to showcase your new products or even old ones that need a bit of love. This was a big learning for us, as we were only starting to use a portion of it (but look at all that space!!).

In Unbounce, one of the buttons you push most often is to “create”. People are very used to hitting this button, making it the perfect place to add an interstitial notification.

An interstitial is just a fancy way of saying a gateway experience that you pass through.

Something along the lines of “Did you know that you can also create website popups and sticky bars with Unbounce?” We haven’t done this yet, but the idea came from the product team during a brainstorm.

Personally, I think it’s genius.

If you have a login link on your website (don’t we all?), check Google Analytics to see how many people are clicking on it. It’s very common behaviour for people to come to your homepage every time they want to log in, which in and of itself is critical info as you should be filtering it from your website traffic.

Like the in-app “Create” button, this is a brilliant way to present an interstitial popup to tell returning customers about your latest and greatest, with a simple button to continue on their way.

Phewf! That was a lot of tips. I hope they help you get more people seeing and using your products. Let’s open this puppy up! Share your own tips below and if they rock, I’ll add ’em to the post (with attribution).

— Cheers
Oli Gardner


50 Creative Ideas Your Marketing Team Can Use to Improve SaaS Product Adoption & Awareness

Big Bang Redesign: Smashing Magazine’s 2017 Relaunch, a Case Study

You’ve been there: big bang redesigns are usually a very, very bad idea. Redesigning and rebuilding an existing website from scratch is risky and unpredictable, and in many cases the level of complexity is highly underrated and underestimated. In mid-2016, Smashing Magazine decided to make a big switch from the existing WordPress setup to an entirely new design, entirely new architecture (JAM Stack) and an entirely new, GitHub-based, editorial workflow.

See the original article here: 

Big Bang Redesign: Smashing Magazine’s 2017 Relaunch, a Case Study

How to Storyboard a Marketing Video (When You’re Not an Artist)

Whether you like it or not, content marketing is embracing the visual culture of today and moving towards video. According to HubSpot, 43% of people want to see more video content from marketers, and four times as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. Which, unfortunately, doesn’t bode well for blog posts. With written content becoming less effective as time goes on, you’re probably already thinking about creating video content as a part of your marketing strategy. You might be eager to jump right in and start creating videos, but planning your content…

The post How to Storyboard a Marketing Video (When You’re Not an Artist) appeared first on The Daily Egg.

More here: 

How to Storyboard a Marketing Video (When You’re Not an Artist)

How To Set Up An Automated Testing System Using Android Phones (A Case Study)

Regression testing is one of the most time-consuming tasks when developing a mobile Android app. Using myMail as a case study, I’d like to share my experience and advice on how to build a flexible and extensible automated testing system for Android smartphones — from scratch.

How To Set Up An Automated Testing System Using Android Phones (A Case Study)

The team at myMail currently uses about 60 devices for regression testing. On average, we test roughly 20 builds daily. Approximately 600 UI tests and more than 3,500 unit tests are run on each build.

The post How To Set Up An Automated Testing System Using Android Phones (A Case Study) appeared first on Smashing Magazine.


How To Set Up An Automated Testing System Using Android Phones (A Case Study)

5 Conversion Rate Optimization Challenges For Enterprises To Solve

Although the interest in conversion rate optimization is increasing over time, organizations are unable to adopt it fully. To ensure its smooth adoption and implementation, certain challenges and misconceptions need to be addressed.

interest in conversion rate optimization google trends
Google Trends

In this post, we will talk about 5 such conversion optimization challenges that enterprises face and ways to overcome them.

Challenge 1. Politics and People—A Cultural Challenge

An organization’s culture is made of 2 core components—people (skill and mindset) and their interpersonal relationships (power to influence and politics ). Creating a conversion optimization culture becomes challenging when either people lack the understanding and skill or when influential people in the organization want their opinions to be valued more than what data and facts indicate.


Brian Massey, Founder, Conversion Sciences shares his view on the political challenge as follows:

Brian Massey

Why has Donald Trump’s top-down, opinion-driven leadership style been accepted by the white-collar working public in the US? Because enterprise businesses have trained us that this is how leadership works. We have a name for this leadership style: “HiPPO,” or Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. Joel Harvey calls it Helicopter Management. This is the management style of charismatic or autocratic leaders who drive action in their organizations by helicoptering in, expressing a lightly-informed opinion, and enforcing their opinion in one of the following two ways:

* They bestow budget upon the loyal.

* They threaten the jobs of the disloyal.

So marketing teams can grab the budget and buy the latest tools. But they then struggle to find the man-hours necessary to make the tools effective.

Like all big business problems, it’s a cultural issue.”

James Spittal, Chief Executive Officer, Web Marketing ROI also talks about the HiPPO effect and the political challenge that obstructs a culture of conversion rate optimization.

James Spittal

Only a small portion of changes are A/B tested, kind of like the “HiPPO” effect. The typically small and under-resourced internal CRO team madly tries to work with an agency to get as many A/B tests launched as possible and keeps up their A/B test velocity while talking to everyone about CRO. Meanwhile, a C-level executive asks for a change to be pushed straight into the source code base without it being tested, costing the organization potentially millions of dollars and because they don’t know any better.

Keith Hagen, VP & Director of Conversion Services at Inflow views politics as an obstacle in the implementation of quality insights for any CRO program.

Keith Hagen

Not all insights are equal. One insight can be worth millions; the other may not move the needle at all while the enterprise pays its employees to test and implement that insight as well.

Terming what an insight actually is, is important as well. Insights come from customers and identify a customer obstacle or opportunity.  If you are not making something better for the customer or capitalizing better on what you have, it should not be worked on. Enterprise organizations have a lot of voices, and the higher paid voices tend to influence what optimizations are made to a site.

The solution he proposes—Score Insights Based on Their Potential.

Every insight should be scored on its potential and shared across the organization. Whether the insight is about an obstacle to a purchase or an opportunity to sell more, the potential should be assigned a dollar value so that it is clear what NOT working on the insight will cost.


James Spittal, Chief Executive Officer, Web Marketing ROI attributes the lack of skill—technical or development—with regard to why people in an organization pose a challenge to creating a culture of CRO.

James Spittal

This challenge simply occurs because of people in an enterprise not having the knowledge, talent, or skills. Often, we see people with a graphic design, pure web design, pure analytics, or pure UX background become the “de facto” CRO team. But they struggle because it’s unlikely that they have the technical skills or development skills to be able to implement advanced A/B test ideas (major layout changes, modals, segmentation, changing cart flows, doing tests on pricing, etc.). Often, they also struggle to get resources internally or externally and build a strong business case to increase the CRO budget.

Johann Van Tonder, COO, AWA Digital, shares similar views regarding people and the lack of talent to implement conversion optimization.

Johann Van Tonder

The challenge is to find good optimization talent. While there is no shortage of people marketing themselves as CRO practitioners, only a small percentage of the candidates we screen make it into our organization. This is the same pool that enterprises are recruiting from.  

A good optimizer is both analytical and creative, with a solid grasp of disciplines as diverse as psychology, copywriting, marketing, and statistics. They are brilliant communicators with an entrepreneurial drive and at least basic coding skills. Finding them is not easy.


The first step of creating a culture of data-driven conversion optimization in any organization is to educate the people about its benefits. Any enterprise planning to implement such a shift—moving from random A/B testing to scientific conversion optimization—must first understand the “why” behind it. That’s why we have 15 conversion rate experts share why they feel it is important to step up from A/B testing to conversion optimization.

Any cultural change requires the complete support of the top management. That’s why it is all the more important to convince it about conversion optimization. Here’s how you can use data to convince your top management about why they need conversion optimization:

  • Highlight improved user experience as a double win.
  • Present a competitive analysis.
  • Stress the gaps in your current approach.
  • Show the money.
  • Show the data.

Challenge 2. No Defined Structure that Supports CRO

It’s a huge challenge for enterprises to put together a structure that supports conversion optimization effectively. There are a number of questions that arise when addressing this challenge. Would it be beneficial to hire a dedicated conversion optimization team, or would it mean only additional expenditure? Who is responsible for conversion optimization?

