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From Cats With Love: Welcome The New Smashing Membership

We can’t believe it’s actually happening. After 18 months of hard work on the big bang relaunch of this little website, today is the day when everything changes. New design and new technical stack. New personality and new ambitious goals. But most importantly, a new focus on our wonderful web community, with the brand new Smashing Membership.
Rewarding Great People Doing Great Work In times when we fight all the craziness and narrow-mindedness around us, we need to remind ourselves how wonderful a vast majority of the web community actually is.

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From Cats With Love: Welcome The New Smashing Membership


Marketing Machines: Is Machine Learning Helping Marketers or Making Us Obsolete?

Hollywood paints a grim picture of a future populated by intelligent machines. Terminator, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix and countless other films show us that machines are angry, they’re evil and — if given the opportunity — they will not hesitate to overthrow the human race.

Films like these serve as cautionary tales about what could happen if machines gain consciousness (or some semblance of). But in order for that to happen humans need to teach machines to think for themselves. This may sound like science fiction but it’s an actual discipline known as machine learning.

The machines are coming. But fear not — they could help you become a better marketer. Image via Shutterstock.

Still in its infancy, machine learning systems are being applied to everything from filtering spam emails, to suggesting the next series to binge-watch and even matching up folks looking for love.

For digital marketers, machine learning may be especially helpful in getting products or services in front of the right prospects, rather than blanket-marketing to everyone and adding to the constant noise that is modern advertising. Machine learning will also be key to predicting customer churn and attribution: two thorns in many digital marketers’ sides.

Despite machine learning’s positive impact on the digital marketing field, there are questions about job security and ethics that cannot be swept under the rug. Will marketing become so automated that professional marketers become obsolete? Is there potential for machine learning systems to do harm, whether by targeting vulnerable prospects or manipulating people’s emotions?

These aren’t just rhetorical questions. They get to the heart of what the future of marketing will look like — and what role marketers will play in it.

What is Machine Learning?

Machine learning is a complicated subject, involving advanced math, code and overwhelming amounts of data. Luckily, Tommy Levi, Director of Data Science at Unbounce, has a PhD in Theoretical Physics. He distills machine learning down to its simplest definition:

You can think of machine learning as using a computer or mathematics to make predictions or see patterns in data. At the end of the day, you’re really just trying to either predict something or see patterns, and then you’re just using the fact that a computer is really fast at calculating.

You may not know it, but you likely interact with machine learning systems on a daily basis. Have you ever been sucked into a Netflix wormhole prompted by recommended titles? Or used Facebook’s facial recognition tool when uploading and tagging an image? These are both examples of machine learning in action. They use the data you input (by rating shows, tagging friends, etc.) to produce better and more accurate suggestions over time.

Other examples of machine learning include spell check, spam filtering… even internet dating — yes, machine learning has made its way into the love lives of many, matching up singles using complicated algorithms that take into consideration personality traits and interests.

Machine learning may be helpful in getting products or services in front of the right prospects.
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How Machine Learning Works

While it may seem like witchcraft to the layperson, running in the background of every machine learning system we encounter is a human-built machine that would have gone through countless iterations to develop.

Facebook’s facial recognition tool, which can recognize your face with 98% accuracy, took several years of research and development to produce what is regarded as cutting-edge machine learning.

So how exactly does machine learning work? Spoiler alert: it’s complicated. So without going into too much detail, here’s an introduction to machine learning, starting with the two basic techniques.

Supervised learning

Supervised learning systems rely upon humans to label the incoming data — at least to begin with — in order for the systems to better predict how to classify future input data.

Gmail’s spam filter is a great example of this. When you label incoming mail as either spam or not spam, you’re not only cleaning up your inbox, you’re also training Gmail’s filter (a machine learning system) to identify what you consider to be spam (or not spam) in the future.

Unsupervised learning

Unsupervised learning systems use unlabeled incoming data, which is then organized into clusters based on similarities and differences in the data. Whereas supervised learning relies upon environmental feedback, unsupervised learning has no environmental feedback. Instead, data scientists will often use a reward/punishment system to indicate success or failure.

According to Tommy, this type of machine learning can be likened to the relationship between a parent and a young child. When a child does something positive they’re rewarded. Likewise, when “[a machine] gets it right — like it makes a good prediction — you kind of give it a little pat on the back and you say good job.”

Like any child (or person for that matter), the system ends up trying to maximize the positive reinforcement, thus getting better and better at predicting.

The Power of Machine Learning

A lot of what machine learning can do is yet to be explored, but the main benefit is its ability to wade through and sort data far more quickly and efficiently than any human could, no matter how clever.

Tommy is currently experimenting with an unsupervised learning system that clusters landing pages with similar features. Whereas one person could go through a few hundred pages in a day, this model can run through 300,000 pages in 20 minutes.

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

We analyzed the behavior of 74,551,421 visitors to 64,284 lead generation landing pages. Now we want to share average industry conversion rates with you in the Unbounce Conversion Benchmark Report.
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The advantage is not just speed, it’s also retention and pattern recognition. Tommy explains:

To go through that many pages and see those patterns and hold it all in memory and be able to balance that — that’s where the power is.

For some marketers, this raises a troubling question: If machine learning systems solve problems by finding patterns that we can’t see, does this mean that marketers should be worried about job security?

The answer is more nuanced than a simple yes or no.

Machine Learning and the Digital Marketer

As data becomes the foundation for more and more marketing decisions, digital marketers have been tasked with sorting through an unprecedented amount of data.

This process usually involves hours of digging through analytics, collecting data points from marketing campaigns that span several months. And while focusing on data analysis and post-mortems is incredibly valuable, doing so takes a significant amount of time and resources away from future marketing initiatives.

As advancements in technology scale exponentially, the divide between teams that do and those that don’t will become more apparent. Those that don’t evolve will stumble and those that embrace data will grow — this is where machine learning can help.

Marketers that don’t embrace data will fumble. Those that do will grow — ML can help.
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That being said, machine learning isn’t something digital marketers can implement themselves after reading a quick tutorial. It’s more comparable to having a Ferrari in your driveway when you don’t know how to drive standard… or maybe you can’t even drive at all.

Until the day when implementing a machine learning system is just a YouTube video away, digital marketers could benefit from keeping a close eye on the companies that are incorporating machine learning into their products, and assessing whether they can help with their department’s pain points.

So how are marketers currently implementing machine learning to make decisions based on data rather than gut instinct? There are many niches in marketing that are becoming more automated. Here are a few that stand out.

Lead scoring and machine learning

Lead scoring is a system that allows marketers to gauge whether a prospect is a qualified lead and thus worth pursuing. Once marketing and sales teams agree on the definition of a “qualified lead,” they can begin assigning values to different qualified lead indicators, such as job title, company size and even interaction with specific content.

These indicators paint a more holistic picture of a lead’s level of interest, beyond just a form submission typically associated with lead generation content like ebooks. And automating lead scoring takes the pressure off marketers having to qualify prospects via long forms, freeing them up to work on other marketing initiatives.

Once the leads have reached the “qualified” threshold, sales associates can then focus their efforts on those prospects — ultimately spending their time and money where it matters most.

Content marketing and copywriting

Machine learning models can analyze data points beyond just numbers — including words on your website, landing page or PPC ads. Machine learning systems can find patterns in language and detect words that elicit the most clicks or engagement.

Is emotional copywriting on your landing page effective in your industry?

We used machine learning to help create the Unbounce Conversion Benchmark Report, which shares insights on how different aspects of page copy correspond to conversion rates across 10 industries.
By entering your email you’ll receive other resources to help you improve your conversion rates.

But can a machine write persuasive copy? Maybe, actually.

