Category Archives: Marketing

What is the most effective strategy for innovation?

Are there many original ideas?

Have you noticed the obsession with originality and the desire to be first to market? Yet most of  the innovations that have shaped our world today are based on ideas or technology that were nothing new at the time.

For instance, Apple didn’t invent the touch-screen smart phone. IBM created the first smart phone (known as the Simon Personal Communicator), fifteen years before Apple launched the iPhone and the touch-screen was invented as far back as 1965. Apple took existing technology and made it their own through exceptional design and a determination to provide a great user experience.

Neither was MacDonald’s the first fast-food chain. It copied the idea from the White Castle restaurant in Wichita, Kansas. Facebook wasn’t the first social network and Henry Ford didn’t invent the car. So, innovation does not have to be about invention, it’s more likely to be about copying.

Why copy?

In his book Copy,Copy,Copy, Mark Earls suggests that copying (but not replicating) of ideas and experiences is something we naturally do and is the most efficient method of innovation. Copying is easy and is a great hack for making fast progress and not looking at problems in isolation. You get to benefit from the mistakes and the success of others that you have never even met. This may explain why being first to market with a new innovation is rarely an advantage.

What is poor copying?

Simply replicating an idea or product and the practice of benchmarking reduces value because it creates increasingly homogenised offers and there is no allowance for context or thought about fixing what’s broken.  Indeed, benchmarking damages profitability because of increased price-point competition and less differentiation.

‘Looser copying’ or from afar (e.g. from a different sector or culture) can add value because it creates variation through the changes or mistakes we make. This is essentially the concept of fixing what’s broken and keeping what works.

Why don’t we copy more?

In Western cultures we are often led to believe that each problem or challenge is unique and so requires a unique solution. This is almost always misguided because very few problems are new and it  gives the impression that it will be extremely difficult to solve. This often results in the rejection of many good ideas simply because of their similarity to solutions used elsewhere.

This is partly because of the individualistic culture we have in the West which values originality and discourages copying. This is not the case in China and other parts of Asia where copying is perceived in a much more positive light. The danger is that this attitude towards copying puts Western companies at a disadvantage. Why reinvent the wheel or if it’s not broken, why fix it?

“The truth is that most things are like other things – they certainly seem that way: the human mind’s ability to see similarities and connections between things is unbounded.” – Mark Earls, Copy,Copy,Copy

Are most innovations the product of a single individual? Nope, it’s a myth that innovations are the creation of a single person. In most cases many people are involved in innovation and they copy from different sources to create something new and exciting. What this suggests is that when done in the right way copying can produce novel and highly effective solutions.

Copying is what we do naturally:

Mark points out that because of our brain’s limited processing power we are forced to rely heavily on default heuristics – what did we do last time or what is everyone else doing? We copy ideas and behaviours all the time but often are not even aware of it. Copying allows us to outsource many aspects of cognitive thinking and provides us with a knowledge bank that further reduces the cognitive effort we may need to solve a problem.

Marketers needs to understand copying:

When we see brand shares following the Pareto 80/20 rule diffusion science tells us that people are not acting independently. Copying makes the most popular brands even more popular than they would be if everyone acted independently.

This produces a long-tail distribution of popularity (see right-hand curve) which is a strong indication of social influence and copying.  Otherwise you are likely to be looking at independent choice (as shown by the short-tail distribution).

Image of popularity distribution for independent and social decision making
Image Source: Copy,Copy,Copy – Mark Earls

 

The data shows that buyer choices in many markets and services is mainly driven by either directed copying (e.g. following experts or authority figures) or undirected copying (following the most popular variant). Just look at the power of social proof and we can see how important what other people are doing is in influencing sales.

“The paradox of conformity, of course, is that we are all conformists in some way, and yet we do not all do the same thing – far from it. In fact, we find the greatest diversity of behaviors in places where people are most densely packed together, such as New York, London, or Istanbul.” – Mark Earls – I’ll Have What She’s Having

In some markets we are now faced with so many choices that it is practically impossible to identify an ideal product or service to meet your needs. Just imagine trying to evaluate every TV or smart phone. In such instances we can either make an educated guess  or follow the behaviour of others.

Image of decision map showing informed and uninformed choice
Image Source: Copy,Copy,Copy – Mark Earls

 

By bringing these insights together Mark Earls and his co-authors in I’ll Have What She’s Having created a map of four decision making styles for marketers to use. In his latest book Mark Earls has used this map to create a pattern book of over 50 marketing strategies to encourage marketers to innovate using approaches that have been successful in other sectors. This is a valuable resource as it allows you to focus on execution rather than creating strategies from scratch.

Image of decision styles map with 4 quadrants
Source: Copy,Copy,Copy – Mark Earls

Implications for website optimisation:

  • Stop replicating ideas and designs from your competitors:

Far too many sites are obsessed with what their competitors’ are doing and copy exactly what they see them doing. This results in websites looking almost identical and reduces differentiation. Instead look outside your sector to see what is new and innovative. Copy loosely and then test to see if it adds value before rolling it out on your whole site.

  • Think about design trends:

Have you noticed how many websites have blindly followed certain design trends? Whether it’s over-sized hero images, auto-play video backgrounds, auto-sliders, flat design, parallax scrolling or the hamburger button on mobile designs. Online experiments have shown all of these trends damage conversion and sometimes frustrate and annoy visitors.

Instead of simply replicating new trends, why not consider what prompted the trend and the truths it embodies. You can then copy the elements or ideas that appear to be most beneficial and test them on your site to measure what impact they have on visitor behaviour. This way you can maintain your site’s unique character and still benefit from new developments or trends.

  • Be agile:

I recently participated in a 5 day Google design sprint to develop a new online brand’s proposition and website.  We spent a lot of time looking outside the sector of interest to get inspiration. We copied the elements of the market that we thought worked, but wanted to fix what was broken. We achieved this through taking ideas from many different fields and rapid iteration of designs.

Within the 5 days we created and tested a prototype design and helped give the project the momentum it needed. The whole agile process is based upon copying as otherwise it would require too much time and effort to make progress.

  • Identify your market’s decision style:

Assess which quadrant of the decision style map your market is most likely to sit in. You can then focus on the marketing strategies that are most likely to align with this decision style. As part of this process it also useful to identify other markets that have the same decision style to your own. This will allow you investigate how they apply appropriate marketing strategies and you may find novel ideas that you can incorporate in your own strategies.

It is possible that your market could fall between two quadrants and if this is the case it is worth to considering strategies from more than one quadrant. For example a decision about the preferred method of delivery of a service (e.g. offline or online) might be in the North West quadrant (i.e. considered choice), but the brand choice may be in the North East quadrant (i.e. copy experts).

Conclusion:

Originality is overrated as most things are similar to something that already exists. This means copying allows us to benefit from other peoples’ mistakes and create novel solutions to difficult problems. However, just replicating what we see elsewhere can reduce value and lead to a lack of differentiation.

For marketers copying is often an important market dynamic that can heavily influence a customer’s decision style. Understanding the most common decision style in your market helps us identify appropriate marketing strategies to apply. Copying relevant marketing strategies from other sectors or cultures allows us to concentrate on the execution and learn from how others to create novel solutions.

For more details about how to copy effectively and how to use the decision styles map to execute relevant marketing strategies please get  Copy,Copy,Copy by Mark Earls.

Thank you for reading my post and I hope you found it useful. Please share using the social media icons below if you like this post.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk, partypoker.com and Bgo.com. He uses a variety of techniques, including web analytics, personas, customer journey analysis and customer feedback to improve a website’s conversion rate.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@conversion-uplift.co.uk. You can follow Neal on Twitter @conversionupl, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

 

5 Free Digital Tools That Every Start-Up Should Have

Get free tools to increase Conversion!