With regard to this challenge, some interesting observations were listed by ConversionXL’s report on State of Conversion Optimization 2016. One of the findings quoted in the report mentions, “…only 29% of people said that there’s a single dedicated person who does optimization. 30% more said there’s a team in charge of optimization, but 41% of respondents had no one in particular that was accountable for optimization efforts.”

Some companies have internal conversion optimization teams that comprise an analyst, designer, marketer, and project manager. However, should these people invest all of their time on conversion optimization? One way of dealing with this is to have all team members allocate time between core job functions and conversion optimization.

Another challenge related to the lack of structured process to conversion optimization, as explained by Tim Ash, CEO of SiteTuners, and a digital marketing keynote speaker, is the isolation of the CRO team from the rest of the teams.

Tim Ash

The biggest problem that an enterprise CRO faces is the siloing emblematic of big companies. All job functions and even departments are compartmentalized and do not communicate well with each other. So even though a CRO group or team exists within the company, it is only able to focus on limited tactical objectives and simple split testing. Typically, CRO initiatives pass through compliance and approval reviews, get watered down by the branding gatekeepers, and then languish in the IT development queue to get implemented.

At SiteTuners, we have developed our Conversion Maturity Model to grade organizations on key aspects of their optimization effectiveness. Dimensions include culture and processes, organizational structure and skill set, measurement and accountability, the marketing technology stack, and of course the user experience across all channels.

One of the biggest determiners of success is whether there is active and consistent support for CRO from high-ranking executives. If there is political air-cover and the CRO team reports high up in the company, this team can work across the silos to tackle fundamental business issues involving products and services, the business model, back-end operational efficiencies, and fundamental user experience redesigns.


Lay down a clear process for conversion optimization that needs to be followed by everyone in the organization. Create a dashboard or platform where all the conversion optimization activities are planned, updated, and reported. Share this platform with everyone in the organization. Encourage a culture where everyone contributes to conversion optimization. However, make decisions based only on data. For example, while deciding what to test and optimize, follow a scientific hypotheses prioritization framework. The benefit—though everyone gets to share their observations and hypotheses—is that only the most relevant of those are tested.

Challenge 3. Inefficient Methodology to Implementing Conversion Optimization

Paul Rouke, Founder and CEO, PRWD points out that lack of user research is one problem in the current conversion optimization methodology followed by most enterprises.

Paul Rouke

Among enterprises, a lack of an intelligent and robust optimization methodology is a major barrier to them making experimentation a trusted and valued part of their growth strategy. Lack of user research in developing test hypotheses, alongside lack of innovative and strategic testing, instead a focus on simple A/B testing, are some of the biggest barriers which prevent enterprises from harnessing the potential strategic impact conversion optimization could have for their business.

As shown below, the interest in A/B testing is far more widespread than in conversion optimization.

interest in a/b testing vs. interest in conversion optimization - google trends
Google Trends

It is important to understand that testing random ideas based on opinions is not a smart way of testing. You may get a winning variation even by testing “ideas,” but this will not help solve the real pain points that users face. The challenge, therefore, is to eliminate guesswork; and the solution is to focus on data instead.

Here’s what Brian Massey has to say regarding eliminating guess work and relying on a behavioral data-based methodology.

Brian Massey

Enterprises are missing out on an area, that is, following Moore’s Law in terms of increasing capability and decreasing costs. Behavioral data collection is dropping precipitously in price, and new capabilities are coming online weekly. Just as Microsoft didn’t realize that mobile phone market would follow Moore’s Law, enterprises run the risk of missing the growth in Behavioral Science, a discipline designed to eliminate guessing from business strategy and tactics.

Mathilde Boyer, Head of CXO, House of Kaizen and Peter Figueredo, Founding Partner, House of Kaizen also talk about what is inefficient about the current conversion optimization methodology, as followed by some enterprises.

Mathilde Boyer

Opinion-based A/B testing is the gangrene of CRO programs. It hinders the process of objective creation and prioritization of test hypothesis. This tendency can lead to situations where a high level of resources are invested in low-impact optimization activities. Generation and prioritization of test hypothesis needs to be data-driven, systematic, repeatable, and teachable to allow for expansion of optimization activities across a business.

Peter Figueredo

Companies who invest in CRO typically rush to get testing started and overlook the importance of conducting research. Without proper research for informed testing, the design process CXO has lower chances of success. If your doctors do not know the root cause of your ailment, then they are likely only treating the symptoms but not curing the disease. Research should never be ignored and should be a critical component of House of Kaizen’s CXO success.


Data-driven optimization is focused on identifying friction, understanding the why behind user behavior, and testing hypotheses based on that data/information. Here’s what a formalized conversion optimization methodology would comprise:

  1. Researching into the existing data
  2. Finding gaps in the conversion funnel
  3. Planning and developing testable hypotheses
  4. Creating test variations and executing those tests
  5. Analyzing the tests and using the analysis in subsequent tests

You can read more about the scientific methodology for conversion optimization in this post.

Andre Morys, CEO of Web Arts,  in one of his interviews, talks about what’s wrong with the methodology. According to him, 80–90% of big companies do not aim for bigger goals, which could be change in the growth rate. This is another methodology-related drawback, as the goals being set do not take the profitability into account. Andre’s interview answers many other questions related to business growth.

Challenge 4. Choosing the Right Tool to Meet the Business Goals

The decision-makers in an organization have a variety of tools to choose from for meeting their business goals.  For example, when deciding on an A/B testing tool, they have to make a choice between a:

  • Frequentist-based statistical engine
  • Bayesian statistical engine

Moreover, there are multiple tools that help accomplish specific objectives. Enterprises might use hotjar for heatmap reports, a/b testing from VWO, and some other tool for on-page surveys. Reporting becomes a pain when instead of using one connected platform, enterprises use multiple tools to execute their conversion optimization program. If enterprises instead switch to a single connected platform, they can save a lot of time and resources.

Another problem with not using a single tool for testing and optimization is that it becomes difficult to explain instances of success and failure to the top management. This could be confusing for managers who are not in touch with day-to-day implementation of the conversion optimization program.


For selecting the correct tool, decision-makers need to weigh the pros and cons of their actions. They need to evaluate the tool based on how effectively and efficiently it can solve their specific business problems. For enterprises looking to invest in a tool for business growth, here’s a post on what decision-makers need to know before investing in CRO or A/B testing software.

Challenge 5. Insufficient and Incorrect Budget Allocation

Back in 2013, most companies spent less than 5% on conversion optimization from their total marketing budget.

budget for conversion optimization - graph

Moving on to 2014, a report from Adobe says that top-converting companies spend more than 5% of their budgets on optimization. Per the conversion optimization report 2016 by ConversionXL, businesses have increased their spend on optimization. The problem, however, lies in correct allocation.

Paul Rouke talks about inefficient budget allocation as follows:

Paul Rouke

Budgets for conversion optimization within enterprises are continuing to increase, but typically in the wrong direction. Enterprises focus far too much of their marketing investment in enterprise technology. As a result, there’s little investment in people and their skills to actually harness the technology—whether building their in-house team or harnessing specialist agencies.

Enterprises which invest in Human Intelligence (HI), above and beyond technology, and AI are the ones who are positioning themselves for significant and sustainable growth. Growth is about people.


Before deciding the amount that enterprises should spend on conversion optimization, they should think about the return on investment from CRO. Organizations need to budget for the conversion optimization tool while analyzing their goals and actual gains. To read more on how to budget for conversion optimization, read this post by Formstack.


Although the interest in conversion optimization is growing, due to certain challenges, it is not being adopted fully by enterprises. Some of the drawbacks that this post talks about are related to organizational culture, structure, methods and processes, tools for conversion optimization, and budget. These challenges are either related to adoption of conversion optimization or its smooth implementation. Solving these can help enterprises deploy conversion optimization efficiently and effectively to achieve growth and success.

Hope you found this post insightful. We’d love to hear your thoughts on challenges that enterprises face when implementing conversion optimization. Send in your feedback and views in the comments section below.


The post 5 Conversion Rate Optimization Challenges For Enterprises To Solve appeared first on VWO Blog.

