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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ugh, why can’t it be June already?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MJ: It’s a yes and no story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MJ: My pleasure! Thanks for having me.

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

Read this article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ugh, why can’t it be June already?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MJ: It’s a yes and no story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MJ: My pleasure! Thanks for having me.

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

Link: 

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

16 Overlay Examples Critiqued for Conversion

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

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

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

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

But your job doesn’t end there.

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

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

Be immediately clear on the value of your offer

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

The headline was clever and had me nodding my head:

1-copy

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

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

2-copy

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

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

It’s not about you!

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

3-copy

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

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

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

4-copy

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

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

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

Want more overlay best practices?

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

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

5-copy
So much specificity!

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

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

6-copy

Use overlays to counter objections

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t be a negative Nelly

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

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

8-copy
Nobody thinks this.

Or this one:

9-copy
Come on.

Don’t forget this one:

10-copy
Really?

Or finally, this example, which borders on offensive:

11-copy
This is getting out of hand.

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

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

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

12-copy

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

This is problematic for two reasons:

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

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

So what should you be doing?

Mirror the voice in your prospect’s head

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

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

13-copy

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

Make it easy to say yes

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

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

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

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

Taken from:

16 Overlay Examples Critiqued for Conversion

3 Scientific Reasons Why Overlays Are So Freaking Effective

Fact: Overlays increase conversion rates.

Why? Because science.

But before we dig into the science, let’s take a look at why overlays are a marketer’s best friend.

overlay-best-friend
Image via Giphy.

A second (and often last) chance to convert

Here’s something no one in ecommerce wants to hear: Prospects abandon websites in droves, and most will never return.

There are many reasons why visitors leave: they’re not swayed by your offer, they’re not the right fit (or they just don’t know it yet), they’re distracted, they’re rushed.

Regardless of why, it doesn’t take a scientist to point out that re-engaging abandoning visitors could dramatically improve your conversion rates.

This is where overlays (a.k.a. your new “bestie”) come to the rescue.

Overlays provide a second chance for your audience to convert. And by focusing the visitor’s attention on just one timely, relevant and valuable offer (the trifecta of effective overlays), your chances of conversion go through the roof.

Here’s an example…

Upon seeing the shipping costs associated with their order, a potential customer may decide to abandon the sale. Implementing an overlay offering a deal on shipping could prevent cart abandonment and close the sale.

happy-conversion-dance
This is our we-just-closed-a-sale dance. Image via Giphy.

But why do abandoning users change their minds?

Back to the science.

#1: Overlays counteract the paradox of choice

Think about the toothpaste aisle of your drugstore. There are whitening toothpastes, natural toothpastes, cinnamon flavored toothpastes… spearmint, peppermint, bubblegum!

analysis-paralysis
Are you overwhelmed yet? Image via Giphy.

With an online store, customers face a similar overload of options. They come in the form of multiple buttons, links and messages calling out for the visitor’s attention.

When they can’t decide, they flee. It seems that while humans are empowered by a little bit of choice, too much choice can result in analysis paralysis.

Author Barry Schwartz further illustrates this in his oldie-but-goodie book, The Paradox of Choice. In it he discusses the negative psychological impact an abundance of choice can have on our well being, and how eliminating choices can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Alleviating anxiety by way of eliminating options, then, is critical to making a sale.

It’s for this reason that landing pages are so effective in converting targeted traffic. By keeping the Attention Ratio at 1:1, landing pages focus a visitor’s attention on a single conversion goal, thus resulting in higher conversion rates than a page on your website.

But what about those web pages — shouldn’t they be optimized, too?

Yes, absolutely.

Overlays take on the role of a helpful salesperson, tapping your prospect on the shoulder and asking if they can be of assistance. They narrow the visitor’s attention on a single, enticing offer, and simplify the decision-making process for potential customers.

SImply put, overlays are effective for the same reason landing pages are effective: they eliminate distractions, provide the user with a last-chance offer and distill the choice down to a simple yes-or-no answer.

#2: Overlays re-engage prospects by using a neuro-linguistic programming technique called pattern interrupt

wait-what
Neuro what? Image via Giphy.

Sorry, let me explain.

Pattern interrupt is a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) technique that has been used by salespeople for years. The concept is pretty straightforward: do or say something unexpected to disrupt a person from their normal patterns.

By interrupting patterns we create moments for change, which is why some people use the technique for breaking bad habits. Even something as simple as slapping an elastic band against your wrist can help interrupt a regular pattern

Overlays are driven by a similar logic. Unexpectedly, they show the visitor an offer that sweetens the pot, convincing them to think twice about their predictable path toward the ‘Back’ button.