When you establish a digital start-up budgets are often very tight and yet it is important to have visibility of how your business is performing in the digital space.  When I advise start-ups on how to optimise their website the first thing I do is set them up with five free tools to begin this process. You can’t expect to understand how to improve something unless you have feedback and if possible you can measure it.

1. Google Analytics:

This is an excellent web analytics solution that allows you to understand more about who your visitors are (e.g. demographics and device) and also what content is most popular on your site. If you have a blog this is essential as otherwise how will you know which posts are generating most interest from your visitors.

Some of the key metrics you should be checking on GA include:

  • Mix of new to returning visitors – is your content attracting users back to your site,
  • Bounce rate – are they viewing more than one page,
  • Average time on page – how engaged are they with your content,
  • Source of traffic – how well is your SEO, social media and paid marketing working,
  • Device – what proportion of visitors use a mobile, tablet and desktop device,
  • Demographics – age, gender and interests of visitors
Demographic data from Google Analytics
Image Source: Google Analytics

 

Even if start-ups do have GA I often find they haven’t configured it properly and are getting false readings. Make sure you set up filters to exclude internal traffic by using your IPs and  set a filter for language spam. You can also link the account to your Adwords and Adsense accounts. For more details see this post – I’ve installed Google Analytics – Now what?

There are many web analytics packages on the market, but Google Analytics is one of a few that offers free permanent access to such a comprehensive and robust analytics platform. See my article on web analytics solutions for more details of how to use GA.

2. Google Search Console 

Previously called Webmaster Tools, the Search Console is a comprehensive tool for understanding how your site is performing in Google Search, but also what might be holding you back in getting more organic traffic.

Image of Google Search Console Dashboard
Image Source: Google Search Console Dashboard

The Search Console includes a really useful dashboard (see above)  which shows a graph of how many clicks your site has received from Google in the last 28 days, plus the number of site errors, including page not founds (404s) and the number of pages that have been submitted and ranked by Google.

The console has five primary navigation elements that you should be checking on a regular basis.

  1. Search Appearance:
  • This is mainly more technical SEO data including structured data,  rich snippets, HTML  improvements and AMPs (Accelerated Mobile Pages).

2. Search Traffic:

  • This provides data on search results, including clicks, impressions, CTR and average position. In addition it also shows number of external links to your site and what they link to, internal links, security issues and mobile usability issues.

3. Google Index:

  • This shows the number of pages on your site that have been indexed, blocked resources and remove URLs.

4. Crawl:

  • This section provides data on errors detected by Googlebots and the fetch as Google function allows you to submit a URL for indexing. The sitemap tab allows you to submit a new sitemap for your site to Google.

5. Security:

  • Finally, the security tab tells you if have Google has identified any potential security problems with your site.

For more in-depth instructions see my post; How to use Google’s Search Console to improve conversions. 

 

3. Optimize:

In 2017 Google’s introduced Optimize its free version of its testing and personalisation solution Google Optimize 360. Optimize enables you to run up to 3 A/B tests (or multivariate tests) at a time and provides a includes a visual editor to set up simple experiments in a matter of minutes. It also allows you to run redirect experiments where you test a totally new page against the existing experience. As you would expect it integrates fully with Google Analytics.

Image of types of experiments in Google Optimize
Image Source: Google Optimize

This is a simple but effective testing tool for companies not intending to conduct more than three simultaneous experiments or personalisation campaigns. It’s easy to use and is an ideal solution for start-ups that wish to use a data driven approach to website development.

Read my post, How to get started with Google Optimize for more details of this free solution.

4. Hotjar :

Hotjar is a brilliant tool as it combines behavioural analytics, such as session recordings, with easy to use visitor feedback tools. Provided you have less than 2,000 page views per day you can sign up for their free basic plan. For sites up to 10,000 page views a day the start-up plan costs only €29 a month.

Image of Hotjar dashboard
Image Source: Hotjar Dashboard

 

The session recording and replay feature is something I love because it’s like watching an un-directed usability test and they can provide some great insights into the behaviour of users on your site. However, the free plan also allows you to create up to three click, scroll and movement heat maps, a six step conversion funnel and form analytics.

Image of Hotjar movement heat map
Image Source: Hotjar heat map

That’s not to mention online polls,  surveys to be sent to users, an incoming feedback tab and a recruiter feature for getting people to participate in user testing. This is an amazing free tool that no start-up should be without. Please read my review of Hotjar for more details.

5. MailChimp:

It’s important to remain in regular contact with your customers and prospects. Otherwise they can easily forget you even exist. Email marketing is one of the most effective and productive means of doing this. MailChimp provides a free professional email marketing service which allows you to send up to 12,000 emails a month to less than 2,000 accounts.

Image of MailChimp dashboard overview
Image Source: MailChimp Dashboard Overview

MailChimp has a very easy to use and informative user interface which allows you to quickly create professional looking emails. To design emails it offers 20 basic layouts and over 300 templates using  drag and drop technology.

There is also an email editor for HTML and plain text alternatives to design your own template. It’s easy to import your contact list from a CSV or TXT file, copy and paste from Excel or import from an email marketing platform.

MailChimp also offers comprehensive campaign performance metrics so that you can see how many recipients received, opened and clicked on your emails. It also advises you on how many email bounced and unsubscribed. Because it easily integrates with Google Analytics you can track how well your campaigns drive traffic to your website.

MailChimp has now added autoresponders or what they refer to as automation  to free accounts. These are automated emails triggered by an event such as registration, purchase or abandoned basket. This is a really useful feature that often you have to pay for to get access to. So, don’t delay, sign up to MailChimp today.

Conclusion:

These five free tools are a must for every start-up. Don’t be reliant on SEO or marketing agencies to provide these resources, you will learn much more if you use them yourself. If you do need help in setting these tools up I can offer assistance as part of my marketing consultancy service, Otherwise, don’t delay and sign up now to these invaluable tools to assist you in growing your  online business.

Thank you for reading my post and I hope you found it useful. Please share using the social media icons below if you like this post.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.ukpartypoker.com and Bgo.com. He uses a variety of techniques, including web analytics, personas, customer journey analysis and customer feedback to improve a website’s conversion rate.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@conversion-uplift.co.uk. You can follow Neal on Twitter @conversionupl, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

5 Ways of Using Word Clouds to Enhance Digital Marketing

Word Clouds For Digital Marketing:

Word clouds are a great creative tool that many of us love to play around with. They generate an image composed of words from content that has been submitted in the tool. The size of individual words in the word cloud indicates its frequency or importance.

However, word clouds are also very useful tools for content creation, brand evaluation, competitor analysis, SEO keyword targeting and customer insight.

1. Marketing Content:

Finding images that are suitable for your blog or social media posts can be time consuming and problematic as many images are protected by copyright and have permissions which restrict usage. However, we know from research that blog posts with images have much higher engagement levels and are more likely to be shared. So, to save time and money copy and paste your new blog post into a word cloud to create a free and unique image for your new content.

2. Evaluate Your Value Proposition:

Word clouds are also useful to evaluate how well your value proposition messages are embedded in your content.  Check how well your brand messages are being communicated by plugging in your website address or social media URL.

Image of word cloud for Conversion-Uplift.co.uk homepage
Word cloud of Conversion-uplift.co.uk using jasondavies.com

 

World cloud tools like Tagxedo allow you to input your Twitter and social media feeds. This can highlight the value of the content you are sharing and allow you to identify the themes that are occurring most often. Do these correspond with how you want to be perceived by your social media followers?

Analyse your LinkedIn profile in a word cloud generator to ensure your profile communicates a professional tone and is using the best words to promote your expertise.

If you have a Yelp page, use a word cloud to assess how your customers describe your service.

3. SEO Keyword Audit:

Word clouds are a great SEO tool as they instantly indicate which words are most prominent in your marketing content and how Google or other search engines are likely to assess your content.