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5 Conversion Rate Optimization Challenges For Enterprises To Solve

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

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

Going Omnichannel | A Robust Framework for eCommerce Enterprises

Consumers in the digital age want an integrated shopping experience. They might browse an eCommerce website on mobile but ultimately make a purchase from desktop. Or they might pay online, but pick up the purchased item from the store.

Such user behavior has been highlighted by a 2014 GfK study: “With people constantly moving between devices, it is important for marketers to reach their audience across all platforms. Brand experiences should be consistent, allowing for people to begin an activity on one device and finish on another.”

In this post, we discuss a robust omnichannel strategy that can help eCommerce enterprises create such integrated experiences across devices. The strategy includes:

  • Understanding cross-device user behavior
  • Crafting smooth shopping experiences across channels
  • Forming organizational structures that support omnichannel

But before we begin, let’s see how an ideal omnichannel experience for a consumer, say “Sarah” would look like:

Sarah is checking Instagram from her mobile and likes a dress her friend is flaunting. She visits the retailer’s website on mobile. She adds the product to her “wishlist” on mobile. Later during the day, she accesses her wishlist on the desktop, with the decision to make a buy. She chooses the option “inform when available in my size” and 3 days later, gets an email notifying her about the availability of the dress. It also informs her that “click and collect” is available on the product. She decides to pick up the dress from a physical store.

So how do eCommerce enterprises go omnichannel successfully? Let’s talk about the three steps.

Tracking Cross-Device User Behavior

The fact that people toggle among multiple devices throughout the day makes understanding the cross-device user behavior an absolute essential for eCommerce enterprises. Traditional analytics tracking tools such as Google Analytics do not offer the scope for establishing a connect between users and their disparate gadgets. Cross-device tracking removes this barrier for eCommerce enterprises and enables them to understand their users’ behavior across all touchpoints.

Cross-device tracking allows enterprises to understand whether a person browsing a website from smartphone X is the same person who made the purchase from laptop Z. Such information is important to rectify conversion credit allocated disproportionately to the last device of purchase. So if the use of mobile devices leads to desktop purchases, eCommerce enterprises might want to spend more on mobile ads and mobile website optimization.

cross device user tracking
A simple representation of cross-device usage

There are two main methods to track cross-device user behaviordeterministic and probabilistic.

Deterministic Device Matching

This methodology makes use of user’s signin information. As users are required to sign in to the website on each device they use, enterprises can track their behavior across all touchpoints. User Authentication is a type of deterministic device matching. It uses specific identifiers such as a customer ID, signin information, and so on to study and form a link between user behavior across devices.

Probabilistic Device Matching

Unlike deterministic device matching, this cross-device tracking technique does not rely solely on the user’s signin information. As the name indicates, this method computes the probability that various devices belong to or have been used by the same individual. An example of how probabilistic device matching works is extrapolation. For example, if a mobile and a tablet use the same Internet connection, it can be extrapolated that they belong to the same household. Device Fingerprinting is another famous probabilistic cross-device tracking technique. It combines device settings and browser options with some other attributes such as WiFi info, IP address, and more to identify users.

Build Smooth Shopping Experiences Across Channels

The next step, after tracking and understanding user behavior across devices, is to create seamless experiences for your users.

Walmart CEO, Doug McMillon shares his thoughts on a seamless customer experience:

“Ultimately, customers don’t care about what channel they’re shopping in or about how we deliver them a product or service. They simply know they’re shopping with Walmart.”

For Walmart, no matter what channel their customers buy from, it is important that they recognize the brand and get the same shopping experience throughout. Creating cohesive, consistent brand voice/experience can help eCommerce enterprises pave trust and encourage strong engagement, and, therefore, improve sales.

Other than brand consistency, a smooth and seamless shopping experience also constitutes customer experience. Hubspot talks about Oasis, a UK fashion retailer, in their seven inspiring examples of omnichannel user experience. On entering one of their stores, you’ll find sales associates walk you through all the product-related information using iPads. So, just in case something  is out of stock, the staff places an online order for the customer and the item  is shipped directly to customer’s home.

Here’s how Oasis uses iPads in-store to assist customers:

Omnichannel Strategy Oasis

eCommerce enterprises should focus on the following points for providing a superior omnichannel shopping experience:

  • Providing relevant local information
  • Ensuring faster, safer payment solutions
  • Providing personalization
  • Making use of advanced technologies

Providing relevant local information

 A post on Think with Google reports that 75 percent of the shoppers who find local retail info in search results helpful are more likely to visit stores. For eCommerce enterprises, this data opens up a number of opportunities. For example, eCommerce enterprises can  inform online customers looking for a particular item online about its availability at a nearby store. To make this activity more effective, they can use geo-targeting to drive more in-store purchases from people  from the local vicinity who have an intent to buy.  Moreover they can also provide information such as local store hours, directions to the local store, or any discounts running in the store. Providing local relevant information online can also help convert more of those shoppers who view shopping as an experience and not just a purchase activity. Retailers, on the other hand, can benefit from the impulse buying tendency of people who exhibit a search online, shop local behavior.

Ensuring faster, safer payment solutions

 A Search Engine Journal post lists 10 popular online payment solutions such as Amazon Payments and Google Wallet. As these options are trustworthy and secure, these will encourage users to pay from any channel that they use.

Deploying these payment solutions is a win-win for both the parties, because these solutions are  convenient, quick, and trustworthy.

Providing Personalization

The interconnected and digitally empowered consumer demands relevant and personalized experience. For an omnichannel player, this would mean understanding which devices are used by the consumers and how. For example, Evergage talks about how eBay creates omnichannel personalization for its users. The eBay mobile app allows users to enable push notifications, which informs them about the start or end of any auction. The desktop site, on the other hand, is designed for easy search and window shopping.

omnichannel strategy - ebay personalized push notification

Advanced Technologies

Innovation and technology enhance the omnichannel experience both for buyers and eCommerce enterprises. Using virtual reality, for example, can help eCommerce players make use of virtual environments that are otherwise difficult to create inside a store. For the user, these technologies can address buyer’s uncertainty.

For example, before making a decision to buy a hat, a person would like to know which hat type, color, width, and so on would suit him the best. Without physically trying a number of different hats, he can use such technologies to find out what looks best on him. For the eCommerce enterprise, this means being able to provide their users with better services and experience even if all the types of hats are not physically in store.

Tommy Hilfiger also provides a fantastic in-store VR experience. As a result, shoppers can view virtual catwalks and shop the season’s runway styles.If you are looking for more on the who and how of virtual and augmented reality in retail and eCommerce, here’s a Forbes post to read.

The following image shows customers experiencing Tommy Hilfiger VR:

Virtual Reality in Tommy Hilfiger Omnichannel Strategy

Forming an Organizational Structure that Supports Omnichannel

Customer experience might suffer if an eCommerce enterprise is not structured to meet the requirements of omnichannel retail. When departments operate in silos, the problem of sales attribution often arises. Such conflicts are unhealthy, as they can jeopardize the enterprise’s ability to deliver a smooth omnichannel experience.

An organizational structure that is better aligned for omnichannel, requires various departments within an organization to work together and be accountable to each other. Macy’s, for example, has also completely restructured their merchandising and marketing functions. They have also created chief omnichannel officer positions in their organization.

Keith Anderson, SVP Strategy & Insight, Profitero,  suggests the following when it comes to creating supportive organizational structures for omnichannel.

“Here is the approach I suggest:

  • Top-down commitment and support are essential. In the absence of the same, many organizations fail to prioritize or align on how to implement and execute on omnichannel.
  • Key functions should be responsible, but the whole organization is accountable. Certain teams or titles should be primarily responsible for doing the work of marketing and selling through all channels. But the entire business should be accountable. There is a risk in simply appointing a “head of omnichannel,” without anticipating the impacts on other functions such as customer service, finance, and logistics. Digital and omnichannel competency is necessary for all company functions and disciplines, not just an isolated, specialist team.
  • Definitions of success and incentives matter. Many companies that try to embrace omnichannel discover internal conflicts driven by misaligned incentives. For example, who gets the credit for an online sale fulfilled and collected in-store? How are inventory and labor costs allocated?