In essence, you’re using the overlay much like you would the rubber band, to get your visitor’s attention and then focus it on something else, since what they were looking at before clearly wasn’t engaging them.

#3: Overlays leverage effective frequency by repeating and reinforcing your message

Several years ago I began seeing ads for a three-step skin clearing system that shall remain nameless.

At first I didn’t pay much attention to them, but after seeing ad after ad I started to wonder whether their claims had any validity; I was intrigued.

A few months later, I had a nasty breakout. I’d already warmed up to the idea of testing the product out, so I keyed in my credit card info and placed my order. A week later, a package arrived at my home with my first month’s supply.

ups-package
Image via Giphy.

That — what happened there — was the result of effective frequency.

Effective frequency is the number of times a prospect must be shown a particular message before taking the desired action.

There are varying theories on what the optimum number of times to show a message is — the law of seven, for example, suggests that it’s, well, seven. Whatever the case, it’s always more than once.

Overlays leverage effective frequency by providing you with an additional opportunity to serve up and thus reinforce your message. By using an overlay with similar messaging to your web page, you are in fact nudging your prospect toward becoming a customer.

Takeaways and learnings

Overlays don’t work because they’re the shiny new thing. They work because scientific — and particularly psychological — principles are at play.

  • Our brains don’t like complicated scenarios, and given how many we already face in daily life, the last thing we want are complicated consumer decisions. Simplicity of product choice = higher chance of conversion.
  • People are habitual by nature. We have certain patterns that we subscribe to, often unconsciously, that allow us operate on “autopilot”. Disrupting this pattern creates a moment for change, and doing so with an overlay may be just the thing to turn an unengaged visitor into a customer.
  • The more times we’re served up a message, the more likely we are to believe it to be true. By reinforcing the message on your web page with a similar supporting message on your overlay, you are in fact nudging your prospect toward becoming a customer.

Have you experimented with overlays? I’d love to hear about it the comments.

Get overlay ideas you can launch today

Download Unbounce’s newest ebook, 12 Proven Ways to Convert with Overlays
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Read the article: 

3 Scientific Reasons Why Overlays Are So Freaking Effective

The Crazy Egg Guide to Website Image Optimization

the crazy egg guide to website image optimization

The lowest hanging fruit when it comes to conversion rate optimization (CRO) is to reduce the file size (memory) of your images. It doesn’t require A/B testing, and you don’t need a statistics or scientific background. For these reasons, image optimization is a go-to conversion rate optimization practice that all companies should employ as soon as possible. The actual work of reducing the size of your images is relatively easy. So it’s a great task for interns or entry-level employees. This guide is quite lengthy. Also, it is intended to remain timeless. We will continually update this guide throughout the…

The post The Crazy Egg Guide to Website Image Optimization appeared first on The Daily Egg.

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The Crazy Egg Guide to Website Image Optimization

PPC Landing Page Magic: Secrets Revealed [GIFOGRAPHIC]

This marketing infographic is part of KlientBoost’s 25-part Marketing Advent Calendar. Sign up here to receive a new gifographic once a day in your inbox.

As a kid who was fascinated with the magic store, it’s kind of surprising that I still don’t know how magicians do certain tricks. But it’s probably because as an adult, I’ve spent most of my time trying to master one magic trick:

Making more money appear — both for my PPC agency and for our clients.

How do we do it?

A large part of the magic comes from the landing pages our CRO team designs and tests. And today I want to reveal all the tricks that go into a high-converting landing page to make you the David Copperfield of PPC landing page testing.

(Keep reading below the gifographic for more explanation.)

ezgif-com-878a1ae317

Geographic specificity: Get more local love

When your PPC campaigns and landing page work together on a geographic level, you unleash serious conversion potential.

To help illustrate, imagine these two scenarios:

  1. A nationwide PPC campaign that goes to a nationwide landing page
  2. A city-specific PPC campaign that goes to a city-specific landing page

Which one do you think will perform better?

I think the second would — and we have 100+ clients that would agree. By becoming more granular with your PPC campaigns, you’re able to make the visitor believe that you’re local (even if you’re not).

Take this example of using geographic-specific area code phone numbers on landing pages versus a generic 800 number:

conversion-rate-for-generic-vs-local-numbers
This table shows conversion rates for landing pages displaying generic 800 phone number versus landing pages with a local number. Image source.

