Daniel Burstein

Email Testing: 7 tips from your peers for email conversion optimization

May 10th, 2018
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We recently asked the MarketingSherpa audience for tips on running effective email tests. Here are a few of the most helpful responses to consider as you start to develop an email testing program.

Tip #1: Start with send time and subject line testing

“Testing and measuring open rate data for send times and subject lines is the best place to start. Once the open rates increase, you can work on the messaging to improve email engagement and conversions.” – Markelle Harden, Content Marketing Specialist, Classy Inbound

Tip #2: The language of your best customer

“Subject line tests are an incredible way to drill down into the language of your best customer and we use this to directly influence the rest of the offer.” – Al Simon

Tip #3: Don’t overlook the landing page

“Landing page tests are especially important and often overlooked. The more seamless the experience leading to the call to action, the higher the conversion rate. I have seen conversions increase substantially as the landing page was edited based on test results to more specifically match the offer.” – Susan F. Heywood, Marketer, educator, entrepreneur

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Linda Johnson

Customer-First Marketing: What every entrepreneur and SMB marketer can learn from successful Etsy sellers

May 4th, 2018
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Whenever I’m looking for an original, handcrafted gift, I go to Etsy.com. In case you aren’t in the loop yet, it’s a worldwide digital marketplace for artisan entrepreneurs. Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time there because my daughter is getting married, and I need to find some unique gifts for the wedding party.

But it’s also a laboratory of capitalism that any marketers — especially small businesses, entrepreneurs, and startups — can learn from. Smaller companies might not have the giant budgets for media, perfect photography and SEO, but they can find an advantage with more human customer service and customer interactions in general.

I’ve found that each seller has their own communication style and shop policies. Some of these artisans are wildly successful with thousands of sales and loyal customers.

And some, well, not so much.

It’s clear that many of the top-grossing ones stand out because they not only have a great product, but also excellent customer service. No, not even that. Their service is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. They’ve obviously learned a thing or two about customer-first marketing.

Here are just a few of their practices that can help other marketers who are trying to succeed in an already saturated marketplace.

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Daniel Burstein

Voice-Over Coaching: Tips for improving external webinars, internal trainings and other content

May 1st, 2018
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Webinars, demos, videos, external online trainings, internal trainings posted to an intranet and many other types of inbound, outbound and internal content require voiceovers. But many marketers don’t have time or budget for professional voice-over (VO) artists, or they don’t want someone external representing the brand.

So many content marketers, sales directors and marketing managers find themselves doing the voice-over work, even though that isn’t their expertise.

A MECLABS Institute Research Partner (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa) recently found himself in this situation while preparing to record audio to go with PowerPoint presentations that would be hosted in an LMS (learning management system) for internal training.

The MECLABS team suggested we connect to discuss the presentations (“Dan leads our publishing team and has conducted many interviews, webinars and training — he’d be a great resource to get some tips on how to best prepare and conduct the recordings for the training.”) In this blog post, I’ll provide a few voice-over tips we discussed in that call, along with some other advice if handling a VO isn’t your primary (or secondary or tertiary) skillset but you find yourself doing it as part of your job.

I have the benefit that none of this comes naturally to me. I’m incredibly introverted. So I’ve had to really think through, learn, and put a lot of effort into being able to speak publicly or have my voice recorded. Learn from my shortcomings …

Tip #1: Speak slowly

I’ll out myself and admit it right up front — this has always been a big challenge for me, but it really came to light when I did some public relations training. The PR consultant recorded us answering questions in an interview, and then we had to painfully watch those recordings back. It really hit home with me how fast I can speak in an audio recording if I’m not careful.

Try it yourself. If you’re doing any voice-over work, you need this lesson.

And then slow down. Working with many speakers and presenters over the years, I think people speed through a presentation when they’re speaking for three reasons:

  • They’re nervous — so have someone with you in the room giving you a subtle hands-down-pausing gesture to remind you to calm down and breathe deeply.
  • They think their audience will be impatient listening to them — That’s true. Your audience likely is impatient. But cramming 15 minutes of content into seven minutes won’t help. It will just overwhelm them, and you’ll lose them.
  • They haven’t managed their time well — Some speakers will take way too long on the upfront and speed through the rest. If you’re speaking with slides, have a clock and understand the breakpoints beforehand. Print the slides out nine-up or similar and write different time stamps by certain slides. Let’s say, you should be 10 minutes into an hour webinar or recording by slide seven, 20 minutes in by slide 14, etc. If you’re longer or shorter than that, you’ll know if you have to speed up or slow down way ahead of time and not try to cram 15 minutes of content into the last five minutes.

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Daniel Burstein

Selling and Marketing to Senior Citizens When Your Team is Very Different From the Customer

April 26th, 2018
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“Nobody reads direct mail letters anymore.” “Everybody has the latest iPhone now.” “I would never read that.”

