Archive

Posts Tagged ‘A/B testing’

Customer-First Marketing: Use data to make sure the customer always wins

March 17th, 2017

Every year when I’m in Las Vegas for MarketingSherpa Summit, I find myself on the casino floor at some point. All roads in Vegas lead through the casino.

There’s bright flashing lights and sounds. Lively chatter. General bacchanalia.

Gambling looks like a lot of fun, and many people enjoy it. But other than a few bucks here or there, I don’t partake. Because, as someone who has written about evidence-based marketing for these many years, I suspect the odds are not in my favor.

The house always wins. In the gambler-casino relationship, the casino has the slight edge that, over billions of transactions, generates positive cash flow. This is a business after all, and revenue for the fountains, the curved glass and steel towers, the futuristic trams — it has to come from somewhere.

So when I had a chance to interview Jeff Ma, I wanted his opinion on the customer-marketer relationship. Who has the edge?

The customer and the marketer shouldn’t be opposed

“I think ultimately it’s not a similar thing because the difference . . . this is like honestly one of the things I don’t think people realize — the customer and the marketer shouldn’t be opposed. There’s not a contentious relationship. This should actually be a very positive relationship,” Jeff told me.

“If I were a customer, as long as the marketer had my best intentions, I wouldn’t give a s%&@ if they knew everything about me and all the data about me. As long as they’re not going to harm or use that against me, I want them to have as much information as they can.”

Jeff Ma is currently the senior director of analytics for Twitter, was previously ESPN’s predictive analytics expert, and is perhaps best known for his role on the infamous MIT Blackjack Team. Using creativity, math and teamwork, Ma created a card-counting method that helped the group win millions in Las Vegas. He was the inspiration for the book Bringing Down the House and the Kevin Spacey movie 21.

I was interviewing Jeff because he is a featured speaker at MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 in Las Vegas, and his response was right in line with discoveries from MarketingSherpa’s recent research.

For example, “showing personalized ads based on data about me is invasive” was not a major factor in why consumers blocked online ads.

However, that part Jeff mentioned about “as long as the marketer had my best intentions” was huge. Customer-first marketing was the key difference between how satisfied and unsatisfied customers described a company’s marketing, showing that the intentions behind the marketing play a critical role in the relationship with a customer.

Here are a few more quick takeaways from my conversation with Jeff to help you look at your data through a new lens.

Read more…

Direct Marketing vs. Wholesale Marketing: How Steve Madden organizes and optimizes its $1.4 billion shoe empire

June 9th, 2016

When your business is 80% wholesale like Steve Madden, how do you carve out a unique value proposition for your direct ecommerce business?

 

Watch the full interview to find out

“The value proposition of our site is that we have the deepest selection [and] we have it before anyone else.”

So said Mark Friedman, President of Ecommerce for Steve Madden, yesterday during a live interview at the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE 2016.

Additionally, Mark mentions the company’s community of rabid Steve Madden fans in social channels and through the SM Mag.

“It’s crazy how people feel about the brand. We incorporate that into the site, and that gives others some perspective of how some people are wearing it. You’re getting to see not only the product that they bought, but their complete look and how they put it together,” Mark said.

Of course, because the business is 80% wholesale, Steve Madden can’t just leave partners out in the cold. To balance its relationship with partners, Mark mentions the team employs a variety of tactics, including:

  • Syndicate product photography done in-house
  • Syndicate product reviews that were written on SteveMadden.com

  Read more…

Four Simple Ways to Become a More Customer-Centric Marketer

April 26th, 2016

Recently, I wrote about our need to guard against company logic. I argued that it is very easy for us as marketers to slip into a mindset that ignores the ultimate desires of the customer. This is a struggle experienced by all companies, big or small, new or old, well-known or unknown.

customer-centric-marketing

Ironically, as one commenter posted, perhaps even my blog post suffered from a little company logic as it seemed to focus on what I wanted to say rather than what would have most served the audience: more application. Knowing myself, and the tendency that I have just like anyone else, it may very well be true. I can also relate to wanting to know not just the “what” of a thing but also the “how.”

So, in the spirit of taking my own medicine, I would like to attempt being a little more customer centric and suggest four ways in which we can practically guard against company logic and become more customer-centric marketers. These are not the only four ways, but they are a good place to start.

 

#1. Listen

Learning the discipline of listening to your customer is essential for all marketers. This is where a marketer should always start. Listening to customers was once much more difficult, but today there is so much feedback our customer is giving to us. With the prevailing social dynamic of the Internet, our customers are constantly talking to us (directly or indirectly). We just have to make sure we are listening.