And phone numbers are only a start. Test geographically-specific PPC ad copy, landing page headlines and even visuals.

We use Unbounce’s Dynamic Text Replacement (DTR) to help us easily launch dynamic landing pages and prevent traffic dilution that slows down statistical significance.

Which brings us to our next trick…

Dynamic text replacement: Less work, more fun

Dynamic text replacement allows you to swap out the text on your landing page with keywords from your PPC campaigns.

By making small adjustments to your PPC campaign URLs, you can make one landing page specific to hundreds of keywords you’re bidding on, resulting in a landing page that show exactly what visitors searched for:

dynamic-text-replacement-example-url
With DTR, you can turn one landing page into 100 landing pages.

Here’s an example of an outdoors company using DTR to “magically” create super-relevant landing pages.

If the user searched for “hiking backpack,” this is the landing page they’ll see:

dtr-examlpe-hiking-backpack

And if they searched for “trekking backpack”?

dtr-example-trekking-backpack

Boom.

Notice how nothing changed but the text on those two pages?

Read a full explanation of this “magic trick” here.

Multi-step landing pages

You’ve heard how reducing the amount of form fields will help improve your conversion rates, right?

few-form-fields-quotes

But what if I told you that there’s a way to add more fields (thereby better qualifying prospects) while still improving conversion rates?

That’s some true David Copperfield s*** right there.

giphy
I know that’s not David Copperfield. Just trying to see if you’re awake. GIF source.

Multi-step landing pages can help you achieve just this by asking for a little information upfront, then progressively asking for more and more. Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Power of Persuasasion, explains that this technique works because of a principle he calls Commitment and Consistency:

ciadini-quote-commitment-consistency

On our own landing pages, we start by asking questions that are easy to answer, and then progressively get more personal.

We’ve found that these “micro conversions” make it more likely for the prospect to then later fill out more personal details such as their name and contact information:

multi-step-landing-page-threat
We’ve built all our lead gen efforts around multi-step landing pages. Image source.

Call to action temperature testing

A common mistake a lot of our clients make prior to working with us is that they use the same call to action for all their PPC traffic: search, social, video and display.

This is problematic because different types of PPC traffic have different levels of intent.

For example, people seeing your ads through the Search Network can be people really close to converting (depending on keyword intent), but the Display Network typically has visitors who are a few steps behind. (I wrote about this on the Unbounce blog before.)

klientboost-ppc-thermometer
We have found that display leads are typically colder than leads acquired through the search network.

If a certain PPC channel isn’t converting for you, sometimes switching up the offer — and the call to action — can make all the difference.

We’ve found that the offers on the left work well for cold leads, whereas the offers on the right work better for warm leads:

klientboost-match-ppc-channel-temperature
We made this to use internally at KlientBoost.

As with most PPC tactics, this requires a bit of testing. And don’t forget to have a means of nurturing cold leads down the funnel.

Local visuals: Make ‘em feel at home

Remember how you can improve conversion rates by changing phone numbers and headlines to appear more local to the visitor’s location?

You can also do that with your hero shot and other visuals you’re using on your landing page.

We ran a test for a roofing company who advertised in several states. Because we were able to split up the PPC traffic based on geography, we were able to funnel all visitors to a dedicated landing with visuals that matched the local feel:

local-visuals-a-b-test

The result?

Conversion rates increased by 22%.

It seems so simple, yet it’s a bit of work to set up.

But the payoff is immense.

Hidden fields sales tracking

This very moment, you’re likely bidding on multi intent keywords that may bring you conversions (leads, demos, or trials), but will never turn into sales.

But with hidden fields sales tracking like Google’s ValueTrack parameters, you’re able to create hidden fields on your landing page to capture lead information, along with other nifty data, like:

  • The keyword they typed in
  • The device they were using
  • The landing page URL they converted on
  • The geographic location they were in

With your CRM lead entry that now has all that additional bulleted info, you’re able to go back to your PPC accounts and learn not just what keyword gave you the lead, but what keyword gave you the sale in other words, which of your keywords have the highest closing rate.

With that information, you’ll find that you’re able to afford higher CPAs for certain conversions compared to others, and this will ultimately help you get higher volumes of the right type of conversions.

How’d you do that?

PPC landing page testing can be complex, but these few tricks above are what help us double the performance for our clients.

These tips will help you customize your landing pages, resulting in better marketing experiences that convert better.

So you can pull more rabbits conversions out of your hat PPC campaigns.

Embed this gifographic on your site (copy and paste the code).

