Earned media (often regarded as free media) attributes the publicity of your brand to the recognition of its efforts and results. It includes publicity gained through word-of-mouth, buzz, reviews, news coverage, comments, feedbacks, likes, mentions, shares, and varied promotional efforts other than paid media advertising or owned media branding. Reputation is the biggest asset for any brand. A brand (both personal and corporate) can be either established through or demolished through the reputation it holds. This reputation comes from nowhere else other than earned media! In concise, earned media is any publicity created by a third party for your brand….
Some people hate writing documentation, and others just hate writing. I happen to love writing; otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this. It helps that I love writing because, as a design consultant offering professional guidance, writing is a big part of what I do. But I hate, hate, hate word processors.
Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 report stated that over 60% of B2B marketers saw more success from their content marketing efforts this past year. What does this mean? It means – as so many of us have stated before – that Content is King. When it comes to digital marketing, there is truly no better way to convey value and transparent authority to your users. However, even if the majority of B2B search marketers are reporting strong growth stats, there is still a large discrepancy between how our content performs in theory and how it performs in reality. Ironically, content marketing…
Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 report stated that over 60% of B2B marketers saw more success from their content marketing efforts this past year. What does this mean? It means – as so many of us have stated before – Content is King. When it comes to digital marketing, there is truly no better way to convey value and transparent authority to your users. However, even if the majority of B2B search marketers are reporting strong growth stats, there is still a large discrepancy between how content performs in theory and how it performs in reality. Ironically, content marketing is also…
This week, I spent two jam-packed days at Unbounce’s fourth-ever Call To Action Conference. The one-track event featured some of today’s most influential digital marketing speakers like Mitch Joel, Kindra Hall, and Rand Fishkin.
Session topics ranged from integrity in marketing, to performance marketing success, to the marriage of SEO and conversion optimization. But most shared a common theme: Don’t forget about the real person behind that click.
Knowledge bombs were dropped, important conversations were had, and actionable insights were shared. So, in today’s post, I’m going to share some of my most important takeaways from CTA Conf.
If you attended the conference, please share your favorite takeaways in the comments below!
Unbounce Co-Founder, Oli Gardner, kicked things off on the first day.
Fun fact: Due to technical difficulties, Oli ended up acting out his entire opening video sequence (and most of the subsequent videos in his presentation). He handled the hiccup like a pro, of course, and launched into a great session on data-driven design.
One of the strongest points that Oli made was that digital marketing trends self-perpetuate, regardless of whether or not they are helpful to a user.
I know we, as data-driven marketers, ‘know’ this fact. We complain about ‘best practices’, and buzzwords, and yet we still get totally caught up in trends.
Remember when explainer videos became the end-all, be-all for homepages?
What happened? Hundreds of blog posts were written about explainer videos, and hundreds of explainer videos were produced to talk about how great explainer videos are. And then, every homepage on the internet featured an explainer video.
But…were all of those explainer videos really what customers needed? In some cases, but certainly not in all.
Instead, Oli spoke about the need to “mend trends”, and make design decisions based on data, rather than the most popular trend at the time.
We hold the same view at WiderFunnel. You can A/B test explainer video after explainer video. But to create truly impactful experiences, you have to go back to the research phase.
Use the data you have to drill into what you think are you most important business problems. And test hypotheses that attempt to solve for those problems.
2. Choose people, not personas
I’m not a big fan of personas. I’ve never kicked it with a persona.
– Wil Reynolds
But, without personas, how do I write the right copy for my customers at the right time?!
Conversion copywriter extraordinaire, Joel Klettke, spoke about how to read your customer’s mind. He emphasized the need to get past user personas and keywords, and focus on customer motivation instead.
We get stuck behind our screens, and start writing about ‘synergies’ and features that our customers really don’t care about.
– Joel Klettke
He outlined a framework for getting your customers to tell you about their pain points, anxieties, desired outcomes, and priorities, in their own words:
Note: I didn’t dig too deeply into the framework, here. But Joel put together a resource for CTA Conf attendees, and graciously gave me the green light to share it. Check it out here!
On Day 2, Claire Suellentrop built on this idea of the dated persona.
She explained that marketers collect many data points about our prospects, like…
Gender, age, location
Title, company, industry
Married, no kids, one puppy
…but asked whether or not all of that data actually helps us determine why a real human being just bought a new backpack from Everlane.