4. Competitor Research:

Just as you can evaluate your own marketing content and keywords using a word cloud, you can also use the same approach to undertake some competitor research.  Plug in your competitor’s URL into a word cloud to identify the keywords they are targeting and how consistent their value proposition is communicated.

Image of word cloud of sitetuners.com
Wordcloud of www.sitetuners.com using Tagcrowd.com

5. Analysing Customer Feedback:

Customer feedback is not just collected through online polls and surveys. Customer conversations are also a great source of feedback, whether via telephone calls, live chat, product reviews or emails. You will probably be surprised at the number of sources potentially available to you and the volume of feedback.

Don’t let the volume of feedback put you off as word clouds are an excellent means for processing verbatim customer conversations to obtain quick and clear insights. Such conversations can be a great source of insights for developing hypothesis for A/B and multivariate tests.

However, before proceeding with using a word cloud to analyse customer conversations it is wise to do some preparatory work to clean up your transcripts or survey responses. Otherwise you may find that duplicate feedback or similar meaning terms reduce the effectiveness of your word cloud at communicating key insights.

Duplicate Responses:

It’s not uncommon for some visitors to answer a survey or leave feedback multiple times. Unless this is dealt with a single customer can skew your analysis, especially if they have repeated the same comments on multiple occasions.

This is often easy to spot if the respondent has to leave an email address or another unique identifier. Once you have identified the culprits go through and review their feedback and delete all but the first response. It’s better to be consistent with your method as otherwise you will be bringing in subjective bias into the analysis.

Combining Terms:

I once launched a poll on a homepage on a mobile responsive website by asking the open-ended question; “What is missing on this page?” We received lots of comments from mobile visitors about being unable to login, sign in or see the login box. All of these responses obviously related to the same issue and so it was sensible to combine the terms. This can easily be done by using the “Replace” function in a spreadsheet.

It’s also worth looking out for plurals and replacing such terms with the singular version of the word.  Acronyms can also be problematic if some respondents use the full phrase and so search for such inconsistencies to replace acronyms where necessary.

Weighting Results:

When presenting word clouds you sometimes want to give more weight to certain terms because of what you know about their impact on your business. For instance you may want to give more prominence to feedback on your most popular webpages or blogs in your word cloud.

Word cloud tool Wordle allows you to change the weighting of certain words by making adjustments in the advanced mode. For example you could weight words according page views to reflect the popularity of a page or blog they relate to. However, make sure you make this clear when you present your word cloud as otherwise this can create a misleading impression of the feedback received.

Conclusion:

Word clouds are flexible and free tools that can save you time and money. Before you splash out money on buying competitor analysis, SEO keyword audits or text analytics tools try out word clouds first.

Below are nine of the best free word cloud solutions available.

The 9 Best Free Word Cloud Tools:

My recommended word cloud is Wordclouds.com as this is an easy to use but flexible tool with some great advanced settings. Visually it also looks superior to most other tools.

Image of word cloud generated by Wordclouds.com
Word cloud from blog post using Wordclouds.com

 

  1. ABCya!:A word cloud for kids that may be relevant if your website is of interest to children. Type or paste text into the box below and press the arrow button to view the word cloud generated.
  2. Jason Davies: A great tool if you want to generate a word cloud from a blog or website.
  3. Tagcrowd: Allows you to set specific criteria for your cloud such as language, maximum number of words and minimum frequency.  Allows you to create a word cloud from a webpage URL, Twitter ID and other social media feeds.
  4. Tagxedo: Create word clouds from a URL, Twitter ID, Del.icio.us ID, news, search, RSS feed, uploading text or enter it yourself.
  5. WordArt (Formerly Tagul):  A word cloud generator with advanced features including words inside words, rich font choices, roll-over effects, custom shapes, colours and fonts and export in vector formats.
  6. Tricklar: This site claims to use high quality media sources from around the world to generate word clouds. I found it difficult to find words or phrases that it would generate a word cloud for and so maybe only useful for popular subjects.
  7. Wordclouds.com: This is a free word cloud generator which can be used with most browsers. On the homepage got o “File” and upload a document or PDF, paste text (by File dropdown), input a URL or amend the word list (dropdown). In the word list you can even add links to individual words by entering the URL after the word.
  8. WorditOut: Advanced filters allows you to filter the text to display or remove words and change their importance. Select your own layout by choosing your own colours, fonts, and sizes or let WorditOut find a random look for you.
  9. Wordle: A simple word cloud generator which allows you to set the weights of words.

Thank you for reading my post and I hope you found it useful. Please share using the social media icons below if you like this post.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.ukpartypoker.com and Bgo.com. He uses a variety of techniques, including web analytics, personas, customer journey analysis and customer feedback to improve a website’s conversion rate.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@conversion-uplift.co.uk. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

What Can Brands Learn From The 2017 General Election Campaign?

8 Marketing Lessons From Theresa May’s Campaign

When Theresa May called the general election in April the polls were showing a lead for the Conservative Party of up to 20 points. It looked certain that May would get a much improved majority in parliament.

However, during the course of the campaign the Conservative’s lead almost evaporated as Theresa May’s popularity declined. This resulted in the Conservative’s losing 12 seats and their slim majority rather than gaining the large mandate May had expected.

Why did this happen and what does the result tell us about the nature of marketing campaigns and strategy?

1. Actions speak louder than words:

Before announcing the election Theresa May had repeatedly said she would not call a snap election. May indicated that she had the mandate for Brexit, the economy was strong and even the Labour party supported the triggering of Article 50 in the commons. However, by calling an early election May created uncertainty about her motivations and whether the future was so positive.

The psychologist Professor Alastair Smith from New York University has studied the outcomes of UK general elections since 1945. He suggests that calling an early election is like playing poker with the electorate.

Image of poker chips and cards on the table

Smith suggests that people understand that prime ministers have access to information about future prospects that the rest of us don’t have. Calling an election early may be  a sign that they are trying to conceal information (e.g. Brexit might be a disaster) and expect to see their popularity decline as a result.

He argues that more competent governments are in less of a hurry to call an election and so it is less confident prime ministers who call snap elections. We should not have been surprised then that Theresa May’s popularity and her party’s lead in the opinion polls declined. Indeed, Smith’s analysis indicated that the larger the governing party’s lead in the polls at the time of calling  an election, the greater the likelihood that their popularity would fall during the campaign.

Implications for marketing:

People understand that major sponsorship or advertising campaigns cost a lot of money and take a long time to recoup the investment. This is known as costly signalling. It demonstrates a brand’s intentions to be around for the long term.

Just as calling an election early shows a lack of confidence in future prospects, brands that fail to support their product launches or marketing campaigns with a reasonable level of advertising or sponsorship spend are indicating a lack of confidence in their ongoing success.

2. Messages need to be meaningful:

From day one May used a few core sound bites to communicate the essence of her proposition. ‘Strong and stable leadership’ and ‘coalition of chaos’ were May’s main messages that were almost immediately turned into memes by opposition supporters.

Psychologically people hate uncertainty and so voters might seek strong and stable leaders to manage instability and uncertainty. However, the strong and stable message was purely an emotional appeal to calm and orderliness, while the ‘coalition of chaos’ aimed to create fear of a Labour government.

“If I lose just six seats I will lose this election and Jeremy Corbyn will be sitting down to negotiate with Europe.” – Theresa May, 20th May 2017

The Conservative’s  slogans therefore lacked a rational element. They were further undermined by May’s behaviour including her U-turn on their social care policy and her refusal to take part in  live TV debates with other leaders.   In addition, May communicated her messages in an almost robotic way and so struggled to demonstrate emotional intelligence. This resulted in May being referred to as the “Maybot” in the media.

By contrast Jeremy Corbyn ran a more enthusiastic and engaging campaign around changing the status quo and looking after the majority rather than the wealthy minority.  His slogan ‘for the many, not the few’ was an anti-establishment message that may have benefited from recent  political movements.