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PPC Landing Page Magic: Secrets Revealed [GIFOGRAPHIC]

How Big Brands Use Urgency to Drive Conversions During the Holidays

urgency-holidays-blog
Hurry! Holiday shopping is upon us, which means big conversion opportunities await. Image via Shutterstock.

What’s worse than not being able to find the perfect Christmas gift for someone you love?

How about finding it, then realizing it’s sold out? Sold out.

The thought alone is enough to cause a pre-Christmas meltdown, but while we’re all fretting over the perfect gift, big-brand retailers and ecommerce site owners are off singing carols, waiting for the dollars to roll in. But how do they do it? How do they make us want to buy so feverishly every year? It’s not as if holiday marketing differs significantly from one year to the next.

Holiday marketing is — and always has been — all about urgency, about creating a real (or at least semi-real) timeframe in which people need to act, or they’ll miss out.

In this post, we’re going to look at how brands including Apple, Toys R’ Us, Target and Starbucks use the power of the ‘limited time only’ offer, to turn browsers into customers, who combined will spend billions of dollars online and in-store over the holidays. Then, we’re going to show you how to apply those same principles to your landing pages, so that you can create high-converting offers in time for the Christmas sales.

Urgency: Nothing new at Target

If anyone knows when these Target ads are from, please drop a comment below. They certainly predate the internet, but look at the copy; it wouldn’t look out of place on landing page made today.

The ad features a catchy headline with a clear CTA (“Charge it!”), a descriptive subheader (“Open to midnight! Every weeknight till Christmas.”) and a few simple visuals to show the reader exactly what to expect.

target-full-page-ad
This ad may be decades old, but the principles that made it a success then still ring true today. Image via Target.

It might be a print ad from the 1950s or 60s, but this Christmas ad from Target has almost everything a great landing page needs. Let’s examine it a bit more closely.

target-headline

We talk about headers and headlines a lot at Unbounce. They’re the first port of call for visitors to your landing page, and if you’re not pitching something worth their time, they’re going to bounce.

Your headline creates intrigue, suggests benefits and, especially in the case of holiday campaigns, creates urgency.

Target’s “Be gifty, be thrifty” approach is cutesy and memorable, but also totally appropriate for introducing a holiday sale — it’s about gifts and savings. But “Be gifty, be thrifty” isn’t strong enough on its own. Adding ‘but hurry!’ turns the appreciative smile that comes with a good rhyme, toward a sense of urgency. Better hurry, this ad says, or all the best deals will be gone. It’s a technique that’s been used since cavemen first scratched ads for saber-toothed tiger skins onto the walls of their caves, and it works every time.

Show ’em what you’ve got

Here’s something else we see on modern landing pages — show the people what you’ve got. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an ad, a landing page or an overlay, it’s a pitch. You’re showing people what you’ve got, and at Christmas time, the best way to show people what you’ve got, is to literally show them what you’ve got.

target-featured-products

Make it easy

There’s another key tactic at play here: Make it easy. That means, make it clear that shopping with you is going to be simple and straightforward (more so than if you were to shop with the competition). Time is short, and you need gifts — we’re here to help. Target makes it easy by telling its customers that their Dayton’s credit cards are good there.

Apply it: Target’s four simple rules for creating urgency

  1. Create an attention-grabbing headline which mentions gifts, savings and timeframe.
  2. Ramp up the urgency by getting specific about limited availability.
  3. Show the people what you’ve got.
  4. Suggest to the people how easy the shopping experience can be.

Buy one get one free at Starbucks

For Starbucks lovers, the BOGOF on holiday drinks offer is legendary. And so is the three-hour window in which you can redeem that offer. You’ll rally your friends, you’ll take a half day if need be, but you’re getting to Starbucks between the hours of 2:00 and 5:00.

starbucks-bogo
One for me, one for you… or maybe two for me, none for you. Image via Starbucks.

The variety of holiday drinks on offer is actually secondary in this ad. The focus here in on getting you into the store at a very specific time (between 2:00 and 5:00, when Starbucks is likely to be less busy because everyone’s at work.)

Where’s the urgency? It’s unlikely that they’ll sell out of your favorite, unless they run out of gingerbread syrup. The urgency lies in getting in before the offer closes. You can always come back tomorrow, but Starbucks has us by the brain and we want it now.

The BOGOF offer is so effective, and not just on Starbucks holiday drinks, it almost doesn’t matter what you’re giving away, because one of them is free. That’s evidenced here by the headline and subheader, which are literally a statement of the what/when/where of the offer — no frills required!