Ultimately, KPIs and incentives need to balance near-term and long-term goals such as maximizing profitability in the short-term versus growing market share. Also, enterprise success must always be prioritized over success in an isolated channel.”


While creating  customer-centric experiences is the key to succeeding with omnichannel, it begins with understanding user behavior and extends to framing the right kind of organizational structures. There is a huge scope for eCommerce enterprises to adopt and excel at an omnichannel level, given that they make use of user information, technology, customer service, and their internal structures efficiently.

Over to You

Have feedback on how eCommerce enterprises can develop a robust omnichannel strategy? Please leave a comment.


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Going Omnichannel | A Robust Framework for eCommerce Enterprises

How to navigate the murky waters of marketing ROI

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“What are the best marketing channels to invest in for my business?”

As a marketer, this is a question you’ve probably mulled over, over and over again.

And it all comes down to Return on Investment (ROI). You should spend your marketing dollars on the strategy or strategies that you can prove will get you the biggest bang for your buck.

Yes, yesterday’s CMO was about communications, branding, and advertising. Today, the CMO is a strategic partner to the CEO, someone expected to understand the business landscape well enough to articulate and predict which markets, products, services, or execution strategies will deliver the most profitable growth.

The days of gut-feeling marketing are long past; today, being able to track and prove the validity of your efforts is vital.

But determining the ROI of a particular marketing strategy can be difficult.

Your customer experiences your brand and your website in numerous ways―they are coming in from so many varied touchpoints, from email, to Snapchat, to Bing Ads, to whatever the shiny, new marketing tactic is this week.

It’s unlikely that one interaction is responsible for capturing them, making it difficult to untangle and measure one marketing channel against another. While there are many different strategies and workarounds for attributing marketing ROI, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

In a sea of murky ROI estimations, how can you best determine where to invest your marketing dollars?

First things first: How do I measure ROI?

The simplest way to calculate ROI from a marketing strategy is to take the sales growth from your product or business, subtract the marketing cost, and divide by the marketing cost:

Simple Marketing ROI:
ROI equation

This is an oversimplified equation, of course, as it is rare that a single factor is influencing your sales growth at any given time. However, you can use it to get a general idea of ROI for a particular strategy.


For example, let’s say you invest $1,000 in an ad campaign that runs for one month, and you see sales growth of $2,000. Your simple ROI is 100%: (($2,000-$1,000) / $1000). That’s pretty great!

But this equation assumes that none of that observed sales growth is organic…which most likely isn’t the case.

Note: In the aforementioned equation, I use “sales growth”, but there are other values you can use that may make more sense for your business. Read more here.

Ok, so how do I account for organic growth?

To predict organic sales growth, examine your monthly sales from the previous year and calculate the average organic growth per month. You can use this average organic growth rate to estimate where your sales might have been without your marketing campaign activity, and adjust your original ROI calculation accordingly.


If your business has an average organic growth of 5% over the period of a year, your calculation would look like: (($2,000 – $1,000)/$1,000) – 5 = 95%

This slightly more sophisticated equation indicates that ROI for this campaign is actually 95%, a substantial difference.

How can I predict what strategy will have the biggest ROI for my business?

Your industry, location, pricing, and even brand equity can dramatically affect ROI, which is why relying on average benchmarks can be dangerous. However, you can leverage information like the following studies (published by Nielsen) to get an idea of where other companies are spending their marketing dollars:

Source: Nielsen.
Source: Nielsen.

According to this research, Online Ads/Digital Marketing Investments have a higher ROI across all industries, but “online ads/digital marketing investments” is a pretty big bucket.

Source: Nielsen
Source: Nielsen

With Instagram’s algorithm-based feed, Snapchat’s in-app ad growth, and even Reddit getting in on the “promoted post” action recently, there are tons of options for advertising online. You must take into account the strengths and weaknesses of each channel when you’re thinking about where to invest. Banner ads, for example, are a popular channel but 54% of online banner ads are never seen!

Using the aforementioned formulas, you can measure the ROI of your social media and email marketing campaigns using conversions from specific landing pages. (Simply replace “sales growth” with “funnel conversions”). You can also track conversions with UTM parameters in Google Analytics. This allows you to track your visitors from the source through your funnel to prove the results you’re driving.

For a strategy like SEO, you can track ROI using your Google Analytics: segment by organic, non-branded traffic (to gauge how you’re ranking for non-branded keywords) and track conversions. Because GA tracks multi-channel attribution, you should be able to determine whether or not a customer clicked on an ad, then came to your site through search, or vice versa. It’s not always black and white, but you can get a good idea of ROI on your SEO.

The ultimate question: Where should you spend my marketing dollars?

Each marketing strategy you invest in will take a certain amount of time to reach your target market and begin generating ROI, so it’s important to prioritize for maximize impact. Vanity metrics ― like number of social media followers ― can be helpful in terms of gauging your brand awareness, but they shouldn’t be your main concern. You want to keep track of which strategies are actually generating sales and revenue, now and in the long run.

When you’re thinking about average ROI benchmarks for digital marketing strategies, be wary of conversions versus revenue. For example, a Fortune 500 company might be able to generate the same sort of revenue with a less than 2% increase in conversions as a smaller company with low traffic might be able to generate with a 40% increase in conversions.

Calculating the ROI of conversion optimization

Conversion rate optimization (CRO), more simply known as conversion optimization, is the science and art of getting a higher percentage of your web visitors to take action to become a lead or customer through testing.

Testing, measuring, and proving are built into conversion optimization, making ROI refreshingly easy to calculate: it’s unique in that you can see the return with each test that you run. CRO has become a de facto strategy because each of your marketing channels becomes more effective when your site is optimized.

Conversion optimization gives immediate results and that’s a great feeling. Particularly with e-commerce, if you have an idea, you test it, and you know you’re about to see what that idea is worth in monetary value.

– Jose Uzcategui, Global Analytics and Ecommerce Conversion Lead, ASICS

In an optimization experiment, your original page serves as the experimental control and benchmark for ROI. The challenger page (variation A) is tested against the original, showing the difference in conversion rates and projected revenue between the two. Marketing, promotions, and seasonality are all constant between the two pages, because they exist simultaneously.

The formula for calculating the ROI of CRO looks like this:
ROI (3)

Revenue from the Challenger or Original can be calculated from: (number of visitors x conversion rate x goal value).

For example, let’s say you run a test for one month. You spend $2,000 on designing the challenger page and it generates $5,000 in revenue from conversions. Meanwhile, your original page generates $2,000 in revenue from conversions.

The calculation would look like this:


Related: Try our free ROI calculator to discover your company’s potential return on testing.

50% ROI! Not bad for a month-long test. However, unlike “pay once, benefit once” marketing tactics, the benefits of optimization are compounded and long-term. If this variation continues to perform at the new (increased) conversion rate for 12 months, the ROI is actually 600%: 12*(($5,000-$2,000-$2,000)/$2,000).

Additionally, as your other marketing streams (SEO, PPC, Content) funnel visitors to your website, the increased conversion rate from your conversion optimization efforts will help increase the ROI for those marketing streams as well.

Jamie Elgie | weBoost

Reading Time: 1 minutes

WiderFunnel delivers a cadence and quality of A/B testing that is game-changing for our brand. Direct sales increases are enabling us to increase our spend on other advertising because of the known performance return. That in turn is driving our overall brand awareness. Put simply, WiderFunnel does not just help us sell directly; it is rocket fuel for our entire cross-channel marketing program.

Jamie Elgie

Jamie Elgie
Chief Marketing Officer, weBoost

What does the return on testing look like over the long term?

It’s important to re-validate the results of your conversion optimization strategy every few months, to ensure that that 600% ROI prediction is actually something you can take to the bank.

Here’s an example of a re-validation test we ran for one WiderFunnel client. After two years of optimization, we had seen a calculated conversion rate lift of 259.8% compared to their original page, as shown by the dark blue vertical bars:

24 months.

This calculated, cumulative conversion rate lift had resulted in solid revenue increases. But we wanted to make sure that the calculated lift reflected the actual lift.

To do this, we ran a simple A/B test, pitting the client’s original page against the most recent variation. Not only did we validate the calculated conversion rate lift, we found that the actual lift was 282.2%!