A New York-based startup called Persado offers a “cognitive content platform” that uses math, data, natural language processing, emotional language data and machine learning systems to serve the best copy and images to spur prospects into action. It does this by analyzing all the language data each client has ever interacted with and serving future prospects with the best possible words or phrases. An A/B test could never achieve this at the same scale.

Think this is a joke? With over $65 million in venture capital and a reported average conversion rate uplift of 49.5% across 4,000 campaigns, Persado’s business model is no laughing matter.

Still, there is no replacement for a supremely personalized piece of content delivered straight to your client’s inbox — an honest call to action from one human to another.

Recently Unbounce’s Director of Campaign Strategy, Corey Dilley, sent an email to our customers. It had no sales pitch, no call to action button. It was just Corey reaching out and saying, “Hey.”


Corey’s email had an open rate of 41.42%, and he received around 80 personal responses. Not bad for an email written by a human!

Sometimes it’s actions — like clicks and conversions — you want to elicit from customers. Other times the goal is to build rapport. In some cases we should let the machines do the work, but it’s up to the humans to keep the content, well, human.

There is no replacement for personalized content and an honest ask from one human to another.
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Machine learning for churn prediction

In the SaaS industry, churn is a measure of the percentage of customers who cancel their recurring revenue subscriptions. According to Tommy, churn tells a story about “how your customers behave and feel. It’s giving a voice to the customers that we don’t have time or the ability to talk to.”

Self-reporting methods such as polls and surveys are another good way to give a voice to these customers. But they’re not always scalable — large data sets can be hard for humans to analyze and derive meaning from.

Self-reporting methods can also skew your results. Tommy explains:

The problem with things like surveys and popups is that they’re only going to tell you what you’ve asked about, and the type of people that answer surveys are already a biased set.

Machine learning systems, on the other hand, can digest a larger number of data points, and with far less bias. Ideally the data is going to reveal what marketing efforts are working, thus leading to reduced churn and helping to move customers down the funnel.

This is highly relevant for SaaS companies, whose customers often sign up for trials before purchasing the product. Once someone starts a trial, the marketing department will start sending them content in order to nurture them into adopting the service and become engaged.

Churn models can help a marketing team determine which pieces of content lead to negative or positive encounters — information that can inform and guide the optimization process.

Ethical Implications of Machine Learning in Marketing

We hinted at the ethical implications of machine learning in marketing, but it deserves its own discussion (heck, it deserves its own book). The truth is, machine learning systems have the potential to cause legitimate harm.

According to Carl Schmidt, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Unbounce:

Where we are really going to run into ethical issues is with extreme personalization. We’re going to teach machines how to be the ultimate salespeople, and they’re not going to care about whether you have a compulsive personality… They’re just going to care about success.

This could mean targeting someone in rehab with alcohol ads, or someone with a gambling problem with a trip to Las Vegas. The machine learning system will make the correlation, based on the person’s internet activity, and it’s going to exploit that.

Another dilemma we run into is with marketing aimed at affecting people’s emotions. Sure copywriters often tap into emotions in order to get a desired response, but there’s a fine line between making people feel things and emotional manipulation, as Facebook discovered in an infamous experiment.

If you aren’t familiar with the experiment, here’s the abridged version: Facebook researchers adapted word count software to manipulate the News Feeds of 689,003 users to determine whether their emotional state could be altered if they saw fewer positive posts or fewer negative posts in their feeds.

Posts were deemed either positive or negative if they contained at least one positive or negative word. Because researchers never saw the status updates (the machine learning system did the filtering) technically it fell within Facebook’s Data Use Policy.

However, public reaction to the Facebook experiment was generally pretty scathing. While some came to the defense of Facebook, many criticized the company for breaching ethical guidelines for informed consent.

In the end, Facebook admitted they could have done better. And one good thing did come out of the experiment: It now serves as a benchmark for when machine learning goes too far, and as a reminder for marketers to continually gut-check themselves.

For Carl, it comes down to intent:

If I’m Facebook, I might be worried that if we don’t do anything about the pacing and style of content, and we’re inadvertently presenting content that could be reacted to negatively, especially to vulnerable people, then we would want to actively understand that mechanism and do something about it.

While we may not yet have a concrete code of conduct around machine learning, moving forward with good intentions and a commitment to do no harm is a good place to start.

The Human Side of Machine Learning

Ethical issues aside, the rise of machines often implies the fall of humans. But it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

“You want machines to do the mundane stuff and the humans to do the creative stuff,” Carl says. He continues:

Computers are still not creative. They can’t think on their own, and they generally can’t delight you very much. We are going to get to a point where you could probably generate highly personal onboarding content by a machine. But it [will have] no soul.

That’s where the human aspect comes in. With creativity and wordsmithing. With live customer support. Heck, it takes some pretty creative data people to come up with an algorithm that recognizes faces with 98% accuracy.

Imagine a world where rather than getting 15 spam emails a day, you get just one with exactly the content you would otherwise be searching for — content written by a human, but served to you by a machine learning system.

While pop culture may say otherwise, the future of marketing isn’t about humans (or rather, marketers) versus machines. It’s about marketers using machines to get amazing results — for their customers and their company.

Machine learning systems may have an edge when it comes to data sorting, but they’re missing many of the things that make exceptional marketing experiences: empathy, compassion and a true understanding of the human experience.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in The Split, a digital magazine by Unbounce.

See original article – 

Marketing Machines: Is Machine Learning Helping Marketers or Making Us Obsolete?

How To Leverage Facebook’s Live 360 Videos

facebook 360

In case you hadn’t noticed – though I’m guessing you have – consumption of online video has been steadily rising in recent years. According to a forecast by Cisco, video will represent 80% percent of all consumer-based internet traffic by 2019. In the information age, the average person has a shorter attention span than a goldfish, and unless your content is extra special, people are unlikely to pay attention. A compelling video stands out from generic mass marketing and communicates your message more impactfully than text-based content. In terms of generating engagement, text-based content simply can’t compete with sensory-rich, emotive…

The post How To Leverage Facebook’s Live 360 Videos appeared first on The Daily Egg.

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How To Leverage Facebook’s Live 360 Videos

Lessons Learned from Year 1 of the Call to Action Podcast [PODCAST]

Birthday cake
Image by Morrowlight via Shutterstock.

The first year of becoming a parent is a rollercoaster of emotions, from terror to pure joy and everything in between. You can’t sleep, you don’t have time to eat and you go from laughing to crying in mere seconds. But in the end it’s all worth it, because like every proud parent, your podcast’s achievements become your own.

Nope, that wasn’t a typo. We’re talking about a different kind of baby — one you can download on iTunes.

That’s right, folks, the Call to Action podcast just turned one, and we’re celebrating as many others have celebrated their first birthday: by diving headfirst into a volleyball-sized cupcake. (I wish!)

Join me, Unbounce’s Multimedia Producer, Stephanie Saretsky (a.k.a. Beansie), and Content Strategist Dan Levy as we chat about the lessons learned during the podcast’s first year, including how dang tricky it is to measure the value of a podcast and why not all ideas are good ideas. On top of that, we chat about what’s to come for season two, and how you can get involved.

Season 1 highlights:

  • Cracking the iTunes ranking algorithm — ranking first in Marketing, first in Business and fourth in the entire iTunes store.
  • Learning that it was Aaliyah and not Destiny’s Child that taught us to “…dust [ourselves] off and try again.”
  • Answering the big question: Are you more of a Tom Haverford or a Ron Swanson?

Listen to the podcast

Mentioned in the podcast

Read the transcript

Stephanie: This is kind of a special episode. As you know, I’m Stephanie Saretsky. I’m the host of Call to Action. But with me, I have our content strategist, Dan Levy.

Dan: Hey, Stephanie.

