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[AMA] I’m Michael Aagaard, Senior Conversion Optimizer at Unbounce. Ask Me Anything

If you’re serious about conversion rate optimization, then you’ve likely heard of Michael Aagaard: founder of ContentVerve.com, international speaker and, as of this year, the Senior Conversion Optimizer at Unbounce.

His pragmatic approach to conversion rate optimization, focusing more on research and real results rather than mere “conversion lifts,” has made him a respected authority in the field. (Oh, and he’s a handsome and a super friendly guy to boot. He’s been described by his colleagues as a “norse god” and a “lightening bolt in human form.”)

Simply put: he’s the guy you want in your corner when you’re prepping your next A/B test hypothesis.

Well, we’re making that happen.

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Unbounce’s Senior Conversion Optimizer Michael Aagaard.

Now’s your chance to get answers to those burning conversion queries that disturb your slumber (to make sense of the marketing mayhem that fills your waking hours).

All from the comfort of wherever you are right now.

Seriously — now! Scroll down to the comments section and ask your question! Whether you’re wondering about conversion research, formulating a hypothesis or what it’s like to transition from being a consultant to working in-house, Michael will be answering live on the blog on Monday, November 30th at 1 – 4 PM EST (10 AM – 1 PM PST).

OK, so you actually have a few days to ask your question, but seize the day! Carpe diem! (At the very least, set a Google Calendar reminder.)

Source article – 

[AMA] I’m Michael Aagaard, Senior Conversion Optimizer at Unbounce. Ask Me Anything

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Behind Every Click, There’s a Person [PODCAST]

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Image via thestoacks.im.

Every marketer (and their mom) knows the importance of running campaigns that are data-driven.

But if you’ve got your head down optimizing for conversions, you can become blinded by that data — and forget that behind every click, there’s a person.

Creating better marketing experiences for the person behind the click was a recurring theme at MozCon 2015 — and it’s what Chelsea Scholz, Campaign Strategist at Unbounce, discusses passionately in this week’s episode of the Call to Action podcast.

You will learn:

  • The three key ingredients that make up a solid brand strategy.
  • Why content written for everyone really winds up being for no one.
  • Unbounce’s recent outside-the-box marketing campaign idea which has been effective at providing value to people and collecting leads.

Listen to the podcast

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Mentioned in the podcast

Read the transcript

Unbounce’s Content Strategist Dan Levy, interviews Chelsea Scholz, Jr. Campaign Strategist at Unbounce.

Dan Levy: All right. You wrote in your post that if you’re feeling frustrated by the results that you’re seeing from your campaigns, it might actually be because you’re focusing too much on the medium that you’re using to reach people and not the people themselves. What do you mean by that?

Chelsea Scholz: So we get really focused on doing things like writing emails to see click-throughs or optimizing a landing page so that Google recognizes it. And that really ends up making us forget the who that we’re actually sending these marketing initiatives to. We’re sending emails to our customers and we’re creating customers for our leads. Those are people back there. And they’re ultimately what drives our bottom line; not the metric. So I find it to be kind of like one of those things that seems so obvious. It’s not obvious. We focus on the analytics when there’s a person back there who’s making that happen for us. And the more we understand that person, I think we’d see a better lift. And we do, in fact, see a better lift in our conversions than our click-throughs, what have you, because we’re focusing on the person.

Dan: Right. And you take us through different strategies that you could use to make sure you’re creating more person-centered marketing experiences. The first one was kind of surprising, though. It was developing a solid brand strategy. And I feel like the word “brand” is a bit controversial, maybe; like some use it way too loosely and vaguely while others tend to dismiss it as, like, fluff and not a tactical word. So I was wondering, what does the term “brand strategy” mean to you?

Chelsea: Brand strategy to me means that you’ve developed a solid core reasoning behind why your business does what it does. And you’ve clearly developed the story around that. It’s a bit like building a snowman. Your business is the snow but you present it to the world in a way that’s delightful, recognizable and interactive by creating snowballs. And then you decorate the snowman with a hat and buttons so that it’s uniquely your own. And this is something that I’ve heard from a lot of different people, that you should envision your brand as a person. In my case, it’s a snowman but same dif, you know?

Dan: How about the carrot nose? What does that represent?

Chelsea: The conversion carrot, Dan.

Dan: Oh, of course.

Chelsea: Ho, ho, ho. There are layers, right, like to your brand and it has to be organized in such a way that everyone can buy into it and believe in it, both internally and externally. Otherwise, you just end up with a pile of snow in your front yard that looks like anybody else’s yard, you know?

Dan: Yeah, so at MozCon, Dana DiTomaso said that the idea of a strong brand strategy needs to go beyond what most people think about it, which is like logos and colors and just dressing, and that it involves three key ingredients. Can you take us through what those were?

Chelsea: Sure. So for the record, Dana is one of my favorite marketers on the planet. She is incredible and I loved hearing her talk –

Dan: She’s great.

Chelsea: – at both MozCon and our own CTA conference this year. So her three key ingredients to a strong brand strategy are keeping it as simple as possible, which again seems so obvious. It’s not obvious. It’s not rocket science. Just lay it out there in really clear, simple language. So the second is keeping it consistent across all channels, both online and offline. So for example, if you host an annual conference each year, and that looks and feels nothing like an email you’d send on an average day, there’s an issue there. And number three is make it a living, breathing document that is a true expression of your company and reflects your company’s core values. So this is something that really resonated with me because it sparked a conversation between believing in brand coaching, not brand policing. So there are companies that have one person who lives and breathes the brand and that’s fantastic. But if everyone at your company doesn’t understand why somebody is doing that, it comes off as a brand dictator of sorts. What you want is to be able to explain and embrace the brand among a lot of the people at your company – if not everybody – by coaching them through why you do what you do, as well as things like what colors you should use and what logos go where.

Dan: Yeah, so I mean I guess you said a living, breathing document meaning that it needs to be something transparent and accessible to all people in the company, that they could kind of refer back to and use as a bible, right?

Chelsea: Yeah, definitely.

Dan: Cool. Well, one thing I know you took away from Wil Reynolds is that when you understand the people behind the click, you’re coming up with a solution that can easily be disrupted. Can you unpack that one?

Chelsea: I think what Wil was talking about here is that you get to a point where you know your audience so well that you can picture a face and a name that you’re talking to. That’s personas, right? But when you do that, you’re crafting a message so targeted and so convincing because you’re talking to the person like a human; it seems really, really simple. You can convey a message properly because you know them intimately. And when you do that, the person feels connected to you, to your brand and to your product in return. This makes your service or whatever you’re offering indestructible.

Dan: Right, because I guess the market could change and tools could change, but people fundamentally will always be the same.

Chelsea: Right. Companies pivot all the time, and it’s especially true of startups. So if you establish a brand that’s so strong and you talk to people like you know them, they’re gonna come with you.

Dan: Well, you mentioned personas, so let’s talk a little bit about personalization and segmentation, which seem to be major buzz words this year. Kristina Halvorson, I think, said that if content is for everybody, then it really is for nobody. And you know that resonates with me as a content strategist; that applies to campaign strategy, as well. And Cara Harshman at Optimizely proposed a three-tiered who, what, how framework for personalization. I was wondering if you could break that down and maybe tell us what that would look like in the context of a campaign that you’ve actually worked on.

Chelsea: Yeah. So again, it’s all about relating back to your user. If you know who you’re talking to, it’s going to be a much better experience for everybody involved — as the marketer on this side of the computer, as the recipient on the virtual other side. So the best example I can think of is something that we recently did — the email marketing for CTA Conference. Our goal was to sell tickets in an online medium to attend an offline event. And it can get tricky. But we broke down a series of emails based on target audiences, messages and intent. Big props, again, to our event marketing manager at the time, Stefanie Grieser as this was a bit of her brainchild. Together, we looked at where people were physically coming from to attend the event and came up with an email campaign called “You Fly, We Buy,” and that email had us target people who weren’t in driving distance of Vancouver. And we sent them an email explaining that we recognized that they’d have to travel a long way to get here and would give them a huge discount on tickets if they paid for their flight over. It worked tremendously well because we understood their dilemma; that flights in combination with tickets was going to be too expensive for them. Similarly, we targeted people who were actually in the area or within driving distance of Vancouver, like Oregon and Washington, and gave them also an incentive to buy a ticket because they were so close to us already.

Dan: Oh, that’s cool. So in that case, you used the fact that they were close so you might as well take care of a ticket for them?

Chelsea: Yeah.

Dan: Then what were some of the results of these campaigns?

Chelsea: Those are one of the two highest-performing emails we had had for the Call to Action Conference. I really attribute it to the fact that we recognized what somebody’s problem might be. Because attending events can be expensive and cause a lot of travel. You’ve got to take time off, you’ve got to go through your boss to get some sort of networking budget to cover going to these things and justify your reason to go. So we put that all into a simplified email. Our language showed our solution to their problem was simple and those emails had an incredible conversion rate to people who actually bought tickets.

Dan: It’s funny. I feel like sometimes just letting people know that you understand their problem is half the battle.

Chelsea: Amen.

Dan: Right? Then they’re just more likely to say – especially when it’s an event — “Well, actually these people really understand and they understand where I’m coming from as a marketer so I’ll probably get a lot of value out of this event.” So it actually dovetails pretty well with the content that you were providing.

Chelsea: Yeah. I mean think about it like you were standing on a street corner and you had two different people trying to sell you tickets to the same event. One guy is just repeating the name of his conference over and over and over again at you. And you’re kind of like: oh, that’s weird and robotic. And then you get another guy who is like: hey, Dan, I really want you to come to this conference but I know you live far away. So how about we work out a plan where you buy your ticket to fly here and we’ll help you out on the ticket cost for the actual event? And then we can both hang out.

Dan: Totally, yeah. And you know, that guy’s like: I’m a marketer, you’re a marketer; I understand your problems.

Chelsea: Exactly.