As an alternative, she suggested the Jobs To Be Done framework. JTBD refers to your customer’s struggle to make progress on something. When your customer overcomes that struggle, the job is done, and they have made progress.
The framework looks a little something like this:
“When ____________ (event that triggers the struggle), help me ______ (struggle / job) so I can __________ (better life / done).”
To identify your customers’ struggle, Claire suggests actually asking your customers. She outlined several sample questions:
“Take me back to life before [product]. What was it like?”
“What happened that compelled you to start looking for something different?”
“What happened when you tried [product] that made you confident it was right for you?”
“What can you do now that you couldn’t do before?”
One of my favorite speakers on Day 1 of CTA Conf was Kindra Hall. (Not surprising, as she is the storytelling expert).
Kindra dug into strategic storytelling in marketing. According to her, you should use a story every time you need to communicate value in your marketing.
Storytelling is powerful because real life humans are attracted to great stories. (And marketers talk to people after all).
Stories, according to Kindra, stick with us and make us do stuff because storytelling is a co-creative process.
“As I am telling you my story, you are creating your own in your mind. I am giving you my words, but you are meeting me half way, and we are creating a shared memory,” Kindra explained.
The most powerful moment in her talk came when she challenged the audience with the biggest storytelling mistake:
Too often, we allude to the story, but don’t actually tell it.
– Kindra Hall
She showed two example videos to illustrate her point. In the first, a company founder almost told her compelling story about losing both of her parents, but glossed over the details. The result was a pretty video, with pretty music that almost created feeling.
In the second video, the founder told her full story, explaining how losing her parents shaped her company and product. The difference in emotional impact was kind of incredible.
And making your customers feel is a huge part of making your customers act. Because we — consumers, people, humans — don’t buy products or services…we buy feelings.
Founder of Seer Interactive, Wil Reynolds, danced his way onto the stage, and delivered a really strong talk on SEO, conversion optimization, and the importance of people signals.
He didn’t mince words, explaining that marketers too often put conversions before customers. We ask “how do I get?” when we should be asking, “how do I help my customer get what they need?”
When you do an amazing job on search, you get to help people who are lost solve their problems.
– Wil Reynolds
Wil painted a picture of how we, as marketers, are letting our own wants override solving our customers’ problems. In the world of search, Wil pointed out that Google rewards pages that solve the searchers’ query. So solve the searchers’ query!
Much like we allude to stories, but often don’t tell them, we talk about listening to our customers, but often don’t really listen.
Instead of showing them product comparisons when they search “best CRM platform”, we pay to show them a landing page that claims “My product is the best! Get in my funnel!”
This isn’t just an issue in search or performance. In conversion optimization, there is an emphasis on velocity over user research. There is pressure to test more, and test faster.
But, we must take the time to do the research. To get as close to our customers’ problem, and tailor our marketing experience to their needs.
Building on Wil’s session on Day 1, SEO wizard, Rand Fishkin, gave the audience actionable tips around how to optimize for searcher intent.
Rand pointed to conversion optimization.
At its core, conversion optimization is about getting into your customers’ minds, and testing changes to get closer to the best possible customer experience. To give your customer what they need, you must soothe their pain points, and provide a solution.
You can apply this same concept to SEO: If you 1) gain a deep understanding of what searchers are seeking, and 2) determine why some searchers come away unsatisfied, you can optimize for searcher task accomplishment.
Unfortunately, Rand pointed out, there is still a conflict between SEO and CRO, because conversion rate and searcher satisfaction are sometimes in direct opposition.
For example, let’s say you want to get more blog subscriptions, so you add a pop-up to your blog post. This may lead to a higher conversion rate on the page, but lower searcher satisfaction. Some readers might bounce, which may lead to lower organic traffic.
But, Rand ended on a high note:
You can win with long-term thinking. By always asking, ‘are we building a brand that’s helping people succeed?’
One of the final speakers on Day 1 was marketing thought-leader, Mitch Joel, who shook things up a bit. Mitch spoke about what it means to be disruptive (and how to not fear disruption).
When I ask C-Suite marketers to define disruption, the definition is never consistent. In fact, I often don’t get a definition of disruption, I get a definition of destruction.
– Mitch Joel
He asked, if disruption is the big bad wolf, who are the heroes in this marketing story?