Although his message was criticised by some commentators as potentially turning off the more affluent voters, it resonated with natural Labour supporters and clearly reflected Corbyn’s own political principles. No one could accuse Corbyn of not living according his slogan as it is something he has campaigned on since he first became a Labour MP.

Implications for marketing:

Emotional arguments resonate strongly with our fast intuitive mind and can be very persuasive. However, this does not mean that rational argument should be forgotten. It is important to align more emotional and implicit motivations with rational benefits to avoid conflicts between our different decision making systems.

When brands create slogans and messages to support the value proposition it is important to provide evidence to support such communications. However, it also necessary to create policies and behaviours within the organisation that demonstrates a commitment to these same values. Otherwise customers are likely to see such messages as soundbites that don’t reflect the real values of a brand.

3. Linking your  brand to an individual is a risky strategy:

Theresa May decided to make the Conservative campaign primarily about her leadership. This presidential style campaign meant that at rallies and in ads the headline was  ‘Theresa May’s Team’ and the Conservative Party was relegated to a small footnote at the bottom of the banner. This was a big departure from the norm in the UK and highlighted how she wanted to focus on her leadership compared to Jeremy Corbyn.

Image of Theresa May's Team at campaign rally

However, as the campaign developed and U-Turns and wobbles were observed this back-fired on the party. Positioning it as a presidential campaign highlighted that May was not as nimble or empathetic as she needed to be to play this as a strength.

Marketing Implications:

Brands that strongly associate themselves with an individual person, whether they are a celebrity or a business leader, run the risk of being damaged if that person’s popularity or reputation declines.  Celebrity endorsements can be a powerful marketing tool, but few brands successfully build themselves around a single individual. Richard Branson has achieved this with Virgin, but he clearly demonstrated that he had the necessary charisma and personality to develop such a brand.

4. Position your brand around what is important to your customers:

Theresa May positioned her campaign on the basis that it was about Brexit. However, what she failed to understand was that Brexit was largely a protest vote. It reflected many issues, including concerns about immigration, being left behind by globalisation, a London-centric economy and declining incomes.

In contrast Labour focused on policies that directly influence people’s lives such as the NHS, education, police numbers and rail nationalisation. These issues resonated much more strongly with people and took the focus away from Brexit. As a result Labour were able to project a much more positive and meaningful campaign.

Marketing Implications:

Listen to customers and conduct research to understand what motivates them. Don’t assume you know what is important to customers as often this is off the mark because of our own perceptions of the world. We get too close to our brands and products and can fall foul of the echo chambers we construct around ourselves.

5. Diversity is your friend:

When Theresa May created a manifesto only a small inner circle of was involved in the discussions. Small groups that lack diversity and insulate themselves from dissenters are very prone to groupthink.

When all think alike, then no one is thinking - Walter Lippman - The danger of groupthink

This is a psychological phenomena whereby groups make poor decisions because there is pressure to conform and ignore information that contradicts their decision. This creates an illusion of invulnerability and over-optimism which means they are willing to take unnecessary and extreme risks.

Marketing implications:

Ensure diversity in group decision making by recruiting people with a wide range of experience, cultural and gender backgrounds and cognitive ability. Re-frame disagreement as a necessary and helpful characteristic of teams and encourage all team members to contribute their thoughts, ideas and opinions.

Don’t be too prescriptive when briefing a problem and avoid quickly criticising other ideas and attacking other team members for ideas that contradict the consensus. Use market research and data analytics to provide scrutiny for ideas and generate fresh insights.

6. People are loss averse:

Prospect theory tells us that people prefer a small, but certain loss to a small risk of a much larger loss. Thus, people prefer an 80% chance of a certain small loss against a 5% chance of losing everything.

Because of this bias, the dementia tax as it become known was political suicide as it attacked the property owning class, many of whom are natural Conservative voters. It created a concern in voter’s minds that if they were unlucky enough to get a long term illness and needed care they might have to give up all but £100,000 of the value of their house after their death.

It was almost irrelevant that if they didn’t need long term care their assets would be safe. After he resigned, Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s special adviser admitted that it had been a mistake not to include a cap when they launched the policy. This would have limited the potential loss and may have made the policy more acceptable to voters.

Marketing Implication:

Focus more on avoiding losses rather than making gains. Guarantees and money back offers help to eliminate the concern that a choice may lead to an unacceptably large loss.  In spread betting for instance automatic stop losses eliminate the potential for unlimited losses that would probably prevent most people considering this kind of betting.

 

7. Provide a positive reason to choose your brand:

Theresa May failed to communicate a positive reason to choose her campaign. The campaign was characterised by warning voters about the consequences of not giving May an increased majority and the possibility of Jeremy Corbyn getting into power. There was little to promote in terms of positive benefits for voting Conservative.

Remain voters in particular who weren’t in a constituency with Liberal Democrat candidate capable of winning were faced with all options being bad (see prospect theory). When people are in a situation where all outcomes involve a loss people become risk seeking.  The status quo is usually perceived as the safer choice and so Corbyn would have been more appealing as he represented the riskier option.

Marketing Implication:

People buy benefits rather than features. Position your brand positively with a compelling proposition rather than trying to undermine your competitors. Identify important implicit (psychological) goals to differentiate your brand and get an emotional response. But don’t forget a strong rational benefit is also important.

8. Consistency is a valued personality characteristic:

Before the EU referendum Theresa May had been on the remain side, though some had criticised her for a lack of enthusiasm. After the referendum result and especially once she became prime minister May become an ardent advocate of Brexit. Further, May had repeatedly said that she had a mandate for Brexit and there was no need for a general election before the end of the fixed-term parliament. Of course she then called a general election.

This lack of consistency created anxiety among some voters that May could not be trusted to keep promises. Consistency and the appearance of consistency is a highly valued personality trait. People who are not consistent are often referred to as two-faced or untrustworthy.  This was compounded May’s U-turn on her social care policy when she introduced a cap after it was heavily criticised and then claimed “nothing has changed”.

Marketing implications:

Consistency can be used by marketers to persuade visitors to undertake a desired behaviour.

Lifehack.org is a lifestyle and well-being site that publishes ideas for self-improvement. When a new visitor lands on the site they are served a pop-up asking the user if they would like to “try something different today. Don’t stay stuck. Do better.” If a user clicks on the  “I agree” CTA they are immediately served an email capture form with the heading “We think so, too!” Because these visitors have agreed to the first question they feel almost compelled to provide their email address to show consistency of behaviour.

Example of how to ask a question to get commitment for improving blog sign-ups
Image Source:

Consistency is also important in branding and design. Using consistent branding and design principles can help communicate a professional and user-friendly customer experience. Being consistent with established web conventions also allows users to navigate according to experience and reduces  cognitive load.

Conclusion:

The result of the 2017 UK general election should be a lesson to us all that we should not take our customers for granted. Customers respond to how people in organisation behave according to social norms and expectations that are influenced by many complex factors.

We should avoid behaviours that are inconsistent with promises we make as this creates anxiety and damages trust in our brands. Trust is critical for any relationship or transaction and so we should protect it at all costs.

It’s easy to make assumptions about what we think people want and how they will react to decisions we make. To prevent costly mistakes we should invest in research and insights to improve our understanding of customers.

Take action to avoid groupthink when making decisions. Encourage news ideas and look for information that contradicts your decision rather than just that which confirms it.

People are more concerned about losses than gains. Framing an offer as a potential loss may make it more appealing than promoting it as a gain. Avoid situations where all choices are perceived as bad because this can turn customers into risk seekers.

In digital marketing we have the  advantage of being able to run experiments through A/B and multivariate testing.  By developing a culture of experimentation we can learn how customers respond to changes in the customer experience before investing resources and money into a change. This helps to ensure resources are directed to where the biggest impact can be made.