Dan: And I guess that’s one of the benefits of being marketers marketing to marketers is you kind of get that.

Chelsea: Yep.

Dan: So your post is a great distillation of the speakers at MozCon. But you went to Seattle to launch one of your own campaigns, as well, which was live note taking. Can you tell us where you got the idea for that and what it looked like?

Chelsea: Yeah, totally. So earlier this year, around February or March, we were talking about sponsorships for conferences and what we could do that was different that made us stood out as a company but still provided a lot of value for the audience we were hitting (instead of doing something just like a trade show booth). And what we found valuable from one of our last conferences was when you take notes, it’s a really easy way to distribute and pass along information that’s valuable to a lot of people who are there and not there. So what I came up with was a way to turn a landing page into a live blogging tool where we embedded a Google Doc and had a couple of writers live note take the entire conference. And then in return, we would advertise during that conference — on things like social and via word of mouth from networking — that you could download a PDF of these notes at the end of the conference and that there were a couple of writers from Unbounce who were just taking care of this for you. And it was a wonderful campaign because it was a way to highlight different way of using landing pages, how our tool worked, and offering a valuable marketing piece for those who were attending because you always want to take notes back to your boss, or to your other colleagues… or just plain remember what you had listened to while you were there. And what I turned our live note taking into was an incentive for brand awareness, as well as a way for us to capture new subscribers for our blog list.

Dan: And what were some of the results? I know that you did this I think at a couple other conferences as well, right?

Chelsea: Yes. I did this at Hero Conf in Portland –

Dan: Yep, I was there. I was a note taker there.

Chelsea: You were? Traction Conf in Vancouver, which you were also a note taker for.

Dan: Yeah, I was the note taker at that one. That was exhausting.

Chelsea: And then we did it at MozCon and I actually switched roles a little bit and was a writer there, along with our other Unbouncer Cody. That was a different experience for me. I totally understand some of the pain you go through, now. Of course we do it for our own conf, as well. But I think MozCon was definitely the most successful of all of those this year because of the size and the kind of audience that Moz already brings in. they have over 1200 attendees, I believe, and they have a similar audience of marketers to what Unbounce has. And we have a great relationship with them as a partner. So it was all around a great fit and we were a sponsor of that conference. My main goal for the note taking part for that campaign was brand awareness, of course, followed closely by blog signups. And I set a goal for myself of 1400 unique, non-customer users to my landing page which would essentially help hit almost every marketer that was attending and some outside that maybe couldn’t make it. And 250 new subscribers for our blog as a result of people wanting the PDF.

Dan: So that was your goal.

Chelsea: That was my goal. And what I actually ended up with was 2,063 unique non-customers to my page and 372 new blog subscribers in just one month after the campaign had run.

Dan: Wow, that’s awesome.

Chelsea: Yeah. And I’ve also found that these note taking landing pages have withstood the test of time, as people always want to read about conferences even if it’s well after they’re over. So today – I checked back this morning – and we have over 800 unique new blog subscribers as a result of that note taking initiative from Moz alone. They can live forever. They act as a great way for people to come up and search for you if you’re doing your SEO right. And a couple other of my posts had been picked up by other publications so it kind of spread that message again and it’s just been a great way and a great campaign for brand awareness and blog.

Dan: Yeah. Yeah, we’ve used it – talking about conversion carrots, we’ve used that in some of our blog posts and also in some of our blog posts that have been syndicated in other places like Search Engine Journal. It’s a great way to continue to get that content out there and continue to generate leads from it.

Chelsea: Yeah.

Dan: So the year is drawing to a close, believe it or not. And I think now is a time when us marketers get a little bit more reflective. So I was wondering, what would you say were your biggest lessons of this year in terms of what goes into running a successful marketing campaign?

Chelsea: Yeah. For me personally, I think the biggest lesson was that we need to market for the man and not the medium or the metric. And it was a really big wakeup call for me because as marketers, we get really focused on performance reports and hitting KPIs. And you forget that there are people back there that are interacting with your product and paying you for your product. If you can relate to them a little more by interacting with them as a friend and as just a general person, it really helps conversion rates. It’s easy to forget this because we’re shielded by our screens. You wouldn’t talk to your sister or your best friend like she was a stranger, so why would you do that to somebody you want to join your mission?

Dan: So have you taken that lesson and applied that to the way you approach campaigns that you’ve run at Unbounce?

Chelsea: Well, specifically for email I find myself asking, like, if I were to read this cold to my personal Gmail, do I relate to this person? Do I understand, like am I seeing a face, are we using people that are real? Do I feel like this person actually wrote this email and it’s not just coming from somebody as a sign off? Like I really try and work with our copywriters to get to the core of the thing.

Dan: I was just going to say it’s funny because you talk about writing emails as if you’re just a human writing an email to a friend of yours. But at the same time, you mention like multiple reviews. So I imagine that with like multiple people reviewing an email and weighing in, it must be difficult to maintain that singular human voice.

Chelsea: Yeah. I mean this is the challenge marketers face, right? Like if you’re a one stop shop, it could be easier to pull that off. But at the same time, it’s really good to work in collaboration with some really smart people, but you have more cooks in the kitchen. So I’m finding a really good balance between having one copywriter right now and one or two reviewers because we all understand the brand, we all understand the message of the campaign and it’s actually not that bad when trying to solidify a single voice. It comes with challenges, of course, and sometimes you’ll never agree. But again, like I mentioned, the pure thought of just going through that process with the goal in mind of talking like a person and reading like a person helps immensely.

Dan: Right. And I think what you said about actually putting yourself in the position of the person receiving the email, like imagining you getting that email in your own inbox probably helps a lot because you’re not just thinking about your voice and the voice that you’re putting out there, but you’re thinking about the person receiving that message and what they’re hearing. So you are getting back to that singular person in that case.

Chelsea: Yeah, definitely. And we at Unbounce have a really good culture of like talking about other people’s emails and how great they are, and how personalized they feel. Or like, that image was great. And so I think the conversation is always open, which is really nice; we’re not stuck by any means. And we’re even starting to do experimentation with things like plain text emails. So it even just looks like somebody just wrote you a straight up Gmail email.

Dan: Right, something that our copywriter is putting together based on our brand voice and our brand guidelines is like an email specific kind of editorial bible that everybody could refer to.

Chelsea: Yeah, it’s gonna be awesome.

Dan: Any other big lessons from this year that you want to share?

Chelsea: Yeah, I think aside from like doing things like being more personal and getting a really strong brand strategy, I think it’s really hitting home lately that we take more risks and we move more quickly where we can. The internet really waits for no man, right? So digital marketing needs to do the same and the more we can kind of make those quick wins, the better it will be. And it gets harder the bigger we get. But keeping that in mind is allowing us to do exactly that and I think 2016 will be filled with areas for us to take more risk and disrupt ourselves a little bit more.

Dan: I wanted to ask you about that. What are your New Year’s marketing resolutions? What do you hope to do better in 2016 than you did this year?

Chelsea: Besides hitting the gym more often?

Dan: That counts.

Chelsea: I’d like to keep developing our brand in email strategies and keeping them fresh. It’s something I’m very active and passionate about and I can’t wait to keep getting really personal with all of it and working with our team to do that same sort of brand coaching where we all get it, we all understand and we’re getting right there to the point with our emails where it’s one-on-one, it feels like, with our audience.

Dan: Yeah, and that’s a really good point about keeping it fresh, as well. Because once you do have your brand set in writing and guidelines there for anybody to go and refer back to, I guess the danger is that you – they’ve become canonized and they’ve become stuck and you don’t want to get yourself in that situation, either, do you?

Chelsea: Yeah, everyone faces that problem with developing and maintaining a strong strategy for brand. It’s something that needs to remain constant but requires work. It’s like a marriage, in that sense. You put time into developing and growing together and it’s really great when you finally have that bible and you get married. But if you don’t work on the relationship between you and your brand, you’re headed for a big, colorful divorce.

Dan: Right. Yeah, it’s good to keep growing but you need to grow in the same direction.

Chelsea: Yeah. Yeah, I really like it. I really like talking about this stuff to you and I think aside from the additional stuff we talked about, with like what are the biggest things I learned this year, I really hit a point in my career, personally this year, where I think my shtick is like human-centered marketing.

Dan: I like that. Yeah, it’s funny. I’ve been thinking about that and the term I’m using is like humanistic marketing.

Chelsea: Yes!

Dan: I’ve actually been thinking about writing a blog post about that.

Chelsea: Yes, yes, yes. Sometimes it’s really, really hard for me because I’ve worked with people for so long who are so numbers focused. And I get it. I get that it’s important and we’ve got to reach certain targets. But it kills me a lot of the time to think about the person and how they’re feeling, but what is the number?

Dan: I think that’s one of the things that sets us apart, though. Like really important in, like, definitely in content. Andy Cresodina calls it empathetic marketing or empathetic content marketing. It’s like you start with the person’s problem and how you could solve it.

Chelsea: Yes.

Dan: Well, thank you so much for the marriage advice and the marketing advice, Chelsea.

Chelsea: No problem.

Dan: Great to chat.

Chelsea: It was great. Thank you so much for having me, guys.

Stephanie: That was Chelsea Scholz, Jr. Campaign Strategist at Unbounce.

Transcript by GMR Transcription.


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Behind Every Click, There’s a Person [PODCAST]

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Ask a CRO: How Do I Optimize My Landing Page When I Don’t Have Enough Traffic to A/B Test?

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How do I optimize my landing page when I don’t have enough traffic to A/B test?

It’s a question that Unbounce customers ask regularly, and one that plagues any marketer who wants to optimize their landing pages but just isn’t blessed with the traffic of a Fortune 500 company.

So it was no surprise when the question came up during the A/B testing panel discussion at the 2015 Call to Action Conference.

Luckily, conversion experts Ton Wesseling, Peep Laja and Michael Aagaard had all the answers. And it turns out that marketers with more humbly-sized traffic streams are going to be okay.. We can all breathe easy, because as Peep put it:

You can still optimize even if you can’t A/B test.