Stephanie: How’s it going, Dan?

Dan: It’s going pretty well. We don’t usually talk to each other, do we?

Stephanie: No, I usually kind of just introduce you and then let you interview all of our awesome guests.

Dan: Of course, the secret is that you are in the room next to me when I interview those guests, so it’s not like we don’t actually talk in real life.

Stephanie: It’s true. Behind the scenes, we’re actually always together.

Dan: Crazy.

Stephanie: So today, we thought it would be fun because it’s been one whole year since we launched the Call to Action podcast. It first went live last January 28, which was a Wednesday. So we thought it would be fun to get together and chat about what went well, what didn’t go so well and what we’re excited about doing for this year.

Dan: Yeah, it’s a good opportunity to take a step back and to also look ahead. And of course, a big part of that is to get your feedback on what you’ve enjoyed and what you think we could do better, and what you’d like to see for the rest of the year and beyond that. So we hope that you’ll enjoy this walk down memory lane. We hope there will also be some valuable lessons and insights for you in how to launch a podcast and everything from ranking on iTunes, to how to get guests, to how to treat your guests.

One thing that’s been I think a huge success so far is that we’ve had a lot of guests on, who’ve come to us later and said that they really enjoyed the experience and asking us how we manage things on our end so that they could make sure to give their guests as good an experience on their podcast. So that’s been a huge win for us and we hope to share some of that love.

Stephanie: Yeah, it’s definitely something that we’ve been trying to spread awareness of since podcasting kind of exploded in the marketing world last year. So from posts on our blog to just well-crafted episodes every week, it’s something that Dan and I are trying to really bring, an excellent product. So again, any feedback would be appreciated. You can always contact us at podcast.unbounce.com.

Dan: So talking about when we launched, bring me back. Why did we launch a podcast again?

Stephanie: So this is kind of funny. Something that Unbounce does every quarter is a ShipIt Day. And I’m sure if you work at a tech startup, you’re probably somewhat familiar with the concept. So it’s two days, and one day you spend planning what projects you’re going to work on, and then the second day you ship it. So the marketing team decided that we were going to do our own ShipIt Day because at that point in the company’s history, we weren’t really involved and ShipIt Day was something that the dev teams more did on their own, which has since changed. But our marketing manager at the time thought it would be fun for us to try and do it ourselves.

Dan: It’s funny you mention our marketing manager at the time. That’s Corey, and he actually plays a pretty important part in the genesis of the podcast. I might be skipping ahead here, but one of the reasons we did launch a podcast, before we get to the actual KPIs and everything, one of the reasons, to be totally honest, was because Corey told us that he didn’t have time to read our blog, and that he didn’t really like to read. And so if somebody could just speak our blog post to him into his ear every morning, he’d be a happy camper. And that was actually the seed of the Call to Action podcast.

Stephanie: Yeah, because the Unbounce blog is something that’s been like a flagship at Unbounce since it was started. I came from the radio world so I had a background in audio. And since I started at Unbounce, I was like, okay, a podcast would be something that I would really like to do and kind of throwing around ideas. And then Dan, when we had this ShipIt Day idea, he was like: “Hey, okay, so Corey doesn’t like to read. Why don’t we try to put together a podcast where we’re actually synthesizing popular blog posts of ours?” And I was like: “Sweet, that’s awesome; that’s a super concise idea.”

We have a huge bank of really awesome posts that we can pull from and it should be fairly easy editing-wise because there’s not a lot of post production that needs to be done. So Dan called up Elizabeth Martsen, who at the time was at Portent, Inc. as their PPC manager. And she had written a really awesome post for us about comparing PPC to online dating, which was really fun. So she was super awesome. She was like: “Yeah, I’ll totally do it.” She was able to do it within the next three days. So it was super fast. We got the interview done, cut and edited.

And then we presented the episode to our team, and it went really well. So we were like, okay, I think this needs to be an actual thing. So this was in October, I believe. And then we proceeded to interview six other people. We did that in a span of two weeks.

Dan: And that was one of my faults. I proceeded to go on my honeymoon for a month to Thailand. And so I was like, yeah, let’s do this podcast thing, and I’m leaving for a month. So we rushed to do six interviews really quickly, and then I said to Stephanie: “Have fun.” And when I got back, like a little, nicely wrapped present, they were all edited and ready to go, which was awesome.

Stephanie: Yeah. So that was really – yeah, fast paced but it was really good. We had some really awesome first contributors. And then at the same time, I spent the time putting together the launch brief. So at this time in Unbounce, we had about eight of us on the marketing team so we were still in the instance where I would put together a brief, and I would send it to our marketing manager. And then we would have a meeting and talk about all the strategies, whether we hit the key points and then he would send it back to me, and then I would iterate on it. And then we would finally get to the last iteration of the brief.

Initially, we had wanted to launch at the beginning of January as like a new year, new podcast thing. However, it became clear, because of the pace that we had to record a bunch so that we could launch with a certain amount, and we’ll get to that later. And just the size of the launch that this project was going to entail, that the first of January wasn’t going to be feasible for us. So we ended up moving it to January 28 and the rest is history.

Dan: Yeah, of course when we launch any piece of content marketing at Unbounce, we try to not start – in this case, we did notably want to do a podcast but we do try to start with a goal. And besides getting Corey to listen to our blog, remind me what was the goal on that brief that we set out to accomplish?

Stephanie: The initial goal had two goals. The primary goal was awareness. We really wanted this podcast to reach a new audience. And the way that we saw this happening was through the iTunes store. So right away, the biggest thing for us was to get into the New and Noteworthy section in iTunes and to rank in the top 10 in iTunes. So that was huge. So I spent an entire month researching on how to do that.

And I will let you in on a little secret: it was so hard – or at least a year ago, it was so hard – to find any definitive points on how to do well in iTunes. There’s so much conflicting information. iTunes is notorious for having that stuff on lockdown. Like you can’t do keywords anymore, there’s no –

Dan: You thought the Google algorithm and something like Google quality score was hard to unpack; wait ’til you encounter the mystery of iTunes.

Stephanie: Yeah, and there’s so much conflicting information. So one thing that people say is huge is rating velocity; so how many stars or reviews you get. So that’s one thing. So try and get as many reviews and as many stars as you can. Try and get as many people downloading as many episodes on the same day as possible. So download speed, so launching with more than three. Some people say one is fine; some people say you need at least five.

Some people say that you should be posting your podcast once a day; some people are like once a week. Initially, we had thought we would do biweekly but then we decided to go for a week just in case this download velocity was a huge deal. And we found that at the time, we did have enough in our bank and enough capacity to produce once a week.

Dan: That’s one of the reasons we both recorded a bunch of episodes right off the bat was so that we could launch with several episodes. And also one of the reasons that we did go for the MVP — the minimum viable product — we decided that it was important to keep it as lean as possible. So we interviewed blog authors and limited the scope of the podcast initially to people who we had interviewed on the blog, who we had a relationship with, and that there was a post that we could easily write some questions around and jump right into the content. Rather than creating totally fresh content, doing fresh reporting, for example. That would have added to our workload.

Stephanie: And so this is where something that kind of comes in stats-wise is interesting and something that we’ll unpack a little bit later on is because we were so concerned with our ratings velocity, our download speed and just getting as many people to listen to it as possible, when it came time to launch, we put a lot of effort into an email campaign, a social campaign. And really, even though the main goal was awareness and getting it to a new audience in retrospect we were actually launching to our current audience, and we were really banking on also hooking the people that were reading our blog and being like: “Hey, this is a post that you liked; here is an episode.”

We’re going to go more in-depth on this post. You’re going to hear a little bit of new information from the author’s mouth. And so that was something that we were banking on so that we could have a really awesome launch.