Thank you for reading my post and I hope you found it useful. Please share using the social media icons below if you like this post.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.ukpartypoker.com and Bgo.com. He uses a variety of techniques, including web analytics, personas, customer journey analysis and customer feedback to improve a website’s conversion rate.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@conversion-uplift.co.uk. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

How to Use Emails to Encourage Click-Throughs

Email is a powerful marketing tool.

Emails are cheap, easy to write, and help build long-term client and customer relationships. You can use emails for content marketing, lead generation, audience research, and so much more. Whatever you’re using email for, you need to always have a call to action in mind.

In marketing, that’s usually getting people to click on a link by sign-posting people to a specific resource, promoting a page, or just driving web traffic. So how can you ensure that your email hits the mark and actually gets people clicking? Here are some email marketing strategies that will help you maximise clicks and conversions. (First things first though — you have to avoid email spam filters and actually get into people’s inboxes). 

Get the basics right

What does a good email look like? If you are striving for clicks to a specific page or resource, you need to put clarity before anything else. Design emails with a clear purpose, and make sure that all your copy, visuals, and calls-to-action support that single aim.

  1. You want people to recognise your emails and connect them with your website and brand. Ensuring that your emails are consistent with your website and overall digital brand will minimise any disconnect. Consistency in branding helps create a seamless user-journey; remember, your emails are part of your overall UX (user experience).
  2. Review your email templates. It can be tempting to go overboard and over-engineer your emails, but email software MailChimp (who know a thing or two about emails), recommend a simple one column layout to drive user purpose and action (read more MailChimp advice here).
  3. Having too much going on in your email’s periphery will needlessly distract readers. Try to build momentum and excitement in an email by driving readers towards one central action, rather than adding in interesting ‘additional’ elements.
  4. How are you asking for clicks? Review your call to action. Are you being persuasive enough with your action words? Is your HTML button mobile responsive? Is your call to action visible on the preview screen? Don’t underestimate the importance of the mobile email experience — screens are small and your emails need to adapt to that. MailChimp make a good recommendation: see whether your call to action passes the squint test:
Image of squint test from mailchimp
Image Source:

You need a call to action that’s so obvious that event a time-poor and busy manager can figure out what is required of them.

Sequencing builds the right tempo

Think carefully about how, and when, you are going to ask for clicks in your emails. Asking the reader to click on something at the wrong moment can be jarring, and won’t result in conversions. Try implementing a proper sequencing strategy where each email builds on the previous, developing a relationship that’s ripe for high-converting campaigns. Never ask people to click on a link too soon within an email either (unless the subject line has clearly set this up as an expectation).

  1. Emails will naturally get more insistent with time, so know when to up the ante. If your subscriber has ignored a few emails, or hasn’t engaged with them much, it’s time to pack more of a punch.
  2. Set out your emails in a narrative sequence that reflects the reader’s experience, rather than approaching each email as a separate entity. Match up your sequencing with your sales pipeline and CRM (Insightly is a good one for beginners) so that your emails always set the right tone. An email that’s out of sequence will stick out like a sore thumb, so update and refresh your data frequently.
  3. But being too predictable can also be a turn-off, especially with the more marketing-savvy consumer. Being too emotional can also backfire. Being cheeky works well for younger, digital brands, but probably won’t go down to well with corporate readers. It’s all about making sure that your email tone is fit for purpose and matches your audience.
  4. A sequence helps build confidence and curiosity in your company, so that by the time you are ready to ask for something, your readers are trusting and ready to go.

Create a knowledge gap

People are driven by curiosity and their need to know (and understand) things. Appeal to these instincts in your emails by creating knowledge gaps. Whether it’s in the promise of your subject line, or in the way that you construct your email, try to evoke curiosity so that the reader is left wanting more.

  1. Try using more catchy subject lines and headings in your email — being too descriptive is a turn-off. People don’t want to be told stuff, they want to feel like they’ve found something out for themselves.
  2. Social proof and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) can also be powerful drivers — we all want to think that we are part of the ‘in’ crowd. Insinuate that people are missing out on something that their peers or competitors already know. This tactic doesn’t mean gathering millions of glowing testimonials — sometimes simple is best. Here is an email from Canva:

Image of email from Canva.com

Super simple, with no fancy bells or whistles (or even an HTML link button), this email plays on the simple question — how did Julia do it? A great example of social proof in action (and we don’t even mind that we don’t know who Julia is — we want to find out).

Say it again

People scan emails on the go and on their mobiles, so sometimes you have to get a little insistent. You don’t want to hit people over the head or anything, but sometimes you need to get a little insistent.

Include your call to action in the email a few times — you can have multiple buttons, in-content links, and even a final ‘P.S.’ with a link back to your site. As long as this is handled well in the context of the email copy, it should be OK for you to include numerous calls to action: it means you can maximise the number of conversions based on how far people scroll.

Say the same thing a few times, but say it in different ways, or up the emotional ante of your call to action as the reader scrolls and gets more involved with your narrative. The same principles of web reading apply here: remind yourself of the  F-shape. Remember that directional cues aren’t limited to copy and visuals, you need to strategically use white space too.

Segmented lists, more clicks

Email list segmentation is a worthwhile exercise for any brand or business — a pruned list will always outperform a list that includes everyone and anyone.

  1. Send different emails to different email lists, ensuring maximum content relevancy. This is especially crucial if your company spans many industries. No manufacturer will click on an email that’s clearly aimed at consumers (and vice versa).
  2. Personalisation is a really big trust factor in email marketing, so make sure that you have personal details for your subscribers.
  3. It’s an idea to email dormant subscribers separately and ask them to opt in again, or update their preferences. This will stop your email list from becoming weighed down by readers who don’t engage or click.

Start a story

People love narratives, especially ones that have an emotional edge, or make them laugh. Being too safe with your email marketing can result in stagnation. Predictability is OK for certain relationships, but it can also lead to a marketing stalemate.

  1. Think back to 19th century serial novels that kept readers on tenterhooks, waiting for the next instalment to find out what happened to their hero and heroine. Do the same with your emails and see whether you can keep readers interested with a story. This tactic requires great copywriting skills and audience knowledge, but it can work really well if executed right. (Don’t make people wait weeks though — this tactic needs to be speeded up for the 21st century).
  2. Package up informational emails into knowledge bombs and wrap your roundups up into a narrative form. Focus on overarching content themes and stories, and try to ‘brand’ every email with a clear purpose
  3. Quirky visuals and clickbait copy can work really well in emails — it’s a medium that allows for more creativity (like social media). Emoji’s are helping some brands engage with their audiences, but they are not quite ubiquitous yet.

How to make a sale via email

Emails can also be used to make sales. Ecommerce brands are especially great at making a sale over email — from sales previews and lookbooks, to product launches and abandoned cart emails, email for ecommerce is a goldmine.

  1. Product based emails are best when they are largely visual, with a big call to action button sending the reader straight to the corresponding product page.
  2. Abandoned cart emails are an art unto themselves. Asking a customer to come back and finish a purchase is a delicate task — you need to induce them with fun copy and an easy email experience. If you are selling on WordPress, you have a wealth of email retargeting options, whereas stores created with Shopify have some pretty cool in-built email functions, including the ability to attach a custom voucher code. A voucher or further offer is a great customer incentive, but you might get them to buy just with the power of words and some well-placed product imagery.
  3. Sometimes informational content like product guides, reviews, or lookbooks make for a more natural and engaging email — remember, it’s not all about the hard sell with email.

Executing email campaigns that convert at a high rate is not an impossible task if you follow best practises, and keep an eye on your email metrics. What elements are subscribers enjoying the most? What do they find off-putting? When are clicks down? Why is that? The beauty of modern marketing is all the useful data that we get back from our customers, so use it to your advantage to encourage click-throughs.  What’s your favourite email marketing tip?

Gareth Simpson – Technical SEO & Startup Founder

Image of Gareth Simpson of https://garethsimpson.co.uk/

Gareth is an SEO pro with over a decade in the industry. Now based in Bristol, UK, his specialisms are blogger outreach and content. You’ll find him at his desk, drinking                         green tea and working on his latest campaign.