Many marketers are tempted to fear social feedback. I mean, who really wants to hear someone else critique you? However, if we are really doing our job, we will embrace both pleasant and painful insights that we gain from hearing from the customer. It is so easy to become insular and solicit feedback only from our peers, but we must force ourselves to hear the customer’s feedback. Sometimes that comes in the form of them talking directly to us, and other times it comes in the form of customers talking to one another. Nonetheless, our customers are talking, and we must learn to listen.

Read more…

The Hidden Side of Email Marketing: The once-and-done option, A/B testing and a supersmart kind of dumb

May 19th, 2015

What assumptions do you make about your customers? Your competitors? Your industry in general? More importantly, what do those assumptions cost you?

At MarketingSherpa, we write case studies to help you execute your marketing strategy.

We also talk to writers, researchers and, well, renegades to help you challenge those assumptions and create an effective strategy to begin with.

I’m talking about people like Stephen J. Dubner. Not only has Dubner learned about economic theory and customer behavior as co-author of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything and, more recently, Think Like a Freak, but he’s also a very successful digital content creator in his own right as host of the Freakonomics Radio podcast, which nets more than 5 million downloads per month.

Customer behavior. Digital content. Sounds like a guy who could offer a few words of wisdom to email marketers to help them challenge their potentially costly assumptions. I sat down with Dubner at the Media Center at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 before his featured speaker session later that morning:

 

Read more…

Testing and Optimization: Implementing insights from Email Summit at accounts payable company

September 27th, 2013

At Email Summit, marketers gather from around the world to hear success stories and case studies from fellow marketers and return to the office with fresh, new ideas. At Email Summit 2013, Rachel Hoppe, Marketing Manager, AvidXchange, shared how she did just that and presented the results from her takeaways from Email Summit 2012.

In this excerpt from her full presentation, “Email Measurement: How a former Email Summit attendee achieved a 270% increase in conversion,” Rachel discusses step six out of her seven-step plan for success she developed after she returned from Summit.

 

In this video, hear how Rachel and the team at AvidXchange performed tests on their websites using insights learned at Summit.

Learn why Rachel and her team choose to optimize content first, and how they continuously run A/B testing on AvidXchange’s websites.

“I would advocate to test everything. Test even the color of the button, or the format. I always tend to lead with content optimization first, making sure that I can get the eye-path down where it needs to be. Once I can get the content optimized, and then I can focus on graphics,” Rachel said.

This is just a brief look into how Rachel applied what she learned at Summit, and saw positive results. View the entire session  to see how her efforts translated to an increase of sales-qualified leads volume by 105%, and 68% of new revenue sourced through Marketing.

Read more…

Marketing Strategy: How you can use emails to test your value proposition

September 20th, 2013

“We should always strive to better understand our customer, and in particular, to understand the essence of our value proposition,” Austin McCraw, Senior Editorial Analyst, MECLABS, explained at Email Summit 2013.

In this video excerpt, learn how email marketing is one of the most effective ways to quickly test your value proposition with your customers rather than relying on company logic to determine the best way to sell to them. Email marketing, he argued, cultivates testing.

 

 

Ease of change

Email marketing is easy to change. Unlike traditional marketing channels, with a couple of clicks, an entire message can be changed. A headline, copy, a postscript, everything in an email is easily adaptable, easily changed, easily tested. If you want to find out what motivates a customer, just see which email they open.

 

Large sample size

Additionally, email marketing can produce a large sample size if your list is big enough. This allows a marketer to test different value propositions across different segments to see what resonates and what flops. Austin reiterated numerous times, “the goal of a test is not simply to get a lift, but to get a learning,” which indicates some tests will be more successful than others, but it’s all in an effort to put a face on your customers.

 

Do you stand out in the inbox?

Email also cultivates a highly competitive environment, where every company a customer is subscribed to is also attempting to get the customer to open its email. However, if a typical customer is anything like you or me, getting 20 or more emails a day from different companies, they’re selective about which emails they open, let alone click through. Discovering what value motivates your customer to open the email, or respond to its call-to-action, is a breakthrough.

  Read more…

A/B Testing: One word will unclog your conversion testing

August 27th, 2013

With A/B testing, you’re examining and exploring the mind of the customer. You’re learning about your customers and you’re the one asking the questions. However, the newly released MECLABS Online Testing Course explains in great detail why you can’t ask just any question to get the answers you need.

There’s a formula for what goes into that question, and it’s all built around one imperative word.

Which.

The word “which” demands specifics and precision, allowing you to focus on something that can be answered with a split test.

Let’s expand this further by looking at one of the key principles Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, discussed in Session 2 of the course.

  • A properly framed research question is a question of “which” and sets out to identify an alternative (treatment) that performs better than the control.

The guiding force of online testing is seeking to better predict the behavior of your customers. To achieve this, you need a research question to tests your hypothesis.

