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5 Standard Pages on Your Website That Almost Always Suck – and What They Could Be Doing for You

5 pages

Word association: Content marketing. You’re thinking ‘blog post,’ ‘infographic,’ maybe ‘video,’ ‘white paper.’ That kind of thing. Right? Not FAQs, 404 pages, About Us… The thing is, those pages are content too. Visitors read them to learn, understand and make decisions. FAQs are one of the most underused content marketing opportunities out there. About Us pages? They’re an incredible opportunity to tell your brand’s story. Put like that, it seems obvious – yet they’re often a lifeless formality. It’s the same with 404s, out of stock pages and thank you pages: in each case, you have a visitor’s attention when…

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5 Standard Pages on Your Website That Almost Always Suck – and What They Could Be Doing for You

Whatever Steve Jobs Thought, Thermonuclear War Is NOT the Best Way to Get & Keep Talent

It’s nothing personal. It’s just business. Except when it’s not. When Google brought out a smartphone OS in 2008 that let some competition into what had been an Apple-only field, the reception was mixed. Just like with any new tech product, a lot of people were sure they’d never feel the need for one. (I thought the same. Now I have a Samsung the size of a door. I wrote some of this post on it.) Some people were overjoyed – it’s just like an iPhone, except I can afford it. Awesome! And then there was Steve Jobs. Boy, was…

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Whatever Steve Jobs Thought, Thermonuclear War Is NOT the Best Way to Get & Keep Talent

How To Transform Your eCommerce Business With 11 Simple Tips

transform your ecommerce business

Online store owners swim in a sea of fierce competition dominated by Amazon and Best Buy, among others. You can’t always be number one. But with a strong desire and the right tools, you can become a leader in your niche. One of the best ways to get to the top is with a powerful content marketing strategy that blows the opposition out of the water. So, what are the secrets of creating and implementing an unsurpassed content marketing strategy that delivers the results you’re looking for? That’s what I’m about to reveal. Why Should You Prioritize Content Marketing Above…

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How To Transform Your eCommerce Business With 11 Simple Tips

The Crazy Egg Guide to Reddit Content Marketing

Reddit Content Marketing Guide

Possibly the largest group of self-contained communities on the Internet, it can be seen as a microcosm of the Internet in itself. It has its own lingo, its own inside jokes, its own history. Its special class of geeky, socially inept, smug, arrogant, yet revered users are called “neckbeards”, while everyone else are just called “Redditors”. It’s possibly the Internet’s greatest spawning ground of memes — only the dirtier, more underground imageboard “4chan” has as much influence in the subculture-sphere. It is, in fact, one of the most popular and heavily trafficked (not to mention plain old fun) websites in…

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The Crazy Egg Guide to Reddit Content Marketing

Facebook Ad Expert Mari Smith Reveals Missed Opportunities (And What’s on the Horizon)

Facebook has over 1.28 billion daily active users.

To have more than a billion prospects in one place, literally at your fingertips, is a marketer’s dream (thanks, Mark Zuckerberg!). But turning those prospects into customers… well that’s another story.

As marketers, we know that a stellar Facebook campaign is made up of a lot more than clever copy, snazzy design and a hefty PPC budget. In a constantly changing environment of new features, products and ad units, it can be tricky to stay ahead of the pack — let alone stand out.

Facebook’s granular targeting makes it more possible than ever to reach the right person, in the right place, at the right time. But only marketers who are committed to making connections with real people and then maintaining those relationships will come out on top.

If there’s one person that knows this best, it’s Mari Smith.

Named Forbes’ #4 “Top Social Media Power Influencer,” Mari is one of the world’s leading social media thought leaders and educators in the world of marketing. Her knowledge of Facebook runs so deep that she was personally hired by the folks at Facebook to teach SMBs throughout the US at the Boost Your Business series of events.

Mari’s speaking at our Call to Action Conference this June, and here’s a quick word from the Facebook Queen herself.

PSST: Blog readers get 15% off tickets to Call to Action Conference until May 25th — just use promo code “blogsentme” at checkout

Despite her packed schedule, Mari recently took the time to sit down with Unbounce Marketing Educator Christie Pike to reveal some of her best kept Facebook advertising secrets. In this interview you’ll get Mari’s actionable tips and insights into:

  • Some of the biggest missed opportunities for marketers advertising on Facebook.
  • Companies that are crushing it in the social advertising space and what you can learn from them.
  • The next big thing on the horizon that Facebook marketers should be preparing for and investing in.
Christie Pike: You’ve been active on Facebook long enough to see its evolution from social media network to a performance tool not unlike AdWords. How has this changed the way that marketers run Facebook campaigns?