Even if you don’t have the 1,000 conversions per month recommended by our panel experts, you still have options for optimizing your campaigns. Read on to find out how.

Figure out where and why you’re losing conversions

A/B testing isn’t just about figuring out how you can get more conversions. It’s about learning why you aren’t getting more conversions in the first place.

That’s where conversion research comes in: digging into analytics and crunching numbers to determine where your biggest conversion lift opportunities lie. Regardless of whether or not you have enough traffic or plan to A/B test, Michael underlined the importance of this step:

“If you don’t have enough traffic to get proper data out of it, then [A/B testing] isn’t really helpful. But one thing that’s always helpful is doing the research – because you need that anyway.”

Michael related a story about some research that we did on our free trial landing page. When someone arrives at the page, it looks like all they need to do is enter four pieces of information to get a free trial:

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But when someone clicks the CTA button, a whole new set of form fields is displayed:

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When Michael looked at the data, he discovered that a significant number of people were abandoning the process at this step, where the actual signup process is revealed to be more complicated than the first stage of the form implies.

That discovery led to us taking a good, hard look at the process, and Michael is now working on optimizing that page to make it a more delightful, streamlined experience for marketers looking to try out Unbounce.

None of that would have been possible without researching where people were abandoning the process. But by learning the exact point of friction, Michael can continue testing and iterating towards new designs that aren’t burdened by similar issues.

Peep summed this up nicely:

If you don’t know what people are doing on the page, you’re in the dark. You need to record what’s happening on your page in order to identify connections between certain behaviors and conversion rate.

Conduct qualitative research by asking questions

Your landing page has one purpose: to convert visitors to leads or customers. We do that by appealing to our visitor’s needs. But, as Peep says:

If you don’t know what matters to your customers, you have to figure it out, or you can’t  optimize.

If you don’t have enough traffic to get quantitative feedback through A/B testing, you need to spend time gathering qualitative feedback. That means actually speaking with your customers to get to know them and their needs.

Ton agreed:

Talk to your customers. They’ll give you great answers on what they’re looking for that can help you a lot.

During the CTAConf copywriting panel, expert copywriter Amy Harrison of Write With Influence discussed getting to know your customers in order to address their needs.

Amy believes that too many marketers start by presenting the solution, because we know what the solution is – our product – and we know how we want it to be perceived. The problem is that if someone comes to your landing page and you’re not speaking specifically to their needs, they’re won’t relate to your solution.

What Amy does is take a few steps back and start with identifying the symptoms that a person might experience that would lead them to need your product. What problems are they experiencing, and how can you relate to them?

That’s what AppSumo founder Noah Kagan was forced to ask himself when he emailed 30,000 people about his new entrepreneurship course, How To Make A $1,000 A Month Business, and only 30 people purchased it. What went wrong?

ConversionXL reported that he sent a survey to everyone who clicked through but didn’t convert and asked them, among other questions, “Why not?” And then he rewrote and redesigned the page to address the most popular doubts.

Unsure if it works in your country?

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Worried it’s not for you?

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Failed before and not sure what will be different now?

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Images sourced from ConversionXL

Noah adjusted the copy to address all of his prospects’ biggest fears, and used their own language to inspire himself. That strategy echoes back to advice that Joanna Wiebe, the copywriting mastermind behind Copyhackers, wrote on this very blog back in 2012:

If you want to write great copy, swipe it from your visitors, customers and prospects.”

Don’t be afraid to take big risks

When you can test the impact of every change on a page, iterating individual elements for small wins is one way to grow your conversion rate over time. But when you don’t have the luxury of testing against tons of traffic, you’re unlikely to move the needle with mere iteration. As Ton advised:

Most small things make a small impact. You have to take bigger risks to get bigger rewards.

This is actually one of the things that Joanna herself addressed during her Call to Action Conference talk, Death to Fear And Laziness! How to Push Yourself to Write Sticky Landing Page Copy.

In her talk, she presented an A/B test she ran on two sets of ad copy. The one on the left is the control, and the one on the right is the (rather bold) variant. Or as Joanna referred to it, not trying vs. trying.

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The message on the left is what Joanna refers to as “word-shaped air”. There’s words there, sure, but what does it really say? The variant takes a huge risk by using words that might be stereotypically perceived as “negative,” avoiding the empty pleasantries of the control.

But this language is how their real audience actually talks and thinks. And the gamble paid off, with a 124% increase in clicks.

Whether you’re actually running an A/B test or simply changing something on a page and waiting to see the results, there’s one unwavering truth:

You never know until you try.

Stop stressing and start testing

There’s no arguing that testing and experimentation are the heart of conversion rate optimization.

But A/B testing is just one kind of test; you can still make huge conversion gains without it, simply by researching your weaknesses, talking to your customers, and taking real risks. Rarely is there such a thing as a bad test, or a useless result.

If you’re still not convinced, or just want to learn a lot about testing in not-a-lot of time, check out the full Actionable, Practical A/B Testing panel. If every good test starts with research, I can’t think of a better place to start learning.

From – 

Ask a CRO: How Do I Optimize My Landing Page When I Don’t Have Enough Traffic to A/B Test?

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How Do I Optimize My Landing Page When I Don’t Have Enough Traffic to A/B Test?

cta-conf-ab-testing-cover

How do I optimize my landing page when I don’t have enough traffic to A/B test?

It’s a question that Unbounce customers ask regularly, and one that plagues any marketer who wants to optimize their landing pages but just isn’t blessed with the traffic of a Fortune 500 company.

So it was no surprise when the question came up during the A/B testing panel discussion at the 2015 Call to Action Conference.

Luckily, conversion experts Ton Wesseling, Peep Laja and Michael Aagaard had all the answers. And it turns out that marketers with more humbly-sized traffic streams are going to be okay.. We can all breathe easy, because as Peep put it:

You can still optimize even if you can’t A/B test.

Even if you don’t have the 1,000 conversions per month recommended by our panel experts, you still have options for optimizing your campaigns. Read on to find out how.

Figure out where and why you’re losing conversions

A/B testing isn’t just about figuring out how you can get more conversions. It’s about learning why you aren’t getting more conversions in the first place.

That’s where conversion research comes in: digging into analytics and crunching numbers to determine where your biggest conversion lift opportunities lie. Regardless of whether or not you have enough traffic or plan to A/B test, Michael underlined the importance of this step:

“If you don’t have enough traffic to get proper data out of it, then [A/B testing] isn’t really helpful. But one thing that’s always helpful is doing the research – because you need that anyway.”

Michael related a story about some research that we did on our free trial landing page. When someone arrives at the page, it looks like all they need to do is enter four pieces of information to get a free trial:

image00

But when someone clicks the CTA button, a whole new set of form fields is displayed:

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When Michael looked at the data, he discovered that a significant number of people were abandoning the process at this step, where the actual signup process is revealed to be more complicated than the first stage of the form implies.

That discovery led to us taking a good, hard look at the process, and Michael is now working on optimizing that page to make it a more delightful, streamlined experience for marketers looking to try out Unbounce.

None of that would have been possible without researching where people were abandoning the process. But by learning the exact point of friction, Michael can continue testing and iterating towards new designs that aren’t burdened by similar issues.

Peep summed this up nicely:

If you don’t know what people are doing on the page, you’re in the dark. You need to record what’s happening on your page in order to identify connections between certain behaviors and conversion rate.

Conduct qualitative research by asking questions

Your landing page has one purpose: to convert visitors to leads or customers. We do that by appealing to our visitor’s needs. But, as Peep says:

If you don’t know what matters to your customers, you have to figure it out, or you can’t  optimize.

If you don’t have enough traffic to get quantitative feedback through A/B testing, you need to spend time gathering qualitative feedback. That means actually speaking with your customers to get to know them and their needs.

Ton agreed:

Talk to your customers. They’ll give you great answers on what they’re looking for that can help you a lot.

During the CTAConf copywriting panel, expert copywriter Amy Harrison of Write With Influence discussed getting to know your customers in order to address their needs.

Amy believes that too many marketers start by presenting the solution, because we know what the solution is – our product – and we know how we want it to be perceived. The problem is that if someone comes to your landing page and you’re not speaking specifically to their needs, they’re won’t relate to your solution.

What Amy does is take a few steps back and start with identifying the symptoms that a person might experience that would lead them to need your product. What problems are they experiencing, and how can you relate to them?

That’s what AppSumo founder Noah Kagan was forced to ask himself when he emailed 30,000 people about his new entrepreneurship course, How To Make A $1,000 A Month Business, and only 30 people purchased it. What went wrong?

ConversionXL reported that he sent a survey to everyone who clicked through but didn’t convert and asked them, among other questions, “Why not?” And then he rewrote and redesigned the page to address the most popular doubts.

Unsure if it works in your country?

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Worried it’s not for you?

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Failed before and not sure what will be different now?

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Images sourced from ConversionXL

Noah adjusted the copy to address all of his prospects’ biggest fears, and used their own language to inspire himself. That strategy echoes back to advice that Joanna Wiebe, the copywriting mastermind behind Copyhackers, wrote on this very blog back in 2012:

If you want to write great copy, swipe it from your visitors, customers and prospects.”

Don’t be afraid to take big risks

When you can test the impact of every change on a page, iterating individual elements for small wins is one way to grow your conversion rate over time. But when you don’t have the luxury of testing against tons of traffic, you’re unlikely to move the needle with mere iteration. As Ton advised:

Most small things make a small impact. You have to take bigger risks to get bigger rewards.

This is actually one of the things that Joanna herself addressed during her Call to Action Conference talk, Death to Fear And Laziness! How to Push Yourself to Write Sticky Landing Page Copy.

In her talk, she presented an A/B test she ran on two sets of ad copy. The one on the left is the control, and the one on the right is the (rather bold) variant. Or as Joanna referred to it, not trying vs. trying.