Use images that resonate

You go to Starbucks for one reason and one reason only — coffee. Starbucks creates urgency with its visuals by showing customers what they want to see — red cups.

Apply It: Create urgency using limited time offers

Whether it’s a countdown, an end date or a specific timeframe during which people can redeem your offer, or sign up for your webinar, create urgency on your landing page by guiding visitors towards not only what they can get, but also when. Making your countdown highly visible, with either a static image or an animated countdown, only adds to the sense of urgency, too.

Super crazy Christmas cracker bonanza!

If it looks urgent, it’ll make people feel urgent. Most of us are highly receptive to design elements such as color, font, font size and the shape of various elements. Seeing lots of different sized fonts on an ad can be distracting, but it can also create a sense of urgency and liveliness. Look at this example from Toys R’ Us:

toys-r-us
Only a toy store at Christmas could get away with design this over the top. Image via Toys R’ Us.

Most of this is just branding — it’s the way Toys R’ Us does its thing — but around the holidays, the mixing of lower and upper case letters, the bouncy font and the enlarging of certain words has the effect of creating a sort of… hysteria. That’s perhaps not the right way to describe it, but you get the idea, right? It’s all SAVE! SAVE! SAVE! THOUSANDS! TOYS! SHOP EARLY! BIGGEST EVER! QUANTITIES ARE LIMITED!

Apply it: No holds barred

Let’s just go ahead and list every bit of urgency and sale-related copy in this ad:

  • Biggest Cyber Monday Sale Ever!
  • Online only!
  • Save up to 60% on THOUSANDS of items!
  • Quantities are limited, so SHOP EARLY!
  • Shop now

Liberal use of the exclamation mark, capital letters in the middle of sentences and restrictions on when and where you can shop, turn this ad into an assault on your sense of urgency. You know what they say: Go big, or go home. When you’ve got product to move, and if you’ve got the confidence to shout about it from the rooftops, then you go all in.

Stuff, stuff stuff: Shop now for some stuff

What was true fifty years ago is true now; people love stuff, and if you show it to them in a thoughtful way, they’ll buy it.

apple
Apple might have all the budget in the world, but the principles they leverage are free for the taking. Image via Apple.

This ad from Apple is actually for the Black Friday sales, but it works just as well as a Christmas sales ad. Remember in our first vintage Target ad where they showed us what was on offer? Apple doesn’t just show us what’s on offer, they base their entire design on it.

Normally, it’d be pretty crude (and difficult) to sneak your logo into the same ad five times, but don’t forget, when it comes to Christmas sales and ecommerce, as with your landing page, those who dare, win.

Ready. Set. Shop.

How many times do we need to say this? There’s nothing subtle about creating urgency in Christmas sales ads. Apple’s “Ready. Set. Shop.” headline pulls no punches. This is a race, son, and if you’re not quick, all the best stuff will be gone, gone, gone before grandpa nods off after his second cup of eggnog.

And, like old-school Target wanted you to know that your Drayton’s credit card was ok with them. Apple wants you to know that you can shop online or in-store, it’s totally your choice.

Apply It: Leverage your products

There’s a theme running through most of these Christmas ads, and it’s that your product is your greatest asset when it comes to creating urgency.

There will be people who want what you’ve got, and those people are your target audience. The Christmas sales are not a time to pitch for new customers, necessarily. What they are, is a chance to ride the wave of urgency and raise both awareness and revenue. If that means pushing your product more than usual, now is the time to do it.

As quick as a kiss underneath the mistletoe

There certainly is plenty of room for festive cheer, and we encourage you to Christmas up your landing pages as much as possible. But the fact is, people respond to urgency, we don’t want to miss out. It’s why the same techniques work year upon year, and why creating a high-converting holiday landing page really isn’t so complicated.

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How Big Brands Use Urgency to Drive Conversions During the Holidays

15 Ways Marketers Use Overlays to Get More Conversions

Let me paint an ugly picture for you.

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

Maybe you call an emergency brainstorm meeting with your team:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part I: Drive immediate sales

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

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

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

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

1. Offer a coupon or immediate discount

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

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

overlay-ideas-quicksprout-discount

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

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

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

2. Offer a shipping discount

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

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

overlay-ideas-canvas-prints-free-shipping

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

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

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

3. Offer a free gift

Free giveaways have been a standard marketing tactic for decades.