Mari Smith: The main thing to consider is the enormous amount of data that Facebook gathers, not only on the platform itself but in partnership with data companies. So every time you use your credit card, every time you make a purchase, surveys that you complete, any information that’s out there is moved into a kind of personal dossier that then gets matched with your Facebook ID. Because of all of this, people get scared and freaked out, Big Brother and all that, but it’s all anonymized and encrypted, so from a user standpoint I always say, “caveat emptor”, just recognize that in today’s day and age of privacy, everything is out there.

From a marketer’s or advertiser’s standpoint, it’s an unprecedented time that we’re in.  It’s a paradigm shift in terms of being able to reach the exact person that you want with Facebook’s granular targeting. Down to zip code, down to propensity to possibly make a certain purchase, from going on a cruise in the next six months, buying a BMW in the next three months, income, the number of kids you have, what you do for a career — all of this is just extraordinary.

So, we really do have to think of Facebook as a platform in which to get our message, our products and our services in front of our target market, but done so in a very relationship-oriented way. I think the businesses that are really standing out are the ones that can make us laugh or cry or go “awwww” and tear at the heartstrings — you know, create something that has viral shareability as opposed to how some business send a message that says “Hey, sign up for our stuff,” “Buy our stuff.”  It’s a cold market, you know.

CP: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen on the ad platform itself?

MS: I would say that a big change is in terms of ad units, which initially were just a link and some basic visuals, but over the years they have a much, much, much more visual emphasis. I especially love the carousel ads you can swipe. I think Amazon is one of the best at doing retargeted multi-product ads. I remember seeing one of its ads that had about 32 cards on the carousel that you could swipe and I asked myself, “How did they know I like all this stuff!?”

And then what they call slideshow, which is really just images made into a video, but definitely the prevalence of video is key. One of Mark Zuckerberg’s favorite words is “immersive,” and so the introduction of more immersive type of content like canvas ads has huge importance in the current ad space.

I worked directly with a video creation company, and they shared a great case study from Brussels Airlines that pull up a canvas ad advertising flights to Mumbai in India. They got something like 27 times more time on site after doing this beautiful canvas ad, whereas their previous Facebook campaigns led to an average of three seconds on site. The reason behind this was because back in the day, ads were just a link with a tiny wee thumbnail, and then they got bigger and turned into GIFs, slideshows, animations, interactive content and full-screen content.

So, between (1)  the ad products (2) the placement and (3) the targeting, I would say those are the three key areas where there are the biggest changes. Placement being whether it’s Instagram, mobile news only or if it’s right rail (which still has its place), but users are in mobile more than anything else.

CP: Who is doing Facebook advertising particularly well? What do you like about their ad campaigns? Can you provide some examples?

MS: My favorite video ad that I include in almost every single one of my presentations is by a fun company called Chatbooks. It’s a simple app (a subscription service) that takes your Instagram and Facebook photos and prints them in a book format, it’s really clever.

They worked with a really good PR/creative agency and hired a professional actress/comedian. From there, they created this three minute and forty-second ad. The ad was first put out on their Facebook page, which had just over 100,000 fans (now over 200, 000). And when I last checked, that video ad had 69 million views and almost 500,000 shares.

This is what I love to teach — when you can craft your content to be visually appealing (ideally video). When people are engaged with it they’ll share it with others.


When you craft your content to be visually appealing, people are engaged + will share with others.
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I’ve never found a better example than Chatbooks. In fact, I originally saw it in my News Feed as a shared organic post by a friend of mine, and after I watched the full three minutes and forty seconds, I was ready to sign up and buy the subscription!

Another great example is from our friend Rand Fishkin from Moz,  who I know is speaking at CTA Conference this year.

Rand is doing these really great video ads called Whiteboard Fridays. I see the most recent one from April has over 4,600 views and 15 shares.

Whiteboard Fridays. Image source: Moz.