Well, like the three little pigs, Mitch discussed three ways to be disruptive rather than be disrupted:
Transformation: Business transformation is not your products or services, etc. It’s inside out. And it starts with technology. You need to be using the same tech, same form of communication that your customers are using.
Innovative marketing: Innovation is not re-allocation of resources. It isn’t investing more in Google Adwords versus another channel. Real innovation is about making and creating new products and experiences that we can use to market with.
Micro-transactions: Marketers and businesses get caught up in the macro transaction, in the purchase. But we live in a world of micro-transactions. This is the customer journey, and it is extremely important to understand.
Mitch Joel emphasized the fact that if you can apply these ‘three little pigs’ to your business model, you will be in a great place, though he recognized that it’s not always easy.
Senior Conversion Optimizer at Unbounce, Michael Aagaard, closed out the two-day conference. His message was a simple but powerful warning against the trap of confirmation bias.
We, as humans, are not interested in information, but confirmation.
– Michael Aagaard
Confirmation bias refers to our tendency to search for and recall information in ways that confirm our existing beliefs, hypotheses, and expectations. And it is a threat to data-driven marketing.
When you A/B test, you are searching for objectivity. You are trying to figure out which variation your users prefer, outside of your own opinions and beliefs about what works best.
But it’s rarely that simple, even if you are a pro.
Michael showed us a landing page that he analyzed for a client, featuring a stock photo hero image. He said he had railed against the photo, and shown the client examples of the hundreds of other stock photos featuring the same model.
But, when he tested the landing page, he found that the original version, featuring the ‘terrible’ stock photo, was the clear winner.
“Maybe,” he said, “users don’t spend hours scouring the internet for stock photo sinners like I do.”
He urged the audience to be bold enough to be wrong, to challenge our hypotheses, and get out of the marketing bubble when we are trying to solve problems.
If we don’t get out of the marketing bubble, we end up making assumptions, and designing experiences for ourselves.
– Michael Aagaard
Go hang out with your customer success teams and sales teams; get outsider input on your ‘great’ ideas. Go find your own natural skeptic, and challenge your hypotheses.
Were you at CTA Conf 17? What were your most important takeaways? Who were your favorite speakers, and why? Let us know in the comments!
2017 will forever be known as the year Google adopted a mobile-first strategy. Some people will think of that way, at least. Probably not too many, actually, but that doesn’t lessen the significance of the shift. Your mobile web strategy is now, simply, your web strategy. Why is this so important? By late 2016, more than half of all Google searches were conducted from mobile devices, and over 77% of web searches are through Google. So when the company announced this year it would prioritize mobile sites over desktop to determine relevance and ranking, it was kind of a big…
Facebook is still primarily a leisure social network: people browse it to connect with their friends, find interesting news and, of course, check out cat pictures. Therefore, most marketers believe that advertising on Facebook is useless for B2B. They’ll point to lower click-through rates for B2B Facebook ads, and higher costs per click, and go back to focusing on Google Adwords. Facebook is a great tool for B2C promotions, where marketers can offer discounts, promote sales and retarget buyers. But these tactics are not always suitable for the B2B crowd. That’s fair. But guess what? Companies are made of people….
The need for a structured, process-driven approach to conversion optimization (CRO) cannot be stressed enough. A structured CRO program is essential to deliver consistent and repeatable improvement in conversion rate and user experience (UX). Only a few organizations and agencies have adopted this approach to optimizing conversions; even fewer have been able to master it.
Kula Partners is one such agency that has actively practiced and advocated a structured CRO program. This story aims to highlight the optimization process followed by Kula Partners and how VWO helped it achieve success at each step of the process.
Based out of Nova Scotia, Canada, Kula Partners is a certified partner with VWO, offering services such as conversion optimization, inbound marketing, and web development. While optimizing conversions for its clients, Jeff White, Principal at Kula Partners, discovered that following a rigorous optimization process is what leads to success.
Synopsis of Kula’s Way of Optimizing for Success
The optimization process at Kula begins with identifying optimization opportunities on a client’s website or landing pages. It is done by closely analyzing website data and user behavior, using a variety of tools. Next, it hypothesizes ways to capitalize on each optimization opportunity. Hypotheses are then prioritized based on a few factors such as potential of improvement and effort in implementation. The hypotheses undergo A/B tests for validation, per its priority list. The results of A/B tests are thoroughly examined, and the learning is documented in a common knowledge repository. This repository is used to generate more hypotheses to optimize the website further. The cycle continues.