Dan: It’s a bit of the chicken and the egg scenario because we needed that critical mass of people listening to our podcast right away in order to rank in the iTunes store and reach that new audience. And in order to do that, we had to leverage our existing audience. So it wasn’t perfect because we were marketing to existing leads, but we did get our podcast ranking really quickly, which we hoped and we think did reach a whole slew of Coreys out there who don’t read the blog but who like to listen to podcasts.

Stephanie: And launch day was amazing. We quickly went to number one in marketing. We went to number one in business, and we were at number four in the entire iTunes store after This American Life, Serial and –

Dan: Radio Lab.

Stephanie: No, it was Invisibilia, the new NPR podcast. Which is, if you’re a podcast fan – and I’m sure you are if you’re listening to this episode right now, like that is huge. Dan and I were freaking out.

Dan: Those are the three biggest podcasts in the world –

Stephanie: Ever.

Dan: – and number four was us.

Stephanie: It was awesome. I still have that screenshot and I just look at it when I feel sad. Yeah. So that was great. We had an amazing launch and yeah.

Dan: Yeah, the launch was really exciting. Of course, we wanted to then keep our momentum going, and we soon realized that the format that we had originally launched with was limiting in some ways, right?

Stephanie: Yes. Because even though we launched with this MVP, because it meant that it was consistent, it was narrow and we could do a lot of it quickly, which is important if you’re doing a weekly show; it has to be somewhat easy for the producer, which is myself, to actually edit it and be able to do all my other work. It soon became apparent that it was limiting in what we could actually think about. And also, initially, like the very, very first iteration of the podcast, we were trying to promote another core piece of content that we had just published, which was our marketing glossary. So we were starting every episode with a definition, read by our cofounder, Oli Gardner, of a marketing term that would then be featured in the actual interview itself.

Dan: Yeah. So we were excited about that idea. Some of the feedback that we got was that people didn’t necessarily see the connection between that word and then the interview afterwards. They thought that it was filler, or it was just a roadblock on the way to the interview, which is what they really wanted to get at. And so we quickly – I don’t know, how long were we doing that for?

Stephanie: We did that for at least two to three months, actually. I think we moved onto our second format change in about May.

Dan: Yeah, I think once we realized that it was even a stress for us to find words that connected to the interview, that it was time to stop. That yeah, it was convenient in the sense that we were leveraging existing content and that we were promoting it, but it didn’t quite work so we moved away from that.

Stephanie: And we just got so much feedback being like this seems like it’s just thrown in here. So we were like, okay, let’s try and give it more of a story because Dan and I both are super interested in podcasts that have a lot of story content. So we were kind of like, okay, how can we make this more podcast-y, which sounds a little weird but like how do we make this sound like it’s not your typical marketing podcast?

Dan: The podcasters that we were looking up to were those three other podcasts, This American Life, Serial and Invisibilia, Radio Lab — lofty goals because these are radio professionals who this is their full-time job. But there’s also other podcasts that are lower production but that really connect with their listeners in maybe a more personal way and a more informal way. And so we wanted to make sure that we were honoring the tradition. As new as it is, there is a podcasting tradition already and expectations of podcast audience; we wanted to make sure we were honoring those.

Stephanie: But the challenge was then also making sure that the interview was actionable at the time.

Dan: Exactly. Because something that we’ve always talked about is that Unbounce content needs to be actionable. And if you read our blog posts, they’re super tactical, they’re really in depth. We really break down a marketing problem and how to solve it. And that’s great in blog form. In podcast form, I think there are limits to it because people listen to podcasts at the gym, washing dishes, in the car; they don’t necessarily have a pen and paper.

They’re not in deep learning mode. They want to learn something, they want to get something out of it for sure but it’s not necessarily the same type of – they’re not looking for the same type of content that a blog reader would. So the challenge was how to keep it actionable without getting too bogged down into tactics and details.

Stephanie: And that was something that we noticed when we were able to suss out what made a really good episode last year, was we had a few episodes that were super technical; topics like PPC come to mind, where it’s a lot of great information but pulling that out and making that interesting to listen to was difficult.

Dan: And interesting for us.

Stephanie: Yeah. I won’t – never mind.

Dan: Yeah.

Stephanie: Whereas, say, some of our really awesome episodes last year, and one that comes to mind for me is an episode that we did with HubSpot’s Ginny Soskey, which is one of my favorite episodes today. Was that it was actionable but it also was very conversational and you guys were actually discussing the state of content marketing and the thought of publishing a lot of blog posts, or publishing a little blog posts. But it went beyond here was our experiment and this is what we saw.

Dan: That’s it. Because Ginny posted this amazing, in-depth report on this blog publishing experiment that they’d run. And the numbers were there, and the charts were there, and it’s just a really great post, but just recounting that is not nearly as interesting as the way she impacts it in the post itself. So we realized that this wasn’t just about talking blog posts, but it was talking around them and getting a little bit deeper into the bigger ideas and the bigger issues behind the posts. So there might be a post about a blog publishing experiment, but what’s the interview about?

Well, maybe it’s actually more about what is this content marketing stuff about?  How do you stay on goal while still providing value to the audience?  That’s a much more interesting conversation, I think, to have than charts and numbers, which could get a little bit tedious in the verbal form.

Stephanie: Yeah. So it’s just not as fun, and then it wasn’t as fun for Dan and I. So we found that they were received better by our audience, but then also more enjoyable for us to actually work on.

Dan: Yeah, and the other thing that you hint at there is that we moved beyond just talking about our own blog posts; just talking to authors who had written for our own blog. We realized that there’s a whole ecosystem of really smart, amazing marketing content out there and we wanted to speak to those authors, as well. So we started to talk to the HubSpots and the Buffers and really great marketing thought leaders who may have published elsewhere to bring those insights to our audience.

Stephanie: Actually, what are some of your favorite moments from the last year?

Dan: Good question. Somehow Parks and Recreation keeps coming up, and I actually didn’t even watch that show until really recently. One of my favorite moments was when Allison Otting from Disruptive Advertising asked me if I was more of a Tom Haverford or a Ron Swanson. And I kind of like played along for a little bit and then I was like, I don’t actually know who these characters are. I thought that was pretty funny.

Stephanie: Yeah, that was a really good episode. I actually had forgotten about that at this point.

Dan: How about you?

Stephanie: I think one of my favorites… that’s a hard question. Actually –

Dan: If at first you don’t succeed…

Stephanie: Oh, yeah. Oh, my gosh, yeah. This was the best. Jonathan Dane was on and actually, at this point, this has been one of our most popular podcasts because he really – he can take something like PPC and make it sound like the most fun thing in the entire world. Actually in that title was a huge come around for us. It was something like why PPC is just like Nerf guns or something?

Dan: Right, PPC as explained through Nerf guns.

Stephanie: Yes, that was it. It was awesome. And so at the very end, we ended off on this kind of inspirational note of like if at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again. And then –

Dan: I think I said – what did I say?  I said something like in the wise words of Destiny’s Child?

Stephanie: Yeah, Destiny’s Child. And then Jonathan was like no, no, I think that’s Taylor Swift. And then – oh, no. Did you say Taylor Swift and then he said Destiny’s Child?  Anyway –

Dan: You know what he said – I’ll tell you what happened. I got this.

Stephanie: Tell me, Dan.

Dan: So he said something about shaking it off, which is a Taylor Swift reference. What I heard was dust yourself off, which of course is Destiny’s Child reference. However, Stephanie kept her mouth shut, you know, like a good professional, until she couldn’t take it anymore and she set that straight.

Stephanie: Yeah, so it was actually Aaliyah.

Dan: We were both wrong.