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The message on the left is what Joanna refers to as “word-shaped air”. There’s words there, sure, but what does it really say? The variant takes a huge risk by using words that might be stereotypically perceived as “negative,” avoiding the empty pleasantries of the control.

But this language is how their real audience actually talks and thinks. And the gamble paid off, with a 124% increase in clicks.

Whether you’re actually running an A/B test or simply changing something on a page and waiting to see the results, there’s one unwavering truth:

You never know until you try.

Stop stressing and start testing

There’s no arguing that testing and experimentation are the heart of conversion rate optimization.

But A/B testing is just one kind of test; you can still make huge conversion gains without it, simply by researching your weaknesses, talking to your customers, and taking real risks. Rarely is there such a thing as a bad test, or a useless result.

If you’re still not convinced, or just want to learn a lot about testing in not-a-lot of time, check out the full Actionable, Practical A/B Testing panel. If every good test starts with research, I can’t think of a better place to start learning.

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How Do I Optimize My Landing Page When I Don’t Have Enough Traffic to A/B Test?

The Ultimate Guide to Running a Holiday Email Campaign [Free Ebook]

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In 2014, 35% of holiday shoppers relied on promotional emails to keep track of all the sweet deals. Can your customers count on you to keep them informed? And when your customers do open and click your emails, are you sending them to the right place?

Eliminate the guesswork with The Ultimate Holiday Email Marketing + Landing Page Guide, a free ebook written by Unbounce and the email experts at Campaign Monitor. It’s packed with the essential advice for running a delightful – and delightfully-successful – holiday campaign.

In this free ebook, you’ll learn how to:

  • Write subject lines that cut through the holiday chaos and make your message heard
  • Deliver personalized recommendations that encourage additional purchases
  • Craft high-converting landing pages for every single campaign
  • Ensure your content looks perfect on any device of any size

At 27 pages, you can finish reading it in the morning, plan your campaign in the afternoon, and reward yourself with some hot cocoa at night. (I recommend a dash of cayenne.)

Continue reading:  

The Ultimate Guide to Running a Holiday Email Campaign [Free Ebook]

Get More from Social by Doing Less [PODCAST]

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So many social networks, so little time. Image via Flickr.

Facebook users react to and interact with content differently than Twitter users, and you won’t see results from your social media campaigns if you’re blanket publishing across all networks. But with all the social media platforms out there, it can be a real pain in the booty to tailor every piece of content to each specific network.

But as we learned in the latest episode of the Call to Action podcast, there’s plenty that can be done to streamline the process; Ryan Stewart, founder of WEBRIS, shared some analytics hacks to help you see better results without having to work harder.

You will learn:

  • Why you should use UTM codes to keep track of the performance of your content on social media.
  • How data can help you determine which social media network is right for each piece of content.
  • How Ryan got a marketing post to go viral on Reddit (hint: he started by collecting tons of data).

Listen to the podcast

Listen on iTunes.
Prefer Stitcher? We got your back.

Mentioned in the podcast

Read the transcript

In this episode: Dan Levy, Unbounce’s Content Strategist, interviews Ryan Stewart, founder of WEBRIS.

Stephanie Saretsky: With all of the different social media platforms out there, it can seem like a pain in the booty to tailor every piece of content to each specific network. But if you’re mass posting links and not seeing great results, then you probably subconsciously know the answer to your problem.

So, how do you figure out where’s the best place to share that awesome post on 9 Marketing Tips From Your Office Dog?

It’s all in your data, my friend. Unbounce’s Content Strategist Dan Levy spoke with Ryan Stewart, founder of WEBRIS, about the analytic hacks you can use to beef up your social presence and maximize your time.

Dan: You opened your post by saying that social media is quickly becoming one of the most time-consuming marketing channels, what do you mean by that?

Ryan: You know, I’m very big on native content and native publishing. So what I mean by that is when I publish something to my Instagram, I don’t push it to Facebook because it’s not technically native, right? I mean, the content that shows up on Instagram is significantly different than the content that shows up on Facebook. So the strategy that I’ve developed and what I’ve really seen working really well is creating content specifically for each network, specifically on Facebook. I mean, Facebook right now is on a crusade to keep traffic within Facebook. I mean, you look at what’s happening with pages over the last couple of years. You know, the “organic reach” has gone down. Some people view that as a bad thing and kind of jump ship from Facebook. But if you just play by their rules and just try and keep traffic within Facebook — though you have to ask yourself the question, “What matters, is it traffic to your site or is it people consuming your content?” So taking a different approach and actually creating content that lives within Facebook, especially like native video, native long form posts, images — I mean, this type of content just crushes it on Facebook. But it’s a different type of metric, it’s not traffic to your site. It’s content consumed, it’s views, it’s likes, it’s shares… so in that sense, as a business owner, I don’t have time to do that and it’s become a very, very time consuming process, but a very important process nonetheless.

Dan: That’s really interesting. I guess that speaks to the whole conversation about owned media versus earned media.

Ryan: Yeah. You know, it’s crazy because us as marketers, you know, one little thing changes, we get used to doing something. We finally figure out how to rig the site — that we finally figured out how to get that click the rate up — and next thing you know everything has changed, right? And it’s frustrating as a marketer, but as opposed to taking the time to take to a blog and write about it and complain about it, if you just understand that Facebook doesn’t want you to leave. You know, they don’t want you to man your page, but there’s things that they want you do, and just understanding that… I mean, like I said, video right now — Facebook is making a tremendous push to get YouTube off the planet. Facebook wants to be the video hosting platform because video is the fastest growing content on the planet. So instead of posting a YouTube link and obsessing over YouTube views and obsessing over ranking those YouTube videos, just post it to Facebook. If you upload it natively to Facebook you can get like 10, 20, 30 times the reach of a YouTube link. So again — and this is kind of stealing stuff from what I’ve heard BuzzFeed talk about over the couple of years — when they look at their metrics, they look at combined page views. They look at combined views, so they’re looking at Snapchat’s use. They’re looking at Facebook embed views. They’re looking at YouTube views. They’re not looking at traffic pages per se as part of the metric, but they understand that, you know, our attention spans are fleeting and they’re fleeting quickly. And our attention is where we want it to be: it’s on Twitter, it’s on Instagram, it’s on a blog post. So understand that you’re not gonna reach everybody with blog post and one piece of content. You have to repurpose it across channels and take advantage of what those platforms offer. And it’s a lot of work, but you look at somebody like BuzzFeed who has taken over the world with what they’re doing — it’s really the way of the future, especially for content marketing and social, really.

Dan: Yeah. So your blog post is all about how you can streamline that process. But before you can streamline, you need to make sure that you’re tracking things correctly, right? And you talk about using UTM codes.

Ryan: Yeah.

Dan: I don’t want to get too technical here, but can you explain why these codes are so important? And I’m curious to know how many marketers you think are actually using them correctly?

Ryan: That’s a great question. So a UTM code is just – you know, if you’re not familiar with analytics this is gonna kind of sound like Greek – it’s a URL parameter. And what it does is it literally just injects text into the end of a URL stream, so it tells Google Analytics where that traffic is coming from. Because if you post 100 links to Facebook, they’re all gonna show up in your analytics as Facebook unless you look at a pages report of where you sent that content. But still, it’s not effective. Because if you’re posting three links to the same page from Facebook, you’re not going to be able to tell which one of them at what time is driving traffic. What a UTM code does is it breaks down each link that you post into a separate line in your Google Analytics. So you can actually see every single link that you post across Twitter. Wherever you’re posting a link, it tracks it, including internal links on blog posts and stuff like that. So when you’re looking at stuff like, “When should I be posting? What should I be posting? Where should I be posting?” That’s how you really start digging into those answers because you can really nail down exactly which post is driving what. And in terms of how many marketers are using them, I don’t know. If you have any sort of paid search background or paid advertising background, you use them because they kind of auto append from Google Analytics. But I think if you’re in the social space, very few people use them unless you’re working for a big agency. I run a small agency, but I’ve worked with big agencies before, so I understand the difference, and big agencies understand analytics, and their team understands analytics. I would probably say more than 75 percent don’t use them for sure.

Dan: Yeah, so that’s a huge opportunity.

Ryan: A huge opportunity, yeah.

Dan: We’ve talked about on the podcast before how in many ways the world of social media marketing and content marketing are converging with the world of paid marketing and marketers who are able to bring that paid marketing experience and that data-driven outlook to the table are at a huge advantage.

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. I’m an organic SEO, “expert by trade.” That’s how I got into this digital industry, that’s where my interests mostly lie. But just because of how dynamic organic search is in the touch points with content, the touch points with social — even understanding how offline advertising plays into organic search — branded search, and increasing the rankings through that, driving demand and stuff like that. I mean, I’ve really learned kind of the full gambit of marketing as a whole, offline and online. But what’s happening right now is really interesting because ads just don’t work anymore. Like, banner ads just don’t work like they used to for a number of reasons. I mean — banner blindness — they’re annoying, they’re obtrusive. You know, we’re at a point where value matters. That’s really why content matters, because it’s about adding value. And when you throw a paid spend in, so like what we’re doing is we’re creating really, really advanced targeting using Facebook. Facebook has just an insane amount of data. I mean, you know where people have shopped. If you think about all the websites that you log into with your Facebook account, Facebook has that data. It’s really valuable data, but like a paid search doesn’t have that type of data. So if you can take a way to combine those two, you know, taking that information from Facebook and retargeting across search — and even across banner if that’s what you want to do — it’s powerful. So what we do is we create like very specific types of content. Very good blog posts. It may be like a gated piece of content, and we take advantage of the paid promotions. I mean, it’s really cheap to promote a post on Facebook, drive a ton of traffic to a landing page and really target a specific audience of people using that Facebook data, get them to a landing page, cookie them, and then retarget across search and social. So we’re building custom audiences using content, if that makes sense, and it’s like ridiculously powerful right now.

