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Keyword: ‘the radical idea’

The Radical Idea: Customer-first marketing prioritizes customer experience over upsells

June 2nd, 2017
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I stopped by Barnes & Noble on Sunday, early enough that our open-air mall — St. Johns Town Center — was nice and quiet.

It was a more pleasant experience than simply buying on Amazon.com. Got Starbucks for my daughter and hung out with her in the café. Purchased a Harry Potter book for her. Bought myself those chunky Sunday editions of The Florida Times-Union and The New York Times.

It was a more pleasant experience than Amazon.com…until I got to the cashier. Because that’s when I got hit by the dreaded upsell.

In this latest edition of The Radical Idea on the MarketingSherpa Blog, here’s my op-ed about ideas for revisiting your checkout process as well as adding humanity to customer touchpoints, using my recent experience at Barnes & Noble as an example.

First: The argument for the verbal upsell

Anytime I see something in the world that I think needs a radical change, I always try to put myself in the shoes of the other party involved. It’s all too easy for an outsider to look at something and point out faults, falsely assuming the other party is simply being foolish.

However, people and corporations tend to be rational actors, doing what they perceive to be in their best interests based on the incentives placed before them. Even the people behind Nigerian email scams are rational actors. I’m not defending the practice at all. I’m just saying, the best way to institute change is to understand where the other party is coming from — not merely assume they are foolish and wrong. And then identify a possible knowledge gap they may not realize.

So, before I disagree with the way Barnes & Noble handles upsells in store, let me acknowledge why they might have instituted this practice. When I tweeted to the brand that this wasn’t the best customer experience, the response they tweeted back stated, “We ask booksellers to mention the benefits of Membership, in a professional manner. We appreciate your feedback.”

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The Radical Idea: Outsourcing that touches the customer is penny wise, but pound foolish

October 14th, 2016
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Think about how hard you work, how much time and resources you put in to get a customer’s attention.

It may be that you have methodically built up a content marketing powerhouse that pulls in new and returning customers. Or you invest a big part of your budget in social media advertising or print advertising. Maybe you’ve spent hours and hours scrubbing your list squeaky clean and creating valuable newsletters and a finely tuned, marketing-automation fueled drip campaign.

Whatever your marketing focus, you realize that getting customer attention for your marketing efforts is costly…and valuable (not to mention a privilege).

Now what if I told you that companies are throwing this valuable asset away every…single…day?

No, it’s likely not you and your peers in marketing. It’s probably the team in the Logistics Department. Maybe in your company they call it Fulfillment. Or perhaps it’s someone in some other department that is involved in product delivery.

These product delivery decisions are about so much more than cost and speed. They also affect customer perception because they touch the customer. Customer touches and those valuable moments of customer attention are just as valuable after a purchase as they are before a purchase.

When I brought up this idea to Shane Cragun, Founding Principal and CEO, SweetmanCragun, and co-author, “Reinvention: Accelerating Results in the Age of Disruption,” he told me that “customer touchpoints can also be called ‘moments of truth.’ They are connecting points between the company and customer where the customer leaves with a renewed perception of the company.”

Cragun said that these moments of truth touchpoints can only do one of three things:

1) increase customer loyalty
2) decrease customer loyalty
3) maintain the status quo in the buyer’s mind.

First, a personal anecdote to understand the challenge, and then a few reasons why you’re missing an organic opportunity to connect with current and future customers and ensure that you increase customer loyalty (or at least maintain the status quo).

That can’t be for me

I recently bought a clothes dryer from The Home Depot. The driver calls me and says he’s 15 or 20 minutes away. A little while later, I hear what sounds like a big truck driving down my street. I look out the window, but no, it’s just a pickup truck towing a plain, white trailer. Not a truck from The Home Depot. Must be a roofing contractor working on another house in the neighborhood.

But then I hear the truck noise again. Apparently, the truck had turned around in the cul-de-sac at the end of my block, and was in front of my house. So I walked out of the house and talked to the driver and, sure enough, they were delivering my dryer. The driver happened to be wearing a GE shirt, and I had ordered an LG dryer.

Now you may be thinking — Daniel, who really cares? What’s the difference which truck they were driving or what shirt he was wearing? Value perception, my friends. Value perception.

Marketing’s job is to turn actual value into perceived value

When you think of the marketing function today, there are likely many processes and tasks that come to mind. Managing a database. Making sense of analytics. Setting a drip campaign in a marketing automation platform.

But all of those activities are secondary. Marketing’s primary job is to influence perceived value. And you do that by clearly understanding and leveraging the actual value delivered to the customer.