Stephanie: Which was hilarious, and then we actually put the song into the end of the episode and it was, yeah, really funny and a really excellent way to end it. But then I also think that one of just the more enjoyable interviews that we had was when we had our own Haley Mullen, who is our community manager on the show. And Haley’s hilarious, if you’ve interacted with the Unbounce Twitter, ever. She’s so funny and it was just a really awesome interview to produce because listening to you and her talk was just fun.

Dan: Yeah, and I realized talking to somebody that you do have a previous relationship with, but you don’t necessarily have these specific conversations, they go in really interesting, unexpected places.

Stephanie: Also another good one that we did for us, we did our April Fool’s episode.

Dan: We did, yes.

Stephanie: Which was pretty funny, actually. So usually how a Call to Action episode gets started is that I’ll pull questions from a post and then Dan will edit them to be in his own voice. And then we’ll actually interview the guest, usually on a Thursday. And so what we actually did for this one is we did a full script with read-throughs and everything, and then we went in and actually recorded it like a radio play.

Dan: Yeah, and that actually went through several iterations because the first time we played it for some people and they were like: we don’t get the joke. We thought it was hilarious. But then we realized that – I think we played it a little bit too straight. And we rerecorded it where I was a bit more of a proxy for the audience in asking – being a bit more skeptical myself and slowly getting irritated by this character I was interviewing, who was like this total, arrogant blowhard marketer. And we think that the result was a lot better in the end.

Stephanie: Yeah, which is actually a really important content lesson. That something that you might think is really funny, or even really just awesome, it may just be you. Just run it past some people and be like, how does this sound?  And they’ll tell you: “We don’t get it. Is this actually a thing that’s happening?” And we’re like: “No, obviously we’re not developing landing pages to infinity or the Uber for landing pages; that’s silly.” They’re like: “No, it sounds real.”

Dan: Well, that’s it. And it goes to show how far off the rails digital marketing sometimes can get when something that’s so absurd could actually sound plausible to people.

Another episode, on a more serious note, that I really, really liked was my interview with Kevin Lee from Buffer. Where suddenly, the tables turned. I forget what we were talking about exactly but I asked him a question and he got, like, really quiet. He’s a really thoughtful guy, Kevin, and he’s the kind of person that doesn’t say anything without really thinking it through.

And if he doesn’t know the answer, then he’s really, in true Buffer style, kind of transparent about it and really humble. And so he said something like: I don’t know, what do you think?  And I got really quiet because, you know, I’m the interviewer; I’m not really used to being asked that. And then suddenly, I started kind of pouring out my guts to him and it became this back and forth; it was almost like content marketing therapy.

Stephanie: Yeah, I think you guys were talking about how do you tell people what you do.

Dan: Right.

Stephanie: And what is content market, basically.

Dan: Yeah, it got super existential.

Stephanie: Which, as we were talking about before, is a place that we actually do want to take the podcast to. Because you know, we want to be actionable but at the same time, the podcast is really one of the mediums at Unbounce that we can address these existential questions that we maybe can’t really do on the blog or we can’t really do in, say, like a video marketing or any other content form that we have.

Dan: Yeah, I think we’re always – as marketers, we’re often moving really quickly; we’re in campaign mode. There isn’t always the time to take a step back and reflect on what we do as a profession and on the craft of marketing. And I think that’s an area that we really enjoy exploring. We’re marketers talking to marketers. We have a tool for marketers, which helps them with their marketing. It’s all very meta and we think this is a good forum to take a step back to sort of share best practices, to be open about where we maybe have made mistakes, about things that we’re not quite sure of yet and to be able to talk those things through with each other in what we hope is a safe space.

Stephanie: Yeah, which actually brings up something that I addressed earlier that I kind of want to go into a little bit more, is the stats problem with podcasts. Because that’s actually something that we’re at right now, is we’re kind of evaluating how the podcast is performing as a company tool. And it’s really hard if you are familiar with podcasts, or if you have one yourself, you know what I’m talking about. Because podcasts are almost impossible to track as a KPI. Like you can get download rates; if you have awesome analytics, you can get download rates.

You can see what country they’re from, what device they’re on but it’s just a download. You don’t know if they listened to it. You can’t see how many subscribers you have. So basically, my rule of thumb would be to just track the numbers for the first couple of days and if they’re standard, I assume that’s how many subscribers that we have, which is very nebulous; it’s not an actual –

Dan: By subscribers on iTunes, right?

Stephanie: Exactly. So in my head, I’m like, okay, say, the morning of, like two hours after it launches we have 300 downloads every week. I can assume that at least 30 people are downloading this podcast automatically, meaning that they’re a subscriber. But iTunes isn’t telling me this. There’s no stat that says how many subscribers you have. So it’s not really – you can’t tag an individual listener and you can’t tell if they’ve actually listened to the episode; you can only just see that they’ve actually downloaded it onto their device.

Dan: Yeah, and that’s just like the most high-level KPI: how many people are subscribing and listening to your podcast. Once you get further down into the funnel, into like generating leads and even to tracking conversions down the line, it gets really, really dicey. And I’m not saying it’s impossible but I think we’ve made a decision here that we’re going to treat the podcast very much as a top of the funnel discovery channel. And so it really is about speaking to a fresh, new audience; getting them aware of all these marketing problems that we talk about and, of course, how Unbounce might help them find that solution.

But for us, it’s not a direct conversion channel. And I think that’s okay. We’re conversion centered marketers but we’re also inbound marketers who really trust and believe in our overall strategy. And we know that we have tons of pieces of content: we’ve got PPC, we’ve got email marketing, we’ve got lead nurturing, we’ve got much more conversion centered content that we create that’s doing that job for us. And so that frees us up to treat the podcast at what we think a podcast is good at, which is just communicating with people, engaging them and making these new relationships that hopefully we could then nurture further down the line.

Stephanie: So we’re kind of entering into this brave new world of not relying on our email list, as we had talked about was a big thing for us, at lunch. And distribution, trying to figure out where we need to be posting this to, who we need to get onto the podcast so that they can share it with our audience – tactics like that. But then internally, as well, now we’re just trying to figure out if our KPI is awareness, how do we actually move the needle on that?  So, say, if we’re getting 2,000 downloads on an episode, does that provide as much value as, say, 200 hits does on the blog post?  How much more engaged is a podcast listener compared to a blog reader?

So we’re really trying to make sure that we’re measuring the podcast against our awareness blog posts because those are the posts that are more in line with what the podcast goal is, and so we’re going to have a better chance of figuring out whether or not the podcast is providing value.

Dan: Right. In that case, we’re comparing apples to apples, right?  We’re not comparing a podcast against something like a webinar, which is much more conversion centric; but to compare it against a piece of awareness content that lives on the blog, for example, or a guest post does make sense. And so we’re trying to make sure that we’re still data driven and that we’re still measuring results, but that we’re measuring the right things and not getting distracted by: hey, we’re not able to track this to sales and conversions. Well, that’s not necessarily the point but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be tracking it at all.

Stephanie: Yeah, because that’s the thing. Because there’s always this knee-jerk reaction to be like: oh, if you can’t track something definitively, we should cut it, or it’s probably not valuable. But when you have something that’s purely an awareness channel, and something that is unable to be tracked exactly like podcast, that’s where it becomes a little bit more grey and where, say, we’re kind of campaigning to be like: no, we swear that this has value. We’ve gotten feedback and we believe in it. Podcasting blew up last year and so obviously there is something there. And so it just comes down to actually figuring it out; how to show that.

Dan: Exactly, yeah. There’s a reason so many brands are tripping over themselves to advertise on podcasts like Serial or This American Life. I heard a film ad on Serial the other week.

Stephanie: Really?

Dan: So like a major motion picture, Hollywood studio.

Stephanie: Like a trailer?