24 months verified

This rigorous verification proves that the results from conversion optimization are not temporary. In fact, the results are, so far, permanent.

Find out your potential optimization ROI:

The ROI of conversion optimization is tangible and easy to prove because it’s baked into the strategy itself. With most other marketing strategies, you’re left guesstimating ROI; with optimization, each experiment paints a clear picture of your return on testing.

If you’re curious about your potential ROI from CRO, you should try out our ROI Calculator!

The post How to navigate the murky waters of marketing ROI appeared first on WiderFunnel Conversion Optimization.

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How to navigate the murky waters of marketing ROI

The No-Shortcut Approach to Building a Credible Content Marketing Strategy [PODCAST]

Image by Jens Lelie via Unsplash.

“New year, new me” is a phrase I’m sure you’re all hearing lately. For those who actually need to restructure their content teams or strategies this year, that phrase might be ringing especially true. But how do you figure out which changes will bring about the biggest benefits?

Our content strategist, Dan Levy, nerded out with Jay Acunzo of NextView ventures about the different ways to grow a high-performing content team, and why developing a credible content strategy is hard work, but absolutely necessary. Plus, hear Jay talk about his issue with the growth hacking trend.

You will learn:

  • The pros and cons of different team structures
  • How to get the most mileage out of your best performing content
  • The issue that Jay has with terms like “growth hacking” and “the one secret to…”

Listen to the podcast

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Mentioned in the podcast

Read the transcript

Stephanie Saretsky: Hey podcast listeners! Happy new year! I hope you had a good break and that you missed us here at the Call to Action podcast. We saved one of our favorite interviews for you so we could start 2016 off with a bang: If you’re concerned about growing a content team this year, then this is the episode to listen to.

Jay Acunzo: I’m Jay Acunzo, VP of Platform and Content and NextView Ventures.

Stephanie Saretsky: Our Content Strategist, Dan Levy spoke with Jay and they nerded out on the different ways you can grow a content team and how to customize your content strategy to your unique company or agency structure. Plus, hear Jay tell about Dan the issue he has with growth hacking. Check it out.

Dan Levy: So you’re an experienced content marketer who’s gone from traditional journalism over to Hubspot, the inbound marketing monster, to the world of start-ups and venture capital. What’s been the most surprising part of that transition so far?

Jay Acunzo: Probably that people keep paying me to create things for a living.

Dan Levy: Pretty awesome.

Jay Acunzo: Yeah, I’m incredibly thankful for it. It’s awesome that we live in this era where that’s actually a job function that people want and need and actually it’s a growing need for a lot of companies. So that’s great. I actually started my career — you didn’t mention it — but at Google doing ad sales. And I remember one day I went home and I was hyping this YouTube video to my friends as the greatest thing ever. And when I started to play it, after they were all leaning forward into my laptop, I hit play, and obviously what happened? A pre-roll ad hit.

And the thought I had was, “Damn it, Eric,” which is a weird thought to have when you see a pre-roll ad pop up. But I thought, “Damn it, Eric,” because I knew the colleague of mine at Google that had sold the ad campaign to make this terrible, frustrating experience possible. And then I had this really terrible thought after that which was, “I have the same job as Eric at Google.” So someone somewhere was cursing the name of the person responsible for this awful experience, and they didn’t know it, but that person was me. And obviously with Google’s scale, that wasn’t one person. That was thousands, if not millions and millions of people. So I’m very thankful that I’ve found my way into content marketing, and it’s a role that allows me to actually create stuff people want. I like to say, “It’s better to make stuff people want, not make people want stuff.”

Dan Levy: Cool. Well, can you talk about your role a little bit? I don’t know how many in-house content marketers there are at other VC firms. So would you describe yourself as a consultant whose job is to support the start-ups in your firm’s portfolio, or are you focused on building thought leadership for the firm itself through content marketing?

Jay Acunzo: Yeah, so my job, they call it Platform. It means a lot of different things at a lot of different VC firms, and it’s definitely an emerging trend. I’d say NextView was one of the first to move on it, especially in the early stage venture world on the east coast. My job is to help start-ups gain initial traction through scalable resources. So it’s very little consulting — although I do a lot with marketing one to one with our start-ups — but really, my job is to figure out what are the problems facing either the start-ups we’ve invested in, or communities like Boston, New York, San Francisco, nationally, here in the US. And what are those problems? What are all the steps that founders are currently moving through to solve those problems? And then how can we create something to take out some of those steps?

Dan Levy: Okay. So not to get too bogged down in semantics, but I notice the term content or content strategy seems to mean something different whether you’re in agency circles or in the start-up world, or even in inbound marketing tech companies like Hubspot or Unbounce. What would you say are the challenges of working on another company’s content strategy compared to being an in-house content marketer?

Jay Acunzo: Yeah. I mean I definitely help with the start-ups that we work with their content strategies, but I’ve really been in-house for the bulk of my career, including at NextView. I do a lot of content to further our brand.

Dan Levy: Right.

Jay Acunzo: But I think a lot of this is about having extreme empathy, which sounds kind of squishy, but I think it’s about acting like a vessel, almost like a journalist does when they first start. They’re not a topical expert in whatever field they’re reporting on. They just get really good at asking questions, listening, absorbing, picking up on the nuance of both the subjects that they’re talking to and then the audience they’re trying to reach. And so, I think that empathy idea is really, really important. And I think another is — and I’ve noticed this as people start to leave former start-ups that have gone public or exited some regardI think people that have had success doing something one way and then try to apply it elsewhere fail fast.

So I think another big part of this idea of helping someone else versus in-house is knowing how to approach problems and test for answers, but not being too prescriptive. So just because something worked for me when I was at Google or Hubspot doesn’t mean it’s gonna work exactly that way at exactly this moment with exactly this other company and their audience. So it’s more about the framework of testing hypotheses to find what works than actually tending you have the answers for another business right away.

Dan Levy: Okay. And those two things dove-tail, right? You need to start with the empathy, thinking about the end user, thinking about why they need this content, and then, of course, test that insight or that hypothesis to make sure that’s borne out through A/B testing and through more, I guess, more database means.

Jay Acunzo: Oh, totally, and I think, this thing happened to me at Hubspot that I’ve taken with me since then that’s really helped me work with our start-ups, which is we gave away a bunch of templates that acted very similarly to the product. And I realized we were basically giving away dumber, less effective versions of the software.

Dan Levy: Right.

Jay Acunzo: And they were wildly successful pieces for us, and all I could think of was, “Wow. Why do we do content? Why do we create a product or a service as a business? All of this is about solving a customer problem.” So I think if you frame content marketing as solving the same problem or fulfilling the same desire that your product or service has to offer. Your product is ostensibly built so solve some sort of problem, and start-ups, that’s why they start. It becomes a lot easier to go and advise somebody else, especially in the start-up world, because you sit down and you start talking to them about why did you start the business? Or what is your product great at?  Or why do customers love you?What problem is ailing your customer today?

And then it’s just matching that between the product and the content, and it aligns it so beautifully, too. That’s the other thing, is all this has to align and drive a business result. So that one definition of content marketing solving the same problem that your product solves I think can go a long way in helping someone who is a consultant be a very good one.

Dan Levy: Right. And of course your products could change; your company could pivot, if you start with that mission or that problem.  Then it’s easy to adapt your content and to pivot in the right direction.

Jay Acunzo: Totally. It also helps a lot of start-ups start blogging and creating content now to get results in the near term or maybe a few months down the road before they have a product, or before their product has product market fit. Because they know the problem they wanna solve. They know the advice they’d like to give to the world, or the things they’d like to say, or the answers that they might have. They don’t have the product built yet, or if they do, they’re still figuring out how to sell it to a lot of people. But they can start with the content piece very easily, and build an audience that they can test against and convert later.

So it’s a really nice way to frame your content marketing, because I think it actually lends itself to getting early results as a start-up. And if you’re a larger company and you haven’t been thinking this way, try giving away a little piece of that product that you have, like a template for example. Because you’ll start to see people downloading it in droves, and then every sell that you make to people who have downloaded that thing is like an up-sale. You’re already doing this thing, or you’re already trying to solve this problem. Well, oh by the way, we happen to have a product that’s way better at doing that. And that’s a much easier sell than ripping the cord and running over from what you’re using today as a customer to use my product.