In my case, the actual value delivered was spot on. The delivery people were helpful and nice, and they delivered and installed the appliance quickly and correctly. Really, everything a customer would expect in a home appliance delivery.

So it wasn’t the service itself. It was the perceived value of the service. And that is marketing’s job to influence.

But if you’re a marketer, here are four reasons you should own or influence as many customer touchpoints as you can:

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The Radical Idea: Why investing in the physical world should be part of your social media marketing budget

August 18th, 2016
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What do you include in your social media marketing budget? Most marketers focus on elements like software and tools, paid advertising, social media management, and content creation.

But let me introduce a radical idea – the physical customer experience is a worthwhile investment as part of your social media marketing budget.

Sounds crazy, right? That’s in someone else’s department. It’s someone else’s focus.

But I bet you would have thought I was crazy if I told you just a few months ago that two men would fall off a cliff chasing a pretend monster on their mobile phones (fortunately, both were rescued by firefighters and only suffered moderate injuries).

One thing the Pokémon GO phenomenon should teach all marketers is that – thanks to the evolving way customers interact using mobile devices – the digital world is not a vacuum.

Nowhere is that more true than in social media. Because companies do not own the conversation about their brands on social media. They can participate and engage and boost and shape and share the conversations about their brands. But they cannot control them.

So an important element of positive word-of-mouth about your brand is how customers interact with your brand in the physical, real-world environment. To put it in terms of an overused cliché – think outside of the digital box.

Here are three ideas to help you create unique ways to leverage the physical world for social media impact.

Idea #1: Invest in the product

This may be the most radical idea. Product cost is not usually considered part of the social media marketing budget. The usual (way overly simplified) thinking is: price – cost of goods sold = margin.

But what if you didn’t attribute all of the cost to produce the product as a manufacturing or R&D expense? What if you looked past simple production costs to consider what extra, special, unique touches you could add to a product (or service) experience that sparks enough extra joy in your customers that they’ll want to tell everyone about it on social media?

Wouldn’t this be a worthwhile investment? Specifically, a social media marketing investment? In fact, it might be worth more than, say, a paid Facebook ad.

To spark some ideas, watch this story from the MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 Media Center showing how an exceptional product experience naturally flowed into social media exposure and value.

 

“They actually were going to Instagram and posting very natural photos of what their experience was like when they received that box. They’d put their children in and want to take pictures of their babies in this box brimming with broccoli and kale,” said Cambria Jacobs, Vice President of Marketing, Door to Door Organics. “And all of a sudden, we realized that they were taking and sharing that joyful feeling. It was all over social media, and it was ours to embrace.”

Some products have a more expected passion behind them than others. And in this case, Door to Door Organics is an online grocer that delivers natural and organic groceries, a product that typically has a passionate following and lends itself unsurprisingly to social sharing.

However, any product experience has the potential for social sharing. All experiences are relative. When you create a better product experience than expected, you increase the odds of a positive customer experience on social (on the flip side, the same effect works in reverse when you don’t meet customer expectations).

If you’re serious about social, don’t leave that just up to product managers. Put some (budgetary) skin in the game to deliver positive surprises for customers.

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Informed Dissent: The best marketing campaigns come from the best ideas

March 18th, 2011
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“There are no bad ideas.” When I was an advertising copywriter, this is the line we would always use to enter a realm of, essentially, suspension of disbelief and start concepting our next ad. The idea being that, even if I come up with the absolute worse idea, it might spark a concept in my art director partner that would eventually lead us down the road to riches for our client and our names engraved on a gold One Show pencil.

But, of course, there are bad ideas. And according to an article in Ode magazine about research into ways to spur creativity and innovation, those bad ideas are…well…bad…

“These revelations are all the more potent considering that many organizations continue to embrace the ‘brainstorming’ technique developed by advertising executive Alex Osborn in the 1950s. According to Osborn’s now debunked system, criticism and conflict squash new ideas and should be discouraged; in hindsight, those brainstorming sessions of yore were more likely to act as echo chambers in which bad ideas were amplified by fake enthusiasm.”

“In praise of dissent” by Jeremy Mercer

A dissident is here

In essence, to get better marketing work, you must not be pulled into the groupthink.

And, while this is the first time I have personally heard anyone admonish the idea of reality-free brainstorming, dissent shouldn’t be a radically new idea, right?

More than 50 years ago, General Patton said, “If everybody’s thinking alike, somebody isn’t thinking.” More recently, we’ve heard the bland embellishments to “think outside of the box.” And yet…

So many times we don’t. From the financial crisis to the heap of blasé, color-by-numbers marketing that proliferates across the Web, so many people don’t pop their head out of the cubicle and say, “Our current way of doing things isn’t a good idea.”