Dan: Yeah, we actually just had one guy from an agency in Chicago who is running Facebook ads for New Balance. And they found that once they were able to optimize their ads for Facebook website conversions or landing page conversions, that they were able to get way better ROI out of that than, you know, I guess what you were talking about earlier, which is just keep people in the Facebook ecosystem. So I guess there’s a time where you want to keep people in Facebook and focus on clicks and views. And then when you’re looking at conversions in particular, you want to start looking at pinning them to a landing page, which is actually what I wanted to ask you about next. You know, social media is typically seen, I think, as more of a top-of-the-funnel channel, so are conversions really the right metric to track on social?

Ryan: I think it depends. I mean, in short, yes. I mean, number one, it depends how you’re tracking conversions, right? I mean, if you’re doing last touch attribution, first touch attribution… basically what that means is if, you know, somebody discovered your website through Facebook first and then ended up converting through organic search, or if they came through paid search first and ended up seeing a Facebook post that you didn’t convert to Facebook. So that’s the difference between first touch and last touch, so it depends how you’re tracking it. But just understanding that you can no longer ignore anything if you really want to. You know, you can have success online, or you can have success as a business by just being really good at paid or really good at organic. But if you really want to crush it — like really dominate on the web these days — you can’t ignore anything. Because it’s understanding the customer journey, it’s not just like, “Oh, let me type in, ‘Buy a pair of shoes’ right now and then buy them,” right? That’s just not the way it works anymore, right? I mean, we have so much information available to us. there’s so many different touch points and discovery points of really getting to know a brand and getting to know a product that you can’t just be like – you know, I hear it all the time from clients: “My customer isn’t on Snapchat.” Or like, “I’m not gonna waste my time on Instagram because it doesn’t drive sales.” But you can’t look at it like that. You have to take them all seriously. And I understand if you don’t have the resources to pay somebody full time to post to Snapchat. I get that and I’m not going to force that on you, but I am gonna tell you ahead of time that you can’t ignore it, especially because it’s by far the fastest growing medium on the planet, and whether or not your audience is there right now, you better believe in a couple years that they will be. That’s just the flow of social, right? You know, it’s tough to say. Does social drive an ROI? I’m gonna say yes because for me I source a lot of clients off of Twitter, off of Facebook, Google+, so I’ll say it drives an ROI for me. But again, I also know that they’re not just seeing a Facebook post and calling me up and paying me money to do stuff. That’s just not the way it works.

Dan: And I guess the bottom line is that maybe Snapchat is a top-of-the-funnel channel for people right now. Maybe at some point it will be more at the bottom-of-the-funnel channel. But when it comes down to it, social has a place at all parts of the marketing funnel. You just have to figure out which network makes sense at which stage, I suppose.

Ryan: Yeah.

Dan: So where’s the best place to start when you’re trying to identify whether your social efforts are driving conversions? Should you look at your posts overall and how they’re converting, or really figure out which network is most lucrative for your business?

Ryan: Again, what we’re talking about all lies in your data, right? I mean, I would get active on everything. Tag everything with UTM codes. Even if you don’t have a presence, do what you can and just look at your data. Understand where the value is coming from by looking at black and white data. Is it driving conversions? Is it driving traffic? And again, going back to understanding that while conversions do pay your bills and keep the lights on, they shouldn’t be the only goal. There should be sub-goals, or even separate goals. I mean, branding is kind of a buzzword. It’s’ thrown around, but I think it’s really making a resurgence because of social. I mean, you can create like a mini-BuzzFeed. That just like kind of sprung up over the last couple of years. That’s just a powerhouse right now, and it’s because of social. I mean, they do 80 percent of their traffic from social media. So again, it does lie in your data and understanding just how to dig that out — which obviously I talked about in the post — is incredibly valuable. And it really saves you a lot of time too, so you don’t have to ask these questions. You can just look at a report and you know if it does or not.

Dan: Yeah, and your post goes through lots of really useful reports, which are more interesting to look at and talk about. But I wonder if you could give us an example of how you’ve maybe taken the data that you’ve collected from one of these reports and then used it to optimize your social strategy accordingly?

Ryan: Yeah. I mean, one of the biggest things that I do is optimizing time of day that I post. As an agency owner, that started for me as a consultant and it’s growing really fast. I’m unfortunately still at the point where everything runs through me. I’m building my team, but I’m doing it at a pace that I can keep up with. So my time is absolutely by far, by none, the most valuable asset to my agency right now, because if everything has to run through me, then it’s all dependent on my time. So understanding how to get the most out of social media with the least amount of my time, and even being able to pass that on to a junior person is incredibly valuable. So I really, really, really dig into, you know, not so much conversions, but I look at more front-end data, like engagement on Twitter specifically. You know, what time is my following most active? When are my posts getting the most reach? So that way what I can do is I can just automate it with like a Buffer, or a Hootsuite — whatever suite you wanted to use — and really get the most out of my following. But also understanding that you have to consistently test because if you’re growing your social media following like you should be — you’re getting new followers and they have a different schedule than your existing following when you’ve done analysis. So it’s important to really be mindful of your data and keep a constant eye on it, but it’s really not that difficult. You know, once you understand exactly what to look for, you can get in and out of there in less than three minutes for them, and you’re just setting up one report and looking at it.

Dan: I mean, I guess platforms like Facebook and Twitter make it easier to figure that stuff out, but not all channels have that sort of built in analytics function. I read about an interesting case in your post, where you were able to drive — I think it was like more than 1,600 views or something — from Reddit by just optimizing the timing of when you posted on that channel. Can you tell that story?

Ryan: Yeah, Reddit’s tough. You know, it’s funny, if you look at the amount of times that I’ve failed miserably on Reddit versus that, you probably wouldn’t even look twice at it. But yeah, I mean, I understood the power of Reddit as a platform, in terms of how many people were in it and the traffic that it can drive. It’s all desktop too, which is rare these days. So you’re getting desktop traffic, but also just because I had never had success on it before because it’s a very, very difficult platform in its terms of the users, they’re overly honest at times.

Dan: It’s not a place where people appreciate being marketed to all the time.

Ryan: Exactly. That’s well said. But I understood the value of what it could have in terms of link generation, traffic, exposure, all that stuff. And if you get something to go viral on Reddit, I mean, you’re talking traffic in the millions. But, you know, I looked for a lot of resources on how to growth hack it, but what I found was that there really is no growth hacking Reddit. It’s just one of those things where, number one, you have to abide by the rules of Reddit, like post in the right subreddit, post with the right titles, post the right content. As boring and lame as that advice sounds, if you don’t do that you’re never going to have success. But the other big thing was looking at when people were most active. So really, all I did was I just start to research the subreddits that I wanted to post in. and then, in the subreddit, it tells you how many people are online at that time. And all I did — really lame, but I took data for like a week or two. I checked three times a day every day for like seven or ten days: how many people were online in those subreddits that I was targeting? And then I just charted it out and it was easy to see when the most people were online. And I just kind of got lucky by hitting the right subreddit at the right time with the right content. And 1,600 — actually in the grand scheme of things, it’s the best data that I have on it, but in the grand scheme of Reddit, it’s not that much, but it was very targeted traffic. It was coming from marketing business type subreddit, so the traffic actually had some value to me.

Dan: It’s funny, I guess sometimes the most effective tactics aren’t like the sexy growth hacks, but just the, like you said, the lame boring keep a spreadsheet for a week manually and then you might actually have some pretty good results out of that kind of like old fashion police work.

Ryan: Yeah. And I think people really underestimate the value of – you know, I think growth hacker is kind of buzzword for just a really good marketer, really. But the best growth hackers are the ones that really pay attention to data. I mean, they might not talk about it as much because it’s not really that sexy, but you cannot have success, you cannot have explosive success because if you’re just kind of just pulling things out left and right, you’re never going to be able to growth hack that process, because it is a process. If you want to have success in this world, you’ve got to do things the right way. There are no shortcuts. But understanding how to get there quicker is because you know how to get there, and that comes from understanding what works. And that comes from your data.

Dan: Yeah, so the results might be awesome and explosive, but the process itself is actually usually pretty geeky.

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely, not sexy.

Dan: There are sexy geeks, but I guess it’s a different story. So the last tactic for streamlining your social marketing that you share in your posts is to zero in on who else is sharing your content on social? Can you break that one down for us? What’s the opportunity here and where’s the best place to start?

Ryan: Yeah, it’s a big opportunity. And this kind of ties into the non-conversion type stuff. But, you know, I’m very very big on building communities. I don’t think it’s something that as marketers we talk about enough, or even deliver to clients. I mean, everybody does it, you know, like building a Twitter following, building a Facebook following, you know, and email this. We all do it, but it’s not talked about enough. And communities are really built from adding value. And a big way to add value is through communication. You know, especially as you grow and people recognize you for being genuine and people care if you talk back to them if they tweet you. They appreciate if you respond to their tweet. If you reply to a comment on Facebook, comments on your blogs, it makes a big difference. And there are tools out there that can help you do it. You know, Mention – I think Moz might do it now. There’s a lot of tools out there that can do it. And within analytics too, even though it’s not the best admittedly, there are ways to track mentions and it’s incredibly valuable, incredibly valuable. Again, it’s not something that you’re gonna necessarily see a dollar sign ROI from, but to me that’s how brands are built, on a micro level anyways.

Dan: Yep. And I think as we talked about, you need to make time for conversion centered tactics, but also not forget about things like community building and brand building because that stuff in the long term is just as important.

Ryan: It makes a difference.

Dan: All these reports you talk about in your posts and all these tactics sound really great, but they still kind of seem like a lot of work. So I’m wondering where the streamlining, time-saving part comes into all of this?