Dan Levy: Um-hum. Yeah, here at Unbounce we launched our blog I think something like nine months before our product was even ready. So we can definitely relate to that.

Jay Acunzo: Yeah, that’s awesome.

Dan Levy: Okay, so I know you’ve done a lot of thinking around the organization and structure of content teams, which is something that we’ve been thinking a lot about here as well. And at risk of going down a rabbit hole, let me ask you this: Do you think content should be treated as a distinct channel within an organization, with its own producers and creatives and strategists who operate independently within a team or within an agency? Or is content more of a discipline whose tentacles should be spread throughout the organization?

Jay Acunzo: So I honestly, and this is a hugely important question, but I honestly think —

Dan Levy: It’s also a huge question, I realize.

Jay Acunzo: It’s a huge question, for sure, but it’s also hugely important. I honestly think there are many ways to handle this, and it depends on the company’s stage and culture and the specifics of that company. So also if you wind up with one right structure that every company tries to apply, and one general direction, I think we’re all screwed.

Dan Levy: And sandwiched in there, I had teams and agencies, and obviously those are totally different set-ups.

Jay Acunzo: Totally, yeah. So what you can do, actually, is talk about the pros and cons of each structure, and then make an informed decision. So, for instance, I gave a talk a few weeks ago to a large enterprise marketing team. And they dedicated meaningful time — this is an off-site to talk about big-picture things and what’s ailing them — and they dedicated meaningful time to talk about what tools that different areas of the department was buying and how they didn’t know what was going on, or how they could better interact with their in-house creative agency, which was centralized to do all the content.

So I think the pros of centralizing is you get this domain expertise group together, but then there are silos and frictions that emerge between departments or sub-teams. Then on the other end the pros of spreading throughout the organization is that you create this great content culture, you might get a swifter response to produce the content based on the goals you have team to team, you’re more integrated between teammates, and you can tailor that content accordingly. But you might have a Frankenstein monster of a brand if nobody’s looking out for the consistency of quality and feel and all that. Documentation could help, but I just don’t know anybody that truly pays attention to internal documentation, right?

So the solution might be somewhere in the middle. And I’m painting with massively broad strokes here. Again, I don’t think one prescribed structure is the answer. But something I saw work really well at Google on the sales team that I think could work with content teams was to have we called them product specialists at Google. — you could call them content specialists at your organization — where basically we had these large verticalized sales teams that were either generalists or owned a certain type of client, and we had a lot of products to sell:  YouTube, mobile, search, display, the list went on. And we had a few people that volunteered to go really deep on our teams in those products, and then they had a dotted line reporting back to a centralized product team, which would provide best practices, communication, suggested approaches, case studies, tools, mentorship, all that.

In content, it might be, for example, a centralized editorial board or creative unit. And then you have these individuals dispersed throughout the company to do the frontline work, and have the nuance of each individual team or case kind of grocked. So maybe something like that would actually work really well.

Dan Levy: Cool, yeah. There’s so many ways that you could approach it, but I think the key, like you said, is not to just read a case study and then try to apply that to your own organization and assume that it’s gonna work.

Jay Acunzo: Right, right. I think the major takeaway from all that is somebody has to do something centralized. It can’t just be all distributed. I think there has to be some kind of consistency, which is hard. But whether that’s a whole team doing all the content in one place and kind of being treated like an internal service bureau, or it’s just an editorial review board, or something like that, I think that’s gonna vary case by case.

Dan Levy: Yeah, and something that we’ve been looking at internally, which is based on what our developers actually I do, which I believe is based on the Agile framework, is to split the team into squads and chapters. So the squads would be organized around, let’s say, the customer life cycle, and it would go through marketing to sales to all the way to the customer’s success, but they would be self-contained, so they would include, let’s say, a strategist and a producer and a creative, and then maybe like a communications person. And they would all work together, maybe sit together, but all those creatives and all those producers and all those strategists would also be part of their own chapters.

So you could think of those as the disciplines, the editorial discipline, the creative discipline. And so you would have people overseeing those chapters through all the squads to make sure that the editorial voice is consistent, that creatively your brand is consistent. I thought that was kind of an interesting way to approach it.

Jay Acunzo: Yeah, I mean that’s awesome. That’s definitely — it kind of speaks to the same thing of you’re moving between both ideas of people who are very, very specialized or even centralized, and people that have to understand there’s nuance across lots of individuals’ work, and lots of goals and ways you’re measured, and you kinda have to account for both things.

Dan Levy: Yeah, plus these are disciplines. In terms of professional development, you wanna develop your creative skills. You wanna develop your editorial skills. And I think it’s important to have mentors and people whose job it is to oversee both the consistency from a brand perspective, but also to help develop those skills on an individual level.

Jay Acunzo: Yeah, you bring up a really good point. We talk a lot about organization of teams in content, but we very rarely think about well what is the individual gonna find most fulfilling and rewarding to create a vibrant and fulfilling career for themselves, right? Nobody in a creative field — and I’d argue that content marketing as a large creative component to it — nobody wants to be a short-order cook. And so I feel like if you put those content producers that you have or editors or writers, either outsourced to an agency or internally, if they’re centralized and they’re just taking, almost on a ticket system, they’re just reacting to the demands of your organization, that’s really unfulfilling, right? And so you have to do really, really strong communication. You have to make sure you’re meeting face to face, do all these things to smooth over on the communication side, things that you wouldn’t face if you were integrated across the company.

So you just gotta be cognizant. I think we have to stop talking about people like their little dots on an org chart when it comes to content marketing teams, and start figuring out how do we get the best possible results from our people, which is what a business wants. It’s also what the individual wants, right? And so talk to the people on your team. Figure out what’s gonna motivate them the most. Figure out what they wanna do in their careers. Maybe they don’t wanna be CMO. Maybe they do wanna be a creative agency. And then act accordingly.

Dan Levy: Yeah. Well I wanna get into a little bit more of that personal, professional development stuff later on. But first, switching gears a little bit, you had something kind of weird and cool happen to you a little while ago that you wrote about on your blog. I think you described it as both encouraging and discouraging. I think you know what I’m getting at here.

Jay Acunzo: Yeah, yeah. The worst — so I’ve been writing on the internet for years — the worst thing and the most pointless thing that I’ve ever written just became this viral post on Medium.

Dan Levy: Right.

Jay Acunzo: And you have people in the tech world, on the investment side, like Chris Sacca, who was recently on Shark Tank, early investor in Twitter and Uber and all these big guys, David Cancel here in Boston, former Chief Product Officer of Hubspot, now he’s founder of Drift and he’s a serial entrepreneur, Heaton Shaw, who everybody knows in the SaaS world, all these people were recommending this post. And I was like, “What is going on?” It was sitting on the top of the homepage of Medium for a week.

Dan Levy: It’s always the posts that you slave over, right, that go nowhere, and the ones that you think are toss-offs that all the sudden rack up the shares. It’s so heartbreaking.

Jay Acunzo: Well, what was heartbreaking about this — I can read you the whole post and take only a few seconds of your listeners’ time right now — the title was “The One Secret Thing All Successful People Do.” When you click the headline, the article was this. Number one: they don’t look for secrets to success in freaking blog posts. That was it. That was the whole post. That was the whole post. It was one sentence. It was like 5:30 on a Friday. I thought that would be a funny joke. I had just gotten my fill of links in my feed about promising all these secrets to success that are always full of crap, and I was just amazed that there’s this shortcut culture, and disheartened by it.

But there was this encouraging and discouraging piece to it. So it was encouraging that lots of people read something I wrote on the internet. That was nice. But it was one sentence long, literally one sentence long. The encouraging part, again — this is me debating in my own head and having this existential crisis as a writer — I was sort of like well maybe a good writer can even convey meaning in one sentence, and it doesn’t matter that all my longer form things didn’t go viral.

Dan Levy: Right.

Jay Acunzo: But then I was like, wait. Oh. Hold on. That doesn’t matter, because people actually believed there was one secret to success that they didn’t know. Like it was gonna solve all their problems. They clicked the headline because they’re like, “Oh, one secret? Yeah, sign me up.”