Dan: Yeah.

Stephanie: Cool.

Dan: Yeah, I think it was the Coen brothers, the new Coen brothers’ movie. And I was like: holy shit, like that’s entering –

Stephanie: That’s new.

Dan: Yeah, that’s new. And that’s like, to me, podcast entering the big time when they have Hollywood studios advertising. So the value of a podcast listener from a human standpoint, first, we don’t take that for granted because we realize how valuable your time is and how tenuous – how much content is out there and how we want to make sure to never break that trust. But I think that also bears out in business value, that we’re seeing in the industry that the value of a podcast listener compared to, let’s say, a blog post reader; if you compare podcast advertising rates to banner ads or even native advertising, that there’s a huge difference there.

And so we do not underestimate the value of this podcast. Just like anything else; a matter of figuring out how to measure that in a way that makes sense to the medium.

Stephanie: So along with figuring out the way that we want to evaluate it, we’re also having discussions on where we want to see the podcast going this year. So Dan, would you want to share some thoughts that you’ve had around where you’d like to take the podcast?

Dan: Yeah. I would love to talk to even broaden up the scope even more in terms of who we’ve talked to. So we’ve talked to the writers and editors of some of our favorite marketing blogs; some of our favorite SaaS blogs in particular. I’d love to talk to all sorts of thought leaders in the agency world, in the design world, brand marketers, also people in very specific industries like law and real estate. I want to know how they approach marketing differently. I just want to talk to as many marketers as possible to I think just broaden the scope of our understanding of things.

I think that, like anything else, the marketing, the digital marketing world, it could sometimes feel a little bit small, a little bit like an echo chamber. Everybody’s reading the same blog posts and looking to the same stuff. But I think that there are connections to be drawn to other industries. I think the world is actually a lot bigger than sometimes a cursory glance at like your Twitter feed or your Facebook feed would make it seem. And so we really want to make connections throughout the marketing world to help marketers do better and try new things that haven’t just been blogged about over and over again.

Stephanie: Yeah, and speaking on new things, too, just even playing with the format a little bit is something that I’m excited about. Like this episode is something we’ve never done before; just having an actual conversation and not like a standard interview, like actually –

Dan: I’d like to talk to you more.

Stephanie: Yeah. So from now on, we’re not having guests. It’s just gonna be Dan and I.

Dan: Just – you know, just chilling.

Stephanie: Just shooting, you know, the stuff. That was me censoring myself for iTunes.

Dan: I was gonna say and then I stopped myself so I said just chilling.

Stephanie: Because that’s something. If you swear on iTunes, you will have to have an adult rating. The more you know.

Dan: You know what?  We should test that. I wonder if having an adult rating would actually increase our listens. Maybe there’s a certain cache to that.

Stephanie: Because people would be like, wow, that is a naughty marketing podcast.

Dan: I feel like a naughty marketing podcast would be something else, but…

Stephanie: Yeah, so like aside from just a standard interview format, having more chats, more discussions. Something I’ve even kind of toyed with is having debates or just really having more actual kind of documentary style, journalism style, reporting, potentially.

Dan: One thing I’d like to do more of is share our experiences here at Unbounce. Because I think we’re very wary of being too self reflective or too self centered, which is I think why even this episode, talking about ourselves, feels like a little bit weird or against our nature. But you know, in the last two years since I’ve been here, our marketing team has gone from five people to 35. And there have been so many lessons along the way. There’s been some pain, there have been some triumphs. We’re constantly trying to improve on our structure, on our processes. And so I think that there probably are a lot of lessons that we could share.

And one of our values as a company is to be transparent and generous in terms of what we share with the world. And I think there’s an opportunity in this podcast to do that, as well. Plus, like we have all these amazing thought leaders within the company that we never had before. Like we never had a PPC specialist, an email marketing specialist, a CRO – the fifth top ranked CRO works for our company, now, Michael Aagaard. So I think we should be tapping that expertise more than we have been.

Stephanie: Yeah, and it’s something that we toyed a little bit at one point when we moved from definitions. We did a little, quick Unbounce employee story, which I actually really liked and I thought it was kind of an interesting way to segue into the interview. But we got some feedback that it kind of seemed a bit more like filler, again. So I think there is something to be said from talking about the kind of roadblocks and solutions that we have experienced as a company.

Because it is – again, we get that more intimate feel in the interview itself, and it’s something that we also know intimately which can allow for fun format changes. We’ve experienced all these issues that people are writing blog posts about so we may as well just talk about it in a real situation.

Dan: Yeah, and we also want to know what you guys want to hear more of. Like, does that sound like insufferable to you, to hear us go on about ourselves?  Is that something that you’re interested in hearing more of?  Is there anybody in particular you’d like us to have on the podcast?  Would you like to be on the podcast?  Let us know because we’re obviously doing this for business value but, like any good piece of content marketing, we’re doing this for our audience, first. And if it doesn’t resonate with you, then there’s just no point in doing it.

The feedback that we’ve gotten so far has been amazing. The reviews and the ratings have been great. We’re so appreciative of all the downloads every week. But we want to, like true conversion centered marketers, we want to keep optimizing and keep improving. And so please let us know how we could do better.

Stephanie: Yeah, so you can do that by either emailing us at podcast@unbounce.com. If you’re not a super big fan of email, you can tweet at us. I am @msbeansie, that’s M-S-B-E-A-N-S-I-E.

Dan: I am @DanJL, D-A-N-J-L.

Stephanie: So email, Twitter, you can – well, you can’t really phone us because we don’t really have phone numbers but yeah, just –

Dan: Look us up on Skype. There’s a lot of Dan Levys but you could find me.

Stephanie: If you find the right one. Yeah, please reach out to us. We’d love to hear your feedback. It’s super important for us. And like we said, this is the year that we really want to play around with the format and get a lot of new people on, so we would love to hear what you want to listen to.

Dan: Hey, Stephanie?

Stephanie: Yes, Dan?

Dan: Is that your call to action?

Stephanie: I think that was my call to action.

Dan: All right, then. Play the music. Thanks so –

Stephanie: Thanks for listening.

Stephanie: One, two, three.

Both: Thanks for listening.

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Lessons Learned from Year 1 of the Call to Action Podcast [PODCAST]


5 Expert Tips That Will Get You On the Road to Conversion

Conversion road trip tips
Who doesn’t love road trips? Image source.

If you’ve ever been on a road trip, you know that it can be the best time ever with bits of the worst time ever thrown in for good measure).

Kind of like being a marketer, isn’t it? I’ll refrain from using a “marketing is a journey, not a destination” analogy here but regardless of the cliché, it’s not so far from the truth.

We’re taking off on the Conversion Road Trip in July, holding events in New York, Toronto, Chicago, and Boston with the world’s leading optimization experts.

We asked five of them to share some lessons from their own marketing journey (fine, it’s a journey) to help keep you on the road to marketing mastery. Read on to learn how to speak to specific segments of your audience, how to outpace your PPC competition, how creating hubs around one topic can increase your traffic and more.

Angie Schottmuller learns to speak her customers’ language

When Angie Schottmuller was just out of high school, she took a road trip from Wisconsin to South Carolina with some friends. They were in need of some cash so they started asking residents for the location of a bank machine – which at the time, was referred to in Wisconsin as a TYME Machine.

Seriously. TYME machines. Who knew?

Now, imagine going to a place where people have no idea about TYME machines and asking them for directions to one. Needless to say, they got quite a few odd looks from the locals before running into someone from Wisconsin who told them to ask for an ATM.

Fast forward a few years and Angie has been named by Forbes as one of the top marketers of 2015 – so she understands the value of learning about your customers and how best to speak to them.