It’s so good because it’s educational and it’s the kind of video ad that you can stop and watch or at least save and watch later. It’s really cool what he’s doing because he’s not saying, “Hey everybody, sign up for Moz, see what we can do for you!” Instead, he’s like, “Hey here’s some education on SEO,” and it’s the kind of stuff that people will stop and save and consume.

One last shout out to my good friend Ezra Firestone and his company called Smart Marketer. He does really amazing stuff with video ads and lead gen.

CP: Unbounce cofounder Oli Gardner estimates that 98% of AdWords campaign traffic is not being sent to a dedicated landing page. If you had to guess, what percentage of Facebook marketers do you think are sending their traffic to mobile optimized landing pages? Do you see this as a missed opportunity?

MS: I would have said it’s probably a lot lower. My guess is that 65% is going to a dedicated landing page on Facebook — I get the sense that Facebook advertisers, for the most part, are a little more savvy. They realize you can’t spend all this money and have a captive audience and then just send them away to figure it out for themselves.

But to Oli’s point, I do see a missed an opportunity — especially when marketers are not really thoroughly checking and having a small test group. It’s important to invest a small amount — about $60 – $100 dollars — towards some A/B testing to see which ad gets better conversions. Doing the pixel and tracking the standard events, all of these components are key.

The second part is mobile optimized websites/landing pages. If someone’s clicking through and it’s too wide for the phone,  or the pop-up appears and you can’t find the ‘X’ on it it takes less than a second and they’re outta there.

CP: Are you seeing good examples of Facebook campaign landing pages? 

MS: I think my good friends over at AdEspresso – they were recently acquired by Hootsuite, a fellow Vancouver company —  they’re doing some really good stuff. I love their blog. In fact, they quote you there.

I’d have to think really hard to narrow down a specific landing page example, but in terms of components, or landing page elements, less is always more, something simple that’s really congruent with the ad itself.


Drive FB ad traffic to a landing page that’s simple & consistent with your ad. Less = more.
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The job of an ad and the job of an email is to get people to a landing page, and the job of a landing page is to convert, whether I’m asking for your email or I’m asking for you to make a purchase. And the beautiful thing about Facebook pixels is if someone doesn’t decide right then and there, you’re able to do some retargeting campaigns to refine further.

CP: Are there certain verticals that are more successful with Facebook advertising than others?

MS: I was just speaking at Marketo’s conference last week and they are, as you know, almost exclusively B2B, and so my talk was very geared towards the B2B audience.

I think Facebook has a reputation for being known to perform better for B2C, but I always like to say that businesses are running as “people to people.”

In terms of verticals, it’s probably easier to say what verticals are more difficult to reach, which are the highly regulated ones like insurance or finance —  but otherwise with every conceivable small business and niche or industry there’s a market that can can take advantage of generating leads on Facebook.

CP: When we talk Facebook ads, what are some missed opportunities?

MS: This comes back to the subject that’s close to my heart, which is really that relationship component: customer care, really engaging well when people are actually commenting and engaging on your ad.

I think what happens — especially with marketers that do the dark ads — is these ads can be very effective and you can be really selective in who you’re reaching without populating your wall, but then what often happens is out of sight, out of mind.  I’ve seen many major household brands where people are posting negative comments on the ad. There’s spam, people are asking questions about their products, and nobody is responding or acknowledging. I see that as a massive missed opportunity.

I think that’s one of the best investments that companies can make is having trained, qualified, passionate social customer care moderators. I always like to say that technology is moving at warp speed and it’s hard to keep up — but human beings, we’re not changing that much, and we want to know that we’re important, that we matter.

CP: What’s on the horizon?

MS: Right around the corner is Facebook television and that’s launching next month. Mark Zuckerberg is absolutely adamant that they’re not a media company, but just watch — just watch that space, they’re absolutely moving into that.

In the United States, the TV advertising industry is worth about $70 billion — it’s over $200 billion globally. And so Facebook now has licensed/paid for original content to be aired on video. And remember, they also have that app that they brought out not long ago that you can stream through your Apple TV or Amazon Fire.

So what’s coming next month are full one-hour shows that are highly professionally produced and then also small episodes — three to 30 minutes that will refresh every 24 hours, from what I’ve read.

For advertisers and marketers, we have to be thinking about quality video ads because that’s where Facebook’s next monetization horizon is (monetizing this digital streaming video with mid-roll ads). They swear they’re not going to do pre-roll, so let’s hope they stick to that.