Dan Levy: Well, hey, you identified a problem. People are — a need — people looking for that one solution, that magic bullet. And then you broke their hearts.

Jay Acunzo: Well I was kind of like trying to hold up a mirror to the internet, in some way. And what was actually encouraging — and this is where I ended my reflection post that you’re talking about where I just had to make sense of this in another article — the last thing I landed on was it was encouraging because a ton of people got the joke and shared it and laughed at it, and it was awesome.  There were some people that totally got upset. They wanted the secret, and they were mad that it was a joke. And the analogy I use is if you’re a Family Guy fan, Lois says to Peter in one episode, “Well, Peter, I bet you learned a valuable lesson today.” And Peter just goes, “Nope!” And it’s like, it was the same thing. It was like, “Well, internet, I bet you learned a valuable lesson today about seeking shortcuts.” And the people that were angry, all they were saying back to me was like, “Nope!” So it was quite the experience.

Dan Levy: Yeah, I think trying to teach the internet a lesson is like a path to ruin.

Jay Acunzo: Yes, says someone who would know. I feel like you honor the right path of creating great work whether you’re from Sparksheet to Unbounce. You clearly care about your craft of writing, so I think you understand the agony and the dichotomy that I had in my own brain of this is positive but it’s also negative.

Dan Levy: Yeah. No. 100 percent. That really resonated with me. You wrote another short post on your blog recently, though not quite as short as that, where you asked marketers whether they’re creating content for the delivery or for the response. What did you mean by that?

Jay Acunzo: Yeah. So to me this is the idea between reaching someone and resonating with someone. And the analogy I use — actually a story that really happened — a buddy of mine who works for Hubspot, his name’s Eric Devaney, he’s one of the greatest content minds that I know. I’ve hired him twice. I would hire him a million more times. The guy’s great. He was getting married a few months ago, and I was catching up with him and his now wife. And they were talking to me about their process of writing their vows.

And Juliette, his wife is a product manager, and Eric is a writer and a creator, like in the truest sense. And he was making fun of how she kind of used her approach to product, very logical, very systematic, to write the vows. As soon as they decided they were gonna write their own vows, she wrote on a bulleted list. And Eric was kind of making fun of her for that. He was like, “I love you Er-ic.” is how he framed it to me. But Juliette started with: I have to write vows. How does one write vows in a vacuum?Whereas Eric was starting with: I have to write vows, but what are vows for?What do I want out of this reading?I wanna trigger the best possible emotion from Juliette, from those listening, and how do I do that?

And I think in marketing, we talk a lot about tools and workflow and tips for publishing something faster, more efficiently, getting to the end basically to ship it out the door better, faster, quicker, whatever, more. And we should totally talk about that stuff, but also we have to consider why are we doing this in the first place? It’s not actually to publish something. That is not the reason we do this. It is to get some kind of intellectual or emotional response from people to have them click, spend time with us, share it, act in some kinda way that benefits our business. And I think too many of us think about just simply delivering the thing into the world, and then we stop. We seek things like ideal word counts for blog posts, shortcuts and ideas that we can put on repeat over and over again, and we kind of corporatize and optimize, because we’re just so damn busy trying to reach people that we sorta forget that this is actually about resonance.

Dan Levy: Well another aphorism of yours, and I feel like you’re a content marketing Buddha or something, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Jay Acunzo: I’m an English major, and if I don’t speak in a certain number of isms per week, I don’t get an ROI on my English degree. I think that’s really it.

Dan Levy: Okay, yeah. That make sense. So you say that when you stumble upon something that works, you shouldn’t do more of it. You should do more with it. Can you untangle that one for us?

Jay Acunzo: I feel like when something works, when your audience tells you, even if it’s a small qualitative response that you get, when your audience tells you that they like something, you should lean into that harder. Don’t drop it and say, “Good job us,” and then go run away and go do something else. And this happens across the board in marketing, whether you do an ebook and you assume, okay, that one ebook worked. Let’s do more ebooks, rather than try to get mileage out of the one ebook. Or, you’re just spread across too many channels. And when one starts to work, it’s a relief, because now you can focus on the ones that are not working, when I think you should pursue these moments of success, and then just drive into it as hard as you can.

So one example is I published a slideshare on the NextView Venture’s account that did a roundup of podcasts, because I wanted to promote our own podcast that we were launching.  And it didn’t do that well. So I immediately dropped it. I didn’t try to put it on other channels. I didn’t try to do a blog post out of it. Then I published a board deck template on slideshare, something you would download and use practically as an entrepreneur, and it killed it. It did a lot of really good things for our audience. But initially it was just lots of people saying lots of nice things. And I thought, okay, what else can I do with this thing? Should I take excerpts out of it for the blog? Should I re-promote it through different social channels? Should I talk to the partners here at NextView about — they sit in board meetings every week. What would they rethink if they were starting from scratch about how board meetings with start-ups are run?

What else can I do with the stuff inside the container that our audience is clearly telling us they love? And so that’s kinda what I mean. When something works, don’t do more like it. Don’t do another slideshare. Do more with it. Do more with the thing that’s working — the topic, the stuff, the material. And by the way, this is how you get really efficient with your publishing, because if you see any of the great thought leaders in our industry, and you see some thoughts that they publish across channels, right? Because they identify something that resonates with their audience, and then they repackage it, and repurpose it, and put it in different places in a way that’s native to each channel. But they get mileage out of what works.

Dan Levy: Yeah, I could totally relate to that, and I think one of the reasons, at least, that so many of us are guilty of spending so much time on the content creation and not enough on the promotion and the leveraging of that content is that we — time’s a limited resource. Any suggestions and — I don’t wanna go into quick and easy tip territory here — but what can we do to finally prioritize that component of content marketing? Is it about scaling back on the other stuff, scaling back on the content creation?

Jay Acunzo: So I appreciate that you’re saying that you don’t wanna get into kind of tips and tricks and hacks territory. Because I think if — I mean, to be completely blunt — if anyone tells you, “Oh, don’t worry. This content marketing stuff can be simple,” they’re lying to you. It’s hard. It’s super rewarding. It can be really fun. But it’s really difficult.

When you’re selling a software product or a service as an agency, in the content marketing space you can’t say this, but if I were selling to a marketer today and I was being completely honest, I’d say, “Look. Over here you have content marketing. It’s gonna take you more effort. It’s gonna take you more time. And it’s gonna take a very specific type of person and skillset to do it well. However, it’s gonna get you really good results. It’s gonna play into how modern marketing in the modern world works. And it can do lots and lots of good for your business in a scalable way that gets you lots of ROI.” And then I’d say, “Over on the other end, you have things like buying an email list, or even less spammy, just paying for audience and renting that audience like banner ads and PPC and things like that. That’s more efficient. It’s gonna be dollars in, dollars out. That’s how it’s gonna work. You can’t really get return for free down the road like you can from a blog post, but it’s gonna be a lot more of a timesaver to do it that way.”

And that’s really how to think of it. So the more we do shortcuts for content marketing, the worse our results get. I’d rather, if someone is really pressed for time, think about other ways to do marketing, because the people that are gonna win, especially as our industry gets more mature, are the ones that actually honor the craft of what we’re doing. They have to produce content that matters. All this shortcut stuff makes my BS detector go crazy.

All that said, I don’t wanna leave everybody high and dry. The best thing I can say is to find a weekly process and cadence, and stick to it like it’s gospel. I love this quote from John Cleese from Monty Python fame, who says that creativity’s not a talent, it’s a way of operating.

The other thing, too, is I feel like there’s a need for clear direction. That helps your process, right? If you’re — this is a leadership thing — if you have guardrails and goalposts and you know why you exist and you know how you’re being measured, that really does help you do a lot of a lot.

That’s kind of how I’ve approached this world of content. And you shouldn’t look for the shortcut, I guess is what I’m trying to say. I feel like we have to start saying this. Stop looking for shortcuts.