When we spoke to Angie a couple of weeks ago, she recommended starting by assessing the different needs within the segments of your customer base, and then writing copy that speaks to those groups.

For example, how would customers in the 18-24 age range who live in Mobile, Alabama who work in dentistry describe what you’re selling?

Establish a content baseline by adding copy from the different variants you’ve fleshed out that speak to those different segments of your audience. From there, you can start to discover the different areas that you need to target.

Angie said that marketers should not be afraid to speak to regional audiences in their own language. Some people drink pop, others drink soda. Some people say “you guys,” others say “y’all.” Some people say tomato, others… you get the idea. Those subtle dialect differences can be used by geoIP address targeting in ads and on landing pages dynamically.

These very simple, and very small changes can make all the difference in gaining the trust of your audience and can elevate engagement and drive conversions.

Kyle Rush on landing page change you can believe in

Kyle Rush is no stranger to the road and neither is his dapper dog, Tito, who keeps him company in the car. Kyle is as vigilant about making sure his dog looks good as he is about making sure that his campaigns are optimized.

Proficient in chemistry, advanced physics and being a good boy.

Kyle is perhaps best known for his involvement in the 2012 Obama campaign. As he said in a Growthhackers AMA earlier this year, his most successful test turned out to be a “false positive in disguise.”

There’s a psychological trick used on high-end restaurant menus. Dollar signs are removed from the prices and patrons end up spending more money. The idea is that the patrons are focusing on the food rather than the prices. Inspired by this concept, Kyle decided to remove dollar signs on the donation forms for the Obama fundraising campaign.

His first experiment showed an amazing 40% increase in revenue. But Kyle found out it was too good to be true.

As elated as we were, that’s an extremely hard number to believe. So we tested it two more times and only one of the three tests was significant. Turns out the visitors we sampled in the first test were somehow heavily biased towards the variation.

From there, Kyle and his team were a lot more careful about their sampling. This was a really important lesson that helped them be a lot more successful in the long run.

It’s easy to get carried away when seeing great results from a test. Any positive numbers, especially ones that are overwhelmingly positive, can be tempting for marketers to claim as fact. But it’s not until further testing against other sample groups that you find where the truth lies in any group of statistics.

Don’t be fooled by early results. A/B testing takes time and patience.
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Sampling requires an investment in time. Like any good road trip, testing is all about being in it for the long haul.

Larry Kim on getting there first

If you’ve traveled out of town on a long weekend, you know that you have to leave early. You don’t want to get stuck in traffic for hours on highways that look like the “leaving Atlanta” side of the highway on the Walking Dead poster.

ppc first adopter
Only get there first if you are certain there are no zombie hordes. Image source.

As the proud papa of son Jules (#ppckid), Larry Kim is well aware of the importance of leaving early. And with a car full of toys, a playpen, a diaper bag, bottles and more, road tripping is a whole new adventure.

In a conversation we had with Larry, he recommended employing this “get going” strategy in the PPC game as well.

My best advice for PPC advertisers today is to be a first-mover. Spend time reading up on the new features and options in AdWords, new targeting features in Facebook Ads, etc. Do whatever it takes to learn about and try out those new technologies and tactics your competitors haven’t caught on to yet.

Advancements in PPC come fast and furious. There’s always something new going on. But the only way to find the true winners is to stay up to date and test new features.

Something as simple as adding new extensions to ads can help you stand out in search results, garner more clicks, raise Quality Score and, in turn, lower costs.

If you’re looking for a resource to help you stay on top of your PPC game, check out this exhaustive list of great PPC blogs.

You know what they say: The early bird gets the click from the search term.

Andy Crestodina on niche destinations

Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder and Strategic Director at Orbit Media Studios, wants you to create a niche destination for your traffic.

A niche destination for a road trip might be somewhere like Orlando, Florida, where you’ll find SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Orlando, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Magic Kingdom and many more family-friendly attractions.

People go to Orlando because they know they’re going to get a specific type of entertainment.

content hub marketing
You can do anything in Orlando! Image via OrlandoWeekly

Andy explained that you can get more traffic on your site by making it into a niche destination with something called a content hub.

Anyone can publish an endless stream of loosely related posts. But a pro knows that a great blog is built around sets of tightly related topics.

Start by picking a topic that is relevant to your audience. Dig deep into the problems/questions people have around the subject, as well as what your company does to answer/solve them.

Then start making friends with influencers around that topic. Like Andy says:

Follow them, share their content, comment and do anything else that slowly wins their attention in a positive way.

Now you’re ready for your “central hub.” Your central hub will be one piece of content on your site that is the strongest and most useful piece of content you have on this particular topic.

Next, publish “supporting content” in the form of webinars, blog posts, infographics and anything you can use to support your position on the original topic.

If you’ve made relationships with influencers as suggested above, then at this point you can start asking them to share your content. See if you can get a guest post exchange with your new contacts.

You’ve now built a content hub that will give you an advantage in search rankings, social sharing and lead generation. By dominating a specific topic, your traffic to your niche destination will increase, and your influence with regards to the topic will rise right along with it.

Oli Gardner on focusing attention on landing pages

Unbounce Co-Founder Oli Gardner travels so much, we often wonder if he remembers where he lives. And he never takes off without his trusty camera.

Oli’s not just a landing page expert, he’s a professional photographer who will go so far as to take a solo road trip into the desert to take pictures.

In Oli’s blog post, Designing for Conversion — 8 Visual Design Techniques to Focus Attention on Your Landing Pages, he unpacks some visual techniques from the world of photography that can help guide landing page visitors through your page to the conversion area.

Oli breaks the techniques up into two categories:

  1. Suggestive directional cues: Abstract techniques that guide attention in a more subtle way.
  2. Explicit directional cues: The use of arrows and real-world indicators already familiar to us.

There are eight techniques covered here, but one of the most fascinating is broken down in a section titled, “The Suggestive Power of the Eye.”

Imagine yourself sitting in a restaurant across the table from someone. The other person is talking to you, looking at you, and then suddenly turns their head slightly to the right and looks over your left shoulder.

Chances are good that you, too, will pause and turn around to see what’s going on.

The same principle applies in photography and, as it turns out, on landing pages.

Take this picture that Oli took of a monkey. The monkeys eyes and tilted head force you to stare at the banana.

In the landing page example below, the woman’s gaze is focused on the headline, which prompts us to focus there, as well.

Unfortunately, the headline doesn’t tell us much, but at least they managed to get us to look there!

You can make use of this suggestive directional cue on your landing page to help draw your visitors’ gaze to a section of your page that requires special attention. It is especially useful as a directional cue to get visitors to look at that all-important call to action.

The journey begins

Since marketing is all about the journey, you should come join us for one of the stops on the Conversion Road Trip to hear one of these wicked smart optimization experts break down some of the most valuable marketing insights you’ll hear all year.

Whether you make it or not, we hope these tips help you find your way on your great marketing adventure and point you in the direction of the marketer’s favorite destination: the conversion.

– Mark John Hiemstra

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5 Expert Tips That Will Get You On the Road to Conversion


How to use Urgency and Scarcity Principles to Increase eCommerce Sales

Imagine there’s a cupcake fair in your community. You have your heart set on Red Velvet and there are two counters selling the same. Counter A has a animated bunch of customers digging into the cake and has a banner saying “last 20 pieces left” while Counter B adorns a deathly, almost funereal look.

Which one would you go for? If you are thinking Counter A, you are not alone.

A study was conducted in 1975 where researchers wanted to know how people would value cookies in two identical glass jars. One jar had 10 cookies while the other contained just two. Though the cookies and jars were identical, participants valued the ones in the near-empty jar more highly.