Think quality Facebook video ads — for @MariSmith, that’s next on FB’s monetization horizon.
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It’s all about being in that frame of mind — somebody’s watching a show they’re really engaged in and all of a sudden, just like television, it interrupts and your ad comes in.  So when it comes to video, it’s about how can you make it quirky, or fun, or entertaining, or emotional — I don’t think those things will ever go away as long as we’re human.

At the F8 conference, within the first 30 seconds Zuckerberg was talking about camera, and camera platform and developing for the camera. I saw some really cool augmented ads by Nike, and they were incredible.

Facebook is also really pushing live and they’re also deploying a lot of resources to combat fake news. They also announced two weeks ago that they’re they’re going to hire 3,000 more employees to make a team of 7,500 employees dedicated to watching for fake news plus anything untoward happening on Facebook live.

Really the key is for businesses and marketers is really education. I can’t stress that strongly enough. That’s why I just I love that you guys are doing this conference — you can’t get enough quality education.

PSST: Catch more from Facebook Queen Mari Smith at the Call to Action Conference this June. Blog readers get 15% off tickets until May 25th — just use promo code “blogsentme” at checkout.

Originally posted here – 

Facebook Ad Expert Mari Smith Reveals Missed Opportunities (And What’s on the Horizon)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MJ: It’s a yes and no story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DL: It reminds me of the Rolling Stones model, where you’re the front man, but ultimately, you share those profits evenly. I know they’ve credited that 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]

How To Secure Your Web App With HTTP Headers

Web applications, be they thin websites or thick single-page apps, are notorious targets for cyber-attacks. In 2016, approximately 40% of data breaches originated from attacks on web apps — the leading attack pattern. Indeed, these days, understanding cyber-security is not a luxury but rather a necessity for web developers, especially for developers who build consumer-facing applications.

How To Secure Your Web App With HTTP Headers

HTTP response headers can be leveraged to tighten up the security of web apps, typically just by adding a few lines of code. In this article, we’ll show how web developers can use HTTP headers to build secure apps. While the code examples are for Node.js, setting HTTP response headers is supported across all major server-side-rendering platforms and is typically simple to set up.

The post How To Secure Your Web App With HTTP Headers appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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How To Secure Your Web App With HTTP Headers

5 Conversion Rate Optimization Challenges For Enterprises To Solve

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

interest in conversion rate optimization google trends
Google Trends

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

Challenge 1. Politics and People—A Cultural Challenge

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

Political

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

Brian Massey

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

* They bestow budget upon the loyal.

* They threaten the jobs of the disloyal.

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

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

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

James Spittal

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

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

Keith Hagen

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

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

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

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

People

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

James Spittal

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

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

Johann Van Tonder

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

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

Solution

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

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

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

Challenge 2. No Defined Structure that Supports CRO

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

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

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

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

Tim Ash

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

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

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

Solution

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

Challenge 3. Inefficient Methodology to Implementing Conversion Optimization

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

Paul Rouke

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Massey

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

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

Mathilde Boyer

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

Peter Figueredo

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

Solution

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Frequentist-based statistical engine
  • Bayesian statistical engine

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

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

Solution

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

Challenge 5. Insufficient and Incorrect Budget Allocation

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

budget for conversion optimization - graph

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

Paul Rouke talks about inefficient budget allocation as follows:

Paul Rouke

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

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

Solution

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

Summary 

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

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

Approach_Increasing_Conversion_Rates_Free_Trial


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

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5 Conversion Rate Optimization Challenges For Enterprises To Solve

Experimenting With speechSynthesis

I’ve been thinking a lot about speech for the last few years. In fact, it’s been a major focus in several of my talks of late, including my well-received Smashing Conference talk “Designing the Conversation.” As such, I’ve been keenly interested in the development of the Web Speech API.

Experimenting With speechSynthesis

If you’re unfamiliar, this API gives you (the developer) the ability to voice-enable your website in two directions: listening to your users via the SpeechRecognition interface and talking back to them via the SpeechSynthesis interface. All of this is done via a JavaScript API, making it easy to test for support. This testability makes it an excellent candidate for progressive enhancement, but more on that in a moment.