Dan Levy: No, no, I hear you. And to go back to what you were saying about that you have two options, to nurture a content marketing strategy or to look to paid marketing and PPC and things like that. I have to say where we’re at right now is a bit of a privileged position in that we’ve put the time and we started off with a content strategy because it wasn’t easy, but it was relatively cheap to get started on, and to start nurturing that market with. And now we have these internal experts — PPC experts, CROs, SEOs, to help us layer in that testing, that experimentation to optimize what we’re doing. So that mix between the craft and then the performance side of things, and the optimization side of things is, once you get your team to that level, then the opportunities there are huge.

Jay Acunzo: Totally, and I think you understand this moment of like — because you love to write — where you wanna improve something. It doesn’t sit right with you when you’re reading it. And you’re like, “I gotta go home,” or “I gotta ship it soon.” But you wanna spend that extra hour agonizing over it. And it’s really for yourself that you’re doing it, to feel pride in your work as a writer. I feel like that mentality would fit well across any marketing function, where you just have to have this insane pride in what you do. And when I hear people talk about finding an ideal word count, I just think of people putting their brains on auto pilot. I think our industry’s too saturated. There’s too much content out there for any of that to even be effective. So it’s also a bad use of your time. It’s a bad use of your company’s time to think that way. And that’s what causes all the shortcut culture out there that causes me to write a one-sentence post and have this existential crisis. But that’s a problem for another podcast.

Dan Levy: Yeah. And not to minimize the craft — content marketing is a craft, and I think it’s very clear that you and I are really passionate about that, but so is conversion rate optimization, right? So is PPC done right. So I think it’s about hiring people and surrounding yourself with people that are as passionate and methodical about the way they do that stuff as you are with content, rather than trying to, again, look for a quick and easy tips and hacks to layer on top of what you’re doing.

Jay Acunzo: Right. And let’s take craft out of the world of frolicking in the field creativity, and put it into a business setting too. I think people that are craft-driven, they think a lot about the process. And so, part of thinking about the process is finding pockets of being efficient. Part of it is thinking about things you can outright steal that inspire you from other industries outside the echo chamber. Part of it is understanding pockets of time you’re not using well.

So people that are craft-driven are not like the artists that are painting one thing every year, or the marketer that gives a great keynote but can’t go execute. I think it’s about figuring out: I need an end result, but rather than just trying to skip all the way to the end result, let me figure out this process. I’m gonna write a blog, and I need to figure out a way to do more blog posts without skimping on quality. So if I can dive into the paragraphs, how do you write a great intro, how do you write a great hook, how do you do different things for SEO quickly and easily? If you study the process itself, the end result goes us and the process gets easier over time.

I call this creating ugly. You wanna do little things to poke down an avenue and put something quality out in the world. But it’s not a pretty process. You’re not searching for the best practice. You’re just launching, learning, operating a little bit like a start-up internally. I’m gonna learn, I’m gonna grow, I’m gonna improve. Oh, we were running right? Let’s run left a little bit more. And eventually you find this repeatable path for quality. You wanna find the easiest repeatable path to quality.

Dan Levy: So where content marketing, I think, differs from traditional publishing is that it does, ultimately, exist to serve measurable business objectives. I think we could both agree with that. But in your latest blog post, you argue that it’s time for companies to lend more credibility to things like creativity and craft and editorial excellence in content marketing. Obviously you’re preaching to the choir here, but how do you make the case for why that’s not just a vanity thing, why that’s not just a squishy thing, but actually crucial to the success of content as marketing?

Jay Acunzo: So in terms of quality, when I started doing content marketing, it wasn’t called content marketing. I was Director of Content at a start-up, and we never tacked on the word marketing to it, but it was clearly that. I heard all kinds of stuff flying around me in the industry, doing my research as to how to do my job, and I heard things like, “What is the ideal word count of a blog post?” I heard chatter around buying tools to make your publishing easier, questions around curation and hacks and shortcuts and SEO tricks versus original content. And I was just new to it, having left Google and left sales, and I thought well, I don’t know about all that, but I’m just gonna try to write really well and do right by my audience, and hopefully doing that will help me avoid needing to panic about all that other noise. And I think it’s served me decently well so far. Part of me wonders what kind of business or leader is actively avoiding things like quality? Like who really wants to be living that life or working for that company?

Dan Levy: Well that’s it.

Jay Acunzo: And I know it’s much more nuanced than that, by the way. But the fact that we have this debate of quality versus quantity is really disheartening, because they aren’t actually opposites, right? A journalist has to do both. So I think it’s all about taking a long-term view. If you’re better at the craft, if you’re better at the process, if you’re better at creating, if you’re better at getting more stuff or more effective stuff out the door, and more importantly, more memorable stuff, things that people actually like it sticks in their brain and causes an action. That will by definition get you better results. And I said long-term view. It’s not even long-term view. It’s just order of operations. Create the content, distribute it, measure the results, etc. So I think we just need to give more credence to the creation part as part of our overall process today.

But for a sea change to happen, I look at the individual content marketer. So it’s so interesting to see businesses take the mentalities of scale and programmatic, and apply those to content marketing, because this is a profoundly human endeavor. Imagine if the staff of Grantland, RIP, was now suddenly working at a content marketing organization or a marketing team. They would crush everyone else out there because of the people, because they’re such great writers, because they think about the craft and they’re able to do things with ease that we think are totally unthinkable, like quality and quantity together.

Dan Levy: But would they ever wanna be part of a content marketing team?

Jay Acunzo: That’s the problem, is like brands lack this historical credibility, this historical care for editorial that lends itself to that credibility needed to attract a team like at Grantland. But I do know that thousands are kind of like me, and you’ve kind of heard my tilt in the interview here. I want a meaningful career creating quality work, and I know there are thousands and thousands more like me in the industry, and I think they’ll flock to organizations that allow for that. In this style of marketing, the talent matters. It’s very human. It’s not programmatic.

You can do some things on the periphery to make it efficient and programmatic, and you can disagree with me, and you can chest-beat, and you can growth hack all you want. But all I know is I know tons and tons of marketers that showed up to this industry because they wanna create things that people really like and react to, and they wanna focus on resonance, not just empty reach. And for me, if marketing switched to becoming purely ad buys again, which I don’t think it ever will, but if it did, I would go work in another industry.  I’m here to write cool stuff. That’s what I like.

Dan Levy: Yeah, I think you get at it right there. It’s actually not a luxury, it’s an existential issue for companies, for agencies that if they wanna attract the best, whether it’s the best content marketers or the best conversation rate optimizers, of the best strategists, then they need to put that emphasis in their culture on quality, or else nobody’s gonna wanna work there.

Jay Acunzo: Absolutely. And I think there’s this dialogue that we’ve been having for a while that we’re all in this arms race for attention. I think it’s actually the byproduct of what we’re actually in the arms race for, which is the best talent. I think we’re now all in the business of trying to act like a publisher not in a figurative sense, but in a literal sense. How do we create an environment that cultivates and also attracts truly prolific individuals? People that, again, who we all assume in marketing is unthinkable. They’re multimedia creators. They black out and have all these great ideas while we’re all agonizing and slogging through this idea of quality versus quantity. They don’t need the tools that we need to be efficient, to be quality, to understand an audience, and do something that resonates with them. Those people do exist and we either need to attract them from outside of our industry or groom them from within.

But I think either way you look at it, it’s all about people. And if I look back, personally, and say I had a fulfilling career someday, I think it’s gonna be because I’m trying to be loud about that right now. I’m trying to support people and celebrate people who get results not by taking shortcuts and churning out more crap into the world, by bolting on technology to a human process. I’m trying to help and defend and support and learn from people that get real business results by being brilliant at delivering what audiences actually love, the people that agonize over their craft, the people that are creative. And if you spend that extra moment down that mental rabbit hole on a piece before publishing it, you’re so caught up with making it great when no one around you knows why the hell you’re doing that and not just shipping it, man, you’re gonna be the most important part of our industry the next few years. If you have that mentality, if you’re that type of person, we need you so bad.

Dan Levy: Amen, brother.

Jay Acunzo: Awesome.

Dan Levy: This is awesome, thank you. It’s so good to talk shop with you about this stuff, so thanks so much for taking the time to chat.

Jay Acunzo: Yeah. My pleasure.

Transcript by GMR Transcription.

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