How to avoid the spam filter in eight easy steps

Keeping one step ahead of the spam filter!

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are constantly fighting a war against spam email. In December 2016 an estimated 61% of global email traffic was accounted for by spam messages and so unless your email campaigns are carefully designed and implemented there is a high chance that they could end up in your customer’s junk folder.

Avoiding the Spam filter is a tricky subject. There isn’t a black and white answer for this as avoiding the Spam folder is not an exact science. Triggers change daily and the rules are different for every individual inbox. What went into your inbox yesterday may get flagged as Spam today. You might get marketing emails directly to your inbox but your recipient may have applied settings so that they never see any marketing content.

So what’s the point in spending time writing and creating beautiful emails to deliver your company’s message if you never know whether it’s going to see the light of day or not?  Fortunately there are several strategies you can use to avoid the Spam folder. Here are eight easy steps to avoid the dreaded spam filter.

1. Design your email carefully:

The format of an email campaign can affect its deliverability. Make sure you have 80% text and 20% image as an all text email will almost certainly land in Spam, as will an email that is made up of one large image. In addition, responsive template design is becoming increasingly important for businesses. As we move into an age where the adoption of smart phones and tablets is increasing, businesses need to send email which can be dynamically change its format to render appropriately on different devices.

 

Image of user looking at a computer

2. Include a plain text version:

Plain text versions of your email are very important and play a significant role in your email marketing strategy. We recommend that you always include a plain text version when sending HTML emails to not only to keep you out of Spam folders but some recipient’s email clients may not support or render HTML properly. Also some recipients may just prefer to receive text only messages. So a plain text backup of your email is always a good idea as it ensures that all recipients can access the content.

3. Don’t overuse exclamation marks or CAPITAL LETTERS!!!!

There’s no need to SHOUT! Where possible exclamation marks should be avoided all together. Too much focus on urgency can land you in Spam. Instead look at writing copy with better emphasis on your message or use a CTA button if you want something to stand out more. Much like with exclamation marks, writing in all caps to create emphasis will get your emails flagged as Spam. Well written content and subject lines get better open rates, and decrease your chances of landing in the depths of a Spam box.

4. Give your images relevant alt tags:

Every email browser and account is different, so there’s a good chance you’re sending an email to someone who won’t be able to see images when they first open it. How will they know what information your images are providing? Using alt text provides a text alternative in the instance your images aren’t there, which is especially useful if you’re providing a link too. Not hiding information in images boosts your chances of hitting an inbox and contributes to text/image ratio.

Image of spam folder

5. Regularly cleanse your lists:

Good list hygiene helps to look after your domain reputation. If you keep sending to subscribers who have bounced or haven’t opened an email in months, your domain will eventually be recognised as Spammy because people aren’t opening your messages. mmunic mail clients benefit from our auto-cleanse system that automatically unsubscribes hard bounces, recognises when a soft bounce becomes a hard bounce, and has easy-to-use segmentation tools.

To cleanse your data before you begin email marketing you should arrange for email addresses to be validated using a reputable data cleansing company. Check out this list of 14 email validation and data cleansing suppliers.

6. Avoid Spammy words and phrases:

Words such as “free” and “income” are obvious Spam words, but there are others that are not so obvious. For example, did you know putting “Dear” as an email greeting is considered Spammy too? If you’re having trouble getting an email out of Spam it’s worth revising your content for trigger words.

7. Test, test and test again!

When you send  your email to your entire database you are sending  an email to many different email clients and  many different operating systems. These  can all render emails differently and so checking that you are satisfied with how the email looks in your editor may not be enough. You can manually test your emails across several different clients by setting up different test accounts.

However, we recommend that you use an email testing tool which allows you to test every email across countless devices. mmunic mail integrates with Litmus and enables you to preview your email in 70+ environments with one click. It also enables you to scan for potential Spam issues, broken links, images, and more.

8. It’s never a good idea to buy email lists:

Expanding your business takes time and is very hard work so it’s understandable that people are tempted to make shortcuts. Purchasing an email list might seem like an ideal shortcut at the time but can land you in some serious hot water with your email marketing as they can be littered with out-dated email addresses honeypots and spam traps.

In short if you are sending out an email to any recipient they should have given you explicit permission to do so and its great to have a list of 50,000 names – but you need to put this into its right context. If those people aren’t interested in what you have to say, then how much are they really worth to you? Don’t ruin your sending reputation by being repeatedly marked as spam by recipients who don’t know who you are and may not be interested in your business. Remember the golden rule Always target the right users, with the right messaging, at the right time.

Closing thoughts:

Let’s face it, nobody likes to receive unsolicited emails (spam). Take a look at your spam folder right now; you’ve probably been bombarded with junk emails offering pharmaceutical products, pyramid schemes and various adult services. Unfortunately for you this means the safety precautions that ESP’s put in place to control Spam, may actually work against your perfectly legitimate and requested email to your subscribers. At best leaving your recipient to have to actively mark your email address as ‘not spam’ or a safe sender, at worst you are completely ignored.

Start by creating good habits within your email marketing by using the above-mentioned eight steps and keeping abreast of Spam trends. mmunic can help you not only stay on the ball all aspects of email marketing but also provide you with a named account manager to be there every step of the way in this constantly changing industry.

Thank you for reading this post. If you found it useful please share using the social media icons below.

 

About the author: Lisa Winter is Studio Manager and email marketing specialist at email marketing agency mmunic.co.uk based in Chester, UK. Unlike most email marketing platforms mmunic provides a range of managed service solutions to design, set up and send email campaigns for you. So, if you don’t have the time or expertise to design your own campaigns mmunic can take the strain for you instead.

Image of mmunic.co.uk email marketing

Related posts:

Email validation – 14 email validation solutions to boost conversions

Tips for email marketing – 4 ways to improve your email marketing conversion rate

Was The Pepsi Ad Trying To Do The Wrong Job?

Ads have a job to do!

How did Pepsi’s marketing team think the Kendall Jenner ad was going to work and why? Ads have a job to do, but what was the job for Pepsi?

“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding.” – according to a brand statement.

The problem was in the execution as Coke had a similar idea with the “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” ad in 1971. However, Coke didn’t  pretend they could have a role in specific problems like apartheid in South Africa. The Pepsi ad trivialised important issues and mimicked imagery from a recent protest for social justice.

Image from 1971 Coke ad - "I'd like to teach the world to sing."
Image Source:

Are in-house agencies prone to mistakes?

The ad was produced by Pepsi’s in-house agency, Creators League Studio. The studio is overseen by Brad Jakeman, president of PepsiCo’s global beverage group; and Kristin Patrick, senior VP-global brand development.

Well, in-house creative agencies don’t have to be a recipe for disaster if there is proper oversight and diversity in teams. But what if you want to turn your in-house agency into a Hollywood  studio?  That’s exactly what Jakeman recently said in Ad Age.

“Our goal is to really behave like a Hollywood studio…..The holy grail for me is to leverage the incredible power of our brands and their equities to essentially fund their own marketing,” – Brad Jakeman

This might explain why the ad was all over the place rather than focusing on the job to be done. Kristin Patrick also believes this BS:

“For many, many years, we have been the people who have been renting the content from the networks and the studios. There’s an opportunity for us to become more ingrained in that profit pool,” –  Kristin Patrick

Image of protest from Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad
Image Source:

Nope, still don’t get it and where does it mention anything about understanding your target audience? Are they confusing product placement in movies with producing ads?

They also have this obsession with millennials even though most research shows that age is a poor indicator of attitudes and preferences.

Image of Tweet quoting Kristin Patrick

What are ads for?

As advertising man Dave Trott points out what is important about an ad is not whether you like it or not, but does the ad work and why. Jakeman and Patrick seem to  have confused this objective by trying to position their creative studio as an income generating Hollywood studio.