Ryan: Yeah, it’s a lot of work. I mean, like I said unfortunately I work 18 hours a day, seven days a week, but I’m working on that. You know, there aren’t really many shortcuts. I think if you really want to do things — this I just my opinion obviously — but there are very few shortcuts in this world to getting to where you want to be. But, you know, with that being said, like when you look at that post that I wrote, if you don’t actively access analytics or your data, then it’s daunting. You know, before I really started paying attention to data I had no interest in it. I would look at a post like that and fall asleep. And that’s why it would take so long for me to do anything because I was doing it the wrong way. A lot of people look at analytics like it’s Greek, it’s just they’re not comfortable. That’s the biggest thing I hear is, “I don’t know how to use it,” but if it you just put in some time and understand that the answers to so many of your problems are just a few clicks away. You know, answers to major business questions, you know, like, “Where should I be investing my money? Where should I be investing my time? Do I need to hire more people?” All this stuff, I mean, it really truly lays in your data. It might not be your analytics data, but it’s some form of data that you just – you need to consult. So it’s tough to growth hack that process, but you can shorten the process by just learning the tools and understanding the tools a little bit better, I guess. I mean, it’s creating dashboard. You can just click a dashboard and look at all the reports that you need to within 25 seconds and you’re good, and then just dive in deeper if there’s some issues.

Dan: Yeah, I guess when it comes down to it, if you’re doing things that are informed by data and informed by what’s worked in the past, then that’s going to help you focus on only the things that you know work, and that in itself is more efficient and is going to save you time and energy in the long run from doing the wrong things.

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely.

Dan: So what’s one step social media marketers can take right now to make their campaigns more streamlined and data-driven?

Ryan: Use the network for what they’re intended to be used for. I mean, I’ve started seeing tremendous growth – I mean, I don’t want to say tremendous growth. I don’t have like a million followers or anything, but I have seen a lot of growth. I built a Facebook community; it’s got about 3,000 people in it now. My Facebook fan page, my Twitter page, my Google+, all of this stuff really started growing when I started creating stuff of value. So creating content I think is a humongous part. And again, content doesn’t have to be a blog post. Content could be, if you’re a designer, like create cool stuff in Photoshop, I don’t know, I mean, that’s a form of content. So understanding valuable content and creating large amounts and consistently, that’s number one. And number two is using the networks for what they’re intended for. Like it drives me nuts when — I unfollow people on Twitter all the time because it’s like, “Dude, I don’t want to just get blasted with links to everywhere you’re posting. That’s not why I’m on Twitter. I don’t go through Twitter to go to your blog. That’s not why I’m there. I’m there to get short stackable whatever, and it’s really a communication tool for me.” So understanding what these platforms are used for and what they should be used for and just playing kind of by their rules, instead of being like, “God, I don’t want to use my Facebook page anymore because every time I post a link to it it goes nowhere.” Well, then maybe you should stop posting links to it. Using them what they’re really meant for, and this is like the buzzword of the year, it’s like native content. You know, create stuff for those platforms. It’s a lot of work, but if you really want to have success? I mean, you look at anyone who has success on any sort of platform, like the people who get huge on Snapchat or Instagram or Twitter, I mean, they’re not just on Twitter posting links to their blog. Like, no, they’re out there communicating with people. They’re talking to people. They’re posting interesting stuff. So again, it’s not a shortcut by any means, but if you really want to have success on social, I think, you need to be social and create that native type content for that platform.

Dan: Got to respect the platform.

Ryan: Got to.

Dan: Thanks so much Ryan for taking the time to chat, this is great stuff.

Ryan: Yeah, any time.

Stephanie That was Ryan Stewart, founder of WEBRIS.

Transcript by GMR Transcription.


See the article here:  

Get More from Social by Doing Less [PODCAST]

Fluff is Thy Foe: 6 Insurance Landing Page Examples + Critiques

Fluff-Featured
Fluff can seem harmless, but it’s a conversion killer. Image source.

Insurance is a complicated thing to market: it’s the only product that people will willingly pay for every month yet hope they never have to use. Of course, this is reasonable when you consider that it’s something used only during times of strife, injury or death.

So it’s no surprise that insurance companies find all sorts of ways to minimize the focus on those more unsavoury aspects of the deal, instead opting to push messages of security, reassurance and convenience — or they just skirt the subject altogether, focusing solely on discounts and savings.

But avoiding specifics rarely goes well, as you’re about to find out. Below, you’ll find my analysis of six insurance landing pages, along with critiques and lessons you can apply to your own campaigns within any industry.

1. Amica Home Insurance: It’s not all about you

autopilot
Click to enlarge.

I’ll defer to copywriting expert Joanna Wiebe on the subject of using the word “we” in your landing page copy:

“We” is a bad, bad word in copywriting. You should reword every line of copy you have that begins with “we”. […] Because your visitors don’t want to hear about you. They want to hear about themselves – about their problems, about their needs, about their futures.”

The word we is used four times on this page. But even when that word isn’t being used, Amica seems to find it impossible to not talk solely about themselves:

Amica home insurance: Experience the Amica difference.
Extraordinary customer service that makes you feel right at home.

What does that mean? It does nothing to speak to the prospect’s needs. It does nothing to communicate how this service will improve the customer’s life. And it doesn’t make any effort to capture the reader’s attention nor compel them to continue reading.

If you want to talk about your extraordinary customer service, demonstrate it up front: be honest and transparent. In Amica’s case, they should consider communicating the real-world benefits of their service versus other providers, instead of dedicating so many words to saying so little.

2. StateFarm: Remind me how I got here

StateFarm
Click to enlarge.

Can you guess what this page is about?

That it doesn’t explicitly mention insurance might seem unimportant. Surely the person who clicked the link to this page doesn’t need to be reminded what they came for, right?

But message match — how well the message of a landing page matches the message of its gateway, like an ad on Google or Facebook — is one of the pillars of creating an effective landing page. Essentially, the copy of an ad and the headline of its landing page should mirror each other. Why?

  • It’s a reminder. Admit it: you’ve opened new tabs in your web browser only to immediately forget why you had done so. That’s probably because your attention span is literally worse than that of a goldfish.

    It’s not hard to imagine that someone could lose focus on what brought them to the page in the first place.

  • It’s a reassurance. Even if the user doesn’t forget what brought them there, they could think that you’ve brought them to the wrong place, or pulled a bait-and-switch. When ad copy and page headline match, they send a clear message: “This is exactly what you were looking for.”
Message-Match
An example of strong message match, from Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner’s 2013 post on the subject.

Since State Farm’s page would likely be displayed in results for searches for automobile insurance, it’s crazy that the only place those words are even mentioned is in this itty-bitty footer text.

StateFarm-Footer
Crystal clear!

3. AIG Direct: Specificity is a good thing

AIG Direct
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So many of the insurance landing pages I came across in my research asked for extremely little information up front — often just a zip code to begin the quote process. So I was surprised when I saw this monster of a form from AIG Direct.

But I actually think this makes a lot of sense. While it’s true that the number of form fields tends to correlate negatively with conversion rates, this isn’t always the case. Introducing more friction up-front can help pre-qualify leads, and in the case of an insurance broker, having to provide that kind of information is almost reassuring.

If the length of the form alone is enough to make the prospect hesitate, AIG’s headline serves to make the task seem almost effortless:

It takes 2 minutes to request your term life quote.

While one could feel overwhelmed by the number of fields, this one line makes it clear that it’s not really that bad. Plus, two minutes is a pretty small investment when we’re talking about life insurance.

This page excels in some other areas, too. Rather than rely on fluff and wishy-washy philosophizing about the nature of life and family, AIG sets concrete expectations, thereby holding themselves accountable for meeting them.

AIG-Direct-Trust

By solidifying their trustworthiness by linking to reviews and security certifications, and keeping the focus on the customer rather than themselves, AIG comes across as credible and transparent. And a real dollar amount, no matter what it is, is always preferable to nebulous “savings.”

4. AAA Life Insurance: Make your form friendly

AAA Life Insurance
Click to enlarge.

I feel confident in saying that most people probably don’t enjoy shopping for life insurance very much. So it’s in your best interest to make the process of doing so seem as easy as possible.

This page from AAA makes this process seem so much worse than it (likely) actually is. And it all starts with the strange visual decisions made in the form’s design.

AAA-Form

In web design, an affordance refers to a visual indicator of a digital object’s function. The most obvious example is adding bevels, borders, and background colors to links in order to make them resemble physical buttons. These details make it easier for the user to understand what these intangible objects actually do.

This form’s affordances are, frankly, all messed up. Not only are many of the form fields — text fields, in particular — nearly unnoticeable, but form labels and form fields are both contained within identical boxes, making the labels also look like fields.

Not only is this confusing, it has the unintended result of making the form appear twice as long as it actually is.

This, combined with the fact that most of the content on this page is dedicated towards explaining all of the subsequent “steps,” make this entire process seem extremely unapproachable.

Maybe they should’ve written that it only takes two minutes.

5. Farmers Insurance: Show me the way

StateFarm
Click to enlarge.

This page from Farmers Insurance is likely to lead visitors in the wrong direction due to inaccurate visual cues and confusing copy. If you’re on this page to get a quote online, where would you think to click?

Would it be, perhaps, this big button-looking-square that says Get a Quote Online on it?

Get-a-Quote

You’re likely already aware that this isn’t the case: the actual call to action is the green Click & Save Today! button. But I actually completely missed it at first.

FastQuote

Why?

  • It’s framed identically to the stock photo next to it, which I glossed over
  • It’s also shares a colour palette with the photo, making it blend into the page
  • The family is both walking and moving away from the call to action, rather than directing attention towards it
  • The copy — both “Get a FastQuote®” and “Click & Save Today” — were both less related to what I was looking for than “Get a Quote Online”

While there’s lots of talk in the conversion optimization world of color psychology and which colors correlate with which emotions, all of this is secondary to the most basic notion of CTA design: make it contrast with the rest of the page. (Psst — learn more about driving conversions through design in our new Attention-Driven Design ebook!)