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

overlay-ideas-crazyegg-heatmap-offer

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

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

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

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

Never launch an overlay without this 24-point checklist

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


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4. Offer a time-based discount

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

overlay-ideas-time-based-discount-babyage

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

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

Target this offer at: First-time visitors only

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

5. Offer customer support

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

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

overlay-ideas-timesulin-customer-support

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

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

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

Part II: Building email subscriber lists

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

Email marketing has an ROI of 3800%.

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

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

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

6. Offer a discount in exchange for an email address

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

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

Have a look at this example by PetCare:

overlay-examples-petcare-discount

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

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

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

7. Collect newsletter subscribers

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

overlay-ideas-chive-newsletter

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

Target this offer at: Repeat visitors, social media traffic

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

8. Offer an ebook, case study or course

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

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

overlay-ideas-offer-ebook-content-verve

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

Target this offer at: Repeat visitors, social media traffic

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

Part III: Reduce cart abandonment

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

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

why-web-abandonners-abandon-shopping-carts

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

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

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

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

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

9. Collect an email (to follow up later)

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

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

overlay-ideas-petflow-reduce-cart-abandonment

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

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

Place this offer on: Cart pages, checkout pages

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

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

overlay-ideas-cart-notification-babyage

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

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

Place this offer on: Cart pages, checkout pages

11. Offer telephone support

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

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

overlay-ideas-telephone-support-massage-magazine

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

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

Place this offer on: Cart pages, checkout pages

Part IV: Generate sales leads

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

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

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

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

12. Offer a free quote or advice

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

overlay-ideas-free-quote

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

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

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

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

13. Offer a resource that qualifies prospects

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

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

overlay-ideas-estimate-calculator-gr8-fires

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is where traffic shaping overlays can come in handy.

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

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

14. Cross-sell

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

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

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

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

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

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

15. Re-engage with more content

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

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

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

overlay-ideas-content-re-engage

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

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

More conversions, less overhead

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

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

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

The best marketing is mutually beneficial.

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

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

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15 Ways Marketers Use Overlays to Get More Conversions

Beyond Optimization: Email A/B Tests That Will Improve Your Entire Business

email-tests-blog-image
Those email metrics may provide you with more insight than you thought. Image via Shutterstock.

The components of an A/B test are pretty straightforward: change some stuff, compare key metrics, deploy winner, repeat.

So when you start an A/B test on your email, this is the sort of process you fall back on. You brainstorm a couple of alternate subject lines, test them on a small segment and send the winner to everyone else. This is a great way of making sure you’re sending the better of two ideas, but does it really mean you’re sending better email?

Instead, today we’re going to focus on the benefits of A/B testing for the future. That means turning your results into actionable guidance for feature planning, branding, sales and retention strategies.

ezgif-2245072739
Maximizing is not always optimizing.

Feature planning

It can be really tough figuring out which features need the most attention, not to mention prioritizing improvements your top users would be most excited for. Email can help!

A simple email teasing upcoming improvements to X or Y feature can give you valuable insights for your next product planning session on what changes actually pique a user’s interest.

Similarly, you can test something like, “What would you like to see added to feature X” vs “…feature Y.” Even if you get little to no feedback, the comparative open rates can tell you a lot about which features people want to see updated.

This can be especially insightful for startups, because setting the wrong priorities for your development team can hamstring your growth. In cases like this where the stakes are higher, it may be more powerful to subtly present options and observe responses than to straight up ask.

image01
The problem with asking users what they want directly. Image via Frankiac.

Product branding

What if you’re getting ready to launch a new feature or plan an event, but you’re torn on what to call it. Simply run a test with a sneak peak email to your most engaged users and see what gets their attention.

This one may feel a bit weird, because branding of your product and features can feel really personal, but it’s also really important, so why leave it to your gut when you can test?

You don’t even have to build out a fancy announcement email, because you’re just looking for opens, indicating that initial spark of interest. The body can be a simple, plain text save the date or a link to a survey or something.

Subject line cheat sheet

For the rest of your emails…

Write a click-worthy subject line every time with our Subject Line Cheat Sheet.
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Sales materials development

Good email testing can also translate to benefits for your sales team. Imagine their eyes lighting up when you pass them a document illustrating how your highest value customers engage with different phrasings of your core features.

There are a couple of interesting ways to execute on this, but I think the most practical is to build an onboarding email with links to your features, and then test headlines for each section (bonus points if you randomize the order to satisfy the statisticians in the house).

You could also stretch this across multiple emails in your onboarding drip campaign, or send a one-off “What’s new” update.

image02
Life is about decisions. Image source.