Let’s unpack these sentences. What they are really saying is:

  • “Nobody (I know) reads direct mail anymore.”
  • “Everybody (I follow on Instagram) has the latest iPhone now.”
  • “I would never read that (but I’m not the ideal customer for the product).”

We humans, we’re a self-centered lot. And we think other people are much more like us than they really are. Psychologists call this false-consensus bias. And it is a significant challenge for the CMO or other sales or marketing leader in charge of a team that is very different from them.

I discussed this topic with Denis Mrkva, general manager of Aetna’s HealthSpire subsidiary, right before I interviewed him about a landing page optimization effort that increased leads 638% for a call center. Denis’ ideal customer is interested in Medicare Advantage. So his fairly young team is selling to senior citizens.

We also discussed hiring and creating the right culture, how senior citizens use digital channels, and how Denis’ team helps his customers navigate the digital environment. You can watch the video below or jump to the full transcript.


Customer-first sales and marketing

In discussing the customer, Denis had some good advice:

“Put them and their needs first — and listen. And try to understand not only their needs for the product they want to buy, but their lifestyle, the important things in their life.”  — Denis Mrkva

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Daniel Burstein

Marketing 101: What is website usability?

April 19th, 2018
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

Simply put, website usability is how easy, clear and intuitive it is for visitors to use your website. This is from the visitor’s perspective, not your company’s perspective.

Of course, website usability isn’t so simple at all. You essentially have to read someone else’s mind, so the expected user experience matches the web experience you design. However, as 18th-century poet Robert Burns wrote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men / Go oft awry.”

As I said, you’re trying to read someone else’s mind (many people, in fact). So the challenges of web usability aren’t necessarily unique to the web. These challenges are the very fundamentals of human behavior and interaction. Here’s a very visual example that UXer Oliver McGough shared on Twitter …

There are many terms related to website usability that you might have heard:

  • User experience — how people experience your website. This may be very different than you intended because you may not be able to take an outside perspective of your website and assume visitors will understand something that they don’t, or understand differently, from you (more on this in a bit).
  • User experience design (or UX) — the practice of creating websites, computer programs, apps, etc. with the user in mind. UX can also be used as shorthand for website usability. (e.g., “That site has good UX.”)
  • User interface (UI) — where man meets machine. For example, an operating system has a graphical user interface. UI continues to evolve and isn’t always visual. Thanks to virtual assistants like Alexa, the human voice now interacts with a UI as well.
  • Usability — in general. This is, after all, broader than just websites. Any digital offering has (or lacks) usability, from a website to a computer game. But physical objects have usability considerations as well. For example, OXO is a company that is well known for kitchen utensils and housewares usability. When I first learned about usability, the instructor used a car brake pedal as an example. I had never noticed before, but it is a lot wider than the gas pedal for a reason. If you’re accidentally going to stomp on one of them, it’s better to be the stop than the accelerate!
  • User testing — Get your visitors’ opinions about what works well on the site and what doesn’t, what processes and mechanisms are intuitive and which are confusing
  • A/B testing — Measuring your visitors’ behavior to see how well they are able to actually use the site, and if the actual user experience matches the intended website design

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Daniel Burstein

Email Clickthrough Rate: 9-point checklist to get more clicks for your email marketing by reducing perceived cost

April 5th, 2018
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To help you increase the clickthrough rate of your email marketing, here’s a nine-point checklist for minimizing your recipients’ perceived cost of clicking in your emails. This checklist is from the Email Messaging online certification course taught by MECLABS Institute (MarketingSherpa’s parent research organization).

You can click here to download a PDF of the Email Click Cost Force Checklist (no form fill required, instant download), and I will walk through the checklist step-by-step in this blog post.

EMAIL CLICK COST FORCE

For macro decisions, like a purchase, you likely spend significant time and resources ensuring that customers want to purchase the product.

However, it’s all too easy to overlook the smaller decisions your customers are making every day — the micro-yes(s) — like clicking through an email.

Every decision you ask prospective customers to make has a perceived value to the customer as well as a perceived cost. The “force” of value or cost is a term designed to discuss the strength of the effect of those elements on the customer’s decision-making process.

Put simply, if the value force is stronger, your customer will take the action you are asking. If the cost force is stronger, your customer will not take the action.

For example, could the customer be concerned that you are sending a phishing email, and by clicking through they will get a virus or be scammed in some other way? That is a cost, a major cost.

But every click has a cost. Even if it’s just the time it takes their phone to load the data of the landing page they are clicking through to.

Now, the actual value or cost of the email click isn’t what determines if your subscribers will act (although it could affect their likelihood to take future actions). It is the perceived cost or value before customers even take that action. After all, they don’t know what value they will really receive or cost they will incur until they act.

This checklist will help you minimize the perceived cost of an email click to help you increase your brand’s email clickthrough rate. For a checklist that will help you maximize the perceived value of the email click, along with checklists to help you grow your email list and increase open rate, you can download this bundle of six email marketing checklists.