Dave Trott estimates that £18.3 billion a year is spent on all forms of marketing. But only 4% of that is remembered positively, 7% is remembered negatively and 89% is neither noticed or remembered.

Pepsi have lost sight of this and should be concerned about getting their ads noticed rather then comparing themselves with a Hollywood studio . Ads can be entertaining, but that doesn’t mean they need to have a plot like a movie. The Pepsi ad is a great example of advertisers taking themselves far too seriously.

Image from Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad with people dancing
Image Source:

Group think?

The real danger with all this BS is that you start to believe your own PR and no one in the team is going to want to stand out and shout “the emperor has no clothes on”.  When you get a small team of like-minded people  and the culture is over-respectful of the people in charge you have a high chance of  groupthink.

When all think alike, then no one is thinking - Walter Lippman - The danger of groupthink

 

Diversity and independent thinking?

Pepsi have a strong reputation for promoting gender equality, but this is only one aspect of diversity. For instance James Surowiecki argues that  cognitive diversity is also critical to good decision making as it expands a group’s set of possible alternatives and it helps the group to mentally visualise problems in novel ways.

“Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.”  – James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds

Large corporations like Pepsi though love to rely on recruiting the brightest minds and people from top universities. This just ensures you get people from similar backgrounds which leads to homogenous groups.

“Suggesting that the organisation with the smartest people may not be the best organisation is heretical, particularly in a business world caught up in a ceaseless “war for talent” and governed by the assumption that a few superstars can make the difference between an excellent and a mediocre company. Heretical or not, it’s the truth, the value of expertise is, in many contexts, overrated.” – James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds

Do HR need to review recruitment practices?

So, maybe HR departments also need to think about what their practices are doing to large corporations. Maybe it’s not all about the most talented after all?

What about digital marketing?

 

Digital content also has a job to do. Keep it simple and have a single objective. Don’t fall into the trap of over-complicating content or setting more than one objective. If your content goes viral, great, but don’t rely on it.

Thank you for reading my post. If you found it useful please share.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.ukpartypoker.com and Bgo.com. He uses a variety of techniques, including web analytics, personas, customer journey analysis and customer feedback to improve a website’s conversion rate.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@conversion-uplift.co.uk. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

What Is Conversion Rate Optimisation?

Does CRO Say What It Does On The Tin?

When people ask me what I do for a living and I mention website or conversion rate optimisation (CRO) I often find they think I’m talking about another area of digital marketing. Many people think CRO  is related to Search Engine Marketing, PPC or SEO.  This should not be a surprise though because CRO  is a somewhat misleading term for website optimisation. It gives the impression that it is all about a single metric, which it is not.

Image of chart showing conversion rate for registration and first time deposit

For a start any fool can optimise a website’s conversion rate by slashing prices, offering people free trials or giving free money away on a gaming site. But the site would soon go out of business as this wouldn’t do much for overall profitability. No, CRO is not about optimising the conversion rate as it would be dangerous to use a single metric for a measure of success.

Why conversion rate is a poor metric?

The conversion rate is actually a poor metric to focus on because not all visitors are able or willing to convert. Further, by making your site more engaging and increasing the frequency of visitors returning to your site you may well increase sales, but your conversion rate could well fall as a result. This is because returning visitors may not buy on every visit, but overall they could be buying more merchandise.

The conversion rate also tends to vary significantly according to different channels and visitor types. So if your traffic mix changes your conversion rate could fall due to the source of traffic and not because of anything you have done. Increasing overall traffic to your site could again increase sales but it’s quite common for this to reduce your conversion rate as the traffic mix may change or because visitor intent is lower.

Common misconceptions about CRO:

The lack of understanding of website optimisation is partly caused by the term CRO which has led to some of the following misconceptions about it:

  • CRO only relates to customer acquisition.
  • CRO is A/B and multivariate testing.
  • CRO is a tactical tool for resolving short-term problems with sales or revenues.
  • You need to have a lot of traffic for CRO.
  • CRO is expensive and not for small companies.
  • Landing page optimisation is the same as CRO.
  • CRO is about improving the customer experience.

Well, what is conversion rate optimisation?

CRO is a strategic approach to digital marketing that seeks to optimise the value obtained from visitors to your site in a sustainable and customer centric way. It aims to be a driver of business growth by persuading customers to take action by allowing them to achieve their goals so that you can also meet your business goals. CRO requires a scientific or evidence based approach to decision making regarding changes to the digital customer experience.

Image of skills required for website optimization

So let’s break this definition down into some of its individual components to fully understand what CRO means.

Strategy rather than a tactic:

As a strategy rather than a tactic CRO is much more powerful because it requires a customer centric culture from the C-suite down. Only when CRO is embedded into the culture of a business can we expect it to reach its full potential. CRO should not be a silo in marketing or some other part of the business that is infrequently discussed by the board. It needs to be the responsibility of everyone in the business to consider how changes to the user experience may impact the customer and overall profitability.

Customer goals:

For you to meet your business goals the customer must first achieve their goals. This means communicating a compelling value proposition and using conversion centric design to make the user journey as frictionless as possible.

Acquisition and retention:

CRO principles can and should be applied to both acquisition and existing customer journeys. It is normally a lot cheaper to retain customers than acquire new customers and so it is more efficient to allocate resources to customer retention than to focus just on attracting new users.

Persuasion:

To get more visitors to convert it is necessary to use persuasive techniques to nudge customers towards their goal. This means that a good understanding of the application of behavioural sciences such as behavioural economics, psychology and neuroscience are essential qualities for optimisers.

Scientific approach:

A culture of evidence-based decision making is important to encourage a scientific approach to digital optimisation. Online experiments using A/B and multivariate testing solutions should support this strategy by validating changes and allowing a evolutionary approach to website improvement. This approach largely removes the need for site-redesigns because it leads to a more evolutionary way of enhancing the customer experience.

Image of multivariate test with over 1 million possible combinations
Source: Sentient Ascend

People of course dislike whole site re-designs as they have to instantly deal with multiple changes on a site that looks very different from what they had become accustomed to. Facebook have learnt this lesson the hard way and now ensure change is gradual and controlled to avoid annoying users. LinkedIn on the other hand don’t seem to have understood the pitfalls of site-redesigns and received huge criticism following a new site launch in early 2017.

Structured process:

To develop a CRO strategy it is important to have a structured process to guide your program. Having a process like the steps outlined below helps give you credibility within your business as it demonstrates your professional integrity. Further, it encourages a consistent approach to CRO throughout your organisation.

Conversion rate optimisation requires a systematic approach and process to be generate sustainable growth

Invest in people:

Website optimisation requires a number of specialist skills to perform well in the role. Consequentially it is important to invest in training and personal development to improve the skill set of your optimisation team.

Measurement:

Because CRO is more complex than simply optimising your conversion rate it is necessary to carefully define your most important metrics to evaluate what success looks like. For example e-commerce retailers need to ensure they don’t increase sales at the expense of more returns as this can lead to them losing money.

Ecommerce sites should seek to combine results from their test with metrics from the data warehouse (DWH) to measure revenues after returns. This is one reason why you shouldn’t rely on a single source of data as this can lead to errors and may undermine the reliability of your test results. Web analytics, DWH and data from your testing tool should be used together to provide a more comprehensive picture of user behaviour.

Segmentation:

Averages lie, and so It is important to segment your conversion rate because it is likely to vary significantly according to visitor type and channel. Some users will have different intent and  a different relationship with the retailer according to their traffic source or user needs. New visitors and returning visitors often have very different conversion rates.

amazon-conversion-journey

Amazon Prime customers for instance convert around 74% of the time compared to 13% for non-Prime visitors. This compares to just 3.1% for the average e-commerce site. You should also analyse your conversion rate by acquisition channels as for example non-brand terms PPC will usually convert at a significantly lower rate than yousr site average. Trying to improve your conversion rate for an individual channel is much more likely to be a success than if you treat all visitors the same.