Retention

Now that you’ve figured out which features resonate most with your high-touch users, it’s time to figure out what gets people hooked on your product or service in the first place.

There are a ton of ways to accomplish this in the traditional on-site manner, but how does email fit into the picture?

The most obvious option here is to use the information you gleaned to craft a killer onboarding campaign that introduces new users to the most beloved features first. That strategy, however, is really focused on top-of-funnel retention. Today, I want to take a look at the other end: churn prevention.

There are, of course, some users that were never a good fit to begin with and will churn regardless. But for those that just never got the hang of things, the most common move is to hit them with a “Hail Mary email” — one last-ditch effort to win them back.

A lot of times this comes in the form of a direct note from someone asking what they could have done better, but why not use that space to run some tests? Not just to squeeze out a few more opens on a low-converting email, but to see what actually gets people’s attention. Then you can take the stuff that works, and work it into your onboarding campaign to keep people from ever getting to the Hail Mary state.

image03
Saying goodbye is hard. Image source.

Conclusion

These are, of course, not the only ways that you can incorporate your learnings from tests into other aspects of your marketing, but it’s a great start if you don’t have a process like this in place.

The structure you build out to track and share the results from tests like these can be tremendously helpful for the whole team — not just in the ways I’ve outlined above, but also in just keeping everyone on the same page and in line with what your customers want to hear.

Have anything to add? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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Beyond Optimization: Email A/B Tests That Will Improve Your Entire Business

Facebook Organic Reach is Dying: Here’s Why It’s a Good Thing

Facebook reach
More and more our News Feeds are full of updates from friends… not companies — but there are benefits to this. Image via Shutterstock.

Facebook wears many hats. It does everything, and is everything. It’s where we turn to celebrate many important life milestones, share our lives with our friends, organize events, consume media and much, much more. But for marketers, it’s an advertising tool.

Social media marketing has changed a great deal over the past few years. One of the biggest changes is Facebook’s shift away from organic reach into a paid marketing channel.

If you manage a Facebook Page, I’m sure you’re familiar with this subject, and you’ve probably noticed a sharp drop in the number of people who are seeing and interacting with your content organically.

As a marketer, this change has been tough to stomach. It’s now much harder to reach your audience than it was a few years ago. And with recent updates that Facebook is, again, shifting its algorithm to focus on friends and family, it’ll be harder still to reach people who are already fans of your page.

Facebook organic reach is hard
TFW you can almost reach your audience… but not quite. Image via Giphy.

Before we dive into why the plight of organic reach is a good thing, let’s first take a look at what brought along this decline in the first place.

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Understanding how social reach is declining

In 2014, Social@Ogilvy released its much-cited report, “Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach.”

In the report, Ogilvy documented the harsh decline of organic reach between October 2013 and February 2014. In that short period of time, organic reach dropped to around 6% for all pages, and for large pages with more than 500,000 likes, the number was just 2%.

Ogilvy graph

Based on this data, a Facebook Page with around 20,000 fans could expect fewer than 1,200 people to see its posts, and a page with 2 million fans would, on average, reach only 40,000 fans.

The reasoning behind this change from Facebook’s perspective is twofold, as Facebook’s VP of Advertising Technology, Brian Boland, explained in a blog post.

The first reason for the decline in organic reach is purely the amount of content being shared to Facebook. Advances in smartphone technology means we can now create and share this content with just a few swipes of the finger or taps on a screen. More and more of our friends and favorite brands are also active on the platform, meaning competition for attention is higher. Boland explains:

There is now far more content being made than there is time to absorb it. On average, there are 1,500 stories that could appear in a person’s News Feed each time they log onto Facebook. For people with lots of friends and Page likes, as many as 15,000 potential stories could appear any time they log on.

The second reason for the decline in organic reach on Facebook is how the News Feed works. Facebook’s number one priority is to keep its 1.5 billion users happy, and the best way to do that is by showing only the most relevant content in their News Feeds.

Of the 1,500+ stories a person might see whenever they log onto Facebook, News Feed displays approximately 300. To choose which stories to show, News Feed ranks each possible story (from more to less important) by looking at thousands of factors relative to each person.

To a marketer, this may feel like a negative, but it’s actually a good thing, because what we’re left with now is a far more powerful marketing tool than we had when reach was free.

Let me explain…

Why the decline of organic reach is a good thing

When a social network first achieves mainstream popularity (think Facebook circa 2009, Instagram in 2014-15, Snapchat in 2016) organic reach rules the roost. As a marketer, it’s all about figuring out what content your audience craves and giving it to them.