The post Experimenting With speechSynthesis appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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Experimenting With speechSynthesis

Build the most effective personalization strategy: A 4-step roadmap

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Whaddya mean, ‘personalization strategy

It’s Groundhog Day again.

Do you remember the Groundhog Day movie? You know… the one where Bill Murray’s character repeats the same day over and over again, every day. He had to break the pattern by convincing someone to fall in love with him, or something like that.

What an odd storyline.

Yet today, it’s reminding me of a pattern in marketing. Marketing topics seem to be pulled by an unstoppable force through fad cycles of hype, over-promise, disappointment, and decline – usually driven by some new technology.

I’ve watched so many fad buzzwords come and go, it’s dizzying. Remember Customer Relationship Marketing? Integrated Marketing? Mobile First? Omnichannel?

A few short years ago, everyone was talking about social media as the only topic that mattered. Multivariate testing was sexy for about five minutes.

Invariably, similar patterns of mistakes appear within each cycle.

Tool vendors proliferate on trade show floors, riding the wave and selling a tool that checks the box of the current fad. Marketers invest time, energy, and budget hoping for a magic bullet without a strategy.

But, without a strategy, even the best tools can fail to deliver the promised results.

(Side note: That’s why I’ve been advocating for years for marketers to start their conversion optimization programs with a strategy in addition to the best tools.)

Now, everyone is swooning for Personalization. And, so they should! It can deliver powerful results.

PDF Bonus: Personalization Roadmap

This post is over 3,000 words of personalization goodness. Get the full PDF now so that you can reference it later, and share it with your co-workers.



By entering your email, you’ll receive bi-weekly WiderFunnel Blog updates and other resources to help you become an optimization champion.



From simple message segmentation to programmatic ad buying and individual-level website customization, the combination of big data and technology is transforming the possibilities of personalization.

But the rise of personalization tools and popularity has meant the rise of marketers doing personalization the wrong way. I’ve lost track of the number of times we’ve seen:

  • Ad hoc implementation of off-the-shelf features without understanding what need they are solving.
  • Poor personalization insights with little data analysis and framework thinking driving the implementation.
  • Lack of rigorous process to hypothesize, test, and validate personalization ideas.
  • Lack of resources to sustain the many additional marketing messages that must be created to support multiple, personalized target segments.

That’s why, in collaboration with our partners at Optimizely, we have created a roadmap for creating the most effective personalization strategy:

Featured_Roadmap

  • Step 1: Defining personalization
  • Step 2: Is a personalization strategy right for you?
  • Step 3: Personalization ideation
  • Step 4: Personalization prioritization

Step 1: Defining personalization

Personalization and segmentation are often used interchangeably, and are arguably similar. Both use information gathered about the marketing prospect to customize their experience.

While segmentation attempts to bucket prospects into similar aggregate groups, personalization represents the ultimate goal of customizing the person’s experience to their individual needs and desires based on in-depth information and insights about them.

You can think of them as points along a spectrum of customized messaging.

Personalization spectrum
The marketing customization spectrum.

You’ve got the old mass marketing approach on one end, and the hyper-personalized, 1:1, marketer-to-customer nirvana on the other end. Segmentation lies somewhere in the middle. We’ve been doing it for decades, but now we have the technology to go deeper, to be more granular.

Every marketer wants to provide the perfect message for each customer — that’s the ultimate goal of personalization.

The problem personalization solves

Personalization solves the problem of Relevance (one of 6 conversion factors in the LIFT Model®). If you can increase the Relevance of your value proposition to your visitor, by speaking their language, matching their expectations, and addressing their unique fears, needs and desires, you will see an increase in conversions.

Let me show you an example.

Secret Escapes is a flash-sale luxury travel company. The company had high click-through rates on their search ads and directed all of this traffic to a single landing page.

Personalization strategy ad
Secret Escapes “spa” PPC ad in Google.

The ad copy read:

“Spa Vacations
Save up to 70% on Spa Breaks. Register for free with your email.”

But, the landing page didn’t reflect the ad copy. When visitors landed on the page, they saw this:

personalization strategy secret escapes
Original landing page for Secret Escapes.

Not super relevant to visitors’ search intent, right? There’s no mention of the keyword “spa” or imagery of a spa experience. Fun fact: When we are searching for something, our brains rely less on detailed understanding of the content, and more on pattern matching, or a scent trail.