And with regards to the button copy, it needs to indicate action and also speak directly to the user’s desire. For a smart formula, I’ll quote this oft-repeated advice from Joanna Wiebe:

Write button / CTA copy that completes this phrase: I want to ________________.

6. Health Insurance Sort: Cheap photos cheapen your page

StateFarm
Click to enlarge.

Insurance is a pretty serious thing, let alone insurance that would, in a time of crisis, allow me to remain alive. So I would expect anyone selling it to me to take it equally as seriously as I do.

But everything about this page screams, “we’re not credible.” And while the copy isn’t great, the most glaring issues relate to its design.

Stock photos such as the ones shown above are often used to add “visual interest” to a page. This, despite the fact that usability testing shows that while photos of people are effective at capturing attention, they subconsciously gloss over images that resemble stock photos.

Many of the examples in this post are clearly using stock imagery, but this page is exceptional. Each photo has a completely different lighting and style, and the hero image is so obviously a poor composite of two different images that I can’t believe anyone would ever enter their zip code into that misaligned text box.

Health-Insurance-Sort-Stock-Photo
Now we can recklessly grapple in the middle of this lovely autumn road, knowing any injuries will be fully covered! Thanks, Health Insurance Sort!

Fluff is thy foe

When crafting landing pages, “fluff” is thy foe. Whether it be pointless stock images that desperately try to jazz things up, or copy that talks its way around the real benefits and value of your offering, attempts at obfuscation via feel-goodery are as exactly as transparent to customers as they are to us.

And landing pages aren’t mere repositories for information; they’re designed to be a response to a specific need or expressed intent. If someone comes to your page and finds it confusing or deceitful, you can kiss that conversion goodbye.

Excerpt from: 

Fluff is Thy Foe: 6 Insurance Landing Page Examples + Critiques

Can SSL, Trust Seals and Other Security Indicators Increase Conversions?

Imagine you’re in the waiting room at the “Smiles 4 Dayz” dental office. There’s some standard elevator music playing, and everything seems pretty average.

Except that, as you’re filling out the new patient form, you notice there aren’t any dental school diplomas lining the walls of the office (not one…). Even more curious, the form lists the dentist as simply “Mrs. Liza Hoover,” not “Dr. Hoover, PhD, M.Sc.” Finally, when your name is called, the receptionist asks loudly for your social security number while others look on.

Visitor anxiety

Now, this is an exaggerated example, but these subtle (and not-so-subtle) red flags would likely have you questioning this dentist’s credibility.

Point being? You could be evoking the same type of visitor anxiety on your landing pages unwittingly, and losing out on conversions from visitors who can’t decide whether or not to trust you.

These days, 77% of website visitors worry that their personal data could be intercepted or misused online, so that lead gen form on your landing page could be causing more anxiety (and bounces!) than you realize.

Luckily, there are simple measures you can take to reassure visitors that your pages are secure — thereby increasing the likelihood of conversion.

SSL to the rescue!

SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, is an industry standard security measure that creates an encrypted link between your landing pages and your visitor’s browser. It encrypts data in transmission and ensures that contact info sent through your landing page forms is secure.

Visitors to your landing pages can see whether you’re serving up secure page based on the ‘HTTPS’ and the small green padlock icon that’ll appear in the address bar:

Picture1

These two, small visual cues reassure visitors their contact info is safe when submitted through your landing page, and it’s been found that close to half of website visitors check for security indicators like these before they’ll hand over personal information in a form.

Does SSL impact the way visitors perceive your page?

Depending on the importance of perceived security in your industry, you could be leaving conversions on the table if you don’t serve up your pages securely. As GlobalSign, a web-trust certificate provider discovered, 84% of website visitors surveyed said they would abandon a purchase if they knew the data was going to be sent over an insecure connection.

Moreover, because Google prioritizes making the web a safer place for everyone, in 2014 they announced they were using HTTPS as a ranking signal in their search ranking algorithm. Although HTTPS was more of a lightweight signal than high-quality content, Google did say that they might strengthen the signal over time, and ultimately encouraged everyone to swap from HTTP to HTTPS.

As far as your landing pages are concerned, it can’t hurt to take security more seriously, especially in industries like healthcare, finance, security-related tech, and ecommerce (where faulty security can have much higher consequences than in other industries).

After all, your landing page for a finance product might not convert so well if visitors notice you didn’t care to serve it up securely to protect their personal information in transit. A quick swap over to HTTPS is a simple thing you can do today to improve your landing page visitor’s trust.

PRO TIP: SSL is enabled on Unbounce pages on Pro Accounts. Simply update all your current links directing to your landing page to begin with HTTPS, and you’re set!

What about trust seals?

Beyond changing your links to HTTPS, third-party security vendors often offer a security seal, or SSL badge, for you to feature on your ecommerce sites or landing pages with a bit of Javascript. These seals are often cited to correlate with higher conversion rates, but – depending on your use case – your mileage may vary.

Here’s a trust seal from GlobalSign as an example:

Picture2

The effectiveness of these trust seals seems dependent on whether they’re recognized (some are more recognizable than others), but also on their prominence and usefulness to your audience at a particular time in the buying cycle.

A seal accompanying a final purchase confirmation page may fare well, but could hypothetically decrease trust and conversions if you include it too prominently across a multi-step ecommerce experience. Displaying the trust seal repeatedly may make visitors curious as to why you need to repeat that you’re secure (rather than simply state it once during initial checkout).

Blue Fountain Media cited a 42% increase in conversions with their A/B test of a VeriSign seal (see their A/B test variations below), and US Cutter have reported conversion lifts of 11% with the use of a Norton trust seal.

Picture3Picture4

As with all things, however, running your own A/B test is the only way to determine whether security seals are a win for your landing pages.

Placement matters

As everyone will experience different results with a trust seal, it’s difficult to be prescriptive about their use. Chris Goward of WiderFunnel found, for example, that with one of their clients, a McAfee badge decreased conversions by 1.6%. However, as savvy commenters have noted, this could be due to the seal’s placement in the test.

You could choose to include a trust seal on a checkout or shopping cart confirmation page in the case of an ecommerce page, or you could simply swap all of your landing pages to HTTPS, skip the trust seal entirely, and see if you experience a difference in conversions. A simple swap to HTTPS might be enough for your audience to know you’re secure.

Note that if you do swap over to SSL, you’ll want to ensure all elements on your landing pages are secure (including videos, privacy policies, etc.) as the trust seal can’t be verified by a third-party security vendor if there are insecure items on the page.

Put your prospects at ease

When it comes down to it, security is becoming an increasingly important issue for people and marketers have to work to build their trust.

While design, copy and testimonials play a large part in conveying your company’s credibility, there are other factors to consider. Whether you’re creating a click-through ecommerce page, or simply collecting contact information through a lead gen form, you need to do everything you can to reinforce your trustworthiness and convey to customer that you care about their privacy and security.

SSL is just one way you can reassure your potential customers their info is safe with you.


Original article – 

Can SSL, Trust Seals and Other Security Indicators Increase Conversions?

Affordance: You Can’t Afford Not to Use This Design Principle on Your Landing Pages

Imagine you’re an extraterrestrial visiting earth for the first time. Upon landing, you stumble into someone’s home and find a toothbrush, which you’ve never seen before.

While you may not immediately understand how to use the thing, there are certain clues about the object that hint at how it can be used. Its handle, just a little longer than your humanoid palm, implies that you can grip it.

Similarly, certain types of door knobs provide clues as to whether a door should be pushed or pulled…

affordance-far-side

These visual clues, also known as Affordances, act as signals that an object can be used to perform a certain action. They’re all around us in the real world, but they’ve also bled into the digital realm.

When your visitor first lands on your website or landing page, they’re much like an alien visiting earth for the first time. You need to show them how to use the page by using familiar visual cues.

PSST. You can read all about Affordances and other conversion-boosting design principles in Unbounce cofounder Oli Gardner’s latest ebook, The 23 Principles of Attention-Driven Design.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the world of Affordances and explore how the principle can be applied to your landing pages so you’re not alienating prospects.

What is Affordance?

Cognitive scientist and usability engineer Don Norman first used the term Affordance in his book, The Design of Everyday Things (1988). In it, he quipped:

Affordances provide strong clues to the operations of things. Knobs are for turning. Slots are for inserting things into. Balls are for throwing or bouncing. When affordances are taken advantage of, the user knows what to do just by looking: no picture, no label or instruction needed.

So, the door with a handle on it is meant to be pulled, while the door with the plate on it is meant to be pushed. This should be clear without having to expressly inform a user of the purpose of either the plate or the handle.

Perhaps one of the great examples of Affordance in modern digital life is the play button, as you see below.

play-button

There are very few of us who wouldn’t know what to do with that button, and even someone who does not recognize it may be able to easily ascertain its purpose — within a certain context, at least.

The play button drawn on the side of a fence makes little sense, but place it on an MP3 player, and you may be able to guess at its Affordance.

In a nutshell, Affordances should really do two things:

  • Get the attention of the person who should use it
  • Imply its function

With these two principles at play, an object can be used without having to give a user an extensive user manual. Because at the end of the day, your landing page shouldn’t require instructions, right?

Make Affordances on your landing pages explicit

There are certain design features that tell landing page visitors explicitly what they need to do. A blank field begs to be filled in. A three dimensional button begs to be clicked.

As self-proclaimed “massive nerd” and web designer Natasha Postolovski describes in her Smashing Magazine article about the seven types of Affordances on webpages:

Explicit Affordance is signaled by language or an object’s physical appearance. Text that reads “Click here” explicitly affords clicking. A button that appears raised from the surrounding surface seems tactile and affords pushing.

Here’s a good example of that in action on an Unbounce landing page (below). The play button, bold and 3D, explicitly shows that it is meant to be pushed (or clicked).

try-affordance

Similarly, this page from Asana uses a greyed-out mock email address (“name@company.com”) in a box to instruct users on where to put their email address.

asana-affordance

Using visual language that prospects are already familiar provides gentle instruction that makes your landing page easy to navigate. And that sets people at ease.