At the same time be careful not to create too many different segments. You need to have a sufficiently large sample size for each segment to avoid a high sampling error and unreliable results. Bear in mind that the probability of error rises exponentially the more segments you compare against each other.

Change management:

In many ways CRO is a form of change management because it can be a powerful driver of innovation in an organisation. However, people naturally resist change and this can create blockages for a successful CRO program. Use change management techniquest to engage and inform people about your CRO strategy to prevent objections being raised further down the line.

Conclusion:

CRO is about improving the profitability of your site by persuading more of your visitors to convert. This does require a cultural shift in how website design changes are decided. It seeks to replace the use of subjective opinions to make decisions with a scientific evidence-based approach to digital optimisation.

As Brian Massey at Conversion Sciences puts it:

“We optimise revenue, growth, pricing, value proposition, images, navigation and more. Perhaps we’re the Online Business Optimisation industry, OBO. That’s taken, unfortunately.” Brian Massey – Conversion Scientist at Conversion Sciences – From The Growth Strategy That’s Being Ignored.

CRO does of course create a lot of challenges, but the benefits are well worth it as you can use CRO as a driver of sustainable business growth. As companies such as Amazon, Skyscanner and Netflix continue to develop their CRO strategy it will become increasingly difficult to compete against such organisations unless you also adopt a CRO strategy based upon evidence rather than gut instinct.

 

Thank you for reading this post. If you found it useful please share using the social media icons below.

Related Posts:

CRO Strategy – 10 strategies for successful conversion rate optimisation.

CRO process – 8 steps guaranteed to boost your conversion rate.

Prioritisation – How should you prioritise your A/B test ideas?

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.ukpartypoker.com and Bgo.com. He uses a variety of techniques, including web analytics, personas, customer journey analysis and customer feedback to improve a website’s conversion rate.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@conversion-uplift.co.uk. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

Is LinkedIn The New Facebook?

The First Rule of Social Media Marketing:

I recently saw this post on LinkedIn and wondered why some users were surprised by the negative comments it received.

Image of post on LinkedIn timeline

The post reads; “Last weekend I had the pleasure of travelling to Berlin on a private chartered plane. After being escorted through security ‘VIP’ , we were met with Prosecco before heading onto the plane. If 2017 carries on like this, I’m going to have a pretty great year.”

One user posted this comment in response to the negative feedback:

“Great stuff Tim. What I fail to understand is all the negatively here, get a grip people & if you don’t like it scroll on by & enjoy your day. It’s quite simple really.”

Well, are you guys trying to turn LinkedIn into the new Facebook or are you just submitting the same posts to all your social media platforms? Whichever it is you need to stop doing it because the first rule of social media is to tailor your message to your audience.

LinkedIn is a professional networking site for making contacts and sharing useful content. It is not for boasting about how lucky you are to have been on a private jet. Enjoying yourself at work is important, but LinkedIn is not the platform to distribute this kind of self-congratulating twaddle. It’s unprofessional and annoying to other users.

Indeed, if I was a potential client of the agency concerned I would question their fees if they can afford to send employees on a private charter plane. Maybe the charter plane was paid for by a client or someone else, but that’s not the point. It creates that thought in your brain that is how my fees are being spent.

These types of posts also dilute the effectiveness of the LinkedIn timeline and put off users browsing their homepage. As the comment above suggests you can; “scroll on by” but just don’t expect me to scroll for very long as I can go to Facebook to read this kind of bragging content.

The power of LinkedIn:

LinkedIn is still a very effective social media platform though. Whilst the time line is getting clogged up with mediocre stuff the special interest groups are fantastic for sharing quality content with like-minded people. LinkedIn is currently my number one source of social media traffic because I spent time finding interest groups that closely match the target audience for my blog posts. The content is therefore relevant to users and I get constructive comments and good click through to my website.

Finally:

So I’m not against people having fun at work, but just make sure you think before you post on your LinkedIn timeline. Otherwise LinkedIn will turn into a version of Facebook that will damage its effectiveness as a networking tool. Ask yourself a few questions.  How relevant and appropriate is the content to my LinkedIn contacts. Also, what will it say about me and my company to other users on LinkedIn? The latter is the main point really. As unlike on Facebook where most people don’t give a toss where you work on LinkedIn your job title and company is very visible.

Thank you for reading my post. If you found it interesting please share using the social media icons below.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.ukpartypoker.com and Bgo.com. He uses a variety of techniques, including web analytics, personas, customer journey analysis and customer feedback to improve a website’s conversion rate.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@conversion-uplift.co.uk. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

How Smart is Your Approach to Conversion Rate Optimisation?

Conversion rate optimisation co-ordinates:

 

Image of conversion rate optimisation coordinates for clever and stupidity

 

 

I’ve previously written about mistakes companies make with website optimisation where I outlined some fundamental errors that some organisations make with implementing digital optimisation programs. I have also written about strategies for successful conversion rate optimisation programs.  But I’ve not looked at strategies from a clever/stupid perspective before.

Really clever – sounds stupid:

Do you need a user acceptance testing (UAT) team? Not if you ask your developers to test their own changes to make sure they get them right first time and then A/B test the change before they are fully rolled out. This makes developers more accountable as they can’t rely on the UAT team to identify bugs.

Take most of the control for tactical changes to your sites away from the highest paid person opinion’s (HIPPO) and committees by agreeing to use online experiments to inform teams about the effectiveness of proposed changes.

To short-cut building your own internal team consider bringing in expert consultants who have the experience and credibility to shake the organisation up and get things done.

Sounds stupid – Really stupid:

Changing content is not optimisation, it is content management, but it is often called optimisation by some marketers.

Vanity metrics, such as likes and shares are meaningless if they don’t impact on the bottom line.  Monitoring such metrics results in the cobra effect which is damaging to the business.

Listen to customers, they are your most important stakeholders, but don’t take what they say literally or do what they ask without first testing the idea to measure real behaviour. People are poor at predicting their own future behaviour because the choice architecture influences decision making (volition) and there are many complex and contributory factors that influence the final outcome.

Usability testing is just common sense. But focus groups are not usability testing and so don’t use them! Enough said.

Sounds clever – really clever:

With the development of AI solutions and evolutionary algorithms it is now feasible to optimise the whole customer journey at once.

Establishing a culture of experimentation and learning through testing ideas out should be a given.

Having a central team of CRO experts who work closely with stakeholders and seek input from the wider business is the most efficient and effective way of using such expertise.

Diversity of people and inputs is key to a successful innovation and change management program. CRO needs to be a collaborative process as that is what it is.

CRO needs senior people with clout to manage all the crap of the highest paid person’s opinion (HIPPO) and the internal politics generated by trying to use evidence rather than subjective opinions to make decisions.

Sounds clever – Really stupid:

Trying to control everything is a stupid and unrealistic idea for anything. To develop a culture of experimentation it is necessary to seek ideas and help from all parts of the organisation.

IT won’t solve optimisation – it needs the support of the whole organisation.

Keeping experiments secret and not circulating results just limits the organisation’s ability to develop the right culture.

Relying on departmental specialism ignores the expertise of conversion rate optimiser’s who bring together skills from number of disciplines. Very stupid approach to optimisation.

Optimising sites separately. When you have more than one digital brand the last thing you should do is to allocate separate optimisation resource to each site/app.  Why test on a small brand with little traffic when you can complete the same test much  more quickly and with a higher degree of confidence on a larger, more profitable brand? Prioritise resources according to where it can have most impact rather than creating silos for each brand.

Why on earth would you want to stop testing at peak times? This is when you have most traffic and greatest potential to improve revenues. With high traffic levels you can also complete tests more quickly than at any other time and so you would have to be stupid to waste this opportunity.

Thank you for reading my post and if you found it useful please share using the social media icons below.

 

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.