As Jeff puts it, “Optimizing a client’s site for conversion always starts for us with listening. We begin by implementing VWO heatmaps, clickmaps, and visitor recordings to see how people are using a site. Combined with analytics from tools such as Google Analytics and HubSpot, we’ll look for the pages that have the biggest opportunities for conversion optimization based on total number of visits and current conversion rates. Once we have a good understanding of how people are using those pages, we’ll implement a series of tests to see how best to improve the conversion rate. Sometimes this takes the form of simple changes to the body copy, button position and format. In other cases, it may mean making much larger bets and designing a wholly different, alternative landing page.
After we’ve an opportunity to implement revisions on a client site, we’ll continue to monitor the results to see how site visitors interact and refine the interface to improve the user experience even further.”
Since 2014, Kula has been trusting VWO for its optimization strategy. It has been using new features as they come up to achieve better conversions for its client websites.
Step-by-Step Process-Oriented Approach to Conversion Optimization
Let’s talk about how Kula puts its well-defined process into practice.
Step1: Identifying Optimization Opportunities
The first step in optimizing a website for more conversions is to establish baselines. This means setting up key metrics or goals that clearly indicate visitor actions and conducting quantitative analysis around these goals. Visitor actions leading to completion of a final goal (such as Checkout in case of eCommerce) are tracked as funnels. The website conversion funnel is extremely effective in spotting leaks—pages from which most users drop off.
Kula uses robust tools such as Google Analytics and HubSpot to track key metrics and discover potential leaks. These tools also point to high-value pages on a website—the pages that attract the highest traffic and the pages that contribute to many conversions.
Jeff says, “We identify opportunities for testing through a number of ways. We establish website funnels in tools such as HubSpot, Google Analytics and MixPanel. We then monitor conversion rates across the funnel to see areas that may be ripe for improvement. “
Step 2: Analyzing Visitor Behavior
After identifying potential leaks, the next step is to analyze how visitors are interacting with these pages on the website. This calls for a qualitative analysis of how visitors behave on the website. Such analysis provides significant insights about why visitors are behaving in a certain way. For example, if a lot of visitors are abandoning sessions on a eCommerce home page, a heatmap or visitor recording can be used to find out what category of products they were looking for and what specific problems they faced while searching for the product. Knowing what deters users from completing a conversion step is an opportunity for optimization.
At Kula, the team takes help of VWO capabilities such as Heatmaps, Scrollmaps, Visitor Recordings, and Form Analysis to understand the usage habits of visitors. It also uses VWO On-page Surveys to directly ask visitors for feedback.
Jeff shares, “As stated above, we always start our tests by observing the present usage habits of site visitors through heatmaps, clickmaps, and visitor recordings. If it makes sense, we may also gather subjective data through exit surveys. Once we have found where users stumble, we formulate specific tests to try to improve conversion.”
Here’s how Kula analyzed visitor behaviors for their clients, using VWO’s advanced capabilities:
Using Heatmaps to Improve Traffic Flow
Kula Partners was working on optimizing the Halifax International Airport Authority (HIAA) website by highlighting information for airport visitors at the forefront: arrivals and departures, parking information, and directions. Although the new website saw major traffic increase (more than 300%), the team continued to scout for more optimization opportunities.
A heatmap report of the HIAA home page revealed interesting insights—68% of all clicks on the home page were on the Departures tab and only 6% clicked back to the Arrivals tab.
Kula realized that this made perfect sense. Most of the traffic on the website home page would be coming to check when their flight is scheduled to depart. Far less people would look at the arrivals; they would do that only before receiving someone at the airport.
Based on this insight, Kula decided to make Departures as the default view on the home page. As a result, it saw a 20% drop in the number of visitors that clicked the other tab, which was Arrivals in this case.
Using Website Surveys Directly Provides Insights from Actual Visitors
This time, Kula was optimizing the website of Tirecraft—a company providing superior tires, wheels, accessories, and automotive services. The objective in this case was to increase the number of quotes users submit on the website.
To do that, it first tried to understand what prevented visitors from submitting a quote. It went ahead with a website survey and asked the website visitors, “What stopped you from submitting a quote request today?”
Visitors could choose their answers from the following options:
I prefer to purchase this product in person.