Beware of Negative Affordance

Just as certain visual cues imply that an object is meant to be used, other visual cues suggest that items are not to be used. Think of a grayed-out “Save” button that only appears once you’ve entered all required information in a form. In her Smashing Magazine article, Postolovski calls this Negative Affordance.

While this sort of visual cue can come in handy in checkout forms, it is more often than not the enemy of conversion on landing pages.

Think of the recent design trend of ghost buttons, for example:

ghost-buttons-affordance

We have been trained to ignore grayed-out buttons, so when a ghost button or button lacking contrast is used, our first instinct is to overlook it.

To add insult to injury, the button copy does a poor job of serving as Explicit Affordance. “Let’s Go” as a call to action does little to inform the user what will happen next.

When in doubt, test your copy. Test your ghost buttons. But err on the side of being as explicit as you can.

Applying Affordance on your landing pages

Affordances are found everywhere. You can see them on your stereo, your iPad, entranceways and on roads.

When used effectively, they show people how to use an object intuitively. When used poorly, you make your visitors feel like aliens from another dimension.

You want your landing page to be so simple to use that even the kid in the Far Side cartoon above could successfully complete and submit a form on your landing page.

Of course, there are many other principles to consider when designing your landing page. To learn more about using design to convince and convert customers, check out Oli Gardner’s latest ebook, Attention-Driven Design: 23 Principles for Designing More Persuasive Landing Pages.

Originally from: 

Affordance: You Can’t Afford Not to Use This Design Principle on Your Landing Pages

5 Ways Content Underpins Outbrain’s Customer Retention Strategy

customer-retention-content-marketing-650
Content marketing isn’t just for generating leads – it can also help you support and retain customers. Image source.

It takes more than coupon clippings and reward points to win over today’s consumers — they’re looking for value that goes beyond monetary incentive. Businesses that know how to engage their customers and provide unconditional value will be the ones that foster a long-term relationship with their community.

This makes the pairing of content marketing and customer retention a powerful match that can’t be ignored.

The growth team I lead at Outbrain, the world’s largest content discovery platform, provides a real-life case study for content and retention coming together to produce results.

I’d like to share five specific content-based customer retention tactics we’re employing to grow our customer base and revenue at Outbrain – tactics you can steal for your own customer retention strategy.

1. Get new customers trained up fast with educational emails

The sooner you educate customers about using your product, the faster they can derive value from you and become sticky.

According to a survey conducted by SaaS metrics company Preact, 23% of customers churn due to poor onboarding. Especially when you have a fairly complex service, frontloading the delivery of educational content and learning from how new signups interact with this content is critical.

We’ve certainly seen a direct correlation between reducing our churn and improving our onboarding process. To help our customers get acquainted with our platform and understand how our system works, we created a bootcamp training series.

As soon as a customer’s first campaign is launched, an automated email campaign (which we call our Brainiac Bootcamp) is triggered for them. It sends four daily emails that walk the customer through campaign optimization tips, our dashboard and other resources. Here’s a screenshot of the first of four emails:

brainiac-bootcamp-email
The first of four emails in our automated email training series.

When we first launched our Bootcamp series, we did a test and control experiment by sending 90% of first-time customers the email program and keeping a 10% control group. For customers who received the bootcamp emails, we saw a direct correlation between content and retention.

Pro tip: If you’re launching a new email campaign, exclude 10% of recipients as a control group so you can say with confidence that the customer’s actions were a result of the campaign, and they wouldn’t have taken the same actions even if they hadn’t received the emails.

We dug even deeper by being strategic about which features required more education than others.

For example, we knew from analyzing the overall behavior of our customers that the more headlines they are testing per individual piece of content, the better chance they have of receiving a higher click-through rate (CTR) when their content is recommended in our publisher network.

outbrain_headline_graph
This graph shows the drastic increase in CTR when a campaign has greater than 5, 10 and 15 headlines on rotation.

Knowing this, we made sure our bootcamp content helped customers understand the importance of testing more headlines. As a result, those customers received higher click-through rates – and stayed active 1.5x longer than people who did not receive the bootcamp emails.

Takeaway for your campaigns:

Make sure your onboarding process is laser-focused on educating users on the importance of certain product behaviors you know will result in their success.

Through testing, determine which features lead to a higher retention rate – and then be sure to frontload that education. If customers do well, they’re more likely to stick around longer. It’s mutually beneficial.

2. Use live webinars to step up customer training

Webinars are often discussed as an acquisition tactic, but they’re also a great way of engaging more personally with customers at scale. Nothing beats real face-time when explaining a complex product.

We run bi-monthly webinars conducted by our Account Strategists. The content has evolved over time, and it’s always driven by feedback from our customers, as well as questions fielded by our Customer Support team.

outbrain_webinar
A landing page for one of our bi-weekly live webinars.

We put a lot of time into adapting the content we present in these webinars, but also closely measure the webinars’ impact on our bottom line.

Our Business Intelligence team built a report to compare customers’ campaign performance a week before and a week after they attend the webinar. We also look at their metrics two weeks and a month later to see if they’re continuing to optimize their performance based on webinar learnings.

On average, we’ve seen a 50% increase in average spend and 38% increase in cost-per-click (CPC) as a result of these webinars.

You may be thinking that increase in spend and CPC does not necessarily equal success for our customers, who are optimizing for leads and pages per visit. But due to the competitive nature of our content marketplace, a campaign that starts with a higher CPC has a much better chance of receiving any traffic at all.

It’s another win-win scenario – if we can effectively explain this to customers on a webinar, they’re more likely to see results from their campaigns and they’re more likely to stick around.


Use webinars to demystify your product. If you help customers succeed, they’ll help you succeed too.
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3. Always be adding content to your help center

Not nearly enough content marketers are focused on making their help center and FAQs as useful as possible – but help centers should be a vital part of the customer journey.

At Outbrain, we’ve structured our Help Center to reflect our customers’ needs from the pre-signup stage to first-time campaign creation to more advanced optimizations and reporting.

Just like webinars and bootcamp emails, help centers should be works in progress that you’re constantly striving to improve. You can use a combination of sources to help determine what content needs to be developed, refined or updated. These could include:

  • New product developments that require more training and FAQs: Product releases are exciting, but the platform and its features are only as good as your ability to communicate them to your customers. It’s important to educate customers on how to get the most out of new features — create new training content and FAQs to guide them!
  • Commonly asked questions sent to your Customer Support team: If your customer support team notices a trend in a particular topic of enquiry, that’s great fodder for new Help Center content.
  • Google Analytics reports for the top Help Center search terms, search refinements made by customers and most commonly visited FAQs: For example, have a look at the chart below which shows our most commonly searched terms from 2014 and the percentage of search refinements users were making when trying to find relevant content.
    outbrain_help_center_graph

    Customers searching for FAQs on cancelling accounts or languages were having to further refine their terms to find the content they were after, whereas customers looking for FAQs on UTMs, mobile, tracking or adding content were finding what they needed right away.

    We used this report to create more relevant and obvious FAQs to address these trickier searches and saw an improvement in search refinements and a reduction in questions on these topics sent to Customer Support.

All of these measures help customers feel supported the entire way through their journey, and allow them to better understand your product and derive more value. And that keeps customers coming back for more.


Use your search box data to understand what content your customers want but can’t find.
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4. Communicate product improvements and new features with great content

Collaboration between content and product marketing is essential to bringing new features to customers in the most efficient way. The more educational content created around each release, the more customers will continue to engage with and provide feedback on the new feature.

For us, email and our blog are our two most effective channels for sharing product updates with our customers. Our email updates are designed to alert customers to the latest developments, and then we drive them to the blog to learn more.

When we created the ability for customers to upload content in bulk and test multiple headlines and images per URL, we sent out an email announcing the feature:

outbrain_product_email

The goal of adding this feature was to make it easier to add more headlines; a process that had been manual and very time consuming.

By tracking the feature as an event in Kissmetrics, we were able to see that the average number of headlines and images per content increased significantly after our blog post and email explaining the new feature.

outbrain_kissmetrics_graph
The peak in this Kissmetrics graph shows how usage increased after we informed our audience of the new feature.

The concept here is pretty straightforward: the more customers are aware of new tools and features, the more likely they are to use them.

5. Use lifecycle email marketing to segment customers

Email campaigns are still the bread and butter of many a retention marketer’s efforts. With today’s overloaded inbox, personalization of the content based on individual product usage data is now more important than ever.

This is where lifecycle email marketing comes in: reaching your customers at each stage of their journey with you and tailoring relevant content to their needs and experience at each stage.

For lifecycle email marketing to our customers, we use a customer retention automation platform called Optimove to measure the impact of every campaign on revenue and customer lifetime value across five major customer segments:

  • New customers
  • Non-spending customers
  • Engaged customers
  • Churned customers
  • Reactivated customers

Our seasonal performance email campaign is a great example of this. Historically, we’ve seen that the end of each quarter is a competitive time on the Outbrain network; more buyers and higher cost-per-click. It’s especially important to communicate that to customers so they understand how to optimize their campaigns accordingly.

When we ran an educational email campaign for our most active customer segment about the importance of adding more headlines to increase your click-through rate (CTR), we saw a 10% increase in the average number of headlines per content campaign among those who received the email – along with an increased CTR in the most active customer segment.

Put your content to work

If you plan to prioritize customer retention as a major driver of growth and revenue for your business, investing in content will be critical to your success.

Here’s a quick recap of the five ways content underpins our entire customer retention strategy:

  1. Get new customers trained up fast with educational emails
  2. Use live webinars to step up customer training
  3. Always be adding content to your help center based on customer feedback and user behavior
  4. Communicate product improvements and new features with great content
  5. Use lifecycle email marketing to segment customers

Over to you — how are you using content marketing to drive your customer retention strategy?

Link:

5 Ways Content Underpins Outbrain’s Customer Retention Strategy