(Note: some of the foundational research for this originated with Peter Pirolli at PARC as early as the 90’s. See this article, for example.)

In an attempt to convert more paid traffic, Secret Escapes tested two variations, meant to match visitor intent with expectations.

personalization strategy secret escapes 1
Variation 1 used spa imagery and brought the keyword “spa” into the sub-head.
personalization strategy secret escapes 2
Variation 2 used the same imagery, but mirrored the ad copy with the headline copy.

By simply maintaining the scent trail, and including language around “spa breaks” in the signup form, Secret Escapes was able to increase sign-ups by 32%. They were able to make the landing page experience sticky for this target audience segment, by improving Relevance.

Step 2: Is a personalization strategy right for me?

Pause. Before you dig any deeper into personalization, you should determine whether or not it is the right strategy for your company, right now.

Here are 3 questions that will help you determine your personalization maturity and eligibility.

Do I have enough data about my customers?

Hudson Arnold Personalization

Personalization is not a business practice for companies with no idea of how they want to segment, but for businesses that are ready to capitalize on their segments.

Hudson Arnold, Strategy Consultant, Optimizely

For companies getting started with personalization, we recommend that you at least have fundamental audience segments in place. These might be larger cohorts at first, focused on visitor location, visitor device use, single visitor behaviors, or visitors coming from an ad campaign.

Personalization Strategy Segments
Where is your user located? Did they arrive on your page via Facebook ad? Are they browsing on a tablet?

If you haven’t categorized your most important visitor segments, you should focus your energies on segmentation first, before moving into personalization.

Do I have the resources to do personalization?

  • Do you have a team in place that can manage a personalization strategy?
  • Do you have a personalization tool that supports your strategy?
  • Do you have an A/B testing team that can validate your personalization approach?
  • Do you have resources to maintain updates to the segments that will multiply as you increase your message granularity?

Personalization requires dedicated resources and effort to sustain all of your segments and personalized variations. To create a truly effective personalization strategy, you will need to proceduralize personalization as its own workstream and implement an ongoing process.

Which leads us to question three…

Do I have a process for validating my personalization ideas?

Personalization is a hypothesis until it is tested. Your assumptions about your best audience segments, and the best messaging for those segments, are assumptions until they have been validated.

Hudson Arnold Personalization

Personalization requires the same inputs and workflow as testing; sound technical implementation, research-driven ideation, a clear methodology for translating concepts into test hypotheses, and tight technical execution. In this sense, personalization is really just an extension of A/B testing and normal optimization activities. What’s more, successful personalization campaigns are the result of testing and iteration.

– Hudson Arnold

Great personalization strategy is about having a rigorous process that allows for 1) gathering insights about your customers, and then 2) validating those insights. You need a structured process to understand which insights are valid for your target audience and create growth for your business.

WiderFunnel’s Infinity Optimization Process™ represents these two mindsets. It is a proven process that has been refined over many years and thousands of tests. As you build your personalization strategy, you can adopt parts or all of this process.

infinity optimization process
The Infinity Optimization Process is iterative and leads to continuous growth and insights.

There are two critical phases to an effective personalization strategy: Explore and Validate. Explore uses an expansive mindset to consider all of your data, and all of your potential personalization ideas. Validate is a structured process of A/B testing that uses a reductive mindset to refine and select only those ideas that produce value.

Without a process in place to prove your personalization hypotheses, you will end up wasting time and resources sending the wrong messages to the wrong audience segments.

Personalization without validation is simply guesswork.

Step 3: Personalization ideation

If you have answered “Yes” to those three questions, you are ready to do personalization: You are confident in your audience segments, you have dedicated resources, perhaps you’re already doing basic personalization. Now, it’s time to build your personalization strategy by gathering insights from your data.

personalization strategy curiosity
“How do I get ideas for customized messaging that will work?”

One of the questions we hear most often when it comes to personalization is, “How do I get ideas for customized messaging that will work?” This is the biggest area of ongoing work and your biggest opportunity for business improvement from personalization.

The quality of your insights about your customers directly impacts the quality of your personalization results.

Here are the 3 types of personalization insights to explore:

  • Deductive research
  • Inductive research
  • Customer self-selected

You can mix and match these types within your program. We have plenty of examples of how. Let’s look at a few now.