There was no pricing information available.
I need more information.
I can’t buy the product I want online.
The result of the survey highlighted the major pain points that users faced.
An overwhelming number of visitors responded with the second option “There was no pricing information available.”
Using Visitor Recordings to Optimize User Experience
Jeff shared an example of how Kula is using visitor recordings to help its clients.
“We recently completed a large UX analysis project with a series of visitor recordings for a luxury extended stay apartment company with a national presence in Canada. Through this process, we’ve been able to develop a series of over 100 recommendations for improvement of the user experience. Our plan is to begin a series of extensive innovative A/B tests, starting with their product pages and moving to other areas of the site from there.”
Step 3: Planning and Prioritizing Testing Hypotheses
The insights and observations collected from quantitative and qualitative analyses act as fuel for the optimization engine. Our next key task is to manage this library of insights and build hypotheses for testing based on data insights.
A typical hypothesis statement looks like: Based on the observation that visitors are abandoning cart because they can’t find security seals on the checkout page, I expect that adding security seals on the checkout page will address the trust issues for visitors not completing the purchase.
There is a hypothesis aimed at addressing each optimization opportunity. Just as a thorough website analysis brings up multiple optimization opportunities, the hypotheses are also numerous. At most instances, it is not possible to validate all these hypotheses through A/B tests simultaneously. At that point, the hypotheses are prioritized on factors, including the potential to deliver positive results and ease of implementation. Prioritizing these hypotheses helps us pinpoint which tests to run first and which ones to park for future.
Kula also follows a similar prioritization model. Jeff adds, “Although we don’t specifically follow any single prioritization framework, our process most closely aligns with the PIE framework. As an agency with considerable dev chops, we’re lucky in that we can implement nearly any level of test no matter how complex. The question at that point is whether or not there’s enough potential lift in conversion to make the adjustment worthwhile.”
The prioritization is usually implemented with the help of project management tools.
“We record and detail our hypotheses for client tests using our project management tool, JIRA. We also maintain detailed notes about how to conduct tests and implement them in VWO, using Confluence, so that all Kula team members can quickly reference the correct processes.” explains Jeff.
Step 4: Validating Hypotheses with Testing
After the hypotheses are created and prioritized, it is time to test them. Testing a hypothesis helps you validate your thought process, and a winner assures the percentage of gain you’ll achieve by executing the change on the website. Based on the complexity of the change to be implemented, you should choose the type of test to run. For instance, it makes more sense to experiment with multivariate tests on websites with heavy traffic than on pages with low traffic.
Jeff talks about his experience with testing while he was working with rest of the team on creating a new version of the website to match the new positioning.
“We rolled out a version of the new layout for our HubSpot landing pages four months before we began designing the full site. The result was pretty solid—on our most popular asset landing page, we saw a conversion lift of nearly 10%. This gave us the confidence to deploy the design more widely.
Here is a screenshot of the test variations with the old version on the left and the new one on the right:”
Step 5: Analyzing Test Results and Documenting the Learning
The last leg of the optimization journey focuses on analyzing how the test results tie to visitor behavior and on saving learning from this analysis for future optimization.
Jeff explains, “When running tests, we review the results from VWO but also look at how GA and HubSpot are reporting on the changes in conversion or traffic behavior. We definitely document our results from previous tests in order to inform our future tests. These are also used in our presentations to clients on why/how we should implement CRO for their businesses.”
A process-driven strategy for optimizing conversions is the key to long-term success.
To run the optimization engine for long-term growth, businesses need to adopt a structured approach that generates insights and learning that to act as fuel for this engine.
The optimization process begins with first putting the baselines in place and finding areas of potential leaks. Next comes an in-depth view of how the visitors are behaving, that is, qualitative research. This is followed by recording and prioritizing hypotheses, which are validated through structured A/B testing.
PRs and SEOs love press releases. You get an SEO boost, earning links from journalists in your space across a bunch of different sites. And you get traditional PR benefits. But focusing on your press page could bring much bigger dividends. Think of a press page in the context of broader strategy. If you’re emailing and phoning publications trying to get yourself or your client mentioned, you’re doing ‘outbound PR’ – the PR equivalent of cold calling. Surprise, surprise: journalists don’t really like it, and as Bloomberg’s David Lynch warns, ‘you’re going to strike out most of the time.’ A…
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