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Daniel Burstein

Referral Marketing: 4 case studies

April 3rd, 2018
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A MarketingSherpa email subscriber recently asked for relevant case studies on referral marketing campaigns. If you’re also looking for ideas and tactics to launch or optimize your own referral programs, here are four case studies that have some interesting examples.

(And if you find this blog post helpful, click on one of those Twitter, Facebook or other referral buttons at the top of this blog post.)

 

Triggered email nets 75% of referral program signups for Roku

Roku, a video-streaming device for television, discovered that about 25 percent of its customers heard about the company from a friend or family member. The team already offered rewards to customers who sent referrals via email, Facebook or Twitter.

To get even more customers to participate, the team planned a triggered email campaign to Roku’s newest customers. They offered incentives for both the referrer and the newly referred customer — a free month of Netflix for each friend who tries Roku, along with a 10% discount to the newly referred customers.

Of all the channels through which customers could send referrals to contacts, referrals sent via email drove 70 percent of all sales in the program.

“Email has been the biggest way to promote [referrals],” said Lomit Patel, Senior Director, Direct Marketing, Roku. “The newsletters definitely help, but these individual emails after purchase have had the most effect.”

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Daniel Burstein

Subfolders, Subdirectories and Subdomains: The URL difference that can drive a major increase in organic traffic

March 28th, 2018
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We were recently asked if it’s better to use a subdirectory (also known as a subfolder) or a subdomain on a website.

If you’re unfamiliar with these two terms, you’ll know them right away when you see URL examples.

A subdirectory looks like this: marketingsherpa.com/freestuff.

A subdomain looks like this: sherpablog.marketingsherpa.com. Even www.marketingsherpa.com/ is technically a subdomain.

The difference may seem like an esoteric or gorpy concern that only developers and programmers care about. After all, why should the URL matter anyway? Most people are just clicking on links. And occasionally when they actually have to type one in (say, from a newspaper ad), you’re creating a vanity link that redirects to the actual URL anyway.

Well, search engines may care. A lot. Even if they claim they don’t. And the experts I asked said that subdirectories are almost always the better option.

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Daniel Burstein

Email Open Rates: 9-point checklist to get more opens for your email marketing by reducing perceived cost

March 21st, 2018
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The Radicati Group predicted that the average business user would receive 97 emails per day in 2018.

97 emails per day.

So why should they open yours?

To help you optimize your open rate, we’re giving you a nine-point checklist for minimizing the perceived cost of the email open. This checklist is from the Email Messaging online certification course taught by MECLABS Institute (MarketingSherpa’s parent research organization).

You can click here to download a PDF of the Email Open Cost Force Checklist (no form fill required, instant download), and I will walk through the checklist step-by-step in this blog post.

EMAIL OPEN COST FORCE

For macro decisions, like a purchase process, you likely spend significant time and resources ensuring that customers understand the value of the product.

However, it’s all too easy to overlook the smaller decisions your customers are taking every day — the micro-yes(s) — like email open.

Every decision you ask prospective customers to make has a perceived value to the customer as well as a perceived cost. The “force” of value or cost is a term designed to discuss the strength of the effect of those elements on the customer’s decision-making process.

Put simply, if the value force is stronger, your customer will take the action you are asking. If the cost force is stronger, your customer will not take the action.

Now, this isn’t the actual value or cost of an action. It is the perceived cost or value before customers take an action. After all, they don’t know what value they will really receive until they act.

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Daniel Burstein

Social Doubt: Beware the downside of social proof in social media marketing

March 8th, 2018
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Back when I was an undergrad at the University of Florida, our basketball team won in the Elite Eight round of March Madness, meaning we were headed to the Final Four. Right after we won that game, students poured out onto University Avenue. There was jubilation in the street.

And then … all of a sudden … everyone just ran down to the football stadium and tore down the goalposts. (We were a football school at the time, not yet accustomed to basketball success)

It was a very odd moment. No one planned anything. People didn’t even shout out any directions. Most (but not all, let the record show I stayed put) of the students in the streets simply started running together toward the stadium.

Ah, the human animal

Much like a V-shaped formation of birds adjusting down the line to keep the formation tight, or a school of fish quickly changing direction, humans also engage in unthinking, subconscious herd behavior without even realizing what they’re doing.

And this is one of the most powerful drivers behind social media marketing.

Psychologists call this phenomenon social proof, which Wikipedia describes as “where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior in a given situation.”

Do you see what I just did there? Wikipedia is another example of social proof. If enough people agree to a definition of a term — even if they’re not experts — I guess it’s reliable enough to include in this MarketingSherpa blog post.

But social proof has its downsides for social media marketing as well

Now, I’m not the only person to write about social proof in social media marketing. Just search the term, and you’ll find endless articles and blog posts.

However, I noticed a serious dearth of conversation about the opposite of social proof in social media marketing. If social proof works because it shows other people are interested in your brand, the opposite of social proof shows that other people are not interested in your brand. What is the word for that?

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