1) Deductive research and personalization insights

Are there general theories that apply to your particular business situation?

Psychological principles? UX principles? General patterns in your data? ‘Best’ practices?

Deductive personalization starts with your assumptions about how your customers will respond to certain messaging based on existing theories…but it doesn’t end there. With deductive research, you should always feed your ideas into experiments that either validate or disprove your personalization approach.

Let’s look at an example:

Heifer International is a charity organization that we have been working with to increase their donations and their average donation value per visitor.

In one experiment, we decided to test a psychological principle called the “rule of consistency”. This principle states that people want to be consistent in all areas of life; once someone takes an action, no matter how small, they strive to make future behavior match that past behavior.

We asked visitors to the Heifer website to identify themselves as a donor type when they land on the site, to trigger this need to remain consistent.

client spotlight psychological persuasion
What kind of donor are you?

Notice there’s no option to select “I’m not a donor.” We were testing what would happen when people self-identified as donors.

The results were fascinating. This segmenting pop up increased donations by nearly 2%, increased the average donation value per visitor by 3%, and increased the revenue per visitor by more than 5%.

There’s more. In looking at the data, we saw that just 14% of visitors selected one of the donation identifications. But, that 14% was actually 68% of Heifer’s donors: The 14% who responded represent a huge percentage of Heifer’s most valuable audience.

personalization strategy heifer donors
Visitors who self-identify as ‘Donors’ are a valuable segment.

Now, Heifer can change the experience for visitors who identify as a type of donor and use that as one piece of data to personalize their experience. Currently, we’re testing which messages will maximize donations even further within each segment.

2) Inductive research and personalization insights

Are there segments within your data and test results that you can analyze to gather personalization insights?

If you are already optimizing your site, you may have seen segments naturally emerge through A/B testing. A focused intention to find these insights is called inductive research.

Inductive personalization is driven by insights from your existing A/B test data. As you test, you discover insights that point you toward generalizable personalization hypotheses.

Here’s an example from one of WiderFunnel’s e-commerce clients that manufactures and sells weather technology products. This company’s original product page was very cluttered, and we decided to test it against a variation that emphasized visual clarity.

personalization strategy variations
We tested the original page (left) against a variation emphasizing clarity (right).

Surprisingly, the clear variation lost to the original, decreasing order completions by -6.8%. WiderFunnel Strategists were initially perplexed by the result, but they didn’t rest until they had uncovered a potential insight in the data.

They found that visitors to the original page saw more pages per session, while visitors to the variation spent a 7.4% higher average time on page. This could imply that shoppers on the original page were browsing more, while shoppers on our variation spent more time on fewer pages.

Research published by the NN Group describes teen-targeted websites, suggesting that younger users enjoy searching and are impatient, while older users enjoy searching but are also much more patient when browsing.

With this research in mind, the Strategists dug in further and found that the clear variation actually won for older users to this client’s site, increasing transactions by +24%. But it lost among younger users, decreasing transactions by -38%.

So, what’s the takeaway? For this client, there are potentially new ways of customizing the shopping experience for different age segments, such as:

  1. Reducing distractions and adding clarity for older visitors
  2. Providing multiple products in multiple tabs for younger visitors

This client can use these insights to inform their age-group segmentation efforts across their site.

(Also, this is a great example of why one of WiderFunnel’s five core values says “Grit – We don’t quit until we find an answer.”)

3) Customer self-selected personalization

Ask your prospects to tell you about themselves. Then, test the best marketing approach for each segment.

Customer self-selected personalization is potentially the easiest strategy to conceptualize and implement. You are asking your users to self-identify, and segment themselves. This triggers specific messaging based on how they self-identified. And then you can test the best approach for each of those segments.

Here’s an example to help you visualize what I mean.

One of our clients is a Fortune 500 healthcare company — they use self-selected personalization to drive more relevant content and offers, in order to grow their community of subscribers.

This client had created segments that were focused on a particular health situation, that people could click on:

  • “Click on this button to get more information,”
  • “I have early stage disease,”
  • “I have late stage disease,”
  • “I manage the disease while I’m working,”
  • “I’m a physician treating the disease,” and,
  • “I work at a hospital treating the disease.”

These segments came from personas that this client had developed about their subscriber base.

personalization strategy messaging
The choices in the header triggered the messaging in the side bar.