Why?

Hang on, Voltaire

It’s not easy now, is it? It’s hard to be the outsider. It’s hard to tell the group, “You’re all wrong and I’m right.” It’s hard to, perhaps, put your job on the line by separating from the pack.

As Voltaire said a few hundred years ago… “Our wretched species is so made that those who walk on the well-trodden path always throw stones at those who are showing a new road.” Pretty harsh. Can you imagine how much more biting those words would be if he ever had to ask for a LinkedIn Recommendation from a former co-worker that he publicly disagreed with?

But, perhaps, as with marketing itself, it’s all how you communicate your dissent? Both your attitude and approach? To wit…

So, how do you disagree agreeably?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this as well, but here are a few ways I’ve learned to buck the status quo in my career…

  • Ask questions – “That’s a horrible idea, our audience will hate us for it.” Or… “That’s an interesting idea. How do you think our audience will react if we sell our list to Viagara salesmen from Nigeria?” When you disagree, the last thing you want is a battle of wills, head-to-head confrontation.

    Put your ego away for a moment, and serve simply as the advocate for the idea. The best (and most non-confrontational) way to bring someone along to your side is by giving them gentle triggers to aspects they may not have considered. This way, they are discovering why an idea won’t work, instead of having you ram it down their throats. This also helps them (and you) save face. After all, no one wants to lose a head-to-head battle.

    As in the movie “Inception,” you can’t plant an idea in someone’s head, only introduce the seed, nurture it, and hope to watch it grow.

  • See things differently – In the famous “Think Different” TV ad, Richard Dreyfuss talks about those who “gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels.” You don’t have to be quite that visionary, but simply looking at everyday things in a new way can help.

    Take data, for example. I was very impressed by a comment by Greg Sherry, VP, Marketing and Business Development, Verint Systems. During his MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2010 presentation, he mentioned that he invested in direct mail because he read in a MarketingSherpa Benchmark Report that less marketers were investing in direct mail. He figured he’d have less competition. How counterintuitive.

    Or in a recent article by Adam T. Sutton about the origin story of Orabrush’s YouTube sponsor channel, which is second only to Old Spice. This small business sponsored market research by a college class and found that 92% of people wouldn’t want to buy this product online, so the class advised against it. One dissident student raised his hand and said, “That means 8% might be interested in buying it online. That’s millions of people.”

  • Let others challenge you – Here’s what Jeremy Mercer advises in the above-referenced Ode magazine article:

    o Have executives lead by example by allowing subordinates to challenge their positions
    o Hold meetings at which diverse perspectives are welcomed
    o Surround yourself with people who think differently than you do.

  • Be right – There’s nothing worse than putting yourself on the line for a cause and being wrong. Don’t create “facts” that support your decisions, base your decisions on the facts. A great way to do this is with real-world, real-time online testing. In this way, you can experiment with your dissident idea as well as the ideas you disagree with and let your customers be the judge. Just make sure you know what those test results really mean.

In the end, you have to be a little bit Patton (the hard-nosed general shepherding an idea past any obstacle), and a little bit Voltaire (the outspoken writer finding creative means around strict censorship to criticize your organization’s dogma).

Related Resources

Marketing Wisdom: In the end, it’s all about…

The Last Blog Post: To understand life is to understand marketing

From Corporate America to Entrepreneur: Giving up steady pay for a steady say

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Quick Analysis: Amazon could have bought any food retailer. Why Whole Foods? And how should retailers react?

June 16th, 2017
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Much of the buzz about Amazon’s agreement to buy Whole Foods has focused around the new physical distribution channel, especially for fresh food, that Amazon will now be able to leverage. And bricks-and-mortar retailers — especially grocers — are woefully behind in the use of technology in commerce. Of course.

But if that was the case, Amazon could have bought any retailer. Why Whole Foods specifically? Why a company that was likely more focused on the Amazon rain forest than Amazon.com until today?

Whole Foods Market is a high-touch, decadent customer experience company. Amazon is a low-touch, high-efficiency company. This is not a natural fit. It would have been more of a natural fit for Amazon to start experimenting with a regional, low-price-oriented supermarket like Southeastern Grocers (sure, they wouldn’t get the instant national presence, but they would acquire a large testing lab to optimize the business model).

While Amazon acquired Zappos, Soap.com, Diapers.com, etc. — it is not a particularly acquisitive company. And while much news has been made about a hedge fund’s involvement, this acquisition doesn’t reek of financial engineering like so many other M&A deals have.