And that’s the scarcity principle at play. It essentially means that people tend to place higher value on an object that is scarce and a lower value on one that is available in abundance. No wonder, marketing guru Robert Cialdini cites ‘Scarcity’ as one of the six golden persuasion principles in his book “Influence”. When combined with Urgency, which is essentially the other side of the same coin, the two make for a potent weapon for increasing eCommerce sales.

Here are some examples of how different eCommerce websites creatively use this persuasion principle to increase conversions.

1) Stock scarcity

Displaying your stock meter on the eCommerce product page is always a good conversion practice. Not only does it ensure there are no last-minute heartbreaks for the customer, it also speeds up the buying process. A user might be convinced to make a purchase, but he/she might not be always willing to buy right away. They might want to compare the prices on other websites, look for discount coupons or simply forget about the product — thanks to the myriad distractions of the web.

Look how ModMomFurniture flashes a message that ‘only 3 items left’ of a particular product.

Stock meter

Here, Boticca almost urges visitors to complete the purchase right away. The use of an active verb like ‘Act’ is used to drive immediate action. Here is a list of more words that drive urgency and sales.

Scarcity principle

2) Size scarcity

You head to a shop to buy a denim and figure out that the last piece in your size has just gone out of stock. Old story? Well, if it could happen in the real stores all the time, why couldn’t it happen online? Intimating the buyers when a particular size goes out of stock is killing two birds with one arrow. Not only is it a huge favor for the prospects, the information also works as a positive reinforcement of the product.

See how Jabong represents the unavailable size in grey.

Size scarcity

Zappos goes a step further and even shows how many items are left for a particular size and color combination.


3) Time-bound purchase for next day shipping

If you are already offering next-day delivery, then ‘time-bound purchase’ won’t cost you any additional resource. You just need to inform the users how many hours/minutes do they have to complete the purchase so that their order qualifies for next day delivery.

When you ask the visitors to make the purchase in a specific amount of time, you not only make them more proactive towards the purchase, it also eliminates any kind of confusion at their end as to when they will receive the order.

Zappos has a permanent banner on its homepage saying that you need to order before 1pm to qualify for next-day shipping.

Next day shipping incentive

Amazon shows the exact number of hours/minutes within which the purchase needs to be completed to qualify for next-day shipping.


4) Make them see other buyers

Two women fighting over the same item of clothing in a fashion store is not just a devilish mind’s fictitious construct. While popular Hollywood movies might have taken these fights too far, the fact remains that people are much more inclined to buy something when other people desire them too.

So while they are considering whether or not to buy those shiny leather shoes and they suddenly realize that another person is mulling the same purchase, it replicates the physical store scenario where two people grab the same item at the same time.

When you look at a property in Booking.com, it shows you exactly how many people are checking out the same property at that exact moment.


Hotels.com even gives you information about how many people are viewing properties in a particular city. A modal box pops opens and shows you your virtual competition/companions.

Last booked

5) Limited-period discounts

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a legitimate one. It is the anticipated regret of not being able to seize an opportunity. A limited-time discount works exactly at that level. It makes the offer look so tempting and fleeting that one is compelled to seize the opportunity.

OverStock dramatically uses a running countdown to accurately show how long the sale will last.


MakeMyTrip.com shows an alert when the last few discounted airline tickets are left in stock. See how they use color psychology here to instill urgency. The use of the color ‘Red’ is not a mere coincidence. The color is associated with energy, increased heart rate and is often used in clearance sales.

Last few tickets

5) Limited-time discount on abandoned cart items

The average online cart abandonment rate is 67%. While a majority of these carts are not redeemable, re-marketing efforts can salvage some of these lost sales. Offering limited-time discounts on abandoned cart items is a great way to use the urgency principle to re-market products. However, the risk here is of overdoing it. You do this too often and you will see your ‘e-mail open rate’ nosedive.

See how Miracas offers a 5% discount for just the next two days.

Remarketing mail

6) Shopping cart item sold out

Seeing some items disappearing from the cart might just be the reality check users need to wake up and salvage the rest of the cart items. See how Snapdeal shows a ‘Sold Out’ message next to one of the books in the following example.


7) Limited-time free delivery

Well, this works the same way as limited-time discounts. The desire to avail free delivery could possibly offset the visitors’ tendency to procrastinate the purchase.


8) Special discount hours

A two-day or a weekend sale has its own charm but a special discount hour can be used to galvanize excitement around that specific hour. Zivame sent out this mailer to subscribers to build up craze for its hour-long sale.


9) Last chance emails

E-mails letting subscribers know about last day of sale is another great way to get their attention. See how Myntra makes use of Orange color to drive action here. According to color psychology, just like Red, Orange also has an aggressive feel and creates a sense of urgency to do something.


Before you set out to use any of these tactic mentioned above, there are three golden rules you should keep in mind.

1) Don’t expect ‘scarcity’ to create demand

‘Scarcity’ or ‘Urgency’ work best as motivators to quicken the buying process but the customer will have to be already convinced to make the purchase decision. While they are great procrastination killers, don’t expect them to generate demand. If you go back to the initial example, it’s only once you have decided to buy a cupcake that you will value the cupcakes in Counter A more. You will have to truly convince the user before you flash the scarcity card.

2) False urgency can backfire

Urgency is a subtle art. Yes, I know that sounded slightly oxymoronic but don’t go about faking urgency or your customers will get a whiff of it. Be honest. Don’t try to get rid of the stock that won’t move by flashing messages like ‘hurry, only last two pieces left’. First they will catch your bluff, then you will become a laughing stock and then they will leave you. Here’s a real life example of how that happened.

3) Don’t overdo it

Even if you are using the scarcity principle in all earnestness, don’t go about overdoing it. You don’t need to employ all the practices with multiple countdowns breathing down customer’s neck. You will come across as pushy and shady and untrustworthy and manipulative. Moderation is the key, though testing will give you better insights as to what will work for you.

The post How to use Urgency and Scarcity Principles to Increase eCommerce Sales appeared first on Visual Website Optimizer Blog.

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How to use Urgency and Scarcity Principles to Increase eCommerce Sales

Converting Our Stories Into Multi-Screen Experiences

Storytelling takes many forms. In the past, stories were told orally, with people telling and retelling myths, fables and even histories. As writing technology became more prevalent, we began to record our stories, and we told them in the pages of books. Now, our society is awash in different devices and technologies, and those traditions of spoken stories and printed stories are blurring.
Multi-screen narratives are being told across all kinds of platforms, pages and devices, making for truly immersive experiences.

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Converting Our Stories Into Multi-Screen Experiences

How To Build Long-Term Client Relationships

Everyone loves a happy ending: the hero slays the dragon, true love conquers all, the Death Star is destroyed, the new website is launched and both client and users alike are thrilled. While this last example may not have the Hollywood ending that the first few examples do, for those of us in the Web design industry, it is the story ending we want for all our project.
Much attention is given to how you kickoff projects, or how best to design and develop websites.


How To Build Long-Term Client Relationships

Better User Experience With Storytelling – Part 2

In the first part of this Better User Experience With Storytelling series, we explored some of the basic structures and story patterns found in myths and religions. We saw how these patterns continued into modern stories such as The Matrix and Star Wars. We also explored some of the basics of bringing storytelling into the user experience process and some places to get started.
Be sure to check out the following articles:

Link to original:  

Better User Experience With Storytelling – Part 2


40 Exquisite Independent Film Posters

An independent film, traditionally speaking, is generally referred to as a movie created entirely outside the traditional Hollywood system. It is usually the kind of production where the actors double up as camera men, friends and family provide the bankroll and the director’s mom is in charge of craft services.
Over the last few years, however, the “indie” film has taken on a whole new face. Large productions houses have formed specialty divisions that focus exclusively on “limited run” titles.


40 Exquisite Independent Film Posters