“If your research question is framed wrong, the entire outcome of the test is dubious because you haven’t approached it properly,” Flint said.

Below are some of the examples presented in the course that convey the importance of this essential word.

 

Not this: What is the best price for product X?

This isn’t specific. The question doesn’t set out particular items to test. “Best price” could be anything.

But this: Which of these three price points is best for product X?

This utilizes the imperative “which.” The implementation of “these three price points” gives you three precise price points to test.

 

Not this: Why am I losing customers in the last step of my checkout process?

Sure, you may ultimately want to discover why it is you’re losing those customers, but you must start out smaller. This question doesn’t narrow anything down. The last step of the checkout process is quite complicated and there isn’t just one element present.

But this: Eliminating which form element best reduces customer drop-off?

There’s the “which” again. The “form element” is the metric allowing you to compare one specific element to another. This gives you a particular element to test rather than just presenting a broad idea.

Read more…

Email Marketing: What I’ve learned from writing almost 1,000 emails for MarketingSherpa

August 23rd, 2013

Having written close to 1,000 emails for MarketingSherpa promoting our marketing products over the past few years, I’ve learned a couple of things I thought I would share with you, many of them from my own mistakes.

At Summits, when people recognize my name from their inbox, they ask, “What have you found that works?” What a loaded question, right?

I’ve felt much like Edison, but with a marketing spin on it. I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways on how to not write an email.

Much like you, my writing over time has evolved to include some semi-universal best practices which many of us are familiar with, but sometimes get lost in the marketing translation from company logic to customer logic. So, here is a quick refresher.

 

Tip #1. Write your copy with the understanding that your audience is likely not reading, but skimming

It’s been said most people are either “filers,” who create a specific file folder for each email, or “pilers,” who let the inbox pile up with no hope in sight. Either way, your message is up against an already overflowing inbox. Standing out – and quickly – is the only hope you have.

I’m not saying all email messages have to be short, but they should be readable in a skim format. Your audience should be able to understand the main message in five to 10 seconds. Subject lines should be point first or last, not middle. Intro paragraphs should also be short and lead into the body copy, usually three sentences or less. Overall, you should test your email subject lengths to know what your audience prefers to read.

 

Tip #2. Stop selling to your audience and offer real value

Nobody enjoys being bombarded with product offerings and specials. Don’t get me wrong, we all like a good deal, just not all of the time and not every day. Your emails should be an ongoing conversation and always offer real value. Ask yourself, “Does this pass the ‘so what’ test?” If not, then scrap what you have and start over.

Use benefit-focused language such as “Get” or “Receive” without making them think about all of the things they have to do. You need to build some trust with your audience and make sure you provide an email address so they can respond with feedback.

 

Tip #3. Clarity is the key

Have you ever read an email and not understood what they were trying to say? I know I have. From internal acronyms nobody outside the office understands to copy containing three or four calls-to-action, too much clutter is a conversion killer.

Focus on one key benefit, map it to their pain point and solve it. Your email tone should convey a helpful and friendly voice. Never use words that don’t convey value, like “Submit,” or “Click.” When possible, provide more clarity and quantify your message. For example, use “Get instant online access to all 32 marketing search journals” instead of “Download now.”

Read more…

Marketing Careers: Why marketers and media professionals must never lose their wild spark

August 16th, 2013

There is an inherent paradox in the marketing and media industries.

We need creative people, yet we need corporate structure. Creative people need freedom to thrive and yet, we work tirelessly to bang square pegs into round holes until the hammer is busted, the peg becomes warped and the creative talent is defeated.

For instance, when I worked at an agency, and would get my ninth sub-order of redundant changes to a postcard, I used to joke about it this way …

 

We were wild mustangs once …

Free to roam across the Great Plains as the wind whipped through our hair. When lightning would strike in the distance, spooking the herd, it was up to us, the mighty stallions, to chase them down and lead them to safety.

In our corporate environment, it can feel as if our creative spark is only a shadow of its former self.

It has been reduced to the old bag of bones nag you see tied to a revolving wheel at the county fair for the kids to ride.

We trot round and round, day after day, staring at the tail of another old nag in front of us, while some snot-nosed kid pokes us with a stick saying, “Look, he likes to eat rocks. Watch. You can just shove them in his mouth!”

But even then, if you look deep enough in our eyes, it’s still there. That wild spark.

 

You must never let your team lose that wild spark

Now that I have the distinct privileges of running my own team of creatives, and interviewing  some of the most creative and effective minds in marketing, I look at our stable of talent  this way – it’s on us to make sure they never lose that wild spark.

If you’re working with a team of creatives, either at an agency or on the client side, here are a few suggestions I propose to challenge you to help keep your team’s creative spark alive and well.