So what data are we missing that Amazon has?

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Snapchat Do’s and Don’ts from HP’s session at MarketingSherpa Summit 2017

April 21st, 2017
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Throughout my tenure at MECLABS Institute, parent company of MarketingSherpa, I’ve worn a lot of hats. I have been the managing editor of MECLABS.com, produced web clinics for MarketingSherpa’s sister site, MarketingExperiments, and currently serve as a senior manager of digital analytics, where I help our Research Partners make sense of mountains of customer data.

Perhaps my most cherished responsibility, however, has been to act as the resident Snapchat journalist around the MECLABS campus. Whether the office alligator is sunning himself beside the lake, a company-wide ping pong tournament is taking place, or we’re surprising Aimee Reynard, Senior Events Manager, on her birthday at Summit, if something interesting is going on, I consider it my duty to spread the word to my coworkers via Snap.

For this reason, I jumped at the opportunity to work with Frank Danna, Content Director, Softway and Stef Brower, Global Social Marketing, HP on their MarketingSherpa 2017 Best Practices session, “Navigating the Complex (and Weird) Landscape of Snapchat: An inside look at HP’s Snapchat journey.”

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3 Strategies for Overcoming Banner Blindness

January 19th, 2016
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To be honest, I don’t even see them most of the time. It is as if the top and sides of the webpage I’m looking at are blurred—I know they’re there, but I don’t even notice them. For this, I thank “banner blindness.”

Banner blindness is the result of templated or “best practice” page layouts that place banner ads in specific places, such as the very top center of the page or on the far right side of the page. See the red boxes below:

common-ad-layout

 

Why is it called “blindness”?

The ad is there, but we ignore it because our minds have “seen that, done that” so many times before. We have established the typical banner areas as distracting from our goal on the page.

As marketers, if we are stuck in these blind areas, what can we do to increase the effectiveness of our banner ads? For questions like this, I always like to refer to the MECLABS Institute’s (MarketingSherpa’s parent company) Online Ad Sequence  heuristic for guidance:  

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Email Marketing: 2 campaigns that used innovative creative to generate leads

February 10th, 2014
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Originally published on B2B LeadBlog

One of the best insights into creativity I’ve ever discovered was scrawled into a Plexiglas window on a subway train.

“Boring is a choice,” the etching read.

As we zoomed through the dark tunnels, I wondered if the person responsible for the message was, in fact, so bored on their train ride that a little vandalism was just what the doctor ordered to cure their traveling blues.

While I’m not a proponent for vandalism, I do believe in the power held in those four simple words.

Boring is a choice.

I say this because boring marketing is often a pain point for B2B marketers.

Admittedly, it’s tough to create excitement around content in general, so I understand the struggle to find that wild spark in niche markets or with products and services that don’t seem to have an ounce of sexy on their surface.

In today’s post, I wanted to share a few examples from recent case studies of B2B email campaigns that used references to pop culture or “pop creative” to generate leads and win their battles with boring that you can use to aid your creative efforts.

Tennant invites prospects to take a ride on the wild side

When new products and services are set for market, the pressure is on as Chris Hawver, Team Leader, Americas, Tennant, can attest.

Tennant manufactures and sells floor cleaning equipment, ranging from the office vacuum to a massive street sweeper.

As Chris explained, its quarterly newsletter prior to the launch of two new products was on autopilot with no real strategy around the tactic.

“In quickly studying all of the campaigns of various manufacturers — including our competitors — it was like, ‘We’ve got to do something radically different,’” Chris explained.

Tennant added a few new members to its marketing team and brainstormed an email campaign using copy inspired by motorcycle culture that would appeal to the interest of Tennant’s customer base.

Chris, who will be presenting at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014 next week, also found appeal in the campaign as an avid motorcyclist and founder of a nonprofit rider’s safety organization.

Results

The campaign increased open rates by 32.5% and added 20 demo requests to Tennant’s pipeline. The campaign was so successful, the company’s Australia team utilized creative in its own email campaign and a magazine ad.

To learn more about Tennant’s campaign, check out the MarketingSherpa case study, “Customer-centric Marketing: Adding fun to B2B.”

SunGard Availability Services ties zombie apocalypse to IT disaster survival

If there is an unsung beauty of using pop creative, it’s in the flexibility as one IT disaster company discovered.

SunGard’s zombie survival campaign was a multichannel marketing effort that used emails, a landing page, direct mail and social media to generate buzz – and a few leads. All of the campaign’s components served to deliver core messaging about SunGard’s products and services.