Once a user self-identified, the offers and messaging that were featured on the page were adjusted accordingly. But, we wouldn’t want to assume the personalized messages were the best for each segment. You should test that!

In self-selected personalization, there are two major areas you should test. You want to find out:

  1. What are the best segments?
  2. What is the best messaging for each segment?

For this healthcare company, we didn’t simply assume that those 5 segments were the best segments, or that the messages and offers triggered were the best messages and offers. Instead, we tested both.

A series of A/B tests within their segmentation and personalization efforts resulted in a doubling of this company’s conversion rate.

Developing an audience strategy

Developing a personalization strategy requires an audience-centric approach. The companies that are succeeding at personalization are not picking segments ad hoc from Google Analytics or any given study, but are looking to their business fundamentals.

Once you believe you have identified the most important segments for your business, then you can begin to layer on more tactical segments. These might be qualified ‘personas’ that inform your content strategy, UX design, or analytical segments.

Step 4: Personalization prioritization

If this whole thing is starting to feel a little complex, don’t worry. It is complex, but that’s why we prioritize. Even with a high-functioning team and an advanced tool, it is impossible to personalize for all of your audience segments simultaneously. So, where do you start?

Optimizely uses a simple axis to conceptualize how to prioritize personalization hypotheses. You can use it to determine the quantity and the quality of the audiences you would like to target.

Personalization strategy matrix

The x-axis refers to the size of your audience segment, while the y-axis refers to an obvious need to personalize to a group vs. the need for creative personalization.

For instance, the blue bubble in the upper left quadrant of the chart represents a company’s past purchasers. Many clients want to start personalizing here, saying, “We want to talk to people who have spent $500 on leather jackets in the last three months. We know exactly what we wanna show to them.”

But, while you might have a solid merchandising strategy or offer for that specific group, it represents a really, really, really small audience.

That is not to say you shouldn’t target this group, because there is an obvious need. But it needs to be weighed against how large that group is. Because you should be treating personalization like an experiment, you need to be sensitive to statistical significance.

The net impact of any personalization effort you use will only be as significant as the size of the segment, right? If you improve the conversion rate 1000% for 10 people, that is going to have a relatively small impact on your business.

personalization strategy matrix 2

Now, move right on the x-axis; here, you are working with larger segments. Even if the personalized messaging is less obvious (and might require more experimentation), your efforts may be more impactful.

Food for thought: Most companies we speak to don’t have a coherent geographical personalization strategy, but it’s a large way of grouping people and, therefore, may be worth exploring!

You may be more familiar with WiderFunnel’s PIE framework, which we use to prioritize our ideas.

How does Optimizely’s axis relate? It is a simplified way to think about personalization ideas to help you ideate quickly. Its two inputs, “Obvious Need” and “Audience Size” are essentially two inputs we would use to calculate a thorough PIE ranking of ideas.

The “Obvious Need” axis would influence the “Potential” ranking, and “Audience Size” would influence “Importance”. It may be helpful to consider the third PIE factor, “Ease”, if some segmentation data is more difficult to track or otherwise acquire, or if the maintenance cost of ongoing messaging is high.

To create the most effective personalization strategy for your business, you must remember what you already know. For some reason, when companies start personalization, the lessons they have learned about testing all of their assumptions are sometimes forgotten.

You probably have some great personalization ideas, but it is going to take iteration and experimentation to get them right.

A final note on personalization: Always think of it in the context of the bigger picture of marketing optimization.

Insights gained from A/B testing inform future audience segments and personalized messaging, while insights derived from personalization experimentation informs future A/B testing hypotheses. And on and on.

Don’t assume that insights gained during personalization testing are only valid for those segments. These wins may be overall wins.

The best practice when it comes to personalization is to take the insights you validate within your tests and use them to inform your hypotheses in your general optimization strategy.

** Note: This post was originally published on May 3, 2016 as “How to succeed at segmentation and personalization” but has been wholly updated to reflect new personalization frameworks, case studies, and insights from Optimizely. **

Still have questions about personalization? Ask ’em in the comments, or contact us to find out how WiderFunnel can help you create a personalization strategy that will work for your company.

The post Build the most effective personalization strategy: A 4-step roadmap appeared first on WiderFunnel Conversion Optimization.

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Build the most effective personalization strategy: A 4-step roadmap