 

1. Ask, “Who really, really, really needs to be in this meeting?”

The fastest way to kill your team’s creative output is with a stack of invites to meetings they don’t need attend. I try to keep my team out of as many meetings as possible.

Before I send out invites, I also ask myself “Do we really need all these people in this meeting?” or even better, “Heck, do we really need to have a meeting at all?”

If a meeting isn’t avoidable for your team, then try to sacrifice your own time to protect theirs. Take the meeting on the chin yourself, and then go back and fill your team in on the two minutes of relevant information that applied to them.

 

2. Stop carbon copying everybody

The only thing that screams “corporate” more than meetings is the mass-copied email, so I try to avoid sending them if possible.

 

3. Give them a chance to run with the wild herd

A great way I’ve discovered to do this is through industry awards.

I remember how rejuvenated I would feel winning ADDY awards. I also remember how I’d feel my creative juices sparked even more by watching my peers win as I thought, “that was pretty darn good!”

The creativity that was a linchpin to their success was often just what I needed to keep my spark alive and recommit to coming up with better work.

I’m on the other side of things now, judging awards. For example, we just launched MarketingSherpa Email Awards 2014. There’s no entry fee, so there is no excuse not to tell your team to enter.

For example, the Best in Show winner from Email Awards 2013, NFL.com, had some really innovative features in its emails, like “Countdown to the Game” clocks and a “Who Will Win? Vote Today!” dynamically updated poll.

 

It’s creative ideas like these from marketers across a wide range of companies that continue to inspire me.

 

4. Measure and share results

I think there’s a false impression that creatives are art snobs who only care about aesthetic appeal.

We have, after all, decided to work in a corporate environment, even though it chafes. Let them see the fruit of their labor.

Earlier in my career, writing an ad that was successful in The Wall Street Journal for six months versus the previous ad that could only pull leads for two weeks was a huge morale booster.

Now, working more in the digital media space, I love receiving feedback through social media (I’m @DanielBurstein if you’d like to tell me what you think of this post) as well as A/B testing, even when the more creative ideas lose.

At the end of the day, we know results matter. After all, a man’s gotta eat.

I know when I’m judging the Email Awards, results will be at the top of my mind. I’m sure they are important to you as well as you manage your creative teams and agency relationships.

Read more…

Online Marketing: 3 website optimization insights I learned from baking

July 26th, 2013

Ever since I was a little girl, baking has been a hobby of mine.

There has always been something satisfying about attempting to master the complexities of baking.

Although the realist in me knew I wasn’t going to hit the big bucks through baking, I have found a few ways to apply some of the lessons I’ve learned from baking to my work as a research manager at MECLABS.

In today’s MarketingSherpa blog, I wanted to share three insights into how I think about testing and marketing as a result of my baking attempts.

 

Don’t stick with the directions on the box

Some of my best cakes have come from getting creative and literally thinking outside the box by adding different ingredients, or from asking friends what kind of crazy cake ingredients they’d like to try.

When working with one of our Research Partners to create a testing strategy, I often find myself confined to my own thought track – which I’ll admit can cause the creativity of test ideas to become stale and truthfully, can even get a little boring sometimes.

So, brainstorming with others in our peer review sessions is a great way to add those “new ingredients” to a test design to hopefully help our Research Partners learn more about their customers.

 

Beware of offering coupons in the Sunday paper too soon

Betty Crocker’s coupons excite me every time, and it’s a marketing tactic that stretches all the way back to 1929.

That’s when the company first decided to insert coupons into the flour mixture part of the box mix. And, I’ll admit the tactic works on me because I often find myself staring at the Save $1.00 off TWO boxes of cake mix coupon and debate a trip to the store.

But, here’s the big question … am I being motivated to buy more because of my aggregate experience with the product, or because of the value proposition offered in the coupon?

Before I even saw the coupon, I wasn’t planning on buying cake mixes, but now I’m thinking about it – why should I buy more cake mix from you?  It will cost me more regardless of the coupon savings.

Now, I understand the idea of incentives and they can work – people have a hard time letting savings slip through their fingers, but offering incentives right off the bat isn’t always the best answer to increasing conversion and here’s why …

At MECLABS, we generally stress incentives should be the last resort in your testing efforts to see a quick win. The reason for this is offering incentives can skew your understanding of true customer motivation, as you can tell from my coupon example above.

My need for cake mix is why I initially purchased, and a coupon incentive may not be the optimal solution to keeping me as a return customer or attracting new customers.

So, before you worry about the coupons and other incentives, try to make sure you have the basics covered first:

  • A website that visitors can easily navigate and find what they’re looking for.
  • A simplified purchase flow for potential customers.
  • Easy, accessible support for your customers when they can’t figure things out.

If those items are in place and you’ve tested for the optimal user experience, then you can begin to explore incentives.

Read more…