Results

The Disaster Recovery/Managed Recovery Program campaign created a 3% increase in click-to-open rates among president and owner titles, and the retargeting email reactivated 2% of contacts who had not interacted with SunGard in six months.

To learn more about SunGard’s campaign, check out the MarketingSherpa case study, “Multichannel Marketing: IT company’s zombie-themed campaign increases CTO 3% at president, owner level.”

If you’re interested, Christine Nurnberger, Vice President, Marketing, SunGard Availability Services, will also be speaking at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014, presenting more results from this campaign.

Pop creative is about connecting with people

You can look at the results of these two campaigns and take away the thought that the folks who help keep things clean around the office are perhaps bikers and your boss may be a fan of “The Walking Dead.”

Or, we can look a little deeper and consider the idea that pop creative, although not the best strategy for everyone, proves the point that good marketing is about making a connection with real people.

How you make those connections depends on the risks you’re willing to take.

It’s a choice to think outside the box and connect with others.

Lest we forget, boring is always a choice.

You may also like

MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014 ? Las Vegas, February 17-20

Email Marketing: Writing powerful email copy boosts CTR 400% [More from the blogs]

Multichannel Marketing: 6 challenges for planning complex campaigns [More from the blogs]

B2B Email Marketing: Batch and blast, mobile, and other challenges [More from the blogs]

Marketing Careers: Why gut instincts are only artificial marketing brilliance

October 4th, 2013
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At some point in your marketing career, you’ve had a moment of artificial marketing brilliance.

It was a moment where you suspected your customers might respond better to a shorter form or a bigger and more colorful call-to-action button inviting them to a unique experience.

You might have even had the sneaking suspicion that changing some of the value copy on your homepage would boost sales of your product or service because no other competitor can boast figures close to your product’s success rate.

So, you make changes as your gut tells you, “Of course this will work.”

Afterwards, you kick back to watch the ROI roll in.

And then, it happens.

Your brilliant idea bombs in glorious fashion and you’re left scratching your head.

If your marketing is driven by intuition, at some point, you are going to fail and it’s one of the best things that can happen for your customers and your career. Read on to find out why.

 

Failure starts at relying on your gut

Many marketers use gut instinct in hopes of delivering optimal results, but when they fall short of expected results, those marketers never fully understand why.

But, if we use the hypothetical situation above, some clues emerge that can help us understand what leads to failure.

According to the MarketingSherpa 2012 Marketing Analytics Benchmark Report (free excerpt at that link), when marketers were asked …

Q: Instead of analytics data to make marketing decisions, we rely on the following:

 

Nearly half (42%) responded with gut instincts, followed by historical spending trends.

So, with almost half of marketers proclaiming instinct and prior spending as their decision engines, let’s fill in the blanks with a few primary sources of inspiration:

  • Case studies performed by other companies
  • Best practices picked up along the way
  • Marketing research

Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with these resources because, let’s face it, it’s easier to borrow from a seemingly good idea than it is to create a new one from scratch.

The inherent problem is not where you get an idea. The problem is how you intend to use it.

This is the point at which many marketing campaigns were doomed to underperform because ideas untested are always at the mercy of uncertainty.

 

Life beyond using your gut

Your gut failed you … now what?

One of the best career moves you can make is to move away from gut instinct marketing and begin using an evidence-based approach that is methodical and systematic. Chances are, you’re going to have some questions after your first radical redesign where shorter landing pages resulted in a 10% decrease in clickthrough.

Did the larger hero image take away from the copy? Was the award for customer satisfaction from 2004 recent enough to provide credibility? What turned the audience away?

You’ll also have questions if your redesign brought you a 5% lift in clickthrough. You might even be pretty content and let things rest, even if you could do better.

Those strokes of “marketing brilliance” are coming from a different source – online testing results that can be used to build a customer knowledge base.

Did your customers like your new vivid red button? Did they respond well to reading you were the only company in your field to offer one-on-one tutorials with an expert?

If you changed the eye-path on the page, could you have achieved a 10% lift? 20%?

 

The inevitable question – Why?

You must realize that success and failure lead to an inevitable conclusion in marketing – you have to test to truly discover, “Why?”

You can try to isolate the factors that seemingly impacted your audience, or you can test them and measure their performance to know for sure.

Understanding the “why” of customer behavior is really the product of methodical trial and error through testing, discovering and optimizing what you think works …

And then, it’s time for more testing.

Both the small gains and big flops lead you to learning more about your customers, a path riddled with failure, success and discovery, that no gut instinct on the planet can come close to.

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

August 27th, 2013
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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.

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