Then, we hit a peak, and suddenly the social network all but transforms into a pay-to-play platform — bringing with it another huge marketing opportunity. At Buffer, it’s something we like to call The Law of the Double Peak:

Buffer double peak

Facebook hit the organic peak in 2014, and since then reach has declined to a point where it’s almost at zero now. But, on the other hand, we’re left with a far more powerful advertising tool than we had before.

It’s also important to remember that before social media — with print, radio, TV, banner ads, direct mail or any other form of advertising — there was no such thing as organic reach. You couldn’t create a piece of content and get it seen by thousands (even millions) with no budget.

Facebook, now, is probably one of the most cost-effective digital ad products we’ve ever seen. It’s the best way to reach a highly targeted audience and drive awareness about your product or service, and probably an even better marketing channel than it was back in 2012 when organic reach hit its peak.

4 ways to maximize the paid marketing opportunities on Facebook

Once you’re over the fact that not everyone on Facebook gets to discover your brand for free anymore…

1. Ensure your ads are relevant

With more than 3 million advertisers all competing for attention in more than a billion users’ News Feeds, Facebook uses what’s called an ad auction to deliver ads.

The ad auction pairs individual ads with particular people looking for an appropriate match. The social network’s ad auction is designed to determine the best ad to show to a person at a given point in time. This means a high-quality, hyper-relevant ad can beat an ad that has a higher advertiser bid, but is lower quality and less relevant.

The two major factors you need to work on to ensure Facebook sees your ad as relevant are your targeting and ad creative.

For example, if you’re targeting a broad audience such as men and women, ages 18–25, living in the United Kingdom, chances are your ad may not be relevant to every person. However, if you were to break your audience down into smaller, more specific groups your message may be more relevant (and therefore successful).

2. Test different messages and creative

There are endless opportunities for testing on Facebook Ads: titles, texts, links, images, age, gender, interests, locations and so on.

The image is the first thing people see when your ad shows up in their News Feed. It’s what grabs their attention and makes them stop and click, which means it’s essential to get the image right. Though, you probably won’t hit the nail on the head first time ‘round. Thankfully, Facebook allows you to upload multiple images for each advert and optimizes to display best performing ones.

Your creative can have a huge difference when it comes to conversions. AdEspresso recommends coming up with at least four different Facebook Ad variations and then testing each one. For example, you might test two different images with two different copy texts (2 images x 2 texts = 4 variations).

AdEspresso also found that creative with a picture of a person performs far better:

Facebook ad variations

When you create ads, plan out a number of variations — changing copy, images and CTAs in order to discover what works best for each audience you’re targeting.

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3. Be specific with your content

Combining the first two points above, targeting to a specific segment using creative that is specifically built for that target audience is incredibly powerful.

Many businesses have a range of customers, all with slightly different needs. For each customer your business is targeting, jot down as much information as you can about them and try to form a few customer personas to create specific ads for.

Then, with your target personas in place, think about how you can use Facebook Ads to target each individual group. This could mean creating an ad set for each group and testing different images and copy within your ads to see what works best for each group.

By tailoring ads to specific personas, you can vastly improve your advert’s relevancy and also serve the needs of your customer better.

4. Pay attention to real metrics

With social media, it can be easy to fall into the trap of measuring only soft metrics — the things that don’t correlate directly with sales or revenue growth, but can still be good indicators of performance. On Facebook, this means things such as Likes, Comments and Shares.

When it comes to paid marketing channels, like Facebook Ads, it’s important to have some solid goals in mind and pay attention to the metrics that translate into your ultimate goal. For example, having a post receive a few hundred Likes or a high engagement rate could be seen as success, but that’s probably not the ultimate goal of your campaign.

Paid advertising on Facebook is a lot like paid-for marketing has always been. For 90% the end goal is sales or, for larger companies, brand awareness. And with paid-for ads you’ll want to be a little stricter with yourself when it comes to measurement. That’s not to say ALL advertising on Facebook must be purely focused on selling — that strategy likely wouldn’t work — but certainly any specific advertising campaigns should be focused on increasing your bottom line.

How do you use Facebook?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the evolution of Facebook as a marketing channel. How have your strategies changed over recent years? Are you one of the 3 million businesses who advertise on the platform? I’d love to hear your learnings and perspectives too.

Thanks for reading! And I’m excited to join the conversation in the comments.

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Facebook Organic Reach is Dying: Here’s Why It’s a Good Thing